Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Spies, Tibetan Zombies, and Busters of Ghosts

July 19th, 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.


Drácula (Film, US, George Melford, 1931) When Tod Browning’s crew wrapped up each day’s filming on Universal’s Dracula, a Latin American cast took over the same sets hoping to top what he was doing, and this fascinating footnote in film history is the result. Snappier pacing than the English-language version, but its Dracula, Carlos Villarías, projects the opposite of power and menace. This vacuum makes it all the more apparent that Renfield is actually the protagonist of the stage play and thus the Universal Dracula.—RDL

Experimental Film (Fiction, Gemma Files, 2015) Toronto film-studies professor Lois Cairns enters an unfolding pagan horror when she investigates a forgotten Ontario heiress, one who may have made Canada’s first fantasy film before vanishing from a moving railroad car in 1918. Shimmering in the penumbrae of Tim Powers, Ramsey Campbell, and Elizabeth Hand, Experimental Film especially recalls Theodore Roszak’s hugely underrated film-history horror novel Flicker, with all the creep factor and a bigger emotional depth charge. –KH

Goldtiger (Comics, Guy Adams & Jimmy Broxton, 2016) Meta-narrative about the creative disaster that never was Goldtiger, a (fictional) 1960s spy-fi comic created by insane artist Antonio Barreti and self-important hack writer Louis Schaeffer (or Shaeffer, his ever-shifting orthography being part of the bit). Told in fits and starts around a reprint of “all of the surviving strips” from Lily Gold and Jack Tiger’s inaugural adventure “The Poseidon Complex,” the joke is seriously inside baseball but the quasi-Modesty Blaise comic and glossily po-faced production design make for swinging Britpop Art . –KH

Ip Man 3 (Film, HK, Wilson Yip, 2015) In late 50s HK the legendary Wing Chun master Ip Man (Donnie Yen) protects a school from gangsters and deals with an ambitious rival. Unlike earlier entries in the series, this doesn’t aspire to be anything other than standard issue martial arts melodrama, but the action direction is by Yuen Woo-Ping so it’s a superior example of that template. Gotta say though that any film with Mike Tyson in it could be improved by not having Mike Tyson in it.—RDL

The Prince and the Zombie: Tibetan Tales of Karma (Nonfiction, Tenzin Wangmo, 2012) A wayward princeling repeatedly journeys to India to capture a zombie and repair his besmirched karma, but again and again lets him escape because he cannot help but react to the creature’s beguiling storytelling. Charming retelling of Tibetan Buddhism’s equivalent of the Arabian Nights warns of narrative’s seductive dangers.–RDL

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (Film, UK, Martin Ritt, 1965) Almost note-for-note adaptation of the classic John Le Carré novel shines in all the places cinema can improve fiction: brilliant acting especially from Richard Burton as false defector Alec Leamas, note-perfect grimy production design, and fully controlled if only sporadically brilliant direction and cinematography. Even the script is tight and clear, rather moreso than the novel in some ways. –KH

Straight Outta Compton (Film, US, F. Gary Gray, 2015) Music docudrama traces the rise of L.A. gangsta rap through the formation and dissolution of NWA. Gray solves the coherence problem that plagues most biopics with a restless, roving style that embraces the chaos of its storyline. Delves more than most music movies into the industry’s shady financial practices.–RDL


Ghostbusters (Film, US, Paul Feig, 2016) Misfit parapsychologists battle an NYC ghost epidemic. If this feels unlike the original, it’s not because it stars funny women instead of funny men, but due to the contrast between GB84 as a marvel of narrative momentum and GB16 as loose collection of comic riffs.–RDL


Scream (Nonfiction, Margee Kerr, 2015) Sociologist who contributes to on a socially responsible haunted house attraction goes on a journey to explore the science and cultural context of fear, from the CN Tower Edgewalk to the dangerous streets of Bogota. In a now common structure in pop science books, bids for relatability by framing the technical stuff with abundant first person anecdote. I found myself wanting more of the former and less of the latter.–RDL

One Response to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Spies, Tibetan Zombies, and Busters of Ghosts”

  1. Terry O'Carroll says:

    I noticed that GB16 suffered vs GB84 in the plot tension department when I saw it, but could not quite articulate what was wrong. How about a Cinema Hut/How to Write More Good segment on what made GB84 “a marvel of narrative momentum”?

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