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Week 399: A Tribute to Dark and Stormy Knights and Another Week That Is

As we get closer to Halloween I find myself thinking of the darker side of the human heart. But instead of making a list of horror films and actors (which I have done before), I would like to salute the Evil Bad Guys* of Film and TV, for they are the ones who make stuff worth watching. (I use the word “Guys” in the unisex form–for I do not care for “Gals.”)

At some point in my life I found myself rooting for the villains. Writers do poorly with traditional heroes; it is easier to create bad people than virtuous ones because there are fewer examples of the latter to draw from. So pure heroes tend to be boring–that’s why we have antiheroes who are only slightly less rotten than the evil doers. Antiheroes will go all in for a cause, but only if it is personal. You gotta kill their mom or their comic relief partner on “the job” (usually a week before his/her retirement) to get them to react.

The late Alan Rickman was an outstanding portrayer of bad guys. I really really really wanted Alan to kill both Bruce Willis and Kevin Costner in Die Hard and Robin Hood (and in real life, if he could swing it). But I knew that the odds of either of those blessed events happening were only slightly higher than Ranger Smith shooting Yogi Bear, stuffing him with Boo Boo and mounting the whole mess above the hearth.

There used to be a ludicrous hero situation on old TV shows that I never understood, which also turned me against the Good Guys. Way back there’d be a station break tease for something like the old Hawaii Five-O. “Tonight, a merciless killer with a grudge stalks Steve. Will this be the end of McGarret?” Hell no. Everyone knew that, but the networks served up the same old tired crap anyway, because they knew people only had three channels to choose from. TV heroes were semi-immortal. Wo Fat and Al Capone could never do anything about McGarret or the highly fictionalized version of Elliot Ness–only the heads of CBS, NBC and ABC had the power of life and death.

Considering such, I thought “Hey, why not develop a TV series in which the winner of the episode takes over the show until he/she is vanquished down the road. Maybe the good guys hold the fort for a while then the bad guys. I’m so brilliant!” Then it occurred to me that we already have that. It is called professional wrestling.

Even though TV and films have progressed over the ages and often feature “evil” triumphing, I am not fooled. The morality tale still holds sway, even if it is again a case of marginally less rotten besting rottener. Honest endings are rare. The top one for my money is Night of the Living Dead, in which a brave survivor, who happened to be black, gets shot in the head by the white deputies who do not first call out “Hey are you a zombie?” probably because they would miss out on killing a black man if he was given a chance to prove he was alive. That was excellent. But mostly, the morality tale continues to rule because you know that no matter how convoluted, Batman will always defeat the Joker. And no matter how many times Superman “dies” he never does.

Now, I refuse to support whiney, sniveling baddies, like that annoying piece of crap Dirty Harry blew away in Magnum Force, even though it was definitely a morality play. I cheered when Clint shot him. Interestingly, Clint was involved with a marginally less rotten person winning the day in Unforgiven–which I approved of.

But still, there are exceptions to the rule. Kevin Spacey playing Brad Pitt for a fool in Se7en was an astonishing win for the black hats. And although he had to take two in the head to get over, “John Doe” died knowing he’d placed Gwyneth Paltrow’s noggin in a box–good times.

I guess it is called the attraction of Evil. Shakespeare certainly knew all about it; his Richard III was unrepentantly foul, yet was the smartest, funniest and by far most interesting character in the play. Via the ultimate character assassination of a historical figure, Will certainly proved that he knew which side the throne was buttered on at the time–and the occupant was definitely not a Plantagenet. (I do not know if either Rickman or crazy Gary Oldman ever played crooked-back Dick on stage, but it seems likely.)

Anyway, ten days before Halloween, I salute the Black Hats of fiction with a list that will follow at the end of this post.

But now, let’s raise a glass and hear the fanfare for this week’s performers.

Inimitable Adam Kluger moved one closer to the half century story mark with The Lake House. Although Adam works brilliantly in the visual arts as well as writing, you get the sense from his work that he remembers everything he hears, including the stuff he’d rather not. This is a commendable ability to convey, and it brings intimacy to his work.

Corey Olds debuted on the site Tuesday. Like Adam’s work The Cure has the lovely ring of honest language. Words that are vivid but not overdone, stylized yet not to the degree of showing off. And it could well be that the event in the tale is already happening.

Rachel Sievers presented a story on Wednesday that’ss an elegant bit of work that plays like a song. Her Manhattan and Gibson sweeps you along and before you know it the wonderful twist ending is upon you. Exceptionally well done.

The Laird of Balwearie by LS friend Michael Bloor shone on Thursday. I’ve said it before, but Mick, Hugh and a few others of you are able to raise an actual real-live-sound-making voice in my mental theater. And fortunately, this voice usually speaks interesting words as it did in this tale.

I had to read The Serpent three times before I made up my mind what the end meant. This was not due to a lack of clarity on the part of its writer, first time contributor, Charles Smith, but there were so many possibilities that my mind boggled. For those who have yet to read it, I cannot share what I arrived at, for I would not want to sway you from what you will make from it.

Now as the exit music softly plays (perhaps by Ennio Morricone), here we go with a list of most wanted Bad Guys. One slot is open for the usual reason.

Mister and Ms. Bad Guys

Henry Fonda– “Frank”; Once Upon a Time in the West. (The first thing this famed all-American hero actor does in this film is smile serenely as he shoots a little boy dead–the first of about ninety felonies he commits.)

Bette Davis– “Baby Jane”; Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. (“But I had rat for lunch.”)

Williams B.Davis– “The Cigarette Smoking Man”; X Files (Only TV character on this list.)

George Sanders–”Addison” ;All About Eve (The urbaniest of urbane sons of a bitches.)

Strother Martin-”The What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate Man”; Cool Hand Luke

Samuel L. Jackson-”Jules” Pulp Fiction (This guy who knows his Bible.)

David Warner– “Jack the Ripper” Time After Time

Uma Thurman-”Beatrix”; Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2

Javier Bardem-”Anton Sugar”; No Country For Old Men

OPEN

Leila

17 thoughts on “Week 399: A Tribute to Dark and Stormy Knights and Another Week That Is”

  1. Helluva list, Irene. Some real show-stealing baddies there. My nomination for the vacant spot would be: Orson Welles, playing Harry Lime in The Third Man.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Michael
    Yes that is a good one. I think it was Orson’s second greatest performance, his Falstaff was his best, Kane third. For the rest of his life bands would play the music from the film when he was a talk show guest
    Leila

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  3. I don’t know many of the films on your list – I think I’ve mentioned before that both Hugh and yourself have a much more encyclopaedic knowledge of film and music that I do but it was a really interesting post, you surely like your bad guys – nothing wrong with that in my book.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good post. (I envy the depth of your Well of Knowledge.) Was glad to see Strother Martin on your list. He was good in many things and not always the bad guy. Quite a distinctive voice. I’d add Louise Fletcher (RIP) in Cuckoo’s Nest.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I may come back for more, but I immediately thought of KevinSpacey in “The Usual Suspects”. Not so nice in real life if the news is accurate. Norman Bates in all of films and TV.

    If one is willing to look in literature, look no further than anything by Jim Thompson or Patricia Highsmith (I frequently think of her as Hitchcock because of “Strangers On A Train” – Hitchcock’s version had to be much different than the book due to restrictions at the time). Her “Ripley” series contradicts the idea of traditional villain / hero.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We got a little today and hope for more this week. Seattle and Portland had the worst air in the world or close to it for a few days. We got the Nakia fire from your Washington – not that you are directly to blame. I do remember it was a Vancouver kid that started the Eagle Creek fire a few years ago.

      Hoped to go to Newberry Crater a couple of days ago but chickened out. Stopped in Bend. Have you been to Newberry? Obsidian and pumice (cutting stones and Lava soap).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Good morning Doug-
        Cold today, under forty. Last week the Sunday high was eighty-something.
        We visited both Newberry then Crater Lake when I was little. I gave the lake a wide berth after a cousin told me about it being “Miles deep with ‘things’ living in it.” I am always meaning to go back. I should just get on 5 and head south.

        Take care,
        Leila

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  6. Hi Leila,
    Brilliant post as always!!
    And you got me thinking!
    As usual, I can’t just add one – And forgive any spelling, I’m just winging it.
    I wouldn’t argue with your list but I would add…
    – Andrew Scott as Moriarty in the TV series ‘Sherlock’ (If you haven’t seen it, please watch it, you are in for a treat! Cumberbatch / Freeman / Stubbs are amazing!!!!)
    – Mr Montalban or Cumberbatch (Again!!) as Khan in the original Star Trek and also the updated film version are both brilliant!
    – Christopher Lee as Fu Man Chu (Scarey as fuck when you are a kid, probably therapy seeking as a Woke wanker!)
    – Bill Paxton as Severen in ‘Near Dark’ (Best vampire movie ever!)
    – Lance Henrickson as Jesse – See above!!
    – Ceaser Romero / Jack Nicholson as the Joker in series / film
    – Robert De Niro as Noodles in ‘Once Upon A Time In America’ (My favourite film by a country mile!!!)
    – William Smith as Falconetti in ‘Rich Man Poor Man’ (He had a build like Charlie Bronson!)
    I would have more if I really thought on it, but these are the folks off the cuff.
    Hugh

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    1. Hugh
      I have been wanting to see the Sherlock series. Moriarty is such a brilliant character–the forerunner to dozens of sophisticated villains nearly as much as the Holmes tales invented good crime fiction.
      Deniro was great in that role, not as intelligent but twice as evil in Cape Fear. Funny, how we can go on with the Bad Guys but are usually stumped when it comes to the truly virtuous White Hats, who, frankly, are dull. We like our heroes like Mad Max, who chained the dude to a burning car and gave him a hacksaw and told him only getting through his ankle would save him in time. Ha!
      Leila

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      1. Hi Leila,
        Seek it out and watch it.
        The writers did a brilliant job with their own take on the stories. Not fan fiction, not an insult, not a pathetic homage, just some genuine genius. (If James McEwan is reading this, I wonder what he thought of it???)
        Una Stubbs may not be known in America (Stared with Cliff Richard and was in a kids programme, ‘Wurzle Gummige’ but I am so happy that she will be known for this series, she deserves it.)
        The episode with Toby Jones (I think) is an observation on the Saville story and is superb!!
        I reckon I have watched the whole lot around ten times and even typing this has put me in the mood to watch it again.
        It is as brilliant a piece of TV that I have ever seen.
        Hugh

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  7. Leila – If you ever get as far south as Crater Lake and have the time, Oregon Caves are something to not see – they’re dark. I don’t think that East and Paulina Lakes are deep, but parts steam because of thermals. The obsidian and pumice are the big deals. Don’t think that we’ve gotten down to the thirties yet, but we are finally getting some good fall reds.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha!
      It is now officially fall. On my way to work this stormy Monday morning. Of course it will get old by November.
      I avoid caves. Don’t spite Bats their right to live, but I don’t visit them either. Oregon has one of the most diverse collections of natural wonders. A friend who lives in Salem runs a plant nursery and is always taking lovely pictures. I guess I am used to my area.
      Leila

      Liked by 1 person

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