Tag: Thriller

September 4, 2008 / / Film Notes

Rear Window – 1954 – dir. Alfred Hitchcock

If you have seen Rear Window before, you already know the treat that lies ahead and if you haven’t, well then we envy you; you are in for viewing one of the few masterpieces cinema ever produced.

Made by the great Alfred Hitchcock in 1954, this thriller is jam-packed with multi-layered stories, tensions and performances, all meticulously executed by the master. In the hands of most directors, it might have been an unholy mess but Hitchcock superbly pieces it together like a clockmaker putting together a Swiss watch from scratch.

September 4, 2008 / / Film Notes

Vertigo – 1959 – dir. Alfred Hitchcock

Upon its release in 1958, Vertigo was neither a critical nor a popular success. It was, in fact, a bomb. Small wonder; it tackled taboo themes not discussed in the sanctity of people’s homes much less on the silver screen: sexual obsession, reincarnation, mental illness, dark desires. Today, it is regarded not only as Alfred Hitchcock’s finest film but also one of the best films ever made.

August 12, 2008 / / Film Notes

By KJ Hamilton

Halloween – 1978 – dir. John Carpenter

It’s the story of a small-town girl Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) who is terrorized by Evil Incarnate, as Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) explains:  “I spent eight years trying to reach him and another seven trying to keep him locked away when I realized what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely, simply evil.”  The boy is Michael Meyers.  When he was six years old, he stabbed his sister Judith to death—on Halloween night. Michael was then institutionalized, and the Meyers’ home in rural Haddonfield, Illinois, became an icon of fright.

July 14, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Julie Lavelleinvasion of the body snatchers

Invasion of the Body Snatchers – 1956 – dir. Don Siegel

Don Siegel’s 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers has prompted countless debates over its political message: is it anti-McCarthyism or anti-communist? Although the iconic invasion narrative gives the plot cohesion, the film is most interesting for its bleak envisioning of a post-World War II America filled with broken promises, mental instability, and general uneasiness–a world in which anxiety rules and love can’t save the day.

July 8, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Kris Tronerudfearless vampire killers

The Fearless Vampire Killers (aka Dance of The Vampires) • 1967 • dir. Roman Polanski – Original Theatrical Trailer

Someone’s heart is beating around in their bosom… pitter pat… pitter pat… like a rat in a cage…
— Iain Quarrier to Roman Polanski in The Fearless Vampire Killers

From the beginning of the long and winding road that has been the film career of Roman Polanski, the Polish-born director’s films have been judged not only by their often considerable merit, but as a kind of post facto barometer of his tragedy-haunted, scandal ridden life. The corrosive alienation and jaundiced world view of his early successes Knife in the Water (1962), Repulsion (1965) and Cul-de-Sac (1966) taken as a reflection of his being left alone to escape the horrors of the Warsaw Ghetto and survive the war in the Polish countryside at the tender age of nine; the pessimistic, paranoid (and brilliant) Rosemary’s Baby of the fears of a successful young director dependant on strangers in a foreign environment; the brutal, feral violence of Macbeth redolent of the horrific murder of his wife, unborn baby and 4 friends at the hands of the Manson family; with his whole post-exile career seen as a long string of reflections on personal morality, corruption, and the terrible difficulty of human relationships in general, and a string of artistic missteps and/or commercial failures viewed as some sort of karmic/filmic comeuppance. All this ephemera has been, happily, put to rest with the commercial and critical success of the Oscar/Cannes Prize-winning The Pianist and the presumably healing effect of the 2008 documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired; a good time, perhaps, to revisit the one Polanski film that can truly be enjoyed completely on its own, the light-hearted and baggage-free The Fearless Vampire Killers, an affectionate, charming homage to the Golden Age of Gothic Cinema in general, and 60’s Hammer vampire films in particular.

July 2, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Kris Tronerudblade runner

Blade Runner – 1982- dir. Ridley Scott – Official Trailer

All these moments will be lost… in time… like tears in the rain…
— Rutger Hauer to Harrison Ford in Blade Runner

When Blade Runner was finally released in 1982, after a long, arduous and grueling production history, marked by equal measures of technical difficulty and personal turmoil, it met with a decisively lukewarm reception from a confused and disappointed public. In the wake of Harrison’s Ford’s sudden rise to stardom in Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, adoring new fans expected to see ‘Indiana’ in another riproaring, uplifting sci-fi epic. What they got was a dark and dystopian dreamscape of a movie, a violent futurist nightmare with the heart of a classic private eye noir, and a lot more on its mind than explosions and derring-do. Additionally saddled with a lugubrious studio endorsed faux Raymond Chandler narration (which Ford purposely read in as expressionless a manner as possible, hoping the studio would drop it) and a mawkish ‘happy’ ending based on unused footage from, of all things, The Shining, Blade Runner was doomed in its initial run; but over the years, a number of different cuts of the film appeared on tape, laser disc, and in festival showings (a total of seven discrete versions, according to Paul Sammon’s terrific essay “The Seven Faces of Blade Runner“) provoking continued fan interest and debate, and with the release in 1992 of the Official Director’s Cut, this emotionally charged, visually resplendent film was, finally, properly acknowledged as Ridley Scott’s masterwork, and quite arguably, the best science fiction film of all time.

May 20, 2008 / / Film Notes

No Country for Old Men – dir. Joel and Ethan Coen – 2007 – Theatrical Trailer no country

By KJ Hamilton

Would you risk everything for money? It is more than risking all of your winnings in trade for what’s behind Door Number Two. This is your life in exchange for money. What are you worth? It’s said that every man has his price. For this film, the price is $2 million. Vietnam veteran Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) is an average Joe who served two tours of duty. He’s married and lives in a doublewide mobile home in a trailer park. While hunting deer in the West Texas desert, he came upon the aftermath of a drug deal gone terribly wrong. He finds a truck bed full of heroin and a suitcase with $2 million in it. He decides to keep the money,  having absolutely no idea that the countdown to the end of his life just began. Each time he eludes his pursuer, he gets closer to the realization that this is blood money, and the blood is his own.

April 23, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Chelsea Spear

Woman in the Dunes – Hiroshi Teshigahara – 1964Woman In The Dunes

The titles of the 1964 drama Woman in the Dunes fill the screen with heavy, rough lettering, spelling the Japanese title out in sumi-e, a traditional form of calligraphy. The opening shot depicts the lead character, Niki Jumpei (played by Eiji Okada of Hiroshima Mon Amour) wandering the dunes in a dress shirt and jacket that give him the appearance of a salary-man on holiday. In these early shots of the film, director Hiroshi Teshigahara contrasts elements of the contemporary and the mythic, a juxtaposition which will drive his trademark film.

April 17, 2008 / / Film Notes

Black Rose Mansionby Kris Tronerud

Black Rose Mansion • Directed by Kinji Fukasaku • Shochiku Studios • 1969

Exactly 30 years ago, I found myself crouched down in a neighborhood theater to watch what was being openly marketed as a Star Wars ripoff with my ten year old son, frankly not expecting a whole lot beyond an amusing Saturday afternoon hangout with the kid. What I got was an intensely colorful, surprisingly heartfelt sci-fi saga that straddled the line between Space Opera and Fairy Tale a lot more fully than did Star Wars, and whose fanciful, if not exactly realistic special effects achieved a palpable sense of childhood wonder on about a zillionth of George Lucas’ budget. Starring Vic Morrow(!) and Sonny Chiba, Message from Space had believable, well drawn characters, and was alternately thrilling, funny, touching, scary and goofy, in about equal proportions. Welcome to the world of Kinji Fukasaku.

March 18, 2008 / / Film Notes

Kris Tronerud

Universal, 1958 Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

The great French director René Clair once remarked that moviegoers, as they sit in the darkness watching a film, enter into a “dreamlike state”; and over the years, many great directors, from Melies to Bunuel to Fellini to Lynch have aided in that process by gleefully plunging their viewers into the human dreamscape. But no film has ever so straightforwardly, simply, and seductively taken on the actual form and structure of dreaming than Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. From its first throbbing arpeggios, Bernard Herrman’s brilliant score carries us, with the impatience of a dream, from ominous threat, to lush, romantic calm, to tense confrontation, to resolution… and back to fear again, as the late great Saul Bass’ credits likewise dissolve from the glorious Black and White of Kim Novak’s absurdly lush lips and tear-welling eyes, to the rich VistaVision color of Bass’ iconic spiraling motifs, culminating in an extreme, Psycho-presaging close-up of one terrified eye. With its disorienting changes in mood, color and visuals, this brief and brilliant credit sequence leaves no doubt: We are entering the ever-shifting, primal world of the dream.