Saturday, August 22, 2015
(July 1942, U.S.)
Re-watching the American black and white classic THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES, the tale of New York Yankees first baseman legend Lou Gehrig, reminds me that there was once a time in baseball history when players were considered genuine heroes rather than overpaid scandal artists (Derek Jeter the exception, bless him!). It also reminds me of the tremendous place in historical excellence the New York Yankees holds in my heart, as well as countless other fans. I've been a loyal Yankee fan since the great days of Reggie Jackson and Thurman Munson in the late 1970s - that was my Yankee era! For all other Yankee fans, or any other great American baseball team (actually, the Mets suck!!!), they have their specific eras that their hearts and their memories cling to. For those old enough to still be living and still hold any great treasured memories of Yankee greatness, there's Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and any other legendary player who just happened to be a part of the New York Yankees!
THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES is less a sports biography than an homage to a heroic and widely loved baseball figure whose tragic and premature death touched the entire nation. The film emphasizes Lou Gehrig's (played by the great Gary Cooper) relationship with his parents (particularly his strong-willed and often interfering mother), his friendships with other players and sports journalists, and his storybook romance with the woman who became his wife and companion for life, Eleanor (played by Teresa Wright). Details of his baseball career, which were likely still very fresh in the minds of baseball fans in the year 1942, when the film was released just one year after the real Lou Gehrig's death, are rather limited to montages of ballparks, pennants, and Gary Cooper swinging bats and running bases, though the Yankees World Series championship of 1927 is prominently cited in the film. Still, as a film homage, it also effectively highlights Gehrig's legendary standing with the Yankees by featuring real-life Yankee ball players playing themselves, including Babe Ruth, Bill Dickey, Mark Koening and Bob Meusel.
Because the true emphasis is to paint a proper portrait of baseball figures as folk heroes, it's important to note that all the facts of Lou Gehrig's life are not necessarily portrayed to complete accuracy in the film. Hollywood has always taken it's liberties with the truth when it comes to their own version of artistic content, but it's particularly valid to understand that when you're experiencing a film about the great game of baseball and it's heroes, truth and accuracy may not necessarily be what you want to watch. As an actor on screen, Gary Cooper was always the man of bravery, valor and virtue in just about all of his roles. No less could be expected of him as the one playing Lou Gehrig. Teresa Wright was almost no different, having played a very good and virtuous woman in all that she did. I know nothing of the real Eleanor Gehrig, but if Cooper's portrayal of Gehrig is anything close to who the man really was, then I feel more than comfortable in the idea that his wife was just as "perfect" as he was. Again, we may not know the facts for sure, but it's the ideas behind the sentimental epitaphs of great heroes that baseball and movie fans long to cling to, and I can't find any fault in that.
Now with regard to Lou Gehrig's famous farewell speech at Yankee Stadium in 1939, it seems there is no known intact film of the man's actual speech as it was. A small portion of black and white newsreel footage, incorporating his first and last remarks, are all that survives. For the film, however, the speech couldn't be reproduced verbatim, so the script reorganized and condensed Gehrig's actual unprepared and spontaneous remarks, and shifted the iconic "luckiest man" line from the beginning to the end for the heightened dramatic Hollywood effect. Gehrig's essential message, however, remained unchanged, and I suppose that's what's most important when you're telling a tale of a great American sports hero, because Heaven knows, we don't seem to have to many of them anymore in today's world!
I first saw THE PRIDE OF YANKEES when I was thirteen years-old in seventh grade English class. It was 1980, and movies shown in class were still reel-to-reel and still being set up by the boys that came to be known as geek members of the Audio-Visual Squad (some stigmas never change over time - poor bastards!). That was one of my earliest true appreciations to black and white cinema (following KING KONG, of course!). However, the true memory for me stems with the early morning hours of February 5, 2006. My son had just been born at 11:31 pm the previous day. It was two o'clock in the morning when I finally got home to my New York City apartment and I needed to watch a little TV before winding myself down to finally sleep. I turned on Turner Classic Movies and the movie that happened to be in progress was THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES! I've never failed to equate that iconic film with the night my son was born. As it turns out, my son loves the New York Yankees, though he's not much of a fan of playing baseball himself. Oh well, can't have everything, I guess.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Lou Gehrig: " "People say that I've had a bad break. But today...today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth."
Yeah, as if I would have chosen anything else!
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
(March 1981, U.S.)
I've often repeated (and will continue to repeat) my ongoing distaste for Hollywood remakes, particularly during this recent century. However, in as much as I generally condemn them, I've also been quick to point out those that are great exceptions. As a general rule, those I've enjoyed the most have been remakes of classic black and white films (and some color ones, too) from Hollywood's golden age (the specific decade that would be defined by that is up to one's individual taste, I suppose). Some of my favorites have included KING KONG (1976), INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978), THE THING (1982), SCARFACE (1983), THE FLY (1986) and RANSOM (1996). In all of these specific titles, the remakes are updated to the present day, as well as the social culture of the time. As another general rule, I've never favored remakes that take place in the same era as the original film that fail to actually "remake" itself in any way...until Bob Rafelson's 1981 version of THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. Although the story still maintains the same historical era as the original 1934 novel, it does remake itself in a very specific and even necessary manner - SEX!!!
So without unnecessarily repeating myself, the plot of this film is virtually unchanged from the original (see my last post if you forgot). The roles previously sported by John Garfield and Lana Turner are now revamped by Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange. The only main difference between this adaptation and the original novel and film is the ending. Originally, Frank Chambers is ironically convicted of killing Cora Smith, since her death truly is caused in an auto accident. This version simply ends the story with her death and Frank weeping over her body. Still, that's hardly relevant when you consider why one would actually take the time to watch and appreciate this version. Consider the era of the 1940s and the strong censorship that reigned heavily over the entire Hollywood film making community. It's evident from the beginning that Frank and Cora are hot for each other, but times being as they were so long ago, audiences were not about to get any real idea of just how hot things were between these two ill-fated lovers. Now we cut to the beginning of the 1980s - censorship is far more relaxed now and there's even been a small trend in Hollywood films to feature big name stars in films that are considered softcore porn - case in point, Marlon Brando in LAST TANGO IN PARIS (1973) and Malcom McDowell and Peter O'Toole in CALIGULA (1979). It's not at all difficult to understand and appreciate the frustration fans and film makers of the original film must have had in not getting the full satisfaction of getting even just a small taste of the forbidden passion between our two anti-heroes! Through some rather impressive cinematography that effectively captures the era of the Great Depression, we witness a time that we've seen before and are likely to associate with another time of human innocence. Not quite, it would seem. History's eras of the past know no boundaries when it comes to the savage desires of a man and a woman who just want to fuck each other! From almost the exact moment that Frank and Cora see each other, the sexual yearning is evident. When it finally happens in what has come to be a rather infamous scene in the restaurant kitchen, the moment is practically an act of rape, though Cora doesn't seem to mind it at all. She's stuck in a worthless marriage to a straight-laced Greek man she doesn't love and longs for nothing more than a good, hard fuck on the wooden table! And while this is still an R-rated film, look closely and you'll see some physical parts of Jessica Lange you might never have seen before! The point of all this being, one needs to remember that along with murder, deception and betrayal, THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE is truly a story of deep sexual attraction during a time where such acts were considered unspeakable. Did James M. Cain write his novel so explicitly? I don't know, because I haven't read the book. Original film director Tay Garnett holds back because the power-that-be of Hollywood society won't permit him to do what he'd really like to! Bob Rafelson, on the other hand, seems to know just what we want and why it's necessary to finally give it to us after so many decades.
I have to take a moment to truly appreciate Jessica Lange in the character of Cora. When considering the year 1981, I actually find it challenging to imagine any other woman in such a femme fatale role that was truly meant for a seductive and sexually-charged blonde (what other blonde of the time comes to mind?). And during a time in between KING KONG (1976) and TOOTSIE (1982), when virtually all of Lange's parts were rather forgettable, her role in an homage to the legendary Lana Turner may have been just what she needed to keep her career afloat. Just take a look, for a moment, at this photo from the above-mentioned kitchen scene...
Although it's not a sexually-explicit image, study Jessica's face and legs well! One can clearly recognize a sense of rage, frustration and desperation atop a wooden table - not just for a good lay, mind you, but also the longing to escape a life that keeps a woman who desires to be free trapped in a world of loveless isolation and boredom! Yes, it's that sort of mundane existence that just might be solved by a good, hard fuck next to a couple of loafs of bread! Yet even beyond the obvious sexual content of her character and the humor that I clearly take in it, there's another particular moment in the film that manages to stick with me. During a lunch sequence when the restaurant is filled with hungry little boy scouts, Frank is forced to make an abundance of egg salad sandwiches and slice numerous pieces of apple pie by himself while Cora is out. When she returns to discover the mayhem taking place, her first reaction is to smile with glee and giddiness. While many may overlook such a quick facial reaction, I interpret much in her character. Despite Cora's sexual and marital frustrations, despite her cold heart that would allow her to murder her husband and betray her lover, she remains, at heart, a simple woman who longs for the joy of bearing and raising a child with the right man. Her husband is not the right man and we must follow along with her life to discover if Frank is the right man. Indeed, he just might have been.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Cora Smith: "I'm getting tired of what's right and wrong."
Frank Chambers: "They hang people for that, Cora!"
Thursday, August 13, 2015
(May 1946, U.S.)
Although considered a drama film noir classic in it's own right, THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE shares many-too-many similarities (if not direct duplications) with DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) and its immoral taboos. Ill-fated lovers, a murdered husband, an insurance policy, one or more double crossings and two dead ill-fated lovers at the end of the film. One can't help but wonder with so many story rip-offs, what exactly makes this film stand out on its own? I suppose the circumstances and chemistry between stars John Garfield and Lana Turner are enough to separate one film from another, if you like.
Drifter Frank Chambers (Garfield) stops at a rural California diner for a meal and ends up taking a job there. The diner is operated by a beautiful young woman, Cora Smith (Turner), and her older husband, Nick (played by Cecil Kellaway). The deadly attraction between the two of them is immediate from the moment she steps through the doorway with her long, tanned legs and her white pumps onto the screen to greet him and the inevitable love affair is not too far behind. If a woman's physical persona can truly speak for anything, one can immediately tell that Cora is not a happy woman with her current life situation and would do nearly anything to find a way out. Thought not greedily seeking wealth from any next-of-kin claim, Cora eagerly wants her husband out of the way so she can make the diner her own and make something more significant out of her own life, seemingly with or without Frank. Still, lovers being what they are in film noir, the two of them plot to murder her husband. The first attempt is a failure, only temporarily landing the husband in the hospital. The second attempt is almost totally cliché, in that they rig the husband's car to make it look like he perished in a deadly accident, which does succeed. Still, nothing's ever that simple in such a love tangle! Enter the local district attorney who's hell-bent on exposing the two lovers. It's here now, unlike DOUBLE INDEMNITY, that things continue beyond the traditional backstabbing and double crossing and two dead bodies. A public trial ensues and its only through lack of physical evidence and very clever plea bargaining that Frank and Cora are able to go free, though their relationship now appears to be damaged due to each other's betrayal of the other.
Okay, so you'd think the film would end there, yes? Not so. Frank and Cora eventually patch up their relationship and plan for a future together. But just as they seem to be prepared to live the Hollywood so-called "happily ever after" conclusion, Cora dies in a car crash while Frank is driving. Although it was truly an accident, the circumstances seem suspicious enough that Frank is accused of having staged the deadly crash. He's ultimately convicted of murdering Cora and is sentenced to death (oh, the irony of it all!). But even as it seems that Frank will die for a crime he didn't commit, new evidence manages to (conveniently) surface which actually does incriminate him in the murder of Cora's husband. Justice is (seemingly) served in the end, but by that time, as a film viewer, we may find ourselves quite disappointed in that despite being a couple of real immoral stinkers, we secretly wished for Frank and Cora to make it in the end. Looks like the only togetherness the two of them will find shall be on the "other side", whatever that might be.
In most any film noir story, the characters are almost expected to follow specific guidelines of virtues and flaws. John Garfield playing the confused drifter unwillingly stepping into a fatal trap and Lana Turner playing the cheap, yet ambitious blonde willing to submit her life's aspirations to the lowest level of crime is done with great effectiveness. It's fine work by two gifted actors of the era that defined itself, among others ways, as a Golden age of Hollywood when the dark shadows of crime, deception and sexual attraction were what made film noir such a treasured piece of American cinema, even if the stories do tend to repeatedly follow the same formulas. Does that mean that "copy-catting" works? I suppose that's up to film fan and their own personal perceptions or originality. Then again, maybe sometimes it's best not to think so damn much and just enjoy the picture!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Frank Chambers: "You know, there's something about this that's like, well it's like you're expecting a letter that you're just crazy to get, and you're hanging around the front door for fear you might not hear him ring. You never realize that he always rings twice."
Okay, to be perfectly honest, this is not my absolute favorite line, but I do greatly appreciate that it attempts to explain what the damn title of this film means!
Sunday, August 9, 2015
(December 1972, U.S.)
One of the most intriguing things about any sort of film franchise, case in point being the infamous disaster films of the 1970s, is that no matter how out-of-control-bad things get when they inevitably spiral into extreme overkill, they've almost always started as something very positive and successful. While one might trace the 1970's disaster film all the way back to Arthur Hailey's original novel of AIRPORT, which eventually became a successful 1970 film, it was truly Irwin Allen's (nicknamed the "Master of Disaster) production of THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, that really kicked things into gear. Based on Paul Gallico's novel, it's the story of the aged luxury ocean liner SS Poseidon, and her final voyage from New York City to Athens. At midnight on New Year's Eve, the ship is overturned by a monstrous rogue wave following an underwater sea quake and all surviving passengers and crew are trapped inside, fighting for their survival. Based on such true ocean liner disasters as the Titanic, the Andrea Doria and the RMS Queen Mary, this story uses the overturned ship effect to take things one step further. How do your survive a ship disaster such as this when all of your location bearings have now been set in reverse and literally turned upside down? Perhaps I over-dramatize the situation a bit, but really, the entire dangerous premise of it all still fascinates me ever after forty-three years! Ironically, as the whole disaster film craze came to a disastrous (excuse the pun!) end by the decade's conclusion, it was Irwin Allen's own failed sequel of BEYOND THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1979) that brought things full circle. Still, for a while, whether it was fires, floods, quakes or airplanes, it was all a whole lot of fun!
Still fresh off of his bad-ass performance in THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971), Gene Hackman now plays bad-ass preacher Reverend Frank Scott aboard the Poseidon trying to teach those that will listen to him the value of finding God from within to help fight for themselves in a desperate situation. A very convenient sermon, no doubt, as such values must be put to the test immediately following the ship's capsizing. Our small group of protagonists, whom we will spend nearly two hours following throughout each and every crevice of the ship, feel more than comfortable in putting their faith into a preacher that talks a lot more like, well, "Popeye Doyle" than a traditional man of the cloth. Of course, in any group survival scenario, there's always the loud-mouth skeptic who doesn't believe anything can be achieved, and that's where Ernest Borgnine's character of Mike Rogo comes in perfectly! Any other actor in the same role, like Peter Boyle in the failed 1979 sequel, would just make it all mouth and no delivery. Borgnine, the gifted actor that he was, brings just the right level of humanity to his otherwise cynical role. As their journey for survival literally makes its way from the bottom to the top, the ship repeatedly settles in the ocean, rocking the entire foundation on its ass, and this is where our heroes will either survive or die. Some make and some don't. Some characters are of a smaller nature (like ship employee Acres) and you almost expect them to die. Others, like Belle Rosen (played by Shelley Winters) and Reverend Scott himself, are unexpected casualties. Unexpected, in my opinion, because just before their untimely demise, they manage to achieve feats of heroism, enabling others to survive the ship's disasters, and you start to believe they just might make it.
By the film's end, one can't help but feel that they've been watching an alternate version of Agatha Christie's AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, in that as time goes on, vital (or non-vital) characters are slowly eliminated as they each, in their own way, succumb to the forces of the enemy (in this case, the ship). The ongoing question of, "Who will survive?" remains on our mind up until the very end, when in fact, their are six people left that are rescued and taken out of the ship to safety. One can't help their bewilderment of considering just how many people an entire ocean liner will house and that when it's all over, only six people have survived the ordeal. It's actually pretty unsettling when you really think about it and only serves to make the story's drama and intrigue all the more fascinating. Unfortunately, such a premise fell victim to the 1979 sequel which implied that there were other survivors the entire time, just waiting around to be rescued by Michael Caine and Sally Field! Yes, it would seem that Irwin Allen himself was his own worst enemy in the case of an entire decade's film genre - he started and he finished it (very badly!)!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Reverend Frank Scott (screaming to God): "What more do you want of us? We've come all this way, no thanks to you! We did it on our own, no help from you! We didn't ask you to fight for us, but dammit, don't fight against us! Leave us alone! How many more sacrifices? How much more blood? How many more lives!? Belle wasn't enough! Acres wasn't! Now this girl! You want another life? Then take me!"
Thursday, August 6, 2015
(November 1981, U.S.)
The decade of the 1980s shall be remembered for many things in the subject of cinema. The beginning of the decade saw the emergence of the slasher film. Roger Moore's Bond films were reaching their high points of cheesiness. Men like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone took action films to a new level of badly acted, anti-intelligence, while alternate men like Mel Gobson and Bruce Willis brought it back up to a more respectable level of vulnerability. For my memory, though, the 1980s saw the greatest emergence in the high school and college sex comedy! ANIMAL HOUSE may have jump started it all in 1978, but it was definitely PORKY'S that brought it up to speed and gave it the real raunchy juice that it needed!
I have to say it's ironic having just recently discussed PLEASANTVILLE, which painted the traditional picture of the 1950s as a time of purity, goodness and nerdiness, which is how movies and television have traditionally presented the decade to its audiences. PORKY'S, on the other hand, turns that myth upside down on its ass and proves that high school boys and girls were just as horny and sexually perverse as during any other decade, the only difference being that they kept it under wraps a whole lot better. Sure, pretty Peggy Sue may have looked like the all American good girl with her appropriate-length skirt and her bushy pony tail, but she apparently wanted to get fucked as much as the next girl! Guys...well, come on...guys are horny bastards twenty-four-seven and it doesn't matter what decade we're talking about! In this particular town of Angel Beach, Florida, our group of friends have only one priority on their minds and that's to get laid, in particular, Edward "Pee Wee" Morris (played by Dan Monahan), who's not exactly called "Pee Wee" because he has a BIG dick - know what I mean? And so, to get laid and lose their virginity, the boys travel to the Florida Everglades to Porky's where there's pussy to be paid for and a whole lot of overweight, redneck assholes that will likely kill you if you step out of line even once! Still, horny is horny and some things are worth the risk. Unfortunately, our boys don't score any pussy and are instead humiliated by Porky himself (played by Chuck Mitchell) after he takes their money. So now we can add the burden of revenge on top of getting laid! Rest assured, revenge is achieved in the end, but that's hardly the point of the film.
As a subplot (if you can really call it that!), several of the boys get their perverted kicks by peeking through large holes at the naked girls in the high school shower room (bless them all!). The kick here is that when the girls discover they're being watched, they don't exactly retreat to safety. As Pee-Wee himself puts it, "These girls are hot! They want us to look! They want us to look!" As a more legitimate subplot, though, the subject of race relations in a decade of prejudices is touched upon as one of the boys who is Jewish (apparently the only Jew in all of Angel Beach High School, it would seem!) is bullied by another boy who is racist, but inevitably becomes his friend as tensions ease and respect and understanding is achieved. Yeah, right, that's all fine and very PC, but let's get on with the girls and the pussy, shall we!!!
Most noteworthy in PORKY'S are two women, in particular. There's Wendy (played by Kaki Hunter) who's practically designated the high school slut and will fuck just about anybody (even Pee-Wee at the end of the film, as he can finally claim his lost virginity!). Not exactly a slut I'd be attracted to, though! I mean, she has a chipped tooth, for crying out loud! No, for my money, it's gym teacher Miss Honeywell (played by a very young Kim Cattrall) who we learn is nicknamed "Lassie" because of her extreme squealing during intercourse, which we also learn is only possible to achieve with her if you can manage to get her into the boy's locker room, where the pungent aroma of male sweat is an extreme turn on for her (???). All I can say is, for those of you (like my wife!) who became more accustomed to the ultra-classy style of slut that Cattrall portrayed for years in HBO's SEX AND THE CITY, then such a scene as this in a sex comedy like PORKY'S shall be a real eye-opener for you...
Sure, actor Boyd Gaines has a real dumb look on his face, but when you're fixated on young Kim's perfect legs and gorgeous ass, who cares! And finally, I must also add that it's the shower room scene and the locker room scene that ultimately leads into the principal's office scene, which I consider the absolute funniest moment of the entire film. Proving that laughter is, indeed, very contagious, one can't help but loose total control in laughter when we watch and listen to the three high school coaches in the background laugh their asses off as girl's Coach Beulah Balbricker (played by Nancy Parsons) demands that one of the boys be exposed as the contemptible little pervert he is by a line up identification of his penis with an incriminating mole on it! The laughter of this sequence is to die for and well worth the raunchy time spent with PORKY'S! As the movie poster says, you'll be glad you came!
And so, to all of this generation who think that the AMERICAN PIE and HANGOVER franchises are all the sexy, raunchy rave, take note from the previous generation when I say that for my money (and many, many others!), it's ANIMAL HOUSE, it's FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH and it's definitely PORKY'S!!!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Coach Brakett (through intense laughter): "Mr. Carter, I think I have a way out of this. We, uh, call the police, and we have 'em send over one of their sketch artists. And Miss Balbricker can give a description. We can put up "Wanted" posters all over school..."Have you seen this prick? Report immediately to Beulah Balbricker! Do not attempt to apprehend this prick, as it is armed and dangerous! It was last seen hanging out in the girls' locker room at Angel Beach High School!"
Sunday, August 2, 2015
(June 1982, U.S.)
Wow! The fact that I even have to specify the year 1982 in parenthesis to make it clear that this is the original classic supernatural horror thriller and not the most recent bullshit 2015 remake is totally sad in its own right! Hollywood continues to remake the classics (even the more modern ones), the remakes never go anywhere and no one ever learns from the repeated mistakes! Why, oh, why, for crying out loud???
Okay, but all that grief aside, this is the film that my generation embraced as one of the true horror greats of the 1980s (despite a PG rating at a time before PG-13 existed), as well as one of the best haunted house films ever made. By its own standards, there's a great deal of originality in its premise because gone is the gothic sterotype of the isolated, evil haunted house where awful events once took place and live on in the form of white ghosts, freaky skeletons, rattling chains, slamming doors and whatever other elements of fear that may have accompanied men like Vincent Price and Roddy McDowall. From the mind of Steven Spielberg himself, during the same summer he gave us E.T.-THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL, the haunted house is now a simple, comfortable-looking family dwelling on a simple, comfortable-looking street in a simple, comfortable-looking suburban California town...
Not exactly a dwelling of fear, is it. No - it's a lovely house you and I might have lived in once or perhaps live in now, or more accurately, a house Spielberg himself may have lived in when he was growing up. It's a house filled with love, joy, Earthly pleasures and even a big, beautiful Golden Retriever named E-Buzz. Nothing could possibly be wrong with this setting...until malevolent ghosts invade the home and abduct the family's youngest daughter, Carol Anne (played by Heather O'Rourke, who died at the tender age of twelve from cardiac arrest, of all things). The invasion begins with the simple transmission sign-off static of the family television, in which Carol Anne appears to have an ability to communicate with whatever unsettled spirits are living beyond the tube. While the little girl can't fully explain what's happening with whom she calls "the TV people", she does seem to know when, "They're here!" Thus begins the ghostly events that include breaking glasses, bending silverware, stacked breakfast chairs and moving furniture. During a violent thunderstorm, all Hell breaks loose and Carol Anne is taken from this world and thrust into another dimension beyond the unknown that seems to generate from her own bedroom closet. She's not dead, though. Her voice can still be heard through the TV and it's now up to the family's love and devotion, along with the help of a team of parapsychologists that includes actress Beatrice Straight (in a role that far exceeds her ten minute total performance in NETWORK which mysteriously got her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress), to get her back to the world of the living. Interestingly, unlike the Lutz family of THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979), the Freeling family is willing to (at least temporarily) learn to live with their ghostly guests and they struggle to get their beloved daughter back. Along the way, their are startling and spiritual images, horrifying shocks and bloody hallucinations that respectively follows the ghastly sight of hungry maggots on a leftover cold chicken wing! And yet, even during all of this time of terror, at no time is one made to feel that the Freeling home has become physically scary in any way. The home still remains a simple, comfortable sight to the eyes and the senses. It's only after Carol Anne is finally returned through the help of a (very short and squeaky-sounding) spiritual medium that the house itself takes revenge and attempts to destroy the family we're come to know and care about. In as much as this is a story about surviving supernatural horror, it's also as much a tale of family love, strength and bonding. Forgettable sequels like POLTERGEIST II & III aside, the Freelings have survived their ordeal and must now carry on and start over as a family...without a TV!
Now then, to know and love POLTERGEIST as much as I do is to also know and love all of the infamous events and controversies that have surrounded the film since its initial release, including the so-called curse of the film that managed to claim the lives of two of the three kids playing the Freeling children and the question of whether it was really director Tobe Hooper or Steven Spielberg himself who was responsible for the making and artistry of the film. That latter questions depends on one's own beliefs and dedication to the proper Hollywood research (that's YOU, Steven A!). However, as a fan of my own merit, POLTERGEIST implores me to ask questions; questions like why did Robbie Freeling ever purchase that large toy clown in the first place if it scared him? If the house knows what scares you, then keep scary-looking things out of the house! Oh, sure, the clown looks innocent enough, but do you really want this thing sitting in a chair staring at you while you sleep??
As for the menacing-looking tree outside of Robbie's window - if the thing frightens him so much, then why does he repeatedly leave his window shade open night after night (out of sight, out of mind, Robbie!). Honestly, I feel for the poor kid, but he doesn't seem all that bright to me. Still, I have to give him a few extra points for the great STAR WARS collection of toys and posters he has in his room. And by the way, let me ask this, too...just how old was Dianne Freeling (played by JoBeth Williams) when the happy couple started their little family?? When meeting with the parapsychologists for the first time, Steven Freeling (played by Craig T. Nelson) indicates that his wife is thirty-two years-old and that his oldest daughter Dana is sixteen years-old, which would make Dianne just sixteen years-old also when she had her first child. Wow! I honestly don't know whether to commend these two people for being so dedicated and committed to each other and their marriage or to condemn them for not practicing safer and more responsible sex!
You see - these are the questions guys like me asks of a supernatural horror film (go figure). Anyway, whether I have Steven or Tobe to thank for it, I say thank you very much for POLTERGEIST and I'm so sorry that modern Hollywood had to fuck it all up this summer (do not forgive them, for they do know what they do!)!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Tangina: "These souls, who for whatever reason are not at rest, are also not aware that they have passed on. They're not part of consciousness as we know it. They linger in a perpetual dreamstate, a nightmare from which they can not awake. Inside the spectral light is salvation, a window to the next plain. They must pass through this membrane where friends are waiting to guide them to new destinies. Carol Anne must help them cross over, and she will only hear her mother's voice. Now hold on to yourselves...there's one more thing. A terrible presence is in there with her. So much rage, so much betrayal. I've never sensed anything like it. I don't know what hovers over this house, but it was strong enough to punch a hole into this world and take your daughter away from you. It keeps Carol Anne very close to it and away from the spectral light. It lies to her, it tells her things only a child can understand. It has been using her to restrain the others. To her, it simply is another child. To us, it is the Beast. Now, let's go get your daughter."