Saturday, October 20, 2012

Octoberama! Phantom of the Opera - Masque of the Red Death

Over the years, it was somehow mostly forgotten that at one point, a lot of early movies were tinted for color.  The film might be shot in black and white, but the prints themselves would be processed with a tint to have color that evoked the mood, etc...  However, by 1925 there was already a two-color process, and that's what you're seeing here.

The Lon Chaney starring Phantom of the Opera (1925) is a beautiful movie if you've never seen it.  At least some of the prints feature color, and the Masque of the Red Death sequence, even without color, was always powerful stuff.  With color - I think it's amazing.

At this point in the film, the Phantom has been causing problems (including deaths) but has been unseen.  Here he strides into the middle of a party of the wealthiest in Paris and threatens them all from behind the skeleton mask of Death.

Here it is - silent. You can provide your own music in your own head.

You can see the color better here, but I forewarn you, its synched to the music of the Broadway musical of the same name.

In the first movie and the book, unlike the musical, The Phantom is a spooky bad-ass. So if all you know if Andrew Lloyd-Webber, I recommend looking up the 1925 film.

October Watch! Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

If you've never seen Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), it's an absolute blast of a movie and pretty much sets the tone for every succeeding creature feature to follow - but it also leans a bit on the set-up of movies like King Kong.  Intrepid explorers/ scientists have some vital but benign evidence, return to the spot  far from civilization where it was found, and modern man can't deal with the havoc that ensues when an unexpected monster appears (and makes off with the stunningly attractive woman along for the ride).

Creature is fun partially because of the raw science-adventure tone that movies like Prometheus try to capture, of lantern jawed scientists throwing themselves into the path of danger in the name of discovery - along with a scrubby but affable crew along for the adventure who know their protocols are there for a reason.  As well as knowing natives may be superstitious, but they're also not crazy, so sometimes you just avoid their "Black Lagoons" if they suggest that's not a good place to bring your boat.  But: SCIENCE.

Happy Birthday, Bela Lugosi

Today is Bela Lugosi's 130th Birthday.

Born Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó in Hungary, Lugosi arrived in America in the early 1920s. By 1927 he was cast as Count Dracula in a Broadway show.

Most famous for his role as Dracula in the 1931 film, Lugosi found himself typecast and caught in a strange whirlwind of the Hollywood system which kept him in spook pictures, more or less, his entire career.

It's the Halloween season.  Go out and get yourself a copy of Dracula if you've never seen the original movie.  He's pretty darn good.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Octoberama! Fridays with Elvira!

DC rebranded "House of Mystery" as an Elvira book, which was kind of an interesting idea

In addition to her work in TV and movies, Elvira has been a fixture of comics off and on since the 1980's.  She was at DC on and off for years, and had a series at Claypool comics as recently as 2005 or 2006.

She has also had various pinball machines and casino slot machines made under her name.

This game is totally fun in real life, and recently became available as an iPhone app.

I'd argue the sequel is even more fun, but is not available as an app.

She's also got her own slot machine.

This isn't to mention all the toys and dolls that are out there in her likeness.

Truly, the lady's copyrighted image is applicable just about anywhere.  I look forward to sitting down to breakfast and my Elvira-O's.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Signal Reads: Solaris (1961)

There is nothing like a beloved Polish sci-fi novel written in 1961 to make you feel like a complete idiot.

That was a better book than I was a listener.

I once saw the Russian film of Solaris circa 1994, but I'll be honest.  I'd had a lot to drink, and I don't remember anything about it at all, but when people would ask, I'd say:  Yeah, I've seen Solaris.  It wasn't exactly a lie, but it wasn't exactly true that I remembered seeing Solaris.  It's like saying you've been to San Diego, but you've only been to the airport.

So, on Jason's fiance's dad's suggestion, (I could have actually sat down and read the book, but that isn't going to happen, so) I purchased and listened to the audiobook of Solaris by Stanislaw Lem.  It's no lie that Greg is a much smarter man than myself (and you, too.  Seriously, meet Greg some time), and while I am sure Greg got more out of it than me, the book didn't disappoint.

It was also the rare book that I finished with the absolute certainty that I was going to read it again, because while I had grasped much of the book, I also knew that, thanks to the linear format of the audiobook, what I would have done to re-read certain parts, to flip back and forth in the book to piece it together when new information presented itself - I was just caught up in the flow of the story being told as it unspooled on my iPod.

Octoberama! Ida Lupino!

Ida Lupino ponders her spooky pal.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Octoberama! Janet Leigh!

Janet Leigh would go on to have a terrific scare pedigree with appearances in Psycho and Halloween H20.    Not to mention birthing Jamie Lee Curtis, who would launch the Halloween movie franchise.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Lazy Post - Intros of swiftly canceled 80's Sci-Fi shows

Here's the explanation/ origin story for TV's Automan.

When you think about all the work WB put into making Green Lantern's costume work in the movie, it all seems sort of silly. This looks just as good, really.

Here's the intro to a weekly episode.

Thinking out loud about a few things around DC Entertainment


So, for the first time since probably 2003, I didn't look at the solicitations for DC Comics' coming books the day they were released.  I just forgot to do so.  But that's sort of where I'm at with DC these days.

It's time, once again, for my:  "Something is Up at DC" Amazing Criswell Psychic Predictions.


DC is part of WB, which also owns The Cartoon Network.  About a year and a half ago, we first heard of the coming "DC Nation" block of cartoons, which never turned into a full block.  It was an hour with some small cartoons tucked in, lasting about 80 seconds or so apiece.  They were pretty great.

Season 2 of Cartoon Network started about three weeks ago, and then last Saturday - it just wasn't on.  They showed a different program in that time slot.  The same day we got an announcement that (a) they were pushing the show back to January and (b) DC Animation was releasing a few films, not the least of which was DC's Flashpoint story which led into the New 52.

I'm wondering - and this is just me talking out loud - if DC has decided that they don't want to do the New 52 in their new animated shows, but that was a last minute decision.  DC had already released one Justice League movie based in the world of Young Justice, and I assume that Flashpoint would be the same sort of thing - spinning the New 52 Universe into the Young Justice world - or eliminating it so they could do a New 52 Justice League cartoon.

Maybe that isn't happening.  Or maybe its a far greater problem to introduce the New 52 to a casual audience than devoted comic shop geeks and its causing all sorts of issues.

Or maybe they're finding that DC comics characters can't draw in an audience for a television program.  Honestly, both the Green Lantern cartoon and Young Justice are really, really dark shows.  Avengers may be dopey and badly voice-acted, but the characters don't all seem perpetually miserable, and that's the Marvel cartoon, about heroes with real-life problems.  Go figure.

But DC and CN pulled the plug on Batman: Brave and the Bold, which was a terrific program, so what do I know?

Or, DC is holding off until the new Batman and other cartoons are in the can and they can have a true programming block of 2 hours or so.  Which would be keen.

The bottom line is - WB's investment in DC as a multimedia IP farm just went kaput very publicly on DVR's all across the country.

Meanwhile over in comics - The Supersuit

I have to think someone noticed Superman's new costume is more trouble than its worth.

In the January solicits, Superboy seems to have inherited the current costume, and Superman is back to jeans and t-shirt.

My guess is he winds up with something more movie-centric without the collar, or we get something much closer to the original suit.

I don't think anyone liked that supersuit.  And it would have been nice to see two artists draw it the same way.  Ie:  Do not let Jim Lee design your supersuits anymore.

Meanwhile, Steel's new look is spoiled on the cover for Animal Man.  I like John Henry Irons, but have no fixed idea regarding his look except:  it's gray or shiny metal.  So, this is fine.

At the end of the day, no matter how many jokes you make about the red trunks, etc...  Superman is an icon first and a character second.  It's a bit like trying to hip up the Coca-Cola label or a Campbell's Soup can.  It's a nice design exercise, but on the shelf, its not what people are looking for.

The Wonder Woman pants/ no pants debate was surely of some use to DC.  At least they understood that when she's in pants, nobody has any idea what they're looking at and they're trying to mess with 70 years of brand recognition.  Its just a bad idea (surely as bad as the current DC logo, by the way).

We'll see what happens, but I suspect we'll get something much more familiar in our supersuit before all is said and done, whether it's the George Reeves look or the Henry Cavill speed suit.  I will not miss the Lee design.

Octoberama! Myrna Loy!

Ms. Loy reads the cards and hangs with a friend as we head into the spooky season.

Monday, October 15, 2012

October Watch: Ed Wood (1994)

In 1989 I caught my first episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, which featured the movie Bride of the Monster.  At the time I had never heard of Ed Wood, and I wasn't terribly aware of the sea of terrible monster movies out there.  But I like to know that my adoration of terrible movies sort of begins and ends with the work of Edward D. Wood, Jr.

When I watch a movie like Birdemic: Shock and Terror, a movie so abysmally, ineptly put together that those watching it assume it has to be a put on, I think of Ed Wood and his sincere belief in his projects, and while I understand the desire to refuse to believe anyone could be so myopic...  no.  We're funny things, us people, and we have rich visions that we are often unable to translate.

Ed Wood was released in 1994, and among the folks I worked with in film school, it was a bit of a totem.  We quoted from the movie endlessly, and we believed in the central conceit of trying to follow your uncompromised dreams to make the product you want to make.  And sometimes that meant exactly using pie-plates on sting to recreate a UFO crash.*

This scene (language NSFW), is more or less every project I ever did in film school in a nutshell.

Octoberama! Clara Bow!

I'm as excited as the next guy to see Clara Bow all decked out for Halloween, but she seems to have borrowed someone else's jack-o-lantern...

Felix Baumgartner Space Jumps into the History Books

I had tried to watch this guy, Felix Baumgartner, jump several times, and he kept getting delayed.  So I was quite pleased when PalMatt posted to Facebook that Felix was about to jump yesterday.  I tuned in just as he was about to exit the capsule.

Holy @#$%

In case you missed it, Austrian Felix Baumgartner attached a capsule to some balloons, went up 24 miles above Roswell, New Mexico, and then tossed himself out and over the side of the capsule with naught but a parachute between himself and the record for largest crater formed by a human body.


October Watch: The Phantom of the Opera (1943)

It speaks volumes about the work done in the 1925 silent version of Phantom of the Opera that its still the version of the story most people are familiar with, and which evokes images in the mind somehow more powerful than a smash Broadway musical that's been running for 250 years.

For reasons as mysterious to myself as anyone else, I read the original novel by Gaston Leroux when I was 15.  The book was a spirited, if creepy, adventure story about a very odd, very deadly music enthusiast living in the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera House.

If you've never seen the Chaney-starring version of the movie, you absolutely should.  I saw it the first time in high school when I bought a copy of the movie out of a bin of movies which had seen their copyrights expire and I've tired to own a copy in whatever has been the latest video technology.  You can watch the film now at Netflix!

However, that's not the version that came with my new Universal Monsters boxed set, likely because of the lapsed copyright.  Instead, I got this 1943 version starring the always terrific Claude Rains as The Phantom.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Octoberama! Sundays with The Bride!

Hair and make-up check.

It takes work to look this good.

October Watch: Frankenweenie (2012)

I had actually planned to go see Hotel Transylvania this weekend, but then I looked at Rottentomatoes and had second thoughts.  That movie had scored a 43%, but I noticed Frankenweenie was cruising at around 86%.

The trick is that I like Halloween movies, and Jamie will not watch anything scary.  I've had The Thing on BluRay forever, and one day she'll watch it, but that day has not yet come.  But we can do movies where all the monsters are silly, etc...  My biggest issue is that I haven't really cared much for Tim Burton's work since the golden age of Ed Wood and Mars Attacks.*  I know he has his devoted following, and good for you.  I am not to be counted among your number.

Anyone who's marginally aware of Burton's history knew he was working at Disney when he made Vincent and the original short of Frankenweenie, which, in the post-Batman brouhaha, used to be available on VHS for rent, but for some reason I never did.