Vincent Price has always been associated with the horror genre even though he appeared in all kinds of other films during his career such as film noir (Laura), comedy (Champagne for Caesar), westerns (The Baron of Arizona), historical drama (The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex), science fiction (The Invisible Man Returns) and more. But his particular brand of villainy in horror films tend to be almost tongue-in-cheek with a macabre sense of humor and campy flourishes as in House on Haunted Hill (1959), The Tingler (1959), Diary of a Madman (1963) or Theater of Blood (1973), to name a few. His performance as infamous witch hunter Matthew Hopkins in The Conqueror Worm, however, was something else entirely – a genuinely chilling portrayal that was like nothing else he had ever done or would ever do again. Even today the intensity of his evil is the stuff of nightmares and he seems to be channeling the malevolent spirit of Hopkins in what is still a timely snapshot of political and religious persecution in the 17th century.
Monthly Archives: October 2022
You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone: Filmhouse in Edinburgh
Friday, October 7, 2022 was a black day for film lovers in Edinburgh and for anyone who has ever visited Filmhouse, a fantastic three-screen movie venue that also hosted the annual Edinburgh International Film Festival for years. Without warning, the Centre for the Moving Image (CMI), a charity which receives annual grants for the operation, abruptly closed its doors and laid off more than 100 employees. The shutdown also includes the Belmont Filmhouse in Aberdeen and the annual Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), which was launched in 1947. The financial difficulties that led to this decision are only part of the problem. The impact of COVID on moviegoing in recent years plus the proliferation of so many entertainment streaming choices for the family household has taken a toll on attendance at movie chains but especially independent venues like Filmhouse. In the U.S., we have already seen the closure of the Cinerama Dome and the 14-screen ArcLight Hollywood in Los Angeles, the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and Landmark’s Sunshine Cinema in New York City and so many others are in danger of vanishing like Facets in Chicago. If you care about the communal experience of a big screen movie experience, then please support your favorite film venue or risk losing it. The Filmhouse was certainly a world renowned shrine to cinema and here are my own memories of the venue from over twelve years ago.Continue reading
From Socialite to Streetwalker
There have been some terrific Pre-Code dramas that were set in the Depression and were actually playing in movie theaters at the time but, for obvious reasons, were not box office hits because audiences wanted escapism, not a reminder of their problems. Still, several of these social problem dramas like William Wellman’s Heroes for Sale (1933) and Wild Boys of the Road (1933) were championed by film critics and today provide an invaluable window into that era. Faithless (1932), directed by Harry Beaumont (Dance, Fools, Dance) and based on the novel Tinfoil by Mildred Cram, also belongs in that category, even if it was poorly received at the time, and deserves a revival for its unusual mixture of soap opera, social issues and adult themes like prostitution.Continue reading
The Night of Counting the Years
It is not that common to encounter films from Egypt in the U.S. and only a handful have managed to enjoy theatrical distribution here in either film festival or art house screenings over the years. Youssef Chahine from Alexandria, Egypt is probably the best known director with more than 40 feature films to his credit including The Blazing Sun (1954) featuring Omar Sharif in his film debut and Bab el Hadid (Cairo Station, 1958), which brought him international attention. Other than Chahine, you might recognize Moshi Mizrahi although his best-known films were made in other countries; The House on Chelouche Street (1973), an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film was made in Israel, and Madame Rosa (1977) and I Sent a Letter to My Love (1980), both starring Simone Signoret, were filmed in France. A more contemporary Egyptian director is Atom Egoyan, although he was raised in Western Canada where most of his movies have been made including Exotica (1994) and The Sweet Hereafter (1997).
Many film historians and critics, however, often list Chadi Abdel Salam as one of the greatest Egyptian directors of all time on the basis of his solo feature film from 1969, Al-mummia (The Mummy aka The Night of Counting the Years), which has slowly acquired the status of a classic in its own country and around the world, thanks to the efforts of Martin Scorsese and The Film Foundation, which restored the film in 2009 in association with the Cineteca di Bologna and the Egyptian Film Center.Continue reading
Beneath the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean
Jacques-Yves Cousteau was undoubtedly one of the greatest explorers of the 20th century but what he discovered was a world most people had never seen before and it was hiding in plain sight under the ocean. His scientific innovations to deep sea diving and his never-before-seen underwater cinematography introduced most people to marine life, behavior and landscapes that were just as strange, beautiful and mysterious as life on another planet. Although he had made numerous short documentaries on the sea throughout the forties starting with Par Dix-huit Metres de Fond in 1943, it was feature length non-fiction film debut, The Silent Sea (Le Monde du Silence, 1956), co-directed with Louis Malle, that first attracted international attention and inspired school kids to want to become explorers, photographers and oceanographers. Seen today, the film is still a fascinating introduction to Cousteau’s world but, like some nature documentaries, it presents images of unearthly beauty mixed with cruelty and violence that wouldn’t be out of place in a Mondo Cane-like exploitation expose. It also presents a more pristine world under the sea before oil spills, global warming and overfishing helped reduce marine life as well as eradicating entire species of fish.Continue reading
“We Want You Sally….We Want You….Come to Us!”
For those who first saw Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark at a young impressionable age when it originally aired on ABC in 1973, those maniacal, whispering voices of the little demons have probably stayed with you and so has this creepy little made-for-TV movie that has one of the more memorable endings of any haunted house genre picture.Continue reading