Category Archives: 1978 Films

Interiors-1978

Interiors-1978

Director Woody Allen

Starring Diane Keaton, Geraldine Page, Mary Beth Hurt

Scott’s Review #1,392

Reviewed August 24, 2023

Grade: A

Woody Allen films are not everyone’s cup of tea.

Typically, offbeat or even downright wacky comedies with quick-witted dialogue and irritating characters are not everyone’s preferred taste in film.

I’ve always adored the director’s works.

Allen hits a home run with Interiors (1978), his first dramatic film and my favorite. It even rivals classics like Annie Hall (1977) and Manhattan (1979) which most people frequently consider his best.

The famous director turns down the volume and slows the pace with a dark story about mental illness and the ravaging effect it has on a family, the struggling individual, and the other extended members.

Missing from this Woody Allen film are the prevalent one-liners and gimmicks mostly associated with his comedies. The only standard is the inclusion of frequent collaborator Diane Keaton who plays a successful poet, Renata.

The story centers on a middle-aged and upper-class couple’s disintegrating marriage. It forces their three grown daughters (Keaton, Mary Beth Hurt, and Kristin Griffith) to reveal their feelings about themselves and each other. They also have their share of difficulties.

Renata is successful but her husband is a struggling writer with marginal talent. He lusts after Renata’s sister, Flyn (Kristin Griffith), an actress only known for her good looks. Joey (Hurt) is a restless soul unable to decide on a career and jealous of Renata.

Mental illness is only one of their trials and tribulations.

The family resides in Manhattan, Connecticut, and Long Island, most likely the Hamptons so they are wealthy and assumed to be happy, healthy, and thriving.

They are anything but.

None of the daughters are successful at providing ample support to their devastated mother (played by Geraldine Page) who suffers from mental illness and is extremely fragile.

The cast is tiny, with only eight principals, each with a perspective. There are no villains. Only complicated characters with rich texture and substance.

I love the brilliant characterization and development and the many layers most of the characters possess. Each character, especially the father, mother, two of the daughters, and the new wife, Pearl, exceptionally played by Maureen Stapleton, can be heartily examined.

One might assume that the father Arthur played stoically by E.G. Marshall might be unlikable. After all, he requests a ‘separation’ from Eve which the audience knows is a soft-touch way of ultimately asking for a divorce. He then meets a new woman, a different type from his wife, and plans to marry her!

This does not go over well for anyone.

But Arthur is sympathetic and so is Pearl (the new wife). I rooted for the pair even though I felt bad for Eve.

The film culminates in a stunning sequence at the family’s Hampton residence amid Arthur and Pearl’s wedding. The family begrudgingly attends the simple dinner party-style wedding and pretends to be happy.

From a visual perspective, the art direction is flawless. Muted color tones of grey and brown perfectly complement the drab and depressing subject matter.

People have compared Interiors to an Ingmar Bergman film and I completely understand that. The film is dark, cold, and bleak but contains a sophistication and thought provocation mirroring Bergman films like Wild Strawberries (1957) and others.

Woody Allen crafts an astonishingly good screenplay with confidence and precision that only he can do. Interiors (1978) could have easily turned into a soap opera melodrama but remains enthralling and devastating throughout.

Oscar Nominations: Best Director-Woody Allen, Best Actress-Geraldine Page, Best Supporting Actress-Maureen Stapleton, Best Screenplay-Written Directly for the Screen, Best Art Direction

The Boys from Brazil-1978

The Boys from Brazil-1978

Director Franklin J. Schaffner

Starring Laurence Olivier, Gregory Peck, James Mason

Scott’s Review #1,391

Reviewed August 20, 2023

Grade: B+

The Boys from Brazil (1978) is a taut political thriller with a neo-Nazi focus and a weird cloning subject matter. It’s a bit of a tough follow but quite compelling all the way though and doesn’t lag at all.

Sometimes political thrillers get overly complicated or drag but this one doesn’t. The story is slightly hokey and impractical even bordering on ludicrous but since it’s so intriguing and action-packed these adjectives can be overlooked.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t blown away by either the performance of Laurence Olivier or Gregory Peck despite being a fan of both quality actors. Both actors overact and create stereotypes but especially Peck’s character is a bit too cartoonish.

It took me half the film to even recognize either man since both are heavily made up making them hard to recognize. It also took until the dramatic conclusion for either character to truly grow on me.

A brilliant one-scene cameo performance by Uta Hagen, a German American actress, as a former Nazi guard now imprisoned nearly steals the show and should have deserved an Oscar nomination.

The story surrounds Doctor Josef Mengele played by Peck who clones Adolf Hitler ninety-five times and raises the boys in Brazil, giving them childhoods identical to Hitler’s in various parts of the world.

His goal is to create a band of Nazi leaders that can continue where Hitler left off, forming the Fourth Reich. Their fathers will be murdered and the boys will be mothered as Hitler was.

Ezra Lieberman (Laurence Olivier), a Nazi hunter, learns of the plan from a young journalist (Steve Guttenberg) and is determined to thwart it.

The plot is a tough pill to swallow and takes some time to absorb exactly what is going on but it’s fresh and unique. I’m not sure if in 1978 people had had enough of Nazi and World War II films but both subjects are always worth dissecting again.

I’m not sure why it was so tough to get used to Peck as the evil doctor but it was. It’s probably because Peck usually plays characters with a strong moral compass and he was playing way against type.

His character looks weird and Peck seems to be overacting sometimes almost like he was playing a James Bond villain. It’s not exactly a role that measures up to Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).

Olivier is better and the main protagonist of The Boys from Brazil but I’m not sure he entirely wins me over. It’s not easy immersing in the prim and proper British aristocratic actor playing a Jewish man who kvetches so often.

Still, by the finale when Mengele meets Lieberman in a deadly showdown involving vicious Dobermans, a gun, and a Hitler clone I was cheering for Olivier all the way.

Supporting characters played by Guttenberg, Anne Meara (Jerry Stiller’s wife) as Mrs. Curry, one of the Hitler clone’s mothers, and the aforementioned Hagen are excellent. I wish that each character was explored better and given more screen time.

The same can be said for Rosemary Harris in a one-scene performance. While quality, I wanted more from her character of Frau Doring, the wife of one of the murdered fathers of the Hitler clones.

Finally, James Mason has little to do as Colonel Seibert other than serve as second fiddle to Peck.

But, The Boys from Brazil is the Olivier and Peck show.

The locales are a big win since they add an international vibe and relevance. Geographies such as Germany, Paraguay, Austria, and rural Pennsylvania, United States are featured which lofts the film up tremendously.

The taught nature of the film provides suspense, an ode to history, and an eerie measure of Trumpism in comparison to Nazi-ism. The Boys from Brazil (1978) isn’t prime steak but it’s not a bad watch either.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actor-Laurence Olivier, Best Film Editing, Best Original Music Score

Jaws 2-1978

Jaws 2-1978

Director-Jeannot Szwarc

Starring Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary

Scott’s Review #1,307

Reviewed October 13, 2022

Grade: A-

Because of the enormous critical and commercial success of Jaws in 1975 a sequel was created. Important to keep in mind is that in the mid-1970s it was not yet common to produce sequels especially if the director, Steven Spielberg, had no interest in participating.

Jaws 2 (1978) was an enormous box-office success but the reviews were only mixed. I adore the film which mixes thrills with the horror genre and wisely sets up the kills like a slasher film.

The mostly teenagers are savagely attacked and killed by the Great White shark, one by one style, using a lurking and effective musical score.

The film’s tagline, “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…” has become one of the most famous in film history and has been parodied and homaged several times. I’d like to assume it led to a healthy almost now mandatory helping of subsequent sequels of other successful films.

Unfortunately, Jaws 2 also spawned a couple more sequels of its own which were piss-poor and laughable but we won’t get into that here.

Fun fact-Jaws 2 was nearly as troubled as Jaws was. The first director for the film, John D. Hancock,  was deemed incompetent and was replaced by Jeannot Szwarc. Star Roy Scheider, who only reprised his role to end a contractual issue with Universal, was also unhappy during production and had several heated exchanges with Szwarc.

Maybe that should have been a sign not to make any more Jaws films.

Years after the shark attacks that left Amity Island reeling, Sheriff Martin Brody (Scheider) finds new trouble lurking in the waters and must rise to the occasion.

To add conflict, Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) wants to end the beach town’s poor reputation. But the sudden disappearance of a pair of divers suggests that something is up. When Sheriff Brody voices his warnings about holding an exciting sailing competition, everyone thinks he is suffering the effects of post-traumatic stress.

That is until a shark fin is spotted in the water sending the town into panic mode.

There’s no logical plot reason to make Jaws 2 but somehow I’m okay with that. The film entertains with enough frights and jumps to satisfy and the formulaic approach works well.

Besides the enthralling final sequence when Brody must rescue his sons Mike and Sean (Mark Gruner and Marc Gilpin), the opening sequence involving scuba divers and a female water skier is quite enticing and the best part of the film.

The musical score by John Williams who fortunately returned to the fold is fabulous and enhances any peril the characters face. The slick and clever approach gives the audience a clue that danger lurks nearby but we don’t know when or where the shark will strike.

I mentioned slasher films earlier and this formula is used in Jaws 2. As the teens set sail for the competition it is good fun to wonder who will get killed and who will live to see another sunny beach day.

Despite Scheider not wanting to do the film, you’d never know it by his terrific acting. He doesn’t phone in his performance and provides macho swagger and muscle. He’s everyone’s favorite dad who only wants to save and protect.

Jaws 2 (1978) attempts to scare and entertain and it succeeds. There is little character development but it’s not the type of film that needs deep texture.

The reason to watch is to see folks who intend to enjoy the water get attacked and ripped to shreds.

The Silent Partner-1978

The Silent Partner-1978

Director-Daryl Duke

Starring-Elliott Gould, Christopher Plummer

Scott’s Review #1,120

Reviewed March 10, 2021

Grade: A-

The Silent Partner (1978) is an exceptionally thrilling film that is relatively unknown to most moviegoers but is well-regarded by cinema lovers, especially fans of 1970s relics. Watching the film in tandem with Brian DePalma’s clever and steamy Dressed to Kill (1980) one will immediately notice some similarities and will be able to draw comparisons. Might have DePalma even patterned his film after The Silent Partner?

Even the finest of directors borrow snippets of greatness from other directors. That’s the way it works.

It’s a shame so few realize that the film even exists. Starring Elliott Gould and Christopher Plummer, admittedly the late 1970s was not the best-known time-period for Plummer but saw Gould in his heyday. The film also is peppered with notable sequences reminiscent of Frances Ford Coppola’s 1974 masterpiece, The Conversation.

I can best describe the film as a Canadian heist film but this might imply that it’s cookie-cutter or generic in some way. It’s not. It’s not even a “guy film”- it’s way more cerebral than that.

There are a style and momentum in The Silent Partner that is individual with unique and unexpected trimmings along the way. The cat and mouse dynamic adds trickery and a murky nature that makes the film work.

Daryl Duke, unfamiliar to me and primarily known for television work, is at the helm as director, crafting from a screenplay written by Curtis Hanson. Hanson adapted his work from a Danish novel and should be familiar to movie fans for his participation in the thriller The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992) and the neo-crime thriller L.A. Confidential (1997).

Miles Cullen (Elliott Gould) plods along during the holidays at his bank teller job at the local mall. It’s Christmastime and Miles is down because he attempted to ask out his co-worker Julie Carver (Susannah York), who is more interested in dating their married boss- for now!

After discovering a secret plot by the mall Santa Claus (Christopher Plummer)to rob the bank at which he works, Miles cunningly hides a large portion of the cash in his own safe-deposit box. After the robbery, it is discovered that Santa is really a deranged master criminal named Harry Reikle.  He discovers that he’s been duped by Miles and puts horrific pressure on Cullen to hand over the money.

I adore the added romantic angle that blossoms amid the cat and mouse antics between Miles and Harry. No sooner than Julie softens towards Miles a mysterious and gorgeous woman enters the scene claiming to know Miles’s father. Elaine (Celine Lomez) is flirtatious and immediately wants to bed Miles but what is she up to?

From a character perspective, Miles and Harry are great studies. Related to the aforementioned films, Miles exhibits qualities similar to Harry Call in the brilliant The Conversation. Suspicious, paranoid, and intelligent, he is the perfect counterpart to Plummers Harry. Michael Caine played a transvestite in Dressed to Kill and Harry’s mascara, long nails, and fishnet top made me feel he possessed those qualities though the film never confirms this.

Psychologically speaking, Harry is disturbed based on his treatment and the perceived hatred he expresses towards women. He picks up and beats a young prostitute unconscious.

Is there a gay vibe? Most certainly especially when Harry looks longingly at Miles during more than one scene as he watches Miles in his apartment and proclaims, “You know we really are partners, right?”

Plummer is great and I can’t recall seeing any role of his being so villainous and he plays it superbly. Certainly a far cry from the musical patriarch in The Sound of Music (1965).

The Silent Partner contains one of the most gruesome murder scenes I’ve witnessed in cinema. It involves decapitation and a fish tank and is so shocking and unexpected that viewers may audibly gasp during the scene.

Nearly rivaling this is the great finale and a justified death on the mall escalator. It is fun to revisit the time when malls were flocked to especially during the Christmas holidays. The Santas, decorations, big crowds, and music made The Silent Partner a walk down memory lane.

A great and sadly lost gem, The Silent Partner (1978) is a film for movie lovers to check out, embrace, and fall in love with. A perfect watch would be around the Christmas holidays. Hopefully, with due word of mouth, this film will be rediscovered.

Death On The Nile-1978

Death On The Nile-1978

Director-John Guillermen

Starring-Peter Ustinov, Mia Farrow, Bette Davis

Scott’s Review #714

Reviewed January 14, 2018

Grade: B+

Death On The Nile is a 1978 British thriller that follows up the successful 1974 offering, Murder On The Orient Express- both films based on the fabulous Agatha Christie novels of the 1930s. This time around, Belgian detective Hercules Poirot (Peter Ustinov) investigates a string of deaths aboard a luxurious steamer carrying the lavishly wealthy and their servants.

The film is a good, old-fashioned whodunit, perhaps not on the level of storytelling as its predecessor-the murder mystery contains not the oomph expected-but features exquisite Egyptian historical locales-worth its weight in gold.

Featuring a who’s who of famous stars and tremendous actors of the day, Death On The Nile carves a neat story right off the bat in such a way that the murder victim is fairly obvious right away- most of the characters have reason to celebrate her demise.

Rich and reviled heiress, Linnet Ridgeway (Lois Chiles), has stolen best friend Jacqueline’s (Mia Farrow) beau, Simon, sparking a bitter feud between the women. While honeymooning in Egypt, the newlyweds are continually taunted by angry Jacqueline. Once the cruise ship departs with all on board, Jackie is the prime suspect when Linnet is murdered. Poirot must find the killer as numerous other suspects all with grudges against Linnet, begin to emerge.

Death On The Nile serves up a stellar cast including legendary Bette Davis in the role of Marie Van Schuyler- eccentric American socialite with an eye for Linnet’s necklace. The casting of Davis is reason enough to watch the film, though the character is not center stage and rather a supporting role. The lead female honor is held for Farrow, who has the meatiest and most complex role in the film.

Jackie’s unstable actions make her the most likely to commit the deed, but the fun is to figure out the “whys” and the “hows” of the murder. Is there more than one killer? Are they working in cahoots or independently? As the body count increases these questions begin to resonate more and more.

The costumes and sets are gorgeous and it is no wonder the film won the Oscar for Best Costume Design. At a ball, the women are dripping with jewels and gorgeous gowns. Along with Davis, boozy author Salome Otterbourne, hilariously played by Angela Lansbury, is granted the prize of wearing the most luxurious and interesting of all the costumes. She drips with jewels and, with a cocktail always in hand, is the film’s comic relief.

Director John Guillermin makes the film an overall light and fun experience and, despite the murderous drama, does not take matters too seriously. Offering humorous moments, this balances nicely with the inevitable murders. The fun for the audience is deducing whodunit- most of the characters have the motive and the cast of characters is hefty. I had memories of the famous board game Clue- Was it Jackie in the ballroom with the revolver? You get the idea. In this way, the film makes for a good, solid game of mystery.

Comparisons to 1974’s Murder On The Orient Express cannot help but be drawn, especially in the lead casting of Hercules Poirot. Truth be told, Albert Finney’s portrayal in “Murder” is superior to Peter Ustinov’s Poirot in “Death” and I am not sure what purpose Colonel Race (David Niven) as Poirot’s friend offers other than to be a loyal sidekick and present a character that Poirot can explain events to- think what Watson was to Sherlock Holmes. Regardless, Finney is the superior Poirot as he musters more strength and charisma than Ustinov does.

How lovely and historic to witness the wonderful Egyptian locales- the Sphinx and the Great Pyramids are featured amid an attempt on the life of the romantic pair by way of falling rocks- this sets the tone for the perilous cruise about to be embarked upon.

Perhaps a perfect film for a Saturday stay at home evening with friends, complete with a serving of quality wine and cheese, Death On The Nile is a sophisticated, yet fun, British mystery film, fantastic to watch in a party setting where the audience can be kept guessing until the nice conclusion and the big reveal of who killed whom and why.

Oscar Nominations: Best Costume Design (won)

A Wedding-1978

A Wedding-1978

Director-Robert Altman

Starring-Carol Burnett, Mia Farrow, Paul Dooley

Scott’s Review #539

Reviewed December 17, 2016

Grade: A

A Wedding is an obscure, brilliant gem penned and directed by Robert Altman- a film genius in my opinion and one of my most adored directors. I love most of his movies and A Wedding is no exception. The creative way that Altman weaves intersecting story-lines and dialogue, thereby creating a real-life tone, gives immense realism to his films.

In A Wedding, he takes a basic life event and turns it into a well nuanced, fascinating, comical, yet dramatic story. He is known for having enormous casts (in A Wedding it is forty-eight principles), but every character serves a purpose. The viewer will feel that they are a fly on the wall of a real wedding.  Altman’s actors primarily improvise the dialogue, speaking at the same time, bringing a realistic edge. I adore this quality.

The film is a satire- people either love or loath attending weddings and Altman’s film caters to the latter. He creates a setting, from the ceremony to the reception, riddled with awkward moments, and social guffaws.

In pure satirical, soap opera fashion, two wealthy families gather at a lavish estate for the ceremony to commence. Hilarity ensues when the corpse of the matriarch of one family lies in her bed, nobody realizing she is actually dead. Other hi-jinks, such as the revelation of a nude, life-size portrait of the bride, the caterer falling ill, and a tornado wreaking havoc.

Slowly, secrets are revealed by the families, as the alcohol flows and the characters become involved in the perilous situations. Altman does it again as he creates a masterpiece based on real-life situations that most can relate to.

Violette Noziere-1978

Violette Noziere-1978

Director-Claude Chabrol

Starring-Isabelle Huppert

Scott’s Review #378

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Reviewed February 16, 2016

Grade: B+

Another in the legion of thrilling and mysterious films by French director Claude Chabrol, Violette Noziere tells the true story of an eighteen-year-old Parisian girl, who plots her parent’s murder in 1930’s France. The fact that the tale is true to life makes it even more horrific and mesmerizing. It is beautifully shot, though the action largely takes place in interior settings. This film is a cerebral experience.

The film is classy in every way- like French films typically are, and Isabelle Hupert (Violette) takes center stage. She is gorgeous and interesting looking (reminiscent of a young Jennifer Jason Leigh) in the lead role.

Violette appears to be a typical French teen but harbors a dark secret and something always appears glum about the character. She works nights as a prostitute accosting wealthy men. When she meets handsome but spendthrift, Jean Francois, a young man she fancies, she becomes his main source of income and slowly begins to plot the murder of her low-income, yet stable parents, in an attempt to inherit their apparent savings.

The story is somewhat murky as Violette’s version of events (mainly in the past and concerning her father) are accusatory. She insists that her father sexually abused her as a child, but is this in her fantasy world, or did this actually happen? One never knows. Making the film compelling is that Violette’s parents are quite likable. Struggling to make ends meet and provide quality life, they prepare home-cooked meals, enjoy life, and appear to be decent people. What is the reality?

Later, we witness a rivalry between Violette and her mother. In one scene we see Violette’s father bouncing his daughter on his knee while the mother looks on filled with hatred. When she attempts to seduce her husband, unsuccessfully, Violette looks on amused. Is this solely in Violette’s mind?

Chabrol, an admirer of Alfred Hitchcock, keeps the suspense going throughout the film, but the heart of the film really belongs to Hupert. From the start of the film, amid meaningless banter with her more refined girlfriend, the audience can tell there is something amiss about Violette. She seems lonely, like a lost little girl yearning for some excitement as her eyes stare into the distance. Her true colors are slowly exposed, yet Chabrol never makes her all-out crazy. Violette always has a cool, calm, demeanor and that is why the film succeeds.

For fans of Chabrol, or film fans eager for a foreign language treat, Violette Noziere is a rare find, a welcome addition to the growing number of his films I have watched with interest, and heartily enjoyed. The mystique, the beauty of the artistry, and the twists and turns are top-notch.

Grease-1978

Grease-1978

Director-Randal Kleiser

Starring-John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John

Top 100 Films-#70

Scott’s Review #354

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Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

Grease is the ultimate musical fantasy come to life and can be appreciated by anyone looking to re-live their high school days through song, or merely escape life’s stresses with a fun, bright, musical, that is very well made. Is it realistic? Absolutely not, but sometimes escapism is just what the doctor ordered, and Grease is one of my favorite films that meet that criteria. It is light-hearted and sweet, and above all contains wonderful legendary musical numbers.

The time period is the 1950’s, and we meet Danny and Sandy on a windswept beach with cascading waves and bright sunshine. It is summer break for the two high school students, who meet in California, she vacationing from Australia, he a local boy. They say their goodbyes and return to normal lives, but cannot forget about each other. Suddenly, Sandy arrives at Rydell High in Los Angeles, coincidentally where Danny goes to school. Her parents (whom we never see) decided to stay in California.

Danny is a “tough guy” in high school, much different from who he was on the beach with Sandy. He is the leader of the infamous T-birds, a group of boys who love their black leather jackets and cars. Torn, he continues his tough image and he and Sandy find their way back to each other through classmates, songs, and dancing, intermingling fun supporting characters who encourage each of them to find true love.

Travolta and Newton-John have magical chemistry, which really allows this film to work. Certainly, Grease has appeared on stage numerous times, but these actors are fine together. I buy them as teenagers in love, although both were well beyond teen years.

The supporting cast is excellent- specifically Stockard Channing as the lead Pink Lady, Rizzo, and Sandy’s kind-hearted friend Frenchy. Interestingly, no parents ever appear in the film as it really not about the adults. However, Rydell’s female principal, Mrs. McGee (played by Eve Arden), and her dotty Vice Principal, Blanche (Dody Goodman), are simply marvelous as comic relief.

Rizzo is an interesting character and can be argued is the only one who threatens to steal the thunder from Danny and Sandy. Containing a tough exterior, she is also vulnerable as she fears she has become pregnant mid-way through the film. Unwed and pregnant in the 1950s was quite the scandal and Channing gives layers of emotion during her solo number, “There Are Worse Things I Could Do”.

The wonderful high school dance scene is choreographed amazingly well. The excitement of the student body at being filmed for a special television show is apparent as dance numbers and dance contests, some raunchy, follow.

The musical numbers are intrinsically memorable from “Grease”, “Greased Lightning”, “Hopelessly Devoted To You”, and “Beauty School Dropout”, all of which are personal favorites of mine.

Grease is a film that is not meant to be analyzed but rather enjoyed for the fantastic chemistry and energy in which it has. Sometimes in a film all of the elements simply come together in perfect fashion and Grease is an excellent example of this.

Oscar Nominations: Best Song-“Hopelessly Devoted to You”

Dawn of the Dead-1978

Dawn of the Dead-1978

Director-George A. Romero

Starring-David Emge, Ken Foree

Scott’s Review #289

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Reviewed November 26, 2015

Grade: B+

One of the better installments by the famed horror-comedy director, George A. Romero, though inferior to my personal favorite film of his, Night of the Living Dead, Romero focuses slightly more on the comedy aspect with Dawn of the Dead, though for horror fans, there is plenty of gore to satisfy the more blood-thirsty viewer. This film is glossier and slicker than its predecessor was.

On a slightly larger budget than Night of the Living Dead,  the events largely take place in suburban Pennsylvania, and more specifically, a local mall. An unknown phenomenon has made non-buried humans change form into flesh-eating zombies that prey on other human beings.

A group of survivors hunker down in a suburban mall and begin a life of adequacy-utilizing the contents of the mall until events threaten their existence. They must form a militant operation in order to continue to survive.  The four survivors are Stephen and Francine- two staff members of a local television station- and Roger and Peter- two SWAT team members whom they meet in the ensuing chaos. The quartet steals a helicopter and travels a short distance to the mall.

Having viewed Dawn of the Dead on multiple occasions, I am a fan of the film, but not an enormous fan, and it hovers below my Top 25 Horror Films list.  The main flaw of the film is how it delves into the personal lives of Stephen and Francine midstream, a fact I find meaningless and in fact, stalls the plot. Francine has realized that she is pregnant and I just do not understand the point of slowing down the action for this purpose. I am a huge fan of character development (even in the horror genre!), but this development does not work.

Still, the lengthy portion of the film, and with a running time of over two hours (highly unusual for horror), I am enamored with. The scenes in the mall are fantastic and the action in the final act is thrilling. Reminiscent of my youth and spending hours as a child, along with my mother and siblings, being paraded around the local mall, the look of the mall in Dawn of the Dead brings back a flood of memories. From the fake green plants to the mannequins, the pool of water filled with coins, and, of course,  the redundant, but lovely Muzak in the background.

Romero, as he did with Night of the Living Dead, provides a social element to the film. In the case of Dawn of the Dead, it is the onset of materialism and consumerism that captured the United States in the late 1970s and the 1980’s that he focuses on, and it took me a couple of viewings to catch onto this point- the zombies stupidly walking around the mall in a numbing fashion mirroring how many people did during the day. One character mentions that the zombies are drawn to the mall because it is familiar- much like people frequented the malls in that time period frivolously spending away their time and their money.

Some of the deaths, including one main character, are haunting. As the character suddenly “turns”, it is frightening to see them in this new light as compared to how they once were. And, in comic fashion, my favorite zombie character is the nurse. Clad in nurse-gear (white shoes, classic nurse cap, and white uniform) she is creepy yet mesmerizing in her body and facial expressions as she lumbers around the mall. It makes me smile each time I see her.

Dawn of the Dead is certainly one of the better, more interesting zombie movies around- I just wish the relationship drama, mainly in the center of the film, had been derailed or modified, as it slows down the pacing of the film. Still, a good, fun, late-night flick.

Halloween-1978

Halloween-1978

Director-John Carpenter

Starring-Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence

Top 100 Films-#4     Top 20 Horror Films-#3

Scott’s Review #114

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Reviewed July 16, 2014

Grade: A

 Halloween is an iconic horror film from 1978 that set the tone for the barrage of slasher films to follow throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s.  Today, the film continues to hold up incredibly well and I am proud to list it as, not only one of my favorite horror films (which I religiously watch every Halloween) but one of my favorite films of all time. The focus is on style and substance over gore (the film contains little) and the score is one of the scariest and most effective in cinema history.

The premise of the film is simple- a homicidal maniac is on the loose in a sleepy little town named Haddonfield, Illinois, and is targeting three female babysitters one crisp Halloween night. The audience knows that the six-year-old little boy dressed as a clown on a dark Halloween night years ago, and who butchered his older sister to death, is the now grown-up culprit.

What we do not know, nor should we, is what his (Michael Meyers) motivation is.  This confusion only adds to the impact of the story. Subsequent remakes have added complexities to the character, needlessly so, but in the original, we see a seemingly happy child with stable parents and a good life.

Similar stories have been told over time in film history. But with Halloween, it is simply one of the greatest horror films ever made. As simple as the story is, it is the way the film is made that makes it a masterpiece. Everything about Halloween is mesmerizing- the lighting is perfect, the ambiance, the incredibly scary musical score brilliant, the battle between good and evil, the perfect feeling of a chilly Halloween night.

Highly unusual for its time, the point of view of the killer and heavy breathing is prevalent throughout the film, which will startle and scare the viewer. The opening shot is through the eyes of a masked six-year-old kid wearing a clown mask. The unique technical aspects go on and on.

Director John Carpenter had a vision for this film and thankfully no studio influence ruined it since it was an independent film on a shoestring budget. The Hitchcock influences are evident in the character names- Sam Loomis. Many scenes involve someone watching the action or peeking around a corner, through a window, which makes the viewer anxious and nervous.

Set in the small-town USA, a frightening element of the film is that it could happen anywhere and the location is ingenious. There is very little blood, let alone gore, in Halloween- it is needless. It is the creepiness that makes the film brilliant.

The three teenagers are perfectly cast- Jamie Lee Curtis is the serious bookworm, P.J. Soles and Nancy Keyes are the flirtatious bad girls, but the chemistry between them is great and the audience buys them as best friends. The jump-out- of- your seat moments are incredibly well-timed and it is one of the few genuinely scary films.

Forget solely the horror genre- Halloween is one of the greatest films ever made.