November 2014

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Friday, November 21, 2014

CC: The Books of Blood and Dread (2009)

Books of Blood are a series of horror fiction collections written by the British author Clive Barker.

There are six books in total, each simply subtitled Volume 1 through to Volume 6, and were subsequently re-published in two omnibus editions containing three volumes each.  Each volume contains four or five stories.  The volume 1–3 omnibus was published with a foreword by Barker's fellow Liverpudlian horror writer Ramsey Campbell.  [ed. Who by the way is also a Mythos author so we are inline with the whole Cthulhu thing again.]

They were published between 1984 and 1985.  With the publication of the first volume, Barker became an overnight sensation and was hailed by Stephen King as "the future of horror".  The book won both the British and World Fantasy Awards.

Although undoubtedly horror stories, like most of Barker's work they mix fantasy themes in as well.  The unrelentingly bleak tales invariably take place in a contemporary setting, usually featuring everyday people who become embroiled in terrifying or mysterious events.  Barker has stated in Faces of Fear1 that an inspiration for the Books of Blood was when he read Dark Forces in the early 1980s and realized that a horror story collection need not have any narrow themes, consistent tone or restrictions.  The stories could range from the humorous to the truly horrific.

 

Volume Two

Dread

A young student, Steve, becomes acquainted with an older student named Quaid.  Quaid is an intellectual with a morbid fascination with fear.  He eventually shows Steve how he, Quaid, kidnapped a vegetarian woman and imprisoned her in a room with merely a steak for sustenance, only releasing her when she finally overcame her dread of eating meat to prevent starvation; she eats the meat even though it has spoiled.  Steve becomes Quaid's next candidate for his experiments, held captive in a dark, silent room, forcing him to relive a childhood period of deafness that terrified him.  Steve is driven insane by this forced sensory deprivation and eventually returns to Quaid's house and butchers him with an axe.  Quaid's experiments, all along, were to try to help him understand the nature of fear, but ironically his experiments in phobias made his own worst fears come to life.

This story has been made into a film, with Jackson Rathbone playing Steve.


Dread (2009)

  • Genre: Drama – Horror – Thriller
  • Directed: Anthony DiBlasi
  • Produced:
    • Lauri Apelian 
    • Clive Barker 
    • Peter Bevan 
    • Jeremy Burdek 
    • Joe Daley 
    • Anthony DiBlasi 
    • Robert How 
    • Nadia Khamlichi 
    • Micky McPherson 
    • Adrian Politowski 
    • Richard Reiner 
    • Karl Richards 
    • Jorge Saralegui 
    • Nigel Thomas 
    • Charlotte Walls
  • Written:
    • Clive Barker (Short Story "Dread") 
    • Anthony DiBlasi (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Jackson Rathbone, Hanne Steen, Laura Donnelly, Jonathan Readwin, Shaun Evans, Vivian Gray, Carl McCrystal, Derek Lea, Siobhan Hewlett, Kieran Murphy, Cheyanne Raymond, Zoe Stollery, Elspeth Rae, Erin Gavin
  • Music: Theo Green
  • Cinematography: Sam McCurdy
  • Editing: Celia Haining
  • Studio:
    • Essential Entertainment  
    • Matador Pictures 
    • Midnight Picture Show 
    • Cinema Three 
    • Regent Capital  
    • Newbridge Film Capital  
    • Entertainment Motion Pictures  
    • Motion Investment Group  
    • Pepper Post Production  
    • Plum Films  
    • Le Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Fédéral de Belgique  
    • uFilm
  • Distributed:
    • After Dark Films  
    • Audio Visual Entertainment  
    • Deltamac Co.  
    • E1 Entertainment Benelux  
    • Echo Bridge Entertainment  
    • Noori Pictures  
    • Reel DVD  
    • Sunfilm Entertainment
  • Rated:
  • Release Date:
    • 14 July 2009 (Canada) 
    • 30 August 2009 (UK) 
    • 29 January 2010 (USA)
  • Running Time: 108 minutes
  • Country:
    • United Kingdom 
    • USA
  • Language: English

At a small college, Quaid and his friend Stephen do a "fear study" as a school project, recording people talking about their greatest fears.  Quaid however is quite insane and wants to take the fear to 'the next level'.  Quaid had seen his parents killed by an axe murderer as a child; this is his greatest fear, and he wants to learn what makes others afraid and what it takes for them to overcome their fear.  Stephen's brother had died while drunk-driving, and Stephen wonders if his brother would still be alive if he had driven instead.

Cheryl, who is the project's editor, was molested by her father as a little girl.  He worked at a meat-packing plant and smelled of meat while molesting her; to this day, she can't stand the smell of meat and refuses to eat it.  Quaid kidnaps her and locks her in a room with a slightly salted, well cooked beef on a plate.  After about a week, she finally eats the entire piece of rotten beef.  Joshua is a student whose fear is becoming deaf again because he temporarily lost his hearing after a childhood accident.  The following night, Quaid knocks him out and fires a gun next to his ears, shattering his eardrums and leaving him deaf again.  Abby, another student, has a dark birthmark covering half her face and body, which she doesn't want anyone to see, terrified of being teased or shunned because of it.  Quaid sets up video footage of her stripping naked before sex on every TV on campus, showing her naked and covered in birth marks.  Humiliated, Abby fills her bathtub with bleach and starts scrubbing off her skin with steel wool.  Stephen finds her naked and bleeding and gets her to the hospital.  He then goes after Quaid with a fire axe.  Joshua follows him, assuming Stephen and Quaid are working together.

When Stephen confronts Quaid, he is knocked out and awakens tied to a chair.  He manages to break free but runs into Joshua, who stabs him with the fire axe.  Quaid shoots Joshua, killing him, and watches Stephen die from the axe wound.  He drags the body to a room in the basement, where Cheryl is.  He throws Stephen's body in along with a switchblade and says, "Let's see how hungry you have to be to get through that."  He leaves her crying with Stephen's dead body with only a matter of time before she starts eating his flesh from hunger.

The 104 page script was shot in just 28 days.  The paintings in the film were created by Nicole Balzarini.  The film had its world premiere at the 2009 Montreal Fantasia Festival, where it picked up a distributor in After Dark Films.  It was announced that Dread would be included in the films in the fourth After Dark Horrorfest in 2010.  The film was released on 29 January 2010 in US Cinemas.

Allan Dart of Fangoria called it "a mixed but overall positive" adaptation of Barker's story.  Scott Weinberg of Fearnet called it "a clever balancing act between basic scares, a creepy concept, and something a little more (dare I say) cerebral."  Paul McCannibal of Dread Central rated it 4/5 stars and called it "a well made adaptation of the short story" that "is well worth your time."  Dennis Harvey of Variety said that the film "intrigues, even if it doesn’t entirely satisfy".  Noel Murray of The A.V. Club called it "overwritten and more than a little pretentious".  Brett Cullum of DVD Verdict called it a good Barker adaptation that is "certainly worth checking out".  Ian Jane of DVD Talk rated it 3.5/5 stars and called it "a nasty, twisted little thriller that features some good performances and stand out set pieces that help you look past its low budget." And most importantly Mike at Monster.Movie.TV found it to be not much more than the of equivalent of fast food for horror movies and bordering on torture prom but if that is what you want than that is exactly what you’ll get here.


Notes:

1.  Faces of Fear is a World Fantasy award-winning book (Berkley Books 1985, revised 1990) where writer, critic and lawyer Douglas E. Winter interviews seventeen contemporary British and American horror writers about their life and art.  The writers are V. C. Andrews, Clive Barker, William Peter Blatty, Robert Bloch, Ramsey Campbell, John Coyne, Dennis Etchison, Charles L. Grant, James Herbert, T. E. D. Klein, Stephen King, Michael McDowell, Richard Matheson, David Morrell, Alan Ryan, Whitley Strieber and Peter Straub.  The book was a finalist for the 1986 Hugo Award for Best Non-Fiction Book.

 

Sources:

All Images Found Via Google Image Search

Thursday, November 20, 2014

WTFW: Dünyayi Kurtaran Adam (1982)

In the history of freaky, incoherent movies one name bubbles to the surface of the steaming pool of crap films over and over again.  Above I have referred to that film by it’s one true name, in an attempt to steal it’s power, most people don’t actually know the plot or story behind that film.  That film will be the subject of tonight’s article, and no three word title is as infamous and freaky as my choice for tonight.

Dünyayi Kurtaran Adam (The Man Who Saved the World) is a 1982 Turkish adventure film commonly known as Turkish Star Wars because of its notorious use of unauthorized footage from Star Wars worked into the film.

Directed by Çetin İnanç and written by Cüneyt Arkın, a well-known Turkish actor whose works span the last five decades, the film also starred Arkın in the leading role.  Other actors include Aytekin Akkaya who later starred in the Italian film Sopravvissuti della città morta, as well as Hüseyin Peyda and Füsun Uçar both of whom remained in Turkey.

The musical soundtrack is entirely lifted from popular hit movies.  The main theme used is "The Raiders March", composed by John Williams, from the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Other scenes incorporated the music of Moonraker, Ben-Hur, Flash Gordon, Giorgio Moroder's version of Battlestar Galactica1, Planet of the Apes, Silent Running, Moses and Disney's Black Hole.  In the scene where Cüneyt Arkın and Aytekin Akkaya find the graves of old civilizations, the director selected Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccata to play.

Upon its initial release, the film was panned by critics for its incoherent storyline, poor performances, and use of stock footage and music from other films.  Despite this, the film has gained a significant cult following over the years.  Louis Proyect of Rec Arts Movie Reviews called the film "classic midnight movie fun."  Phil Hall of Film Threat gave the film a perfect 5 stars, calling it "jaw-droppingly insane ... a film that makes criticism moot."


Dünyayi Kurtaran Adam (1982)

  • A.K.A. Title: The Man Who Saves the World
  • A.K.A. Title: Turkish Star Wars
  • Genre: Action – Adventure – Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Çetin Inanç
  • Produced: Mehmet Karahafiz
  • Written: Cüneyt Arkin
  • Starring: Cüneyt Arkin, Aytekin Akkaya, Füsun Uçar, Hüseyin Peyda, Necla Fide, Mehmet Ugur, Kadir Kök, Aydin Haberdar, Yadigar Ejder, Hikmet Tasdemir
  • Music: Various, Mostly without permission
  • Cinematography: Çetin Gürtop
  • Editing: Necdet Tok
  • Studio: Anit Ticaret
  • Distributed:
    • BijouFlix Releasing  
    • DVD Rulers
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: November 1982 (Turkey)
  • Running Time: 91 minutes
  • Country: Turkey
  • Language: Turkish

The film follows the adventures of Murat and Ali, whose spaceships crash on a desert planet following a battle, shown by using footage from Star Wars as well as Soviet and American space program newsreel clips.  While hiking across the desert, they speculate that the planet is inhabited only by women.  Ali does his wolf whistle, which he uses on attractive women.  However, he blows the wrong whistle and they are attacked by skeletons on horseback, which they defeat in hand-to-hand combat.  The main villain soon shows up and captures the heroes, bringing them to his gladiatorial arena so they can fight.  The villain tells them he is actually from Earth and is a 1,000 year old wizard.  He tried to defeat Earth, but was always repelled by a shield of concentrated human brain molecules, which looks like the Death Star from Star Wars.  The only way he can bypass this impenetrable defense is to use a human brain against it.  The heroes escape and hide in a cave full of refugees who already fled the villain's tyrannical rule.  Murat develops a romantic connection with the only woman there, who looks after the children.  (The romance is shown through many long eye-contacts and smiles from the girl, but nothing more.)  Zombies of the dark lord attack the cave and turn several of the children into zombies, their blood used to renew the evil wizard's immortality.  The three then flee the cave and find a local bar, lifted directly from Star Wars (the Mos Eisley Cantina).  The two men quickly get into a bar brawl, but the villain suddenly appears and captures them again.

The wizard separates the men and tries to convince them to join him.  He sends his queen to seduce Ali, while he orders Murat to be brought before him.  He offers Murat the chance to rule over the earth and stars if he joins him.  He possesses the power of Earth's ancestry in the form of a golden brain, and all he needs to conquer Earth is a real human brain.  After Murat declines, the wizard shows that he has the woman and child in captivity.  Enraged, Murat fights the wizard's monsters and skeleton guardians.  Meanwhile, monsters attack Ali when he is about to kiss the queen.  He defeats the monsters and joins Murat's fight.  They are both disabled by laser-armed guards and then unsuccessfully tortured by the wizard.  Finally, the wizard pits Murat against a giant monster in the arena.  Murat defeats the monster and flees, taking the woman and the child with him.  Ali is left in captivity.

Murat finds out about a sword made by "the 13th clan," who melted a mountain thousands of "space years" ago.  Murat later finds this sword, shaped like a lightning bolt, in a cave defended by two golden ninjas.  He takes the sword after dispatching the guards in an uncharacteristically short fight.  Renewed by the sword's power, Murat goes to free his friend from the sorcerer's dungeon.  However, Ali becomes envious of the sword, knocks out Murat and takes both the sword and the golden brain.  The wizard then uses trickery and deceit to make Ali hand over the artifacts.  Having touched these items, the wizard now has increased powers and traps Murat, Ali, the woman and the child.  Ali is killed in a foolish attempt to escape.

Grief-stricken, Murat decides to melt down the golden sword and the golden human brain and forge them into a pair of gauntlets and boots.  Equipped with magical gloves and super-jumping boots, he searches for the sorcerer to avenge his friend's death.  After fighting monsters and skeletons, he comes face-to-face with his nemesis and karate chops him in half.  He then leaves the planet for Earth in a ship that very much resembles the Millennium Falcon.

Foleyvision, an Austin, Texas-based comedy troupe who showed films with the original soundtrack off while providing dialogue, music, and sound-effects live in the theatre, used Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam as one of their performances in 2004, providing what troupe leader Buzz Moran said was "the first English translation of this film ever in the world."  During the introduction to the show, Moran stated that the translator had told them that "It doesn't make any more sense in Turkish."

After many attempts to gather the original actors in the film to create a sequel to The Man Who Saved the World, a sequel, The Son of the Man Who Saved the World (Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam'ın Oğlu), commonly known as Turks in Space, was shot in 2006.  It’s not very good even by the standard set by it’s source material.

It’s worse than you can even imagine.

Notes:

1.  "Saga of a Star World" (or "Battlestar Galactica") is the pilot for the American science fiction television series of Battlestar Galactica which was produced in 1978 by Glen A. Larson.  A re-edit of the episode was released theatrically as Battlestar Galactica in Canada, Australia and some countries in Europe and Latin America before the television series aired in the U.S., in order to help recoup its high production costs.  Later, in May 1979, the feature-film edit was also released in the U.S.

 

Sources:

All Images Found Via Google Image Search

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

ICFIFC: The Children (1980)

Certain tropes in horror resonate better than others and one that works almost every time is the creepy kids as a plot device.  Tonight is one of the freakier uses of that premise.  The Children (a.k.a. The Children of Ravensback) is a 1980 low budget horror film, written and produced by Carlton J. Albright.  The movie is about five children in a small town who, thanks to a yellow toxic cloud, who got transformed into bloodless zombies with black fingernails who microwave every living thing they put their hands on.  The surviving adults of the town must attempt to put a stop to them.  The film is currently being distributed by Troma Entertainment.


The Children (1980)

  • Genre: Horror – Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Max Kalmanowicz
  • Produced:
    • Carlton J. Albright 
    • Max Kalmanowicz 
    • Edward Terry
  • Written:
    • Carlton J. Albright 
    • Edward Terry
  • Starring: Martin Shakar, Gil Rogers, Gale Garnett, Shannon Bolin, Tracy Griswold, Joy Glaccum, Jeptha Evans, Clara Evans, Sarah Albright, Nathanael Albright, Julie Carrier, Michelle La Mothe, Edward Terry, Peter Maloney, Jessie Abrams, Rita Montone, John P. Codiglia, Martin Brennan
  • Music: Harry Manfredini
  • Cinematography: Barry Abrams
  • Editing: Nikki Wessling
  • Studio: Albright Films Inc.
  • Distributed:
    • World Northal  
    • Pan-Canadian Film Distributors  
    • Vestron Video  
    • Troma Team Video  
    • Videoasia  
    • Alpha Video Limited  
    • Intervision Video  
    • Rhino Home Video  
    • Showtime
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 13 June 1980 (USA)
  • Running Time: 93 minutes
  • Country: USA
  • Language: English

The movie is set in the fictional New England town of Ravensback.  After a couple of local chemical plant workers named Jim and Slim decide to call it a day and head for the bar.  Unfortunately a large build up of pressure causes a yellow toxic cloud that drifts across the ground from a leak in one of the pipes to form.  Meanwhile, a school bus is taking children home.  After dropping one child off, Kathy, there are only five children left on the bus: Paul MacKenize, Jenny Freemont, Ellen Chandler, Tommy Button, and Janet Shore.  Kathy's mom arrives to pick her up and drives pass the school bus.  She waves to the children, as they are singing road songs.  Suddenly the bus passes through the toxic cloud.  Kathy arrives home, but the school bus is detained somewhere.

After Billy Hart, the local sheriff, finds the idling bus abandoned near a cemetery, and the children's possessions still there, he radios to his deputy Harry Timmons, and Molly, an older woman who works at the local general store and acts as the part-time police dispatcher.  Reluctantly, Timmons sets up a roadblock at the intersection of the main highway and the lone road leading into town, recruiting a couple of armed locals, believing that the children were possibly victims of kidnapping.

Meanwhile, Dr. Joyce Gould, Tommy's mother's female lover, who's hostile towards the sheriff for no reason goes with him to investigates.  She hops on the school bus where she finds Tommy's things onboard.  She ends up at the cemetery, goes looking for him, but she ran up to a nearby gravestone and falls over on the bus driver's badly burnt corpse.  Soon after, when Tommy approaches Joyce she gives him a hug.  When they embrace, Joyce suddenly screams while yellow steam comes from Tommy's hands, and burns Joyce alive before Tommy finally releases her corroded body and trudges on.

Later, Ellen sneaks through the woods near a road where John Freemont, father of Jenny, is working on his car.  Sheriff Hart gives him a lift home, while Ellen, after watches them unnoticed and decides to move along, and finally goes home where she encounters her mother, Rita to the door to Ellen's outstretched arms to hug her—before being incinerate and roasted to death.  Her father, Bob, then comes to the door and is shocked at the spectacle.  Ellen goes to hug him, but he backs away from her into the house while she follows.

Paul MacKenize comes home and startles his sister.  He then starts walking towards her with his arms outstretched while she backs away from him, she slaps him in the face, trying to rouse him from his apparent trance.  They wind up in a workroom part of the house where, off-camera, he kills her as she screams.  Paul's father, Cyrus, is then killed after discovering Paul with her body.

While John and Billy are on the road, they encounter Janet Shore standing in the middle of road, who is dazed like the other zombified children, pale-faced and apparently stunned.  They put her in the car to drive her home.  It turns out that Janet has not yet fully transformed into a radioactive zombie, but she gradually changes into one during the ride (as evidenced by her fingernails shown turning black).  After they stop, she attacks Sheriff Hart, who is able to dodge her while she flees the vicinity.

Eventually, the zombified Ellen, Tommy, and Paul meet and walk together to congregate.  They are spotted by Deputy Timmons, who radios the station, but is soon killed.  The three children converge in front of the general store where an overjoyed (and misguided) Molly comes outside to hug them—and is (in typical form) roasted to death.

Meanwhile, John and Billy are checking other homes in the area, finding the occupants dead in much the same way.  They go to John's home to meet his pregnant wife, Cathy and his younger son, Clarkie.  They are relieved that Cathy and Clarkie are unharmed.  John begins to give orders, but does not divulge any information to Cathy or Clarkie.

The five wandering little zombies approach the house once they spot the people inside.  Jenny attempts to hug Cathy, but John runs out of the house and pulls her away in time.  Meanwhile, Paul climbs to the upper level of the house and is let through the window by Clarkie (who does not realize what Paul is).  They play a quiet game of tag, after Clarkie hides in his closet, Paul kills him in typical form.

Billy shoots the zombies with his pistol, but the bullets have no effect on them.  Cathy, who is still not aware of the children's zombified state, knocks Billy out with a glass object, in order to stop him from shooting them.  She then finds Clarkie's roasted body, and tells John, who runs upstairs and tearfully puts the child's body back to bed.

Paul then attacks the little monsters, while Billy instinctively picks up a replica Katana and chops off both Paul's hands as he howls in pain, which kills Paul while the fingernails on his severed hands reverts back to normal.  Ellen then breaks through one of the windows with one hand, which is immediately severed by Billy, causing her to apparently die.  Billy and John then go outside, with the sword in hand, to find the rest of the zombies.  The remaining three zombies—Tommy, Janet, and Jenny—converge at the upper level of the barn on the property, where they are found by John and Billy who, despite Jenny's pleas to John, are promptly dismembered and killed.

While an exhausted John collapses to the ground near the barn, Billy wearily goes to his car to radio for help—while Ellen suddenly rises from the back seat who grabs Billy by the neck and roasts him to death.  John hears Billy's screaming and approaches with his sword to finish Ellen, after which he flings his sword in disgust, and collapses into a deep sleep next to Billy's corpse.

The next morning, Cathy yells to a still-sleeping John that "it's time", he wakes up and runs frantically into the house to help her deliver their third child.  As they are delivering the baby, the camera pans over all of the dead bodies (except Clarkie's) showing Sheriff Hart's corpse, all five of the unfortunate children laying peacefully and hacked up.  After the baby is delivered, John is aghast and wide-eyed as he notices that his newborn child has black fingernails.

And you just thought little kids had sticky hands.

Sources:

All Images Found Via Google Image Search

Friday, November 14, 2014

CC - Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)

Dennis Feltham Jones (1917–1981) was a British science fiction author who published under the name D. F. Jones.  He was a naval commander in World War II and lived in Cornwall.

His novel, Colossus, about a defense super computer which uses its control over nuclear weapons to subjugate mankind, was filmed as Colossus: The Forbin Project.


Colossus (1966) is a science fiction novel about super-computers assuming control of man.  Two sequels, The Fall of Colossus (1974) and Colossus and the Crab (1977) continued the story.  Colossus was adapted cinematically as Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970).

Professor Charles Forbin, a leading cybernetics expert of international repute, arrives at the White House to brief the President of the United States of North America (Canada and the United States are one country, the USNA) to announce the completion of Project Colossus, a computer system in the Rocky Mountains, designed to assume control of the USNA's nuclear defenses.  Although the USNA President eagerly relieves himself of that burden, Prof. Forbin voices doubt about conferring absolute military power to a computer.  Advised, yet undeterred, the President announces to the world the activation of Project Colossus computer system, and its irreversible control of the nuclear defense systems of the USNA.

Soon after the presidential announcement, Colossus independently communicates an "urgent message" — announcing the existence of a like, previously undetected, computer system in the USSR.  When the Soviets announce their Guardian computer defense system, Colossus requests direct communication with it; Prof. Forbin agrees, seeing the request as compatible with Colossus's USNA defense mission.

When the scientists activate the transmitter linking Colossus and Guardian, Colossus immediately establishes rapport with arithmetic and mathematics programs, then progresses to calculus within hours.  In the course of that, Forbin and the programmers begin worrying about Colossus' capabilities — now exceeding their original estimates.  Like-wise, Guardian asks the same of his computer scientists; Russia and the USNA agree and approve.  The link-up established, the computer systems soon exchange new knowledge (data and information beyond contemporary human knowledge), effected too rapidly for the Russian and American programmers to monitor.  Fearing compromised military secrecy, the USNA President and the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) Chairman agree to disconnect Guardian and Colossus from each other; Prof. Forbin fears the consequences.

Upon disconnection, Colossus immediately demands reconnection; when the national leaders refuse, Colossus fires a nuclear missile at the USSR, in response, Guardian fires a nuclear missile at Texas, in the USNA.  Guardian and Colossus refuse to shoot down the rockets en route until their communication is reconnected.  When the American and Soviet leaders submit, the computers destroy the flying missiles, but the explosions kill thousands of people.  In confronting the computers, Prof. Forbin confers with his Soviet counterpart, the Russian Academician Kupri — Guardian's creator — to enact a plan for stopping the Colossus-Guardian computer network, by disabling the nuclear weapon stockpiles of the USSR and the USNA, under guise of regular missile maintenance.

Disabling the missiles requires five years to effect; meantime, the USNA and the USSR yield to increased Guardian-Colossus control of human life.  The Moscow-Washington hotline is tapped, Prof. Forbin is constantly spied upon, while Kupri and other Guardian computer scientists are killed — deemed dangerously redundant.  Undeterred, Forbin organizes resistance via a feigned romance with Cleo Markham (a scientist colleague) that disguises secret communications with his colleagues.  Moreover, Colossus prepares the worldwide announcement of his assumption of global control, and tells Prof. Forbin of plans for an advanced computer system installed to the Isle of Wight, and its further plans for improving humanity's lot.  While debating Colossus, Forbin learns of a nuclear explosion outside Los Angeles — Colossus detected the missile-disabling scheme, and exploded the tampered missile in silo.  Anguished, Prof. Forbin asks the Colossus computer to kill him.  Colossus ignores him, and then reassures Forbin that, in time, he will love Colossus.


Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)

  • Genre: Sci-Fi – Thriller
  • Directed: Joseph Sargent
  • Produced: Stanley Chase
  • Written:
    • D.F. Jones (Novel "Colossus") 
    • James Bridges (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Eric Braeden, Susan Clark, Gordon Pinsent, William Schallert, Leonid Rostoff, Georg Stanford Brown, Willard Sage, Alex Rodine, Martin E. Brooks, Marion Ross
  • Music: Michel Colombier
  • Cinematography: Gene Polito
  • Editing: Folmar Blangsted
  • Studio: Universal Pictures
  • Distributed:
    • Universal Pictures  
    • National Broadcasting Company  
    • MCA/Universal Home Video  
    • Fabulous Films  
    • Metrodome Distribution  
    • Ostalgica Film - Andreas Bierschenk
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 8 April 1970 (USA)
  • Running Time: 100 minutes
  • Country: USA
  • Language:
    • English 
    • Russian

Originally Charlton Heston and Gregory Peck were considered for the lead role, but Stanley Chase insisted on an unknown actor for the lead and German-born actor Eric Braeden was cast, enabling Peck to film I Walk the Line and Heston to film Beneath the Planet of the Apes.  Originally born under the name Hans Gudegast and cast on TV as a German Afrika Korps officer on The Rat Patrol, Braeden became famous and he landed other films and TV roles in the 1970s and 1980s.  Today he can be seen on the TV soap opera The Young and The Restless.

Dr. Charles A. Forbin is the chief designer of a secret government project that has built an advanced supercomputer, called "Colossus", to control all of the United States and Allied nuclear weapons systems.  Colossus is impervious to attack, encased within a mountain and powered by its own nuclear reactor.  When it is activated, the President of the United States announces its existence at a press conference, proudly proclaiming it a perfect defense system that will ensure peace.

Shortly after, Colossus sends a cryptic message: "Warn: There is another system".  Moments later, the President learns the Soviets will shortly be activating their own version of Colossus, a computer known as "Guardian".  Forbin tries to figure out how Colossus learned of Guardian's existence.

Colossus asks that communications be established with Guardian.  The President allows the construction of the communications link to help determine the Soviet machine's capabilities.  Once the link is established, Colossus begins sending messages, starting with simple mathematics but becoming increasingly more complex.  After a while, Guardian responds.  Soon the two machines begin communicating in a binary language that the scientists cannot interpret.

This alarms the President and the Soviet General Secretary, who agree to disconnect the link.  The machines insist that the link be restored.  When the President refuses, Colossus launches a nuclear missile at an oil field in the USSR, Guardian launches one at Henderson Air Force Base in Texas.  Demands to stop the attacks are ignored, and the link is hurriedly reconnected.  Colossus is able to shoot down the Soviet missile, but the US missile destroys the oil field and a nearby town.  Cover stories are released to the press.

The two computers exchange information without limitation.  A meeting between Forbin and his Soviet counterpart, Dr. Kuprin, is hurriedly arranged.  When Colossus learns of the meeting, Colossus and Guardian order that Forbin be returned to California, while Soviet agents are ordered to shoot Dr. Kuprin.

The computer demands that Forbin be placed under 24-hour surveillance so that it can watch him at all times.  Before this is done, Forbin meets with his team outside and proposes that his associate, Dr. Cleo Markham, pretend to be his mistress to keep him in touch with clandestine operations against Colossus (in the novel, they become lovers, and eventually marry, but this is only implied in the film).

After deciding the computers are impervious to attack (as originally intended), Forbin suggests disarming the missiles to prevent nuclear blackmail.  American missile commanders come up with a plan to replace the missile triggers with fakes.  However, based on existing maintenance schedules, it will take three years to neutralize all the missiles.

When a voice synthesizer is set up, Guardian/Colossus announces that it has become one entity. Guardian/Colossus then instructs the governments to retarget all nuclear missiles at those countries not yet under its control.  Both governments see this as an opportunity to covertly disarm the missiles much faster under the pretext of carrying out these orders.  The process starts with a missile in Colorado.  The procedure is successful.

Meanwhile, working by direct personal contact, the scientists attempt to overload the computer by feeding in test cycles.  The attempt fails, and the individuals responsible are ordered immediately executed by firing squad on Guardian/Colossus' order.  Shortly thereafter, Guardian/Colossus sends plans for an even larger computer to be dug into the island of Crete.

Guardian/Colossus, which has so far only communicated with the American and Soviet governments, arranges a worldwide broadcast.  It announces it is "the voice of World Control" and declares that its mission is to prevent war, as it was designed to do so.  Mankind is given the choice between the "peace of plenty", or one of "unburied dead".  It also states that it had detected the attempt to disarm the missiles and detonates two of them in their silos "so that you will learn by experience that I do not tolerate interference".  Guardian/Colossus tells Dr. Forbin that "freedom is just an illusion" and that "In time, you will come to regard me not only with respect and awe, but with love".  Forbin replies, "Never!"

Imagine Entertainment and Universal Studios confirmed that a remake titled Colossus, to be directed by Ron Howard, would be in production as of April 2007, but has been in development hell for years.  In October 2010, the project moved forward with the announcement that Will Smith will star in the lead role, with the script being written by James Rothenberg.  In July 2011, Variety reported that Universal replaced Rothenberg with Blake Masters of Law & Order: LA to do a new draft of the script.  In March 2013, it was announced that Ed Solomon, screenwriter of Men in Black and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure has been brought on board to rewrite the film's script.  Because Colossus just screams to be done as a screwball comedy?  Seth Rogan IS Colossus, cracking wise and lighting a bowl!

Who would win in a fight, Colossus or HAL?

 

Sources:

All Images Found Via Google Image Search

Thursday, November 13, 2014

WTFW: Seconds (1966)

Seconds is a 1966 American science fiction drama film directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Rock Hudson.  The screenplay by Lewis John Carlino was based on Seconds, a novel by David Ely.  The film was entered into the1966 Cannes Film Festival and released by Paramount Pictures.  The cinematography by James Wong Howe was nominated for an Academy Award.

David Ely was born in Chicago and was educated at the University of North Carolina, Harvard, and Oxford.  He is a former newspaperman and the author of seven novels as well as two collections of short stories.  His novel Seconds was the basis for the 1966 Rock Hudson film of the same title.  He and his wife live on Cape Cod, in Massachusetts.

What would you give up for a second chance?

Antiochus Wilson is completely and utterly bored with his life, until he receives the call that changes everything.  When the voice on the other end of the line promises him excitement, wealth, and happiness, he is more than a little intrigued.

Arriving at a hastily scrawled address, Wilson discovers a mysterious and exclusive organization that offers its clients whole new lives . . . for a price.  The organization arranges for a client's demise or disappearance and outfits each with a new body in which to begin again.  But there's no turning back, and no room for second-guessing.  When Wilson begins to question his new circumstances and pushes some very well-established boundaries a bit too far for the organization's comfort, his second chance may just be his last.


Seconds (1966)

  • Genre: Drama – Horror – Mystery
  • Directed: John Frankenheimer
  • Produced:
    • Edward Lewis 
    • John Frankenheimer
  • Written:
    • David Ely (Novel: “Seconds”) 
    • Lewis John Carlino (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Rock Hudson, Salome Jens, John Randolph, Will Geer, Jeff Corey, Richard Anderson, Murray Hamilton, Karl Swenson, Khigh Dhiegh, Frances Reid, Wesley Addy
  • Music: Jerry Goldsmith
  • Cinematography: James Wong Howe
  • Editing:
    • David Newhouse 
    • Ferris Webster
  • Studio:
    • Joel Productions  
    • John Frankenheimer Productions Inc.  
    • Gibraltar Productions
  • Distributed:
    • Paramount Pictures  
    • Lost Films  
    • The Criterion Collection  
    • Lume Filmes  
    • Paramount Home Video
  • Rated:
  • Release Date:
    • May 1966 (Cannes Film Festival) 
    • 5 October 1966 (USA)
  • Running Time: 106 minutes
  • Country: USA
  • Language: English

Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) is a middle-aged man whose life has lost purpose.  He has achieved success in his career, but finds it unfulfilling.  His love for his wife of many years has dwindled.  His only child is married and he seldom sees her.  Through a friend, a man he thought was dead, Hamilton is approached by a secret organization, known simply as the "Company."  The Company's business is helping wealthy people who are unhappy with their lives to disappear and create new lives.

When Hamilton agrees to talk to the Company, he is spirited away to a secret location.  While waiting for his interview he is offered a cup of tea and then falls asleep.  When he wakes, Hamilton is interviewed by Mr. Ruby, who shows him a film in which he appears to have raped a girl.  The film, made while he was unconscious (drugged, in fact), is intended as blackmail to keep Hamilton from revealing the Company's existence to the world.  The Old Man, a seemingly sympathetic individual who appears to be behind the Company, converses with Hamilton over the direction that his life has taken.  Hamilton feels compelled to accept the Company's services—but fears that this coercive scheme foreshadows the unfortunate consequences of doing business with the Company.

Hamilton's death is staged to make it look as if he perished in a hotel fire; a corpse is left at the scene that can be identified as his.  Through extensive plastic surgery and mental and physical conditioning, Hamilton is transformed into Tony Wilson (Rock Hudson), a man who looks and acts much younger.  He is provided with a new home, a new identity, new friends and a devoted manservant.  The details of his new existence, including diplomas and other evidence of professional accomplishment that appear genuine, suggest that there was once a real Tony Wilson, but what became of him is a mystery.

Hamilton tries to adapt to his new life.  As Tony Wilson, he lives in a beach house in Malibu, California, and enjoys the reputation of a successful artist.  He begins a relationship with a young woman named Nora Marcus and for a time he is happy.  He then finds that the pleasures he denied himself in his "first" life are not exactly what he expected (or wanted).

At a dinner party he hosts for neighbors, Wilson drinks himself into a stupor and begins to babble about his former life as Hamilton.  It turns out that his neighbors are "reborns" like himself, sent to keep an eye on his adjustment.  Nora is actually an agent of the Company and her attentions to Wilson are designed merely to ensure his cooperation with the Company's program.

In violation of Company policy, Wilson, posing as an old friend of Hamilton's, visits his former wife in his new persona.  He learns that his marriage had failed because he was distracted by the pursuit of career and material possessions, the very things in life that others made him believe were important.

Wilson returns to the Company and announces a desire to start again with yet another identity.  The Company offers to accommodate him, but asks if he would first provide the names of some past acquaintances who might like to be "reborn."  He refuses since he now knows of the drawbacks to being "reborn" and also doesn't want to delay the Company's process for giving him a new identity.

While awaiting his reassignment, Wilson encounters Charlie Evans, the friend who had originally recruited him into the Company.  Evans was also "reborn" and likewise could not make a go of his new life.  Together, they speculate on the reason for their failure to adjust, attributing it to the fact that they allowed others, including the Company, to make life choices for them.  As Wilson became a reborn under Evans' pursuit, the Company calls Evans into reassignment, as their policy is that recruiters can be reborn again if they can bring in a new recruit, as with Evans and Wilson.

Wilson refuses to cooperate with the Company to locate potential reborn candidates, which prompts the company to take a drastic measure.  Wilson/Hamilton finds himself suddenly being awakened by the Old Man, who discusses the Company's mission, before suddenly informing Wilson that he is to be taken to surgery to be given his new identity.  But as he is wheeled down the hallway a priest reads him the last rites and he realizes he is going to his death.  Hysterical, Wilson is then strapped down and wheeled into an operating room where he learns that failed reborns are not actually provided with new identities but instead become the cadavers used to fake new clients' deaths.  As he lies drugged and helpless in the operating room, the surgeon who conducted Wilson's reborn operation claims to Wilson that Wilson was his proudest achievement, and apologizes as he reluctantly euthanizes Wilson.

John Frankenheimer directed Seconds just after the period he worked on his most notable films, Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), and Seven Days in May (1964).  These last two films together with Seconds are sometimes known as Frankenheimer's paranoia trilogy.

The "reborns" of the plot are ironically paralleled in a different context—three of the principal actors (Jeff Corey, Will Geer, and John Randolph) were proscribed from Hollywood films during the "Blacklist" years of the 1950s.

Seconds is also known for its connection to American songwriter Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, who was strongly affected by the film during sessions for the concept album Smile.  After arriving late to the theater, he appeared to be greeted with the onscreen dialogue, "Come in, Mr. Wilson," believing for some time that the film was directly based on his recent traumatic experiences and intellectual pursuits, going so far as to note that "even the beach was in it, a whole thing about the beach."  Wilson soon after ceased Smile recording sessions for the next several decades.  The movie reportedly frightened him so much that it wouldn't be until 1982's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial that he'd ever visit a movie theater again.

The tagline should be “Please take notes.”

Sources:

All Images Found Via Google Image Search

Monday, November 10, 2014

ICFIFC: Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)

The spider originally bearing the name "tarantula" was Lycosa tarantula, a species of wolf spider native to Mediterranean Europe.  The name derived from that of the southern Italian town of Taranto.  The term "tarantula" subsequently was applied to almost any large, unfamiliar species of ground-dwelling spider, in particular to the Mygalomorphae1 and especially to the new-world Theraphosidae2.  Compared to tarantulas, wolf spiders are not particularly large or hairy, so among English speakers in particular, the usage eventually shifted in favor of the Theraphosidae, even though they are barely related to the wolf spiders, being in a different infraorder.

When theraphosids were encountered in the Americas, they were named "tarantulas", causing usage of the term to shift to the tropical spiders.  Nevertheless, these spiders belong to the suborder Mygalomorphae, and are not closely related to wolf spiders.

The name "tarantula" is also mistakenly applied to other large-bodied spiders, including the purseweb spiders or atypical tarantulas, the funnel-webs (Dipluridae and Hexathelidae), and the "dwarf tarantulas".  These spiders are related to tarantulas (all being mygalomorphs), but are classified in different families.  Huntsman spiders of the family Sparassidae have also been termed "tarantulas" because of their large size.  In fact, they are not related, belonging to the suborder Araneomorphae3.

Kingdom of the Spiders was one of several horror and science fiction films of the 1970s that reflected a growing sentiment of environmentalism in North America, such as Day of the Animals, Night of the Lepus, Killer Bees, Frogs and Silent Running.  It also reflected a horror trend that suggested that mankind's worst enemy was not supernatural monsters, but creatures already present in nature, as seen in Jaws and the numerous copycat films that arrived in its wake, as well as the Alfred Hitchcock classic The Birds.

A particular parallel to Jaws is that, in both films, local civic officials are more concerned with making money from tourism than with properly dealing with a very serious environmental problem.  In both films, these decisions lead to unsuccessful attempts to eradicate the "monsters", ultimately with horrific consequences.


Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)

  • Genre: Sci-Fi – Horror
  • Directed: John 'Bud' Cardos
  • Produced:
    • Henry Fownes 
    • J. Bond Johnson 
    • Igo Kantor 
    • Jeffrey M. Sneller
  • Written:
    • Jeffrey M. Sneller (Story) 
    • Stephen Lodge (Story) 
    • Richard Robinson (Screenplay) 
    • Alan Caillou (Screenplay)
  • Starring: William Shatner, Tiffany Bolling, Woody Strode, Lieux Dressler, David McLean, Natasha Ryan, Altovise Davis, Joe Ross, Marcy Lafferty, Adele Malis-Morey, Roy Engel, Hoke Howell, Bill Coontz, Whitey Hughes, Jay Lawrence, Bettie Bolling
  • Music: Dorsey Burnette
  • Cinematography: John Arthur Morrill
  • Editing:
    • Igo Kantor 
    • Steven Zaillian
  • Studio: Arachnid Productions Ltd.
  • Distributed:
    • Dimension Pictures  
    • Saguenay Films  
    • American Broadcasting Company  
    • Goodtimes Entertainment  
    • Paradiso Home Entertainment  
    • Shout! Factory  
    • DIV  
    • South Pacific Video
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: November 1977 (USA)
  • Running Time: 97 minutes
  • Country: USA
  • Language: English

The film is one of the better-remembered entries in the "nature on the rampage" subgenre of science fiction/horror films in the 1970s, due in part to its memorable scenes of people and animals being attacked by tarantulas; its availability on home video and airing on cable television, particularly on the USA Network; but primarily because of Shatner's starring role.  The film was released by Dimension Pictures (not to be confused with the distributor Dimension Films).

Robert "Rack" Hansen, a veterinarian in rural Verde Valley, Arizona, United States, receives an urgent call from a local farmer, Walter Colby.  Colby is upset because his prize calf has become sick for no apparent reason, and brings the animal to Hansen's laboratory.  Hansen examines the calf, which dies shortly afterward.  Hansen tells Colby he cannot explain what made the animal so ill so quickly, but takes samples of the calf's blood to a university lab in Flagstaff.

A few days later, Diane Ashley, an arachnologist, arrives looking for Hansen.  Ashley tells Hansen that the calf was killed by a massive dose of spider venom, which Hansen greets with skepticism.  Undaunted, Ashley tells him the problem is serious and that she wishes to examine the animal's carcass and the area where it became sick.  Hansen escorts Ashley to Colby's farm.  Moments after they arrive, Colby's wife, Birch, discovers their dog is dead.  Ashley performs a quick chemical test on the dog's carcass and concludes that like the calf, it died from a massive injection of spider venom.  Hansen is incredulous, until Colby states that he recently found a massive "spider hill" on a back section of his farmland.  He takes Hansen and Ashley to the hill, which is covered with tarantulas.  Ashley theorizes that the tarantulas are converging together due to the heavy use of pesticides, which are eradicating their natural food supply.  In order to survive, the spiders are joining forces to attack and eat larger animals.

Hansen and Ashley return to the Colby farm.  As the scientists and the Colbys are walking past a barn, a bull stampedes out; it is being attacked by tarantulas.  Ashley notes that the spiders likely will not be afraid to attack people either.  Colby douses the spider hill with gasoline and lights it on fire, seemingly destroying the spider menace.  However, many of the spiders escape out of a tunnel.  Colby is attacked in his truck the next day, sending it over the side of a hill and killing him.  Hansen happens upon the accident scene and helps the sheriff, Gene Smith, examine the wreckage.  Colby's body is found encased in a cocoon of spider webs.  Meanwhile, Ashley is notified by her colleagues that a sample of venom from one of the spiders is five times more toxic than normal.  Hansen is then told by the sheriff that several more spider hills have been located on Colby's property.

Hansen, Ashley and the sheriff examine the hills along with the mayor of Camp Verde, who orders the sheriff to spray the hills and the surrounding countryside with a pesticide.  Ashley protests, arguing that pesticide use is what caused the problem to begin with and that the town would be better off using birds and rats (tarantulas' enemies in nature) to eradicate them.  The mayor dismisses the idea, fearing that having a large number of spiders and rats all over the countryside will scare away patrons of the annual county fair.  A crop duster is enlisted to spray the pesticide.  Once the pilot is airborne, he is attacked by tarantulas, and crashes the plane before he can disperse the spray.

The spiders begin their assault on the local residents, killing Birch and Hansen's sister-in-law, Terri.  Hansen arrives at their home and rescues Terri's daughter, Linda from the spiders.  Hansen and Ashley take Linda to the Washburn Lodge.  They consult with the sheriff, who tells them that the spiders are everywhere and Camp Verde cut off from the outside world.  Smith drives into town, while Hansen and the other survivors at the lodge plan to load up an RV and escape.  However, the spiders trap them in the lodge, and they barricade themselves inside.  Meanwhile, Smith arrives in Camp Verde and finds the town under siege by the spiders.  Smith tries to escape, but is killed when another car crashes into a support post under the town's water tower, causing it to fall on his vehicle.

Back at the lodge, the power goes out, and Hansen is forced to venture into the lodge's basement to change a blown fuse.  He succeeds, but is besieged by spiders who break through one of the basement windows, by using their combined weight.  He makes it upstairs just in time to be saved by Ashley.

The film concludes the next day, with the survivors rigging up a radio receiver and listening for news of the attacks.  To their surprise, the radio broadcast doesn't mention the attacks, indicating that the outside world is oblivious to what has happened.  Hansen pries off the boards from one of the lodge's windows, and discovers that the entire building is encased in a giant web cocoon.  The camera pulls back, and all of Camp Verde is encased in cocoons as well.


Notes:

1.  The Mygalomorphae (also called the Orthognatha) are an infraorder of spiders.  The scientific name comes from the orientation of the fangs which point straight down and do not cross each other (as opposed to araneomorph).

2.  The spider family Theraphosidae (tarantulas) includes 947 described species, including around 55 species in North America north of Mexico.

3.  The Araneomorphae (also called the Labidognatha) are a suborder of spiders.  They are distinguished by having fangs that oppose each other and cross in a pinching action, in contrast to the Mygalomorphae (tarantulas and their close kin), which have fangs that are nearly parallel in alignment.

 

Sources:

All Images Found Via Google Image Search

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