As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I will never stop loving Steven Spielberg’s 2005 take on H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds.” It was a damned decent science fiction epic, the special effects were fabulous, and it’s actually pretty scary upon its first viewing. The movie successfully channeled post-9/11 anxieties without exploiting them, and Spielberg characteristically humanized the story’s apocalypse by framing it through the eyes of a realistic, relatable modern family. (The terror of the genocidal monsters is a little ironic, too … when I was a kid, Spielberg was known for the wondrous aliens of 1977’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and 1982’s “E.T. — The Extra Terrestrial.”)
Say what you want about Tom Cruise … I think he’s a decent actor, and he’s led some really terrific science fiction films. Dakota Fanning was fantastic child actor here, and Tim Robbins was predictably brilliant (even if his story arc, in my opinion, was largely unnecessary and too depressing).
This was a great flick.
Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!
I’m not sure if the below scene from “WKRP in Cincinnati” (1978-1982) is overexposed; it annually pops up a lot before Thanksgiving. (I’ve shared it on Facebook at least once, I’m sure of it.) It is, of course, the famous “turkey drop” scene from the Thanksgiving episode of the show’s first year. (WKRP would have been on the air only two months when this episode first aired.) The title of the episode was “Turkeys Away,” and it’s still quite well remembered by people interested in television pop culture.
The scene is really funny — people went nuts for it back in the day. I still remember my parents and older siblings truly cracking up over over it. And it really is all tied together by Gordon Jump’s perfect delivery of its feckless final line.
Hey … there’s actually another bit of WKRP trivia that’s been making the rounds lately on social media. It turns out that the lyrics for its closing theme, which many people my age remember quite well, are actually nothing but gibberish. Seriously, check it out.
So I’m introducing a dear friend tonight to “28 Days Later” (2002). It is possibly my favorite horror film of all time, maybe even narrowly beating out “Aliens” (1986), “Alien 3” (1992), John Carpenter’s “The Thing” (1982), the Sutherland-tacular 1978 version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” and George A. Romero’s first three “Dead” films (1968, 1978, 1985). (Whenever “Star Wars” fans refer to their “Holy Trilogy,” I muse inwardly that those last three are its equivalent for zombie horror fans.)
My friend thinks it’s funny that I refer to “28 Days Later” as “my sacred cow.” I’ll be crestfallen if she does not like it, and I told her as much. And that’s weird for me … I usually don’t feel let down when someone doesn’t enjoy the same books, movies or music that I do. Not everything is for everyone. Art would lose its mystique if it weren’t subjective. If all art appealed to all people, it would lose all its appeal altogether.
Part of me feels, unconsciously perhaps, that “28 Days Later” is the kind of film that “redeems” the horror genre (even though no genre needs such redemption — if art is well made or if it affects people, then it’s just fine).
Most comic book fans of my generation can tell you how people can occasionally roll their eyes at their favorite medium. (Comics have far greater mainstream acceptance today than when I started reading them in the 1990’s.) For horror fans, it’s sometimes worse. Horror is a genre that is easily pathologized — and sometimes with good reason, because a portion of what it produces is indeed cheap or exploitative. I wish I could accurately describe for you the looks I’ve gotten when acquaintances find out that I’m a horror fan. They aren’t charitable.
“28 Days Later” and movies like it are so good that they elevate horror to a level that demands respect from the uninitiated. It is an intrinsically excellent film — it just happens to have a sci-f-/horror plot setup and setting. It’s beautifully directed by Danny Boyle, it’s perfectly scored and it’s masterfully performed by its cast — most notably by Cillian Murphy and Brendan Gleeson.
How do you suppose we “Blade Runner” (1982) fans should celebrate? How do we commemorate the final arrival of the setting for the greatest science fiction movie of all time — and arguably the greatest film of all time?
There aren’t many terribly good suggestions from the movie itself. It’s not like “Animal House” (1978) or “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975), which lend obvious themes to a party. If you think about it, much of “Blade Runner’s” action consists of people having labored, intense conversations in dimly hit, high-ceilinged rooms. There’s also a lot of screen time devoted to Harrison Ford brooding while he drinks alone. Those things are not exactly the stuff that good times are made of.
I suppose that the idyllic drive through the mountains with a loved one at the story’s end would be a nice way to mark the occasion … but that particular coda is only part of “Blade Runner’s” theatrical release — and most people I know prefer the director’s cut.
And learning origami takes too much time.
Should we … flip a turtle on its back in the desert and resolve not to help it?
Tortoise. I meant tortoise.
“Willard” (1971) and its sequel, “Ben” (1972), were another pair of 1970’s movies that got plenty of airtime on 1980’s television. I read both books when I was a kid too.
First I picked up Stephen Gilbert’s Ratman’s Notebooks at a yard sale, because that’s how you found cool horror books during summer vacations when you were too young to drive. (Sometimes adults had few compunctions about what they sold to minors too. I bought a vampire book in gradeschool that was full of nude photos, for some reason, and that led to what I’m sure was an interesting conversation between my parents and the neighbor-proprietor down the street.)
Anyway, I absolutely loved Ratman’s Notebooks (despite its lamentable absence of nude photos) and I finished it in a day or two. The novelization of the “Ben” film by Gilbert A. Ralston was somewhat less impressive, but I still enjoyed it.
If you’re a comics fan, like I am, then it might occur you that “Willard” and his army of trained rats seem to inspire a villain in Batman’s rogue’s gallery — Ratcatcher. Ratcatcher has been a minor league villain since he debuted in DC Comics in 1988, but he’s a pretty neat bad guy when placed in the hands of the right writer.
I feel certain that anyone will recognize Ernest Borgnine in the first trailer below– his face and voice are impossible to confuse with those of another man. If the disaffected, spooky, eponymous Willard looks familiar to you, that’s none other than a young Bruce Davison. He’s a good actor who’s been in a lot of films, but I think a plurality of my friends will know him as Senator Kelly from the first two “X-Men” movies (2000, 2003).
You’ll note the presence of flamethrowers in the trailer for “Ben.” Flamethrowers were a staple of 70’s and 80’s horror films; it was just part of the zeitgeist. They were handy for heroes fighting any nigh-unstoppable nonhuman baddie — think of “The Swarm” (1978), “The Thing” (1982), “C.H.U.D.” (1984), “Aliens” (1986), and “The Blob” (1988), for example. Hell, 1980’s “The Exterminator” featured a vigilante using a flamethrower to kill criminals. It was a weird time.
“Kingdom of the Spiders” (1977) was yet another 70’s bug-apocalypse flick that aired from time to time on 1980’s television. As I recall, this one was kinda good … or at least it was scary enough to impress me as a grade-school kid. The movie wisely made use of a truly frightening adversary (and used live tarantulas for filming). And it had the kind of jarring, open-ended final scene that I hadn’t seen before for a sci-fi/horror film.
The only thing that detracted from its creep-factor was the presence of William Shatner as the lead. It wasn’t that Shatner did a poor job with the role — it was just that he was indelibly linked in my young mind to his iconic role in the original “Star Trek” (1966-1969). I simply couldn’t get past the idea that Captain Kirk was an ordinary veterinarian; it took me out of the movie. I’m willing to bet that Shatner was helming the cop drama “T.J. Hooker” (1982-1986) at around the time that I saw “Kingdom of the Spiders,” but that was a show I didn’t watch.
Anyway, if you want to catch the flick in its entirety, you can find the whole thing over at Youtube right here.