Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Worst. Funeral. Ever.

I'm really thankful never to watch Phantasm as a child, because the amount of lost sleep I would have endured may have resulted in being held back a grade. Phantasm is a one-of-a-kind horror movie, seemingly springing from a brain storming session of what people are afraid of. It ends up feeling like a wax museum of horror frights, with a wide variety of spooky images that only occasionally relate to the plot. And yes, there is a plot -- run from the bad stuff. It's the kind of movie that couldn't be remade today: there's only one Tall Man, and most of the movie's charming creep-factor relies on mood..

It's a tribute to Coscarelli that it all comes together to work so well. A production light on story, heavy on special effects, yet with minimal budget. Some sleight-of-hand effects work well to mask what shortcoming Phantasm had in the cash department, and music by Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave adds another uneasy element to the atmosphere. The music may be my favorite part of Phantasm, and one of the reasons it's so easy to turn on anytime -- has there ever been a more rocking horror score? What starts as eerie, slowly builds up to almost soft rock when the percussion kicks up later in the movie, providing a perfect backdrop to the Tall Man's pursuit.

From the beginning, Coscarelli gives you slight hints of what you're in for: a glimpse of a hooded dwarf scurrying behind a grave, the silent mystery of what lurks inside the mortuary and ... who is that Tall Man? Thankfully, there are few to no answers in Phantasm. It exists as a nightmare that goes in and out of actual dreams, never trying to explain whatever evil is at play in Morningside Cemetery: are there other Tall Man portals on our planet? Is it another dimension? Where does the mortuary go after it disappears? Almost every scene asks another question without an opportunity for an answer (the finger turns into a bug?), and Coscarelli keeps the scares coming so there's no reason to keep wondering.

The Tall Man has to be one of the best original monsters of the past few decades. What is it about him that works so well? He's not exactly tall or ugly -- he just has that walk and that hair, and that way of saying things: "You play a good game, boy. But the game is up -- it's time to die!" I think Phatasm is one of the few movies where I can picture a television series based on it: each week, a new hair-raising adventure for Mike and Reggie with the Tall Man. And every episode ends the same way -- with the Tall Man lunging at Mike through a mirror.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Initial thoughts on Kubrick box set

Well, Oct. 23 is finally here and as you can see from above -- I did not need reminding. Just a few early items about the Kubrick box set, I expect to have more comprehensive posts on the DVDs after checking out all the extras.

-- A nice surprise is the cover art, which is different (save for The Shining) from the new individual releases that also came out today (get a look at the normal art here). It's a cool extra, and I really like how the 2001 cover looks with the effect. The reverse sides are identical to the individual releases, which unlike the box set come with slip covers.

--Eyes Wide Shut is advertised on the back as "Selectable in both rated and -- for the first time in North America -- unrated versions," yet as far as I can tell the unrated version is the only one on the disc. In most DVDs with this option, you go to a menu after selecting "play" that allows you to toggle between rated or unrated, but there's nothing like that here. The second disc contains all extras. The rated version is definitely no real loss, since all you gain are those CGI censors, but it's a little curious that it's missing.

--About those CGI censors in the Eyes orgy scene: Their absence has a much more positive impact on that scene than I had anticipated. They were a distraction to begin with, but without them an already great scene is made even better. It just seems right to see all the debauchery that Bill is seeing, and the sex itself is presented with the artistry of the rest of the movie. A shot of two women having oral sex with their masks still on is an interesting choice that adds to the scene's mysterious atmosphere.

--A commentary track on Full Metal Jacket featuring Adam Baldwin, Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey and critic/screenwriter Jay Cocks is highly entertaining and informative. There's no dead air, and everyone has something insightful to say.

--That said, Full Metal Jacket is the only release in this set unavailable individually on regular DVD. HD and BluRay get an individual release, though that may be due to the fact that the current release of the movie on next generation formats had mastering problems.

--I'm excited to watch Vivien Kubrick's documentary The Making of the Shining, that surprisingly contains a commentary track.

--2001 has a lot of good looking extras, including a 1966 audio-only interview with Kubrick.

For $55, this is a very attractive box set.

Monday, October 22, 2007

DOUBLE BILL: 'The Terror' of 'Targets'

Note: This post is a contribution to the Double Bill Blog-a-Thon at Broken Projector.

Targets is a movie about a seemingly ordinary, well-behaved man who suddenly goes on a killing rampage in Southern California. So it's a bit odd that it starts out with Dick Miller and Boris Karloff in a castle shouting about something, with water quickly filling up the room. Credits fill up the screen, and we learn that Karloff is indeed in the movie -- but where are the guns? And why do we keep seeing that raven? And who's that ghostly woman we see before "The End" pops up on screen. Peter Bogdanovich's first major film, Targets is a unique experience for the viewer in part because it makes great use of another film, Roger Corman's The Terror, released five years earlier in 1963. For this Double Bill, we're going to screen The Terror first.

The Terror (1963)
A French cavalry guard riding on the beach. An attractive woman who may be a ghost. A castle inhabited by the strange Baron von Leppe and his assistant Stefan. A raven. These are the main characters in Corman's The Terror, and there are well-known names behind almost all of them (I don't know the name of the raven): Jack Nicholson, Dick Miller, Boris Karloff and Sandra Knight. Behind the camera at one point or another during the piecemeal production were Francis Ford Coppola, Monte Hellman, Jack Hill and even Nicholson. And the actors and collaborators aren't the only familiar pieces of the film -- Von Leppe's castle interior is also seen in the Corman pictures Tomb of Ligeia, The Haunted Palace and The Raven.

Shot in the dream-like Pathe color, The Terror is titled as horror, but is more mystery or detective story than anything. Nicholson's Lt. Andre Duvalier has been separated from his military unit, and seeks shelter in Von Leppe's castle, as well as an explanation for the beautiful woman he saw on the beach who disappeared. Von Leppe is hesitant to do either, and the fidgety Stefan seems to be hiding something. Oh, and the raven is outside cawing. A coherent story is not always on the screen, as it seems most of the movie is comprised of Duvalier following Von Leppe around the castle asking questions. Eventually, the mysterious woman appears (and disappears) again, and some elements of Von Leppe's past are revealed. The raven makes many more appearances (often cawing), there's lots of shouting at the end, Stefan and the bird get in a fight on a cliff, and the raven wins.

There's never a point in The Terror where it doesn't feel like a legendarily cheapo Corman production, and it's really not one of his better cheapos. But considering it was filmed in many fragments by several directors, it comes together pretty well, and has a fun gothic atmosphere. But these aspects combined to make The Terror a great choice for a second life in Bogdanovich's Targets -- as a run-of-the-mill drive-in movie. Bogdanovic made the movie at Corman's urging, with the conditions being that he use portions of The Terror and also utilize Karloff, who owed the producer two days of shooting from another production.

Please enjoy this episode of Batfink

Targets (1968)
Since we're now familiar with The Terror, it's a little strange to see it on the screen again, this time with credits imposed over the film's climax. We once again see Von Leppe's discovery in the tomb, with good old raven flying next to "The End." The next shot shows us the origin of what we were watching: a studio screening for producers, director Sammy Michaels (Bogdanovich) and star Byron Orlock (Karloff). Orlock is an aging horror star who is ready for retirement, studio contract or not, and is also hesitant to participate in a hokey premiere of The Terror at a local drive-in. The next shot of Orlock is a masterful introduction to the film's other main character, Bobby, who has Orlock in his crosshairs from a gun shop across the street. Bobby has a lot of guns, and he's about to buy some more. Leaving the gun shop, Bobby opens the trunk of his Mustang to reveal a startling weapons cache. For the rest of the film, we follow Bobby and Orlock's paths until they meet in a near-perfect climax.

Bobby appears to be a young man cut right out of the My Two Sons mold, and he's more than eager to speak to his parents in "Yes, sir!" "Great!" and "Delicious" tones. But besides his gun collection, there are a few other odd aspects about Bobby: during an outing at the shooting range, he puts his father in his crosshairs briefly, and when his wife comes home from work that night, she finds him sitting in the dark smoking a cigarette. The next morning, Bobby mechanically kills everyone in the house, leaving a confession note and a warning of many more killings that day. Orlock, meanwhile, is spending the day in high spirits, content that his often disappointing career is coming to a close. He will make an appearance at the drive-in tonight, and that will be that.

Bobby's killing path will take him to a water tower overlooking a freeway, where he will pick off several cars with remarkable ease -- while eating a sandwich and drinking a Dr. Pepper. While eluding the police later in the day, Bobby finds the perfect hiding place for more mayhem: behind the screen at the drive-in. It is here where The Terror again becomes a character, with the images of Von Leppe, Duvalier and the raven filling the screen. Bogdanovich films the drive-in scenes perfectly, with dialog barely audible through the collective drone of the tiny car-mounted speakers. Bogdanovich makes great use of The Terror's B-movie quality, showing us fragments of it that make it appear even less comprehensible than in full form. Orlock arrives just as Bobby's terror begins, and as people drive out of the lot in horror, he takes it as their reaction to his movie.

The Terror and Targets come full circle as Orlock gets out of his car to find the source of all this murderous mayhem. Bobby looks up at the screen to see Von Leppe walking down a castle corridor, and then looks to his left to see Orlock walking toward him. The converging characters -- fiction and reality in one -- is too much for Bobby, as he surrenders with his hands over his eyes.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Two new horror favorites

Following up on the post below about 31 Flicks That Give You the Willies, it's once again a great month to find out about underseen and underrated horror movies. I recently took in two of these flicks, and have nothing but good to say about both of them:

The Tomb of Ligeia (1964)

A tip of Vincent Price's top hat to Neil Sarver for this one. After reading Neil's recommendation, I saw that TCM was showing the Roger Corman classic the following day -- huzzah! The Tomb of Ligeia contains one of my new favorite openings of any horror movie. How could you turn away after hearing these opening lines:

"You cannot bury her in consecrated ground, she was un-Christian!"

"This is my ground."

"It's the Lord's ground."

"Then let the Lord refuse her."

"She will not rest with the Christian dead."

"She will not rest for she is not dead ... to me. And she will not die for she willed not to die."
The opening scene is a dark funeral procession at a crumbling English abby. Price's character, Verden, carries the body of his wife Ligeia, which has a convenient window to display her face. After she is lowered into the ground, we see her eyes pop open, which Verden attributes to a "simple reflex." A snarling black cat walks over her grave, and the pallbearers leave in horror, Verden asking if "cat got your tongue?" The film's title is displayed over the cat and Ligeia's tombstone, then we're taken through a creative credits scene of numerous gothic paintings featuring the abby and that darned cat.

It's a beautiful beginning to an entertaining movie, shot in gorgeous widescreen in England and on a familiar Corman set that was also used for The Terror, The Raven and The Haunted Palace. The last of Corman's Edgar Allen Poe-based movies, the short story Ligeia provided the basis here. Poe's 1838 story featured a narrator married to the strange title character, although he could not remember her last name or quite how they met. His wife was obsessed with the philosophy of a person's will to live, and also die, and continues through her passing. As in most Poe stories, the ending packs a punch. Corman's movie does not show us any of Ligiea's life, instead focusing on Verden and his relationship with Lady Rowena, whom he meets shortly after the opening funeral.
A dapper gentleman who is forced to wear bad-ass wraparound sunglasses due to light sensitivity, Verden is haunted by Ligiea's existence, or lack thereof. Strange things happen after her death: the date of her death is removed from her tomb (Verden probably did it, but he can't remember), a hunting party's trophy fox disappears from plain view (a fox was Ligiea's symbol) and that black cat is not exactly welcoming of Rowena. While not scary, The Tomb of Ligeia has an intoxicating atmosphere of morbid English mystery. Verden's abby is an amazing setpiece (particularly in outdoor scenes), and the story builds right up until the pure Poe ending (with a little more action added in from Corman). And as good as the opening dialog was, nothing matches this beauty from Verden, which I hope was taken straight from the Poe text:
"Christopher, not ten minutes ago I... I tried to kill a stray cat with a cabbage, and all but made love to the Lady Rowena. I succeeded in squashing the cabbage and badly frightening the lady. If only I could lay open my own brain as easily as I did that vegetable, what rot would be freed from its grey leaves?"
I Walked With a Zombie (1943)

These Val Lewton/Jaques Tourneur movies never cease to entertain, and while it's not as good a movie as Cat People, it's equally as bold and mysterious. One of the most interesting elements of this movie is the title, which seems to put it in the same league as Teenagers from Outer Space or My Stepmom's a Werewolf. I took the "walk" in the title as a courtship slang, maybe equating to I Went With a Zombie, and expected a tale of a husband or boyfriend who turned into a zombie. And when you learn that the title is literal, the choice seems strange or perhaps a bad translation ("You walked with a zombie? Big whoop, my family got eaten by them!").

While the title is a little off, the film is anything but. A reworking of Jane Eyre, I Walked With a Zombie shares the novel's concept of a husband with a wife allegedly gone mad, with a comely new woman firmly in his sights. Betsy is a nurse who has agreed to help on a Caribbean plantation, where she cares for the owner's wife Jessica. Suffering from the strange effects of a local fever, Jessica is in a near vegetable state -- a zombie. Constantly dressed in flowing white with an eerily distant stare, Jessica is the haunting mystery that is central to the film. After falling in love with husband Paul, Betsy is determined to cure Jessica, as her condition seems to defy medical logic.

The film's title refers to its most satisfying scene, when Jessica and Betsy walk through the plantation's wheat fields to a spooky voodoo gathering. With this scene, the relationship between Betsy and Jessica gathers some sapphic qualities, especially if you interpret the "walk" element the way I did. It's a beautiful scene, with the moonlight shining through Jessica's gown and the scenery allowing you to almost feel the West Indies night heat. Tourneur has a field day with the odd voodoo elements, and Darby Jones' piercing Carrefour character is the physical embodiment of the area's zombie practices, with bulging eyes and an emaciated gait. Not one of the scarier of producer Val Lewton's horror movies, but the sexual undercurrent in a creepy voodoo land appeal of I Walked With a Zombie makes it memorable.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Welcome to Haddonfield

You know a horror movie is great when you can't pinpoint just what it is about it that scares you. It's one thing to have the villain jump out of the shadows and startle you, but it's quite another to fill the viewer with a constant sense of dread and uneasiness. Halloween does this better than almost any other horror movie, and it's due in no small part to the fact that John Carpenter was behind the camera.

Working on a tiny budget, Carpenter's horror movie would have no special effects, frightful sets or gruesome villains. For his most terrifying element, Carpenter turned to a place we've all seen: Anytown, U.S.A. Instead of having characters trapped in the dark surroundings of an unfamiliar hell, Carpenter focused on everyone's fear of their privacy being invaded. In the fictional Haddonfield, Ill., where Michael Myers "comes home," we are given a seemingly ordinary town with no shortage of peace and quiet -- and that's what makes it so scary.

Outside of a brief scene at a school and in the downtown area, our experience in Haddonfield takes place exclusively in a safe-as-can-be American neighborhood with unobstructed sidewalks, groomed gardens and not a stoplight in sight. But it's what the neighborhood lacks that creates a sense of unease and isolation.

Outside of the corps characters and a few random trick-or-treaters (who are never a focus of the lens), there are no other people on the sidewalks. If you take out the main characters, we see no other cars on the street, except for one far in the background. All of the houses are large with landscaped yards, but none of them seem to be occupied. It's Halloween, but the neighborhood is largely asleep, with no decorations outside of jack-o-lanterns. Best of all, the whole place is completely silent -- you don't hear so much as the wind howling.

With this design of the world in Halloween, Carpenter gives us a surrounding that is familiar, but also isolated. There is never any point in the movie when our characters feel like anyone else can help them, with no one else in sight, much less a passing police car. Carpenter also plays with our expectations of a horror movie, by giving us some of the biggest scares in broad daylight. You can argue that the scariest part of the whole movie is Laurie's walk home, wondering what could be lurking behind that hedge? And if we're this scared now, what could he have in store for us when the sun goes down?

Halloween as a holiday presented Carpenter with a myriad of scary possibilities, especially through the eyes of the children Laurie babysits. For children, what other time of the year are you most vulnerable to monsters? Although Halloween never directly focuses on the terror visiting Tommy and Lindsey, we can only assume what's going through their minds during a night when they took in television viewings of The Thing From Another World! and Forbidden Planet. Both movies, science fiction in genre but with a healthy dose of horror, contain an alien juggernaut pitted against scientific minds. Before their awful night is over, the children will witness a creature of seemingly infinite strength and durability crash into their house and clash with adults who are just as frightened.

Halloween helped set the stage for a decade of slasher movies, but none were able to duplicate the everyday fright of Carpenter's classic.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Horror by numbers

Another in a series of recent film survey lists, Ed Hardy Jr. is hosting the 31 Flicks That Give You the Willies, with readers asked to submit 31 nominees. I love this idea because it's asking not for the best or favorite, but simply the movies that scare you the most. I can do this -- because a lot of movies scare me.

I tend to write a good amount about horror movies (and that will continue this month), and that's partially due to the fact that for a few years now I've been in horror-catch-up mode, making up for all the years when I avoided horror movies. For the longest time, they weren't me, and there were quite a few I was actually afraid of seeing. Somewhere in college this changed, and I've been going through the genre at a steady pace ever since.

Some of you may not classify all of these as horror, but they all fall into the same category for me: scary.

  1. The Night of the Hunter (1955) -- One of my top 5 favorite movies of all time, and one that will always frighten me. On a personal level, it reminds me of a nightmare I had when I was three years old that I have never forgotten: my parents had left my brother and I with a babysitter who happened to be a witch, but they didn't believe me. Night of the Hunter follows this mode of terror, by putting you inside the mind of a child who can't trust adults. Being helpless is a terrible feeling, and it permeates this movie. It also helps that Rev. Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) is one of the scariest characters ever put on film.
  2. The Leopard Man (1943) -- I've said before, this is an imperfect movie filled with terrifying scares. It's the Don Larsen of horror movies. When we see the leopard's eyes, then look back and see only darkness -- chills.
  3. The Innocents (1961) -- Hands down the scariest ghost movie ever made. Why is it that ghosts doing nothing but sitting by a pond are scarier than ghosts who jump out of shadows?
  4. Sisters (1973) -- The best case for never entering a hospital again. Or even hinting that you're mentally ill. Or having a twin sister.
  5. Halloween (1978) -- As I hope to say in a post later this month, it's the quiet scenes in this movie that do the most for me. Somehow, John Carpenter manages to make every hedge and tree limb scary.
  6. Invaders from Mars (1953) -- If only for the superb ending, a startling revelation that your worst nightmare is indeed a reality.
  7. The Descent (2005) -- No more hospitals. No more caves.
  8. The Thing (1981) -- The scares start right as we learn that the creature sitting on the operating table isn't dead yet.
  9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) -- No remake will ever measure up to this one.
  10. Ringu (1998) -- Don't even know where to start with this one.
  11. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992) -- I know this isn't a horror movie, but the scene where Laura Palmer enters her room and finds the man behind her dresser scared the hell out of me.
  12. Friday the 13th (1980) -- Another one in the running for scariest ending ever.
  13. Demons (1985) -- Delicious concept of being terrorized while watching a horror movie at a theater. Love it.
  14. Phantasm (1979) -- "You think you go to heaven when you die? You come to us!"
  15. The Evil Dead (1981) -- A story (and budget) stretched to the absolute extreme.
  16. Jeepers Creepers (2001) -- The first half was the only time I considered leaving a theater because of how scared I was.
  17. Candyman (1992) -- Anyone who went to a Catholic school knew the myth of Bloody Mary, and this one hit a little too close to home.
  18. The Other (1972) -- Kids do the darndest things. I mean they really do some goddamn awful things!
  19. Village of the Damned (1960) -- It's the eyes.
  20. Bride of Frankenstein (1935) -- Dr. Pretorious' miniature creations. So creepy.
  21. Gremlins (1984) -- The image of seeing Santa Claus terrorized while cops looked on haunted me for years.
  22. Cat People (1942) -- Amid a bunch of high-class scares, the best may be the subtle opening scene where Irena suddenly looks possessed after that brief encounter with another woman in the restaurant.
  23. The Birds (1963) -- It's basically Hitchcock saying "you wanna see something really scary?"
  24. Don't Look Now (1973) -- Those dark alleys. That photograph. That thing at the end.
  25. Freaks (1932) -- Utterly masterful ending, and chilling as hell.
  26. Return of the Living Dead Part III (1993) -- So much twisted mayhem, it's beautiful.
  27. The Fog (1980) -- The very beginning and ending get the most scares.
  28. Prince of Darkness (1987) -- Wait, the fate of the world is resting on a bunch of college nerds in an urban church? And Alice Cooper plays some sort of hobo witch king? And all they have for weapons are 2x4's? Did you say Victor Wong is in it?
  29. When a Stranger Calls (1979) -- Even scarier than the opening phone conversation is the bar scene where Tony Beckley apparently falls for that absolute hag.
  30. The Haunting (1963) -- I think it's overrated as far as scary movies go, but the final line gave me goosebumps.
  31. Hellraiser (1987) -- Love the mythology that exists in this film.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

'It's not the age honey, it's the mileage'

As someone who was obsessed with all things Indiana Jones growing up (including the seldom-seen arcade game that featured one button: "whip"), I was fascinated a few years ago to read about the shot-by-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark that a few adolescent friends put together in Mississippi. The Vanity Fair article (PDF file) that introduced most of us to the project dove into the elements that make this story almost too good to be true: a homemade film that took 8 years to make, made by friends who put everything they had into the film's making, and a finished project that even impressed Steven Spielberg.

Raiders: The Adaptation
is also a movie that few will see, because due to licensing restrictions it will likely never be on DVD, and it's even tricky to get it into private screenings. Thanks to the Idaho International Film Festival, I was finally able to see the adaptation and learn even more about its tremendous back story. Talking to one of the festival's organizers before the movie, she said not to expect it to be like an actual movie, especially the sound recorded on a BetaMax camcorder. The film has not been touched since its final edit in 1988 (rightfully so) and is pretty raw. While it's true that it's not like an actual movie, Raiders: The Adaptation is also one of the most unique movie-watching experiences I've ever had.

The sound is so garbled that probably 80 percent of the dialog is indecipherable, so if you have never seen Raiders of the Lost Ark beforehand, you'll get a little frustrated trying to follow things. But that's where a lot of the fun comes in -- because John Williams' score is used throughout, the film takes on a hybrid-silent quality. Luckily they were dealing with a fairly simple story that relies little on dialog to drive it (we're not talking Glengarry Glen Ross here). But the raw sound does little to hamper the kids' enthusiastic acting, notably the energy of Angela Rodriguez as Marion. Eric Zala, Chris Strompolous and Jayson Lamb fill in most of the male roles (and almost every crew position), but Rodriguez is probably the strongest performer and really brings the adaptation to another level.

The main reason the adaptation took 8 years to produce was a commitment to high-quality stunts, sets and special effects, and the end result is sometimes startling (considering the circumstances). In a Q&A session afterward, Strompolous explained that most indoor scenes were shot in one of their basements -- including the pyrotechnic-laced barroom shootout. Once the movie gets going, you find yourself wondering just how they will accomplish the various memorable scenes, and they only skip past them in a few instances (such as the large scale 'Flying Wing' sequence). In all other cases, they turn to their youthful creativity -- the Ark setpiece looks nearly identical to the original's, they were able to film in a decommissioned submarine in Mobile, Ala. (after three years of haggling), a small dog is substituted for the monkey in Marrakesh, Indy gets away from the dart-shooting natives via motorboat and not airplane, and the famous map travel interludes are accomplished with stop-motion animation. Probably the most impressive scene is the famous truck chase, which is presented more or less in full, with the Nazis riding in a Volkswagen SuperBeetle instead of a Mercedes, and Indy commandeering an old Ford truck. I kept waiting for Indy's risky stunts underneath the truck to be cut, but there it was -- with a 15-year-old kid hanging on for dear life.

One of the biggest surprises was how fun it was to see the credits, where the makers went out of their way to credit each and every contributor -- meaning their own names were listed no less than 15 times. The final credit reads: "This is the end," -- The Doors.

Raiders: The Adaptation has no peers, and no genre. There are innumerable examples of this kind of tribute on YouTube, but today's kids have so much more at their disposal than simply a BetaMax camera. Strompolous talked of coordinating each friend's birthday and Christmas wish list to relate to what their production needed, and any allowance they got went straight to the movie. There were even a couple times where the boys went a couple months without talking to each other, and at one point it looked like the project was put to bed for good ... until Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade came out. The third entry in the trilogy provided all the motivation they needed. By then, all three friends were 18 and dealing with a project that had consumed their entire childhood. After working endless hours at a local television studio to finish the final edit ... it was done.

The story goes that each friend went his separate way for college, and Zala ended up at NYU where a certain student named Eli Roth watched the adaptation one night, and began spreading the word. Soon, Spielberg had seen it and the Vanity Fair article was in the works. In 2004, it was announced that a documentary of the adaptation's production was underway (still TBA). All three eventually quit high-paying jobs in the entertainment industry to focus again on their childhood film, touring around film festivals with it. Strompolous spoke of a screening last year in an Eastern Idaho town I had never heard of, so they clearly get around to every corner of the country with this thing. He also told me that while working in the DVD industry, he pitched the film to Paramount as an extra in the Indiana Jones Trilogy. They smiled and said no.

At the Boise screening, the theater was packed with families, and even kids who obviously hadn't seen the original before seemed captivated. In a way, it's the ultimate kids movie. The message here is this: if Raiders: The Adaptation comes to your town, don't miss it -- it might be your only chance.

Note: Visit for an extensive history of the adaptation.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Why watch it when you can wear it?

My years of hard work toward finding an Internet t-shirt shop that fits my senselessly picky and narrow taste has finally paid off: presenting Sitting here in my Senor Pizza t-shirt from Lover Boy, I just feel so complete that I had to spread the news. For you see, Found Item Clothing sells t-shirt designs that were worn by characters in movies.

"Wait, does that mean I can buy Cameron's Caduceus shirt from Ferris Bueller's Day Off?" Yup. "What about the 'Surf Nicaragua' shirt from Real Genius?" Yup. "Did you ever see the Get a Life episode where Chris Elliot goes to Handsome Boy Modeling School?" No, but they have.

And best of all, the company's founder shares his first name and hometown with me -- so I feel kind of obligated to point people in his direction. What scares me is that Adam's been in business for only a short time, so there's bound to be many more awesome designs coming down the pipeline (my short dream list would include Jack Burton's shirt from Big Trouble in Little China, and one with the logo of the burger place in Fast Food -- in both cases, only for their sheer obnoxiousness and obscurity).

And because I was so delighted to find Found Item Clothing, I figured I would have a few quick words with its founder:

DVD PANACHE: Reading your "about" section, you got into this initially as a way to get a Real Genius shirt for yourself, at what point did you see the potential for your own business?
FOUND ITEM CLOTHING: It was a slow process. Since there was no other way of getting my I love Toxic Waste shirt fix than to print my own, I had to do a minimum run of 25 to work with the printer I wanted. It was pretty slow for the first couple months, but I did sell enough shirts to make my money back. Then people started requesting shirts from other movies, and I started noticing a lot more shirts in movies too. I figured that if I could get to make my own shirts to wear and be able to cover my costs, that would be awesome. Then over the course of the last two years, the catalog of shirts has grown, and we've started to make a little money, but Ihaven't quit my day job yet...

DVD PANACHE: What are some other designs you're considering?
Well, the end of this week will be "Stephen King Rules" from Monster Squad. Then in a couple weeks will be Booger's "High on Stress" shirt from Revenge of the Nerds. In November, we've got stuff form Rushmore and Roadhouse, and probably one more, but I haven't decided yet.

DVD PANACHE: I'm hoping to strike up a Loverboy conversation because of my shirt, do you find many strangers recognizing where your designs are from?
FOUND ITEM CLOTHING: Sadly, not that often. Maybe a couple times a year. The kids these days just have no appreciation for culture..

DVD PANACHE: Any chance I can get a matching Senor Pizza hat and fake mustache?
FOUND ITEM CLOTHING: Hmmm...I hadn't thought about it, but that would make an awesome Halloween costume. I've already got this year's stuff together for the new costume guide, but maybe next year.

(P.S. -- for skeptical mothers out there, the shirts are top notch quality as well, it doesn't fit me like a belly shirt or a flag like many other places out there).