Once upon a time, local movie theaters staged “spook shows” for Halloween. These usually consisted of vintage horror movies like the original Frankenstein and Dracula along with a live stage presentation or at the very least staff members dressed up in ghoulish outfits. My friend Gary Meyer recently sent me some images from an Oakland, California magic journal of the 1940s and 50s that I’m pleased to share with you, in the hope that they may stoke some happy memories. If you want to see more of these—even on t-shirts—click HERE. (Long ago, at a Halloween Saturday matinee in Paramus, New Jersey, the theater manager announced that anyone in a costume would be admitted for free. I happened to be wearing my Cub Scout uniform that day and he waved me in! I can’t tie a knot or start a fire with sticks, but I’ve never forgotten this life-altering incident.) My regular attendance at Saturday kiddie shows brought me into contact with the schlockiest horror, fantasy and science-fiction films—mostly leftover prints of 1950s and early-1960s releases—but I enjoyed every minute.
I was not a fan of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, to put it mildly. While I have a mild degree of interest in gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, I have little patience for his drug-addled experiences—even with Johnny Depp as the writer’s fictionalized alter ego. Perhaps that’s why I responded better to The Rum Diary: based on another autobiographical Thompson novel, about his younger days, it’s Fear and Loathing-Lite, fueled more by alcohol than narcotics.
The setting is San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1960, where Depp shows up for a job on a local newspaper a day late, getting off on the wrong foot with ill-tempered editor Richard Jenkins. He agrees to room with fellow reporter Michael Rispoli and falls into a drink-sodden mist, occasionally fired up by the actions and musings of crazed—
Writer and sometimes-director Andrew Niccol fixates on the future and doesn’t offer a sunny outlook, whether it’s in Gattaca, The Truman Show, or S1m0ne. It should come as no surprise, then, that In Time is yet another trip into the dystopian world of tomorrow, where lifespan has replaced money as the commodity of choice, and people stop aging when they reach 25. If they’re lucky—or well-off—they can earn or exchange days, weeks, months, and even years, thereby extending their time on earth.
Yes, this is a story of haves and have-nots. Justin Timberlake plays one of the latter, who ekes out an existence from day to day until he chances to meet—
There are great moments in Anonymous, from its arresting opening scene (with Derek Jacobi rushing into a Broadway theater and striding directly onstage) to recreations of the first performances ever given of Henry V and Hamlet before a spellbound throng of groundlings. I, too, was captivated during those thrilling scenes, which is why it’s so frustrating that Anonymous nearly drowns itself in a sea of confusion.
Because no one wants to tell a story in chronological order any more, this saga hopscotches back and forth through three separate time periods (not counting the modern-day framing device with Jacobi). I know this because we see David Thewlis as Queen Elizabeth’s advisor William Cecil in three different makeups: as a middle-aged man, then older, then elderly. It’s easy to keep track of the Queen because she’s played in the two later stages of life by the magnificent—
There aren’t many behind-the-scenes Hollywood figures worthy of a one-person show, but Edith Head wasn’t just anyone. She was synonymous with costume design for the movies, with eight Oscars, 35 nominations, and over a thousand films to her credit. She became a TV personality and author who was recognized by the public, famous for her work with everyone from Clara Bow to Grace Kelly. (She even inspired a character named Edna Mode in the Pixar animated film The Incredibles.) Now actress Susan Classen is bringing her to life onstage in a play called A Conversation with Edith Head, which opens at the Odyssey Theater in Los Angeles this Friday, October 28, and runs through November 13. Glancing at the actress in character it’s hard to believe it isn’t Edith Head herself.
Classen co-authored the play with Paddy Calistro, a former fashion journalist who interviewed Head for the—
MONSTERS IN THE MOVIES: 100 Years of Cinematic Nightmares by John Landis (DK Publishing)
If you’re wondering, “Who needs another survey of horror movies?” I urge you to reconsider and check out this terrific book. No one is as knowledgeable or passionate about horror films and their offshoots than Landis, who’s made some pretty fair genre pieces himself (An American Werewolf in London, Innocent Blood, the Thriller video). His enthusiasm permeates every page of this oversized book, which is bursting with great photos and poster reproductions. His essays on various facets of the genre (Vampires, Werewolves, Monstrous Apes, Atomic Mutations, The Devil’s Work, Wicked Witches, Scary Children, Human Monsters, etc.) are lively and provocative. His book cites everything from Frankenstein to the sight of Humphrey Bogart covered with—
While watching the new Criterion DVD release of the exquisitely creepy Island of Lost Souls (1932), some of the black & white images photographed by Karl Struss took my breath away. There are scenes with Charles Laughton in almost complete darkness, where all we see is a tiny glint in his eye, or his face is illuminated by a cigarette match. The film is full of incredible moments like this. Talk about chiaroscuro…
Today, digital artists can paint any picture imaginable, as Robert Rodriguez did in his visualization of Frank Miller’s graphic novel Sin City, or Zach Snyder did in last year’s—
The archeologists who extracted artifacts from King Tut’s Tomb couldn’t have been any more excited than the movie lovers who witnessed the rebirth of Ernst Lubitsch’s The Loves of Pharaoh Tuesday night at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, on the exact date of the movie palace’s 89th anniversary. Piecing this 1922 silent film epic back together has been a formidable project for German film preservationist Thomas Bakels of Alpha-Omega, who told me it was even more difficult than restoring Metropolis! It took five years to complete the digital reconstruction and clean-up, even after the Munich Filmmuseum had gone through the laborious process of combining elements of prints from around the globe.
All I can say is, it was worth the wait. Incomplete prints have existed for years, with key differences depending on where it was first released: the American version had a happy ending, the Italian interpretation focused on the love story while the Russian release all but eliminated it. I think it’s fair to say that it wasn’t possible to fully appreciate the movie’s imposing beauty, scope or dramatic impact until now. Not only is it an impressive production, with crowd scenes and desert battles to rival C.B. DeMille; it also excels at—
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