To Remake or Not To Remake. That is the Question.

I’m on the record saying I hate remakes. If it was genius in the first place, why mess with it? If it stunk, why bring it back? Are you so ego driven Mr. Director that you feel your “version” outshines, oh say, Alfred Hitchcock‘s Psycho? Or Mr. Director, do you so lack creatively that you cop-out and warm over some – why was it made in the first place (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) flick?

That being said, there are those exceptions. Websters’ definition of a remake is: to make again or anew as in a new form or manner. If a film can pay homage and capture the essence of the original but also bring freshness, I consider that film to be a great remake!

 

This classic has a great remake:

 

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

 

Directed by Don Siegel and Produced by Walter Wanger, the film starred Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter. This 1956 sci-fi thriller taps into a hideous nightmare, what if we went to sleep and awoke as a “pod person?” (Our physical self but void of emotion.) This movie in and of itself is an update of the 1950’s fear of space, atomic energy, and aliens. However, instead of giant mutated spiders, this tale is of an invasion from within.

 

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Invasion_of_the_body_snatchers_movie_poster_1978

“From deep space the seed is planted.”

Directed by Philip Kaufman and starring Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams, this remake ups the ante. It honors the original sense of foreboding but the degree of terror is raised to a pandemic level.

There’s a scene in the original involving a dog that alerts the “pod people” that “Becky” (Dana Wynter) isn’t one of them. In this version they remake the dog scene but takes it to a much freakier place.   Outstanding!

I won’t give away the ending but, holy crap, that was frigging frightening!  Totally fresh update!

 

A box office success, Invasion of the Body Snatchers was well received by critics and is considered by some (myself included) to be among the greatest film remakes.

To Remake or not to Remake. That is the Question.

In this instance – YES!

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iheart Halloween!👻

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.

 Man of a Thousand Faces – Lon Chaney

lon chaney man of a

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.

lon chaney headshot

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.

 lon unknown poster

This flick is by far my favorite Lon Chaney! 

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

lon and nanon

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

lon feet

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.

Malabar

lon malabar stretch

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).

The Black Prince of Darkness – Blacula 1972 💀🎃

Original 1972 theatrical poster

Way to turn the classic “Dracula” on its’ head! I think the idea to present Blacula as an 18th Century African prince during the slave trade was historical and topical. Although considered a Blaxploitation horror film, it was taken with a serious approach and hits the mark on the classic Universal horror flick.

This trailer is so typical of an American International Picture, high on exploitation and drama. Formed on April 2, 1954, from American Releasing Corporation (ARC) by James H. Nicholson, former Sales Manager of Realart Pictures, and Samuel Z. Arkoff, an entertainment lawyer. It was dedicated to releasing independently produced, low-budget films.

Samuel Z. Arkoff.jpg

Samuel Zachary Arkoff (June 12,1918 – September 16, 2001)

The ARKOFF formula:

  • Action (exciting, entertaining drama)

  • Revolution (novel or controversial themes and ideas)

  • Killing (a modicum of violence)

  • Oratory (notable dialogue and speeches)

  • Fantasy (acted-out fantasies common to the audience)

  • Fornication (sex appeal, for young adults)

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The plot of Blacula is the story of Manuwalde (William Marshall), an African Prince. It’s a modern twist on the classic Dracula legend and is told in a very compelling and chilling way.

blacula 1972

William Marshall “Blacula”

In the year 1780, while on a goodwill visit to ask Count Dracula (Charles Macaulay) to help him suppress the slave trade, (which existed in parts of Africa, like the rest of the world, and was a part of the economic structure of some societies for many centuries), he is refused by the Count. Instead, Manuwalde is turned into a vampire by Count Dracula and wife, Luva (Vonetta McGee) is killed.

Quote – Dracula: You shall pay, black prince. I shall place a curse of suffering on you that will doom you to a living hell. I curse you with my name. You shall be… Blacula!

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The scene then shifts to the year 1972 with two interior decorators from modern-day Los Angeles California traveling to Castle Dracula in Transylvania and unknowingly purchasing the now-undead Mamuwalde’s coffin, which they ship to Los Angeles.

 blacula 1972

One of the interior decorators – Could he be Richard Simmons’ twin or what?😄

Later unlocking the coffin, the decorators release Mamuwalde, becoming his first two victims, turning them and the others he encounters into vampires like himself in his bloodthirsty reign of terror. (Wikipedia)

Blacula was released on August 25, 1972, to mixed reviews.  American International Pictures’ marketing department in an effort to ensure that black audiences would be interested in Blacula; created posters for the film including references to slavery, hence, blaxploitation.

Blacula-pressbook_0007

Noted for creating the Blaxploitation horror genre, Blacula debuted at #24 on Variety’s list of top films. It eventually grossed over a million dollars, making it one of the highest-grossing films of 1972. A sequel to the film titled Scream Blacula Scream was released in 1973 by American International. The film also stars William Marshall in the title role along with actress and star of (“Foxy Brown” 1974) Pam Grier.

 

Trivia:

Blacula was in production between late January and late March 1972. While Blacula was in its production stages, William Marshall worked with the film producers to make sure his character had some dignity.

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His character name was changed from Andrew Brown to Mamuwalde and his character received a background story about being an African prince who had succumbed to vampirism.

Blacula was shot on location in Los Angeles, with some scenes shot in the Watts neighborhood and the final scenes taken at the Hyperion Outfall Treatment Plant in the beachside, west Los Angeles Playa del Rey.

The Hues Corporation - Blacula 1972

The Hues Corporation 1972

The music for Blacula is unlike that of most horror films as it uses rhythm and blues as opposed to haunting classical music. The film’s soundtrack features a score by Gene Page, who was one of the most prolific arrangers/conductors of popular music during his time and worked on more than 200 gold and platinum records.

A variety of the artists Gene Page worked with:

The Supremes, The Four Tops, Buffalo Springfield, Barbra Streisand, Donna Loren, Martha and the Vandellas, Cher, Barry White, The Love Unlimited Orchestra, Whitney Houston, George Benson, The Jackson Five, Roberta Flack,Elton John, José Feliciano, Leo Sayer, Seals & Croft, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Frankie Valli, Dobie Gray, Peabo Bryson, Lionel Richie, Jeffrey Osborne

Music on the soundtrack also included contributions by The Hues Corporation. They are best known for their 1974 single “Rock the Boat”, which sold over 2 million copies. (Wikipedia)

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In the spirit of Halloween and Throwback ’70’s, check it out. I think you’ll “Dig it”!

If It’s Saturday It Must Be The Blob!📺

Maybe I’m just a wee bit set in my ways, 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_poster

 The Blob (1958)

The Blob, directed by Irvin Yeaworth, was Steve McQueen’s first leading role before he got his own TV series – Wanted: Dead or Alive (1959). McQueen was called “The King of Cool” and starred in such popular films as The Magnificent Seven and The Thomas Crown Affair. He received an Academy Award nomination for his role as Jake Holman in The Sand Pebbles.

The Blob plot revolves around what happens when an old man pokes a stick at a piece of a 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.” Catchy😊

 

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) 

The Incredible Shrinking Man

Directed by Jack Arnold

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 our purpose 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 looser 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 family cat and then battling it out with a big, hairy tarantula living in the basement, 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.”

 

 

The film won the first Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1958 by the World Science Fiction Convention. In 2009 it was named to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant and will be preserved for all time.

The Tingler

Producer/Director William Castle delivers his finest in The Tingler (1959), his third collaboration with writer Robb White. The film stars the incomparable Vincent Price as Pathologist, Dr. Warren Chapin who researches and discovers the existence of The Tingler.

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! 🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿

Pre-Code Horror Censorship

I joined the Turner Classic Movies Facebook group which I thoroughly enjoy. Talking about our favorite films, creepiest, classic vs. neoclassical films and which should be shown on TCM.

In our conversation on creepy movies,  “The Black Cat”, Universal 1934, was mentioned and the fact that this member didn’t realize pre-code films had this type of content; mummified women’s bodies in the basement, the proposed torture of skinning Boris Karloff alive, etc. If you haven’t seen it, put it at the top of your must-see list.

In the comments, I suggested in addition to “The Black Cat” to also check out “Mad Love”, Universal, 1935. It stars Peter Lorre and is a total freak fest. Another must-see flick. It stars Peter Lorre as the mad Dr. Gogol who’s obsessed with the wife ( Frances Drake) of a renown pianist whose hands he’s transplanted after a train wreck. Gogol has a definite fetish side and will do anything to have Miss Frances Drake.

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“Mad Love” – Peter Lorre  (Dr. Gogol)

I love Pre-Code films because they had so much leeway in terms of subject matter, even wardrobe. I always recommend adding Pre-Code to your film history education. By definition Pre-Code films:

Refers to the brief era in the American film industry between the introduction of sound pictures in 1929 and the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code censorship guidelines, popularly known as the “Hays Code”, in mid-1934.

In 1922, after some risqué films and a series of off-screen scandals involving Hollywood stars, the studios enlisted Presbyterian elder William H. “Will” Hays, a figure of “unblemished rectitude”, to rehabilitate Hollywood’s image. Hays, later nicknamed the motion picture “Czar”, was paid the then-lavish sum of $100,000 a year (equivalent to more than $1.4 million in 2015 dollars). (Wikipedia)

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William “Will” Hays

As a result, films in the late 1920s and early 1930s included depictions of sexual innuendo, profanity, illegal drug use, promiscuity, prostitution, infidelity, abortion, intense violence, and homosexuality.

Unlike silent-era sex and crime pictures, silent horror movies, despite being produced in the hundreds, were never a major concern for censors or civic leaders. When sound horror films were released, however, they quickly caused controversy. Sound provided “atmospheric music and sound effects, creepy-voiced macabre dialogue and a liberal dose of blood-curdling screams” which intensified its effects on audiences, and consequently on moral crusaders.

Boris Karloff in Frankenstein(1931).

The monster’s brutality, and the doctor’s declaration that “”Now I know what it feels like to be God!”, shocked many moviegoers. By the time of Bride of Frankenstein(1935), the Code was in full effect.

The Hays Code did not mention gruesomeness, and filmmakers took advantage of this oversight. However, state boards usually had no set guidelines and could object to any material they found indecent. Although films such as Frankenstein and Freaks caused controversy when they were released, they had already been re-cut to comply with censors. (Wikipedia)

So, the next time you or anyone else believes that black and white films are a bore, remember to check out “The Black Cat”, or “Mad Love”. If you do, leave a comment; I’d be intrigued to read your thoughts.

 

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iheart Halloween!👻

Image result for halloween

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.

 Man of a Thousand Faces – Lon Chaney

lon chaney man of a

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. (Wikipedia)

lon chaney headshot

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.

 lon unknown poster

This flick is by far my favorite Lon Chaney! 

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 circus 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

lon and nanon

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

lon feet

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.

Malabar

lon malabar stretch

This documentary, The Many Faces of Lon Cheney, is a great biography for more in-depth background information and presents a great opportunity to discover your own Lon Chaney gem.

 

 

Lon Chaney is also the father of Lon Chaney, Jr who was best known for his role in Universal’s “The Wolfman” (1941). The Wolfman is part of the original Universal Monster Franchise including “Dracula” (1931), and “Frankenstein” (1931).

Lon Jr always lived in his father’s shadow and in later years he battled throat cancer and chronic heart disease among other ailments after decades of heavy drinking and smoking. In his final horror film, Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971), directed by Al Adamson, he played Groton, Dr. Frankenstein’s mute henchman.

 Chaney’s career in movies and television spanned four decades, from 1931 to 1971.

Make sure to add Lon Chaney, Sr. and Jr. films to your Halloween lineup. Classics!

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Turn Your Back on Evil😈

Image result for a nightmare on elm street

I was thinking the other day, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays but, with the horrors I see every day on my television, I’m not sure I want to watch my top-pick scary movies this year to celebrate.  Funny thing is I’ve always looked at Halloween as an exercise and opportunity to face your fears and take control of how you deal with life.

In giving in to my apprehension, I was letting the nightmare in the White House affect my joy and alter my attitude and behavior. But, then I remembered the classic film “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and the leverage that Heather Langenkamp’s character (Nancy) discovered she had against Freddy Krueger when she turned her back on him. In that moment, he disappeared and she took back her power over her attitude and commitment to fighting his evil.

In my opinion, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is an allegory for our pent-up fears which prevent us from fighting through obstacles and taking ownership of our own happiness. Dreams are supposed to be representative of our true thoughts and understanding said dreams can help us understand what makes us tick.

 

“A Nightmare on Elm Street” is a 1984 American slasher film written and directed by Wes Craven, and the first film of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. The film stars Heather LangenkampJohn SaxonRonee BlakleyAmanda WyssJsu GarciaRobert Englund, and Johnny Depp in his feature film debut. The plot revolves around four teenagers who are stalked and killed in their dreams (and thus killed in reality) by Freddy Krueger. The teenagers are unaware of the cause of this strange phenomenon, but their parents hold a dark secret from long ago. (Wikipedia)

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Nancy confronting her mom.

Because Nancy’s mom ( Ronee Blakley) lives in a constant state of agitation over her part in the death of Freddy Krueger, she projects these feelings of anxiety on her daughter. She drinks heavily in an attempt to deal with her overwhelming sense of guilt and terror and even goes so far as to putting bars on the windows of the house to protect her daughter’s life.

When she eventually tells Nancy the truth about the legend of Freddy, Nancy understands her mom’s frenzy and Freddy’s desire to kill the children of those involved in his demise. Nancy decides to break through this paralyze by trying to save her friends, learning how to defend herself and eventually discovering the means to take away Freddy’s control over her, her friends, and by extension, her mom.

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Freddy, Nancy

Nancy could have taken on her mom’s constant state of panic, but instead chose to break the cycle.

I’m taking Nancy’s lead and turning my back on the paralysis and dread that the malice in the White House has managed to wreak on our country and the world.

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So, in the spirit of Halloween, the celebration has begun with decorations and the enjoyment of my choice best of the best as I turn my back on evil and continue the battle against a madness greater than any horror film I’ve ever seen.