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Archive for September, 2019

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.

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

Episode 361: Step Away From the Arras

September 13th, 2019 | Robin

We take a closer look at Ken’s new Pelgrane Press book Hideous Creatures by way of the Monster Hut, which seems to be full of our pals, the Deep Ones. In How To Write Good we talk about foils and how to use them. The Culture Hut hosts a discussion of a painting by none other than Robert W. Chambers, which peskily revealed itself too late to include in Ken’s annotated edition of The King in Yellow from our eldritch buds at Arc Dream. Finally the Eliptony Hut goes CanCon as we meet the Ottawa Prophet, Ezekiel Stone Wiggins. 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.

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Ken Goes Noir

September 10th, 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

Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Spirit, US, 2018) Smooth and immediately rich, this is one of the best bourbons I’ve ever tasted. If it came from Kentucky it would fetch quadruple the price.—RDL

Recommended

Creatures of Will and Temper (Fiction, Molly Tanzer, 2017) Did you know you wanted to read a gender-flipped Dorian Gray with fencing and demons? Well, you do. Tanzer keeps her characters flawed and appealing, and the action twisty and surprising, and the demons intriguing and weird, all as they should be, with graceful prose and just a soupcon of (important) earnestness. Best of all, she resists the temptation to pastiche Wilde. –KH

Forever and a Death (Fiction, Donald E. Westlake, 2017) Construction magnate Richard Curtis decides to take revenge on Hong Kong with a soliton device, and only the engineer who designed it for him can stop his plan! This posthumously published thriller began life as a Westlake treatment for a James Bond movie, but it reads like a grittier-than-normal (and better-than-normal) airport thriller. –KH

In a Lonely Place (Film, US, Nicholas Ray, 1950) Violent screenwriter Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart) falls for his alibi (Gloria Grahame) in the murder of a hat check girl. Although the viewer is never in real suspense about Steele’s guilt, Bogart’s brutally honest (and brutal) performance, and Ray’s direction of a disastrous love affair paralleling his own with Grahame, captivate throughout. –KH

The Nosferatu Story (Nonfiction, Rolf Giesen, 2019) Exploring the sources and the legacy of Murnau’s film as much as it does the more standard filmography, Giesen’s work occasionally veers into stodginess or irrelevancy but still provides the best one-stop treatment of this Pinnacle available. Could more be said? Of course it can, Murnau made a masterpiece. Pair the book with a viewing of the Kino Lorber restored film. –KH

Pickup on South Street (Film, US, Sam Fuller, 1953) When Skip McCoy (Richard Widmark) lifts a wallet from Candy (Jean Peters) on the subway, he finds himself in the middle of a Commie spy plot. Thelma Ritter completely steals the show as a stool pigeon. Fuller layers so much character into his New York and his cop story and his lovers that it satisfies all the way down. –KH [I’ve actually already seen this one, but not on the big screen and not since we started publicly Consuming our Media, so I’m posting it.]

Sudden Fear (Film, US, David Miller, 1952) Playwright and heiress Myra Hudson (Joan Crawford) fires impoverished actor Lester Blaine (Jack Palance), but there’s no hard feelings, right? Surely not — they meet a month later on the train, she falls in love, and then we remember oh yeah Jack Palance. A taut game of cat-and-also-cat ensues, featuring yet another Crawford master class in pre-Method acting, much of it without dialogue. –KH

Good

Appointment With Danger (Film, US, Lewis Allen, 1950) When a postal inspector is murdered in Gary, Indiana, tough-as-nails postal detective Al Goddard (Alan Ladd) takes the case. Basically ridiculous crime film at least features loads of fun dialogue, including perhaps the only Lutheran zinger in the history of noir. It also nails its supporting cast: Phyllis Calvert as an eyewitness nun, Paul Stewart as the gravel-voiced lug du jour, queen of tarts Jan Sterling, and Jack Webb and Henry Morgan as partners in crime. –KH

The File on Thelma Jordon (Film, US, Robert Siodmak, 1950) Impecunious adventuress Thelma (Barbara Stanwyck in top-notch fettle) seduces assistant D.A. Cleve Marshall (Wendell Corey) but falls for him while playing him for the sap he is. Weird, gorgeous minor-key version of Double Indemnity won’t head anyone’s list of Siodmak films, or even Stanwyck performances, but the bravura, near-farce murder coverup scene is a minor masterpiece of black humor. –KH

Okay

White Dragon Season 1 (Television, UK, Mark Denton & Johnny Stockwood, 2019) English lecturer (John Simm) discovers not only that his wife was murdered in Hong Kong, but that she had a daughter (Katie Leung) and another husband, a disgraced ex-cop (Anthony Wong.) The chief pleasure of this anodyne, padded crime thriller is watching Wong act Simm off the screen with one language tied behind his back.—RDL

Episode 360: Sir Gawain “the Rock” Johnson

September 6th, 2019 | Robin

This week’s Gaming Hut comes to you by telegram as Patreon backer Jay Tea asks us how to research and deploy historical communications technology, oh let’s say, FALL OF DELTA GREEN. Patreon backer Jeff Kahrs gathers us to in the Cinema Hut to ask why there is only one good Arthurian movie. In Ken and/or Robin Talk to Someone Else, we learn what’s new with Magpie Games as its impresario Mark Diaz Truman realizes he has a mid-tier RPG publisher on his hands. Warning: contains friendly f-bombs. Finally the Consulting Occultist takes a day trip to the Tower of London to inspect the arcane sigils of imprisoned sorcerer Hew Draper. 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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Flying Clock
Robin
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