Tuesday, December 30, 2014

MEMENTO (2000)

MILLENNIUM MONTH (MM): MOVIES FROM THE YEAR 2000...
AND IN MEMORIAM
(Post 11 of 11)

Memento
Christopher Nolan's Memento is a challenging film about a man with short term memory loss that is looking for the man that killed his wife. The scenes from the movie are for the most part told in reverse chronological order. This is a good film to see every few years as the intricate details of the plot slip away from your mind and a good one to see as you get older for the same reason. This marked the third time that I had seen it and could remember the general plot that I listed above from the last time I saw it a few years ago, but I was a little hazy on the details including who the murderer was. So I could really relate to the main character! I definitely will watch this again in about five years and enjoy it anew!

Don't forget to have a Happy New Year!


Obituary of person with NO 1001 movie connection I can find: Hedy Lamarr. And no, Harvey Korman's role in Blazing Saddles doesn't count. That's Hedley Lamar. The real Hedy played Delilah to Victor Mature's Sampson in Samson and Delilah. She also played the female lead in Algiers, which was a remake of the French film Pepe Le Moko.  Pepe did make the 1001 list, but the practically carbon copy Algiers did not. Neither did perhaps Hedy's most famous role in Ecstasy, a 1933 film that is remembered mostly for Hedy's nude scenes.

Maybe next edition.

And don't forget to have a Happy New Year! Wait-Did I say that already?



Hedy Lamarr
"Hedley Lamarr"

Saturday, December 27, 2014

AMORES PERROS (2000, MEXICO)


MILLENNIUM MONTH (MM): MOVIES FROM THE YEAR 2000...
AND IN MEMORIAM
(Post 10 of 11)


This one was hard for me to watch. I actually started it a couple of times and couldn't get through much of it. A movie about people that fight dogs is really tough for a dog lover like me to take. But I finally did watch it and have to admit it's a very good film. I'd even say it's an excellent film. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu later received praise for Babel, but I think Amores Perros is even better. The first hour is also a little difficult because the characters are mostly unsympathetic, but I admit this multi-layered, multi-character drama became a pretty riveting piece by the second half of the film and should definitely be on the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die List. You just might not want to see it twice.


Obituary of person with 1001 movie connection: Ring Lardner Jr.(1915-2000) was a screenwriter who came to Hollywood during the 40's and won an Academy Award for Woman of the Year in 1942. He was later blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Commission and was unemployable in Hollywood for many years. He finally achieved the recognition he deserved for another Academy Award for his adaptation of Richard Hooker's novel for the movie MASH. Of course, this was a Robert Altman film which means Lardner's dialogue was often changed or sometimes removed altogether. Regardless, Lardner has still got to be considered an important part in the success of that film.
Screenplay by Ring Lardner Jr. credit
on one of the great movie posters of all-tim
e.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

YI YI (2000, TAIWAN)

MILLENNIUM MONTH (MM): MOVIES FROM THE YEAR 2000...
AND IN MEMORIAM
(Post 9 of 11)

Yi Yi

You ever have a movie that you think you'll really like and simply can't get into even if it is the type of movie you thought it would be? That's Yi Yi for me. I usually like multi-character character stories, but I just found this one too long and too confusing. Perhaps I should give this one another chance some day. You win some, you lose some.


Obituary of person with 1001 movie connection: When I was looking over the obituaries from 2000, I came across the name Billy Barty (1924-2000) and really wanted to include him somewhere on this list. Billy began his career as a child actor and had an acting career that lasted in spite of (or maybe because of) his short stature of 3' 9."

I first heard of Billy on talk shows on the 70's whenever a short joke seemed to pop up, he was often used as the punch line. To Billy's credit, he always seemed to be able to take a joke in some of the sillier roles he took, but had a long marriage, a family and a more successful career than most actors of greater height.

Billy's movie and TV credits are two numerous to name, but I did need to find a 1001 movie with his name to be official. I came up with two: Billy as an uncredited baby in Bride of Frankenstein and as a baby in Goldiggers of 1933. Close enough.

I did want to mention his most memorable role for me. That was as Sigmund in the early 70's Saturday morning Sid and Marty Krofft kid show Sigmund and the Sea Monsters that I watched. If you were a kid watching TV in the 70's you probably have very fond memories of this one. If you don't fit into that category, you might find this show more than a bit lacking. You probably had to be there for this one.

That's Billy Barty as Sigmund
in Sigmund and the Sea Monsters

Monday, December 22, 2014

ALI ZAOUA: PRINCE OF THE STREETS (2000, MOROCCO)

MILLENNIUM MONTH (MM): MOVIES FROM THE YEAR 2000...
AND IN MEMORIAM
(Post 8 of 11)


Ali Zaoua is a hard-hitting movie about Moroccan street kids and their daily struggles. It is reminiscent to me of Children of God, only on a different continent. But the troubles are the same. The kids have to be tough to survive and if they don't give in to the local gang leader, their life could be in danger. They find hope where they can, but hope is always fleeting and usually hard to maintain. An effective film and the first taste of Moroccan cinema I've ever had.

Obituary of person with 1001 movie connection: Alec Guinness (1914-2000) was known to me and I think most movie goers for three things. First, he was in several of the Ealing comedy classics of the 40's and 50's like Kind Hearts and Coronets and The Ladykillers. He was also known for his more dramatic turns in David Lean films like Lawrence of Arabia, Great ExpectationsThe Bride on the River Kwai (where he won a well-deserved Oscar) and Doctor Zhivago. And of course, he was also Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars.

All of the above films are on the 1001 list and provide a great opportunity to see Mr. Guinness at work.

Alec Guinness in Bridge on the River Kwai



Friday, December 19, 2014

THE GLEANERS AND I (2000, FRANCE)

MILLENNIUM MONTH (MM): MOVIES FROM THE YEAR 2000...
AND IN MEMORIAM
(Post 7 of 11)

The Gleaners and I
Gleaners  is a term used to describe one who gathers the crop or other materials left after the main crop is gathered. In searching for this movie on vimeo, I came across a documentary about gleaners in California, which I watched and found most interesting. Then I found The Gleaners and I. I didn't know anything about it going in. French director Agnes Varda put together this film that does indeed have gleaners picking up after the main crop, but it has more than that. She shows others in society that gather the leftovers of societies from junk piles, literal and figurative and some that live that way. She intersperses this with occasional footage of herself and emphasizes repeatedly the process of aging. I like the scene where she gleans an old clock with no hands to depict the non-passage of time. And I think the paintings of the gleaners of crops and how they are used here are lovely to look at.

I honestly don't know precisely what the point of this movie is supposed to be, but I do know that I suddenly feel like doing some recycling!


Obituary of person with 1001 movie connection: Walter Matthau (1920-2000) won an Oscar for his role in The Fortune Cookie, one of many movies he made partnered with Jack Lemmon. But none of these made the 1001 movie book. Not even The Odd Couple! Other Matthau films absent from the list include:  The Bad News Bears, The Sunshine Boys, Plaza Suite, A New Leaf, The Guide for the Married Man (a personal favorite) or even his earlier supporting parts in such films as Fail Safe.

Matthau with Kevin Costner in JFK
1001 entries for Matthau include: In fact, the main entry I can find for Matthau in the 1001 catalog is JFK. But in this film, his depiction of Senator Russell Long lasts only about a minute. He also has a small part in Nicholas Ray's Bigger Than Life, but I think a true film fan has got to put a little more Matthau on his viewing resume than that.




Tuesday, December 16, 2014

KIPPUR (2000, ISRAEL)

MILLENNIUM MONTH (MM): MOVIES FROM THE YEAR 2000...
AND IN MEMORIAM
(Post 6 of 11)

Kippur
Kippur is an Israeli war film depicting the 1973 Yom Kippur War which attempts to put the viewer in the center of the film. It has a documentary film feel with a lack of overtly dramatic flourishes and there is certainly no playing of Ride of the Valkyries or the Rolling Stones as helicopters swoop into enemy territory. This made it seem a little plodding at times, but I think that was kind of the point. The scene that I thought was the most effective was the clumsy rescue of an injured soldier on a stretcher that seemed to take forever. The scene lacked any background score and was better off because of it.

2000 IN MEMORIAM


Obituary of person with 1001 movie connection: If John Gielgud (1904-2000) isn't the greatest English speaking actor of the twentieth century, he is certainly near the top of the list. His many stage roles, Shakespearean and otherwise are legendary, but what about his film roles? He didn't appear in too many films until he hit his fifties, but from that time on, he built quite a resume. High brow Shakespearean films (Julius Caesar, Prospero's Books) and high brow TV (QBVII, Brideshead Revisited) seemed to be his specialty. He was also called on to appear in supporting roles in critically acclaimed productions such as The Elephant Man, Gandhi, Chariots of Fire, and Shine (all in the 1001 book).

But despite all this, Gielgud is remembered by some of us (and I'm guilty of this) for his Oscar winning role as Hobson, the snobby butler in Arthur.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

GLADIATOR (2000)

MILLENNIUM MONTH (MM): MOVIES FROM THE YEAR 2000...
AND IN MEMORIAM
(Post 5 of 11)

Gladiator
2000's Academy Award Winning film Gladiator certainly owes a debt to previous films like Spartacus and Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, but the story of General Maximus, the Roman leader turned gladiatorial slave certainly has a lot going for it in its own right. Epic story from Oscar nominee David Franzoni turned into a most memorable ancient Rome by Oscar winning director Ridley Scott and highlighted by the the subdued Oscar winning performance from Russell Crowe make this one an all-around success.


2000 IN MEMORIAM


Obituary of person with 1001 movie connection: I know I'm cheating with this one, but I'm listing Oliver Reed. Oliver (1938-1999) technically died in 1999, but since he was in Gladiator and is given a memorial credit in the end credits, I'll go with it. Oliver had many acting credits in the 60's, but the earliest movie I can remember him in is as the evil Bill Sikes in Oliver! in 1968. He was also in Ken Russell's The Devils (a 1001 movie entry) and played Athos in the fun Three Musketeers and Four Musketeers. He played Ann-Margaret's husband in the Who's Tommy, though his singing in that film may be best forgotten. His credits from the late 70's and beyond were a bit on the cheesy side, including the horror films Burnt Offerings and The Brood and the awful Two of a Kind. But one of his best roles was his last, as the before mentioned Proximus in Gladiator. He plays the ringleader of the gladiators who cares only about the show and the profits until later (as the line in the movie goes) when he succumbs to the temptation of becoming an honest man.

Or does he? Reed died during the filming with several of his scenes left to shoot. Expensive computer generated imagery of Reed was used to complete the film and his death scene was filmed from the back (Fake Shemping?) Despite these handicaps, it is a nice final film role for Mr. Reed.

Oliver Reed (I think) in Gladiator

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (2000, HONG KONG)

MILLENNIUM MONTH (MM): MOVIES FROM THE YEAR 2000...
AND IN MEMORIAM
(Post 4 of 11)

In the Mood for Love
The feel of In the Mood for Love is understated in the same way that Hong Kar-Wai's Chungking Express is.The plot of In the Mood for Love involves two married spouses having an affair. The twist is that the characters we see and certainly sympathize with are the spouses being cheated on! It's a fairly penetrating character study and I like the unusual point-of-view.


Richard Mulligan
Obituary of people with 1001 movie connection: Richard Mulligan (1932-2000). I remember Richard Mulligan mostly for being my favorite character on the late 70's TV show Soap. But let us not forget his most memorable performance as George Armstrong Custer in Little Big Man. Mulligan plays the General as an self-aggrandizing lunatic. And rightly or wrongly, that's the way I still think of Custer. 


David Tomlison
David Tomlison (1917-2000). David Tomlison was almost certainly best known for playing Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins. And the fact that the recent movie about the making of that film is called Saving Mr. Banks doesn't hurt. But I also remember Disney's early 70's attempt to recreate the success of Mary Poppins with Bedknobs and Broomsticks. A magical main female character, animation interspersed with live-action have made some (perhaps unfairly) dismiss Bedknobs as nothing more than a Poppins knock-off. But I like the fact that Bedknobs brought back the blustery Mr. Tomlison in one of the lead roles. And to be honest with you, I kind of prefer Bedknobs and Broomsticks to Mary Poppins.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (2000)

MILLENNIUM MONTH (MM): MOVIES FROM THE YEAR 2000...
AND IN MEMORIAM
(Post 3 of 11)

Requiem for a Dream
Requiem For a Dream has been one on my "to see" list for some time. I got my wife to watch it with me and I have to admit that it isn't exactly your traditional date flick. Four characters involved in different forms of drug abuse (legal and prescribed) enhanced by director Darren Aronofsky's quick edits, odd angles and speeded up and slowed down film sequences. It's a jarring film and definitely worth seeing once, but I'm not sure I'll pop Requiem in the old DVD player too often in years to come. Off-beat casting includes Jennifer Connelly as a heroin addict and Ellen Burstyn (who would have been my choice for the Best Actress Oscar that year) as Jared Ledo's amphetamine addicted  mother.

As far as my wife goes, maybe we'll just watch Sleepless in Seattle next time.

Obituary of person with 1001 movie connection: When I think of Julius Epstein (1909-2000) or Phillip Epstein, I think of the writer named McKee in the movie Adaptation calling their screenplay for Casablanca the greatest screenplay of all-time. I wouldn't argue with that, but Julius also had a lot of other screenplays to his credit including: The Male Animal, Arsenic and Old Lace and Mr. Skeffington. Phillip died in 1952, but Julius kept on writing into the 70's and 80's with the Walter Matthau films Pete n' Tillie and House Calls, Sam Peckinpah's Cross of Iron, and an adaptation of Jacqueline Susann's 70's feature Once is Not Enough! He did end his career on a high note, with the quirky 1983 film Reuben, Reuben (which has one of my favorite endings of any movie, which I like to think Mr. Epstein was responsible for.)

I think you can find the Epstein Brothers screenplay credit 
on this poster below if you have a magnifying glass or if you
squint hard enough. Never mind the writer, they only make up 
the damn story in their head!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (2000, HONG KONG)

MILLENNIUM MONTH (MM): MOVIES FROM THE YEAR 2000...
AND IN MEMORIAM
(Post 2 of 11)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

I remember during the 80's watching Kung Fu Theater, whose episodes were mostly badly dubbed Asian flicks featuring most improbable action sequences that usually defied the laws of physics. I must have missed the transition these films took to become high-brow entertainment like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Crouching Tiger is essentially an historical fable with a plot involving a mystical sword and a doomed romance or two. But the action is pure Kung Fu Theater done with special effects that were a little more sophisticated than the ones I saw back in those old flicks. The first time I saw these characters jumping over roofs and sword fighting in trees, I was a bit taken aback. But once I accepted this as part of the film's universal law, I accepted and enjoyed the whole adventure. 

2000 IN MEMORIAM
Obituary of person with 1001 movie connection: The career of Loretta Young (1913-2000)  had a most interesting symmetry to it. She began in silents as a teenager, including a nice part in Lon Chaney's Laugh, Clown, Laugh. She then became a front-line leading lady before she was twenty and continued to have prominent starring roles throughout the thirties and forties, including The Bishop's Wife and The Farmer's Daughter, for which she received an Academy Award in 1947. By the time she hit forty, she made the transition to the new medium of television and starred in the anthology series The Loretta Young Show for ten years. Then at the ripe old age of fifty, she retired and lived in retirement until her death at the age of 87.

Orson and Loretta in The Stranger
Her 1001 connection? The only 1001 listing I can find from Loretta's 100 plus movie credits is as Orson Welles's leading lady in the film noir thriller The Stranger.

Monday, December 1, 2014

O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU (2000)

MILLENNIUM MONTH (MM): MOVIES FROM THE YEAR 2000
...AND IN MEMORIAM
(Post 1 of 11)

O Brother, Where Art Thou 

The Coen Brothers Great depression adaptation of Homer's Odyssey is one of their films I enjoyed when I first saw it, but didn't like it as well as some of their others. But the last two times I have viewed it, I have liked it better each time and now regard it as a favorite. It's a lot of fun, the music is catchy, the film is acted by a cast having a great time (special commendation to Tim Blake Nelson as Delmar) and don't forget to look for all the Odyssey references (the cyclops, the sirens, the suitor, etc.) This would definitely be in my book now.





A nice musical companion piece to O Brother is The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (and friends) 1970 classic album Will the Circle Be Unbroken.









2000 IN MEMORIAM
Obituary of person with 1001 movie connection: Jason Robards (1922-2000) was known for his performances in stage adaptations such as Long Day's Journey Into the Night and film roles such as A Thousand Clowns, A Boy and His Dog and Oscar winning role in Julia.


1001 entries for Robards include: Another Oscar winning role as Ben Bradlee in All the President's Men, the lawyer that fires Tom Hanks Philadelphia and as a terminal patient in Magnolia. But my favorite Robards role has to be Cheyenne in Once Upon a Time in the West.-You know what? If I was you, I'd go down there and give those boys a drink. Can't imagine how happy it makes a man to see a woman like you. Just to look at her. And if one of them should pat your behind, just make believe it's nothing. They earned it.

Friday, October 31, 2014

DRACULA (1931)

12 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN!
DAY 12

Bela
 Librarian’s Journal
(January 7)
I was in a state of great consternation when I saw the Count again. My fear was he and all that surrounded him would be too slow moving, that his pacing would be too static. These were justifiable fears, but I must say I found him to be largely accessible. Iconic is a word bandied about and I think my time with the Count reinforces that thinking with me as well. Other Counts have come and gone and some have made a lasting impression, but our image is now and will probably always be of this Count.

His castle was a wonder. The swirling stone steps, the giant cobwebs, the candles, the armadillos. The armadillos? I confess I have never seen a castle with armadillos before and I don’t know how they got there, but I hope it is a sight I will never see again. The three women of the night will be filling my dreams for a fortnight, I’m sure. Whether for good or for evil, God only knows.

But the count, the women, the castle and the armadillos were outdone by one. The one who made the greatest impression on me. The one referred to below.

Dwight
Librarian’s letter to the late Dwight Frye

(January 9)

Dear Mr. Frye,
I understand that you left this plane in 1943, but I hope you can somehow get the message that you are so cool! Love your laugh and your crazy smile and did you know that Alice Cooper wrote a song about you? I love that song Billion Dollar Babies . Do you like Billion Dollar Babies, Dwight? May I call you Dwight? Sorry about that whole typecasting thing and lack of roles after Dracula, but honestly, who would ever remember you if you played a kindly clergyman in some Robert Montgomery melodrama or the renegade brother in a Fred MacMurray/Claudette Colbert historical romance?
But we remember Renfield. Yes, we do!
In conclusion, just let me reiterate: RENFIELD RULES!

Lupita
Librarian’s Correspondence to the Criterion Collection

(January 8)

Dear Criterion,
Another excellent job with The Dracula Legacy Collection. Restoration was a success. Version with Phillip Glass musical store, though interesting, proved to be too much over the long hall. The commentary with Dark Carnival author David Skal was very good. He incorporated the Bram Stoker novel in the discussion at all the right times. The documentary about the evolution of Dracula from original conception to 1931 film was informative. Other movies included in this collection: Son of Dracula (Sorry, Lon Chaney Jr. is NOT Dracula), Dracula’s Daughter (Missed Lugosi and Frye in this one and who is Gloria Holden again?), House of Dracula (Just throw all the monster in and see if any of them stick) and the Spanish version of Dracula (This was the best of all the extra movies, and is a must for Dracula buffs and not just for the scantily dressed Lupita Tovar..) Good work Criterion. We’ll meet again.

And one more picture of Lupita because
there is no such thing as too many pictures of Lupita Tovar!
Memorandum
(January 10)
From Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, and McCormick M. D. M. R. C. S. L. K. Q. C. P. I ETC, ETC, ET AL, ET AL, vis-à-vis, i.e., in lieu, to wit, semi colon, ipso facto, quote unquote.
Gentleman? (On the penultimate not on the diphonic)
Forgive me, I need to brush up on my Transylvanian, so get a Transylvanian and brush up on him. In relation to the letter, remember to not leave out the body. Which isn’t a given when you’re dealing with Vampires. So, leave the body and mark it fra-jilly. If you can’t spell it, look it up under fragile. Let’s also include two quotes. Which makes four pints. Four pints? Well, that takes care of dinner for the evening. And that reminds me of the time I shot a vampire in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I’ll never know. I was saying something about sending the soil from my homeland to London. But I made two carbon copies of this letter and threw the original away. Then I threw the carbon copies away.

Regards and Happy Halloween!…

Thursday, October 30, 2014

NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE (1979, WEST GERMANY)

12 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN!
DAY 11
Nosferatu 1922
Nosferatu 1979
Nosferatu, the Vampyre (1979) is how you do a remake! You bring all the elements from the original: the creepy castle of Nosferatu, the ill-fated ship transporting the vampire, and the confrontation between Nosferatu and his beloved at the end of the film. But you add new elements to the story to round the whole thing out. The embellishment on the details of the plague is the chief example, as well as the surprise twist to the ending that those that have seen the original (me at least) may not have been expecting here.

The scariest thing about the original is just the look of Max Schreck's Nosferatu. You may say his exaggerated features make him look too non-human. But I think Schreck's look is the best thing about the original. Klaus Kinski's Nosferatu  in this remake is still scary looking, but his appearance is toned down considerably. His eyebrows are less out of control, his ears less exaggeratedly pointy, but he is still a scary looking vampire. His at least reasonable proximity to a man does give him room to seem closer to the human species than the original. But not by much.

Additional casting notes: I recall on the commentary track for the movie Fitzcarroldo, how director Werner Herzog talked about how difficult Klaus Kinski was to work with. It should tell you about how good Kinski was that Herzog would keep using him in film after film. He is a marvelous and intense Nosferatu and is great to watch on screen. Extra hazard points to director Herzog for being able to rein in this difficult thespian here and elsewhere.

The movie also benefits from two strong actors in the roles of Jonathan and Lucy Harker: Bruno Ganz (later my all-time favorite Hitler in Downfall) and Isabelle Adjani (two-time Academy Award nominee.) 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

PONTYPOOL (2008)

12 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN!
DAY 10


Pontypool is actually not in the 1001 book, but I had heard some good things about it and thought I might be give it a go.

The plot concerns a radio station featuring a radio shock jock named Mazzie and his station manager who slowly gets word of odd events in their town that leads them to eventually realize that their community is being overrun by strange and monstrous forces.

The big difference in this film and other zombie films I have seen (I admit I haven't seen too many of this genre) is that it relies heavily on dialogue and suspense as supposed to shock value. Admittedly, there are a couple of  scenes of traditional horror like the engineers descent into the undead in the picture above, but much is left up to the viewers imagination.

But is this film actually an allegory on how the words that spew from these radio shock jocks infects its listeners and causes them to be zombies at best or angry and violent at worst? Maybe Ted Nugent should have played the lead.


Additional casting notes: I didn't really mean that about casting Ted Nugent because Stephen McHattie does such a grand job in this role. McHattie has seemingly been around forever and ads a grizzled deep-throated credibility to the role of Mazzie. I was wondering what I remember McHattie the most in. He's played small parts in big films like 300 and Watchmen, TV shows like Seinfeld and movies like Pterodactyl Woman from Beverly Hills, a movie that I somehow missed. For some reason, I also remember him in an uninspired TV remake of Rosemary's Baby from the 70's called Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

THE BLACK CAT (1934)

12 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN!
DAY 9


I still have a great deal of affection for those Universal horror movies from the 1930's. They can be a bit stiff and clumsy and these old films seems ready to snap, crackle and pop off the screen at times! But that's part of their appeal. This loose adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe story features Bela Lugosi as Dr. Peter Verdegast (a great name) who through a series of circumstances ends up at the creepy home of his former colleague and adversary Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff! and another great character name). He  arrives there with a couple he met at on the coach on the way to see Poelzig. The movie is creepy at times and silly at other times, but really, the main reason to see the movie is Bela and Boris.

Additional casting notes: Bela Lugosi hit big with Dracula in 1931 and Karloff hit it big with Frankenstein the same year. It was only natural that Universal would quickly try to team the two of them up. The Black Cat was the first of eight films they made together. 

Lugosi can go over the top at times. It's really part of his charm, to be honest. His screaming at the sight of a black cat is a little much for me. But the scene where he gets emotional over his departed wife is pretty touching. Karloff does sinister well. He exudes that old world charm, but you always suspect him of having bodies in the basement. In this film, that is literally true! It is great to see them together and I even enjoy the scenes of them playing chess.

The Tim Burton movie Ed Wood shows Bela at the end of his life as a drug addict who can only appear in movies with the worst filmmaker in the world (Ed Wood Jr., not Tim Burton). He is shown as being hopelessly jealous of Karloff and out of touch with reality, but the film's closing crawl points out that Bela's memorabilia far outsells Karloff memorabilia.

But in the Bela vs. Boris debate, I'm definitely a Karloff guy. So many good horror roles (Tower of London, The Body Snatcher, The Bride of Frankenstein) over the years and his final role in the 1968 film Targets, where he essentially plays himself is a favorite of mine. By all accounts a very proper English gentleman (real name Henry Pratt), who loved the game of cricket and a good cup of English tea, but when cameras rolled, the proper Mr. Pratt became Boris Karloff, the greatest horror star of his time.


Monday, October 27, 2014

THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE (1970, ITALY)

12 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN!
DAY 8


I really wasn't planning to watch two Dario Argento movies in the same week, (Suspiria being the other) but that's the way the tables often turn going through this list at times. This film does have a serial on the lose and contains its share of violence, but it is primarily a police procedural with a fish out of water American caught in the middle of a murder investigation and gets too heavily involved in trying to help solve it. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is a pretty good thriller at that and doesn't play its plot hands too quickly.

Additional casting notes: It was great to see Tony Musante pop up as the lead in this movie. I remember Tony mostly from his one season as Toma, the master of disguise cop TV show from the early 70's. Tony left Toma after one season and the show was changed into Baretta and became an even bigger hit.

It's was also great to see  leading lady Suzy Kendall (To Sir, With Love) in anything. Truly one of the great beauties of the 60's. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

RINGU (1998, JAPAN)

12 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN!
DAY 7


There's this videotape that if people watch it and a nearby phone rings afterward, they die within a week. A reporter investigating this story gets a copy of the tape and watches it and realizes she is probably doomed.

The movie has some good scares (always accentuated by scary music) but it strikes me as more of a thriller than a horror story in that the reporter and her ex-husband painstakingly piece together clues attempting to figure out what the video means in the hope of stopping the curse.

SPOILER ALERT: The ending conclusion the reporter comes to is the way to break the curse is someone who sees the original video has to copy the tape and make someone else watch it who then in turn has to do the same to someone else and so on and so on. But even though her ex-husband didn't make a copy and show it to someone else and ended up dying, I don't see the logic of why she came to that particular conclusion. Perhaps someone else can enlighten me.

Additional casting notes:
I was just thinking how Ringu was remade a few years later as The Ring, starring Naomi Watts. Yesterday's post for Funny Games was also a film that was remade in the U.S. as a film starring Naomi Watts. And wasn't Naomi Watts the star of the King Kong remake from a few years ago? Well, she isn't known as The Queen of the Remakes without good reason.

There must be other 1001 movies that cry out for a remake starring Naomi Watts.
Here's a quick top ten of "Potential 1001 Movie horror remakes that could star Naomi Watts!"

Number 10. As the mother in a remake of The Exorcist.
9. Clearly as Marion Crane in yet another Psycho remake.
8. Is Roman Polanski up for a remake of Repulsion with Naomi?
7. The female lead in yet another version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
6. Isn't it time for another remake of The Fly? Can't you hear Naomi saying "Be afraid, be very afraid?"
5.Perhaps as the plotting circus performer Cleopatra in a remake of Tod Browning's Freaks?
4. A remake of Hitchcock's The Birds? Only if Naomi plays the Tippi Hedren role, that is! 
3. Maybe Polanski is up for a remake of Rosemary's Baby with Naomi as the mother?
2. Don't Look Now remake with Keifer Sutherland and Naomi Watts. Think about it.
and number 1....Naomi Watts as THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN!

Naomi Watts in The Ring (2002),
 a remake of  the 1001 movie entry The Ring (1998)
Naomi Watts in Funny Games (2007),
 a remake of  the 1001 movie entry Funny Games (1997)
Naomi Watts in King Kong (2004),
 a remake of  the 1001 movie entry King Kong (1933)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

FUNNY GAMES (AUSTRIA, 1997)

12 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN!
DAY 6


Plot: A family is terrorized by two serial killers at their lakehouse. To add insult to injury, the lead killer has the nerve to make occasional comments to the audience.

Favorite part: When the killers commit their first murder, the scene with the family comes to a virtual standstill. It is most dramatically effective. I also like the contrast to the smooth classical music beginnings and the heavy metal music closing credits.

Least favorite part: When the killer reverses the film with a remote control to change an action in the film he doesn't like. Come on! That isn't fair!

Scariest part: When the golf ball drops, signifying the return of the assailants and the viewer losses all hope.

Best Screaming: The guttural groans of a grieving father.

Additional casting notes: Ulrich Muhe and Susanne Lothar add a great deal to the demanding role of the terrorized couple. Muhe was later cast in the lead role in the Oscar winning film The Lives of Others. Lothar also starred in Funny Games director Michael Haneke's later film The Piano Teacher. Muhe and Lothar were married in real life.

Friday, October 24, 2014

BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA (1992)

12 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN!
 DAY 5


Plot: .It's the Dracula story. You mean you don't know it?

Favorite part: I always like many of the little touches that Francis Coppola and his crew put together for his films, particularly period pieces. Just the meeting between Dracula and Mina at the Cinemateche is a nicely disconcerting scene.

Least favorite part: .I have nothing against this adaptation. I think it's a fine adaptation of the book. And I've read the book a couple of times. But I've seen so many Dracula movies now! There's the Bela Lugosi Dracula, there's two different versions of Nosferatu, there's The Horror of Dracula and there's this version by Francis Coppola. And these are all entries in at least one edition of the 1001 book! This doesn't take into account the many other versions of Dracula and it's sequels and TV versions and musical and ballet Dracula's, etc. etc...I'm just a little Draculed out.

Scariest part: The stake through the heart and decapitation of Lucy.

Best screaming: I like Renfield's (Tom Waits) screeching pleas from behind bars about wanting to serve his master. But I was always partial to Renfield.


Additional casting notes: The actor who seemed to get the most raspberries for this film was Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker. I admit, he doesn't exactly steal the movie. But I do think Winona Ryder as Mina and Anthony Hopkins as a very animated Van Helsing are fine. And I've liked Richard E. Grant (Seward) in everything I've seen him in. And, yes, Gary Oldman's Dracula seems to be imitating Lugosi in the opening scene (which I liked) but he quickly makes the character his own.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

SUSPIRIA (1977, ITALY)

12 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN!
DAY 4



Plot: A young American woman named Suzy arrives at Swiss dance academy only to find evil lurking around every ballet bar.

Best screaming: The one's from the young lady during the opening scene who had just ran away from the academy only to be attacked at a friend's house. The screams from Suzy's friend Sarah when she falls on the razor wire are pretty good, too.

Scariest part: When Suzy's friend Sarah (above) gets trapped on some razor wire before she is to be killed. Of course, this may have something to do with my phobia about being trapped on razor wire.

Least favorite part: What is going on in this movie? One may rightly ask this question at about the halfway point. No worries. Suspiria supplies this information to the main character in the guise of a rather conveniently placed psychiatrist and professor, who know all about the history of the academy and tell it all to Suzy. Good to know these things, but wish they could have been conveyed to the audience in a less obvious manner.

Favorite part: When things start percolating in the academy at the end and we see all the evil come to the surface, it's a nice payoff for an at times confusing plotline. But maybe we should be confused and unsure to relate more to the heroine's plight, eh?



Additional casting notes: I had always liked Jessica Harper (above) in several films from the 70's and 80's such as Inserts, Stardust Memories, Love and DeathPennies From Heaven and My Favorite Year. I had no idea that a cult Italian horror film may be her best known role!

And in addition, it's interesting to see Joan Bennett playing a similar matronly role in this film that she played for years on my favorite cult soap opera Dark Shadows during the 60's.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

CANDYMAN (1992)

12 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN!
DAY 3



Plot: Graduate student explores urban legend about a lethal figure named Candyman who returns to commit mayhem whenever you say his name five times in a mirror.

Favorite part: When Helen the graduate student abruptly turns from the film's investigator to the film's accused.

Least favorite part: I wish the Candyman character enunciated a little better. Had trouble making out some of his dialogue. I'm sure it was scary though!

Scariest part: Whenever Candyman appears to commit mayhem, it's usually pretty quick and frightening.

Best Screaming: Grad student accused of murder screams that Candyman is under the bed!


Additional casting note: I always liked Candyman leading lady Virginia Madsen, most specifically as the sexy expert on all things wine in Sideways. I didn't realize that an even more noted role for her was the starring role of this horror flick. And she always looks great.