Saturday, October 25, 2008

Halloween: Scary Godmother Halloween Spooktakular

Mainframe Entertainment (the makers of ReBoot) made this TV special in 2003. It's based on the comic book Scary Godmother by Jill Thompson, which is a lovely book (Scary Godmother is a great, really well realized character). I love this special, and since it was first on it's been one of my Halloween staples. In fact, I've seen it twice on Cartoon Network in the past week. And, since someone posted it on YouTube, I'm sharing it here.

Waxing on Horror Movies, Part 3

Part 1, Part 2

* All the Colors of the Dark (1972) -- sort of a Giallo Rosemary's Baby by the great Sergio Martino. Lovely Edwige Fenech plays a woman who lost her baby in a car accident and now finds herself being pursued by a coven of Satanists. Really good movie.

* Blacula (1972) -- surprisingly slow.

* The Creeping Flesh (1972) -- pretty good Freddie Francis movie with Peter Cushing as a Victorian scientist who finds a skeleton in Borneo he thinks is the missing link. When water touches the bones, flesh comes back to them. Meanwhile, his daughter may be going insane (as her mother did) and she's pursued by a mental patient who has escaped from the asylum run by Cushing's half-brother, Christopher Lee. Not quite as complicated as my explanation, and I always like Lee and Cushing together.

* Last House on the Left (1972) -- as I said recently, a real masterpiece of the bizarre and the violent.

* The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1972) -- Christopher Lee's last Hammer Dracula movie, past the point when he should have stopped. Dracula is still in the seventies, and Cushing is still Van Helsing. Joanna Lumley's in this one, if that means anything to anyone. I barely remember it, to be honest. But I remember being bored.

* Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1973) -- another excellent Giallo by Sergio Martino, this one borrowing from Poe's "The Black Cat." Luigi Pistilli plays an uninspired writer with a drinking problem and a beautiful wife (Anita Strindberg) to whom he is either cruel or indifferent. His niece, Edwige Fenech, comes to visit and stands up for Strindberg (and captures the sexual imagination of both). Lots of surprises in this one, surprises I found delightful.

* The Crazies (1973) -- it's Romero, but I didn't care for this one. I thought it was basically a boring retread of Night of the Living Dead.

* The Exorcist (1973) -- tell me how much you love it all you want; I've always found this movie laughably ridiculous.

* Flesh for Frankenstein (1973) -- loosely made, but marvelously weird. Joe Dellasandro is beautiful, and Udo Kier as Frankenstein is great. Over-the-top, but in a way that just works. The kind of thing Tim Burton is too timid and unimaginative to do.

* Sisters (1973) -- I still have a soft spot for Brian De Palma that won't abate, no matter how many bad movies he makes. I love the strange, almost dreamlike quality of this movie, despite all of the borrowing from Hitchcock (par for the De Palma course) and my own feeling that it's a bit long-winded.

* The Wicker Man (1973) -- what is it that's so scary about this movie? I'm just asking out of conversation. I never considered it really a horror movie, but I know a number of people who were just terribly disturbed by this movie. It's one of my all time favorites, with Christopher Lee in one of his best roles as Lord Summerisle. Ingrid Pitt appears, too, which is always good for me. God, I love this movie. It's a great spring movie.

* Blood for Dracula (1974) -- I love Udo Kier's performance in this movie so much, as a sickly Dracula desperate for virgin blood. It's just so different from a lot of what I've seen, and as I've said many times before, I'm not much into vampire movies. There's something weirdly sad and sensitive about it. Joe Dellasandro is, again, gorgeous. The idea of Dracula-as-aristocrat who can only be destroyed by an uprising worker is fascinating. Loopy as hell, sure, but I loved it.

* Phantom of the Paradise (1974) -- Brian De Palma again, and probably my favorite movie of his. It's Faust combined with Phantom of the Opera and reworked with a rock opera background. Brilliant, with great Paul Williams songs. Also Paul Williams's best performance in a movie, and wonderful Gerritt Graham as rock singer Beef is hilarious.

* The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) -- for me, this has become the gold standard for slasher horror, and I think 90% of all slasher movies since have just been trying to imitate it. But somehow, with barely any story what so ever, this one was just really about something. About the violence that had begun to encircle the heartland, the amorality created by America's involvement in Vietnam, and the way young America seemed oblivious to what had been created. A masterpiece.

* Young Frankenstein (1974) -- there's always someone who tells me horror parody doesn't belong on a horror list. But I don't care. I love this movie.

* The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) -- I love this movie, too, and not ironically. Wholeheartedly.

* Strip Nude for Your Killer (1975) -- when a model dies during an illegal abortion, her fellow models are attacked by a killer in a crash helmet. Fiftfully amusing trash.

* Alice, Sweet Alice (1976) -- strange, strange movie, but it pretty much works.

* Carrie (1976) -- Brian De Palma's classic, based on Stephen King's first novel. Somehow, the ending with the hand in the grave still makes me jump. And finally we're joined by Nancy Allen; I love her.

* The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976) -- great ending; Jodie Foster plays a girl home alone and being stalked by a molestor (a truly creepy Martin Sheen).

* The Omen (1976) -- overrated. I liked David Warner, though.

* Ants (1977) -- snore.

* The Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) -- are you kidding me? Even more ridiculous than the first one. Poor Richard Burton.

* The Hills Have Eyes (1977) -- another excellent, intense movie about violence and where it can reside. One of the three great horror films I've seen by Wes Craven, a director I don't generally like (the other two were, of course, The Last House on the Left and A Nightmare on Elm Street).

* The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977) -- unfortunate, boring version of the H.G. Wells novel. Burt Lancaster plays Moreau as some kind of country gentleman, with Michael York, Barbara Carrera, and makeup by John Chambers of Planet of the Apes. Arkoff produced.

* Suspiria (1977) -- Dario Argento's most well-regarded horror movie, and for a reason. I like the way Argento relates to his material here, telling the story of a ballet school stalked by a killer as a dark fairy tale. Excellent.

* Dawn of the Dead (1978) -- the classic. Everyone knows that.

* Halloween (1978) -- also a classic. It's been on TV a number of times this week, and I love to catch it at night. I remember the first time I saw it, sitting in a room on an unseasonably warm October night, with a dull breeze coming in through the open window and no lights on. The opening credits, with the music and the Jack O' Lantern... nice. Also, shout out to one of my adopted actors, P.J. Soles. Totally!

* The Amityville Horror (1979) -- genuinely scared me. For weeks after, every time I went to shut the curtains at night all I could see were those red eyes...

* The Cat and the Canary (1979) -- Radley Metzger's non-erotic thriller. Pretty dull.

* Dracula (1979) -- my least favorite version, off the top of my head. Just bored me to tears.

* Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) -- Werner Herzog directed, Klaus Kinski and Isabelle Adjani starred. I like the way Herzog takes the Dracula story and directly puts the plague and vampirism together. Again, to me vampires are monsters, not suave sophisticates or emo kids crying their way through eternity. The idea of the vampire essentially being the vanguard of an epidemic was really interesting.

* Phantasm (1979) -- still one of the scariest movies I've ever seen.

* An American Werewolf in London (1980) -- I never liked this movie too much, though the werewolf effects were good and I liked Jenny Agutter in it.

* The Changeling (1980) -- very effective George C. Scott movie that I thought was ripped off by The Ring. I'm not generally a fan of haunting movies, but I really enjoyed this one.

* Inferno (1980) -- Argento's follow-up to Suspiria is pretty good, but not Suspiria good. Still, I don't think I've ever seen an Argento movie I would call bad.

* The Shining (1980) -- this is heresy for some people, but I find this movie sadistic and boring. Jack Nicholson is good, to a point, and there are some real moments, but I really am not a big Kubrick fan. I know full well that I say this even though he directed my second favorite movie of all time (Spartacus) and that I love at least five of his other movies, but I just don't like the man or his approach to filmmaking. Doesn't make sense, I know. But I just hate this movie. And the novel is so great.

* Friday the 13th, Part II (1981) -- I remember not liking this one too much, but I'm going to have to revisit it. I know a lot of people who like the first three of these movies, and I'm taking their recommendation to at least check out those.

* Ghost Story (1981) -- I didn't like this one too much, either.

* Halloween 2 (1981) -- pointless.

* Hell Night (1981) -- well, I do like Linda Blair, but on any other level, I didn't care for the movie.

* The Howling (1981) -- I love Joe Dante. As I said previously, I'm not really a werewolf fan, but this is one of the few werewolf movies I loved. Also, something I love about Dante: Kevin McCarthy and Dick Miller. Just putting that out there. I love those guys. Great werewolf effects.

* Cat People (1982) -- other than Annette O'Toole taking her top off, there was only one other thing I liked about this movie: David Bowie's song "Cat People (Putting Out the Fire)."

* Creepshow (1982) -- I love this movie a surprising amount. I know it's kind of cheesy, but that's kind of a point in its favor.

* The House on Sorority Row (1982) -- drags. And the premise was pretty silly, I thought. All of that just to avoid cancelling a party?

* Poltergeist (1982) -- one of the seminal movies of my childhood. That was the kind of neighborhood I lived in (right down to a tree outside my bedroom window), and this one always hit the right chords for me.

* Tenebre (1982) -- really violent Giallo film from Dario Argento. But so damn well made.

* The Thing (1982) -- a classic.

* Cujo (1983) -- all this movie really did was make me appreciate the book more.

* The Evil Dead (1983) -- I always wanted to make one of these myself. I never did. But I enjoy the hell out of this movie. It just goes there, as the kids say. It doesn't hold anything back.

* The Dead Zone (1983) -- do you consider this horror, science fiction, or both? Either way, damn good movie.

* The Hunger (1983) -- David Bowie is the best part, but I liked the whole movie.

* Sleepaway Camp (1983) -- incompetent. Just incompetent. But Karen Fields was campy awesomeness.

* Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983) -- I was a little older when I saw this, about 18, so I didn't have the same experience as a lot of people I know who were really freaked out by this movie as kids. I still liked it, though; it remembers the creepiness of the carnivals, something which continues to fascinate me.

* Christine (1984) -- this is a time period when Stephen King movies were pretty good. I must confess, I enjoyed watching the movies more than reading a lot of his books. This movie wasn't really scary, in my opinion, but I enjoyed the weirdness of it.

* The Company of Wolves (1984) -- Little Red Riding Hood as a werewolf movie. I love the dark fairy tales.

* Electric Dreams (1984) -- silly but fun computer scare movie. These movies always make me laugh, the science scare movies that don't understand what technology actually is capable of. You mean accidentally pouring soda in a computer will make it sentient and superpowered? Hmm. Well, as long as it could help me romance Virginia Madsen, like the geek in this movie, I'd consider it.

* Ghostbusters (1984) -- I always mention this in horror movies. I know it's a comedy, but I also think it's an interesting angle on a Lovecraft type of story. Just saying.

* Ghoulies (1984) -- meh.

* Gremlins (1984) -- a favorite of mine ever since. What I love about it, I note, is what the critics at the time hated about it, which is all of the pop culture references, the silliness, the self-referential quality, all of that. And it was, at eight, the first time I'd ever seen Dick Miller. I've loved him ever since.

* House (1984) -- this is about to be an 80s Revisited.

* A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) -- it is a really great horror idea; that Freddy can only get you in your dreams. Well, we all have to sleep. This was another shift in horror: the idea that something inside of you will destroy you. And Wes Craven continues to work in the idea of children paying for the violence of their parents. A real classic, despite the degradation of myriad sequels.

* Phenomena (1984) -- Dario Argento with another dark fairy tale, this time about a girl who can force insects to do her bidding. The European version is marvelous; the severely edited American version deserves to be destroyed.

* Poltergeist 2: The Other Side (1984) -- Poltergeist is a movie that did not need a sequel. Especially not one this bad.

* The Bride (1985) -- underrated version of the Frankenstein mythos. Chuck the whole Sting as Frankenstein and Jennifer Beals as the Bride storyline; Clancy Brown gives one of the best performances of his career as the rejected monster, who goes on the road and makes friends with a dwarf (wonderful David Rappaport, a favorite of mine in his best performance ever) and makes way to join the circus.

* Cat's Eye (1985) -- Stephen King hodgepodge has its moments. Mostly the last story, with Drew Barrymore and the little goblin.

* Day of the Dead (1985) -- Romero doesn't quite pull off this one. It's good in parts, and I liked Bub the Friendly Zombie, but it doesn't come together in the end.

* Fright Night (1985) -- another movie about old time Hollywood horror in competition with modern horror. Roddy McDowall is great as a washed-up TV horror movie host fighting against a real vampire (Chris Sarandon) in the suburbs. And Amanda Bearse in this movie... whoa.

* The Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (1985) -- what a waste of Christopher Lee. The Sybil Danning-led werewolf threesome scene says it all about how incredibly stupid this movie is.

* A Nightmare on Elm Street, Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) -- reversing the premise was a great idea (Freddy now wants out of the dream world and into our world), but it's poorly executed.

* Silver Bullet (1985) -- it has its moments, but it's hardly essential.

* Teen Wolf (1985) -- the nadir of lycanthropy in the movies.

* Transylvania 6-5000 (1985) -- also about to be an 80s Revisited.

* April Fool's Day (1986) -- whatever happened to Deborah Foreman? I liked her. Not the movie, though.

* Crawlspace (1986) -- absolutely demented movie with Klaus Kinski as a landlord watching his tenants from the crawlspace. And he's got a girl in a cage in the attic with his Nazi memoribilia. I can't defend it at all, but I liked it.

* Critters (1986) -- also a future 80s Revisited.

* The Deadly Friend (1986) -- Wes Craven passed on doing Nightmare 2 to do this piece of crap? Really awful movie.

* The Fly (1986) -- loved it.

* Gothic (1986) -- hated it. Too excessive for me, even for Ken Russell.

* The Hitcher (1986) -- laughable.

* Little Shop of Horrors (1986) -- that puppet work is just so amazing. Frank Oz really used to have a great sense of humor. This movie is hilarious.

* Troll (1986) -- the first of my 80s Revisited movies. I enjoyed parts of it, but it's really silly. Still, I love Phil Fondacaro, and he's really good in this movie.

* Twisted (1986) -- Christian Slater terrorizes the babysitter with Nazi stuff and a rapier. Ridiculous.

* The Worst Witch (1986) -- my sister loves this movie. I just like Tim Curry in it.

* The Believers (1987) -- I've almost completely forgotten this movie.

* Creepshow 2 (1987) -- I don't know why, but I just really hate this movie. Like, on a personal level. Weird.

* Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1987) -- need I say it? Another 80s Revisited coming soon.

* Evil Dead II (1987) -- a real classic, the best of the Evil Dead trilogy and some of Bruce Campbell's finest work.

* The Gate (1987) -- loose, but it has its moments and couple of chills. Nice special effects.

* Ghoulies 2 (1987) -- meh, but Phil Fondacaro was wonderful.

* Hellraiser (1987) -- excellent. I really like this movie.

* The Lost Boys (1987) -- more vampire bullshit, though I liked the third act.

* The Monster Squad (1987) -- I really loved this movie; I thought they found the perfect ground between the sort of Goonies/Gremlins style of the eighties and the Universal classics.

* Near Dark (1987) -- the idea of vampirisim as a curable blood disease is a little loopy, but this is a damn good horror movie.

* A Nightmare on Elm Street, Part 3: The Dream Warriors (1987) -- I can't really defend this one, but it's fun as hell.

* Opera (1987) -- more Grand Guignol Giallo from Dario Argento with that great bullet-in-the-eye shot.

* Prince of Darkness (1987) -- this John Carpenter movie is really just a piece of shit. Just the most dreadful shit.

* The Serpent and the Rainbow (1987) -- Wes Craven's Haitian zombie thriller isn't terrible. Isn't great, but isn't terrible, and I always enjoy Paul Winfield.

* Teen Wolf, Too (1987) -- the movie that proves things can get worse than Teen Wolf.

* The Telephone (1987) -- weird movie with Whoopi Goldberg essentially doing a comedy monologue and talking to people on the phone. But the horror movie twist at the end was genuinely a surprise. I felt like the lame Colin Farrell movie Phone Booth was kind of ripping this one off a bit. Although, the original screenplay of Phone Booth was much better; you never got out of the booth.

* Bad Taste (1988) -- Peter Jackson actually outdoes The Evil Dead in terms of creative low budget gore for me on this one. And it's hilarious.

* Child's Play (1988) -- pretty good, very ridiculous.

* The Church (1988) -- Giallo from Michele Soavi with a cursed church and the victims trapped inside. Very stylish and underrated, mostly due to a hackneyed American edit.

* Critters 2: The Main Course (1988) -- need I say it? An upcoming 80s Revisited.

* Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) -- way over-the-top follow-up throws in everything it can. Loopy as hell, but I almost enjoyed this one as much as the first.

* The Lady in White (1988) -- hated it.

* A Nightmare on Elm Street, Part 4: The Dream Master (1988) -- and so ends Freddy Krueger as a scary character. Routine, but Robert Englund is so funny and has so much fun as Freddy that it's hard to hate it.

* Poltergeist III (1988) -- bad.

* The Seventh Sign (1988) -- terrible. Religious horror just doesn't do it for me.

* Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988) -- yeah, but it's funny and doesn't take itself a bit seriously. I enjoyed Brinke Stevens (love her) and the funky demon especially.

* Vampire's Kiss (1988) -- God help us all.

* Waxwork (1988) -- this one also needs an 80s Revisited.

* Ghostbusters II (1989) -- much more of a straightforward adventure and obviously made for kids. Too bad; it's not an awful movie by any stretch, but it's a step down.

* Lobster Man from Mars (1989) -- funny movie that sends up B sci-fi horror from the fifties. You get one of these every so often, and this one's forgotten.

* A Nightmare on Elm Street, Part 5: The Dream Child (1989) -- same comments I had for Nightmare 4, really.

* Pet Semetary (1989) -- loved Fred Gwynne and the Ramones, hated everything else.

* The Phantom of the Opera (1989) -- Robert Englund as the Phantom. Nothing to recommend here.

* Doppelganger: The Enemy Within (1990) -- remember the days when Drew Barrymore had to do B horror pictures and take her clothes off just to get a movie? It's a so-so flick, but I don't really remember much outside of the nudity, so...

* The Exorcist III (1990) -- I take flak for this one, but I liked this movie a lot. It just all worked for me.

* Flatliners (1990) -- more epic stupid from Joel Schumacher.

* Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) -- like a cartoonier version of the first movie. Added bonuses: a bigger role for Dick Miller, Christopher Lee as a mad scientist, and John Glover being hilarious as a CEO. I'm glad to see there's been a revival of love for this movie in recent years.

* Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990) -- it comes in under the wire; 80s Revisited, some day.

* Misery (1990) -- I liked this the first couple of times, but I find that when you know everything that's going to happen, it gets less fun. Competently made, not a bad movie, just not one that stands up to repeat viewings for me.

* Night Breed (1990) -- I really liked this movie; Clive Barker's fantasy about monsters who are shunned by humanity and a very real psychotic killer (David Cronenberg, great performance) who is the real monster. Good stuff.

* Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990) -- unmemorable.

Alright, I'll jump into the nineties in the next one.

Happy Birthday, Becca!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Halloween: The Raven

Vincent Price, Edgar Allen Poe, absolutely brilliant. Absolutely. Brilliant.

Throwdown 10/24

Random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. Right at the top: Paterson Joseph might be Steven Moffat’s choice for the eleventh Doctor on Doctor Who. Joseph, who was in Moffat’s Jekyll (and on two episodes of Doctor Who in 2005), says he’s on a very large list. It’s not a bad choice at all; I can see him in the role. I like him better than Robert Carlyle, anyway. I’m still not xazzed about that possibility.

2. Pink is miffed that she hasn’t got a reply to the pissy letter she sent Queen Elizabeth about the evils of hunting two years ago. Seriously, just because you’re Pink you think you’re owed a reply? You know, I sent a letter to Santa Claus about 25 years ago and never got a reply, but it still doesn’t make me all whiny. Pink has needed for a very long time to take her self-importance and shove it up her ass.

3. Ali Lohan: your pants are officially too tight. Good God.

4. Well, that’s the most ill-advised advertisement I’ve ever seen.

5. Okay, I was willing to give Jenny McCarthy a chance on the whole treating-her-son’s-autism issue, but that was when she was just treating it. I think a lot of health problems are food-related, and we’re seeing that a lot of diagnosed ADHD or learning disorders are in fact food allergies. I was willing to listen to her on easing the symptoms of autism. But now she’s been claiming that she’s actually cured her son’s autism with diet. Now she’s just insane. And irresponsible at best, considering she’s one of these idiots who think it’s harmful to immunize your children. Jesus Christ.

6. Fall Out Boy have delayed the release of their new album so that it won’t clash with the upcoming election. I think it shows a remarkably healthy self-esteem on their part to assume that anyone old enough to vote gives a shit about Fall Out Boy.

7. TSA security at Washington’s Pasco Airport made Lona Dunlap give up her crutches, take off her ankle brace, and stand on each foot in order to prove she wasn’t smuggling weapons or explosives onto an airplane. Now her sprained ankle is a fractured ankle (in two places). The TSA website claims that you don’t have to take off your braces or prosthetics to be searched, but apparently Pasco didn’t get the memo. Another arbitrary failure brought to you by government fascism. I hope she sues someone.

8. It looks like, with the economy collapsing and Obama’s promise to go through the budget line by line, NASA is going to have to significantly delay their Mars mission. It’s not really a surprise, is it? NASA has lost their inspiration, and the money just isn’t there. If Obama wants to spend the money on education instead, I think that’s a good thing. Still… well, dammit, there goes another one. I think all the real leadership on this, and on any space science for that matter, is going to come from the private sector. NASA won’t even have a space vehicle available after 2010.

9. Even Alan Greenspan is finally saying that free-market principles are destructive. It’s also coming out that rating agencies knew they were essentially selling off junk at artificially inflated ratings in order to make a profit. I guess they just hoped they’d all be retired and rich by the time the bottom fell out. Oh, and it turns out that AIG is spending their Splurge money (taxpayer money, may we never forget) to lobby against stricter mortgage regulation. They’ve already spent 75% of their bailout money, too. Gee, good thing we bailed them out.

10. Sarah Palin said in an interview that she doesn’t think domestic protestors who carry out acts of violence with intent to kill, harm, or intimidate abortion doctors, medical staff, or people seeking an abortion should be called terrorists. See, I guess terrorism is only something people who disagree with you do. So, William Ayers, who killed exactly no one, is a terrorist for protesting the government, but a person who kills an abortion doctor is not. Dear God, you make me puke, Sarah Palin.

11. Sarah Palin also, famously, still has no idea what the Vice President actually does. Here’s Olbermann commenting on the Vice Presidential candidate who has never read the Constitution.

Bonus: here’s Chris Matthews not putting up with Nancy Pfotenhauer’s ignorance and spinning on the same issue. She always has that nervous smile when she’s under pressure. It looks like she’s about to crack here. I love how she’s pissed off and calling Palin’s utter ignorance of what she’s running for a distraction. No, a distraction is calling Barack Obama a terrorist and not talking about policy. You pfail, Pfotenhauer.

12. Also, there’s Palin’s $150,000 wardrobe (she claims she’s borrowing it from the RNC), which might actually be illegal under a campaign reform sponsored in 2002 by John McCain. And speaking of ethics violations, like the ones Palin was found guilty of last week, it turns out she’s also billed Alaska $21,012 since taking office to shuttle her uninvited daughters all over the country to convention meetings and such. Nice. First she charges the state expenses for nights she spent in her own home, then she charges those same taxpayers so she can take her kids to political conventions they don’t really need to go to? I guess she just wants her kids to be able to travel. I love that the same right wingers who teased John Edwards for getting expensive haircuts and claimed that said everything about his character are now defending Palin’s makeover. And what’s with her being so secretive about releasing her medical records? What does she have to hide? Gee, who is this woman Sarah Palin and what is she hiding from us?

13. Another Olbermann video, this one a news report on John McCain’s attempts to perpetrate voter fraud. Yeah, we all saw this one coming. Of course the right wing wants you to look at ACORN and think the Democrats are committing voter fraud. That way you’ll be distracted when the right wing does their own.

14. Meanwhile, one of my hometown papers, the Chicago Tribune, endorsed Barack Obama this week. That’s the first Democrat they’ve endorsed in 161 years. You know who endorsed John McCain? Al Qaeda. Come on, undecideds, even al Qaeda is banking on John McCain continuing Bush’s failed policies.

15. Why would the McCain campaign not allow Daniel Zubairi to talk about what he did at a McCain rally? He’s an RNC delegate, he’s a Muslim, and he chased away a smear merchant while making it clear that the McCain campaign does not endorse the anti-Muslim racism that many of his supporters are reveling in. So, this man, a black man, a Muslim, has a chance to go on CNN and say once and for all that John McCain does not endorse racism and smears and hate speech, and they won’t let him go on. What the fuck? Seriously, what the fuck? John McCain just lost his last chance to disassociate his campaign with race-baiting. He’s going to go down in history as the head of a race-baiting campaign in the 21st century, and frankly he deserves to. He’s counting on those racist creeps his campaign has been whipping up to go and vote for him.

16. The big news this week was that Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama. There was a reaction to this news that troubled me quite a lot, and it ties in with the item above about McCain and race-baiting. First off, I’m glad Powell endorsed Obama, and here on Meet the Press he presents a very reasoned argument for why he does. I think this is also going to go a long way towards rehabilitating Powell’s standing among Americans. I was always so disappointed in him for taking a part in the Bush cabinet, because I knew they were just using his image as a smart, popular man of integrity to lend them some credibility. I remember in 2000 when people were saying he should run for president, and I think that, if he had, it’s possible he would have been elected. But, just as I thought, BushCo was using him to give them some credibility; they stole it from him when he went to the UN and repeated the Bush lie about the WMDs in Iraq. So Powell needs to be on the right side this time around, and I’m glad he is, because I’d like to see him as a man of integrity again. No, the thing that really bothered me was the right’s reaction to his endorsement. The right wingers and the pundits and that piece of shit Rush Limbaugh and that Nazi Pat Buchanan came right out and said that Powell endorsed Obama because Obama is black. So now, after years of trotting Powell out to make any execrable right wing action seem good and just and credible, now the right wing has made one message clear: Colin Powell is just another nigger. Honor and respect are pretty cheap to the right wing, aren’t they? As far as I’m concerned, this means we can now say that anyone on the right who’s endorsing McCain are only doing so because they’re white. Just keep rolling in the racism, you GOP motherfuckers.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Halloween: Skeleton Frolic

Ub Iwerks directed this 1937 cartoon at his own studio. While it's not a touch on his seminal 1929 Disney cartoon The Skeleton Dance, there's some fun stuff in here. Is it just wishful thinking, or does that skeleton flute player flip the conductor the bird a few times?

Edging Ever Closer to Release, I Guess

Have you seen the trailer for this yet? Hilarious.

Cute Hogle Zoo Ads

Becca and I did our annual Brookfield Zoo trip today. A while back, I spotted these ads for Utah's Hogle Zoo. I thought they were kind of cute, so I put them up. I'll probably post zoo pics this weekend.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Halloween: Two More Grickle Cartoons

Graham Annable has one of my favorite channels on YouTube.

Here's last year's unsettling Halloween cartoon, Halloween Madness.

And this year's greeting, Joy to the Weird.


Another fine image from Colin Giles; he's offering this as a print.

I put this up to say that I went out and voted today. I notice lots of my fellow bloggers have been. I urge everyone to vote as soon as they can; don't let the Republicans intimidate you into not doing so.

New Watchmen Poster

Just thought it was pretty cool.

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

Very interesting short documentary about Art Clokey, creator of Gumby and Davey and Goliath, two shows I saw a great deal of growing up (my family were Lutheran; I even had Gumby and Pokey bendy toys). I didn't know a lot about Clokey's spiritual journey, and I found that very interesting. I also liked the device of "interviewing" Gumby and Pokey. *** stars.

A bit of a potboiler about plane crash survivors and how they deal with being lost on an island. It's like Lost, but without the science fiction, flashbacks, and mind-numbing dullness. Actually, it's a pretty dull movie, but I liked the climx, with the natives approaching and the plane only able to hold five of the castaways. And it helps that there are a number of actors I really like -- Lucille Ball, C. Aubrey Smith, Joseph Calleia, and John Carradine (hamming it up). **1/2 stars.

Wonderful romantic comedy with Ginger Rogers as a department store worker who finds a baby in the store. Everyone refuses to believe it isn't hers, and since the store won't lay her off after the Christmas rush with a baby to feed, she ends up raising the kid. (Very cute baby, by the way.) David Niven plays the son of the store owner, who keeps trying to give Ginger advice on how to raise the infant, and of course they end up falling in love. I really enjoy Ginger Rogers in her non-musical roles, funnily enough. And as a nice bonus, she works in the toy department selling wind-up Donald Ducks. **** stars. Charles Coburn is also very nice as Niven's father.

Lovely Ingrid Bergman marries smooth-talking Charles Boyer, who promptly tries to drive her to insanity for reasons of his own. Dark, moody thriller, perfect for the deep autumn, with a great cast including Angela Lansbury, Joseph Cotten, and Dame May Whitty. **** stars.

Dan O'Bannon's movie really wants to be a direct sequel to Night of the Living Dead. It doesn't work for me on that level (especially since it gets the date of Dead's premiere wrong by a year), but I really enjoyed this gory movie. James Karen, an actor I always like, is especially good as a medical supplies worker who accidentally unleashes a plague of zombies that envelops him, his coworkers, a mortician who may or may not be a former Nazi, the requisite group of teenagers (including a gloriously naked Linnea Quigley), and an entire cemetery. The teenagers can't decide if they're punks, New Wavers, preps, or Vals, which amused me. Incredibly nihilistic ending. The zombie effects are great, and the look of the film (designed by William Stout, one of my favorite artists) is quite something. One of the real horror gems of the eighties. **** stars. Oh, and I also enjoyed the running zombies that Zack Snyder thought he invented 20 years later...

Stuart Gordon does H.P. Lovecraft again, this time with a traumatized (and great, as always) Jeffrey Combs as a scientist assisting a real pervert to open the doorway to another dimension. Barbara Crampton plays a psychiatrist who gets caught up in the experiment, and Ken Foree is supposed to protect them (and, as a brother in a horror film, you can pretty much guess what happens to him). Suitably weird and disgusting, but the third act drags a bit before getting to the point. A nice follow-up to Re-Animator, though not as good. *** stars.

Alfred Hitchock directed this rather ponderous story of the French Resistance. He was supposed to highlight how France could work together as a propaganda picture; instead he highlighted France's social problems. Either way, the film really isn't very interesting. ** stars.

Thankfully, Dane Cook is barely in it and easy to ignore. This is by the same director as Pieces of April, a movie that surprised me with its genuine warmth. This movie has the same kind of warmth, even if the plot is pretty predictable (in short, Steve Carell, spending a holiday with his family, falls in love with Juliette Binoche only to discover she's dating his brother, Dane Cook). But it's a very nice movie, I guess is the best way to describe it. Carell is very good in a nice role that he doesn't overplay. It's nothing earth-shattering, but it's nice. *** stars.

I just found it really, really, really boring. Not much else to say, though Helen Hayes was quite good. ** stars.

Great thriller about the place of women and defeminization in suburban America. Everyone knows what this picture is about, really, so I won't delve into the plot. I will say that I was surprised by how good this movie was. Katharine Ross is probably the best I've ever seen her as a new arrival to Stepford, Connecticut, who is put off by all of the too-perfect wives she's moved in among; Paula Prentiss is especially good as a another wife who suspects something is wrong. And I always like Tina Louise for obvious reasons. Having seen the despicable remake, this was very refreshing as a serious thriller. **** stars.

Haunting film about a doctor who feels guilty about an accident which has disfigured his daughter's face. While she wears a creepy white mask, he goes out and finds beautiful women and kidnaps them, attempting to graft their faces onto his daughter's. A strange movie, oddly beautiful (especially to look at). **** stars.

KONGO (1932)
Loopy movie about a white trader in Africa (Walter Huston) who is crippled but keeps his trade by pretending to be a magician. Then Virginia Bruce is brought in, and Huston, overacting and underacting at the same time, tries to work her death, and Conrad Nagel defends her, and so on. It's an inferior remake of West of Zanzibar. The only thing that mattered here to me was Lupe Velez, practically naked in her wrap, glistening with sweat and makeup. I love Lupita so much, and she was worth the time for me. Otherwise, *1/2 stars.

Handsome, long-winded Korda production of the A.E. Housman novel. I love C. Aubrey Smith. This movie dragged on and on and on beyond the realms of patience. ** stars.

Great genre stuff about an English town that mysteriously falls asleep one afternoon, only for several women (including Barbara Shelley) to wake up pregnant. The strange, blond, creepy children have mental powers and terrorize the town with mind control, while George Sanders tries to understand them. There are a lot of questions raised about morality raised in a very satisfying science fiction plot, sort of a Twilight Zone plot done as an Outer Limits episode. Great climax. ***1/2 stars.

Flyers Cary Grant and Fredric March become rivals in World War I. Carole Lombard co-stars. So does Jack Oakie. I feel like I've seen this movie a thousand times. *1/2 stars.

Frankly, I loved the Ang Lee movie that's supposed to be so awful, and I thought this film didn't come close. Still, once I reconciled myself to the fact that, even though this was a sequel, it was a totally different approach to the Hulk, I ended up enjoying it. It's a completely different film, hard to compare to the first. It's not as deep or imaginative as Ang Lee's Hulk, more of a straightforward science ficton action flick, but it was pretty good. I especially loved Liv Tyler as a very human and wonderful Betty Ross, and the Hulk effects were very good, even giving the Hulk a bit of humor and humanity. And, computer-generated or no, I like a good monster fight. William Hurt does the best he can with a nothing role, Ed Norton is okay (he's usually okay), Tim Roth is a little long in the tooth for his role, and the first twenty minutes or so could have been almost entirely dropped. The movie has no beginning, it just jumps into this pointless opening montage. For what it was, I give it *** stars.

Very well-made movie that kind of pissed me off. I mean, it looks great, it's tight for the most part, and the actors in peril are good (especially Liv Tyler, who should do more horror movies -- she does emotionally wounded really well, and she has a great scream). But after a while it makes the mistake of most modern horror movies and devolves into pointless cruelty in some feeble attempt to make a social point about violence. Except that these movies never really do, and when they start to edge past the point of cruelty and into this unrelenting bleakness, I get tired of it quickly and start thinking "Just get on with it and kill them already so I can stop being subjected to this thing." How can 87 minutes seem so damn long? So I'm only giving it ** stars, and one is for Liv Tyler.

Happy Birthday, Catherine Deneuve

65 years old today.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Halloween: Geek O'Lanterns

The Health Report, Year 2: Week 45

This is about what I feel. Slow and frustrated. I've gotten sick again; my eye hurts like a bitch, my body is totally sore, and my head feels stuffed full of styrofoam. I hope I'm better ASAP, because Becca's got vacation starting Thursday, and I'm sure as hell not going to be sick for all of that.

Can I just keep blaming illnesses on the kids? Damn kids.

By the way, I went back to that school I was working at for the last couple of months of last school year. It was nice to be back, and all of the kids from last year were thrilled to see me (and were very disappointed when I wasn't in their classroom). Everyone was nice. They've moved a lot of the rooms around this year. Except that I'm now sick after being there, it was great. I wish I could just get on there permanently as an instructional assistant.

For now... napping.

Superhero Fashion Emergency

Let's face it, the heroes we grew up with... yeah, they were pretty gay. Or in the case of He-Man, incredibly gay.

A Dubious Milestone

The John McCain campaign insists there are no lobbyists working on the John McCain campaign.

McCain continues to use "Joe the Plumber" (aka Sam the Unlicensed Plumber Who Doesn't Pay His Taxes Anyway and Is Related to Charles Keating's Son-in-Law) as a figure of the common taxpayer at his rallies.

McCain is harping on ACORN in order to cast doubt on Obama's possible/probable victory and lower voter confidence. Good thing we've already got a record number of early voters. And good thing there's actually no evidence of voter fraud so far. Actually, if we want to talk voter fraud, let's look at Nathan Sproul, a Republican investigated multiple times for voter fraud, and who just received a $175,000 payout from the McCain/Palin campaign, the RNC, and the California Republican Party. Planning something, McCain?

McCain admits that Sarah Palin is "a cold political calculation."

It took David Letterman to grill McCain on his ties to G. Gordon Liddy and to admit that his robocalls were telling out and out lies about Barack Obama--the same tactic the Republicans used against him in 2000. Classy guy.

McCain is asking Russia for money to finance his campaign, even though he said it was wrong for Obama to accept donations from foreign sources, even when Obama gave the money back.

Do you need another reason not to vote for McVoted with Bush 90% of the Time by His Own Admission?

Happy 2000th Day Since Mission Accomplished!

Why Sarah Palin Scares Me

1. She's cynical. Not only are her glasses fake, judging by her idiotic SNL appearance this weekend, so is her "Ya, you betcha" accent. It's all a fucking sham to ingratiate herself with ignorant people in the "real" parts of America that consistently buy into the bullshit that the GOP will liberate them when in fact they've been holding those people down for decades.

2. She's a secessionist. She was once in the Alaskan Independence Party, and her husband only changed his voter registration from AIP to undeclared (not Republican) so it wouldn't hurt her political career. Did you read the Salon article about her involvement with the Alaskan Independence Party? One of the guys in charge has no problem admitting that he got Palin elected mayor and then governor in order to advance the AIP agenda and that he basically had an open door to dictate policy. He expects this to continue as Vice President. In fact, the AIP also points to Palin's Republican governorship as a model for successful infiltration of a major political party in order to reshape its focus, and that they also expect her Vice Presidency to be the same.

3. She's not interested in policy. She barely ever says anything about what plans McCain will actually implement, just that he's a maverick and that Obama is an evil terrorist who hates America. I don't think she has any interest in being the Vice President. She's just going along with McCain and biding her time until her own 2012 run. Thanks, McCain, for not vetting her properly. All you've done is legitimized this idiot in national politics. When she came out and said she supported an amendment banning gay marriage (or as everyone should call it, an anti-civil rights amendment), that was her positioning herself for a 2012 campaign. If Republicans are smart (no comment), they won't let her back in the room in 2012.

4. She's anti-civil rights. Yes, live with it, if you are anti-gay rights, you are anti-civil rights. Proposing an amendment to endorse bigotry based on religious hatred (or tradition, whatever) is monstrous and I cannot respect a person who argues otherwise.

5. She's a racist. She's been equating Arab and Muslim with terrorist and implying that because Obama's black he can't be a real American. All of this quibbling pretense over where Obama was born and how well-spoken he is and how we can't trust him all sounds like George Wallace to me, too. Make no mistake, this all stems from Obama being black; she knows she can use that fear and distrust that too many white people still have to raise questions and make accusations that are hateful and wrong. Plus, her tenure as governor also shows a racist streak. Black people in Alaska feel like she hasn't paid any attention to them, and the natives seem to hate her, too. Her rural advisor quit because of her shitty treatment of the natives.

6. She's a religious zealot. She's one of those creepy bible literalists who thinks that the world is already ending and that a war doesn't matter because Jesus is on his way back. Look, if you're religious, I really don't care as long as you don't bother me with it. When you're shaping the future of my country in a way that is informed by those beliefs that I don't share, then we've got a problem. Especially when those beliefs tell you, as they do Palin, who takes them very seriously, that the world is going to end in fire anyway.

7. She hates women. Yes, she does. She uses them when she needs to get elected (saying that there's a "special place in hell for women who don't support other women"), but that's as far as she cares about women. Otherwise, she's markedly antifeminist and against reproductive rights for women (as is John McCain, who continues to belittle any health concerns women might have). How any woman can support Sarah Palin is beyond me. She is not the face of feminism. She's not the face of anything but callous, shallow self-servingness. And her stance on the issue of abortion in the case of rape (even incest) is horrible.

8. She doesn't care about the rest of the country. That pipeline she wants so badly? It's going to be enormously profitable for Alaska. They can make a lot of money selling that gas to the US when Alaska becomes it's own nation. And you have heard that the AIP bid for independence in the UN was sponsored by Iran, right? Who's a "real" American here, Miss Alaska First?

9. She abused her power and lied about it, and continues to lie about it. She continues to insist she's been cleared of all wrongdoing in the Troopergate scandal, when she in fact was not. She was found to have abused her power. She abused her power. She had no ethics then, and she has no ethics now, because she's a liar.

10. She's not a fiscal conservative. She's lying about that too. Seriously, watch this video. It's only five minutes long, but these are the people who've had direct experience of her as mayor of Wassila. She really fucked those people over for her own gain. Whatever she says about helping taxpayers, it's completely false, and she knows it when she says it. Can't wait to have to pay her expenses for nights she spends at home, like she forced the Alaskan people to do over 300 times as governor. How exactly does that misappropriation of city funds not get her recalled as governor?

11. She's a terrible mother. I'm sorry, but she is. She keeps trotting out her pregnant daughter and her Downs Syndrome baby as political tools and most recently tried to use one of her kids as a human shield to get away from being booed at a hockey game. If she really gave a damn about her kids, she'd let Bristol get an abortion and stop treating Trig as little more than proof of what a great supporter of special needs kids she is (her record shows otherwise). I'm not saying a mother can't run for office, but does she have to use her family in such a cynical way? It's icky.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Halloween: The Tell-Tale Heart

UPA's classic cartoon narrated by James Mason. At least, I like it. Opinions are split. But I like the mood it creates. By the way, this was rated X in Great Britain when it was initially released in 1953. Directed by Ted Parmelee.

Waxing on Horror Movies, Part 2

Just me talking about the horror films I've seen, part two. (Part one here.)

* The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) -- I like the mood to this one. And I think the Creature is really something neat. I always wondered why he was considered one of the classic Universal monsters when he so clearly comes from a different era. Not that I mind, of course. I think he's neat.

* The Mad Magician (1954) -- I love Vincent Price, and I enjoy him a lot in this movie. It has its moments.

* Revenge of the Creature (1955) -- okay, this one's pretty bad. I liked the first one, but I was just bored to distraction with the sequel.

* The Creature Walks Among Us (1956) -- the final Creature film. This one's not too bad (although it's not too great, either). I like the way they take the Creature and turn him into an air-breather instead of a water-breather, which basically turns it into a Frankenstein/monster-on-the-rampage movie. The ending was actually kind of touching, with the Creature staring at the sea, the sound of the waves overwhelming, longing to return home, even though he'll never be able to. That was sad.

* The Curse of Frankenstein (1956) -- sexy Hammer version of the story, with the great Peter Cushing as Frankenstein and beautiful Hazel Court as Elizabeth. Christopher Lee plays a rather melancholy version of the Creature that I hadn't expected when I first saw it. Great makeup. It's a nicely sordid movie.

* Dracula (1957) -- aka Horror of Dracula. Christopher Lee is my favorite actor, and he's one of my favorite screen Draculas. He just doesn't overplay it in this one, speaking in his own voice and playing Dracula as a sort of upper class Englishman (which, I realize, is how Lee plays many roles). Add Cushing as Van Helsing, leaping across tables and such, and you have a really great Dracula movie.

* House on Haunted Hill (1958) -- this William Castle movie scared the crap out of my sister as a little kid, and I could never figure out why. I just always thought this movie was too silly to be scary. Vincent Price is good in it, but it's silly.

* A Bucket of Blood (1959) -- great, weird Roger Corman movie with Dick Miller as a wannabe beatnik who makes lifelike sculptures which are actually dead bodies frozen with surprisingly little clay (considering how, eventually, someone figures it out just by scratching off some clay). Miller is always a plus for me, and this is some of his best actual acting. I enjoyed the hell out of this.

* The Mummy (1959) -- Hammer takes on another Universal picture, which I realize I accidentally left off of my first list (the 1932 version of The Mummy with Boris Karloff: long story short, love Karloff, didn't like the movie). The flashback scenes to Ancient Egypt are especially colorful, with Christopher Lee having his tongue cut out and being mummified. Not quite as good as The Curse of Frankenstein or Dracula, but not by too much.

* The Tingler (1959) -- it's a cute, silly movie. Vincent Price is wonderfully arch.

* The Brides of Dracula (1960) -- Hammer wanted a sequel, Christopher Lee didn't, so we have Cushing as Van Helsing tracking down women who were turned into vampires by the monster. Not a bad movie at all, pretty sexy and edging towards lurid.

* House of Usher (1960) -- don't hold it against me that I haven't seen more of the Vincent Price/Roger Corman Poe movies. I recognize that I need to see more. I loved this one, not least of which for Price's excellent performance and some very good production values. This is really making something out of a limited budget.

* Psycho (1960) -- one of the two Hitchcock movies that I think you could really call horror movies, if you wanted. Obviously, I am. I think it's perfect, and there's not much else to say that hasn't been said already.

* The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961) -- what does it say about a horror movie that even MST3K couldn't do overmuch to make it funny? This movie could make you want to kill yourself out of boredom. For me, it all comes down to a friend at work asking me the following question when I described having seen it on TV the night before: "Wait, wait -- Tor Johnson plays a scientist?"

* The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962) -- it really needs MST3K. They made it much more fun. "She's got neck juice."

* The Birds (1963) -- the other Hitchcock horror, and the first Hitchcock movie I ever saw, come to think of it. Another movie I'll call perfect.

* The Haunting (1963) -- sexual repression = haunting. Surprisingly excellent, considering it comes from Robert Wise's direction. I always love it when Russ Tamblyn pronounces "psychokinesis" as "psy-kookiness."

* Horror Castle (1963) -- aka The Virgin of Nuremberg or Horror Castle. Love how those Italian horror movies always have several titles, damn distributors. It's a very weird movie, and I sure do value weirdness. Rossana Podesta marries Christopher Lee, moves to his castle filled with Nazi memoribilia, and a hooded killer puts women into Medieval torture devices.

* Onibaba (1964) -- a great movie, beautiful to look at, about a woman and her daughter-in-law, who rob passing samurai and are torn apart by a man. The woman is waiting for her son to return; her daughter-in-law is sure he's dead; the man wants the daughter-in-law. So the mother kills a samurai with a demon mask and decides to use the mask to scare her daughter-in-law back into fidelity. And, of course, it backfires. Excellent horror.

* Die! Die! My Darling (1965) -- aka Fanatic. Another movie about twisted love, with Tallulah Bankhead imprisoning her late son's ex-girlfriend (Stefanie Powers) in her home. I found Ms. Bankhead delighftully campy in a very loopy movie. It's hardly essential, but it's not a complete waste of time. Peter Vaughan is sleazy as hell in this movie.

* Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1965) -- Christopher Lee barely speaks in his return to the vampire role, but his presence is imposing and menacing. He doesn't have to talk; he's already scary. Movies like this are the reason why I think vampires are largely bullshit. Lee played Dracula as both man and monster, not as romantic, misunderstood whiner. Barbara Shelley, as one of the tourists sleeping in Dracula's abandoned castle who manages to resurrect him, adds this layer of perverse sexuality to the whole affair. This is my personal favorite of the Lee Dracula movies.

* The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) -- Roman Polanski's vampire comedy with the beautiful Sharon Tate. It's like a Hammer film played for laughs and gay innuendo, but it's also very well shot, nicely atmospheric, and a funny movie. I love it.

* Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968) -- the formula creeps into the Hammer Draculas here, but Christopher Lee is still really good and the women are still beautiful and it still works for me.

* Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell (1968) -- very weird, very cool Japanese horror movie about survivors of a plane crash who are beset by body-snatching aliens. A paranoia classic.

* Night of the Living Dead (1968) -- well, come on. A classic film. Other people have made the case much better than I could.

* Rosemary's Baby (1968) -- same here. One of Polanski's finest hours. Or, two hours, technically, although jokes about technicalities aren't really as funny as people seem to think. Either way, an excellent movie.

* Spirits of the Dead (1968) -- aka Tales of Mystery and Imagination, a classic of weird film. Three Poe stories, directed by Fellini, Malle, and Vadim. Personally, my favorite segment was Roger Vadim's, "Metzengerstein," starring Vadim's wife Jane Fonda and her brother Peter as cousins in an incestuous relationship while Jane is obsessed with a horse. It's just the clear wrongness of this segment, and the fact that Jane would do something so interestingly bizarre, that make it work for me. The perverse discomfort is part of the show. All three segments are good, if you like overwhelming strangeness. Of course, you get very little Poe with your Poe in this one.

* Targets (1968) -- Peter Bogdanovich gives Corman a meditation on horror rather than an all-out horror film, with Boris Karloff playing a horror star who thinks the world doesn't need the old-fashioned horror films anymore. When a sniper goes on a rampage at a drive-in premiering what Karloff's character declares will be his final film, he learns about the power of fantastic horror vs. a very real horror. Excellent finale, with Karloff slapping the sniper like an errant child. It's indicative of a shift in horror films in America, the best of which were no longer concerned with Dracula or Frankenstein, but instead with a sort of creeping horror born in social fears, political rumblings, and the spectres of Vietnam.

* Witchfinder General (1968) -- aka The Conqueror Worm. Again, very little Poe to be found here, but who cares? The movie's so damn good. Against the backdrop of the English Civil War, Price stars as Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General, who uses his position to extort favors from peasants, some of them sexual. Price is brilliant in this movie, giving a straightforward performance and not overplaying it at all, and he's pretty damn scary.

* Even Dwarfs Started Small (1969) -- Werner Herzog has yet to make a movie I haven't liked. This is one of my favorites of his, with an all-dwarf cast. While all the officials save one are away, the inmates of an asylum break out and take over, locking the official in his office, having a wedding, smashing the flatware, crucifying a monkey, and all manner of bizarre things. Not an insight into madness, simply a display of it, with an ending that is incredibly disturbing.

* Taste the Blood of Dracula (1969) -- I think this is where the Hammer Draculas start to get more or less expendable. There's a Roy Kinnear appearance in this one, though.

* Scars of Dracula (1970) -- same here, only without Roy Kinnear.

* The Touch of Satan (1970) -- one of a number of movies that tried to put Satan in the American heartland. Didn't work.

* The Vampire Lovers (1970) -- Hammer's vampire lesbian classic, from Le Fanu's "Carmilla." For me, this movie is all about Ingrid Pitt. Not to downplay Madeline Smith or Kate O'Mara or Peter Cushing, but I just love Ingrid Pitt so much it overshadows everything for me. But I'm not just saying it's great because of Ingrid. This is one of the better vampire films I've seen.

* Count Dracula (1971) -- Jess Franco's adaptation really tries for weirdness (and to be faithful to the novel), but it draaaaags. Atmospheric, but it draaaaags. Christopher Lee gets to play Dracula more as Stoker wrote him, and he's good, but I still think Stoker's Dracula is a boring character, and Lee is accordingly somewhat boring. Klaus Kinski is very interesting as Renfield, not uttering a single word. The rest is forgettable.

* Countess Dracula (1971) -- Ingrid Pitt and Hammer again, this time in a very bloody horror story exaggeration of Countess Erzebet Bathory, who supposedly bathed in virgin blood to stay young. The movie is really stolen by Nigel Green, who plays her castle steward, who loves and aids her. Green was also memorable as Hercules in Jason and the Argonauts. Still, the sight of Pitt rising from a bath, covered in blood...

* The Devils (1971) -- the true story of the seventeenth-century witch burnings in Loudon, directed by Ken Russell with a special eye to over-the-top detail. A lot of people don't take this movie seriously, in my experience, but I think it Ken Russell has a lot to say in this film about human nature, the abuse of power, and the way religion represses sexuality only to make it more dangerously perverse. Oliver Reed is quite good (I do love Reed) as Urbain Grandier, a priest with an eye for women who is accused of devilry by Vanessa Redgrave as a jealous, hunchbacked nun.

* Doctor Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) -- there's always been a massive psychosexual element in Stevenson's novel (Victor Fleming tried to bring it to the fore), so having him transform into a woman was a brilliant idea. This Hammer film really unleashes Jekyll's id by turning him into beautiful Martine Beswick. The film revels in its suggestive elements (homosexuality, transvestism), and I wish it had been more psychological instead of focusing on rippings and murders, but this is Hammer, after all. Still, it's one hell of a film.

* Dracula A.D. 1972 (1971) -- this Hammer movie is pretty cheesy, but I enjoyed the heck out of it. Christopher Lee's Dracula is resurrected in 1972, where he does battle with the descedents of Van Helsing (bringing Peter Cushing back into the series for the first time since Brides of Dracula in 1960). This being what it is, the trouble starts when a group of swinging teenagers (among them goddess Caroline Munro, sultry and gorgeous; Lee sucking her blood has become the iconic image of Hammer's sex-and-blood aesthetic) have a seance. One of them is gorgeous Stephanie Beacham, who stars along with her incredible cleavage (which is quite maximized here) as Van Helsing's daughter and Dracula's real target.

Running long again; soon I'll start back up in the 1970s.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Halloween: "Mean Green Mother from Outer Space"

God damn it, I love this movie. Seriously, it's one of my favorites, not least because of the excellent puppet work. God damn it, I love puppets. It straddles the horror/science fiction parody line enough for me to be a Halloween video. Plus, since "Bernadette" is my Song of the Week, it's the other part of my tiny little tribute to Levi Stubbs, who passed away this week. His performance as Audrey II is fantastic.

Song of the Week: "Bernadette"

Levi Stubbs died this week. Here he is, live in 2004, singing the lead vocals on "Bernadette." The Four Tops were one of the best groups... well, ever. I've always loved their music, and this is actually my favorite of their songs. It's so hungry, so passionate. Great, great stuff.

Mickey on Mercury

Remanipulating one of the Messenger images of Mercury.

This was suggested by Clay and rendered by Becca. Thanks guys!

I should also give Becca some overdue credit for the nifty new site banner she made me for Halloween, which I've been using since late September. If you get me on a reader, here's what it looks like:

Pretty sweet Ub Iwerks skeletons!


With Joss Whedon continuing the story of Buffy and Angel in comic books that present themselves as new seasons of the TV series, I've been opining that Rockne S. O'Bannon should do the same thing with a Farscape comic book.

Sometimes, the universe hears you.

After five years, finally some new Farscape.

Oh, man.