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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Classic 70s Horror, Agricultural Revisionism, and Nice Gal Vampires

October 13th, 2020 | 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

Don’t Look Now (Film, UK/Italy, Nicholas Roeg, 1973) After the drowning of their daughter, John and Laura Baxter (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) remain haunted by their grief in Venice. Roeg’s time-shifted edits and deeply layered shots build a hyper-impressionistic experience of emotional trauma, while also evoking the eerie as only the very best horror films can. –KH

Recommended

Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States (Nonfiction, James C. Scott, 2017) An attempt to re-tell and subvert the heroic archaeological narrative of the rise to civilization from early Neolithic hunter-gathering. Scott somewhat palms a card when dealing with the invention of agriculture, but in his defense nobody on the other side can really explain it either. A fast read that should ideally lead to more detailed arguments. –KH

Gimme Danger (Film, US, Jim Jarmusch, 2016) Iggy Pop recounts the history of his seminal band The Stooges, including not only the expected self-destructive excess but also the deep musicology behind the deceptively simple sound. Jarmusch elevates an otherwise straightforward rockumentary with savvy choices for his opening and closing sequences.—RDL

Vamps (Film, US, Amy Heckerling, 2012) Non-predatory vampire roommates (Alicia Silverstone, Krysten Ritter) face a threat to their life of fun in NYC when one of them dates a van Helsing (Dan Stevens.) Because she projects an affirming vision and draws on girl culture, not boy culture, Heckerling’s auteurism is underrated, and that goes double for this female-driven hangout movie. A deep cast includes Wallace Shawn as the elder van Helsing, Sigourney Weaver as the villainous sire, and Malcolm MacDowell as Vlad Tepes, who has given up impaling for knitting.—RDL

Good

CBGB (Film, US, Randall Miller, 2013) Hygiene- and bookkeeping-eschewing club owner Hilly Kristal (Alan Rickman) turns a shabby Bowery bar into the nexus of American punk and new wave. Reverent evocation of an irreverent movement lets you feel what CBGBs was like without smelling it. To rivetingly hold the screen as a checked-out, inexpressive dude you couldn’t ask for better casting than Rickman.—RDL

Faithless (Film, US, Harry Beaumont, 1932) An heiress (Tallulah Bankhead) and her ad executive beau (Robert Montgomery) hit the skids hard as the Depression worsens. Nearly every film from this era deals with the Depression to one extent or another, but this hard-hitting melodrama tackles it with unusual directness.—RDL

God Told Me To (Film, US, Larry Cohen, 1976) NYPD detective Peter Nicholas (Tony Lo Bianco) follows up on a series of spree killings after which the killers claim “God told me to.” One too many fascinating side plots somewhat unbalances this very weird movie, leaving it just below the Recommended bubble, but if your idea of joy is a grotty 70s New York Unknown Armies game this is part of that. –KH

Millie (Film, US, John Francis Dillon, 1931) After being rushed into marriage by an energetic heel, a charming young woman (Helen Twelvetrees) resolves to keep man problems at bay. Melodrama shows the price of all the fun characters in Pre-Code movies get up to, without betraying its feminist allegiances. Joan Blondell appears as one-half of a pair of lesbian gold-diggers.—RDL

Okay

The Beast Must Die (Film, UK, Paul Annett, 1974) Big game hunter Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart) gathers five guests at his surveillance-surrounded mansion to discover which of them is a werewolf and hunt him or her. This superlative high concept (even better than the excellent James Blish story it comes from) cannot overcome Lockhart’s histrionics, muddy Amicus lensing, and a talky script. But Charles Gray, Michael Gambon, and Peter Cushing push it as close to Good as they can. –KH

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