Today marks the 101st birthday of film star, Elsa Lanchester.
Saturday, October 28, 2023
Director: Ti West
A xerox of a xerox of movies you've seen before, the greatest sin of X, the 2022 horror smash, is that it's fundamentally boring.
Look, I don't make the movies, I just watch them, and when you're drawing obvious comparisons to your own movie, in the movie, and you choose to draw the audience's attention to Psycho (which I happened to have just watched), you're soft-breaking the cardinal movie rule of not showing a better movie during your own movie. But, yes, the movie is a slow build for literally the first hour of people making a porn film in a rustic cabin on some farmer's property in the middle of East Texas nowhere, with some light hints that something is up with the elderly owners of the farm/ ranch-land where the filming is taking place.
The problem with this, imho, is that Writer/ Director Ti West is under the impression that by borrowing Psycho's slow build and pivot, which he calls out, he's doing the same thing. But we're 62 years on, we've all seen a lot of movies, and at this point I was looking at my watch instead of the movie when we don't get our first kill til 58 minutes into a 105 minute film. I don't know how to tell Ti West - my man, Hitch did this 30 years into perfecting tension in movies. This ain't that.
Viewing: ha ha ha ha ha
Director: James Signorelli
Look, I've talked about Elvira, the character, plenty over the years, and I've watched this movie every Halloween for a while. I even have a tag for Elvira related material.
Suffice to say, I am a fan of the character, the film, and Ms. Peterson herself.
I've nothing new to say on this particular viewing, but you should watch the movie before we hit the big, spooky day!
Friday, October 27, 2023
|it never occurred to me before how bonkers this poster really is|
Viewing: 3rd or 4th
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
So, it's not really worth talking too deeply about Psycho (1960) here at Ye Olde Film Watch Journal. The movie is one of the most written about, discussed and analyzed flicks that one is likely to see. So I won't get into plot, analysis, etc... Y'all can chase that around on your own.
I hadn't personally seen it in probably two decades, so I decided to give it a whirl as part of our Halloween spooktacular cinema series.
Probably my foremost comment is that the movie actually lives up to the hype. Some movies do. Lawrence of Arabia. 2001. The Godfather Part II. I can go on listing great movies, but just assume I agree with you as you fill in your own blank here.
Maybe those movies show signs of age or that they were made in another time, but there's nothing about them that doesn't pull you in and hold you. And Psycho - minus the weirdo psychoanalysis at the conclusion - is kind of a perfect film. Every line has weight or double meaning, every shot provides you with information about the story and characters, and the sound and atmosphere are on point.
Wednesday, October 25, 2023
Viewing: Unknown/ First
Director: James Whale
Jamie and Ryan are transparent in their madness about this 1930's cinema classic! It's a ghostly good time as they get wrapped up in a conversation that makes it clear, you can see right through them when it comes to their enjoyment of this film.
Invisible Man Theme - Heinz Roemheld
The Invisible Man - Queen, The Miracle
All Halloween and Horror Playlist
Director: James Whale
Every year during the spooky season I try to give Frankenstein (1931) a watch. The past several years, I've double-billed Frankenstein with Bride of Frankenstein, usually the night before - or night of - Halloween.
But this year I wanted to give the movie a bit more time to percolate and watch it as its own thing.
It's a movie I've seen *a lot* and so I can spot the places where the dolly shot bounces on the tracks, and I can see the literal creasing in the backdrops used in the forest scenes. I laugh with anticipation at the jokes and know which bits work best as scares.
I make a lot of notes about how Dracula movies don't match the novel, because there's usually some adherence to the book and seeing where and why they diverged is a curiosity. But by the time you get from the publication of Mary Shelley's novel in 1818 to the play and the movie, this story was well over 100 years old, and folks were going to do their own thing.* There's barely any of the novel left in this film. Themes. Some names. Some settings. A wedding.
So I tend to separate them and consider them their own thing, and it's usually in subsequent adaptations that I look for whether they're borrowing from this film or from the novel or doing something entirely new.
Even if the film is nearing the century mark, it still plays. The creatures' pathos is as real as the novel, if reduced to a child-like state of confusion rather than a sort of existential crisis of existence. The performances are of their time but would absolutely put fire in a modern adaptation. You simply won't beat Colin Clive going mad in the moments of success after the monster is lowered from the tower.
The look is borrowed from German Expressionism, and between the Gothic horror of Dracula's settings and this film, we get a language for how the best sets and scenes should look in horror that will be endlessly copied, parodied, stolen from and refracted for the next 90 years. That's not to say this was the final word, but the starting line and the thing to which everything else can draw comparison.
Further, the themes of "who is the real monster?" would echo throughout horror and science fiction, and are often the best part to chew on in a film (and something zombie movies picked up and ran with). But I think this movie does the best job of bringing a Dr. Frankenstein to life who really thinks he shut the door behind himself and his experiments, only to have it come roaring back.
I'm now curious to read the play upon which the movie is based. Curiously, next year sees the publication of the script for what I believe to be the first time.
Some time I will write a much longer bit on this movie, it's sequel and the novel and why I keep coming back to them, but not today, kids!
But for the best Halloween spookiness for the whole family, I humbly submit this classic.
*worth noting, this film will be 100 in just 8 years
Monday, October 23, 2023
|quite the photoshop collage here|
Format: FreeVee on Amazon
Viewing: 3rd or 4th
Director: Roy Ward Baker
In the wake of the opulence and spectacle of watching the 1992 Dracula adaptation, I threw on the 1970 Hammer horror film, The Vampire Lovers, a movie I'm pretty sure I'm on the record as a fan. That impression held up on a re-viewing of the movie.
During this period, Hammer was sorting out what to do as Lee was increasingly (and famously) less interested in playing Dracula, and so they sought to expand their vampire offerings beyond the Count and his shenanigans. Thus, they went to the novel that preceded Dracula, and from which Stoker (ahem) borrowed from.
If you're looking for the book that mixes up vampirism, sex and romance, this is the one, and it often feels like the romantic angles ascribed to Dracula was an interpretation of how this book, and therefore movie, take on a vampire's relationship with their prey. In this case, rather than an exotic Count from a mysterious kingdom, it's a fellow young woman who is deposited at the doorstep of a family with a young woman of similar age. Who precedes to die.
Shortly after, the same young woman, calling herself Carmilla, appears at another house (left by a woman of breeding and elegance) with a similarly aged young woman, and we see how the relationship between the two blossom, even as villagers start getting picked off.
If Brides of Dracula is any indication, Hammer had long ago figured out the formula for inserting a clutch of attractive women in their films and teaming them with baffled middle-aged men and Peter Cushing.
This was one of a handful of starring movie roles for Ingrid Pitt, who is 30+ here if she's a day, playing 19. Full disclosure, we're Ingrid Pitt stans here at The Signal Watch, and we think she's just super. Madeline Smith, just at the start of her career, is terrific, and we'd be happy to see more films with Kate O'Mara. As always, Cushing is a force of nature in the film.
Anyway, with all the "romance" of vampires stuff, Vampire Lovers manages to find the balance between eroticism and the actual devilish nature of the characters. Part of Carmilla's curse is that she does seem to form a bond with her victims - if not love, then dependence, and she's damned to take their lives, one after another.
The only other film I can think of that seems to touch on this concept in its way is The Hunger, which blows that concept out, making it a genuine romance. Until it isn't. And walks through what the relationship actually is via Sarandon and Deneuve.
There's still straight up vampire stuff in this film, from Carmilla wandering the woods like an apparition, to garlic being generally unwelcome, to beheadings. All solid stuff.
Sunday, October 22, 2023
Viewing: Second, I think
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Firstly, this isn't Bram Stoker's actual Dracula. This is Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992).
I very much remember Coppola, with whose work I'd just become acquainted at age 15 or so, announcing he was going to remake the Universal Monster stuff using the source material. And as a teen, I was jazzed. Let's kick the dust off, ditch the stuffy 1930's stylings (I'd never seen the movies at this point) and lets make a Dracula for the 90's!
All I can really remember from that first movie is that it was... a lot. The reviews were mixed, but everyone was going to see it, and I was in a packed theatre when I watched it myself.
Honestly, I remember thinking "well... that was a lot. And I get why the reviews were mixed." Halloween night of '93, I went to see the original, and was like "oh, wow. This is rad. I get why people love this." and, in fact, my interest in horror movie monsters I'd had as a kid was reignited (along with a VHS copy of Phantom of the Opera) to the point where I'm annoying about it to this day!
Over the years, I've not returned to the Coppola movie because (a) I didn't like it all that much to begin with, and (b) there's so many Draculas. And one gotta catch 'em all.