Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Crying of Lot Salem 49

No big posts today, I've got too much to do. Larry Crocket called to say that he's got a great house for me to buy. Used to belong to some guy named Marsten years ago. Anywho, the current occupants are two guys named Straker and Barlow. I met Straker at his antique shop the other day. Nice guy. Haven't met Barlow yet but Straker told me, "You'll enjoy Mr. Barlow, and he'll enjoy you." Boy what a couple of swell guys!

So I'm going over there for dinner tonight to talk about the house, maybe help them hand out some candy to the trick or treaters. Straker promised me that Barlow would answer the door. I asked him to make sure he does because I really want to meet him and also because they're such great guys I'm going to surprise them with a couple of "moving out" presents.

First, since they're into antiques, I got this huge crucifix, I mean it's like three feet tall, and it's really old. Big-ass figure of Jesus on it and everything. And it's been doused in holy water from the Vatican and blessed by the Pope! Man they are going to love it!

Then, since they seem all European and sophisticated-like, I'm going to bring them a whole bushel of elephant garlic from my garden that they can use in their recipes. They'll love me!

Oh yeah, and you can't bring somebody a house gift that doesn't include something for the garden. Well, let me tell you I've got just the thing - Wolfbane! Tons of it! It's a perennial so I'll know they'll be happy.

Finally, since Barlow doesn't get out much (he's never at the shop with Straker!) I am totally going to make his day. I got a great deal on sunlight simulator lamps just last week - 5,000 watts baby!

So here's the thing and I'm really excited about it: I'm going to set up the lamps outside the door, drape the garlic around my neck, cover the threshold with wolfbane petals and hold the crucifix straight out in front of me after I knock on the door. When the door opens the lamps go on and boy oh boy are they going to be surprised! They just may give me the house for free after they see what a great guy I am.

Happy Halloween!


Cinema Still Life: Happy Halloween Part One

Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford are ready for the costume party. She's obviously some form of royalty and he's... uh... he's, you know... a guy with a boot on his head. They say Fairbanks was the life of the party. This picture does nothing to cast doubt on that.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Cinema Still Life: The Pumpkin Patch

On Sunday... uh, I mean... on Sinister Sunday Cinema Styles visited the pumpkin patch to get some big orange gourds for the season. No store bought pumpkins for this purist, they must be picked from a patch as in the days of yore. Or something like that. Ah, but what HORRORS await the unsuspecting pumpkin patcher, accustomed to seeing nice, perfectly round orange delights in the specialty section at the local grocer's mart. I will allow my good friend Criswell to lead us in:

My friend, we cannot keep this a secret any longer. Let us punish the guilty. Let us reward the innocent. My friend, can your heart stand the shocking facts of ...

... The Pestilant Pumpkins of the Pumpkin Patch?!!?!?!?!

The Lord of the Flies

Craters on the Moon

The Old Man of the Pumpkin Patch

Army Ants of Darkness

Rotten to the Core

The Skull of Pumpkin Hollow

The Evil Undead of Pumpkinwick

Pumpkin Pacman's Evil Twin


Feet of Clay: The First Movie Monster?

When the movies began to tell stories they almost immediately migrated to the genre. The first movies beyond a couple of minutes long to actually tell a story, A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune 1902)and The Great Train Robbery (1903), belonged to what we would now call the Science Fiction film and The Western. Although The Great Train Robbery did not have the classic cowboys and indians setup, it did have outlaws on horses pursued by a posse with a shootout for a climax.

The first film mentioned, A Trip to the Moon, was directed by Georges Méliès, one of the pioneers of film, a stage magician who discovered through double exposure and stop-action photography how to make magic tricks work on the screen as well. Melies had also dabbled with elements of horror early on with such works as The House of the Devil (1896). It was only a couple of minutes long and really didn't tell any kind of a story to speak of except that Mephistopheles produces skeletons and goblins from a cauldron until someone appears with a cross and he disappears. Okie dokie.

As for the birth of true horror, that is to say, a feature film with a story, most film books will tell you that it is The Golem. Of course, I have discovered through years of film study that "History of the Movies" books are often poorly researched and repeat the same legends they've heard elsewhere without any verification. For instance, all the Oscars books I own (and I own quite a few) remark that Ben-Hur was the first remake to win Best Picture, despite the fact that as far back as 1935 the winning Mutiny on the Bounty had been made two times prior to the Oscar winning production and two other winners before 1959 were also remakes. And so it is with The Golem. Prior to 1915 Thomas Edison did Frankenstein in 1910. It wasn't good by any means but it was a full one-reeler with a story and horror elements. But Edison's Frankenstein did not capture the public's imagination and spawn a popular trilogy of movies. Also, to split hairs one could claim that Frankenstein is really science fiction although personally I've always placed mad scientists squarely in the horror genre even though I realize that the argument can clearly be made for Frankenstein belonging to science fiction.

With The Golem there are no such quibbles. The clay statue is brought to life not in a laboratory but through magic although once he is "alive" his travails follow Frankenstein's monster closely. The legend existed long before Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein although it was nearly thirty years after Frankenstein was published that the first narrative Golem story was published so it's possible they both took a little something from each other.

The story of the Golem character was first made into a film in 1915 with Paul Wegener as the title character. Most of this film has been lost with only a precious few stills and frames remaining. In it the original Golem statue, imbued with life in the sixteenth century by Rabbi Loew, is found by an antiques dealer who uses the Golem as a servant. But the Golem has eyes for his wife and when he can't have her, he gets a little mad. That's when he starts killing people. It was popular enough to have a sequel and a prequel, with the prequel, Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam (The Golem: How He Came into Being) proving to be the most popular of all. Paul Wegener directed this time as well and unlike the first movie this one is not lost. A clip of it accompanied by the recent score done by acclaimed guitarist Gary Lucas can be seen here. It tells the creation story of the Golem, how he was given life by Rabbi Loew in the sixteenth century to protect Jews in Prague from persecution.

Despite the film's success no fourth movie was made and once the world was introduced to vampires (Nosferatu, Dracula) monsters (Frankenstein) and mummies there was no going back. Large clay statues brought to life by Rabbi's scrolls and incantations just didn't seem that scary. Although the Golem did return briefly, years later in 1966, in the delightfully ridiculous It (aka: Curse of the Golem) with Roddy McDowall. It's not available on video or dvd so you'll just have to get lucky and catch it on tv. But it is there. Turner Classic Movies ran it just last year, much to my delight. You really haven't seen unrequited love until you've seen Roddy McDowell order his Golem to tear down a bridge crossing the Thames to impress the woman he loves, to no avail.

And so as we celebrate all the ghouls and goblins, the vampires and monsters, the mummies and zombies and all the mad-slashers in between let's not forget that mindless statue with the feet of clay. Even Golems need love.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Cinema Still Life: What the hell, here's everything...

So I've got these pictures you see. Some from the internet, some from old collections, some scanned from old movie books, what have you. And I've got several I want to use for October. Then I look at the calendar and think, "It's the 28th, there's no way I'm getting each one of these up for a separate post before the 31st." So I figure, I'll just put them all up. For the last Sunday before Halloween Cinema Styles presents an All Hallows Feast of Photos for your viewing pleasure.

Lon Chaney, Sr. in London After Midnight. Most of the footage has been lost but a recent restoration shown last year on Turner Classic Movies filled in the gaps with still photos like the one at the top.


Now see, this is the kind of movie that you should name Monster's Ball.

Chaney again in painful make-up for The Phantom of the Opera.


"I see you won the second place bowl. I of course won the first place prize: Gold Medal. Better luck next year."

"I know you're already dead and everything but I'm gonna try this here gun anyway. Nothing happened. Oh crap..."


Ahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!! It's a Mimieux!!!!! I mean, a Morlock!!!!!! Yvette as Morlock food, a member of the Eloi in George Pal's 1960 version of H.G. Wells The Time Machine.


Spencer Tracy as a man with a mission. He's the good doctor, Jekyl that is, cruising in his Mr. Hyde persona looking for love with the nearest Swedish actress.


Look at that face and tell me you don't hate her long before you ever find out about the plot of the movie. Patty McCormack in The Bad Seed (1956).


Someone lied to the poster artist in France and told him Robert Ryan starred in the movie.


Now there's the real star, Vincent Price. An excellent actor who went from character actor to horror movie icon. From this to Theatre of Blood and everything in between there's probably not another horror star who appeared in as many good horror films as Price.

Watch out!!! There's a giant movie of a lizard projected on the screen behind us!!! Victor Mature and Carole Landis in One Million B.C. (1940).

Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) with Bela Lugosi.

Margaret Rutherford (fondly remembered for her portrayel of Miss Marple in the sixties) as Madame Arcati in David Lean's version of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit (1945).

I Married a Witch (1942). Veronica Lake was burned at the stake 300 years before by Fredric March's ancestors and swears revenge. She has a potion for March to drink and when he does he will, in her own words, "become my slave and do my bidding for the rest of his life." Then she accidentally drinks it. That would be the precise point where the movie lost me.

It's for Roger Corman's The Raven (1973). Wow, what a poster!


Samantha's dad, Maurice Evans, undergoes the painstaking transformation from man to Orang-O-Man(!) in The Planet of the Apes (1968)


Barbarella (1967). I'm sure most young boys from the sixties and seventies remember it as the real cool sci-fi flick they watched for the plot, right? Right?


As always, click photos to enlarge.

Friday, October 26, 2007

End Credits: I Want My Money Back!

10 movies, in alphabetical order, from the twenties to the seventies that aren't horror movies, but you wouldn't know it from the title. And one recent one as a bonus, just because.

1. All the Fine Young Cannibals (1960) Watch out Hannibal here comes... Natalie Wood?

2. The Beast of the City (1932) Walter Huston and Jean Harlow. Amazingly they don't do battle with even one oversized sea serpent.

3. Captain Blood (1935) Turns out Blood's his actual last name, he's a doctor and he does in fact become a Captain. Oh well.

4. The Masks of the Devil (1928) John Gilbert as a charming Viennese aristocrat, not the anti-christ. *

5. The Mayor of Hell (1933) Reform school drama with Jimmy Cagney that does not once involve anyone running for office in the netherworld.

6. Roar of the Dragon (1932) Tartan bandits on a remote island with Richard Dix. Where's Draco?

7. Sorcerer (1977) Oh boy, now this is gonna be good! There is no way this title is misleading! It's from the director of The Exorcist after all and it's name is Sorcerer! Yes! I can hardly... wha? Trucks? Who's the French guy with the watch?

8. Up Pops the Devil (1931) Complicated relationships with Carole Lombard. Again no Lucifer.

9. The Valley of the Giants (1927) No giants anywhere! Not one!

10. Wake of the Red Witch (1948) The Red Witch is a boat? It's a boat!?!!?

BONUS from the 21st Century:

Monster's Ball (2001) I know what you're thinking: Frankenstein, the Mummy, Dracula and the Wolfman all whooping it up together. Think again.

* The Masks of the Devils was directed by Victor Seastrom, the pseudonym for Victor Sjöström, the actor who gave such a remarkable performance in Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Cinema Still Life: The Most Dangerous Game

Movies were promoted very differently in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Unlike today, a movie would not open in wide release (there were of course no multiplexes) but instead tour the country on week by week showings. While today a major motion picture release is out at the same time (roughly speaking) all across the nation, in 1932 a film like The Most Dangerous Game might be seen in New Jersey in November and not seen in Dallas, Texas until June of the following year. If films were especially profitable they would be "held over" their initial one or two week rental time. When I was a kid you knew what the big movies were because the ads in the paper would trumpet in big bold print, "Held Over for Twelve Straight Weeks!"

Along with the town by town showing were the Program Bills and Guides sent to theatres in advance. The studios, who owned the theatres, would provide literature to the theatre owner suggesting marketing techniques, tips and tricks as well as providing choices for a wide variety of posters. Above is the original poster for The Most Dangerous Game, made slightly more famous by the recent Zodiac film, and below are some of the features from the program guide that accompanied it.

As always, click to enlarge.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Jesus Effing Christ!

Double Feature Program Bill

It's Amazing! It's Stupendous! It's Spectaculariffic! It's the Double Bubble Toil and Trouble Duality of Man in one easy to swallow pill! It's the Jesus Double Shot! Hey you (yes you!) bring the kids, bring the neighbors, bring the extended family (just don't bring any gays, atheists or liberal freethinkers) to JESUS CAMP! Your host, renowned insane asylum escapee Becky Fischer, will lead you through the mesmerizing, sanctifying and terrifying tangled web of non-reason that is Jesus Camp. You will learn that "children are so usable in Christianity." That's right, they're "usable." Holy Jesus P. God! She's going to make them into Christian soldiers who will march onward to reclaim America for Christ. I bet you didn't even know it belonged to him. You'll learn from brainwashed campers that some churches are "dead churches" (those would be the non-crazy ones) and that God doesn't necessarily visit them. You see, "depending on how they invite him, he'll be there, or not." Betcha didn't know that either! You'll be amazed as you discover that fuzzy yarn collector George W. Bush "has really brought some real credibility to the Christian faith" And Ted Hagard (absolutely no skeletons in his closet, NONE!) informs us, "If the evangelicals vote, they determine the election." If you liked the terrifying journey into the darkest reaches of humanity that was Deliverance you'll love Jesus Camp (only it's a LOT SCARIER!).


The gays, atheists and liberal freethinkers you had to sneak in the back door are now more than welcome for the bottom half of the bill, THE GOD WHO WASN'T THERE! Best send the first group home though or they are not going to be happy Jesus campers for long. Your host, sane, logical, rationale Brian Fleming, will show you some of those same crazy types from the first movie, only this time we get to laugh at them! Brian does bad, awful mean things like use EVIDENCE, DEDUCTIVE REASONING, LOGIC and INTELLECT to make a strong case that... hang on to your hats... Jesus never even existed! Holy Crap! Then what the hell's that camp all about? You'll hear distinguished professor Robert Price say, "There are other similar savior figures in the same neighborhood at the same time in history: Mithras, Attis, Adonis, Osiris, Tammuz, and so forth, and nobody thinks these characters are anything but mythical. And their stories are so similar, most of them, in fact, having some kind of resurrection or another, sometimes even with celebrations after three days and so forth, that it just seems like special pleading to say, "Oh, well, in this one case, it really happened." BLASPHEMY!!! Oh I know somebody who's going to be firing up the George Foreman for Satan in Hell. His name starts with a Robert. Oh my!

It's splendorfully filled wonderment! It's the Now You See Him, Now You Don't Double Bill of Mythical Fun! Come one, come all! Praise be to Mithra! It's Jesus Effing Christ as you've never seen him before, and according to Brian, no, you haven't ever seen him before. It's The Jesus Double Shot!



And now for a moment of seriousness: I found both of these documentaries fascinating to watch but obviously walked away with profoundly different feelings. The evangelicals of Jesus Camp are abhorrent human beings who brainwash children into believing that homosexuality, liberalism ("liberalism is dead!") and freedom of thought are evil things. They home school their children and actually teach them that, "science has never proved anything" and that "creationism is the only thing that provides the real answers." The Becky Fischer who runs the camp is a study in demonism. She is bereft of insight, self-reflection or logical thought. She possesses exactly zero critical thinking skills. I found this camp and these adults horrifying to every moral instinct I possess. And I felt immeasurably sad for the brainwashed, indoctrinated children. One of them early on expresses disbelief in parts of the Bible and in the existence of God. He is clearly an intelligent child who could become a productive, free-thinking member of society. By the end he is indoctrinated into their cult and it made me want to cry. I sincerely hope that the spark of reason he displayed early on will stay with him and re-ignite itself before it's too late.

As for The God Who Wasn't There it is a cheaply made documentary using video for most of the production and coming in at a scant 43 minutes. The production values may be low but the content is rich. Fleming does occasionally go overboard with his assertions and belabors some of his points on Jesus' non-existence but it is a powerful personal diary of a film. You see, Brian Fleming was a born-again Christian who had an intellectual awakening. The last ten minutes of the film are riveting as Brian visits the evangelical fundamentalist school that taught him that to deny the Holy Spirit would mean an eternity in Hell. He interviews the Principal of the school who becomes testy and walks out on the interview once Brian begins asking hard questions about indoctrinating children into mythology when they are too young to make up their own minds. He asks the Principal how moral is it to frighten children into believing they will be eternally punished for denying the existence of a spirit they cannot see or feel. The principal leaves after threatening to sue if any of the footage is shown, which of course it is, and no lawsuit followed. We are then brought to the climax, and it is one that moved me. Brian and his cameraman walk into the Chapel where Brian relates stories of sermons that filled him with fear and reminds us once again that they were taught what Jesus said in the Bible, that if any man denies the Holy Spirit he will spend an eternity in Hell. Brian then turns to the camera and says, "I deny the Holy Spirit." The end.

See them together. With running times of less than 90 minutes for Jesus Camp and 43 minutes for The God Who Wasn't There you can see both in less than two and a half hours. Jesus Camp lets you know the dangers that await this nation if it does not awaken from its slumber and The God Who Wasn't There reassures us that even the most rigidly indoctrinated can awaken from their nightmare and allow the truth to seep in through the cracks. And surely we've all got two and a half hours to spare for that.

This has been a part of the Double-Bill-a-thon hosted by Broken Projector.