A little more on Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024)

Way, waaaayyyy back in 1981 I was in High School and the movie The Road Warrior appeared in theaters. This movie, better known around the world as Mad Max 2, genuinely rocked my world.

I freaking loved it.

The action was intense, the stunt work mindbogglingly good -and scary! The climax had me on the edge of my seat.

The film was very low budget but not quite as low budget as the original Mad Max, which I would find and see later on. The film helped put Mel Gibson on Hollywood’s radar and he would soon after appear in Lethal Weapon and was well on his way to becoming a Hollywood superstar… before, of course, everything went bad.

When Mad Max: Fury Road appeared, I was very much there to see it and loved it… even if I felt Tom Hardy was somewhat miscast in the Max role. It just felt like the character was written as an older Max, which would have fit well with Mel Gibson’s age at the time the film was being made.

Still, this wasn’t a fatal problem and I enjoyed the film… even as I feel The Road Warrior remains my favorite Mad Max film.

Fast forward to the news of Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga and I was certainly curious but, I have to admit, I wasn’t dying to see it.

Yesterday I wrote about how Furiosa is seriously underperforming/bombing at the box office and offered some ideas as to why this might be. Truthfully, I feel there has been a shift away from the movie going experience and I genuinely wonder if this shift might prove permanent in spite of movies here and there succeeding.

But after posting, I wondered why I, a fan of the Mad Max films (generally!) wasn’t feeling all that crazy about going to see Furiosa myself.

Granted, I’m at a point in my life that it’s tough to carve out time to go see a film. I could do so, mind you, but I have other things I’m focused on. Truthfully, I don’t see television as much as before either.

Regardless, I was curiously unenthused to go see Furiosa and, rather than focus on why others may not have wanted to go see the film, I wondered why to me it didn’t feel like a “must watch”.

Let me start with the advertisements/trailers. They didn’t do all that much for me, frankly. They sure did look like director George Miller was repeating himself. The “look” of the film was almost the same as that of Fury Road only more CGIed… which was a turnoff.

I know, I know: What did I expect from a film that was supposed to be a prequel to Fury Road? Things couldn’t be radically different looking, could they?

I suppose not but still… it didn’t feel like there was anything terribly new to see in this new film. Certainly nothing we hadn’t seen in the last.

Then there was the issue of the story being a “prequel”. Somewhere deep in my mind this too was a turnoff. Did I really want to see how Furiosa came to be what she was in Fury Road?

As someone who has written a novel series that bounces around in time, I wanted to make sure any/all of the novels offered a unique and new experience.

In the case of Furiosa, there’s not much “there” there with regard to her story. I figured we’d see how she lost her arm and became a valuable driver. I figured we’d find the paradise she was stripped from and wanted to get back to in Fury Road.

But, again, was that enough to justify a full 2 hour and thirty minute long film?

It seemed a little much, frankly.

Here’s the thing about writing stories: Authors fall in love with their works. Given the amount of time it usually takes to write a story one is satisfied with, one has to love one’s works.

However one also has to be cold about the process. One should second guess what they’re doing constantly. Does this work? Does this not?

You can’t just type away -a form of verbal diarrhea- and expect everything will work.

When I write, I tend to be very cold about my works. I tend to cut things out and, yes, there have been passages I’ve loved which were eventually deemed unnecessary and were stripped away and likely will never be seen.

I fear that Furiosa is one of those fancy concepts that, as Miller was coming up with the idea of Fury Road, he came up with the back story for Furiosa and so loved it he wanted to bring it to life.

The problem was that as good as these back story concepts were, Fury Road was successful -indeed terrific!– without the need to delve into all that minutia.

Hell, Max’s “origin” is presented in Fury Road in a crisp thirty or so second fever dream and we don’t really need to see much more.

Was it really necessary to give so much time to Furiosa?

I will eventually see the film. Hopefully, I’ll find myself on the side of those who felt the film was damn good.

Still, I wish George Miller pushed the story forward and gave us something set further in the future of Fury Road rather than looking back.

The Fate of Furiosa (2024)

So a few days ago Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga was released and the box office it’s making for the Memorial Day weekend isn’t just weak… it’s dire.

So far, and we’re on Sunday the 26th now, the film has earned a weak $31.9 million and is running neck and neck with Garfield… But the bottom line is that the box office for the Memorial Day weekend is the worst its been in decades.

You can read more about it from Hollywood Reporter:

Box Office Meltdown: Garfield Claims Victory Over Furiosa With Worst No. 1 Memorial Day Opening In Three Decades

Once again I’ll quote screenwriter William Goldman and his famous thoughts on movie making and those films that succeed versus those that fail…

Nobody knows anything…… Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.

So, of course, I’m going to offer -for what little its worth- my own thoughts on what’s happening here. Again, though, I strongly suscribe to Mr. Goldman’s quote so I could be just as wildly off about this as everyone else.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, the older I get the more I realize change is a constant in just about everything but especially in the entertainment industry.

When I was very young, Disco music was incredibly popular. Saturday Night Fever made a superstar out of John Travolta when it was released in 1977 and made The Bee Gees household names. Three years later and in 1980 the movie Airplane! comes out and, among the avalanche of jokes you can find in it, we have parodies of Saturday Night Fever and a sequence where the endangered airplane strikes a radio station’s tower as the host announces this is where “disco will live forever”.

See, just a few short years after its golden era, Disco became a pariah musical taste and was scrubbed from most people’s interests. The Bee Gees were viewed as laughable, what with their high pitched singing, and the suits they wore to the Disco were viewed as tacky.

What happened?

I recall a teacher I had way back then opined that what did Disco in was the fact that older people liked the music and started to show up at the Discos. Young people, aghast, fled and, for good measure, ridiculed the whole thing as they moved on to other music.

In the 1980’s we had alternative music, perhaps mostly derived from David Bowie’s work. We had the rise of heavy metal. In the 1990’s that went away and we had the rise of Grunge music. By the 2000’s we had rap/urban music and glitzy boy bands and Britney.

The point is that things moved on.

Which brings me to this: I fear that maybe –maybe– the era of going to movie theaters and seeing films there may be going away.

Not permanently, mind you, but a confluence of things have come together to hurt the box office.

Just to be clear though: I’m not saying that the apparently box office failure (and indeed it seems like it’s happening) of Furiosa -and The Fall Guy’s release and weak box office just a couple of weeks before that movie- portends bad things for all movies. But it does, I feel, expose the things that are hurting movie theaters and movie releases in general.

We went through COVID and entertainment companies began branching out into streaming services. We also have reached a point where we can own -for a reasonable investment- truly gigantic and beautiful TVs in our homes. I strongly suspect these things, in conjunction, have made people realize they don’t have to go to theaters to experience top movie entertainment. Hell, the rise of TikTok may have made people also less patient to sit through two hours of any work when they can be entertained for those same hours with a feast of smaller video bites.

Furiosa also, I fear, had too many expectations for a film series that for the most part was a cult thing. Yes, Fury Road and, before it, the original Mad Max and The Road Warrior (aka Mad Max 2) did well at the box office but the later two films were made with a minuscule budget and therefore made money quickly. Plus, there simply wasn’t anything like them. Fury Road came out decades after the last Mad Max film, Beyond Thunderdome, and benefited I feel from the element of surprise as well as having Charlize Theron -a usually bankable star- playing the lead along with Tom Hardy’s Max.

Thing is, Fury Road came out in 2015, nine years ago and maybe a movie featuring Theron’s character but not Theron in the film itself might have been a mistake. Making it a “prequel” might also have been a big mistake.

We kinda know where Furiosa -the character- wound up because of Fury Road. Was there really any big interest in finding out how she got there? Part of the problem about making prequels is that we know where certain characters will be. We know, for example, Furiosa will survive to appear in Fury Road so whatever dangers she faces in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga we know she’ll survive to fight again.

There’s one other element which has to be pointed out, too: While there are many who loved the film, I’ve also noted there were many who thought the film worked in spurts. They may feel the film is good but not as good as Fury Road.

Could word of mouth be hindering things as well?

Again, “nobody knows anything”. My opinions are just that and maybe I’m very off. Maybe there just aren’t that many people interested in seeing more movies set in the Mad Max universe.

I hope it doesn’t portend to darker realities regarding movie theaters and movie releases, but only time will tell.

Things, as I said before, have a way of changing over time, whether we like it or not.

Sugar (2024) a (right on time) review

Released through the Apple TV+ streaming service, Sugar is a 8 part series focusing on Private Detective John Sugar (Colin Farrell) who is investigating a missing person in sunny L.A. Here’s the trailer:

When I first heard about this series, it struck me as something very much in my wheelhouse. I’m a total sucker for Private Detective stories set in L.A. When I read reviews which stated the series was a good updating on the Raymond Chandler novels, I was there.

The show started rather …odd. In Japan of all places, before moving to L.A. We are introduced to Sugar, who is presented as an earnest, dedicated detective who has some kind of vague tragedy in his recent past and which makes his desire to find missing people a mission.

After arriving in L.A., Sugar meets up with Ruby (played by Kirby), his contact there, and she is preoccupied. Sugar, we’ve seen, has some weird hand/muscle twitch/reaction and seems to be hiding some kind of health issues. Ruby tells him he needs to see their doctor and that proves to be something Sugar is reluctant to do.

In the meantime, Sugar is contacted by a big time “old school” movie maker named Jonathan Siegel (James Cromwell) whose granddaughter -a woman who had been a history of heavy drug use but who has supposedly cleaned up her act- has disappeared.

Sugar is instantly connected to the job and, again, we get vague implied personal reasons (ie, he lost someone himself) which draw him into the job.

I won’t get into too many other details but instead offer the following: In the course of the case we find Sugar and Ruby are part of a larger group of mysterious people, Sugar meets and is often rebuffed by the other Siegel family members who hide their own skeletons, and we meet other odd and dangerous personalities while investigating the case.

The series, as I mentioned, goes eight episodes. Each episode is approximately 30 minutes long (give or take) for a total of about 4 hours of material. I generally enjoyed what I saw so if you’re into this sort of stuff and have the time, give it a go.

But be forewarned, this series gets really strange toward its end and, when all is said and done, it sure did feel like a wonky pilot to a series which I don’t know we’ll ever have. Or maybe we’ll get another 8 episode series.

The bad: I know A.I. is a big thing nowadays and viewed really negatively when used in the arts. And I have no way of verifying any of this but I get this weird feeling that the story was put together by some form of A.I.

I mean, it gets so weird and there is this weird internal logic to the story that doesn’t feel as smooth as it should be. It feels, frankly, like at times we’re seeing an A.I. story unfold before us.

If this is not the case, my deepest apologies to those involved.

To get into that, I’ll have to get into some really, REALLY big SPOILERS so for those interested, the bottom line is this: Sugar is worth checking out even if there are some bumpy moments.

Otherwise…

SPOILERS FOLLOW…!

Still there?

You’ve been warned!

So I mentioned it before but Sugar, we find as the series goes along, is tied in with an odd group of characters, including Ruby, his L.A. contact. They have this weird party and Sugar touches base with Henry (Jason Butler Harner) who seems to be a kindred soul.

But as viewers, we keep wondering what’s up with Sugar and these people. They act kinda weird and almost in a cultish manner, even if they don’t seem like evil/bad people.

Further, we find that there may be crosscurrents going on here, where Ruby and the group Sugar belongs to don’t necessarily want him to take on this case, much less solve it.

Then we get to the big, BIG reveal later in the show where we find that Sugar, and the group he’s with are… BIG TIME SPOILERS FOLLOW… are freaking aliens. Like, from outer space. Like, people from another freaking planet. And they’re here on Earth to observe us. There’s no greater explanation. They seem to be peaceful enough and they take on “real” jobs but their primary goal is to watch us and make reports on us. Why? It’s never really revealed beyond this and that’s part of the reason it feels like this is a pilot to a longer series.

The other part is that we end with certain discoveries. There’s a powerful politician/person who knows the aliens are there and, by the end of the series, is hunting them down. There’s also the fact that humanity is bleeding into the peaceful aliens, including Sugar himself. Are they being corrupted? That is answered by the end which, again, promises a longer story to come.

Now, the A.I. thing I mentioned.

I felt at times I was watching a story unfold without the usual smoothness of a “regular” storyteller. It’s like a program took elements from private investigator literature, then threw them into a blender, and added “surprise” elements. Things simply didn’t always go smoothly. We had a subplot involving human traffickers which… went pretty much nowhere. We get the alien stuff as a surprise near the end and, while decently done, it’s very much a “what the fuck?!” moment that needed perhaps a better build up. Again: it’s the little things which lead to the bigger things. So many story elements are introduced but many of them don’t necessarily lead to anything big. Some are outright dropped and the very big ones are introduced in the final three episodes.

It is what it is.

I still enjoyed the series, mind you, but I sure do wish there had been a little more thought in the story transitions.

New Book Update 5/17/24

So two days ago I finished the revisions, on computer, of my latest novel.

I’m really happy with the novel in its current state. Most of it is fine and a couple of spots still need a little revision but the bottom line is that it took me about 2 months to get all this stuff put into the computer file.

I feel like the book maybe needs another two drafts before it’s ready for release. I’m mulling an epilogue and there is one part close to the climax that could use a little work but, as I noted, I’m happy with the novel and feel its really close to being “finished”.

Keeping my fingers crossed!

John Carpenter’s Top 10 Noirs…

Are you like me and like John Carpenter’s films? Are you also a fan of the film noir genre?

Then how about taking a look at…

John Carpenter’s Top 10 Film Noirs

Have to say, he likes many of the ones I really like.

Mild Spoilers:

Of the ones he’s pointed out, Double Indemnity, The Third Man, The Killers, Kiss Me Deadly, and Blow Up are some of my favorites.

He doesn’t note it in his comments, but the screenplay to Double Indemnity is an adaptation of the John M. Cain novel by Raymond Chandler. Chandler is probably my all time favorite author. His Philip Marlowe novels (The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye, etc.) are superb.

I love the original Burt Lancaster starring The Killers (yes, the movie is based on a short story by Ernest Hemingway!) but don’t go totally to sleep on the 1964 Lee Marvin starring remake. It features Ronald Reagan in his last acting role as a pretty slimy character…

Then there’s Kiss Me Deadly. If you haven’t seen that film, do yourself a favor and check it out. Incredible work that was light years ahead of its time! Also the source of the “glowing suitcase contents” which Quentin Tarantino used in Pulp Fiction

Finally, Blow Up is one wild work and Carpenter puts it best: It’s a meditation on what is real and what isn’t and the ending… it’s haunting…

There are, of course, other films very much worth checking out that Carpenter doesn’t mention.

Among them, I would recommend the following:

Out of the Past (1947): Easily one of the all time best film noirs ever made. Robert Mitchum gives career defining acting as the doomed protagonist and Kirk Douglas, also in a very early role, is appropriately slimy. And Jane Greer is perfection as the… oh… I’m not going to spoil it!

The Maltese Falcon (1941): Humphrey Bogart knocks the ball out of the park as Dashiel Hammet’s detective Sam Spade. Mary Astor is right up there as are the incredible co-stars he has to stay one step ahead of. All of them are searching for the titular falcon, a statue that’s “the stuff dreams are made of”.

Memento (2000): The film that first brought audiences to director Christopher Nolan… and which may still be his very best film. Guy Pearce is Leonard, a man who suffers from extreme memory loss. He can’t recall things beyond a few minutes at a time. The movie plays out in reverse, giving audiences the same disoriented feel Leonard goes through and yet, if you pay attention, the story unfolds logically and, in the end, devastatingly. A wonderful work of modern noir!

I could go on and on but I’ll leave it at that for now!

Oh Elon…

The latest news about Tesla and their vehicles is… not great.

There have been pretty significant layoffs, including the entire staff behind the wonderful Superchargers (I’ll get into that in a moment), following the news that sales during the first quarter of the year were slow/stagnant.

Is Elon panicking?

Unlike so many others who speculate about internal issues such as this, I genuinely don’t know but feel incredible sympathy for those laid off. Maybe there was an urgent need to tighten the proverbial belt around Tesla and maybe the release of the Cybertruck wasn’t quite as successful as hoped or maybe Tesla simply needs to provide a new “wow” product beyond the refreshed Model 3…

If I was to speculate, though, regarding the stagnant sales, I would say that Tesla may well be a victim of its own success. I’m a big fan of the cars (can’t say the same about Musk himself) and, frankly, I love them.

In 2019 I bought a Model 3 and in 2021 bought my wife a Model Y. Because of those stagnant sales and discounts offered following the disappointing first quarter sales, I wound up getting curious and decided to check our local Tesla dealership as to the cost of trading in my Model 3 for a Model Y. I was frankly shocked that, with the $7500 EV credit and a $22,000 trade-in value for my car, I could buy myself a brand new 2024 Model Y for a grand total of… $19.9K!

If that isn’t a great deal on a new car, I don’t know what is, so I took advantage and took it.

Going back to what I said above, though, is the idea that maybe Tesla is a victim of its own success. Granted, some of the batshit crazy stuff Musk has been saying since buying Twitter has turned many people who might normally be interested in buying his cars very off.

I don’t blame them!

But the reality is also that the Tesla vehicles are IMHO superior to pretty much everything else I’ve ever driven and I could have easily kept my Model 3 for several more years without a second thought. The only reason I decided to trade it in is because the offer was simply too good to not take advantage of.

There is this story told here and there online that the quality of Tesla cars is terrible and I know there are those who have had the vehicles and have had problems with them (this tale of woe has appeared for the Cybertrucks of late) but for me the reality is that the now three Tesla vehicles I’ve had and driven have all been superior rides and given me absolutely no problems.

So if we are to remove those who are so turned off by Musk’s craziness and therefore refuse to consider a Tesla, I wonder how many people are like me: People who enjoy their Teslas and are perfectly content to keep them for many years before even thinking of trading them in or getting a new vehicle.

Again: The only reason I got rid of my 2019 Model 3 was because the deals available to get a new one were simply too good.

It does raise the question of the future of Tesla and electric vehicles in general.

If Musk and company feel they have over-extended themselves and must now pull back and lay off people, one wonders just how deep the resources of Tesla are. There is also the threat of Chinese vehicles eventually making their way to the United States. The tariffs are keeping them at bay but my understanding is that considerable investment has been made in Chinese EV products and there are many that could easily threaten not only Tesla but all the other car companies out there.

As for me?

Well, I still love my Tesla and can never see myself returning to gas powered vehicles again.

I’ve noted before that EVs are not perfect. They are two innovations away from being truly magnificent (maybe 30-50 more miles of “real” range and cutting down full charging by maybe 10 minutes) but as they stand today they’re IMHO far and away better vehicles to own.

Understand: Since getting my Model 3, I have not had to do any work on my car. Obviously no need to go to a gas station or get the oil changed. I still go get gas for my daughter’s car if I’m up early enough on the weekend and its surprising to me the awful smell of a gas station… especially when one hasn’t had to go to a gas station with any regularity!

There have been reports of tires wearing out quicker but, frankly, I haven’t seen that either. If you drive like a maniac and like to “punch it” with the EV -and its acceleration is spectacular versus the gas powered cars!- then don’t be surprised if your tires wear out quickly. However, if you drive normally, the tires will last.

In the end, I hope Tesla has a rebound. I hope those who were laid off find work again quickly. I also hope -though don’t expect- Musk to have an epiphany and realize the crazy shit he’s been saying these past few years haven’t done him any favors. On the contrary, it actually turns off the type of people who may be more interested in buying EVs… his included.

One can dream.

End of the beginning…

…beginning of the end?

Today, April 15, 2024, Donald Trump, ex-President and current Republican candidate for the Republican party, is in court facing his first actual, honest-to-goodness criminal trial.

Criminal.

Oh, and if it isn’t obvious… BEWARE… THERE BE POLITICS DISCUSSED HERE…!

So much crap has happened since he first announced his first candidacy against Hilary Clinton some, what, five thousand years ago now? Won the Presidency (thanks to the electoral college… he actually got less votes than Ms. Clinton), was impeached several times, had a disastrous presidency (I know there are those who don’t think so but… seriously?!?!), then lost to Joe Biden but refused to accept that fact and started his “I wuz robbed” campaign which continues to this day.

He’s already been found liable in two civil trails, one in which he was formally found guilty of sexual assault and another involving lying about the values of his properties and thus not paying the taxes owed. Between those two civil trails, he’s in the hole by nearly $250 million and counting. If the tax trail -on appeal though the monies proffered for the appeal are questionable and may wind up getting him in even more trouble (if that’s even possible)- ultimately loses its appeal, Trump will then owe somewhere north of $350-450 million on that trail alone…!

But here’s where the rubber hits the proverbial road.

In this case, which involves campaign financing illegalities -specifically paying off Stormy Daniels to deny an affair during a time where such an admission might have cost him the first election- Mr. Trump may well wind up being actually found guilty of criminal activities.

Remember: Trump’s one time attorney Michael Cohen served time in jail for elements related to this case.

So buckle up kids…

…I suspect we’re in for one hell of a ride. And it could well be the start of the end for Mr. Trump.

Artistic tropes…

Since discovering eBay (yeah, I know, really late to this party and all) I’ve been on something of a tear picking up books I either used to have back in the day or wanted and never got or, if I’m being honest, simply buying stuff that was released at a time I found the stuff around it fascinating.

Now, I’m not going to say it’s all top tier stuff. It’s not. But, dammit, I like it.

As I’ve been picking up horror titles released by DC Comics in the 1970’s (favorites of mine), I came to a realization and, as I’m on a Facebook group devoted to horror titles, I posted this realization. I find it fascinating enough to reprint and expand on it here.

Even if you’re not a fan of the titles released back then, I hope you find this stuff interesting!

Below are four covers to DC’s The Witching Hour! horror book. From left to right, we have Witching Hour 45, 31, 52, and 55.

I’m sensing a pattern here!

The first two Witching Hour covers -both drawn by the incredible Nick Cardy- were so similar as to almost be identical. I was very familiar with the first but until a couple of weeks ago didn’t realize the second with the witch, actually came out first.

When I saw that “witch” cover, I immediately realized it was virtually identical to the one with the red demon-like character. Hell, even the dialogue is virtually identical in both covers. Both illustrations are by the incredibly talented Nick Cardy and upon realizing they used similar tropes, a subsequent realization hit me…

There are many DC horror titles released during the 1970’s which feature this particular trope of a person coming through a door/threshold (often they are on the left side of the page) and, beyond that door/threshold is something “evil”. The evil things is often presented on the right side of the page.

With this realization I started going over my collection and found the trope in several other titles. The two Witching Hour covers below the original ones, for issues 52 and 55, use that trope well. Again, your “innocent” coming through a door/threshold on the left and, on the right, something sinister and evil which they are about to run smack into.

Below are a few more examples and, in this case, I wanted to highlight how the trope is used but minor modifications are also added to it. The first cover below is for The Unexpected #131. This cover follows the trope exactly: You have your “innocent” character on the left, a door they’re about to go through, and the “evil” they’re about to encounter on the right side of the page.

The other three covers, however, show mild variations of the trope. The second cover, from Ghosts #27, modifies the trope a little. The “innocent” character is roughly in the middle of the page and the evil they are encountering after passing through the door/threshold is all around and in front of them. Of note too is the fact that often the innocent is about to encounter the evil but hasn’t yet (anticipation, I suppose!) but in this case, the characters are already reacting in horror to what they see in front of them.

The last two covers, for The Unexpected 154 and The Witching Hour 46, share minor modifications from the original trope. The “innocent” character is on the right side of the illustration and going through the threshold. The evil thing is on the left side of each cover. As before, the innocent character is about to be shocked but isn’t quite there yet.

Now, just to be clear: Not every cover of every DC horror book employed this trope. Enough of them did so as to make me realize it, but this wasn’t something you saw in every horror book.

Secondly, I point this out not to put down the artists -frankly, I absolutely LOVE all this stuff!- but rather to examine the types of covers and tropes used during that time.

Clearly this type of cover was a success for DC comics and the reuse of the trope further shows this to be the case.

Either way, I’m loving picking up all these books and stumbling upon this particularly fascinating -to me anyway!- realization.

O. J. Simpson (1947-2024)…

Today comes the news that O. J. Simpson, running back extraordinaire for the Buffalo Bills back in the 70’s, then parlayed that to becoming an actor in both movies and TV commercials, and then…

…and then…

June 12, 1994 Nicole Brown Simpson, O.J. Simpson’s wife, and her friend Ron Goldman, were found stabbed to death.

The police investigated Simpson and ultimately were about to arrest him when we had this…

I vividly recall being at home and watching the infamous “Bronco chase”. O.J. Simpson, in the back seat of the car, chasing Al Cowling, Simpson’s friend and the driver, and supposedly a despondent Simpson saying he was going to end things.

He didn’t.

What followed was his capture, a trial that said more about us than him, and ultimately an acquittal… even when the evidence was incredibly strong as to his guilt in this brutal murder. There were names that came out of this farce, including the name “Kardashian”. Yup, the father of the Kardashian brood, Robert Kardashian, was a friend and “lawyer” for O.J. Simpson. It was speculated -and we can know no more- that he did this because he might have had knowledge of what Simpson did but as his lawyer he was couldn’t be forced to testify.

Robert Kardashian would die of cancer in 2003. He had long before -supposedly after the trail- stopped talking to O.J. Simpson and, once again, one can speculate as to the why.

After the trail, it felt like most people -even those who seemed so ecstatic that he was found not guilty- belatedly realized he likely was indeed guilty of this heinous double homicide.

Simpson found himself a pariah and the Goldman family pursued him in civil court and won big… though I wonder if they ultimately got whatever monies were awarded to them.

Simpson found himself in jail for nine years after being found guilty of 12 counts of armed robbery and two counts of kidnapping two sports memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in Las Vegas in 2008.

It’s all such sordid, sordid stuff.

Somewhere along the line Simpson was supposed to release a book entitled If I Did It which supposedly was a “hypothetical” account of what “might” have happened the night of Nicole and Ron Goldman’s murder. There was understandable outcry when this book was supposed to be released and it wasn’t.

The Goldman family, through their lawsuit against Simpson, acquired the rights to the book and eventually released it. They retitled it If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer and it was released in 2007.

With the news of Simpson’s death, I feel absolutely no sympathy. He was, to my mind, guilty of the killings and the fact that he “got away with it” is one of the grand tragedies of recent times… as well as a shining example of how the legal system can be twisted and turned and where the sharp use of publicity and age old grievances -real though they may be- can be used to one’s advantage.

Having said all that above, one thing that has become better known since those murders is the issue of CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

In recent years we’ve come to know much more about this and have also come to realize CTE can very much have an effect on people who suffer from it lives. There are ex-football players who have exhibited extreme behaviors and emotions following the end of their playing days. One player, Junior Seau, committed suicide shortly after his career in football ended. In 2012 he shot himself in the chest and an autopsy revealed he suffered from CTE.

Did Simpson suffer from this as well? Did it affect his mood and/or possibly contribute to what he may have done with his wife and Ron Goldman?

In the coming days, perhaps there will be an autopsy and perhaps it will be found that he also did suffer from this.

Either way, it doesn’t excuse his actions and it doesn’t make up for what happened to two innocent people back in 1994.

When the legend becomes fact, print the legend…

The above line is from the John Ford directed film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

The point of the quote is that sometimes a legend, or myth, becomes repeated so often that it essentially becomes fact… even if it isn’t true.

My feeling is that often these stories are just so good to the teller/audience that they have no problem accepting them because of that fact, even if a little investigation would result in upending the “legend”.

One of my favorite authors is Raymond Chandler. During his career, he wrote a number of short stories and some seven novels. The novels all featured detective Phillip Marlowe and many of them were subsequently made into films. Perhaps the most famous are the Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall film The Big Sleep

Also well known is the Robert Altman directed The Long Goodbye

The Big Sleep was Chandler’s first novel, released in 1939, and it took elements of various short stories he had written before and its a freaking spectacular novel in my opinion. The Long Goodbye was pretty much Chandler’s last Marlowe novel, released in 1953 and is also a spectacular book which shows how the author matured and faced death. Supposedly, the novel was written as his wife was dying and his grief informs much of what happens in the book. Chandler would release one more novel, Playback, in 1958 but it was an odd work, an adaptation of a script and… it doesn’t feel like a full throttled Chandler book. He would start one more book, Poodle Springs, but passed away in 1959 with only four chapters written. Years later Robert B. Parker would finish the novel and… it’s only ok IMHO.

As Chandler’s novels became big successes, audiences and critics noted the stories he presented were often very complex. In fact, that became something of a source of ribbing by some people and critics and, I strongly suspect, some of the ribbing had an edge to it.

See, Chandler was also something of a gruff person. When his works gained prominence and he started writing scripts in Hollywood (his most famous screenplay is probably for the film Double Indemnity), I strongly suspect he rubbed some people there the wrong way. It didn’t help that he was a very heavy drinker and maybe very moralistic and, perhaps, even repressed. Yes, there were rumors he was, despite being married, secretly closeted or possibly bisexual. Interestingly, the novel The Big Sleep did at times present a moralistic view of sexuality… and frowned at deviancies.

One story that has circulated for many, many years now involves The Big Sleep and that story, it seems to me, is the proverbial legend that supplants what are somewhat easily verified facts (you knew I was going to get back to that eventually, no?!).

So it has been noted by many The Big Sleep’s story is so complicated that even Raymond Chandler himself didn’t know who murdered one of the characters, the Sternwood’s chauffeur.

Lauren Bacall, the wife of Humphrey Bogart and co-star in the famous film version of The Big Sleep, at one point stated that while she and Bogart were going over the movie’s screenplay, Bogie supposedly had this revelation and stated “Hey, who killed the chauffeur?” and that this was when the studios -and Lauren Bacall implied people in general- realized the chauffeur’s murder was unsolved in the story.

Actor Robert Mitchum has a curious story, too. He stated that one day he was in a bookstore and Raymond Chandler was there. The store’s phone rang and it turned out the studio was calling for Chandler and Mitchum overheard the phone call. They were, according to Mitchum, trying to figure out who killed the chauffeur in The Big Sleep and Chandler supposedly said: “I have no idea”.

Cute stories, both of them, but I wonder if either is true.

There have been many others who have echoed the sentiment that The Big Sleep is a great story in spite of the fact that “it is so complicated even Raymond Chandler didn’t solve one of its murders”, referring, of course, to the Sternwood chauffeur’s death. It feels to me many of these stories, as I noted before, have a sharp edge to them. It’s almost like these critics are saying “Raymond Chandler writes so well but gives us such a labyrinthian story to tell that he doesn’t even realize he’s left a murder unsolved! What a bozo… amiright?!

…only…

No. That’s not right.

And it takes only a little bit of research, actually pulling out a copy of The Big Sleep novel, to realize this legend is just that.

The following comes directly from The Big Sleep. For those who don’t know, the Sternwood chauffeur is found dead in his car, which had run through a pier, smashing it, and was submerged in water at some point that night. When detective Phillip Marlowe shows up, the car has been found and been brought to the surface and the chauffeur is inside, dead. There are several people/police around, including Bernie Ohls, the D.A.’s chief investigator and a friend of Marlowe’s.

From the book:

The plainclothesman scuffed at the deck with the toe of his shoe. Ohls looked sideways along his eyes at me, and twitched his cigar like a cigarette.

”Drunk?” he asked, of nobody in particular.

The man who had been toweling his head went over to the rail and cleared his throat in a loud hawk that made everybody look at him. “Got some sand,” he said, and spat. “Not as much as the boy friend got— but some.”

The uniformed man said: “Could have been drunk. Showing off all alone in the rain. Drunks will do anything.”

”Drunk, hell,” the plainclothesman said. “The hand throttle’s set halfway down and the guy’s been sapped on the side of the head. Ask me and I’ll call it murder.”

Ohls looked at the man with the towel. “What do you think, Buddy?”

The man with the towel looked flattered. He grinned. “I say suicide, Mac. None of my business, but you ask me, I say suicide. First off the guy plowed an awful straight furrow down that pier. You can read his tread marks all the way nearly. That puts it after the rain like the Sheriff said. Then he hit the pier hard and clean or he don’t go through and land right side up. More likely turned over a couple of times. So he had plenty of speed and hit the rail square. That’s more than half-throttle. He could have done that with his hand falling and he could have hurt his head falling, too.”

So, in a few paragraphs, Chandler offers three theories as to what happened to the chauffeur: 1) He was drunk and ran off the pier. 2) He was murdered, hit on the side of his head and the car run off the pier with him in it to make it look like an accident. Finally, 3) He committed suicide.

Note that Chandler goes into the greatest details with the suicide and further, it makes the most logical sense.

See, cars back in the 1930’s were not like cars today and they required more effort to skillfully maneuver.

The chauffeur being drunk is dispatched almost right away. The car drove “straight” through the pier and at a very high speed. Tire tracks in the rain water indicate this. So… not drunk.

The murder option, based on the explanations offered, would imply the killer would have had to be inside the car driving it very fast and straight down to the pier, then smash through that pier at high speed to then land upright in the water.

The killer would then swim out and leave the chauffeur’s body behind.

Now, this is a very dangerous thing to do, no? The killer could have just as easily gotten him/herself injured when smashing through the pier and falling in the water. Hell, they could have gotten themselves drowned.

So we fall to option three: Suicide.

Now, I will admit this much is true: The Big Sleep novel offers no absolute answer to what happened to the chauffeur. However, Raymond Chandler, far from being befuddled and not knowing what happened to the chauffeur, offers a very logical explanation for how he died… and it likely wasn’t a murder after all.

Within the context of the story, is it possibile he committed suicide? Absolutely. He was infatuated with Carmen Sternwood, one of the two “wild” daughters (Vivian Sternwood was the other daughter and she was played by Lauren Bacall in the movie). Carmen, we find, was being blackmailed and because he couldn’t help take care of that nasty business, he might have been distraught enough to commit suicide.

So, yeah, everything fits.

Going back to my main point, though, the legend turns out to be just that. It’s clear Chandler thought very hard about what happened to the Sternwood chauffeur and offered an explanation as to why he found himself dead.

Rather than the author being befuddled and having “no idea” who did him in, he very clearly had a strong idea of what happened.

The Blog of E. R. Torre