4:50 From Paddington (Agatha Christie)

One of the major joys of Christie’s books is that they manage the difficult feat of being full of corpses and yet free of angst – a trick the Golden Age authors excelled in and modern authors seem to have forgotten. Miss Marple (our “old pussy” as she’s referred to in the book) is at the absolute top of her game. She gives us some nice village parallels to shed light on the characters of the suspects; she twinkles affectionately at both young Inspector Craddock and Lucy; she does a bit of gentle match-making; and she gives us some very ambiguous pronouncements that leave the reader as beautifully baffled as the other characters. [Read more…]

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Maigret Sets A Trap (2016 Britain)

So much effort was expended on getting the atmosphere of the whole thing right that tension and a plausible story went by the board. Another old serial killer plot? It may have been bold and edgy in 1955 when Georges Simenon penned the novel, but the subject has been explored endlessly from every possible angle these past few  generations that its hard not to stifle a yawn. The film looks authentic enough even if it was filmed in Budapest. But it gives us a Paris that is about as quiet as a sleepy village in Provence. The viewer never gets to see any bustle in this city, but I guess when you saddle yourself with a 1950’s setting, the correct vehicles are not that easy to come by, and it has that shot-on-an-early Sunday morning look. [Read more…]

The Blob (1958 USA)

Hardly substantial enough to be a guilty pleasure, let alone a cult film: a giant quivering mound of raspberry (or is it blackcurrant?) jelly chasing – and often catching – fleeing, highly respectable teenagers on a weekend night. From the moment we hear Burt Bacharach’s opening theme song “Beware of the Blob!” we know we’re in for a good, solid, campy light hearted fun. Refreshingly free of any scientific investigation/jargon. I like to watch this stuff for historical reasons: the 50’s cars, teens in high collar shirts and high pants, crime-free suburbia, Polio posters, proper girls, crooked teeth, chess games, super friendly cops… [Read more…]

Thunderball (Ian Fleming)

The Bond originally conceived by the cinema was very much a creature of the 1960s. Yet the Bond of the books is a man of the 1950s. And like many men in the 1950s, eating an English breakfast 3 times daily and not only being unfit, but unable to even spell the word, seemed to be de rigueur: James is in poor shape it seems, 60 cigarettes a day (think of that in 2017….where would he even find a place to smoke that often!?) do not keep the doctor away. And he drinks like a fish. So M sends him away on a little vacation to recuperate…again. And, of course, each time James goes away to rest, someone tries to take him out. What a life huh? [Read more…]

The Veldt (read by Leonard Nimoy)

If You Could See Me Now (Peter Straub)

The blurb of my copy of the book manages to drop three spoilers in the space of two sentences, and then reiterates one of the spoilers just in case I was slow on the uptake. I shall endeavor to avoid doing something similar. Straub brings class to horror unlike anyone I’ve ever read. He has literary tricks up his sleeve that will keep sophisticated readers happy throughout. He is a master of tone. And not just with the mystery he puts forth in this novel, but with the way he sets up our narrator as this haughty know-it-all faced with a town of plebeians that plague him. This book is a wonderful ride to take for that reason. [Read more…]

The Day Of The Triffids (John Wyndham)

john-wyndham-book-coverThis is a sober book. I can imagine a dozen or so world leaders I’d hope would read it and discuss such in tandem over tea and crumpets. Or whatever Mr Trump feels like having today. Gauging our current run of apprehensions, one would be wise to explore this gem of the dystopian curve. Day of the Triffids is a meditation. There is no epic effort to capture the tooth and claw survival of the species. What occurs is both more subtle and sinister. The world as understood is over. JW was quite keen on destroying civilization in his novels. [Read more…]

It! (Stephen King)

king-book-coverKing did something special with IT, and I’m not sure exactly what it is….It might just be the sum of the entire equation which makes IT such a fantastic novel. A few times, I had to remind myself it is 2016, not 1958. (It was 2016, sorry…only 2 days into the new year and I’m already confused) If you are thinking of reading IT, it is definitely worth the investment. I’m glad I took the time to read it, savour it, and not rush through it. You got that? [Read more…]

North By Northwest (USA 1959)

nbnwestIf anyone has doubts about the power of mistaken identity and its place in fiction, look no further than here. The many takes on it through the years have diminished its real power as a storytelling device. As a comedy trick, it is cheap and dull. But as a dramatic trick… there is real force behind it. Everyone dreads being alone in a time of crisis, not having anyone believe them and feeling like they are sinking further into a pit that’s growing ever deeper. [Read more…]

War Of The Worlds (1953 USA)

the-war-of-the-worlds-1953-film-images-27b04727-755e-41e3-af8d-736bf4e1264H.G.Wells’ The War Of The Worlds remains a terrifying novel, and 2 adaptations of it have justifiably passed into popular culture, the Orson Welles 1938 radio show which convinced many Americans that creatures from Mars actually were invading Earth & Jeff Wayne’s 1978 musical album, which still holds up today. Then there’s this 1950s cinematic version which blows away Spielberg’s waste- of- time- and- money 2005 version. *Spoilers ahead* [Read more…]

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