Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Saying goodnight

I heard a Burns and Allen routine recently, which of course tickled me. So I looked back for more. I found something where George and Gracie have been one-upping each other into who can more convincingly act like they're going to commit suicide. Which if you describe it to anyone will sound like you made it up, but no, here's proof.

The curious thing is that it still plays out like Burns and Allen.

Monday, September 26, 2016


Weather in Rhode Island is not out in either direction. A few days ago the heat was still oppressive. Now you can really feel the snap of the autumn wind. Makes it somewhat easier to sleep, as well.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Queen Watch: "The Adventure of Caesar's Last Sleep"

For the third-to-last episode of Ellery Queen the crew tries something different in a couple of ways. First of all this is in large part a mob story. It's not just that the victim of the week and some of the suspects are gangsters. The episode has the fast pace and high testosterone level that gangster movies have boasted since they broke through in the early talkie era. The characteristic violent action is there too. We get to see a bombing and a police shootout, both of them involving hit man Jay Bonner, played by legendary character actor Timothy Carey (pictured above.) So even though the actual murder is a classic locked room mystery, it's really more of a pulpy thing, not the kind of drawing room affair you might associate with Ellery Queen.

Friday, September 23, 2016

A very bad host

Would You Rather, a 2012 combo of horror and black comedy, is, without a doubt, sadistic and somewhat depressing. It's also very stylish and true to itself.

If you're brother is chronically and perhaps terminally ill and your parents didn't leave you enough money to care for him or really yourself, you're likely to be desperate for a way out from under, as Iris (Brittany Snow) is. So an invitation from a wealthy benefactor (Jeffrey Combs) won't be unwelcome. Perhaps it should be, because when the two of them meet in a doctor's office, he's already twenty kinds of creepy. Seriously if anyone invites you to dinner and says you'll be "playing a game of sorts" tell them you have to wash your hair.

The dinner party and the game produce a lot of mayhem. Not as much gore as you might think. Like I say, it's stylish. It feels kind of like a giallo version of And Then There Were None.

Robin Lord Taylor plays a character much nastier than the young Penguin here. And if you think you've seen everything from Jeffrey Combs, wait until you see him with a Burt Reynolds mustache.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Tao of Le Guin

Some choice vintage science fiction. Nixon era vintage at least. I just started reading Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven. I'd seen the 1980 PBS TV movie version before. Not when it first aired, but the first time they dug it out of the archives, in 2000 or thereabouts. But that was quite some time ago as well, and my feeling is that the book is quite different. 

The book starts off in a world that is, if not dystopian, at least rather run down. The hero, George Orr, is afraid to dream, and drugs himself to keep from dreaming. This is because his dreams literally come true. The changes are retroactive, as well, meaning that for a big change no one will remember things being any different. His quasi-mandatory psychiatrist, Dr. Haber, wants to put these dreams to constructive use. 

I've read somewhere that this book was Le Guin's homage to Philip K. Dick as well. While they were very different writers they did admire each other's work, and you could probably find examples of her influence in his work as well. The opening chapter does have a kind of Dickian feel. Haber's an interesting character, well-meaning but somewhat lacking in medical ethics. An early scene where he calls George "John" feels indicative, as well as being a likely Beatles reference.

Monday, September 19, 2016


Images like this make me wonder what young Mr. Calvin is doing now. Maybe he's finally found his right place in life.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Queen Watch: "The Adventure of the Tyrant of Tin Pan Alley"

The Ellery Queen series of novels began in 1929 and ended in 1971, with all the books being set in or at least near their year of publication. Even assuming a desire to stay somewhere in the timeline of the books, that gives would-be adapters a pretty wide range of choices. Levinson and Link opted for the late 1940s. It's an interesting era for them to choose, because this was a transitional period in so many way. World War II had just ended, giving the United States unprecedented power on the international stage. The Cold War, which the show only alludes to in a couple of episodes, was just getting off the ground. In matters social, political, and technological this period can give you a view on the end of some old ways and the beginning of the new.

One prime example is the medium of radio. Before the war radio had of course beamed comedy and drama and witty panel discussions into countless American homes, a function that would soon largely be ceded to television.