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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Noir Westerns and Golden Age Mysteries

July 21st, 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.

Recommended

Blood on the Moon (Film, US, Robert Wise, 1948) Broke gunslinger (Robert Mitchum) confronts his conscience after his chancer friend (Robert Preston) enlists him in a scheme to strongarm a cattleman with a charming, rifle-toting daughter (Barbara Bel Geddes.) Tough, violent western with spare, to-the-point dialogue and a soulful turn by Walter Brennan as a hoodwinked homesteader.—RDL

Death at the President’s Lodging (Fiction, Michael Innes, 1936) Inspector Appleby investigates the murder of the President of St. Anthony’s College, which must (it seems) have been committed by one of the dons with access to the quad. Innes’ debut novel presents an almost deconstructed detection that stretches the borderlines of narrative amid flashes of self-referential observation — but resolves, astonishingly, into an almost clockwork fair-play Golden Age mystery. –KH

Hamlet, Revenge! (Fiction, Michael Innes, 1937) Inspector Appleby investigates the murder of the Lord Chancellor of England, shot behind the arras during an amateur performance of Hamlet in a ducal mansion. Even in 1937, writers played with the Golden Age conventions; Innes musters 31 (!!) suspects in a ridiculously huge country house while resolutely holding to detective-story logic. Innes’ language is so rich and allusive that it sometimes slows his momentum, especially in this near-Pinnacle at the outset of his career. –KH

The Walking Hills (Film, US, John Sturges, 1949) A tip regarding legendary lost gold sends members of a bordertown poker game, including a level-headed horseman (Randolph Scott), a fugitive (William Bishop), and a shady detective (John Ireland) digging in dangerous dunes. Stark contemporary western follows Sturges’ favored “group of men tested by adversity” template. In a departure for Hollywood of this era, blues singer Josh White appears in a supporting role and performs several numbers. —RDL

Good

Lured (Film, US, Douglas Sirk, 1947) Sandra (Lucille Ball), an American taxi-dancer in London, signs on with Scotland Yard to bait the serial killer who lured her friend into a rendezvous, while being romanced by caddish nightclub owner Fleming (George Sanders). Although the pacing and mood fall apart in the fourth act, Ball and Sanders play off each other surprisingly well until then. Sirk fills this semi-noir with his signature weird angles and leering shots; Boris Karloff as a mad couturier steals the show. –KH

Okay

Spiritual Kung Fu (Film, HK, Lo Wei, 1978) Ghosts sporting white leotards and mop-like orange wigs teach a boorish Shaolin apprentice (Jackie Chan) forgotten fighting moves just in time to confront a murderer in the temple ranks. If you want to sample one of the many formulaic martial arts flicks Jackie made before hitting his stride with Project A, this one has weird ghosts in it.—RDL

Terminator: Dark Fate (Film, US, Tim Miller, 2019) Augmented human from the future (Mackenzie Davis) joins forces with grizzled bot-hunter Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) to save another apparently ordinary person target (Natalia Reyes) from a souped-up Terminator working for another dystopian AI regime. The latest unnecessary attempt to extend the original duology subjects its elements to a calculated rehashing.—RDL

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