Bob at the Movies: ‘The Pale Blue Eye’ & ‘Glass Onion: Knives Out’

Bob at the Movies: ‘The Pale Blue Eye’ & ‘Glass Onion: Knives Out’

So, I’ve gotten back into reading Sherlock Holmes again, after being away from Baker Street for a couple years. And I’m still posting shelfies over at that subreddit. One, depicting a bookshelf collapse disaster from a couple summers ago, got over 36,000 views! But today, we’re gonna look at couple mystery movies I watched over the weekend.


The Pale Blue Eye is based on a book by Louis Bayard. Christian Bale is a world-weary detective, who is brought in to investigate the death of a cadet at West Point. He is aided by a young Edgar Allen Poe, who was there in 1830-1831. So, we’ll put the movie in 1830.

Of course, there’s more going on than it appears; solving (non-military) codes is key; and there’s a major O Henry-like twist at the end. It moves along a little slowly, like an episode of Endeavour (which you know I love). But when that’s done correctly (as opposed to in Andor, and the three hour Marvel movies that could have dropped 45+ minutes easily), it’s fine.

Bale is excellent. This is probably my favorite of his of his, after 3:10 to Yuma. He is the heart of the movie. Poe is Henry Melling, who has a long theater resume. He’s an emotional, energetic Poe. Lucy Boynton (The Ipcress File, Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?), Gillian Anderson (do I even need to list it?), Toby Jones (Culverton Smith in BBC Sherlock), Robert Duvall (who I didn’t even recognize!); it’s a solid cast.

I love the cinematography, as snowy, rural New York looks terrific. The night scenes along a wooded stretch of road would be perfect for Ichabod Crane and his cranium-challened equine rider. The visual look is an asset to the movie.

This is a serious mystery, and I’m not going to give anything away. I was surprised how much time was left when the main mystery was solved. Yeah – there was definitely more to come. And it’s fictional, but now we know where ‘Lenore’ came from. And, if after you watch it, you ask, “Bob, would you do what X did?” Yeah, I would.

Production was to start in the summer of 2015 for The Deep Blue Goodbye. Bale was going to star as Travis McGee in Leonard DiCaprio’s movie, based on John D. MacDonald’s knight-errant. If you’ve read me here at Black Gate, you know that John MacD is my favorite author, in any genre. I was excited to see a big-money production, with Bale.

But Bale tore his ACL at home in LA. He was working on The Big Short. Goodbye was ready to go, with James Mangold directing. They had even dressed up The Busted Flush to move to Puerto Rico. But schedules on other films were in place, and they never managed to get everybody back together. The project was killed. I’m massively bummed, as I think it would have been a good movie. And it’s ridiculous that Hollywood (and the streaming business) is ignoring John MacD these days.

I whole-heartedly recommend this somewhat-dark mystery. I’ve not read any of Bayard’s books, but he’s written several that use a historical figure, like this one does. I might check out The Black Tower, which features Eugene Vidcoq, whose story inspired several writers, including Poe, and Emile Gaboriau.

4.0 Basils


I watched this movie, because I was looking for something after I quit Glass Onion: Knives Out, after fifteen minutes. I liked Knives Out, and was ready for this one. It has a very ADD-opening, and I was literally “WTH?” as it fired along. And I dropped it. Which worked out well, since I really liked The Pale Blue Eye.

But friends told me it got better. And I did like the first one. So, happy with the Bale movie, I sat down and resumed. And it turned out to be okay. I definitely liked the first one waaaay more. And I don’t see me ever re-watching this. But it was good enough for a couple hours. Mostly to hear Daniel Craig’s aphorisms and comments.

Craig is Benoit Blanc, the world’s greatest detective. He’s bored, and talks about how his life doesn’t work when he doesn’t have a good case. Which is reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes. He travels to Greece when someone (not the host) invites him to an exclusive gathering. Of course, something is up.

The host is bazillionaire Miles Bron played by Edward Norton. Norton works, but the whole movie, I kept seeing Jason Bateman in the role. Once Blanc and Miles realize something is up, Miles has him stay. The heart of the weekend is a murder mystery. Miles goes on about how complex it is, and how much work he put into it. You an guess how long it takes Blanc to figure it out.

Kate Hudson and Dave Bautista are among the cast as guests. The more I see Bautista in, the more I like him. I remember when he came into the WWE, and how physically amazing he was. He’s still huge, but the guy is a good actor.

Honestly, I think the plot is kinda stupid, which doesn’t make for a great movie. The big scene at the end felt like kindergarten stuff. So, bad start, silly ending. It’s tough for a movie to totally make that up in the middle. But Craig’s character is worth following, and that’s why I’d still watch a third one in the series.

2.5 Basils


I also re-watched Matt Frewer’s second Sherlock Holmes TV movie, The Sign of Four. I’m going to do a Frewer post some time. His performance in The Hound of the Baskervilles was simply terrible. It was improved in the follow-up. The Royal Scandal rivals some of Jeremy Brett’s good episodes. Sadly, The Whitechapel Vampire’s plot was just dumb, and the series vanished on a sour note. I like the story changes in Sign, and prefer the finale to Brett’s more traditional version. And Kenneth Welsh is one of my favorite Watsons.

I just saw that The Ipcress File is on AMC+. I’m a HUGE Len Deighton fan, and this is on my ‘Watch Soon’ list.

Some previous entries on things to watch:

Tony Hillerman’s Dark Winds

The Rings of Power (Series I wrote on this show – all links at this one post)

What I’m Watching – December 2022 (Frontier, Leverage: Redemption)

What I’m Watching – November 2022 (Tulsa King, Andor, Fire Country, and more)

What I’m Watching – September 2022 (Galavant, Fire Fly, She-Hulk, and more)

What I’m Watching- April 2022 (Outer Range, Halo, Why Didn’t They Ask Evans, and more)

When USA Network was Kicking Major Butt (Monk, Psych, Burn Notice)

You Should be Streaming These Shows (Corba Kai, The Expanse, Bosch, and more)

What I’m BritBoxing – December 2021 (Death in Paradise, Shakespeare & Hathaway, The Blake Mysteries, and more)

To Boldly Go – Star Treking – (Various Star Trek incarnations)

What I’ve Been Watching – August 2021 (Monk, The Tomorrow War, In Plain Sight, and more)

What I’m Watching – June 2021 (Get Shorty, Con Man, Thunder in Paradise, and more)

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

What I’ve Been Watching – June 2021 (Relic Hunter, Burn Notice, Space Force, and more)


Psych of the Dead

The Mandalorian

What I’m Watching: 2020 – Part Two (My Name is Bruce, Sword of Sherwood Forest, Isle of Fury, and more)

What I’m Watching 2020: Part One (The Adventures of Brisco County Jr, Poirot, Burn Notice, and more)

Philip Marlowe: Private Eye


Nero Wolfe – The Lost Pilot

David Suchet’s ‘Poirot’

Sherlock Holmes (over two dozen TV shows and movies)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Bob_TieSmile150.jpgBob Byrne’s ‘A (Black) Gat in the Hand’ made its Black Gate debut in 2018 and has returned every summer since.

His ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ column ran every Monday morning at Black Gate from March, 2014 through March, 2017. And he irregularly posts on Rex Stout’s gargantuan detective in ‘Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone.’ He is a member of the Praed Street Irregulars, founded (the only website dedicated to the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street’) and blogs about Holmes and other mystery matters at Almost Holmes.

He organized Black Gate’s award-nominated ‘Discovering Robert E. Howard’ series, as well as the award-winning ‘Hither Came Conan’ series.

He has contributed stories to The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Parts III, IV, V, VI and XXI.

He has written introductions for Steeger Books, and appeared in several magazines, including Black Mask, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, The Strand Magazine, and Sherlock Magazine.

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Aonghus Fallon

I stopped watching Knives Out after fifteen minutes because I found Craig’s ‘southern’ accent so unconvincing.* I never went back to it. I watched The Glass Onion last week and really enjoyed it, maybe because the preposterous, over-the-top characters and setting complemented Craig’s performance? You’re right about the ending, though. I felt this was just tacked on, mainly to counter accusations that this was yet another story in which a privileged white dude saved the day.

* Not an issue with Cowboys & Aliens, funnily enough.m

Joe H.

I didn’t like Glass Onion as much as I liked Knives Out, but I found them both terrifically entertaining, and obviously made by a filmmaker who was paying attention to _every single detail_ on screen in every single shot.

John Bullard

I have a different reaction to “The Pale Blue Eye” than you, Bob. I thought it started out fantastically and was totally loving it up until I started feeling the slow dragging of its pace, the same as you. Then, I started thinking “Why are they dragging this shot/scene out”; or even “Why is this scene even in the movie”?

Then, in my opinion, about two thirds of the way in, the plot started getting silly, and the ridiculous O. Henry ending totally soured the movie for me. I felt like this was some hack writer thinking he could really write the heck out of your standard mystery and show those old mystery writers Doyle, Christie, and Gardner how it’s done! And don’t get me started on “Dame” Gillian Anderson’s acting choices…

I was really looking forward to this movie and so wanted it to work. Any thought I had of getting the book to read is gone if that was a fair representation of it. But, I’m happy it worked for you, at least!

Last edited 1 year ago by John Bullard
Steve A Oerkfitz

I pretty much agree with you on boh films. Harry Melling (Poe) is mostly known as the bad kid in the Harry Potter miovies.

Steve A Oerkfitz

He was also good as a wanna be southern preacher in the Netflix film The Devil All the Time.

Aonghus Fallon

Also as the legless, armless performer in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. (Not that a great deal was asked of him).

Thomas Parker

I haven’t seen Glass Onion but I did see Knives Out, and thought it was just ok. It was pretty much the sort of thing you could see any week on television in the 60’s and 70’s, but at twice the length – which was a minus rather than a plus.

Gordon Roberts

Now Knives are Out to chop up Glass Onions, will Daniel be the last of the Bonds? Let’s hope not but as us espionage illuminati know too well, John Barry went to the same school as Bill Fairclough and Ian Fleming isn’t around to write another “Trout Memo” or choose the next 007!

Fleming has not only eulogised and promoted the “espionage industry” but he has also spread so much disinformation about that industry that even MI6 would have been proud of the dissemination of so much fake news. Maybe the Bond legacy is finally coming to an end notwithstanding the recent publication of Anthony Horowitz’s With a Mind to Kill, particularly after Daniel Craig’s au revoir in No Time To Die.

We think the anti-Bond era is now being firmly established in literature and on the screen. Raw noir anti-Bond espionage masterpieces are on the ascent. Len Deighton’s classic The Ipcress File has been rejuvenated by John Hodge with Joe Cole aspiring to take on Michael Caine and of course there are plenty of Slow Horses ridden by Bad Actors too.

Then there’s Edward Burlington in The Burlington Files series by Bill Fairclough, a real spy (MI6 codename JJ) who was one of Pemberton’s People in MI6 who disavowed Ian Fleming for his epic disservice to the espionage fraternity. After all, Fleming single-handedly transformed MI6 into a mythical quasi-religious cult that spawned a knight in shining armour numbered 007 who could regularly save the planet from spinning out of orbit.

Last but not least, the final nail in wee Jimmy Bond’s coffin has been hammered in by Jackson Lamb. Mick Herron’s anti-Bond sentiments combine lethally with the sardonic humour of the Slough House series to unreservedly mock not just Bond but also British Intelligence which has lived too long off the overly ripe fruits Fleming left to rot! Time for a fresh start based on a real spy so best read Beyond Enkription in The Burlington Files series by ex-spook Bill Fairclough.

For more beguiling anecdotes best read a brief and intriguing News Article about Pemberton’s People in MI6 dated 31 October 2022 in TheBurlingtonFiles website and then read Beyond Enkription.

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