Re: General Movie Discussion Part II
More Halloween Movies I watched.
The Exorcist (1973)
This is my favorite Horror movie of all time. It might be because I was born and raised a Catholic and just have a familiarity with the subject matter, but this is a film that strikes a chord with me every time I see it. It is fascinating to watch, and in many ways, is the ultimate battle of good and evil in a spiritual sense. The film has been ripped off dozens of times to the point that Exorcism & Demonic Possession movies pack almost no punch anymore, but the blueprint still stands. The world created for the film is one that is ultra realistic, so it doesn't fall into any of the horror cliches, but rather gives us a fairly appropriate representation of what would happen if otherworldly events such as demonic possession would happen in our world (moreso than evin the novel I think). The scary scenes are top notch, loud, disturbing, and memorable, and the cast is all around very good.
One thing I will say is that I think I prefer the director's cut/special edition as there are some scenes missing in the original cut that I do miss. There are a couple of nice exchanges between the characters and of course the infamous spiderwalk which I can't believe was cut. Some of the extended scenes also better explain situations that weren't entirely made clear in the original version (like the revelation that Regan is seeing a doctor which had no set up in the original cut). I also feel that the Iraq sequence is a tad unnecessary. Yes, we get to spend time with Max Von Sydow's Father Merrin prior to the climax, but it doesn't say or add anything beyond "Scary statue" but that comes after several minutes. You really only needed that 30 seconds or so with the statue . Nit picking aside, I love this movie and the impact it has had since its release. Truly a classic.
Young Frankenstein (1974)
From the brilliant comic mind of Mel Brooks, we get this wonderful parody of the Universal monster classics, and boy oh boy do I love this movie. Growing up with the Frankenstein films, this was just right up my alley. All the jokes & characters were just spot on and they put a lot of effort into creating the look & feel of those old movies while also having a great time with great characters & great jokes. Everyone is great here: Peter Boyle as The Monster; Marty Feldman is I-go; Gene Wilder as Dr. Franeknstein; Teri Garr as Inga; Madeline Kahn as Elizabeth; Kennth Mars as The Inspector (my favorite character); and Cloris Leechman as Frau Blucher (cue the horses & lightning). It is just a wonderful and perfect cast and they pulled this film together fantastically.
It is hard to think of this as a film to watch at Halloween time given its bright & sunny setting. However, Psycho made you afraid to take a shower, The Exorcist scared you into going to church, A Nightmare on Elm Street made you afraid to go to sleep, & this is the film that made you afraid to go swim in the waters. This is another film that has been ripped off to death and had a ton of bad sequels, but there is only one original. This movie also far surpasses the book which was bogged down with senseless subplots and less than appealing characters. Here, it is kept simple and ultimately the film benefits from it. The shark is a great beast that invokes terror, even when we don't see it (which is rare actually), but the heart of the film comes from the three main characters of Brody, Quint, & Hooper. At its core, it si a simple story of three completely different men hunting down a dangerous shark, but their interactions with each other really carry the movie and make their journey worth following.
Best slasher movie ever. it is just brilliant in its simplicity. We have a masked lunatic with unknown motivations plotting to kill off all the babysitters on one street on Halloween night. That's your story, but the atmosphere, the building of the tension, the music, the brilliant pacing & direction, & some great cast members make this movie an event. Jamie Lee Curtis is awesome as the lead girl and embodies the intelligent yet vulnerable character. Donald Pleasence basically serves as the Van Helsing of the story and lends a lot of credibility to the film both as an actor and as a spokesperson for Myers' background. As for Michael Myers, what can you say? He is one of the trendsetters of horror slashers. The mask is a perfect indicator of his personality. He is just a blank slate. No soul, no remorese, and no rhyme or reason. He is just an unstoppable force for evil. The best part about this movie is that compared to most slasher films, it isn't even that violent. It is just really well handled and all the scares are great. There were other great slasher villains before and after this that are arguably better than Myers (Norman Bates, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kruegar, etc.) but as a film, Halloween stands head and shoulders about the rest.
I finally got a chance to see this movie and to be honest, I was greatly disappointed. I looked at the cast: Frank Langella as Dracula? Awesome. Lawrence Olivier as Van Helsing? Double Awesome. Donald Pleasence as Dr. Seward? Not a huge role, but still great to have him around. Combine that with more conventional film making techniques compared to the 30s & 50s when the first Universal & Hammer versions came out, and I expected one of the best Draculas ever. Oh how wrong I was.
There are so many weird things that happen that I am not even sure where to start. I won't give it away, but the very last shot of the film, the visual we close on, is laughably bad. The death of Dracula's first victim is unintentionally hilarious. Renfield doesn't have a big enough role to play. Lawrence Olivier, one of the greatest actors of all time, turned out a Van Helsing that felt cartoonish. There are other story and pacing problems, and it is all a shame because I really liked Langella in the role and the direction they opted to go in by making Dracula less of a predator and more of a romantic seducer. it was different and it set him apart from what came before him. It was also cool to see things like him turning into a Wolf and scaling up & down walls, stuff that was impossible in the Lugoshi version, and to be honest, the movie looks great. It is all a shame it is bogged down by so many other problems because this was a chance to make a truly perfect Dracula film.
The major achievement of this film isn't just that it is scary (though it is). It is that it was able to create and present to us one of the greatest movie monsters of all time. The Alien here is just so unique comapred to everything else that came before it that I often wonder how on Earth they were able to even conceive of it. Everything from the way it behaves to how it reproduces to how it looks just sets it apart from every Alien movie monster that came before it. Cool monster aside though, I love the world that was created as it has its own unque vision of the future as well. As for great characters, the only ones that really stand out are Ripley and maybe Ash, but that is enough. Sigourney Weaver as Ripley is the quintessential bad ass female heroine and her strength carries the film and gives us somebody to root for along the way. Alien is a classic in every sense and its great to watch at this time of year.