|11-03-2013, 11:25 PM||#661|
I ate my keys
Join Date: Mar 2003
I'd agree that Dan Curtis didn't direct the follow up as well as Night Stalker was, but Matherson's original screenplay for Night Strangler is better than his previous adaption. And a better story is a better story, and Night Strangler has a more engaging story. For example the cops aren't cliched cardboard cut outs, they have a much more complex relationship with Kolchak. The vampire angle is clear from the start in Night Stalker and there are no deviations so there's not much to the plot. Night Strangler is a better detective narrative which is the whole point of having a lead character that's a newsman.
Also I'd say the scene where Kolchak uses his new girl as bait in Night Strangler is far more suspenseful (very Blow Out-esque) than a few off the cuff remarks by his Las Vegas girlfriend about how she works nights. It's well established that the Night Strangler is now targeting the bellydance bar she works at and they come up with a pretty good excuse for why Kolchak gets loses her, establishing everything with character traits.
Night Strangler had a lot more atmosphere in the Seattle Underground and a much more suspenseful plot as the story is more of a mystery and not so predictable. As for humor that really comes down to the viewer. I'm not much of a fan of Matherson's humor in The Raven or The Comedy of Terrors but it all seemed appropriate in Night Strangler. That this is one of Matherson's better comedies is a plus mark in my book.
If I have to choose between another vampire flick and a more unique original macabre creation of Matherson... That's an easy choice.
If you love Rocky Horror, you'll be amazed how much you'll love it more live.
|11-04-2013, 01:05 AM||#662|
Join Date: Nov 2005
Well, another October horrorthon is over. And as usual, I'm depressed as hell. I got in 58 films and shows in October (23 first-time viewings) and another 33 in September (18 more first-timers). Thanks to all of you who take the time to post your thoughts on the flicks you're watching. Several of my first-time viewings came from your suggestions.
40. Candyman 5/5--One of my favorite films. Seamless melding of myth and reality and a welcome focus on adult characters make this one of the most effective genre films of the past 25 years. Virginia Madson anchors an exceptionally accomplished cast. And Phillip Glass's classy score hits all the right notes. Exceptionally literate and mature across the board. And there are some unforgettable images scattered throughout--like the shot of Candyman's hook disappearing into the bonfire pile near the climax. It feels like the kind of classic imagery you get from the best of Universal's golden age.
41. Curse Of The Undead* 2/5--Universal vampire western squanders a great idea. Michael Pate's black-clad bounty hunter arrives to tip the balance in a cliched land dispute. But why does he appear to be impervious to bullets? And why can't anyone find him during the day-time? Suffers from too much bland horse opera and too little attention to horror elements. Missing all the great touches that distinguish Universal's classic horrors--with the dull score especially lacking. A hurried, anti-climactic finale doesn't help either.
42. The Mad Magician* 3/5--Behind-the-scenes magic consultant is ready to leave the shadows for a triumphant transition to the stage. But his unscrupulous employers are prepared to do anything in their power to keep him behind the curtain. Too similar to the superior House Of Wax in terms of both Price's role and the revenge plot, with disguises again featuring prominently. Ultimately feels like a watered-down imitation. Strangely derivative too. It lifts its best setpiece directly from Hangover Square. I quickly tired of the antics of crime novelist Lenita Lane and her mousy husband Jay Novello. Even Price is somewhat off his game. He's at his hammiest.
43. The Conjuring 3/5--I've posted a more detailed write-up in the film thread. Starts well before disintegrating into a busy, noisy, special effects extravaganza. I strongly prefer Insidious despite its obvious flaws.
44. The Phantom Of Hollywood* 2/5--Uninspired retooling of Leroux's classic tale is distinguished by one amazing element--its value as a historical document. Graphically documents the destruction of the MGM back lot--which was being demolished at the time this was shot. The realization that film history was being obliterated by the relentless cranes and bulldozers lends a melancholy air to the proceedings. Jack Cassidy's mellifluous voice adds some additional resonance to the final Phantom scenes. Not much else to recommend, though Skye Aubrey is an attractive female lead.
45. The Confessional* 4/5--Mean, violent tale of a deranged priest is enlivened by Pete Walker's complete lack of taste and restraint. I continuously found myself thinking "there's no way he's going to do THAT" only to see him prove me wrong moments later. Villainous priest role was reportedly tapped for Peter Cushing, who undoubtedly would have been tremendous. But substitute Anthony Sharp makes a fantastic villain. He maintains credibility even when the plot is testing its limits. Uncomfortable subplot featuring his Parkinsons-afflicted elderly mother and her sadistic, one-eyed nurse adds some additional squirms. Tons of fun for lapsed Catholics like myself. But devout Catholics will definitely be offended. Everyone may be tempted to forever forgo confession.
46. Child's Play 2* 4/5--Extremely enjoyable sequel is solid entertainment until it bogs down during the protracted toy factory finale. Wisely keeps the focus on Chucky's bloody second attempt to insert himself into little Alex Vincent's body. Asks a lot of its child lead, which has derailed a lot of other horror films. Fortunately Vincent joins the Danielle Harris club of appealing, distinctly un-annoying child leads. Jenny Agutter and Gerrit Graham provide solid support in undemanding roles. But this is Dourif's show all the way. His manic, foul-mouthed Good Guy is consistently amusing. This would definitely make a good Halloween party film.
47. The Fall Of The House Of Usher* 5/5--Roger Corman's master class in low-budget scares holds up tremendously well. The sets and classy score belie the scarcity of cash. And although Corman only had enough money to pay a very small cast, one of them is Vincent Price. And that makes all the difference. This is one of Price's best performances. His Usher is immediately menacing despite his outward civility and soft voice. Corman's ingenuity figures huge in the lush look of the picture. He took advantage of both a forest fire and the scheduled demolition of a nearby barn to grab footage that figures huge in the opening scenes and the finale.
48. The Haunted Palace* 3/5--Lesser Corman Poe adaptation (which owes a lot more to Lovecraft) still has its moments. Too obvious in the opening chapters, with the overly melodramatic score going over-the-top way too early. Later rallies for some eerie scenes featuring the disfigured townspeople--and a few brutal murders. Lon Chaney, Jr. offers solid support--though its disturbing to see how heavy a toll his drinking had taken on his appearance. He's only 57 despite looking much older. As usual, Corman makes the most of a limited budget. Every penny is up there on the screen. Watch for recycled footage from the climactic Usher fire during the similar fiery climax. Not bad, but not on par with most of Corman's other Poe films. Screenwriter Charles Beaumont is the weak link. He's no Richard Matheson.
49. Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed 5/5--The best of the Hammer Frankenstein series. Starts with a bang, offering up a decapitation, a suspenseful stalking, and a tremendous fistfight in the first five minutes. It's an unusually kinetic setpiece for Terence Fisher, favorably recalling the breakneck finish to Horror Of Dracula. Amazingly the rest of the film maintains that rush of momentum. Fisher wisely keeps Cushing front and center after a couple sequels that gave him very little to do. And Cushing delivers one of his greatest performances. He's a commanding presence--more ruthless than he's ever been before. His cruel manipulation of everyone around him is a delight to watch. He's the quintessential British psychopath, a soft-speaking, gentlemanly aristocrat with no regard for human life. Arthur Grant's hand-held camera lends additional suspense and urgency to the action. And James Bernard delivers another memorable score. As usual there's no traditional "monster." But Cushing more than fills the void. And Hammer scream queen Veronica Carlson heads an unusually qualified supporting cast. This might be my favorite Hammer film.
50. The Body Snatcher 5/5--Classic Val Lewton chiller benefits from one of Boris Karloff's greatest performances. His corpse merchant cabbie John Gray is a marvelously menacing character, oozing depravity and inspiring dread with every word and gesture. But he's not the only monster here. Doctor Henry Daniell is all-too-happy to pay for fresh corpses for dissection--no questions asked. Essentially a two-man battle between Karloff and Daniell, though Russell Wade and Bela Lugosi offer solid support. Climax aboard Daniell's carriage is a masterpiece foreshadowing more outstanding genre work from young director Robert Wise.
51. Route 66 - Lizard's Leg & Owlet's Wing* 4/5--I have no idea what this series is normally about. But this episode, which features three of the most iconic horror stars, is a delight. Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney, Jr. cannot convince comrade Boris Karloff that the old monsters still rule. So they decide to meet face-to-face at a business hotel to sort out their differences. But how to convince Boris that the old monsters are still potent? Maybe they could test their effectiveness on the attendees of a secretary's convention? This is a very affectionate love letter to the old days, with Chaney and Karloff recreating their most famous roles. I posted a youtube link earlier in the thread for those who are interested.
52. Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein 5/5--A triumphant last gasp for Universal's monsters. Bud and Lou don't meet Dr. Frankenstein. But they do meet his monster, the Wolf Man, and Count Dracula--this time in the person of Bela Lugosi. Bud and Lou's antics mesh surprisingly well with the monster action--which is hugely satisfying because it's largely played straight. Moves fast and contains many classic gags. But Bela steals the show. He's clearly relishing his return to the cape. And despite his advanced age, you can't help but wonder why the hell John Carradine played his role in House Of Frankenstein and House Of Dracula. Look fast for Chaney replacing Glenn Strange in the monster makeup in the scene where Lenore Aubert is tossed out the castle window. His bulkier shape is easy to spot. First-rate entertainment and the best of the Abbott and Costello films. Don't miss the familiar disembodied voice just prior to the end credits.
53. Ghostwatch 4/5--Exemplary BBC mockumentary pushes all the right buttons before going overboard in the final minutes. Starts as a cheeky, exploitative Halloween special (which actually aired on Halloween) before deftly changing tone to raise some serious goosebumps. Be sure to check the Wikipedia guide before revisiting. You'll almost certainly miss some of the ghost's fleeting appearances on your first viewing.
54. Halloween III 3/5--Dean Cundey's sumptuous visuals and Carpenter's outstanding score suggest a much better better picture. But this is strictly a guilty pleasure "B" movie. Doctor Tom Atkins is gradually drawn into a mystery involving the most outlandish Halloween prank imaginable. He's a great lead, as usual. And Dan O'Herlihy makes for a tremendously theatrical villain. But the supporting cast is almost uniformly terrible. And original screenwriter Nigel Kneale didn't demand that his name be removed from the credits for nothing. Scatters a few effective moments among many predictable or cringe-inducing sequences--which only adds to its particular charm. Cundey's work really is first-rate--especially the early tracking shot of Atkins responding to screams at the hospital. But make no mistake. Despite a lot of proclamations to the contrary this is a bad movie.
55. The Devil's Own* 2/5--Easily the worst Hammer film I've seen. Aging star Joan Fontaine plays a school marm fumbling against dark forces in a deserted UK village. But will she be able to maintain her sanity in the face of her rising suspicions? Solid entertainment for a while. But it takes a bizarre left turn and never recovers--with the climactic ritual particularly ludicrous. Satanism typically manages to be be unnerving even when it's presented with little to no panache. But the ritual dance here needs to be seen to be believed. It looks like a drunken variation of the Macarena. Skip this one unless you're a Hammer completist.
56. Retribution* 2/5--Fatal overlength mars what could have been an intriguing, compact thriller. Notably uncharismatic lead Dennis Lipscomb survives a clumsy opening scene suicide plunge to discover that strange things are happening while he sleeps. Makes the most of numerous grisly, well executed murders. But the rest of the film is ridiculously unconvincing. Amateurish performances don't help. But most of the writing scrapes the bottom of the barrel--with Lipscomb's scenes with Suzanne Snyder achieving epic levels of awfulness. Cemetery scene with Clare Peck is actually quite good. There's an authenticity to their interaction that's notably missing in the rest of the film. But overall it's too dumb and protracted to recommend.
57. The Night Flyer* 3/5--Stephen King's vampire story features some decidedly modern wrinkles. But it's distinctly old school in execution. Robocop's Miguel Ferrer makes for a memorable anti-hero. He wisely plays his ambitious, self-absorbed tabloid reporter as a thoroughly unlikable jerk. Held my interest despite a lack of above-average elements. The rest of the cast is lousy and the story is fairly uninspired. But there's a fundamental coldness and cruelty, which gives it a unique vibe. Telegraphs its ending. But at least it doesn't go the obvious route. Not bad.
58. Halloween 4 4/5--Easily my favorite sequel, and by my estimation, the best by far. Alan McElroy's script contains a lot of shout-outs to Carpenter's original. And it's similarly focused on well drawn, likable main characters. Benefits from an extremely atmospheric fall montage during the credits scene. And shows a real mastery of tone during the early scenes, which deftly re-introduce key elements from Halloween and Halloween II. The only weak link is George Wilbur as The Shape. His bulky form and plodding movements are about as far from Nick Castle's graceful Shape as you can get. Alan Howarth's re-interpretation of Carpenter's iconic theme is thin and tinny-sounding. But it still warms my heart when it kicks in early in the film. Michael would obviously return. But this is the last film to capture the elusive Halloween feel.
Last edited by shape22; 11-04-2013 at 02:46 AM.
|11-06-2013, 04:01 AM||#663|
I ate my keys
Join Date: Mar 2003
Man, Thursday already feels like a thousand years ago. I can barely recall my impressions that night.
10/31 Bride of the Monster (1955)
I had a friend over who says he doesn't like MST3k so we watched this straight. At the time I showed it he said he hadn't seen it, but looking at last year's thread I see that he did indeed see it with me last year. It's sad when people call MST3k too distracting while they sit reading an iPad instead and don't remember a film anyways. Yeah I'll waste my slot to rant on this, what of it?
10/31 Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957)
He really hadn't seen this one (or so he claimed) and I'd already seen the Rifftrax earlier this month so I didn't mind so much screening this one straight. We speculated that some of the jittery flying saucer footage may have been because he rear projected the saucers in front of a slow background and then sped up the footage in post.
10/31 Mystery Science Theater 3000: "Manos": The Hands of Fate (1966)
No way in hell I was watching this straight, he was just going to have to suffer through this one. It's been in Chicago this weekend and the weekend before last but I just couldn't go through with seeing it (mostly because of the drive downtown). It was interesting to notice how much chemical push they must have done after the fact in the lap during the night scenes. It helps give it that other worldly quality for the climax.
10/31 Season's Greetings (1996)
Reminds me of Charlie Brown and is very well animated with great backgrounds. After seeing the film I should have known the outcome but I was still somewhat surprised by the ending. Wasn't quite what I expected, the avenger of Halloween, but fun just the same. I think I'll make this a party shower for next year.
10/31 Hypnoscope (195?)
There doesn't seem to be a lot of information out there on this which is a shame as I'd like to know more about it. The animation is looped pretty well so someone very skilled must have put this together.
10/31 Monsters Crash the Pajama Party (1965)
While originally a chore for me to shoehorn in this has since become easier and easier to watch and enjoy for what it is. The sets are pretty neat and the cartoon level of shenanigans are rather novel in a real world settings such as this. It's great that Something Weird put in the effort to get this all out there and is an absolute Halloween staple for me now.
10/31 Frankenstein (1931)
With these last three films let's take an overdue look at Dwight Frye. It's the little things that make these films great, and while his parts might be little don't for a moment think his performances are. Some of my all time favorite moments come from Dwight: Fritz taking the lid off the brain jar before stealing it, mumbling to himself and adjusting his sock before climbing the staircase. Something was just so perfect with his hunchback, no one's ever been able to compete.
10/31 The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
"It was a very fresh one!"
Oh Karl, so proud of your handy work you forgot there's something suspicious with finding too fresh of a body... Dwight's so great Whale had to bring him back here and unfortunately his murder spree subplot was cut out of the film. I can only imagine what gems were left on the cutting room floor from these scenes.
10/31 Frankenstein (1910)
It's somewhat ironic that The Monster here is a hunchback very much the same way Dwight would play one decades later. As short and sweet as this is they do a good job capturing the original book and the main reason why The Creature becomes The Monster, neglect and rejection. With that it retains the theme of who the real monster is, The Creature of the one who rejected and neglected their creation?
10/31 Dracula (1931)
Dwight is so great in this, "Rats! Rats! Rats! Thousands! Millions of them!" This was his most iconic role and he gave Lugosi a run for his money in the title role. That laugh of his is singular. It boggles my mind somewhat when people say they prefer the Spanish version since the Renfield in that is no where close to the same level as Frye here.
I was gone for fourteen days
I coulda been gone for more
Held up in the intensive care ward
Lyin' on the floor
I was gone for all those days
But I was not all alone
I made friends with a lot of people
In the danger zone
See my lonely life unfold
I see it everyday
See my only mind explode
Since I've gone away
I think I lost some weight there
And I-I'm sure I need some rest
Sleepin' don't come very easy
In a straight white vest
Should like to see that little children
She's only four years old... old
I'd give her back all of her playthings
Even even the ones I stole
See my lonely life unfold
I see it everyday
See my lonely mind explode
When I've gone insane