Branagh WALLANDER BBC TV series vs WALLANDER Canal!!

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My first introduction to Henning Mankell’s detective Kurt Wallander is with the Kenneth Branagh helmed WALLANDER BBC series. I found those shows visually striking and emotionally intense. Only recently have I likewise become introduced to the earlier Swedish series starring Krister Henriksson (earliest episodes dating from 2006, with the latest episodes being in 2013).

There is a degree of fatalism and nihilism in the more slick and stylish BBC reworking of WALLANDER that is absent from the earlier Swedish television series. And I feel that that absence is to the earlier show’s benefit.

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While the Swedish series is no less a captive and mirror of the forlorn land it depicts, there is in the original series and in the captivating and world wearied yet bemused performance by Krister Henriksson a welcome sense of hope, of optimism even in the face of those who have forsworn hope. As such, despite or because of its understated nature, there is something more endearing in the Swedish WALLANDER, something easier worn.

Whereas the BBC version of Wallander is a different animal all-together. First its scale is far grandeur than the Swedish version, essentially each season comprised of three feature length movies, with approximately two years between seasons; 2008, 2010, and 2012 respectively.

Add to that Branagh’s wonderful portrayal of a man ever more broken is superlative. However that degree of depression can be taxing to view. To the BBC WALLANDER’s credit it is a distinct and different take from the Swedish version they were going for and achieved, so it can be viewed as its own thing rather than simply a remake.

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All that to say you can watch the original series and the BBC series and see two distinct and divergent shows, each deserving of your time. But if pressed regarding the version of Wallander that I enjoy the most, I would have to choose the Krister Henriksson series.

While the BBC version has amazing direction and cinematography, powerhouse acting by its lead Kenneth Branagh, and a wonderful score and introduction (reminiscent of the equally compelling LUTHOR), thematically I prefer the less angst ridden and less dire Swedish version. Its low-key delivery making for less hyperbolic viewing.

Grade: WALLANDER BBC series gets a grade of B/B+, and the CANAL Swedish version edges it out with a solid grade of B+.

Wallander Season 1 & 2 [Blu-ray] (This item requires a 1080i compatible player)

Wallander Series 3 [Blu-ray]

Wallander (Faceless Killers / The Man Who Smiled / The Fifth Woman) [Blu-ray]

Wallander Series 3 [Blu-ray]

Wallander: The Original Episodes, Set 1

Next up I’ll sample the Rolf Lassgard WALLANDER episodes and bring you my take on those.

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WEBSERIES of the Day: DOMINION

I watched the 1st episode and some of the Webisodes of a series called DOMINION, billed as a film Noir series, and enjoyed it.

I’m not typically a web-series type of guy, but I gave this one a shot and liked it. I’m waiting to hear back from the creators in regards to episode #2, but in the meantime view the existing episodes here.

COMIC BOOK SERIES OF THE DAY III of III: MOONSTONE

Cheating here a bit by listing as my series of the day, a company instead of a single title.

Moonstone is a publishing company that most of you may not have heard of. Their specialty is pulp heroes and I’m a huge fan! Check out some pulp greatness that I bought from them today!

Rocking huh?! And to get those great issues check your local comic store, or pick all the SPIDER stuff collected here: The Spider: Judge, Jury & Executioner HC

Movie Showdown: THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS vs GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Movie Showdown: THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS vs GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Rather than the differences of these two films what strikes me is the similarities. Both are 1946 films. Both big budget A pictures for the time, with high profile directors (Lewis Milestone while a forgotten director today, for his time helmed many a top-tier film). Both successes, the films share that theme of young people and the great expectations the adults in their lives have for them, and what becomes of these children because of those… great expectations.

In David Lean’s seminal GREAT EXPECTATIONS the story is told from the boy’s perspective, (Pip played by Anthony Wager and John Mills) who meets a girl (Estella played by Jean Simmons and Valerie Hobson)who is also subject to…great expectations. Greater expectations even than his.

[A nice aside about the two young actors who played Pip and Estrella comes from Sean Axmaker of TCM. He writes:

‘The most visually evocative scenes in the film, however, take place in Miss Havisham’s shadowy mansion. [Pip] Summoned by the mysterious matron to her shuttered manor, he enters a Gothic haunted house that time forgot and finds an eccentric, possibly mad dowager in a rotting wedding dress, holding court in a musty throne room dominated by a decomposing wedding cake, a reminder of the day she was jilted at the altar. Havisham has sent for Pip to become a playmate for her ward Estella (Jean Simmons), an impertinent young beauty with whom Pip immediately falls in love. Apparently, young Anthony Wager [the Actor] also fell in love with [17 year old] Simmons (how could a thirteen-year-old boy with stars in his eyes not?) and even played the hero in real life. According to Simmons, her dress caught on fire from a candle she was carrying through a scene up a flight of dark stairs. “Everybody stood aghast, but Anthony came and tore it off me and put it out. This boy was the one who saved me.”]

In Lewis Milestone’s STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS the story is told from the girl’s perspective, who (as in EXPECTATIONS) is molded by the expectations of a domineering matriarch who shapes her to marry for power and money.



“He wanted to make something of his son, and I was tied to them both from that time on… [He used my guilt to make me marry his son]. Sam you’re not going to go away again! I want you here, Sam! I’ve lived so much inside myself. So choked with wanting something else that lives and breathes, so desperate for air and room to breathe it in! Oh, please, oh please… stay here.”
—Barbara Stanwyck as Martha in THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS

And in both films the course of those lives are neither easy nor straight, but undulating tales of loves deferred, and tragedies… born.

And both films were the first appearance of two future stars. GREAT EXPECTATIONS being the first film appearance of Alec Guinness, and STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS being the first film appearance of Kirk Douglas.

[Guinness’ performance is little more than a bit part, but Kirk Douglas is revelatory in his first screen role. Imbuing a difficult role, with a suffering that makes him neither hero nor villain… but something more sad, and memorable than both. But everyone gives strong performances in STRANGE LOVE, Heflin an oft dismissed leading man gives, perhaps his best performance here. Barbara Stanwyck adds some rare vulnerability to her tough as nails persona. However, arguably it’s Lizabeth Scott’s performance as Antonia Marachek, the one caught in the crossfire, that lets everything work in this film. That and the script of Robert Rossen (of ROARING TWENTIES and HUSTLER fame) that has to rank as one of his best.]

And finally the ultimate comparison, both films… come highly recommended. 🙂 .

You can view THE STRANGE LOVES OF MARTHA IVERS online here.

And when ready to purchase there is a great Criterion DVD for David Lean’s film, loaded with special features. However, the various DVD versions of STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS are, on the whole, bare-bones affairs, sporting no special features. Check the links below.

Great Expectations (The Criterion Collection)

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers

Strange Love of Martha Ivers [Blu-ray]

Hope you enjoyed today’s selections, and come back tomorrow for the much awaited next installment of… WEDNESDAY’S WORDS! Till then… be good. 🙂

BOOK OF THE DAY: The Big Book of Noir

The Big Book of Noir

True to its name the Ed Gorman edited THE BIG BOOK OF NOIR covers all things Noir, from books to film… and especially offering sometimes striking insight from the creators, on the art and the business… of Noir. Definitely recommended.

‘When Bob [Robert Aldrich] was directing and he wanted me, he knew the best thing was to let me alone. He gave me the Mickey Spillane book KISS ME DEADLY (to adapt into a screenplay/movie) and I said, “This is Lousy. Let me see what I can do.” You give me a piece of junk, I can’t write it. I have to write something else. So I went to work on it. I write if fast, because I had contempt for it. It was automatic writing. You get into a kind of stream and you can’t stop.’
— A.I. B
ezzerides, Screenwriter of KISS ME DEADLY

Kiss Me Deadly (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

The Mike Hammer Collection, Volume 2: One Lonely Night, The Big Kill, Kiss Me Deadly

I’m a huge fan of the film, and could never get into the Spillane novel. Spillane’s writing to me always seemed a ‘by-the-numbers’ take of the square jawed tough guy (and that might be an unfair assessment looking at his work from a 21st century perspective, perhaps his work just does not age as well as some other writers, however the movie is also of this period and I find it timeless), and what I like about the film is, between script and direction, it subverts all those tropes.  However, try both film and book for yourself… and decide.

Movie of the Day: Andrew Stone’s BLUEPRINT FOR MURDER

“DON’T TOUCH MY FEET!”

Andrew Stone’s 1953 film BLUEPRINT FOR MURDER
is a diabolical and surprisingly chilling film for the period, and still remains so. A subtle, understated film all the more effective and horrific for that understatement. Jean Peters gives a fantastic performance. And Joseph Cotton gives a typically compelling performance in a film that is unique by being not a “Who-Done-It” but a “How-to-Prove-It”. Tense and captivating, and builds to a riveting ending! Grade: B+.