Sunday, October 26, 2014

Getting misty: THE FOG(1980)

I watched a lot of movies as a teenager at the Omni Theater in downtown Atlanta(GA) while in high school. One of them was THE FOG(1980), directed by John Carpenter. I had to watch this movie a second time in the theater to fully appreciate it. Without posting a lot of plot spoilers the film is about a mysterious fog that rolls in off the ocean and across the coastal town of Antonio Bay. There's a menacing, supernatural force that accompanies the fog...and it definitely isn't friendly.

The cast includes Adrienne Barbeau, Hal Holbrook, Jamie Lee Curtis and Tom Atkins. I just ordered this film on Blu Ray( released by Shout! Factory in 2013) from Amazon. Horror movie fans who haven't seen this film should absolutely check it out! This movie is also available on DVD.

A trailer:

Click the link to see the Blu Ray for this film for sale at Amazon: THE FOG(1980) Blu Ray

Monday, October 20, 2014

Long in the tooth: BLACULA (1972)

I had some free time last Tuesday after getting rained out from work and sat down to watch both BLACULA(1972) and its sequel, SCREAM, BLACULA, SCREAM(1973). While I like both of these horror themed blaxploitation films I have a decided preference for the '72 movie. William Marshall is effective as the African prince "Mamuwalde" who, bitten by Count Dracula while visiting the infamous vampire, becomes a vampire himself, taking a bite out of numerous citizens of Los Angeles(CA). Marshall is a tall, broad shouldered and imposing man whose deep voice and physical features make him an intimidating presence...and that's not even including the two fangs he bares when his thirst for blood kicks in - and it kicks in a lot in these two movies. BLACULA(1972) is directed by William Crain. This movie isn't my favorite vampire film but I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. It's definitely worth a look for horror movie fans who haven't seen it(or it's sequel). I will be buying the DVDs of these two films later this year. A trailer:

Monday, October 13, 2014

It's Hammer time: THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB(1964)

As someone who has been a fan of horror movies for over forty years(yes...I'm that old) I have concluded that mummies in these films have been forgotten amidst all the slasher, zombie, mutant creature, vampire and werewolf movies that have been released by the major(and smaller) film studios over the past thirty years. The one exception to this is undoubtedly 1999's The Mummy, a movie I like(and own on Blu Ray) but that plays out more like a bigger budget action film.

For creepy, unsettling mummy movies there's nothing better than a classic Universal or Hammer Films feature. Hammer's The Mummy(1959) is my favorite with Christopher Lee. Coming in at a very close second: THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB(1964), produced and directed by Michael Carreras and released by Hammer Films.

This marvelous horror movie can be bought online at Amazon and is part of a four film DVD set called Icons Of Horror Collection-Hammer Films, released back in 2008. To buy this release click the link: ICONS OF HORROR COLLECTION - HAMMER FILMS

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Cold day in hell: THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD(1951)

I'm not a wine drinker but I do know that wine generally gets better with age. I think the same thing could be said about a lot of old(er) films. In the genre of science fiction films few movies have in my opinion "aged" better than THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD(1951), directed by Christian Nyby and an uncredited Howard Hawks.

In the film an antarctic research team of scientists, after briefly tracking a descending object in the Earth's atmosphere, venture out into the harsh, wintry antarctic tundra where they discover a large object buried under the ice. The scientists, along with a group of military personnel, use thermite to melt the ice covering what they now suspect is a saucer shaped alien spaceship. The spaceship is damaged in the thermite explosion but not its alien occupant, also discovered buried in ice.

The team of scientists and military dig out the frozen alien and bring it back to their research facility. Of course the alien thaws out and escapes into the night outside the research station. From this point on a deadly game of "cat and mouse" ensues between the research station group and the hostile, malevolent alien. The scientists discover that the alien, while humanoid, also exhibits distinct plant like characteristics as well. The conclusion of this movie features one final showdown between the scientists/military officers and the alien creature. (no other spoilers)

Actor James Arness, who would later play legendary lawman Marshal Matt Dillon in the CBS TV series "Gunsmoke", plays the green skinned, humanoid, hulking alien creature. It's a non speaking role for Mr. Arness but he's terrific as the hostile alien. An audio effect is added, giving the alien antagonist a weird and creepy sounding roar. There are numerous shocks and violence between the human cast and their non-human adversary to keep anyone watching very interested. I've always liked veteran '50's sci-fi actor Kenneth Tobey best in this movie as the ranking military officer who must contend with not only the alien creature but also scientists who would rather study the alien than protect themselves from it.

THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD(1951) makes the occasional(though not frequent) appearance on Turner Classic Movies. Sci-fi movie fans who haven't seen this film should absolutely check out this classic! Better yet buy the DVD which is sold online at Amazon.

A trailer:

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Hell freezes over: THE THING(1982)

I haven't seen all of John Carpenter's films. I admit it. Still, John Carpenter remains in my top five all time favorite movie directors. Films like The Fog(1980), Halloween(1978) & Escape From New York(1981) all captured my interest in horror and sci-fi when I was a teenager and I still enjoy watching his work today on DVD/Blu Ray. My favorite movie directed by John Carpenter is also a top five favorite of mine including all film genres: The Thing(1982), a sci fi film theatrically released in 1982 by Universal which actually didn't fare too well at the box office but has definitely gained a large fan following since it hit theaters over thirty years ago. Carpenter's The Thing(1982) is often compared to another, much older sci-fi movie produced by Winchester Pictures Corporation called The Thing From Another World(1951). In the '51 film, directed by Christian Nyby and an uncredited Howard Hawks, a humanoid, hostile alien played by actor James Arness menaces a group of military and scientists at a remote Antarctic research station. The older "Thing" film employed a man in makeup, like most of the '50's sci-fi movies, to produce audience scares and shocks. John Carpenter went in another direction in order to scare movie audiences in The Thing(1982), deciding to create a shape shifting alien creature come to life through the effects work of Rob Bottin, then and up and coming makeup effects specialist who went on to become one of the best at it over the decades.

 The film's story: In a remote region of the Antarctic, a dog flees into the camp of a U.S. research station. The dog is pursued by an airborne, Norwegian helicopter whose passenger shoots at the dog with a high powered rifle. The helicopter lands, the passenger emerges and continues firing at the dog. A member of the American research station returns fire with his revolver and kills the rifle toting Norseman. The American research team dispatches their pilot and a scientist to the nearby Norwegian research facility where the Norse helo came from. There the pilot and scientist discover a burned out Norse station and charred human corpses that look disfigured. The burned corpse is brought back to the American research station for further inspection and investigation. What happened at the Norwegian facility? Why were the Norwegians in the helo shooting at the dog? The American research team also discovers a long buried and enormous, saucer shaped spacehip which was uncovered by the Norwegians who used thermite to melt the ice on top of it. In the meantime and back at the U.S. research station, the rescued dog from the Norse station has now been placed in a pen with service dogs belonging to the American research facility...and this sets in motion a terrifying and catastrophic series of events in which a shape shifting alien creature begins to "absorb" and mimic members of the American facility. The group of scientists begin to turn on each other as they race against time to isolate and destroy the hostile, shape shifting alien creature. (no other spoilers)

Thumbs up:
 > The practical effects created and employed by Rob Bottin are marvelous. Numerous scenes feature the alien creature erupting out of "hiding" as it imitates the service dog and then various research team members. Even with today's green screen technology and CGI I still think the practical effects used in The Thing are more effective at delivering shocks and "gross out" moments for those watching this movie.

> The human cast in this movie, a collection of interesting and often conflicting personalities. My favorites are the pilot "MacCready"(played by Kurt Russell), a likable character despite his obvious boredom and disdain at being stationed at the isolated Antarctic facility who, in frustation at losing a game of "Chess Wizard" to his computer responds by pouring a glass of whiskey into the device.  I also liked the mercurial, no nonsense "Childs"(played by Keith David) and the pot smoking "Palmer" who in one scene begins toking from a Cuban cigar sized joint.

> The overall pacing of the film is excellent -the tension and hostility that develops between the American research team members erupts after the "alien dog" incident and these human cast conflicts perfectly compliment the menace of the shape shifting alien creature in their midst. In particular "MacCready" and "Childs", both "alpha" male personalities who clash as they both try to lead the group against the alien

> The audio effects used to render the alien are terrific. The alien creature frequently emits a blood curdling sound that is half wail and half roar with a human element to the sound which sounds unique and creepy as hell all at once. loco2 -the ending of the film is ambiguous...but this IMO works best here given the events that transpired throughout

 Thumbs down:
> I would have liked seeing the director explore the origins of the alien's spaceship a little more in this movie.

 THE THING(1982) is available on both DVD and Blu Ray: either can be purchased online at Amazon. Anyone who hasn't seen The Thing(1982), whether they are a sci-fi/horror fan or not, should absolutely check out this film!

A trailer: