Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Nightcap10/26/14:Tod Slaughter week starts tomorrow, Lincoln Center's Scary Movies starts Friday, The Pink Panther, a must see at DOC NYC and Randi's links

Halloween is Friday and usually we take a stab at running horror films but this year we’re going to do something else. This year we’re going to take a look at a large portion of the output of the late great Tod Slaughter.

Slaughter was a barn storming actor who toured all through England with dark melodramas. These were the sort of things that got the audience to boo and hiss at his vile antics. Slaughter was always the bad guy, he chewed scenery mercilessly (trust me you’ve never seen scenery chewed until you’ve seen Slaughter do it) and he seemed to relish it. Slaughter fell into films thanks to the British Quota system. Since producers needed films to fill the quotas imposed by the British government they looked for projects that they could turn into quick movies. Since Slaughter was a known quantity with a repertory of “classic tales” (The Face in the Fog, Sweeny Todd) they scooped him up and turned the plays into films. Todd then split his time between the cinema and the stage.

Slaughter’s output of films was relatively small. He only did about 15 features and a about 6 shorts. I’ve never run across any of his shorts but I have most of his features. They are dark and creaky classics that are all perfect for curling up on the couch with. If thought of the Universal horror films make you warm and fuzzy, Slaughters films will make you completely rapturous. While there are no monsters there are good guys and bad guys but there is the dark and stormy mood that pervade the Universal films in spades.

I don’t know why the films never played much in the US. To be honest until the advent of home video I never knowingly ran across Slaughter or his films. I ran across his films in the dollar bargain bins and being a cheap bastard I picked the few I could find up. When I saw the couple of films I found for a buck or two I then had to hunt down the rest and then went to places like Sinister Cinema in order to get the remaining titles. The weird thing was that when I first started looking for films IMDB only listed a hand full of the films. Slowly over the years the list grew from 6 titles to the 21 that it now lists.

If you’re wondering if you’ve ever run across any of Slaughters films just ask yourself if you ever picked up one of those large collections of old movies on DVD- you know the ones like 50 Mystery or Horror films for 20 bucks or less? If so then odds are you’ve got a bunch of his films.

Over the next seven days we’re going to wax poetic about Slaughter and his films. We’’ll be hitting some of the biggies (The Demon Barber of Fleet Street akaSweeny Todd, Face at the Window, Murder in the Red Barn) and some of the lesser ones as well. Keep reading and hopefully you’ll get inspired to watch a few during this spooky time of year.

Tod Slaughter on stage in 1926
Lincoln Center’s Scary Movies starts Friday, Halloween and runs until November 6. The series is its usual mix of old classics and new releases, and including a documentary on the Marlon Brando Island of Dr Moreau focusing on the film’s original director Richard Stanley.

This year our coverage is going to be spotty. I have two posts ready to go, One on the wonderful thriller Amsterdamned because I’m a huge fan of the film and it’s director Dick Maas. The other post are three capsules on the other three older films The Pack, Reflections of Murder and Angst. Two of the three films are great little poisoned confections.

As of now I’m not certain how many more we’ll get to. Press screening were too close to the New York Film Festival and I couldn’t get off from the day job. I do have a ticket for Lost Soul, the Moreau film, but I’m not sure what I’ll get to beyond that since I’m seeing John Cleese speak and Hubert read (more on that next week)

For those of you with the ability to make the screenings details on the films and schedule can be found here.
This past Thursday John and I decompressed from the craziness of the New York Film Festival and the upcoming DOC NYC by going to Lincoln Center to catch the Film Comment Select double feature of Return of the Pink Panther and The Pink Panther Strikes Again.

 I’m not going to do a real write up of the films (though I will say the comedy is hysterical, while the linking material is poor). I will say that the night was a great deal of fun with raffles, trivia questions, trailers and a featurette on the making of Return. Best of all was listening to the audience laugh with rotating members seeming to gasp for air.

I had a blast and John did too. It was one of those nights where you have a great night with a great friend and barely say a word because you’re laughing too hard at what you’re watching together.
I've seen close to 20 films that  will be playing at DOC NYC this year so far and there are a lot of good ones. Actually they're all good or great with no stinkers anywhere among them.

Run as part of the BAM Puppets on Film series and a co-presentation with DOC NYC was  I AM BIG BIRD, which is about Carroll Spinney who plays Big Bird and Oscar. I'll do a full review closer to the festival- largely because I'm looking at a draft piece I need to go over again- but the long and short of it is the film is one of the best at DOC NYC and of the year. It will move you- no one at the BAM screening wasn't crying at some point-so bring tissues. Also Spinney and his wife will be there so thats a bonus since that means Oscar the Grouch will be there too.

You have one shot at seeing it and you must take it.

Pictures from the BAM screening are up at Tumblr.
This week in addition to the Tod Slaughter films look fornew release films as well as titles from the Lincoln Center Scary Movies series.

and now Randi's links

The World Clown Association thinks scary clowns are not funny
Alan Moore's Million Word Novel
"Lost" Albums
Secret casualties of Iraq's abandoned weapons
Back Stage at Disney 1983 (and a young Tim Burton)
Sphinx from the original 10 Commandments have been unearthed
Pronouncing  Shakespeare
Evil Vinyl
Pink Panther goodies
Lost Episodes from At Last the 1948 Show have been found

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