Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Dinner and a movie. Or dinner in a movie.

Talking of sacks of potatoes (previous post) always reminds me of a movie I saw once, and if you happen to have seen it, you will already know what it was.

But let’s start at the start. One bleak night, many years ago, my older sister lent me her MUFS* membership card - as she so often very kindly did - and I went off on my own to the cinema. The cinema was the long-gone Carlton Moviehouse, above Genevieve’s cafĂ©, also gone. The cinema was known as the bughouse as cinema-goers were not the only patrons. The building now houses a student travel agency, but the cinema had students and others travelling in all kinds of ways long before the agency was selling jet flights.

That night at the Carlton Moviehouse, I travelled to London. The movie, Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy, was one of those ultra-gritty British productions typical of the early 1970s. British writers and directors were at the top of their game then, before political correctness softened storylines and killed scriptwriting stone dead. The movie was brutally realistic and showed a claustrophobic inner London closing in on its denizens. It was like Dickens with Cortinas.

And so to the potato sack scene: secreting his victim in a greengrocer’s lorry amongst sacks of potatoes, the murderer realises too late that his victim in her death throes has grasped an identifiable item of his clothing. The murderer must locate her body and remove the evidence, even as the lorry motors north through driving rain and under total darkness. To add to the frosty storyline, there was quite a bit of scuttling under the front stalls and beneath the stage that night. Even rats are chilled by Hitchcock.

The horror is relieved by the movie's domestic scenes, in which the investigating detective discusses the case over dinner at home with his wife, Maigret-style. She is way ahead of him in guessing the case, but the food she serves is visibly horrid, and the detective’s body and face language as he labours through his meals is comically macabre. Following a particularly gruesome scene, the detective is at table, struggling with a bone, which cracks horribly, simulating the previous scene ...


*MUFS: Melbourne University Film Society. Your membership ticket gave you discounts to independent cinemas, but its own weekly screenings were held in the Union Theatre at Melbourne University, where projector malfunctions were common. I saw the first three-quarters of 2001: A Space Odyssey twice in two weeks before the projectionist finally succeeded in getting through all rolls of the movie the following week. The film got progressively worse, and by the third week, I no longer wanted to see the last quarter. 2001: A Space Odyssey remains the only movie of which I have watched three-quarters but never completely. Has anyone repeated this bizarre feat with this or any other movie? Projectionists not eligible to answer. Falling asleep doesn't count.

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