PCR past banners Now in our fifth calendar year
PCR #206  (Vol. 5, No. 10)  This edition is for the week of March 1--7, 2004.

Katherine Leis's "Untitled DVD Project, Volume One"....Gus Perez's “Light of Blood”
 by Will Moriaty
"Secret Window"
 by Mike Smith
Goodbye Spalding and Paul....Quickie Movie Horror Film Reviews
 by Andy Lalino
Canada's P.C. Machine....Fox News Alarmist....Satellite TV....MegaCon '04
 by Joshua Montgomery
The Passion in Brooksville....I Wanted the Scarecrow....FCC and the Sponge, Follow-Up....WMD At The Academy Awards?....Things I Didn't Know But Probably Should Have
 by Brandon Jones
MegaCon....Think I'll Just Join The Eagles, Thank You Very Much....Moving On....Meet The Beatles, Part 8
 by Mike Smith
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Andy Lalino
Oddservations by Andy Lalino

Goodbye Spalding and Paul
I would like to note the passing of two actors who have at one time or another made contributions to genre/art films or have '70s nostalgic appeal: Spalding Gray and Paul Winfield. The first time I became aware of Spalding Gray was in the 1986 film "True Stories", directed by then-Talking Head David Byrne. I then discovered that Gray had a cult following as a monologue artist, and whose theater work I would soon experience a few years later in the Jonathan Demme film "Swimming to Cambodia". I was surprised to learn after doing some research on the IMDB that he was also in "Ilsa - Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks"! How cool is that? Gray took a few jobs in the well-paid arena of mainstream slop, such as "Beaches" and "Straight Talk" (can we erase these from his resume?), but as a whole solidly acted in more cutting edge films ("The Pickle", "Beyond Rangoon", and "Diabolique"). Apparently Gray was missing for weeks before his body was recovered from the East River. I later learned that he had attempted suicide after a devastating auto accident years ago and suffered from depression. Spalding Gray will be missed by independent film fans indeed. A very familiar face in the sci-fi genre was that of actor Paul Winfield. He was best-known as a character actor, and received an Academy Award nomination for "Sounder" in 1972. More importantly, he co-starred in many genre pictures, namely: "Horror at 37,000 Feet" (a great made-for-TV movie starring William Shatner), "Damnation Alley", "Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan" (we won't hold that against him), Wes Craven's masterpiece "The Serpent and the Rainbow", "Mars Attacks", and finally "The Terminator". Like fellow character actor Dennis Franz, Winfield was typically typecast as a police chief. He died of a heart attack and was usually seen smoking in his films.

Quickie Horror Film Reviews
In honor of my recent purchase of a big-screen TV, I thought it would be fun if I were to (finally) do some horror movie reviews; here goes:

"Comedy of Terrors" (1964)
Not to be confused with a Poe-esque attempt at humor by Roger Corman, AIP and Jacques Tourneur churned out this imitative ode to the previous years' "The Raven" (directed by Corman) starring all three of its stars (plus Basil Rathbone)! Yes, Price, Lorre, and Karloff are all featured in this delightful 'comedy' with hints of terror (ha-ha). I didn't note much comedy, nor did I experience much terror, but the fun of this film stems from seeing the stars interact, who I'm sure could entertain by reading off telephone books to each other.

Lorre was less annoying (and no doubt less drunk) than his stint in "The Raven", and comes off here as being "Comedy of Terrors" most sympathetic character. Basically, the film is about an 'ambulance-chasing' undertaker named Waldo Trumbull (Price) who hates his life. His business is in the toilet, his wife nags at him being a bum, and he drinks too much. After an eviction notice, he can take no more. He plots to murder rich old men in order to get their widows' business as their undertaker. This makes for some attempts at slapstick comedy, which mostly falls flat. The only moment when I did a near-chuckle was during Karloff's eulogy. AIP should leave the comedy to the Three Stooges or the Marx Brothers.

On the positive side, the characterizations are excellent, and the look of the film really captures the 19th Century. The performances are very good if not terribly funny, and the theatrical Basil Rathbone has an outrageous role of an Macbeth-quoting elderly old man that refuses to die. I'm giving "Comedy of Terrors" 3 stars out of 5.

"Wes Craven Presents: They" (2002)
I was braced for the worst, after reading fan reviews online. Not the case. "They" was not as bad as expected, but not a very good film either. Ably directed by Robert Harmon ("The Hitcher"), "They" proves to be better directed than written. Think of "They" as a hybrid of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Darkness Falls". Laura Regan plays Julia Lund, a stringy young woman who suffers from "Night Terrors" (an actual psychological phenomenon). The problem is, other people she meets suffer from the same malaise, and they begin to end up dead. All victims seem to have the same Night Terror visions: They see creatures who live in another dimension who attempt to drag the victims into their world. Ever see a bat try to climb a cave wall? That's what the creatures look like (you never get a really good look at them). The creatures were done with CGI, and admittedly the way they move about is pretty damn cool.

The main problem with the film is that nothing ends up tightly resolved. The characterizations, and the monsters, are good, but ultimately go nowhere. We don't learn a lot about the creatures, or the relationships between Julia and her boyfriend, Julia and her shrink, Julia and her friends, etc. Had there been more focus on character interaction and less on the creatures trying to burst into our world, I think it would have resulted in a better film. "They" is shot surprisingly well and has a great score.

I do think Harmon is back on track, however, after his popular 1986 hit "The Hitcher". I give "They" two stars out of five.

"Oddservations" is ©2004 by Andy Lalino.  The Oddservations banner is a creation of Andy Lalino. All posters and images of Katherine Leis and her films are used here with permission. All other graphics, unless otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.