Archives For April 2013

I finally finished reading The Maltese Falcon. It’s been over a decade since I saw the movie that everyone rightly remembers with everyone who should have been in it. Movie adaptations almost always diverge from the source material out of necessity, but the unsavouriness of the novel makes me wonder how different the original pre-Hays Code 1931 film adaptation is from the book and from the later version. Sam Spade on the page is brilliantly unlikable and Dashiell Hammett’s prose is far looser than Raymond Chandler’s, which is the best way the story could have been told. The production code gave a few films more than a thorough mangling (I still dream of the day the footage of the boathouse scene in Rebecca as shot by Hitchcock with the proper unfolding of events is found in some dusty warehouse or abandoned bus station locker) and finally seeing Fritz Lang’s Metropolis opened my eyes to the fact that major-studio nudity on film was not more than likely invented by Otto Preminger sometime in the sixties. I suspect that the pre-code Maltese Falcon also has a similar unsavoury truth to it that Huston’s masterwork, for all its grandeur, lacks.

My next adventure in things I should have already done is The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie.

Film audiences have lost perhaps their greatest champion. Roger Ebert died of cancer yesterday at the age of 70, days after announcing his “leave of presence” from his duties at the Chicago Sun-Times and his online enterprises because of the disease’s unexpected return. I have no personal recollections of the man and can’t say anything here about him that hasn’t been said better elsewhere by his friends, family, and fellow film critics. There is a lot to say about the life of Roger Ebert, and it is being expressed eloquently today.

One of the best articles I had read recently about Ebert, his life, and his struggles with cancer was published in 2010 in Esquire magazine, and it is still remarkable for the stunning photograph of the mandible-less Ebert, living intelligence playing about his eyes. Ebert himself took issue with the writer’s assertion that “Ebert is dying in increments, and he is aware of it,” but Ebert also acknowledged the need for dramatic license in telling the story.

Rest in peace, Roger. Thank you for all you did to guide my appreciation of film over the years. I hope the last book you read was a good one.

LucasArts was closed by parent company Disney yesterday. Although the studio’s output in recent years was somewhat sporadic and lacklustre, LucasArts’ heyday in the 1990s easily qualifies it as one of the most influential game development studios of all time, with widely revered titles such as Grim Fandango, Full Throttle, Maniac Mansion. Loom, and the Monkey Island series to its credit. LucasArts also harnessed great industry talents such as Brian Moriarty, Ron Gilbert, and the legendary Tim Schafer.

My fondest memory of LucasArts games was the Jaleco-published Maniac Mansion for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It featured a lot more purple than the original DOS version and age-inappropriate content was removed or changed, even though the hardest working hamster in video gaming got no salvation at the hands of Nintendo’s kid-friendly nonviolence standards. Razor’s theme, however, is still one of the most rocking five-channel compositions I’ve ever heard.

Rest in peace, LucasArts. Your legacy lives on.