RIP, Carl Reiner


I just heard that Carl Reiner has died.  He was 98 years old and he was one of the funniest men who ever lived.

By creating The Dick Van Dyke Show, Reienr redefined the American sitcom and made writing comedy seem like the most wonderful and rewarding job that someone could hope to have.  Not only do you get to be funny 24 hours a day but you also get to marry Laura Petrie.  In many ways, Reiner was responsible for a generation of writers flocking to New York City with dreams of writing for Saturday Night Live and Norman Lear.

Reiner was also an actor, a film director, and an always-entertaining talk show guest.  For many, he will also be forever known as the man who interviewed the 2000 Year Old Man.  In these interviews, Reiner asked questions to a 2000 year old man, who was played by Mel Brooks and who would largely improvise his answers.  This was a skit that Reiner and Brooks developed (mostly as an inside joke) while they were both writing for Your Show Of Shows.  It went on to become a beloved comedy classic and it is often cited as being the ideal comedy sketch.  Though Reiner played the “straight man” in the 200 Year Old Man routine, his contribution was just as important as Brooks’s.  Brooks may have gotten the most laughs with his improvised answers but Reiner always instinctively knew the right questions to ask.

Here they are performing it in 1967:

Carl Reiner, R.I.P.

Scenes That I Love: Putting On The Ritz From Young Frankenstein (Happy Birthday, Mel Brooks!)


Today, Mel Brooks is 94 years old!

Mel Brooks.  What can you say Mel Brooks?  Not only did he help to redefine American comedy but he was also responsible for bringing David Lynch to Hollywood.  Brooks was the one who hired Lynch to direct The Elephant Man.  It can probably be argued that, if not for Brooks, Lynch’s feature film career would have begun and ended with Eraserhead.  Brooks not only hired Lynch but also protected him for studio interference.  When the execs tried to make Lynch remove two surrealistic sequences from The Elephant Man, Brooks stood up to them.  When they requested a more conventional biopic, Brooks defended Lynch’s vision and the result was one of the best films ever made.

Of course, Brooks isn’t listed in the credits of The Elephant Man.  Though he produced the film, he went uncredited because he didn’t want people to assume that the movie was a comedy.  By doing so, Brooks missed out on an Oscar nomination but he also ensured that the film was taken seriously.  It’s hard not to respect someone who was willing to go uncredited to help make the film a success.

Though Brooks, as a producers, was responsible for a number of serious films, there’s a reason why Brooks is associated with comedy.  He’s a very funny man and he directed some very funny films.  In honor of Mel Brooks, here’s a scene that I love from 1974’s Young Frankenstein.

Happy birthday, Mel Brooks!

Horror Scenes That I Love: Frankenstein and his Creation Put On The Ritz From Young Frankenstein


This scene from 1974’s Young Frankenstein is not only funny but kinda poignant and sad.  I mean, you can tell that the Monster (Peter Boyle) is trying so hard to do a good job and what does it get him?  Not only does the audience turn on him but even his creator (Gene Wilder) starts yelling at him.

I mean, considering that the Monster had only been alive for a few days, I think he deserves a lot of credit for handling the performance as well as could be expected!  To me, the true monsters in this scene are the theater patrons who apparently brought cabbages and other vegetables with them to the theater.  I mean, you don’t pack a salad unless you’re planning on using it.

The performers didn’t have a chance.

Enjoy!

 

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 Scenes That I Love: Dr. Frankenstein and The Monster Dance In Young Frankenstein


Earlier today, my sister shared with us a look at Frankenstein through the ages. 

It seems only appropriate to follow that up with a look at the doctor and his creation putting on the ritz.

From 1974’s Young Frankenstein….

“A Little Nonsense Now And Then Is Relished By The Wisest Men”: RIP Gene Wilder


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The world just got a little sadder. News has been released that funnyman Gene Wilder has passed away at age 83 from complications due to Alzheimer’s Disease. Wilder was without question one of the greatest comic actors of the late 20th Century, beloved by both filmgoers and peers for the manic energy he brought to his everyman characters.

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Born in Milwaukee, Gene Wilder (nee’ Jerome Silberman) made his film debut in the small part of Eugene, hostage of the outlaw duo BONNIE & CLYDE. He then scored the plum role of neurotic accountant Leo Bloom, caught by in Zero Mostel’s scheme to produce a Broadway bomb in Mel Brooks’ THE PRODUCERS. This was the first of three Wilder/Brooks collaborations, each one funnier than the last. BLAZING SADDLES casts Wilder as The Waco Kid, an alcoholic ex-gunfighter who helps Sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little) bring peace to Rock Ridge. Best of all was YOUNG…

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Egging The McGufffin: HIGH ANXIETY (20th Century Fox 1977)


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Mel Brooks loves films as much as the rest of us do. After skewering Westerns in BLAZING SADDLES and horror movies in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, Mel set his satirical sights on Alfred Hitchcock in HIGH ANXIETY. The result is a film biff’s dream, with the gags coming fast and furious as Mel and his band of merry pranksters pay a loving but hysterical homage to the films of the Master of Suspense.

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Mel takes the lead here as Dr. Richard Thorndyke, the new head of the Psycho Neurotic Institute for the Very, Very Nervous. Thorndyke’s aide, the inept Brophy, thinks the former director was “a victim of foul play”. At the Institute, he meets oily Dr. Montague and starched Nurse Diesel, whose S&M/B&D relationship isn’t their only secret. Thorndyke has an ally in his mentor, Prof. Lilloman (say it slowly). The professor works as a consultant, and tries to help Thorndyke conquer his own…

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