Archive for Russ Tamblyn

The Legend of the Haunting of Hill House on Haunted Hill

Posted in FILM, literature, Television with tags , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2018 by dcairns

Binge-watch! Fiona got a migraine devouring six (or was it seven?) episodes of the new Haunting of Hill House series on Netflix. But it was very more-ish.

It reminds me of when we got into True Crime, which also featured an epic long take and built up accretions of horror and misery before attempting, less convincingly, to end in sweetness and light.

Good jump-scares. Arguably too many of them. But impressive the way the thing keeps the creepy scenes coming, even if a lot of them are dreams. They managed to make me not resent that too much, perhaps because the narrative structure is so ingenious. We have two timelines unfolding, but not altogether chronologically, and from various points of view so that some scenes get replayed in new contexts, with extra background. Add to this the facts that the entire cast of the earlier timeline, except someone who dies then, get replaced by adult/older surrogates, and that the central family have five damn kids, and it should be confusing (every woman on this show seems to have long brunette hair; every man talks in a throaty, husky voice) but it very rarely is.

Not only is the show out of sequence, so are the characters’ lives, with ghostliness used for a kind of time travel. Too complicated to explain but impressive to see play out in gruesome/tragic ah-hah moments of revelation.

And match-cuts! Many many match-cuts, which suggest the whole project has been PLANNED, which is a nice feeling to get.

I will say the thing began unpromisingly, with the amazing opening passages of Shirley Jackson’s book crudely doctored for length and… for no reason, sometimes. With a real brute insensitivity, as of someone who has no idea the clumsy violence he’s doing. Mind you, even the excellent 1960 film is guilty of a bit of that.

The series includes many nods to the book and film, and a couple to Richard Matheson’s rather close homage, The Legend of Hell House, book and film. But it’s a whole different animal. The movie remake Spielberg produced, apart from being lame and stupid, suffered horribly by comparison with the original because every point of comparison was proof of inferiority. The new series benefits from striking out on its own, so I didn’t like the way it appropriated character names and a few characteristics (a lesbian called Theo, an anxious Nell) from its esteemed forbear. But it’s always nice to see Russ Tamblyn.

Not Russ Tamblyn! A much, much taller man.

One thing still bothers us, like Columbo. Were the parents meant to be so incompetent? It arguably makes sense. This show is about a traumatised family, and families often get that way in part due to parental mistakes. But these people make unending screw-ups  with their kids, and while we hear a lot of complaints from the offspring when they grow up, it’s not entirely clear showrunner Mike Flanagan is aware how bumbling his character are. And how did Timothy Hutton get to be so wise in the final episode when he was such an idiot when he was Henry Thomas? Years bring wisdom, I guess. Apparently I’m still in my Henry Thomas phase.

Featuring Elliot, the Silk Spectre, George Stark, Daario Naharis and Tom Thumb.

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Peak Condition

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2017 by dcairns

YES, now that you mention it, we ARE still enjoying the new series of Twin Peaks, thank you very much!

One intriguing thing about David Lynch & Mark Frost’s version of the world here is that apparently no one ever retires. Lynch himself, in his early seventies, is on active duty for the FBI. Ernie Hudson is a colonel in the Pentagon, aged 72. Robert Forster, new sheriff in town, is in his late seventies, and he’s assisted by Michael Horse, who’s in his late sixties. And the great Don Murray, in his late eighties, is running an insurance company. “The sheriff is, like, 90,” sneers bad boy Richard Horne, inaccurately.

Richard Beymer, 79, runs a hotel, while his screen brother, David Patrick Kelly, is in the marijuana business at 66. I don’t believe retirement has ever been formalised in that particular trade, though it has often been assumed to be a young man’s game.

And maybe it should be?

At 83, Russ Tamblyn’s Dr. Jacoby doesn’t seem to be practicing psychiatry anymore, but he’s, uh, sort of in business for himself.

Harry Dean Stanton is running a trailer park at, like, 90.

My supposition is that when we finally meet Everett McGill as Big Ed, he’ll still be working in a gas station at 72, and Warren Frost, as Doc Hayward the town GP, he’ll still be practicing medicine*.

Back in season 2, there were some impressive geriatrics also — Mr. Mibbler, the world’s oldest bank teller (Ed Wright, who was 85) — and the world’s oldest waiter, Hank Worden, who was 90. But the way these characters (associated with Lynch-directed episodes) were treated was a little different. Both were subject to jokes about their doddering, their dithering, their slow pace. One could find it a little cruel, and class it in the same camp as Lynch’s casting of little people and disabled people. But one could also ask, who else is casting the very elderly and the oddly-shaped? Lynch is a surreal filmmaker, but he also deals with realities otherwise somewhat neglected. Doesn’t mean he gets a free pass or anything.

When asked if the slow-scrolling highway lines in THE STRAIGHT STORY were a joke on his usual low-angle road shots, Lynch replied, straight-faced, “No. That’s what it looks like when you move at that speed.” And so Mibbler and the waiter gradual and uncertain movements were recorded with the same accuracy. It could be that it’s THE STRAIGHT STORY that shifted the attitude to the elderly, but it’s more likely to be Lynch’s own advancing years.

Anyhow, there are no jokes about Gordon Cole “getting too old for this” or Sheriff Truman taking a long time to cross a room. The only time you’d guess Don Murray’s age is when we first see him stand up, and it takes a bit more effort than it did back in BUS STOP or A HATFUL OF RAIN. Lynch’s vision of aging is now a happily, or angrily, defiant one. Do not go gentle. Lynch & Frost’s weary, rumpled, kindly authority figures will keep on trying to protect us from immortal evil forces.

*Yes, I’ve now watched episode 7. The doc seems to be spending a lot of time fishing, but he also refers to having diagnosed a patient via Skype just the other day. So in the world of Twin Peaks you can be a doctor at 91, though perhaps on a somewhat informal basis.

 

My blog saw something that night

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2017 by dcairns

We very much enjoyed the first episodes of Twin Peaks: The Return. But what was it we were enjoying? I suspect we won’t know until the full eighteen episodes have aired, and maybe not even then.

What is Dr. Jakoby (Russ Tamblyn) going to do with all those shovels? And what answer to the question could possibly satisfy us?

I guess don’t read this if you haven’t imbibed the first four episodes and are concerned about spoilers.

This is certainly a sequel to Twin Peaks but, like FIRE WALK WITH ME, it doesn’t wholly inhabit the same genre/s. The soap opera aspects are largely absent, in favour of a kind of demented supernatural procedural, spread across various parts of the US and involving various familiar and unfamiliar characters.

So far, nothing much resembling a narrative has emerged in the town of Twin Peaks itself, except for Deputy Sheriff Hawk (Michael Horse) vaguely investigating clues suggested by the Log Lady (Catherine Coulson, one of a number of players who has sadly passed on after filming their scenes). Mostly, the TP scenes introduce familiar characters and let us see what’s going on in their lives 25 years later: Ben and Jerry Horne, James the soulful biker, Shelly the waitress, bad boy Bobby Briggs. These scenes don’t seem to be going anywhere, really, but maybe they are, just very very slowly. They do kind of resembled the MISSING PIECES from FIRE WALK WITH ME, some of which are enjoyable as cameos, but which rightly hit the cutting room floor since they didn’t advance the (disturbing, ambiguous) narrative.

But, while I want those characters to actually get properly involved in the story, at the moment what has me hooked is the adventures of the two Agent Dale Coopers, one a long-haired, permatanned outlaw, possessed by the spirit BOB (it seems), the other a total amnesiac wandering Las Vegas, unable to figure out his purpose in life or even how to go to the bathroom. This gives Kyle McLachlan plenty to do, which is great news.

But my favourite performances so far are Matthew Lillard, playing a Leland Palmerish type — respectable citizen with secret criminal life — who is just electrifying, even while looking strangely like Earthworm Jim in knitwear, and Michael Cera in a throwaway cameo… I guess stop reading if you haven’t viewed episode four, I think it was…

Cera plays Wally Brando, son of beloved regulars Andy and Lucy, who was just a twinkle in the eye back in season 2. He’s envisaged as the lovechild of Wally Cox and Marlon Brando, specifically in THE WILD ONE, and Cera delivers a spectacularly mean takedown of Brando’s more windy improvisatory moments from his late work. That combination of wistful musing on the surface, fatuous pontification by way of content, and an undercurrent of desperate what-the-fuck-am-I-going-to-say-next panic. With a convincing copy of Brando’s whistling lisp. We found it rather fine.

A friend said he found Harrison Ford’s appearance in the trailer for THE FORCE AWAKENS kind of dispiriting — “Just a reminder of your own mortality.” I guess because we’d been seeing Ford grow old and that was OK, but our memories of Han Solo were still young. Many of the cast of TP are still firmly associated with their roles in the show and little else — plus three of them have died since filming this. So there’s a certain amount of non-diegetic sadness floating around this show. I’d have been happy if they’d deleted a line of dialogue about Miguel Ferrer looking unwell. If Ferrer tried to act malaise, it didn’t come across, because the poor man looks unwell all the time here. But it’s still good to see him as Albert. Some kind of guardian angel allowed Lynch to make this just before the world lost Albert and Dr. Hayward and the Log Lady.