Saturday, October 29, 2022

Pumpkin Carving Watch: The Haunting (1963)

Watched:  10/29/2022
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1960's
Director:  Robert Wise

Every year, we carve a couple of Jack-o-Lanterns and this year is no exception.  And when we carve pumpkins, we put on a movie we know well so we only have to partially watch.  The Haunting (1963) was Jamie's suggestion for this year's carving.

It's been a little bit since I watched this Halloween favorite, and, dammit, is this movie good.  Having now read the novel upon which it is based, it's even better.  But what is in the movie has always been there, so take off your "spooky movies didn't get sophisticated until the 1970's" glasses and soak it in.

I like vampire movies, werewolf movies, etc...  I get the actual willies from haunted house movies and Michael Meyers.  Probably because The Shape is basically a stabby, unknowable ghost.  

Anyway - borrowing heavily from Shirley Jackson's text, leaning on stellar performances across the cast and Wise's smart direction and some off-kilter/ really creative camera and lighting work, it's just a delight to watch.  When I'm not gritting my teeth.  

Here's the jack-o-lanterns, by the way.  Jamie used a cookie cutter and hammer to get her pumpkin's eyes done.  I think it looks cool!

PodCast 220: "Halloween Trilogy" (2018, 2021, 2022) - a Halloween PodCast w/ MRSHL and Ryan

Watched:  10/20 and 10/22/2022
Format:  HBOmax and Peacock
Viewing:   Second/ First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  David Gordon Green

To wrap up Halloween 2022, Marshall and Ryan take on the more recent trilogy of sequels based upon John Carpenter's 1970's ground-breaking classic, that spanned 2018-2022. We drive relentlessly through three movies, slashing our way through narrative complexity, taking down the multitude of ideas presented, slaying any questions about what the movie is trying to do, and staring into the abyss as we try to figure out what, exactly, is staring back.



Halloween Theme - John Carpenter 
Halloween Ends - John Carpenter 

Halloween 2022 Playlist

All Halloween and Horror PodCasts

Halloween Watch: Elvira - Mistress of the Dark (1988)

Watched:  10/27/2022
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  1,000,000th
Director:  James Signorelli

I watch this every Halloween season.  One day we'll podcast it and I'll talk about it more fully, but for now, it's up to you to go watch it and read old posts on the movie.  Also, go read Cassandra Peterson's memoir, Yours Cruelly, Elvira: Memoirs of the Mistress of the Dark.  

Halloween Watch Party Watch: House of Dracula (1945)

Watched:  10/28/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Erle C. Kenton

I'd seen this before and couldn't really remember it.  But when I saw "Hunchback" on the poster, I was like "oh, yeah.  This one."  

Dracula (John Carradine) goes to a Dr. Edelman trying to figure out if he can be "cured".  Edelman being a movie scientist/ doctor is like "why not?"  The same day, frikkin' Larry Talbot shows up *also* looking to be cured of being the Wolfman.  And in the cave below the house?  Frankenstein's monster.  Because why not?  

Whether Drac was serious or not about his cure and whether he was overwhelmed by his own innate evil or not is never explained as he throws the plan out the window to get un-vamped in exchange for trying to turn one of the two nurses into a new bride.  Along the way, Dracula turns the doctor into a sort of quasi-vampire.  Shenanigans ensue.

We have to talk about Nina.

Look, this whole movie is not about Nina, but she's in, like, 1/3rd to 1/2 of the shots the movie.  And I do not know why.  She's set up as a major character, but is not.  She's just... there.

Nina (Jane Adams), the dutiful nurse to Dr. Edelmann, is the poster-specified a hunchback, which is mentioned like once, but otherwise goes unremarked upon.  So she's, visually, always there in bright white nurse-gear and trying to be helpful and has an obvious difference.  

Actress Jane Adams was not a hunchback, and whatever prosthetic they put on her seemed to really bend her over and make her arms hang a certain way.  The character has not a negative bone in her body.  She's sweet and helpful and literally everything points to things working out well for Nina.  Like, they introduce a potential cure for Nina's bone difference - which she gives up to help the frikkin' Wolfman instead.  That's Nina!  Always helpful.  

But at the movie's climax, Nina is just thrown in a pit to her death as a bystander in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Which...  weird flex to suddenly go dark in a movie that feels very much aimed at kids.  

I have no ideas or no theories as to what happened here.  Was there supposed to be another fate for Nina?  Was Nina always doomed?  Was she accidentally in more of the movie than they intended thus drawing focus?  Why take a super cute actress and suggest she needs work and then bump her off with her storyline unresolved?  

It's a mystery wrapped in an enigma and smothered in secret sauce.  But what reading I did do tells me that this movie was on a conveyor belt through pre-production to post-production and while Adams had a swell time working on it, the veteran actors were less than impressed with the industrial approach to movie making that they compared to how TV would be made in a few short years.

Anyway - Nina going down into the pit will now haunt me forever.  

Adams' career in film and TV was not terribly long.  She showed up in 1942 and sort of petered out in the 1950's, finishing with an appearance on The Adventures of Superman in 1953.  It looks like she did a lot of B's, monster and cowboy movies.  She was kind of short for Hollywood, I guess, at 5'3" (which doesn't seem that short), but she attributed that to how she wound up in less than glam-girl roles.

We think she's peachy.

So here's Jane Adams without her prosthetic.  Lovely girl.  Not exactly in the Dwight Fry in weird make-up mode.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Friday Watch Party: House of Dracula

I asked Jenifer what she wanted to watch, and her instructions were to find something with Dracula meeting another monster.  Which is harder than you'd think.  Anyway, here's House of Dracula, one of the movies so late in the original run of Universal movies that I've never seen it.  

Dracula (John Carradine), the Wolfman (Lon Chaney Jr.) an Frankenstein (Glenn Strange) meet a mad scientist and his nurse.  Even if it's bad, it's only 67 minutes.  Sure to include some serious monster-mashing mayhem!

Wait, no.  I've seen this.  ha ha ha. Ok.  This movie is goofy as hell.

Day:  Friday 10/28/2022
Time:  8:30 Central/ 6:30 Pacific
Service:  Amazon
Cost:  $4

link live 10 minutes before showtime

Hammer Watch: Blood From the Mummy's Tomb (1971)

Watched:  10/26/2022
Format:  AFS Cinema
Viewing: First
Director:  Seth Holt/ Michael Carreras

Well.  This was 40 minutes of movie stretched out over 96 minutes.  

I'll defend the last 30 or so minutes of Blood From the Mummy's Tomb (1971), but the first hour of the film is weirdly plodding for a Hammer, with long stretches of the movie that feel like filler to hit an unnecessarily long run time.  This whole thing could have been 70 minutes and lost nothing.  

Example:  We see 85% of the moments leading up to an Egyptologist's demise and can infer he dies off-frame.  It's not great, but a workman-like scene.  We then then watch Our Hero look for the guy for what has to be a full 2 minutes of screen time, retracing the path we just saw just seconds before.  Look -  all we needed was Our Hero walking up on the dead body and showing his horror and revulsion.  That's like 10-15 seconds, easy-peasy.  

So, yeah, it's a weird movie and falls in a lot of traps I usually associate with indie-schlocky levels of movie-making where there's pressure to reach a minimum runtime and no one working on the movie understands pacing or narrative economy.  This is a movie made by actual professionals from a real studio.  It's weird.  When you see the slow-moving dad, partially paralyzed from mummy-attack, realize his daughter on the 3rd floor is in danger and he rushes to help her from the basement, I let out an audible groan.  We're going to see a lot of awkward stair climbing.  

What the film does have going for it is Valerie Leon, but YMMV here.  She's not an amazing actor, but she ably fills the role of Hammer lead.  

Valerie Leon takes a hard look at herself

Stylistically, the film has one foot in modern 1971 and another in pre-WWII movies of mummies and even archaeology.  But throws in odd bits like Our Hero's car is an MG TA from the 1930's, I believe, while keeping the wardrobe for the young leads hip and modern.  

The plot, based upon a Bram Stoker horror novel with which I am unfamiliar, does inform how we wound up with so much reincarnation jazz in mummy films starting with Karloff.  On the very moment of discovery of a sarcophagus containing a perfectly preserved Egyptian queen/ priestess, an archaeologist's daughter is born and his wife dies in childbirth in London.  As she approaches her birthday (they never say which one...) it seems the daughter, who exactly resembles the "mummy", is becoming possessed by her. 

The movie becomes a plodding "gotta catch 'em all" of the artifacts of the queen, scattered across London in the homes of the archaeologist's team - who don't stay in touch.  Why no one destroyed the artifacts is never stated.  Or why they didn't, like, put the in a vault or mail them to relatives or basically do anything to actually stop this... never comes up.  

There's also a Dr. Pretorious-type imported from Bride of Frankenstein in James Villiers' Corbeck.  It's such an obvious swipe, it's kind of adorable.  And aside from Leon's wardrobe, the best part of the film.

I suspect Hammer probably knew this movie wasn't great, but they had also hired a down-on-his-luck Seth Holt to direct, and the guy died ON SET the last week of filming.  They soldiered on and made a movie, but - man.  This is not good.  It's not even "fine".  It's just mind-numbingly dull for vast stretches and it absolutely didn't have to be.  There's plenty to talk about vis-a-vis how it relates to modern mummy films, old mummy films, the Hammer canon, etc...  but I can't do it.  

Thursday, October 27, 2022

PodCast 219: "Ghostbusters Afterlife" (2021) - a Halloween PodCast w/ SimonUK and Ryan

Watched:  10/10/2022
Format:  Amazon?
Viewing: First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Jason Reitman

SimonUK and Ryan call upon the 2021 sequel to some favorites of the 1980's. It's a return to all the things you knew about Ghostbusters, but - like Star Wars, Mary Poppins, the Halloween franchise - it's a new generation and a welcome paycheck for familiar favorites! Let's spring the trap and try not to cross the beams.



Trapped - Rob Simonsen, Ghostbusters Afterlife OST 
Reconciliation - Rob Simonsen, Ghostbusters Afterlife OST 

Halloween 2022 Playlist 

All Halloween and Horror Playlist 

Vincent Watch: The Fly (1958)

Watched:  10/25/2022
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  FIRST
Director:  Kurt Neuman

A while back I figured out I had never seen The Fly (1958).  Whatever I saw - which was in pieces on TV - was Return of the Fly from the following year.  Both star Vincent Price. Look, I'm not always great at knowing what I did and did not do.

I was inclined to check the movie out anyway, but October 25th marked the 29th anniversary of the passing of Vincent Price, add in Halloween shenanigans and it seemed like the time to watch it.

Look, I loved this movie.  Great cast, great story, and understood horror on a much deeper level than "oooo!  a scary monster!".  Like, there's body horror, psychological horror, existential horror...  you can see why Cronenberg was like "I have an idea of how to re-do this".

If you've lived in the world, you know "Heeeeeelllp meeeeeee!"  And I'd seen the clip on YouTube.

All this to say, this movie is as dark as anything I've seen from this era, and I've seen piles of post-1955 noir.  You don't get much more f'd up than a man-fly or fly-man.  Or a woman having to flatten her own husband to paste.

The film stars Price in a POV role as the brother to the scientist who becomes The Fly, who is played by Felix Leiter himself, David Hedison.  Patricia Owens didn't have a huge career, but she's amazing as the wife who had to learn to work an industrial press in a pinch.  Herbert Marshall as the Inspector, and a surprise appearance by Kathleen Freeman as a domestic who has no idea what is going on.

I knew Stuart was all in on this movie, so I'm glad he hyped it for me to finally get around to it.  It's a couple levels better than what I was expecting, which was William Castle adjacent.  But thought and ideas went into this, and not just schlocky fun.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Off-Season Watch: Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Watched:  10/24/2022
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  Third
Director:  Tim Burton

My recollection of Edward Scissorhands (1990) was that it was... fine.  It was never my favorite film by Tim Burton or otherwise.  I'm certain I saw it on the heels of the success of Batman and with reflective goodwill earned by that movie (in my mind at the time).  

It was probably also my actual introduction to the Tim Burton aesthetic and ethos.  I didn't get around to Beetlejuice til after 1995 when Jamie showed it to me (I have no real recollection of how I missed it the first time around).  But at roughly 15 years old, I believe my brother and I saw Edward Scissorhands during holiday break when we more or less would go to the movies almost every other day.  And by this point the trailers and whatnot would have pinged off me and been appealing.

In college, one of my roommates opined that "it would be nice if Tim Burton could tell a story", and at the time I was like "what are you talking about?" because we were watching Batman Returns and that is clearly art.*  But upon reflection - I usually only watch a Tim Burton film once, if at all.  I'm probably batting only a .650 with his overall output and I only really rewatch Batman films and NBXM.

And this movie, which is a Christmas movie (I mentioned before it started and was rebuffed), is one I watched once in the theater, once at someone's house when it was on, and never watched again after high school.  I recalled thinking "well, it didn't really *do* anything" or however one reacts in high school to movies with a deeply muddled third act and hinging on a romance that is never established.  

Sunday, October 23, 2022

PodCast 218: "Near Dark" (1987) - a Halloween PodCast w/ SimonUK and Ryan

Watched:  09/26/2022
Format:  DVD
Viewing: Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Kathryn Bigelow

SimonUK and Ryan head west to dig up a cult classic! It's a 1980's take on vampires that doesn't suck! This film helped pivot vampires into something other than romantic, well-dressed folk and gave us hard-travelling vagabonds who might just treat you like a Capri Sun pouch.



Rain in the Third House - Tangerine Dream, Near Dark OST 
Mae's Transformation - Tangerine Dream, Near Dark OST 

Halloween 2022

Halloween and Horror - All

Vampire d'Halloween Watch: Fascination (1979)

Watched:  10/22/2022
Format:  Criterion Channel
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jean Rollin

I don't know the work of Jean Rollin, but I understand more cultured folks will.  Something to look into.  His imdb looks like horror and thrillers, so, sure.

This film is mostly mood in the best way.  I think some of y'all like JAL might dig it if you haven't seen it.  It's essentially a well telegraphed vampire movie with the languid pace of Daughters of Darkness that has some astounding moments that alone are worth checking the movie out for.  

I enjoyed it, but it's mostly paper thin when you want to discuss the plot, which is a young criminal takes the gold he and his compatriots stole and hides out in a mansion which is inhabited by two young, attractive women but no servants or anything.  He tries to sort out what is happening, has sex with one of them and dodges the gang of crooks.  Also, there's a reunion of more attractive young women.

I dunno.  Give it a shot. It has some stunning visuals and never overextends its reach as a lovely, moody bit of horror with a curious spin on the vampire idea.