Morlocks! I knew they had to be around here somewhere!
I’m 11 years old, The Time Machine is playing at the old Forum Theater, it’s Friday night–and by some miracle, my folks let me go to see the movie. I walked there with my friend Jimmy, from down the street. He’s 12.
Okay, we’ve seen the movie, time to walk home. We could’ve gone via Main Street, but I guess we were feeling kind of grown-up and adventurous so we went by way of the back streets instead. There was nowhere near as much street lighting then as there is now.
It didn’t take us long to get the creeps. The Morlocks, the baddies in the movie… what if there were Morlocks hiding in the darkness, getting ready to jump out on us? We picked up the pace a little. We laughed nervously at our fanciful idea–I mean, come on, really! That didn’t make the Morlocks go away. Happily, we made it home before they attacked us. Dawdling Morlocks.
I wonder if kids even have this experience anymore. All it did for us was to enhance the movie experience and provide me with a pleasant memory. I wonder about the state of their imaginations.
Gee, for some reason the daily nooze this month makes me think of Morlocks… a lot…
Let’s throw in a laugh-yourself-silly movie along with all the other festivities in our cyber-Christmas party!
A Slight Case of Larceny stars Mickey Rooney and Eddie Bracken as two extremely silly guys who acquire a failing gas station and get rich quick by stealing gas from the big station across the street. Big Business tries to crush these guys, but they underestimate the power of sheer looniness.
It’s not a famous movie, but it is screamingly funny. Patty can’t remember exactly how she found it for us: it wasn’t an easy search. But it’s worth it–you’ll laugh your socks off.
Meanwhile, it looks like a hot Monopoly game is starting in the parlor, next to the table with the fried calamari rings and Erlene’s brownies. I once made a heaping dish of squid-rings for a Christmas party, it took me literally all day in the kitchen, and they were gobbled up to the last crumb in just five minutes. So much easier to whip up imaginary snacks!
Sometime between Christmas and New Year’s, I’ve got to find time to revisit one of my favorite movies–The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. When it came out in 1958, my parents wouldn’t let me see it: thought it’d be too scary for me.
But this movie provides a rare opportunity to enjoy not one but two geniuses at work. It’s got the music of Bernard Herrmann, one of the all-time greats of movie music, and the special effects of Ray Harryhausen, the greatest monster-maker ever. It took the special effects art 40 years to catch up to him.
Oh, the theme music! To say nothing of that gorgeous music we hear when the Roc flies. Bernard Herrmann said this was among his favorite movie scores, and who can argue with him?
And of course Harryhausen gave us the Cyclops, a dragon, the Roc, and an animated skeleton–what’s not to like?
It’s gonna be so great, to hear that theme again! Oh, look, here it is–
All the politics, just now, is frying our brains and we need some relief. So this weekend we’ve been watching a pair of off-the-wall action-adventure movies, RED (2010) and its sequel, RED 2 (2013).
“RED” is an acronym for “Retired, Extremely Dangerous,” the label fixed on retired CIA agent Frank Moses, played by Bruce Willis. He falls in love with a harmless government clerk named Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), and next thing he knows, his former Deep State employers are trying to kill them both. But that’s a lot harder than it looks.
John Malkovich is a scream as Moses’ sidekick, Marvin; and they’re assisted by a British assassin and superspy (Helen Mirren) and a Russian spy (Brian Cox). The Deep State throws everything at them that it’s got, but these agents–all put out to pasture because of their age–are up to any challenge, no matter how preposterous.
Yes, these are totally preposterous movies: that’s what’s so good about them! All you have to do is sit back and enjoy them. The bad guys are mighty, but not mighty enough–it makes you wonder why they decided to retire Frank and his crew. Morgan Freeman is also on hand as an 80-year-old spy whose Hugo Chavez imitation totally suckers ultra-bad guy Richard Dreyfuss.
There’s nothing here but fun, and that’s just what the doctor ordered. We have our prayers, we have our work, we have a major national crisis to contend with; but a good laugh along the way can help to keep us strong. And sane.
I was substitute teaching at a public school, fourth or fifth grade, sometime back in the 1990s; and the regular teacher had left an assignment for the kiddies: write a brief little essay on “My Favorite Movie.”
Almost all the children wrote that their favorite movie was Bride of Chucky, a slasher movie about horribly ugly dolls that kill people.
I was surprised. I would’ve thought these kids were too young to be allowed into the theater to see Bride of Chucky, and I couldn’t imagine any parent taking his 9 or 10-year-old to see it.
Bigger surprise: None of these kids had actually seen the movie–just the ads on TV. So this was their favorite movie even though they hadn’t seen it and probably wouldn’t.
Honk if you think our popular culture has gotten any better since then.
Some of you may recognize Greg Lammiman as a visitor to this blog; but he also makes movies. In fact, his movies are family projects. Their latest is a Christian science fiction movie, Mayflower II, which we watched yesterday.
I’m saving the full movie review for Chalcedon, but first I want to say a little bit about it here.
I read a year or two ago that the average movie now costs about $100 million to make. You would be shocked to know what Mayflower II cost. You’d be incredulous. I asked Greg and he told me. No guess I could’ve made would have come close.
But this movie looks great! I don’t know how they did it. I’ve seen major films by major studios whose computer-generated effects look like computer-generated effects, and whose big-name actors accomplish nothing special.
All of which goes to suggest that… wow!–are we dreaming?–You don’t need a studio to make a movie anymore? Like, you can make something just because… it’s good?
Mayflower II took the Lammiman family several years to make, and mostly they did it out of their own pockets, by the sweat of their own brows, with friends and volunteers to help. Point is, it can be done!
I know this isn’t so for everybody; but for some of us, there’s nothing quite so bracing as a good, clean scare–just the thing horror movies were invented to provide. My wife and I both find a good scary movie very relaxing. Sure, it creeps you out for a time: but then it stops! Don’t you wish real-life problems would just stop, roll the credits, and trouble us no more?
Take a classic horror movie like The Uninvited. No cussing, no nudity, no writhing around in the bed–and no blood ‘n’ guts spattered all over the screen. And all the deaths and tragedies involved are in the past (hence the ghosts). It’s in black-and-white, and none of the characters gets killed. It’d be hard to create something less like today’s horror movies; but The Uninvited packs plenty of good, stiff scares. And having Ray Milland, Cornelia Otis Skinner, and Alan Napier in the cast doesn’t hurt, either.
Sometimes we’d like to see a movie that we haven’t seen before. We read the descriptions and rule out the slasher movies. But we still get stung. The last one we saw was supposed to be an H.P. Lovecraft thing, based on one of our favorite Lovecraft stories, The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Back in the 20s and 30s, HPL wasn’t even allowed to write gross-out horror. So his tales rely on true creepiness and weird takes on reality. And never mind! This movie soon degenerated into nudity, physical cruelty, and violence that was so far over the top, it was almost funny. The key word is “almost.”
In the last couple modern horror movies we’ve seen, the story always seems to wind up, “And then everybody got killed in assorted nasty ways!” It’s like the writers walked out halfway through the picture and the director’s 12 and 13-year-old kids had to write the rest of it.
Is this telling us something about our culture, that can’t even crank out a proper ghost story anymore?
With so much money invested in it, and so many professionals working on it, and checking their work each day, you’d think it’d be just about impossible to make a really bad movie. Nevertheless, bad movies are as numerous as the sands of the seashore.
What’s the difference between a bad movie and bad public policy? With a bad movie, those responsible for it have to pay the price. But with bad public policy, those who created it walk off scot-free and the public pays the price. You know–like with the COVID-19 lockdowns that wrecked everybody but the loonies in the lab coats and their sponsors in the government.
I can’t help it: I love movies that don’t have a prayer of being true. I love monster movies. I get a kick out of a good ghost story. And somehow these movies always seem at their best in the fall.
Here are four of my favorite films along these lines, all of them available somewhere on the Internet. Try Youtube first, then amazon. These are sure to brighten any October weekend.
*Night Tide, starring a brand-new Dennis Hopper. How often do you get to see a scary movie about a mermaid? Despite American International’s trademark cheesy special effects, this movie does contain moments of real eeriness and beguiling fantasy. You’ll be surprised by how un-awful it is.
*The Crawling Eye. A monster movie set in the Swiss Alps–how cool is that? I once nagged my wife to watching it with me–in truth, she hates monster movies–and she had to admit it wasn’t bad. (As you can see, I have set the bar a little low. But “not that bad” is a real achievement for most of these films.) Hey, the crawling eye creeping out of the icy fog–ooooh! That’s scary, boys and girls!
*Zacherley’s Horrible Horror–here we leave “not that bad” behind and plunge into the world of “oh, good grief!” Zacherley, who was surely the greatest horror movie host ever, has assembled a dazzling array of trailers for hopelessly bad films, interrupted by his own weird humor. You don’t want to miss The Alligator People!
*The Uninvited–I’ll throw in a genuinely good one, just to show you my heart’s in the right place–not in a jar on Robert Bloch’s desk. Starring Ray Milland, The Uninvited is one of the all-time best ghost movies, and seasoned with enough humor to keep you from hiding under the sheets. It’s got everything–and all without a second of gore, profanity, or fornication.
Well, there you have it–four October movie treats. Let me know how you like ’em.