You know that sometimes annoying song about the “Twelve Days”? We’re using it to highlight 12 Christmas movies that fit the lyrics of the song, more or less…
HOLIDAY AFFAIR (1949; Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh; directed by Don Hartman)
Dave is a graphic designer (www.dhdd.net) and movie lover, and the caretaker of “The 3 Benny Theater” (also known as his living room). The moniker was inspired by an extinct movie house–The 3 Penny Theater–and by his black Manx cat, Benny. Favorite films: North By Northwest, The Third Man and The Dekalog.
Good evening. If you’re contemplating a trip to the movies tonight, we highly recommend a picture that’s just opening. This recommendation comes, if for no other reason, because of it’s ingenious and intriguing, one-word surname title. The film concerns a famous, portly director (played by Anthony Hopkins), whose big, glossy technicolor hit, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, was followed by “a new and altogether different motion picture excitement!”. And that famous movie is the subject of the following quiz.
(*The quiz title was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest:“Something wrong with your eyes?” “Yes”, says the sunglass-clad Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant), “They’re sensitive to questions”. Later, confronting Vandamm, Leonard and Eve at an auction house, Roger inquires of them, “I wonder what subtle form of manslaughter is next on the program?”.)
PSYCHO(1960; with Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles; directed by Alfred Hitchcock)
“We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven’t you?” –Norman Bates “Yes, and just one time can be enough.” –Marion Crane
This horror film, “the picture you must see from the beginning”, introduced the modern era of horror films. Hitchcock’s PSYCHO has frights, thievery, suspicion, despair, desperation, disease, sadness, foreboding and decay. Unlike many of the contemporary films it set the stage for, it’s not afraid to be subtle and very, very serious. (What few funny spots there are are of the nervous-laughter variety). We’re only a few minutes into the film when we’re greeted with a familiar Hitchcock obsession–mothers–a subject introduced by none other than Alfred’s surrogate, his daughter, Patricia. Later, of course, there are some real issues with nervous Norman Bates’ mom. She looms over her son in the same manner as her sinisterly ornate, gloomy house dominates over the very plain and unassuming, prostrate Bates Motel below.
When you’re not being scared by the showery murder in cabin number one, or creeped-out by Bernard Herrmann’s music, you can have fun noting the various “doubles” and moments of foreshadowing. Such as the painting behind Marion at the real estate office, offering a glimpse of the landscape Marion will soon encounter on her frantic flight from Phoenix. Then there is Norman’s reflection in the dark motel window as he speaks to Marion (“Mother… isn’t herself today”), and the similarity of the names, Norman/Marion. Besides the obvious bird reference in Norman’s taxidermy, there is Marion’s surname, “Crane”, and Norman’s, “Bates”, and also his munching of candy as if he were a bird–a predatory one.
Even if you don’t pass the time like Norman (“My hobby is stuffing things…”), we can think of no better way to conclude 31 Bites and 31 Frights than to suggest you gather friends together to watch perhaps the most outrageous cinematic nut of all, while you, um, stuff yourself–with a NutRageous.
“You know what I think? I think we’re all in our private traps, clamped in them, and none of us can ever climb out. We scratch and claw… but only at the air, only at each other, and for all of it, we never budge an inch.” –Norman Bates
Who wants to wait until the 31st to wallow in Halloween indulgences and scary movies?! Home Projectionist doesn’t! And so we’ll have pairings of 31 Frights and 31 Bites every one of October’s 31 nights: a scary, snack size movie “trick”, and a delicious “treat” to go along with it.
ON THIS DAY in 1926, magician and escape artist Harry Houdini died from complications due to a ruptured appendix. His death was portrayed in the 1953 biographical film, HOUDINI, starring Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh.
Good evening. Do you have a reservation? Never mind, none is needed. Seems that one of our guests, a Miss Marion Crane, checked out late last night, and her room has just become available. It will require some housekeeping service, but our young man, Norman, is attending to that right now. While you’re waiting, enjoy this quiz. It’s all about PSYCHO and Janet Leigh, the guest who didn’t stay.
(*The quiz title was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest:“Something wrong with your eyes?” “Yes”, says the sunglass-clad Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant), “They’re sensitive to questions”. To Roger’s question about what could a man do with his clothes off for 20 minutes, Eve Kendall answers, “You could always take a cold shower.”)
One of the best film group nights I had was several years ago when I first got my projection system. The odd thing about showing movies to large groups is that you have to hit a middle ground that everyone can somehow relate too. I’ve had movie nights where I’d shown classic movies that are on the AFC Best Movies Lists and they were received with just tepid responses. Recently, at an outdoor movie night I showed The Thin Man. A movie that I’d not seen recently, but remembered liking at a revival showing. It wasn’t a total bomb, but by the middle of the film people were restless, constantly getting up to change seats, getting drinks, a ten-year old gave up half way through to go to sleep in the house, and another attendee told me afterwards, “You know, no matter how many times I see that movie I’ve no idea what the hell is going on…”
This was not the case with my double feature of The Night of Lepus and The Thing With Two Heads. The Night of the Lepus was an early 70’s MGM Horror movie starring Janet Leigh and Stewart Whitman. Remember the horror of the giant bug movies of the 50’s, such as Them or Tarantula? Now think of one of those movies, except with bunnies!
Director William F. Claxton was mainly a television director, so maybe that’s why this film has the feel of a TV movie. It’s quick and snappy and totally ridiculous.
The 2nd feature of the evening, The Thing With Two Heads is a what my mother would have called ‘a hoot’.
Directed by one of the most talented exploitation cinema directors, Lee Front, The Thing with Two Heads has Oscar-winning actor Ray Milland as a bigoted millionaire who has his head grafted on the body of a death row inmate played by NFL star Rosie Grier. This movie is what I like to call a camptacular. It has everything; 70’s blaxploitation meets Sci-Fi, over the top acting by Milland, and a message of why-can’t-we-all-get-along. The film rolls like a runaway train that has jumped the tracks. It really isn’t going anywhere, but you can’t take your eyes off of it because you want to see the crash. And it’s extremely fun!
So the next time you are having a movie night and trying to decide between How Green Was My Valley and The Maltese Falcon, why not try these instead?