East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Gotham and ghosts

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One of the good things of working on a podcast like Paura & Delirio is, it gives me a good excuse to dig deep into movies to try and find something intelligent to say when we record our episodes, and as a consequence, leads me to discover more movies, stuff I missed the first time around.

For instance – we are planning a special episode (it’s all hush-hush, so no details, sorry), about a movie I know almost by heart, but while looking it up in search of ideas, I followed the thread of one of the screenwriters, and came to a 1988 movie I missed – a TV thing called Gotham, featuring Tommy Lee Jones and Virginia Madsen.
A supernatural noir – why not?

The story is a classic noir set-up: a rich scumbag hires down-on-his-luck detective Eddy Mallard (Jones) to get his ex wife off his back; Mallard meets the dame (Madsen), falls for her, and gets involved in a bigger, darker caper than he imagined.
With a catch – the dame is ten years dead, and she’s haunting her husband because she wants the jewels he was supposed to bury with her.

The story is suitably spooky but not really horrific. It’s got its modicum of neon-lit, saxophone-backed, hot sex (because these were the ’80s) and a plot that grows increasingly sinister and surreal while rushing to its conclusion.
Virginia Madsen – certainly THE neo-noir dame of the ’80s – is absolutely gorgeous as she does her best Barbara Stanwick number, and Tommy Lee Jones is believable as a loser with still a few tricks up his sleeve.
New York is portrayed as a city of daylight ghosts, in which the living and the dead mix freely on the sidewalks, and the movie is beautifully photographed, making up with great looks for the modest budget. The dialog has a few very good moments.

The movie was originally broadcast on Showtime, and it also goes as The Dead Can’t Lie – based on a bit of made-up ghostly lore that’s presented in the story.
While not a life-changing experience, it is certainly worth a look – if nothing else for that ’80s neo-noir vibe, and for the excellent performances of the two leads.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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