When I was a kid, before the birth of syndicated talk shows, one of the local networks ran something called “The 4:00 Movie.” A movie could be hacked to bits, pumped full of commercials and still get over in time for “The News.” Periodically, there would be a whole week of giant monster movies (Gamera and Mothra were my favorites.) And this meant that you could get home from school — if you didn’t fiddle around TOO much in the playground — in time to watch the “whole” movie. Two movies it seems like they were ALWAYS showing on the 4:00 Movie were “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” and “Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte.” My pre-teen estimation of them was “bo-o-oring.”
But I’ve just seen both of those movies again, uncut, as an adult, and I think they’d make a dandy “Creature Double Feature.”
“Sweet Charlotte” features just about every thing we white Yankees fear about the South — that it’s a place of decaying plantations, murder, hysteria and small-minded small-town-ers with bad accents. It was “A Rose for Emily” ground-up and mixed with a pastiche of Tennesee Williams. On top of that, I find the title virtually impossible to say out loud. But it’s delicious too. I cut Joseph Cotton so much slack not because he’s a great actor, which of course he was, but because he always looked so suave. He doesn’t even look like an ass while he’s lip-syncing the utterly vapid “theme song.” And it has a nice mood of decrepitude and a few good runs at, albeit slightly overwrought, suspense.
The ideal double feature for “Sweet Charlotte” is the far superior, “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” In addition to being in black and white, the obvious link between these movies is Bette Davis. I’m sure writers more observant than myself have remarked how intriguing the choices she made late in her career, when her beauty faded and allowed her acting abilities to come to the fore. It’s really gutsy to play parts where, well, where you KNOW folks are going to hate you. Forget the clunky prologue that really doesn’t explain much and the “surprise” ending; the meat of the movie is the tortured interplay between the two sisters, both of whom have had their time in the spotlight, a time long past. It’s a great set up full of nasty psychological torture and suspense, one that would even work as a stage play, I think, and Davis and Joan Crawford play it for all it’s worth.
Watch ‘em together, perhaps while sipping a mint julep on the veranda.
From time to time, Mrs. Grimgnome is a doctor trapped inside a zombie-plagued town. She travels from building to building, in constant communication with a larger coalition of do-good-ing humans, trying to thwart the zombie menace. My dear wife, you see, is nearly addicted to a free on-line massively multi-player game called “Urban Dead.”
The game is basic, almost simplistic and easily overlooked by those thumb-twitching game-fiends who need flashy graphics to keep their attention. Since it’s web-based – and I know this isn’t unique to Urban Dead – it can be played on ANY computer that can traverse the Weird Wild Web which is refreshing in this era where games frequently require a platform upgrade. The game field is a three by three grid that represents the buildings and areas a player can see out of a relatively large city of Malton. (The Powers-That-Be prudently sealed off Malton shortly after the zombie’s started rising, y’know, to make sure things didn’t get REALLY out of hand.) Details about these areas appear in text and can be enhanced by certain objects, for instance binoculars. But only human players can use objects. Oh yes. In Urban Dead, players can also be zombies. In fact, human players turn into zombies when they are killed. And for that matter, zombies can be turned back into humans at “Revive Points”.
Since the object of the game is ongoing and so broadly construed, player groups have formed with other goals, some extremely idiosyncratic. Some are simple “neighborhood watch” type groups that keep the zombies out. There are zombie-based groups even that try to organize their destruction or give it a peculiar slant. One group, as I remember it, were scholars in life and hence they refuse to kill anyone found in a library, museum or school. A nice twist on the cliched zombie rally call “Brains!” These groups run their own websites that as far as I can see have no connection whatsoever to Kevan Davis, the guy behind Urban Dead. My wife’s group even appears to have a Firefox plugin that allows players to identify other group members in crowds as well as to track other kinds of information. They help each other, patrol their neighborhood of Malton, co-ordinate raids, heck, they might even have raves and tea-parties for all I know.
Kevan Davis keeps the site fun too with upgrades and special limited time events. For instance, on Hallowe’en for one day only, there were trick or treaters out, some wearing costumes, some knocking on heavily barricaded door for the stale candy that was available that day only from mall stores. Weird. But weirdly fun.
There is a relatively detailed WIKI for the game that can be found at:
Last year for Christmas, Mrs. Grimgnome got an Urban Dead t-shirt which she loves DEARLY, wears constantly — and washes occasionally. Get one for someone you love.
(Male, early 30′s) I was in a house but not my house in the living room, sitting in a comfortable chair, relaxing. Then I realized that several objects in the room — lamps, books, that kind of thing — were gently floating and moving slowly around the room. At first I thought this was pretty cool and I sat back and enjoyed it but then I realized that each of these objects was held by a ghost who was carrying it around. I should tell you that I’m terrified of ghosts and, this is going to sound funny, but it goes back to when I first saw “Ghostbusters” as a kid. So in the dream, I’m sitting there surrounded by ghosts. But then I realize that the ghosts are moving this stuff around just to mess with me and I start to get mad. I pick things up and throw them at the ghosts, which of course go right through the ghosts. Then I got out of the chair and started to fight with the ghosts using my fists. This was about as useless as throwing things at them except now the ghosts all ganged up on me. I felt the sensation of two strong hand grasping my ankles. I was knocked to the floor and then the ghosts started swinging me around and around, holding on to my ankles. When I woke up I still felt dizzy. I woke up my wife and told her the dream and she said I was crazy.
If you know comics, you likely associate the name Jack Kirby with super heroes but Monsterblog has taken its solemn duty to keep alive Kirby’s contribution to MONSTER comics. Yup. This site has sample scans from a whole slew of Kirby’s creatures with nary a spandex costume to be found among the pages. It’s an elegantly structured site and it’s great fun to browse.
(Male) I had just gotten off a bus with my wife and daughter who in this dream was maybe ten. We were in a big city with skyscrapers and busy streets and we had to get back to our apartment on the other side of town. The two them wanted to walk slowly but for some reason I had to make it back much quicker so I took off on my own, walking at a much faster pace.
I had only gotten about a block away from them when I noticed all traffic had stopped on the road. There was literally a wash of partially clotted human blood pouring across the street. An SUV had run broadside into a bus and then two more cars ran into the wreckage from either side. It looked like there were no survivors, just human body parts scattered and this horrifying puddle of blood. I was quite fascinated because it didn’t look like blood in the movies and not even like the blood I’ve seen at Red Cross locations but I thought it best to keep moving so I kept walking, leaving bloody footprints behind me, all the way home.
This is just dumb-dumb-dumb but kind of fun anyway. True film-snobs will note that it’s only a paraphrase of the original and not a shot for shot remake which could be an interesting “finger exercise” for would-be filmmakers. Just imagine how many different ways this iconic scene could be re-envisioned while keeping the same editing pattern, possibly even the same soundtrack: an unsuspecting shrub that gets pruned, blissfully unaware mise-en-place that gets shredded into mire-poix, etc. Incidentally, if you actually try any of these variants, let me know and I’ll post them as well.
But now, on to this installment of Friday Night Movies:
What predicament has poor Peculia found herself in now? The continuing exploits of Peculia were the back up feature in Richard Sala’s “Evil Eye” comic and now are available all together in a creepy-hot collection. Sala’s work is almost exclusively black and white and frankly the examples of his full color work are much less effective than the stark images and textures he conjures from black ink and white paper.
The storylines of a typical Sala comic exhibit the same kind of snaking dream logic of troubled sleep, where one bad situation leads to another bad situation according to some kind of strange rationality. And also like a dream, the conclusions are sometimes weird yet poetically fitting. Their overall feel has been described as “Gothic humor” but the mixture of high-drama elements, like girl-pirates, mad scientists and masked figures retains a matter-of-fact presentation, never slipping into cheap camp.
A brief bibliography would include:
• Evil eye
(Male) It started out small. My partner and I were moving into an apartment and we were busy doing all the things necessary to make the space our own. I was fixing the frame on a mirror that would hang above the bed and my partner was meeting the neighbors who were a nice bi-racial lesbian couple. I could hear them talking through the open window. It was late spring and there was that lovely sunshine and smell of growth in the air.
The neighbors came over for a drink and I realized that the apartment also had access to a rather large first floor. In this part of the dream, in fact, it felt more like we were living in a sprawling old style farmhouse. Gradually more and more people were there, people who I only vaguely knew: the partner of a work associate, someone I think I might have gone to college with… Someone was expecting a baby so we took up a collection of spare change to buy camp pie makers from the dollar store, some thing we all thought would be a perfect gift for some reason. There was food, beer and even a couple folks off in the corner smoking marijuana, I think. The guests were all wearing somewhat shabby bohemian style clothing. This was turning into a party and I suppose I was the host.
…Then I realized that I must be the owner of the cursed mansion…
The next thing I knew, it was night. The house was now immense and very fancy. The entry way for instance had carved wood columns and carpeted steps like a movie theatre lobby. There was a huge crowd and everyone now was wearing flamboyant if not extreme evening wear, that in some cases verged on Hallow’en costumes. There was a guy there dressed like Marilyn Manson, for instance, sort of like the cover to “Mechanical Animals” but he also wore a tape measure that had been modified to indicate that he was 7’23″ tall. I asked him why and he said because that’s the day that Kennedy was shot. The food and drink had also become MUCH fancier. In an alcove, someone I used to work with several years ago was acting as bartender. He gave me a roundish glass of extremely fine Scotch. I can still remember the aroma of it as I write this. The unusual shape of the glass intensified the smell. I happened across my partner who was now dressed in evening wear as well and talking to a friend who had moved down South a few months ago. I offered a taste of my scotch which I was enjoying immensely but when I got the glass back it was nearly empty. I was furious but when I looked up from the glass, I couldn’t find my partner.
I searched the mansion. Down a steep stone corridor there was a rec room that had a ceiling maybe 30 feet high. There were leather couches with brass upholstery tacks, a sumptuous red carpet, interesting stone work on the walls. There were people lolling in here as well. My partner and friend were sitting at a fancy wooden table, each eating a huge bag of potato chips. My partner tried to hide inside the bag to avoid confronting me. I yelled a bit and then stormed off.
Then I realized where I was. I was in the family crypt of a haunted mansion. In the dream, I recalled seeing a home improvement show about how the grave stones had been covered with carpeting and how the whole crypt had been converted into useable living space. I felt very uncomfortable standing on top of what I knew were hidden bodies. I ran up the stone corridor to the main house. Then I realized that I must be the owner of the cursed mansion. The curse involved some monster from beyond the grave that claimed the owner on the first night of occupation. That would be tonight at midnight. All these crowds of people must have shown up to watch me get torn apart by the monster.
I decided to outsmart the monster. I found someone I work with, a timid secretary who at least in the dream was extremely poor. I offered to give her the entire mansion. She couldn’t believe I was making a real offer. We stepped outside. The front of the mansion was covered in ivy and there were many long black cars parked up and along the driveway which was cobblestone. The only paper I could find was the back of a handbill and the only thing I could find to write with was a black crayon. I wrote up the contract and signed it. While I was waiting for the secretary to make up her mind, I doodled on the paper and sketched this angry Aztec demon or something that for some reason I knew would be the monster that would be coming for me. She couldn’t decide. The moon started to rise, bright and full, over the trees. I knew it was too late.
This nightmare was really shocking though I don’t know if I can express that sensation. The situation was very matter-of-fact and every day and the images were VERY vivid. It was one of those dreams I realized the next day wasn’t an actual memory.
I was driving my familiar little compact car down a divided highway. It was night and I was alone. A mist started to rise up that was so thick it obscured the edges of the road but I was still able to see the yellow line down the side of the lane so I thought I was fine. But every now and then a particularly dense patch of fog would just wash up over the car and for an instant or two I’d be almost entirely blind. For the most part these patches would pass so I’d just keep driving, stay the course. Then while driving along, pleasantly daydreaming, I realized that I’d been driving blind for quite awhile. In fact, I couldn’t remember when I’d last seen the lane markers. I quickly flipped on the brights and I was able to pick out a yellow line. Gradually I could pick out the general sense of the road. But somehow, I was now driving on a two-lane highway. The trees and underbrush were much closer to the road and every now and then a car would pass. I would politely turn off my brights which would effectively blind me for a moment or two. Then a car passed and I forgot to put my brights back on. I daydreamed more and continued driving, but this time when I realized that I had been driving blind for quite some time, I wasn’t able to regain a sense of the road just by turning on the brights. Everything outside was a dark cottony grey. I couldn’t even see the hood of my car. I slowed down, a little bit afraid that someone would run into me from behind. I came to a complete stop and still could see nothing out any of the windows. It was almost as if I was underwater.
(Male, 40′s) Last night I dreamed that my wife and I were flying our own spacecraft and since we were in the right part of the galaxy we stopped in at a space station to visit an old friend. The friend seemed both glad to see us and quite worried. It seems that we had visited just hours before their moon came out of hiding from behind some planet. My wife didn’t get what the problem was but it was immediately clear to me. Everyone aboard the space station were werewolves and if we were still aboard when they changed, we’d be torn apart. There was some reason why we couldn’t just get in our spacecraft and fly away so our friend agreed to hide us in the attic of his living quarters. For some reason, we had to remove our clothing so the smell wouldn’t give us away or something. So my wife and I were sealed up in this narrow, triangular space, wearing only our underwear. And for some reason, my wife thinks this whole thing is hilarious so she is laughing uncontrollably which means that it’s really only a matter of time until the werewolf-spacemen find us and tear us to shreds.