Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Off Script: The Satanic Rites of Dracula

Film: The Satanic Rites of Dracula
Format: DVD from personal collection on rockin’ flatscreen.

Christmas money is a wonderful thing. Give me a $50 gift card and a used DVD store and I’m a happy man. I’m even happier when I locate a two-disc set of something like The Satanic Rites of Dracula for a good price (I got And Now the Screaming Starts! and a few others, too). I’m of the opinion that you can’t have enough Hammer horror, Peter Cushing, or Christopher Lee in one’s personal collection, so I snapped it up.

I can’t say I’m having buyer’s remorse, but it is certainly one of the oddest films in my collection. Yes, it’s a vampire film as the name would suggest, but this is not one of those Hammer films that tries to get all gothic on things. It takes place in the time it was filmed, so it’s a modern Dracula with modern henchmen and modern detectives working a case. Oh, there are certainly some acknowledgments of the source material beyond Dracula being the main foil and being played by Christopher Lee. After all, you can’t have a Dracula film starring Lee without putting Peter Cushing on the cast list as Van Helsing, can you?

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Pearl

Film: The Rose
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

There are a few important things I need to say before I delve too far into The Rose. The first is that I am an unabashed fan of Bette Midler as a human being; I think she’s aces. The second is that I’m not a huge fan of Bette Midler as a performer. Her style on stage as a singer doesn’t do a lot for me. Third, since that this is more or less an unofficial biopic of Janis Joplin, I should come clean on the fact that I genuinely dislike Janis Joplin as a singer. This means there are going to be some pain points for me here—we’ve got someone I don’t love as a performer acting as someone I don’t like as a performer, and she performs a lot.

So, yeah, this is an unofficial Janis Joplin biopic, which is clear pretty quickly. In fact, the only reason it’s not an official biopic is that Joplin’s family wouldn’t allow it. This is how the name of this movie went from Pearl to The Rose in the first place. And, unlike a true biopic, The Rose covers a very short period of time, a period that is awash in bad behavior, drugs, and alcohol.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Off Script: The Thing from Another World

Film: The Thing from Another World
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

I have a huge soft spot for science fiction from the 1950s. There’s something wonderfully na├»ve and goofy about it, a charm that really doesn’t exist in any other combination of time and genre in film history. Science fiction from these years contain the promise of galactic exploration and the danger of alien civilizations, often tinged with hints of Cold War politics. There’s nothing quite like them. When The Thing from Another World popped up on TCM, I jumped at the chance to record it and rewatch it.

The biggest issue with The Thing from Another World is something that isn’t its fault. The film was reimagined in 1982 by John Carpenter, and Carpenter’s version is just about perfect. Unless you’re already a fan, it’s hard to get really excited about a version of the story that isn’t as good as the one you’ve already seen. Still, it’s sometimes nice to see where it comes from, and in this case, The Thing from Another World paved some ground that Carpenter later used to his own great advantage.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Director 1965

The Contenders:

William Wyler: The Collector
John Schlesinger: Darling
David Lean: Doctor Zhivago
Robert Wise: The Sound of Music (winner)
Hiroshi Teshigahara: Woman in the Dunes

Highland Flung

Film: The Hasty Heart
Format: Turner Classic Movies on big ol’ televison.

There are plenty of times I go into a movie without knowing a great deal about it. With The Hasty Heart, I didn’t even realize that this was a film with a military angle to the story. In fact, there’s not so much a military angle to the story as this is a very strange military story from front to back. In that respect it reminds me a bit of Tunes of Glory, except that this one is weirder in almost every regard.

The Hasty Heart earns some big points right away for placing itself in the most obscure and least-known corner of World War II: Burma. We’re also going to be not in combat for the most part, but in a makeshift British hospital. The war ends right at the start of the movie, a fact that is going to set up the premise for the rest of the film.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wednesday Horror: Predator

Film: Predator
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on laptop.

I’m often a little nervous going into a movie that was important to me in my past. If you grew up roughly when I did, you knew Predator when it was new. You loved it for Jesse Ventura and Arnold saying, “Get to the choppah!.” The predator itself was cool and the effects were like nothing anyone had seen before. It wasn’t Citizen Kane, but it was crazy and had cool effects and lots of explosions and paramilitary garb. It was absolutely the sort of movie you grabbed for a weekend from the local video rental place.

But when a movie like this is 30+ years old, whether or not it really holds up is a real question. There are plenty of movies from this era that do, of course. Ghostbusters is still funny, for instance. But not all of them do. I rewatched Stripes a couple of years ago and spent most of the running time waiting for it to be funny at all let alone as funny as I remembered it. So what about Predator? Does it still pass muster more than 30 years on?