Sunday, October 31, 2010

This is not my brother...

Your Halloween treat for today, one of the most unsettling horror comics I've read in months:
His Face All Red by Emily Carroll.
Trust me, no matter what kind of horror you like, you'll enjoy it.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Less scary horror films...

There's a theme going around on twitter of #lessurgentmovies. For Halloween, here are some of my suggestions:

And Now the Nagging Starts

The Yipping

An American in London

Ginger is Kind of Testy

28 Days Earlier

The Legend of Heck House

Taste the Sweat of Dracula!

Frankenstein Created Women's Clothing

Frankenstein Must Be Sternly Lectured!

Children Shouldn't Play With Things

Wait Until After Lunch

Friday, October 29, 2010

More money, more cash, more posts...

You might have noticed that there are now ads on the Geek Cornucopia and that I've started adding links to Amazon products. It's just an experiment, so if the ads are always completely inappropriate or annoying, I'll cut them back or eliminate them entirely.

On the plus side, I'm hoping this will incentivize posting, so that I'll have some reason for people to check out this site.

If you absolutely hate the look, let me know. I'm not expecting to earn an income from this site, and if ads or Amazon product placement are going to drive away my few readers, I'll drop them.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The tightest 2 hours & 20 minutes in movie history...

The Honey Pot, d. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1967
Starring Rex Harrison, Susan Hayward, Cliff Robertson, and Maggie Smith

"If not for Signor Perry Mason, each week in America, an innocent person would be convicted," says a police detective as he leaves for work, midway through The Honey Pot. That should give you an idea of how much respect Mankiewicz (who directed & wrote All About Eve, among other great films) feels toward the mystery genre. In this twisty tale, he seems to delight in yanking away the rug each time you start to figure things out. He does the same thing to the amateur detectives that always show up in these things, which is playing fair in a strange way, I guess.

Still, this is a two hour and twenty minute mystery/comedy, two genres where most people (myself included) value efficiency. Heck, I'm pretty sure that's a longer run time than Ben Jonson's Volpone, the classical comedy the movie is based on (and also commenting on). When Rex Harrison, Maggie Smith or Cliff Robertson are on screen together, you don't feel the length. But when one of Rex Harrison's character's three loves is on screen, you might feel the urge to check your watch. I certainly feel as if Mankiewicz is showing his age in this one, All About Eve being 17 years old at the point when this movie was made.

So the synopsis... Cecil Fox (Harrison) is an eccentric millionaire, the type who buys out an entire theatre's seats so he can watch a play by himself & then leaves at the end of the fourth act because he doesn't like how the play ends. He's decided to re-enact Volpone (whose title character's name means "Fox", after all) and his eccentricity extends to hiring an "administrative assistant" cum stage manager because the guy's last name is McFly (just as Volpone's servant is Mosca or "fly"). McFly (Cliff Robertson) and Fox lead Fox's three greatest loves, Princess Dominique (Capucine), Hollywood star Merle McGill (Edie Adams); and Texas tycoon Lonestar Crockett (Susan Hayward) to believe that Fox is dying and trying to decide which of the three should be his heir. However, when Lonestar O.D.s on sleeping pills that her nurse Sara Watkins (Maggie Smith) knows should have been placebos, it seems that someone is taking Fox's prank more seriously than was intended. You can probably start to see why this will take two plus hours.

As far as plotting goes, the double-crosses and twists are well-handled, so that even as you find yourself formulating theories, you wonder if it could really be that simple. And while this isn't quite a mystery that  you can solve on your own, when everything is revealed, there's no sneaking suspicion that characters weren't acting (relatively) rationally.

On the acting side, Rex Harrison is a wonderful fit as an eccentric millionaire whose eccentricities might not be so harmless. He's affable and witty one moment, flip and cynical the next. On top of that, Mankiewicz gets the best bit of physical comedy from Harrison's character's ambition to dance ballet. Harrison is amazingly agile, but he certainly lacks a dancer's body, though the comedy comes from the dignity and self-assurance he projects, as if his pirouetting were the most natural thing the world.

Cliff Robertson also does a nice turn as a clever and cynical drifter, capable of brilliance but afraid to pursue anything in life for fear he might fail at it. And Maggie Smith pulls off the difficult job of playing a rigid, repressed woman while hinting at her capability for deception and amorality.

When these three are sparring or flirting or quipping among the brilliant Venetian scenery, the movie is like dark chocolate, bitter with a tang of sweetness, tasty without becoming cloying.

Unfortunately, Harrison's former lovers/prospective heiresses are vague caricatures, all outline, with no substance. I'm not quite sure what drew his character to them in the first place, even though he has good enough reasons for going after them now. Lonestar, the one we hear the most about, whose lust for life nearly killed Harrison, fails to come off as a voluptuary clinging to life and instead seems vaguely tired. Though only a fourth of the movie is spent with them, each moment focused on them feels twice as long.

If I haven't spent much time on the visual aspect of the film, it's because there's very little to talk about. The set design is quite lovely and deliciously spooky when it needs to be, and there is one very good shot of one character reacting unexpectedly to another character's attempt to unravel the mystery that could have come straight out of a giallo. But except for the opening scene at the theatre, there's nothing particularly original or daring or exhilarating in the mise en scene.

Still, I don't want to be too harsh to a movie which ends with a main character recoiling in horror (via voiceover) from the expected "happy ending" tableau, as our two romantic leads bicker and quip across the Venetian cityscape. Hardly a lost classic, but as enjoyable as a big piece of candy.

Grade: B-

P.S. There's a weird way that it serves as a companion piece to The Last of Sheila, given they're both about eccentric millionaires whose games are hijacked by someone else's scheme. The Honey Pot is more flippantly cynical, yet has a happy ending. The Last of Sheila is more focused on the mystery, only to end on a viciously dark note. I don't know quite what to make of that.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Department of First World Problems...

Has anyone come up with a word for the feeling of shame & disappointment when you delete something from your DVR that you intended to save?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Baby steps to full posts...

In a Halloween mood today, I tried to watch some horror movies on Netflix Streaming. The first film I tried was Dario Argento's Phantom of the Opera, starring Julian Sands & Asia Argento.

What a poor choice. The dubbing was awful, the Phantom had psychic powers and had been raised by rats and (worse yet!) was not even deformed. Plus, Asia Argento was trying to play a normal person, which never works. All of that would be forgivable except Argento shows none of the visual flair or eye for detail he brought to Suspiria! Visually, the movie is as mediocre as a Syfy channel original movie. Sure, I stopped watching after 12 minutes, but this included two poorly-staged killings.

So I switched to Witchfinder General, which is a much, much better movie. More on that later.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Drove across the continental US in 7 days...

and I feel like Barry Newman's character at the end of Vanishing Point. Though at least I don't have to crash into a police roadblock.

More later.