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Thursday, 5 November 2015

Striking from the Shadows of '50s Pulp Fiction - Review of Robert Bloch's "Psycho"

 Just off a junction on a busy highway there still exists Bates Motel. This struggling business is run by Norman Bates who endures an oppressive relationship from his unhinged mother who seems hell-bent in keeping her son single and away from the outside world. Then, one night, Mary Crane arrives at the Motel. She is on the run with $40,000 she has stolen from of a client of her real estate company. Soon a private detective and her sister will be after her, but none of them expect the horrors that will ensue the night Mary accidentally turns off the highway and meets the Bates…

We have Peggy Robertson to thank for the franchise that this 1959 pulp fiction thriller spawned and keeps on giving to this day. Apparently Robertson had read a good review by Anthony Boucher of Robert Bloch’s seminal thriller, “Psycho”, despite Paramount Pictures already rejecting the story’s premise. Hitchcock, never one to back to down to anyone in movie world except maybe his wife, thought differently and fought a hard battle against virtually everyone to get the film greenlit. My copy of Bloch’s novel is a paperback published not long after the film was made, but looks fairly plain. In fact, the thin little novel was so indistinct amongst my book collection that I had a job to find it earlier this year.

Monday, 2 November 2015

A Fresh Cut - A Review of "Byzantium"

Eleanor Webb (Saoirse Ronan) and her mother, Clara (Gemma Arterton), are vampires. They have been this way for over 200 years. The pair regularly flees from the pursuit of The Brethren, an all-male secret society of vampires who seek to destroy the two females for violating their code. Eleanor, an eternal teenager, writes accounts of her life and throws the pages into the breeze. Arriving in a coastal town, Clara befriends Noel (Daniel Mays) who has inherited a dilapidated hotel called Byzantium. Clara, who was forced into prostitution when she was mortal, sees an opportunity to run a brothel at the hotel. Meanwhile Eleanor befriends a terminally ill waiter, Frank (Caleb Landry Jones), who reads her life story…

“Byzantium” is an extremely rare example of original, creative and beautiful filmmaking. The film firmly establishes Neil Jordan as one of my all-time favourite directors. He never seems to fail to deliver with his work, carefully weaving artistry with entertainment without falling into pretentiousness at one end or selling out at the other. However, before I discuss how much I feel this film has been criminally overlooked I feel we need some perspective.