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

Lake Placid

Lake Placid

Fox 2000 Pictures/Phoenix Pictures/Rocking Chair Productions, USA, 1999
AKA:
Director: Steve Miner
Writer: David E. Kelley
Cast: Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt, Brendan Gleeson, Betty White, David Lewis, Tim Dixon, Natassia Malthe, Mariska Hargitay, Meredith Salenger, Jed Rees, Richard Leacock, Jake T. Roberts, Warren Takeuchi, Ty Olsson, Adam Arkin, Steve Miner

I saw this first time years ago and what strikes me when seeing it again is I didn’t remember it being this good (or funny). It’s not much of a horror film but more of an adventure/comedy, even though the thought of a 30 foot crocodile is scary.

A diver inventating beavers in Black Lake is attacked and bitten in half by “something” and a tooth found suggests it’s something ancient. Sheriff Keough, Fish and Game officer Jack Wells and paleontologist Kelly Scott go there to investigate. They are joined by Hector Cyr, an excentric mythology professor and crocodile enthusiast.

Hector and the Sheriff doesn’t get along so well, so there is a lot of tension between them. Jack and Kelly on the other hand gets along just fine even if they both expect the other one to make the first move. Then there is the very weird little old lady who is the only one living by the lake.

Lake Placid doesn’t rely on gore, even if there are some bit off heads, half bodies and smaller bodyparts found lying around in the woods. The bodycount is surprisingly low if the croc has been in the lake for several years, but maybe it’s been on a mostly beaver and fish diet.

When it’s been verifyed that there really is a crocodile in the lake, and it’s behind the deaths, there is the small matter of deciding what to do with it. One solution is to hunt it down and kill it, but since it’s at least 150 years old, probably has crossed the ocean from somewhere in Asia and has grown to the extreme size it has, some think it would be unacceptable to just kill it. Hector has brought equipment to try and trap it alive, but to do that first they need to find it and lure it up from the water.

Acting is good and the crocodile is believeble. Somebody said Lake Placid is a B-movie on an A-budget, and I think that sums my impressions up pretty well. It feels like a classic creature feature ought to when done in the 90’s.

My verdict: 6 out of 10.