What Else Wednesday ~ What Am I Watching, Vol. 1

ElseWedsWhat Am I Watching: an occasional series.

alt text Peaky Blinders (2013-present), created by Steven Knight

After watching two seasons, there isn’t anything I don’t love about Peaky Blinders. The cast, the writing, the setting, and especially the anachronistic soundtrack are all great. I guess I’m okay with giving up accuracy for style. My only problem is having “Red Right Hand” stuck in my head for extended periods. If you can call that a problem.

alt text Stark Raving Mad (1999), created by Steven Levitan (Modern Family)

Remember that sit-com with Tony Shalhoub as an eccentric horror writer and Niel Patrick Harris as his germaphobe  editor? You don’t? Not surprising. Though it did well critically, Stark Raving Mad only lasted a season. Despite the image at left, the series doesn’t seem to be widely available, so I don’t feel too bad sharing a link to a VHS rip of the series.

alt text Tubi TV

Not a show, but a streaming service. Like Crackle, it’s totally above board and free, but with commercials. The offerings are varied; there are some pretty good movies mixed in with some dubious stuff.  It’s kind of like visiting Blockbuster late on a Friday night if you’re old enough to remember that. Their streaming on PC isn’t as good as Hulu, but it’s decent and they’ve shown improvement in the last few months.

Currently, I’m enjoying their horror selection which includes such solid classics as An American Werewolf in London, Rosemary’s Baby, Candyman, Audrey Rose, and Jacob’s Ladder.

R.I.P. IX Update #1 ~ Perils on the Screen

Check out more R.I.P. IX Reviews or Join the Perilous Fun!

True Detective 2014 Intertitle.jpg
Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

True Detective (2014, TV series) – starring Matthew McConaughey & Woody Harrelson. In general, I appreciate this trend toward limited run series, like True Detective and American Horror Story. (Some might call them mini-series, but that has a different connotation.) When there isn’t pressure to keep a story going for multiple seasons (in some cases seemingly indefinitely), writers can write cohesive stories with definite archs. Even if they’re only a meager eight episodes long…  SPOILER AHEAD! — After hearing so much about True Detective‘s nod to Robert W. Chambers and his King in Yellow stories, I was a little surprised that there was no supernatural twist to the show. I was expecting it, but I wasn’t disappointed when it didn’t come. I’m fine with the mundane. –END SPOILER  And in retrospect, I’m also surprised at how reserved the gore was. Hannibal? Much more shocking in its visceral gore. In all, good performances, good characters, and well-made. When I first saw trailers for True Detective, I was excited and it didn’t disappoint.

Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

Invisible Ghost (1941) – starring Bela Lugosi. This is a schlocky piece with a somewhat silly premise but a few good moments of creepiness. Lugosi plays Mr. Kessler, a–widower? cuckolded husband? I’m not sure now–, who believes that his wife will one day return. Unbeknownst to him, after his wife was involved in a car accident, his gardener has been keeping her in the basement. When Kessler sees his wife, he’s sent into a homicidal fugue and no one is safe. There are just so many weird overtones to this movie. Lugosi dines with his “wife” on the anniversary of her death, but everyone shrugs it off with a “poor old guy” attitude. Then there’s the gardener benevolently keeping the injured wife semi-captive and the fiance of Kessler’s daughter being executed for the first murder. In R-rated modern hands, this could be a very different movie.

Only Lovers Left Alive poster.jpg
Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.


Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) – starring Tilda Swinton & Tom Hiddleston. In my corner of the internet, I had seen many gifs from this movie. The look of Only Lovers Left Alive *is* gorgeous. The music is also pretty good and Tilda Swinton is captivating as usual. Who else would you cast as a contented vampire?  Unfortunately, this movie strikes me as over-indulgent. Nothing much happens. There is really no tension. Adam (Hiddleston) and Eve (Swinton) have an novel way of existing after hundred of years, but there’s just nothing there aside from Hiddleston being eye-rollingly emo. John Hurt is the other bright spot playing Kit Marlowe.

Christmas Spirit Update #2

On Monday or Tuesday of last week, I ended up Googling some combination of Sherlock Holmes, steampunk, and Christmas.  What I ended up with was Steampunk Scholar’s 2011 entry about the combination of these things, or lack thereof. Which reminded me of what I had forgotten: there already is a Sherlock Holmes Christmas story, “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.” I did chase down the pieces mentioned in the article. The radio show “The Night Before Christmas” is pretty awful. Don’t believe me? It’s fairly readily available online. The two television versions of The Blue Carbuncle can also be found through a YouTube search.

“Movies” Watched

It’s interesting comparing the Peter Cushing/Jeremy Brett versions of this story with the text. The Cushing version especially adds a few things to pad out the story (a scene between Holmes and the Countess, and a more dramatic reaction by Ryder to his incarceration) as well as adding a few details that Holmes gets wrong.

Turning again to non-Doyle stories, George and Gertrude Fass wrote “The Case of the Christmas Pudding” for the mid-50s Holmes series staring Ronald Howard. It is far superior to “The Night Before Christmas” radio episode, and involves a crime committed with a Christmas decoration.

Of course, the most Christmasy portion of these stories involves food: Christmas goose and Christmas or plum pudding. I’ve never had either of these things. Growing up, our Christmas tradition food was meat salad sandwiches (egg salad with the addition of bologna). The animated series Sherlock Homes in the 22nd Century updates the tale to avoid food altogether. Here, a carbuncle is the much sought-after Christmas toy. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable adaptation.

Short Stories Read

Obviously, “The Blue Carbuncle” by Arthur Conan Doyle

Besides, it is the season of forgiveness. Chance has put in our way a most singular and whimsical problem, and its solution is its own reward.

It’s one of Doyle’s earlier Holmes stories and is pretty solid.

I also read “Brass Canaries” by Gwendolyn Clare

It is shopping season. We know because they cover their hands in cloth, and the sky falls white and fluffy around their feet.

As a complete coincidence this may be a story that fits the category of steampunk Christmas. It’s an unsettling tale and weirdly the flip side of Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century‘s blue carbuncle episode.

I’ll leave off with a bit from one of my current favorite Holmes incarnations:

R.I.P. Progress Report #8

The purpose of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII is to enjoy books and movies/television that could be classified (by you) as: Mystery. Suspense. Thriller. Dark Fantasy. Gothic. Horror. Supernatural. Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.

I have to say, R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII has been great. I don’t comment much, but I’ve visited and added many new blogs. It’s been a joy to celebrate the dark genres with you all!

Mockingbird Lane (2012) – Reruns of The Addams Family and The Munsters were pretty influential to me. My love of the spooky/kooky comes from them. Barry Sonnenfeld’s The Addams Family (1991) and Addams Family Values (1993) were spot-on reboots, capturing the macabre nature of the Addamses. The 1998 The Munsters Today didn’t work as well. The Munsters, despite their quirks, were a 60s family on a 60s sit-com. The Munsters Today needed to update both, but didn’t. I was dubious when another reboot was announced. With Jerry O’Connell as Herman? And…Eddie Izzard as Grandpa? I was heartened by the involvement of Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me) and Bryan Singer (X-Men, Apt Pupil), but then sort of forgot about the series. Until it showed up on Hulu’s front page.

Mockingbird Lane is not The Munsters. There’s no way you could do the goofy, innocent comedy that was the fish-out-of-water family living at 1313 Mockingbird Lane in the 2010s. Instead, this is a lush, macabre, funny family drama. Herman and Grandpa don’t get along and disagree on how to raise Eddie, whom Herman fears is more Munster than Herman is. Lily is, of course, caught in the middle between her father and her husband. Eddie is going through some changes, many exacerbated by moving to a new neighborhood and a new school, and  poor Marilyn is the black sheep of the family. Despite their differences, they’re all reliant on one another. Especially when Marilyn needs to do the “day” work and Herman needs the occasional new body part that Grandpa can, uh, obtain and install.

There are nods to the original show, especially in the decoration of the house and Marilyn’s very blonde, very fifties outfits, but the series isn’t afraid to move past the original. It’s certainly more graphic with Herman’s awake and very open-hearted surgeries and a scene where the just-out-of-coffin Lily is dressed by a host of spiders (winning the EWW! award from me). The acting is good. Eddie Izzard makes it feel like this version of Grandpa was written just for him. Jerry O’Connell is utterly sincere and a tad sappy as Herman, but he is the heart of the show. If he didn’t care, we wouldn’t either.

This show hasn’t been greenlit by NBC. The pilot reportedly cost $10 million and NBC is understandably unsure about it. If I had never been a fan of the original, how would I feel about a horror/comedy/drama about two vampires, a Frankenstein’s monster, a pubescent werewolf, and a girl living in suburbia? The pilot is open-ended and characters like Lily and Marilyn don’t get much of a story. Honestly, I’m not even sure where the story might go. But it would be an awfully fun ride.

If you’re in the US, you can watch Mockingbird Lane on Hulu.

Since it’s October, this post is also a part of Blogger Dressed in Blood!

R.I.P. Progress Report #5

The purpose of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII is to enjoy books and movies/television that could be classified (by you) as: Mystery. Suspense. Thriller. Dark Fantasy. Gothic. Horror. Supernatural. Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.

I’m going to post my R.I.P. progress on Tuesdays during September and October and link them to the review site if they contain reviews of short stories, TV shows, or movies. Books will get their own posts.

It’s been a slow week in R.I.P.-land. I’ve been finishing up reading other books, writing some, and, well, working on a Halloween-themed EverQuest 2 project.

I don’t have a screenshot of my current project, but these are decorations from last year.

CBS’s Elementary finally premiered. Starring Johnny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Joan Watson, this show has a little controversy behind it. The BBC, you see, has Sherlock, a modern-day take on Sherlock Holmes. It’s quite popular and quite good. And since the US often remakes British shows, Elementary was hostilely seen as the American rip-off of Sherlock. Which is ridiculous. A.) It’s Sherlock Holmes. The characters and the set up have been done, done, and redone. There are 46 Sherlock Holmes movies listed on Wikipedia; 16 television series. B.) This isn’t Sherlock. It’s not like the horror-show that was the US version of Coupling (talk about being in peril!) or the rather lack-luster rendition of Life on MarsElementary is a totally different show.

Does it work? Eh, some of the references to canon felt forced. Some of the chemistry between characters hasn’t gelled. The plot wasn’t much different in feel than many other US mystery shows, like Castle. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. I’m hoping it will get better because I’m a sucker for Holmes. (For US readers, the pilot is still available at CBS.)

R.I.P. VII – Progress Post #4

The purpose of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII is to enjoy books and movies/television that could be classified (by you) as: Mystery. Suspense. Thriller. Dark Fantasy. Gothic. Horror. Supernatural. Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.

I’m going to post my R.I.P. progress on Tuesdays during September and October and link them to the review site if they contain reviews of short stories, TV shows, or movies. Books will get their own posts.

” ‘Hello,’ Said the Gun” by Jay Lake – recommended by Jim Black at Science Fiction Times. I totally would have commented to Jim about this story, but I was plagued by OpenID/captcha problems. None-the-less, check out the story; check out Jim’s blog.

“Nell” by Karen Heese – from the Tor blog. A beautiful, speculative fiction take on one of the most depressing Hans Christen Andersen tales.

While they might not quite fit R.I.P., I’ve been reading some pieces on early 20th century magician and debunker David Abbott. I’m certainly intrigued the detective work that goes into exposing these fraudulent mediums.

“David P. Abbott and the Notorious Bangs Sisters” by Todd Karr

“Mr. David P. Abbott’s New Illusions of the Spirit World” by Paul Carus, an editorial presumably from The Open Court.

“Fraudulent Spiritualism Unveiled” by David Abbott from The Lock and Key Library of Classic Mystery and Detective Stories. ed. Julian Hawthorn

Again, this might be in kinda-sorta land for this challenge but I’ve been watching Penn & Teller: Fool Us. This is a reality TV magic “competition” that aired in the UK in 2011. Top stage and close-up magicians came on the show to perform in front of Penn Jillette and Teller. If they fooled the duo, the were given the opportunity to play a date at the Rio in Las Vegas where Penn & Teller have their act. Of course, most episodes end with Penn & Teller doing a trick, often in their grand guignol style.

R.I.P. VII – Progress Post #2

The purpose of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII is to enjoy books and movies/television that could be classified (by you) as: Mystery. Suspense. Thriller. Dark Fantasy. Gothic. Horror. Supernatural. Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.

I’m going to post my R.I.P. progress on Tuesdays during September and October and link them to the review site if they contain reviews of short stories, TV shows, or movies. Books will get their own posts.

“The Case of Death and Honey” by Neil Gaiman, from the anthology A Study in Sherlock, edited by Laurie R. King & Leslie S. Klinger. It’s a gem of story covering Holmes’ time in the Far East and his sudden interest, in retirement, in bee keeping. With, of course, an oblique twist.

“The Companions” by David Morrell, from the anthology Shadow Show: All New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury, edited by Sam Weller and Mort Castle. This story seemed flat to me, the first to disappoint in this anthology. It is a take on guardian spirits, but the set up was too long and detailed. In comparison, the payoff was barely a page or two. I was expecting a turn that would take the story into the realm of unsettling, which seemed warranted, but it never happened.

I also read Bradbury’s “Laural and Hardy Love Affair,” which is not perilous in the least. Yet, it served as the basis for one of the things that scared me most as a kid: The “Gotcha!” episode from Ray Bradbury Theater. According to IMDB, it was episode 4 in season 2 and aired in 1988. Meaning I was 13 at the time, but man, the ending of that episode did a number on me. Haven’t watched it since…

“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Rachel @ Resistance is Futile reminded me of this story. Probably a decade ago, someone mentioned this story to me, but I forgot about it before I tracked down a copy. (The internet was a very different place in ’01/’02!) Wow, what a story. It can be read from a traditional gothic approach (bars on the window of the top floor nursary and a gate at the top of the stares) or a feminist approach (a husband *always* knows what’s best for his wife) or, you know, both. Really good literature should hit on numerous fronts. You don’t need to know the conventions of a gothic or be a feminist to enjoy the truly unsettling aspects of this story. (Read at The University of Adelaide Library)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) – If I could take the best bits of the US version and the Swedish version of this movie, it might rank in my top 20 movies. As is, I think I prefer the US version. Especially if I turn it off 20 minutes before the end.

Evening Primrose (1966) – This was a surprising fit for Peril on the Screen. I was perusing Hulu when I came across the addition of this ’66 TV musical starring Anthony Perkins . I expected light comedy. Instead, I got Twilight Zone: The Musical Episode. When disillusioned poet Charles Snell decides to live in the picture-perfect world of a department store, hiding by day and writing at night, he finds that he isn’t the first person to have the idea. An entire society exists with its own rules and its own police, the dark men that live at a mortuary. Unfortunately, Charles falls in love with social pariah and muse, Ella. Will they be able to escape back to the outside world, or will the dark men turn them into store mannequins? (Watch on Hulu)

Dexter, Season 5 – Yeah, I’m behind. I don’t have cable and we haven’t had Netflix DVD service in a while. Season 5 seemed short to me. And it’s not that it lacked plot, but it felt sort of anticlimactic. Or rather, not very perilous. (Yes, I am going to over-use the word peril in the next two months.) It never felt like wacky ol’ Dexter was in a really tight spot that he could get out of. I was pleased with the guest cast, but **spoiler** [sorry to see them go].