Movie Reviews 276 – Oldboy (2003)

October 28, 2016

oldboyThink you had a bad day? Oh Dae-Su (Choi Min-sik) had a worse one. He got drunk on his daughter’s birthday, got hauled of to the police station, spent a few hours there and when he was finally released with the help of a friend, he got kidnapped before the night was over. But things got a lot worse when he woke up…

His kidnap escapade ended up being fifteen years in confinement. Fifteen years without any contact other than a tray of food being slid under the door of his small apartment looking cell. Fifteen years of wondering who his captor(s) were. Fifteen years of vowing vengeance. Fifteen years of trying to escape.

Somewhat mentally unstable with nothing more than television as a companion all those years, he finally escapes and is taken in by young store clerk Mi-do (Kang Hye-jung). After a momentary culture shock, he enjoys a brief reprieve from pain a suffering. But he no sooner begins the task of tracking his abductors that he learns his torment is far from over. He has in fact been purposefully allowed to escape. His tormentor is still breathing down his neck and the two have a cat-and-mouse game as the stakes rise.

But what are the stakes? Not satisfied with mere taunting, threats of a return to imprisonment or torture, Dae-Su isn’t even concerned with that any longer anyhow, his enemy wants much more from him. But the who and why are for Dae-Su to puzzle out. When the truth is revealed, Dae-Su only then comprehends the form of his punishment.

Oldboy is the ultimate revenge movie, the final reveal being something much worse than Dae-Su’s imprisonment. He should be so lucky.

While the violence and action sequences are what propel the movie, the pathos takes over with the truth at the end. Not a movie that you’re going to forget any time soon.

I had mixed feelings for director Park Chan-wook’s Thirst, but he knocks it out of the park (pun intended) here. He considers Oldboy as part of a ‘vengeance’ trilogy that includes his films Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance, the features he directed respectively before and after Oldboy. Going to have to keep an eye out for these as well.

Movie Reviews 275 – Konga (1961)

October 23, 2016


Konga! King Kong’s British cousin. Well immigrant British cousin anyway since he was brought to London from Uganda by his keeper, Dr. Charles Decker (Michael Gough who most will recognize as Alfred, Batman’s butler in the movies of the 80’s and 90’s). Decker has just returned from the remote jungle after surviving a plane crash and then living with a tribe there for another year. But Decker’s lengthy stay had more to do with research of a particular nature than being lost in the jungle. There he learned secrets from a medicine man that he hopes will put him at the top academia and nobody is going to stop him from fame and fortune. And the key to his secret lies in Konga the little cute chimp he brought back along with a few bizzare plants.

He immediately sets up his old laboratory at home a resumes teaching genetics at the university, but his focus remains primarily on the variety of oversized carnivorous plants that now grow in his greenhouse. Lucky for him his infatuated secretary Margaret (Margo Johns) kept up the lab all this time despite the rest of the world having given up on him when they first learned of the crash with no sign of survivors.

Decker explains to Margaret how he can produce an extract from his new plants to both increase the size of animals and make them subservient to suggestions and commands. He begins injecting Konga who starts to grow before our very eyes.  But Dr. Decker does have a few problems.

The first problem is that the university dean isn’t to happy with Dr. Deckers outlandish claims in a radio interview and no longer wants him around. Since Decker needed to ‘prove’ Konga’s subservience he decides it convenient to sick the now Gorilla sized ape on his ungrateful boss. As luck would have it, Decker suddenly finds himself in this kind of a situation on more than one occasion, each problem being ‘solved’ by Konga. Margaret isn’t to happy with all this but corners Decker into a promise of marriage and she seems to be OK with all the killing after that.

But despite pledging to marry Margaret, the lecherous  Decker also has his sights on a particularly buxom student of his who shows promise both as a future scientist and as bedmate half his age. Konga once again comes to the rescue, disposing of the jealous male student who also had his eyes set on the young wench. But when Margaret learns of Decker’s attempt at the tryst and his true feelings for her she gives Konga one last boost of the growth juice which leads to the inevitable final gargantuan rampage in London with Big Ben substituting for the Empire State Building.

The special effects are laughable, especially the filming of the Konga’s growth spurts, but you’ll get a kick out of the exotic cannibal plant life growing in Decker’s lab. The substitution of dolls in lieu of bodies in Konga’s gigantic hands are ridiculously evident. Couldn’t they have gotten  Barbie and Ken dolls instead of those cheap baby dolls with oversized heads? Seriously, it would have been an improvement. And someone please explain to me how Konga manages to change from a chimpanzee to a gorilla as he grows up.

Throughout all the rampaging and killing, nary a drop of visible blood is spilt as far as the viewing audience is concerned. No, the only bloody scene comes at the expense of Decker’s poor kitty in the most ruthless and ghastliest sequence in the movie.

So kitty lovers beware! Ape lovers only have to worry about lack of good taste.

Movie Reviews 274 – Squirm (1976)

October 19, 2016

Squirm posterMy first encounter with the movie Squirm was not on the big screen. Nor was it late night viewing on TV. Not VHS (or Beta if you were one of those) or a DVD like the one I just watched.  Nope. My first encounter with Squirm was reading the cheap paperback novelization of the movie back the summer it first came out. While it did have a few photos on the back cover (and perhaps a few more inside) I had to imagine the horrific passages in my juvenile brain. As easily influenced as I was it was satisfying. But it’s taken me forty years to actually watch the movie.

When the horror scene got tired of the multitude of Frankenstein and Dracula gothic movies of the 60’s they turned to insects for a brief period in the mid 70’s. With movies like Phase IV (ants), It Happened at Lakewood Manor (more ants), The Swarm (killer bees) and Bug (a glut of insects in a highly underrated TV movie Movie of the Week), Squirm was part of that insect invasion of the 1970’s. Not to be confused with the “Giant Insect” invasion of the 1950’s, the 1970’s variants set aside the behemoth growth spurts and instead wreaked havoc and fear by retaining insect minuscule size but opting for volume and bloodlust as the horrifying factors.

When city boy Mick (Don Scardino) decides to visit love interest Geri (Patricia Pearcy) for a vacation at her Georgia coastal town home, his arrival coincides with a thunderous storm the night before that knocks out power to the small town of Fly Creek. With broken power lines dangling over toppled pylons, the electrical arcs release their current into the ground and the worms (and centipedes, millipedes and a few other elongated arthropods) suddenly gather and start picking off the residents.

Mick is the first to clue in but as an outsider that has already earned the ire of the local sheriff he and Geri have no chance of having the authorities believe them. Sunlight seems to keep the buggers (pun intended) at bay, but how long can they last as night approaches?

One of the coolest effects is seeing worms digging into the face of one of the characters as he writhes in pain. Very effective considering this was way before any CGI was even available. So good in fact that the character that gets them eating his face somehow doesn’t die like all the other victims but manages to keep those critters oozing from his face the better part of the movie. I didn’t mind as it kind of made up for some of the other scenes where the bulk, if not the entirety, of the worm masses were clearly fake rubber strings or perhaps even spaghetti (not spaghettini.. to thin). Another effect for which the audience anticipation is slowly is built up is the inevitable rain of worms coming through a shower spigot to land on some unsuspecting soiled subject below. The finale wherein an entire house succumbs to the slimy invaders was also pretty impressive.

For a low budget American International film, the effects and even close up video footage of a few real insects are pretty impressive and even gag inducing. I even learned that there are some real fanged worms that look pretty menacing up close. So move over giant insectoid and score one for the little guys. I’d just forego the pasta entrées while you watch.

My one regret is that my slipcover of the MGM DVD release does not feature the gloriously detailed slithering design of the movie poster shown here, opting instead for a out-of-focus still of that infested face from the movie. Wish I had that poster.

Movie Reviews 273 – Planet of the Vampires (1965)

October 12, 2016


Italian director Mario Bava will always best be remembered by his horror classics (Black Sunday, Black Sabbath) and his giallo movies (Blood and Black Lace).  But he also made an impression with Planet of the Vampires, an offbeat SF cult favorite featuring a cast of finely coiffed actors that would be just as well suited to parade a catwalk in Paris or make the cover of GQ.

Our tight leather wearing space farers are part of a two ship team of explorers set on determining the origin of a mysterious signal emanating from a volcanic planet. There they encounter a mind controlling race of aliens who have been seeking a means of escaping their planet and dying solar system. The aliens use their mind control to pit the newcomers against themselves and also to resurrect the bodies of the dead once killed by their peers. The newcomers even find evidence of this tactic in the forms of the skeletal remains of another giant humanoid race that also evidently fell for the beacon trap. If this sounds familiar it is because this is essentially the same plot as James Cameron’s Alien, only this was filmed a dozen years earlier and on a much skimpier budget. And in Italian.

Once the intentions of the mind controlling aliens has been divulged a silly game of cat-and-mouse is played out as the aliens and crew fight over a “Meteor Rejector” needed to safely escape the planet. I couldn’t help thinking about Marvin the Martian every time I heard “Meteor Rejector”. In the end the ship does escape but there is a great twist ending that salvages much of the puerile cliché “Our sun is dying and we need to escape” plot.

Visually Terrore Nello Spazio’s (Italian title) cinematography is a kaleidoscope of bright primary colors that is sure to please. Some odd choices in filming (excluding the aforementioned tight leather space suits) are fight scenes that are both perceptively sped up and slowed down for effect. Scant on special effects, the few that are there are decent enough.

Notably, Ib Melchior writer of the underrated Robinson Crusoe on Mars and the overrated The Angry Red Planet co-wrote the screenplay. Overall, this is your average American International, B grade movie. I just wish they’d muss up the perfect doos at least in the fight scenes. I was rooting for the evil aliens for that fact alone.

Movie Reviews 272 – The Wasp Woman (1959)

September 30, 2016

The Wasp Woman

I was overdue for watching a schlocky B-Movie so I turned to the master himself and picked Roger Corman’s The Wasp Woman off my shelves.

Bee researcher Dr. Zinthrop (Michael Mark) has just been fired for researching wasp enzymes and how the can be used to rejuvenate rats and other small animals instead of ways of making Honey Bees more productive for his employers who run hives. At just about the same time, aging makeup magnate Janice Starlin‘s (Susan Cabot) company finds itself in the doldrums with declining sales which coincided with her decision to take her portrait off of their merchandise. The company’s descent is just one more worry on top of her burgeoning fear of  aging and no longer capable of being model face for her own company. So when Zinthrop, desperate for a job shows Janice some of his lab marvels she immediately hires him and gives him carte-blanche to continue his research.

Zinthrop finally completes his research and Janice insists she be the first recipient for the concoction. It takes a while but when the rejuvenation effects finally kick in they are nothing short of miraculous. With her own employees marveling at her transition she is not only flying on cloud nine with her looks, but puts the company on a path that will revolutionize the makeup industry and will make Starlin enterprises a fortune.

But this is not a soap opera we’re watching but a horror movie called the The Wasp Woman so something’s gotta give. For starters, one of Zinthrop’s test animals, a cat, has suddenly grown oversized tumours on it’s back and has gone feral, attacking him in the lab. Still reeling and in a bit of panic he rushes out the building but gets struck down by a car on the street. He survives, but is in a bad shape. As he groggily regains consciousness he vaguely recalls that he has some important message to deliver but for the life in him can’t remember what it was.

Too bad, since Janice was not only taking the small doses Zinthrop was administering her, but she’s gotten a bit impatient with the slow progress and has been secretly boosting herself. The predictable result is that she occasionally turns into a BEM (Bug Eyed Monster) and starts sucking victims dead around the office.

The effects are cheesy to say the least and Janice’s ‘Wasp’ look is hoot.albeit nothing like to enticing movie banner. However the movie does have its charms. The drama unfolds largely from the point of view of Janice’s aide Mary (Barboura Morris), her boyfriend Bill (Fred Eisley) the firm’s marketing man, and pipe smoking board member Arthur Cooper (William Roerick) who tries to figure out Zintrhop’s game from the very start. Their water cooler sleuthing is all quite silly but nothing like to flighty banter we get to enjoy from two girls in the secretarial pool who seem to just sit around and talk all day.

Look of for a short cameo appearance by Corman himself who looks incredibly young as a doctor checking out Zinthrop after his accident. I just wonder if Corman was taking some sort of rejuvenating serum. Hmm.…

Tesseracts 19: Superhero Universe – Claude Lalumière and Mark Shainblum [Ed.], (2016)

September 28, 2016

Tesseracts 19It was only three years ago that we were treated to an anthology of short stories that had as a central theme Canadian superheroes. Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories (Tyche books)

was a long overdue collection that was right up my alley and I anxiously awaited its release. I was lucky enough to have attended the Ottawa book  launch where I met a number of the authors and was entertained to readings of select passages and stories. Alas, when I finally got around to completing it I was too busy to give it a review it rightly deserved and once some time had gone by the opportunity to do a proper write up had passed.

Imagine my surprise in learning that Tesseracts 19, the annual collection of Canadian speculative fiction was going to be superhero themed. More Canadian superheroes and a chance for redemption. Edited by Claude Lalumière (who also co-edited Masked Mosaic) and Mark Shainblum, this collection runs the gamut of perspectives from caped defenders to vigilante guardians, and a few that fall in between the spectrum of the moral curtain.

My hands down favorites was  Pssst! Have you heard… The Rumur by D.K.Latta, a story in which each chapter is written from the point of view of a different character, each relating the events leading up to a mob hit and the following strange events that lead to the mobster’s demise. The story itself must be pieced together by the reader, beginning by reading Tony “Spats” DeMulder’s account of being publicly embarrassed by actor Ken Anton and then piecing together the accounts leading up to and beyond the mysterious death of the actor. We get slices from Spat’s moll, a detective, a grocer who regularly gets shaken down, a reporter, Spat’s lawyer and finally his doctor. The story that unfolds as narrated by each of the tongue-in-cheek stereotypes describes Spat’s fallout with his number one moneyman and hitman, the mysterious “Book” and how that fallout is precipitated by a pulpish, shadow-like figure messing with various aspects of Spat’s operations.

Canadian fans of indie comics will be pleased to hear that Bernie Mireault has resurrected his underground comic hero The Jam in prose form with The Jam: A Secret Bowman. As the title suggests, our hero stumbles across a mysterious bowman and ends up being a suspect himself under the knuckles of an attention seeking police officer. I wish the story went a little deeper with the Jam’s prey, but it was a pleasure having him back in any case.

Another bizarre – although somewhat questionable guideline entry – Crusher and Typhoon by Brent Nichols, doles out an honest to goodness old west, Kung Fu story. Reminiscent of the old Wild Wild West TV show, it’s a symbiotic friendship between a one time martial arts master and an impaired steampunk inventor. Hardly super hero fare and with only a reference to the Canadian Pacific Railroad, the relationship to the anthology’s theme is tenuous at best but the story was endearing enough that it did not matter.

The Rise and Fall of Captain Stupendous , by P.E. Bolivar is the unveiling of a superhero as a lesson that you can’t believe everything you read. A tangled story of deceit, love and betrayal, which gives rise to a super villainesses and we get a front seat in the transition. We’re reminded that the world is not all black or white and there is always another side to a coin.

Another villain oriented story was Jason Sharp‘s Black Sheep where the protagonist manifests Magneto like powers but instead of being able to control metal, water is the substance of manipulation. Not an action story at all but an introspective personal quest that the villain pursues after a prison break.

Friday nights at the Hemingway is a short story by Arun Jiwa that blends superhero history in a local watering hole the likes of Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon that answers the question “Where have all the heroes gone?”

In a world populated by super hero mutants that need medical attention and mending, where do they go for healing and convalescence? Find out from the point of view of a first day medical recruit at secret mutant superhero hospital in Corey Redekop’s SuPER.

Exhibiting both amusing stories with serious fare the overall collection is highly satisfying with only a few clunkers that are easily dismissed by the other entertaining ones. And in all, a highly recommended collection made all the more interesting to Canadian readers who will recognize a few people, places and events.

If you want a taste of what’s in the book the publishers have created a sampler you can read online which basically contains the first 2 pages of each story. Give it a try here:

Movie Reviews 271 – Johnny Stecchino (1991)

September 15, 2016

johnny-stecchinoItaly’s greatest frenetic export since Espresso coffee, auteur Roberto Benigni had a breakout with his 1997 feature Life is Beautiful which garnered him Oscar’s for both Best Actor for Best Foreign Feature among many other awards. But the multi-talented comedian, writer and director was already well known to Italian fans long before that.

Johnny Stecchino (Johnny Toothpick) is one of his earlier movies which appropriates the comic staple doppelganger plot. But instead of being a case of mistaken identity it has a hapless victim Dante (Benigni) who is a lookalike of a mob boss being setup to take his fall. Always on the lookout for love, the buffoon Dante is nearly run over by Maria  (played by Benigni’s real life wife and regular co-star, Nicoletta Braschi) who happens to be wife of Johnny Stecchino (again, Benigni). Mafioso don Stecchino, currently in hiding and on the run from all the other local mobsters after breaking omertà – the mafia code of silence – in exchange for his own freedom from prosecution. When Maria notices the similarity she befriends Dante and slowly maneuvers him to take the fall for her husband. The plan is that once Dante is knocked off and everyone believes that Johnny is dead, she and Johnny can escape to Argentina to live free of mob and police reprisal.

Using a complex and multi-layered plot, the oblivious Dante visits Maria in Palermo, Sicily and soon targeted by a barrage of bullets believes he is being persecuted for other crimes, his penchant for stealing bananas at the top of the list. But his resolve to defend himself fortuitously thwarts his manipulator’s moves as well as those of the police and the cross-hairs of the rival gang.

Combining comedic sequences built up throughout the film along with a few bits of slapstick thrown in for good measure, Benigni strays from convention in many ways such a positing his best friend Lillo, a kid with down syndrome, as the brains and level headed party in the relationship. The jokes that play out in earlier scenes become pivotal plot points later, all the while delivering anti-corruption, anti-mob, and anti-authoritarian indictments.

In the big scheme of things, Dante just wants to get laid. But as he juggles the dual realities at play, everything that Dante says and does has a different meaning to everyone else. Benigni shines at every moment, always believing he knows exactly what is going on, but never flinches at the challenges, and ready to defend his Maria. In the end, everyone gets what they deserve, but you will never look at a banana the same way.

Santa-Cleopatra, this is a movie you have to seek out!

Ode to the Comic Geeks

September 2, 2016

This is a long overdue tribute that started off as one final salute to an individual, but after some thought I felt it needed to be expanded to encompass the entire group to which this individual belonged, and in a broader sense all of comic fandom.

I stumbled upon the Comic Geek Speak (CGS) podcast as I was disillusioned with all the local radio stations selection from for my daily car commutes to work. I’d heard there were a few good podcasts out there covering a wide range of topics and at first I wasn’t even looking for a comic podcast. While I already owned tons of comics and many of the more popular graphic novels at the time (the story of how I got most of that is worthy of it’s own blog), I wasn’t in tune with any of the then current comic scene and thought that a podcast would be nice to bring me up to date. This was back in 2007 and I’d seen that one of my friends had ‘liked’ the CGS Facebook page so I figured it was as good a place to start as any.  So I downloaded the most recent podcast they had on their website which was somewhere around number 250, listened to it, and immediately knew I’d found a gem in the wasteland that is the internet. I went went back to their very very first podcast, started listening one at a time, and haven’t looked back. Their main podcast, now well over 1600 episodes, is every bit as good and in many ways even better than that first show.

Starting off as a simple two man experiment in 2005 by Bryan Deemer and Peter Rios, the show remains the most prolific podcast dedicated to comics. In the years that have passed, crew have come and gone (and come back), spinoff podcasts were launched, and the podcast garnered a worldwide loyal audience. They had their own conventions, anniversary shows with public fan gatherings , their own magazine for a short time, and have had a myriad of comic creators as guests on their show ranging from celebrities like Stan Lee down to young talent just getting their feet wet. They’ve had guests who were comic legends that have since passed away like the great Gene Colan and Joe Kubert, leaving us with now treasurable interview recordings. Aside from the comics themselves, their discussion topics encompass everything comic related, whether it be movies, TV, or anything remotely geeky. When not hosting their own booth at comic cons, they become one of us, slithering through artist alleys, recording and interviewing creators, letting us enjoy conventions virtually if not in person. Over the years they have also recruited a few recurring guests who we’ve come to know almost as well as the hosts themselves including the always hilarious ‘Uncle’ Sal Abbinanti whose Storytime with Uncle Sal purple prattle episodes always leaves listeners in stitches.

Some of the regulars and semi-regulars that have manned the mic over the years include Adam “Murd” Murdough, Shane Kelly, Matt (Just “Matt’), Kevin Moyer, Chris Eberle, Dani O’Brien and notably Brian “Pants” Christman, who has blossomed from a one-time wallflower on the show to being the bellwether through some hard times.

Which brings me to the impetus for my writing this venerable blog, the anniversary of the passing of the late Jamie Dallesandro a pillar CGS crewmember who left us 2 years ago.You see the CGS crew aren’t just folks who diligently give us the latest scoop and their take of the comic world. When you tune into CGS they are more than just friends giving opinions and facts. Sure we get to know the personalities, likes and dislikes of the individuals, but it goes deeper. While keeping some things respectively private, they have also let us share their world. We know their day jobs, their pastimes, their families and a lot more. For most of the CGS audience the CGS crew are like family.

And it was as a family the CGS clan of listeners first learned when Jamie was diagnosed with the dreaded Big “C”. We traveled that road of treatment, remission and eventual relapse even as we listened to him lavishing praise on his beloved Avengers. And we were all shocked when we heard of his passing. He may be gone, but he will never be forgotten. And neither will we forget the CGS crew who continue bringing us comic news … and more.

R.I.P Jamie “D”, the shiznit pimp, May 2, 2014

Visit CGS at

Movie Reviews 270 – Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

August 27, 2016

Close Encounters of the Third KindWhen Star Wars made its debut in 1977 its success created a resurgence in science fiction films that lasted for years. One of the first films to sate our appetites for more was Close Encounters of the Third Kind, wunderkind director Steven Spielberg’s followup to his own megahit Jaws. The audience was ready for a thought provoking science fiction film and we were teased for months with a nondescript TV short trailer for Close Encounters featuring not much more than a symbolic flat topped butte and a distinct melody of five musical notes. Those five notes would carry me for months until the film finally arrived in theaters.

With only the teasers to go by and the knowledge that the movie was about aliens, I puzzled over the very meaning of the title for weeks. What did they mean by Close Encounter? And what the hell was a Third Kind, to say nothing about what was even a First or Second kind?

Not quite Star Wars It was nonetheless a huge hit and within a short time everyone knew what the title referred to. As much as the special effects reigned triumphant and was one of the reasons it garnered praise and appeal, this movie is very much a sentimental one. As ironic as it sounds seeing it is a movie about aliens, it’s the human element that raised this movie above the deluge of SF movies that followed. It is every bit as much the story about everyday suburbanite Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) as it is a story about alien creatures.

What I watched in that theater took me for quite a ride. Sure Star Wars had cool aliens and some jaw dropping spaceships, but nothing prepared me for the realism in Close Encounters. While undoubtedly science fiction, it also gave a more or less realistic take on what an actual alien first meeting would be like. It was spooky, eerie and in many ways surreal. But it was genuine and thoughtful without ostentatious space battles, gadgets or weaponry.

The movie immediately sets it’s low key approach with completely silent opening credits which slowly transforms into an arid windswept Mexican desert where a group of evidently official mystery men are led to a squadron fully intact WWII era warplanes sitting on the dunes. As the 70’s were ripe with conspiracy theories and cryptozoology oddities, tales from the Bermuda Triangle swirled in the media and I knew the significance of ‘Flight 19’.

As other lost-in-time artifacts appear in across the Earth – always with the group of mystery men closely behind – the aliens first appear in a series of UFO sightings one night over Indiana. Roy is one of a handful of people that are first hand witnesses to the phenomena which the government tries to cover up. After his encounter Roy is besieged by visions of a particular butte and becomes fixated with its significance, eventually surrendering everything including his family in search of answers to questions whose essence even he isn’t sure of. Accompanied by a single mom desperately seeking her abducted child (Melinda Dillon), Roy defies all attempts to stop him from reaching his goal, whatever that may be.

All he knows is that his answer lies at the foot of Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, and once there he finds the mystery men have set up an ornate landing strip for a preordained first contact. Laden with cameras, microphones and every sensor imaginable, a hive of scientist await the aliens, with their main communication tool being a music synthesizer and a giant panoramic color board of lights. In the end Roy finds his destiny to be the envoy and species bridging catalyst the aliens seek.

While Star Wars and its ilk can give provide great escapist space fantasy, Close Encounters  is emotional, speculative (yet still fun) grounded science fiction.

I was blissfully ignorant of François Truffaut‘s film legacy at the time and just thought he was merely some good French actor but the famed director’s inclusion here as one of the mystery men is yet another fine touch to the film. I also enjoyed the fact that the film that shied away from portraying an idyllic home and family environment. Aside from the messy rooms, dirty laundry, and sometimes obnoxious kids, the film makes it a point that Roy will even give up his wife (Teri Garr) and kids for his obsession.

Viewer should be aware that there have been several versions released over the years, some with one particular addition of note. Some later editions feature an additional final scene in which we get a glimpse of the interior of the alien mothership. Like Spielberg himself regretting the addition, I thought it best be left to the audience’s imagination and should never have been filmed at all.

There is one last side note I’d like to mention regarding this movie. I had the chance to drop into the Udvar-Hazy Center which is one of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum branches in Washington D.C. While not as famous as the Smithsonian in the downtown National Mall, the lesser known Udvar-Hazy has a lot fantastic historical aircraft worthy of a visit and tucked away in a back room is none other than the model used for the mothership in the movie. As immense as it seems in the movie the model is a modest few feet in diameter. But it’s the few household odds and ends that the modelmakers threw in the intricate patterns that make this model an especially fun display. Check it out next time you’re near Dulles airport as the museum is just a few minutes away.

Psycho – Robert Bloch (1959)

August 9, 2016

Psycho-BlochMultifaceted writer Robert Bloch has excelled in just about every genre of literature, winning a Bram Stoker award for his horror, a World Fantasy award, as well as a Hugo for the genre for which he is probably best known overall; science fiction. But without a doubt his biggest hit came with the novel Psycho which was  adapted to film a year after publication by Alfred Hitchcock into the iconic thriller masterpiece.

As I assume most readers here are familiar with the movie adaption I won’t bother with an overdrawn synopsis of the plot. Besides, it’s not one of those stories you can give almost any detail without spoiling some aspect of the story. Suffice to say that’s it’s one of the all time greatest horror thrillers and is just as popular today as it was back then. But as the classic movie adaptation has far surpassed the original novel in popularity, two questions come to mind. The first question is whether the source novel is as good as the movie on it’s own merits and the second question is how close is the Hitch’s adaptation to the source?

Just as there are a number of clues in the movie that hint at Norman’s relationship with his mother, so too does the novel tease readers on the matter. While deftly skirting the truth, reading between the lines of both Norman Bates’ spoken dialog and the events as portrayed in the novel, the cat is never let out of the bag, yet those already in the know can see the foundations of the truth. Yes, the novel is just as finely crafted as the movie and deserving as much respect as the film. The written form is even better suited to having the reader exactly in tune to Norman’s perspective on things which of course deviates from reality in a few regards.

Comparing the movie to the source we find a mix with a significant portion of the movie script closely following the original for much of the story, but at the same time diverging significantly for particular aspects. The first relatively big change is the physical appearance of Norman Bates himself, in that the slim, suave and tidy Norman in the film as portrayed by Anthony Perkins was actually an oafish, overweight alcoholic in denial here. It was odd reading those few descriptive passages of Norman as we’re all so familiar with Perkins’ rendition. There are a few small changes in events and particulars, but none of any real significance to the major plot.

Like any great thriller, the greatest enjoyment is when you are first introduced to it, regardless of format. Given that, I would say that anyone unfamiliar with the movie may just as well start with this novel and enjoy the surprise ending as originally conceived. But do get to watch the movie if you haven’t already as the performances and imagery in some key sequences are unforgettable.

Now you’ll have to excuse me. Mother is calling…