THE STORY OF MEDICINE: PAIN, PUS AND POISON

(ATHENA VIDEO/ACORN MEDIA GROUP; 2 DVD, 2014)

Story of Med_product

Originally produced for the BBC, these programs (or, as they say in Britain, “programmes”) are interesting and accessible to any audience. This set will be well appreciated if you are a documentary fan and want to see how modern medical science has developed in three important areas.

These three major developments led to modern medicine: the development of anesthesia, of antibiotics and of treatments for poisonings and treatments based on toxins. These topics are effectively presented on this two DVD set from Athena. With an interesting narrative, energetic physician Doctor Michael Mosley provides a detailed history featuring dynamic video and effective graphics.

Pain: How were morphine drugs developed from poppy plants? What is anesthesia? The medical community, at first, refused to even admit the possibility that a medicine could render someone unconscious. In a scene reminiscent of an old horror movie, anesthesia was first demonstrated live in front of a group of surgeons in an arena-like surgical theater on a real patient. A surgery was performed with ether administered to the patient, which led to the anesthetics we have today.

Pus: More than just about the “gross” aspects of infection, this video talks about what kinds of microbes can cause infections and how scientists found ways to cure them. From the first sulfa and penicillin drugs, during World War II, to the present, the major successes and, more often, failures in the fight against infectious diseases are described.

Series Host Doctor Michael Mosley (publicity photo)

Series Host Doctor Michael Mosley (publicity photo)

Poison: Curare, the “poison dart” toxin, was first described by an eccentric Brit named Waterton. It paralyzes breathing. But the body remains conscious. Does that sound creepy? Have you heard of belladonna? The toxin whose name means “beautiful lady.” Its effects include dilation of the pupils, a sign which normally indicates excitement. It was used by women who wanted to appear to be exciting (and excited!). The study of toxins eventually led to the development of chemotherapy for cancer, as well as Botox, used for skin wrinkles by women and men today.

This is the tone of the three programs: They show what really happens in the case of wounds, infections and poisonings. It is fascinating! If these three topics weren’t enough, there is also a bonus video: “Seven Wonders of the Microbe World,” running about 27 minutes, features the single cell organisms that make such indispensable items as cheese, wine and beer! Don’t miss the history and description of the microorganism which causes “black death” and the development of the nursery rhyme we still know today, “Ring around the Rosie!”

Over the past 200 years, human life expectancy has been extended from a 30 or 40 year lifespan to an age of 80, 90 and beyond. Does this kind of medical history interest you? Do you want to see the 19th century development of modern medicine? Do you read mysteries involving poisonings or are you fascinated by steam-era technology? To see medicine’s past and glimpse its future, see this 2-DVD set of three videos.


KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER AND DOCTOR MOREAU

(Mike Kelly/Mark Grammel/Eric Stanway/Nik Poliwko/Valarie Jones; MOONSTONE PUBLISHING, 2013)

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From the opening panels – which are amazingly drawn – the reader is drawn into a mystery just as is LA reporter Carl Kolchak. Originally a Chicagoan, Carl is back on home turf, wrapping up work on another story. But before he can get back on a plane to LA, there are some gruesome murders with a strange twist. They seem to be the work of some kind of powerful and mysterious beasts. And, of course, Carl (as usual) has to stick his nose – along with the rest of his anatomy, which includes his continuously-in-operation brain – where it is least welcome. HG Wells’ Doctor Moreau seems to have modern counterparts busy in the animal research labs of greater Chicagoland. And their creatures have run the proverbial “amok.”

The Mark Grammel panels really flow and move the action along well. Mike Kelly’s story has his usual lean and direct – yet true and thorough character development – with action and mystery aplenty and an ending you will not see coming! Mike knows the Kolchak character, hero of the 1974-75 ABC-TV series, THE NIGHT STALKER, better than anyone on the planet. Mike was the character’s biggest fan then and he shows his continuing devotion and understanding of Carl Kolchak in this book.

Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak, the Night Stalker (publicity photo)

Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak, the Night Stalker (publicity photo)

So, now to reveal one mystery: I have known Mike Kelly since we were best friends at high school in a (more or less) peaceful Chicago suburb. We watched the Kolchak TV series when it originally aired, as did our other fellow movie/comic/science fiction friends. Mike never forgot about THE NIGHT STALKER and has been working to promote it and it’s main character ever since it was “not on ABC’s announced fall schedule” in 1975. So Mike is in very familiar digs, with the story set in Chicago and the small towns in northern Illinois which are his ancestral turf. But the ‘burbs of Mike’sMOREAUare quite a bit less peaceful than the ones I remember.

In addition to this being a good time to (re)read the HG Wells novel, THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU, it is a good time to renew your acquaintance with Kolchak. If you haven’t seen the TV series in a while (or not seen it at all? Shameful!), now is a good time to catch it on Netflix Instant Watch. I am sure it is available elsewhere, as well. Be sure to check it out… you will be surprised how a vintage series can still play so well! Darren McGavin brought the Kolchak character to life as detective-reporter-supernatural investigator and it is still a great series to watch. THE NIGHT STALKER was a series truly unique for it’s time and the forerunner of many series since. You would have never seen a BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, X-FILES or many others without Kolchak. And, check out this new book and the others in the Kolchak series from Moonstone (at www.moonstonebooks.com). It is not only a good, but a great time to pick up KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER AND DOCTOR MOREAU where you will find a compelling book with vibrant characters and a story that leaves you anticipating another mystery with the persistently annoying – but always on the right track – Carl Kolchak. (XB)