Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Film #7: Dawn of the Dead

Saving the best for last!
And ending with zombies makes it even better.
This is not only my favorite zombie film,
It's my favorite film of all time.

Someday maybe I will talk more about the impact this film had on me the first time I saw it.
But tonight I am just going to sit and enjoy it.
I hope you watched a film tonight that you loved.

Happy Halloween,
Mother Firefly

Halloween Movie #6: Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman

The day isn't going to be complete without
SOME kind of film from my Universal Monsters Box.

So I picked my favorite,
Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman.

Halloween Movie #5: Black Sabbath

This is a great Italian film directed by Mario Bava. I've always thought it was wonderfully creepy and threw it on my pile of possible films today.
It's also a horror anthology in three parts.
I made it through part one before I changed movies- because I can't read subtitles and look for demographic information on Milwaukee County.

Halloween Movie #4: The Tingler

I had to take a short break to get dinner and some laundry started. Now I'm back for one more before Papa Cash and I have dinner....and then we'll see how many films I roll through before bed.

This is another one I try to watch every October. I'm a fan of just about every film Vincent Price did, but for some reason I like to watch House on Haunted Hill and The Tingler around Halloween time. They're also two films that Price did for William Castle.

In this one, Price plays a scientist who is studying fear and its effects on the body. He is sure that there is something he can isolate that causes physiological effects of fear and sometimes death. He's also in an unhappy marriage (again!) He's married to a mean lady whose younger sister just happens to be dating the other scientist Price is working with.

This film is also noted for being filmed in Percepto Vision,
which was a gimmick courtesty of William Castle. In the film, if the Tingler attacks, the only defense against it is to scream really loud. In the theater, a handful of seats would be wired with buzzers that would go off at appropriate times in the movie- making the person sitting there scream and inspiring others to scream as well.

Not much else to say about this film- there's a side story involving a mute woman who can't scream to release her fear, and they do eventually find the creature that feeds on fear, 'The Tingler'. I find it a fun one to watch every year and I love watching the glee with which Price investigates 'The Tingler'.

the film is also notable for being the only time that I'm aware of that Vincent Price trips out on LSD- which, according to the special features, was NOT illegal yet. Neato!

Till a little later tonight-
Mother Firefly

Halloween Movie #3: Bubba Ho Tep

Bubba Ho Tep.
Bruce Campbell stars as Elvis. Seems that back in the 70's, Elvis got tired of being well, Elvis. He made a deal with an Elvis impersonator to switch so he could get a break. Unfortunately, during the time of the switch- the Elvis impersonator died. Since the real Elvis lost his copy of the contract they signed in a barbeque mishap, real Elvis had to continue to live his life as the Elvis impersonator.

Still with me? Yes, I swear this is a movie fit for Halloween.

Then one night while performing as an impersonator of himself, he falls off the stage and breaks his hip. We find Elvis in the present day stuck in a nasty nursing home telling everyone he's Elvis and the staff thinking he's just a crazy old man.

Oh, and down the hall lives Ossie Davis, who says he's JFK as well. He was altered to look African American and hidden away after the attempt on his life.

One night Elvis awakens to find a big old NASTY looking bug in his room...which he has to fight....oh and people are dying off at the nursing home...and both incidences are due to an ancient mummy who has taken up residence in a nearby swamp.

So Elvis and JFK combine forces to fight the mummy and save their fellow residents.

If that doesn't make you want to see this movie, nothing will.

Halloween Movie #2: Night of the Ghouls

Ed Wood is probably best known for Plan 9 From Outer Space, but Night of the Ghouls is probably my personal favorite.

It's about a scam artist , Dr. Acula, who pretends to be able to contact the dead. I love the fake seances, Tor Johnson, and 'ghost' lady who hangs out in the yard.

One great scene involves a widow who wants to contact her husband. For some reason, Ed chose to have the man's corpse lying in a casket, then sitting up and speaking to his wife from 'beyond the grave', even though he has been dead 'several years'. Favorite part within this scene is when the dead man in the casket (obviously a young man with a lot of bad aging makeup) closes his eyes and says 'I grow weary now'.....classic.

Another fun part is the cop who wanders around the property looking to bust the scam artist. He has a continuous inner dialogue that is pretty amusing but led me to wonder, can't this guy have a partner or something?

Let's Scare Jessica To Death

Jessica is newly released from the mental hospital. She and her hubby (and a family friend of the male variety) are int he process of moving to a new home. Family transportation includes a hearse, and Jessica's favorite hobby is doing rubbings on gravestones.

So Jessica and her crew move into their new house, and everyone is happy and upbeat because Jessica's all better, and surely EVERYTHING IS GONNA BE OKAY NOW. Right? Sure it is. Because right away they find their new home comes with a mysterious woman who's been staying there. And since this is the 70's, they invite her to stay the night.

Then the whispery whispering starts. And it pretty much goes on throughout the whole show. It pretty much lets us know right away that Jessica is not maybe completely better since she keeps hearing her name whispered (among other endearments, some of which are not so endearing) everywhere she goes.

It doesn't take a college degree to figure out at this point that recent release from mental hospital + whispering + mysterious stranger + old creepy house in an small creepy town = something not good is gonna happen.

But why I like 'Jessica' so much is because it's just a total creepfest. It's a good, old fashioned scary (ghosts? vampires? maybe both) story that is just great fun and still manages to creep me out if I watch it alone late at night. I first saw this one day when I stayed home from school and it was the morning movie on the local tv station.

Scared the SHEEE-IT out of me. It's never been real easy to find. For years I only had a crappy copy of a VHS copy. The sound was horrible, and in order to hear all the 'whispery whispering', I had to crank the sound so loudly the tape gave off an awful hiss. Not fun. A couple of years ago it finally arrived on DVD and I ordered it right away- not my usual mode of 'watch and wait' for the lowest price but I didn't want to risk the chance of it going out of print.

If you are the type of person who likes the occasional scary film but yet needs character development and doesn't want gore, 'jessica' belongs on your must-see list.

One other thing I really enjoy about this movie is the lady who plays Jessica, Zohra Lampert. I think she does a great job of coming off natural and also a little fragile. She also seems very real, like she could have been any of my friend's moms from my childhood in the 70s. And that just makes it even more terrifying- if it can happen to Jessica- well, then, none of us are safe.


The day is finally here! And since I really haven't been able to enjoy my favorite month in the way I'd like to- I'm going to take today and combine my favorite thing in the whole world- watching horror movies- with my number one past time for the last year- doing homework. I wish I could just blow off the whole day, but I really need to accomplish SOMETHING today. So since I have quite a bit of literature searching I could do, along with other things I need to find online- I thought it would be good to do all those things in one day- because then I can feel like I'm sort of celebrating the holiday- and I can also get a lot of work done. Then tomorrow I can do the kinds of things that I need quiet for, like writing papers.

On with the Halloween marathon!
Mother Firefly

Day 29 - Rockin' it Old School

I can't say I did anything especially Halloween- spirited on the 28th- but I did get to do something pretty wonderful tonight.

I am fortunate to live in a town that has two - count 'em, two- theaters who like to bring out the older films for people to enjoy. Because of these theaters, I have been lucky enough to see all the original Universal monster movies (and many of their sequels) on the big screen. Not to mention King Kong, Night of the Living Dead, Freaks, and many others. I've also been almost more fortunate than I deserve and have been able to see House of Wax, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and a few other sci-fi oldies in their original 3-D incarnations, complete with red and blue glasses.

And for a couple years, for about 8 months out of the year, every third Saturday of the month, I could go to the Oriental for Silent Saturdays. I'd pay 8 dollars for a show that lasted about three hours and included a cartoon, a short, a live act such as a juggler, a main feature, and door prizes. All set to the wonderful old organ that comes up from under the stage in the Oriental. I saw all kinds of wonderful films from comedies to horror to drama to a Christmas show or two. There were always a fairly decent amount of people there, from families with small children, to people who might have just been old enough to see the movie the first time around!

Then one day Silent Saturdays stopped. It was supposed to move to another facility but it never showed up again. It took me another two years to find out why- the event's largest source of funding dropped out. Which is why, when I win the lottery, bringing back Silent Saturdays will be my first act of philanthropy.

Anyway- since SS ended, there have been silent offerings here and there at the Oriental and at The Times. I was able to see Nosferatu at The Times a couple years ago with the Alloy Orchestra, and it was wonderful.
So when I saw the flyer for Phantom of the Opera at the Oriental, accompanied by the Alloy, I knew I had to be there. And they didn't let me down.

Phantom is so wonderful. Lon Chaney is amazing, and the story is timeless.
If you ever get a chance to see a silent film in a theater, DO IT. Even if you think you'll absolutely hate it, do it if it's only to support film heritage. And who knows, you might end up halfway through the movie realizing that you were so into the movie, you forgot it was silent.

-Mother Firefly

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Lycanthropy 101 - Day 27

I know, technically, it's day 28....but I watched this movie yesterday so .... there.
The Howling only made me want MORE! MORE! werewolves, so I decided to revisit American Werewolf in London.

Wow. What a great film. I always have a special place in my black heart for this movie, but after watching it again, I'd have to say it would probably end up on my top 10 of all time.

I'm sure that I can't say much about this film that hasn't already been said. It's scary, it's funny, it has characters that we care about, it looks freaking awesome after all these years, and even though it's a story we're all familiar with (the wolfman) we're still on the edge of our seats wondering how it will all play out.

One other thing that is pretty amazing about this is how well the transformation scene holds up. I remember back when this came out how much attention that scene received (deservedly so) and how ground breaking it was. Rick Baker won the first Oscar for makeup FX that year. Even though I've seen this movie and THAT particular scene more times than I can count, I found myself watching intently and wondering again, how did they do that? I don't know that the best CGI werewolf transformation could compete with this one. David Naughton's performance and Rick Baker's effects make for a werewolf transformation that is at the same time painful to watch and impossible to pull your eyes away from. We believe that he really is turning into a werewolf (after all, it's happening to the actor right in front of our eyes) and dammit, it's scary and it really HURTS.

Which is another reason this movie works so well. We feel so much for this handsome, nice, young man who just wanted to backpack across Europe - his best friend has just been brutally murdered in front of his eyes- he doesn't quite recall what happened, but what he does remember, nobody believes. He's got a KILLER case of PTTSD, he's in a foreign country, he's become the total opposite of what he is -a brutal killer- completely against his will and beyond his control. Oh yeah and his best friend keeps visiting him from beyond the grave and encouraging him to kill himself- because once the werewolf cycle ends, he and the rest of the werewolf's victims can be at peace.
Did I mention that even with all of that going on, the movie still manages to be funny? I think we need all that humor to break the tension and help us to forget how freaking sad this whole situation is. Because, after all, it's still a wolfman movie, and we kinda think we know where this might be going.

But-in the very small case that you haven't seen this- I'll stop here. And if you have seen it and maybe it's been a while.......take some time and revisit your old friends. And then flip out when you turn the box over and realize this movie is now 27 YEARS OLD.
Yeah. 1981, my loves. Crazy.
Mother Firefly

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Halloween Day 26-Clap for the Wolfman

Well, DANG IT. Another week has went by and despite my best efforts, I was unable to keep up with my good Halloween intentions. I don't think it makes much sense to try to catch up at this point. I had some plans- but when the choice is between blogging and turning in assignments on time, well, I suppose you know which one wins out.

Also at this point in the semester, I find myself beset by chronic fatigue. Not Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but simply fatigue......that seems to be chronic. For most of my life I was the kind of person who couldn't sleep sitting up or riding in a car or even the kind that fell asleep in class- I might get drowsy and relax, but I never could really fall asleep unless I was laying down in bed or on a couch. These days, if I'm not standing up and moving around, I'm falling asleep. I've heard from at least one nurse who experienced the same thing in her last semester of nursing school. I can't even count the number of times I've jerked my head up at the last second before it slams into the table in class. Thankfully at this point in my life I am not driving more than ten minutes at any one time.

So, anytime I am at home on my couch doing homework, I am fighting falling asleep roughly 60-75% of the time. The later in the day it gets, the better I seem to do- but not always. Tonight I finally stopped fighting, put Mad Monster Party in the player and fell asleep to Boris Karloff singing 'You Gotta Stay One Step Ahead'.

I am disappointed I wasn't able to keep up with the Halloween blog, but I can promise that there will be MANY more horror films to come. I just placed an order with Amazon and it's filled (typically) with all kinds of honest to goodness crap. I mean bad movies of the most enjoyable sort. For those of you that don't know, Amazon is having a HUGE sale on horror DVD's- probably the best I've seen this year. After I went through and literally marked anything I'd like to buy, I had over 300.00 in my cart. Obviously a graduate student who works a whopping 8 hours a week can't come up with that kind of buckage, so I worked for THREE DAYS whittling my list down to something affordable and also tried to get the biggest bang for my buck. Which often meant a double movie DVD for 4.99. Friends and family will know that my CHEAP ASS just loves that. I truly think I have some badness of the highest caliber coming my way, so bad that I can't even ruin the surprise except to hint that one of the offerings might involve a nudist colony and a killer gorilla.
It just MIGHT.

Back to my Halloween films- last year was bad but this month was terrible in that I wasn't able to watch anything I really love to rewatch during October. I usually love to revisit the Universal horror films, the other films I've mentioned, and I was planning on a triple feature with American Werewolf in London, The Howling, and The Wolfman. Well, you can probably guess that hasn't happened. But what I did do was put in The Howling while I wrote this here blog.

I personally ADORE the living hell out of this film. I saw it back in the 'On Tv' days and it scared the piss out of me. I suppose it would be somewhat easy to find a lot wrong with it- a psychiatrist runs a colony of werewolves? But the images I saw back at that time were seared forever on my brain. I don't find it scary anymore- but when I watch it, I do remember EXACTLY how it made me feel the first time I watched it. I try to watch it once a year and the day I got it on DVD was indeed a happy one.

That's all I really have time to say about this film- Mother F has to be up bright and early to go take a practice NCLEX. A full night's sleep probably would have been called for, but hey, why start now?

Until tomorrow,
Mother Firefly

Monday, October 20, 2008

Day 15 and 16: Double Dose of Elvira

Let me take you back to a day in October. October, 1983 to be more precise.
My family was watching the tv show 'Real People', which we were big fans of. I especially liked the shows near Halloween when they were more likely to have stories about ghosts, aliens, and other creepiness. I would have 13 years old. And I was about to be introduced to one of the most fabulous women ever.
Elvira. Mistress of the Dark.

I tried to find a clip of Elvira on Real People, but no such luck. And no big surprise either, since this was back in the dark ages when if you wanted to watch something on TV, you actually had to be home and in front of your set when it was on. Crazy, I know. How did we live?

What I remember from her segment is that they talked about her TV show, Movie Macabre, and that it was on public access TV in California. They talked about how her and her boyfriend produced the show and found movies, and what she went through to turn into Elvira. I wanted to know two things.
Who was this woman?
And why was she not living next door to me so I could become HER BEST FRIEND????

I was simultaneously in love and pissed off at the same time. How wonderful it was that this Elvira woman was hosting horror movies and how much did it suck that I couldn't see them since I lived in the MIDDLE OF FREAKIN' NOWHERE WITH THREE CHANNELS TO MY NAME.

Fortunately for me, Elvira began to become popular, and showed up on late night talk shows and other places, especially around Halloween time. And during the lifetime of my mom's video store, Elvira hosted a set of movies for Thriller Video, where she provided the intro to the movie and then returned at the end for a few final parting words and her famous goodbye. 'Unpleasant Dreams.....' There were also a few other shorter films that she hosted in this series that I now recognize as being part of the Hammer House of Horror TV Series- another old favorite of mine.
Here's one of her intros (and outro) for one of the Hammer shows, 'Witching Time'.

I watched this particular movie, Monster Club, so many times I had Elvira's entire monologue memorized. With enough margaritas, I could recite it for you to this day. Monster Club was finally released on DVD a couple of years ago (I'm actually rather fond of this particular movie) but I do miss the Elvira intro. (so I just do it myself when I watch it, hee hee)

Over the years I've been a loyal Elvira fan.

I've watched and enjoyed both of the Elvira movies (the first one is easily the superior of the two- but if the Mistress of the Dark is in it, I'm there.

I've also enjoyed some other offbeat Elvira products:
Elvira perfume!

The first issue of Elvira's House of Mystery!

Elvira Beer!

I still own all of these things, somewhere, tucked away in my attic. If I remember correctly, I bought Evil for myself and my mom for Christmas, and my mom definitely bought the beer for me. Thanks, Mom!

I got to go on the Elvira Superstition Ride at Six Flags a couple years ago.

Just today I discovered Elvira Checks!
If I still didn't have over a hundred Universal Monsters checks (after all, how often do you write a check these days?) these puppies would be MINE.

I even watched the reality show last October, The Search for the Next Elvira. As if. It was a dumb show, but it was good to see Elvira at Halloween again. Some chick won, but nobody cared. Because there is only ONE Mistress of the Dark.

I've saved the BEST Elvira news for last. In case you didn't know, about a year ago someone had the GREAT idea to release the old Movie Macabre cable tv shows.
(Thank you, DVD Gods!) And the happy ending to this story is that I FINALLY was able to see the show after TWENTY-FIVE years of longing.

There are 12 movies released so far- available as either single or double packs. The best deal I found so far was through Deep Discount DVD with the double packs. I have them all, but I haven't watched them all....yet. Like my special October Dreams book, I dole them out for special occasions.
This is the website-I can't find anything about future releases.

Shout! Factory

The movies all contain the movie with Elvira's introduction, comments throughout the movie, and outros. All the movies also have the option to watch the movie without Elvira, which is just crazy talk. If you REALLY want to watch Werewolf of Washington without Elvira to soften the blow, so be it.

I also found out recently that this box set contains Elvira commentary:

I was aware of it but didn't know that Elvira was actually HOSTING the movies. Since they're all public domain movies like Little Shop of Horrors, Night of the Living Dead, etc, I didn't see the need to buy them again.
But if Elvira is in the movies, then excuse me while I add this to Mother Firefly's Christmas List......

I made this Halloween suggestion to last for two days because, frankly, Elvira deserves it. It's amazing that she's been doing this since 1981, and looks good as ever.
Here's to another twenty five years of Elvira!

Unpleasant Dreams,
Mother Firefly

Day 14 - Caramel Apples

Tonight I made caramel apples. I don't know if I've EVER made caramel apples entirely on my own without the supervision of my mother.
When I was a kid, my interest in making caramel apples lasted about as long as it took to get the caramels unwrapped. Then I was all, are they done yet????
That was how I 'made' caramel apples in my house.

Every year, Papa Cash and I go over to the rich part of town to see the pumpkin display. Hundreds of pumpkins are available for kids and their parents to carve, and they supply the lights and the candles. This goes on for a few days, and the pumpkins are piled up on mountains of picnic tables and are lit and the little park has that wonderful waxy warm pumpkin guts smell.
There is usually music and food and candy for sale. And every year, Papa Cash and I buy a couple of slightly overpriced but delicious 'turtle' caramel apples- covered with caramel and chocolate and pecans. Mmmm.
One thing I've noticed, however, is the quality of the apple underneath this gooey deliciousness seems to decrease year after year.

So when we were in Door County - where the name of the game is overpriced everything- we passed a fudge shop that had some of the most luscious caramel apples known to God and man in its window.
They were covered in mounds of caramel, chocolate, nuts - one even had chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows piled on it. I had to go inside and see them for myself. I wasn't even planning on buying one- because I already planned on getting my caramel apple fix at the pumpkin party.


Suddenly I became the mom in that old Eddie Murphy skit from Raw. You know, when he wants McDonalds, and his mom is all, oh no, Mama can make you a burger at home! Mama can make a burger better than McDonalds! I'm gonna go down to the orchard, buy a bag of apples, and make CARAMEL APPLES AT HOME!

So that's what I did. I even made it through the part where you melt the caramels and dipped them (although I'd bet five bucks if my mom were here, I'd have sort of disappeared around the time the caramels hit the pan) let them set, melted chocolate, chopped pecans......and I have to say that even though they weren't as professional looking, they were mighty tasty.

Take THAT, Door County.
Mother Firefly