This is the second year Oliver Reed’s shown up in my month of Halloween treats. Last year saw me reviewing David Cronenberg’s decent The Brood; this year, Reed and Karen Black play a couple living in a haunted house in Burnt Offerings. Burnt Offerings was followed by several other movies that cherry-picked elements and amplified them: madness brought on by a house (The Shining); a house that’s too good to be true (Amityville Horror); a woman tasked with taking care of an old woman (House of the Devil); a woman tasked with being a caretaker only to take on the role completely (The Sentinel); a near mute character associated with death (Phantasm). Sure, time dulls any film’s originality, and it certainly doesn’t take away from the creepier elements within Burnt Offerings, but it leaves the movie with few, if any surprises.
Halloween is upon us and that means witches rule the week (outside of a few backdated reviews I hope to get up). Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages is the oldest documentary I’ve watched and one of the most bizarre. For 1922 it was a methodical, scientific approach of reexamining witchcraft, and there are points that still ring true for modern audiences. High on creeps, there are a few laughable moments and often hard to maintain interest in such a clinical silent film, Haxan provides some intriguing sequences and racy material to get your blood pumping on All Hallows Eve.
Do you feel that chill in the air, the rain coming down (if you’re lucky to live in a place not affected by a drought like I am)? That’s the sound of fall in the air, and we all know what that means: HALLOWEEN!!! Halloween cannot come soon enough but there’s got to be more on TCM this month than horror films, right? Let’s look at ten movies to watch in October.
The 20th anniversary of Turner Classic Movies deserved a more bombastic celebration than it got. Anyone lucky to attend the TCM Classic Film Festival this year had the opportunity to attend several panels and lectures about the history of the channel, right down to looking at the changes in marketing materials. Unfortunately, the only historical context about the channel viewers at home are privy to is TCM: Twenty Classic Moments, a brief documentary spotlighting over a dozen moments in the network’s history. It isn’t nearly as comprehensive as most audiences would like, but if you want a crash-course in what’s defined TCM and, in turn, what the network’s inspired in others, you’ll be pleased.
It’s always a bad idea for me to watch a Tudor drama. My rampant love and overabundance of knowledge has the tendency to color my perspective of any Hollywood attempt to cash in on the story of Henry the VIII and his descendants (or acquaintances, or really anyone who strolled through the time period). However, that’s not to say any and all Tudor biopics are terrible. Anne of the Thousand Days is one of my favorite movies of all time, and it takes its share of historical liberties. If you’re interested in reading more of my thoughts with regards to Tudor dramas, I reviewed Elizabeth way back when and The Virgin Queen.
A filmmaker can take liberties with history, if said liberties aid in the overall entertainment value of the completed work. John Ford was biding his time before his hit Stagecoach, a landmark film (one of several) in 1939, so decided to take a look at doomed Scottish queen, Mary of Scotland. The end result is a generic romantic take on a politically divisive, and complex, heroine. Fraught with abundant close-ups and grand monologues, Mary of Scotland contains all the intrigue of a dishtowel.
Much like the complete portrait, Portrait of Jennie is a lovely feature where lovely people act lovely. There isn’t anything negative about that, but with such an overly sweeping narrative about the power of love and watching the actors fawn and gush about how in love they are, a bolt of lightning and a massive tidal wave is the shock to the system this film needs. My review is probably going to sound cynical despite my overall enjoyment of the feature, but much like cheap art the whole thing feels flat.
School’s back in session and that means we’re officially nearing the end of the year! September is the last gasp before the onslaught of holiday themed films so let’s try to get as far away from those as we can since, come October, we won’t be escaping them.