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The Ninth Gate

The Ninth Gate

Artisan Entertainment/R.P. Productions/Orly Films/TF1 Films Production/Bac Films/Canal+/Kino Vision/Origen Producciones Cinematograficas S.A./Vía Digital/Canal+ España, France/Spain/USA, 1999
AKA:
Director: Roman Polanski
Writer: Arturo Pérez-Reverte, John Brownjohn, Enrique Urbizu, Roman Polanski
Cast: Johnny Depp, Frank Langella, Lena Olin, Emmanuelle Seigner, Barbara Jefford, Jack Taylor, José López Rodero, Tony Amoni, James Russo, Willy Holt, Allen Garfield, Jacques Dacqmine, Joe Sheridan, Rebecca Pauly, Catherine Benguigui, Maria Ducceschi, Jacques Collard, Dominique Pozzetto, Emanuel Booz, Lino Ribeiro de Sousa, Asil Raïs, Bernard Richier, Marinette Richier, Jane Bradbury, Samuel de Luze, Christopher Goodman, Diane Hawkins, Lee Michelsen, Diane Pernet, Jacquelyn Toman

I don’t remember exactly when I by chance stumbled upon Arturo Pérez-Revertes book El Club Dumas, but I was amazed by it. I couldn’t put it down but had to drop everything else and finish it. I grew up before the Internet, before VHS, width only one (and later two) channels on TV, so books was the only possible escape from reality. Therefore Corso’s world was my world to. I knew all those books by heart and got all the references. I tried to get my 25 years younger girlfriend to read it but she didn’t get it at all. She never read The Three Musketeers or Sherlock Holmes so on her the magic was lost.

When I heard El Club Dumas was being filmed, directed by Roman Polanski who is one of my favourite directors, and starring Johny Depp… What can I say about Johnny Depp? Well, I named my son after one of his characters, so I guess You understand I had great expectations on this film to say the least. Media made a big thing out of Polanski returning to satanism 50 years after Rosemary’s Baby.

Dean Corso is an expert on rare books and how to find them. One of his clients, Boris Balkan, who has the worlds biggest collection of books on Satan has got his hands on the very rare “The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of the Shadows” from 1666 by Torchia, who was burned alive by the Holy Inquisition along with all his writings. Only three copies still exist, but Balkan claims two of these are forgerys and he want Corso to find out if his copy is the authentic one or not, and if it’s not he wants him to do whatever he has to, at whatever the cost, to get the one that is for him. In this book is a number of engravings. Torchia was supposed to have gotten these engravings from Satan himself and according to the myth they form a puzzle which if solved reveils how to conjure the Devil. Balkan got the book from a collector who hung himself just a couple of days later. The other two copies is in Portugal and France, and Corso takes the book with him for comparising.

The book is wort somewhere around a million dollars and Corso is getting paranoid. He believes someone is following him, this weird girl with socks that don’t match is turning up where ever he goes, his appartment gets broken into and Liana Telfer, the widow of the person Balkan bought the book from, tries to buy it back from Corso and even suggests he could stage a robbery and keep the money for himself. When he refuses she attacks him. He left the book whith a friend who turns up murdered, but whoever did it didn’t find the book.

In Europe Corso discovers slight differencies between Balkans book and the other two. The girl seems to have followed him as she keeps turning up, and there are several near accidents which could be attempts to kill or scare Corso to part with the book. Corso learns that when Torchia was burnt a secret order was formed to preserv the book from the church. This order still exists even if it has somehow degenerated into a social club for bored millionaires and celebreties staging orgys. He also learns that Liana Telfer is a member.

Both owners of the other two copies turn up dead, their books gone, and Balkans copy is stolen. Corso suspects Liana Telfer is behind it all and goes after her to try to get Balkans book back.

So, when I first got to watch the film I was actually a bit disapointed. It wasn’t the fantastic story Arturo Pérez-Reverte had penned. It was only part of the book, and a lot of the names and charachters was changed and simplified. Also the last part was all changed and didn’t really have very much to do with El Club Dumas at all. Pérez-Reverte has said “Polanski’s film isn’t bad, except maybe the last half hour. Evidently it is not my novel.” and that about sums up my feellings. As long as You don’t compare it to the novel the movie is actually very good. I’ve watched it quite a few times and everytime it seems to grow on me.

My verdict: 10 out of 10.

Related

The Car

Universal Pictures, USA, 1977
AKA: DeathMobile, Wheels
Director: Elliot Silverstein
Writer: Dennis Shryack, Michael Butler, Lane Slate
Cast: James Brolin, Kathleen Lloyd, John Marley, R.G. Armstrong, John Rubinstein, Elizabeth Thompson, Roy Jenson, Kim Richards, Kyle Richards, Kate Murtagh, Robert Phillips, Doris Dowling, Henry O’Brien, Eddie Little Sky, Lee McLaughlin, Margaret Willey, Read Morgan, Ernie F. Orsatti, Joshua Davis, Geraldine Keams, Hank Hamilton, John Moio, Melody Thomas Scott, Bob Woodlock, James Rawley, Louis Welch, Bryan O’Byrne, Don Keefer, Steve Gravers, Tony Brande, Ronny Cox, Kathy Hilton, Leslie Hoffman, Elliott Mason, Johnny Timko

“Oh great brothers of the night, who rideth out upon the hot winds of hell,
Who dwelleth in the Devil’s lair; move and appear!”
                 – Anton La Vey

Some critics had compared The Car to Jaws, and even called it “Jaws on wheels”. When I first saw The Car years ago that was my first thought too, but in a good way. Just like the shark in Jaws it turns up and attacks out of nowhere, at first picking it’s victims where there are no witnesses but slowly creeping closer and closer to populated areas.

When the car settles somewhere around the small desert town of Santa Ynez nobody is safe from it. It strikes out of nowhere at random much like a force of nature and not according to some human logic. It’s a perfect predator.

Two teenagers on bikes, a hitchhiker passing by, and the town’s police chief are among the car’s first known victims. When the chief of police is attacked an old native american woman witness it all. She later claims there was no driver in the car.

We never really get any explanations for what or who or why, but Sheriff Wade Parent, who is leading the hunt for the killer car finds out the old woman was right. At one point the car attacks a parade rehearsal and everyone takes cover at the old graveyard. The car doesnt seem to be able to get at them as long as they stay there. Holy ground? It’s inability to enter the graveyard and the introductory citation from La Vey indicates something supernatural. Maybe the car is possessed by the devil. We never really know.

Not only does it hit people on sight. It also takes out policecars by doing a barrelroll over them and it attacks people even in their own houses.

My verdict: 6 out of 10.

Absolution

Bulldog Productions Ltd., UK, 1978
AKA: Anthony Shaffer’s Absolution, Murder by Confession
Director: Anthony Page
Writer: Anthony Shaffer
Cast: Richard Burton, Dominic Guard, David Bradley, Billy Connolly, Andrew Keir, Willoughby Gray, Preston Lockwood, James Ottaway, Brook Williams, Jon Plowman, Robin Soans, Trevor Martin, Sharon Duce, Brian Glover, Dan Meaden, Hilary Mason, Hilda Fenemore, Robert Addie, Kevin Hart, Philip Leake, Michael Crompton, Andrew Boxer, Richard Willis, Michael Parkhouse, Richard Kates, Martyn Hesford, Clive Gehle, Charles Rigby, Michael Bell, Martin Stringer, Francis Fry, Julian Firth, Tim Short, Keith Macey, Michael Munn.

“Under no circumstances what so ever may a priest break the seal of the confession.”

Father Goddard is a priest and a teacher in a boys’ Catholic boarding school, and during one of his lessons the rules of confession is discussed. Around the same time a drifter shows up on a motorcycle and sets up camp in the woods surrounding the school. One of the schoolboys befriends him but when Father Goddard finds out he makes the boy promise never to see the drifter again and calls the police to make them drive him off.

Soon one of the boys in confession admits to Father Goddard to have killed the drifter and buried him in the woods. Goddard diggs up the shallow grave and finds a scarecrow instead of the drifters body. He is outraged by this prank on him but can’t do much about it since he is bound to silence. Next the boy confesses once again. This time he claims to have really done what he only joked about the first time. He also confesses to have plans for another murder, this time on one of his fellow students.

Goddard must try to prevent the murder and protect the intended victim, but is at the same time still under the seal of confession so he can’t tell anyone what is about to happen.

The movie is a bit slow paced at the start, but the twists of the plot soon got me interested. The acting over all is very good and Billy Connolly does his first role in a movie. Absolution wasn’t released in the US until 1988 (four years after Richard Burton’s death) and in Finland it premiered on Television in 1998. A modern day remake would be interesting to see. Imagine some blood and gore added to this plot.

My verdict: 6 out of 10.