One of the best things about Halloween at the movies is that it's one of the only times of year that most people have the rare opportunity to actually watch a silent film in the theater again. It's become fairly common, and wonderfully so, to stage revivals of such silent gems as THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI and THE GOLEM," for All Hallows' Eve. But the granddaddy of these remains the vampire classic NOSFERATU (1922)
Today, Bram Stoker's 1897 novel DRACULA is in the public domain, but this wasn't the case when German master filmmaker F. W. Murnau made this silent adaptation without permission from the Stoker estate. In an attempt to avoid a lawsuit, Murnau changed the title, the character names, and made a few superficial tweaks, while also adding an element that would forever become part of the vampire mythos--that exposure to sunlight can kill a vampire. Stoker's widow wasn't fooled, however, and successfully sued for all copies to be destroyed--or so she thought. Thankfully, a few prints survived.
Is this movie scary? You bet! Scarier than Lugosi's DRACULA?? Perhaps a matter of taste, but, yeah. This is German Expressionist Silent Movie Horror, and trust me, nothing is scarier than that. One might expect that a 94 year-old movie would feel dated, but in this case the film's antiquity only serves to increase the overwhelming sense of death and horror that permeate every frame. There are images in this film that are likely to haunt you for the rest of your life. This Count is not the slick, sexy, tuxedoed head waiter of your lusty nightmares; this vampire is a ghastly, rodent-like creature fit only to scurry among the shadows with his fellow vermin.
FYI, if you've never seen a silent film, I would recommend that you see one in the theater, with an audience, as it was meant to be seen. The group experience is like no other.
In our current era of constant remakes and reboots, that the F. W. Murnau classic would be remade at all would normally be heresy. However, when the fascinating director Werner Herzog undertook the project in the '70's he was very conscious of the place the film, and its filmmaker, held in Germany's cultural past. It was Murnau, along with G. W. Pabst and Fritz Lang, who had exerted their country's worldwide artistic influence on the burgeoning craft of cinema with such films as METROPOLIS (1927), SIEGFRIED (1924), and PANDORA'S BOX (1929). As a young man, Alfred Hitchcock was in Germany and was able to observe Murnau at work on another of his classics, THE LAST LAUGH, and was purported to be a fan of Lang, as well. The stylishness of German Expressionism forever left its mark on the Master of Suspense and his films.
It was this tradition Herzog felt the need to reconnect to. In a 1999 interview the director said: "As a German filmmaker, we had no real fathers to learn from, no points of reference. Our father’s generation sided with the Nazis or was forced into immigration so we were a generation of orphans. And you can’t work without having some sort of reference as to your own culture and the connection and continuity, so it was our grandfathers–Murnau, Fritz Lang, Pabst and others–who were our teachers, our guidance. For me, Murnau’s film Nosferatu is the best German film ever, and I somehow needed to connect, I had the feeling I had to go back my own roots as a filmmaker. As an homage to him I chose to make this film.”
In his hands the material is not exploited, it is cherished.
As creepy as the original, utilizing many of the same locales of that film as well as being shot-for-shot in some cases, his remake adds the dimensions of color and sound. French actress Isabelle Adjani's performance in particular evokes the silent tradition using gesture, and expression, and dramatic, voiceless appeals to show her character's grief and turmoil, and when she does speak, it is in a strange poetry.
And speaking of speaking, the film was made in both English and German, filming a scene in one language, then immediately doing it again, exactly the same, in the other. Helpfully, the star, Swiss actor Bruno Ganz, manages easily in English, and the luminous Adjani, as his wife, speaks fluent German as well as English. Klaus Kinski, as Dracula, is terrifying in any language.
The definitive DVD from Anchor Bay contains a single disc, with English on one side and German on the other. Most fans prefer the German language version, as it is more authentic to the intention of the homage, and, well, it's just that much scarier in Deutsch, ja?
Of the two, it's hard to pick a favorite, though for sheer frightfulness I lean toward the silent version, which often seems like watching something actually shot in the year in which it is set, 1838, and that is quite creepy all on its own.
NOSFERATU, 1922, 10/10, and NOSFERATU, 1979, 9/10. DVD and streaming, and, quite possibly, at a theater near you.
This video clip is from tonight's debate between U.S. Rep Tammy Duckworth and incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Kirk. Duckworth is hoping to unseat Kirk, who is the junior senator from Illinois.
I was shocked by Kirk's response at 30 seconds into the clip. I voted for Kirk, a moderate Republican, in 2010, but I will vote for Duckworth this year. That's isn't because of Kirk's comment. I'd already made up my mind, but I still think well of Kirk, so I don't know what to make of his comment. It was awful and beneath him.
Some background: Kirk was a Navy Reserve intelligence officer who retired as a commander in 2014. In 2012, Kirk suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed and without speech. After a long, difficult recovery, he was able to return to work in the Senate.
Duckworth retired in 2014 as a lt. colonel in the National Guard Reserve. In 2004, a Black Hawk she was piloting was shot down in Iraq. She lost both legs and suffered severe damage to one arm. Duckworth, was born in Bangkok to a Chinese-Thai mother and an American father who had several ancestors who served in the American Revolution. Her father was a Marine Corps veteran who worked for the U.N. Because of her father's work, Tammy was raised in Asia until age 16, at which time her family moved to Hawaii.
It's possible that impairments related to the Kirk's stroke might have something to due with his disturbing remark, though I can't say for sure. Whatever the case, it was troubling to hear this from someone I've always thought well of. I hope he apologizes.
I've heard from people in the know, and it sounds like that last paragraph is pretty much the explanation.
Just weeks before early voting began in North Carolina, Grace Bell Hardison, a 100-year-old African-American woman, was informed that her voter-registration status was being challenged. If she didn’t appear at a county Board of Elections meeting or return a notarized form, she would be removed from the voting rolls.
Hardison has lived in Belhaven, North Carolina, her entire life and voted regularly for the last 24 years, including in North Carolina’s presidential primary in March. “The first thing out of her mouth was ‘I can’t vote,’” her nephew Greg Sattherwaite said after she received the letter. “She loves to vote. She will not miss election time.”
Hardison’s registration was challenged by Shane Hubers, a Belhaven Republican, after a mailing done last year by a candidate for mayor. Mail that was returned as undeliverable in 2015 became the basis for the challenge list.
But the mailings included many incorrect addresses. “My mail comes to the post office,” Hardison told WNCT TV, which brought attention to her plight in an October 18 broadcast. “I don’t have no mail come to the house. Ever since I’ve been here, my mail has been coming to the post office.”
The challenge list compiled by Republicans also overwhelmingly targeted black and Democratic voters. “Of the 138 challenged, 92 of them were black and registered Democrats. 28 voters were unaffiliated, 17 were Republicans, and 1 was Libertarian,” reported WNCT.
I'm at a bit of a loss to review this movie objectively. I saw the first Jack Reacher and loved it, and I've read all twenty of the novels the films are based on, each of which was extremely enjoyable. Needless to say, I had been really looking forward to this new one. Was it worth the wait? Hardly. Every bit of visceral fun, not to mention testosterone, has been sucked out of this movie, leaving behind a dried up husk of tired gender issues and predictability in its wake. 2/10. Now killing souls in theaters everywhere.
Another lumbering behemoth from the franchise that wouldn't die. Somehow, I made it through this movie (though not all in one sitting), tempted to keep a score card on my lap of every time a tenet of the original classic '60's TV show was violated. People make fun of that show for its goofy, low-budget special effects, but what has a bigger budget brought us? The visuals are truly stunning, no argument, but they are a lot more like watching a special effects house's demo reel than being part of story worth watching. Curiously, a great effort is made to degrade Kirk from savvy '60s hero to slouching pretty boy, whom the film is determined to make a fool of. For those of you who look for symbolism in cinema, this one has a peach: Kirk literally ends the film with a black eye. A "No" out of 10. Streaming and on DVD/Blueray.
This is one of those shows we happen across and say, it's a BBC historical drama, those are always great, let's give it a shot. As usual, we were not disappointed.
Though I was prepared to be as the opening credits on the first episode revealed the story was based on a book by Sarah Waters, famed author of "The Little Stranger." I had read that book and was not impressed (though I seem to be alone in that opinion; my husband, clearly a man of good taste, loved it. Additionally, it won the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction [shortlist], in 2009, as well as being nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award. So what do I know?). I persevered, however, and I'm certainly glad I did. This story of gothic romance, suspense, and betrayal, plays out as though Ms. Waters sat down and said to herself, you know, I really like Dickens; I'll write something like that! Full of twists and turns that genuinely shock, held together by an extremely touching romance, this was a great, great watch. 9/10. A three part mini-series from 2005. On DVD and streaming from Amazon.
I've got a real soft spot for Disney pictures, particularly the early live-action productions made during Walt's life time. They are such gems, full of sparkle and fun, with tight execution and clear storytelling. Not to mention, the always capable Sherman Brothers are on hand to give a truly singable tune or two, as are a cast of 1960's "who's who" of charmers. Hayley Mills heads the list, with Dean Jones, Dorothy Provine, Elsa Lanchester, Ed Wynn … need I say more? The real star of the picture, however, is the cat. In one of the biggest failures of agent-ing in Hollywood, not only does this gifted feline not even get a screen credit, but neither do his handlers(?!). For my money, you can keep DeMille's parting of the Red Sea and Lucas's explosion of the Death Star; the real miracle of film-making is this cat. For those of you who have co-habitated with cats (no one "owns" a cat, as Hayley's character rightly points out) you know how difficult it is to get them to do ANYTHING, let alone hit their marks and ACT. Somehow, "unnamed siamese cat" performs like a trooper. 9/10. From Walt Disney Pictures, 1965. On DVD and streaming.