Friday, October 23, 2009

October 23

Whew! Was that a long intermission/snack bar/bathroom break or what?
Now that I took care of both Number One and Number Two needs- soda and popcorn -ready to continue the snow, er ah, show.
Submitted for your approval, the great auteur Brian DePalma's arguably (hey, why is everything "arguably", I argue) 1974 masterpiece, "The Phantom Of The Paradise".
What? Surely you jest, you've heard of it much less seen it? Where have you been?
Okay here's the scoop- when I was in high school, freshman year, used to go to the Harrison Public Library to not just do research for book reports but check out the pretty girls and also fool around, and we used to bring comic books and monster magazines to read besides the required scholastic stuff.
One mag, don't know whether it was "Famous Monsters Of Finland"(sic?)- yeah that Reptilicus puppet was also on The Monkees; Go Reptilicus, go! -or "Castle Of Frankenstein" by that inspiration Calvin T. Beck, whose life with his Mom and geeky lifestyle- "Monsters" -were noted by noted writer Robert Bloch and later incorporated as part of "Norman Bates" in his story for Hitchcock, "Psycho".
Yeah, it's true. Cal Beck (rhymes with "Cal Tech") was a nerdy guy who lived with his dominating, overbearing Mom on Palisade Avenue in North Bergen, NJ, and was of of the original "fanboys" who used to circulate, converse, and otherwise hobknob with all the other similar like-minded individuals who attended the seminal SF, never "SCi-Fi" conventions- only outsiders and "off-worlds" ever referred to it as such, although "Such Conventions" didn't quite have that ring to it you know?
All kiddin' aside, "SCi-Fi" was an invention of one Forrest J. Ackerman, who coined it it the 1950s as a shorthand name for Science Fiction, no doubt influenced by the new term "Hi-Fi" aka High Fidelity; interesting to note that within a year after "Uncle Forry's" departure the "SCi-Fi Channel" further confused everybody by relaunching itself as the text-friendly, some would say gay, "SyFy", which looks like an high tech venereal disease.
Getting back: so I have this B&W mag and it has like a upcoming, or up & coming section where they leak press releases for future forthcoming features, and my 15 year old eyes see this tiny sentence about the "Phantom Of The Fillmore", a modern retelling of the old "Phantom Of The Opera" tale.
This was 1971-72 and the cinematic trend- both movies and TV -was to con temporise the old themes for MODern, "happening", "NOW" audiences; Hammer Films which made excellent versions of the classic monsters in the late 1950s and mid '60s, with lots of (for that time) "blood and gore"- blood a bright almost fluorescent orange -and "sex", mostly busty female vampires with ample cleavage and filmy, flimsy garb- all in Technicolor -which made the earlier '30s & '40s Universal Monsters look pale, weak, anemic-flaccid -and camp by comparison.
But Hammer was running out of momentum and the initial inertia that the rave successes of its two main monsters, "Dracula", and the "Frankenstein" franchise were soon losing steam.
In fact the Hammer "Frankenstein"'s were about Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein, played by Peter Cushing, and dealt with his mis-adventures of trying to perfect his methods of resuscitating the dead, not about the "monster".
Well, Hammer tried to breathe new life into an old series when they replaced the entire cast of stock players and Cushing too in 1970's "Horror Of Frankenstein", a remake/reimagining of the 1957 "Curse Of Frankenstein", but with Ralph Bates as the good(?) Dr. , Jon Finch as the Inspector, and David Prowse as the "creature"; played more for gallows-humor than outright horror, and with a sprinkling of nudity it died at the box-office.
The filmmakers decided that a "hip" cast for a "hip" audience wasn't enough, as "Horror Of Frankenstein" was still a costume period piece set in the 18th or 19th Century, so the next project would also involve some sort of plot development or device to set the action and characters in a contemporary setting.
This of course was nothing new, as TV's "Dark Shadows" was doing this since 1966, but really didn't get its groove on until Barnabas Collins appeared on the scene a year or so later.
The ratings for the Gothic daytime soap were stratospheric, a fact that wasn't lost on ABC-TV execs, so they agreed to fund an upcoming Dan Curtis made-for-TV movie: "The Night Stalker".

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