I've already read the 1001 versions of books and movies (and slowly going through them), so as a big horror fan I thought I should check this cute litI've already read the 1001 versions of books and movies (and slowly going through them), so as a big horror fan I thought I should check this cute little pocket-sized volume. I knew there wouldn't be much left to watch (eleven, turns out), so I was mostly just curious to see which films had been included.
I was pleasantly surprised about the mixture of mainstream and lesser-known stuff, but of course there were, once again, the same films from the 20s and 30s that are always included in every single list, and only one from the 1910s. Which is wrong, by the way, because The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari premiered in 1920 and the shooting didn't conclude until January 1920. How, then, could it have been released in 1919? Besides, aren't there really no good horror films from the 1910s? I just can't believe it, so I must investigate this further.
Steven Katz's essay about Dracula (1931) is refreshingly scathing (Tod Browning is one of my favorite directors, but Dracula is hands down one of his worst films, in addition to being one of the flattest one about the count). Then again, Katz also claims Lon Chaney was in Freaks (1932) (he probably means The Unknown ), which is a mistake that should have been caught during editing. Not an important one, but still. Katz also thinks London is a baffling relocation for Dracula (in the essay about Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), but is it really? It was the Victorian era, an era of prosperity and flourishing trade routes in Britain. Makes sense to me that the count chooses one of the most biggest and influential cities in the world as his new home.
Dejan Ognjanovic, in turn, has a disparaging view of pulp literature (at least it sounds like it, when he calls Dennis Wheatley's novel The Devil Rides Out (1934) his "usual sensationalistic meandering pulp"), yet he seems to have no problem with pulpy horror, because he likes the Hammer adaptation of Wheatley's novel. Mikel Koven has a pretty firm idea about those who dislike torture porn: "What media pundits who got their liberal knickers in a twist over the so-called "torture porn" controversy seem to forget is that what made these films so disturbing in the first place was that they were actually pretty good". First of all, you don't have to be liberal to dislike torture porn. Secondly, does Kaven mean that despite the disturbing aspect of the films in the subgenre he thinks they're good, and it's somehow wrong to dislike them? My taste good, your taste wrong.
The thing I have the biggest issue with are the spoilers. As far as I recall, 88 texts out of 101 (I decided not to read about the eleven films I haven't seen when I realized they might contain spoilers as well) managed to avoid spoilers (and it really isn't difficult to go round a plot point or the ending). The Sixth Sense (1999) and The Vanishing (1988) were another story (there were actually a few more that I now see other reviewers spotted, as well as a few other mistakes). Ok, knowing the ending of the former might dilute the second viewing (I don't like it that much anyway), but in the case of the latter...
The Vanishing is just as powerful after multiple viewings, but the first time is everything. Everything that occurs before that sickening moment of realization at the end is of course stellar in its subtleness, but the film as a whole relies on gripping the viewer by the throat. There isn't anything that hints what might happen, so one can't use the old "but it's great to see the journey that leads to the ending, and wait when it will happen and whether it's foreshadowed" -thing as an excuse (for me, that's something that reminds me of a rewatch or reread; Agatha Christie might occasionally be an exception, if I remember the murderer), and that's what makes the movie brilliant. Making sure a whole experience isn't ruined from those who don't want it is simply polite, even if you're okay with spoilers. It should also not be presumed that every single person in the world knows the ending of every single classic film or book out there, because it's not about the age.
Regardless, 101 Horror Movies shows pretty well the progress of horror cinema since the beginning of the 20th century. The essays are mostly of good quality, and a few inspired me to rewatch my old favorites and those that I've considered mediocre at best. I'm also extremely excited to have found out that there's an actual name for films featuring older women becoming mentally unstabled: psycho-biddy (also referred to, according to Wikipedia, as Grande Dame Guignol, Hagsploitation, and Hag horror). Makes it so much easier to search for more films belonging to the subgenre. Bette Davis is my queen, and she's amazing in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), but I'm convinced there are more gold pieces waiting for me out there....more
When I was a kid, there was this one time when I woke up in the middle of the night and the pile of clothes on my chair looked suspiciously like someWhen I was a kid, there was this one time when I woke up in the middle of the night and the pile of clothes on my chair looked suspiciously like some deformed monster, and I quickly dove under the covers. Fortunately, I'm really good at the whole sleeping thing, so I fell asleep quickly. I also used to have an irrational fear of vampires for a few days when I was little, which made me cover my neck every night when I went to bed, but that's a different story. I rarely had any troubles with sleep or fear, or both of them together.
Then, a couple of years ago when I was already living in my own apartment, I suffered a bout of sleep paralysis. I think I was at a stage when I was about to wake up, but I couldn't move or fully open my eyes. I saw my eyelashes flickering in front of my eyes, and then I saw a shadow on the wall. It didn't have a familiar form, just this blotch that was both oily and fuzzy at the same time, but I remember being convinced that it would attack me if I didn't run away right there and then. Obviously, the fact that I couldn't move horrified me, and I felt like I was stuck in another realm. I wanted to scream, but only a tear ran down my cheek. It didn't feel like reality at all, although I knew I was still in my apartment. At some point I just fell asleep and everything was back to normal again when I woke up.
I know that none of what I saw was real, so it's strange that you can actually have an experience where you fully believe in monsters (it's also not that comforting to know that you can't stop sleep paralysis from coming; if it comes back, it comes back). Wells's short story brought all that back to me. It's a very conventional story about a man who doesn't believe in ghosts and wants to stay in a haunted room. The ending falls flat and I expected more from the actual haunting, but the approach is interesting. It's up for the reader to decide what really happened, because the first person narrative allows room for interpretation.
It's all about the power of imagination and suggestion, and what being alone in a supposedly haunted place, with only shadows as your company, might do to you. The shadows might hide something or they may not, but the human mind is nevertheless able to change innocent things into something else, especially if there's complete silence and solitude. Also, would the narrator have had the same experiences if he hadn't known about the room's past or heard the stories about ghosts? Fear is an interesting thing, because it can suddenly creep up on you even when there's no reason to be frightened.
"There is neither ghost of earl nor ghost of countess in that room; there is no ghost there at all, but worse, far worse, something impalpable—"
"Well?" they said.
"The worst of all the things that haunt poor mortal men," said I; "and that is, in all its nakedness—' Fear!' Fear that will not have light nor sound, that will not bear with reason, that deafens and darkens and overwhelms. It followed me through me in the room—"
This has been in my reading list for ages, and now that I finally managed to grab the thing for a reading challenge, it couldn't fly any faster to myThis has been in my reading list for ages, and now that I finally managed to grab the thing for a reading challenge, it couldn't fly any faster to my list of absolute must-sees. With the likes of Jeremy Irons, Lesley Manville, and Hadley Fraser starring, the adaptation at the Bristol Old Vic would be a dream, but the circumstances are what they are, so this will just have to wait.
Reading a play instead of seeing it performed can be complicated and underwhelming. No such problem here. Long Day's Journey Into Night comes from an extremely dark place and lays bare the tragedy of not wanting to live in the world as it is, but it's also an incredibly moving and beautiful piece of drama. The power of the dialogue combined with O'Neill's unusually specific stage directions (including the appearance and facial expressions of the actors) creates a very tangible atmosphere, one that is heightened even further from the knowledge that the family's struggles were once real for O'Neill, and that due to the autobiographical content he didn't want it to be published until 25 years after his death.
In 1912, a day in the Tyrone family consists of them escaping their guilt and frustration. Mary's morphine addiction has created a protective cocoon, where she can remember her happy pre-marriage years, when she still felt like she had a real home. Her absolute denial of the negativity around her, like Edmund's illness, is slowly destroying her personality and strength, making her even more discontent and lonely. Meanwhile, James Tyrone and sons Eugene and Jamie detach themselves from reality with whiskey.
There's palpable tension from the start, when suspicious glances are thrown in all directions. If noticed, they contribute to a mutual feeling of distrust. True meaning of words shows on embittered faces, and the indirectness and failure to address the problems in a constructive way, the men resorting instead to childish name-calling and criticizing, further worsens the atmosphere of the day.
The Tyrones suck you into their vortex. The fleeting moments of sincerity and affectionate tears sink into the darkness of the house, a house that becomes more and more surrounded by the fog and the sounds of the foghorn, closing it into its own world of bitterness. The ending is dream-like and suffocating, leaving the audience uncertain about the family's future yet also feeling like it's the death of everything. The future wasn't all happy (eleven years later, Jamie drank himself to death), but Mary's fight with her addiction led to victory two years later, so at least there's some glimmer of hope.
A deeply personal project for O'Neill, I'm not surprised about his decision about the publication. I'm also not surprised that Sweden, the land of Ingmar Bergman, appreciated his works more than any other country, and was also the first to produce it on stage. The list of actors involved in productions all over the world since the 1950s is impressive: Laurence Olivier, Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, Jessica Lange, Bibi Andersson, Peter Stormare (the latter two directed by no other than Ingmar Bergman in 1988) etc. Let's just hope the next production will be more accessible to me.
"MARY. None of us can help the things life has done to us. They're done before you realize it, and once they're done they make you do other things until at last everything comes between you and what you'd like to be, and you've lost your true self for ever."...more
"Once a psychiatrist wrote me. He had a young patient who had heard of Freddy Krueger and was having nightmares about him. I really wanted to help, so"Once a psychiatrist wrote me. He had a young patient who had heard of Freddy Krueger and was having nightmares about him. I really wanted to help, so I got in touch with Robert and asked if he would say a few words to the kid into a vidcam. Not only did Robert do that, but he did it while he was being put into, and then out of, his Freddy makeup, describing each step of the way how Freddy was nothing more than latex and glue, and nothing to be worried about." - Wes Craven
I think the first time I saw Robert Englund was about ten years ago when the Masters of Horror anthology series aired in Finland (I love anthologies by the way; film or tv show, it's always exciting to see what the next segment looks like), where he played an MC at a night club with dead strippers. At that point I had already heard of his legendary reputation, but it was only a few days later that I watched the classic A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). I wasn't that impressed, but I hadn't yet become an avid horror fan, so I had no real knowledge about the history of horror film and what place Elm Street has in it to appreciate the movie.
I've since watched only two other Englund movies, Urban Legend (1998) and The Phantom of the Opera (1989), both of which were, er, less than stellar, but I was intrigued by Englund's performances and dedication. The latter shows a mile away, and his memoirs proved me right: he accepts scripts he likes the most, and doesn't care about the financial success of his movies, or whether they win awards and critical acclaim. He just seems like a guy who genuinely respects horror and always puts a hundred percent on the table, and also fully embraces his fanbase (I cannot even remember how many times I've heard how nice and warm he is in person). It's sometimes difficult to see behind a celebrity's public persona, but Englund is one of the few I'm sure is just as nice as he seems to be.
The tone of the memoir is very conversational, because co-writer Alan Goldsher wrote the book based on Englund's dictations, but that suits his style. He has a great sense of humour, and reading this felt like I was sitting at a diner with him eating pancakes, drinking coffee, and listening to him talk about his escapades. No dirt here, though, he only discusses his work and leaves most of his personal life out, which I respect. It should also be remembered, that being a memoir of Robert Englund, this really does focus on him and his point of view of his career, so there's no reason to expect a whole book to be just about Freddy (despite the cover).
There's a lot of repetition about the problems Englund had with makeup and naturally the focus is on his, I presume, favorite projects, but I guess at least the latter is expected when space is limited. A thick tome wouldn't have been as alluring, although I still would have liked to get a little deeper look of the movie industry from a horror actor's perspective. So, although I didn't passionately adore the memoir, I think it's still worth the read for every horror fan (doesn't matter if you're an Elm Street fan), even if it's just for 'hearing' the voice of the man himself.
Most of the anecdotes are entertaining, and it's always great to hear a bit about the behind-the-scenes stuff. Saying how enjoyable it was to work with the legendary Roger Corman is fine, but "catering that consisted of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner" or mere plastic chairs in the depressing dressing rooms are more telling things about Corman and his frugal ways.
I also felt a sting of jealousy that Englund's childhood was surrounded by the entertainment industry in the most positive way, like stumbling into Clark Gable in the grocery store, visiting the sets of his uncles' tv shows, or "watching cowboy stuntmen do horse falls on the RKO backlot behind my house". It's interesting how his parents took him to see scary adult movies, and they somehow stayed with him so that despite a stint as a California surfer (!) and a classically trained theater actor, he became a horror icon. It's also due to the brilliance of a modern musical (Stephen Sondheim's Company) that made him realize art could be both popular and meaningful. I wish I'd seen him play Judas in Godspell, that would be one of my time machine destinations.
Surprisingly, there was some Finnish presence as well: I had no idea Renny Harlin had directed a Freddy Krueger movie! I'm not a fan, but Englund had nothing but positive things to say about him and his modesty and perceptiveness. Anyway, Freddy Krueger sneaking around the Desilu Studios (where, strangely, the home of I Love Lucy was) is something I want to see again, so I'm going to be rewatching Elm Street soon. Maybe even tonight, it's already dark. Although I need to stop thinking about the story how the concept of the film was conceived. That was scary as hell. I'm glad I live in an apartment building. ...more
East of Eden is a family saga, a story of fathers and sons, a tale of love manifesting in different ways and sparking different reactions, an examinatEast of Eden is a family saga, a story of fathers and sons, a tale of love manifesting in different ways and sparking different reactions, an examination of how people sometimes speak past each other without truly understanding, and really everything in between you can think of. It's a hefty tome, one that Steinbeck himself liked the most and considered his magnum opus, but also one that suffers from being uneven and not really knowing where it wants to go.
It never quite finishes all the threads satisfactorily, jumps from one thing to another, and has too much exposition (particularly regarding the Cain and Abel allegory: at one point, the characters are discussing how the Biblical story relates to their lives, as if its significance hadn't already been spelled out before) and lectures about Salinas Valley and world events. A little subtlety would have been nice, instead of heavy-handedly stretching a message with capital letters across several generations. Add to that the ridiculous name alliteration, and I'm just about on the verge of exhaustion.
Steinbeck's descriptions of most of the main characters and their struggles are the saving grace. Overall, there are no heroes and villains in the families, only deeply human emotions. Sometimes polar opposite emotions (and characters) are strongly connected and it's difficult to distinguish where each one begins and ends. The very last scene I thought was very moving.
However, the downfalls of the overall narrative exists in the characters, too. Lee, the Chinese servant, is the epitome of a Chinese philosopher with a tragic background. Although he pretends to be a white man's version of a Chinese man by hiding his perfect American English and education behind his pidgin and clothes, he still feels like a stereotype, always there to grant calm wisdoms when someone needs guidance.
Cathy's capable of fear and reflecting her actions, but she's still clearly a sociopath, which is fine. Not settling to that, though, Steinbeck stated she's supposed to represent the Devil (if it's true that she was modelled after Steinbeck's second wife, he really must have hated her). That and her actions that ooze evil through and through are again heavy-handed references to the Bible (and if that's still not enough to make readers understand, she's also described as being snake-like), and they reduce Cathy into an image of something universal instead of a real character. Abra, on the other hand, is devoid of personality and seemingly exists only to enhance Aaron's struggles.
The oversimplifications didn't help make sense of the messy structure, nor lift the characters from the pages to the realm of believability. Instead, the characters mainly carried the heavy burden of being clumsy allegories. Everything was chewed on the reader's behalf, not giving the opportunity to make one's own conclusions and observations, and I found myself gradually losing interest everytime I picked up the book. I've said before how wonderful The Grapes of Wrath (1939) is, but I now dread the day when I decide to reread it. Thing is, I vaguely remember it being just as preachy, but the societal issues might have been a slightly better platform for it. I understand why East of Eden is so well-loved, and in a sense it's not a badly written novel nor is it one of the worst I've ever read, but the more I think about it the more it ticks me off.
- - -
Dean would have turned 85 last month. East of Eden is the only film of his I haven't seen yet, and it's been patiently waiting in my watchlist, because I knew I'd want to read the book first. Not surprisingly, I liked the movie more.
The story has been simplified immensely by removing some of the characters altogether, making the plot more streamlined, and by focusing only on the second half that deals with Cal and Aaron. Usually I expect faithfulness from film adaptations, but sometimes it just isn't always the best option (often the case with big tomes). There's limited space and opportunities in a little less than two hours, but Paul Osborn's screen play is fantastic and Kazan has no trouble guiding the characters and the story forward.
The changes do cause some implausibility, like when Cal borrows money from his mother, and Cathy doesn't seem as powerful and cunning as in the book. These are just minor issues, though, because the overall story works so well on screen. The valley looks beautiful in color, too, even though most of it isn't Salinas but Mendocino.
And what about Dean? If all beginners were as good as him in their first roles, the world would burst from all the energy and talent. Dean puts his soul into his role, and sometimes it only takes a quiet smile or a slight adjustment of posture. If only he had stuck around, he'd have had great chances of polishing his skills even further....more
In films, Los Angeles has many faces (none have shown that better than one of my favorite documentaries Los Angeles Plays Itself ), and Silver aIn films, Los Angeles has many faces (none have shown that better than one of my favorite documentaries Los Angeles Plays Itself ), and Silver and Ursini (film noir experts familiar to many) examine that from noir's point of view. For me, it's sometimes difficult to differentiate filming locations, but here's a fairly decent source if you want to know which noirs have actually been shot in L.A.
One might think noir only focuses on the seedy parts of the city, but the book is organized by area, and there's a lot to be said about the coastal parts where the rich live a seemingly satisfying life. A mixture of corruption and crushed dreams, it's amazing what lies under the surface of sunny California, and how especially Raymond Chandler revealed it for what it truly was (his novels contain my absolute favorite descriptions of L.A. of that era). It's that strange combination mixed with the oddities of the movie industry that differentiates L.A. from all the other cities out there.
Offering tidbits about the history of Los Angeles and the various changes it has gone through, Silver and Ursini tie it all with moviemaking: during the shoot of Double Indemnity (1944), police officers guarded the food because of the World War II rationing, and the creation of the suburban nuclear family and the new suburbs offered a great opportunity to examine the growing dissatisfaction behind closed doors. In the midst of all the cynicism and fatalism, a hope is still lingering that social injustices can be fixed.
A great introduction to the world of L.A. as a shooting location (and maybe to film noir and neo-noir, too), this is still a pretty basic overview of the topic, one that could have been an even greater analysis of how the L.A. pulse is beating in the noir spirit. The film segments lean more towards synopses than anything else, but there are plenty of successful moments as well to make this a worthwhile read. The photographs are amazing, that goes without saying. Not just film stills of gorgeous cinematography, but also rare behind the scenes photos (of the latter, the photo also appearing in the cover is my favorite).
"Dream and reality are the touchstones of film noir. Los Angeles is where the filmmakers of the classic period brought these elements together, created the emotional conundrums which the noir protagonist must confront—the land of opportunity and the struggle to get by, the democratic ideal and the political corruption, the American dream and the disaffection of veterans who gave up the best years of their lives."
"The dream of “Hollywood” is in many ways just another, slightly more profane version of the American dream."...more
Ok, first: the last issue's article about Cary Grant's love affair with acid is fucking hilarious. Good Housekeeping let him describe his experiences?Ok, first: the last issue's article about Cary Grant's love affair with acid is fucking hilarious. Good Housekeeping let him describe his experiences? Unreal. I definitely won't be telling my mom about Grant taking a dump on his doctor's floor, that'll crush her dreams.
The Fade Out. The ending gave me shivers. It's perfect, because in the tradition of the best film noirs, it's not hopeful and doesn't wrap everything into a tidy little bow. It leaves you unsure of what will happen next, yet sure that whatever will occur, it won't be anything nice. The lingering doom is upon every character, and some it reaches far quicker than others.
The art deserves yet another mention, because the colors and linework are just amazing. The lights of L.A., whether natural or electricity, either pop from the background or loom ominously through a window into a dark and musty room.
The movie industry is full of tragic fates, and I feel sad that there's plenty of material where you can take inspiration from. I wonder what secrets have never come to light? When you know something about what went on behind the scenes, watching even the most sweet and saccharine black and white movie from the golden age of Hollywood makes you a bit of melancholic....more