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Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of movies. There is probably no genre I do not enjoy, as long as the movie is good. I like classical films and period pieces, many of them British, where the only firearms are hunting pieces, but I also watch action films in which fast car chases, explosions, and machine gun fire are the order of the day. I avoid those which fail to rise above the violence, that feed only fantasies of rage and revenge. I can’t relate to them. But many have heroes, sometimes anti-hero heroes, who engage in a mission, wrestle with inner demons as well as diabolic villains, and save not only the world, but their own souls. Stories of any kind get me to thinking. Here are some of my observations.

WHY ARE THE BAD GUYS SUCH POOR SHOTS?

This puzzles me. Our hero, armed with only a hand gun (which in reality would have limited range and accuracy) can pick off the bad guys 100 feet away while literally running to save the heroine, or his own life, or both. At the same time, the bad guys are spraying the atmosphere with automatic weapons, and not one bullet hits our hero. Or our heroine, unless it is written into the script that she is to die in order to deepen his distress.

Come on, now. I can do more damage with a water hose.

The only explanation I can find for this phenomenon (besides its being written into the script) is that heroes wear invisible armor, an aura of protection, which evil cannot penetrate (unless it’s written into the script). The bad guys, of course, have no such armor, with the exception of the arch villain whose life must be spared for a sequel. So they are doomed to die like flies.

Actually, that is a poor metaphor. Have you ever tried to kill a fly?

I WANT ONE OF THOSE SUITCASES

Have you paid attention to suitcases in movies?

I used to marvel at how my then-teenage daughter would pack more bags for an overnight visit than I require for a week’s vacation. Then I watched an old movie about a group of people gathering for a weekend at a haunted house. One comely young lady arrived carrying only her modest purse and a suitcase that would barely hold a teenager’s cosmetics. I couldn’t believe she came so poorly prepared.

This week I watched “White Christmas”. The heroines are a pair of sisters who perform a song and dance act, traveling by train up and down the eastern seaboard. Early in the movie, they are threatened with arrest due to a landlord dispute. The heroes help them escape through a back window. When they pass three or four suitcases through the window and place them in a taxi, the inattentive viewer might imagine that was a lot of luggage. But stop and think. This took place in the early 50’s. These stylish gals wore crinolines that occupied a square yard of floor space each. The girls also had their costumes, which included headpieces with large feather plumes. Plus their clothing.

Edith Head had a hey-day designing costumes for this movie. Every time the girls stepped in front of the camera, they sported new outfits. Sure, they borrowed each other’s dresses, but half a boxcar would be needed to haul all the clothing the movie displayed.

One sister decides to go off on her own. She is seen at the train station with a single suitcase barely large enough to hold her spare crinoline. In succeeding scenes, she again changes clothes every time the camera man takes a break. If she had successfully crammed all she owned into that one bag, she would not be able to lift it. In those days, luggage did not come with rollers.

It must be magic. Something like Dr. Who’s Tardis, roomier inside than it appears, and all that weight dissipating into something ethereal that a skinny young actress can pick up and carry. As I pack for a week’s getaway, I’m thinking, “I wish I had one of those suitcases.”

MAN ON THE ROOF OF A TRAIN

Not long ago, I watched “The Great Train Robbery” starring Sean Connery, a movie well worth watching. It was released in 1979 when he was still young (well, 49) and special effects were still in their infancy. This was long before 007 began jumping out of perfectly good airplanes to ski down mountain sides so he could tangle with bad guys.

The story takes place in 1854 and our hero is a train robber. The most exciting scene, showing Sean Connery walking on the roof of the moving train, takes several tense minutes. The train is pulled by a steam locomotive spewing smoke. Our hero climbs from his passenger car onto the roof and tries to walk on the jolting, swaying cars, jumping from one to another to get to the back of the train where the loot is stashed. What made it most thrilling is that it is Sir Sean himself, not a stunt man, on the roof of that train.

As I watched the movie, I was struck by how this simple stunt, without the aide of CGI, equaled the more sophisticated antics we have become accustomed to. Actually, it more than equals them. I found it more thrilling because, although staged, it was real.

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