Day 27- 31 Days of Halloween- The Sadist (1963)

Day 27- 31 Days of Halloween- The Sadist (1963)

Three schoolteachers stop at a garage on their way to a baseball game at Dodgers Stadium. Their car isn’t running properly and so they need to look at it and maybe try to fix it. But thats not their biggest obstacle- they come face to face with Charlie Tibbs and his girlfriend- a couple of killers who are accused of murders in Arizona and are on the run. Charlie has a gun and insists that they work on the car so that he can get away in it.

This film is like a play that has been filmed- there is primarily one main setting (the film reminded me of Cujo in that respect). But this doesn’t mean that the film is static and boring. The one setting is used innovatively and this means that the film is directed with verve. There is also a sense of ‘us versus them’ with the schoolteachers in their Sunday best (shirts, ties or a nice conservative dress) whilst Tibbs is looking every part the juvenile delinquent in his denims and sporting a greasy quiff. Tibbs is obviously based on real-life serial killer Charles Starkweather.

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This film is brilliant- will the teachers get away, when and how? The film ramps up the tension and suspense and never lags- theres no scenes that feel unnecessary. The film is also very extreme for its time. It was even rejected by the BBFC when it was submitted for classification in 1964.

Arch Hall Jr in the lead gives an extraordinary performance as Tibbs- the Sadist in the title. His face and facial expressions are almost other-worldly and supernatural as is his portrayal. Quite extraordinary.

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Watch out for the poignant scene in which the schoolteachers hear on the radio the baseball game they should be at instead of fighting for their lives.

Theres also some innovative direction within the film- it almost feels like Tibbs’ gun in the first half of the film is an actual character.

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I didn’t know about this film until recently. I’m glad I do now. Why isn’t this more widely available on DVD and Blu ray?

Apparently this film is a favourite of director Joe Dante’s- a seal of approval anyone would be proud of.

4 out of 5

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Day 3- 31 Days of Halloween- The Exorcist (1974)

Day 3- 31 Days of Halloween- The Exorcist (1974)

I feel like I’ve grown up with this film.

This was one film that I remember seeing on the shelves of video stores when I was a child but didn’t get round to seeing before it mysteriously disappeared. Absence made the heart grown fonder and I knew I must see this forbidden fruit.

But when I was at school a friend of mine had the video as his Dad ran a video store which was very fortunate. I borrowed The Exorcist and watched it with my father whilst we were eating our evening meal. A bad mistake.

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Then in 1993 on my 18th birthday I went to see the film at the Odeon in York with some friends where it was being shown as a one-off midnight screening. The print was in terrible shape. But it still scared me so much that I spent a sleepless night tossing and turning in bed thinking about what I’d just seen.

Then in 1998 the film was rereleased in cinemas in a digitally remastered form. It looked and sounded amazing. Again I saw it.

Then in 2000 came the ‘Version You’ve Never Seen Before’ that incorporated deleted footage and CGI at different parts of the film.

For my money, the best version is the original.

Yes, everyone knows about the famous (or should that be infamous) scenes that are actually more shocking and effective on screen then in the telling. But this is a multi-layered complex film and demands repeated viewings to reap everything the film has to offer.

Captain Howdy, Burke Dennings, Friedkin playing with our senses in certain scenes (check out the scene where Chris sees Karras and Dyer for the first time but we don’t hear what they say as theres a jumbo jet going overhead or the dream sequences involving the St Christopher necklace falling to the ground and you’ll see what I mean), the epic and haunting otherworldly sequence in Northern Iraq, Chris’ speech about why she wants an exorcism (some of the best acting I’ve ever seen- although I could say the same about all of this film), the desecrations, ‘Have you seen what shes done? Your cunting daughter!’, ‘Your mother sucks cocks in Hall!’, ‘The sow is mine!’…theres so much to love.

Look out for actor Paul Bateson in one of the murder scenes. He was later charged with murder and was the inspiration for Friedkin’s later masterpiece, Cruising.

The Exorcist is the horror motherlode. 5 out of 5- a true masterpiece.

Day 1- 31 Days of Halloween- The Nanny (1965)

Day 1- 31 Days of Halloween- The Nanny (1965)

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What a cracking film to start my 31 Days of Halloween with.

This is a British film which stars Bette Davis as a nanny for a family living in London in which a young boy has been sent away for supposedly killing his sister. The boy is due to be released after two years and return to his family home and under Ms Davis’ supervision.

The boy vehemently protests his innocence and insists that instead it was the nanny who committed the terrible deed. Is he right? Or is the nanny indeed guilty?

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Theres already the almost unspeakable taboo of a child killing another child within this film which gives the film a grittiness right from the get go. The household in question is steeped in gothic tension even though it is in fact light and airy. No Baby Jane mansion here.

Theres also the stifling formality of English life at this time. There are so many manners and formalities at play that are overwhelmingly suffocating and claustrophobic.

Within the film there is also a delicious generation gap which underlines this and presents a tangible ‘Old vs new’ scenario. The boy in question, Joey forges a friendship with a 14 year old girl who lives in the same building. She dresses like a hip 60s girl, all white lipstick and black eyeliner. When we see within her bedroom Joey gazes up at a Beatles mobile she has hanging from the ceiling and at one point we see her reclining on her bed reading a copy of the girls magazine Jackie which has a pin up of Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones on its back cover.

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Beautifully acted (especially Ms Davis of course, whose character has a pair of the ugliest eyebrows ever captured on film) and elegantly directed, this is one of Hammer’s finest films.

Of course this would only have been made with Ms Davis if Hollywood wasn’t casting the very best stars of yesteryear anymore. Every cloud has a silver lining. What was Hollywood’s loss was very much Hammer’s gain.

Strike A Pose

Strike A Pose

I love the fact that a movie can be so original and iconic that it can inspire other films to be made. Think of Halloween (1978) and the tidal wave of slasher films that were unleashed in its wake.

This can also happen with movie posters and a film’s iconography. The Breakfast Club is a perfect example.

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The original poster from 1985

Take a pose that encapsulated the zeitgeist and not only is it ripe for analysis…

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The famous pose analysed

…but it is also open to being imitated and parodied by other movies. I love that films can nudge and wink knowingly at an audience from a movie poster or from a film magazine and know that they are in on the joke. The audience may not get the reference straightaway but eventually they will. And when they do they will marvel at the filmmaker’s ingenuity.

It took many years before I got the in-joke that these two films were making.

Below is the pose used by the cast on the Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) poster- a movie that was released the year after The Breakfast Club.

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Same pose- very different characters

Similarly, here is a publicity shot from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors (1987).

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Freddy Krueger shows Judd Nelson how its done

In this case the teens who went to see The Breakfast Club could very well have also constituted the demographic who went to see the two films shown above.

I also love the fact that a teen movie has been homaged by two movies as deranged and demented as TCM2 and Nightmare 3. These references to The Breakfast Club feel like, on one hand, a playful co-opting of the original movie and its iconography but also a loving homage to it at the same time. These movies were as far away from John Hughes as possible and yet they still tipped the hat to the filmmaker of all things teen whilst showing that Hughes didn’t speak for all teens with his films. Some teens wanted more twisted thrills for their money. And thats exactly what they got.

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This never happened in a John Hughes movie