#380- The Last Picture Show

Quick recap: A coming of age story set in a dying Texas town in the 1950s. Bleak doesn’t even begin to describe this film.

This movie is crawling with stars! Pictured here is Cybill Shepherd and Jeff Bridges

Fun(?) fact: Orson Welles was the one to convince director Peter Bogdanovich to film in black and white.

And another BONUS FUN FACT: I have visited the real life town of Archer City, where this movie was filmed and based off of. Unfortunately all I remember are the massive bookstores owned by Larry McMurtry and a cat that followed me around.

see, Mom? My memory remains intact.

Thoughts and Observations:

Not having grown up in the 1950s I don’t know how accurate The Last Picture Show is, but I did grow up in a small Texas town and there were many scenes that felt uncomfortably familiar. This Larry McMurtry fellow might be on to something I think. My town didn’t have a tradition of parking our cars outside of a motel when our friends lost their virginity but we did have a bunch of old men who cared more about high school football than is healthy. We didn’t have teenagers sleeping with older women in unhappy marriages (I don’t think) but we did have our fair share of scandals that literally everyone knew about. And finally, I don’t remember my friends ever throwing a nude swimming party but there were plenty of times we rode around town and visited the couple of spots still open past 8 on a weeknight.

Don’t let the description fool you. This is not a Texan version of American Graffiti. Although this is a ‘coming of age’ movie, it happens as everything around them, especially the town is dying. I related to that more than anything I think. I live in a big city now and stores opening and closing is a daily occurrence. But in a small town, its impact is felt by everyone to some extent. And I think everyone goes through a shift at some point when they feel like they are too big for their town and it’s time to move on. I found myself thinking about this a lot during the movie. What would’ve happened to these teens had they lived in Dallas? Would Sonny have had a better life? Would Jacy have ended up with someone she truly loved? It’s interesting to see how the teens shaped the town and more importantly how the town shaped them.

  • If I had to rank the bleakest scenes, Billy’s experience with sex was the worst. Even worse than his death at the end of the film. I loved the character and I love how it showed Sonny’s humanity but it was a heart wrenching story to experience.
  • To the opposite end, I don’t know if I really enjoyed any of the scenes but I wish I could’ve seen more of the Picture Show since it seemed to be the hotbed of all teen activity and was the title of the film.
  • Cloris Leachman’s character Ruth was another sad one but I felt more sorry for her when she was having an affair with Sonny than when she screamed at him for abandoning her. Her life was hard, yes, but Sonny only offered her a false hope that couldn’t be sustained.
  • As mentioned, there are a ton of stars (both up and coming as well as established) and I had a tough time naming them, except for one :  Randy Quaid, whom
  • I recognized immediately.

  • I could go on and on about the characters but what really did me in was the setting. It’s no secret that I love Texas and its scenery and The Last Picture Show made me want to jump in my car and visit Archer City all over again. The scenes where Sonny headed out of town and watched the sunset felt so familiar and calming.

Final review: 4/5. I’d give it a perfect score but those nude scenes really snuck up on me.

Up next: L’Atalante

#379- Nosferatu the Vampyre

Quick recap: One of eight vampire films to come out in 1979, this one is a faithful retelling of the original Nosferatu.

Of course Dracula porn was a thing!

Fun (?) fact: Klaus Kinski, who played the title character, was apparently a big baby on set. His constant tantrums made him extremely difficult to work with, although Warner Herzog learned to use them to his advantage. Klinski wanted a more ‘excitable’ vampire, but Herzog disagreed. When Klinski wouldn’t budge on his opinion, Herzog made sure to goad him into a tantrum right before filming so that he would act subdued later on.

Thoughts and Observations:

Vampires can be creepy, weird, and yes even a little sexy, but they are definitely not scary.E specially with those pointy teeth and untrimmed fingernails this dude has going for him in this version. There were times during Nosferatu when I was definitely creeped out, like when the ship arrived at its destination and the villagers were met with a ton of rats and dead bodies. But the uneasiness never morphed into fear for me, though. Nosferatu seems like such an old-fashioned kind of monster, from a time when medicine was basically useless. That’s not to say that this film doesn’t have merit, though. I really enjoyed the time spent on the build up and the unease at what might be lurking around the corner. The end was especially enjoyable as the whole town came apart and basically just waited on their turn to die. The villagers dancing in the streets surrounded by coffins was wonderfully macabre. I don’t know the real story well enough to judge this adaptation so I was surprised when Dracula had been killed, only to realize a new vampire had risen and Lucy’s sacrifice was for nothing. A bleak ending always gets me into the Halloween spirit.

  • Renfield was my favorite character by far. He was so creepy and unhinged, like when he carried around a box of flies and kept trying to eat them. That was much scarier to me than the vampire because Renfield was so unpredictable.
  • I’m not afraid of rats and mice but a whole army of them disembarking from the ship to spread terror was so creepy. I would love to see a movie about the ship’s journey, as Nosferatu and his band of rats slowly take control of the crew.
  • The ghost boy playing the violin at the castle was anything but scary, however. As Jonathon Harker lays in pain from falling out of the tower window, this jerk kid stands by him and practices the violin. I didn’t realize he was a ghost at the time so the whole thing was just hilarious.

Final review: 4/5. Mysterious yes, scary no.

Up next: HorrorFest continues!

#375- The Ear

Quick recap: A Czechoslovakian couple finds their house bugged by the Communist party and they fear Ludvik, the husband, is about to be taken away.

No matter who is after you, there is ALWAYS time to pose

Fun (?)fact: You’d better believe this film was banned! 20 years actually, not seeing the light of day until 1989.

maybe it was censorship and maybe it was because the world wasn’t ready for newspaper hats

Thoughts and Observations: 

  • This movie was as if someone watched Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and said, ‘ This is fun, but what if we added Communists?’
  • But unlike that film, the couple in The Ear didn’t seem believable as a real couple and there were way too many mood swings to keep up with
  • On the other hand, their house really was bugged with listening devices which would add stress on any marriage
  • My favorite aspects of the film were the flashback scenes as Ludvik recalls every conversation he had, looking for clues that they are on to him. A simple question from a friend takes on an ominous tone and everyone seems in on the deception. But are they really?
  • Although listening devices were found, the end of the film has Ludvik being offered a promotion so I guess that’s a happy ending? It sure didn’t seem like it was.
  • And I still wonder if Ludvik was actually working against his party or if he was just really paranoid? He burned a lot of documents but he didn’t seem to know if they were incriminating.

Final review: 2/5. I liked the tension build up but there was so much talking and fighting that the action took a backseat and I became bored.

Up next:

Earth

#352- The Hills Have Eyes

Quick recap: A loving family spends all of their time together hunting, cooking food, and cracking jokes. Their world is turned upside down when a family full of jerks breaks down in their territory. Can this close-knit group fight to save what is rightfully theirs?

I don’t think you can find a closer relationship than these two. Whatever they are.

Fun (?) fact: Yup. That was a real dead dog director Wes Craven used.

happier times

 

My thoughts: Welcome back to Horrorfest, a month long celebration of (usually not so) scary movies! This year I decided to kick off with a couple of classics. First up is The Hills Have Eyes, directed by horror legend Wes Craven. I reviewed Both Scream and A Nightmare on Elm Street during previous Horrorfests and both movies were sufficiently scary for me. This one, however, was not.

I’ve never been big on gore but I hoped for at least a little inbred creepiness. There was a little of that as I wondered how all the clan was related but except for the necklace teeth and pelts everywhere, they weren’t all that terrifying. If anything, the patriarch of the stranded family scared me more than the murderous cannibals did. This guy was awful. He verbally abused his wife, made sure that every sentence had an expletive and carelessly handled firearms. I guess I was a little bummed out that the clan burned him alive but only because it made his wife and children sad.

Mostly, I was confused by the clan more than any other emotion. They are described as inbred, low intelligent beings yet they refer to each other using the names of the planets. And their speech is at times prehistoric and other times eloquent as they made puns and talked.  And yes, what they did was horrific BUT if they were so hungry as Ruby claimed than what better find than a fat, juicy, baby? I’m not saying I would ever eat babies but I can’t judge an inbred family who lives out in the desert, which is housed in a nuclear testing site. Sometimes you do what you have to do.

 

Final review: 1/5. Not scary and I don’t know where to draw the line between ‘cult classic’ and ‘b-movie’

Up next: more Horrorfest