Horror on TV: FreakyLinks 1.11 “Live Fast Die You” (dir by David Barrett)


On tonight’s episode of FreakyLinks, Ethan Embry and the crew investigate real-life adrenaline vampires!  Agck!

This episode features appearances from Jeffrey Combs, Dennis Christopher, Paige Moss, and everyone’s favorite, Eric Baflour!

This episode originally aired on June 1st, 2001.

Horror Film Review: It (dir by Tommy Lee Wallace)


Last month, before I saw the latest film version of Stephen King’s It, I watched the 1990 miniseries version.

This was my first time to watch the It miniseries, though I had certainly heard about it.  Most of the reviews that I had read seemed to be mixed.  Everyone seemed to agree that Tim Curry was the perfect choice for the role of Pennywise the Dancing Clown.  However, many other reviewers complained that the program’s television origins kept It from being as effective as it could be.  “Not as scary as the book,” everyone seemed to agree.  The actors who played the members of the Loser Clubs as children all seemed to receive general acclaim but not everyone seemed to be as enamored with the adult cast.  And everyone, even those who liked the miniseries as a whole, complained about the show’s finale, in which Pennywise took the form of a giant spider.

Well, I have to agree about the giant spider.  That spider looked painfully fake, even by the standards of 1990s television.  Not only does the spider look too fake to truly be scary but, once that spider showed up, that meant that Tim Curry disappeared from the film.  Curry deserved every bit of acclaim that he received for playing the role of Pennywise.

All that said, the miniseries was still a lot better than I had been led to believe.

Certainly, it’s not as frightening as the book or the movie.  Considering that the It miniseries was produced for network television, that’s not surprising.  As opposed to the movie, the miniseries attempts to cover King’s entire novel.  That’s a lot of material, even when you have a five hour running time.  Obviously, a good deal of the story had to be cut and there are a few scenes in the miniseries that feel a bit rushed.  Characters like Audrey Denbrough and Stanley Uris, who were compelling in the novel, are reduced to being mere bystanders.  Some of the novel’s most horrific scenes — like Henry Bowers cutting Ben — are either excised or heavily toned down.  If the novel was as much about the hypocrisy of the adults of Derry as the paranormal horror of Pennywise, that theme is largely left out of the miniseries.

That said, It still had its share of memorable moments.  The image of a clown standing on the side of the road, holding balloons, and waving is going to be creepy, regardless of whether it’s found in a R-rated film or on ABC.  The death of little George Denbrough is horrific, regardless of whether you actually the bone sticking out of his wound or not.  Even the library scene, in which a grown-up Richie Tozier deals with a balloon filled with blood, was effectively surreal.

As for the actors who played the members of the Losers Club, the results were occasionally uneven.  The actors who played them as children were all believable and had a credible group chemistry.  You could imagine all of them actually being friends.  As for the adults, some of them I liked more than others.  Harry Anderson, Dennis Christopher, and Tim Reid gave the best performances out of the group.  John Ritter and Annette O’Toole were somewhere in the middle.  Richard Thomas was absolutely awful and I found myself snickering whenever he was filmed from behind and I saw his pony tail.  Richard Masur, unfortunately, wasn’t around long enough to make much of an impression one way or the other.

Ultimately, though, the miniseries (much like the book) suffers because the adults are never as interesting as Pennywise.  Tim Curry dominates the entire movie and, when he’s not onscreen, his absence is definitely felt.  Watching the miniseries made me appreciate why the film version kept Pennywise’s screen time to a minimum.  Pennywise is such a flamboyant and dominant character that, if not used sparingly, he can throw the entire production out of balance.

Despite its flaws, I liked the miniseries.  Yes, it’s uneven.  Yes, it’s toned down.  Yes, it works better in pieces than as a whole.  But, taken on its own terms, It was effective.  Director Tommy Lee Wallace creates a suitably ominous atmosphere and the child actors are all properly compelling.  And, finally, that damn clown is always going to freak me out.

Just for fun, here’s a trailer for It, recut as a family film:

Back to School Part II #12: Breaking Away (dir by Peter Yates)


Has Indiana changed much since 1979?

I ask because I just watched Breaking Away, a 1979 nominee for best picture.  Breaking Away was shot on location in Bloomington, Indiana and on the campus of Indiana University.  And though the film doesn’t go out of its way to idealize either the state, the town, or the university –in fact, the title refers to the desire of several characters to break away from their life in Bloomington — it still manages to make Indiana look like the nicest place on Earth.  Add to that, Indiana University is home to the Eskenazi Museum of Art, which I will someday visit.

Breaking Away is actually a film about a lot of things: it’s a comedy, it’s a quasi-love story, it’s bittersweet coming-of-age story, it’s a sports film, and it’s a sweet, good-natured film that made me cry.  At the heart of the film is Dave Stoller (Dennis Christopher), who has just graduated from high school and whose cheerful and eccentric exterior hides the fact that he appears to have no real future.  Dave is obsessed with bicycle racing and idolizes that the Italian cycling team.  In fact, he idolizes them so much that he decides to be Italian.  He rides around Bloomington, greeting people with a merry “Ciao!”  At home, he listens to opera and renames the family cat “Fellini.”  While his mother (Barbara Barrie) is understanding, his father (Paul Dooley) cannot understand what’s happening to his son.  Of course, Dave doesn’t truly believe that he’s Italian.  He just desperately wants to be something other than who he is.

And who is Dave?  He’s a citizen of Bloomington, a town that is divided between the upper class students at Indiana University and the blue-collar townies.  The students call Dave and his friends “cutters,” because the only real industry in town is working in the quarry, cutting stone.  The students look down on the cutters and the cutters resent the students.

Dave has three close friends, all of whom were big in high school and who are now facing an uncertain future of anonymity.  Cyril (Daniel Stern) is the funny and quirky one, the former basketball player who talks about how he would like to be a cartoon character.  Moocher (Jackie Earle Haley) is usually easy-going but loses his temper whenever anyone mentions that he’s short.  (At one point, Moocher’s boss orders him to, “Punch the time clock, Shortie!”  Moocher literally does just that.)  And finally, there’s Mike (Dennis Quaid).  Mike is their leader, a former high school quarterback who idolizes the Marlboro Man and who knows that he’s destined to spend the rest of his life in Bloomington, going from “20 year-old Mike” to “mean old man Mike.”

When Dave meets a student named Katherine (Robyn Douglass), he pretends to be an Italian exchange student and, soon, he’s serenading her on the lawn of her sorority house.  That doesn’t make Katherine’s boyfriend, Rod (Hart Bochner), happy.  Rod and his friends beat up Cyril, which leads to another fight at a bowling alley.  (Cyril, for his part, gets his finger stuck in a bowling ball.)  Seeking to broker some sort of peace and understanding between the students and the town, the university president (played by John Ryan, who was the real-life President of Indiana University at the time) announces that the cutters will be invited to take part in the annual Little 500 bicycle race at Indiana University.

And you can probably guess how the race turns out.  It’s a feel-good sports film so you already know who is going to win and that he’s going to have to win after initially falling behind and sacrificing a big lead.  You know all that but it doesn’t matter.  Breaking Away is such a sweet and well-acted movie that it still brought tears to my eyes even if the ending didn’t surprise me.

And really, the film does have a few surprises.  For one thing, Rod turns out to be not as bad a guy as you initially think he’s going to be.  Over the course of the film, he gets two small reaction shots, both of which hint that he’s not as much of a jerk as he often appears to be.  It’s a minor detail and it’s easy to miss but what’s important that it’s there and it’s one of the many small details that makes Breaking Away feel alive.  After watching the movie, I feel like I could go to Bloomington and still find all these character hanging out at the quarry.

There’s another scene that I want to mention.  This is the scene that made me cry.  Dave and his father walk around the university and his dad talks about how he and the fathers of all of Dave’s friends helped to cut the stone that was used to build campus.  His dad admits that, even though he helped to build it, he’s never felt comfortable on the campus and then tells his son that he doesn’t have to be a cutter.  And it’s such a heartfelt scene and so beautifully performed by Paul Dooley and Dennis Christopher that I started to cry.  Perfectly acted, perfectly directed, and perfectly written, what a great scene!  Fantastico!, as Dave might say.

I loved Breaking Away and I bet you would to.

Breaking Away

Lisa Watches An Oscar Winner: Chariots of Fire (dir by Hugh Hudson)


Chariots_of_fire

It took me two viewings to really appreciate the film Chariot of Fire.

First released in 1981, Chariots of Fire won the Oscar for best picture.  It’s also one of the few British productions to take the top award.  (British films are regularly nominated but the winner is usually an American production.)  A few nights ago, it was broadcast on TCM and I watched it for the first time.  And I have to admit that I struggled to follow the film.

It’s not that the film’s story was exceptionally complicated.  At heart, it’s an inspirational sports film and it features all of the clichés that one usually associates with inspirational sports films — i.e., come-from-behind victories, eccentric trainers, athletes who are determined to compete under their own terms, training montages, and a memorable score.  (The score for Chariots of Fire was so effective that it’s still used as the background music for countless Olympic specials.)

No, I struggled to follow the film because it really was just so extremely British, featuring everything from Cambridge to Gilbert and Sullivan to a rigidly enforced class system to casual anti-Semitism,  This may have been a sports film but it was a very reserved sports film.  If Chariots of Fire had been an American film, we would have gotten countless shots of people screaming, “YESSSSS!  GO! GO! GO! GO!” Instead, the characters in Chariots of Fire are far more likely to say, “Good show, old boy.”  Whereas an American sports film would have scored a montage of competition to the sound of “Eye of the Tiger,” Chariots of Fire features a men’s chorus singing, “For he is an Englishman….”

It takes a bit of getting used to and perhaps I knew that because, even as I was watching Chariots of Fire, I still set the DVR to record it.  The first time I watched the film, I was overwhelmed by the culture shock and the resolute Britishness of it all.  My reaction was to think that, much like The Big Chill, Chariots of Fire was a “you just had to be there” type of film, the type of film that was once impressive but now just inspires you to go “meh.”

And I was prepared to write a review stating just that.  But, somehow, in the back of my mind, I knew that I should give Chariots of Fire another chance before I dismissed it.  Maybe it was the fact that I couldn’t get the damn music out of my head.  Who knows?  But I couldn’t think about the film’s opening — with all those men running on the beach and getting mud all over their white uniforms — without smiling.

So, seeing as how I am currently snowed in for the weekend, I spent this morning watching Chariots of Fire for a second time and I’m glad that I did.  Because you know what?  Chariots of Fire is actually a pretty good film.  It tells the story of Eric Lidell (Ian Charleson) and Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), two British runners who competed at the 1924 Olympics.  Harold is a student at Cambridge.  He’s an angry young man who is running to prove all of the anti-Semites wrong.  (Of course, Harold is angry in a very sort of upper class British way).  Eric is the son of missionaries who views running as a mission from God and who refuses to run on a Sunday.  The film looks gorgeous, Charleson and Cross both give good performances, and that music demands an emotional response.  While Chariots of Fire may not be a great film, it’s definitely a likable film and there’s something to be said for that.

Plus, did I mention that the music’s great?

 

Back to School #9: The Young Graduates (dir by Robert Anderson)


I have to admit that, as someone who watches a lot of movies that were made before she was even born and who is just fascinated by history in general, I have often wondered what the 60s and the 70s were really like.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I know what everyone says they were like — hippies, disco, cocaine, Watergate, Jimmy Carter, Viet Nam, and all the rest.  But people’s memories usually fade with the passage of time and it’s always hard not to feel that whatever I’m hearing is either an idealization or an exaggeration.  That’s one reason why I like watching the often critically reviled, low-budget films of that period.  Since these films were usually made by people who didn’t really care what judgmental viewers like me would think 20 years in the future, they are usually far more accurate when it comes to portraying the world from which they came than a film that was by a big studio whose main concern was to present an idealized portrait of existence that would not alienate any potential ticket buyers.  Crown International Pictures may never have been an acclaimed film studio but, as one of the more prolific producers of 70s exploitation fare, their films now serve as a valuable historical record of the time in which they were made.

If I want to know what it was like to be young and perhaps stupid in the 70s, I go to Crown International Pictures.

CIP_Logo

Take The Young Graduates for example.  First released all the way back in 1971, The Young Graduates was advertised as being “a report card on the love generation.”  The Young Graduates gives us a clue as to what it was like to be a teenager in 1971.  Judging from the film, it really sucked.

The Young Graduates tells the story of Mindy (Patricia Wymar), who is on the verge of graduating from high school.  She has a boyfriend named Bill (Gary Rist) but wow, is he boring!  All he wants to do is compete in drag races and it quickly becomes apparent that he’s incapable of expressing his emotions.  (Assuming that he has any.  The film is a bit ambiguous on this point.)  So, Mindy gets bored and has an affair with one of her teachers, the very married Jack Thompson (Steven Stewart).  Soon after realizing that Mr. Thompson will never leave his wife for her, Mindy suspects that she might be pregnant.  So, she and her friend Sandy (Marly Holliday) decided to take a road trip to Big Sur.  Along the way, they meet a sweet hippie (Dennis Christopher), a bunch of bad hippies, and some really bad bikers.  During their entire journey, they are pursued by Bill, Mr. Thompson, and Sandy’s boyfriend, Les (Bruno Kirby).

Though you wouldn’t know it from the film’s peppy soundtrack or Wymar’s cheerful performance as the continually put upon Mindy, The Young Graduates is actually a pretty dark movie.  With the exception of Pan, everyone that Mindy meets outside of high school is not to be trusted.  Essentially, she’s exploited by everyone that she meets and what makes it all the more disturbing is that Mindy smiles throughout the whole ordeal, almost as if Candide had been reincarnated in the form of a teenage girl.

So, The Young Graduates is really not much of a film.  Subsequent Crown International films would revisit high school and almost all of them would feature better acting and a far more interesting plot than the The Young Graduates.  No, the film does not work as a drama.  But as a documentary and as a time capsule, there’s a lot to enjoy about The Young Graduates.  The fashion, the haircuts, the music, and just the film’s general attitude are such relics of the late 60s and early 70s that the film is the next best thing to owning a working time machine.

That said, if The Young Graduates was an accurate picture of that time — well, I might not be asking for a time machine this Christmas after all!

younggraduates-1

Trailer: Django Unchained


The last couple days have seen the release of a number of upcoming films that should be jockeying for all those fancy-pants end of season awards. One such film is the latest film from Quentin Tarantino. Django Unchained is his latest trip into the grindhouse world with this film being his take on the spaghetti westerns made popular by Italian maestros like Sergio Leone, Sergio Corbucci and Enzo G. Castellari.

It’s an ensemble cast that’s headlined by Jamie Foxx in the title role with Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio (playing against the grain as the main villain of the piece). To pay respect to the very genre that this film owes not just it’s title, but theme and tone, Tarantino has even cast the original Django in Franco Nero in the role of Amerigo Vassepi.

Django Unchained is set for a Christmas Day 2012 release date (hopefully the world didn’t end just four days earlier).

Trailer: Django Unchained (Official)


If there’s a film arriving this year that’s bound to be hyped up by both fanboys and critics alike it would be the latest from Quentin Tarantino. Django Unchained will be his ode to the spaghetti westerns of the 60’s and 70’s. The title of the film alone owes much to Sergio Corbucci’s own spaghetti western, Django.

The trailer first premiered simultaneously over at Fandango and Movies.com and the amount of times the trailer has been reposted over the blogosphere just shows how much people have been waiting for anything about Tarantino’s western when it was first announced. I know that pretty much most everyone here at Through the Shattered Lens have been anticipating this film especially co-founder Lisa Marie Bowman.

I’d describe the trailer itself, but it’s better just to watch it. I’m sure Lisa Marie squealed a bit when two Django’s met near the end.

Source: Movies.com

6 Trailers In Search Of a Title


Without further delay, here’s the latest edition of Lisa’s favorite grindhouse and exploitation trailers.

1) Something Weird (1967)

I just had to start out with this because it represents everything that I love about these old school exploitation trailers.  It’s just so shameless and cheerful about it all.  This film is from Herschell Gordon Lewis and it features ESP, a really kinda scary witch, and a random LSD trip.  The title of this film also inspired the name of one of my favorite companies, Something Weird Video.  (I make it a point to buy something from Something Weird every chance I get.  My most recent Something Weird video is a film from the 60s called Sinderella and the Golden Bra.  Haven’t gotten a chance to watch it yet but with a title like that, how could it be bad?)

2) Fade to Black (1980)

This is actually a really, really bad movie and I think the trailer goes on for a bit too long but it does have a few vaguely effective moments — i.e., when Dennis Christopher stares at the camera with half of his face painted.  Plus, you can catch a young Mickey Rourke acting a lot like Michael Madsen. 

3) Monster Shark (1984)  

Now you may think that since this Italian film was directed by Lamberto Bava (credited here as John Old, Jr. because his father, Mario, was occasionally credited as John Old, Sr.) and has the word “shark” in the title that it’s yet another rip-off of Jaws.  Well, joke’s on you because, as they state repeatedly in the trailer, “It’s not a shark!”  Even if you didn’t know this was an Italian film before watching the trailer, it wouldn’t be hard to guess.  First off, there’s the dubbing.  Then there’s the scene of the film’s main character wandering around aimlessly.  (Most Italian horror trailers feature at least one scene of someone just walking around.)  And finally, there’s the fact that this is yet another trailer that uses a sped-up version of Goblin’s Beyond The Darkness soundtrack for its background music.  While I haven’t seen this film yet, I plan to just to find out who Bob is.

 4) Van Nuys Boulevard (1979)

Originally, I was planning on including the trailer for a Ted V. Mikels’ film called The Worm Eaters right here but I reconsidered because, quite frankly, The Worm Eaters is one of the most disgusting, stomach-churning things I’ve ever seen.  I’m going to wait until I find five other equally disgusting trailers to feature it with and then I’m going to put them all up under the heading: 6 Trailers To Inspire Vomit.  Until then, enjoy a far more pleasant trailer — Van Nuys Blvd.  This trailer rhymes!  I’m tempted to say that I could have written it but then again, I only write free verse poetry.  Anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah, Van Nuys Blvd.

5) Vice Squad (1982)

However, there was a darker side to Van Nuys Blvd. and here it is: Vice Squad, starring Wings Hauser.  Eventually, I’ll review this film but until I do, check out our new friend Trash Film Guru’s review.

6) Crosstalk (1982)

We’ll conclude with the only thing scarier than Wings Hauser in Vice Squad — a computer that has not only witnessed a murder but enjoyed it!