Sunday, October 28, 2012

At the IMAX :: They Came and Got Me, Barbara :: Night of the Colorized Ghouls -- IN 3-D!

Since not one single theater in my entire state participated in TCM and Fathom Film's double-feature of Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein this past week -- and every movie house from Omaha to Scottsbluff should be ashamed of themselves -- I took some solace in the consolation prize: a weekend screening of the original Night of the Living Dead at the local IMAX. Sure, the print showing was a colorized and retro-fitted 3-D version, but, eh, I decided I shouldn't squander an opportunity to see it on the big(ger) screen. And so, with a trio of friends, one who had never seen it before, we went and a jovially ghoulish time was had by all. 

Now, I had already seen a colorized version of NOTLD, and am happy to report that this version, at least, has been corrected and the rampaging flesh-eaters are no longer a fluorescent shade of lime green. (Though no explanation is ever given as to why Ben's sweater kept changing color from scene to scene.) Personally, I think colorizing old films is pretty pointless and a waste of both time and resources that could and should be spent restoring older prints, period, but I don't take that much umbrage when they do -- as long as the B&W versions remain available, which, when having to choose between the two is an absolute no-brainer. Here, I wasn't choosing and decided to take what I could get. And in this film's case, the initial colorization tended to derail things right off the bat when the whole cemetery scene is torpedoed because of the cemetery ghoul's all-too-obvious greenish pallor, meaning even Barbara could see that some THING was coming to get her, robbing the audience of that initial shock moment that sets the tone for everything else to come.

The 3-D conversion was pretty worthless, too. This, I think, can be blamed mostly on the source material involved. The print looked pretty horrid in spots -- make that most spots, which was then compounded when it was blown up to cover 5-stories worth of screen. Parts of it looked okay, even great in a couple of rare occasions, but this overall inconsistency of sharp focus one moment to amorphous blurry bleaugh the next made for a frustrating and eye wearying viewing experience.

But you know what? Despite all the technical complaints, and visual hiccups, I'm happy to report that Night of the Living Dead still persevered because, as we all know, the movie is just that good.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Favorites :: Inks and Paints :: Now What Self-Respecting Ghost Wouldn't Haunt these Sites?

Episode 2: Hassle in the Castle:


Episode 3: A Clue for Scooby Doo:

Episode 4: Mine Your Own Business:

Episode 5: Decoy for a Dog-Napper:

Episode 6: What the Hex is Going On?

Episode 8: Foul Play in Funland:

Episode 11: A Gaggle of Galloping Ghosts:

Episode 12: Which Witch is Which?

Episode 14: Spooky Space Kook:

Episode 15: Go Away Ghost Ship:

Episode 16: A Night of Fright is No Delight:

Episode 17: That's Snow Ghost:

After getting totally addicted to the latest incarnation, Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated, I decided it was high time to revisit the first round of ghouls and ghosts unmasked by our amateur sleuths. And while the first season of Scooby Doo Where Are You? held up remarkable well, the second season got really, really stoopid in a helluva hurry with repeating gags and musical interludes, meaning the show was already on a slippery slope long before it wound up in the Scrappy pile. Also, I just really dug the background layouts of all the creepy and kooky abodes the not-so-supernatural villains dastardly their deeds in. So, some much deserved credit where credit is due:

Until next time, see ya'll at the malt shop.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Netflix'd :: Clearing Out the Instant Que :: The Yellow Pages Effect :: Matthew Parkhill's The Caller (2011)

When an abused wife finally makes the right call and pulls the plug on her marriage, the only mistake she makes is where she chooses to live after finally walking out on the puerile creep. For while the new apartment has lots of space, and is near the restaurant owned by the parents of her new beau, things take a sinister turn when a distraught woman keeps calling her number, looking for her own deadbeat husband. At first thinking she's found a kindred spirit, the two women engage and swap their tales of woe. But when a misunderstanding leads to a Hitchcockian, Strangers on a Train twist, resulting in the caller murdering her husband, our heroine tries to pull the plug. But the phone keeps ringing, the caller gets more frustrated, then angry, then threatening, until finally dropping a bombshell: the caller thinks it's 1978, and she's calling from the exact same apartment. And judging by all the evidence we've seen and heard, the caller is telling the truth...

Having (I believe, at least,) finally dethroned the slasher/serial killer movie, as flesh-eating zombies and homicidal ghosts, through big screen releases to whatever the hell Asylum is currently knocking-off directly to your DVD player, wage war to be crowned the new King of Horror, cinematically speaking, I found myself tipping the scales a bit while playing Netflix roulette the other night. Well, at least I thought I was. Judging by the descripto-blurb provided for Matthew Parkhill's The Caller, when combined with the set-up and opening act, I thought I was dealing with another angry spirit, who was ready to make life miserable for the latest occupant of the deceased's former abode, who, in turn, was just too damned dumb to leave. Turns out I was wrong.

More akin to Gregory Hoblit's Frequency, where solar flares allow a son to communicate with his dead father some twenty years in the past via an old ham radio, solve a string of murders, and changes history, The Caller mines this same sci-fi mash-up of Quantum Leap and A Sound of Thunder (-- where author Ray Bradbury effectively introduced the world to the cataclysmic repercussions of time-travel by stomping on a butterfly, which is then combined with Dr. Sam Beckett's attempts to stitch it all back together). But while there are a few dire time-stream hiccups in Hoblit's film, Parkhill's protagonist, Mary (Lefevre), has no agent in the past to rely on to put right what goes wrong and is therefore completely at the mercy of one of the nastiest and vilest psycho-biddies to come down the pike since Margaret White.

Except for a brief glimpse, we only hear Rose, played beautifully by Lorna Raver -- last seen similarly tormenting Alison Lohman in Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell. And with each taunting call comes a new burp in the time-stream. Secret messages scratched into the drywall that weren't there before. A finger buried in the yard. A new wall in the pantry, where, as the movie progresses, more and more mummified bodies keep piling up as Rose's reign of terror grows back in 1978. Meanwhile, in 2011, more and more people around Mary keep disappearing -- people only she remembers. You see, that's why Mary cannot stop answering the phone. For if she does, more people she knows and love will "die" retroactively.

On her end of the phone, Mary submits but tries to find out more about Rose, who, originally, hung herself in the apartment back in 1978 when her philandering husband ran out on her. But now, with the past in such a state of flux, Mary's research goes nowhere as history keeps changing, executed best with Mary's ever self-adjusting photo-albums. And after an ingenious plan to beat Rose at her own game backfires, the audience realizes how thoroughly screwed Mary is when Rose calls again and puts someone else on the phone, and Parkill punctuates that point rather grisly with some scaldingly hot chicken grease that had me squirming in the recliner. But with this despicable act comes Mary's final salvation when the past and present finally collide for quite the denouement.

So, yeah, The Caller is more sci-fi than supernatural, but that in no way or shape ruins things. Expanded from a half-hour BBC drama, though some may find the pace a bit glacial, I found the resulting feature film to be totally engrossing, the good guys -- Lefevre, Moyer (the boyfriend), and Guzmán (the landlord) -- charmingly endearing, giving the disappearances a hefty punch that's sorely lacking in a lot of these jump-scare-o-ramas, and found the whole thing to be dreadfully spooky, just in a completely different way because Mary is screwed and Parkill doesn't cheat as he detonates one most probable expectation after another as we barrel toward the climax, with no cop-out retroactive happy ending either. However, I will warn that the final coda involving Mary's ex almost derails everything that came before, and reeks of a tacked on twist just to have a twist, but I refuse to let this misjudgement ruin the overall experience because The Caller is just that damned good.

The Caller (2011) Alcove Entertainment :: Head Gear Films :: Pimienta :: The Salt Company International :: Samuel Goldwyn Films / EP: Robert Bevan, Phil Hunt, Cyril Megret, Compton Ross / P: Amina Dasmal, Robin C. Fox, Luillo Ruiz, Piers Tempest / AP: Belly Torres, Carlos Anibal Vázquez / D: Matthew Parkhill / W: Sergio Casci / C: Alexander Melman / E: Gabriel Coss / M: Aidan Lavelle, Unkle / S: Rachelle Lefevre, Stephen Moyer, Luis Guzmán, Ed Quinn, Lorna Raver

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Film Conversations :: Texting with Mike :: The (Not So) Brave and the (So Not) Bold!

Okay, new feature time. Hooray! Don't know about the rest of you but I have some pretty good conversations/arguments via text or Facebook or Twitter with my fellow movie addled-brethren. And, with their permission, I shall be re-posting the very same dust-ups right here. First up: a text conversation between my friend Mike and I a few months back where we were trying to hook up for a screening of The Dark Knight Rises. And while the movie matinee didn't work out, the conversation continued unabated. Read on...
[6:33] Mike: Batmanning tomorrow at 11. You around?

[6:34] Me: AM or PM

[7:19] Mike: AM. Sorry. I have to work tomorrow PM.

[8:50] Mike: Nananananananananananananana Batman?

[9:00] Me: Dear, Bruce. Have previous lunch engagment with Ma Kent or I would. XOXO, Clark.

[9:02] Mike: Dear Clark, No problem. Why did U lose the red undies? #Bruce.

[10:23] Mike: FUNNIER RESPONSE: "Enjoy you lunch. I DON'T HAVE PARENTS!!!"

[10:25] Me: Ya know, people often forget that I'm an orphan too. That, and my entire @#%*ing planet blew up. But hey, I can fly. wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

[10:27] Mike: I have a utility belt, and money, and I'm a ninja. Kind of ... I'M BATMAN!!!

[10:28] Me: FUNNIER RESPONSE: Shot by a mugger? Feh. My entire planet blew up and my parents were atomized.

[10:29] Mike: Your parents were pompous assholes. And we saw your little super wiener. I'M BATMAN!!!

[10:30] Me: I could disintegrate you from orbit, ya know. The MOON's orbit. And you'll never see it coming. Got a utility for that Mr. I'm the Godammned Batman?!

[10:32] Mike: Nope. Just the Kryptonite you gave me because even you know you're a total douche-snoozle. And a thing that summons bats. And a man servant.

[10:33] Me: Oh, Bruce, that wasn't real Kryptonite. You were pouting again, remember? So I tried to cheer you up with a piece of rock candy. Also, Alfred doesn't really like you. He told me. Actually, I was listening in. Super-Hearing and all that...

[10:34] Me: ... Tell ya what. I'll disintegrate you from orbit with my heat vision. Then I'll fly around the planet real fast, reverse time, and zap you again?!


[10:36] Me: Does for me, Batsy. AND STOP STANDING ON MY CAPE!

[10:41] Mike: Ah, well ... at least we ain't Hal Jordan.

[10:42] Me: True dat. More like the Green McTurdburger.

[10:45] Mike: The Green Lan-Turd.

[10:46] Me: "In brightness lame, in blackest asshattery..."

[10:48] Mike: I don't have anything on my utility belt to finish that rhyme.

[10:48] Me: "... I am a Tool of the highest variety."

[10:49] Mike: [...slowBATclap]

[10:50] Me: And that's why I gots this Big S on my chest.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

To He Who Put the Kook in the Kookie :: Norm Grabowski R.I.P.

To custom car enthusiasts, he was a legend. To film enthusiasts, you may not have known his name but you'd probably recognize the mug, the chin and the buzzcut. And if he's still not ringing any bells, maybe this will help:


Video courtesy of madfabricators.

Noted filmography: High School Confidential, The Beat Generation, College Confidential, Sex Kittens Go to College, Roustabout, The Monkey's Uncle, Out of Sight, Blackbeard's Ghost, The Towering Inferno, Hooper, The Cannonball Run. And here's an article I wrote on Grabowski, the Kookie Car, and his career in Hollywood a couple of years ago.

Norman Grabowski

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Wax that Works :: A 22 Vid-Cap Look at Michael Curtiz's The Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)

___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___
"I tell you that place is a morgue, do you hear?! A morgue!!"
___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___

When bodies start disappearing from the city morgue, courtesy of a mysterious masked marauder, a plucky reporter starts sniffing around for a hot scoop to both stick in her snarky editor's ear and solve the mystery. And through mostly happenstance and plain dumb luck while covering a puff piece, she discovers something most sinister is going on at the local waxworks, where several historical figure displays bare an uncanny resemblance to those missing cadavers. Will our reporter be able to convince the authorities of the Who, What, Where, When and Why of the awful truth before the next victim becomes history, too?

This has been happening to me a lot, lately, but, The Mystery of the Wax Museum is another one of those films that seems to be getting better the older I get. And even though I've always liked the film, now I absolutely adore it. Expectations can be a bitch sometimes, and the further removed you get from those initial first impressions the better, I guess. And this flick, as I watch it with aging eyes and maturing sensibilities has improved exponentially with each viewing -- or I've at least become more forgiving of its faults; mostly a middle act that spends way too much time spinning its wheels. Still, I love the look of the two-strip technicolor -- and I think I'd love it even more if somebody would give it the full restoration treatment. And I just love the Vulcan Mind-Meld of Art Deco and MC Escher on the set designs of the waxworks, Igor's diabolical workshop, and all those stairways and catwalks that always dogleg back to nowhere. I love how those body parts, alive, dead, or stuffed, are always protruding into the scene. I love the fact that nobody has a set of lungs like Fay Wray. And I love the perversity of that highly erotic finale, when, even though the damsel in distress has been saved, the wax dispenser is still allowed to ejaculate rather messily to punctuate the climax. Wow.

Speaking of that climax, I absolutely love those wild haymakers Atwill starts throwing at those party-poopers, and how the scene devolves into a free-for-all right out of the serials. And I love the fact that all those wax statues kept twitching, breathing and blinking. (Apparently, the real wax dummies kept melting under the lights so director Curtiz had to resort to Plan B.) And most of all, I love the fact that Farrell appears to be out of her cotton-picking mind and having ball, bringing the fire and the spit to her role as the crack(pot) reporter. When first encountered, I found this performance as overplayed and too much time spent with the odious comedy relief, taking the focus away from the macabre elements that brought me here in the first place. Now, she makes the movie tick. And hats off to scriptwriters Mullaly, Erickson and Belden for beating Howard Hawks to the punch with the gender-switching twist on Milestone's The Front Page, which would go a long, long way in explaining that inexplicable and cockamamie ending when Dempsey pulls the His Girl Friday and dumps the (granted, pretty worthless) bootlegger for her crumb of an (even more worthless) editor.

Other Points of Interest:

Poster campaign for Mystery of the Wax Museum at the Archive.

The Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) The Vitaphone Corporation :: Warner Bros. / P: Henry Blanke, Hal B. Wallis / D: Michael Curtiz / W: Don Mullaly, Carl Erickson, Charles Belden / C: Ray Rennahan / E: George Amy / M: Leo F. Forbstein, Cliff Hess, Bernhard Kaun / S: Lionel Atwill, Glenda Farrell, Fay Wray, Frank McHugh, Allen Vincent, Gavin Gordon
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