Horror movies haven’t generally gotten any respect from the Oscars. Yeah, the Academy has tossed a handful of nominations to the genre over the years, but wins for anything other then technical matters have been few and far between. Back in 2010, they attempted to make up for this with a montage of clips from classic horror movies. It was pretty decent – Jaws, The Blob, Nosferatu, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dracula, The Shining – but there was one colossal and unforgivable oversight….
Where was Vincent Price?
Orson Welles’ radio play based on H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds is arguably the most famous radio program of all time. The Mercury Theater’s 1938 dramatization was so effective that people thought it was an actual news broadcast, and panic ensued. Though there is much debate over how widespread that panic was, it cannot be denied that many people thought that the Martians were actually invading. Wells at first claimed it was just an honest attempt at giving listeners an entertaining fright that got out of hand. Years later, he changed his tune to say that it was a deliberate attempt to show that people shouldn’t always take what they hear, see, or read in the media at face value.
If it indeed was an experiment in mass psychology, the results were dramatic. While a major principle in scientific research is that any experiment must be reproducible, it’s likely that no one would want to reproduce this particular experiment. After all, who wants to deliberately cause a panic? And given the notoriety of the original broadcast, any scientist or radio producer would be hard-pressed to find virgin ears on which to conduct a follow-up.
No one is going to fall for the same stunt twice, right?
The British make the best fake documentaries. There was the BBC’s “Spaghetti Harvest” of 1957 (which resulted in a flood of phone calls from people asking how they could grow their own spaghetti tree), and “Alternative 3”, a show on Anglia TV in 1977 that purported to uncover a secret plan to set up bases on the Moon and Mars (which despite including easily disprovable “facts” and a cast listing at the end is still taken seriously by some conspiracy nuts).
Then there was Ghostwatch…
The Fall Classic. No other team sport has anything like it. The Super Bowl? Started in 1967. Basketball? The NBA didn’t have a championship until 1950. The first World Cup? 1930. While I admit that the Stanley Cup can trace its roots back to the 1890s, the format for determining the championship of professional hockey didn’t take its current form until 1927, after the last rival league to the NHL folded. Baseball’s World Series debuted in 1903 (and if you’re going to be picky about the beginnings of the Stanley Cup, the first baseball “Championship of the United States” was in 1884). There’s well over a century of legends and lore.
The World Series magnifies everything. The great players are greater. Bob Gibson strikes out seventeen Red Sox. Reggie Jackson hits home runs on three straight pitches. The fielding is more amazing: Wille Mays. Ron Swoboda. Al Gionfriddo. Unheralded players turn into heroes: Howard Ehmke. Dusty Rhodes. Edgar Renteria. And the errors and mistakes (Fred Snodgrass, Bill Buckner) are more painful.
There’s been a heck of a lot of drama in the hundreds of World Series games. I’ve got a list of the eight most exciting (in my opinion) games; and it’s not your ordinary list…
Judging by movies and television, everyone loves a good zombie. The walking, or perhaps shambling, shuffling dead, or undead, if you prefer…. Things that look like human beings but aren’t, so you can beat the crap out of them without any pangs of conscience.
Having done a bit of reading on the topic, I have concluded that there are actually six distinctly different types of zombie.
For whatever reasons, the major networks moved away from horror and suspense in the 1980s. Perhaps it became too expensive to produce the anthology series that were the mainstay of the genre. It was left to syndicated shows to provide the scares.
Quite a few horror movies have turned into veritable franchises, with many sequels (Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th leap instantly to mind). But even though television cannot reproduce many of the scares that movies can, there have been plenty of television shows that are just as loved and appreciated as some movies. Often, it doesn’t take more than a few notes of the theme music to bring back the memories.
Pretty much everyone – at least I hope so – is familiar with Cassandra Peterson’s character “Elvira”. The self-styled “Mistress of the Dark” gained fame for her obvious sex appeal while hosting cheap horror movies on syndicated television in the 1980s. The popularity of her shows made her a national icon for Halloween.
The tradition of “horror hosting” that she epitomized goes back much further; at least to the 1950s. American Scary is a documentary that looks at this American tradition as a form of entertainment worthy of our appreciation.
A handful of things that aren’t enough for separate posts:
Last year, the British Film Institute had a months-long festival celebrating Gothic cinema. They produced an awesome trailer for it:
Even though the festival is over, they’ve still got a lot of the information up at the website – http://www.bfi.org.uk/gothic.
Now I could just share that with you and be done with it, but that’s a cop out. So I might as well pad things out with my thoughts on Gothic Horror, and how it works in movies.