Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Friday Amazon Watch Party: Working Girl

 



Day:  11/27/2020
Time:  8:30 Central

Link coming Friday

My memory of this movie is that it's about a highly competent Sigourney Weaver who gets into an accident and her secretary schemes against her in her absence.  It's a tragedy of sorts.  Melanie Griffith, the secretary, even manages to woo away her supervisor's love interest, Harrison Ford.  

Anyway - we're watching it.  FRIDAY.


Today is the 100th Birthday of Noel Neill

Today is the 100th birthday of the late Noel Neill, the original live-action Lois Lane.  

Neill mostly famously played Lois Lane for five seasons of The Adventures of Superman alongside actor George Reeves.


Neill was active on the convention circuits and became a fixture at the Metropolis, Illinois Superman Celebration each summer until her very last years.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Whodunnit Watch: Knives Out (2019)




Watched:  11/21/2020
Format:  Amazon Prime Streaming
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Rian Johnson

Rian Johnson is one of those directors we need more of.  He's smarter than his audience (sorry, he is), and he's making stuff he'd want to see, and if we happen to come along and like it, too, great.  If not, it doesn't matter.  He made something *interesting*.  

On the heels of his stupidly controversial gigantic Star Wars movie that followed his usual way of doing things and managed to make maybe the only interesting Star Wars movie since Empire, he turned to the all-star murder mystery - a la Inspector Poirot films.  But not a murder mystery that relied on nostalgia, an exotic setting and romantic period in which the film occurs.  It's a family all brimming with motivations to take out the patriarch as they gather in the family a mansion in a wealthy Massachusetts suburb.  

HOLIDAY PODCAST: "3615 code Père Noël"/"Deadly Games"/"Game Over" or even "Dial Code: Santa Claus" (1989) - A Xmas Genre Xrossover 2020 episode w/ JAL & Ryan

 


Watched:  11/07/2020
Format:  Shudder Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Rene Manzor


It's French. It's Christmas. It's got a deranged Santa and a kid who has seen a lot of 80's action films. It's like "what if 'Home Alone' were infinitely @#$%ed up?" Justin and Ryan take a deep dive into a movie that feels like it's about to break as a cult classic, and features a very Bonnie Tyler Christmas song. You may know it as "3615 code Père Noël", "Deadly Games", "Game Over" or even "Dial Code: Santa Claus". But it's a frikkin' delight, this thing. 
Merry Christmas - Bonnie Tyler

Xmas Genre Xrossover 2020:

Monday, November 23, 2020

Happy Birthday, Boris!


 Boris Karloff, born this day, 1887.  

He would have been 44-45 when he played the Monster for the first time.

90's Watch: Dogfight (1991)




Watched:  11/22/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  3rd or 4th
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Nancy Savoca

I rented this one in high school, but I have no idea why.  I'm pretty sure the first time I watched it, I watched it by myself.  But I know I watched it the next day before I had to return it, with someone.  Probably my brother or a friend.  And maybe I watched it once in college, but the movie doesn't get discussed much and I'm not sure what sort of footprint it had or has.

TCM has been on a tear promoting women in film - behind the lens, mostly.  I'm afraid I've done a very bad job of keeping up with their terrific efforts.  Dogfight (1991) was shown as part of an evening's programming some time ago, and I hadn't had a chance to watch it, but finally did.  I'm surprised how much of the movie I remembered (there are movies I'll watch, and look at the blog in the same year and have to piece together what it was as I have almost no memory of the film already), but also what an impact the movie had on me at the time as a young dude.  

Sunday, November 22, 2020

PODCAST: "Robin and Marian" (1976) - a Connery Tribute PodCast w/ SimonUK and Ryan


Watched:  11/01/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Richard Lester


The Signal Watch is sad we've lost a film icon in Sean Connery, so SimonUK and yours truly check out one of Connery's less discussed but curiously interesting films - where he plays a middle-aged Robin Hood returning to Sherwood Forest after 20 years away. A meditation on legends, aging, love, what drives us and what we hang onto. 
Music
Robin and Marian Suite - John Barry


Watch Party Watch: Masters of the Universe (1987)




Watched: 11/20/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Gary Goddard

I should start by saying:  I didn't ever really like He-Man and the Masters of the Universe as toyline, cartoon, what-have-you.  Maybe because a lot of the material behind the franchise is simply bad.  The Filmation cartoon was goofily animated and the voice actors always sounded like they were recording out of context and in a well-tiled bathroom.  It featured a handful of wildly annoying characters and artists who really wanted to work in a few rotoscoped shots as often as possible.  (I will say - it DID blend American comic book style art very well, and should have shown Marvel how to do this instead of what they did in the 1990's.)  But mostly, He-Man was a lot of nonsense to sell toys, and that's great.  I support that idea.  I just wasn't into their particular gumbo of elements that made up their cartoon and toys (and found the original line of toys frankly grotesque, and not in a fun way).

Fake Doc Watch: Waiting for Guffman (1996)




Watched:  11/14/2020
Format:  DVD
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Christopher Guest

For a run of about five movies, Christopher Guest managed to borrow the "mockumentary" format pioneered with Spinal Tap (in which he famously costars), and managed to create some Gen-X favorites.  The run began with Waiting for Guffman (1996), a "doc" following the production of a pageant/ play intended to celebrate the sesquicentennial of a small, Missouri town, Blaine, the participants of which believe will be seen by an agent of a Broadway producer - elevating their joy at just participating in a local stage show to the chance for something beyond their wildest dreams.

Guest's ensemble would continue on with him through all five films, into his HBO show Family Tree, and into the attempt to recapture the magic with Mascots in 2016.  This film includes talent that was breaking at the time, established talent, and helped to establish some of the cast.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Friday Watch Party: Masters of the Universe (1987)


Day:  Friday 11/20/2020
Time:  8:30 PM Central


So, this movie kinda took down Cannon Films.  It's an adaptation of a popular toy line and cartoon, and decided to appeal to no one by changing the location, characters and looks of the characters.  But it does feature an early appearance of Courtney Cox and a "is this stardom?" era Dolph Lundgren, and a Frank Langella having the time of his life.

The movie is garbage, but it does have Meg Foster as evil enchantress/ excellent-eyes-haver Evil Lyn.  And that ain't all bad.


Next week - if it's still on Prime - we're doing Working Girl.  I'll be rooting for Sigourney Weaver.
 



Thursday, November 19, 2020

Spooky Noir Watch: The Seventh Victim (1943)




Watched:  11/18/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:   Mark Robson


A Val Lewton horror film - that means a lot of atmosphere, mystery, wild plotting and not a lot of blood or outright frights - The Seventh Victim (1943) is a study in building a sense of dread and doom.  It's a strange, strange film, following one lead character for much of the film before putting her in a corner and finding other characters more interesting to watch.  

The film marks the movie debut of Kim Hunter*, who plays a private school girl who learns her bills aren't being paid by her sister - and her sister seems to have disappeared.  She hits the big city and learns her sister has sold the cosmetics company she owned, her shrink hasn't seen her in a bit, and she was romantically hooked up with Ward Cleaver (see a young Hugh Beaumont as a sort of romantic character!).  

Seems her sister fell in with a bunch of devil worshippers, and that's no gone great.  In fact, when paired with a private eye who decides to do the work pro bono, he gets bumped off.  At some point, we find the sister, and she's on a path that none of the men around her quite understand as they try to save her.  

But, I'm selling the film short.  Being a Lewton produced film, it's all about ideas and what you can't see in the shadows.  There's a Lynchian dream-like quality to portions, and the horror of what you realize must be happening (from people getting away with murder right in front of you) to rooms full of people trying to talk you into suicide that's far weirder than any makeup or jump scares.  Really, the closest thing I can think of in a "we're gonna watch someone end badly" closest to this film was Fire Walk With Me.  

Included as a Noir Alley entry - it works.  The film's aesthetics rely on expressionism, deep shadow, etc...  There's certainly a doomed quality and an underworld scratching at the edges of polite society.  In this case, an underworld that's what polite society does after 8:00 PM.  



*Kim Hunter is much beloved at The Signal Watch as the actor who (a) appeared as Zira in some Planet of the Apes films, and (b) as Stella Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire.  




PODCAST: "Krampus" (2015) - a XMas Genre Xrossover 2020 Special w/ Marshall and Ryan

 


Watched:  11/04/2020
Format:  HBO, maybe?
Viewing:  Second or third
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Michael Dougherty


Tis the season for genre mashes! It's horror with Christmas joy! Join us as we peek in on a family that has lost its Christmas spirit - and is now facing a giant beastman-shaped reckoning. Marshall and Ryan talk the 2015 holiday horror hit that's become a bit of a perennial favorite (already!) - which reflects on how the holidays with family can really be a nightmare.


Music:
Krampus Main Theme - Douglas Pipes

Xmas Genre Xrossover 2020 Playlist

Happy 100th, Gene Tierney




Good golly, that Gene Tierney.

Today marks her 100th birthday.  She's very, very good in some very good films.  I do not have time to Google her for you, but I recommend you check out her work.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Interaction Watch: For a Few Dollars More (1965)




Watched: 11/10/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown.  Probably fourth or fifth
Decade:  1960's
Director:  Sergio Leone

It had been maybe 15 years since I last watched For a Few Dollars More (1965), the second in the Man With No Name trilogy, which catapulted Clint Eastwood to stardom, made Leone an unlikely star director, and gave me some movies to be blown away by in my last teens/ early 20's.  

It's an interesting bridge between the solo adventure of a Fistful of Dollars, which is also maybe a bit rougher from a technical standpoint, and the groundbreaking filmmaking that would come with The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and explode into masterpiece filmmaking with Once Upon a Time in the West.  

I may like Leone's work.  Sue me.

The film isn't *that* different to characters and bears from A Fistful of Dollars, but it does insert Lee Van Cleef as the variable in the experiment, and to great effect.  It's not hard to track how Leone went from this film to the three character structure of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in the next film, giving chances for shifting alliances based on the character's self interests and motivations.  Flashbacks in this film presage similar from the finale from OUATITW.  

It's a gorgeous film, and the pacing and characters are happily breaking the conventions of Westerns of the prior 60 years of film, pointing the way for what we would come to expect from an American action film.  To the point that, with no knowledge of film history, what people coming to this movie for the first time would even think.  But this is 1965 - we're barely two steps from Hopalong Cassidy, chronologically.  

If you think you don't like westerns (a statement I think just basically means: I don't like movies about people without cars, as "western" is a nonsense category of a movie), give the Man With No Name Trilogy a shot.  It's amazing stuff.  

Monday, November 16, 2020

Interaction watch - RoboCop (1987)




Watched:  11/03/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  let's not talk about it
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Paul Verhoeven

I think we'll be podcasting this at some point in 2021, so we're gonna take a pass on writing it up.

But it was fun to watch as a Prime Party, as some hadn't seen it or hadn't seen it in a while.

Watch Party Watch: The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 (1974)




Watched:  11/13/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  third
Decade:  1970's (and sooooo 1970's)
Director:  Joseph Sargent

I saw this one the first time at the Paramount with absolutely zero context.  Back in the day, I'd just show up for whatever was showing during the Summer classics series, and it's how I first saw some of my "new favorite" films since college.  Third Man.  Sunset Boulevard.  and a host of others.  

And, yeah, I really like The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 (1974).  It's a tidy caper movie, sharing screen time between the heisters and the heisted, but with no set up - just the execution.  So, when four guys take a subway car hostage on a weekday afternoon in New York, it makes no sense to the guys running the subway - blue collar schlubs whose jobs it is to literally make the trains run on time - and it takes a minute they don't have to figure out what the hell is going on.  Let alone - how the baddies think they're going to get away with it (they're trapped in a tunnel, too).  

The gang is a classic heist gang.  The master mind.  The wild card.  The dutiful sergeant.  The guy who is there as the inside man.  But part of what makes the movie is that the guys on the other side of the mic aren't hostage negotiators - they're public employees suddenly in a very weird position, running communications from the heisters all the way to the Mayor.  And, of course, they're a bunch of 1970's New Yorkers.  

As the world I live in is project and operational management, I get a kick out of heist films.   The heist = a project - and the plan for the heist, accounting for everything that can occur and keeping your stakeholders managed sure feels familiar.    The opposite side is operations, which are interrupted by the interference of the heist.  And - man, as I am wont to say - people are terrible in a crisis.

One detail I like about the film is that no one is working in synch on the MTA or government side.  From the mayor dithering and worrying about votes to the internal disagreement in the subway tracking office where Matthau is trying to keep things in hand.  I assure you, there's almost always someone in a crisis who is more bent out of shape that they can't do their usual job than aware of the actual unfolding situation than makes rational sense.

The movie was released in '74, so the occupants of the jobs likely have been sitting in that office since the late 1950's.  There's a casual racism and sexism pervading the scene and characters, and the film does comment on it - albeit not in the way we're used to in 2020.  Brace yourself for some stereotypes (especially among the hostages) and among the main cast.  It's a movie about an imperfect world that has to suddenly deal with the unknown.  

It's a tight film - the run time almost occurs in about half of real-time.  We don't worry too much about the home lives of the characters, and we don't even really know the motivations or what led up to the heist.  But what we do get is a wild mix of talent in the film which makes it work.  Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Jerry Stiller, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo, Doris Roberts, Julius Harris, Kenneth McMillan, and a bunch of other faces you'll recognize (I finally identified Robert Weil as also appearing in Hudsucker Proxy after it's bugged me every time I've watched this movie previously).   

Anyway, worth your time some time.


Friday, November 13, 2020

Friday Watch Party: The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3


Day:  Friday - 11/13/2020
Time:  8:30 Central


An outstanding cast!  New York in the 1970's!  Subways!

Personally, I think this is a heck of a movie, so we're not throwing something goofy at you.  


Thursday, November 12, 2020

Just came from

 

 


Actually, this was the best dentist I've been to in forever. Hit me up, Austin, if you're looking to change up.

But I still think of this every time I'm in the chair.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Musical Watch: Hello, Dolly! (1969)



 
Watched:  11/08/2020
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  Unknown.  Maybe 4th
Decade:  1960's
Director:  Gene Kelly

Hello, Dolly! (1969) has some amazing sequences worth checking out just to see what was going on in the post studio-system era when a surviving studio threw a huge ton of money at a film.  From massive sets to costumes for hundreds (if not thousands), the expense of the thing is hard to get your head around - and every dollar is on the screen.  There's talent galore, including established and rising heavyweights, and even unknown bit players have some moments.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Amazon Watch Party Watch: Escape From New York (1981)

 


Watched:  11/06/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  John Carpenter

I'm not writing this up.  If you've not seen it, you're all the poorer for it - but it's a fine but of early 80's cinema.  And, of course, established Kurt Russell as a non-Disney star.



Sunday, November 8, 2020

Alex Trebek Merges With the Infinite


I can't remember any version of Jeopardy! that didn't feature Alex Trebek.  I know that by 1987-ish and the time I was in 6th grade, we all had our Alex Trebek impersonations, or at least knew how to imitate his cadence when delivering an answer/ clue.  

While I was a Wheel Watcher and had an odd affinity for "Sale of the Century", Jeopardy! was clearly the thinking-person's gameshow - because it was one of the last surviving quiz shows on TV.  And, it was hosted by the thinking-person's gameshow host.  Trebek ran a tight ship - foolishness was not creeping into the world of Jeopardy!.  Demographic-pleasing plebes were not going to find their way onto the contestant's stand - he needed people who could answer a medley of trivia questions, and not lose their cool.  

Trebek grounded the show with a cool, dry, breeziness that was polite, maybe a tad formal, and was unimpressed with credentials even when touting those of his guests.  He was far more impressed if you made a run on the board.  And, his giddiness (which amounted to a small smile at the best of times) shown through during returning champions weeks where he could count on a battle royale instead of watching middle school librarians fall by the wayside early in the game.

Most game show hosts you kind of just shrug at - goofy entertainers with a gift for hucksterism.  But Trebek outsurvived almost all of them (Sajak is still doing his thing, along with Vanna).  And he did it with a certain poise and sincerity about the show that gave gravitas to 30 minutes daily of people being asked random-ass questions for money.  That could have been dumb, y'all.

Jeopardy! existed before Trebek, and it will exist after Trebek.  But it will not be the same without him.  Nor will the television landscape as I've known it my entire life.  And, yes, I will be quietly very judgey of whomever tries to fill Trebek's podium.

Here's to a well deserved rest and may he never have to hear a response in the form of a question ever again.

Friday, November 6, 2020

PODCAST: "Spider-Man: Homecoming" (2017) Avengers Countdown #16 w/ Jamie and Ryan


 
Watched:  10/01/2020
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  2010's
Director:  John Watts




It's round three for film adaptations of Spider-Man, and this time they made Aunt May a stone cold fox. After Disney and Sony sorted out their differences, Spidey finally became part of the MCU and - despite not following origin movie rules - manages to turn in a fun movie with a weirdly sympathetic super-villain (it's BATMAN).





Music: 
Very bad cover of Spider-Man theme - Jamie and Ryan
Spider-Man Theme - The Ramones


Avengers Playlist:

FRIDAY WATCH PARTY: Escape From New York

 


Sooooooo...  I had two weeks worth of plans, maybe three, for our Friday viewings.  But someone pulled their catalog off of Amazon Prime as near as I can tell.  So, no Pump Up the Volume or Short Circuit for us.  I'm in a bit of a panic, so I'm reaching for a personal favorite since it was pointed out it was on here by Jenifer.  

  • Day:  11/06/2020
  • Time:  8:30 Central
  • Where:  Amazon Prime Watch Party
LINK HERE, Y'ALL

It's a post-apocalyptic future of 1997, and America is perpetually at war.  New York has been turned into one big penal colony, and Air Force 1 just went down nearby.  The President's escape pod has fallen into the middle of NYC, containing the President and a recording which will bring an end to conflict. 

The Feds happen to have just laid their hands on one of the toughest criminals to ever walk on American soil:  Kurt Russell with an eyepatch.

Now, Kurt Russell with an eyepatch needs to enter NYC, retrieve the package, and make it back out before the bomb in his neck explodes.  And he's gonna need Harry Dean Stanton and Adrienne Barbeau (which I think we can all say).  

Written by John Carpenter! Directed by Carpenter!  Music by Carpenter!  


Thursday, November 5, 2020

Election Week Watch: The Muppet Movie (1979)




Watched: 11/04/2020
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1970's
Director:  James Frawley

We watched most of this movie on election night in order to avoid the news.  Finished it up last night in order to avoid the news.

Everytime I watch this, I am reminded that Rowlf is the funniest Muppet.   And Paul Williams needs to be re-re-discovered every three years.


Monday, November 2, 2020

Elementary Watch: The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)


 

Watched:  10/31/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Terence Fisher

Frankly I'm surprised I'd never seen this movie before, except:  I've always been embarrassed to not have actually read the novel, which I usually like to do first on things like this.  For a while as a kid I read my brother's Sherlock Holmes collections, and like many a 13 year old kid, was a fan.  Frankly haven't read much since, so if anyone is doing any Christmas shopping for me... could use a nice Holmes collection.

Anyhoo...  Peter Cushing was TCM's Star of the Month, and they aired the movie and I decided: heck, now is the time.  It's Halloween-ish.  Ghost hounds and all.

Cushing plays Sherlock Holmes (to perfection, I might add).  Andre Morell is Watson.  I was further delighted to find out it co-starred Christopher Lee is the heir to the Baskerville manor and fortune, Sir Henry.  

The mystery surrounds a longstanding curse of the Baskerville family, that a demon hound occasionally gets them out on the moors surrounding their manor house.  When the latest occupant dies, killed by some large creature, the next in line is summoned home from South Africa to take his place.  In London, a Dr. Mortimer enlists the aid of Holmes and Watson to sort things out before Sir Henry falls to a similar fate.

The scope of the story plays well to the strengths of Hammer studios - access to solid actors, a limited number of locations, a grisly murder and kind of crazy story.  It has that Terence Fisher touch to it of not being overly stuffy, but also not ever feeling exploitative regarding the horror or grisly details while also painting a picture of what has occurred off screen or which was hinted at.  

If I have *any* complaint, I could have stood *more* of this movie.  It runs 87 minutes, and feels like it could have spent more time building suspects, detailed a bit more here and there, and given more room for Sir Henry's budding romance/ infatuation with the neighbor's comely daughter.  And, of course, with Cushing as Holmes such a delight, it would have been great to get more Holmes/ Watson time.  


Sunday, November 1, 2020

Halloween Watch: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994)




Watched:  10/31/2020
Format:  Amazon Prime
Viewing:  2nd?  3rd?  4th?  It's been decades
Decade: 1990's
Director:  Kenneth Branagh

We already watched the classic Universal Frankenstein and the Hammer Frankenstein for the podcast, but I always watch Frankenstein and Bride as my final movie or so of Halloween.  So, I swapped in this version, which I hadn't seen in forever.  And I know I hadn't seen it in forever, because Jamie had never seen it.  

My memory was "that sure felt like it thought it was much better than it was".  It was directed by already-respected Shakespearean actor/director Kenneth Branagh, borrowed indie cred by casting Helena Bonham Carter (who was the indie-fan's sex symbol of the time), borrowed established cred with Robert DeNiro as the Monster, Tom Hulce of Amadeus fame, Ian Holm, John Cleese and others.  The sets are lavish, the score: sweeping.  

Halloween Cartoon Watch: Happy Halloween, Scooby Doo! (2020)




Watched:  10/31/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Maxwell Atoms

Uh.  So, I guess there's a rabid fanbase of adult fans of Scooby Doo, which, you know, I really like Superman, so, no stones shall I throw.  I was just never a big Scooby Doo fan, even as a kid.  I mean, it was what was *on* in the few hours I was allowed to watch TV as a kid, so I watched it, but I didn't take to it.  Nor did I get onboard with the live action movies from a couple of decades ago.  Basically -  I am out of the Scooby loop.

But...  this year Hanna Barbera/ WB Animation released Happy Halloween, Scooby Doo! (2020), an animated movie featuring the voice talent of Cassandra "Elvira" Peterson as herself/ Elvira.  I gathered from something I read that she didn't just wander in, do a joke, and disappear again, so I paid to rent the film.  




As I mentioned, there's a rabid adult fanbase of Scoob-o-philes, and I was kind of curious how they felt about this movie.  The Scooby Doo I remember had the bland Fred and Daphne, Velma trying to keep things together, and Shag and Scoob as two slackers who had no business in the monster-chasing business and made dangerously large sandwiches.  The new take looks like classic Scoob, but Fred is... dumb?  I couldn't figure it out.  Daphne is... insane?  and the other three felt like how I remember them.  And, honestly, Scooby Doo himself was deeply back burnered, which is not how I remember the show working.

Elvira was allowed to be more or less a PG version of herself, and they went weird with some bits I can see Peterson finding pretty funny.  Bill Nye also plays a sort of Q role for the team, air dropping them a new mystery machine.

Well, according to what I saw online, the adult fans hate this take.    Which - sure.  Key characters are out of character, even with the fan-base approved voice cast.  

The movie is kind of weird, structurally - from including a Batman villain, to an extended road chase that just keeps going.  

Anyway, I probably enjoyed it more as an Elvira movie than as a Scooby Doo movie - and actually understand if fans are weirded out by their favorite characters acting out of character.  See: my confusion about recent DC Comics movies.  I'm not sure I've ever really been much of one for the Scooby Doo formula, but it was interesting/ weird to see the characters looking the same but (especially Fred and Daphne) updated to be more like modern animated characters.  Not sure it worked - but it was something to ponder.  






Watch Party Watch: House on Haunted Hill (1959)




Watched:  10/30/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1950's
Director:  William Castle

We were trying to find an ideal movie to prep friends for Halloween, and I think a William Castle spooktacular starring Vincent Price is a pretty good option.  

House on Haunted Hill (1959) is a classic in part because it's an examplar of Castle's interactive theatrical experiences (I believe during this movie, he released a skeleton over the audience on wires) and because it seems to be in the public domain.  But, I dunno, I kind of like it.  It's cheesy, it's giddily malicious, and it makes no sense unless you say "I guess maybe the house WAS haunted?"

Anyway - it's not high art, and doesn't have quite enough spooky scenes, but it's still a fun one.



Saturday, October 31, 2020

Halloween Doc Watch: Wolfman's Got Nards (2018)




Watched:  10/29/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Andre Gower

I saw The Monster Squad at Showplace 6 on a weekday in late summer when I was a kid.  I must have said something about the movie and thinking I'd miss it (it wasn't released until mid-August of 1987, which would have been just as school was starting), so I'm guessing I thought the clock was ticking.  My dad loved movies, too, when we were kids.  Not like some of your dads who showed you Carrie or whatever, he just liked going to the movies or making a bucket of popcorn at home and watching a movie with us.  

All I know is that on a weekday in the few weeks Monster Squad was out, my dad took the afternoon off work - came home and got me, we watched the movie - and then he dropped me off and went back to work.  I don't think he remembers this at all, but it meant a lot to me when I was 12.  

Hammer Watch: Dracula A.D. 1972




Watched:  10/28/2020
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Alan Gibson

So, we skipped a Dracula movie in there because we read it was super not good, and Jamie's been watching these with me, and I'm trying not to make her hate this.  I have a weird fondness for this very not good movie, which I'd seen before and picked up on discount on BluRay.  But, you know, from a critical standpoint, and through the eyes of 2020, it's hard to say Dracula A.D. 1972 aged particularly well.  

Interactive Watch: The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959)

 


Watched:  10/27/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Edward L. Cahn


I had never heard of The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959) before this week.  But it was Jenifer's selection for the Tuesday watch-along party, Halloween appropriate, and had a wacky premise.  And that premise was: what if someone read an article on head-shrinking in National Geographic?  

A family somewhere in America full of the last vestiges of Victorian gentlemen scientists/ explorers had once gone to South America, gotten killed and brought a curse down upon the Drake family.  Now, the brother of Jonathan Drake has been murdered/ decapitated, and a skull has mysteriously appeared in the family crypt.  

But a lot of heads have gone missing in the Drake family over the years, and skulls keep appearing in a handy skull-accommodating curio cabinet they've got.  

Well, turns out there's an evil scientist who seems to have it in for the Drakes (the last of which is a young woman with a solid profile), and there's a spooky guy dressed in some sort of clearly supposed to be "native" garb that looks like a track suit who has his lips sewn shut running around poking people with a stick dipped in poison, which is a real dick move.  

A cop gets involved and is cranky, but decides magic makes as much sense as anything else.

Look, these days it's hard to do a story where "evil" is based on anything coming from a place other than WASP-based culture without getting the twitter cops on you.  I get it - this movie is xenophobic at minimum, exploitative at best, and has the weirdest opposite of "brown face" you're gonna see in a movie.  I do think that it's okay to have *some* aspect of mystery out there in the world and that it's possibly not a reason to go into hysterics re: the movie's racism.  This is not the movies to champion that idea, but it's possible.

As a straight horror movie, it actually has a nice, pulpy set-up, and I can see this in a horror comic or the like, as much as on the screen.  It sticks to *some* tropes, like the big, strong American cop plowing ahead through the film's action, but it also has so much to set up with the premise, it still has a bit of novelty.  Mostly, it really, really leans into using a few key real-world terms and indigenous words and no one sounds natural using them.

Much discussion was had about the stiff acting of Valerie French in this film, but I think (a) she wasn't given much to do and this was probably shot in a week, and (b) she's doing something approximating an American accent over her London accent, and it's clearly a struggle.  She might have been happier in a Hammer Horror during this window.



Friday, October 30, 2020

Friday Amazon Watch Party: House on Haunted Hill


Day:  October 30th, 2020
Time:  8:30 Central



One part Vincent Price, one part William Castle, and a dash of Elisha Cook Jr.!  It's a house!  It's on a hill!  And maybe, just maybe, it's HAUNTED.  

A favorite of MST3K, Elvira, and inexpensive UHF Halloween-time programming, Vincent Price is caught in a bad romance with a cranky blonde.  For her birthday, he's rented a house with a reputation as a site of murder and, more recently, GHOSTS.  Like, angry ghosts!  

Price has invited several strangers, each in need of some quick cash.  If they can survive the night, they get a sack of dough.

As a welcome gift, each of the guests receive a gun.

Anyway - it's a kooky, campy good time, with Price being all dapper in a well-cut suit.  There's some good jump scares, crazy ideas and Elisha Cook freaking the @#$% out.  Skeletons.  Old ladies making faces.

It's a whole scene.

Halloween at League HQ - 2020 (a brief tour)

and, yes, Scout wandered into the picture there at the bottom


It's Spooky Season at League HQ.  We did do some indoor decorating this year.  However, some of this stuff is up all year long.  For example:  My Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein posters are always a feature in The Hall of Gentlepersons.



Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Spooky Comedy Watch: Hubie Halloween (2020)




Watched:  10/25/2020
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Steve Brill

Look, Adam Sandler movies are not my thing, but we'd been drinking.

This is a perfectly good Halloween comedy, and is more or less exactly what you expect out of a an Adam Sandler comedy, if you like that sort of thing.  It is also feels weirdly more like it *understands* Halloween more than almost any film I've seen.  It gets what the holiday is, and doesn't need to make the lead *hate* Halloween and be won over by the holiday.  And doesn't oversell what happens on Halloween.  

While Sandler doesn't exactly light up the critical heavens with each release, he clearly has made his sets somewhere people want to be.  The cast on this thing is amazing, including faces I haven't seen since, like, Happy Gilmore.  And everyone gets a chance to be funny.  It's really generous, cooperative stuff.

Probably safe for 11 and up.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

PODCAST: "Van Helsing" (2004) - our Halloween 2020 Finale! w/ SimonUK and Ryan




Watched:  10/18/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  2000's
Director:  Stephen Sommers



Well, what better way to wrap up our review of classic monsters and monster movies than to discuss 2004's mish-mash of Dracula, Frankenstein, werewolves, hats, hair, bodices and swing around on ropes? Universal threw money at the guy who gave them the 1999 Mummy franchise and he promptly went bananas, abusing SFX teams and creating the worst kind of fan-fic. Join us as we make our way through Van Helsing.
 


Music
:
The Monster Mash - Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt Kickers

Monday, October 26, 2020

Watch Party Watch: The House That Dripped Blood (1971)




Watched:  10/23/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming Watch Party
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Peter Duffell

Really, an excuse for me to watch an Ingrid Pitt movie, I subjected friends to The House That Dripped Blood (1971), a horror anthology starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Denholm Elliot and, of course, Ingrid Pitt, all in different sequences.  

The budget is modest, but it does have a sort of fun "let's tell spooky stories over the campfire" vibe to it, with four episodes of horror, all in complete different genres.  One - a writer conjures the villain from his book to life.  Two - a retired actor stumbles upon a wax figurine in a wax works in the village that reminds him of a woman with whom he failed to kindle a relationship, and he becomes obsessed.  Third - a man moves into the house with his young daughter, who may be a bit too much like her deceased mother.  Fourth - a horror movie star and his much younger girlfriend/ co-star move into the house while he also secures a cape that may really, really get him into the role of a vampire.

It is a silly movie, in many ways, but a darn good one for the Halloween season.  


Sunday, October 25, 2020

Hammer Watch: Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)




Watched:  10/24/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:   Peter Sasdy

I actually liked this Dracula a bit more than I expected.  We're hitting 1970 by this time, Hammer was loosening up, and the characters feel a bit more three-dimensional around Dracula - which is welcome what with the lack of Peter Cushing.  

Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) picks up during the events of the prior Dracula film, with Dracula impaled on a golden cross.  A wayward English traveler comes upon the scene at that very moment, and, being an enterprising fellow, collects Dracula's cape, his clasp and his ring after the count is "dead".  As well as putting some of his blood in a vial.

Hammer Watch: Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1968)




Watched:  10/22/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1960's
Director:  Terence Fisher

I've watched the few Frankenstein movies from Hammer that I've seen completely out of order.  And this is no exception.  I think this is the second to last movie, but, really, do not know.

Completely spinning the opposite direction from Universal, Hammer decided the selling point for their Frankenstein films was not the monster, but the good doctor himself.  Building on the arrogant sonuvabitch from the novel, this version of Frankenstein is NOT humbled by his first creation, but emboldened by his success, and so the subsequent films are him doing what all good scientists would do - keep working on it.  

Friday, October 23, 2020

FRIDAY: Amazon Watch Party - "The House That Dripped Blood" (1970) - an anthology of FRIGHTS

 


Day:  10/23/2020
Time:  8:30 PM Central



We've been threatening y'all with this movie for a while now, and it's time to deliver.

No other genre does the "anthology" quite the way horror film embraces the concept.  The House That Dripped Blood is a collection of short stories all around a single house in the suburbs that contains TERROR in many forms and guises.

The movie has some big names in it - Cushing, Lee, Denholm Elliot.  But it also gives me a chance to share the great Ingrid Pitt with you people.

I know this doesn't LOOK scary, but this IS a scene from the movie.  And that is Ms. Pitt.



It's not Hammer - it's their poor relation, Amicus Productions.  But it's still a perfect bit of horror for a night as we head toward Halloween!

Hammer Watch: The Vampire Lovers (1970)


 

Watched:  10/21/2020
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Third
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Roy Ward Baker

A few years ago I included The Vampire Lovers (1970) in my list of one of the best movies I'd watched that year, but I don't think I'd actually watched it again since.  Maybe in bits on cable, but this year I've been saving another rewatch for Halloween-season.   The last few Octobers were obnoxiously busy times for me (in no small part because of baseball, but the Cubs were very bad this year).  But, last year I squeezed in a listen to the audiobook of the source material, the novella Carmilla.  (I should mention, the novella predates Dracula by about 15 years).

Thursday, October 22, 2020

PODCAST: "The Mummy" (1932) and "The Mummy" (1959) - Universal and Hammer Horror for Halloween 2020! w/ SimonUK and Ryan

 


Watched:  10/10/2020 and 10/13/2020
Format:  BluRay and Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  Unknown (a lot) and Third
Decade:  1930's and 1950's
Director:  Karl Freund and Terence Fisher




We get wrapped up in some positively ancient horror favorites; two takes on the ancient dudes coming back and causing a lot of problems for colonial pillagers of ancient burial sites! First up is the weirdly undiscussed 1932 Universal feature starring Boris Karloff as a former clergyman who would do anything for love, then we talk the 1959 version starring Christopher Lee in a similar role - but this time opposite Peter Cushing. We'll walk a Nile in their shoes as we dig deep and discuss two horror classics!
 

Music: 
The Mummy Opening Titles - Franz Reizenstein, The Mummy OST
King Tut - Steve Martin, 45rpm edition