Movies and Books

Second in the Godzilla series, GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN (1955) is the retitled Japanese film Gigantis the Fire Monster, in which a new specimen of the “gigantis” species (the original Godzilla having died in the first film) thaws out of ice and begins stomping Japan (as with the first film, the sense of ruin is much more powerful than in similar American movies of the era) in its battle with an “angersaurus” that also thawed out, making this the first of many in the series to have multiple monsters. Some good continuity touches (explaining why the oxygen destroyer of the first film can’t be reused, for instance) but a weak finish——attacking the Gigantis on an isolated island away from civilization just isn’t satisfying. “It is no longer in the lap of science——now it is in the lap of the gods!”
JUDGE DEE AND THE MONASTERY MURDERS (1974) adapts one of Robert van Gulik’s mystery novels about the eponymous 7h-century Chinese judge, here investigating a series of mysterious events at a monastery where half the residents seem to be hiding secrets. This TV movie is noteworthy for having an all-Asian cast, including Khigh Diegh as Dee, Mako as his chief guard and Keye Luke as a kindly sage. Good, though the villain’s scheme seems to do little more than accomplish evil for the hell of it. “Nobody builds a wall 10 feet thick!”
THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES (1948) is the film version of the Woolrich novel in which sideshow mentalist Edward G. Robinson becomes increasingly tormented by his genuine flashes of precognition, especially when it becomes clear he can’t change anything he sees, however tragic. When he sees the daughter of his best friend lying dead, however, he sets out to avert it, even though hardboiled cop William Demarest is determined to expose him as a con man. This has a tighter mystery plot than the book, but undercuts the sense of doom; still, a good film in the noir tradition of struggling against an inevitable, inexplicable fate. It would double-bill well with Black Rainbow for Roseanne Arquette’s similarly tormented fake psychic. “I was living in a world already dead——and I alone knowing it.”

AUNT DIMITY BEATS THE DEVIL by Nancy Atherton is part of a “cozy” mystery series about a rare-book specialist who gets help from her deceased aunt in crises (via writing in a notebook, nothing more dramatic). In this case, the protagonist falls victim to another, more obsessed ghost while investigating the rare books in an isolated mansion (surprisingly, they don’t do more with how much of a Gothic cliche this is); different from the usual cozy, but not quite enough to hold me.
WHOSE BODY? by Dorothy Sayers was the first in her Lord Peter Wimsey series, as Peter and his faithful manservant Bunter investigate how a naked, shaven corpse would up in the bathtub of a middle-class flat. Wimsey plays the Wodehouse-style silly ass much more than I remember him doing in later books, though it’s also clear he’s both good as a detective and not at all silly (suffering Great War PTSD, for example). The babble gets a little too thick, but Sayers’ writing compensates for some of that (like one character’s observation that around the short Wimsey, he feels as if being six-two is “vulgar assertiveness.”). Despite its flaws, enough good stuff to appreciate why Wimsey would go on to outlast most of his contemporaries.

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2 responses to “Movies and Books

  1. Pingback: And Books | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Allow me to introduce Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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