A fairly crazy Week In Dork. Managed to get Halloween off work and cranked out a fairly epic run of horror movie watching which climaxed at the AFI Silver theater with a trilogy of Vincent Price flicks (The Raven, The Tingler, & The Masque of the Red Death). The AFI pulled out all the stops for The Tingler with a brilliant acid trip light show, a skeleton screaming across the audience, and The Tingler actually attacking one trained professional. Next to seeing Batman Begins on IMAX with a surprised Philadelphia Comic Con crowd two weeks before the theatrical release, this was the absolute highlight in my theater going experience.
And then the week concluded with my co-dork's 12th Annual Hest Fest, a celebration of all things Charlton Heston. My first Hest Fest was nearly five years ago and it inspired my own Shat Attack parties. Last year I only managed to attend half of Hest Fest and I was not going to let that happen this year. Especially when it was being held at my place and would contain both Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments back to back--it took me 32 years to build the stamina to withstand those monstrous runtimes.
MOVIES OF THE WEEK!
Shocker: A craptacular cheesefest, Shocker wanted soooooo bad to be the start of a new franchise but Mitch Pileggi's limping electric serial killer never had a chance. As the film stretches to its climax with dreamscaper Peter Berg battling the villain through tv newscasts and Leave It To Beaver reruns this audience member is left scratching his head...who thought this was cool? There's an MTV wannabe vibe punctuated with strategically purchased Alice Cooper & Megadeth jams giving the proceedings an ultra un-hip nature. Goofy, is the word...but you gotta heart Pileggi.
The Black Sleep: The Black Sleep crams in Basil Rathbone, Lon Chaney Jr, John Carradine, Bela Lugosi, and Tor Johnson but this is really just a Herbert Rudley's picture. Wrongfully accused of murder, Rudley survives execution thanks to mad doctor Rathbone's Black Sleep formula. Recruited into body snatching and barbaric surgery, Rudley must choose between evil science and Patricia Blake's raven locks. Solid 50s horror with some killer climactic makeup effects, and it's definitely a treat to see all those icons on one screen, but the viewer is obviously left craving more.
Fantastic Mr. Fox: In a lot of ways, all of Wes Anderson's previous films have been building to The Fantastic Mr. Fox. It's a rollicking family adventure told through beautiful stop-motion animation that perfectly captures Anderson's deliciously artificial style. And Gosh! It's hard to pick a favorite character. George Clooney's super cool, arrogant Mr. Fox? Eric Anderson's karate natural nephew Kristofferson? Michael Gambon's psychotic, camper trashing Bean? Willem Dafoe's West Side Story switchblading Rat? There are so many fantastic characters, it's really hard to choose, but I'm gonna go with Jason Schwartzman's frustrated and desperate son Ash. He's a brat and a bit of a jerk (just like Dad), but you root for him. He's the cuss at the end you're crossing your fingers for, hoping he can prove himself and get that bandit hat. Makes me feel warm all over.
Too Fat For 40: Over the course of several nights I nodded off to bed watching this on Netflix Instant. When I was young, I adored Kevin Smith. I still enjoy Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, and even Clerks II. But I'm starting to get bored with Mr. Smith. And his latest Q&A tour movie just plods about with the pot and poop humor. I got a chuckle or two but that's about it.
The Raven: An extremely enjoyable, fantasy horror comedy that really has nothing whatsoever to do with Edgar Allan Poe's classic poem. Vincent Price plays a widowed sorcerer forced to team up with transformed Raven Peter Lorre and wet-behind-the-ears Jack Nicholson against evil wizard Boris Karloff. Half the joy comes from seeing these genre powerhouses do battle against each other, but The Raven is also loaded with plenty of low budget Roger Corman charm. Fun!
The Tingler: "Suicide? You mean murder." Every time you experience absolute terror a slug like insect called The Tingler manifests around your spine, and unless you scream your lungs blue you will die of fright. This silly, gimmicky fright flick is one of Vincent Price's best. He has always been a master of concocting sympathy while doing the most dastardly of deeds and his demented pathologist might be the jewel in his lecherous crown. Just a great creeper feature.
The Masque of the Red Death: Vincent Price is pure evil as the Satanist prince who lords over a dying town plagued by The Red Death only to hold orgies of gluttony and greed. No sympathy for Price here, just mustache twirling villainy! Hazel Court and Patrick Magee do their best to match Price's wretched worship, and Jane Asher swoons properly as the damsel in distress but we're all here for the big bad. And Roger Corman & Nicolas Roeg's trippy sets/lighting.
Ben Hur: At 222 minutes, Ben Hur is one long damn movie. And yeah, I could have easily cut out the last 30-40 minutes, basically everything after the epic chariot race that properly climaxes the film. Charlton Heston desplays the apporpriate gravitas for the role of the Jew prince betrayed to a life of slavery by his Roman childhood friend. Favorite parts of the film involve Jack Hawkins' fantastic supporting turn as the fatherly fair Roman warrior of the sea that returns Ben Hur to the favor of the people.
Dark City: "Everybody Gets Mad Sometimes." A great cast a jerkwads (Charlton Heston, Jack Webb, Henry Morgan, and Ed Begley Sr fix a poker game to rob welp Arthur Winant of all his dough. As with most cinematic poker scams, things do not go according to plan and a whole lotta death follows. Unfortunately, despite the great cast and the set-up, Dark City is exceptionally average... oxymoron? No, it's amazing at how dull this film truly is! I wanted to love it so badly, but it's soooooooooo meh.
The Ten Commandments: Okay, so maybe its a sign of my cinematic stamina but I could not handle the nearly four hour run time of this epically beautiful and infamous Cecil B Demille production. I really enjoyed everything pre-burning bush, but once Heston grew his God beard and led the Exodus...I kinda checked out mentally. Moses is a badass and he really knew how to handle his turn-on-a-dime Marvel crowds, but this movie is just too darn long.
The Crucifer of Blood: Horrible Shrew: "What Should I Do Now?" Heston Holmes: "Think and Die." Charlton Heston is a strange, oddball choice to play Sherlock Holmes but there is a solid made-for-cable mystery movie here involving a cursed group of military officers, a jumpy pygmy, and at least one horrible shrew. The Crucifer of Blood is definitely not going down as one of the great films of the great detective but it's an amusing two hours.
The Omega Man: A horrible adaptation of the Richard Matheson novel (I Am Legend), but still an extremely entertaining post-apocalyptic film in which Charlton Heston must machine gun his way through hooded, plague carriers in a desolate Los Angeles. He takes comfort in booze, talking to himself, an endless loop of the theatrical Woodstock, and fellow survivor's Rosalind Cash's pleasant, if fleeting PG nudity. The Omega Man is a hoot, and an essential entry in Heston Cinema.
Touch of Evil: "I'm not a cop anymore! I'm a husband!" After an explosive opening, Mexican police officer Charlton Heston (just get over the face paint, okay) attempts to contain his dignity as he battles the brutally, disgusting American copper Orson Welles. Welles' direction is as stunning as his vile portrayal of the corrupt monster--King Kong ain't got nothing on him. And Janet Leigh is tough as nails when she's not being pumped full of marijuana and sexually assulted. Great, classic cinema.
Treasure Island: This TNT pairing of Charlton Heston and his director son Fraser C Heston weilds an incredibly entertaining adaptation of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson novel. Christian Bale as the young Jim Hawkens thrust into the world of mutiny and pirates in a disastrous quest for buried booty. Fun small roles from Oliver Reed, Christopher Lee, Pete Postlethwaite, and Julian Glover guarantee a good night in at the movies.
Major Dundee: Union Prison warden Amos Dundee (the badass in a neckerchief Charlton Heston), collects his best troops as well as his best Southern Trash Confederate Prisoners (led by scene stealer Richard Harris) to go across the Mexican border to hunt down a bunch of bloody Apache savages. Along the way he rescues a village, cheats on a smoking hot German lady (seriously, Senta Berger), and pisses off the entire French army. The extended cut of Major Dundee is a fine film that shows the promise that director Sam Peckinpah delivers on in uber classics The Wild Bunch and Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia. And it's a man's movie. Heston, Harris, James Coburn, LQ Jones, Ben Johnson, RG Armstrong, and Warren Oates.
And there you have it. A lot of movies. But not a whole lot much else.