In which we consider Alan K. Rode’s immensely entertaining life of one Golden Age Hollywood’s best directors and how the crown of “auteurism” somehow escaped him.

Michael Curtiz directed so many Golden Age Hollywood classics — The Adventures of Robin Hood, Yankee Doodle Dandy, and, most famously, Casablanca — that most so-called auteurs would turn green with envy and die of despair. Yet he’s never shared auteurism’s limelight alongside Orson Welles, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, and others. He seemed trapped in the shadow of his own work.

Film historian Alan K. Rode’s rich and absorbing biography Michael Curtiz: A Life…


Good summary bu tdon't forget Hitler's biggest, number-one blunder . . . being born.


In which we consider an agnostic’s strong argument for Christianity’s role in human moral progress.

Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World (Basic Books) by British historian Tom Holland is a rich, colorful and — but for one glaring flaw — absorbing epic history of Christianity and its ideas, uniquely told from a liberal-left perspective.

Though he never says it outright, Holland is an agnostic, which might lead you to expect a book that tears the Faith — nowadays seen by many as the dominion of reactionary cranks — yet another one, to be tucked in the shelf alongside…


Recently published in The Union, the newspaper for Nevada County, California, the following provides a brief look at the author’s move to a small Sierra town.

Home at Last . . . .

One Spring day in 2018, the stranger came to town. In a surly mood, he moseyed about Grass Valley’s charming Main Street, his patient wife by his side. Then suddenly, as he remembered his long-ago Hudson River Valley hometown and its high green hills, he turned to her and growled, “Yeah . . . let’s move here.”

He’d been looking for something he’d lost. Now maybe he’d found it.

Later that day, the pair…


An entertaining, sometimes hilarious, French police procedural featuring an eccentric, egotistical forensic medical examiner, a humorless cop, and chatty murder victims. What more could you want?

Balthazar: For some, the scenery will be fabulous

If you ask me, there’s so many crime shows streaming right now that it constitutes a crime all its own.

No, I know you didn’t ask, but, really, who’s got the time for all this mayhem and mystery? Not me, by decades. But does anyone listen? No. Crime shows stream on in a bloody blur, packed with cliches and tropes that are as familiar as buttered toast.

There’s some tweedy comfort and wit to…


In which your correspondent recommends, with few reservations, yet another new film on Netflix.

The Dig

In which, your correspondent recommends, with few reservations, a new film on Netflix.

When I first heard about The Dig, a new Netflix film, I initially anticipated a ghost story, one inspired by the great M. R. James. But The Dig isn’t about ghosts and their shadows but about the light that’s revealed through passionate excavation into human history. It’s a film about those who love history for history’s sake. At its best, and in a quiet way, it also tries to deal with time both…


A look at the excellent, razor-sharp Indian film, The White Tiger, where a young man’s plays a long and treacherous game to outfox modern India’s rigid caste system, grinding poverty, and the intrusion of global capitalism.

While you’re swiping through Netflix’s top-ten list, remember to look a little further toward the back. There you’ll come across The White Tiger, a dark and snappy picaresque tale of rags, riches and how they intertwine. The film’s setting is not America, where such stories (ranging from Horatio Alger to What Makes Sammy Run?) …


In which I try to answer the question, “Should I watch Mank?”

Citizen Kane: The Real Thing, a Great Work of Art

So, there you are, feet up, thumbing through the Netflix menu one evening, when up pops a movie called Mank. You read the capsule — the fictionalized story about the writing of an old black-and-white movie called Citizen Kane — and then see the names David Fincher and Gary Oldman, reputable names for sure. Your thumb crawls toward the OK button — but wait! First, I have an important question!

Have you ever seen Citizen Kane? If you haven’t, I absolutely urge you to not watch Mank. If you do, I guarantee you’ll find it baffling, irrelevant, and dull. If…


A brilliant look at how Archie Leach from Bristol England, created the brilliant disguise we know and love as Cary Grant.

Cary Grant: Illegally handsome

Nearly sixty years after his last movie in 1965 and thirty-four years after his death in 1986, Cary Grant remains the Man, the One. His appeal to both men and women remains intense and universal and his image genuinely irreplaceable. (Only George Clooney comes close . . . but not that close.)

I knew nothing of this early in my life. I needed to be in the right spot to be captured by Cary Grant.

When I was a…


To draw theccurtain on this Halloween season, a piece from my old webpage about the greatest, most influential Dracula of all.

The Universal DVD — highly recommended

I’ve written before about the effect on me of seeing Bela Lugosi in the 1931 Dracula for the first time — creeping through ancient shadows down that cobwebbed staircase, his cape gleaming with starlight, he profoundly enchanted a fatherless eight-year-old.

I was transfixed by Lugosi’s piercing stare, his aquiline nose and strong but softly sculpted face, like an Undead Roman(ian) emperor. Bela Lugosi’s Dracula imprinted his thumb on this abandoned larva, the mark of a sinister and powerful outlaw…

Thomas Burchfield

The author of BUTCHERTOWN, a 1920s gangster thriller and DRAGON’S ARK, a contemporary Dracula tale, both published through Ambler House Publishing.

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