KING LEAR (2009) is the BBC version with Ian McKellan as the monarch who blithely gives away all his power only to discover his elder daughters suddenly have no use for him, with Sylvester McCoy as the fool who warns his master “thou wert old before thou wert wise.” Very well done; watching this in the age of The Tudors makes me think it could be reworked into a hell of a historical soap (murder, adultery, conniving children, political scheming …) though I don’t know if anyone would have the nerve to try tinkering with Shakespeare that much. “The injuries that willful men secure must be their schoolmasters.”
PERFECT BLUE (1997) is a dark anime drama in which a pop star turned serious actress is tormented by doubts about her sexually exploitative movie role, pursued by a homicidal stalker and haunted a vision of her old self that seems to want to repossess her life. Reminiscent of Black Swan in it’s arty questioning whether what you’re seeing is real or delusional (and I’m not sure the explanation completely makes sense) but worth watching (though not as much as some critics rate it). “Illusions can’t come into reality!”
NORTHANGER ABBEY is Jane Austen’s oddball hybrid of romantic comedy and Gothic parody, as a young woman in Bath copes with her dream date and his egostistical rival, then gets the thrill of visiting the eponymous spooky country mansion just like all those spooky country mansions in the Gothic novels she reads. Austen’s character bits and dialog are entertaining as always; the Gothic parody is fun, but obviously not as effective as when Castle of Otranto was a name to conjure with. It is interesting, though, that some parodic elements remain relevant, such as Catherine astonishingly not assuming that Mr. Tinsley’s sister is his wife “thereby losing the chance to spend weeks thinking that she had lost him forever.”
THE BOOK NOBODY READ: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus by Owen Gingerich chronicles the author’s quest to track down every extant copy of Copernicus’ landmark book on the heliocentric Solar Systme, De Revolutionibis, and compile a grand index of copies (Gingerich admits there’s no guarantee he succeeded as there’s no record of how many first editions were actually printed).This is quite the curate’s egg, including a) interesting details about Copernicus’ work (apparently he wasn’t actually more accurate than Ptolemy, but the math was simpler) and the reaction to it (Copernicus didn’t suffer the punishments Galileo did because astronomy was seen as a form of math and heliocentrism a useful axiom—as it improved the math, nobody cared if it was “real”) with fairly routine accounts of bibliographic research and travels hither and yon. Not a must read, but interesting.
THE EARTH-SHAKER was Lin Carter’s fourth Zarkon book and one of the best as old foe Sinestro returns from the dead with an extortion scheme of manmade earthquakes borrowed (acknowledgedly) from an old serial, The Phantom Creeps. Very entertaining (if hardly up to the best old pulp adventures) though as I’ve noticed before, the Zarkon books seem curiously time-slipped: It’s clearly the present day (early 1980s for this book) but Zarkon’s would-be girlfriend Phoenicia is a college chum of Pat Savage and other women who were her age in the thirties.
HORROR WEARS BLUE was a disappointing follow-up in which the Omega team fly to England to investigate a series of thefts by the bulletproof Blue Men, thereby allowing for a new mix of cameos (Bond, the Saint and Dr. Petrie’s son among them). A weak book, focusing more on chase sequences and Scorchy hanging around with a plucky newsboy than the usual deathtraps and hairbreath escapes; Carter’s death the following year eliminated any chance of going out on a win.