Thursday, February 17, 2005

DVD: Youth of the Beast (1963)

Seijun Suzuki has been called the Japanese Samuel Fuller. I can understand why. Each has a signature technique that he brings to bear on pulp material. But Suzuki pushes stylization to extremes Fuller wouldn’t dream of.

Criterion has released a beautiful new edition of the film that put Suzuki on the map. The plot has echoes of Dashiell Hammett: a mysterious hoodlum pits two groups of yakuza against each other for reasons of his own. But the telling is Suzuki’s alone, a riotous eruption of color and wild jazz. The trailer promises “A defiant achievement!,” with “senseless cruelty vividly portrayed!” And it ain’t kidding. This is the best DVD of the year so far, and a must-see for hardboiled fans.

Book: Diagnosis Murder: The Death Merchant, by Lee Goldberg (2004)

On their blogs, Lee and James Reasoner have been having an interesting discussion of novelizations and tie-ins. I haven’t read any examples of the form in years. When I spotted this one in the library I picked it up, even though I’ve never seen the TV series on which it’s based.

I enjoyed it. It’s a sharp story, well-told. I never pictured Dick Van Dyke while I was reading it, even though his mug is on the book’s cover. And because of commercial demands, his character is always at a remove; Dr. Mark Sloan is unchanged by events, just as he’d be at the end of an episode of the show.

I’d read another book in the series but I’d prefer one of Lee’s originals, like the hilarious BEYOND THE BEYOND. Even if it does have a penis on the cover.

Noticed: Michael Medved

I’ve never been a fan of the conservative commentator. Not because of his politics, but because of THE GOLDEN TURKEY AWARDS, his snotty 1980 book about the worst movies ever made. And he was a stiff on SNEAK PREVIEWS, where he managed to imbue Jeffrey Lyons with a Peter O’Toole level of charisma.

Lately he’s been on the warpath about MILLION DOLLAR BABY. Seattle Weekly lays it all out in this article, which includes spoilers and an interesting perspective on the movie from critic Jeff Shannon. Here’s a quote from Medved:

“(Critics are) trying to gain sympathy for Eastwood by portraying him as facing a furious assault by a brigade of archconservative mountebanks. By voting for Clint and his movie, you can cast an emphatic vote against Medved and Medvedism.”

Hold the phone – there’s a Medvedism? How do I sign up? Let me guess. I have to refer to myself in the third person, use big words to impress people, laugh at my own jokes –

Aw, nuts.

Miscellaneous: Links

In which many vital questions of the day are answered. Such as:

Does Oscar help directors live longer? What does it do for screenwriters?

Has the NYPD been shooting at Ernest Borgnine for the last 45 years? What did he ever do to them?

Does speed reading actually work?

Elsewhere, it’s nice to see that my alma mater is still turning out self-starters with a knack for business. Speaking of ol’ Boston U., Jaime Weinman uses Professor Ray Carney to consider whether critics can also be fans.