I watched Hitchcock Wednesday night and got excited about posting about it, and the 1959 Robert Block novel Psycho, for Throwback Thursday. Unfortunately, I’ve posted about Psycho in the past. It was in fact my first Throwback post of last October. I realized that aside from shoe-horning movie talk into book posts I don’t really have a place to muse about movies (and TV) and lately I’ve been doing a lot of musing. So, welcome to Saturday Cinema. It probably won’t be every week, but it probably will be on Saturday.
Within the last three months, three serial killer TV dramas have hit American screens. The Following premiered in late January, followed by Bates Motel in March and Hannibal in early April. I was interested in all three of these, but also apprehensive. Tinkering with beloved characters, even monstrous ones like Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates, is a dicey proposition. What I didn’t expect was that it wouldn’t be a favored character, but a favored writer that would inflame in me the most ire.
First, a slight digression: I consider myself a pretty flexible Sherlock Holmes fan. Jeremy Brett might be my iconic Holmes, both in terms of the character and Granada’s faithfulness to the stories, but my heart is big enough to include just about any adaptation. As long as what is essential Holmes stays intact. To me, Holmes needs to a genius. He needs to be focused and arrogant. He needs to willing and able to take action. Everything else can be tinkered with. Joan Watson? Why not. Sherlock and John meeting as boys in boarding school? I’m game. Holmes as an addled buffoon? Nope, sorry. Try again.
I figured that as long as the storytelling was half decent, I would like The Following. The cast looked good. The notion of the leader of a cult being in jail while his followers wreak havoc was intriguing. That the killer patterned his murders off the works of Poe was…okay, that was the worrying part. I have a very specific notions about Poe. Before The Following premiered, I watched The Raven, starring John Cusak. The story not only features a serial killer copying the elements of some of Poe’s stories, but Poe himself investigating the crimes. I should have loved this film. I didn’t. I didn’t hate it, but it fell very short of what I wanted that movie to be. The Following doesn’t get it right for me either. While only kinda-sorta following some of the crimes in Poe’s stories, the show also purports that Poe is all about the beauty of death, which I don’t agree with. One of Poe’s more prevalent themes is the inevitable decay of beauty. The living thing, even while dying, is beautiful. The dead thing is not. That to me is essential Poe. My ideal Poe movie/TV show would involve intricate and beautiful architecture and machinery (a la “The Masque of the Red Death” and “The Pit and the Pendulum”), would feature against-the-clock mysteries, and would leave characters seeing how much more beautiful life is after facing death. It would seem, actually, that my ideal Poe movie is Saw…
Let’s skip to Thomas Harris and his character, Hannibal Lecter. Hannibal in Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs (take your pick between movies and books) is a black box character. What we know about him as readers and viewers is due to his interactions with other characters. We don’t get into Lecter’s head. Thomas Harris opened the black box that is Hannibal Lecter with the novels Hannibal and Hannibal Rising and recieved mixed reviews. Fans wanted to know what makes Hannibal tick, but were a bit edgy when Harris’s vision wasn’t their own. (For the record, I like Hannibal quite a bit, but still haven’t read or watched Hannibal Rising, Lecter’s ultimate origin story written and the fourth book in the series.)
While only two episodes in, Hannibal seems to be playing by the original rules. Hannibal is a force within the series while the main character is Will Graham. I haven’t decided yet if I like this show. The writing strikes me as a bit flat when not being downright heavy-handed. I’m not a fan of Will Graham “on the spectrum.” But I can’t deny that Mads Mikkelsen makes a pretty darn good Hannibal Lecter. The show might have won me over in its second episode when Hannibal muses about whether God feels particularly powerful when he drops church roofs on His worshipers’ heads. That’s pretty much straight from the the book (Red Dragon, I think) and I hope that the TV series is willing to toy with these ideas more than the movies ever did. The essential Lecter may be the character’s ability to hold a mirror up to good people and show them how tarnished they could be. Maybe that’s what the later two books in the series was missing.
I started out meaning to post about Bates Motel and the movie Hitchcock as well, but I think I’ll save those for next week.
If there are any bloggers that would like to join me in talking about movies and TV, I’d consider doing a Linky thing. Drop me a comment. (Also, if there’s an existing blog meme for the weekly discussion of movies that I’ve missed, please let me know.)