The Man in the High Castle (2015)


Just got a long-distance call from Dante. He’s excited about revising the punishments in the lowest ring of the Inferno, inspired by new horrors from our times. You know, update The Divine Comedy for today’s audience. He tells me that it came down to two punishments.

The guilty would have to watch one of two TV series endlessly.

The choices?

Grey’s Anatomy versus The Man in the High Castle. I guess you could think of it as Ridley Scott versus Shonda Rhimes.

Dante says he asked Virgil about the choice. He waited until the two of them had staggered out of a TV viewing room after watching the complete series to date of both shows. Well, good news for Shonda. Virgil threatened Dante that Virgil would quit before they even got to Purgatory if he ever had to view another second of Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle. As it is, Virgil is undergoing shock treatment after being forced to view Ridley Scott’s abomination.

The series is in the Alternative History science fiction genre. What if the Third Reich and Japan defeated the US in World War 2 and took over America? That’s what the original novel by Philip K. Dick is about. The TV series is “loosely based” on Dick’s novel. Really loosely based. In every sense.

But there’s a little good news for poor Philip K. Dick. The Amazon “version” of Dick’s novel is orthogonal to that science fiction classic. As in: You ought to get twenty bucks at least if you can draw any parallels from the novel to the TV series. Maybe a lot of viewers won’t realize that Dick’s classic is the “basis” for the TV series.

The TV series: Well, in sum, if one of the characters burped loudly during any of the action, but especially in the scenes of Gestapo and Kempeitai interrogations, the entire series, hours and hours long, would collapse at that point. Talk about unrelieved somberness! As it is, I understand Virgil because my own reaction was to fall into a fit of hysterical laughter somewhere in (I think) Episode Seven. Might have been Eight. Or even Six. Thinking about it, I think it was likely Five.

In High Castle all the scenes are dark and dreary, something like the movie Seven, but without any of the unifying power of that setting in the movie. It’s more like they needed better lighting in the TV series.

The gallery of stereotypical Bad People is hilarious. The funniest of these is a bounty hunter done up like all the ones in all those Westerns of yesteryear. Wears a long, faded-yellow overcoat that drags along the ground, one just like the villain wears in one of the Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns, the lowlife Eastwood drills through the forehead in a gunfight in the penultimate scene. I forget which movie. Oh, well.

The “drama” in the Amazon High Castle lies in whether assorted Good People, operating at Grave Risk in an authoritarian state, can protect and show precious film hidden away in canisters of an Alternative (Good) History. Or something like that. The truth shall make you free. But this great theme gets no respect.

Besides, the time frame is 1947 and we’re used to the Great Digital and YouTube and everything being available in an instant. Right at our fingertips. Don’t got to show those stinking reels.

Anyway, you’ve been warned.