Friday, October 26, 2012

Halloween Horror Watch #6

Theatre of Blood (1973) -- Douglas Hickox
This is worth seeing just for the chance to watch Vincent Price play dress-up. He has more costume changes than a Lady Gaga concert (reference!). I not-so-long-ago learned that Price is a far better actor than those parodying him give him credit for. This isn't Shakespeare, except it is. Just more fun for the actor. Kevin Smith should just point people to Theatre of Blood so he can finally shut up about how much he hates critics.

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) -- Bill Melendez
Classic. Plain and simple. It's easy to forget that the Peanuts specials are insanely clever and witty in ways children can't understand. I was carving pumpkins while watching this and the disc continued on to a special called It's Magic, Charlie Brown from 1981. My impulse was to stop watching and put something else on, but I'm very happy I didn't. Once you get passed the off-model voices, the story is quite amusing. Snoopy turns Charlie Brown invisible at a magic show and he spends much of the special that way. It's The Invisible Man by way of Peanuts. Charlie Brown is even feistier than usual. Plus, he finally gets to kick the football! (I'm still not sure why Lucy was holding it for no one)

Garfield's Halloween Adventure (1985) -- Phil Roman
The Garfield of my youth had teeth. There are these infamous string of comics from 1989 and Garfield: His Nine Lives, which aside from having a variety of drawing/animation styles also features some stories that creeped me the hell out. Even Garfield's Scary Tales from 1990 had some pictures that made me afraid of certain pages. So don't be surprised when I tell you that Garfield's Halloween Adventure haunted my nightmares for a long time. The voice of the Old Man, the sense of dread, the ghosts (which are awesomely drawn), basically, everything after the songs stopped was terrifying. I love this special. And the songs still play on repeat in my brain.

Reflecting on my experiences watching this really make me appreciate being scared as a kid. You grow out of it and it becomes a fun memory that you can share with anyone of your age group and they will have had similar if no the exact same experience. Does anyone remember these? I don't know if I ever opened one up, the covers were so intimidating. (Sorry, I'm feeling particularly nostalgic about childhood scares after reading this... mostly the comments).

Ghost Story (1981) -- John Irvin
This started out with such promise: a frightened, naked man crashing through a window and falling to a pool side death. Awesome. Things go along swimmingly until the brother of the aforementioned man starts telling his scary story to get into this old man's club (simplified, but I really don't want to go into the intricacies of this plot). This story is a dead end and if the viewer is to believe everything is being told the the group of men as we are seeing it, then this particular storyteller must get off on telling old men how much crazy sex he's having with his girlfriend. We come back to present day and the movie gets good again until ANOTHER story is told, this time giving us critical backstory. This flashback is way too long and boring, too, and features a lot less nudity. I'm fairly certain that a decent movie could be constructed if you simply cut out the flashbacks. Conversely, had more, but shorter/tighter stories being told.

Honestly, the most notable aspect of this movie is that Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, and John Houseman are the four old men (the last film for all but Houseman). Most of the time I found myself asking what these men thought about the full-frontal male nudity and boobage on display when (if) they ever watched the entire thing. I imagine lots of "harrumph"-ing, indeed.

There's a lot about Ghost Story I want to talk about, but not here. Not now. This is a pretty effective trailer, though.

The Old Dark House (1932) -- James Whale
MELVYN DOUGLAS?! Again? What are the odds? I'm ridiculously and inexplicably happy about this coincidence (I post in the order I watch). It should be no surprise, but The Old Dark House is much better than Ghost Story, though sadly not as good as I'd hoped. It's still loads of fun with some great performances from Douglas, Charles Laughton, and Raymond Massey (who would eventually assume the role Boris Karloff, his co-star in this film, created the film Arsenic and Old Lace). Douglas is especially applealing.

This is quite different than the William Castle remake, which I'm glad about, but the house wasn't as much of a character as I was expecting. Most of the action takes place in one room and a staircase. There isn't much sense of a creeping dread and the actual threat is somewhat benign compared to my expectation. I could convince myself that that's all part of the comedy (much like Whale's Bride of Frankenstein and The Invisible Man, there is a lot of comedy featured), but I'm not sure that satisfies me.

Aside from not meetin my plot expectations, The Old Dark House is a lot of fun and totally worth checking out. At 72 minutes, there's not much of an argument against it.

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