WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS (1956) is an excellent newspaper drama in which news-media heir Vincent Price offers the company’s top job to whichever of his people tracks down the “lipstick killer” murdering women, leading to frequent power plays and schemes between George Sanders, Dana Andrews and Ida Lupino. A good film, noteworthy in that pretty much everyone is using women to their own ends——even Andrews is willing to use his girlfriend (Virginia Mayo) as bait for the killer. Slightly amusing though in its then trendy pop-psychology analysis of the killer (driven to murder by his overbearing mother and too many crime comic books!). “The love you should eel for your mother has been twisted into hate for her and all of her sex.”
NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY (1968) stars Rod Steiger as another killer who decorates his female victims with lipstick, and also makes mocking phone calls to George Segal as the cop on the case. A showcase for Steiger as the chameleonic killer, this also works as a romance, with Segal falling for eyewitness Lee Remick. With David Doyle and Doris Roberts as supporting characters “Don’t I remind you of Maurice Chevalier?”
SERIAL MOM (1994) is John Waters’ serial-killer satire, starring Kathleen Turner as the wholesome Baltimore mum who hacks up people for not recycling and makes obscene calls to the woman who stole her parking space. Not as strong as Hairspray or Cry-Baby which may reflect the nominally contemporary setting (nominal in that it feels very anachronistically fifties in many ways). With Sam Waterston and Rikki Lake as family members, Mink Stole as a neighbor, and Suzanne Sommers as herself (“I only hope I can portray this feminist heroine with the dignity she deserves.”). “Jesus said nothing against capital punishment when he was hanging on the cross——and if it was a sin, wouldn’t that have been the time to mention it?”
THE KING OF ELFLAND’S DAUGHTER by Lord Dunsany is the story of a small village that wants to become known for magic, so it’s lord’s son sets off to win the princess of Elfland and bring her home, only to discover after he does that mixed marriages are harder than fairy-tales tell us … Dunsany’s polished style doesn’t work as well here as in his short stories, but it’s still evocative, and the story itself draws me in magically. Several bits that rise above the rest (Alveric’s search for the retreating borders of Elfland, Ziroonderel finding thunderbolts among her cabbages and trolls marveling at the way time passes in the mortal world) but it’s all good; it’s also striking how much Dunsany mentions nature (thistledown, ducks, crows, particular flowers) in a way I don’t usually see (possibly reflecting that he spent a lot of time enjoying the outdoors).
UNWRITTEN: Inside Man is the second collection of DC’s Unwritten (I read the first collection last month) in which Tommy Taylor goes to prison for the murders committed in the first book, leading to him getting a sidekick (a reporter recounting his travails for a gossip site) and becoming a target for the mysterious villains. Encountering Roland and Frankenstein’s monster, then escaping into the world of an old Jewish novel, he begins to get a glimpse of his destiny (the implication at this point is that he is indeed the fictional Tommy Taylor from his father’s beloved children’s books, somehow brought to light). Nicely done.