“The Dead Zone”

Released on October 21, 1983, director David Cronenberg’s (Eastern Promises) atmospheric, well-executed, supernatural thriller, “The Dead Zone,” is an excellent adaptation of prolific author Stephen King’s novel of the same name. Written for the screen by Jeffrey Boam, (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) the 103 minute film was a departure for the director, whose previous films, “Rabid,” (1977) “The Brood,”(1979) “Scanners,”(1981) and “Videodrome,” (1983) all dealt with aspects of horror and science fiction; the only exception was the drag racing drama “Fast Company” (1979). Instead, “The Dead Zone” at its heart, deals with this philosophical question: If you knew what was going to transpire in the future and were in a position to prevent tragedy from taking place, even if it meant the possible loss of your freedom or life, would you sacrifice yourself for the greater good?

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Academy Award winning actor, Christopher Walken, (The Deer Hunter) in a strong and touching performance, portrays the character of English teacher, Johnny Smith. He is a man who is content in his life; he enjoys teaching his students and is very much in love with his fiancée Sarah Bracknell, a fellow school teacher played by Brooke Adams (Invasion of the Body Snatchers). Almost immediately upon the viewer learning this information, after leaving Sarah’s house on a rainy evening, when she twice asked him to stay, Walken’s character is involved in a horrific car accident, which results in his being in a coma for five years. When he wakes, Smith learns that not only has he lost years off of his life, but Sarah has moved on, married, and is the mother of a ten month old boy. In addition, he discovers something else – that he has acquired the gift of psychic powers. As an aside, both King’s novel and Cronenberg’s film are loosely based on the life of the late Peter Hurkos, who was considered by experts to be the world’s foremost psychic. Hurkos claimed that after falling off of a ladder in 1941, an accident that resulted in a brain injury and placed him in a coma for three days, that he received the ability to see the past, present, and future.

While convalescing at the Weizak Clinic, which is run by actor Herbert Lom’s (The Pink Panther Strikes Again) character of the compassionate doctor Sam Weizak, Walken’s character is burning up; it appears as if he has a fever. A nurse, who bring towels into the room, sees that Smith is in discomfort. She walks over to him to wipe him down with a cool cloth. No sooner does she do that, then he touches her arm, and while his body is still physically at the clinic, his presence is also simultaneously witnessing the destructive forces of a fire that is raging at the home of the nurse. If that weren’t bad enough, the flames are moments away from claiming the life of the woman’s daughter, who is trapped in her bedroom. Johnny tells the nurse, in a most emphatic tone, that her daughter is in trouble, but that it is not too late to save her. Fortunately, the nurse listens to Johnny and doesn’t just dismiss what he is saying as the delusional ramblings of a man suffering from a high fever. In this scene, during which Smith’s psychic powers are first demonstrated, as well as throughout the remainder of the film, when Johnny receives a vision from touching someone, he flinches and goes into an intense, trance-like state where he witnesses things in a vivid way, but cannot interfere with what is taking place.

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In addition to Adams, Lom, and Walken, the cast includes actor Tom Skerritt, (Picket Fences) who is very believable in the role of Bannerman, the sheriff of the town of Castle Rock…a lawman, who is at his wits end. He has exhausted all avenues of proper police procedure, and has found virtually no evidence in his hunt to capture a man dubbed the ‘Castle Rock Killer,’ who has murdered a number of women. He comes to Smith’s parents’ home in an effort to persuade Johnny to assist him with uncovering the identity of the killer – something, which at first, Johnny refuses to do, but later agrees to. Anthony Zerbe (The Omega Man) comes into Smith’s life as millionaire, Roger Stuart, who hires Johnny, no longer a school teacher, now a private tutor, to attempt to bring his shy son out of his shell and become more interested in his education. Last, but in no way least, is Emmy and Golden Globe award winning actor, Martin Sheen’s (The Departed) commanding performance of zealous, senatorial candidate, Greg Stillson. Sheen is magnetic in the role as a man of the people politician, who captivates crowds with his charisma and rouses them to cheers with his firebrand oratory. On the surface, he claims that he wants to serve the interests of the common man in Washington D.C., but he is secretly a conniving, two-faced, megalomaniac, who could not care less about the common person. He feels it is his destiny to ascend to the presidency, and if accomplished, Smith learns after shaking Stillson’s hand, would propel the world into nuclear destruction.

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Trivia buffs take note: The director wanted to change the name of King’s character because he felt that it was too bland; that no one would be named Johnny Smith. In reading King’s novel, the author makes mention of the fact that the name sounds like a fictitious one. While Walken was cast in the role of Smith and Skerritt was cast as Bannerman, King actually wanted actor Bill Murray, (Ghostbusters) for the role of Johnny and Cronenberg wanted Hal Holbrook, (Wall Street) for the part of the sheriff. The same year Martin Sheen portrayed politician Greg Stillson, who as previously mentioned has dreams of one day being the President, he played America’s 35th President, John F. Kennedy, in the television mini-series, “Kennedy.” Sixteen years later, in 1999, Sheen was cast in the role of fictitious President Josiah ‘Jed’ Bartlet on the television show “The West Wing,” which ran until 2006. In order to add more realism to the flinching facial expressions his character exhibited when he touched someone and got one of his visions, Walken had the director, off camera, fire a gun that was loaded with blanks.

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“The Dead Zone” is sometimes spoken about as a horror film. I don’t agree with that. I feel it is chilling in parts, and has wonderful moments of suspense, but it is devoid of gore, and except for one scene involving the serial killer, features almost no blood; it is cerebral horror at best, due to the heavy psychological aspects of the movie, as well as the weighty questions it prompts a viewer to ask after watching the film. Christopher Walken, gives one of the finest performances of his career. He is able to convey to the viewer the emotional turmoil that is taking place within his frail body and communicates, via his facial expressions, a gamut of emotions ranging from warmth to fear, both prior to, and after, he is armed with the knowledge of what Greg Stillson will do in the future. What will be Johnny Smith’s course of action? Will he attempt to warn people about Stillson? Does he take matters into his own hands and attempt to assassinate the senatorial candidate? Can he justify killing Stillson based on a vision from a power he has only just recently acquired? All of those questions and more will be answered if you invest the under two hours of time it takes to watch this 1983 gem.

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“The End of Boardwalk Empire”

Warning: If you haven’t watched ‘Boardwalk Empire,’ and are considering doing so, now that the series has concluded, you will want to skip this blog, because it will contain spoilers. For those of you, who have been watching since the show’s inception, but haven’t seen the series through to its final episode, you will definitely, not want to continue reading this particular blog, until you have watched the series’ finale.

As is evident from the title of this blog, the following is not a recap of the five seasons – from September 2010 through October of 2014 – that “Boardwalk Empire” ran on HBO. The series, which is a mixture of the genres of crime, drama, and history, during its run won the Golden Globe in 2011 for Best Television Drama. The show takes place primarily in Atlantic City, New Jersey, during the Prohibition era of the 1920s. For those of you unfamiliar with that part of American history, the arrival of the law that led to Prohibition started with The Temperance Movement. Their rank and file mainly consisted of religious women, who were tired of the men in their lives consuming alcohol, and taking their frustrations out on them or their children, in a physical manner. Additionally, the movement blamed other societal ills on alcohol, such as crime and poverty; and Temperance Movement members, and those that supported them, regularly espoused the dangerous toll intoxication took on a person’s health.

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With a steadfast determination, those in the movement eventually were successful in getting the United States government to enact The Volstead Act, legislation that led to the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. What the law did was make the buying, transporting, or selling of liquor, illegal in America. Naturally, sensing an opportunity to give the public what they craved, criminals began operating lucrative establishments known as speakeasys, where liquor was served. Speakeasys were not the only places available to purchase alcohol, different businesses were also used as fronts for the sole purpose of the sale of liquor. (As an aside: America’s 28th President, Woodrow Wilson, initially vetoed the legislation that would lead to Prohibition, but because congress had the necessary two thirds majority to override his veto, his attempt at stopping the law failed.)

The series main protagonist, Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, portrayed by Golden Globe winner Steve Buscemi (Reservoir Dogs) was one such person who answered the public’s thirst for liquor. Initially, the character he portrays is a politician, the treasurer of Atlantic City. When he resigns that position later on in the series, he becomes a gangster/business man, which in essence, he already was. His political title was mostly for show. Nucky routinely broke the law, or made the necessary deals, to advance his money making agenda, at any given time during the series’ run.

BE PIC 2While Buscemi’s character was fictional, over the course of the series, the writers on the show, cleverly weaved criminals of historical significance into the plot, for Nucky to have business dealings or disputes with. At one point or another, the series featured: BAFTA nominated, Stephen Graham (This is England) as Al Capone; Vincent Piazza (Jersey Boys) as Lucky Luciano; Golden Globe nominated actor Michael Stuhlbarg (Men in Black 3) as Arnold Rothstein; and Anatol Yusef (The Gathering) in the role of Meyer Lansky; as well as a host of other famous and lesser known gangsters. Because of the involvement of the criminal element in the illegal ‘bootlegging’ business, as it was commonly known, the Eighteenth Amendment did more harm than good. Alcohol was being consumed at a higher rate than before the law was enacted. Members of law enforcement, who tried to stop those from partaking in illegal drinking or the selling of it, were often murdered. The money that was being made from customers was not taxed, so an immeasurable amount of revenue, in what at the time was a porous economy, was lost to the government. On December 5, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had run on a platform of repealing Prohibition, saw to it that congress, overwhelmingly passed the necessary legislation to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment, ending the Prohibition Era. (As an aside: The Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is still the only amendment to ever be repealed.)

BE PIC 3The fifth season was flashback heavy, focusing on scenes of Nucky as a child (Nolan Lyons), and as a young man, making the transition from adolescence into adulthood, when he becomes Deputy Sheriff Thompson (Marc Pickering). Two women, more than any other people, had a direct influence on the trajectory of Nucky’s life. The first was Mabel Jeffries (Maya Kazan), which was literally a case of love at first sight. She was a woman he would marry, and attempt to have children with, but sadly, she miscarried twice, and died while attempting to give birth to the second child. Even forty-five years later, as he is gathering his personal belongings from his office, he still has the first thing she ever gave him. The item is a hand written card, on which are the following words: “We are here for a few weeks every summer, Mabel Jeffries. P.S. I would have let you kiss me.”

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As previously stated, this blog is not a recap of the fifth, or any of the other seasons, but certain information needs to be brought up. It is while Nucky is working as the Deputy Sheriff, that he first encounters a prepubescent Gillian (Madeleine Rose Yen). The older Gillian Darmody, portrayed by Gretchen Mol (The Notorious Bettie Page) throughout the other seasons, was a main character on the show, but it wasn’t until the end, that I realized how vital, the connection she and Nucky had to one another was; how their relationship helped to shape, or more accurately destroy, one another’s lives.

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Nucky catches Gillian trying to sell cigarettes she has stolen, to people on the boardwalk. He doesn’t want to throw her in jail, so he takes her home for the evening. There Gillian tells Mabel her story, about where she ran away from, and why she doesn’t want to go back. Nucky, has no choice, but to return her to the children’s orphanage she has escaped from. Even though she begs and pleads that she can help his wife around the house, and with the eventual raising of the child. Nucky can’t afford to keep Gillian with him and Mabel. He can barely afford things for just the two of them. When he returns from work, one evening, a few nights later, he learns that Gillian has run away. He makes no attempt to go after her.

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During the next day’s Neptune Parade, it turns out she didn’t run away at all. In fact, he spots Gillian in the parade. When he confronts her about why she is still in Atlantic City, she lets him know that “she thought it would be fun to be in the parade.” Unbeknownst to Nucky, at the time, a conversation he has with Gillian foreshadows what is to transpire in a few short minutes. Gillian tells Nucky that Mabel told her that he wants to be good, he just doesn’t know how to? Up until that point, was Mabel Jeffries right in her line of thinking when it came to her husband? Nucky certainly demonstrated, time and again, during the series’ run, that he was quick witted, intelligent, and had a keen awareness of the right words to use when speaking to any given individual. Could he have been a doctor, lawyer, reputable business man, and amassed just as large a fortune through legal means? Sure, it most likely would have taken more time to achieve the sort of lifestyle he craved, but in the end, he might have died peacefully in his bed, as an old man, surrounded by loved ones, instead of violently. While Nucky is speaking with Gillian, someone informs him that The Commodore, the main boss of Atlantic City, wants to speak with him.

Commodore, Louis Kaestner, is initially played as a much older man, earlier in the series, by Primetime Emmy winner, Dabney Coleman (The Slap Maxwell Story). The younger version of The Commodore (John Ellison Conlee) appears throughout the fifth season. What business does he want Nucky to attend to? Unbelievably, it is the surrendering of his badge, considering the unquestioning service Nucky has performed at the behest of the Commodore, through his boss, the former sheriff, who had resigned, a short time earlier. Nucky, ever the dutiful employee, does as he is told, and then is dismissed. Refusing to let things go at that, he states all that he has done for the man, while in his employ, something which The Commodore is not impressed by. The Commodore lets Nucky know that he doesn’t have faith in him. Does The Commodore see in Thompson the same good his wife knows exists within him? Is that why he can’t allow Nucky to be the law in Atlantic City? Anyone who had been watching since the start, is aware that The Commodore is a vile individual, who besides being involved in the commission of other crimes, has sick sexual proclivities when it comes to children.

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A dejected Nucky, who appears to be on the verge of tears, walks back to Gillian. After briefly speaking with her, he is approached by The Commodore’s second in command. The man informs Nucky, that there is a youth that The Commodore wishes to place into service. The child is Gillian. Nucky wants to know what that has to do with him. He is told, that, that type of job is performed by the Sheriff. The man reaches into his pocket and pulls out the Sheriff’s badge, offering it to Thompson. Again, perhaps demonstrating the good that still resided in him up until that very moment, Nucky doesn’t snatch the badge out of the man’s hand, grab hold of Gillian without a second thought, and take her to The Commodore’s home. He hesitates, and stops to think before acting. Unfortunately, his confliction doesn’t last long. He takes the badge, and turns around to talk Gillian into allowing The Commodore to help her out. It is in that brief moment, that Nucky irrevocably changes both of their lives forever. The chance for advancement, to have what he never did, growing up the poor son of a drunkard, is too great a temptation for him to resist. Nucky convinces Gillian to let The Commodore help her, knowing full well, that by help, he means, tending to the man’s disgusting sexual desires. In that moment, whatever goodness had been present in Nucky’s heart, left him forever; especially when he takes her hand and promises Gillian that he will always look out for her.

BE PIC 9Years later, as he is walking on the boardwalk, the same boardwalk he once ruled over with an iron fist, and that made him wealthier than he could have ever dreamed, he begins to sense the past closing in on him. First is a billboard, which he looks up at; on it is a picture of King Neptune, advertising the parade. That is followed quickly by four drunken fraternity brothers, who stop directly in front of him; one of them begins reciting “The Spell Of The Yukon” which is a poem by Robert W. Service:

I wanted the gold, and I sought it;
I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy—I fought it;
I hurled my youth into a grave.
I wanted the gold, and I got it—
Came out with a fortune last fall,—
Yet somehow life’s not what I thought it,
And somehow the gold isn’t all.

After the fraternity brothers take off, Nucky spots two men, whom he thinks are perhaps out to kill him. He turns around to escape death at their hands, only to come face to face with another who seeks revenge. As Nucky lays dying, shot three times by Jillian’s grandson, Tommy (Travis Tope) – to explain how and where he came from, would require an additional blog, unto itself – Nucky’s last thoughts are of Jillian. He reaches his hand out, dreaming in the throes of death, that the young Jillian, who he always promised to protect, is standing there in front of him. Why is that moment so prevalent in his dying thoughts? Does he realize, or has he always known the terrible mistake he made all those years earlier? In his confused state, while waiting for death to take hold of him, was his dying wish to change history, in the very spot that served as the catalyst for his life of crime? What are your thoughts and theories regarding the series finale of “Boardwalk Empire?” Please feel free to answer any of the questions I posed throughout the blog, or offer your own analysis. I very much welcome either.

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“The Lost Boys – No Sparkly Vampires Allowed”

The “Lost Boys,” which was released on January 31, 1987, would go on to win the 1988 Saturn Award for Best Horror Film from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA. Directed by Joel Schumacher (A Time to Kill), the film is a mixture of dark comedy and horror, and was based on a story co-written by Jan Fischer and James Jeremias. Fischer and Jeremias, who had first envisioned the movie being a much more child friendly film, at the insistence of Schumacher, worked on the screenplay with Jeffrey Boam, who radically helped to change the movie’s overall tone.

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The film’s 97 minute runtime, begins in the evening at an amusement park. There are four guys causing trouble on the boardwalk at the merry-go-round. A security guard, who already warned the four to stay off the boardwalk, drives his point home by using his club to try and intimidate the leader of the group; it is a mistake, he will not get to regret for very long. Later that night, after the park closes and the lights have been turned off, as the rotund, mustachioed rent-a-cop is walking toward his car, he is attacked. He is not held at gun point, nor does he have a knife put to his throat, no he is assaulted from something that descends from the sky. Although, as viewers, we are not privy to what ultimately happens to the man, we do hear his screams pierce the night air.

The next scene strongly contrasts with what just transpired. During a picturesque day, recently divorced mother, Lucy, played by Academy Award and Golden Globe winner, Dianne Wiest (Bullets over Broadway), is traveling in her car from Phoenix, Arizona, to move to Santa Carla, California. She is accompanied by her two sons: Michael, portrayed by Jason Patric (Narc), and Sam, acted by Corey Haim (License to Drive), as well as Sam’s Alaskan Malamute, Nanook. The town they have chosen to move to is where Lucy’s father, Primetime Emmy winner, Barnard Hughes (Lou Grant), makes his home. He is an old, marijuana smoking, hippie type, known throughout the film simply as Grandpa. Hughes provides a good deal of the comic relief in the film. Unbeknownst to the family, they have moved to a place that is also referred to by town locals as ‘the murder capital of the world.’ There do seem to be an inordinate number of missing person notices posted around town. Initially, however, Sam’s biggest problem, is that even though his grandfather receives the TV Guide in the mail, he doesn’t own a television.

The next evening, while the family is walking around on the boardwalk, Michael and Sam wander off on their own. It doesn’t take long before Michael spots a girl who he is absolutely taken with. He will later learn her name is Star, played by Emmy nominated actress, Jami Gertz (The Neighbors). Michael and Sam begin to follow her, and a little boy, named Laddie (Chance Michael Corbitt), who Star is watching after. Sam wants to know what is happening, since all they seem to be doing, is walking around aimlessly. Michael, tiring of Sam’s questions, and his hanging out with him in general, asks if there isn’t anything better he could be doing. As fate would have it, at just that moment, Sam spots a comic book shop. It turns out not to matter anyway, whether Sam tagged along or not because, whatever may or may not have happened between Michael and Star, doesn’t take place on that particular evening.

While Sam is walking around the comic shop, he is being closely watched by Edgar and Alan, also known as The Frog Brothers, portrayed by Corey Feldman (The Goonies) and Jamison Newlander (Lost Boys: The Thirst). After the brothers approach Sam, he begins to tell them that their comic books are arranged in the wrong order, due to a variety of reasons. Edgar hands Sam a comic titled “Vampires Everywhere,” to which he replies, “no thanks, I am not into horror comics.” Feldman informs Sam, that he will like the particular comic he is giving him, because it might one day save his life. The next day, Sam returns to the shop. This time, Feldman again hands him another vampire themed comic, titled “Destroy All Vampires.” Sam reiterates the fact that those types of comics just aren’t what he likes to read, to which Alan responds “think of it as a survival manual.” The Frog brothers also list their phone number on the back of the comic book, with the admonition to Sam, that he should pray that he never needs to use it.

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As for Lucy, the previous evening, while she was out looking for any kind of job she could secure, she runs across the polite, bow tie wearing, seemingly, kind hearted, Max, played by Emmy winner Edward Hermann (The Practice). He is the owner of the local video store, and is happy to help her find something to watch. After some small talk, it turns out all Lucy really wants is a job. He not only offers her a job at his store, but also asks her out for dinner, two propositions, that please Lucy to no end.

The next evening, while looking into getting his ear pierced, Michael’s dream girl talks to him, letting him know that the guy doing the piercing is charging rip-off prices. If he wants his ear pierced, she is willing to do it for him. Virtually seconds before she takes off with Michael on his motorcycle, the gang who caused trouble the previous evening at the merry-go-round, arrives on their own bikes. I don’t think it is a spoiler for anyone out there who is reading this, for me to mention, that this is no ordinary gang of deviant bikers, but instead, they are a clan of vampires. In the role of the group’s charismatic leader, David, is Golden Globe and Emmy Award winning, actor, Kiefer Sutherland. He is not alone, however. The small vampire cadre consists of three other members: Paul (Brooke McCarter); Dwayne (Billy Wirth); and Marko (Alex Winter), who people will no-doubt recognize as one half of the duo from “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” and its sequel “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.” Much to Michael’s disappointment, Star opts to get off of his motorcycle, and hop onto the back of David’s bike.

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Keifer Sutherland and Jami Gertz in the movie "The Lost Boys".For a guy who has the look, and gives off the vibe of a bad ass, David doesn’t get into a confrontation with Michael. Instead, he asks him, if he knows where Hudson’s Bluff is overlooking the point, to which Mike, sensing a macho showdown, admits that the bike he is riding can’t beat David’s motorcycle. Again, however, that is not what the leader of the gang is interested in. David makes it clear that he doesn’t have to beat Mike, he’s just got to keep up, which, throughout the wild ride they take, is easier said than done, and almost winds up costing Michael his life.

Michael is taken to the gang’s lair, which is the remnants of an old hotel that was buried during an earthquake. First David plays several hallucinogenic tricks on Michael, making him think that what he has offered him to eat is actually bugs, instead of Chinese food. At the conclusion of the parlor tricks, David gets down to business. He drinks from what appears to be a wine bottle, after doing so, he offers it to Michael, and asks him to drink from the bottle so he can become one of them. Star tells Michael that he doesn’t have to, because the contents of the bottle contain blood rather than wine. Michael proceeds to drink it anyway, as the gang members chant his name. Thinking he has only drank wine, in actuality, he has consumed blood, just as Star tried to warn him. By doing so, Michael has unknowingly begun his own initiation toward becoming a full fledged member of the undead. The final thing he must do before being allowed to become a vampire, is to take a life.

TLB PIC 5Later the next night, Michael begins to feel the need to feed, but food is not what he needs. Trying to drink milk, he spits it out, as if it has gone spoiled. Sam, meanwhile, who is taking a bath upstairs, almost becomes his first victim. Michael’s need for human blood is driving him toward doing the unthinkable. Fortunately for Sam, Nanook, senses that Michael is up to no good, and proceeds to attack him. In the process, he takes a nice size chunk out of Michael’s hand, which is soon spotted by Sam, who is completely bewildered by the situation. He wants to know why his dog would attack Michael? And seeing the blood, Sam is extra upset, because he thinks Michael just attacked Nanook, only to learn from Michael’s own admission, that the dog was protecting Sam from him.

Seconds later, Sam looks into the mirror, and sees that Michael’s reflection, while it can still be viewed, is very faded. It doesn’t take him long to put two and two together. He realizes, that Michael has been turned into a vampire. He places a call to the Frog Brothers, who claim to be experts on the creatures, and after they ask Sam a series of questions about Michael, tell Sam that he must kill his brother. That, however, is something, that Sam simply cannot do. The viewer will come to learn, that the only way Michael can return to a normal life, is if the head vampire, who created the clan, is killed.

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Trivia buffs take note: During filming, Kiefer Sutherland broke his arm while riding a motorcycle, so that is the reason he wears black gloves throughout the entire movie; it was the only way he could hide his cast. “The Lost Boys” marked the first of many times that Corey Feldman and Corey Haim, would appear in movies together. Emmy Award winner John Carradine (Stagecoach) and Emmy nominee Keenan Wynn (Once Upon a Time in the West) were both considered for the role of the grandfather before it was eventually given to Hughes. Carradine had to pass on the part because he was too ill at the time, and Wynn, sadly, died right before production on the movie began. While the film is arguably one of Joel Schumacher’s most well known and beloved, he was originally never intended to direct the film. Richard Donner (Superman II), who wound up becoming an executive producer on the film, was originally planning to direct the movie, but due to scheduling conflicts and contractual obligations, was forced to begin shooting the first of the “Lethal Weapon” films. Additionally, Schumacher wasn’t even the second choice to helm the project. Mary Lambert (Urban Legends: Bloody Mary) was brought in to direct the film, once Donner was no longer available to do so, but due to creative differences, she decided the film wasn’t for her; this opened up the door for Schumacher.

TLB PIC 7Who is the head vampire that needs to be destroyed? If he can’t be killed, will the Frog Brothers wind up killing Michael against Sam’s wishes? Will Sam, perhaps, be turned into a member of the undead? What becomes of David and the other members of the vampire clan? Are they killed, or do they wind up not only turning Michael into one of their own, but continuing on with their murderous ways? All questions and more will be answered by the film’s conclusion. Credit must be given to Schumacher, for not only directing a highly entertaining film, but for his decision to bring Jeffrey Boam on board, to give the script a major re-write. If the movie had been filmed as it was originally intended, I think it would have turned out to be a box office dud, that no one would still be talking about years later. The film features a catchy soundtrack, the cast as a whole puts its all into their roles, and credit must be given to the excellent cinematography of Academy Award nominee, Michael Chapman (The Fugitive), whose filming style, served to enhance scenes, that might have come across as just mediocre without someone of his talents.

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“A Triple Does of Tim Curry In Tales From The Crypt”

The day of the door-to-door salesman has virtually, all but vanished as a profession. A once viable occupation for someone who had either charismatic looks, or the gift of gab, has been replaced by computers and telephones. I can, however, see a day in a few short years, where telephones also become an obsolete selling tool. More and more people, I speak to, are adding their names to ‘do not call lists.’ In spite of being on the ‘do not call list,’ I do get a number of calls from companies trying to sell me things, however, the majority of the calls I receive, where I don’t recognize a number, or a person’s name that has already been programmed into my phone doesn’t come up on the screen, turn out to be political robo-calls. The sort of heartwarming messages, that espouse why voting for or against a particular Democrat or Republican, to represent the state of Florida, where I live, could spell certain doom for life as I know it. In the interest of full disclosure, I do, however, occasionally, get calls from companies I already do business with, using scripted pitches, trying to sell me additional or upgraded features, products or services. The caller usually advises me that this is a limited time offer that I must take advantage of immediately.

When I was in middle school and high school, I didn’t pay attention to when shows that I watched on television had their season premieres, nor did I get all worked up over their season finales. What I cared about, as I moved from my ‘tween years’ into my teenage years, was that a new episode of a show I liked was going to be on that evening. These days, I certainly do pay attention to that sort of information, but the shows I like on television, just like any given number of movies, past and present, have become, in the intervening years, a passion of mine. Had I known that the “Tales From the Crypt” episode “Death of Some Salesman,” which premiered on October 2, 1993, was the catalyst that started off season five of the series, I would have waxed poetic about how entertaining I thought it was, to my friends at school the next day.

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The episode was directed by Gilbert Adler (Bordello of Blood), and co-written by Adler along with A. L. Katz (The Outer Limits). The twenty-five minute show centers around Judd Campbell, a con-man portrayed by Emmy and Golden Globe nominee, Ed Begley Jr. (St. Elsewhere). He is the type of individual who passes himself off as a salesman with a heart of gold, even though the antithesis is true. The episode opens with Campbell in bed with his latest conquest, Stella, a local yokel (Kathe Weeks), who he promised the evening before to take away from the one horse town she lives in. Like most of what comes out of Judd’s mouth, it is, of course, a deal he never intended to honor.

After he leaves, his first trip is to visit a Mrs. Jones. Campbell got her name while searching the newspaper’s obituaries, earlier that morning. Mrs. Jones, played by Yvonne De Carlo, of “The Munsters” fame, is neither expecting Judd Campbell, nor the news of the cemetery plot, or the ten thousand dollar death benefits payout, which Mr. Jones had apparently begun to arrange for him and his wife the week before his passing. Begley informs Mrs. Jones that because the fees owed his company were not paid in full, the company cannot honor the contract, and informs her that his office will offer her a refund of the two hundred and fifty dollars that Mr. Jones had already paid his company. Mrs. Jones is distraught, as her husband left her with virtually nothing. The fact that had he lived long enough to pay the remaining two hundred and fifty dollars, the policy, would have not only covered the funeral expenses, but would have provided her a check, in the amount of ten thousand dollars. She asks Campbell if he is willing to bend the law. At first, acting as if he must uphold the law, and do what is morally right, even though he feels bad for the widow, (yeah right) Judd acts very reluctant to even entertain such a suggestion. Without his having to say a word, it is Mrs. Jones who comes up with the idea, that perhaps, her husband had already put the money in the mail to Mr. Campbell. Still hesitant, but knowing he has hooked his victim, Judd tells Mrs. Jones he would be willing to go along with the farce, if she gave him the remaining two-hundred and fifty dollars that was owed on the policy, right then and there, in cash. She does so. Once inside his car, he places the cash inside an envelope that contains money from other vulnerable people he has taken advantage of.

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The odd ball Bracket family, consists of three members: Ma, Pa, and their daughter Winona. All three characters are played by the talented, Emmy winner Tim Curry (Clue), who showcases his versatility by completely immersing himself into the parts. For me, it was Curry’s excellent portrayal of all three characters that made this episode so unusual and memorable. Judd, makes the unfortunate error of arriving at their home, which shares a similar address with where he had originally intended to go. After learning of his error, he begins to leave, until Ma Bracket opens the front door to the house, to inquire if he is a salesman. Even though, she cannot see his facial expression, at the question having been posed to him, we as viewers, can tell that he is pleased at the prospect of perhaps earning even more money that day. (As an aside: Eddie Murphy was first approached about playing the roles of the Brackets, but he turned down the parts).

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Once inside the Bracket’s home, Campbell goes into his usual sales pitch. This time, however, he’s not dealing with an emotionally distraught widow. Instead, he has to convince, the cantankerous, Pa Bracket, that purchasing, plots at the fictitious cemetery, as well as the generous death benefits package, is worth five hundred dollars. Unlike most of the easy prey, whose recent losses effect clear minded thinking, which Campbell takes advantage of, Pa Bracket, is not about to pay any amount of money without seeing what he’s buying first. Of course, Judd can’t allow that to happen. Quickly thinking about a way to exit the situation, Judd actually sweetens the deal for the Brackets. Instead of just a check issued for $10,000, if they agree to pay $750 dollars cash, he will make sure that the amount of the check will come to $20,000. The deal is one that even the guarded, Pa Bracket can’t seem to pass up.

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Pa leaves to go downstairs to the basement where, he nonchalantly lets Judd know, is where he keeps his money. While waiting for his return, Ma Bracket asks Judd if he would like a cup of coffee, to which he replies, yes. After she leaves the room, and he takes a few sips, the coffee is way too cold for his liking, so he walks over to the microwave to warm it up, however, there is just one problem with that. Inside of the microwave, is a man’s, head. A horrified Judd, who begins to scream and stumble, next comes across another man on the floor, who has the suction end of a vacuum cleaner shoved into his mouth. While attempting, unsuccessfully, to flee the house, Pa Bracket, knocks Campbell unconscious.

Upon waking up, he finds himself tied up, and also in handcuffs. Pa and Ma Bracket, at that point, express their intense dislike for sales people, who, as it turns out, are the only sort of individuals who come to their residence anymore. Pa Bracket takes things a step further, and briefly talks about the salesman that sold him a color television that didn’t work at all until he fixed it. For dramatic effect, he pulls back the doors covering the screen, to reveal the body of the salesmen stuffed inside the television.

All hope seems to be lost for Judd Campbell and his conniving ways, until Ma Bracket suggests something. She puts forth an idea regarding her daughter, Winona, which Pa Bracket quickly dismisses. In the end, however, he acquiesces. If Winona wants to keep Judd Campbell as her companion, and the feeling is mutual, he will be allowed to live. Not an easy task, even for a skilled con-artist such as Campbell. Winona is a snorting, un-hygienic, extraordinarily unattractive woman, for whom he needs to, in a very short amount of time, prove his love, not only with the spoken word, which he excels at, but physically as well.

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Will Judd Campbell be able to convince Winona that he loves her? Even if he does, will he be able to persuade Pa Bracket to spare his life? If Judd successfully convinces both that his intentions are genuine, will he be able to think up a plan, to make his escape from the house of horrors that he currently finds himself imprisoned in? Will he dare stop off in the basement and search for all of the money the Bracket’s have stolen from the previous salesmen? Will he do the smart thing and allow his greed not to get in the way for a change, and just leave? All of those questions will be answered at the conclusion of the competently acted, well paced, episode that features excellent makeup work and an interesting story to ponder long after the final credits role.

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“A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”

“Sleep. Those little slices of Death. How I loathe them.”

Edgar Allen Poe

Why did I opt to write about “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors” given the number of sequels I could have chosen from? The answer is simple, it is my favorite, and, in my opinion, with the exception of the original, and some might justifiably argue “The New Nightmare,” I consider it the best of the franchise. Directed by Chuck Russell (Eraser), the movie opened nationwide on February 27, 1987, and more than earned its money back. Budgeted for approximately four and half million dollars, the film would go on to earn almost forty-five million dollars. Amongst the sequels, the movie is the third highest grossing of the franchise, “Freddy vs. Jason” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master,” hold the top two spots. Contributing to the screenplay and story, was the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” writer and director, Wes Craven, who collaborated with, among others, Bruce Wagner (Map to the Stars). In addition, Chuck Russell also had input on the script, as well as Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee, writer and director, Frank Darabont (The Walking Dead). (As an aside: the film would mark the first writing credit Darabont ever received.)

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The badly burned Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), who wears on one hand a glove that has knives for fingers, is no longer relegated to Elm Street. He has successfully extracted his revenge against the residents of Springwood, who having resorted to vigilante justice, killed him. The end result of their actions, however, backfired. Instead of ending his nightmarish reign of terror, they turned the fedora and tattered red and green sweater wearing Krueger, into an even more dangerous predator in death. As aforementioned in the blog on the original, he has the ability to enter dreams at will. Not only can he invade a person’s subconscious, but also use a particular person’s darkest fears to the most detrimental and deadly effect possible.

At the beginning of the 96 minute film, a teenage girl is constructing a paper-mache house out of newspaper and paste. She is listening to the song “Into the Fire” by Dokken. Desperate to stay awake, she is shown swallowing a spoonful of coffee grinds and washing them down with a soda. The girl’s name is Kristen Parker, she is portrayed, by Primetime Emmy winning actress, Patricia Arquette (Medium). The role was Arquette’s screen debut. Unbeknownst to Kristen, the house she is building is the Thompson home that featured prominently in the original film. The viewer will later learn that Kristen, who has never been to the actual Thompson house in real life, is creating it out of her dreams. Entering her room, to not only have Kristen turn off her radio, but to get her daughter to go to bed, is her mother, Elaine (Brooke Bundy). She is entertaining a male guest she has brought home.

Reluctantly, Kristen obeys her mother, and no sooner does she fall asleep, than she enters Freddy’s hellish world. Upon waking in her dream, she is standing in front of the same house she had been building while awake. A young girl, who is riding a red tricycle, enters the house. In an attempt to keep the child out of danger, Kristen runs into the house after her. Making her way to the basement, the girl lets Kristen know, that, that is where Freddy takes his victims. At the time, Kristen is standing next to a furnace which is operational. Kristen hears the sound of Freddy’s footsteps approaching; the girl lets her know that he is home. She picks the child up into her arms and runs as fast as she can, until she comes to a room where corpses are hanging by ropes from the ceiling. When Kristen looks down at the girl, it isn’t a girl at all, but the decayed remains of a child’s skeleton. Afterward, thinking that sight caused enough of a jarring effect to spring her to consciousness, Kristen feels that she is safely inside the bathroom of her bedroom. That is not the case, however, when the water faucets begin turning into Freddy’s razor sharp fingers and grab hold of her wrists. In the mirror, Kristen sees Freddy’s face; he is laughing at her, before he proceeds to cut her wrists. She screams, which finally wakes her from her nightmare. Seconds later, her mother bursts into the bathroom, and after looking at Kristen, surmises that her daughter has just tried to commit suicide. Elaine is at her wits end, so she admits Kristen to Westin Hills Psychiatric Hospital for her own protection.

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The hospital staff at Westin Hills, that the viewer is introduced to, is comprised of three individuals: Firstly, there is Dr. Elizabeth Simms (Priscilla Pointer). She is a no-nonsense, by the book doctor, who doesn’t pay any credence to what she thinks are the wild tales of a nightmarish, boogey-man, invented by the charges in her ward. Dr. Simms feels that the teens have created Freddy as an attempt to avoid having to face the real roots of their problems. Her polar opposite, Dr. Neil Gordon, in a role acted by Golden Globe nominee Craig Wasson (Body Double), is more sympathetic toward his patients’ concerns. While he might not believe the teenagers are really being hunted in their dreams by an evil entity, he is willing to listen to their stories. Additionally, Primetime Emmy winner Laurence Fishburne (What’s Love Got to Do with It), plays Max, a hospital orderly. He also demonstrates a genuine concern for the teens. Fishburne has a limited amount of screen time during the film, but as always, he is convincing in his role and makes the most of the time he is given.

Arriving at the same time that Kristen does is the intelligent and resourceful heroine from the first film, Nancy Thompson, who is portrayed by Heather Langenkamp. Six years have passed since she first did battle with Freddy. During her time away from Springwood, the viewer learns that she has been conducting research into the study of pattern nightmares. She has arrived at Westin Hills to intern in their psychiatric ward, and it seems, she has come not a moment too soon. It doesn’t take long before her skills are put to the test. Kristen has ripped her stitches from her wrists, attacked Max with a scalpel, and outright refused to allow Dr. Gordon to sedate her, knowing that Freddy will be waiting to finish what he has started, once she falls asleep. Backed into a corner with nowhere to run, she begins singing the familiar rhyme associated with Freddy:

One, two, Freddy’s coming for you.
Three, four, better lock your door.
Five, six, grab your crucifix.
Seven, eight, gonna stay up late.
Nine, ten, never sleep again.

NOES P3 P4Nancy enters the room and says the last line of the rhyme, which helps to calm the irate Kristen. She immediately questions Kristen as to where she learned the rhyme, while at the same time hugging the scared teenager, and removing the scalpel from her hand.

Kristen is not the only patient at Westin Hills, who is terrified of falling asleep. In fact, there are six other teenagers just like her. Jennifer (Penelope Sudrow) is an aspiring television actress, who resorts to burning herself with cigarettes in order to stay awake. Joey (Rodney Eastman) has been so traumatized by what he has seen in his dreams, that he remains mute throughout much of the film. Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) is quick witted, but also hot tempered, and has spent more than his fair share of time in the padded, quiet room, where those who misbehave are sent to cool down. Phillip (Bradley Gregg) is talented when it comes to making marionettes, but he also has a penchant for sleepwalking, something which will lead him into trouble later on in the film. Will (Ira Heiden) is in a wheelchair, because of a failed suicide attempt, while he was trying to escape from Freddy, and lastly, Taryn (Jennifer Rubin) was placed in Westin Hills, not only due to her insomnia, but her frequent drug abuse.

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Dr. Gordon brings Nancy up to speed on the individual patients, all of whom, despite their varied problems, share the debilitating ills of insomnia. He speaks to the fact that, collectively, they all fear the same entity in their dreams; a person who is so vivid, and real, that they will do whatever it takes to stay awake, for fear of dying in their sleep. Sadly, according to Dr. Gordon, one deceased patient, had gone to the extreme lengths of cutting off his own eyelids, in order to not fall asleep. Nancy, as anyone who is familiar with the original entry to the series knows, is no stranger when it comes to the behavior being exhibited by the teenagers. Even six years later, the thought of encountering Freddy Krueger while sleeping, forces her to take an experimental drug called Hypnocil. The drug provides the user with a dreamless sleep, while at the same time suppresses the onset of night terrors.

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Phillip experiences a surrealistic nightmare, the sort that only Freddy could concoct for someone to go through before ultimately ending their existence. Dr. Simms, of course, being the rigid ideologue that she is, chalks up Philip’s death to a sleep walking accident. Nancy, and the other patients are not buying one bit of that theory; especially the teenagers who watched exactly how Phillip died. Phillip’s hobby, as stated earlier was making marionettes. Phillip’s death is a very effective scene, with Freddy slicing out the boy’s veins in his arms and legs, and replacing them with puppet strings. He walks Phillip, like a real life marionette, to a high tower on the hospital grounds. The other teenagers, witnessing what is happening to Phillip, are screaming at him to wake up before it is too late. The entire time, Phillip is dreaming, he is fighting with every bit left in him, desperately struggling to try and keep himself from being murdered. Unfortunately, it makes no difference, in the end, as Freddy cuts the strings, causing Phillip to fall to his death.

NOES P3 P7Dr. Simms remedy to the problem is to have the patients’ doors locked at night, and to institute a policy of forced sedation. She justifies her actions, by stating that the teens need uninterrupted REM sleep. The policy outrages Nancy, who knows what Dr. Simms is doing will mean certain death for the teens. Fortunately for her, Dr. Gordon has become an ally in her fight against Freddy, and is willing to assist her with whatever she thinks needs to be done to help his patients. Going against Dr. Simms, he changes the orders, so that the teens will now receive Hypnocil, the same drug Nancy takes. Dr. Simms emphatically states that if the experiment backfires, she will have no choice but to go over his head and recommend that both he and Nancy be terminated. While Dr. Gordon outwardly supports Nancy, secretly he tells her he hopes she knows what she is doing.

For those of you who have not yet seen the film, I will not elaborate on how Nancy discovers that Kristen has an extraordinary gift. Kristen has the power to bring other people into her dreams, something she has been able to do since she was a small child. During a group therapy session, Nancy explains to the remaining teenagers, whose numbers have been reduced by two as a result of Jennifer also dying at Freddy’s hands, exactly who they are. They are not being targeted because of some random coincidence. No, who they are, is the last of the Elm Street children, and their parents taking the law into their own hands, is why they have incurred Freddy’s wrath. She lets them know her own history with Krueger, and speaks to the fact that years earlier he killed off all of her friends, and almost managed to kill her, before she learned the secret to stopping him. This time around, Nancy believes Kristen is the key to Freddy’s demise. As is the information learned by Dr. Gordon, thanks to a Sister Mary Helena (Nan Martin), someone who performs volunteer work at Westin Hills. She informs Dr. Gordon, that there is only one thing that can truly save the children; the bones of Freddy Krueger must be put into consecrated ground, thereby rendering his spirit – which is an abomination to both God and man – powerless. In addition to taking a crucifix from a local church, Dr. Gordon also receives help from Nancy’s father (John Saxon), who has been demoted from police lieutenant to hard drinking, security guard. Only he knows the location where Freddy’s bones were hidden, and thus the only one who can lead Dr. Gordon to them.

NOES P3 P8Will Heather and Kristen, with help from the other teens, be able to vanquish Freddy Krueger to hell, where he belongs? What powers if any will the teenagers be able to utilize once they enter the dream world where seemingly anything is possible? How many of their number have to die in the process before the burnt, evil one is defeated? During the film, the viewer will come to learn more about Freddy Kruger’s back story, especially as it pertains to his mother, which I found interesting. Overall, the film is quick paced, contains good special effects that still hold up well for the most part all these years later, a compelling story line, interesting characters, and Robert Englund as the diabolical Freddy Krueger in top form.

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“A Nightmare on Elm Street – Thirty Years of Scares”

“I don’t even know who’s doing it and I’m not interested. It’s actually really painful to think about it. It’s the film of mine that I probably love the most, and which made the most money. The script went around Hollywood for three years and nobody touched it and I went through all my life savings and everything else to pay for it, so I had to make the deal I did. Frankly, at that time I thought it would be one movie and that’s it. I never thought it would go on and on and on… Yes it does hurt, it does because it’s such an important film for me that, unfortunately, when I signed the original contract I gave up all rights to it and so there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Wes Craven’s response to being asked about the 2010 re-make of “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

The idea behind Freddy Krueger, who has become one of the most infamous villains in the annals of horror cinema history, was launched in the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” film. As early as his childhood, there were aspects of Wes Craven’s (Scream) life, that would one day wind up making it into the film he wrote and directed. Fred Krueger was the name of a school bully who tormented him, both during school hours, as well as after school on the paper route, that they both worked. Additionally, when Craven was ten years of age, he heard some noise in the alleyway located next to the apartment building he lived in. When he looked out the window to see what the disturbance was, there was a homeless person, who was dressed in filthy clothes, wearing a Fedora. The man looked up and stared at him. Craven went away and hid for what to him, felt like hours. When he returned to the window, the guy was still standing there. Next thing Craven knew, he heard the man coming into the building, but when his brother, went to investigate, no one was there.

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Another source of inspiration, which brought Freddy to the forefront of Craven’s creative thoughts, was attributable to articles he read in the Los Angeles Times. Unlike the fictional scenarios he was used to depicting in his films, these stories contained nightmarish elements that were all too real. The articles pertained to three male, Cambodian refugees, who had come to America, in order to escape the totalitarian dictatorship of the Pol Pot regime. Each one of them would suffer the same horrific ending. Before meeting their demise, each spoke of not wanting to go to bed. In fact, each of the men outright refused to sleep, due to the surrealistic nightmares each was experiencing. Eventually, each of the three would succumb to sheer exhaustion. Once the men fell asleep, none of them ever woke up again. One of the men, whose family was concerned about him not sleeping, gave him pills, which they thought he was taking. After he died, his family members found all of the pills, hidden, in his room. In addition, he also had a coffee pot plugged into a wall socket in his closet. The autopsies conducted on the three men revealed there was no specific cause for their deaths. In recent years, the medical community has taken to calling the affliction that the three men died from, Asian Death Syndrome or Brugada Syndrome.

“A Nightmare on Elm Street” first screened in Germany, in October of 1984, at The Hof International Film Festival, which has been taking place annually since October of 1967. Afterward, it opened in limited release in America on November 9, before opening on a number of screens on November 16th. The film’s budget, which was estimated to have been one million eight hundred thousand dollars, made almost the entire amount back during its limited release, earning a bit over one million two hundred and seventy thousand dollars. In terms of total gross, the film was a success that wound up earning close to twenty-seven million dollars, and saving New Line Cinema from having to declare bankruptcy. The movie, which as previously mentioned in Craven’s quote, took three years to secure a producer, was shot in a span of thirty days, and has a runtime of ninety-one minutes.

The film begins with Freddy, constructing a glove, which contains knives for fingers. The murder weapon will become synonymous with the killer. Krueger, portrayed not just in the original movie, but in its many sequels, as well as a television show, is completely embodied by Robert Englund (New Nightmare).

Freddy has invaded the dream, of Tina Gray (Amanda Wyss). She is running down a hallway, which leads into a boiler room. Tina hears her name being called, as she tries to escape from something that is not yet shown to the viewer. Freddy scratches the knives of his glove on the wall, and then rips through a sheet, that is hanging, before showing up behind Tina, ready to strike. She wakes up screaming, which causes her mother (Donna Woodrum) to knock on her door and enter the room. When Tina looks at her night gown, she sees that it has been ripped. Her mother asks her how she is, and she tells her not to worry, that it was just a dream, which suits Tina’s mother’s boyfriend (Paul Grenier) just fine; all he’s interested in, is getting the haggard looking woman back into bed. The motherly advice she imparts to Tina, is that she should cut her fingernails, and stop having bad dreams. My inner child groaned at the advice. I am sure we all would have opted back then, as well as now, to not have nightmares, if it were that simple. Deciding a bit more than nail trimming and wishful thinking is in order, Tina takes her crucifix off her bedroom wall, and keeps it in bed with her. Afterward, as little girls in white dresses on an outside lawn play jump rope, for the very first time, the viewer will hear a rhyme that goes hand in hand with the character of Freddy Krueger, and the franchise in general:

One, two, Freddy’s coming for you.
Three, four, Better lock your door
Five, six, grab a crucifix.
Seven, eight, Gonna stay up late.
Nine, ten, Never sleep again….

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The next morning at high school, the viewer is introduced to the other three teenage protagonists. There is Nancy Thompson, acted by Heather Langenkamp (Just the Ten of Us), Tina’s best friend, and as am sure many of you who are reading this already know, a true horror heroine. She is someone, who is not self absorbed, but the type of person a viewer will want to cheer for to make it out in one piece, when the film concludes. There is also Nancy’s boyfriend, Glen Lantz, played by Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe winner, Johnny Depp (Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street), in his film debut. The last of the three others is Tina’s boyfriend, Rod Lane (Jsu Garcia). The characters, except for Rod, who heads in another direction, are discussing Tina’s nightmare. With Tina’s mother going to be out of town for the next two days, Nancy and Glen agree to stay with her, since she is still not over the freakiness of her dream. While there, Rod, who was not invited, shows up. It is a decision, he will live to regret, albeit for a short time. (As an aside: While Langenkamp was being considered for the role of Nancy, she was in competition with two hundred other actresses; some of the more famous actresses that she beat out to secure the role, were Courtney Cox, Jennifer Grey, and Demi Moore.)

As it turns out, Nancy also had a similar nightmare, that contains the same characteristics as Tina’s dream. The person they are both afraid of, has long fingernails, or as Nancy more accurately points out, finger knives, that he likes to scrape along things. They also both remember his attire – a dirty, red and green sweater. The color choice of red and green for Freddy’s sweater, was done purposely, after Craven read an article in a 1982 edition of the magazine “Scientific American.” According to the piece that was written, the two colors that clashed the most when looked at by the human retina, were green and red.

Less than twenty minutes into the film, the viewers gets their first real look at Freddy, during an intense nightmare sequence. Rod is awakened by Tina’s screaming. He see her thrashing around on the bed, and being dragged up the wall and onto the ceiling, but he cannot see who is doing it to her. As much as Rod wants to help Tina, he can’t, because Freddy, outside of the dream world, is not visible. Knowing that he will be blamed for the murder, Rod flees through Tina’s bedroom window, and goes on the run. (As an aside: The scene where Tina is shown being dragged up and across the ceiling was shot on a set that was built to rotate. The camera was bolted to the wall for the scene, and was filmed with a cameraman, who was strapped to a chair, he spun as the room spun, to give the scene the effect Craven wanted. When Tina is shown on the ceiling, she is actually on the floor, and Garcia, who is panic stricken as to what is being done to her, is the one who is actually on the ceiling.)

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The police Lieutenant, Donald Thompson, played by Golden Globe winner, John Saxon (The Appaloosa), is put in charge of the homicide investigation. He is also Nancy’s father. The first question he has for her mother, Marge, acted by Academy Award nominee, Ronee Blakley (Nashville), who he is divorced from, is: what was Nancy doing at Tina’s house in the first place? Unbeknownst to Nancy, he is having some of his men watch her, thinking that Rod will attempt to reach out and make contact, which is exactly what he does the next day. Rod is placed in jail, but he doesn’t go quietly, proclaiming his innocence as loudly as he can, and of course as viewers, we know, he is not guilty of Tina’s murder.

Nancy decides to go to school, in order to try and keep a semblance of normalcy in her life. While she is in her English class, she falls asleep, as her teacher (Lin Shaye) is having a student read aloud from Shakespeare. The moment marks the first time we get to see Nancy encounter Freddy in the dream state. After chasing her through his boiler- room domain, he has backed her up into a corner. Demonstrating that she is not just going to allow herself to be ripped to shreds by Freddy’s glove, she realizes that she only sees the burnt visage of Krueger when she is dreaming. Nancy not only reminds herself that what she is experiencing is ‘only a dream,’ but she takes her arm, and places it onto a hot pipe, in order to burn herself. Her actions, jolt her out of her dream state, all the while she is screaming at the top of her lungs. Gathering her belongings, she immediately leaves the classroom. When she steps outside of school to head home, she looks at her arm and notices the burn mark on it. Nancy has learned the important lesson, that when it comes to dealing with Freddy, what happens to you in your dream, carries over into real life.

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After several other incidents, that would contain too many spoilers, for those of you, who have never seen the film, Nancy’s mother comes up with an idea to help her daughter. She takes Nancy to a sleep clinic, run by Dr. King (Charles Fleischer), who specializes in sleep disorders. While monitoring Nancy, the readings on the machines, which normally don’t go past a certain number, reach levels that are unprecedented, indicating, that something terrible is happening while Nancy is asleep. The doctor, Nancy’s mother, and the nurse, run into the room to wake her up. They discover that there is blood on Nancy’s arm, but she has also brought back something with her from her dream, Krueger’s Fedora. From that point forward Nancy makes it her missions to find out the truth behind who Freddy Krueger is, and why he is trying to murder her and her friends. Little did she expect her mother to come clean and talk about the time that she, and a number of other people, took the law into their own hands to kill Krueger, a child murderer, who thanks to a legal technicality walked free.

Trivia buffs take note: The make-up Englund was required to wear took on average three hours a day to apply, before he could begin filming his scenes. Englund wasn’t Wes Craven’s first choice for the part of Freddy. He initially wanted a stunt man to play the role, but after conducting some screen tests, he came to the realization that the film would be better served by having a real actor play the part. Englund’s total screen time amounted to less than seven minutes. Johnny Depp, had a good deal of competition: such as Nicholas Cage, John Cusack, Brad Pitt, and Charlie Sheen, among others, who all were considered for the part of Glen. I wouldn’t have wanted to be in charge of cleaning the sets after a day’s filming, because the total amount of fake blood that was used amounted to over five hundred gallons during the production of the movie. AFI (The American Film Institute) ranked Krueger as number forty, on their list of AFI 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains. The film also made the top twenty, coming in at number seventeen on Bravo’s list of The 100 Scariest Movie Moments.

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In addition to Craven, Englund, Langenkamp, and the rest of the ensemble cast, credit also must be given to the following individuals: Emmy winner, Charles Bernstein (Inglourious Basterds) for the score he composed, which, like John Carpenter’s score for “Halloween,” is instantaneously recognizable. Like Bernstein’s score, the film probably would not have resonated as strongly as it did with audiences, if not for the excellent cinematography of Jacques Haitkin (The Hidden), who managed to capture just the right mood for each scene.

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Will Nancy be able to save the remainder of her friends from being sliced up by Krueger? Will she be able to save herself? How does she go about trying to put an end to Freddy? Is there a secret weapon that can be used against him to stop his reign of terror? All of those questions and more, will be answered by the conclusion of this highly entertaining, horror film, which features one of the all time greatest horror heroines in Nancy, and one of the ultimate bad guys in Freddy Krueger. The film, which, will soon be celebrating its thirtieth birthday, is still a beloved offering of the horror genre, and it doesn’t appear as if that will be changing anytime soon.

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“From Dusk Till Dawn – The Series”

The series “From Dusk Till Dawn,” does initially follow the plot of the cult classic film, directed by Robert Rodriguez (Sin City), and written by Academy Award and Golden Globe winner, Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction), based on a story by Robert Kurtzman. The show centers on the gun toting, suit wearing, Gecko brothers, Seth and Richard, originally played by Academy Award and Golden Globe winner, George Clooney (Syriana) and Tarantino. In the series, the role of the suave, do whatever it takes to survive, and stay out of jail, Seth, is taken over by D.J Cotrona. The incredibly smart, but seemingly, psychotic, and unpredictable, Richard, is embodied by actor, Zane Holtz. The ten episode series is a hybrid of the genres of action, crime, horror and the supernatural. The addition of new characters, expanded back stories on known characters, and the exploration of the mythology involving the Mesoamerican culture, whose members comprise the vampire population who were so prominent during the second half of the original film, had me intrigued enough to watch the series.

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The idea to turn the original movie, which simultaneously opened in theaters in America and Canada in January of 1996, into a television show, belongs to Rodriguez. He wanted a program that would have name recognition for the El Rey Network, an English language station, which was launched on December 15, 2013. The maverick filmmaker created the network in a partnership with Univision Communications, and it is available on Comcast, Direct TV, and Time Warner Cable. The series is shot in Austin, Texas, headquarters of the director’s Troublemaker Studios. Rodriguez wrote the pilot episode, which premiered on March 11, 2014, and also directed four other episodes of the series. Part of the reason Rodriguez wanted to revive the long dormant film, into an episodic television series, was to explore the Mesoamerican mythology, which he first became interested in while the original film was shooting. The more research he did, the more his passion for the subject grew. The other reason was the characters; to quote the director in an interview he recently gave:

“It has been a joy to bring these characters back to life and have the opportunity to take our storytelling to a whole new place. We look forward to going back into production later this year and are excited about raising the bar even higher in season two.”

Following a botched bank robbery in Abilene, Texas, that left blood and bodies behind, the Gecko brothers, who, in their efforts to escape, also took a female bank teller (Samantha Esteban) hostage, and are attempting to make it to the Mexican border. The F.B.I. and the Texas Rangers are in pursuit. As in the original film, the Gecko’s are first introduced to the viewer at Benny’s World Of Liquor, which, just like in the movie, seems to be in the middle of nowhere, Texas. The stop at the store was meant to be a quick one, to get some provisions for the road. It will turn out to be anything but a short excursion. This is thanks to the arrival of Sheriff, Earl McGraw, played by Don Johnson, who has stopped off to purchase a bottle of liquor and use the bathroom. He is a veteran lawman, who has a weathered appearance. Unlike the character of McGraw in the movie, this time, however, the Texas ranger is not alone. His earnest, young partner, Freddie Gonzalez (Jessie Garcia), is waiting in the car.

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The Sheriff is a frequent customer of the store, so even though the clerk, Pete (Lane Garrison), knows his presence is something that doesn’t sit well with the Geckos, he can’t rush the man out of the place. After McGraw asks for his liquor, Pete asks the sheriff if there is anything wrong? McGraw responds, that he can sense that it is just one of those not so good days. He proceeds to ask the clerk if he’s seen anyone strange in the store that day? Pete replies that strange is the only type of customer he gets. The Sheriff excuses himself to go to the bathroom; after he leaves, the clerk is threatened with death by the brothers, if he happens to tip off McGraw that they are hiding in the back of the store. The Gecko’s are holding their guns to the heads of two unfortunate girls, who happened to be at the store at the same time. After McGraw finishes using the bathroom, he repeats his initial question to Pete. This line of inquiry, prompts Richard to walk up behind Earl and shoot him in the back. During the mêlée that follows Pete also gets shot up.

The situation begins a standoff between the brothers and Gonzalez, who is trying to figure out a way to save Earl from dying, while at the same time, keeping the Gecko’s from escaping. While the standoff, is greatly expanded from the film version, it doesn’t consume the entire episode. There are interesting flashbacks, involving observations, and sage advice, given from Earl to Freddie, about the all-consuming nature of their line of work, and the importance of spending time with family. Additionally, a brief flashback to the bank robbery is shown, as well as demonic visions, which are seen by Richard. During the standoff, Seth reaches out to his contact, Carlos, who is a gangster portrayed by Wilmer Valderrama (That 70’s Show). Seth calls Carlos, who works out of Mexico, to see if he can get the brothers out of the situation via helicopter. Prior arrangements had already been made with Carlos, that in exchange for ten million dollars, he would offer Seth and Richard, a lifestyle of freedom and comfort, in a place, in Mexico, he calls El Rey. (As an aside: The name El Rey in Spanish means The King).

At the conclusion of the pilot episode, I was initially left wondering, if the new direction the show was touted to be taken in, would turn out to be nothing more than a vengeance piece. I originally thought that might be the case, because Gonzalez vows to McGraw, to do whatever it takes, in order to hunt the Geckos down, and make them pay for killing his partner. He tells this to McGraw, who is in his final moments of life, as he lays on the floor of the store, dying in a pool of blood. Gonzalez swears on the life of his infant daughter, that he will hunt the Geckos all the way to the gates of hell if need be. (As an aside: Don Johnson’s character of McGraw, does appear, via flashback, in five other episodes of the series).

This blog is not a breakdown of every episode, so in addition, to numerous other scenes and situations which arise, while making their way to the border, the Gecko’s take the Fuller family hostage. The brothers are using them to hide out in their RV. Former Pastor, Jacob Fuller, portrayed in the movie by Academy Award nominee, Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs), is now acted by Robert Patrick (True Blood). He is dealing with the sad set of circumstances, regarding the death of his wife. Accompanying Jacob on the trip is his adopted son, Scott (Brandon Soo Hoo) and his daughter, Kate (Madison Davenport), who were played in the original film by Ernest Lie and Academy Award nominee, Juliette Lewis, respectively. The Fuller’s stories like those of the other characters that populated the original film, have all been expanded. There is a reason, other than his wife’s death, why Jacob has given up on his duties as a clergyman, as well as his decision to take his son and daughter away from the only life they have ever known.

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The only choice Jacob has at the present time, for the sake of his family, is to believe in the promise made to him by Seth. He has informed Jacob, that he will let his family go free, without any harm having come to them, once he makes the exchange of money for freedom. Arriving at the border crossing, the viewer will once again see, that there is more to the Carlos character, than that of a typical gangster. Without getting into spoilers, he did something in the second episode of the series, that clearly shows he is not just a crime lord. Will there be light at the end of the tunnel this time for Pastor Jacob and his son Scott? If you remember the original film, you know things didn’t end idyllically for either character.

The meeting place, that Carlos has arranged, is a strip club and bar, that he owns. The place, however, is anything but a normal gentlemen’s club. Instead, it is a haven for the undead – for snake worshipping, vampires, to be exact. Professor Aiden Tanner (Jake Busey), who is first seen helping Gonzalez try to decipher a symbol, which keeps turning up at crime scenes, is at the bar. He is someone who has been studying and teaching archeology for many years, but he also turns out to be the character of Sex Machine. Many of you may remember, makeup and special effects master, Tom Savini, portrayed the character in the original film. Professor Tanner, for those of you who are wondering, still keeps a gun in the most unusual of locations on his body. His character points out, that the Spanish missionaries, who first reported on vampires, got it incorrect when it came to them stating that humans transformed into bats. The professor, aptly demonstrates on the body of a deceased member of the vampire tribe, that when one of them becomes their true self, they take on the features of a snake. Without describing everything that happens, suffice it to say, that once the Geckos and Fullers get inside the club, it doesn’t take long, for all sorts of hyperfrenetic mayhem and violence to break out.

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FDTD Pic 6The exotic dance, performed by Academy Award nominee, Salma Hayek (Frida), as the character, Santanico Pandemonium, in the original film, took up virtually all of her screen time. The series, however, treats the Santanico character, portrayed by Eiza Gonzalez (Amores Verdaderos), in a vastly different manner. She is a Queen among the vampires who inhabit the club. While she reigns supreme, there is a catch; she is stuck inside, physically confined to the grounds, unable to venture outside, not even under the cover of darkness. She can, however, make herself appear to Richard Gecko, in extraordinarily vivid visions, and is attempting to compel him to come find her. Apparently, he possess the power to set her free from her enslavement, that is being carried out by a group of vampire men, known as the nine lords.

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The El Rey Network’s first original series, has already, as stated in Rodriquez’s quote, been given the go ahead for a second season which will expand the episode count from 10 to 13. The first season is currently streaming on Netflix. The series as a whole, contains new plot points, interesting flashbacks that add details about the characters lives, as well as spot on direction, not only from Rodriquez, but from guest directors; for example, Fede Alvarez, who directed the re-make of the original, “Evil Dead” movie. If you had more than a casual interest in the first film, and have seen it several times since its release, you will probably enjoy this series a good deal. For those of you who have never seen the cult classic, but are fans of the horror and supernatural genres, with the understanding that the series does contain action and crime elements mixed into the episodes, you should definitely give the series a try, for at least the first few episodes. One other point, if you were like me, the final shot of the original film left you wondering, what exactly was contained within the huge structure of the Aztec temple that the club was built atop of? Without getting into spoiler territory, the answer to that question is made quite clear, while watching the series.

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