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Amused Muse

Inspiring dissent and debate and the love of dissonance

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Master's Degree holder, telecommuting from the hot tub, proud Darwinian Dawkobot, and pirate librarian belly-dancer bohemian secret agent scribe on a mission to rescue bloggers from the wholesome clutches of the pious backstabbing girl fridays of the world.



Friday, September 15, 2006

Freaky Friday

Okay, let's lighten things up a bit. I'm going to be busy with lots-o-cataloging homework this weekend, so here's an oldie that I wrote about my favorite horror films.

Blood and Lace 1971
Director: Philip Gilbert
I saw this yucko, hard-to-find thriller about an orphanage/torture chamber when I was way too young (try age seven). I haven’t seen it since; so I have no idea if it really was a good flick, or a dog. It sure scared me at the time. If someone out there has it, please let me know!

Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the Germany, 1919
Director: Robert Wiene
Try to find a good print and soundtrack; or even better, catch it on the big screen at a college art house or retrospective theatre. Don’t watch an inferior print just to see it. Half of this film’s appeal is the impressionistic set.

Careful Canada, 1993
Director: Guy Madden
David Lynch can only wish he had half the talent (and one-fifth the vision) of this truly great director. Set in a puritanical Teutonic village in perpetual danger of avalanche,Careful lampoons the repressed emotions of its inhabitants with surrealist glee.

Diabolique France, 1955
(a.k.a. Les Diaboliques)
Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Screw the crappy remake—this is the real thing. It’s a chance to see a young Simone Signoret before she came to America. If you can’t stand subtitles, there’s a competently-dubbed version in English. Ne soyez pas diaboliques...

Eyes Wide Shut 1999
Director: Stanley Kubrick
No, I don’t care what anyone says. I loved it. I wish I could be hypnotised to forget the movie just to experience it again.

Fanny and Alexander Sweden, 1982
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Yes, this film scared me. It scared the living shit out of me. It deals with religious fear and a tyrannical lover who holds his wife prisoner. I saw this right after leaving the man who would later stalk me and it left me shaking.

“Frankenstein: The True Story” Made for television, 1973
Director: Jack Smight
Well, not quite the true story; but this stylish retelling of the Frankenstein myth is the most faithful of all the films to the spirit (if not to the text) of Mary Shelley’s masterpiece. The special effects may look hokey today, but the film is buoyed by stunning performances from Leonard Whiting, the late James Mason, Michael Sarrazin, and Jane Seymour. Leonard Maltin describes this as the “thinking man’s horror movie.” (The screenplay was written by Christopher Isherwood!)

Freaks 1932
Director: Tod Browning
You have no right to die until you see this bizarre cult classic about a selfish, beautiful aerialist who marries the short man for his money and plans to murder him, only to get her just desserts. Features real-life carnival "freaks." Not for the squeamish, although I love the characters. (Alternate title: Nature’s Mistakes--a stupid title) For the record, to me it's the beautiful people in this film who are the real freaks.

Halloween 1978
Director: John Carpenter
No duh!

Haunting, the 1963
Director: Robert Wise
This is the original and (natch!) superior version starring Julie Harris, Russ Tamblyn, and Claire Bloom. Watch it at night in a darkened room without commercial interruptions, and pay close attention. Nelson Gidding’s screenplay adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel is sprinkled throughout with important psychological clues that went right over the heads of the dorks responsible for the doltish remake.

The Last Broadcast 1998
Directors: Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler
This worthy experiment in faux documentary had a very limited release, but the premise is similar to that of The Blair Witch Project. (However, this one was filmed and released before the record-setting feature set in Maryland’s Black Hills.) Three young men walk into the woods to make a documentary about a reputed killer-hermit, the New Jersey Devil, and only one man walks out again. This flick had me going for a while—I thought it was real!

The Last Wave Australia, 1978
Director: Peter Weir
Slow-moving and full of "aborigine" mystical garble, much of it not authentic to the culture anyway, but weird and worth it.

M Germany, 1931
Director: Fritz Lang
Fritz Lang’s chilling classic starring Peter Lorre is still unsurpassed in its handling of the material, even in our cynical era of celebrity serial killers. Somewhere lurks the original version, without the preachy ending.

Night of the Hunter 1955
Director: Charles Laughton
Still disturbing today. My ex-boyfriend (the born-again Christian who stalked me) used to sing the “Leaning, leaning” song that Robert Mitchum sings in the film. That sure set the tone for terror as I watched this one! (I sent my ex running off long ago with his proverbial tail between his proverbial legs, by the way—so don’t worry about me.) With Shelly Winters and Lilian Gish, of silent screen fame.

Night of the Living Dead 1968
Director: George A. Romero
No comment needed. (I actually saw this in church! My youth director got in a lot of trouble for that.)

Nosferatu Germany, 1922
Director: F.W. Murnau
Never underestimate the power of a silent masterpiece! The images in this film are among the most chilling ever filmed. Murnau’s use of shadow and similie to craft the sense of omnipotent evil is unsurpassed in the cinema.

Picnic at Hanging Rock Australia, 1975
Director: Peter Weir
Weir for "weird." While not a horror film in the classic sense, definitely a classic. This mood piece about the mysterious disappearance of three schoolgirls and a teacher in 1901, based upon real events, leaves one with a profound sense of unease.

Psycho 1960
Director: The Hitch!
No comment needed. Just forget the sequels, please (and the crudola remake).

Shining, the 1980
Director: Stanley Kubrick
A disappointing ending mars this overwise brilliant, Murnauesque film.

Vampyr France and Germany, 1932
Director: Carl Theodore Dreyer
As in The Shining and The Haunting, evil manifests itself as a pervasive force rather than a visible ghoul. A lovely and weird film by one of my favorite directors.

Wicker Man, the Britain, 1973
Director: Robin Hardy
More psychological thriller than horror film, which follows the investigation of a missing girl on a pagan Scottish isle by a religiously uptight police officer. Edward Woodward deftly garners both the audience’s contempt and sympathy in a complex portrayal of a bigoted, self-righteous, but good-hearted gumshoe Christian. This film features (or purports to feature) local color, songs, and practices, and manages to avoid caricature of both nature worship and orthodox Christianity. For the record, though the ending is satisfying in a literary sense, I hate what happens to poor, uptight, cute Sergeant Howie. Christopher Lee and Britt Ekland also star.

Les Yeux sans Visage (Eyes without a Face) Italy and France, 1959
(a.k.a. Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus)
Director: Georges Franju
A must-see! An insane doctor kidnaps beautiful girls to surgically transplant their faces onto his disfigured daughter. The special effects horrified French audiences in its day, and are still effective today. Eerie in light of the recent successful "face transplant" in France.

3 Comments:

Blogger MarcoConley said...

"Cabinet of Dr. Caligari"

I've been trying for years to find something with a similar visual feel/set design- the film is just so beautiful. It's beyond wonderful.

"Eyes Wide Shut"

Truly, existence is the real horror movie.

"Freaks"

You haven't lived until you've led a University Gaming Club full of ubergeeks in chanting "One of Us!" whenever a new member comes to the meetings.


Have you seen Ringu or The Ring? I didn't sleep for a week. Rosemary's Baby is delicious, and The Exorcist is always a fun romp.

September 16, 2006 3:42 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Hey, another "Caligari" admirer. Whoopee!

Ringu or The Ring? I've heard of The Ring. I was told that it was worth seeing so when I get a little time I'll check it out. What's Ringu?

I love the urbergeeks chant; I must admit, I haven't lived, for I've never done that. A loving cup!

I will propose that for the next Drinking Liberally at my local bar. See how that goes over!

September 16, 2006 9:11 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

Ahh, Ringu is the Japanese original The Ring is the the English remake.

When I first heard about the premise of The Ring, I laughed and laughed and laughed. When I actually watched it, I was jumpy for days.

September 16, 2006 11:10 PM  

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