Friday, May 8, 2015


To be honest while I love art I am sorely lacking in knowledge of great painters. So when I heard there was a movie out about painter J.M.W. Turner it wasn’t a name I was familiar with. After watching the film MR. TURNER I went back to look at some of the art he created. So strange to share a last name with someone that talented and have no idea about him.

MR. TURNER tells the story of the artists in the last few decades of his life during that early 19th century. Having become a successful painter of landscapes, making it an acceptable form of art that it had previously never enjoyed, Turner went on to create something different. But that comes in the second half of the film. The first portion deals with his day to day life, the woman he sired two daughters with and then ignored and his father, a man he was as devoted to as the man was to him.

At this point in time Turner (Timothy Spall) is a respected artists among his peers. With pictures hanging in the Royal Academy of the Arts, Turner enjoys conversing with his colleagues as well as the gentry who seek out his art in return for rewards in both monetary and social circles. One segment in this section of the film display his visiting the home of a land owner who has purchased several of his painting and whose company he enjoys. Anther finds him visiting the Royal Academy and offering suggestions there to fellow artists.

As the film progresses Turner seeks inspiration by returning to a location he remembers as a boy. There he meets and befriends a couple he rents a room from, Mr. and Mrs. Booth (Karl Johnson and Marion Bailey). His friendship with them is shrouded in secrecy as he gives himself the name of Mr. Mallard. Later when Mr. Booth passes, Turner returns to the seaside resort to continue painting there. It seems that the location offers the greatest views of sunrise and sunset in the country, most of which his paintings involve at the time. As time progresses Turner and Mrs. Booth become a couple though unmarried.

The latter half of the film moves from establishing the characters and into the later days of Turner’s life when he began to paint quite differently from his earlier years. The literal translations of sights he saw and placed on canvas changed to his attempts to put feelings in his paintings, establishing himself as one of the early impressionist painters of the time. Ridiculed by his contemporaries for this choice he would later be hailed for his inventiveness and use of color and light.

The movie unfolds in a slow fashion and continues that way from throughout. But that’s not to say this is a bad thing. There is no way to create an action film from the life of someone during this period whose greatest action involves placing brush to canvas. What it does is present the life of the painter, the good, the bad and the ugly. The screenwriting here takes us through the years of his life in a way that holds your interest until the very end. Extreme credit must also be given to Spall who brings this man to life on screen. He never portrays him as a saint but at the same time offers a man you feel compassion for throughout.

The major reason for watching this film though is the images that are captured on screen. Cinematographer Dick Pope captures the scenery that influenced Turner as if he were creating his own work of art and indeed he does. The hillsides and seascapes that he presents here come to life on screen making it a visual feast of its own. While director Mike Leigh may get credit for bringing this whole project to fruition, it is Pope’s visuals that will remain with the viewer long after the film ends.

The movie might not be for everyone. It’s pacing and story content feel more European than American. While in English there are times that the words chosen and accents used can make turning on the subtitles a necessary evil. But if you’re willing to give it a chance, if you’re looking for more drama than car chases then you might just find yourself enjoying this film. I know I did.

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For fans of horror films these days are unlike any seen since the 1930s. It was then that the monster films created by Universal Studios ushered in a genre that died off until the nuclear monster craze of the fifties. While the occasional horror film was well received by fans and critics over the years, it was never the same as before when a new horror film came out near weekly. That’s all changed over the past decade or so and now we have non-stop horror films coming out weekly. Unfortunately most aren’t that great but there are the rare gems.

That same standard has held true over the many years that horror films have been being made. There have always been those hidden gems that fans knew about or talked about that many missed. In the early days of video fans traded their copies of these films with one another or let each other know when they’d be on the late show. With the increased use of the internet scores of web sites began talking about these past films and collectors sought out these treasures either from one another or when they would be occasionally released on video then DVD.

But how could you find out some of the best of the best? I mean books on the topic if horror films were out there but those mostly discussed the latest franchise ala Jason/Freddy/Leatherface/Michael or the biggest movies that came out like THE EXORCIST or THE OMEN. What about those little films, the ones people talked about among friends, the ones that appeared on some horror host program that inspired nightmares in minds too young to be able to see those R rated slasher flicks on the big screen? Where was the book talking about those movies?

Apparently there were enough people wondering this for Editor Aaron “DR. AC” Christensen to round up a collection of these recommendations together in a book titled HIDDEN HORROR. What he’s done is contact a number of horror fans from all over the world to add their suggestions to the box and let other horror fans know about movies that they might have missed on the “Most Watched” rack at the local rental store or that were being discussed on mainstream horror sites. These are films that inspired the nightmares I was speaking of, the movies that caused many to find friends among the fans of horror or to get involved in the genre either via teaching, making movies, writing or more. Those who have written pieces for this book come from all of those backgrounds and more.

As he states in the book, there are a few titles that he questioned including in this tome. Movies like I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and THE HILLS HAVE EYES can’t be called unknown films to many horror fans. But with a young generation brought up to appreciate only what is new perhaps they haven’t been exposed to these and other films found in the book. These movies were part of that low budget/drive-in movie genre that most young people today have no exposure to. With the help of this book they’ll know what to look for now.

Starting alphabetically with ALUCARDA and ending with X: THE MAN WITH X-RAY EYES the book offers 101 different reviews of films for fans to seek out. To my knowledge all are available in one format or another for the discerning fan to look for. Each is written by someone different and while many names may not be that familiar to some, they are within the world of the horror fan. For instance one is written by Anthony Timpone who was once editor of FANGORIA magazine while another was written by Jon Kitley of, also the publisher of the book. Don’t worry though because at the end of each piece credit is given as well as a short description of the author of each review.

What makes the book good is also that which makes it inaccessible to some. That’s the fact that these are seriously written pieces where some will expect a gloss over piece. There is depth to the writing of these reviews that is rarely seen when it comes to discussions of the genre. Most would not expect a well written piece about a movie like THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH but you’ll find it here. Some pieces seem to be stretching it a bit when it comes to an overuse of adjectives and adverbs but then again these are written by people who take their horror seriously.

On top of that what made the book so enjoyable for me was the fact that I got the chance to learn about a few movies that even I, a die-hard horror fan, missed at one time or another. While I have seen well over 2/3 of the films listed that left another 1/3 that I now have to seek out. I’m guessing that most won’t even have seen that many of the films listed so the end result could be good news for DVD companies as readers seek out these titles.

The movies written about here range from regular horror offerings to a western to art films to low budget double feature style drive-in flicks. The authors involved here cover every type of horror film you can imagine. Best of all is being able to recognize some movies that even I have thought were long overdue when it came to recognition being singled out. Movies like DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW, THE CHANGELING (not to be confused with the Angelina Jolie movie this one starred George C. Scott), SHOCK WAVES, TOURIST TRAP, THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, HALLOWEEN III and more are included in this book.

If you’re a fan of horror films then you’ll want to add this book to your collection. It offers a guided tour through a list of movies that you will probably have missed at one point or another. If you’re not a horror fan you may want to read this any way. It will offer you a glimpse into why so many have chosen this genre as their favorite and give you a chance to see that not all horror films involve serial killers, slashers or possessed children. No matter what your favorite type of film is I can highly recommend this book to those who love movies and horror in particular. While the book itself might not inspire nightmares for those who read it I have little doubt that some of the movies suggested here might.

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I’ve always loved horror anthology films. Perhaps it was because the reminded me of the horror comics I wasn’t allowed to read when I was younger yet always snuck a peak at when perusing the comic book racks. In any event when I was old enough to go to the theater on my own and a new anthology movie came out I was there. But not all played in my area. Thank goodness video at the time took care of that. But even with that this movie passed me by somehow. Now thanks to Scream Factory I have a chance to make up for that.

The movie opens with the execution of a murderess being witnessed by reporter Beth (Susan Tyrell) who then drives to the woman’s home, a building where she grew up in the town of Oldfield, TN. A library run by her uncle Julian (Vincent Price), Beth confronts him with the woman’s stories of how the town made her do the killings she was responsible for. Julian confirms the stories to a doubting Beth and then begins to tell her of the terrifying legacy of Oldfield via several stories.

The first involves a nebbish of a man played by Clu Gulager who lives in a home where he must take care of his grown sister. At work, he longs for a woman he meets there and eventually asks her out. Things don’t go as planned and between the ridicule he faces at work and the forced care of his sister, he loses his mind, killing the woman. A bit of necrophilia, some possible incest and later on the true terror of his actions confronts him…literally.

Our second story involves a con man on the run from mobsters he owes money who escapes into the swamps only to be rescued by a possible voodoo priest. Nursed back to health, one day he begins looking at the things inside the man’s cabin. When he finds pictures of the man dating back 100 years he begs him to give him immortality as well. But as they say, no matter how well made the plans might seem things never seem to go as you would hope.

The third story is the weakest of them all involving a glass eater at a carnival sideshow. When he meets a young woman in the latest town he falls in love with, the star crossed lovers’ temp fate as well as the leader of the sideshow group he belongs to. A gory ending will satisfy gore hounds but the story seems to take far too long to tell.

The fourth and last tale involves a group of Civil War Yankee soldiers led by Cameron Mitchell who run afoul of a group of children who seem to be in charge of their town. These same children worship a false god who cries out for blood. If it seems a bit like CHILDREN OF THE CORN that comparison has been made time and again by folks talking about this movie. Perhaps it isn’t quite that but it’s easy to see where the comparison would come up.

The movie ends as it began with Tyrell and Price in the library talking about the horrors of Oldfield. Is she convinced after spending the night listening to Price’s tales of woe? The only way to find out is for you to make an effort to watch this on your own.

Of the anthology films I’ve been able to watch this one doesn’t qualify as the worst one I’ve ever seen. It does have some good spooky moments in it but nothing that I would call terrifying. Then again perhaps that depends on the number of horror films you’ve watched. For me it made this one a bit weak. The acting is solid, the directing works well but the budget limitations on the film show in various episodes on display here. That doesn’t make it a bad movie, just not one of the better in this genre.

As always Scream Factory has done a great job of extras with this film. Included are stills from the film, the theatrical trailer, audio commentary by director Jeff Burr, audio commentary by producer/writer Darin Scott and writer C. Courtney Joyner, TV spots for the movie under its original name THE OFFSPRING, a documentary on making super 8 films during the 70s involving the film makers and a comprehensive documentary on the making of this film, “Return to Oldfield: The Making of From A Whisper To A Scream” that runs as long as the movie itself!

Fans of the film will be delighted with the package involved and want to add it to their collection. Horror fans will want to add it to theirs as well. For everyone else it makes a solid evening’s entertainment from the 80s, a time when effects were yet to become the CGI spectacles they are now and everyone seemed concerned about their style choices. In other words it’s fun to go back and watch but not a place you’d want to hang around in too long. In the end you will have a bit of fun with this one.

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