As i`m sure most of you know horror master Wes Craven died yesterday. I had a blog planned for today but I felt I wanted to in my small way honor him by posting it tomorrow and today just reflect on the man and his work. Oddly enough Sat I had done a special Films in the Attic on his film Deadly Blessing. So if you haven't read it please do.
Welcome to a very Special Edition of Films in the Attic.
Title: Deadly Blessing
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written By: Glenn M. Benest, Matt Barr and Wes Craven
Recently Quentin Tarantino publicly came out as shall we say not a fan of "Scream" the 90's film that re-sparked the horror genre. While I am a QT fan I gotta disagree here.
However It got me to thinking about Wes Craven and his body of work. Maybe the most underrated is 1981's Deadly Blessing. Its gotten alot of criticism over the years but in this review i`ll hopefully help you see that its a classic just begging to be re-discovered.
Growing up in the country and living close to Lancaster Pa I can tell you this, the country is a beautiful place and is the closest thing to getting back to a time before the internet, phones and the countless things that distract us in our fast paced every day life. But it can also give you a feeling that underneath the surface of the picturesque landscape lurks something evil and even unholy. "Deadly Blessing" really taps into this.
Plot: Doting wife Martha (Maren Jenson) and Jim Schmidt (Doug Barr) are living the simple life on a farm and own a pretty house complete with white picket fence and a charming sign "Our Blessing" The dominate religion in these parts are the"Hittties" a strict religious sect "that makes the Amish look like swingers" Jim was once apart of this group until he broke away went to college and married Martha. The leader Isaiah (Ernest Borgnine) Schmidt and father of Jim shunned him for his actions. Now cut off from everyone in the community including brother John (Jeff East) he is known as the "Incubus" a devil. Faith (Lisa Hartman) a young girl and her mother Lousia (Lois Nettleton) are also thought to be such devils as they too are outsiders. In fact William Glunz (Michael Berryman) constantly harasses Faith and smashes up her painting (which are very strange and foretelling) It seems anyone who is not in the Hittites are thought to be evil. Shortly after the couple celebrate there one year wedding anniversary tragedy strikes when a farming "accident" claims the life of Jim, leaving Martha a widow and the house and property. Friends Lana Marcus (Sharon Stone in a early film role) Vicky Anderson (Susan Buckner) rush from the city to visit there grieving friend.
After William is found murdered by person(s) unknown the blame is cast on the outsiders of the community and Martha isn't so sure that her late husband simply died from an accident. Its also a fact that Leader Isasih wants to house and the land for his people which she refuses to sell. Is it the community trying to drive her away or is there really a supernatural force at work?
The voice over at the beginning of the film gives it a grim fairy tale ton and indeed the hyper surreal nature supports this.
The year "Deadly Blessing" came out a host of knife wielding psychos were unleashed on a ticket paying public. But while mostly all went onto become classics among die hard horror fans sadly this more unique film got shunned. What sets this film apart from the countless others is the seamless blend of horror and slasher with religious zealous overtones which was a trend decades ahead of its time. Craven seems to have learned alot from his previous films and is really in his element of fright. It amazes me that some of the most tense scenes takes place in the day time. For example the scene with Sharon Stones character getting locked in the barn and the way he uses simple tricks to really ratchets up the tension and fear ending with the discovering of Williams body. Its a master class in directing a great scene in a horror film. This film also gets a huge boost from its beautiful cinematography by Robert Jessup. He really captures the stark beauty contrasted with the eerie which I had mentioned in my introduction. Famed award winning composer James Horner (Avatar, Titanic etc) does the score and you can really see the roots of his genius and why James Camoron would later use him on numerous films.
Another way this film stands above the rest is the strong female characters that are portrayed. When Martha is attacked by a snake, she doesn't run and hide or worse yet get a man to take care of it, no she takes a fire poker and kills it. Another scene that highlights this is when the girls are teaching themselves how to fire a weapon. Now i`m not saying this is the first horror film to feature strong women however its a refreshing change from all the women victims in the other films of the decade.
But whats a good film without a good cast, and Deadly Blessing has a great one indeed. Ernest Borgnine, Sharon Stone, Jeff East and with character actors like Michael Berryman and Lois Nettleton. Critics have sighted Borgnine for his over the top acting style and I agree its abit much but on the other hand it adds to the hyper surreal grim fairy tale element. Jeff East (Pumpkinhead,Superman The Movie ) is also great, and perfectly cast as John the sweet and shy brother of Jim. This movie is also well known for being a early film of Sharon Stone who would of course go on to mega stardom. She has pretty good range here and really takes this material seriously. The scene with her and the spider is classic. Lois Nettleton also gives a over the top performance that really works in the films favor.
Craven along with the writers really give you a sense of thick dread and religious delirium that has gripped this community.The film spirals into a fast paced fright fest with some tasty surprising twists.
Even if you don't like this film I think you should at least respect it for the fact that its different than the slashers that dominated the horror landscape in the 80s. Featuring a refreshingly interesting story in a very real and spooky location and with females who were much more than just fodder for the killers knife. A perfect film to watch alone in the dark.....
Star Jeff East And co-writer Glenn M Benest were kind enough to take time and give us an exclusive quote about the film.
Jeff East: Best experience with three gorgeous women and terrific supporting actors.Susan Buckners a doll Sharon Stone is a cool lady! Loved working with all the actresses and Wes Craven is very kind
Co-Writer Glenn M Benest:
"Deadly Blessing" was the first feature I wrote with my writing partner, Matt Barr. We went through a number of directors before we met Wes Craven, who directed a TV movie I adapted from a novel, "Summer of Fear." It was titled for NBC: "A Stranger In Our House." Once we hooked up with Wes everything went well. He wasn't well known at that time, but he was on the way up. Once he was attached, we got the film made. Wes is the great master of horror, along with John Carpenter. He taught me a lot about how to create scares. There is really no one better.
This blog is dedicated to James Horner who did the music for this and went on to do many other wonderful films. He passed away earlier this summer.
Cannibal Ferox Company: Grindhouse Releasing Directed by:Umberto Lenzi
Director/Script - Umberto Lenzi, Starring Giovanni Lombardo Radice (as John
Morghen), Lorraine De Selle, Danilo Mattei (as Bryan Redford), Zora Kerova (as
Zora Kerowa), Walter Lucchini (as Walter Lloyd), Fiamma Maglione (as Meg
Fleming), Robert Kerman
is, a classic of grindhouse sleaze, and who better but Grindhouse Releasing to
lovingly bring it to the horror collector. A classic of the Italian horror
subgenre of cannibal films, this movie works that template for all its worth,
after a New York City-set beginning in which we see mobsters looking for Mike
(Radice) and his friend Joe (Lucchini), who stiffed the mobsters and headed for
the Amazon River. The police (led by Robert Kerman) begin tracking down the
missing dealers. Intercut with the NYC scenes is the *ahem* meat of the story,
in which anthropology students, Gloria (De Selle), Rudy (Mattei), and Pat
(Kerova) have made a trip to the Amazon to prove Gloria's thesis that
cannibalism doesn't exist. From the moment in which a native eats grubs, it's
clear that the audience's sensibilities aren't safe by any means. Once the
anthropologists and the drug dealers meet, it doesn't take much time for the
gut-munching to begin, ratcheting up full-bore after Mike and Pat have sex, do
cocaine, and mess with the natives. Some excellent practical special makeup
effects displayed here thanks to Gino De Rossi, including a castration (yikes!)
and a woman's being hung by her breasts from hooks (well, at least the sexual
violence is equal opportunity!). Like its spiritual "cousin" Cannibal
Holocaust, this film features real-life animal cruelty, which is indefensible,
but blends almost seamlessly into the simulated carnage for a most disturbing
itself benefits from an absolutely eye-catching 2K transfer scanned from the
original film negative's aspect ratio of 1.85.1 at 1080 resolution to an aspect
ratio of 1.78.1. The 2.0 DTS-HD master audio mix will pop your ears with its
aplenty include interviews with principal cast and crew, as well as a highly
informative documentary Eaten Alive: The Rise and Fall of the Italian Cannibal
Film. A commentary track featuring Lenzi and Radice, a stills gallery, trailers
for current and upcoming Grindhouse Releases, a glossy 12-page booklet of liner
notes by Times Square grindhouse historian Bill Landis and horror filmmaker Eli
Roth. Included with the two Blu-Ray discs is a CD containing the full
soundtrack by Roberto Donati (Budy) and Fiamma Maglione, remastered in 24
bit/96 kHz sound from the original master tapes, which is still creepy and
atmospheric when listened to on its own.
release is a more-than-worthwhile addition to any horror/grindhouse
connoisseur's Blu-Ray collection.
O'Donnell is an aging goth and horror enthusiast whose short fiction has been
published in the anthologies Bell, Book, and Beyond and Travel Guide to the
Haunted Mid-Atlantic Region, and whose music reviews appeared approximately
bzillion years ago on Gothic.net. He's also a vegetarian.
Welcome to the second and final part of my interview with C.Courtney Joyner. Class of 1999 and beyond!
GM: Class of 1999 how did you get that job?
CJ: I got hired to do "Class of 1999" directly because of "Prison" Mark Lester actually went to a screening of Prison and of course he and Irwin are very good friends forever and Mark mentioned the project and he needed to hire somebody for it and so Irwin recommended it to me. I went in there and Mark was co-producing the movie with writer Stanley Mann. It was a long process on that. I wrote acouple of drafts and other writers came in and they wrote drafts and they were discarded, Mark came back to me and I worked again and I left (laughs) it was a back and forth a whole bunch but ultimately it came back to me and my old script but it was alittle frustrating but I think that's the way Vestron would do it. They had a long development process and than when we got back to Seattle I said Oh my gosh this really is my old script, it had been tinkered with and improved like some of the dialog but then I rewrote the final shooting draft when we were in Seattle and what was wonderful about that was when I was there we knew who our cast was. So I rewrote the teacher roles for Pam Grier etc. because they had been cast. It allowed me to reshape the roles for them. It took a long time for that movie to shape.
The biggest thing on that film that I regret was we had a great special effects man on that show named Eric Allard (Spider Man,MI:3) and of course the Burmans worked on it which was great because they worked on "The Offspring" (From a Whisper to a Scream) but I came up with this idea at the end, because I didn't want to do the terminator teacher thing, what I wanted to do was each one of the robot teachers had a specialized equipment, like Pam has the flame thrower Kirkpatrick has the rocket off his arm and originally what was going to happen was the individual pieces of there skeletons came together to create this new creature that was really more like an insect rather than humanoid. I`m sorry we couldn't do that they thought it would be to expensive and Mark said about possibly doing it with stop motion but it was beyond what Vestron wanted to spend and so they built that full scale robot, that was the real deal. It was suspended from a track on wires above it sort of like a extremely heavy complex puppet. It was a wonderful creation.
GM: Its a great movie that has a lot of fans.
CJ: The movies cult reputation has grown over the years, we had such a wonderful cast. I loved John P Ryan and Pam Grier they were so terrific and Malcolm and Stacy Keach that was cool, that was a wonderful experience once we got going. And of course Eric had done "The Blob" so when we wanted to do that thing with the kid being folded in half and being pulled into the wall that was a great gag and he did all that stuff, he was terrific.
GM: Any word on a blu release of this film?
CJ: Mark has talked to me a few times about doing a blu ray with it but I don't know if maybe "Scream Factory" (Shout Factory) decides to do it. For all I know the blu is coming out tomorrow (laugh)
GM: Speaking of blu, are you happy with how your films look on the format?
CJ:David DeCoteau and I did the commentary for Puppet Master 3 and I was stunned when we were recording that how great it looked, it was fantastic. One of the saddest things which Renny and I have discussed when we saw the blu of "Prison" and the fact that Mac Ahlberg hadn't lived long enough to see it because I think it looks just superb and he was an incredible DP. To me the great thing for us to re-discover your own work and you look at these things with fresh eyes because I don't sit and watch my own movies for hours on end then suddenly your seeing things brand new and its neat and when its in this great format and it looks so far beyond quality upgrade even when we made it (laugh)
GM: Lately you`ve done a lot of interviews for various documentaries, would you call yourself a film historian?
CJ: I`ve always done film journalism and before it was journalism it was just me being a pain in the ass to all these guys. When I was in High School I was writing letters to Don Siegl and all these guys. I have a letter from Don Siegl which is one of my great treasures and I got to know Don abit later on when I came to California. I had the unbelievable gull to write to him and ask for a summer job. His note was so great. He had just finished doing Telethon with Charles Bronson and he was getting ready to direct a movie called I.Horn starring Steve McQueen and I still have the letter, it says he's sorry he cant hire me because Steve McQueens entourage was so large (Laugh) OH MY GOD Steve McQueen is stopping Don Siegl from giving me a summer job and that is like the coolest thing of all time. But I was always doing that and I came to California to go to college and that's what I would do, the thing is back in those days, (laugh) well those days, not that long ago but I guess it is movie directors and guys like that did not consider themselves celebrities they were wealthy of course and well paid and they had there own degree of fame and cult status but they still considered themselves anonymous people. And if they got attention or met a fan they were flattered because they wanted to stay out of the spotlight and put guys like John Wayne in it. Times were very different and they were very open to fans like me who would come and bug them etc. I liked tracking down the Universal guys. I just loved that, tracking these guys down and hearing old Hollywood stories and what have you. Then when I started really applying myself with the film journalism that kind of took more of a shape with me with the Westerns and I got very involved with that and continue to be involved with that genre. That kind of up things especially when I got to know people like Sam Peckinpah Warren Oats and L.Q Jones and the whole gang and I was kind of there mascot and that lead me down a new path way.
GM: You just did an interview for the Empire documentary?
CJ: The Empire documentary is going to have a big big launch but I don't know when that will happen but again that Daniel Griffins work and holy smoke hes talked to everybody its going to be an incredible.
GM: I know you`ve done conventions in the past, is it humbling to meet fans of your work?
CJ: I haven't done one in a very long time, when I would do them a million years ago it was always in conjunction with Full Moon. Charles Band was very convention savoy and he was of course great with his promotions, when I started writing a bunch of Full Moon and directed a few times he always wanted to have a presents at the convention and he liked it to be the actors plus the behind the scenes people which was very nice. So that was really fun. I guess the wonderful thing about when you do that is you sometimes you don't realize the how much exposure the stuff actually gets. These are horror flicks there not the Godfather (laugh) so your not sure how many homes these things go into or what.
GM: Still hear from fans?
CJ: Oh gosh I still get stuff through the mail and that's always a great kick.
GM: So what projects do you currently have in the works?
CJ: I have the sequel my western Shotgun which comes out from Pinnacle like a year from now called Shotgun 2: Bleeding Ground. I started a new action/adventure series which I cant disclose. I`m writing a western shortly which i`m very excited about actually for a tv pilot also looks like i`m going to be doing some work in the UK for a Ileen Maisel who produced "The Golden Compass" and i`m writing a tv pilot for her company.
I want to extend my thanks to C.Courtney Joyner for taking the time to talk about his amazing career.
When I got in touch with Mr.Joyner I was already a huge fan of his work both in screenwriting as well as his novels. I also shared his love and passion for Universal horror and B-films. But I gotta say he is a hell of a nice guy and he really knows his stuff. Many people have seen him before being interviewed for various documentaries. Recently he has taken the time out of his hectic schedule to talk to me about his work on such cult classics as Prison, Class of 1999 and From a Whisper to a Scream which was just re-released from Scream Factory with mind blowing extras that are sure to put it on the short list for a Rondo for best release of the year.
Confessions of a Monster Kid Part 1
GM: Always been a monster kid?
CJ: Well you know I was bitten by the bug, I was always just a movie person. That was also when the monster boom was going on and alot of fantastic stuff so going on like the Universal Horror movies were on television and Hammer films were coming out, Aurora model kits and Famous Monsters of Film land etc Everything was coming up monsters and I was lucky to be at the right age to be totally swallowed alive by all that so it was wonderful. So it was right from the get go that I loved these kind of movies.
GM: You worked with Virgil Vogel (The Mole People, Land Unknown etc) What was it like working with such a legend?
CJ: He was terrific! A friend of mine back in college turned me on to a really interesting article about Rondo Hatton. I didn't know about Hattons life before the movies and the disease he had, which was a result from mustard gas attack in World World I. I was fascinated by this and the Elephant man was big at that time and he was like the Hollywood Elephant man and thought it would be a great thing to write a screenplay about about Hattons life. So I was doing a lot of research on Hattons life and I got ahold of some interesting personal items such as his death certificate and I wanted to contact someone who had contact with. David Del Valle got me in touch with Gale Sondergaard (she worked with him on Spider Woman Strikes Back) I talked to her, very lovely and elderly by this time. It was shortly before she passed away. She said something very interesting, she thought that his face was a Jack Pierce makeup and she had no idea this was how he really looked. She felt dismissive of him and thought that was telling.
So i was gearing up for this and I thought it would be great to contact one of the guys that worked with Jack Pierce like a makeup assistant so I called up the head of Universal Makeup department and he couldn't have been nicer. The first thing out of his mouth was are you working on this thing with Virgil Vogel and I was like oh my god are they actually doing this, he said just call him. I was like oh my god the director of The Mole People and The Big Valley etc. I got up my courage and called him, told him who I was and what I was doing and I had Hattons death certificate etc and he couldn't have been nicer. He said "What are you doing tomorrow come here and lets have lunch!" so I went out to Universal and had lunch with Virgil that day and there was a writer who was working on this project it was called "Hollywoods Strangest Love Story" and his name was Robert Heverly. Bob Heverly had been Sam Peckinpals writing partner on television show "The Westerner" and he had worked with Virgil alot on "The FBI" etc. I had a few finished screenplays and Virgil read one of those and passed it on to Bob and he generously asked me to collaborate with him, I was still in college and suddenly I was writing with these guys. Virgil was primarily directing "Magnum P.I" at the time jumping back and forth from "Miami Vice"and I worked with Bob Heverly and we wrote this script it never that never went anywhere but thats how Virgil and I got together. When I graduated from college he brought me over to Universal and I worked with him on assessing scripts and when he was doing episodic s we would bat ideas around and pitch to producers and we sold a few things such as a spec "Air Wolf" and "Magnum P.I" to Universal.
GM: And did he talk much about making "The Mole People" etc
CJ: Oh god yes I bugged him all the time about everything (laugh) At the time Virgil was Universals top editor. He did such films as "Touch of Evil" "This Island Earth" etc but he really wanted to direct. They (Universal) wanted some new guys and Virgil always thought he got the chance to do "The Mole People" because he knew a good portion of the movie would be stock footage. They wanted someone that not only knew how to assemble that footage but to shoot the building scenes between that footage and make it all seamless. Hammer films was starting to make an impact and Universal was going through a lot of management changes and the division of those kind of programmer pictures were slowing down and the budgets were being reduced so he found his chance to jump on and direct this, later going on to do "The Land Unknown"
GM: You worked with another legend Vincent Price on the film "From A Whisper to a Scream" How much interaction did you have with Mr.Price on that shoot?
Also I heard he was not a big fan of the film.
CJ: (Laugh) well that's your answer. Quiet abit actually. When Jeff Burr, Darren and I approached him originally, Jeff had gotten his address from a mail order outfit that provided address of people for a fee. Jeff really wanted Vincent Price for the movie and he couldn't have been nicer and more gracious, we were two knuckleheads at his door. He let us in and we talked about the film and discussed the film. But he was really not into doing it, he just did a mystery series with Diane Rigg and did "The Monster Club" with John Carradine in the connecting devices and he wasn't a big fan of that movie, I think it was just tiresome for him because he had done plenty of those kinds of movies.
We got him to agree to let us go head and do the stories and then see if he wanted to do the connecting device. So we went to Dalton Georgia and shoot the movie, Jeff did a great job directing it and Darren produced it and pulled it in for the cash, it was really remarkable. When we got back to L.A we arranged a screening for Price and his agent at the time Walter Coner. We struck a deal with Vincent and we shoot his stuff over at Venice. What had happened was (we were young guys, inexperienced) once Vincent had agreed to do the movie he went away and while we were busy building sets and he off on one of his art cruises. We decided to re write the script thinking Oh my gosh we got Vincent Price lets really take advantage of it and we came up with all these ideas that were pretty wild and frankly beyond our budget. He was sent that new material and he got pretty upset.We weren't trying to do anything (to upset him) we were just inexperienced and he was most upset was besides the content was the fact he hadn't been consulted. I think he thought we were trying to pull a fast one on him.
We got him to agree to come down to Venice lumber yard to see what we were doing and to come and talk to us in person it was fine, he agreed to do script as it was written. David Del Valle who was doing our publicity did something really wonderful. We were shooting at Roger Cormans studio so David had Roger and Hazel both come down on the set while we were filming. So they had a mini reunion it was just wonderful.I remember Roger standing there looking at the old decaying library set (where Vincent sits and has all his scenes) he goes "You know I believe I made this movie about forty times" (Laugh) It wasnt his favorite film but ultimately he was very nice to us. One thing that was very specific was at the end of the movie Susan Tyrrell stabs him in the throat with a switchblade knife. We were being a little cautious or at least I was, the way we had it written was he was poisoned so he can just slump over his chair and die and that was it. He didn't want to do that, the knife in the throat was actually his idea. I was really glad he got into the spirit of it. I recall him saying "Oh she should stab me in the throat, that's much nastier." Again it wasn't his favorite project, we weren't Tim Burton or any of those things he crowned his amazing career with we were alittle hiccup in the road. It was our first movie star and he schooled us a little bit and we needed to be schooled. It was Vincent Price, the big leagues but it worked out very well.
GM: Your second feature was the cult hit "Prison" Originally they wanted it to be slasher correct?
CJ: That's correct. I was hired to do Prison because I had already written a treatment for a friend of mine named Michael Barkus whom I went to UFC. Mikes dad had been an investor in a movie that Irwin Yablans produced called "Hell Night" starring Linda Blair and Mike was working for Irwin and Bruce and Irwin had a project that they tried to develop called "Horror in the Big house" it was a haunted prison movie and of course he had already done "Halloween" (1978) etc. He had this property and they were trying to make it fly and Mike recommended me, I had written a spec script called "The Night Crawlers" that I had written for Jeff (Burr) to direct and nothing really happened with it. But I used that as my writing demo piece Bruce had read it and passed it onto Irwin and he said lets give it a shot. I went in there and Irwin told me the history of "Horror in the Big house" and he gave me the script and I read it right away. Renny Harlin had already been hired, I had never met him yet.
After I read the script Renny and I got together for a hamburger or something and we were talking about it. Irwin had given me instructions that he wanted to do "Halloween" in prison and i`ve said this many times it was ridiculous you got a guy with a knife killing prisoners and everyone has a knife you know thats no threat. So I said it has to be supernatural like "Poltergeist" in jail. Thats what put i through the hoop. Bruce hired me and I wrote the script and it took awhile before it actual found its home because the company split up and we ended up going to Empire Pictures with Charlie Band.
GM: You kept in touch with Mr. Yablans?
CJ: Irwin and I are still really good friends he was my mentor and had a huge impact on what I was doing. He really want to the floor for me many times. He was directly responsible Mark Lester hiring me for "Class of 1999" and going to TWE and working on there action projects there. He had a big big impact on my life.
GM: Tell me about the casting of character actor Lane Smith
CJ: He was wonderful in the movie but we went through quiet a casting process to get him. John Casstavettes came in to talk to us but he had some health issues and he was not considered insurable.So unfortunately that didn't happen. Lane had just done the Richard Nixon mini series and Irwin got him to come in. Boy was he a nice man, I think hes wonderful in the movie.
GM: Speaking of casting I find it interesting that Viggo did "Prison" and later went on to do Jeff Burr's film (Texas Chainsaw Massacre III) was it pure consequence or was it through your connection having worked with him previously?
CJ: Just a consequence. Viggo was bouncing from independent movies and then he went in for "Chainsaw" (Texas Chainsaw Massacre III) and Jeff called me and said "Guess what Viggo came in and were going to hire him." he was really getting bigger and bigger. He just done doing "Fresh Horses" and other movies and he was really gaining his reputation. I think hes wonderful in Jeff's film. For all his good looks I think hes always considered himself a character actor, not some preening leading man. I went out on the set and Viggo and I had a lovely reunion, hes really a nice fellow.
GM: Still keep in touch with him?
CJ: A ran into him a couple years ago in a restaurant, in fact he flagged me down, it was great like no time had past.
GM: Prior to the blu release"Prison" sadly became hard to find, why is that?
CJ: We were very lucky because Charlie had done Re-Animator and had a good foot hold theatrically. We planned in theaters but than Empire was absorbed by another company and "Prison" ended up getting another theatrical release from "New World Pictures" so it was weird it was put into theaters by two different companies and the video rights were sold and re-sold so we were out there and then gone. Our big bench mark achievement was Jay Leno whose kind of a horror movie nut actually showed the one sheet on the "Tonight Show" The tag line was "Horror has a new home" and Jay Leno holds up the poster and yes (in Joyners best Leno voice) "Yeah I`ve always considered prison home."(laugh) Charlie was really good with the movie and pushed on it. We had the cover of International Box Office Magazine that year, the movie had a huge presents but then it kinda came and went very quickly. Because the rights were constantly being sold and re sold it didn't have a big life on cable though one afternoon it ended up on the channel five Afternoon Movie here in L.A which I don't know how that happened but it was kinda fun. Prison has always had a great reputation and of course Renny went onto amazing success and he did a beautiful job on the film. What we accomplished with the amount of money we had, i`m very proud of that movie and i`m proud of the fact that people have really given it some credit and due and seem to really enjoy it and i`m very pleased about that. At the time we were writing it Renny and I were house mates.
GM: You worked around actual prisons, correct?
CJ: Well we did and we didn't. The real prisoners that were extra's from the actual Rowling's State Pen. that was down the road. Most of the those guys were trustees and they were fine, they didn't misbehave they were they and got a kick out of it. The guy who played Mickey's cellmate, big man with a beard and ends up getting a pick axe through his back through a door, he was in jail for murder. But the interesting thing about him was his was a prisoner there but he had his SAG card. He had been working on the mini series "Centennial" ironically directed by Virgin Vogel, he had gotten into a fight in a bar and the guy ended up dying from his injuries and ends up going to jail. We hired him and I thought he was great in the movie but when the cameras stopped rolling he was in cuffs and shackles and there were guards with sniper rifles at all times.
GM: It must have been beyond surreal.
CJ: It was, it really was. It was definitely added a whole new dimension to that film.
This was Part 1 of the interview. Stay Tuned for the final part next week.
This weeks Top Ten is focusing on those glorious oddities known as Midnight Movies. In terms of this list we are looking for the obscure, absurd, surreal, strange etc. All of these films also earned showings at midnight in theaters a crossed the world. So turn out the lights and check out these wild films.
10: Reefer Madness (1936)
Intended as a serious message about the "horrors" of pot, however once the smoke clears you`ll find yourself giggling more than if you had a entire plate of magic brownies. In the 1970's a whole new group re-discovered the film through the glazed eyes of hippies and hispters alike. Its since been viewed as satire and drug paranoia but mostly as unintentional comedy gold. Funny weird and should only be viewed with certain substances of your choice and friends...The only danger in this film is dying from laughter...
9: Glen or Glenda
Everyone's lovable cross dressing director Ed D.Wood Jr wrote and directed this strange film about Glen (played by Ed Wood himself no less) who secretly wants to be you guessed it Glenda. It attempts to take a serious (albeit strange) hard hitting look at trans people.Its surreal and just plain gonzo nature makes it the perfect storm of camp kookiness. Look for Bela Lugosi as the narrator yes "Dracula" Lugosi in a sex change film...Come on, how great is that? "PULL THE STRINGS!!"
*Trivia: Fans of the Chucky series take note: Seed of Chucky has huge Glen or Glenda nods.
8: Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising
Maybe the most obscure film on the list and one that is worth seeking out. Anger was ahead of his time and inspired the likes of Lynch and Waters. His epic midnight film Scorpio Rising has no real narrative, its just a mood and a feeling that pulsates through this entire film. Leather guys, James Dean and classic 50's rock and roll. There is a wonderful 2 vol collection of his work and I highly recommend it.
7: The Room (2003)
Often compared to Ed Wood's "Plan 9 From Outer Space" Tommy Wiseua's disaster of a film has gained a huge cult following and been shown at midnight across the country. The Room is a attempt at a serious drama yet fails on every level, the result pure cinema gold. Its the perfect film to show friends because they`ll be in stitches by the end.The newest film on the list by far but its earned its midnight cred and there is even a "making of" move in the works. If your already a fan of the film I highly recommend buying the book "Disaster Artist"
6:The Honeymoon Killers (1969)
Loosely based on the "Lonely Hearts Killers" The large and wonderful Shirley Stoler (Frankenhooker,Pee Wee's Playhouse) and the charming Tony Lo Bianco (French Connection,God told me to) prove that the couple that slay together stay together. Wonderfully black in its humor and at times disturbing this film is a treat for the midnight set. Stoler is a wonderful force of nature the likes of which is only rivaled by Divine in "Pink Flamingos.
5:The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Another cross dressing larger than life character makes the list. Based on the play "Rocky Horror Show" this was a watershed moment in midnight movies and even had been persevered in the National Library of Congress in 2005. I could go over the plot but i`m sure many if not all of you reading this have already seen it. However if you`ve never seen it with an audience your really missing out. Yes i know all the shout outs "SLUT" Janet. "ASSHOLE" Brad. I know, i need help and I don't care. :)
4: Freaks (1932)
This Pre-Code shocker from Tod Browning was both infamous and ground breaking for its time. It was so upsetting to people that a man actually claimed this movie as a defense of why he murdered someone. (He said it drove him mad!) While I don't think it has the ability to drive anyone to murder it is a well made film with an ending that remains bone chillingly creepy. Its also been well implanted in pop culture having been referenced in numerous films and even the TV show "South Park" The use of actual persons with deformities makes it a film that you could never repeat today. Its truly a great movie to behold. Not to be missed!
Saying David Lynches ground breaking feature is weird is doing it a huge disservice. Its a surreal wonderland of disturbing images and characters that might only exist at night. It was a hit with the midnight crowd and Lynch went on to do many other great films and the cult TV show "Twin Peaks" He is one of the few directors that has always stayed true to his vision and legions of fans have respected him for it.
*Trivia: Many theories are floating around about how the alien type baby was made, however Lynch has kept it a secret.
2: Pink Flamingos (1972)
The Only The Only...Pink Flamingos! John Waters armed with a camera and a group of renegade actors including a hefty larger than life star, Divine made cult film history in Baltimore Maryland. Waters combined high art and low brow trash and what we get is something gaggingly gorgeous and insanely funny. Many others have tried to copy his style but none have matched the eye popping sublime quality of this truly dangerous work of art.
1: El Topo (1970)
Its really hard for me to correctly express how big of an impact this film has had on me. Many of the films post 1970 (on this list and beyond) have this film to thank for really starting the whole Midnight movie trend. It was discovered by John Lennon and found a wider audience that still grows today.Its just pure art on screen. Violent, surreal and beautiful. Not to be missed by anyone seriously into films.
Other films that didnt make the list but are still worth checking out: Killer Klowns from Outerspace, Donnie Darko,Pink Floyd's The Wall,Spider Baby
Films in the Attic: Exploring less known or talked about films just waiting to be re-discovered.
By Gorehound Mike Vaughn
Title: The Final Terror
I gotta be honest and say if not for Scream Factories release of this film I would have never heard of this 80s horror film. And since i`m being honest the title and cover really doesn't do justice for this back woods masterpiece.
Plot: A small group of military men wrangle some R&R with there girlfriends and some other friends. Driving them is Eggar (Joe Pantoliano) who clearly has some issues and warns them to steer clear of the wooden area. However they do not heed this and go on to have some fun. Things go not so well when a camper goes missing. Soon it becomes a fight for survival and only the strong will come out alive.
The opening wastes little time in offering a juicy kill (which is well done) yet you might be mislead and think this is a run of the "kill" backwoods slaughter fest. Don't get me wrong, fans of the red red kroovy will not be disappointed but if your looking for a body count film, this is not one of those, and its all the better for it. While on the surface this seems like a typical teen camping slasher fare the added element of the back woods survivalist gives it a fresh update on the "tired" and true horror standby. The Final Terror also boasts a wonderful gritty,dirty and savage back woods feel that coats every frame. The shooting locations really adds an air of equal parts beauty and dread that really sucks you into the story and the characters plight.
Like the plot the cast is refreshingly good and many have gone on to do major film and television. Mark Metcalf (Animal House) Daryl Hannah (Kill Bill,Blade Runner) Joe Pantoliano (Matrix,Bound) and Adrian Zmar (T.J Hooker,Grease 2) round out the players.Its hard to judge Ms. Hannah's performance as sadly they don't have her do much more than look pretty. Joe Pantoliano however seems determined to chew all the scenery he can get ahold of , it is way out of place to the other more natural acting styles but its something you can forgive and Joe has gone on to do much bigger movies and wisely has dropped the over the top bit. The rest of the cast are very good and are much better actors than your typical slasher fare. Take for example when the group find a body, it has to be one of the most realistic reaction put on film. I know that sounds horribly over stated but it really is well directed and acted.
Its a real shame that "The Final Terror" has all but been forgotten about, lumped into the hundreds of horror and slasher films of the decade. While other less well made films are the ones that get talked about the one different film gets pushed aside. I`m glad that with the blu/dvd release maybe it will finally find an audience. If you`ve not seen it yet, I recommend it
Topic: Blu Perfection? Maybe be happy for what you have?
Now i`m not old enough to remember a time before VHS. Back when I was discovering the glory of horror/cult and later indies there was maybe one or two companies releasing stuff like "The Evil Dead" "The Wicker Man" etc. The two companies that were doing right by the ever demanding market was "Something Weird Video" and "Anchor Bay" both were paramount and ahead of its time in terms of giving fans what they wanted and helping budding fiends like myself to discover new gooey treasures. However Anchor Bay introduced the concept of a deluxe edition with special packaging, loads of extras etc. Its something that blew fans heads apart. I don't think its a stretch to say without these releasing companies there would be no "Scream Factory" etc.
Today fans have an ever expanding selection of titles from main stream to obscure trashy treasures and everything in between. I`ve said it a million times its a great time to be a fan of these films.Yet it seems like there is a group of "fans" that take an extreme pleasure in shitting on releases without giving them the proper respect they deserve.
Trolls and the Internet: We all know the internet is a great place for faceless pimpled ass hats called Trolls to anonymously bag on everything because when you cant create you need to judge, right? So its not hard to believe that trolls take to the internet and bitch and cry and pick apart every blu release that isn't pristine 4k with tons of features. Its good to have high standards but impossible ones is another thing all together.
Scream Factory and Code Red: A Double standard?
Since its creation Scream Factory a sub group of "Shout Factory" has been bringing gems back from the dead looking better than ever. Not only do they put time and effort into there packaging, employing talented artists to do new artwork (something even Anchor Bay never did) but they pack there films in the gills with extras. Yet this company is the one that gets picked on the most when it comes to how it looks and god forbid something has a compression issue.
A perfect example of rabid fans attacking S.F was with the long awaited "Dog Solider" release. Fans of the Neil Marshall werewolf film had to wait a whole year longer as it was pushed back. S.F did so because it wanted to really give this release the best treatment it could. So when it was finally released fans were crying that the print wasn't new and Neil Marshall tweaked some color in the film. It got so bad Marshall himself took the time to tell these over zealous fans that the print they used was the best possible and part of the delay was to try and discover a new print. It was classy on Neil's part to try and sooth the butt hurt uber fans. It was something he didn't have to do but did anyways.
Because S.F is king of the hill people might just have higher expectations from them and hence why they get more closely watched and judged. They have the kind of spirit that AB did back in there hay day and its always awesome to see what there going to release next.
Code Red on the other head has a) crappy recycled artwork b)little to no features and worse yet the prints are HORRIBLE...Point in case Just Before Dawn...I`ve seen VHS copies that had less scratches noise etc. They also are horrible to deal with direct and there "limited" editions get re printed even after they go OOP. Bad prints aside I think the worst thing about Code Red is the high price for little bang and rabid "Fans" who drive the prices up so you`ll end up paying sometimes 60-70 bucks for a crappy blu ray. (For those of you how like C.R that's fine, its the people who drive up the prices that I have a problem with.) Yet I hardly hear anything bad about them. I`ve talked to hardcore collectors and I ask them why they love this company, the only real answer I got was simply they like the films they release. Sorry but even though I like something like "Neon Manics" i`m not paying 50 plus for a few frills bad print blu. It seems like C.R gets a free pass on there sloppy releases yet S.F gets picked to death and they are and always will be the best company around.
Status Symbols: Having a certain C.R title or Twilight Time release is only a status symbol for certain collectors. Bragging rights if you will. I dont collect for these reasons. I buy a movie because I love it and i`ll watch it, not keep it MIP so I can brag to other collectors. Movies were made to be watched and enjoyed. These "collectors" are ruining the market and driving up prices so regular fans can't afford certain titles.
Judging pre-releases: yes its a thing:
I went on Amazon to check out the latest Hammer Horror collection blu to be released by Warner just in time for Halloween. Shocked but not overly surprised to see that fans were already judging a product that had yet to be released. Um.what? First off I dont know why Amazon allows comments on items that are yet to be released. People were bitching about the price (which for a boxset is reasonable) and the choice of films. I`m just glad to see these titles being released yet Sadly this pre-release bitch fest is not uncommon and I dont see the need for it. Pre-judging is probably the stupidest thing you could spend your time doing. Its pure Troll activity.
Final Thoughts: Ok i`m going to spare you the old "back in my day...." bit because i`m not that old (haha) but I look back and think how even back when i started buying movie with few choices as a collector I still loved them even if they weren't the greatest prints etc. Hell I even have some VHS from my the Anchor Bay days. Who wouldn't want to keep there "Halloween" orange VHS with snow globe am I right?
So before you whine and cry take a moment and just be happy to live in a time where you can buy all these films without even leaving your house or hell getting dressed for that matter. I never once bought a movie cause of bragging rights or to stash it away as some kind of investment. I just love movies, watching them, talking about them etc. Also...keep in mind these releases just don't magically appear, they take many months of hard hard work and planning the interviews commentaries etc. I dont think people give the proper respect to the hard working people that bring fans the best in high def releases. Before you judge maybe think about a time before all these companies when choices were slim and you god forbid actual had to go to a video store to obtain them.
Thanks for reading and letting me be frank about this issue. As always I try to make these thought provoking and i`m always honest in my feelings. Fans of Code Red, its nothing personal I just dont like that company and what they stand for.
So what are alternative vampire films you might ask. Well pull up a coffin and let me explain a few fangs to you. Blood suckers aplenty but nothing mainstream here. Maybe these films might not be everyone's tastes but for open minded horror film lovers into more edgy progressive films should stake these out. Ok enough with the puns... If your tired of the run of the mill check out these 10 films!
10: The Addition: (1995)
Abel Ferrara the mad man/genius behind "Driller Killer" "Kings of New York" and "Ms.45" (among other things) brings us his take on the Vampire lore. Like "The Hunger" "The Addition" uses vampires lusting for blood as a metaphor for addition. Like his other films this is gritty and real and oh so violent.
Its also worth noting that this film turns 20 come Oct 6th.
9 The Hunger (1983)
David Bowie and Susan "Toucha toucha touch me" Sarandon (sorry but she`ll be Janet to me) star in this taunt sexy bloody take on the vampire mythos. Featuring the amazing song by Bauhaus "Bela Lugosi Dead" which sets the tone for the audience. Panned by critics this visually stunning slow paced erotic film has finally received the praise and following it rightly deserves. I think of this as a art film with a decent budget. Its a joy to see master effects genius Dick Smith creating on screen magic with his makeup kit. Bold and visually stunning The Hunger is a must for fans of transgression films. The seduction scene with Susan is vastly erotic and memorable. I can even forgive Tony Scott from "borrowing" a few shots/ideas from "Daughters of Darkness"
Aug 18th a blu of The Hunger comes out from Warner Archives.
8: Near Dark (1987)
The 80s were a time of pop art loud,wild splatter films and like the decade everything was over the top. However Near Dark is quietly understated and has a top notch cast that includes Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton,Jenny Wright etc. Near Dark is beautifully shot and written with equal parts violence and poetry with an interesting mix of vampire lore and western motif that somehow works.
It also is a glimpse of the talents of Kathryn Bigelow who would go on to win an Oscar for "The Hurt Locker" It also scores big with the infamous bar room scene which is manically over the top and splatter goodness. Its interesting that "The Lost Boys" came out the same year however I always thought of Near Dark as its older more mature brother and an antidote to other films of the decade.
7: Let Me In (2010)
I`m about to say something you don't hear (or read in this case) very often. This remake is much better than its Swedish counterpart "Let the Right One In" 2008 Like "Near Dark" it to has a quiet understated quality yet can be very violent and bloody as well.. But when you get to the heart of the matter its about a well crafted story that is relate able to many viewers myself included. Chloe Grace Moretz really shines as Abby the pint sized vampire. It really show cases her talents and range. I`m not saying don't check out the Swedish film, by all means do however hands down this is far better.
6 Vampires Kiss (1989)
Wanna see a black comedy about Nicolas Cage totally losing his shit and donning plastic fangs? Sure we all do and that is just what we get with 1989's "Vampires Kiss" Over the top madness doesn't even begin to describe whats happening in this cinematic treasure. Its truly a sight to behold. You can also see a little bit of Patrick Bateman and his yuppie NY lifestyle in this film. One wonders if a little inspiration for the ground breaking book 1991's American Psycho wasn't drawn for this film, even if just a tiny bit. Brilliant direction well shot,coupled with lots of sex and totally Cage insanity.If you`ve never seen it, your in for a real treat. Scream Factory released this with "High Spirits" and is worth it for this alone. Look for a cameo from Larry Cohens (cult director; God told me to etc) daughter as a victim.
After George A.Romeo made his watershed film "Night of the Living Dead" (1968) He made "Martin" a very different vampire film. Romeo takes all the camp out of other blood sucker films of the decade such as "Blacula" (1972) and gives it a stark and haunting flavor. I have to say as Romeo films this ranks right up there with the likes of "Dawn of the Dead" which he would make a year later. John Amplas (who would later on to star in Day of the Dead) plays the titular character. Amplas does an amazing job in his acting range and is damn creepy. George also uses his in your face camera work (a trademark of his) that really gives this film an extra kick. Like Night of the Living Dead it has an unpolished gritty feel which heightens the audiences uneasy feeling.
Sadly "Martin" will never get the kind of attention that his zombie films do however fans of his have discovered this gem and it holds a growing cult following and rightly so.
4: Blood for Dracula (1974)
Warhol regular Paul Morrissey broke away from the factory and started a very interesting film career. The second in two films shoot back to back (the other being Flesh for Frankenstein) this one stars Udo Kier this time as the titular blood sucker. The satire is very "biting" and Morrissery plays with many interesting themes.His ironic humor is dry and played for the smart set rather than low brow slap stick. What could have been high camp is played totally straight and it never gets hammy. More so than Flesh for Frankenstein the on location shooting is used to its advantage and is just amazing to look at. Hardcore horror fans will remember Stefania Casini in "Suspria", meeting a grisly death via razor wires. If you seen "Flesh for Frankenstein" you know the kind of madness your in for, if not get ready for off beat characters, sex and wirgin blood i mean virgin blood. Look for a cameo by Oscar winning director Roman Polanski. It goes without saying but I highly recommend Flesh for Frankenstein which obviously is wrong for this list. The pair makes a great double feature.
3: Daughters of Darkness (1971)
I must say i`m obsessed by this film and its cast me firmly in its spell. I had often heard people say certain films have a dream like quality and I never understood that until I saw this. It has enough quirky characters, sex and abit of the red red kroovy to keep even the most jaded fan satisfied. The film also has a timeless feel and even the fashions the young couple wear are very in style. I`d kill for John Karlen's red leather jacket and sun glasses. Speaking of color the characters are always wearing dominantly either white, black,red or black and white, its just one of the many details inserted. The film also makes use of the great shooting locations. I mentioned above about quirky characters and this one has them in spades. For explain I love the retired detective, he is creepy as hell and has a past with the main character; however wisely we never are filled in. (Yes you actually have to use your imaginations ) An amazing soundtrack fuels the dream like feeling and when the credits roll you`ll wonder if it was all a dream. I could go on and on but you get the point. I HIGHLY recommend it.
Fans of Rob Zombie will no doubt recognize samples he used on his debut solo album "Hillbilly Deluxe"
2: What We Do In the Shadows (2015)
I`m going to go out on a limb here (and rightly so) and say this is THEE best mockumentary since "Best in Show" and even "This is Spinal Tap" Yes its that good. Also this is the only full comedy that made it on the list.From the genius's "Flight of the Condors" brings "What We Do In The Shadows" Various archetypes of vampires are spoofed as well as time honored lore. Besides the vampire we have the other staples such as the poor soul that does the vampire's bidding and of course the vampire hunter. Simply put if you don't laugh at this movie than check your pulse because you might be among the undead. Once you start it will be hard to wipe a goofy grin from your face. You`ll seriously want to be flat mates with these undead.
1: Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
Out of all the films on this list this one really divides fans. Obviously its very clear which camp I belong to. To say Jim Jarmusch makes offbeat films is a huge understatement so its no surprise that his take on the vampire mythos would be very different. People complained that nothing happens in this movie yet I feel they totally miss the films point. Its more of a mood it creates and even more so than "Daughters of Darkness" has a surreal dream like feel while remaining very much in reality. Other vampire movies on this list may have more sex and blood but none can touch the can of feeling of dream like cool that it oozes. You may not like it but it also may turn out to be your favorite film.
Currently it holds a strong 85% on Rotten Tomatoes
Honorable mentions: As always its hard to pick just ten and here are titles that are every bit worthy of checking out: Cronos, Thirst, Let the Right One In,
For years Arrow has blazed a trail for blu ray's in the UK. Luckily for collectors in America a US branch was started. Right out of the gate they prove they can play with the big boys (Scream Factory,Synapse etc) and "Society" proves that this company can deliver the gooey goods.
I`ve been a huge fan of "Society" since Anchor Bay released it on DVD. I even had a chance to interview both Brian Yuzna and Tim Bartell for this blog. So when I heard a nice blu edition was coming out I was beyond excited, however my high expectations were met and more.
Packaging: I rarely comment on this aspect but with a stunning package like this I feel like not mentioning it would be a huge disservice. Instead of just being lazy and using stock photos I took some of my own copy.
First off the original artwork by Nick Percival is simply amazing, I really hope he does more art for Arrow in the future. A limited edition comic book is included entitled: Society: Party Animal. Fans of a possible sequel can be at least somewhat slated by this. A booklet with more original artwork and a great article by blank and a clever little invitation tops everything off. All together a lesson in repackaging a film the right way for die hard fans and also to gain new ones.
Picture: Upgraded from the previous Anchor Bay DVD. As per the booklet "the transfer was restored in 2013 using the best film and audio elements avaible. The 35mm intermediate positive was scanned with a 2k resolution.." You can clearly see the difference between this and the previous editions. Image stability is great and colors are rich and blacks deep. Little grain here as well.
Sound: Society sports a 2.0 audio uncompressed. Sound of depth is great and it really showcases the amazing score. No background noise and sounds are stable. Best this has ever sounded.
Special Features: Society features a brand new commentary by Brian Yuzna . A refreshingly candid interview with Yuzna, its short yet very interesting and to the point. A series of well made featurette's gives fans a more in depth look at the process of bringing this cult classic to life. A conversation backstage at the Society world premiere as well as a Q&A round out the features. A "Screaming Mag George" music video is also a nice little feature. Just amazing features, its nice to see a new commentary rather than reusing the old one on the Anchor Bay disc.
Overall: Arrow really out did themselves and really hits the mark in every department. I can see this being nominated for a RONDO award for best release of the year and it makes my short list for best blu of 2015.