CCLS/CCL Board Meeting

Due to the easing of COVID restrictions, the Board of Trustees of the Chester County Library System/Chester County Library will now be hosting their monthly board meeting as a hybrid offering. If you have always wanted to attend a meeting but haven’t had the time, this is your opportunity. Please click on this link at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday May 24 to join the Chester County Library System Board Meeting virtually; or attend in person at the Henrietta Hankin Branch, 215 Windgate Drive, Chester Springs, PA 19425. The Chester County Library Board Meeting will immediately follow. Find the Chester County Library Board Packet here.

If you are a person with a disability and wish to attend this meeting and require an auxiliary aid, service, or other accommodation to observe or participate in the proceedings, please call Chester County Library’s Administration Office at 610-344-5600 or email mcrawford@ccls.org to discuss how we may best accommodate your needs.

World Dracula Day

“I never drink…wine.”

Bela Lugosi, Dracula (1931)

WORLD DRACULA DAY May 26

          It now seems fitting that on May 26, 2012 The Whitby Dracula Society initiated World Dracula Day to commemorate the publication in 1897 of Bram Stoker’s extremely influential novel.  Whitby, on the east coast of England, was the site of the running aground of the schooner Demeter, on which the Transylvanian vampire had made his way to Britain.

          A first edition of the novel can go for up to $45,000.

          World Dracula Day has gained in popularity worldwide.  It’s now “a thing.” 

“You would play your brains against mine?  Against me who has commanded nations!”

Christopher Lee, Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)

By Kim

Single Mission Team Players

One of the most exciting “plot devices” in movies is the agglomeration of a select team that embarks on a hazardous mission whose members generally expect to return in one piece.  Until the 1960s this phenomenon was rare.  The films in question cross genres.  Not included here are heist films (that began in earnest in 1950 with The Asphalt Jungle and Armored Car Robbery), which can be construed as a subgenre of film noir which itself is a subgenre of Crime, Mystery and Suspense.  Nor are superhero outings examined.  The Avengers, for instance, are always on hazardous missions, their skills well-known in advance. 

Perhaps the first example of the “single mission” team adventure is Northwest Passage (1940).  During the French and Indian War, Major Robert Rogers (Spencer Tracy) leads his wilderness savvy Rangers through the Maine wilderness and into Canada to destroy the St. Francis Indian encampment from which marauders have been despoiling Colonial homesteads.  The specialty of Langdon Towne (Robert Young) is map-making.  The mission accomplished, the Rangers split up to avoid capture by surviving tribesmen and French regulars.  (A “hidden” remake is 1945’s Objective, Burma!  One of the best combat movies made during World War II features Errol Flynn as leader of parachutists who land behind Japanese lines, blow up a radar station, and try to escape with minimal casualties.  As in Northwest Passage, the soldiers disperse during their return to Allied lines and half of them perish.)

A lengthy gap for this trope ensues but returns with a vengeance in 1960 with The Magnificent Seven, which was inspired by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai (1954).  Poor Mexican villagers hire American gunslingers to protect them from the imminent arrival of Calvera (Eli Wallach) and his numerous bandidos.  Chris (Yul Brynner) convinces six other gunmen down on their luck to join him and stop Calvera’s depredations.  Most do not survive.  (There are two sequels of lesser worth, Guns of the Magnificent Seven, 1969, and The Magnificent Seven Ride, 1972.  A major remake appeared in 2016, and as has become typical, adds high explosives plus a Gatling gun to cause carnage.)

Following on the heels of Magnificent Seven came The Guns of Navarone (1961), a monster hit and Academy Award nominee for Best Picture.  (West Side Story was the winner that year.)  After Major Franklin (Anthony Quayle) is injured, the small group of British commandos and Greeks are led by Captain Keith Mallory (Gregory Peck), expert mountaineer who helps them scale forbidding cliffs on their way to destroy two gigantic German guns preventing approach by ships tasked with rescuing British forces on the island of Kheros.  Taking a cue from Magnificent Sevens knife-wielding expert played by James Coburn, Stanley Baker is the blade virtuoso.  David Niven’s forte is explosives.  (Force 10 from Navarone was a 1978 sequel.  Peck and Niven teamed for a somewhat similar mission in 1980’s The Sea Wolves, with a German ship targeted for destruction.)

The Secret Invasion (1964) was a low-budget but entertaining harbinger as the plot is eerily similar to both The Dirty Dozen (1967) and Where Eagles Dare (1968).  Stewart Granger leads convicts with special skills (forgery, murder, explosives) into Yugoslavia during World War II to rescue from German captivity an Italian general sympathetic to the Allied cause. 

Another large and hugely enjoyable western used the team approach in 1966’s aptly titled The Professionals.  Lee Marvin leads a quartet into Mexico to rescue Maria (Claudia Cardinale), wife of rancher J. W. Grant (Ralph Bellamy).  Maria has been ostensibly kidnapped by Jesus Raza (Jack Palance).  Burt Lancaster plays the demolition expert.  Robert Ryan is master of equines.  Woody Strode is a scout and archer who facilitates explosives ignition.  On the strength of his Academy Award-winning dual role in 1965’s Cat Ballou and National Board of Review win for the same year’s Ship of Fools, Marvin was now far from his apprenticeship as the fifties’ and early sixties’ greatest screen villain (Bad Day at Black Rock, The Big Heat, The Wild One, Violent Saturday, Seven Men from Now, The Comancheros, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance).          

Like The Professionals, The Dirty Dozen (1967) are trained and led by Major Reisman (Lee Marvin), training a diverse but highly dangerous group of army convicts whose mission is to parachute into France before D-Day and blow up a chateau full of German officers.  This they do but like The Magnificent Seven, only a few survive.  (The Devil’s Brigade, 1968, seems unashamedly beholden to The Dirty Dozen but was released not long after the 1967 movie and was based on a 1966 book.)

Where Eagles Dare (1968, U.K.).  Ubiquitous today on TV, this high-powered WW II saga (like The Guns of Navarone, from writer Alastair MacLean) stars Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood.  The latter, after his “spaghetti western” trilogy, plus Hang ‘Em High and Coogan’s Bluff (both 1968)was on the cusp of superstardom.  As Lt. Schaffer, a sometimes demolition expert, he and Major Smith (Burton) infiltrate a German castle holding an Allied general with secrets to the forthcoming D-Day invasion.  One could argue this is not much of a team, but they are assisted by Mary Ure and Ingrid Pitt, who facilitate ingress and egress from the eyrie and make their escape with the men.  (Although she caused the screaming, in 1970 Pitt would claim title as Hammer Films’ signature scream queen in The Vampire Lovers.)  

Predator (1987).  Major “Dutch” Schaffer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and an elite extraction team enter the Central American jungle to rescue a cabinet minister held by insurgents.  Unknown to them, a space alien hunter lurks in the forest canopy and is soon picking off the humans and taking trophies.  At first glance the team members might seem like ordinary mercenaries but as the story progresses we see Blain (Jesse Ventura) operating a monstrous hand-held minigun that can sever small tree trunks and the scout Billy (Sonny Landham) choosing to confront the predator with a machete.  Richard Chaves plays a demolition man. 

The Lord of the Rings:  The Fellowship of the Ring (2001).  The wizard Gandalf the Grey visits Hobbiton to inform young Frodo that he has a highly dangerous mission to perform with the fate of Middle Earth hanging in the balance:  return the “One Ring” to the volcanic pit of Mount Doom, thus foiling the evil Sauron’s quest for ultimate power.    Accompanying Frodo are three friends, a “Ranger,” an axe-wielding dwarf, an expert Elf archer, and the Gondor warrior Boromir.  Frodo’s perilous adventure continues in The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003).

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003).  Retired adventurer Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery) leads a coterie of disparate entities against the “Fantom,” aka “M” and “Moriarty” (Richard Roxburgh), one-time nemesis of Sherlock Holmes now bent on starting a world war.  Quatermain’s crew includes the ageless Dorian Gray, Captain Nemo, Henry Jekyll/Edward Hyde, Mina Harker and Tom Sawyer.  The film made a bit of money despite being roundly criticized as an incoherent mishmash.   

Inception (2010)  Leonardo DiCaprio is a thief enlisted to form a team, invade an industrialist’s subconscious, and convince him to dissolve a company.  That’s the short synopsis of this heady science fiction action adventure, a sort of futuristic “magnificent seven.”

Films that some might include in this survey but I did not are The Wild Geese (1978; aging, no longer elite mercenaries), Aliens (1986; overconfident squad of Marines), Saving Private Ryan (1998; regular soldiers undertaking rescue mission). An outlier that could be construed as a Single Mission Player is the French classic of 1953, The Wages of Fear.  Four down-and-out men of disparate backgrounds marooned in South America drive—carefully—two trucks loaded with nitroglycerine to a distant oil well that is aflame and must be capped.  (Director William Friedkin’s 1977 movie Sorcerer is an unacknowledged remake.)

By Kim

Rags to Riches: the compelling life story of Julie Henning

Chester Springs at Henrietta Hankin Branch Library — This spring marks 90 years since author Pearl S. Buck was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her moving story of the joys and hardships of the Chinese peasant farmer Wang Lung and his family in her classic novel The Good Earth.  The celebrated author and humanitarian spent the last 40 years of her life living in Perkasie, PA.  During this time, she used her fame to shed light on the rights of marginalized communities including people of color, people with disabilities, women, biracial children, and immigrants.  Through her establishment of Pearl S. Buck International, many actions have, and continue to be made to help those affected by these issues.

On May 23rd from 6:30-7:30, the Henrietta Hankin Library will welcome the adopted daughter of Pearl S. Buck, Julie Henning, to give a talk on her life’s journey from an existence of hardship and poverty in the streets of Busan, South Korea, to a world of plenty, both spiritually and materially, in a house with a white picket fence in Souderton, Pennsylvania.  Ms. Henning gives her own unique perspective on Pearl Buck as a mother and guiding light.  As the daughter of an American G.I., whom she never knew, and her South Korean mother, Ms. Henning has also addressed issues faced by Amerasians through newspaper articles, radio interviews, national television, and U.S. Congressional hearings. 

At the urging of friends and family, Ms. Henning has documented her life story in a book, A Rose in a Ditch, which was published in 2019.  This book, which is now being made into a movie, will be available for purchase and signing at the event!  Come to hear the compelling story of Julie Henning’s life.  This program will be accessible virtually as well as in person in the Annex of the library.

We hope you will join us for this special event.  Register here. This event supports PA Forward Civic and Social Literacy.

Multimedia New Releases – May 2022



Music


April Staff Picks

Felicia’s Picks

The Whole Story (Kate Bush)

A fantastic compilation album from the experimental British pop icon!

What We Do in the Shadows

A super fun vampire mockumentary! Definitely check out if you enjoyed HBO’s Our Flag Means Death.

Eric’s Picks

April Fool’s Day (1986)

A hidden MASTERPIECE from the teen slasher Renaissance of the 80s! Though it often gets lumped in with other Holiday themed slashers that were in vogue at the time, April Fool’s Day is far funnier, more ambitious and more clever than any of its peers! If you consider yourself a fan of horror films or “who dunnit” murder mysteries you owe it to yourself to check out this film!

Tropical Paradise/ La Roux

With summertime right around the corner, this album by English synthpop sensation “La Roux” is the perfect soundtrack to get you in the mood for some sun and surf and maybe a Mojito or two! Tropical Paradise is, top to bottom, all-killer/no-filler. Every song on this album is an absolute banger that would be the hit single and best track on anyone else’s album. As a musical act, La Roux remains criminally underrated and this album is one of her absolute best!

Kim’s Picks

Eden:  Untamed Planet  

For BBC Earth, Actress Helena Bonham Carter narrates beautifully this 2-disc documentary about five of the world’s still pristine locales:  Borneo, Patagonia, the Galapagos Islands, Africa’s Namib Desert, Alaska’s Alexander Archipelago.

The Code Breaker:  Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing and the Future of Humanity  

The author of many exemplary biographies, (Benjamin Franklin, Steve Jobs, Einstein), Isaacson delves into the modern technology of gene editing, specifically CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspersed Short Palindromic Repeats).  Jennifer Doudna and collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020 for pioneering this technique.  Despite the complicated science involved, Isaacson makes it intelligible and thrilling as he interviews a plethora of biochemists, bioethicists, and microbiologists to track the discovery, advances, and ethical disputes involved in the new world of genome editing that promises cures for disease as well as enhanced human beings.   

Jessie’s Picks

Free Guy

This hilarious movie is a must-watch for video game fans! Ryan Reynolds is unaware that he is a character in a video game, and that he might be essential in saving his world and exposing a greedy video game developer.

City of Brass

Narrator Nankani brings this Middle Eastern set fantasy to life.  Nahri flees Cairo for the djinn city of Daevabad with an ancient warrior that she accidentally summoned.  But she faces new dangers due to Daevabad’s palace intrigue.

Hidden Gems: April Fool’s Day (1986)

On October 27th, 1978, a low-budget slasher film hit movie theatres and became an overnight success, sending cultural shock waves that forever changed the landscape of the genre. No, the movie I’m referring to is not April Fool’s Day, but rather John Carpenter’s beloved horror classic: Halloween; a film whose massive success inspired a wave of holiday-themed slashers, all trying to cash in on the latest trend. This fad gave birth to such films as: Silent Night, Deadly Night, My Bloody Valentine, The Leprechaun, Prom Night, Happy Birthday to Me, Bloody New Year, Graduation Day, Home Sweet Home and, most notably, the Friday the 13th films. Near the tail end of this craze, a film called April Fool’s Day was released into theatres and, even though it sold generally well at the box office, horror fans initially regarded its subversion of the slasher formula and lack of overt gore as too far a departure for the genre.

Here are just some of the many Halloween-inspired holiday slashers that came to pass…

This dismissal by fans definitely impacted the movie’s reputation, causing it to age into relative obscurity. Whenever the film was discussed, it was most often as another footnote from the era of Halloween knock offs. While there is no doubt that April Fool’s Day was sold to audiences as another feature of this ilk, the film itself uses the familiar formula of these movies as a Trojan Horse, sneaking in a far more clever and unique experience than was expected from the standard slasher fare of the times.

On the surface, April Fool’s Day sounds like your run-of-the-mill horror movie. During the spring break weekend that leads up to April Fool’s Day, a group of rowdy, oversexed, college kids gather at an island mansion owned by their old friend, Muffy St. John (Deborah Foreman). Once on the island, it turns out that Muffy has set up a variety of April Fool’s Day pranks throughout the mansion. What begins with simple gags like whoopee cushions and dribble glasses, quickly escalates to more disturbingly dark pranks. The gang tries to stay in the spirit of the holiday and laugh everything off but this becomes hard to do once members of their party start turning up dead.

Pictured from left to right: (Amy Steel as Kit, Tom Wilson as Arch, Leah Pinsett as Nan, Clayton Rohner as Chaz)

While, this synopsis is accurate to the series of events that befall the characters in the movie, it is only a singular part of a larger story; one which I dare not spoil to any readers who have not yet seen the film. Suffice it to say, April Fool’s Day does something so original with its premise, so radical for the genre of story its telling, that it has not appeared in a slasher film before or since. However, even without its twists and turns, April Fool’s Day would still be a movie well deserving of considerable reappraisal. Upon watching the film, I instantly noticed that, while the familiar character archetypes were all well on display, a lot of them are given more depth and feel a bit more naturalistic as people than you come to expect from the genre. This is especially of note considering that it was released in 1986.

In a clever directorial choice from film maker Fred Walton, a handheld camera is introduced early on as a possession of one of the college kids. Through this premise, the movie gets permission to directly introduce us to each of the characters, as it establishes that it is for the purpose of a home movie. While this is an efficient way to squeeze in exposition at the beginning of the film, the movie also uses it for moments of extremely naturalistic acting that audiences wouldn’t become accustomed to until well into the 1990s with films such as The Blair Witch Project. Watching everyone in these early moments, performatively acting up for their friend’s home movie feels so genuinely real and unscripted that it immediately adds an extra layer to all of the characters. This narrative device pops up intermittently throughout the film, adding a level of truly unexpected authenticity that makes the characters feel more well-rounded and a bit savvier, at moments showing early shades of Wes Craven’s teenagers from Scream. In particular, Thomas F. Wilson, whom audiences will know as the mean spirited Biff from Back to the Future, steals the show as the jovial, prankster Arch. It is really fun getting to see him play a fun-loving, good-natured character after identifying him so much with Biff. In addition to Wilson, Deborah Foreman who plays the dual roles of Muffy St. John and her mysterious and haunted twin sister Buffy, shows great range and pulls off both characters effortlessly.

Deborah Foreman as Muffy (left) and Buffy (right)

Much like Muffy and her twin sister Buffy, who often feel like two halves of a whole, April Fool’s Day is actually two films in one. One of these films is a straight-forward holiday horror slasher, delivering audiences exactly what they came for, while the other is almost a satire of those kinds of films. I say “almost” because the film in no way operates as satire, at least not overtly so. What is perhaps a better description is that, while April Fool’s Day exists as one of those formulaic slasher films of its time, it always feels highly aware of itself and when it gives in to those expected conventions, it does so in pursuit of an ultimate end-goal. To speak to this “end-goal” any more, would be to give away the secret behind the mystery killer of the film. Suffice it to say, the reveal of the killer was such a radical choice that it was ultimately one which led to audiences initial rejection of the film.

By the time April Fool’s Day hit theatres in 1986, almost a full decade after the original Halloween, the market was over saturated with teen slashers (both holiday themed and non-holiday themed alike). Even though it did relatively well at the box office, April Fool’s Day never received any of the critical acclaim or lasting memory that many of its peers did. Then again, when your peers of the decade are such horror titans as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser, Child’s Play, and The Evil Dead, it can be pretty easy to get lost in the shuffle. With time and distance, however, it was the film’s ambition and unwillingness to follow the formula of its predecessors that gave this film something truly unique and has helped it build a cult fan base that still grows to this day (something which cannot be said for Silent Night, Deadly Night). If you consider yourself a fan of slasher films or “whodunnit” murder mysteries, you owe it to yourself to check out April Fool’s Day, because I can almost guarantee, you’ve never seen one which ends like this!

By Eric

May Adult Book Groups

The Chester County Library Evening and Afternoon Book Discussion groups have returned to in person meetings. The other groups are remaining virtual.  Please see our May titles and dates below. The online groups are being held via Zoom. We are requiring registration for these online book groups in order to send out the Zoom meeting information. Click on the date below to register. Information on our adult book groups can also be found on our website: https://bit.ly/chescolibs-bookgroups.

Evening Book Group
Monday, May 2, 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
This session will be held in person in the Burke Room at the Chester County Library.

Page Turners Book Group
Thursday, May 12, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Comics Unbound Group
Monday, May 16, 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Kent State by Derf Backderf

Whodunits Book Group
Wednesday, May 18, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Afternoon Book Group
Wednesday, May 18, 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Eternal by Lisa Scottoline   
This session will be held in person in the Burke Room at the Chester County Library.

Registration is required for all book groups. Registration will close at least 2 hours prior to the scheduled start time of the book group. A Zoom link will be emailed to registrants 2 hours before the book group starts.  Make sure to check the email address you registered with to receive the link.  You do not need a Zoom account to attend the virtual book group.

These programs support the PA Forward Civic and Social Literacy Initiative.

Library Volunteers Celebrated During National Volunteer Week!

(EXTON, PA) April 17th – 23rd is National Volunteer Week.  Here at Chester County Library and Henrietta Hankin Branch Library, we are honoring all of our volunteers who so generously shared their time and talent with us during the last year.

This community of volunteers contributes daily to the efficient and smooth running of both libraries. Many volunteers have over twenty years of service, a tribute to library volunteerism. They are, indeed, the backbone of the libraries. This year we are celebrating 26 volunteers who have achieved 500, 1,000, and 2,500 hours of volunteer service for 2019 and 2021.  Many of them worked alongside staff throughout the pandemic – a testament to their dedication and service.

500-hour recipients have selected a book that is special to each of them and we have inserted a bookplate in their names; 1,000-hour recipients have received the much-coveted ‘Share the Gift of Reading’ pin; and last but certainly not least, those who have served 2,500 hours will receive a brass plate on the 2,500 Hour Plaque of Fame that can be found at new Reference/Multimedia Desk on the first floor of the library.  We have also created a special wall display in the Lobby Area at Chester County Library in Exton honoring these volunteers which will be up until April 30th.

We are fortunate to have such a strong service-oriented community and the Library Staff and the Board of Trustees are grateful for the enduring service of all its volunteers. For more information about the Chester County Library & Henrietta Hankin Branch Library volunteer program, email the Volunteer Coordinator at volunteerprgm@ccls.org.

CCLS/CCL Board Meeting

Due to the easing of COVID restrictions, the Board of Trustees of the Chester County Library System/Chester County Library will now be hosting their monthly board meeting as a hybrid offering. If you have always wanted to attend a meeting but haven’t had the time, this is your opportunity. Please click on this link at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday April 19 to join the Chester County Library System Board Meeting virtually; or attend in person at Chester County Library, 450 Exton Square Parkway, PA 19341. The Chester County Library Board Meeting will immediately follow. Find the Chester County Library Board Packet here.

If you are a person with a disability and wish to attend this meeting and require an auxiliary aid, service, or other accommodation to observe or participate in the proceedings, please call Chester County Library’s Administration Office at 610-344-5600 or email mcrawford@ccls.org to discuss how we may best accommodate your needs.