Dog model: Hutson (thanks Tim)
End of the year greetings from the pup blog. Hoping for more content and more contributors in 2023 (if you wanna be on the blog reach out!). Write about things, review things. Thanks Janie for being so cool and supportive. Thanks Michael for rad movie reviews of old movies. Thanks to the pups. I'm also excited to publish more little memoir pieces (have any? I want to see them!) Have ideas? I wanna hear them. You can find me on socials or mail me at email@example.com
I've been listening to this playlist almost exclusively the last month while making little art and taking walks and doing things. It's a happy playlist of dance music (?) mostly from 2022. You can dance to it alone or with others as ridiculously as you want. It's music that makes me happy.
By Michael Seymour Blake
If the foundation of your story is strong, you don’t need any frills. Hell, you hardly need a budget.
This Christmasy Hammer crime movie is based on The Gold Inside, a 1960 Theatre 70 episode written by Jacques Gillies. Reprising their roles are André Morell and Richard Vernon as Colonel Gore Hepburn and Pearson. Quentin Lawrence directs both versions, while David T. Chantler and Lewis Greifer provide the lively screenplay. It’s a thrilling chamber play-esque heist film, but holiday charm and dynamic chemistry between the leads make it one of my favorite yuletide watches.
Peter Cushing plays Harry Fordyce, a flinty bank manager whose primary concerns in life seem to be pristine pen nibs, smudge-free plaques, and a flawless adherence to the rules. He keeps his emotions locked up in an impenetrable vault. You get the feeling he’d be thrilled if he could replace his employees with emotionless robots. Robots don’t decorate their desks with Christmas cards (so undignified), and they wouldn’t steal from the business either (like Fordyce absurdly accuses his longtime clerk, Pearson, of).
Two days before Christmas, a suave bigshot from the insurance company named Colonel Gore Hepburn drops by to make sure everything’s up to par at the branch. During a meeting between the two men, Fordyce receives a call. It’s his wife and child. They’ve been kidnapped. His wife “beseeches” him to do anything Hepburn asks. Ya see, the electrodes attached to her head may not kill her, but they’ll do permanent damage if charged. All Fordyce must do to protect his family is help Hepburn steal roughly £90,000 from the vault.
Cash on Demand does some interesting things with its characters. Cushing’s scrooge-like portrayal of Fordyce could’ve been dull and derivative, yet he plays it a little colder than the cantankerous Scrooge. Instead of screaming at the world, he wags his finger at it. There’s a subtle vulnerability to him that Cushing carefully displays with glances at the photo of his wife he keeps on his desk, and even the way he brushes dust off his jacket as if any small imperfection would cause him to disintegrate. That’s a lotta stress to carry around. At first you don’t want to root for the guy, but as he’s slowly dismantled you can’t help but be on his side.
And then there’s Hepburn—a warmhearted, menacing, clever thief who has an earnest interest in his fellow human beings. This made for a surprising and entertaining character, and it’s part of what makes the movie so damn special. For Hepburn to work, we need to believe in his smooth confidence. We need to be charmed and frightened. Morell is more than up for the task. It’s prolly an overstatement to say he’s sagelike, but there’s wisdom to be gleaned from him while he torments you. His natural curiosity about people isn’t a front. He’s invested in them. In a different world, he’d make a better boss than Fordyce. In this world, he uses this trait to manipulate those around him.
At one point Hepburn publicly donates money to an office Christmas party, which Fordyce of course knew nothing about. He then privately forces Fordyce to return the money he just donated— Fordyce complies but he’s a dollar short (this comes into play later). The display seems to be more about teaching Fordyce a lesson in goodwill rather than simply making himself look kind to the workers.
Hepburn also knows details about the private lives of the staff. For example, he points out that Mr. Sanderson is an accomplished chess player, a fact which Fordyce neither knows nor cares about—if it ain’t office related, it may as well not exist.
But Hepburn isn’t all chuckles and friendly trivia. When he means business, his entire demeanor changes. His voice gets low, his tone becomes menacing. He’ll even slap you around if the situation calls for it. It’s these fluctuations that keep us on edge. He’s got a lot of instructions for Fordyce, some of which require delivering convincing lines to his employees. We get to watch Fordyce try out his acting chops under extreme pressure. These moments are full of great tension. They also allow for some humorously distressing interactions as the pair talk in code to each other.
Like when Hepburn warns a bank employee that it’s not the local robbers you need to worry about, it’s “these smart characters down from London.”
Fordyce, fidgeting and anxious, comments that London is far away and there would be plenty of time to construct roadblocks should a burglary take place.
Hepburn, unphased, chuckles. “You’d be surprised how these fellas can think their way around roadblocks.”
Cash on Demand serves up suspense at a nice pace: unwanted window washers pop up at pivotal moments in the heist, stress-induced forgetfulness hits when remembering a combination could mean life and death, and then there’s the anticipation of a certain phone call that may save the day… or make everything much, much worse. All that, plus just enough holiday cheer to warrant adding this to any Christmas movie marathon. The plot twist is borderline implausible, but you’ll hardly care.
Crime fans and Christmas fans alike will want to check this out. And if you love the chemistry between the leads, be sure to watch Terence Fisher’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, 1959.
12/16/2022 0 Comments
A Micro Memoir by Gina Tron
One of my favorite books growing up was about a farm family. It featured photographs of a woman milking cows and a redheaded boy feeding a cluster of chickens. When I was seven, my dad took me to a feed store where baby chickens squeaked and ran around on cedar chips. I touched their fuzzy bodies, warm from the red heat lamps and begged my dad to buy me one, and he had to drag me out of the store while I cried hysterically. I continued crying for hours after we left and became consumed with the idea of having a pet chicken, one that I could housetrain and teach how to speak. That day I noticed that on my right palm, my veins resembled the beak and head of a bird. For the next two years, I hoped this meant that having pet chickens was in my future.
For months before our baby chickens’ arrival, I read books about raising chickens. Despite having educated myself about the intellectual capabilities (and shortcomings) of the birds, I was still naive. I turned a shoe box into a bed big enough for a baby hen. I intended to pick my favorite chick and keep her in my bedroom, and I still stubbornly believed that if I tried hard enough, I could not only housetrain the bird, but teach her to speak English.
"There's no way in hell we are keeping a chicken in the house, Gina,” my mom attempted to reason with me. You can't train a chicken to do anything. Their brains are the size of peas."
All six chicks were supposed to be female, but I kept hoping that one of them would grow up to be a rooster. My premonition was correct. Big Red matured into a vicious beast with a shiny red coat and floppy comb. He would rape the hens and use his talons to attack my brother and I as we returned from schools; often we’d drop our backpacks and run into the house as we entered our property. Neighbors and friends were also met with Big Red’s rage.
After numerous incidents of numerous people being attacked my parents tried unsuccessfully to sell him at a farm show. There, he tried to attack a Rottweiler from the cardboard box, perforated with many holes, he was in. My dad’s farmer coworker ultimately decided to take him in.
The roosters there, all 12 of them, weren’t impressed with Big Red’s attitude upon his arrival. As we let him out of the cardboard box, they waddled up to meet him. He, in turn, tried to peck the face of one of them. They then collectively chased him off, ostracizing him. Big Red slept the rest of his angry, lonely life in the cow barn until coyotes ultimately killed him.
Portions of this micro memoir are from "Suspect," a memoir to be released by Vegetarian Alcohol Press in 2023.
Gina Tron is the author of multiple books, including the memoir "You're Fine.", absurdist short story collection "Eggolio and Other Fables," and poetry collections "Star 67," "Employment," and "A Blurry Photograph of Home." Forthcoming memoirs "Eat, Fuck, (Write About) Murder" and "Suspect" will be released by Vegetarian Alcoholic Press in 2023. Gina is currently eating crab eggs.
Dog model: Svetlana (thanks Colleen)
I've only listened to Of Empress and dance music for an entire week and not been focused to make an Xmas playlist. Thankfully Colleen Sieber who has excellent music taste has a brilliantly sad Xmas playlist so she's standing in at the Pup Sounds Friday dj table today.
From Colleen: "Please put in a caveat that you should listen to this at your own mental health risk."
When I was very little, when Prince ruled the airwaves, when McDonalds made little plastic Mario Koopas that fluttered and Goombas that hopped, my parents took me to the Science Museum. The streets were slushed with snow and lined with people, gazing up in awe at Emilio Fucking Estevez, seated on a device with a camera, some 20 feet in the air. And everyone whispered their hushed Minnesota whispers, asking if it were even possible that Martin Sheen’s most handsome son could really be there, before us, behind a camera and not in front of it. People in the crowd speculated that it was a double, though why his double would be behind the camera is beyond me to this day. Even more confusing was the question of how the star of Mighty Ducks might be, for any reason, filming the very movie he was meant to star in.
Anyway, months later, my dad took me and my brothers to a swimming meet in a small nothing town where the sunlight bounced off the technicolor plastics of a water park. I sat at the playground while my brothers were competing, underneath one of those swirling turret towers, and watched the light flashing on the water nearby, where boys that would someday become men who really knew how to hold their breath, thrashed madly through the pool as their coaches screamed commands.
I thought about Emilio Estevez, about the way his eyes locked with mine, and I convinced myself that he was probably in love with me. I had been watching The Breakfast Club since I was 4 years old, and thus this seemed entirely possible. Probable, even.
All this is to say, I was also a swimmer. I can hold my breath for a really long time.
I’m doing it right now.
12/2/2022 0 Comments
Pup Sounds Friday: 12/02/2022
Dog model: Brewski (thanks Penni)
December isn't the best time for new album releases but a couple have caught my attention: London-based Sophie Jamieson's contemplative Choosing, and Canadian Black Ox Orkestar's Everything Returns "offering a distinctive take and timbre within the contemporary landscape of Jewish, Yiddish and klezmer music." (from their spotify bio). Irish multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Anna Mieke's album Theatre from a couple of weeks back is also worth checking out.
Otherwise this friday''s playlist is populated by mostly instrumental and ambient music.
It's a good playlist to walk in the woods to, I think, or wherever you can walk.
Our fabulous blog team
All Art And Athletes Chorus Blog Date This Book Game Of Narratives Guest Blog Letter From The Editor Lifehacks Movies Of 2019 Music Pup Sounds Strive For 55