UNDER THE SKIN (2013) Will Get Under Yours

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Blu-ray Review:  UNDER THE SKIN (2013)undertheskin poster

by

Michael Arruda

If you enjoy weird artistically-driven movies filled to the brim with neat visuals and creative camerawork, you’ll love UNDER THE SKIN (2013) a thought-provoking science fiction film by writer-director Jonathan Glazer. On the other hand, if you prefer mainstream movies with straightforward storylines and traditional story-telling techniques, you might find yourself reaching for the remote.

UNDER THE SKIN is not the kind of movie you’ll find playing at your mainstream multiplex. This is a good thing, and if you’re patient and willing to go the distance, you’ll be rewarded with a satisfying movie experience that is more intellectually challenging than most.

UNDER THE SKIN stars Scarlett Johansson as a mysterious woman stalking the streets of Scotland in search of men and leading them to an unfortunate fate. She drives around Scotland in a van picking up these young men, and she brings them back to a rather unusual house where—well, to avoid giving anything away, let’s just say that these men don’t return.

Who is this strange woman?  Is she an alien?  A robot?  A serial killer? The film never really says, although since this movie is based on a novel about an alien, it’s a safe bet that she’s not from this planet.

As she continues abducting young men, she becomes cognizant of what she is doing, and she experiences an emotional epiphany which alters her actions and ultimately changes her fate.

UNDER THE SKIN is beautifully photographed by director Jonathan Glazer.  He uses the contrast between light and dark brilliantly.  Rather than rely on traditional dialogue to move the narrative along, Glazer prefers the use of images and camera techniques to tell his story. It all works.  While things might not always be clear at first, everything in this movie eventually makes sense.

UNDER THE SKIN also has a phenomenal music score by Mica Levi.  It’s weird and very horror movie-like, yet it complements the film wonderfully.

The screenplay by director Glazer and Walter Campbell based on a novel by Michel Faber succeeds in telling a story without relying solely on words.  In fact, there is very little dialogue in this movie.

One of the best sequences in the film is when the woman picks up a man suffering from neurofibromatosis, and it’s in this scene where we see her really begin to evolve as a thinking being.

When she seduces the men, she places them in a sort of hypnotic state, which is so effective she nearly hypnotizes the viewer as well.  Watching her seduce these men is truly a hypnotic experience, and the way it occurs on screen, it’s pretty cool.

Scarlett Johansson is to be applauded for playing a role that is far from traditional.  She speaks very little dialogue, and like the rest of the movie, a lot of what she is doing and what she is all about has to be inferred, but it’s all there.  You just have to pay attention.

I really liked UNDER THE SKIN.  I completely bought into its artistic vision of storytelling, for the simple reason that director Jonathan Glazer covers all bases and makes sure that in spite of the obscure scenes and nontraditional way of filming, that everything you need to know for it all to make sense is there.

This is a tale of some sort of alien race preying on humans for some form of sustenance, and how one alien, the one played by Johansson, develops an awareness of what she is doing and seems to make the connection that the beings she is devouring are not cattle but highly developed creatures.  She seems to almost want to become human at one point, to share in the human experience, and it’s this desire which ultimately puts her at odds with her superiors

Does everything about it work?  No.  As a writer, I would have enjoyed a bit more dialogue, but that being said, I am not complaining.  And as much as I loved the visual style of this movie, I found that at 108 minutes it was a bit long for a movie with this kind of pacing.  I did get a bit restless during the final 30 minutes or so.

But these are small matters.

As a whole I liked UNDER THE SKIN a lot.

In the mood for a science fiction film that will not insult your intelligence, but on the contrary will make you think long after it’s over, and that tells its tale not so much with words but with images, camera angles, uses of light and dark, and music?

Then check out UNDER THE SKIN.

Its title is true.  It’ll get under your skin.

—END—

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CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: SINISTER 2 (2015)

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Here’s my CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT review of SINISTER 2 (2015) which went up Sunday night 8/23 at cinemaknifefight.com

Enjoy!

—Michael

 

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: SINISTER 2 (2015)sinister 2

Movie Review by Michael Arruda

(THE SCENE: A dimly lit basement. A door opens and MICHAEL ARRUDA enters. He comes upon an old Super 8mm film projector.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA (looking at projector): I haven’t seen one of these in years. This brings back memories from my childhood: watching my 8mm and Super 8 mm versions of the classic Universal and Hammer horror movies. Ah, the good old days! I even remember the introduction of Super 8mm and what a big deal it was. See, it projected a larger picture than standard 8mm.

Unfortunately, this projector is not here today for us to re-watch my old Super 8mm horror movie collection. No, it’s here because it plays an integral role in the movie I’m reviewing today, the utterly forgettable sequel, SINISTER 2 (2015). The 8mm films in this movie are films that show children murdering their families in the most brutal of ways. If SINISTER 2 succeeds at anything, it’s at being an ugly movie.

(Suddenly a group of ghost children appear, sitting around the movie projector.)

GHOST BOY: Jeesh! You’re a downer!

MA: I’m sorry. Snuff films like the ones depicted in today’s movie have a way of dampening my mood. Anyway, welcome to Cinema Knife Fight everyone. I’m Michael Arruda, and today I’m flying solo as my movie reviewing partner L.L. Soares wisely opted out of this one.

(The ghost children giggle.)

MA: What’s so funny?

GHOST CHILDREN (In unison): You’ll see.

MA: Whatever. Anyway, today I’m reviewing SINISTER 2, and if you haven’t figured it out yet by my sour disposition, I didn’t really like this movie. It’s definitely an example of when the sum of the parts do not equal the whole, because there were parts to this film that I actually liked, but as you’ll find out as we continue this review, they just didn’t add up to a complete package.

SINISTER 2 is a sequel to SINISTER (2012) a film that a lot of people liked, but I never warmed up to it. Its tale of a demon who possessed children and made them murder their families while capturing the gruesome killings on film left a bad taste in my mouth. It was just too ugly a tale for me to enjoy. That being said, it did have a well-constructed story that made sense, and it had Ethan Hawke playing the lead, so it had some things going for it even if it didn’t win me over.

SINISTER 2 opens with another grainy snuff film, where we see a family burned alive—oh fun! (Shakes his head).

GHOST BOY: Wouldn’t you like to watch one of our movies?

MA: No. Not at all.

GHOST BOY:   Come on! Watch it!

MA: No! I’m reviewing a movie here. Go find some children to haunt.

In SINISTER 2 we meet the deputy from the first movie, once again played by James Ransone, only now he’s an ex-deputy because he lost his job after the events in the first movie. In that one, he had helped Ethan Hawke’s character investigate the evil that was haunting his family, and because he went behind his boss’s back, he got fired.

Here in SINISTER 2, the deputy goes around burning houses in order to combat the main demon in these movies, Bughuul. The logic behind his actions is questionable at best. The families haunted by Bughuul aren’t killed until they move out of their home, and then when new people move into the house where the murders occurred, Bughuul goes after them. The deputy believes if he burns these houses before new people move in, then Bughuul can’t haunt people. But if he’s constantly burning houses and Bughuul is still around, then obviously his strategy isn’t working. Otherwise, wouldn’t it take the burning down of just one house- the last one Bughuul haunted— to sever the line? I mean, how many houses is Bughuul haunting? Obviously quite a lot! I didn’t really get the reasoning behind the deputy’s actions here.

When the deputy arrives to burn the home where the family from the first film was killed, he finds a woman Courtney Collins (Shannyn Sossamon) secretly living there with her twin sons Dylan (Robert Daniel Sloan) and Zach (Dartanian Sloan), hiding out from her jerk of a husband Clint (Lea Coco) who’s trying to locate them so he can get his sons back. Courtney at first believes the deputy is working for her husband and is there to take her boys, but one he assures her that he’s not, that he’s there investigating the house and its connection to the previous owners’ murders—something that doesn’t seem to bother her at all— she allows him to stay on the property.

Again, this plot point left me slightly confused. The deputy arrives at the house prepared to burn it, but once he finds Courtney and her sons living there, he drops those plans and instead begins to investigate the property looking for clues that the demon responsible for the murders, Bughuul, has been there.   Doesn’t he already know this? That’s why he went there in the first place, prepared to burn it down.

And, of course, Bughuul has been there, as a group of ghostly children has already contacted Courtney’s sons and has shown them their special set of home movies, setting the stage for yet another child to murder his family and film the slaughter, unless the deputy can stop them.

(The ghost children cheer.)

If this sounds like your type of thing, then have at it. I’d rather watch THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E (2015) reboot any day, and why that stylish film has been bashed so harshly I don’t know, but getting back to today’s movie, SINISTER 2.

As I said, there were parts to this movie that I liked. Let’s start with the cast. I really liked James Ransone in the lead role as the nameless deputy. It was fun to see a lead hero who wasn’t a wise-cracking macho type. He’s probably the most terrified guy in the movie, and yet he’s the one who gunning to stop Bughuul. The deputy is a likeable guy, and Ransone is very good in the role.

GHOST BOY: You gotta watch our movie! Please???

MA: Stop interrupting me! I’m reviewing a movie.

GHOST BOY: We’re gonna show it to you anyway.

MA: Suit yourself. I’m continuing my review.

Likewise, I enjoyed Shannyn Sossamon’s performance as Courtney Collins, the mom who’s constantly on guard and has to utilize all of her energy to combat the relentless efforts of her estranged husband. It’s too bad she couldn’t have used some of this energy to pay attention to what was going on with her two sons and a certain demon. About these supernatural events she’s completely clueless.

And even though Courtney and the deputy aren’t lovers in the story, they share a nice chemistry together.

(A grainy movie starts playing on the screen. MA ignores it.)

The two boys who play her twin sons Dylan and Zach, Robert Daniel Sloan and Dartanian Sloan, who are triplet brothers in real life, are effective enough and do a good job with the “good son, bad son” routine.

(MA hears a familiar voice.)

MA (pointing to the screen): Hey, that’s L.L. Soares!

GHOST BOY: I told you that you needed to see this.

(On screen, we see L.L. SOARES tied to a stake. He’s laughing.)

CHILD’S VOICE ON SCREEN: What are you laughing for?

L.L. SOARES: This is more fun than THE WICKER MAN!

CHILD: Uh, we’re going to kill you.

LS: Yeah, yeah, whatever.

(A hand lights a fire under the stake, and suddenly flames shoot out around LS who pulls out a cigar, lights it, and starts smoking it.)

LS (enjoying the cigar): Nice. Hey, you kids have any linguica? I could go for a barbecue.

CHILD: Why aren’t you dying?

 LS (blows on his cigar, igniting a stream of fire that shoots across the screen and is followed by a high-pitched scream.) Because you are, you little brat!

MA: This is actually pretty cool.

GHOST BOY (quickly turning off projector): That wasn’t supposed to happen. Where’s that other film?

MA: While you’re looking, I’m going on with my review.

And the demon in these movies, Bughuul, in spite of the fact that he resembles Michael Jackson, is one of the scarier-looking film monsters to come along in the past few years. Yet in this movie, that’s about all he does: look scary. Other than this, he does pretty much next to nothing. It’s a real shame, because Bughuul is frightening, and what he does, possess children and make them murder their families, is even more terrifying, and yet he’s been in two movies that have failed to take advantage of these strengths. He deserves to be in a better movie. Here, we see him again showing up on computer screens and in the shadows, but that’s it.

The biggest problem I had with SINISTER 2 was its clumsy storytelling. For starters, it did a very poor job at the outset making connections to the first film, and if you haven’t seen SINISTER, you might not get what’s going on until about half way into the movie.

As I said earlier, I was confused with the deputy’s investigation. First, he’s going to burn down the farmhouse. Then he’s there investigating it.

If Courtney knows what happened to the previous owners of her house, and she says she does, why isn’t she even a little concerned? Especially knowing that a child disappeared there, shouldn’t she be a bit worried about her own kids? I realize she’s focused on hiding from her nut-job of a husband, but still, shouldn’t there be some concern or caution? Evidently not.

More so, the deputy definitely knows. So, why isn’t he warning Courtney about watching her children?

Of course, part of the answer is the gimmick in these movies— that Bughuul makes his move after the family moves out of the house into another house, which is why the deputy keeps telling Courtney not to leave the farmhouse, because he figures she’s safe as long as she stays there. Most of the families do move because Bughuul has been terrorizing them and so they feel their house is haunted and they move, I guess. Like a lot of other things in this movie, that’s not really clear. Strangely, though, in spite of the fact that the ghost children have contacted the twin boys and are showing them the snuff films, there aren’t any other freakish things happening there. Courtney and the boys only leave when her nut of her husband shows up and forces them to do so.

I was surprised at the muddled storytelling because the screenplay was written by the same two guys who wrote the first movie, Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill. Derrickson also directed the first SINISTER. Part of the problem is there’s not much of a story to tell. Demon haunts child, child will murder family. That’s the premise. The only question is will the deputy be able to stop it?

GHOST BOY: Okay, watch this one! (Turns on projector, and MA looks at screen.)

(The grainy film reveals LS tied to kitchen floor with some sort of electric wiring tied to his leg. He looks sick.)

LS: Wow. That was some party last night.

(Suddenly we see water wash its way towards his body. A tiny child’s hand dips an electrical wire into the water, electrocuting LS, who instead of dying suddenly glows bright green. He then gets up and starts chasing the screaming child around house.)

LS: Come here you little brat! You want to electrocute someone? I’ll show you how do to do it!

(GHOST BOY shuts off film again in frustration.)

MA: I changed my mind. You can keep showing these movies to me. They’re hilarious.

Where was I?

SINISTER 2 also doesn’t have a scary bone in its celluloid body. The only thing remotely frightening in this movie is the films by the ghost children. They are gory, disturbing and dark, and since they involve characters we know nothing about they mean very little and carry very little emotional weight. They also have grown more elaborate, to the point where you doubt a child would be able to pull it off. For example, in one scene the family is hung upside down over a swamp and then lowered so crocodiles can bite off their heads. Did I say this movie was ugly?

And about those 8mm movies—- the murders which took place years ago, I could easily understand using an 8mm camera to film the proceedings, since that’s all that existed back then. But here in present day, wouldn’t the children be using cell phones, smart phones, or digital cameras? Who uses 8mm anymore? They don’t exist! Come on, Bughuul, get into the 21st century already!

Director Ciaran Foy’s idea of being scary is to show us the snuff films. That’s it. There aren’t any creative scares anywhere else in this movie, which is a complete shame. As I’ve already said, the character of the demon Bughuul has tremendous potential to be scary and he’s stuck in a movie like this.

And while I liked the main cast, the supporting cast is forgettable, led by Lea Coco as Courtney’s monster husband Clint, who is such an over-the-top jerk it’s almost unbelievable. When they all sit down to eat, he makes his family wait until he eats first. He beats his son. He verbally abuses his wife. He’s rich and powerful and has the police and local officials in his pocket, yet he looks like a construction worker. If anyone deserves to die in this movie, it’s him, and so when he does get done in, it’s the one satisfying moment in the movie.

SINISTER 2 is a forgettable sequel in a series I wish would cease now. In fact, if there was ever a character in need of a “re-imagining” or a re-boot, it’s the demon Bughuul. Jettison these inferior movies and get him on board in something else. The sooner the better.

I give it one and a half knives, and it gets the half because I like Bughuul and I enjoyed the performances of the four leads in this one.

(Turns to the ghost children).

So, do you have any more movies to show me?

(GHOST BOY turns on the projector and we see the grainy image of several children tied to tiny beds. They are the ghost children.)

MA: Hey, those kids look like you.

(LS suddenly appears on screen holding a chainsaw with a crazed look in his eye. He turns on the chainsaw and charges towards the beds.)

(The GHOST BOY knocks over the projector, and he and the other ghost children flee the basement screaming.)

MA: Well, at least now I know what L.L. was doing instead of reviewing today’s movie. I think he got the better end of the deal.

(EXITS)

–END—

WHAT I’M READING: SHADOW MAN by Cody McFadyen

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shadow-manWhat I’m Reading – Shadow Man by Cody McFadyen

Book Review by MICHAEL ARRUDA

 

 

One of the benefits of attending NECon every summer is the goody-bag you receive.  What’s a goody bag?  Oh, it’s just a bag filled with books. Free books.

 

Anyway, I’ve been attending NECon since 2001, so as you might imagine, I’ve built up quite a collection from these bags.  I read in too many genres to read all the goody bag books, and so they accumulate, and every once in a while, I snag something off the shelf, most of the time years later, and read it.  This experience always feels like Christmas.

Recently, the book I snagged was Shadow Man (2006) by Cody McFadyen.  I knew nothing about Shadow Man before reading it, nor did I know anything about the author, but I was instantly interested in it because of its main character Smoky Barrett, an FBI agent who hunts serial killers.  McFadyen would go on to write an entire series featuring Smoky Barrett. I was instantly interested because I’ve been working on a novel the past year or so where the main character is also a female FBI Agent.

I enjoyed Shadow Man a lot, especially the lead character of Smoky Barrett.  It’s no surprise that McFadyen wrote an entire series for this character.

 

Smoky Barrett is an FBI agent who specializes in tracking down serial killers, and she’s the best the Bureau’s got.  However, when Shadow Man opens, Barrett is on leave as she recuperates from a devastating traumatic event.  One of the serial killers she had been hunting had broken into her home and in a vicious attack killed her husband and teen daughter, and nearly killed Smoky.

As Smoky returns to work, we meet her brilliant team, who are all experts at what they do. McFadyen does a tremendous job fleshing out these characters, presenting them as fully confident hot shots who are all veterans in the field and have seen it all, and then he goes about terrorizing the living daylight out of them.  The madman in Shadow Man sets his sights on Smoky’s squad and in a relentless onslaught brutalizes them and their loved ones, shaking them to the core.  This makes the novel quite scary, because as a reader, you’re thinking, if these guys are afraid—.

This new serial killer reaches out to Smoky personally and invites her to be the lead investigator on the case.  He grabs her attention by raping, torturing, and murdering her best friend.  He also claims to be a descendant of Jack the Ripper, and as such boldly taunts Smoky and her team, daring them to catch him, in effect saying that like the original Ripper he cannot be caught.

Shadow Man is a gripping novel that stays strong and fresh throughout.  I’m not really a fan of the serial killer story, but I liked this one.  What I liked best about the novel is McFadyen succeeds in making it very scary, and he does this by creating confident top-of-the-food chain FBI investigators, the type of folks who never lose a case, and then he puts them through hell as his serial killer methodically preys on them.  McFadyen excels at describing their fear.  It makes for a very unsettling novel.

Some of the crimes which occur in the story are downright brutal.  A pet dog is dismembered, a teenage girl watches her mother raped, tortured, and gutted, and then is tied to her mother’s mutilated corpse for several days until the police arrive.  As I said, it’s the type of stuff that shakes even the most hardened FBI investigators.  It’s not easy material to read.

McFadyen also does an outstanding job entering the mind of a female lead character.  Smoky’s thoughts and feelings come off as so genuine you’ll swear a woman wrote this novel.

If there’s one drawback to Shadow Man it’s that the identity of the killer, once made known, wasn’t a complete surprise, nor was it anything that made the novel better.

Shadow Man also suffers from a problem I find with lots of stories like this.  So much care goes into writing a formidable villain that it reaches the point where as a reader you almost can’t believe the guy is going to get caught, and when he does get caught, it’s a disappointment.  It seems too easy.

McFadyen is a victim of his own good writing here.  He created such a clever villain I had difficulty wrapping my head around his demise.

That being said, McFadyen does cover all the bases, and everything in the conclusion to this story makes sense.  It’s just a little on the predictable side.

Nitpicking?  Perhaps.

Then again, a different more sinister ending might have made the book too scary.

Nah!

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

THE HORROR JAR: MUSIC BY BERNARD HERRMANN

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THE HORROR JAR:  Music by Bernard Herrmann

By Michael Arruda

Bernard Herrmann

Bernard Herrmann

 

 

Welcome to another edition of THE HORROR JAR, that column where we feature lists of odds and ends about horror movies.

Bernard Herrmann, the prolific film composer who composed music for some of Hollywood’s biggest movies during the 1940s-1970s, especially for director Alfred Hitchcock, wrote some of my favorite genre film scores.  He scored nine of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies, including his most famous for PSYCHO (1960), and interestingly enough none of his Hitchcock scores were ever nominated for Oscars.

Herrmann started in radio, scoring Orson Welles’ radio shows in the 1930s, including his infamous “The War of the Worlds” broadcast in 1938.

Herrmann’s final film score was for Martin Scorsese’s TAXI DRIVER (1976).  He was supposed to score Brian De Palma’s CARRIE (1976) but died of a heart attack just before he was start work on the film.  He was 64.

Here’s a partial look at the movies Herrmann provided music for, focusing mostly on genre films:

CITIZEN KANE (1941)

Directed by Orson Welles

Screenplay by Herman J. Mankiewicz & Orson Welles

Kane:  Orson Welles

Jedediah Leland:  Joseph Cotten

Susan Alexander Kane:  Dorothy Comingore

Emily Kane:  Ruth Warrick

Mary Kane:  Agnes Moorehead

Running Time:  119 minutes

Bernard Herrmann’s first movie score. Not a bad way to start one’s career, scoring music for arguably the greatest movie ever made.

THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER (1941)

Directed by William Dieterle

Screenplay by Dan Totheroh and Stephen Vincent Benet

Daniel Webster:  Edward Arnold

Mr. Scratch:  Walter Huston

Running Time:  107 minutes

Herrmann’s second movie score earned him his first and only Academy Award for Best Music Score.

THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942)

Directed by Orson Welles

Screenplay by Orson Welles and Booth Tarkington

Eugene Morgan:  Joseph Cotten

Running Time:  88 minutes

Working with Orson Welles’ again in this troubled production which suffered from major studio meddling and last minute edits and changes.

THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR (1947)

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Screenplay by Philip Dunne, based on the novel by R.A. Dick

Lucy Muir:  Gene Tierney

Captain Daniel Gregg:  Rex Harrison

Miles Farley:  George Sanders

Running Time:  104 minutes

Herrmann’s personal favorite music score.

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951)

Directed by Robert Wise

Screenplay by Edmund H. North, based on a story by Harry Bates

Klaatu:  Michael Rennie

Helen Benson:  Patricia Neal

One of my favorite Bernard Herrmann scores.  His music completely captures the otherworldly mood of this classic science fiction masterpiece about an alien, Klaatu (Michael Rennie) who travels to Earth to warn humankind that unless they give up their warring ways, they will face destruction by a superior race, and to give credence to his words Klaatu brings along his all-powerful robot Gort.  This thought-provoking drama is science fiction at its best.

Herrmann’s score here was later used in several episodes of the TV series LOST IN SPACE.

THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958)7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD poster

Directed by Nathan Juran

Screenplay by Kenneth Kolb

Sinbad:  Kerwin Mathews

Princess Parisa:  Kathryn Grant

Sokurah the Magician:  Torin Thatcher

Special Visual Effects by Ray Harryhausen

Running Time:  88 minutes

This just might be my all-time favorite Bernard Herrmann music score.  Rousing and adventurous from start to finish, it’s the type of score that’ll stick with you long after you’ve seen the movie.  Some of Herrmann’s best work is in movies featuring the special animation effects of Ray Harryhausen.

VERTIGO (1958)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Screenplay by Alec Coppel and Samuel A. Taylor

John Ferguson:  James Stewart

Madeleine Elster/Judy Barton:  Kim Novak

Midge Wood:  Barbara Bel Geddes

Running Time:  128 minutes

Provides the music for one of Hitchcock’s best films, the tale of a retired San Francisco police detective (James Stewart) suffering from acrophobia (fear of heights) who becomes entangled in a bizarre murder plot.

NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Screenplay by Ernest Lehman

Roger Thornhill:  Cary Grant

Eve Kendall:  Eva Marie Saint

Phillip Vandamm: James Mason

Running Time:  136 minutes

With apologies to his work on PSYCHO, this just might be my favorite Bernard Herrmann score for an Alfred Hitchcock movie.  His rousing music in this film also ranks among his best work, period.

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (1959)

Directed by Henry Levin

Screenplay by Walter Reisch and Charles Brackett, based on the novel by Jules Verne

Sir Oliver Lindenbrook:  James Mason

Alec McKuen:  Pat Boone

Carla Goetabaug:  Arlene Dahl

Count Saknussemm:  Thayer David

Running Time:  132 minutes

Another of my favorite Bernard Herrmann scores, but seriously, I can say that about nearly every score he wrote.  This fantasy film adventure based on the work of Jules Verne is 1950s filmmaking at its best:  colorful, elaborate, and entertaining throughout.

PSYCHO (1960)

Directed by Alfred HitchcockPsycho poster

Screenplay by Joseph Stefano, based on the novel by Robert Bloch

Norman Bates:  Anthony Perkins

Marion Crane:  Janet Leigh

Lila Crane:  Vera Miles

Sam Loomis:  John Gavin

Detective Arbogast:  Martin Balsam

Running Time:  109 minutes

Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous shocker, and arguably Bernard Herrmann’s most famous music score as well.  Likewise, it contains Hitchcock’s most famous and most studied scene, the shower scene, which also contains Herrmann’s most famous piece of music, the loud shrill of violins as the shadowy murderer strikes down poor Janet Leigh in the shower.  Hitchcock originally wanted no music in this scene, which actually makes a lot of sense and would have worked, making the scene raw and brutal, but Herrmann argued that it needed music, and how can anyone argue with the end result?  A rare example of one brief scene capturing the finest instances of artistry of two separate artists at the same time, as both Hitchcock and Herrmann produce their signature moments in this scene.

Arguably the most famous and recognizable horror movie score of all time.

THE 3 WORLDS OF GULLIVER (1960)

Directed by Jack Sher

Screenplay by Jack Sher and Arthur A. Ross, based on “Gulliver’s Travels” by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver:  Kerwin Mathews

Gwendolyn:  Jo Morrow

Elizabeth: June Thorburn

Running Time:  100 minutes

Once again providing music for a film with special animation effects by Ray Harryhausen.

MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1961)

Directed by Cy Endfield

Screenplay by John Prebble, Daniel B. Ullman, and Crane Wilbur, based on the novel by Jules Verne

Captain Cyrus Harding:  Michael Craig

Lady Mary Fairchild:  Joan Greenwood

Herbert Brown:  Michael Callan

Gideon Spilitt:  Gary Merrill

Captain Nemo:  Herbert Lom

Running Time:  101 minutes

Once again reunited with Ray Harryhausen, and once again one of Herrmann’s most memorable scores. This entertaining adventure about Civil War soldiers stranded on an island with oversized creatures is must-see viewing.  The first twenty minutes, involving a daring escape from a Confederate prison, is riveting and suspenseful, complimented in full by Herrmann’s rousing music, and this is all before they even land on the island!

CAPE FEAR (1962)

Directed by J. Lee Thompson

Screenplay by James R. Webb, based on the novel by John D. Macdonald

Sam Bowden:  Gregory Peck

Max Cady:  Robert Mitchum

Peggy Bowden:  Polly Bergen

Running Time:  105 minutes

Classic thriller about murder and revenge was a financial flop upon its initial release.

JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963)

Directed by Don Chaffey

Screenplay by Jan Read and Beverley Cross

Jason:  Todd Armstrong

Argos:  Laurence Naismith

Running Time:  104 minutes

Reunited once again— and for the last time— with Ray Harryhausen, and yes, once more, another exceedingly memorable film score.  This one contains the classic sword fight between Jason and his men and Harryhausen’s animated skeletons.  The scene also includes some of Hermann’s best music.

THE BIRDS (1963)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Screenplay by Evan Hunter, based on the story by Daphne Du Maurier

Melanie Daniels:  Tippi Hedrin

Mitch Brenner:  Rod Taylor

Annie Hayworth:  Suzanne Pleshette

Running Time:  119 minutes.

But, there’s no music in THE BIRDS.  True.  Herrmann served as a sound consultant for this movie.  Supposedly it was his idea not to have music in THE BIRDS.

MARNIE (1964)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Screenplay by Jay Presson Allen, based on the novel by Winston Graham

Marnie:  Tippi Hedren

Mark Rutland:  Sean Connery

Running Time:  130 minutes

This Hitchcock drama was considered a misfire on its initial release, but its reputation has grown steadily over the decades.

FAHRENHEIT 451 (1966)

Directed by Francois Truffaut

Screenplay by Francois Truffaut and Jean-Louis Richard, based on the novel by Ray Bradbury

Clarisse/Linda Montag:  Julie Christie

Guy Montag:  Oskar Werner

Running Time:  112 minutes.

Classic novel; not so classic movie.

SISTERS (1973)

Directed by Brian De Palma

Screenplay by Brian De Palma and Louisa Rose

Danielle Breton/Dominique Blanchion:  Margot Kidder

Joseph Larch:  Charles Durning

Running Time:  93 minutes

Early Brian De Palma thriller.

IT’S ALIVE (1974)

Directed by Larry Cohen

Screenplay by Larry Cohen

Frank Davies:  John P. Ryan

Running Time: 91 minutes

Campy horror movie about a killer baby was a hit in the summer of 1974.

OBSESSION (1976)

Directed by Brian De Palma

Screenplay by Paul Schrader

Michael Courtland:  Cliff Robertson

Elizabeth Courtland/Sandra Portinari

Robert Lasalle:  John Lithgow

Running Time:  98 minutes

De Palma thriller with shades of Hitchcock’s VERTIGO.  Herrmann’s score was nominated for an Oscar.

TAXI DRIVER (1976)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Screenplay by Paul Schrader

Travis Bickle:  Robert De Niro

Iris:  Jodie Foster

Running Time:  113 minutes

Classic Scorsese film earned Oscar nominations for stars De Niro and Foster, as well as Bernard Herrmann who was nominated twice in the same year. Herrmann lost out to Jerry Goldsmith for his score for THE OMEN.  Herrmann’s final movie score.

Herrmann died of a heart attack on December 24, 1975, just hours after he had finished the score for TAXI DRIVER.  He was 64.

Bernard Herrmann enjoyed a long and prolific career.  For me, I will always associate his music with the fantasy films of Ray Harryhausen and the thrillers of Alfred Hitchcock, and if I had to pick my three favorite Herrmann scores, they would be NORTH BY NORTHWEST, PSYCHO, and THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD.

Bernard Herrmann

June 29, 1911 – December 24, 1975

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES: THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935)

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MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES:  THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935)bride-of-frankenstein-movie-poster-1935

By

Michael Arruda

 

 

Welcome to the latest edition of MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES, the column where we look at great quotes from even greater horror movies.  Today we look at quotes from one of the greatest horror movies of all time, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), James Whale’s sequel to his iconic original, FRANKENSTEIN (1931).

THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN is largely considered by critics to be even better than FRANKENSTEIN.  I’ve always preferred FRANKENSTEIN, mostly because it’s scarier and more of a horror movie, but this doesn’t take away my enjoyment and recognition that BRIDE is one heck of a movie.

While Boris Karloff returns as the Monster, and Colin Clive returns as Henry Frankenstein, a new character who largely steals the show in this sequel is the nefarious Dr. Pretorious, played by Ernest Thesiger, who does a tremendous job in a role that was originally offered to Claude Rains.  Some of the most memorable quotes in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN are from scenes involving Dr. Pretorious.

Let’s look now at some memorable quotes from THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, screenplay by William Hurlbut.

In this scene, Dr. Pretorious (Ernest Thesiger) visits Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) for the first time and tries to convince the doctor to join forces with him so together they can once again create life.  Henry is not interested, but Pretorious is unceasingly persistent.  Let’s listen:

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  What do you want?

PRETORIOUS:  We must work together.

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  Never.  This is outrageous.  I’m through with it.  I’ll have no more of this hell spawn.  As soon as I’m well, I’m to be married.  Right away.

PRETORIOUS:  I must beg you to reconsider.  You know, do you not, that it is you who are responsible for all those murders.  There are penalties to pay for murder.   With your creature still at large in the countryside—.

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  Are you threatening me?

PRETORIOUS:  Don’t put it so crudely.  I have ventured to hope that you and I together, no longer as master and pupil, but as fellow scientists might probe the mysteries of life and death.

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  Never, no further.

PRETORIOUS:  To reach a goal, undreamed of by science.

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  I can’t make any further experiments.  I’ve had a terrible lesson.

PRETORIOUS:  That’s sad, very sad.  But you and I have gone too far to stop, nor can it be stopped so easily.  I also have continued with my experiments.  That is why I am here tonight.  You must see my creation.

And a bit later:

PRETORIOIUS:  Our mad dream is only half realized.  Alone, you have created a man.  Now, together, we will create his mate.

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  You mean—?

  1. PRETORIOUS: Yes, a woman. That should be really interesting.

Pretorious also shares key scenes with the Monster (Boris Karloff), like in this scene where the two meet in a graveyard sepulcher.  Of course, this was a huge change in this sequel, having the Monster learn how to speak:

THE MONSTER:  You make man, like me?

PRETORIOUS:  No.  Woman.  Friend, for you.

THE MONSTER:  Woman— friend, yes,— I want friend like me!

PRETORIOUS:  I think you will be very useful, and you will add a little force to the argument, if necessary.  Do you know who Henry Frankenstein is, and who you are?

THE MONSTER:  Yes, I know.  Made me from dead.  I love dead.  Hate living.

Dr. Pretorious (Ernest Thesiger) schemes with the Monster (Boris Karloff) in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935).

Dr. Pretorious (Ernest Thesiger) schemes with the Monster (Boris Karloff) in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935).

  1. PRETORIOUS: You’re wise in your generation. We must have a long talk.  Then I have an important call to make.

THE MONSTER:  Woman— friend— wife.

Of course, one of the most famous scenes in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, and certainly the most emotional, is the scene where the Monster is befriended by the Blind Man.  It’s the first time we see an adult actually treat the Monster with kindness and respect, without screaming in fear or trying to shoot, burn, or kill him.  They become fast friends, and it’s the Blind Man who teaches the Monster how to speak, among other things:

BLIND MAN:  And now, for our lesson.  Remember, this is bread.

THE MONSTER:  Bread.  (Takes huge bite from the bread.)

BLIND MAN:  And this is wine.  (Pours wine into mug).  To drink.

THE MONSTER:  Drink.  (Drinks wine)  (Smiles)  Good!  Good.

BLIND MAN:  We are friends, you and I.  Friends.

(Blind Man & Monster shake hands.)

THE MONSTER:  Friends.

(They both laugh happily.)

THE MONSTER:  Good!

BLIND MAN:  And now for a smoke.  (Lights cigar.)

(Monster growls in fear.)

(Blind Man laughs.)

BLIND MAN:  No, no.  This is good.  Smoke.  You try.  (Hands cigar to Monster.)

THE MONSTER:  Smoke.  (Smokes cigar.)  Good, good!  Good.  (Hiccups, looks faint for a moment.)

BLIND MAN:  Before you came, I was all alone.  It is bad to be alone.

THE MONSTER:  Alone, bad.  Friend, good.  Friend, good!  (Shakes man’s hand again, and they both laugh happily.)

BLIND MAN: Now, come here.  (They rise from the table and walk across cabin.  Blind man lifts a piece of wood.)  And what is this?  (The Monster growls and shakes his head.)  This is wood, for the fire.

THE MONSTER:  Wood.

(Blind Man leads Monster towards fireplace.)

BLIND MAN:  And this is fire.

(The Monster growls and retreats.)

BLIND MAN:  No, no.  Fire is good!

THE MONSTER:  Fire— no good!

BLIND MAN:  There is good, and there is bad.

THE MONSTER:  Good— bad.

Sadly, this scene ends badly when two men— one of them played by a very young John Carradine— happen upon the cabin in the woods, and seeing the Monster try to kill him.  In one of the cruelest lines in the film, one of the men tells the Blind Man who the Monster is, and he says this in front of the Monster.

MAN:  He isn’t human!  Frankenstein made him out of dead bodies!

The following sequence is one of my favorite scenes in the entire film.  Pretorious tries once again to convince Henry Frankenstein to work with him to create a woman, and when Henry again refuses, Pretorious brings in the Monster.  It’s the first time Henry has seen the Monster since the two fought in the fiery windmill in the conclusion of FRANKENSTEIN, and the first time Henry hears his creation speak.

When the Monster tells Henry Frankenstein to sit down, and motions for him to do so, it’s an exact mirror scene of the scene in the original when we first see the Monster, and Henry Frankenstein commands him to “sit down.”

It’s a neat scene.  Let’s listen in:

PRETORIOUS (to Henry Frankenstein):  Everything is ready for you and me to begin our supreme collaboration.

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  No, no. Don’t tell me of them.  I don’t want to hear.  I’ve changed my mind. I won’t do it!

PRETORIOUS:  I expected this.  I thought we might need another assistant.  (Approaches door.)  Perhaps he can persuade you.

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  Nothing can persuade me!

PRETORIOUS:  We shall see.  (Opens door, and the Monster enters.)

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  No!  Not that!

(Henry can’t even bring himself to say “not him.”  He calls his creation that.)

PRETORIOUS:  Oh, he’s quite harmless, except when crossed.

MONSTER (enters room):  Fran-ken-stein.

(Henry Frankenstein is surprised the Monster can talk.)

PRETORIOUS:  Yes, there have been developments since he came to me.

MONSTER:  Sit – down!

HENRY FRANKESNTEIN:  What do you want?

MONSTER: You – know.

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN (To Pretorious):  This is your work!

PRETORIOUS (smiles):  Yes.

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  I’ll have no hand in such a monstrous thing.

MONSTER:  Yes, must.

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  Get him out!  I won’t even discuss it until he’s gone.

PRETORIOUS:  Go, now.  Go!

MONSTER: Must do it!

HENRY FRANKENSTEIN:  Never!  Nothing can make me go on with it.

(Monster growls.)

PRETORIOUS (to Monster as he closes door as Monster leaves):  Now.

Which of course is the green light by Pretorious for the Monster to abduct Elizabeth in order to force Henry to conduct the experiment.

The Monster himself has some of the most memorable lines in the movie, like this one when the newly created Bride (Elsa Lanchester) hisses at him and makes her disdain for him clear.

THE MONSTER:  She hate me, like others.

Welcome to the world of dating, Frankie!

 

And of course, the Monster utters the most famous line from the entire movie, as he clutches the lever which will blow up the entire laboratory.  After letting Henry and Elizabeth Frankenstein go, he looks at Pretorious and the Bride, and with tears in his eyes, declares,

THE MONSTER: We belong dead.

Unfortunately for the Monster, he cannot die and four years later would be resurrected for the third film in the series, SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939).

But that’s a tale for another column.

I hope you enjoyed today’s Memorable Movie Quotes column on THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Join me again next time for another look at memorable quotes from another great movie.

See you then.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: JAWS 2 (1978)

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jaws-2-movie-posterIN THE SPOOKLIGHT
BY
MICHAEL ARRUDA

“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water—.”
As movie taglines go, this one from JAWS 2 (1978) is one of the best. It also just might be the most memorable part of the entire movie.
To be fair, no sequel was ever going to match Steven Spielberg’s original JAWS (1975).
That being said, I happen to like JAWS 2, although not as much as I did when I first saw it at the movies in 1978 when I was 14 years-old. Back then, I quickly declared it the best movie of the summer, and I liked it almost as much as the original. What can I say? I was young. I was also influenced by a sold-out crowd that was brimming with energy and enthusiasm. The audience cheered during the opening credits when Roy Scheider’s name appeared on screen, just as they had done when Scheider had destroyed the shark at the end of JAWS, and there were plenty of screams and shouts as the movie went on.
Of course, the reality is JAWS 2 is merely an adequate movie, paling in comparison to the original JAWS, and suffering from the repetitiveness from which so many movie sequels suffer. Still, JAWS 2 is far and away the best of the JAWS sequels, which isn’t saying much, since JAWS 3 (1983) and JAWS: THE REVENGE (1987) are both pretty awful.
JAWS 2 opens with a pair of divers discovering the sunken wreckage of the Orca, Quint’s boat from the first movie. Within minutes, the divers are attacked and killed by a shark in a surprisingly tame scene that is vastly inferior to the opening scene in JAWS, the vicious attack on young Chrissy.
JAWS 2 once again takes place on Amity Island, which now looks much bigger, since this sequel was filmed in Florida rather than on tiny Martha’s Vineyard. Four years have passed since the events of JAWS, and Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) is still police chief on the island.
When Brody learns of a possible shark attack, he tries to take action but his efforts are thwarted by Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) and local businessman Len Peterson (Joseph Mascolo), whose priorities are keeping the tourist season open and making money. Things get so bad this time around that Brody is actually fired from his position as police chief.
But the shark problem is real, and this time the shark sets its teeth—er, sights— on a group of teenagers— including Brody’s two sons— out sailing. Once more, it’s up to Chief Brody to save the day, as he sets off alone in a boat to take on the shark and rescue the teens, which on its own is no easy task, but it’s even more daunting in this case because Brody lives in deathly fear of water.

JAWS 2 definitely suffers from “been there, done that.” You would think that Mayor Vaughn would have learned his lesson after the first movie, but no, he’s still not listening to Brody. He is slightly more sympathetic this time around, as businessman Len Peterson takes over the pain-in-the-ass heavy role. Peterson gets most of the aggravating lines, and Joseph Mascolo does a nice job making you hate the guy.
But the biggest problem with JAWS 2 is that the story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The movie asks us to believe that a second great white shark returns to the same island where another shark had wreaked havoc just a few years earlier. What are the odds? To make matters worse, the film tries to imply that this shark has arrived to seek vengeance for the death of the first shark. Really? This is a theme which permeates the series, as subsequent sequels deal with sharks targeting Brody’s wife and adult sons.
If you’re going to throw something that outlandish into the story, you’d better back it up with some facts or some embellishments to get the audience to buy into it, but JAWS 2 doesn’t do this. It’s almost as the film couldn’t make up its mind if it wanted to go all in with its revenge plot. It’s mentioned, and then it’s forgotten.
The best part of JAWS 2 is the return of Roy Scheider as Martin Brody. He’s excellent once again, and he’s largely responsible for making this the best of the sequels, since he doesn’t appear in the next two movies. The film tries to shake things up by giving more screen time to Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary) and Martin’s deputy from the first film, Jeff Hendricks (Jeffrey Kramer), and while Gary and Kramer are both very good in these roles, they’re not Richard Dreyfuss or Robert Shaw, who are both greatly missed in this sequel.
While director Jeannot Szwarc does an adequate job at the helm, he’s no Steven Spielberg. The camera just never gets in close enough to really get under your skin. In JAWS, Spielberg’s camera always seemed to be hovering around water level, and with the shark lurking, the effect made you always want to turn away.
Szwarc also decides to show the shark much more than Spielberg did, and while the shark actually looks pretty good, it doesn’t always translate into scary scenes.
That being said, there are some very good scenes in JAWS 2. The attack on one of the teens, Eddie, is as intense as anything seen in the original, and the sequence with the water skier is exciting and suspenseful. Unfortunately, there’s also some not-so-good scenes, like the over-the-top sequence where the shark actually attacks a helicopter. But for the most part, the shark scenes in JAWS 2 are a lot of fun to watch.
The second half of JAWS 2 focuses on the teenagers in their sailboats fighting off the shark, and so the film almost follows the teen slasher formula, which got a boost the same year with the release of John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN (1978).
John Williams returns as the film’s music composer, and while it would be ludicrous to say this score is better than his original JAWS score, it is an excellent score. His JAWS theme is back, of course, and he also introduces other themes that were not present in the first movie.
The screenplay by Carl Gottlieb and Howard Sackler succeeds in telling an exciting story, even if its premise of a shark that attacks an island perhaps out of revenge doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. It also doesn’t feature anywhere near the slate of memorable lines that came out of the first JAWS— that screenplay was co-written by Gottlieb and JAWS author Peter Benchley.
JAWS 2 is not a cinematic classic like its predecessor, but it is a heck of a lot of fun and makes for perfect summer time horror viewing. Just slap on some sun tan lotion, flip on the shades, and settle back in your beach chair, and as you listen to the sounds of happy beach goers and crashing ocean waves, just wait, because soon you’ll hear the ominous notes of John Williams’ music score and then—.
Is that a shark fin I see?
—END—