Tag Archives: 1960’s

Characters Series: Heroines in the Worst of Times

When I was a kid, I wished that I could do something really BIG and dramatic that would save the day.  I think that I still do have this desire, and I think it is a common one.  We humans want to know that our lives have a purpose and meaning.  It’s all very well to talk about character when things in life are going so nicely.  Of course, character is needed in everyday life.  But it’s so much harder when you’re in the midst of scary events. 

We’re usually not aware of these kinds of heroines until we put them in the context of history.  The real-life heroines are the most admirable, for they show us that it is possible to have integrity for real and that it’s not just for fiction.  One of my personal favorites ever since I was little has been Queen Esther—Persian queen (Jewish commoner) in disguise!  Even though she was in the prime of life and could easily talk herself out of it, she felt a duty to go to the king on behalf of her people because she could do something. 

One our favorite Lord of the Rings quotes goes something like this: 

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. 

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”  

Thinking of history not that long past, there are the character role models of Diet Eman and Corrie ten Boom.  They were also both women in the prime of life who did what they could while their country was occupied by the Nazi regime.  I cannot think of anything more terrifying than facing a concentration camp, yet that is what they risked experiencing (and did experience) because of their belief that all people matter.  What heart, what courage these women modeled!  Come to think of it, why else do heroes do what they do, other than because of their value for human life and freedom?  In the moment of their action, they put aside their safety and sometimes very lives for the treasuring of another. 

I have never read the book, but I recently watched the movie The Help for the first time.  This story is full of women in a particular place (deep Southern America) in a particular time (violently racial 1960’s).  Some did what was popular and easy in the community—letting others bully them as to their personal decisions and relationships.  Others saw their neighbors as human beings with souls.  And still others decided to take a stand, to say ‘enough is enough’, and try to help each other in the middle of what was impossible conditions.  They were scared; they were hesitant at first or said no at the beginning, because they were risking so much.  But each decided that their friends and family were more important than their present fear and took the step forward that eventually became fruitful.  No longer ‘Strange Fruit.’ 

Sometimes heroines will never see the fruit of their labors.  In Tangled Ashes (Michele Phoenix), Marie is a seventeen-year-old girl living in an obscure village in France during WWII.  She is just an ordinary teenager, but living in extraordinary times.  She is forced to serve in a nearby manor house where strange and secretive things are taking place under the German occupation.  She “hears nothing, she sees nothing”– until she is forced to face the facts that her best friend is pregnant with an enemy soldier.  Suddenly, she cannot live for her preservation alone.  She has a tiny, innocent life to look after and it ends up costing her dearly.  But her love puts others first, and she has to trust that her courageous actions are more important in the long run. 

What becomes of the people we have influence over?  Maybe we will never know.  Or maybe their lives will touch others in a great, wide ripple effect that never stops.  All we can do is strive to pass on a heritage that will be life-giving and honoring for others.  And maybe this idea is not relegated to the big, grandiose acts of queens, but starts with the everyday little yeses and considerations in this world. 

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2: 3,4) 


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Movie Review: The Great Train Robbery

ce1ab0724f332ebc615b8d8dc39c66f9Based on the book, “Signal Red,” by Robert Ryan.

Version: 2013; starring Luke Evans

Genre: drama; heist movie

Plot Summary: [from imdB:] “A two-part drama which portrays The Great Train Robbery of 8 August 1963, firstly from the point of view of the robbers and then from the point of view of the police who set out to identify and catch the robbers.”

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not be comparing it to that novel.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  

Hey, I enjoy a good heist movie now and then!  Who doesn’t?  What made this movie intriguing was the fact that it (and the book it’s inspired by) are based on the real life account of Bruce Reynolds and his fellow thieves who set out to rob the Bank of England.  And it takes place on a train.  In the 1960’s!  Oh, yes… can anyone say classy?  The beginning scene in particular reminded me of The Thomas Crown Affair

This movie is split into two parts: Part 1- A Robber’s Tale, which follows the story of the actual attempted theft; and Part 2- A Copper’s Tale, which follows the story of Scotland Yard as they attempt to catch the thieves.  This is not a fast moving film.  In fact, much of it was in slo-mo and I think it was in sore need of editing.  But the time era the movie was set in, along with props and costumes (and Luke Evans’ great geeky glasses!) were fun to watch.  Also includes some great ’60’s pop music.

79c54b07239b9b0f928439e2b9e2ef74Unfortunately, there are so many characters in this movie, it’s hard to keep track of them all.  Although keeping each of them separate isn’t necessary, it would make it easier to become more involved with the story if you could actually keep them all straight.

It is hard to like DCS Tommy Butler (chief investigator) because of his harsh personality.  But I understand that the filmmakers were attempting to create a story based on real events.  I have no idea how close to the truth this movie gets, but it feels factual.

I didn’t feel the need to cringe much where language was concerned.  I’m sure there were lots of British slang/cuss words, but since I’m not British I didn’t catch them.  That’s fine by me!  Would I recommend this movie to families?  Absolutely not.  Although there are no sex scenes, there were at least two very offensive scenes that contained nudity, with no warning to look away.  There is also two scenes showing couples in bed, but nothing graphic.  A man hides a key up his rear, but we don’t view that, fortunately!  There is also at least one scene taking place in a public men’s bathroom.  Do I really need to be privy to that?

The ending was thought-provoking, though.  SPOILER ALERT: When Bruce Reynolds is finally caught by Butler, Reynolds is bitter about the fact that so many of his comrades were sentenced to 30 years in prison.  He believes they didn’t deserve such a harsh punishment since they didn’t murder anyone during the theft.  Butler says that they just shouldn’t have committed the crime in the first place if they didn’t like the sentence.  To which Reynolds replies that because of the way the law handled their sentences, criminals will be more encouraged than ever to arm themselves when they commit crimes.  After thinking about this, I decided the inspector was right.  These criminals may not have murdered anyone, but they did steal A WHOLE LOT OF MONEY.  We’re talking today’s equivalent of £41 million here!  If these men got off with a lighter sentence, what would prevent others from attempting to do the same thing, and possibly succeeding?  This could not happen again and had to be seriously discouraged.  But it was an interesting debate!  END OF SPOILER.

Ironically, this movie aired on television the same day one of the original robbers (Ronnie Biggs) died.  Bruce Reynolds also passed away several months before.  It’s sad they seemed to live such detrimental lives.  It makes one stop to think: how will we make our mark by our choices– for good or bad?

I wanted to like this movie, but it was just way too offensive in places for me to feel like recommending it.  Perhaps the book would have been better…  Has anyone read it?

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Posted by on December 18, 2015 in Movie Reviews


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Book Review: “Inclined to Escape,” by Yuri Vetokhin

untitledGenre: non fiction; autobiography; survival; memoir

Plot Summary: Yuri Vetohkhin, native born Russian, tells the story of his life in the Soviet Union and his three attempts to escape to freedom.

My Book Review: My mom has had this book ever since I could remember. The dust jacket is worn and torn, but one day I opened up the cover and discovered that the author signed his autograph on the inside page. Hmm… we owned a book signed by a person who had endured unspeakable torture. That peaked my interest! How could I not read it?

This wasn’t a cheery book, obviously. Yuri’s life under Communist rule is told in extreme (sometimes monotonous) detail, including his 9 year internment at a psychiatric concentration camp, which takes up a good portion of the book. At times I got very depressed reading about his horrific tortures and the hopelessness he experienced as a result of communism. I had to break up my reading it, alternating between it and other books, which is why it took me about a year to finish it. There were a lot of typos and the English translation of Russian conversations was awkward and didn’t flow very well. I usually forgot who most of the people he mentioned were, and Russian names are hard to pronounce for English speakers.

But I pushed myself to keep reading and I’m glad I did. Even though the story isn’t pleasant, I think it’s important to be informed about how totalitarian governments control people. How do people survive concentration camps? I’ve always wondered what I would do should I ever be sent to one. The only way to know is read about the testimonies of others who have been there.

Yuri speaks often about God and claims to be a Catholic. I won’t dispute that, but be aware that there are several points in his story where he unabashedly admits to being the lover of more than one woman, and to having an affair with a married woman.


The author, Yuri Vetokhin

The book’s pace picks up somewhat after he is released from prison and he schemes his third escape attempt. I can’t even imagine how lonely he must have been spending 20 years keeping his plans entirely to himself and working alone. That he was able to swim for such great distances at age 50 was amazing!

After finishing the book, I tried to learn more about Yuri Vetokhin. There is little information out there, but to the best of my knowledge, he is still alive (now in his 80’s) and living at his San Diego home in CA. That is also amazing, considering all of the poisionous drugs his heart and body took while in the internment camp.

This is a rare book that is hard to get ahold of nowadays, but I would recommend it for anyone interested in testimonies such as Yuri’s.


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Posted by on November 27, 2015 in Book Reviews


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Movie Review: Endless Night

8890a703862c1edd3e64bbc8bf5129e4Based on the book by Agatha Christie.

Version: 2013; starring Julia McKenzie, Tom Hughes

Genre: mystery

Plot Summary: Mike Rogers, an edgy young man who works odd jobs, falls in love with an acreage of land known as Gypsy’s Acre on the outskirts of a quiet village. He also falls in love with a cute young American heiress and together they build their lives as they build their dream house. But the local gypsy fortune teller insists they are doomed for owning such a cursed place, and she seems to be right. Strange things are happening and someone doesn’t want them there.

My Movie Review: This newest film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Endless Night was made as a Miss Marple mystery, but the original story is one of Christie’s standalone novels (meaning, without a central detective figure). I read the book several years ago and didn’t particularly like it, but decided to try the movie.

This still isn’t one of my favorite Christie mysteries, but I have to say that the quality of this movie was pretty well done. The acting (esp. by Tom Hughes) was very good, the characters believable, and the atmosphere edgy and spooky. The props are interesting, evoking mid-century furniture and design. I have seen an earlier version starring Hayley Mills, but I much prefer this updated one.

However, one must be forewarned (if you haven’t read the book), that the story does involve some sexual content. The movie is not exempt from this and adds more of it in. There is a little foul language, but not a whole lot. Thankfully we are spared from watching gore.

I believe there were some liberties taken with the story (parts were added that I didn’t remember being in the book), but not too drastically.  The addition of Miss Marple was the biggest change to the plot, and she felt a little misplaced.  She seemed pushed into the story where she didn’t originally fit and I think the movie suffered from the interruption.  I wish they’d left it as a standalone mystery, the same way I wish they’d left Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? without Miss Marple as well.

It’s hard to say whether or not I recommend this movie. It definitely has elements that make it a non-family film, but if one was looking to watch it after they’d read the book (and could get over the addition of Miss Marple), they’d like this version.


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Posted by on December 6, 2014 in Movie Reviews


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