“Halloween II” (1981)


“Halloween II”
begins with the ending footage from the 1978 classic “Halloween.” Laurie Strode, portrayed by two time Golden Globe winner Jamie Lee Curtis (True Lies), has managed to survive a hellacious ordeal. Thanks to her own fighting spirit and the arrival of Dr. Sam Loomis, played by BAFTA winner Donald Pleasence (The Defection of Simas Kudirka), who arrives just In time to empty the bullets from his gun into Michael Myers (Dick Warlock). When Loomis, goes to inspect Myers’ body, to make sure he’s really dead, the killer has vanished.

Laurie is taken by ambulance to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital by two EMT’s: Jimmy (Lance Guest) and Budd (Leo Rossi). Jimmy likes Laurie and the feeling seems mutual, but she’s got bigger problems on her mind. For example, she is insistent to Dr. Mixter (Ford Rainey) and the nurses on staff, all of whom seem to know her from the neighborhood, that she doesn’t want to be put to sleep. Laurie has a sense that Michael is coming for her. Against her request, she is injected with a sedative.

While Laurie is being treated for her wounds, an unyielding Loomis is searching for Michael, first with the help of Sheriff Leigh Bracket (Charles Cyphers) and later on with Deputy Hunt (Hunter Von Leer). The police have been receiving calls about possible Michael Myers sightings and are spreading themselves thin investigating every one of them.

As Laurie sleeps, she dreams about herself as a little girl. She remembers talking to her mother, who tells her that she was adopted. She also dreams about visiting a boy inside of an asylum. She beings to make the connection that she and Michael are siblings. In the alternative television version the aforementioned scene is extended. Furthermore, additional scenes were added, because with the scenes that had to be edited out for television, the movie was originally too short.

Laurie has every right to be worried, as it doesn’t take Michael long to track down her location. Once he arrives at the hospital, he lets no one stand his way as he searches for her. How will Laurie find a way to once more survive against the seemingly unstoppable killer?

Trivia buffs take note: “Halloween II” is the only film in the franchise that takes place after October 31st. The other films in the series always end on Halloween night. Jamie Lee Curtis has played the character of Laurie Strode in five different decades. A novel of “Halloween II,” written by Dennis Etchison under the pseudonym Jack Martin, was published on November 1, 1981 by Zebra. This is the first film in the series in which Laurie speaks to Michael. Sadly, for fans of the franchise, this was the last Halloween film that Curtis and Pleasence appeared in together.

“Halloween II” premiered on October 30, 1981. The film was directed by two time Emmy nominee Rick Rosenthal (Transparent), and written for the screen by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, who were instrumental in the success of the first film in the series. Carpenter had no interest in directing the sequel. He felt the original “Halloween” was a stand-alone film; the money he was offered, however, was too good to pass up. In addition to writing the screenplay with Hill, Carpenter performed the music for the soundtrack along with Alan Howarth (Planet Terror). He also helped to edit and direct reshoots of the film which has a runtime of 92 minutes. Oscar nominee Dean Cundey’s (Apollo 13) cinematography does a nice job capturing the tension and scares on screen, as well as the peril Laurie Strode finds herself in while trying to survive the unrelenting predatory force of Michael Myers, whose single purpose is to kill her.

The involvement of the original filmmakers, helped to elevate what could’ve been a mediocre film. The same could be said for the performances by Curtis and Pleasence, who were spot on. The suspense was well handled, bolstered by the soundtrack which helped to add to the tension that was transpiring on screen. The sequel, while not on the same level as the original, was still a solid entry into the franchise.

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The Host (2006)


“The Host”
begins in the year 2000, in South Korea. A pathologist (Scott Wilson) instructs his assistant (Brian Rhee) to dump bottles of formaldehyde into the Han River. The assistant protests, but the doctor is insistent. Initially it looked as if there were just a few bottles, but as the camera scans the length of the room, the viewer is shown that there are hundreds of bottles.

In 2002, some fishermen, out for an afternoon of drinking beer and fishing, spot a small, strange looking creature. The creature doesn’t bother the men and soon swims away. The film advances four years from that moment. The creature, voiced by Dal-Su Oh, has grown considerably because of the chemicals that polluted the water in the river. The monster, which uses its tail as a weapon has the ability to leave the water. When it runs on dry land, it takes big lumbering strides.

In addition to the creature, the film centers on a family of five. Park Gang-Doo (Kang-ho Song) is lazy. He frequently falls asleep while he’s working. The reason he hasn’t been fired is that he works at his father Park Hie-bong’s (Hee-Bong Byun) snack stand on the banks of the Han river. The father tolerates his son’s laziness for the sake of his granddaughter, Park Hyun-seo (Ko Asung). The other two members of the family are Park-Gang Doo’s siblings. Park Nam-Joo (Doona Bae), is his sister. She is an Olympic Bronze medal winner for archery. His brother is Park Nam-il (Hae-il Park) who drinks heavily, because since graduating from college, he can’t find a decent job.

One day Park Hyun-Seo is visiting her father and grandfather. On that day, the creature is spotted hanging upside down off of the bottom of a bridge by a large group of people who are by the river. The creature, at first, acts harmless, and seems to enjoy the attention it’s getting from people who are throwing it food. The creature soon tires of what it is being thrown and leaps from the water. Once on land it begins attacking the crowd, the large majority of whom scream and run away. Park Gang-Doo, spots Park Hyun-seo in the crowd attempting to get away from the creature. Fearing for her safety he runs after her. Thinking he has Park Hyun-seo by the hand, he keeps running, only to discover to his horror that he is holding someone else’s child’s hand. As he looks up, he sees that the creature has taken his daughter.

The family is devastated over the death of Park Hyun-seo. After attending a funeral to mourn not only her loss, but all of the people who the creature killed, the family is taken into quarantine. Anyone who had contact with the creature is being kept under quarantine watch, because the official position is that the creature carries a deadly virus.

While the family is in quarantine, they find out that Park- Hyun-seo is alive. She is trapped in a place in the sewers where the creature rests and disposes of the bodies of those it has killed. Her cell phone is still working and she is able to call her father. Park Gang-Doo, as well as the rest of the family are overjoyed. When Park Gang-Doo tries to tell the proper authorities that she is alive, no one believes him. They think his grief is making him imagine things that aren’t real. The family decides to take matters into their own hands. They will first have to get past doctors, nurses, armed guards and government workers on the take, before they can even begin to do battle with the creature.

“The Host” premiered on May 21, 2006 at the Cannes Film Festival. The film was directed by three time Oscar winner Bong Joon Ho (Parasite), who co-wrote the screenplay with Won-jun Ha (Stray Dogs) and Chul-hyun Baek (The Pororo). Parts action, drama, horror and Sci-Fi, the film has a runtime of 120 minutes. The movie is subtitled. As of the writing of this post, the film is the highest grossing movie in the history of South Korea. In January of 2015, a 10 meter high, 5 ton sculpture of the creature from the movie was erected on the bank of the Han River in Yeouido Han River Park.

I was interested to see this film after having recently watched Boon Joon Ho’s outstanding film “Parasite.” The cinematography by Hyung Koo Kim (Memories of Murder) and the music by Byung-woo Lee (Dear Arabella) helped to elevate the tension in the scenes that were transpiring on screen. Overall, this was a well executed film. I would highly recommend this one to those of you who enjoy foreign horror movies.

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“Gargoyles”

 “Gargoyles” begins with a voice over narration by prolific voice actor Vic Perrin, who, during his career, used his talents in over one hundred and fifty television episodes and films. The narration explains, in part, that once every six hundred years, gargoyles rise up from their slumber to wage war on mankind. The time has come for the gargoyles to once again appear.

Dr. Mercer Boley, portrayed by Oscar nominee Cornel Wilde (A Song to Remember), is an anthropologist and paleontologist who specializes in various aspects of the occult. When the movie begins he has just arrived at an airport in Nevada to pick up his daughter, Diana, who is played by three time Emmy nominee Jennifer Salt (Soap). While driving, Mercer tells Diana that he received a letter from a man called Uncle Willie (Woody Chambliss). Willie runs a roadside tourist attraction and claims in his letter to Mercer that he has something that he believes the doctor would be greatly interested in.

When Mercer and Diana arrive at Uncle Willie’s roadside museum, they can tell right away that the place has seen better days. Willie even speaks to that fact, when he grumbles about how everyone used to stop at his place, but not since the highway was constructed. Mercer is polite, but his patience for conversation unrelated to his purpose for being there prompts him to ask Willie several times to show him what he wrote about in his letter.

Mercer, Diana, and Willie make their way to another building. Once inside, Willie removes a covering from hanging skeletal remains that are definitely not human. Mercer is impressed with the way Willie has reassembled the skeleton which has wings and a head with horns. He does, however, feel that Willie is trying to get one over on him, and he laughs it off. Willie is adamant that the bones are from the remains of a creature he found in the desert. Curious, Mercer decides to listen to Willie’s story about the history of the Native American tribe that once lived in the area and their interactions with the supposed creature. Willie will not get far in his story before the building is attacked by an unseen force, which causes the start of a raging fire.                                

Fleeing to their car, Mercer and Diana are attacked. They manage to make their way to a motel run by Mrs. Parks, acted by Oscar nominee Grayson Hall (The Night of the Iguana). Mercer and Diana managed to take with them part of the remains of the skeleton. Now, however, the gargoyles, led by their leader (Bernie Casey) want the remains back. They also have other things in mind, especially pertaining to Diana. Mercer gets help from the police chief (William Stevens) and his deputy. Thanks to Diana showing kindness, earlier in the movie, he also gets help from James Reeger (Scott Glenn) the leader of a group of dirt bike riders. Will that be enough to stop the gargoyles? (As an aside: Bernie Casey’s voice was replaced by Vic Perrin’s in post-production, because it was felt that Casey’s voice didn’t go with the character of the leader of the gargoyles).

The television horror movie “Gargoyles” was directed by Bill Norton (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). The teleplay was written by Stephen and Elinor Kraft (Capitol). The movie won an Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup. The makeup team that worked on “Gargoyles” was two time Emmy winner Dell Armstrong (Eleanor and Franklin); two time Emmy winner Ellis Birman Jr. (Star Trek: Voyager); and four time Oscar winner Stan Winston (Jurassic Park). The movie premiered on CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System) on November 21, 1972.

The makeup, as aforementioned was impressive. The violence shown on screen is, for the most part, implied. There is nothing in the way of gore. The movie, while dated, is no less fun to watch, as long as it’s not taken too seriously. 

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“Fade to Black”

In the film “Fade to Black,” BAFTA winner Dennis Christopher (Breaking Away) portrays Eric Binford. He is seemingly obsessed with film, and has an abiding love for three time Golden Globe winner Marilyn Monroe (The Prince and the Showgirl). Eric is able to recall facts from the movies he’s seen with no effort. His parents are deceased, so he lives with his Aunt Stella (Eve Brent). She berates him and is not a fan of his love of film. In order to escape her, he works at a company that deals with film editing and processing for the movies. (As an aside: Eve Brent won the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror films for her work in the movie).

Eric’s job is not much of an escape. His boss, Mr. Berger (Norman Burton), is not pleased with his work and some of his co-workers treat him as if he’s worthless. Richie, one of Eric’s co-workers, who treats him badly, is played, in his second feature film role, by BAFTA and Golden Globe winner Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler). For a small amount of time, it seems as if Eric is going to be granted some happiness in his life. He meets Marilyn (Linda Kerridge) a young, aspiring actress, who bears a striking resemblance to Marilyn Monroe. Even though Marilyn’s friend Stacy (Marcie Barkin) thinks Eric is creepy, Marilyn ignores her. After Eric and Marilyn talk for a while, he gives her a ride back to where she works. Marilyn agrees to go out on a date with him later that evening. When she doesn’t show up, Eric’s already low self esteem worsens.

Eric is tired. Tired of being treated badly, and tired of his lack of success in all aspects of his life, he takes it upon himself to change things. Eric starts to impersonate, for periods of time, the behavior and the appearances of the characters he knows so well from the films he loves. He does this in order to attempt to extract revenge, as well as get what he wants, from those who have wronged him. For example, among a number of other famous film characters, he impersonates Bela Lugosi’s Dracula and the look William Boyd used in the Hopalong Cassidy films.

Eric is not a criminal mastermind and his actions begin to attract the attention of the police. In charge of the investigation is Captain Gallagher played by Emmy winner James Luisi (First Ladies Diaries: Martha Washington). The Captain wants to remove a dangerous element from the street. He is at odds over this with Dr. Jerry Moriarty (Tim Thomerson), who plays a person who works with violent youth offenders. Moriarty doesn’t condone Eric’s behavior, but he feels he can be saved. The doctor teams up with Officer O’Shenbull (Gwynne Gifford), in an attempt to find Eric first and take him safely into custody, in order to get him the help he needs. Can Eric be saved?

“Fade to Black” premiered on May 13, 1980 at the Cannes Film Market. The market is the business counterpart to the Cannes Film Festival and has been held annually since 1959. The film was written and directed by Vernon Zimmerman (Chuck and Wally on the Road). He was nominated for the Saturn Award for best director for the movie by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films USA. The film which is parts comedy, crime, horror, and thriller has a runtime of 102 minutes.

Dennis Christopher gave his all in the film. Eve Brent and Linda Kerridge also played their parts very well. The film has an interesting premise. I enjoyed the use of the different characters from film history and the inclusion of movie trivia is something I always welcome. In fact, I learned of the existence of two films I had never heard of before, so that was a positive. Overall, this is an entertaining film, that should be appreciated by horror film aficionados for at least a one-time viewing.

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“Jaws By Peter Benchley”

“Sharks have everything a scientist dreams of. They’re beautiful―How beautiful they are! They’re like an impossibly perfect piece of machinery. They’re as graceful as any bird. They’re as mysterious as any animal on earth. No one knows for sure how long they live or what impulses―except for hunger―they respond to. There are more than two hundred and fifty species of shark, and everyone is different from every other.”

                             The character of Matt Hooper from the novel “Jaws.”

Peter Benchley was born on May 8, 1940. During the course of his life, before he passed away on February 11, 2006 from Pulmonary Fibrosis, which is a scarring of the lungs, he made the most of his time. Benchley graduated from Harvard; worked as a journalist for the Washington Post; was the editor of Newsweek; authored a number of books; and for many years prior to his death, he worked as a marine conservationist. The one aspect of his life that he is best remembered for is his first novel “Jaws.’’ The book was published by Doubleday in February 1974 and sold over five million copies in its first year. The novel spent forty weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. 

The following summer “Jaws” the movie premiered on June  20, 1975 and became the first ever summer blockbuster. The film was viewed in theaters by approximately 67,000,000 people. Parts adventure, horror and thriller, “Jaws” was directed by a then unknown Steven Spielberg (Raiders of the Lost Ark). He more than likely didn’t imagine at the time, that he would go onto win three Oscars, as well as every other award of note pertaining to cinema. Benchley co-wrote the screenplay for the film with Emmy winner Carl Gottlieb (The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour). Benchley and Gottlieb received Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for their work on “Jaws.” The two men would lose out on both awards to two time Oscar winner Bo Goldman and Oscar winner Lawrence Hauben for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” which was based off of Ken Kesey’s novel of the same name. “Jaws” won three Oscars at the 48th Academy Awards in 1976: Best Sound; Best Film Editing; and Best Music Original / Dramatic Score which was composed by five time Oscar winner, the incomparable John Williams (Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope). (As an aside: The portion of Williams’ score that announced the arrival of the shark added to the viewer’s terror and became an iconic and, probably, universally recognized piece of the score.) The film was also nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture; “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” won. 

I’ve seen “Jaws” numerous times, but up until recently I had never read the novel the film was based on. While I was reading, I learned, as have many others from things I’ve read, that there were a number of differences between the book and the film. In a Random House reissue of “Jaws,” Benchley addresses the differences. He originally wrote a draft of the screenplay that included a good deal more of the book, but was told by the producers to cut those portions out and focus more on the thriller aspect of the novel. 

The novel opens in the waters off of Amity, New York, which is a seaside town off the coast of Long Island. In the film, Amity is an island by itself off the coast of New England. The great white shark that will come to cause death, terror and financial ruin, is moving through the water. As in the movie, the shark will soon claim its first victim. Chrissie Watkins is a young woman who is being pursued in a fun manner on the beach by her drunken date. She decides to go for a late night swim. Her date falls asleep on the beach, but even if he were awake, there would have been nothing he could’ve done to save her. He more than likely would have also wound up being killed. (As an aside: Actress Susan Backlinie played the role of Chrissie Watkins in the film). 

The next morning the sheriff’s department is alerted to Watkins disappearance. The department is headed by Amity native, Martin Brody. In the film Brody, is not a local, but someone who grew up in New York City. In the movie Brody is portrayed by two time Oscar nominee Roy Scheider (The French Connection). Brody’s wife Ellen, unlike Martin, grew up in a life of wealth and privilege. She used to visit Amity during the summers of her youth, never imagining that she would become a year round town resident. In the film, the character is played by Lorraine Gary (Jaws 2). Having read the novel, Gary was disappointed with a number of portions that were excluded from the screenplay, because one rather large portion of the book that dealt with her character, that was removed, greatly reduced her screen time. 

Brody is in charge of whether or not the beaches will be closed after the shark attack. With the upcoming July 4th weekend, closing the beaches would be detrimental to the town’s economic survival, because the summer crowd is what helps to keep the town running year round. Mayor Vaughn especially wants the beaches to remain open. When another shark attack occurs, Brody has had enough and closes the beaches. An ichthyologist, someone who studies fish, named Hooper is called in to help. He intends to take pictures and learn more about the shark. In the film the role of Hooper is portrayed by Oscar winner Richard Dreyfuss (The Goodbye Girl). (As an aside: Mayor Vaughn is played by actor Murray Hamilton in the movie). 

Brody is interested in one thing pertaining to the shark and that’s killing it. Desperate, he reaches out to Quint, a frequently swearing, heavy drinking sailor, with the experience and the know how to kill a shark. In “Jaws” the movie, the role of Quint is played by Oscar nominee Robert Shaw (A Man for All Seasons). One of the differences between the novel and film, that stood out to me the most, was that in the book, Quint doesn’t give the speech about the USS Indianapolis. I kept waiting to read Quint’s monologue, in which he discusses how the ship he was on was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, but that scene was written entirely for the film.

Benchley’s taut, suspense filled and at times terrifying novel, moves seamlessly from one page to the next. The inclusion of the mafia, infidelity on the part of a major character, the death of a certain character that was not expected, as well as how the story concludes, are all aspects of the book that differ it from the film that followed it. If you have never seen the movie version but are readers of thriller and horror stories where the writing is very well done, where it makes you feel as if you’re a part of the story, this is a book you should read. For fans of the film, who’ve never read the novel, this is a book you should thoroughly be able to get invested in.  

 

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“The Night Strangler” (1973)

“The X-Files came about as a result of my love as a kid of two movies on television: The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler, which we’re fantastic and scary and had left a really big impression on me.”

                                                                       X-Files creator Chris Carter

“The Night Strangler” begins with an opening narration by intrepid, veteran reporter Carl Kolchak. The character is portrayed by Emmy nominee Darren McGavin (A Christmas Story). Having been unjustifiably fired from his previous job as a reporter working in Las Vegas, Nevada, Kolchak relocates to Seattle, Washington. Unbeknownst to him, he will soon learn that his former editor, Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland), is working as an editor of a Seattle newspaper. When the two run into each other at a bar, Kolchak asks Vincenzo if he can have a job.

Kolchak is hired, but this time he is no longer answering directly to Vincenzo. Overseeing both men is Llewellyn Crossbinder, the owner of the newspaper, played by Emmy winner John Carradine (Young People’s Special). Kolchak’s first assignment is to cover a series of murders of exotic dancers, all of whom have had a small amount of blood drained from them, after they were strangled. Of course as Kolchak becomes involved he soon learns he is not investigating a serial killer, especially when he learns that all of the victims had traces of rotting flesh on their necks.

The further Kolchak delves into his investigation, the more the elements of the supernatural are put into place. Kolchak gains help from Titus Berry portrayed by two time Emmy nominee Wally Cox (Mr. Peepers), who works in the archives department of the newspaper. The two are able to establish that the killings that are taking place, have happened before. In fact, the same pattern of killings began in 1889. The killings take place every twenty-one years over an eighteen day period and involve six victims. If the current murders are the work of the same killer, that would make the person responsible for them approximately 144 years old.

Kolchak tries to elicit the help of the police, led by Captain Roscoe Schubert (Scott Brady), who doesn’t want anything to do with Kolchak or have him involved in the case. In order to draw the killer out, Kolchak teams up with Louise Harper (Jo Ann Pflug), an exotic dancer, who knew the other women that were killed. Will Kolchak and Louise be able to stop the seemingly immortal killer before he murders his sixth victim and disappears again?

Trivia buffs take note: “The Night Strangler” followed the immensely successful television movie “The Night Stalker” which aired on ABC (American Broadcasting Company) on January 11, 1972. The movie was, at the time, the most watched television movie in history. Originally there were plans to do a third television movie titled “The Night Killers,” but the television series “Kolchak The Night Stalker” which ran from 1974 through 1975 was developed for television. In “The Night Strangler” movie, Margaret Hamilton, who portrayed Miss Gulch and The Wicked Witch of the West, in the “Wizard of Oz” makes a cameo appearance as a college professor. Furthermore, fans of “The Munsters” which aired from 1964 through 1966 on CBS (Columbia Broadcasting Station) will most likely recognize actor Al Lewis, who played Grandpa on the show. In addition, Richard Anderson, should be easily spotted by fans of the series “The Six Million Dollar Man,” which ran from 1973 through 1978. On the series, he was cast in the role of Oscar Goldman. Fans of the rock band Supertramp might spot actress Kate Murtagh, who was the model on the front and back covers of the band’s 1979 LP, “Breakfast in America” which went multi-platinum.

“The Night Strangler” premiered on ABC on January 16, 1973. The television movie was directed by Emmy winner Dan Curtis (War and Remembrance). The teleplay was written by Richard Matheson (Trilogy of Terror) based on some of the characters created by Jeffrey Rice, in his novel “The Night Stalker.” Parts crime, horror, mystery and thriller the movie has a runtime of 90 minutes. (As an aside: In 2013, Richard Matheson was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films USA).

I realized with the writing of this post, that there is no more of the original Kolchak for me to review. I have reviewed the television series as a whole, wrote a piece on the episode that inspired David Chase to create “The Sopranos” and reviewed “The Night Stalker” television movie. Like Chris Carter, I would have liked for there to have been more Kolchak films and television episodes starring McGavin; an actor whose performances I’ve always admired and enjoyed watching. I have never seen, nor do I have any interest in the “Night Stalker” television show which premiered on September 29, 2005, and lasted ten episodes. I’ve heard that it was absolutely awful, but even though that is the opinion of others, I have no interest in finding out if I would feel differently.

“The Night Strangler” features not only a good performance from McGavin, but the rest of the cast was spot on. I got a kick out of the cameos and small roles from familiar faces from other films and television shows. The atmosphere was outstanding, especially as it pertained to where the killer was shown to have lived. One other part, that I am of the opinion was well handled, was the decision to take the ‘less is more’ approach in regard to the killer. He was not shown on screen often, which made his appearances, when he did reveal himself, to be much more impactful. Overall, it was, and still is, an excellent horror television movie. The movie, which was a repeat viewing for me held my interest from start to finish.

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“Leprechaun – Jennifer Anniston’s Feature Film Debut”

While in Ireland, Daniel O’Grady (Shay Duffin) captures a leprechaun. Afterward, he forces the mythical creature to take him to where he keeps his gold. Once O’Grady returns back to the United States, he is under the assumption that he and his wife (Pamela Mant) are going to be able to live in financial comfort. The leprechaun, portrayed by Warwick Davis (Willow), has other ideas.

The leprechaun shows up at the O’Grady’s home and demands that his gold be returned to him. The longer O’Grady holds onto the gold, the worse things will get for him. For example, the leprechaun kills Mrs. O’Grady. Mr. O’Grady, however, even with his wife having been murdered, doesn’t want to give back the gold. He manages to nullify the problem by tricking the leprechaun into a situation where the creature gets locked inside of a crate. O’Grady was next going to burn the crate and be done with the leprechaun once and for all, but in the process, he succumbs to a stroke. With the placement of a four leaf clover on top of the crate, according to folklore, the leprechaun is rendered powerless to escape until it is removed. (As an aside: The Leprechaun film is an adaptation of a comic book of the same name from the 1980s. The difference is that in the comic book, O’Grady steals gold from goblins instead of leprechauns).

A decade after the incident, J.D. Reding (John Sanderford) purchases the O’Grady’s house as a gift for his spoiled daughter Tory, played in her feature film debut by Golden Globe and Emmy winner Jennifer Anniston (Friends). She initially has no desire to stay there. J.D. bought the house, which is in disrepair, with the intention of having it fixed it up. The leprechaun is accidently released from its entrapment by Ozzie (Mark Holton), Ozzie along with Nathan (Ken Olandt) and Alex (Robert Hy Gorman), are members of a crew who are working on improving the condition of the house. (As an aside: Prior to her starring in “Leprechaun,” before her breakout role on “Friends,” Jennifer Anniston co-starred in two short lived television series, appeared in a video short, had an uncredited role in the 1988 film “Mac and Me,” co-starred in the television movie “Camp Cucamonga,” and had a guest appearance on the series “Quantum Leap”).

One would think that after ten years of confinement, the leprechaun would want to go about other things, but no. He is once more completely focused on the retrieval of his gold and will take any measures necessary to get it back. Ozzie see the leprechaun, but because he is considered a simpleton, no one believes him. They think the leprechaun is a product of Ozzie’s childlike imagination. Ozzie, with the help of Alex, sets out to find the leprechaun. While searching for the creature, they discover a bag of gold coins. Thinking they’ve stumbled on to some riches, all they’ve managed to do is anger the leprechaun. Can and will the leprechaun be stopped?

The film is certainly not one that is known for its acting, but Davis as the leprechaun is fun to watch. He doesn’t have a weapon like a Freddy or a Jason, so when it comes to retribution, the creature gets creative. Davis performed most of his own stunts during the movie. Initially the filmmakers wanted to take the story in a much more serious direction, but Davis had a feeling that audiences would rather see him be deviously playful with the role, and he was right.

“Leprechaun” was written and directed by Mark Jones (Leprechaun 2). The film was released in theaters on January 8, 1993. The movie is parts comedy, fantasy and horror and has a runtime of 92 minutes. Gabriel Bartalos and his assistants, Lisa Buono, Klexius Kolby and Randy Westgate did excellent work with the makeup that was applied to Davis to make him look like the leprechaun. According to Davis the process took three hours each day to apply before filming and an additional forty minutes to remove once filming was concluded. The box office success of the film led to the start of a franchise which produced five sequels. In closing, “Leprechaun” should be viewed strictly as a popcorn film for entertainment purposes.

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“Smoke and Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini”

He’s never won a BAFTA, Golden Globe or Oscar, but Tom Savini’s contributions to the entertainment world, especially the horror genre are unparalleled. Savini has been an actor, director, stunt coordinator, make up artist and he is a special effects master.” “Smoke and Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini” is a comprehensive documentary that chronicles not only Savini’s legendary career, but his entire life.

The documentary begins with his childhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was the youngest of five children. The film delves into his life with his parents and siblings. When Savini saw the 1957 Lon Chaney biography “Man of a Thousand Faces,” which starred Oscar winners James Cagney (Yankee Doodle Dandy) and Dorothy Malone (Written on the Wind), he was in awe. Savini credits the film with being the catalyst for his wanting to have a career as a makeup and special effects artist. His plans would be put on hold because, amongst other things that are discussed during the film, he was drafted to serve in the Vietnam war as a combat photographer, but that didn’t spare him from his turn on guard duty. (As an aside: “Man of a Thousand Faces” was directed by Joseph Pervney who, as more than casual fans of the original Star Trek series know, directed the episode “The City on the Edge of Forever,“ which aired on April 6, 1967.  The episode is considered among the best, and often times hailed as the best episode of the original series. Pervney won a Hugo Award for his direction of the episode.  The Hugo Award is an annual award presented at the World Science Fiction Convention and is given for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year).

Shown throughout the documentary’s 91 minute duration are clips from the various films Savini has worked on. For example, his special effects  work on the George Romero zombie films and his creation of the  look of the original Friday the 13th’s Jason Voorhees. He also discusses the challenges, as well as the things that prevented him from making his directorial remake of the 1968 horror classic “Night of the Living Dead,” the film he wanted it to be. Savini’s remake was released in October of 1990 and starred Tony Todd (Candyman), Patricia Tallman (Babylon 5), and Tom Towles (The Borrower). The specifics of what happened, I don’t want to get into, so as not to ruin it for those of you who want to watch the documentary.

Interviewed during the film are friends and colleagues that include, but are not limited to: BAFTA and four time Emmy winner Greg Nicotero (The Walking Dead); two time Grammy nominee and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Alice Cooper; George Romero (Dawn of the Dead); and Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Till Dawn). Furthermore, there is archival footage, as well as stills of personal photographs that are shown throughout the film.

“Smoke and Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini” was directed by Jason Baker (Nightmare City). The film premiered at the Sitges Film Festival on October 16, 2015. The film shows a different side of Savini, that as he states, people either don’t know, or wouldn’t expect from someone who does the kind of work that he’s done during his career. As revealed to the viewer, Savini is a caring and considerate person. This is the sort of film that horror fans worldwide should love, but can also, in my opinion, be appreciated by film lovers in general.

 

 

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“Mr. Destiny”

The film “Mr. Destiny” opens with Larry Burrows, portrayed by Emmy nominee Jim Belushi (About Last Night), talking about the strange happenings that are taking place on his 35th birthday. He’s happily married to his wife Ellen played by three time Golden Globe nominee Linda Hamilton (The Terminator). His best friend from childhood, Clip, a role acted by two time Emmy nominee Jon Lovitz (Saturday Night Live), is not only still active in his life, but is also his co-worker. There are, however, things in his life he’d like to improve. His car is frequently breaking down and being towed. Additionally, he’s not where he wants to be or where he thought he’d be financially by this point in his life. He feels stuck in a rut by his daily routine, which, as he states at one point in the movie, always culminates with him falling asleep in front of the television.

On the night of his birthday, while driving home, Larry’s car, once more, breaks down. He pulls his car over, and where he breaks down happens to be right outside a bar. Larry goes inside. No one is there except for the bartender, Mike, who is portrayed by two time Oscar winner Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules). Larry makes a phone call and sits down and drinks a beer while he waits for the tow truck. While Mike and Larry talk, Mike seems, from their conversation, to know a lot about Larry. In fact, he knows about the incident in Larry’s life that he bemoans the most. Larry is under the impression, that if he got the winning hit in a championship baseball game twenty years earlier, his whole life would have been better. Mike questions Larry’s theory.

After leaving the bar, Larry, immediately begins to live the life he’s dreamed about. He can’t believe it. Mike, as it turned out, was no ordinary bartender. Larry is now in a powerful position in his company, second only to his boss Mr. Hansen (Bill McCutcheon). He’s married to his boss’s daughter Cindy Jo played by BAFTA nominee Rene Russo (Nightcrawler). In addition, he has a jealous mistress named Jewel, a role acted by Golden Globe nominee Courtney Cox (Scream). Larry also has more money than he could ever have dreamed of. Larry, however, soon finds out, that when Mike changed the trajectory of Larry’s life by allowing him to be the hero of the baseball game, he might not have done him a favor. Will Larry come to that realization before it’s too late and ask for his old life back?

“Mr. Destiny” was directed by Emmy nominee James Orr (Breaking All the Rules). He also co-wrote the screenplay with Emmy nominee Jim Cruikshank (Tough Guys). The film premiered on October 12, 1990. Parts comedy, fantasy and romance the movie has a runtime of 110 minutes.

Like a number of films I’ve seen recently, this was another that I hadn’t watched in a long time, and that I decided to re-watch. I am glad I did. The film had a well balanced mix of the comedic and fantasy elements and didn’t over stay its welcome with the under two hour runtime.

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“The Go- Go’s”

The Go-Go’s are comprised of the following band members: Lead singer Belinda Carlisle, lead guitar and keyboard player Charlotte Caffey, bassist Kathy Valentine, drummer Gina Schock, and Jane Wiedlin on rhythm guitar. Currently airing on Showtime, “The Go Go’s” is a comprehensive documentary which charts the band’s inception in Los Angeles, California in 1978, up to the present. (As an aside: Elissa Bello was the band’s original drummer and Margot Olaverra was the original bassist, before the band achieved stardom. Furthermore, for a short time, Paula Jean Brown was in the band, when Jane Wiedlin left the group over creative differences).

The group has the distinction of becoming the first successful all female band to not only write their own songs, but also play their own instruments. Unlike other successful female acts that came before them, The Go-Go’s were not put together by a management company. The viewer will learn about The Go-Go’s humble beginnings performing at venues where they might draw a crowd of twenty people. In the early 1980s that would change, and the band played arenas and concert venues, where thousands rocked to their songs and an equal number of fans were turned away, because tickets sold out within minutes of going on sale. The Go Go’s debut album “Beauty and the Beat,” released on the I.R.S. (International Record Syndicate) label on July 8, 1981, reached No.1 on the Billboard 200 chart where it stayed for six weeks. The group’s success was not just with their American fan base, The Go Go’s also achieved international fame. (As an aside The Go-Go’s were nominated at the 24th Annual Grammy Awards for the Best New Artist Award. The group lost to two time Grammy winner Sheena Easton).

Featured throughout the documentary’s 98 minute runtime are candid interviews with the band members, as well as others. For example, Gina Canzoneri, the band’s manager for many years. She was replaced with a management company, with many clients, something, which, over time, the band would collectively come to regret. For fans of the group, stories behind how some of the band’s hits were written, such as “We Got the Beat” is discussed, as well as the making of the music video for the song “Our Lips Are Sealed.” 

The documentary premiered on January 24, 2020 at the Sundance Film Festival. The film was directed by Emmy nominee Alison Ellwood (American High).

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has glaringly kept the Go-Go’s out, despite stellar album sales. Furthermore, and perhaps an even more important reason the band deserves to be inducted, is their significance to music history. Highly recommended for fans of the band and those who enjoying learning about music history.

 

 

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