The Townhouse of Ideas

That’s Entertainment: Park and Barb on Films

Okay, time to find out what Barb and I have been doing for entertainment and to try to relax lately– In general, we like streaming old movies.

–Maigret Sets a Trap: First, we lost our wi-fi connection. So, we watched a blu-ray we own of a movie we hadn’t seen in a while: Maigret Sets a Trap from 1958 with Jean Gabin as French detective Maigret. In fact, he’s the Chief Inspector of all of France’s Quai des Orfèvres– a bit like their Scotland Yard. A serial killer is stalking women in Paris, and Maigret must put a stop to it. A brilliant and exciting film with the excellent Jean Gabin (who used to have a relationship with Marlene Dietrich). And around the time the blu-ray was over, the wi-fi was back!

–Down Three Dark Streets: 1954, with Broderick Crawford and Ruth Roman. An FBI man’s partner is killed in the line of duty– but which of the three cases that he was working on at the time was it that got him killed? Written by a husband-wife team called The Gordons, this film really satisfied, with a great last line that suggested everything you need to know to extrapolate what life is going to be like for the two lead characters after the movie’s done. And Mr. Gordon really was an FBI man for a few years! In fact, J. Edgar Hoover wanted to block this film at first (until we calmed him down) because he was afraid we’d give away all the FBI’s secret crime-solving techniques to criminals!

–Blueprint for Murder: This film from 1953 can get a little slow… but when a movie or show is a little slow, Park and Barb just crank up the speed it’s playing at! At 1.3 speed, Blueprint for Murder was definitely good enough. It certainly had the benefit of starring Joseph Cotton, who did his best to help keep it interesting. There’s a poisoner on the loose– is it who we think it is, and can we catch the poisoner before a little boy is poisoned? One of the best parts of the film, though, was that the very young boy seemed to wear a suit at almost all times– just-home from school, hanging around the house, right before bed, wearin’ a suit, almost all the time! When he was about to go to bed I riffed “go get your sleep-suit on, honey” and Barb totally cracked up at the running joke.

–The Badlanders: In this 1958 film, Alan Ladd found a rich vein of gold, but then he got framed and sent to prison before he got a chance to explain to anyone what he’d found. Now he’s back to steal what he never got a chance to properly report that he’d found in the first place, and Ernest Borgnine’s gonna help him. I was delighted to find that this was basically a very very loose adaptation of the 1949 novel The Asphalt Jungle that they’d already made a movie of… heck, it’s a heist movie, let’s do it again! Although Alan Ladd helps get this movie going, the real action is the relationship between Ernest Borgnine and Katy Jurado… they really kinda seem like they’re in love! And then I looked the film up online… they WERE in love! Reader, they fell in love on the set for real and then got married in real life! It didn’t last, sadly, but what a nice story otherwise… And at 1.3, it’s not too bad a movie, either… it feels like it’s the same village as The Magnificent Seven– and this time, Katy Jurado and the villagers get to save the heroes from the bad guys…

–The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (released internationally as The Pirates! Band of Misfits): This time we went all the way back to 2012, with a 3D stop-motion animated swashbuckler comedy film produced by the British studio Aardman Animations (who also did the previous Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit). This film has Hugh Grant as the Pirate Captain, David Tennant as Charles Darwin, and Martin Freeman as his now-usual role of “pleasant white guy who quietly helps the main character.” There’s also a very small cameo from Lenny Henry (another pirate), Brian Blessed as the Pirate King, Salma Hayek as a hot pirate gal, and Al Roker (another pirate). The movie is darn funny, and it’s our favorite Hugh Grant role. If you are not a Hugh Grant fan, this will win you over anyway. It’s like the man was made to do adorable animated voice-over work. And the animation! This isn’t cell animation nor computer animation, this is stop-motion 3D stuff! It’s amazing!

Another T-Rex statue. This one is-- I think maybe-- the same one that inspired the T-Rex statue in the video game Fallout: New Vegas. But hey, y'know, Valley of Gwangi.

–The Valley of Gwangi: And speaking of stop-motion animation– it’s 1969, and it’s time for Ray Harryhausen to make another movie. Yes, it’s The Valley of Gwangi, about a very isolated Mexican valley where prehistoric animals still exist. We find a tiny horse and are going to show him in a circus– and then we realize there’s more to that valley where Adorable Tiny Horse came from, and we could capture a T-Rex. And we do. And we bring him back to show to an audience. TURNS OUT THAT WASN’T A GREAT IDEA. When you think of great actors of the era, you never think “Oh! James Franciscus!” And yet he’s actually likeable enough here, and (like Alan Ladd working hard to help us get to the part where Ernest Borgnine meets Katy Jurado) James Franciscus does his best to help us get to the dinos. At 1.3 speed, The Valley Of Gwangi really is a pleasant way to spend (part of) a Sunday evening.

–That Darn Cat: Okay first of all, there’s the fact that actress Grayson Hall is the kidnap victim in this 1965 film… Grayson Hall– in her role as Dr. Julia Hoffman– was one of the best things about the great gothic soap opera TV show phenomenon DARK SHADOWS. BUT FIRST, she was the kidnapped bank teller//hostage in That Darn Cat! And second, it’s got Hayley Mills! I could listen to her pretend to be an American (ha ha just kidding, she sounds British as heck) all day! But third off all, That Darn Cat was ALSO written by The Gordons who wrote the FBI thriller Down Three Dark Streets! So rest assured that this movie about the FBI trailing a cat on his nightly adventures– because captive Grayson Hall put her wristwatch on him as a new collar and re-released him and we’re hoping he’ll lead us back to her– really is how the FBI might do such a thing! Once again viewing at 1.3 speed, this goofy little movie made me laugh repeatedly. With both Roddy McDowall and Elsa Lanchester living in separate houses on the same block as Hayley Mills, it’s got to be one of the most British neighborhoods in America…

I’ll close this blog post with a word about Darryl Hughes. Barb and I knew Darryl Hughes from back in the days when we were first getting Barb’s comic (with artist Ryan Howe) GUN STREET GIRL going. These days, sort of like us, Darryl does prose writing, too, not just comics and graphic novels. For example, he’s got a scary/suspenseful coming-of-age werewolf horror-mystery-thriller called “The LookyLoo” at

Darryl also recently reviewed our graphic novel HUNGRY GHOSTS!

“Written like an Akira Kurosawa samurai epic by husband-and-wife writing team Barb Lien-Cooper and Park Cooper, with haunting imagery by artist Jeremy Dumouchel that mines the depths of Stephen King’s creepiest tales, HUNGRY GHOSTS is sweeping in the breadth of its storytelling about a fallen samurai’s quest for redemption through war-ravaged 15th century Japan, all the while fueling the horrors of your next nightmare with its dark, brooding artwork!”  

–Darryl Hughes, author of “The LookyLoo”