Found-Again Friday(ish): Holiday Edition—You Can Go Home Again, But Maybe Don’t

So far I have driven nearly flooded roads, permanently cut a relative from my life, and slipped and fallen on an icy safety ramp: Christmas, and parts of my tailbone, are a bust.

My old favorite bookstore is still here, though, so I am celebrating Pendergastmas instead.

Ordinarily, this seems like it would be more dangerous than mere Christmas...
Ordinarily, this seems like it would be more dangerous than mere Christmas…

Found-Again Friday: The Animated Rikki-Tikki-Tavi

When I was a very small child, four things terrified me:

  • Heights;
  • That Looney Tunes cartoon where Tweety gets into the Jekyll-and-Hyde potion;
  • My great-aunt Ruth’s lamp, which looked a bit like this one (or indeed, just about any result you get from Googling “Deco panther lamp”; who knew those things were so ubiquitous?);
  • Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, which was so obviously calculated to scare the bejesus out of children that it turned up on TV every October despite not actually being a Halloween story.

Why Found-Again? I have no idea why I picked up the DVD as an adult, but it may have been some combination of a low price and the desire to finally see the show while not peeking out from beneath a blanket in sheer dread.I’m a grownup now, right? (Discounting the Highlander posts, anyway.)

(In fairness, I wore less eyeliner as a toddler.)
Historical reenactment of my first seven viewings.

The Premise: Doughty mongoose Rikki is adopted by a very British family living in India and defends them from the scariest damn snakes this side of Raiders of the Lost Ark, with the assistance of a pair of birds and a timid muskrat.

Over the years, I’d never realized that Chuck Jones animated Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, and it was surprising to see how cute Rikki is, the occasional red eyes of mongoose bloodlust notwithstanding. The snakes, especially the main cobra villains Nag and Nagaina, are suitably sinister-looking, but aaaagghh those voices; when we first hear Nag speak, I may not have hidden under the blanket this time, but I did make a noise usually reserved for stepping on hairballs with my bare feet.

When the snakes aren’t talking, Orson Welles’ narration keeps things going, lending so much gravitas to the story that sometimes animation effects like Rikki’s super-swishing tail seem out of place. (The scene of Rikki destroying snake eggs by trampling them to death—shown only as shadows— also keeps things somber.) The cartoon ends in a chase scene that had me glued to the screen even after all this time, rooting for what has to be one of the bite-iest heroes in all of fiction.

The Verdict: Everything about this was better than I remembered except the musical numbers; stick to sidekicking, Mr. Bird.

Might Go Well With: Chicken tikka masala, strong tea; definitely not eggs.


Next time: We find out who my least favorite minor character in Highlander is, among other things.

Found-Again Friday (on Saturday): Mister Frost

One of the reasons my college friends and I could play an adaptation of the Kevin Bacon Game called “Four Degrees of Jeff Goldblum” was Goldblum’s European/British period in the early ‘90s: he starred with Emma Thompson and Rowan Atkinson in The Tall Guy, joined Bob Hoskins and Natasha Richardson in The Favour, the Watch, and the Very Big Fish, and was a serial murderer in 1990 psychological thriller Mister Frost.

When I started looking for the movie again, I expected it to be hard to find; I didn’t expect that Amazon wouldn’t even have it available in US format on DVD.* Fortunately, YouTube has hooked us up once again.

Why Found-Again? Until I sat down to rewatch it this week, that basic outline—and the line “Oh, yeah, the body; I was just burying it when you drove up”—were the only things I remembered about this movie other than a longing for something, anything to happen.

The Premise: Serial murderer/man with no first name Mr. Frost, who has spent two years in silence after being apprehended, is sent to a mental hospital, where he chooses as a confidante Dr. Day (the ever-magnificent Kathy Baker).

Did I mention he might be the devil? The movie sure does, most often through the character of Det. Detweiler (Alan Bates).

I can’t for the life of me (hah!) understand my impression that nothing happened in Mister Frost: there are philosophical discussions of evil, certainly, but there’s also a lot of investigation, internal tensions at the mental hospital, a gentle patient Frost pushes over the edge into clergy-murder, and a detective who is maybe mauled by a ghost. (You’d think at the very least the occasional shirtless Goldblum would have kept my attention as a college student, but I didn’t remember that, either.)

The Verdict: This movie was an awful lot better than I remembered, and exactly what I was hoping for when I started this project of revisiting things. Watching it, you realize that at some level it wouldn’t matter whether Goldblum’s character is the actual, just-what-it-says-on-the-Milton devil; as the lives of the characters spin out of control, he is exactly what we expect of Old Scratch.

I’m not going to go buy a European-region DVD player so I can have Mister Frost with me always, but I can at last recommend it.

Might DOES go well with: Since I had little memory of the plot, I sat down with unintentional irony to watch this with a microwave EVOL meal. Tasty!


* Note to self: Figure out why the Dutch are the only people still committing this film to DVD.


Next time: Highlander!

Found-Again Friday: Nancy Drew # 59, The Secret in the Old Lace

Today we return to the bookshelf for a look at Nancy Drew.

Why Found-Again? Before I got my hands on The Hardy Boys Detective Handbook or met up with Jupiter Jones and his friends (who I hope will feature in a later Found-Again Friday), this was my favorite mystery book even among my Nancy Drews, competing hotly with The Ghost of Blackwood Hall.

The Premise: With a cache of long-lost jewels at stake, Nancy and her friends travel to Belgium to solve mysteries past and present that involve secret messages, spies, and a cowboy. Yes, in Belgium.

Rereading a childhood classic can have its problems, and The Secret in the Old Lace is no exception: when I think about this book, I remember the European locale, secret messages and lacemaking. I don’t think about the stuff that happens to launch the mystery—Nancy spends time with her dull boyfriend Ned (who kind of beats up a suspect, but somehow still remains boring)! Nancy is waylaid by street toughs!  Nancy is menaced by a guy named, I kid you not, Matey Johnson!

However,  since there was always a certain class of adult telling child-me that she should stop reading trash, things I learned when I read this book as a kid:

  • The existence of Belgium
  • How lace is made
  • A small amount of European history
  • French pronunciation (from asking my mom how on earth you say “François Lefèvre,” anyway)
  • And applicable to all Nancy Drew books generally, who the hell Titian was and why he was really attached to red

The Verdict: It was a lot of fun reading this book again, especially once it becomes a treasure hunt with attached love story. On the other hand, I think I’m about 25 years to old to read anything G-rated involving a “Matey Johnson”; I have difficulty viewing that character as anything more than a sailor on the S.S. Innuendo.

Might go well with : Chocolate, Remington Steele reruns.


Next time: The Highlander vs. the cops.


Found-Again Friday: Dynasty

Come with me to another dimension; a dimension not of sight and sound, but of shoulder pads and sweeping hairdos. You are now entering…the Dynasty zone.

The Premise: Oilman Blake Carrington marries his secretary Krystle, who soon finds out that pretty much every rich person in Denver, and especially in the Carrington mansion, is batshit crazy.

Why Found-Again? I am now most of the way into the fourth season, so far down the rabbit hole of rewatching Dynasty that I can’t even remember what inspired me to re-view it. I was seven years old when the show first came on, and all I really remembered about it was that I loved Claudia and Kirby and hated Adam Carrington and Dex Dexter, and that Alexis was always making trouble.

I really have no idea what it says about me that every single one of those things is still true—or that as recently as a week ago I was screaming “Kill him!” at my TV, and for once not at any of the characters in Highlander or Robin of Sherwood, but at Jeff friggin’ Colby. Every single character on this show is his or her own worst enemy most of the time, but it’s absurdly easy to get sucked in and hard to stop caring, even when the show does all the completely inane things we remember from the era of ’80s soap excess: the catfights, the amnesia, the hysterical paralysis.

And then there’s Steven Carrington, who was among the first openly gay characters on television. He is referred to by some of the other characters in terms that will make your jaw drop in the early seasons, but the show never stops portraying him as a real and valuable human being, and it’s interesting to watch the way he develops as part of the show.

There are also things I didn’t remember at all from childhood, some of which are completely nuts—like this from James Farentino’s season 2 turn as psychiatrist Dr. Nick Toscanni, which has to be seen to be believed. It’s his first appearance on the show; Claudia has lost her daughter and attempted suicide, and this is Dr. Nick’s/Dynasty‘s idea of heroic measures (relevant part starts at 3:40 and goes till 6:55; and yes, he drives a DeLorean that looks like an extremely advanced tin can):

I was originally going to try transcribing that. I…don’t think I can.

The Verdict: Hard to tell. It’s very silly, and one gets the impression that Denver is maybe half a mile wide on each side, but I’m definitely hooked.

Next time: Arms and the woman.




Found-Again Friday: Bloodlist—Vampire Files #1

Remember when vampires weren’t polarizing?

That isn’t quite accurate: they were, but in a horror-nerd-versus-mundane-person kind of way. There were no sparkling vamps outside of Anne Rice’s novels, no one had any overwhelming interest in Dracula as a media property, and the renaissance of the horrific, Nosferatu-style demon-faced predator everyone knows from Buffy and the like was slow.

This was the world I grew up in, fascinated by the fanged few from the moment I saw the Count on Sesame Street. But when you’re a squeamish horror fan, you have to choose your hobbies carefully, and it was with trepidation I picked up the first little paperback with what looked like a Dashiell Hammett vampire on the front. The book was Bloodlist, the first in P.N. Elrod’s series about 1930s reporter-turned-vampire detective Jack Fleming.

How much did I love these books? I went on about them at length in my college interview, to the point that it was mentioned in a speech about the diverse interests of the incoming freshman class, that’s how much.
I wonder if that lady from admissions ever picked up the books?

Why Found-Again? You’d think that after all that, these books would be on my yearly reread list, but I always forget. There are probably a lot of factors playing into that: it’s hard not to feel saturated on the whole vampire idea at this point, and there have even been a few vamp detectives since Bloodlist came out in 1990  (*shakes fist at Forever Knight, but somehow not at Lacroix*—it seems especially fitting that Vampire Files author Elrod went on to collaborate with actor Nigel Bennett, given that he portrayed the only character on that show who didn’t make me want to throw garlic at my television).

The Premise: Former reporter Jack Fleming awakes in Chicago with a newly developed taste for blood, but no memory of the murder that put him among the ranks of the undead. When mortal detective Charles Escott discovers Jack’s secret, they join forces to solve the crime—no mean feat when it turns out to be mob-related.

It’s always interesting when reading a vampire book to figure out what kind of a vampire you’re dealing with, and Jack could perhaps be described as a modified Dracula type: yes to stakes, home soil and turning into mist, no to garlic, crosses and holy water.

The Verdict: A thousand times yes! It’s got action, humor, vampire lore, lounge singers, a fun noir sensibility, and a detective named (presumably*) after one of Sherlock Holmes’s pseudonyms.


Might go well with: Torch songs, The Thin Man, Bloody Marys



*I haven’t read the later book where we find out more about Escott’s past. Pleasepleaseplease let that be his name for a reason.


Next time: Leaving the scene of the crime, immortal-style.



Found-Again Friday: The Moon-Spinners

Settle in, children—here, near the fire. (Not that near, little Timmy—whoops, there he goes.) I’m going to tell you all the story of what it was like to have the Disney Channel as a premium channel in the mid-1980s, in the days before ubiquitous original programming. Would someone please pour some water on Timmy?

I suppose that characterization is a little off, both because I have yet to roast a small child and because, in addition to things like their aerobics show Mousercise, technically EVERYTHING on Disney at the time was original programming in the sense of being Disney. It’s just that it was original programming of old Disney movies and even older cartoons, many in heavy rotation. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Ichabod and Mr. Toad more than I have seen The Thin Man, one of my favorite movies ever.

And so one summer I came into near-constant contact with The Moon-Spinners, the caper film with a nearly grown-up Hayley Mills and Peter McEnery, who seems to have been told “Just do your best Connery Bond swagger: it’ll be fine.” (And it is.)

Why Found-Again? The simple answer is that I took a few decades off between viewings of The Moon-Spinners until tracking down the DVD a few years ago. The honest answer is that, between Blue Labyrinth coming out this week and my local library’s complete dearth of books I may well hate rereading (though seriously, who checked out ‘Salem’s Lot?), none of us are quite getting the F-AF post we deserve.

The Premise: Nikky Ferris (Mills) is a young English girl traveling Greece with her musicologist aunt. While on Crete, she meets a nice young man named Mark who’s being stalked by their innkeeper’s crooked brother (Eli Wallach, who in an unintentional bit of hilarity resembles nothing so much as an evil Walt Disney). Mark is eventually shot, and Nikky’s attempts to help eventually start the caper in motion: can she find out what’s going on and get them both out of this alive?

In case it wasn’t clear from my post on Hart to Hart, I grew up so steeped in the mystery genre that my 10-year-old self watched The Moon-Spinners—the romantic setting, the danger, the bronzed young Englishman—and essentially decided this was a suitable life plan. (If that didn’t work out, late in the movie Pola Negri appears as a fabulously wealthy woman with a yacht and a pet cheetah, which to this day seems like a decent fallback position.) When I rewatched it, I fully expected to be cynical about all those things, but in my opinion The Moon-Spinners still holds up, even now that I can recognize all the unflattering English-tourist-abroad stereotypes.

The movie is based on Mary Stewart’s romantic suspense novel of the same name, and as always, I marvel at the instinct Disney movies of this era had for adaptation. Clearly some of the things in the novel—a dead child, a religious conflict—weren’t likely to stay in the script for a Hayley Mills vehicle, but it would never occur to me to move the pieces around the way Disney did and still come up with a coherent heist movie.

The Verdict: Even now, from the moment the weary travelers open the shutters and the sparkling water stretches before us, I am a goner for The Moon-Spinners.

Might go well with: Greek food, early Bond films…and possibly earplugs, because that song is going to be stuck in your brain for a while.

Next time: Hack (of some definition) and slash.

Found-Again Friday: the 1980 Goldblum The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

If I’d only known this was available on YouTube, I’d have done this one for Halloween; still, better late than never…

Watch it here!

Why Found-Again? …which might as well be the motto for this particular movie. The last time I saw this, I was a nerdy 12-year-old with a massive crush on The Fly-era Jeff Goldblum. I have a tendency to “collect” movies when an actor comes to my attention, and so I spent my tween years watching (among others)  Into The Night more than any other person who didn’t have family involved in the film. At one point, I could watch Silverado and count down from 10 (Goldblum’s character gets stabbed) to 0 (Goldblum’s character finishes dying … er, spoiler alert?) with consistent accuracy.

If dorkiness ever becomes the most desired trait in a leader, I promise to rule you all with justice and mercy.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was the only time Goldblum was freely and consistently available on network television at the time, and so it held a special place in my warped little heart. Watching it again, I can see why: he looks good.

The Premise: If we all cast our minds back far enough, we can maybe remember a time when this story was about a schoolmaster, a love triangle, and a headless guy who occasionally chased people in the autumn. This version sticks pretty close, with rival Brom Bones (Dick Butkus—you read that right) and love interest Katrina (Meg Foster) joined by a pretty widow who has her sights set on Brom, a community full of believers in ghosts, a previous schoolmaster who may or may not be (un)dead, and an owl who lives in the schoolhouse for no discernible reason*.

Did I mention it’s not even set around Halloween?

By the standards of 1980, this might have been considered a fairly crazy adaptation of the Irving story; in the intervening years, of course,  Tim Burton and Len Wiseman have taken the story out, gotten it loaded on absinthe, and tied tinsel around its naughty bits, so to 2014 eyes this seems like traditional fare.

The Verdict: It’s cheesy and silly, of course, but rather sweet—sort of Jane Austen with ghosts and Dick Butkus and just a touch of Farmer Boy from the Little House books.

Might go well with: mulled cider, Ichabod and Mr. Toad, and the SNL Jeopardy! skit with David Duchovny as Jeff Goldblum, because all the mannerisms are already there in this movie.


*The owl is supposed to be a reincarnated Native American, which is still no reason to hang around a school full of kids who can’t conjugate worth a damn.

Next time: I continue picking at Highlander, possibly with musical interludes.



Found-Again Friday: the Hart to Hart TV Series

It’s no exaggeration to say that culturally, I was raised on mystery: the first grownup TV show I remember being around was Baretta (which went off the air when I was 4), and by age 8 I had a special dispensation to stay up late for Remington Steele. I whiled away my childhood reading time with Nancy Drew and The Three Investigators and irritated my peers by quoting extensively from The Hardy Boys’ Detective Handbook, which was the pride of my book collection for an embarrassing length of time.

Why Found-Again? In light of all this, it’s surprising that I’ve only watched Hart to Hart, the husband-and-wife detective series, a few times. The first time was in real time, when I was a little kid and a couple of millionaires might as well run around punching people and solving mysteries as not, so long as they had an adorable dog to keep them company. The second time was in 2008, when it was on the newly developed Hulu site, and it turns out that watching the show at 1 in the morning is a lot like watching it as a child: stove bombs? Why not? Dognapping? Bien sûr! This is my third time.

The Premise: Robert Wagner plays millionaire-with-spare-time Jonathan Hart, who apparently made his fortune on “two transistors and a dream,” if I remember the quote correctly. With his beautiful wife Jennifer (Stefanie Powers), who is nominally an ex-reporter but hardly does anything journalistic in the course of the show, they solve mysteries that usually involve a chase, a corpse, and the realization that yet another person in their social circle is a killer. (The Harts could possibly stand to make different friends.)

Add to the main pair the rough-around-the-edges servant Max (Lionel Stander, whose opening voice-over may be the most memorable thing about the show) and pup Freeway, and what you have is a recipe for some harmless fun.

The Verdict: All this notwithstanding, Hart to Hart is far goofier than I remembered—there is a dog-food mind-control plot in the second season!— and I don’t know if there will be a fourth viewing. Know what you’re getting into if you decide to watch this series.

Might go well with: The Love Boat, pink wines, cheese.


Next time: If I’m ambitious, Pumpkinhead for Halloween; if not, well, the tag is called  “Oh Good Lord More Highlander” for a reason.

Found-Again Friday: Altered States

This week’s Found-Again Friday, like last week’s, is a cheat—though in the case of Altered States, the joke is on me. Twenty minutes into rewatch, I turned to my companion and said with dawning horror, “There’s no point in revisiting this! It’s a Ken Russell movie!”

Why Found-Again? Let me clarify: I have a strange affection for the movies of the late Ken Russell, a man who seemed to share a lot of my offbeat interests—poetry, Pre-Raphaelites, folklore, ballads—but who had a truly funhouse-mirror way of looking at all those things. In his case, I’m pretty sure “batshit” is the clinical term, and if you don’t believe me, revisit the dream sequences in Lair of the White Worm until you do. “Like” or “dislike” doesn’t really enter into it, so giving Altered States a second chance ends up being moot.

Nonetheless, rewatch it I did.

Premise: Academic who believes himself the center of the universe gets temporary endorsement from said universe.

William Hurt plays Eddie Jessup, who defies character-naming conventions by being a scientist rather than a Western henchman. He meets a fellow academic, marries, and has a family, all while chasing the ultimate nature of human consciousness. Will a series of sensory-deprivation experiments reveal what he’s looking for, or will they threaten to destroy his life while giving Ken Russell a chance to crank his Symbol-o-Matic up to 11?

I stand by my belief that there’s no point in judging Russell films by normal standards, but Altered States has always drawn my particular ire for having such a rich premise and then Not Living Up To Its Full Potential in a welter of psychedelic hooha. It’s a perfect role for William Hurt, and Blair Brown is excellent as his occasionally estranged wife. In short…

The Verdict? …it’s a perfect example of why the failure of a movie that could, should go right is a hundred times worse than that of one that just goes wrong.

Might go well with: Gothic, Jurassic Park, intoxicating beverages.


Next time: More Highlander. Yeah.