Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Illegal Aliens

Dislaimer:  The Midnite Drive-In is not responsible for nightmares, insomnia or fear of going to sleep as a result of reading this post.  Read at your own risk.

Entry #2 in a 3-part series of "My Favorite Horror Movies".

Aliens, and alien invasions are usually considered the exclusive dominion of the science-fiction genre.  In point of  fact, aliens, good or bad, are, by necessity, "creature features", and thus should be considered also as horror movies.   Still, the usual alien feature films are looked at and reviewed as science fiction simply because, although no concrete proof exists of the presence of aliens (Von Däniken's "Chariots" notwithstanding), they are considered scientifically feasible or, according to some renowned scientists like Carl Sagan, probable., compared to ghosts, vampires, werewolves and other creatures of legend which are the usual monsters of horror movies, and which no rational scientist would even hint might be real or possible.

Some might balk at classifying The Day the Earth Stood StillClose Encounters of the Third Kind or E.T. as horror films, and I would whole-heartedly agree.  On the other hand, you would almost HAVE to agree with me that any of the Alien series, The Thing from Another World, The Blob, and Predator, all have elements of horror running through them, despite the fact that they are essentially about alien life forms.  More so than any of these is any of the multiple versions of Jack Finney's book The Body Snatchers.  Each of the directors of the four (so far) versions has had their own slant on the story, but it is essentially at its core a horror story.  John Carpenter's They Live! also plays out as a pure horror movie (but no surprise there since Carpenter's main milieu is the horror genre:  Christine, Halloween, The Fog, his remake of The Thing, etc.)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Unlike the original 1956 version, which I reviewed in September for the Keep Watching the Skies blogathon (see here), which involves the aliens taking over a small town, the 1978 Phillip Kaufman directed film takes place in San Francisco.  Whether or not the first one outdoes the second one in terror, or vice versa, is a matter of how you personally feel about society in general.  Both have their pluses and minuses.

The 1978 version benefits greatly from the phenomenal musical score, by a guy named Denny Zeitlin, a jazz musician and a pioneer in electronic music.  The music Zeitlin created heightens the terror and suspense of the movie, and it seems a shame, but he never scored another movie.  He has had several offers over the years, but he claims it was too taxing and far too much work, so this film remains his only endeavor into movie soundtracks.

Opening sequences show the pods on another planet, lifting themselves off the planet and floating in space to land on Earth.  (Pay close attention to the opening sequences, because an interesting note is that all of that was done for about $50.  The "planet " is just a 2x4 stick of wood, and the "pods" are just a jar of art department gelatin.  This movie was made for about  $3½ million, and a lot of the special effects were far cheaper than they appear to be on screen).

Opening sequences on Earth have brief glimpses of the pod people already in progress of taking over the Earth.  In one scene a priest (played by Robert Duvall) is swinging  on a swing set in a playground.  You can see the blank stare in his face and you just know there is something odd about him (although it doesn't really click until you have seen others that have been assimilated.)

Matthew (Donald Sutherland) is a health inspector.  He is friends with a fellow health department employee, Elizabeth (Brooke Adams).  When Elizabeth confides to Matthew that her boyfriend, Geoffrey (Art Hindle), has begun acting strangely, and intimates that she thinks it's not really Geoffrey, Matthew suggests that she talk with a friend of his, Dr. Kibner (Leonard Nimoy), who is a pop culture psychologist.  (Remember this is the late 70's.  A time of self help books like Thomas Harris' I'm OK, You're OK, and the me generation.  This whole movie brims with the 70's feel, including some of the most humorous, in retrospect, clothing: polyester suits, sweaters instead of vests on suits, open (wide) collars without ties.   Also, some of the language is so 70's you may be tempted to snicker...)

While at a Kibner book signing, Elizabeth and Matthew encounter a woman who claims her husband is not her husband.  (Earlier, Matthew had had words with his drycleaner who claimed his wife is not his wife).  Kibner does his best to resolve that situation and then tries to calm Elizabeth's fears.  At the book signing is also a struggling writer friend of Matthew's, Jack Bellicec (Jeff Goldblum).  Jack despises Kibner, mostly because Kibner is a success ful author and he, Jack, is not, but he claims that Kibner's psychology is just so much crap.

Jack and his wife, Nancy (Veronica Cartright), operate a mud baths health spa (there's that overwhelming 70's feel again).  Nancy discovers a half-formed body in one of the stalls and freaks out.  Jack calls Matthew, and together they come to a half-formed conclusion that it is a duplicate of Jack.  Matthew tells Jack to call Kibner, then goes to Elizabeth's house, where he finds her asleep, and another half-formed body that is beginning to look like her.

He carries Elizabeth out, avoiding Geoffrey, who is one of the pod people. When he gets back to Jack's place Kibner is there.  Kibner convinces (or tries to) them it was all just their imagination
 But when Kibner leaves, he gets in a car where Geoffrey and another pod person is, and we are let on to the fact that Kibner has been converted.

Gradually it becomes evident that the flowers which have recently cropped up and which Elizabeth has been trying to identify are the source of pods, which take over the memories and substance of the original human bodies.  Two things distinguish this version from the original.  First, in the original, it is never really revealed what happens to the original human bodies.  In this one, a series of dramatic scenes reveal that the bodies dry up and decay.  Also the bodies of the pod creatures as they are forming are much more solid and disgusting looking.

Special effects do play a bigger part in this version.  Once again, however, there is no alien spaceship landing on the White house lawn, or futuristic death ray guns shot by bug-eyed monsters.  But Kaufman and company did take advantage of a better budget to create some pretty decent special effects.

  I won't reveal how this one ends. You have to see it for yourself.

They Live (1988)

John Carpenter, as I have intimated before on this blog, is my absolute favorite director.  My favorite Carpenter movie of all time is Big Trouble in Little China,which I will get around to reviewing, just waiting for the right blogathon or at least the right time to do so.  I'm also a big fan of his other Kurt Russell collaborations (see Waiting for the Snake for a review of the two Snake Plissken features).  But Carpenter's main ouevre is primarily in the horror genre.

One that really gets me as a lot of fun is one he made during the late Reagan Presidency.  Note: this one may piss you off if you admire Reagan and his economic policies, which had an after-effect of causing the rise of homeless shanty-towns in some of the bigger metropolitan areas.  It is also a sort of condemnation of the commercialization of America.  It could be and probably should be viewed on a secondary level as a political diatribe.

"Rowdy" Roddy Piper plays a character called John Nada.  (Nada is Spanish for nothing, which basically makes Piper's character  a fictional "nobody").  John is a drifter, out of work but just looking for an honest day's pay, any job to pay the bills (what little bills he has...).  He gets a job on a construction site and is offered a place to stay in a shantytown by a fellow worker,  Frank (Keith David).

John helps out with some repairs needed in the shantytown and meets the leader of the group, Gilbert (Peter Jason, a familiar face if you watch a lot of these kinds of movies.  You may recognize Jason as the bartender in the cowboy bar from 48 Hours, or any one of some 200 roles he has played over the years).  John observes Gilbert suspiciously hanging around a church, and when he goes to investigate hears a choir practicing.  Meanwhile, back at the camp the regular TV program being watched by some of the residents is getting interference from some hijacked broadcast in which the broadcaster claims that some evil hidden force is "controlling us".

John continues to nose around and finds out that there is no choir in the church.  It is a recording to cover up some secret activity which involves Gilbert and some others from the shantytown.  John also discovers a box of sunglasses, curious about them, but halfway dismissively puts a pair in his pocket.  The next day, while walking outside he puts on the sunglasses he found and immediately the whole world goes black and white.  Signs which are advertisements without the glasses become one word commands like "OBEY" and "SLEEP".

John of course is confused, alternately taking off and putting on the sunglasses, but the real shock is when he sees an obviously rich person who, when he puts on the glasses is revealed to be a very ugly alien.  It becomes obvious that the sunglasses have some special power, but he is unsure what that power might be or what it might mean.  When he confronts an old woman who is in fact one of the aliens and tells her she's as ugly as sin, she speaks into her wristwatch "We have one that can see" and promptly disappears.

When he goes outside he is confronted by cops, which with the benefit of the glasses, he can now see are aliens.  He overpowers them and takes their guns, then goes on a shooting spree, but only killing the aliens.  At a bank he utters one of my favorite movie lines of all time:

"I have come here to kick ass and chew bubblegum....and I'm all out of bubblegum."

John tries to connect up with Frank and after a ridiculous looking wrestling match in which John tells Frank to put on he glasses and Frank refuses, he finally gets Frank to put them on and now Frank can see the alien influences, too.

The last part of the movie has John kidnapping a pretty TV assistant director, Holly (Meg Foster, a woman who has the most mesmerizing eyes I have ever seen).  He tries to convince her of what's going on, but she of course, thinks he's nuts.

 It turns out that is a contingent of humans who do know about the alien invasion and are helping them (much like some of the Jews in the concentration camps helped the Nazis, to get better treatment.  If you can hang on until the end, you'll get a few good scenes that will make watching this one extremely well worth it, especially if you have a sardonic sense of humor like I do.

Well folks, looks like the aliens at the concession stand slipped me a mickey.  I'm getting tired.  Hope you guys can stay awake.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Jeepers Creepers

Disclaimer:  The Midnite Drive-In is not responsible for nightmares,  insomnia or fear of going to sleep as a result of reading this post.  Read at your own risk.

Entry #1 in the 3 part series of "My Favorite Horror Movies"

Stephen King is a master at horror.  My first introduction to King was as a high school junior.  A friend of mine described several stories in a book called "Night Shift".  I borrowed the book and was entranced by the stories, and immediately sought out more by this fascinating author.  I had been introduced just in time, because not long after that, the TV adaptation of "'Salem's Lot" came on TV.  I had to be relegated to the bedroom and watch it on my tiny black and white TV because the rest of the family had no interest in it.

I read everything that King put out over the next 20 years or so.  I admit I've grown lax on his more recent stuff, but I still recall being fascinated by "The Stand" (which I am ashamed to admit I didn't get around to reading until I had a job as a night watchman in 1984).  From 1980 (after I turned 18 and could watch any damn movie I wanted to without permission), I went religiously to the theater to watch every film adaptation of a Stephen King work.  Some were decent (from my point of view, not necessarily from the author's...).  I loved Silver Bullet and Maximum Overdrive (and I'm in a minority for both of those...). And I am a huge John Carpenter fan, so I liked Christine.  The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me, although not horror movies, are two that can also be included in the list of favorite King adaptations.  (The only reason Carrie is not included is this list only includes movies I got to see when they first came out...after "1980", y'see?.  Carrie came out in 1976, well before my attaining the age of deciding my movie watching schedule on my own.)

Some were only passable.  And some were just downright terrible.  I'll always be disappointed that the great George C. Scott had to add to his resume that stinker Firestarter.  And just what the hell did the movie The Lawnmower Man have to do with the Stephen King story?  With the exceptions of 'Salem's Lot and The Stand, most of the TV movies of King's works have been crap, too, But It is watchable.  Mostly....

Here we present two Stephen King films, both of which are in my top 10 favorite horror movies.  (see the final installment of this series on Halloween night for a complete list of the top 10.)

The Shining (1980)

The Shining  is possibly the worst King adaptation, according to the master himself, anyway.  It's on record that he disapproved of Kubrick's vision.  And in King's defense, there are quite a lot of differences between the book and the movie.  Even today, many King aficionados think it's less than the best of King's movie adaptations.  But if you can watch it, as I did, without having read the book first, it is a great horror movie.

 A decent into madness.  Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) and his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd) are taken on as caretakers of a huge resort hotel in the mountains of Colorado while it is closed for the winter.  The reason the hotel closes, despite the fact that the tourist skiing season would be in full bloom, is given that the winters are so harsh in the area that access to the hotel becomes entirely unprofitable.  So Jack is essentially there to keep the building from falling into disrepair over the winter.

The whole gang

This movie benefits immensely from the music, more than any movie I've  ever seen.  From the beginning, Wendy Carlos' haunting thump as Jack drives to his interview at the Overlook takes over your feelings.  Even if you didn't know you were about to watch a horror movie, the opening sequences can instill a sense of foreboding and dread.

Jack's son, Danny, is an enigma.  He is a loner as a child, and apparently does not make friends easily.  I can see Danny as a recluse, as an adult, living alone, unmarried, and avoiding any extracurricular activities besides his job.  (King wrote a sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep, which takes on Danny as an adult.  Since I haven't gotten around to reading it yet, this postulation on Danny's future is purely from my mind, only.)


Danny has a talent, a mental precognition, an ability to see things that aren't there yet.  He also has an "imaginary" friend, Tony, whom he claims lives in his, Danny's, mouth.  Tony is the source of Dann's precognitive abilities, and warns Danny that danger lies ahead in the Overlook.  Both Jack and Wendy treat Danny like a precocious child, but don't take his "imaginary" friend seriously.  At the last day of the Overlook's operation, Danny meets Dick Halloran (Scatman Crothers), who recognizes Danny's ability, as he, too, has such a talent, although he recognizes Danny's as being much more powerful.


As time progresses over the winter at the Overlook, things gradually become more isolated.  This is intensified by the fact that the Overlook is haunted.  Jack, a recovering alcoholic, begins to see them, especially the bartender, Lloyd (Joe Turkel), and Delbert Grady (Phillip Stone), a former caretaker who, a few years previously, went crazy and killed his daughters, wife, and then himself.

Lloyd the bartender
Delbert Grady

Danny also sees ghosts, that of the two daughters, twins (Lisa and Louise Burns), who try to get him to play with them.  Enhanced by the music of Carlos, I'm sure, the appearance of the girls is one of the scariest scenes in the movie.  No, not the bloody corpses that appear, just the presence of the two girls alive, who look pretty creepy anyway.

The Grady girls

Jack, as time progresses, becomes more abusive towards Wendy, telling her to leave him alone when he his writing (did I mention he was an aspiring writer?  I think, at times, although not always, that Jack is a substitute for King himself, who quit drinking and drugs about the time of writing the novel).   The isolation is increased by the winter storm, which takes out the phones, and makes the roads virtually impassable.  At least for a time, the Torrances still have the shortwave radio, but as Jack descends into his madness he manages to disable that piece of equipment.

The final scenes, with Jack having gone fully mad and chasing Wendy and Danny with an axe are part of  the legendary memorable scenes of the movie.  Most people have probably seen at least a still frame, if not a clip, of Jack sticking his face through an opening in a door he has just chopped through and maniacally saying "Here's Johnny!"

Kubrick's goal, according to him, was to create the absolute paragon of scary horror movies.  It is up to you to decide if he succeeded.  Personally, I don't think so (The Exorcist scares me more). But it is still a great movie and of my favorites in the horror genre.

Creepshow (1982)

Note:  It is virtually impossible to do a review of this movie without revealing a lot of spoilers.  If you prefer to watch the movie first, come back some other time to continue.

The whole essence of this film lies in it's brackets.  The movie is bracketed by scenes in which a father (played by John Carpenter and George A, Romero stalwart actor favorite, Tom Atkins) berates his son (played by King's own son, Joe) for reading what he considers a trashy horror comic called CreepshowThe father throws the comic away, leaving the boy, called Billy, to mutter to himself wishing death to his father.

The movie contains five creepy stories, all supposedly in the trashed issue of Creepshow.  Each story is prefaced by a cartoon sequence showing the issue of the comic book blowing in the wind, accompanied by the frequent appearance of our esteemed escort through this nightmare, a character referred to in the story as The Creep.  The Creep appears very briefly at the beginning as a live-action character, but thereafter is only shown in cartoon form in the segueing sequences.

The first story is titled Father's Day.  At the outset we see a family consisting of a snooty quartet of an apparently spoiled rich family.  Present are the progeny of Nathan Grantham ( played in flashbacks by Jon Lormer); his granddaughter, Sylvia (Carrie Nye), his great-grandson, Richard (Warner Shook), his great-granddaughter, Cass (Elizabeth Regan) and her husband, Hank (Ed Harris).  They are awaiting the arrival of Aunt Bedelia (Viveca Lindfors), the matriarch and daughter of the dead patriarch.


(Can you believe I can't find one lousy picture of brother Richard...?)



Aunt Bedelia it seems has a tradition of being punctual, but always stops off at the grave of Daddy Grantham to pay her respects.

Aunt Bedelia

Meanwhile, we are treated to the family rumor, back at the mansion, that it was dotty old Aunt Bedelia who in a fit of rage killed her father.  The irascible old coot just wanted his father's day cake.  But he was being a horse's patootie about it, so she conked him on the head with an ashtray.  So the family rumor goes.

Old Nathan himself

  Back at the grave site, Bedelia is in for a surprise.  Daddy Grantham won't rest until he gets his cake.

Nathan still wants his cake

The second story is called The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill.  Stephen King himself plays country hick Jordy Verrill, who finds a meteor that crashes in his farm's back yard.  Stupidly, he touches it, burns his fingers, and gets a bucket of water to cool it off, which causes the meteor to crack open in two pieces.  Thus ruining his dream of selling the meteor for a buttload of money.  But in the process he gets "meteor s**t" on him.  This stuff makes having a green thumb turn from a pipe dream into a nightmare.  He is eventually overwhelmed by green stuff growing on him.

Jordy Verrill, green, but not with envy...

The third story is tale of a man cuckolded by his wife, who gets his own brand of revenge on her and her lover.  Leslie Nielsen, in a rare dramatic role (in his later career it was "rare"...), plays Richard, a man who is used to having things go his way and who is not about to let a young playboy like Harry (Ted Danson) take his wife away from him.

Playboy Harry and ruthless Richard

He takes Harry down to the beach where Harry is forced to bury himself up to the neck in a hole on the beach.  Harry is then shown by remote where Becky (Gaylen Ross), his lover and Richard's wife, is also buried up to the neck on the beach, and where the tide is coming in.


Satisfied with getting his revenge, Richard goes back to his well fortified beach house.  But Harry and Becky want to show him a special plot of land they have rerserved for him on the beach.

Real estate entrepreneurs.

The fourth story in this quintet of tales, The Crate,  is by far the best, not the least because it features Adrienne Barbeau, albeit as the most despicable harridan you ever laid eyes on.  Barbeau plays Wilma (just call her "Billie"),  the wife of Henry Northup (Hal Holbrook), a professor at a university.  She is an annoyance a a pain in the ass to everybody, and you can see the disgust Harry has, as well as the embarrassment she causes him.

Henry and "Billie"

Henry's best friend (and colleague), Dex Stanley (Fritz Weaver), gets called away from a party they are all attending because the janitor at the university found a previously undiscovered crate beneath the stairwell.  It is dated as an exhibition find from 1837.  What is in the crate is not your usual specimen, especially considering it has been under the stairwell for almost 150 years.  Don't ask why no one had discovered it before, it will ruin the surprise...)

Denizen of "The Crate"

Anyway, there is a unique surprise in the crate, one that creates a job opening for "janitor" at the university, and also frees up a scholarship for another grad student.  Stanley runs to Henry's house in terror and explains the situation.  Henry realizes that he has a way to create a new opening himself, that of a second wife...

The final story, titled They're Creeping Up on You, features a cast of thousands (millions?), with a guest starring role for E. G. Marshall as Upton Pratt, a germophobic and entomophobic recluse, rich enough to have his own penthouse apartment, which he berates his employees for not being able to keep completely bug free.  I highly suggest you make sure you have your can of Raid handy when you watch this sequence...Nuff said.

Time to shut the gates on the theater.  Keep  sharp lookout for ghoulies and goblins on the way home.

Tune back in Tuesday , Oct. 25th, for the second installment of this celebration of horror.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Humor in a Movie Vein

This is my entry in the Things I Learned From the Movies Blogathon, hosted by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings.

I have a book I bought years ago,  Videohound's Complete Guide to Cult Flicks and Trash Pics, printed by Visible Ink Press. The book, like all others in the Videohound series, collects a plethora of movie titles that fit in a particular vein, in this case some of the most obscure and weird movies ever made, as well as some mainstream movies that have a cult following status.  (The Star Wars movies would fit in that latter category).  The first part of that designation would include such low budget trash flicks as The Brain that Wouldn't Die, Robot Monster and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (all of which have been reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

I acquired my quirky sense of humor from watching some of these "trash pics".  It's part of my make-up.  I have a quick wit, although it's not always thought of by others as funny, I admit, especially when the person in question is the victim of the witty remark.  But it does make for some more or less clever observations if it works.

I read this book cover to cover, and one day it occurred  to me that I could make some rather snide (or witty, depending on your point of view) comments on some of the titles included in the book, without necessarily having been a viewer of said movies.  I have posted the following in one form or another on the web over the years.  These current comments are mostly new, however, because my memory is so bad I can no longer remember the original comments.  I hope you get a kick out of them, though.

Writer's Note:  The titles, in boldface, are actual titles of movies.  The comments in  (parentheses) are mine.  If the titles seem stupid, don't blame me.  If the comments, however, seem stupid, well.....ppptttthhh!  By the way, I know that more than a few of these selections were intended to be funny in their original form, but my comments are still valid.

Please Don't Eat My Mother (actually, we came for your daughter, Chuck!)

Fat Guy Goes Nutzoid (Look out!  He's got a pocket protector!)

Oh, Dad, Poor Dad!  Momma's Hung you in the Closet & I'm Feeling So Sad (But could you move over?  I need to get my shoes...)

(and yes, that says the star is Rosalind Russell...)

Alone in the T-Shirt Zone (Personally, I'd prefer to be alone in the WET T-shirt zone...)

Where's Poppa?  (Isn't he still hanging in the closet?)

And now for a triple feature:

Bad Girls from Mars
Bad Girls Go to Hell
(this isn't going to go well...)
Mars Needs Women
(See... I told you...)

 Hillbillies in a Haunted House (Also known as "Jethro Bodine Finally Scores"...)

Angels Hard as They Come (Imagine my disappointment.  It's not a porno movie...)

Prick Up You Ears (Shame on you for what you're thinking...)

Killer Tomatoes Eat France (And the rest of the world owes them a debt of "Thanks".)

Barn of the Naked Dead (Brought to you by the same people who gave you Silo of the Cross-Dressing Zombies)

Time for another triple feature:

It's Dead - Let's Touch It!
Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things
(But will they listen...?)
The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies
(I didn't think so...)

{ Couldn't find a poster for It's Dead - Let's Touch It!  but I did find the video.  It's only 30 minutes long, and a riot...}

Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh (The MLB Pirates baseball team's voodoo rite to win the World Series went haywire...)

The Rats are Coming!  The Werewolves are Here! (Break out the Flit!)

The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman (for those of you who like your wrestling on the kinky side)

Rabid Grannies (Gee, grandma, what big teeth you have...)

There's Nothing Out There (That squeak is just Spot's squeaky toy... Wait a minute, we don't HAVE a dog...)

Don't look behind you, now, but...

Attack of the Mushroom People
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
(Where are they coming from...?) 
Attack of the Killer Refrigerator
Well, they had to be coming from SOMEWHERE, didn't they?)

Attack of the Giant Leeches
Attack of the Crab Monsters
Attack of the 50 Foot Woman
Attack of the Puppet People
Attack of the Mayan Mummy
Attack of the Robots

Attack of the 60-Foot Centerfold
(Well, OK, maybe that one's not so bad.  Hmm... Where did I put those magic pills that Alice gave me...?)

This last one needs no comments.  It's title speaks for itself.

Night of the Day of the Dawn of the Son of the Bride of the Return of the Revenge of the Terror of the Attack of the Evil, Mutant, Alien, Flesh-Eating, Hellbound, Zombified Living Dead Part 2 (In Shocking 2D)

If you need stitching up after that, Dr. Frankenstein's office is just down the hall.