As the next scene opens …
… Laura seems to have taken Tony’s words to heart. She’s lounging on her impossibly hideous couch, perusing a tropical holiday brochure, when the doorbell rings.
Laura smiles and adjusts her clothing as she goes to the door. I think she has an idea who it might be …
Yep. It’s Mr. Steele. Still in work clothes and bearing … gifts?
Both have confessions to make, which they state simultaneously:
STEELE: “Laura, you were right all along. Of course there’s a case.”
LAURA: “I realized you were right. There is no case.”
Um .. what?
Cut to a close-up of the Record-a-Memo machine. We hear a male voice on the tape:
“Prone Positions: Chapter 1 …. okay, okay … chapter 1 …”
As the camera pulls back to Laura and Mr. Steele listening, the voice continues:
Mr. Steele must be thinking the same thing, perched in what can only be a very uncomfortable position on the arm of Laura’s couch. Apparently it’s intolerably lumpy as well as hideous.
Laura wants to know what she’s supposed to make of this.
“The Shining!” Steele declares triumphantly.
The Shining. Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers. Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Warner Bros. 1980. Initially panned by critics and considered a commercial disappointment, its reputation improved over time. It is now considered a classic in the genre. Here’s the trailer:
Mr. Steele wants to know if Laura’s seen it.
“Did anyone see The Shining?”
Well, he’s seen something like it. A few times.
Steele enlightens her: “Jack Nicholson plays a writer who agrees to become the care taker of a lodge that’s inaccessible all winter long …”
“… unfortunately he falls victim to cabin fever, becomes a stark raving looney, wanders around with a hatchet and does a lot of jokes about The Tonight Show,” Steele concludes, doing a creditable impression of raving looney himself.
“You see everything, don’t you?” (Maybe he’s lonely, Laura, and goes to movies to fill his time. DIDJA EVER THINK OF THAT?)
“At one point in the film, he sits down to write.” Steele begins to act the movie out. (Fun bit of physical work by Brosnan here.)
“The camera slowly circles him as he types, and then we see it! All he’s written is one line over and over again: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!”
Laura looks down at this, a little pouty. Presumably she thinks he’s offering up more criticism of her own lifestyle. But no!
“He was blocked! He couldn’t write anything else!”
Laura is unimpressed. “So maybe, just maybe, our ghost writer had a ghost writer.” That’s no motive for murdering Mitchell, she points out.
“All those people stood to lose by his death.”
“Don’t you see? You were right all along.” That must have been a hard admission for Laura to make. But Steele has changed his mind, too.
“Laura, I know there’s a case here!”
“Based on this tape? OK, he was blocked; maybe they even hired someone else to write the third book. What does that prove?” Laura is as stubborn trying to prove his original point as she was trying to prove her own.
“It proves they didn’t tell us everything,” Steele answers. You can see the gears ticking in his head. He KNOWS something is afoot!
He’s getting really worked up now: “These people are creating fictions, foisting frauds on the public, exploiting talented underlings for the aggrandizement of a figurehead who contributes nothing but a winning personality and good looks!”
Well, THAT sounds familiar!
But Steele is serious about this!
“Trust me, Laura. That’s my area.” (A slightly poignant moment of self-awareness here.) “I know that whoever wrote the third book killed Mitchell Knight.”
Laura wants to know how he can be so sure.
How else? He SMELLS it.
Laura knows when she’s been bested.
We see a nice little role reversal here, with Laura finally willing to let go, and Steele equally determined now to solve the case. I wonder if he would have pushed so hard if he’d known she was planning to go away with him after all? Again we are reminded of the parallels between Mr. and Mrs. Knight and Laura and Mr. Steele. Mr. Steele’s recognition of the con artist who “contributes nothing but a winning personality and good looks” is significant, I think. Is that why Mr. Steele is so adamant about solving this case? To prove he DOES have something to contribute to their work? If so, why is that so important to him?