One of the reasons I find it hard to finish writing anything is that my own standards keep getting in the way. Every time I think of some way to move the story forward, I think of ten reasons why he wouldn't do that, or she wouldn't say that, or it would be better if they went here and did this instead, but then I'd have to go back and change that other thing, and so on. I can't just lash something down there and think "that'll do, sure." There's a certain level of quality I'd like to attain before trying to charge people money to read something I've written. It's not even that high a level, really, but it's there and I'm committed to it.
Other people don't seem to have that problem. They just smack any old thing up on a screen and expect you to put up with it. As an example of this, I give you the two films we watched last night: The Medusa Touch
(1978) and Split Second
In the first, which is really an extended Tales of the Unexpected
trying to be something weightier, Richard Burton plays a writer who we first see being bludgeoned and left for dead in his flat by an unknown assailant. It turns out that Burton believes he is cursed with the power of telekinesis, and that he has caused the deaths of many people throughout his life because of this. So, he withdraws from society and becomes bitter and caustic. In an effort to solve the mystery of who would want to thump such a charmer, the police talk to his neighbours, his psychiatrist (Lee Remick), his publisher (Derek Jacobi) who tell the story of his life. In the background, and gradually moving into the foreground, hang various recent disasters including the crashing of a 747 and the loss of a Moon mission. Did Richard Burton cause these?
[SPOILER: He did.]
The movie actually has a nicely creepy tone to it, and the grainy black and white movies of telekinetic experiments are particularly effective. However, I can't forgive it the terrible final set piece.
The movie's big finale is a service which is due to be held in Minster Cathedral (you know, Minster Cathedral! In London!) to celebrate the fact that they've reached their £3 million fundraising target and can now start to repair the cathedral's crumbling structure. That's right, the cathedral is falling down. In fact, it's in such a state of disrepair that lorries going by cause bits of it to fall off.
"Why would you invite the Queen and the heads of the Commonwealth to a service in such a dangerously unsound structure?" asked one of our discerning guests at this point.
Clearly nobody involved in the making of the movie had asked this question, nor had any of the characters in the movie, who dutifully filed into the cathedral while the police, who had just discovered that Richard Burton planned to topple the cathedral by
driving a huge lorry past it over and over till it fell down
telekinesis, had the most awful time trying to get them all out again. Nothing would have persuaded me, even if I was fictional, to go into a cathedral that had gargoyles falling off it minutes beforehand. I'd have remembered I had to wash my hair.
It all works out alright in the end. Or maybe it doesn't, I can't remember, to be honest.
|Renegade cop Harley Stone with non-renegade sidekick Detective Dick Durkin|
The other movie was just outright awful from start to finish. It took place in a future London (2008), which is flooded and full of rats and menacing. Except it didn't have the budget for any of these things, so there was just a lot of walking around and being filmed through metal gratings in what turns out to be a Hartleys jam factory (it says so on IMDB). It had the worst character names (Detective Dick Durkin, anyone?), the worst "tell don't show" dialogue ("there's Harley Stone, stay out of his way, he's a loose cannon, he lives on coffee, chocolate, and anxiety, they say he went off the rails when his partner died", etc.) and the least observant police officers you'll ever see anywhere. In one particularly chucklesome scene, Harley Stone (Rutger Hauer), takes out a huge handgun, which is just an ordinary handgun with some bits of black plastic stuck on to it to make it look more future.
"What the hell is that?" says Detective Dick Durkin.
"It's a gun," we point out.
Two seconds later, red stuff drips from the ceiling onto Detective Dick Durkin.
"What the hell is this?" he wails.
"It's fucking blood, you idiot," we chorus. "You are the worst detective ever."
I think someone took out a book a bit later and someone else asked what the fuck that was. All through this film all anyone did was ask the other person questions with either "hell" or "fuck" in them.
"What the hell is this?"
"Where the fuck are we going?"
"Who the hell was that?"
I'm no Kenneth Lonergan, but I could have written a much better film than this.
There was also a monster, which seemed to be played by a tall person in a motorbike helmet and pimped up Marigolds.
At a running time of 87 minutes, this film is 67 minutes too long. How on earth it ever got made, I don't know. Don't watch it, it's not good. Not even by my modest standards.
I have long been fascinated by "Split Second", but have somehow failed to see it.
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