Because of all the film-watching I’ve been doing this month, I’ve been neglecting the house a bit. I need to have it clean and tidy before November starts, because I definitely won’t have much time during NaNoWriMo, so sorting it out is going to be this week’s project. I made a good start today, and will have a slightly more fun house job to do tomorrow.
While Geth is out boardgaming tonight, I’m catching up with TV I’ve recorded – which, currently, is the episode of Top of the Pops first shown on 19th April 1984, when they showed the video for Queen’s I Want To Break Free for the first time. It’s fascinating to see how people reacted to it when it first came out!
Today’s earworm playlist:
Danny Wilson – Mary’s Prayer
Duran Duran – I Don’t Want Your Love
Irene Cara – Fame
I’ve not watched House (1986) for a while, though I vaguely remember Geth thinking it was the worst film ever. It was produced by Sean S. Cunningham (creator of Friday the 13th) and directed by Steve Miner (who later directed Halloween H20), which makes it a nice curiosity.
The opening is accompanied by some lovely ’80s spooky synth by Harry Manfredini. Very nice!
We open with a grocery delivery kid coming into the eponymous house to deliver groceries to elderly Elizabeth Hooper. He’s about to leave the groceries by the door, but decides to go upstairs to investigate a strange noise. Just leave the groceries like you were about to do, FFS! Upstairs, the kid finds Elizabeth’s body hanging from the ceiling, and is quickly outside and zooming off on his moped.
At the funeral, Elizabeth’s nephew Roger is being incompetently consoled by some other dude. Roger is a horror author, and at a book signing, we get his backstory: he’s not released any books for a while and is under pressure from his agent and publisher; he’s trying to write a Vietnam War memoir; and he’s divorced from actress Sandy Sinclair. At Roger’s home, we further find out that his son, Jimmy, has gone missing, and that he pretends to have friends over whenever Sandy calls.
After having a nightmare about Jimmy in a jungle, Roger goes to visit his aunt’s house. While being shown around by the estate agent, he has a flashback to when Jimmy disappeared, which happened while the family was visiting the house. There are lots of creepy paintings about, painted by Elizabeth, who believed the house was haunted.
As part of the flashback, we see Roger trying to explain to the police what happened. The detective is played by the same actor (Ronn Carroll) as the policeman who speaks to Alice at the end of Friday the 13th, which is a nice touch!
Roger decides not to sell the house and moves in, settling down to write his Vietnam book. Soon after arriving, he has a vision of Elizabeth, who says the house tricked her and that it ‘knows everything about you’. In the morning, Roger meets the neighbours – a pretty girl jogs by, and next-door neighbour Harold turns out to be a big fan of Roger’s books, which, as we will see, is going to be a bit of a theme.
Roger has a lot of flashbacks to the Vietnam War while writing, as you might expect. While serving, he was apparently friends with a nutter called ‘Big Ben’ who had no fear (and no brains, according to his fellow soldiers), and was constantly running into danger.
That night, at midnight, Roger encounters a monster in the cupboard. Rather than freaking out, he gets the old military fatigues on, rigs up some recording equipment and sets up a rope to open the cupboard again the following night. There’s no monster, but when the clock strikes midnight, he realises it’s time-sensitive, and prepares to open it again. Unfortunately, Harold shows up at exactly the wrong moment, which is also a bit of a theme in this film.
Harold has brought a ‘midnight snack’ for Roger, and at first seems to be quite a good guy, but not a believer in ghosts and monsters. He then steals Roger’s address book (so clearly not a good guy after all) and, rather interferingly, phones Sandy, claiming to be worried about Roger’s mental health. Strangely, she doesn’t question being contacted by a stranger, and says she’ll come to see Roger when she can.
Back in the house, more strange things are happening, with a stuffed fish coming to life and various axes and other sharp tools being telekinetically moved around and thrown at Roger. The next morning, ‘Sandy’ shows up, but turns out to be a monster in disguise, and Roger shoots her. Harold, hearing the gunshot, calls the police and reports a suicide attempt (bit of a leap!). When the sirens start wailing, Roger hides the monster-as-Sandy’s body and starts pretending to polish his shotgun on the porch – but he needn’t have worried, ’cause the cops also turn out to be big fans of his. I think I have new #novelistgoals after watching this film.
Roger ends up having the cops and Harold in for coffee by accident, largely because Harold invites himself, but manages to avoid them finding ‘Sandy’. After a fight sequence with the monster, we get some daft music choices, with a jaunty pop track playing while Roger prepares to bury the body.
The jogging girl from earlier is swimming in the house’s pool, and introduces herself as Tanya. Apparently Elizabeth used to let Tanya swim in the pool whenever she wanted, so she’s just gone ahead and continued doing that without checking with the new owner. Roger, who is distracted by trying not to let her notice the still-moving monster body at his feet, doesn’t seem particularly bothered. Once Tanya’s gone, he dismembers the body and buries the various parts of the monster in different areas of the garden.
More upbeat ’60s pop, with Dedicated To The One I Love playing during the montage of Roger’s preparations for the night’s monster-hunting. Unfortunately, said preparations are interrupted first by Harold’s dog digging up a monster hand from the garden, and then by Tanya showing up with her toddler son Robert, who (a) looks about eighteen months old and, as it’s mid-1986, is therefore the same age as me – high five, Robert, even though you’re clearly just a plot annoyance! – and (b) has the monster hand that the dog dug up attached to his back, leading to a daft farcical sequence where Roger has to chase Robert down, get the hand off him and flush it down the toilet, all without Tanya noticing. Tanya then insists that Roger babysits Robert, despite Roger’s protests. To keep Robert occupied, they watch Sandy’s show on TV, and Robert falls asleep on the sofa. Next time Roger checks on him, though, he’s disappeared, which is probably why it’s not a good idea to leave a kid unguarded in a haunted house.
As expected, the monsters have come out to try and capture Robert, meaning Roger has to fight them off to get him back. Robert seems remarkably unfazed by the whole thing, and eventually Tanya collects him without incident. With the coast clear, Roger brings Harold over for a session of ‘raccoon hunting’. Because the monster, when it appears, obviously doesn’t look anything like a raccoon, Harold is too freaked out to shoot straight with the harpoon Roger has given him. Roger is dragged into the house’s other dimension, and comes across a Vietnam scene with Big Ben lying injured, revealing the source of Roger’s war PTSD – when Ben begged him to kill him to put him out of his misery, Roger couldn’t do it and instead went off to find help, resulting in Ben being captured by the enemy and tortured for weeks before he died.
Roger escapes the other dimension, helps Harold to a sofa where he can sleep, and finds a painting that Elizabeth made of the trapped Jimmy. Realising that Jimmy is trapped somewhere in the other dimension, he smashes the bathroom mirror to find a way in, and uses a rope to lower himself down into the blackness, fighting the cupboard monster as he goes. Eventually, the monster breaks the rope, and Roger lands in a pool of water below. The music at this point is very reminiscent of Friday the 13th, which is understandable given that Harry Manfredini scored both films.
In an unexpectedly straightforward sequence, Roger finds Jimmy in a cage, unlocks it, and they both emerge in the swimming pool. It turns out to have been a creepy skeleton version of Big Ben that took Jimmy in revenge for Roger leaving him to get captured (although given what the vision of Elizabeth said about how ‘the house knows everything about you’, I’m guessing this is just the form the house’s evil force has taken in order to inflict maximum distress on Roger). After fighting Ben for a while, Roger throws him over a cliff that has appeared at the back of the house, but Ben reappears and catches Jimmy. However, Roger realises, somehow, that Ben can’t hurt either him or Jimmy. He grabs Jimmy and blows Ben up with a grenade, setting the house on fire. Harold runs out of his own house (how did he get back there after falling asleep on Roger’s sofa?) and Sandy arrives in a taxi at the same time, both catching sight of the flaming house. Of course, Roger and Jimmy soon emerge from the front door, and there’s a cheesy scene with Jimmy running into his mother’s arms and a freeze-frame on Roger with some ‘Vietnam war film’ victory music playing over the top. Roll credits!
Not a hugely satisfying ending, but the film’s a lot better than I remembered!
I had a really good day today. I got up and got ready to go to the two vintage fairs that were on in Newcastle, then came home and caught up with some more reading, to the relaxing background of Geth playing videogames (he’s currently playing West Of Loathing on our new Switch and also still getting on with Final Fantasy IX on the PS2).
I then watched Doctor Who and the Strictly results, which is fast becoming the only way to spend a Sunday evening. Why can’t autumn last forever?
Today’s earworm playlist:
Elton John – I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues
Soft Cell – Say Hello, Wave Goodbye
Michael Jackson – Thriller
Sarah Brightman and Steve Harley – The Phantom Of The Opera
Michael Jackson – Rock With You
Well, this series is certainly keeping up with good storylines.
The Doctor has been trying to take Graham, Ryan and Yasmin home to 2018 Sheffield, but the TARDIS is not having it, and on the ninth attempt (‘Fourteenth,’ corrects Graham, who’s definitely my favourite of the new companions), it lands them in 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, where the Rosa Parks bus incident is about to go down. The Doctor notices that the TARDIS is detecting artron energy, which means they won’t be leaving any time soon, as she needs to investigate.
Again, the actual alien menace plot of this episode is fairly straightforward. Krasko is an escaped criminal from Stormcage (the prison where River Song was incarcerated during the Matt Smith era), who has decided that everything started going wrong when people started fighting for all that pesky ‘racial equality’ stuff, and has come to 1955 to make sure that the Rosa Parks incident doesn’t happen. Due to a Spike-from-Buffy-esque antiviolence block having been implanted in his brain, he can’t kill Rosa or anyone else, so he’s interfering with events to try and make sure that the circumstances don’t occur that led Rosa to make her bus protest in the first place, kind of like a less competent version of the Meddling Monk. Krasko’s fairly easily beaten, because the Doctor tricks him into destroying his own tools and then Ryan later sends him back into the distant past using Krasko’s own matter disperser, but in all honesty, he’s not the real villain in this episode.
The villainy, instead, is ably provided by the real-life ugly racism of the 1950s Deep South, with plenty of people around town who treat Ryan and Yasmin like scum. It’s well done and is, as intended, an uncomfortable watch. There’s also moments of joy, though – Ryan’s delight at getting to meet Martin Luther King is lovely, and Rosa Parks is characterised and played with a real fire and determination.
With Krasko dispatched, the real challenge for the Doctor and companions is mitigating all his interference, and so it’s that challenge that makes up the tense final sequence of the episode. It’s well plotted and very satisfyingly resolved.
Characterisation-wise, I’m still waiting for more from Yasmin, but Ryan was really well used this episode, and the relationship between him and Graham is developing really nicely. I’m also amazed by how quickly Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor has become part of the furniture in my brain – she’s warm and funny and may in the long run become one of my favourites.
Looks like they finally get back to Sheffield next week, so that’ll be interesting!
Two vintage fairs on in Newcastle today, both kilo sales. I have discovered that kilo sales are my new favourite thing.
I managed to get eight items of clothing for the price I would usually pay for two or three at a vintage fair, so I feel like I got some great bargains today!
I went to Worth The Weight Kilo Sale at the Civic Centre first. I’d managed to get a limited edition free entry ticket when they’d advertised them on Facebook, which meant more money for clothes! I’d intended to stick to lightweight dresses and blouses to try and get my money’s worth, and for the large part I stuck to that plan, but I couldn’t resist one jumper. I do love an ’80s jumper! At £15 per kilo, my 1.4 kilos came in at £21, which is not bad for a jumper, two dresses, and two blouses.
I then headed over to The Vintage Kilo Sale at Northumbria Student Union, which turned out to be the right way round to do things – by the time I got there it was past noon, which meant both discounted entry (£1.50 rather than £3) and discounted stock (£10 per kilo rather than £15!). This meant that I only had to pay £10 for my exactly-a-kilo haul of two dresses and a blouse.
Both fairs had a really good selection of late 20th century vintage (’70s to ’90s, mostly), which meant that my ’80s vintage wardrobe has grown significantly today. I’m already looking forward to when the next kilo sale rolls into town, and will be keeping my eyes peeled on Facebook!
The Wolf Man (1941) is considered to be the third big Universal monster film, even though it wasn’t released until a decade after Dracula and Frankenstein, when there had already been several sequels to those first two films. This makes it even more impressive that the monster captured the imagination so much.
The opening credits show us some clips of the characters, so that we know who’s who. Claude Rains (of The Invisible Man fame) plays Sir John Talbot, while Lon Chaney Jr plays his son Larry. This is slightly bizarre casting, as not only do they look absolutely nothing alike (Chaney is about a foot and a half taller than Rains, for a start), there doesn’t seem to be much between them in age. (There were actually seventeen years between the two actors, but Chaney had not aged well and hence looks nearly as old as his ‘father’!)
Meanwhile, Bela Lugosi plays a gypsy called Bela, which is fairly unoriginal naming. This is quite a minor part, and a fairly big step down from playing the lead in Dracula a decade earlier.
We open with a shot of the dictionary definition of lycanthropy. This isn’t really necessary, as werewolves will be thoroughly explained within the film.
The story opens with Larry Talbot arriving home to his father, Sir John Talbot, at the family country pile in England. Larry has spent the last eighteen years in the US, a plot point that is presumably meant to explain his accent (there are some fairly poor attempts at British accents in this film, but I guess Chaney didn’t fancy being one of them).
Sir John has been building a telescope. Larry has been working for an optical company in California, so is able to fix some minor problems with it. He immediately makes use of the telescope by perving on the girl in the house across the street, which is super creepy now but was apparently fine and dandy in 1941, as it’s presented as nice normal harmless fun for young men to partake in.
The costumes scream early ’40s, placing the film in a setting contemporaneous to its release. This is quite refreshing after the vague faux-Victoriana of all the other old films I’ve been watching during this horrorthon.
Larry goes to the shop below the girl’s house to meet Gwen Conliffe in person, and engages in more creepy flirting, telling her he’s psychic and hence knows what earrings she has in her room upstairs. Gwen’s not having it, thankfully. Larry buys a creepy cane with a wolf head on, causing Gwen to launch into a rhyme about werewolves, and insists on picking her up at eight despite her refusal.
Back at the Talbot house, the cane is shown to be far too short for Larry, unintentionally providing the film with a rare bit of comedy! Sir John, after reciting the werewolf rhyme at the sight of the cane, appears to encourage his son’s interest in Gwen, which is slightly uncomfortable.
At eight, Gwen shows up for the date, despite having refused Larry earlier…but it turns out it’s just because she wants to bring her friend Jenny along, as Jenny wants her fortune told by the gypsies who have just arrived in town.
Jenny recites the same rhyme about the werewolves. Why does everyone in the locality know this rhyme? ‘Everyone knows about werewolves!’ says Gwen, but it’s not explained why.
While Jenny is consulting with Bela, the gypsy fortune teller, Larry and Gwen go for a walk, and Larry confesses to having spied on Gwen with the telescope. Gwen is only marginally annoyed by this revelation, but explains she’s engaged to Frank Andrews, the gameskeeper for the Talbot estate.
Bela has a very ominous reading for Jenny, with lots of accompanying overacting. He sees a pentagram sign appear in her palm, and tells her to run. She does so, but is soon killed by a wolf in the woods. Larry, hearing Jenny’s scream, chases after her and kills the wolf, but not before getting bitten himself. Gwen soon finds the unconscious Larry, and an old gypsy woman comes to their aid. As they arrive back at the Talbot estate, the news comes that Jenny’s been found murdered. Bela is also dead – murdered using Larry’s cane.
In the morning, Larry’s wolf bite has disappeared. Resident police chief constable Montfort and family doctor Dr Lloyd at first seem to be fairly certain that Larry killed Bela, but this is soon forgotten for plot reasons. Larry follows Bela’s hearse to the crypt and looks inside the coffin, but is interrupted by the gypsy woman arguing with the priest, as she wants a traditional gypsy funeral celebration. Larry overhears her speaking some words over the coffin about Bela now being at peace from his suffering.
Gwen is disturbed by Jenny’s death and won’t take her father’s advice to rest. As Gwen sits in the parlour, Jenny’s mother shows up at the shop, and turns out to be a right moralising cow, accompanied by a gaggle of similar-minded women. She has a good go at Mr Conliffe about Gwen being out with a man who’s not her fiancé, and blames Gwen for Jenny’s death. Larry then arrives and gets rid of the women, as he wants to see Gwen. Before they can talk much, Frank shows up, also wanting to see Gwen, and his dog starts barking manically at Larry. Larry correctly realises it’s time to leave.
That evening, everyone in town goes to the gypsy carnival. At the shooting range, Frank challenges Larry to a game, but Larry finds he can’t shoot the wolf image that pops up. Weirdly, Larry is being observed by his father, who’s accompanied by Montfort as usual.
Larry goes to see the gypsy woman. She explains that Bela was a werewolf, and that the wolf Larry killed was Bela in wolf form. Larry doesn’t believe any of it, but the woman gives him a charm to protect him. As Larry leaves the tent, Montfort is shown watching a crowd of gypsy women hurriedly preparing for something.
Gwen is wandering the carnival by herself when Larry finds her, as she and Frank have apparently had a quarrel. Larry gives her the charm, then kisses her, because who cares that she’s engaged to someone else, right? Gwen runs away when they’re interrupted by the gypsy chaos, and Larry then has a weird montage vision of lots of strange images.
Larry gets home and transforms into the Wolf Man, with the transformation effect shown through his feet gradually getting hairier. I guess it was the best they could do in 1941. As a wolf, he kills the graveyard worker Richardson. Dr Lloyd and Montfort find the body, along with some animal tracks leading away from it.
Larry wakes up in different clothes (why did the Wolf Man bother to change clothes?) and finds his wolf bite is now visible, but looks like someone has drawn a star on him in biro. He hides the evidence of the muddy tracks in his bedroom, and shrinks back from the window when he sees Montfort looking at the tracks in the garden.
At the local church, Jenny’s mother is now spreading the rumour that Larry is the murderer. There’s then a slightly unnerving sequence where everyone stares at Larry when he doesn’t sit down in the pews. Instead, he leaves the church building.
Later that morning, Sir John, Montfort, Dr Lloyd and Frank are having a debrief about the wolf killings. Larry comes in and tells the other characters that it’s a werewolf. Frank and Montfort are sceptical and go off to set traps in the woods.
That night, the Wolf Man is caught in one of the traps, but the gypsy woman casts a spell to turn him into Larry again and releases him from the trap before the police dogs can find him. When the estate staff ask him what he’s doing in the woods, he claims to be hunting the wolf too, which is a pretty poor lie seeing as he’s barefoot and disorientated. Nevertheless, they don’t question him, because apparently the son of Sir John Talbot can do whatever he likes.
Larry throws a stone at Gwen’s windowframe to get her to come downstairs, and tells her he’s running away. She wants to come with him (poor Frank! I think he needs a better fiancée), but he sees the pentagram sign in her palm: the sign of the next victim. Larry runs back home, and Sir John tries to ease Larry’s mind by tying him to a chair so he won’t escape. Larry begs his father to take the cane with him when he goes out to the woods, so as to protect himself.
The gypsy woman is out in the woods doling out sensible advice, but nobody listens to her. The Wolf Man inevitably gets out and attacks Gwen, who is looking for Larry; Sir John then beats him to death with the cane, and in front of him, the gypsy woman casts the same spell she did over Bela’s coffin to turn the Wolf Man’s body back into that of Larry. (This is a huge plot hole – Bela turned back from a werewolf into his usual self after he died, because when his body was found, nobody noticed anything out of the ordinary. So why did the gypsy woman need to cast the spell over the coffin? And why does she need to cast the spell now to turn Larry’s werewolf body back into a human one?)
Displaying the same kind of logic he’s been doing all film, Montfort arrives on the scene and declares, ‘The wolf must have attacked her [Gwen] and Larry came to the rescue. I’m sorry, Sir John.’ The End! It’s a bit of an abrupt, confusing ending, so I’m quite interested to see if the sequels provide any further explanation.
Geth and I made the decision not to go to parkrun this morning, because we both needed a full day to unwind. Geth’s been videogaming all day, and I’ve been catching up with reading. It’s been really nice and I feel much better and less harried for it.
It was also nice to watch the main Strictly show tonight. Everyone on it is really good this year!
Today’s earworm playlist:
Duran Duran – Ordinary World
Sarah Brightman and Steve Harley – The Phantom Of The Opera
The Phantom Of The Opera (1925) is the second silent film in this month’s horrorthon. I’m always interested to see what the backing track is on the DVD for these films!
Before we start, though – if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know I can never resist a gratuitous ’80s music video, and when it comes to The Phantom Of The Opera, the Now! ’80s channel has been amply providing recently, with lots of videos made for songs from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical version.
One of the videos they’ve been playing is this super saccharine performance of All I Ask Of You, with Sarah Brightman singing the Christine part (as ever – she also played the role in the stage musical) and Cliff Richard singing the Raoul part. Try not to watch the gross and awkward kiss in the middle of the video. Ewww!
Another one that comes on all the time is the video for the title song, with Sarah Brightman as Christine again and Steve Harley (he of ’70s glam rock fame as frontman of Cockney Rebel) as the Phantom. Apparently he was meant to play the Phantom in the stage musical but got acrimoniously replaced by Michael Crawford. Geth absolutely hates Steve Harley’s performance and won’t stop ranting about it whenever the video comes on!
Um, yeah, so we weren’t meant to be talking about the 1986 musical version, were we? I don’t think the 2004 film of the musical even counts as a horror film. I suppose we should crack on with watching the 1925 version.
The Phantom, in this version, is played by Lon Chaney, not to be confused with his son Lon Chaney Jr who played the Wolf Man and various other characters in the Universal monster movies during the ’30s and ’40s. Chaney Sr pulls off a brilliant performance, and is the best thing about the film.
The backing music on this DVD version is great from the off!
The setting for the story is the Paris Opera House, which was built over mediaeval torture dungeons. Usually in a horror film, I would ask why someone was stupid enough to build over somewhere that’s clearly going to be haunted, but I’m from Edinburgh, where the whole city is basically built over blocked-off medieval plague streets. In crowded European cities, that’s just the way it rolls – when you run out of space you start building on top of yourself.
There’s a pretty scene at the start with lots of ballet dancers on the stage, and appropriate performance music. Meanwhile, a deal is being done in a side room – the Opera House is being sold. The new owners are told about the ghost, but they laugh it off in glorious ’20s silent overacting style.
We’re introduced to the mystery of the cloaked figure in Box Five – apparently seeing his back is so terrifying that the owners run away at first, then find he’s disappeared when they look again.
We then cut to a fairly farcical sequence with about twenty ballet dancers running around the dungeons, frightened of the Phantom, and it’s not very clear what’s going on. ‘The Phantom is up from the cellars again!’ says one. One of them claims he has no nose (and I’m disappointed that nobody makes the classic ‘how does he smell?’ bad joke – maybe it hadn’t yet been invented in 1925), but another rebuts, ‘Yes, he did, it was enormous!’, indicating that the dancers probably haven’t actually seen the Phantom. A suspicious-looking man then appears from the cellars and goes upstairs, to the confusion of the dancers. During this sequence, they all run about in a pack, looking like little girls at play in their party dresses, which is a bit alarming given that they’re meant to be grown women.
The dancers speak to Joseph Buquet, one of the opera stagehands, who’s the only person who’s actually seen the Phantom. He launches into a florid description of holes in a grinning skull, yellow skin etc. – suffice to say the Phantom’s pretty ugly. Buquet also confirms he’s got no nose. Another stagehand tells Buquet off for riling the ghost. Anyway, Buquet shows them where he saw the Phantom, and all the others look terrified and run off, resulting in another few minutes of balletic running. There’s then another farcical bit with the fleeing stagehand accidentally climbing up through a stage trapdoor and getting chased off by some other workers.
Some dramatic music announces the formidable mother of Carlotta, the prima soprano at the Opera House. The Phantom has written to Carlotta, threatening her and expressing desire for Christine Daaé to sing the part of Marguerite in Faust instead. Despite the mother’s assertions that Carlotta won’t be threatened by ghosts, her daughter falls ill on the night – the Phantom apparently has some kind of supernatural power.
I still absolutely love this dynamic soundtrack – during the scene with Christine performing Marguerite, we get a track of operatic singing (I don’t know the opera but I presume the song is indeed from Faust), which is the only voice heard over this silent film.
There’s some mild drama with Philip de Chagny, brother of Comte Raoul de Chagny, suspecting Christine of being unfaithful to Raoul, but this isn’t really followed up. Raoul is not a very exciting love interest, but at least he’s not performed by Cliff Richard in this version. Boringly, he wants to get married straight away; Christine says she wants to stay in the Opera instead, because women couldn’t do both back then. Raoul leaves, and we see that a strange ‘melodious voice’ is speaking to Christine. ‘Tonight, I placed the world at your feet!’
We get another scene with Carlotta’s mother and her signature music. Carlotta is still being threatened, as are the opera owners (‘You will present Faust in a house with a curse on it!’). Neither feel particularly threatened (the mother thinks it must be Christine’s friends), and so Carlotta appears as scheduled. Raoul receives a note from Christine during the performance, telling him not to contact her again.
The ‘curse’ makes itself felt – the stage lighting starts playing up, and the opera house’s giant chandelier falls on the audience, causing panic. Among the confusion, there’s a bizarre faceoff between Raoul and the suspicious-looking man from earlier, where they just stare at each other for a few seconds. Raoul hides in Christine’s room and overhears a conversation between her and the Phantom. Christine goes through a secret mirror passage, which closes before Raoul can see where she went.
The Phantom approaches Christine, wearing a strange featureless mask. Apparently he’s ‘brought her the gift of song’, suggesting that she’s only able to sing so well because he’s cast some sort of spell. Christine seems hypnotised or somesuch, and faints. The Phantom loads her onto a horse that just conveniently happens to be standing there, and leads the horse away.
The Phantom takes Christine to his lair via boat across a hidden black lake, leading to a very pretty shot with her veil trailing in the water. In the lair, he declares his love in a very creepy way, and Christine runs off. She’s confronted by a large coffin in the side room. Apparently the Phantom sleeps in the coffin to remind himself of the sweet, sweet death that will come one day. He’s not a wannabe vampire, more of a proto-goth.
‘You’re the Phantom!’ gasps Christine, who’s apparently a bit slow on the uptake. ‘If I am the Phantom, it is because man’s hatred has made me so…if I shall be saved, it is because your love redeems me!’ claims the Phantom. Apparently his real name is ‘Erik’. This news causes Christine to faint again. I can’t stand these early female film characters!
We then get some pictures of newspaper headlines, which seems to have been a fairly common technique in silent film. ‘Christine Daaé Disappears Following Chandelier Disaster’.
Following a ‘night of vague horrors and tortured dreams’, Christine wakes up to a display of about six pairs of beautiful OMG SHOES! That would totally have won me over. Not so much the bridal veil and dress, which are totally creepy. The Phantom has left her a note, explaining ‘You’re in no peril as long as you don’t touch my mask’.
In comes the Phantom’s creepy organ music, which is the music most iconic to the story as far as I’m concerned! It seems to hypnotise Christine. The Phantom says the piece is Don Juan Triumphant (again, I’m not familiar with that piece of music so I don’t know if the organ music on the soundtrack actually matches this), apparently to signify love being triumphant, but with an ‘undercurrent of warning’. How romantic.
Christine, ignoring the note’s warning, rips the Phantom’s mask off at the dramatic climax of the music! The Phantom’s ‘deformed face’ makeup is brilliant, and was apparently created by Lon Chaney himself, who came from the old theatrical tradition where actors did their own makeup. Contrary to Joseph Buquet’s assertion, he does have a nose. ‘Feast your eyes, glut your soul on my accursed ugliness,’ moans the Phantom, whose dialogue apparently gets even more pretentious when he’s not wearing his mask.
Christine begs to leave, and the Phantom agrees, in order ‘to prove [his] love’. ‘But remember you are mine – mine – and you shall not see your lover again! If you do, it is death to you both!’ Charming guy. The frightened Christine agrees, but immediately breaks her promise by sending a note to Raoul, telling him to meet her at the Bal Masque de l’Opera.
We get a medieval calligraphy caption introducing the setting of the Bal Masque de l’Opera, and the footage for this sequence is colourised in this version, showing the attendees’ pretty costumes. Unfortunately, the Phantom shows up in costume to spoil the party. ‘Beneath your dancing feet are the tombs of tortured men – thus does the Red Death rebuke your merriment,’ he informs the partygoers, cheery as ever.
Christine and Raoul miss this doomy pronouncement, because they’ve escaped to the roof of the Opera House for a private conversation. ‘Are we alone, Raoul?’ asks Christine. Why’s she asking him? Can’t she judge for herself? Anyway, she tells Raoul about the Phantom…who also happens to be on the roof with them, having apparently hotfooted it from the main floor of the building.
Christine explains that the Phantom has put an illness curse on Carlotta again, meaning that Christine will be playing Marguerite the next night. How is the Phantom managing this? He’s clearly not a supernatural being, just a deformed man. Christine and Raoul plan to flee to England as soon as the performance is over. ‘She has betrayed me!’ wails the Phantom to himself. Why is this a surprise? Did he actually think his actions had won her over?
The suspicious-looking man is still creeping around. ‘Not that way, this way,’ he says to Raoul and Christine as they come down from the roof. There’s then a strange scene where a partygoer, who is fencing in costume as a musketeer, recognises the Phantom despite the latter’s costume and immediately faints. Silly, but I’m glad to see it’s not just the women randomly fainting in this film!
The suspicious-looking man comes to speak to the opera house owners. Ah! He turns out to be some kind of detective, and delivers them a letter. The Phantom, or ‘Erik’, is apparently an escaped violent criminal who was previously incarcerated.
Before the performance, Christine tells Raoul that the Phantom knows their plans – she has heard his voice again. She begs Raoul to save her; he’s sure the escape will be straightforward.
Down in the cellars, a hanging body freaks the main stagehand out. ‘Come quick! The strangler’s work again!’ There’s more group running, this time with stagehands instead of ballet dancers, but the body has been moved to the floor – it’s Joseph Buquet, who ‘knew too much about the Phantom’. His brother Simon vows to hunt the Phantom down.
We basically get lots of free tracks from Faust on this soundtrack, with both Christine and Carlotta singing various numbers as Marguerite.
While Christine is onstage, the Phantom grabs and kills one of the owners and appears in his place in the viewing box, causing Christine to scream. Her Marguerite wig is found on the floor in the confusion – she’s gone again. While Raoul is investigating the secret mirror, he’s joined by the detective, who introduces himself as ‘Ledoux of the Secret Police’.
Ledoux tells Raoul that the dungeons are ‘where he [the Phantom] himself was confined during the second revolution’. This throws the setting of the story into doubt. Up until now, due to the the fact that the costumes look very 1890s, I assumed that it was set around the turn of the century. If the ‘second revolution’ – which can apparently refer to either 1792 or 1830 – is within living memory, it must be set earlier, which completely contradicts the costuming.
In the cellars, there are lots of people wandering about. Raoul’s brother Philip is hanging around with a lantern, and some random stagehands are down there too. Ledoux somehow knows that Joseph discovered a trapdoor, which is why he got killed.
The Phantom, as expected, is angry with Christine. ‘You have spurned the spirit that made you great!’ He then launches into a rant that’s so florid I can’t tell whether he’s threatening to rape her or hypnotise her into loving him.
Meanwhile, Raoul and Ledoux fall ten feet down a hole to the cellar below, but they’re both perfectly fine.
‘I am human like other men – I will not be cheated of my happiness!’ rails the Phantom, which is horrifyingly reminiscent of the kind of creeps you get in today’s society who think they’re somehow owed sex and affection from women.
The Phantom overhears Philip, who has found the black lake, shouting for Raoul. The Phantom leaves Christine alone in the lair, wades into the water (ew), and goes snorkelling. Raoul, in another part of the cellar, calls for Christine, and she hears his voice through the wall. Meanwhile, the Phantom overturns Philip’s boat and kills him by drowning (how come nobody in these older films can ever swim?).
Raoul and Ledoux, on the other side of the door to the lair, tell Christine to look for the keys. Unfortunately, before she can find them, the Phantom returns with a campy villain line (‘The callers have departed.’) and returns to his seat at the organ.
Simon Buquet has discovered the Phantom’s hiding place and organises an angry mob of stagehands, so we get a nice ‘flaming torches’ procession going into the Opera House.
The Phantom catches Christine with the keys and then overhears Raoul in the next room. He’s apparently super prepared for such eventualities and turns up the heat, trapping Raoul and Ledoux. We get some great juxtaposition here between the three sequences of the angry mob, Raoul and Ledoux, and Christine and the Phantom, which are all colourised differently.
‘What do you offer for their lives?’ asks the Phantom. Ledoux finds an escape hatch from the overheated room, but the next room’s full of gunpowder. There’s then a weird sequence with some controls shaped like a scorpion and grasshopper, which the Phantom forces Christine to choose between – the scorpion to save Raoul’s life and submit to marriage with the Phantom, and the grasshopper to blow the whole Opera House up. She eventually chooses the scorpion, but it causes the water from the lake to flow into the gunpowder room. Christine begs the Phantom to rescue Raoul and Ledoux from drowning. After he’s done so, the angry mob arrive in the lair.
The Phantom runs off with Christine. Raoul, at first, is too weak to go after them, but after a moment he and Ledoux give chase alongside the angry mob. The Phantom steals Raoul’s waiting carriage, driving off with Christine in the back, but Christine escapes the carriage by jumping out. Before the Phantom can retrieve her, the mob catches up with them and Raoul runs to Christine’s side. We then get a chase through Paris with all its pretty architecture (well, actually through a Hollywood studio set, presumably, but they did Paris quite well).
The Phantom is killed by the mob and thrown in the Seine, and we get the ‘Finis’ screen.
In addition to the original film credits, we also get some credits for this particular version – apparently the soundtrack was done in the ’90s by a Canadian company. They did a really good job!
One sidenote is that I want to read the original book now – I think it would help me to make more sense of the story.
A busy day today. I spent the morning working, then in the afternoon Geth and I went out to the cinema. This evening, Geth set up a new TV and games console, so we’ll be experimenting with that a lot this weekend!
Today’s earworm playlist:
Duran Duran – I Don’t Want Your Love
USA For Africa – We Are The World
So, I just got back from the cinema, where Geth and I spent the afternoon watching Halloween 2018 (2018)!
I’m really glad I got to go see this film on opening day, because I’ve been looking forward to it for months, and it was part of the reason that I decided to do a month-long horror film watchathon this year. It’s the eleventh Halloween film, but it’s the first one since the original where John Carpenter has been involved in creating the story, and so in some ways it’s more of a true sequel than any of the ones that came before it.
In what is now becoming a cosy Halloween series tradition, the continuity is rebooted yet again. Furthermore, unlike theThorncontinuity and the H20continuity, this continuity also decanonises Halloween II. So, to recap:
Laurie Strode now did not get chased around a hospital the night of Hallowe’en 1978 after she’d survived Michael Myers’ first attack. Michael did not kill the staff of that hospital, and Dr Loomis did not set a room on fire, seemingly killing both himself and Michael.
Laurie Strode most definitely did not have a daughter called Jamie in 1981 and then die with Jamie’s father in a car crash in 1987. There was no Thorn cult trying to use Michael and anyone related to him for bizarre rituals.
Laurie Strode did not fake her death in a car crash sometime before 1981, move to California and change her identity to Keri Tate, get married, have a son called John in 1981, get divorced, and become the headmistress of a private boarding school. She also did not get locked in a sanatorium for three years between 1998 and 2001 and then get killed by Michael on 30 October 2001.
Most interestingly of all, Laurie Strode is not the sister of Michael Myers. This is the only sequel other than Halloween III that has not gone with the story of them being brother and sister, and that’s only because Halloween III was a completely different story set in a completely different universe.
Instead, in this continuity, Laurie Strode has remained in Haddonfield for forty years, suffering from PTSD, has been divorced twice, and has a daughter and granddaughter. Michael Myers was captured shortly after doing his disappearing act from the garden of the Doyle house, was taken back to Smith’s Grove sanatorium, and has been held there for the intervening forty years. Dr Loomis passed on his knowledge to another British doctor, Dr Sartain, before he died at an unspecified point in time. Michael, prior to the events of this film, only murdered five people: his sister Judith Myers; an unnamed truck driver during his journey to Haddonfield; and Laurie’s high school friends Annie, Bob, and Lynda.
There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on with this film!
Callback to Halloween: the opening credits are exactly the same as the first film, except that the pumpkin starts off rotten and gradually returns to a fresh state. Creepy!
The film starts off with a couple of British investigative journalists, Aaron and Dana, visiting Smith’s Grove. They’ve been looking at the case (they specialise in shining new light on historical murder cases) and meet up with Dr Sartain, who trained under Dr Loomis and has been Michael’s doctor for many years.
Callback to Halloween 4: Michael is about to be transferred to a different sanatorium (that’s always a good idea!). This is because the state have apparently got bored of studying him, and are planning just to let him rot somewhere for the rest of his life.
Aaron and Dana, who are clearly idiots, have managed to get hold of Michael’s original mask, and when Dr Sartain takes them to meet Michael, Aaron presents it to him, trying to get him to speak. Dr Sartain explains that Michael can speak but just chooses not to. Undeterred, the journalists head off to try and get an interview with Laurie Strode, who has been living in an isolated house for many years. Laurie grants them an interview in exchange for $3,000, but tells them to get lost when they start asking questions about why she lost custody of her young daughter.
We’re introduced to Laurie’s family – daughter Karen, son-in-law Ray and teenage granddaughter Allyson. Allyson wants her grandmother to come to a meal out that the family are having to celebrate Allyson’s success at school and to meet her boyfriend Cameron. Karen claims to have invited Laurie and that Laurie can’t make it, but she’s clearly lying.
We get a lot of sequences of Laurie practising in a makeshift shooting range, showing that she’s been preparing to face Michael again for forty years. Everyone, especially her family, thinks she’s kind of nuts.
Allyson walks to school with her friends, Vicky and Dave, and we get the backstory infodump. Apparently Karen is lying about Laurie being able to come to the meal out because Karen doesn’t like having her around – the reason that Laurie originally lost custody of Karen was because she was bringing her up based on her fear of Michael’s return, training her to shoot guns and so on. Dave has heard that Michael was Laurie’s brother, and Allyson denies this, saying that it was just something people made up to try and explain things. Aside from being a slight fourth wall dig at all the sequel filmmakers who went with the family connection story, I think it’s very interesting that John Carpenter always saw things differently.
At school, Allyson meets up with boyfriend Cameron. He’s okay about coming to the meal that night, but is more excited about the following night, when they’re going to be attending the school Hallowe’en party dressed as Bonnie and Clyde.
Callback to Halloween: Allyson is taking a philosophy class in the exact same classroom as Laurie did in the first film. The classroom hasn’t changed at all and the teacher (voiced by original Lynda actress PJ Soles!) is still talking about fate. We then get Allyson looking outside for the traditional spotting-Michael-outside-the-window, but in this film, it’s not Michael – it’s Laurie watching her from outside.
Back at Smith’s Grove, Michael is offloaded onto an ambulance with a bunch of other patients. Dr Sartain, either heroically or stupidly, gets on the bus with them, because he believes that Michael is his responsibility right up until the moment he’s transferred to a new doctor.
At the family meal out that evening, Cameron is making a good impression on Allyson’s dad Ray, but Laurie arrives late, having driven to Smith’s Grove to watch the bus leave the sanatorium. This has really shaken her, and she starts crying at the dinner table, causing general awkwardness. I really love the characterisation and dynamics between the family – they’re all sympathetic, and you can understand everyone’s point of view.
On a quiet road, a kid and his dad have to stop the car suddenly, because the bus from Smith’s Grove has crashed (who didn’t see that coming?). The dad goes off to investigate and is never seen again (the first of many offscreen deaths in this film). The kid, after calling the police, gets out of the car with a shotgun, goes to investigate the bus, accidentally shoots Dr Sartain (who has survived the crash), panics, runs back to the car, and gets killed by Michael, who’s waiting in the backseat. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a young character (the kid looks about eleven or twelve) get killed in a slasher before! The police find the bus crash scene, and Dr Sartain turns out to be alive, mumbling about someone having escaped.
The next morning, at the Haddonfield graveyard, the journalists are being shown Judith Myers’ gravestone. Aaron, who is definitely the more unlikeable out of the two (though I won’t miss either of them when they inevitably get killed), sits on the grave and starts going through all the gory details of Judith’s murder, to the graveyard keeper’s obvious distaste. We get the original footage of the killing from the first film, which is a nice touch (and means Sandy Johnson, who played Judith in the 1978 film, gets a credit at the end!).
Dr Sartain is now in the hospital, still alive and mumbling. The main police officer in this film is Frank, an older officer who is said to have been the first on the scene when Michael was recaptured in 1978. There is also a comedy relief sheriff in a comedy sheriff’s hat, but frankly, his only job in this film is to crack wise – it’s Frank who basically fills the Brackett role.
The journalists stop at a petrol station, taking the opportunity to confuse the American staff by using terms like ‘shop’ and ‘loo’. Michael’s original mask is shown prominently in the boot of the car, so we know what’s about to go down.
Callback to Halloween H20: Dana sits in a toilet stall, and it’s shot very similarly to the scene with the mother and child from the 1998 film.
As expected, the journos aren’t long for this world. Michael attacks Dana in the stalls first, then when Aaron, who has just gone through a quick round of find-the-body with the petrol station staff, comes to rescue her, Michael kills him and finishes off Dana by strangling her. The police find the scene, and Dr Sartain shows up, apparently feeling much better. The story soon makes the news, and Laurie sees it on TV. Rather than freaking out, she just calmly starts making preparations.
At the high school Hallowe’en party, Allyson is enjoying herself – calling Vicky (who’s babysitting and can’t come to the party) to make post-party weed-smoking plans – until she catches Cameron kissing another girl. He’s drunk, and angrily throws Allyson’s phone into a bowl of custard, which is a great and highly original way of getting rid of the convenience of a mobile phone (I’m so sick of 21st century horror film characters being ‘out of battery’ or ‘out of reception’!). After this scene, Cameron is never seen again – I’m disappointed that we don’t see him die horribly, seeing as he turned out to be a dick, but at the same time I actually love the ballsy move of having a character in the film whose whole purpose is to remove the ability for the final girl to phone people! Allyson leaves the party in disgust, accompanied by her friend Oscar.
Callback to Halloween II/Halloween 4/Halloween 5: Michael is wandering about, killing randoms in Haddonfield. He needs to steal a knife from an old lady’s chopping board, just like in Halloween II, but in order to do so he kills her in a scene that is shot identically to a killing in either Halloween 4 or Halloween 5 (I forget which – I’ll have to watch them again to check when I’m not so Halloween-ed out!)
Callback to Halloween III: some of the kids trick-or-treating around Haddonfield are wearing the Silver Shamrock masks, which is an absolutely beautiful touch. I spotted them straight away, but it was nice to have it confirmed during the credits!
Allyson’s friend Vicky is babysitting a kid called Julian, who is the best character in the whole film. The relationship between the two of them is teasing and lovely – it’s basically the New Laurie and New Tommy relationship from Rob Zombie’s Halloween done right. Unfortunately, once Julian’s been put to bed, Vicky’s boyfriend Dave shows up and the making out and weed-smoking commence, which always means Michael’s not very far away. The two teenagers are soon killed (Dave’s death is offscreen, curiously), ready for the bodies to be found by Officer Frank, who is prowling around nearby looking for Michael.
Laurie has had the same idea, and she and Frank soon bump into each other, nearly accidentally shooting each other in the process. Frank introduces Laurie to Dr Sartain, leading to another fourth-wall-breaking moment: ‘You’re the new Loomis,’ says Laurie, even though we know perfectly well that nobody could ever fill Donald Pleasence’s shoes.
Oscar leads Allyson through what is apparently a shortcut to Vicky’s house, but it turns out he has ulterior motives: assuming that Cameron’s out of the picture, he tries to kiss Allyson. She reacts angrily, ’cause he’s a creep, and storms off, meaning that Oscar is easy pickings for Michael. Hearing him scream, Allyson runs back, only to find his bloodied corpse. So begins the final sequence!
Laurie, Karen and Ray, having failed to get in touch with Allyson due to her phone being awesomely taken out of action earlier, hole up in Laurie’s fortress of a house in the expectation that Michael will show up. Allyson, meanwhile, gets found and picked up by Frank and Dr Sartain, and the three of them drive off in the police car. When they see Michael in the road, Frank runs him over, but is then killed by Dr Sartain, who turns out to be crazier than his patients, and wants to keep Michael alive for further study. He puts the unconscious Michael in the backseat next to Allyson, and starts driving to Laurie’s house.
Outside Laurie’s house, we get some classic Haddonfield incompetent cops keeping guard in a police car outside, having an inane conversation about sandwiches. Dr Sartain stops nearby, and the cops spot the car and try to radio the driver. Michael wakes up and kills Dr Sartain, the latter still imploring him to say something. The comedy cops are also quickly dispatched, and Allyson manages to escape into the woods in the confusion.
At Laurie’s house, she equips her daughter and son-in-law with guns. Unfortunately, while Laurie and Karen are having a heart-to-heart upstairs, Ray goes outside to investigate the police car, finds the dead cops, and is soon killed himself.
Laurie shuts Karen in the hidden cellar and prowls the house, looking for Michael. This is a good tense sequence, as it takes ages for him to show up. When he finally does, he and Laurie fight for a bit before he throws her off a balcony.
Callback to Halloween: Michael sees Laurie’s unmoving body on the grass below the balcony, then looks away for a second. When he looks back, she’s gone. This is the reverse of the classic cliffhanger at the end of the first film.
Allyson shows up at Laurie’s house after running through the woods for a bit (there was a scene with her doing so about five minutes prior to this, but there was no real tension to it, because we knew that Michael was in Laurie’s house at the time). She calls out to her mother and grandmother. Karen hears her from the cellar, as does Michael from upstairs, and Karen has to come out and hurry Allyson into the cellar before Michael comes down. It looks for a moment as if they’ve managed to get away with it, but Michael soon realises what’s under the kitchen island, and manages to rip the island from the floor, exposing the cellar entrance.
In what is a really nice scene, Karen, readying her childhood shotgun, tricks Michael into confronting her by pretending to be too scared to use the gun and calling for her mother. As she shoots him, Laurie appears at the door, and then there’s quite a cool sequence where the three generations of Strode women manhandle Michael into the cellar, Allyson stabbing him to get him to let go of her mother, and trap him there, the cellar becoming a cage. Laurie then turns on the gas and sets fire to the house, kind of like the end of Halloween II on acid.
Allyson flags down the nearest driver, and the three of them escape, with the camera coming to rest on Allyson’s bloody knife. Roll credits on what is definitely the best Halloween film since the original! Having watched every single film in a short space of time, this Halloween fan will be very happy if that turns out to be the last film ever made in the series, because it ends the story beautifully.
(A quick Scream rules sidenote: I was relieved after Rob Zombie’s Halloween II that nobody said ‘I’ll be right back’ in this film, but there were an awful lot of instances of ‘Who’s there?’!)
A couple of behind-the-scenes notes from the credits:
This is the second film in the series that has a dedication to original producer Moustapha Akkad, meaning he joins Donald Pleasence in being doubly memorialised.
Michael is played in his Shape form by James Jude Courtney and, fan-pleasingly, in one scene with Jamie Lee Curtis by original Shape Nick Castle. When he’s not wearing his mask, he’s played by Tony Moran, just like in the original film!
Jamie Lee Curtis, who served as executive producer in addition to playing the lead, was really hands-on with this film – she apparently helped Carpenter with writing songs for the film and all sorts! It’s really nice to see that this project meant so much to her.
Obviously, that’s me done with Halloween movies now. We’ll be watching other stuff for the rest of the month, starting with another very old film tomorrow.