Five Cool Things and The Laundromat

My wife’s folks are in town for the weekend and my daughter is dying for us to take her to the pumpkin path so let’s get to what was cool this week.

And Soon the Darkness

This very British and very early 1970s thriller finds two young women traveling through the French countryside by bike. After a heated argument, one of them travels to the next village while the other stays back to sunbathe next to a small grove of trees. She is never seen again. The film then follows the first girl as she tries to find out what happens.

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She speaks a little French but finds it difficult to communicate with the locals (and the film does not add subtitles so unless you speak French you’ll have no idea what they are saying either). There isn’t a lot of action or violence just a creeping sense of dread. It is very slow-moving and very atmospheric and I liked it a lot. You can read my full review.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue

Every October, I try to watch as many horror movies as I can, this year I decided to do a little horror reading as well and so, of course, I chose Edgar Allan Poe. As someone who has a BA in English, I’ve read a surprisingly small amount of Poe in my lifetime. I’ve read a few of the poems, “The Raven” naturally, and a couple of the short stories, though I could no longer tell you which ones. So I was pretty excited to start on this short story selection.

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The Murders in the Rue Morgue is often considered the first detective story ever written. It is also the first-ever locked room mystery. Its main character, Dupin, is an amateur detective who solves a murder for the fun of it with sheer intellect, was the prototype of Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and hundreds of other literary sleuths that followed. It is narrated not by Dupin but by a friend who is delighted and befuddled by Dupin’s brilliance. Which is yet another trope Poe created. It is impossible to say just how far and wide its influence goes.

It is also kind of a bore. Clocking in at just over 20 pages (the first several of which are dedicated to a discussion on analytical reasoning which is then followed by a detailed account of how Dupin and the narrator became friends) which leaves little time to describe the crime and to solve it in an interesting way. We get a description of the crime, some exasperated comments on how impossible it will be to solve, followed by some police bungling, and then the quick solving of it by Dupin.

For fans of the genre, which I certainly am, it is fascinating to see how Poe was able to create so many tropes of the genre in this short story. Seeing the beginnings of something that inspired so many of the books I love is very cool indeed.

Hercules in the Haunted World

Coming off the success of the very excellent Black Sunday, Italian director Mario Bava was asked to make a Hercules film (a genre that was very much en vogue at the time, kind of like superhero movies today). He mostly made up the mythology of the story, loaded it with bright primary colors, and creatively used a very modest budget to create something, well not great, but certainly miles above most of these types of films. Its the type of film I would have loved as a kid, right alongside Clash of the Titans, and that I can admire its creativity as an adult. Kino Lorber just released a very nice edition of it on Blu-ray and you can read my review.

Murder, She Wrote

Dame Angela Lansbury just turned 94. I read several loving retrospectives of her long career and so she must have been on my brain this week. Add that to the fact that my wife’s parents are in for the week (which rather limits the sorts of movies and shows we can watch) and we wound up watching this series whereupon Lansbury plays a mystery writer who begins solving real-life murders. It was a hugely successful show, running on CBS from 1984-1996. I never watched it in its initial run. I was too young when it started and too cool by the time it ended. She seemed so old to me back then, and it always seemed like an old persons series.

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I’m older now so I guess that means I can enjoy the show. It is very much a product of its time (there is nothing like serialized TV mysteries from the ‘80s). The mysteries are rather silly and the production values aren’t exactly HBO quality, but Lansbury is a delight and I’m finding it to be the perfect comfort food after a long day of work.

My Boyfriend’s Back

Character actor Bob Babalan directed this zombie romantic comedy that is loaded with great character actors (Cloris Leachman, Edward Herrmann, Paul Dooley) and young actors who would soon be stars (Matthew Fox, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Matthew McConaughey). It is very silly, and very light considering the subject matter, and surprisingly bloodless considering it was produced by Sean S. Cunningham. It’s ultimately utterly forgettable, but pretty fun in a cotton candy sort of way.

I’ll have a full review up soon.

The Laundromat

All you need to know about this movie are the names involved: Steven Soderbergh, Meryl Streep, Jeffrey Wright, Antonio Banderas, Gary Oldman, and James Cromwell. Tell me you wouldn’t watch a movie with these people involved without knowing anything else? I know I would. But I’ll tell you a little more. Loosely based on the Mossack Fonseca scandal, Streep plays a widow who, when her vacation takes a wrong turn, begins investigating an insurance fraud that takes her down a strange, and presumably darkly hilarious, path. Like his last couple of films, Soderbergh has sold it straight to Netflix.

Mat Brewster

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