Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Archive for October, 2011

Halloween Pumpkin Art

Alice Cooper ‘From the Inside’ pumpkin by my mate Dave Cook…. and a ‘Pumpkin Centipede’

Halloween – A brief History

The word Halloween is first attested in the 16th century and represents a Scottish variant of the fuller All-Hallows-Even (“evening”), that is, the night before All Hallows Day. Although the phrase All Hallows is found in Old English (ealra hālgena mæssedæg, mass-day of all saints), All-Hallows-Even is itself not attested until 1556.

Historian Nicholas Rogers, exploring the origins of Halloween, notes that while “some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentilia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, whose original spelling was Samuin (pronounced sow-an or sow-in)”. The name of the festival historically kept by the Gaels and Celts in the British Isles is derived from Old Irish and means roughly “summer’s end”.

According to the Oxford Dictionary of English folk lore: “Certainly Samhain was a time for festive gatherings, and medieval Irish texts and later Irish, Welsh, and Scottish folklore use it as a setting for supernatural encounters, but there is no evidence that it was connected with the dead in pre-Christian times, or that pagan religious ceremonies were held.”

The Irish myths which mention Samhain were written in the 10th and 11th centuries by Christian monks. This is around 200 years after the Catholic church inaugurated All Saints Day and at least 400 years after Ireland became Christian.

Development of artifacts and symbols associated with Halloween formed over time. For instance, the carving of jack-o’-lanterns springs from the souling custom of carving turnips into lanterns as a way of remembering the souls held in purgatory. The turnip has traditionally been used in Ireland and Scotland at Halloween, but immigrants to North America used the native pumpkin, which are both readily available and much larger – making them easier to carve than turnips. The American tradition of carving pumpkins is recorded in 1837 and was originally associated with harvest time in general, not becoming specifically associated with Halloween until the mid-to-late 19th century.

The imagery of Halloween is derived from many sources, including national customs, works of othic and horror literature (such as the novels Frankenstein and Dracula), and classic horror films (such as the aforemnetioned Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy). Among the earliest works on the subject of Halloween is from Scottish poet John Mayne in 1780, who made note of pranks at Halloween; “What fearfu’ pranks ensue!”, as well as the supernatural associated with the night, “Bogies” (ghosts), influencing Robert Burns’ ‘Halloween’ 1785. Elements of the autumn season, such as pumpkins, corn husks and scarecrows, are also prevalent. Homes are often decorated with these types of symbols around Halloween. Halloween imagery includes themes of death, evil the occult or mythical monsters. Black and orange are the holiday’s traditional colors.

In Scotland and Ireland, Guising — children disguised in costume going from door to door for food or coins — is a traditional Halloween custom, and is recorded in Scotland at Halloween in 1895 where masqueraders in disguise carrying lanterns made out of scooped out turnips, visit homes to be rewarded with cakes, fruit and money. The practice of Guising at Halloween in North America is first recorded in 1911, where a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario reported children going “guising” around the neighborhood. According American historian Ruth Edna Kelly, the first reference to “guising” in North America occurs in 1911, another reference to ritual begging on Halloween appears, place unknown, in 1915, with a third reference in Chicago in 1920. Of course nothing is done on a small scale in the US, Halloween is now the second biggest holiday (after Christmas) in North America!

War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds was an episode of the American radio drama anthology series ‘Mercury Theatre on Air’. It was performed as a Halloween episode of the series on October 30, 1938, and aired over the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network. Directed and narrated by actor and future filmmaker Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H.G. Wells’s novel of the same name. 

The first two thirds of the 60-minute broadcast were presented as a series of simulated “news bulletins”, which suggested to many listeners that an actual alien invasion by Martians was currently in progress. Compounding the issue was the fact that the Mercury Theatre on the Air was a “sustaining show” (it ran without commercial breaks), adding to the program’s realism. Although there were sensationalist accounts in the press about a supposed panic in response to the broadcast, the precise extent of listener response has been debated.

In the days following the adaptation, however, there was widespread outrage and panic by certain listeners who believed the events described in the program were real. The program’s news-bulletin format was decried as cruelly deceptive by some newspapers and public figures, leading to an outcry against the perpetrators of the broadcast. The episode secured Welles’s fame.

An mp3 version of the broadcast can be downloaded free from the Mercury Theatre on the Air website. Check it out here They also have excellent mp3 versions of Dracula, Rebecca and the 39 Steps for download.

Richard Dreyfuss

Richard Stephen Dreyfuss (born October 29, 1947) is an American actor best known for starring in a number of film, television, and theater roles since the late 1960s, including the films ‘American Graffiti’, ‘Jaws’, ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, ‘The Goodbye Girl’, ‘Tin Men’, ‘Stakeout’, ‘What About Bob?’, ‘Mr Holland’s Opus’ and ‘Piranha 3D’.

Dreyfuss’s first film part was a small, uncredited role in ‘The Graduate’. He had one line, “Shall I get the cops? I’ll get the cops”. He was also briefly seen as a stage hand in ‘Valley of the Dolls’ (1967), in which he had a few lines. He appeared in the subsequent ‘Dillinger’, and landed his breakout role in the 1973 hit ‘American Graffiti’, acting with other future stars such as Harrison Ford and Ron Howard. Dreyfuss played his first lead role in the Canadian film ‘The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz’ (1974), receiving positive reviews, including praise from the legendary Pauline Kael. 

Dreyfuss went on to star in the box office blockbuster ‘Jaws’ (1975) and’Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ (1977), both directed by his good friend Steven Spielberg. 

Jaws is based on Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel. The police chief of Amity Island, Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), a fictional summer resort town, tries to protect beachgoers from a giant man-eating great white shark by closing the beach, only to be overruled by the town council, which wants the beach to remain open to draw a profit from tourists during the summer season. After several attacks, the police chief enlists the help of a marine biologist and oceanographer, Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and a professional shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw).

Richard Dreyfuss initially passed on the role of Matt Hooper, but after being disappointed by his own performance in a pre-release screening of ‘…Duddy Kravitz’, the film he had just completed, he immediately called Spielberg and accepted the role, fearing that no one would want to hire him once Kravitz was released. Because the film was so dissimilar to the novel, Spielberg asked Dreyfuss not to read the book before offering him the role. The rest is history.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a 1977 science fiction film written and directed by Steven Spielberg. The film stars Richard Dreyfuss, Francois Truffaut, Melinda Dillon, Teri Garr and Bob Balaban. It tells the story of Roy Neary (Dreyfuss), a lineman in Indiana, whose life changes after he has an encounter with a UFO.

Steve McQueen was Spielberg’s first choice. Although McQueen was impressed with the script, he felt he was not specifically right for the role as he was unable to cry on cue. Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino and Gene Hackman, turned down the part as well. Jack Nicholson turned it down because of scheduling conflicts. Spielberg explained when filming Jaws, “Dreyfuss talked me into casting him. He listened to about 155-days worth of Close Encounters. He even contributed ideas.” Dreyfuss reflected, “I launched myself into a campaign to get the part. I would walk by Steve’s office and say stuff like ‘Al Pacino has no sense of humor’ or ‘Jack Nicholson is too crazy’. I eventually convinced him to cast me.”

He won the 1978 Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of a struggling actor in ‘The Goodbye Girl’ (1977), becoming the youngest actor to do so (at the age of 29). Around this time, Dreyfuss began using cocaine frequently; his addiction came to a head four years later in 1982, when he was arrested for possession of the drug after he blacked out while driving, and his car struck a tree. He entered rehabilitation and eventually made a Hollywood comeback with the film ‘Down And Out in Beverly Hills’ in 1986 and ‘Stakeout’ the following year.

Last year he featured in a small but memorable role in Piranha 3D (2010), a comedy-horror film, and the second remake of the 1978 film of the same name. Directed by Alexandre Aja the movie opens with fisherman Matthew Boyd (Richard Dreyfuss) fishing in Lake Victoria, Arizona when a small earthquake hits, splitting the lake floor and causing a whirlpool. Boyd falls in and is ripped apart by a school of piranhas that emerge from the chasm and ascend the vortex. Great fun.

Elsa Lanchester

Elsa Sullivan Lanchester (28 October 1902 – 26 December 1986) was an English-American actress with a long career in theatre, film and television.

Lanchester studied dance as a child and after the First World War began performing in theatre and cabaret, where she established her career over the following decade. She met the actor Charles Laughton in 1927, and they were married two years later. She began playing small roles in British films, including the role of Anne of Cleves with Laughton in ‘The Private Lives of Henry VIII’ (1933). His success in American films resulted in the couple moving to Hollywood, where Lanchester played small film roles. It was her role as the title character in ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ (1935), that brought her recognition.

Bride of Frankenstein (advertised as The Bride of Frankenstein) is a 1935 American horror film, the first sequel to ‘Frankenstein’ (1931). Bride of Frankenstein was directed by Jame Whale and stars Boris Karloff as The Monster, Elsa Lanchester in the dual role of his mate and Mary Shelley, Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein and Ernest Thesiger as Doctor Septimus Pretorius.

The film follows on immediately from the events of the earlier film, and is rooted in a subplot of the original Mary Shelley novel, Frankenstein (1818). On a stormy night, Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Walton) and Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon) praise Mary Shelley ( Elsa Lanchester) for her story of Frankenstein and his Monster. Reminding them that her intention was to impart a moral lesson, Mary says she has more of the story to tell. The scene shifts to the end of the 1931 Frankenstein.

Villagers gathered around the burning windmill cheer the apparent death of the Monster (Boris Karloff, credited as “Karloff”). Their joy is tempered by the realization that Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) is also apparently dead. Hans (Reginald Barlow), father of the girl the creature drowned in the previous film, wants to see the Monster’s bones. He falls into a pit underneath the mill, where the Monster strangles him. Hauling himself from the pit, the Monster casts Hans’ wife (Mary Gordon) into it to her death.

In the film, a chastened Henry Frankenstein abandons his plans to create life, only to be tempted and finally coerced by the Monster, encouraged by Henry’s old mentor Dr. Pretorius, into constructing a mate for him… enter Lanchester.

Preparation began shortly after the first film premiered, but script problems delayed the project. Principal photography started in January 1935, with creative personnel from the original returning in front of and behind the camera. Bride of Frankenstein was released to critical and popular acclaim, although it encountered difficulties with some state and national censorship boards. Since its release the film’s reputation has grown, and it is hailed as Whale’s masterpiece and albeit for a short time on screen, Lanchester’s most iconic role.

Shock Horror – Date Change

SHOCK HORROR NEWS From the guys organising Shock Horror Down Under:

“It is with some disappointment that I am writing this article, but fortunately it is not all bad news. It is unfortunate that we have to announce the postponement of our first Shock Horror event until 2012. Recently we were advised by Heather Langenkamp that she could no longer make the dates in November 2011 due to filming commitments, and as a consequence documentary filmmaker Thommy Huston would also not be attending . As Heather’s appearance with Robert Englund was to be a highlight of the show we had to make a decision of whether to proceed without Heather, and possibly never see her in Australia, or wait until she was available so she can appear with Robert.

As fan’s the chance to re-unite the stars of A Nightmare On Elm St drove our decision to postpone the event. So we have been on the phone with Robert and Heather and have come to a new agreement. Basically it means that rather than cancel the event we are just postponing it and changing the dates. So the new date for Shock Horror: The Nightmare Returns is Sunday May 6, 2012.

At this stage we are unsure of Tony Todd’s availability for the new date. Should Tony not be available we will be considering other alternatives. If you have any specific ideas of who you would like to replace Tony let us know. Whilst we hate postponing events, let alone ever canceling one, it is unfortunate that these things happen especially when dealing with working actors who’s schedules are prone to change at any minute. So mark your calendars and we look forward to seeing you then”

Warrior ****½

If you’ve seen the trailer for ‘Warrior’ you know where the movie is headed in the third act but little about what takes place for the characters to get there. If you haven’t seen the trailer, don’t, just go to see the movie.

The story of a fractured family, estranged brothers Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton) torn apart by the abuse from their formerly alcoholic father Paddy (Nick Nolte), on a collision course via their entry into a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) tournament. Tommy has returned from serving in the Gulf war with the Marines, while sparring at a local gym he knocks out a contender for an upcoming MMA tournament, and the video clip of the fight is a viral hit. His brother Brendan is a happily married father and teacher at a local shool, however, he suffers financial hardship due to a crippling mortgage and starts fighting in amateur MMA fights in local bar car parks for extra cash.

Both brothers manage to gain entry to the Sparta tournament, a winner takes all promotional event with $5m in prizemoney. Not exactly the most original story, there have been comparisons to the recent ‘The Fighter’ as well as ‘Rocky’ and any number of boxing movies. However this story is told so well that any comparisons are pointless lazy journalism; this movie isn’t about the fights, although there are many of them and they are brutal, it is about these three men, and how their joint past and disparate present lives come into renewed conflict. The physical fight that they are headed towards is nothing compared to the emotional battering they can’t leave behind. Through a series of exceptional set-pieces we are able to re-construct just how and why the family became so broken; the alcoholism of Paddy is the obvious catalyst from the outset, however that is only part of the story, how the family splintered and what drove a wedge between the brothers provides the drive and tension heading into the final act.

The three main actors are all perfectly cast and deliver exceptionally believable performances. Tom Hardy is terrifying as a man on the edge, driven to fight; obviously suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, Tommy is a powder keg of tortured emotions. On this evidence he will be awesome as Bane in next years Batman finale. Joel Edgerton as Brendan is the initially more likeable of the two brothers who wants everything for his family that was denied him as a child. His is a more restrained performance but no less enthralling. He has excellent support from Jennifer Morrison as Brendans wife Tess. Nick Nolte is fantastic as the reformed abusive alcoholic father Paddy, a man who is desperate to reconcile with his two sons. It’s a career highlight from Nolte who hasn’t been in much of note for some time. He delivers a heart-breaking turn as a man battling for the forgiveness and acceptance of his sons. Award winning.

I din’t know much about director Gavin O’Connor other than ‘Pride and Glory’ (2008) which had similar themes involving a family of New York policemen. On the evidence of those two movies, his strength seems to be in enticing great performances from ensemble casts, he is definitely one to watch. My only gripe would be the Hollywood styled ending that is slightly at odds with the grittier 2 hours that precedes it, however that is a minor complaint as it still works. 

Quality: 4 out of 5 stars

Any good: 5 out of 5 stars