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Jim Thompson looms “Large” from beyond the grave.

Jim Thompson looms “Large” from beyond the grave. (photo)

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One of the more intriguing items in today’s round of development and production updates is the laconic Twitter update from Production Weekly noting that “Lunatic at Large” — a story written by Jim Thompson and Stanley Kubrick in the ’50s, the manuscript lost for decades, then rediscovered in 1999 — is moving forward into production, with Scarlett Johansson (vamping for her femme fatale role in “Match Point” and now presumably arriving at her logical showcase) and Sam Rockwell, who is, if nothing else, a good default choice for the role of “lunatic,” although the central mystery of the film is determining which one is a former axe murderer recently released from a mental institution. It’s surely the least expensive unrealized Kubrick project to make (less so than, say, the Napoleon movie).

Jim Thompson is commonly slotted as a pulp noir writer, which is slightly off the mark: it’d be fairer to say that he’s the first neo-noir author. Thompson started writing a little later than the writers that defined noir — Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, Cornell Woolrich, Raymond Chandler et al. — and his defining moments spread from the ’50s to the ’70s. The great adaptations of those other writers were all done by the early ’50s, henceforth only to be revisited in strikingly revisionist ways — Bob Rafelson’s sexually explicit redux of Cain’s “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” Robert Altman’s faithful-in-spirit but defiantly postmodern subversion of Chandler’s “The Long Goodbye,” Truffaut’s jokey reworking of Cornell Woolrich in “Mississippi Mermaid” and so on. But you could argue that Thompson — who didn’t make it to the screen until his 1956 adaptation of Lionel White’s “The Killing” — is only now being served with the brutality and tenseness his work deserves.

04142010_coup.jpgConsider that despite the fact Thompson wrote screenplays and TV episodes through the ’60s, he didn’t get adapted until 1972’s “The Getaway” (which he felt was bowdlerized). The truly major Thompson films followed: Bertrand Tavernier’s 1981 “Coup de Torchon” (a truly mindblowing piece of goods, with Philippe Noiret running around a French Senegalese colony killing people for pragmatic reasons), the 1990 version of “The Grifters” (one of the few plausible retro-noirs, but with non-self-congratulatory female nudity), and the reportedly brutal “The Killer Inside Me.” that’s hitting the U.S. in June. More so than the writers he’s lumped in with, Thompson’s main focus is frequently violence and action rather than paranoia and atmosphere.

That’s not a knock on the other writers (I’m a Chandler partisan myself). But it’s finally Thompson’s time to shine. Other noir writers are so steeped in their time that filming them is a question of revisiting, revising and subversion, while Thompson’s work can be filmed straight-up. Only now are we catching up to the true grimness of his work.

[Photos: “The Killing,” MGM/UA Home Entertainment, 1956; “Coup de torchon,” Criterion Collection, 1981.]


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.