The latest in the Terminator “franchise” (I hate that term, makes the movies sound like a Nandos Chicken outlet) blasted it’s way on to movie screens in New Zealand this week. As an unabashed fan of Terminator and Terminator 2, and not much fussed on the third, I didn’t have very high expectations for this film despite the presence of Hollywood heavyweight and sometime drama queen Christian Bale.
As it turns out the film is a non-stop barrage of gunfire, explosions and death-defying stunts…and I love that kind of thing so I was happy. Unfortunately David Mamet doesn’t tend to write dialogue for blockbuster action movies so it’s no great shakes in that department but that’s not what you expect from this kind of movie is it?
When you throw a lot of money at a film this big you do get some pretty spectacular stunts, high-tech design and scary looking futuristic robots though. Which is why I’m considering checking out The art of Terminator Salvation…not in the hopes of catching a picture of Christian Bale with his shirt off…at all.
Christopher Fowler started off as the author of horror and fantasy short stories and novels and his imaginative skills made for first rate fiction in a genre that is regarded rather sniffily in the literary world. He turned to mysteries and combined elements of his fantasy work in a series of delightfully zany mysteries featuring two oldish sleuths, Bryant and May, usually operating in wonderfully evoked London and South England landscapes. The books would make a first rate television series but as they don’t involve forensics they will probably never reach the screen.
His very English quality comes from his background as an only – and sometimes lonely – child growing up in a working class area of South London in the early 1960s. His parents are solid decent folk but they don’t have a lot of imagination and they have ended up with a son who has imagination by the truckload. Reading books and comics, making lists (ah, the sign of all of those who had anorak childhoods), movies at the local Odeon, games and kit sets, the ludicrous horror novels of Dennis Wheatley, it’s all here.
Even if your childhood was a New Zealand one, you will recognise a lot of what he is talking about as Kiwis still talked of “home” (i.e. Britain) then and English newspapers and magazines were the staple of every bookshop. Does anyone remember the weekly compilation editions – with the brassy yellow cover – of the Daily Mirror? I loved this book for its nostalgic evocation of the British cinema (the decade before it descended into witless sex comedies featuring Robin Askwith and two decades before it was all country house Merchant Ivory films) when most films were full of character actors who could be relied upon to be much the same in every production. It’s hard to think we will look back on Ray Winstone and co with the same warm fuzzy feeling we had for the likes of Hattie Jacques and the Carry On crew. It’s not all nostalgia, however, as he tempers the book with his adult awareness of some of the sadness of his parent’s life.
And…libraries come out of this very well as young Fowler recognises how much they’d helped him: “the printed page had not imprisoned my thoughts but had given them shape and set them free.” He speaks highly of the East Greenwich Public Library where “I caught glimpses of a world beyond my experience” and was helped by a librarian who inspired his reading. She sounds just great and not all the dull stereotype we get so sick of. The latter appears in the next book I read, a bloated doorstop thriller, “A simple act of violence” by R.J. Ellory where “the lady at the desk looked like a librarian, sounded like one too.” She speaks in “hushed tones” (of course!) and peers at the detective “over half-rimmed spectacles.” she’s about as believable as the plot in this ridiculous conspiracy thriller.
At the risk of sounding callous, it’s been a bad week for Davids. Fantasy writer David Eddings passed away earlier this week and this morning brought news of the death of veteran actor David Carradine.
Carradine is probably known for three things; being a Carradine, a family that could out-Baldwin the Baldwins in terms of actors per square foot, as the titular character of Quentin Tarantino’s ambitious but genius Kill Bill films, and as Caine, the forever wandering Kung Fu student in the television series of the same name.
I have to admit that Kung Fu never grabbed me. All that dour wandering about in the Wild West didn’t really interest me as a child. I thought he brought just the right mix of menace and gentility to the role of Bill in the aforementioned Tarantino films though and this was an experience that he wrote about in his 2006 book The Kill Bill diary : the making of a Tarantino classic as seen through the eyes of a screen legend.
For more information on the life and death of David Carradine go to –