Meet you at the cemetery gates!

I keep on my desk a small phial (yes, a phial!) of cemetery earth. I do this for two reasons: 1) it reminds me of my roots as a New England swamp Yankee and the happy times I spent kicking around the region’s many graveyards, burial grounds, and bone orchards and 2.) I’m not right. I mention it today, however for entirely different reasons. This is the last time we will speak, you and I, before October starts on Monday. October 1st is, as any major dude with half a heart will surely tell you my friend, the official start of the Halloween season. Some of us ghouls have started decorating already — hell, for most of us freaks, it’s never not Halloween — but Monday marks the start of that period of grace in which lovers of All Hallow’s Eve no longer have to brook the condescension of the normals and their infernal “Little early for Halloween, isn’t it?” Starting Monday, the answer to that nettlesome question is a resounding “No, jackass… it is not.” And in preparation for that clock stroke, I have my mind firmly planted in God’s acre.

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Master Class: Jonathan Rigby’s Studies in Terror reviewed!

Jonathan Rigby’s Studies in Terror: Landmarks of Horror Cinema (Signum Books, 2011) follows his genre overviews, English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema (Reynolds & Hearn, 2002) and American Gothic: Sixty Years of Horror Cinema (Reynolds & Hearn, 2007). While the earlier books focused on chronological histories of grotesque themes in British and American films, from the silent flickers at the birth of cinema through the boom years and straight on to their respective declines, Studies limits the discourse to select titles the author believes worthy of landmark status. In other words, this time it’s personal.

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Here’s to the Horror Film: A Measure of Our Times

I have the unenviable task of wrapping up the Morlocks’ week-long blogathon devoted to horror. Actually, most of us jumped the gun and wrote on horror movies or related subjects even before the blogathon began. I wish I were clever enough to offer an insightful summary or, at least, a show-stopping list of terrific horror movies, but I don’t think I can surpass the articles and lists already posted. Looking back over the blog topics for October, we covered everything from Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein to non-horror movies that are horrific to specific films that touched us for personal reasons, such as Voices and the The Hypnotic Eye. Along the way, we speculated on the meaning of monsters, questioned standard interpretations of classics, and drew attention to sound as a technique of terror. Our observations and interpretations speak volumes about the depth and breadth of horror, and I tip my hat to my fellow Morlocks for their insightful explorations of the genre. I conclude our blogathon by offering some thoughts on a genre that cinephiles tend to embrace, though mainstream movie-goers seldom take it seriously.

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Frankenstein vs. God

We begin with a warning:

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This vaguely threatening yet ironically tongue-in-cheek admonition would influence generations of horror filmmakers to come. And I don’t just refer to all the times that savvy exploitationists would post nurses in the lobby to relieve the fainthearted, or take out insurance policies in cases audience members died of fright. Those are stories for another day. What matters to me today is that bit where Edward Van Sloan worries that Frankenstein did what he did “without reckoning on God.”

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The HorrorDads’ 2011 Dusk-to-Dawn All-Nite/All Fright Halloween Screamboree!

RHS: Let’s pretend the HorrorDads have the run of a disused movie theater and permission to run a Halloween dusk to dawn horrorthon. We will all contribute a movie to the line-up but before we begin, let’s talk about the kinds of horror movies each of us think is right for this time of year. Go… [...MORE]

October is coming! October is coming!

Every October 1st I turn into a big weirdo. Well… more so.  [...MORE]

Michael Sarrazin 1940-2011

Canadian born actor Michael Sarrazin passed away on April 17th after a brief battle with cancer. He was 70 years old at the time. With his tall lanky frame, large soulful eyes and calm demeanor, Sarrazin is probably best remembered for uttering the unforgettable last line, “They shoot horses, don’t they?” in Sydney Pollack’s Oscar-winning 1969 film of the same name.

In some of Sarrazin’s most interesting films he portrayed characters that seemed at odds with the world and out of place in their surroundings. He was often searching for something better. Grasping for an unobtainable future or that tempting gold ring that was always dangling just out of reach. Sarrazin was a thoughtful and easy-going anti-hero and his naturalistic approach to acting helped usher in a new kind leading man that would become widely popular throughout the 1970s. Although he never had the same kind of success and fame that many of his contemporaries did, Michael Sarrazin’s work speaks for itself. He appeared in some terrific movies during the height of his career and I thought now would be as good a time as any to share a few of my favorites.
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Frankenstein: “It’s Alive!”

On September 9, 1823 Mary Shelley wrote a letter to her friend and confident, the writer Leigh Hunt, in which she enthusiastically proclaimed, “But lo & behold! I found myself famous! Frankenstein had prodigious success as a drama & was to be repeated for the 23rd night at the English opera house.” Shelley was referring to a play she had just watched titled Presumption; or, the Fate of Frankenstein by Richard Brinsley Peake. It was based on her original novel, Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus, which was only moderately successful until Peake decided to adapt it for the stage.

Mary’s letter to Hunt continued with, “The story is not well managed – but Cooke (the actor playing the nameless creature) played ___’s part extremely well – his seeking as it were for support – his trying to grasp at the sounds he heard – all indeed he does was well managed & executed.” While watching the latest stage adaptation of Frankenstein written by playwright Nick Dear and directed by the Oscar winning filmmaker Danny Boyle, I couldn’t help thinking of Mary’s letter and the initial excitement she must have felt while watching her creation brought to life. Like the doctor in her novel, I imagine that the young author must have been both proud of her accomplishment and somewhat surprised by how little control she had over her own book. Frankenstein had become what it proposed. A wild and willful beast bound to no one and destined to haunt the memory of its creator, as well as audiences, for centuries.

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A Trip to the Moon with Belle Dee

I wish I could draw.  I mean,really draw.  I’ve always done a bit of sketching, cartooning, and there are people from my distant past who may very well remember me solely as an artist.  As a teenager, I handmade holiday cards for my parents and I once did a rendering of Mackenzie Phillips from the hit TV series ONE DAY AT A TIME but my penciling never got much past that; by about age 20 or so, I shifted to writing almost exclusively.  Because I’m such a groveling wannabe when it comes to the pen and ink, I’m especially envious and excited by people who have given themselves over to the discipline of drawing and painting, have honed their craft to the point of being really good at it.  I’m even more envious when these artists deal in subjects of the grotesque and arabesque, of all things spookylike and monsterrific.  I’m proud to have such sketchy pals in my coterie as Frank Dietz, Rob Kelly and Charlie Largent and I’m equally tickled to fold in a new friend, the artist and renderer of all things sexygothicool Belle Dee.  Belle took some time out of her busy schedule to play a little game of Q&A with me, and I humbly present the fruit of that loom to readers of The Movie Morlocks: [...MORE]

100 Years of Horrors!

1910.  One hundred years ago yesterday, the Edison Kinetograph Company released the first-known adaptation of Mary Shelley’s 1817 novel Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus.  Shot over the course of three days in January of that year, FRANKENSTEIN is a somewhat stagebound 12 minute retelling of the story with some special effects that surely looked impressive a century ago… and still do, to my old school eyes.  Charles Ogle isn’t my idea of the ideal Frankenstein monster but I owe him a debt of thanks anyway for kick starting what would turn out to be a full century of shock and awe.  [...MORE]

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