There are many pop culture traditions at Christmastime that are important to me. Charlie Brown Christmas, of course—its power only grows over time. The Grinch (the original 60s cartoon). A Christmas Story, preferably on some kind of marathon loop. And then there’s Jalmari Helander’s looney cult flick Rare Exports. Perhaps that one is less familiar to you.
I wrote about it here several years ago, and to help give my revisit a fresh perspective, I asked my son Max to join me this year in paying tribute to this gloriously insane holiday horror movie.
Posted by Susan Doll on May 4, 2015
More than twenty years have passed since I last saw Mr. Arkadin, Orson Welles’s unconventional tale of an eccentric but powerful man. I look forward to revisiting this dark drama when TCM airs the film Friday, May 8, at 11:45pm as part of this month’s Friday Night Spotlight on Welles. The film is part of “Classic Noir” night, which also includes Touch of Evil, The Lady from Shanghai, and Journey Into Fear. While Mr. Arkadin is hardly ‘classic noir,’ any context for showcasing the film is alright with me.
Distributed in 1962, the film was shot in the mid-1950s. Welles had been reprising one of his signature roles for a second season of the BBC radio series Adventures of Harry Lime when he wrote an episode titled “Man of Mystery.” Intrigued by his own premise for this episode, in which a powerful man hires Lime to investigate his mysterious past, Welles decided to turn it into a feature film, Mr. Arkadin. The film stars Robert Arden, who had worked alongside Welles on the radio program, as Guy Van Stratten, a small-time criminal. Van Stratten crosses paths with the enormously wealthy Gregory Arkadin, a shadowy figure who dotes on his beautiful daughter Raina. Arkadin, who claims to remember nothing about his life prior to 1927, hires Van Stratten to research his past. The criminal-turned-investigator travels across Europe interviewing people who knew Arkadin, but the mystery deepens when these former acquaintances turn up dead.
Posted by Pablo Kjolseth on December 28, 2014
A blurb written in 1998 by Rick Polito for a TCM screening of The Wizard of Oz was resuscitated on the internet two years ago and went viral: “Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again.” Eight years before that, during my college years in 1990, space limitations on the calendar film series I was programming inspired similarly curt descriptions. Mine, however, were not funny and only annoyingly glib. For 2001: A Space Odyssey I wrote one sentence: “Do we really need to write a description for this?” My flippant entry for The Wizard of Oz was no better: “You know this one too. It’s not like it hasn’t been on TV every year for the last 25 years.” Had I done my homework I would have known that, at the time, it had actually been on TV for even longer than that but, either way, readers were not amused. And rightly so, because no matter how familiar you are with The Wizard of Oz, the film has many layers, it deserves more than flippant sentences, and it rewards repeat viewings. More to the point, people who are only familiar with The Wizard of Oz from television will have a big-screen opportunity to tremble under the earth-ripping power of those opening cyclone shots, thanks to TCM and Fathom Events which will be bringing the movie to select theaters nation-wide on January 11th. [...MORE]
Posted by Susan Doll on September 29, 2014
Next Monday, October 6, TCM presents an evening of early American animation, a must-see for cartoon fans of all ages. The line-up begins with the cartoons of Winsor McCay, followed by animation from two companies lost to the history books, the Bray Studio and the Van Beuren Studios. At 12:15 am, Lotte Reiniger’s unique Adventures of Prince Achmed airs, followed by the 1939 version of Gulliver’s Travels and the Japanese feature Magic Boy. Chuck Jones’s beloved Phantom Tollbooth concludes the evening’s entertainment, which has been dubbed “Back to the Drawing Board” by TCM. Of the vast array of styles and stories represented in this selection of pre-classic animation, I am most excited to see the work of the Bray Studios and Prince Achmed by Reiniger (above).
Posted by medusamorlock on January 19, 2013
I haven’t been around here in a while, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to wish success to TCM’s Danny Kaye 100th Birthday celebration all day this coming Sunday — tomorrow. As I showed in several posts in the past, I’ve been a Danny Kaye connoisseur nearly all my life, since the days I used to skip junior high to watch his movies on TV during the day (this is pre-VCR and DVR, although I used to record the soundtracks on reel-to-reel tape!). I bought my first copies of those “Movies on TV” books because of Danny, too, because I wanted to go through and find all his movies. Little did I know then that he only made 17, but we are fortunate that TCM will be bringing us a good selection of those on Sunday, plus some rare TV goodies.
Posted by Pablo Kjolseth on August 26, 2012
In my last post I provided a look behind the curtain for the first five weeks of film programming for my fall film calendar. This week we look at the remaining 24 titles that round out the schedule. It features everything from classics such as Vertigo to the state premiere of the latest uncompromising and visually arresting film by Bruno Dumont, Outside Satan (a scene of which is pictured above). [...MORE]
Posted by David Kalat on May 5, 2012
I’ve been in a state of sleep-deprivation-induced delirium for a couple of weeks now, an unending surrealist haze, and so I decided to pay a visit to one of the nutty dream-like movies that most closely approximates this state of mind–the wonderfully structured horror-comedy Viy!
Posted by David Kalat on December 24, 2011
“I didn’t know you could mix Santa Claus and horror movies,” my son Max told me this morning (y’all met him last week when he guest blogged on my behalf). He was referring specifically to his and my current obsession, a movie that has been inaugurated as a holiday viewing tradition in our home: Jalmari Helander’s looney cult flick Rare Exports.
Never heard of it? Well — as Max said, it is a (mildly gory) horror movie about Santa Claus.
Posted by Susan Doll on March 14, 2011
I am inclined to think that a good fairy tale is wasted on children, especially in today’s world where indulgent parents have created generations of over-stimulated progeny who are more interested in being passively entertained than actively mentored. A fairy tale stimulates imagination while providing a model for moral behavior. It begs readers/viewers to measure their own lives against those depicted in the tales and stirs them to question the behavior and decisions of the characters.
When I was a child, I liked to read the old fairy tales and get caught up in their aura of enchantment, particularly if they were accompanied by beautifully rendered illustrations. As an adult in college I learned that old-school fairy tales and myths offer a window into the history of past cultures because the stories are allegorical presentations of social issues and problems—an anthropological interpretation of tall tales supported by everyone from Claude Levi Strauss to Robert Darnton. In that class, I was also taught how to apply this approach to studying popular films, which parallel fairy tales in their use of formulaic stories and archetypal characters. The class was an eye-opening experience that prompted my life’s vocation as a film historian—as well as a renewed appreciation for fairy tales.
Last Friday, director Catherine Hardwicke’s reworking of Red Riding Hood opened to generally poor reviews, and while it suffers from many weaknesses, particularly in casting and narrative structure, I thought much of the criticism aimed at the movie was vague and unfounded. I liked many aspects of Red Riding Hood, including the protagonist, Valerie, and her ultimate handling of her “wolf” issues. The movie inspired me to search my memory for other live-action interpretations of fairy tales aimed at adults, which are listed below. I limited my list to those featuring female protagonists, but feel free to weigh in with your own favorite fairy-tale movies, preferably live-action versions not simplified or laundered for the kids market.
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