The Mummy

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On this last day of Halloween Movie Madness Vic Sage and I decided it would be fun to review the same movie. So we decided to do the monster horror classic, The Mummy. We decided to take turns talking about it, with Vic going first followed by me. Sadly we had a bit of a communication breakdown along the way.

Vic: Friends, welcome to the last of the Movie Madness reviews for 2010, and to the left of this chair…I am still chained to…is none other than the Retroist himself. I want to thank him for coming all the way down to this dungeon to join me today so we can talk about this pretty interesting entry in the Universal Monsters pantheon. I’m not sure if you’ll agree with me, Retroist, but I can’t recall another classic monster movie quite like the Mummy. I mean Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolfman are sympathetic creatures but the horror of their existence or actions is the main point of their films. With the Mummy we have…a love story, I guess? What do you think about it?

Retroist: I agree a romance and one on several fronts You have the romance between Rick and Evelyn, the romance between Ihmotep and Anck Su Namun and of course the romance between Jonathan and treasure :P

Vic: At the beginning of the film we are given a pretty strong hook with a wall of heiroglyphics when a title card that translates it as, “This is Scroll of Thoth. Herein are set down the magic words by which Isis raised Osiris from the dead.” It continues with, “Oh! Amon-Ra–Oh! God of Gods–Death is but the doorway to new life–We live today-We shall live again–In many forms shall we return-Oh, mighty one.” Thus does the film find a way to set up the gist of the movie with that simple title card, and off subject, but it also describes the backstory for DC comics Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Ha, ha.

Retroist: I guess I missed this part at the start of the film.

Vic: We see from a wooden sign at some Egyptian ruins that reads, “Field Expedition, Season 1921, British Museum” A group of archaeologists have set up a makeshift office of sorts near their dig site and we are introduced to Sir Joseph Whemple (Byron), Ralph Norton (Fletcher), and Occult expert Dr. Muller (Sloan). Whemple is trying to teach Norton some patience, reminding the younger man that more information is gained by the broken shards of pottery than the sarcophagus and decaying box they found next to it.

Retroist: Wait, who are these people? Did you see some sort of extended version of the film?

Vic: Dr. Muller warns the other two after translating the threat of a curse on any who open the box, which turns out to be from the temple of Amon-Ra. Whemple and Norton are skeptical but the older man agrees to listen to Muller’s concerns outside. The good Doctor informs Norton to leave the box alone while they are away…but curiosity gets the better of him and he finds the scroll of Thoth and just has to translate it.

Retroist: I never saw any of that. Are you sure you didn’t watch The Mummy Returns? I didn’t see that one yet. The Mummy starts with the cool scenes back in ancient Egypt and you have that cool battle scene with Brendan Fraser?

Vic: We next see the same dig site, but ten years has passed and we meet Frank Whemple (Manners) and his friend Professor Pearson (Mudie), their own expedition not being nearly as successful as the the elder Whemple’s visit. They are packing things up and ready to admit defeat when a stranger comes knocking on their shanty door. The strangers introduces himself as Ardath Bey (Karloff), being Egyptian he is not permitted to dig up the deceased but he claims to know the location of Princess Ankh-es-en-amon. Retroist, I dare you to say the Princess’s name three time fast.

Retroist: Say it? I don’t even know who that is? I decided to look this up and I found out their was a Mummy movie back in the 30s. Is that what you were watching?

Vic: After directing the two men to the spot where he claims it will take only one day to unearth, the diggers hit pay dirt and indeed find the Princess’s tomb, Pearson makes the statement that they need to cable the elder Whemple as he should be there before they open the tomb. We next see the headlines to the Egyptian Mail newspaper that declares that Sir Joseph Whemple has returned to supervise the find near Thebes. We are then shown the Cairo museum, a sign explains the British Museum Field Force have turned over all their findings from the tomb to their Egyptian counterparts. Within the museum we see Ardath Bey looking…longingly…down at the Princess’s mummified remains. Meanwhile over at some fancy party we are introduced to Helen Grosvenor (Johann) as she herself looks longingly at the Pyramids off in the distance. We learn from some of the party goers that Helen is the daughter of the Governor of the Sudan.

Retroist: Okay, I think we had some sort of communication glitch. I watched the Mummy from 1999.

Vic: Hidden away in the museum, Adath Bay reads from an ancient scroll which calls to Helen at the party and in a trance like state she is called to him. The museum is closed for the night however and she merely bangs on the outside of the door until she is noticed Frank, he tries to talk to her but she ends up feinting on the steps. Frank brings her to his father’s home where she mumbles quietly in ancient Egyptian a name, “Imhotep”. Perhaps we should stop with any further spoilers here?

Retroist: No, go on. I want to hear more about this movie. It kind of sounds cool.

Vic: I think we need to really mention how awesome Frank Pierce really was, the make-up for Karloff in this film really is just awesome.

Retroist: Wow, your version of the movie has Boris Karloff in it?

Vic: I don’t know about you but I think that Mummy deserves a very solid four pumpkins out of five. It’s not my favorite of the Universal pantheon of monsters, that would be the Wolfman, but the film entertains to be sure. My only gripe is with the ending…just kind of seems like they glanced at their pocket watches and realized they had run out of time. Ha, ha.

Retroist: If it is anything like the re-make, then they probably were planning on a sequel the whole time they were making it. The 1999 version of the film end with an obvious sequel in the planning.

Vic: Oh, hey, thank you. I hadn’t noticed you unlocked those manacles earlier. The way out is over there through that door…ah, time to get me a bucket of beef jerky and maybe catch up on some gaming. Hey, wait a minute there is another room behind this door…what are all these film canisters doing here? I can hardly make out this note, “For Movie Madness 2011! Get to work!”. O, Lord! O, Jesus Christ!

Retroist: Well, Vic, this communication breakdown makes me think you aren’t ready for the outside world. Plus your contract says that you were supposed to review The Mummy, the 1999 Mummy. So just sit down and start watching those movies and this time next year we can talk about letting you out of the movie lab.

Well that ends another year of Halloween Movie Madness. 2010 was a great year and I would just like to thank Vic Sage for doing such an amazing job on all 31 of his films. Let’s just hope next year he reads his instructions better.

Now back to work you….

The Wicker Man

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Year: 1973
Director: Robin Hardy
Writer: Anthony Shaffer
Music: Paul Giovanni
Starring: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Britt Ekland, Gerry Cowper, Irene Sunters, Ingrid Pitt
Favorite Quote: “Do sit down, Sergeant. Shocks are so much better absorbed with the knees bent.”

The Wicker Man is one of those films that I had read of in various film magazines and some of my better movie appreciation books. But I was not able to see it for myself until the 90’s. Oh, I had seen the cover at my local video store for many years back in the early 80’s but for some reason the cover always kind of turned me away from it. It didn’t look particularly scary and to be honest my love of film hadn’t matured enough to appreciate the movie even if I had watched it. I can say it is now though one of my favorite movies and considering that Anthony Shaffer (writer of the absolutely fantastic 1972 Sleuth) wrote the screenplay I shouldn’t have ever been doubting.

As the film begins proper Police Sergeant Howie (Woodward) is flying his seaplane to the remote isle of Summerisle to investigate the disappearance of one of their local children, Rowan Morrison (Cowper), after receiving an anonymous letter asking him to come and investigate the incident. At the beginning of the film (at least the director’s cut) we learn that Howie is a deeply devout Christian, a very by the book police officer and is made fun of behind his back by his fellow officers for his beliefs. This is a man who ‘knows’ he is making the world a better place by his actions and example.

Arriving at the isle he finds himself immediately at odds with the island’s residents. The Harbor Master initially refusing to send a dinghy over to the Sergeant without written permission from Lord Summerisle (Lee) himself. The good Sergeant begins to lose his temper, which isn’t hard to make him do, by explaining the letter he received makes it a criminal investigation and his authority supersedes that of Summerisle’s in this case. The Harbor Master agrees to send over the requested boat and when he reaches land, Howie hands a photo that was sent with the letter. The small group of men with the harbor master are in unison, they’ve never seen that little girl before on the island. Howie takes out the letter and reads to them, “None of us have seen May Morrison’s daughter Rowan since last year. She’s only twelve and been missing from her home for many months.” As soon as the Officer mentions May’s (Sunters) name the group of men laugh good-naturedly and explain her name completely slipped their minds. They direct him to her Post Office in the town where she seems quite surprised that Howie has come to see her, when shown the picture of Rowan she explains she has no idea who the little girl is, her daughter, Myrtle is in the backroom painting. Howie meets Myrtle and asks if she knows who Rowan is, the girl says she does but when pushed further tells him that Rowan is a Hare that lives in a field.

Unfortunately for Howie he doesn’t find the rest of the island’s inhabitants any more helpful. He is aghast to learn that Summerisle is a pagan worshiping community, worshiping the Sun and engaging in fertility rituals. The Officer even storms into the school house when he realizes that Miss Rose (Cilento), the school mistress, is teaching the young girls of the island about the phallic symbolism of the maypole they are seen dancing around earlier. He demands to see the school register but is told he must speak with Lord Summerisle, the Officer obtains the folder for himself with apparent disdain, finding Rowan Morrison’s name on the registry along with her address which states the Post Office. Leaving the school in anger he happens upon the town cemetery where he finds the caretaker who is happy enough to show him to Rowan’s grave.

Howie is at odds with everyone on Summerisle and even himself when he finds that he is attracted to the Innkeeper’s daughter, Willow (Ekland). He overhears from his room as Willow seduces a young man that Lord Summerisle has sent to her the night before, the older Lord referring to her as Aphrodite, below her window as he presents the youth. Willow also tries to seduce Howie, by singing to him, banging on the wall to keep him awake in the hopes he will be tempted to her room.

Finally Howie goes to meet Lord Summerisle in the hopes of getting aid by exhuming Rowan’s corpse and bringing it to the mainland so it might be tested. Lord Summerisle agrees heartily but when the Officer with the caretaker’s aid opens the wooden coffin that night he finds only a Hare within. So here do we end the spoilers.

Besides the wonderful script by Shaffer, I would be remiss in not mentioning the awesome score by Giovanni. The Celtic like songs are beautiful, and I put this CD in the player every Halloween. The Wicker Man is, to quote Cinefantastique, “The Citizen Kane of horror movies”. I do agree with that statement as well. I bestow five pumpkins out of five on this modern classic.

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You Know They Got a Hell of a Band

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Year: 2006
Director: Mike Robe
Writer: Mike Robe
Starring: Steven Weber, Kim Delaney, Jacinta Stapelton, William McNamara, Erin Wright, Joe Sagal, Kristian Schmid, Tony Rickards, Fletcher Humphrys, Damien Richardson
Favorite Quotes: “Let’s go…because Rock and Roll will never die!”

We have the last of the really worthy short films (once again there is that salve to ease my mental anguish) from the Nightmares & Dreamscapes television event from a few years back on TNT. This one while having some faults really does offer up a pretty nightmarish situation when all is said and done.

We start the short film with Husband and Wife, Clark (Weber) and Mary (Delaney) Rivingham on the open highway in Oregon with plans to visit Tokokee Falls but after finding a shortcut on the map, Clark not heeding his wife’s misgivings plunges the two into a nightmarish situation. Mary quickly becomes more and more agitated as the continue through the backwoods area and before they know it not only does the pavement end and turns to a dirt road but there are no signs of telephone poles or any type of civilization help in case their car would breakdown. Of course it doesn’t help that the CD player ejects its CD at one point after melting it, sure sign that you are headed in the wrong direction.

Finally, just as Mary is about to lose it, they find a welcome sign inviting them to the town of Rock and Roll Heaven. Mary doesn’t like what she see, the whole place resembles a 1950’s by way of television. Though unlike classic television most of the inhabitants of Rock and Role Heaven are downright rude. Clark is clearly fascinated by the place but Mary pleads with her husband to turn the car around or just find the highway as quick as they can. Clark is able to convince her to stop in at the local diner for something to drink before they get back on the road but he notices something odd himself about a few of the citizens but can’t quite put his finger on it, like he has met some of them before. We end spoilers for this short film here.

I can’t really talk about the other performances of the cast beside Weber and Delaney without giving away most of the episode, which I just won’t do, but I think that if you can catch this on TNT or even if you feel up to adding it to your Netflix queue you’ll at the very least be entertained for an hour. But if you are like me you’ll kind of get the shivers by how things play out. I bestow four pumpkins out of five to You Know They Got a Hell of a Band.

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Re-Animator

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Year: 1985
Director: Stuart Gordon
Writers: Dennis Paoli, William Norris, Stuart Gordon
Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbot, Barbara Crampton, David Gale, Robert Sampson, Gerry Black, Bunny Summers
Favorite Quote: “Who’s going to believe a talking head? Get a job in a sideshow.”

Re-Animator might possibly be the number one film on my horror list. Even with my love, almost fanatical devotion my wife would say to the Universal Monsters, I would still choose if I was forced to give a decision to go with this H.P. Lovecraft inspired classic horror movie.

The film begins at the Zurich Institute of Medicine, where a Swiss Professor flanked by two security guards walk quickly towards the lab of Dr. Gruber, an behind that locked door can be heard a man screaming, the guards break out the glass to the door and rush into the room. Laying on his back on the floor is Dr. Gruber, with his assistant Herbert West kneeling over him with a syringe. Dr. Gruber is shaking and screaming, he bolts upwards grab his head in agony as his eyes bulge and then burst with blood. The guards grab Herbert West, as the Professor checks the mutilated Dr. Gruber’s pulse, remarking he is dead (Which is pretty obvious), Herbert declares, “Of course he’s dead the dosage was too large.” A Swiss Doctor turns to him and accuses him of murder to which the brilliant if arrogant West replies, “No I did not. I gave him life.”

Two minutes, that is how long it will take to have you glued to your seats as you watch this darkly humorous film. It has some great and quite bloody special effects, when you are a member of the walking dead and someone takes a table saw to you…it’s not pretty. But the gore, at least to me, never feels like it doesn’t fit with the tone of the story. However this is most assuredly not a film to be watching while there are younger family members in the room. Ha, ha.

Combs is obviously the star of this film but Abbot (Who is also the Rylan Sargent in the Last Starfighter), and Crampton really hold their own. This is just one of those rare films where everything comes together. Direction, writing, music, and the acting make a perfect movie. If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing this film you must remedy this immediately.

I admit that I watched this way too young, it was the first horror title that my Father and I ever rented on VHS, followed by the Evil Dead. Still, we both ended up adoring Re-Animator, and I promised that on the site in a week or two I shall post the story of how Jeffrey Combs was kind enough to visit the video store I worked at in my youth. Re-Animator deserves five golden pumpkins out of five for its absolute perfection!

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The Fog

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Year: 1980
Director: John Carpenter
Writers: Debra Hill, John Carpenter
Starring: Adrienne Barbeau , Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, Tom Atkins, Hal Holbrook, George ‘Buck’ Flower, John Houseman
Favorite Quote: “11:55…almost Midnight. Enough time for one more story. One more story before 12, just to keep us warm.”

When the Fog first debuted in my neck of the woods, like a few great horror movies of that time, it didn’t get picked up by the theaters but instead went straight to the Drive-In. It was released in February of that year which meant the Drive-In was closed for the season but when it finally did get shown it was a double feature for Curtis as the second film was Prom Night. Right from the start this movie sinks its hooks into you with an Edgar Allen Poe quote: “Is all that we see or seem but a dream?” In my youth I was a huge Poe devotee so when I saw that on the giant Drive-In screen with the steady ticking of a pocket watch…I was ready for some scares. I received them too.

As I briefly touched upon up above the beginning of this movie really gets to me. We have Mr. Machen (Houseman) telling a tale of Antonio Bay’s past to a group of young children sitting by a large fire. At the stroke of Midnight it will mark Antonio Bay’s Centennial but unbeknown to its citizens it will also mark the date of a reckoning for their ancestor’s dark deeds. I’ve stated before that I love John Carpenter movies, particularly his older films, he was really plugged into something there but I’ve noticed for some strange reason this film doesn’t get a lot of love. I admit that maybe not everything works in the film but I defy you to tell me the scene where a gold doubloon transforms into a piece of driftwood, obviously that is not all that occurs, isn’t one of the most hair-raising scenes in a horror movie. Thanks to the commentary I found out that what we see was really a last minute editing job, with an additional and important scene filmed in John Carpenter’s garage…not that you’ll ever know the scene unless you listen to the commentary.

With its great cast, in particular Hal Holbrook (Though it is said he didn’t care for the part himself), Tom Atkins, Jamie Lee Curtis, and her mother Janet Leigh, you do enjoy the characters they portray, you worry about them when the Fog starts to close in on them, and the dark shapes begin to emerge to do them harm.

Until I listened to the commentary from John Carpenter and Debra Hill I also never had noticed all of the names of Carpenter’s friends and horror characters. I’m not sure how I missed this when the medical examiner is named Dr. Phibes, even in my youth I should have picked up on that one. You should put this one on your Netflix queue or better yet go ahead and hit Wal-mart or Best Buy to pick it up for about five dollars in their Halloween DVD sections. The Fog is a very solid ghost tale and a different one at that so it earns its four and a half pumpkins out of five.

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