A Movie A Day #293: See No Evil (1971, directed by Richard Fleischer)


After a rain, a car drives through a puddle and splashes mud on a man’s designer boots.  The owner of the boots follows the car back to a country manor and murders everyone inside.  (Did he really kill everyone in the house because his boots get muddied?  It is never really clear.  Before his boots got splashed on, he was looking at violent comic books in a shop.  Maybe Wertham was right.)  Later, Sarah (Mia Farrow), the niece of the car’s driver, arrives at the house.  As the result of a recent horse riding accident, Sarah is blind.  She walks through the house, unaware that she is surrounded by dead bodies and unaware that the owner of the boots left behind a bracelet that he will soon be returning to retrieve.

Obviously inspired by Wait Until Dark, See No Evil is a well-done cat-and-mouse game between Sarah and her unseen stalker.  Mia Farrow is great as the blind woman and the scenes of her unknowingly walking past the dead bodies of her family while being followed are tense and suspenseful.  See No Evil has been overshadowed by Farrow’s other two horror films, Rosemary’s Baby and Full Circle, but it is definitely worth a look.

Horror Film Review: Rosemary’s Baby (dir by Roman Polanski)


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“This is no dream!  This is really happening!”

— Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) in Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Yes, Rosemary, it is.

The classic 1968 horror movie Rosemary’s Baby is probably best remembered for a lengthy and wonderfully surreal “dream” sequence in which naive newlywed Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) is raped by the Devil while a bunch of naked old people stand around her and chant.  At one point, she sees her husband, Guy (John Cassavetes), saying that she’s awake and that she knows what’s going on.  Their neighbor, Minnie Castevet (Ruth Gordon), tells him that Rosemary can’t hear anything and that it’s like she’s dead and then snaps at him, “Now, sing!”  It’s a great sequence, one of the greatest of Roman Polanski’s career, a perfect blending of horror and dark comedy.

For me, the most interesting part of that dream sequence comes at the start.  Rosemary envisions herself naked on a boat and, as she tries to cover herself, who is sitting next to her?  None other than John F. Kennedy!  Suddenly, Rosemary is wearing a bikini and she’s relaxing out on the deck with a glamorous group of people who I assume were meant to be Kennedy relatives.  As the boat leaves the dock, Rosemary sees that her friend and protector, Hutch (Maurice Evans), is standing on the dock.

“Isn’t Hutch coming with us?” Rosemary asks.

“Catholics only,” John F. Kennedy hisses in that famous accent, “I’m afraid we are bound by these prejudices.”

“I understand,” a dazed Rosemary replies.

And it’s a wonderful little moment, though I have to wonder if I’d react as strong if my own background wasn’t Irish Catholic.  But still, there’s something so wonderfully subversive about a bunch of elderly Satanists pretending to be the Kennedys.

And really, Rosemary’s Baby is a wonderfully subversive film.  I imagine it was even more subversive when it was first released back in 1968.  It’s been ripped off and imitated so many times that it has undoubtedly lost some of its impact.  (That’s one reason why I wish I had a time machine, so I could go back in the past and see it was truly like to see a classic film for the first time.)  But still, 47 years after it was initially released, Rosemary’s Baby is still a surprisingly effective horror film.

The film opens with newlyweds Rosemary and Guy moving into the Bramford, an exclusive New York apartment building.  Guy is an actor who, despite having appeared in two off-Broadway shows (one of which was entitled Nobody Likes An Albatross and really, that is so true) and a few motorcycle commercials, is still waiting for his big break.  There are hints that, before she married Guy, Rosemary had a very active and interesting life (when we briefly meet her old friends, they all seem to be a lot more exciting than boring old Guy) but, when we meet her, Rosemary appears to have happily settled into a life of domesticity.

Life at the Bramford is strange.  For one thing, Guy and Rosemary appear to be the only young people living in the entire building.  (There is a young woman named Terry but she ends up jumping out of a window.)  The Woodhouses befriend elderly Minnie Castevet and her husband, Roman (Sidney Blackmer.)  Roman claims to have traveled all over the world and embarrasses the Catholic Rosemary by criticizing the Pope.  Minnie, meanwhile, is the noisiest person in the world.  Guy makes fun of both of them and, yet, he still decides to spend his free time with Roman.

One day, Guy gets a role that he had previously lost.  Why?  Because another actor is struck by a sudden case of blindness.  Shortly afterward, Rosemary has her “dream.”  She wakes up and discovers that her body is covered with red scratches.  Guy claims that he had sex with her while she was asleep and promises to cut his fingernails.

Soon, Rosemary is pregnant but the Castevets insist that she use their doctor, the firm and sinister Dr. Saperstein (Ralph Bellamy, who just 8 year earlier had played FDR in Sunrise at Campobello).  Rosemary knows that something is wrong with the baby but she can’t get anyone to listen to her.  It all leads to one of the best and most iconic endings in the history of horror cinema.

Rosemary’s Baby is a classic of fear and paranoia and it holds up surprisingly well.  See it this October, whether you’re Catholic or not.

(However, do not see the needless 2014 remake.  Seriously, what the Hell was up with that?)

(By the way, is anyone else amazed that I made it through this entire review without making a single joke about either Ronan Farrow or Mia’s lame Sharknado live tweet?  I am shocked.)

 

A Blast From The Past: Mia & Roman (dir by Hatami)


Mia & Roman is a short film that was filmed in 1968 to promote the release of the classic horror film, Rosemary’s Baby.

The film profiles director Roman Polanski and actress Mia Farrow, both of whom appear as being young and full of hope.  (It’s sad to think that, just a year after appearing happy and optimistic in the film, Polanski’s wife and unborn child would be murdered by the Manson family.  Polanski, of course, would later end up fleeing the country and he remains controversial to this day.  Mia, meanwhile, would eventually become both the mother of Ronan Farrow and an overrated SyFy live tweeter.)  Along with serving as a time capsule of the 1960s (and you know how much I love time capsules), Mia & Roman also features some behind-the-scenes footage from the making of Rosemary’s Baby.

Enjoy!

Horror Film Review: The Omen (dir by John Moore)


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There’s really only one reason to see the 2006 remake of The Omen and that’s the fact that the priest who convinces Ambassador Thorn to adopt the Antichrist is played by the great Giovanni Lombardo Radice.

If you’re a fan of Italian horror, you’ll immediately know who Radice is and, whenever he appears in The Omen, you’ll be momentarily excited.  After all, Radice is an actor who has given memorable performances in films made by iconic directors like Lucio Fulci, Ruggero Deodato, Antonio Margheriti, Michele Soavi, and Martin Scorsese.  He’s appeared in everything from City of the Living Dead to Cannibal Apocalypse to The House On The Edge of the Park to Stagefright to Gangs of New York.  As both a horror icon and an excellent actor who has always been gracious and friendly to his fans, Giovanni Lombardo Radice is one of those actors who movie bloggers like me are always happy to see in any film.

(And, if anyone deserves a role in a Quentin Tarantino film, it’s Giovanni Lombardo Radice.)

And Radice gives a really great performance in The Omen.  He plays the role with just the right combination of menace and regret.  When he first appears, you can tell that he’s determined to get Robert Thorn to adopt Damien but that he’s not particularly happy about having to do it.  He may be one of the bad guys but he’s a bad guy with a conscience.  Later, when Radice makes a second appearance, it momentarily re-energizes the film.  He’s just got such a unique screen presence that, whenever he’s on-screen, Radice reminds you of the film that you want The Omen to be.

As for the rest of the remake — well, it’s all kind of pointless.  The film is largely a scene-by-scene remake of the first Omen and, unfortunately, it never quite answers the question of why the film needed to be remade in the first place.  The Gregory Peck role is played by Liev Schrieber while his wife is played by Julia Stiles.  The doomed photographer is played by David Thewlis.  Mia Farrow shows up in the role of the sinister nanny and Mia actually does a pretty good job but whenever she was delivering her lines, it was impossible for me not to imagine a remake of The Final Conflict where Ronan Farrow plays Damien.

Otherwise, the same characters die as in the original film and, often times, they die in the exact same way.  It’s really almost lazy how little the remake changes from the original.  And, ultimately, it makes the entire movie feel more than a little pointless.  You’re left with the feeling that the only reason the Omen was remade was so that it could be released on June 6th, 2006 (a.k.a. 6-6-06).

So, when it comes to The Omen, stick with the original but watch the remake for Giovanni Lombardo Radice.

Horror on the Lens: Full Circle (dir by Richard Loncraine)


For today’s horror on the lens,we have a film from 1977.  I recently watched this film very late at night and — OH MY GOD!  Seriously, I had nightmares for two nights straight!

Full Circle opens with the horrifying death of Kate (Sophie Ward), the daughter of Julia (Mia Farrow) and Magnus (Keir Dullea).  After Kate’s death, Julia and Magnus divorce and Julia moves into a new house.  However, she is haunted by visions of a little girl who looks just like Kate.  As well, the house is full of odd noises, creepy toys, and appliances that turn on by themselves.  Is Julia seeing the ghost of her daughter or something far more dangerous?

Full Circle is a truly haunting and disturbing haunted house film.  Mia Farrow gives a great performance as Julia and the entire film is dominated by a palpable atmosphere of dread.  And that final scene — AGCK!

Somebody alert Mia Farrow … here comes Sharknado 2


As our regular readers know, I love SyFy original movies.

Whenever people discover that fact about me, they always assume that I must have loved Sharknado.  Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.  Sharknado was film that tried to force snark as opposed to generating it naturally.  One need only watch a good SyFy film — like End of the World — to see just how overrated Sharknado truly was.

But that’s the thing.  Most of the people who rave about Sharknado have never actually seen any other SyFy films.  To me, everything that I disliked about Sharknado was captured in the image of Mia Farrow and Phillip Roth live-tweeting along with the film.  Everyone knows that Mia Farrow and Philip Roth had never watched SyFy before Sharknado and they’ve probably never watched it after.  And, though they might not want to admit it, everyone knows that Mia’s Sharknado-tweets were pedestrian and predictable.  But, because she’s kind of famous and Ronan Farrow is a thing, we were supposed to be impressed.

Meanwhile, those of us who actually put SyFy original movies on the twitter map, were expected to be thrilled that a celeb had decided to come hang out with the common folks.

If you’ve seen Sharknado but you haven’t seen End of the World or Battledogs, then you don’t know what you’re missing.

(Or what you missed since SyFy appears to be getting out of the original movie business…)

Well, somebody call Mia Farrow because Sharknado 2 is going to be premiering on July 30th.  Judging from the trailer below, it appears that the entire cast will return for “the second one.”  And make no doubt, I will be live-tweeting this film because somebody has to show these false SyFy fans how it’s done.