We moved up to small town South Dakota 25 years ago. There was one movie theater, that back then showed movies about 6 months to a year late. (Things have improved.) Back then you could rent videos - remember those? and the main rental center was at a local liquor store. Let's just say that the selection was limited. We missed a lot.
But now, with Netflix, I can get almost anything I want. I troll Netflix the way some people troll bars, looking for suitable pick-ups. About the only thing I won't watch is anything with extreme gore. (I have a sensitive stomach.) And if the show is good enough, I'll read the book.
A classic example of this is Cloudstreet, by Tim Winton of Perth, Australia. It's Australia's favorite novel, and the miniseries was produced by the Australian television station Showcase. I rented the miniseries - 6 episodes - and we binge-watched it.
Two families, the Pickles and the Lambs spend over 20 years living in the same, large, ramshackle, haunted (more about that later) house. They split it down the middle, and a good thing, because they are night and day to each other. Sam Pickles is a gambler, his wife Dolly is the sexiest drunk God ever put on this earth; between the two of them there isn't much on the table or in the future for their kids. The Lambs are industrious, but with Oriel as the matriarch, they have to be: she runs a tight ship. As her husband, Lester says, "People have always been a disappointment to her." The Lambs find meaning in God's grace, the Pickles, in luck. The Pickles' God is the "Shifty Shadow" of fate, and Sam is its high priest. The Lambs' God is a maker of miracles, although they also trust to the spinning knife, because it's "always the miracles you don't need." Like a talking pig. Or a son (Fish Lamb, the narrator) who Oriel beats back into breath after drowning, but not much else, or so it seems.
|Cloudstreet - the House|
- BUT WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SERIAL KILLER? -
In Cloudstreet the novel, one of the darker plot lines is provided by the real life Nedlands Monster, Eric Edgar Cooke, who terrorized through Perth from 1959-1963. He committed over 250 robberies, during which he killed 8 people, and tried to kill 14 others. It's true that Cooke was a horribly, notoriously abused child, frequently hospitalized for head injuries. He was born with a cleft palate and had many surgeries, which weren't entirely effective. He joined the armed forces, but was discharged once they found out about his record of B&E, vandalism, and arson. He married in 1953 and he and his wife had seven children. Some time after 1957, after two years' imprisonment for stealing a car, he went on a killing spree, that was the most entirely random thing you can imagine. He shot people, strangled them, stabbed them with knives and/or scissors, ran them over with cars, and axed them. Whatever worked. Some he killed when they woke up while he was robbing their house in the middle of the night. One he shot dead when they answered his knock at the door. He was eventually caught, tried, convicted and hanged in 1964.
Sadly, before Cooke was convicted, two false convictions were made:
|Beamish, Button, and |
crusading journalist Estelle Blackburn
after Beamish's acquittal in 2005
- Darryl Beamish, a deaf mute, was convicted in December, 1961, of murdering Jillian Macpherson Brewer, a Melbourne heiress. Despite Cooke's confession in 1963, Beamish served 15 years. (The Chief Justice of Western Australia refused to believe Cooke's confession because he was a "villainous unscrupulous liar.") After Button was released, though, in 2005, Beamish was finally acquitted.
- John Button was convicted of manslaughter in 1963 of the death of his girlfriend, Rosemary Anderson (one of Cooke's first hit and run victims). Button's bad stutter led the police to believe that he was deliberately concealing his guilt, and they coerced a confession out of him. Again, despite Cooke's confession later that year, Button's appeal was denied. In fact, Button's appeals were continually denied until 2002, when the Court of Criminal Appeal finally quashed his conviction. Sadly, Ms. Anderson's family continued to believe that he was guilty, and when they finally accepted that he didn't run her down, they held him responsible for her death because he was her escort the night that it happened, and he should have seen her home safely. Button is currently the head of the Western Australia Innocence Project.
I don't know why they cut Cooke out of the miniseries. (It's still worth seeing, even without him.) Maybe they thought that no one in Australia wanted to see it. And I know there's never enough time in a movie or miniseries for everything that's in the book. But still. The novel was published in 1991, the miniseries made in 2010, and I would swear that if it had been made in America, they'd have left that serial killer in. Can you think of any American miniseries where the serial killer got left out?