Friday, September 23, 2016

Parker Watch: The Split (1968)

I'd been wanting to see The Split (1968) for a while.  Based upon one of my favorite Parker novels, The Seventh, it also starred Jim Brown, pro-football superstar turned movie star (and a generally much better presence on the big screen than you generally get out of other former athletes*).  I wasn't aware of the pedigree of the cast for this movie which is all but forgotten.  But when you have a movie with Jim Brown, Donald Sutherland, Julie Harris, Jack Klugman, Warren Oates, Gene Hackman, Diahann Carroll... and people don't remember it?

Well, it's not a great sign.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Signal Watch Reads: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Philip K. Dick, 1968, audiobook)

The last time I read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, I was about 15 and had a fairly hard time keeping up with a narrative that wasn't an easily digestible Isaac Asimov plot and which didn't work with a Bradbury-esque flow to carry me over the rough patches.  I didn't know anything about Philip K. Dick other than that he was the name of the guy who wrote the book upon which they'd based Blade Runner, at the time one my new favorite movies (and, of course, still a favorite).  But, I had heard the novel and movie were different.

I really don't know why I decided it was time to read the book again other than that, like most books I read 25+ years ago, my memories of the details were fuzzy.  I mostly remembered feeling that - as screwed as the Rick Deckard of the film had been, the Deckard of DADoES? was in a far more precarious state.  I recalled a "fake" police station, Roy Batty seemed less a threat, and the world of the novel existed in a state of decay that went well beyond even the night-time drizzling menace of the film.

It's not that I had a hard time understanding the story from an A to B to C to D perspective, but Dick's books always seem to be doing what science-fiction can do intensely well, and that's act as allegory for some more universal story or truth or as a thought experiment to explore those ideas.  I'm sure I got it in that "I read what was on the page" sort of way, but there was no way for me to really relate.  Add in my trouble reconciling the differences between the book and movie and expecting the themes and plot to better dovetail, and it was a recipe for forgetting a lot of what was interesting or special about the book as repeated Blade Runner viewings had quashed a lot of what I might have remembered.

Upon a re-read, I'd argue you need to see the two narratives as separate and attempting different stories with different meaning.  There are certainly resonant thematic issues, but in making many of the changes Ridley Scott and Co. went with, Blade Runner is far more a product of expectations of films (no matter which cut we're discussing), of roles within films, and the limited running time of a movie and what can be in that story.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Happy Birthday, Adam West

Happy Birthday to the great Adam West.

You can have your Ben Afflecks and Christian Bales or even your Michael Keatons.  I'll take Adam West.  My guess is - if you had to pick to have dinner with any of them, you, too, would want to dine with Mr. West.

Today Mr. West is 88 years old, still does tours and whatnot with comic-cons, and in November will see his voice applied to a cartoon version of Batman.

I don't know what to say except in, in the cowl or out - Mr. West is a hero.  Let's salute the man and wish him the best of birthdays.

Hammer Watch: Dracula A.D. 1972

Full confession: I rented this movie entirely upon the promise of Caroline Munro who, it turned out, was a key character in the movie, but not in it nearly as much as one would hope (and I have some script notes on that which I am sure could be retro-actively applied).

Because otherwise I usually like my Dracula nice and Victorian.  Bringing Dracula into the modern age always amps the cheese factor for me (do not see Dracula 2000) and just reminds me that Dracula works best when Van Helsing and the gang don't have cell phones or modern medicine.  After all, the original novel of Dracula is sort of an exploration of the slow horror that was disease in an era when leeches and a good blood letting were about as much as your doctors were going to do for you while your body shut down on you in pretty awful ways.

In truth, I basically rented the movie for a laugh, not expecting much, and wound up genuinely enjoying the thing.  I absolutely love it when something turns out not to be the dud I thought it would be.  My exposure to Hammer Horror is limited, and while this one isn't exactly scary - it understands horror, vampires and the core of why they can be great villains when they aren't sparkling or sitting around looking like the H+M catalog exploded on a CW show.

Thus, this is a post about how I enjoyed Dracula AD 1972 (1972), a pretty-not-great movie that was sadly lacking in greater Caroline Munro screentime, but nonetheless a fun movie.