Friday, April 29, 2011

Foodie Fridays: Dilly Tuna and Pasta Salad

From Cooking with Carrie

Much as I hate to admit it, I am not especially fond of fish, and am even less enthusiastic about cooking it.  I will only eat salmon that has been cooked with a generous amount of teriyaki sauce, as that is the only condiment that can disguise the flavor, which I cannot tolerate.  The only fresh fish I like are mild white types like halibut, sole, or mahi mahi, preferably prepared by someone else.  However, I love canned tuna.  Perhaps because tuna salad was a frequent lunch option when I was a child, I find the familiar if not especially fresh flavor of this tinned fish rather comforting.  One of my favorite summer recipes is the following tuna and pasta salad.  With very little effort one can create a cool yet filling complete meal, in a large enough quantity to serve a family or to eat by oneself over several days.  This dish actually makes me look forward to summer, even here in hot, humid Georgia!

Dilly Tuna and Pasta Salad

1 C. mayonnaise
1/2 C. dill pickle relish
1/4 C. chopped red onion
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 C. small shell pasta, cooked, drained, and cooled
1 C. frozen peas, thawed
1 can (6 oz.) tuna, drained
1 can (4 oz.) sliced olives, drained

Combine first seven ingredients.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Chill until ready to serve.  Serves 6.

Note: One cup of shredded cheddar cheese may be added as well.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

This 'n That Thursdays: "By the Sea, by the Sea, by the Beautiful Sea..."


Okay, this beach house may be pure fantasy, but there actually are some outrageously unusual seaside abodes out there!


This one, for example, really does sit perched upon a tiny rock island off the coast of Rhode Island in Narragansett Bay.  Called, quite appropriately, Clingstone House, this cedar-clad home was built in 1905 and is owned by a retired architect.

From Wikimedia Commons

While this unusual structure in its snowy setting may look like something from outer space, it is actually located in Binz, Germany, the largest seaside resort on the island of Rugen.

From ArchDaily

Architecturally conceived to compliment its setting where the desert meets the ocean, the breathtaking Lefevre House in Punta Misterio, Peru, cantilevers out over a rocky cliff above the ocean.

From This Old House

The oceanfront Mushroom House was built in 1965 for potato chip baron Sam Bell, who requested a futuristic-looking, earthquake-proof design.  I think he got what he asked for!

From Wayfaring Travel Guide

The Conch Shell House, located on Isla Mujeres, Mexico, was designed and built by famous artist Octavo Ocampo.  With its 180-degree ocean views and seashell-inspired design incorporating over 4,000 locally collected shells, this vacation rental home certainly promises a unique getaway experience!

There are so many more examples this post could practically go on forever.  While I am not really a beach person (I prefer the mountains) I do appreciate unique and even quirky architecture, and the coast seems to have more than its fair share of unusual homes!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wish List Wednesdays: "Schooled" Hand Tufted Rug

I am beginning to suspect that I am more fond of the color blue than I thought!  The moment I saw this hand-tufted rug called "Schooled" from the Jaipur Coastal Living Collection I had to add it to my wish list.  Available in sizes ranging from 2' x 3' to 8' x 11', it also comes in three color patterns.  My favorite is the Aegean Blue (top), but other options are Pastel Blue and White.  I may just have to change my living room color scheme to accommodate this rug!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Terrifying Tuesdays: Mysterious Island (1961)

"Mysterious Island" (1961) is a tale of Union soldiers and a reporter from the North (Gary Merrill) who escape a Confederate prison camp by stealing a hot-air balloon, accidentally bringing one of the Confederate prison guards (Percy Herbert) with them.  Rough weather blows them way off course and the balloon eventually crashes into the sea.  Miraculously, they all manage to end up stranded but alive on a remote volcanic south Pacific island.  Union Captain Cyrus Harding (Michael Craig) assumes command of the group and they start to forage for food, only to encounter a gigantic crab.  They are able to kill it by tipping it into a hot spring, and boiled crab becomes their first meal on the island.  Slowly the group learns to work together and they make a life for themselves, in spite of a vague feeling that perhaps they are not alone on the island.  One day they find two stranded shipwreck survivors, Lady Mary Fairchild (Joan Greenwood) and her niece Elena (Beth Rogan).  A young soldier named Herbert Brown (Michael Callan) is instantly smitten with the latter, and the attraction is mutual.  A trunk is also found, mysteriously full of weapons and other items useful to the group.  When the castaways learn that the island is a favorite stopping place for pirates, they find an easily defensible cave for shelter.  More giant animals are encountered, including a large prehistoric flightless bird and huge bees.  Eventually they are discovered by the pirates and must fight for their lives, when suddenly an unexpected explosion sinks the pirate ship.  The group then finally meets the other inhabitant of their island, the legendary Captain Nemo (Herbert Lom), who plans to press them into service in order to escape from the island where he has been stranded ever since his submarine, the Nautilus, broke down there.  The island's mysteries are all explained by Nemo, who also tells them that the island's volcano will erupt very soon, and it then becomes a race against time to resurrect the pirate ship and escape before it is too late.

The movie is based upon a Jules Verne novel, The Mysterious Island.  Produced by Charles H. Schneer and Ray Harryhausen, it is most memorable for the special effects created by the legendary Harryhausen.  This movie is a well done, fast-paced, satisfying adventure tale that is well worth watching.

Interesting Fact: Joan Greenwood appeared in the BBC "Miss Marple" series as Lady Selina Hazy in the adaptation of the novel At Bertram's Hotel.

Gore Guide (0=none to 5=extreme): 0

From Cinefanastique

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mystery Mondays: Blaize Clement's Dixie Hemingway Mystery Series

If you are looking for well-written mysteries with an animal theme set in a beautiful coastal locale, then Blaize Clement's Dixie Hemingway mystery series is for you!  Dixie Hemingway is a former Florida sheriff's deputy whose life is shattered by senseless tragedy.  As she slowly recovers, she finds a new job as a professional pet sitter on Sarasota's Siesta Key, an eight-mile barrier island just off of Florida's west coast.  Her work keeps her busy, and she is happy taking care of other people's pets. Then she encounters a murder in the home of one of her clients, and, ready or not, she is drawn back in to the world of crime-solving.  Of course, once she solves the first murder, it is inevitable that homicides will continue to dog her every step!  Fortunately, the handsome Lieutenant Guidry is also there to investigate each crime, and she can always count on her brother and his partner to back her up.  An added bonus is the gorgeous waterfront setting, which the author describes in loving detail.  Dixie Hemingway is an appealing heroine, her animal clients are always wonderful to get to know, and Blaize Clement is a skilled writer who has the ability to draw you into Dixie's world and make you wish you could stay (check out her blog site too!).  There are six novels in the series so far, and all would make great beach reading this summer!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Holiday Hits: Happy Easter Peeps!

It just wouldn't be Easter without Marshmallow Peeps, and here is a fitting tribute to the holiday featuring these colorful little sugar pillows!  By the way, the new chocolate-covered Peeps are delicious!

Weekend Wonders: Joan Hickson as Miss Marple

Joan Hickson is the one of my two favorite actresses to portray Miss Marple.  She played the starring role in the BBC made-for-television series (1984-1992) based upon the twelve Miss Marple novels written by Agatha Christie.  Many Christie fans feel that Ms. Hickson's character was the most faithful to the author's version, both in appearance and personality.  This video shows photos from the BBC series, accompanied by the theme song from the show.  Enjoy!

To view eleven of the twelve BBC dramatizations with Joan Hickson on YouTube, go to this site and do a search for "Miss Marple".  The only episode not found here, "A Murder Is Announced", can be found on this site.  If it is not the featured video, do a search for the title.  This series really attempted to capture the essence of each novel, and I am sure Dame Agatha would have approved of these adaptations!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Weekend Wonders: Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple

Margaret Rutherford is one of my two favorite actresses to portray Miss Marple.  She played the starring role in the big screen movies of the 1960s: "Murder She Said"; "Murder at the Gallop"; "Murder Most Foul"; and "Murder Ahoy".  This is a video with photos from the four movies, accompanied by the theme song used in all of the movies.  Enjoy!

To view all four movies on YouTube, go to this site and do a search for each title.  While Ms. Rutherford' portrayal was very different from the Agatha Christie version of Miss Marple, her interpretation was rather like the actress herself, and is quite fun to watch!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Foodie Fridays: Seed Cake

By The Aesthete Cooks

According to an old saying, the best sweetener for tea is scandal, and in any Miss Marple novel a proper afternoon tea is an essential daily ritual.  Tempting treats are usually available as well, including scones, sandwiches, and delectable cakes.  In several instances, the cake of choice is Seed Cake, a rich butter cake flavored with caraway seeds.  This delicacy is not so widely known these days, especially in the United States, and I think that is a shame.  The following recipe is one of several posted by The Aesthete Cooks in honor of the Miss Marple mystery series.  I think it is time to reread one of these wonderful novels, accompanied by a slice of seed cake and a nice cup of tea!

Seed Cake

8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3 T. caraway seeds
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Cream butter with sugar.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Sift together dry ingredients and gently fold into butter mixture.  Pour batter into greased 8-inch round cake pan which has been lined on the bottom with greased wax or parchment paper.  Bake at 375 degrees for one hour.  Cool in pan for a few minutes, then turn out, remove paper, and cool completely on rack.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

This 'n That Thursdays: Miss Marple Movies

Margaret Rutherford

Joan Hickson

There have been a fair number of Miss Marple films made over the years, for both the big and small screens.  The very first Miss Marple movie was made for television.  A 1956 adaptation of A Murder Is Announced was produced for the Goodyear Television Playhouse.  It starred Gracie Fields, a well-known British actress at the time, as the main character.

In 1961, the first Miss Marple movie starring the redoubtable Margaret Rutherford debuted.  "Murder She Said" is based on the novel 4:50 from Paddington.  Margaret Rutherford did not at all resemble Agatha Christie's description of Jane Marple, and the actress portrayed her character as a rather forceful woman instead of the gentle and dithery soul in Christie's novels.  Many Miss Marple fans were disappointed by this portrayal, as was Agatha Christie herself, although she knew and liked Margaret Rutherford (she even dedicated The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side to the actress).  Nevertheless, the movie was popular and three more were made: "Murder at the Gallop" (1963), based on the Hercule Poirot novel After the Funeral;  "Murder Most Foul" (1964), based on the Poirot novel Mrs. McGinty's Dead; and "Murder Ahoy" (1964), which is not based on any specific Christie novel.  All of the movies include Margaret Rutherford's real-life husband, Stringer Davis, as Miss Marple's dear friend Mr. Stringer, a character who did not appear in the Christie novels.  Margaret Rutherford also made a brief appearance as Miss Marple in the Poirot spoof "The Alphabet Murders" (1965).  While these movies may not be faithful to the original stories or characters, they are fun to watch and are even preferred by many who are not Miss Marple purists.

In 1980, Angela Lansbury starred as Miss Marple in "The Mirror Crack'd", based on the novel of the same name.  The all-star cast included Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Kim Novak, Tony Curtis, and Geraldine Chaplin.  Although much too young for the role, Lansbury did a fine job and her portrayal was a little more in line with the original character of Miss Marple, although still more of a modern woman than Christie's version.

The legendary Helen Hayes portrayed Miss Marple in two CBS made-for-television movies.  The first was "A Caribbean Mystery" (1983), which also starred several then-popular TV actors, including Jameson Parker and Season Hubley.  This was followed by "Murder with Mirrors" (1985), with veteran screen legends Bette Davis and John Mills playing supporting roles.

From 1984 to 1992, the BBC produced the "Miss Marple" series which adapted all twelve novels for television.  The title character was portrayed by Joan Hickson, who has generally come to be regarded as the definitive Miss Marple.  Coincidentally, years earlier Joan Hickson had played the housekeeper in the movie "Murder She Said".  Agatha Christie had seen Hickson in a stage version of one of her plays in the 1940s, and reportedly sent her a note which read "I hope one day you will play my dear Miss Marple".  Christie certainly got her wish!  The following is a chronological list of the movies in the BBC series:

  • The Body in the Library (1984)
  • The Moving Finger (1985)
  • A Murder Is Announced (1985)
  • A Pocket Full of Rye (1985)
  • The Murder at the Vicarage (1986)
  • Sleeping Murder (1987)
  • At Bertram's Hotel (1987)
  • Nemesis (1987)
  • 4:50 from Paddington (1987)
  • A Caribbean Mystery (1989)
  • They Do It with Mirrors (1991)
  • The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side (1992)

In 2004, ITV began another series of adaptations of  called "Agatha Christie's Marple", beginning with "The Body in the Library" (2004).  Geraldine McEwan starred as the sleuth for the first three seasons and Julia McKenzie took over the role in the fourth season.  This series made many changes to the original works, and many are stories which did not actually feature Miss Marple at all.  The most recent adaptation was "The Pale Horse" (2010).

In March of this year The Walt Disney Company announced that it was planning to produce a new Miss Marple movie, which would be set in the United States in a more updated time period.  The Miss Marple character would be much younger, and would be portrayed by the actress Jennifer Garner.  There has been some public concern over this drastic change to the beloved sleuth, and it remains to be seen if Disney will be able to pull this off successfully.

Jennifer Garner

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wish List Wednesdays: Harlequin Tea Set

From Fantastic Fiction

Tea is a mainstay in the Miss Marple novels, as well as many other Agatha Christie mysteries.  "The Harlequin Tea Set", a short story by Agatha Christie, features two of her lesser-known detectives, Mr. Satterthwaite and the mysterious Mr. Harley Quin.  The Harley Quin tales tend to have an aura of the supernatural about them, and an appearance by Mr. Quin is always preceded by some reference to the Harlequin or a harlequin color pattern.  A Harlequin tea set, such as the one in the story, is a set of cups and saucers each of which is a different color.  Tea sets in this pattern were made by a number of different companies.  The genteel Miss Marple would probably have preferred a more elegant set in pastel colors, such as one of these (top left: Royal Albert Gossamer tea set at Everything Stops for Tea; top right: Queen Anne pastel tea set at Everything Stops for Tea: bottom: A Pretty Penny):

Personally, I prefer the bolder colors and sturdier china of the following examples (top left: Happy Heidi; top right: Susie Cooper Harlequin coffee cans on eBay; bottom: Adderley Harlequin coffee/tea cups on eBay):

In fact, if I could find a tea set decorated with colorful harlequin diamonds as depicted in this painting I would buy it on the spot, but so far I have not been able to find the real thing.  I intend to keep on looking, though!

From Second Life Marketplace

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Terrifying Tuesdays: Agatha Christie's Supernatural Fiction

Agatha Christie is best known for her many works in the mystery genre, but she did publish a few short stories that qualify as supernatural fiction.  Although skeptical, Dame Agatha had an interest in the occult, which was rather popular in her day, especially in the form of séances.  A few of her novels actually feature séances and even witchcraft, but these scenes all turn out to be deceptions rather than the real deal.  One collection of short stories, entitled The Hound of Death and Other Stories, does qualify as true supernatural fiction.  Stories in this collection include "The Hound of Death", "The Red Signal", "The Fourth Man", "The Gipsy", "The Lamp", "Wireless", "The Mystery of the Blue Jar", "The Strange Case of Sir Arthur Carmichael", "The Call of Wings", "The Last Séance", "S.O.S.", and "The Witness for the Prosecution".  All but the last story contain supernatural elements.  For some reason this book has never been published in the United States, although all of the tales have appeared there in other collections of Christie's works.

Two more paranormal stories appear in another book of collected works.  "The Dressmakers Doll" and "In a Glass Darkly" were included in Miss Marple's Final Cases even though neither one features Miss Marple.  "The House of Dreams", another short story with a supernatural theme, appears in The Harlequin Tea Set and Other Stories.  The titular tale of this collection even has an apparent ghost.

One other short story collection with a supernatural undertone is The Mysterious Mr. Quin.  These stories all feature Mr. Satterthwaite, a rather conventional confirmed bachelor, and Mr. Harley Quin, an enigmatic figure who occasionally encounters Mr. Satterthwaite under certain special conditions.  Each time the two meet, Mr. Satterthwaite becomes instrumental in solving a problem involving either love or death, and sometimes both, which he attributes to the uncanny influence of Mr. Quin.  "The Harlequin Tea Set" mentioned above is another Mr. Quin story, as is "The Love Detectives" found in Problem at Pollensa Bay and Other Stories.

Most of these stories are only mildly scary, although the ending of "The Last Séance" is rather disturbing.  Like all of Agatha Christie's writings, these supernatural tales are well written and a pleasure to read.  Some may be a bit difficult to find in the United States, since many of the Christie short stories were published in collections different from those in the United Kingdom, but they are easily tracked down and would be well worth the effort.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mystery Mondays: Agatha Christie's Miss Marple Mystery Series

From Becky's Book Reviews
By The Woman in the Woods

I have been a fan of Agatha Christie mystery novels since I was a teen, and her Miss Marple character has always been my favorite.  The elderly spinster from the small English villiage of St. Mary Mead with the gentle manner and keen observation skills was featured in twelve novels as well as a number of short stories.  She made her first published appearance in the short story "The Tuesday Night Club" in 1927.  The Murder at the Vicarage from 1930 was the first of the Miss Marple novels.  Sleeping Murder, which was written around 1940 but not published until 1976 after Agatha Christie's death at her request, was the last of the novels.  The following is a list of works featuring Miss Marple:

  1. The Murder at the Vicarage (1930)
  2. The Body in the Library (1942)
  3. The Moving Finger (1943)
  4. A Murder Is Announced (1950)
  5. They Do It with Mirrors, or Murder with Mirrors (1952)
  6. A Pocket Full of Rye (1953)
  7. 4:50 from Paddington, or What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! (1957)
  8. The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side, or The Mirror Crack'd (1962)
  9. A Caribbean Mystery (1964)
  10. At Bertram's Hotel (1965)
  11. Nemesis (1971)
  12. Sleeping Murder (written about 1940, published 1976)
Short Stories:
  1. "The Tuesday Night Club" (1927) published in The Royal Magazine
  2. The Thirteen Problems (1932) short story collection
  3. Three Blind Mice (1950) contains four Miss Marple short stories ("Strange Jest", "Tape-Measure Murder", "The Case of the Caretaker", "The Case of the Perfect Maid")
  4. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding (1960) contains one Miss Marple short story ("Greenshaw's Folly")
  5. Miss Marple's Final Cases and Two Other Stories (1979) contains six Miss Marple short stories
Miss Jane Marple's skill as a detective is based upon her knowledge of human nature, acquired over a lifetime of living in and observing the inhabitants of her little village.  According to Miss Marple, human nature is the same everywhere, and she can always find a parallel for any situation from her vast store of knowledge about village behavior.  Agatha Christie's ability to combine delightful details about ordinary life in a typical British setting with a clever murder plot works well for the Miss Marple mysteries, and this series is an enduring classic which is always enjoyable to read and reread.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Weekend Wonders: Greater Bulldog Bat (Noctilio leporinus)

From HuffPost Green

Since today is Bat Appreciation Day, I decided to do a post on another favorite unusual mammal, the greater bulldog bat (Noctilio leporinus), also known as the fisherman or fishing bat.  These bats are native to Latin America and most of the Caribbean islands.  Because they prey upon fish their range is restricted primarily to tropical lowland habitats.  They are large, with a wingspan of one meter (about three feet), and these bats can even swim, using their wings as oars in the water.  Their hind legs and feet are particularly large and are used to capture their prey.  Males have a bright orange back while females are a dull grey, but both sexes have a white dorsal stripe.  Like most bats, they are nocturnal.

Obviously the common name "greater bulldog bat" comes from the large size and rather unusual visage of this creature -- truly a face that only a mother could love!

From Professor Paul's Guide to Mammals

However, I prefer the name "fishing bat", because it is this behavior that makes this bat truly unique.  The greater bulldog bat is one of the few bat species that has adapted to hunting and eating fish, although insects and other arthropods are also consumed.  As with most bats, echolocation is used to detect prey, but this species can use it to detect water ripples made by fish.  The bats then fly low over the water and drag their sharply clawed feet over the surface where fish are detected.  They use the pouch between their legs to scoop up the fish and their claws to cling to their prey.  The fish can then be transferred to special cheek pouches in the mouth and carried long distances if not consumed immediately.

From National Geographic
From National Geographic
From National Geographic

When I lived in the Virgin Islands, I was privileged to see one of these bats in action, and I will never forget that once in a lifetime experience!  I even (sadly) found a dead specimen on the beach, and got a close look at the unique adaptations of this fascinating mammal.  Fortunately this species is not considered threatened or endangered.  For some reason the greater bulldog bat made the list of "Top Ten Scariest Animals and Plants", but to me this little animal is not scary at all and is definitely one of the most interesting!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Current Events: Cocoa Mulch and Pets Do Not Mix!

Spring has arrived, a time of year when many people turn their thoughts to gardening.  Once the plants are in, the next step is often mulch, and one of the newer options is cocoa shell mulch, made by recycling the material left over from cocoa bean processing.  Cocoa mulch is a wonderful product, but pet owners, especially those with dogs, should beware, because cocoa mulch if ingested is highly toxic to pets.  It can contain over 20 times more theobromine than milk chocolate, and if used to mulch a garden accessible to pets it provides them with an unlimited supply.  Hyperactivity, seizure, and death from heart arrhythmia are all possible outcomes from theobromine toxicity unless a pet who has ingested cocoa mulch is treated immediately -- time is of the essence here!  So remember, if your pets have access to your garden, do them a favor and refrain from using cocoa mulch.  And keep in mind that other gardeners may be using this product, so be a good neighbor and keep your dogs out of their gardens as well!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Foodie Fridays: Roasted Ratatouille

By Food o' del Mundo

Garden-fresh vegetables are perfect for making ratatouille.  Traditionally, this French vegetable dish is made in a sauté pan, with the vegetables being cooked individually depending upon how long each takes to cook.  The end result is delicious, but the process can be rather tedious.  The solution is to roast the vegetables.  In my recipe everything except for the tomatoes cook at the same time, while the tomatoes are added at the very end after the oven is turned off.  This way the tomatoes soften and get warm but stay juicy, while the additional time in the warm oven allows the other vegetables to caramelize a little more without blackening.  That said, the tomatoes can easily go in at the same time as the rest, but I probably would not halve them in that case.  This can be served over rice or pasta as a side dish or even a light main dish with a generous sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese.

Roasted Ratatouille

1 large eggplant or 3 Japanese eggplant, cut into chunks
2 zucchini, cut into chunks
1 each red, orange, and yellow bell pepper, cut into large dice
1 large red onion, cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 T. olive oil
2 tsp. fines herbes or Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

Combine first five vegetables in a large roasting pan.  Toss with oil and seasonings.  Bake at 400 degrees 30-45 minutes, tossing every 15 minutes, until vegetables are tender and slightly caramelized.  Turn off oven, toss in tomatoes, and put back in still-warm oven until tomatoes soften.  Toss again and serve over rice or pasta, topped with grated Parmesan.  Serves 6.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

This 'n That Thursdays: Garden Design

When it comes to garden design, my preferences are a study in contrasts.  While I love the colorful chaos of  a cottage garden,

By jhitzeman

I also appreciate the peaceful serenity of the Japanese garden.

My new favorite, though, is modern garden design.  Like modern interior design, the concept is all about clean, spare lines, geometric shapes, and pops of bold color.  I love these examples by Arterra Landscape Architects:

When my husband retires and we find our perfect retirement home in New Mexico, I can't wait to implement some modern design elements in our new garden there!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wish List Wednesdays: Garden Turtle Stool

I have a special fondness for turtles, so when I saw this turtle stool from Acacia, I fell for it immediately. I would love to have one or two of these in our garden, ready to support a plant or a cool drink in addition to adding a touch of whimsy. 

Who knows -- it might even attract some real turtles into the yard, and that would be delightful!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Terrifying Tuesdays: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Watch "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956) to find out what not to plant in your garden!  Based upon the science fiction novel The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney, it is the story of a small California town invaded by space seeds that have drifted to Earth.  In the movie, Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) returns from a medical convention to his home town of Santa Mira, California, to deal with a sudden influx of patients with a strange complaint.  All seem to feel that a relative has been replaced by an impostor, someone who looks and seemingly acts like the original but is somehow not the same.  The doctor's old flame, Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter), who has recently returned to her old home town, mentions that her cousin is making the same claim about her father.  Oddly, the next day several of these people suddenly recant, despite their utter conviction on the previous day.  At first Dr. Bennell believes the town psychiatrist, who feels that some form of mass hysteria is afflicting the townspeople.  Then he receives a call from two friends, Jack and Teddy Belicec (King Donovan and Carolyn Jones), who claim to have found a disturbingly featureless body in their house which seems to be taking on the appearance of Jack.  Eventually, the four friends suspect that something terribly sinister is happening.  They conclude that these unusual bodies are developing from strange pods growing all over town, and that these bodies are replacing the originals while they sleep with beings who are the same in every way except for a lack of emotions.  Trying to phone for help, Miles is told that the phone lines are out of order, and he begins to realize the true extent of the situation.  The Pod People are taking over the town, and will stop anyone who interferes.  The couples decide to split up so that they will have a better chance at escaping and warning the outside world.  Although Miles manages to escape and gives his warning, the movie ends ambiguously, never revealing if the disaster is averted or if the Pod People succeed with their dastardly scheme.

This movie is considered one of the best science fiction movies of all time, and was selected in 1993 for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.  Several remakes have followed, but in my opinion the original version far outshines all of the others.  It is simple but effective, and should definitely be seen by anyone with an interest in the science fiction genre.

Interesting Fact:  A prologue and epilogue were added to this movie after filming was complete, because the studio did not care for the more pessimistic ending of the initial version.  Also, actress Carolyn Jones, who plays Teddy Belicec, went on to star as Morticia Addams in the television series "The Addams Family".

Gore Guide (0=none to 5=extreme): 0