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Your February Unrandom Movie Club Results Are in!!

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Preshow Entertainment: THE VULCAN AFFAIR (The pilot of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.)


There are two movies with the same story, both called THE VANISHING. One's a 1988 Dutch film (shot in France) directed by George Sluizer, the other's the American remake starring Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland, and directed by George Sluizer. You read that right. Hollywood enlisted Sluizer a few years later to make an American version of his own movie. If you've seen the remake, but not the original, then you just don't know. You don't know how smart the original is. How creepy. How dark. How wonderful.

If you're among the "ooh, don't tell me anything! I'll see it ASAP!" crowd, STOP READING HERE and thank yourself now and then me later for turning you on to the film. Aww, okay, you don't really have to thank me. The fact that you already know how amazing I am is enough thanks for me. However, if you're among the curious set, read on. I promise not to give too much away.


I think what makes THE VANISHING so spectacular isn't its subject matter, or how it jumps time, or the natural acting, or the foxy directing, or the lead couple's simple vs. complicated relationship. What's astounding to me is how a thriller can be so Movie Trope-free. The leads aren't doctors or scientists who've discovered a miracle formula that falls into the wrong hands. They don't live in a penthouse with a view of the Eiffel Tower. They're not CEOs of a corporation that has a monopoly. Or maybe they're all of these, because no one tells us, and we're okay with that. And the villain? Why, he has no lair filled with torture devices which he explains to you how he'll use them and how much pain they will cause you. All of the players appear to be everyday people. Look! There's one on the "10 items or fewer" aisle at Albertson's. And isn't that another on the Six Flags ride right behind you? Or perhaps it's the woman in seat 28B; that's the seat next to me on the plane where I'm writing this right now. Maybe that's why the film's first shot is of a walking stick - an insect that blends in perfectly with its surroundings.


It all begins innocently enough. Rex (Gene Bervoets) and Saskia (Johanna ter Steege) are driving through France on vacation. The bicycles on the car's roof tell us they're adventurous, which is good since they're in for an adventure they never planned on. Soon, the unfortunate happens. They become embroiled in a heated argument that any couple on the planet could have (and probably have had). It's one of those spats where one party gets so mad (frustrated, really) that they become a child who walks away, leaving the other alone. But in this case, the room is actually a car, dangerously blacked out in a traffic lane of a tunnel. She cannot believe he did that. We can't either, but we get it.


The movie's title refers to Saskia going missing. Again, this is a real moment. This can happen. This does happen. The fact that we don't witness exactly what transpires places us in Rex's shoes, shoes that will wear through the soles, because Rex wants to know what happened to Saskia. No, he needs to know. Does he think she was kidnapped? Or is this payback for that fight; perhaps she's teaching him a lesson for leaving her. He just doesn't know.


But we do, because we get to glimpse the villain, Raymond (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu). But like Rex, we don't know the where, the why, and the what Raymond did. What we do know is that Raymond's skewed psyche-based decisions began as a teen, jumping off a bridge to prove it wasn't predestined that he won't jump off a bridge. That by itself fascinates me to no end (perhaps I'm one part psychopath). This very same philosophy will return later in the movie.



Raymond's meticulous in practicing for the crime, taking notes on his trials and his errors as he formulates, and acting out one-man shows of what might occur, usually accompanied by a smug look of satisfaction when an idea hits him or tests well. Yet even with all his plotting (I'm not revealing too many details, as promised), there are some failed attempts. Director Sluizer does this beautifully. Raymond is a sick fuck, yet Sluizer manages to make us feel bad when Raymond fails, or laugh at his Clouseau-like blooper. Sluizer makes us appreciate the villain.



Almost halfway through THE VANISHING a very interesting thing happens - it veers a tiny bit left of mystery and jumps to psychological thriller. This happens when, years later, Raymond notices Rex's missing poster of Saskia.


It seems Rex has not only not given up on the search, but has made it his life, his obsession. Rex's tenacity begins ripping apart everything he is. All he wants is to know, and the walls are closing in. With each missing person poster and talk show interview, Rex loses more of Rex, suffocating in his coffin of guilt. The Rex we know starts, dare I say it - vanishing. With all its expansive, mountainous vistas, THE VANISHING becomes eerily claustrophobic as Rex's demons proffer this choice - Either let Saskia go and never know what happened to her or...let her die and find out what happened.

Rex (Gene Bervoets)

Raymond (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu)

And this becomes an unexpected yet interesting turn for Raymond Lamorne as well.

The actors in THE VANISHING are just terrific. Steege plays Saskia like a young Diane Keaton, all playful and full of life. Bervoets' Rex, from the beginning, shows signs of the stubborn male. Together, these actors make a believable couple. But perhaps most believable is Donnadieu's Raymond, for how often do we get such an evil man who has a (I'm not telling you) and works as a (I'm not telling you)?

Rex (Gene Bervoets)and Raymond (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu)

But even with such great acting and such a tight story (Sluizer and Tim Krabbe), I'm going to say that, again, the directing is astounding. It's just so good to see a movie so carefully thought out, where things that we think mean nothing wind up meaning everything. Did Raymond load those spiders in a drawer just as a practical joke to scare someone? And how about the part where he practices the crime on someone he knows without them even realizing it? There's even a great scene where Raymond explains 'passion' to someone, all the time telling us, in subtext, what is driving him to do what he's about to do. There are little moments also, like non-smoker Rex, who eventually takes up smoking.

It's fascinating to watch a movie where the villain seems sane compared to the hero, a man who becomes more and more unhinged. Perhaps I could have done without the golden egg dream that Saskia tells us about early on, and its symbolic recurrence throughout the film, but in the end even this realizes a good payoff. I'm not a betting man, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the golden egg stuff was a holdover from THE GOLDEN EGG, the novel by Krabbe that the movie was based on. And I also bet you can't find many thrillers better than THE VANISHING. And this is coming from a huge Hitchcock fan.

Preshow Entertainment: THE VULCAN AFFAIR (The pilot of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.)

I'm not going to go into my whole spy kids yap. If you like, you can read it here. Suffice to say, I grew up playing spy. Playing Bond. Playing my own made up spy games. And of course, playing THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. I didn't realize that Illya Koryakin was Russian. I didn't care. All I knew is he had shaggy hair, and that was so rebellious, especially for an American spy. I dug the K-man. So when we kids played, I got to be Illya. Come to think of it, I never had to fight for it. Anyway...

UNCLE was a 60s spy show, and after an amazing purchase, getting the entire series which lists for $199 for just for $39.95 (I still think they made an error), it was time to watch the pilot. And to kill two spies with one gun, we did it at Unrandom Movie Club.

Pat Crowley and Robert Vaughn
The pilot, called THE VULCAN AFFAIR, only featured Illya (David McCallum) and boss Mr. Waverly (Leo G. Carroll) in tiny roles. This was more of a Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) solo episode. The mission is to recruit the ex-girlfriend (Pat Crowley) of Mr. Vulcan (Fritz Weaver) and have her attend a ball with Solo, to find out more about Vulcan's ties to Thrush. Very Hitchcock. Very cool. Can't wait to see more. And why not? I have all 41 discs. Wait, 41 discs? You mean I got these for less than a buck a disc? Hmmm. Sounds fishy. I better infiltrate Warner Brothers secret headquarters and find out how that happened.

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