Monday, February 6, 2012

Horror at 37,000 Feet or is it only 7500?

A few weeks ago, Lance from Kindertrauma mentioned to me that he thought a new movie called 7500 looked an awful lot like the classic 1973 made for TV movie Horror at 37,000 Feet. I know Lance knows his stuff, so my ears instantly perked up (OK, it was my eyes, since he told me in an email) and I was instantly intrigued.

Based on the trailer I saw before The Woman in Black, I would have to agree with Lance's astute observation. They do indeed feel a bit like kindred spirits. Alas, we will all have to wait until August to have all of our questions answered. I'm still excited. Could we be seeing a trend of 70s small screen moving onto the new millennium's big screen?

Watch the trailer here and decide for yourself:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Woman in Black (2012)

The weather was perfectly moody for my trip to the theater on Saturday to catch the Woman in Black. It was as if the TV movie gods were beckoning the same gloomy atmosphere from the 1989 version, and I was pleased as we drove down the long winding roads to the most remote theater in the world. I have said this before, I tend to hate most remakes, but love the idea of a small screen film getting a chance to play with the big boys. So many TVMs are legitimately obscure and deserve a chance to get a little notice. As far as I know, the 1989 version was pretty popular in England but did not fare as well here in the States, where it remains more elusive. It’s still built up a pretty good reputation, thanks to TVM nuts like me who keep spreading the word on our favorite small screen classics. As far as that version goes, it’s a pretty perfect little exercise in atmosphere and tragedy. I figured the new theatrical reboot might Hollywoodize the whole endeavor a bit, but I was ready for a little mainstream injection if it meant some attention would come to the original. As it would turn out, the remake would surpass any hopes I had for it, and I have to say, I simply adored the new Woman in Black.

Again, I’m at a crossroads. I don’t want to say too much because I went into the movie blind (well, I did rewatch the original, but I surpassed any opportunity I had to look into the new one aside from the trailer), and I think the less you know about it, the more fun you will have. Here’s what I will say:

Daniel Radcliffe was perfectly cast as the tragic lead. His sad eyes conveyed so much feeling that dialog was almost not needed. And indeed, he carried the film gracefully just on those emotions.

Much of the film has stayed the same, although there are also several noticeable differences. You will see what I mean when you see it. I think some of the choices they made were fantastic. There was one moment where I said, “Really?!?” but they took what I thought would be something silly and made it work.

The original and this version ooze atmosphere. There are marshes, fog and that creepy Eel Marsh House to keep the goosebumps raised. The set design is amazing and if creepy dolls are your thing, you will not be disappointed.

I loved this movie.

It turns out the new Woman in Black exceeded most expectations and pulled in a good turn at the box office. I hope this encourages the studios to start looking at the small screen for a little creepy inspiration. And I hope everyone tries to get their creep-on in the theater.

And you can read more reviews at Kindertrauma and at Enjoy!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Zalman King (1942 - 2011)

I just read that the iconic erotic filmmaker Zalman King passed away at the age of 70. His best known theatricals were probably Wild Orchid and Two Moon Junction, but I think it was his salacious television series The Red Shoe Diaries that made me fall in love with him. I have never been shy about my love of 90s erotica. Mostly I liked the late night Shannon Tweed stuff because it was fun, but King took the genre to another level with the devastating pilot to Diaries, which starred a then unknown David Duchovny. The film resonated with me, and I found it both beautiful and tragic. A few years ago I wrote a review of it for anther blog, but I thought I'd repost it here today to celebrate King's wonderful work, which I think has been unfairly maligned.

RIP Zalman. I will miss you.

Red Shoe Diaries

Network: Showtime
Original Air Date: May 16th, 1992

I suppose when people look back on Zalman King's erotic Showtime Television series The Red Shoe Diaries, they think of sumptuous women in various tawdry situations. As I remember, it was pretty much erotica for women, with lots of pretty camera shots, fractured stories, heavily sexual dialog and lots and lots of nudity. This is the memory I held for the pilot as well. It could not have been farther from the truth.

Zalman King's most personal film The Red Shoe Diaries is more about love and loss than about getting laid. Bridgette Bako plays the beautiful and successful but emotionally turbulent Alex who falls for Jake (David Duchovny). Their few months together consist of sheer contentment. Both warriors in the work world, their home life is a complete opposite, offering tranquility and togetherness. Bridgette loves Jake but can't seem to love herself. As she writes in her diary, "I am an open book." This statement compels Alex to search out something disastrous yet all of her own. That's when she meets Tom (Billy Wirth). Construction worker and part-time shoe salesman (!), he expertly seduces Alex and invites her to his home the following night. Alex desperately tries to convince Jake to take her out of town but he's unaware of the disaster that lies before them and declines due to a business engagement. It is here that she begins a short but ill-fated affair with Tom. These simple rendezvous aren't enough to fill Tom's craving heart and Alex feels she has no choice but to escape them both.

(The beginning of the end)

Told mostly in flashback, The Red Shoe Diaries is both tragic and thoughtful. Viewed through a vaseline swiped lens, there is sheer beauty to be found in Alex's flowing skirts and red shoes. An achingly sad woman, Alex longs to do the right thing but feels unworthy of true love.

Trust me, as I write this, I can't actually believe I'm saying it. I know this is Zalman King and that his sex films are what help put Red Shoe Diaries on the map. I also know people tend to look at his films as erotic trash consisting of little more than a few breasts and a bit of beefcake, and that makes me sad. Even as a passing fan with only a mild appreciation of his other works (Wild Orchid 2 is good stuff though!), I fear not enough people will find themselves wanting to rent this haunting love story. Maybe I'm getting older and beginning to understand the undercurrents of sexuality better, but I'd also like to think The Red Shoe Diaries has aged like a fine red wine, not just the nostalgia of it. Lush and dark and always easy to swallow (insert dirty joke here!), I'm absolutely astonished that this film hasn't met with a better reception. It's a truly moving film, with an incredible soundtrack. There are some typical 90s erotica bits, like a moment in Alex's voice over when she declares "He made love like he worked on the street - tender as a jackhammer"(!) but this film expertly explores the dichotomy between sex and sexuality and successfully portrays the sadness in a life felt with little worth. The nudity is A+ as well. I would guess that there's maybe one minute of it total, but it belongs to natural women and they are lovely. There's even a sweaty basketball game between Wirth and Duchovny that kept me panting throughout. And yet, when I look back on it, all I think of is the hauntingly romantic scene towards the end when Jake lays next to Alex on the cold bathroom floor. It's these kind of images that great romances are built on.

The Woman in Black (1989)

Network: ITV
Original Air Date: December 24th, 1989

I guess it’s confession time again: I don’t believe in ghosts.

Maybe I should clarify this statement. I don’t not believe in ghosts, but I don’t believe in them either. But there’s even more, while I might or might not believe in ghosts, the supernatural sub-genre often terrifies more than the straight truer to life stuff. I’m not sure why that is, but it probably has something to do with being on the fence of whether or not I should believe that there are unseen forces lurking about me at all times.


Of course, supernatural thrillers can be as supernatural-y as they want but if they aren’t suspenseful or scary, then they are total failures. And there are quite a few of those, I imagine (I'm looking at you Grudge). But look at who gets it right: on the big screen we’ve got classics such as The Haunting and The Changeling (one of my all time favorites). On the small screen we’ve got surefire classics such as Dark Night of the Scarecrow and Don’t Go To Sleep. When these films work, they W-O-R-K… I feel like I should have added a girl after work, but maybe I've been thinking about RuPaul too much.

The Woman in Black is indeed a ghostly classic with enough nightmarish overtones that it has managed to maintain a fairly nice status despite being from another country and somewhat unavailable. Adrian Rawlins is Arthur Kidd, a handsome, happily married solicitor sent to a sleepy town to settle a widow’s estate. Her house is creepily called The Eel Marsh House, and indeed it looks just like you think it will. At the widow’s funeral a woman dressed in all black watches from a distance. She will become an eerie presence in Kidd’s life as he unwraps the mystery surrounding her. And as you can probably guess, some mysteries are better left unsolved.

There’s not too much I can say about The Woman in Black without feeling like I’ve given something away. It’s devastatingly remote, unnerving and tragic. It’s a slow-burn of a film, but it is also not without a couple of terrifying payoffs. Based on Susan Hill’s novel, which I have not read, the adaptation by Nigel Kneale (The Stone Tapes) is ridden with anxiety and sadness, as Kidd struggles with what he has uncovered (or unleashed). The location is also beautifully moody, which only enhances the sense of terror which keeps encroaching upon Kidd.

Did I say I love The Woman in Black? OK, now I have.