IN THE SHADOWS: TORIN THATCHER

0
torin-thatcher

Torin Thatcher as the evil magician Sokurah in THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958).

Welcome back to IN THE SHADOWS, that column where we look at the career of character actors in the movies, especially horror movies.

Today IN THE SHADOWS it’s Torin Thatcher, a character actor known mostly for his villainous roles.  I remember him most for his outstanding portrayal of the evil magician Sokurah in the classic fantasy film THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958) which also features some of Ray Harryhausen’s best stop-motion special effects.

And when you watch a movie featuring Ray Harryhausen’s special effects, it’s usually those effects that you remember, not the actors in the film.  This is true with THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, with the exception of Torin Thatcher.  His work in 7TH VOYAGE is so strong you remember the magician Sokurah just as vividly as you do Harryhausen’s fantastic creatures.

Before he become an actor, Torin Thatcher was a school teacher.  How cool would that have been?  To have Sokurah the Magician as your teacher.  But seriously, I can only imagine how powerfully effective he must have been standing in a classroom teaching students.

Here now is a partial list of Torin Thatcher’s 150 film and TV credits:

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (1927) – Solanio – Torin Thatcher’s first movie credit as Solanio in this silent short adaptation of Shakespeare’s play.

NORAH O’NEALE (1934) – Dr. Hackey – Thatcher’s first screen credit in a feature-length movie.  Early drama starring Lester Matthews, known to horror fans for his work in WEREWOLF OF LONDON (1935) and the Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi classic THE RAVEN (1935).

SABOTEUR (1942) – uncredited appearance in this classic Alfred Hitchcock thriller.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS (1946) – Bentley Drummle – small role in the classic David Lean version of the Charles Dickens tale starring John Mills, Alec Guinness, Valerie Hobson who played Elizabeth in the Boris Karloff classic THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), and future Hammer Films stars from THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960) Martita Hunt and Freda Jackson.

THE FALLEN IDOL (1948) – Policeman – Plays a policeman in this classic mystery from director Carol Reed (Oliver Reed’s uncle) with a script by Graham Greene.

THE CRIMSON PIRATE (1952) – Humble Bellows – Swashbuckling pirate adventure starring Burt Lancaster and directed by Robert Siodmak, the director of SON OF DRACULA (1943).  Also memorable for featuring a young Christopher Lee in a supporting role.

THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO (1952) – Johnson – classic drama starring Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward, Ava Gardner, and Leo G. Carroll.

THE DESERT RATS (1953) – Col. Barney White – Robert Wise-directed war movie starring Richard Burton and James Mason.

THE ROBE (1953) – Sen. Gallio – Biblical tale  of Roman tribune with a conscience starring Richard Burton and Michael Rennie.

WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1957) – Mr. Myers – Billy Wilder-directed Agatha Christie tale starring Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton, and the Bride of Frankenstein herself, Elsa Lanchester.  Also features veteran character actor Una O’Connor, also from THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) and THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933).

THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958) – Sokurah the Magician – My favorite all-time Torin Thatcher role.  This classic fantasy adventures features some of Ray Harryhausen’s best special effects ever.  Who can ever forget his giant Cyclops?  In addition, it also features a rousing Bernard Herrmann score, one of my favorites.  The third outstanding element of this movie is Torin Thatcher’s performance as Sokurah.  It’s a rare occurrence indeed in a Ray Harryhausen movie for anything to be as memorable as his creature effects, but Torin Thatcher achieves this feat.  He’s just as memorable in this film as Harryhausen’s effects.

ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS (1957-59) – Constable Johnson – “The Hands of Mr. Ottermole” (1957)/ Felix Edward Manbridge – “Relative Value” – appearances in two episodes of the classic Alfred Hitchcock TV series.

THRILLER (1961) – Jeremy Teal – “Well of Doom” – appearance in the classic horror anthology TV show hosted by Boris Karloff.

JACK THE GIANT KILLER (1962) – Pendragon – Once again playing the villain in a fantasy adventure.  Thatcher is reunited with 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD director Nathan Juran and lead actor Kerwin Matthews who played Sinbad in 7TH VOYAGE and plays Jack here, but missing this time around is Ray Harryhausen and his fantastic creatures, resulting in inferior special effects.

GET SMART (1966) – Dr. Braam – “All In the Mind” (1966) – appearance in the classic Mel Brooks TV series starring Don Adams as Secret Agent Maxwell Smart and Barbara Feldon as Agent 99.

LOST IN SPACE (1966) – The Space Trader- “The Space Trader” (1966)- plays a villain in this Season 1 episode of the Irwin Allen science fiction adventure TV show.  Trades with the Robinson family, takes advantage of Dr. Smith’s greed and makes him his slave, only to be eventually outsmarted by the Robinson Robot.  Way to go, bubble headed booby!

STAR TREK (1967) – Marplon- “The Return of the Archons” (1967) – appearance in this Season 1 episode of the classic TV series chronicling the adventures of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy aboard the starship Enterprise.

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1968) – Sir John Turnbull – TV movie version of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson tale, produced by Dan Curtis, the man behind DARK SHADOWS and THE NIGHT STALKER (1971).  Starring Jack Palance as a very sinister Mr. Hyde.

LAND OF THE GIANTS (1970) – Dr. Berger – “Nightmare” (1970) – appearance in this Irwin Allen fantasy TV show.

NIGHT GALLERY ( 1971) – Captain of the Lusitania – “Lone Survivor” (1971) – appearance in the horror anthology series by Rod Serling.

BRENDA STARR ( 1976) – Lassiter- Torin Thatcher’s last screen credit is in this TV movie adventure involving extortion, voodoo, and the supernatural.  Starring Jill St. John.

Thatcher passed away on March 4, 1981 at the age of 76 from cancer.

Torin Thatcher – January 15, 1905 – March 4, 1981.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of IN THE SHADOWS.  Join me next time when we look at the career of another classic character actor.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE INVITATION (2015) Keeps Its Audience Off Balance

1

the-invitation

If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.  Then again, maybe your emotional baggage is just making you paranoid.

That’s the overwhelming feeling generated in the taut thriller THE INVITATION (2015) in which main character Will (Logan Marshall-Green) has the haunting feeling that the dinner party hosted by his ex-wife and her new husband is all so very wrong and dangerous; yet, he can’t deny that his head is clouded by grief over the death of his young son, a death he and his ex-wife still have not come to terms with.

THE INVITATION opens with Will and his current girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) driving to Will’s ex-wife’s dinner party, when their car strikes a deer.  The animal is badly injured, and without hestitation, Will puts it out of its misery using a tire iron, which says something about his resolve and temperament right at the outset.

Will feels uncomfortable immediately upon arriving at his former home, even though he’s surrounded by a large group of his friends who are already there at the party.  Seeing his ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) only opens old wounds for him, and it doesn’t help that her new husband David (Michiel Huisman) is overly sympathetic and syrupy sweet, but there’s something off-putting about him that continually rubs Will the wrong way, so much so that he becomes suspicious of every little thing the man does, like seemingly locking them inside the house, an action that David dismisses as the innocent act of locking one’s door.

Will also takes issue with David’s decision to invite a couple of his friends to the dinner party.  Will was under the impression that the gathering was supposed to be a closed reunion of old friends.  And when Will perceives what he considers to be weird things happening, he tries to warn everyone, but they dismiss his charges as the emotional misgivings of a grieving parent and urge him to relax and see things through.  The more the evidence seems to support his friends’ assertions that there really isn’t anything wrong inside the house, the more Will questions his own feelings.

After all, his friends are right.  He’s still grieving over his son’s death.  There’s nothing really sinister going on inside Eden’s and David’s house, is there?

Well, is there?

And that’s the fun of THE INVITATION.  It plays its shell game well.  The movie does a terrific job masking the truth.  The audience feels the same way Will does. There’s just something very peculiar about David and Eden and their new friends.  And yet, all the peculiarities can be explained away, but still, Will can’t shake that troubling feeling that they are all in danger.  To make matters more frustrating, Will is completely on his own. None of his friends or his girlfriend Kira feel the same way he does or see the same things he does.  It’s all very maddening, yet it’s a heck of a lot of fun as it makes for a very suspenseful story.

The screenplay by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi is sharp and incisive, and it plays like an intricate puzzle.  We empathize with Will, but we really don’t want him to be right, even though we tend to believe him because he doesn’t come off as overly disturbed.  Sure, he’s emotional, he’s grieving, but he seems to be a pretty solid well rounded guy, except that he’s now wounded by his son’s death. The movie does a really good job keeping its audience off balance.

It’s a strong screenplay by Hay and Manfredi, much better than their work together on the subpar remake CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010).  They also co-wrote the box office bomb R.I.P.D (2013) starring Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges.

Director Karyn Kusama has made a very tight and scary little thriller.  It kept me guessing throughout, and the payoff was frightening and satisfying.  The film also doesn’t skimp on the violence.  There are some jarring scenes in this one.

Logan Marshall-Green is very effective as Will, and his performance drew me in immediately.  I felt for him and believed that he was seeing things that were weird enough to be concerned about, even if no one else in the movie believed him.

Tammy Blanchard is sufficiently weird as Eden, as is Michiel Huisman as her new husband David.  There’s something so very off-putting about the two of them, and yet David always says the right things to put people at ease and disarm their fears.

John Carroll Lynch and Lyndsay Burdge are also very good as David’s creepy yet seemingly sincere friends.

The film has excellent acting all around.

I had heard good things about THE INVITATION, but really didn’t know what to expect.  It lived up to my expectations and then some.

If you like tense thrillers in the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock you’ll love THE INVITATION.  It’s as engrossing as it is deadly.

It’s one invite you’ll be glad you didn’t pass up.

—END—

 

 

DE PALMA (2016) – Controversial Director Reflects on His Career

0
de palma

Brian De Palma tells his story in DE PALMA (2016).

Brian De Palma has a lot to say about his career.

And in DE PALMA (2016), the new documentary on the acclaimed movie director by Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow, he gets nearly two hours to do just that.

The film is actually footage from an interview Baumbach and Paltrow shot with De Palma back in 2010.  They liked the footage so much they added lots of film clips and turned it into a documentary.

DE PALMA pretty much plays like a one person movie panel.  Brian De Palma is front and center speaking to the camera for nearly the entire movie, with appropriate film clips thrown in to highlight his points and stories.  As such, it’s not going to win any awards for creative cinematography.

Back in his heyday, in the 1970s and 1980s, Brian De Palma was a polarizing and controversial movie director, infamous for his ultra-violent yet stylish movies, especially for over-the-top scenes of violence against women.  He was also known for his Hitchcock homages which critics often slammed as simple knock-offs.

In DE PALMA, Brian De Palma takes us through his entire career, beginning with his early years, when he used to operate in close circles with his best friends and fellow filmmakers Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Paul Schrader, and Steve Spielberg.  De Palma also worked with a very young Robert De Niro and directed De Niro’s first movie, GREETINGS (1968).

De Palma continues with how he began to make a name for himself with films like SISTERS (1973), PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (1974), and OBSESSION (1976).  He called Genevieve Bujold’s performance the best part of OBSESSION, and Cliff Robertson the worst part, explaining that Robertson, once he saw that Bujold was stealing the show, tried to sabotage the movie by making things as difficult as possible for both Bujold and De Palma.

Later that same year De Palma was offered the project which would launch his career, CARRIE (1976), based on the novel by Stephen King. De Palma lamented that the studio really didn’t get behind CARRIE since they viewed it as just a gory horror movie, but to his delight, both Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie were nominated for Oscars.

After the success of CARRIE, De Palma received a huge budget for his next movie, THE FURY (1978) which happened to be the first Brian De Palma movie I ever saw.

After THE FURY, De Palma entered his Hitchcock period with such films as DRESSED TO KILL (1980), BLOW OUT (1981), and BODY DOUBLE (1984), films that critics complained were too derivative of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies. DRESSED TO KILL was modeled after PSYCHO (1960) and BODY DOUBLE was modeled after VERTIGO (1958) and REAR WINDOW (1954).

De Palma said he was heavily criticized for power drill murder scene in BODY DOUBLE, especially for making the drill so big, but as he explained, the drill was gigantic because in order for the scene to work, Craig Wasson’s character had to see it coming through the ceiling, and for that to happen, the drill had to be huge.  As De Palma explains it, it made perfect sense to him because it was simply part of the story.  He said he never intended to create extra violent scenes against women, but that those scenes existed only to satisfy the stories he was telling.

In the middle of these films came SCARFACE (1983), starring Al Pacino.  De Palma tells the story of how he was so annoyed at the ratings board for not giving his film an “R” rating even after all his edits, especially to the chain saw scene, that once he did receive the “R” rating, he went back and released the unedited version anyway.

He also said, and it’s true, that the way he edited the infamous chain saw scene, you never see the chain saw cut into the victim’s flesh.  I recently re-watched SCARFACE for the first time in years and I was surprised at how little De Palma showed in that scene.  It’s really not that gory at all.

After the comedic flop WISE GUYS (1986), De Palma made the movie that once more resuscitated his career:  THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987), which just might be De Palma’s most popular movie, but strangely, it’s one of my least favorite films that he made.   Oftentimes I find De Palma’s camerawork overbearing.  The famous “shoot-out with the baby carriage falling down the stairs” scene in THE UNTOUCHABLES, for example, I find almost unwatchable because of the pretentious slow-motion camerawork.  Some see it as cinematic genius, but for me it’s just cinematic overkill.

Likewise, in his discussion of CARRIE, De Palma talks about the complicated shots he conceived for the end of CARRIE and how the producers were unhappy with the results, to which De Palma says they just didn’t get the genius of his work.  While this may be true, the climactic bloodbath in CARRIE is another example where the camerawork gets in the way of the story.  To me, and this is why I’m not the biggest De Palma fan, if you’re going to use the camera creatively, you have to do it in a way where it empowers the story, not detracts from it.  Spielberg does this all the time.  De Palma does not.

His next film was CASUALTIES OF WAR (1989), the gripping Vietnam movie starring Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn.  This one I did like, and it’s probably my favorite Brian De Palma movie of all time.  I remember seeing it at the movies and being blown away by its potency.

De Palma tells some interesting anecdotes from the set of CASUALTIES, specifically of how Sean Penn used to torment Michael J. Fox.   At one point, Penn was supposed to whisper a line in Fox’s ear about payback, but De Palma heard Penn say, “TV actor!”  De Palma felt Penn’s antics caused Fox to feel alienated and defensive on set, which ultimately helped Fox’s performance since his character was supposed to feel the same way.

This was followed by one of De Palma’s biggest flops, THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES (1990), a downward trend that would continue over the next few years.  After a brief surge from the Tom Cruise vehicle MISSION IMPOSSIBLE (1996), De Palma’s career bottomed out with the woeful MISSION TO MARS (2000) which was the last movie to date that De Palma shot in the United States.  His subsequent films have all been made in Europe.

DE PALMA is not the most riveting documentary I’ve ever seen nor even the most informative.  Its style is simple.  De Palma speaks directly to the camera the entire time, and when he’s not on screen, we’re treated to appropriate movie footage, which is  used here effectively.

De Palma also isn’t the most animated speaker around, but he does provide plenty of stories and anecdotes. He also asks questions.  For example, De Palma points out that although people have praised Alfred Hitchcock as a cinematic genius, no one else except for De Palma himself has ever tried to use Hitchcock’s style.  He asks why more directors aren’t making movies like Hitchcock did?  It’s a fair question.

Maybe part of the answer is that De Palma’s homages to Hitchcock never really worked all that well.  Part of the reason they didn’t work was they were too closely based on the Hitchcock movies they were paying homage to. Had De Palma used Hitchcock’s style in stories that were original and not derivative of specific Hitchcock movies, he may have had better results.

For Brian De Palma fans, DE PALMA is must-see viewing.  For the rest of us, it’s a chance to see and listen to a film director reflect back on his entire body of work.  And whether you’re a fan of De Palma or not, you have to give the guy credit for his persistence and for sticking to his guns when it came to making movies the way he wanted to make them.

De Palma is currently 75 years old and still making movies in Europe.

—END—

 

 

 

OUR KIND OF TRAITOR (2016) Taut Thriller Is One of Summer’s Best

0

 

our kind of traitor

OUR KIND OF TRAITOR (2016) is my kind of movie.

This thriller based on the John le Carre novel of the same name is well-acted, written, and directed and provides edge-of-your-seat excitement from beginning to end.  It’s one of the best films to come out this summer.

OUR KIND OF TRAITOR opens in Moscow with the chilling assassination of a Russian mobster and his family.  We then meet a young British college professor named Perry (Ewan McGregor) on holiday with his attorney wife Gail (Naomie Harris).  All is not well with them, as they took this holiday to help their marriage, which suffered a blow when Perry slept with one of his students.  In a restaurant, Gail receives a work-related call and she leaves Perry to dine alone.

At a neighboring table a boisterous group drinks and parties hearty.  One of these partiers, Dima (Stellan Skarsgard) invites Perry to join their table since he’s dining alone, and Perry reluctantly agrees.  Dima then invites Perry to come with him to another party, and he gives it the hard sell, to which Perry- with nothing better to do since his wife is working- agrees.

Suddenly, Dima is confiding lots of confidential information to Perry, and the next thing Perry knows, the man is handing him a flash drive which he wants Perry to hand over to the British Secret Service. It turns out that Dima is a member of the Russian Mafia who now fears for his life and his family’s lives and wants to defect.  Perry agrees.

Back in London, Perry turns over the flash drive, which captures the attention of a British intelligence officer named Hector (Damian Lewis).  The flash drive contains the names of prominent British citizens who are in cahoots with the Russian mob, and Hector has his own personal reasons for wanting to retrieve this information and more of what Dima says he has to offer.

Dima agrees to meet with Hector, but only if Perry is in on the deal.  At first, Perry wants no part of further meetings, but eventually he is covinced by Hector to go, and so he and wife Gail make the trip.

Soon, Perry and Gail find themselves embroiled in a very dangerous situation, caught in between the merciless Russian mob and the calculating secretive MI6, and rather than wanting out, they want in, as they grow closer to and fonder of Dima and his family.

OUR KIND OF TRAITOR is not receiving much hype, and so I went in to this one not expecting much, but it’s a heck of a thriller, and is one of my favorite movies of the summer so far.

Director Susanna White has made an effective thriller that caught my attention from the very first sequence, the jarring assassination scene of the Russian mobster and his wife and daughter.  From that moment on, the film had me, and it never let up.  The direction remained stylish throughout.  While the action scenes are few and far between, there are scenes of suspense throughout.

When Perry and Gail are whisked away from a party by a key member of the Russian mob and taken back to a ghetto apartment, the tension is paramount.  Likewise, the sequence when MI6 and Perry and Gail try to rescue Dima’s family is taut and thrilling.  This is the kind of movie John Frankenheimer would have directed in his heyday.  Director White does an excellent job.

The photography is also excellent as there are plenty of picturesque location shots, from Moscow, to London, to Paris, to the French Alps.  There’s a nice almost Bond-like international feel to this one.

The screenplay by Hossein Amini based on le Carre’s novel is a good one.  There’s plenty of lively dialogue, the characters are fleshed out, and the narrative flows nicely from start to finish.  Amini wrote the screenplay to DRIVE (2011), a film by director Nicolas Winding Refn [THE NEON DEMON (2016)] and starring Ryan Gosling, that I loved.  He also wrote the screenplay to SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (2012), a film that I did not like so much.  I think his screenplay here is even better than the one he wrote for DRIVE.

I loved the acting performances all around.

Stellan Skarsgard is fabulous as Dima, the Russian mobster who wants to defect but won’t do so until he can guarantee the safety of his family, something British Intelligence isn’t keen on doing.  They want the information first, which Dima won’t part with without that guarantee.  It’s a loud, boisterous performance by Skarsgard.  He’s a hoot to watch in the film.  Early on, he has one of the movie’s best lines as he tells McGregor’s Perry “don’t be a sourpussy” when Perry refuses to go to a party with him.  Perry quickly corrects him, “It’s sourpuss.”

Better yet, Skarsgard is able to instill a warmth to his character that makes Perry and Gail’s connection to him all the more believable.  You’re not sitting in the theater wondering why they are helping this man.  Because of Skarsgard’s performance, you know why.

Ewan McGregor is just as good as Perry, but in a more understated way.  Perry is the perfect innocenct caught in middle of all the espionage.  He could have walked off the set of an old Alfred Hitchcock movie.  McGregor is perfect in the role, in what might be my favorite performance of his yet.

He makes Perry a really interesting character.  At first, he’s not interested at all in helping Dima, but yet, as MI6 agent Hector points out, he still agreed to deliver the flash drive. Perry is a man of honor, a man of thought who will nonetheless stand up to a Russian thug for striking a woman, a man who will risk his life for another man who he hardly knows because he feels it’s the right thing to do.

And yet, later, when Perry asks Dima why he chose him, Dima answers that Perry was the only other man in the restaurant that night, a remark that provides both men with a laugh.

Rounding out the triumvirate of great performances is Damian Lewis [HOMELAND (2011-2014)] as MI6 agent Hector. Lewis is excellent here, and even with Skarsgard’s larger than life performance as Dima, Lewis’ performance as the complicated and driven British Intelligence Officer might be my favorite of the entire movie.

Lewis makes his mark in his very first scene when his no-nonsense manner dives right into a calculating and pointed questioning of Perry at the airport.  At first, we’re not quite sure what to make of Hector, as he lies to both his superiors and to those working under him, but the more we learn about him, the more we understand why he does the things he does, and as a result the more we like him.

The supporting cast is also excellent, led by Naomie Harris as Perry’s wife Gail.  She takes what could have been a throwaway role- the wife of the leading man- and makes it into something more.  At first, she’s angry with her husband for getting involved, but the more she learns about Dima and his family, the more she wants to help.

I really enjoyed Harris in the two recent Daniel Craig Bond films, SKYFALL (2012) and SPECTRE (2015) where she played Moneypenny, and in those films she certainly wasn’t the Moneypenny of old.  She’s just as good here, in a role that provides her with more depth and range.

If you like political thrillers and tales of international intrigue, you’ll love OUR KIND OF TRAITOR.

Dont’ be a sourpussy.  Go out and see this one.

—END—

THE HORROR JAR: MUSIC BY BERNARD HERRMANN

0

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

Jake Gyllenhaal Phenomenal In NIGHTCRAWLER (2014)

0

nightcrawler posterHere’s my latest CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT review, which went up this weekend at cinemaknifefight.com, on the Jake Gyllenhaal thriller, NIGHTCRAWLER:

 

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: NIGHTCRAWLER (2014)

Movie Review by Michael Arruda

 

(THE SCENE: A grisly car accident. A bloodied body lies next to a mangled car. Police cars with flashing lights surround the area.  Rescue workers hustle about, while reporters with cameras close in on the carnage.  A police officer attempts to push the reporters back.

POLICE OFFICER: Get back!  You’re too close!  Get back twenty feet!  Now!

(The reporters ignore him and rush towards the bloodied body, taking video footage. The blood-soaked body is L.L. SOARES, who suddenly opens his eyes and lunges towards the cameras with a demented vicious expression on his face.  The reporters turn and flee, running right past MICHAEL ARRUDA, who approaches L.L.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA: Thanks, buddy.  With those guys gone, now we can do our review.

L.L. SOARES: Now you can do the review.  I’m outta here.

MA: You’re leaving?

LS: Yep, I’m off to see another movie.  I wanted to review NIGHTCRAWLER, but I had to skip it because we just have so many movies to review for Cinema Knife Fight these days.

MA: It’s nice to be popular.  Well, good luck.  You might want to wash up first before you go to the movies.  You’re a bit bloody.

LS: So?  This way I can scare folks who talk during the movie.  See ya!  (Exits).

MA: As L.L. said, tonight we’re—I’m reviewing NIGHTCRAWLER, a new thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal.

NIGHTCRAWLER kinda snuck up on us here at Cinema Knife Fight.  It wasn’t one of the movies we had originally planned to review, but it got a lot of hype, and I saw plenty of trailers leading up to it, and it looked really interesting.  By the time it came out, I was into seeing it, and I’m glad I did.

In NIGHTCRAWLER, Jake Gyllenhaal plays a sociopath named Louis Bloom who spends his evenings stealing scrap metal and other items in order to sell them and make some cash.  It’s clear from the outset that Louis is no ordinary thief, as he’s well-read, well-spoken, and also in desperate need of a job, which is something he can’t land.

One night, he witnesses a couple of freelancers taking video of a grisly accident scene, and he strikes up a conversation with a cameraman Joe Loder (Bill Paxton) and he learns that Loder gets paid by TV news stations for his footage.

Louis buys a cheap video camera and a police radio and scanner, and he starts filming accident scenes. He learns that he needs to get there faster than everybody else, and also closer, which means inciting the wrath of the police officers at the scene who want him to remain back twenty feet.

POLICE OFFICER: I couldn’t have said it better myself.  Twenty feet, buddy!  Let’s go!

MA: Are you speaking to me?

POLICE OFFICER: You see anyone else here?

MA: Can’t you see I’m reviewing a movie?

POLICE OFFICER:  You’re going to be reviewing a movie from the back of my squad car in a minute if you don’t move back twenty feet!  Now let’s go!

MA: Technically, there is no crime scene here.  My buddy L.L. Soares and I staged this for our Cinema Knife Fight review, so I don’t think I need to move back twenty feet.

POLICE OFFICER: Staging a crime scene?  You realize that’s illegal.

MA: So it is. Hey, isn’t that your sergeant over there waving at you?

POLICE OFFICER: What sergeant?  (Turns around.)

(MA runs, jumps into a car, and speeds away.)

MA: Slight change of plans.  Okay, so let me get back to the plot summary.

Louis obtains grisly close-up footage of a bleeding victim, and when he brings it to a local news station, it catches the eye of news department head Nina Romina (Rene Russo) who buys the footage from him. Louis hires a young assistant named Rick (Riz Ahmed) to help him with the camerawork and with the GPS so they can get to the crime scenes as quickly as possible, and suddenly Louis is bringing Nina incredible footage faster than anyone else.  The news station is lagging way behind in the ratings, and Nina sees Louis’ cutting edge work as her chance to save the station.

When Louis crosses the line, using unconventional and often illegal methods to obtain his videos, Nina looks the other way and does nothing to discourage him from capturing his intense footage.

(A police car with flashing lights pursues MA’s car.)

I really liked NIGHTCRAWLER, for two reasons in particular.  One, Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a phenomenal performance, and two, this one has an edge and an unpredictability about it that goes a long way and lifts it above its shortcomings, including a story that doesn’t always hold water.

Let’s start with Gyllenhaal. If you’ve seen the trailers, you’ve seen Gyllenhaal looking terribly gaunt and much thinner than normal.  That’s because he lost close to twenty pounds for the role, and it shows.  He looks like a friggin vampire!  It’s an intense look for him, and physically he really captures the essence of the character.

Gyllenhaal gives Louis such tremendous energy and vitality that everything he does, no matter how outlandish, you believe it. He also has a way of speaking to people that is detached yet spot-on.  In other words, he’s clear and concise with what he says, but says everything with no regard for other people, and so he comes off as a cold fish, yet there’s something charming about his drive and focus, and you can easily see why in spite of his shortcomings and manipulations a woman like Nina might find him attractive.

He’s a fearless and relentless negotiator, and he gets everything he wants. I should have hated the guy, but there was something very likable about him.  His philosophy is to work harder than everybody else, and that’s how you become a success.  How can you not like that?

(MA runs a red light, speeding through a busy intersection, leaving a huge pile-up of crashed cars behind him.)

One of the best and most telling lines in the movie comes when Louis’ partner Rick complains about the way Louis speaks to people, telling him that he has no idea how to deal with people. Louis, always in the know about himself, responds by telling Rick that it’s not that he doesn’t know how to deal with people, but that he doesn’t like people.  For Louis, other people don’t matter.  They are just a means for him getting what he wants.

I’ve been a fan of Jake Gyllenhaal for a while, going back to one of his earliest roles in OCTOBER SKY (1999).  I enjoyed him here much more than in the previous film I saw him in, PRISONERS (2013), the kidnapping thriller with Hugh Jackman.  Here in NIGHTCRAWLER, Louis Bloom might be my favorite character that Gyllenhaal has created.

The rest of the cast is okay, but to be honest the only role of substance in NIGHTCRAWLER is Gyllenhaal’s.  Rene Russo does what she can with the role of Nina.  I wasn’t one hundred per cent sold on her character.  She plays this powerful newscast chief, and yet she allows Louis to run circles around her and pretty much set the tone for their relationship, both professional and personal, and he effortlessly dictates the terms of their dealings together.  I expected more from Nina, and I didn’t completely buy that Louis would have her wrapped around his finger so easily.  I get that Louis is this compelling captivating character, and I get that Nina is under pressure to improve her ratings, but still, I thought she’d be better at putting up a fight.

The two characters also become involved romantically, or at least sexually. There’s not much of a romance.  Louis pursues Nina because he can, and again, I expected much more of a protest from Nina.  I was disappointed that the film didn’t follow up more on this part of the story.  The sexual angle is downplayed, and Gyllenhaal and Russo share about as much chemistry on screen as some of the shooting victims in Louis’ videos.  A heightened sexual element would have added more to the story.

(Suddenly a half dozen police cars are chasing MA’s car.)

POLICE Voice: Pull your vehicle over!

MA: I’m trying to review a movie here! Jeesh!

The rest of the cast is serviceable. Riz Ahmed is fine as Louis’ young partner Rick, but I was most disappointed with the Bill Paxton role. I like Paxton a lot, and his role as a fellow cameraman is a small one that I really thought would be developed into a major supporting character, but this doesn’t happen.

I really enjoyed the script by writer/director Dan Gilroy. Gilroy previously wrote THE BOURNE LEGACY (2012), the most recent Bourne movie, and the one starring Jeremy Renner.  That film and its story were much better than I expected, and I think Gilroy’s screenplay here for NIGHTCRAWLER is even better.

The best part of NIGHTCRAWLER is the character of Louis, thanks to both the acting talents of Jake Gyllenhaal and the fine writing by Dan Gilroy.  Louis should be a deplorable character, but he’s not.  The story is crafted so when Louis is breaking the law to get his video footage, you almost want him to get away with it.  There’s something very Walter White-like in Louis’ drive and determination.  Part of it is the realization that life is incredibly difficult, and success often does come for those who work harder than everybody else, and when you see Louis doing this, even though he’s a sociopath with no regard for other people, there’s something admirable about his resolve.

Did I think success came too easily for Louis? Perhaps.  Nothing he does seems to go wrong.  It wouldn’t have hurt to have Louis fail once in a while.

The message about the media in this movie is also spot-on. There was a time when I would have viewed this story as too over-the-top and not very believable.  I mean, what professional news organization would allow a guy like Louis to do the things he was doing to get video footage? But judging by what I see and read about TV news, I don’t think it’s farfetched now.  If you watch TV news, you see with regularity the kinds of graphic and sensationalistic footage that Louis was shooting in this movie.  Television news appears to be already at the stage depicted by Louis’ work in this film.

Dan Gilroy does just as good a job behind the camera, which is impressive since it’s his first time directing a movie. This one is not by the numbers.  There are some neat scenes throughout as well as some that generate a decent amount of suspense.  My favorite sequence in the film happens when Louis alerts the police that two suspects wanted in a violent home invasion case are sitting in a restaurant. Louis has set this all up so he can get the footage, and as he and Rick take their positions to film what happens, and the police quickly move in towards the crowded restaurant, the suspense mounts to almost Hitchcockian proportions, as everyone in the audience knows the suspects are packing guns.

This is followed by a high speed chase that it is one of the more exciting car chases I’ve seen in the movies this year.

(MA drives down the wrong way of a one way street, pulls into a parking lot, drives up the side of a building, crashes through a window, drives through a hallway, then bursts out another window, sails through the air and lands on a road as MA continues driving.)

MA: And it’s far more realistic than the one I’m involved in right now.

It’s up there with the chases in NEED FOR SPEED (2014) and DRIVE (2011), which is appropriate, as I mentioned Walter White from BREAKING BAD earlier in this review, and White himself Bryan Cranston starred in DRIVE and his buddy Jesse, Aaron Paul starred in NEED FOR SPEED.

NIGHTCRAWLER is a compelling film driven along by a powerhouse performance by Jake Gyllenhaal, one that is Oscar-worthy, and it features tight direction and a creative script by Dan Gilroy.  It’s one of my favorite movies of the year.

I give it three and a half knives.

(MA pulls into a parking lot, parks his car, gets out and stretches his legs. Suddenly he’s surrounded by police cars all screeching to a halt.  Police officers jump out of the car, drawing their weapons.  They run at and then past MA where they quickly apprehend two armed suspects.)

MA (to camera): You didn’t think they were after me, did you?

(MA strolls past the arrest and enters the movie theater.)

—END—

YOUR MOVIE LISTS: MEL BROOKS

0
Mel Brooks in SILENT MOVIE (1976)

Mel Brooks in SILENT MOVIE (1976)

YOUR MOVIE LISTS: Mel Brooks By Michael Arruda

Welcome to another edition of YOUR MOVIE LISTS, that column where you’ll find lists of various odds and ends pertaining to the movies. Today we look at the films of Mel Brooks.

Mel Brooks is one of my favorite comedic filmmakers. His zany inane in-your-face style often reminds me of The Three Stooges.

Here’s a list of movies written and directed by Brooks, famous for his film parodies.

THE PRODUCERS (1967) – It’s “Springtime For Hitler” in this Brooks farce about two conniving producers played by Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder who set out to make a fortune by producing a sure-fire flop. Also features Dick Shawn and Kenneth Mars. Brooks’ screenplay won an Oscar.

THE TWELVE CHAIRS (1970) – Brooks’ comedy about a treasure hunt in Russia stars Ron Moody, Frank Langella, and Dom DeLuise.

BLAZING SADDLES (1974) – Brooks first megahit, this western spoof famous for its off-color raunchy humor and in-your-face slapstick gags stars Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Slim Pickens, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn, and Mel Brooks.

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974) – Mel Brooks’ spoof of the Universal Frankenstein movies is my all-time favorite Mel Brooks movie, and one of my favorite comedies period. Everything works: the jokes, the performances, the Puttin’ on the Ritz song and dance number, nothing misfires. Starring Gene Wilder as Dr. Frankenstein—er, that’s Fron-kon- steen— Peter Boyle as the Monster, Marty Feldman as Igor— that’s pronounced Eye-gor—Madeline Kahn as Elizabeth, Cloris Leachman as Frau Blucher, Teri Garr as Inga, and Kenneth Mars as the one-armed Inspector. Nonstop laughs from beginning to end. Used the original FRANKENSTEIN lab equipment from the 1931 Karloff film. 1974 was quite the year for Brooks, as he made both this movie and BLAZING SADDLES in the one year! The screenplay by Brooks and Gene Wilder was nominated for an Oscar.

SILENT MOVIE (1976) – Brooks’ spoof of silent movies received less fanfare than his previous two hits and is a bit more uneven, but it’s still one of my favorite Mel Brooks movies. Stars Mel Brooks, Marty Feldman, Dom DeLuise, and Sid Caesar, with lots of cameos.

HIGH ANXIETY (1977) – Brooks’ spoof of Hitchcock movies failed to really catch on with audiences, but again, for me, this is another of my favorite Brooks movies. Love the PSYCHO and THE BIRDS sequences. Starring Brooks, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, and Harvey Korman.

HISTORY OF THE WORLD: PART 1 (1981) – the first Mel Brooks movie that I wasn’t crazy about. The humor just didn’t work for me here in this tale chronicling key events from world history. Includes the usual Mel Brooks cast: Brooks, Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise, Harvey Korman, and Cloris Leachman.

SPACEBALLS (1987) – Brooks’ spoof of STAR WARS and other science fiction movies isn’t bad, but it’s not as spot-on as his earlier works. Featuring John Candy as Barf, Rick Moranis as Dark Helmet, and Mel Brooks as Yogurt.

LIFE STINKS (1991) – Brooks’ misfire about a wealthy man who makes a bet that he can live on the streets as a homeless person for a month. Has its moments.

ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS (1993) – a spoof of — Robin Hood movies? I didn’t know this was even a genre. What this film mostly spoofs is the Kevin Costner film ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES (1991) a film that today most people have already forgotten and so lots of the jokes here fall flat. Mildly funny movie, nowhere near as sharp as Brooks’ earlier works.

DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT (1995) – Brooks’ spoof of Dracula movies. Unlike YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, where Brooks parodied many key scenes from the original Universal series, he doesn’t do that here. The look of this one resembles the Christopher Lee Hammer Dracula series. Yet Brooks doesn’t make specific reference to them. With Leslie Nielsen as Dracula and Mel Brooks as Van Helsing, this one had lots of potential but simply forgot to be funny.

Mel Brooks was born on June 28, 1926. As of this writing, he’s 88 years-old.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael