Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: The Quatermass Evacuation

July 25th, 2017 | KenH

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.

The Pinnacle

Dunkirk (Film, UK/US, Christopher Nolan, 2017) Expertly and constantly building tension for 100 minutes across three braided timelines moving at different speeds, Nolan uses minimal dialogue and Hans Zimmer’s overwhelming score to tell three men’s stories as synecdoche for the whole evacuation. Everything about the film is technically masterful, but I could single out Mark Rylance’s performance and the air combat scenes, starring a restored Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IA that Nolan loves like no man has ever loved an airplane. –KH


Curry; A Global History (Nonfiction, Colleen Taylor Sen, 2012) Mouth-watering in its concision, this account shows how an infinitely adaptable meal concept, formed by conquest and propelled by diaspora diffused through most of the world. Of the foods mentioned here I was pleased to see that about the only one I can’t hunt down and eat here in Toronto would be the Africaner  variety.—RDL

The Eternal Champion (Fiction, Michael Moorcock, 1970) John Daker, the iteration of an eternally extant, thousand-faced hero who apprehends his true nature, is drawn to a war-ravaged earth to once more become Erekosë, a death-dealing champion who’s maybe a touch slow to recognize the genocidal intention of his royal summoner. This is the book in which Moorcock grapples most directly with the contradictions of his antinomian perspective and his interest in Campbellian heroism. All of us working in the fantasy genre could stand a refresher look at his ability to blend heightened language with storytelling concision.—RDL

I Blame Dennis Hopper: And Other Stories from a Life Lived In and Out of the Movies (Nonfiction, Ileana Douglas, 2015) Mentioning her personal life only to the extent necessary to make the stories work, the always-memorable character actress cues up her best anecdotes. Covers her bond with movie star grandfather Melvyn, numinous encounters with Peter Sellers, Lee Marvin and Roddy McDowall, and the professional side of her long relationship with Martin Scorsese.—RDL

Into the Unknown: The Fantastic Life of Nigel Kneale (Nonfiction, Andy Murray, rev ed 2017) A biography nearly worthy of its subject, perhaps the greatest TV writer of the 20th century. Murray provides as much insight into Kneale the man as he can, but focuses (as Kneale would not have) on the scripts that shaped two genres on small screens and large. Future biographers may be able to go deeper into the toxic bureaucracy of the BBC, but Murray gets extra points for lengthy summaries and discussion of now-lost masterpieces such as The Road and The Year of the Sex Olympics. –KH

Quatermass and the Pit (Nonfiction, Kim Newman, 2014) In this volume of the BFI Film Classics series, Kim Newman provides his customary detailed and discursive attention to Roy Ward Baker’s 1967 triumph. After a thorough breakdown of the earlier incarnations of Nigel Kneale’s hero, Newman follows the film scene by scene, pointing out good work by director, actors, and Kneale’s script, reinforcing its position as the best of the Quatermass films, and perhaps the Professor’s best single outing. –KH

Saving Mr. Wu (Film, China, Ding Sheng, 2015) Beijing police scramble to locate and rescue a Hong Kong movie star (Andy Lau) from ruthless kidnappers. Fractured chronology and a visual style inspired by latter-day Michael Mann add layers to this police procedural thriller.  The role of stalwart police captain hunting the bad guys is played by the victim in the real case that inspired the film! —RDL


Requiem at Rogano (Fiction, Stephen Knight, 1979) Conspiracy theorist Knight’s only novel is a murder mystery set in 1902. A retired Scotland Yard inspector and his historian nephew discover eerie links between the ongoing Deptford Strangler murders and a series of stranglings in Rogano, Italy in 1454. And then things get downright weird. Alternating between the hoariest of Edwardian detections and po-faced occultism shouldn’t work, and for patches it doesn’t, but it pulls together at last in a denouement that weirdly plays fair with the reader despite all the hugger-mugger. –KH

Under the Shadow (Film, UK/Qatar/Jordan/Iran, Babak Anvari, 2016) This psychological ghost (or technically, djinn) story mirrors the internal disintegration of frustrated mother Shideh (Narges Rashidi) with the external terror of wartime 1988 Tehran under the Ayatollah. Excellent sound design and cinematography only go so far, and the elongated ending dissipates much of the tension the naturalist first two acts builds up. –KH


Vir Das: Abroad Understanding (Stand-up, Netflix, 2017) Intercuts Indian comedian/actor Das performing the same act for a stadium in Delhi and a basement comedy club in New York: like much of Das’ material, better in concept than delivery. Occasional chuckles marble the earnestness; Das is best in his moments of wry irony. –KH

Not Recommended

Child 44 (Film, US/UK, Daniel Espinosa, 2015) Very loosely based on the Andrei Chikatilo murders, this sort-of detective sort-of thriller admirably drowns us in Stalinist murk but by about the 90-minute mark woolen aesthetics and ridiculous Russian accents smother what little life or momentum the film possesses. Tom Hardy mostly stares uncomprehendingly throughout, not a good look for a detective. –KH

One Response to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: The Quatermass Evacuation”

  1. Rob Mammone says:

    Fortunately, while the well regarded colour version no longer exists (though there’s chit chat the colour signal can be retrieved from the extant print, via some sort of bizarre colour retrieval voodoo) a complete black and white print of Year of the Sex Olympics does exist, for your viewing pleasure…

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