Widely considered to be the best non-series novel Carr ever wrote, this is a curious mixture of horror and intrigue. The scenario is a tantalizing one...moreWidely considered to be the best non-series novel Carr ever wrote, this is a curious mixture of horror and intrigue. The scenario is a tantalizing one, having to do with the disappearance of a body from a sealed crypt, but the real hook for many readers (including yours truly) is the suggestion of the diabolical. This turns out to be both a blessing and a bane. On the one hand, Carr keeps a tight lid on the sensational plot, withholding full disclosure until the last possible moment, demonstrating his ability as a master plotter. On the other hand, the air of supernatural menace (Carr's secret spice) is localized to a few key scenes, and never persuasively commingles with the traditional whodunit trappings. Though Carr acknowledges the influence of M.R. James, he is, in the end, a writer of mysteries, not horror stories. The detailed and somewhat plodding reconstruction of the crime is clever enough, but with the exception of the deliciously pompous Gaudan Cross (a parody of an elitist author), the characters are merely names on a page, and the setting (rural Pennsylvania) could just as well have been Anyplace.
The ending makes the book. It satisfies the loose threads of the story at one fell swoop, and with enough teasing ambiguity to linger in the memory.(less)
More than you ever wanted to know about the making of the 1973 British shocker. It more or less confirms the rumor that Anthony Shaffer was the real a...moreMore than you ever wanted to know about the making of the 1973 British shocker. It more or less confirms the rumor that Anthony Shaffer was the real auteur of the piece, although budget constraints and editing decisions left the original screenplay only partly realized. Brown's careful research illuminates the difficult conditions under which the film was shot, the unkind distribution process that led to its inauspicious debut in America, and its endurance as a cult classic. Nine appendices round out the volume. (less)
Salacious volume of Hollywood calumny, lovingly assembled by one of underground cinema's self-styled bad boys, and notable for its complete lack of co...moreSalacious volume of Hollywood calumny, lovingly assembled by one of underground cinema's self-styled bad boys, and notable for its complete lack of compassion. The chapters on Fatty Arbuckle and Thomas Ince are perhaps the most interesting because the stories have entered popular mythology. Most of the rest are merely prurient. In sum, the book is no longer the "luscious plum of sizzling scandal" it once was, and Anger's tabloid naughtiness has dated badly. (less)
In this revealing memoir, Zeffirelli explains how "a conspiracy of happenings" led to the making of his landmark 1977 miniseries Jesus of Nazareth. A...moreIn this revealing memoir, Zeffirelli explains how "a conspiracy of happenings" led to the making of his landmark 1977 miniseries Jesus of Nazareth. A simple "making of" narrative would have been pleasurable enough, but the Italian director goes on to describe how his work on the film contributed—quite unexpectedly—to a personal spiritual renewal. Between passages on the writing, casting, and shooting of the production, Zeffirelli reflects eloquently on the timeless significance of Jesus, the limitations of film, and the artist's role in "recovering the dimensions of a pure, necessary truth." As a lay theologian he can be a tad unorthodox (a common refrain: "Can we ever know?"), but he has an easygoing and engaging way with words and his reflections are often thought provoking. I particularly liked his imaginative take on Judas:
"Jesus wanted this type of man by his side, knowing well that they can betray. The intelligentsia who think they know all the answers, relying on reason alone, are the real traitors because they end up by betraying the very values that matter… And it delights me that, with regard to Judas, Jesus pointed out that subtle and grave error of the human spirit, that unique condemnation of the intelligence. We are surrounded by Judases, and they are condemned to hang themselves, sooner or later, from the tree of their own pride."(less)