Monday, April 30, 2012
"CAPTAIN BLOOD" (1935) Review
Based upon the 1922 novel of the same name by Rafael Sabatini, the story of ”CAPTAIN BLOOD” centered around an Irish-born physician living in an English town, who finds himself in trouble with the Court of King James II after aiding a wounded friend who had participated in the Mounmouth Rebellion of 1685. The 1935 film, released by Warner Brothers and First National Pictures, featured the first collaboration between stars Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland, and director Michael Curtiz.
When Jack Warner and studio production chief, first made plans to film Sabatini’s novel, they had planned for British actor, Robert Donat to portray the Irish-born doctor turned slave and pirate. But Donat proved to be unavailable and the then unknown Flynn ended up with the role. As everyone knows, not only did ”CAPTAIN BLOOD” prove to be a hit, the movie made instant stars out of Flynn and De Havilland.
Many years have passed since I last saw ”CAPTAIN BLOOD”. Which would explain why I have never developed any strong feelings for this particular film, in compare to certain other Errol Flynn movies. After watching it recently, my opinion of ”CAPTAIN BLOOD” has improved. Somewhat. Basically, I feel that it is a first-rate story filled with excellent characterizations, a strong narrative and some decent action. But I do not know if I can say that I love ”CAPTAIN BLOOD”. The movie is not exactly Flynn, De Havilland and Curtiz at their best.
Once Peter Blood finds himself a slave in Jamaica, he plots with his fellow prisoners to escape the island via a ship. Before he can make his escape, Blood falls in love with his owner – Arabella Bishop, the niece of the planter he and his fellow slave work on. An attack by a Spanish pirate ship allows Blood and his friends to finally make their escape. They form a crew to become one of the most formidable group of pirates in the Caribbean. Blood eventually befriends a French pirate name Levasseur and the two become partners – an act that the Irishman comes to regret. The two eventually come to blows over Arabella, who has been captured by Levasseur. Accompanying Arabella is a royal courtier name Lord Willoughby with some interesting news for Blood.
One problem I have with the film is the lack of balance between the dramatic scenes and the action. Quite frankly,”CAPTAIN BLOOD” came off as a bit too heavy on conversation for a swashbuckler. I realize that screenwriter Casey Robinson was trying to stay faithful to Sabatini’s novel. But I suspect that this attempt may have slightly reduced the movie’s pacing – to its detriment. And most of the action sequences did not strike me as that impressive. Mind you, the sword duel between Blood and a French pirate named Captain Levasseur (portrayed by the always competent Basil Rathbone) over Arabella Bishop, Blood’s owner, struck me as impressive. Well . . . somewhat. Actually, I have seen better swordfights – especially those featured in 1938’s ”THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD” and 1940’s ”THE SEA HAWK”. The most impressive action sequence in the movie featured Blood’s sea battle against two French ships attacking Port Royal in the movie’s finale. I have to give kudos to Curtiz for directing an action sequence that struck me as surprisingly realistic.
Another problem I had with "CAPTAIN BLOOD" was its portrayal of slavery in 17th century Jamaica. I found it amazing that most of the slaves in Port Royal were white. I am well aware that white slaves - or indentured servants - existed throughout the British Empire during that period. And I am also aware that those rebels convicted of treason against King James II during the Monmouth Rebellion, ended up as slaves in the Caribbean. But what happened to the black slaves in this movie? Jamaica and other British controlled islands in the Caribbean had received more African slaves than any other part of the Empire during the late 17th and 18th centures. I did managed to spot one or two amongst the slaves on Colonel Bishop's estate. And he did have house slaves that were black. But at least one of them spoke with an American South dialect, prevalent in the 19th and 20th centuries. I realize that "CAPTAIN BLOOD" is a Hollywood film. But since most of the movie managed to either be historically correct . . . or at least close to being accurate, why did it fall short in its portrayal of Caribbean slavery?
On the other hand, ”CAPTAIN BLOOD” featured some excellent dramatic scenes. And the best of the bunch featured Flynn. I was especially impressed by the scene that featured Blood and his fellow prisoners being sentenced to slavery in Jamaica by a very hostile judge, Blood’s hostile reaction to being purchased by Arabella, his discovery of the body of his friend Jeremy Pitt, the fallout between Blood and Lavasseur, the revelation by a royal courtier that the hated James II had been replaced by his daughter and son-in-law – Mary and William of Orange, and especially the last fight between him and Arabella before she is sent ashore to Port Royal near the end of the film. And Flynn was ably assisted in these scenes by De Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Ross Alexander and Henry Stephenson.
Speaking of the film’s performances, ”CAPTAIN BLOOD” possessed a number of good, solid performances by a supporting cast that included Guy Kibbee, Forrester Harvey, Frank McGlynn Sr. and Robert Barrat, who portrayed members of Blood’s crew. Also portraying a member of Blood's crew was Ross Alexander. Many critics have claimed that if Alexander had not comitted suicide over a year following the movie's release, he might have become an acclaimed screen actor. Quite frankly, I do not know. Alexander's performance in "CAPTAIN BLOOD" seemed personable and competent, but I never really saw the magic. Although the cast members portraying Blood's crew had their moments of humor, the prize for the funniest performance belonged to - in my opinion - George Steed as Jamaica's Governor Steed, who suffered from a gouty foot.
Basil Rathbone only appeared in a handful of scenes in "CAPTAIN BLOOD" and was clearly not the main villain. But his performance as the lusty and avaricious Captain Levasseur was extremely memorable. More importantly, his Levasseur struck me as more human than his roles in both "ROBIN HOOD" and "THE MARK OF ZORRO". I wish I could say the same about Lionel Atwill. Mind you, his performance as the brutal Colonel Bishop was solid, but there were times when it came across as unoriginal.
Olivia DeHavilland was superb in her first leading role as Arabella, the brutal Colonel Bishop's niece and Peter Blood's owner. Her character did not have a great impact upon the plot - aside from her capture by Levasseur leading to a duel between him and Blood. But her Arabella was no limpid damsel-in-distress, whose only role was to be the object of Blood's desire. DeHavilland projected a great deal of energy, fire and wit into her performance. No wonder she and Flynn had such a strong screen chemistry.
But no matter how good the cast was, the real star behind "CAPTAIN BLOOD" was the Tasmanian born Errol Flynn. Jack Warner and Hal Wallis took a great chance in casting him in the lead, considering that he was a virtual unknown. And that gamble paid off tenfold. This is the fifth Flynn movie I have watched in great detail. To this day, I do not understand the old prevailing view that he was not much of an actor. Peter Blood was his first major role as a film actor and if I may be frank, Flynn gave one hell of a performance. Aside from a hammy moment when Blood finally declare his love for Arabella, Flynn's acting was very natural. And like DeHavilland, he portrayed his character with a great deal of fire, energy and more importantly, anger. Flynn's portrayal of the hot-headed Peter Blood is probably one of the better debut performances in Hollywood films.
Other reviewers of ”CAPTAIN BLOOD” have commented favorably on Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s score. Honestly? I did not find it that memorable. In fact, I cannot remember anything about it. Just a lot of horns and strings. I am not carelessly putting down Korngold's talent, because I was very impressed by his "ROBIN HOOD" score of three years later. I simply cannot say the same about his "CAPTAIN BLOOD" score. However, I was very impressed by the movie’s cinematography shot by Warner Brothers' own Ernest Haller and Hal Mohr. I have mixed feelings about Anton Grot's art direction. Granted, I was impressed by the sets for the Port Royal sequences. But the art design for the English sequences resembled fake set designs for a play and the sets for Blood's ship lacked the claustrophobic feel of a real ship.
Granted, "CAPTAIN BLOOD" is not perfect. It has flaws that include an uneven pacing, questionable action sequences and an unmemorable score - at least for me. In fact, I have seen better blockbusters that starred Errol Flynn during that period. But I must admit that it is still a first-rate movie, even after 74 years. And it made for a dazzling debut for the Australian actor.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Below is a gallery of photos from Blake Edwards' 1965 comedy, "THE GREAT RACE". This tale about a 1908 auto race from New York to Paris starred Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, Peter Falk and Keenan Wynn:
THE GREAT RACE" (1965) Photo Gallery
Monday, April 23, 2012
"STAR TREK VOYAGER: Love on a Starship"
I am not going to deceive myself and pretend that the relationship between Captain Kathryn Janeway and her First Officer, Commander Chakotay, lacked any chemistry. Of course there had been chemistry. Even a blind person could have sensed the chemistry between them just by listening to their dialogue. But while I will admit the enormous dynamics between the two characters, I never could see the possibility of a "happily ever after" for them. Not while the pair served as the command team of the U.S.S. Voyager.
When many "STAR TREK VOYAGER" fans had first started speculating upon the possible futures for the main characters during the series’ early Season Seven, for some reason I had foreseen a tragic ending in the Janeway/Chakotay relationship. I figured that the Captain or the First Officer would bite the dust in the finale, leaving the others to mourn and regret their decision not to pursue a romance during Voyager’s nearly seven years in the Delta Quadrant. This feeling was reinforced in the episode, (7.11) "Shattered", when Season Seven Chakotay not only revealed the lack of romance in their relationship to the Season One Janeway, but also expressed regret in his words . . . and tone:
JANEWAY: Mind if I ask you one last question?
CHAKOTAY: Will I have to break the Temporal Prime Directive to answer it?
JANEWAY: Maybe, just a little. For two people who started off as enemies it seems we get to know each other pretty well, so I've been wondering. Just how close do we get?
CHAKOTAY: Let's just say there are some barriers we never cross.
Both Kate Mulgrew (Kathryn Janeway) and the series’ producers had expressed opposition against an affair between Janeway and Chakotay. They have repeatedly stated that it would not be appropriate for the two to get involved in a romance. At first, I had believed that she, Rick Berman, Michael Piller, Jeri Taylor and later, Brannon Braga and Kenneth Biller were being obtuse. Now that I have had a chance to think about it, I have managed to see their point of view. They were right. A romance between Janeway and Chakotay could have lead to many problems.
I have never believed that a good idea for someone in a position of power to have a romance with a subordinate. If you think that it is difficult for equals to maintain a relationship, it might be doubly so for a superior and his/her subordinate. There is a great deal of potential for resentment from one partner, subjugation from the other and manipulation from both sides. Chakotay’s relationship with Voyager’s Chief Engineer, B’Elanna Torres, is a mild example of this. I had been one of those fans who had been relieved by the quiet death of B’Elanna’s infatuation with the First Officer by late Season Two. Do not get me wrong. Chakotay was a fine First Officer. Frankly, I have always felt that he was one of the best in the entire "TREK" franchise. But he had an unfortunate habit of dealing with B’Elanna’s temperament by inflicting his will upon her, using his position as her superior officer. I am not saying that Chakotay did not have the right to behave this way toward B’Elanna. After all, he was Voyager’s First Officer. But he was also supposed to be one of B’Elanna’s closest friends. If he and B’Elanna had such moments during their"friendship", can you imagine how damaging this would have been to any romance that may have sprung between them? Remember when I had mentioned the possibility of resentment? Well, even B’Elanna eventually expressed her resentment of being chastised by Chakotay in the Season Five episode, (5.21) "Juggernaut":
CHAKOTAY: Your concerns are noted. Get them inoculated. We'll meet you in Transporter Room one. We're trying to avoid explosions, remember?
TORRES: Not another lecture about my emotions.
CHAKOTAY: No, a lecture about how to treat guests aboard this ship.
TORRES: Guests? Chakotay, these people are the scourge of the quadrant.
CHAKOTAY: Agreed, but right now they're our only hope of repairing that freighter, so I suggest you make friends.
TORRES: Diplomacy. Janeway's answer to everything.
CHAKOTAY: This isn't the Captain talking, it's me, and I'm giving you an order. Keep your temper in check. Understood? Understood?
CHAKOTAY: I didn't hear you.
CHAKOTAY: B'Elanna, I need your expertise on this mission, not your bad mood.
TORRES: I'll see what I can do.
Like Chakotay, Janeway was not above using her position to inflict her will upon the crew members under her command, regardless of whether she was right or wrong. And we have seen how Chakotay had reacted when he believed that she was wrong . . . especially in (3.26) "Scorpion I" and (4.01) "Scorpion II":
CHAKOTAY: How much is our safety worth?
JANEWAY: What do you mean?
CHAKOTAY: We'd be giving an advantage to a race guilty of murdering billions. We'd be helping the Borg assimilate yet another species just to get ourselves back home. It's wrong!
JANEWAY: Tell that to Harry Kim. He's barely alive thanks to that species. Maybe helping to assimilate them isn't such a bad idea. We could be doing the Delta Quadrant a favour.
CHAKOTAY: I don't think you really believe that. I think you're struggling to justify your plan, because your desire to get this crew home is blinding you to other options. I know you, Kathryn. Sometimes you don't know when to step back.
JANEWAY: Do you trust me, Chakotay?
CHAKOTAY: That's not the issue.
JANEWAY: Oh, but it is. Only yesterday you were saying that we'd face this together, that you'd be at my side.
CHAKOTAY: I still have to tell you what I believe. I'm no good to you if I don't do that.
JANEWAY: I appreciate your insights but the time for debate is over. I've made my decision. Now, do I have your support?
CHAKOTAY: You're the Captain. I'm the First Officer. I'll follow your orders. That doesn't change my belief that we're making a fatal mistake.
JANEWAY: Then I guess I'm alone, after all. Dismissed.
Had there been any semblance of hope of a romance between Kathryn Janeway and Chakotay? Perhaps. If Chakotay’s Maquis ship had remained intact following the battle against the Kazon-Ogla in (1.02) "Caretaker II". Both the Starfleet and the Maquis captains could have become allies in the Delta Quandrant. And they could have engaged in a romance as equals. They also could have begun a relationship if Voyager’s crew had never rescued them from New Earth in (2.25) "Resolutions". To this day, I still wonder if Janeway had ever learned of Harry Kim’s role in that rescue. That would explain his inability to earn a promotion during those seven years in the Delta Quadrant. As for Janeway and Chakotay, there seemed to be a residual of flirtation between the two after their rescue from New Earth that lasted through most of Season Three. This flirtation eventually died after Chakotay’s romance with ex-Borg Riley Fraizer in (3.17) "Unity".
In the end, Chakotay began a relationship with another former Borg drone, Voyager’s own Seven-of-Nine by late Season Seven. As for Janeway, she ended up in a relationship with Michael Sullivan, a holographic character created by Chief Helmsman Tom Paris’ for his Fair Haven program. She also had a relationship with Norvalian named Jaffen, after her memory was altered for work at a power plant on Quarren in the Season Seven episode, (7.16-7.17) "Workforce I & II". When she regained her original memory she suggested that he join Voyager’s crew as an engineer. But she also pointed out that it would not be appropriate as they were romantically involved. Jaffen had decided to remain on Quarren.
Could Janeway and Chakotay have pursued a romance upon Voyager’s return to the Alpha Quadrant? I really do not how to answer this question. Chakotay had assumed command of Voyager, in the post-series "VOYAGER" novels and Janeway was promoted to vice-admiral. On one hand, there was a chance that he might not have found himself under her direct command. Then again . . . he probably did. But the only way I could see a romance between Janeway and Chakotay was if they had both resigned their Starfleet commissions, one of them resigned from Starfleet or if Chakotay found himself at the same rank as Janeway. Other than the above, I can never see a serious romance between the two . . . even though I believe they were emotionally suited for one another.
Friday, April 20, 2012
Below is a gallery featuring photos from Clint Eastwood's 2008 Oscar nominated movie, "CHANGELING". The movie starred Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich and Jeffrey Donovan:
"CHANGELING" (2008) Photo Gallery
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Romulus finally arrived at the galaxy's bustling capital. Thanks to the ARC-170 that he flew, the planet's security controller did not demand any identification. In fact, the young Jedi Knight managed to guide the starfighter toward the Jedi Temple with no problems. Only . . . the temple that he had remembered no longer existed.
Heavy rainfall nearly shielded the smoke that billowed from the temple's center tower. A closer look revealed that three of the Temple's surrounding towers no longer stood. His heart filled with anxiety, Romulus disregarded any thoughts of caution and landed the fighter on the nearest landing pad.
The Jedi Knight climbed out of the vehicle and immediately raced inside the temple's hangar. When he finally reached the main building, he found three bodies clad in the uniform of a clone trooper. He raced along the main corridor and did not find a soul, let alone a body around. Although there seemed to be no signs of corpses, Romulus could detect the odor of dead flesh in the air. Whatever bodies there had been, someone had them removed. For which Romulus felt eternally grateful. Facing the ruined temple had been bad enough. His mind reeled at the idea of being confronted with bodies of his fellow Jedi.
Romulus continued to march along the temple's desolate corridor. He meant to reach a room where he could learn the whereabouts of all the knights. Perhaps he could rendezvous with one or more of them. Find a way to fight back and finally oust Palpatine from office.
"Hold it right there!" a voice barked. Romulus whirled around and saw a squad of clone troopers aiming blasters at him. The squad's leader cried out, "He's Jedi! Fire!" And the troopers attacked.
Fortunately for Romulus, his Jedi reflexes allowed him to fight off the attack with his lightsaber. Despite the troopers' continuing fire, Romulus managed to deflect their blasts and kill them in the end. After the last clone trooper fell dead, Romulus continued along the corridor. He had reached the temple's records room when two more clone squads appeared.
Once again, the Jedi found himself deflecting blaster fire. He had the oddest feeling that someone had been expecting him. The Jedi Knight tried to fight off the troopers as best as he could. Deflecting their shots, he managed to kill a good number of them. But despite his Jedi reflexes, he found himself growing increasingly exhausted. He deflected one last shot before a sharp pain struck his left shoulder. This is it, he told himself, before he finally slipped into oblivion.
Inside the Tantive IV's conference room, Bail met with his two Jedi guests to discuss an important issue - namely what to do with Padme Amidala and her newborn twins.
"Arrange her death we must," Master Yoda pronounced. "To make sure the Sith does not find her. Or the children."
Bail felt slightly uneasy that the Jedi Master would make such a decision without considering Padme's consent. Before he could protest, Master Kenobi asked, "Arrange her death? Do you mean . . .?"
Master Yoda nodded. "Yes. Fake her death. Pregnant, she must still appear. Hidden, safe, the children must be kept."
"We must take them somewhere the Sith will not sense their presence," Obi-Wan added.
The older Jedi Knight countered, "Split up, they should be."
Finally, Bail decided to speak up. "Surely, you plan to discuss this matter with Senator Amidala before you set all of this in motion?"
"I believe that would be an excellent idea," a light, female's voice added. The three males glanced at the figure standing in the doorway. A very pale Padme, supported by her protocol droid, slowly made her way into the conference room. All three men stood up, while Bail helped the droid escort her to an empty seat. "Gentlemen."
Both Masters Yoda and Kenobi bowed at the senator. "Milady," they murmured simultaneously.
Slowly, Padme sat down in an empty seat and regarded the two Jedi Knights with chilly eyes. "Exactly when were you planning to inform me of your plans regarding my children, Master Yoda?"
The diminutive Jedi Master bowed again. "Senator Amidala, feel, how do you?"
"I am well as I can be, Master Yoda." Padme inhaled sharply. "Considering I have recently given birth to twins. Speaking of my children, what were you planning to do with them?"
An uncomfortable silence filled the starcruiser's conference room. As much as Bail felt sorry for Masters Yoda and Kenobi, he could not help but feel a small twinge of satisfaction at their discomfort. They had brought it upon themselves by assuming authority over his colleague's children.
Kenobi said, "Please Padme, you must understand. We are only thinking of your safety. And the children's safety. One day, they might be able to defeat the Emperor."
"Strong the Force runs in the Skywalker line," Master Yoda added. "Until the time is right, disappear they must."
Padme's eyes hardened. "Is that all my children mean to you? A tool to defeat Palpatine? What makes you think I will allow them to become Jedi?"
Kenobi sighed. "Padme . . ."
"Allow me to make something clear," Padme said, interrupting the Jedi Knight. "I . . . will decide my children's future. And until they assume the age of consent, they will stay with me. I will not split them up."
Anxiety flashed in Master Kenobi's eyes. "Padme, you cannot be serious! You simply cannot take your children back to Naboo. It will not be long before the Emperor finds them!"
"I will not return to Naboo."
Again, silence enveloped the room. The two men and Yoda frowned at the Nabooan senator. "But . . . we are bound for Naboo at this moment," Bail said. "In fact, we should arrive within a day."
Padme sighed. "Then I suggest that we adopt Master Yoda's idea . . . fake my death. However, my parents must know the truth." Kenobi opened his mouth to protest, but she continued. "I need them to help me acquire all of my personal assets, Obi-Wan. I will need those assets to maintain a comfortable life for my children and myself."
Bail asked, "And after that? After the funeral?"
Padme hesitated. "I don't know. Find a new home for us. I might consider asking Ani . . . Anakin's family on Tatooine to allow us to stay for a while. At least until I can find a new home."
"Why don't you stay with us?" With a jolt, Bail realized that he had spoken. Yet, the more he considered his suggestion, the more he agreed to the idea. He felt certain that his wife, Queen Breha of Alderaan, would not mind the company. Padme could pose as a distant Organa kinsman.
Everyone else in the room stared at Bail. Both Yoda and Kenobi looked skeptical. Padme, on the other hand, seemed conflicted by the idea. "Bail, I don't . . . I don't know what to say. I would love to accept your offer, but Alderaan isn't exactly located in the far reaches of the galaxy. If the Emperor happens to sense the twins . . ."
"It will not matter," Bail replied. "Trust me. I am sure that Master Yoda can attest to the fact that being inclined toward pacifism, many Alderaan citizens were reluctant to hand over their Force-sensitive children over to the Jedi Order. They did not approve of the martial arts."
Padme blinked. "Oh. Then . . ." A bright smile - the first he had seen in a very long time - illuminated her otherwise pale and drawn face. "Then I accept your offer. Thank you, Bail."
Skepticism remained stamped on the two Jedi Knights' faces. Kenobi opened his mouth to speak, but Padme added, "Would you all please excuse me? I need to see to the children. And I need more rest." She turned to the protocol droid. "Threepio?"
"Yes, Miss Padme." The droid rushed over to help his mistress stand up. The men also stood. Bail summoned Raynor to help the droid escort her back to her cabin.
The Alderaanian senator realized that he need to make arrangements for their arrival on Naboo - and for the deception they were all about to perpetrate. He excused himself and started toward the door. As he paused in the doorway, he glanced over his shoulder and saw that the two Jedi Masters were already deep in conversation.
". . . any way to change Padme's mind?" Obi-Wan was saying to Yoda. "Surely she must realize that keeping the twins together might be dangerous."
Yoda closed his eyes and sighed. "Clouded by her emotions, the senator is. Trust us, she no longer does."
Obi-Wan glanced away. "Speaking of which, I have yet to tell her about Anakin." He paused. "And I have not decided whether I should I or not. What do you think, Master Yoda?"
"Find him, she will not," Yoda proclaimed. "Not without great risk to her children." He gave the younger Jedi Master a surreptious glance. "As for your decision to search for him . . ."
With a slight cough, Obi-Wan declared, "My decision has remained firm on this matter, Master Yoda. I must be certain that he has not returned to Lord Sidious."
Yoda nodded. "And your plans, if you do not find him?"
Obi-Wan searched his mind for an answer. "Find a permanent home. Since I am headed for Tatooine, it seems like a good place to stay."
The other Jedi Master leaned back into his chair. "In that case, in your solitude on Tatooine, training I have for you."
Leaning forward, Obi-Wan said, "Training?"
"An old friend has learned the path to immortality."
The Jedi Master's eyes grew opaque. "One who has returned from the netherworld of the Force to train me." He paused dramatically. "Your old Master, Qui-Gon Jinn."
The news took Obi-Wan by surprise. His heart nearly leapt at the mention of his former master. "Qui-Gon? But how could he accomplish this?"
Yoda leaned forward. "The secret of the Ancient Order of the Whills, he studied. How to commune with him, I will teach you."
Obi-Wan shook his head in confusion. "I will be able to talk to him?"
Nodding, Yoda replied, "How to join the Force, he will train you. Your consciousness you will retain, when one with the Force." His small eyes glittered with promise, as he added on a final note, "Even your physical self, perhaps."
Accompanied by his aide, Sly Moore, Emperor Palpatine slowly walked along the wide corridor of the new Imperial Security Bureau. The pair finally came upon a pair of double door that led to the Bureau's rehabilitation facility. Two members of the Red Guard, now renamed the Imperial Guard, flanked the doors.
"Stay here," Palpatine barked at his aide. Sly Moore nodded and remained outside, while the Sith Lord entered the facility. Inside, he found his new prisoner laid across a gurney that also served as a bed. Metal clamps stretched across the prisoner's chest, while other clamps imprisoned his arms and legs. Palpatine nodded at the FX-9 medical droid. "Wake him."
The droid glided over to the gurney and inserted a drug-filled injector into the prisoner's left arm. Nearly a minute passed before the prisoner's eyes flickered open. Palpatine pressed a button, allowing the gurney to rotate into a vertical position. The prisoner glanced around and groggily asked, "Where am I?"
"You are inside the Imperial Security Bureau," the Emperor replied. "Here on Coruscant, of course." He continued in a polite voice, "May I ask what where you doing at the Jedi Temple? Hoping to meet a few of your conspirators, perhaps?"
The prisoner frowned. "Conspirators? You dare question . . ." He paused. "The clone troopers on Dallik had mutinied against me and my master. And when I had arrived here . . . I was attacked. By other clones."
Smoothly, Palpatine replied, "Naturally. You are Jedi. What did you expect? Your masters had committed treason against the state. Both Masters Windu and Yoda had attempted to assassinate me . . . due to a plan by the Jedi Council to take over the Senate."
"You're lying!" the prisoner exclaimed. A piece of equipment zoomed across the room, narrowly missing the Sith Lord's head by inches. "The Jedi would never have made any assassination attempts. That is not our way. If they . . . if they had tried to kill you . . . they must have had a good reason. Many of us knew of your connection to a Sith Lord named Sidious."
The news startled Palpatine slightly. He had been aware of the Jedi Council's suspicions and the evidence they had discovered. But he never realized that the Jedi rank-and-file also knew. "From whom did you learn this?" When the prisoner failed to answer, Palpatine smiled. "Ah, of course. I should have known that Jedi Master Wo-Chen Puri must have said something to you. I understand that he had been a friend of Master Ki-Adi-Mundi, who was a member of the Council."
A startled expression flitted across the prisoner's face. "You . . . you know who I am?"
Palpatine's smile widened. Like a reptile that had ensnared his prey. "Of course. Jedi Knight Romulus Wort. You were considered one of the Order's most promising knights of your generation. Along with Ferus Olin and Anakin Skywalker . . . also known as the Chosen One." He inhaled slightly to mask his own frustration and anger at his former apprentice's defection.
"If you're asking for their whereabout, I don't know," Wort spat out. "Ferus had left the Order before he could be knighted. Before the war. As for Skywalker . . . I assume you had him killed."
His voice dripping with false modesty, Palpatine countered, "Now why would I do that? Master Skywalker had been a great help to putting down the Jedi rebellion." Savoring Wort's surprised reaction, he added, "Did you know that he had saved me from Mace Windu, when the latter tried to kill me? He even ended the war by destroying the Separatist leadership on my orders." He paused. "And helped end the Jedi Order's rule once and for all."
Palpatine could practically feel the Jedi Knight's consternation rising. In fact, he savored every moment of it.
"What are you saying?" Wort demanded. "For all his faults, Anakin Skywalker would never betray the Order. He has always been a loyal knight."
A heavy sigh left Palpatine's mouth. "Really?" Using a remote, the Sith Lord activated a holoprojector situated not far from the gurney. A holographic image of the late Mace Windu wielding a lightsaber, a fallen Palpatine and Anakin Skywalker appeared before the pair. With concealed glee, Sidious watched the Jedi Knight stare at the unfolding scene:
A holographic Palpatine gasped, "I can't . . . I give up. Help me. I am weak . . . I am too weak. Don't kill me. I give up. I'm dying. I can't hold on any longer."
Windu growled, "You Sith disease! I am going to end this once and for all!"
"You can't kill him, Master!" the holographic Skywalker begged. "He must stand trial."
"He has too much control of the Senate and the Courts!" Windu retorted. "He is too dangerous to be kept alive!"
Palpatine watched his holographic self beg once more for Skywalker's help. And as he had recalled, the latter demanded restraint on the Jedi Master's part. He then watched as the holographic Windu raised his lightsaber for the death blow.
Skywalker demanded, "He must live . . ."
"Please don't," the holographic Palpatine begged.
Skywalker added, "I need him . . ."
"Please don't . ."
Then Palpatine's missing apprentice cried out, as he stepped forward to chop off Windu's sword hand. Palpatine had to refrain from chuckling aloud at the moment. He then reveled at the sight of his holographic self blasting the Jedi Master with Force lightning.
Gasps escaped from Romulus Wort's mouth. The Sith Lord could feel the young man's anger growing stronger.
Then the holographic Skywalker bemoaned, "What have I done? After the Palpatine hologram reminded the Chosen One of destiny being fulfilled, the latter pledged, "I will do whatever you ask."
"Good," the holographic Palpatine said.
"Just help me save Padme's life. I can't live without her. I won't let her die. I want the power to stop death." While the holoprojecter displayed Skywalker pledging his life to the Sith, Palpatine switched it off.
"This . . . this isn't true!" a horrified Wort exclaimed. "Anakin would never be . . ." He turned accusing eyes upon the Emperor. "You're Sith! You deserved to die at Master Windu's hands! Anakin would never betray the Order!"
"Are you so certain, my young Jedi? Then I suggest that you continue to watch." Again, Palpatine switched on the holoprojector.
A holographic image of Skywalker as Darth Vader surveyed the carnage inside the Jedi Temple. Palpatine could not help but admire his former apprentice's handiwork. Then his holographic counterpoint appeared.
"The traitors have been taken care of, Lord Sidious," Vader declared.
Nodding, the holographic Palpatine murmured, "Good . . . good. You have done well, my new apprentice. Do you feel your power growing?"
"Yes, my Master."
"Now, Lord Vader," the other Sidious added, "now go and bring peace to . . ."
"NOOOOO!!!" The cry escaped from Wort's mouth, as medical equipment zipped back and forth, across the room. Droids crushed into pieces of metal without any effort. The Jedi Knight's restraints snapped free. Using the Force, Palpatine detached a needle from one remaining medical droid and inserted its tip into Wort's neck. Seconds later, the Jedi Knight slumped to the floor, unconscious.
The Sith Lord heaved a sigh of relief. He had no idea that Romulus Wort would prove to be so powerful. True, he may never match Vader's raw strength, but he came pretty close. Developing this young man into a Sith apprentice might just make up for the loss of Vader.
Satisfied with his work for the afternoon, Palpatine left the room. He found Sly Moore, as he had left her, standing in the corridor. Only, she now held a data pad in her hands. "This is for you, Your Highness," she said in a solemn voice. "It is news from Naboo."
END OF CHAPTER THREE
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Below is a gallery featuring photos from the 1956 Oscar winning film, "AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS". The photos originally came from "LIFE" magazine and the movie was produced by Michael Todd and starred David Niven, Cantinflas, Shirley MacLaine and Robert Newton:
"AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS" (1956) Photo Gallery