Horror on the Lens: The Hound of the Baskervilles (dir by Sidney Lanfield)


For today’s horror on the lens, we have 1939’s The Hound of the Baskervilles!

Based, of course, on the novel by Arthur Conan Doyle, The House of the Baskervilles is well-remembered for being the first of many Sherlock Holmes films to star Basil Rathbone as the detective and Nigel Bruce as his loyal sidekick, Dr. Watson.  Interestingly enough, Holmes is absent for a good deal of the film, leaving it up to Watson to do the majority of the investigating.  That said, you can still see why Rathbone’s interpretation of the character proved to be so popular that he would go on to play Holmes in a total of 14 movies and one radio series.

Enjoy!

Something Wilder: THE ADVENTURE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES’ SMARTER BROTHER (20th Century-Fox 1975)


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The late Gene Wilder was well loved by filmgoers for his work with Mel Brooks, his movies alongside Richard Pryor, and his iconic role as Willie Wonka. Wilder had co-written the screenplay for Brooks’ YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, and now branched out on his own as writer/director/star of 1975’s THE ADVENTURE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES’ SMARTER BROTHER.

The zany tale, set in 1891, finds Sherlock’s jealous brother Sigerson (Wilder, who derisively calls his more famous sibling “Sheer-Luck”) assigned to the case of music hall singer Jenny Hill (Madeline Kahn) who’s being blackmailed by opera singer Eduardo Gambetti (the enormously funny Dom DeLuise ). Assisting Sigerson is his own Watson, the pop-eyed Sgt. Orville Stacker (Marty Feldman), blessed with “a photographic sense of hearing” that he can only access by whacking himself upside the head. The plot thickens as Sigerson learns Jenny’s a practiced liar (who only trusts men when she’s sexually aroused), she’s…

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The Game’s Afoot: THE SEVEN-PER-CENT SOLUTION (Universal 1976)


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Sherlock Holmes has long been a favorite literary character of mine. As a youth, I devoured the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories, marveling at the sleuth’s powers of observation and deduction. I reveled in the classic Universal film series starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson, and still enjoy them today. I read Nicholas Meyer’s 1974 novel “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution” as a teen, where a coked-out Holmes is lured by Watson to Vienna to have the famed Sigmund Freud cure the detective of his addiction, getting enmeshed in mystery along the way. I’d never viewed the film version until recently, and while Meyer’s screenplay isn’t completely faithful to his book, THE SEVEN-PER-CENT SOLUTION is one of those rare instances where the movie is better than the novel.

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This is due in large part to a pitch-perfect cast, led by Nicol Williamson’s superb performance as Sherlock. We see Holmes at his worst…

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The Third Annual Academy Awards: 1916


Over on Through the Shattered Lens Presidents the Oscars, Jedadiah Leland and I have been reimagining Oscar history, one year at a time! Today, we take a look at 1916, the year of Thomas H. Ince, Civilization, and Intolerance!

Through the Shattered Lens Presents The Oscars

Thomas H. Ince, the 2nd President of AMPAS Thomas H. Ince, the 2nd President of AMPAS

In the long history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1916 was dominated by one man: Thomas H. Ince.

Today, Ince is a largely forgotten figure and his many accomplishments have been overshadowed by the mysterious and potentially sordid circumstances of his death in 1924.  However, in 1916, Ince was one of the most popular figures working in the film industry.  He was the first producer to build his own studio in California and, with D.W. Griffith and Academy President Mack Sennett, founded the Triangle Motion Picture Company.  When, following the 2nd Academy Awards ceremony, Sennett announced the he would not be running for a second term as president of the AMPAS, Ince was the obvious choice to replace him.

As President, Ince immediately launched a recruiting drive to bring more industry professionals into the organization…

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6 Trailers From The Asylum


This week’s edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film Trailers is devoted to films that were produced by one of my favorite production companies, The Asylum.  

(As a sidenote, it is true that I usually try to feature trailers that are a bit older than these but what can I say?  I talked it over with the trailer kitties and we all love the Asylum.)

Enjoy!

1) Almighty Thor (2011)

While I enjoyed the other, better-known Thor, I could not help but think that it definitely would have been a better movie if it had featured more dinosaurs.  Apparently, the Asylum agreed.

2) Sherlock Holmes (2010)

Again, any movie can be improved with dinosaurs.

3) Mega Piranha (2010)

Among the Syfy Saturday Night Snarkers on twitter, Mega Piranha remains a truly iconic film.  This is perhaps the Citizen Kane of giant piranha movies.

4) Snakes on a Train (2006)

This trailer is actually kinda scary.  Agck!

5) Battle of Los Angeles (2011)

Could it really be any worse than Battle: L.A.?

6) Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies (2012)

Who needs vampires?

What do you think, Trailer Kitties?

Film Review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (dir. by Guy Ritchie)


One of my favorite films of 2009 was Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes.  I saw the first (of probably many) sequels to that film this weekend.  Now, I have to admit that I was kinda worried about Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  As much as I loved the first film, it definitely had the feeling of being a happy accident.  There were so many obvious ways to screw the film up that I found myself suspecting that that’s exactly what would happen with the sequel and I worried that a bad sequel would make it impossible for me ever to really enjoy the first film.  Well, having seen Game of Shadows, I can see that no, it’s not as good as the first film.  However, it’s still  pretty good.

Game of Shadows picks up the story a bit after the end of the first film.  Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) is still doing cocaine and solving mysteries in London.  Dr. Watson (Jude Law) is still his best friend and is still planning on getting married and, not surprisingly, Holmes is still not happy about the idea of losing him.  Holmes is also still investigating the mysterious criminal mastermind, Dr. James Moriarty (Jared Harris).  Holmes discovers that Moriarty is behind a series of world-wide anarchist bombings and, with the world on the verge of war, Holmes and Watson attempt to both figure out why and to thwart Moriarty’s scheme.  While I haven’t read enough Sherlock Holmes to say for sure (I read the Hound of the Baskervilles in high school and that’s about it), I get the feeling that, plotwise, this film was probably more James Bond than traditional Sherlock Holmes.  But no matter, it’s an intriguing enough plot and director Ritchie wisely doesn’t spend too much time trying to hammer home that similarities between Moriarty’s scheme and certain modern-day conspiracy theories.

If the first Sherlock Holmes was a comedy with some action scenes, this sequel is definitely an action film with a lot of comedic relief.  Whether or not this increases or diminishes your enjoyment of the sequel really depends on how you feel about the action genre in general.  To be honest, most big budget action films bore me several shades of silly and Game of Shadows pulls out all the usual tricks — slow motion explosions, fist fights full of jump cuts so quick that it becomes impossible to really keep track of who is actually fighting who, and the whole zooming into the barrel of a gun just as the trigger is pulled routine.  And yet these action sequences didn’t inspire my usual eye rolling, if just because it was obvious that the film itself understood just how over-the-top and silly all of it was.  The film has the decency not to demand that I take it seriously and for that, I’m more willing to accept the predictable parts than I would be with a film like Battle L.A.

Besides, even with the increased emphasis on action, the filmmakers still understand that what made the first Sherlock Holmes work was the chemistry between Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law.  Seriously, Downey and Law have some of the strongest chemistry in the movies today.  Certainly, there a more believable couple than Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher.  (It’s probably not a coincidence that the film, very early on, establishes that Watson is getting married and that Holmes is still mourning Rachel McAdams from the previous film.)  You buy their friendship and it’s just fun to watch these two actors bouncing lines off of each other.  Downey still comes across more like Robert Downey. Jr. than Sherlock Holmes (and that’s just fine with me) but Jude Law actually gets a chance to act in this film and he brings a lot of life to a character who, on paper, would just seem to be the prototypical sidekick. 

Joining the cast in this installment as Jarded Harris as the evil Dr. Moriarty and Noomi Rapace as the gypsy fortune teller who gets caught up in Moriarty’s latest scheme.  Now, you may be surprised to hear this with the current efforts to brainwash us all into being Rooney Mara-compliant but Rapace was the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and, regardless of the film establishment’s attempts to revise history, she is the one who made Lisbeth Salander into an icon.  Unfortunately, Rapace doesn’t get to do much here but I was happy to see her if just to know that the Hollywood establishment hadn’t succeeded in erasing her from history.  As Moriarty, Jared Harris doesn’t have a lot of scenes but he still totally dominates the entire film.  Harris’s Moriarty is truly serpent-like, outwardly smooth and calm but, on the inside, always ready to strike.  He makes Moriarty into such a memorable, genuinely threatening villain that he ends up giving the film an extra dimension that otherwise wouldn’t be there.  It’s a great performance and hopefully, when the inevitable third Sherlock Holmes film is made, Moriarty will be back and Harris will be playing him.

Trailer: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Official)


In 2009, we saw the first film in what Warner Bros. hoped would be the start of a new film franchise in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Down, Jr. in the titular role with Jude Law playing his intrepid assistant, Dr. Watson. The film did quite well in the box-office that a sequel was greenlit right away and here we are just five months from the premiere of the follow-up film, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

The first film introduced the character of Sherlock Holmes to the public who really didn’t know much of the iconic character. That film also introduced the one person who would become Holmes equal in intellect and deductive reasoning but without the moral center: Dr. James Moriarty. This arch-foil for Holmes is to be the main antagonist for the sequel and whoever decided to cast Jared Harris in the role of the good Dr. Moriarty should get a raise. Harris has always been one of those character actors who disappears into his roles in every film he has done but never seem to get any glory. Hopefully, once people have seen him in A Game of Shadows, this will change and he joins the likes of Mark Strong, Anthony Hopkins and others who toiled in relative obscurity until finally hitting it big as a charming villain in a major film.

New to the sequel will be Noomi Rapace just fresh off of her stand-out role as Lisbeth Salander in the film adaptation trilogy of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy. Also, joining the returning cast is Stephen Fry as Sherlock’s brother Mycroft Holmes. The film, as shown in the trailer, looks to ramp up the action and bring Holmes and Watson on a whirlwind tour of Europe.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is set for a December 16, 2011 release date.

Lisa Marie Does Murder By Decree (Dir. by Bob Clark)


A week ago, I had a very odd dream, one that was more disturbing than frightening.  I saw myself walking down a fog-covered street in London.  Simply by the way I was dressed and the distant sounds of horses crossing cobblestone streets, I knew that this was towards the end of the 19th century.  I walked down the street, aware that there were people near me who I could hear but couldn’t see because of the thick fog.  Finally, I reached a shabby-looking boarding house.  As I watched myself starting to open the front door, I realized that, in my dream, I was Mary Kelley, the final victim of Jack the Ripper.  And, by stepping into that boarding house, I was heading towards my own death.  That’s when I woke up.

Over on my twitter profile, I describe myself as being a “sweet little thing with morbid thoughts.”  I guess my fascination with the mystery of Jack the Ripper is an example of those morbid thoughts.  Out of all of the Ripper’s victims, Mary Kelley has always been the one that I’ve felt “closest” to.  She was murdered on November 9th, 1888.  I was born on November 9th, 1985.  Like me, she was a fallen Irish Catholic.  Like me, she had red hair.  While the other Ripper victims were all in their 40s, Kelley was only 25 years old and, for the longest time, I believed I was destined to die between my 25th and 26th birthdays.  (I’m 25 years old so hopefully, that was just my imagination working overtime.)  I think what truly made Kelly’s murder stand out in my mind is that she was killed in her own room, probably attacked while she was either asleep or passed out.  Being attacked while asleep has always been one of my phobias, one of the reasons why I’m often happier with insomnia than sleep.

Still, until my dream, I had given much thought to Jack the Ripper or any of his victims for quite some time.  After the dream, I ordered a copy of The Jack The Ripper Encyclopedia from Amazon and then I rewatched my personal favorite of all the Jack the Ripper films, Bob Clark’s Murder By Decree.

Released in 1979, Murder by Decree mixes the facts of the Ripper case and the fictional characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson with the same Royal Conspiracy theory that lies at the heart of the better known film From Hell.  Unlike From Hell, Murder By Decree is an almost bloodless film.  Instead of emphasizing the savagery of the Ripper murders, Clark chose to focus on creating an oppresively grim and paranoid atmosphere.  Whether it’s the ominous image of the Ripper’s carriage slowly moving through the London fog or Holmes’ visit to a nightmarish insane asylum, Clark’s London is a grim and forbidding dreamscape that almost seems to have sprung from some lost example of German expressionism.

Into this dark and oppressive atmosphere, Murder By Decree drops the familiar and comforting characters of Holmes and Watson (played, respectively, by Christopher Plummer and James Mason).   I have to admit that I’ve never actually been able to bring myself to read any of the Holmes stories (though I’ve tried) but the characters are both so iconic that I feel as if I had.  Both Holmes and Jack the Ripper are characters that everyone feels they knew about even if they’re not sure when they first heard of them.   Though this might sound rather gimmicky to have these two characters meet, a good deal of the film’s strength comes  from the contrast between the nostalgic innocence of Holmes and Watson and the harsh reality of Jack the Ripper’s London.  By the end of the film, when Holmes’ voice cracks as he describes the conspiracy behind the Ripper movies, he’s gone from being an icon to being a stand-in for everyone who has ever been disillusioned by what they previously believed in.

Plummer makes for a surprisingly physical Holmes but he does a good job with the role, bringing a surprising vulnerability to the detective.  James Mason, meanwhile, makes for a perfect sidekick and he and Plummer both have the type of chemistry that Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law could only dream about.  The rest of the cast is made up of familiar English and Canadian character actors and they all give memorable performances.  Donald Sutherland is excellent as a haunted psychic but my favorite supporting performance probably comes from David Hemmings who plays a shadowy police inspector.  This is because every time I see Hemmings on-screen, I’m reminded of Dario Argento’s Deep Red 

If I do have any issues with this film, it’s that it promotes the long discredited Royal/Masonic Conspiracy as a solution.  (This theory will be familiar to anyone who has seen or read From Hell.)  However, of all the various solutions that have been offered up in an attempt to explain and understand Jack the Ripper, the whole political conspiracy angle is undoubtedly the most cinematic and Clark makes good use of it here.  This is a film in which a growing sense of paranoia and unease seems to pervasively fill every scene just as surely as the London fog.  The viewer, in the end, is thankful to actually have the familiar characters of Holmes and Watson to identify with because otherwise, the worldview of Murder By Decree is almost unbearably dark.

By the way, the role of Mary Kelley in this film is played by a fellow redhead, the Canadian actress Susan Clark who tended to show up in a lot of low-budget, Canadian movies in the 70s.  Though she doesn’t have many scenes, she is sympathetic presence and Plummer’s reaction to his inability to save her from Jack the Ripper is a scene that has haunted me since the first time I watched this movie and every time since.