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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

2 Responses to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Ken Goes Noir”

  1. Allen Wilkins says:

    Ken’s review, and his Amazon link, for “Creatures of Want and Ruin” appear to actually be for an earlier (related?) book by the same author, “Creatures of Will and Temper”.

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