how the grinch stole christmas still 5
December 27, 2014
David Kalat
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Saving Christmas from the Grinch

Sorry, Opie, but this is appalling.

The other night, a back-to-back broadcast of the original 20-minute Grinch cartoon was paired with the bloated monstrosity of the 2000 film starring Jim Carrey brought back waves of revulsion and anger to the surface, after almost 15 years of suppression.  As I’ve written here before, I don’t like hating on movies.  Life’s too short to let it get cluttered with unhappiness—it’s healthier to find that spark of something, no matter how flimsy, that you can enjoy about something and hang onto that.  If something really doesn’t work for you, stop watching/listening/reading/whatever and move on.

But even I have my limits.

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KEYWORDS: Boris Karloff, Chuck Jones, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Jim Carrey, Ron Howard
COMMENTS: 14
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Mind Over Matter: THE SORCERERS (1967)

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Since Michael Reeves unfortunate death in 1969 at the age of 25, the British director’s life has become the stuff of cinematic legend. His reputation as a sort of Byronic hero who challenged the British film establishment was secured when he died much too young due to an accidental drug overdose leaving behind just a handful of low-budget horror films that attained cult status in subsequent years. His distinct talent and the ephemeral nature of his work have led many of Reeve’s colleagues and admirers to speculate on the direction his career might have taken if he had lived longer and it’s not uncommon to see his name mentioned along with better known British filmmakers who also dealt with controversial material including Michael Powell and Ken Russell. Reeves’ bone-chilling WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1969), which explored the brutality of the witch hunts in England during the 17th century, is often cited as one of the greatest and most gruesome horror films produced during the 1960s but his most intimate and introspective film might be THE SORCERERS (1967).

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Lowered Expectations: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

With the holidays soon approaching, here’s the perfect gift for any movie lover looking to have a good time watching movies that never fails: lowered expectations.  I noticed on TCM’s schedule for the early morning hours of Tuesday that a short on the making of The Blue Lagoon was on.  I’ve never seen that movie and have no intention of ever seeing it but if I happened upon it on cable one day and saw a few scenes, I wouldn’t be disappointed.  I know that because I have absolutely no expectations that The Blue Lagoon is good in any conceivable way.  If, in the couple of scenes I watched, they managed to not drop the camera or accidentally insert footage from another movie, I’d feel I’d gotten my time’s worth.  Oh hell, let’s be honest, if they dropped the camera it probably wouldn’t make any difference.  That’s the joy of lowered expectations.  You, quite obviously, don’t expect anything, or at least, you don’t expect anything good.  When it goes in the other direction, you’ve got trouble.

Back view 2 boys with book packs walking to from school

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What Terrors Await Inside… The Black Room?

Serial killers are not a recent phenomenon in horror, they’ve been around for a while. The difference is, when one appeared in a horror movie back in the day, he was called a “mad killer” or, more simply, a “killer on the loose.” But they’ve been there a long time, especially once public interest in real life killers like H.H. Holmes and Jack the Ripper took hold.  When one thinks of classic portrayals of serial killers on the silver screen, the names Peter Lorre, Anthony Perkins and Anthony Hopkins immediately come to mind, having portrayed three of the most notable serial killers in film history, in the films M, Psycho and Silence of the Lambs (and its sequels and prequels), respectively.  But one name that should come to mind, and too often doesn’t, is Boris Karloff.  He’s played more killers than most people know and perhaps the best of them all is serial killer Gregor in the 1935 horror classic, The Black Room, directed by Roy William Neill.

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An Interview with Director Robert Day

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At the age of 90, British director Robert Day has seen it all. Starting as a London clapper boy in the 1940s, he became a highly sought after camera operator in the 50s, before settling into a long and varied directing career starting with The Green Man (1956). Working on everything from Boris Karloff monster movies to Peter Sellers comedies, he was a jack of all trades before love brought him to Hollywood in the late ’60s, where he became a prolific television director through the 1980s. I was able to have a telephone chat with the gregarious craftsman, where we touched on the different phases of his wildly productive life.

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Riding shotgun with Bobby, or the Thompson Guide to Targets

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I pulled my copy of Peter Bogdanovich’s TARGETS (1968) the other day as part of a job I was finishing on an upcoming Boris Karloff box set. I’ve seen the movie countless times since I first clapped eyes on it in the mid-80s, having first heard about it a decade earlier in the pages of Denis Gifford’s Karloff: The Man, the Monster, the Movies. I wanted only to check one scene, very quickly, in and out… but I got sucked in. It’s that kind of movie. As I followed the story, set in Hollywood and various points of the San Fernando Valley on the other side of the Hollywood Hills, I started to recognize some landmarks from my day to day travels. [...MORE]

Thompson! Can you hear me?

Roger Corman

To my way of thinking there is no more cinematic an automatic weapon than the Thompson submachine gun. More than half of the association, for me, is the construction — that cylindrical magazine looks like a film canister and the distinctive rat-a-tat-tat of the of the Tommy gun’s report like the rattle of film threading its way through a projector — but it also has to do with the fact that gangster films, spawned as they were by Prohibition and allowing the Thompson its feature film debut, were one of the vehicles bridging the silent and sound eras.  [...MORE]

Summer Reading

Above: Actress Merle Oberon enjoying a book while lounging around the pool

I do a lot of reading all year long but during the summer months I tend to set aside some extra time to catch up with the books that have accumulated on my shelves. This is partially due to a habit I developed as a child. While other kids were outside playing and enjoying the bright sunshine I could often be found in my bedroom pouring over a good book. Even when my family would go on vacation I would always stick a book in my suitcase or duffel bag. For better or worse, many of my fondest childhood memories involve books that I read during the sweltering summer months while on camping trips and during long plane flights to visit grandparents. This summer I’ve started habitually reading some interesting non-fiction film related books so I thought I’d share some recent discoveries.

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The Great Ones, Part 2: More On & Off the Set Photographs

Johnny Weissmuller strikes a Vanity Fair-like pose in this second series of candid on-the-set snapshots, oddball publicity stills and off-the-set photographs.           [...MORE]

The HorrorDads’ 2011 Dusk-to-Dawn All-Nite/All Fright Halloween Screamboree!

RHS: Let’s pretend the HorrorDads have the run of a disused movie theater and permission to run a Halloween dusk to dawn horrorthon. We will all contribute a movie to the line-up but before we begin, let’s talk about the kinds of horror movies each of us think is right for this time of year. Go… [...MORE]

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