Mort: Where’s Miguel?

After the tour on the 26th I made it back to my lair in time to catch most of the Oscars ceremony, including the debacle with Best Picture. Pretty funny. Keep Bonnie as far away from Clyde as possible, that’s my advice as a student of Texas history.

You can quibble about this or that with the show, and the part I want specifically to protest is that they didn’t include Miguel Ferrer in the In Memoriam segment. He also got left out of the SAG Awards memorial earlier, but he died only days before that one aired.

Still, SAG eased in Mary Tyler Moore. Miguel died January 19. MTM died January 25. SAG Awards: January 29.

Yeah, you can make the excuses — maybe someone considered him more a TV actor than a movie guy.

But Miguel was in the original Robocop. Iconic. And he was great in Robocop.

Consider this a protest.

And how they could have left out Oscar Nominee Robert Vaughan, who died November 11 2016, really astounds me. He was the Last of The Seven, and The Magnificent Seven — and Robocop — will survive in the culture far longer than anything up for Best Picture this round.

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Sinister Cinema: A Fresh Batch of Willefordian Bad Guys

Happened to watch the brand new Netflix movie I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore a couple of nights ago. A 2017 release, fresh as you can get.

It’s a “little” movie, but I have no problem with that and overall I liked it. For some people, the start might just be too slow. You could get to thinking that nothing interesting will ever happen.

But then the bad guys show up.

If you trust my critical opinions, or if you are just one of the legion of readers who love the work of Charles Willeford, stick with this one until the first bad guy appears onscreen. That ought to do it.

One moment after another, I kept being reminded of Willeford’s sociopaths and quirky plot developments.

Keep in mind that I am plugging this one here strictly for people who like Willeford, whose bursts of ultra-violence and sick killers aren’t for everybody.

Me, I love that stuff. If you do too, check it out.

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Hammett: The Maltese Cruise Ship

— and other curiosities of travel to exotic climes!

Our pal Kevin Cook recently percolated over to Europe, and sends back a report.

First, on whether you can find a Maltese falcon on Malta: “Trust me, you wouldn’t have wanted one.  There were a couple of small, ugly-shaped falcons in one store. I decided not to buy any of the overpriced Malta souvenirs.

“The Knights of St. John still have the painting with the first live falcon being sent back to the king of Spain as a gift. The tour guide there mentioned The Maltese Falcon, but only as a movie and just as an anecdote.

“The neat thing was that the original sea walls of the city are still standing, and you can understand why the Muslims at the siege had to attack from the land.

“Our cruise ship was docked directly across from the walls, and I had to walk up to the seventh deck (actually eight decks since Deck A precedes Deck 1) to get even with the top of the wall.”

After being on the scene, Kevin adds a plug for the Tim Willocks novel The Religion. “Quite a few of us who still read historical fiction today consider him the best, and The Religion is based on the siege of Malta in 1565.”

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Sinister Cinema: “He’s Hicks”

I knocked out the little tribute to the late Bill Paxton the other day as I did my usual morning struggle to wake up. I’ve been aware of him for his entire career — Near Dark, nice reunion of the Aliens cast — Predator 2, bringing in an Ah-nold regular to kind of sub-out for Ah-nold being missing. He’s in town with a few days to kill. Nice.

So, I tossed together the tribute, then headed out to do the tour. As the blood circulated from all the walking and hill-climbing, some vague thought began to tug at my brain. Finally, mid-point, as I waited for the group to reconvene after the break, it hit me.

In the first version of the post I did a line about “instant Silver Screen immortality as Hicks in Aliens” — Hicks!!!

Holy Moley, what a mistake. . . .

Of course I know better, but the mind or the coffee failed me.

I thought, man, as soon as I get back to the computer, I must correct that to Hudson, the character Paxton portrays. Hicks was done by Michael Biehn.

The memory struck complete with the lines of dialog from Aliens, as the stuffed-shirt young commander looks at Paxton and refers to him as Hicks.

“Hudson, sir. He’s Hicks.”

Whoa! Got to correct that!

And immediately I chided myself with the next line of dialog, as the lieutenant looks at Hudson and says, “Private.”

I felt thoroughly demoted until I got the correction in. And I think another viewing of Aliens may be in order, in memoriam.

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Tour: Sunday March 26

As we crawl deeper into the Fortieth Anniversary Year of the Dashiell Hammett Tour, requests for walks are beginning to roll in.

The two most recent both happen to want the same day. How often does that happen?

In any case, the tour is open to anyone who wants to show up palming a $20, ready to walk for four hours. Sunday March 26. Meets near the “L” sculpture at noon.

If interested, hop on board to investigate how Sam Spade’s partner Miles Archer bought a season ticket on a one-way ride.

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Sinister Cinema: “Game Over, Man! Game Over. . . .”

Woke today to the news that Bill Paxton has died from complications from surgery. If you like action movies, a favorite of everybody.

From his doomed punk rocker in The Terminator/radio operator in Commando/ goofy Casanova in True Lies — instant Silver Screen immortality as Hudson in Aliens — part of James Cameron’s rep company when it counted.

Could anyone else do “wiseass” as well?

No, I don’t think so.

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Hammett: Valentine Says Beat It

Eighty-seven years ago today Knopf released a little novel of romance and murder titled The Maltese Falcon.

You know the story.

You’ve been having an affair with your partner’s wife, and now your partner is dead, and you’re expected to do something about it.

So before you begin your affair with the new skirt in town who did the shooting, you need to tell the widow to beat it. . . .

Sickest Valentine’s Day novel ever.

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Frisco Beat: On the Mean Streets with Fritz and Sam

Don’t think that during my deep hibernation of Xmas/The Onset of Winter I did nothing at all, even if  doing nothing was the prevailing theme.

I remembered that I never polished off the Sherlock Holmes stories decades ago, stopping after the two initial short novels and then the Adventures, Memoirs, Return and of course The Hound. So, finally, I went through His Last Bow and the Casebook, and read the Sherlock parts of The Valley of Fear, skipping the entire section set in America. Whenever Doyle tried an American scene, as in A Study in Scarlet, he isn’t worth reading. But even the least Holmes yarns — and there are several that don’t dazzle — may have some charming insult to Watson’s intelligence or reference to an unrecorded case (Giant Rat of Sumatra and company).

And among other things I got the urge and did a complete reread on the collected ghost stories of M. R. James, always a pleasure. Kind of did it as a Hallowe’en treat, kept going, ended up doing “A Warning to the Curious” as my Xmas ghost story. Good old James is a lot more gnarly than Dickens.

I even hit the mean streets in that period a few times with walks, including a Fritz Leiber Tour by appointment that rounded up no less than seventeen eldritch hikers, though I think only about eight made it all the way to the end after over four brutal hours. The first time the walk was scheduled it got rained out, but the next time, no problemo.

The Fritz Tour even got a write-up by Jim Nelson, if you want to gander the review. Jim gets into the presence of Fritz in the Tenderloin and what it means to him, and keeps going, drawing on encounters with Hammett on page and on the pavement. Check it out.

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Hammett: Here Comes Da Judge!

I was on the horn yesterday with Brian Leno, and thought to say, “Hey, Brian. Want me to tell you something you don’t know?”

Brian didn’t hesitate. “Sure.”

“You know that building on TV they keep showing where the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is deciding stuff?”

“Yeah. . . .”

Like, in the last few days, everyone hasn’t seen that great old building pop up on the screen time after time.

“Forget the judicial stuff. That’s the old Main Post Office in San Francisco, where near the start of the Hammett story ‘The Golden Horseshoe’ the Op is gumshoeing around on a case.”

You’ll see a shot of me above, pointing to the building which stands on the east side of Seventh Street between Mission and Market. In now forty years of leading the Dashiell Hammett Tour, I have never (to the best of my memory) taken any tour group past the building. It is just enough off trail to the other sites I want to get to that it never made the cut.

Which doesn’t mean that it isn’t one of my personal favorite Op sites. For several years after I’d first moved to Frisco, it was still the Main Post Office, and I’d go inside, soak up the atmosphere. Imagine where the short fat detective faked a fall to get a look at some mail pulled from one of the boxes. I don’t care one way or the other about the court (my one prevailing thought is that I’d be bored out of my mind if I was forced to be a judge and sit for hours listening to arguments — that’d be as bad as being forced to go to church), but I was kind of happy they decided to retool the Post Office for the new purpose. Much better than tearing it down.

The exterior, and I’m sure much of the interior, evokes the moment when the Op stalked those hallways in the November 1924 issue of The Black Mask.

And now, like Brian, you know.

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Tour: Oscar Sunday, February 26

I’m not sure how it happens, but I’ve ended up scheduling the first public tour for 2017 for Sunday February 26, meaning I’m bound to miss the start of the Oscar ceremonies. I guess I don’t pay that much attention, since I’ve done it before.

And per my norm, I haven’t seen anything up for the major categories, so it’s no big loss. May as well spend the day wearing down my gumshoes on the mean streets.

So, here’s the deal, simple as I can make it: if you want to do the tour, show up by noon at the “L” sculpture — bring $20 per person to hand over. Be ready to go. The walk takes about four hours, is roughly three miles long.

If it is raining like hell, you don’t have to show up, even if you’ve been wanting to do the tour for years — you can wait for a nicer day. Someone from out of town asked for that date, otherwise I’d be in my lair watching the Oscars.

Also, don’t think that this is your only opportunity. 2017 is the 40 Year Anniversary for The Dashiell Hammett Tour, so I’ll be doing lots more walks as we emerge from the rainy season.

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