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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Are You Ready to Believe Us? Investigating the Haunted Sterling Opera House with Above the Realm Paranormal! (Part 1)

Just to be perfectly clear, I've never been much of a disciple of the supernatural. Fascinating topic, to be sure, and one that I've done a lot of voracious reading about--but always as a full-on skeptic, first and foremost. I was interested in it as subject matter, but never put much stock in it as based in reality. To put it bluntly, I have not believed in ghosts since I was a small child, and have always explained away supposedly supernatural phenomena as, at best, owing to some form of extra-sensory perception of past events, or at worst, simple charlatanry.

And so it was with great interest, and yet a safe and secure sense of disbelief, that I entered the infamous Sterling Opera House in Derby, Connecticut on Monday night. The opportunity had come our way thanks to an encounter with the boys of Above the Realm Paranormal--a local ghost investigation group--over the weekend at the "Derby Day" annual street festival. Proving that it always pays to print up shiny business cards, Captain Cruella and I were invited to take a private tour--an opportunity we leapt at faster than Ray Stantz going down a firehouse pole.

What transpired was an evening which, quite frankly and not to sound too melodramatic, has given me a lot to think about. Because, dear Vault dwellers, I cannot help but believe that there is indeed something going on in that place which I cannot fully explain. You may sneer, and you may deride, but we saw what we saw, and we heard what we heard. There is a presence or presences within the Sterling Opera House. I can't really tell you what they are with certainty, but there is something there. And this is coming from someone who has never "sensed" anything like this anywhere else before.

One bunch of folks who would certainly have no problem telling you what's going on in the Opera House, from their point of view, would be the crew from ATR. Based out of Derby, with an office that is indeed an old defunct firehouse (no joke), these ghost hunters have made the Opera House one of their pet projects, charting its interior meticulously, and claiming to have made contact with the spirits that allegedly reside within. We were met Monday night by ATR investigators Rich DeCarlo and Dan Rivera, and the team's Winston Zeddemore, case manager Troy Leong, who were gracious enough to show us around and share their findings with us.

Functioning as one of the Naugatuck Valley's premiere entertainment venues from 1889 through 1945, the Sterling Opera House has seen quite a bit of history, and as a fan of the "golden age" of American entertainment, I was just as much interested in it for this reason as for the paranormal stuff. It was designed by one of the designers of Carnegie Hall, constructed at roughly the same time, and featured everything from concerts and plays to vaudeville and early motion pictures. Here I was, on a stage upon which once had trod the likes of Enrico Caruso, Bing Crosby, John L. Sullivan, Red Skelton, John Philip Sousa, Amelia Earhart and Harry Houdini (at one point looking up from under the stage at a trap door custom made for the master illusionist himself). For me, the memories of those legendary performers haunted the place just as much as any suspected apparition.

Needless to say, the Captain and I soon began snapping away with our trusty Blackberries. While under the stage in the dressing area, I took the shot above of a room that was in total darkness, illuminated only by the light of the flash. This was when things started to get a bit eerie. If you look close, you'll see a small white orb, in addition to other floating white particles--which, I can assure you, were not visible to my naked eye. You may chalk it up to the light playing photographic tricks, but not only did this keep happening with many of the photos we took, but our guides were quick to show us how many times others had picked up possible spirit presences in the form of small white orbs.

Suddenly taking things a bit more seriously than I had, I started to really pay close attention to everything being said and shown. As we stood on the stage, Dan, Rich and Troy called out to the spirit of a small boy named Andy whom they claim to have contacted and interacted with on several occasions (in fact, they've even strewn toys all over the place for him to play with). And as we waited in total silence, I'll be damned if we didn't all hear the very faint voice of a little boy. The same voice ATR has recorded on the site in the past, such as this time:

Andy asks for his ball...

Letting her spirit of adventure get the better of her, the Captain wandered off on her own to the upper balconies, exploring some areas where spirits had been photographed in the past. She soon returned, white even by her standards, and looking, if you'll forgive the expression, as if she'd seen a ghost. Dan played several EVRs (electronic voice recordings) for us, taken during previous visits to the opera house, and discussed the ongoing plans to conduct an extensive restoration of the building to a functioning entertainment venue once again. This struck me as a bit of sad prospect, as it would entail pretty much gutting the place.

As we proceeded throughout the main room of the Opera House, it was undeniable that there was some kind of presence with us. We all felt it at different times. A general sense of dread. It felt very unusual to me, a feeling I've never quite felt before. I even started to feel a bit disoriented from it. And every now and then, I'd feel a chill run down my back or arm, which I was politely informed was one of the spirits making contact with me.

As we sat in the upper balcony, the Captain reached up to snap some blind shots of the interior of the projection booth. Here's what she captured. Check out the two pictures below: They are of the same exact doorway, taken mere seconds apart. In the first one, nothing. And yet in the second, there it is--another one of those pesky orbs bobbing around. As I said, photographic anomalies are always possible, but this just kept happening. If not a ghost, then what the hell can it be? Some kind of electromagnetic phenomenon, perhaps? Who knows?

By this point, we were thoroughly spooked. And yet, the fun was only beginning. All we had seen was the main performance space. We hadn't even ventured underground yet, to the prison below the theater. That would come next. And that's where I would have my most disturbing experience of the night by far...

To Be Continued...

For more information about Above the Realm Paranormal, check out their website, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Tuesday Top 10: Favorite P.J. Soles Lines

Moving right along with this week's P.J. Soles Blogathon, here's a look at some of my favorite pronouncements from one of the most quotable scream queens of all time...

10. "You're really not gonna come? You're gonna miss out on the prom?" (Carrie)

9. "Go get me a beer!" (Halloween)

8. "I only use it on special equations." (Rock 'n Roll High School)

7. "Don't rip my blouse, it's expensive, you idiot!" (Halloween)

6. "I'm gonna treat it like a UFO sighting. I saw something, but I'm not quite sure what it was." (Stripes)

5. "So who cares? I always forget my chemistry book and my math book, and my English book, and my, let's see, my French book, and... well who needs books anyway, I don't need books, I always forget all my books, I mean, it doesn't really matter if you have your books or not... hey isn't that Devon Graham?" (Halloween)

4. "I'm a teenage lobotomy." - (Rock 'n Roll High School)

3. "Tom Roberts is so boring his brother is an only child." (Rock 'n Roll High School)

2. "Totally." (Halloween)

And of course...

1. "See anything you like?" (Halloween)

For more in the P.J. Soles Blogathon, keep your greasy eyeballs glued to the Vault's sister blog, Day of the Woman!

Monday, June 27, 2011

TRAILER TRASH! P.J. Soles Edition!

We're bending the rules just a tad this week, with a few non-horror trailers! It's all part of the stupendous P.J. Soles Blogathon hosted by Day of the Woman--and this is just the beginning...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Trip Back in Time for NOSFERATU at Lyric Hall

There are a few horror films which have particularly shaped me into the fan that I am today. And on the short list of these would certainly be F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu, which has long been one of my favorites, and also among my picks for the most frightening motion pictures ever made. And this weekend, the Captain and myself were blessed with the opportunity to witness it as it was meant to be seen--on a big screen in a theater, with a live musical accompaniment.

I first discovered Nosferatu as a college student back in the early 1990s, having come across an old VHS copy at a street fair in Brooklyn. I'd heard a lot about it, but it wasn't until I saw it that I truly became mesmerized by this German Expressionistic masterpiece. I instantly became a champion for the film, publicly exhibiting it on my college campus during my time in the English Club (hey, it was based on Bram Stoker's novel, right?) and showing it to everyone I could. I even had a rare opportunity to head to Greenwich Village with some of my college pals to actually see the movie in a proper theater, with a live piano accompaniment. It seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime chance, but little did I know I'd have the chance to revisit it.

Fast-forward some 15 or so years later, and there we were, converging on New Haven's historic Lyric Hall for a unique exhibition of Nosferatu, this time with a live jazz ensemble accompaniment, no less. And it truly was a thrill to witness one of the most powerful horror films ever made, in such a way.

The venue alone made it worth the trip. Lyric Hall was an old vaudeville house going back a hundred years, and exactly the kind of intimate theatrical setting in which the movie might have originally been seen in 1922. Decorated with ornate chandeliers, elaborate moldings and gorgeous paintings, it was the ideal place to immerse oneself in such an experience. Sure, they were using a projection of the 2007 Kino DVD special edition release, but so what? That's the version with the remastered picture and restored tint, which only made it all the better.

The Lyric Hall Theater Orchestra, a small ensemble made up of guitar, tuba, accordion, saxophone, drums and assorted bizarre electronic noisemakers, put together an eccentric and engaging score for the film, which was especially effective during its more original portions. The droning, accordion-led music helped paint a nightmarish picture of dread that made me see the picture in a way I never had before.

That said, if I had to gripe about anything, it would be the noticeably inappropriate musical choices that peppered the score at periodic intervals. For instance, what would possess them to employ the theme to the movie Ben during the rats scene on the ship? Or "Happy Trails" as we watch Hutter gallop toward Count Orlock's castle? Or the Motown hit "Please Mr. Postman" at the moment he sends off his letter to his wife? While amusing, such post-modern, ironic touches only served to undermine the power of the film, and turn it into something to snicker at, rather than be terrified by. Much of the music actually worked against the film, which a good score should never do. Unless it was their intention to turn it into a comedy, which was not clear from the advertising at all.

Nevertheless, the music was, by and large, quite ingenious and suitably foreboding, in an unorthodox fashion. I can honestly say, that even after all these years, I've managed to see Nosferatu in a new light, taking away from it something I never did before. So you can imagine my delight when it was announced that in the fall, Lyric Hall will be presenting John Barrymore's 1920 Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. If only they can restrain themselves from the snarky musical interjections, that should be a lot of fun--and you can bet that the Captain and I will be on-hand with proverbial bells on.

Nosferatu has meant a lot to me through the years. I've shared it with close friends, with my children, and now, with my dear Captain Cruella. And I'm honored to have seen it not once, but twice on a big screen with live music. 2012 will mark the 90th anniversary of the film, and I'm already gearing up for a year-long celebration here in The Vault of Horror. So as I see it, this weekend's screening was the perfect warmup...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day of the Woman's P.J. SOLES BLOGATHON Approaches!

Just a quick reminder today, in case you all haven't yet heard of just about the coolest thing going down in the horror blogosphere. BJ-C of Day of the Woman is hosting the first-ever P.J. Soles Blogathon! That's right, an entire week's worth of content from an assortment of blogs, all devoted to everyone's favorite '70s horror movie trollop... I'm proud to be a part of it, and I'm looking forward to a lot of posts that are sure to answer Ms. Soles' eternal question from John Carpenter's Halloween: "See anything you like?"

If you're a loyal Vault dweller, all you need to do is keep your eyes glued to the Vault's sister blog all next week for the lowdown. And if you happen to be an enthusiastic blogger who wants to take part, then feel free to drop BJ-C a line at brittnahjade @ gmail-dot-com. And don't forget to proudly display one of the Blogathon banners, which can be found over at DotW...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Other Blogs... Yes, I Like Stuff Besides Horror!

Today, as Will Smith once said, just a bit of a break from the norm. I'm taking a brief moment to just plug myself a tiny bit, if you don't mind. I don't do it often, so indulge me. I'm also diverging a tad from the all-horror, all-the-time theme here in the Vault. Believe it or not, I do have other interests, and even though I don't think I've ever really addressed it in detail here before, there are several other blogs I write which are very near and dear to my heart.

I don't promote them as vigorously, or devote as much time to them as I do to The Vault of Horror. The Vault is my baby, and has been from the start. The other ones are labors of love that I quietly work on, more for myself than anything. But I thought I'd share them with you today. Maybe you've already seen them, maybe you haven't.

Standard of the Day
This is my second longest-running blog, currently approaching its 3rd anniversary. It's a music blog, focusing on the era of the Great American Songbook--the classic popular music of the 1920s-1950s, more or less. It's something I've been in love with ever since I was a kid, hanging around with all the older, Depression-era members of my family and soaking up their adoration for the music (and movies) they grew up with. With each post on SOTD, I spotlight a different pop/jazz standard, with a little random info, lyrics, and examples of recorded versions. If you're into songwriters like Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and Hoagy Carmichael, and singers like Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, then Standard of the Day will be something you might want to check out. I take pleasure in sharing music there that holds great meaning for me.

Proof of a Benevolent God
This is my Tumblr blog (or tumblog, if you must...), and is the most personal of all my online endeavors. I've been maintaining it for about a year and a half now, and I have to say, I really have come to love Tumblr--it's an easy, intuitive and addictive way to blog. At PBG, I randomly post an ongoing stream of what amounts to things that put a smile on my face; things that warm me up inside and bring joy to my life. You'll find anything from Laurel & Hardy, rainbow cookies and the Horsehead Nebula to Ava Gardner, Yma Sumac and the closing scene of Rocky. If you want to get inside my head, this is probably the closest thing. And if you have your own Tumblr blog, feel free to follow mine!

In addition, there are two other blogs I have taken great pride in putting together, but which I have since put to rest. Nevertheless, they were a lot of fun, and still exist out there in cyberspace, so I encourage you to check them out...

Lots of Pulp
My obsessive catalog of brilliant painted pulp novel covers from the early 20th century--the golden age of populist fiction.

Following the Equator
To my knowledge, the only blog ever devoted to current Mark Twain news and happenings.

Monday, June 20, 2011

TRAILER TRASH! Aquatic Edition

Saturday, June 18, 2011

VAULT VLOG Father's Day Edition! B-Sol & Son Review The Sixth Sense...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Retro Review: Dracula's Daughter (1936)

Easily the most underrated of the entire Universal horror cycle, Lambert Hillyer's atmospheric sequel to the classic Tod Browning original is a hidden gem and a treat for any old-school monster movie fan who discovers it, much like myself. Made a full half decade after the Bela Lugosi adaptation, it is a completely different movie and a very inventive continuation which also manages to push the envelope quite a bit, especially in the newly established Hays Code era.

I first discovered the film thanks to the old AMC Monstervision in the 1990s, and of course, like so many lovers of this picture, the element which instantly drew me in was Gloria Holden's mesmerizing performance as Countess Marya Zaleska, Drac's aforementioned daughter and a hell of an effective movie vampire in her own right. I've always felt that the character, and Holden's portrayal of it, was a direct precursor to the groundbreaking stuff that Anne Rice would do with the vampire ethos some 40 years later in print.

Following the death of her infamous father at the hands of Van Helsing, the Countess turns up in London and absconds with the body, believing that by destroying it she can rid herself of the curse of her vampirism. This is one of the earliest examples in popular vampire lore of the self-loathing vampire--a trope which has now become quite commonplace thanks to the work of Rice and others. Zaleska does not wish to be a vampire, and will try anything to cure herself, even psychiatry (which one would think would be a tall order as far as getting her heart beating again...)

It's certainly been mentioned many times before, but the film flirts quite openly with themes of lesbianism, as the Countess seems to prefer female victims to male. This is most directly explored in the very evocative scene in which Zaleska takes a beautiful young woman to her residence under the pretense of wanting to use her as an art model. It's the sort of thing that I'd wager only made it past the holy rollers on the censorship committees because they were too provincial to even get what was going on in the subtext.

In addition to Holden, also very effective is Irving Pichel as Zaleska's inscrutable manservant, Sandor. The film is highlighted as well by the work of Universal stalwarts Jack Pierce in the makeup chair, and brilliant set designer Albert S. D'Agostino.

This would be the only sequel to Tod Browning's Dracula made during the period before Universal switched its horror film production to the B-movie division. Following Daughter, we would get Lon Chaney in Son of Dracula, which although a lot of fun, is a decided step down from its previous two predecessors. From there, John Carradine would take on the cape as the Count in the campy House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula. For my money, Dracula's Daughter is the only sequel worthy of being associated with the original.

I encourage you to seek out Dracula's Daughter. Like Werewolf of London, Son of Frankenstein and The Mummy's Hand, it is one of those films in the Universal canon that deserve far more attention than it gets. A thoroughly modern vampire movie, it has a lot more in common with the genre in latter decades than it does with the horror flicks of its own time, and is one of the last of the truly great Universal monster movies.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

James Arness 1923-2011

He was best known to most Americans as Marshall Matt Dillon, the lead character of Gunsmoke, a TV show he starred in for an unparalleled 20 years. But to those reading this blog, and to horror fans in general, it is likely that he is most remembered for two motion pictures in particular: the giant ant epic Them! (1954) and of course, Howard Hawks' classic The Thing from Another World (1951), in which he memorably portrayed the titular Thing. Arness was an American original, going from the wartorn battlefields of Europe, to Hollywood, to television immortality. He passed away earlier this month, just a week after his 88th birthday, but to genre fans he remains just as awe-inspiring as ever.

A big part of the awe probably came from his sheer size. The man stood 6-foot-7, which no doubt helped him land more than a few choice parts in Westerns and action films in general. Unfortunately, it also prohibited him from fulfilling his dream of serving as a naval fighter pilot in World War II, since the height limit was 6-foot-2. Nevertheless, he did serve his country gallantly, as a rifleman with the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division. In fact, he was severely wounded in battle in Anzio, Italy in January 1944, capping off a tour of duty that resulted in the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Victory Medal and Combat Infantryman Badge.

He was born James Aurness (he would later drop the "u" for Hollywood) to German and Norwegian parents on May 26, 1923 in Minneapolis. Far from the glitz and glamor of Tinseltown, his youth was spent unloading railway boxcars and logging. It was only after being honorably discharged from service in World War II at age 22, permanently injured and suffering chronic leg pain, that he first made his way to Hollywood. By putting out his thumb and hitchhiking.

After the minor name alteration, he made his screen debut in 1947 alongside Loretta Young in The Farmer's Daughter. Probably due to his size, Westerns were a no-brainer for him right off the bat, his larger-than-life presence being a perfect fit--usually for the part of the heavy. However, it would be in the early 1950s that he would land the two roles that made him into something of a minor horror icon.

In 1951, he was cast as the bizarre and terrifying plant-like creature in Howard Hawks groundbreaking sci-fi/horror gem The Thing from Another World. He doesn't speak a word in the film, and he's covered in elaborate makeup and costuming, but much like Boris Karloff and Glenn Strange before him, he manages to exude terror in spite of--or perhaps because of--these limitations. Although most consider John Carpenter's 1982 remake to have eclipsed the original to an extent, with Rob Bottin's mind-blowing special effects overshadowing the more primitive Arness incarnation of the monster, the film and his performance in it are still cherished to this day by fans of the silver age of horror.

A couple years later, he once again starred in a sci-fi/horror classic, although this time he got to actually speak. Cast as FBI agent Robert Graham, sent to New Mexico to investigate some strange goings on in the desert, his role is one of the more memorable in Gordon Douglas' Them!, a tale of gigantic ants mutated by atomic radiation. Much more frightening than its premise might indicate, Them! is a landmark of 1950s b-movie cinema, perhaps even more highly regarded than The Thing from Another World. Having appeared in both films would be quite the feather in the cap of any B-movie actor, but Arness was only getting started.

A year after Them!, he would land the part that would make him a household name--not on the big screen, but on the burgeoning boob tube. At the recommendation of none other than John Wayne, he was given the lead role in the TV series Gunsmoke. All told, he would play the role of Matt Dillon--a heroic cowboy at last--for 20 years straight, a TV record that still stands. And if you add in TV movie revivals in the 1980s and 1990s, he played Dillon in five different decades.

Arness would ride the Gunsmoke train for the remainder of his career, before finally retiring in his 70s. His legacy firmly established, he would always be known as one of the most beloved of the TV cowboys--perhaps the most beloved of them all. And yet anyone who grew up a horror and sci-fi fan in the atomic era will likely remember him best as that hulking silhouette in the corridors of an antarctic research base. James Arness is no longer with us, but The Thing, as we discovered, never truly dies.

Keep watching the skies...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Random Ramblings from the Vault...

  • The Captain and I have just discovered what may very well be the lamest, best/worst horror flick in recent history--The Jackhammer Massacre. Anyone seen this clunker? Please share...
  • I always wondered... If the rule stated that you weren't supposed to feed gremlins after midnight, at what time does it become OK to feed them again? I'm assuming it would have to be sunrise, but I'd like to be sure. Never know when I might want to take one out to a late dinner.
  • Is it time for George Romero to finally end his living dead series once and for all. I've been kinder to the last three entries than most, and actually enjoyed Survival of the Dead quite a bit. But it might be time for Uncle George to leave it alone already, lest he tarnish the memory of the original classic trilogy. Am I being too harsh?
  • My son recently was shown The Sixth Sense by his grandmother the other night (you can't make this stuff up, folks.) Seems lil' Wee-Sol had a lot of fun with the M. Night flick, and I'm thinking a Vault Vlog review may be in order forthwith.
  • Speaking of Vault Vlogs, the Captain and I are getting set for a mother of a debate coming up soon. It's going to focus on the controversial walking vs. running zombies debate, and will surely be a doozy. Where do you stand on this all-important issue?
  • It's really a shame that the Dr. Phibes series had to end after only two installments. There was a significant quality drop-off from the timeless original to the sequel, but I still would've welcomed more opportunities to see Vincent Price don the Phibes makeup. Apparently more were in the works, but they never came to pass. Alas.
  • I'd have to say I've had more than a few uncomfortable moments in my day, but there are very few to compare with giving my boss a ride to a work lunch, only to have him discover my DVD copy of Teeth on the backseat. Awkward...
  • Quick! Scariest imaginary childhood home-invader: Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, or the Sandman?
  • There are very few horror comedies that stand up to repeated viewings like Ghostbusters does. Back in my WWE days, there were two movies we enjoyed quoting in the office most. One was Back to the Future, the other was this. I still remember how massive this film was when it came out back in 1984, and I never get tired of it.
  • Speaking of recent viewings, a re-watch of Hellboy II: The Golden Army over the weekend has me more excited than ever for Guillermo Del Toro's The Hobbit. It seems to me that The Golden Army was rather Tolkienesque in flavor (after a decidedly Lovecraftian Hellboy part 1), and I kind of see it as Del Toro's dress rehearsal for the Peter Jackson-produced LOTR prequel...

Friday, June 10, 2011

VAULTCAST! Conversations in the Dark: Kevin Maher

I've been an admirer of the work of Kevin Maher for some time now. His well-regarded genre video clip show series, Kevin Geeks Out, was an eye-opener for me, and if you've been reading the Vault for a while, you may have seen my reviews of several of those events. Simply put, Kevin is a kindred spirit, a fellow unabashed geek--and so I'd been eager to have him as a guest on Conversations in the Dark for a while.

Thankfully, it finally happened, and it was worth the wait. Having just come off a first-time viewing of Stephen King's Maximum Orverdrive, Mr. Maher was pretty jazzed to wax rhapsodic on the topic of killer machines. Which is pretty ambitious, since this is probably not one of the most high-profile of horror subgenres. But we went for it, and with an assist from Captain Cruella, put together a little something I think you'll enjoy. So listen in as I'm joined by a brilliant TV comedy writer and movie nerd for a discussion of murderous vending machines and homicidal laundry folders.

Take a listen on the embedded player below, or proceed to the Vaultcast page and download it for listening at your leisure...

Blog: http://ThisKevin.blogspot.com

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Halloween Comes Early to the Avon Theatre!

Ever since last fall's showing of Return of the Living Dead, it has been the distinct pleasure of my cohort Captain Cruella and myself to host horror films at Stamford, Connecticut's wonderful Avon Theatre, on Bedford Avenue right in the heart of one of the Nutmeg State's most bustling metropolises. We've been party to Poltergeist, The Thing, Maniac and other fine selections in the intervening months, but I think this time we're more psyched than ever before.

That's because next Thursday night, June 16, promptly at 9:15p.m., we will be introducing a special screening of John Carpenter's Halloween--a film that never fails to be at or near the top of just about everyone's list of all-time favorite fright flicks. If you'll recall, this is the film that actually made the very top of the list back when I polled the entire horror blogosphere to determine the 50 Greatest Horror Films of All Time. That's a pretty big deal.

It's the prototypical slasher film, one of the most important in the history of the genre, and it will be our honor to take part in its presentation on the big screen next week. As always, there will be trivia and giveaways before the film, as well as some awesome retro trailers. So join us, Michael Myers, Laurie Strode, Dr. Loomis and the gang for the one, the only, the original Halloween. This is going to be a big one.

For more information, head over to the Avon's website!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Tuesday Top 10: Reasons Why I Love Theater of Blood

Let's get something straight. If I needed to, I could probably write a post entitled Top 100 Reasons Why I Love Theater of Blood and not really have to strain too hard. The 1973 Vincent Price classic is one of my all-time favorite horror films, and a movie that remains an endless source of joy for me since I first discovered it in the discount bin several years ago. It's an unqualified pleasure from start to finish, and the reasons for this are nearly limitless. However, for the purposes of this post, I will confine my reasons to ten. Here goes:

10. Robert Morley in a Pink Leisure Suit
For a generation of Americans in the '60s and '70s, the effete, rotund Morley represented the ultimate British stereotype, and he is put to such good use here as the ridiculous Meredith Merridew, meeting his demise dressed as if he should be hanging out with Jack Tripper at the Regal Beagle. Glorious.

9. The Hamlet Speech
I know the idea is that Edward Lionheart is a hack, and an inside jab at Price himself, but I'll be damned if his "To be or not to be" soliloquy isn't genuinely powerful and moving. It's perhaps the most famous speech in the English language, and Price breathes new life into it, delivering it just before he takes the Nestea plunge into the River Thames.

8. Gore Galore
I can't be totally sure, but I feel as if this has to be Price's most graphically violent film. From excised hearts and impaled chest cavities to beheaded poodles and Kentucky fried critic, we get it all. It's a far cry from the more reserved Hays Code days that first set Price on the road to horror immortality in the 1940s and '50s, that's for sure.

7. Michael Hordern
Plain and simple, I love watching this man work. I've always admired him as Jacob Marley in the 1951 British version of A Christmas Carol, and his voice remains iconic thanks to his turn as Gandalf in the legendary 1978 BBC Radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. He's one of those old school English character actors, for whom every word or expression is memorable. If only his appearance wasn't so brief...

6. Shakespearean Murder Theme
It almost goes without saying that this would be one of the main things to love about this movie. Lionheart is a disgraced stage actor on a vendetta against his worst critics, basing each murder around a different play by the Bard. How could the English Lit geek inside me be anything but tickled pink by this concept?

5. Richard III Costume
Price has quite a number of costume changes throughout the film, but his Richard III getup is truly breathtaking. Combining the classic hunchback accoutrements with some really impressive makeup, it's the perfect ensemble to showcase some particularly hammy acting on Vincent's part--so much so that he even references it as such within the scene itself!

4. The Music
The Welsh composer Michael J. Lewis is one of film's most underrated tunesmiths, and this score is a prime example. His notes are the first thing you hear as the movie begins, and you're instantly hooked. A haunting woodwind theme, almost Renaissance in its flavor, it is perfectly evocative of the era of Shakespeare, and provides a counterintuitive juxtaposition to the unfolding grisly mayhem.

3. The Utterly Transparent Diana Rigg Subplot
Needless to say, sweet Diana is always fun to watch on screen, but here she finds herself involved in one of the most strangely developed character arcs I think I've ever seen. Her role in the plot is telegraphed from a mile away, with almost zero attempt at concealing it prior to the supposedly "shocking" revelation at the end. This should be a negative, but for some reason I find it all the more reason to enjoy the movie. It could be the abject silliness, not sure.

2. The Fencing Scene
"Alive in triumph! And you thought me slain!" Could this be Price's finest moment on screen? I would submit that it is. So grandiose, so over-the-top, relishing every moment of it as he leaps into action, rapier in hand, chasing the startled Devlin across the gymnasium with glee, the score kicks into high gear. Of course, this is intercut with some really obvious stunt double work, but I think that only makes it all the more excellent.

1. Butch
There are really no words for this. Vincent Price, sporting a gigantic white man's fro, prancing about as an overtly stereotypically gay hairdresser. This is camp of the highest order, and something that each time I watch it, I honestly marvel that it actually happened. Price truly was a great sport, and he clearly was having the time of his life making this movie. And thanks to scenes like this, that pleasure and joy is transferred over to me every time I pop it in the DVD player. Mr. Price, I salute you.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Many Faces of the Frankenstein Monster

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