Sunday, 17 August 2014

Not exactly a murder mystery...

I watched Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal yesterday and was totally blown away by how good it was!  I know that sounds incredibly stupid and naive seeing as it's an acknowledged classic, but for some reason I thought the film would literally be two guys playing chess on a beach.  And let's face it, that sounds pretty boring.  Happily, it's so much more than that.

It seems to encompass every major human emotional state.  There's love (maternal and carnal), fear of death, jealousy, greed, pride - the list goes on!  I know these seem quite dark, but there's plenty of witty banter and even a slightly Carry On-esque seduction between the manager of the acting troupe and a saucy maiden.  All it's missing is the Benny Hill theme tune!

My favourite scene is a beautiful moment where the knight's party is sitting enjoying 'freshly milked milk' and wild strawberries with the travelling actors.  It feels like an oasis of tranquility, and it's so honest and realistic that it took me straight back to summer holidays when I was a child.  When it felt like we had all the time in the world to just hang out.  There was no rush to get things done, no pressure, no deadlines, no horizons.  We were simply enjoying life!

This was the first time I'd seen Max Von Sydow in a Swedish speaking role, and I found it quite fun visualising him as Ming the Merciless, or Frederick in Hannah and Her Sisters.  He's also a lot younger here than I'd ever seen him before, and I'm sure they consciously styled him to make the most of his killer cheekbones.
Finally, I think Death looks rather like Darth Vader without his helmet - what do you think?
Hi, I'm Death, fancy a game of chess?

So for anyone who hasn't already seen the film, I'd like to strongly recommend that you do.  I mean that I STRONGLY RECOMMEND you see this film, it's a deserved classic.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Hello again

It's been a while!  In fact I almost forgot about this blog, but I never lost interest in murder mysteries.

At the moment I'm listening to Cat Among the Pigeons, read by Hugh Fraser (such a lovely voice).  I put off buying this audiobook for quite a while as I remember not being particularly taken with the book.  However, I'd listened to the other audiobooks I had on file over and over again and felt like something new.  I'm glad I did as there's a sprawling cast of well-drawn characters and although there's an international aspect to the story, on the main it's got a quite restricted setting (girls' boarding school) which gives it a 'mystery weekend party' feel.  I'm really quite enjoying it so far - and will be even more so when Poirot turns up!

Hugh Fraser in 'Murder in Mesopotamia'.  Doesn't he look good in a hat.

Today I went out to the shops quite early to get some food in, as there's apparently quite a storm a-brewing!  I was fairly done-in by the time I got back, seeing as I'd traipsed around North and East London for about 3 hours in the sun.  At least there was a nice breeze!

A view from my back door - there are dark clouds ahead!

So this afternoon I didn't feel too bad about settling in for a bit of TV viewing.  I saw an episode of Columbo on one of the 5 channels (can't remember which now) that I hadn't seen all the way through before, so I set it to tape while I did some tidying up.  Yes, I know it wasn't really taping on a tape, but it's a hard habit to break.

The Columbo episode was called 'Publish or Perish' and it featured Jack Cassidy, who was also in the Steven Spielberg directed episode 'Murder by the Book'.  Both of these episodes involve the death of a writer on the verge of leaving Jack's character - in one they're writing partners, in the other they're writer and publisher.  Isn't that a funny coincidence?  Another strange fact is that in 'Publish or Perish' the writer is played by none other than Mickey Spillane!

Jack Cassidy appears in a total of 3 Columbo episodes, in the last of which he plays a magician.  Strangely enough, I don't recall ever seeing him in anything else.  In all 3 Columbo's he seems to play very similar characters.  I'd like to see him in another programme entirely to figure out whether he was always the same mixture of clever-dick, smarmy, ladies-man.  That's not a criticism, because he's really compelling viewing - he makes you feel creeped-out but at the same time you can see the humanity in his characters.

Tell me honestly, does my tie go with this moustache?

One final fun-fact about Jack Cassidy that I found on IMDB - he was David Cassidy's father.  And he used to be married to Shirley Jones who appeared in a couple of MSW episodes.  This is just another reason for Kevin Bacon to stand aside and make way for the Six Degrees of Angela Lansbury!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Hello there!  I'm at my friend's house looking after her dog today.  While he's having a well deserved nap, I'm watching an old episode of Morse - it's got raspy-voiced Roberta Taylor that I remember from Eastenders about 10 years ago when I used to watch it.  She's playing Sheila Williams, the mistress of Theodore Kemp a randy, womanising archeologist played by Simon Callow.

are you looking at me crazy lady?

Also, I've been listening to The Alington Inheritance by Patricia Wentworth.  I put it back on reluctantly as the first book of hers that I bought was a bit of a wash-out.  That was The Danger Point, also starring Miss Maud Silver.  I had been expecting a crime thriller, but really it was nothing of the sort.

Yes, there's a murder in it.  Yes, there are a range of characters that could have perpetrated the crime - let's call them 'suspects'.  But the thing is, there's no need for suspicion at all.  It's blinking obvious who the culprit is!  In both of the books!  So the most important, enthralling and interesting element is missing - DETECTION.

Now I realise that this makes it sound a bit like Columbo.  But in that classic tv series even though we know all along 'who dunnit', at least we see the perpetrator trying to cover up their crime.  Which gives Columbo something to unravel and solve.  That cat and mouse game is exactly what provides interest, you're able to see how clever each of the protagonists are in their respective roles.

Just one more thing...

Both The Alington Inheritance and The Danger Point fail to deliver as detective novels.  There's no working out of who did the crime, not by Miss Maud Silver or anyone else.  There's also no sense that you're watching the mystery being unravelled by reasoning, questioning and intuition.  No, you simply get statements of fact from various characters (repeated two or three times, I might add) and usually covering aspects of the story that have already been described.  Pointless!

nice book cover, shame about the story

At the heart of both Patricia Wentworth novels I've listened to so far is a love story.  Indeed, I seriously think they should be re-categorised as romance instead of crime fiction.  They're a little naive and remind me of damsel in distress / knight on a white steed children's stories, but they're quite endearing because of that.

All in all I don't think I'll be in a massive rush to get another of the author's books.  Which is a real shame as there seem to be loads of them available!  Oh well!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

As I popped out to the shops to pick up a Father's Day card & present, various birthday gifts and something nice for lunch, I listened to Poirot's Early Cases through my comfy over-the-ear headphones.  And a surprising fact came to light.  Apparently Inspector Japp is an ardent botanist.

Yes, really!

Who'd have thunk it?  No I, that's for sure.  Not even if I had an unlimited number of monkeys with an unlimited number of typewriters.  And that includes if they'd managed to get the spools put in correctly.
Which isn't easy, especially for monkeys.

It was like finding out that your favourite teacher was a secret morris dancer.  Or a cross dresser.  Not sure which would be worse.  Anyway, it goes on to say he enthusiastically quotes lengthy Latin names with a dubious accent.  Gawd love 'im.

Anemone Japonica, says I

Just watching a MSW I've only seen once before.  Shocker!  Set in the offices of the San Francisco Union newspaper, owned by an overbearing Australian publishing millionaire.  Towards the end of the episode he mentions that he's just bought a satellite TV station.  Ring any bells?  It reminded me of the one based at a TV studio where they were filming 'Buds' - a sitcom about a group of friends living in New York who hang out at a coffee shop.  I wonder where they get their inspiration from...?


Anyways back to 'Dear Deadly' in San Fran.  Love the fact that someone faxes - FAXES - hate mail!  It was only the nineties, but it seems like a million years ago... *sighs*  The scary boot camp lady from Private Benjamin, Eileen Brennan, is the unfortunate victim in this episode.  There's a suitably confusing plot involving a hearing aid, a homeless man and a diamond ring.  There's also a carbon paper clue.  Not from them pesky monkeys, you'll be pleased to hear.

Six degrees of Angela Lansbury fact: Ms Brennan also appears in the almost-good Murder by Death, a ridiculous spoof of detective fiction.  Its star studded cast does the best it can with a creaky, plodding script, but ultimately it's all a bit of an unfunny mess.  Even the darling David Niven can't save it.

Ooh, that's weird.  The bloke from the co-op ads that loves his wife so much has turned up pretending to be disturbed cousin Jim on an episode of Rosemary & Thyme.  Pity I won't find out what it's all about as I can't stand R&T and their preference for dreary-coloured baggy linen outfits.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Oh deary me.

Am feeling a bit worse for wear today after meeting up with a friend for dinner last night.  We somehow managed to work our way through a bottle of white wine before we'd even ordered our food.  It was a really fun evening though, talking about her recent wedding (such a brilliant day), their honeymoon (including a menu of pillows and their own butler!) and whether you need to convince your parents you're grown-up enough to look after a dog when you're in your mid thirties!

I woke up this morning at 6am after a shockingly bad night's kip but couldn't get back to sleep.  So I put the audiobook version of Paul Temple and the Sullivan Mystery on, downed a couple of paracetamol and lay there with a cold wet flannel on my forehead.

There's nothing quite so soothing as Crawford Logan and Gerda Stevenson's dulcet tones, and some of the stuff they come out with is hilarious.  They asked Mr Schreider 'would you join us in a cocktail' like they're doing a turn as Dita von Teese.

'Would you join me in a cocktail?'

Actually, I can't look at that picture.  I really don't feel like drinking ever again...

Thursday, 7 June 2012

I love the fact that Poirot really likes dogs.  Jolly good show, what?

I've just watched David Suchet in The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge in which the murderer is uncovered by a lovely little ginger & white spaniel.  It reminded me of his unlikely friendship with Bob in Dumb Witness. Unlikely, but extremely endearing!

Detective? Moi?

I'd love to have a little dog to look after, it's so frustrating living in a flat and not having the space. Maybe I ought to move to the countryside and have a garden... hmm.

Mind you, I'm usually reminded of Sherlock Holmes commenting on the fact that the countryside is often a more dangerous place than the city -

"... look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser..."

Wise words Sherlock!  Happen I'll tough it out in the big smoke a little while longer.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

I spent the day getting the flat ready for my folks' arrival tomorrow.  We're off into town to soak up the atmosphere of the Queen's Jubilee.  Gawd bless 'er!  It's bleeshing with rain out there right now, hope it eases off.  Better pack a pac a mac!

While I was dusting, hoovering and sorting out paperwork (where does it all come from?!?) I caught an episode of The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries on Alibi - with the lovely Patrick Malahide.  I don't know why he makes such a good Alleyn.  He's not tall enough, his teeth are pretty weird and his hairline starts a bit too far back.  And yet despite all this, he's right on the money.  Authoritative.  Compassionate.  Intellectual. And with a wry sense of humour.  The interplay between Alleyn and Troy is delightful.  They're both packed full of pent up emotions, old fashioned correctness and dry wit.  Brilliant!

And now I'm watching Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles.  Funnily enough, I've noticed after watching quite a few of his Sherlock Holmes films that they appear to use the same actors again and again.  Like a repertory company, I suppose.  In this version the evil Stapleton is played by someone called Morton Lowry.  I noticed him in 'Pursuit to Algiers' where he was Sanford, the ship steward *  Mr Lowry was an impressive proponent of Action Man eye acting.  Look left - look right.  That's it, you've got it!

Also, he reminded me of a young Paul Newman.

'Cat on a hot tin roof?  What are you on about?'
courtesy of

Strangely, he seems to have fallen off the radar after 1960 - he apparently moved to the States but didn't appear in any more films or TV after that.  Well, not that I can find anyway.  Curious.  I hope he was ok.

As I was looking for that picture I happened to find a brilliant website full to the brim with amazing photos of Basil Rathbone -  This was the best of the bunch, for obvious reasons...

'pass the ketchup, Basil'
courtesy of

* spoiler alert: he also happens to be the king of some fictional country going undercover