Tuesday, December 30, 2014

HERE THERE BE SPOILERS


I recently watched Jonathan Demme's 2004 remake of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE. I've seen the original 1962 version several times and it's a film I hold in high regard. The remake updates the basic plot with a few new wrinkles for the 21st century and is, generally speaking, a slick, well-made political thriller.

But I have a major problem with the key plot device of the narrative and I'm going to have to discuss in detail the end of the film here in order to make my point.

In the film, Bennett Marco (Denzel Washington), a veteran of the Gulf War, has been brainwashed to act as a political assassin. In the original film, Frank Sinatra played the part of Marco but he did not act as an assassin. That duty fell to Sgt, Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey). Here, Shaw, as played by Live Schreiber, is another war hero who is positioned to be the vice-presidential nominee on an unnamed political party's ticket. Meryl Streep plays Shaw mother's (Angela Lansbury played the part in the original), a U.S. Senator, who will stop at nothing to see her son propelled into a strategically vital political position.

Shaw receives the nomination as vice president for his party at the convention and he's joined on stage by his mother. They stand alongside the presidential candidate whom Marco has been brainwashed into shooting. Instead, Marco overcomes his programming and shoots both Shaw and his mother with one bullet, effectively eliminating the real threat to the country.

It's a neat twist ending but I'm left wondering, what was the point of Marco shooting the presidential candidate in the first place? We're only at a political convention. The men have just been nominated. The ticket hasn't won a general election and neither man has taken an oath of office and been sworn into their respective duties. So why shoot a presidential candidate at this stage of the campaign?

Would Shaw automatically become the presidential candidate by default? Or would the delegates at the convention have to place into nomination another candidate for the position? Even if Shaw was somehow placed at the head of his party's ticket, it doesn't guarantee that he'll be elected in November. Wouldn't it make far more sense to wait until Shaw and the presidential candidate are elected and sworn in, before killing the new president? That's the only way I know of to put Shaw into office through a legal, constitutionally mandated succession of power.

If anyone has any insight into this question, I'd like to hear from them. Sure it makes for great political theater and high drama to stage an assassination at a major convention but from a logistical point of view, if making sure that the brainwashed Raymond Shaw ends up in the highest office of the land, it just wouldn't accomplish that goal.

Still, Demme delivers a well-crafted and very well acted film. Denzel Washington is superb as a broken man slowly uncovering the truth about his past, Schreiber is a stolid war hero, a blank slate upon which the evil schemes of others have been imprinted and Meryl Streep is almost-but-not-quite over-the-top as the power hungry mother who dominates her son in every way.  

As a rule, I don't think remakes are necessary. Certainly not in the case of this material. The original MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE was an excellent film, superbly directed by John Frankenheimer. It's very much a product of the Cold War era in which it was made. Demme's film doesn't make any noticeable improvements on the material, merely some cosmetic changes. The plot is still essentially the same.

So, why spend all of that time, talent and money to redo something that was damn near perfect the first time? Couldn't all of that effort been put to good use on something new, fresh and original? The argument in favor of remakes like this used to be that the majority of today's moviegoers aren't familiar with the original, that it's an old movie in black and white with actors and actresses who are all dead and the material needs to be freshened up for a new generation.

That may have been true at one point but it's not true any longer. Anyone of any age who has any interest has access to the original version of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE. They don't have to wait to catch it on television or to see it at a revival house. In 2014, the 1962 MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE is a click away, ready to be downloaded or streamed wherever and whenever anyone wants it.

So, the film is more accessible today than it has ever been. That eliminates the argument that today's audiences don't have access to the original film. The question (and problem) becomes, do they want to become familiar with it or will they prefer this new iteration which itself will probably be redone yet again in another twenty-odd years.

All I know is that while Demme's film is well made and entertaining, I still prefer the original version.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER


I have it in my mind that I first saw A NIGHT TO REMEMBER (1958) on the CBS Thursday Night movie sometime in the late 1960s. I believe I was still in elementary school at the time so this would have been no later than 1968. I had previously checked out from the school library and read Walter Lord's book of the same name that the film was based on. I also recall reading Lord's A DAY OF INFAMY, his minute-by-minute account of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. Both of Lord's books were essential reading for almost every young boy enrolled at Brykerwoods Elementary School in the 1960s.

With a running time of 123 minutes, A NIGHT TO REMEMBER is a sober, measured account of the most famous maritime disaster of the 20th century. With no CGI effects, no Jack and Rose romance subplot, no action-adventure style race-against-time-to-escape-the-sinking-ship finale, Roy Ward Baker's film packs more of a punch than James Cameron's bloated 194 minute behemoth TITANIC (1997).

Screenwriter Eric Ambler (who wrote some first rate spy novels in his time), does a great job adapting Lord's book for the screen. Filmed at Britain's Pinewood studios and utilizing both full scale sets and finely detailed miniatures, A NIGHT TO REMEMBER takes us on that fateful voyage from April, 1912. By sticking to the known facts of the tragedy, Baker gives us a broad canvas of characters each of whom react to the disaster in their own way. Since we all know how the story ends, it's hard to generate much suspense but Baker orchestrates a compelling, moving and exciting narrative that shows men and women at their best and some at their worst.

The cast reads like a who's who of the mid-century British cinema. Kenneth More, as Second Officer Charles Lightoller is the nominal star and gets the most screen time. Future MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. star David McCallum is a wireless operator, and three stars of GOLDFINGER appear in the film: Honor Blackman, Desmond Llewelyn (uncredited as a crew member) and Sean Connery (uncredited as a steerage passenger).

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, which I watched again for the first time in years a few night back (recorded off of TCM), is a gripping, first rate production that sticks largely to the facts. It's not 100%  historically accurate but it's highly regarded by Titanic buffs and historians as getting more of the story right than wrong. Recommended.

Friday, December 26, 2014

DIAL 1119


Baby faced Marshall Thompson (winner of the former UT football coach Fred Akers look-alike-contest) plays a psycho killer in DIAL 1119 (1950) a low budget, B film noir produced by MGM. I watched it for the first time last night and really enjoyed it. It's a minor effort but it's taut and well done.

Gunther Wyckoff (Thompson) arrives in Terminal City (perhaps the best name for a film noir city ever) by bus at the beginning of the film. He's newly escaped from a mental hospital for the criminally insane. He shoots the bus driver in cold blood (with the driver's own gun, no less) and then begins stalking the streets of Terminal City in search of someone named Dr. Faron.

Unable to find Faron, Wyckoff ends up in the Oasis Bar where grumpy bartender Chuckles (William (CANNON )Conrad) has a big, flat and square screened, wall mounted, remote controlled  television set. Pretty elaborate for 1950! The set-up cost $1400 according to Chuckles but it only shows wrestling, old westerns and local police broadcasts. Chuckles figures out who Wyckoff is but before he can call the cops, Chuckles is gunned down by the killer who then holds the remaining five people in the bar hostage.

Wyckoff demands to see Dr. Faron (Sam Levene), who it turns out is a police psychiatrist who previously treated Wyckoff before he was committed to the insane asylum. If Faron isn't delivered by a rapidly approaching deadline, the hostages will start to die. Wyckoff regales his prisoners with stories of his experiences in WWII and we begin to suspect that he's suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, a shell-shocked veteran unable to cope with the real, peace-time world.

Meanwhile, a local television station has set up a remote camera crew outside of the bar and is broadcasting everything that happens. The police are determined to storm the bar while Dr. Faron argues that he deserves a chance to talk to Wyckoff and try to avert a disaster. The truth about Wyckoff is finally revealed in a confrontation between him and Faron and things come to an explosive and violent climax that leaves two of the main players dead.

DIAL 1119 is tightly paced by director Gerald Mayer (son of MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer). With it's barroom setting and small cast of characters, the film has the feel of a play but there's enough exterior action to break up the claustrophobic terror of the saloon. There's a musical score by Andre Previn but it's used very sparsely which only adds to the suspense and tension of the narrative.

Cinematographer Paul Vogel gets the most out of the limited sets and back lot locales, moving his camera whenever possible and framing several nicely composed shots for maximum impact. DIAL 1119 features a good performance by Thompson as the insane Wyckoff. Thompson went on to star in the television series DAKTARI and there's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance by Barbara (LEAVE IT TO BEAVER) Billingsley as a secretary at the local newspaper.

DIAL 1119 is a tough and tight little film noir that fans of the genre will enjoy. Recommended.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

PORKY'S


What to make of director Bob Clark's career? His filmography is all over the map. BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974), the story of a serial killer living in a sorority house during Christmas break is a good little horror film. MURDER BY DECREE (1979) is one of the best Sherlock Holmes movies ever made. Christopher Plummer plays Holmes and James Mason is Dr. Watson in a case involving the true identity of the infamous Jack the Ripper

Clark's most famous (and endlessly lucrative film) is far and away A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983) which runs 24/7 on multiple cable channels every December. I'm surprised there isn't an A CHRISTMAS STORY channel permanently devoted to running the film year round. Here's a bit of heresy: I've never seen A CHRISTMAS STORY. Oh, I suffered through a truly wretched stage production of the material at Round Rock's Sam Bass Community Theatre (was that a rat that ran across my feet?) several years ago but I've never seen the film, despite that fact that it's everywhere on television every December. I doubt I'll ever see it. And on the off chance that I ever do, I'm sure I'll be profoundly disappointed. The cult of this film, the hype surrounding it, the sheer mythic status of it is sure to outweigh any of the inherent qualities of the film. When you come to a beloved "classic" like A CHRISTMAS STORY this late in the game, the film can't possibly live up to it's reputation. It's a bandwagon you had to have jumped on years ago. Late comers are welcome, but no refunds will be provided for any who are disappointed.

And then there's PORKY'S (1981), Clark's randy, raucous and rowdy teenage sex comedy that was, believe it or not, the fifth highest grossing film of 1982. In fact, PORKY'S was so successful that it spawned three sequels: PORKY'S II: THE NEXT DAY (1983), PORKY'S REVENGE! (1985) and PIMPIN' PEE WEE (2009). I saw the film on first release at the old Capitol Plaza Cinema. It was one of the last films I can remember going to see with my brother. Just the two of us out for some cheap laughs on a Friday night. We got them in spades that night but when I watched PORKY'S again a few weeks back for the first time in over thirty years, it wasn't nearly as funny as I remembered it.

Of course a lot of those original laughs were dependent on two factors. One, seeing a low brow comedy like PORKY'S with a full audience is a completely different experience than watching the film alone. Communal laughter can be infectious. The other factor was that I was a lot closer to being a sex obsessed teenager myself in 1981 (I was 25 at the time) than I am now.

PORKY'S is the kind of movie that has characters named Meat and Pee Wee. Guess what those names refer to? It takes place in Florida in the 1950s but although the cars are vintage, all of the girls wear very short shorts and they all sport 1980s hairdos. The high school where much of the action takes place doesn't appear to offer any classes other than gym as we never see any students in classrooms. There's a lot of scenes in the gymnasium of basketball practice but we never see a game actually played. Few teachers appear and almost no parents. It's a universe in which the teens are infinitely smarter and more resourceful than the adults and they have plenty of free time on their hands in which to pursue carnal pleasures.

Chief among those pleasures can be found at Porky's, a roadhouse/whorehouse in an adjacent county. Its run by a corpulent and corrupt tub of guts who delights in antagonizing the boys. The boys eventually take their revenge in the film's climax, an intricately planned and executed assault on Porky's ramshackle structure which results in a spectacular display of property damage.

Along the way, there's a couple of "serious" sub-plots about anti-Semitism and one boy's struggle to escape from his abusive father but they don't take up much narrative space and they certainly don't get in the way of the abundance of dick jokes that run rampant through the film.

Alex Karras and Susan Clark are the only name players in the cast. Karras is a crooked sheriff while Clark is wasted in her short appearance as a hooker who's in on a cruel practical joke. Future star Kim Cattrall is a horny gym teacher who is turned on by the smell of locker rooms.

PORKY'S is crass, vulgar and stupid. But it does have it's moments. Not many, granted, but I did laugh a few times while watching it the other day.

Not as much as I did back in 1981 though.

 

Monday, December 22, 2014

WHAT'S UP, DOC?


According to Wikipedia (I know, I know), WHAT'S UP, DOC? was released on March 10th, 1972. Funny, I distinctly remember seeing it sometime during the summer of 1972, not the spring, at the old Americana Theater on Hancock Drive. I had a date (my only one) with Austin High classmate Kyle Cooper, I remember that for sure. I also remember thinking that WHAT'S UP, DOC? was one of the funniest movies I had ever seen.

That is until a few weeks later when I saw PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM at the Paramount Theatre. Again, the release date for this Herbert Ross directed film, written by and starring Woody Allen, is May 4th, 1972 but I know I saw it during the summer. In the '70s there weren't the locked into place nation wide release dates that films enjoy now. A film would open in New York and Los Angeles and maybe a few other big cities and eventually make it's way to smaller markets like Austin which had yet to become the film mecca it is today. Distribution vagaries aside, I know I saw both of these extremely funny films during the course of the summer of 1972. Both films made me laugh a lot (they still do) but if I had to pick a favorite of the two, it would definitely be PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM.

I recently watched WHAT'S UP, DOC? again for the first time in forty-two years. It holds up remarkably well. Peter Bogdanovich crafted a loving and knowing valentine to the classic screwball comedies of the '30s and '40, in particular, BRINGING UP BABY (1938), a film I had yet to see at the time I first saw WHAT'S UP, DOC? Ryan O'Neal and Barbra Streisand make an appealing comedy team but it's the supporting cast that steals this show. Veteran character actors Kenneth Mars and Liam Dunn are marvelous but the real standout is Madeline Kahn in her first feature film role. The plot concerns four identical plaid covered suit cases, each of which contains something of value. All of the suitcases get switched multiple times by an increasing large and bizarre cast of characters during the first act of the film which takes place in a San Francisco hotel.

The action expands and opens up during the second act as Bogdanovich moves the narrative to the streets of San Francisco with a wild, brilliantly choreographed chase sequence. The third act finds all of the players assembled in a court room where things are finally explained and a final surprise awaits.

In addition to echoing BRINGING UP BABY, WHAT'S UP, DOC? borrows it's title from Warner Brothers cartoon superstar Bugs Bunny's famous catchphrase. In fact, a Bugs cartoon is shown on an airplane at the end of the film before the final line of dialogue, which wickedly lampoons LOVE STORY (1970), a film which made Ryan O'Neal a major star.

Barbra Streisand, already known as a great singer, demonstrates a real flair for comedy here but I didn't find her appealing the first time I saw WHAT'S UP, DOC? and I still don't. I know she has millions of fans but she's never worked for me. Your mileage may vary.

I had an opportunity to meet director Peter Bogdanovich several years ago at a screening of TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1944) at the Paramount. There was an exclusive meet and greet party with him before the film and I had the chance to chat with him briefly and have him sign my DVD of THE LAST PICTURE SHOW and copies of two of his books, WHO THE DEVIL MADE IT and WHO THE DEVIL'S IN IT. He was gracious and polite and a heck of a nice guy.

WHAT'S UP, DOC? is fast and funny. It made me laugh in 1972 and again in 2014. Recommended.

 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

MAJIC MAN


I finished reading MAJIC MAN by Max Allan Collins the other night. This 1999 mystery novel is the 11th Nate Heller adventure.  The latest in the series, ASK NOT, was published 2013.

Nate Heller, for those who don't know, is a private detective who gets involved in several of the most high profile real life murder/mystery cases of the 20th century. Throughout the series, Heller interacts with almost everyone who was anyone in America between the 1930s and the 1960s. Politicians, gangsters, movie stars, cops, government agents, presidents, cabinet members, newspaper columnists, military officers, etc. Heck, you name 'em and if they are in any way connected to a famous crime or unsolved mystery, Heller's met 'em. He's a gumshoe Forrest Gump investigating the seedy underbelly of the twentieth century in novels that are film noir meets The History Channel.

I've read four of the Heller novels. The first, TRUE DETECTIVE was published in 1983 (I read it way back when). It involves the assassination attempt in Miami on President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Chicago's Mayor Cermak. BLOOD AND THUNDER (1995, Nate Heller #8) is about another political assassination, this one that of Louisiana governor Huey P. Long. And FLYING BLIND (1998, Nate Heller #10) reveals what really happened to legendary aviatrix Amelia Earhart.

MAJIC MAN  finds Heller involved with the near-mythic "flying saucer" crash that occurred in Roswell New Mexico in July 1947. The bulk of the novel takes place two years later, in 1949 with Heller interviewing as many witnesses to the "crash" as possible. The more people he talks to, the more it appears that there really may have been aliens involved in the incident. Or were they?

Heller interacts with Secretary of Defense James D. Forestal, President Harry Truman, columnist Drew Pearson, Air Force officer Jesse Marcel and about a dozen other real people. He also discovers a secret organization within the U.S. government known as Majestic Twelve. The truth about Roswell is finally revealed but not before lives are lost.

MAJIC MAN is a first rate page turner. Collins has done his homework well and he sticks to the historical facts of the case. His portrayals of real people are accurate, as are his descriptions of period clothes and cars. Heller wisecracks his way through a twisted case of government cover-ups, ex-Nazis, a beautiful femme fatale and more. If you love mysteries, if you love history, check out MAJIC MAN. You'll love it. I sure did.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

THE HURT LOCKER


From 1970 to 2000 (a span of thirty years) I managed to see almost every film that won a Best Picture of the Year Academy Award. I missed a few here and there but I had a pretty good batting average. Heck, most years, I took pride in  having seen all five of the films nominated for Best Picture.

 But my movie going went into decline at the turn of this century and since 2000, I've seen only five Best Pictures of the Year: GLADIATOR (2000), MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004), THE DEPARTED (2006) NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007) and finally, about a month ago, THE HURT LOCKER (2009). That's five films out of fourteen. I've yet to see A BEAUTIFUL MIND (2001), CHICAGO (2002), THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (2003), CRASH (2005), SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (2008), THE KING'S SPEECH (2010), THE ARTIST (2011), ARGO (2012) and 12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013). I'm sure I'll eventually see most of these films except for THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING. I'd sooner scoop out my eyeballs with a dull spoon than watch any of the six Tolkien based films that have thus far been produced.

I spent a buck on a used DVD of THE HURT LOCKER at the thrift store awhile back, figuring what the hell, if this movie's no good, I'm only out a dollar. It turned out to be a very good movie indeed. Was it the best film of that year? Well, it was certainly better than DANCES WITH SMURFS, er, AVATAR, which was also nominated that year.

THE HURT LOCKER details the exploits of a three man Explosive Ordnance Disposal team during the Iraq War. The men are counting down the days until their tour of duty is up and they can return home. At least, two of the men are. The other, Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Renner) lives his life on the edge 24/7. He's the best of the three men, fearlessly walking into danger to disarm bombs and other threats. He lives on the adrenaline rush of danger, the thrill of being a split second away from devastating injury or death. He's so addicted, he can't function without some kind of threat to face down.

The other members of the team, Sergeant J.T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) are good at what they do also, which is providing support and cover to James while he's defusing bombs. But these men are scared by their jobs, wrung out by the stress and fear and just want to survive long enough to go home alive and in one piece.

The structure of the film is episodic in nature. The men find themselves in several different potentially deadly situations throughout the film. All of these sequences are brilliantly filmed and edited to achieve maximum suspense and impact. Director Kathryn Bigelow puts us right alongside James, Sanborn and Eldridge and lets us feel the heat and the sweat, the suffocating claustrophobia of the bomb suit, let's us taste the bright metallic tang of fear that these men experience on almost a daily basis.

Following an excruciatingly suspenseful final episode with a suicide bomber, the men are sent home. James returns to his wife and infant child but he has no clue how to operate and survive in the relative peace and calm of the real world. He's in one piece physically, but he's so broken on a psychological level that he simply can't exist without the constant thrill of danger. He signs up for another tour of duty and goes back into the Iraq theater of war at the end of the film.

THE HURT LOCKER received nine Academy Award nominations including: Best Picture (winner), Best Director (Bigelow, winner), Best Original Screenplay (Mark Boal, winner), Best Sound Editing (winner), Best Sound Mixing (winner), Best Film Editing (winner), Best Actor (Renner), Best Original Score and Best Cinematography. Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director, beating ex-husband James Cameron who was also nominated for directing AVATAR. Jeremy Renner went on to star as the ace bowman Hawkeye in THE AVENGERS and THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON while co-star Anthony Mackie appeared as Sam Wilson/The Falcon in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLIDER.

THE HURT LOCKER is an outstanding piece of film making. It's extremely well made, well acted and well written. It shows us a side of modern warfare that the average person has no conception of. The men who put their lives on the line to defuse bombs in a war zone pay a high price. They may survive but they'll never be the same. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

GOING CLEAR


"I can't get with any religion that advertises in POPULAR MECHANICS"-Woody Allen, ANNIE HALL (1977)

You didn't have to be crazy to be a pulp fiction writer in the early twentieth century but it didn't hurt if you were. Consider the life and career of Texan Robert E. Howard (1906-1936), creator of Conan the Barbarian and other sword and sorcery heroes. Howard was, by all accounts, crazier than a shit house rat but boy, that sum bitch sure could write. He's one of my all time favorite yarn spinners and it's a shame that he took his own life at the astonishingly young age of thirty.

L. Ron Hubbard, another pulp writer, was apparently crazy too. Crazy like a fox. A prolific wordsmith of marginal talent, Hubbard hacked out (figuratively and literally) a career in the pulp jungle of the '30s and '40s. He wrote a few novels in addition to the hundreds of stories he churned out in a variety of genres. But Hubbard's career really took off when he wrote DIANETICS and subsequently founded the Church of Scientology.

Scientology's "theology" is based on a story told by Hubbard that wouldn't have appeared out of place in the pages of  the pulp science fiction magazine AMAZING STORIES. But this yarn along with other writings by Hubbard, became the basis for a worldwide church that is staggeringly wealthy and powerful.

All of this and more is meticulously detailed in GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY, HOLLYWOOD & THE PRISON OF BELIEF (2013) by Austin based writer Lawrence Wright. I finished reading this one about a month ago and it's one helluva read. Wright, a Pulitzer Prize winner for THE LOOMING TOWER (2006), bends over backwards to present as fair and balanced a portrait of Hubbard and Scientology as possible. He conducted dozens of interviews and offers a revealing peek behind the scenes of this highly secretive religion.

What emerges in the pages of GOING CLEAR is the story of Hubbard, who appears to have been a pathological liar and control freak with delusions of grandeur. Those delusions were ultimately fulfilled however by the creation of his church of Scientology which brought him untold wealth and power. Scientology comes off as a group of not-so nice people doing extremely questionable things. The leaders of the church seem obsessed with courting such Hollywood stars as John Travolta, Kirstie Alley and, most importantly, Tom Cruise. Having a big name actor serve as the public face and spokesperson for Scientology seems to lend an air of credibility and respectability to the church and the leadership will go to any extremes to keep Tom Cruise front and center. And happy.

The leadership also indulges in punishing members for mistakes, subjecting them to treatment that some frat houses wouldn't condone during pledge week. Members are made to suffer and suffer some more when they don't pass their "audits". The church is also extremely vindictive and litigious when it comes to any negative portrayal in the media. The church leadership has filed countless law suits against their "enemies" and have resorted to other strong arm tactics including blackmail and coercion.

Criminal acts and terroristic behavior abound in the pages of GOING CLEAR. Wright and a small army of attorneys (most of them from THE NEW YORKER magazine) faced off against the current church leader David Miscavige during the writing of this book. Screenwriter and director Paul Haggis, who spent years in Scientology, is now out of the church and served as one of Wright's main sources of information. There are many other people, former church members, who speak out in the book as well.

GOING CLEAR is a fascinating book. It reveals everything you ever wanted to know about Scientology and then some. It's not a pretty picture although, to be fair, many people have benefited from the religion over the years. It's the people who have been abused by the church that make up this extremely compelling, eye-opening, page turner of a history of a man and his followers. GOING CLEAR was a finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction and was shortlisted for the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award. The book is currently being adapted into a documentary by HBO and is slated for release at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015.

 HBO had 160 lawyers review the film out of fear of litigation by the Church of Scientology.