The Dead Pool (1988 USA)

“If you wanna play the game you better know the rules, love.” So sayeth Harry Callahan. Thankfully, director Buddy Van Horn and his team knew how to end the franchise on a high note. This is just as good as its two predecessors. In fact, Sudden Impact and The Enforcer were both pretty lackluster to the point of being almost boring. At least this swansong for Harry has a high degree of pure 80’s trash going for it. You want rock music videos, silly accents, some amusing dialogue, Uzi machine guns ejaculating at glass elevators and even a high speed car chase that involves a toy? With The Dead Pool, you’ve got all that and more.
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White Rabbit (Caleb Roehig)

Taking place within about a twelve hour period or so, this is a fast-paced thriller with a high body count. Featuring a queer main character and a romance, it’s a fun read. Don’t expect excellent character development (in fact, there’s little beyond Rufus’s own stereotyping of these rich jerks) but it’s refreshing to have a bloody thrill ride with those who seem to deserve their ends getting it…and not have suicide or mental health be the root cause of the story. [Read more…]

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (Joan Aiken)

 

Set in an alternative 1832 where the monarch is James III (implying that the House of Hanover never came to the throne) and wolves have entered England during a bad winter by crossing the Channel Tunnel (not opened in our reality until 1994). Unlike the children’s books of today – this was first published in the early 1960s – the whole thing proceeds at a rip-roaring pace with very little build-up. There are a number of other books in the series, all set in the same alternate history but I don’t know if all the characters are the same in each. [Read more…]

Nightmare In Pink (John D MacDonald)

Nightmare in Pink is the second book in John D. MacDonald’s 21- novel Travis McGee series. Although McGee gets involved in mysteries, he is not a police officer or a private investigator. Instead, he is a “salvage consultant” who lives on a houseboat (“The Busted Flush”) in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He prefers to be a beach bum, get a tan, reel in some fish, drink some beer, etc and seems a little uncomfortable in the big city. He is also a ladies’ man. [Read more…]

The Light of Day (Eric Ambler)

Winner of the 1963 Edgar Award for best novel this is an enjoyable crime/espionage vehicle typical of the era: crooks with scruples, the beautiful but unobtainable beauty & the luckless hero in the wrong place at the wrong time. The second half, with its collection of various misfits planning a heist, I found overlong and the stakes not high enough. Its hard to feel that Arthur, our hero, is in any genuine danger either (obviously because the first-person narrative guaranteed that he lived beyond the outcome of the plot) and everything was a little too languorous to be compelling. But the book has aged well even if Arthur’s character hasn’t.  [Read more…]

Phantoms (Dean Koontz)

At the beginning of this novel, the author has added an apology for writing it and I understand why. Phantoms is scary! There is something so extraordinarily powerful, capable of wiping out a whole town, capable of being everywhere at once, something omnipresent and omnipotent…and yet I had no clue what it was for a good chunk of the book. But I was aware that everyone in that town pretty much got their asses kicked (and worse), and I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn’t there with them. But I won’t give away any major plot spoilers. [Read more…]

Frenzy (1972 United Kingdom)

“Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square” by Arthur La Bern is not a novel I’ve read so I can’t say if this is better or worse than the printed page its based upon. All I do know is sometime in 1971 Alfred Hitchcock came back to dear old Blighty to do it to his audience one more time. And here he dons the chef’s apron to serve us up a classic of cheap and nasty: forced sex, murder and food. I wonder what Hitchcock’s wife and family thought of Frenzy. “That’s…lovely dear…” They probably reacted the way any family would if the patriarch had just been arrested in your local brothel. Yep. Frenzy is red light entertainment all the way! [Read more…]

The Parallax View (1974 USA)

At 12:30pm, 22 November 1963, Jewish rag trade man Abraham Zapruder shot his JFK film from one angle of Dealey Plaza, Dallas — and 12 other people also shot film or photos at the moments of assassination, all from different angles (or points of view). Not to mention the many other people who were present that day to witness it, who also saw things from their own point of view. Some folks saw movement in the grassy knoll, others didn’t. The Parallax View states that many conspiracies work because relatively few people are in on the whole joke; some are involved in the set up, some in the telling, and some in the punchline, but only a precious few are given the whole picture, making detection almost impossible.  [Read more…]

Rosemary’s Baby (1968 USA)

This post is dedicated to those who were slaughtered (Sharon Tate & John Lennon) or raped (Samantha Geimer) so Roman Polanski could enjoy a successful movie career, untold wealth and women to satisfy his carnal lusts. The devil certainly looks after his own…

RB was a real landmark that helped keep the genre alive by pushing the occult (something fairly taboo back then, and not fully explored in cinema since the days of the silents) to the fore. Also, the restrained atmospheric horror was extremely influential. It inspired many, but has rarely been bettered. Not as scary as The Exorcist, which is more sick and nasty but Rosemary’s Baby is superior in its intricate plotting, which drives the icicles up the viewer’s spine in a fit of paranoia. Its almost as if an innocent Catholic girl became victim of the real Illuminati. And she has. Oppressive control by shady forces seems all too real in our world. This gives Rosemary’s Baby an authenticity lacking in the usual horror/fantasy genre. [Read more…]

Shattered (1991 USA)

Wolfgang Petersen directs this suspense thriller with some skill, so most intelligent viewers should be intrigued enough to be seduced by it up till the very end. Even though Shattered has been compared to Alfred Hitchcock movies and the novels of Agatha Christie, it does go a lot further and is far more daring then anything that Agatha Christie or Alfred Hitchcock ever wrote or directed. The reason it seems that so many people are turned off by this motion picture is that it not only went the full nine yards to tell it’s mystery/suspense story with an out of the blue surprise ending, but it goes the entire length of the football field in telling it. [Read more…]

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