Quick Site Update: The Moose Is Now On Instagram

First, I want to apologize for the lack of posts this week, and recently in general. As we all know, sometimes life happens and it gets in the way of doing some of the things we love, and that’s been the case recently. However, I’ve got a number of articles in the works, and regular posting should resume next week.

With that out of the way, let’s move on to the good news: I’ve just set up an account for Durnmoose Movie Musings on Instagram. I’ll be posting info on new articles there, along with a collection of classic movie posters. Each day will have a different theme, beginning with today’s which is Terror Thursday.

Check it out at https://www.instagram.com/durnmoosemovies/

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Dead Ringer (1964)

There’s just something about Bette Davis that, ever since I was young, has creeped me out. I’m not even sure I can put a finger on what it is. It could be her general demeanor. It could be the voice, it could be those celebrated “Bette Davis Eyes”. Whatever it is, for me, no one does insanely scary (or is that scarily insane?) like Miss Bette.

So how do you make a Bette Davis movie even creepier?  Simple: cast Miss Davis as twins who hate each other.

In Dead Ringer, Davis plays Margaret DeLorca, whose husband Frank has just died. At his funeral, her twin sister, Edith Phillips (also, as noted, played by Davis) shows up, after an estrangement of 18 years. Edith has returned to pay her respects to Frank, with whom she was also in love, and who had originally courted her, before being stolen away from her by Margaret. The two (Margaret and Frank) had an affair while Frank and Edith were seeing each other, and when Margaret announced that she was pregnant, Frank agreed to marry her.

After the funeral, the two sisters go to Margaret’s mansion, where the real differences between them quickly become apparent. While Margaret is quite rich and outgoing, Edith is currently down on her luck, and the cocktail lounge she is running is about to be shut down because she can’t pay her bills.

When Edith finds out that Margaret was not actually pregnant and that she and Frank never had children, she is furious, and quickly devises a plan of revenge against her sister.

From this point, the plot goes completely off the rails in the best way, but I’m not going to go into how, except to say that Miss Davis completely lives up to my image of her as one of the best psychotics ever to grace the big screen. She embodies both a fierceness and vulnerability that showcase her performance skills to their highest levels.

Also along for the ride in this funhouse of a movie are Karl Malden as Edith’s police sergeant boyfriend Jim and Peter Lawford as Margaret’s secret lover Tony, who may have a deadly secret of his own.

Gere’s a trailer for the film which, while it is kind of spoilery, does manage to avoid giving away the main twist. Watch at your own risk.

 

 

Saturday Double Feature: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) and…

Another Saturday means another Saturday Double Feature!

Okay, let’s start with a quick recap of the “rules”, shall we? 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.

Back when the original Jurassic Park came out, it was a fascinating blend of practical effects and the latest CGI technology. It brought the featured dinosaurs to life in a way that had never been seen before, and that, coupled with a compelling adventure movie plot catapulted it to the top of the box office and ensured that we would be seeing a number of sequels.

Well, with this week’s release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, that number hits four, and although the law of diminishing returns pretty much ensures that by this time the franchise may not have hit rock bottom, but it’s certainly taking that swift slide down the slope.

As a matter of fact, considering how poorly we’ve seen other franchise entries perform of late, (I’m looking at you, Solo), I would only be slightly surprised if this doesn’t prove to be the lowest performing movie in the series yet.

Anyway, here’s your trailer:

So in looking for a movie to double feature with Fallen Kingdom, I thought we’d take a look back to a time when dinosaur special effects were… not up to today’s standards shall we say.

When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth was released in 1970 by Britain’s legendary Hammer Studio. The movie is the story of two ruling prehistoric tribes who are fighting over both territory and, of course,  a woman. In this case the woman is former Playmate Victoria Vetri.

As I stated, the effects in the movie are not exactly what would be considered state of the art today, but in 1970, they were actually nominated for Best Visual Effects at the 44th Academy Awards.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

So what do you think? What would you choose for a double feature with Jurrasic World: Fallen Kingdom? Leave your thoughts in the comments, along with ideas 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!

Throwback Thursday – Police Squad

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

One quick note about today’s post: In the original, I credited the playlist to a certain YouTube user, but that has since been taken down. Fortunately, since the episodes are still readily available, I was able to recreate the playlist, and that is what I have embedded below.

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Too Smart For Television? – Police Squad (1982)

ps1Police Squad! was cancelled because the viewer had to watch it in order to appreciate it.”

Supposedly that’s the reason given by then ABC Entertainment president Tony Thomopoulos in 1982 for the cancellation of the TV show Police Squad! (yes, the exclamation point is part of the show’s official name) after the network aired only six episodes of the show.

Created by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker, the team behind the movie Airplane!, and starring Leslie Nielsen who had found a new rather surprising second life as a comedy star in that movie, the television show was a loving tribute to and parody of the great cop shows of the past.

ps2I recently took the time to rewatch all six episodes with my soon-to-be-14-year-old daughter, (well, it was a re-watch for me, and of course a first time viewing for her), and though Thomopoulos’s statement may seem a little ridiculous at first, there is quite a bit of truth behind what he says. Like its predecessor movie (and let me take just a moment right here to say that if you haven’t ever seen Airplane! you really should), it is not a show that rewards multi-tasking. So many of the jokes are sight gags or visual puns, that if you’re not giving the show your full attention, then you’re going to simply miss a lot of them.

Of course, some might say that that might be even more of a problem now, when so many people “watch” television while texting or spending time on the internet or doing so many other things, that to get people to pay attention enough to what is happening literally every second the show is on may seem impossible. However, there is also a flip side to that. Because of today’s technology, when it’s so much easier to pause or go back to catch some of the small “what did he say?” or “did I really see that?” moments, viewers who are willing to invest the time and attention into these episodes will find themselves amply rewarded in ways that viewers who originally watched these episodes on television may simply not have been able to.
ps3At the same time, I will say this: while there is a part of me that will always be sad that we didn’t get more episodes of the series, there is also a part that fears that had it gone on much longer it may very well have overstayed its welcome. Though I do think that the sixth and final episode is one of its strongest, at the same time, I can easily see some of the recurring gags becoming a bit stale had it gone for more than say thirteen or so. There is such a thing as going to the same well too often, and this may be one of those cases where it’s better that a show die a bit before its time and live as something that will be missed and considered cancelled too soon than to have gone on and on to the point that its reputation became “well, the first season was good, but…”

One other caveat I feel I should include about this show. It is definitely a product of its time, and there are a number of jokes that simply won’t make sense to younger viewers because they make reference to cultural phenomenon or include guest stars in cameos that those born after a certain period of time simply won’t be familiar with. But then, that’s another of the advantages to having things like Google and Wikipedia available. So that when Dr. Joyce Brothers shows up, there’s at least a chance for today’s viewers to figure out why it’s funny.

ps4Oh, and as for the daughter’s reaction to it? Well, lets just say that there were many times during the course of viewing these episodes where her constant refrain was “I hate this show!”. Which, as we all know is teenager-speak for “I don’t want to admit how much I’m loving this, even though it’s keeping me from Instagramming and all of the other stuff that I could be doing on my phone because I’m having to pay attention to it.”

Hmmm… perhaps Tony Thomopoulos was right after all.

(Want to judge the series for yourself? Here’s a playlist containing all six episodes that should allow you to run them back to back. Though I do recommend taking them in smaller doses – perhaps two or three at a time – simply to avoid burnout.)

(One last note – yes, I am aware that I left out any mention of the subsequent Naked Gun movies, but the truth is, I was never as big a fan of them as I was the television series. Again, I suspect it may simply be a case where the argument could be made that this is a case where “less is more”, because it always seemed to me that they were having to work very hard to stretch the format for a lull-length feature film.)

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Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

Throwback Thursday – The Ghost Walks (1934)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

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The Ghost Walks – And Proves Once Again “The Play’s The Thing”

Hiya, kiddies! So, the “old dark house”. It’s a mystery/horror sub-genre that we’ve discussed before, and honestly, it’s one of my favorites. I suppose one of the main reasons is because it’s like ordering a favorite meal at a restaurant. Even if you’ve never been to that particular eatery before, you still pretty well know what the ingredients are going to be and how it’s going to taste before you get it. Oh, sure, one cook may include a bit more or less of this ingredient or may put them together in a way that tries to impart a bit of his or her own personal style, but nine times out of ten you’re going to get something pretty much the same as that dish that you’ve enjoyed time and again.

Then, of course, there’s also that tenth time, when the cook actually does something somewhat unique and surprising with those familiar ingredients. Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m certainly not suggesting that director Frank Strayer has invented anything truly new with The Ghost Walks. No, for the most part it consists of all of the familiar elements that make up an old dark house mystery:

1) A group of disparate people are, for one reason or another gathered together in a creepy old mansion – in this particular case a fallen tree and a washed out road prove effective enough to thrust our protagonist and his traveling companions into a seemingly already quite awkward family gathering, thereby allowing this particular phase to move along quite quickly

2) There is some reason for everyone to be suspicious of everyone else – often the cause of the gathering is the reading of a will which leaves one or more parties dissatisfied with the results. In this particular case the Mcguffin is the anniversary of the murder of the husband of one of the characters.

3) There should be at least one “coincidental” connection between some of the characters – ofttimes one or more will know another character from a different setting.

4) Quite often there is also a random element thrown into the mix – for instance here we are informed of an inmate recently escaped from an insane asylum.

5) Eventually all of the lights in the house will inexplicably go out, and when they come back on, someone will have been killed leaving the survivors to try to figure out who among them could possibly be the killer.

6) Soon, even more mysterious things begin to happen – a strange hand will reach out from around a corner, the eyes of a picture will move in a way that tells us someone unknown is watching the proceedings, more people will die or disappear, secret passages will be found and more. Yep, kiddies, all of these elements are present in The Ghost Walks, just as they are in pretty much all old dark house mysteries.

What sets this particular film apart from most of its brethren of the genre, however, is the twist that occurs just after the victim of the first murder is revealed. Now, I’m not going to say that it turns this little quickie into a great movie, but it does serve not only to explain some of the “coincidences” that we’re asked to swallow during the first act, and also provides the film with a sense of humor that it would otherwise be lacking, which helps to keep the whole piece from becoming too familiar and dreary. In other words, just as with that one time in ten that that favorite meal is transformed into something above and beyond just “the usual”, The Ghost Walks manages also to take the usual ingredients and transform them into a unique taste sensation.

Ok, I couldn’t find a suitable trailer for this one, but since the whole movie is embedable in one piece from YouTube, here ya go:

And here’s the Skinny:

Title: The Ghost Walks
Release Date: 1934
Running Time: 63mins
Black and White
Stars: John Miljan, June Collier
Directed by: Frank R. Strayer
Produced by: Maury M. Cohen
Distributed by: Chesterfield Motion Pictures Corporation
Distributed by: First National Pictures

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

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Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

Fear The Net – The Den (2013)

Horror has a long history of transforming the latest technology into terror. In the 50s, for instance, the atomic bomb and radiation was responsible for all kinds of mutations and critters. The 60s and 70s brought us malfunctioning computers trying to take over the world. In the 80s we got Videodrome and other films that focused on television and similar technology seen as intruding into our homes. Now there is a new technology that is fueling the modern media horror front: social media and the internet.

All of this makes sense, of course, since one of the most effective ways for horror movies to get under our skin is to make us confront those things which are in the public consciousness at the time, and today, when it seems like everyone is connected to some type of screen during their every waking hour, and there are all kinds of news and other stories about online stalking, cyber-bullying, sexting, and other forms of online “mischief”, very little is more on our minds than what can happen on the net.

The Den is a 2013 movie which follows Elizabeth Benton (Melanie Papalla), a grad student who is given a grant to study a Chat Roulette like site called The Den (thus the movie’s title) to see how many truly meaningful conversations she can have with the random strangers she meets on the site. Okay, it’s kind of a silly premise for a grant, but really it doesn’t matter that much since it’s really just an excuse to  get her involved with and really absorbed by the site.

Soon, Elizabeth is spending almost all of her time on the site, which annoys her boyfriend Damien who feels like she is ignoring him and worries her friends Jennie and Max.

We follow Elizabeth as she encounters various people online, some of her encounters are humorous, some relatively normal, some kind of scary. It’s not long, however, before strange things start happening – her computer starts turning itself on, filming her while she is unaware, and she begins receiving messages from and chatting with a girl whose camera is not working but seems to be in some kind of distress.

The mysterious stranger lets Elizabeth know that they spied on Elizabeth while she was having sex with her boyfriend and recorded it. The next time she is contacted by the stranger, their webcam suddenly turns on and Elizabeth sees a girl bound and gagged who is then brutally murdered before her eyes.

Terrified, Elizabeth takes the video to the police who tell her that there is nothing that that they can do. She then goes to her friend Max, a computer hacker, who insists that the video in probably faked, but agrees to try to help her track down the  source of the video.

Soon after, Elizabeth’s boyfriend Damien disappears and when she and the police go to investigate, they find his apartment completely cleaned out.and once again, she is told there’s no real evidence of a crime and their hands are tied. While she is busy with the police, her friend Jenni is tricked by someone pretending to be Elizabeth to go to Liz’s house where she is kidnapped by a masked intruder.

Further chaos ensues as Elizabeth is led down a terrifying road by the intruder in her life, but I don’t want to give away too much more of the plot because it is worth watching the movie to see all the twists and turns to come.

The big question, when it comes to a movie like this, which is largely about the style, with everything taking place on one or anther type of screen, is how well do the filmmakers carry off the conceit, and does it add to the film or distract from it. The purpose of an exercise like this, it would seem, is to enhance the immersion of the viewer in the experience of the movie and to increase the empathy of the viewer with the protagonist. Perhaps that seems a bit contradictory, since seeing everything through a screen might be seen as more of a distancing technique, but that is offset by the immediacy of the events,

On light of this, I have to say that The Den carries off this conceit very well. Though there are a few moments that ring slightly false, for the most part it does not have the sense of artificiality that plague many of these “found footage” films.

It also helps that Melanie Paplia, who plays Elizabeth, has a natural charm that helps draw the viewer in, even as her circumstances and the reactions of those around her – especially the police – strain credulity. That way, when things turn truly dire, we are invested in her plight and care what happens to her.

Here’s your trailer:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OTR Tuesday – Suspense (1942-1962) Revisited Again

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. OTR  Tuesday 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.

Yes, I know that we just looked at Suspense last week, but there are so many good episode of  the show that it seemed worthwhile to give it another week.