The Da Vinci Code (2006)

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It starts with an exceedingly tall albino monk committing a religiously-driven murder … that’ll be Lewis Perdue’s thriller The Da Vinci Legacy which someone in the Dan Brown household read and thought it would be a good idea to combine with The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail and whaddyaknow!!!! Blockbuster time. The world and his wife read it and you know what I mean in terms of the lawsuits that went … not very far. Unfair and very harsh, IMHO. The clever thing about the book is that in a very insidious way it makes the armchair thriller reader feel like they know a bit about a wide variety of subjects courtesy of our hero, Harvard symbologist (it’s a thing), Robert Langdon, played here with a very full head of hair by Tom Hanks. He gets blamed for a gruesome murder at the Louvre, teams up with Suretédetective Audrey Tautou, does a runner from her Parisian colleagues led by the untrustworthy Jean Reno and while the chase proceeds across the Channel with Ian McKellen bringing us to Temple in London and eventually Rosslyn Chapel, we learn about Opus Dei, the anti-feminist basis of the Roman Catholic Church,  how to drive backwards at speed and how to interpret great art. The lifeblood is drained out of the subject(s) by screenwriter Akiva Goldsman and despite Ron Howard’s efforts to make a fast-moving giallo from the source material it never really comes together. Sigh. Not so much an unreliable narration as an unreliable writer. Just ask Lewis Perdue…

Wolfen (1981)

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Summer’s lease really is up. Autumn is turning the leaves to red and gold and you know what? Halloween is right around the corner. Not that I need that as an excuse to watch horror movies but, you know, sometimes it helps. Particularly when it comes to the exchanging of souls, as Whitley Strieber described in his Seventies novel The Wolfen, adapted by director (former editor) Michael Wadleigh, Eric Roth and David Eyre. Albert Finney is the cop assigned to investigate deaths presumably caused by feral city animals. He and criminal psychologist Diane Venora (how wonderful is she?) find themselves amongst Native Americans who believe they have a special relationship with wolves and their leader Edward James Olmos warns them of a mythical creature and the havoc that will be wrought upon a city ripe for development … On the one hand this is a police procedural;  on the other it’s a mystical exploration of the clash of civilisation with the animal world. This mix caused immense confusion to the studio who treated it as exploitation: it’s anything but. With wonderful photography by Gerry Fisher and a resonant score by James Horner, it’s as if Peter Weir’s themes were transmitted to another continent and it’s just THIS short of being great. One of the best of the Eighties.