Thursday, October 31, 2013

Black Sunday (1960)

Director: Mario Bava
Cast: Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Andrea Checchi
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 87 min.
Score: 9 out of 10

Witches, the undead, Satan and black magic.  What could be better for an October night less than a week from Halloween?

Princess Asa and Javuto, her master/lover are executed in a most gruesome fashion by her own family and the church for worshiping Satan.  As she is about to be put to death she curses her family and it's descendants and swears to have her revenge.  Resurrected 200 years later by two unwitting travelers who stumble upon a decrepit temple, they are determined to return to full life and seek revenge on Asa's descendants, one of whom bears a striking resemblance to the now undead princess.

Easily one of the most influential movies in the horror genre, Black Sunday marked the beginning of what would be a revolution not only in horror, but cinema as a whole. Italian horror films would pave the way for a new, more in-your-face take on the genre that would serve to squash the campy silliness that overtook the genre after World War II and give rise to the gory exploitation films that populated the drive-ins of the 1960's and the slasher films that dominated the genre in the late 1970's and early 1980's.  It was revolutionary enough that before it's release in the UK, censors there demanded that 15 minutes be cut from the film.  Black Sunday would not see an uncut release there until over 30 years later in 1992.  Director Mario Bava and later, others like Dario Argento were were able to infuse their horror films with a sense of high art that had not been seen in the genre since the German expressionist movement that had dominated the silent film era in Europe in the early 20th century.  It is worthwhile to note that Black Sunday was the directorial debut of Mario Bava and nearly instantly secured his status as a master of the genre.

This is a film that you cannot go wrong with.  Even fifty years later it still holds up and manages to frighten and disturb on a level that most modern horror films simply cannot achieve.  It is a true "must see".

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Goonies Never Say Die!

It was a perfect storm... The kids were finally fast asleep and I had finished my chores for the evening. I was faced with 2 whole hours of unscheduled time.  What was I to do?

Well, watch the HD copy of The Goonies that recently fell into my lap, of course!

The year was 1985... I was 10...

Directed by Richard Donner, produced by Steven Spielberg and written by then relative unknown writer (soon to be director) Chris Columbus...

I was just beginning to form what would become my overwhelming love of all things cinema...

The cast was a mix of then unknown child actors (Cory Feldman was the only one who had a real acting career prior to The Goonies) and character actors...

My love of Star Wars was firmly in place and I had been driven to tears 3 summers prior by the magic that was another Spielberg creation... E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial...

That year would become an amazing year for movies.  It would be the year that I started to see a lot of movies in the theater rather than on HBO or through home video.  Out of all the movies that I saw that year ultimately, it was this one that still to this day holds a special place in my collection.

The Goonies seemed to designed to be Indiana Jones for kids and what really amazes me is how well the film holds up 27 years after it's release.  It is still so much fun to watch.  Even more so now that I have seen so many more movies since this one was released.  It was a treat to see a much younger Joe Pantoliano and Robert Davi flexing their comedic muscles.

I think that for a lot of movie goers my age The Goonies presented a story that was for us without pandering or talking down to us.  The actors were around the age that they played in the film and being close to that age myself it was the first movie where I felt a real connection with the characters.  I went on that adventure with them and truly shared in their victory.

Side Note: One of my favorite scenes...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Classic Scenes of Cinema: The Great Dictator

The Great Dictator was Charlie Chaplin's first sound picture.  With one deft stroke of genius he proved that silent or talking he was, and still is, one of the greatest actors in cinema history.  Chaplin wrote and directed this satire on Hitler and Nazi Germany and the entire film builds quietly and with his usual humor to this profoundly serious and moving speach.  It is truly one of the classic scenes of cinema...


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