setsuled: (Frog Leaf)

When honeymooning in Bavaria, be careful not to linger long in counties controlled by vampires, like the unfortunate couple in 1963's The Kiss of the Vampire. One of the few 60s Hammer vampire films not to feature Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing, it's still a nice journey into that unmistakeable Victorian world of saturated colour.

Well, they have a car so I guess it might be Edwardian. Gerald (Edward de Souza) and Marianne (Jennifer Daniel) Harcourt lose their way on vacation and end up out of petrol on some desolate road. The first sign of trouble is when Marianne senses something awful in the woods while she's left to wait like a target on top of the car.

They stay at a local inn where the proprietor (Peter Madden) and his wife (Vera Cook) are friendly but oddly apprehensive. There's also the strange Professor Zimmer (Clifford Evans) who has little to say beyond urging the couple to leave immediately. But before long they're offered the irresistible invitation to dine with the local lord in his lavish manor, a Dr. Ravna (Noel Willman).

Gerald and Marianne are cute and utterly guileless. There's no sinful subtext to their personalities or many layers at all but they're oddly enjoyable to watch, like a pair of gerbils. The vampires don't spring their trap until an impressively creepy masquerade ball, though none of the vampire characters are very well defined and their motivation for not killing some people whose death would really be in the blood suckers' best interests is never clear. Carl (Barry Warren), Dr. Ravna's vampire son, has kind of an intense stare and there's a nice scene where Marianne seems to become entranced by his piano playing.

There's also a young vampire woman named Tania (Isobel Black) whose mischievous facial expressions could have been exploited better. But it's a fun bunch of vamps.

setsuled: (Doctor Chess)

I would have liked to've seen the show Star Trek Discovery was meant to be before Bryan Fuller was forced to leave over creative differences with CBS. Last night's new episode, "Choose Your Pain", gave me what felt like a glimpse into the themes he had outlined for the show. But the show demonstrates the risk in putting the cart before the horse in this way--if you have a number of cooks in the kitchen who disagree, then their adherence to the outline can lead to incoherence. The show continues to be a visual splendour, though, and Fuller pushing for Martin-Green's casting continues to feel justified, even if her character development is in limbo.

Spoilers after the screenshot

I liked the scenes in the Klingon brig a lot, and Lorca (Jason Isaacs) resisting torture and trying to suss out information was nice. Rainn Wilson as Harry Mudd was fun, especially with his little animal friend and long coat, which, with his speaking mannerisms, made his character feel like the Treasure Island or other pirate fantasy homage the character in the original series was meant to be. And he's the one who delivers the insight into what the show has been aiming at all this time in its muddled way (no pun intended).

With the famous quote, to "boldy go where no one has gone before", Mudd chastises the Federation in the person of Lorca for the arrogance of going out into the universe and not thinking about the little guy who was already there, like the Klingons. Which would be a nice idea to explore, if we were talking about the Galactic Empire, but we still haven't seen this Imperial arrogance demonstrated by Starfleet. Nor have we seen how this motivates the Klingons in going to war. Maybe the tardigrade's plot was meant to develop this idea but to get that point you have to ignore how inconsistently the creature has been written and how inconsistent reactions have been to him.

Every episode seems to have one piece of dialogue that is so spectacularly bad it's difficult to believe it got past any editor or producer. Somehow it often seems to be dialogue between Saru (Doug Jones) and Michael (Sonequa Martin-Green), in this case it involved him accusing her of predatory, ruthless behaviour for, as he puts it, "saving the tardigrade." That's right, she clearly has the killer instinct because she's trying to prevent possible discomfort to a possibly sentient creature.

Later, Saru admits to not being so much afraid of Michael as jealous (despite what his threat ganglia indicated in the previous episode) of the relationship she had with Georgiou. It's then that Michael has the wonderful idea of showing Saru the precious heirloom Georgiou bequeathed to only her, the antique telescope, and then passing it on to Saru. So I guess he'll always have a reminder of how Georgiou liked Michael better? Good thinking, Michael.

It was nice to see Michael, Stamets (Anthony Rapp), and Tilly (Mary Wiseman) working together as a team and Stamets sacrificing himself for the tardigrade was an effective piece of melodrama. It seems at least a few people are acting like this is really the Federation for once.

Twitter Sonnet #1044

In passing nods the watchful suits dissolve.
Fluorescent skies pervade a flattened store.
A whisper brings a coin for weird resolve.
A smiling glass'll grin a crowded door.
A bird approaches through the leaden hole.
Along the aisle theatre arrived.
In cakey gel persimmon sourced the soul.
The twenty layers bakers now contrived.
For gathered leaves the tailor wrought a tree.
Endeavours struck for mintless bills collide.
In posing buds a plant obtained the bee.
The entry stub contained a door implied.
In glowing strands the stranded swing to dusk.
A row of suns contain the candy husk.
setsuled: (Mouse Sailor)

A new kind of fantasy was being created in the 1960s in the wake of successful James Bond films, an increasingly strange and often campy world of flamboyant supervillains and subtly perverted heroes. One of the strangest examples of this genre is 1968's Black Lizard (黒蜥蝪) which pits the famous fictional detective Kogoro Akechi against the glamorous villainness Black Lizard played by the famous drag queen Akihiro Miwa. Adapted from a stage play by Yukio Mishima (the subject of Paul Schrader's film Mishima) from a work by Akechi's creator Rampo Edogawa the film has something of the style and logic of the Adam West Batman series but with a greater sincerity in its depiction of a strange adversarial obsession between its leads.

Akechi is played by Isao Kimura, best known for playing the youngest of Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. Fourteen years later, Kimura still pretty much looked like a kid and seemed an odd choice to for the authoritative Akechi. But he works well enough.

He's hired to prevent the kidnapping of a rich man's beautiful daughter, Sanae (Kikko Matsuoka), who applies for work at a club run by the glamorous Mrs. Midorikawa, who's in fact the Black Lizard.

Although a drag queen who identifies as male in real life, Miwa plays Black Lizard as a woman in this film. After orchestrating the kidnapping of Sanae, she boldly challenges Akechi to a poker game where the detective thinks he's guarding the slumbering girl--in fact she's been replaced by a mannequin. Black Lizard bets all her jewellery against Akechi's career as a detective, the bizarrely high stakes are casually accepted. This is appropriate when we learn just how many cards both players had been playing close to the chest.

The English art nouveau artist Aubrey Beardsley's work is featured a lot in this movie, first in the opening credits and then as a backdrop to a scene in Black Lizard's hideout. The woman soliloquises about Akechi's insight in front of Beardsley's Salome holding the head of John the Baptist, not realising Akechi is secretly watching from the rafters.

The film's unabashedly artificial look supports an unashamedly over the top story of ridiculous gadgets--like a trio of motorcyles waiting around just to provide a multicoloured smoke screen for a car chase--and absurd justifications for Akechi and Black Lizard to exchange dialogue--and for Black Lizard to confess her feelings, thinking for sure Akechi will be defeated this time. Even the kidnapped Sanae, who turns out to be a double for the real Sanae, falls for one of Black Lizards "slaves" and the two rhapsodically begin to dream of being turned into a pair of the human dolls collected by Black Lizard.

It all seems a pretext for a subtly sadomasochistic love making--Black Lizard wants to be caught by Akechi but only once she's been bad enough to really deserve it while Akechi waxes passionately about the thrill of waiting for the criminal to act. These two were made for each other.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)

The Daleks and Napoleon Bonaparte, a team made in Hell. And it happened in the 2012 audio play The Curse of Davros, an entertaining Sixth Doctor story written by Jonathan Morris.

The story sees the return of Flip (Lisa Greenwood), introduced the previous year in The Crimes of Thomas Brewster. She becomes a companion with this story, a welcome addition as she's good hearted but adorably dim--she tells Napoleon (Jonathan Owen) that all her knowledge about him comes from Abba's "Waterloo".

Her and her equally dim and good hearted boyfriend, Jared (Ashley Kumar), accompany the Doctor (Colin Baker) from the present day back to the date of the fateful confrontation between Napoleon and Wellington. Davros (Terry Molloy) has a big role in this one, an unusual one that in some ways anticipates the oddly sympathetic meeting between him and the Twelfth Doctor on the television series. The justification for the Daleks teaming up with Napoleon doesn't quite hold water but I found myself quite willing to forgive Morris because he takes the story to some very fun places.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)

Last night brought "Krill", the first episode of The Orville not written by Seth MacFarlane and the first written by someone who used to write for a Star Trek series, David A. Goodman. Having worked on four episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise as well as having been a writer for Family Guy and Futurama--the famous Star Trek parody episode--Goodman seems ideally suited for The Orville and "Krill" was pretty good, featuring genuinely tense action sequences, some thoughtful moral dilemma, and comedy.

Spoilers after the screenshot

The episode begins with one of the funnier moments on the series so far as crewmembers are delighted that Bortus (Peter Macon) seems able to eat any and everything. Mostly, though, the comedy was one of the weaker aspects of this episode--Gordon's (Scott Grimes) references to 20th century car rental companies not being particularly funny, though I don't necessarily think it's an anachronism. Who's to say 20th century commercials aren't considered classic art of some kind in the future? Despite this, I really enjoyed the chemistry between Ed (Seth MacFarlane) and Gordon.

The Krill actually remind me of the new Klingons on Star Trek: Discovery--they both seem more like vampire Cardassians than Klingons though the vampiric angle is a little more literal on The Orville with Gordon actually calling them space vampires. The differences in the shows' budgets is clear from this similarity; the ships, costumes, and makeup for the Discovery timeline Klingons being for more beautiful and intricate. But as in other points of comparison, The Orville outstrips Discovery with better writing and the Krill's motives are much clearer, being a religious crusade founded on a belief in racial superiority. I'm still not clear on what the Discovery Klingons expect to get from war with the Federation.

Ed's moral delimma is much clearer, too. By the end of the episode, he asks the very natural question, what the hell else was he supposed to do but wipe out the whole crew who were bent on destroying a defenceless human colony? Yet the point that the children he went out of his way to save are likely to grow up hating the Union goes to show that a victory to-day puts the ultimate goal of peace that much further away. This may have been what Discovery was trying to say with Michael killing the leader of the STD timeline Klingons.

Twitter Sonnet #1043

In silent thought the pocket watch debates.
As steeping tea observes automatons.
A molten tide in labs in truth abates.
Solutions sleep within the arced batons.
Without a further car the train relents.
In facts escaping out the spout was steamed.
No celery the sortied troop laments.
Or salary o'er metal wig the dreamed.
To-night the frosted window breaks the page.
Untimely ink reforms to blackest sheets.
The linking numbers walk for love and rage.
The rhythmic heart returns on reddest beats.
The hour pins describe an arcing day.
A lantern lit in green illumes the way.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)

Sometimes a movie is great in spite of its lead actor and that's the case with 1955's The Quatermass Xperiment. A classic in weird science fiction dread, this is a film that shows an understanding of how the unimaginably strange might interact with the perfectly mundane to horrifying effect.

The director, the effects people, the producers, and most of the actors seem to have understood. Certainly the source material, the 1953 television serial, understood and in the two surviving episodes one can still appreciate the terrible mixture of anxiety, sorrow, and desperation in Reginald Tate's performance as Quatermass. But sadly, Tate's death and Hammer's desire to appeal to American audiences led to the casting of American actor Brian Donlevy in the first film adaptation.

To compare the two works is to see how much it matters when an actor understands the fundamental issues at play in the work as a whole. Donlevy doesn't get it and probably didn't care--he flatly barks orders to police and scientists, delivering lines about the importance of detaining the infected space man and the strange alien plantlife like he's ordering his secretary to get coffee. He keeps the film from being a masterpiece but there is still plenty to appreciate about it.

The television serial putting the site of the rocket's crash landing in a flat probably helped the show's budget and allowed the strangeness of the ship's presence alongside the ordinary residents and cops to have an effect. But the film version putting the rocket in a country field makes a wonderful impression and nearby residents are established well enough to give an idea of the existential disruption of the thing.

Richard Wordsworth as Victor Carroon is very good as the monster to Quatermass' Dr. Frankenstein, the man infected with some kind of space virus slowly turning him into a man eating plant. It's a nice transposition of the kind of experience with disease resulting from European contact with the Americas and considering how much of Carroon's story involves his inability to connect with others because of his body one could say it works as a metaphor for syphilis. The impending catastrophe promised by the full effect of his disease might be taken as the effect of European disease on Native American peoples.

And as in that case, it's clear the framework of civilisation has no means of coping with it or even recognising it. A television broadcast on a restoration Westminster Abbey can't even contemplate stopping production until the menace is actually visible on camera.

It's a lovely, mostly effective film filled with great atmosphere.
setsuled: (Mouse Sailor)

When does a replica become real, when does an experience become real? Blade Runner 2049, the 2017 sequel to the 1982 classic, succeeds largely because of how it builds on these central questions from the original. But the great visuals and performances from attractive actors certainly don't hurt.

Ryan Gosling stars as K in what may be the role his whole career of playing brooding misfits has led up to. Instead of the ambiguity from the first film over whether or not the protagonist is a replicant, an artificial human being, K's established as a replicant explicitly from the beginning. And as a Blade Runner, his job is to kill his own kind simply for being what they are.

Harrison Ford's line from the first film about having "no choice" when his boss puts him back on the job is echoed in this film by K when discussing the possibility of a "soul" in his targets with his own boss--Robin Wright in another impressively hard boiled performance. Even more than Deckard, K leads a life where every value, every meaningful experience is rendered utterly meaningless by the perspective of the reality he operates in.

Director Denis Villeneuve and screenwriters Hampton Fancher and Michael Green show a keen understanding of this and the end of the film appropriately leaves K in complete limbo, underscored by a line from Harrison Ford that has more implications than Deckard realises.

One of the more striking shots from the trailers of a massive blue and pink naked woman, Joi (Ana de Armas), kneeling over K is a surprisingly powerful moment in the film. At first I thought Joi ought to have had more time in the film but in retrospect I think she has just the right amount of time, the lack of final satisfaction from it just about perfect. Like Scottie in Vertigo, K has fallen for a woman manufactured by someone else, designed to be fallen for--one of the hardest things about K's experience, though, is that there was nothing remarkable in the manufacture.

I'm fascinated that anyone would consider the relationship between K and Joi to be sexist because of what it says about the presumptions people make with their perspectives. K is a replicant in a relationship with a hologram--why should it matter what one does to the other, or how one treats the other? On top of that, both are fictional constructs of a movie. Of course it does matter, but only insofar as experience, or the sensation of experience, matters, and that's of course the whole point of the film.

The film has some flaws--there's some basic logistical problems in the dialogue, there are times when characters ought to be able to figure out some things a little faster. Sylvia Hoeks as the villain Luv is nowhere near as effective as Roy from the first film though perhaps she doesn't need to be. But the film's a visual banquet and performances from Ford, Gosling, de Armas, Wright, and Carla Juri are intricate and absolutely wonderful.
setsuled: (Frog Leaf)

Adults made the atom bombs and then wondered why the kids were poisonous and deranged. 1963's These are the Damned starts off feeling like a kitchen sink drama about disaffected youth in the mould of The Leather Boys but it's a Hammer film so government scientists and mutants are involved. The two sides of the film coalesce in fascinating ways and it's an effective science fiction parable on post-war cultural change.

Directed by black-listed American director Joseph Losey the film also stars an American actor, MacDonald Carey, as an American named Simon. But the film was shot entirely in England with the kitchen sink quality coming off in location shots in the streets of Weymouth.

Simon's not there long before he picks up a pretty, much younger girl named Joan (Shirley Anne Field) who leads him to an ambush by teddy boy muggers led by her brother, King (Oliver Reed).

King's name is significant, reflecting the impunity with which he and his gang assume equal or higher ground to traditional figures of authority, as when another member of the gang, later in the film, constantly replies to interrogations by a military officer with questions of his own--"I don't sit up nights questioning your people about their private affairs now, do I?"

They're insolent and destructive, beating Simon to unconsciousness and vandalising art. But to some extent it's hard to blame them for their assertion of liberty when Simon, the film's hero, casually asserts his right to pick up Joan on the grounds that she looks like "a tart."

This is still nothing compared to Bernard (Alexander Knox), a government man who's apparently keeping a group of children in isolation underground and experimenting on them. He and his men struggle to understand why the children don't trust implicitly that what they're doing is in their best interest and in a later explanation Bernard actually does have some pretty good reasons relating to the survival of the human race. His reason is still not enough to impress Freya, an artist living nearby, played by Viveca Lindfors in a brilliant performance that seems like it must have involved careful study.

When someone says all of her sculptures look "unfinished" she answers that one could say that about everything--that everything is always unfinished. It's no wonder she'd be suspicious of any human assertion of authority over another. Yet it's hard to decide who exactly is to blame when children are born radioactive.

Twitter Sonnet #1042

Impending drafts of ornaments delay.
Incisive spots in combing closed the hair.
Recumbent strands upheld a fixed relay.
The mustered helms could rest on just the stair.
In soot arose the foot of burning snow.
In ash the army closed in ranks of horse.
For infantry i'faith would fain to know.
And forward treads the host the sleeping course.
Insistent bands produced of trees'll call.
As time reveals in puddy clapped to ink.
In faded eyes the dollar passed recall.
The even goes in beaming gold and pink.
In cloudy purple nails it reached a thought.
Across a cooking port the fish's caught.
setsuled: (Frog Leaf)

Starfleet's finest continued trying to discover motivations for their pointless arguments in last night's new Star Trek: Discovery while Klingons struggled to show emotion through a thick sheath of makeup and full Daedric armour. But the show's flaws were once again offset by lovely visuals and good performances.

Spoilers after the screenshot

I'm pretty sure if Buffy stakes this guy it wipes out all the vampires in Sunnydale. So far Vulcans are the only aliens to be depicted with hair on STD. Is there something too human about hair now?

Klingon cuisine is certainly more colourful in the Discovery timeline.

It seems the Klingons are having trouble keeping their people fed, unlike the Federation, which could be an interesting motivation behind their war effort. I wonder how the writers will follow up on it in future episodes. Maybe it's because the Federation is too busy feeding people they left some valuable equipment floating around on the Shenzhou for the Klingons to salvage.

What gorgeous ships.

Meanwhile, on the Discovery, a turbolift conversation between Michael (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Saru (Doug Jones) establishes that his "threat ganglia" can react even when the threats Saru perceives aren't real, as in the case of Michael just standing next to him on the turbolift. With this established, in a later scene Michael can use Saru's threat ganglia to determine whether "Ripper", the tardigrade creature from the previous episode, is really a threat. Er, right?

I kept thinking about the now oft-quoted line from Jeff Goldblum's character in Jurassic Park: "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should." In this case I'm thinking of the writers who were so excited to ditch Gene Roddenberry's rule for Federation people that they not have interpersonal conflicts. Now we have interpersonal conflicts for no reason at all. When Saru realises Michael is using his threat sensor to gauge something about the tardigrade's nature, the supposed science officer has his feelings hurt by his colleague's benign attempt to learn things about an alien creature he compares her to the presumably ruthless Captain Lorca and storms off. I guess this series depicts the adolescence of the Federation.

The episode is called "The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry", best read in the voice of Nathan Explosion. I guess the lamb in this case might refer to the dumbest tactical officer in Starfleet, Landry (Rekha Sharma), who douses an alien life form with tranquilliser and opens its cage before knowing if the tranquilliser worked and fires a phaser at it she knows doesn't work. Luckily Michael has presence of mind to set the lights to full, causing the creature to retreat to darkness, despite apparently not being bothered by light later on when it's feasting on fungus. As dumb as Landry was, I still felt annoyed for her sake when Michael called her out for referring to the creature as a monster. How was Landry to know the creature's behaviour would completely change from the previous episode when it attacked a Klingon just for shushing someone? Maybe it remembered the Klingon attacking it earlier, so it's a lucky thing it apparently forgot about Michael attacking it in the previous episode.

But lest I give the impression I found nothing good in this episode, the sequence where the Discovery escapes from a sun's gravity is really cool. Still, I am a little tempted to stop watching, but the next episode may be written by better writers and anyway I do want to see Rainn Wilson's take on Harry Mudd.
setsuled: (Skull Tree)

The vampire child Shinobu was once known by the delightfully decadent name Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade and audiences were finally able to see her in action this year in the latter two films of the three part Kizumonogatari (傷物語). Each film is just over an hour long, released separately in theatres in Japan over the course of 2016, the final film being released at the beginning of this year. Serving as prequels to Bakemonogatari, these films are much more about sex and violence than the show--some really impressive violence, mind you, and some okay sexual titillation.

Kizumonogatari finally shows us the events referred to so frequently in the first season of Bakemonogatari, which always felt like it was picking up on a story already in progress. We finally get to find out how Araragi (Hiroshi Kamiya) met Kiss-Shot (Maaya Sakamoto) as well as his know-it-all classmate, Hanekawa (Yui Horie)--though her amusing catch phrase is "I don't know everything, I only know what I know." And we get to see the events that led to Araragi becoming a sort of half vampire.

I honestly found the first film disappointing, especially because we only get to see Kiss-Shot briefly before she's turned into a child. One of the more frustrating trends in anime over the past decade has been more and more focus on sexualised children which, putting aside any moral issues, I simply don't find very attractive or exciting. The child vampire Shinobu was part of a really nice concept in the first Bakemonogatari series--a mysterious, mute child demon who existed in Araragi's shadow, there was something really intriguing in her as an artistic expression of the psychology in the relationship between two people or even just as a portrait of Araragi's mind by itself. In subsequent seasons, she became more an object of loli fan service, and with several other child characters introduced the show moved disappointingly in this direction in a lot of ways. The first season introduced one of the best, and best designed, female romantic leads in an anime of the 21st century, Senjogahara, but ever since then she's been sidelined increasingly in favour of loli characters.

To anyone who hasn't seen it, by the way, the first season of Bakemonogatari is absolutely amazing, and the exceptional quality of its writing has often to do with a subversion of the growing, depressing trend in anime to depict beautiful women as docile house pets or transparent tsundere. For whatever reason, after the first season the show has gradually moved away from this.

It's still not as bad as some and Kizumonogatari improves a great deal in its second portion, though Hanekawa isn't as good as Senjogahara at calling Araragi on his bullshit. There's a lot of business involving her panties which is pretty hot but seems implausible considering their very platonic relationship in the first season. But there's a well executed 2001: A Space Odyssey gag the first time Hanekawa shows Araragi her panties.

And thankfully Kiss-Shot doesn't spend much time as a kid in the second portion. Araragi having to deal with his attraction to her while also facing the reality that she's a vampire is nicely done but hardly new territory--maybe it's for that reason production company Shaft chose to begin adapting the light novels with the introduction of Senjougahara.

Kizumonogatari has a very different visual style to the series, relying on a more uniform amber colour palette that looks okay sometimes and giving the girls preposterously large breasts which are more often ridiculous than hot. But people obsessed with equal time fan service might be pleased to know there's a lot of attention paid to male physique, too.

The more limited colour palette doesn't bother me as much as the film's indulgence in the currently popular "blush and shine" effect which my eyes tend to read as big pus filled blisters or pimples.

But where Kizumonogatari really shines is in the action sequences. The middle portion is the standout as Araragi is forced to face three vampire hunters in order to retrieve the limbs that have been stolen from Kiss-Shot. The series has often used Araragi's ability to regrow body parts for effective comedy and horror, sometimes both at the same time, but the action sequences in this film take it to a new level.

It's not just in the animation. The composition and sequence of shots smoothly tell kinetic stories, as in Araragi's first bout with a hunter named Dramaturgy who's a lot stronger than the high school lad bargained for. Shots of Araragi desperately trying to escape the big man, running through the high school, are creatively constructed and it's always easy to follow the action and get an idea of the environment and the characters' distance from each other.

The final film has a gratuitous, imaginary makeout scene with Hanekawa obviously there for fan service. It's a bit disappointing due to another current trend in anime, doll anatomy, where topless women are shone without nipples but a lot of the stuff between Araragi and the adult Kiss-Shot is nice to watch.

setsuled: (Default)

The past couple weeks, I've been rewatching Kinda and Snakedance, the two Doctor Who serials written by Christopher Bailey about the snake demon, Mara. Apparently based on a demon in Buddhism of the same name, the creature is a figure in two different cultural imaginations in these two serials which are even better than I remember.

This is despite the presence of Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) in Kinda. I still feel like the dialogue between Adric and the Doctor (Peter Davison) about magic tricks must have been swapped by the actors--it doesn't make sense that the Doctor would have forgotten the magic tricks he performed in his third incarnation and it really doesn't make sense for Adric to get one over on the Doctor. Fortunately he's not too obtrusive.

Magic and trickery feature again in Snakedance in a different context--the Doctor, Nyssa (Sarah Sutton), and Tegan (Janet Fielding) show up in the middle of some kind of carnival in commemoration of a defeat of the Mara hundreds of years earlier. There's a fortune teller with a crystal ball and a fun house mirror maze--both eventually giving visions of the Mara in the form of some kind of animal skull.

When Tegan finds herself facing the Mara in the fun house, the demon having laid dormant in her since Kinda, she's puzzled why mirrors don't banish the creature as they did in the first serial's conclusion. It makes sense, though, as in that case the Mara could only reflect on itself being surrounded by mirrors, but naturally it thrives on distorting the self-reflection of others. That seems clear in Tegan's first dream sequence in Kinda where the Mara divides her personality into two.

Neither is a "false Tegan" and, indeed, they both start to cooperate, trying to figure out how to escape. By thwarting them, the Mara disrupts the basic act or state of self-awareness.

Kinda is also reminiscent of Heart of Darkness with its wouldbe colonists, who come off as very Victorian, being driven mad just by coming into contact with a "primitive" people who live and communicate in ways totally alien and yet deeply familiar. The snake, Mara, being the only one among the natives who can talk brings to mind the snake's extraordinary ability to speak in Genesis (something Milton has Eve remark upon at length in Paradise Lost). The Kinda, the native people, seem innocent in their muteness, but this makes them sinister to the colonists who, like so many colonists who lost their minds in other such stories, fill the void in their understanding with a distorted reflection of self.

Bailey's two television stories show two cultures interpreting the same demon. Snakedance features a civilisation that seems to be a blend of ancient Rome and Renaissance Europe where the Mara is easily able to take control. Faith in their ability to reason has blinded the rulers and the museum curator to the danger the Mara represents--they've come to believe the demon's only a myth. The museum curator and the proprietor of the fun house quickly become the Mara's servants because both are committed to something they don't believe is real.

Poor Tegan, though she's certainly fashion forward in that romper in Snakedance. I miss Nyssa's velvety dress from Keeper of Traken, though I hated the pants version of it. But her weird blue stripey blouse is breezier and makes her seem less like a kid. Peter Davison is good as always, particularly in the climax of Snakedance.

Twitter Sonnet #1041

Reversing sounds of gongs remade the sting.
Advice is dripping in through helmet hair.
In dashes Morse encoded on the string.
The pearls direct a dark immortal hare.
A birdish rabbit fell in monkish hands.
In pickle time the radish cued the lid.
In airy marriage skies align the sands.
The sneaky jacket coats the carded quid.
Direct your eyes to elves in foley clothes.
They put the props within the sound effect.
Convenient sprites distribute noisy hose.
A passing tread for jingles we'll detect.
In sculpted ice a hummingbird decides.
Against disjointed hills the cloud collides.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)

Last night brought the best episode of The Orville yet and not just because Charlize Theron was in it. Director Jonathan Frakes brought his A game, particularly when it came to action sequences, the episode's plot was more inventive than I thought it would be, and it was the funniest episode I've seen so far.

Spoilers after the screenshot

I expected the episode to be a bit like the Firefly episode "Our Mrs. Reynolds" and to some extent it was. The Captain, Ed (Seth MacFarlane), falls for a beautiful guest star who isn't what she claims to be. Pria's (Theron) true identity as a time travelling thief of historical artefacts makes her a bit like Vash from Star Trek: The Next Generation, too, something that makes me wonder if we'll be seeing her again. Theron has certainly been vocal about her fondness for MacFarlane so it would hardly be a surprise.

And she's good in the episode in a role that naturally becomes a focal point because she's subject of a debate over whether or not she can be trusted. It seems pretty clear from the beginning that she's going to betray the Orville crew at some point but Theron still makes the most of scenes where we're invited to scrutinise her, seemingly having a lot of fun.

My only real complaint about the episode is that I wish Ed had given some new insight in his pillow talk with Pria regarding his relationship with Kelly (Adrian Palicki). Saying he was too focused on work is starting to sound like a broken record.

But that accounts for only a moment. I enjoyed Kelly and Alara (Halston Sage) investigating Pria's rooms and I really loved Isaac (Mark Jackson) and Gordon (Scott Grimes) playing practical jokes on each other. Frakes uses the right understated wide shot when Isaac walks onto the bridge with the Mr. Potato Head gear.

And gods, the leg business. It's the first bit of humour that really felt like Family Guy but still didn't feel like parody. It's the right amount of sudden over-the-top when the shot begins making you think it's going to have something to do with Gordon's alarm clock and suddenly, nope, his whole leg is gone. Gordon's anger and then grudgingly admitting that it was a great joke were also perfectly played.

John Debney's score for the episode was a real standout during the effectively taut tension of the shuttlecraft escaping from the asteroid, in the dark matter storm, and in the wormhole sequence. This was some of the most effective sci-fi action I've seen in years.
setsuled: (Default)

The danger in diagnosing the problems in any relationship is that there are inevitably so many unseen complicating factors. But in the films of Mikio Naruse, you can be sure money is a big part of it, as it is in his 1956 film A Wife's Heart (妻の心). The tale of a woman who finds herself suddenly dissatisfied in a previously contented marriage, it could be called a retread of Naruse's better, and better known, film Meshi. But a Wife's Heart is a little more complicated and a little gentler. Filled with good performances, it's another showcase for Naruse's talent for subtly sewing drama and relationships through editing and composition.

Hideko Takamine plays Kiyoko, a young woman whose husband, Shinji (Keiju Kobayashi), inherited a convenience store from his mother (Eiko Miyoshi) and the three of them now live in a nice house behind the store. Shinji inherited the property despite being the younger brother of Zenichi (Minoru Chiaki) who left home to work for a company. But when Zenichi's wife and child come to stay for a visit, Kiyoko and Shinji are surprised when Zenichi joins them and the whole family ends up staying indefinitely.

Kiyoko and Shinji are in the early stages of opening a cafe. Kiyoko goes to a good friend whose brother Kiyoko arranges to meet with, a bank manager named Kenkichi played by none other than Toshiro Mifune.

I think this is the first time I've seen Mifune in a Naruse movie and he sure sticks out. I suddenly found myself noticing how extraordinarily deep his voice his, how physically large he is, things I just take for granted when I see him in Kurosawa films. His part isn't so big in this movie but it's crucial. He happily loans Kiyoko money for the cafe and daily starts to get his lunch at the cafe where Kiyoko's learning to cook and wait tables. Meanwhile, Zenichi is suddenly asking for a loan from Shinji to start his own cafe on the other side of town and their mother is pressuring Shinji to grant it. With all the stress he's under, Shinji starts to spend more and more time drinking with a couple geisha.

It's subtly indicated that Kiyoko has a better head for finances than her husband--he has a tendency to go to her advice and both use rhetorical gymnastics to get around acknowledging the fact that the wife is telling the husband what to do with the money. Rather than anyone ever directly stating it, it's clear Kiyoko is drawn to the bigger than life, happy and confident bank manager over her insecure and malleable husband. Like Meshi, it's clear that the wife's strength is more responsible for holding up the family than the husband's.

Aside from one scene involving a suicide, the film isn't as dark as Meshi, or most of Naruse's films. A Wife's Heart is less about the feeling that an unstoppable doom is descending and more about the mysteries of paths not taken and the effects of unexpected complications. It's exciting seeing Mifune and Takamine together, I would have liked to have seen them paired in more movies.
setsuled: (Skull Tree)

There's little physical reality to most laws until they're broken. Pier Paolo Pasolini's 1969 film Medea borrows many elements from Euripides' play but becomes a broader commentary on the function of oaths and their relationship to religion and dreams. It becomes a tale on the hazards of liberation from, and the destruction of, communal dreams or conceptions of reality. It's a very nice looking film, too, with a raw, designedly disorienting aesthetic with a discordant soundtrack drawing from various cultures.

The story begins with a child Jason being instructed by his centaur foster parent, Chiron (Laurent Terzieff). He tells Jason never to forget there's nothing natural about nature and explains how ancient man naturally believed things we consider now to be obviously fantastical. This latter comment seems to indicate the centaur is talking to us more than Jason, a reflection of the centaur's otherworldly nature apparently being that he's a little postmodern. He's the only character in the film who does this, and only the once, thankfully, but it sets the table for what Pasolini's aiming at.

Later in the film, Jason as an adult (Giuseppe Gentile) has a vision of the centaur, simultaneously as the mythological creature and as the man, the juxtaposition designed to highlight the difference between myth and analysis of it. In a bit of slightly dark humour, Chiron admits that his explanations are useless but he can't stop providing them any more than the original centaur can stop prompting them.

Its through this lens the story of Medea presented in the film makes sense--and one wonders if Jason had paid better attention to Chiron the centaur's advice would've truly been so useless.

Charged with retrieving the golden fleece from a barbarous people, Jason arrives to find that Medea (Maria Callas), seemingly more of a priestess than a princess here, has already done the job for him without even having met him. We witness first the sacrifice and dismemberment of a man in a harvest ritual presided over by Medea and then she sacrifices another man in the process of escaping with the fleece to bring it to Jason. After they've escaped, there's a scene of Medea wandering the desert, in desperation because the gods are now silent, as though they're not there.

Euripides' play is focused more on Jason's breaking of his oath to Medea by deciding to wed the daughter of Creon, King of Corinth, abandoning Medea and the children he had with her. It's an exploration of how the use of such oaths is to insure insensitive people don't cause the violent emotional distress Medea experiences--her need for recompense becoming so strong that it overcomes her own sense of morality. Pasolini incorporates earlier events in the myth to focus on how both Medea and Jason are oathbreakers and the chaos, and frightening meaninglessness, that manifests after the destruction of dreams. Without the original purposes of ritual, Medea can only destroy in significance of destruction, physical destruction calculated to effect the most powerful emotional destruction.

Pasolini shows Medea's power as a priestess rests in her ability to act on dreams in ways that psychologically resonate in others to corresponding outcomes. We see two versions of her murder of the Corinthian princess (Margareth Clémenti)--first with the image of Medea's face overlaid on the footage as the poison in the gown Medea gives the princess causes the woman to burst into flames. After this, we see Medea's children give her the gown again, presumably in the "real" version of the event, and it's the sight of herself wearing the gown in a mirror that causes the princess to kill herself. By taking on the symbols of Medea's culture, perhaps the act inspires a fatal empathy in the princess and she realises for the first time that she's collaborating in Jason's oathbreaking. In any case, the results are precisely the same as in Medea's dream.

But Medea's acting for no god or community, only her own will, which in the nihilistic reality she's stranded herself in is the only possible motive. So the murder of her children isn't just a way to show Jason how she feels, it's an expression of an utterly hopeless interpretation of reality.

Twitter Sonnet #1040

In common sheaves of blue escapes it lands.
Reports of plants digesting thought returned.
The news arranged to cast across the bands.
A forest drapes the sky for all concerned.
Above the moon the double blinds descend.
Above the flame an Earth approached the sun.
On metal arms the orbs in space suspend.
In language written late the thought has run.
A metal quickly found erupts the mines.
The ores and yours allow the lead to lead.
In vain the veins avaunt to lunch betimes.
A node who knows the wind'll take the mead.
Outstripping grapes exceed the seedless price.
Redoubled looks advanced a vision twice.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)

The Discovery finally debuted on Star Trek: Discovery on Sunday, making an impressive entrance. It's also the first episode to be directed by Akiva Goldsman, director of the underrated Winter's Tale. The teleplay by 90210 and Pushing Daisies writers Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts (along with Craig Sweeny) continues to show that writing is by far the show's weak point but the visual beauty and wonderful performances, particularly from Sonequa Martin-Green, still make it well worth watching.

Spoilers after the screenshot

Guilty of the high crime of insubordination in her effort to stop the now devastating war with the Klingons using a secret Vulcan technique of shooting first, Michael (Martin-Green) has become the most hard-bitten criminal in a group of convicts being transported to a mysterious location. A cool scene involving some space fungus resolves with the timely rescue from the Discovery. Soon she's on board, facing suspicion and hatred for her crime of mutiny.

I'm starting to wonder if Vulcans only exist in Michael's mind in this universe. We haven't seen any Vulcans interact with anyone else in Starfleet and at one point Sarek appeared in Michael's mind to lend moral support. This would explain why no-one else has heard of the "Vulcan hello". It's not until the end of this third episode that Martin-Green finally meets someone who recognises her actions made sense, or at least didn't amount to murder. The very good Jason Isaacs plays Captain Lorca of the Discovery and he delivers the line that gives the episode its title, "Context is for Kings".

The idea is that only certain people have the kind of mind necessary to cut through protocol and bullshit to see what needs to be done. Either this eventually is going to come back around and bite him or the show's going to end up having a message opposite to the TNG episode "The Drumhead". In any case, it's a worthy concept not especially well executed. If I could really believe everyone would be as suspicious as they are of Michael for what she did, the story would make more sense. Context doesn't seem so much for kings but for the credibly written.

Of course, Michael does make one friend, her anachronistic roommate Tilly (Mary Wiseman). This chipper young lady seems like she wandered in from Gilmore Girls. Ten bucks says she gets killed in a pointed message about the harshness of wartime realities and how sometimes the most innocent among us fall victim while people who can make the hard choices carry on.

Otherwise, there's a lot more of the peculiarly catty dialogue, especially from the science officer who never seems to stop being ornery about having the perfectly well behaved and obviously talented Michael working for him.

The episode's best parts are on the Discovery's sister ship where things start to feel a lot like Alien. Martin-Green is allowed to shine in a way she never was able to on Walking Dead, delivering an amusing "Shit, that worked" when she tries to draw the attention of the beast. It was odd hearing her rattle off lines from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in the Jeffries Tube but as a hardcore fan of those books I almost always appreciate a gratuitous reference to them, as I did here.
setsuled: (Skull Tree)

I've only been to Las Vegas once, to visit the now closed Star Trek Experience. The former attraction, in one of the most dreamlike cities in the United States, no longer drew crowds to celebrate the optimistic future depicted on Star Trek and, indeed, as Adam Savage pointed out at Comic Con this year, that dream is starting to seem not only naive but cruel.

But despite the fact that I watched the decidedly more pessimistic version of the old dream last night, Star Trek: Discovery, it's not Star Trek I thought of when I woke up to find the deadliest shooting in modern history had just occurred in Las Vegas. Images of Las Vegas had been on my screen weekly throughout the summer on Twin Peaks, one of the most prominent episodes of which, episode eleven, featured a commentary on gun violence alongside images of the Las Vegas strip.

To-day The Onion is running the same headline it usually runs when there's a mass shooting: "‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens". The irony is sad and seemingly impossible to ignore and yet, as The Onion continues to run the headline, obviously it continues to be ignored again and again. Is it merely the machinery of bureaucracy and greed, is it the absurd grip of a childish dream, or is it some perfect combination of the two? How did this supposedly most pragmatic nation become the most deeply deluded?

We can say that shootings have gotten worse, much worse, in recent decades. Obviously (yes, it's obvious) stricter gun laws would alleviate part of the problem but there's a deeper problem. The old dream depends on the belief that the average American citizen has the wherewithal to own a gun responsibly--and the majority of gun owners don't go on killing sprees. Yet the typical argument from second amendment supporters, that looser gun laws allow for average citizens to save the day with their own guns, looks horribly naive in the obvious scenario of a sniper firing on a crowd. And even someone who opens fire without any cover is likely to deal too much damage before the fantasy average hero can act. It's a reality that's simply too plain for anyone not to see it so the perpetuation of this dream must rely on other factors, like the aforementioned greed and bureaucracy.

But the deeper problem is that so many people, many of them children, arrive at the decision to kill a lot of people. Even if they were prevented from killing people by stricter gun laws, there's a clear diminishing capacity for people to respect and love their fellow citizens. Adults are losing this and their kids aren't learning it.
setsuled: (Skull Tree)

There's not really any paranoia in 1963's Paranoiac. One of many low budget thrillers, this one produced by Hammer, designed to capitalise on the success of Psycho, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster seems to have decided the way to outdo Hitchcock's film is to add more complications. The plot holds together and due to this, along with gorgeous cinematography by Arthur Grant, capable direction by Freddie Francis, and several nice performances, it's a pretty entertaining film in spite of some absurdities and weak characterisations.

Over the course of its brief run time, the premise of the film seems to change every fifteen minutes or so. Just as you start to think you're seeing the shape of the ultimate plot twist, that plot twist is immediately revealed and a new plot begins on top of it. The first part of the film is a kind of Shirley Jackson-ish setup.

A young woman named Eleanor (Janette Scott) lives with her aunt, Harriet (Sheila Burrell), her brother, Simon (Oliver Reed), and a nurse, Francoise (Liliane Brousse), in an enormous mansion. Eleanor's beloved older brother, Tony, had died some time earlier and now the reckless, alcoholic young Simon seeks to get Eleanor out of the way so he can inherit the whole fortune. But Eleanor has started having visions of Tony (Alexander Davion) wandering about all over the place.

Just as I was starting to think the end of the movie might be about how Simon is trying to drive his sister crazy with someone impersonating her brother, or it might be a haunting, Tony casually starts talking to the whole family, much to the shock of Simon and Harriet, very early on.

So a movie that seemed to be about the point of view of a young woman doubting her senses due to impossible visions and duplicitous, scheming family, suddenly becomes about a long lost brother returning home and questions about his authenticity. It might have been a been too derivative of Shirley Jackson to have the movie from Eleanor's point of view but I would have preferred it to what happens. After this, the whole movie is told from Tony's point of view, a man whose motives are never clearly establish played by an actor giving a surpassingly bland performance. Meanwhile, Eleanor turns into a background character.

I won't reveal the subsequent twists except to say those problems only get worse. But Oliver Reed is very good, of course, his eyes wide and his gestures sudden and quick while he fiendishly plays a pipe organ or abuses the butler for not bringing him more brandy. There are a couple effective jump scares in the movie, too.

Twitter Sonnet #1039

A cane in noble blessings cinched the bag.
Alerted soon, a single gourd awoke.
Because the painted eye was warm it sagged.
Of tiny child grains the stars bespoke.
A narrow stair ascends inside the gloom.
A gleam bespeaks an aging split ahead.
In clicking bursts the message came to doom.
A powder plus a paste awoke the dead.
A smoke replaced the sky beyond the hall.
A sinking sun conducts along the line.
In channels forced the water sure will fall.
Though seeming close the voice is down the mine.
The sounds emerges with electric step.
In static cords a drifting noise is kept.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)

In Army of Death, the third Doctor Who audio play to feature Mary Shelley as a companion, the pitfalls of putting words into a famous author's mouth really start to show. I was able to enjoy the two previous adventures featuring Mary but Army of Death loses me early on with Mary writing in a diary, hinting that her affections are drifting from Percy to the Doctor (Paul McGann). Which seems really like where things were going all along, and I wouldn't mind it except Mary sounds like a dopey teen heroine now.

"My beliefs have been in flux these past few weeks but one thing I know--everybody has a soulmate," writes the supposed Mary Shelley, in monologue performed by Julie Cox. "Someone whom they were always intended to meet. My own soulmate was always going to be of a certain breed. He would be wild! And yet, intellectual. He would blend urban eloquence with boundless enthusiasm. In short, he would be an unearthly soul. I have already met this man . . ."

This is supposed to be Mary Shelley aged 18, from the year 1816, during the vacation that inspired her to write Frankenstein. and Wikipedia note the first known English written use of "soul mate" is from a letter by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1822 but this doesn't bother me much. As someone who writes historical fiction myself, I know a bit of translation to modern language is inevitable. I guess I'm bothered more by "wild" "yet intellectual" and "boundless enthusiasm." Sure, Mary's 18 and should be a bit zealous about men she's attracted to but I would expect more from her capacity for self-expression. The word "enthusiasm" occurs 11 times in Frankenstein and never is it "boundless". Instead, we get this:

No one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore me onwards, like a hurricane, in the first enthusiasm of success. Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world.

And, yes, I'm not saying writer Jason Arnopp has to be as good as Mary Shelley. This is just the drawback of daring to put words into a famous author's mouth--for anyone who likes that author, a sour note is going to sound a hundred times as sour.

Arnopp has since gone on to write a novel that Alan Moore has given a very strong, enthusiastic, blurb so maybe I shouldn't harp on this too much. Army of Death is mostly not a bad audio play, involving futuristic politics colliding with an army of zombies. There's a Hitchcockian subplot about a presidential assassin played by Eva Pope that has some nice moments. Though, even forgetting a moment the model on which this fictional Mary Shelley is based, this Mary isn't even consistent with the previous episodes' depictions of her where she found herself always sympathetic to monsters she runs into. Suddenly she has trouble with zombies in this one, or possibly politicians. Well, I guess that's kind of funny. Paul McGann is very good as always.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)

You travel through space, sooner or later you're going to run into one of those whole civilisations who don't know they're living on a space ship or a robot or a giant slug, until you need to tell them they're going to collide with a sun or something. It's happened already to the Orville in the fourth episode of Seth MacFarlane's series, once again an episode written by MacFarlane, and once again a pretty entertaining one.

It was only a few months ago we saw another new iteration of this plot, in the season finale of Doctor Who where it was one of a bunch of concepts thrown in as window dressing for the main conflict between the Doctor, the Master, and the Cybermen. Of course it wasn't the first time Doctor Who has used this kind of plot--it's not unlike The Ark from the First Doctor era, or Underworld from the Fourth Doctor era. And of course it's happened on Star Trek more than once, the most obvious model being the concisely titled "For the World is Hollow and I have Touched the Sky".

Spoilers after the screenshot

The Orville episode, "If the Stars Should Appear", presents a less complicated version of the concept than the one shown in the recent Twelfth Doctor finale, allowing the crew to gradually learn about this society and its totalitarian theocracy headed by the menacing Robert Knepper as the villain Hamelac.

The scene where he tortures Kelly (Adrian Palicki) for info is one of the scenes that highlight exactly how the show is distinguished from Star Trek--we may have seen scenes like this dozens of times, but Kirk, Picard, or Spock would never say the people the torturer seeks were last seen having sex with his mother and high fiving. A lot of the humour on this show feels like MacFarlane was watching Star Trek years ago, wishing dialogue would be pushed just a little further. Now that he's doing it it is refreshing.

At the same time, the simplicity of his presentation of this well used concept is intriguing. As good as that Doctor Who finale was, it's nice to see someone saying these old stories are worth stopping and dwelling on rather than using them as wallpaper. Because ideologies preventing us from confronting our self destructive treatment of the environment certainly haven't gone away. One might think it's too transparently talking about climate change, but it's about the same level of subtlety Gene Roddenberry was aiming at in the 60s.

Of course, if it'd been more like Star Trek in the 60s, Ed (Seth MacFarlance) would have at least one make out session with a native. As it is, there's some indication that Alara (Halston Sage) is starting to get a crush on her captain. This might go over better if it's handled by writers other than MacFarlane, but I'd certainly like the show to explore other relationship issues aside from one partner complaining the other spends too much time focusing on their career.

The scene between Bortus (Peter Macon) and Klyden (Chad Coleman) at the beginning of the episode was cute but it would have been better coming before last week's--it's hard to settle into a little domestic scene when the memory of Klyden forcing their infant to get a sex change is too recent.

Otherwise, though, I enjoyed the action sequence and LaMarr's (J.Lee) "Boom, bitch!"--another moment of Star Trek dialogue being pushed into something just a bit more down to Earth--and I liked Isaac (Mark Jackson) puzzling over the inferior humans. Liam Neeson's cameo at the end of the episode helped lend the story just the right amount of gravity, too.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)

Is it comforting or horrifying thinking there are invisible forces, inevitably punishing or rewarding people as morality demands? 1973's The Vault of Horror is, like the EC series of horror comics in the 1950s, a depiction of a world where people are usually punished in equal measure to their wicked designs, often ironically. Actually taking almost all of its stories from Tales from the Crypt, this anthology film for Amicus directed by Roy Ward Baker features a wonderful cast performing tonally very faithful adaptations.

The Vault of Horror comics, like The Haunt of Fear, were mostly interchangeable with Tales from the Crypt, all published by EC Comics, featuring many of the same writers and artists, like Al Feldstein and Johnny Craig, telling similar stories. Tales from the Crypt stories were typically introduced by the Crypt Keeper but the Vault Keeper, from Vault of Horror, and the Old Witch, from Haunt of Fear, would appear to introduce stories in Tales from the Crypt, too.

Sadly, the Vault Keeper is absent from this film, despite the fact that it is something of a followup to Amicus' Tales from the Crypt which featured Ralph Richardson as the Crypt Keeper. The framing story for this Vault of Horror film features the main characters of each story, a group of five men, finding themselves stranded on one floor of a building by an apparently malfunctioning elevator. To pass the time, each tells a story of a dream he had where he died after committing some form of wrong doing. Each remarks on how real the dream seemed. I'll leave it to you to guess what happens at the end.

The only story not from Tales from the Crypt comes from EC's Shock SuspenStories, "The Neat Job", written by Tales from the Crypt's prolific writer Al Feldstein. This one stars Terry-Thomas and Glynis Johns and, as you might expect, plays more to comedy than the other stories. He's (of course) an obnoxious wealthy man and Johns is his good hearted but clumsy wife. It's a pleasure watching these two together though they have the ugliest house I've ever seen.

The climax of the story mostly leans on Johns who does a good job building tension with an otherwise slapstick routine as she breaks one thing after another, trying to clean up the house before the fastidious Terry-Thomas arrives home.

The other stand out story, based on a Tales from the Crypt story by Jack Davis, is "Drawn and Quartered" starring Tom Baker with Denholm Elliott in a small but crucial role. This film came out a year before Baker was cast as the Fourth Doctor but he's already showing an admirable taste in eccentric attire.

Baker plays a painter living in Haiti in poverty when he learns a friend (Elliott) has made a fortune selling his paintings back in London along with two accomplices, a dealer and a critic, who conspired to drive up the market value of Baker's art while keeping him out of the loop. It being Haiti, the painter turns to a distinctly comic book version of voodoo for revenge. If Dorian Gray were more interested in revenge killings, you might have gotten something like this story. Baker, with his hypnotic bug eyes and deep voice, easily enthrals the viewer, and his showdown with Denholm Elliott is captivating.

The other stories are all decent enough and the film's competently filmed by Roy Ward Baker.

Twitter Sonnet #1038

Delivered lines of growing wheat matured.
In questions asked the atoms turn to suns.
So nameless orbs at autumn late interred.
Along the sides of fish the river runs.
The thousandth first was time to plant the husk.
On beams below the brain's a sudden storm.
The solar flare became a neon tusk.
Across the sand the desert's getting warm.
Examined toast attracts the cooking mouse.
Beneath the boiling brush the paint began.
A canny clip assessed the vault in house.
A travelogue disclosed the rice again.
In helpless paintings pens can take the gun.
A moment's cat can easily outrun.


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