Night of the Living Dead (1968)

directed by george a. romero
image ten

This being one of the more influential and critically assessed horror flicks of all time, I’m not going to waste a whole lot of words here, though I do find it highly amusing that I’d never seen this picture. (I’ve seen Day of the Dead, the completely irrelevant Return of the Living Dead, and such variants as Zombi3, but never the foundation film.) Having previously watched Romero’s Season of the Witch (“aka Hungry Wives”) and The Crazies, I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with his work, but I wasn’t prepared for the early going of this picture to emulate a silent movie, nor the workaday nature of the living dead themselves. The social commentary can be a bit heavy-handed, but that’s kind of a Romero calling card, at least in his auteur guise. A few quibbles: One, the film lacks for a certain logical consistency in how the zombies – er, I mean “ghouls” – act; two, and this just occurred to me during the latter portions of this film, why in the hell do zombies have to eat? They’re dead!

why did i watch this movie?

Night of the Living Dead is no. four in Johnny Ramone’s top 10.

should you watch this movie?

So much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens.

highlight and low point

The very nature of the low-budget presentation aids it immeasurably, lending it an almost documentary feel at times, and the general lack of histrionics on behalf of the risen dead also helps, their implacable multitudes generating an overwhelming sense of dread as the scope of the danger becomes more clear. Romero’s unadorned direction of his actors at times gives the proceedings a distinctly stagy quality, and his statements tend toward the transparent.

rating from outer space: a-

Psycho (1960)

directed by alfred hitchcock
shamley productions

I’m sure it’s been noted before, but the attention to detail in this movie astounded me, such as the scene wherein Arbogast is looking for clues to Marion’s disappearance in the Bates Motel’s office parlor – where Norman is displaying his stuffed birds – and the bookshelf behind him holds a full set of books entitled The Art of Taxidermy. So it’s a bit surprising, I guess, that certain other important factors seem so transparent, or even dishonest. Of course, that’s nitpicking, and anyone who doesn’t think this is a high-quality cinematic achievement … probably doesn’t care for noir films or suspense, or pulp fiction. Hitchcock himself must have thought he had a goldmine here, however, as he went ahead and made it despite Paramount’s objections and refusal to budget it appropriately. That worked out all right.

why did i watch this movie?

Noted horror film aficionado and memorabilia collector Johnny Ramone designated Psycho no. 10 in his personal Top 10 in the appendices to his posthumous autobiography Commando. Since the Ramones rank in my personal Rock Band Top 10, and I am a fan of these dumb films anyway, it seemed only right and natural to compare and contrast.

should you watch this movie?

Haven’t you seen it?

highlight and low point

I’ll pick two scenes to exemplify these extremes. The first is the scene where Arbogast is cagily picking his way through Norman’s story that no one’s been to the motel for a while. Anthony Perkins does a tremendous job stumbling over his lies and attempts to dissemble. The other is the terrible, terrible penultimate scene in which the psychiatrist explains the whole thing … and explains it, and explains it, and EXPLAINS it, sucking out a little more of the film’s mystique with every florid sentence. What. A. Drag.

Rating from outer space: B+

kids: don’t do drugs
(click to enlarge)

Blood Feast (1963)

DIRECTED BY HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS
BOX OFFICE SPECTACULARS, INC.

Here is where we should begin our disquisition on the ephemeral nature of what constitutes art vis-à-vis garbage, and engage in deep contemplation on the revealed substance and its relation to the Ideal, and how mere imitation or re-creation can only hope to further distance us from the knowledge of this state of perfection. We should, but we won’t, because gore impresario, auteur loon and marketing maven Herschell Gordon Lewis would probably laugh and point at us. His frankly ridiculous tale of catering a Society party with an “authentic Egyptian Feast” as a hopeful means of reviving the goddess Ishtar via cannibalism features some impossibly wooden acting, hilariously half-assed set dressing, excessively expository dialogue, indubitably fake blood, transparently ersatz makeup and FX, rudimentary cinematography, et cetera et cetera et cetera et cetera. (And in the midst of life we are in debt, et cetera.) Blows the doors off the insipid remake I panned a few weeks back, ably demonstrating the difference between a “bad” movie and the truly wretched.

WHY DID I WATCH THIS MOVIE?

Well, I watched the other one, didn’t I. You know, years back, I toiled at a mail-order company, the offbeat small-business-owner of which enjoyed visiting Lewis’s marketing website. He also enjoyed pointing out Lewis’s track record of proven “pull.”

SHOULD YOU WATCH THIS MOVIE?

It’s barely over an hour long!

HIGHLIGHT AND LOW POINT

It’s barely over an hou – yeah, just joshing, sorry. Scott H. Hall and Mal Arnold, as “police captain” and “Fuad Ramses,” respectively, suffice for shorthand. Hall is so terrible a thespian he shoulda been a “star” for Ed Wood, Jr., and Arnold is an expressionistic delight – the reductio ad absurdum of the Method. (And the sine qua non of any effort like this one.)

RATING FROM OUTER SPACE: B