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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Eyes Of Laura Mars

       Laura Mars is a New York fashion photographer who specializes in violent and overtly sexual images.  Her "art" causes controversy, and she's the toast of the town.  Everything is just fabulous until somebody starts brutally murdering her friends and acquaintances in the chic fashion world of New York City in the 70's. To make matters worse, some of Laura's photos, unknown to her, are exact matches of shots of real-life crime scenes in the NYPD crime book.  To top all of this off, Laura begins to see the murders happening through her own eyes... brief visions of the murders, which can seize her vision at any given time... Throw in a title tune sung by none other than Barbra Streisand, and you've got the EYES OF LAURA MARS...

     There are so many things to say about EYES OF LAURA MARS that I'm not sure where to begin.  This movie is awesomely campy, there's no doubt about that. Perfectly capturing New York City circa 1978, the film is an absolute gem of 70's style and fashions. Chock full of delicious disco tunes, it's a strange but definitely original suspense film. Faye Dunaway leads an all-star cast here- Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Dourif, and Raul Julia just to name a few. With a story by John Carpenter, slick, inventive cinematography and solid, stylish direction by Irvin Kirshner, the film is a tense and gorgeous little mystery/suspense shocker. It has all the makings of a great movie, and almost succeeds. There are quite a few things wrong with the film but I think overall the good outweigh the bad.

     When Babs begins singing "Prisoner" (Love Theme From EYES OF LAURA MARS), you know you're in for a treat. Streisand, you ask? This is a Jon Peters production, you see. Faye Dunaway is nothing short of perfection here. One of our greatest actresses, she is thoroughly believable in her role- even though the film itself is far from perfect. Besides Laura,  Rene Auberjonois is fabulously flamboyant as her best friend and assistant. Brad Dourif is his usually creepy self as Laura's driver. Rounding out the crazy cast of characters is Tommy Lee Jones, who sports one of the worst uni-brows in celluloid history as he plays a cop determined to find out who's picking off members of the fashion world.

     Okay let't be honest here- EYES OF LAURA MARS is quite ridiculous, actually. But Faye and friends do give the botched film all they've got, and makes for an extremely entertaining viewing experience. There's many over-the-top scenes to enjoy, and besides being a time-capsule delight of the 70's, we're still treated to some somewhat suspenseful murder sequences and fabulous fashion sequences. If you're looking for a deliciously campy murder mystery that makes a great double feature with DRESSED TO KILL, then this is your film. By the way, EYES OF LAURA MARS was featured in TERROR IN THE AISLES, which I love.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Friday the 13th Part 3

     Starting a brief trend in the early 80's, FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 in 3-D was released in 1982. This third installment of the franchise is famous for the fact that this is the movie where Jason dons his trademark hockey mast for the first time, although I still prefer the sack cloth from Part 2. There's more horny kids staying at nearby Higgins Haven- we assume it's somewhere near Crystal Lake- it never really says, to be honest. And Jason doesn't like it one bit.

     Even though I couldn't dislike this entry if I tried, I do have mixed feelings about it.  My main gripe is that there is a bit of a problem with continuity in this one- it supposedly pulls a HALLOWEEN and picks up right where the previous left off, yet Jason has inexplicably found time to beef up tremendously, grab a change of clothes and shave his head? I remember being slightly confused upon seeing Part 3 for the first time for that very reason. We strangely never see his lair or the altar to his beloved dead mother again in the entire series either. And another thing. In Part 2 he is still stalking Alice, the survivor from the original.  However in this one he just seems to forget about Ginny and goes away after these folks- but how did he know about them? I've always wondered about all that. However, I'm not dogging on this one.  Of course I love it.

     This is the movie where Jason becomes that unstoppable force of nature, not just a frightened yet deranged wild man living in the woods. Richard Brooker delivers a very menacing performance here, probably in my opinion the best Jason performance with the hockey mask. This was Jason Voorhees before he became a joke, before he went to Manhattan or outer space or sparred with the equally cheesy Freddy Krueger. This is iconic Jason Voorhees here, folks.

     Still puzzled at that ending- it really makes no sense whatsoever.  Does anybody know why Pamela Voorhees is floating around the lake, with her head on? And sweater? I realize it's just a dream Chris had, but it just seems tacked on and cheap compared to the original shocker of an ending. They also try to throw in a rather bizarre sub-plot about Jason supposedly attacking Chris in the woods prior, but she gets away, only to meet up with him later for unfinished business. They even hint at a possible rape scenario- which although is disturbing, it just doesn't work very well. It's completely unnecessary, and although it doesn't detract from the film, there was just no valid point for doing it. This was also the first FRIDAY THE 13TH film to be filmed on the west coast instead of the east, and it's pretty obvious. And why they chose to go with a disco version of the iconic theme is beyond me.  Sure it's fun, but kinda takes away from the terror, if you ask me.  It's more of a fun movie, with the 3-D effects to boot, which is probably what they were going for in the first place. And it's certainly fun to watch, but the sheer terror and dread of the first two had somewhat disappeared by this one, only to return in full glory in the next installment. I still love and defend this sequel though.  It's impossible to dislike, even with it's many flaws. It also boasts one hell of a final act, with Jason chasing Chris throughout the cabin and barn. 

Monday, January 10, 2011


     James Whale's masterpiece, "Frankenstein" is so iconic that even though alot of people haven't actually watched it, they instantly know who it is anyway.  This is my personal favorite of the Universal Monsters, thanks in large part to Boris Karloff's fantastic performance as the misunderstood monster.  "Frankenstein" became the most successful and sequelized- it's second only to "Dracula" as the most portrayed character in movie history.  "Frankenstein" is fascinating on all accounts.  Boris Karloff gives the performance of a lifetime as Dr. Victor Frankenstein's dead creation brought to life.  Colin Clive deliriously plays the insane Dr. Frankenstein, and Dwight Frye plays his faithful hunchback assistant, Fritz. 

     Mixed with tons of Gothic atmosphere and Whale's superb direction, you have one of the most influential and eternal horror movies of all time. I can't imagine how audiences in 1931 reacted sitting in a darkened theater watching the scenes of grave robbing and re-animated corpses unfold before their eyes.  I'm sure it was quite shocking.  This is the definitive version of the "Frankenstein" tale- no disrespect to Mary Shelley, but Whale's film version, with the makeup by Jack Pierce and Kenneth Strickfaden's fabulous electrical equipment and effects, became firmly entrenched in popular culture and influenced all other "Frankenstein" incarnations that followed.

     Watching "Frankenstein" today is awe-inspiring.  I think sometimes we take for granted these early movie monsters and what made them so memorable in the first place.  They're like Ronald McDonald or Big Bird.  We know them so well that it sometimes isn't even necessary to view the films because we're raised from such an early age with these characters in our lives. We already know the story of Frankenstein, without reading the book or seeing the movie.  We know he's stitched together with spare parts of other corpses and brought to life by mad Dr. Frankenstein.  Kids just somehow know and accept this knowledge.  It's really kind of strange. I myself had collected the Aurora Model Kits of all the Universal Monsters by the time I was ten or so, and loved them dearly.  I wish I still had them actually... 

     Go anywhere in the world and mention Dracula or Frankenstein or The Wolf Man and people will know exactly who you're talking about.  So I think it's necessary sometimes to go back and experience these early movie monsters and appreciate them for what they are.  I still firmly have my attention span intact, therefore I absolutely adore classic movies.  In fact, I probably watch more older movies than newer ones.  I completely understand and respect why "Frankenstein" is considered such an important and iconic movie. I own the fantastic Legacy Collection DVD's, and curling up with these guys are like a warm blanket.  And "Frankenstein" is my personal favorite.  In 1991, "Frankenstein" was selected for preservation in the United States Film Registry.  "Frankenstein" ranked #27 on Bravo's Scariest Movie Moments.

The Bride Of Frankenstein

     Often considered even better than the original "Frankenstein", James Whales' follow-up to his monster 1931 hit is nothing if not fascinating.  "The Bride of Frankenstein" opens with  Percy Shelley and Lord Byron praising Mary Shelley on her frightening "Frankenstein" story, and Mary informing them to pull up a chair because the story's not over.  We flash back to the ending of the original "Frankenstein" with the angry villagers gathering around the remains of the burning windmill.  It's a brilliant way to start the movie.

     Karloff as the Monster speaks for the first time in "Bride", yet Lanchester almost steals the show and creates one of the most iconic characters in movie history as the Bride.  Although only on-screen as the Bride for maybe two minutes at the climax,  she is completely riveting- her darting, almost bird-like movements are incredible.  Colin Clive returns as the mad Dr. Frankenstein, and the creation of the Bride rivals that of the original monster in "Frankenstein".   Ernest Thesinger also steals the show as the eccentric and fully mad Dr. Pretorious, who coaxes the retired Victor Frankenstein back into his evildoings to create a mate for the Monster.

     The movie boasts a wicked sense of black humor, almost spoofing the original at times.  But it works here, and it works well. It's a mish-mash of sexual innuendo, Gothic horror,  and religious imagery. "The Bride of Frankenstein" is considered not only one of the greatest horror movies of all time, but one of the greatest movies, period.  James Whale had a much bigger budget on "Bride", and it shows.  The lavish sets, lighting, and special effects are something to behold, especially in 1935.  It's a masterpiece, and one that's every bit as entertaining as the original "Frankenstein".  Fans continue to argue which is the better film, and I say hogwash. I consider them both to be basically one long movie, as that's how they should be viewed.

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