Thursday, 12 April 2018

Playing with my Davidson Tripod

            I went across the street to the liquor store in the late afternoon on Wednesday to get a can of Creemore.
            I took a picture of the zippers on the back of my leather jacket with my Kodak digital camera on the ten-second timer and used my vintage Davidson tripod for the first time.
            It’s been a week since my last 20th Century US Literature class and the hit and run. I think my bruised tibia is healing (if that’s what it was) since it didn’t bother me as much when I was on my knees for some yoga poses this morning.
            It feels weird but good to not have to ride my bike downtown on a Wednesday night, especially since it’s raining.
            I watched an Alfred Hitchcock Hour teleplay that was very annoying for both its representations of psychology and of art, until they end when they revealed the clever twist.
            The Commissioner of Recreation and Parks has been receiving threatening letters from a disgruntled artist whose work has been rejected by the commissioner to be shown at the state museum. Next we see a man with a ticking parcel walk into city hall. The guards call the bomb squad. The package is taken from the man but it is discovered that it only contains an alarm clock. The find out the guy’s name is James Bellington. They cannot arrest him but they can detain him for eight hours even if no crime has been committed. He is taken to see a psychiatrist named Dr Glover. They can’t hold Bellington after that but Glover assesses that he might commit suicide or murder within the next two days.
            Next the cops raid Bellington’s studio when he is not there. The psychiatrist arrives. Police lieutenant Wymar says of Bellington’s paintings, “Pretty awful aren’t they?”  “Glover says, “In content yes, but he has a highly complex colour sense. That’s either heightened psychotic colour awareness or he has training … He has technique! That takes control. Superb technique! But distorted. Now why would a man with technique want to hide it?” The psychiatrist tells Wymar that he may have damaged their chances of stopping Bellington because being both brilliant and paranoid he will have set traps for anyone entering his studio. Things a rational mind would never notice such as ashes on the floor to detect footprints and paintings placed in a precise way. According to Glover knowing that his sanctum has been breached could cause him to go out and build a real bomb. Then Glover says, “I wonder why so many paranoids use such an excessive amount of yellow when they paint.”
Next we see Bellington in a hardware store buying batteries, bell cord and friction tape. After that a delivery guy tries to deliver a package to the director of the museum but the guards find out it’s from Bellington and call the bomb squad. In the panic Bellington slips into the museum with his own package. He wanders around for a while looking at paintings and chatting with an older lady until the cops catch up with him and grab the package, but Bellington opens it to show it’s just a box of painting supplies.
Next they get an attractive female cop to go undercover and happen to meet Bellington in a bar. The bizarre thing about this scene is that there is no one but him and her in the bar and no bartender is shown either. She seems to gain his trust. She’s seen his picture in the paper and she admires what he is doing. She asks if he’s an objective artist. He says, “I’m an objective subjectivist.” “I don’t know that.” “Okay then I’m a subjective objectivist.” He tells her that he’s planning a device with a button that can’t go wrong because if they make him take his finger off the button we will all be destroyed together. He gently puts his hands on her shoulders, runs them down her arms and takes her hands in his, which causes her purse to fall from her lap to the floor. He jumps to grab it before she can and opens it to see that she is carrying a tape recorder, which he destroys and then leaves.
Bellington arrives in front of the museum carrying a wooden box with a black button on which he keeps his thumb at all times. The lieutenant and the cops see him and give chase around the park, but for some ridiculous reason the guard in front of the museum gives chase as well and Bellington doubles back around to get in. It’s a bit of a Keystone Cops moment. He manages to evade them for a while as they search the museum, but then after hiding behind a curtain on a landing he descends the stairs and the lieutenant comes around the corner. He runs back up the stairs and they charge. He stumbles halfway on the stairs, twists, sits and then shouts, “Everybody stop! One more step and I release this button!” They stop. “In exactly ten minutes I shall release this button.” The psychiatrist says, “If only I could just talk to you”, but Bellington begins repeating over and over again, “Words are father to the deed”.  Wymar asks the bomb expert how dangerous the situation is. He is told that with some new devices he could blow the whole building. “In exactly nine minutes I shall release this button.” Wymar looks around and shouts, “Clear the building!” Bellington warns, “If you shoot me the button will be released!” Glover says, “I didn’t mean to challenge you. I only meant to help you. I wanted to see …” “Get that hypocrite out of here before he provokes me to make a terrible mistake!” Wymar, Glover and the last of the cops begin to back out of the building. Bellington shouts, “This building is mine! Get out of my museum!” They leave and shut the door behind them. Bellington begins to laugh like a maniac. Then. Walking into one of the galleries he looks in the direction of some noises, smiles and asks, “How many have you taken” A man holding a painting answers, “Five so far.” Bellington tells him, “We don’t have time for any more after this. I can’t hold them off that long.” “But with the paintings you made to replace the other two, that’d give us the seven we were gonna take.” Bellington calmly replies, “It’s not worth the risk.” Then he takes the painting and holds it up to an identical one on the wall and comments, “You know, if I do say so myself, the one I painted is better than the original. By the time anybody discovers the difference we’ll be on our way to Mexico City.” Then he holds the box up to his colleague, releases the button and says, “Boom! My finger was getting sore! But a sore finger is worth half a million dollars.” “That much?” “Of course! You don’t think I’d steal the paintings before I sold them?” He then holds up the box again, says “My public awaits” puts his thumb back on the button and leaves. He exits the museum and the cops outside back up. Then he dramatically releases the button to show them nothing happened. He opens the box to reveal an alarm clock and some wires and batteries that are not attached to one another, and then he casually walks toward the cops. They grab him. Wymar says, “About the bomb!” “Bomb? What bomb? There is no bomb, there never was and there isn’t going to be.” “You’re going to jail!” “Really? Name one law I’ve broken. I didn’t chase you, you chased me. I never said I would blow anyone up, you said it. I never said anything about any explosive.” “You were disturbing the peace!” “Provoked by you! If you do not release me immediately I shall sue you for $1,000,000 and win!” Wymar orders, “Release him.” “I suppose it would be too much to expect one of your men to get me a cab?” Wymar doesn’t answer. Bellington shrugs ad says, “Of course, I understand.” and walks away, dropping the bomb in a trash basket as he leaves.
The teleplay, called “Ten Minutes from Now” was based on a story by Jack Ritchie that originally appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the original story the psychiatrist was in on the whole thing. Ritchie also wrote another quirky story that I liked that was presented six shows before this one called “Anyone for Murder” about the psychology professor who’d placed an ad looking for people that wanted to kill their spouses, only to meet the man that was cheating on his wife and wanted him dead.”
Bellington was played by the great Canadian actor, Donnelly Rhodes, who just died three months ago at the age of 80. He did a shitload of TV and film work throughout his life, including being a regular of “Soap” and as the smoking medical doctor on the second and much better version of Battlestar Galactica.
            One of the paintings they steal in the story is Vermeer’s “The Concert”, which 16 years later really was stolen and has never been found.

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