William Friedkin tells a great story in his autobiography about Warner Bros’ marketing department and how they wanted to market The Exorcist on it’s completion. The idea they came up with was a drawing of Regan’s bloodied hand holding a crucifix (referencing the infamous masturbation scene) with the tagline ‘For God’s sake, somebody help her!’
For obvious reasons he declined this idea. Instead he spoke to them about the Magritte painting The Empire of Light and how he wanted the poster for The Exorcist to be inspired by that.
From this came the iconic poster for his movie. The mystery of Max Von Sydow’s character outside Chris McNeill’s house with light poring out of the window but whilst cloaked in darkness. A poster that is perfect for a masterpiece like The Exorcist. And the general public agreed with the film breaking records faster than cinema ushers could break open smelling salts for patrons who had staggered into the lobby to faint.
A friend of mine went to see the film on it’s first run and said that members of St John’s Ambulance were waiting in the cinema for the inevitable fainters and/or vomiters. Now that’s style.
And whilst we’re at it I’m loving the visual blitz of this UK Exorcist double bill poster. The hot pink is everything.
There is so much to love about Beyond The Door, the 1974 Exorcist rip-off made in Italy.
Yes, it had a budget that was a tiny fraction of that of the William Friedkin classic but thats part of it’s charm. It also copies similar scenes from it’s parent movie with varying degrees of success. The fact that Juliet Mills from the very popular sitcom The Nanny and the Professor signed up to play the lead only made the film more appealing and more of a draw.
The Franco Micalizzi soundtrack is just as off the wall, bizarre and inappropriate as the rest of the film. It feels more like the score for, in places, a 70’s porno movie, a Blaxploitation movie and an experimental drug inspired counter culture movie.
The edition I own is the Digitmovies edition from 2011.
The soundtrack kicks off with an actual song with vocals named Bargain With The Devil. In a parallel universe this was released as a single and got to the top of the charts.
As the album goes on it gets funkier, sexier and more extreme- not really adjectives usually used for a horror movie score but somehow it works and makes Beyond The Door even more of an enjoyable and unique experience.
Jessica’s Theme is suitably slinky, mysterious and psychedelic (perfect to eat a banana skin to), Dimitri’s Theme is unexpectedly goofy (this was also used in the film’s trailers) and Robert’s Theme has such uplifting lyrics as ‘Theres no hope!’ and ‘No one will help you!’
The bass gets funkier, the flutes get an airing as they do on any self respecting funky 70’s soundtrack (they even get their own track called Flute Sequence!) and the only track approaching something found on a more conventional horror soundtrack is the track for the film’s prologue.
There are also outtakes of the tracks on the album which haven’t previously been released before and these are in mono. The sound quality of this whole edition is superb. Highly recommended.
This week’s Book of the Week is Rebel Without A Crew by Robert Rodriguez. I first read this when I started living in Sydney, Australia for a year and it blew me away (Sydney and the book).
It details Rodriguez taking part in a clinical trial to earn the money to make his micro-budget masterpiece El Mariachi. The time spent in the trial is explored in depth and is very entertaining and eye-opening all on it’s own.
He then details how El Mariachi was made and how he substituted an expensive education in a film school for just going out with a camera, experimenting, overcoming any setbacks as he went along and having enough passion and imagination to make the project work.
But then Hollywood comes a-knocking in the form of Columbia Pictures (a far cry from the Spanish speaking ‘straight-to-video’ sector Robert hoped to sell the film to) and so we get to see a birds eye view of the kind of deals brokered to get Rodriguez’s film released and the obscene amounts of money given to him to make this possible. He quickly becomes the ‘next big thing’ and a Hollywood player. It really happens that quickly. There were plenty of parts of this book that made me say out loud ‘No frickin’ way!’
This book is an inspirational to any young filmmaker who wants to make a movie with next to no budget and how if you have the tenacity, persistence and vision then anything is possible.
A truly brilliant book and one of the best I’ve ever read regarding film.
This week’s Poster of the Week is for the double bill of Enter The Dragon and Death Race 2000.
Double bills were very popular at cinemas in the UK in the 70’s and 80’s and seemingly the more lurid films the better with horror, kung-fu and cult films being selected for these billings which were traditionally shown at midnight on a Saturday night. It was like the cult film ethos that permeated 42nd Street in New York was proving so popular that it even influenced the cinema programmers of Britain.
It was rightly assumed that the kind of audiences who would go to see a Bruce Lee film would also want to see a Roger Corman movie, especially as one of it’s stars (Sylvester Stallone) had since become famous for his role as the eponymous hero of the movie Rocky (check out the cheeky reference to this in the billing for Death Race 2000 on this poster).
Both of these films were also resurrected from years gone by for this double bill and so this gave cult film fans the opportunity to see both on the big screen again. These were also the days before home video and so cinemas were the primary source for seeing such fare.
Double bills fell out of favour in the 90’s and onwards but thankfully there are now special cinema screenings of films that have just been restored for Blu ray. I’ve noticed a lot of older films receiving cinema showings to commemorate an anniversary of a film’s release also. Inception and Back to the Future are two such films showing on the big screen again recently because of this. And this is a great thing. To see a film on the big screen with a great sound system are the optimal conditions for experiencing a film.
This week’s Soundtrack of the Week is for the 1979 haunted house (hoax!) The Amityville Horror.
This soundtrack is amazing as theres so much going on and so much detail and nuance that might not be noticed on first listening/viewing.
If there was music that would be perfect for such fare it would be sinister and utterly unsettling children’s voices singing a lullaby cum nursery rhyme. Thats what we get here and it works beautifully. However, this basic coda is repeated throughout the film but each time is made to sound even more disturbing with added squeals and shrieks from a waterphone being used more and more each time. This perfectly mirrors the events in the film as they get darker and much more disturbing as time goes on.
There are also sounds of screeching, white noise and static that are used to blinding effect as undercurrents for some of the compositions. Theres even a track which is just the sound of a bass-like rumble to represent the unseen, omnipresent evil presence in the house that is one of the most unsettling and disquieting things I’ve ever heard on a soundtrack.
It’s no wonder that this film music is so brilliant when you consider that it was composed by Lalo Schifrin who wrote the amazing score for Dirty Harry and also composed some pieces for the aborted score for William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. Theres a story why this wasn’t used in the finished film in Friedkin’s autobiography of why they fell out over the music written and why they still unfortunately don’t speak.
The edition of the Amityville Horror soundtrack that I have is the Quartet Records Spanish double CD edition that has the mono film score and also collects together the surviving stereo tracks along with loads of added and previously released tracks. Theres even a track of Schifrin’s SFX track that was used in the film. The number of tracks here is breathtaking. If you’re going to buy this soundtrack, look for this edition. You won’t be disappointed.
It was in 1986 when I discovered Fangoria Magazine. A comic book store in a beat up shopping arcade in York in the UK had started stocking it on import from the US. I instantly began buying it and fell in love with the publication.
There was a brief time after that that Fangoria couldn’t be bought in the UK anymore as SS Thatcher had purposely banned it’s import and other similar ones (Gorezone and the French Vendredi 13 were two such) as they were viewed as being obscene and as the spectre of the Video Nasty moral panic from a few years earlier was still looming large. But this didn’t last long and the magazines were restocked and horror fans were kept happy.
A couple of years after this I started to escape the small town of York and escape to the big city of Leeds which was close by. There was a great film memorabilia store there called Movie Boulevard that stocked actual back issues of Fangoria that covered the late 70’s/early 80’s golden era of the slasher films and the time period when new horror movies were seemingly being released every week. I picked up many older issues from there including issue number 1 and also the issues that featured Halloween 2 & 3 on it’s front covers, amongst others.
When I moved to London to study Film in the early 90’s I found even more back issues in the amazing film stores there including the Music and Video Exchange in Notting Hill that were selling issues for as cheap as 50p a pop!
So what was it/is it that makes Fangoria so indispensable? In a word- everything. The articles on new releases, the pieces written about classics from the past and forgotten gems that are still unjustly under the radar of most horror hounds and the essays on films ripe for reappraisal that were criticised and ridiculed on first release by critics who sneer at most horror.
There were also pieces on the still vile MPAA and how they were trying to butcher the horror fare being released back then. In fact, I remember Fango’s editor Tony Timpone being one of the few people defending horror as a genre against the censors and so called ‘moral guardians’ in the US at that time.
But it was also the ads for horror masks, for soundtracks and t-shirts. And it also featured the classified column which contained horror-based snippets from readers and their profound offerings (‘Jason SUX!!!’).
To me, Fangoria felt like a vital piece of Americana, a gorgeous monument of American popular culture that only confirmed even more my love of this very special country over the pond.
Fangoria was also loved by those in the horror film industry. There were even pictures of actors on the sets of various productions reading the magazine.
There were even cameos of the publication in various prominent films.
It’s funny that a magazine can fully encapsulate that golden phase of my horror obsessed childhood. Fortunately one does and that’s Fangoria. It’s THAT special to me and thousands of others all over the world.
Fangoria continues to this day and is still as great as ever even though the golden age of horror is well and truly over. I’m glad it’s still being published. Now, we just need gorgeous coffee table books/compendiums of it’s back issues.
Until this is the case we can still look at back issues which have been scanned by others and ready to be perused due to the beauty of the internet. The Halloween 2 issue is here whilst the Halloween 3 issue is here. In fact, there are LOADS more issues on this site which can be found here.
This week’s Poster of the Week is for the 1970 Beryl Reid shocker The Beast in the Cellar. Ms Reid deserves an article regarding her stellar output all of it’s own and one day that will happen.
This movie was actually released not just on it’s own in the UK but also as a double bill with the equally great Blood on Satan’s Claw and this is the quad that has grabbed my attention.
Check out the almost goofy caricature of the monster used on this poster. The beast in the actual film was neither goofy or cartoonesque in the movie and so maybe this device was used so that he could take centre stage on the film’s poster without causing too much controversy for being too scary.
Whilst you’re perusing this gorgeous piece of art here’s the equally impressive Australian daybill and the UK quad poster for the film’s release on it’s own. I’m loving Beryl’s shocked expression on both.
Giorgio Moroder’s soundtrack for Paul Schrader’s 1980 movie about a highly sought after male escort played amazingly by Richard Gere is perfection.
Just as the movie portrays high living, sophistication but with a gritty menacing underbelly, so does the music. Tracks Night Drive, Palm Springs Drive and Night Drive (Reprise) all effortlessly convey a decadence which is a perfect way to usher in such a decadent and affluent decade such as the Eighties. But they also convey just how incredibly tough this new era was. There are sometimes movies and pop songs that capture the zeitgeist of the time at which they’re made and this movie and it’s soundtrack encapsulate this to a tee.
But there is also room for more avant-garde fare with The Apartment being experimental but not feeling out of place on the album.
But the best song on the album is also one of the best singles ever released. Blondie recorded Call Me especially for this movie with the version on the soundtrack being longer, more epic in scope and even with an extra verse. Debbie Harry was the perfect choice of singer for a soundtrack that ushers in this exciting new decade. Debbie would also lend her vocals to the soundtrack of another masterpiece the following year, John Waters’ Polyester. Now THAT soundtrack needs to be released!
Moroder’s score for American Gigolo was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.
My first Book of the Week is The Film Handbook by Geoff Andrew and published in 1990.
This is a book that lists a MASSIVE range of auteurs and directors, gives a potted history of their film career so far and then names selected highlights from their filmography that every film fan should see whether they are a casual viewer or a serious cineaste.
Sounds basic doesn’t it? But that’s the beauty of this book. The other thing I love about this tome is the fact that it introduced me to the work of many directors I had never heard of before. It’s scope is huge with prominent and obscure directors from many different countries getting the recognition they so rightly deserve but very rarely do. The same can be said regarding ‘cult’ directors with there being no film snobbery within the pages of this book. Which is perfect for this website!
There’s also an introduction by a certain Mr Martin Scorsese who voices the opinion that the book is indispensable even if he disagrees with Andrews’ opinion on some directors and films. And so, if this book is held in such high esteem by Mr Scorsese, it must be bloody good!
This weeks Poster of the Week goes to the classic sci-fi nightmare that is Westworld from 1973.
There are so many brilliant images here that sum up the movie- the iconic image of Brynner’s demented robot gunslinger, the technician sat in front of a bank of monitors and control panels, the technological font used for the film’s title, the tagline that has indeed gone worng…
And whilst we’re at it, take a look at the similarly brilliant posters for the film’s sequel Futureworld, (loving this tagline too) and Westworld’s Japanese and Belgian posters. All gorgeous.