A lonely young woman strolls the streets of her suburban small town, singing softly, "I wish I had you all to myself...just the two of us", as if she were sending out a magic wish that might heal her lovelorn soul - that maybe her singing might bring her the dream she always dreamt, to have someone special like all of her friends seem to have ... will our heroine get the chance to find true love ? Will Mr. Sandman bring her an autumnal Dream?
Halloween, the Greatest Halloween Themed Film of the day.
Hocus Pocus, the Greatest Halloween Themed Film of the day.
A few weeks back, the fine folks on TCM ran a curious little film entitled, Targets. Intrigued by the quick synopsis of the plot given by TCM host, Ben Mankowitz, I hunkered down to watch. Unfortunately, about twenty minutes into the film, TCM went black!
Yup, just like that, no picture, no nothing. I was frantic and called The Evil Empire, Comcast to find out what was going on. After being on hold for about fifteen minutes, I hung up and figured on a case of sour grapes.
But, I was still intrigued by what I had seen so I went to Netflix, and ordered up a copy of the film.
Boy howdy, was I glad I did that!
Targets is a fascinating film.
Is it a horror movie? Yes and no.
The plot is a dual affair; one part deals with an aging horror film icon, Byron Orlok (played sublimely by an elderly, and apparently very ill, Boris Karloff) who wants to retire from the movie business because he believes that the modern world (circa 1968) no longer finds Gothic castles and monsters terrifying . Orlok is a sympathetic and likable character, and according to director , Peter Bogdanovich, was an honest reflection of the actual Karloff.
The other story concerns a handsome, boy-next-door-type, Bobby Thompson (Tim O'Kelly) . Thompson a Vietnam vet lives with his wife and his parents in a suburban section of L.A. and seems to have it all. However, when we first meet him we understand immediately that he is a troubled young man with a thing for guns.
Partially inspired by the story of University of Texas sniper, Charles Whitman, Targets is a deeply disturbing work in that the horror that eventually does reveal itself seems senseless, and the sort of event that no one could have prevented.
When Bobby Thompson murders his wife, mother and a delivery boy, and then sets about to methodically place the dead bodies into bed, and blot the blood stains off the carpet with bath towels, we realize that we are indeed dealing with a monster much more terrifying than anything Dr. Frankenstein every dreamt of.
Similarly, when Byron Orlok picks up a newspaper with a headline in it about a teenager who goes on a shooting rampage at a supermarket and shows it to the young director (Sammy Michaels played by Bogdanovich) who wants him to appear in one more movie, he asks him, "How can I compete with these kinds of horrors?" Clearly, Orlock understands that the world no longer needs his type of monsters, as it is rife with a new breed of blood crazed freaks who look like your friends or neighbors, or your husband, or your son...
When Orlock begrudgingly agrees to appear at a showing of his new film at a drive-in theatre (clips from The Terror which starred Boris Karloff as well as Jack Nicholson are used), the paths of the psychopath and the move star are going to cross. A side note here: as he is being chauffeured to the theater, Orlock looks out at the City of Angels from the car windows and says, "This has become such an ugly city", and there is actually some sadness in his voice, as if he may be reminiscing about the Los Angeles of his heyday.
At this point, Thompson has already murdered several motorists on the freeway from his perch on the top of an oil refinery and is now headed to the same drive-in that Orlock is scheduled to appear at, and when Thompson finds his spot behind the screen and begins shooting, no one is spared, children and adults are killed until finally the entire drive-in finds itself in a state of bedlam.
How intriguing then, that Orlock ends up besting the real monster, who is terrified because he sees the actor approaching him in real life, as well as reflected on the screen ... he even shoots at the screen. And when Orlock finally comes face to face with the psychopath, knocking the gun out of hand with his walking cane, and then slapping him to the ground, he watches the man / boy who is now curled up and weeping and says, "Is that what I was afraid of ?"
What is even more chilling is Bobby Thompson's final words whilst being led away in handcuffs, "Hardly ever missed, did I?" he asks one of the cops, sounding like a varsity football player seeking praise from his coach.
After watching Targets, I was dumbfounded as to why this movie never found a larger audience. And then I discovered that shortly after it's release the killings of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy occurred, no doubt, souring the public's taste for a movie about nut-cases shooting people ... would American have preferred a more Gothic horror tale?
Targets was Peter Bogdanovich's first film where he served as director, and,
* A tip of the hat to The Man of A Million Movies, Cerpts, for informing me that this is NOT Karloff's last film, but in actuality, he made several more movies south of the border before he died.
** Wait, another tip of the hat to The Man of A Million and One Movies, Arbogast, for pointing out that Karloff filmed his scenes for the Mexican films in Los Angeles , and then said scenes were inserted in to the pictures.
“I hear buzzing; I hear buzzing in my brain.
And when I hear it, well it makes me feel insane!”
With those opening two lines from the song, “Slaughter House Blues”, Broadway was knocked on its ass when, Chainsaw! The Musical opened on October 31st, 1999.
I was lucky enough to see the opening night performance of Chainsaw! with a sold out crowd at the Florence Lawrence theater.
Needless to say, Chainsaw! made history that night. The original cast included John Stamos as Buck, John Goodman as Leatherface, Marlon Brando as Grandpa and Sarah Jessica Parker as Debbie, The Lone Survivor.
Buttressed by some incredible music and amazing stage direction, both the critics and the public were taken by the musical based on the 1972 film, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. New York Times critic, Alan Shay called Chainsaw!, “A bloody great time with more bite than anything that has graced the Great White Way in eons!”
One of the play’s most touching moments was when Goodman’s Leatherface and Parker’s Debbie sing the duet, “Just The Touch of Your Skin” – there was not a dry eye in the house after that number. Conversely, the show stopper was Brando’s Grandpa who owned the stage when he sang, “Grandpa’s Bringing the Hammer Down Tonight!”, many of you are familiar with this song as both Barbra Streisand and Whitney Houston covered it on subsequent albums of their own (Bab’s of course changed the narrator’s sex with “Granny’s Bringing the Hammer Down Tonight,” while Houston engaged Puff Daddy to produce a dance version of the number).
Sweeping the Tony Awards the following year, Chainsaw! brought its creators, and cast untold accolades causing the show to become the must-see event when coming to New York City.
Today, Chainsaw! (with its fourth new cast) is the hardest ticket to score, next to Hairspray, and word has it that Hollywood is chomping at the bit to bring it to the silver screen by next Christmas.
* originally posted on my main blog, 10.10.04 as Trick or Treat # 4---Broadway's Still A-buzz!!
I was cleaning out some drawers the other day and found this photograph shoved into an old date-book of mine. On the back of it, written in my unmistakable scrawl was , "Halloween Weekend 1981 - Rocky Horror Players Cherry Hill Mall (behind the theater)".
Funny thing is, I remember taking this out of focus shot with my old Yashica,MG-1 camera. I am pretty sure I was under the influence of some mind-altering substance when I shot this...chances are I probably took the photo more than once as I had a habit of forgetting to turn the flash on...
Between 1979 and 1982, I must have seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show at least fifty or sixty times. Me and my posse of suburban pals would pile in to a couple of cars and head on over to the Cherry Hill Mall and spend an hour and a half enjoying a communal experience at it's purest.
Back in those days, RHPS was the only midnight movie that mattered. It might astonish people today to see a theatre full of bizarrely attired suburbanites not only watching a film, but acting it out...talking back to the characters on the screen, singing along with the songs, dancing along with the dances, throwing handfuls of rice as well as rolls of toilet tissue and pieces of toast at the appropriate times, holding matches and lighters high during one number (oh god, could you imagine anyone doing that today? ). And it was a strangely religious experience for most, if not all, of the participants.
My friends and I used to say we were "going to church" when we headed out to see this film...
...and, in a way, it was like going to church; in that church is usually a colony of the like minded.
What a wild time that was. Picture it; the theatre is packed, it's almost midnight, people are smoking (all kinds of things), beer is smuggled in and cans of cheap brew are passed down the rows to friends and for a while, all was right with the world. High school quarterbacks sat next to artsy kids. Punks and heavy metal types co-existed. Button-down folks would be seduced in to peeling down to their skivvies and dancing ("Let's do the time warp again!").
What Rocky Horror succeeded in doing, the United Nations still can not achieve.
What made the Rocky Horror experience so special to so many, I think, was the fact that the film's hero is a cross dressing mad scientist (played to the hilt by Tim Curry); frankly it did my young gay heart good to hear people cheering for this character(especially in the early 80's when being gay in a small town south joisey was something one kept hidden)...if you've ever been to a screening you know that the roof is practically blown off the house when Frank N Furter makes his grand entrance and removes his cape revealing his torn fishnets and corset.
Beyond the film's sexual shenanigans, a message of individualism was preached to the kids of this era; "Don't dream it, be it". I like to think that many of us took those words to heart and later in life made that our mantra...hell, maybe even a young Bill Gates saw this film!
Another thing that RHPS seemed to be celebrating was the dissolution of the 50's ideal. At the film's start our hero and heroine, Brad and Janet (a very young Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon) are at a wedding of some mutual friends (hence the tossing of rice at the screen by the audience), and before to long, they themselves are engaged to be married. Overjoyed by this turn of events they set out to break the news to their old science professor (makes sense) ; however, a flat tire and a rainy night conspire against our two Eisenhower era protagonists, and by the end of their story they've both been seduced by the crazy Doctor and are left in a field like discarded items from another era.
What is celebrated in RHPS is an alternative lifestyle (and how!); Frank, the mad-doctor, is creating the perfect man for himself (and who wouldn't want to do that?), and on the night of Brad and Janet's ill-timed arrival, he's about to reveal his new creation to the world...his creature is named, Rocky(Peter Hinwood), a buff blond who does not say much (but can sing), and who spends most of the film wearing nothing more than a pair of gold lame' swim trunks. You see all Frank wants is a happy domestic life, and who can blame him?
Much madness ensues from this point on and there is blood-letting, cannibalism, lesbianism, incestuous suggestions, and a lot of catchy rock-and-roll songs, what was not to love about this film? Shit, it was as good as The Sound of Music!
I suppose that by today's standards, RHPS's premise would be considered rather tame, though I am sure that there are still theatres through out the nation that run it on occasion, if not every weekend, and I hope that somewhere, there is a young gay kid who tagged along with his pals and for an awhile thought to himself, "Wow, I'll bet at least half the people here tonight are gay! I guess I'm not the only one!"
Dario Argento's Mother of Tears (La Terza Madre) is so damn awful, so twisted, so over the top, so poorly acted, so ridiculously plotted that the appearance of a demonic monkey in the first few minutes of the action, seems to make perfect sense in the universe the film is set in.
Let me see, what else?
Oh, how about an enchanted, bedazzled sweat shirt that seems to hold some monumental magical power to it? Yes, a sweat shirt ... though to be fair, it is not referred to as such... still though, to the untrained eye, it looks like something Jennifer Beals might have worn back in the day.
Yes, the witches! Groups of gals (and a few guys) descending on Rome in packs who seemingly forgot to change hair and makeup since sometime in 1986. With the exception of one (an Asian woman who looks like she stepped out of a Duran Duran video - who gets her comeuppance by way of a bathroom door that smashes her head in) , most of these harpies just travel around in ugly clothing, talking wildly and hoping everyone else notices them ... sort of like that other pack of harpies from Sex and the City.
Oh, and ...
... forgive me, but who told Asia Argento that she can act? My god, I am sure she's a sweet gal, but she's about as compelling as a plate of cold pasta.
The Third Mother; the title character, the reason for all of this crazy shit going down. Sorry, but this strega was about as scary as a Project Runway reject. Moran Atias is one hot babe, for sure, but she's got no screen presence whatsoever. Her tits look good, so there's that. And those knockers go on display every chance they get.
So there you have it. A real piece of crap. Yes, there a few Grand-Guignol type murders (my fave being the woman choked by her own entrails), and a scene concerning a mother disposing of her infant baby (which put me in mind of a similar scene in Warhol's Women in Revolt); and if that's enough for you, then by all means, seek it out. As for everyone else ... just rent Suspiria again and call it a day.