“The Birds” (1963) was yet another film that I grew up with; it got plenty of air time in the 1980’s, and it was such a gem that my Uncle John had it in is movie library too.
As far as I am aware … this is the only time Alfred Hitchcock delved into science fiction -horror. (Somebody please correct me on that if I am wrong.) I only learned just now that it was based on a 1952 novel by Daphne du Maurier. (I thought the name sounded familiar upon reading it, and also learned that she wrote the eponymous source material for Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” in 1940.)
The trailer below is kind of interesting — it features Hitchcock himself hamming it up, with almost no footage from the film. I don’t think it would make it past a modern marketing department — it’s more than five minutes long, and it takes a bit too much time getting to its point.
If you’re acquainted with this blog at all, then you’re already aware of the sheer reverence I have for Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” (1982). So I won’t belabor that subject yet again in order to note Rutger Hauer’s passing this past Friday.
Hauer was a prolific actor, and his fans can remember him fondly from any number of roles. Below are the trailers for my three favorites.
The first is 1986’s “The Hitcher,” which might have been the first modern, adult horror film that I truly loved. (This is leaving aside Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 “The Birds” and various monster movies aimed at kids.) I’m a little concerned that the trailer below misrepresents the movie, though. “The Hitcher” aspired to be a serious film, and was truly a great horror-thriller, in my opinion. It was moody, atmospheric, thoughtful and methodically paced (although it didn’t lack blood and violence either). It was far better than the 80’s action-horror boilerplate movie that the trailer seems to depict.
Hauer was terrifying. (If you are wondering, that is indeed C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Jason Leigh costarring. And if you watch the trailer very closely, you can see Jeffrey DeMunn — who contemporary audiences will recognize as Dale from “The Walking Dead.”)
The second is movie is 1985’s “Ladyhawke,” which saw Hauer co-star with none other than Matthew Broderick and Michelle Pfeiffer. It had far more mainstream appeal, and it reliably kicks up nostalgia every time it’s mentioned on social media. (Seriously, go try it.)
The third is one that far fewer people will remember –1989’s “Blind Fury,” which rode the tail end of the decade’s martial arts craze. It was zany stuff, and it didn’t hold back on the 80’s-era cheese, but it had a lot of heart and was surprisingly earnest. Some of the action sequences were damned impressive too. (And if you were a nut for 80’s ninja movies, you’ll of course recognize Sho Kosugi as the acrobatic villain here.)
(Yes, I do realize that the cows below are black and white.)
I took a ride through a few country vales this past weekend with an old friend. Although the company was excellent, the late January dusk gave the end of the day a dreary visual juxtaposition.
The first three shots here are a bit blurry, but I’m including them anyway — they have an Edvard Munsch quality that’s kind of neat.
That first shot reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”
Well there’s one thing I can cross off my bucket list. (There’s a lot on there, and some of it’s weird.) I finally saw F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu: ein Symphonie des Grauens” (1922).
And am I damn glad I did! I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I love plenty of classic movies; “The 39 Steps” (1939) and “To Have and Have Not” (1944) are among my all-time favorites. But I’m accustomed to modern horror — my tastes generally extend only as far back as “The Birds” (1963) and “Night of the Living Dead” (1968).
I waited until I was in just the right mood. (This is the first silent film I’ve ever seen from start to finish — the only exception being Mel Brooks’ 1976 parody, “Silent Movie.”) Then I began it shortly before midnight.
The movie just worked for me. It was sublimely creepy.
I think it helped that the grainy, flickering, black-and-white period footage made this expressionist movie utterly atmospheric for a modern viewer. These, combined with the shots of Max Schreck superbly made up as “Count Orlok,” were damned unsettling. Schreck also appeared to be a great physical actor, with his gaunt stance and stilted, inhuman movements. (Was he unusually tall too?)
The vintage footage also enhanced my enjoyment of the movie in a way that Murnau probably couldn’t have expected. I know this is strange, but … nearly a century later, the thought that occurred to me several times during this movie was this: “Everyone involved in this production is long dead by now.” Yes, I know that is a morbid thought — I’ve never done that before! I think it was just the film itself that did that to me — it’s about undeath and immortality, after all.
It also helped that I’d read Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” (1897), of which this film is an unauthorized adaptation. The resulting lawsuit by Stoker’s estate is interesting reading: supposedly all copies of the movie were ordered by the courts to be destroyed, bankrupting Prana, the production company. But a permanent cult following developed for the few surviving prints.
Anyway, I followed this up with the palate-cleansing “Night on Bald Mountain,” the final segment of Disney’s “Fantasia” (1944). That combination, too, totally worked for me — I followed up the black-and-white nightmare-fuel of the seminal vampire film with some vivid, incongruously hellish Disney nightmare-fuel.
“Nosferatu” is in the public domain. You can view the entire film on Youtube at the link below.