STORM IN A TEACUP (1938) is a light, funny comedy in which Rex Harrison arrives at a small Scottish village as the paper’s new reporter, gets assigned to cover the political campaign (i.e., report his speeches verbatim) of pompous town provost Cecil Parker, then discovers the man is having a local widow’s dog put to sleep for her persistent failure to pay her dog license. Harrison’s angry coverage of the helpless pup not only threatens Parker’s dream of higher office, but Harrison’s romance with Parker’s daughter Vivien Leigh. Very entertaining. “No decent action is ever hard to explain.”
I think I put METAMORPHOSIS (2008) in my queue because I’d heard it had a time-travel element, but it’s so slight I doubt I’d include it even if I were still working on the book. This would be a stock vampire thriller about a twentysomething foolishly researching the legend of Elizabeth Bathory by visiting her castle (and isn’t it lucky he met a beautiful Hungarian who is just so amazingly familiar with Bathory history, almost as if she’d seen it with her own eyes …) but Christopher Lambert’s god-awful performance as the real villain of the piece makes it memorable in the wrong way. “Christ is a very good choice—sadly, this appears to be his night off.”
I couldn’t get more than a half-hour into ROOM 237 (2012) as various fans of Kubrick’s The Shining explain that it is totally a metaphor for the Native American Genocide (because there’s a scene with a can of Calumet baking powder—the kind with a Native American silhouette on the can—all alone on the shelf!) or the Holocaust (Jack Nicholson uses a German typewriter! Need we say more?) or that it’s stuffed full of subliminal sex jokes. Mostly seems to prove G.K. Chesterton’s declaration that “ten false theories will fit the universe.”
In another example of 1980s-retro, the Netflix series STRANGER THINGS harks back to multiple sources (E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Goonies, The X-Files) with its story of D&D-playing kids trying to save a mysteriously vanished friend from the creature they call “Demogorgon” in the alien dimension “The Upside Down” — not to mention familiar 1980s faces Matthew Modine and Winona Ryder as key players. While I’m certainly prone to 1980s nostalgia, this didn’t move me — it felt less than the sum of its influences, about the level of a middling SyFy Channel series. So I’ll probably skip season two.
I was even less impressed with PENNY DREADFUL, in which a sharpshooter is caught up along with a psychic and Dr. Frankenstein in Mina Murray’s father’s (Timothy Dalton) quest for revenge on Dracula (or so I gather from what I’ve seen). As with Stranger Things, the influences are more interesting than the results, which struck me as The League of Somewhat Above Average Gentemen.
I finished the second season of THE MONKEES (all rights to image remain with current holder) wherein the Monkees cope with everything but the kitchen sink — pirates, vampires, the devil, a mad scientist and one episode that’s just the guys wandering all over Paris (the commentary explains it was a way to cut costs), all the while struggling to get their singing career off the ground. Marvelously surreal and funny, though not for all tastes (I think TYG is a bit baffled by my interest). “I demand the prosecution call another witness on the grounds this TV show isn’t over yet!”