Posts Tagged ‘Reincarnal’

Short Takes – Books and Movies

Tuesday, December 29th, 2020
Book cover of Shoot the Moon by Max Allan Collins
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
Trade Paperback: Amazon Purchase Link Barnes & Noble Purchase Link

Wolfpack has announced the January 6 publication of Shoot the Moon in a reorganization of the collection Early Crimes. This new version is the novel Shoot the Moon with a “bonus feature” of short stories at the back of the book. Shoot the Moon was my attempt to do a Westlake-like humorous suspense novel. It can be ordered as either an e-book or a physical book.

Also announced by Wolfpack is Reincarnal & Other Dark Tales (with a January 27 pub date). Right now it can only be ordered as an e-book, but a physical book is coming. This collects virtually all of my horror stories to date.

Blue Christmas & Other Holiday Homicides is already available from Wolfpack in both e-book and physical book form. It’s a collection of holiday-themed stories by me, including the title tale, which is my favorite among my short fiction.

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Barb and I revisited two of the Christmas movies I recommended last time.

It Happened One Christmas is the re-imagining of It’s a Wonderful Life with a female protagonist (Marlo Thomas). I love this little movie almost as much as the original, but the truth is that It’s a Wonderful Life is a film masterpiece and It Happened One Christmas is a TV movie. A very good one with a remarkable cast, but a TV movie.

When it first appeared, It Happened One Christmas benefitted from It’s a Wonderful Life having dropped out of sight. But not long after the remake aired, the public domain showings of It’s a Wonderful Life began on PBS stations and revitalized interest in the original film. Despite the gender role reversal, the films are much the same, right down to the dialogue. This will be problematic for many meeting the remake for the first time.

It’s too bad, and I’m glad I saw the remake first, because it didn’t hurt my appreciation of the original at all. But the Marlo Thomas version is, in my opinion, still worthwhile with its strong cast including Wayne Rogers, Orson Welles, Christopher Guest, Cloris Leachman, Archie Hahn, Doris Martin, Richard Dysart, and Barney Martin. And for me a special resonance is the cinematography by Conrad Hall, who won an Academy Award for Road to Perdition.

Twelve Days of Christmas Eve held up very well on what must be my fourth or fifth visit. While it’s rather shamelessly a Ground Hog’s Day variant, it does so in a clever manner and star Steven Weber is excellent, as is Molly Shannon. If you ever try this, stick with it for a while, because it seems at first like just another TV movie, but becomes something very special as it goes along.

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Barb and I were excited about being able to see at home the new Wonder Woman movie (apparently called WW 84 – and I haven’t even seen WW 83 yet!), springing for the new HBO Max streaming service to do so. And guess what? WW 84 is one of the worst superhero movies I’ve ever seen. What did Barb think? She walked out – and we live here!

Where to start? The opening on Amazon Island (or whatever it’s called) is fine. But once we get to 1984, one problem after another presents itself. Let’s get this out of the way: nothing wrong with Gal Gadot, whose super-power seems to be emerging from this crock unscathed. If you are a man, this is not a movie you want to be in, unless you are Chris Pine or a homeless black guy, as every other adult male is a lout at best and a potential rapist at worst.

Chris Pine doesn’t fare that well himself, actually. He comes back from the Great War dead to be wide-eyed and astonished by such marvels as escalators (introduced around 1900) and a subway (introduced around 1890). He tries on a lot of groovy ‘80s clothes, which (as any 1910s guy would do) he finds really cool, particularly the man purse. By the way, in this movie where men are reprehensible, Diana Prince (SPOILER ALERT: Wonder Woman) allows an unknowing male to become the receptacle for her dead boy friend’s persona and almost immediately has sex with him.

What can you say about a film whose super-villain is a blithering jackass? Really, just another weak man who happens to be an a-hole? Or about a script whose theme is wishes coming true but at a cost…a cost that never defines its boundaries (i.e., some people immediately lose whatever they gave up to get their wish, but – so that she can participate in fight scenes – Wonder Woman only very gradually loses her powers).

Then there’s Kristen Wiig, who plays her role as a supposed nebbish girl like an SNL character, then unbelievably becomes a mostly CGI bad girl (the Cheetah, a recurring Wonder Woman villain, but never named in the film). What Kristen gave up for her wish was her…niceness.

This is a super-hero movie that made me want to reconsider Green Lantern. How could the first Wonder Woman film be so good, and this one so wretched? Same director. Different result.

Still from Wonder Woman 1984, captioned: That's just a trash can.
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While I haven’t dug into it yet, the Taschen coffee table tome, The History of EC Comics, was my “big gift” from Barb this year. I love these books but they are difficult to deal with. A hernia is no way to start the New Year. But what a thing of beauty this baby is.

My son Nate gave me two books in Marc Cushman’s These Are the Voyages series of big, long, in-depth tomes about Star Trek. I have mentioned here that Barb and I were trek fans before the dreaded term trekkie was even coined. We attended one of the first Star Trek conventions, and watched the episodes in syndication over and over. I bought the comic books and James Blish paperbacks. We went to dinner theater plays in Chicago starring (separately) William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. I got to know Walter Koenig, at first by mail (we traded Big Little Books) and then in person. (Later I would cast Majel Barrett Roddenberry in Mommy.) We went to Gene Roddenberry’s embarrassing film Pretty Maids All in a Row in the theater, and we stood in the cold for hours to see Star Trek: The Motion Picture (which remains one of my favorite films, for which I have no apology).

These books chronicle everything. The first three are about each original season, but now I’m reading book four, which is about the years leading up to the animated series. Cushman’s tomes are well-written and ridiculously thorough – how ridiculously thorough? How about reviews quoted at length from those dinner theater appearances I mentioned earlier? Or tons of the bad reviews Pretty Girls All in a Row got? Or what TV shows the secondary cast members appeared in between the series and the movies?

So you have to be something of a lunatic where Star Trek is concerned – the real Star Trek, that is – to want anything to do with these three-inch-thick books. And I qualify.

Thank you, son.

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As a sidebar to the WW 84 review above, let me say that after recently adding movie channels to our cable and streaming channels to our Roku, I am underwhelmed and overwhelmed at the same time. “Over” because there is so much of it. “Under” because so little of it appeals to me.

Much of the new product seems so politically correct and painfully diverse to make me consider voting Republican (we all have our weak moments). “Free” content on most of the streaming services is commercial-ridden. But now and then I stumble onto something good.

In 2015, Colin Hanks (whose father, I understand, appeared in a very good gangster film) directed a documentary about Tower Records called All Things Must Pass. It’s an extremely well-made film in which Russ Solomon, the creator of the record-store chain, is interviewed at length; so are many of the original employees, who rose to high levels within the company, and such music luminaries as Elton John and Bruce Springsteen.

I loved Tower Records. Any time I was in a big city, I tracked Tower Records down. Each store was the same but different, reflecting the individual management and its employees. Those red letters on yellow thrill me to this day. I bought CD’s there. And books. And magazines. And laser discs. And DVDs.

In Chicago. In Los Angeles on Sunset. In New York in the Village. In Honolulu. In London. In Las Vegas. These stores were a pop culture paradise, and they still exist only in Japan, and in my memory.

I hate streaming. I hate e-books (except for the income they generate for me, of course). I am Old School. Physical Media. Physical Media. Physical Media.

Nice job, Mr. Hanks. Cool work on Fargo, too.

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Among the oddball, quirky Blu-ray labels I support is Vinegar Syndrome. You should check them out. On their Black Friday sale, I bought Forgotten Gialli Volume 2 and a box set of The Beastmaster. The packaging is incredible and the bonus content mindboggling. They do intersperse “classic” porn titles between the horror and giallo and s-f titles, so take care. Some of their media gets pretty physical.

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I will see you next year. By then, I will be working on Quarry’s Blood. Skim Deep was a coda to the Nolan series, and this one will be a coda to the Quarry series.

Shall we endeavor for 2021 not to suck quite so thoroughly as 2020? On the other hand, the thing I’m looking forward to about next year is getting a vaccine shot or two.

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Here’s a nice recommendation for Skim Deep.

M.A.C.

Required Viewing List Part Two

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Last week I came up with a list of my favorite sixteen movies, which got some interesting reaction. But that number was ungainly, so I’ve decided to bring it up to 25 Favorite movies with nine more.

Understand that I’m not listing my take on best movies. This is a personal list. Ed Gorman responded to mine in his blog, saying he liked my choices and then listed his. Every one of Ed’s favorites were films I like a lot, yet none were on my favorites list, which I define by how often I want to return to these films. A favorite film is a place you want to revisit, like a cottage on the lake or a restaurant that’s worth a fifty-mile drive.

Both Ed and I have been questioned because we have so few foreign films (he has one, DIABOLIQUE) on our lists, and also that so few films are included that were made in the last couple decades. Barb and I go to the movies just about every week, sometimes more than once – I don’t know anybody except Leonard Maltin who sees more movies than I do. But the films that resonate for me are Hollywood born, in the mid-20th Century. These films – like the books of Hammett, Chandler, Cain, and Spillane – influenced me. So I celebrate them here.

I also plan to follow up with a favorite director’s list. Many of my favorite films are not courtesy of my favorite directors – for example, the Randolph Scott westerns of Budd Boetticher are among my most loved films, but I view them as a body of work. Some of my most loved directors made the list last week – Hitchcock and Joseph H. Lewis, for example – but most did not.

By the way, I did not watch the Academy Awards this year. I almost never do (the year ROAD TO PERDITION was up for a bunch of Oscars was the last time). I watch a movie instead.

For now, here are the rest of my Top 25.

The Bad Seed

17. THE BAD SEED (1956). This should be no surprise to anyone, since my indie film MOMMY (1995) has been called an unofficial sequel, casting Patty McCormack as a grown-up variation on homicidal child Rhoda Penmark. The novel by William March and the play by Maxwell Anderson are both brilliant works, and director Mervyn Leroy’s faithful, gently opened up recreation of the Broadway hit captures all the black humor and dread of both. Leroy often gets criticized for the Hollywood ending, but there is a WIZARD OF OZ-like otherworldly tone to Rhoda walking in the thunder storm in her little raincoat, running her flashlight along a picket fence, on her way to once and for all retrieve the spelling medal (which made the “pen marks” on little Claude Daigle’s forehead and hands). The much criticized curtain call, with Nancy Kelly spanking Patty was actually part of the stage play, considered a necessary cooling off after the shock of the original (Rhoda surviving her mother’s efforts to kill her). Astonishingly, Nancy Kelly (sister of Bart Maverick, Jack Kelly) never had another movie role, despite her Academy Award nomination and a wonderfully melodramatic performance worthy of Bette Davis or Joan Crawford. The new Blu-ray reveals nuances in Patty’s performance that reveal her already understanding the difference between stage and film.

18. MARK OF ZORRO (1940). As a kid and even today I am a sucker for swashbuckling movies, and Tyrone Power was the 1940s king of those, the sound-era version of Douglas Fairbanks (literally in this remake). Johnston McCulley’s novel is faithfully followed in this, the greatest of all Zorro films, with perhaps the most exciting duel ever put on him as Power faces down evil Basil Rathbone, who could actually fence. Rouben Mamoulian directed this funny, sexy, exciting film with a rousing score by Alfred Newman. One to watch again and again.

19. POINT BLANK (1967). John Boorman’s spellbinding pop art, European-influenced take on the Richard Stark “Parker” novels transcends a spotty script to become one of the two most influential crime films of the ‘60s (BONNIE AND CLYDE is the other). Haunted zombie Lee Marvin walks through this dream-like neo-noir landscape (he’s named Walker, after all) exhibiting a quietly sociopathic intensity that makes this almost a horror film.

20. PRETTY POISON (1968). Another dream-like film, this one is heavily influenced by BONNIE AND CLYDE and plays off the Perkins PSYCHO persona as well. Yet it is strikingly original, funny, dark, and disturbing. Tuesday Weld is so fetching and sweetly evil that just about any heterosexual male would do for her the things Perkins does. Why director Noel Black did not enjoy a major career after this is a sad mystery.

21. DAMN YANKEES (1958). Another of that small handful of Broadway musicals brought faithfully to the screen, with stars Ray Walston (his signature performance, despite my wife referring to him as “My Little Martian”) and funny, sexy Gwen Verdon doing her famous “Whatever Lola Wants.” A great score from the PAJAMA GAME team of Richard Adler and Jerry Ross (Ross would tragically die young after these two great shows) provides the spine of this terrific Faust story in which a baseball fan learns that he actually loves his wife more than he does the Washington Senators. Tab Hunter is excellent here, despite critical carping, and Walston is just fantastic as Applegate (“I see cannibals a’munchin’, a missionary luncheon”). You go to the ball game. I’ll stay home and watch this.

22. RIO BRAVO (1959). John Wayne and Howard Hawks answer HIGH NOON in this classic western where the sheriff turns down help from the citizens. Dean Martin turns in his finest performance as the reformed drunk who becomes Wayne’s deputy, and Angie Dickinson makes a stunning impression in her first major film role. Even Ricky Nelson seems perfect. My son Nate (normally very perceptive) found this movie corny when I showed it to him a few years ago, in particular Walter Brennan’s trademark old geezer performance, but some day he will wise up.

23. DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER (1941). Another dream-like film, and another Faust story. Director William Dieterle’s brilliant film, beautifully acted, is a Halloween favorite around the Collins household. The performance by Simone Simon as a ghostly seductress is mesmerizing – again, most men will understand why farmer James Craig casts lovely Anne Shirley aside for her. Craig’s trial in front of a jury of the damned (including the likes of Benedict Arnold and Captain Kidd) probably marks the high point of actor Edward Arnold’s distinguished career. And Walter Huston is as scary as he is hilarious as Mr. Scratch. Then there’s that Bernard Hermann score….

24. BEDAZZLED (1967). Did I mention I’m a fool for Faust films? Director Stanley Donen is most famous as a director of fifties musicals, but here he perfectly captures the mid- ‘60s in swinging London and along the way provides the only great screen representation of comedy team Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. If you’ve seen and enjoyed this, you have probably had moments when you’ve blown the raspberry much as Moore’s Stanley does, anxious to trade one reality for another. Each hilarious and dismal attempt by Stanley to come up with a future worth trading his soul for is topped by the next disaster. The score by Moore is a shimmering delight, in particular the pop star sequence, which proves as prescient as PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE.

25. THE PRODUCERS (1968). Do I really have to write anything about this one? How about, “I’m hysterical and I’m wet,” or Lee Meredith dancing for Max and Leo, or “Max, he’s wearing a dress,” or “I have said this is the short fuse, and this is the short fuse”? Let’s leave it at this – liking this movie is an example of smartness.

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I’m pleased to report that THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER VOLUME 3: ENCORE FOR MURDER has been nominated for the Audie in the Best Original Work category. We won last year with THE LITTLE DEATH. This is the full-cast radio “novel” with Stacy Keach and a full cast (including the last major performance by my late friend and collaborator, Mike Cornelison).

More nice things are being said about the new Paul Cain book that Lynn Myers and I edited. I haven’t got my copy yet, but you can check out the info here.

And here’s a nice ANGEL IN BLACK review.

Finally, here’s a way to pick up the unedited, complete versions of my Dreadtime Stories, REINCARNAL and WOLF, full-cast presentations. More to come: A GOOD HEAD ON HIS SHOULDERS and MERCY are in the pipeline. MERCY is a new story (the others are adapted from previously published work of mine).

M.A.C.

Honor To Be Nominated

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011
Road to Perdition
Road to Perdition 2: On The Road
The Romantic Times Awards nominees have been announced, and I’m pleased to report that BYE BYE, BABY is among the nominees for Best Historical Mystery, as seen here.

My radio play version of REINCARNAL is available for a limited time FREE at Fangoria’s website. Producer Carl Amari did a great job on this! So much so that I’ve written a screenplay based on the original story and the radio play.

RETURN TO PERDITION continues to get some very nice attention, in particular a USA TODAY article that got picked up all over the Net.

Among the mostly favorable reviews, my pal Bill Crider – a terrific mystery writer (and blogger) – gave one of the most insightful.

The LA Times even picked RETURN and the two new reprints of the early ROAD graphic novels for their comics-oriented gift book section.

Barb and I continue to listen to the new Nate Heller audios as read by Dan John Miller. Audio File Magazine agrees with me that he makes a great Heller. Check out this review.

A guy named Ed who is not Gorman has nice things to say about THE CONSUMMATA.

And I did a lengthy phone interview with Bryan Young that he split up in a couple of places, first at Big Shiny Robot and more at his own site. This is a warts-and-all transcription, and not the smoothest of reads, but we get into some interesting topics.

Finally, happy Thanksgiving to all of you. There have been some tough losses this year (Chuck and Mike in particular) but I remain thankful for my great wife and son, and those of you kind enough to read my books. You provide the feast.

M.A.C.