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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Tiger King and Vengeful Ghosts

April 7th, 2020 | Robin

Recommended

The Doorway to Hell (Film, US, Archie Mayo, 1930) Sharp-minded bootlegger (Lewis Ayres), abetted by less competent right-hand man (James Cagney), organizes the Chicago rackets, then announces plans to get out of the business while he’s ahead. Rarely mentioned early entry in the Warners gangster cycle is less mythic and more grounded than its successors.—RDL

Kill, Baby, Kill (Film, Italy, Mario Bava, 1966) Coroner assigned to conduct an autopsy in a remote village finds its hostile inhabitants terrorized by a child’s ghost bearing a deadly curse. Hammer-influenced gothic with touches of surreal reality horror stands among Bava’s most consistently realized films.—RDL

Nobody Lives Forever (Film, US, Jean Negulesco, 1946) Con artist back from WWII (John Garfield) reluctantly fronts a plan to fleece a sheltered widow (Geraldine Fitzgerald), arousing the ire of his sleazier confederates when he catches feelings for her. W. R. Burnett’s script shows the insight into underworld characters that also drives his better-known The Asphalt Jungle. Walter Brennan appreciators will enjoy his poignant turn as a rueful grifter on the downslope.—RDL

A Place of One’s Own (Film, UK, Bernard Knowles, 1945) Retired Leeds haberdasher’s (James Mason) purchase of an abandoned manor seems like less of a bargain when his wife’s charming new hired companion (Margaret Lockwood) succumbs to ghost possession. The suspense of this cozy Edwardian gothic slowly builds in the background as Mason hams up his old man role.—RDL

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness (Television, Netflix, Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin, 2020) Exuberant private zoo owner Joe Exotic’s indictment for the attempted murder-for-hire of animal rights activist (and private big-cat refuge owner) Carole Baskin anchors a dive into the extremely weird subculture of big cat trafficking, resulting in the most Unknown Armies thing you are likely to see on Netflix. As with any documentary, ritual, or roller-coaster, it exists to manipulate you, and it is all of those things. –KH

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Season 1 (Television, US, Prime, Carlton Cuse & Graham Roland, 2019) Earnest CIA analyst (John Krasinski) tracks an ambitious Lebanese terrorist (Ali Suliman) and struggles to right his relationship with a skeptical new boss (Wendell Pierce.) Focus on character moments anchors this update of the character, and the technothriller genre, to the latter-day war on terror era.—RDL

Under an English Heaven: The Remarkable True Story of the 1969 British Invasion of Anguilla (Nonfiction, Donald E. Westlake, 1972) In 1967 the Caribbean island of Anguilla, fed up with its partner islands St. Kitts and Nevis, declared its independence … in order to convince Britain to take Anguilla back over as a colony. So the British invaded to put down the rebellion. Of course. There’s a lot more to the story, and born storyteller (if not born historian) Westlake tells it with the perfect spice rub of irony and honesty. –KH

Good

All the Colors of Giallo (Film, US, Federico Caddeo, 2019) Some talking head interviews are more informative than others in this modestly produced but thorough survey of the Italian mystery-horror cycle.—RDL

And So To Murder (Fiction, John Dickson Carr, 1940) After her bodice-ripper becomes a best-seller, Monica Staunton gets hired as a screenwriter for Pineham Studios — and gets targeted for murder. A tight mystery novel wrapped in a satire of film work, with a somewhat restrained Sir Henry Merrivale to sort it all out. There’s a switchback that doesn’t play entirely fair, but the end result is entirely satisfactory (if not brilliant) Carr. –KH

Okay

As Above So Below (Film, US, John Erick Dowdle, 2014) Relic hunter Scarlett Marlowe (Perdita Weeks) enters the Paris catacombs — and the gates of a low-budget Hell — in search of Nicholas Flamel’s Philosopher’s Stone. This really keen idea turns out to not be enough to hang a whole film on, and also to have a risibly weak ending. A found-footage cheapie that could have worked if the characters weren’t just pawns shoved down a literal hole in the ground. –KH

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