I’ve wanted to see 1981’s The Fan for the longest time and finally, it was shown on TV here in the UK (the channel Talking Pictures is amazing and never disappoints!)
Sally Ross (Lauren Bacall) is an actress who is heading a Broadway musical. She is also the target of super-fan and super-stalker Douglas Breen (Michael Biehn) who professes his undying love for her in numerous letters that are intercepted and responded to by Ross’ assistant who grows increasingly worried about the mental state of this particular fan. She even raises it was Ross who admonishes her for treating a fan badly. But then things go from bad to worse.
Was the wait to see this film worth it? YES! There’s so much to love about The Fan.
Firstly, I found myself aghast at the cast. Not only do we get Bacall, Biehn and James Garner but also Hector Elizondo, Griffin Dunne and Dwight Schultz (from The A-Team!) We even get a non-speaking cameo from Charles Scorsese (father of Martin) in a theatre audience scene.
The Fan doesn’t skimp when it comes to the gritty and deranged nature of stalking which wasn’t a crime or behaviour that had been discussed widely at that point yet. Although, the film was released a few months after Mark Chapman shot dead John Lennon outside The Dakota Building (where Bacall used to live spookily enough) and so stalking was set to enter the zeitgeist and prompt more conversations. Biehn is excellent as Douglas Breen with the scenes in which we see him at a typewriter professing his love for Ross in his typed letters reminding me of the telephone scenes from Prom Night- dimly lit, claustrophobic and scary as hell.
In fact, Biehn is fantastic at turning from loving to psychotically menacing at a dime. He’s perfectly cast.
The film is also very gory that mirrors a lot of films that were bigger budget efforts but didn’t skimp on the blood perhaps to tap into the demographic who were going to see slasher movies. In fact, there’s an amazing scene in the New York subway in which you definitely get a Dressed To Kill vibe that apparently this film’s producer Robert Stigwood had just seen.
There’s also a nod to Cruising with one scene involving the killer getting picked up in a gay bar and leaving for a tryst which takes place on a rooftop. Sex and death go hand in hand with this scene. What would Genet say?!
I love the look of the film with it having a certain haze as if there’s Vaseline on the camera lens.
Another thing I loved about The Fan was that it’s a great New York movie. This actually feels like a cleaner and more genteel vision of New York from that time. Maybe the filmmakers thought there was enough sleaze in the events taking part in the film without depicting the sleazier locales of the city as well.
And then there’s the camp. Not only do we get divine creature Bacall gracing the role of Sally Ross but with the action revolving around her heading a Broadway musical, we get deliciously gay rehearsals and even get to see the finished product on opening night resplendent with a song that was subsequently nominated for a Razzie (a sure stamp of approval) that was written by Tim Rice. Hell, we even get Do The Dog by The Specials over one earlier scene in a record store. Talk about contrasts.
The Fan bombed at the box office on its initial release and was derided by Bacall who hated how gory and violent it was. James Garner even said it was the worst film he ever made. Some reviews were fair but others were really bad (yes there’s that Gene Siskel again).
I love The Fan and feel that maybe audiences didn’t fully engage as at that time stalking as a crime hadn’t entered public consciousness yet. Remember, another film that dealt with stalking was The King of Comedy which was released the following year and also underperformed. Some films are way ahead of their time and judged very well by history with both films finding their audiences and being appreciated more now.
One person online said that this would make a great double-bill with The Eyes of Laura Mars. That’s very true. Both films are as camp as a row of pink tents but with gritty and genuinely disturbing scenes that reflect the slasher film sensibilities of the time.
Look out for the remarkable edition of The Fan on Blu ray on Scream Factory.
4 and a half stars out of 5
My early teenage years were when I discovered my three favourite living film directors- John Waters, William Friedkin and Martin Scorsese.
It was whilst I was frantically hunting down all of the movies made by Scorsese after first watching Taxi Driver when I was 14 that I read of a documentary made in 1977 called Movies Are My Life. I had a friend who was lucky enough to have Sky TV on which there was a one-off screening of this and so I gave him a blank videotape and begged him to record it for me. He obliged.
It didn’t disappoint. Over the years the tape it was on disappeared but it was just the other day that I was thinking about this documentary when I had the lightbulb moment that involved looking for it on the internet. And after a quick Google search, I found it!
It’s great watching it again. It was made in 1977 after Scorsese had finished shooting New York, New York and was editing The Last Waltz. This was an iconic time for Scorsese when he had made so many classic movies and was yet to make even more.
Not only is the maestro interviewed about his career so far but his contributors and collaborators are also interviewed and it’s great to see such luminaries as De Niro, Jodie Foster, Steven Prince and Liza Minelli speaking about what’s like to work with such a visionary.
The film is also noteworthy as it shows the friendship that Scorsese had/has with Robbie Robertson. These were Scorsese’s wild years when he took certain substances to excess and ended up hospitalised because of it. The interviews with Robinson here capture this very vividly indeed (you’ll know what I mean when you watch the film!) A choice moment is when he looks out of the window into the night sky and says ‘It isn’t even dawn yet!’
It’s great that this peeks into such a thrilling era of Scorsese’s filmmaking life was chronicled, not so great that this film was unavailable for so long. It’s fantastic that someone has uploaded it onto the internet but how long it stays up before it’s pulled down is unknown. If I was you I’d finish reading this, do a Google search and watch it now. Just to be sure. Note- the version on YouTube is cut. Go the Google route to watch the full version on the net.
Can we get a proper release of this gem, please?
A hotel complex where a new building is being constructed is infested with killer ants.
I love the TV movies that featured a special guest star who was slumming it as work had dried up. Ants stars Myrna Loy as well as Suzanne Somers (!) and Lynda Day George (yes, the actress from Pieces!) so you know you’re in for a special time.
I actually remember watching this on UK TV in 1980 when I was the tender age of 5.
I love the fact that whenever the ants appear on screen we get discordant violins on the soundtrack.
This is surprisingly bright and breezy in tone until the ants become more prevalent within the storyline and then it becomes a lot more apocalyptic in tone (which is always welcome for cult film fans). The whole production is a triumph in camp however dark it tries to become.
Ants aka It Happened at Lakewood Manor holds up very well though. The TV movie was also issued on DVD in 2014. This might not be some kind of classic uncovered from the vaults but it’s nice to see it has a life after being shown on TV all those decades before.
This slasher movie starts in the most obvious seting for a film of this ilk- a campfire! We hear of Madman Marz who was a vile man by all accounts. Abusive to his family until he decides to kill them with an axe. He then casually goes to his local tavern to have a drink or ten but not before he’s placed the bloody axe on the bar. He’s then jumped by a posse of men who bury the axe in his face and attempt to hang him for his crimes. When they go to cut down his body the next day they find that it isn’t there anymore.
Three guesses where he is and that he’s still murdering people.
I watched this film on the same day that I watched another film I had heard plenty about- Pieces. How’s that for a double bill?
My first thought on watching Madman was ‘Oh my God! That’s Gaylen Ross!’ Yes, Fran from Dawn of the Dead is one of the cast members. Why wasn’t she in more films? She’s a legend.
The other prevailing thought I had was that Madman kicks ass royally. This is far from your bland and cliched summer camp based slasher film. The kills are amazing, it’s gory as hell and the killer is fantastic.
Madman plays with the tropes of the early 80’s slasher film and feels like a breath of fresh air in much the same way as Jeff Lieberman’s Just Before Dawn. There is deft and innovative direction by Joe Giannone which places this head and shoulders above similar fare.
Add to this an excellent and very effective electronic score by Steve Horelick and you have one hell of a ride.
Madman also went under the alternate title of Slaughterhouse.
We see the soon to be wed Madeleine and Neil being driven by horse drawn carriage to the house of plantation owner Charles Beaumont. They pass by a man named Murder (a red flag) Legendre played by the one and only Bela Lugosi. His evil face is another red flag. This isn’t a good man as is obvious for any sane person. Beaumont is also in love with Madeleine and goes to see Legendre to enlist his services so that Madeleine will marry him instead of Neil as Murder is a master of voodoo. He even has zombies that he has created as workers at his sugar cane mill. Legendre states that the only way for Charles to get Madeleine to love him is to turn her into a zombie also. But will his dastardly plan work?
White Zombie was one of the films on the list I have labelled in my head as ‘Horror Films That I’ve Heard Are Really Influential But Haven’t Gotten Around To Watching Yet’. That is until now.
And I’m so glad that I finally have. It’s a fantastic film that still holds up as an experimental piece of cinema with superimposed images, the use of shadows and is perfectly framed. It’s a joy to watch. And the plot and subject matter is far from conventional for horror in the 1930s.
But best of all is to see horror maestro Lugosi at the top of his game. He can say more with his eyes than most actors could even dream of. I’m so glad that someone who was destined to star in some of the genre’s very best works actually ended up doing just that. And by the time he starred in White Zombie he was already a star of the genre through his starring in Dracula and Murders in the Rue Morgue.
If I had to compare this film to any other it would be to the equally experimental (and brilliant) Vampyr. This is compliment in itself.
This infamous film from 1978 starts with an anonymous man wearing a balaclava and going on a killing spree. He uses a different tool for each murder such as an electric drill, a screwdriver and nail gun.
But then events take a bizarre twist as we get to see who the killer is and…to tell you anymore would ruin several surprises that the movie has in store. And it has plenty of surprises to shock us with!
This film has such a notorious reputation and none so much as in Britain where it was firstly cut for its initial cinema release but then banned outright on video as it was then labelled as one of the more shocking video nasties.
There is an authenticity to the killing spree we witness and with the film in general. The balaclava motif felt all so real as it was a staple of killers such as Ted Bundy who was prolific during this era. Also, The Yorkshire Ripper was killing women with the implements used in the film around this time which gives it an extra layer of horrific realness.
Your jaw will hit the floor when you watch Cameron Mitchell’s central performance. It truly is demented genius.
I’m so glad that The Toolbox Murders is now appreciated as the fantastic piece of psychotic art that it truly is. Watch out for the 4K scan on Blu Ray. The film looks and sounds amazing and has finally gotten the treatment it so rightfully deserves.
This prime slice of Giallo starts with us witnessing the murder of a pharmacist. A woman sees the murderer leave the premises which places a target on her own head. Her boyfriend undertakes some amateur sleuthing to try to find out who could be her would-be assassin. Many twists and turns ensue with a few very stylish murders thrown in for good measure.
This is a really interesting film as the emphasis is on the whodunnit aspect of Giallo (the original pulp novels were actually crime novels that incorporated a whodunnit aspect as well as gruesome murders. These books had distinctive yellow pages with yellow being ‘Giallo’ in Italian) rather than the murders although these are fantastic in this film.
What more can I say? Beautiful direction, gorgeous locales, style coming out of every pore- this is Giallo, baby!
You’ll never guess the ending in a million years.
After the frankly dreadful film from 2018 I wasn’t looking forward to it’s sequel. I even intended on not seeing the film but someone posted online that this was ‘The Film of the Year’. Mission accepted. I had to see and review it.
After the dodgy political posturing of the previous film (‘The Night The Patriarchy Came Home’), I was wondering which issues the new film would try to slyly convey. I looked at Jamie Lee Curtis’ Instagram profile to try to find a few clues. Maybe the new film would depict Michael Myers as an embodiment of inactivity against global warming with Laurie becoming a Greta Thunberg type Final Girl (or should that be Final Granny), accusing Michael of stealing her childhood and exclaiming that she can *actually see* CO2. Or maybe it will tackle transgenderism with Michael engendering (pun not intended) cis-gender bigotry and heteronormativity. Maybe Elliott Page could battle Michael. The options are limitless.
The start of Halloween Kills seemed to confirm my notions with the first character we see being the stunning and brave Bonnie (actually a man in a dress) from the fancy dress party from the previous movie still all frocked up and arguing with his Clyde on the phone.
But then the film goes light on the political agenda posturing. There are a few touches here and there- the mainly white lynch mob who go after Michael, the mother-daughter action near the end of the film (‘I’m an innocent woman!’ screams Mommy Strode to Michael. ‘Just like my mother was!’ There’s Michael as patriarchy again).
Talking of Granny Strode, Jamie Lee is stuck in the hospital for much of the film rather than being the geriatric Linda Hamilton wannabe she was in the previous film. There is a God after all.
There was only one character I actually enjoyed and rooted for in this film and that was Michael. Maybe that’s his role in the later franchise entries and that’s viciously killing the film’s most irritating characters- the doctor, nurse and Marion (yes, the Marion from the first film), the couple flying the drone around their house, the gay couple who have taken over (and decorated to perfection) the old Myers house.
But the worst crime of this film is that it references, steals and pillages far too much from the first film. In fact, it does so in such a heavy-handed fashion that it reminds you that you could be watching a genuine masterpiece rather than this anaemic entry. Characters from the first are introduced so thick and fast that it feels like there is an air of desperation about proceedings. There are sequences shot depicting other events from THAT night in 1978, a CGI Dr Loomis and even clips from the original film inserted here. Does it feel authentic? Does it hell. Halloween 2 felt wayyy more like the original film in feel, tone and visuals. After coming out of the movie I read a review that said these ham-fisted pilferings were ‘poisoning the well’ regarding the original’s legacy. I couldn’t agree more.
Halloween Kills feels like an episode from some kind of Halloween spin-off TV series that hasn’t even been made- yet. But give it time. It’s a film for the fanboys to salivate over, the kind of viewers who will lap it up as, y’know, Michael Myers is in it and he kills people.
Stick with the original and also Part 2 and the excellent Part 3: Season of the Witch. Everything after that is fanboy territory.
One final thought. During the runtime, I kept thinking about John Carpenter (who acts as Executive Producer for Halloween Kills as well as composing the soundtrack). I kept thinking ‘This is the worst thing he’s ever been associated with during his whole career. And he’s done it by seemingly not caring if he cheapens the legacy of the first Halloween film’. Maybe that’s the real horror regarding this film.
World-famous author Paul Sheldon crashes his car whilst driving in a blizzard but is rescued by nurse and super-fan Annie Wilkes who has read everything he’s ever published as well as reading and viewing every interview he’s ever given. Sheldon finds himself trapped with multiple injuries including compound fractures to his legs meaning that he is immobile and dependent on Wilkes to care for him. She also tells him that the telephone lines are down and roads closed, both of which are lies. Things take a darker turn still when Wilkes goes and buys the latest book by Sheldon which has just been published (yes the road to town has mysteriously been reopened but there’s no mention of Wilkes taking Paul to a local hospital) only to discover that her favourite character Misery has died during childbirth. Wilkes isn’t happy about this. This is bad news for Sheldon.
Misery explores the obsessive, irrational fan devotion that was explored in very different circumstances in Scorsese’s meisterwerk The King of Comedy, a film that bombed at the box office whilst Misery was a huge hit but is inferior in comparison. Oh, the irony.
Before seeing Misery for the first time I had read and thoroughly enjoyed Stephen King’s masterful novel of the same name. The film adaptation feels like the finer nuances of the novel have been erased to make a big-screen shocker that contains great performances by Kathy Bates (Wilkes) and James Caan (Sheldon) with Paul’s literary agent being portrayed effortlessly by the ever divine Lauren Bacall.
But the film also feels like some kind of TV movie that lacks not just the depth of King’s novel but also the cinematic grandeur that might have been envisaged and realised by another director other than Rob Reiner.
Misery feels like an attempt to hit big at the box office by creating two-dimensional characters and cheap shocks rather than delivering anything with real intelligence. And it worked. Misery brought in the money and earned Bates an Oscar. But watch Misery next to other, better King adaptations such as The Shining and Carrie and you’ll see what I mean. There’s no comparison.