Saint-Saëns: Septet Op. 65 for an Odd Combination of Instruments
Cormac McCarthy: The Road

The Vast of Night

This is a fairly low-budget sci-fi movie which as far as I know is available only on Amazon. Set in the late '50s in a small town in New Mexico, it's presented as an episode of a television show modeled on The Twilight Zone, complete with an introduction in Rod Serling's voice and prose style. I found it enchanting, so much so that I watched it a second time. It's basically a straightforward UFO story, in many ways typical: it could be an episode of The X-Files without Mulder and Scully, but it's done with such skill and atmosphere that it gives new life to what have become the conventions of UFO mythology.

Hidden in plain sight in the title and in a few sentences spoken by one character is a twist on the nature of the visitors which distinguishes it from other specimens of the genre. I did not recognize the title, but its oddness--one would expect "vastness," not "vast"--caused me to search it out. Because searching for the phrase alone only returned references to the movies, I needed something else. Figuring it was a quotation, I added "Shakespeare," and there it was. (I was going to try Milton next if that didn't work.) It's from The Tempest. Prospero is cursing Caliban with troubled sleep:

Shall, for that vast of night that they may work,
All exercise on thee...

According to the notes in my Riverside Shakespeare, "urchins" are goblins in the shape of hedgehogs, and "vast" is to be understood as a noun meaning "void" or "waste." I'll leave further explanation of the twist for you to discover if you take my recommendation; if you don't, you won't care.

The main characters are two high-school students, one trying hard to be a fast-talking '50s-hip disc jockey, the other a studious girl who subscribes to Popular Science or something of its sort. And they're charming. If the trailer appeals to you, you'll probably like it, too.

I have to say that I was a little disappointed in the ending. But if you are going to end such a story, there are really only a few ways in which you can do it, and the journey to it is so rewarding that I can't complain very loudly.  


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Looking forward to watching this, maybe on the weekend.

Currently watching a four-parter from Iceland called 'The Cliff.' I'm halfway through and so far it's got a slight touch of the supernatural/s.f. to it, but I'm not to the point where I can determine if it's a red herring or not.

I'll be interested in hearing what you think of it.

I don't see an Icelandic series called The Cliff on either Netflix or Amazon. There's one set in Dallas, presumably not made by Icelanders.

It's on Amazon Prime, but it might be on the PBS channel, which I got a free temporary subscription to. The Icelandic title is 'Hamarinn.'

Did you mean to say "not" on Amazon Prime? I can't find it there, either as "The Cliff" or "Hamarrin."

Hamarinn is also up on the Dailymotion site:

I thought that was a YouTube kind of site. But then YouTube has lots of full movies and stuff.

No, it is on Amazon Prime under the PBS 'subchannel' or whatever it is (I don't know the lingo).

Oh, I see, that's Amazon acting as a sort of distributor, running channels for various services that may require a separate subscription, like HBO and BritBox. I subscribe to BritBox, and to get to it, to actually watch it, I go to Amazon on Roku. But those titles (e.g. Vera) don't show up when I search Amazon Prime's listings on the web. That's why The Cliff wasn't showing up. I have to go to a "channels" submenu to see BritBox titles. Similarly, there's a PBS channel, and I do see The Cliff there. Which probably means that I can watch it.

I see -- I wasn't exactly sure how that all worked and didn't realize that shows or movies like that wouldn't show up in a search. I've got one episode left, which I'll most likely watch tonight, and give you the rundown tomorrow.

I see on IMDB that there is a second series of four episodes called "The Lava Fields" but I haven't checked yet to see if that's available. And the 2nd season of "Hidden" (the Welsh series) has just shown up.

Did I watch Hidden?....I can't remember. That's pretty bad. I've seen so many crime dramas in recent months and years that they tend to run together. I know I watched a Welsh series called 35 Days, which is pretty good but not outstanding.

The 3rd and final season of Dark (the German time-travel thing) will be on Netflix sometime soon. I wrote about it here a while back:

The end of the second series took a turn which I didn't like. Without going into detail, I thought it was cheating on the premise. But I will watch the new one.

Also, I notice in the comments on that post a mention of Marcella. The third series of that just came out, too, and I'm not sure I want to watch it. The trailer makes it look pretty intense in a way I dislike: Marcella goes undercover among dangerous people. Just a personal quirk of mine but that kind of scenario, where someone is having to pretend to be someone else and is in constant danger of discovery with very bad consequences, is always fraught with such tension and anxiety that I find it very uncomfortable to watch.

I literally can't understand it, even with the subtitles.


Dark or Marcella?

Dark, I guess, since it's in German? But I always watch British shows with subtitles, too.

Vast of Night. They talk so fast, I can't keep up with the subtitles.


I don't think you watched 'Hidden', as I myself just watched it last month and you hadn't heard of it at the time. It's the Welsh one that we talked about that was on Acorn, I believe. It was excellent -- quite different from your typical UK mystery/thriller.

I finished 'The Cliff' last night, and I'd call it good but not great, mainly because I felt that the ending was a bit of a let-down. Worth watching, though, as it's not a huge time commitment -- four 1 hr. episodes. And the Icelandic scenery is beautiful.

I haven't checked yet to see if I can get it via PBS. Re Hidden, my nifty new search feature enabled me to find where you'd mentioned it.

Janet, yes, that was a bit of a problem for me in a few places, too. Mainly with the DJ, and it was partly because he says some odd things, hipsterisms of the day along the lines of "see you later, alligator" but not that clear or obvious. I don't know whether they had really been unearthed from the '50s or invented for the film. Can't remember any examples now.

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