Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Horror Staples: Useless Men

  For the month of October I watched 13 horror movies.  As this is more than I normally watch, I noticed something that was sort of prevalent.  Men telling women that they are hysterical, when the women are really trying to warn everyone about the monster. The men then ignore them and are in general unhelpful.  So in honor of Halloween here is an incomplete list of horror movie loser guys.
  Dracula (1931)
   While this does not exactly count, Jonathan Harker tells Mina she's just been dreaming about a creepy guy coming into her room.  Jonathan also doesn't listen to Van Helsing when he says Mina needs help.

  Una O'Connor in The Invisible Man and The Bride of Frankenstein
  In both movies Una tries to warn somebody about a man made monster.  The person being warned ignores the seemingly ridiculous Irish woman, so she as a sort of modern Sybil says, "I wash me hands of it, let you all be murdered in your beds!"

  Cat People (1942)
  Seriously Ollie is a class A idiot.  Irena tries to tell him about turning into a cat, but he just thinks she's crazy and imagining it all.  (The psychiatrist also qualifies.  He goes on about some childhood trauma she must have experienced whilst he woos her, the jerk.)  When she finally takes a turn for the better, he's all like oops I love the good old American girl better anyway.  Unfortunately Simone Simon does not get to sink her claws into him so he's around for:

  Curse of the Cat People (1944)
  Oh Ollie is also a terrible dad.  He's so afraid of having another family scandal that he squishes his daughter's imagination.  Happily he finally changes and learns that you can trust people even if they are mistaken and that you can help them through love not ignoring the problem.

  House on Haunted Hill (1959)
  Seriously that 'psychiatrist' gets on my nerves, babbling on about hysteria all the time.  What's worse is when the hero tells the heroine that she imagines seeing the creepy ghost.

  Carnival of Souls (1962)
  After Mary Henry thinks she sees The Man, a psychiatrist takes her to his office.  Basically he says she's the victim of hysteria.  She also tries to get help from her neighbor, but he is extremely useless and abandons her to the dead people.

I know there are other horror movies out there with similar dolts but to make a long story short, sometimes hysterical women have a point and even if they don't you shouldn't laugh them off.  You should take them to a psychiatrist who won't treat them only as a simple minded woman.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Favorite 5: Horror Movies

5. Cat People (1942)
   I love this psychological horror movie.  One thing that is so fascinating to me is that she really seems to be able to be healed, but then Ollie is lame.  By the way, Simone Simon's accent is great.  I think it works perfectly for the part.

4. Carnival of Souls (1962)
  Those scenes on Saltair are great.  Actually I am planning on writing a paper for a history class about Saltair so I am sure I will write about it more later.

3. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  This movie is so interesting.  I love how it shows how many people would act like in a situation like this.  But in the end it doesn't matter if you've been a hero or a coward.

2. Psycho (1960)
  This movie is iconic, there really isn't anything else to say about it, except that I love it.

1. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
  This one is so weird.  Those sets. Cesare.  The music.  German Expressionism.  For some reason this movie is fascinating to me.  It must be that I love German movies during the interwar period until the Nazis took over anyway.
  By the way I just realized that three of these have significant scenes involving water.
Halloween Movie Meme from The Girl with the White Parasol

1. Who is your favorite movie witch?
The random lady at the Serbian restaurant in Cat People.  She is the first real hint we get that Irena isn't imagining things.  The way she says her line ("moya sestra") is great as well.  (I also really like Simone Simon in this movie, but it's debatable whether she is really a witch.)

2. What is the first movie you can remember being scared by?
The Ghost of Christmas Future from A Christmas Carol (the 1984 version with George C. Scott) really scared when I was a kid .  It was particularly freaky because my family would normally watch it with all the lights out with only a fire in the fireplace which gave an overall eerie feeling.  Also that music.

3. Name a classic horror film that would be substantially improved by better special effects.
There's a lot that I guess would be better with better special effects (such as Dracula and King Kong) but I sorta like that B movie feel and they pull it off.

4. Name your favorite Val Lewton film.
I have only seen two, but they are both amazing: Cat People and The Curse of the Cat People.

5. What movie villain or monster has the most frightening "stare-into-the-camera" moment?
Norman Bates in Psycho

6. What is the most irritating horror film cliche?
  I don't watch a lot of newer movies, especially horror.  One thing I am sure I wouldn't like is the immoral teens gradually getting killed that is such a staple now.

7. Are there any movies you refuse to watch alone?
  I really like watching movies alone, so I honestly can't think of any.

8. Picture an old childhood nightmare of yours. Now try to adapt it to film. Can it be done?
  Dentists, terrified me as a kid.  Actually they still scare me.  If there was a movie made about a psycho dentist, I would be scared silly.  There probably is a movie like that somewhere called something like "ATTACK OF THE KILLER DENTISTS!", but they I think you could make something really frightening.

9. Who's your favorite "scream queen?"
Fay Wray, the original

10. What is the most disappointing horror remake?
   I haven't seen many remakes, but Van Helsing is a terrible movie and it references the Universal classics Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Wolf Man.  Did I mention Van Helsing is awful? (By the way, I only watched it because my dad had it and for some reason my little sister wanted to see it.)

11. We've all seen our share of vampires, zombies, and werewolves on film, but are there any mythical creatures or monsters out there that you think deserve more movies (i.e. golems, changelings, the Minotaur, etc.)? 
    Kelpies or faeries from Celtic and English mythology.  Kelpies are demon horses that act calm until you get on their backs; then they drown you.  Faeries seem to always trick people into coming to the home of the Faerie Queen who then doesn't let them leave for years, although it only seems like one night.  Once the people get out though they normally turn to dust.

12. Along the lines of "Scary Mary Poppins," can you think of any non-horror flicks that could easily be adapted to fit the genre?
   I can see 42nd Street with Ruby Keeler as some sort of vampire ("What is this strange power she has have over producers, directors, even leading men? She doesn't have talent!") Ginger Rogers and Una Merkel could have been the stars of the first of a series of movies wherein wisecracking showgirls fight the supernatural.  I would watch it.  Also, 
Myrna Loy and William Powell as a sophisticated monster hunting couple, solving the sort of problems "Ghostbusters" does but with a taste of champagne.  
Prognosis: Vampire
After investigating Grant's Tomb

13. And now, just for fun, pick one movie monster or villain to be remade into a cuddly plush toy, just for you.

Frankenstein's Monster in James Whale's Frankenstein.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Favorite 5: Actresses (in rough order)

5.  Teresa Wright: Teresa Wright excelled at roles that were so appropriate for postwar America; a regular girl but with a core of iron and someone you could imagine as a best friend.  She worked with the best directors of her time and was respected by all.  Favorite Film Roles: "The Best Years of Our Lives", "The Little Foxes" and "Shadow of a Doubt".
The New Face of Post War America
4.  Irene Dunne: Great at melodrama and screwball comedy. What more could you ask for? Favorite Film Roles: "Love Affair", "I Remember Mama" and "The Awful Truth"
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3.  Ginger Rogers: the All-American girl, the working girl with several wisecracks up her sleeve.  Favorite Film Roles: "42nd Street", "Top Hat", and "Stage Door".
Rogers and Hepburn face off

2.  Myrna Loy: The perfect wife but so much more than that title would indicate.  Although it doesn't seem to be mentioned often, she also had a great airy voice that could say lines in such a lovely way.  Favorite Film Roles: "The Best Years of Our Lives", "The Thin Man" and "Libeled Lady".
Mr and Mrs Thin Man
1.  Clara Bow: the ultimate flapper and my all time favorite actress (at least she has been for several months.)  Also she had the saddest personal life I have ever heard about. (Read David Stenn's "Runnin' Wild")  Favorite Film Roles: "It" and "Kid Boots".

The One and Only It Girl

Friday, October 12, 2012

Teddy at the Throttle (1917)

  A villain strokes his mustache, a girl is screaming tied to train tracks, and a dog runs to the rescue, while a piano plays in the background.  This is what most people think of about silent movies (if they ever think about them).  However it was passe enough by 1917 to have a short parody made of the genre.
   "Teddy at the Throttle" is a Keystone comedy and stars Bobby Vernon,Wallace Beery, Keystone Teddy and the fabulous Gloria Swanson.  "Teddy at the Throttle" has a fairly simple story, appropriate for a short. A girl [Swanson] is scorned by her clueless boyfriend [Vernon] in favor of another woman. However the only way Bobbie can get his inheritance is by marrying Gloria.  Enter Henry, Bobbie's lawyer [Wallace Beery] who tries to marry Gloria so he can get the money.  Eventually Henry [Beery] ties Gloria to the track to be run over by a train.  Teddy runs and gets Bobbie.  Bobbie comes and all ends happily for the young and short couple (although Teddy is the one who actually stops the train).
Gloria sings with Teddy
If you'd rather marry an old, overweight, tall woman than me, be my guest.

Henry tries to woo Gloria
  Off screen things weren't so great.  Wallace Beery and Gloria Swanson had been married for a few months.  Theirs was a very unhappy marriage.  They had been married on Gloria's 17th birthday and at least according to "Swanson on Swanson" Wally raped Gloria on their wedding night and abused her for a couple of months until she finally left.  [From what I have read about Beery this seems likely as pretty much everyone in Hollywood found him an extremely unpleasant person.]  Gloria Swanson came to the studio one day and was told about the project.  After telling the director that she had left Wally, she said that she would still do this one last picture with her husband.

A Happy Marriage?
  Wallace Beery was extremely angry with Gloria, having wanted to set up a husband and wife team and it showed on the set.  He was furious that she kept away from him.  In one scene of "Teddy at the Throttle" he takes Swanson to the railroad tracks, he was literally dragging her and Gloria was literally hitting him trying to get away because she was terrified.
  In one of the last scenes a train drives over Swanson.  They had had a male double all set to do the stunt, but Gloria insisted she do it herself.  (Silent stars and stuntmen, for that matter, were extremely tough, but more on that in future blog posts.)  Of note watching this short is that Swanson doesn't have her screen persona set up that was later fully established by "Don't Change Your Husband" or "Why Change Your Wife?"
   Often if there is a parody of a genre it signals the end of that fad.  If a girl tied to a train track was old hat by 1917, well.  This is an excellent movie and helps show that silent movies especially later ones (1920s) were not the simplistic things they have since become labeled as.