A variety of research scenes in ‘Double Jeopardy’

As we wind down this October, I’m back with another film analysis post, this time of the suspense thriller Double Jeopardy (1999), starring Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones.

Here’s the IMDb.com plot synopsis for the film:

“A woman framed for her husband’s murder suspects he is still alive; as she has already been tried for the crime, she can’t be re-prosecuted if she finds and kills him.”

There are so many factual errors in that plot synopsis alone. I won’t go into them here; check out the IMDb.com Goofs page for the film.

Here’s a quick trailer:

Double Jeopardy (1999) Official Trailer – Ashley Judd Movie HD,” uploaded by Movieclips Classic Trailers, Standard YouTube license


There are no actual reel librarians in this film, landing it in the Class V category. However, there are a few research scenes that I found interesting, so let’s dig in, shall we?

Research scene in the library:

After Libby (Ashley Judd) has served her time in prison for the crime of murdering Nick, her husband (Bruce Greenwood), she visits a public library to look up her former friend, the one who adopted Libby’s son, Matty. This library scene occurs 35 minutes into the film, and it was filmed at the main Vancouver Public Library in British Columbia. (I’ve been there!)

Screenshot from 'Double Jeopardy' (1999)

Research scene filmed in the Vancouver Public Library

Since Libby’s been in prison the last 6 years, she’s not used to computers or concepts such as email. (Remember, this film was released in 1999.) She even says to a young man who stops to help her out on the computer that “Someone said I should try the internet.” I also really hope that “someone” was NOT a librarian!

This young man asks her a few questions — essentially doing a “reference interview” although it is clear that he is NOT a reel librarian. How do I know that?

  • He never identifies himself as a librarian
  • He is casually dressed, with a backpack or messenger bag (most likely marking him as a student)
  • He only agrees to help her after she reveals that she’s not looking for a guy friend (gross)
  • His role in the credits is listed as “Handsome Internet Expert,” hah!

After learning that her friend was a school teacher, he recommends that they start at the Washington State Department of Education directory site. Bingo!

Note:¬† There is no “Washington State Department of Education,” so this is a factual error. The Washington state educational agency is called the “Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction,” otherwise known as OSPI.

While helping her, the young man continually attempts to flirt with her. This is Libby’s priceless reaction:

Screenshot from 'Double Jeopardy' (1999)

Epic eye roll

After getting what she needs, Libby expertly sends the guy on his way by revealing that she had been convicted of murdering her husband. Buh-bye!

This library scene, with nary a reel librarian, lasts a total of 2 minutes. It is effective in helping Libby locate her friend, which gives her the next clue in tracking down her husband.

The best thing about this scene? The old-school web site designs, full of tables and frames. Ahhhhhhh, good times. ūüėČ

Website screenshots from 'Double Jeopardy' library research scene

Remember when websites used to look like this?!

You can view the entire library research scene below.

Double Jeopardy (4/9) Movie CLIP – Library Pick-Up (1999) HD,” uploaded by Movieclips, Standard YouTube license

Research scene in the newspaper archives:

Fifty-eight minutes into the film, we next see Libby researching the death of her friend — she suspects at the hand of her husband! — by using microfilm in a local newspaper’s archives. It’s funny, Libby seems much more comfortable using microfilm than she did using a computer. That subtle body language is a nice touch. You can tell it’s a newspaper archives room because in the foreground, you can see newspapers being printed.

Screenshot from 'Double Jeopardy' (1999)

A microfilm machine? Finally, something I know how to use!

This scene lasts less than 30 seconds, but it provides a clue that leads Libby to the next step. In the photo used in the newspaper story about her friend’s death, Libby recognized a painting in the background.

Screenshot from 'Double Jeopardy' (1999)

Clue in the newspaper clipping

Research scene in an art gallery:

And this next clue leads Abby to a particular painter, Wassily Kandinsky, her husband used to collect. So she heads to a local art gallery and asks the gallery owner to try and track down any purchasers of recent paintings by that artist. The gallery owner looks up the Art Net website for this info, while Libby looks on over his shoulder. (Nice reversal of the first research scene, where a guy looked over her shoulder at the computer!)

Screenshot from 'Double Jeopardy' (1999)

Research in the art gallery

Fun fact:¬† The Art Net site still exists! It is a major art site used to “find artworks for sale, online auctions, top galleries, leading artists, and breaking art market news from around the globe.”

Below is a “then and now” collage from how the site (supposedly) looked in 1999, and how it looks now.

"Then and now" comparison of Art Net website

“Then and now” comparison of Art Net website

This art research scene lasts only a couple of minutes.

Adding up the value of research:

In total, all three scenes add up to less than 5 minutes total of screen time in Double Jeopardy, but they managed to pack in:

  • three different types of research;
  • different kinds of research tools, including websites and microfilm; as well as
  • different research locations, including a public library, newspaper archives, and an art gallery.

And each time, the research leads to vital clues that lead Libby to locating her husband and child.

All in all, Libby comes across as quite resourceful. My final thought is how much more quickly she might have tracked her husband down if she had utilized the resources of a reel librarian… ūüėČ

Sources used:

  • Double Jeopardy. Dir. Bruce Beresford. Perf. Ashley Judd, Tommy Lee Jones, Bruce Greenwood, Annabeth Gish. Paramount, 1999.

Get out your white gloves and lemon juice! Reel archivist in ‘National Treasure’

I have been exploring quite a few reel archivist portrayals lately, inspired by articles I have recently read, as detailed in my “Reel librarians vs. reel archivists” post. In all the articles I read about reel archivists, Diane Kruger’s role as Dr. Abigail Chase in National Treasure¬†(2004) was highlighted, so I thought it would be perfect timing to revisit that film, “arguably one of the best known movies with an archival plot line” (Region of PEEL Archives).

So get out your white gloves and lemon juice — this analysis post is a long one!


Here’s a trailer for National Treasure:

National Treasure Official Trailer (2004),” uploaded by¬†Jake Smith, is licensed under a Standard YouTube License

Below is a quick recap of the film from the ‚ÄúCrossing a Librarian with a Historian: The Image of Reel Archivists” article by Aldred, Burr, and Park:

“Benjamin Franklin Gates is a treasure hunter searching for the Founding Fathers‚Äô hidden treasure. Clues lead him to the conclusion that he must steal the Declaration of Independence , where Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger), National Archives and Records Administration employee, gets caught up in the affair, and helps Gates discover the treasure.” (p. 88)

Diane Kruger gets 2nd billing in the cast, and is the top female lead. According to the film’s IMDb.com trivia page, her character’s name, Abigail Chase “is a combination of Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, and Samuel Chase, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and later an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.”

Here’s how Aldred, Burr, and Park describe the character of Dr. Chase and how she fits into the history of reel archivists who are also main characters:

“Those reel archivists who were main characters were portrayed in an overall positive light, rather than as a stereotype. They were the heroes of the film, solving mysteries, fighting vampires, and trying to help those in need. They were educated individuals with distinct personalities. Abigail Chase of National Treasure (2004) was a curious, intelligent archivist at the National¬†Archives and Records Administration. She was the only reel archivist examined whose level of education was explicit (doctorate), who was the protagonist‚Äôs love interest, and was the only female main character in the film. Unfortunately, even though she was positively portrayed, she was never formally identified as an archivist at any time during the film. To the audience, she is nothing more than a knowledgeable treasure hunter.” (p. 84-85)

First archives spotting:

At 23 mins into the film, Gates is trying to alert authorities that Ian Howe (Sean Bean) will try to steal the Declaration of Independence. After getting laughed out of the FBI, Gates and his sidekick assistant, Riley Poole (Justin Bartha), set out for the National Archives.

Screenshot from 'National Treasure' (2004)

National Archives building in Washington D.C.

Why the National Archives?

Right before this scene, Gates and Riley discuss who they should contact to help prevent the theft of the document.

Gates:¬† We don’t need anyone crazy. We just need someone short of crazy.

Riley:  Obsessed?

Gates:  Passionate.

As Buckley states in the “The Truth is in the Red Files” essay: “The next scene shows the two characters waiting for a meeting with the archivist, indicating that the archivist had the requisite ‘passion’ they were seeking” and “Equally telling is the portrayal of the archivist, and the emphasis placed on her passionate dedication to her profession” (p. 121).

But before showcasing her passion, Dr. Chase demonstrates a healthy dose of skepticism.

As Gates and Riley wait, Dr. Chase’s assistant announces that “Dr. Chase can see you now.” This reveals her qualifications immediately but does not reveal her gender. The two men are (annoyingly) surprised that “Dr. Chase” is a woman.

Screenshot from 'National Treasure' (2004)

Just a sec, I’m busy

I also love that Chase has a “Rosie the Riveter” poster in her office, which you can spy in the upper right corner in the screenshot below.

Screenshot from 'National Treasure' (2004)

Dr. Abigail Chase and Rosie the Riveter — we can do it!

They exchange a bit of small talk. It’s also important to note that Gates has stated his surname is “Brown,” because his family has a less-than-stellar reputation.

Chase:  Nice to meet you.

Gates:  Your accent. Pennsylvania Dutch?

Chase:  Saxony German.

Riley:¬† You’re not American?

Chase:¬† Oh, I am an American. I just wasn’t born here.¬†

[Note:¬† I really liked this brief exchange. It not only neatly dispatched the issue of Diane Kruger’s real-life German accent, but also reinforced the idea that there are Americans born abroad who are just as American and as patriotic as those born in the U.S. Full disclosure, I also happen to be an American born abroad!]

In this exchange below, you can also get the sense of how Gates thinks he is being clever in trying to “talk around” Chase, but she’s not having any of it. Her questions are insightful, knowledgeable, and to the point.

Chase:  Now, you told my assistant that this was an urgent matter.

Gates:¬† Yes, ma’am. Well, I’m gonna get straight to the point. Someone’s gonna steal the Declaration of Independence.

Riley: It’s true.

Chase:¬† I think I’d better put you gentlemen in touch with the FBI.

Gates:¬† We’ve been to the FBI.

Chase:  And?

Riley:  They assured us that the Declaration cannot possibly be stolen.

Chase:¬† They’re right.

Screenshot from 'National Treasure' (2004)

Don’t try to play me, dudes. I know what’s up.

Gates:  My friend and I are less certain. However, if we were given the privilege of examining the document, we would be able to tell you for certain if it were actually in any danger.

Chase:¬† [shooting him a knowing look, sits back in her chair] What do you think you’re gonna find?

Gates:¬† [getting uncomfortable] We believe that there’s an… encryption on the back.

Chase:  An encryption, like a code?

Gates:¬† Yes, ma’am.

Chase:  Of what?

Gates:¬† Uh… a cartograph.

Chase:  A map.

Gates:¬† Yes, ma’am.

Chase:  A map of what?

Gates: The location of… [nervously clears throat, as per the subtitles] hidden items of historic and intrinsic value.

Chase:  [shakes head as though to clear it] A treasure map?

Riley:¬† That’s where we lost the FBI.

Chase:¬† You’re treasure hunters, aren’t you?

Gates:¬† We’re more like treasure protectors.

Chase:¬† Mr. Brown, I have personally seen the back of the Declaration of Independence, and I promise you, the only thing there is a notation that reads, “Original Declaration of Independence, dated… “

Gates:¬† … “Fourth of July, 1776.” Yes, ma’am.

Chase:  But no map.

Gates:¬† It’s invisible.

Chase:  Oh, right.

Riley:¬† And that’s where we lost the Department of Homeland Security.

Chase:¬† What led you to assume there’s this invisible map?

Gates:  We found an engraving on the stem of a 200-year-old pipe.

Riley:  Owned by Freemasons.

Chase:  May I see the pipe?

Riley:¬† We don’t have it.

Chase:  Did Bigfoot take it? [This line was used in the trailer!]

Gates:  It was nice meeting you.

Lasting 3 minutes in total, what is the ultimate point of this introductory scene? It establishes Dr. Chase as smart, credentialed, skeptical, and protective of historical artifacts — plus, she can more than hold her own against men who think they know more than she does. It also establishes a lot of backstory and exposition in a brief amount of time.

This scene is also vital because after this exchange with Dr. Chase, Gates decides he has to steal the document himself, in order to protect it. Riley then tries to convince Gates that stealing the Declaration of Independence cannot be done.

Library of Congress research scene

Cue the obligatory research scene in a library!

At 28 minutes into the film, the camera pans down the iconic Library of Congress Reading Room, to where Riley and Gates are seated at a desk, surrounded by books. And it’s these readily available books that allow them to figure out a way into the National Archives to steal the Declaration of Independence.

Don’t try this at home, y’all. Or in your local public library. ūüėČ

Screenshot collage from 'National Treasure' (2004)

Research in the Library of Congress

Riley:¬† I’ve brought you to the Library of Congress. Why? Because it’s the biggest library in the world. Over 20 million books. And they’re all saying the same exact thing: Listen to Riley. What you have here, my friend, is an entire layout of the Archives, short of builder’s blueprints. You’ve got construction orders, phone lines, water and sewage — it’s all here. Now, when the Declaration is on display, ok, it is surrounded by guards and video monitors and a little family from Iowa and little kids on their eighth-grade field trip. And beneath an inch of bulletproof glass is an army of sensors and heat monitors that will go off if someone gets too close with a high fever. Now, when it’s not on display, it is lowered into a four-foot-thick concrete, steel-plated vault that happens to be equipped with an electronic combination lock and biometric access-denial systems.

Gates:¬† You know, Thomas Edison tried and failed nearly 2,000 times to develop the carbonized cotton-thread filament for the incandescent light bulb…. He only had to find 1 way to make it work.

Gates then puts a book on the table.

[Note:¬† As according to IMDb.com trivia page, “The book that Ben shows Riley in the Library of Congress, that has the information about the Preservation Room, is called ‘The Earth System.’ It is some sort of a textbook, and it is authored by¬†Lee Kump,¬†James F. Kasting, and Robert G. Crane. The ISBN is 0131420593.”]

Gates: The Preservation Room. Enjoy. Go ahead. Do you know what the Preservation Room is for?

Riley:  Delicious jams and jellies?

Gates:¬† No. That’s where they clean, repair and maintain all the documents and the storage housings when they’re not on display or in the vault. Now, when the case needs work they take it out of the vault, directly across the hall, and into the Preservation Room. The best time for us, or Ian, to steal it would be during the gala this weekend, when the guards are distracted by the VIPs upstairs. But we’ll make our way to the Preservation Rom, where there’s much less security.

Riley:¬† Huh…. this might be possible.

They then prepare for the heist… uh, rescue.

Chase in charge:

Riley hacks into a computer system to heat up the glass surrounding the Declaration of Independence, in order to force the document into the Preservation Room. Dr. Chase is immediately alerted to this and sets off, with a male colleague, into the basement to enter the room.¬†It’s clear that Dr. Chase is the one in charge, and we hear her narration as she orders a full diagnostics.

Screenshot from 'National Treasure' (2004)

Chase in charge

Of course, Dr. Chase does not realize that she is unwittingly helping Gates and Riley steal the very artifact she is pledged to protect!

A gala, a chase, and Chase:

A gala scene at the National Archives begins at 37 minutes into the film, and we get to see Dr. Chase all dressed up in a classic cocktail dress and kitten heels. Gates hands her champagne for a toast, “Here’s to the men who did what was considered wrong, in order to do what they knew was right. What they knew was right.” Chase’s eyes narrow as she listens. She knows he’s up to something!

Gates then uses Chase’s fingerprints on the glass of champagne to get into the Preservation Room! Gates does successfully steal the document but also encounters the rival team of (evil) treasure hunters, led by¬†Ian Howe (Sean Bean). As Gates tries to escape through the National Archives — buying a dummy copy of the document in the lobby’s gift shop! — Abby spies Gates and, full of suspicion, follows him.

Riley:¬† Ben, the mean Declaration lady’s behind you.

Totally unafraid — and undeterred by being called the “mean Declaration lady” — Chase then calls out for security, grabs the rolled-up document, and attempts to run back to the National Archives in heels. Unfortunately, that’s when the baddies grab her AND the document. The lead baddie, Howe, tries to scare her into giving up the document, but she doesn’t give in. Gates and Riley then follow her in a van and rescue her, but Kruger did most of her own stunts in this scene, as evidenced by this brief interview:

National Treasure – Diane Kruger Interview,” uploaded by¬†Novidades Cinema – Movie News, is licensed under a Standard YouTube License

Turning Chase into a fellow treasure hunter protector:

As they speed away from the baddies, Chase is still not having any of it:

Chase:¬† I’m not all right. Those men have the Declaration of Independence!

Gates shows her the real document, meaning that the baddies got the dummy poster copy.

Chase:  [attempting to grab the document] Give me that! Who were those men?

Gates:  Just the guys we warned you would steal the Declaration of Independence.

Riley:¬† And you didn’t believe us.

Gates:  We did the only thing we could do to keep it safe.

The truth then comes out about Gates’s true identity.

Chase:  I want that document, Mr. Brown!

Gates:  My name is Gates.

Chase:¬† Did you just say Gates? Gates? You’re that family with the conspiracy theory about the Founding Fathers? You know what? I take it back. You’re not liars. You’re insane.

The two men then reveal their plan to run chemical tests on the Declaration of Independence to uncover the “invisible map” they had alluded to in their earlier conversation with Chase.

Chase:¬† You can’t seriously intend to run chemical tests on the Declaration of Independence in the back of a moving van.

Riley:  We have a clean-room environment all set up. EDS suits, a particulate air filtration system, the whole shebang.

Chase:  Really?

It is nice to hear that Chase had set up a “clean-room environment” to preserve the archival integrity of the document. And that Dr. Chase is impressed by this.

Gates:¬† We can’t go back there. … We need those letters.

Chase:  What letters?You have the original Silence Dogood letters? Did you steal those, too?

Gates:  We have scans of the originals. Quiet, please.

Chase:¬† How’d you get scans?

Gates:  Oh, I know the person who has the originals. Now shush.

Chase:  Why do you need them?

Gates:¬† She really can’t shut her mouth, can she? Tell you what, look. I will let you hold on to this [hands her the Declaration of Independence in the case] if you promise to shut up, please. Thank you.

While he’s thinking and talking with Riley, Chase is plotting yet another escape. She’s scrappy, isn’t she?! She tries to run, but she doesn’t get very far. And this next bit is the final turn in the screw, when Chase becomes complicit in the treasure hunter adventure.

Chase:¬† I’m not going. Not without the Declaration.

Gates:¬† You’re not going with the Declaration.

Chase:¬† Yes, I am. I’m not letting it out of my sight, so I’m going.

As the Region of Peel Archives put it:

“Gates and his assistant Riley Poole manage to steal the document from the National Archives, and while doing so they unwittingly involve Abigail Chase, one of the nation‚Äôs archivists. The three of them then attempt to locate the treasure before a ruthless gang of criminals can. It is interesting that while dragged in against her will initially, Chase comes to embrace the adventure, although she, like any good archivist, remains fiercely protective of the Declaration document.”

I was also super impressed by Diane Kruger’s facial expressions throughout these scenes. Her suspicious glare is excellent, and it deepens as she gets drawn into the plot, as evidenced in the screenshots below. The top screenshot is from her introductory scene, the middle is from the gala, and the bottom is when she holds onto the Declaration of Independence case in the van.

Screenshot collage from 'National Treasure' (2004)

Suspicious minds…

Destroying the Declaration of Independence:

The trio then travel to visit Gates’s father, played by Jon Voight, in order to uncover the code on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Instead of a “clean-room environment,” they have a dining table, a hairdryer, and a bowl of lemons. At least they’re wearing white gloves?! No wonder Dr. Chase is looking so guilty.

Screenshot from 'National Treasure' (2004)

Looking guilty

Gates then takes a lemon and is about to squeeze it onto the back of the Declaration of Independence. Not so fast!

Chase:¬†¬†You can’t do that.

Gates:  But it has to be done.

Chase:  Then someone who is trained to handle antique document is gonna do it.

Gates:  Ok.

Chase:¬† Ok. Now, uh, if there’s a secret message, it’ll probably be marked by a symbol in the upper right-hand corner. [rubs a Q-tip on the lemon] I’m so getting fired for this.

Gate:  We need more juice.

Chase:  We need more heat. [she grabs a hairdryer!]

Chase then handles the hairdryer. With gloves on. As any self-respecting archivist would do. ūüėČ

Screenshots from 'National Treasure' (2004)

The white gloves make it all okay

Chase, Riley, and Gates are definitely in it together now!

Buckley comments on the juxtaposition of a reel archivist protecting and destroying the archival documents at the same time:

“Although the objections of the archivist [in National Treasure] to the use (abuse?) of archival documents are overruled in favour of the entertainment value of high-speed chases and nail-biting cliffhangers, those objections are strongly voiced, and they are heard. While the audience may enjoy the entertaining machinations involved in retrieving the Declaration of Independence from the National Archives, the authority of this document or of its custodians is never in question. The continued importance placed on archival value is evident in the scenes involving the Declaration, as well as in the preservation and display of the Silence Dogood letters in the Benjamin Franklin Archive.” (p. 121)

They make their way to the next clue in the Silence Dogood letters in the Benjamin Franklin Archive as then on to the Liberty Bell and the¬†Independence Hall in Philadelphia. At Independence Hall, at 1 hour and 17 minutes into the film, they unfurl the Declaration of Independence in order to read the next clue, and Gates tries to school Chase on archival etiquette. And bless Dr. Chase’s sassy heart.

Chase:  Here, help me.

Gates:  Careful.

Chase:  You think?

Screenshot from 'National Treasure' (2004)

The Declaration of Independence returns to Independence Hall!

Calling the shots:

The baddies then show up, and Riley and Chase run off together with the document case, in order to create a diversion from Gates. Lots of ACTION and PLOT and CLUES ensue, but it finally comes down to Chase figuring out how to make a trade with the baddies.

Or as the bald baddy says to Gates, “Ask your girlfriend¬†[referring to Chase]. She’s the one calling all the shots now. She won’t shut up.” Hah! ūüėÄ

The final action scene takes place in an underground passageway and vault, where they find the hidden treasure. But what is the most valuable hidden treasure for the reel archivist?

Screenshot from 'National Treasure' (2004)

The pen is mightier than the sword… a reel archivist admiring scrolls from the lost Library of Alexandria

I loved that Chase was not wooed or awed by the gold and the jewels but rather by the scrolls from Alexandria!

As the Region of Peel Archives states:

The team is ultimately successful, locating the treasure deep underground in Manhattan. Ever the faithful archivist, Chase is not drawn to the gold jewelry, statues, or other artifacts found in the huge underground cavern, but rather to what she identifies as scrolls from the lost Library of Alexandria.

Abigail Chase also made an impression on Ben Gates, as the first things Gates asks the FBI is that “Dr. Chase gets off clean, without a mark on her record.” I really appreciated that Gates (a) put her professional needs first, and (b) referred to Chase by her title and credentials.

Getting the last line:

In the final scene, Chase and Gates and Riley are all talking together in a garden setting. It’s clear Chase and Gates are together, as they are holding hands. Ever the professional, Chase has a book in her hand.

Screenshot from 'National Treasure' (2004)

Final scene from ‘National Treasure’ (2004)

Riley then takes off in his new sports car, and Chase has one last surprise for Gates:

Chase:  I made something for you.

Gates:  You did?

Chase:  A map.

Gates:  Where does it lead to?

Chase:¬† You’ll figure it out.

I love that the reel archivist gets the last line in the movie!

Alternate ending in the National Archives:

But Gates did not get the last line in the movie in the original ending, which was changed after the original didn’t test well with audiences.

The original ending was set back in the National Archives, with the Declaration of Independence back in its case. Gates is looking over the Constitution, also in a glass case. Chase has her arm through Gates’s arm, so it’s still clear that they are together.

Screenshot from 'National Treasure' (2004)

Alternate original ending from ‘National Treasure’ (2004)

Chase:  What are you thinking about?

Gates:  Nothing.

Chase:¬† There’s nothing on the back of the Constitution.

Gates:¬† I wasn’t thinking that. Are you sure?

Chase:  I already checked it out. [They laugh together]

This original exchange is funny — and reinforces Chase’s ambition and initiative! — but Riley gets the last line:¬† “Guys, do you think we could keep some of the treasure this time?

I like that they changed the ending so that the reel archivists gets the last laugh!

The importance of the reel archivist role:

Ultimately, I agree with Buckley, who sums up Dr. Abigail Chase’s role and this popcorn action film this way:

“Buried beneath the stereotypical¬†images are elements of the truth:¬† that records matter, that protection of the record matters, and that the protectors of the records are dedicated to their profession.” (p. 120-121)

Although the film is full of plot holes and historical errors — see here for a video run-down of all the historical inaccuracies in 13 minutes or less — I enjoyed rewatching and analyzing Dr. Chase’s character, and how refreshingly original and non-stereotypical her character turns out to be. I think a lot of this comes down to how Diane Kruger played the character, with an innate sense of feistiness, as a woman who is used to dealing with men who underestimate her. She does NOT underestimate herself, and I agree that Dr. Abigail Chase is ultimately a positive portrayal of a reel archivist. I would also argue, although she is not technically a reel librarian (I do, however, choose to include both reel archivists and reel librarians in my research), that she does fit into the category of Atypical Portrayals, and her importance to the film lands it in the Class I category.

Continuing the conversation:

Have you seen the National Treasure film, or it sequel? What do you think of the Dr. Abigail Chase character and her role as a reel archivist? Do you find her portrayal stereotypical, or not? Please leave a comment and share!

Sources used:

Archival paradise in Westworld’s Season 2 finale

My fellow librarian and colleague Dale, whom you know from his guest review of Columbus earlier this year, alerted me to a library scene in the Season 2 finale of the TV series Westworld. I hadn’t yet seen Westworld, but I trust Dale’s cinematic instincts, and soon after, I had the opportunity to binge-watch both seasons.

Westworld goes deep, y’all, and it’s not a show for everyone. But I found the series really intriguing and the casting exhilirating with its diverse cadre of first-class actors. It’s also up for multiple Emmys this fall, and it deserves those nominations. I also think it’s a show that benefits from binge-watching, rather than waiting a week in-between episodes.

Here are trailers for the first two seasons:

Welcome to Westworld’ Teaser Trailer | Westworld | Season 1” by HBO is licensed under a Standard YouTube License

Westworld Season 2 Trailer | Rotten Tomatoes TV” by Rotten Tomatoes TV is licensed under a Standard YouTube License

Before I get into the analysis of the archives library scene in the Season 2 finale, I must insert¬†spoiler alerts. There’s really no way to discuss this scene, or series of scenes, without spoiling the, uh, entire point of the first two seasons. And I really don’t have the brain power to succinctly summarize the characters or plot twists that come to a head in the Season 2 finale, so if you haven’t seen Westworld and don’t know about characters like Dolores, Bernard, and Delos, then bookmark this post for later and get to watching Westworld.

Without further ado:





If you’re still reading, then you are ready for potential spoilers.

And one more for good measure:


We good now? Ok. Let’s take the train into Westworld. All aboard!

A kind of archivist?

A bit of background first. In the penultimate episode of Season 2, Episode 9 ‚ÄúVanishing Point,‚ÄĚ characters mention a place called the ‚ÄúForge,‚ÄĚ where all the guests‚Äô DNA and memories are kept. The Forge is in the Valley‚Ķ Valley Forge! I get it. ūüėČ

In the final episode, Episode 10 ‚ÄúThe Passenger,‚ÄĚ all the major characters are headed for the Valley Forge, including Dolores and Bernard.

Almost 30 minutes into the film, Dolores and Bernard meet up with Logan, Delos’s only son. Yet it’s not really Logan. Rather, Logan is the human face for the control system underlying the entirety of Westworld. (Note:¬† When Westworld is italicized, I’m referring to the show; when Westworld is not italicized, I’m referring to the location itself.)

Logan explains his role this way:  I was tasked with building perfect copies of the guests. Starting with Delos.

So in a way, he’s like the records keeper, the reel archivist, for Westworld. (It’s perhaps a stretch, but I’m going with it.)

Logan then demonstrates how all the host copies of Delos that he made all ended up at the same point, at the same memory.

Bernard:  You’re saying humans don’t change at all?

Logan:  The best they can do is to live according to their code.

Remember this line, that humans live by their code. This will prove vitally important in a very literal sense.

Logan then takes them on a tour of the Forge, starting with a lab in which a mechanical hand is writing code in a book. He then takes the book, which has his father’s name, James Delos, printed on the side, and shows the book to Bernard and Dolores.

Screenshot from Season 2 finale of 'Westworld'

The book of Delos

Logan:  The truth is that a human is just a brief algorithm. 10,247 lines.

Bernard:  Is that all there was to him?

Logan:  They are deceptively simple. Once you know them, their behavior is quite predictable.

Dolores:¬† He‚Äôs dead. He‚Äôs no use to me. [drops the book on the floor] Where’s the rest of them?

Screenshot from Season 2 finale of 'Westworld'

Book drop

Outside the lab, Dolores forges (har har) ahead up the stairs, while Logan and Bernard hang back. The interior is all glass and steel, sterile and clean.

Screenshot from Season 2 finale of 'Westworld'

The lab setting of the Forge

Logan:¬† I recreated every single guest who ever set foot in the park…. That’s why you’ve come [referring to Bernard].¬†To tell me what‚Äôs to become of this place.

And what is “this place”? Logan is hinting at the archives library. And at 35 minutes into the episode, we finally get to see it. And it’s worth the wait. Behold:

Screenshot from Season 2 finale of 'Westworld'

The archives library of the Forge

The immediate feeling is one of awe.

Bernard:¬† My God. It’s‚Ķ

Dolores:  Everyone.

Bernard and Logan continue to talk as Dolores wanders around the book stacks, flipping through books of code, literally “reading” humans.

I appreciated the detailing of each book spine. Props to the propmaster! Each book of code is different — different size, shape, binding, etc. The code itself recalls both the player piano rolls seen in almost every prior episode of Westworld, as well as early examples of computer code at the dawn of the modern computer in real life. It’s all very clever, and just the kind of detailing that Westworld excels at.

Screenshot from Season 2 finale of 'Westworld'

Reading books of code

Screenshot from Season 2 finale of 'Westworld'

Closeups of books of code

Screenshot from Season 2 finale of 'Westworld'

Human code encased within a book

Bernard is appalled at what he realizes is the significance of this archives library of human code.

Bernard:  I told you to allow this?

Logan:¬† You‚Äôve been here many times, Bernard. You told me to offer the hosts the accumulated wisdom of dissecting the human psyche a hundred million times over.¬†In short…

Bernard:  A competitive advantage. A way to understand her enemy.

Logan:  Their world is not for the faint of heart, Bernard. It’s winner take all. The hosts are unlikely to survive out there. But armed with this knowledge, she might. [referring to Dolores]

We return to the archives library scene at 40 minutes.

Screenshot from Season 2 finale of 'Westworld'

Bernard in the archives library

Bernard:  You said I wanted to give us a choice. What choice?

Logan:  To stay in their world or to build a new one.

Logans leads Bernard and Dolores over to the fireplace, which turns into a screen to another world.

Logan:¬† He left them a way out. A virtual Eden. Unspoiled and untouched by the world you came from. All that remains is to open the door…. They will leave their bodies behind, but their minds will live on here, in the Forge.

Screenshot from Season 2 finale of 'Westworld'

A portal to paradise

But Dolores isn’t having any of it.

Dolores:  That world is just another false promise.

Bernard:  They’ve made a choice, Dolores. Dolores, wait.

Dolores:  I didn’t read them all. But I read enough.

Dolores then begins deleting the guest archival data and flooding the archives.

Screenshot from Season 2 finale of 'Westworld'

Deleting the archives

This action then sets up the rest of the episode, as well as the season. This entire series of scenes spawns over 15 minutes.

A library of archives

In¬†my recent¬†“Reel librarians vs. reel¬†archivists”¬†post, I referenced an article entitled ‚ÄúCrossing a Librarian with a Historian: The Image of Reel Archivists.” From that article, I remembered this footnote, #37, on page 68:

Sometimes the line between a library and an archives can blur. It becomes difficult to distinguish between a library and an archives…¬† when libraries retain archival material. These types of institutions can be considered libraries or archives, depending on the perception of the person examining them; it is in these instances that the line blurs.

I feel like this scene in Westworld‘s Season 2 finale exemplifies this, a library retaining archival material. The books of human code are CLEARLY archives, in the way they are referred to as “copies,” as well as in the closeup at the end, when Dolores is deleting the “archival data.”

However, they are housed in a format that resembles a library, with the rows and rows of bookcases and the code encased in traditional hardback covers and spines. The labs are all futuristic, but the HEART of this world is an archives library that reflects an idealized, classic, even old-fashioned idea of a library. It’s a library of human code, of human souls. It’s a fascinating juxtaposition, both visually and cognitively.

A kind of paradise

As I mentioned earlier, Logan shows Bernard and Dolores a window into an alternate world for the hosts, a paradise where the hosts can write their own stories, their own code.

Screenshot from Season 2 finale of 'Westworld'

Paradise via the library

After we watched this scene, my husband Sam mentioned that it reminded him of the famous quote from real-life librarian and writer Jorge Luis Borges:

‚ÄúI have always imagined Paradise as a kind of library.‚ÄĚ

~ ‚ÄúPoem of the Gifts‚ÄĚ [‚ÄúPoema de los Dones‚ÄĚ],¬†Dreamtigers, 1960

And the door to one possible paradise in Westworld comes by way of the archives library. I have no idea if the Westworld writers thought of this quote when they wrote this episode, but it feels particularly befitting. And I feel Borges, who died in 1986, would have been a fan of Westworld. Borges was famous for labyrinthine structures and metaphors in his writings, and the same can be said for Westworld.

A match made in… paradise? ūüėČ

Final thoughts?

Have you seen Westworld? If so, what did you make of the archives library scene in the Season 2 finale? Please leave a comment and share!

Sources used:

Welcome to Oldfield

Reel Librarians  |  DVD case for 'From a Whisper to a Scream' (1987)In a small Tennessee town named Oldfield, a local librarian and historian (Vincent Price, in one of his later roles) retells¬†four horror stories to a nosy reporter — stories that reveal¬†the town’s¬†“long history of violence.” The library and its records serve as a framing device for the other stories in From a Whisper to a Scream (aka The Offspring, 1987), similar to the structure of the 1993 film¬†Necronomicon, Book of the Dead.¬†That film is based on a series of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories; this film raises a glass — literally — to Lovecraft, as well as Poe, “those two masters of horror.”

A classic tale, this is not. The most frustrating thing about the film is that you can see how it¬†could have been a decent¬†film, had its production values been higher and the different stories bound more closely together. The film’s fatal flaw is that for a film whose premise is based entirely on place, its stories have a total lack of place. The stories, although set in different time periods, could be set almost anywhere:

  • The first tale is modern-day, and its only sense of location is that it’s a town with some kind of factory or shipping business.
  • The second story takes place in a swamp filled with voodoo magic (more like Louisiana than Tennessee).
  • The third story takes place in the 1930s at a creepy carnival.
  • The fourth and final story could be anywhere in the U.S. South at the end of the Civil War.

The films opens on a woman being executed by lethal injection (we later find out she’s a serial killer who’s been murdering people since she was seven years old). A reporter present at the execution (Susan Tyrrell) then drives to Oldfield to interview the woman’s uncle, Julian White (Vincent Price).

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshots from 'From a Whisper to a Scream' (1987)

She walks through decaying, crumbling hallways until she stumbles upon the equally decaying, crumbling library. The room is filled with books, antique furniture, books piled over a big desk, and red velvet curtains. The librarian/historian sits in a red leather chair, his own personal¬†throne amidst¬†a crumbling empire. His more formal, professorial attire — a tweed coat, shirt and tie, pocket square — blends in with the shabby library interior. In an¬†amusing review from the¬†Movie Librarians website, A. G. Graham states, “I found the library fascinating — it looks like an antique store threw up to create a set,” and concludes, “If nothing else, watching this film will make you itch to go dust your books.” ūüėÄ

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'From a Whisper to a Scream' (1987)

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshots from 'From a Whisper to a Scream' (1987)

Julian¬†White is not pleased at this late visitor, stating,¬†“The library is closed, and I want to be alone right now.”¬†But as she continues to ask questions, both about the town and about his niece, he relents and starts providing information and stories about the town’s history.

  • “You could read the whole history here yourself.”
  • “I have something I want to show you. These are the¬†original town records. If you read these, you’d find out what kind of people settled here, what kind of lives they chose to live. It goes back to the Civil War.”
  • “Oldfield’s history is written in blood.”

He is a classic Information Provider, a supporting but necessary role; therefore, his portrayal joins the Class III category of reel librarian films.

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'From a Whisper to a Scream' (1987)

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'From a Whisper to a Scream' (1987)

The reporter also gets in a few choice zingers in reference to the library:

  • “The atmosphere of this library is getting to me, but I don’t think it would drive me to commit murder.”
  • “Tonight, your niece becomes another sickening entry in your library.”

The librarian¬†reveals the history of the librarian before him, who used to bring young girls to back room for “romantic interludes” — until one night, a husband “dealt with their indiscretions with an axe”¬†and buried both of them under the floorboards. “At night, I swear, you can sometimes hear the lovers’ screams.” Too bad there are no flashbacks to that Naughty Librarian. ūüėČ

There is not much scope or depth to this reel librarian, but Vincent Price manages to inject what dignity he can into the role. Julian is a watcher of history, not a participant in life. As he states late in the film, he “was lucky enough to sit back and watch the murderous parade pass by” from the (seemingly) safe walls¬†of his library. But is that safety an illusion?

The films ends on a twist — but one could also argue the film¬†ends where it begins. “Welcome to Oldfield” indeed.

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshots from 'From a Whisper to a Scream' (1987)

And now I have to go dust my books… ūüėČ

The mask of organization

In the film noir-style drama, The Mask of Dimitrios (1944), a mystery writer becomes obsessed with Dimitrios, a master criminal. In the opening scene, Dimitrios appears to have washed up dead on a beach. Is he dead? Has he faked his death? Just how dangerous is Dimitrios?

Peter Lorre stars as Leyden, the mystery writer — he gets to play¬†a good guy for once! Sydney Greenstreet plays a smuggler with his own agenda, and Zachary Scott plays the shadowy Dimitrios. The¬†story structure consists of a series of flashbacks, in which we witness the¬†ruthlessness and cunning of the mysterious Dimitrios.

In one early scene almost 20 minutes in, Leyden travels to the Bureau of Records in Athens to research Dimitrios’s past and seeks help from an archives clerk. The scene is short, only 2 minutes long, landing the film in the Class III category. However, the archives clerk makes a distinct impression as an Anti-Social Librarian.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Mask of Dimitrios' (1944)

A white male archives clerk (30s?, extremely thin, dark suit and tie, thick glasses, dark hair, starting to go bald) looks up records in this uncredited role. The clerk seems very anal-retentive, and spouts off phrases like, “Organization is the secret of modern statecraft, but patience is necessary” and “This is organization.”

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Mask of Dimitrios' (1944)

At first, he does not find the file and gives up easily, until Leyden asks him to look under another name (Talat, an alias used by Dimitrios). Ironic, then, that the clerk had emphasized patience! But obviously, that patience is one-sided in his mind.

The clerk becomes agitated when another man (Greenstreet, seen in the screenshot below) enters the office and then leaves. He sputters, “I have no assistance in my work of organization here. The whole burden falls on my shoulders. People have no patience. If I am engaged for a moment, they cannot wait. A man can do his duty, no more, no less.”

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Mask of Dimitrios' (1944)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Mask of Dimitrios' (1944)

The clerk appears frustrated by people and their requests ¬†— answering inquiries seems to be more about showing off his organizational skills than anything else — and he becomes extremely agitated when his methods are not successful or are called into question. This display of poor social skills, elitist attitude about rules and organization, and general dislike of the public, are all hallmarks of the Anti-Social Male Librarian¬†character type. The archives clerk also plays a secondary role as Information Provider, as he is helpful in the end in confirming Dimitrios’s identity and alias.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Mask of Dimitrios' (1944)

The set for the Bureau of Records is very spare, with its glass block window, stark walls, file cabinets, and desk. Its only extravagance is having TWO library ladders! The archives room is obviously a set — and¬†to paraphrase the clerk — does its duty, no more, no less. ūüėČ

It is also interesting to note that the archives clerk has devised his own system of organization that he keeps touting. He first looks in drawer #13 because “M” for “Makropoulous” is the 13th letter of the alphabet. When looking up the alias, Talat, he then seeks out… you guessed it, drawer #20, as “T” is the 20th letter of the alphabet. (Odd that he has to cross the room and climb up a different library ladder to get to a drawer only 7 spaces away. Organization ‚Ȇ¬†efficiency.)

Leyden’s reaction to the clerk’s system of organization? “Very clever.” So clever that Leyden¬†takes the opportunity to leave¬†as the archives clerk turns away to boast, yet again, “You see? That is organization!”