It is not a series of legible images or a black screen that opens A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick’s operatic adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ classic dystopian novel; but an overlay of colors. First a burning red fills the screen, a color often evoking associations with rage, danger and power. It raises one’s blood pressure, accelerates the heart rate and elicits erotic feelings. Then the image flips to a deep blue, generating the opposite effects of red: calm, truth, and sincerity. It cuts back to red before resting on Alex, (played by Malcolm McDowell), a delinquent who chooses a life of crime. His dangerous yet youthful beauty is as contradictory as the interplay of colors. Already this display of colors provokes emotional conflicts. But the music that plays against these emotions just might fuel them, as our film opens against English composer Henry Purcell’s 1695 Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, reimagined for synthesizer by electronic music pioneer Wendy Carlos. In bringing her own specific flourish to classical composers such as Purcell, Beethoven, and Rozzini, Carlos works at distorting the films use of music in order to manipulate the way in which we engage and interact, ultimately controlling our free will through a marriage of sights and sounds.
Author: Greg Mucci
Nothing is quite what it seems at Outpost #31.
Things move in the shadows. Equipment is being sabotaged. The temperature outside is dropping, and something wants out of there. One by one, the crew of an Antarctic research facility is becoming infected by a mysterious alien lifeform, which causes the crew to take the shape of those around them. Soon, friends begin turning on each other as paranoia sets in, and credence is shattered. How do you trust what can’t be seen? Who is really who, and what do you believe when the things you see aren’t what they seem? These questions linger on the minds of our characters, and we wind up asking ourselves the same questions long after the final credits roll in John Carpenter’s sci-fi horror masterpiece, The Thing.
Lucio Fulci left behind a legacy steeped in horror—dozens of films ranging from sex romps, spaghetti westerns to science fiction socio-political fables—after his death in 1996 from complications with diabetes. Coined the godfather of gore alongside maestro Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci can be instantly recognized by fans of horror for his contribution to the ever-fluctuating zombie genre with Zombi 2, a 1978 spiritual successor to George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, titled Zombi for Italian audiences. Fulci followed up Zombi 2’s box office success—grossing more internationally than Dawn—with City of the Living Dead in 1980 and The Beyond in 1981. Both tackle themes of religion and the supernatural, and showcase some of Fulci’s more inspired splatter moments; a power drill through the brain, a face doused in acid. For fans of giallo—a genre blending mystery, murder, and psychological elements with that of the slasher genre—Lucio Fulci had been a household name since 1969’s One on Top of the Other; a film that heavily prefigured the shift into erotic thrillers of the 1990s, such as Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct. However, his garish visual flare and the sleek stylistic choice of the giallo genre wouldn’t stalk hand-in-hand until Don’t Torture a Duckling; Fulci’s lambaste of the Catholic Church. Dealing heavily in the sin of sex, Duckling would ultimately find itself blacklisted all around Europe, marking it as Fulci’s most controversial examination of religion.
Back in February of 1992, a ‘Saturday Night Live’ spinoff head-banged its way into theaters in the form of Wayne’s World, an ode to music and personal creativity that caused a “Schwing!” to be heard from around the world. It’s a sound that carried with it an affirmatively virile pelvic thrust, one that’s used to rate notable women – their photo enlarged to poster size –acting as its own gesticulating male gaze. With its sexual utterance, forever engrained in the pop canon, comes the sound of money – also brought forth into the cartoon cash lexicon by our film – its “Cha-ching” indicating a tremendous box office success. This so happens to play to the tune of both money and industry sexism, frequent collaborators that have been a discordant scratch on the records of female directors since the birth of Hollywood.
When director Charles Laughton’s first and sadly final film, The Night of the Hunter, was released back in the summer of 1955, it marked an irrevocable burden on the mind of one of Britain’s most applauded stage and screen actors. Laughton, who trained in London at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, starred in more than 50 works of film, both short and theatrical, before stepping behind the camera to adapt Davis Grubb’s novel of the same name. The burden that caused Laughton to abandon the director’s chair came in the form of critical disdain and audience dismissal upon release of his debut, an outcome that many believed to be caused by little to no marketing. Given the subject matter, themes and tones stalking every frame, marketing it to a wide audience in 1955 would have been a difficult and daunting task, even if we weren’t judging its history through decades of reflection. Though no matter how many lobby cards filled theaters, television spots small screens, or write-ups newspapers, the new Christianity of the Eisenhower era wasn’t ready for such a film.
Guilio Petroni’s Death Rides a Horse marks Lee Van Cleef’s fifth outing as a beady-eyed gunslinger in a Spaghetti Western, a sub-genre of the outlaw-ridden world that would come to represent the sort of villainy inherent in such a gaze. While five isn’t a glaring amount of films to have under his holster, it’s a heavy number when taking into account the level of hollowness mixed with stern stoicism that accompanies each role. Black brimmed hat sitting low atop a dusty brow, its face carved with an expression of grim desire. It’s a look Cleef has owned, and rightfully so, engraining himself into a world made grand in scope by Italian maestro Sergio Leone. Though Leone is a director who creates worlds, life cast behind Cleef, who for better or worse, needs no set-piece to do the devils work. What separates Petroni’s Western from others aren’t the plumes of smoke that drift across the sand after a shootout, but the outlaws journey who carry a redemptive factor unseen in previous Westerns.
Cigarette smoke hovers above him like the morning fog after an early battle. A light grey fedora rests atop a stone gaze that pierces the air around him, searching for warriors that aren’t there. A tan trench coat is the armor, protecting an exterior exuding the particular cool that has befallen the French New Wave for almost a decade, cutting through celluloid with samurai precision. It’s the kind of cool that Akira Kurosawa encapsulated since Drunken Angel (1948) had shown the world that he wasn’t just katana’s and kimono’s, or the cool that Seijun Suzuki fires with a single jazz-note using a loaded gun in Tokyo Drifter (1966) just one year earlier. Genre is not necessarily the common ground where these films meet, but the roles portrayed by the gangsters that disappear amidst the urban battlegrounds. These aren’t men imitating gangsters, but gangsters becoming samurais, their one hand resting on the hilt of a gun that slices through the night with a piercing definitude.
To take a line from The Wizard of Oz, “we aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto.” Except this time, Dorothy’s a newly transplanted alien named Klaatu, Toto an 8-foot-tall steel gargantuan named Gort, and Kansas a post-WWII America. Even though over 60 years have passed since Robert Wise’s monumentally impacting sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still was released, the parallels between then and now are still interchangeable.
Lord of Illusions plays out like Clive Barker’s take on film noir, introducing us to wealthy and notorious stage illusionist Philip Swann (Kevin J. O’Connor): a Criss Angel performer who can float and juggle fire without batting an eye. Swann’s wife Dorothea (Famke Janssen), our film’s femme fatale, requests the presence of hard-boiled private eye Harry D’Amour (Scott Bakula) after a fellow illusionist is murdered by Butterfield (Barry Del Sherman), an occult-leader’s disciple. After a fatal accident involving Swann’s newest illusion, Harry and Dorothea become entangled in a case that fears the return of Swann’s supposedly dead mentor, Nix (Daniel Von Bargen), a man now known as ‘The Puritan’.
If you were lucky enough to catch Pan’s Labyrinth in theaters 10 years ago, then I’m sure you haven’t forgotten the fantastical cinematic experience it imparted on you and everyone you were surrounded by. Coming off his reign as the father of everyone’s favorite Baby Ruth chomping boy from hell, Guillermo Del Toro decided to take cinema back to its roots and craft a sort of spiritual successor to his 2001 gothic ghost chiller, The Devil’s Backbone. In doing so, Del Toro created not only a film rife with richly layered imagery and themes of fantasy set amidst the weening years of the Spanish War, but one that skews the coming of age story while penetrating the matriarchy of fantasy.