It is by a blend of lively curiosity and intelligent selfishness that the artists who wish to mature late, who feel too old to die, the Goethes, Tolstoys, Voltaires, Titians and Verdis, reach a fruitful senescence. They cannot afford to associate with those who are burning themselves up or preparing for a tragedy or whom melancholy has marked for her own. Not for them the accident-prone, the friend in whom the desire for self-destruction keeps blistering out in broken legs or threatening them in anxiety-neuroses. Not for them the drumming finger, the close-cropt nail, the chewed glasses, the pause on the threshold, the wandering eye, or the repeated “um” and “er.”
Failure on the other hand is infectious. The world is full of charming failures (for all charming people have something to conceal, usually their total dependence on the appreciation of others) and unless the writer is quite ruthless with these amiable footlers, they will drag him down with them.
What a find! A poet I admire passed this along to me, and it was too good not to share — 47 hours of science fiction radio classics that Open Culture recently added to its Spotify page. You’ve got to be a Spotify member to hear these, but signing up is free and easy. (Spotify also makes it easy to reset your password if you’ve forgotten it, as I did.)
Right at the top of the list is Orson Welles’ famous/infamous 1938 broadcast of his radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds.” (Yes, this the show that made people believe that martians were actually invading. How’s that for “fake news?”)
Welles’ broadcast was actually the first classic radio I’d ever heard, when I was a kid in the 1980’s. I’d gotten it on a pair of cassette tapes for either Christmas or my birthday, along with an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” If those strike you as weird presents, I was a weird kid.
I loved those tapes — the Poe recording was so good it genuinely scared me. (The narrator really nailed it.) If I happen across that online, I’ll be sure to post it here.
Scratch one thing off the bucket list — I finally got around to watching Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca.” (A cinephilic uncle introduced me to a handful of the director’s better known classics when I was an adolescent — “Rebecca” was one that we never got around to.) Based on my own enjoyment of it, I’d rate this film an 8 out of 10.
Please bear in mind that this is one of the slower Hitchcock films. Until its plot accelerates toward its end, it spends much of its running length as a methodically paced, brooding Gothic romance and mystery. It’s also a psychological thriller, and you can tell that Hitchcock is working to translate onto the screen its character-focused source novel. (I haven’t read Daphne du Maurier’s eponymous 1938 book.)
“Rebecca’s” final act brings the viewer into familiar Hitchcock territory with some interesting surprises. What I liked best about seeing the director’s style, however, was his trademark sharp characters and dialogue — with both heroes and villains sparring in a dry-witted and rapid-fire fashion. It’s something you don’t often see today. I don’t think all old movies are like this — some of the “classics” I’ve been recommended are absolutely vapid. But Hitchcock treated his viewer as intelligent adults, and I think it’s part of the reason why people love him.
John Carpenter’s 1982 tour-de-force, “The Thing,” is arguably the best horror movie of the decade. It paid little attention to the movie it ostensibly remakes, the standard, boilerplate, flying-saucer Saturday-matinee of “The Thing From Another World” (1951). It presumably paid greater attention to its real and far darker source material, “Who Goes There?,” John W. Campbell Jr.’s 1938 horror-sci-fi novella.
One of the things the movie’s fans still debate heatedly is its bleak ending — I think it goes beyond ambiguous to downright mysterious. Viewers actually are given no certainty whatsoever about who or what are actually pictured onscreen in the film’s Antarctic setting, after a fiery climax for this gory, special-effects-heavy actioner. (Only people who have seen the film know what I am talking about.)
My own interpretation is a little less popular than the others you hear about. To conceal spoilers, I’m sharing it after the poster image below. [IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE MOVIE, STOP READING NOW!]