It’s Alive

Oct. 05, 2011 | 12:23 p.m.

John Landis celebrates movie monsters in new book

John Landis is best known for his hit comedies — films such as 1978’s “Animal House,” 1980’s “The Blues Brothers,” 1983’s “Trading Places” and 1988’s “Coming to America” — but he’s also walked on the dark side. The 61-year-old directed the 1981 horror classic “An American Werewolf in London,” which featured Rick Baker’s Oscar-winning makeup design. Landis and Baker reunited two years later for Michael Jackson’s landmark 1983 music video “Thriller,” and in 1992, Landis directed the vampire movie “Innocent Blood.” Now he’s exploring his love of the genre in the new book “Monsters in the Movies: 100 Years of Cinematic Nightmares.” The 320-page book, which features glorious photographs from the famed John Kobal Collection, is divided into types of monsters: vampires, werewolves, mad scientists, zombies, ghosts and mummies. Landis also engages in conversation with his longtime friends who have […]
July 14, 2011 | 6:16 p.m.

‘Forbidden Planet’ artists talk sci-fi classic and the sounds of space

MGM’s 1956 sci-fi classic “Forbidden Planet” was an anomaly for the Hollywood dream factory that was known for its lush Technicolor musicals, adaptations of literary works and star-driven dramas and comedies. It represented the studio’s first foray into the sci-fi genre. “It was rare enough that any of the major studios made sci-fi,” said Oscar-winning sound designer Ben Burtt (“Star Wars,” “Wall-E”), who saw the film as a boy in 1956. Burtt and Oscar-winning visual effects supervisor Craig Barron (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) are hosting a sold-out digital screening of “Forbidden Planet” Saturday evening at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Linwood Dunn Theater. Before the movie, the two will discuss the secrets behind its production. The event also kicks off a free exhibition in the lobby of the Linwood Dunn, “Forbidden Planet: Artifacts from the […]
June 30, 2011 | 12:45 p.m.

Tim Burton: Nine monster movies that inspired him

Tim Burton’s  gleefully macabre aesthetic is currently on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art — the exhibition that bears the filmmaker’s name and runs through Halloween brings together more than 700 drawings, paintings, photographs, film and video works, storyboards, puppets, concept art, costumes and other movie memorabilia. During a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, the Burbank-born director talked about the influence classic monster movies have had on his life’s work, and picking up on that theme, the museum this weekend will launch a Saturday Monster Matinee series spotlighting nine films that are close to Burton’s heart. Here’s a look at the lineup: “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” (1958): Directed by Nathan Juran, the film was the first of three “Sinbad” movies Columbia produced that special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen designed and animated with the dazzling […]
May 18, 2011 | 5:56 a.m.

‘Dracula,’ ‘Mark of the Vampire’ bring vintage bite to Aero Theatre

Tod Browning’s films were often unsettling, shocking and disturbing. They were populated with freaks, geeks, carny folk, ruthless people and vampires. Though his best-known film is 1931’s “Dracula,” with Bela Lugosi, his greatest productions were his collaboration with the “Man of a Thousand Faces,” Lon Chaney. So it seems only appropriate that two of his legendary films with Chaney: 1925’s “The Unholy Three” and 1927’s “The Unknown” open “American Gothic: A Tod Browning Retrospective” on Thursday evening at the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre. Born in Louisville, Ky., in 1880, Browning began performing and singing as a youngster. He ran away from  home at 16 and joined a circus, where he went from carnival baker to contortionist. Many of his films revolve around circuses. He later went into vaudeville and was introduced to D.W. Griffith in 1913 by an old vaudeville partner. […]
May 08, 2011 | 7:29 p.m.

‘The Curse of the Werewolf’: Oliver Reed found the beast inside 50 years ago

There was always something menacing about British actor Oliver Reed. He had a thick bull neck, a sinewy frame, dark eyes, a noticeable scar on his face and a flat nose. He was a notorious boozer and rabble-rouser,too, a life as rough as his visage. The presentation wasn’t always gentle, either; when he appeared in the 1980s on David Letterman’s show, for instance, he would answer questions only in German. If there was a beast inside, it came out during his first starring role, the blood-curdling “The Curse of the Werewolf” from 1961. The only werewolf film from Hammer Film Productions, the Terence Fisher film was feted Saturday night at Pitzer College in Claremont with a 50th anniversary celebration that  featured a life-size sculpture of the hirsute monster, a creation of Mike Hill. “The Curse of the Werewolf” finds Reed at his hair-raising best as […]
April 28, 2011 | 2:21 p.m.

Bernard Herrmann and the echoes of cinema history

The TCM Film Festival celebrates the 100th birthday of the Oscar-winning composer Bernard Herrmann (“The Devil and Daniel Webster”) with screenings this weekend of several films for which he wrote the scores:  Orson Welles ‘ 1941 masterwork, “Citizen Kane;“  Martin Scorsese‘s 1976 classic, “Taxi Driver” ( his final score); 1958’s “The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad,” the first of four fantasy films from special-effects legend Ray Harryhausen; and 1955’s “The Trouble With Harry,“ the first film Herrmann scored for Alfred Hitchcock. Dorothy Herrmann, the daughter of the composer, will be talking about her father Thursday evening at screenings of his favorite film, the 1947 romantic fantasy “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” and the 1951 sci-fi thriller “The Day the Earth Stood Still.“ Bernard Herrmann, who died in 1975 at the age of 64, worked in radio in the 1930s in New […]
April 23, 2011 | 5:05 a.m.

‘The Last Dinosaur’: Like Moby Dick but, well, not so much

It’s too bad that “Mystery Science Theater 3000” is no longer in production because the ‘bots Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot would have a field day riffing on 1977’s “The Last Dinosaur,” which recently hit DVD by Warner Archive. An American/Japanese co-production, the sci-fi thriller was shown theatrically in Japan but only on television in the U.S. Richard Boone, who looks liked he stepped out of his old NBC mystery series, “Hec Ramsey,” plays big-game hunter, billionaire and serial womanizer Maston Thrust, whose company (ahem) Thrust Inc., drills for oil on the polar ice caps. During one of the drilling expeditions, the vehicle that travels to the ice cap surfaces in a valley that is inhabited by dinosaurs. Only one man (Steven Keats) returns from the expedition (a T. Rex has the rest of the crew for a snack) and Thrust […]
April 11, 2011 | 1:47 p.m.

Winsor McCay’s ‘Little Nemo’ brought a new animated spirit to film 100 years ago

This month marks the 100th anniversary of Winsor McCay’s short film “Little Nemo.” It was not the first drawn animated film — J. Stuart Blackton’s “Humorous Phases of Funny Faces” preceded it by five years — but it was the film that demonstrated the potential of animation as art form. “Little Nemo” is the seed from which the great Hollywood cartoons and today’s animated blockbusters grew. An extraordinary draftsman, McCay was not only the greatest of the pioneer animators, but a master of the newspaper comic strip and an important editorial cartoonist. In a letter to cartoonist Clare Briggs, McCay declared: “The principal factor in my success has been an absolute desire to draw constantly. I never decided to be an artist. Simply, I could not stop myself from drawing. I drew for my own pleasure. I never wanted to […]
April 03, 2011 | 9:46 a.m.

‘Brenda Starr, Reporter’: The final byline after 71 years on the beat

There wasn’t a lot of public stir on Jan. 2  when “Brenda Starr, Reporter” retired after 71 years on the newspaper-comics beat. In its heyday, the comic strip created by Dale Messick was a staple in 250 newspapers. Last year, it was in 65, with 36 of those international publications. “Brenda Starr” appeared two years after intrepid Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane was introduced  in Action Comics No. 1, the comic book in which Jerry Siegel and illustrator Joe Shuster gave the world the first Superman. But unlike the doings in Metropolis, in Brenda’s adventures, it was the woman who was in the spotlight.  Brenda was also created by a woman, who had worked as a greeting-card illustrator for the Chicago Tribune Syndicate. Brenda Starr’s name was based on a popular 1930s debutante, and she was modeled on Rita Hayworth, then an up-and-coming sex […]
Feb. 18, 2011 | 10:04 a.m.

‘Alice in Wonderland’: Sixty years later, former Disney child star looks back

During her early days as a school teacher in Southern California, Kathryn Beaumont had some conversations that got curiouser and curiouser. That’s the sort of thing that happens when you’re a former child actor who has given voice to two of Walt Disney’s most famous young heroines. Beaumont, now 72 and living in Burbank, recently recalled one of the encounters: “The children were lined up outside my door for coming in,” Beaumont said. Also outside was a student’s mother, who said, “I don’t want to take too much of your time, but I took my daughter to ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ ”   The daughter insisted that Alice was now her teacher, and she and the mother had argued about it. “So I had to tell her,” Beaumont said. “She was really in shock.” Beaumont told that bewildered parent that she had been […]
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