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Showing posts from October, 2005

Gone for Halloween, kids...

I'm going off for a short vacation beginning October 30 (Halloween's my anniversary, kids). Here's hoping that you, dear readers (all four of you rule!!), have enjoyed the Posts O' Horror this last week plus. Meantime, go to these sites to see some reeeeaaallly scary things. Gallery of the Absurd (warning: pants-soilingly funny pics of scary celebs) Dark Dreams: The Films of Dario Argento (warning: some violent content) The Wonder World of K. Gordon Murray (warning: Contains masked wrestlers, vampires, and guys in moth-eaten animal suits) The Frantic Flicker Ted V. Mikels' Official Website William Girdler.com Mondo Digital (warning: contains some graphic content) Ciao, folks. See you in a few.

Cool movies that should be on DVD: The Mask (1961)

The Mask holds the distinction as one of the best overlooked gems I've ever seen. No, I'm not talking about the wet-fart of a '90's Jim Carrey blockbuster that spawned a braying jackass of a sequel with Jamie whatisface. I'm riffing on the 1961 Canadian horror flick directed by Julian Roffman. Until some very smart video company gives Roffman's finest movie the grand digital treatment, a 3D copy can be tracked down on VHS from Rhino Home Video (tho' I think it's out of print; get thee to Ebay, citizens). It's a stark Twilight Zone -ish setup about an ancient Etruscan mask that, when worn, induces hallucinations of the most phantasmagoric kind. College professor Allen Barnes (Paul Stevens) comes into possession of the artifact and discovers to his helpless dismay that in addition to sending its wearer on one epic bum trip, the mask induces uncontrollable homicidal urges. Roffman constructs a well-paced thriller that makes good ambient use of its

Petri Dish 101: Bela Lugosi, Dark Emperor of the Vampires

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This entry is dedicated to my lovely wife Rita, who turns one year older today. Consider this an electronic birthday card, My Sweet. At an age and era when most girls were carrying crushes on Leif Garrett and Donny Osmond, Rita harbored a grade-school crush on Bela Lugosi's Dracula. As it states on the intro to this Blog, Rita's pretty cool for a girl. No, let's amend that: She's really cool for a girl. Put bluntly, there would be no Dracula without Bela Lugosi . The Hungarian horror icon's indelible performance as that most famous of cinema bloodsuckers created the template for the character. And his formidable shadow looms large over every single actor who's portrayed the Count since. Born in Lugos, Hungary in 1882, Bela Blasko rechristened himself Lugosi in homage to his town of birth when he first began steadily acting onstage with the Budapest Academy of Theatrical Arts at the turn of the twentieth century. A passionate political activist, he organized

Petri Dish 101 is Going to EAT YOU!!!

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The films of Ingmar Bergman radically changed cinema by turning the director’s point of view inward. The Swedish master's quiet, personal films emphasized inner conflict, eschewing action for psychological substance… Just kidding. Some people experience waves of childhood nostalgia from The Wizard of Oz , or from a comfy childhood quilt. Some are propelled into the reverie of remembrance by a favorite old song. Me, I get warm nostalgic fuzzies from Italian zombie movies. Blame the Parkland Theater, which screened 'em with reassuring regularity. The Italian zombie film, like a lot of other exploitation genres, first took root in the good old U S of A. George Romero's Dawn of the Dead was a huge international hit upon its release in 1978, and its combination of flesheating zombies, action, and graphic violence registered strongly with audiences all over the world. Since there was no NC-17 rating back then, Dawn was released by Romero without an MPAA rating, to avoid t

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: If you don't love it, you can lick my plate...

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, Tobe Hooper's 1986 sequel to his seventies horror classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre , has gotta be one of the most maligned sequels in the horror pantheon. Cannon Films --the studio that put The Apple , Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo , and Hospital Massacre into wide release, no less--treated TCM2 like a sack of dirty diapers, barely releasing it in theaters and pushing it onto home video in record time. This is sort of like Anna Nicole Smith rejecting an especially garish pink hoochie skirt because it's in bad taste. No one but no one, it seemed, wanted an unapologetically sick and gory horror comedy during the Reagan Years. I missed Tobe Hooper's sophomore 'Saw's original theatrical release, but my brother John caught it during its triumphant one-week run at the now-long-deceased Village Cinemas in Lakewood, Washington (the only theater in all of Washington State that ever screened it, to my knowledge) back in the d

Max Cady makes Freddy Krueger look like a Candy-Ass

If you want to split hairs, you may wish to call me a dirty liar after reading today's entry. You see, I swore I'd only write about horror things for the next several days, and I'm about to discuss the original Cape Fear , a movie that's pretty much a straight, by-the-book, decidedly un-phantasmagorical thriller. But just 'cos it's not a horror movie (in the strict sense, at least) doesn't mean it ain't scary as hell. I've been watching all manner of horror films for the last week or two, in anticipation of my unholy Blog-a-Day deal with the Devil. But of all of the chillers I've screened lately, none features a character that puts as much of a bolt-upright chill through my spine as Max Cady, the antagonist played by the late, great Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear . Between Cady and Preacher Harry Powell in the classic Night of the Hunter , Mitchum created two of the most terrifying human monsters in cinema history. Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck), an

Vampire as Valentino: Dracula (1979)

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Every generation, it seems, must attempt the definitive Gothic Horror Epic. But no one ever seems to be able to create one that knocks it out of the park. It's hard to gauge why. With infinite financial resources and all the special effects technology that said resources can buy, you'd think some big studio-backed director would hit the nail on the head (or drive the stake through the heart) and create the penultimate combination of gothic epic and pure shocker. Sadly, it never quite happens. Stunt-casting even the most inappropriate A-list actors in gothic drag seems to be a primary cause. Keanu Reeves as bitchin' Jonathan Harker in Coppola's Dracula ? Tom Cruise AND Brad Pitt as eighteenth-century bloodsuckers in Interview with the Vampire ??!? Get thee away from the coke mirror, casting directors. Such wrongheadedness makes for an easy scapegoat, but the real root cause likely runs deeper. Our jaded modern society looks to be a more likely culprit. In our imagina

Cat People: Elemental Fear in Film Noir Drag

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Last night, I labored from 11pm til about 3 am on a Petri Dish entry about the original Val Lewton-produced 1942 version of Cat People , perhaps the finest horror film of the forties and one of the most influential efforts ever to grace the genre. I did promise an entry a day, y'know. After my usual ritual of merciless hacking, slashing, and self-proofing I finally finished the little guy. No, it wasn't gonna rouse Pauline Kael from the grave with shouts of Hosanna. Nor would it send a pack of literary agents to my door clucking like hungry poultry and waving six-figure checks. But it was a decent little entry, and, weary but satisfied, I hit the 'Save Draft' key. You know, the one that saves your work for you before you actually publish it. Then I got every blogger's most dreaded screen: Cannot Find Server. I'd been in such a composing fever dream for the preceding four hours (with the movie playing in the background as I wrote) that I'd forsaken my usu

It's a (um, not quite) HORROR-pa-LOOZA at the Petri Dish!!

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In honor of Halloween, I swore to myself at the top of the month that I'd inundate this here Blog with heaps of horror. But a combination of work and slackerly slackishness has eaten away the first two-thirds of the month like a werewolf chowing away on a hapless night traveller. If you've visited in the past, you know that it takes very little to get me to wax rhapsodic, episodic, or sardonic on horror cinema. So, in a fit of customary over-compensation, I've declared the rest of October a Petri Dish Horror-pa-LOOZA!! Every day, until the end of the month, I will post an entry on something horror, except for Halloween itself (it's my anniversary, kids--cut me some slack). Today: a welcome follow-up to one of cinema's greatest fright factories. A crash course on Hammer Films , Britain's best-known and most beloved purveyor of horror movies, lay buried in the June 2005 archives of this here Blog. In said entry, I lamented the absence of some of the studio'

Rabbit test(y): Night of the Lepus on DVD

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It's the early seventies. Audiences everywhere have been galvanized by a whole new generation of filmmakers pushing envelopes and boundaries undreamt of by the contract employees laboring under the old Hollywood studio system. And no topic, no approach is off-limits. Hell, in this era an X-rated movie ( Midnight Cowboy ) even wins the Best Picture Oscar. Most of the horror and science-fiction films that see release in the first third of the decade stare audiences square in the eyes, daring them to flinch. Whether they're meditations on violence ( A Clockwork Orange ), the loss of individuality ( THX-1138 ), or man's lack of control over disease ( The Andromeda Strain ), these genre flicks force viewers to confront fears that are, at equal turns, contemporary and elementally universal. So how does 1972-era MGM--one of Hollywood's biggest film studios--compete with this vogue for ecologically-and-socially-aware thrillers? Simple. It releases a horror film-- Night of t

Even a non-nerd can enjoy Serenity. Really.

Flightplan , the new thriller with Jodie Foster, won the box office last weekend with a $14 Million take. Just behind it, at about $10 mil, was the new sci-fi opus, Serenity . I haven't seen the former, but I suspect that Serenity (which I have seen) is better. Way better. What writer/director Joss Whedon has rustled up with Serenity is an honest-to-God western in space, in the best possible ways. Meaning: one, it's largely character-driven, and two, it's a great, rip-roaring action flick made all the more engaging because you're emotionally invested in the characters. The principals, headed up ably by Nathan Fillion, display easygoing, humorous, and unaffected camaraderie. The self-contained mythology that Whedon and company create feels nuanced and genuine. The special effects impress without drawing attention to themselves. The villain (an assassin played with icily charismatic inscrutibility by Chiwetel Ejiofor) exudes unforced charisma. The script, while rooted