Thursday, November 29, 2012


seen @ Regal Union Square Stadium 14, New York, NY

Alfred Hitchcock has been a recurring theme this year. I've been involved in two different blogathons devoted to him - one to raise awareness of a found silent film he worked on, and the other devoted to films that attempted to capture his spirit.

How would Hitchcock fare today? One likes to believe that even amidst a market dominated by superheroes, sci-fi and animated kiddie fare, he would still have an active and thriving audience. The closest analogous modern filmmaker to Hitchcock might be David Fincher, and he does alright for himself, all things considered. 

However, part of what made Hitchcock unique was the fact that few other Hollywood directors of his era made the kind of films he did, a point that the movie Hitchcock makes clear, as it delves into the making of arguably his most popular film, Psycho. I always liked Psycho, though the final ten minutes strike me as anti-climactic. Once Norman Bates has been caught, there's not much more to say, in my opinion. 

Early in Hitchcock, Anthony Hopkins, as the master of suspense (unrecognizable in all that makeup!), ponders working in horror, a long-scorned genre, and says something like, "What if someone good made a horror movie?" What if, indeed? I know there are many fans who like their horror cheap and campy and silly, and that can be fun sometimes, but it seems that horror, like sci-fi, rarely attracts A-list directors. 

Often, sci-fi/horror directors become A-listers through their body of work within that material, like James Cameron or Sam Raimi. Still, back in the late 50s/early 60s, genre work was nowhere near as popular as it is now, so for someone like Hitchcock, it really could be considered "slumming."

Getting back to the question of how Hitch would fare in today's Hollywood, I think he would also have to contend with the problem of smaller budgets (relatively speaking) for the kind of material he does. I think cable television would absolutely appeal to him; he did have his own TV show for many years, after all. If he only gets $25 million to make a movie that should be made for $40 million, that's a problem - but it might not be if he went to HBO with it, especially if he didn't have to worry about things like appealing to foreign markets.

Hitchcock wasn't bad, although some of the dialogue is a little on-the-nose sometimes: for instance, towards the end, Helen Mirren, who play Hitch's wife and collaborator Alma Reville, says after Psycho becomes a hit, "This could be your biggest movie ever!" I had never known Hitch's wife was such a big part of his career, so it was cool to see how she played a part in Hitch's filmography, and of course, Mirren was marvelous.

I saw this with Vija at the Union Square, a theater I used to frequent a lot more back when it first opened. Then it got way too expensive (Hitchcock is my first $14 non-3D film, ladies and germs), not that it deters anybody from going there. Our screening was a near-sellout. We ended up sitting in the third or fourth row, which Vija wasn't crazy about, but we managed fine. The funniest moment was during the trailer for the new version of The Great Gatsby: there were a few young women sitting behind me, and when Leonardo DiCaprio first appears in the trailer, about half a minute in or so, they all gasped "OH MY GOD!" That got quite a few laughs, actually.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pi-in-the-sky links

Not much to say this week except that I'm not sure I'll be able to see as many new movies this season as I'd like to, for the simple reason that there's soooooooo much to see! There's a second-run theater not too far from me that I suspect I may employ in the coming weeks in an effort to play catch-up. Plus, TCM's Star of the Month next month is Barbara Stanwyck, and you know I'm gonna write a few posts for that. At this rate, I may not have a Top 10 list ready until next February...

Dorian serves up a twin bill of Bob Hope/Paulette Goddard movies.

I liked Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as a kid, but probably wouldn't watch it now. John's friend Jeff explains why, hilariously.

Pam talks about an old Italian WWII movie that, from the sound of it, makes Life is Beautiful look like Schindler's List

Andrew analyzes the Hollywood Reporter actress roundtable discussion.

From the UK, The Guardian writes about Silver Linings Playbook and Oscar's long, uncomfortable history with comedies.

A Dallas fan remembers the late Larry Hagman.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

King Kong (1976)

King Kong (1976)
seen on TV @ AMC

I only visited the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once. It was during college, and I'm fairly certain it was before the first time terrorists attacked it, in 1993. It was nothing particularly noteworthy. I was with friends, and I remember getting a touch of vertigo from looking down on Manhattan from the observation deck.

That first attack scared the crap out of my friend Becky at the time. Becky's from a tiny little town upstate, going to college in the city. While she doesn't project the image of a tough girl, neither is she a shrinking violet, but I remember that attack genuinely unnerving her, and this was before you-know-when. After she graduated, she went back upstate, and as far as I know, stayed there. I'd visit her several times, but I haven't seen her in a long time now. I think about her every now and then, though.

The Twin Towers, to me, used to be nothing more than another part of the New York landscape, like the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building. I certainly never hung out in that part of Manhattan much. I remember occasionally, during high school, visiting South Ferry, where the Staten Island Ferry runs - part and parcel of exploring the city on my own for the first time - mainly to watch the boats. Still, I never had much interest in seeing the WTC.

It took me many months to see the former site of the Twin Towers after they were destroyed. I was with Vija; I forget what we were doing that afternoon or why we were near Ground Zero, but she was the one who convinced me we should pay our respects, as it were, and as it turned out, it wasn't as painful as I was half-convinced it might be. Having her with me certainly helped. Not that I knew anyone who died that day, but, well, you understand.

I suppose substituting the Towers in place of the Empire State in the first King Kong remake must've seemed daring at the time. The Towers opened in 1973, and were the tallest buildings in the world at the time. The WTC site was home to a dense neighborhood of small businesses and residents, some of whom filed an injunction to oppose construction. They got as far as the US Supreme Court, but the Court refused to hear the case.

I first saw this version of King Kong on TV, before the original, and as I recall, it would play fairly frequently (NBC? I think it was NBC), which means I must've recorded it on our old Betamax VCR. (Go ahead, laugh, but we got a lotta mileage out of it!) It scared me! True, I was a kid, so this was easy to do, but I vividly recall being frightened by it. The scene that always stood out to me was the one where Kong stops the elevated train with his hand. The camera angle puts you right at the front of the moving train as you see Kong's hand reaching out! At the same time, even as a kid, I could hardly miss the sexual undertones of Kong's relationship with Jessica Lange (the waterfall scene is an especially salient example).

Looking at it again last week, on AMC, there were, naturally, some things I thought about that I never did before. For instance: where exactly in New York is the Kong show supposed to take place? A reporter states that they're east of Manhattan, so I figure they're either on RooseveIt Island or Randalls Island. I doubt it's the former, since that's a densely populated area (which also rules out the western edges of Queens and Brooklyn), so it should be the latter, which has a small stadium and more open space.

But here's the thing: after Kong busts loose and Jeff Bridges grabs Jessica Lange and runs, they get on an elevated train. Now, in Queens, there is an elevated train in that area, near the East River, but if they were able to reach it, they'd have to cross the Triborough Bridge first - unless they were already in Queens to begin with, which doesn't seem likely at all.

So it's gotta be Randalls Island. But if it is, why would Bridges and Lange go to Queens only to take a train back into Manhattan, when they can go directly there from Randalls? That's why it's called the Triborough bridge, after all. Nerdy? Yeah, but I hate it when they get the geography of New York wrong in the movies.

While watching Kong, it also occurred to me how much of its time it is. Bridges is rocking the beard, like many men were; Lange's character is into horoscopes, and most significantly, Grodin's bad guy character is an oil magnate. Kong was three years removed from the so-called "Yom Kippur War" in the Middle East, which led to the Arab oil embargo and a recession here in America. Cheesy as this movie is, making this change was a smart one. I have no doubt that the energy crisis was on many moviegoers' minds at the time.

While Peter Jackson's version is superior in many ways, I still have a soft spot for this one, mostly because I saw it as a kid and I remember how it made me feel.

Monday, November 19, 2012


seen @ Landmark Loews Jersey Theater, Jersey City, NJ

When I was in college, I made a comic book set during World War I. You could say it was my first graphic novel. It was for a class, and as part of my research on the era, I used for reference a photo book on WWI that I found in a used bookstore. (Still have it too.) 

I couldn't tell you exactly why I chose to do a war story. I suspect I simply wanted to try something different, something challenging. The story centered around the travails of two friends, an English pilot and a French soldier, during the war. I put myself and a bunch of my friends in it as different characters. At the time I was proud of the book, but looking back on it now, I can see that it's total crap. Still, it would lead me to making more comics.

While some of the actual history of the war interested me here and there, I remember approaching my story more like a romantic adventure than a gritty, brutal look at the realities of combat. Operation Desert Storm was in full swing at the time, and while I didn't write this as some kind of commentary on current events, it's possible I may have been subtly influenced in some way by the conflict in the Persian Gulf. Still, I was very nieve about war when I wrote it. Julie, my teacher, was encouraging, but god only knows what she must've made of the finished product. At least I passed the class.

I should've thought of Charles Schulz and Snoopy. It seems silly - a dog imagining himself as a WWI flying ace, using his doghouse as a Sopwith Camel - but whenever Schulz had Snoopy doing that in Peanuts, it had an earnestness that made you want to go along with it. Snoopy always had a vivid imagination, but the specificity of something like this - fighting the Red Baron, huddling down behind enemy lines, even his costume (did Charlie Brown get him those goggles?) - gave it a kind of reality independent of the rest of the events within the strip. That's what made it so memorable. Songs have been written about it!

I spared a thought or two for Snoopy while watching the glorious silent film Wings Saturday night. I had read about the recent restoration of this Oscar-winning film, of course, but I was unprepared for how entertaining the film itself is. Set during WWI, it's about two rival pilots and their adventures in the war, one of the first films directed by former WWI pilot William Wellman. It was a big hit during its release, and it's easy to see why: the flying sequences are stunning, not just for a silent film, but for any film! And of course, one must remember that the airplane itself was still relatively new technology at the time. It had been a little over twenty years since Orville and Wilbur Wright made their historic first flight.

Wellman's son, William Jr., was at the screening at the Loews Jersey City and he spoke at length afterwards about the movie. Cameras were mounted onto the planes and had to be used by the actors, Buddy Rogers and Richard Arlen, while they were flying. Oh yeah, did I mention that that's really them flying those planes? They had to take lessons for the movie. Because Wellman Sr. was a veteran (and suffered a variety of injuries during combat), he was committed to giving Wings the verisimilitude it needed to be a success, even if it meant butting heads with the studio from time to time.

Fun fact: the flames from the fallen planes were hand-painted in post-production.
I can't say I cared much about the romantic subplot with Clara Bow, but simply seeing her was a treat in itself. According to Wellman Jr., many of the cast and crew were smitten with her. Indeed, her role was expanded as a result of her presence, since she was a superstar at the time.

The pipe organ music was provided by one Bernie Anderson, who received a rightly deserved standing ovation afterwards. (You try playing a pipe organ non-stop for two and a half hours!) I've not talked about the organ at the Loews before: its full title is the Bob Balfour Memorial Wonder Morton Theater Pipe Organ. It has no less than four keyboards, or manuals, and a pedalboard with special pedals called "swell shoes," which control volume. There used to be five organs like these in the NYC area. This one, which used to be at the Bronx Loews, was brought to Jersey City from the Midwest by Bob Belfour in 1997 and it has been rebuilt and refurbished ever since. (I got all of this information from the program.)

This, obviously, was my first trip to Jersey City since Hurricane Sandy, and wouldn't you know it, the PATH train still isn't 100 percent yet. It stopped at ten PM, so I ended up paying for a shuttle bus that went to midtown Manhattan. I had a brief moment of panic at the thought of being stranded in New Jersey overnight, but fortunately the shuttle buses were frequent and easy to catch.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Sessions

The Sessions
seen @ Kew Gardens Cinemas, Kew Gardens, Queens, NY

I didn't expect to relate as much to John Hawkes' character Mark in The Sessions as much as I did... but I did. I'm well aware of my own un-sexiness. The way I see myself in my head never quite lines up with the way I look in reality, but at the same time, I like to believe that my looks are not a great impediment when it comes to attracting a woman. 

I'm fat, yes, but not disgustingly so. I've worn glasses most of my life, but I've always avoided the super-nerdy kind. In recent years, I've taken to shaving my head, and I think I look better bald than with hair. I do my best to try to keep up an inner image of myself as, if not totally handsome, then at least passable. But then I see a picture of myself and that image gets shot to hell. It's an ongoing process, what can I say... but at least it's one I haven't given up on. Maybe it's the stubborn romantic in me.

Still, it could be worse. At least I'm not immobilized within an iron lung. I think what can be taken away from The Sessions, more than anything else, is that no matter who you are or what you look like, everyone wants love, and to be loved. It's so easy to forget that, though, because most of us rarely look deeper than the surface when dealing with someone. (That said, I still found Helen Hunt's Botoxed face to be a great distraction. It's really unfortunate that she felt the need to do that.)

I expected this to be a bit more of a comedy than it actually is (though not necessarily in the 40-Year-Old Virgin territory). It's serious, yet it stops short of being really heavy. Like The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, another movie about a severely disabled man, it ultimately feels hopeful, and in this case, that's due to Mark's sense of humor. We see him freaking out about finally having sex for the first time, and while there's an element of shame at his inability to get it done perfectly, he's still able to laugh about it to a degree.

I definitely related to Mark's ability to fall in love so easily. It doesn't take much for me to find a woman who's witty, smart and fun to be around attractive regardless of looks - and that's the gospel truth. (My problem has always been that in addition to all of those things, the woman in question is either married, dating someone, or gay! If it weren't for bad luck...) 

Maybe he reaches out too far too soon, and puts all his eggs in one basket when it comes to love, but given his situation, can you blame him? I tend to be the opposite; I play my cards close to the vest, as it were. It's less risky, but I guess I've always found it simpler. Maybe I should rethink that. I dunno.


seen @ Jamaica Multiplex Cinemas, Jamaica, Queens, NY

I don't think I've ever been really afraid of crashing in an airplane. The last time I flew was in 2007, and other than some trepidation during takeoff, which is probably natural, it was never a big deal for me. Flying is one of those things where you're quite conscious of how much trust is involved in the act. From takeoff to landing, so many things can go wrong, and while one can say the same thing about other forms of public transportation, with flying it's different because you're up in the sky, a state of being that is not natural for humans.

Given that, plus the amount of lives involved in the average airline trip, it's a wonder perhaps that more pilots don't get strung out on drugs and booze to maintain their nerve, as Denzel Washington's character Whip does in Flight. The movie makes a point of the fact that no one else could've landed that plane under those circumstances. But does the fact that Whip was high as a kite negate his heroic act?

This is a concept that has always interested me from a literary standpoint: how bad people can do good things, and vice versa. In fact, I had an idea for a graphic novel several years ago along similar lines - even got about a dozen pages or so into it before I decided I didn't like the story after all. At the time, the angle I came at it from was how hard it was to be "good" when one's natural inclination is to be "bad."

Whip makes no justification of his alcoholism in Flight; in one scene he goes on a tirade in which he repeatedly says that he chooses to drink and that's all there is to it. We like to think that "bad" behavior needs justification of some kind - one was abused as a child, one was raised in a bad neighborhood, one never had proper role models - yet sometimes, there is no rational explanation. I'm reminded of We Need to Talk About Kevin in that sense. Why was Tilda Swinton's son a bad seed, at least around her? Don't know. Why can't Whip choose not to drink? Don't know... and that makes it even more frustrating. Flight, good as it was, was also very difficult to sit through.

It's a terrible thing to say, but I've long suspected that we prefer living with our bad habits, whatever they may be and no matter how bad they are. I suppose it's simply easier, to some extent. I know I should watch what I eat more (and I try to, honestly), but it's easier to eat a cookie or two when the mood strikes. Overcoming those bad habits requires a conscious, and often forceful, act of will. This morning, while watching TV, I suddenly decided to do some exercises during the commercials. No reason, except I didn't wanna lay on the couch like a lump the whole time. I think I'll do that more whenever I watch TV. (Turner Classics is commercial-free, though; what'll I do then?!)

My question, though, is which is our natural state of being: indulging in "bad" habits, or exerting the will to overcome them? Which act makes us more human in the long run? I guess that depends on which side of the moral barometer you fall on. Any ideas?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Franchise fever

So the posters for The Hobbit are up around the city now, and I know I should be excited for when it comes out, but I just can't care enough about it. Partly because I never read the book (I never even finished the Lord of the Rings books), partly because I'm not that big a fan, but mostly because it means another three-movie investment. Three more movies, in 3D and IMAX and now with some newfangled 48-frames-per-second technology that's supposed to make for a better picture. I admit, that part intrigues me, though I don't know if it intrigues me enough.

Seems like most, if not all, genre movies these days have to be the foundation for a franchise. (And not just genre movies - are you ready for Magic Mike 2?) Keeping up with them all can be wearying, and I feel less inclined to do so now than in the past. Maybe it's a by-product of getting old and cranky and less tolerant of the same old bullshit, but I don't think that's all.

Naturally, some franchises will always have my loyalty, no matter what. I'll always turn out for any new Star Trek movie, for instance, and now that there'll be new Star Wars movies, with fresh creative minds behind them, I couldn't resist that if I wanted to. However, I only found the first Hunger Games movie decent, not outstanding, and I don't think I'd be that interested in more in that series; I'm definitely not that eager for more Spider-Man, and as enticing as the next X-Men movie sounds, my loathing of the previous one doesn't inspire much confidence. Why?

Part of the reason is financial - movie tickets aren't getting any cheaper - but most of it is simple boredom, even for a mega-franchise like Avengers. Watching it come together was exciting because nothing like it had ever been done in movies before, and it was the culmination of a childhood dream. (And I'm not exaggerating when I say that; it's the truth.) Now that it's happened, and it's part of history, do I wanna go through the process all over again?

Maybe, maybe not. In the comics these movies are based on, crossover events - mini-series where a whole bunch of heroes get together for one big adventure - used to be rarer, and more special. Now, they're commonplace, and it's harder to get excited about them, especially when each succeeding event has to top the last one somehow. It's one reason among many why I gave up superhero comics, and I see these superhero movies going down the same path.

It goes without saying that franchises mean money, and Hollywood will continue cranking them out for as long as this remains true. I, on the other hand, am beginning to get a little fatigued by them, which is why I think I may indulge in them to a lesser degree. You feel the same way or not?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

And speaking of comics...

...I'm selling off a whole lot of my graphic novels and trade paperbacks at half off cover price. If you want some, email me at ratzo318 (at) yahoo (dot) com with the word 'comics' in the headline and I'll send you my list. Be advised: I have an EXTREMELY eclectic collection - far, far more than just superheroes, though I have those for sale as well. I'll be happy to answer any questions you have about any of the books on my list.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Off-topic: If you're in NYC this month...

...please make a journey to the Kaleidoscope Gallery in the Bronx - specifically, City Island - and come see my City Mouse gallery show. This is the project I had been hinting at in previous posts, the one that had taken a great deal of my time preparing, but now it's done. The Kaleidoscope is a small but cozy gallery/gift shop on City Island, a small fishing community dating back hundreds of years, off the eastern coast of the Bronx. My cartoons take up one wall inside, and include, among other things, the Jimmy Cagney strip from August. Plus, I have prints of my work for sale.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The movies of Howard Hawks... in limericks

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

"Let's each bag a filthy-rich man!"
Through song and through dance,
They both took a chance
To get that rock put on their hand.

The Thing From Another World

Those North Pole eggheads got scars
From a strange visitor from the stars
He was fought in the snow
But all he wanted to know

Bringing Up Baby

A troublesome leopard ain't nothin'
Next to being caught wearing Kate's clothin'.
When inquired why,
Ol' Cary replied,
"I just went GAY all of a sudden!"

Why am I in a lyrical mood? Ask Brandie.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Disney/Lucas deal from a Trekkie's POV

"What you fail to grasp is that Star Wars is probably the biggest thing that ever did or ever will happen to our generation. And if there's an angle by which we can profit from 'The Force' in our little corner of the world, then why don't we?... Face it, my friend - the Force will be with us. Always. Star Wars is the future." 
- Randal, Clerks: The Comic Book, written by Kevin Smith

I don't like to think of it as a rivalry, but it is. Yes, it's possible to like them both - I do - but I've always believed that even those who do still favor one over the other deep down, depending on which one they were first exposed to, perhaps, or some other circumstance.

Anyone who's read this blog long enough knows which side I'm on. I could go into a bunch of reasons why I know my side is better, but you don't care about that. Besides, these days, there are so many other franchises that have become part of the mainstream, part of the great geek conversation, that it's no longer a matter of two sides, if indeed, it ever was.

Still, there's never been a question of which one was cooler, has there? As far as the world at large is concerned, there's never been any doubt which franchise was "acceptable" and which was "nerdy," even now, in 2012, when the nerd mentality has come to dominate American pop culture.

And now this. A deal that was once considered unthinkable, unimaginable, one that is practically guaranteed to keep you-know-what number one for generations to come. But you know what? That's okay. If it means bringing in new ideas and new people to execute them, then that's all to the good in the long run. There's actually one hope I have that I'd like to address, one I haven't seen discussed anywhere else yet, though.

One of the most profound, fundamental differences between Star Trek and Star Wars is that the latter is pure fantasy - influenced by a variety of real-world sources, but still firmly within the realm of imagination - while the former is more grounded in the real world. From the outset, Trek has made a greater effort to base its fictitious world on not only real scientific principles, but Gene Roddenberry's philosophy of mankind and how he believed people ought to live... and this included having a diverse cast of characters.

The humans in George Lucas' universe - let's be honest - are much less so. Indeed, with the prequels, he has been accused of indulging in some of the worst racial stereotypes in creating some of his alien characters. When you compare SW to more recent franchises like The MatrixThe Hunger Games, and even non-sci-fi ones like The Fast and the Furious using this as a basis, SW comes up looking dated and almost retrograded.

If SW is to truly move forward story-wise, with new creative talent to back up Lucas, I believe it needs to make an effort to reflect the changing storytelling standards. Fandom has greatly diversified in terms of race, gender and sexual orientation since the original trilogy, and as a result, they've been demanding to see that same level of diversity in their fiction. Trek showed the way forty-plus years ago, and I believe it's incumbent upon whoever comes in to continue SW to keep this firmly in mind.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Carnival of Souls/Horror of Dracula

I'm back. I rode out Hurricane Sandy, but I also stayed offline until late Wednesday. Hope you and yours are safe and well. I've had another, unrelated project going on that has been taking up my time and has now been delayed, so posts may be kinda erratic for the next week or so.

Carnival of Souls
Horror of Dracula

I was originally gonna do these as separate posts, but because of the delay as a result of the hurricane, I've decided to do both of them in one so I can put this behind me. 

Carnival of Souls was the second half of the Friday twin bill at the Loews last weekend and the film I was most eager to see. The premise: a young woman who appears to survive a car crash gets a new job as a church organist in a small Utah town and keeps seeing weird, horrifying things and people that don't seem real, but haunt her nonetheless. 

A movie like this seems to invite multiple interpretations. What stood out for me was what seemed to be a theme of atheism versus faith. Mary works in a church, playing the organ, but she clearly is not a woman of faith, and more than one person remarks on the alleged contradiction: how can someone work in a house of worship without subscribing to its tenets? Mary insists it's just a job to her.

It's a good question, the more I think about it. I've been to churches, synagogues, and other places of worship and tolerated the services there, even if I didn't believe in the things being said, but some occasions have been harder to sit through than others. While my mind insists that organized religion is a crock, sermons appeal to the heart, and they're harder to ignore, especially when one hears them repeatedly over a period of time.

Mary believes she's being tormented and pursued by zombie-like beings. I tend to think that the zombies represent something, but I'm not sure what. Her conscience, perhaps? I do feel like there's some sort of inner conflict that Mary is struggling with, even though it's not made explicitly clear within the film's context. 

In addition to the faith versus atheism theme, Mary is presented as very self-reliant. She acts like she doesn't need anybody. Johnny, the neighbor who tries to score with her, is definitely kinda creepy and one can't really blame Mary for not wanting to hang out with him, but even when she sees a doctor for her hallucinations, she ends up deciding that she doesn't need him, that she can figure this out on her own. 

Maybe the zombies represent her regrets, some repressed part of her persona that she never allowed to come to the surface for whatever reason. Don't know... but the ambiguity of this film is a big reason why it's appealing.

As for Horror of Dracula, it's basically the original Dracula story, re-told Hammer Films-style, with Christopher Lee as the fanged one and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. The last time I saw these two together in a Hammer film was The Gorgon, from last Halloween. This was considerably better than that one, however I was disappointed to see so little of Lee, even though I admit I found it odd at first to see Dracula being played with a British accent.

The whole film felt unmistakably British: prim and proper and a bit staid, even in the face of such a classic horror story. It didn't have quite the level of menace and dread as the Lugosi version. Honestly, it felt kinda like the Masterpiece Theater version, which isn't necessarily an insult: it looks lovely and uses the location shots to great advantage. And it did have its moments: for instance the first time we see Lee in full vampire mode (see the image above) scared me for sure. Frank Langella remains my favorite Dracula. Cushing's Van Helsing is good, but I liked Anthony Hopkins' interpretation in Francis Ford Coppola's version better. 

Maybe the Halloween crowd was slightly different from the usual Loews crowd, but I found myself more aware of the audience during the movies, especially on Saturday during Dracula. Several people around me whispered stuff to their friends periodically throughout the movie, but  not enough to be truly annoying. I only had to shush somebody once, and that was when he tried to answer his cellphone. 

Maybe I just didn't want to start a row in my favorite movie theater. I mean, I'm willing to put up with some whispered asides during a movie, especially when it's part of an event such as this, but on Saturday night I felt like I was close to the limits of my tolerance. It didn't help that I felt a little crankier than I did on Friday night. I probably should've invited a friend or two to come with me, but I didn't.

The ride back into the city didn't help. Apparently there were many Halloween parties on Saturday, because I saw lots of people on the streets and in the trains in costume, and the ones on the PATH train heading into Manhattan were annoying. Actually, I find that whenever I come from the Loews on a Saturday night, I always see some cluster of skanky, tarted-up chicks on the PATH, presumably on their way to a club or bar somewhere in Manhattan. 

This time they were in costume, and they were the kind of costumes you'd expect: "sexy" cop, "sexy" soldier, etc. - and of course, there's always some girls with cat's ears on their head and painted cat's nose and whiskers. The interchangeability and blandness of these people never fail to set my teeth on edge, especially being in such close quarters with them. But that's just me.