DRACULA (1931 Spanish Language Version) Directed by George Melford 104 mins. Black & White. In Spanish with English Subtitles. Wednesday, October 2nd. Sunset (approximately 7:30pm). At Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery, (at the intersection of Lake Street and Cedar Avenue in South Minneapolis)
We've been looking to expand and do screenings around town. I was walking by the Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery a while back and got excited about the idea of watching a movie in there. At the same time Take-Up and the Heights were doing their Universal Monster series out at the Heights. The screening will be a benefit for the Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery, one of the oldest integrated cemeteries in the country with prominent abolitionists, civil war veterans and founders of Minneapolis buried side by side. We're hoping this is a success and is something that we can build upon over the course of a number of years. We also recorded a podcast about it. Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes or listen here: http://traffic.libsyn.com/allstarvideo/Dracula_Podcast.mp3
In 1931, as Tod Browning was shooting Dracula with Bela Lugosi, George Melford was shooting from the same script on the same sets at night with a Spanish language cast and crew. They would shoot through the night, using all the same marks, same lighting, etc.. However, as it went on, things changed more and more from the English language version. For instance, Lupita Tovar's costumes were much more revealing than her English counter-part, Helen Chandler. LIkewise, George Melford came out of a different mindset than Tod Browning. Where Browning was a traditional silent film director, Melford was working with a Spanish speaking cast and crew. Melford didn't speak Spanish, so his attention seems fully on the camera. Placement and movement are far more creative and experimental. The Spanish language version of the film is a full twenty-five minutes longer, allowing the film room to expand and sit on tense moments. Long thought lost, the film was re-found in the 1970s, showing how wildly different the films are. Many now argue Melford's film is the better version. Though it is obvious that Lugosi has forever defined the character of the Count. The Heights will be screening ALL of the great Universal Horror classics starting September 26th. This is your best to chance to see them all the way they were to meant to be seen.
September 26th - Dracula (1931)
*October 2nd - Dracula (1931 Spanish Language Version) at Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery, Dusk
Directed by Tina Hirsch
83 mins. Color.
I’m a big fan of Roger Corman. I’ll watch anything with his name on it and there is a 90% chance I will enjoy the hell out of it. Little did I realize, I’ve been a big fan of his since I was a kid. One of my favorite movies when I was young was a little known flick from 1987 produced by Corman called Munchies.
This flick is essentially a Gremlins clone that just so happened to be directed by the editor of Gremlins. I know, kinda weird. As a kid I always thought the box was pretty cool looking. It had that fresh late 80’s vibe to it with all of it’s “hot” colors and its checkerboard lettering. The main image is of a gremlin type creature drinking a Budweiser, smoking what could be blunt (probably just a cigar though), wearing sneakers and looking up at a chick’s snatch. I mean if that doesn’t scream family flick I don’t know what does! If I had never seen this movie as a child and I stumbled upon this VHS on a clearance rack there would be no way in hell I would not buy this for just the cover alone.
So the movie itself is super basic. A wannabe comedian named Paul, who looks like he’s in his late twenties early thirties is in South America with his crackpot, alien conspiracy loving father (played by the lovable Harvey Korman) looking for signs of aliens in a hidden temple. What they find is a tiny creature who likes chocolate and getting kidnapped. They bring him back home to a cast of crazy characters. The main antagonist of the movie is the toupee wearing, asshole twin brother of Paul’s father. He’s joined by his bimbo girlfriend and their adopted Grateful Dead-head son. There’s also the Sheriff and his doofus son/deputy. Well, I don’t want to bore you with the over-complicated details but the follically-challenged twin brother hates his alien loving brother so he and his step son kidnap the adorable “munchie” named Arnold. After Arnold scratches up one of the dead-head’s favorite Grateful Dead records he goes on a rampage and Arnold meets the sharp end of a knife. He gets sliced up into four pieces and just like in Gremlins those pieces grow into junk food loving, beer drinking, pot smoking hooligans. They murder the dead-head step son by cranking up the volume on the stereo until presumably his brain melts in his skull (although this is unfortunately not shown). So it is up to Paul and his girlfriend to capture all the munchies (every time you cut them in half they multiply so by the end there are a bunch of them) and somehow stop the evil twin brother and his bimbo girlfriend from wrecking the town with toxic waste (‘cause it wouldn’t be an ‘80s movie without toxic waste!).
There are a couple of scenes that I vividly remember as a child. There’s this scene where Paul and his girlfriend start fooling around and when I was a kid I thought, “Man, that looks AWESOME!” Now, it’s rated PG so there weren’t any sort of titties in this movie. In the scene, they are lying in bed, about to bang, when Paul’s girlfriend says that she wants him to check her reflexes. He proceeds to pull out a giant balloon hammer and hits her in the knee and they laugh and pull the sheets over them. A few minutes later they are playing Marco Polo under the sheets when Paul pops up with a hand crank whisk, says something “funny”, and goes back under. Was this what sex was like? Am I supposed to have a chest full of props in order to bang chicks when I grow up? Is sex the equivalent of going to a Gallagher show, only there is a chance of getting someone pregnant? These are the questions that came to my 6 year old mind.
The other scene that stuck with me was when the munchies get loose and make their way to an ice cream shop. They attack the family that works there and one of them bites the father in the neck. Fun fact: the father at the ice cream shop just so happens to be Star Trek Voyager actor Robert Picard! I remember the family wore big upside down ice cream cones for hats. That always stuck out to me for some reason. Years later watching the series premiere of Star Trek Voyager Robert Picard walks onto the TV screen and I think out loud “That’s the ice cream cone dad from Munchies!” My mother had no clue what I was talking about.
After watching it again the other day I feel like Munchies still holds up. The Munchies all have crazy voices that sound like Cheech Marin and Peppe Lepew and it’s all pretty fun. There is a great scene involving an old lady, fireworks and a car chase and another involving a mini golf park. Plus, on top of it all, a Paul Bartel cameo at the end! It’s dumb, goofy and completely childish and you know what? To me it’s still a fun kid’s movie.
P.S. I wish Roger Corman was my Grandpa...
Set yourself up: Grab the biggest bag of Cheddar & Sour Cream Ruffles the grocery store has, load up on a 24 pack of Budweiser (you know, the King of Beers) and maybe even partake in some illegal activities (unless you’re in Colorado or Washington, then you’re cool).
This week I interview the very fascinating Michael Popham. I met Michael at the Trylon and we started talking weird cult cinema. It slipped out that he has a blog and I write on a blog and then we realized that both waste a massive amount of time watching sweet stuff. I got super excited about the idea of talking horror with him and thought I'd share this interview with all of you.
Rookie of the Year
Director: Daniel "Marv" Stern
90 Minutes, PG
When I was in Fourth grade, I got Mono. Mono so bad, local medical experts didn't know what the hell was wrong with me. My lymph nodes were the size of clementines. I missed 68 days of school that year. If it weren't for the efforts of my uncle (an unemployed teacher at the time) I would have repeated the fourth grade.
I spent any time awake in front of the TV. One glorious day, while watching reruns of Press Your Luck, my Mom asked if I wanted to get a pay-per-view movie. I called the pay-per-view telephone number and pressed '3' for Rookie of the Year. The Scientific Atlanta flashed and told me to tune into channel 13. I loaded the VCR, pressed record. Over the coming months, I watched Rookie of the Year at least 50 times. 1994 was a year of Rookie of the Year, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, NBA Jam, and Houston Rockets playoff games.
If you haven't seen the movie. This clip sums it up well:
Henry Rowengartner is your average kid. He has trouble talking to girls. He has unattainable dreams. He lives in a single parent home and life is pretty boring. School sucks. Trying to talk to hot babes is impossible. Baseball rules. . . but Henry is really bad at it. Henry embarrasses himself a his little league game by throwing a grounded pop fly over the outfield fence. To redeem himself, Henry attempts a super hero catch after school one day. He slips on a stray ball, flies in the air for 30 seconds and mega slo-mo breaks his arm. Henry's tendon (I thought he just broke his arm?) heals too tightly and now he can throw the heat. His fastball could dominate Nolan Ryan's. Henry ends up as a 12 year old big leaguer and brings the Cubs to Worlds Series.
Along the way, a lot of semi-real human drama takes place. Henry's mother Mary is dating a walking midlife crisis named Jack Bradfield. He's super greasy. The "silk shirts and Mazda Miata" type of greasy. Jack brokers a deal with Cubs management and gets Henry a contract with the Cubs. Fish (Dan Hedeya. The evil Dictator from Commando) is the manager that brokers the deal to bring massive publicity to the fledgling Cubs organization.
Mary and Jack's relationship becomes strained when veteran pitcher Chet Steadman (Gary Busey with a mustache) and Mary begin a relationship.
Along with this, Henry and his friends Clark (the crusty kid from Mr. Nanny and Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead) and George start having problems when Henry becomes super famous. The plot and sub stories are there only to provide a backbone for the premise. Kids like to see themselves in fantasy situations, and well I have never been a huge baseball fan, I've always loved basketball, and this movie made me wonder if I broke my legs if I could jump really high and slam dunk on David Robinson.
"YOU HEAT UP, THE ICE CUBES! IT'S THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS!"
There is plenty of comic relief while all of the more "human" stories are being told. Director Daniel Stern himself plays pitching coach Brickma. He looks like he came right off of a 1970's baseball card. Huge sideburns. Mustache. Glasses. He wears ridiculous suits and has a knack for locking himself in confined spaces.
Rookie of the Year is also one of John Candy's final appearances in a movie. He plays the radio announcer for the team and watching the movie as an adult, he comes off like John Candy. It's easy to forget how masterful his timing was after all these years after his death. He takes a throwaway role and ultimately turns it into something memorable. While I don't want to come off like a dirty old bastard, but they really don't make kids movies like this anymore. This is a family movie. It's a movie that anyone can watch and enjoy. It's easy to digest and most americans could likely relate in some one to one of the many characters in the film. Sports, Baseball, Friendship, feeling alienated, Gary Busey, this movie truly has all of the bases covered. In fact, it probably has far too much going on to tell a coherent story, but that doesn't matter. It's a really fun movie and the ten year old me will always love it.
11-year-old Dade "Zero Cool" Murphy hacked and crashed One Thousand Five Hundred Seven computer systems in one night. One of the affected systems was Wall Street and it caused the stock market to drop 7 points one day. Zero Cool got busted big time. He was arrested, fined, and banned from owning or operating any computer or touch tone phone until his 18th birthday.
The main story line starts when Dade's mom gets a new job in New York. Dade and his mom relocate days before he turns 18 and starts his senior year at a new school. Crash isn’t too happy about the move but is stoked to use his computer again. He picks a new nickname/internet handle, Crash Override. Crash starts his new school and meets punk rock Angelina Jolie, Kate. Kate, played by Angelina Jolie, is a real bad azz with short hair, futuristic punk rock clothes, and an attitude that says "Fush you, I'm a Badass, and I love to hack into mainframe computer network hardrive rams and totally mess their shit up, man."
Her hacker name is Acid Burn. HA! As the story usually goes, Crash Override wants to totally make out with Acid Burn really hard but Acid Burn likes to play hard to get.
Crash settles in with a crew of tech punk nerds at school who invite him out to their favorite hangout establishment. The hangout joint is radical. Imagine a place that has the virtual reality games from the mall in Sinbad's "First Kid", the look and feel of Max's hideout from Shaq's "Kazaam", and Preston's crazy-overboard TV wall from "Blank Check." Now imagine that the place is filled with people that dress like techy versions of Rufio from "Hook" and Biff Tannen's son Griff from "Back to the Future Part 2." Yeah..... it is pretty cool spot.
Crash's new group of friends consists of "The Phantom Phreak"- a flamboyant hipster hacker with threads from the year 3000. "Cereal Killer" - a tall hyper hippy with a passion for video games, junk food, and I’m guessing psychedelic drugs. "Nikon" - the cool black dude with all the smarts, style, and friends. And last but not least there's Joey. All of the characters have sweet nicknames and style but Joey is just Joey. Mediocre. He wears bib-overalls, a backwards hat, and smokes cigarettes. He is new to the hacking game and tries to impress the veterans with attempting all sorts of hackings and such.
During one attempt to prove he's totes legit at hacking, Joey accidentally hacks into Ellingson Mineral Company's super computer, The Gibson. Joey found his way in to the garbage file and then downloaded some of the file to a floppy disk.
The head guy in charge of security for the Gibson Super Computer tracked Joey before he got out of the system. This head security guy is a greasy dude that prefers to be called "The Plague." The Plague is an evil super genius who writes the worst computer virus ever, the DaVinci Code. The DaVinci Code is a virus designed to mess up big ships that haul oil across the ocean. After sinking one ship and creating a huge oil spill in the ocean, The Plague writes a fake ransom note in order to make a crap ton of money and blame it all on Joey.
Joey's totally screwed because United States Secret Service Agent Richard Gill is in charge of some internet crimes division and hates hackers. The crew gets together to help Joey out. They find his hidden floppy drive but do not know what it contains. To buy time Crash and Acid start a dueling competition harassing Agent Gill via internet pranks. They cancel his credit cards, mess with his bank account information, and some how legally change Agent Gills life status to deceased.
The hackers buy enough time to figure that the floppy drive contains proof that The Plague is the evil butthead that wrote the DaVinci Virus and is ruining Joey's life. It's down to the wire now. The crew is catching heat from Agent Gill because the computer virus is scheduled to screw up another oil ship. Hackers unite all over to overload the internet waves with hackings, main frame overloads, and virus to help the crew with their one last attempt at clearing Joey's name. With the secret service and a greasy evil maniac breathing down their necks, the friends hack into the Gibson Super computer to stop another ship from capsizing and spilling oil into the sea. They succeed but get arrested anyway. Luckily Cereal Killer had the munchies and ran to the g-station to grab a hunny bun. He totally elludes arrest, got the floppy disk proof, and with the help of a couple pill popping party nerds, broadcasts the information on ALL CHANNELS. The crew is cleared and the plague gets locked up.
Hackers ends with Crash Override and Acid Burn go on a date and Angelina Jolie wears a dress.
My Take -
When I was 5 years old I wanted to be Colt from "Three Ninjas" and fight anyone who dare threaten my imaginary friends. When I was 8 I wanted to be Dan Marino or some other form of stunning NFL quarter back. When I turned 11 I saw Disney's made for TV Movie "Brink" and wanted to become a Soul Skater. At 12 years old, "Hackers" was the coolest movie I had ever seen. At that time in my life I loved rollerblading (aggressive in-line skating), video games, and the thought of being older and super dope at things. Hackers had everything I wanted in real life. The characters had sweet nicknames, they rollerbladed to crazy video game clubs, and rebelled against authority figures that didn't understand what it was like to be different. The movie also showed Angelina Jolie’s boob, so I assume I liked it for more than just the extreme sports and video games.
The exaggerated fashion styles and over the top dialogue is hilarious. Every scene seems to be filled with some ridiculous version of a fad we can all relate to. Like looking back and remembering how much LA Looks Extra Firm Hold Gel I pumped into my hair on a daily basis… Or when JNCO jeans and Lee Pipes were all the rage… Or when moon shoes, old navy tech vests, or giga pets were necessary items to own.
You can tell that the writers really had no idea how computers, security software, or even touch tone phones really worked though. It seems that majority of the budget was spent on wardrobe and neon lights not on researching real computer facts.
In a way this movie mirrored exactly what a lot of our childhoods were like. We spent any money we had, and or any money our parents would supply us with, on things that looked cool, were in style, and had no real sustenance. From the dialog to the wardrobe to the plot of the movie, our biggest goal was to look awesome and impress the people in whichever click we wanted to be a part of.
Hackers also touches on the idea that being connected via the interwebs creates an even playing field for everyone. It seems to me that the creators were not aware that this statement was being made. Regardless of intention, hackers shows that whatever you’re into, there is someone else out there that loves the same stuff. The change in social groups and our accessibility to like minded people has projected fads and styles bigger then they have ever been. At the same time this change has magnified the genres that did not attract much attention before. Musicians have a bigger web of people they can share their music with, movie junkies can access and discuss films that may not have been possible to find, and writers can publish their work on websites and blogs. The list goes on….
All-in-all Hackers rocks! It’s fun, fast, and rewarding. It makes you feel like your 12-years-old again. My suggestion for watching this movie would be:
1.Get a couple buddies together.
2.Order a giant pepperoni pizza.
3.Buy a cube of mountain dew.
4.Play a riveting game of POG, bring your best slammer.
5.Then get out the 10 gallon barrel of cheese balls and hit play. (CAUTION! Laughing this hard may cause jaw pain and tightening of stomach muscles.)
- Nick Geiken
Geiken is a killer sweet dude who keeps an office furniture place running, loves kids movies, westerns and soccer. He is also a long term friend of the site.
Directed by Stephen Herek 1991 102 mins. Color. In 1991 when Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead came out I was 5 years old, probably watched it in '92, and like the kids in the film I belonged to a large family in a lower middle class environment. At the time I liked to imagine myself as Kevin McCallister (Home Alone, ner), but really I was more like Walter Crandell, the gross youngest brother in Don't Tell Mom who is hardly ever out of his dirty pajamas and who's idea of luxury is a bowl of a more expensive brand of cereal and a big screen TV. Don't Tell Mom begins with the overwhelmed mother of 5 useless children leaving for vacation, alone. She has, to the dismay of the children, hired a babysitter. An old woman who acts all sweet at first but turns out more like Major Payne. She tries to cramp Kenny's (the oldest brother's) style, and she makes Sue Ellen (the oldest sister played by Christina Applegate) put out her cigarette. Then she crosses the line. Makes them clean up the house. The house is my favorite part of this film. It's big, yes, like the McCallister's house, but with one detail much more true to the life of a family with 5 useless kids. It is destroyed. The kitchen is disgusting: open pizza boxes on the counter, filled with crusts. Moldy sandwiches. Crushed cans. Spilled milk. The living room is covered in laundry and dirty and broken toys are stuffed behind the couch. Dead plants. A TV in the corner turned on but with nobody watching. Like what Buzz McCallister's living situation might more likely resemble. Kind of gross. Penthouse over Playboy.
Hey, get out...
Since the title of the film gives it away, I'll skip to after the Babysitter dies of a heart attack, presumably induced by this new fucked up generation of lazy, over-sexed children. Now, in lieu of an income while Mom is away, Christina Applegate (Sue Ellen) is forced to get a job. Kenny, it is agreed, will officiate babysitting duties, which, to him means getting baked with his friends (also worthless) and letting the younger ones work it out among themselves. Zach, the prematurely sexual middle child, teaches little Walter by example to steal money from Christina Applegate's purse. Walter in turn blows all they've got on a giant stereo system. My favorite scene in Don't Tell Mom is probably the one they would show on I Love the 90s if they showed one. To me, it's iconic: Shot in the toy section of a Walmart. Plastic in droves on metal hangers against plywood walls. Christina Applegate and her fast-food-employee-boyfriend bouncing on those big rubber balls with handles through aisles and aisles of more things. The soundtrack singing "In a perfect world." It's the only scene that comes off like a teen romance a la She's All That or Never Been Kissed. Immediately after, however, the camera shifts back to broken dishes in a broke ass house.
To me, there's too much going on in this movie to go into all of it. But what made it especially enjoyable to rewatch after all these years was my new ability to step outside of it in a way that was impossible back then. To appreciate the non-romantic side of childhood portrayed, and recognize the self-awareness of the film. Two thumbs up. Set yourself up: Take out an enormous loan and buy a state of the art entertainment center. Refrain from cleaning your house for 6 months, or just stop entirely. Pour a whole box of Cap'n Crunch and a quart of milk into a giant salad bowl. Enjoy
- Joel Schmitz. Joel is a brilliant writer, emerging Columbian drug-lord and dear friend of the site.
Director: Albert Band and Charles Band
Growing up, my neighbor was dinosaur crazy. He would regularly have his generic dinosaur toys maul my G.I. Joes. He always pretended my dog was a T-Rex. He was a butthole.
I saw Prehysteria! I immediately thought of my butthole neighbor.
Prehysteria is a movie about midget dinosaurs.
The story of Prehysteria! revolves around Retail archaeologist Rico Sarno. Sarno is on an expedition is central (?) America. He steals an ancient tribal dinosaur eggs. The story goes that if the eggs are removed from their chamber, the tribe would be cursed. Sarno is a greedy bastard. He steals the eggs and only see dollar signs. He collects treasures and sells them in his store. . . yes, he has a retail store that sells artifacts.
Windower Frank, his son Jerry and daughter Monica live out in "The Boonies." Frank makes a living. . . selling arrowheads and artifacts to Sarno's store. What an asswipe.
Jerry (Austin O'Brien - The kid from Last Action Hero and My Girl 2) is obsessed with Elvis and his sister Monica is a typical teenage tramp.
On the way into Sarno's Store, they bring their lunch cooler, and happen to swap it with Sarno's identical cooler containing the precious eggs.
The eggs hatch. Jerry and Monica name the Dinosaurs MC Hammer, Paula Abdul, and of course, Elvis. Hilarity ensues. It all sort of crumbles into Home Alone knock off with dinosaurs.
I never saw this as a kid, and honestly, I'm glad. I don't think I would have liked it even as an 8 year old. The dinosaur effects are a decent mixture of animatronic and stop motion. Other than that, this movie is pretty boring for a kids movie and just not executed at the needed pace to be entertaining.
It may be interesting to some horror fans, as the film was co-directed by father and son team Albert and Charles Band. Albert being responsible for such horror classics as I Bury the Living and Dracula's Dog. Charles is well known for producing some great films (Reanimator and From Beyond) and a ton of not so great films (Most of his 262 Production credits on IMDB), as well as some questionable business practices. Sort of strange that these two would team up for a kids movie. But I guess they saw money in it and well. . . there ya go.
This isn't very good. Sure, tiny dinosaurs can probably sell some tapes. An artist's rendering of the kid from Last Action Hero? Probably sold 1 million copies.
This week, I interview the wonderful Theresa Kay. She is the founder, programmer and promoter of Trash Film Debauchery.
We talk about how she got it started, green funerals, the idea of trash film and the future of TFD.
You can celebrate her tenth anniversary of TFD at the Trylon Microcinema in Minneapolis on the weekend of October 4th to 6th with the head exploding double feature of Scanners and Maniac. (Scanners on 35mm, Maniac on VHS!)
You can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, via search term "All-Star Video"
Directed by Nicolas Roeg
91 mins. Color.
When you’re a kid, you’re never the right size. All of the awesome things that grownups get to do (driving cars, sliding down fire station poles, flying jets, etc…) are off limits, and damn near all of your toys are miniature versions of the same things but you are too small to actually use them. So, you don’t get to fly jets or inhabit that sweet Lego castle you just made, which is a total bummer because the castle has a moat and a dragon. Children’s literature and film has long tapped into this childhood desire to be resized. It’s what made films like Big and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and books like The Borrower’s and Roald Dahl’s The Witches so appealing to us as children; they gave us a vicarious glimpse into the undersized or oversized worlds we yearned for. The latter of those books was adapted to film in 1990 by British director Nicolas Roeg, better known for his trippy scifi film The Man Who Fell to Earth as well as the films Eureka and Walkabout. And though I watched Roeg’s The Witches dozens of times as a child, it wasn’t until I revisited it as an adult that I realized just how damned creepy it is.
To be fair, a lot of that creepiness comes straight from the source material. Dahl’s writing nearly always treaded a careful line between macabre and delightful fantasies. Most, if not all, of the inciting incidents in other size change stories are light hearted cosmic mishaps or silly science gone awry. Dahl’s is the only one that comes to my mind where this morphing is decidedly malicious in intent. Immediately after the film’s odd opening credits (sped up aerial photography of snowy mountain tops? Thank you early 90’s), it dives right into the frightening material with the protagonist Luke’s grandmother Helga telling him about a worldwide conspiracy of evil, child murdering witches. “But witches don’t murder children with knives or guns; that’s for people who get caught. And witches...never get caught”, she tells him while sharing the story of her childhood friend who was killed by a witch. Erica, the friend in question, was kidnapped by a witch and placed by a spell into a painting that hung in her parents’ house. If that wasn’t batshit crazy enough, Helga goes on to state that Erica aged within the painting, becoming an old woman who eventually just disappeared. Helga further lists a number of disturbing facts about witches, their habits, why they dislike children, and how to discern a witch from an ordinary woman.
After the opening salvo of violent, frightful tales of the witches and their schemes, the story skips into the standard children’s story cliche by killing off Luke’s parents in an unseen car accident. After a unsettlingly brief mourning period, we learn that Luke and Grandma Helga have moved to England. A creepy witch tries to seduce Luke out of his treehouse by offering him a snake, Helga passes out due to an illness (pneumonia in the book, and for some reason “a mild case of diabetes” in the film), and the two decide to heed the doctor’s orders by retiring to an ocean-side hotel. Well, it just so happens that the Grand High Witch (played deliciously evil by Angelica Huston) and every other witch in England have descended upon the same hotel for a sort of witch sales conference. I should mention at this point that Rowan Atkinson (aka Mr. Bean) plays the hotel manager, a nice little addition to the film’s comedic sections. While exploring the large hotel, Luke is forced into hiding in the conference room where the witches (whom he’s recognized from Helga’s earlier descriptions) are having their meeting. Luke learns that their plot is to put a potion into candy that turns people into mice, buy up every candy store in England, and give away free, potion-laced candy to every child as a “Grand Opening” event. The potion is readily demonstrated by the cliched fat-kid-who-always-talks-about-food character Bruno, lured by a promise of free chocolate. Bruno promptly turns into a mouse in a really freaky and brilliant bit of special effects and Jim Hensen puppetry. Luke eventually gets found and turned into a mouse as well. The combination of Hensen’s puppets and live mice is really incredible throughout the film and holds up better than most modern CGI does.
Roeg seems very aware of the childhood size-change fantasy I described earlier, because Luke and Bruno are rather unfazed by their sudden rodenthood. In fact, Luke immediately starts consoling Helga when she finds out about it. It’s really striking when watching this as an adult how quickly everyone adjusts to the situation, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized the genius of it. When I watched this film as a child, my brain didn’t latch onto the creepy first half of the film, instead it hung onto the fun idea of being a mouse running around a large hotel. By the end of the film, Luke has built himself an impressive tram system out of Legos and other toys on which he can ride to different parts of the house and he sleeps in the Ghostbusters Firehouse Playset. What child would choose the life of a school kid over the life of a mouse with a seemingly endless supply of killer toys that they can actually fit inside? All that stuff about creepy witches and child murder is completely irrelevant the moment you tell a child that they can live inside their toy hideout of choice. I think Roeg’s insight here is pretty brilliant. Luke shouldn’t care about getting turned into a mouse because to a kid, turning into a mouse is a major upgrade of their place in life.
*One last creepy thing that I hadn’t noticed until I was rewatching the film in preparation for this review: a doll face randomly stapled to the wall above the hotel room bed (screenshot below). What the hell, Nicolas Roeg, what the freaking hell?
Growing up I watched this on VHS. When I rewatched it for the review I just downloaded it. It's available on disc from Netflix or just on DVD, or as a paid streaming rental from Amazon. I saw the DVD version years ago and don't remember there being any problems with the transfer. It's British, so it has that look to it due to formatting.
As far as food, I would recommend your favorite cheese or cheese substitute, as well as tea and crumpets. Chocolate would be good as well, preferably with some sort filling to simulate the potion. Finally, in honor of Bruno, you should make sure to constantly complain about how little food there is and/or ask where you can get more.
- Ryan Nichols
Ryan is a writer, film-maker, lover of the crazy, and regular contributor to crocaduck.com
Tom Letness is the owner / operator of the beautiful and incredible Heights Theater. Our conversation veers from running a theater, the thrill and hardship of renovation, the future of 35mm and more. Enjoy!
You can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, search word "All-Star Video"
I think there are certain moments in history that define a time period. September 11, 2001, for instance, drastically changed the entire world. There is the world pre-September 11 and the world post September 11.
The Columbine Massacre in 1999 was a similar situation. It changed the face of school violence. It brought attention to bullying and created an environment that caused people to ask why. Why would these young men go into the school and kill all those people and then kill themselves?
The answer? Violent video games and movies.
However, similar to September 11, a simplistic answer to that question provided simplistic solutions. They ignored the history of such acts. Short term fixes without any sense of context brought about nothing but more problems. If anything, school violence has only intensified.
Adults have probably always feared their children. Those rowdy and rambunctious street toughs with all their hormones and their destructive tendencies. However, a certain crowd of kids seems to have been especially targeted since the mid 1980s. Goth culture was an easy target. Wearing all black, listening to scary music, having an interest in the occult and loving horror movies are immediate and simple signifiers for evil. That diving into the dark side of the human experience was alienating to adults.
Likewise, there has always been a fear of cinema itself. From the beginning, people thought it would be the downfall of society. The first image of a moving train sent audiences screaming out of the theater. For fear of corrupting the youth, different censorship groups have showed up over the years to attempt to protect us from the dangers of cinema.
This fear of goth culture started to show up in mainstream cinema as early as Blade Runner. When it really intensified, however, was in the mid 1990s. Films like The Crow and Interview with the Vampire appealed in a certain way as ambassadors to the dark world. On the other hand, films like The Craft and The Lost Boys provided a much more chilling archetype of young people who dress in black.
This little film from 1994 is deeply ingrained in my psyche. I can vividly remember going to my friend Cody's house and playing Resident Evil nearly every day. We would slowly shamble through that old house as Jill (the master of unlocking) and cut down zombie dogs, killer plants and giant monsters. Maybe it's there where my love of the macabre began. I fell in love with zombies as a concept and sought to find anything remotely similar in tone or concept.
One afternoon, Cody and I were at the video store and picked up this crazy looking movie that Edward Furlong was in. Edward Furlong? wait... JOHN CONNER!?!? Consider us invested. The video store clerk called home to Cody's mom (my mother would never have let me rent an R rated film) and got permission to rent that sucker. We skateboarded home as fast as we could and put that baby in the machine. The next hour and a half was mind-blowing for our little 12 year old minds.
The basic premise is that Michael (Furlong) lost his parents in a car accident and now owns a giant house with all the sweet stuff he could ever want. Mostly, he wants to watch horror movies and play horror video games and get with the cute girl who lives next door. He is introduced to Brainscan, the new interactive horror video game that puts you in the driver's seat. In the process of playing the game, he finds out that he's actually killing people and is forced to continue to kill to cover up the mess. He's fooled into accidental murder through a video game... And the same could happen to you! Or your kids!
Sure, the film is far from brilliant and probably never registered with anyone else the way it did me, but it's stuck with me and it was influential in it's own way. The trope of the horror club that actually kills people in Scream is a rehash of the ideas here. The assumption that it's the goth kids who did the murdering would become reality in West Memphis as the ritualistic murders of three young boys were falsely pinned on some teen goth kids. The culture of fearing goth had gone mainstream.
The thing that never sat well with me in Brainscan, or the much inferior Scream, is that the cause of all this violence is movies and video games. That same overly-simplistic answer. As an aside, I think Wes Craven made Scream over a bloated and megalomaniac guilt over making horror movies.
Video games and horror movies did not cause the Trench-coat mafia to open fire that day in Columbine. It is the culture itself. Its us. Its our disconnect from one another. It's the endless and ruthless bullying of the small, the weak, the weird, and the outsiders. Its our obsession with guns. It's the health-care system and our mis-prioritizing mental health. Its singling out goth kids and horror kids as villains that should be feared. It's the inability to accept people who are different. Its a lack of listening.
It is not video games and it is not movies. They simply feed us the innate fears we already have. They are a way for us to interact with the darkest and deepest wells of human experience. And, so ends Brainscan, simply a harsh nightmare that we can move past. Or, share with others.
Director: Tibor Takacs
85 Minutes, PG13
My memories of The Gate are some of my earliest movie memories of my entire life. Having two older sisters, parents that were really into ZZ Top, and a Budget Mart gas station down the street growing up, meant I got to watch movies that probably weren't appropriate for a preschooler.
While The Gate may not appear to be a kid's movie. In my mind, it is. It stars kids. It's about being a kid. It's a story about your weird metalhead neighbor, about growing apart from your older siblings, and opening the gate of hell in your backyard.
Most horror films of this era were marketed towards young teens. I feel, as a PG13 film, The Gate aimed slightly lower.
Glen is your average kid. He has a sweet Huffy, a scruffy old dog, and lives in the standard suburban two story. Just like I did.
The film opens with Glen (Stephen Dorff) riding his bike up to his house, getting into his treehouse and having it fall and collapse. He wakes up from a nightmare to hear heavy machinery removing the very same tree, leaving in massive hole in the ground.
Glen and his friend Terry find a weird crystal in the hole. It burns Satanic images on to their Sesame Street Magnet toy doodle pad thingy.
"Metal up your ass!"
The movie proceeds to the mundane suburban life. Terry is really nerdy and really into sweet metal bands like Venom and The Killer Dwarves. Glen's sister Al, is becoming a mature young lady and she doesn't have time to play with Glen and his baby toys anymore.
When Glen and Al's parents go out of town, Al has a sweet party when the mature kids practice levitating and trying to do all sorts of other goofy "occult" things 13 year olds do.
In conjunction with the massive hole in the yard, the "occult,"Al's "boyfriend" dumping the dead family dog in the hole, and listening to metal records in reverse, Terry, Al, and Glen unleash hell onto the earth. . . in the form of tiny claymation demons. Then lightning rolls in, eyes start showing up in people's hands, in a nutshell the apocalypse happens.
I had nightmares about these dudes before liquid metal.
Viewing this as a child left many images in my head. The eye in the hand being the strongest. But along with the mundane, facts of life, such as siblings growing apart, the death of the family dog, the weird metal head neighbor kid. The Gate really recreates childhood forces evil upon it and destroys it. Terrifying for a kid. Entertaining for an adult.
If I ever have kids, I'm totally making them watch this when they're 6.
As we embark on a month of movies that messed us up as kids, movies meant for kids that are crazy disturbing, and just plain movies we remember helping shape us, I started to think about my own childhood.
Being a kid sucks. You're small and have no income, and your limbs are weirdly gangly and awkward. You fall down a lot, get gravel in your hands, and have to go to bed early. School is a drag, and bullies abound. Other kids (including you) suck, and that's who you interact with most of the time. You have all these dumb rules you have to follow and you are always in the process of being socialized, because you are basically a wild animal birthed from the loins of a citizen of human society. And, if all that weren't bad enough, you feel as though your parents don't understand or trust you, which got me thinking about Tobe Hooper's 1986 remake of INVADERS FROM MARS.
I've never seen the original film (yes, what blasphemy, be up in arms about it please). This one is disturbing enough for me, thank you. I was watching it a few nights ago, and I didn't realize I had actually seen this movie as a kid until I was about 45 minutes into it. There is an image that is seared into my brain of a teacher leaned over a sink as a young boy walks into his science classroom. The teacher turns around to reveal she has a frog hanging out of her mouth!
This image is terrifying enough as an adult, but as a kid, I remember it freaking me out. I'm not sure what context I saw the film in, but images became more and more familiar as it went on. Perhaps on TV...?
Anyway, what struck me as an adult is the idea that no parents ever believe kids in movies. There is a secret kid world where fantasy is reality, and parents never have the imagination to accept this until it's too late. In the case of Invaders, they become terrorists controlled by the Martians. But, in general, I can think of about ten movies off the top of my head where parents don't believe their kids. Often, it comes to the detriment of those untrusting old jerks who have no imagination, ie: The Stuff.
But, back to Invaders. Where The Stuff is truly about the dangers of capitalism, Invaders seems to be about CONTRA. You know, that sweet NES game where two marines go off killing an alien invasion.
Whereas Contra was made in 1987 (the year after Invaders was released) it seems to me the plot is a bit cooler than that of Invaders. Actually, I don't understand the plot to Contra, but after you beat it, it reads,
"CONGRATULATIONS! YOU'VE DESTROYED THE VILE RED FALCON AND SAVED THE UNIVERSE. CONSIDER YOURSELF A HERO."
That's pretty rad, if you ask me. Both involve Marines going down into the alien lair and burning them out with flamethrowers and rocket launchers. Both involve my childhood. And, in a weird way, have influenced how I view childhood.
David, the protagonist of Invaders, hunts down the marines to get help fighting the aliens, but also believes it might work to just talk to the aliens to convince them to leave. The general responds with, "Marines have no qualms killing Martians!"
David tries anyway, but in the end the Martians don't care for talk and it's the Marines that get the job done. And, it seems to me only a child solves all problems that way...
I continue with my interviews of the people around Minnesota that I think are doing fascinating things around film. This week: Joseph Larsen. Joe Larsen is a filmmaker, programmer, VHS enthusiast, theater manager and friend. This is our conversation about how he got into movies, what he's up to now, and what he has planned for the future. Check it out here. http://allstarvideo.libsyn.com/interview-with-joseph-larsen
Directed by Joseph Merhi
City Lights Home Video
Collecting physical media is a quickly dying hobby. Digital media is becoming more overwhelming and prevalent. Streaming services offer a seemingly unlimited amount of titles. However, the titles on Netflix and others are pushed at you based on their restriction rights with the hopes of gaining the most profit. Likewise, the temporary nature and inferior quality of that digital content offers no sense of ownership. However, not all physical media is better than the box it comes in, ie: MAYHEM
So, this started as a regular review, but as I was writing I realized I dont care near enough about this movie to actually write a review. Sure, it's enjoyable enough, and I'm happy with the time I spent on Mayhem, but I need not spend any more.
Joseph Merhi was a straight to video producer for most of his career. He has become synonymous (at least in my mind) with goofy action sequences, overly bloody violence and awkward Cinemax-like sex scenes. His production company (PM Entertainment as in Peppin-Merhi), released such gems as Rage and Skyscraper.
Mayhem is Merhi's directiorial debut. And, though it is a first film, it is wildly successful at being a Merhi vehicle. The acting is superbly terrible (when I first saw David Prior's Night Wars, I wished that I could watch an entire movie starring the car salesman. Well, the lead in this, Raymond Martino, is about as close as it gets.) The character development is insane. For instance, Dino yells at his cat like a jealous husband, and then it cuts to his real wife as the cat. He only eats healthy and gets down on his friend Zigi for eating hamburngers. However, he also kills without hesitation. Anyway...
I was with my friends Nick and Meghan Geiken in Sioux Falls a few weeks back. We were hunting around Family Thrift Store and brought up a few tapes to fhe counter. The clerk asked us if we'd like to see the back room. Without hesitation, I said of course, and my heart began racing. In a garage in the back, Nick and I climbed atop boxes, lawn mowers and more to find a wonderful treasure trove of tapes. We were told we had 15 minutes, so we began tossing anything somewhat interesting into a box. Hence: my acquiring Mayhem.
The box art was interesting enough for me to snag it. What really caught my attention, however, was that PM logo and that amazing tag line... and THE BACK. The back is incredible. First, the tagline.
"First it was the child molestors, the Dope Pushers and the Pimps. Now it's the Police. Can he survive?"
Without having an annoying discussion of the grammar and semantics there, I just want to point out how funny I find that list of villains. It's also pretty misleading, but I need not go into that.
And, we get to the back of the box. First, a dude in a hilarious wig and mustache getting gunned down. Alright, you've got me interested. A man in a white button-down shirt throwing himself backward while being shot next to dude full of blood, and Buzz from Home Alone next to that, yelling. Sold. Oh, and if you notice the dude who did Special Effects...