Wednesday, February 21, 2018

R.I.P. Billy Graham

   Needless to say, there've been a lot of memorials for Billy Graham today. It's hard not to weigh in on the passing of such an American icon. Graham was such a powerful force, and he became the face of the American church. His sermons were effectively simple, basically noting "the Bible says..." and then telling it. He walked this earth for nearly a century, and became the friend and spiritual advisor to countless millions, including kings and presidents, show folk and the average Joe. His televised crusades saved millions, from Bettie Page to Jesse Duplantis. Steve McQueen's most prized possession was the bible Billy gave him. He will be missed. The best summation of his passing is in his own words: “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead—don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God." God bless you, Billy.

   Finally, here's the stirring memorial from evangelist Mario Murillo...
      "Today, you will read many things about Billy Graham.  Greater writers and more famous voices than I will pay tribute to this singular man sent by God.  I have chosen a different path for my words about him.I will leave it to the more qualified to astound you by recounting the achievements of this evangelist of evangelists.  Let me take you on another course…
    In front of a barn in the middle of nowhere, a group of farmers met to pray.  One of them spoke up and said, “I don’t know why but I believe that from this spot, the Gospel will go around the world.”  Not far away, a little skinny boy did his chores—his name was Billy Graham. 
   In that day, Mortdecai Ham blazed a trail of revival. His fiery sermons electrified vast audiences.  Yet, one of his crusades was a devastating disappointment.  This entry was in his diary: “This week only 2 souls were saved.”  One of them was a 12-year-old Billy Graham.
    My soul drew a strange comfort every year that Billy Graham was kept alive.  He was the Christian father praying for a wayward nation.  He was the national pastor whose very presence made me feel that there was a hand of protection on America.  He gave me hope that our nation could still repent.
   I am choking back tears of sadness and dread. Does his departure signal the fact that we have finally crossed the deadline?  Or does his entrance into heaven mean a fresh mantle of soul winning will fall to many men and women.  Everything in me screams “LORD LET IT BE THE LATTER!”
   Thank God we have a president who will honor Billy Graham.  Thank God, that the many angry and hateful voices, who would strip America of every last semblance of Christ, will be forced to relive the miracle of a country boy, with a simple message who spoke about Jesus to more people face to face, than anyone in history.
   Thank God that perhaps, today’s preachers will get a lesson.
    I was a little brother to the great evangelist scandals of the 1980’s.   I remember how the most popular magazine of the day posted a gallery of well-known evangelists. Under each picture was a list of their sins.  The last picture was of Billy Graham with this caption underneath: Above Reproach.
    Many young preachers learned nothing about integrity from those scandals.  Instead of fearing God and humbling themselves they invented new ways to express pride and materialism.  They lust for best sellers and mansions.
   What they never got—and still do not have—is the impact on society of a Billy Graham.
    One simple example is when he toured the eastern bloc nations.  Not long after his crusades, the Soviet Union broke apart.  A careful look shows the first nations to discard communism were the same places where this man of God preached.  Impact not popularity. Get it?
   Maybe you can see today—my dear brother—how much more he would have said to Oprah than you did.
   Our loss stings.  Perhaps the sting is divine.  Let preachers feel it.  Let them see how thundering the Cross, the Blood, repentance, and hell, filled the largest stadiums in the world. It can again.
   The word paragon is an interesting word.  It means a model of excellence. A towering, convicting, awe-inspiring paragon of evangelism has gone to heaven." -Mario Murillo

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Quick Look: AFRICA SCREAMS (1949)

   One of a tiny handful of films Bud Abbott and Lou Costello made away from Universal, AFRICA SCREAMS was a delightful parody of jungle pictures -complete with real-life big game wranglers Clyde Beatty and Frank "Bring 'em Back Alive" Buck. The story has some crooks looking to raid a native diamond mine in darkest Africa. Lou, a store salesman petrified of animals, is hired as guide when it turns out he's the only one who knows the way! Typically hysterical hijinks produced during the period where Bud and Lou really hit their stride, AFRICA SCREAMS went on to become a hugely popular TV and home video staple. (It was the first film I purchased on DVD.) Everything is firing correctly, and the film's cast adds some fun trivia value. The femme fatal is Hillary Brooke, who shortly went on to star as the charming girl across the hall on The Abbott and Costello Show. The film sports two Stooges as well. Shemp Howard is a nearly blind gun bearer, while Joe Besser (who also went on to join Bud and Lou's TV program) is his typically annoying self. Despite not being produced under Universal, the film remains one of the best the team did. Rapid-fire family entertainment that I can't imagine a childhood not including.

Sunday, February 18, 2018


   The coolest show that never was, The Solarnauts was an aggressively groovy, everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink space opera pilot produced for British television. Unfortunately, the series wasn't picked up. (Last I checked, the complete pilot could be found on YouTube, for those interested.) The plot, which I think was lifted from an old episode of Space Patrol, dealt with an inter-galactic despot threatening the universe with a killer cloud. A brave pair of astronauts journey to the enemy's planet and in the process rescue a space babe played by Martine Beswick. Watching The Solarnauts is a lot like watching one of your better Italian space operas concentrated into a half hour that retains every bit of it's flavor. Seldom have I seen a show where so much happened so quickly! But alas, this was to be our only mission with the Solarnauts.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Quick Look: MARS NEEDS WOMEN (1967 - color)

   From the better-than-it's-reputation file, MARS NEEDS WOMEN was one of the better AIP-TV movies from director Larry Buchanan. Unlike the bulk of these films, MARS NEEDS WOMEN wasn't a shoestring remake of an earlier, far better, picture. An original work, the film is cheap but effective. Martians infiltrate our society in order to select suitable breeding stock to save their dying world, and their leader falls in love with an Earth woman. True, it's not the most original premise, but Buchanan does some good stuff with it. The film's simple approach of having Martians silently slip into our society by dressing the same as everybody else has a nice subtle undertone. Seen here are the leads, Tommy Kirk and Yvonne Craig. Because both actors are associated with Beach movies, some reviewers have labored under the false impression that the film is somehow intended as camp, or that the film is Buchanan's re-working of PAJAMA PARTY -in which Kirk played a Martian spy who falls in love with an Earth woman! Really, though, the film is nicely effective and I'd heartily recommend it to genre fans.