Thursday, August 14, 2008

Miscellaneous: Your Weekend Forecast

“The redheaded homicide detective stepped through the door at 7:30 A.M. and out into the August heat that had already reached 88 degrees. By noon the temperature would hit 100, and by two or three o’clock it would be hovering around 105. Frayed nerves would then start to snap and produce a marked increase in the detective’s business. Breadknife weather, the detective thought. Breadknives in the afternoon.”

- from Briarpatch, by Ross Thomas

OK, it’s only going to be 91 degrees. But still.

Movie: The Mask of Dimitrios (1944)

It’s a story I’ve told before. Flipping channels as a kid, happening onto this movie. The grand Warner Brothers theme. The credits presented on the pages of a book. The ominous written introduction (“Such a man was Dimitrios”).

When Peter Lorre skulked into view, I was hooked.

A short time later, my parents came home. After commenting on the novelty of a small child watching a black and white movie that was more than thirty years old in the middle of the afternoon, they left me alone. For which I am eternally in their debt.

I hadn’t seen Dimitrios since, although I had, as cited above, read the Eric Ambler novel on which it’s based. When TCM aired the movie as part of their Summer Under the Stars tribute to Lorre last night, I cleared my schedule.

It still works. The big third act twist didn’t surprise me as a kid and seems even more obvious now. Zachary Scott registers as a bit of a lightweight, playing the ur-Keyser Soze. But the byplay between Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet is peerless. Lorre, forever muttering to himself, doesn’t receive nearly enough credit for forging a modern style of acting.

And it’s the atmosphere that holds you. Dark, sensuous, mysterious. I stepped into those shadows decades ago and never came out.

Miscellaneous: Swingtown Northwest

All I can say is these people are the salt of the earth. They throw great parties. Just steer clear of the dip.