Saturday, February 28, 2015

TV Review: Columbo - A Stitch in Crime (1973)

TV Series: Columbo (1971-1978, 1989-2003) - USA
Episode: A Stitch in Crime (Season 2, Episode 6; Original Airdate: Feb. 11, 1973)
Directed by Hy Averback
Series Regulars: Peter Falk
Guest Stars: Leonard Nimoy, Anne Francis, Will Geer, Nita Talbot, Aneta Corsaut, Jared Martin

Even with Leonard Nimoy as the guest murderer this episode is a letdown due to a rushed and inconclusive ending.

A surgeon (Nimoy) plots to kill his research partner and fellow doctor (Geer) by botching his heart operation with improper sutures. A nurse (Francis) becomes suspect and he kills her to keep her quiet. Along comes Columbo to solve the murder of the nurse, but can he catch the killer and save his original intended victim before the surgery goes wrong?

In an unusual twist for a Columbo mystery, the intended victim has not been killed yet, but instead someone who suspects what the killer is up to is the murder victim. Unfortunately this is not the only deviation from the usual formula for a Columbo mystery, but the other deviations bring it down.

Being one of the shorter (74 minutes) Columbo movies to fill a 90 minute airtime it is a little rushed. Columbo comes into the case almost immediately suspecting the surgeon of the crime, I guess because he wondered about him bothering to set his clock while he heard about the news of the nurse's death. A pretty weak reason to suspect someone of anything. The conclusion is just as weak, as it happens abruptly. You can almost hear the director telling them they have to wrap it up in a few seconds with Columbo's speed in finding the fatal clue.

For me the even weaker part is that with the evidence Columbo has found, he has proven nothing more than attempted murder as it does nothing to tie (pun not intended) the surgeon to the two people he actually did kill.

Having watched many Columbo movies over the years I had never seen this one and was looking forward to a treat with Leonard Nimoy as the killer. Needless to say I was quite disappointed. At least it does provide one of the few times that Columbo gets angry with a suspect; the only other time that comes to mind for me is when Robert Conrad played a killer and Columbo lashed out at him in a hospital.

My Rating: 2 Fingers. Despite any good performances and it still being entertaining because it is Columbo, the rushed ending is a disappointment and the inconclusive evidence is a head scratcher.

Movie Review: Girls Are for Loving (1973)

In anticipation of having my other blog shut down because of Blogger saying they will now not allow adult blogs, specifically pictures and/or videos with graphic nudity (ambiguous as usual for Google I know), I am taking my reviews from The Sex and Blood Show and posting them here, minus the pics. This has been previously published by me, just edited for content so I can't be accused of using graphic, or overly graphic language.

Girls Are for Loving (1973) - USA - Spy Thriller - Rated R
Directed by Don Schain
Stars Cheri Caffaro, Timothy Brown, Sheila Leighton

Fills the void of spy movies where not only is the lead character a female James Bond but she and others in the movie have no problem with losing their clothes and getting down and dirty.

It seems Ginger McAllister has traded in her domestic private detective license and is now on call by none other than the CIA on international affairs to thwart evil doers who would dare to threaten the United States, and if she has to have sex along the way...well, it's just another part of her job.

This time, though, Ginger's nemesis is another beautiful woman named Ronnie St. Clair. It seems Ronnie has her eyes on a trade agreement between the U.S. and an Asian country. The U.S. is set to loan the country money to purchase U.S. goods under contract and Ronnie wants the names of the companies that will get the contracts so she can make a fortune off of them on the stock market; even if getting this information involves kidnapping and murder.

Girls Are for Loving takes the character of Ginger and puts her in a spy movie. In her two previous outings Ginger was a private eye in some low budget movies, but this time they have a much bigger budget taking her to international locales where she succeeds in losing her clothes just as well. The addition of the Ronnie St. Clair character ups the ante of what the film has to offer by pitting Ginger against a woman just as beautiful as herself and just as willing to lose her clothes.

Of course the movie is sexist as hell in presenting the women as eye candy, as most 70s films of this ilk were, but it transcends that usual mold by presenting both women as in-charge of their actions and destinies and their worlds revolve around them rather than either of them being the usual submissive female who gets naked while the heroic man saves the day. They do get naked, but they enjoy that freedom and Ginger makes no excuses for her open sexuality.

The addition of Timothy Brown also escalates the Ginger series as the first film of the series has Ginger having a negative attitude toward blacks but this movie adds not only a partner but also a love interest and he is black. You may remember Timothy Brown as Spearchucker Jones in the first season of the M*A*S*H TV series.

The plot of this movie is basic and sketchy at best, but we're really not here for the plot. We're here because two lovely women and others are going to get naked, and full nudity not just topless, and have sex, and tie each other down. Oh, and there's also explosions, pretty awful martial arts type fighting, chases, gunplay, and all the other things that make for an action spy movie outing.

This is begging for a newer DVD release as the current release by Monterey Video is rather dark in my opinion. In many scenes it is not a problem but for some night scenes and low light scenes it is difficult to make anything out at times. Luckily most of the film, the good parts, do not suffer from this problem.

This is not a pan and scan cropped version of the movie on this DVD. Some prints of this movie that were shown in theaters and released on VHS suffered from being cropped to cut out the pubic regions. I guess to not get an x-rating? The DVD version shows a lot more than the theater/VHS version did.

My Rating: 3 Fingers. Though sloppily done in several places, if you like spy movies and especially if you like sleazy movies, Girls Are for Loving combines both in a successful and fun way.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Movie Review: To All a Goodnight (1980)

In anticipation of having my other blog shut down because of Blogger saying they will now not allow adult blogs, specifically pictures and/or videos with graphic nudity (ambiguous as usual for Google I know), I am taking my reviews from The Sex and Blood Show and posting them here, minus the pics. This has been previously published by me, just edited for content so I can't be accused of using graphic, or overly graphic language.

To All a Goodnight (1980) - USA - Horror - Rated R
Directed by David Hess
Stars Jennifer Runyon, Judith Bridges, Forrest Swanson, Linda Gentile, Kiva Lawrence

A killer Santa is on the prowl at a girls' finishing school, but the danger Santa poses to the girls is nothing compared to the danger of the viewer falling asleep while watching this.

Two years ago at the Calvin Finishing School for Girls on a Christmas Eve a prank gone out of control causes one of the students to fall to her death. Two years later, the present, the current crop of girls are planning to spend Christmas break at the school with some boys who are flying in for this occasion. But it seems the boys are not the only new guests arriving as someone dressed in a Santa suit has already arrived as is ready to treat some naughty boys and girls to some killing that's not so nice.

It is difficult to fairly rate To All a Goodnight viewing it today rather than when it first came out. It seems littered with slasher movie conventions, yet it originally came out in 1980, before so many of those conventions became standard and is one of the movies that set those in stone. It does borrow from what came before, but what it did not borrow is something to keep any interest going.

Sitting down to watch this movie you had either have had a good night's sleep before this or something like toothpicks or tape to hold your eyes open. Though it starts off well enough, it soon lingers with seemingly nowhere to go but filling time to make it a full length movie. They could have cut the time in half and still kept every moment in the movie.

Although the killer in this movie becomes obvious at a certain point, I won't give any spoilers but someone is not present when the killings take place, I did not see an additional surprise ending coming and it did explain inconsistencies with the identity of the killer. Yes, ultimately it was hokey, like a lot of the 'baited' scripting in this movie, but it was a nice touch.

My Rating: 2 Fingers. What nudity there is in the movie is too little to have to sit through that much boredom. An additional note is that the framing on the new DVD release cuts from the top and bottom, so the scene in the bathroom with a naked Leia does not show her below the waist as it does on the old VHS copy.

Movie Review: The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

The Return of the Living Dead (1985) - USA - Horror Comedy - Rated R
Directed by Dan O'Bannon
Stars Clu Gulager, James Karen, Thom Mathews, Beverly Randolph, Don Calfa, Linnea Quigley, Miguel A. Núñez Jr., Brian Peck, John Philbin, Jewel Shepard, Mark Venturini

The zombie horror comedy that dares to ask "Do you want to party" and the answer is a resounding "Yes!"

Preparing for the July the 4th weekend, two employees of a medical supply warehouse located next to a cemetery are finishing up for the day when they accidentally release a chemical that brings the dead back to life while a group of punk rockers are hanging out in the cemetery waiting for their friend to get off work at the warehouse. From half-dogs and cadavers in the warehouse to the dead in their grave in the cemetery, everything that was dead comes to life in search of brains. Things will be rocking in the graveyard tonight.

Picking up from the Living Dead franchise of films starting with a John Russo story, Dan O'Bannon takes it in a different direction. Not wanting to intrude on Romero's work, he instead aims for the jugular with a black comedy which treats the original Night of the Living Dead as a movie, but based on an actual incident covered up by the U.S. military. That incident accidentally leads to this particular night.

The Return of the Living Dead is a smart and funny movie. Not everything is treated for laughs as the characters have a seriousness to them about their situation. Where the humor comes from is in dealing with unusual situations such as trying to remove a zombie's head and finding that doesn't kill it, taking vitals on someone exposed to the chemical and finding their body temperature is room temperature, among others. And yes, there are some intentionally comical moments such as a zombie getting on the paramedics' radio after munching on them and requesting more paramedics.

Where The Return of the Living Dead took a u-turn at the usual horror movie formula of slowly developing a story, probably for lack of a story in many, and dragging it along until something eventually happens was by jumping straight into the developing story. It takes several minutes before we even see a title and screen credits as the movie introduces likable characters in two different scenes, then introduces the situation, the releasing of the chemical, that will propel the movie forward. It does not take a moment for a breather as the story is fun, the editing is tight, and it is filled with a soundtrack of its own theme music infused with punk rock that keeps up the tempo and is fun in its own right.

Oh, and in case I forgot to mention it, Linnea Quigley is naked throughout most of the movie. This is not a complaint. I repeat, this is not a complaint! ;)

My Rating: 5 Fingers! A fun and funny movie from beginning to end. Not only did it inspire several sequels in its own right, it also inspired many movies yet to come and has earned its place as a classic.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Movie Review: Savage Island (1985)

In anticipation of having my other blog shut down because of Blogger saying they will now not allow adult blogs, specifically pictures and/or videos with graphic nudity (ambiguous as usual for Google I know), I am taking my reviews from The Sex and Blood Show and posting them here, minus the pics. This has been previously published by me, just edited for content so I can't be accused of using graphic, or overly graphic language.

Savage Island (1985) - Italy - Exploitation/Women in Prison - Rated R
Directed by Nicholas Beardsley
Stars Anthony Steffen, Ajita Wilson, Christina Lai, Linda Blair, Leon Askin, Cintia Lodetti, Penn Jillette

Not the most coherent or even best of stories but it delivers what any good women in prison movie should...lots of sweaty naked women.

A sexy woman enters into a highrise office complex for a meeting with a sleazy business tycoon. But this meeting is far from cordial and a surprise as he finds himself at gunpoint listening to her tell him a story of women who have been forced to work in a South American labor camp mining emeralds for a wealthy American tycoon; that would be him. But the prisoners of the labor camp along with a group of mercenaries hatch a plan of escape and of revenge against the sadistic and rapist guards. 

Savage Island is not an original film, and I'm not meaning in its plot, but then it's not original in that either. It actually is a re-edited film taken from two Italian-Spanish films originally shot back-to-back with most of the same cast, Hotel Paradise and Escape from Hell (both 1980), with additional new footage shot as a wrap-around and stars Linda Blair and Leon Askin. Of the two original movies, Escape from Hell is the better film from a sleaze perspective, and not the least of which it has a more coherent story. 

Savage Island merges the storylines from both movies into a shorter running time than either film. The downside is that the movie is choppy in places both because of the editing and because they are combining two movies in which some of the actors are different. On the upside, Savage Island has an abundance of nudity as it is taken from both of its parent films. 

If sweaty naked women running around, showering in the open, ripping their clothes off and fighting among each other is not your cup of tea...then what the hell is wrong with you? Savage Island is pure sleaze aimed at slobbering males. It gives what men want in a women in prison movie without taking up too much time with a silly little thing called plot and story; and if you are looking for plot and story in a women in prison movie you are looking in the wrong sub-genre. 

One major downside though is Savage Island was only put out on VHS and what DVD distributions of it that exist are from those VHS masters, or Betamax masters, so the quality is pretty low. Escape from Hell is the better alternative of the two original parent films, but both are available on DVD. 

My Rating: 3 Fingers. This barely deserves more than 2 fingers but being full of sweaty naked women more than makes up for what it is lacking elsewhere. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Movie Review: Hide and Go Shriek (1988)

Hide and Go Shriek (1988) - USA - Horror - Rated R
Directed by Skip Schoolnik
Starring Bunky Jones, Brittain Frye, Annette Sinclair, Sean Kanan, George Thomas, Donna Baltron

Not only is the dark a good place to have a private party, it is also a good place to fall asleep watching this dull movie.

John's father owns a large furniture store and being closed at night it provides the perfect place for John and 7 teenage friends to have a party, and for their own private place for some love making. But it also provides the perfect place for a deranged madman to hide out, and they have provided plenty of victims for him.

Hide and Go Shriek missed the classic slasher movie cycle by a few years, but who says you can't resurrect an already overdone premise of a killer stalking teenagers? The timeworn premise though is only part of the problem this movie has. Yes, it is dull as it just sets up another group of boring teenagers for the slaughter, but its even bigger problem is, other than the beginning and end of the movie, it takes place entirely in the dark; I kid you not.

They follow the premise of the kids staying the night in the furniture store without anybody's knowledge, and so the lights are kept off. Not only are things truly lowlight in this but at times things fade to black. In a theater this might not have been as much of a problem but when transferring film to video, for its time, lowlight scenes get worse.

There's not much original here other than the killer to some degree. There are four pairs of teenagers who are ultimately going to make out; nobody is surprised by this. There is the weird guy who is a red herring to make you think he might be the killer. And of course there is the boring build up of events so common with slasher movies. But the one thing it is lacking is the final killing spree. Perhaps they wanted to be more original, but in hindsight if you are going to copy everything else then go with a more action-packed killing spree rather than ending with a thud.

The one thing going for this movie is a decent amount of nudity. There is also a really well done decapitation scene. But unfortunately the rest of it is fast-forward territory unless you need a cure for insomnia, and don't mind the potential headache from watching a movie with so little light.

My Rating: 2 Fingers

There is a DVD available somewhere, but it is hard to find. You can get it on VHS.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Movie Review: Lord Farthingay's Holiday (1972)

In anticipation of having my other blog shut down because of Blogger saying they will now not allow adult blogs, specifically pictures and/or videos with graphic nudity (ambiguous as usual for Google I know), I am taking my reviews from The Sex and Blood Show and posting them here, minus the pics. This has been previously published by me, just edited for content so I can't be accused of using graphic, or overly graphic language.

Lord Farthingay's Holiday (1972) - USA - Adult Comedy - Rated X
A.K.A. Afternoon Tease 
Directed by Charleton Roberts (Joseph F. Robertson)
Stars Donna Young, Alida Tennant (Anna Travers), Casey Lorraine (Casey Larrain), Sandy Dempsey, Ron Darby

An at times slow movie for only 60 minutes is really brought up by the more than delicious beauties on screen naked and having sex.

Lord Farthingay, a British chap no less...righto, is arriving in the states for a holiday (that'll be a vacation for us yanks...jolly good). He will be staying at the Van Updyke estate, home of the snooty, but damn fine, Mrs. Van Updyke.

To make Lord Farthingay's stay an enjoyable one, Mrs. Van Updyke instructs Jeeves the butler to have some musicians play at poolside for the Lord, and I don't mean for church. Looking up For Teas in the yellow pages, Jeeves gets momentarily distracted and when returning his attention to the yellow pages he ends up calling the listing For a Tease which is a sex for hire business, and unknowingly orders a trio of prostitutes for his lordship. Needless to say, Lord Farthingay is in for a hell of a holiday.

The setup of Lord Farthingay's Holiday is basic, as I have summarized, and beyond that it is simply naked women and men having sex interspersed with a few occasional moments of humor. At times the movie does drag, but the women are paricularly attractive with nice bodies which more than makes up for the occasional slowness of the film. Anna Travers, a creamy skinned redhead with near perfect breasts, is exactly what I want for Christmas, and Casey Larrain is just damn fine and gets additional kudos for staying in character throughout the movie. 

Though there appear to be some attempts at showing penetration on camera, there are fewer gynecological close-ups than with a xxx movie which makes this film more ideal for those who don't want in-your-face genitals and other things but still want to see more of an x-rated movie than what an r-rated movie will show. Lord Farthingay's Holiday just verges on porn without actually going there.

My Rating: 3 Fingers. For the good looking women and the amount of nudity. Though X-rated, this is not XXX and probably would not appeal to hardcore porn fans.

Lord Farthingay's Holiday is available from Something Weird Video's website as a download. You may be able to find it on DVD from a seller, though Amazon does not have it.

Movie Review: Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) - USA - Horror - Rated R
Written and Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace
Starring Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O'Herlihy

Not even a good plot for a 30 minute Night Gallery episode stretched into 98 minutes of amateurish and derivative hell.

A paranoid man holding onto a Halloween mask is brought into a hospital and ends up being murdered by an unemotional killer who then pours gasoline on himself and sets himself on fire in his car. The bizarre incident leads the on-call doctor at the hospital and the murdered man's daughter to investigate and takes them to a strange town and the toymaker who runs the town. The toymaker's current line of Halloween masks, one of which the murdered victim was holding, is very popular and every kid wants one, especially with the popularity of the TV commercial and the jingle every kid is singing. But what is behind the masks may not be so kid friendly as the commercials lead one to believe.

I have truly tried to drag out an appropriate summary of the all too simple plot of this movie, and without giving much in the way of spoilers, but there just simply is not much to it. It is exactly what you expect it to be, and that ain't much.

Following on the heels of the successful Halloween movie and its sort of successful but inferior sequel, apparently the producers of this wanted to go in a different direction, and without Michael Myers. Poor decision.

This movie was recommended to me by others on a blog and recommended as a hidden gem. As close as this movie comes to being a gem would be in the form of a petrified turd.

It starts off not too badly, but by the point the plot is revealed it is a wait and see game of agony until this movie ends, and ends without adding anything past the first 10 or 15 minutes. The dialogue is stilted like it is written by some basement dwelling nerd who has only watched porn movies his entire life. The dialogue exists to advance the movie and is in no way even close to natural, more like dialogue written for a porn movie.

The most annoying part of the movie, and it is a tough choice deciding what is most annoying out of all the annoyances, is the constant use of playing to the camera for suspense, which is not in any way suspenseful. They overuse to death a strain of music from the original Halloween every time someone walks into the frame which is almost constantly, then they proceed to beat the corpse as they continue to do this. It's almost as though a group of amateurs got together and decided to make a movie, and thought that if something worked once in a movie then using it a hundred times should make it a hundred times better...NOT!!!

Continuity, and I mean lack thereof, is another annoyance. In several scenes where a motel plays a prominent role there are exterior shots of the motel, or I should say the same exterior shot of the motel with a single vehicle in the parking lot regardless how many vehicles were previously established to be in the parking lot. Gaffs in continuity and the aforementioned poor writing and beating the audience to death with cheap gimmicks, not to mention just a plainly stupid plot in the end, make the whole movie seem amateurish and lazy in its production.

Another thorn in my side was, and this may be an 80s thing, the misogynistic view of women in this. It's subtle, but every woman in this either is an easy lay, likes to be man-handled, is a screaming bitch, or is nosy. This movie expresses zero positive attitude toward women, which is why I previously called the writer of this a basement dwelling nerd. This should appeal very much to gamergate geeks who prefer being derogatory to women and are too stupid to get anything other than a simple 'the aliens are bad, shoot them' type of plot. The rest of humanity will probably want to avoid this waste of good film stock.

My Rating: I give it a finger! I am tempted to say "2 on each hand" as much as I hated this detestable movie.

Get Halloween III: Season of the Witch on DVD, Blu-ray or Instant Video

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Bizarre Celebrity and Other Deaths

Being famous does not exempt one from the bizarre. If anything the pursuit of fame is its own risk and being famous, and dying unexpectedly, even in a bizarre manner, will forever etch that moment into the annals of history.

What follows are bizarre deaths of celebrities and some deaths that are bizarre in their own right and as such have made the unfortunate soul famous for their death. I will mostly concentrate on accidental deaths. There are a few who died of natural causes, which in and of itself is not bizarre, but the circumstances surrounding their deaths make it bizarre.

Vic Morrow

Perhaps the most famous and grisly of accidental deaths of a celebrity was that of Vic Morrow, one of two stars of the hit TV show Combat and with a respectable acting career following his success on the series. It was during the filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie early on the morning of July 23, 1982. Morrow and two young children, Myca Dinh Le (age 7) and Renee Shin-Yi Chen (age 6), were involved in a scene in which Morrow's character was trying to save the children while escaping from an army helicopter. The helicopter flying 24 feet above them was damaged by the pyrotechnic explosions on the ground and lost control, crashing into the three actors, decapitating Morrow and Dihn Le, and crushing Chen to death under one of the helicopter struts.

The Deaths of Morrow, Dihn Le and Chen are the most famous celebrity deaths by helicopter, and the most tragic because of the deaths of the two young children, but not the most bizarre.

Michael Findlay

Michael Findlay is most associated with sexploitation movies. He and wife Roberta Findlay were the most noted producers of sexploitation films and roughies in the mid to late 1960s. In the early 70s they turned their efforts more to horror movies. It was one of their unsuccessful horror movies, Slaughter (1971), that was re-edited with additional footage without their knowledge and re-released in 1976 as the notorious, though bogus, Snuff movie.

Michael Findlay was also a developer of camera equipment and had a keen interest in 3-D filmmaking. He had invented a portable 3-D movie camera and was on his way to France to get the support of backers for his camera. On May 16, 1977, with his 3-D camera in hand he was on the roof of the (then) Pan Am building in New York waiting to board a helicopter to take him and other passengers to the JFK airport.

In the process of taking on 21 passengers, the helicopter's landing support broke causing it to tilt violently and suddenly to one side, the still turning blades dropping and striking Findlay and three other passengers and killing all four, three immediately, including Findlay, and one who later died in the hospital. One of the blades broke loose and went off the roof of the building, falling to the street below and striking and killing a pedestrian. In all, five people were killed in the accident.

Helicopters are not the only dangerous vehicles. Frankly any vehicle is dangerous, but when an intoxicated driver gets behind the wheel of a car, it becomes many times more dangerous.

Margaret Mitchell

Orson Welles once said in a wine commercial that it took ten years for Margaret Mitchell to write Gone with the Wind. Of course the point was that a classic takes time, like a fine wine.

Gone with the Wind was Margaret Mitchell's most noted achievement in writing, and became a noted Hollywood achievement when it was made into the now classic movie. Ironically, she was on her way to a movie when tragedy struck.

It was the evening of August 11, 1949 as she was on her way to see a movie with her husband. She was crossing Peachtree Street in Atlanta when she was struck by a car. The driver of the car, an off-duty taxi driver in his personal car, was originally charged with drunk driving, but the charge was upgraded to involuntary manslaughter when she died five days later due to her injuries. He was sentenced to 18 months for her death but only served 11.

Margaret Mitchell was struck by a vehicle causing the injuries which resulted in her death, but one can also be the driver of the vehicle, and ironically while trying to save lives.

T. E. Lawrence (a.k.a. Lawrence of Arabia)

A colorful figure in history, Thomas Edward Lawrence was most noted for his exploits as a British army officer. He was also a noted archaeologist, writer, and his sexual preference was brought into question during his life and especially after his death, though he was most likely simply asexual.

It was on May 13, 1935 as he was riding his motorcycle he suddenly came upon two boys riding their bicycles, they were previously obscured by a dip in the road. Swerving hard to miss the boys, Lawrence was thrown over the handlebars of his motorcycle resulting in a severe head injury. He died six days later on May 19, 1935.

Though Mitchell was killed as a result of someone else's actions, and Lawrence as a result of putting the safety of others first, sometimes one's actions result in one's own death, even if it was still accidental.

Jon-Erik Hexum

Hexum was an up and coming star. He simply was a gorgeous man who modeled and had an acting career having been in the TV show Voyagers! and a regular role in a new series Cover Up in which he played a CIA operative posing as a male model. It was on the set of Cover Up where he accidentally took his own life.

Practicing for an upcoming scene where he was to load blanks into a revolver, Jon-Erik and others were looking forward to wrapping up the day when informed that there would be a delay in filming, making the day longer. Hexum had put one blank into the gun and spun the cylinder of the revolver like in Russian Roulette. With the prop gun in hand, Hexum made a joking comment and as part of the joke he put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

Whether he had realized there was a blank round in the gun is not known, or if he realized the dangers of a blank round at such close proximity. Blanks are capped with a paper or wax wadding to keep the powder in. At several feet this represents no threat as the wadding falls to the ground and the powder content of a blank is not the same as a live round. But at point blank range it can be dangerous and in Hexum's case the wadding struck his head causing a quarter sized piece of his skull to shatter and sending the pieces into his brain.  Jon-Erik Hexum lingered for 6 days after emergency surgery then was declared brain dead. In an amazing show of humanity and charity, his mother gave permission for him to be kept on life support long enough for his organs to be harvested and even in death Hexum saved the lives of several critically ill patients. He died on October 18, 1984 at the age of 26.

Not even two weeks after the date of Hexum's death is perhaps the most celebrated holiday next to Christmas. That would be Halloween if you don't have a calendar handy.

Harry Houdini and River Phoenix

Harry Houdini and River Phoenix have probably never been compared, rarely ever mentioned in the same breath, and share little if anything in common except that they both died on Halloween.

While being visited by students before a show, Houdini was questioned about his ability to take punches in the stomach without feeling pain. Not being prepared for the student to actually punch him in the stomach, Houdini was hit without bracing himself and was in pain, but went on to perform the show. After the show he was taken to the hospital where it was discovered he suffered from a ruptured appendix; though it has been believed it was a result of the punches from the student, it has also been suggested he already suffered from appendicitis and the punches just aggravated it. Houdini died in the hospital on October 31, 1926 at the age of 52.

River Phoenix had been one of the most promising stars having already been in commercials from the age of 10 and having 24 film and television appearances by the time of his untimely death at only 23 when he collapsed on the sidewalk outside a West Hollywood nightclub and died of drug-induced heart failure on October 31, 1993. He was the eldest brother of several siblings in the acting community including the talented Joaquin Phoenix.

Though mystery surrounded Houdini's life and he found ways to perform the seemingly impossible, even he would have been stumped on how someone could win a horse race, after they died.

Frank Hayes

Hayes had never won a horse race before, and was actually a trainer and stableman who jockeyed on occasion. It was June 4, 1923 and Hayes was riding a 20-1 longshot named Sweet Kiss. An unlikely win, Sweet Kiss won the race by a head. When going to congratulate the jockey on the win, the owner of the horse found him dead in the saddle. Frank Hayes had died of a heart attack midway through the race but his body stayed in the saddle. It was his only win, but he would never know it. It also makes Frank Hayes the only jockey to win a horse race while dead.

Horses are given some strange names, and sometimes with the hope that the name will be lucky. There are times when a name is just unlucky.

Davey Moore and...Davey Moore

Davey Moore, and Davey Moore, were both boxers. One was born November 1, 1933 and the other June 9, 1959. The elder Moore was a world featherweight champion who died as a result of injuries sustained in a fight with Sugar Ramos. The younger Moore was caught off guard when his vehicle began rolling in his driveway. He tried to stop it but was dragged and pinned under it resulting in his death. Both boxers were under 30 at the time of their deaths.

Speaking of being caught off guard, well some people aren't and ultimately are the only devices of their own deaths.

Franz Reichelt and Garry Hoy

Garry Hoy won a Darwin Award for the way he died. Franz Reichelt should have.

Franz Reichelt was a tailor in France, a parachuting pioneer, an inventor, and apparently pretty hard-headed, but it didn't save him. He had designed a wearable outfit that converted into a parachute. He felt his early failures were a result of it not being tested from enough of a height (don't get ahead of me) and finally after several petitions got permission to test his suit from the top of the Eiffel Tower on February 4, 1912. He insisted that he test it himself rather than testing it with a dummy despite protests from friends and authorities. Medical examiners say he died of a heart attack before he hit the ground below.

Garry Hoy was a Toronto attorney who liked to prove to people that the glass walls used in the Toronto-Dominion Center skyscraper were unbreakable. He had done this by throwing his body against the clear glass and succeeded on several occasions to prove his point, except for once and that's all it took to put an end to his proving anything anymore. At a Friday night party in the building Hoy had bounced off the wall once already and decided to do it again, but this last time the frame holding the unbreakable glass broke free leaving him plummeting 24 stories to his death.

If anything these stories tell us is that life can be fragile. It has been said that the difference in being injured and not, having an accident and not is a matter of fractions. A fraction of an inch, a fraction of a second, the difference between something happening or not can be that seemingly insignificant, but suddenly that insignificance becomes the most important and volatile thing. The same can be said of death, but unlike injury death is a one time event. If anything, that insignificant split second should remind each and every one of us just how precious and invaluable life is.

Toxic Fletch