Tuesday 31 August 2021

Book News: Penguin/Random House's Erika Seyfried Dead at 36 years old

Penguin Random House US has paid tribute to the 36 year old vice president Erika Seyfried who died this past weekend, as a result what is believed to have been an accident while walking her dog.

Seyfried was based in New York and had worked for the publisher for more than 13 years. She was found dead in a river in Vermont, New England, on 29th August after being reported missing while walking her dog during a vacation. A police spokesperson said her death is believed to be accidental.

 Erika, 36, was last seen alive late Sunday morning when she went out for a walk with her seven-month-old golden retriever. The vice president of digital strategy and consumer engagement at Penguin Random House was renting an Airbnb in Westminster, Vt. with her husband, Elijah Seyfried. When she failed to return home, he reported her missing on Sunday evening at nightfall.

Penguin/Random House recently commented in the Bookseller.

: “We are devastated by the loss of our colleague Erika Seyfried, 36, who died in Vermont on Sunday. Erika was Penguin Random House’s vice-president, director, digital strategy and consumer engagement, who established herself as a marketing leader through the innovative digital campaigns she developed for our books.  

“Her reader-centric approach to consumers, her social media prowess, and her tireless nurturing of or authors earned her reverence throughout our company and our industry. With her forward-looking, inclusive approach to every team and project she led, Erika was the embodiment of what we all hope for in a colleague, and friend.” 

Police are treating the woman’s death as “accidental,”

Classic Movie Review: Magnum Force (1973)

 After the success of 1971's Dirty Harry it was inevitable that Eastwood would return to the role that had been proven to be even more popular than the lone cowboy he played in the Leone movies - Indeed Harry Callaghan is still considered Eastwood's signature role.

Right away, before the film properly starts,  we get a version of the famous line -

"This is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?"

This time the line plays out over the opening of the film with a deep red screen and a close up of the real star of the movie - The Magnum 44 - held in Clint's hand. Least we assume it's Clint's hand and this is the only movie in the franchise that does not open with the credits playing over shots of San Fransisco. The particular model of Magnum had become incredibly popular since the first movie and gun shops all over the country repeatedly sold out of 44's. Writer, John Milius reveals in the DVD commentary that most of the crew ended up with the weapons that were used in the movie.

Eastwood was stung by the criticism of the first movie and he was determined to show that there were worse cops than Harry. One of the story-lines rejected for the first movie concerned a group of cops who had formed a death squad. This idea was dusted off  developed because it  allowed for Harry to be depicted in an almost liberal light but still remain true to his origins. David Soul, Tim Matheson, Robert Urich and Kip Niven were cast as the young vigilante cops who come up against Eastwood's character. Though by the time of the final shoot out they have wiped out a good deal of the major criminals in the city.

The film opens with a traffic cop pulling over a mobster who has been acquitted of a murder charge on a technicality, and then shooting him and the men with him. And then we cut to Eastwood and his new partner, Early Smith -  a black actor was cast as Harry's wingman because the first film was criticized for using black actors in criminal roles - and we learn that Harry is now working stakeout rather than homicide which immediately sets him up for conflict with Lt. Briggs (Hal Holbrook). Immediately following this Harry fancies a burger and decides they should visit the burger joint at the airport. Useful that Harry know of the burger joint at the airport because there are terrorists on a plane.

In the Dirty Harry universe every time Harry gets  a hamburger we are in for a shootout. This time he ends up getting on a plane, dressed as a pilot, because a couple of terrorists have hijacked the plane, demanding to be flown to safety. In another attempt to soften up the tone of the first movie there is much more comedy brought into the otherwise grim scenes.  Here  the co-pilot, thinking Harry is an actual pilot asks:

'Excuse me, Captain. This may seem like a silly question but can you fly?'

To which Harry replies, 'Nope never had a lesson.'

Needless to say it ends up in a shoot out on the plane in which Harry takes out the two terrorists. As the movie moves on much is made of the rights and wrongs of the vigilante killers, and there are moments when the audience feels that Harry may join the rogue cops, but in the end Harry knows that although the system sometimes fails to serve justice there is no real alternative. The system may be flawed but it's all we have, Harry remarks in one key scene.

Lalo Schifrin again provided the score and this time it was heavily influenced by the Morricone scores from the Leon/Eastwood movies, and the score perfectly compliments the movie.  Once again the cinematography is stunning with the city of San Francisco looking wonderful and used to great effect - it was a nice touch placing Harry in the city, the original script for the first movie was New York set, because the city was, and remains,one of the most liberal cities in the world which meant that Harry's right wing cop stood out in stark contrast.

The film was once again a massive success ensuring that we would get more Dirty Harry movies. The film grossed $58.1 million in the United States alone, a new record for Eastwood, but it received a mixed critical response -  Pauline Kael, a harsh critic of Eastwood for many years mocked his performance as Dirty Harry, commenting that, "He isn't an actor, so one could hardly call him a bad actor. He'd have to do something before we could consider him bad at it. And acting isn't required of him in Magnum Force. In fact Kael would constantly remain a thorn in Eastwood's side and it is no coincidence that the female film critic who is slaughtered in The Dead Pool, the fifth and final Harry movie, closely resembles Kael.

The film also received much criticism after  a scene in which a prostitute was killed by having drain cleaner down her throat influenced the infamous Hi-fi murders. The Hi-Fi murders were the brutal killings of three people during an armed robbery at a home audio store called the Hi-Fi Shop in Ogden, Utah, on April 22, 1974. Five people had been held hostage and tortured, but two survived with severe injuries. All were bound and forced to drink Drano (a corrosive drain cleaner). One victim had a pen stomped into his ear, and a teenage girl was repeatedly raped before being flung face-down on the floor and shot in the head. The crime became notorious for the violence inflicted against the victims and accusations of racial bias in the Utah judiciary.

Police believed that six men were involved in the crime but only had enough evidence to convict three enlisted United States Air Force airmen, named Dale Selby Pierre, William Andrews, and Keith Roberts. During the trial, it was revealed that Pierre and Andrews, two of the men guilty of the robbery,  had robbed the store with the intention of killing anyone they came across, and in the months prior to the robbery had been looking for a way to commit the murders quietly and cleanly. The two then repeatedly watched the film Magnum Force, in which a prostitute (played by Margaret Avery) is forced to drink Drano and is then shown immediately dropping dead. Pierre and Andrews decided that this would be an efficient method of murder and decided to use it in their crime.

Magnum Force was however  the seventh highest grossing film of 1973,and although not quite as good as Dirty Harry was a worthy follow up.

Tuesday 24 August 2021

Dracula in the UK

 'Mr Lugosi, is it true you suck blood oranges?' one reporter asked.

'All the time. I often eat six at a time.' replied Lugosi with  a mischievous grin.

'And raw steaks?' the reporter continued.

'When I can get them,' Lugosi laughed.

The time was 10 April 1951 and Bela Lugosi was visiting England with his fourth wife, Lillian.

'I was born in Translavania where the Dracula myth came from,' Lugosi told reporters. 'Though I never went down into our cellar. It was full of bats.' Lugosi also revealed the he played football, as goalkeeper for the Translavania team.

Everywhere Lugosi went he was mobbed by both fans and the press - this surprised the actor who had not been a big name for over a decade, and he gave many interviews and posed for countless photographs. Whenever Lugosi signed autographs he would use his own special pen which contained blood red ink.

Privately Lugosi cursed his success as Dracula, claiming that the role had limited him, but in public he lived up to the image, often dressing as the Count when he went out and about. The Brighton Newspaper at the time carried an amusing story of how one man was terrified when he saw Dracula walking towards him after emerging from a public house one night.

'I left my country in 1920 and have never gone back. I could not live under a dictatorship. I am an American citizen now.' Bela Lugosi

'Horror is my business - it pays off best. But I am tired of gore and I hope that over here I will find an intelligent producer who will think, let's give Lugosi a comedy.' Bela Lugosi

'I do not scare the children. They known I am a pussy cat at heart.' Bela Lugosi

The main reason for the trip to England was because of the stage play, Dracula - the first performance was on 16th June 1951 at the Royal Theatre in Brighton.

The play was not a great success and closed after a limited run.

Lugosi died in 1956 with his best days now long behind him. He was buried in the cape he wore in Universal's Dracula

Go Ahead Make my Day, Conan

 Well, who would have made the connection between Dirty Harry and Conan - In 1976 Clint Eastwood recruited Frank Frazetta to paint the poster for "The Gauntlet," Eastwood's 1977 police thriller. Frazette of course is best known for his fantasy paintings many of which graced paperback covers, most notably many of the Conan books.

Checking on Wiki I found that the artist did a fair bit of work for Hollywood, including posters for What's new Pussycat and The Fearless Vampire Killers. So maybe Eastwood wasn't so much of a fantasy fan after all, - maybe he just wanted to look like Conan.

Those Battling Britons are go


We're Back!!!

 It's been a crazy few years, but from today the Archive is back with regular posts - well, several a week at least. So pop back and check out the usual mix of interviews, reviews and wide ranging articles on every subject imaginable.

Coming up over the next few days, we'll be talking about rediscovering old books and asking are old musty paperbacks actually hazardous to your health. There'll also be the usual news and speculation - in short everything that made the Archive a must read blog for many thousands of readers.

Onwards we go.....

Monday 23 August 2021

Book Review: Sioux Dawn by Terry C. Johnston

 I first read this book, the first in the Plainsmen series, a few years back but h

aving fond memories off it, which were rekindled when I did my post on The Indian Wars, a week or so ago I decided to read it again. Once again it grabbed me from the first page, even prompting me to put Stephen King's third Dark Tower (the middle section with Jake's paradox was boring me) aside. I'll return to that book one day, having enjoyed the first two Dark Tower books, but Terry C. Johnston has put me in the mood to do a few epic westerns before I do so.

Now this novel which uses the Fetterman massacre as it main thrust is a mixture of both fact and fiction. Presenting the story through the eyes of the fictional Irish immigrant Seamus Donegan allows the author a certain amount of leeway in presenting the story of this dreadful period of American history.

On 21st December, 1866, Captain Fetterman and an army column of 80 men, were involved in protecting a team taking wood to Fort Phil Kearny. Although under orders not to "engage or pursue Indians" Fetterman gave the orders to attack a group of Sioux warriors. The warriors ran away and drew the soldiers into a clearing surrounded by a much larger force. All the soldiers were killed in what became known as the Fetterman Massacre. Later that day the stripped and mutilated bodies of the soldiers were found by a patrol led by Captain Ten Eyck.

The thing that I admire with Sioux Dawn is that the author manages to keep the story moving forward with the momentum of good fiction, and yet he doesn't skimp on including historical facts,and the reach of his research is all encompassing. The novel really gives us a taste of frontier life and can be appreciated on more than one level - as an enjoyable read and also a history of what really happened. It both entertains and informs which is not always an easy thing to pull off.

Excellent and, to my mind, the best of all the Plainsmen books.

Doctor Who and the Flux

  The BBC's Dr Who, soon to be  Disneyfied, is now sixty years old and much loved around the world - it has a legion of committed fans -...