Movies and Books: Non-Time Travel Stuff (#SFWApro)

TOMORROW AT SEVEN (1933) is a fun B-movie starring Chester Morris as a mystery novelist hunting the Black Ace, a serial killer who sends the ace of spades as an advance warning of his next robbery/murder (making him like a rough draft for the Joker). Can Morris identify the killer? Is Morris even who he says he is? Low-budget fun. “Unfortunately the recipient of this knowledge may be at risk for instant death.”
Jim Jarmusch’s ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2013) is a vampire movie for people who think vampires bored with immortality and stealing blood from hospitals rather than human necks represents a radical new approach. Tom Huddleston is an undead musician increasingly disaffected with life, Tilda Swinton the wife of centuries trying to convince him not to go gently into that good night, and John Hurt plays Christopher Marlowe (here revealed as the author of Shakespeare’s plays). Tooth-grindingly tedious. “Look what she’s done to my Gibson.”

THE SHAKESPEARE THEFTS: In Search of the First Folio is by Eric Rasmussen, leader of a research team that specializes in exhaustive descriptions of the known first folios (as he notes, while this will make it easier to identify stolen copies, it also gives more incentive for thieves to either go black market or mutilate them). The book is a somewhat random tour of the history of various copies of the original Complete Shakespeare, including ones held by nobility, Cheshire housewives, libraries (“One librarian said just to leave it on the cart when I was done.”), Japanese collectors and of course thieves, and the provenance of various copies. There’s also an anecdote of attempting to adapt the First Quatro version of Hamlet (earliest and shortest) for the David Tennant production of a few years ago, only to have to expand it to the typical theatrical length when Patrick Stewart became Claudius and wanted his scenes back (“Patrick Stewart and I aren’t speaking, but he doesn’t know it.”). Minor, but interesting.
BETWEEN MAN AND BEAST: An Unlikely Explorer and the African Adventure That Took the Victorian World by Storm by Monte Reel is an excellent chronicle of how Paul de Chailu French trader’s illegitimate son (and very probable mulatto) became the first white man to see gorillas for anything more than a brief glimpse, then topped that by sending heir skins, skulls and stuffed corpses to England and America (where Barnum eclipsed de Chailu’s exhibit by presenting an old black slave as a possible missing link). Very good on showing the concerns of class and privilege that swirled through the scientific world of that era, and capturing the image of the scientist when it extended to both “explorer” and “great white hunter” (even if the latter phrase wasn’t yet in vogue) and a good story in its own right.
I can see why I found HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN a disappointment after Chamber of Secrets. The previous book had the Chamber opened and the ominous attacks terrifying the school; here, the escape of mad wizard Sirius Black and the possibility he’s lurking around Hogwarts just isn’t as scary. For the first half of the book, there’s nothing going on but schoolwork, which doesn’t amount to much in the way of plot. Even after that, the plotting isn’t as good, though it does have a strong emotional component, as Harry comes face to face with his parents’ betrayer. Rowling’s writing has improved a lot too: There’s less time spent on recaps at the opening and both Snape and Harry’s father get more than the black-and-white presentation of previous books (Snape would, of course, become increasingly more of a person and less just The Teacher From Hell as the series wore on). So if disappointing, still a good read.

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One response to “Movies and Books: Non-Time Travel Stuff (#SFWApro)

  1. Pingback: It’s always time for time travel (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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