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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Golden Age Mysteries and The Sewer Clown

September 12th, 2017 | 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.

Robin is off at the Toronto International Film Festival and posting capsule reviews over at his blog. When titles covered there are released in cinemas or on home video, he’ll rerun the reviews in future installments of this here hut.

Recommended

Love Lies Bleeding (Fiction, Edmund Crispin, 1948) Detective don Gervase Fen is conveniently on the scene when a public school reels under (at least) two murders. Calm and confident in tone, Crispin’s smooth wit, convincing characters, and nicely knotted mystery do ample justice to the setting he creates here. Among the best exemplars of the Golden Age of Mystery. –KH

Monster Island Tales (Fiction, James L. Cambias, 2017) Collects two good short stories: “Return to Skull Island” is a shaggy dog (Waldroppy dog?) zine review of a somewhat alternate King Kong; “The Dinosaur Train” is a deceptively light, touchingly Bradburyesque tale of a family with a traveling dinosaur show fallen on hard times in the 1980s. –KH

Good

The Case of the Gilded Fly (Fiction, Edmund Crispin, 1944) Crispin’s first mystery featuring his detective don Gervase Fen combines Oxford, the theater, and a locked room for a frothy mixture that reads like the lowest common denominator of Dorothy Sayers and John Dickson Carr, which is to say, still pretty good. Two amazingly effective M.R. Jamesian incidents don’t deepen the story so much as cast it in a watery light by comparison. –KH

Toni Erdmann (Film, Germany, Maren Ade, 2016) Slovenly, prank-loving teacher poses as an eccentric business figure in an effort to get closer to and/or severely annoy his workaholic daughter when she’s trying to close a difficult consulting deal. Dogme-esque comedy has some memorable scenes at its core, but is suffocated by a two hour forty minute run time full of dead moments crying out for a ruthless edit.—RDL

Okay

It (Film, US, Andy Muschietti, 2017) Focusing on only the childhood half of Stephen King’s masterpiece, even at 2 and a quarter hours the film feels both cramped and shallow, relying almost entirely on jump scares and theme music. Strong casting can only do so much; the script and director know they need to bring the town of Derry and the kids’ nightmares into the lived foreground, but have no real idea how to do it. Like the miniseries, It punts when replacing King’s ending; unlike the miniseries, It doesn’t have Tim Curry. –KH

Legends and Romances of Brittany (Nonfiction, Lewis Spence, 1917) Grab bag of Breton faerie, hero, saint and dolmen lore, with the prose voice and scholarship you’d expect from a hundred year old compendium. Useful source material for the Yellow King Roleplaying Game’s Brittany stretch goal, though scarcely a cracking casual read.—RDL

Tedious Brief Tales of Granta and Gramarye (Fiction, Arthur Gray, 1919) Seven supernatural tales of Jesus College Cambridge, none set after 1766. Gray deep dives into M.R. James-style antiquarianism without the grue and with only a very few droplets of dread, like a church-architecture-obsessed Ripley’s Believe it or Not! –KH

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