Tuesday, October 13, 2015

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 13

The Date: October 13

The Movie: Stephen King’s It (1990)

What Is It?: This is hardly the ideal adaptation of Stephen King’s greatest novel, but Tim Curry is brilliant as an ancient evil that takes the shape of the things his victims fear most. I also like the kids who overcome those fears to hunt the monster in the sewers of Derry, Maine. The adults have more of a "Circus of the Stars" vibe going on, and the monster spider the climaxes the movie takes King's weird finale too literally.

Why Today?: Today is Face Your Fears Day.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Review: 'Beyond Mars'

Fifties sci-fi tends to launch images of moon monsters, colonies on Venus, and UFOs that look like dinner plates— images that are quaint, kitschy, clueless, and sincere. Irony, parody, and self-conscious wit seem to be more modern products, and yet, there was Beyond Mars. Written by pulp novelist Jack Williamson and illustrated by Harvey Comics' Lee Elias, Beyond Mars ran as a Sunday strip in the New York Sunday News from 1952 to 1955. Reading it today completely collected in a new book by IDW publishing, Williamson and Elias's strip seems like a smart goof on fifties sci-fi created by a pair of later-twentieth century cutups.

In the year 2191, a citizen of the Brooklyn portion of a smashed Earth named Mike Flint tools around space with Tham Thmith, his lisping metallic snake buddy from Venus, helping a succession of pretty women out of jams. The fifties elements—the rockets, noir-ish villains, femme fatales, atomic science—are so fifties-ish that they seem as though they had to be created by someone looking back on the decade with a winking eye. The weird wit is so out there that it seems to confirm that incorrect notion. Mike and Tham tussle with a giant lobster, join forces with a diapered boy who rides a meteor, and blast through space in the Empire State Building as if it were a rocket. Beyond Mars is the perfect collision of fifties nostalgia and humor that feels unmistakably contemporary. Too dreamy.

IDW's collection is the company's standard stylish package: hardcover, ribbon bookmark, and most important of all, analog coloring. Bruce Canwell's sixteen-page introduction is one of the most informative addendums to an IDW title I've read, and it is illustrated with bonus uncolored Elias splash pages from his Harvey comics and some surprisingly tasteful covers of Williamson's pulps (well, The Green Girl is not particularly tasteful). This is a lovely presentation of a strip that demands rediscovery.

Get Beyond Mars on Amazon.com here:

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 12

The Date: October 12

The Movie: Witchcraft (1964)

What Is It?: Scary b-movie with Lon Chaney, Jr., as the righteously outraged descendent of a righteously vengeful witch murdered by sniveling land developers in the 17th century. Yvette Rees is unforgettable as witch Vanessa Whitlock.

Why Today?: On this day in 1692, the Salem Witch Trials end.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 11

The Date: October 11

The Movie: Poltergeist (1982)

What Is It?: Cute little girl gets sucked into haunted TV. Pretty soon her whole family is getting smacked around by trees, swimming pools, and toy clowns. A strange and disturbing union of Tobe Hooper horror and Steven Spielberg family fantasy. However, the grossest scene in the movie --a dude ripping off his own face--seems like Spielberg's (see his similar one that climaxes Raiders of the Lost Ark).

Why Today?: On this day in 1950, The FCC licenses the first color television broadcast system.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 10

The Date: October 10

The Movie: Return of the Living Dead (1985)

What Is It?: This semi-official Night of the Living Dead sequel (John Russo, who co-wrote Night with George Romero, wrote this one too) is the first truly great zombie comedy. The punk soundtrack and E.C. comics aesthetic are divine.

Why Today?: Today is World Zombie Day.

Friday, October 9, 2015

We Need Another Barbara Steele!

Perhaps no other genre generated more iconic actors than horror, and it wasted no time dumping them in cinemas. Even before the advent of sound, there was Lon Chaney and Conrad Viedt. As soon as we could hear our monsters groan and growl, we had Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Dwight Frye, Claude Rains, and Peter Lorre. Then came Chaney, Jr., John Carradine, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, etc.

The key word here, of course, is actors. Actresses were not absent from horror movies. Those monsters needed someone screaming and helpless to carry off, after all, so we had Mae Clark, Helen Chandler, Fay Wray, Valerie Hobson, Evelyn Ankers, and Hazel Court to perform such tasks. Their thankless roles as distressed damsels are summed up in the term “scream queen” coined decades after the first queen was heard to scream on screen. But what about the women who made us scream? They were few in the early days of horror cinema, and though the Bride of Frankenstein would become an iconic figure only rivaled by the big three guys—Dracula, the Wolf Man, and the Frankenstein Monster—the character only had four minutes of screen time and Elsa Lanchester would not follow up on her horror stardom as Bela, Lon, and Boris did. Universal followed its first great sound scare-fest with Dracula’s Daughter, though the film is not one of the best-remembered horrors of its day, and the vampiric Gloria Holden would not capitalize on it any more than Lanchester did on Bride.
The Bride: iconic but too fleeting.

It's official: "The X-Files" Coming to Blu-Ray on December 8

Well, considering it has been available to pre-order on Amazon.ca for over a week, this isn't that big of surprise, but there is now an official press release announcing the debut of "The X-Files" on blu-ray. And before even getting to the specs, you should know that all nine seasons are available for a very reasonable $150 on Fox Connect.com. Now here's the photo and specs:

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