Fox Film Noir

Open, general discussion of classic sound-era films, personalities and history.
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Jim Roots
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Fox Film Noir

Unread post by Jim Roots » Fri Jan 11, 2008 7:57 am

It took me two years, and I had to pay $100 to get the last one in my collection (BOOMERANG!), but just before Christmas I finally completed my collection of Fox Film Noirs -- 23 of them, if I recall correctly.

Yesterday I got an alert from Amazon. Apparently there are 3 new ones coming out!

I thought the series was finished, as I don't think there were any new releases in 2007 at all.

Anyway, if true, this is good news for noir fans. AND the new ones are going dirt cheap -- release price is only $11.95 each!

Anybody have any further details?

(I also get all the WB noir sets, but none of the other studios' releases because the latter are never captioned -- e.g., Hammer Films.)

Jim
(Call me mysterious. Okay then, just call me confused.)

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Harold Aherne
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Re: Fox Film Noir

Unread post by Harold Aherne » Fri Jan 11, 2008 9:14 am

Jim Roots wrote:It took me two years, and I had to pay $100 to get the last one in my collection (BOOMERANG!), but just before Christmas I finally completed my collection of Fox Film Noirs -- 23 of them, if I recall correctly.

Yesterday I got an alert from Amazon. Apparently there are 3 new ones coming out!

I thought the series was finished, as I don't think there were any new releases in 2007 at all.

Anyway, if true, this is good news for noir fans. AND the new ones are going dirt cheap -- release price is only $11.95 each!

Anybody have any further details?
Here you go. The titles are Daisy Kenyon (47), Black Widow (54), and Dangerous Crossing (53).

-Harold

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Unread post by Harold Aherne » Fri Jan 11, 2008 9:23 am

Oh! and I should note that Amazon has the cover art posted. A good way to keep up with vintage releases is Barrie Maxwell's column at the Digital Bits, which gets updated every month or so.

-Harold

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Jim Roots
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Unread post by Jim Roots » Fri Jan 11, 2008 12:50 pm

Thanks for the tip, Harold.

Looks like these 3 releases are dubious qualifiers for noir status. However, I'm seeing a lot of interesting, completely overlooked films as a result of following this genre, so it's worth $33.

The poster on that site named Jim K. listed 6 rules for qualifying as film noir. Those are exactly the 6 rules I would have come up with myself.

I just can't see colour films as being noir -- it's a contradiction in terms, since "noir" means "black" and implies the film will be only in shades of black, grey, and non-black (white). And to achieve those shades, the camera is totally dependent on mood lighting of a kind that produces effects unmatchable on colour film.

So, no, I do not accept the likes of "House of Bamboo" as film noir, even though I watched it and appreciated the moral ambiguity and sense of mystery as being noirish. The B&W original version was much more powerfully noirish, simply by virtue of lighting and lack of colour.

My opinions only, of course.

Jim,
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Unread post by silentfilm » Fri Jan 11, 2008 1:06 pm

Here's those six rules, that are pretty good:

A pure Noir film must:

1. Be shot in B&W
2. Generate a sense of mood and atmosphere with the lighting
3. Have a moral malaise to the main character (or the world they inhabit)
4. Feature a crime (or perceived crime) of some sort
5. Be set in contemporary times
6. Be made between 1940 to 1959

I still think that later films can be "noir", even though they are not classical film noir. Body Heat (1981) doesn't fit in #1 and #6, but everything else about the film oozes "noir".

To me, "film noir" is what makes the films of the 1940s and early 1950s interesting.

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Unread post by Frederica » Fri Jan 11, 2008 2:10 pm

silentfilm wrote:
I still think that later films can be "noir", even though they are not classical film noir. Body Heat (1981) doesn't fit in #1 and #6, but everything else about the film oozes "noir".

To me, "film noir" is what makes the films of the 1940s and early 1950s interesting.
Perhaps we can quote Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart (although he was referring to something else): ""I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced . . . but I know it when I see it."

Fred
(#7. Deadly dames.)

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Unread post by Jim Roots » Thu Jan 24, 2008 8:03 am

Adding to my surprise, I now find out Warners is releasing vol. 3 of its Gangsters series. Volume 3? When did vol. 2 come out? I've been looking fo it everywhere for over a year.

At least Warners' Film Noir series gets into the stores up here ... unless there's more of them than the 4 volumes I've got so far...

I know I should be checking a website that lists all the new DVD releases from everywhere, but I just don't have time for that. Amazon and Laughsmith send me notifications of new releases that match stuff I've bought from them in the past, and I read the "What's Out There" column in Classic Images, and Chapters/Indigo (Canada's big-box book chain) posts the new stuff on their home page, so all of these sources ought to be enough for me. (I also read the good "upcoming releases" list in the local newspapers.) But somehow stuff like the Gangsters sets slip through...

Jim
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Unread post by Harlett O'Dowd » Thu Jan 24, 2008 8:13 am

Jim Roots wrote: Jim
(Dana Andrews for President!)
Dana Andrews for something! But President was not the first thing on my mind. :wink:

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Unread post by Danny Burk » Thu Jan 24, 2008 9:16 am

Jim Roots wrote:Adding to my surprise, I now find out Warners is releasing vol. 3 of its Gangsters series. Volume 3? When did vol. 2 come out? I've been looking fo it everywhere for over a year.
Gangsters 2 = Tough Guys. They've renamed it and reissued it (and Vol. 1) with new box covers. You haven't missed anything (unless you missed Tough Guys).

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Unread post by Jim Roots » Fri Jan 25, 2008 7:41 am

Danny Burk wrote:
Jim Roots wrote:Adding to my surprise, I now find out Warners is releasing vol. 3 of its Gangsters series. Volume 3? When did vol. 2 come out? I've been looking fo it everywhere for over a year.
Gangsters 2 = Tough Guys. They've renamed it and reissued it (and Vol. 1) with new box covers. You haven't missed anything (unless you missed Tough Guys).
Oh, was Tough Guys volume 2 of the Gangsters series? I'll have to take another look at it next time I'm in the store.

Thanks.

Jim

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Unread post by Jim Roots » Sun Jan 27, 2008 10:25 am

Jim Roots wrote:
Danny Burk wrote:
Jim Roots wrote:Adding to my surprise, I now find out Warners is releasing vol. 3 of its Gangsters series. Volume 3? When did vol. 2 come out? I've been looking fo it everywhere for over a year.
Gangsters 2 = Tough Guys. They've renamed it and reissued it (and Vol. 1) with new box covers. You haven't missed anything (unless you missed Tough Guys).
Oh, was Tough Guys volume 2 of the Gangsters series? I'll have to take another look at it next time I'm in the store.

Thanks.

Jim
Turns out I have Tough Guys, sitting right in front of my desk at home. D'oh!

Jim

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Unread post by Jim Roots » Mon Mar 31, 2008 10:10 am

Okay, I've seen Black Widow and Dangerous Crossing so far. Haven't yet had 99 minutes of consecutive free time to watch Daisy Kenyon but it's sitting there on my shelf waiting for a viewing opportunity.

Dangerous Crossing fits all the film noir requirements, and has the additional benefit of Jeanne Crain's mysterious beauty showing at just about the best it ever was. As with pretty much any film noir, there were plenty of unanswered questions left hanging, and the plot itself was already a tad shopworn. Nonetheless, I found it engrossing and enjoyable.

[Note to Frederica: you have to watch it for the incredible earrings Jeanne wears in one scene near the end. Diamond curlicues that seem to stretch from the back of her head to her nostrils. My 13-year-old daughter thought they were to die for.]

Black Widow is a colour film. Now this is definitely one film that could meet all the film noir qualifications if only it were made in B&W. Well, that and the replacement of Ginger Rogers by someone like Audrey Totter, who would have aced the title role with the coolest of ease. Ginger just ain't the actress for this part. (Actually, I don't think she's much of an actress at all; she is only effective when her role is written to make the acting secondary to some other element such as dancing or slapstick, which is why she's so effective in the musicals with Astaire.)

I also felt Nunnally Johnson was a little too pleased with himself in all the positions he held on the film. As the director, he dared not fiddle around with the uneven script written by Nunnally Johnson. As the producter, he dared not complain that the film was directed with a heavy hand by Nunnally Johnson. As the writer, he dared not criticize the cheap-looking sets provided by producer Nunnally Johnson. I'm only surprised he didn't fire George Raft for his bored performance and hand over his role to Nunnally Johnson.

Other disgruntlements: I simply can't believe a stage producer would become a brilliant detective and solve a seemingly impenetrable mystery in the space of one day by running around anonymously in a town where everybody knows his face, and the round of confessions that went into the climax were all just too easy. But again, if the film were in B&W, featured Audrey instead of Ginger (or even switched the casting so Gene Tierney played Ginger's role and vice versa), and reduced the number of hats Johnson was sporting, it could have been classic noir. As it stands, it's good for one viewing.

Jim
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Unread post by Frederica » Mon Mar 31, 2008 10:26 am

[Note to Frederica: you have to watch it for the incredible earrings Jeanne wears in one scene near the end. Diamond curlicues that seem to stretch from the back of her head to her nostrils. My 13-year-old daughter thought they were to die for.]
Oooooh. Fabulous earrings are almost as good as fabulous shoes. I don't wear either any more, after thirty years of the agony of de feet and de earlobes I decided that comfortable wins out over fabulous every time...but that doesn't take one whit away from fabulousness.
Other disgruntlements: I simply can't believe a stage producer would become a brilliant detective and solve a seemingly impenetrable mystery in the space of one day by running around anonymously in a town where everybody knows his face...
The "part-time sleuth" is a traditional character in classic mystery literature, what with detectives like Miss Marple and Peter Wimsey. I've never found it very believable either.

Fred

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Unread post by Jim Roots » Tue Apr 01, 2008 9:15 am

And last night I finally did manage to put together 99 consecutive minutes to watch Daisy Kenyon.

The fact that this film was being promoted as a noir, included in a series pointedly called "Fox Film Noir", and featured a lurid synopsis on the case, had me waiting for a murder or at least a mystery. It was two-thirds over before I realized it was intended as a soaper instead of a noir.

You can forgive me when you see Dana Andrews and Ruth Warrick and even Peggy Anne Garner in the cast, and Henry Fonda wasn't above doing a noir or a murder/mystery either.

Plus, there are plenty of hints of something criminal going on. Peggy Anne says she'll follow her father into a life of crime -- this, long before we discover he's a lawyer. Dana keeps acting like a hoodlum plotting to either drive Joan Crawford crazy or kill her. Fonda shows up as an apparently damaged soldier given to bizarre comments and behaviour (geez, man, even Joan would have run screaming in the opposite direction of any man who talked like that in the first half of the movie). Andrews seems to hint to Fonda that he suspects the latter of having constructed a boat in such a way as to kill his first wife without suspicion, or perhaps to have killed the founder of Andrews' law firm (who evidently ended up with the same boat the first wife died in???). Dino the fisherman apparently mistakes Joan for Henry's first wife, leading the viewer to wonder if this is one of those films about a psycho who marries and offs women who look exactly alike. And so on and so on.

But no, this is a soaper, and not only a soaper, but a truly adult film. The reactions of Crawford, Fonda, and Andrews to unfolding events are the reactions of real adults, not the reactions of a Hollywood writer's fantasies about how people react. There are no real punch-ups, no playing with guns (we're led to think Dana's reaching for a pistol but he pulls out a bottle of booze instead), Dana actually loses a lawsuit he cares about, the courtroom scenes elicit mature responses especially from Andrews, and even the climax is only a tad stretchy. What's more, all three leads are visibly in their middle 40s, with wrinkles and bits of jowls -- these are the faces of ADULTS!

And despite the lack of criminal behaviour, this film can edge under the limbo-pole into noir territory. It's got the B&W, the lighting, the cast, the sense of forboding and doom, the helpless feeling that things are spiralling out of control.

I liked this one a lot. But then, it surprised my expectations, and I always like it when films do that, so perhaps I'm overrating it. YMMV.

Jim[/i]

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Unread post by Mike Gebert » Thu Jul 31, 2008 9:38 pm

I finally happened to watch Daisy Kenyon tonight and I very much agree with what you say-- both that it gives plenty of signs that it may turn into a noir at any moment, but doesn't; and that it's an unusually grownup movie. Not a perfect movie, it wanders around a bit, but sometimes an imperfect movie gives you a better sense of its time and place than the perfect movie, which sort of exists unto itself. (For example, Casablanca exists in a perfect realm where Bogart and all those around him are like gods, I would never expect that world to have actually existed; but Deadline USA is just a movie about a guy played by Bogart who's a newspaper editor, and it feels like 1952 come completely back to life.)

Somewhat imperfect though it is (I still didn't entirely figure Fonda's character out-- I guess he just has Olympian detachment when it comes to stepping back and letting less self-aware people figure out what the hell it is they want in life, even if what they want happens to be his wife), it has rich characters, Dana Andrews as a "Master of the Universe" type who's really sort of a big baby, yet not entirely caddish or detestable, Crawford as a career gal whose armor of self-sufficiency is about 1/256th of an inch deep, and Fonda as a guy who came back from the war seeing things in a way he knows he'll never be able to explain to anyone who wasn't there. What's great about the clash of these three characters is that this is the one old Hollywood movie you'll ever see in which love doesn't conquer all; they're falling in and out and back again into love all the time, but that just means they have to fret and think and agonize about it all over again.

In another thread Jim wrote:
She was an unusual beauty in her silent films, but when talkies came in, her face suddenly seemed to move from age 19 to 49... Adding to that appearance problem was possibly the worst fashion sense of any major female star. In Daisy Kenyon she sports a gruesome match of little-girl trims (Peter Pan collars, smocked sleeves, oversized buttons) and Mrs. Grundy schoolmarm burquas (baggy, monochromatic wool suits buttoned up to the neck). Horrible, especially compared to the usual '30s glamourpuss gowns worn by Ruth Warrick in the same picture.


Her costuming is odd, especially given that the set decoration is superb (Crawford's apartment is wonderfully designed, it's full of little "worldly" knickknacks and works of art that suggest she's cultured and arty... but it's all crammed a little too tightly together in the space, introducing a note of neurosis from the very start). At one point, honest to God, she's got the profile from behind of Ernest Thesiger in his dissecting gown. I guess the reason for all this was that she was playing the 41-year-old mistress of a 38-year-old man with a 32-year-old wife, so I guess making her seem younger and slightly bohemian meant giving her little girl clothes. (If it were made today, she'd be in Betsey Johnson.)
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Moontide

Unread post by Jim Roots » Tue Sep 30, 2008 9:12 am

I watched Moontide last night and then tried to watch the bonus doc on "The Ill-Fated Making of Moontide", but as usual the bonus stuff wasn't captioned, so I have no idea why this film was considered particularly "ill-fated".

Could someone please fill in the gap for me? Thanks.

Jim

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Unread post by Penfold » Tue Sep 30, 2008 9:28 am

Frederica wrote:The "part-time sleuth" is a traditional character in classic mystery literature, what with detectives like Miss Marple and Peter Wimsey. I've never found it very believable either.

Fred

Hmmm....did you ever see the 1980's BBC Miss Marple series starring veteran British character actress Joan Hickson (She was 86 at the time of making the last one, with a career going back to mid-30's Warners Quota Quickies)...that was an amateur detective you believed in.....Joan Hickson could convey perfectly, that behind an image of elderly country spinster could indeed live a mind like a forensic beartrap....
Did this screen in the States?? Masterpiece Theater or somesuch??? If not, it's worth seeking out; it's definitive, you can almost forget the rest.
I could use some digital restoration myself...

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Unread post by rudyfan » Tue Sep 30, 2008 9:39 am

Penfold wrote: Hmmm....did you ever see the 1980's BBC Miss Marple series starring veteran British character actress Joan Hickson (She was 86 at the time of making the last one, with a career going back to mid-30's Warners Quota Quickies)...that was an amateur detective you believed in.....Joan Hickson could convey perfectly, that behind an image of elderly country spinster could indeed live a mind like a forensic beartrap....
Did this screen in the States?? Masterpiece Theater or somesuch??? If not, it's worth seeking out; it's definitive, you can almost forget the rest.
Yes, Hickson's Miss Marple, David Suchet's Poirot and Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes, all fabulous and the standard bearers as far as I'm concerned.
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Unread post by Frederica » Tue Sep 30, 2008 10:16 am

Penfold wrote:
Hmmm....did you ever see the 1980's BBC Miss Marple series starring veteran British character actress Joan Hickson (She was 86 at the time of making the last one, with a career going back to mid-30's Warners Quota Quickies)...that was an amateur detective you believed in.....Joan Hickson could convey perfectly, that behind an image of elderly country spinster could indeed live a mind like a forensic beartrap....
Did this screen in the States?? Masterpiece Theater or somesuch??? If not, it's worth seeking out; it's definitive, you can almost forget the rest.
Oh yes, Hickson's Miss Marple was definitely screened here and I watched every single episode of it. Hands down, the best Miss Marple I've seen--all due apologies to Geraldine McEwen.

But I still don't believe in the amateur sleuth.

Fred

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Unread post by Penfold » Tue Sep 30, 2008 11:53 am

Oh, dear, Geraldine McEwan....great comic actress (as was Hickson), but not Miss Marple though....even Margaret Rutherford was better - loved her dearly as an actress, but simply not right for the part.
Nice to see that the best of Brit TV makes it across. And Jeremy Brett remains the definitive Holmes for me....
I could use some digital restoration myself...

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Unread post by rudyfan » Tue Sep 30, 2008 12:59 pm

Penfold wrote:Oh, dear, Geraldine McEwan....great comic actress (as was Hickson), but not Miss Marple though....even Margaret Rutherford was better - loved her dearly as an actress, but simply not right for the part.
Nice to see that the best of Brit TV makes it across. And Jeremy Brett remains the definitive Holmes for me....
Well, I enjoyed McEwan in the first series of Marples, then after that, meh. I do like her and would like to see her in other things, as well.

I agree with you 100% on Brett. In fact, just this week I have been having a Sherlockian orgy of sorts renting from netflix all the Holmes I can possibly absorb. They were as close to perfection as I would imagine. And, as much as I adore Basil Rathbone, he has never, ever been Holmes to me.

Now I need to dig out the Doyle and re-read them, too!
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Unread post by Penfold » Tue Sep 30, 2008 1:17 pm

[quote="rudyfan"][quote="Penfold"]
Well, I enjoyed McEwan in the first series of Marples, then after that, meh. I do like her and would like to see her in other things, as well.

[quote]

See if Netflix can get this for you....though I have no idea if you'ld enjoy it; it's quite arch....
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mapp-Lucia-Coll ... 126&sr=1-2
I could use some digital restoration myself...

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Unread post by rudyfan » Tue Sep 30, 2008 1:37 pm

Penfold wrote:
rudyfan wrote:
Penfold wrote: See if Netflix can get this for you....though I have no idea if you'ld enjoy it; it's quite arch....
Netflix can, it's now in my queue and I adore British comedy (and Prunella Scales). Besides, set in the 1920's how can I resist? Besides, I see Alan Rickman is in one of them. A must see for me.

Thanks for the tip! Pity I can't return the favor, but all decent American comepdy is really a rip-off of some British Comedy anyway. :D
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Unread post by Frederica » Tue Sep 30, 2008 1:54 pm

Penfold wrote:
rudyfan wrote:
Penfold wrote: Well, I enjoyed McEwan in the first series of Marples, then after that, meh. I do like her and would like to see her in other things, as well.
Confession time. I just tried to watch Mapp and Lucia...didn't work for me. It would have worked if it had been shorter. But I'd sure like to have a chance at those ensembles McEwen wore.

Fred

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Unread post by Penfold » Tue Sep 30, 2008 1:59 pm

Sorry, this is going wildly off-topic - do you know the episode of Frasier where the first ten minutes is all but a silent slapstick comedy, with Niles, Eddie, trousers, an ironing board and stain remover???
Most of the current US comedy we enjoy here is animated - Family Guy, American Dad, and The Simpsons...
I could use some digital restoration myself...

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Unread post by Frederica » Tue Sep 30, 2008 2:21 pm

Penfold wrote:Sorry, this is going wildly off-topic - do you know the episode of Frasier where the first ten minutes is all but a silent slapstick comedy, with Niles, Eddie, trousers, an ironing board and stain remover???
Most of the current US comedy we enjoy here is animated - Family Guy, American Dad, and The Simpsons...
Wandering further off-topic, I gave up on having television reception long ago, but Frasier was a gem and a favorite. The head writer, Joe Keenan, was a great fan of P.G. Wodehouse, and has himself written a couple of hilarious, Wodehouse-esque books; I cannot recommend his My Blue Heaven enough. As with Wodehouse, you sometimes drop the book while laughing.

I think my favorite Frasier was the Feydeau-esque ski lodge episode.

Fred

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Unread post by Harlett O'Dowd » Tue Sep 30, 2008 4:45 pm

Frederica wrote: Wandering further off-topic, I gave up on having television reception long ago, but Frasier was a gem and a favorite. The head writer, Joe Keenan, was a great fan of P.G. Wodehouse, and has himself written a couple of hilarious, Wodehouse-esque books; I cannot recommend his My Blue Heaven enough. As with Wodehouse, you sometimes drop the book while laughing.

Fred
You're not a Mapp & Lucia fan, by any chance?

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Unread post by Frederica » Tue Sep 30, 2008 5:37 pm

Harlett O'Dowd wrote:
Frederica wrote: Wandering further off-topic, I gave up on having television reception long ago, but Frasier was a gem and a favorite. The head writer, Joe Keenan, was a great fan of P.G. Wodehouse, and has himself written a couple of hilarious, Wodehouse-esque books; I cannot recommend his My Blue Heaven enough. As with Wodehouse, you sometimes drop the book while laughing.

Fred
You're not a Mapp & Lucia fan, by any chance?
Read up a few posts. I tried, I really tried.

Fred

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Unread post by Harlett O'Dowd » Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:50 am

Frederica wrote:
Read up a few posts. I tried, I really tried.

Fred
I think it works better if you read the books first. It's one of those things where if you're in on the joke, the joke is funnier. Not surprisingly, the second half of the series (from which the miniseries are derived) works better than the first.

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