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D. De Gruijter (Leiden)

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In Ghostly Company (Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural)
In Ghostly Company (Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural)
by Amyas Northcote
Edition: Paperback
Price: £2.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Adequate, but only just, 18 July 2011
If you're a lover of weird tales then buy this book for the few tales that merit the collection and to support the Wordsworth Tales of Mystery and the Supernatural line. Just don't expect it to be more than a passable diversion in supernatural fiction.

The comparisons with James and Caldecott made by the editor are unjust. Northcote is not even close to their league. Basically, this collection is what the introduction never makes explicit - a casual venture into the weird by an upper class civil servant who doesn't need to write for a living and doesn't seem to have the passion for the craft.

Hence, there's a lot of run-of-the-mill type of ghost stories that will hardly raise an eyebrow, even by the unseasoned reader. There are also some rather painful scenes, such as a skeleton found kneeling at the legs of another skeleton. I wonder how they did that without some wires?

There are a above average stories worth reading - Brickett Bottom, The Steps, The Late Mrs. Fowke, and Mr. Oliver Carmichael. The last story is probably the best, and shows some promise. Overall it's a nice addition to the collection, but nothing you would have seen even before 1921.

Doctor Jekyll & Sister Hyde [DVD]
Doctor Jekyll & Sister Hyde [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ralph Bates
Price: £10.00

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shouldn't work, but does., 18 May 2011
I've always been a bit wary of this film, knowing that it is viewed as a pleasant oddity, but... well, the concept is so silly, as was the marketing of the time, it just couldn't work. Now could it?

It not only could, but it actually does. This film has some great moments that are very cleverly done. The first transformation of Jeckyll into Hyde is well done, as are Hyde's erotic conquests of Jeckyll's male acquaintances (and one particular unnerving moment when during her lovemaking Hyde regresses into Jeckyll!).

There is some comedy as well, but I was surprised at the raw violence in the film. It's never fun and games, the tragedy of the original tale is ever present.

The only qualm I have is that the film loses its focus near the end. Why Jeckyll murders prostitutes is easily explained, but what's in it for sister Hyde when she takes to the task? It appears Jeckyll and Hyde are conscious of one another's conflicting desires, but Jeckyll is also able to use Hyde to execute his design's under another cover. The conclusion, although tense, doesn't satisfy.

But all in all a real horror oddity that epicures in the terrible should not dismiss.

The Last Man (Wordsworth Classics)
The Last Man (Wordsworth Classics)
by Hugh J. Luke Jr.
Edition: Paperback
Price: £1.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a casual read, 19 Feb 2011
Mary Shelley's apocalyptic fantasy was harshly reviewed in her own time, so it's not surprising that some of those contemporary criticisms re-echo today. Yes, it is overdrawn and too verbose in places, it falls apart halfway into two completely different stories, perhaps too long and too ambitious for its own good.

For these reasons it's a difficult book to read, but then this read needs the proper investment to get most out of it. There are truly inspired visions, interspersed with Gothic contraptions that almost sound comic, and as the end nears you start to feel for the characters, making the emotional impact ever so strong.

I enjoyed this book, but was puzzled by the editor's introduction. How she has read some sort of anti-Romantic manifesto in this is beyond me. On the contrary, The Last Man seems to a fierce confirmation of the first-generation Romantic worldview. One of the most important elements of this view is the idea of history developing in circles, through crises and catastrophes, alienation and recognition. The beginning of the book suggests that the events are not part of the future, but of a history (to come?).

At one point the editor says that the book rejects the Romantic faith in the redemptive power of art. Her only evidence for this is partly quoting a passage in which the solitary protagonists walks the halls of an empty building and turns away in disappointment from the indifferent statues. However, read in context one sees that these are the statues of saints who have lost their capability to inspire while there are no more people left to lend them credibility. Ultimately, the book ends in hope, Nature is not the destroyer, and the protagonist embarks on his journey into the unknown bearing... books.

Usually I'm no fan over the over-laboured introductions to classic works, but this misguided one slightly marrs this edition.

Ghost Story
Ghost Story
by Peter Straub
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Subpar weird fiction, 8 Nov 2010
This review is from: Ghost Story (Paperback)
For years I've been looking forward to this book. It has a reputation for being one of the best titles of recent years. The list of positive blurbs in the first pages would surely testify to this.

As it is, it's one of the most disappointing weird novels I have ever read. There is only one redeeming part, the early tale of Gregory and Fenny Benton. Had this been released as a short story it would have appeared in every best of anthology since.

But after this short, intense peak, the rest of novel peters out into predictable, overdrawn boredom. We are supposed to believe we are confronted with the greatest horror ever, according to Straub THE horror that underlies every ghost story ever written. But it's nothing more than a bogeywoman/monster with some cardboard henchmen wishing to destroy the happiness of honest smalltown folk all over the USA. Hardly the greatest horror ever.

As the novel drags on, the writing becomes less and less inspired and flat. Some dialogue parts are really poorly written, especially the parts where the Chowder Society is figuring things out with horror author Don Wanderley. Trying to make an obvious conclusion startingly surprising by letting the protagonists reason incredibly dumb is never a good idea.

I skipped the last 50 pages to get to the ending, only to be predictably disappointed. The greatest horror ever is dispatched with embarassing ease.

Straub confesses to have stolen his idea from Arthur Machen's 'The Great God Pan'. I encourage you to skip this tripe and read Machen's story: it's much better and much, much shorter.

Metal Gear Solid 4 - Guns Of The Patriots Platinum (PS3)
Metal Gear Solid 4 - Guns Of The Patriots Platinum (PS3)
Price: £14.17

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overhyped?, 1 Jun 2010
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This will be short review of an 'older' game, since most that can be said has been said. But not all. CAUTION: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!

To me, this episode in the Metal Gear franchise (bar the Acid titles) is the weakest yet. I always get wrapped up in a Metal Gear game, so much so that when I look back a few days after the credits have rolled I get a bit embarrassed. But then, cheesy as it was, filled with battlefield and honour clichés, it was a pleasure, if a guilty one.

With MGS4:GoP, not so. I got late to this game because I didn't own a PS3 so I never got caught up in the hype. I played like a Juggernaut, totally immersed, but when I looked back I already knew that this was a disappointing entry.

First, the balance of the game is totally wrong. As you progress levels, bosses and sneaking become easier, not more challenging. The last boss battles were hilariously easy. Metal Gear Arsenal, a huge battleship, consists of one plain level of sneaking in which you don't really have to sneak. Huddling up in a corner and shooting all the FROGS that come running make you anihilate the complete crew. The rest is just a walk past a Gekko.

Second, there's nothing much to figure out. Every step you take you Otacon is giving the game away on what is up and what you should do. The extreme example is the hunt for Naomi's kidnappers in South America. Raiden's overlong 'tutorial' on how to be a tracker (smell the wind, taste the grass, listen to your heart, etc.) gets cancelled by Otacon telling you to put on your night vision to see the footprints and warning you when footprints diverge.

Third, for a game that's about Snake's finale there's a whole lot of storylines going on without Snake. The cheese is even too much for me. The ending is so anti-climatic, non-sensical and sterile that I almost wished Snake had killed himself as he is constantly suggested to be going to do. As it is it's not much of an exit for this almost titanic character.

I could find more, but basically this franchise is 'out with a whimper, not with a bang', and that's a shame. The very few extra moves and additions are just that, very few. Most of the stuff, including MK-II, you're not even going to use. You'll play it fervently just the same, but the whole thing feels empty on completion.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 3, 2010 7:38 PM GMT

In A Glass Darkly (Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural)
In A Glass Darkly (Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural)
by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Edition: Paperback
Price: £2.99

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gothic splendour!, 6 July 2009
Sheridan Le Fanu's classic collection of Gothic fiction is a delight for the connoiseur of weird tales. These stories are gathered as belonging to the papers of one Dr. Hesselius, a scholar who specialises in 'metaphysical medicine'. All of them are curtly introduced by his literary executor, who wisely excises the more theoretical observations of the good doctor so that the reader can cut straight to the yarns.

And what yarns they are! It always surprises me that people complain about Le Fanu being turgid, while his tales are so readable. Anyway, this collection contains:

'Green Tea', a famous story about a (supernaturally?) tormented clergyman. In a way, this is perhaps the most mundane of the tales. Well executed, but hardly remarkable.

'The Familiar', probably my favorite. At heart a simple supenatural revenge theme, but so very well written. Indeed, the jaded weird tales reader knows all the themes by now. It's the execution that sets the writer apart.

'Mr. Justice Hartbottle', a delightful and cruel comedy. The character of the Judge is deliciously evil, and so is his punishment.

'The Room in Le Dragon Volant', a short novel set in the tradition of the Gothic adventure. A young and reckless English adventurer gets caught up in a mystery in France. Another highlight.

'Carmilla', one of Le Fanu's most favorite tales and a direct influence on Stoker's 'Dracula'. Good, but perhaps not as good as the Goth crowd would have you believe.

As always with these editions, do not read the introduction beforehand. It will ruin the stories and taint your point of view. One reviewer noted the amount of typo's in the text. I found but two in the Mystery and Supernatural edition. Not worth you trouble.

Min'yo: Folk Song from Japan
Min'yo: Folk Song from Japan
Price: £14.06

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Representative selection of Japanese folk, 20 May 2009
Yujiro Takahashi counts as one of the contemporary masters of Japanese min'yo, playing shamisen, shakuhachi and singing. He is also one of the judges in the annual min'yo contests in Aomori, Japan.

This CD gives a nice overview of Japanese folk songs, containing working songs, lullabies, drinking songs, and some tunes that were fashionable in the higher circles of taste.

His troupe is diverse, so there are singers and players suited for every style of song. Yujiro himself has a very raw, powerful voice, so he sings on the working songs (Soran Bushi and Ushio Uta) and the boisterous party songs (Akita Ondo). The gentler songs on shakuhachi have other singers, both male and female.

There are also two 'kokyubiki' (instrumental improvisation) Tsugaru shamisen tunes, Tsugaru Sansagari and Jonkara Bushi, that give a nice taste of the virtuose style of the cold north. In a time where this genre gets more and more dominated by rockstar wannabees jamming modernist trash on shamisen, this provides a strong and welcome counterpoint.

The only downside is that the sound isn't always very good. The recordings were made on tour. It's never really annoying, but the music level is very soft, and the Taiko drum reverbs through some of the songs, like in Tsugaru Jongara Bushi. Also, the booklet is printed in a very peculiar manner. Lots of misprints, letters that are substituted by symbols, etc. On the other hand, the lyrics of the songs are printed both in Japanese and English, which is fantastic!

If you are in any way interested in world music or Japanese folk, this is the cd you need. Not every song might be to your taste (Yasugi Bushi tries the patience of many listeners, even though it was one of the min'yo blockbusters of the early 20th century), but overall it's a competent selection!

Doctor Who - Four to Doomsday [DVD]
Doctor Who - Four to Doomsday [DVD]
Dvd ~ Peter Davison
Price: £8.14

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pensive, slow paced, but never dull, 20 May 2009
Although Peter Davison is 'my' doctor from childhood, I never saw all the episodes. Dutch television eventually dropped the show arguing it was too scary for kids. Oh, you patronizing dolts! <chuckle>

I saw Four to Doomsday on DVD the first time around, and felt a bit apprehensive. It's not that well reviewed around here. But I was pleasantly surprised. It actually might be my favorite of Davison's first season!

Sure, there are flaws. In Doctor Who, there's always flaws. There's some repetition and the soirees with the different cultures showing their song and dance shouldn't have been used twice (perhaps they shouldn't even have been used once!). And the oxygen helmets, what were they thinking!

But there's a nice trio of villains: Monarch, Enlightenment and Perusasion (oh come on, that _is_ good!), with a great motivation for invading the earth. I thought the effects were laughable, but listening to the commentary track Davison and his crew were quite pleased with it. And yes, for Doctor Who standards at the time it's not bad at all.

There's an easy pace throughout, not much running up and down corridors. The menace is also never really there, Monarch really doesn't live up to the Doctor's size. But their interchange is a joy to watch. All in all, vintage Who: unpretentious and fun to watch. A couple of pounds well spent.

Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead, 2009 Easter Special   [DVD]
Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead, 2009 Easter Special [DVD]
Dvd ~ David Tennant
Price: £4.00

25 of 43 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Belly up, 3 May 2009
Yes, that's right, one star. I didn't want to do it, but I have to. Conscience and all that. So -

No plot, and it STILL manages to have plot-holes.

Sexy, streetwise companion? Check. Ergo, romantic tension between protagonists in the first ten minutes and a big kiss on the Doctor's gob at the finale. Come on, even that trick's getting old!

Excruciatingly decent folks all with their heartbreaking stories, being swathed in cheese? Check. Makes you long back to the days of one green glob killing off a lighthouse full of upper-class twits.

Top it off with loads and friggin' loads of more cheese (chops with gravy! hold me!) that's getting mouldy, and yet another Doctor Who episode ruined. The finale music is atrocious. What were they thinking?!

Tennant definately deserves better stories than this, but then, so do we. Doctor Who quality has been on a steady decline for a long time now, but since the last episodes of season four, it's gone belly up pretty fast. This is one of the worst yet. And I bet they're going to bring Christina back again, too, together with Rose, Martha, Sarah Jane, and Donna, going ninja squad on Sontarans trying to bring back Thatcherism, or something equally stupid.

Agh, why bother.
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 10, 2010 6:40 PM BST

Doctor Who - Timelash [DVD]
Doctor Who - Timelash [DVD]
Dvd ~ Colin Baker
Price: £5.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Blake's 7, starring Dr. Who, 13 Mar 2009
This review is from: Doctor Who - Timelash [DVD] (DVD)
S'okay, Timelash... When I saw it for the first time, a few weeks back, I tried to keep the negative press at bay. I think I succeeded. Timelash is - within its limits - an enjoyable story that could have been lot better with a few simple tweaks.

No, not the production values! I'll take crappy production values over the slick pretty boy visuals of the new series any day. Besides, to me bad effects are an essential part of the show's charm.

Timelash looks like a Blake's 7 episode with the Doctor in for the ride. Not only the presence of Paul Darrow, but the atmosphere, the design and theme have a very Blakey feel to it. Once you accept that, you can ignore all the bickering about the bleak and dull sets (and who's to say which planets are entitled to lush and which to dull architecture, hm?).

The core of the tale is not bad, good even. The idea that the Third Doctor has been to Karfel before, and might even be partly responsible for the situation, is a nice touch. The presence of pictures of Jo Grant and The Doctor almost suggest to some divine of mythical status.

However, the flaws of the tale are big enough to drag it down. To me the major flaws are the prolonged bickering with Peri and then Herbert in the Tardis. According to the documentary, this was done intentionally to make it to the 45 minute feature length. When you're a Timelord on a suicide mission and the disaster is but a few seconds away, it doesn't abide that you take 3 minutes to argue your companion out of the Tardis, and then repeat the process with a stoaway. Yawn!

The inexplicable and unexplained intervention of the said disaster (we stopped the menace by sacrificing ourselves, and we're still alive!) and the rather weaksauce suggestion that H. G. Wells travelled with the Doctor wore my patience a bit thin. Still, there are some redeeming features. The Doctor's fiddling with the crystal, the Borad makes a nice villain, and the androids, though they look like mutant smurfs, are strangely unnerving.

So, no masterpiece, but innocent fun nonetheless.

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