Archive for August, 2011

Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour

Starring Rissa Walters, Brian Comrie, Dan Comrie, Rusty Hanes Jane Harris
                   Written by John Comrie and Lisa Comrie
                   From a story by John Comrie
                   Directed by Lisa Comrie

Who’s Sarah Landon (Walters)? She’s a not-very-interesting teenage girl whose lifelong best friend Megan was recently killed by a drunk driver, a fact that is the extent of her backstory and that prompts her reluctant visit to Megan’s grandmother, Thelma Shaw (Harris).

On her way to the small town where Thelma lives, Sarah suffers car trouble. This is worth some discussion. In most supernatural stories where the car breaks down and strands a female protagonist somewhere, it is somewhere dangerous, somewhere apart from the safety of her destination. See, for instance, PSYCHO, or any number of haunted house stories.

You would think that Sarah’s breakdown occurs just because this is supposed to be a spooky story and that’s the law — a reasonable assumption since the storyline also includes such horror-shlock staples as the friendly person startling her by coming up from behind, and another false scare thanks to a meowing housecat.  But really, it’s also helpful in storytelling terms, since the engine starts making noise just as she’s reaching a town where she intends to stay overnight anyway, and is so very obliging that she’s able to coax the car to a friendly gas station whose proprietor, Carlos (Michael Silva) just happens to be Mr. Exposition Man, capable of launching into a long narrative complete with phrases like “the day (our town) will never forget.” Thank you, car, for dumping Sarah next to the guy who had such useful information.

Once Sarah gets to Thelma’s home, the old lady also proves exposition-ready, as she launches into a long story that includes the intimate details of nightmares suffered by another character. We cannot stress this enough. These characters don’t just tell their stories. they tell their stories as if they first took pains to write them down first, and memorize all the really spooky phrases. And it doesn’t end. When Sarah goes on a chaste date with local hottie Matt Baker (Dan Comrie), he does the same. We ain’t the big city, Mister. We don’t have your fancy-shmancy cable channels for entertainment. We have to make do swappin’ exposition with each other.

Matt’s brother David (Brian), recipient of a curse that promises a violent end at the “Paranormal Hour,” the moment of his 21st birthday, doesn’t have much left to talk about, so he compensates by being buggy and paranoid. This guy actually points out, off the top of his head, that seven thousand people die from electrical fires every year and there’s no way of knowing how many of those accidents were caused by evil spirits. You really can’t beat that logic, nor would we ever want to try.

SARAH LANDON is best described as ghost story for preteen girls of the sort who might think GOOSEBUMPS is way too scary.

But it’s such a slight confection, made at such a minimal budget and with such modest pretensions, that it feels downright cruel to kick it. Why bother to mock a film that never seems to edge over first gear, that never develops any real suspense for the fate of its characters, that never manages any real charm, and that is by its climax (detailed below), downright ludicrous? You can’t be mean to it the way you’d be mean to one of the many much more aggressively bad movies that clog the multiplexes and video store shelves like fatty deposits. You can only say that you never bought a single moment of it, but never cared enough to despise it either. You just wanted it to be over.

We find ourselves limited to a few random observations.

1) Were the title not enough to establish that this movie hoped to make you think it was just like Harry Potter, except with a girl, the logo would. It is such a blatant, hopeful effort that you feel sorry for it.

2) Rissa Walters weighs about ten or twenty pounds more than what is normally considered de rigeur for young actresses these days, an attribute which is downright refreshing in that she looks a little like a human being you might encounter in real life, and not the result of some exotic medical experiment. Alas, this production offers no sign that there is anything else to distinguish her.

3) There is one genuinely clever plot element, a psychic’s advice about “Drew and Rachel,” that confuses our protagonists and leads to many wasted hours on the internet before somebody figures out that the character’s heavy accent was obscuring the phrase “Druid Ritual.” However, that’s the extent of it. So I just saved you some valuable time.

4) The ritual in question requires David to sit on a plastic lawn chair surrounded by a circle of turnips carved into glowing jack-o-lanterns, while wearing a rubber “old man” mask. The closeups of his panicked eyes, through the slits in that silly mask, while the not-very-frightening menace tries to find a way to get at him through the turnips, would be hilariously camp if the movie managed to possess anything approaching that degree of energy.

5) Sarah Landon does almost nothing that renders her a legitimate heroine. She’s not particularly bright, she’s not particularly intrepid, and she’s exposed to danger only for a few fleeting seconds. She’s just a girl. Period. The closing hopeful intimations of another Sarah Landon adventure do not fill us with anticipation.

6) The final solution to the supernatural infestation amounts to a minor character showing up and saying, in about as many words, something like Hey, Cut It Out. This Isn’t Right. It’s not a dramatic confrontation or anything. That really is about as far as it goes. The vengeful ghost sees reason right away and leaves, just like that.  Again, Sarah has nothing to do with this. This is, in short, a supernatural menace that did not require John Constantine, the Hellblazer, to exorcise it. Bill Cosby could have done it.

Cosmic Lameness

Posted: August 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

A Remake Chronicles Extra by Adam-Troy Castro

(originally published as a review on Scifiweekly; provided here as an appetizer as we put together the next column)


Here come the explorers from Earth, Boo-Boo. Let’s say Hi, Yogi

SAVAGE PLANET. Starring Sean Patrick Flanery, Roman Podhora, Reagan Pasternak, others. Directed by Paul Lynch. Written by Jeff Hare and Kevin Moore.

SAVAGE PLANET is so very cosmically lame a film that it seems a genuine waste of time to review it except as yet another specimen of a phenomenon we’ve observed many times in our years of exposure to really, really awful low-budget science fiction movies.

And that’s this: all too often, the more elaborate and promising the setup, the more half-assed the payoff.

We first noticed this in our youth, decades ago, with a notoriously awful movie named CHOSEN SURVIVORS (1974), in which the U.S. government gathers up a bunch of assorted people and locks them up in a silo somewhere, with the explanation that there’s about to be a nuclear war and that they’ve been picked by computer as the individuals best able to start a new civilization. Nice setup. Then they’re attacked by bats. Seriously. That’s what the rest of the movie is about. Bats. The end of the world, nuclear destruction, grieving civilians locked up against their will and forced to form a community they never wanted…and the very best the movie had to offer after that was … bats.

In past years this column has also reviewed such wonderments as THE DROP, in which a mysterious figure confronts a hapless young man with the cryptic words “Information is the key, and access is the goal.” Nice setup. Then all the characters spend the next hour and a half running circles around a parking garage. There was also CLIVE BARKER’S THE PLAGUE, in which the contagion of the title puts all of the world’s children into deathly comas; as we pointed out at that time, that was a nice setup too, which could have gone any number of interesting places, but all the movie had in mind was the tykes all sitting up and acting like zombies. Really. Zombies. Given the set-up, the imagination deficit is so extreme it feels like a medical condition.

You must now be really eager to find out all about the film under discussion today, which begins in the environmentally ravaged future and introduces us to a group of mission specialists in the employ of corporate shark James Carlson (Podhora). Earth is dying. Many cities around the world are suffering riots due to gas-mask shortages. The only hope is finding a new planet for the resettlement of Mankind. Fortunately, Carlson has developed a means of long-distance teleportation, and is ready to mount an expedition to Oxygen, the first successfully terraformed alien world.

There are, of course, hints that he has an agenda he isn’t sharing. But that’s okay. Even without that we have a vital mission of mapping and exploration, with tremendous stakes.

Nice setup, right?

Or so you would think, until his explorers teleport to Oxygen and are almost  immediately…

…(wait for it)…

…attacked by bears.

No, I’m not kidding.

Honest to Betsy. That’s what the movie’s about.  That’s all it has in mind.  A group of interplanetary travelers, seeking salvation for all humanity, get picked off, one at a time, by bears.

True, we’re told many times that these are very large, very intelligent, very dangerous bears, unlike any human beings have ever seen, but we’re asked to take that on faith, because they’re played by ordinary bears, and they don’t do anything but stand on their hind legs, swipe at the air and make bear noises. From time to time, our heroines scream and our heroes fire their assault weapons and we get another close-up of a bear saying, “Woougaaaaghhh,” and what happens is, either another evil alien bear goes down dead or the cast of not very interesting people is reduced by one. Killed By A Bear. Though that is something else we have to take on faith, since we almost never see the bears and the human beings in the same shot except in extreme close-ups where screaming people are outfought by rugs and taxidermy.

Even the living bears are not all that impressive. There was a great bear performer named Bart who appeared in about a dozen films, typecast as The Bear; and he was an absolutely terrific Bear, even when the movies around him were not all that great. (You can find him in THE EDGE and THE BEAR. He presented at the Oscars one year, and his son Bart the Bear II appeared on THE AMAZING RACE.  I am not making this up.) Bart was also pretty overweight, a chronic problem for domesticated Bears who don’t get all the exercise their kind would find in the wild. The best of the movies featuring him managed to hide this and make him look magnificent. This movie features several close-ups of chubby bear asses, waddling back into the woods in no particular hurry and with no sense of menace. These are, in short, Bears from Central Casting. Alien bears from Central Casting. Ooooh. Bears. Even more scary than goats.

All of this is filmed in a nice, sunny forest about as clearly terrestrial as any you could imagine. There are meadows and ferns and nice splashes of green. It’s a sunny place. It must have been pleasant at midday, when the shooting was done for the morning and the cast and crew was able to spread blankets on the grass, for picnic lunches. This is not exactly conducive to suspense. Seriously, you know how good thrillers make you forget that cameras are present and that the actors are just reciting lines written for them? It’s impossible to forget that for even ten seconds, here. Once our heroes reach their destination, there’s not a single location, not a single shot, not a single second, where anybody on this supposedly alien world looks like they’re more than a fifteen minute ride from a Motel Six. These people are not filming a movie about interstellar explorers fighting a monstrous alien environment. They’re filming a tampon commercial.

The result is a lot like what ALIEN would have been like had Ridley Scott filmed it in the park at Three O’Clock in the afternoon. Except not as interesting.

Old Rose Was Stupid And Evil

Posted: August 25, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

A Remake Chronicles Extra by Adam-Troy Castro

I don’t hate James Cameron’s TITANIC as much as it’s currently fashionable to — I have problems with it, but among other things, it captures the epic chaos and terror of that night perfectly well, thank you — but I have always despised the final scene where Old Rose hobbles to the railing of the salvage ship and gleefully tosses the necklace into the sea.

This is a fine grand dramatic gesture if you don’t bother to think about it for so much as thirty seconds.

But in fact it’s a profoundly selfish moment, one that makes me want to slap the old woman.

To start with: her entire motive in undertaking the arduous journey back to the North Atlantic, and telling Bill Pullman’s researchers her story, is making sure Leonardo DeCaprio’s Jack is remembered. There is no real record of his existence, no indication that her story is true. She tells the story with such passion that the researchers end up believing her, but others won’t; her possession of the necklace is the ONLY PROOF that she was on the Titanic, and that everything she has said is true. By tossing it over the side she completely destroys any possibility that Jack’s story will be re-told and believed, and that what she sees as his heroism will be remembered by a new generation. A profoundly selfish and self-destructive moment.

Secondly: what about her granddaughter? A robust, attractive woman in her thirties, perhaps forties, who has given up much of her daily life to be her caregiver? Isn’t that, in its own way, just as grand a love story? Doesn’t that deserve a tribute? Wouldn’t it have served her granddaughter to now produce the jewel, hand it over, and request whatever finder’s fee the researchers might be willing to provide, even if it’s only the operating expenses that ship spends on a single day, to set up the granddaughter when old Rose is finally gone?

My logical problem with the last flashback of TITANIC — young Rose finding the necklace in her pocket — has always been that, since her continued possession of it proves that she didn’t sell it, she arrived in America operationally penniless, and without an identity she could reveal, and therefore would have been immediately deported from America as so many TITANIC steerage widows and orphans again. I justify this in my mind by remembering that evil Cal also stuffed the pockets of that coat with bundles of cash, and that she therefore arrived in America as the equivalent of a multi-millionaire in today’s terms, well able to afford the life of adventure we know she had. (I only wish that the movie had re-established the cash as well, to clarify this for viewers who want to know how she avoided ending up on the streets, selling herself.) But that’s ultimately acceptable, as the answer is in the film, just not sufficiently stressed. Tossing the necklace, on the other hand…is stupid and evil.

Available til Sunday: this essay on just why J. Jonah Jameson Can’t Ditch His Hate For Spider-Man.

Feed me, Seymour. Feed Me All Night Long.

The Entire Movie


First Commentary by Adam-Troy Castro

Little Shop Of Horrors (1960). Directed by Roger Corman. Written by Charles B. Griffith. Starring Jonathan Haze, Jackie Joseph, Mel Welles, Dick Miller, and Jack Nicholson. 70 minutes. **

Little Shop Of Horrors (1986). Directed by Frank Oz. Written by Howard Ashman, based on the musical by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, itself based on the original screenplay by Charles B. Griffith. Starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia, Steve Martin, Bill Murray. 94 minutes. ***


Your name is Seymour Krelboyne. You are a born nudnik working a dead-end job in the worst part of town, in an florist’s shop about to go under from lack of customers. But you believe you have the solution: a strange, sickly potted plant with an egg-shaped gourd that somewhat resembles a head. You’ve named it Audrey II, in tribute to your co-worker, a sweet airhead with a knack for mangling the English language. Surely, you tell your abusive boss Gravis Mushnick, putting this discovery on display must be a great way to attract new customers. He is dubious, to say the least. But within minutes of your big unveiling, customers start swarming in, and the future employment seems assured. The only problem is that the plant is carnivorous, malevolent, and so hungry that your gardening hobby soon acquires its own body count.

The original Little Shop Of Horrors, imbedded in its entirety above, was made on a lark, by folks who never expected it to be anything, and who were in fact daring themselves just on general principle to come up with a movie that could be shot on sets built for another movie, on a two-day filming schedule. (It actually took three weeks, if you count the two it took to write the screenplay, the three days the cast spent on rehearsal, and the final two-day frenzied production.)   It was such a surprise success, and object of cult adoration for over the years that followed, that Howard Ashman and Alan Menken used it as the basis for a hit off-Broadway musical, that inevitably brought the story back to Hollywood. 

The 1986 version, made at a budget of approximately 750 times the budget of the original — literally, on such a scale that the moviemakers could have made the original all over again on about the same amount the money the new movie spent on any particular shooting day, before breaking for lunch — is the one that most casual moviemakers know now. Close examination reveals that the new version is, songs and all,  if anything, a smaller-scaled story. But is it a more focused one?

Little Shop of Horrors (1960): Dedicated Weirdness

As often occurs with remakes, the partisans of this version regard the remake with open contempt, treating it as a bastardization of the original work of genius. They call the 1986 version overblown, obvious, and spendthrift of the original’s charms.

One can only wonder if they’ve seen the original lately.

It’s not a bad film (though the wife is – spoiler warning – about to take violent exception to that assertion). In fact, considering the conditions under which is made, it is a surprisingly good film, with clever dialogue, and some remarkably witty character bits. It certainly serves up a lot more incidental weirdness than the 1986 version, providing us in addition to the sadistic dentist and masochistic patient a number of eccentrics that don’t make it to the 1986 film at all. They include Siddie Shiva (Leola Wendorff), a perennial customer who arrives every single day to announce the death of yet another of her poor relatives; Seymour’s crazy hypochondriac mother Winifred (Myrtle Vail), whose mania includes a revolting form of down-home cooking that utilizes patent medicines as food staples; and Burson Fouch (invaluable b-movie veteran Dick Miller), an awfully nice guy who buys up flowers so he can snack on them in the store. There are also a pair of deadpan Homicide detectives, who between them offer an outrageous parody of Jack Webb’s Dragnet that could have been, and in fact eventually was under other hands, a workable premise of a full-length movie all by itself.

”How’s the wife, Frank?”

“Not bad, Joe.”

“Glad to hear it. The kids?”

“Lost one yesterday.”

Lost one, huh? How’d that happen?”

“Playing with matches.”

Well, those’re the breaks.”

“I guess so.”

This is funny stuff now. Audiences in 1960, with Jack Webb’s intonations still in recent memory, would have found it even funnier.

The constant malaprops uttered by both Audrey and Mushnick – neither of whom seem to have ever met a sentence they didn’t have serious trouble crossing intact — are another fine element. And so’s the brief visit from the masochistic dental patient (played by a young pre-stardom Jack Nicholson, who is of course given star billing on every public-domain VHS and DVD pressing of the film). Nicholson had yet to learn most of what he eventually knew about acting, and he was still a hoot and a half as a pervert experiencing heights of sexual arousal while reading a medical journal:   “The patient came to me with a large hole in his abdomen, caused by a fire poker used on him by his wife. He almost bled to death and gangrene had set in. I didn’t give him much of a chance. There were other complications. The man had cancer, tuberculosis, leprosy, and a touch of the grippe. I decided to operate.” Hee hee!

So this is all good. What’s not? Well, to be frank, Jonathan Haze as Seymour, attempting to channel Jerry Lewis and failing miserably. (It’s not funny as intended, in either film, when Seymour trips while running into the store and smashes a bunch of flowerpots while Mushnick rages at his incompetence, but the difference between the first film and the second is that when Rick Moranis gets up, he goes back to being funny, and Haze seems to leave his comic timing in the debris.) The encounter with an insistent prostitute is just plain embarrassing. The plant itself is not nearly as interesting, in that it’s not the voluble chatterbox of the remake but instead a vegetable of few words beyond the insistent, “Feed me!” The plot doesn’t manage to achieve any real comic velocity but instead comes down to a series of strange things happening, until a dull final chase scene that consists of Mushnick and the two cops chasing Seymour around a tire yard. And, finally, there’s ending: a tragic death for Seymour that consists of him deliberately climbing into the plant’s mouth and ends as a bud with his face cries, “I didn’t mean it!”  Today, it gives the impression of being what it likely: a hasty wrap-up by moviemakers who never thought their two-day production would form the basis of an ongoing franchise, and who just did whatever would get them to the title card THE END as soon as possible.

The first film is in short the product of a generous posterity. Its best moments are remembered with fondness, and its worst forgotten or forgiven.


Little Shop of Horrors (1986): A Stage-Bound Epic

According to producer David Geffen, the first director approached for this remake was Martin Scorcese. Think on that a bit. What he might have made of it!

It’s actually fortunate that he didn’t, as the team put together by Frank Oz, in adapting the stage hit, made about as good as movie as anyone could have made from the material.

Part of it involves what novelists call “killing your darlings,” the fine art of jettisoning those favorite bits of business that we might recall with affection but which really don’t do all that much in terms of servicing the story. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, the writers of the musical, had every reason to do this, because any Off-Broadway production lives and dies by narrative economy and therefore can’t survive much in the way of incidental characters who add nothing but oddness. So farewell, alas, to Burson Fouch; we’ll miss you, but you distracted from the stuff we needed to heed. Farewell, Siddie Shiva; we enjoyed your perpetual state of mourning, but it was really only one-joke and you can serve the same purpose as an unseen presence on the other side of a phone.

Most importantly, farewell, Winifred Krelboyne: getting rid of you, and making Seymour an orphan who has lived all his life as Mushnick’s virtual slave, serves several purposes. First, it means we lose that interval when Seymour has to travel across town to get the plant, and return with it; Second, it makes him even more put-upon and therefore sympathetic than he was before; third, it increases the stakes, from Seymour losing a job that wasn’t any good anyway to losing the only home he’s ever had, and then to finding a happiness he’s never known

All of this leaves more room for the character of the sadistic dentist, who is here positioned closer to the concerns of the plot. In the original, he’s just another odd element, incidental to Seymour’s life until Seymour needs a tooth looked at. In the musical, and subsequently in this film, he’s the human Audrey’s ridiculously abusive boyfriend, a guy who really does look to the far from murderous Seymour like one of those people who (as both Seymour and the plant declare in song) might as well become plant food.

This change moves the love story closer to center stage,  increasing our empathy for everybody involved (and making way for one of the funniest Ashman / Menken songs, “Be A Dentist”). Even the appearance of Bill Murray in the masochistic-patient part once played by Jack Nicholson is rendered material; sure, it pops in out of nowhere and leaves just as quickly, but in context it serves as the unsatisfying office visit that stokes the dentist’s rage and prompts him to seize on Seymour as a patient who will react properly to the agony he inflicts.

The increased attention to the Seymour / Audrey I dynamic gave the musical something the original didn’t have: narrative momentum. The original  doesn’t so much build in tension as stagger its way through a series of incidents. The musical makes it a comic race between Seymour getting everything he’s ever wanted, and damning himself beyond redemption. (The fact that in the stage musical and in the original cut of this film, he loses the race, as both he and his girlfriend are eaten, and leave the carnivorous plant to further threaten the world, is immaterial; a disastrous test of that apocalyptic ending led to the happier resolution it enjoys now; and it would be true in either case that it’s the tension being played with.)
Your friendly analysts have seen the stage musical – not the original, but a subsequent revival – and must report that the movie accomplishes things it does not. It is perfectly acceptable, on stage, for a soloist to just stand in one place, and belt out the entirety of a song – that is, assuming that it’s a good song, that it advances the story and illuminates character, and that the performer can sing it. A movie musical where most of the story is conveyed via the songs must do a little bit more, and we happily report that the imaginative staging of the songs in the film give them all significant visual power. “Skid Row,” for instance, is here an epic production number detailing exactly why Seymour’s life sucks and how much he’s aware of it; it places him in a milieu where everybody feels the same way, and motivates him about a hundred times better than anything seen in the original film.

“Be A Dentist” not only tells us that Orin Scrivello is a dirtbag who deserves to die, as the play does, but here shows us (with one eye-popping within-the-mouth shot).Giving the plant the power of song as well as the power of speech (both Levi Stubbs) underlines just how Mephistophelean the deal offered by that mulch-fed maniac is, and why Seymour responds to it as he does. Hell, despite the silliness of the proceedings, this viewer always mists up, badly, during the declaration-of-love song, “Suddenly Seymour.” He honestly cannot help it.

(It helps, of course, that they’re for the most part great songs, and that the greek-chorus narrators have a presence that restores much of the strangeness the removal of so many incidental characters has taken out.)

The set is a marvel: one of the largest New York City sets ever built, taking up much of London’s Pinewood studios, it is clearly not a real place but a fine stylized approximation of one. And the plant is terrific. Just the statistics are impressive: for the various incarnations of Audrey II, fifty thousand fake leaves, eleven miles of cable, design assistance from the Atomic Energy Commission, and fifty puppeteers operating it during the finale. None of this would be even remotely enough if it didn’t actually come off as a living thing, but Audrey II does; he’s malicious, cajoling, self-satisfied, evil AND charming, all at once. If you want to be absolutely terrified, reflect that today, he would almost certainly be rendered by CGI…and imagine just how lame that would inevitably be. 

Some enthusiasts believe it a betrayal of the source material (both prior film and stage show), that Seymour and the human Audrey go on to live their happily-ever-afters, and I’m afraid that’s an argument that can’t be won. It degenerates into, “Yes, It is! No, it’s not!” I can only suggest that if the preview audiences were outraged at the original ending where Seymour and Audrey died, it must be because that by then the couple at the center of the proceedings had such genuine chemistry…and that, by itself, speaks volumes.

Neither Rick Moranis nor Ellen Greene went on to the lasting screen stardom they deserved – in Moranis’s case by choice, as he eventually took some personal time off from acting and realized over time that he didn’t miss it at all; and in Greene’s case because the couple of headlining roles she received on screen afterward didn’t achieve anywhere near the same impact. (Unlike Moranis, she’s still performing, and was prominent as an eccentric aunt in the cult TV series Pushing Daisies.) It remains the best film either one has ever been involved with.
There have been some vague noises about yet another remake, including from one guy who says he wants to go back to the source material and make a straight horror movie. We are not eager to see the result.

The Leaf-Cutting

1960 version, a remarkable achievement on a shoe-string, but one with dead spots that weaken its flashes of genius. 1986 version, a terrific movie musical, that manages human feeling despite the campiness of its story.


And now, the wife plants her own seeds.

Second Commentary by Judi B Castro

Little Shop Of Horrors (1960). Directed by Roger Corman. Written by Charles B. Griffith. Starring Jonathan Haze, Jackie Joseph, Mel Welles, Dick Miller, and Jack Nicholson. 70 minutes. *

Little Shop Of Horrors (1986). Directed by Frank Oz. Written by Howard Ashman, based on the musical by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, itself based on the original screenplay by Charles B. Griffith. Starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia, Steve Martin, Bill Murray. 94 minutes. ***

I was eager to see the 1960 Little Shop of Horrors.  I had heard how this cult classic was completed in a few days, on borrowed sets and less than a full shoestring of a budget.  It was a horror/sci-fi/love story supposedly filled with just the right amount of “black humor” to at least get a chuckle or two.  Supposedly.

Then I watched it.  While I can admire the accomplishment I can not tolerate the horrible anti-semitism throughout.  If was just the caricatured characters, I could shrug it off, but no!  This hatred permeates every moment of film.  The language, the mannerisms the set decorations!  They took one really bad Jewish joke and stretched it to a full hour of pain. Do only Jews populate this particular part of skid row?  I did find myself horrified, but not by the sf/horror alien plant taking over the world, that could have been fun!

Move ahead to 1986.  I’m already a fan of this musical and I can’t wait to see what the film brings out.

This film is fun.  The music is catchy, the characters are mostly likeable, and  Audrey II is amazing!   This film never slows down.  It’s a cannon ball shot towards a heavy magnet.  Even by the CG driven films that can wow me today, these effects still play well.  Audrey II’s movement and lip synch are near perfection, but I expect that from a crew run by Frank Oz(whose puppet Yoda still far excels the CG one)!

Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene are the dufus couple you can cheer for.   The chemistry seems natural and even the singing fits the character moments.  This movie had me on the lookout for both these actors for quite some time after.

Steve Martin’s leather clad, sleaze ball, sadistic dentist is so much fun especially when played off of Bill Murray’s masochistic patient.  And, while Jack Nicholson in the same basic part was one of the few bright spots of the earlier attempt, Mr. Murray’s turn just tweaks it up a notch.

Gone from this version is the yidenglish signage, the spinster jewess with the constantly dying relatives (mass murderer???) and the over eager flower muncher.  None of these are a loss felt deeply and the changes actually lighten the entire tone.

As to the SF/Horror elements.  Well they are played out here as before.  Not actually central but not secondary either.  At its heart this remake is a love story, plain and simple.  Who really needs more than that?





The next Remake Chronicles essay is still coming, and so’s the one after that; in the meantime…

…here’s a little on the upcoming reprint of one of my most acclaimed stories.

Gorillas, Gorillas, Gorillas!

Posted: August 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

Subpar Movie Gorillas.