Directed by Steven Spielberg
Screenplay by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb
Based on the 1974 novel Jaws by Peter Benchley
Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton
Budget $9M Box Office $470.7M
IMDb 8/10 Rotten Tomatoes 97% Metacritic 87/100
Okay so, EVERYONE in the horror community knows about the movie Jaws. If you don’t, you’ve been living under a rock, it’s just that simple. Even the newest generations know of this movie as it still gets attention by various marketing companies as the make spoof t-shirts and magazine covers and such off of the original movie poster image. And everyone knows that classic theme song sound, that parade of single notes one after the other that can let anyone know that, just like with the Halloween theme song, nothing good is about to happen.
This film is also very near and dear to my heart. This was a favorite of my father’s and mine that we used to watch any chance we got. I know the majority (if not all) of the dialogue and because of a special trip I was lucky enough to get to take with my job years ago, I actually got to go to the back lot of Universal Studios in Hollywood and go to the dock area where they filmed some snippets of this movie. I got to get my picture taken next to the shark they “think” is the killer shark, the one they caught and bragged about near the beginning/middle of the film (it’s the one Hooper says the bite radius doesn’t match and he says it’s a Tiger shark). I also got my picture taken with the Amity sign, the one that gets defaced by the “little paint happy bastards” the Mayor wants “hung up by their Buster Browns”. (For you really young folks, that was a brand name of shoe back in the day.)
Now, everyone knows this is a killer flick. I have to be honest with you all and admit I have NOT read the novel by Peter Benchley…but I am ordering it and I am going to. The reason is simple…Spielberg had to leave a lot of the subplots out of the storyline in order to focus the film on the shark. The bulk of what we see in the film is really only about the last 120 pages or so of the book. So, we are missing quite a bit. I’ll do a comparison once I read it but, for now, moving on to the classic film itself.
The story in the film is very, very simple. Amity Island is a tourist community that gets the vast majority of their yearly income from the tourists that come to the beach every year over the summer. They depend on their summer business for their very livelihood.
Early in the season, just as the warm weather is beginning to hit, a group of local teens gather at the beach for a nighttime bonfire party. After a bit of drinking and flirting, two teens run off to get their groove on down by the water, well, in the water actually. Now, the chick is much more in control of her faculties and has no trouble stripping down to her bare ass and jumping into the ocean. The guy she’s with however, gets about halfway to naked and then drops in the sand because he’s too drunk to be of any use to anyone, especially a female. While she’s out swimming, something grabs her form below the waterline, violently jerks her from side to side and then pulls her under, all the while her screams for help being muffled by splashes of water going in her mouth and going unheard and unanswered. The next day, what’s left of her is found washed up on the shore.
At first, her death is ruled a shark attack by the medical examiner/coroner (whatever it is they have in such a small town) but, then there seems to be a meeting of the political minds of the town and that cause of death is quickly changed to boating accident.
Enter Chief Martin Brody. Brody moved to this small island from New York. He figured small town, low crime, easy life for him and his family which includes his wife and their two sons, Michael and Jordan. Ironically, Brody hates the water. In fact, he fears it…completely. I don’t think he’s even willing to wade in the water unless it’s absolutely necessary…like when he has to pull his son Michael out of the water after a shark attacks a boater near him and he falls into the water, the shark swims by him and he goes into shock. Even then, the kids Michael was with pull him to the shore and THEN Brody gets in the water only up to his shins to pull Michael in the rest of the way.
So, by now we’ve had two shark attacks. The Mayor can’t seem to get it through his thick skull that they need to close the beaches and hire someone to kill the shark until the second attack happens and only then does he agree because HIS KIDS were on the beach too. (What an ass! Only when YOUR children are at risk are you willing to close the beach??? The town should have hung HIM up by his Buster Browns…or whatever shoes he was wearing with that god awful anchor covered suit…yuck!)
Now, we’ve closed the beaches. And now, we meet Quint and Hooper. Quint is a shark hunter. He’s very rough, not just around the edges but, all the way through. He has a mouth like a sailor which fits since he later tells a story about being on the USS Indianapolis, which was a real event in American history. But, I will get to that later. Quint has offered his services to the town to hunt down and kill this shark.
Matt Hooper is an expert from the Oceanographic Institute that was asked to come out to the island to help determine what exactly they are dealing with. Hooper is a smart guy with a lot of money. This is something that really pisses off Quint. He sees Hooper as a rich kid playing fisherman. But Matt is no newbie and spends a lot of the movie proving himself to Quint, along with throwing some sarcasm and attitude at him when he gets the chance. It’s obvious Hooper knows his worth, even if Quint doesn’t.
So, these three guys load up on a little boat called The Orca to travel out into the unknown of the ocean where this giant and perfect evolutionary machine (that’s what Hooper calls it) awaits their arrival. The rest of the movie is about them hunting for and killing the shark, which they do. No everyone makes it home though. And of course, Jaws isn’t the ONLY Great White in the ocean.
Now, normally this is where I would tell you whether or not I liked the film and if I thought the actors pulled off their characters well or if it was filmed well, etc. However, this time is gonna be different since I already told you in the beginning I love this movie. Instead, I’m going to give you a lot of random information about the film you may or may not already know. But first…
Yes, I love this movie. Yes, the actors were incredible. Yes, it was filmed magnificently, especially for the time. Now, I’ll move onto what I consider to be the COOL stuff.
This was the very first horror film to be released at the box office in the summertime. It was also the first time a filmmaker had ever dared to film on a live body of water, like the ocean, and not in tanks and pools at the studio back lots. Both of these things were unheard of in 1975 when this movie was made.
Spielberg was still a very young and somewhat green director. As he began filming this movie, he and his crew ran into one obstacle after another. Nobody had ever used that kind of very expensive (and very heavy) film equipment actually IN water. So they had to figure that out. What they ended up doing was they had a guy (a genius for the times really) build a waterproof camera box for each camera so that when water filming was required the camera and its entire apparatus could be completely submerged in water without damage. He also rigged a device to keep the camera equipment steady in the strong current of the ocean water. This man’s name was Bill Butler. (And the current IS strong. If you’ve never been swimming in the ocean, I’ve been off the west coast in SoCal, it doesn’t take but getting out a few hundred feet from shore before the undercurrents really start pulling at you. And then there’s the tides. So, being actually OUT ON THE WATER in boats, that current is something wicked, even though it always looks so peaceful in pictures and from a distance.)
But, before that, they had to find a coastal area that looked small town enough to fit the idyllic Amity Island but would also be okay with an entire Hollywood film crew, cast and everything and everyone that comes with movie production being there. That’s not a small request. I mean, you’re talking probably at least 100 people coming in and taking over a town. There were 40 people involved just in building the various sharks used in the movie alone, plus taking 14 people just to operate them. That’s over 50 newcomers right there. Then you add the cast, the camera crew, sound crew, all the guys nobody ever thinks of like the boom operators, makeup team, hair stylists, costuming, the people who find housing for everyone, the clapperboard person (or persons), the list just goes on and on.
So, where could they go and peacefully disrupt an entire town’s complete way of daily living? Martha’s Vineyard. At first, the residents were okay with it as they were told the crew would only be there for 55 days. Instead, they were there 159 days. By then, the townspeople were at their limit with these Hollywood bozos. And going over on production days was just the beginning of the problems for Spielberg.
One of the biggest problems with filming on actual live bodies of water was that you have no control over, well, anything. Martha’s Vineyard is not only a residential town but, it too is a tourist place. But, it is home to a number of wealthy people who, they themselves, love the water and sail and picnic and do normal beachfront property owner activities. Now, you can’t, as a film crew, just go into some town and say, “Okay, um, we’re from Hollywood and we’re making a movie in a way that’s never been done before so, uh, if you all could just not come to the beach or get in the water in ANY WAY unless WE ask you to, that would be great, thanks.” Yeah, that’s not going to work. So, there were many, MANY times during filming that they needed a clean and clear horizon shot in the background and all of a sudden a sailboat would pop up out of one side of the shot and start slowing putzing through. And just as that boat would be almost out of shot, a yacht would come into the shot. Sometimes they’d have to wait for three or four boats at a time to get out of the shot. By then, the natural lighting is all wrong for where they are at in the story and that, of course, sets them back in filming. And that didn’t just happen ONE DAY. This was a repeated problem…or shall I say nuisance.
The original budget for the film was $3 million but, after all the delays in filming and the mechanical and design issues with the sharks, etc., it ended up costing $9 million. Now, as a young NEW director (Spielberg had only directed one other theatrical film at this point) this is NOT GOOD. The bigwigs at Universal eventually start calling Richard Zanuck (a producer) and start chewing on his ass about why the film is taking so long, what the issues are, they gotta wrap it up, they’re not gonna keep losing money…blah blah blah. Zanuck was the voice of reason and the go-between amidst Spielberg and the studio. This led to a lot of tension resting on Spielberg’s shoulders and he often stayed up until the wee hours of the morning or all night working on the script or notes or effects issues for the next day’s shooting.
Then there were problems with Bruce. That’s the mechanical shark. The shark was named Bruce by the crew after Spielberg’s lawyer (I actually find that hilarious, I know some lawyers personally). In reality, there were three full-size sharks made for the film. One was what they referred to as “a sea-sled shark” which was a full bodied shark except it had no underbelly. This is where the mechanical mechanism was that ran from the shark all the way to the ocean floor and was used to propel the shark through the water. Then there were two other sharks built. Each was full size but only one half of the shark from mouth to tail, first the whole right side of the shark, then the whole left side of the shark. All of the sharks that were fabricated were pneumatically powered, meaning they were moved by a mechanism that used a series of hoses and blasts of pressurized air and/or gas to propel movement.
But practically every day, every single day, there were calls over the little handheld radios (walkie-talkies is what we called them in the 80s, millennials if you don’t know what those are, use Google…THAT is something that I am just not willing to explain, to me it seems pretty self-explanatory but, these days I am finding that nothing is self-explanatory) that there was something wrong with the shark, that it wasn’t working, etc. Sometimes it would be that they couldn’t get the shark to swim or that it only swam in circles, sometimes its mouth wouldn’t open, other times they couldn’t get the propelling system to push it up out of the water. There were so many mechanical issues with the famous Bruce that they actually ended up cutting the shark out of a number of scenes. That’s why we see so little of the actual shark and instead, we get little tidbits and a lot of implying of the shark’s presence and the danger it imposes.
Spielberg and his team also came up with a brilliant filming technique for the film to really pull the viewers into the depths of the ocean with the characters. They filmed with the camera at the waterline for a number of shots, especially shots where danger is supposed to be felt, instead of filming at eye level or from above. This put the viewer right smack dab in the heart of the danger zone with the shark…that they couldn’t see. And we always fear more what we cannot see versus what we can. Then, Spielberg asked that during certain “attack” shots there be no red in the background or in the shot itself. This made the blood of the victims the only red the viewers would see, thus making it so much more impactful.
The gal that played Chrissie (the girl that dies in the very beginning), Susan Backlinie, was actually hooked up to a pulley system that violently yanked her from side to side and up and down to simulate the shark swimming around with her in its mouth and pulling her under. It was operated by two men, one on each end. She has said in interviews that is was very hard work and it WAS painful to go through that process. Also, Spielberg was so concerned about the last final tug of her going under being just right that he himself yanked her under for the last pull into the water down to her demise on film. At the time this film was made, it was very difficult to find a pretty girl who was young that was athletic with stunt experience and willing to do a full nudity scene on camera.
Now for something I find incredibly interesting. Richard Dreyfuss was completely miserable during the making of this film. He had no faith in it whatsoever and he just knew his career would be over before it even really got started. He had only done a handful of films and though some of the titles were big titles, he either went uncredited, didn’t have a big part as a credited actor, didn’t do well or the film didn’t do as well as expected. There were a number of times during filming he called his agent very upset and angry about taking this role. (He had just done The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitzand was once again convinced everyone would hate it. After seeing the screener, he called Spielberg and asked for the part of Hooper, which he initially turned down.) Richard was certain the whole film was going to be a total bust, that the critics were going to hate the film and him and that he was surely never going to work in Hollywood again. He felt his character was never really developed and that because of that, he was not able to give a full performance worthy of his true talent. He has been quoted as saying, ”We started the film without a script, without a cast and without a shark.”
There were problems with the cast at times as well. They didn’t always get along. Especially as time kept dragging on and tensions kept running higher and higher. Shaw had a drinking problem and an attitude with Dreyfuss. Dreyfuss had an attitude about his confidence in the film and his character…and career. A lot of the cast and crew got sea sickness during filming. I mean, how pleasant does that sound?
Now for the USS Indianapolis speech. This is a key moment in the movie. And one of the most famous. Quint and Hooper are getting drunk and bonding over sharing shark bite/injury scars. As they are going back and forth talking about what seem like some pretty close calls, Chiefy looks at his stomach to see his one and only scar…from his appendectomy. That doesn’t quite qualify for the very friendly pissing contest they got going on here. Then, as the two shark-boys are about to toast to their legs (watch the movie), Brody asks Quint about a scar on his arm. Quint says it’s a tattoo he got removed. (I don’t know about how it is now but, old school military, especially Navy, got tattoos, usually representing a wife, a woman, a mother or the ship they were assigned to. After a couple smartass jokes from Hooper, Quint reveals it’s a tat from the Indianapolis. Hooper immediately knows what that means, Brody does not. So, Quint tells a brief summary of the tragedy at sea.
The truth: In July of 1945, the USS Indianapolis was a Portland-class heavy cruiser that our Navy sent to deliver bomb parts that would later be assembled into the first nuclear weapon used in war to the Island of Tinian to our Air Force Base there. That nuclear bomb was the bomb used in the attack on Hiroshima the following month in August. On July 30, on their way to their next assignment they were torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. The entire ship sank in about twelve minutes. With it into the water went almost 1200 men…our soldiers. About 300 men died with the sinking of the cruiser. The other approximately 900 men, they were left floating in the water with lifejackets, very few lifeboats, no food or water and left with the dangers of exposure to the elements, saltwater poisoning and shark attacks. After an awful and intense nearly five days helplessly at sea only 316 were rescued.
On August 19, 2017 an independent investor hired a search team to locate the wreckage of the Indianapolis. It was found at the explosion location, at a depth of about 18,000 feet.
On December 20, 2018 the entire crew of the USS Indianapolis was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their service and sacrifice to their country.
Quint’s version: Quint tells pretty much the same story except it is, of course, dramatized emotionally for the movie and embellished for impact. Quint says they weren’t even listed overdue for a week. That’s not true. They were sighted four days after the cruiser sank. Quint also never mentions any lifeboats. However, there was a huge screw up, or I’m going to say series of screw ups, by the US Navy that, had they not occurred, could have very well saved hundreds of lives.
Now, because Quint is super drunk in this scene when he gives this speech, Robert Shaw, who plays Quint, thought that the only way he could really do this scene right would be if he too were drunk. It didn’t go as he planned. Shaw fouled up the scene so many times that they eventually called it quits and waited for the next day. On that next day of filming, Shaw showed up stone cold sober and nailed the speech the first time.
A few extra tidbits about the speech…
Roy Scheider was the one who came up with the line about sharks having eyes like a doll’s eyes.
The speech went from an original three quarters of a page recollection to a four-page monologue into the concise intense story we see on screen.
Multiple cast members, the script writers and Spielberg contributed to the final speech we view in the film.
Okay, so who IS Peter Benchley anyways right? Well, if you watch the movie, on the first day the beaches are open to tourists there’s a reporter doing a story about what’s been going on in Amity as of late. He’s got dark hair and glasses and he’s wearing a suit on the beach with a microphone in his hand. THAT is Peter Benchley. He re-wrote the screenplay for the movie three or four times before he handed it over and told the studio and filmmakers that he’d done all he could with it and the rest was basically on them.
Spielberg wasn’t the first director offered this film. The first director basically quit and Spielberg had to ask for the film because he happened to see it on the desk of someone at the studio, I believe it was Zannuck’s desk but, I can’t be 100% on that one.
Spielberg was in constant fear throughout the making of this movie that he was going to not only be fired but, probably cast out of Hollywood forever as the worst director of all time.
The end scene where the shark explodes was a one-chance/one-take shot. They filled the shark with real raw fish, calamari, chum, etc. to simulate the actual bloody guts of the shark being blown up.
Spielberg did not go to the set on the last day of filming. He flew back to Hollywood early. He was so afraid the cast and crew were going to do something to him, like footballs players dumping Gatorade on the coach but worse, that he cut out in order to avoid his impending doom. To this day he says he still does not go to the set on the last day of filming out of tradition and possibly, superstition.
In the scene where Mrs. Kittner slaps Chief Brody, Roy Scheider was slapped over 25 times before they got it done the way Spielberg wanted it. Roy has said it was very difficult to brace yourself for a smack in the face you knew was coming without looking like you knew it was coming.
The theme song, as I said in the beginning, a classic parade of single notes back and forth is deemed by Spielberg to be responsible for half of the film’s success. He feels that had it not been for that specific iconic tune, the movie wouldn’t have been near as successful.
Several big name actors such as Robert Duvall and Jon Voight were considered for main parts in the movie. But they were either not receptive to what parts were being offered or Spielberg thought they might be too big for the movie, period, and steal the show from the shark, such as actors like Charlton Heston, who wanted to play Quint.
When Hooper is underwater in the anti-shark cage, there are two interesting things they did to make this scene so believable.
Finally, probably the most famous line in this film is, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” It is said by Chief Brody when he’s throwing out chum and the shark jumps out of the water at him and scares the crap out of him. Originally, this line was said immediately after the shark appears. When the screening was first shown and they were gauging what was working in the film and what wasn’t, the screams of the audience when the shark appeared COMPLETELY drowned out Brody’s famous line. Spielberg felt this line was crucial, instrumental to the scene and the film as it added a certain amount of levity to such an ominous situation. So, after the screening, they changed it to what we now see, where Brody stiffens up, walks straight backwards into the galley and THEN tells Quint “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” They also raised the volume level of that particular line in the film versus the rest of the dialogue. By doing that, the audience had settled enough that the line could be heard and have its comedic impact.
Also, the scene where Hooper is looking at Ben Gardner’s boat underwater and the head pops out at him, that was added after the filming at Martha’s Vineyard. Spielberg just wanted one more scare for the viewers. It was filmed in a pool at someone’s house. They added powdered milk to the water to try to match the murky waters of those at Martha’s Vineyard and shot it in Hollywood in a personal pool, not even on the backlot at the studios. Spielberg even used $3000 of his own money to do so. (What a guy!!!!)
And one last thing…Jaws was the first film to hit over $100M at the Box Office (they call it theatrical rentals) ever. It surpassed The Godfather which only grossed $86M. The Jaws record was beaten by Star Wars just two years later but Jaws was the first to hit the $100M. (Atta boy Spielberg, and you thought you were dead in the water, tsk tsk tsk.) Within the first two weeks of release all production costs had been covered and the rest was all profit from that point forward. They also did a much larger nationwide theatrical release than what was normal for the time. They released on June 20, 1975 in North America in 464 theaters, which was just unheard of and by the middle of August, the film was in over 900 theaters. This totally went against everything the studios thought would bring in viewers. But, they were wrong. People were lined up to see this movie all summer long, around the blocks of theaters all over the country, not to mention when it went international. It has been revered as such a classic that is has been re-released in theaters in 1976, 1979 (this is also when it first aired on television getting the second highest viewing audience in history at the time, only being beaten out by Gone with the Wind), and then again in 2015 on two different dates.
So, there you have it. That’s the bulk of the information I have on the film Jaws…in a nutshell. I can’t imagine someone NOT liking this movie and I pray that Hollywood doesn’t do a remake/reboot/redux F&!@ UP on what might very well be ONE of the most perfect horror films ever. We are talking about a cataclysm of blunders and misfortunes, mind changes and matters of naïve genius, perfection and patience, egotism and humbleness, all smashing together in a catastrophic way to bring us something that could never be recreated again. This was magic on screen in a way that they just don’t do anymore. These days everyone relies so much on CGI that nothing you see on screen seems to have been done by hand. REAL special effects used to be an actual art form. It’s such a shame that with all this technology we’ve gotten to the point where we feel the need to do EVERYTHING electronically, digitally. And don’t get me wrong, I understand that CGI is also an art form. I truly do. But there’s something about being able to build something with your hands and make it look as realistic as possible versus everything being done on a computer program. Maybe I’m just old school. I don’t know.
And these guys didn’t have that CGI option. And while the newer generations look at the film quality, see vintage or the date of 1975 and immediately think NO WAY and move on, they have no idea what kind of skill, talent and manpower it took to make a movie like this. It took six months just to build the three sharks, built by 40 men, by hand. Not some computer. Filming took like 159 days instead of the scheduled 55. They had every problem you could imagine and all the ones you can’t. They were breaking new ground in this film. I feel like this gets lost somewhere along the line. I mean, really, even if we do let computers do everything, who’s gonna fix the computers when they break? Another computer? And when that one breaks? You need humans in there somewhere people. You can’t replace all human action, activity and skill with a computer. No matter how hard you try. Technology is supposed to aid us, not replace us.
So, for some good old fashioned summer horror, this is the go to flick. Not a whole lot of blood but, there is some. Not a lot of gore, except for that whole Quint dying thing. Not a lot of foul language. Only a small spot of brief nudity. But totally loaded on suspense and thrill. A personal favorite and a true classic. Jaws wasn’t just a MOVEMENT in the horror film industry. It was a REVOLUTION. A movement suggests something that goes for a distance and then stops and sort of dies off. A revolution seems to cycle back around again and again. And Jaws…will never die.
Behind the Scenes
Directed by Wes Craven
Screenplay by Harlan Ellison, Alan Brennert
Starring: Bruce Willis
So, I just watched a 1980s episode of The Twilight Zone called Shatterday. (My first thought was “Wow, they gave William Shatner his own themed episode??? Seriously???” But, alas, this was not the case.)
This was an intense episode and it’s hard to explain so, you’ll have to be patient and just, muscle through a bit.
Bruce Willis plays a man named Peter Novins. We first meet Peter while he is sitting at a bar having a drink, waiting for his girlfriend to arrive. As she is late, he decides to call his girlfriend’s office and see if she’s left yet or something like that. Here’s one of my favorite little tidbits. He dials his phone number KL56189 (that’s Klondike 56189 for you younger folks. So the number would translate into 555-6189. ‘K’ and ‘L’ are on the number 5 on the phone key pad. So WA48484 is said as Wabash 48484 and is dialed as 924-8484. Okay? I think this is fun because we don’t use the letter/number system anymore and this particular episode was made in 1985 and they are still referring to a phone number that way. By then, the majority of phone numbers were referred to as numbers only, no letters. Just a little history lesson there for ya. Moving on.)
So, Peter dials KL56189. But it’s not his girl’s office…it’s his home. Now, normally when you call your own home and you’re the only one that lives there, a person doesn’t answer. Peter is not so lucky. On the other end of the line…is Peter.
Now, take a minute to wrap your head around this. You call home and YOU answer. And you start having a conversation with yourself to confirm your own identity. How whacked out is THAT??? Needless to say, Peter in the bar (we’ll call him Novins) gets completely freaked out by his conversation with Peter at home (we’ll keep calling him Peter) and leaves the bar, telling the bartender that if his girlfriend shows up to tell her he couldn’t stay. (Um, yeah…dude? That’s soooo not gonna fly with her, okay? Just sayin’.)
What this conversation, and following ones from a phone booth, entailed between the two Peters was very revealing and antagonistic. Peter says they can’t both exist. That two objects can’t occupy the same space at the same time. Peter tells Novins that he knows his life is crap and he won’t even make any effort to change it. Peter starts antagonizing Novins about all his misdeeds, bad choices, his lack of character, his general lack of lust for life. He bashes him telling him his life sucks and he’s let it get out of control. Peter says that those days are over.
Novins gets agitated very quickly and maintains that eventually Peter will have to leave the apartment eventually and when he does, Novins will slip in, thus taking over the apartment and his life again. This whole thing is seemingly a battle over occupancy of the apartment. But through more antagonistic conversations, we learn that it runs much deeper than that.
So, by now, Novins is locked out of his own apartment by Peter (himself) and has checked into a hotel. He’s also emptied his bank account so Peter has no access to his money thinking that will put a strain on him. Then, more phone calls.
Novins calls Peter and tries to enforce his monetary upper hand. But Peter IS Novins. So, he knows about the $200 in the jewelry box. That blows Novins’ plan right out of the water. Then, as if that punch in the gut wasn’t bad enough, Peter tells him that his mother called that day. He says she knows he lied about why he left his visit with her early. She knows he left and checked into a hotel for his last day. Peter says that she said she forgives him and just wants him to spend her life with him.
Now, Novins is losing it because he gets all buggy when he’s around his Mom and he already feels guilty but, he pushes that WAY down to the pit of his gut so he can ignore it. And this ass clown is straight guilting him to the nth degree here. But, Peter tells Novins not to worry, he’s already arranged to make amends. He invited Mom to come live with him. Novins REALLY flips out on that one!!! He doesn’t want his mother in his apartment. He’s a guy, with a life. Well, too flippin’ bad because Peter has made it so. And there is nothing Novins can do about it. Not from the outside. Peter is the one in the house. He’s the one able to do the work at his job. He’s the one answering the phone and talking to people. Peter is in control. Novins…merely a passenger now.
They briefly discuss how the two parts of the whole somehow got separated…talking about auras and spirits floating off during sleep. None of it is given much thought or much weight. Peter just keeps reinforcing that he’s in charge.
I have to take a brief moment to describe the two Peters. The house Peter is very well kempt, clean cut, well dressed and well spoken. He’s calm and collected. He’s got morals and a conscience. The bar Peter (Novins) is stressed and disheveled. He’s sweaty and pale. If you could touch him, I would bet he would be clammy. His eyes are heavy and bloodshot. And as the phone calls keep coming his appearance gets worse and worse while Peter remains forever GQ.
Stuck out in the rain Novins calls Peter and tries to come to some sort of conclusion, some sort of resolution to where they can come together again. Peter suggests the one that DESERVES to be Peter Novins should take over the life. This leads to a conversation about integrity and morality. It’s clear Novins feels like the victim, like Peter is doing this TO him but, Peter assures him that Novins has done this to himself.
Now, this has been going on for five days. Novins is slowly getting more and more sickly looking as he stays holed up in his hotel room. Meanwhile, Peter is taking over Novins life…and continuing to make some changes.
Peter calls Novins and taunts him with fake concern for his health. He calls Novins out on how he got some gal Patty to leave her husband, taking her son with her, and set her up in an apartment to have a relationship with her…until he got sick of her and just blew her off. He says he took the liberty of calling her and apologizing to her for the way Novins treated her. Peter also informs him he has intervened on his relationship with his girlfriend, apologizing for being a jerk and making plans to move forward with a whole new outlook with her. And that she was receptive to that. This just cuts into the core of Novins and you can see his soul start to just with away. I mean, the man looks like he’s just dying, inside and out.
Then we get to SHATTERDAY. (They have named various days of the week that this whole thing has taken place like Day 1: Someday, Day 2: Duesday, Day 5: Freeday and Day 6: Shatterday. Day 2 was when he went to the bank and took out all his money.)
So, here we are…Shatterday. Novins is sprawled out on the bed in the hotel room, looking like death slightly warmed over. And all of a sudden, a knock at his door, and then it opens.
In walks Peter. Novins sounds like he’s breathing and talking through radio static. And for the first time, they have an actual conversation about what is REALLY going on. Novins brings up the archetypes from Jung, the shadow or the persona, the ego or anima, which one is Peter? Peter admits that when he first broke loose he was the shadow but now, now he’s the self.
These two men, these two parts of the same man, battling it out with each other over who would possess the life of the body and mind. Which one will have control? And in Novins current condition, it seems Peter has won the battle. He tells Novins he’s becoming a memory. Novins finds that slightly hurtful although he’s so far gone he’s not feeling much of anything. Peter says he’s glad they broke apart, that Novins was basically a sickness and now he’s rid of him. He also says he’s not going to say he’s sorry for that nor for being a better man without him. (Seems harsh doesn’t it?)
Peter tells Novins he is there to see if he wanted anything, if there was anything he would do different. Novins says no, nothing special really, asks him to give Patty some money to help take care of her boy. But, Novins just seems empty and lost by this point. Peter says that means he’s accepting his fate and that’s good. Novins doesn’t look like it’s a good thing, believe me.
Peter goes to leave and Novins reaches out his hand. Peter takes it in his and they share a final cordial handshake as Novins starts to fade away. Peter grabs his coat and heads to the door. We see a transparent Novins sitting at the window of the hotel room. He fades to nothing as Peter leaves, he stares out the window. When Peter turns back to look at Novins, he’s gone.
And Peter Novins leaves the hotel, a better man than he was before.
So, what if this could happen? What if the worst part of you was confronted and overrun by the best part of you? Locked out of your life, stripped of your identity, and hidden away until you simply just faded away. What if the reverse happened? People struggle within themselves all the time. This episode just took that inner turmoil and put it as a side by side battle with oneself. That’s exactly what you are doing when you are wrestling with your conscience. It’s YOU arguing with YOU. It’s just different parts of YOU. The easiest way to explain it is the Angel on your right shoulder and the Devil on your left shoulder, each whispering in your ears telling you what you should be doing. That’s your conscience (hopefully you have one) on the right fighting with your desire on the left. Now, I am putting that in the most GENERAL and simplest terms to get the idea of this man versus himself struggle across.
There is an entire psychological theory on this whole thing by Sigmund Freud involving the Id, the Ego and the Super-Ego. Basically, the Id would be the drive of desire. The Super-Ego is morality and critical thinking and the Ego acts as the mediator between the two.
But, imagine the conversation you would have with yourself if you could confront YOU face to face instead of just in your head. Even if you could just have that talk over the phone, it would be so much more sobering and impactful if you heard it in your own voice like that. Because even when we DO talk to ourselves, it’s never the way we talk to others. And the way we would go off on someone else is usually markedly different than how we would come down on ourselves. We tend to use a different language with ourselves in anger, we may be harder on ourselves but our inner dialogue tends to be more intimate and abrasive and outright brutal. We tend to insult ourselves in more intimate ways, more personal and exact attacks, with specific examples of failures and shortcomings. With ourselves, we know how to go for the jugular with the first shot every time. Whereas with others, we tend to go for general faults and insult general flaws since we may not know their deepest and darkest secrets. It’s always easier to tear a person apart emotionally when you know more about them personally. So, if you are battling yourself, you’re your own worst enemy. Because who knows more about you than you?
The end of this show was a real WOW moment for me. It was actually a moment that made my heart sink a little bit. It was like whoa, this was a guy battling his own demons, we just got to see it play out as if it were two people instead of one. Then, you kind of feel good for the guy because he won his war over his demons and is a better man living a better life, he’s made amends for the wrong he’s done, he’s focusing on his mother and his girlfriend, making plans for his future. But, at the same time, the idea of watching a part of yourself dying off, fading away, you encouraging it, willing it and then being happy about it…just seems a little unnerving to me. It would be unsettling to me to literally visually watch a part of myself die off. Especially knowing that I’m killing that part off with my own actions and decisions, my own will and power. Seems so morbid to me in a way.
But, that’s what you’re doing when you make changes to your personality, right? I mean, if you’re a total schmuck and you decide you want to be Mr. Nice Guy and not El Schmucko anymore, you basically kill off the schmuck, don’t you? I mean, yes, technically it’s a series of retraining the brain and new behaviors replacing old ones and forming new patterns and thoughts processes but, in order to do that you have to rid yourself of the bad thought processes, behaviors, patterns, etc. It’s just replacing the bad with the good, the old with the new. So, you’re killing off the old and letting the new (or the rest) continue to live. Still, to see it with your own eyes would be quite chilling, in my opinion.
So, definitely an episode worth seeing.
Directed by Mary Harron
Written by Guinevere Turner
Producers: Cindi Rice, John Frank Rosenblum, Dana Guerin
Matt Smith as Charles Manson
Hannah Murray as Leslie Van Houten
Sosie Bacon as Patricia Krenwinkel
Marianne Rendón as Susan Atkins
Suki Waterhouse as Mary Brunner
Chace Crawford as Tex Watson
Budget N/A Box Office $25, 562
IMDb 5.6/10 Rotten Tomatoes 50% Metacritic 55/100
This is one of the most interesting films on the Manson women to date. While the screenplay is written by Guinevere Turner, the film itself is based on two different books:
The Family: The Story of Charles Manson’s Dune Buggy Attack Battalion by Ed Sanders
The Long Prison Journey of Leslie Van Houten by Karlene Faith
The most interesting about this film is that it focuses more on how Charlie treated the WOMEN in his cult rather than Charlie himself. All the hype around the Tate-LaBianca murders, along with other murders such as that of Gary Hinman, generally focus on Manson himself, as if he was the only person in the cult. This film certainly gives you a closer look from the point of view of “the Manson Women”.
While in all their interviews and statements during their arrests and trials they maintained “Charlie is love”, the truth is the man was a creepy little manipulative monster that preyed on the vulnerabilities of young women. We see in this film how Charlie systematically strips these young girls of their identities. He exploits any weakness he finds but, in a way that makes them feel loved and cherished and special. He digs into their psyche and plays with their minds and emotions.
These girls openly go to Charlie. They willingly allow him to explore their minds, their bodies, their pasts. They answer every question, believing that in their honesty with him, THEY will be considered his “special girl”. We see how willing they are to take his abuse and humiliation, how they let him pass them around like property to other men.
People often ask how it was that this tiny little nothing was able to get ahold of the minds of so many young people. This film does an excellent job of showing how he got control of the group, collectively and individually. We get a taste of how his ego played a big part in how he treated these girls, whichever one fed his ego the most seemed to get the best treatment, as it usually goes with cults. However, as it also usually goes with cults, those that defy the leader, no matter how much they are favored, will be disciplined and more often than not in front of the rest of the group. There are a number of things that Charlie did to these women, who were just kids at the time really, that really messed with their heads. And while that doesn’t excuse what they did, it does help explain how they got to that point.
I know people don’t like hearing that “the Manson Women” are/were victims. It just doesn’t seem to sit well in the pit of the stomachs of the public or the justice system. But you have to remember, these girls didn’t start out as murderers. Some of the girls from the cult came from affluent, good homes, went to good schools, etc. Some were runaways looking for safety and direction. Some were just looking for fun, drugs and free love. There were people that hung around the cult for days, weeks, even months and then just took off. They weren’t the true followers. They were just passersby if you will.
The writer of this film, Guinevere Turner, has a unique perspective as she herself was raised in what mainstream society refers to as “a cult”. To her, it was just her way of life. She didn’t know any different. She did, however, get to see firsthand how the hierarchy of a cult works, the systematic degradation of human beings and brainwashing of minds, the attempts to rebuild people in the image of one person’s mind of what is ideal and perfect and how the attempts of perfection and Utopia can turn into menace and mayhem. You can read her essay on her experience published on The New Yorker website here:
I highly recommend this film to anyone who would like a completely different view of the whole Manson Family story. One that is not skewed by the press, the prosecutors or Manson himself.
James R. Webb, Wesley Strick
Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange, Juliette Lewis
Budget $35M Box Office $182.3M
IMDb 7.3/10 Rotten Tomatoes 75% Metacritic 73/100
This was a movie my Dad introduced me to. We both always had a huge respect for Robert De Niro. I just happened to catch this flick on TV today while I was flipping through channels, so I decided to sit back, watch and reminisce about times spent long ago with my father. I think this may have been the film that convinced me I didn’t want to be a defense attorney.
This is a true psychological thriller. It’s a story about a guy named Max Cady (De Niro) who was sent to prison for 14 years after pleading to battery. He was charged with rape and other included offenses which made it a capital case. By taking the plea, Max had a chance at seeing life outside prison walls someday. He brutalized his victim so badly that she barely survived. His defense lawyer Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) not only “knew” his client was guilty as hell but, Max had even confessed to Sam that he had gotten away with two other attacks. So, Sam buried some evidence in the case. It was the prior sexual history of the victim. (Remember, this was in the 90s, when rape victims did not have the kind of protection and shield laws we have for them now.) “Apparently”, (and I say that with so much sarcasm it gushes), this report showed that the victim was “promiscuous” and had had “at least three lovers in one month”. (Insert HUGE eye roll here and TOTALLY moving on because NONE of that has any bearing at all on whether or not someone is attacked.) Sam never turned this over to the prosecution and no one else was aware of it either, especially his client. That report could have gotten Max a lighter sentence OR even acquitted completely. Instead, Cady took the plea deal, was found guilty and sentenced to 14 years.
Now, once incarcerated, people do a lot of things to pass their time. Some form criminal enterprises inside. Some inmates sit in their cells as much as possible, trying to cope with depression or worse. Some just want to do their bid and get it over with, get out and move on. Some exercise. Some read. Others work jobs or get educations, degrees even. Some find religion. And yet some spend the vast majority of their time in the prison law library studying, reading up on anything and everything to do with their case. This last one is an interesting coping tactic because once they do this they are privy to certain, if not all, information pertaining to their case from both the state prosecutors and his defense attorneys (not to mention any independent experts and witnesses that may have been consulted during the course of the investigation and/or trial).
Out of all those options, Max Cady chose to live in a world of his own, in his 8ft by 9ft cell, expressing himself, his frustration, his vengeance and his religion through tattoos all over his body, by working out physically and yes, living in the law library.
For Sam, during these 14 years, he and his family move on with their lives and are doing fairly well. It’s obvious there has been some marital discourse but hey, what serious relationship doesn’t have issues now and then? Sam’s daughter, Dani (Danielle) is now 15 and oh so typical for that age and his wife, Leigh, is in advertising it seems. But, it’s when Max Cady gets released after serving his sentence that things really start to heat up and get troubling.
While Sam was out living his life, Max, on the other hand, feels like he was unfairly convicted as he strongly contends that the prior sexually history of his victim would have exonerated him. He has had fourteen years to think about how Sam buried that report. Fourteen years to think about how his life was snatched away from him. Of how he was caged and treated like an animal. How he lost his wife. His daughter. His respect. His dignity. How he had no other choice but to think and work out and desecrate his body with prison tattoos, waiting for the day his release would come and he could go pay a visit to his good old buddy Sam Bowden, and say “Hello.”
So, here we are. Fourteen years later and Max is out. And wouldn’t you know it, he just so happens to find cozy happiness in starting his life anew right in the same town where Sam and his family live. And just as luck would have it, why, Sam and Max start bumping into one another. Now, we all know that Max is doing this on purpose but see, the thing is, he learned a lot in prison. Fourteen years of studying is a lot longer than most lawyers do. Granted, Max had to first learn how to read, but he had nothing but time…and time…and time. And unlike out here in the real world, he didn’t have to necessarily go through all the hoops to get to the law library like a regular lawyer did. I mean, once Max learned how to read to that level the man could have spent all his time studying the law…now how many years do you think that was? Ten? Twelve? Law school is three. See where I’m going with this. Max has had the lengthy opportunity to learn and overlearn every loophole and misgiving in the entire system AND how to LEGALLY exploit it.
It’s like when a stalker knows that the police can’t doing anything to them for following their victim in a public place even with a restraining order in place as long as they stay the allotted number of feet away. Well see, while that seems obvious to everyone now reading it, most people given a restraining order tend to just stay away. A stalker will go out with a tape measure and measure that shit so they can still see their victim and torment them BUT not get arrested. And they won’t just do it at one location, they will do it at many locations. Plus, it gives them an even greater feeling of control and power over their target. Just one example for you.
Okay, so Max is out and harassing Sam and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. What’s worse is that Max, because of all his legal knowledge, fancies himself a legal professional on par with Sam but Sam…Sam keeps talking to him and treating him like a criminal, like a convict. Max gets all holy on Sam, quoting scripture from the Bible repeatedly throughout the movie, lecturing him about the meaning of commitment and what his fourteen years would be worth.
Then it gets really creepy. Dude starts going to Sam’s house. He goes after the family dog, the wife and even the daughter at her school. Max is so skilled he is completely wreaking havoc on Sam, his nerves, his job and his family. I mean, it gets to the point where Sam feels he needs to take his family and flee on their little houseboat until the police can (or will) help them.
Good plan. It’s out in the middle of a lake, no one will know where they are…good plan.
Except Cady is riding with them all the way to the dock tied to the undercarriage of their SUV.
Once they (and Cady) get on the boat and get settled a storm hits. This is when Cady makes his move. Now, he’s gonna have his REAL day in court. HIS way. He handcuffs Sam to a pole in the galley and has Leigh and Dani act as the jury (it’s not like they really have a purpose there, he is just acting out some sick psycho fantasy here, later he looks at the ceiling and talks to the judge that isn’t there during the hearing). He proceeds to ask Sam about the buried report and eventually Sam admits it, citing Max as a predator and a menace and that he deserved to go to prison. Unfortunately, my good friends, this is not how our system actually works. A lawyer shall zealously defend his client to the very best of his ability within the bounds of the law. That’s the defendant’s right and something very similar to that statement is in the oath a lawyer repeats when they are sworn into the ABA. Frankly, although it may make stomachs turn, Sam didn’t do that. And now he and his family are going to die because of it. Or are they???
Not quite. Well, not in the literal sense anyways. However, what does happen that night on the water forever changes all of them. Individually and as a family. It probably changes Sam as a lawyer too. Going through something like that, nothing is ever the same.
So, this is a remake of the original 1962 film which I have to admit I have not seen. So I can’t compare or comment on the original at all.
However, this version is fantastic. De Niro really went “all in” on this part as he went to a dentist and paid $5,000 to have them damage and mess up his teeth (his real, own teeth!) just so he could better look the part of Cady and then after filming, he went back to the dentist and paid $20,000 to get the work all reversed and his teeth fixed. OUCH! Talk about commitment!!!!
Anyways, at the beginning of this I said this was probably the movie that made me decide not to be a defense lawyer. That could very well be true. I mean, if you are a prosecutor, inevitably you’re going to put an innocent person away for something they didn’t do. And if you are a defense attorney, you are going to get people off for things they definitely did, bad things. Now, it’s gonna be really easy to be a prosecutor and be righteous and moral but, to be a defense attorney, especially a criminal defense attorney, and still strut around preaching morality and righteousness…that’s tough. More often than not, what you hear the most from criminal defense attorneys is, eh um, “Everyone is entitled to a defense.” That’s a very valid, reasonable and true justification under the law and the constitution. However, what they tend to neglect to mention is that there is far more money in private defense practice than in civil service and while the clients are sketchier, the perks are better. Doesn’t make them bad people and without defense lawyers, our system wouldn’t move. But public defenders don’t necessarily seem to feel the same way about defense law when it becomes their turn to take a week out of their private civil law practice to do so, giving up their private rates for civil rates. Big pay cut.
And yet, either way, if your client happens to feel you didn’t do your job, they could blame you for their sentence (not the fact they committed a crime, it happens more than you think) and then all of a sudden it’s your fault they went to prison and now they want you dead or worse. (Yes, there’s worse than just getting shot dead, think people, think.)
So, there went law school. And my Dad had gone to law school after college and the Army (and Vietnam) so at one point I thought “Yes! This is totally in the blood!” but, then he told me he realized it wasn’t for him either and decided to become a cop instead. And again I was like “Yes, I see this too is in the blood.” Obviously, though we are a family of debaters, becoming lawyers wasn’t our thing.
Now, all through the film Max perceives himself to be the victim here. The victim of the system. The victim of the devious defense lawyer with a conscience. What Max fails to realize is that had he not broken the law to begin with, had he not raped and beaten that young lady, he wouldn’t have been arrested. Not having been arrested, he wouldn’t have been charged and not having been charged he wouldn’t have been arraigned. Therefore, he wouldn’t have needed a lawyer because he wouldn’t have been going to trial. But he did do all that and he got Sam and poor old Sam had a conscience because, well, hell, he still believes in right and wrong and not just the face on the bill you hand him or the number of zeroes on the check.
As the viewers, we see the victim (or victims) to be Sam and his family. But Sam also did something wrong. And while we want to morally support him (and believe me, rightfully so), legally and constitutionally, which is a big part of what this country is built on, he violated his client’s rights. That’s something that demands sanction from the ABA, if not disbarment. Just because you know your client is guilty doesn’t mean you can tank his case. And you don’t get to choose how much effort you put into a defense on how well you like your client or how much you believe their version of the events or how horrible of a criminal record they have. One would think a budding lawyer would have thought of that at some point between first year law school and their swearing in.
So, who IS the victim? (Other than the poor young woman who got brutally assaulted which, that assault we don’t see but, a similar one we get a glimpse of later in the film.)
Well, in the legal and clinical arena, when looking to assign responsibility, accountability and outright blame for an event there is a very simple way they look at it. Some refer to it as “the But/For Test” but it basically boils down to this:
In every event, there is a cause and a reaction. (One of Newton’s Laws, yes?) So, with any event, what they will do is they will look back at the initiating action and see if the final result would still happen, had that initial action NOT presented itself. If the answer is no, then they move to the next. If the answer is yes, then well, you can start with the blame-game and move on from there.
So, in the instance of this movie, BUT FOR Max committing his crime, Sam would never have had to defend him. Thus, he wouldn’t have felt the need to bury that evidence. However, you could then turn right around and say, BUT FOR Sam hiding that evidence, Max wouldn’t be on his ass. However, that doesn’t quite fit the full criteria because Max did something causing Sam to get involved first, not the other way around. So the burden of his misery still rests on Max’s own shoulders, albeit two very badly prison tattooed shoulders. (Prison ink rarely looks good man, very rarely. You know they melt checkers and stuff for that ink, right? Yeah, they get creative.)
Still, the idea that a con fresh out of the federal pen is so pissed at you, and has been for fourteen years, that he comes after you with such vengeance and such fury that nothing short of an act of intervention from God himself will stop him? That’s pretty wild. I mean, what that must be like to sit in prison for that many years and burn and fume and rage over the same person day in and day out, day in, day out, day in, day out. Forever reminding yourself that THEY are why you are there. Man, talk about torturing yourself mentally. Or, I guess if you are a psychopath, more like preparing yourself mentally. I withdraw my previous comment, taking into consideration the character I am talking about.
I am curious about the original although, I don’t see that it could be near as impactful as this version, especially being from the 60s. Things were just so different in the industry at that time and filmmakers were really only just beginning to branch out. I’ll have to check it out and see. This one though, definitely a good one.
Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Richard Long, Alan Marshal, Carolyn Craig, Elisha Cook, Julie Mitchum
Budget $200,000 Box Office $1.5M
IMDb 6.9/10 Rotten Tomatoes 92% Metacritic NO DATA
This is an old classic horror film from the late 50s. The one and only Vincent Price graces us with a chilling and stellar performance as a cold and calculating husband and host. But let me not get ahead of myself. Let me introduce you to everyone.
Meet Frederick Loren. An interesting fellow and the host of tonight’s little gathering. He’s married to a beautiful woman, has more money than he knows what to do with, he has his health and friends and yet he seems consumed with contempt and displeasure, perhaps even hate.
Annabelle Loren. Frederick’s beloved, although you wouldn’t know it by the way they talk to each other. They have a cold and distasteful yet witty banter between them that makes it clear they are not in love anymore. She is sure he is trying to get rid of her in one way or another.
Together they are to be hosting a dinner party at a haunted house that Frederick has rented for the night. Inviting a specific group of carefully selected guests, Mr. Loren offers $10,000 to whoever can stay the whole night in the house. It’s just that simple. $10,000 for one night in a haunted house. So, let’s meet the special guests, yes?
Mr. Loren thought it a novel and fitting idea to have the guests arrive in funeral cars in funeral procession, an irony lost on all those attending the party I guess.
First, we have Lance Schroeder. Lance is a handsome and strapping test pilot and well, he says he needs the money.
Then there’s Ruth Bridges. Ruth is a columnist at a popular newspaper and she’s a very successful one. She’s also a compulsive gambler. She’s not so successful at that. She needs this money to no doubt pay gambling debts.
Then there's Mr. Watson Pritchard. Pritchard is actually the owner of the so-called haunted house. He’s terrified of this house. But he too is in desperate need for money. He claims a number of people have been murdered there including his own brother.
Next, we have Dr. David Trent. A pompous and greedy psychiatrist, he claims he is staying the night in the house as part of an ongoing study he is conducting on the subject of hysteria. He’s really just there for the money, like the rest of them.
And last, sweet and innocent little Nora Manning. Nora works for one of Mr. Loren’s companies. He hand-selected her specifically because of her home situation, she is the only one that is supporting a large family and needs the $10,000 more than any of the other people invited.
Loren explains that they are all there to spend the night. If they do so, they will receive $10,000. Once the housekeeping staff leaves for the night the doors will be locked from the outside. They will not be able to be opened again until 8am the next morning. They will not be forced to stay; they can leave anytime they choose up until the doors are locked. There are bars on the windows. The only way out is through the front door in the morning.
So, while they are letting this all marinate in their brains they have dinner. (I don’t know that I would eat food that came from someone who just told me all that but okay, whatever.) Then, strange things start to happen and Nora starts to get scared. She decides she wants to leave.
And as Frederick is telling everyone the time is drawing near and their decision needs to be made, they hear the slam of the front door and the haunting final sound of the lock. Now, the choice has been made for ALL of them.
So, now it’s just a matter of time, a matter of waiting and staying alive until dawn.
I loved this movie. I would have loved it in the 50s and I love it now. I can definitely see why it was such a hit at the time. I mean, how can you not love Vincent Price? The man is just awesome!! That voice, that stoic face. Perfect!
Throughout the whole film you know the house isn’t haunted but you also know something is amiss. They do a great job of leading you in and in the 50s, there would have been some very good jump scares. I even noticed things in the film that were used in the movie Clue. There were definitely similarities. It’s like Clue “sampled” this film for some of its ideas.
Carolyn Craig, the gal that played Nora, has a great horror scream too. She really belts it out and lets it go just like Janet Leigh and Jamie Lee Curtis. In old movies like this, I think the scream is so important. They didn’t have all the CGI and special effects we have now. So, that scream had to be blood curdling, absolutely chilling. And she has it down pat in this film.
One of the more interesting and fun facts about this film is that while it was being played in theaters, some theaters participated in something called “Emergo”. This was a little idea that the director Castle cooked up.
In the theater they rigged a very intense and elaborate pulley system so that at a certain point in the film, a skeleton could swoop down and fly over the heads of the audience, scaring the crap out of them. It ended up being a mechanical and logistical nightmare BUT, it did help make the movie a box office success, which was the whole point. The $1.5 million it made at the box office in 1959 would be almost $9 million today. In today’s terms it cost $1.7 million to make. So, they profited about $7 million. That’s not bad for the 1950s.
In 1999 there was a remake done that was ultimately successful. I haven’t seen it yet. I also read that there was a sequel to THAT remake make in 2007 and I saw online that another remake is in development as of 2017. (You’d think Hollywood could maybe come up with a new idea on their own instead of just remaking every movie that’s ever been made.)
If you get a chance I really would recommend any horror fan watching this if you haven’t already. If you are absolutely opposed to black and white, I believe they even have an “in-color” version out there.
Directed by Philip S. Plowden
Written by Devon Colwell
Produced by Christian Crocker, RoseMary Prodonovich, Christopher Ganze
Starring: Celeste M. Cooper, Sean Patrick Leonard, Michael B. Woods
I got the opportunity to view this film a few nights ago although it premiered at the opening night of the Artemis Women in Action Film Festival April 26th. It happens to be the headline film for the night as the Feature Narrative. Another fantastic little tidbit of information that, to me, is no small feat is that the production company, Fatal Funnel Films, was founded by the film’s director/executive producer Philip S. Plowden and writer/executive producer Devon Colwell. I think that is really cool because the struggle from starting at the bottom and rising to seeing your dreams come to fruition is a constant theme throughout this whole film.
Range Runners is truly a moving story. It is a psychological thriller set in the heavily wooded area of a 2,200-mile-long hiking trail. Her goal is to make it all the way through this trail on her own, alone, with nothing but her pack on her back and her physical and mental strength to push her through. It strikes me as the kind of personal challenge one would undertake if they were struggling with a lot not only in life but, within themselves.
Mel (Celeste M. Cooper) is no exception. This gal is one tough spirit to be reckoned with. Yet, she is battling her own demons within her soul, trying to prove certain things to herself and to the ghosts of her life that seem to live in her thoughts, haunting her mind.
Mel is well prepared for this journey and has all the skills needed to survive while she makes her trek through the next 2,200 miles of her life. But things take a strange and twisted turn when she finds she is not alone on this trail like she thought she would be. Normally, even day hikers, as these two Deliverancelooking jokers claim to be, have backpacks, water bottles, hiking boots, you know, the typical gear. These shmoes don’t have anything but a blue backpack. A regular backpack like a 4thgrader uses, nothing fancy. It’s not a hiking pack with a bedroll or anything like what Mel is running with. Oh and she IS running this whole way, she takes breaks and such but, she’s definitely beating her feet like she’s running toward something or running away from something, even before she meets these two Grizzly Adams lookin’ bozos.
She is immediately suspicious and tries to put some distance between them and her. Eventually, she finds a shelter and decides to camp there for the night. When she wakes up in the morning…that’s when things take a whole new turn.
And that is all I am going to tell you.
I really liked this film. I thought they did an amazing job and although I wouldn’t necessarily classify it as horror, it definitely has the psychological aspect down. Throughout the whole film there is a sense of foreboding, a sense of ever-present unrest and uneasiness, as the film progresses on. It’s so heavy you almost start to feel a little uncomfortable, like you want to adjust in your seat or give yourself a few self-soothing touch gestures like wrap your arms around yourself or start gently rocking yourself.
It is also extremely easy to identify with Mel, at least for me. I do think that a lot of women will find it easy to relate to her character but I don’t think it’s going to be a requirement that one be female in order to find some common ground with her. I think the journey Mel goes on within herself, testing not only her personal physical limits but her psychological and emotional limits, does make this a thriller and a somewhat edge of your seat kind of movie, if you think about it in terms of the mental aspect of it.
Even though there is an entire thriller aspect of a stalking kind of sorts, it’s not exactly how you think it’s going to be. And I think this movie is meant to make you think much more than it is meant to make you feel creeped out. I think they accomplished just that. And at the end, Mel wasn’t the only one who felt like she had been on a journey and had that feeling of pride and accomplishment.
Directed by Eli Roth
Written by Eli Roth, Guillermo Amoedo, Nicolâs Lôpez
Keanu Reeves, Ana de Armas, Lorenza Izzo, Aaron Burns,
Ignacia Allamand, Colleen Camp
Budget $2M Box Office $6.3M
IMDb 5.6/10 Rotten Tomatoes 36% Metacritic 53/100
As most of you probably already know, I don’t usually agree with the genius and super-qualified folks at Rotten Tomatoes (if you read that with sarcasm, that’s okay with me). I don’t know what kind of credentials you have to have to be an actual “critic” as opposed to just one of us lowly “viewers” on that site but, let’s face it, those wise and educated few just don’t have a taste for horror on any level. Therefore, yet again, we seem to disagree on the entertainment value of this film.
I found the whole idea behind the general plot to this movie absolutely, without a doubt, 100% entertaining. I think most women would. On the flip side of that, I think that it would equally scare the crap out of most men, at least in the way of a quick thought zipping through the mind.
One of the oldest clichés in the history of sex between men and women is the legendary fantasy of one man and two women. Even greater than that would be some sort of outrageously fortuitous situation where say, two sexy chicks with great bodies knocked on the front door one rainy night in need of assistance. (Does that sound like a horrible porn scene set up or what?!?!) Of course, any sane and single man would answer the door, let these lovely and needy respectable ladies in, have the time of his life and then, in the morning, write to Penthouse Forum and tell them all about it (Do men still do that? Does Penthouse still take written letters like that? Or is it just straight to the social media with pics and video now? I know. I’m behind in the times, I admit it and I don’t care. But writing to Penthouse used to be the big joke about stuff like that. Okay, history lesson over and moving onto this century…)
In this film, we have Evan Webber. A successful architect recovering from shoulder surgery. Evan is married to an enthusiastic gallery artist, Karen. Together, they live with their two young children in a modern house that is full of family photos and peculiar and gaudy pieces of art (so not my taste but, I’m sure it appeals to some), thanks to the artistic talents of the wife. We happen to meet the family on Father’s Day weekend. Karen and the kids are going to the beach house for the weekend. Unfortunately, Evan has to stay home for a physical therapy appointment and to finish a work project.
So, Evan sees the family off and gets to work. Later, he stops to take a break and smoke some weed. He loads his bowl and is about to light it (with his Zippo, eye roll please) and he hears someone at his door.
When he opens the door, he sees the epitome of what most men would describe as the beginning of a fantastic freakin’ night. Two chicks, look to be very early twenties, skimpy clothes that are soaking wet and clingy to their bodies. After a little awkwardness and a few smiles they explain that their cab just dropped them off and they are looking for a particular house that is supposed to be having a party. He explains he doesn’t know where the people by that name live but, they are welcome to come in and use his phone. (Of course they are.)
Instead, they ask if they can come in and use his computer to get on their Facebook to get the address of the party. One girl, Genesis, says her phone got wet and won’t work now and the other girl, Bel, apparently left her phone at the supposed house. So, Evan, being the nice guy that he is, allows them to come in and gets them each a towel and hands them and iPad. (Does it not seem like a red flag to anyone else that these chicks want to use a computer and not just a phone? I’m sorry but I’m not letting some stranger come in my house and get on my computer. Hello dumbass???)
So, they come in and use the iPad. They figure out that the cabbie misunderstood the street name they said and that they are way out of their way. Once again, Evan to the rescue and nice guy orders them an Uber. The only catch is that because of the killer rain outside, it’s going to be about 45 minutes until the car gets there. You can tell this makes Evan a little uneasy but, it’s okay. He’ll just mingle and entertain his new guests for a little bit until their ride arrives.
But then the girls ask if they can put their soaking clothes in the dryer. (Are you kidding??? NO!!!) They say they don’t want to show up to the party all wet. Evan can’t seem to help himself, he says yes and gets them some spare bathrobes to put on. They bring him their clothes and he hands them cups of tea (or coffee) while he goes to the dryer.
Then he has no choice but to sit and chat. And chat they do. These girls are very open…about everything. They mostly want to talk about sex. They are obviously trying to get his brain on that track of thinking. And poor Evan. He’s doing his very best to remain faithful and be a good husband. He changes the subject and tries to brush off their blatant flirting. But, this guy is being seriously double-teamed. And these girls are relentless.
As minutes tick by, the girls get more brazen. Eventually, Genesis asks to use the bathroom. While she is in there, Bel makes her move on Evan, who is barely keeping his wits about him at this point. And just when he thinks all hope for self-control is lost, the Uber driver messages to let him know he’s there. Bel says she’ll go get Genesis and Evan thankfully says he’ll go grab their clothes.
But, when he gets to the bathroom, he can hear the girls laughing…and they won’t answer him or open the door. Finally, he gets annoyed and he opens the door to give them their clothes. There, he finds them completely naked, in the tub AND the shower (they are separate, it’s a nice bathroom) and they are all soaped up and ready to go for him. He asks them to get dressed. Then he tells them to get dressed. They refuse. They start to taunt him, kissing him, pawing all over him, until he can no longer resist. And then it’s on like Donkey Kong.
After a wild and crazy night of unadulterated debauchery, he wakes to find his bedroom and bathroom empty. He seems relieved, thinking the girls are gone (thank God) and then he looks at his phone, realizing he has missed messages from his wife. He quickly responds and then goes downstairs. He gets to the kitchen and finds both girls still there, in the robes, in his kitchen, well what’s left of his kitchen. These girls clearly skipped taking Home-Ec in school (if they even went to school). The kitchen looks like a cyclone hit it. (I’ve seen 5 year olds cook that don’t make messes that big.) They are also feeding the family dog (an incredibly adorable little black dog, I have no idea what kind) human food, which is obviously a big no-no. As Evan expresses his desire for them to leave they start to become very evasive and defiant. They begin to act like small children. Evan begins to get frustrated and eventually threatens to call the police.
This is when things really start to get weird. And bad. Very bad. When he dials 911, Genesis tells him that she and Bel are underage and that he had sex with minors, therefore he’s a pedophile and that the cops would probably be very interested in that. So, Evan hangs up. He recalls to her that the night before, they had told him they were flight attendants and traveled the world and blah blah blah. Genesis says none of it was true and now he’s basically screwed.
This is where their whole attitude changes and thus begins a long, semi-combative confrontation about whether or not these girls are going to leave, who out of the three is the whore (he offered them money to leave everything alone and just go away) and they start to destroy his wife’s artwork around the house, doodling on certain pieces with Sharpie marker. At one point, his physical therapist even comes to the door and Genesis, who he told to stay out of sight, comes up behind him and makes it known that she is there for HIS pleasure. The therapist has a hissy fit and takes off.
Evan finally gets to a point where he’s had enough and calls the police, reporting a break in. Genesis hangs up the phone on him (it’s a real landline phone) and asks if he can drive them. He drops them at a house and speeds off, he doesn’t see that they never go inside the home. Evan heads back home and now has the pleasant task of cleaning up the horrible mess these two whack jobs made in his house. Then, he goes back to work, hoping to forget about his bad decision, the horrible morning after and the regrets that followed.
Once again, while he’s working he hears something downstairs. So, he goes to investigate. (Apparently, he’s never watched a horror movie.) Downstairs he finds a family portrait photo on the floor, broken. Just as worry and panic starts to hit him, something hard hits him over the head.
He wakes to find himself tied to his bed and Genesis riffling through Karen’s makeup, doing some sort of psycho Cruella Deville look with her eye shadow. Now, we get into the realm of disturbing, folks. Bel comes in wearing one of Evan’s daughter’s school uniforms. It looks like the typical Catholic school uniform. Evan is livid and demands she take it off. Bel loosely interprets that as he wants her to get on top of him and remove her underwear, so that’s what she does.
Then, she starts going on and on about how much she loves Evan, calling him Daddy an unhealthy number of times and in a VERY unhealthy manner. She starts recalling to him the first time she was molested by her father as if HE was her father. She’s talking to him like he’s her Dad and she’s saying she’s sorry for what she did to Mommy but she wanted them to be together. All kinds of twisted and sick stuff, I’m not kidding. If by this time in the movie you thought these girls had issues, here you realize they are so beyond issues, I don’t even know what the mental health profession would call it besides psychopathic.
As she is blathering on about love and Evan, she is making it known she wants to have sex. Evan makes it known he does not want to have sex. But, just then, his wife calls on FaceTime and he is forced to make a decision. He can either bend to Bel’s will and do what she says OR they can answer the FaceTime call with his pants down and the two of them on screen. He opts for option one. So, while Bel is on top of him getting her way, Genesis starts to record the act on HIS phone, props it on the dresser and leaves to go get something to eat.
During this round of romping, Evan is able to get a hand free and uses it to connect with Bel’s face with enough force to launch her off of him and send her to the floor. He frees the rest of his limbs and takes off down the hall while Bel is laying on the floor holding her cheek and making the oddest puppy whimpering whining sound I have ever come out of a human being.
As he heads down the hallway, he sees Genesis about to munch on a piece of chocolate cake while in one of his wife’s dresses. He yells at her and rushes her, knocking her down. They struggle but, Genesis quickly gets the upper hand when she stabs Evan in his recovering shoulder right in his surgical scar (if you’ve never had fresh scar tissue severed, it’s very painful). He passes out from the pain right after Bel comes and lets him know that they have to punish him for hitting her.
This time when he wakes up he is tied to a chair. Genesis and Bel are both in fancier clothes and Genesis is acting out the part of game show host for her game “Who Wants to be a Pedophile?” In this game, Genesis asks Evan questions and if he answers wrong or she doesn’t like his answers, they put headphones on him and blast his ears with a horrific high pitched static like screeching noise that he screams will make him go deaf.
By the time we get to question two, “How many family men have survived this game?”, it becomes painfully obvious that these two are serial killers and have no intention of leaving him alive. But, the horror is truly just beginning.
Now, as much as I REALLY want to tell you all what happens, I don’t want to ruin anything. And this movie didn’t come out all that long ago so, I definitely don’t want to give anything away. It’s not like this film is decades old like some other ones I have reviewed.
I really liked this movie. I thought it was totally hysterical how the whole “every guy’s fantasy” turned out to go completely awry for this guy. You do start to feel bad for him though. I mean, he really did try to get them to leave before they practically glued their moved to his johnson. I guess a guy can only refuse so much.
There were certainly parts of the story that I found nothing short of absolutely disturbing. That chick Bel, she’s wicked obsessed with her pedophilic father. This girl’s love map is violently skewed off course. So is Genesis’s love map. These girls seem to see themselves as some sort of pedophile victim vigilantes.
There was one point in the film where they show these two pop-tarts digging a grave in the backyard. I’m supposed to believe that these two twisted twits are able to dig a full size grave that is over two feet deep and at least three feet wide by oh, five feet long in less than two hours and that they did it with absolute ease?!?!?! Not even!!!! These two chicks probably couldn’t dig that in two days let alone two hours…look at their arms! I highly doubt that these two psychotic clowns have an easier time digging a grave than most men. (Even in Goodfellasthere were three of them and it took them all night to bury a body.)
There’s also another part where I guess I am expected to believe that these two chippies are able to lift over 200lbs of dead weight and hall it up to waist level to put it into the back of a van. Not happening. Even if they were on steroids and PCP, not happening.
Other than those few unlikely details, I liked this movie a lot. I found it funny, quick moving and there were even things that surprised me. It’s not all predictable. There are also some serious WOW moments where you are like “Damn! That’s messed up!”
I did find the girls just a tiny bit annoying at a couple various points in the movie but I think that goes with the psychological profile they were trying to portray in the story. I feel that the women did a pretty damn good job at playing a couple of nutty and whacked out misguided abuse victims who have lost touch with reality and the line between right and wrong. I would definitely recommend this to horror fans but, mostly to the fans of psychological thrillers and mind-twist kind of movies.
J. Lee Thompson
Timothy Bond, Peter Jobin, John Saxton, John Beaird
Melissa Sue Anderson, Glenn Ford, Lawrence Dane, Sharon Acker, Frances Hyland, Tracey Bregman, Lisa Langlois
Budget $2.5M Box Office $10.6M
IMDb 6.1/10 Rotten Tomatoes 27% Metacritic 24/100
So, after watching this film, I have tried and tried to think of how I am going to sum it up for you guys and I gotta tell ya, I can’t. It is truly so all over the place that you’re just better off watching it, if you want to. But, here’s what I AM gonna tell you…
This film received negative reviews upon release and still somehow managed to make over four times its budget at the box office. It also has still developed a serious cult following which, after viewing, I can kinda get. There ARE some scenes that, for the era, it doesn’t surprise me they are considered some classic scenes.
I will say that this movie was one of the films banned during the “Video Nasty” panic in the 1980s in the United Kingdom where there was a huge controversy about violent movies, the ease of their availability and the effect they were having on young people. Eventually, people calmed down and everyone came to an agreement but, the debate will always remain, as it does here in the States.
Also, if everything feels like it doesn’t quite fit together, don’t feel bad. It’s not just you. It’s because the ending you see in the film is not the original ending that was planned before production started. The first ending was thought to be not climatic enough, the horror movie industry just coming off Friday the 13thand Prom Night. So, they decided to change it.
Now, while I feel like they could have gotten the same movie done in less time, I think they did pretty good for it being from 1981. I will admit there was a lot of needless POV walking shots, downtime that seemed pointless, that sort of thing. I don’t know if they were trying to use up the budget or pad the budget or lengthen the film or what. But, I don’t think all of it was needed.
Plus, while some of the kill scenes were creative, the amount of blood was exaggerated for the method of death. I mean, road rash from a motorcycle tire doesn’t spew gallons of blood. Just saying. However, you all know how much I love the gore so, splatter on blood hounds!!!!
Based on Clive Barker’s The Body Politic and Stephen King’s Chattery Teeth
Starring: Christopher Lloyd, Matt Frewer, Raphael Sbarge
Budget $4M Box Office N/A
IMDb 4.9/10 Rotten Tomatoes N/A Metacritic N/A
This film had a nice Creepshow,Tales from the Darksidekind of feel to it. While this film doesn’t quite qualify as an anthology (there’s only two stories) it still has that anthology quality that makes it feel like a couple cozy little campfire bedtime stories.
In this movie, we have a constant character in Quicksilver, played by Christopher Lloyd. He introduces himself as a collector. In his own words, “a collector of stories and tales, seeking to view and collect for humanity, the darkness of the country.” (What a philanthropist!)
So, we have two tales in this film. The first is based off of a Stephen King story called Chattery Teeth. The second is based off a story from Clive Barker called The Body Politic. I liked both stories in this movie. I vaguely remembering reading Chattery Teethyears ago when I travelled for work. I think I read it while sitting at an airport waiting for a flight. The Clive Barker story I’ve never heard of until this movie.
Our first story is basically about a salesman, Bill Hogan. Bill is trying to get home in time for his son’s birthday that night. However, a serious windstorm is impeding his progress. The wind is so hardcore it’s hard to even see the road right in front of him, let alone the hitchhiker on the side of the road that he almost flattens. He decides he should pull over at a diner. While he’s there he sees a set of novelty chatter teeth and decides to buy them for his son for his birthday. These teeth are way bigger than the tiny fit-in-your-palm sized ones we are used to seeing. This particular set are at least as tall as a can of soda and and probably a good six inches wide. They actually remind me of one of those huge models of the mouth that dentists used to have in their offices. He also sees the hitchhiker he damn near killed trying to buy a pack of cigarettes but he’s short some change. The salesman gives him enough money to complete his purchase. As Bill is leaving the hitchhiker, Bryan Adams (I know, it’s hysterical) asks for a ride. Bill reluctantly agrees.
Now, Bill is kind of an ass. He’s very tense, he’s got anger issues. He’s wound tighter than a snare drum. Apparently, he’s been having problems at home AND he’s a reformed smoker. Bryan Adams, our friendly roadside rambler, is an artist, an asshole and a smoker. Just by what I have told you, do YOU think these two should be road-trippin’ it together???
Anyway, things between these two fellas go awry and the chattery teeth, belonging to Bill, intervene on his behalf in a very interesting way. I’ll let you find out how.
Let’s motor on along to story two. (Yes, I said motor. Gen Xers know what I’m talking about. Showing age again, so…moving on.)
Here we meet Charlie. A sneaky little pickpocket at a carnival that darts into a “Tent of Horrors” in order to avoid detection. While in this tent, he not only takes the time to look around and eyeball something labeled “The Hand of Glory”, he also meets Quicksilver, who yet again espouses himself as a collector and gives Charlie the schpeel.
Then, they start discussing this “Hand of Glory” thing. Basically, it is a dried and pickled hand of a man who has been hanged. It is used as a protective device, having been dipped in the dead criminal’s body fat and made into a candle. (Whoa! Talk about some morbid wicked stuff! And I bet that candle smells nasty as hell when it’s lit, eeewww!) So, Quicksilver offers up a quick little tale.
Enter Dr. George, an arrogant and greedy plastic surgeon whose living is made from his hands and his life is nothing but dollar signs. This is a doctor of questionable morality as it is clear he performs surgeries that every other reputable doctor would turn down. No risk is too great and no reward high enough to satisfy his need for wealth and extravagance.
And life, for the most part, is pretty normal (I know, it’s a relative term) for this surgeon. Until one night when he discovers his hands have taken on life of their own, apart from his and seem to have their own agenda…and it doesn’t include being attached to HIS body. These diabolical hands start communicating with each other and hatch a plan to remove themselves from the doctor’s anatomy.
After suffering a number of attacks upon his person by his hands (that just sounds funny to me) the dear and frightened doctor starts to come a bit unglued. He even seeks the advice of a shrink, telling him that he feels his hands have turned against him. And they really kind of have. The hands (I say THE rather than HIS because it is clear by now that the doc has no control over the appendages) have attacked him while he’s driving and now, they strangle his wife while he is sleeping. He wakes just in time to see it happen but, not in time to save her.
His entire life begins to unravel. He’s starting to lose it, his career is over, he’s been telling his shrink that his hands are conspiring against him, his wife is dead and he is looking like the prime suspect for her murder…life is just really REALLY starting to suck.
And it seems like the hands are trying to ignite some sort of revolution. HANDS EVERYWHERE UNITE!
So, what happens to the doc? And the hands? I’ll let you watch and find out.
I enjoyed this film immensely. Christopher Lloyd is just wacky enough to pull off the Quicksilver character beautifully. The guy that plays Bill in the first story, Raphael Sbarge, I have seen him in a number of things and he’s very good at playing the neurotic jackass. I wonder if they type-cast him. He had a role on a CSI (Vegas) episode as an Actuary (a risk assessment manager) and he ended up being the killer and the guy was one of the biggest jerks ever! He plays it perfectly!!!!
The stories are actually quite good and they both have a little comedy thrown in for balance. I am interested to know how the film versions of these twisted tales stack up against the written ones. I’m sure the written ones are good too, I mean, Stephen King and Clive Barker? I wish I remembered Chattery Teethmore than vaguely.
I think I can safely recommend this flick to any horror lover. It’s not that it’s full of blood splatter and gore, nor is it full of foul language and violence. Yet, to me, it is still a good old fashioned kind of horror movie. And I think real horror fans will get a kick out of it.
Steve Feke and Fred Walton
Adapted from folk legend “The Babysitter and The Man Upstairs”
Starring: Charles Durning, Carol Kane, Colleen Dewhurst, Tony Beckley
Budget $1.5M Box Office $21.4M
IMDb 6.5/10 Rotten Tomatoes 33% Metacritic 58/100
I initially saw the sequel to this movie a long time ago. It was a made for TV movie that came out in 1993 called When A Stranger Calls Back. The memory of the chilling content of that movie is what pushed me to want to see this movie, both the remake, which I already reviewed HERE and this version, the original from 1979, which I am going to address in this post.
I found out some interesting things while researching this film for review. This film is based on an urban legend widely told in the 1970s. It was spun from a classic folklore story, “The Babysitter and The Man Upstairs”. It is a story about a babysitter that is called repeatedly through the evening by an unknown callers. He tells her over and over to check the children upstairs. When she calls the police they tell her they will trace the next call. Once they do, they call her back and tell her the calls are coming from inside the house on an upstairs line and to get out immediately. As with most urban legends, this story spawned from an actual crime that happened in the 1950s.
One of the articles about Ms. Christman's untimely death. (Note: The gentleman mentioned at the end of the above article was not only not part of the attack on Ms. Christman in any way but, he was later found to be exonerated of the crimes mentioned above and found to have been savagely beaten and coerced by police officials during interrogation.)
In March of 1950, at around 7:30pm on a dreary typical day, thirteen-year-old Janett Christman went to the Romack’s quiet secluded house just outside Columbia, MO to babysit Ed and Anne Romack’s three-year-old son while the two went for a well needed night out. The Romack’s had just recently moved to the isolated rural area and being well aware of this, Ed showed Janett his shotgun, how to load and unload it and how to fire it before they left her that night. He instructed her to keep the shotgun near the front door. He told her to keep the doors and windows locked and to turn on the front porch light if anyone came to the door.
The weather that night in late March was crummy and as the night went on, mere nasty rain turned into more of a thunderstorm bringing with it sleet and below freezing temperatures. Everything was fine in the Romack house until around 10:35pm.
The Romack’s had gone to play cards with their friends, The Muellers, at another mutual friend’s house. The Romacks were there all evening long until approximately 1:15am, when they left to head home. Anne Romack had called home around 10:45-11:00pm to check on how her son was doing but, she got no answer. Anne just assumed that young Janett had fallen asleep on the couch or perhaps one of the many family members subscribed to the multi-user party-line were using the phone at the time of her call. She brushed it off and continued her evening out with her husband until they went home to relieve the young babysitter.
At around 10:35pm, as mentioned before, things became unsettling at the Romack residence. A call was placed to the local police department where, upon answering, a young woman could be heard screaming in panic and hurling the words “Come quick!” Although the answering officer tried to get more information, the call was cut off and the line went to a dial tone before he could get an address to respond to. But, he knew the terror in the lady’s voice was real and anxiously awaited a follow-up call for the address on the call-out.
At around 1:35pm the Romack’s returned home to find their teen babysitter dead in a pool of blood on the living room floor, having been brutally murdered and violently raped. She had suffered a head wound from a blunt object, multiple stab/puncture wounds from a small cylindrical object and the perpetrator had cut a cord from an iron in the sewing room with a pair of scissors from the house and tightly wrapped it around Janett’s neck. The house phone was hanging off the hook, explaining why Anne was unable to get through and young Greg, the Romack’s three-year-old son, was upstairs asleep and unharmed. Apparently he had slept through the whole attack.
While there was a lot of circumstantial evidence for one suspect, a Mr. Robert Mueller, a close friend of the Romack’s and the only other family Janett babysat for (the Muellers), there was never a trial nor even charges brought against the man. Furthermore, the investigation was not only a tug of war between to departments looking for a collar, it was also so grossly mishandled that NO ONE would ever be able to get a conviction.
The case sits unsolved to this very day. And by now, all the files, evidence and reports are completely gone. It is said that nothing remains of this investigation or case except the rumors, the implications and assumptions.
In this movie a young teenager is babysitting for a couple. While she is there she begins to receive taunting phone calls from a stranger telling her to check on the two children upstairs. At first she blows it off but, after the calls persist she phones the police. They tell her to keep the caller on the line and they will trace the next call. The young sitter is terrorized on this night and it takes years for her to move beyond it. Unfortunately, the man who terrorized her escapes from the asylum where he was being treated and a private detective is determined to find him.
This film is widely acclaimed for its first twenty minutes as it is touted as one of the scariest openings in horror film history. If that doesn’t make you want to see this movie, nothing will. Beyond that, the rest of the film is pretty well made with a good deal of suspense. Carol Kane has the perfect eyes for a horror movie. It’s as if she’s naturally in that state of fright all the time, with those big wide eyes. In my opinion, this might be her best role (other than her role as the ghost of Christmas Present in Scrooged, that is just hilarious). But, Kane gives an excellent terror factor when you are looking at the fact that this was made in 1979, one year after Carpenter came out with Halloween in such massive success with Jamie Lee Curtis.
In the 70s, horror was really just in the beginning stages of pushing the REAL envelope and trying the new things that paved the way for the horror we know today so, there wasn’t a whole lot of blood and gore like we might normally see now. That’s true with this film as well. However, the director does an excellent job with allowing what you DON’T see to be the thing that actually terrifies you, a creepy voice with no body or face. I would think that is more giving a nod to Spielberg and Jaws because he more or less did that in 1975, even though the shark not being in most of the film was purely unplanned. (Hey, it still worked out magnificently and if the shark had freakin’ worked, honestly, the movie probably would have sucked. There. I said it. Now you can hate me. If you don’t already. Still…moving on.)
I do love the nostalgia of this movie. I grew up when there were no cell phones. I remember my parents, my Dad especially, being all stoked because we got our first cordless phone with an answering machine built into the base station. Up until then we didn’t have anything called voicemail. There was no call-waiting. And there weren’t all these fancy ringtones. A phone just rang. There were three places a phone would usually be in a house. The kitchen, the bedroom, or the living room. The kitchen phone sometimes had a VERY LONG springy cord that allowed you to walk through many rooms of the house IF you didn’t mind knocking over a bunch of stuff, getting tangled in everything and having to unwind and untangle the cord later. But usually, there was one phone and it was in the kitchen. This meant that if you wanted to talk on the phone, everyone got to hear your conversation. Your parents heard it, your siblings heard it, friends if they were over, company if there were people over with your parents, everybody. There wasn’t privacy. Kids didn’t talk in private. Privacy was what you got when you got a job and got your own place. But, as usual, I get sidetracked.
The fun thing for me is the old school phone ringing. Back in the late 70s and in the 80s this definitely would have changed how I felt about hearing the phone ring when I was alone at night. They all sounded the same and it a quiet, dark house, it almost has an echoing kind of sound as the phone rings over and over, like it’s taunting you.
It’s easy to see why this film would have developed a cult following over the years. It is also understandable why it did so well at the box office. What I am having trouble with is the remake. How did they get to THAT when they had THIS and the original crime, which is just awful and horrifying, to start with???? It’s almost like they tried to make it bad. When they made the remake I think they did a serious disservice to this film. And I’m not biased because I saw the remake first. Most of the time you are slanted toward the film you see first. I will not be watching the remake again after seeing the original.