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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Nope, Early Sun-Baked Noirs, and the Secret History of TSR

July 26th, 2022 | 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

Barry Season 3 (Television, US, HBO, Bill Hader and Alec Berg, 2022) As avenging relatives of his past victims come out of the woodwork, Barry (Hader) tries to atone with Gene (Henry Winkler) by reviving his self-sabotaged acting career. In a finely calibrated tonal adjustment, the gloom of purgatory settles on the protagonists as they discover the price of redemption.—RDL

Desert Fury (Film, US, Lewis Allen, 1947) Resisting the control of her domineering casino operator mother (Mary Astor), a restless young woman (Lizabeth Scott) brushes off the interest of a handsome deputy (Burt Lancaster) for the worldly charms of a gambler (John Hodiak) newly returned to her desert town. Early example of sun-baked noir focuses on psychological drama and a not so subtextual gay subtext.—RDL

Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey (Television, US, Netflix, Rachel Dretzin & Grace McNally, 2022) Documentary series exposes the depredations of polygamous cult leader Warren Jeffs and lauds the courage of the young women who escaped their insular community and fought to expose him. In addition to putting the spotlight back on the heroes of the story and establishing the psychodynamics of cult control,  this documentary series paints the full spectrum of Jeffs’ stunning arch-criminality.—RDL

Nope (Film, US, Jordan Peele, 2022) A UFO haunts the failing Hollywood horse ranch run by siblings OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Em (Keke Palmer). Both the horror and the Western in this horror Western work, often magnificently but not quite in harness. Peele’s high concept – a Western where the gaze is the gun – could fuel a dozen films, it’s so strong. Kaluuya’s laconic performance as the slow-burning OJ channels Gary Cooper, also magnificently; Steven Yuen kills in a smaller part as a traumatized former child actor. –KH

Slaying the Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons & Dragons (Nonfiction, Ben Riggs, 2022) Working from original documents, sales figures, and interviews, Riggs assembles the first comprehensive history of TSR’s fall and rise and fall from 1983-ish to 1997, i.e., the Lorraine Williams Era. More sympathetic to Williams than most outsiders (and insiders), Riggs provides a needed corrective to the smog of fantasy surrounding the death of the great red dragon. –KH

Good

The River’s Edge (Film, US, Allan Dwan, 1957) When the cultured bunco man (Ray Milland) she loves shows up to claim the dissatisfied wife (Debra Paget) of a failing rancher (Anthony Quinn), he accepts the offer of a big fee to smuggle them across the border into Mexico. Sun-baked noir makes sweaty use of the murderous love triangle motif.—RDL

Okay

Black Widow (Film, US, Nunnally Johnson, 1954) When the ambitious young woman he unwisely allowed the run of his apartment in his wife’s absence is found hanged in his shower, a tough-minded Broadway producer (Van Heflin) goes on the lam to clear his name. Gene Tierney and Ginger Rogers fill out the cast in a Technicolor murder mystery briefly enlivened by sequences in which the Wrong Man protagonist flirts with a brutal psychotic break.—RDL

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