Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on October 30, 2014
Halloween is fast approaching and tonight TCM is starting the party early with a batch of great haunted house films beginning at 5PM PST (8PM EST) followed by a 24-hour classic horror movie marathon that’s sure to please the most finicky horror connoisseur. With so many terrifically terrifying films to choose from I decided to ask some of my favorite female film journalists who also happen to be fellow horror devotees to join me in recommending one movie from TCM’s Halloween line-up for your viewing pleasure. I think you’ll enjoy our enthusiastic endorsements but you might want to approach them with caution. A few contain minor spoilers along with some surprising scares but I hope that won’t stop you from joining us in celebrating Halloween with TCM. Demonic monsters, scary chauffeurs and axe-wielding killers are just a few of the shocking thrills that await you!
Posted by gregferrara on October 29, 2014
Whenever someone asks me “What’s your favorite genre,” it seems like an odd question. It seems odd because my favorite genres often don’t match up with my favorite movies. The movies I consider personal favorites spread across a wide spectrum of genres. I often list movies I write about here as personal favorites, and they are, but the movies I bring up here lean more towards the universally praised while the movies I consider my favorites cover the good, bad, and the ugly all at once. My favorites are classics, and masterpieces, and duds, and awful stinking bombs too, covering every genre in the book. And yet when someone asks, “What’s your favorite genre,” even though I have no more favorites in it than any other genre, I say, “Science fiction,” without fail. Then I’ll add, “Horror, too. Science fiction and horror.” Why do I keep doing that?
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on October 28, 2014
Late last month, on the outrage machine known as Twitter, Variety tweeted the following: “Most films and TV shows are now available online legally, says a new study”. As with most provocative headlines, it turned out to be incredibly misleading. The “study” was commissioned by NBC Universal and performed by audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG. They only chose to track the most “popular and critically-acclaimed” films, which according to them comprises films with the “highest gross box office receipts” and those that won Oscar Best Picture awards. So this is a highly selective, entirely meaningless 808 film sample that overlooks the majority of film history. It’s not surprising then, that 94% of the films in their report were available on streaming platforms. Essentially it is saying that all the films you have already seen are available for you to watch again. 35mm is becoming an archival medium, more stable than digital in its constantly shifting technologies, but that makes archives more reluctant to ship prints to theaters, as Nick Pinkerton reported in his article on the DCP wars in Film Comment. A situation is growing where studios don’t want to ship prints of rare titles, but neither do they want to shell out the money for a decent HD transfer and clean-up, a very expensive proposition to enact on a large scale. Thus my dream of a 127-film 4K-scanned Edward L. Cahn retrospective will never come to pass.
That is why festivals like To Save and Project are so vital. In its twelfth year at the Museum of Modern Art, the series gathers recent restoration projects from around the world, and was organized by film curator Joshua Siegel, adjunct curator Dave Kehr, Adjunct Curator, and curatorial assistant Sophie Cavoulacos. For years a redoubt of celluloid, it has had to bow to the prevailing winds and present digital scans, including this year’s 4K restorations of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and A Fistful of Dollars. But there are also more heroic instances of digital rescue, like the South African blaxploitation soccer-rigging curiosity Joe Bullet (1971, screening 11/8 and 11/13), banned by the government soon after its release but rescued by the Gravel Road African Film Legacy (GRAFL) initiative. I’ve always treasured the festival more for its oddities than its classics, which would emerge elsewhere anyway. Another one is Miss Okichi (1935, screening 10/31 and 11/4), with Kenji Mizoguchi credited as “supervisor”, though elsewhere he is listed as a co-director. It’s a tragic tale of doomed love that feels like a missing piece in Mizoguchi’s filmography, even if more detective work needs to be done about its origins. Then there is the bizarre It’s a Wonderful Life noir Repeat Performance (1947, screening 11/12 and 11/14), in which a murderous dame gets to re-live the year leading up to the moment she kills her husband.
Posted by Susan Doll on October 27, 2014
As Halloween week begins, horror fans look forward to an array of scary movies offered by cable television networks who promise marathons of new favorites and familiar classics. TCM joins this week’s fright fest by showcasing Dracula movies and horror anthologies on Tuesday, ghost stories on Thursday, and a full “24 Hours of Horror” on Halloween.
In the line of duty as a movie historian, I have watched films from all eras of horror—from the genre’s German Expressionist beginnings to contemporary Grand Guignol gore-fests like Saw. While my personal favorites are heavy on gothic atmosphere, I tend to feel the most anxiety during stories with murderous clowns, psycho ventriloquist dummies, and killer dolls. However, one type of horror tale freaks me out like no other—stories with creepy kids. I confess that I am not remotely maternal, and I am inclined to believe that children in real life are only one step removed from those in horror films. It’s just that most of the world is blinded by sentimentality and look upon children as bastions of innocence. In reality, the little whelps are only waiting for their chance to bash in our skulls so they can take over, forcing us to listen to Justin Bieber and watch endless Transformers sequels. Below are ten horror films that nearly did me in with their creepy kid characters.
Posted by gregferrara on October 26, 2014
Today, Planet of the Apes airs on TCM and it’s a movie that I saw, honestly, dozens of times in the seventies and eighties. I watched it and its sequels over and over again, even giving the lousy television show a chance, and buying anything associated with the franchise, from lunchboxes to Viewfinder slides. POTA, as it will hence be called with each sequel following suit, was much bigger for me than Star Wars ever was and a part of the appeal is and was the time travel element. Specifically, the way the story folds in on itself and the consequences of one action will become the set of events that sets off the actions that become the consequences of the first action. It’s like one huge cinematic Möbius strip, with each side being the same side while occupying different sides at the same time. Yes, the movies got cheaper and except for the leads, every ape became an extra in a low-rent rubber mask and, no, I don’t care. There’s a storytelling arc there and it’s gutsier than a lot of sci-fi that gets produced.
It’s not that I advocate terrifying children, I hope you understand, but… well, let me start at the beginning.
When I was 8 years old, my dad used to wake me up late at night to join him in watching the classic Creature Features package on local TV. The deal was I had to finish my homework and go to bed early, and then at 11 he’d come wake me up to join him for late night popcorn and Dracula (or pizza and Frankenstein—he’d mix things up).
As I’ve mentioned here before, I was blessed with parents who made little effort to censor what I had access to, and who blithely took my pre-teen self to see things like Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Ridley Scott’s Alien, John Carpenter’s The Thing… I was enthralled—and also terrified. I had nightmares, and I loved them.
When I became a parent myself, I wanted to share with my kids the monster movies I’d grown up with. And so, one night in 2005, I showed my 5 year old daughter and 3 year old son a marathon of DVDs on Halloween that culminated with The Blob.
Posted by Richard Harland Smith on October 24, 2014
Wrap your head around this: the word “brain” appears in Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus just once. Chapter 4, to be precise, in a throwaway line about everything that dies with a man’s body. The business of the Frankenstein Monster getting a bad start in life due to the implantation of a dodgy brain is entirely the invention of the movies – specifically James Whale’s 1931 genre game-changer FRANKENSTEIN. Credit for this narrative wrinkle, which sidesteps the soul-searching of the source novel in favor of what amounts to a clerical error — goes (it seems) back to writer-for-hire Garrett Fort and Robert Florey, who brought the project to Universal Pictures and was on tap to direct before James Whale entered the equation. Over 80 years later, brains are very much on our mind, collectively-speaking, and never more so than in horror and science fiction films, where the tussle to retain the primacy of, or superiority over, the human brain provides us with an abundance of food for thought.
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on October 23, 2014
Hammer Films produced four Mummy movies between 1959 and 1971 and this coming Saturday (Oct. 25th) TCM is airing one of my favorites, Seth Holt’s BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB (1971). This unabashedly sexy horror extravaganza was the last Mummy movie produced by the ‘Studio that Dripped Blood’ and thanks to a great cast and some creative directing choices it turned out to be one of their best. But before it reached the screen the production was plagued by some serious setbacks that seemed to resemble the effects of a ‘mummy’s curse’ that’s often associated with doomed adventure seekers and tomb raiders. Was it just circumstance and bad luck or did something supernatural interfere with the making of the film? Read on to find out!
Posted by gregferrara on October 22, 2014
Later tonight, as in tomorrow morning on the east coast, TCM airs The Fog, the 1980 John Carpenter movie that, like a lot of John Carpenter movies, opened to middling reviews only to be heartily welcomed into the horror canon later. This also happened with his 1982 remake of The Thing from Another World, this time around simply titled The Thing, which opened to downright bad reviews but now has a solid reputation among horror fans, including this one. Later, Carpenter’s Christine suffered much the same fate. I saw Christine when it opened and thought it okay. A few years ago I watched it again and found it superior to much of what modern horror produces. Even Halloween was only given a few loving notices by Roger Ebert and Tom Allen originally while Pauline Kael led the charge against it as derivative crap. So, Ebert/Kael… I mean, flip a coin on that one, right? Eventually Ebert’s side won and the film is today regarded as a classic. Why they all took so long I think is not related to Carpenter so much as it is related to horror. Horror misdirects and confuses the audience, uses plot devices easily belittled and picked apart, and generally uses storytelling techniques so far removed from subtlety they don’t even occupy the same hemisphere. Behind all that could be a great movie but sometimes critics, and audiences too, can get lost in the fog of horror.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on October 21, 2014
Farrelly Brothers movies are akin to family gatherings. They are filled with extreme neuroses, unexpected violence, and deep undercurrents of affection. Their films are even populated with friends and relatives from their Rhode Island home. Listen to any of their audio commentaries and you’ll find that half the actors are bankers and car salesman who grew up with them back east. Every time I see a Farrelly feature I think of how Manny Farber described Howard Hawks’ “weird mother hen instinct.” The Farrellys have it as well, just weirder. Dumb and Dumber was their directorial debut and an enormous hit, a tale of ignorant male friendship that lowered scatalogical slapstick so far it went below lowbrow and out the other side. It’s also their first attempt at depicting the bonds of brotherhood, in which Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels perform a kind of radical acceptance of each other’s flaws — through complete stupidity, but still (they treated the same theme with greater complexity in Stuck on You, their greatest film and biggest bomb). The long-gestating but certainly not maturing sequel, Dumb and Dumber To, comes out next month.
The Farrellys follow-up to the original Dumb and Dumber, though, will never get a sequel, though it did come out on Blu-ray last week. Kingpin is another tale of success-challenged males learning to live with the other’s failure, this time in the lacquered middle-aged crisis world of bowling. Though where Dumb and Dumber is an abstract performance piece, as Carrey and Daniels could have been performing in front of a blank wall to similar effect, Kingpin tries to embed its outrageous characters into a semblance of the real world. Each bowling alley and auto-body shop is lovingly detailed, and essential to the development of its sad sack characters. The lead failure Roy Munson, Jr. (Woody Harrelson) is from the made-up small town of Ocelot, Iowa, a corroded rust belt city where he was once its proudest son as State Bowling champion, while ending up in a pit-stained flophouse in Scranton, PA dodging his scrofulous landlord’s bill. He sees a way out in the smooth stroke of Amish naif Ishmael (Randy Quaid), who he thinks can win the big bowling competition in Reno, and take down his longtime nemesis Ernie McCracken (Bill Murray).
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