When It Comes To Halloween, Should You Trust The IMDb?


Dr. Sam Loomis

Like a lot of people, I enjoy browsing the trivia sections of the IMDb.  While it’s true that a lot of the items are stuff like, “This movie features two people who appeared on a television series set in the Star Trek Universe!,” you still occasionally came across an interesting fact or two.

Of course, sometimes, you just come across something that makes so little sense that you can only assume that it was posted as a joke.  For instance, I was reading the IMDb’s trivia for the original 1978 Halloween and I came across this:

Peter O’Toole, Mel Brooks, Steven Hill, Walter Matthau, Jerry Van Dyke, Lawrence Tierney, Kirk Douglas, John Belushi, Lloyd Bridges, Abe Vigoda, Kris Kristofferson, Sterling Hayden, David Carradine, Dennis Hopper, Charles Napier, Yul Brynner and Edward Bunker were considered for the role of Dr. Sam Loomis.

Now, some of these names make sense.  Despite the fact that Sam Loomis became Donald Pleasence’s signature role, it is still possible to imagine other actors taking the role and perhaps bringing a less neurotic interpretation to the character.

Peter O’Toole as Dr. Loomis?  Okay, I can see that.

Kirk Douglas, Sterling Hayden, Charles Napier, Steve Hill, or Lloyd Bridges as Dr. Loomis?  Actually, I can imagine all of them grimacing through the role.

Walter Matthau?  Well, I guess if you wanted Dr. Loomis to be kind of schlubby….

Abe Vigoda?  Uhmmm, okay.

Dennis Hopper?  That would be interesting.

Mel Brooks?  What?  Wait….

John Belushi?  Okay, stop it!

Dr. Sam Loomis

My point is that I doubt any of these people were considered for the role of Dr. Loomis.  Both director John Carpenter and producer Debra Hill have said that they wanted to cast an English horror actor in the role, as a bit of an homage to the Hammer films of the 60s.  Christopher Lee was offered the role but turned it down, saying that he didn’t care for the script or the low salary.  (Lee later said this was one of the biggest mistakes of his career.)  Peter Cushing’s agent turned down the role, again because of the money.  It’s not clear whether Cushing himself ever saw the script.

To be honest, I could easily Peter Cushing in the role and I could see him making a brilliant Dr. Loomis.  But, ultimately, Donald Pleasence was the perfect (if not the first) choice for the role.  Of course, Pleasence nearly turned down the role as well.  Apparently, it was his daughter, Angela, who changed his mind.  She was an admirer of John Carpenter’s previous film, Assault on Precint 13.  Carpenter has said that he was originally intimidated by Donald Pleasence (the man had played Blofeld, after all) but that Pleasence turned out to be a professional and a gentleman.

Laurie Strode

Of course, Halloween is best known for being the first starring role of Jamie Lee Curtis.  Curtis was actually not Carpenter’s first choice for the role of Laurie Strode.  His first choice was an actress named Annie Lockhart, who was the daughter of June Lockhart.  Carpenter changed his mind when he learned that Jamie was the daughter of Janet Leigh.  Like any great showman, Carpenter understood the importance of publicity and he knew nothing would bring his horror movie more publicity then casting the daughter of the woman whose onscreen death in Psycho left moviegoers nervous about taking a shower.

There was also another future big name who came close to appearing in Halloween.  At the time that she was cast as Lynda, P.J. Soles was dating an up-and-coming actor from Texas named Dennis Quaid.  Quaid was offered the role of Lynda’s doomed boyfriend, Bob but he was already committed to another film.

Not considered for a role was Robert Englund, though the future Freddy Krueger still spent some time on set.  He was hired by Carpenter to help spread around the leaves that would make it appear as if his film was taking place in the October, even though it was filmed in May.

Robert Englund, making May look like October

Interestingly enough, Englund nearly wasn’t need for that job because Halloween was not originally envisioned as taking place on Halloween or any other specific holiday.  When producer Irwin Yablans and financier Moustapha Akkad originally approached Carpenter and Hill to make a movie for them about a psycho stalking three babysitters, they didn’t care when the film was set.  It was only after Carpenter and Hill wrote a script called The Babysitter Muders that it occurred to Yablans that setting the film during Halloween would be good from a marketing standpoint.  Plus Halloween made for a better title than The Babysitter Murders.

And, of course, the rest is history.  Carpenter’s film came to define Halloween and it still remains the standard by which every subsequent slasher movie has been judged.  Would that have happened if the film had been known as The Babysitter Murders and had starred John Belushi?

Sadly, we may never know.

Horror on the Lens: Haunts of the Very Rich (dir by Paul Wendkos)


Today’s horror on the lens is a 1972 made-for-TV movie, Haunts of the Very Rich!

What happens when a bunch of rich people find themselves on an airplane with no memory of how they got there?  Well, first off, they land at a luxury resort!  But what happens when the resort suddenly turns out to be deserted and the guests discover that there’s no apparent way out!?

You can probably already guess the film’s “surprise” ending but Haunts of the Very Rich is still an entertaining little film.  You can check out my more in-depth review here!

Enjoy!

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: High Noon (dir by Fred Zinnemann)


(I am currently in the process of cleaning out my DVR!  I recorded the 1952 best picture nominee, High Noon, off of Retroplex on January 28th.  This review is scheduled to posted at 12 noon, central time.  Clever, no?)

High Noon is a testament to the power of simplicity.

It’s a famous film, one that continues to be influential and which is still studied today.  It’s known for being one of the greatest westerns ever made but it’s also a powerful political allegory.  Even people who haven’t seen the film know that High Noon is the moment of the day when someone shows their true character.  Just as everyone knows the plot of Star Wars, regardless of whether they’ve actually watched the film, everyone knows that High Noon is about a town marshal who, after the entire town deserts him, is forced to face down a gang of gunmen on his own.

And yet, it really is a surprisingly simple movie.  It’s the quintessential western, filmed in black-and-white and taking place in the type of frontier town that you would expect to find hiding on the back lot of an old movie studio.  Though wonderfully brought to life by a talented cast, the majority of the characters are familiar western archetypes.

There’s the aging town marshal, a simple man of integrity.  Gary Cooper won an Oscar for playing the role of Will Kane.  When we first see Will, he’s getting married in a frontier courtroom.  All of the town leaders have come to his wedding and all of them wish him luck in the future.  Will is retiring and everyone agrees that the town would never have survived and prospered if not for Will Kane.  After all, Will is the one who captured the notorious outlaw, Frank Miller.  When the news comes that Miller has been pardoned and will be arriving back in town on the noon train, everyone tells Will that he should just leave town and go on his honeymoon.  However, the new marshal will not be arriving for another day and Will is not willing to abandon the town.  However, the town is more than willing to abandon him.

Will’s new wife is Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly).  Amy is a Quaker and a pacifist.  Amy begs Kane to leave town but Kane says that he’s never run from a fight.  Amy tells him that she’ll be leaving on that noon train, with or without him.  Helen Ramirez (Katy Jurado) is the former girlfriend of both Kane and Miller.  She is one of the few people in town to call out everyone else’s cowardice but she is still planning to leave before Miller arrives.  As she explains it to Amy, she would never abandon Kane if he were her man but he’s not her man anymore.

The townspeople, who first appear to be so friendly and honest, soon prove themselves to be cowards.  None of them are willing to stand behind Will.  The Mayor (Thomas Mitchell) publicly castigates Will for staying in town and putting everyone else in danger.  Deputy Harvey Pell (Lloyd Bridges) says that he’ll only help Will if Will recommends him as his replacement.  The town minister (Morgan Farley) is more concerned with why Will was married by the justice of the peace, instead of in the church.  The town judge (Otto Kruger) leaves early, saying he can be a judge in some other town.  One of the few people to show Will any sympathy is the former marshal (Lon Chaney, Jr.) but, unfortunately, he is too old and crippled by arthritis to provide any help.

Though it all, Frank’s gang sits at the train station and waits for Frank to arrive.  One gang member is played be Lee Van Cleef.  He looks really mean!

With a brisk running time of 84 minutes, High Noon unfolds in real time.  Throughout the film, as Kane grows increasingly desperate in his attempt to find anyone brave enough to stand with him, we see clocks in the background of nearly every scene.  We hear the ticking.  We know that both noon and Frank Miller are getting closer and closer.  We know that, soon, Will will have no other option but to stand on the street by himself and defend a town that doesn’t deserve him.

It’s simple but it’s undeniably powerful.

It’s been said that High Noon was meant to be a metaphor for the blacklist.  Frank Miller and his gang were the fascists that, having been defeated in World War II, were now coming back to power.  Will Kane was a stand-in for all the men and women of integrity who found themselves blacklisted.  The townspeople represented the studio execs who refused to challenge the blacklist.  That’s the theory and it’s probably true.  But, honestly, the political metaphor of High Noon works because it can be applied to any situation.  Will Kane is anyone who has ever had to face down the forces of totalitarianism.  He is anyone who has ever had the courage to take a lonely stand while everyone else cowered in the corner.

It’s a powerful metaphor and it’s also a genuinely entertaining movie.  The gunfight is thrilling.  The romance between Will and Amy feels real.  Even the town feels like an actual place, one that has its own history and culture.  It’s a simple film but it’s a great film.

Like a lot of great films, High Noon was nominated for best picture.  And, like a lot of great films, it lost.  In High Noon‘s case, it lost to a film that is almost its exact opposite, The Greatest Show on Earth.  However, Gary Cooper did win an Oscar for his unforgettable performance as Will Kane.

I think we tend to take classic films for granted.  Don’t do that with High Noon.  See it the next chance you get.

The Fabulous Forties #6: Trapped (dir by Richard Fleischer)


220px-Trapped_1949

After being disappointed with Guest In The House, I decided to go ahead and watch the sixth film in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties box set and I’m glad that I did.  1949’s Trapped turned out to be an entertaining little discovery.

Much like Port of New York, Trapped opens with documentary footage of the government at work and an official sounding narrator explaining to us that we are about to see a film about the hardworking agents of the Treasury Department.  In fact, the narrator goes on for so long about the Treasury Department that he starts to sound downright worshipful.  There’s nothing that the Treasury Department cannot do!  Who protects the President?  The Treasury Department!  Who tracks down counterfeiters?  The Treasury Department!  Who protects the coast?  The Coast Guard but guess what? The Coast Guard is actually a part of The Treasury Department!  The tone of the narration is so worshipful that it could almost pass for a Scientology recruiting film.  Just as only the Sea Org can protect us from Evil Lord Xenu, only the Treasury Department can stop phony money pushers!

Eventually, the narration ends and the actual movie begins.  Fortunately, the rest of Trapped more than makes up for that awkward introduction.  The film opens with a bunch of Treasury agents looking over a phony twenty-dollar bill.  The bill is almost perfect and the agents believe that it was printed using plates designed by one of the world’s greatest counterfeiters, Tris Stewart (Lloyd Bridges).  The only problem is that Stewart is in prison.  Obviously, someone else has gotten their hands on Stewart’s plates.

Stewart is upset that someone is getting rich off of his work.  So, he strikes a deal with the Treasury Department.  In return for being released, he will help them track down his plates.  The Treasury Department agrees and arranges for Stewart to “escape” during a phony prison break.

However, Stewart has plans of his own.  As soon as he’s out of jail, he knocks out his handler and escapes for real.  Tris is not only planning on tracking down his plates but he’s also going to go back into business printing and passing phony money.  He also reunites with his girlfriend, nightclub hostess Meg Dixon (Barbara Payton).

When he meets Meg, he discovers that she has a new admirer.  Johnny Hackett (John Hoyt) likes to hang out whenever Meg’s working.  Even though Johnny appears to have a thing for Meg, he and Tris still become friends.  Tris is even willing to bring Johnny in on the operation but, what Tris doesn’t realize, is that Johnny Hackett is actually Treasury agent John Downey (John Hoyt)…

Needless to say, violence, betrayal, and death follows.

Shot on location in some of the seediest parts of 1940s Los Angeles, Trapped is a fast-paced and exciting film noir.  (This is one of those films, like The Black Book, where shadows are literally everywhere.)  Lloyd Bridges (who, as a young man, could have passed for Kirk Douglas’s brother) gives a great performance as the charming but ultimately cold-hearted Tris Stewart while John Hoyt does a fairly good job as the conflicted Downey.  Barbara Payton, one of the more tragic figures from Hollywood’s Golden Age, does such a good job as Meg that it’s even more tragic to consider that, just a few years after making Trapped, her career would be destroyed by alcoholism and personal scandal and she would eventually end up as a homeless prostitute on Sunset Boulevard.

Trapped was a good discovery and you can watch it below!

Things Could Be Better: 5 Fictional Presidents Who Were Surprisingly Good At Their Job


americathon

Since we already looked at 8 fictional presidents who were terrible at their job, here are 5 fictional presidents who were surprisingly good at their job.

1) President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho (Terry Crews) in Idiocracy (2006)

Sure, it’s easy to be critical of President Comacho.  During his presidency, there was famine, pestilence, death, and a total economic collapse.  His decision to irrigate the nation’s crops with sports drink called Brawndo did not help.  When Secretary of Interior Not Sure (Luke Wilson) decided to use water on the crops, instead of Brawndo, President Comacho sentenced him to die in a monster truck rally.  President Comacho did many things that we might disagree with but he was just giving the people what they want.  During the Comacho administration the people were happy.  Stupid but happy.  To his credit, when shown filmed proof that the water making crops grow better than Brawndo, President Comacho pardoned Not Sure and appointed him Vice President.  A good President always surrounds himself with the best and the brightest people available.

2) President Thomas “Tug” Benson (Lloyd Bridges) in Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993)

What can we say about President Thomas “Tug” Benson that hasn’t already been said?  The former admiral did many controversial things as President.  He complained that his ambassadors always left the country right after he appointed them.  He nearly invaded Minnesota.  He mistook the first lady for a spy.  He hit every other living President with a shovel (except for Gerald Ford, who just fell down on his own).  But what other President could swim to Iraq and personally engage Saddam Hussein in a  light saber duel?  To quote President Benson, “We’ll do this the old Navy way.  First man to die, loses!”

3) President Chet Roosevelt (John Ritter) in Americathon (1979)

When Chet Roosevelt is elected president, the former governor of California brings a sunny disposition, an optimistic outlook, and an encyclopedic knowledge of affirmative sayings to the White House.  America needs it because all of the oil has dried up, many of its citizens are living out of their cars, and a cartel of wealthy Native Americans are threatening to repossess the entire country unless their money is paid back.  How does President Roosevelt save the country?  First, he smokes a joint.  After that, he puts together a telethon — an Americathon — to raise the money to save the country!  Teddy and FDR would be proud!

4) President Taffy Dale (Natalie Portman) in Mars Attacks! (1996)

At the end of Mars Attacks!, 15 year-old Taffy Dale succeeds to the presidency after her father, President James Dale, is killed the Martians.  That may not be constitutional and Taffy is legally too young to serve but since there are only 10 people left alive at the movie and Tom Jones doesn’t want the job, an exception to the rules can be made.  By awarding the medal of honor to Richie Norris and his grandmother, President Taffy Dale lets those 10 people know that America will rebuild.

5) President John “Bluto” Blutarsky (John Belushi) in National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) and Where Are They Now?: A Delta Alumni Update (2003)

We should only be so lucky.

President Blutarsky