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Murder, He Says [DVD]
Murder, He Says [DVD]
Dvd ~ Fred MacMurray
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £7.37

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "They'd sooner cut your throat as peel an apple", 22 May 2015
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This review is from: Murder, He Says [DVD] (DVD)
The humour in some ‘classic’ Hollywood comedies can sometimes evaporate over time – they’ve either been praised so much that actually watching them is disappointing or were built around a star comic whose schtick is now bafflingly unamusing – but Murder, He Says is still fresh and funny. Made by Paramount in 1944, but held back for a year to give precedence to their war-related product, it takes a casual attitude to death and violence. In a war film this would feel utterly conventional, but here – in the heart of the family, in the heart of America – it is pleasingly subversive and still a little shocking. It helps that the film is an unusual amalgamation of haunted house mystery (who doesn’t love a secret passageway or sliding panel?), black comedy and breakneck farce; it helps that the film is not very well known and hasn’t had the chance to become over-exposed; and it helps that in Fred MacMurray it has a brilliant comic actor in the lead role. He is equally good at broad slapstick (the scene where he sits atop another character’s legs and has to pretend they’re his own is hilarious) and subtle throwaway (watch his face in the first scene where one of the characters demands of him, ‘What d'ya think we are – hicks?’ – and he gives vent to the smallest expression of smart-alecky, city-slicker demurral, trusting that the ‘hicks’ won’t notice. All the cast are excellent: from whip-cracking, psychotic matriarch Marjorie Main (accused by another character of trying to poison her, she snaps unremorsefully, ‘What d’ya wanna do – live forever?’) to Peter Whitney as her murderous twin sons, Mert and Bert, to MacMurray’s Double Indemnity castmates Porter Hall and Jean Heather as Main’s husband and daughter to leading lady Helen Walker (a pleasure to see another cool and stylish performance from her).

Even if you’ve never heard of Murder, He Says, give it a go. Alright, it doesn’t have Cary Grant or Katherine Hepburn in it. It wasn’t directed by Frank Capra or Howard Hawks. You won’t find much about it in books or on the Internet. But I haven’t laughed so much at a film for ages.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 27, 2016 3:24 PM BST

Ring [DVD]
Ring [DVD]
Dvd ~ Carl Brisson
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £1.51

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your money, 26 July 2007
This review is from: Ring [DVD] (DVD)
This version is atrocious. The film is unwatchable. The print is terrible: scratchy and burnt out. The framing is hopeless: heads chopped off and the left hand side of the title cards omitted (the film is apparently directed by `Fred Hitchcock'). Buy or rent the boxed set instead.

Where Angels Fear to Tread (Penguin Modern Classics)
Where Angels Fear to Tread (Penguin Modern Classics)
by E. M. Forster
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Everybody loves Gino, 30 Nov. 2006
I first read this book ten or twelve years ago and didn't remember it particularly fondly. I picked it up again last week, and to start with was quite impressed. However, as it went on, I found it more and more tiresome. The blurb on the back of the copy I have praises Forster's talent for dialogue and characterization - and this holds while he sticks with the English social comedy world of Sawston. Once he gets to Italy, things go awry. He seems to have very little idea how people really behave, and as the novel approaches its climax, the implausibilities come thick and fast. I didn't believe in the conversations the characters have about how `great' and `wonderful' and `splendid' life and their own behaviour could be. This novel is fundamentally unconvincing! I haven't seen the film version, but I sometimes tried to imagine actors speaking the dialogue or moving in the stilted manner Forster describes, and found it impossible.

My Life in Orange
My Life in Orange
by Tim Guest
Edition: Paperback

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment, 12 April 2005
This review is from: My Life in Orange (Paperback)
I feel rather mean writing a critical review - the author obviously had a difficult childhood - but my genuine reaction to this book is one of disappointment. If it was restricted only to Tim Guest's personal memories, it would be a very short work: I can imagine it making a worthwhile longish article in a Sunday supplement for one of the broadsheets. He has therefore padded it out with a narrative of the rise and fall of the Bhagwan Rajneesh movement derived from other people's books, and perhaps most crucially of all from his mother's recollections.
I understand that it was miserable for him being deprived of her company for long stretches of time, and that he was lonely and wretched for years on end, but this information, endlessly recycled over 320 pages, is insufficiently gripping. Some of the detail is illuminating - the sexual play of the children, for example; some of it is funny - the creche run by the Men Against Sexism Group; and some of it is poignant - his belief that he overhears his mother laughing at him when he tries repeatedly to gain her attention. However, stories about a child sliding on a polished floor, sneaking into the kitchen for a Marmite sandwich or watching cartoons on American television are just not very interesting, regardless of whether that child is a member of a bizarre commune or somebody from down our own street.
The book does not seem particularly well edited either: I counted at least three occasions on which the same piece of information is repeated in almost the same words within a few pages of its first appearance. Nor, despite the praise of the professional critics, does the author's prose seem any great shakes. It works best when he goes for simplicity: there is a section when he marshalls his metaphors in an attempt to convey the loneliness he felt in Germany, and it just absolutely dies on the page.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 8, 2012 2:40 PM BST

True Ghost Stories (Senate Paperbacks)
True Ghost Stories (Senate Paperbacks)
by Marchioness And Fofoulkes , Maude Townshend
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ghosts writing about ghosts, 10 Feb. 2004
This book is enjoyable on several levels: for a start, many of the ghost stories are at least diverting, and sometimes unsettling; and then there is the interest of trying to interpret them to fit in with the theory of ghosts as the 'return of the repressed'. The book is also a perfect window into some of the attitudes and people of 1930s England: chiefly aristocratic ladies (Marchioness Townsend) and those who aspired to join them (the self-consciously Bohemian Maude ffoulkes), and their wistful nostalgia for an earlier time (when petrol stations and swimming pools weren't yet clogging up the Home Counties). Fans of period 'fine writing' will relish Maude ffoulkes' ornate prose: in her world 'flowers flaunt their beauty against the burning blue of the sky' and a woman's 'unrelieved black gown' serves 'as a sombre sheath for the weapon of her beauty'. My very favourite of all her paragraphs is this:
'In the dim light of the room, Mrs Kelly and I talked as people do who meet on congenial ground and who know and appreciate the colour of life, the lure of the unusual; the hatred of the cage which existence so often represents, who have a mutual appreciation of books, the dislike of remaining in the rut - and who possess the thousand and one things which contribute to create the (often fatal to happiness) artistic temperament.'
In some ways, since a good proportion of the work is based on her own personal experiences and those of her friends, the book functions as a kind of patchwork autobiography of the affectedly 'super-sensitive' game old girl herself. When I looked up Mrs ffoulkes, I found that not only was she a ghost writer - in terms of the supernatural - but that she was also one of the first 'ghost writers', secretly authoring a series of scandalous memoirs of down on their luck European royals in the first twenty years of the last century; it was she who wrote Countess Marie Larisch's 'My Past', parts of which T.S. Eliot incorporated into the opening lines of 'The Waste Land' (the 'Marie, Marie, hold on tight' section).
On a separate note, the book's quality as a product leaves a bit to be desired, and it's a shame the photographs have been so poorly reproduced: they are little better than photocopies.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 12, 2013 1:36 PM BST

The Clematis Tree
The Clematis Tree
by Ann Widdecombe
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 'Small and determinedly old-fashioned', 31 Jan. 2003
This review is from: The Clematis Tree (Paperback)
First of all, this book IS readable - which always sounds like faint praise, but isn't meant to be - and it carefully sets out the conflicting viewpoints regarding euthanasia. The central image of the Clematis Tree is effective and surprisingly touching.
However, these positive points are more than outweighed by the negative ones. The prose is humdrum and in dire need of editing (far too much information on the making of sandwiches, the pouring and carrying and quaffing of drinks, and so on). Only with Mark does Ms Widdecombe even attempt anything approaching full characterisation. The other figures are clichéd or cardboard: Sally has long red hair and is clever, Sam is a plain-speaking businessman, and as for Clare, she hardly even qualifies as a cipher. Everyone speaks in the same stilted and unconvincing manner except for Sam. The author never lets us forget he is from Yorkshire, and so for the first 200 pages, every time he has dialogue, the words 'champion' and 'lass' are worked in - and even on one occasion, 'right champion'.
It seems to me that Ms Widdecombe lacks the one crucial element for a successful novelist: she cannot empathise with people from outside her social class or with those who do not share her views. When Ginny, Mark's Australian secretary, blurts out that she votes Labour at home, from Clare's horrified, tight-lipped reaction, you would think that Ginny had just confessed to selling crack at the school gates. In addition there is a vein of jaw-droppingly offensive snobbery against working and lower middle class women: they all wear short skirts, have dyed hair, smoke, and talk about boyfriends and nail polish; when the woman from Social Services turns up, we are informed that her hair is several days overdue for a wash.
Another problem is that the author is completely out of touch with modern life. She does not appear to know how people, ordinary or otherwise, actually live, what they wear, how they talk, what things are likely to happen to them, how they would react. Mark and Clare are outraged when people treat their disabled son as if he does not know what is going on around him, yet have sex in front of him (and the cat!).
Ginny is in her twenties and has come to England on a working holiday. One evening she goes to see A Little Night Music with a friend. Now I know anyone of any age may be a fan of Stephen Sondheim, but if Ms Widdecombe had asked around and found the name of a club or a gig Ginny might have been going to instead, this would have had the advantage of seeming to broaden her range of characters.
Later, Mark reads a financial report in a national newspaper with which he disagrees; he composes an article in reply, sends it off and is rewarded by a phone call from the editor, and a promise of payment and publication. I dare say this would happen to Anne Widdecombe, but Mark is only an ordinary accountant: surely the most he could hope for would be an unpaid appearance on the letters page?
There are many more examples of these kind of implausibilities: the young boy who says 'old chap'; the teacher who wears 'a floral frock more suited to a beach' (when did you last see anyone in a floral frock on a beach?); Mark's tan and flat stomach, despite working in a dingy basement office and taking no exercise; his plans to watch the original version of All Quiet on the Western Front on television one evening after work (a black and white film from 1930 in prime time? come off it!); his sudden access of Widdecombesque knowledge about the habits of newspaper editors once reporters are camped outside his house.
Early in the novel, Aunt Isabel's kitchen is described as 'small, modern and determinedly old-fashioned'. At the time I dismissed this as another one of the author's inept descriptions (like that of the boy in hospital who, bandaged head to toe, is laughing uproariously at something said to him by a nurse - how could they tell?), but knock out its second and third words and you have an apt description of the whole work: 'small and determinedly old-fashioned.' The bottom line is that this book wasn't worth publishing, and probably wouldn't have been without its celebrity by-line.

The Moving Toyshop (Classic Crime)
The Moving Toyshop (Classic Crime)
by Edmund Crispin
Edition: Paperback

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Witty and diverting - an eccentric minor classic, 21 Jun. 2001
The Moving Toyshop was published in 1945, but is set in 1938. This makes for an interesting book in that it straddles two eras of crime fiction. It combines elements of the pre-war classic English detective story (whimsicality, literary allusion, a range of satisfyingly eccentric supporting characters) with hints of the sadistic violence of American pulp fiction. Whimsicality wins by a mile however, and Edmund Crispin's authorial voice and talent for characterization are quirky and appealing. Crucially he also understands the value of brevity.

The Unburied
The Unburied
by Charles Palliser
Edition: Paperback

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Much to enjoy, but some drawbacks, 16 May 2001
This review is from: The Unburied (Paperback)
Like Mrs Thatcher, nobody has any small talk in this novel: all they ever discuss are the murders and the various ongoing and historical mysteries. The result is that despite the considerable amount of intellectual pleasure to be gained from the cleverness of the plotting, as with The Quincunx, the characterization is distinctly thin. The Unburied seems to invite comparison with Wilkie Collins (at the inquest, the Coroner condemns a potential explanation for the murder as more appropriate to a 'sensational novel'), but this is not to the book's credit: the plots of books like The Woman in White and Armadale are dazzlingly complicated, but also convey something of the writer's joy in his own fecundity; Charles Palliser's management of his narrative is more of a mechanical slog. Other ghosts raised are, I suppose, those of Anthony Trollope and M.R. James, but the trouble with pastiche is that it does not leave the imagination much elbow room: it is always banging into the parameters of what has been achieved before.

Hundred and One Dalmatians (New Windmills)
Hundred and One Dalmatians (New Windmills)
by Dodie Smith
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Move over Zadie, here comes Dodie Smith, 21 Mar. 2001
I had never read this book as a child, and having enjoyed Valerie Grove's biography of Dodie Smith, I thought I'd give it a go. It's obvious why it's been such a success for so long. It's a charming, witty book with lots of good jokes, and the various breeds of dogs are inventively and humorously characterized. The world it conjures up, of nannies and cosy villages and town houses near Regents Park, is comforting and idyllic - but the fact that this milieu was somewhat anachronistic even at the time of the book's original publication in 1956 makes reading it as an adult a slightly guilty pleasure. It is interesting to disentangle its 1950s concerns and references: television being seen as the preserve of the working classes; What's My Crime obviously patterned after What's My Line; and the undeniably pre-feminist characterization of Missis as a polka-dotted dimwit. My one gripe is that I could have done with a little more of Cruella De Vil - but how fantastic that when Lucky bites her, she tastes of pepper!

Aurora Floyd (Oxford World's Classics)
Aurora Floyd (Oxford World's Classics)
by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
Edition: Paperback

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you liked Lady Audley's Secret..., 1 Aug. 2000
To modern eyes, as with Braddon's other cracking bestseller, Lady Audley's Secret, the plot revelations may seem a bit transparent, but to the contemporary readers of a genre which was self-consciously pushing back the boundaries of what could be incorporated into literature, there must have been a guilty tension between what they imagined in their heads and what they scarcely dared to imagine could be set down on the page. A thoroughly gripping read, rich in mid-Victorian domestic and social detail, with Braddon equally adept at comedy, suspense and melodrama. (Presumably George Eliot was an admirer, since she used the name of one of the heroes, Bulstrode, for a character in Middlemarch, a decade later.)

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