Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: 19th Century Spirit Photography, the Granddaddy of Police Procedurals, and Chow Yun-Fat as a Weirdo Columbo

July 11th, 2023 | 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 Goddess (Film, US, John Cromwell, 1958) The insecurity of childhood emotional neglect eats away at a woman (Kim Stanley) as she rises from small town lust object to Hollywood star. Full-throated fifties method acting drives home every moment of Paddy Chayefsky’s lacerating, psychologically penetrating script.—RDL

Hell Dogs (Film, Japan, Masato Harada, 2022) Rogue ex-cop (Jun’ichi Okada) comes in from the cold of a vengeful kill spree to go undercover as a yakuza bodyguard. A knack for surprising moments and staging marks this mix of underworld intrigue with heroic bloodshed themes of brotherhood and betrayal.—RDL

Love Unto Waste (Film, HK, Stanley Kwan, 1986) A rich merchant’s wastrel son (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) falls in with a singer, a model, and an actress; when one of them is murdered, an eccentric detective (Chow Yun-Fat) insinuates himself into their lives. A prime example of the French New Wave’s influence on the golden age of HK cinema, this drama of bohemian angst unsettles by flirting with, and then veering away from, the murder mystery genre.—RDL

Peterloo (Film, US, Mike Leigh, 2019) Pro-democracy activists bring famed orator Henry Hunt to address a protest gathering in 1819 Manchester, provoking a deadly response from the city’s reactionary magistrates, Working in his meticulous historical recreation mode, Leigh zeroes in on the manners and gestures of political activity, depicting the foibles of his heroes and the grotesquerie of his villains.—RDL


The Naked City (Film, US, Jules Dassin, 1948) NYPD homicide detectives Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald) and Halloran (Don Taylor) investigate the murder of a model. Against the almost neo-realist background of Manhattan’s “low and high”, the extensive use of verite-style location shots, and Dassin’s riveting chase climax, one must balance the jabbering voice-overs by the producer and various vox pops and the almost entirely routine story and acting. The result: a Good film that became perhaps the most influential police procedural ever made: Law and Order, Homicide, and every other cop show apes this movie. So, Recommended for film or cultural historians. –KH


The Apparitionists: A Tale of Phantoms, Fraud, Photography, and the Man Who Captured Lincoln’s Ghost (Nonfiction, Peter Manseau, 2017) During the Spiritualist blossoming of the mid 19th century, photographer William Mumler goes into business making images of sitters with spectral visitors, leading to bunco charges in New York City. Mumler, an unassuming and sedentary character, did not leave a book’s worth of colorful life to document, requiring the author to also profile a number of other figures whose connection to the main narrative is not always apparent.—RDL

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