Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The Friends of Eddie Coyle

One of the best American crime films, in my opinion, was made in 1973, and was based on the book by George V. Higgins, and that was "The Friends of Eddie Coyle."   At the conclusion, you are left with the view that with friends like that, who needs enemies?  The so-called "honour amongst thieves" mantra, was well and truly blown to smithereens in this picture.  Eddie Coyle (Robert Mitchum) is a small time Boston villain and supplier of guns to villains.  At that moment, a gang is doing the rounds of New England, abducting bank managers from their homes and holding his family as hostages.  Coyle has trouble in New Hampshire and is facing a couple of years in jail.  So he contacts the local District Attorney (Richard Jordan) and tries to persuade him to help him out.  The D.A. says he must help them.  Coyle buys a new batch of guns for the bank gang and sees machine guns in the boot of the car, owned by the gun seller (Steven Keats).  He is going to sell them on to some young radicals.  Coyle passes this information on to the D.A.  They set up a trap and catch him.  The guy realises that it was Coyle who sold him out.

    But despite arresting a man selling machine guns to radicals, the D.A. insists it is not enough to justify him putting a word into the authorities in New Hampshire.  Now, if he knew who this gang were....?  Coyle spends time in a local bar and gets on well with the bartender (Peter Boyle)  The barman is well known in the underworld and is known to be a man you could rely upon.  The gang are getting wary of Coyle after receiving a new batch of firearms. The leader (Alex Rocco) warns them all to be vigilant.  One of them (Joe Santos) states that Coyle is a stand up guy.  The gang enter a house early in the morning, waiting for the occupants to rise.  They heard them come downstairs but in walks the D.A. armed, backed up by heavily armed Police.  They are convinced that Coyle has sold them out.  Coyle approaches the D.A. and offers the gang up.  The D.A. puts a newspaper in front of him, telling him he is too late.  The gang have been arrested.

    Coyle goes to his local bar, drinking and talking to the bartender about the arrests.  A telephone call to the bar is from an associate of the gang.  The barman tells the caller that Coyle is there making a big thing out of the arrests.  Later he meets a man who tells him that Coyle has to go.  The barman insists he will do it his way.  He takes Coyle out to an ice hockey game, plies him with plenty of drink, and when he falls asleep in the car, the barman shoots him, then makes an exit.  The D.A. is out a day or two later, meeting his informant who gave him the gang.  It was the barman.

     There was no "cor blimey guv!" rhetoric so beloved of the London underworld.  There is a massive difference in sentencing in the USA and there is no doubt in my mind that that plays a huge part in villains informing on everybody.  Even friends.  A dog eat dog world.  The film was directed by Peter Yates, previous films were "Robbery" and "Bullitt."  The chase scene in Robbery got him the Bullitt job.  A truly under rated film.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Con Artistes - Not Figures of Fun

Time for a switch on criminal targets, away from the bodies and killers, and have a look at the world of the conman, flim-flam man, grifter and whatever else term is used to describe them.  The common image in a 50`s/60`s British crime comedy is that of a smooth talking, well dressed man who could sell you the Eiffel Tower, and is looked upon as a kind of comedy act.  The reality is very much different.  These are very nasty people who will use every conceivable type of manipulation and lies to achieve the end result; money.  Carl Hildebrandt was such a person.  He pulled con after con over here in the UK, resulting in him shaving off all his hair and passing himself off as a cancer sufferer and fooling everybody he came across into believing him and parting with money for "treatment."  What was much more sinister, was that Hildebrandt visited graveyards and stole the identities of deceased children.  He would find a suitable headstone with enough details for him to apply for a "new" birth certificate.  Hildebrandt then headed for the USA and carried on his activities, obtaining new"identities."  But his reign came to an end when a diligent Florida patrol officer did substantial research into the background of a suspect, and discovered he was wanted in the UK.  Quite a feather in his cap!  An example of good police work ending the run of a nasty character.

    Then there was a case of a woman in the States who ended up virtually losing everything, and almost her children, all for the sake of a promise of a "dream home."  She fell under the spell of a man who run a company making kit cars/accessories.  He claimed that the Mafia were after him and had shown him photos allegedly of his girlfriends` daughters and that she had to keep a low profile. He later claimed to have cancer but she was not to visit him, as he wanted to get through this ordeal by himself.  Yet, through all the claims, now matter how outrageous or strange, she kept thinking about the "dream house" that would be waiting at the end.  When the truth emerged, he was in debt and the stories about cancer, the mob, etc, was complete garbage.  She took in all his crap, solely for the sake of a house, and almost lost everything.  Do I feel sympathy?  No.  The old adage there is "if it`s too good to be true, then it isn`t."  Money and materialism takes over people.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Freemasonry - Is It as Innocent as It is Claimed?

There was a recent newspaper article about the alleged involvement of the Freemasons in events that have blighted this country.  Did these Brotherhoods wield such power or are conspiracy theorists desperate for people to point the finger at?  Obviously it was true that many decades ago, the members were the wealthy, powerful and influential, but now ordinary members of the public are now Masons.  It now no longer matters if the man is a cabbie or a binman.  One organisation that has long had strong links to the Lodge, is that of the Police.  Leonard "Nipper" Read recalled how he was passed over for promotion because he was NOT a Mason,  and the man who gained the promotion WAS a Mason.  The fact that he was unsuited to the post, was irrelevant.  There was a claim that you could not get into the Flying Squad in the 1960`s unless you were a Freemason.  Plenty of back scratching was obviously rampant.

    The examples cited in the article were the Ripper Murders in Whitechapel, the sinking of the Titanic and the escape of Kenny Noye, to the continent.  Let us start with Jack.  Another book is claiming that the murders were part of a Masonic plot.  The cuts in the face of one victim were Masonic marks!  Not exactly very new.  This was mooted by Stephen Knight back in the 70`s and a film made in 1978 - "Murder By Decree" starring Christopher Plummer as Sherlock Holmes and James Mason as Dr Watson.  Some of the people at the top were Masons and conspired to conceal a brother Mason.  Do I believe this?  No. Not exactly as effective as investigations today, so with a local population with a deep mistrust of authority, could Police really make effective headway?  Were these women random victims or were they targeted?  If so, why?  Never have so many potential suspects been in an area of a murder zone at the right time.  All of these theories have outlandish plots, worthy of a slot in Criminal Minds, rather than a mundane and unspectacular suspect, as Trevor Marriott has presented.  A German sailor.

    What about the Titanic?  Some of the Enquiry board were Freemasons, and so were some of the people behind the ship.  Was there a conspiracy to keep blame away from the Board of Trade, over the lack of lifeboats?  There was also the report of a fire in one coal bunker that was kept from the authorities.  My humble opinion is that this great country can never be responsible for tragedies.  Other countries cause tragedies, not the good old Brits.  There was also the claim of the ship being unsinkable.  That soon fell apart.  Something had to receive the blame, so it was the iceberg and the speed.  

    Then we come to Kenny Noye.  Did he receive help from the Brotherhood in his escape over the road rage murder?  The article mentioned his membership of a lodge.  It also mentioned his role as a police informer.  Did he receive help?  To me, the article overlooked two important words; police informer.  To a number of cops, no victim was ever as important as a grass.  Even if he was a killer.  The grass always came first.  Even if he was acquitted of the murder of a police officer.  So, if he got assistance from cops, it would have been to protect a high level informant.  This is my take on the subject.  No doubt others will disagree, but at least it makes good debate.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Russell Johnson - The Balcony Killer

This is about another serial killer that is unknown outside his own country.  In this case, it is Russell Johnson, a sick killer dubbed "The Balcony Killer" in Canada.  His reign of terror ran from 1973 to 1977, in which he ran up a body count of seven victims.  His nickname came from the fact that he used to climb up apartment buildings and try the balcony doors.  He was known to have climbed up to fifteen floors, looking for victims.  Victims suffered sodomy, strangulation, and if that was not enough, he committed necrophilia on some of his victims.  he also attacked another ten women,choking them until they passed out.  Johnson is locked up in a maximum security mental hospital in Penetanguishene, Ontario.  

    But he craved a transfer to a less secure hospital at Brockville, Ontario.  The fact that this facility housed both male and female inmates, in separate wings, though they were not locked up at night.  One objector pointed out that Johnson would have a victim pool awaiting him at Brockville.  Incredibly, one psychiatrist said that Johnson felt "very bad" about his crimes!!!  Johnson only had one aim; getting into a less secure hospital.  And women being there would have been a very nice bonus as well.  The shit hit the fan when the families of the victims heard that authorities were preparing to transfer him to a medium security hospital.  The outrage of the families and views of other professionals put a halt to this madness.  But nothing can ever be ruled out when you have maniacs telling mental health experts, what they want to hear.

The Execution 0f Willie Trottie

Another tv show following in the footsteps of  "Most Evil" that was hosted by the brilliant Dr Michael Stone, is called "Inside the Mind of a Murderer," hosted by a Dr Michelle Ward.  She does not seem to be all that impressive, certainly not in the league of Dr Stone.  She interviewed a man facing execution for a shooting slaughter, and listened to his relentless excuses.  She did not believe anything he said, but she seemed to put forward excuses for his rampage.  Willie Trottie was a control freak, who had a very volatile relationship with Barbara Canada, had a child between them, but she ended up taking out a restraining order on him.  Trottie admitted that he hit Barbara a number of times but claimed she pushed and provoked him into lashing out.

    He was recorded issuing a death threat to Barbara and her family, if she did not return to him.  Anybody with the tiniest brain could work out that she dared to leave him, and he could not abide it.  He went to her home in Houston ARMED WITH A GUN.  He claimed it was for his own protection!!!!!!!  He shot her brother, seriously wounding him.  He then proceeded to shoot and wound her sister and mother.  All in self defence of course!!!!  He cornered Barbara in a bedroom and shot her.  But her brother, despite his injuries, managed to get a gun and shot Trottie three times, catching him in the legs.  Trottie staggered into the living room and cold bloodedly shot the brother twice in the head.  He then went back into the bedroom and emptied the gun in Barbara.  He shot her ELEVEN times!!!  He then left and drove to hospital to get his wounds treated. Two cold blooded murder and two attempted murders, and he tried to make out he was a wronged man.  Barbara and her family were to blame for everything.  Yet, the state of Texas did not believe him for the May 1993 massacre and executed him by lethal injection.  No doubt somebody will speak up for this much "maligned" man.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Demands For a Mobile Phone Leads to Death Row

It never ceases to amaze me just what lengths people will go to, just to obtain something trivial.  In this case, it led to a brutal murder of a lad of 16.  He happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Eric Sergeant was out walking in the town of Hemet, in California, when three young men approached him, telling him to hand over his phone. They were 17 year old Francisco Siordia, Joseph Venegas, 15, and 21 year old Roy Zavala.  He stood his ground and then tried to escape from them, but he was caught.  Zavala then proceeded to stab him ten times with a big knife.  They then fled.  People coming upon the scene, desperately tried to stem the bleeding.  A helicopter rushed him to hospital, but he passed away in the operating theatre.

    Two years on, at the trial, Zavala received the death penalty.  Siordia was under the age for the death penalty but was still charged as an adult.  He was convicted of first degree murder and was given life without parole.  Venegas took a plea bargain and accepted 12 years for manslaughter.  All for the sake of a mobile phone.  The murder of a lad just out walking and the perpetrator facing a needle in the arm.  Another leaves prison in a box.

Friday, 27 November 2015

The Black Panther Film - Now out on DVD

The local newspaper published a double page spread about the film made about the Black Panther - Donald Neilson - that is now being released on DVD.  I remember the headlines when it was reported that  film about the murders was being planned, and indeed, a clip was shown on Barry Norman's film show.  But the film remained virtually unseen as some authorities refused to show it.  Donald Sumpter played Neilson, though physically he was not suited.  It was reported that Ian Holm had originally agreed to play him, but upon hearing that the family of Lesley Whittle objected to the film, he backed out.  Not only is he a superb actor but physically, was closer to Neilson than Sumpter.  The film cost £100,000 to make - a low budget - and was filmed in just two weeks.  The sort of shooting schedule that Roger Corman did on many of his low budgeters!  The Whittle family reportedly said that they could not stop the film being made but they made it clear that they were unhappy about the situation.

    The scriptwriter, Michael Armstrong, pointed to films made about murderers such as Christie.  A number of reconstructions of cases are made about murders, such as Sutcliffe, Dennis Nilsen, Griffiths, The Wests, etc, so I can see Armstrong`s point.  Whether it is right or wrong, everybody will have an opinion on it.  But seeing the name of Michael Armstrong brought back certain films.  The Mark of The Devil, made in 1969 in Germany, by Armstrong, and starring Herbert Lom,  Udo Kier and Reggie Nalder.  This was banned in the UK (and I believe it still is - anybody know otherwise?) but I saw it on video around 1983.  Think of Witchfinder General, only very much nastier.  He also did a sex film called "Sex Thief" which featured a then unknown Diane Keen without her clothes!  

    A titbit about Neilson; one customer of mine, a former cop, claimed he once dated Nielson`s daughter, and when he took her out one night, Neilson warned him to have her back by a certain time, or "he would kill him!"  I have no way of knowing if this is true, it is only what he told me. Will people view the film that was largely shunned by the authorities and people?  Only time will tell.