PICTURE OF THE DAY: Meet The Franks

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Meet the Franks

I’d buy this album in a heartbeat.

I found this image online, from a site called Classic Movie Monsters, http://classicmoviemonsters.blogspot.com/2010/03/meet-franks.html.

My vote for best voice on this one would go to Karloff, and I hear that Lugosi is a killer drum  player.  This group features Glenn Strange on bass and Lon Chaney Jr. out of his element.

Ah, the things one can imagine just by looking at a photograph.

Not available on CD or to download.  Just on good old-fashioned vinyl.

And I hear they’re planning another tour this summer.  They’re ageless, those Franks!

—Michael

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MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES: PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

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planet_apes+1968MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES:  PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

By

Michael Arruda

 

Today on MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES we look at memorable lines of dialogue from the original PLANET OF THE APES (1968) starring Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowall, one of my all-time favorite movies.

There are a lot of notable lines in this one, most of them spoken by Charlton Heston.  The screenplay for PLANET OF THE APES was written by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling, based on the novel by Pierre Boulle.  Of course, everyone knows Rod Serling and the talent he brought to the table, thanks to THE TWILIGHT ZONE TV series, but Michael Wilson was an award winning screenwriter in his own right, the winner of two Academy Awards for Best Screenplay for A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951) and THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (1957).  He also co-wrote the screenplay for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962).

It’s no wonder PLANET OF THE APES has so many outstanding lines!

We’ll get two of my favorite lines from the movie out of the way immediately.  My all-time favorite line from PLANET OF THE APES comes from Charlton Heston’s astronaut Taylor, when he reaches his breaking point at the hands of the apes, and he shouts in anguish:

TAYLOR:  It’s a madhouse!  A madhouse!

There have been quite a few times in my life when things have gotten very low, and I’ve heard Heston’s voice in my head shouting these very same words.

Next up is probably the most famous quote from the movie, and it’s the scene where Taylor finally regains his voice, after having lost his ability to speak due to a bullet wound to the throat.  In a world where apes speak and humans don’t, it was the first words spoken by a human that the apes had ever heard.  The apes had just been chasing Taylor through the city, and when they capture him, he shouts:

TAYLOR:  Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!

To relieve a lot of the tension in this riveting science fiction thriller, there’s a good amount of humor in the movie.  For example, this line from one of the apes:

JULIUS: You know the saying, “Human see, human do.”

A bunch of very memorable lines come during the final sequence in the film, where Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) and Zira (Kim Hunter) take Taylor and Nova (Linda Harrison) to the Forbidden Zone, where they play to escape from Ape City.  However, Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans) and his gorilla soldiers are in hot pursuit.

For example, this exchange after Taylor overpowers Zaius and ties him up.

ZIRA: Taylor! Don’t treat him that way!

TAYLOR:  Why not?

ZIRA:  It’s humiliating!

TAYLOR:  The way you humiliated me? All of you?  You led me around on a leash!

CORNELIUS:  That was different. We thought you were inferior.

TAYLOR:  Now you know better.

When Cornelius reads from the sacred scrolls, it’s a memorable passage, so much so it was repeated in the opening of the movie’s sequel, BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970).

CORNELIUS (reading from scroll):  Beware the beast Man, for he is the Devil’s pawn. Alone among God’s primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother’s land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him; drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of death.

Then there’s this exchange moments later between Taylor and Dr. Zaius:

TAYLOR:  A planet where apes evolved from men? There’s got to be an answer.

DR. ZAIUS:  Don’t look for it, Taylor. You may not like what you find.

And when Taylor and Nova are finally ready to ride off into the unknown, Taylor decides he’d like to kiss Zira goodbye, to which Zira gives this memorable response:

TAYLOR:  Doctor, I’d like to kiss you goodbye.

ZIRA:  All right, but you’re so damned ugly!

And we finish with Dr. Zaius’ prophetic comment about what Taylor will find on his voyage into the Forbidden Zone.

ZIRA:  What will he find out there, doctor?

DR. ZAIUS:  His destiny.

Great lines, great movie, great fun.

Thanks for joining me today on MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES, and I hope you enjoyed these lines from PLANET OF THE APES.

I’ll see you again next time with memorable quotes from another classic movie.

—Michael

Books by Michael Arruda:

TIME FRAME,  science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.  

Ebook version:  $2.99. Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.

InTheSpooklight_NewText

 Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com.  Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, short story collection by Michael Arruda.  

For The Love Of Horror cover

Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.  

MY WEEK WITH MARILYN Delightful Tale of Two Film Icons

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my-week-with-marilyn-posterBlu-Ray Review:  MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (2011)

By

Michael Arruda

 

I missed Michelle Williams’ Oscar-nominated performance as Marilyn Monroe when MY WEEK WITH MARILYN played in theaters two years ago, and so I was happy to finally catch up with this one on Blu-Ray the other night.

MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (2011) is based on the book “The Prince, The Showgirl, and Me” by Colin Clark, a memoir of how Clark worked as a third assistant to Laurence Olivier on the movie THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL (1957) and how he met and got to know the film’s other star, Marilyn Monroe.

Young Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) is eager to break into the movie business, and he catches his break when Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) agrees to let him help out around the set.  Colin quickly makes himself indispensable, and soon he’s hired as a third assistant, which means he’s a glorified errand boy.

Olivier is making movie THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL, and he’s excited as it’s giving him the chance to work with American icon and movie star, Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams).  When they need a house for Monroe to live in while she’s in England, they turn to Colin, and he impresses his employers when he actually books two houses, since the owner of the first house blabbed to reporters that Monroe would be living there.  The owner of the second house was much more discreet.

Things on the set are a disaster.  Monroe is constantly late and uncomfortable, prompting Olivier to be impatient and rude.  He also doesn’t approve of Monroe’s method style of acting, or the fact that she’s brought along her personal acting coach.  But when Monroe asks Colin to come to her house for a visit, she quickly warms up to him and finds in him a sympathetic ear, and thus begins a relationship in which Colin not only finds himself inside Monroe’s inner circle but also developing feelings for her.  Ultimately Olivier doesn’t mind because Monroe loosens up on the set and her disposition improves, to the point where she finally begins to click onscreen.

MY WEEK WITH MARILYN is a delightful movie that tells an entertaining story and features some very strong acting performances.

I really enjoyed Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe.  She certainly deserved her Oscar nomination.  I’m late jumping on the Michelle Williams bandwagon.  While I did enjoy her performance as Glinda the Good Witch in OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (2013), before that she failed to wow me in SHUTTER ISLAND (2010), and I was never a DAWSON’S CREEK fan.  But after seeing her in MY WEEK WITH MARILYN, combined with her work on OZ, needless to say, I’m paying attention now.

Even better than Williams is Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier.  I’ve long been a Branagh fan, and to see him play Olivier is a special treat, since many consider him to be the Olivier of his generation.  Branagh was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor here, and like Williams, he didn’t win.

Eddie Redmayne is also excellent as Colin Clark.  It’s a splendidly sincere performance by Redmayne, and he comes off as so likeable it’s easy to understand why both Monroe and Olivier liked and respected him so much.  Redmayne followed up this performance with the role of Marius in last year’s muddled LES MISERABLES (2012), and I remember him as being one of the highlights of that movie.  He certainly had one of the better singing voices in the film.

The supporting cast here is also excellent.  Leading the way is Judi Dench as Dame Sybil Thorndike, and it was nice to see her in a much more sympathetic role than her recent turns as “M” in the James Bond movies.  Also on hand is Harry Potter’s Hermione herself, Emma Watson, as Colin’s love interest Lucy, that is, when he’s not hanging out with Marilyn Monroe.  I wouldn’t mind having this guy’s love life.

Philip Jackson is especially memorable as Roger Smith, the man Olivier hires to keep an eye on Monroe to keep her out of trouble.  Jackson makes Smith a loyal protector of Monroe rather than a nosy spy.

Equally as memorable is Dominic Cooper, who plays Milton Greene, a young man who works with Monroe and who is increasingly jealous of her relationship with Colin.  Cooper has been in a bunch of movies lately, including DEAD MAN DOWN (2013), ABRAHAM LINCOLN:  VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012), and CAPTAIN AMERICA:  THE FIRST AVENGER (2011), and he’s been good in all of these.

Character actor Toby Jones is also on hand and gets to enjoy a couple of scene-stealing moments.  Jones is the son of Freddie Jones, an actor who has enjoyed a long and distinguished acting career, and who I always remember as Professor Richter in Hammer’s FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969).

My favorite part of MY WEEK WITH MARILYN was the dynamic between Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe, as they were like oil and water on the set together.  One of the best lines in the movie comes when Colin sums up the reason why he thinks Olivier and Monroe struggle to get along:  because Olivier is a great actor who wants to be a movie star, and Monroe is a movie star who wants to be a great actor.

It’s an excellent script by Adrian Hodges, full of great lines and sincere scenes that are as moving and touching as they are humorous.  Branagh gets some of the best lines in the film, as Olivier’s patience is put to the test as he has to deal with Monroe’s idiosyncrasies and constant tardiness on the set.  And these lines work as well as they do because we know and understand that Olivier truly admires Monroe and he believes she’s brilliant on screen, and the fact that she’s not working smoothly with him nor responding to his direction is driving him nuts.

Directed by Simon Curtis. MY WEEK WITH MARILYN also does a nice job capturing the time and the setting of 1950s England.  The details in the sets and costumes are first-rate.  The film looks great, thanks to the cinematography by Ben Smithard.

And you can’t talk about MY WEEK WITH MARILYN without mentioning the make-up department.  Obviously, Michelle Williams looked stunningly authentic as Marilyn Monroe.  Anything less and the movie doesn’t work as well.  But the make-up unit also did an excellent job on Kenneth Branagh.  He really resembles Olivier in this movie, and it’s fun to watch certain shots where the lighting combined with the make-up and the way his hair is combed, where he really looks like Olivier.

If you like movies about film history and its icons, you’ll be thoroughly satisfied with MY WEEK WITH MARILYN, a wonderful movie that tells the story of what happened when the greatest actor of his generation met the greatest movie star of hers, and how one enterprising and sincere young man found himself in the middle of it all and in the position to make the whole thing work.

—END—

Sneak Peak from FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR by Michael Arruda

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For The Love Of Horror cover8/21/13

 

It’s time for another sneak preview from my short story collection FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR.

 

This collection of short stories is available as an EBook from NECON EBooks at www.neconebooks.com and as a print edition at https://www.createspace.com/4294076.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR contains 15 short stories, 7 reprints and 8 original stories, plus a wraparound story that ties everything together.  I wrote this with the old Amicus anthology horror movies in mind, films like DR. TERRORS HOUSE OF HORRORS (1965) and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1971).

 

Today’s excerpt comes from the story “Reconciliation,” a tale of a vampire seeking religious redemption, or is he?  Incidentally, “Reconciliation” happens to be my very first published short story, published back in 1998 in the vampire anthology THE DARKEST THIRST by The Design Image Group.

For your reading pleasure, here is an excerpt from “Reconciliation”—-

RECONCILIATION

By

Michael Arruda

“Bless me Father, for I have sinned.  It has been 200 years since my confession.”

The priest, 62, thought his ears had betrayed him.  Leaning over, he pressed his left ear and the left corner of his mouth against the screened window which separated him from his visitor in the darkened confessional.

“How long has it been?”

“Two hundred years,” the dry male voice repeated.

“I’m afraid I don’t under—.”

“I am a vampire.”

“A vampire?  You mean one of those things from the movies?”

“Would that I were just a Hollywood creation,” the man said, “then I wouldn’t need to be here.”

“Why are you here?”

“To confess my sins.”

“Then perhaps I should hear your confession.”

“Thank you, Father.”

The vampire took a deep breath and began.

“I am disillusioned with the world, Father.  It used to be, way back when, that the worst crime, the worst sin, was murder.  Then we had Nazi Germany, and the world went crazy.  They paved the way for the madness we have today with their attempts at obliterating an entire race, an innocent race, and nearly succeeding.  The Nazi legacy is all around us.  Look at `ethnic cleansing.’  The Middle East.  Terrorism.  The tribal wars in Africa, where families are slaughtered daily, where babies are beheaded in front of their mothers.   If I were a horror fiction writer I’d be told by my editors that the things I just described were too sick for print, but these are true atrocities, having happened not in the dark ages, but here and now in the 21st century!

“And things are no better in this gun-happy country we call home,” the vampire continued,  “where we lose 16 children a day and 40,000 adults a year to people wielding guns, from disgruntled men who take out their frustrations on the world by shooting into crowds of innocent bystanders, to playing children who accidentally blow their best friends’ brains out!  Children.  I feel for them most of all.  Abused, sexually assaulted, forced to— I won’t even go there!  Damn pornographers!  Sex and violence, Father.  We’re a nation addicted to both. How else can you explain the fact that women here are raped every day?  Every day!  What kind of a world allows these sort of things?  The kind that makes the types of sins I have committed in my lifetime fodder for a Disney movie!”

The priest shifted in his seat.  The vampire noticed.

“But I digress.  You must think me crazy.”

The priest did not comment.

“I did not come here today to ramble about generalized atrocities, but I cannot help myself, I am so sickened by it all.  I ask you, how can I not be horrified by the world in which we live, a world gone mad?”

“Yes,” the priest said.  “The world is a difficult place to live in these days.  But, the world is not in this confessional with me.  You are.  Is there anything that you have done that you would like to be absolved for?”

The vampire hesitated before responding.

“Yes.  There is something.  Some things.  That I need to ask forgiveness for.”

He did not elaborate.

“Go on,” the priest said, “and rest assured, that whatever these things are, if you are truly repentant, the Lord will forgive you your sins.”

“Yes, the Lord will forgive— it makes sinning so much easier, doesn’t it?  When you can say you’re sorry and have your sin washed away as if it never happened.  Very convenient.”

The priest opened his mouth to disagree with this cynical comment, to make the point that reconciliation is not about condoning sin, but getting past it, when the vampire beat him to the punch and spoke first.

“I have never harmed a child, and I’m certainly not a rapist.  But I am a vampire, and as such, I have done things that I am sorry for.  Terrible things.”

The priest rubbed his chin.  He was disturbed.

Disturbed by his visitor’s repeated assertion that he was a vampire.

It was an assertion he did not believe.  However, it was quite possible that this man believed it, and in all sincerity thought himself to be a vampire.  If this were the case, then this man may have committed acts which he might be sorry for, which would explain his need to seek God’s forgiveness.  For this reason, the priest listened.

And waited.

Waited for any indication that this was merely a joke.  And if and when he received such a sign, the confession would be terminated.

The vampire continued, “I have lied to women.  Promised them anything they wanted. From money to marriage to simple companionship.  I even promised one young lady a book contract.”

“Why did you make these promises?”  the priest questioned.

“Why?  So that I could become intimate with them.  So that I could hold them, kiss them, sleep with them.”

“Are you married?”  the priest asked.

“No.  I’m not confessing to adultery, Father.  I’m confessing to the reason I wanted to sleep with them.”

“What was the reason?”

“I needed their blood.”

For a moment, neither the priest nor the vampire said a word.

“Father?  Are you still there?”

The priest answered with a question.  “Are you confessing to having murdered these women?”

The vampire paused.

“I do not like the term, `murder.’  It makes what I have done seem less from necessity and more from passion, and this, Father, is certainly not the case.”

The priest ignored the comment.

“Have you committed murder?”

“I have taken lives, yes,” the vampire admitted.

“How many?”

The vampire hesitated but then responded, his voice deep, dark, and threatening.  “More lives than you have touched with your sermons, Father.  Many more lives!”

The vampire’s voice suddenly choked with emotion, “I have been drinking the blood of innocents for 200 years!”

The priest was unimpressed.

“Let’s call it quits, hmm?”

“Excuse me, Father?”

“With this performance.  I’ll give you two thumbs up, and then we’ll call it a day, hmm?”

What?

“Come on!  I know why you’re here!”

“What do you mean?”  the vampire asked, sounding very uncomfortable.

“I mean, I know Halloween is just two nights away!”  the priest answered, sounding angry for the first time.  “The joke’s over!  Go home!”

“You disappoint me, Father.  I thought you a wiser man.  You do not believe me then when I say that I am a vampire?  That I need to drink human blood to survive?  That I have drunk the blood of women the world over for 200 years?”

“Let me tell you what I believe.  I believe that if you don’t leave this confessional in the next 10 seconds, I’ll sound the silent alarm by my side, and the police’ll be here before you can say Bela Lugosi!”

“A silent alarm?”  the vampire said.  “I had no idea.”

“Obviously,” the priest said.  “Some people may consider the sacrament of penance a matter for the dark ages, but our security advisor isn’t one of them!  Now, will you please leave?  While you still can.”

“I assure you, I am being completely sincere,” the vampire said, his voice indeed resonating with a clear and honest authenticity.  “I was born in the 18th century, and I am a vampire.  Do you have a light in there with you, Father?”

“A what?”

“A light.  I would like you to look at my face.  Please, indulge me, and do not yet sound your alarm.  I need the forgiveness of God.  Please.”

The priest remained silent.

The vampire squirmed, shifting his position for the first time since the conversation had begun.

“I beg of you, Father.  Look at my face before you pass judgment.  Keep your finger on the button if you so desire, but wait until your eyes have seen the likes of which few men have seen and lived before you press it.  If only for a moment, if you dare.”

The vampire heard the rustling of the priest’s frock in the darkness- he was moving his arm, reaching for something.  The silent alarm, the light switch, or both.

Click.

Both rooms of the confessional were suddenly bathed in light.

The priest, seated in a comfortable chair, turned to his left and gazed into the screened window.  He gasped.

The face staring at him was chalky white, and the pale flesh of the man on the opposite side of the partition contrasted drastically with his combed forward dark hair, hair as black as ink.  His eyes were wide and red, as if the whites had been cracked open like egg shells, spilling bloody yolks into the empty sockets.  His nose was long and straight, like a nail, and his lips were coal black.

“Please extinguish the light now,” the vampire said.   “It pains me.  My eyes.  Please.”

The priest’s habit rustled again, and once more the confessional was draped in darkness.

“Do you believe me now, Father, after having seen my face?”

“Nice make-up,” the priest said, “although, frankly, I’ve seen better.  Must have bought your stuff at Wal Mart, huh?”

“Do not joke!” the vampire raised his voice, for the first time losing his composure.  “Please, Father, you must believe me!”

“Why?  Why do I have to believe you?  Is that part of the prank, huh?  Get the old priest to admit he believes in vampires?  So you can broadcast it to all your friends?”

“No.  It’s not that way at all.”

“Well, what way is it, then?”  the priest asked.

I — have sinned!  I— need— true forgiveness from God!

The confessional nearly shook.  The vampire’s body was vibrating with anxiety.

“True forgiveness from God,” the priest repeated.  “That’s a curious statement coming from a vampire.

**********************************************

Indeed.

If you’d like to find out what happens next, feel free to order a copy of FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, available as an EBook from NECON EBooks at www.neconebooks.com and as a print edition at https://www.createspace.com/4294076.

As always, thanks so much for reading!

—Michael

PARANOIA (2013) Wastes Fine Cast With Poorly Executed Story

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PARANOIA-PosterMovie Review:  PARANOIA (2013)

by

Michael Arruda

 

A better title for PARANOIA (2013), the new thriller starring young hunk Liam Hemsworth and old favorites Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman, might be POTENTIAL, or perhaps PERIPHERAL.

That’s because there’s a lot of potential here but the story never gets to the heart of the matter, instead choosing to remain on the sidelines where things are never as interesting.  It’s a movie where the sum of its parts is better than the whole.

PARANOIA tells the story of twenty-something Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth) who’s trying to make it in the world but is disillusioned by the trend of the past decade, where it seems the older generation is holding all the cards and his generation just can’t seem to catch a break.  Not only is Adam struggling to take care of himself, but he’s also caring for his retired dad Frank (Richard Dreyfuss) who’s suffering from emphysema and needs in-home medical care.  Matters are made more complicated when their health insurance cuts their coverage.

Adam works for a high tech software company, and his “break” comes when his employer, the unscrupulous Nicholas Wyatt (Gary Oldman) catches him spending company money on a very expensive night on the town.  Rather than press charges, Wyatt offers Adam a deal.  He wants Adam to infiltrate and spy on his former mentor and chief competitor, Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford) so they can steal his trade secrets.  Adam knows this is illegal, but he’s driven by his need to pay his dad’s medical bills and his desire get ahead, and so he says yes to the deal.  Of course, it beats going to jail, so he doesn’t really have much of a choice, does he?

So Wyatt and his staff provide Adam with special training, and when Adam meets Goddard he’s able to impress the tycoon and get a high level position almost immediately.  Along the way, he woos the beautiful and ambitious Emma Jennings (Amber Heard), who also works for Goddard.  In fact, part of the plan is for Adam to steal Emma’s security clearance in the company and use it to get the information Wyatt needs.  Some boyfriend!

Of course, this is a thriller, and Goddard is no fool, and so things don’t go as planned.  Suddenly, Adam finds himself in the middle of a power struggle that could cost him and those he loves their lives.

PARANOIA is done in by a weak story that never goes for the throat nor gives us enough details to make it a winner.  The screenplay by Jason Dean Hall and Barry Levy is based on a novel by Joseph Finder, and I would guess that the novel is better than the movie.  There is a lot going on here, and it’s the kind of story that could be told very easily in novel form.  In a movie, or at least in this movie, it’s all rather rushed and glossed over.

For example, Adam infiltrates Goddard’s empire so easily it’s ridiculous.  One brief meeting followed by a successful proposal and suddenly Adam has the keys to the company.  I didn’t find this believable at all.

The love story between Adam and Emma doesn’t really work either.  While they do share some nice onscreen chemistry, Adam totally uses Emma and really takes advantage of her, and yet later, we’re supposed to believe that she’s still interested in him?  Really?  He stole information from her that he used to rob their boss.  We’re not talking ignoring phone calls here.  I just didn’t buy it.

Harrison Ford’s Jock Goddard and Gary Oldman’s Nicholas Wyatt are both very interesting characters.  I wanted to know more about them and wished the movie had spent more time developing them.  The potential is there for Goddard to be a nasty villain.  Wyatt is developed a little bit more, but ultimately he comes off as a foolish loser rather than the suave genius that he seems to be at the outset.

A thrilling triangle between Goddard, Wyatt, and Adam never really happens, and that’s because the characters aren’t fleshed out to the point where we understand them completely and believe in them.  The characters just go through the motions, and as a result, the story never rises to an exciting level.

PARANOIA does have a strong cast, but they’re stuck in a story that doesn’t do them any favors.  Still, it’s the cast that keeps the movie from being a total turkey.

Liam Hemsworth is actually quite good as Adam and makes for a solid lead.  I bought into his character’s motivations, and I believed them.

I also liked Harrison Ford a lot as Jock Goddard.  Goddard is a decent villain, and I like the fact that Ford is playing roles lately that seem to be outside his comfort zone.  His performance here in PARANOIA follows upon the heels of his excellent work as Branch Rickey in 42 (2013).

Gary Oldman is also watchable as Nicholas Wyatt, although ultimately his character isn’t as smart as he’s first made out to be.  Oldman fared much better in the DARK KNIGHT trilogy as Commissioner Gordon.

Amber Heard, who I remember being the best part of the Nicholas Cage actioner DRIVE ANGRY (2011) is excellent once again here, although she’s stuck in a rather thankless role.  Her Emma Jennings should be up to the task of fending off Hemsworth’s Adam, but instead she’s reduced sadly to being simply the love interest.  She’s stunningly gorgeous, and I hope she gets better roles in the future.

Richard Dreyfuss as Adam’s dad Frank gets to enjoy a couple of fine moments, but Josh Holloway (Sawyer from TV’s LOST) is lost in a throwaway role as FBI agent Gamble.  He’s about as integral to the story as that guy sitting in the background at the dinner table.  A shame.

Director Robert Luketic adds little in the way of cinematic vision with this one.  The story starts out fairly interesting and remains mildly so throughout, but things never get as down and dirty as they should, and as a result it’s not a very effective thriller.  It plays more like a tepid drama.

The title PARANOIA refers to the paranoia of the main players, Wyatt and Goddard, who are supposed to be paranoid out of necessity, in that they can’t trust anyone in order to stay on top, but strangely, this plot point is only touched upon peripherally and is hardly used at all. Very strange considering the movie is called PARANOIA.

PARANOIA has a nice cast, and they all do their jobs well, but it’s not enough to make this one worth your while.

—END—

THE QUOTABLE CUSHING: DRACULA A.D., 1972 (1972)

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Dracula A.D. 1972 - posterTHE QUOTABLE CUSHING

 

It’s time for another edition of THE QUOTABLE CUSHING, the column where we look at some of Peter Cushing’s most memorable lines in the movies.

Today we look at DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972) Hammer Film’s attempt to put Dracula into a modern day setting.  Unfortunately for Hammer, “modern day” happened to be 1972.  Far out, man!

A decade later and they may have struck gold, but in 1972 DRACULA A.D. 1972 plays out like THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY MEETS DRACULA, as Dracula (Christopher Lee) tangles with a group of 70s teens who are only interested in sex, drugs, and rock and roll.  They could care less about vampires.  In fact, Dracula seems so out of place and uncomfortable in this setting that he spends his time in this movie hanging out in a desecrated church, as if he’s terrified of venturing forth into 1970s culture.

It’s an awkward mix to be sure, but it’s part of what makes this movie so much fun today.

It wasn’t fun for Hammer back in 1972, because the film was a commercial failure, but I’ve always liked this movie.  It’s always been a guilty pleasure.  I find it entertaining, and not in spite of the dated 70s characters and dialogue but because of it.  It’s all a hoot.

Now, Peter Cushing is on hand, and as always, he adds dignity to the story.  Here, he plays the grandson of the original Van Helsing, and it goes without saying, Cushing is excellent in the role.  He enjoys some memorable lines, especially in his exchanges with the Inspector (Michael Coles) from Scotland Yard, who has called in Van Helsing to assist with his investigation of some weird “cult” murders.

So let’s look at some of these lines now from DRACULA A.D., 1972, screenplay by Don Houghton.

Troubled by some very weird murders, Inspector Murray (Michael Coles) visits Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), an expert on the occult, and seeks his opinion on the crimes.  Cushing’s lines at the end of this exchange provide him with one of his best acting moments in the film.  Take a look:

VAN HELSING: Those mutilations, around the neck?

INSPECTOR: Mostly.  Does that mean something?

VAN HELSING:  It could.  It could indicate—.

INSPECTOR: What?

VAN HELSING: That the killer was trying to obliterate the real cause of death.  Vampirism.

INSPECTOR: You’re joking?

VAN HELSING: You dismiss the possibility?

INSPECTOR: I don’t know.  I’ve been a policeman too long. I don’t know.

VAN HELSING: My grandfather died fighting a vampire, the most terrible, the most dangerous vampire of all time, but before that, he collected proof, positive proof.

(INSPECTOR chuckles).

VAN HELSING:  Oh no.  There is nothing ludicrous about it.  He was a scientist.  His evidence was conclusive.  There is evil in this world.  There are dark awful things.  Occasionally we get a glimpse of them.  But there are dark corners; horrors almost impossible to imagine—even in our worst nightmares.  There is a Satan.

INSPECTOR:  Of course.  Otherwise we wouldn’t need a police force, would we?

___________

Later when it’s discovered that one of the murder victims was a friend of Van Helsing’s granddaughter Jessica (Stephanie Beacham) the Inspector questions her.  She takes offense at his probing questions about her friends, and she reacts badly, to which Van Helsing responds:

JESSICA VAN HELSING:  I wish somebody would tell me what this is all about.

VAN HELSING:  Murder, Jessica.  That’s what all this is about.  Ghastly, horrible, obscene murder!

It’s a great Cushing moment.

At the end of the film, when Van Helsing finally confronts Dracula (Christopher Lee), he shouts to the vampire:

VAN HELSING:  Count Dracula!  Look on me, Dracula.  Look on me and remember.

At this point, the film provides a flashback to the opening scene of the movie, where we see the original Van Helsing destroy Dracula back in the 19th century, in a scene shot specifically for DRACULA A.D. 1972.  It’s a pretty cool scene too, although I’ve always wished that the flashback after this line had taken us back to the original conclusion to HORROR OF DRACULA (1958).  Now, that would have been something for Dracula to remember!

Early in the movie, Van Helsing discovers his granddaughter looking through his book on the Black Mass.  He’s none too pleased that she’s treating his life’s work like a joke, but the best part of this scene is Stephanie Beacham’s dated dialogue as Jessica Van Helsing:

VAN HELSING:  A treatise on the black mass? What do you want with this?

JESSICA: Oh, just a quiet bit of mind blowing.

VAN HELSING: Jessica, this is not a subject to mess around with. These are scientific works.

JESSICA:  You can buy that sort of stuff in almost any shady bookshop in Soho. I think it’s all kinky.

VAN HELSING:   What’s that?

JESSICA:  Weird, man. Way out. I mean, spooks, hobgoblins, black magic. All that sort of stuff.

Gee, Scoobs, pass me some of those Scooby snacks, will you?

 

We’ll finish here not with a line by Cushing but by Christopher Lee.  It’s one of my favorite lines that Lee speaks in the entire Dracula series (and since he cut so many of them, there aren’t a whole lot of Dracula lines in this series!).

His descendant Johnny Alucard (Christopher Neame) has just performed a human sacrifice to resurrect his master, and he’s quite pleased with himself at this accomplishment.  But Dracula is quick to slap him down.

JOHNNY ALUCARD:  Master, I did it!  I summoned you!

DRACULA:  It was my will.

Ouch!  Take that, minion!

And that’s it for now.  Thanks for joining me for another edition of THE QUOTABLE CUSHING.  I’ll see you next time with more quotes from another classic Peter Cushing movie.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

A Look Back at SMOKING POPPY By Graham Joyce – Book Review By Michael Arruda

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Smoking Poppy coverWhat I’m Reading – Smoking Poppy By Graham Joyce

Book Review by MICHAEL ARRUDA

 

Having read and enjoyed Graham Joyce’s latest novel, Some Kind of Fairy Tale, I decided to read one of his earlier works, Smoking Poppy, from 2002.

In Smoking Poppy, Dan Innes learns that his adult daughter Charlie, who he hasn’t seen in years, has been arrested on charges of drug smuggling in Thailand where she awaits a probable death sentence.  Dan decides to travel to Thailand in order to bring his daughter back home.  He intends to go it alone, but things don’t work out that way.  His friend Mick wants to go with him, which comes as a surprise to him since Dan doesn’t even realize they’re best friends.  In fact, he’s shocked when Mick calls him his “best mate.”

His best mate?  This was complicated. I didn’t realize I was his best mate, nor he mine.  We’d known each other for some years, true, but then only as snooker partners and quiz makeweights.  I didn’t much go in for this “best mates” thing; I didn’t see the point.  Your best mate as far as I’m concerned is your wife and your children and the family you build your life around.  You stop having best mates when you’re fourteen.  But I had to tread carefully, because he was seriously offended.

 

Dan’s estranged son Phil, who has found religion in his adult life, also decides to make the trip, because God told him to go to Thailand, and so the unlikely trio of Dan, Mick, and Phil travel to Thailand to rescue Charlie, a process that is easier said than done, especially when they discover that the prisoner being held in the Thai prison isn’t Charlie at all, but a woman who had stolen Charlie’s identification.  Charlie, they learn, is holed up deep in the jungle, surrounded by murderous drug dealers, superstitious natives, and opium plants galore.

Dan, Mick, and Phil venture into this dangerous and unsettling world with the improbable task of somehow finding Charlie and then bringing her back to civilization.

Smoking Poppy is both a thrilling page turner, an adventure into the perilous jungles of Thailand, and an eye-opening drama about a father trying to get to know his adult children, wondering where things went wrong, and how two people who adored him when they were children seem to hate him now.  Smoking Poppy is just as much about Dan “finding” his son Phil as it is about him finding his daughter Charlie.

The novel succeeds on both levels.  Dan’s journey into the jungles of Thailand is reminiscent of Martin Sheen’s trek through Vietnam into Cambodia in APOCALYPSE NOW (1979).  There is high adventure as Dan, Mick, and Phil venture deep into an area of the world in which most men don’t return alive.

But my favorite part of Smoking Poppy is the internal journey taken by Dan, the one in which he grows to understand his adult children and his “best mate” Mick.  And none of these things come easily for him.

When Dan reaches an epiphany at the end of the story and realizes what it means to be a father, the moment is particularly satisfying:

Break your heart one day?  I wish I’d known then what I know now, and I could have gainsaid the old harridan.  Your children break your heart every day.  You only have to look at them and your heart shreds.  They lacerate it.  Pulverize it.  And then they mend it for you, each and every day, with a gesture or a smile or a sly glance, just so that it can be shredded and wrecked all over again.  And all over nothing.

 

That’s what it means to be a father.  That’s my definition.  A father is a person with a mashed heart and a wounded hand.  And that’s perfectly normal.

 

I really enjoyed the four principal characters in this one.  Dan is a flawed character who means well, very well, and oftentimes it’s painful to read through the scenes where he tries to communicate or help his son or daughter and fails.  You want him to succeed.

Mick might be the most interesting character in the book.  He’s this guy who Dan barely notices, but really considers himself to be Dan’s best mate.  The fact of the matter is, Mick really cares about Dan, something that Dan in his closed-in world never noticed before.  Mick serves as the driving force behind Dan’s mission to find Charlie.  He’s constantly pushing Dan forward, helping him get through one ordeal after another, and he’s the voice that always says don’t give up.  And he backs up his words with actions.

Dan’s son Phil is certainly an annoying character, and Joyce does a nice job making the reader relate to Dan’s frustrations over his son, like the way Phil always calls Dan “father” rather than “dad.”  You just want to slug him.  And yet, Phil loves his father, loves his family, and the single most satisfying moment in the book may be when we find out this fact, that Phil does love his dad, and we find out through Phil’s actions, when it’s revealed what he did to save his dad.

Charlie is also interesting, the strong, rebellious daughter of the family, who went off and got herself in a bind.  It’s interesting because the plot of the book is all about finding and rescuing Charlie, and yet the story is more about Dan’s relationship with his son Phil and his friend Mick than it is about his relationship with his daughter.

Joyce also does a nice job fleshing out the supporting characters in the book, including some of the villagers, especially Nabao, the woman who cares for Charlie.  Joyce also creates an unsettling villain in Jack, the drug lord they meet in the jungle, who oversees the village in which they find Charlie.  Jack could easily kill them all in a heartbeat, and Dan and the others have to operate gingerly around him.  He’s a very unnerving villain.

Smoking Poppy also enters the realm of fantasy, but on a peripheral level.  Moments of spiritualism are intertwined with drug-induced hallucinations to create a world in the jungle that is as uncomfortable as it is unpredictable.

There’s a moment in the jungle where Dan encounters an entity, a force that is downright frightening.

It was madness, this entire trek.  Preposterous.  I lashed at the bamboo again, and my teeth started chattering, as if I was chilled.  Sunlight dappled the rubbery leaves as a shape formed at the periphery of my vision, a shape that I took to be a bird or an animal.  It was no more than a shadow, a silhouette even, but then the thing swooped down from the jungle canopy and started to close around me.  It was like a heavy, damp cloak settling on my shoulders and pressing a great weight down on my lungs.  I felt a rancid breath on my neck.  There was corruption in the air and a sound like a veil tearing.  I tried to lash the thing away and when my hand passed through it a moment of hideous panic followed.  It was the loneliest thing I have ever experienced in my life.

 

Mick and Phil tell Dan that nothing physical had leapt onto him, and he realizes— or at least at this time believes— that it was just in his head.  But this is not an isolated incident, as there are ghosts and spirits in the jungle just as assuredly as there are men with guns growing opium.

Smoking Poppy is an engaging novel, the tale of one man’s physical journey into the perilous jungles of Thailand to rescue his adult daughter, but the more satisfying story is that of his emotional journey, where he discovers what it means to be a father and a friend.

It’s never too late to discover a gem.  Sure,  Smoking Poppy was written a decade ago, but this novel by Graham Joyce is every bit as satisfying today as it was then.  It’s a highly recommended read.

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