All These Condemned (John D MacDonald)

Written in 1954 before environmental issues became big in the public consciousness – this is very different than his later works. If I didn’t know I would never have guessed it was by JDM. In the hands of some lesser writer, the two chapters per character-narrator would have come off as a cheesy gimmick, but not for the MacDonald. In just pages, MacDonald fashions whole biographies, not of these character’s histories, but of who they are in body and soul. I rarely come across a book filled with such depth and such distinctive characters.  [Read more…]

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Thérèse Raquin (1980 BBC)

The picture quality on this DVD has the resolution of a fading VHS tape from 30 years ago, and if this truly is the best restoration that can be made of this 166-minute production, that must be counted as a minor but distinct tragedy…for actress Kate Nelligan is the Thérèse Raquin to end all Thérèse Raquins. Based on the Zola novel, this is the story of a vibrant but trapped young woman, stuck in a loveless marriage to a pampered weakling. Then one day, the husband brings home an old friend–Laurent– and the doors of her soul fly open. [Read more…]

The Sorcerers (1967 United Kingdom)

Boris Karloff is masterful, even if he has to spend half of this film sitting helplessly on the floor. The late Michael Reeves certainly knew how to make the viewer feel uncomfortable. This is even more upsetting than his later Witchfinder General. It’s a fascinating, yet very sad, snapshot of urban British working class life in 1967. It’s amazing how things seemed more unclean then, how depressingly dirty and squalid the back streets of “swinging London” could really be like. Everything about The Sorcerers is grubby. While the dvd is playing I feel like I’m there. In The Glory Hole. (Don’t laugh – you’ll need to see this movie to know I’m not being rude. The GL is an integral part of the plot) It’s all very mentally disconcerting. [Read more…]

Endless Night (1972 Britain)

First I reviewed the novel, now the celluloid. The book was a clever literary trick for its time. It is the first person narration of a psychopathic killer who is trying to hide his real nature and intentions from the reader, while actually dropping a series of clues that things are not quite what they seem. It is this trick, rather the banal situation, which is the real reason for reading the book and it is obviously this trick that made Sidney Gilliat want to film it. The problem is that he could not find a way to replicate it on screen, because cinema only really works in the third person and people are generally uncomfortable with movies that tell lies. [Read more…]

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…]

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…]

Don’t Look Back (Jennifer Armentrout)

dont-look-backTwo teenage girls go missing for four days…until Samantha was found wandering in the streets. Everyone wants to know what happened but Samantha has no recollection of what’s happened. And now she is in a life that she doesn’t remember and she tries to pick up the pieces and find what really happened. So she has some issues. This is a nice read on a cool Halloween night. At forty six pages you should be able to finish it in one sitting. Male readers should probably avoid, but ladies on the young side, this could be right up your Strassa. [Read more…]

The Tingler (1959 USA)

tinglerThe Tingler (hopefully) works on a few levels. As a horror story at the base level, it’s a decent tale of a creature, fear and murder. The blood is minimal. There’s no gore and the language is clean. No nudity. No one is caught with their pants down, porking around in places where they shouldn’t be. As for Vincent Price, this maybe is one of his ten best performances. He manfully delivers each line of dialogue with an intensity worthy of Shakespeare.  [Read more…]

Psycho 3 (USA 1986)

psycho3Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the bathroom. Norman Bates is watching you. Like God, he is watching all of us. Particularly young ladies with loose morals (or should that be bowels?) who believe they are safe just because they are sitting on the john…I love the screenplay here. As a poster flick for the tacky 80s this artful product is cheap and nasty. Like Donald Trump. The addition of sleaze bag character Duane Duke was a masterstroke. He is comedy gold: ignorant, yet as inoffensively shallow as a child’s paddling pool. [Read more…]

Psycho (1960 USA)

psycho5Imagine it is July 1960. You’ve just paid your thirty pieces of silver to the pharisees that own the movie theatre. You are shut in with all the other well dressed patrons. Not one tattoo amongst them, no mobile phones, no cries of “Shaniqua, move beeyatch!” or hip hop muzak to disturb the ambience. The lights go down. And then the screaming starts! Just ignore those kids to your left rioting over a pair of sneakers and keep your eyes on that screen up there. This here is the inspiration for many future classics like Eaten Alive. Show some respect! [Read more…]

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