Saturday, October 30, 2010

House of Halloween Movie Picks: Fright Night at Casa Partridge

Before we get started on today's feature, just a reminder that the clock is clicking on the limited offer for my forthcoming Cemetery Dance novella, Oktober Shadows. Ordering deadline for the book is Monday, November 1st, so click on over to the CD site if you're interested in reserving a copy... and thanks!

Norman Partridge (Hey! This is my blog! It's about time I got a chance to pick a movie!) on THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935): Growing up as a kid in Vallejo in the pre-video/DVD sixties, Bride of Frankenstein was the one horror movie that the public library owned. Every year, the staff would trot it out for a Halloween showing, and I saw it more than a few times during those annual events.

That's part of the reason BOF is my favorite among the Universal Horrors. I can still remember my anticipation building as the date of the showing would grow nearer, just as I recall sitting in the dark and watching the movie I'd read so much about in Famous Monsters and biographies of Boris Karloff. And though it's connection to Mary Shelley's novel is tangential at best, for me Bride of Frankenstein is THE Frankenstein movie... even if it has more to do with James Whale's vision than that of The Monster's true creator herself.

For me, the reason's simple. Though Whale spills plenty of sparks in his mad lab and boils up a sky full of Hollywood lightning in the first sequel to Frankenstein, what he really did was catch lightning in a bottle. Everything works in Bride of Frankenstein, and for me it's the perfect horror movie. It moves like a bullet and doesn't waste a scene. It's vision is both sardonic and more-than-a-little melancholy, a combination that is almost impossible to pull off. Bride is also funny as hell (and, yep... I mean that literally). And it really gives viewers two top-tier monsters for the price of one: Karloff's mad/sad Monster, and Ernest Thesiger's "seven-deadly-sins-all-rolled-into-one" Doctor Pretorius... two flip sides to one very dark coin.

So give that coin a flip on Halloween night if you're looking for a great thrill. Either way it lands, it's coming up heads.

Tia V. Travis (author of "No Need of Wings") on REBECCA (1940): When I was little, my mother transported my brother and me across Canada by rail with our earthly belongings stowed in a behemoth of an iron-bound trunk of uncertain vintage. The trunk later became our guillotine-edged toy chest/basement library, and among the books stored there over the years -- including, inexplicably, Judy Garland and the Hoodoo Costume -- was my mum's first edition hardcover of Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca. "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again..." And every October when I'm alone in the house I revisit Hitchcock's Academy-award winning 1940 film adaptation. Rebecca possesses all the elements of a mid-century Gothic romance thriller: the forbidding seaside manor haunted by the memory of a beautiful-but-wicked femme fatale drowned in a boating tragedy; the secretive, wealthy widower tormented by his past (Laurence Olivier); the sinister housekeeper with a fierce devotion to the tempestuous first Mrs. de Winter and an intense hatred of her timorous new mistress (Judith Anderson); the quintessential charming scoundrel (George Sanders); the naive young heroine (Joan Fontaine) trapped in a tangled skein of mystery and deceit; and an unforgettable pyrotechnic climax.

For those seeking an even darker shade of black (or whiter shade of deathly pale), The Innocents is a film I find far too disturbing to view without my husband (you know who you are!) ensconced in the parlour chair at my side... and this, despite my affinity for quiet ghost stories and malefic Women in Black. The eponymous 1961 film adaptation of Henry James' 1899 novella stars Deborah Kerr as the repressed governess to a pair of decidedly odd children. Convinced her young charges are being unnaturally influenced by malevolent spirits haunting the remote country estate, Kerr soon finds herself drawn under their evil spell. The Innocents marries vertiginous Victorian paranoia with heart-pounding psychological suspense, and culminates in a deeply disturbing finale courtesy of a master storyteller at the height of his literary powers.

Neve Partridge on Disney's THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW (1949): I haven't seen this yet (I'm not even nine months old and I'm not allowed to watch television!), but my dad and mom watch it every year. I sure like listening to the song, though. Thurl Ravenscroft is the best!