Five Discs of Death #2

Invaders from Mars (1953)
Director: William Cameron Menzies

Cinema 4 Rating: 7

Apart from scaring the crap out of me as a child when I saw it on a Saturday afternoon TV matinee, what does this film have to offer me as a supposedly far-more-knowledgable adult? Isn't this the film that infamously has the alien soldier wandering about with a very clear zipper up his back? Isn't there a point where one has to grow up and get past cheesy films like this? Well, the sets are limited in scope, the costumes are cheesy, the acting is sometimes wooden... and it is all designed this way on purpose. This is the fever dream of an innocent child, and the movie reflects his vision of the big, bad scary world (some have written McCarthyist scares are woven into its lining, but I don't necessarily
see it that way), the movie is seen from his perspective (in some extraordinary shots, especially in the police station), and his imagining of that worst of all childhood fears: the loss of the love of his parents. But, if it is all in his imagination, why can't the kid seem to wake up from this fever dream? Why do I still freak out everytime someone walks up the forest path? Why do I yell, "Keep away from the sand!" at the screen to this day? Why does this film still scare the crap out of me now? Now you know why I own it...

Taxi Driver (1976)
Director: Martin Scorcese

Cinema 4 Rating: 8

Let's face it: I got over saying "You talkin' to me?" when I was about, oh, well... forever. My De Niro is not that great, so I don't really try. Plus, except for the basic sociopathic tendencies that we all try to rake over, I really do not identify with Travis Bickle that closely. I'm more of a misanthrope. So, the scene about which everyone makes so much ado, which I take as evidence of man's furthering disconnection, countless misguided others take it as a supreme moment of macho coolness. Bickle is a cipher in this film, and he bounces from experience to experience like a puppy, barely taking any recognition of anything happening
to him, but he does see everything happening around him, and takes the smallest slight as a personal affront. He builds up his rage step by step, but he is always disconnected emotionally from the situations in which he finds himself mired. There is a grain of good in the man, but he is rough, highly unhinged, and far too easily budged by events in his peripheral vision. He is mankind fighting against its own natural evolution... he is why unthinking violence persists in a civilization advancing far too quickly for everyone involved. (Bonus: Bernhard Herrmann's score is staggeringly brilliant...)

Alice In Wonderland (1951)
Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson & Hamilton Luske

Cinema 4 Rating: 8

You might think my rating too high for what is generally considered to be mid-tier Disney, and it is certainly not the most faithful of Lewis Carroll adaptations. But, it is the wild design, the disjointed editing, and a neat snottiness at large in the film that makes it so intriguing. Other film versions of the books end up being, frankly, boring, even with all-star casts; the books are far better read personally than acted, and when actors
do tackle Carroll's wordplay, they often talk down to their audience, which is something Carroll would never stand for a second. Disney took the two books, threw away half the chapters from each, shuffled the deck, and gave us a bouncy romp through Alice's greatest hits. Since it is well-known that it is a dream from the beginning, the film never lets us think that she is not dreaming; she is clearly in her own head at all times, and she should be scared. Sadly, the Jabberwock never does show up (I think Disney slipped on that count, especially after the build-up), but we are given memorable scenes (some would say definitive) with numerous Carroll creations. My favorite? Of course, it's the Mad Hatter and his crazed cronies at the tea party. "Mustard? Don't let's be silly!"

Pink Floyd the Wall (1982)
Director: Alan Parker

Cinema 4 Rating: 6

My stock in this film has fallen in recent years, though I still think that it is... uh, watchable. I remember that I dragged half of my friends to this at a showing at the University in 1983, and many of them despised it. The handful that were Floyd fans, however, did not. I was -- am -- one of those Floyd fans, but now not to the same degree that I was at that time, and certainly, I have no regard for anything done after the departure of Roger Waters. The film itself is still creepily effective, with some dazzling animated sequences and nightmare imagery; it's just that I see the cracks in Waters' structure more than ever now. Even if I still love the album, and even though I jumped jaguar-like on the film on its DVD release, I have to admit that it is really in my collection as a memento of a misspent youth more than anything. It's not a world that I need to return to that often, and when I do, I'd rather do it with the album, where my head creates images in conjunction with the nightmare story even more frightening than any film can hope to produce. Still quite the experience, though, for first-timers; there's really nothing like it...

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
Director: Roy William Neill
Cinema 4 Rating: 6

House of Frankenstein (1944)
Director: Erle C. Kenton
Cinema 4 Rating: 5
Neither one of these films, released on a dual disc before Universal tried to screw its monster fans again by packaging all of its star monsters in full sets just a couple years later (at least the rerelease was relatively cheap, but I had already spent around eighty dollars to get these films on the original four discs), is what you would call "good"; but they are entertaining. And, hell... these are monster mashes! Who cares about quality? Well, Frankenstein Meets... still has a certain clinging to the former level of the films to it; Lugosi is OK as the monster; and Chaney is still classy in his second turn in the Wolf Man role. As for House... well, the title is better than the movie itself, but then again, the name of the director is better than the film itself. But, as said, quality is not the point. The all-star mashing together of various and sundry monsters and mad scientists is the point. And I can think of far worse ways to waste an hour of one's life these days (I did not say one thing about the idiotic American Idol... but, I was getting to it...)


Homie Bear said…
I'm a big fan of the Disney version as well. Marilyn Manson is working on a biopic of Carroll, should be cool. But the best rendition I have seen yet is a ballet performance put on by the Alberta Ballet. It was amazing, but sadly, gone forever.

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