Posts Tagged ‘Movie Reviews’

Spillane Nominated, Antiques Is Loved, Blue Christmas Begins, and Poirot Returns

Tuesday, September 19th, 2023

Okay, so the nominations for Quarry’s Blood (Edgar) and The Big Bundle (Shamus) did not result in wins. But how about this: Max Allan Collins and Jim Traylor’s Spillane: King of Pulp Fiction has been nominated for BIO’s Plutarch Award, given to the best biography of the year – as judged by biographers. I have no idea how this Bio nomination might play out.

Still, this feels really good, because this book is one I am particularly proud of, and I know Jim feels the same. Obviously we are hopeful for an Edgar nomination, but a win there seems unlikely as the prejudice against Mickey continues in many quarters, particularly coming from people who never read much if any of him.

On the other hand, we received several nice reviews for the current Hammer, Dig Two Graves, and Barb and I just finished listening (in the car) to the Skyboat Media audio book of it, read by the great Stefan Rudnicki, who does his usual stellar job.

The handful of copies of Dig Two Graves that I had to give away here were snapped up eagerly. I am sorry I didn’t have more to offer than that. It’s out today (Sept. 19) – so Happy Publication Day!

Speaking of good reviews, here’s a honey by Sue O’Brien about Antiques Foe by Barbara Allan (Barb and me) from Booklist:

Antiques Foe
By Barbara Allan
Nov. 2023. 208p. Severn, $31.99 (9781448309627);
e-book (9781448309634)

Vivian Borne, co-owner with her daughter Brandy of Trash ‘n’ Treasures, is thrilled to be invited to be a guest on Nicole Chatterton’s video podcast, Killers Caught, until Chatterton ambushes her on her murder-solving record, with Vivian threatening Chatterton and Brandy abruptly ending the interview. When Vivian goes to Chatterton’s hotel room to retrieve her signed release form to prevent the interview from airing, she finds Chatterton dead on the floor and is quickly arrested as the chief suspect in her murder. When Brandy is attacked and badly hurt, Vivian decides on drastic measures to protect her family. Brandy is gutted by the shocking turn of events, but the investigation continues, led by her fiancé, Police Chief Tony Cassato, leading to a plan to trap the killer. This tale is told in first person by both the flamboyant Vivian and the long-suffering Brandy, with the two talking directly to the reader in numerous humorous asides. Framed by small-town life in Iowa, with interesting details on antiques, this fun cozy includes recipes and tips on collecting sports memorabilia.

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One of the things I’ll be doing here at Update Central in the coming couple of months is discuss the ongoing production of my micro-budgeted movie, Blue Christmas, which I scripted and will direct.

We had disappointing news this week when Gary Sandy decided not to do the production out of solidarity with the SAG-AFTRA strikers. He offered to do the film next year, when presumably the strike will be over, and suggested April. We are already going full-steam ahead and had to turn down this generous offer from Gary, who will very likely be in a future production of ours.

This, of course, will have to mean that directing another movie – designed to be user friendly to its aging director, and to be produced reasonably (all right, on the cheap) – is still something I enjoy doing and am able to perform to my satisfaction despite certain limitations due to health issues.

We held auditions this week and they went very well. I cast many of the local players from Encore for Murder, and two terrific pros from Cedar Rapids and the Quad Cities respectively, Rob Merrit and Tommy Ratkiewicz-stierwalt. My team includes Chad T. Bishop, producer (he edited Encore for Murder); Phil Dingeldein, Director of Photography (my longtime friend/collaborator on films); and Karen Cooney, production manager (my co-director of the stage version of Encore for Murder).

Rob Merrit playing Richard Stone
Rob Merrit playing Richard Stone
Tommy Ratkiewicz-stierwalt as Stone’s partner, Joey Ernest
Tommy Ratkiewicz-stierwalt as Stone’s partner, Joey Ernest

We have an excellent set builder tentatively on board, and Chris Christensen (my Seduction of the Innocent bandmate, and the composer of the scores for Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane, Caveman and the award-winning Quarry short, “A Matter of Principal”) has agreed to do the score. Chris also contributed to Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market and Encore for Murder.

Also on the indie film front, I looked at the “check discs” of the Blu-ray of the documentary Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane with Encore for Murder as the bonus feature, a DVD of the same, and finally a stand-alone DVD of Encore designed to go out to Golden Age Radio collectors. VCI is putting all of these out, in partnership with MVD, who do some very interesting stuff, particularly in their “Rewind” line that puts ‘80s and ‘90s video store favorites on Blu-ray.

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A Haunting in Venice poster banner

Barb and I took in A Haunting in Venice, very loosely adapted from Agatha Christie’s Poirot novel, Hallowe’en Party. We had both pretty much enjoyed director/star Kenneth Branagh’s first Poirot outing, Murder on the Orient Express, but it was no threat to the Sidney Lumet original. The second Branagh adaptation of Christie, Death on the Nile, was more Meh on the Vile. But this one is a stunner.

Branagh’s Poirot is better etched here, and his direction is moody and immersive, creating a horror film vibe without shortchanging the very tricky murder mystery. Tina Fey as Ariadne Oliver takes some getting used to, but ultimately comes across well. The standout performer is a child actor, Jude Hill, around twelve when this was shot.

It was wise of Branagh to get away from remaking the excellent previous Poirot films (so far, at least, the great Evil Under the Sun has been spared 21st Century re-imagining) and if more of these follow, he might look at the serious, post-war Poirot novels like Taken At the Flood and Five Little Pigs.

* * *

Crime Reads zeroes in on seven novels set in Sin City (Las Vegas) and one of them is Skim Deep. Oddly, my CSI novel called Sin City (co-written by Matthew Clemens) isn’t among them!

Jeff Pierce’s indispensable Rap Sheet shares some things from a recent update of ours right here. Nice write-up, and the lead item!

Screen Rant discusses my version of Robin in (where else?) Batman. My work on that feature seems to be getting a little more respect these days.

Finally, Den of Geek names Road to You-know-where one of the best crime-and-mob movies. Gratifying that this film is holding on so very well as decades pass.


Dig Mike Hammer! Plus, Kirkus Loves Me (For Now)

Tuesday, August 29th, 2023

Over a long and blood-spattered career, I have had most of my worst notices published by the Kirkus reviewing service, widely known among authors as the most merciless of its kind. It is one of the major publishing “trades,” along with Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal and Booklist.

Lately, on occasion, I’ve been receiving some good notices from Kirkus. It reminds me of what Noah Cross tells Jake Gittes in Chinatown: “Of course I’m respectable. I’m old! Politicians, ugly buildings and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.” Thank you, Robert Towne.

Anyway, Kirkus has published a review of the new Mike Hammer novel by Mickey Spillane and me, Dig Two Graves, and it’s a good one.


Mike Hammer goes west.

Celebrating both his secretary/partner/lover Velda Sterling’s return from a long absence in the early 1960s and his own comeback from a protracted period of drying out, Hammer is out Christmas shopping with Velda and her mother, Mildred Sterling, when Mildred is hit by a car and sent to the hospital. Unlike the driver who struck her, she’s not dead, and summoning the couple to the side of her hospital bed, she unreels a revised version of Velda’s origin story: Velda’s father wasn’t unassuming Roger Sterling but Rhinegold Massey, Mildred’s mobbed-up first husband. After evading a prison term for his part in an armored car robbery by turning on his co-conspirators and getting whisked off to Dreamland Park, an Arizona retirement community whose entire population is in the witness protection program, Rhino, now rechristened Rainer Miller, suffered a fatal heart attack after a mugging two months ago. Putting aside his initial assumption that he was the target of the driver who nearly killed Mildred, Hammer decides to head out to Dreamland Park to ask questions, and Velda decides, over his objections, to accompany him.

Longtime fans of the franchise begun by Spillane and continued by Collins, working once more from his late friend’s drafts and notes, will anticipate that asking questions will be the least interesting thing Hammer and Velda do among the surprisingly spry and unsurprisingly felonious residents of Dreamland Park. The amusing conceit of a town for snitches allows full rein for Hammer’s signature blend of violence, chastely described lust, and revenge served cold, with several surprising twists thrown in as a bonus.

Like the denizens of its imagined retirement community, you just can’t keep this franchise down.

I should note that the release date of Dig Two Graves has been revised to September 19, 2023.

The splendid audiobook of Dig Two Graves, however, read by the wonderful Stefan Rudnicki, is available now.

Here’s a sample of Stefan reading the novel in a voice entirely suited to Mike Hammer.

Dig Two Graves Cover

Purchase Links:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes
Digital Audiobook: Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes Chirp
Audio MP3 CD:
Audio CD:

* * *

My 1994 movie Mommy is playing on Roku (and a couple of other streaming services). I think Mommy’s Day is available, too.

* * *

I provided a link a few weeks ago to Mike Finn’s excellent review of the first Fancy Anders novella, Fancy Anders Goes to War as recorded by Skyboat, an outstanding production. But I thought I’d share the review with you here:

Today, I wanted some light entertainment to get me through a disappointingly rainy August afternoon so I spent three and a half hours listening to an ‘enhanced audio’ performance of Max Allan Collins’ ‘Fancy Anders Goes To War: Who Killed Rosie The Riveter?’. It was exactly what I’d been looking for.

It’s a delightful confection that sets an improbable story of murder and sabotage involving a cast of characters finely balanced to respect early Twenty-First Century sensibilities, against what seemed to be a reasonably accurate portrayal of women working in a warplane factory in California in late 1942.

Almost all of the interesting characters, good or bad, are women. Almost all the women are exceptionally good-looking, with comparisons being drawn to well-known film stars of the period. They also come from ethnically and socio-economically diverse backgrounds and are comfortable climbing on gantries and riveting and bucking metal together to make warplanes.

The main character, Fancy Anders, (who is, of course, very good-looking) is a twenty-something rich, white, college-educated socialite who wants to work as an investigator in her father’s well-connected Confidential Investigations company. He recruits her as a secretary but leaves her in charge when he’s recalled to military service setting up an intelligence unit in DC.

When the CEO of Amalgamated Aircraft, a man she’s known all her life and who she calls uncle, needs someone to investigate the allegedly accidental death in his factory of the worker selected to be the real-life model for the Rosie The Riveter propaganda campaign, Fancy jumps at the chance to go undercover at his factory.

What follows is a fast, fun, uncomplicated but engaging romp as Fancy, who is not very good at being undercover, tries to find out what happened to Rosie and in the process gets herself into a great deal of trouble.

This was popcorn but the good kind of popcorn with just the right amount of melted butter and salt.

The ‘enhanced audio’ turned out to mean that appropriate background noises were added to the narration. To my surprise, the sound effects lifted the story by adding a retro Saturday Morning Matinee At The Cinema ambience that I enjoyed.

Gabrielle de Cuir’s narration was perfect.

This link will take you to the Audible page where you’ll find both Fancy Anders novellas, plus samples of the excellent Skyboat productions. The third novella (Fancy Anders Goes Hollywood) should be out this year from Neo-Text – our superb artist Fay Dalton is finishing up the illos now.

It’s my hope we will place a collection of the three novellas with a publisher – the novellas were designed to add up to one novel, a la Hammett’s Dain Curse – with Fay’s illos in full color. Counting the covers, that would add up to a stunning 33 full-page illustrations.

* * *

The new Wolfpack e-book, Dark Suspense (Volume Four in the Max Allan Collins Collection) is available now, gathering the novels Mommy, Mommy’s Day, No One Will Hear You (written with frequent collaborator Matthew V. Clemens) and the anthology Reincarnal, the title novella being the source of the movie that we are trying to launch here.

My indie film Blue Christmas is in serious pre-production now, although the disappointing lack of any support from Greenlight Iowa has us scrambling for funds. We have already raised $7000 (our goal) at Indiegogo, but will have to come up with possibly as much as $13,000 more…chicken feed in movie terms and a small fortune in real world terms.

I am considering offering some rare books of mine here, signed, to raise some of those funds. Does that hold any appeal to any of you? We will also be looking at some other grants and possible funding sources here in Iowa.

This film is going to happen. We’re going full steam ahead. Exactly who we’ll be able to cast and how many locations we’ll be able to use, however, are in question. We have confirmed Muscatine Community College’s black box theater as our “studio” for the production. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, VCI will be bringing out the expanded Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane documentary on Blu-Ray yet this year (and I hope to have the cover art for you soon) with Encore for Murder with Gary Sandy as Mike Hammer as a bonus feature (with a DVD only release of just that recorded Golden Age-radio style play).

* * *

I guess things are getting back to near normal, as Barb and I have started going out to the movies again, although not on our old once-per-week schedule. More like once-a-month.

But one thing remains a constant: we are back to walking out on movies. The idea is a combination of (a) life’s too short, and (b) we have better stuff to see waiting for us at home.

This image is not an endorsement.

What did we walk out of? The Meg 2. We had liked the first film quite a bit, but this one is fairly dire. Much of it occurs in murky underwater shots and the dialogue is cringe-worthy. The worst shark movie since Jaws 4.

I watched the new Shout Factory edition of Dragnet, the spoofy Dan Aykroyd/Tom Hanks movie from 1987. I remember not loving it on its release, but was grateful for Dragnet getting some attention. My reappraisal? It’s a bad movie. Aykroyd has some good moments and seems to respect (even as he kids) the original Joe Friday. This strikes me as Hank’s least effective performance, broad and trying too hard; but he’s not given anything at all smart to work with. Dabney Coleman plays a Hugh Hefner type with a lisp – horrible. Even Christopher Plummer is bad. How do you get a bad performance out of that man? Harry Morgan as the late (Uncle Joe) Friday’s partner Bill Gannon, now a captain, picks up a paycheck with surprising dignity.

Dragnet deserves a real movie, set in period, based on some major real crime. What a shame it died this way (yes, there was a brief, not terribly good revival on TV that lasted an eyeblink).

Jack Webb was the Orson Welles of TV. He deserves better.

In the meantime, Barb and I have been watching (mostly for the first time) Star Trek: The Next Generation, and it’s a very good series…a few duds, but the original had some of those, too. We’ve also worked our way through the Erle Stanley Gardner adaptations on Perry Mason. We’re still watching shows from the earlier seasons and what a wonderful series that was.

That’s how Barb gets me to walk out of things like Meg 2 – she whispers, “We have better at home.”

And she’s right.


Quarry on the Brain

Tuesday, July 25th, 2023

On the occasion of my starting a new Quarry novel, Quarry’s Return, let’s look at Quarry on audio and screen.

Let’s start with this excellent overview, which properly gives Hard Case Crime some praise for bringing the series back to life, and lavishes praise on the film The Last Lullaby (more about that below).

I have been very lucky with the readers of my audio books. Dan John Miller is, hands down, the voice of Nate Heller. For a long run, I had Stacy Keach himself reading the Spillane/Collins novels. When Stacy stepped down, Stefan Rudnicki stepped up and has done a fabulous job – no small job filling those Keach shoes (and trenchcoat). Several readers have done right by Quarry, but Stefan is the definitive Quarry.

Check out this sample and see. And hear.

If you’ve never seen The Last Lullaby, the Quarry movie starring Tom Sizemore, co-written by me (and derived from my novel The Last Quarry), it’s available on Amazon Prime.

It’s also available on YouTube. Looks good there.

Here is the trailer.

While I like the Quarry Cinemax series, I think The Last Lullaby – even though Quarry is called “Price” there in – is the more accurate rendition of the character.

I required the production not to call the lead character Quarry because I didn’t want to give up sequel rights. This is the same reason Parker is called “Walker” in the film Point Blank, based on Richard Stark’s The Hunter.

Unfortunately, the short (and award-winning) film, “A Matter of Principal,” which I wrote for the same director (Jeffrey Goodman) who put together The Last Lullaby, does not seem to be available anywhere but on the somewhat out-of-print Black Box that collects a number of my films.

It’s available at Amazon for (gasp!) $68, but secondary sellers there have it for much less.

Troma Direct has it for a much more reasonable $29.71.

I won’t provide a link, but e-bay has it for $40 and up.

Wherever you get it, The Black Box includes: Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market; Mommy; Mommy’s Day; and Shades of Noir, which has several of my shorts, including “A Matter of Principal.” Be forewarned that better versions of the two Mommy movies are coming.

There are a few copies of just the Shades of Noir DVD (never sold separately from the Black Box boxed set) at e-bay in the $25 range. The Troma option seems the best.

Now if only they’d send me some royalties!

* * *
Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One, still from train action scene.

A quick appraisal of Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One.

Well, it’s a terrific action movie. Beautifully shot, with Tom Cruise going for broke in what is likely to be the conclusion of the series with Part Two. It’s a thrill ride and often surprisingly witty. Not without heart, it shows a human side of the Cruise character and his supporting cast.

On the downside, the A.I. aspect is not explored as anything but another Blue Meanie. A Big Blue Meanie, the Ultimate Blue Meanie; but little is done with it. The biggest deal is probably screwing up the Internet and forcing our agents to (arrghhh!!!) go analog to use the Net.

The horror.

I am also not crazy about the Part One/Part Two thing, because a two-and-a-half hour movie ought to give you some resolution.

Terrific and fun, Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning etc. is not, to me, as satisfying as Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (reviled by some, particularly those who decided to hate it before seeing it). Here’s the difference: MI is an action movie and a satisfying one, a wild ride. Indiana Jones is an adventure movie. It’s about, among other things, archeology. Which is to say it’s about something, and not just a vague, scary Big Blue Meanie.

That does not mean you should skip MI, because it’s a terrific example of an action movie. Its action scenes outdo the Indiana Jones movie by half; the final scene on a train in MI is one of the best action scenes (and funniest) I’ve ever seen, if not the best). But Indy is adventure and speaks to the inner child in a very different way.

Not a popular view perhaps, but there you have it.

* * *

Here is a positive review of Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction that is nicely illustrated and worth a look.

And here’s yet another “Movies You Didn’t Know Came from Comic Book” articles. Guess what’s included. (And no, I didn’t “base” Road to Perdition on Lone Wolf and Cub – the latter was an influence among a number of other influences. A key influence, like John Woo HK cinema and the real life of John and Connor Looney and Richard Stark’s Parker and various movies about Bonnie and Clyde and more.


Heroes Never Die, But Do They Get Old?

Tuesday, July 11th, 2023
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, cropped movie poster showing Indiana Jones holding a whip.

The only thing I don’t particularly like about the film Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is that uninspired secondary title. Oh, and a car chase goes on too long mid-movie.

Otherwise, I was swept up in the Indiana Jones-ness of it all, and have a hard time understanding why so many of the reviews have been tepid or even negative. Several people in the lobby afterward told me how unrealistic they thought it was (unlike, apparently, the incredibly real-to-life previous Indiana Jones movies) and my pal Leonard Maltin condemned it as formulaic (apparently this would have been a good time, in the final installment, to reinvent everything).

Well, I loved it, from the de-aged Harrison Ford in the epic Nazi opening, and the manner in which he kind of gradually eschews his grumpy archeology professor persona – which he’s apparently given in to for decades – and becomes recognizably Indiana Jones again. Right after the strong opening, moving from a Nazi encampment to a roaring train, we are in the present where we learn Jones is divorced from his love-of-his-life wife. Soon Ford strips out of his shirt to show us a decent-for-eighty-years-old physique, but definitely one that has seen all those years and plenty of wear and tear.

As usual, Indy is paired with a young woman, but this time not a love interest – in fact, it’s an apparent daughter (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who very much holds her own with the old boy. The villain, the reliably odious Mads Mikkelsen, is a worthy one, and complaints about the ending – which pays off the dial of destiny theme and ends with a sweetly satisfying coda – is apparently deemed ineffective by some audience members.

My suspicion is that older viewers are jaded, and younger viewers are not sufficiently aware of the magic of Indiana Jones – for all the complaints about the middle movie of the initial trilogy, those three films were almost as impactful at their pop-cultural moment as Star Wars – and possibly had only the weak Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (an even worse secondary title) to go on.

Look, the filmmakers were smart enough to kill Shia LaBeouf’s character (Mutt!) off between movies. What more do you want?

The soft response to an excellent summer blockbuster (or maybe would-be blockbuster) has to do with the same kind of ageism afoot in a country where that particular “ism” is the only one you can get away with. Ask Joe Biden.

For me, seeing Ford as Jones at his ripe old age (the guy is five years older than me!) is inspiring. No, I don’t believe Ford was doing all of his own stunts, just that I can see how interesting allowing an action hero to age can be. I recall the outrage (justifiable in my estimation) when the producers of a new Lone Ranger movie (in 1981) forbid TV’s Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore, from even wearing his mask at supermarket openings, let alone consider casting him in his iconic role. Hell, he was in his mid-sixties! Does the name Klinton Spilsbury ring a bell? (He’s 73 now.)

What it does for me, as an artist (note I did not spell that “artiste”), is provide food for thought. I would like, if my health cooperates, to write two more Quarry novels (one contracted for already) and two more Nate Heller novels (the subject matter chosen and research under way). The Heller novels require Nate to be the age he would be at the time of the famous historical events I’m planning to thrust him in the middle of. The final book would make him 67 and retired (67, coincidentally, is how old Clayton Moore was when they cast Spilsbury instead).

But I made Quarry around 70 in Quarry’s Blood. I am seriously considering keeping him in his early seventies for these last two books. Nobody complained about his age in Quarry’s Blood, so what the hell? Keeping his age close to mine allows me to write him from a point of view that continues the sort of through-a-glass-darkly autobiography that the Quarry novels represent. It’s, on one level, the story of what might have happened to me if I’d had to go to Vietnam; certainly it’s somewhat the story of what happened to my friend Jon McRae, whose career in the Marines was followed by mercenary work.

I know Mickey Spillane ducked citing Hammer’s age, and it got silly. Mickey insisted (in interviews, not the books) that Hammer was eternally 35. Yet Hammer remains a World War Two veteran in Black Alley, a book set in the year it was published (1996) with Hammer using a cell phone. At the same time, Mickey used health problems (echoing his own) in place of aging Hammer, to be able to present his hero as somewhat damaged goods. I have, in my novels working from Mickey’s unfinished manuscripts, attempted to adjust Hammer’s age (and Velda’s) somewhat closer to reality.

I have always been uncomfortable with series characters who refuse to age. My favorite mystery series, other than Mike Hammer, is Nero Wolfe; but Stout stubbornly refused to age either Archie Goodwin or Wolfe a day. The absurdity becomes abundant when a character from Too Many Cooks (1938) shows up in Right to Die (1964) having aged according to the calendar.

Poirot would have been well over 100, given the age Christie records in The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), later reporting him in Beatle-era London in The Third Girl (1966).

Heller has been writing his memoirs and his age, though he’s vain enough to fudge a little, has stayed pretty much even with reality. That’s a set-in-stone aspect of the saga. Quarry has been established to be taking place primarily in two eras (roughly, the ‘70s and ‘80s/’90s). I made him my age when I returned with The Last Quarry for Hard Case Crime, to (I thought) wrap up the series. Quarry’s Blood, for reasons of the age of a certain character who turns up, had by necessity to be set when he was essentially my age.

And I liked it.

So that, for now anyway, is the plan. Of course, as John Lennon said, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

* * *

Among the plans I’m making, in my Pollyanna-ish way, is to do at least a couple more indie movies before I shuffle off to Buffalo (or meet the fate of buffalos).

My friend and longtime collaborator Phil Dingeldein and I are attempting to get a horror film mounted with a real budget ($1.5 mil). We will see if we can make that happen, but it’s not for lack of trying. The project is based on a novella of mine, Reincarnal, available in the collection of my horror short fiction of that name published by Wolfpack.

Reincarnal and Other Dark Tales, cover

Then there’s Blue Christmas. As I write this, we still don’t know if we got some funding from Greenlight Iowa – they are overdue in informing us (either way). But with my friend Chad Bishop – who edited Mickey Spillane’s Encore for Murder and helped Phil shoot the play and several rehearsals, from which we assembled a video – I will do it one way or another. The budget will be low, the cast largely pro-am. But it’s a way to get it done without the decision-making being controlled by Hollywood.

You can see “A Wreath for Marley,” the basis of Blue Christmas, here.

Reincarnal and Other Dark Tales, cover

I am working with Robert Blair at VCI Home Entertainment on getting the expanded Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane documentary out on Blu-ray before year’s end. It will include, as a bonus feature, Encore for Murder. We are also considering offering Encore as a DVD, designed primarily for the Golden Age Radio market (Radio Spirits, for example).

I’ll preview the Blu-ray and DVD covers here as soon as they are ready.

* * *

My listing of the Perry Mason TV episodes that appeared here a while back needs some revising, which I will do soon. But Paramount+ double-crossed me. Like so many streaming services, they drop stuff unannounced – and by “drop,” I don’t mean debut something, but literally drop it. A number of Mason episodes have disappeared from the service, including several Gardner adaptations. And the entire seventh season has vanished. The final season (the ninth) was never there, to my knowledge.

To fill in, I had to go to my DVD sets of Mason, which look good but not high-def like Paramount+ broadcasts.

Watching the Gardner adaptations in order, Barb and I find show always good, or at least fun; but it’s the first two seasons that are stellar. It’s interesting to note that by the time we get to 1960, the noir-ish flavor of the ‘40s and ‘50s that so permeates the first two seasons has disappeared…much like numerous episodes on Paramount+.

This all goes to show why physical media is where it’s at. I realize I am a nut about this stuff, and many of you could not care less about Blu-ray when you have a couple of shelves of DVD’s. Or maybe your VCR still works and you indulge in that flawed format VHS, which does have a nostalgia value for some, particularly those who raided the video store shelves on Friday to gather viewing material for the coming weekend.

But if you think “everything” is available, thanks to streaming, think again.

* * *

I mentioned Ellis Parker Butler last week, as the “other” somewhat famous mystery writer from Muscatine, Iowa. I should have noted another one, though this guy only wrote a few mysteries. His name was Samuel Clemens.

He lived in Muscatine for several years before he got famous; his brother ran the newspaper here.

It’s just possible I will never be as famous as Mark Twain.

* * *

THIS JUST IN: I completed this update – rather thought I had completed it – and then Barb and I went off to see the new Wes Anderson film, Asteroid City. I’d been looking forward to it, and both Barb and I really liked certain of Anderson’s other films, specifically Rushmore, Moonrise Kingdom, Isle of Dogs and especially The Grand Budapest Hotel. We were disappointed in Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Royal Tanenbaums and The French Dispatch. But this was clearly a gifted filmmaker with a distinct and unique voice.

We walked out of Asteroid City, which is an unbearable exercise in fooling good actors into thinking they are in a movie. And probably for scale. It’s the kind of film where you come out humming the art direction. It is intentionally stilted and very intentionally artificial, making sure the viewer has no suspension of disbelief to hang onto. Beyond arch, the definition of twee, Asteroid City is the worst film I’ve ever seen (or anyway forty minutes of) by a talented director.

Certain movies by directors (or in film series) ruin their other movies for me. This is one of those.

I do not like to write reviews that are critical of movies because it’s tough to make even a really bad movie. Anderson has succeeded in doing the latter.