FREE MOVIE, ‘THE HAUNTING,’ and YOU’RE INVITED … PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION: PLANET SHARES IMAGES SENT IN TO THE FORTRESS … or … EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 9, 2014) — First, for all you movie buffs, tonight at 5:30 p.m., K-111, on the campus of Berkshire Community College, Prof. Valenti shall be screening The Haunting. The 1963 classic, directed by Robert Wise, is being shown as part of ENG 102, Composition II. The class has just finished reading Shirley Jackson‘s novel, The Haunting of Hill House, upon which the film was based. It is a faithful adaptation, vastly superior to the horrible re-make in 1999.
Jackson, by the way, earned her B.A. degree from Syracuse University, one of THE PLANET‘s beloved alma maters. There, she met Stanley Edgar Hyman, who became a professor at Bennington College.
The couple made frequent trips to the Berkshires. Jackson got inspiration for Hill House from a number of old Berkshire “cottages.” Indeed, she set the story in Berkshire County, although she changed the community names. One cannot read The Haunting of Hill House, though, without seeing the Berkshires evoked into life by the deft descriptions of the landscape.
The Wall Street Journal called Jackson’s novel “the greatest haunted-house story ever written.” Indeed, the 1959 novel was a finalist for the National Book Award, unheard of for genre fiction. The Wise film, likewise, has been given top honors by critics and film historians, ranked in the “horror” category second only to Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining.
The Haunting stars Richard Johnson, Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, and Russ Tamblyn. Actually, one could ask if it’s a horror film as much as a mystery, or a mystery as much as a psychological thriller, or a psychological thriller as much as a look at the woman’s descent into madness.
All great films work on several levels, and this is one of them. Filmed in glorious black-and-white, this “dark old house” offering convinces as much by what it doesn’t show as much as it shows, making the most of the superiority of suspense over shock.
The Professor — who has tried his best to make the sale of this film to a generation that has come to expect films to be day-glo in color, deafening loud, looking like video games, and full of non-stop CG special effects — invites one and all to join us this evening. Popcorn is on THE PLANET.
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License to Kill
Speaking of pictures, today’s entry focuses on a series of images that have come across our desk here at the FORTRESS. “Visuals,” or “graphics,” to use the more generic term, have become increasingly important in a world that overloads the senses.
Our first pair of photographs is sent to us by MM, who writes, “Uncanny resemblance or separated at birth? Sean Connery and Dan Valenti.” This isn’t the first time the comparison has been made (always by the fairer sex, we are pleased to say), and we must admit we see the ocular echoes. By the way, we like ours stirred, not shaken. One should never aerate a good martini.
A Brush and a Bucket
Our next picture comes from ES, who has supplied the caption. It depicts the mayor in his role as house painter. History reminds us of another temporal leader who began as a housepainter, some cat nicknamed Schicklgruber, after his dad, Alois, who bore that surname prior to lopping off two syllables and beginning it with the eighth letter of the alphabet. We can find no resemblance beyond the painter’s cap.
Anyways, that caption is a good one. THE PLANET invites anyone to try to top it. LEt’s see how funny you can be!
Nixon’s The One
Those who have been ’round these parts long enough remember a few glorious baseball seasons where the Pittsfield home nine wore uniforms the tops of which bore the script, “RED SOX.” The Pittsfield-Berkshire Red Sox played at Wahconah Park from 1965 through 1969. In 1968, featured 13 players on the roster who went on to play in the Major Leagues, most of them for Boston. They include Luis Alvarado, Dick Baney, Chris Coletta, Billy Conigliaro, Carmen Fanzone, Dave Gray, Bobby Guindon, Gerry Janeski, Al Montrreuil, Russ Nixon, Mark Schaeffer, Bill Schlesinger, and Ken Wright.
Of these, Nixon (one of three with the presidential last name to play for Boston — Willard and Otis being the other two) had the most time in the Bigs. Nixon played 12 seasons (1957-68), seven with the Red Sox. He split 1968 between Boston and Pittsfield. We stumbled on these two pictures on Ebay. They are both from 1968, in his Boston home whites and his Pittsfield road grays.
Nixon is the answer to one of THE PLANET’s favorite trivia questions: “Who was the first man in baseball history to be traded for himself?”
How did it happen? On March 16, 1960, the Sox traded catcher Sammy White and infielder Jim Marshall to Cleveland for Nixon and a “player to be named later.” White, however, retired from baseball rather than report to the Indians. On March 25, the commissioner voided the trade. Nixon went back to the Indians. Later that same year, on June 13, the Red Sox sent Ted Bowsfield and Marty Keough to the Indians for Carroll Hardy and the “player to be named later” from the voided White deal. The player named later turned out to be Nixon. The only other time a player was traded for himself, again involving a player to be named later, came in 1962, with Harry Chiti being the duplicated self.
Recognize these three lads? They are, from left, Hubert “Whitey” Whitney (Stanley Farfara), Larry Mondello (Rusty Stevens), and Gilbert Bates (Stephen Talbot). They lived in a town called Mayfield, and were friends of Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver. This photo came up following a class discussion (Comp II) on the theme “Family and Memories.”
THE PLANET had his Whitey, Larry, and Gilbert. They were Tony Lagroterria, Mario Panetti, and Gerry Packard. We also lived for a time in our own version of Mayberry.
In our discussion of “Family and Memories,” The Professor mentioned Leave It To Beaver. Everyone in the class had heard of the show and just about everyone had seen it. One late-teen-something remarked that it was a work of fiction. Correct, we said, but it depicted like pretty much the way it was in the late 50s and early 60s in Hometown, USA.
“Really?” she asked. She then mused that she wished she had lived back then. We asked her why. The answer: “I don’t know. Everything seemed so clean and quiet. Slow. Simpler.” We asked the class to come up with one word that summed up what the student was trying to convey. The class selected the word, “Decent.” The word “innocent” also received careful scrutiny.
Ring In The New
Finally, we give you a close-up view, courtesy of ZC, of the ring given to the World Champion Boston Red Sox on Opening Day this year. In 2013, the team won the World Series for the third time in the past 10 years.
THE PLANET passes it along with ZC’s message of Boston being title town and its baseball team being the “first dynasty of the 21st century.”
THE PLANET has long since moved on from our years as a baseball writer, but we nonetheless can still appreciate and enjoy fan enthusiasm in others.
“You ask me if it’s right to love another guy. First I say ‘Yes’ and then I ask ‘Why?'” — Nils Lofgren, “Moontears,” (1972)
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.