Our Alfred

Here’s an entertaining clip from “What’s My Line?” (as in “of work”), with Alfred Hitchcock as the mystery celebrity. Some detective work might have turned up an exact air date, but I’m too lazy for that sort of thing today. At any rate, since he’s plugging Rear Window, it’s safe to assume that this is from August or September 1954. The great man’s droll manner and indefinable charisma are very much in evidence, but notice the bespectacled wisenheimer who fancies himself a film buff. Golly, did Hitchcock, a film director as famous and recognizable as the stars he employed, really make a habit of appearing in his own movies? Tell me more, oh infinite font of arcane movie lore! Geez.

Happy New Year!

What say we start things off with a real bang?

Gloom is Good

December, and as befits my blogging alter ego, I spend all my waking hours in darkness. It’s still night when I get up in the morning, I sit in an office with tinted windows all day, and the sun has dipped below the horizon when I take the subway home. It’s the perfect time of year for horror movies, despite the bright lights and festive decorations. At present, I only wish I had time to actually watch horror movies—or anything else, for that matter! Bare trees, cold rain, and long evenings create the perfect mood for spectral visitors, deranged axe murderers, and unspeakable fiends of every stripe. Oh well, Paranormal Activity is on the cards for Monday. Yay!

Remember when I blogged about Father Ted, right after Halloween? I didn’t include a clip back then, but here’s a link to an unusually reflective moment from an earlier episode. It’s the season one finale, and Father Jack (Frank Kelly) is seemingly dead from floor polish poisoning. Ted and Dougal (Dermot Morgan and Ardal O’Hanlon) stand to inherit a generous amount of money, but only if they carry out an unusual proviso in the older priest’s will. Since Jack was terrified of being buried alive, they have to spend the night with his casket. And in the hush of the small hours, while Dougal sleeps, a pensive Ted paraphrases the closing words of The Dead” by James Joyce

One Monster to Rule Them All!

In the realms of horror, is there any tradition older or grander than that of the monster? Classical mythology gave us the terrifying likes of sea monster Scylla, who devoured unwary sailors, the man-eating Minotaur in his maze, and the ghastly Gorgons. Medieval folklore told of werewolves, vampires and ghouls. Some of our most celebrated literary works involve monsters—think Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein’s Monster and that pale dude from Transylvania. The ascent of film paved the way for stop-motion dinosaurs, King Kong, and cinematic refinements of classic bugaboos. And the atomic age, with its new fears, produced mutants in the shape of Godzilla, Them! and Tarantula. These titanic terrors could lay waste to entire cities, but they had competition from outer space, as evil aliens descended from the skies to destroy, enslave and devour Earth’s population. And let’s not forget the archetypal serial killer, man revealed as the cruelest monster of all.

Just like Scylla, the monster pantheon is colossal and many-headed. With scores of freaks, fiends and unholy horrors to choose from, how can a poor fan ever pick a favorite? Which monster towers above the rest, reducing the competition to cowering baby bunnies in its mighty shadow?

Do you even have to ask?

Blue fur, bulging eyes, gruff voice, terrible table manners and a legendary hunger. Five trademarks of a monster who can eat and eat and eat some more. This guy’s stupendous appetite is never sated. And while he does have a self-evident favorite food, he’ll gobble up anything, as the below clip demonstrates. According to Wikipedia, it’s exactly 40 years ago today since the subject of this post first graced American television screens, and that certainly warrants a mention. Who is this majestic monster, this king of cookies, this really rather friendly blue beast? Well, there’s only one way to find out. (Actually, I can think of at least three other ways on this post alone, but play along with me, okay?)

Dare you watch today’s clip? Dare you? DARE YOU?!

A clarification for particularly dense readers: This post is not about Kermit the Frog …

Social Etiquette: How to Make Your Presence Known

So, how did I spend my Friday the 13th? I watched a Friday the 13th movie, of course! (I know, I’m so predictable.) The fifth entry, A New Beginning, was my choice for the evening. You might remember that I ranked this guilty pleasure as number ten in the series, but that doesn’t make it unwatchable … even though the acting is uneven enough to make you seasick, the story is bad, the dialogue is worse, the picture has the flat look of a TV movie, and a Jason impostor is committing all the murders.

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Reggie (Shavar Ross) is clearly thrilled to see Pam.

Aside from the entertainment value, we can also learn useful people skills from bad horror movies. Like how to make your presence known. Pay close attention, folks—this is important. If it’s a dark and stormy night, you’re out in the middle of nowhere, and people have begun to disappear, don’t honk your horn when you get back to the house. Also, don’t call out as you enter, don’t jingle your keys, and make sure to close the door as softly as possible behind you. Then, walk around on tippy-toe, and climb the stairs without emitting so much as the faintest creak. (This can be tricky if you’re wearing boots like Melanie Kinnaman’s Pam, but she proves that it can be done!) When you finally come across someone, don’t say “Hello” or “There you are” or “Where’s everybody else?” In fact, don’t say a word. Instead, after having made sure that they haven’t seen you yet, slap your hand down on their shoulder. If you’re a counselor of some kind, at a halfway house for severely troubled teens, this approach is even more advisable. So there you have it. No need to thank me.

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"What is it, Reggie? It’s Pam. What’s the matter? What’s the matter? It’s me! What is it? What is it?"

Note: Let me just point out that we don’t see Pam until she appears by Reggie’s side upstairs. Her silent progress through yard and house is purely out of my imagination. But that’s how it must have gone down, right, for her to suddenly be standing there?

Night of the Nearly Dead

Iconic horror movies are fertile ground for parody and homage. Psycho has been referenced in everything from Halloween H20 to Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol. Nods to The Shining crop up all over the place. And how about the instantly recognizable image of Jason and his hockey mask? Remember National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation? In 1998, exactly 30 years after Night of the Living Dead was unleashed on an unsuspecting world, Irish sitcom Father Ted remade Romero’s first zombie outing in its own loopy image.

Father Ted ran for three series, totaling 25 episodes of classic comedy. The show takes place on Craggy Island, where the eponymous priest (Dermot Morgan) lives with Dougal (Ardal O’Hanlon), a naïve and endearingly stupid younger priest, and Father Jack (Frank Kelly), a lecherous drunkard who mainly sits around shouting variations of the phrase, “Arse! Drink! Feck! Girls!” Mrs. Doyle (Pauline McLynn) is the tea-obsessed housekeeper. In “Night of the Nearly Dead,” she wins a poetry contest and gets a visit from asinine talk show host Eoin McLove (Patrick McDonnell).

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Eoin is eager to get going.

Dougal: I think he’s just pulled up, Ted. The good news is, he can only afford a crappy, blue Ford Cortina. Imagine going around in that thing!

Ted: That’s my car.

Unfortunately, Eoin proves to be a very inconsiderate houseguest—Mrs. Doyle faints at her first sight of him, to which he replies, “Brilliant! She fell on her arse!” But his odd behavior is the least of their worries. As it turns out, Mrs. Doyle has unwittingly divulged the date of Eoin’s visit to a gabby acquaintance, and his doddering fans soon besiege the parochial house. Dougal estimates their number to be 17 million, and likens them to “a big tide of jam coming towards us, but jam made out of old women!” Ted tries to reason with the adoring crowd:

Ted: I’m afraid we can’t stay around to chat. I have a very important baptism tomorrow. The baby has a very big head, and it may not fit in the font.

A waste of time, of course. Ted and the others have no other choice but to seek refuge in the house, while old ladies restlessly prowl the yard.

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Even creepier than zombies?

Ted: We have to get him out of here. Do you know what we need? Something to lead them away from him, so he can escape. Some kind of misleading event, but what could it be?

Dougal: I know! A diversion! That’s what it’s called, a diversion!

While the priests contemplate futile strategies, like luring the unwanted visitors into a giant bingo game, Mrs. Doyle is busy in the kitchen. When Eoin later tries to cut the cake she’s made for him, he discovers that a sweater has been baked in it, thus combining his two favorite things in one wooly, banana-flavored abomination. Then the women trick Ted into opening a window, ostensibly to hear his latest sermon once more. Thus the house is quickly overrun by gray-haired ladies who moan, “Eoin! Eoin!”

During the showdown in the upstairs bathroom, a rooster’s crow gives Mrs. Doyle an idea for a final, desperate gambit. She reminds the invaders that they all have husbands waiting at home for their breakfasts. Ted follows her lead:

Ted: Remember last year, Mrs. Dunn? Your husband tried to wash a cup … and burned the house down. And Mrs. Collins, when Mr. Collins tried to make the bed on his own … and lost a leg.

This last bit of politically incorrect reasoning does the trick, and Eoin is finally free to leave … along with two suitcases full of stolen goods from the house. To make up for all the trouble, Eoin’s agent (Maria Doyle Kennedy) invites Ted onto Eoin’s television show for a quiz. When he hears that there’s a cash prize, the famously greedy Ted accepts. And he aces his specialist subject, William Shatner’s “Tek Wars”, but the concluding general knowledge question trips him up. As it turns out, Father Ted doesn’t know what John Paul II’s name was before he became pope. Ted’s Guess?

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"Jim?"

Eoin: Anyway, I’m going to stop talking to you now, because I don’t know what else to say to you.

Just a little tip 4 U …

If anybody tries to bug you while you’re making the most of the coming weekend, you know what to say!

scary_moviez

For more rampant anthropomorphizing, go here. I meenz, fur moar rampnt anthropomorfingees, goe heerz!

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