July 2013

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pulgasari (1985)

I truly wanted to write this article as a Party Member North Korean film reviewer but the further I got the more racist it became and although it was hilarious I just can’t risk the chance it could be viewed as hate speak.  So…

  • Actors: Chang Son Hui, Ham Gi Sop, Jong-uk Ri, Gwon Ri, Gyong-ae Yu
  • Directors: Chong Gon Jo, Sang-ok Shin
  • Writers: Se Ryun Kim
  • Producers: Jong-il Kim
  • Format: Color, Letterboxed, NTSC
  • Subtitles: English
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Section 23
  • VHS Release Date: February 20, 2001
  • Run Time: 95 minutes

Pulgasari is a 1985 North Korean fantasy action film directed by Shin Sang-ok and Chong Gon Jo.  The film, a giant-monster film similar to the Japanese Godzilla series, was produced by the South Korean Shin, who had been kidnapped in 1978 by North Korean intelligence on the orders of Kim Jong-il, son of the then-ruling Kim Il-sung.

Kim was a lifelong admirer of the director and Kaiju-like films, and kidnapped the latter and his wife, famous actress Choi Eun-hee, with the specific purpose of making fantasy/propaganda films for the North Korean government.  Kim Jong-il also produced Pulgasari and all the films that Sang-ok made before he and Choi fled the country.

Teruyoshi Nakano and the staff from Japan's Toho studios, the creators of Godzilla, participated in creating the film's special effects.  Kenpachiro Satsuma – the stunt performer who played Godzilla from 1984 to 1995 – portrayed Pulgasari, and when the Godzilla remake was released in Japan in 1998, he was quoted as saying he preferred Pulgasari to the American Godzilla.

In feudal Korea, during the Goryeo Dynasty, a King controls the land with an iron fist, subjecting the peasantry to misery and starvation.  An old blacksmith who was sent to prison creates a tiny figurine of a monster by making a doll of rice.  When it comes into contact with the blood of the blacksmith's daughter, the creature springs to life, becoming a giant metal-eating monster named Pulgasari.

The evil King becomes aware that there is a rebellion being planned in the country, which he intends to crush, but he runs into Pulgasari, who fights with the peasant army to overthrow the corrupt monarchy.

Pulgasari has gained some popularity over the years because of the shocking story of Shin Sang-ok and Choi Eun-hee's kidnapping and strange captivity as the director and leading actress - the latter one excluding this film - of a total of seven films, for which the couple was simultaneously commissioned and forced to do by North Korea's government.  Jonathan Ross of The BBC stated that the film is intended to be a propaganda metaphor for the effects of unchecked capitalism and the power of the collective.

Shin later wrote the script for a loose remake of Pulgasari entitled The Adventures of Galgameth, which released in 1997.

Not shown outside of North Korea or South Korea for over a decade after its release in 1985.  In the early 1990's, the North Koreans attempted to market this propaganda film to foreign countries with no success. Finally in 1998 it got its first international viewing in Japan where it gained a small cult following.

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I forgot to include the name of my treatment that is still available for purchase, “The Conjugating”. 

The sequel involves the same choir taking a trip on a tug boat with a Captain and two deckhands (60 total now).  Two of the students sneak off to make out in a life vest storage closet that attracts the ire of a sea monster.  Every time it tries to sneak on board to enact it’s vengeance for teenagers awkwardly groping one another in a cramped space someone sees it and chases it back into the water.

Part three is set in a summer choir camp where our choir and six other High School choirs gather for whatever the equivalent of spring training is for choirs.  Counting the camp staff we are now topping out at a cast of 414.  When one of the rival schools discover and activate the Shen Nong Configuration, a powerful ancient artifact with the ability to summon The Divine Farmer, a semi-mythical ruler of early China credited by the Chinese as the inventor of agriculture, all hell breaks loose.  The twenty foot mythical being gets to working the soil around the camp to raise and harvest divine vegetables out of it’s hatred of the students not having a grasp of the benefits and dynamics of Communism.   Everyone eats really well that entire summer.

When Re-occurring Themes Become Cliché

So I’m watching Cabin In The Woods with my daughter a few weeks ago in the living room on a Sunday afternoon.  I have seen it once already and my daughter has seen it many more times than that but she wanted to see it again and I figured what the hell.  My wife is in the dining room catching up on email and half listening to what is coming out of the TV.  Not to ruin anything for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, and to make vague references to those who have seen it, I only really get interested once we get to “Dana and Marty find the elevator.”

We get a short time past that point when across the room I hear my wife say our family’s code word for something intellectual is about to come out of someone’s mouth and I must have everyone’s undivided attention, “Pause!”  My daughter and I stop the film and turn to receive the great wisdom that is about to be enunciated when my wife looks me dead in the face and says, “You ever notice how modern horror movies seems to borrow their plots from old episodes of Scooby-doo, Where Are You?  I mean using this one for example, there’s Fred and Daphne.  Marty is Shaggy and Dana is Velma, which I guess makes the other guy Scooby.  Five friends in a van go somewhere spooky and find a monster.  That’s every Scooby-doo episode I ever saw.”  And like most wisdoms that comes from my way-smarter-than-me wife, I stored it away in the back of my brain and went back to the movie.

Now I will assume that if you have digital cable like me you can search for upcoming movies for the next two weeks and I do that a lot looking for horror and sci-fi I either haven’t seen or haven’t seen in a while.  Want to guess what I started to notice in the horror movie descriptions?

Evil Dead (1981) - Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release flesh-possessing demons.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) - Five friends visiting their grandpa's old house are hunted down and terrorized by a chainsaw wielding killer and his family of grave-robbing cannibals.

Death By Dialogue (1988) - A guy and four of his friends visit his crippled uncle, a taxidermist who lives with his housekeeper next to a movie set. Pretty soon people start being killed in the manner they are in the script of the movie being filmed next door.

The Darkest Hour (2011) - In Moscow, five young people lead the charge against an alien race who have attacked Earth via our power supply.

Husk (2011) - A group of friends (5) stranded near a desolate cornfield find shelter in an old farmhouse, though they soon discover the dwelling is the center of a supernatural ritual.

Altitude (2010) - After a mysterious malfunction sends their small plane climbing out of control, a rookie pilot and her four teenage friends find themselves trapped in a deadly showdown with a supernatural force.

Cabin Fever (2002) - A group of five college graduates rent a cabin in the woods and begin to fall victim to a horrifying flesh-eating virus, which attracts the unwanted attention of the homicidal locals.

Pumpkinhead (1988) - A man conjures up a gigantic vengeance demon called Pumpkinhead to destroy the teenagers (5) who accidentally killed his son.

There’s Nothing Out There (1991) - Seven teens head up to a cabin on the lake for spring break. Mike has studied all horror films on video, and recognizes the signs of foreshadowing of doom.

Just Before Dawn (1981) - Five campers arrive in the mountains to examine some property they have bought, but are warned by the forest ranger Roy McLean that a huge machete-wielding maniac has been terrorizing the area.

The Creeper (1977) - Five doctors on a wilderness outing are stalked by disfigured, crazed killers.

Hmm, seems to be a pattern.  Group of [Odd Number, Usually Five] friends go somewhere kind of creepy and get into all kinds of trouble with a vaguely supernatural creature when they accidentally awaken it with their [sex, drug use, music, harassing the disabled, screwing around with the occult, forming a union, organizing a bake sale, etc..]

So with the obvious cliché in horror movies I announce my upcoming script is now available for purchase by a big studio.  It involves a High School Concert Choir (55 students), their bus driver, choir director and her assistant (58 total) suffering a bus breakdown in the middle of a rural cornfield.  When one of the students leaves to find help they return almost immediately with a strange book they found in the cornfield.  The book has words written on the cover in a strange language that is immediately recognized by one of the other students who happens to also be hardcore into AD&D as runic.  It says “Evil Comes To Those Who Open This Book.”  So they don’t and the tow truck shows up 45 minutes later since someone had a cell phone and tows the bus back to the closest civilization…But they never make the choir performance and bring shame to their High School.  Throw in a creepy scarecrow just leering at them the whole time and maybe some random nudity.  Scary Stuff Huh?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Trog (1970)

Joan Crawford's extraordinary career encompassed over 45 years and some 80 films.  After a tough, poor childhood, she was spotted in a chorus line by MGM and signed as an ingenue (role of a naive girl or young woman) in 1925.  Her portrayal of a good-hearted flapper in her 21st film, "Our Dancing Daughters" (1928), made her a star.  Crawford maintained this status throughout the remainder of her career, but not without setbacks.  She successfully made the transition to sound films, her Jazz Age image being replaced by young society matrons and sincere, upwardly mobile, sometimes gritty working girls (memorably in "Grand Hotel" 1932) and her mien adopting the carefully sculptured cheekbones, broad shoulders and full mouth audiences remember her for.  Her MGM films of the 1930s, though lavish and stylish, were mostly routine and superficial.  Despite mature and impressive performances in "The Women" (1939) and "A Woman's Face" (1941), both directed by George Cukor, Crawford continued to be given less-than-challenging roles by the studio.

In 1943 Crawford left MGM and her career took a decided upward turn after she signed with Warner Bros. the following year.  In numerous Warner Bros. melodramas and "films noir", a new Crawford persona emerged: intelligent, often neurotic, powerful and sometimes ruthless, but also vulnerable and dependent.  Memorable roles in "Mildred Pierce" (1945, for which she deservedly won an Oscar), "Humoresque" (1946) and "Possessed" (1947) restored and consolidated her popularity.  In her nine "films noirs" for Warner Bros. and other studios, as well in most of her non-"noir" features (such as "Harriet Craig", 1950), Crawford gave expert and fully realized interpretations.

After this brief period of success, Crawford's career declined once again, and in 1952 her remarkable business acumen told her to leave Warners.  She freelanced thereafter, notably for RKO in "Sudden Fear" (1952), a performance which earned Crawford her third Oscar nomination for Best Actress.  She was also memorable as a female firebrand in Nicholas Ray's outrageously stylized Western, "Johnny Guitar" (1954).  With the exception of "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" (1962), Crawford's performances of the 60s were mostly self-caricatures in second-rate horror films ("Berserk!" 1967, "Trog" 1970).  Although these later features were poor vehicles for her talents, she was a resilient and consummate professional with an uncanny knowledge of the business of stardom who was fiercely loyal to her fans and who continued to impose the highest standards of performance upon herself. Crawford was married to actors Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Franchot Tone and was portrayed as a cruel, violent and calculating mother by Faye Dunaway in the 1981 film, "Mommie Dearest", based on a scathing biography by her adopted daughter Christina.

  • Actors: Joan Crawford, Michael Gough, Bernard Kay
  • Directors: Freddie Francis
  • Writers: Aben Kandel, John Gilling, Peter Bryan
  • Producers: Harry Woolveridge, Herman Cohen
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Warner Archive
  • DVD Release Date: November 10, 2011
  • VHS Release Date: August 22, 1995
  • Run Time: 91 minutes

Trog is a 1970 science fiction horror film starring Joan Crawford in a story about the discovery of a caveman.  The screenplay was written by Peter Bryan, John Gilling, and Aben Kandel, and the film directed by Freddie Francis. Trog marks Crawford's last big-screen appearance.

While exploring a cave, students Malcolm, Cliff, and Bill are attacked by an ape-like beast.  When Bill is killed, the other two report the incident to the skeptical police and anthropologist Dr. Brockton (Joan Crawford).  The news media learn of the story, and a camera crew is sent into the cave to film the creature, but the beast chases them from the cave.  Dr. Brockton, who persuades the police not to open fire, shoots the beast with a tranquilizer gun and takes it to her laboratory where she discovers that it is a troglodyte, the missing link between man and ape. After Trog is calmed, a transmitter is inserted in its chest, and the beast begins to communicate with Dr. Brockton. One day a dog steals one of Trog's toys, and the creature kills the dog.  Consequently, Dr. Brockton is brought before a magistrate and told that the beast will have to be destroyed if it breaks loose again.  Sam Murdock (Michael Gough), a local land developer, and Dr. Selbourne (Jack May), a jealous rival of Dr. Brockton, conspire to free Trog, but when Murdock opens the cage, Trog kills him, goes on a rampage in the town, and takes a child back to the cave.  The British Army is called in, but Dr. Brockton requests an opportunity to try to save the child; she enters the cave and returns with the child, who had been treated kindly by Trog.  The army, however, will no longer allow the potential danger, and they destroy the cave and Trog with dynamite.

At the time of Trog's release, The New York Times panned the film but commented, "There is, however, a rudimentary virtue in Trog...in that it proves that Joan Crawford is grimly working at her craft.  Unfortunately, the determined lady, who is fetching in a variety of chic pants suits and dresses, has little else going for her."

Ned Daigle later commented, "Trog is truly ungodly. The performances are rotten, the Trog makeup is so bad it looks, at times, like it will slide right off the actor's face, and everything proceeds at a snail's pace to idiotic situations.  It's really sad to see such a huge star [Crawford] be consigned to the Z-grade abyss of films like this. But, hey, a girl's gotta eat."

The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of the The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

F**king Really?!

"Sharknado" just got even bigger: Regal Cinemas has announced that they will have midnight showings of the Syfy sensation across the country on Friday, August 2.

"Sharknado" -- Syfy's TV movie about a tornado that whisks sharks out of the sea and drops them in Los Angeles -- generated a Twitter frenzy when it premiered in mid-July and got such strong reactions from viewers that a sequel has already been ordered.

"Sharknado" will play in roughly 200 Regal Cinemas across the country on Fri., August 2nd at 12 a.m. (Find out where you can see it at a theater near you here.) The "Sharknado" sequel is set to air in 2014.

---Huffington Post

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Seven…Err, Three Movies of Sinbad

Ray Harryhausen's concept of a film starring Sinbad began in 1952, after he had filmed The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.  Harryhausen had always wanted to illustrate a living skeleton, and realizing it would look out of place in contemporary setting, needed a mythological tale to place it in.  His fondness for the Arabian Nights tales seemed perfect, and he wrote a 2 page outline entitled Sinbad the Sailor, drew key drawings, the first of which was of Sinbad fighting a skeleton at the top of a spiral staircase, and had discussions with numerous producers including George Pal and Jesse Lasky Senior.  However there was no interest and instead Harryhausen abandoned the project and instead agreed to work with producer Charles Schneer on It Came From Beneath the Sea.  This began a creative partnership that continued throughout Harryhausen's career.

After having successfully made three films together, It Came From Beneath the Sea, Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers and 20 Million Miles to Earth, in 1956 Harryhausen persuaded Charles Schneer to pursue the Sinbad film, even though RKO's Son of Sinbad had failed at the box office.  Schneer received backing from Columbia Pictures, and so The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Harryhausen's first colour film, went into production.  On its release in 1958 it was a complete, unexpected success.  The effects lessons learned during its making led to Harryhausen making The Three Worlds of Gulliver.  This was followed by Mysterious Island, after which Harryhausen considered making a second Sinbad film.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

Actors: Kerwin Mathews, Kathryn Grant, Richard Eyer, Leonard Nimoy, Ray Bradbury
Directors: Nathan Juran, Richard Schickel
Writers: Ray Harryhausen, Richard Schickel, Ken Kolb
Producers: Charles H. Schneer, Anna Sofroniou, Douglas Freeman
Rated: G (General Audience)
Studio: Columbia Pictures
DVD Release Date: November 30, 1999
Run Time: 88 minutes

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad is a 1958 fantasy film released by Columbia Pictures, directed by Nathan H. Juran and produced by Charles H. Schneer.  It was the first of three Sinbad films made by Columbia which were conceptualized and animated by Ray Harryhausen and which used a special stop-motion technique called Dynamation.

While similarly named, the film does not follow the plot of the tale "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor" but instead has more in common with "The Second Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor", which featured the giant roc bird.

In 2008, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Whilst Sinbad is on his way to Baghdad, transporting the Princess Parisa, who is to become his bride and secure peace between her kingdom and his, the ship encounters the isle of Colossa.  Sinbad and his men are attacked by a gigantic, bestial one-eyed Cyclops, and are saved only when the mysterious magician Sokurah appears and uses a magic lamp to protect Sinbad's men.  But in the process of escaping harm, Sokurah loses the lamp to the Cyclops.  He desperately wants to retrieve it and tries to persuade Sinbad to put about and return to Colossa -- but the captain won't jeopardize the safety of the princess or the success of his mission, and the Caliph of Baghdad feels the same way, even after  Sokurah amazes the court by conjuring up a snake-woman.  It is only when the princess is shrunk by an evil spell, the breaking of which requires the shell from the egg of the giant Roc -- which resides on Colossa -- that  Sokurah can get his expedition mounted, with Sinbad in command.  With a crew made up of a handful of his bravest men and some of the most desperate convicts in the Caliph's prison, he has to contend with potential mutiny at every turn, and the men are driven almost to madness before they even reach Colossa.  Once there, they find terrors as great as the Cyclops and the treachery of the magician, but Parisa -- in her tiny state -- also discovers the beautiful world inside the lamp, and the lonely boy genie who inhabits it.  They strike the bargain that, when Sinbad's bravery is added to the equation, will bring their quest to an end. If, that is, they can all survive the dangers that Sokurah puts in their path.

The film was, and continues to be, well-reviewed by critics and audiences alike.  It has a 100% rating at the aggregate movie review website Rotten Tomatoes, with several reviewers citing its nostalgic value.  Mountain Xpress critic Ken Hanke calls it "Childhood memory stuff of the most compelling kind" whilst Andrew Smith at Popcorn Pictures acknowledged that it was his favorite film, saying "Nothing beats this fantasy film for sheer thrills and entertainment".

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974)

Actors: John Phillip Law, Caroline Munro, Tom Baker, Douglas Wilmer, Martin Shaw
Directors: Gordon Hessler
Rated: G (General Audience)
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: June 6, 2000
Run Time: 105 minutes

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad is a fantasy film released in 1973 and starring John Phillip Law as Sinbad.  It includes a score by composer Miklós Rózsa and is known mostly for the stop-motion effects by Ray Harryhausen. The film is the second of three Sinbad films that Harryhausen made for Columbia, the others being The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger(1977).

It won the first Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film.

Sinbad and his crew intercept a homunculus carrying a golden tablet.  Koura, the creator of the homunculus and practitioner of evil magic, wants the tablet back and pursues Sinbad.  Meanwhile Sinbad meets the Vizier who has another part of the interlocking golden map, and they mount a quest across the seas to solve the riddle of the map, accompanied by a slave girl with a mysterious tattoo of an eye on her palm.  They encounter strange beasts, tempests, and the dark interference of Koura along the way.

Tom Baker played the role of Koura, the main antagonist of the film, (Christopher Lee was a front-runner to play Koura.)  Baker's performance helped him get the lead role in the TV  series Doctor Who, as the show's producers were impressed with his performance.

On a personal note: Out of all of Harryhausen’s amazing work, the Kali statue is easily the most impressive thing he ever put into a film.  And the fact that everything he has done has left me jaw-dropping in awe that is saying a lot.

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977)

Actors: Patrick Wayne, Jane Seymour, Taryn Power, Margaret Whiting, Patrick Troughton
Directors: Sam Wanamaker
Writers: Ray Harryhausen, Beverley Cross
Producers: Charles H. Schneer, Ray Harryhausen
Rated: G (General Audience)
Run Time: 113 minutes

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is a 1977 British fantasy film, the third and final Sinbad film that Ray Harryhausen made for Columbia Pictures after The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.  The film stars Patrick Wayne, Taryn Power, Margaret Whiting, Jane Seymour, and Patrick Troughton (Another Doctor Who reference).  It was directed by Sam Wanamaker.

Patrick Wayne (John Wayne’s Son) stars as Sinbad, who seeks the hand of Princess Farah in marriage but cannot get her brother, Prince Kassim, to agree to the match because he has been turned into a baboon by his evil stepmother.  In order to receive the blessing of Farah's brother, Sinbad must travel to a far away realm and find a wizard named Melanthius, the only one who can break the evil spell placed upon Kassim.

Harryhausen originally planned for an arsinoitherium to make an appearance in the film.  The massive, two-horned prehistoric rhino-like creature was intended to fight the troglodyte in the ancient shrine of the Arimaspi in the arctic. Harryhausen did preproduction designs showing the beast defeating the troglodyte, then getting caught and dying in a pool of hot tar.  Harryhausen also said he planned to have Sinbad and his crew fight a yeti in the arctic, but that this idea was rejected in favor of a giant walrus.  Harryhausen's stop-motion animation work lasted from October 1975 up to March 1977.

Because they were shot in close up, many of Harryhausen's models used in the film were larger than normal.  The model of the walrus was 20 inches long and 10 inches high.  The troglodyte was about 16 inches high, while the saber-toothed cat was about 15 inches long and 9 inches high.  Harryhausen made two baboon models: a highly detailed 24-inch long model for most of the animation sequences, and a much smaller 5-inch model for a few long shots.

Unmade Sinbad Movies:

Sinbad in the Age of Muses:  This was the title given on the first notes Harryhausen made in 1960 for the project that would become Jason and the Argonauts.  In this earliest concept, Sinbad would be one of the characters to accompany Jason onboard the Argo in search of the Golden Fleece.  Sinbad was written out of the film, as were the griffin and Medusa also mentioned in these first notes.

Sinbad and the Valley of Dinosaurs:  After making the very successful One Million Years BC, starring Racquel Welch, in 1966 Harryhausen briefly considered making a Sinbad film featuring dinosaurs, probably set in Mexico. The idea met with little interest, however, and instead Harryhausen made The Valley of Gwangi, about a valley in Mexico populated with dinosaurs, based on a story his mentor Willis 'Obie' O'Brien had proposed in 1941 but had failed to get filmed.

Sinbad's Voyage to Mars:  In early 1977, the year Star Wars was released, Charles Schneer began work preparing a script for a fourth Sinbad film, in which Sinbad would be transported to Mars from the Great Pyramid of Giza.  The idea behind the film was that Egyptian civilization was based on that of Mars, where Egyptian deities such as Anubis and Horus lived in pyramids among Mars' canals.  There were plans for creatures such as a 3-armed genie, a man-eating tentacled plant, a Roc, an aquatic canal monster and most prominently a sphinx to appear, as well as obelisk-shaped spacecraft.  It may even have tied in with the pyramid seen in Hyperboria in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.  Sadly no film companies were interested, and it was abandoned in favor of Clash of the Titans.

Sinbad and the Seven Wonders of the World:  In 1981, after finishing Clash of the Titans, Harryhausen and Schneer considered returning to Sinbad with a tale of the Seven Wonders of the World.  Sinbad would team up with Ali Barber and assemble a small, gold pyramid, the pieces of which are hidden in the Seven Wonders of the World.

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All Images found via Google Image Search.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Beyond the Wall of Sleep (1919) (2006) (2009)

"Beyond the Wall of Sleep" is a short story by American writer H. P. Lovecraft written in 1919 and first published in the amateur publication Pine Cones in October 1919.

Lovecraft said the story was inspired by an April 27, 1919 article in the New York Tribune.  Reporting on the New York state police, the article cited a family named Slater or Slahter as representative of the backwards Catskills population.

The nova mentioned at the end of Lovecraft's story is a real star, known as GK Persei; the quotation is from Garrett P. Serviss's Astronomy with the Naked Eye (1908).

The title of the story may have been influenced by Ambrose Bierce's "Beyond the Wall"; Lovecraft was known to be reading Bierce in 1919.  Jack London's 1906 novel Before Adam, which concerns the concept of hereditary memory, contains the passage, "Nor...did any of my human kind ever break through the wall of my sleep."

An intern in a mental hospital relates his experience with Joe Slater, an inmate who died at the facility a few weeks after being confined as a criminally insane murderer.  He describes Slater as a "typical denizen of the Catskill Mountain region, who corresponds exactly with the 'white trash' of the South", for whom "laws and morals are nonexistent" and whose "general mental status is probably below that of any other native American people". Although Slater's crime was exceedingly brutal and unprovoked he had an "absurd appearance of harmless stupidity" and the doctors guessed his age at about forty.  During the third night of his confinement, Slater had the first of his "attacks".  He burst from an uneasy sleep into a frenzy so violent it took four orderlies to strait-jacket him.  For nearly fifteen minutes he gave vent to an incredible rant.  The words were in the voice and couched in the paltry vocabulary of Joe Slater but the onlookers could construe from the inadequate language a vision of:

green edifices of light, oceans of space, strange music, and shadowy mountains and valleys.  But most of all did he dwell upon some mysterious blazing entity that shook and laughed and mocked at him.  This vast, vague personality seemed to have done him a terrible wrong and to kill it in triumphant revenge was his paramount desire.  In order to reach it...he would soar through abysses of emptiness 'burning' every obstacle that stood in his way.

The ranting stopped as suddenly as it had started.  This was the first of what would become nightly "attacks" of a similar nature.  The peripheral otherworldly images of Slater's visions were different and more fantastic with each successive night, but always there was the central theme of the blazing entity and its revenge.  The doctors were perplexed with the Slater case.  Where did a backward man like Slater get such visions, when surely an illiterate rustic like him would have had little if any exposure to fairy tales or fantasy stories?  Not that there were stories similar to Slater's.  Why, too, was Slater dying?

As an undergraduate, the intern had built but never tested a device for two-way telepathic communication.  The device was designed around his principle that thought was ultimately a form of radiant energy.  Heedless of any ethics, he attached himself with Slater to the device as Slater lay near death.  With the device switched on, he received a message from a being of light whose experiences had been what were transmitted through the medium of Joe Slater.  This being explained that, when not shackled to their physical bodies, all men are light beings.  The thought-message went on to explain that, as light beings within the realm of sleep, humans can experience the vistas of many planes and universes which remain unknown to waking awareness.

The intern understood that the light being would now become completely incorporeal, and undertake at last a final battle with its nemesis near Algol.  Joe Slater died then, and there were no further transmissions.  That night an enormously bright star was discovered in the sky near Algol.  Within a week it had dimmed to the luminosity of an ordinary star and in a few months it had vanished completely.

Actors: George Peroulas, Fountain Yount, Gregory Fawcett, William Sanderson, Kurt Hargan
Directors: Barrett J. Leigh, Thom Maurer
Writers: Barrett J. Leigh, Thom Maurer, H.P. Lovecraft
Producers: Jhano Ajemian, Jim Bolden, Koko Polosajian
Format: Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
Language: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Lions Gate
DVD Release Date: June 6, 2006
Run Time: 84 minutes

Joe Slaader is a mysterious mountain man being held in the Ulster County Asylum after the brutal murder of his family.  Edward Eischel, a young intern, sees something more than just an inbred monster in this new inmate, however.  Instead, he sees him as the harbinger of some greater and much darker force.  With bodies piling up, his job in jeopardy, and his sanity hanging in the balance he gives in to his obsession with tapping into Joe's hidden power, risking all that he has along the way.

William E. Warner at Amazon put it best when he said:  Just because a hulking monster with writhing tentacles out of it mouth appears for 3 seconds you can't call this Lovecraft.  This is an awful movie.  It tries to be psychological by constantly bombarding the view with shaky images of bloody stuff.  The movie steals all the clichés of Asylum movies and throws in a few scenes where high school level acting is attempted.  If you want a better Lovecraftian adaptation, check out the movie Dagon.  If I could give it 0 stars I would.  Oh. . .one more thing the special effects guy should study a bit more anatomy the gross scenes would be more scary and realistic.

Beyond the Wall of Sleep (2009)

When a new patient arrives at the asylum Dr. Kaufman must attempt to find the source of his violent madness.  Joe Slater has suffered his entire life from strange fits upon awakening, ranting and screaming to the heavens.  When Joe murders a neighbor in the throes of one of his attacks he comes under the care of the one man who may be able to discover what lies beyond the wall of sleep.

That is the extent of the information I can find on this film, so basically it exists…and has a MySpace page.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (2001)

Warning: Today’s article contains subject matter that could be construed as blasphemy.  If you are offended by religious humor then now would be a good time to move on to another website for the day.

Actors: Josh Grace, Murielle Varhelyi
Directors: Lee Gordon Demarbre
Format: AC-3, Blu-ray, Color, Dolby, NTSC
Language: English
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Mvd Visual
DVD Release Date: October 28, 2008
Run Time: 85 minutes

Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter is a 2001 cult film from Odessa Filmworks which deals with Jesus' modern-day struggle to protect the lesbians of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, from vampires with the help of Mexican wrestler El Santo (based on El Santo, Enmascarado de Plata, and played by actor Jeff Moffet, who starred as El Santo in two other Odessa Filmworks productions).

This film earned an honorable mention in the Spirit of Slamdance category at the 2002 Slamdance Film Festival.

The first testament says "an eye for an eye." The second testament says "love thy neighbor."  The third testament KICKS ASS!  The filmmaking team that brought you Harry Knuckles and won the "Spirit of Slamdance" prize with Harry Knuckles and the Treasure of the Aztec Mummy ups the ante with this tale of the ultimate action hero: Jesus Christ.  The second coming is upon us, and Jesus has returned to earth.  But before he can get down to the serious business of judging the living and the dead, he has to contend with an army of vampires that can walk in the daylight.  Combining kung-fu action with biblical prophecy and a liberal dose of humor, the film teams the Savior with Mexican wrestling hero El Santos against mythological horrors and science gone mad, and also manages to address contemporary sexual politics.  And did we mention that it's a musical?  This sure ain't Sunday School.

The movie begins with Jesus Christ sitting on a beach relaxing and comparing the kingdom of God to a sand castle.  He meets up with El Santo and a woman named Mary Magnum.  Together they fight lesbian-killing vampires.  Jesus fights with mixed martial arts skills and uses his carpentry skills to create weapons to slay vampires.

Time's Richard Corliss panned the film, finding that "the comedy is slack, the song lyrics feeble, the pace torpid".  Ken Eisner of Variety took a more neutral view, finding that "the film is too silly to offend".  Jason Nolan of The Harrow deemed the production "horridly wonderful" although uneven, noting that "with a film like this, you want it to be bumpy".  Film Threat's Eric Campos gave the film a generally positive review.


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What Science Fiction Means To Me

If you know anything about me, and you don’t for I am unknowable.  Then you would know that I am the rustle in the leaves when you walk by.  I am the shadow across your window when you try to sleep.  I am the face behind you in the mirror when you haven’t put your contacts in yet.  I am the night, I am acquainted with the night.  And I also wear stupid costumes for money if the cause is right.

But if your brains could understand me then you would know that there are two genres of science fiction I don’t care for.  The first is pulp.  I never cared for the type of novel where the hero was using his space TV to watch space sitcoms when his space alarm clock let him know it was time to go to space work, but first he needed to use the space toilet…you get the space idea.  But on his way home he ran into Persius Arachnia Five-Armed Queen of The Blue Rat-Spider People of Venus.  Together they will overcome the tyranny of the Space Government and maybe find love and have the author describe a painfully detailed zero gravity sexual encounter between them.

Isaac Asimov Edgar Rice Burroughs Edgar Rice Burroughs and Isaac Asimov are both guilty of this style of writing but are both undeniably masters of the sci-fi genre.   Burroughs for his Barsoom and Venus series and Asimov for far too many series and independent stories to list here.  Now don’t get me wrong, I cut my teeth on this style of writing, but as I got older so did it and I wanted less reminders of how everything in space was different and needed to be distinguished by it being Space [insert noun].  Not that I wouldn’t love to have the time to devote to reading all the John Carter or Foundation series.  But what really aggravates me is the second item on my list.

I need to explain how my process works.  Tomorrow morning I will start researching what I am going to write about next Tuesday, I have some idea what the rest of this week and most of next week looks like when it comes to articles and subjects of my tirades and those plans go into Outlook Calendar for reference.  In the course on my research I come across movies that although IMDB says are of a certain genre are either most definitely not or so vaguely connected to that genre it is laughable.  That is what would be the thing that annoys me the most.

As an example, according to Amazon.com - Fatherland is set in an alternative world where Hitler has won the Second World War.  It is April 1964 and one week before Hitler's 75th birthday.  Xavier March, a detective of the Kriminalpolizei, is called out to investigate the discovery of a dead body in a lake near Berlin's most prestigious suburb.

As March discovers the identity of the body, he uncovers signs of a conspiracy that could go to the very top of the German Reich.  And, with the Gestapo just one step behind, March, together with an American journalist, is caught up in a race to discover and reveal the truth -- a truth that has already killed, a truth that could topple governments, a truth that will change history. 

Now according to IMDB when this was adapted into a movie for HBO it became a sci-fi movie because of the alternate history plot element.  But that is all it really is, a plot element.  This is a dramatic thriller that happens to be set in a world where Germany wasn’t defeated in World War 2. 

A second example, excerpts from Wikipedia -  Never Let Me Go is a 2010 British dystopian science fiction drama film based on Kazuo Ishiguro's 2005 novel of the same name…The film begins with on-screen captions explaining that a medical breakthrough in 1952 has permitted the human lifespan to be extended beyond 100 years…

But after watching this because my daughter coerced me into it, I thought about it and yet again this isn’t really sci-fi.  This is closer to a dark young adult fiction story that makes reference to a sci-fi element that doesn’t have anything to do with the plot.  It was part of the exposition of how we got here and never spoken of again.

Are both of my examples good stories, yes they are.  Are either what I would call science fiction.  No, at least no more than saying Ripley and Cpl. Hicks stealing glances at each other in Aliens makes that a romantic movie.  I’m sure I could go on further but it’s late and bed is calling my name.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Man from Earth (2007)

Drexel Jerome Lewis Bixby (January 11, 1923 in Los Angeles, California – April 28, 1998 in San Bernardino, California) was an American short story writer, editor and scriptwriter, best known for his work in science fiction.  He also wrote many westerns and used the pseudonyms D. B. Lewis, Harry Neal, Albert Russell, J. Russell, M. St. Vivant, Thornecliff Herrick and Alger Rome (for one collaboration with Algis Budrys).  He is most famous for the 1953 story "It's a Good Life" which was the basis for a 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone and which was included in Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).  He also wrote four episodes for the Star Trek series: "Mirror, Mirror", "Day of the Dove", "Requiem for Methuselah", and "By Any Other Name".  With Otto Klement, he co-wrote the story upon which the classic sci-fi movie Fantastic Voyage (1966), television series, and novel by Isaac Asimov were based.  Bixby's final work was the screenplay for the 2007 cult sci-fi film The Man From Earth.

Actors: David Lee Smith, Tony Todd, John Billingsley, Alexis Thorpe, Richard Riehle
Directors: Richard Schenkman
Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
Language: English
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
DVD Release Date: November 13, 2007
Run Time: 90 minutes

The Man from Earth is a 2007 science fiction film written by Jerome Bixby and directed by Richard Schenkman. The film stars David Lee Smith as John Oldman, the protagonist of the story.  The screenplay for this movie was conceived by Jerome Bixby in the early 1960s and was completed on his death bed in April 1998, making it his final piece of work.  The movie gained recognition in part for being widely distributed through Internet peer-to-peer networks and its producer publicly thanked users of these networks for this.  The film was later adapted by Schenkman into a stage play of the same name.

The plot focuses on John Oldman, a departing university professor who claims to be a Cro-Magnon (or Magdalenian caveman) who has somehow survived for over 14,000 years.  The only setting is in and around Oldman's house during his farewell party, with the plot advancing through intellectual arguments between Oldman and his fellow faculty members.  The movie is composed almost entirely of dialogue.

In the tradition of such psychologically-charged sci-fi outings as The Next One (1982) and K-PAX (2001) comes the cerebral science fiction opus The Man From Earth (2007).  The story concerns Professor John Oldman, a scientist who summons a group of associates to a cabin one freezing night, and strikes them with a fantastic revelation: he is not a traditional human, but a 14,000 year-old immortal, who has survived centuries of evolution from the Cro-Magnon Era to the present.  In the hours to follow, Professor Oldman's earth-shaking assertion about himself challenges the men on spiritual, scientific and historical levels.  But the most incredible is yet to come - an even more astonishing truth in which the men's discussions culminate.

For further information on this film you can go to the Official Website for The Man From Earth.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

The Stepford Sequels (1980)(1987)(1996)

The Stepford Wives is a 1972 satirical thriller novel by Ira Levin.  The story concerns Joanna Eberhart, a photographer and young mother who begins to suspect that the frighteningly submissive housewives in her new idyllic Connecticut neighborhood may be robots created by their husbands.

Two films of the same name have been adapted from the novel; the first starred Katharine Ross and was released in 1975, while a remake starring Nicole Kidman appeared in 2004.  Edgar J. Scherick produced the 1975 version, all three sequels, and was posthumously credited as producer in the 2004 remake.

The term "Stepford wife", which is often used in popular culture, stemmed from the novel, and is usually a reference to a submissive and docile housewife.

Revenge of the Stepford Wives (1980)

Actors: Sharon Gless, Julie Kavner, Audra Lindley, Don Johnson
Directors: Robert Fuest
Format: NTSC, Color, Dolby
Language: English
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Embassy Home Entertainment
VHS Release Date: February 23, 1989
Run Time: 95 minutes

Revenge of the Stepford Wives is a 1980 made-for-television sci-fi/horror film inspired by the Ira Levin novel “The Stepford Wives.”  It was directed by Robert Fuest with a screenplay by David Wiltse. Sharon Gless, Julie Kavner, Don Johnson, Arthur Hill, and Audra Lindley starred in the film.  It is the first in a series of sequels inspired by the 1971 novel and the original 1975 film.

The film first aired on October 12, 1980.  Despite the suburban Connecticut setting, it was filmed in California as is evident by the presence of palm trees and canyons.

This is the first sequel in a string of stories suggested by, but not necessarily true to the original concept of the novel.  Although the feel, costumes, and even music suggest the original film, a new and different twist is written for the sequel.

A TV reporter arrives in Stepford to do a story on the American town with the lowest crime and divorce rates and the tightest real-estate market (no one ever leaves).  She needs an assistant, and after  interviewing the seemingly-plastic women of Stepford, jumps at the chance to hire the down-to-earth Megan, who's married to a newly-hired cop who hasn't yet moved into the town.  Four times a day a siren sounds and every woman in town takes a pill (they each claim it's a thyroid condition).  Accidents start to happen, Megan disappears for a couple of days, and the reporter realizes something is amiss.  When Megan returns as a full-fledged Stepford wife, it's time for action.

The Stepford Children (1987)

Actors: Barbara Eden, Don Murray, Tammy Lauren, Pat Corley
Directors: Alan J. Levi
Writers: Ira Levin, William Bleich
Producers: Edgar J. Scherick, Gary Hoffman
Format: NTSC
Language: English
Run Time: 96 minutes

The Stepford Children is the second of three made-for-television sequels to the 1975 cult film The Stepford Wives. The film premiered on the NBC network on March 15, 1987.  The film was directed by Alan J. Levi and written by William Bleich.

Kenny, the boy kidnapped on the lake early in the film would later become famous as Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

The robots evolved from the original depiction in the first film, who closely resembled mannequins or the animatronics found at Disneyland.  The advanced versions resemble "the Visible Man" toy, and this design was similarly recreated in the 2004 remake of The Stepford Wives.

In this sequel to The Stepford Wives, Steven and Laura Harding (along with their kids David and Mary) have moved to the quiet community of Stepford, CT.  Steven joins the men's club, which is still assimilating their wives into robots.  This time, they have begun to turn their out of control teens into robots as well.  Once they are assimilated, they are obedient, homework loving, big band dancing droids.  Laura, David, and Mary stumble onto this mystery, and they must avoid Steven's plans to turn them into robots.

The Stepford Husbands (1996)

Actors: Donna Mills, Michael Ontkean, Cindy Williams, Sarah Douglas
Directors: Fred Walton
Writers: Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat
Producers: Cynthia S. Holladay, Edgar J. Scherick, Mitch Engel, Natalie Hart, Sollace Mitchell
Format: Color, NTSC
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
VHS Release Date: May 18, 1999
Run Time: 120 minutes

The Stepford Husbands is a 1996 made-for-television thriller film inspired by the Ira Levin novel The Stepford Wives. It was directed by Fred Walton with a screenplay by brothers Ken Wheat and Jim Wheat.  It stars Donna Mills, Michael Ontkean, Cindy Williams, Sarah Douglas, and Louise Fletcher.  It is the third in a series of sequels inspired by the 1971 novel and the original 1975 film The Stepford Wives.

The film first aired on May 14, 1996. It was filmed in North Carolina.

This is the third sequel in a string of stories based on the original concept of the novel.  The first sequel, Revenge of the Stepford Wives (1980) starred Don Johnson, Sharon Gless, and Julie Kavner and suggested a similar drug induced compliance.  The second sequel, The Stepford Children (1987) starred Barbara Eden and hewed closer to the original.  This third sequel basically reverses the roles, with the women being the oppressors. Louise Fletcher's role, in particular, recalls the role of "Diz", the Men's Club President, in the original.

The Executive Producer for the film is Edgar J. Scherick, who produced the first film.

Jodi (Donna Mills) and Mick Davison (Michael Ontkean) move to Stepford, Connecticut, hoping that the change of scenery will help rejuvenate their marriage.  What they do not know is that the women of the town have plotted to mold their husbands into their versions of perfect men--sometimes with deadly results.

Newcomer Jodi is duped by her friend Caroline (Cindy Williams) into believing that her husband has serious problems that can be cured by spending time at the Stepford Institute for Human Behavior.  So Mick checks in to the clinic, where he is given an extra dose of behavioral therapy along with some psychotropic drugs.  When Jodi finally catches on to what's happening, she begins a desperate quest to rescue her husband from the hands of these manipulative people--before it's too late.

There also a documentary of the same name on the DVD of 2004’s The Stepford Wives.  It is a behind the scenes and making of type thing.

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