The Royal

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Monsters, Mayhem and Richard Stanley

Published April 18, 2015 by vfdpixie

lost soul

Lost Soul:  The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (2014,  1 hr, 37 mins)

 

I remember when the 1996 version of The Island of Dr. Moreau came out.  Being a monster fiend, I didn’t really care about the plot, although I did know the story; I was more thrilled about the promise of freakish animal-human hybrids.  And Val Kilmer.  Yes, I was one of the many women who swooned over his chiselled good looks and brooding demeanor, so to see him in one more film was a bonus.

I think my sister and I ended up renting the movie, and it might have been on VHS, or maybe we saw it late one night on T.V., but we were in for quite a shock.  What started out as a promising adventure/horror movie disintegrated into bizarro land and pee-your-pants giggles.  We loved when Marlon Brando recited the “Judge not, lest ye be judged…” psalm, and almost died when Val Kilmer imitated him in the disastrous third act, in fact we still recite our own version of that scene from time to time, just for shits and giggles.

How could a classic story by H.G. Wells, with big name talent like Brando, Kilmer and Thewlis, go this wrong?  I’ve always wondered what the studios were thinking when this film was put out, and I got my answer with the Rue Morgue Cinemacbre presentation of Lost Soul:  The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau, a 2014 documentary by David Gregory.  It is here that we meet director Richard Stanley in Montségur, France, at his secluded home.  Known for his cult classics Dust Devil and Hardware, he lobbied for and finally won the spot of directing one of his favourite stories, The Island of Dr. Moreau.  Glitch after glitch could not dampen his determination, and along with beautiful concept art by Graham Humphreys, landing Marlon Brando as Dr. Moreau, and a beautiful remote location for filming in Cairns, Australia, his is an intriguing story of how a film production filled with grand ideas and talent became a cursed burden that he would ultimately lose due to Movieland mishandling and total loss of control.

I was completely fascinated by the accounts that came from cast and crew, as well as Stanley himself who struck me as a true eccentric with his occult practices to keep good mojo during the production, his extensive knowledge of the feud between H.G. Wells and Joseph Conrad, and the general weirdness that seemed to follow him. I especially enjoyed Fairuza Balk (Aissa), Fiona Mahl (Sow Lady #2), and Marco Hofschneider’s (M’ling) anecdotal stories about life on the set and dealing with Brando, and Kilmer, who was described as a “prep-school bully”.  And speaking of those headliners, my opinion of Brando and Kilmer changed.  I now think Brando’s notorious behaviour, that could be interpreted as disrespectful and rightfully so in some instances, was not such a surprise after dealing with his daughter’s suicide and the fiasco of the Dr. Moreau production.  Gregory mentioned after the film via Skype that he thought Brando’s performance was one of the more entertaining aspects of the film, and that he reportedly behaved that way to amuse himself.  I think he just didn’t care, and seemed to take the piss instead of what was deemed as crazy antics.  Kilmer on the other hand, even though he was going through a divorce, was just a jerk who even Brando apparently couldn’t tolerate.

Gregory told the audience that he made the film because after working with Stanley on The Theatre Bizarre anthology, he asked the elusive director about the rumors associated with Dr. Moreau, and the documentary grew from there.  Stanley was sick of the questions and wanted to say his piece once and for all.  Gregory was surprised at how many cast, crew and executives agreed to participate for the documentary.  Ron Perlman and David Thewlis were among those who declined involvement; Thewlis reportedly not wanting to add to the gossip surrounding the film fiasco.  Val Kilmer was also approached, but Gregory’s inquiries were met with no response, which is no big surprise!

Lost Souls is an interesting journey of how Richard Stanley lost his dream; how the irate, old-school director John Frankenheimer took over just to get the film finished while Brando and Kilmer were constantly at odds with each other, and a stalled production that was barely salvaged.  Gregory announced that the DVD and Blue-ray of the doc will be available in June, and the film is currently making the festival circuit.  For fans of Stanley or those curious about the back story of one of the worst films ever, it’s worth seeing this entertaining and informative documentary.

As for Richard Stanley?  Aside from him directing Mother of Toads in The Theatre of Bizarre, he has a film adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Colour Out of Space in the works, and a graphic novel adaptation of his Dr. Moreau script.  Hope he comes out with something that he can be proud of!

Check out Rue Morgue’s site for more fascinating horror info, David Gregory’s company Severin Films for updates and VOD of the documentary, and The Royal’s schedule for the next cool flick!

http://www.severin-films.com/

http://www.rue-morgue.com/

http://www.theroyal.to/

 

 

Pixie’s Walk Down Memory Lane and the 40th Anniversary of Black Christmas!

Published December 22, 2014 by vfdpixie

Black Christmas

Black Christmas (1974, 1 hr 38 mins)

My Christmas post for 2014 is about a Canadian classic.  Made in 1974 and said to be one of the first slasher films, Black Christmas has a special place in my heart.  It is not only one of my top 5 horror films, but also a favourite of my childhood friends.  As kids, we would discuss it at length and giggle at the scary parts. They have since moved out of town, but when we come across it on T.V. or pop it in the V.C.R. or D.V.D. player, we always text each other.

When I heard that Rue Morgue was putting on a 40th anniversary screening of the film at the Royal Cinema, I had to go.  Imagine seeing it on the big screen as it was intended with fellow fans as we walk down Memory Lane?  With one of the films stars in attendance?  And the option to purchase a limited edition poster?  Yes please!

The story, loosely based on real murders that happened in Montreal, is about a sorority house that is plagued with obscene calls made by a mysterious and murderous nut-job as he kills the girls off one by one.  It has become an iconic Christmas horror movie that, to the trained eye, uses some very familiar locations and is slice of Canadian history.  From the search party scene filmed in the neighbourhood that I grew up in at Grenadier Pond (the source of some historical myths), to University of Toronto where I pursued higher education, Black Christmas is a map of an old Toronto even though it is set in the fictional U.S. town of Bedford.

Starring Hollywood heavies such as John Saxon, Olivia Hussey, Andrea Martin and Margot Kidder, the organizers invited Art Hindle, who played the fur-clad Chris, to host the screening.  Hindle is a busy Canadian actor who has worked on shows like Beverly Hills 90210 and the award-winning Canadian series E.N.G.  He has a face that is easily recognizable, and it was great to see him in the flesh, wearing the actual fur coat monstrosity from the film that he kept after all these years as a souvenir.

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Art Hindle, second from the left, in his fur coat, with Rue Morgue’s Dave Alexander and Lee Howard with one of his Quiet Room Bears- The special edition Black Christmas Bear

young art

Art Hindle in 1974 as Chris in all his furry glory with Olivia Hussey as Jess in tow!

Before the movie started, Hindle answered some questions about his experience being in the film.  He said that he took the role of Chris to make money, plain and simple, because he had to support his family.  A chat with Margot Kidder convinced him to go to Los Angeles to find more work because Toronto at the time was not booming in the entertainment industry.  He also raved about late director Bob Clark’s “consummate craft of filmmaking”.  Hindle felt Clark was a genius and cited the classic teen sex comedy Porky’s as a technically advanced film, despite its subject matter; in fact, Hindle pointed out that the crew would often consult Clark beyond his directorial skills because he was so technically well-rounded.

As I watched the film on the big screen, I realized my favourite aspect of Black Christmas was the deliciously slow camera shots that either panned across rooms or came in for close-ups-the epitome of building tension-as well as the killer’s point of view camera work, which was apparently mounted on camera man Bert Dunk’s shoulder.  Along with the tension came the jarring score by Carl Zittrer.  Christmas carols surrounded by jangling discordant notes, eerie wind mixed with moans, and heavy breathing, all culminating when Jess’s high-strung boyfriend Peter (Keir Dullea) blows a gasket and destroys a perfectly good grand piano.  Those angry sounds resonated throughout the film as things got worse.

Another key element was the well-placed comedy.  Writer Roy Moore, along with script revisions from Clark, incorporated dark humour that punctuated the action so cleverly.  Among the most memorable moments were Kidder’s dry portrayal of the perpetually drunk Barb and the fellatio phone number scene, and Sergeant Nash’s (Doug McGrath) general oblivion.  Add the foreboding old school telephone ring which was central to the film and the truly creepy, rambling phone calls, and you have all the ingredients for an entertaining and well-crafted horror movie that has become a cornerstone of the horror genre.

To mark the anniversary, a limited edition poster was created.  Toronto based artist Ghoulish Gary Pullin, who has had a multitude of clients such as Rue Morgue Magazine, Dread Central, and Anchor Bay Entertainment just to name a few, and won for best movie poster for the documentary Why Horror? at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, was invited to reinterpret the look of the Black Christmas movie poster.  I am not normally a poster type gal, but when I saw it, I needed to have one. Silk-screened and featuring metallic silver inks, it is truly a thing of beauty.  Pullin was actually on site to personally hand out prints and say hello!  He said he was humbled when he was asked to do the poster and was a genuinely nice guy and obviously extremely talented.

garypullin

The limited edition poster by Ghoulish Gary Pullin

My first experience with Black Christmas will always be remembered as a popcorn and pyjama movie with close friends, but I had a lot of fun seeing it loud and proud on its historic 40th anniversary.  It was great to sit with an audience as we laughed and shrieked at some old school horror.  Who knew a little film about a crank caller and murdered sorority girls would be such an industry trailblazer!  So glad I made it out to revisit the mystery of Billy, Agnes and the baby!

Merry Christmas, dear reader!

*I would like to dedicate this post to my childhood friends who loved this film as much as I did, and to their loved ones who recently left us.  Terry and Sharon lost their father Desmond on September 3rd, and Tessa and Suzette, Desmond’s nieces, lost their beloved friend Danny December 11th.  May they find solace in the memories and the good times with their friends and family, and here’s to a happier new year for us all.  

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