"The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of" ... Bogart, Shakespeare, The Maltese Falcon, Those Great Movies

Saturday, October 29, 2011

They Boogeyman Is Here

Halloween was not always about children gathering sweets for the sweet.  Long ago it was the deadly serious twilight of All Hallow's Eve, when demons prowled the night and people disguised themselves in demonic costumes so as not to be recognized as human prey.  At the cockcrow, the demons were banished back to the underworld, and God's light shone on the Day of All Saints.  It was all about the battle between the profane and the sacred.  Two striking images from the famous movie The Exorcist portray this eternal war:

The Profane

The Sacred

Not everyone agrees about the observation of Halloween -- some religions consider it blasphemous, others as just an innocent night of fun and scares for children.  If you believe in the Bible, you know that the sacred wins out in the end.  The question is, why has Halloween changed from serious to fun?  Is it because the culture has abandoned the belief in true evil?  Is it because the culture has evolved to believe that evil is powerless against the sacred at any time?  Or, do we just want the candy?  I know what I think.  I wonder what you think?  I wonder if any of us will be able to sleep tonight after seeing that demon!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Around She Goes, And Where She Stops, Nobody Knows!

I love the Twilight Zone, but I never expected to find myself living in it.  Within the last 72 hours, I stepped from one dimension to another -- I had a nice little house to rent, and my own house closing was scheduled for this Wednesday.  In one day, the closing was postponed, and I found out that my potential landlady is completely insane.  I am now bereft, bothered and bewildered, caught in a legal whirlpool, and also really mad.  So I have adopted the Tasmanian Devil as my alter-ego for the moment.

I rented the same little house 25 years ago when my boys were in grade school.  We loved it.  My landlady then was eccentric, but knew her business.  We lived there 7 years and I've always remembered it fondly.  I had kept in touch with the landlady over the years -- she would call every couple of years and ask how my sons were doing, how I was doing.  It was really sweet.  So when the offer on my house was accepted, I saw that the house was for rent.  I was very sad to hear that my landlady had died last Christmas.  However, her daughter (I will call her Myrtle) was taking over, and very interested in having me again for a tenant.  You see, I pay my bills on time and I don't tear up houses.  Myrtle lives 4 hours away and is rarely able to come to town to check on the house.  It has been refurbished and just lovely.  All looked to be going great.  Myrtle sounded eccentric too, but I just figured it was a family trait.  There is just one difference -- her mother was eccentric ... Myrtle is crazy

She was allowing me to move in before we signed a lease -- she believed me to be trustworthy, and indeed I am.  This past Friday, we got everything boxed up, all junk removed, and the moving men were coming Saturday morning.  In Friday's mail, I received the lease in the mail to sign and return.  Oh my God -- Myrtle had taken a standard lease and added to it 52 -- count 'em-- 52 codicils, handwritten in a crabbed scrawl.  What I could do, what I couldn't do (1 nail for 1 picture only), how to scrub the floor, etc. etc.  If anything inside the house breaks, it must be my fault so I would have to pay for it.  I was not to allow water to stand on the countertops.  If something spilled on the rug, I was not to use any cleaning products, but call her first and pay for professional carpet cleaners of her choice.  She knew I had a cat, but the lease said no pets -- yet one of the codicils said "Cat shall not climb mini-blinds."  Huh?  I felt like I was in the belly of the beast.  I cannot even begin to try to describe the 12 page lease with the 52 handwritten clauses, and how crazy it really is.  My sons read it and flatly refused to move me in there at the mercy of a crazy person.  I sincerely thank God that the lease didn't arrive on Saturday afternoon or Monday, when I would have already been moved in.  Just the thought of it makes me shudder.  So I turned down the house (I can't bring myself to describe that conversation).  It was a huge disappointment, to say the least. 

On the same day I got the lease, my realtor called and said that the buyer's FHA loan would not be approved until lead paint all around the house, window trims, door trims, porch had been scraped off, painted and every chip swept up.  It's an old house in an old neighborhood -- all the paint is lead paint.  So the closing was postponed for this coming Wednesday.  The FHA appraiser was here 3 weeks ago, and we just found out.  Apparently the buyer's realtor did not read the appraisal report correctly, and just realized himself what was being asked before the loan could go through.  The buyer was perfectly willing to do it himself after closing, but oh no -- FHA refuses the loan until it's done.  So the painter has to spend at least 3 days doing all that, then FHA wants 2-3 days, then the bank wants 3 days -- the closing will not occur, if all goes well, until late next week, if then. 

So here I sit, boxes all around me, wondering if I'm going to be leaving at all.  Meanwhile, the house is being spruced up, which really makes me whirling mad because if I could have afforded that kind of thing myself, I wouldn't sell in the first place!  Irony can be so ironic sometimes ... (I love that clever phrase!)  Of course, the first thing I corrected, the most important thing, was cancelling my transfer of AT&T.  I knew that Turner Classic Movies and my computer would save my sanity!  On Saturday, I just spent the day recovering.  Today I looked for places to live.  Now I'm here for a while until the next round of moving plans begins.  My son the Marine refers to events like these as FUBAR.  I couldn't say it better.

I don't usually do personal kinds of posts, but had to get it out and let my Faithful Readers and Friends know that I am still here for a while.  I will be making the rounds and catching up on your wonderful blogs, between crying jags -- LOL!  Actually, I am doing extremely well through all this.  I'm going on faith, doing what I can do, looking for another place to live, all the things that must be done.  I have not once gone to bed at noon and pulled the covers over my head.  I think that is quite an accomplishment!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Classic Movie Blog Association Annual Awards

I've said it before and I'll say it again...
The best classic movie organization on the Web

I just want to thank all members of the CMBA who voted my article, Mobsters, Pals and Skirts, as Best Classic Movie Article for 2011.  If you have not read it and are interested, click this link to the article:  http://www.classicbeckybrainfood.blogspot.com/2011/04/mobsters-pals-and-skirts-golden-age-of.html.

There is no way to say it without sounding cliche, but there were some great articles in competition for all the categories this year.  Click on the link below to find the list of winners and final nominees -- all of these are well worth reading.  Thanks again, from the bottom of my classic movie-loving heart!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Look Back ......

I am in a nostalgic mood, it's autumn, Halloween is coming, and I decided to re-print one of my earliest posts, done on October 21, 2009. It fits the season. I did not yet know most of you, my Faithful Readers, and I'd like to share it with you. It's a strange, wonderful little movie that I don't think has ever been given its due. If I wrote it today, I would give more information about history, trivia -- all the things I have learned over the past two years. However, I am not changing any text. All that I have done is add a couple of great pictures that I found. I didn't even know Bing.com existed when I started, and I didn't know how to do captions!

My post is just below.  Changing the date on an older post does not make it a new one.  It doesn't show up on blogrolls!  Thus, this little prologue -- if you have not read it, I hope you enjoy it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Legends of The Headless Horseman

Dark and frightening horseman ... artist unknown

I always thought that the story of the Headless Horseman from Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and was a uniquely American story.  Not so, it seems, for the legend, with some variations, exists in Ireland, Scotland, Germany and likely other countries as well.  Each paragraph of my article is illustrated with some really beautiful works of art depicting the Horseman.
Wild chase through the woods ... artist unknown
Irving describes the horseman thus:   "Ichabod, who had no relish for this strange midnight companion ... quickened his steed in hopes of leaving him behind. The stranger, however, quickened his horse to an equal pace. Ichabod pulled up, and fell into a walk, thinking to lag behind,--the other did the same. His heart began to sink within him. ...There was something in the moody and dogged silence of this pertinacious companion that was mysterious and appalling. It was soon fearfully accounted for. On mounting a rising ground, which brought the figure of his fellow-traveller in relief against the sky, gigantic in height, and muffled in a cloak, Ichabod was horror-struck on perceiving that he was headless!--but his horror was still more increased on observing that the head, which should have rested on his shoulders, was carried before him on the pommel of his saddle!"

From  the British Museum, equestrian
painting of a headless horseman
In 1796, Sir Walter Scott translated The Wild Huntsman, originally written by German poet Gottfried Burger, based on Germanic legend of a huntsman who does have a head, chasing unsuspecting riders in the night to their death.  Other Germanic folklore speaks of a headless horseman who wears a long grey coat, astride a grey horse, blowing a hunting horn to warn hunters of impending accidents.  In other versions, he has a pack of hounds with tongues of fire.  (Cool!)

A classic film-lover's horseman ... stark black and white

Scotsman Robert Burns wrote Tam O'Shanter in 1790, a narrative poem about a poor man riding at night, chased by really disgusting demons of all kinds who cannot cross running water or bridges.

Striking illustration by Kanaru92
I love the legend from the Green Isle best!  In Irish folklore the headless horseman, called the Dullahan, is a terrifying figure galloping through the night, holding his head under his arm, as the arbiter of death.  He wields a human spine as a whip, gallops to a place where someone will die and reins in his wild horse, where the head calls out the doomed person's name.  As told in the legend taken down from oral tradition by Thomas Crofton Croker in Fairy Legends and Traditions of The South of Ireland (1906), the headless horseman is completely different and much more dark and horrifying than any of the above versions:  

(As told by Irishman Charley Culnan on his way home from the pub one dark night) -- "His vision failed in carrying him further than the top of the collar of the figure's coat, which was a scarlet single-breasted hunting frock, having a waist of a very old-fashioned cut reaching to the saddle, with two huge shining buttons at about a yard's distance behind ... see further he could not, and after straining his eyes for a considerable time to no purpose, he exclaimed, with pure vexation, "By the big bridge of Mallow, it is no head at all he has!"   "Look again, Charley Culnane," said a hoarse voice, that seemed to proceed from under the right arm of the figure.  Charley did look again, and now in the proper place, for he clearly saw, under the aforesaid right arm, that head from which the voice had proceeded, and such a head no mortal ever saw before. It looked like a large cream cheese hung round with black puddings: no speck of colour enlivened the ashy paleness of the depressed features; the skin lay stretched over the unearthly surface, almost like the parchment head of a drum. Two fiery eyes of prodigious circumference, with a strange and irregular motion flashed like meteors ..., and a huge mouth reached from either extremity of two ears, which peeped forth from under a profusion of matted locks of lustreless blackness. This head, which the figure had evidently hitherto concealed from Charley's eyes, now burst upon his view in all its hideousness."

Unique art works of the Horseman, with a Disney finale:
I love this impressionistic sketch by Maquinafantasma

Black and brooding, with the demon
horse, by Jurei-Chan

Pumpkin carving, artist unknown

                           A YEARLY HALLOWEEN TRADITION -- DISNEY!

By the time the legend of the Headless Horseman got to Disney, the terrifying demonic creature was still scary, but mainly to children, and the dark nature of the stories, especially the Irish Dullahan, had changed the head to a glowing pumpkin. However, I will always have a special place in my heart for Disney's bumbling Ichabod Crane, and will remember that I was just as scared as poor Ichabod when the horseman gave chase through the wind-swept autumn woods!

Who could ever forget Disney's Legend of Sleepy Hollow  from 1949?
Seeing THIS coming at your would scare anyone of ANY age

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My First Article For ClassicBecky's Brain Food, 2 Years Ago Today--"The Most Terrifying Book I Have Ever Read"

Then as now ... autumn is my time
Two years ago today, October 6, 2009, I posted my first article on my new blog.  I wrote about my favorite book of fright, which also was made into the best supernatural horror movie ever made, in my opinion -- The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson.  So, without further ado, I am re-printing that inaugural article for ClassicBecky's Brain Food, just for auld lang syne ...
It's October, the wind is sighing through trees, leaves are swirling and the night seems darker somehow.  Halloween is coming with its reminders of the demonic and divine.  This is the perfect time to scare yourself to death with one of the best horror novels ever written.

Shirley Jackson, Author
Shirley Jackson wrote The Haunting of Hill House in 1959, and readers ever since have found themselves unable to put down the book even though goosebumps literally run up and down their arms and they are reluctant to look behind them.  Director Robert Wise was given the book to read in 1962 by a friend.  He took it into his office and sat down to read.  He was about half way through when the friend came into his office and spoke.  Wise jumped halfway out of his chair.  He told the friend "I'm going to make a movie of this."

The Haunting of Hill House is the quintessential haunted house story.  The book tells of Dr. Montague, a parapsychologist, who has brought together three people to stay with him in the massive house, the reputation of which is so bad that people from the nearby village will barely speak of it, and never go there.  Since the death of the original owner, the house has been unoccupied because no one who has ever tried has been able to stay.  According to the professor, the house is diseased, leprous with the evil of the man who built it, Hugh Crane.  It is his determination to record the supernatural activity in the house in pursuit of proof of "the other side."

Dr. Montague and his invited guests Eleanor, Theodora and Luke, find their deepest fears and sensitivities challenged by the chilling atmosphere of the house.  Eleanor is a lonely, shy woman, insecure and vulnerable.  Theo is a bright, vivacious woman with the gift of ESP.  Luke is the nephew of the house's current owner, and only sees the house as a future gold mine for himself.  The relationships between these four people, the imposing housekeeper, Mrs. Dudley and her caretaker husband, and the addition of Dr. Montague's wife, a medium, and her stuffy friend Arthur, are all changed by their stay in the house.  The insensitive suffer no ill effects, but others are not so lucky. 

I will not go further into the plot, because it is exactly the events that transpire in the house that will give you the heebie-jeebies.  No spoilers here!  Robert Wise did indeed make the movie in 1963, called simply The Haunting.  It had a stellar cast, with Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson and Russ Tamblyn. The four main characters were altered in personality and relationship, others were changed or completely left out, and for some unknown reason the doctor's name is changed to Markway.  However, the movie is a stunning experience of terror, and does justice to Shirley Jackson's magnificent writing.

Do yourself an October favor and get The Haunting of Hill House.  Read it at night with just one reading light on.  Then turn on all the lights before you go to sleep, and don't forget to keep your hands well under the covers.....

It's been a real journey during the two years since I made this first attempt.  I knew only a few people who had come together at the TCM site, and decided to break off and make a group of our own, inspired and led by Rick of Classic Film and TV Cafe.  We are still friends, and have made so many others as the Classic Movie Blog Association grew to the wonderful group it is today.  I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time, meeting the right people and finding something I love to do.  Happy autumn, everyone!  Don't forget to read this book, see the movie, and find out, in the words of the great Vincent Price, "how wonderful it is to be scared to death."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Dick Van Dyke Blogathon -- My Favorite Episode -- "Coast to Coast Bigmouth"

Ivan of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear was inspired to put together a blogathon for the Dick Van Dyke show, and his inspirations are always right on the money!  A lot of people loved the idea, including me ... this is my contribution.  Click on this link to find the entire line-up:  http://www.thrillingdaysofyesteryear.blogspot.com/.

Dick Van Dyke's weekly comedy show gave us so many memorable laughs, it is hard to pick one to write about.  However, this was the first that popped up in my mind, and it is my favorite:  Coast to Coast Bigmouth ... or, as I always call it, "the episode about Alan's hair."  I loved the shows in which Carl Reiner appeared as Alan Brady, and to me, this episode is easily in the Top 5 of all time (along with the one about the walnuts and the one about the Petrie family brooch shaped like the United States).  It aired during Season 5, on Wednesday, September 15, 1965.  This particular episode really spotlighted the comedic talents of all the main characters:  Mary Tyler Moore as Laura Petrie, Dick Van Dyke as Rob Petrie, and especially Carl Reiner.  Richard Deacon as Mel Cooley, RoseMarie as Sally, Morey Amsterdam as Buddy, and Ann Morgan Guilbert as Millie all had wonderful moments in this episode. 

Laura and Millie at the game show
 Poor Laura... already a bit ditzy herself, and when you put her with Millie, well, chaos erupts.  All for the sake of winning a rotisserie and a vacuum cleaner, Laura is sucked into a live game show hosted by a man who makes Don Rickles look like Loretta Young.  With the skill of a carnival barker, the host manages to confuse Laura with rapid-fire questions, and maneuvers the unsuspecting woman into revealing that TV star Alan Brady is bald.  At that point, the episode goes from good to TV comedy genius.

Laura has to tell Rob that she has blurted out Alan Brady's closest-kept secret. 
Mary Tyler Moore did a fabulous job with her trademark upset stammer that turns to
tears as she tries to explain:  "Well...Rob...you see...Ohhhh, Robbb!"   Van Dyke's
reaction is one of the funniest mugs he ever did, and it received one of the
longest laughs ever in my family, and I imagine many others!

Alan lines up all of his heads of different hair styles on his desk, looks at them and says:  "Fellas...."  I laughed just at that one word, with his hilarious delivery, but it gets better.

"Who wants to see me?  MRS. Petrie?
Well, send her in!"

A brave wife decides to visit the lion in his den, hoping to take the blame and save her husband and his job.
Alan:  "What am I going to do with all these now?"
Laura:  "Well, Alan, there must be some ... needy bald people."
Alan:  "Needy bald people!  Laura, you're a nut!"

Will Rob and Laura survive the wrath of Brady?  Will Mel Cooley finally get some hair?  To find out, just go to Hulu and watch Episode 1 of Season 5.  I'll never tell!