Classic Book Review: Historical Time Travel Through A British TV Classic

 

Cover: The 1983 TV Movie The Five Doctors (BBC/Photofest)

I became a fan of Doctor Who around the time I started high school. My brother somehow started watching the shows, which was aired on our local PBS Station, Channels 45/49 in Akron, Ohio. He videotaped the Tom Baker shown episodes, and we would watch it constantly (my mother even made us Tom Baker style scarves, which many of my classmates wondered why I was wearing a scarf that was almost 7 feet long).

A Critical History of Doctor Who on Television, by John Kenneth Muir ( 1999, Mcfarland), is a nice historical walk through of the first seven Doctors, along with summaries of all of the episodes up to the cancellation of the show.

Muir takes the reader through a description of what the original show entailed (including the original concept of the show, which changed once it got on air), the character of the Doctor, and some of the impact the show had on other science fiction movies and television shows, such as the Alien movies, and shows like Star Trek, The Voyagers, and Space 1999 in the Introduction section. Muir also dives into why the show was big in the United Kingdom, but was still not as well-known in the United States until the Tom Baker years.

The book then walks the reader through each episode with a plot summary, cast listing, and then a commentary on the author’s take on the episodes. The book covers the episodes that have been lost, using other texts to explain the plot lines (many of the early episodes were recorded over by the BBC in order to save costs, similar to some of The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson episodes by NBC).

The author has his favorite actor who played the Doctor (it may surprise some who he chooses), but Muir finds good and bad in each of the actor’s time playing the time traveler. Some of my favorite episodes he does not share my love for, but I just recently gotten to see more of the episodes of the first three Doctors via a marathon from Twitch TV, so I was not as informed with the early ones, with only seeing a few of the shows.

The book also covers some of the impact the shows had on the audiences, which I was unaware of, including the Dalek-Mania, where toys, comics, and even musical songs, were released when the villains were first shown on television in the 1960s. The Doctor Who books, role playing games (which my brother and I had), spin offs, and radio shows are mentioned. The end of the book even goes through some of the years where Doctor Who movies were discussed and some of the actors, including a pre-James Bond Pierce Bronson, Alan Rickman, John Cleese (who was also in an early episode), and Dudley Moore were discussed to play the lead role. Another interesting topic in the book was how there were rumors to make the Doctor a womanizer alcoholic (Not sure how that would ever turn out). Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy was rumored wanting to direct a featured film of the Doctor. The Peter Cushing films, where he played the Doctor are covered in this section, along with a rumor that Vincent Price was going to play a villain in a film. The Fox TV film is covered at the end as well, along with the author’s hope that maybe a film would be made (we now know that the BBC brought back the TV show in 2004).

Muir’s book contains great research, along with a nice summaries of the shows, which Doctor Who fans will like. The book is a great guide to look up with episodes. It is nice seeing the author’s take on each actor (The end of the book made me wonder what the writer’s take of the current shows would be like, especially a female Doctor), almost like a TV Guide for all things Doctor Who. I also like how the Peter Davidson’s Doctor was not dismissed as just a replacement for Baker (I liked Davidson’s role, but Baker is still my favorite of the original seven). The part where the author discusses how the BBC basically did not support the show, bashing it at times, which hurt the international appeal of the show, was baffling to me.

Muir’s writing shows that he not only researched the topics, but shows a love for the show as a fan, and not one that dismisses the show’s impact on even today’s science fiction productions.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of McFarland.

 

The Overall

Pages: 491

Language: None

Geared For: All Ages

For Fans of: Science Fiction fans, British Television, Doctor Who, Television History.

 

A Critical History of Doctor Who on Television by John Kenneth Muir (1999, McFarland) ISBN-13: 978-0-7864-3716-0 can be found at McFarland’s website http://www.mcfarlandpub.com , or ordered at 800-253-2187.

 

Check our the author’s webpage at http://www.johnkennethmuir.com and             https://reflectionsonfilmandtelevision.blogspot.com/

 

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Book Review: A Remarkable Creative Look At Hope

Cover Design and illustration by Connie Gabbert.

 

Shauna Letellier’s Remarkable Hope: When Jesus Revived Hope in Disappointed People (FaithWords, 2019) takes on a different and unique way of writing in the Christian Living/Inspirational genre.

The book looks at several people in the Bible who were faithful to Jesus, although they felt at the time, they were being disappointed in waiting for answers to their questions or events. The writing (separated by each person getting their own chapter) focuses on Simeon, John The Baptist, Jairus, Peter, Mary the mother of Jesus, and a few others. The chapters start off with the text from the Bible, along with a little back story of events going on in the character’s lives, and then a description on what happened and how they overcame their feelings of being let down.

The uniqueness of the book is that Letellier brings creative writing into the fold after the original text and background is discussed. After the reader gets a background of the events, she fills in some missing parts from the Bible, or gives her take on how things start to shape, by adding a creative flare to the tales. This creative aspect brings a more colorful, and sometimes powerful, take at ideas such as what the person may have been feeling before the events happen. The author lets us (at least from her opinion) into the minds, feelings, and attitudes of the characters that are omitted in the Bible. The writing is easy to understand, but yet creative enough to paint a picture of what was going on during these stories.

Some purists of the Bible may have a beef with this take on the stories, but it is not with merit. The author is doing nothing that normal preachers have done, trying to illustrate the events and mindset of the people in the events, so followers can better understand what learned lessons are trying to tell us.

Remarkable Hope has many things going for it: creativity, the actual Biblical text, and lessons to be learned all put into the under 200 page book. This is a nice concordance , with an add of fiction, to the parts where the Bible is missing some in depth detail. The writing is colorful and entertaining while giving the reader thoughts to ponder.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of Faith Words, a division of Hachette Book             Group, INC.

 

Remarkable Hope: When Jesus Revived Hope in Disappointed People by Shauna Letellier (FaithWords, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-4555-7171-0 (paperback), 978-1-4555-7170-3 (ebook) can be found at http://www.faithwords.com.

 

For information about the author, visit: https://shaunaletellier.com

 

 

The Overall:

Pages: 197

Language: None

Geared For: Teens and up

For Fans Of: Christian Living, Inspirational, Religion, Devotionals

Book Review: Life of Wrestling Legend Detailed in New Book

Front Cover: NWA World Heavyweight Champion Gene Kiniski shows off his championship belt (Kiniski family archive)

I first watched professional wrestling around 1984. My father showed me WWF wrestling with George “The Animal” Steele on television one Saturday afternoon, and I was hooked on it. Wrestling wasn’t on every week in my area then, so it wasn’t really until 1986 after my grandmother taped the WWF’s “Saturday Night’s Main Event” episodes on her VCR, that I got to see more of it. It wasn’t long afterwards that wrestling was on many channels in my area, along with my family getting cable TV , that I got to follow it every week.

Before the Internet, the only way to follow some of the other territories that I was not exposed to, along with learning about the history of wrestling, was through the wrestling magazines. One wrestler I knew the name of, but didn’t know much about, was Gene Kiniski, that is until I read Gene Kiniski Canadian Wrestling Legend by Steven Verrier (McFarland, 2019).

The book gives an great insight of the wrestler who won the AWA and NWA World Titles in his career, from his football days playing for the Edmonton Eskimos, to his life as a wrestler. Verrier uses great text research throughout the book to help craft the painting of who Kiniski was in and out of the ring. The writing takes the reader into how Kiniski first got into wrestling as a security person and selling programs (as a part of the University of Arizona football team), to Kiniski’s days in the many territories like Texas, Hawaii, Houston, and the big federations like the WWWF, NWA, and the AWA.

One of the great things about this biography is the research that Verrier puts into the 232 page writing. The author uses other wrestling books, newspapers, and websites to help with his stories. Verrier also details interviews from those that knew Kiniski, including his sons Nick and Kelly (who both wrote forwards and helped with some of the photographs), and other wrestlers. The stories about Kiniski’s personal life, with his marriage and raising his sons, add a different perspective to the writing, as opposed to the normal wrestling books, where drugs and sex are sometimes the main theme. This book is what one would use for a college course in teaching about wrestlers in the territory days.

I learned quite a bit about some of the tag team partners and other opponents that Kiniski faced; I knew he beat Verne Gagne for the AWA World Title, and Lou Thesz for the NWA Title, but he was in the ring with many of the greats such as The Funks, Dick The Bruiser, Fritz Von Erich, Pedro Morales, and more. His tag teams with Ivan Koloff, Wilbur Synder, and “Hard Boiled” Hagerty shows he worked with some of the best.

For those that may only remember Kiniski’s sons in the AWA, or that he was the referee at Starrcade 1983 for the Ric Flair vs Harley Race main event, will learn quite a bit by reading this book. I remember his son Nick in the AWA, being managed by both Sherri Martel and Madusa Miceli in their early days. The years after his retirement as a promoter and wrestling a few times (like the WWF legends battle royal in 1987 and his appearance at WCW’s “Slamboree” PPV), along with his life outside of the ring, brings an emotional segment to the story, where quite a bit of the book features a history of his in ring career.

Gene Kiniski Canadian Wrestling Legend is a nice read full of facts and interviews that create the story of a wrestler who most of today’s wrestling fans never heard of. The book gives those that want to know more about the wrestling of the 1960s and 1970s stars a history lesson. The textbook or essay format may not be very colorful compared to some of the books released today, but that is also what makes it a good read. This is an almanac of the days when one wrestler didn’t need a flashy gimmick to get over, and still ended up being considered one of the best.

This review copy was sent courtesy of McFarland Books.

 

Gene Kiniski Canadian Wrestling Legend by Steven Verrier (ISBN: 978-1-4766-7483-4 eISBN: 978-1-4766-3427-2) can be ordered at http://www.McFarlandbooks.com or at 800-253-2187.

 

For information about the author, go to http://www.stevenverrier.com

 

 

The Overall:

Pages: 254

Language: None

Geared For: 13 and up.

For Fans Of: Pro Wrestling History, Biographies.

 

Book Review: Pluto Will Have Browns Fans Loving The Blues

Image result for terry pluto's the browns blues

 

Legendary country singer Jerry Reed sang in a 1982 hit “Well it all sounds sort o’ of funny/ but it hurts too much to laugh.” The song was a funny take on divorce, but it could have been talking about one of the NFL football teams.

The Cleveland Browns.

Since 1999, the football team has had so many strange and laughable seasons (but not to the fans of the team), that led to many firings of players, coaching and general manager changes, and countless draft pick busts and trades.

In his new book The Browns Blues :The Decades of Utter Frustration (Gray & Company, 2018), Terry Pluto takes the reader through the history of the team’s return to the NFL, after then owner Art Model moved the team to Baltimore (which became the Baltimore Ravens), and how many have tried to rebuild the football team to be competitive and respectable to not only the other teams , but for the fans.

This book could have easily been an annoyance to the reader, trying to keep track of all of the names of the draft picks, coaches, managers, and starters on the team, but Pluto’s writing makes the book easy to read, along with putting humor and statistics in places, that does not overburden the reader with facts and dates. Pluto uses interviews and writings from staff and players (being a writer of Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer newspaper as a sports columnist gave him great access through the years) to entertain and bring a lighthearted feel to the book that keep the pages turning. ESPN could not have given a better flow to the writing.

Pluto gives the reader a great behind the scenes access to some of the decision makings that made the Browns, at times, seem like the organization was run by amateurs, along with an insight on why certain players and coaches who were originally eyed by the team, did not join.

The names like Tim Couch, Jeff Garcia, Brady Quinn, and Ty Detmer are discussed in the book, along with other players throughout the years. A story about a group of players, named “The Brady Six” is detailed. These were six players who were picked before Tom Brady and how they stacked up in the league (I think we know how this ends), which the Browns chose Spergon Wynn that year.

Some great aspects of the book is looking at some of the players and coaches that were (or were not) considered for the team, such as the time when President and CEO Carman Policy refused to meet with Andy Reid in 2001 for a job, along with other names throughout the years like Mike Holmgren (before he became a member of the Browns’ office), Bill Cowher, and Jim Harbaugh as coach candidates.

Pluto covers some great stories that details the careers of Browns players Josh Cribbs and Joe Thomas, who brought class and professionalism to the team. These stories add a different take on the blunders that the team has endured from the antics of Josh Gordon, Kellen Winslow, and even GM Ray Farmer (who was suspended for sending text messages to the coaches during games). The countless starting roster, due to injuries, incompetence, and just lack of discipline, are looked at through the years. Pluto asked fans to write in and discuss topics such as their favorite Browns quarterback, if they still have players’ jerseys, and thoughts on the best coach since the expansion. I can see the passion that the fans of the team still have to this day in these sections. This gives an extra dimension to the theme of the book.

As a child, I grew up being a fan of the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Terry Bradshaw was, and still is, my favorite player of all time. My father grew up as a Browns fan, so I watched plenty of Browns games, and have since seen more Browns games in the past few years just waiting to see how the team will blow the game. I also listen to Cleveland radio stations, such as The Mike Trivosonno Show on WTAM. Browns great Bernie Kosar went to high school not far from me in Boardman, Ohio (I live in nearby Columbiana, Ohio). Even though I had to hate the Browns back then, there are still some players I enjoyed watching , like Brian Sipe and Peyton Hillis (and no, I am no longer a Steelers fan anymore).

The Browns Blues is a wonderful, entertaining read covering the post 1999 seasons of the Cleveland Browns. The flow of the writing is easy to read, with short chapters, while intertwining humor and knowledgeable information throughout the book. Even if the reader is not a Browns fan, there is some great stories in here-and possibly steps what not to do in running a team (such as hiring coaches before a GM is hired, and giving certain office personnel too much power beyond their qualifications).

Terry Pluto , along with Baker Mayfield, has given a gift to the fans of Cleveland, which they have needed for a long time; quality entertainment that is worth their money.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of Gray & Company

 

The Browns Blues: Two Decades of Utter Frustration: Why Everything Kept Going Wrong for the Cleveland Browns ( Gray & Company, 2018 ISBN: 978-1-59851-100-0) by Terry Pluto is available at http://www.grayco.com

 

For information about the author, go to Twitter: @ terrypluto or Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/terrypluto

The Overall:

Pages: 255

Language: None

Geared For: Any Age

For Fans Of: Sports, NFL Football, Cleveland Ohio History, The Cleveland Browns

Classic Book Review: A Christian Response May Offend Some

Image result for a christian response to horror cinema book
Front Cover:Jason Miller as Father Damien Karras in “The Exorcist” (Warner Bros/Photofest)

 

 

Peter Fraser’s A Christian Response to Horror Cinema: Ten Films in Theological Perspective (McFarland, 2015) takes a look at a few horror films and religion, but may not be for everyone.

This book was not what I expected when I was searching for books to review. My first impression was that the author was a fan of horror films, and was going to look at the films comparing them with a Biblical approach. There are many horror film watchers who are in the Christian faith (Alice Cooper comes to mind), along with the fact that one can look at horror films within the Christian faith and find that not all movies are anti- faith when it comes to the genre. For instance, in 1971’s The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Vincent Price uses the plagues of the Old Testament to avenge the death of his wife. This film, after watching it, made me go back and study what the plagues were in reference to the film.

Fraser’s book looks at several films such as 1932’s The Mummy, 1951’s The Thing, 1973’s The Wicker Man and The Exorcist, and 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth. The author’s look at these films, as his right as the writer of the book, is not kind towards most of the films, and the horror genre at a whole.

Fraser states the classic Karloff film The Mummy is a trick used in carnival shows where the viewer is “on the voyeuristic pleasure of viewing the obscene (Fraser, 61).” He also states that with this movie (along with others in the genre) when the creature shows a tease and then a full reveal in the film is similar to that of pornography, that the “allure of the horrific image shares pornography ‘s addictive potential” ( Fraser, 61). He also states that the film “drags overall” (Fraser, 62).

Throughout the book, Fraser states that horror films praises subjects like paganism (The Wicker Man), and that even if a creature or villain escapes in the film, it promotes that evil always wins, and writes in one section that horror films “encourages vicarious participation in acts of violence and perversion” (Fraser, 135). Fraser also critiques the film The Exorcist by stating the use of symbolism, via the shots of the staircases in the film , comparing these scenes with fences and staircases as a representation of heaven and hell.

Fraser covers the slasher film genre as well, stating that films like Halloween gives no respectability to the horror genre, and that they tease the viewers “into enjoying portrayals of cruelty and debasement and encourage in the role-playing exercise to take part of the sadist’s accomplice” (Fraser, 158). He also writes that research suggests that exposure to the slasher films equals violence towards women.

A Christian Response to Horror Cinema is just the type of book that will offend die hard horror films. Not only is the writing wordy (several times I had to re-read parts to understand what was being said, and at the end of each chapter, I could not tell you what it was about), along with many references in the book to other films that are not horror films (for instance, the author will be writing about The Exorcist and then go into a reference to C.S. Lewis without connecting the dots, or throw in western films in the essay). The book has the stereotypical outlook that if someone watches horror films, they are violent , abusive, and deal in the demonic areas of life. The author seems to hide the fact that there are bad things that happen in society (especially in our time now), and watching horror films does not mean everyone will encourage the actions in the films. It’s like stating that reading Shakespeare will cause a person to murder family members. The Bible has just as much violence in it than these horror films.

Fraser’s view on horror seems to be the same that would fall into the 1980s Christian faith that all things are bad if it’s not under a Christian label (remember the backlash of Christian musicians that were being played on the pop charts?). Fraser has every right to write his book, and I respect the fact that he is published. However, the book overall stereotypes horror fans as those that encourage violence and have no idea of Biblical values. He also stretches the films too much, as of the symbolism of the fences and staircases in films- it could be that there’s a fence around the house because that’s what was in front of the house when the director was shooting his work.

If you are a horror fan, this book may not be for you, and you may be offended by the common myths and stereotypes of the horror watcher. However, it is an interesting read with a different opinion on the film industry, and the writer may make you look at those films a little differently.

 

This title was given for review courtesy of McFarland.

 

A Christian Response to Horror Cinema: Ten Films in Theological Perspective by Peter Fraser (McFarland, 2015 ISBN: 978-0-7864-9824-6 eISBN: 978-1-4766-1972-9) can be ordered at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com or by calling 800-253-2187.

 

The Overall

Pages: 193

Language: None

Geared For: 18 and Up (textbook essay form)

For Fans Of: Film critiques, religion.