Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching some adaptations of the Poe story “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether.” It’s an odd story, and may be the first to develop the theme of lunatics taking over and running the asylum. It’s always been a bit of an awkward piece to adapt though, as the audience knows what’s going on well before the coup is revealed, meaning our attention has to be diverted elsewhere. Nevertheless, I thought The Mansion of Madness (1973) was really good. Don’t Look in the Basement (1973) is just cheap exploitation fare. Stonehearst Asylum was only OK, and nothing to be excited about despite the cast.
Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching a bunch of SF movies dealing with the next step in humanity’s evolution. What surprised me the most was how upbeat and apocalyptic the response seemed to be to this. There’s nothing to be frightened of because it will be something truly incredible: the tipping point where we become as gods in the Singularity or digital rapture. I wanted to include my thoughts on Demon Seed just to provide an example of what an earlier generation (my own) thought about the wedding of humanity with our technology. In any event, I once again got more political than I probably should have, but that’s the fun part of having a blog. Here are the films I looked at.
Over at Alex on Film I’ve added reviews of a couple of horror movies about youth run wild: Them (2006) and Citadel (2012). Ciarán Foy, the writer-director of Citadel refers to this genre as “hoodie horror,” but this doesn’t seem to be a label that has achieved a lot of traction yet. I suspect it goes back to films like Don’t Look Now and The Brood, though in Don’t Look Now it’s a hooded raincoat and in The Brood the little monsters are wearing hooded snowsuits and pyjamas. Today, the hoodie is a class marker, and the movies are more about juvenile delinquency than the supernatural. The hood is short for a ‘hood full of hoodlums. But either way, the hood retains a power to threaten. Personally, I just hate to see kids driving with their hoods pulled up over their heads. What is this doing to their peripheral vision?
Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching the Taken trilogy: Taken (2008), Taken 2 (2012), and Taken 3 (2014). This was a surprise franchise hit for which I have no good explanation, since I don’t think any one of them is worth watching. That said, I did think the third was the best, which I believe is a minority critical opinion. Not that I thought the third one was good, just that the first two were both crap.
Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching a bunch of movies dealing with the theme of the mad artist who makes wax sculptures out of his victims. The ball got rolling with Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), which was a bit of a studio pot-boiler released without any great expectations. The source story had never even been published. With House of Wax (1953), however, the idea received its classic expression. They couldn’t really miss casting Vincent Price as the demented and disfigured sculptor. I then have some notes on a couple of cheap quickies — Nightmare in Wax (1969) and Crucible of Terror (1971) — that are nevertheless of some interest, with Crucible of Terror being well worth checking out just as a curiosity. Finally, I look at House of Wax (2005), probably best known today for being the one with Paris Hilton in it. She gets a pipe driven through her head. Though not a great movie, I was actually pleasantly surprised by this one, especially with the melting museum at the end. Apparently this caused some problems during production, with a big part of the Australian studio burning down and a subsequent lawsuit. That’s unfortunate, but I have to say it looks great.
Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching three adaptations (I use the word loosely) of Ernest Hemingway’s short story “The Killers.” Of course, I just watched them together because they’re all included in Criterion’s DVD package. Robert Siodmak’s 1946 version is classic noir, and very good. For some reason Andrei Tarkovsky’s student film is the closest to the source. I’m not sure if he’d seen Siodmak’s movie. Finally, Don Siegel’s 1964 version, originally planned as a TV movie, has some interesting credits but struck me as a pretty lousy flick. It gave Lee Marvin a nice warm-up for Point Blank though.
Over at Alex on Film I’ve been looking at a couple of movies about guys who experience some excessive shrinkage. The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), based on Richard Matheson’s classic novel The Shrinking Man, is a fun adventure story but also a surprisingly serious meditation on man’s place in the universe. I’m still not sure how they got away with that ending. Ant-Man (2015), on the other hand, is the usual Marvel fare, only sillier.