Monday, February 27, 2006

R.I.P. Darren McGavin

I just wanted to take a quick second and post my condolences about the passing of Darren McGavin.

A long time working actor, in such films as, The Man with the Golden Arm and A Christmas Story, he was first brought to my attention as Karl Kolchak in The Night Stalker T.V. series. McGavin's performance as Kolchak has solidified my long lasting love of the over achieving underdog, the guy who knows he's right but the world just won't listen to him. He always managed to give whatever role he was in a style all his own. He will surly be missed out here in movie blog land as I expect elsewhere....

Sunday, February 26, 2006

John Carpenter's The Fog (1980)

( A Mina post, by way of third party, so credit should go to her)

In 1978, On a budget of $325 000 (and eventually grossing over $50 000 000 worldwide, between box office and domestic and foreign distribution receipts) , director John Carpenter and screenwriter Debra Hill sliced their way to the forefront of horror with the classic Halloween. Based on that success (which was so surprising to John himself that he had to be informed of it by Avis: "Success? What success? It tanked!"), Avis Embassy Pictures offered Carpenter a 2-picture deal, the first of which resulted in another horror classic, 1980's The Fog.

Inspired by the thought "what if?", when greeted by an eerie fog bank during a visit to Stonehenge, I'd never seen the film before last night, and was about 9 years old when it first hit theaters. It was, of course, deemed way to scary for little me, and by the time I was old enough to decide for myself what was too scary, there was a whole new mess of fright flicks to see. So this one slipped by the wayside. A resurgence of interest generated by the remake resulted in the thought that, if we see the remake, we should probably see the original first.

Antonio Bay is a small seaside town about to celebrate it's centennial. But with the discovery of an ancestor's diary, the locals are about to learn of the town's darker history, and of the night when the ship, The Elizabeth Dane was lured onto shore. Thanks to a well-placed campfire and a thick fog, a pesky leper colony led by a rich man is conveniently exterminated. Now a century later, the colony and the fickle fog are back -- and the dead will have their revenge.

Snappy dialogue, strong leads like Adrienne Barbeu and Jaime Lee Curtis, and a great supporting cast like Janet Leigh, Tom Atkins, Hal Holbrook, and John Osmium, gives us just enough character development to quickly humanize the townspeople and ensure that we're as concerned as they are when Folders activity sweeps town as Just The Beginning of the Horror. The story is well paced and moves quickly from the puzzling and possibly explicable -- exploding windows, ranks of cars honking their own horns and armchairs that move themselves -- to the much more frightening ragged, dark figures that appear in an out-of-nowhere fogbank that first seems to consciously attack a fishing boat, and then heads for town. Curls of mist creep thickly under even the tightest door sill, preceding heavy knocks as the dead lepers come calling. Finally it's a race against time to find the riches stolen from their leader and give it back before he and his unnaturally still (until they slice you open, that is) crew of vengeful dead can take it out of the descendants' asses.

Effects were well done for the era, with the fog itself becoming a full-fledged character. It goes pretty much wherever it, the angry dead, and John Carpenter wants it to, leaving you to wonder uncomfortably if Mother Nature herself has it in for Antonio Bay. The answer seems to be a resounding yes, as Our Heroine in her lighthouse radio station is finally located and the dead decide they've had enough of her playing Early Warning System to her terrorized listeners.

Disturbing sound effects like the flat relentless clang of the hammering on the stations metal door isn't quite enough to reduce you to nail-biting, but twenty-five years ago, it had to have made for a satisfying jump, with each crash of slow dead fist on steel door.

All in all, The Fog is well-deserving of it's status as Modern Classic and did a great job of solidifying Carpenter's position in the horror pantheon. Twenty-five years later, it's still lots of fun to watch, especially with strong female leads who snap out lines like "I'm not sure I want you", as dubious flirtation. The lack of any real gore created a focus on well-constructed atmosphere that's missing from a lot of today's films. After all, what need for atmosphere when you can use up at least three minutes with a good full-frontal vomit?

John Carpenter knew very well "what" then and probably still does now.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Match Point-A Woody Allen Tour De Force!

Woody Allen bounces back strong with this exceptionaly crafted story of infidelity and chilling deceit. One of the best films of the year.

The offical "Match Point" site:

Rotten Tomatoes:

Chinatown at the Ziegfeld!

I've seen Chinatown many times at home. Seeing the film for the first time in a movie theatre was a revalation.

I didn't watch Chinatown. I experienced it. This film was composed to be seen on a big screen. Sure, the film plays well watching at home. But I was completely blown away by this presentation. The ziegfeld has secured a wonderful print. I love going to a Theatre like this. I don't have to worry about projection or sound quality. Add to all of this the $7.50 admission price (!) and I'm in 7th heaven!
Seeing this film again reminds me of what I don't like about most contempory films. Where today's films are almost all cut for the sake of pace, Chinatown has a deliberate pace. It's not single minded in it's editing. You get to savor the story as it unfolds. It like having a wonderful 5 star dinner. It makes today's films seem a lot like fast food.

Here's a link to the 3rd draft screenplay by Robert Towne:

Here's Roger Ebert's review:

And here's Rotten Tomatoes 100% rating!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Film Festival at the Ziegfeld in NY!

Exciting news! The Ziegfeld theater in NYC is having an awesome film festival that runs from Feb. 3- March 9.

This movie theatre has great sound and projection! It's the largest single screen movie theatre in NYC! Among the films being shown: The Godfather Parts 1 & 2, Chinatown and the entire Indiana Jones and Lord of the Rings trilogy! Details can be found here!

An exciting update! The Festival has been extended for 3 more weeks! Some of the films to be shown are: "North by Northwest", "2001: A Space Odyssey", "Alien" and "Lawrence of Arabia"! All of these films are definitly worth the trip into NYC! If you've never seen "2001" on a big screen, here's your chance!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Hammer Glamour!-Linda Hayden

As much as Hammer films are known for there gothic horror, they are also known for there glamourus leading ladies.

These ladies were "scream queens" way before Jamie Lee Curtis was menaced by Michael Myers in "Halloween".

I've chosen to start with Linday Hayden who appeared in "Taste the Blood of Dracula" and many other non-Hammer genre films of the seventies.

Linda's performance in "Taste the Blood of Dracula" is right on the money. She plays the innocence of her character, Alice, just right. But boy when she falls under dracula's influence, watch out! She looks like she's enjoying being bad! She even stakes a poor guy (not a vampire btw) right in the heart!

I guess that's a part of why I like these Hammer Horror films so much. They look beneath the surface into the dark side of even the most innocent of us. As a matter of fact, Linda's character Alice does not embrace the good side until Dracula scorns her! You would think that after 600 years or so Drac would know better! Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!!

"I have no further use for you!" Oops!

A great interview with her appears in the current edition of LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS, a magazine that has been dedicated to all things Hammer for the past 34 years! Issue number 17 also has an in depth look at the Peter Cushing Pirate film "Night Creatures" AKA "Captain Clegg".

Linda Haydens selected film credits:
Baby Love (1968)
Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)
Satan's Skin (1970)
Something to Hide (1972)
Vampira (1974)
The Boys From Brazil (1978)

The Little Shoppe Of Horrors Site:

A few reviews for Taste The Blood of Dracula:

Positive ones:

A negative one:

Also of note is James Bernard's score. It's one of his best. A review of the score can be found here:

Next Week: Reel Cinema continues our tribute to Hammer Glamour as we take a good look at the wonderful Caroline Munro! Be there or be square!!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Fear In The Night With Peter Cushing!

The late great Peter Cushing. Looking for a film you have'nt seen him in? Check out his great performance in the little-seen hammer gem "Fear in the night" (AKA "Dynasty of fear") from 1972.

The last of Hammer's "fear" genre, the film was met with mediocre reviews and poor returns. But today the movie stands up as an effective little thriller. Also of note, the film marked Cushing's return to film after the death of his wife, Helen. "The only antidote to that devastation was work. When I could immerse myself in whatever character I was called upon to portray, and thus take refuge from myself" Cushing later remarked.

Thanks to Rand Vossler and his DVD liner notes.

Just a quick hello!

I'm really thrilled to be a part of this site! Gary and I have had some really interesting conversations about films over the years.

Sometimes we agree and sometimes we really lock horns! I've always wished that we somehow recorded some of our discussions. Perhaps this site is a good way to start. As is, a lot of our opinions and ideas about films are just ideas and opinions that we pretty much keep to ourselves. We now have an opportunity to inflict our thoughts and ideas upon virtually everyone! Gary has a wonderful and unique way at looking at cinema. I think you will enjoy his perspective. I know I have over the years!

I look forward to talking about all genres. From Japanesse Samurai films to Hammer horror flicks!

See ya here and at the movies!