Rob Zombie’s remake (or re-imagining, if that’s more appropriate) of John Carpenter’s Halloween re-aligns the focus back to the issue of remakes of classic seventies films, though we’ll save that topic for a later date.

Halloween is certainly not a movie that needs an intro, although in Zombie’s interview in the August issue of Rue Morgue magazine, the writer/director/composer admits he was surprised at how many people had never seen the film, including actor Malcolm McDowell, who plays as Dr. Loomis.

Originally played by Donald Pleasance in the original and subsequent sequels, John Carpenter’s 1978 film was given the deluxe treatment by Anchor Bay in a 2-disc 25th Anniversary edition, sporting a high definition Divimax transfer and loads of extras. To tie-in to the Zombie remake, Anchor Bay / Stars Home Entertainment have reissued the original 1999 THX mastered single disc release at a more economical price, with a flashy new O-sleeve.

Also from the label are the latest pair of Masters of Horror episodes: Mick Garris’ own adaptation of a Clive Barker story, “Valerie on the Stairs,” and Tom Holland’s E.C. comics tribute, “We All Scream for Ice Cream,” based on a short story by John Farris.

In less than 2 weeks, The Toronto International Film Festival [TIFF] will begin, as will its’ interconnected Midnight Madness festival, which will include the latest film by the current masters of British Bleakness, Adam Mason and Simon Boyes.

Midnight Madness bigwig Colin Geddes gives a concise rundown of the duo’s latest film, The Devil’s Chair, and for those curious about their prior work, we have a review of Broken, probably one of the most cruel but gripping portraits of a sadistic relationship between an egomaniacal abductor and his ordinary, literally off-the-street victim. There’s bleak, and then there’s British Bleak, going back to Michael Reeve’s brilliant yet despairing Witchfinder General (aka The Conqueror Worm, itself slated to finally hit North American shelves as a special edition DVD on September 11th).

Coming next: more film music, and some stellar documentaries.


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Nostalgia Trip

I was past the key demographic age when The Monster Squad was originally released in 1987, and completely missed the impact it had on kids when it ran on theatrical screens, and later did the rounds on home video and cable TV.

Never heard of nards, didn’t worry about mummies in closets, and I regarded Fred Dekker as a minor footnote filmmaker, given he’s only directed three films – Night of the Creeps, The Monster Squad, and Robocop 3 (plus an episode of Tales from the Crypt) as of this writing. Dekker was also credited as one of the writers on Ricochet, Russell Mulcahy’s goofy comic book crime film, but in an interview in Rue Morgue's July issue reveals, Dekker just sort of disappeared from the filmmaking scene for about a decade.

After the release of Lethal Weapon, Shane Black’s other produced script of 1987, Dekker and Monster Squad co-writer Black were profiled in a piece in the 3rd issue of Premiere magazine (“A Pad O’ Guys”), alongside a handful of twentysomething colleagues who, according to writer Joseph Ferullo, had sweet studio deals in spite of never having gone to film school. (“Catch us on an arrogant note,” says fellow film geek David Arnott, “and we’ll tell you we’re the Algonquin Round Table of the ‘80s.”)

Flash forward 20 years later, and after a long absence from active production, Dekker has slowly taken steps to return to filmmaking via TV’s Enterprise as a writer & producer.

The Monster Squad is a case where a little film has taken on a life of its own, eclipsing the filmmaker during the intervening years, but the new 2-disc set from Lionsgate (U.S.) and Maple (Canada) reverently pays tribute to Dekker’s cult film, and the keen minds influenced by Abbott and Costello, the Universal monster films, and the Little Rascals – 3 unique streams that are probably less-known by each successive generation.

With the exception of the Little Rascals (screaming for a boxed set release), pretty much everything else by the aforementioned is out on DVD, and the 20th Anniversary Edition will ensure the now grown-up kids who loved The Monster Squad will pass on the goofy film to their own rugrats, which probably vindicates Dekker and Black for wanting to make a movie about the movies they loved as kids.

Having never seen the film until now, the level of nostalgia glowing from The Monster Squad is refreshing, so it’s perhaps unsurprising to see grownups in stores holding the set like a treasured relic from their childhood, making a crack about nards during a purchase, and eagerly awaiting a revisitation of a B-movie from their childhood.

Guilty pleasure, indulgence, or curiosity from the big-haired eighties, it’s notable when a little movie still resonates after 20 years.

In addition to The Monster Squad, we’ve also reviewed Slow Burn, Wayne Beach’s noir suspense thriller starring Enterprise’s Jolene Blalock, Ray Liotta, and Mekhi Phifer, also released by Lionsgate and Maple.


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Rebels in Music

Whether it’s Elvis Presley during the primordial days of rock & roll, red hot jazz musicians creating fire in front of captive (and appreciative) audiences, or esteemed European composers who decide to perform interactive improvisations using bamboo tubes, horse hair, perfume bottles, and trumpet mouthpieces in a gallery auditorium, this week’s blog tallies up a series of great music-related DVDs, and some film music we’ve uploaded over the past two weeks.

New at KQEK.com:

- an interview with British composer Murray Gold, whose second career as a playwright is sort of on pause as he continues to score the BBC’s brilliant new Doctor Who series, plus the spin-off shows Torchwood, and The Sarah Jane Adventures.

- a related review of Silva Screen’s excellent Doctor Who compilation CD, gathering selections from the first and second series.

- die Schachtel’s 2-CD + 1 DVD boxed set of music by the Guppo di improvvisazione nuova consonanza – Azioni 1967-69, featuring wild improvisations by Franco Evangelisti, Mario Bertoncini, Walter Branchi, John Heineman, Egisto Macchi, Roland Kayn, Ivan Vandor, Frederic Rzewski, and Ennio Morricone. Yes, Morricone, who spent some time sitting on the floor sputtering into a trumpet mouthpiece so he could discover and refine exotic sounds for his brilliant giallo scores. This deluxe boxed set also comes with a 1967 documentary by Theo Gellehr who played fly-on-the-wall as the group rehearsed and performed their work for a group of very polite people at Rome’s Gallery of Modern Art (some of whom also politely left, feeling their sinus cavities had been unceremoniously drained).

- A DVD review of New Orleans Music in Exile, Robert Mugge’s excellent documentary of musicians displaced by Hurricane Katrina and the floods, filmed 2 months after the devastation, and released by Starz Home Entertainment.

- the beautifully mounted concert/biography Elvis: The Mini Series, with Golden Globe winner Jonathan Rhys Meyer as the King, Emmy nominees Camryn Manheim as Elvis’ mum, and Randy Quaid as the influential/manipulative Colonel Tom Parker. Featuring original Elvis recordings for the concert and recording scenes, Starz’ DVD features the complete 2-part mini-series which aired in 2005.

- and 3 great jazz DVD from MVD Visual: a 2-disc salute to the New Morning Jazz Club, packing 4 hours of diverse music from the club’s first 25 years; late tenor saxman Bob Berg with the Niels Lan Doky Trio at the New Morning in 1994, plowing through long, finely detailed songs; and legendary bassist Miroslav Vitous in a solo concert at Vienna’s Porgy & Bess club in 2004.

We’ve also snuck in a review of Disturbia, which maintains a really fun spin on Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window template of neighborly contempt transplanted to the suburbs, until director D.J. Caruso and screenwriters Christopher B. Landon & Carl Ellsworth tape a misstep, and completely fubar their movie.


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