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  • October 22, 2009

    Halloween-a-Thon

    Airs Saturday, October 31, 2009 at 9pm on THIRTEEN

    Night of the Living Dead (1968)

    Chaos descends upon the world as the brains of the recently deceased become inexplicably reanimated, causing the dead to rise and feed on human flesh. Speculation rests on a radiation-covered NASA satellite returning from Venus, but it only remains a speculation. Anyone who dies during the crisis of causes unrelated to brain trauma will return as a flesh-eating zombie, including anyone who has been bitten by a zombie. The only way to destroy the zombies is to destroy the brain. As the catastrophe unfolds, a young woman visiting her father’s grave takes refuge in a nearby farmhouse, where she is met by a man who protects her and barricades them inside. They both later discover people hiding in the basement, and they each attempt to cope with the situation. Their only hope rests on getting some gasoline from a nearby pump into a truck that is running on empty, but this requires braving the hordes of ravenous walking corpses outside. When they finally put their plans into action, panic and personal tensions only add to the terror as they try to survive.

    Directed by George Romero

    The Vampire Bat (1933)

    In the small village of Kleinshloss, the locals are scared with a serial killer that is draining the blood of his victims, and the Burgomaster Gustave Schoen is convinced that a vampire is responsible for the deaths. The skeptical police inspector Karl Brettschneider is reluctant to accept the existence of vampires, but the local doctor Otto Von Newman shows literature about cases of vampirism inclusive in Amazon. When the apple street vendor Martha Mueller is murdered, the prime suspect becomes the slow Herman Gleib, a man with a mind of child that loves bats. The group of vigilantes chases Herman, while Dr. Von Newman’s housemaid Georgiana is attacked by the killer.

    Directed by Frank R. Strayer

    The Most Dangerous Game (1932)

    After surviving a shipwreck in reefs not signalized in the maritime charts, the famous hunter Robert “Bob” Rainsford is lodged by the Russian hunter Count Zaroff in his castle in an isolated island. Bob meets Eve Trowbridge and her brother Martin Trowbridge, also survivors of another wrecked vessel and hosted by Zaroff. Soon, Bob and Eve find that they are part of a hunting game plotted by the insane Zarof where they are the prey, and they have to escape and survive until the next morning to Zaroff and his hounds.

    Directed by Irving Pichel & Ernest B. Schoedsack

    Dementia 13 (1963)

    John Haloran has a fatal heart attack, but his wife Louise won’t get any of the inheritance when Lady Haloran (his mother) dies if John is also dead. Louise forges a letter from John to convince the rest of his family he’s been called to New York on important business, and goes to his Irish ancestral home, Castle Haloran, to meet the family and look for a way to ensure a cut of the loot. Seven years earlier John’s sister Kathleen was drowned in the pond, and the Halorans enact a morbid ritual in remembrance. Secrets shroud the sister’s demise, and soon the family and guests begin experiencing an attrition problem.

    Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

    The Terror (1963)

    France, 18th century. Lieutenant Andre Duvalier has been accidentally separated from his regiment. He is wandering near the coast when he sees a young woman. He asks the road to Coldon, where he hopes to rejoin his regiment. But the woman doesn’t answer, doesn’t even greet him and walks away. Eventually she takes him to the sea, where she disappears in rough water. Andre loses conscience when he is trying to following her, and is attacked by a bird. He awakes in a house with an old woman and a numb man. She claims to never have seen the woman. After he leaves, he sees her again and when trying to follow her is saved by a man from certain death. He learns that to help the girl, he must go to castle of Baron Van Leppe. When he arrives, Andre sees the woman looking from a window. Baron Van Leppe is old and seems reluctant to let André in however. He claims there’s no woman in the castle, but shows André a painting which does indeed portray her. Andre learns that she is the baroness, who died twenty years ago. What is the baron’s secret?

    Directed by Roger Corman

    Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

    Seymour, an orphan and a nerd, is taken in and given a job by Mr. Mushnik, the owner of a run-down florist in the seedy part of town. Seymour spends his time doing menial tasks and dreaming of the shop assistant, Audrey. One day, just after an eclipse of the sun, Seymour discovers a strange plant. He buys it and names is Audrey II. While caring for Audrey II, Seymour discovers the plant’s rather unique appetite. The plant grows and grows, as does Seymour’s infatuation for Audrey, but who will get her first? FEED ME!

    Directed by Roger Corman

  • October 22, 2009

    Best Movies by Farr: Flick-or-Treat

    by John Farr

    John Farr goes flick-or-treating for Halloween’s most haunting flicks.


    Freaks (1932)

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

    In a traveling circus, beautiful but treacherous trapeze artist Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova) learns that fellow worker Hans (Harry Earles), a midget, has money, and plots to marry him, then bump him off to get it. She doesn’t count on the fact that Hans is part of a very tight circle of side-show performers, and that they always protect their own kind.

    WHY I LOVE IT:

    Reviled and in some places banned on release, Tod Browning’s horror classic is like nothing else you’ll ever see – bizarre, bold, and altogether brilliant. A standard soap opera premise is elevated by the conceit of “normal” people as villains, “freaks” as heroes. Browning gets the most out of his unusual cast, mostly non-actors, and creates an eerie, chill-inducing atmosphere throughout. Don’t miss that knockout climax.


    The Haunting (1963)

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

    Dr. John Markway (Richard Johnson), a professor of the paranormal, sets out to discover whether the infamous Hill House is truly haunted or not, with the help of several human guinea pigs. What happens to the group “in the night, in the dark” leaves no doubt as to the answer.

    WHY I LOVE IT:

    Among a stellar cast, Julie Harris stands out as a spellbinding spinster whom the ghosts of Hill House single out for special attention. A sexually ambiguous Claire Bloom also registers as the clairvoyant Regina. Veteran director Robert Wise masterfully orchestrates tools of the trade to create perhaps the quintessential filmed ghost story, applying a degree of restraint and subtlety generally absent from more modern horror entries. Remade but never equalled.


    The Descent (2006)

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

    Still reeling from a deadly car crash the year before, Sarah (Shauna MacDonald) travels to the U.S. with her friend Beth (Alex Reid) to participate in a spelunking expedition organized by her jocky pal Juno (Natalie Mendoza), with whom she has some post- traumatic personal issues. Along with three other female friends, the group descends into an uncharted cave system expecting a weekend of adventure. But tensions rise after a cave-in, when they discover that not only are they profoundly lost in the primordial darkness, but they are not alone.

    WHY I LOVE IT:

    Not the feeble-minded breasts-and-beasts horror flick that’s virtually defined the genre since the ’80s, Marshall’s “Descent” is smart, psychologically tense, and scary as hell. Yes, there’s a lot of gruesome goings-on in this claustrophobic hellhole, but part of the fun of watching it (if you’re into this kind of thing) is figuring out exactly what’s stalking the poor lasses. One or many? And is the cavern breathing or is that my imagination? Solid direction, imaginative editing, and eerie production design take “Descent” even further into nail-biting realms of pure terror.


    Visit Best Movies by Farr for more great DVD recommendations.

  • October 22, 2009

    A Scouting Life: Highway 61 Visited

    by Sam Hutchins

    The next week was spent slowly making our way up Highway 61.  Traditionally it was known as the blues highway, the road leading from the plantations of the South to new life and opportunity in Chicago and the northern cities.  Much like the ghosts of the musicians whose paths we followed we carried the blues with us.  Unlike us they at least had a goal and a purpose to their journey.  We were in full drifting mode, surrendering more and more to the malaise of the road.

    By now we had been scouting cross-country for a month.  As much as I love being out on the road shooting it only works if it is leading somewhere.  Our limited contact with Kar Wai had seemingly ended altogether.  It was as though we were forgotten.  Every day we drove hundreds of miles and took countless pictures.  We explored every story possibility along the way and submitted our work with nary a word in response.  With no feedback or critique eventually you’re not so much scouting as you are just driving around taking pictures like a tourist.

    Compounding the issue was the endless list of petty resentments we were building against one another.  That much time in close quarters can turn even the most amiable types against each other.  Every inch of space in the truck becomes a battleground; every statement a potential provocation.  For example, Darius was making me insane with the music.  He would control the iPod for hours on end, playing the same songs over and over at high volume.  When I would manage to wrest control of the music he went totally passive-aggressive on me.  It would start with him asking what the song was, complimenting my taste, and then asking if he could turn it down just a little bit.  He would then proceed to lower the volume gradually until it was just barely audible.  He did this every time I tried to play music that I favored, and it was completely maddening.  I’d shortly give up and turn the music completely off.  Minutes later he would play something he liked and crank the volume all the way back up.  In retrospect, he honestly might not have realized what he was doing, but at the time I wanted to bash his face into the windshield.

    Stephane was equally annoying.  He would fiddle around on the computer in the backseat all day long.  If Darius or I saw something of potential interest to us we would point it out to him.  Invariably he would ignore us, engrossed in the screen as he was. Once we were past whatever-it-was Stephane would see it out the rear window and yell for us to pull over.  Usually when we were barreling down a one-lane highway with a truck hard on our ass.  Had I heeded his direction every time he yelled for us to stop we would have died a dozen times.  He yelled for me to stop in the passing lane of the interstate highway, mid-span on bridges, in every perilous situation imaginable.

    Surely I was an annoyance to them as well.  I was weary.  Doing all the driving was arduous enough.  Driving twelve hours a day while navigating, attempting to scout, maintaining the truck, finding nice enough lodging and restaurants to satisfy those two on top of everything else was brutal.  Also, any time we did stop to scout a potential location I had to jump out and do my spiel.  No matter how exhausted I may be I was the initial public face of the company.  It takes energy to approach random people and explain who we were and what we were up to.  Virtually no one we approached had any dealings with being filmed before so it was never a short conversation.  Frequently one of my companions noticed something and yelled for me to pull over, only to face something that I knew wasn’t worth wasting our time on.  Nonetheless it’s my job and I was obligated.  Even facing a location that I considered unfilmable or useless to us I had to haul my weary ass out of the driver’s seat and talk our way in.  More often than not I would be well into the conversation when the boys would realize as I had that it wasn’t worth the effort and yell for me not to bother with it.  I’d grit my teeth, smile and make my exit as quickly and politely as possible leaving a befuddled stranger in my wake.

    We had been going like this seven days a week and were all on the edge when the call came.  Stephane wandered around speaking excitedly on the phone while Darius and I watched from the truck.

    “What do you think, we shutting down?”

    “I almost wish we would. “ Darius replied, “I’ve never worked like this before.  The director really should be here.  We don’t know what to look for.”

    I had to agree.  It just felt all wrong.  Stephane hopped back into the car and we prepared for the bad news.  What we heard instead rather surprised us.

    “Kar Wai loves the stuff we are sending him.  He is able to join us. We’ll meet him in Chicago.”

    Fantastic. We were actually just outside the city in Skokie, Illinois.  We took our time getting into the city and ate at a wonderful old steakhouse there called Gene and Georgetti’s.  After a good night’s sleep we would be picking Kar Wai up at the airport.

    ….

    STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT INSTALLMENT OF THE SCOUTING LIFE.

    Sam Hutchins has been working in film production for twenty years. He started as overnight security on the set of “Working Girl” while attending film school at NYU. Since 1995 he has been a location manager for some of the top names in the business. He’ll be blogging from a unique insider’s perspective on the filmmaking process, as well as speaking to his colleagues in the production community to share their experiences with you.

  • October 19, 2009

    Best Movies by Farr: Can’t Get Enough Astaire

    by John Farr

    Fred Astaire made films you can watch over and over again.


    Easter Parade (1948)

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

    Dumped on Easter by longstanding dance partner Nadine (Ann Miller), Don Hewes (Fred Astaire) rashly wagers he can still draw crowds even teamed with the greenest of chorus girls. Hannah Brown (Judy Garland) is his pick, and Don begins grooming her for stardom.

    WHY I LOVE IT:

    In this joyous musical romp, MGM producer Arthur Freed paired Garland with the recently “retired” Astaire after original lead Gene Kelly injured his ankle. Combining Astaire’s moves and Garland’s pipes with a phenomenal Irving Berlin score adapted by Johnny Green and Roger Edens, highlights include the vaudevillian duet “We’re a Couple of Swells” and Astaire’s excellent solo to “Steppin’ Out With My Baby”. The movie was a big success in 1948, and no wonder! By all means, step out with this title.


    The Band Wagon (1955)

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

    Astaire does a semi-autobiographical turn as Tony Hunter, a fading movie star who looks to the New York stage to revive his stalled career, and meets exquisite ballerina, Gabrielle (Cyd Charisse) in the process, along with a host of other colorful Broadway characters. While Tony and Gabrielle don’t hit it off right away, they eventually dance together, which thaws relations.

    WHY I LOVE IT:

    This film has everything you would expect from an Astaire/ Minnelli collaboration – a first-rate score, color, inventive dance numbers, and overall lots of energy, style and class. Hunter’s film career may be on the wane, but nothing in his dancing indicate why. The smoldering Charisse sets off more sparks than Ginger Rogers ever did, as the athletic, sensual Gabriella. And veteran English song-and-dance man Jack Buchanan is a hoot.


    Funny Face (1957)

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

    Fashion photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire) transforms Paris bookstore clerk Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn) into a modeling sensation. It’s all a souffle-light pretext for breathtaking sets, music and dancing.

    WHY I LOVE IT:

    Combine the moves of Fred Astaire, the grace of Audrey Hepburn and the talents of Director Stanley Donen with the city of Paris and a Gershwin soundtrack, and what have you got? Movie paradise. Prepare to be delighted: this 50th Anniversary edition is “Swonderful, Smarvelous!” Look for Eloise-creator Kay Thompson playing a fashion editor modeled on Diana Vreeland.


    Visit Best Movies by Farr for more great DVD recommendations.

  • October 19, 2009

    Best Movies by Farr: In the Face of Dying

    by John Farr

    Movies about the way we cope with dying.


    The Seventh Seal (1957)

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

    Returning home from the Crusades to find his country wracked with plague and misery, 14th-century knight Antonius (Max Von Sydow) concludes that God does not exist. At the height of his despair, the wandering Antonius is visited by Death (Bengt Ekerot). Hoping to forestall the inevitable, Antonius invites the black-cloaked figure to play a game of chess, agreeing to accompany the Grim Reaper if he loses. Visited by a parade of believers and nonbelievers over the course of the game, Antonius and Death immerse themselves in philosophical debates about belief, existence, and the nature of good and evil.

    WHY I LOVE IT:

    One of the most influential films ever made, Bergman’s “Seal” is a mesmerizing, apocalyptic allegory whose universal themes and striking beauty-beautifully captured in Allen Ekelund’s magnificent black-and-white photography-continue to inspire reverence. Bergman regulars Gunnar Bjornstrand, Bibi Andersson, and Nils Poppe are sensational in supporting roles, while the long-faced Von Sydow makes a perfectly dour, disillusioned knight. With its witches and flagellants, madmen and plague victims, Bergman’s “Seal” is filled with all manner of fascinating images, capped by a dance-with-Death finale you’ll never forget.


    Ordinary People (1980)

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

    Adolescent-aged son Conrad Jarrett (Timothy Hutton) must painfully rebuild his life and relationships, particularly that with his parents (Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore), after his beloved older brother dies in a boating accident.

    WHY I LOVE IT:

    “People” is one of the more harrowing films out there (without blood or violence) thanks to Redford’s inspired direction and flawless turns by Sutherland, Moore and especially Hutton. Penetrating and painful to watch, the film delivers ample emotional rewards. Redford’s first foray behind the camera, the film won the Oscars for Best Picture and Director, as did young Hutton for Supporting Actor. A must.


    Y Tu Mamá También (2001)

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

    When their girlfriends head to Europe for the summer, Mexican teens Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gabriel Garcia Bernal) gear up for some uninhibited fun. At a wedding, they meet sexy, spirited Luisa (Maribel Verdu), who’s 10 years their senior, and playfully invite her along on a road trip to a beach called Heavens Mouth, ostensibly in Oaxaca, expecting her to decline. Instead, she takes them up on the offer, and the threesome embark on a journey marked by erotic shenanigans and jealousy.

    WHY I LOVE IT:

    Cuaron’s exhilarating story of a Mexican menage a trois is steamy and titillating, surely one reason the film performed so well in American theaters. But it also engages closely and intelligently with the class divide in Mexico, epitomized by the jealous contretemps between upper-class Tenoch and the less-privileged Julio for Luisa’s affections, and by the crushing poverty they see on their decadent car trip. No mere tart, Cuaron’s “Mama” dazzles with superb acting and a stirring storyline that’s alternately lighthearted, soulful, and red-hot.


    Visit Best Movies by Farr for more great DVD recommendations.

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