The Fog (1980) a (incredibly) belated review

Before you ask: No, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen the original 1980 John Carpenter directed film (The Fog would be remade, to much derision, in 2005…I haven’t seen that version as of yet).  However, in watching the new Shout Factory Blu Ray release, it might as well be the first time I’ve ever seen the film.

The sound and images are that good.

The first (and I believe only) time I ever saw The Fog was in the early 1980’s and probably via VHS tape.  Back then the idea of “letterboxing” images was years away and, therefore, I saw a cut down view of the film.  I also recall the image quality was pretty dreadful.  In fact, if you check out the extras on the Shout Factory release and click on the old promo made for the film (Tales From the Mist), in the opening minute you’ll basically see the type of image I saw way back when.  Needless to say, count me among those who was delighted with the new, most excellent presentation.

As far as the movie itself, I recall liking -but not lovingThe Fog.  Now, with this pristine presentation and the proper widescreen view, would I enjoy the film more?  Or has time dulled whatever horror edge the film once had?

Happily, the answer is a resounding “no”.

I’m a fan of many of John Carpenter’s films.  I absolutely love Assault on Precinct 13.  I also love Escape From New York, The Thing, and Big Trouble In Little China.  While slasher films aren’t generally my cup of tea, I also enjoyed Halloween.

It was after the incredible success of the original Halloween that Mr. Carpenter was asked to follow it up with another horror film.  He wound up making The Fog but, unlike Halloween, theatrical success was mild, if not outright disappointing.  Nonetheless, there are those who feel The Fog is a far better overall accomplishment than Halloween.

Is it?  I suppose it depends on what you look for in horror.  While Halloween falls in the “slasher” category of horror, The Fog belongs in the more cerebral wing.  It is a slow burn film with almost no “gory” elements.  In some ways, it reminded me in tone to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining or The Haunting.

In The Fog you have an old fashioned (even for its original release date!) ghost story set in a sleepy Californian fishing town of San Antonio Bay.  The town is on the verge of celebrating its one hundredth anniversary.  On the day before the event, strange things start to occur, and Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) discovers a hidden journal in his church walls, one written by his distant relative and one of six founders of San Antonio Bay.

The journal reveals the town’s six founding members made an agreement with a band of unfortunates suffering from leprosy to allow them a share of their land to live in.  The agreement, however, was a trick.  The six founders didn’t want the lepers…they wanted to steal their leader’s money.

During a heavy fog, the lepers approached the town in their ship.  The six townspeople lured them into rocks with a phony guiding light and the ship sank with all aboard.  Afterwards, the six conspirators picked up the gold and that was that…

…Until one hundred years later when the fog returns and, with it, the spirits of the dead.

Including the role of Father Malone, The Fog features five main characters.  Adrienne Barbeau is Stevie Wayne, owner and disc jockey of the town’s local radio station.  Jamie Lee Curtis is Elizabeth Solley, a free spirited hitchhiker who happens to come into town at the wrong time.  Her real life mother, Janet Leigh, is Kathy Williams, the town’s mayor.  Finally, you have Tom Atkins as Nick Castle, a local who picks Elizabeth up (in all senses of the word).

If the film stumbles in any way, it is the sudden -and a little hard to swallow- attraction between the very young Jamie Lee Curtis and the far older Tom Atkins’ character.  Even in the wild world of movie fantasy, that couple never really looked right, at least IMHO.

Still, this is only one small element and in no way torpedoes the rest of the film.  What makes The Fog work is the sustained eerie atmosphere (no pun intended) John Carpenter and company build around the coming, and eventual arrival, of the evil fog and its ghostly -and revenge seeking!- inhabitants.

In conclusion, The Fog is a great film and certainly one worth revisiting.

12 Movies that are just as good as the books they are based on…

…at least according to The Huffington Post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/26/movie-book_n_3989541.html

Whenever a discussion is offered regarding movies that are as good as (or better) than the books they are based on, there always two that always appear:  The Godfather and Jaws.

I suspect this is the case because while both books were very popular, there are few who consider them “classics” in the literary sense…while both films are clearly considered classics in their medium (and there are those who feel The Godfather is the single best film ever made!).

Moving beyond those two, I’m among those who feels that The Shining is a far, far better film versus the novel.  That’s not to say that I feel the novel is “bad”, it certainly isn’t…but to me the film managed to hit this creepy little switch in your brain that almost no other horror films have been able to do.  The Shining is an immersive work, one that guides you into its terror from the opening frame and keeps you there, admiring its beauty while knowing there is a jet black heart beating below its surface.

Think I’ll give it another look real soon! 😉

13 quirky, game-changing innovations for 2013

Fascinating list by Kevin Joseph for Slate magazine featuring the above.  Perhaps my favorite is the first, involving Staples and 3D printing, though I suspect it won’t be terribly long before we all have 3D printers of some type in our homes…

Still, a great list and some very interesting ideas to be found within.  Give it a look!

http://roadshow.slate.com/13-quirky-game-changing-innovations-for-2013/

New Abraham Lincoln photograph…?

Heard about this a couple of days ago.  Christopher Oakley, a scholar and former Disney animator, was looking at this panoramic photograph of the Gettysburg visit by Abraham Lincoln and various dignitaries:

lincoln

When he zoomed in on the crowds and looked around, he found spotted the “distinctive hawk-like profile of William H. Steward, Lincoln’s secretary of state”.  Knowing President Lincoln was known to be close by his secretary of state during this visit, he found this:

lincoln

Blurry?  Certainly.  Barely visible?  Yes.  But at the same time, clearly distinguishable.  Congratulations, Mr. Oakley!

For the full article (including a video!), you can click here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/25/new-abraham-lincoln-photo_n_3988659.html

The Philadelphia Experiment (2012) a (mildly) belated review

As you get older, you’re sometimes surprised to see remakes of films you enjoyed in your youth.  Especially films that might be, for the most part, forgotten by many.

Back in 1984, Michael Pare and Nancy Allen starred in The Philadelphia Experiment, a sci-fi romance involving a top secret experiment conducted on a battleship during World War II.  The experiment attempted to create an invisibility cloak around the battleship but instead sent it into the “present” of 1984, where Pare’s time-traveling sailor goes on the run avoiding shadowy government types while romancing Nancy Allen’s character.

It has been many, many years since I’ve seen this 1984 film but I recall having positive feelings about it.  Then, much to my surprise, I found The Philadelphia Experiment was remade and shown on the SyFy network last year!

So, is it worth your while?

If you’re a fan of the original film like I am, you’ll be curious enough to give it a try.  If you do, you may find some good here…though there is plenty of bad as well.

On the plus side, this film does more than simply re-shoot the original film’s script.  There are new ideas presented and while some don’t work very well there are interesting bits here and there.  I especially liked the idea of the WWII battleship appearing in different locations and causing some big problems.

There’s also some fun in seeing Michael Pare appear in this remake, though his character is far from the “hero” of the piece.

BUT…

This is a SyFy original movie and if you’re familiar at all with SyFy original movies, then you know they share one thing in common:  Their budgets are one very small step above being non-existent.  This should be pretty evident in the “special” effects found in the trailer above.  In a movie like this one, which features some pretty crazy things the audience has to accept as happening, you need effects that at the very least look plausible.  There isn’t any “big” effect in the film that doesn’t look like what it is: A cheap computer graphic.

Secondly, and concurrently, the movie’s script is very ambitious and attempts to create a sense of world-wide threat.  Yet in total we have only about eight or so major characters (including a small cameo by Malcolm McDowell…perhaps that’s where the bulk of the budget went!), which again makes one realize this is a film made on a micro-mini-budget.

In the end, I can’t recommend 2012’s The Philadelphia Experiment except to those, like me, who have some nostalgia toward the original and are curious to see this new iteration.  This is a no-budget film with some genuinely clumsy effects and at times amateurish direction (check out the way our heroes get past a military roadblock…its a real howler).

Too bad.  With a more decent budget, this could have been a far better film.

Jack the Ripper mystery solved…?

Wouldn’t hold my breath here, but we have another individual -in this case retired homicide detective Trevor Marriott- presenting his evidence for the identity of Jack the Ripper…

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/24/jack-the-ripper-solved-investigation-german-sailor_n_3981837.html

It seems every year or three another person comes forward with what they believe is iron-clad, indisputable evidence to who Jack the Ripper was…and we’re often given intriguing bits and pieces of information which never quite add up to as solid a case as we would have hoped…

And I keep reading the theories anyway! 😉

The fact is that the Jack the Ripper case is intriguing as hell and it shouldn’t be a surprise so many people have given it a look (and offered their theory).  Mr. Marriott’s theory is just as good as any of the others, and far more plausible than those implicating assorted figures within England’s Royal sphere, yet the same problem plagues this theory as the others:  1) So much time has passed and all the witnesses and/or suspects to these events are long gone, 2) There is simply very little actual physical evidence to be found, and 3) What evidence there is was collected by a police force that was operating on a level that was primitive by today’s standards.

I’ve noted before that I believe Jack the Ripper was probably someone like Mr. Marriott’s suspect Carl Feigenbaum.  A person with a deep, disturbing level of psychosis who probably came into London from outside (either that or his “work” was done with more finesse before this), did his nasty business, and either left the London area immediately afterwards or was killed or died naturally sometime shortly after the last victim was found.

Other than that, we’ll probably never know….

…which doesn’t mean it isn’t intriguing to offer guesses!

Mysterious plane found in lake…

Discovered this report on CNN.com…a fascinating piece:

My guess as to the who/what about the plane relates to what was implied in the report itself:  That the aircraft might have been part of a drug running group and was lost and never reported as such, which explains how an aircraft can be found on the bottom of this lake without any report of missing planes in the vicinity.

Still, love the sonar images…so tantalizing!

Gone too soon…

A while back I posted an entry regarding the last (and often least) final works of some famous actors (you can read this here).  What follows below is a sobering list of actors who died while filming either a TV show or movie:

http://madamenoire.com/287846/gone-too-soon-actors-who-died-while-filming-a-movie-or-tv-show/

Coincidentally enough, a couple of days ago I reviewed the 1940 Tyrone Power film The Mark of Zorro (read this here).  His death could easily have made the above list as he died of a heart attack in the middle of filming Solomon and Sheba.  Mr. Power had the lead role and, it was reported afterwards, had filmed almost the entire feature before his untimely death.

I read that because the studio stood to gain insurance money from their star’s death and his inability to complete the film, his final work was essentially hidden away and/or destroyed.  Yul Brynner took over Mr. Power’s role and the film was “remade” with him in the lead.  However, Tyrone Power can supposedly still be seen in the movie’s crowd scenes…an eerie reminder of what might have been.

Are Jetpacks finally here…?

Is our Jetpack future finally here?  Check it out for yourself:

7000 feet up and a speed of 50 mph?!

Count me out.

I have enough problems standing on the balcony of a tall building looking down at the ground below, so the idea of trusting my life on something gas powered and strapped to my back…something that could malfunction and stop (then what?!)…

Well, as I said, not for me, thank you, though I have to admit it is a cool device!