Daily Grindhouse picks Top 10 CFQ covers

Cinefantastique-dead-zoneWhat are the ten best cover images ever published by Cinefantastique magazine? Daily Grindhouse weighs in on that question here, offering a Top Ten plus a few runners-up. Take a look at the whole list; it’s a fun trip down memory lane. I especially like the artwork for LOGAN’S RUN and THE BLACK HOLE (regardless of the quality of the movies), and the Daily Grindhouse pick for #1 – THE DEAD ZONE – is pretty damn good.
However, it’s in the nature of these lists that one must quibble with some of the entries (I think the KRULL cover is way too cartoony, and A BOY AND HIS DOG is far too murky). Also, I think several good covers were overlooked, so I am including them below. This is not a complete collection, just a sampling. I’m sure there are many others I have forgotten, which is why I liked the Daily Grindhouse list: it reminded me of several good ones I had not thought of in years.

CFQ 20,000 Leagues
This painting just perfectly captures the mood of Walt Disney's film version of Jules Verne's novel.

CFQ Dark Shadows
I like the way that two generations of the DARK SHADOWS franchise are encapsulated in this image

CFQ Star Trek 20th anniversary
Something about this composite image perfectly conveys the sense of looking back on the original STAR TREK series as a whole - much better than selecting an image from a specific episode.

CFQ Alien
A nice closeup of the H.R. Giger painting that inspired the look of the titular ALIEN.

CFQ Psycho
Hitchcock himself replaces Janet Leigh in the famous PSYCHO shower scene - a witty joke that the master himself would probably have enjoyed.

CFQ Jurassic Park
A nice artist rendering that sums up the gist of JURASSIC PARK: dinosaurs, genetics, and Spielberg.

Review of Deep Purple Music Video: "Vincent Price"

The final track on Deep Purple’s latest album, Now What?!, features a title that immediately endeared it to Cinefantastique: “Vincent Price.” That’s right: the late, great “Merchant of Menace” – the actor who portrayed Dr. Phibes, Prince Prospero, Roderick Usher, the Invisible Man, and many other memorable villains – is the subject of a hard rock song by the band that brought us “Smoke on the Water,” “Perfect Strangers,” and “Hush.”
The connection between Vincent Price and rock music may not seem obvious, but back in 1975, Price appeared opposite shock-rocker Alice Cooper in a made-for-television special; Price’s voice was also prominently heard on the accompanying soundtrack album, Welcome to My Nightmare. (This was several years before Price did similar service on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”) Perhaps not coincidentally, the man who produced Welcome to My Nightmare, Bob Ezrin, also produced Now What?!, and he shares a writing credit on the song with the members of the band: Don Airey on keyboards, Ian Gillan on vocals, Roger Glover on bass, Steve Morse on guitar, and Ian Paice on drums.
Vincent_Price_CD_coverThere is a certain Cooper-esque tinge to the song’s tongue-in-cheek approach to old horror, but to be fair, Ezrin is not the only one with a past connection to Price. The actor narrated bassist Roger Glover’s concept album The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast, a live performance of which was staged and videotaped in 1975.
Whatever threads led to the creation of this song, by a group more well known for singing about a burning recording studio, the result is a delight that evokes the horror genre without descending into Halloween novelty territory (“The Monster Mash” – this definitely is not!). The music is a clever mix of thundering tones from the organ, a dramatic chord progression for synthesized choir, and the sort of heavy rock riffs on guitar and bass that are Deep Purple’s signature. Think Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera” with the underlying disco beat replaced by something that really rocks.
The lyrics are a bit confused, attributing to Price rolls and actions he never performed on screen; however, this becomes part of the song’s charm, capturing the nostalgic joy of sneaking out of bed, after mom and dad were asleep, to watch monsters movies on late-night TV – the various films mixing together in jumbled montage of childhood memory, until scenes from one film seemed to have been mentally edited into some other title.
Ian Gillan’s vocals are as strong as ever; Glover and Pace lay down the rhythm just like in the good old days – strong and steady, but with enough variation to keep it lively. Don Airey does an eerie job of evoking the keyboard work of the late John Lord (who died last year), and Steve Morse fills in perfectly for former guitarist Ritchie Blackmore; the crunch of the rhythm guitar, in particular, is a perfect match for Blackmore’s classic work, as is the synchronized guitar solo, which alternates between drawling expressiveness and virtuoso speed. In fact, if it weren’t for the credit sheet, a listener might be easily fooled into thinking this was the classic Deep Purple lineup at work.
As someone who co-wrote the Cinefantastique double issue devoted to Price’s career as a horror star, I was thrilled to see Deep Purple show an interest, and was even gladder to see the band felt strongly enough about the track to release it as the second single from the album, on June 7. (The first single, “Hell to Pay,” came out in March, a month before the full Now What?! album was released.) Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the music video.
Like the song, the video seems a bit confused about exactly what Price did and didn’t do as a monster. Most of the vid is in black-and-white, which is okay (Price did more than a few black-and-white thrillers), but the video is also presented as a silent film with subtitles. I guess we can forgive this to some extent (it allows the dialogue to be read instead of heard, which would have interfered with the singing), but it completely places the video in the wrong era.
Price’s career was solely in the sound era, and his greatest achievements in the horror genre were color films: HOUSE OF WAX, THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES. We get no clips from any of his films (not even the ones in the public domain); instead, we get a couple of teens wandering through a fun house, where someone wearing a tuxedo and a moustache impersonates Price – badly.
We get imagery pulled from classic 1930s horror films from Universal Pictures: creepy catacombs, a mummy, a knock-off of the Frankenstein monster, and the Price characters seems to be a vampire (he dissolves in sunlight).
At least that has something to do with the horror genre, if not with Price himself. Unfortunately, the video panders to the lowest common denominator, throwing in a pole-dancing vixen in a nun’s habit. I’m sure someone was having his private fantasy fulfilled the day that scene was shot, but couldn’t he have waited for a more appropriate venue?
What we don’t get, sadly, is much of anything to do with any of Price’s films, except for a brief bit at the end, with the band members frozen into mannequin figures, suggesting the victims from HOUSE OF WAX. Too bad they didn’t get Tim Burton to direct the whole thing in stop-motion, a la his wonderful short subject, “Vincent.” The visual potential t in combining this song with imagery from Price’s films is immense beyond imagining. It is all to easy to imagine some amateur editor – a true enthusiast for the actor’s work – putting together a far more satisfying tribute to Vincent Price.

FULL-SIZED VERSION BELOW

Cybersurfing: Was Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion more real than CGI?

Ray_Harryhausen_Clash
Ray Harryhausen animates the Kraken model for CLASH OF THE TITANS (1980).

In an article at Boingboing.net. author Ethan Gilsdorf muses on the recent passing of special effects artist Ray Harryhausen, an event which inevitably symbolizes the demise of old-fashioned analog special effects: miniatures, models, and most especially the Harryhausen style of stop-motion puppetry that brought imaginative creatures to life for decades. While acknowledging that digital effects offer their own brand of artistry, Gilsdorf believes these effects lack heft, gravity, and presence.
Gilsdorf’s point is a bit vague in terms of defining realism and its cinematic value. On the one hand, Harryhausen used puppets with texture – palpable objects that could be touched, lending a greater sense of reality – and this makes his stop-motion monsters superior to today’s artificially created computer-generated effects. On the other hand, today’s computer-generated creations are feeding audience appetite for ever greater realism and becoming so convincing that they will soon be indistinguishable from images that were actually photographed – and this makes them somehow inferior.
So, which is more real, and which is best? Though the answer to the former question is unclear, Gilsdorf’s enthusiasm for stop-motion comes through.
Like many people who address this topic, Gilsdorf has a view of modern effects that is tainted by (an acknowledged) nostalgia for older techniques. For him, the death of Harryhausen represents the death of “real” special effects and of the “real” in fantasy films. “Times have changed,” he insists. “And not necessarily for the better.”
Perhaps, but not necessarily for the worst, either. Today’s computer-generated effects may be overused, but they have solved numerous problems that plagued older movies; in particular, CGI has freed the camera from its lock-down, proscenium arch look that often identified effects in Harryhausen films. Today, filmmakers can create effects-laden sequences that fit seemlessly into the live-action, the camera style virtually identical.
The problem, I think, is that the over-abundance of effects leads to a certain carelessness – not in technical matters but in artistic ones. What “effect” – emotional, intellectual, whatever – is supposed to be accomplished by each special “effect” in the movie? When filmmakers were limited by time, money, and technology, they had to make sure that their special effects paid off with emotional effects. Even JURASSIC PARK, the film that spelled the death-knell for stop-motion (switching from that technique to computers during pre-production) was somewhat old-school in this regard, making fairly economical in its use of movie magic, so that each dinosaur shot really seemed to matter.
Harryhausen animates a snake woman.
Harryhausen animates a snake woman.

I, too, miss the demise of stop-motion as a special effects technique, along with models and miniatures; I believe there are stylistic reasons why those techniques are superior in some situations. However, the same holds true for computer-generated imagery, which gave us, for example, the Balrog in LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING  – one of the most convincing movie monsters ever depicted.
Fortunately, stop-motion lives on in films such as PARANORMAN and FRANKENWEENIE. Hopefully, it will continue to enchant film-goers for at least a few more years.

Cybersurfing: THR's Iconic Horror Movie Gallery includes non-movie image

95d51/huch/2771/01While perusing a brief news bit at The Hollywood Reporter (the announcement of a sequel to the profitable THE PURGE), I happened upon their Iconic Horror Movie Gallery, a post from 2010, featuring images from 16 films. The selection is dubious despite a handful of genuinely iconic titles: there is no ALIEN, for example; but PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 make the list, along with HOSTEL, SAW II, THE RING, and BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA. However, what really caught my eye was that, in a post specifically devoted to horror movies, the image of Bela Lugosi as Dracula was clearly from his appearance on stage.
Lugosi’s makeup – the white face, dark lips, and exaggerated brow – is different from his rather more normal appearance in the film. Not only that: although we cannot see the woman’s face clearly, she does not resemble either of the blond victims from the 1931 Universal picture.
Still, it’s a nice image.
Now, if THR could just find a way to get ALIEN, MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, and THE SHINING into their iconic list.

Cybersurfing: WGA List of Top 101 Shows declares Star Trek better than Next Generation

The Starship Enterprise from the HD DVD release of the original STAR TREK.Kevin Drum of Mother Jones points us to an interesting tidbit in the Writers Guild of America’s list of the 101 best-written television shows of all time:

  • 33: Star Trek
  • 79: Star Trek: The Next Generation

Drum takes this to be the nail in the coffin of any argument to the effect that STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION was better written than the original STAR TREK series, but I always find these lists somewhat dubious because of the difficulty of setting a standard for comparison. For example:

  • Are we talking about the sheer number of good episodes? That would favor longer-running shows like ST:TNG
  • Are we talking about average of quality, factoring the best and the worst? By that standard, an overall mediocre show might rank as highly as a great show that was marred by some bad episodes. This is especially important in the case of STAR TREK, because almost everyone agrees that its third and final season was a misfire. By this standard, I think STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION would edge out its predecessor: Episodes like “The Royale” were bad but not as bad as “Spock’s Brain.”
  • Are we just considering which show reached the highest level of achievement, even if in only a few episodes? By this standard, I think STAR TREK would handily win; there were a dozen or so great episodes that outdid anything STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION ever mentioned.

Regardless of this concern, Drum points out that STAR TREK gave the world more memorable catch-phrases, such as “Live long and prosper” and “I’m a doctor, not a brick-layer.” ST:TNG has nothing comparable.
Other horror, fantasy, and science fiction shows to make the list:

  • 3: THE TWILIGHT ZONE
  • 26: THE X-FILES
  • 27: LOST
  • 35: TWIN PEAKS
  • 38: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2005)
  • 49: BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
  • 63: SOUTH PARK
  • 66: DEXTER
  • 90: THE PRISONER
  • 91: THE MUPPET SHOW

Of course, any list that omits THE OUTER LIMITS (the original 1960s version) should be regarded as highly suspect. Likewise, placing LOST and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE above THE PRISONER is indefensible. But at least the voters were smart enough to put THE TWILIGHT ZONE near the top.

'Captain America' Tidbits and Rumors

There’s littlte bits of information and a few rumors floating around the internet regarding CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER.
First off, ComicBookMovie, in a brief Q&A with director Joe Johnstion, learned there will in fact be some “Easter Eggs” continuty bits for comic book fans to find in the films.

“There are links between all the Marvel films, mostly ones that only the fans will pick up on. We have several subtle references to certain elements in THOR, but since CAPTAIN AMERICA is a period picture taking place in the 40’s, there are fewer opportunities for contemporary links to the rest of the Marvel universe. We can, however, create events in our story that will be paid off in AVENGERS and other Marvel pictures.”

union_jack_Invaders_8Heading into Rumorville, IMDB’s CAPTAIN AMERICA entry indicates that UK actor JJ Feild (THE RUBY IN THE SMOKE) has been cast as Montgomery Falsworth, who is Captain Americ’s British countepart, Union Jack, a member of the costumed fighters known as The Invaders. If true, there has been no offical announcement.
ComicBookMovie also passes on the rumor that Amy Smart ( THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT) has been cast  Golden Girl (Betsy Ross), based largely on the fact that she was apparently seen at a club in London with star Chris Evans.
Betsy (Elizabeth) Ross was an Army Intelligence agent in the early CaptaincaptAmerica68-goldengirl America comics, later donning the costume of Golden Girl, and eventually replacing Bucky as Cap’s sidekick for a while.  In a ‘retcon’ Marvel later changed it so that she assisted one of the Captain America replacements, Jeff Mace (the former superhero, The Patriot).
In the modern comics, there have been two Golden Girls, one of Japanese-American background. Gwenny Lou Sabuki, teenage daughter of a scientist, had short-lived super powers.
Again, this is just a rumor, at present.

Superman, Other Costumed Characters Fight City Hall

Via YouTube:

“Superman, Darth Vader and Power Ranger unite to fight Los Angeles Police and Hollywood City Hall at this secret, “town hall style” meeting. Costumed characters were recently arrested and banned by police from working Hollywood Blvd.
This story began with Superman posting on craigslist for “Town Hall of In-Justice.” (FULL EPISODE coming in Season 2 of Craigslist TV – September 9th!)”

Great Scott! Superman impersonator
Christopher Dennis really does look a lot like the late Christopher Reeve.
Slow news day? Yeah, so far…

At The Mountains of Madness -Script Leak

AT MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS_ASA very disturbing report from the Temple of Ghoul blog indicates that a leaked draft of the script to Guillermo del Toro’s planned film version of H. P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness  has turned the slow-building novel of cosmic horror and humbling revelation of man’s place in the universe into a violent, action-adventure monster fest.
Dejan Ognjanović wrote “…It feels like a HELLBOY movie without Hellboy, with a light dose of Carpenter’s THE THING.”
The THING comparsion is to be expected, as many readers (myself included) have felt that John W. Campbell’s Who Goes There (the basis of THE THING), was inspired by Lovecraft’s tale, as his example of how to tell that kind of story properly. 
At The Mountains of Madness’s 1936 serialization was very controversial among science fiction fans of the period, and Campbell — who would later become editor of ASTOUNDNG STORIES and the fantasy magazine UNKNOWN— would specifically prohibit stories in Lovecraft’s style.
Apparently, the script for AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS updates the era of the story of to the 1930’s, with a frame taking place in 1939.   One of the survivors of the first 1930 expedition tries to dissuade the leader of a new Antarctic expedition from returning to the site, and we flashback to the meat of the tale. This does in fact mirror the structure of the original.  
However. in this script the discovery of the Elder Things, which we learn were the rulers of Earth in the primeval past is not the focus. Instead, their servants, the protoplasmic shoggoths, take center stage. They fill the place of the shape-shifting, self replicating alien of John W. Campbell’s story. Rampaging monsters and bloody mayhem escalate the horror quotient, building to a climax that reportedly includes the appearance of a Cthulhu-like minor Mythos diety (and identified as Cthulhu itself in the draft Ognjanović  read).
Guillermo del Toro’s description that his version of the film needed to be R-rated was a warning sign, as there’s really nothing in the Lovecraft original that would be likely to garner more than a PG-13.
Lovecraft1934This script might make an interesting sci-fi/horror thriller, but it’s sure not anything  old HPL would have approved. Why adapt a classic of the genre if you have no intention of following the spirit of the story? Why not just make your own film “inspired” by the works of H.P. Lovecraft?
Perhaps the fact that there’s a “prequel’ to THE THING already in the pipeline might cause the filmmakers (including James Cameron as a producer) to give more thought to the emphasis and nature of the film. Who needs two shape-shifting alien menaces in a frozen setting competing with each other? It’s likely to give the public the feeling that AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS is the copy, rather than the original.

The Avengers "Premake": What If?

What if… the Avengers movie was created years before the actual comic book?
That the question whoiseyevan’s (Ivan Guerrero) asks in his neat “Premake” mash-up on youTube.
Take a look, and see if you can spot all the sources and inspriations for the this imaginative fake trailer.
Too many to follow? Not familiar with old movie serials, silent films, or comic book history? Check out his “frame by frame” guide HERE
He’s also done Premakes such as the 1951 RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK with Charlton Heston as Indiana Jones, and the 1954 version of GHOSTBUSTERS.