Thursday, October 31, 2013


I was never a big fan of the slasher film although I recognize its validity as a horror genre. That said, HALLOWEEN, John Carpenter's original 1978 version, instantly became and remains one of my favorite horror films. 

It was actually a couple years after its original release when I first saw it on a borrowed Betamax tape. I knew Jamie Lee Curtis from TV's OPERATION: PETTICOAT and I remember being extremely impressed by her performance here. Donald Pleasance had long been a favorite already but this was his career-defining role after more thank two decades as a character actor.

 It was director John Carpenter who impressed me most, realizing here that less is more and that terror is not relative to the amount of actual blood and guts shown on screen. The absolute icing on the cake is the musical score, written by Carpenter himself--as he had done earlier with the equally brilliant ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, the next film I would catch by him.

I saw part 2, with a different director, which takes place literally moments after part 1 ends which negates the power of the first part. Plus it's not nearly as well done in any sense of the word. Part 3, although often reviled, is a totally different and completely unconnected animal. Beyond that, rings got repetitious with more pointless sequels watering down the franchise. Until eventually, there was a total reboot and it all started all over again.

But nothing since has touched the original. The 1978 HALLOWEEN, taken solely on its own,  remains one of the single scariest and at the same time most enjoyable horror films of all time.
Thanks, John Carpenter!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Wolf Man

Probably my favorite of the classic Universal horror films. Certainly the role of a lifetime for Lon Chaney, Jr. He could be a good actor when he wanted to be as in OF MICE AND MEN and some westerns he was in but so often he just seemed a lumbering clod with trouble reading lines. But as much as THE WOLF MAN haunted his career, it's why many remember him at all today!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My Top10 Woodys

A Woody Allen picture is a unique animal and not just a starring vehicle for a funny actor. In fact, it may not star him at all! Or it may not be funny! 

I ignored Woody completely for years, knowing him only from his DC comics appearance in THE MANIAKS. When I finally opened my eyes to his films, it was because I had discovered Bogart first which led me to Woody's ode to Bogey.

I believe it was Allen who said, in STARDUST MEMORIES, that a creative person hates hearing that their old stuff as better. Note, however, that only a couple of these are newer than the early eighties. To be fair, there are dozens of Allen's later films that i have not seen. They look more interesting than good…and many don't look all that interesting either. 

Even leaving the man's bizarre personal life out of the mix, he's had a fascinating film career that shows no signs of slowing up. 


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Mr. Moto

As a kid, I somehow missed the Charlie Chan films although I remember them running every weekend just before the Bowery Boys (whom I loved!). What I DID catch, however, were the Peter Lorre Mr. Moto pictures. Once one gets past the odd casting of the middle-European actor as a Japanese detective, it's easy to see that these are some of Lorre's best and most fully realized performances.

According to reports, Lorre didn't care for the pictures and, in fact, was dealing with a particularly bad period in the history of his drug abuse while making them. It's a tribute to his professionalism that none only does none of that show but that he resonates so well in the role.

Below is a retitled version of the above.

The character was so popular that Peter Lorre played the role half a dozen times in radio parodies on various programs. He was NOT, however, heard on the actual MR. MOTO series that aired in the fifties.

In the 1960s, someone got the bright idea to bring back the great Japanese sleuth only now to make him more Bond-like (naturally). More odd casting has perennial tough guy Henry Silva in the title role in a surprisingly enjoyable film--more so when one watches it on DVD with Silva's self-deprecating commentary.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

William Powell

Although originally typed as a slick villain, William Powell's image became that of the ultimate classy hero thanks to THE THIN MAN and its sequels. Seeing that film in a big screen revival in the seventies moved Powell right up into my favorites list.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

My George Segal Top 10

One of the most personable stars of the seventies, George Segal worked equally well in literate comedy, silly comedy, action, adventure, drama and spy pictures. He was a favorite of mine until he just pretty much seemed to go away toward the end of the decade. He's been working steadily ever since but rarely in a starring role and rarely in anything I saw or even heard of. Now that he's back on TV in THE GOLDBERGS, I thought I'd revisit my favorite George Segal pictures, nearly all of which come from his peak period in the seventies.