Maybe I’m a contrarian. Or maybe some people really don’t care what the masses think. (No one thinks they care what the masses think.)
I first came upon Jim Thompson’s “This World, Then the Fireworks” in the Thompson revival of the eighties, when everything he wrote was put back in print by Vintage, and anything else with his name on it was put between paperback and/or hardcovers for the first time.
FIREWORKS: THE LOST WRITINGS received some critical attention when it came out in hardcover, before the mainstream stepped back and decided this guy was really not all that awesome as they’d been led to believe. I’ll go into the Thompson revival another time, but it was interesting to be around when all of his books came out with decent cover photography or acceptable artwork. (The paperback for FIREWORKS is too classy, and the hardcover is blah.)
The gem of FIREWORKS was “This World, Then the Fireworks,” which was excerpted in The Boston Phoenix, where I found it. It’s the story of Carol and Marty, twins who see their father brutally murdered for screwing around with the wrong woman. They grow up, and Marty finds a way to screw a rich woman out of her money. Carol, a slut, plays along. Oh, and they’re screwing each other.
TWTTF was not a box office hit, and until last year wasn’t available on DVD. It’s generally gotten bad reviews. Ye have been warned.
I think it’s a hoot. Zane and Gershon are vivid and horny, and totally believable as brother and sister who’re hot for each other. Tom Priestly, Jr.’s cinematography is overbaked in the right way–you can’t underplay this material. It’s kinky and fast, but it’s also gruesome, especially the scene involving an abortion.
Rue McClanahan, of The Golden Girls, is great as a bitter old lady. Sheryl Lee gets to be in something besides TWIN PEAKS and does a fine job as the woman in the middle of all this, not a dope, but overcome by Marty’s charm.
I like Gina Gershon. She a female counterpart to Billy Zane, both appearing in major movies and scrappy indies and TV shows, both working actors who everyone seems to kinda like without making them superstars. She always comes off as a woman who revels in her badness. A Jim Thompson woman if there ever was one.
I don’t want to oversell this, but it doesn’t deserve its lowly reputation. It gets in the gutter with Thompson, where many adaptations try to class him up (THE GETAWAY). It ranks with THE KILL OFF as one of my favorite Thompson adaptations, and that’s saying something coming from such a snob.