Varsity Blood Finger Puppet Theater – Video

If it was up to me, more previz– those dry-runs filmmakers create of sequences using story board drawings — would actually be done using finger puppets. It’s quick, it’s cheap, and you get to wiggle your digits in front of the camera, which has to be fun. For now, the makers of the upcoming VARSITY BLOOD are at the vanguard, showing how this humble medium can make you laugh, cry, and bleed.
What is that, raspberry jam?

Craig Ferguson sings Doctor Who

DOCTOR WHO: THE DAY OF THE DOCTOR – the 50th anniversary telefilm, which aired on BBC this weekend – will screen in theatres across the U.S. tonight, courtesy of Fathom productions (click here for a list of venues). What better way to celebrate this event than with Craig Ferguson of THE LATE SHOW singing a song about the time-travelling Gallifreyan? (Stick around till the end for a cameo by the Doctor himself.)

Dracula Cries – Japanese Ending of Horror of Dracula

Dracula Cris from Horror of DraculaIt was only yesterday that I was waxing enthusiastic about the restored conclusion of HORROR OF DRACULA, available on a Region 2 Blu-ray disc that incorporates previously missing footage rediscovered on an old Japanese print in an archival vault in Tokyo. Now, I am starting to have reservations, thanks to a YouTube post showing the last reel of the film as it appears in the Japanese print – revealing that the Blu-ray restoration is not complete. One or two of the effects shots seems slightly longer, but that is not the tragic omission. That would be the alternate take of Christopher Lee (as the Count) with tears of defeat welling in his eyes as Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) forces him inexorably into the sunlight that will disintegrate him.
Why was this shot omitted? I cannot say. It was certainly well known that the restoration would not use the complete reels from the Japanese print, which was heavily damaged (as you can see from the video). Instead, the restoration used a previously available print and inserted only a few seconds of missing footage from the Japanese version, the image of which had to be carefully tweaked. This led to timing issues: the sequence had to remain the exact same length so that the picture would stay in synch with the musical cue on the soundtrack.
Still, this hardly explains the omission. The sequence of cuts remains the same; there is a reaction shot of Lee in the place where the missing footage could have been inserted as a replacement. Something similar happened with Cushing: one of his reaction shots from the censored version (which, strangely, was a repeat of a shot seen a few seconds before) was replaced with a restored reaction shot that better displayed Van Helsing’s revulsion at the sight of Dracula’s destruction. Why a similar service was not performed to restore Lee’s performance is a mystery.
And a sad one, too. Lee has always been vocal about trying to retain a faithful concept of the character as written by Bram Stoker in his 1897 novel, which ends with Dracula displaying an expression of peace on his face just before his body dissolves into dust. The condensed story-telling of HORROR OF DRACULA allows little leeway for subtle characterization, but in this one shot we see Lee inject a startling moment of humanity into the Count. The grizzly special effects lose their “ain’t-it-cool” visual abstraction as Lee turns the scene into a credible depiction of a sentient being’s horrifying death.
And it hurts! Not just Dracula – it hurts the viewer as well. For a brief moment, Lee (an actor too often dismissed one-dimensional) engenders a little sympathy for the devil.
Update: The YouTube video referenced in this article appears to have been deleted, presumably for copyright reasons.

Horror of Dracula – the Restored Ending


At last, fright fans – here it: the restored ending of HORROR OF DRACULA! The sequence was eviscerated by the British film censor back in 1958, when the film came out, but the recent Region 2 Blu-ray disc has finally restored the missing footage. No word yet on when a Region 1 Blu-ray will come out in America (hey, Warner Brothers – get on the ball!), but you can see the scene courtesy of this YouTube post.
The footage looks a bit blue-ish (a complaint among some who have seen the disc) and also a bit dark (which I assume is a matter of YouTube compression and/or whatever process was used to rip the footage from the Blu-ray disc). I’m sure the photography will look much better when (if?) WB gets around to release a disc for U.S. consumption.
Tim Lucas discusses the Region 2 Blu-ray disc in the CFQ Laserblast podcast here. You can read about the history of the censored footage and its rediscovery here. And check out a sequence of frame grabs here.

Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself: I am … Dracula

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Movie monsters know that more than anybody. Much of the genre is built upon the suspenseful build-up to the first full revelation of exactly what it is that we the viewers have paid to see and shiver over. Often, that revelation takes the form of a shock-cut and a scream – a shark with a mouthful of teeth lurching from beneath the waters, a masked killer with a knife lurching out of the shadows – but there are other, more subtle introductions as well, times when the monster ingratiates himself into our presence and even our good graces, maintaining the outward forms of civility, much as the satanic narrator of the Rolling Stones “Sympathy for the Devil,” who sings:

Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a mans soul and faith
[…]
So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I’ll lay your soul to waste

The shock-form of introduction has its benefits (jump-scares are one of the reasons we go to horror movies), but the more subtle introduction has its place as well, allowing the villain to get into our head and under our skin. Consider, for example, the courtly self-introduction made by the Count in DRACULA (1931).
Dracula1931There have been quite a few memorable introductions in the history of horror movies, none more so than this marvelous entrance by Bela Lugosi in his most famous role, as the regal Transylvanian vampire. The early sound film has a slightly static quality that (perhaps inadvertently) captures the tempo of an ageless immortal who has learned to move at his own pace over the centuries of his undead existence – a facet of his personality that shines like a dark gem in the moonlight as he advances down the stairs, past cobwebs and spiders, and greets his guest Renfield (Dwight Frye) with three simple words, enunciating each individual syllable and pausing dramatically before delivering up his name:

I am … Dra-cu-la.”

You can see the line reading in the embedded video (a clever, fan-made montage) or see the intact sequence by clicking here (embedding disabled, unfortunately). I think you will agree that there is something eerie and unnerving about the way that Dracula refuses to fall into a natural conversational rhythm with Renfield, while simultaneously exuding such formal charm that Renfield is forced to act as if the situation were normal. It is the first hint of the vampire’s ability to dominate mere mortals, even without a display of overt supernatural power – and also the first sign of the vampire seductive nature, presenting an attractive persona that hides the evil nature lurking beneath the skin.
There have been many other great movie monster introductions. I won’t say that none have surpassed Lugosi’s opening salvo, but as someone who saw the film on television at an impressionable age, this is the scene that set the standard by which all others must be judged.
Let’s consider this the first salvo in an on-going, on-again off-again series of memorable opening remarks from movie madmen and monsters. Shall we call it … Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself: Movie Monsters Making a First Impression.
[serialposts]

Warm Bodies: First 4 Minutes & Other Clips

WARM BODIES – the zombie-romance-comedy – opens on February 1, but you do not have to wait until then to see the first four minutes of the film; just click on the embedded video, and watch it now! After that, check out the video playlist of other clips from the film: “Lab Attack,” “What Are You?,” “R and Julie on the Tarmac,” and “M saves R and Julie.” Also included is the theatrical trailer; interview clips will be added soon.
In case you are wondering what the initials “M” and “R” are about: the story features a zombie who cannot remember his name but seems to recall that his first initial was “R.” His best friend is “M.” The plot kicks into gear when R meets Julia, and his undead heart starts to flutter with something like…love.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters – Video Interviews & Clips

Check out video clips, interviews, and trailers from HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS, the R-rated action-oriented updating of the Grimm Fairy tale, which Paramount Pictures opens on January 25, 2013. Writer-director Tommy Wirkola (DEAD SNOW) explains the genesis and production of the film, which he conceived years ago.  Gemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner discuss playing adult-aged versions of the familiar characters – no longer lost little children but formidable heroes who make a living destroying witches. Famke Janssen checks in with a few words about her role as their nemesis, Muriel.
Also included are some clips from the film. You can few all the videos in the embedded player, or find them on Cinefantastique’s YouTube Channel.