Friday, May 30, 2014

Top Five Favorite "ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND" (2013-2014) Episodes


Below is a list of my top five favorite episodes of "ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND" (2013-2014).  The series was created by  Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz, Zack Estrin, and Jane Espenson:


TOP FIVE FAVORITE "ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND" (2013-2014) Episodes


1.  (1.13) "And They Lived . . ." - The series ended with this very satisfying and emotional episode in which Alice and her friends gather to prevent a very powerful Jafar from taking control of Wonderland.




2.  (1.07) "Bad Blood" - While Alice and Will/Knave of Hearts plan to rescue Cyrus from Jafar's floating island, the latter uses Alice's father to coerce her into using her second wish.  Flashbacks reveal how Jafar's tumultuous relationship with his father led him into becoming a villain.




3.  (1.11) "Heart of the Matter" - Alice and Cyrus discover alarming information involving Jafar's prisoners.  Meanwhile, Will, who is now a genie, can help an endangered Anastasia (the Red Queen) by surrendering desperately needed information to Jafar.  Flashbacks reveal Anastasia's burgeoning friendship with Cora Mills (Queen of Hearts) before her marriage to the Red King.




4.  (1.04) "The Serpent" - The Queen of Hearts kidnaps Will on Jafar's behalf, who wants him publicly beheaded in order to force Alice to make a wish.  Flashbacks reveal how Jafar became a magic practitioner and why he wants Cyrus' genie powers. 




5.  (1.08) "Home" - The Red Queen's collaboration with Jafar breaks apart, while Alice and Will plan to reunite with Cyrus.  Meanwhile, the latter ceases to become a genie, thanks to a wish that Alice had given to Will and he had cast.






Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"GODZILLA" (2014) Photo Gallery

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Below are images from "GODZILLA", the recent adaptation of the famous Japanese monster icon. Directed by Gareth Edwards, the movie stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen and Bryan Cranston: 


"GODZILLA" (2014) Photo Gallery

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Monday, May 26, 2014

"THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD" (2000) Review

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"THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD" (2000) Review

As many fans of Agatha Christie are aware, one of her most highly acclaimed and controversial novels is "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd". I had checked the Internet to see how many adaptations had been made from well-regarded tale. I was surprised to learn there were at least seven adaptations, considering its difficult plot twist. The third to the last adaptation proved to be the last adaptation was the 103-minute television movie that aired on ITV's "AGATHA CHRISTIE'S POIROT" in 2000.

"THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD" seemed like your typical Christie novel. After retiring to the small village of King's Abbott, Belgian-born detective Hercule Poirot stumbles across a mystery in which an old friend of his, an industrialist named Roger Ackroyd has been murdered. Sometime earlier, another friend of Ackroyd, a widow named Mrs. Ferrars, had committed suicide when she is suspected of killing her husband. Another murder occurs before Poirot, with the help of Chief Inspector Japp and local physician Dr. James Sheppard, solves the murder.

Screenwriter Clive Exton made some changes to Christie's novel. He deleted a few characters, changed Poirot's relationship with Ackroyd from simply neighbor to old friend, and added Chief Inspector Japp to the cast of characters. This last change greatly affected the story's narrative. Christie's novel was narrated by the Dr. Sheppard character. By having Japp replace him as Poirot's closest ally, Exton nearly made Dr. Sheppard irrelevant. Exton ended up doing the same to a character in 2001's "MURDER IN MESOPOTAMIA", when he added Arthur Hastings to the story, allowing the story's true narrator, Nurse Amy Leatheran to become irrelevant. However, the addition of Japp to "THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD" transformed Christie's story from a unique tale, to something . . . well, rather typical. With the addition of Japp, the story became another typical Christie murder mystery set in a small village. Pity. 

I also believe that Exton damaged Christie's original narrative even further with other major changes. One, he revealed major hints of the killer's identity before Poirot could expose the former. And once the killer was exposed, audiences were subjected to a theatrical and rather silly chase scene throughout Ackroyd's factoy, involving the police. And if I must be honest, I found myself wondering why on earth Poirot had decided to retire as a detective and move to the country in the first place. How long had he been gone before his reunion with Chief Inspector Japp?

Was there anything I like about "THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD"? I thought it was a tasteful movie, thanks to Rob Harris' production designs that beautifully recaptured rural England in the mid-1930s. His work was ably complimented by Katie Driscoll's art direction, and Charlotte Holdich's costume designs. In fact, I can honestly say that the latter did a first-rate job in not only creating costumes for that particular era, but specifically for each character. Although some of Exton's narrative changes robbed the story of its famous plot twist and featured a badly-handled revelation of the murderer, I will give kudos to the screenwriter for creating a plausible murder mystery that made it somewhat difficult for any viewer not familiar with Christie's novel, to guess the killer's identity . . . to a certain point.

The movie also featured some solid performances. David Suchet gave his usual competent performance as Hercule Poirot. He had one rather amusing scene in which the Belgian detective struggled with the vegetable marrows in his garden. I could say the same about Philip Jackson's performance as Inspector Japp. Both Oliver Ford-Davies and Selina Cadell were amusing as the much put upon Dr. James Sheppard and his very nosy sister, Caroline. I read somewhere that the Caroline Sheppard character may have been a forerunner of the Jane Marple character. Malcolm Terris gave a very emotional performance as the story's victim, Roger Ackroyd. Both Daisy Beaumont and Flora Montgomery were also effectively emotional as Ursula Bourne and Flora Ackroyd (the victim's niece) - the two women in the life of Ralph Paton, Ackroyd's stepson and major suspect. Speaking of the later, Jamie Bamber gave a solid performance as Ralph. But honestly, he did not exactly rock my boat. However, I was impressed by Roger Frost's portrayal of Ackroyd's butler, Parker. I thought he did a very good job in portraying the different aspects of the competent, yet rather emotional manservant.

Looking back, I really wish that Clive Exton had maintained Christie's narrative style for this television adaptation of her 1926 novel. I believe it could have been possible. By changing the narrative style and adding the Chief Inspector Japp character to the story, Exton transformed "THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD" from a unique story to a typical Christie murder mystery. Pity.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

"LOST" RETROSPECT: (2.11) "The Hunting Party"

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"LOST" RETROSPECT: (2.11) "The Hunting Party"

I may be a bit picky about my tastes in television viewing. But I must admit there have been a few television episodes either dismissed or lambasted by critics and fans alike, but which I have come to like. One of those episodes is the Season Two episode of "LOST" called (2.11) "The Hunting Party"

This eleventh episode from the series' second season picks up not long after the previous episode, (2.10) "The 23rd Psalms" left off. In the previous episode, Michael Dawson believed he had managed to contact his kidnapped son Walt Lloyd, while using the twenty year-old computer inside the DHARMA Swan Station. He also recruited the help of fellow castaway, John Locke, to teach him how to use a rifle. When "The Hunting Party" began, Dr. Jack Shephard found an unconscious Locke on the floor of the station's armory. Before he could do anything, Michael appeared with a gun trained on Jack and in a desperate tone, revealed his intentions to find Walt. Michael forced Jack to remain by Locke's side, before locking both of them inside the armory. When other castaways Kate Austen and James "Sawyer" Ford go to the station to have the latter's bandages changed, they free both Jack and Locke. Jack immediately reaches for a rifle and state his intentions to find Michael and bring him back. Both Locke and Sawyer volunteer to join him. Kate also volunteers, but Jack curtly orders her to remain behind and be ready to punch in the numbers for the station's computer. The three men leave without her. Despite Jack's refusal of her help, Kate recruits Hugo "Hurley" Reyes and Charlie Pace to monitor the station's computer for her, while she heads out into the jungle to join the hunting party.

The episode's flashbacks start with Jack and his father, Dr. Christian Shephard, diagnose a middle-aged Italian man with a spinal tumor named Angelo Busconi. The two Shephard surgeons inform Signor Busconi and his daughter, Gabriela that his tumor is too far gone and that he is not eligible for surgery. However, Signor Busconi and Gabriela insist that they are interested in recruiting Jack's help. They had learned of the miracle he had achieved after performing surgery on his wife, Sarah Shephard, before their marriage. Much to Christian's dismay, Jack agrees to perform the surgery on Signor Busconi. The older surgeon also notices the attraction between Jack and Gabriela. And Jack also continues spending more time at the hospital, either ignoring or evading Sarah's company at home.

Despite the opinions of other "LOST" fans and critics, I have always liked "The Hunting Party". I found the plot regarding the Losties' hunt for Michael very interesting. And believe it or not, I rather enjoyed the flashbacks regarding Jack's attempt to save Angelo Busconi and his troubling marriage to Sarah. But for the likes of me, I have always had difficulty making the connection between the on-island plot and the flashbacks. Exactly what is the connection? Was Jack's difficulties in his relationship with Kate and her attraction to Sawyer a reminder of Sarah's infidelity and the end of his marriage? Was his decision to embark upon a near impossible task - finding Michael and bringing him back - similar to his decision to accept Signor Busconi as a patient? Did I hit the mark regarding the episode's main plot . . . or what? After eight years, I am still confused.

But I still like "The Hunting Party" . . . very much. It is one of my favorite Jack-centric episodes. The hunt for Michael showcased an aspect of Jack's personality that has problematic - his inability to let go. The problem with Jack was he lacked a real instinct on whether to give up on an impossible task, or to continue it. On one hand, he never realized that Locke was right about letting Michael go. The choice to leave the Losties' camp and go after Walt was up to Michael, not Jack or any of the other castaways. I think Jack took his "live together, die alone" mantra a bit too far in his determination to get Michael back. However, it seemed a pity that he and the other Losties never extended that mantra to Walt. In the case of the flashbacks, I suspect that the Busconis' stroking of Jack's ego led him to accept Angelo Busconi as a patient. Even though the Italian father and daughter were grateful toward Jack's willingness to take a chance on the former, I cannot help but wonder if that was a chance Jack should have ignored.

Both the on-island plot and the flashbacks also featured Jack's problematic relationships with the two women in his life. Two episodes ago in (2.09) "What Kate Did", Sawyer unconsciously expressed his love for Kate, while Jack was tending him. This bedside confession conjured feelings of jealousy within Jack, who must have recalled the kiss that Sawyer and Kate had exchanged in the Season One episode, (1.08) "Confidence Man". In "What Kate Did", Kate kissed Jack in a confusing moment and ran off into the jungle in tears. Between her action and Sawyer's confession, I suspect Jack found himself wondering if Kate ever loved him. This so-called "love triangle" must have reminded him of his previous marriage. The problems in Jack's relationship with Sarah proved to be more straightforward. Flashbacks in an earlier Season Two episode called (2.01) "Man of Faith, Man of Science" revealed how Jack and Sarah first met - she was a victim of a car accident that eventually killed Shannon Rutherford's father, and Jack was the surgeon that prevented her from becoming physically disabled. In the Season One episode, (1.20) "Do No Harm", flashbacks revealed that some time after Jack's successful surgery on Sarah, they got married. I never understood why those two had married. Was it gratitude on Sarah's part? Had Jack been caught up in the emotional relief over saving her? Who knows. But the flashbacks in this episode revealed that their marriage had slowly deteriorated to the point that it led to Jack spending most of his time at the hospital . . . and Sarah committing adultery and later, leaving him. Some fans had complained about the quiet manner in which their marriage had ended, despite the erotic moment between Jack and Gabriela Busconi. Actually, I found it very realistic . . . and very common among relationships.

There were other aspects of the episode I found interesting. Locke revealed to Sawyer and television viewers, the latter's real name - James Ford. This revelation proved to be a mild shock, considering that viewers had already learned back in Season One that Sawyer was an alias. This episode also saw the return of the "Bearded Man" aka Tom Friendly, who had kidnapped Walt in (1.24-1.25) "Exodus". Tom and his fellow Others had trapped the hunting party before convincing them (actually through coercion) to return to their camp. Not only did the Losties' encounter with Tom provided another bump in the road for Jack and Kate's relationship; it also reminded viewers that Sawyer blamed Tom for shooting him (one of the members of Tom's party had shot him, when he reached for his gun). For the first time, Sawyer declared his intentions to seek revenge for what happened to him, proving that of all the series' characters, he was a master at combing revenge with murder in order to alleviate his pain. There was one aspect of this episode that I found . . . perplexing. Throughout most of the episode, Locke questioned Jack's decision to go after Michael, spouting free will as an excuse. And yet . . . he had decided to accompany Jack on this expedition, anyway. Locke was also not above enforcing his own will upon others. So, why did he join this hunting party in the first place? Even the state of the Kwons' marriage ended up affected by Jack's hunting party. When Jin learned about Michael's flight into the jungle, he considered joining the hunting party, until Sun stopped him. For the first time, Sun truly got her way since the beginning of the series. In a marvelous scene, she put her foot down and revealed her opposition to Jin's intentions. She also revealed how she had felt about his past controlling behavior toward her. The Kwons' marriage took a new step above the resentments, anger and lies that marred their relationship in the past.

"The Hunting Party" featured some solid performances from cast members such as Terry O'Quinn, Josh Holloway, Evangeline Lilly and Naveen Andrews; and guest stars that included Julie Bowen, Ronald Guttman, Monica Dean and M.C. Gainey. But in my opinion, the best performances came from guest star John Terry, Harold Perrineau, and especially, Matthew Fox. It seemed a pity that Perrineau never received any nominations for his outstanding work. And I find it laughable that Fox had to wait another four seasons before the Hollywood community was even willing to nominate him for his work on "LOST". But if many of us are truly honest with ourselves, acting and production awards are usually based upon popularity contests, not upon any worthy endeavors.

I wish I could say that I consider "The Hunting Party" to be one of the best episodes that aired on "LOST". The narrative written by Elizabeth Saranoff and Christina M. Kim allowed for strong characterizations and some interesting subplots. Unfortunately, I found the connection between the on-island plot and the flashbacks rather weak. Even worse, the episode ended with Jack proposing Tail Section survivor Ana-Lucia Cortez that they create an army to deal with the Others. And this potential subplot never went anywhere, in the end.

Friday, May 23, 2014

"COPPER" Season One (2012) Photo Gallery

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Below are images from Season One of the BBC America series "COPPER". Created by Tom Fontana and Will Rokos, the series stars Tom Weston-Jones, Kyle Schmid and Ato Essandoh: 


"COPPER" SEASON ONE (2012) Photo Gallery

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

"A FREE SOUL" (1931) Review

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"A FREE SOUL" (1931) Review

A good deal of time has passed since I last saw a movie released during the Hollywood era known as Pre-Code. Just recently, one movie caught my attention, while watching a documentary about the era on YOU TUBE. Intrigued, I found myself watching the 1931 film, "A FREE SOUL"

This 1931 movie became famous for a good number of reasons. It marked leading lady Norma Shearer's first role, following her Oscar winning performance in "THE DIVORCEE" and solidified her reputation for starring in provocative films about modern women in the early 1930s. The movie not only proved to be the first time American film audiences took notice of future star Clark Gable, it also marked the first time that the latter would co-star with Leslie Howard. The two actors reunited some eight years later in the 1939 Oscar winner, "GONE WITH THE WIND""A FREE SOUL"also became famous for a scene that featured a monologue from Lionel Barrymore that may have led to the actor's Best Actor Academy Award.

Adapted from co-writer Adela Rogers St. Johns' novel and Willard Mack's play, "A FREE SOUL" told the story about the relationship between an alcoholic San Francisco defense attorney and his free-spirited daughter. When Stephen Ashe successfully defends mobster Ace Wilfong from a murder charge, he inadvertently introduces the latter to his daughter Jan. Although the Ashe family expects Jan to marry the also well-born Dwight Winthrop, she becomes romantically involved with Wilfong. The affair comes to an abrupt end when Ashe learns about it from a lovesick Wilfong. Disgusted over his daughter's affair with the gangster, Ashe makes her promise to end it, and he promises to stop drinking. Jan, Ashe and the latter's assistant named Eddie; spend a long vacation in the Sierra Nevadas. But Ashe, still longing for alcohol abandons Jan and Eddie at a small town in search for booze. And when Jan returns to San Francisco, she finds herself abandoned by the Ashe family and faced with an angry Wilfong, who demands that she marries him.

I really did not know what to expect of "A FREE SOUL". Despite the hulaballoo over Pre-Code films during the past two decades, I have found some of them a bit overrated. Happily, I cannot say the same about "A FREE SOUL". Some have said that the plot was a loose adaptation on the life and career of Adela Rogers St. John's alcoholic father, Earl Rogers. It was probably a very loose adaptation, since I doubt that St. John ever dated a gangster. Nevertheless, I cannot deny that I enjoyed this movie a lot. Well . . . most of it. I have one or two quibbles about the film. I found some of the performances in the movie a bit theatrical. Although Lionel Barrymore, Norma Shearer and Clark Gable all gave first-rate performances, there were moments when they came off as a bit theatrical . . . or seemed unable to shake the pantomime style of the silent era. Only Leslie Howard and James Gleason managed to avoid this. And there was also that brief moment in the movie's first scene in which Stephen Ashe was handing Jan her lingerie, while she dressed in another room. Huh. Were director Clarence Brown and the screenwriters trying to be provocative? Or did interactions between St. John and Rogers actually happened? Personally, I found it odd and a touch incestuous. I really wish producer Thalberg had ordered it cut or altered.

There is one major aspect of "A FREE SOUL" that truly bothered me. I got the feeling that both Stephen and Jan Ashe were being punished for their actions in this film. Ashe's alcoholism was treated as some kind of criminal misdemeanor or social effrontery, instead of the disease that it truly was. The screenplay's treatment of the Jan Ashe character really annoyed me. At first the movie allowed her to revel in her sexuality, portraying her as a sexual and free-spirited woman. But apparently, sexual and free-spirited women - especially those from San Francisco's high society - are not allowed to be just that. The screenplay made sure to punish Jan for her approach to life by allowing her to have a disastrous affair with a gangster. In the end, she has become a more somber and "respectable" woman who ends up married to the very respectable Dwight Winthrop. So much for the independent woman of the Pre-Code Era.

Despite these drawbacks, I must admit that "A FREE SOUL" is good melodrama. Screenwriters Adela Rogers St. John, Becky Gardiner, Willard Mack and John Meehan created a fascinating tale of sex, crime, family conflict and alcoholism. I may have been a little upset at how the movie treated Ashe's alcoholism as some kind of social disease at times, I must admit that I was impressed by how the movie also showed the level of his decline in scenes that featured his inability to overcome his alcoholism during the Ashes' vacation and Jan's discovery of him inside a seedy flophouse back in San Francisco. And Norma Shearer really strut her stuff in scenes that featured Jan's sexual desire for Wilfong. I was amazed at how she made it all look fluid and natural, despite a few scenes in which she clung to silent pantomime. The screenwriters did an excellent job in allowing the plot to flow naturally. But they were not the only ones responsible for the movie's natural flow. I also have to give credit to director Clarence Brown for maintaining the film's steady pace . . . and preventing me from falling asleep out of sheer boredom. Many films from the early 1930s, especially those from MGM, tend to come off as filmed plays. Thankfully, I could never accuse "A FREE SOUL" of being one.

"A FREE SOUL", like any other film is not perfect. It had its flaws. But I believe that a first-rate narrative, solid acting from an excellent cast led by Norma Shearer and Oscar winner Lionel Barrymore, and well-paced direction from Clarence Brown allowed the movie to hold up very well after eighty-odd years.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

TIME MACHINE: The Oberlin-Wellington Rescue

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TIME MACHINE: THE OBERLIN-WELLINGTON RESCUE

For once I decided to write about a historical event that is not celebrating any particular anniversary. Actually, it would have celebrated its 150th anniversary back in September 2009. But I did not think of it until recently. The event I speak of is the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue. 

Anyone familiar with Antebellum or Civil War history would know about it. The Oberlin-Wellington Rescue was a key event in the history of the American abolitionist movement before the Civil War. It centered around the arrest of an escaped slave named John Price in Oberlin, Ohio by Kentucky slave catchers and a U.S. marshal, two-and-a-half years before the outbreak of the Civil War. This story began over two years before the incident. Back in January 1856, Price and two other slaves escaped from a farm near Maysville, Kentucky. The three slaves made their way across the Ohio River, and with the help of Underground Railroad agents, they made it as far north as Oberlin, Ohio. The latter proved to be a racially integrated, liberal-minded community that served as the location of Oberlin College, a liberal arts college known for accepting both non-white and female students. Despite the presence of some conservative citizens, Oberlin was known for its strong support of the abolitionist movement. While his two companions continued north to Canada, Price decided to remain in the Ohio town, due to his poor health.

The fugitive slave spent the next two-and-a-half years struggling to make a living in Oberlin. But due to his limited skills as a farmhand, he found it difficult to make ends meet. On September 13, 1858, Price was hired by affluent farmer Lewis Boynton to work on the latter's farm, just north of Oberlin. Boynton's adolescent son, Shakespeare, picked up Price drove him out of town, with the intent to deliver the latter to his father's farm by noon. Unbeknownst to Price, young Shakespeare had made a deal to deliver the fugitive to a pair of Kentucky slave catchers and a deputy U.S. marshal - Samuel Davis, Richard Mitchell and Jacob Lowe. The buggy conveying the three white men and the black fugitive swung south and headed for nearby Wellington, Ohio; where they would be able to catch a train further south to Columbus. Unfortunately for the two Kentuckians and Deputy Marshal Lowe, two Oberlin College students named Ansel Lyman and Seth Bartholomew passed them on the road. Once the two students reached Oberlin, they alerted the town's citizens to Price's kidnapping. Meanwhile, the slave catchers, Lowe and Price checked into a room at the Wadsworth Hotel to await for the southbound train. 

Many Oberlin citizens formed a group and rushed toward Wellington to rescue Price. Among those part of the rescuers were Charles Henry Langston, Simeon E. Bushnell, and Oberlin student William E. Lincoln. Once they reached the other town around two o'clock in the afternoon, they were joined by some of Wellington's citizens, who also harbored anti-slavery sentiments. The group formed into a mob and tried to coerce the slave catchers and the deputy marshal to release Price through intimidation and threats of violence. Davis, Mitchell and Lowe took Price to the hotel's attic for safety. Langston and three others tried to free Price, via legal actions - the arrest of the slave catchers for kidnapping and a habeus corpus. Those efforts failed as well. Eventually, Lincoln, along with John Copeland, Jr. and Jerry Fox rushed the attic using force and firearms, grabbed Price and spirited him back to Oberlin, where they hid him inside the home of James Harris Fairchild, a future president of Oberlin College. Soon, Price's rescuers escorted him to Canada.

A Federal grand jury indicted 37 members of the rescue party, including Langston, Lincoln, Bushnell and Copeland for breaking the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Bushnell and Langston were the only ones tried in court. Both were found guilty and convicted by a jury that consisted solely of pro-slavery Democrats. Bushnell was sentenced to sixty (60) days in prison and Langston, twenty (20) days. Their fellow prisoners continued to languish in the Cuyahoga County Jail. The two Kentucky slave catchers - Richard Mitchell and Samuel Davis - were arrested for Price's kidnapping. In return for the charges against them being dropped, the Federal government chose to drop the charges against the rest of the rescuers. The entire event had attracted more notice than the James Buchanan Administration wanted. Even worse, the Federal attorneys realized that a trial for all of the Rescuers would cost the government at least $5 million dollars. After serving eighty-five (85) days in jail, the Rescuers (with the exception of Bushnell, who continued to serve out his 60-day sentence) were released on July 7, 1859. Bushnell was finally released on July 11, 1859.

The Oberlin-Wellington Rescue is considered by historians as an important contribution to the outbreak of the Civil War . . . along with John Brown's Raid on Harper's Ferry and the Presidential Election of 1860. Two participants in the Oberlin–Wellington Rescue, Lewis Sheridan Leary and John A. Copeland participated in the Harper Ferry's Raid. Leary was killed and Copeland was captured and later, executed. The Rescue attracted a great deal of attention in the National press. And after a decade that featured the passing of the Fugitive Slaw Law of 1850, the passing of Senator Stephen A. Douglas's Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and the Supreme Court's decision on the Dred Scott vs. Sandfordcase; the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue proved to be the first breath of fresh air for the abolitionist cause. 

For more information on the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, read the following book:

*"The Town That Started the Civil War" (1990) by Nat Brandt

*"1858: Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant and the War They Failed to See" [one chapter] by Bruce Chadwick