North Adams Transcript
Our Noble Deaths"
by Shigeru Mizuki
(Drawn and Quarterly)
War time Manga first published in 1973 and finally available in our country offers World War 2 from the viewpoint of our enemies. In fact this is a fictionalized memoir -- Mizuki calls it "90% true" -- of the author’s service on a small island in New Guinea.
In Mizuki’s presentation, average Joe Japanese soldiers contend with the island’s greatest dangers -- malaria and alligators -- until the American army shows up and begins to push inward. Young and inexperienced, with a focus more on their tummies and libidos, the Japanese soldiers don’t take seriously the cultural expectation of their military careers -- an honorable death in service to their country. Their commanding officers take it very seriously, though, and the reality of a suicide charge clashes with their personal fears.
Mizuki peppers the tale with an amiable goofiness that captures the period and his experience, but it is filtered through a graphic rage at what he and his fellow soldiers experienced. Sometimes grim and gruesome, "Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths" is a powerful revelation of the price of war on all sides, and the expectations of national service that hold countries above men.
"The Call of Cthulhu" (H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society)
Horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, whose paranoid tales perfectly reflect the mind they came out of, has seldom been captured on screen with the same prosaic intensity as any of his written work, but one source for superior adaptations has been the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, which this year released "The Whisperer In Darkness."
In this earlier film, director Andrew Leman and screenwriter Sean Branney adapt Lovecraft’s short story in the style of a silent era film, and accomplish the important task of capturing the era in which the tale was written. It’s a multi-layered tale of one man’s investigation into the past, his own grand-uncle’s obsession with a sculpture of a monster, which leads to a terrifying trail of dreams and the history of the word "Cthulhu." Eventually, the convoluted mystery unfolds with a cult and a monster.
The movie is heavy on atmosphere and, by proxy, suspense, the monster is charming and the entire venture, while obviously low budget, is a thrill. "The Call of Cthulhu" manages to inject the idea of fun back into horror even as it embraces the sprawling mythology of Lovecraft’s backstory that has proven hard to include in film adaptations. This accomplishes two feats at the same time -- it makes it more accessible even as it achieves a richness that is sure to please Lovecraft diehards. This just goes to show that the supposed impossibility of cinema -- that it can adapt literature without compromise to the original material and intention -- is entirely achievable when the filmmakers wish to achieve it.