Sunday Classic Trailer Picks 005: Basket Case (1982 ) and Shakma! (1990)

ShakmaOkay, let’s be honest: neither Basket Case nor Shakma! are actually “classics”. Well, not in any traditional sense of the word, anyway.

And as far as the trailers go, well… Let’s just put it like this: our local “arthouse”, “revival”, “alternative”, whatever you want to call it theater showed them in front of this week’s midnight showing of Escape from New York this weekend, and they are going to be showing them as part of their October line-up, and the crowd there ate them up, and I heard lots of murmurs of “Oh, yeah!”, and “I’m definitely coming for that!”, so unintentionally hilarious or not, one can’t deny that they actually do what a trailer is supposed to do: put the butts in the seats.

Of course, that may also say as much about the crowd that goes to the Belcourt’s midnight movies as it does about the trailers themselves, but in the end, if they work, they work.

So what do you think? Do these trailers make you want to see the movies?  And do you know of any really good trailers? Or are there any classic films you’d like to see trailers for?   Let me know in the comment below.

Until next time, Happy Viewing!

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Saturday Double Feature: Riddick (2013) and…

Saturday on the blog means Saturday Double Feature, right? Remember, the basic idea here is to take a movie that is out in theaters now, and pair it up with another movie from the 1980s or before. Sometimes the connection will be obvious, and sometimes it’ll be a little less so, but that’s part of the fun.

Okay, so one of the last of the Big Summer Movies to open this year, was Riddick, Vin Diesel‘s follow-up to Pitch Black. (Yeah, I know, there was another movie in between there, but the creators of this one seem content to ignore it, so I will too.)

So what have we got here? A post apocalyptic world, a protagonist who travels around with a specially enhanced dog, and a whole lot of the action takes place underground. Hmmm… well, it might be a slightly Riddickulous stretch, but how about we pair it up with another film with those same plot elements?

Yeah, that’s a very very young Don Johnson in the lead in 1975’s A Boy and His Dog, which was based on a story – actually, there are a number of stories – centered on Vic (the Boy) and Blood (his Dog) ) by Harlan Ellison

I know, from the trailer you may be wondering where the “underground” part comes in. Well, that’s just one of the surprises that this film has in store.

Again, one of the things that surprised me when I was talking about this movie with some friends was how few of them had actually seen or even heard of it. I know it’s pretty obscure, and certainly not the kind of thing that is going to get a lot of play on TV, but it’s definitely memorable if you have seen it, and has a certain cult cache that I had thought would make it more well-known than it apparently is. Well, fortunately for them – and you – the whole movie (albeit in a slightly edited version) is available on YouTube, so I’ve embedded it below.

So  there you go. And how about you? Any other ideas for pairing films with Riddick? if so, let me know below. And also let me know of any other upcoming movies you’d like to see “double featured”. Consider it, if you will, your chance to challenge me to come up with an interesting pair.

Until next time, Happy Viewing!

Unfortunately, I Suspect The Title Is Lying To Us – Here’s the New Trailer For Not Another Happy Ending (2013)

Despite my love for Karen Gillan, this trailer doesn’t hold out much promise that Not Another Happy Ending is going to be anything but another bog-standard quickly forgettable rom-com. And that seems a bit of a shame. Here, take a look for yourself:

Yeah, I’d kind of hoped for a bit more from Karen for her first post Dr. Who starring role.

Old Time Radio Thursdays – #013: Inner Sanctum Mystery (1941-1952)

The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. Old Time Radio Thursdays is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.

So for the past three weeks I’ve taken a look at the CBS Radio Mystery Theater. (You can find those posts  herehere, and here.) During the course of those articles I noted that series creator/director Himan Brown was also the creator of the classic radio series Inner Sanctum Mysteries (or, as it is more widely and popularly known, simply Inner Sanctum), so I thought that today we’d spend a little more time with that series.

As noted, Inner Sanctum was created in 1941 by Himan Brown. The series ran for a total of 526 episodes, closing the creaking door for the last time on October 5, 1952.

The series was an anthology, each week presenting a tale of mystery, horror, or suspense, all of which were presented by a mysterious host with a very wry sense of humor. Early on, the host was played by Raymond Edward Johnson who on the show simply went by the name “Raymond”. In 1945, Johnson left the show to join the army, and was replaced by Paul McGrath, who most of the time simply referred to himself as “Your Host”.

The show’s most iconic feature, however, was its start and finish, which were signaled each week by the opening and closing of a very, very badly creaking door, which had the effect upon listeners of making them feel as though they were entering and leaving a very private place, perhaps a room in a haunted house or even a dungeon. Or perhaps, yes, a sanctum where the only occupants were their host, and their imaginations.

The title Inner Sanctum was actually created and owned by book publisher Simon and Schuster which used it as an over-arching title for a series of mystery novels.

Of course, like many of the anthology series of the time, the show often featured Hollywood stars of the time as guest stars, as seen in the above ad. There is, however another Hollywood connection with the series. From 1943 to 1945, Universal licensed the Inner Sanctum title from Simon and Schuster to produce a series of six movies, all of which were presented under the Inner Sanctum Mystery banner, and all of which starred Lon Chaney Jr. Oddly, however, these films did not utilize the iconic creaking door imagery, and though they did have a host to introduce them, he was represented by a head speaking from a crystal ball.

There was also an Inner Sanctum television series which ran for only one season in 1954 and did feature Paul McGrath as the host.

Okay, that’s enough background/introduction, I think. Let’s get to the real reason we’re all here and see exactly what’s lurking behind that creaking door as we listen to a few episodes of one of the all-time great shows from the golden age of radio.

For more information on Inner Sanctum, I’ll refer you to Jerry Haendiges’ log of all known episodes of the show and to the list of episodes still known to exist as compiled by OTR researcher and author Martin Grams Jr. Also, a complete set of the available episodes, as certified by the Old Time Radio Researchers Group can be downloaded from the Internet Archives here.

Short Film Wednesday 004 – Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB

fURvSZ5EQ8bYZqmGmEjsCL1nNXzI’ve written before about how hard it can be to make a proper short film. You really have to be skilled to get in, establish your characters, setting, and plot, then carry things out and bring everything to a (hopefully, anyway) satisfying conclusion. Also, most often, these films are working not only under a constraint of time, but also budget and location. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. What I’m hoping to do here with this new weekly feature is to showcase the efforts of those who have taken on this challenge. Fair warning up front, though, not all of these are going to be winners. Nor are they going to appeal to everyone. I find that especially when it comes to short films like these, it’s especially true that what appeals to some people doesn’t to others. Nonetheless, I do think that often movies like these get very little attention, especially at a time when it seems that every film has to be a $200 million blockbuster, and that’s the real purpose here: to try to provide a larger audience for these films and help them get more notice.

In keeping with the “keep it short” theme of these posts, I’m not planning to provide a lot of commentary on these films, or go into a lot of background on them. instead for the most part I’m going to let them stand on their own.

Most Star Wars and Sci-Fi fans know George Lucas’s first film was TNX 1138. But how many have seen the original short film that Lucas made while he was still a student in film school? Well, here’s your chance:

Top 250 Tuesday: #179 – Sweet Smell Of Success (1957)

Continuing to wend my way through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Greatest Movies of All Time. This week, it’s #179 on the list, Alexander MackendrickSweet Smell of Success. For a longer introduction to this series and a look at the full list, just click here. And if you want a heads-up on what I’ll be watching for next week in case you want to watch along, just head on over to the Facebook page or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are in the sidebar) where I’ll generally be posting that info later in the day.

Sweet-Smell

Sally: But Sidney, you make a living. Where do you want to get?

Sidney Falco: Way up high, Sam, where it’s always balmy. Where no one snaps his fingers and says, “Hey, Shrimp, rack the balls!” Or, “Hey, mouse, mouse, go out and buy me a pack of butts.” I don’t want tips from the kitty. I’m in the big game with the big players. My experience I can give you in a nutshell, and I didn’t dream it in a dream, either – dog eat dog. In brief, from now on, the best of everything is good enough for me.

What exactly is success? How far will a person go to achieve it? And what price might one have to pay once they have what they have been striving so hard for?

These are the questions at the heart of Alexander Mackendrick’s 1957 movie Sweet Smell of Success.

Okay, let’s get this out of the way first: This is a movie that features Very Bad People doing Very Bad Things in order to either claw their way to, or stay at, the top of their chosen profession. The fact that these two Very Bad People are played by Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster only adds to the power of this film.

Up until this time, Curtis especially was know for playing good guys, and this instance of casting against type was apparently very shocking to his fans. I can’t really speak to that, but what I can say is that he definitely delivers in a role that calls for him to use and abuse everyone around him in order to achieve what he sees as the pinnacle of success in his chosen field. More than that, however, he is also incredibly successful in conveying not only the drive of a man willing to do almost anything, but the fear and near-desperation that can be seen by seeing those goals, or having seen them, slip through his fingers time and again.

sweet-smell-of-successLancaster, on the other hand, is the man that Curtis wants to be. He is hard-edged. He is powerful. He is a man who knows the power that he has, and is not afraid to use it to shape the world -or at least his part of it – to his will. And again, Mr. Lancaster completely coneys that sense of power, of supreme confidence in a way that audiences couldn’t help but find both compelling and revolting at the same time.

Of course, as we all know, this being 1950s Hollywood, eventually both of these men are going to have to pay a price for their ruthlessness. The real question is just how high that price is going to be.

One of the things that I found truly surprising about this film is the incredible number of quotable lines that it contains, and many of them are delivered with such incredible snap I was really reminded of the sharp chatter that takes place in the films of Howard Hawks. Unlike Hawks, however, these lines almost always are delivered with an incredibly underlying sense of menace. Here are some examples:

MGM-Sweet-Smell-Of-Success“It’s a dirty job, but I pay clean money for it.”

“The cat’s in a bag and the bag’s in a river.”

“Mr. Hunsecker, you’ve got more twists than a barrel of pretzels!”

“I’d hate to take a bite outta you. You’re a cookie full of arsenic.”

“Tell him that like yourself, he’s got the scruples of a guinea pig and the morals of a gangster.”

“What you do now, Mr. Falco, is crow like a hen. You have just laid an egg.”

Trust me when I say that these are just a very few examples, and there are many, many more where those came from. What makes it even more amazing is that from all reports, screenwriter Clifford Odets was literally pulling pages of the shooting script from his typewriter and having them rushed to the studio to be filmed the same day. It has to be to the actors’ and director Mackendrick’s credit that they were then delivered with such power and panache, and that the film comes together so well.

In the end, it has to be said that Sweet Smell of Success is, yes, very definitely a success itself. It’s a rather sleazy tale of an even sleazier business, but one that propels itself forward from beginning to end with a can’t-stop-watching sense of momentum that entertains even though you know that these are people that in real life you would never want to spend any real time with. And to me, that smells like a winner.

So what are your thoughts on Sweet Smell of Success? Is it a movie that you’ve seen or would like to? If you have seen it, is it one that would make your own Top 10 list? Or would it not even crack your Top 250? Let me know below.

Sunday Classic Trailer Picks 004: The African Queen (1951)

african_queen_xlgLet’s face it, the purpose of a trailer is to sell a movie. To put butts in seats. And one of the best ways to do that is through the use of hyperbole.

See something you’ve never seen before!

This is the greatest [whatever genre the movie falls into] film of all time!

You won’t believe your eyes!

You won’t believe your ears!

You won’t believe your fingers!

You won’t believe somebody put up the money to make this movie!

Of course, few films can actually live up to all the hype that surrounds them before they come out. Fortunately, some do. One of those is 1951’s The African Queen.

What do you think? Does the trailer make you want to see the film? Does it live up to this amount of hype? And do you know of any really good trailers? Or are there any classic films you’d like to see trailers for?   Let me know in the comment below.

Until next time, Happy Viewing!