Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Visions of Johanna.



A ghost story recollection from Joan Baez's time at Dylan's home in Woodstock  :

"Oh I think of the time at Woodstock.  That was one of the nicest times we ever had.  We were all staying out at that ugh, Bearsville, the house, the big haunted house.  Just gave me the fuckin' willies.  People talking... Well, I had nightmares.  You know, when you're in a place and you wish you weren't there... And it happened that night.  The next morning, Dick Fariña, who was always into that kind of thing, he was staying there.  Mimi, Dick, and Bobby and I, and I guess a bunch of other people around the house.  And in the monring I looked like hell.  I was just all green.  I just passed through the house all night long in my dreams, and Dick, suspicious, said, "Did you have bad dreams?" and I said, "Yeah," and he said, "This house, isn't it?"  And he wnet into the long great history of the house and how it used to have these pictures in the halls.  I had dreamed about axes, I had dreams about people chopping up people all night, and Bobby--you couldn't get anything out of Bobby.  When Bobby was out he was completely out, and I didnt' want to wake him.  I didnta want to scare him by telling him his house was haunted anyway.  And the next day, Bobby and I went on a motorcycle ride.  I can't remember who was driving.  I think he was driving.  I had dreamed about axes all night long.  We talked about axes al morning long.  We came to this fork in the road, and there was an axe lying there in the middle of the road.  I was terrified.  God, it was one of those dreams where it hangs over you the whole next day."  
 
-From "Bob Dylan" by Anthony Scaduto, 1972



Photo credited to Joanne Warfield.  Inscription on back of photo:  “Me [unknown], Joan [Baez], John Lennon & Ira [Sandperl] at Beatles’ pad in Hollywood Hills. Aug. ’65.”

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Top Fifteen Best Creepy Old Halloween Movies.



I can't stand a gory horror film.  Ever since catching glimpses of Friday the 13th at a fellow five-year-old's b-day party, I was spooked and grossed out by the buckets of blood and limbs flying.  Viewing horrific murders in graphic detail just sounds like the worst way to spend an evening.  However, I absolutely adore a creepy old psychologically spooky film from the olden days (pre-70s).  Anything Hitchcock or Vincent Price-- preferably featuring a haunted mansion, spooked maiden, candelabra, creepy old guy, ornate wallpaper, handmade ghoulish costumes, and old-time movie make-up-- absolutely tickles my fancy.  I love the mysterious, the occult, and the dark looming atmospheric themes that loom over those old movies.  This time of year, I love delving into the old spooky archives for a weird B-picture or an old classic I still haven't seen.

Its so hard to narrow the list to the top ten best old spooky movies, so I had to devise a list of those top fifteen that are on constant play in my house this time of year.  Most of these films you can find via Netflix Instant or in full length on Youtube.



Dracula's Daughter (1936)



The haunting imagery in this movie puts the modern vampire tales to shame.  Dracula's little girl, a fellow vampire-- or more like vamp-- tries to free herself of her dad's dark influences, she believes are haunting her.  She gets wrapped up in a kidnapping/love drama, ripe with thick lesbian undertones.  Fantastical dark capes and spooked wooded areas... and oh! that 30s-era make up is just perfect for a ghostly tale: pencil- thin brows, severe tight lips that you just know are crimson or plum even though you're staring at it in black and white. 




The Haunting (1963)



A classic psychological thriller, this British film follows a team of supernatural investigators hosting a sleepover in a haunted castle-mansion.  A perfect film when you're seeking a good ghost story in a lush interior.... Ghosts really know how to live their afterlife, don't they?  You'll never find them stuck a trashy old trailer park, no, they go straight to the high priced real estate.  Lots of cool 60s camera angles and an equal measure of cool 60s youth, the skeptics and the scared, all loose in the mansion for the haunting. 



Rosemary's Baby (1968)




Just one of the greatest films period.  Of any genre.  Rosemary's Baby is a seductive mix of conspiracy theory, occult, magic, glamour, history, and hollywood fiction.  Filmed in the rich, historic Dakota apartments (John Lennon's 70s era home and site of death, as well as the location of a legacy of New York dwelling celebrities and weirdos of the 1900s) by infamous director Roman Polanski just before his wife and unborn child's horrific murder. Conspiracy theorists say that Rosemary's Baby angered Hollywood Satanist so much, they plotted against his wife and child as revenge using Manson to do the dirty deed.  Gossip aside, its a bewitching, beautifully shot film.



Psycho (1960)



A stone cold classic.  Hitchcock play thing and stone cold fox Tippi Hendron, stars in this tale that made me never shower home alone again.  What can I say that hasn't already been said?  Who hasn't already seen this one?  There's a reason Hitchcock is called the Master of Suspense.




Carnival of Souls (1962)



I saw this one late one night/early one morning and was completely in love with the imagery and soundtrack!  Oh, its full of amazing organ music and images of teen rebels racing into the night, against their own fate.  There's not a whole of substance to the story but the fantastical imagery, themes, and 60s styling make it among my favorites.   




Masque of the Red Death (1964)



I've gushed exclusively about this film this week.  You just have to see this one in all its technicolor glory.  The occult themes and lush settings frame consummate horror actor Vincent Price and Beatle dream girl Jane Asher.  




Cat People (1942)


One of my fav films period, I've raved about Cat People in the past. Made as a B film in 1942, with time it became a critical darling with adoring fans like Martin Scorscese. You find find stills and descriptions I've posted here and here.




Nosferatu (1922)



Naturally some of the greatest creepy films are silent-era films: The deep shadows and shaky nature of the era's cinematography make for the perfect setting for a monster, murder, or evil scientist to concoct a dastardly plan.  Nosferatu is a classic German film and early adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula-- the hitch was, the production company couldn't obtain the rights so names had to be changed, from Count Dracula to Count Orlok, Vampire to Nosferatu.  The make up and mise-en-scene come together so perfectly that, even in this CGI-era, its a visual spectacle. 




The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)


Another silent-era German horror film, its considered the greatest horror of the era, and was the first film to utilize the 'twist ending'.   A great example of the German Expressionist style, the sets are stylized like an amazing painting and the actors use a strange, dance-like, creepy motion.  It is truly like a storybook come to life, inhabiting some strange dimension between two and three dimensions.





Freaks (1932)




If you like modern fringe filmmakers like David Lynch, you have to see this haunting precursor, "Freaks".  Panned in its day for being crude and disgusting, it pretty much ended director Tod Browning's career and was banned in the UK for 30 years after its release.  To modern eyes it is magical and wondrous.  Browning employed real people who worked as "circus freaks", placed them beautifully in the settings, and filmed them in crisp black and white.  While the treatment of 'disfigured' and disabled people on film is always controversial, I find this movie to be entrancing, and sometimes touching, beyond the novelty label "freaks".   




Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)


This movie haunted me for so long.  This was way too freaky for me to see as a kid, but as an adult I think it is a masterpiece.  Aging Hollywood dames Betty Davis and Joan Crawford at their freakiest/best.  The sick idea of two aging child stars vying for fame, living in the past, dressing up like elderly doll babies, and willing to do whatever it takes for a comeback, is creepy beyond belief.  If you love Sunset Boulevard but haven't seen this one yet, put it first on your queue because the similar themes of washed up hollywood, fame vampires, and aging beauties will keep you glued.




Les Yeux San Visage (Eyes without a Face) (1960)


The only Frenchie on this list, Eyes without a Face could be seen really any time of year, but I think the damsel-arrives-at-mad-scientist's-mansion-late-at-night theme gives it such a great Halloween feel.  Among the themes here are beauty, plastic surgery, science, youth, class and family ties.  Dr. Daddy is willing to do anything to give his masked daughter a new face after her horrific accident... Even at the expense of another young girl.  This film is a visually striking film in that great early 60s French style.  




House on Haunted Hill (1959)  


What lengths will people go to get a potentially life-changing amount of money?  Risk their lives in a haunted mansion? Why, yes, of course they would.  Millionaire Vincent Price plays cat and mouse games with his wife and their money grubbing 'party guests'.  BUT, this party has rules, and each guest is packing a pistol... Unfortunately a pistol is useless against a ghost.  So, of course, the once amicable guests start turning the pistols upon each other.  This film is full of hilarious tricks and effects, one of the greatest moments is when the dame in the above picture screams for a full thirty seconds barely moving away as a slow creepy skeleton inches towards her and eventually taps her lightly to fall into a conveniently placed pool of water to drown.  



Creatures from the Black Lagoon (1954)



I love the creature costumes in this movie and the juxtapositioning of them with the healthy, all-American scientists traveling through the mysterious Amazon of Brazil (which is represented erroneously as a stereotypical composite of all Latin America).  This movie represents the scientist-encountering-new-life-forms horror movie, as it tracks a boat of expert divers who spot the previously unidentified creature as it reeks havoc on unknowing swimmers and boat travelers.  




King Kong (1933)


King Kong isn't normally acknowledged during Halloween but I absolutely love it this time of year.  Of course, I'm speaking of the 1933 version, which is the only one that truly matters.  The 30s-era deep, shadowy black and white, the screaming beauty, and that monstrous ape-- found on a mysterious, supernatural island.  If you've seen the modern versions but haven't seen this one yet, you really haven't seen King Kong at all.  This original version with its handmade sets and shaky stop-motion animation is the true gem. 





Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Painted Masque.





The Cover of the Edgar Allen Poe story "The Masque of the Red Death" illustrated to reflect the movie version, 1964.



Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The dance of death.




Clips from "Masque of the Red Death" (1964), starring Paul McCartney's own Jane Asher and the great Vincent Price.

As a teenager I used to pore over Beatles bios completely intrigued by the spotty information given about the glamour girls behind the boys.  Redheaded sprite Jane Asher was said to be an actress, so seriously engaged in her craft she let needy McCartney fall by the wayside to persue her art instead.  Although I heard she focused on stage work, I always wondered where the few films she was said to have acted in have gone.  Aside from her working class girl-next-door in Alfie, I hadn't seen her on the silver screen until I somehow came across this great, over-the-top, atmospheric British horror-thriller "Masque of the Red Death" (1964), based on a Poe short.  


Monday, October 22, 2012

Still Film: Masque of the Red Death (1964).











A visual feast in technicolor, Masque of the Red Death (1964), features the rich, manical voice of Vincent Price and the innocent countenance of Paul McCartney's first true love, Jane Asher. It is widely noted as one of the best Roger Corman - Vincent Price collaborations.  I've always had such a thing for cult robes and regalia, deep jewel tones, red rooms, gold statement jewelry, veils, ceremonies, mysteries, candelabras, velvet, and sweeping staircases... This film hits all the marks. Its like a Gothic Romance set to motion. 

When you've worn your copy of Rosemary's Baby thin, this is a great alternative Halloween film to watch; chalk full of occult, tarot, dark psychedelic dream sequences, brushes with death, ceremonial dance, masks, and most Hallows Eve of all, Poe. 



Storyline: 

"Satan-worshiper Prince Prospero invites several dozen of the local nobility to his castle for protection against an oncoming plague, the Red Death. Prospero orders his guests to attend a masked ball and, amidst a general atmosphere of debauchery and depravity, notices the entry of a mysterious hooded stranger dressed all in red. Believing the figure to be his master, Satan, Prospero is horrified at the revelation of his true identity." -Via IMDB



Taglines: 



" Look into this face...  Shutter! ... at the blood-stained dance of the Red Death! 

Tremble! ... to the hideous tortures of the catacombs of Kali! Gasp!... 

at the sacrifice of the innocent virgin to the vengeance of Baal! " 

" We defy you to stare into this face. " 

" Horror has a face. "



Cast:


Vincent Price as Prince Prospero
Hazel Court as Juliana, his mistress
Jane Asher as Francesca, a peasant girl
David Weston as Gino, Francesca's lover
Nigel Green as Ludovico, Francesca's father
John Westbrook as The Red Death
Patrick Magee as Alfredo
Skip Martin as Hop Toad, a dwarf jester
Verina Greenlaw as Esmeralda, Hop Toad's dwarf lover




Image Source:  1001FilmJourney

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Still Film: Return to Oz (Falling scene).













See more "Return to Oz" (1985) stills:  





Friday, October 19, 2012

Muse: Yma Sumac.






My current mood soundtrack and October inspiration is Yma Sumac. Her magical blend of latin, gypsy, and mystic influences makes her the ideal Hallows Eve fashion inspiration.  Born September 13, 1922 , she was a strikingly beautiful, otherworldly Peruvian soprano who skyrocketed to famedom in the 1950s as an idol of the Exotica music genre. Her haunting voice and extreme five octave vocal range paired with her Peruvian costuming and chiseled features made her an iconic latin chanteuse. The expressive, free tone of her voice, the exotic meld of global sounds, and the mysterious song arrangements all gave her an air of mystic, supernatural power. A single song often contained her high chirping sounds, deep guttural notes, and jazz-like rhythmic phrases over a North American or South American tribal beat. 
 







She was born Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chávarri del Castillo (phew...) in a seaside city, listening to the sounds of her environment intently. She said that chasing her father's goats in the mountains of the Andes, at that high altitude, developed the powerful lungs she later used for belting out otherworldly sounds.  She also spent her days imitating the surrounding nature and delving into her local folklore, providing her endless inspiration for her music. As she grew into a teenager, she began to practice her singing in front of audiences at local folk ceremony performances. She was quickly noticed and chosen to sing in the famous Inty Raymi festival (feast of the sun), in 1941, in front of 25,000 people. That attracted attention from a government employee, who recommended her talents to the ministry, which brought her to Lima at age 19 to begin her opera training. 

In 1942 she got her big break on radio and soon after married bandleader Moisés Vianco. Her early work consisted mainly of Peruvian folk tunes, which she took with her to New York. By 1946, Vianco and Castillo performed New York City as the Inka Taky Trio, with Sumack singing soprano, Vivanco on guitar, and her cousin Cholita Rivero singing contralto and dancing. She was able to sing notes in the low baritone register as well as notes above the range of an ordinary soprano. Both low and high extremes can be heard in the song Chuncho (The Forest Creatures) (1953). She was also apparently able to sing in an eerie "double voice". Her characteristic sounds were those that she developed in her childhood in the Andes:  high chirps and low groans reminiscent of the birds and dogs she was surrounded by.  She continued to perform under her birth name until cracking through the cultural barrier in the 1950s when Zoila adopted the stage name Yma/Imma Sumac based on her mother's name which is an indiganous name relating to beauty. 






Yma painting in bottom left corner via: 100 greatest ever



Yma developed a style that reflected her Indigenous Peruvian roots, but in the style of 50s Exotica, also incorporated Spanish, European Gypsy, and Middle Eastern influences.  She typically wore her hair in two braids, adorned with wire wrappings, or loose covered by a scarf or headdress.  She wrapped herself in bright colors of deep, saturated tones, often using scarves, shawls, and capes.  I can only imagine what Yma's full jewelry collection looked like (which I heard, sadly, was recently available on ebay but was removed due to lack of interest!).  She had pendants of Latin American Indian imagery: Sun bursts, representing the Sun God, and various carving motifs.  From cocktail rings to brooches to wrist cuffs to headpieces, she curated a stunning collection of silver and gold stamped pieces to accent her woven Indian shawls and tops.  When she dressed more traditionally in the modern European/American style, she wore hour-glass hugging cocktail gowns in deep stunning colors, fur stoles, capes, and dramatic jewelry. 

1950s New York was ripe with the influences of Latin music-- so much so that even all-Jewish or all-Italian bands were forming Mambo groups to keep up with the dancehall demands. Lounge music, with its exotic and latin influenced beats, were all the rage and Yma was discovered, signed to capital records, and cut an album. Her work soon went the direction of atmospheric Hollywood versions of the Incan and Spanish folk songs she loved, and she found herself working with Lounge kings like Les Baxter and Billy May. Cast as an exotic, otherworldly beauty, she had roles on broadway and film. In 1955, she became a US citizen and in grand Hollywood style, made the tabloids with her on again off again relationship with Vianco through the rest of the 50s and 60s.







She completed 9 albums, the last released in 1971. Sumac's career from the 60s on was marked by sporadic stage appearances and international tour dates through 1997. Her death from colon cancer at age 86 followed 10 years later. She was interred at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in the "Sanctuary of Memories" section.








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