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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Ghost Transit, Noir Identities and a Murderous Jigsaw Puzzle

May 24th, 2016 | 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 our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

Recommended

Les Cousins (Film, France, Claude Chabrol, 1959) Earnest student arrives in Paris to stay with his cousin, the theatrically overbearing center of a whirlwind party set, only to see him shack up with the young woman he’s fallen for. Like La Dolce Vita or Dazed and Confused, acutely portrays the rites and rhythms of an exuberant but fragile social scene.—RDL

The Ghost Network (Fiction, Catie Disabato, 2014) A Situationist pop icon vanishes in Chicago; her obsessed fan vanishes searching for her; the key seems to lie in the “ghost network” of lost or never-built Chicago subway and L lines. Disabato writes as the “editor” of another (imaginary) author’s non-fiction true crime book — so it’s a Situationist In Cold Blood metafiction about secret Chicago mass transit, so yes it’s written entirely for me. It could stand some punching up of character motivations, and two or three historical facts get badly mangled, but it’s still a heck of a first novel.–KH

H.H. Holmes Murder Castle Jigsaw Puzzle (Puzzle, Holly Carden, 2016) This 513-piece jigsaw puzzle depicts a cutaway of the legendary H.H. Holmes “Murder Castle” hotel in 1893 Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. Only moderately challenging as a jigsaw but ultimately quite absorbing as an art experience, especially one in which you have to keep asking “now, which expiring victim goes here”? –KH

Zero Focus (Film, Japan, Yoshitaro Nomura, 1962) Woman’s husband disappears one week into their marriage, sending her on an investigative journey to the bleak, snow-swept town where he was supposedly wrapping up some business affairs. Moody, noirish mystery knitted together by flashbacks, some of the Rashomon variety.–RDL

Good

Crooked (Fiction, Austin Grossman, 2015) The true and secret magical history of the Cold War, as told by Richard Nixon, our last sorcerer-president. The notes of near-Mythos occultism are excellent, as is the secret history by and large, but the temptation to caricature overwhelms Grossman to the detriment of character. For those into this kind of thing, the absurdist Hunter-Thompson-meets-HPL novel The Damned Highway  by Brian Keene and Nick Mamatas did all of it better.—KH

The Crooked Way (Film, US, Robert Florey, 1949) Amnesiac war hero returning to L.A. in search of his identity discovers that he used to be a gangster and that his former accomplices are none too happy to have him back. Gives up on its existential themes in favor of standard procedural obstacles, but worth a look for great noir photography from John Alton and its use of Los Angeles locations.—RDL

The Doctor and the Devils (Film, US, Freddie Francis, 1985) Spurred by the needs of an arrogant pioneering anatomist (Timothy Dalton), a pair of vicious new entrants into the cadaver supply business (Jonathan Pryce, Stephen Rea) murder their way past the competition. Upscale fictionalization of the Burke and Hare from Hammer alum Francis revels in grotty Victoriansploitation, In the highly theatrical acting style that pervaded prestige dramas for in the late 70s and early 80s. Adapted by Ronald Harwood from a Dylan Thomas screenplay written in the 40s. —RDL

Legends of Tomorrow Season 1 (TV, CW, 2016) Renegade time agent recruits a ragtag band of superheroes and villains to stop an evil immortal from conquering history. Engaging characterizations and performances do much heavy lifting, compensating for wobbly structures, copious idiot plotting, and a miscast big bad who projects all the menace of a mumbling hamster.—RDL

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