Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Book: A Touch of Death, by Charles Williams (1953)

Opening with a definition is an old high school debating trick. But the thing about old high school debating tricks is that they tend to work.

inexorable, adj.: not to be persuaded or moved by entreaty: relentless

For an example, look no further than this Williams novel republished by Hard Case Crime. The set up is familiar: big lug stumbles onto what looks like Easy Street, provided he can stay one step ahead of a bad dame.

But knowing where you’re going doesn’t mean you’ll keep your footing. Williams’ genius for plotting pulls you toward a foregone conclusion in ways you don’t expect. Around the halfway point I broke out in a sweat that didn’t let up until the hammer finally dropped. The cover promises that what begins as a burglary will end as a nightmare. The book delivers.

Movie: The Fallen Idol (1948)

The Third Man is so justly revered that it tends to overshadow this collaboration between Carol Reed and Graham Greene made the year before.

Rialto Pictures is working to change that with a brand-new print of The Fallen Idol that will be playing around the U.S. this spring. If it turns up anywhere near you, go. It’s worth the trip.

Greene’s story ‘The Basement Room’ has been turned into a remarkable film about childhood. Philippe, the son of the French ambassador to England, has forged an uncommonly close bond with a household servant (Ralph Richardson). From Philippe’s point of view we watch the dissolution of Richardson’s marriage – and possibly witness a murder.

Reed’s direction is extraordinary, transforming the vast rooms of the embassy into Philippe’s personal kingdom. It’s like Eloise at the Plaza meets Grimms’ Fairy Tales, complete with wicked witch.

TV: The Surreal Life

Honest, I’m not watching the umpteenth season of VH1’s has-been reality show. I’d just like to know how Tawny Kitaen can be so judgmental about her cast mates when the last press she got was for beating up her professional baseball player husband. Where is that carefree woman who gyrated on car hoods in Whitesnake videos?

Miscellaneous: Links

Dan Curtis, the producer behind Dark Shadows, The Night Stalker, and The Winds of War, has died. And screenwriter Josh Friedman is back from cancer surgery and better than ever.