In anticipation of the big day, I thought I’d share some of my Halloween Day viewing quirks. “Boo, Don’t Turn off the Lights” reveals what films I can watch only while it’s still light outside.
My top 2 are Psycho (1960) and Halloween (1978). If you haven’t experienced them you should and here’s why:
Directed by the “Master of Suspense”, Sir Alfred Hitchcock, it turned the audience perception of a movie plot on its head. There were lines wrapped around the block and absolutely NO ADMISSION after the movie began. Sir Alfred, such a tease. For more on Al, please click here. A previous post tribute.
Starring Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh, the screenplay is by Joseph Stefano and based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch. To fully appreciate the creepy effect of the film understand that the character of Norman Bates is loosely inspired by the crimes of Wisconsin murderer and grave robber Ed Gein.
Directed by John Carpenter and the debut of Jamie Lee Curtis (Janet Leigh’s daughter), this film is inspired by and born from the masterwork Psycho (1960) bringing a fresh, 1978 twist on the horror genre. Void of a lot of blood and gore the focus becomes a child’s question: “What’s the “boogeyman?” and the response, “I believe that was.”
OMG, I add extra lighting when watching this definitive Halloween classic!
The unrelenting Michael Myers character is the scariest psycho of all time!
This quote sums up Michael:
Dr. Sam Loomis: (Donald Pleasence) I met him, fifteen years ago; I was told there was nothing left; no reason, no conscience, no understanding; and even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes… the devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.
6-year-old Michael Myers
The cinematic significance of this film is unlike other slasher movies of the day, the heroine is intelligent and continually devising ways to get away from the killer. Jamie Lee as Laurie is sweet, compassionate and determined to save the kids she’s babysitting and herself from death and live through Halloween night.
Shout out to the first horror “Scream Queen! (for you trivia buffs check-out Wes Craven’sScream (1996) for a movie reference). Halloween (1978) was the film’s inspiration.
Halloween is my favorite holiday! It’s a day for self-expression. A day for fun and fantasy. A day for taking control of phobias and fears and turning your back on Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Where’s your power now Fred? Way to shut that mess down.
It’s also a day to indulge in all your favorite classic, creepy, monster, sci-fi horror films.
Therefore, in the spirit of Halloween, let’s pay homage to the original man of horror. The “Man of a Thousand Faces”- Lon Chaney.
Lon Chaney (April 1, 1883 – August 26, 1930), born Leonidas Frank Chaney
Born to deaf parents, Lon learned to express himself and communicate visually. He took his desire to become an actor and created an art form and space for himself that was revolutionary to the motion picture industry. His makeup artistry allowed him to transform and become grotesque characters in films like The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and The Phantom of the Opera (1925). He’s regarded as one of the most important character actors of the silent film era.
The original “monster maker”, he would scout out the daily call sheets for a studio finding out what types of extras were needed for that day’s shoot. He created a make-up toolbox of possibilities for him to achieve the look and characterizations needed to be chosen for a role. This talent was the impetus for his unparalleled reputation in the burgeoning film industry.
Chaney’s alliance with Director Tod Browning was inspired! Browning was into the macabre and best known for his films Dracula (1931) and the cult classic Freaks (1932) and Lon Chaney had the acting and makeup skills to realize any twisted character the director could come up with.
My favorite movie line is from their 1927 silent film The Unknown – “crack of your ass”. (okay, I can’t swear that’s what he said) But, seriously, as Alonzo the Armless, he threatened his co-star Joan Crawford with bodily harm if she did not bend to his will. Remember Grandma Klump from Eddie Murphy’s The Nutty Professor(1996)? “You might walk over, but you limpin’ back! “Chaney totally went there. Check it out:
Let’s talk about the level of twisted in this movie:
A word of advice, if you’ve got a thing about someone that’s all consuming and you’d do anything to get with that person, forget about it!
Plot: This crazy man, Alonzo the Armless (Lon Chaney) has a knife throwing act using only his feet and is in love with Nanon (Joan Crawford) who”can’t bear to be touched.” He has arms but pretends not to for his act and so Nanon will talk to him. When it’s discovered that he indeed has arms, he blackmails a low-rent surgeon to amputate them. Sick!
Nanon and Alonzo
After his surgery, Alonzo returns to the circus and his knife throwing act. Hoping to rekindle his relationship, he strolls over to Nanon’s circus wagon to see his rival Malabar, the circus strongman, (Norman Kerry) with his hands all over his love. Holy crap, it’s on! Alonzo schemes to get his girl back by rigging the speed of Malabar’s horses in his act which will dislocate and sever his arms during the live circus performance.
Alonzo’s sick plan is working until Nanon realizes what is happening and tries to stop the performance. And then boom! The”crack of your ass” line. As you saw in the clip, things didn’t really work out the way he saw it play out in his mind.
This documentary, Lon Chaney: A Thousand Faces is a great biography for more in-depth background information and presents a great opportunity to discover your own Lon Chaney gem.
Here it is, Lon Chaney: A Thousand Faces
Lon Chaney is also the father of Lon Chaney, Jr best known for his role in Universal’s The Wolfman (1941).
In my last post I talked about maybe being a little anal about the rules for Saturday and Sunday afternoon movie watching. I shared my rules for Saturday afternoon movie viewing which is B-horror and science fiction. I also shared 3 of my favorite flicks. The Blob (1958), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) and The Tingler (1959). (hope you check ’em out)
So, for Part 2 I’m showcasing Sunday and my criteria for some great classic melodrama.
I love melodramas because they can be so over the top and cathartic (think movie therapy) and there’s no better day to indulge than on a lazy Sunday, vegging on the couch, better yet if it’s a rainy day.
According to dictionary.com:
Melodrama – Exaggerated and emotional or sentimental, sensational or sensationalized: over dramatic.
Bette Davis is my favorite Melodrama Diva! Talk about emotional and dramatic, she had those attitudes down pat. With her I find myself either talking back to my TV screen or weeping. (this is why rain helps) So, let’s find out about “The First Lady of the American Screen:
Bette was known for her no-nonsense, no-holds barred personality and wasn’t afraid to take on unsympathetic character roles. In the RKO film Of Human Bondage (1934), she played such a character as Mildred, the cruel and vicious waitress. A film adaptation of the 1915 novel of the same name by W. Somerset Maugham. This melodramatic adaptation about a crippled doctor’s destructive and compulsive passion for this coarse waitress was advertised with the tagline on one of its posters: “The Love That Lifted a Man to Paradise…and Hurled Him Back to Earth Again.”
In her 1st major, critically acclaimed part she insisted on looking hideous to depict the ravages of the disease tuberculosis on the human body. She wasn’t nominated for an Oscar but so impressed fellow artists that they insisted she be a write-in on the ballot.
Let’s take a look at her 10 Oscar nominations and 2 wins:
1935: Won for Dangerous, as a self-destructive, alcoholic actress (really a make-up for not winning Of Human Bondage)
1938: Won for Jezebel, as a self absorbed 1850’s southern belle whose insistence on wearing a red-dress to a formal affair (white = chaste) brings scandal and disapproval. Her man “Pres” Henry Fonda was too through with her.
1939: Nominated for Dark Victory, as Judith Traherne, an impetuous, terminally ill Long Island socialite. (yes that’s Bette with a drunken Ronald Reagan) Big time tear-jerker! – Bette’s favorite!
1940: Nominated for The Letter, as a low-down, adulterous murderer who has absolutely no remorse for blowing her lover away. However, karma is a bitch.
1941: Nominated for The Little Foxes, as Southern aristocrat Regina Giddens – that girl put the cold in cold-blooded.
1942: Nominated for Now, Voyager, as Charlotte Vale – a dowdy, overweight, spinster, abused by her mother but fights back and achieves a starling transformation in body and spirit. An incredible performance! My absolute favorite Bette Davis role!
Charlotte on the edge of a well deserved nervous breakdown:
1944: Nominated for Mr. Skeffington, as Fanny Skeffington, a woman so conceited that she tries to steal her daughter’s boyfriend, loses her looks after an illness but still has the nerve to treat her husband like dirt and still believe she can have any man – no way. In the end she learns the hard way that “a woman is beautiful when she’s loved and only then.” (too bad it’s after her husband goes blind in a concentration camp)
1950: Nominated for All About Eve, as Margo Channing an insecure Broadway star challenged by the younger, conniving Eve – “Fasten your seat-belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” It was selected in 1990 for preservation in the United States National Film Registry and was among the first 50 films to be registered.
1952: Nominated for The Star, as Maggie, a washed up actress trying to revive her career. Notably, at this time in Bette Davis’ career, she was struggling for roles despite her body of work. Bette’s ego was blamed.
1962: Nominated for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, as the demented Baby Jane Hudson who tortures and terrorizes her sister Blanche (Joan Crawford) Much like their real life rivalry. This role renewed her success and paved the way for other deranged characters in such films as: Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964) and The Nanny (1965)
Bette continued to perform in film and on television in the 70’s and 80’s. In 1983 at the age of 75 she had a mastectomy as a result of breast cancer. Nine days later she suffered a stroke. Despite her failing health she continued to work until her death in 1989.
This is an in-depth retrospect of “The First Lady of the American Screen”
Maybe I’m just a wee bit anal but the day of the week dictates the genre that I watch. Monday thru Friday are pretty wide open, however, Saturday and Sunday must stick to my criteria. Saturday afternoon is definitely B-horror/Sci-fi flicks and Sunday is reserved for Melodrama film classics.
If you’ve read my About Page you know that as a kid the Saturday Matinee had a big influence on my love of B-horror/Sci-fi movies and William Castle.
The Blob, The Incredible Shrinking Man and The Tingler. Now that’s good stuff!
The Blob plot revolves around what happens when an old man pokes a stick at a piece of meteor and it cracks open releasing an oozy substance that starts to crawl up the stick. He tries to shake it off but ends up with “the blob” all over his hand. (This is why you don’t poke at things that drop from the sky. Yeesh!)
Steve (also his character name) and his girl Jane, after almost hitting the old man who has run onto the road, take him to the local doctor. Cutting to the chase: while Steve and Jane ( Aneta Corsaut, who eventually plays Andy Griffith’s TV girlfriend Helen) leave the doc’s office to look for clues to what’s on the old man’s hand, The Blob absorbs the old man, the doc and his nurse. Next thing you know it’s at the midnight horror movie. Cue the fleeing and screaming and holy crap how do we stop it. Phew, that was exhausting.
The theme song, written by Burt Bacharach and Mack David (who wrote some of the top hits of the sixties) is a catchy little gem. “It creeps and leaps and glides and slides across the floor…beware of the blob.” Here it is:
I’ve watched this movie a hundred times and the ending always makes me cry. This thought provoking Science Fiction classic taps into an anxiety of meaning in life and what exactly is the meaning of life. Scott Carey (Grant Williams) is dusted by a radioactive mist while on a boating vacation with his wife Louise (Randy Stuart). A few weeks later he starts to notice his clothes are fitting more loose and he also appears to be losing height. After visiting a specialist, it is confirmed that he is indeed shrinking.
Reduced to living in a dollhouse and eventually fighting for his life against the cat and then a tarantula living in the basement of the family home, Scott finally shrinks to an infinitesimal size, entering the realm of the unknown.
For me this movie is so much more than just another Saturday afternoon B-Movie flick. The closing monologue makes the point by concluding that no matter how small, we still matter in the universe because, to God, “there is no zero.”
Percepto is my favorite William Castle gimmick. There comes a time in the movie when the Tingler (a parasite that feeds on fear) is loose in the theater and to save your life you need to scream! For grins, in select seats in the theaters, Castle placed the Percepto system which made the seat vibrate to simulate the feeling of fear you feel in your body when The Tingler strikes.
Man do I wish I could have been there in 1959 when The Tingler attacks the projectionist, the film strip breaks and The Tingler appears on the screen. If that’s not enough, the lights go out and you hear the voice of Vincent Price declaring that The Tingler is loose in the theater so scream, scream for your life! Awesome!!
Just think of it, being in the movie theater watching The Tingler scene and ending up participating in the experience in your Percepto seat, with lights out and the sound of Price’s voice. I love it!!!
Break out the popcorn and let me know your faves in the comments.
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