Great Mysteries of the World

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 3rd March 2015.

I spent this past weekend on a boys’ weekend away up the coast. Of course, we all awoke on Saturday to the sad news of Leonard Nimoy’s passing. He made an indelible impact on all of lives, not just in Star Trek, but as the host of the American psuedo science program In Search Of, which was produced between 1977 – 82 but perpetually broadcast throughout the eighties on early Saturday evening Aussie TV repackaged as Great Mysteries of the World.

Throughout the weekend, many unsolved mysteries of our own emerged between beers, golf and the beach.

Mystery 1: One of my mates, to avoid embarrassment let’s just call him James, made the claim that he had “lived” in San Antonio, Texas. It later emerged that he had been dispatched there by his employer for just two months, leading to a major debate on what exactly was required to claim that you had “lived” in a particular location. According to James’ argument, I could claim that I had lived in Maine (10 weeks teaching at a US summer camp), or taken to the extreme, Disneyland, Paris, Cairo, Istanbul, Fairstar the Funship or even onboard a 747. These claims would obviously be ludicrous (unless I was trying to impress my mates), so what would the rules be?

The debate went back and forth over the weekend. Did you have to receive a utility bill in your name at the new address? Or perhaps get a new driver’s licence for that location? Was it just about having to buy groceries, cook and perform domestic tasks there? Is it purely time based, but in that case, are we talking about six months, four seasons or a year? Where was Mr Spock when we needed him?

Mystery 2: With the majority of us ex-theme park employees, discussion turned to the brightly coloured two seater “aqua bikes” with the large paddle steamer type back wheels that were a common attraction at the mediocre theme parks of Sydney during the seventies and eighties. Are they still being manufactured and where can we buy one? An internet and online auction site search proved fruitless. Surely these bastions of aquatic family fun and recreation from the past were not extinct? A great mystery indeed?

Mystery 3: On the topic of extinction, I recalled from the deepest depths of my memory the existence of tourist mushrooms that could be found in towns all over New South Wales. These steel mushrooms stood about two metres tall and for a 20 cent coin, would play a recording with tourist information about the history of that location.

No one had any strong memories about these objects but I am certain these were a common feature outside tourist information centres and attractions. The internet also appears to have erased the existence of the mushrooms. Have timecops from the future been dispatched back in time to erase all proof, Looper style?

If you or someone you know have any information about these (not so) great mysteries of the world, please contact Leonard Nimoy or the Loch Ness Monster, care of the CWD

Live long and prosper, Leonard Nimoy.

Published in: on March 19, 2015 at 22:46  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , ,

Sherlock Holmes Reborn Again

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 26th October 2010.

Sherlock, the extremely enjoyable mini-series which aired over the past two weeks, is a modern adaption of Sherlock Holmes produced by the BBC. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement) as the Great Detective and Martin Freedman (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Office) as Dr John Watson, the three part series brings Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters to modern London, solving mysteries based on classic Holmes stories.

Cumberbatch’s portrayal of the eccentric genius, who solves brainbusting crime puzzles by deduction, is certainly a memorable one, but with a very long list of actors who have played Holmes, it is very hard to pick a favourite.

Not surprisingly, the character of Sherlock Holmes holds the record for the most portrayed film character with an amazing seventy five actors putting on the deerstalker cap over two hundred and eleven movies.

One of my favourite films in the eighties was Young Sherlock Holmes, produced by Steven Spielberg from a script by Christopher Columbus (Home Alone) and directed by Barry Levinson (Rain Man). The film centres of Holmes and Watson meeting as youths at boarding school. Starring Nicholas Rowe (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) as the title character and Alan Cox (Ladies in Lavender) as Watson, the movie is a little scary for kids and features the first CGI character ever, a supernatural knight who forms from shards of a stained glass window.

Jeremy Brett (My Fair Lady) starred as Holmes from 1984 to 1994 in the British TV series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. With his sharp, angular features, Brett’s portrayal is widely regarded as the best of his era. Brett was fully committed to his role and compiled a seventy seven page book, The Baker Street Files, which contained every possible detail about Holmes. He carried this book around on set to check every nuance before the cameras started rolling.

Basil Rathbone starred as Sherlock in fourteen movies from 1939 to 1946, opposite Nigel Bruce as Watson. These films firmly cemented the costumed Sherlock Holmes character, with his deerstalker cap and Inverness cape, in popular culture.  Rathbone had problems with typecasting after the films ended, but eventually went on to play Holmes in radio plays and on stage.

Last year, the character of Holmes returned to the big screen with Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) in the title role and Jude Law (Cold Mountain) as his faithful friend. Directed by Guy Ritchie (RocknRolla), the film recreates Holmes as an action hero, with fist fights and explosions galore. It was a big box office success and will be followed up by a sequel next year.

I would have to say that my all-time favourite Sherlock Holmes is an animated one. Basil the Great Mouse Detective was a Disney animated film from 1986, and centres around a society of rats and mice living in Victorian London. Featuring the music of Henry Mancini and the voice of Vincent Price, the film is packed with classic hand drawn Disney cartoon goodness, with the title character names in honour of Basil Rathbone.

It seems that some iconic characters never die, they just get recast and readapted.

Published in: on November 9, 2010 at 07:31  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Unsolved Great Mysteries

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 3rd August 2010.

One of my fondest memories of childhood was going to stay at my grandmother’s house every Saturday night whilst my parent’s went to work at the family restaurant. My Nanna spoilt my brother and I, feeding us whatever we wanted and giving us free reign of the television. I remember staying up late to giggle my way through Hey Hey It’s Saturday when it was a late night show (and funny). It later moved to an earlier six thirty timeslot, creating a major dilemma for a young lad. Do I watch Daryl and Ossie or Young Talent Time?

VCRs weren’t readily available in the mid-80’s so I usually compromised by watching YTT which ran for an hour, switching over to Channel Nine just in time to catch Red Faces.

My all time favourite Saturday evening show was Great Mysteries of the World. Airing in the five thirty timeslot on Channel Seven, the series was essentially a repackaging of the US show In Search Of, which originally aired between 1976 and 1982, bookended with an introduction and final thoughts from Australian TV personality (at the time) Scott Lambert. With narration by Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy, I was transfixed to the tube by spooky investigations into UFOs, Bigfoot, The Loch Ness Monster, ghosts and The Bermuda Triangle.

My love for the paranormal continued with Unsolved Mysteries, an American series which ran from 1987 until 2002, hosted by The Untouchables star, Robert Stack. Unsolved Mysteries featured a mix of stories on unexplained phenomenon and crimes (including dodgy reenactments). I was always perplexed as to why Mr Stack implored Australian viewers to “contact the FBI or your local law enforcement authority” in regards to crimes which took place over 15000 kilometres away.

I’ve recently rediscovered two memorable television specials which some sad person has preserved and uploaded to youtube. UFO Cover Up Live was hosted by Mike Farrell of M*A*S*H fame who introduced the world to anonymous government informants Condor and Falcon. Airing live in the US in 1988, this was the first televised mention of Area 51, an air force installation in Nevada which is supposedly where the US government stores crashed alien spacecraft. This prime time special is fondly remembered within UFOlogy circles as the program in which it was revealed that aliens have already made contact with our governments and more importantly, love strawberry ice cream.

In 1991, Bill Bixby, from The Incredible Hulk TV series, hosted an investigative special called Is Elvis Alive? Focusing on photos allegedly of The King after his death and the fact that Elvis’ tombstone spells his middle name as “Aaron” whilst his birth records document it as “Aron”, the show is great fun. A follow-up special, The Elvis Conspiracy, followed in 1992, which basically rescinded all of the allegations of the first show. For the record, the image of “Elvis” from 1984 only looks like him in newsprint and The King sought to change his surname to the more biblical Aaron towards the end of his life.

I’ve since moved onto such spooky TV fare as Ghost Hunters and Most Haunted on pay TV, where brave (or stupid) people lock themselves in supposedly haunted buildings with only a camera crew for protection. There is much amusement to be had witnessing these investigators scaring themselves silly in the darkness whilst never actually capturing any real evidence.

Despite my love for a great paranormal mystery on TV, I wouldn’t exactly consider myself a believer. I’m more of a bemused spectator. To me, shows about unexplained phenomenon are modern society’s way of passing along legends, much in the same way that our ancestors would’ve told stories around the campfire, but with far fewer ads for funeral insurance plans.