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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 10/23/98 -- Vol. 17, No. 17
Table of Contents
MT Chair/Librarian: Mark Leeper MT 3E-433 732-957-5619 firstname.lastname@example.org HO Chair: John Jetzt MT 2E-530 732-957-5087 email@example.com HO Librarian: Nick Sauer HO 4F-427 732-949-7076 firstname.lastname@example.org Distinguished Heinlein Apologist: Rob Mitchell MT 2E-537 732-957-6330 email@example.com Factotum: Evelyn Leeper MT 3E-433 732-957-2070 firstname.lastname@example.org Back issues at http://www.geocities.com/~ecl. All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.
URL of the Week: http://www.filmforum.com/universal.html. A schedule for the Film Forum's Universal horror film festival, running in New York October 30 through November 12. [-ecl]
AltaVista: This week's MT VOID is brought to you by the AltaVista Search Engine. AltaVista. You can't figure how we make money. We can't figure how we make money. AltaVista. [-mrl]
Halloween: Well, Halloween is coming and I suppose we ought to have some sort of special Halloween selection of films for the sporadic Leeperhouse film festival. I have given it a little bit of thought and I want to make this one as close as possible to being a history of the horror film in a single evening. That is pretty much impossible, but this may be as close as one can get without showing some sort of compilation documentary. There have been three major cycles of the horror film. There was the German Expressionist cycle in the 1920s, there was the Universal Films cycle in the 1930s and 1940s, and there was the Hammer Films cycle in the late 1960s and the 1970s. I wanted to pick the best film of each cycle and I think I pretty much have done that. And because they are relatively short films, I think we can fit three in. On Thursday, October 29, at 7 PM we will be showing:
NOSFERATU (1922) dir. by F. W. Murnau THE BLACK CAT (1934) dir. by Edgar Ulmer THE DEVIL RIDES OUT (1968) dir. by Terence Fisher
Of the three films above, this NOSFERATU is probably the best known to fantasy fans. It is the first film version of Bram Stoker's DRACULA. The film was essentially plagiarized by Murnau and given a dreamlike atmosphere, seldom match since, that has haunted filmgoers across the years. Max Schreck plays the vampire in a peculiar makeup that makes him look like a white bat. The Expressionist art movement in film distorts scenery to reflect internal fears of the characters and that adds immensely to the atmosphere of this film. In addition many then-experimental techniques were used for the special effects for the film. Among the obvious ones are under-cranking the camera, primitive stop motion, and photographic reversal of light and dark.
The Expressionist approach of the visual display of emotion was adopted by Universal Pictures for the best of their horror films. They employed it only in the early years, but while expressionism survived in Universal's films, fostered by European immigrant directors, they made some of the most enduring and macabre films ever from the American film industry. These films are periodically rediscovered (as they are featured this month on the Turner Classic Movies cable channel). But the films that usually get shown are in their series featuring Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolfman. Their two best films were probably THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (commonly seen) and THE BLACK CAT (almost never shown). The latter is a short film, 66 minutes, that is one of the most macabre black comedies (if indeed it was intended to be comic) ever pulled from a director's psyche. This was the first pairing of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi in a film. Here they play two mortal enemies going back to World War I, who meet to wreak supremely melodramatic vengeance on each other in an fort, still undermined with dynamite, but now decorated sublimely in the style of the Bauhaus. For a 66-minute film what goes on, and what is implied has gone on in the past, is amazing. I have seen multiple studies of this film, almost never mentioned is the heady mixture of morbid themes from classical music. Weird film.
The Universal artistic horror style eventually was lost as a new more mercenary group of executives got control of the studio in that late 1930s. The horror film went into a decline and eventually seemed redundant with the horrors of the real world. Dracula seemed tame compared to Nazis who would kill tens of thousands of people in a single day. In the late 1950s a British studio made horror more visceral and visual and won new audiences. Hammer Studios made horror films in color and generally used a lot of stage blood. Like Universal, most of their best known films were in a Frankenstein and a Dracula series. Their best work was in 1968 when they made two very fine and bloodless films: a science fiction film QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (a.k.a. FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH) and THE DEVIL RIDES OUT (a.k.a. THE DEVIL'S BRIDE). The latter is an adaptation by Richard Matheson, fairly accurately, of a novel by adventure writer Dennis Wheatley. Unlike most films of the time (like ROSEMARY'S BABY) the existence of the classical views of witchcraft and are not used as a surprise ending, they are assumed from the first reel. The approach is like an adventure film with the black magic an integral part of the story line.
PLEASE NOTE: RSVP is requested if you are coming. [-mrl]
1998 Toronto International Film Festival: (film reviews and commentary by Mark R. Leeper) (part 3 of 10)
THE CRUISE (United States)
CAPSULE: Black and white documentary about Timothy Speed Levitch, free soul and tour guide on the Gray Line. This is a 76-minute portrait of a very strange person, advocate of the existential "The Cruise" and enemy of the Anti-Cruise. Levitch seems to have strong opinions about nearly everything. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), high +1 (-4 to +4)
Following the movie it was back to the room where Evelyn wanted to catch up a little on her sleep. I worked on reviews.
When we got to Charles Street we found that the line was very long, stretching around the corner, down Charles almost a whole block. We talked to the people ahead of us in line. The man was a co- author of a book called VIDEO TO GO.
FINDING GRACELAND (United States)
CAPSULE: In a current-day cross-country trip a man picks up a hitchhiker who claims to be Elvis Presley. Harvey Keitel, Johnathon Schaech, and Bridget Fonda star. David Winkler directs the film with a lot of heart. Rating: 7 (0 to 10), 2 (-4 to +4)
WIDE PRAIRIE, a 6-minute short is colorful, but not really exceptional.
SWEETY BARRETT (Ireland)
CAPSULE: In a remote Irish fishing village the village simpleton comes into conflict with a corrupt and tyrannical policeman. Nicely filmed and well acted but the story is overly familiar and invites comparison to SLING BLADE. Rating: 7 (0 to 10), +2 (-4 to +4)
After the movie I picked up a tuna sub and took it to the room. Kate liked her films including a Kazakhstan film called SILENCE.
Up about 7 AM.
Every film that gets shown gets the same leader tape. I guess the symbol for this festival is a sculpture of two babies sort of curled up in defensive positions. What that has to do with film I am not sure but it is on the posters and the lead tape shown before each film shows the sculptor actual chiseling the sculpture from stone. The only real connection to film I can see is the babies have their fists in their mouths and it seems to be saying that babies should be kept quiet in movie theaters. The lead tape also has a variety of humorous references to an Air Canada contest. But since the little ads are always intended humorously, they are somewhat better accepted, although Air Canada does not have a good reputation due to the recently settled strike that complicated many people's travel arrangements. It does show that people will be more tolerant of ads when humor is generously applied. I am a big believer in the use of humor.
The films here represent a spectrum from films you see because you will never get another chance to those you see to get a jump on other people. Since I review films I am hoping to see films that will play at home. At the Montreal Festival I saw only one film that played in theaters in New Jersey. That was THE ADVOCATE, and it was just a mediocre film. We are seeing some much better films in Toronto. Dan Kimmel, a friend and a reviewer from the Boston area, recommended Toronto over Montreal's film festival and he certainly was right.
DANCING AT LUGHNASA (US/Irish)
CAPSULE: Change comes to a household of five unmarried sisters during the Donegal, Ireland summer of 1936. Some well-observed performances, but this is not a film in which a whole not happens. It is unusual for Meryl Streep to play so negative a person, though she does make the character understandable. Rating: 7 (0 to 10), 2 (-4 to +4)
Evelyn thought there was a good chance we could get in for Sam Raimi's A SIMPLE PLAN. We lined up, but there was no way to get in. We got our second choice.
THE BUTTONERS (Czech, in Czech and English)
CAPSULE: A series of comedy sketches inter-related dealing with absurd uses of science, strange sexual perversions, marital infidelity, etc. The result is occasionally funny, but much more often the pieces just seem to fall flat. It could be, however, that some of the humor has been lost in the translation. Rating: 3 (0 to 10), -1 (-4 to +4)
When the film was over we just barely had time to get to the next film.
GOD SAID "HA!" (United States)
CAPSULE: This is a one-woman show. Julia Sweeney (who played the androgynous Pat on Saturday Night Live) relives the humor and horror of having her brother and parents move in with her just before her brother was diagnosed with lymph cancer. Not all of the humor works and some of the telling style seems a little artificial. But most seems sincere and is frequently moving. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), 1 (-4 to +4)
Dinner was at a small and very slow Middle Eastern restaurant. It was just okay. My next film I see without Evelyn.
J'AIMERAIS PAS CREVER UN DIMANCH (French with subtitles)
CAPSULE: Liebes meets Tod. This was a film about sex and death. A morgue attendant accidentally revives a dead woman through necrophilia and brings her into his world which is heavy on orgies. This film says something obscure about the relationship of sex and death, but imparts no insights. To make matter worse this print was poorly subtitled into English from French. Rating: 4 (0 to 10) 0 (-4 to +4)
After the film I could not stay for question and answers since I had to rush to the Cumberland for a collection of eight short films all produced in Canada. The collection was called EVE-OLVE, the name of the first film, though it was far from the best. It was four generally rather weak shorts followed by a pause and then there were four better shorts. It may have been that the better ones were on 35mm rather than 16mm and while that does not insure better quality it means that the filmmaker had to give the backers more assurances that the film would be something someone would want to see.
"Eve-olve" involves evolution choosing what species survive but ironically they are surviving only for the indignities of office life. The medium is Claymation.
"L'Amour, L'Amour, Shut the Door, Por Favor" is a set of surreal images filmed around Toronto. Workers come out of they home and bicycle off in perfect synchronization, a man rows a boat that is on a street so cannot go anywhere, a naked child runs around in an alley.
"Fish Bait": chaotic bordello scenes apparently filmed in one take with no editing, just a camera sweeping back and forth. Pretty pointless.
"The Fisherman and his Wife": The fisherman is a real jerk, his wife murders him and sets his fish free. One more film showing "groovy" violence of women against insensitive men.
"Shrink": The longest and probably the best of the films is about a man going into psychiatric therapy and being cured in just one visit.
"Sploosh": This film was reported to cost $45,000 in the papers. It actually cost $4500, the director explained. I don't know how he managed to spend that. The only way there would have been $4500 on the screen would have been if he had come in and stapled $3500. In one scene humorous people describe the Loch-Ness-like monster off-screen. We hear it but do not see it. In the second scene a survivor is telling hat happens when he is abducted by off-screen aliens leaving only two flaming footprints.
"Elimination Dance" is a strange takeoff on the marathon dance craze of the 1930s. This one apparently has production credits in common with LAST NIGHT. There are some funny bits.
"Phil Touches Flo" was made for the Fox Movie Channel. It is something of a satire or operatic spaghetti Westerns. It was filmed on the cheap in two days, but is a fairly good gag. This has already played on the Fox Movie Channel, by the way.
We stopped at a book sale on the way back. At midnight the history channel was running SHARPE'S BATTLE. I think that is the eighth Sharpe film and I had seen only the first five. So between wanting to see them in order and having to get up for a 9:30 AM film, I let it go.
[to be continued] [-mrl]
Mark Leeper MT 3E-433 732-957-5619 email@example.com
Quote of the Week:
Mathematics consists in proving the most obvious thing in the least obvious way. -- George Polya