East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Not so bad, but not so good: Royal Flash, 1974

Yesterday I wasted 100 minutes watching for the umpteenth time Richard Lester’s Royal Flash, the 1974 adaptation of the novel by the same title by George MacDonald-Fraser. A movie that on paper should have been HUGE: great director, excellent cast, based on a fun novel and adapted by the author himself… what could ever go wrong?

For the uninitiated, Royal Flash sees our “hero” Harry Flashman (here portrayed by Malcolm McDowell) caught up the plan by Otto Bismark (Oliver Reed) to manipulate the local politics of a minor German state. The plot is basically The Prisoner of Zenda, with Flash Harry forced to take the place of a Danish prince to marry the German Duchess Irma (Britt Ekland). Lola Montez (Florinda Bolkan) has a part in the plot, and Flashy needs to match wits with Bismark’s accomplice, Rudi Von Sternberg (Alan Bates).

Once again, what could ever go wrong?

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Today is Monica Vitti’s 88th birthday, and I decided to celebrate by watching again the 1966 movie Modesty Blaise, based on Peter O’Donnell’s character of the same name.
Now two things I need to make clear: I always loved Monica Vitti, and I always found the Modesty Blaise movie hard to digest.

Monica Vitti

And it is weird, because we are talking a film directed by a giant of British cinema, Joseph Losey, and featuring a cast that includes not only Monica Vitti, but also Terence Stamp, Dirk Bogarde, Harry Andrews and Clive Revill. The problems are others. First, much as Monica Vitti’s voice has always been one of her assets, her accent stops very soon being exotic, and turns out to be just irritating (but that’s just me). Much more important, to me, is the general campiness of the set-up. Now the Modesty Blaise comics and novels were never high literature, but the movie does at time try too hard.

But hey, celebration day, so on we go with Modesty Blaise, 1966.
Or not.

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My nipples are different

For the first time in my online life, I had a post blocked by Facebook, together with a prim and rather icy pop-up that informed me the post violated the Community Standards for nudity and sexual activities.
Of course I laughed out loud about the sole idea of that circus that is Facebook having standards of any kind, community or otherwise, but then I had to accept the fact that, yes, I had just broken the Facebook laws of decency.
And on the eve of Halloween, of all times…

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This is not the cat goddess you are looking for

Growing up in Turin, and spending a lot of time in the halls of the old Egyptian Museum, I became acquainted early on with Bastet and Sekhmet, the two cat-goddesses of the Egyptian pantheon.
Both goddesses started out as lionesses, but later Bastet (or Bubastis) was characterized more as a cat, while Sekhmet retained her lion aspect and her fierceness.

But there was a third cat goddess, I was surprised to find out, one whose acquaintance I made only in the last few days, as she became instrumental in resolving the plot of the latest story I wrote.
I am talking of Pakhet.

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Raiders of the Lost Franchise: The People that Time Forgot

I first saw 1977 The People that Time Forgot at the local parish cinema. It was probably 1979, I had not yet seen the previous movie in the series and yes, I was thirteen and I was quite impressed by Dana Gillespie’s, ehm… presence.
So sue me.

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