Joe Bob and I chat with Ms. Honey Gregory, the very first Mail Girl from back in the Drive-In Theater days. We find out what she’s up to now, ask her your burning questions from Twitter, and find out if there’s any hope for a Mail Grrrl reunion...Four Stars! Honey and Darcy say check it out!
I once again challenge mysssself to use my sssspeakin’ mouth to talk ssssolo for 10 mins (desssspite having a chipped tooth that affects meh talkin’ sssskillz a bit 😉) to get you caught up on a few perssssonal thingssss. Big hugssss & Happy New Year (finally! 😋🖤)
There was never a man of his ilk before him, there was never an equal after. Ho-rror stars are innumerable, but there is only one Lon Chaney. He was a genre star before there was a genre; a master of makeup who was limited only by his imagination. With primitive tools, he molded himself into any form: skull-faced composer, shark-toothed vampire, hunchbacked bellringer, legless gangster, armless knife-thrower, little old lady, and beyond. To Chaney, the human body was a canvas on which to create. And on that canvas, he painted macabre marvels that would incite the envy of Francisco Goya. Chaney was and will always remain one of cinema's great artists.
But it wasn't just their grotesque appearances that made Chaney's oddities so enduring. Through the self-applied makeup, Chaney's acting shined. No matter how loathsome, flagitious, or disfigured, Chaney found the humanity in every part. Every "monster" has the same emotions and frailties as any man, and Chaney was never afraid to let us see that. He saw the beauty in the beast; he empathized with those who were ostracized by society. Chaney was the misfit's movie star. Ray Bradbury once said, "He was someone who acted out our psyches. He somehow got into the shadows inside our bodies; he was able to nail down some of our secret fears and put them on-screen. The history of Lon Chaney is the history of unrequited loves. He brings that part of you out into the open, because you fear that you are not loved, you fear that you never will be loved, you fear there is some part of you that's grotesque, that the world will turn away from."
Chaney was born to deaf-mute parents, which informed him as a performer. That great empathy for the disabled and different was a product of living with such parents, as was his tremendous ability to communicate non-verbally. As disreputable as many of his characters may be, Chaney himself was highly regarded by his peers. Joan Crawford (who worked with Chaney in "The Unknown") said that she learned what it meant to be an actor by watching Chaney on set. During the great man's funeral, all film studios and every office at MGM observed two minutes of silence in his honor.
By today's standards, many of Chaney's films aren't necessarily "ho-rror," but they still eXXXist within the realm of the eerie. Most of them dealt with bizarre crimes, often related to some spurious supernatural element or gruesome act of violence. A Chaney picture usually meant seedy characters, ho-rrible deformities, and weird visuals. Before Karloff and Lugosi invaded the dreams of the public, Chaney was pop culture's greatest nightmare. In the film, "The Hollywood Revue of 1929," a show-stopping tune about Chaney portrayed him as a shapeshifting monster. As a popular saying of the time went, "Don't step on that spider... it might be Lon Chaney!"
To ho-nor the Many-Faced God, we present a picture that is unequivocally of the ho-rror variety: "The Phantom of the Opera." It's a film that means the world to us, and the film that cemented Chaney's place in the pantheon of monsters. The Phantom's monstrous countenance is still unmatched in its gruesome glory. As "Psycho" author tyRobert Bloch put it, the Phantom's is the "naked face of horror."
For your amusement and edification, here is... "The Phantom of the Opera!"
Believe it or not, Lovecraft adaptations were a rare thing before the '80s. The very first Lovecraft film, Roger Corman's "The Haunted Palace" (adapted from "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward"), didn't even include the author's name, opting for the tit-le of an Edgar Allan Poe poem and his more marketable name. Every blue moon, there would be something like "Die, Monster, Die!" (based on "The Colour Out of Space") and 1970's "The Dunwich Horror," but those didn't really leave a mark (bloody or otherwise) on pop culture. All of that may seem odd in an age in which Cthulhu has made multiple appearances on "The Simpsons," yet Lovecraft wasn't a mighty member of mainstream media until one particular film changed that: "H.P. Lovecraft's Re-Animator." I mean, his name's right there in the tit-le! In its wake, more eldritch ho-rrors rose from the depths: "From Beyond," "The Curse" (another take on "The Colour..."), "The Unnamable," "The Unnamable II: The Statement of Randolph Carter," "Cast a Deadly Spell" (an original film starring Detective Harry Phillips Lovecraft), "The Resurrected" (another "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward"), "Necronomicon" (with "Re-Animator's" Jeffrey Combs), "The Real Ghostbusters" (specifically the episode, "The Collect Call of Cthulhu"), and the popular tabletop RPG, "Arkham Horror."
And folks, we're just talking about the late '80s/early '90s.
Much like the tit-ular "Re-Animator," the film gave new life to the dead; a formerly obscure author whose best work was written in the '20s now enjoys a popularity that rivals even that of Edgar Allan Poe. Now, there were other factors that contributed to the revitalization of Lovecraft, but there's no denying the profound impact "Re-Animator" had on Lovecraft's cultural legacy. And if "Re-Animator" was the re-agent, director Stuart Gordon was its Herbert West. "Re-Animator" would be enough to cement Gordon's place in ho-rror, but enough is not enough for a genius like Gordon. In 1986 (the year after "Re-Animator"), Gordon went even deeper into Lovecraft Country with "From Beyond," a gooey masterpiece that's second only to "Re-Animator." Surely that was enough to satiate Gordon's appetite for Lovecraftian madness, right? Wrong! Gordon went on to make "Dagon," "Dreams in the Witch-House" for "Masters of Horror," "Castle Freak," and the brilliant stage production, "Re-Animator: The Musical."
Shakespeare has Olivier, Poe has Corman, and Lovecraft has Gordon.
Gordon was not just a great interpreter of Lovecraft but a great director in general. In my opinion, Gordon is as great an auteur as Carpenter or Argento. With wit and verve, Gordon elevated eXXXplotation material to all-time cl-ass-sick status. His films were cheeky, but they still had the ability to unsettle an audience. "Re-Animator" is a shining eXXXample of what can be accomplished with little money and a lot of imagination. The scene in which the main characters chase a cat in a darkened basement is B-movie brilliance. Heck, the entire film is in a cl-ass of its own when it comes to ho-rror comedies.
Beyond Lovecraft, Gordon also gave us "Dolls," an oddball fairytale that marries old dark house chillers with the Grimm-ly fantastical. He worked his black magic with Poe, directing "The Pit and Pendulum" and "The Black Cat" for "Masters of Horror." In a mad science story of a different sort, Gordon co-created and nearly directed "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" for Disney. When it came to the weird and funny, Gordon was an artist of the highest caliber.
We are, of course, saddened by the passing of Mr. Gordon. He was the greatest adapter of Lovecraft, a master of the merrily morbid, and just a wonderful human being. But he left behind a legacy of timeless entertainment that will ensure that he will never be forgotten. We may be sad, but through his considerable creations, Stuart Gordon will never truly die.
In ho-nor of the great man, here's the trailer to his masterpiece:
Nearly every great ho-rror villain has at least one genuinely fantastic film to their name; the film that nullifies decades upon decades of mediocrity because its transcendent eXXXcellence. You can send Pinhead to space, cyberspace, Revolutionary France, and beyond, but he will always maintain his spot amongst the immortals for the sheer brilliance of that first "Hellraiser." Have Michael Myers kung-fu fight Busta Rhymes for the rest of eternity; John Carpenter's "Halloween" absolves him of all sins. But Lubdan the Leprechaun has not earned that blessed privilege. With a franchise that wears enough green on Rotten Tomatoes to ward off pinches for three lifetimes, the Leprechaun should have festered in the 1990s with "Rumpelstiltskin," "Dolly Dearest," and all the other forgotten oddities of that era. Some of the films made decent money on miniscule budgets, but none of them really set the world on fire. And yet, in the year of our Lord 2020, we are still talking about that damned Leprechaun! There are officially licensed tiki mugs, Halloween costumes, t-shirts, and even a recent reboot from the SyFy Channel. Try as they will, try as they might, no one can slay the Leprechaun tonight.
Originally envisioned as a straight ho-rror film, 1993's "Leprechaun" morphed into something cheekier when Warwick Davis was cast as the diminutive demon. In a bold move for a ho-rror franchise, Leprechaun begins with the comedy installment. After Freddy's apparent death in 1991, the universe was in desperate need of a wisecracking supernatural malefactor. And since no real options presented themselves, "Leprechaun" took up the task. Written and directed by Mark Jones (writer of "Scooby's All-Star Laff-A-Lympics," "Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels," "Fangface," and other animated favorites), "Leprechaun" is a profoundly unfunny cartoon of a movie. The lead character is a little boy who hangs out with an oafish adult, which brings to mind the many "small wiseguy/tall doofus" pairings on "Looney Tunes"... but with less laughs. It's never really funny, it's never really scary, and the only notable thing about the picture is the presence of a pre-Friends Jennifer Aniston.
Well, that would be the case if not for one considerable eXXXception: The Leprechaun himself. No matter how forgettable the rest of the film is, Warwick Davis is genuinely brilliant as the Leprechaun. Praiseworthy performances like Boris Karloff as Frankenstein and Christopher Lee as Dracula were surrounded by films that would still be magnificent without them (though significantly less so), but Warwick Davis carries the entire film on his shoulders. Davis chortles, rhymes, and mugs his way through the entire film, yet he is so committed to this ridiculous part that you can't help but believe that he is that malefic menace. He completely captures your attention and plays the part with bombastic sincerity. And that is why the Leprechaun remains immortal.
A film that we just described as "profoundly unfunny" has become a cherished St. Patrick's Day tradition in our home based solely on the strength of its lead performance; an entire franchise eXXXists because of that one performance. Warwick Davis wasn't given Freddy Krueger or Dracula, but he sure as hell acted like he was! It's a testament to his dedication that these dumb movies about a drunken coin magician remain a popular ho-rror staple, even inspiring imitations. (Looking at you, "Unlucky Charms!") Even at their bottom-of-the-barrel, mythical-creature-on-a-space-station worst, the Leprechaun himself is always a 10/10 creep.
After that inaugural outing, Warwick and his Leprechaun appeared in five more films, traveling to Hollywood, Vegas, space, the Hood, and, yes, back to the Hood. Most of them are more entertaining than the first one, some even approach good(ish) at times, but none of them are great ho-rror cinema. But whenever Warwick is on screen, yucking it up and rhyming his heart out, there's a kind of magic there. The "Leprechaun" films may not be great ho-rror cinema, but Lep himself is a great ho-rror monster. If Warwick Davis is still up for it, we would love to see him don the striped socks one last time. And if the resulting film is good, that'll just be a bonus!
In ho-nor of the Clover-Creeper, we have the greatest rap scene in the history of cinema! Enjoy!
Hey! An animated film! I don't think we've ever covered one of those before!
Well, despite the kid-friendly connotation that lingers about them like the stench of death, animated films can be terrifying. For one second, really consider the events of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," the first (arguably) full-length animated feature: a villainous queen orders a huntsman to cut out the heart of a teenage girl, said teenage girl is spared but finds herself lost in a nightmare forest of phantasmagorical ho-rrors, the queen discovers that the fair maiden is alive, uses black magic to assume the appearance of an odious hag, poisons the girl, and our tragic heroine falls into a deathlike slumber. If not for the overly jubilant ending and whimsical musical numbers, "Snow White" would be a straight-up ho-rror story. (It's so frightful, it inspired Dario Argento to make "Suspiria!") And that was the first fairytale feature made by Disney, the company that perpetuated the notion of animation as family entertainment. Cartoons are ripe with ghoulish potential because they can distort the world in ways that live-action cannot. Without limiting physics, the animated realm can plunge the viewer into the Stygian depths of the fantastically morbid. But, for whatever reason, there have been relatively few attempts to create a genuinely frightening animated movie. Films like "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Hotel Transylvania" borrow ho-rror's iconography, but those films aren't trying to disturb you. "Coraline" is admirably unsettling, yet it never goes quite far enough for adult viewers. (Still an eXXXcellent movie, though.) Ho-wever, there is one film which pushed animation off the precipice into the swirling waters of madness: "Perfect Blue."
"Perfect Blue" was the first film of animation director Satoshi Kon, an artist who left us far too soon. In his time, Kon directed four films and created one television series, all of which are unequivocal masterpieces. Through the medium of animation, Kon eXXXplored themes of duality, reality, illusion, dreams, and media with the artistry of any live-action director. Though not necessarily his best film (but in a career such as his, a lesser work is still an all-timer), "Perfect Blue" was one of the films that really opened our eyes to what animation can achieve. With the absolute freedom of the design, Kon crafted a giallo-style film which veers into dreamy territory without slipping into absurdity. Every frame is meticulously crafted to simultaneously disturb and stimulate. "Perfect Blue" is a film of both shadows and substance, of things and ideas.
The film concerns Mima Kirigoe, a member of a modestly popular Japanese idol group, who retires to pursue a career in acting. Her change in vocation is controversial, inciting criticism and the fury of one unhinged fan. A series of incidents escalate until Mima loses her grasp of reality and murder takes the stage. Mima's friends and associates are being picked off, a website describes intimate details of her life, and she's haunted by a familiar face: her own. Is Mima being pursued... or is Mima the pursuer?
Originally conceived as a live-action series, "Perfect Blue" switched to animation after the production studio was damaged in the Kobe earthquake of 1995. It's conceivable that a live-action series would've worked, but something would've been lost. In a film that deliberately obfuscates its own narrative, animation is the ideal way to convey that confusion. Through animation, several possible realities are presented at once: an ethereal Mima gliding through the air like a fairy queen, reflections and photos manifesting phantom images, and other nightmarish sights invade what appears to be a world not unlike our own. Brilliantly animated transitions help to keep the viewer in the dark until we are presented with what appears to be the truth. And while that answer makes perfect sense within the conteXXXt of this film, we are still left questioning the reality of what we've just witnessed. King of the B's Roger Corman put it best: "A startling and powerful film. If Alfred Hitchcock partnered with Walt Disney they'd make a picture like this."
You won't just be confused; you'll be scared witless! Remember when we said this film was "giallo-style?" Well, let's just say that you'll be seeing more red than blue! Our favorite bit involves an icepick and Lucio Fulci's least-favorite part of the human body. There's also a truly remarkable sequence at the end in which the animation really shines... but we wouldn't spoil it for you! On top of the physical and surrealist ho-rror, there's also something chilling about the way the film portrays our relationship to celebrities. Mima's descent into madness is triggered by the pressure to live up to her persona. She's a real person (who just happens to be animated), but the real Mima and the Mima the fans see are conflated to a dangerous degree. The concept of fans projecting an ideal persona upon a persona, and the damaging effect of that eXXXpection were interesting enough in 1997 but carry even more weight in an era in which internet stars are so prevalent.
Check out the film below and witness the awesome power of animation:
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If you'd like to vote on what movies you'd like us to show on The Last Drive In, I've made 2 Ranker lists so Mr. JB can see what we REALLY want him to show neXXXt season! :)
Upcoming Appearances (Updated on the reg, so check back often! :)
Cinema Arts Centre Huntington, New York
Cinema Arts Centre Huntington, New York
MutantFam.com (and YouTube and Twitter)
MutantFam.com (and YouTube and Twitter)
Our first Con of the year...and it's in Veg-ass, baby!!! Come hang with us in the City o'Sin!
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Exxxact deets will be up soon, but-t we're coming back to FL, baybee!!
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Enzian Theatre Orlando, FL
We're going to Disney World!!! ;) .
Enzian Theatre Orlando, FL
My Boss Man Interviews Robert Forster in this 1992 Drive In Theater interview.
Big thanks to the fine folks at MasiMedia who got this shindig together, and also to Mr. Roger Jackson (pictured intro-ing a screening of the film in Stu's backyard!! :) who not only came out to party with us, but-t also left me this terrifying vm that I will treasure for the neXXXt billion centuries!! :) xoxo
My Interview with Clint Freakin' Howard!!!
(nude Clint Howard and snow globes...need I say more?)
High History: Why I love Scream so much!
(remember to finish him)
Starring Diana Prince/Darcy the Mail Girl