October was a busy month for bloggers, critics and other online writers about film. Besides the expected posts celebrating the spooks and slashers that paint the town red every Halloween, we were treated to meditations on classic cinema, film technique, the state of the movie business and a look back at the greatest four-legged star of them all.

The staff of  Slant Magazine rolled up their bloody sleeves and stitched together a list of the top 25 horror films of the 21st century.

“Suzidoll,” one of Turner Classic Movies’ premiere writers, delivered a fond look back at canine superstar Rin Tin Tin and an enticing preview of a new book detailing Rinty’s life and career.

Empire.com writer Phil De Semlyen trots out 10 of the usual brilliant suspects to present a primer on great silent movies for the beginner.

Acclaimed deep thinker on films David Bordwell offered a smart and lovingly detailed essay on the use of the “replay” in classic cinema.

Christopher Rosen of Moviephone opined on five reasons people aren’t going to the movies these days.

Not from October, but worth saving for the month of Halloween: Back in April John Scoleri and Peter Enfantino, who hosted the massive Thriller episode-a-day marathon featured here previously, joined with author David J. Schow to present an even more elaborate daily look at The Outer Limits.

Don’t be a wallflower – breeze on over and treat yourself to these entertaining links.

October 31, 2011 · Posted in Legends  
    

The countdown of horror comedies continues with…

Vincent Price is back for more stylish revenge in this clever variation on the Dr. Phibes format, there as a Shakespearean actor bent on getting even with the critics who made his career an exercise in bitter frustration. The critics are played by a who’s who of great British character actors, all dispatched in the nastiest methods the Bard could devise – most memorably Robert Morley, forced to go all Titus Andronicus on his beloved pet poodles.

Deathless Prose:

“Where could my doggies have got to?”

Happy Halloween. And bon appetite.

October 31, 2011 · Posted in Legends  
    

The countdown of horror comedies continues with…

(1960, Roger Corman)

Everyone remembers Jack Nicholson’s giggling dental freak, but there’s plenty more dark goofiness where that came from. Considering the close resemblance to A Bucket of Blood, one can’t blame Dick Miller for turning down the role of Seymour in favor of a carnation-munching supporting role – and we can only be grateful that Jonathan Haze was called on to replace him as one of the all-time great movie nebbishes. Shot like a TV sitcom in just two days and filled with quirky character actors and $1.98 special effects, the off-kilter charm and wonky hipster humor make this no-budget foray into horror comedy a one-of-a-kind experience.

Deathless Prose:

“No novocaine. It dulls the senses.”

October 30, 2011 · Posted in Legends  
    

The countdown of horror comedies continues with…

(1963, Jacques Tourneur)

Sometimes this tongue-in-cheek follow-up to AIP’s Poe series clicks, sometimes it fizzles, but there’s enough of the good stuff to keep anybody entertained. Waspish sociopath Vincent Price and grumbling assistant Peter Lorre are undertakers forced to drum up business the hard way – but their proactive business plan goes sideways when Shakespeare-spouting Basil Rathbone refuses to stay toes-up. Each star has his share of genuinely funny moments, none more so than Boris Karloff, who walks away with large swaths of the movie with his performance as Price’s senile father-in-law.

Deathless Prose:

“I don’t think he’s quite dead enough to bury.”

October 29, 2011 · Posted in Legends  
    

The countdown of horror comedies continues with…

(1992, Sam Raimi)

Actually, any of the three Evil Dead movies would fit in this slot just fine, but the final entry in the trilogy gets the nod here because it’s the goofiest, most unabashed comedy of them all. Armed with his boomstick, his chainsaw and twice as much moxie as grey matter, Bruce Campbell crash-lands in the haunted Middle Ages and shows demons, evil doppelgangers and a battalion of skeletons how tough guys kick ass in the Wolverine State. Any movie that can successfully combine references to H.P. Lovecraft, The Day the Earth Stood Still and the Three Stooges deserves a little sugar.

Deathless Prose:

“Name’s Ash. Housewares.”

October 28, 2011 · Posted in Legends  
    

The countdown of horror comedies continues with…

(1996, Wes Craven)

Kevin Williamson’s screenplay rescued meta from the realm of grad students and hiptsters and, under the hand of Wes Craven, turned it into a paying proposition that revived the ailing slasher movie with a big injection of brain cells. Buoyed by star power unusual for the genre and carried along by scenes of inventive bloodletting, this one turned self-reference into an art form and still holds up far better than all the imitations and sequels that followed.

Deathless Prose:

“Movies don’t create psychos. Movies make psychos more creative.”

October 27, 2011 · Posted in Legends  
    

The countdown of horror comedies continues with…

(1959, Roger Corman)

The precursor (and template) for Corman’s more famous Little Shop of Horrors, this tale of a schlemiel who murders his way to popularity is a sly and scrappy satire of beat culture that feels more authentic than any of Hollywood’s bigger-budgeted takes on the beret-and-coffeehouse scene. Another day in the shooting schedule and another 15 bucks in the budget could have made it genuinely great…but with the wonderful Dick Miller on hand as Walter Paisley and Julian Burton stealing every scene as a pretentious beat poet, asking for true greatness seems almost selfish.

Deathless Prose:

“Life is an obscure hobo, bumming a ride on the omnibus of art.”

October 26, 2011 · Posted in Legends  
    

The countdown of horror comedies continues with…

(2000, John Perkins)

It’s neither as clever nor as original as it thinks it is, but it’s still smarter and fresher than many horror comedies. Filled with snark, gore and feminist commentary, John Fawcett and Karen Walton’s puberty=metamorphosis=lycanthropy thriller earns its cult following with a combination of sharp performances, sardonic energy and a darned good werewolf, all dedicated to playing out a script that offers a parade of pained smiles and more than its share of laugh-out-loud moments.

Deathless Prose:

“Wrists are for girls. I’m slitting my throat.”

October 25, 2011 · Posted in Legends  
    

The countdown of horror comedies continues with…

(1971, Robert Fuest)

Whimsically stylish and darkly humorous, this 10 plagues of Egypt-meet-Ten Little Indians revenge fantasy gives Vincent Price one of the roles of a lifetime as an insane tragic genius bent on getting even with a group of doctors whose only crime was their failure to work a miracle…but watching him glide through his paces as a clockwork angel of death is so much fun that no one’s likely to notice how pointless the whole exercise is. The whole thing is a triumph of campy production design, dominated by Price in a masterful silent movie performance, his face immobilized by grotesque makeup while his burning eyes and graceful gestures do all the emoting against a pre-recorded background of juicy over-the-top villain monologues.

Deathless Prose:

“There’s some very strange people practicing medicine these days.”

October 24, 2011 · Posted in Legends  
    

The countdown of horror comedies continues with…

(1948, Charles Barton)

Low comedy, yes. Childish slapstick, you betcha. The gold standard for horror comedy, nonetheless? Absolutely. Universal’s mashup of their classic monsters with their long-running comedy team gave the beloved creatures a fond sendoff and provided Bud and Lou with one of their biggest hits. Lugosi and Chaney get a final shot at playing their trademark horror roles – for Lugosi, it was only the second time he’d ever played Dracula in a major feature – and all the monsters are allowed to play things straight, letting Abbott and Costello do all the heavy comedic lifting. The whole thing’s as brash and energetic as an extended burlesque routine, and after all this time, Costello’s speechless fright schtick remains irresistible.

Deathless Prose:

CHICK: “‘Count Dracula must return to his coffin before sunrise, where he lies helpless during the day.’ That’s the bunk.”

WILBUR: “That’s what I’m trying to tell you – that’s his bunk!”

October 23, 2011 · Posted in Legends  
    

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