This week on TCM Underground: NOTHING

TCM Underground Wish List

We all know what February brings at Turner Classic Movies: “31 Days of Oscar Malarkey.” (Quoted from memory – that may not be the actual phrase.) Yep, nothing but award winners for four solid weeks. Don’t get me wrong — awarding-winning films are great and some of my favorites took home a statuette or two in their day. I watch CITIZEN KANE (1941) and CASABLANCA (1942) with the regularity of guilty pleasures and I’m just as apt to get jiggy with BABETTE’S FEAST (1987) as BLOOD FEAST (1963)… but in clearing space for all of these classics, TCM has asked TCM Underground to make itself scarce for a while. Tune in at midnight this Saturday night and you’ll be looking at MRS. MINIVER (1942) and THE GREAT DICTATOR (1940) where ROLLER BOOGIE (1977) and PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1959) might normally hang. And, okay, fine — that gives us all the opportunity to head on over to Svengoolie’s place without feeling as though we’re cheating on TCM but, man, it’s tough not having access to our regular clubhouse. So as we bide our time, and because I now have nothing to blog about for four weeks, I present to you my Totally Kickass TCM Underground Wish List. [...MORE]

This week on TCM Underground: MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986)

Maximum-Overdrive

Humanity falls before an onslaught of electronic devices — from pinball machines to 18-wheel trucks — while staff and customers at a roadside diner make an unplugged stand against the rise of the machines.

MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986)

Cast: Emilio Estevez (Billy Robinson), Laura Harrington (Brett), Pat Hingle (Mr. Hendershot), Yeardley Smith (Connie), J. C. Quinn (Duncan Keller), John Short (Curtis), Ellen McElduff (Wanda June), Christopher Murney (Loman), Holter Graham (Deke), Frankie Faison (Handy), Pat Miller (Joe), Giancarlo Esposito (Video Game Player), Stephen King (Man at ATM). Director/Screenplay: Stephen King. Executive Producer: Dino DeLaurentiis. Co-producer: Milton Subotsky. Cinematography: Armando Nannuzzi. Music: AC/DC.

Color-97 min.

Showtime: Saturday January 17, 11:o0pm PST/2:00am EST [...MORE]

Friday Fearback: 31 Screams

Scream 31

A number of years ago, for reasons that seem a bit hazy to me now, I began a pseudonymous film blog called Arbogast on Film.  (I’m often asked why I chose the name Arbogast, an obvious allusion to Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO. I have always just loved that name and back in the 80s I thought of throwing down a ‘zine with that name as a sort of catchall for the obscure and weird. Never got around to doing that and yet the name popped back into my mind when I was dicking around on Blogger and thinking to myself “I don’t have a personal blog, but if I were to have one it might look something like this…”) I already had the Movie Morlocks working for me and back then I was blogging twice a week rather than once, so it’s not as though I was itching for more work. No, as I recall, I wanted to do some writing apart from my established community, well away from the blognoscenti, where I could please myself and throw down some chancy stuff. I didn’t expect anyone to follow me and yet the site turned out to be popular. I kept it going for four or five years before pulling the plug. I was just too busy and couldn’t really afford to indulge myself in a spate of free writing… especially not when I had already dedicated several Octobers to a series I called “31 Screams.” I was bored with all the horror blogs that pulled out the same old titles year after year for the requisite Halloween Top Ten lists and so I thought it might be unusual and fun to review, not movies themselves, but some of the greatest screams in genre history. And so I did that, 31 of them every October, year after year, with the final tally being somewhere in the low triple digits. I think some of that work is among my best and it always kind of killed me that, as I’d sworn myself to pseudonymity, no one would ever know it was my hand moving the pen. So now, with your indulgence, I offer a look back at some of the great screams of all time, along with my eggheaded observations, inane asides and occasional bad language… [...MORE]

EARTHQUAKE! – An Update From the Trenches

earthquakeposter

Imagine if you will (spoken in my best Rod Serling voice), it’s 3:20am on a Sunday morning in the small city of Napa. You’d gone to bed a few hours earlier after enjoying a few glasses of home grown wine while catching up with the latest offering from Hammer Films (THE QUIET ONES; 2014) but just as the onset of deep REM sleep begins to take hold of your body and brain, you’re jolted awake by what sounds like a locomotive crashing into your house. This is followed by what feels like King Kong picking you up and tossing you in the air for 20 seconds. It’s pitch black because there is no electricity in town and you’re being pummeled by your belongings as they fly off the walls and shelves. In the chaos you can hear the shouts and screams of your neighbors and every dog in town seems to be barking and howling in confusion. Your natural instinct is to run outside before the walls come crashing down but you can barely move because your entire house is littered with debris, including lots of broken glass, ceramics and damaged electronics that could easily cause serious injuries. When you do finally make it outside the sound of wailing sirens begins to fill the air. You have no internet connection and phones are barely functioning so information is nearly impossible to come by. This information blackout will go on for another five hours as you attempt to check on your elderly neighbors, look for missing pets and try to find that emergency kit with a much needed flashlight that is buried somewhere underneath the wreckage that you once called home sweet home. Did the state of California just crack in half and break away from North America? Did Godzilla attack San Francisco? Did the zombie apocalypse start? Has a long dormant volcano erupted? These are just a few of the crazy thoughts that will race through your head seconds after the quake. Thankfully you’ll be wrong on all counts but you did just experience the most powerful earthquake to strike Northern California in 25 years.

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May 3, 2014
David Kalat
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They Who Get Slapped

This week’s story begins with the Three Stooges, and ends with zombies.

The story starts in 1957, when Columbia Pictures shut down the Three Stooges’ production unit and released the aging comedy stars.  The Stooges had been poking each other in the eye for 22 years—and that’s just for Columbia Pictures’ theatrical shorts division—they’d been a comedy team for over three decades by that point.

In one of the crazy ironies that make life so baffling and interesting, being fired by Columbia more or less coincided with the pinnacle of their popularity.  The studio’s licensing arm Screen Gems sold a package of Stooges comedies to TV, where they ended up on after-school broadcasts to a whole generation of viewers.

The ratings went through the roof, and Columbia could barely keep up, selling old Stooges comedies to meet the demand.

But here’s the thing: the actual comedians responsible for those insanely successful films weren’t getting a dime from any of this resurgent interest.  They were unemployed, with no direct way to profit in their own popularity.

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KEYWORDS: Monty Python, Night of the Living Dead, Night of the Living Dead 1968, Remakes, The Three Stooges
COMMENTS: 15
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I’m in a fightin’ mood!

cooper-searl-sooky_opt

Oooh, I’m spoiling for a fight today… a real knock-down, dust-up, take-no-prisoners, no-quarter-given, apocalyptic barney. My knuckles are itching to bite into a set of teeth and my teeth are itching to lay into a row of knuckles. I won’t be satisfied until I dissolve in a flurry of biffery, until I drink blood — mine or yours — and if you want to be the one to set me off here’s all you have to do…  [...MORE]

Halloween at the movies!

Being a Halloween nut and a horror movie aficionado, you’ve got to know, gentle reader, that I get a particular thrill (thrill No. 13, in fact) when a scene crops up in a fright film that is actually set on All Hallows Eve. But I warn you now, I am picky. You can’t just drop a tea light into a plastic Jack-o-lantern and think I’ll be your best friend, oh no, no, no. Nor can you throw your art director and his fancy budget in my face and think I’m going to dissolve into a puddle of childlike wonder because you’ve larded the frame with 109 intricately carved pumpkins and 24 vintage cymbal playing clockwork monkeys. Oh, no, no, no. As the Wicked Witch of the West put it so aptly in THE WIZARD OF OZ, “these things have got to be handled delicately.” [...MORE]

Horror’s Powers of Ten

I have always had a fascination with how much can change in such a short span of time in one era, yet remained unchanged for years in another.  In 1973, American Graffiti presented a nostalgic past that no longer existed, a world from another time and place.  It took place a mere 11 years prior to its release.  11 years.  A movie taking place in 2001 or 02 wouldn’t look or feel that much different to what’s around us now.   Watching a sitcom from early in the 2000s, like Arrested Development, doesn’t look or feel a whole lot different than watching one from right now, like Parks and Recreation.  But watching Leave it to Beaver, from the early sixties, alongside All in the Family, from the early seventies, feels like two different universes.   How much has horror changed from one decade to the next?  Let’s examine horror’s powers of ten.*

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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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Extreme Hording or Dead of Nuit

Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher’s LA HORDE (THE HORDE, 2009) restages George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) in a Paris slum, in the manner of a site-specific adaptation of a Shakespeare play done in some industrialized area whose concrete bleakness is supposed to underscore the authorial themes of fate and futility. If that was Dahan and Rocher’s game plan – mission accomplished!

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