Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976 film)




Written, scored, directed, and edited by John Carpenter, Assault on Precinct 13 is the story of a cop trying to defend his precinct from a gang as he is helped by convicted murderer. The film is a simple showdown movie where a cop and his colleagues go into a war against a brutish gang of thugs. Starring Austin Stoker, Darwin Joster, Laurie Zimmer, Nancy Kyes, and Tony Burton. Assault on Precinct 13 is a chilling yet intense film from John Carpenter.

Set in a precinct that is about to close near the ghettos of Los Angeles, the film is about a police lieutenant whose job is to watch over the precinct on its final night where it is being under siege from a gang where he is helped by a secretary and two convicts including an infamous murderer as they fight off the gang. It’s a film that manages to take a simple premise about a precinct under siege yet it is more about a lieutenant trying to maintain some order and stay alive while having to trust someone who is very likely to kill him. John Carpenter’s screenplay has this very unique structure where it takes place entirely in the span of a day.

The first half of the story takes place following a gang shooting by police as a group of warlords plan to retaliate while Lieutenant Ethan Bishop (Austin Stoker) is getting ready to run precinct 13 near the ghetto as a last-minute assignment. Yet, the actions of a gang would cause trouble nearby as a bus carrying a trio of convicts, including the murderer Napoleon Wilson (Darwin Joster) during a transfer where a stop at the precinct would later be fatal. The film’s second half would begin when a man (Martin West) comes into the precinct exhausted and in need of help after a confrontation with one of the warlords where all hell breaks loose. The film’s second half sets almost entirely in this precinct where Wilson, Bishop, a secretary named Leigh (Laurie Zimmer), and a convict named Wells (Tony Burton) are forced to take a stand for their own survival with limited amount of ammo while realizing that they’re going up against a gang that refuses to quit.

John Carpenter’s direction is truly riveting not just for the way he builds up the suspense but in how he uses this timeframe of 24 hours to play into the sense of dread that is emerging. The direction starts off in the late-night mornings at a ghetto in Los Angeles where a gang is being gunned down by the police as it would set off a chain of events. Much of Carpenter’s direction involves some close-ups and medium shots as there’s a simplicity to the camera angles but its approach to violence and suspense is quite graphic and confrontational. Most notably an infamous sequence often referred to as “the ice cream scene” which involves an ice cream man and a gun-toting warlord as it is a scene of unexpected violence at its most visceral.

Once the story is set at night at the precinct where sounds of gun silencers come into play, it becomes clear that it becomes a film where anything can happen. Even as the violence is very unpredictable outside of the precinct while the suspense is happening inside where Bishop and Wilson have to trust each other. Under the John T. Chance alias, Carpenter’s approach to editing is quite straightforward but once the battle begins. There is a fluidity to his rhythmic cutting as it plays to the intensity of the violence as Carpenter knows when to cut to showcase the sense of violence that is happening. Also serving as the film’s composer, Carpenter’s electronic-based score is truly hypnotic with its very dark and eerie synthesizer riffs as it plays into the suspense and terror in the film. Especially in the final showdown between the remaining survivors and the gang in a climax that is violent as well as terrifying. Overall, Carpenter creates a very thrilling and mesmerizing film about a group of people under siege by a ruthless gang.

Cinematographer Douglas Knapp does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography to create some unique lighting schemes and textures for the scenes set at night in order to convey the mood of terror during the siege. Art director/sound effects editor Tommy Lee Wallace does amazing work with the look of the precinct that is almost in ruins as it‘s about to be abandoned while the sound effects he creates with sound recorder William Cooper are fantastic to convey the sense of terror as well as the impact of the silencer bullets.

The film’s brilliant cast include some notable small roles from Frank Doubleday as a gun-toting warlord, Peter Bruni as the ice cream man, John J. Fox as a warden who doesn’t like Wilson, Charles Cypher as the prison authority figure Starker who watches over Wilson, Henry Brandon as the precinct’s original top figure Chaney, Nancy Kyes as the very scared secretary Julie, Martin West as the shocked man who confronts a warlord in Lawson, and Kim Richards in a small yet terrific role as Lawson’s daughter. Tony Burton is excellent as the cautious convict Wells who realizes the gang that they’re going up against as he is also the film‘s comic relief.

Laurie Zimmer is fantastic as Leigh as a secretary who had seen a lot at the precinct as she proves to be very handy with a gun while wondering what kind of man Wilson is. Darwin Joston is great as Napoleon Wilson as this convicted murderer who is a charmer as he often asks for cigarettes as he proves to be a formidable ally who is willing to help anyone as he knows he’s an asshole but a reliable one. Finally, there’s Austin Stoker in an incredible performance as Lieutenant Ethan Bishop as this straight-laced cop that used to live in the ghetto as he tries to keep everyone alive from the siege as well as trusting someone like Wilson which he knows is a major risk.

Assault on Precinct 13 is a phenomenal film from John Carpenter. Armed with a great cast, a suspenseful premise, and a fucking cool score, it’s definitely one of Carpenter’s great early triumphs. Even in moments that are just shocking in terms of the presentation of the violence. In the end, Assault on Precinct 13 is a remarkable film from John Carpenter.

John Carpenter Films: (Dark Star) - (Halloween) - (Someone’s Watching Me!) - (Elvis) - (The Fog) - (Escape from New York) - The Thing - (Starman) - Big Trouble in Little China - Prince of Darkness - They Live - (Memoirs of an Invisible Man) - (Body Bags) - (In the Mouth of Madness) - (Village of the Damned) - (Escape from L.A.) - (Vampires) - (Ghosts of Mars) - (The Ward)

© thevoid99 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Marnie




Based on the novel by Winston Graham, Marnie is the story of a woman who is a compulsive thief as she gets married to a man who tries to figure out what she does and why. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock and screenplay by Jay Presson Allen, the film is an exploration into the mind of a troubled woman who steals and has many phobias as her husband tries to help as she is played by Tippi Hedren. Also starring Sean Connery, Diane Baker, and Martin Gabel. Marnie is a rapturous and provocative film from Alfred Hitchcock.

The film is really the study of a compulsive thief who steals from banks through various disguises as she catches the attention of a publishing company owner whom she would reluctantly marry. It’s a film that explores the mind of this troubled woman who has fears of thunderstorms, the color red, and men touching her as it plays into something that she is hiding. Even as Marnie is this woman who can be in control whenever she doesn’t see red or be surrounded by thunderstorms as her behavior is seen by this man in Mark Rutland (Sean Connery) who investigates a previous theft as he tries to figure out who she is and such. Jay Presson Allen’s screenplay takes its structure where its first act is about the first theft and who Marnie is as her visit with her estranged mother (Louise Latham) play into some of Marnie’s peculiar behavior as she would put on another disguise to target Rutland’s building as he is very suspicious about her.

Allen’s script not only focuses on who Marnie is and the many disguises she takes but also in Rutland’s interest in her as he is trying to figure her out. While Rutland’s intentions are noble in to see what makes Marnie tick and why she behaves so strangely. He eventually becomes more sympathetic once he realizes some of the things in Marnie’s past though she refuses to say anything to him about her life. His actions into figuring out money would cause a lot of confusion among those close to him including his former sister-in-law Lil (Diane Baker) who tries to figure what Rutland is doing. Even as she would press buttons that would push Marnie near to the edge as her behavior would start to unravel.

Alfred Hitchcock’s direction is very interesting not just in his approach to melodrama but also in letting the suspense play out very slowly. While there are elements of styles that occur for backdrops in scenes set in a car or when Marnie is racing a horse. It’s only set into a minimum where Hitchcock is more concerned about the drama as he utilizes a lot of medium shots and close-ups to play into the drama. Even in moments such as flashes of red and lightning to play into Marnie’s sense of fear where Hitchcock would go for some stylish camera angles and moments to play into Marnie’s troubled state of mind. There’s also some very chilling scenes where it plays to how Marnie would react in its aftermath where she could be in denial at times or be very troubled. Especially in the film’s climax where aspects of Marnie’s previous thefts come back to haunt her just as Rutland starts to learn more of Marnie’s past as it would lead to this very dramatic confrontation. Overall, Hitchcock creates a very gripping yet evocative drama about a man trying to save a troubled woman.

Cinematographer Robert Burks does amazing work with the film‘s rich and colorful cinematography from its scenes set on the cruise ship to exterior setting near Philadelphia and at the home where Rutland lives. Editor George Tomasini does fantastic work with the editing with its stylish use of dissolves and jump-cuts to play into the suspense and drama. Production designer Robert F. Boyle and set decorator George Milo do excellent work with the set pieces from the look of the Rutland family home to the publishing house where Rutland does much of his business.

Gown designer Edith Head does brilliant work with the dresses and gowns that Marnie and Lil wear in many of their outings including parties. Hairstylist Virginia Darcy does wonderful work with the different hairstyles that Marnie would sport in her surroundings. Sound recorders William Russell and Waldon O. Watson do superb work with the sound from the way the thunderstorms would sound to the taps on the windows in how it would play to Marnie‘s sense of fear. The film’s music by Bernard Herrmann is sublime in its orchestral setting with some very intense and flourishing string arrangements for the suspenseful moments to more lush textures in its dramatic and somber moments.

The film’s phenomenal cast features notable small roles from Bruce Dern as a young sailor, Melody Scott Thomas as a young Marnie, Kimberly Beck as a young girl named Jessie whom Marnie’s mother watches over, Alan Napier as Rutland’s father, Bob Sweeney as Rutland’s suspicious cousin Bob, Mariette Hartley as Marnie’s co-worker in Susan, and Martin Gabel in a terrific role as a former boss of Marnie who is suspicious of her after she had stolen money from him. Louise Latham is amazing as Marnie’s mother as a woman who is very wholesome in her persona as she tries to get Marnie to find someone as it’s a role that is very chilling to watch. Diane Baker is fantastic as Rutland’s former sister-in-law Lil who has a thing for Rutland as she copes with Marnie coming into the family while wondering what Rutland is doing as she would try to push Marnie’s buttons.

Sean Connery is incredible as Mark Rutland as this publishing house owner who is intrigued by Marnie and her secretive persona as he starts to fall for her while trying to figure out her strange behavior. Finally, there’s Tippi Hedren in a magnificent performance as the titular character as this woman of great beauty who can steal things in the best way as it is really a cover for someone who is extremely troubled as she is often carrying something to represent the emotional and mental baggage of her turbulent life.

Marnie is a remarkable film from Alfred Hitchcock that features great performances from Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery. The film isn’t just an eerie story about a woman’s troubled state of mind but also in the form of an unconventional love story with lots of twists and turns. In the end, Marnie is a riveting and mesmerizing film from Alfred Hitchcock.

Alfred Hitchcock Films: (Number 13) - (The Pleasure Garden) - (The Blackguard) - (The Mountain Eagle) - (The Lodger) - (A Story of the London Fog) - (The Ring) - (Downhill) - (The Farmer’s Wife) - (Easy Virtue) - (Champagne) - (The Manxman) - (Blackmail) - (Juno and the Paycock) - (Murder!) - (The Skin Game) - (Mary) - (Lord Camber’s Ladies) - (Rich and Strange) - (Number Seventeen) - (Waltzes from Vienna) - (The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 film)) - (39 Steps) - (Secret Agent) - (Sabotage) - (Young and Innocent) - The Lady Vanishes - (Jamaica Inn) - (Rebecca) - (Foreign Correspondent) - (Mr. & Mrs. Smith) - (Suspicion) - (Saboteur) - (Shadow of a Doubt) - (Lifeboat) - (Spellbound) - (Notorious) - (The Paradine Cage) - (Rope) - (Under Capricorn) - (Stage Fright) - Strangers on a Train - I Confess - (Dial M for Murder) - (Rear Window) - (To Catch a Thief) - (The Trouble with Harry) - (The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956 film)) - (The Wrong Man) - Vertigo - North by Northwest - Psycho - The Birds - (Torn Curtain) - (Topaz) - (Frenzy) - (Family Plot)

© thevoid99 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Holy Mountain




Written, directed, co-edited, co-scored, set/costume designed, and starring Alejandro Jodorowsky, The Holy Mountain is the story of a mysterious man who gathers a group of people together on a journey for spiritual enlightenment inside a mountain. The film is an exploration into the world of spirituality and existentialism presented in a surrealistic world with many questions filled with dazzling images with Jodorowsky playing the role of the Alchemist. Also starring Horacio Salinas and Zamira Saunders. The Holy Mountain is a mystical yet enchantingly odd film from Alejandro Jodorowsky.

The film is a bizarre story about a thief whose encounter with spiritual images has him meeting a mysterious alchemist who takes him into a journey with a group of people into a mountain in a quest for spiritual enlightenment. While it’s a film that doesn’t have much of a plot, it is more about the journey of this nameless thief (Horacio Salinas) who is this strange beggar troubled by his surroundings and encounters with spirituality as he finds salvation in this mysterious alchemist (Alejandro Jodorowsky). Even as he is forced to leave behind the things in his life that he had been attached to from a kind-hearted prostitute (Ana de Sade) and mutilated dwarf.

The film’s screenplay does have this loose structure where the first act is about the journey of this thief who leads a simple life where he’s a man of chaos that just wants gold and simple things as he looks like Jesus Christ. Upon this encounter with a mysterious tower and the alchemist, the film’s second act is about the alchemist and the seven people that will join them on this journey to the Holy Mountain which takes much of the film’s third act. In that third act, temptation and fears would emerge as it plays into the question about spiritual enlightenment and what do people want from enlightenment. Especially as the people he bring in are those that come from worlds of profit that has made them lose touch with spirituality and the real world.

Jodorowsky’s direction definitely plays to the idea of surrealism as he makes no qualms that everything he is presenting isn’t just weird and strange but it is beyond that in terms of his presentation. Shot in a 2:35:1 theatrical aspect ratio, Jodorowsky’s direction is definitely mesmerizing in the way he shoots many of the locations and the sets he creates as it plays into a world that is very spiritual and off-the-wall. The look of the film is very important as it often features images that are circular from the rooms that the alchemist is in as well as its surroundings as Jodorowsky wanted every amount of detail captured in these rooms. Even as the costumes that are created by Jodorowsky and Nicky Nichols play into this look where its third act has many of its characters wear monk-like clothing that are very strange.

The film’s direction also has Jodorowsky use the locations in Mexico as one that is very rich but also troubling where he isn’t afraid to play into some of its poorer locations to showcase the sense of desperation from the people in seeking salvation. There’s also locations that do play into its beauty such as the mountain as well as some of its mystical elements where Jodorowsky and co-editor Federico Landeros would use a lot of jump-cuts to play into its mystery. Even in some of the sequences involving the seven figures who would join the thief, the alchemist, and the alchemist’s assistant (Zamira Saunders) in their journey. With its use of wide shots and close-ups, Jodorowsky creates something that plays into a world that is very spiritual as well as overwhelming where it plays to the fool’s own encounter as he is the one that is tempted the most with the emotional baggage that he is carrying. Overall, Jodorowsky creates a very sprawling yet engrossing film about the search for spiritual enlightenment.

Cinematographer Rafael Corkidi does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography to heighten the film‘s colorful look from its naturalistic beauty of some of the film‘s location to the look of some of its interiors. Sound editor Howard Lester and sound mixer C. Robert Fine do fantastic work with the sound as it plays into some of the strange sound effects that occur to some of the craziness in some of the film‘s locations. The film’s music that is supervised by Al Steckler features an array of many score pieces and compositions such as original score pieces from Jodorowsky that features a lot of strange instrumental pieces plus some flute-based music. The other score pieces include some jazz-based pieces from Don Cherry and some classical-inspired cuts from Ronald Frangipane as the film‘s soundtrack is a major highlight of the film.

The film’s excellent cast include some notable small roles from Zamira Saunders as the alchemist’s assistant who sports written tattoos on her body and Ana de Sade as the prostitute the thief is in love with. In the roles of the seven followers who each represent a different planet and trade, there’s Juan Ferrara, Adriana Page, Burt Kleiner, Valerie Jodorowsky, Luis Lomeli, Nicky Nichols, and Richard Rutkowsky as they each bring their own unique spin into the personalities they play. Horacio Salinas is superb as the thief as this simple fool who is searching for answers in his role in life while dealing with the sacrifices he must take. Finally, there’s Alejandro Jodorowsky in an amazing performance as the alchemist as this very strange individual who holds the key to many answers as it’s a role that is really off-the-wall yet so engaging as it’s just a performance that is unforgettable to watch.

The Holy Mountain is a ravishing yet extremely bizarre film from Alejandro Jodorowsky. While it will feature many images and sequences that is definitely not for everyone, it’s a film that explores the idea of spiritual identity and enlightenment as well as some of its fallacies. Even in the oddest circumstances that is supported by dazzling imagery and a hypnotic music soundtrack. In the end, The Holy Mountain is a sensational film from Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Alejandro Jodorowsky Films: (Les tetes interverties) - (Teatro sin fin) - (Fando y Lis) - El Topo - (Tusk) - (Santa Sangre) - (The Rainbow Thief) - (The Dance of Reality)

Related: Jodorowsky's Dune

© thevoid99 2014

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Beetlejuice




Directed by Tim Burton and screenplay by Michael McDowell and Warren Skaaren from a story by McDowell and Larry Wilson, Beetlejuice is the story of a recently deceased couple who asks a deranged ghost to get rid of a family who have moved in to their house. The film is a strange romp of horror and comedy where a couple try to deal with living with an eccentric family where its teenage daughter can see them due to her fascination with death. Starring Michael Keaton, Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder, Glenn Shadix, Robert Goulet, and Sylvia Sidney. Beetlejuice is a wild and extremely insane film from Tim Burton.

Following their death due to an accident, a newlywed couple deal with new inhabitants of their house that includes a death-obsessed teenage girl prompting the couple to hire the services of a crazed ghost by the name of Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton). It’s a film that doesn’t play by the rules of conventional horror as it’s more of a comedy where this recently deceased couple cope with their death as well as the fact that they’re forced to share the house with a New York City family and their offbeat interior designer. Yet, Adam and Barbara Maitland (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis, respectively) do befriend this Goth teenager in Lydia (Winona Ryder) who is the only one that can see them due to her fascination with death. Even as it is frowned upon by the afterworld to make friends with the living as Beetlejuice would cause hell for the Maitlands.

The film’s screenplay starts off with the life of the Maitlands as they just bought their new home which they refuse to sell from some potential buyers as a simple errand goes wrong which lead to their deaths. Upon this discovery that they’re dead and any place outside of their house has them in a very strange afterworld as they would eventually go to a caseworker named Juno (Sylvia Sydney) who reveal what they have to deal with as well as what to do to get rid of their new inhabitants in real estate developer Charles Deetz (Jeffery Jones) and his aspiring sculptor in Delia, who is Lydia’s stepmother,.

While the Maitlands try to haunt them, they would eventually succeed in haunting Charles and Delia but end up amusing them while their interior designer Otho (Glenn Shadix) would realize what is going on. Adding to this sense of chaos and the Maitlands’ attempt to get rid of the Deetzes is Beetlejuice whose approach to scaring the living is cruel and diabolical. Yet, there is something about the character that is so off-the-wall as he ends up being this very unconventional antagonist. Even as he has this macabre sense of humor who thinks The Exorcist is a comedy while is very crude to the Maitlands as he also pines for Lydia who would get to know what Beetlejuice is.

Tim Burton’s direction is definitely off the wall where it starts off being this quaint little story about a nice couple living in this small New England town. Then comes this very chilling accident where it plays to the sense of macabre humor that would be prevalent in the film. Even as Burton’s compositions ranging from some wide shots to some offbeat close-ups and medium shots showcase something that is really out of this world. Notably the scenes in the afterlife where the dead arrive in a waiting room to meet their case worker and later learn how to live as a dead person. Much of the presentation of the afterworld is presented with some unique visual effects and stop-motion animation to play into this strange approach to black humor that Adam and Barbara have to deal with.

The direction also had Burton create some moments that really amp up the line of reality and fantasy such as a dinner party with the Deetzes where Delia finds herself singing The Banana Boat Song where she has no control of what is happening to her. It’s a sequence that mixes humor and horror in the most absurd way as it refuses to play into any kind of traditional or conventional genre but rather a mish-mash of genres. Even as the film’s climax would maintain that offbeat approach of horror-comedy would force the Maitlands to do something as Beetlejuice would just cause hell for everyone. Overall, Burton creates a very spectacular and hilarious film about two dead people hiring a psychopathic ghost to get rid of people who moved into their home.

Cinematographer Thomas E. Ackerman does fantastic work with the film‘s cinematography from the use of colorful lights for some of the film‘s interior scenes including the dinner scenes and the meeting with Juno. Editor Jane Kurson does excellent work with the editing as it‘s quite straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into the film‘s humor and suspense. Production designer Bo Welch, with set decorator Catherine Mann and art director Tom Duffield, does brilliant work with the set design from the house in and out based on Otho‘s work as well as the world of the afterlife including the sand dunes. Costume designer Aggie Guerard does superb work with the costumes from the Goth clothes that Lydia wears to the fashionable upscale New York City look that Delia and Otho wears.

Makeup designers Steve La Porte, Ve Neill, and Robert Short do amazing work with the makeup from the look of Beetlejuice as well as the look of the dead characters in the afterlife. Visual effects supervisor Alan Munroe does awesome work with the visual effects from the use of stop-motion animation to the design of the sand dunes world that would feature sandworms. Sound editor Richard L. Anderson does nice work with the sound from some of the low-key sound work in some of the scenes at the house to the sound effects that occur in the world of the afterlife. The film’s music by Danny Elfman is incredible as it is very offbeat with its playful orchestral score that is filled with strange choirs and string arrangements while the soundtrack features some amazing songs by Harry Belafonte to play into the film’s offbeat tone.

The casting by Janet Hirshenson and Jane Jenkins is just phenomenal as it features some notable small roles from Annie McEnroe as the woman who tries to sell the Maitlands’ home early in the film, Patrice Martinez as an afterworld receptionist, Dick Cavett and Susan Kellermann as a couple of guests at the dinner party, and Robert Goulet as Charles’ boss Maxie Dean who wants Charles to do some things to the small town. Glenn Shadix is very funny as the interior designer Otho who tries to give the Maitlands’ home a post-modern look that plays to his taste. Sylvia Sydney is amazing as the deceased case worker Juno who often smokes a cigarette where smoke would come out of her neck as she is very blunt and to the point about what not to do. Jeffrey Jones is excellent as Charles Deetz as a real estates developer who is eager to wanting a simple life as he copes with the chaos involving ghosts. Catherine O’Hara is amazing as Delia as this aspiring sculptor who wants to make it as an artist while wanting to live the life of a New York City artist.

Winona Ryder is brilliant as the troubled Goth teenager Lydia whose fascination with death has her meeting the Maitlands as she wants to die due to loneliness. Alec Baldwin is fantastic as Adam Maitland as a guy who designs models who tries to make sense of everything that goes on. Geena Davis is superb as Barbara Maitland who also tries to make sense as she doesn’t want to bring harm to Lydia despite what the people in the afterworld says. Finally, there’s Michael Keaton in a magnificent performance as the titular role despite only appearing in less than a third of the film. Yet, he steals every moment from his crude approach to humor as well as being completely wild in every kind of mannerism that he does as it’s really an iconic performance for the ages.

Beetlejuice is a rapturous yet extremely fun film from Tim Burton that features a tour-de-force performance from Michael Keaton in the titular role. Along with a great cast as well as some amazing technical work, it’s a film that showcases Burton’s gift for blending weird and macabre humor with an absurd approach to horror. In the end, Beetlejuice is an outstanding film from Tim Burton.

Tim Burton Films: (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure) - Beetlejuice - (Edward Scissorhands) - Batman Returns - Ed Wood - (Mars Attacks!) - (Sleepy Hollow) - (Planet of the Apes (2001 film)) - (Big Fish) - (Charlie & the Chocolate Factory) - (Corpse Bride) - (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) - (Alice in Wonderland (2010 film)) - (Dark Shadows) - (Frankenweenie) - (Big Eyes)

© thevoid99 2014

Saturday, October 25, 2014

I Confess




Based on the play Nos deux consciences (Our Two Consciences) by Paul Anthelme, I Confess is the story of a priest who becomes a murder suspect as he tries to find help with the church as he deals with possibly violating its rules. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock and screenplay by George Tabori and William Archibald, the film explores a man of faith dealing with a murder he didn’t commit as he finds himself in danger. Starring Montgomery Clift, Anne Baxter, Brian Aherne, O.E. Hasse, and Karl Malden. I Confess is a riveting and engaging film from Alfred Hitchcock.

Following the death of a lawyer where a German gardener confesses the murder to a young priest, the priest finds himself being a murder suspects as he ponders into telling the truth or not break his vows and protect his friend. It’s a film that is largely about internal conflict for this young priest in Father Logan (Montgomery Clift) as he has his vows that he needs to keep but the idea of going to prison for a crime he didn’t commit would overwhelm him as well as telling the truth so he can clear his name.

The film’s screenplay starts off with the investigation of the murder but also questions into what Father Logan was doing on the night of the murder. Especially as it relates to the wife of Quebec legislature member who had a past with Father Logan as she knows he is innocent while admitting to having issues with the lawyer who is killed. It would play into many suspicions that occur as the investigator Larrue (Karl Malden) feels that something isn’t right as he wants Father Logan to reveal the truth where Logan’s own conflicts come into play in its third act. Even as there are those that want to go after Logan to set an example as the people who know the truth are forced to watch in horror in the film’s climatic trial.

Alfred Hitchcock’s direction does have some aspects of style from its opening sequence as well as his approach to mood in some of the film’s dramatic and suspenseful moments. Even as he maintains a sense of intimacy in his compositions from close-ups and medium shots as well as a few wide shots for some of the film’s exterior settings set partially in Quebec City with some interior locations shot in Hollywood. Some of these involve some unique camera angles such as the flashback where Ruth Grandfort (Anne Baxter) talks about her past with Father Logan before World War II that takes much of the film’s second act. Hitchcock’s approach to suspense definitely plays into Father Logan’s internal conflict such as a sequence where he is walking around the city as he is being followed as he has no idea where to go. It’s among one of the finest moments in the film as it would lead to the climatic trial where it would play into revelations about what really happened. Overall, Hitchcock creates a very gripping yet engrossing film about a priest who knows the truth but is unable to reveal it due to his vows.

Cinematographer Robert Burks does excellent work with the film‘s black-and-white photography where it‘s quite straightforward in its daytime scenes while some of its shading and lighting schemes help set the film‘s dark mood for the scenes set at night. Editor Rudi Fehr does brilliant work with the editing with its use of dissolves as well as creating some rhythmic cuts to play into the drama and suspense. Art directors Ted Haworth and John Beckman, with set decorator George James Hopkins, do superb work with the set pieces from some of the interiors in the places near the church to the home that Ruth lives in. The sound work of Oliver S. Garretson is terrific for its sound editing as well as creating a tense mood in the trial scene. The film’s music by Dimitri Tiomkin is fantastic for its somber yet flourishing orchestral score that plays into the drama along with more eerie pieces for its suspenseful moments.

The film’s amazing cast features some notable small roles Charles Andres as the church head Father Millars, Dolly Haas as the church housekeeper Alma, Roger Dann as Ruth’s very rich and powerful husband Pierre, and Brian Aherne in a terrific performance as the Crown Prosecutor Robertson who believes that Father Logan is guilty. O.E. Hasse is wonderful as the German immigrant Otto who is the church’s caretaker/gardener that did the murder as he deals with the sacrifice Father Logan is doing.

Karl Malden is fantastic as Inspector Larrue who leads the investigation as he realize the case isn’t as simple as it is as he believes that Father Logan knows something and is actually innocent. Anne Baxter is excellent as Ruth Grandfort as a former lover of Father Logan who tries to help him as she is forced to reveal her past life with Father Logan. Finally, there’s Montgomery Clift in a superb performance as Father Logan as this young priest who is accused of murder as Clift brings a lot of restrained anguish into his role as it’s one of Clift’s finest performances.

I Confess is an excellent film from Alfred Hitchcock. Armed with a great cast and a thrilling premise, the film is an example of Hitchcock’s mastery in the art of mystery and suspense. It’s also a film that has him explore the idea of faith and some of the drawbacks in a man’s devotion to his faith. In the end, I Confess is a superbly chilling film from Alfred Hitchcock.

Alfred Hitchcock Films: (Number 13) - (The Pleasure Garden) - (The Blackguard) - (The Mountain Eagle) - (The Lodger) - (A Story of the London Fog) - (The Ring) - (Downhill) - (The Farmer’s Wife) - (Easy Virtue) - (Champagne) - (The Manxman) - (Blackmail) - (Juno and the Paycock) - (Murder!) - (The Skin Game) - (Mary) - (Lord Camber’s Ladies) - (Rich and Strange) - (Number Seventeen) - (Waltzes from Vienna) - (The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 film)) - (39 Steps) - (Secret Agent) - (Sabotage) - (Young and Innocent) - The Lady Vanishes - (Jamaica Inn) - (Rebecca) - (Foreign Correspondent) - (Mr. & Mrs. Smith) - (Suspicion) - (Saboteur) - (Shadow of a Doubt) - (Lifeboat) - (Spellbound) - (Notorious) - (The Paradine Cage) - (Rope) - (Under Capricorn) - (Stage Fright) - Strangers on a Train - (Dial M for Murder) - (Rear Window) - (To Catch a Thief) - (The Trouble with Harry) - (The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956 film)) - (The Wrong Man) - Vertigo - North by Northwest - Psycho - The Birds - Marnie - (Torn Curtain) - (Topaz) - (Frenzy) - (Family Plot)

© thevoid99 2014

Friday, October 24, 2014

Prince of Darkness




Written and directed by John Carpenter, Prince of Darkness is the story of a priest who hires a professor and his students to investigate a canister where he believes that inside this large canister is the spawn of Satan. The film is an exploration into the concept of the underworld and whether a group of people can prove that Satan exists. Starring Donald Pleasence, Jameson Parker, Victor Wong, Dennis Dun, and Lisa Blount. Prince of Darkness is a riveting and chilling film from John Carpenter.

The film explores the idea of Satan if he exists as strange things happen where a priest asks a professor and his students to study this mysterious canister which he believes has the spawn of Satan inside. Along the way, the professor and his students not only uncover some of the mysteries inside the canister but also the strange behavior of inhabitants outside of this church who seemed to be entranced by the powers of this canister. Eventually, characters get either killed off or become part of this emerging cult due to their encounter with this canister forcing those to survive and fight off this mysterious thing that is happening.

John Carpenter’s screenplay, under the Martin Quartermass alias, doesn’t really go for any kind of traditional narrative structure but rather build up the sense of mystery as things start to unravel while most of the students and people inside the church are either dead or under the control of this mysterious substance. Even as fear begins to emerge in the priest (Donald Pleasence) who starts to gain doubt about his role while the professor Howard Birack (Victor Wong) tries to make sense of everything. Yet, the priest and Birack do agree that whatever is in that canister is evil where the two and the remaining survivors try to deal with this awful situation. Even as a few of these students in Brian Marsh (Jameson Parker), Walter (Dennis Dun), and Catherine Danforth (Lisa Blount) each try to figure things out as well as observe what is going on around them.

Carpenter’s direction is pretty straightforward in terms of compositions and the atmosphere he creates as it largely takes place in an old church in Los Angeles. Much of Carpenter’s direction is about mood as the opening credits sequence plays into establishing the key characters and what they’re about to get into as the priest deals with the secret he now has to carry. Yet, Carpenter would include a few things of what to expect as they do come in head-on by the time the story takes place in and outside of the church where a lot of strange things happen.

Among them involve ants, beetles, and worms as they would add the sense of terror that would emerge. Even as little things become a big deal where characters who would encounter the mysterious canister start to act strangely as it involves characters being killed in the most gruesome ways. Even in a few scenes as it plays to a chilling climax involving the arrival of Satan’s spawn where the survivors have to take action or else be killed. Overall, Carpenter creates a very eerie yet engrossing film about a group of people trying to see if evil does exist.

Cinematographer Gary B. Kibbe does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the way he creates some lighting schemes and mood for much of the film‘s interior setting on day and night as well as the grainy video footage that many of the characters would dream about. Editor Steve Mirkovich does amazing work with the editing to create some unique rhythmic cuts to play into the film‘s suspense and terror. Production designer Daniel A. Lomino and set decorator Rick Gentz do brilliant work with the look of the church with a lot of crosses inside of the place as well as the design of the canister.

Special effects makeup artist Mark Shostrom does fantastic work with some of the makeup effects including the look of the seed of Satan. Visual effects supervisor Robert Grasmere does superb work with the visual effects that includes some minimal moments that plays into the world of the supernatural. Sound editors Michael Hilkene and Val Kulkowsky do terrific work with the sound effects as well as some of the mixing and sound texture to play into its suspense. The film’s music by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth is wonderful for its eerie, electronic-based score that plays into the film’s suspense as the soundtrack also includes a song from Alice Cooper heard from a character’s walkman.

The casting by Linda Francis is phenomenal as it features some notable small roles from Alice Cooper as a street schizophrenic, Peter Jason as Birack’s colleague Dr. Leahy, Susan Blanchard as Catherine’s friend Kelly, Anne Howard as the radiologist Susan who would start the chain of events that occur in the film, Ann Yen as the Latin translator Lisa, Dirk Blocker and Ken Wright as a couple of students, Jesse Lawrence Ferguson as the student Calder who becomes troubled by his encounters with those who had previously encountered the canister, and Robert Gasmere as a student who tries to leave only to find himself in serious trouble. Dennis Dun is amazing as Walter as he is the film’s comic relief who is upset that he is forced to cancel a date to take part in this project as he says some of the film’s funniest lines.

Lisa Blount is fantastic as Catherine Danforth as a student who deals with the chaos that goes on as she is also a math theorist who becomes befuddled by the theories she’s presented. Jameson Parker is superb as Brian Marsh as a student who has a crush on Danforth while trying to make sense of what is happening as he is also a theorist in his own way. Donald Pleasance is excellent as the priest who invites Professor Birack to investigate the phenomenon with great reluctance and regret as he becomes to feel doubt over what might happen. Finally, there’s Victor Wong in a marvelous performance as Professor Howard Birack as this unconventional professor who tries to make sense of the phenomenon while dealing with the fact that it could be pure evil.

Prince of Darkness is a remarkable film from John Carpenter. Featuring a great cast as well as captivating stories about the idea of evil, the film is definitely one of Carpenter’s more underrated films in terms of what is expected in horror as well as what evil could do. In the end, Prince of Darkness is an extraordinarily scary film from John Carpenter.

John Carpenter Films: (Dark Star) - Assault on Precinct 13 - (Halloween) - (Someone’s Watching Me!) - (Elvis) - (The Fog) - (Escape from New York) - The Thing - (Christine) - (Starman) - Big Trouble in Little China - They Live - (Memoirs of an Invisible Man) - (Body Bags) - (In the Mouth of Madness) - (Village of the Damned) - (Escape from L.A.) - (Vampires) - (Ghosts of Mars) - (The Ward)

© thevoid99 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

2014 Blind Spot Series: El Topo




Written, directed, set/costume designed, scored, and starring Alejandro Jodorowsky, El Topo is the story of a Mexican bandit who goes on a journey in search of enlightenment in a strange, surreal world. The film is a mish-mash of genres ranging from westerns to spiritual driven films inspired by Eastern philosophies and Christian symbolism as Jodorowsky plays the titular role. Also starring Brontis Jodorowsky, Mara Lorenzio, David Silva, Paula Romo, and Jacqueline Luis. El Topo is an off-the-wall yet extremely spectacular film from Alejandro Jodorowsky.

The film explores the journey of a Mexican bandit who travels through the desert to find enlightenment as he deals with the drawbacks of his journey and his search for meaning in a world that is very troubled. It’s a film that doesn’t play by any rules where its first half is largely a surreal western where the man known as El Topo (the mole) is a master gunslinger who goes into this journey where he would eventually battle four masters to prove that he’s the best. Yet, it’s a journey fraught with doubts and decisions that has El Topo question that journey. The film’s second half plays into the aftermath of that journey where El Topo becomes an outsider living with a group of dwarves and people with deformities as he and his dwarf wife (Jacqueline Luis) look at a nearby town and see its ugliness.

Alejandro Jodorowsky’s screenplay doesn’t go for any kind of traditional structure as it’s more about a spiritual quest to find meaning as El Topo is being pushed to do things to become a legend only to gain doubt in his mission. While he is a skilled gunslinger who knows how to kill, he gets seduced by a woman named Mara (Mara Lorenzio) and he’s later joined by this mysterious woman in black (Paula Romo) who speaks with a man’s voice. Part of the unique aspect of the script is El Topo’s development as his mastery as a gunslinger gives him the belief that he’s a god. After his battle with these four different masters, he would later declare himself in the film’s second half as a man, not a god. Especially as the story shifts to several years later as he realizes where he is and what has happened to him. Even as he deals with all sorts of regrets and try to find redemption.

To describe Jodorowsky’s direction as strange and weird is really understating exactly what he presenting. While it is based on surrealism, there’s also a lot of spiritual symbolism that is prevalent in the film with images of crosses as well as dialogues involving spiritual ideas. Much of the film has Jodorowsky use minimal dialogue in favor of action and images to help tell the story as it is shot in a full-frame 1:33:1 Academy ratio. Still, the locations set in Mexico are full of wonders as it adds to the touch of surrealism from its deserts to the places that El Topo goes to. Serving as the production/costume designer with help from art director Jose Duran and set decorator Jose Luis Garduno, Jodorowsky uses a lot of ideas that plays into the world of West but one that is very warped as among the early images in the film involves a man (Alfonso Arau) eating or shooting women’s shoes that look like the come from the 20th Century rather than the century before.

The usage of close-ups, medium shots, and wide shots add to the beauty of the film while Jodorowsky’s approach to its look in its set and costume design create something that is very offbeat. Even his music score play to that approach of psychedelia that roams in the film with its use of playful Mexican folk music to hypnotic, organ-based music. Yet, Jodorowsky is aware of what he is trying to say as the film’s second half plays into the way faith becomes manipulated for something that isn’t very spiritual. Notably as it would prompt a young priest (Robert John) to find salvation following an incident that makes him seek some meaning again with the help of El Topo. Overall, Jodorowsky creates a very sprawling yet mesmerizing film about a man’s search for spiritual meaning in a very troubled world.

Cinematographer Raphael Corkidi does brilliant work with the film‘s very evocative cinematography to capture the beauty of the Mexican deserts and locations as well as some of the lighting in the cave scenes for the film‘s second half. Editor Frederico Landeros does amazing work in creating some unique edits such as jump-cuts and montages to play into the film‘s surrealistic tone as well as its offbeat humor. Sound editor Lilia Lupercio does fantastic work with the sound to create some chilling sound effects to convey some of its terror as well as the moments of surrealism.

The film’s superb cast includes some notable small performances from Alfonso Arau, Jose Luis Fernandez, and Alf Junco as a trio of bandits El Topo encounter early in the film, David Silva as a tyrannical colonel, Robert John as a priest who turns to El Topo for guidance, and Brontis Jodorowsky as El Topo’s young son early in the film whom he would regretfully abandon. In the roles of the four masters that El Topo would face, there’s Hector Martinez, Juan Jose Gurrola, Victor Fosado, and Agustin Isunza in terrific performances as these four men who each represent a different philosophy that El Topo would learn from. Mara Lorenzio is excellent as Mara as this woman who would fall for El Topo and urge him to face the masters.

Paula Romo is fantastic as this mysterious woman in black who has a man’s voice as someone who would be a pusher as well as seduce Mara. Jacqueline Luis is amazing as El Topo’s dwarf wife as she is someone who would take care of him as well as help him in his attempt to free the outsiders he had been living with. Finally, there’s Alejandro Jodorowsky in a phenomenal performance as the titular character as a man who has a lot of charm but also anguish in his journey as it’s one full of humor and energy but also a sense of danger as it’s truly an unforgettable performance.

El Topo is an incredible film from Alejandro Jodorowsky. While it’s a film that definitely isn’t for everyone in terms of its surrealistic tone and refusal to be defined as a typical genre film. It is a film that is still very captivating to watch to showcase a man searching for spiritual enlightenment in a troubled world that is truly strange. In the end, El Topo is a remarkable film from Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Alejandro Jodorowsky Films: (Les tetes interverties) - (Teatro sin fin) - (Fando y Lis) - The Holy Mountain - (Tusk) - (Santa Sangre) - (The Rainbow Thief) - (The Dance of Reality)

Related: Jodorowsky's Dune

© thevoid99 2014