Domestic disturbances - Page 2

Mill Valley Film Festival picks uncover mysteries of the home front

All the more remarkable is The Missing Person's pastiche of cinematic influences in that they mingle seamlessly with images and stories of Manhattan, post-9/11, as the secret of Rosow's mark is unearthed. When the hallowed spotlights of the WTC memorial appear at the film's conclusion, they have the painterly senescence of a dog-eared comic book.

If Raymond Chandler bestows the focal literary references for Buschel's opus, then Agatha Christie is the materfamilias of Larry Blamire's "old dark house" spoof, Dark and Stormy Night. As Christie once quipped of her metier to a Life reporter, "I specialize in murders of quiet, domestic interest," and that is precisely what screwball director Blamire has in mind in this country-estate, will-reading-ensemble gone amok. Comprised of Bantam Street Film's stock company, most of whom starred in Blamire's previous Hollywood send-ups (including 2001's The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra and 2007's Trail of the Screaming Forehead), Dark and Stormy Night recreates every riff, trope, and motif of the late 30s genre — from the exterior miniatures to the canned special effects — all situated in a lavishly decorated and seemingly haunted house, replete with winding floor plan and secret passages.

A disparate crew of hopefuls have assembled at said estate to hear the pecuniary bequests of the late Sinas Cavinder during a particularly ominous evening, as the title promises. Among the crowd are competing reporters Eight O'Clock Farraday (Daniel Roebuck) and Billy Tuesday (Jennifer Blaire) hoping to land a hot scoop; demure ingenue Sabasha Fanmoore (Fay Masterson); brooding nephew Burling Famish, Jr. (Brian Howe) and his unfaithful wife, Pristy (Christine Romeo); the very Yiddish psychic Mrs. Cupcupboard (Alison Martin); the epigramming dandy Lord Partfine (Andrew Parks); and the hilariously-christened butler, Jeens (Bruce French).

As might be expected, a serious hitch in the evening arises when the secret addendum to Cavinder's will is stolen and bodies begin piling up following the requisite "lights out" interlude. Unfortunately, a centuries-old phantom, the ghost of a dead witch, and an escaped maniac are all on the loose and vying for blood ... and the only bridge off the estate has been washed away by the storm. So, whodunnit? The answer is not nearly as entertaining as the long night of sight gags, double-takes, screwball repartee, and an inexplicable, wandering gorilla Kogar (played by legendary prop master and gorilla-suit regular Bob Burns). Shot in HD with enough digital plug-ins to simulate RKO-era film stock, Dark and Stormy Night is as much a loving homage as parody. Late-night B-movie fans and nostalgics will enjoy just how light this "dark" comedy can be.

Mill Valley Film Festival

Oct 8-18, most shows $12.50

Various North Bay venues

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