New Book Explores the Strange Ways Classic Movie Stars Celebrated Holidays

DebbieAs a classic film-loving kid, I’d often while away my weekends in the open stacks of my local library, thumbing through over-sized picture books celebrating the stars of black-and-white Hollywood.

This probably explains a lot about my later life, like why I wore 1940s-style sweater vests every day in high school and didn’t have a date until after I graduated. But my teenaged angst notwithstanding, those Saturdays spent with the old movie stars of Dewey Decimal number 791.43 are something I would never trade. In the era before Google could show you everything ever published on every topic, the basement of the Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library was my search engine. And those musty books were my portal to the past.

Fast-forward thirty years, and I’m still a sucker for a book filled with gorgeous pictures of classic film stars. And they don’t come gorgeous-er than Hollywood Celebrates the Holidays, a collection of the “sometimes stunning, sometimes kitschy seasonal holiday art” churned out by studio publicity departments since the movie business began.

JaneFocusing on the the half century commonly thought of as the Studio Era (1920-70), this glossy, hardcover volume includes more than 200 images, most collected over a lifetime of fandom by co-authors Mary Mallory and Karie Bible (a Halloween baby, herself). Many photos are accompanied by original, studio-written verso copy from the back of the photograph, and all include explanatory captions offering anecdotes and background information that often clears up misconceptions regarding provenance. (For instance, I’ve frequently seen Shirley Temple identified as the subject of one of the New Year’s pictures in the book when, in fact, she was born a year after it was taken.)

Each chapter focuses on a particular holiday, from New Year’s Eve to Christmas, with added sections on classic television and Hollywood’s contribution to the World War II effort. In one wartime photo, adorable Ann Miller reminds us to seal our Valentine’s v-mails with a heart-shaped kiss and to post them by January 15 (to arrive overseas in time). And, in case you were wondering, Ann is soon to be seen in the new service comedy HEY ROOKIE, coming in April, 1944 from Columbia Pictures!

CharlieAnd that’s the fascinating subtext of Hollywood Celebrates the Holidays: almost all of these pictures, as iconic as they may seem today, began life as simple sales tools. Each was created to market a star, studio or movie, while simultaneously filling space in newspapers, magazines and fan publications. But reviewed in retrospect, these powerful images clearly contributed to the reality of today, where our calendar has become a spiderwork of heavily marketed holidays.

We can’t blame the stars for this, of course; they were just doing their jobs, as were the photographers, art directors and costumers, but the impact they achieve with these pictures is staggering. Consumed in one sitting, the collected images in Hollywood Celebrates the Holidays wield a hypnotic, almost propagandistic power. From a shotgun-wielding Joan Crawford coming down a 1920s chimney, to Edgar Bergen’s wooden son Charlie McCarthy lighting fireworks in the 1930s, to Peter Lorre swinging a bat at “Santa” Sydney Greenstreet’s head in the 1940s, these images provide a visual record of both the evolution of social mores and the Hollywood P.R. machine over five decades.

Longtime film buffs may have seen some of these images on websites like Tumblr or Pinterest, but no computer screen could make me feel as happy as this book did. Now to re-open that time portal, so I can visit Yvonne De Carlo the day she shot the picture on page 39.

Thanks to Schiffer Publishing for providing a review copy. Co-authors Mary Mallory and Karie Bible are answering questions at the Silver Screen Oasis this weekend. Visit the website here

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Girl, Reconstructed: Clara Bow in GET YOUR MAN (1927)

GET YOUR MAN“Everything you’re going to see today has never been screened before,” film historian David Stenn said on Sunday at the Museum of Modern Art.

These are words most film fans only dream of hearing. But when they’re spoken by the biographer of Silent Era superstar Clara Bow, and the program he’s introducing includes a Bow film largely unseen for 88 years, well, it just doesn’t get any better.

And Sunday’s rarities, part of To Save and Project: MoMA’s 13th International Festival of Film Preservation, did not disappoint. The program included: the world premiere reconstruction of GET YOUR MAN (1927), directed by Dorothy Arzner and starring Bow and Charles “Buddy” Rogers; a “suppressed” MGM short produced for a notorious, in-house sales convention; and an excerpt from a 1948 newsreel featuring Ingrid Bergman, Rita Hayworth, and Hedy Lamarr performing at a U.N. benefit in France.

For Stenn, the program brought together topics he’s been covering for more than two decades. As Dave Kehr, MoMA’s adjunct film curator, said in his introduction, these three films provided a fascinating look at some “dark corners and bright corners” of Hollywood history.

girl27First up was a short film produced by MGM for attendees at a 1937 sales convention and largely unseen since, due to rape accusations by an underage actress hired to entertain visiting conventioneers. Nearly seventy years after Patricia Douglas (unsuccessfully) filed the first federal civil suit for rape in American history, Stenn brought her story to light, first in a 2003 Vanity Fair article, then in his 2007 Sundance Film Festival documentary GIRL 27.

In the raucous, 16-minute, industrial-style short, boozy salesmen travel across country in MGM’s private train car (with comely female hostesses along for the ride), are welcomed as heroes with a tickertape parade on the studio lot, and join stars like Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, and Charles Boyer for lunch. Sadly, a closing night bacchanal on the backlot of neighboring Hal Roach Studios ended in violence for Douglas, who fought unsuccessfully for justice.

“MGM bought off everybody and she went into hiding and didn’t emerge again for 66 years,” Stenn said. “It’s an opportunity to see a studio at work in its darkest and most malevolent way.”

rita-hayworth-rita-hayworth-8642092-983-1280Next on the program was a previously unseen segment shot for a 1948 Hearst newsreel, featuring Rita Hayworth, Ingrid Bergman, and Hedy Lamarr — three women who, according to Stenn, were about to bring on the end of Hollywood’s “stranglehold over the morality and conduct of the people that worked there.”

Within a year of the charity event captured by newsreel photographers, Hayworth fled Columbia Pictures “to Hollywood’s horror” to marry Muslim Prince Aly Khan. Seven months later they had a child, Princes Yasmin Aga Khan. Also in 1949, Bergman became pregnant with the child of director Roberto Rossellini, despite the fact that both were still married to other people. That earned the Oscar-winning actress a rebuke on the floor of the U.S. Senate and a very public divorce scandal. And legendary beauty Hedy Lamarr turned 35, which Stenn said, was “unconscionable” in Hollywood at the time. (Some things never change.)

“Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Bergman had big comebacks,” Stenn added, but “studios could no longer control their stars the way they once had.”

ClaraThe headliner of Sunday’s program was the 35mm Library of Congress restoration of GET YOUR MAN, a typically charming Bow vehicle, and the third Paramount feature for trailblazing director Arzner. Four of the film’s six “disintegrating” reels were rescued by LOC and preserved decades ago, but the twenty or so missing minutes lost to nitrate decomposition have kept it out of circulation ever since.

“The dilemma with film preservation has always been, ‘What do you do with an incomplete film?’” Stenn said. “And the answer has been, pretty much, nothing.”

With Stenn’s assistance – and funds he helped raise – the Library of Congress has reconstructed the film, combining the rescued reels with artfully rendered “key” still photographs and inter-titles from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to fill in the narrative gaps. MoMA was involved in the process as well, contributing three sequences of missing footage acquired from a private collector. The result is a 57-minute print, complete and viewable for the first time in generations. And to make matters even more historic, Sunday’s premiere screening was accompanied on piano by Donald Sosin, using an original music cue sheet and vintage-style sound effects.

The reconstructed GET YOUR MAN flows remarkably well, far better than other films I’ve seen with photos replacing lost footage (like the restoration of George Cukor’s A STAR IS BORN). And Bow’s unique charisma is on full display in this predictable, yet utterly charming programmer.

bow-xBow is Nancy Worthington, a liberated (of course) American in Paris who meets cute with French nobleman Robert Albin (Rogers) while on vacation by herself. (Quel scandale!) Robert and Nancy fall hard for each other, but an arranged, politically motivated marriage stands in their way. Faster than you can say “moxie,” Nancy scams her way onto the family estate and into a Preston Sturges-style happy ending.

GET YOUR MAN plays like an alternate reality version of MGM’s THE STUDENT PRINCE IN OLD HEIDELBERG – released just weeks later – with Bow as the anti-Norma Shearer. Bow’s character is determined to succeed in her quest, and the audience can’t help but root for her and, according to Stenn, be inspired by her.

“People say the Sexual Revolution was in the 1960s, but really it was in the 1920s and (Bow) was the foremost revolutionary of all,” Stenn said. “GET YOUR MAN was a complete flip of courtship rituals that had no precedent.”

Also without precedent was the creative force behind the camera, 29-year-old Dorothy Arzner, the only woman directing at the major studios at that time. Stenn said that the two got along well, despite Arzner’s tight rein on Bow’s tendency toward “fun” with members of the opposite sex. The end result is a “more restrained,” historically significant Clara Bow film that now is available for new and old fans to enjoy for the first time in generations.

“In the old days, film archives were a little bit like Bosnia and Herzegovina – there wasn’t a lot of cooperation,” Stenn said. “GET YOUR MAN serves as a paradigm for what can happen in the future, so we can see films that don’t survive in their entirety. I’m hopeful that that indeed will happen.”

To Save and Project: MoMA’s 13th International Festival of Film Preservation continues through November 25. For a complete listing of all films to be screened, click here. The GET YOUR MAN program repeats on Thursday, November 19 at 4 p.m. accompanied by Ben Model (without Stenn’s introduction).

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Classic Film Icons Tarnish in TRUMBO (2015)

TrumboJohn Wayne rarely played the bad guy in his nearly half-century film career, but he finally gets the chance in TRUMBO, Jay Roach’s uneven biopic of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.

Wayne (David James Elliott) and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) are presented as the primary antagonists in this fascinating, yet oddly unmoving, examination of Hollywood’s post-World War II Red Scare. It’s a bold – and perhaps not entirely historically accurate – choice in a film that pulls few punches, particularly when it comes to icons.

Other classic film legends who catch narrative shrapnel: MGM co-founder Louis B. Mayer (Richard Portnow), who gives in to Hopper’s red-baiting and retaliatory threats; Universal head of production Edward Muhl (Mark Harelick), who opposes Kirk Douglas’ hiring of Trumbo to pen SPARTACUS (1960) after a failed effort by novelist Howard Fast; director Sam Wood (John Getz), who nearly decks Trumbo after a poolside filibuster; and “Buddy Ross” (Roger Bart), a craven composite of producers Dory Schary and Walter Wanger. Even Kirk Douglas (Dean O’Gorman) and director Otto Preminger (Christian Berkel) are depicted as less-than-heroic in their competitive, near-simultaneous decisions to give screen credit to Trumbo (as writer of STARTACUS and EXODUS, respectively) after more than a decade in the pseudonymous shadows.

Faring worst of all is Edward G. Robinson (Michael Stulbarg), who sells out the leftie screenwriters whose leanings he once loyally supported. While Wayne is depicted as a bullying hypocrite for questioning the patriotism of “subversives” while he himself avoided military service, Robinson is branded as weak and cowardly. His verbal takedown by Trumbo is the closest the film has to a true moment of catharsis, and our final view of him – old and alone at a 1970 ceremony honoring the writer – clearly communicates how Roach and screenwriter John McNamara want us to feel about him. (McNamara’s screenplay is adapted from Bruce Cook’s biography of the same name.)

helenI should mention that none of the actors playing these icons are particularly up to the task, save for Mirren, who’s likely to score an Oscar nominee for her go-for-broke portrayal of the vile, shrewish Hopper. I was genuinely shocked at how bland Stulbarg and Elliott are as Robinson and Wayne, two of the most charismatic performers from the Studio Era. Only O’Gorman comes close to capturing the preening charm of Douglas. And make sure to watch for the excerpt from SPARTACUS in which O’Gorman is digitally inserted in the action. It’s brilliantly done.

Faring the best of the historical portrayals is John Goodman as schlock producer Frank King of the notorious King Brothers, who kept Trumbo and his blacklisted buddies employed as part of an ingenious screenwriting front that rendered the blacklist impotent. Chomping on a cigar and swinging baseball bats at government lackies, Goodman’s King may be the most uncomplicated and sympathetic character in the film, save for Diane Lane who makes the most of her heroic spouse role. Elle Fanning is also memorable as the daughter who carries on Trumbo’s legacy of political advocacy, and Louis C.K. is fine as a composite, blacklisted screenwriter character, though he pales next to the brilliance of Bryan Cranston and has too much screen time.

I’ve never seen Breaking Bad, so Cranston is somewhat of a revelation to me. And what a revelation he is. From the toast of Hollywood to the indignities of a jail cell, his Trumbo is a complex, mercurial, often unlikeable hero. He’s as much of a self-serving hypocrite as every other Hollywood player portrayed in the film, and he knows it. Cranston in on screen for most of the movie, and there’s not a single false note in his performance.

TRUMBO is not a great film; it sometimes has the discount patina of a made-for-cable period drama. But Cranston, Mirren, Lane, Fanning, and Goodman are close to perfection. If you’re fascinated by both the faults and the triumphs of the classic film era, this is a must see.

TRUMBO is in theaters nationwide. To find out where it’s playing in your area, click here

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Explaining Halloween Folklore w/ Classic Film Cameos

markofthevampirelunaAs a lifelong classic film fan, I often find myself scanning contemporary media for old movie influences. And at no time of the year is that more fun than Halloween, when the monsters I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid make cameo appearances in fun and unexpected places.

One great example is 31 Days of Halloween, a spooky new ebook described as “an illustrated, light-hearted look at Halloween customs and folklore.” By the sixth of the 31 days – each day gets a two-page spread with text and art – it’s already abundantly clear that author/illustrator E.J. Woods grew up on the same creepy classics I did.

LondonTo support his examination of the Vampires (Oct 6) and their complex, often inconsistent mythology, Woods offers illustrations of Max Schreck from F.W. Murnau’s NOSFERATU (1922) and Lon Chaney from Tod Browning’s LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT (1926). A quote from notorious witch-killer Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) leads an explanation of Scarecrows (Oct 11). Art of Bill Hinzman from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) adorns a spread about Zombies (Oct 15). Carroll Borland from Browning’s MARK OF THE VAMPIRE (1935) haunts the section on White Ladies (Oct 25), which are “ghosts of women who have been wronged and seek redress.” (I think I’ve dated a few of them.)

wickerBut perhaps my favorite cameo is the burning Wicker Man from Robin Hardy’s 1973 film of the same name, which illustrates the discussion of Bonfires (Oct 24). Sadly, Edward Woodward as Sergeant Howie is nowhere to be found, perhaps because he’s already been, you know, bonfired.

Along the way you’ll also find Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolf-Man and the Mummy along with detailed explanations on the history of Halloween, why we carve pumpkins and the best types of wood to use in your vampire stakes.

With colorful art and witty explanations that take the scary stuff one hundred percent seriously, 31 Days of Halloween is perfect for younger readers in their Trick-or-Treating prime. But it’s also plenty of fun if you’re an Old Movie Weirdo who’s still young at heart.

“31 Days of Halloween” by E.J. Woods is available as an eBook from Blurb for $7.99. You can preview of the first 20 pages here

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Kick off Halloween Weekend w/ 18-hour TCM Party

belaborisWhen I was in fifth grade I invited five friends over for a slumber party.

“It’ll be great!” I promised. “We’ll stay up all night watching movies!”

I neglected to mention that all of the movies we’d be watching were from the 1930s and starred Groucho, Harpo, Chico (and sometimes Zeppo) Marx. I figured I’d surprise them.

Despite my cheerleading (“here comes a funny part!”) and unlimited, air-popped popcorn (with real butter!) my friends were fast asleep before the first film even ended. So I continued the marathon alone, while the unconscious bodies of my friends littered the living room floor.

A lot has changed since 1980, but one thing has not: it’s hard out there for an Old Movie Weirdo. That’s why I appreciate the communities that have formed on social media, where classic film fans from around the country (and the world) come together on a daily basis to geek out over films most Normals have often never even heard of.

Nowhere is this shared experience more active than on Twitter, where the #TCMParty live tweeting community has been uniting fans – and creating new ones – every day since September of 2011. Much of the credit for this goes to Paula Guthat, a communications professional who co-founded the hashtag, tirelessly promoted it (with assistance from partners in crime Trevor Jost and Joel Williams), and built it into an open, respectful community where fans of all ages and experience levels share opinions, trivia and a healthy dose of snark, 24 hours per day.

Now, after four years, #TCMParty regulars have an opportunity to say thanks for those efforts – and get some classic film swag in return.

postIn 2013, Paula and her husband Tim founded Cinema Detroit, the city’s only truly independent movie house. After two years they’ve moved to a larger, more accessible location, but they’ve lost access to the professional grade digital projection gear they leased in their original space. To finance the acquisition of this vital equipment, Paula and Tim launched a crowdfunding campaign on October 4. (I first wrote about the campaign here.) And on Friday they’re kicking off a live, in-person TCM Party to help them reach their fundraising goal.

Beginning at 8:15 a.m. (ET), Cinema Detroit will simulcast a daylong marathon of classic horror films airing on Turner Classic Movies to their big screen. The festivities kick off with Christopher Lee as THE MUMMY (1959) from Hammer Films and conclude at 1:30 a.m. after Jacques Tourner’s stylish creepfest THE LEOPARD MAN (1943) slinks off into the moonlight. All told there will be 11 films, ranging in release date from 1942 until 1972.

mummy_1959_poster_05If you live in Detroit, admission for all films is FREE. If you don’t, you can join the fun on social media as Paula and Tim live tweet for nearly 18 hours and offer updates on Facebook, Instagram and Periscope.

And if you need further inspiration for your generosity, TCM and the Warner Archive Collection have contributed tons of swag as thank you gifts. A $30 donation will get you a DVD from WAC’s collection of more than 2,000 remastered classic films. (Paula will be unboxing the as-yet-unannounced WAC DVDs live on Periscope first thing in the morning.) Premiums at other levels include posters, t-shirts, TCM coffee mugs and copies of the new, TCM-branded edition of Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide

Plus you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing that you’re helping to keep the experience of movie going alive for fellow film fans in the Detroit area. And if you haven’t joined the #TCMParty yet, what are you waiting for?

If only Twitter had existed in 1980. Life would have been so much more fun.

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Live Cinema Detroit Fundraiser – Friday, October 30, 2015

8:15 AM – THE MUMMY (1959)
9:45 AM – DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1965)
11:30 AM – FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (1967)
1:15 PM – DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1969)
3:00 PM – FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1970)
4:45 PM – CRESCENDO (1972)
6:15 PM – DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972)
8:00 PM – CAT PEOPLE (1942)
9:30 PM – VAL LEWTON: THE MAN IN THE SHADOWS (2007)
11:00 PM – THE SEVENTH VICTIM (1943)
12:15 AM – THE LEOPARD MAN (1943)

To support the Cinema Detroit Projection Fund, click here.

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Classic Horror Movies Haunt NYC Theaters for Halloween 2015

PhantomHalloween is the best time of the year to be a classic film fan. And it’s even better if you live (or are un-dead) in New York City, where more than sixty screenings of horror and suspense films released before 2001 will unspool between now and Sunday – some in historic venues and many in 35mm (a medium that’s rising from the grave, thanks in part to the revival circuit).

If you prefer your spooks silent, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925) screens Sunday evening in an actual 1930 movie palace – the former Loews 175th Street Theater in Washington Heights – accompanied by Ben Model with an introduction by New York Post film critic Lou Lumenick and a live performance by cast members of the Broadway musical version. There’s also a rare 35mm presentation of Tod Browning’s THE UNKNOWN (1927) on Halloween night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, featuring an armless Lon Chaney and Steve Sterner at the piano (fully armed). And there are four(!) opportunities to see F.W. Murnau’s NOSFERATU (1922) on Friday night alone, including two in a 100-year-old cathedral with pipe organ accompaniment.

If you like your thrills in three dimensions, Film Forum’s Classic 3-D series kicks off Friday with recent digital restorations of HOUSE OF WAX (1953), DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954) and CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954), plus rarities like Three Stooges shorts in 3-D. (Non-horror standout in this series include MISS SADIE THOMPSON with a heart-breaking Rita Hayworth and the 3-D noir MAN IN THE DARK with Edmond O’Brien.)

GORGONThe Film Society of Lincoln Center scores twice this week, first with a brief Hitchcock retrospective featuring FRENZY (1972) and the rarely screened I CONFESS (1953) in 35mm, then with the ninth installment of their Scary Movies series. The latter is mostly contemporary fright films, but includes Terence Fisher’s THE GORGON (1964) in 35mm and a Halloween Day screening of FRANKENSTEIN (1931) with free admission and complimentary popcorn (my favorite flavor).

If you like enjoy booze with your boos, Williamsburg Brooklyn’s stylish bar/cinema Videology has a number of treats, including Friday night’s retrospective of witchcraft in cinema hosted by Alex Mar, author of  the new book Witches of America (which she’ll be signing after the show). The venue will also transform into the Winchester Tavern on Halloween day with Edgar Wright’s SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004) on a continuous loop. Guests are invited to bring “shovels and cricket bats,” so things may get interesting as the night wears on.

Williamsburg’s “cinema eatery” Nitehawk is money in the (blood) bank again this year with their annual Halloween at Nitehawk series, which includes NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) on Wednesday and Friday with a live score by Morricone Youth. There are also a number of brunch and midnight screenings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but tickets are going fast (and the delicious, five-film NIGHT TO DISMEMBER marathon on Saturday is already sold out).

The Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, located on the site of Paramount’s former Astoria Studios complex (where the Marx Bros. shot their first two films), devotes Halloween weekend to director David Cronenberg, with a seven-film series including THE FLY (1986) and four other films in sparkling new 35mm prints. If you like your gore mixed with good old fashioned film grain, Astoria is the place to be this weekend.

dracula_1931_poster_07Finally, even if you’re not in NYC, you can get macabre at the multiplex with two national screenings from Fathom Events. Tod Browning’s DRACULA (1931) with Bela Lugosi screens twice on Wednesday in a double feature with the simultaneously shot Spanish version (featuring Carlos Villar as the Count). And John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN (1978) slashes through cinemas for one night only on Thursday. Both play in NYC at Regal Union Square.

Below is the complete list of Halloween screenings in the metropolitan area this week, courtesy of Nitrate Stock. There are tough choices every day (particularly if you’re a Mets fans), so I asked site editor Joseph Walsh, my go-to guru for classic film screenings in NYC, to weigh in with his daily picks. (Note: we’re defining “classic” here as anything pre-2001. If you disagree, please complain to the management.)

Tuesday, October 27
2:30 PMALICE (1988). 35mm at the Library for the Performing Arts.
7:30 PMTHE CAT AND THE CANARY (1927) accompanied by Ben Model. 35mm at Cinema Arts Centre (Long Island)
7:30 + 10 PMMIL KDU DES 30-minute re-edit of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999) by Rarer Borealis at Spectacle Theater (Brooklyn).
9:30 PMI CONFESS (1953). 35mm at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Francesca Beale Theater.

Joe’s Pick
You’d likely never normally consider Lewis Carroll’s famous farce an entry into the horror genre. Well you tell Jan Svankmajer that one, and good luck! In the hands of the master surrealist animator, the trip down the rabbit hole is as unsettling as David Lynch’s worst hangover. Plus ALICE screens for free in 35mm at the Library for the Performing Arts’ excellent theater.

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Wednesday, October 28
2 PM + 7 PMDRACULA (1931). Via Satellite in theaters nationwide from TCM + Fathom Events.
6:30 PMSABOTEUR (1942). DCP at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Francesca Beale Theater.
8:45 PMFRENZY (1972). 35mm at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Francesca Beale Theater.
9:30 PMNIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) accompanied by Morricone Youth. Digital at Nitehawk Cinema (Brooklyn)

Joe’s Pick
The grandaddy of the zombie genre never gets old, and this screening of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD at Nitehawk comes with music from master film accompanist combo Morricone Youth. Plus, the best root beer ‘n tater tot combo to be had in the five boroughs, and we all know how this film can famously raise an audience’s appetite.

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Thursday, October 29
7 PMTHE EXORCIST (1973) at Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas
7:30 PMHALLOWEEN (1978). Via Satellite in theaters nationwide from Fathom Events.
8 PMSCREAM (1996) w/ Halloween Costume Party. Throne Watches Showroom (Brooklyn).
9PMARMY OF DARKNESS (1992) presented by Den of Geek at Videology (Brooklyn).
12 AMTHE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) at Bow Tie Chelsea.

Joe’s Pick
In my opinion, William Friedkin’s THE EXORCIST is still the scariest friggin’ movie ever made. The Bow Tie Chelsea doesn’t screen in 35mm, but they do take their programming seriously, and that pea soup will be a sickening color in any format. This I promise.

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Friday, October 30
1:30 PMTHE GHOST GOES WEST (1935) at MoMA.
2:45 PM/9:30 PMDIAL M FOR MURDER (1954). 3-D DCP at Film Forum.
6 PM – THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) at McCarren Park (Brooklyn).
7 PMSCANNERS (1981). New 35mm print at Museum of Moving Image (Queens).
7 PMNOSFERATU (1922) accompanied by Ben Model. Blu-ray at Morgan Library and Museum.
7 PM + 10 PMNOSFERATU (1922) accompanied by Timothy Brumfield at Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine (Upper Manhattan).
7 PMWitches of America (An evening of witchy movie clips curated by author Alex Mar) at Videology.
7:30 PMPASSAGE aka PASAZ (1997) at Spectacle Theater.
9 PMNOSFERATU (1922) accompanied by Tenth Intervention (Hajnal Pivnick, violin/Dorian Wallace, piano) at Videology.
9:30 PM – NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) at Rubin Museum.
10 PM – WOLF’S CHALET aka ALCI BOUDA (1987) at Spectacle.
11:45 PM  MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001). DCP at IFC Center.
11:59 PMAMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981) at Videology
12 AMTHE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) at Bow Tie Chelsea
12 AMTHE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) at IFC Center
12 AMA NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984) at Landmark Sunshine Cinema.
12 AMTROUBLE EVERY DAY (2001) at Spectacle.
12:05 AMNIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) accompanied by Morricone Youth. Digital at Nitehawk Cinema
12:05 AMGHOSTBUSTERS (1984). DCP at IFC Center.
12:20 AMHARDWARE (1990). 35mm at Nitehawk Cinema
12:20 AMTHEY LIVE (1988). DCP at IFC Center.

Joe’s Pick
I’m going for two-count-’em-two horror icons today: Tim Curry’s insanely influential sweet transvestite from Transylvania and Robert Englund’s wisecracking, Ginsu-digited Freddy Krueger. This means ya have to borough hop, which in itself is a scary enough proposition for some. But the PICTURE SHOW screens free at McCarren Park in Brooklyn at dusk, which leaves plenty of time to warp to the Landmark Sunshine back on our spookier side of the East River for NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Plus you can bet the over/under on how many Dr. Frank-N-Furters you can spot on the night before Halloween. I’m going with 35 1/2. Takers?

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Saturday, October 31
11:45 AMDAY OF THE DEAD (1985). Digital at Nitehawk Cinema.
11:50 AMGHOSTBUSTERS (1984). DCP at Nitehawk Cinema.
12:30 PM/4:50 PMDIAL M FOR MURDER (1954). 3-D DCP at Film Forum.
1 PMFRANKENSTEIN (1931). Blu-ray at Film Society of Lincoln Center Amphiteater FREE
2 PMTHE BROOD (1979) New 35mm print at Museum of Moving Image.
2:45 PM/7:15 PMHOUSE OF WAX (1953) 3-D DCP at Film Forum
4:30 PMVIDEODROME (1983) New 35mm print at Museum of Moving Image.
7 PMTHE UNKNOWN (1927) accompanied by Steve Sterner. 35mm at Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAM Rose Cinema.
7PMRABID (1977). New 35mm print at Museum of Moving Image.
7PMMOMMIE DEAREST (1981). Digital at Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas
9 PMSpectacle Halloween 2015 at Spectacle Theater.
9:30 PMCREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) + SPOOKS (1953) w/ the Three Stooges. 3-D DCP at Film Forum.
11:45 PM – MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001). DCP at IFC Center
12 AMTHE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977). Digital at IFC Center
12 AMTHE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) at Bow Tie Chelsea.
12 AMA NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984) at Landmark Sunshine Cinema.
12:05 AMGHOSTBUSTERS (1984). DCP at IFC Center.
12:20 AMTHEY LIVE (1988). DCP at IFC Center.

Joe’s Picks:
The David Cronenberg series kicks off at 2pm at the Museum of the Moving Image, and the $12 admission gains you entrance to all three fright-fests. You’ll have just enough time to shake off what will surely be a major case of the willies to head over to the Film Forum for some quality time with everyone’s fave CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, who will literally swim off the screen and into your hearts! Finally, end the night at IFC Center with THEY LIVE , John Carpenter’s last great movie. It’s a good way to honor the recently passed Roddy Piper in his only iconic film role. And you’ll be really scared because the film’s actually happening right now! Chew on that bubblegum!

Creature

Sunday, November 1
11:45 AMDAY OF THE DEAD (1985). Digital at Nitehawk Cinema
11:50 AMGHOSTBUSTERS (1984). DCP at Nitehawk Cinema
1 PMTHE GORGON (1964) 35mm at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater.
1:20 PMHOUSE OF WAX (1953) in 3-D DCP at Film Forum
2 PMTHE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993). DCP at BAM
2 PMSHIVERS aka IT CAME FROM WITHIN (1975). Restored, in DCP at Museum of Moving Image
3 PMSLUGS (1988). Digital at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater.
4 PMTHE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925), Blu-ray at the United Palace of Cultural Arts (formerly Loews 175th Street Theater) accompanied by Ben Model, introduced by NY Post film critic Lou Lumenick, w/ performance by cast members from the Broadway show.
4:30 PMTHE FLY (1986). New 35mm print at Museum of Moving Image
5 PMPIECES (1982) 35mm at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater.
6:30 PMDEAD RINGERS (1988). New 35mm print at Museum of Moving Image.
7 PM – DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954). 3-D DCP at Film Forum.
9:10 PMCREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) + SPOOKS (1953) 3-D DCP at Film Forum

Joe’s Pick:
Closing out this Ghoultide season at the movies we stay at Film Forum for two more demonic dimension-breakers: Vincent Price’s mad mannequin-maker in HOUSE OF WAX and Big Al’s favorite divorce story, DIAL M FOR MURDER. Both unspool in their original 3D format, and both deliver the chills and thrills masterfully.

Happy Halloween from Cinematically Insane and Nitrate Stock!

belaboris

Posted in Classic Film, Film Society of Lincoln Society, IFC Center, Museum of Modern Art, Museum of the Moving Image, Nitehawk Cinema, Screening Report, Silent Film | 2 Comments

Giant Monsters Attack Palm Springs!

picWhen I was 12, my father took me to a Halloween screening of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE at a high school on Long Island. The print was weathered and the setting was imperfect, but the auditorium was packed with people who were ecstatic to see a film – supposedly the worst of all time – that none of my friends had even heard of.

As promised, I learned a shocking fact that day: old movies are better with an audience – particularly if they’re scary (or meant to be scary) and Halloween is nigh.

In the three decades since, I’ve seen countless classics in historic venues in New York and Los Angeles, and I’m more convinced than ever in the power of the communal experience (despite the occasional eccentricities of some attendees). So I’m really struggling to fight the urge to fly out to California this weekend for the first-ever Palm Springs Classic Science Fiction and Horror Festival, produced and hosted by author, movie historian and Film Noir Foundation director Alan K. Rode.

fly_1958_poster_06Between Friday night and Sunday night, Rode will present eight beloved genre classics on the big screen at the Camelot Theater, a renovated 1960s movie house that’s also home to the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival (which Rode also produces and hosts). Films will screen in “best available formats” from the studios – including a 35 mm print of the “theatrical version” of THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951) from Warner Bros. – and screenings will include special guests and audience Q&As

“DVDs, streaming and downloads are great,” Rode told me. “But these films were made to be shown in the dark with a group of people.”

The festivities kick off Friday night with THE FLY (1958), the creepy CinemaScope classic (in color!) that spawned two sequels (not in color!) and a 1985 remake (in extremely gory color!) as well as that film’s sequel (which I haven’t seen, but assume is in color!)

“The best way to start this off is with truly vintage sci-fi,” Rode said. “THE FLY is a very unique film and, I think, the best of all the versions.”

HedisonAfter the screening, Rode will sit down for a Q&A with David Hedison, the 88-year-old actor who portrayed the titular scientist who “wouldn’t harm anything, not even a fly.” (He’s also well remembered as agent Felix Leiter in two Bond films, and as the star of Irwin Allen’s Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea TV series.) And after the on-stage chat concludes, the conversation is expected to keep buzzing in the lobby, parking lot, and even at the hotel.

“Palm Springs has a little town, homey atmosphere. It’s a different kind of vibe than L.A.,” Rode told me. “People get to interact with the celebrities and talk with them.”

JulieRode will also be chatting with Julie Adams, the prolific, one-time Universal Studios contract player who became an icon thanks to her role as the Gill-Man’s girlfriend in THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. The 1954 film that brought the Universal Monsters into the Atomic Age (and also spawned a few sequels, sans Adams) screens Saturday at 1 p.m. And on Sunday at 1 p.m., actress Kathleen Hughes (age 86) joins Rode following IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1954)

“If you had to pick one sci-fi movie that you would call seminal, IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE is it,” Rode said of the Universal release which, like BLACK LAGOON, was directed by Jack Arnold.

1-them-1954-everett

Other highlights include Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion effects in THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953), the noirishly paranoiac INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956), and Jack Arnold’s (again!) THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957), a film that will forever alter your relationship with your cat. The Festival concludes with THEM! (1954) on Sunday, something of an inside joke due to the climatic final battle in the sewers of nearby L.A. (It’s roughly 90 minutes away without traffic, but shorter if you’re on a giant ant.)

Weekend passes sell for the fantastically low price of $79, with individual admissions available for each movie. And for classic film fans that can’t make it to Palm Springs, video and photos will be posted on the Festival’s Facebook page.

As for future installments, Rode is committed to making the festival an annual event in Palm Springs but – listen up out-of-towners! – he’s also interested in expanding to other cities (as the Film Noir Foundation does with their popular Noir City events).

“My sponsors and I are in this for the long haul,” he said. “I would love to take it on the road so everyone can enjoy it.”

And, just as PLAN 9 on the big screen changed my moviegoing life forever back in the early 1980s, Rode hopes young audiences will embrace the films he’s loved since his own childhood as a “monster kid.”

“I really hope that there will be kids in the audience this weekend,” he said. “If you like special effects and CGI, these movies are not only where it all started, they’re also good films on their own. They stand the test of time.”

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Palm Springs Classic Science Fiction and Horror Festival 

Friday, October 23
7:30 PM – THE FLY (1958, Fox) w/ guest David Hedison

Saturday, October 24
10 AM – INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956, Allied Artists)
1 PM – CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954, Universal) w/ guest Julie Adams
4 PM – THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953, Warner Bros)
7:30 PM – THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957, Universal)

Sunday, October 25
10 AM – THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951, RKO)
1 PM – IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1954, Universal) w/ guest Kathleen Hughes
4PM – THEM! (1954, Warner Bros.)

For more information on the Palm Springs Classic Science Fiction and Horror Festival, visit the website. And follow @laurasmiscmovie who will be covering the event on Twitter and for her blog. If you’re interested in bringing the festival to your city, contact Alan K. Rode on Facebook.

Posted in Classic Film | 6 Comments