Grimoire
Cthulhu
Dracula
Abraham Lincoln
Ken
Grimoire

Episode 366: Ample Provender

October 18th, 2019 | Robin

We hunker down in the mud and fear of the Gaming Hut to answer beloved Patreon backer Bill Durfy’s request to combine WWI and ghouls.

Impeachment is in the news, the 1867 news that is, as the History Hut covers the attempt to remove Andrew Johnson from the White House.

In How to Write Good we provide tips on creating blocked desires for your dramatic characters.

Finally the Food Hut takes a journey on Ken’s Time Machine as we peer into the dire timeline prevented when our hero supplied the yeast strain necessary for the brewing of lager.

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your support for the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Welcome to the Island is the first adventure anthology for the third edition of the Over the Edge RPG from Atlas Games. It features five original storylines by award-winning authors, each with hooks for different characters. Launch brand new stories, add intriguing complications to your existing arcs, or create exciting one-shots to bend your players’ heads.

What’s worse—yet even more pulse-poundingly exciting—than being a burned spy on the run from an international vampire conspiracy? Going it alone, as you do in Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s brilliant adaptation of GUMSHOE One-2-One to the shadowy world of Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops, from Pelgrane Press.

The treasures of Askfageln can be found at DriveThruRPG. Get all issues of FENIX since 2013 available in special English editions. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, along with equally stellar pieces by Graeme Davis and Pete Nash. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish. While you’re at it, grab DICE and Freeway Warrior!

Arc Dream Publishing presents a gorgeous new edition of Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a deluxe hardback in delightful faux snakeskin, with a foreword by John Scott Tynes, annotations by our own Kenneth Hite, and stunning full-pate color  illustrations by Samuel Araya. Grab it while it lasts in the Arc Dream store.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Hot Priests

October 15th, 2019 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on a little podcast segment we like to call Tell Me More.

The Pinnacle

Fleabag Season 2 (Television, UK, BBC/Amazon, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, 2019) A yen for the priest (Andrew Scott) who will officiate the wedding of her father (Bill Paterson) to his dreadful partner (Olivia Colman) threatens Fleabag’s (Waller-Bridge) newfound equilibrium. In a rare recent instance of a second season building on and topping the first, Waller-Bridge deepens her already rich characters and brings the proceedings to a satisfying unresolved resolution.—RDL

Recommended

The Devils (Film, UK, Ken Russell, 1971) Accusations of sorcery from a sexually frustrated abbess (Vanessa Redgrave) provide the pretext for Cardinal Richelieu’s allies to rid themselves of a politically inconvenient, hot-blooded priest (Oliver Reed.) Only in the topsy-turvy film world of the early seventies could this wildly theatrical, and wildly everything else as well, phantasmagoria of a satirical historical drama appear on the Warner Brothers release slate.—RDL

Exhibition (Film, UK, Joanna Hogg, 2013) The marriage of two artists, one (Viv Albertine) in preemptive mourning over the striking modernist house she does not want to sell, the other (Liam Gillick) cerebral and unresponsive, hits a rough patch. Austere, minutely-observed, (mostly) naturalistic drama will induce squirms of pained sympathy from anyone who hates to be interrupted while working at home.—RDL

Joker (Film, US, Todd Phillips, 2019) Failed by everyone including himself, party clown Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) embraces nihilism in a broken Gotham City. Phoenix’ gripping physical performance carries the film over its two main structural problems: origin stories aren’t stories, and even the best pastiche (which this is) only reminds viewers of the better originals (in this case, Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy). However, within those limits, Phillips and his team (especially production designer Mark Friedberg) make a really great movie nobody really needs. –KH

On Stories and Other Essays on Literature (Nonfiction, C.S. Lewis, 1982) In a series of essays (mostly published between 1944 and 1960) Lewis justifies the Romance and explains, as best he can, his own works in that broad country. Mostly minor pieces, a few of them (“On Stories” and “On Criticism” especially) sparkle as critical gems. Lovers of Lewis’ stately arguments, and of that breed of fiction concerned with Story, can find plenty to chew over, although readers already familiar with Lewis will find plenty that’s familiar here as well. –KH

Good

1637: The Polish Maelstrom (Fiction, Eric Flint, 2019) Book 27 (!!) in the “Ring of Fire” series finds the time-slipped Americans at war with the Ottoman Empire and deniably undermining the Polish kingdom. Nothing much happens in the big picture, but at least it happens fast this time around, thanks to Flint authoring solo and attempting to advance his unwieldy alternate timeline by main force. If you’re a fan of the series, it’s Recommended for this refreshing pacing change. –KH

Raising Hell: Ken Russell and the Unmaking of the Devils (Nonfiction, Richard Crouse, 2012) Until Criterion releases the deluxe disc edition they’re clearly hankering to make, this thorough, occasionally hyperbolic,  look at Russell’s best and most doomed film serves as a commentary track in prose. Covering everything from the historical case of the Loudun possessions to the myriad censored cuts of the film, this dangles the ironic likelihood that Warners only greenlit it because studio execs can’t read stage directions.—RDL

Okay

The Curse of the Werewolf (Film, UK, Terence Fisher, 1961) Spanish nobleman (Clifford Evans) tries to shield his adopted son (Oliver Reed) from the lycanthropic curse caused by the violent circumstances of his conception. Structural problems are the bane of werewolf movies, and this Hammer effort, memorable for the intensity of Reed’s performance, has them in spades: he doesn’t even appear until halfway through the runtime. Fun fact: producer Michael Carreras forced the filmmakers to switch the setting to Spain to reuse sets from another production. The resulting movie so offended Spanish officials that all Hammer films were banned there until the end of the Franco regime.—RDL

Not Recommended

The Brides of Dracula (Film, UK, Terence Fisher, 1960) Vampire hunter Abraham van Helsing (Peter Cushing) heads to Transylvania to mop up the vampire cult Dracula left behind, encountering a fanged baron and the women he’s turned. Rote, listless stab at spinning off the Hammer franchise without Christopher Lee. Lovely sets though.—RDL

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Episode 365: The Grumpocene

October 11th, 2019 | Robin

Our forces muster outside the Gaming Hut as Patreon backer Robert Dean asks us how to fold mass battles into D&D.

Thanks to a redaction failure the Tradecraft Hut discovers ICE’s requisition for a replica Chicago at Fort Benning.

Ken and/or Robin Talk to Someone Else gets a 13/10 as we chat with multi-hat wearing designer and gaming honcho Darren Watts, about such projects as We Rate Dogs!: The Card Game.

Finally in a very special segment of Conspiracy Corner Patreon backer Drew Clowery asks us to mull the responsibility of pop culture treatments of conspiracy culture.

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your support for the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Welcome to the Island is the first adventure anthology for the third edition of the Over the Edge RPG from Atlas Games. It features five original storylines by award-winning authors, each with hooks for different characters. Launch brand new stories, add intriguing complications to your existing arcs, or create exciting one-shots to bend your players’ heads.

What’s worse—yet even more pulse-poundingly exciting—than being a burned spy on the run from an international vampire conspiracy? Going it alone, as you do in Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s brilliant adaptation of GUMSHOE One-2-One to the shadowy world of Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops, from Pelgrane Press.

Ken’s latest roleplaying game, The Fall of Delta Green, is now available in print or PDF or both from Pelgrane Press. Journey to the head-spinning chaos of the late 1960s, back when everyone’s favorite anti-Cthulhu special ops agency hadn’t gone rogue yet, for this pulse-pounding GUMSHOE game of war, covert action, and Mythos horror.

The treasures of Askfageln can be found at DriveThruRPG. Get all issues of FENIX since 2013 available in special English editions. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, along with equally stellar pieces by Graeme Davis and Pete Nash. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish. While you’re at it, grab DICE and Freeway Warrior!

Arc Dream Publishing presents a gorgeous new edition of Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a deluxe hardback in delightful faux snakeskin, with a foreword by John Scott Tynes, annotations by our own Kenneth Hite, and stunning full-pate color  illustrations by Samuel Araya. Grab it while it lasts in the Arc Dream store.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Ken Weighs in on Color Out of Space

October 8th, 2019 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on a little podcast segment we like to call Tell Me More.

Recommended

Color Out of Space (Film, US, Richard Stanley, 2019) When a meteorite strikes the Gardner family farm outside Arkham, failed patriarch Nathan’s (Nicolas Cage) is only the loudest of the resulting disintegrations. Stanley provides a multiply layered and blackly funny look at destruction, from cancer to alpacas, while still retaining the cosmic core of Lovecraft’s story. Masterful sound design and Colin Stetson’s powerful score amplify the horror. –KH

Death-Watch (Fiction, John Dickson Carr, 1935) When a man is found fatally stabbed with the minute hand of a clock in a tense London house, Dr. Fell must solve the crime. Not an impossible murder (except for the impossibility of keeping the house layout straight) but an interesting puzzle that also prefigures the post-Golden Age mystery by turning on the psychology of the household rather than the minutiae of method on which Carr usually focuses. –KH

Graveyard of Honor (Film, Takashi Miike, 2002) Dishwasher proves to be a rampaging liability to his yakuza clan after a swift rise through their ranks. Remake of Kinji Fukasaku’s scabrous 1975 film encourages us to feel empathy for a protagonist who is himself incapable of it, compelled by his limited emotional range to destroy others and ultimately himself.—RDL

Hustlers (Film, US, Lorene Scarfaria, 2019) When 2008 dries up the wallets of their Wall Street clientele, a single mom stripper (Constance Wu) and her pole artiste mentor (Jennifer Lopez) hatch a scheme to drug marks and max out their credit cards. Transposes the Scorsese/Pileggi first-person sociological crime drama template to a non-murderous scheme run by women, where even the betrayals remain supportive.—RDL

Tom Jones: the Director’s Cut (Film, UK, Tony Richardson, 1963) Charming adoptee (Albert Finney) loves a country squire’s daughter (Susannah York), with his pleasure-loving ways and apparent low birth standing as obstacles between them. Today it takes a bit of context about Britain in 1963 to see why its cheeky use of anti-realist cinematic devices and hipsters vs squares rebellion into the period literary adaptation hit like lightning, but still amiable fun.—RDL

Tokyo Vampire Hotel (Television, Japan, Amazon, Sion Sono, 2018) Trad and neo vampire clans vie to possess a young woman raised as the vessel for ancient Dracula blood, leading to ultra-violence and weird regret at the titular establishment. Sono spends his Amazon money on a structurally daring chimera of a horror-action mini-series, featuring mode shifts, eye-popping colors, precision fight choreography, campy yet appropriately awful vampires, and an aesthetic that crosses the streams  between Jean Rollin and Frank Tashlin.—RDL

Yella (Film, Germany, Christian Petzold, 2007) After her ex drives them off a bridge and into a river, an accountant (Nina Hoss) travels to Hanover, where a promised job leads to an unmoored, subtly unnerving professional life. Demythologized riff on Carnival of Souls, anchored by Hoss’ quietly riveting screen presence, posits that in the German Bardo Thodol you still have to study spreadsheets and face the moral disequilibrium of nagging procedural irregularities.—RDL

Good

The Ikon (Film, Canada, Nathan Saliwonchyk, 2019) Animated rotoscope depicts the discovery of a blasphemous ikon by two Russians, in 1942 and 1992. Beautiful animation and fairy tale narration layer a tight, if familiar, Lovecraftian tale with a bit of political bite. –KH

Okay

Lost Island (Film, Russia, Denis Silyakov, 2018) When his boss exiles him to a remote island in the Kuriles, reporter Ivan Voevodin (Daniil Maslennikov) discovers weird amnesia, healing algae, and a beautiful marine biologist. Voevodin never interests the viewer, so even the most beautiful of islands doesn’t hold your attention, and nor does the desultory mystery. –KH

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Episode 364: In the World of Awful Meats

October 4th, 2019 | Robin

The PCs are being pursued! Run to the Gaming Hut to learn how to make this fun!

A sinister substances drips in your direction! Creep into the Horror Hut for an examination of ooze horror.

Fill your cart with processed junk as the Food Hut contemplates objectively terrible comestibles at least one of us loves.

Get communal, or at least manufacture a fork or two, as we enter the Eliptony Hut to make up something fun about 19th century preacher—some might say cult leader—John Humphrey Noyes.

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your support for the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Welcome to the Island is the first adventure anthology for the third edition of the Over the Edge RPG from Atlas Games. It features five original storylines by award-winning authors, each with hooks for different characters. Launch brand new stories, add intriguing complications to your existing arcs, or create exciting one-shots to bend your players’ heads.

What’s worse—yet even more pulse-poundingly exciting—than being a burned spy on the run from an international vampire conspiracy? Going it alone, as you do in Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s brilliant adaptation of GUMSHOE One-2-One to the shadowy world of Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops, from Pelgrane Press.

Ken’s latest roleplaying game, The Fall of Delta Green, is now available in print or PDF or both from Pelgrane Press. Journey to the head-spinning chaos of the late 1960s, back when everyone’s favorite anti-Cthulhu special ops agency hadn’t gone rogue yet, for this pulse-pounding GUMSHOE game of war, covert action, and Mythos horror.

The treasures of Askfageln can be found at DriveThruRPG. Get all issues of FENIX since 2013 available in special English editions. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, along with equally stellar pieces by Graeme Davis and Pete Nash. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish. While you’re at it, grab DICE and Freeway Warrior!

Arc Dream Publishing presents a gorgeous new edition of Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a deluxe hardback in delightful faux snakeskin, with a foreword by John Scott Tynes, annotations by our own Kenneth Hite, and stunning full-pate color  illustrations by Samuel Araya. Grab it while it lasts in the Arc Dream store.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Wendigo Spoor

October 1st, 2019 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on a little podcast segment we like to call Tell Me More.

The Pinnacle

The Rim of the Pit (Fiction, Hake Talbot, 1944) “I came up here to make a dead man change his mind.” Maybe the best opening line in mystery fiction introduces this locked room novel set in the Maine north woods. The solution exhausts and gratifies, but what elevates this superb novel above all but the best of Carr is the same thing that elevates the best of Carr: supernatural atmosphere. Talbot surrounds the crime with a séance, Algernon Blackwood wendigo spoor, and fresh snowfall. Don’t read it during a blizzard. –KH

Recommended

The Headless Lady (Fiction, Clayton Rawson, 1940) When a mysterious woman steals the Headless Lady illusion from the Great Merlini, he tracks her to the circus and discovers murder afoot! Rawson buries the reader in circus details, especially including slang, before adding a couple more plot rings to watch. I am a giant sucker for this whole milieu, but I stand by the Recommendation if only for the sheer brio of Rawson introducing one of his own pseudonyms as a suspect. –KH

No Coffin for the Corpse (Fiction, Clayton Rawson, 1942) The Great Merlini’s Watson, Ross Harte, has fallen in love with the daughter of an angry, and poltergeist-plagued, millionaire. Rawson’s final Merlini novel provides the requisite impossible killings and magical misdirection — plus ghost-breaking! — while pushing the boundaries of the fair-play mystery. Again, even as smitten with digression and showing off as Rawson is, he still revs up the pacing while keeping sure-handed control of his story. –KH

Off the Rails (Film, US, Adam Irving, 2016) Documentary profile of Darius McCollum, who attributes to his Asperger’s his compulsion to impersonate NYC transit employees, taking control of trains and buses, which kept him in prison for half of the last thirty years. Warm and heartbreaking portrait of a man who can’t help but mire himself in a system that can’t even contemplate connecting him to the help he so evidently needs.—RDL

Toni (Film, France, Jean Renoir, 1935) Fickle quarryman’s love for a vintner’s niece turns disastrous after she instead agrees to marry his loutish foreman. Rural melodrama finds Renoir turning his sociological eye to migrant workers in the south of France.—RDL

Good

The Twenty Year Death (Fiction, Ariel S. Winter, 2012) A novelist on a slow but inexorable downward spiral becomes a peripheral figure in murder cases in 1930s France and 1940s L.A. before becoming the alcohol-sodden perpetrator of a killing in the 1950s. Three standalone novels, in the respective styles of George Simenon, Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson, constitute a prodigious feat of literary mimicry, though the Thompson, the hardest voice to nail, isn’t quite as bang-on a pastiche.—RDL

Okay

Between Two Ferns: the Movie (Film, US, Scott Aukerman, 2019) Reflexively insulting public access talk show host (Zach Galifinakis) goes on the road with his partially loyal crew in search of the celebrity interviews that will earn him a prime time show contract from the cruel, click-seeking Will Ferrell (himself). Expansion of the ongoing Funny or Die spot to feature-length has both the comic highs and dead spots typical of a sketch comedy movie.—RDL

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Episode 363: Movie! Movie! Movie!

September 27th, 2019 | Robin

Beloved Patreon backer Timothy Daly meets us in the Gaming Hut to ask why D&D remains the most popular roleplaying game.

Speaking of D&D, Ken and/or Robin Talk To Someone Else, specifically Jim Zub, about the Young Adventurers’ Guide series of D&D kids’ books.

Finally the Cinema Hut hosts its annual look back at the top and most gamer-worthy titles Robin saw at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your support for the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Welcome to the Island is the first adventure anthology for the third edition of the Over the Edge RPG from Atlas Games. It features five original storylines by award-winning authors, each with hooks for different characters. Launch brand new stories, add intriguing complications to your existing arcs, or create exciting one-shots to bend your players’ heads.

What’s worse—yet even more pulse-poundingly exciting—than being a burned spy on the run from an international vampire conspiracy? Going it alone, as you do in Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s brilliant adaptation of GUMSHOE One-2-One to the shadowy world of Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops, from Pelgrane Press.

The treasures of Askfageln can be found at DriveThruRPG. Get all issues of FENIX since 2013 available in special English editions. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, along with equally stellar pieces by Graeme Davis and Pete Nash. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish. While you’re at it, grab DICE and Freeway Warrior!

Arc Dream Publishing presents a gorgeous new edition of Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a deluxe hardback in delightful faux snakeskin, with a foreword by John Scott Tynes, annotations by our own Kenneth Hite, and stunning full-pate color  illustrations by Samuel Araya. Grab it while it lasts in the Arc Dream store.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Come For the Tacos, Stay for the Criminal Profiling

September 24th, 2019 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on a little podcast segment we like to call Tell Me More.

Recommended

Boom Town (Nonfiction, Sam Anderson, 2018) Subtitled “The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis,” Anderson’s book tells the story of my quondam hometown through the lens of its NBA team and its meteorologist hero Gary England, with sidelights into its disastrous I.M. Pei-designed “urban renewal,” the Oklahoma Land Run, the Murrah building bombing, and OKC’s memory-holed role in the civil rights era. In this stress test of the principle “there are no dull topics, only dull authors,” Anderson triumphs, striking gushers of weirdness and truth in a place allergic to both. –KH

The Chase (Film, US, Arthur Ripley, 1946) Down-on-his-luck veteran (Robert Cummings), chauffeur to a brutal criminal (Steve Cochrane), rescues his wife (Michele Morgan) from his controlling clutches. This haunted, dreamlike noir B-movie has it all: weird atmosphere, an odd automativd gimmick, sudden love, gay subtext, Peter Lorre, reality shifts, and a recursive structure that loops back on itself.—RDL

Death From a Top Hat (Fiction, Clayton Rawson, 1938) Two murders of two magicians (well, an occultist and a magician) in two locked rooms, both bodies strangled in a pentacle for the demon Surgat, who opens all locks. This being a Golden Age mystery, not a fantasy novel, the Great Merlini solves the case using his knowledge of stage magic (and magicians) and the requisite annoying showmanship. For a first novel, the plot and puzzle work amazingly well, and despite literal pages of exposition at some points, it never drags. –KH

Mindhunter Season 2 (Television, US, Netflix, Joshua Donen & Courtenay Miles & David Fincher, 2019) Now working under an enthusiastic boss, Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Tench (Holt McCallany) interview Berkowitz and Manson, then butt up against local political hurdles when assigned to the ongoing Atlanta Child Murders. A subtle protagonist switch puts the more likeable Tench in the viewpoint role as Fincher’s chilly crime world gives way to director Carl Franklin’s acute portrait of a steamy, stymied Atlanta. The killer roles are always a meal for this show’s guest actors; here Christopher Livingston brilliantly captures Wayne Williams as an impertinent goober.—RDL

The Praise Singer (Fiction, Mary Renault, 1978) While not as thunderous as her Alexander trilogy or as glorious as her Theseus books, this brief novel — told as a reminiscence by the 6th-century BC lyric poet Simonides of Keos — still grabs the reader with its natural, albeit un-lyrical, voice and engaging eye for character. A kind of backstage-showbiz novel less about art than patronage, it also provides plenty of interesting historical filips that leave you wanting more, a maxim Simonides would surely have endorsed. –KH

Taco Chronicles (Television, Mexico, Carlos Perez Osorio, Netflix, 2019) Documentary series examines the origins, production methods, and enthusiastic clientele of six classic taco varieties, from the shawarma-derived pastor to the portable, fat-drenched canasta, or basket taco.. Edifying and mouth-watering, if you can get past the whimsy of having each episode narrated in the voice of a particular taco.—RDL

Good

The Footprints on the Ceiling (Fiction, Clayton Rawson, 1939) Stage magician and amateur sleuth the Great Merlini visits Skelton Island (in the East River) to expose a phony medium and discovers a phony suicide complete with footprints on the ceiling. Rawson throws even more stuff into his second novel, from pirates to blue men, but in fine misdirection style it mostly distracts from the business at hand, and not entirely to the book’s benefit. Still, the strong setting of this installment and the fun meta qualities of this series remain engaging. –KH

Glow Season 3 (Television, US, Netflix, Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch, 2019) The wrestlers find an audience with their show in Vegas, leaving them to wonder what they really wanted in the first place. The ennui that follows success provides a fresh theme for the series, though in practice this means splitting the ensemble into individual soapy plotlines, without sufficient run time to develop them.—RDL

Mindhunter Season 2 (Television, US, Netflix, Joshua Donen & Courtenay Miles & David Fincher, 2019) The problems of success begin to rear their heads as the nascent Behavioral Sciences Unit weathers new pressure to look good first and do good second. The choice of director Carl Franklin, and the Atlanta child killings, for the core of the season hit pay dirt narratively. It’s a shame that pointless, padded subplots about two agents’ personal lives wrap around and muffle that core. Holt McCallany remains the key performer of the series, even as the show vigorously embraces its “serial killer interview as actor’s workshop” leitmotif. –KH

Twilight (Film, US, Catherine Hardwicke, 2008) When teenager Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) moves to cloudy Forks, Washington she attracts the romantic attentions of local vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), endangering the supernatural balance of power. Hardwicke’s explicit fairy-tale direction and compassion for the characters create probably the best film that could faithfully adapt the mawkishly adolescent source novel. The vampire baseball scene, insane as it is, remains an example of cinema’s full potential to show something no other medium can. –KH

Okay

The Editor (Film, Adam Brooks & Matthew Kennedy, Canada, 2014) Film editor (Brooks) with a dissatisfied wife (Paz de la Huerta) becomes the chief suspect in a series of brutal murders at his film studio, as investigated by a randy police inspector (Kennedy.) Giallo spoof minutely pastiches the genre, including not only egregious pseudo-dubbing and a shambolic plot, but also paper-thin characterization, which wears poorly at feature length.—RDL

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Episode 362: The Dinosaurs Always Won

September 20th, 2019 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut beloved Patreon backer Walter Manbeck asks how to do El from Stranger Things as a player character.

Expressionistic shadows flit across the Cinema Hut as we take a look at F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu.

Then Ken and/or Robin Talk To Someone Else, this time Atlas Games’ Michelle Nephew, who shares her deep experience of games for kids.

Finally we convene near Ken’s Time Machine to learn what history looks like when the Gunpowder Plot succeeds.

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your support for the KARTAS Patreon!

 

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


 

 

Does your head buzz with game ideas? Then you need The White Box! This indispensable toolbox gives you not only the meeples, cubes, dice, tokens, and discs you need to prototype your design but the deep expertise of 25 essays ranging from the theoretical to the practical. Brought to you by Atlas Games and Gameplaywright.

Ken’s latest roleplaying game, The Fall of Delta Green, is now available in print or PDF or both from Pelgrane Press. Journey to the head-spinning chaos of the late 1960s, back when everyone’s favorite anti-Cthulhu special ops agency hadn’t gone rogue yet, for this pulse-pounding GUMSHOE game of war, covert action, and Mythos horror.

The treasures of Askfageln can be found at DriveThruRPG. Get all issues of FENIX since 2013 available in special English editions. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, along with equally stellar pieces by Graeme Davis and Pete Nash. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish. While you’re at it, grab DICE and Freeway Warrior!

Arc Dream Publishing presents a gorgeous new edition of Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a deluxe hardback in delightful faux snakeskin, with a foreword by John Scott Tynes, annotations by our own Kenneth Hite, and stunning full-pate color  illustrations by Samuel Araya. Grab it while it lasts in the Arc Dream store.

 

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Spiraling Ever Deeper Into Noir

September 17th, 2019 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on a little podcast segment we like to call Tell Me More.

For Robin’s capsule reviews from the Toronto International Film Festival, hop on over here. They’ll reappear in Ken and Robin Consume Media as titles receive wider distribution in theaters or streaming platforms.

Recommended

The Lineup (Film, US, Don Siegel, 1958) San Francisco cops trace a heroin ring as hired killer Dancer (Eli Wallach) murders the unwitting couriers. Siegel ratchets up the tension from routine cop-procedural to manhunt to a full-on car chase, drinking in the San Francisco location shots along the way. Special shout-out to Robert Keith as Dancer’s manager, who manages to somehow out-creepy Eli Wallach. –KH

Odds Against Tomorrow (Film, US, Robert Wise, 1959) Bitter ex-cop Burke (Ed Begley) masterminds a bank robbery with racist ex-con Slater (Robert Ryan) and hotheaded gambler Ingram (Harry Belafonte). Wise shoots a stark, dispassionate noir fronted by three terrific actors (plus Shelley Winters, outstanding as Slater’s too-sympathetic girl) and backed by John Lewis’ insistent jazz score. The climax drains out rather too slowly, but you can see why Jean-Pierre Melville watched it 120 times. –KH

Pushover (Film, US, Richard Quine, 1954) Assigned to cozy up to bank robber’s girlfriend Lona (Kim Novak), aging cop Paul (Fred MacMurray) falls for her instead. Although its themes of corrupt love and voyeurism echo other, better movies, its tight clockwork timing and professionalism demand respect in their own right. Plus, early Kim Novak is always Recommended. –KH

Good

Killer’s Kiss (Film, US, Stanley Kubrick, 1955) Washed-up boxer Davie (Jamie Smith) tries to rescue dance-hall girl Gloria (Irene Kane) from her sweaty boss Vincent (Frank Silvera). Kubrick’s second film, shot for $75,000 on location in New York, shows flashes of brilliance throughout. The polearm-mannequin fight scene has to be seen to be believed. –KH [Also available as an extra on the Criterion Blu-Ray of Kubrick’s The Killing, itself highly Recommended.]

Nightfall (Film, US, Jacques Tourneur, 1957) On the run from murderous bank robbers, Jim Vanning (Aldo Ray) runs into model Marie Gardner (Anne Bancroft). Beautiful Burnett Guffey lensing and Tourneur’s restrained direction can’t save the idiot plot, and insurance investigator Fraser (James Gregory) damps down the tension at every turn. But Aldo Ray is something to watch as an almost passive noir hero in a world where existential pain or willful blindness seem the only two choices. –KH

Okay

The Garment Jungle (Film, US, Vincent Sherman, 1957) Garment company owner Walter Roxton (Lee J. Cobb) deals with gangster Ravidge (Richard Boone) to keep the union out of his shop. Original director Robert Aldrich wanted to make a pro-union film about a reluctantly brutal small businessman, but interference from Cobb and studio boss Harry Cohn stopped him; Sherman made “guy and girl fall in love in a dress factory” instead. The result: an overcrowded, incoherent movie with a few glorious character bits in it: Robert Loggia as a union organizer and Wesley Addy as a knife artist stand out. –KH

Private Hell 36 (Film, US, Don Siegel, 1954) Cop partners Farnham (Howard Duff) and Bruner (Steve Cochrane) track down a robbery jackpot with the reluctant help of nightclub singer Lily (Ida Lupino). Although Cochrane’s oily corruption is a joy to watch, any film that depends on Howard Duff’s internalized acting has two strikes against it. As always, hardcore Lupino-philes should kick this up to Good. –KH

The Vengeance of She (Fiction, Peter Tremayne, 1978) H. Rider Haggard’s immortal villain-priestess Ayesha returns, in the body of a psychiatric patient in Guildford. Tremayne doesn’t do much with this premise besides re-run Haggard’s novel, but in dull England rather than exotic Africa or Tibet. A promising theme of Ayesha as the id of everyone involved remains barely invoked. –KH

Not Recommended

Cry Tough (Film, US, Paul Stanley, 1959) Young Puerto Rican Miguel Estrada (John Saxon) tries to go straight after a year in prison, but the temptations of gang life and Sarita (Linda Cristal) pull him back in. Is it a social-problem film? A melodrama? A gangster film? A movie that never decides what it wants to do? No location shots (all backlot stuff) and only intermittently sympathetic characters complete the “don’t bother” package. –KH

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