Friday, June 05, 2020

Patricia Hitchcock on STRANGERS ON A TRAIN

Hitchcock's daughter, Pat, was *in* STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, and these are her thoughts on the film...



We take a closer look at STRANGERS ON A TRAIN in my new Hitchcock book MASTERING SUSPENSE...

Plus: here's a HITCH 20 PLUS segment on basic cinematic language (which many directors today don't seem to speak!)...



- Bill



Of course, I have my own books on Hitchcock...

HITCHCOCK: MASTERING SUSPENSE


LEARN SUSPENSE FROM THE MASTER!

Alfred Hitchcock, who directed 52 movies, was known as the “Master Of Suspense”; but what exactly is suspense and how can *we* master it? How does suspense work? How can *we* create “Hitchcockian” suspense scenes in our screenplays, novels, stories and films?

This book uses seventeen of Hitchcock’s films to show the difference between suspense and surprise, how to use “focus objects” to create suspense, the 20 iconic suspense scenes and situations, how plot twists work, using secrets for suspense, how to use Dread (the cousin of suspense) in horror stories, and dozens of other amazing storytelling lessons. From classics like “Strangers On A Train” and “The Birds” and “Vertigo” and “To Catch A Thief” to older films from the British period like “The 39 Steps” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” to his hits from the silent era like “The Lodger” (about Jack The Ripper), we’ll look at all of the techniques to create suspense!

Films Included: NOTORIOUS, SABOTAGE, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, THE 39 STEPS, REBECCA, TO CATCH A THIEF, FRENZY, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, THE LODGER, THE BIRDS, TORN CURTAIN, SABOTEUR, VERTIGO, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1934), THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1955), SUSPICION, and NUMBER SEVENTEEN. 17 Great Films!

Only 125,000 words!

Price: $5.99

Click here for more info!

OTHER COUNTRIES:
(links actually work now)

UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.

And...




HITCHCOCK: EXPERIMENTS IN TERROR



Click here for more info!

HITCHCOCK DID IT FIRST!

We all know that Alfred Hitchcock was the Master Of Suspense, but did you know he was the most *experimental* filmmaker in history?

Contained Thrillers like “Buried”? Serial Protagonists like “Place Beyond The Pines”? Multiple Connecting Stories like “Pulp Fiction”? Same Story Multiple Times like “Run, Lola, Run”? This book focuses on 18 of Hitchcock’s 53 films with wild cinema and story experiments which paved the way for modern films. Almost one hundred different experiments that you may think are recent cinema or story inventions... but some date back to Hitchcock’s *silent* films! We’ll examine these experiments and how they work. Great for film makers, screenwriters, film fans, producers and directors.

Films Examined: “Rear Window”, “Psycho”, “Family Plot”, “Topaz”, “Rope”, “The Wrong Man”, “Easy Virtue”, “Lifeboat”, “Bon Voyage”, “Aventure Malgache”, “Elstree Calling”, “Dial M for Murder”, “Stage Fright”, “Champagne”, “Spellbound”, “I Confess”, and “The Trouble with Harry”, with glances at “Vertigo” and several others.

Professional screenwriter William C. Martell takes you into the world of The Master Of Suspense and shows you the daring experiments that changed cinema. Over 77,000 words.

UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.

- Bill

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Thriller Thursday: The Twisted Image

There was supposed to be a new entry this week, but that will end up being next week....

The spider web fills the screen, it's Boris Karloff's THRILLER!



THE TWISTED IMAGE


Season: 1, Episode: 1.
Airdate: 9/13/1960


Director: Arthur Hiller
Writer: James P. Cavanagh, based on a novel by William O’Farrell.
Cast: Leslie Nielsen, George Grizzard, Natalie Trundy, Dianne Foster.
Music: Pete Rugolo.
Cinematography: Lionel Lindon.


Buy The DVD!

Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “Her eyes. They were often upon him. Candid, admiring, possessive. Her eyes. Her extraordinary eyes. Alan Patterson was aware of her eyes. And used to them. In the lunch counter. In the elevator. He was aware of them for almost a month. And they were to lead him into guilt and terror and murder... as sure as my name is Boris Karloff. Our story is about a watcher, and the watched... and a not so innocent bystander. There’s an outsider, too: Alan’s wife. Four pairs of anxious eyes. But no one could see the shattering effect of... the Twisted Image. Well, I’ll say no more, but I promise you one thing: this is a thriller!”

Synopsis: Successful executive Alan Patterson (Leslie Nielsen) has a pair of stalkers: Lilly (Natalie Trundy), an attractive female employee who has some crazy fatal attraction crush on him... and will do anything to ruin his marriage so that she can become his next wife; and Merl (George Grizzard), an envious mail room employee at the company who wants to take over Alan’s life... once Alan is out of the way, of course. So we have a hybrid of FATAL ATTRACTION and SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, decades before either of those movies were made.

Lilly shows up at Alan’s office at lunchtime, and insists he take her to lunch. His secretary sees them together, and assumes... and when they go to lunch, another business associate sees them together and assumes... But during the lunch, Alan is a bit freaked out by Lilly: she flat out says she’s going to marry him. When he says he is already married and has a kid, she is not deterred at all. She’s crazy! She calls him at home and leaves odd messages with his wife... who thinks he may be cheating.

When Alan has lunch with Lilly to tell her to just leave him alone, she *loudly* professes her love for him in the company lunch room... and is overheard by Merl, who now has some leverage against the boss he love/hates. It’s hinted at that Merl is Gay and also has a strange crush on Alan... he’s very similar to Bruno in STRANGERS ON A TRAIN in some respects. When delivering the mail, Merl steals Alan’s watch from his office.

The more Alan tells Lilly to leave him alone, the more she calls his home and office. His marriage is eroding, his wife (Dianne Foster) is sure that he is cheating on her with Lilly. His life is falling apart!

One night Merl seeks out “Alan’s mistress” Lilly, telling her he has a message from Alan. Merl has a cheap bottle of wine and soon we have *two* drunk mentally unstable people in Lilly’s apartment... both in love with the same man. When Merl puts the moves on Lilly, trying to live out his Alan fantasy, she pushes him away... and he kills her. Oops!

That’s when Alan knocks on the door to demand that Lilly leave him the hell alone. Oops!

But Merl knocks him unconscious, steals his wallet, and wipes away all of his own finger prints... making it appear as if Alan killed Lilly. When wakes up and finds the dead body of the woman who everyone thinks is his mistress, Alan leaves Lilly’s apartment, and he’s seen by the building manager... who then discovers her dead body. Now Alan has to find the real killer before the police catch him.

Merl goes out on the town, using Alan’s money and Alan’s identification.

Alan’s wife goes to have it out with Lilly... arriving just in time to see the police take her out in a body bag. Did Alan murder his mistress?

Alan decides Merl is #1 suspect, goes to his apartment... but Merl isn’t there. When Merl does come back, he sees Alan’s car on the street, and steals it... becoming more like Alan every minute. Wearing his watch, driving his car, dressed to look like him. The transformation is almost complete! But to actually *become* Ala,, Merl goes to Alan’s house and accosts Alan’s wife... *his* wife, now. Then takes Alan’s cute little kid! And holds a gun to her head! Now Alan must race home to save his wife and kid from the maniac pretending to be him.

Review: For the amount of talent involved and the number of great episodes this series would have, not an amazing first episode. Though you might only know Leslie Nielsen from comedies, he began as a serious dramatic actor... and that’s why he was perfect in movies like AIRPLANE! The audience expected him to be serious... as he is in this episode.

You may not be familiar with George Grizzard, but he was a hot actor at the time, cutting his teeth on TV before moving on to films (one of my favorite cop movies you’ve never heard of WARNING SHOT) like ADVISE AND CONSENT... but you would probably recognize the older version of him as the stern father of the bride in BACHELOR PARTY and the old version of Ryan Philippe in FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS. So we have a great cast.

Director Arthur Hiller was a TV veteran at the time, who would go on to direct huge Hollywood hits like LOVE STORY as well as great films like THE HOSPITAL and MAN IN THE GLASS BOOTH... and comedies like the original THE IN LAWS.

Writer James P. Cavanaugh was a writer for Hitchcock Presents, and many other TV crime shows. So we have all of this talent, and the episode is kind of a muddled mess.

Novelist William O'Farrell was probably famous at the time for his novel REPEAT PERFORMANCE, which is kind of GROUNDHOG DAY as a thriller, about a man who must relive the year he commits murder over and over again.

I suspect the reason is that this hour long episode is based on a novel... and what might work over the course of a novel might not work well when condensed into an hour of TV. The two stalkers thing seems unrealistic; this isn’t a movie star, it’s a business executive! In order to flesh out each character we spend some extra screen time on scenes like Merl and his sister having a dispute... which was probably a fine scene in the novel, but here it seems to come out of left field and slow down the story. And compressing all of the things that happen into a couple of days makes it seem like Alan has the worst luck in the world. When the two stalkers come together, that just seems like a huge coincidence. So we have a story that probably worked well in book form condensed into too little time... and all of the things that could be either set up or glossed over in the book now seem abrupt. The story also ends up “too plotty”, so much going on that we don’t get enough time to really see the emotional impact on Alan. Things like Merl transforming himself into Alan are rushed, and often end up more exposition than demonstration. Adding to this is that the thriller aspects don't kick in until the last quarter of the show. Too much going on!

The music for this episode is basically variations on the THRILLER theme, which makes it seem a little cheap. The same composer will do *great* work on later episodes, like PAPA BENJAMIN (about a big band leader, which Rugalo was before doing TV scores) who must deal with a voodoo curse.

Despite all of this, it’s a competent episode... it just probably should have been a two parter or something. The acting and direction is fine, and the idea that an insignificant person in your life could turn your world upside down like this is scary. I almost wish they had split the story into two stories, one with the crazy FATAL ATTRACTION woman at the office and the other with the SINGLE WHITE FEMALE stalker who transforms themself into a clone of you... an unstable, violent, murderous clone. That way each idea could have been fully explored, and more time spent on the suspense of the situation. One of the reason why I loved this show as a kid were the episodes that take a simple situation and ramp up the suspense until it is unbearable. When we come to GUILLOTINE, you’ll see a great example of that: will a poisoned executioner make it to work today? This isn’t a bad episode... but it doesn’t display the brilliance this show will achieve in later episodes.

FADE OUT.

Bill

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Bank Fears Cool Confidence

From 2008...

"Bank Fears Cool Confidence"

I saw that headline in the business section of the paper and it confused me. Why would anyone fear cool confidence? I mean, Steve McQueen is all about his cool confidence. That’s why he was a star - he had that strength that didn’t require any machismo. McQueen could just stroll into a room, and without saying a word, you knew he was in control... and you were in trouble. And maybe that’s what the banks fear? I mean, McQueen starred in a couple of movies where he played a bank robber...

But if you are going to fear anything, wouldn’t it be the gun or the threat of violence? Why would you fear the cool confidence? Of all the possible things to fear in a bank robber, his attitude seems like it would be close to the bottom of the list of fears. Why didn’t the headline read, “Bank Fears Psychos With Guns”?

You know, Hollywood isn’t really the town for cool confidence. An actor that can project that attitude is great, but this is pretty much a town of braggarts and bullshit. If you take two screenwriters, one who has that cool confidence because they *know* they are talented and *know* they’ve had some success, and the other one is some loud hyper dude telling every one what an amazing writer they are... the odds are the loud hyper dude is believed as successful and the cool guy isn’t even noticed. Producers and studio execs are more likely to believe the hype than look for the reality. Maybe it’s a take one to be fooled by one thing, I don’t know. I do know a few writers who have PR people... and everyone seems to believe the PR... even though their scripts suck. In fact, that’s funny - they usually still believe the PR after they’ve seen the reality.

This town was built on bullshit. Bullshit is *expected*. I think everyone automatically reduces everything you say by 75%, to account for the bullshit factor... and that’s a problem for those of us with cool confidence. We don’t say much, we don’t brag, and if we do mention our accomplishments, we tend to downplay them. So after they deduct the 75% they think is bullshit, we may be left with nothing.

Clint Eastwood has that cool confidence, too - and he’s played bank robbers before...

So, maybe the banks know something that Hollywood doesn’t. Maybe the banks know that the guy who brags isn’t as dangerous as the guy with cool confidence? Maybe that’s something Hollywood *needs* to learn? I mean, they give some dude $100 million to make a movie because he *says* he’s talented, but maybe they’d be better served by skipping the bullshit and looking at what the guy does - is he really talented? Or is it all PR?

So, after thinking about cool confidence, and wondering why banks fear it so much, I re-read the headline and figured out they meant to accent different syllables. It’s not that Banks Fear Cool Confidence, it’s that confidence has been cooled due to fears about banks. To quote Emily Litella: "Oh... Well, never mind."

- Bill

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Trailer Tuesday: GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933

I always manage to get the plots to 42nd STREET and GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 mixed up, because both have amazing Busby Berkeley dance numbers and both share the same casts and both deal with survival during the Great Depression. This is the film with the plot I remember, but always seem to think it’s 42nd STREET.

You might wonder why a guy who has a book on writing action movies is a huge fan of Warner Bros musicals from the 30s, but that would be thinking in cliches... so stop that right now! Oddly enough, the big set pieces in Busby Berkeley films have much in common with big action set pieces in today’s films... and probably even more in common with martial arts films (since both deal with graceful physical actions). My main love for these films comes from their gritty reality base... these are movies from the Great Depression *about* the Great Depression. While MGM was turning out glossy escapist fantasy musicals, Warner Brothers was known for gritty social issues film... and that extended to their musicals. Just as I love the WB long haul trucker movie THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT and their film about guys stringing power lines across the country MANPOWER, these musicals are about real people struggling to pay the rent and doing hard physical work (dancing). GOLD DIGGERS was directed by Mervyn LeRoy who may be most famous for his gangster film LITTLE CAESAR and crime film I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG, but went on to direct the film version of MISTER ROBERTS and THE FBI STORY (with Jimmy Stewart).

Choreographer Busby Berkeley basically reinvented the musical with his amazing production numbers, and went from Broadway choreographer to film choreographer to director of film musicals to... director of THEY MADE ME A CRIMINAL, one of the best crime films of the 1930s and probably John Garfield’s best film. After that, he invented Carmen Miranda’s hat of fruit before heading to MGM where he directed Ester Williams’ *underwater* dance numbers in movies like MILLION DOLLAR MERMAID, also directed by Mervyn LeRoy.



GOLDDIGGERS OF 1933.

Directed by: Mervyn LeRoy
Written by: Erwin Gelsey and James Seymour based on the play by Avery Hopwood.
Musical Numbers by: Busby Berkeley.
Songs by: Al Dubin & Harry Warren.
Starring: Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, Ned Sparks, Guy Kibbee, Warren William, Joan Blondell, Ginger Rogers.

Hey, the gang from 42nd STREET is back in this Great Depression musical! The story begins in an apartment filled with out of work actresses, so poor that they have one good pair of shoes and one good dress between them. The have to be careful not to schedule auditions or day job interviews at the same time, or someone will have to go in clothes with patches and frayed hems. Not that anyone has an audition or job interview, we’re in the middle of the great depression and everyone is flat broke except the very wealthy who only lost part of their fortunes in the stock market crash. This pad o gals can’t even leave their apartment, because they’d have to walk past the building manager’s office, and they are months behind on their rent (the manager keeps slipping notes under the door warning of eviction). Their only entertainment comes from listening to the cute composer across the alleyway Brad (Dick Powell) work on his songs as he avoids *his* building manager. Polly (Ruby Keeler) has a crush on Brad, and often flirts with him from window to window. Nobody knows how they’re going to afford food, because all of the Broadway Theaters are closed... no one has money to put on a show and hire them.



Enter Barney (Ned Sparks, playing the same role as in 42nd STREET just with a different name) a scheming Broadway producer who has a plan. Because the theaters are broke, he’s made a deal with one to put on a show on spec. They’ll make money off ticket sales. He’s also found a potential investor to cover the hard costs of putting on a show... but he needs a cast and some songs. So he shows up at the pad o gals and convinces them to rehearse for free for pay later. Hey, it’s a chance for the gals to get out of the apartment and maybe make enough money to pay their back rent so they won’t be evicted. It’s pretty obvious that Barney has nothing but a scheme... and when he hears Brad’s music, he thinks he has a composer! (Great in joke as Barney calls the movies composers Dubin & Warren and fires them!) Basically, he puts together a show where everyone is working on spec, They have the labor, and that’s most of what’s needed.

Brad and Polly can now flirt face to face with no alley separating them, and it’s love. Barney wants Brad to play the lead, since he knows the songs (and maybe Barney can pay Brad once for two jobs), but Brad is ultra publicity shy and says he can’t be seen on stage. This causes some of the girls to wonder if he’s a criminal on the run or something.

Everything is going great, until that potential backer for the hard costs of the show backs out, leaving them in big trouble. All of this work for nothing...



Except (plot twist) Brad claims he can cover the hard costs. They set up a meeting where Brad will show up with a cashiers check for the hard costs of the show... and wait and wait and wait as Brad doesn’t show. Just when they’re sure Brad is nothing more than a schemer, maybe using this funding thing as a way to get into Polly’s pants, he shows up with the money. Where did he get it? Rob a bank? Brad doesn’t want to tell anyone where he got it, not even Polly. He *is* a bank robber, right?

When the juvenile lead gets lumbago on opening night (because he’s well over 40) they need someone to jump in and take his place... and Brad reluctantly steps in. The show is a huge hit, Brad’s face ends up in the newspapers... and the other shoe drops.



Brad *isn’t* a bank robber, he’s the black sheep son of a wealthy Boston family who disapproves of doing *any* work for a living. This is one of those families who is so rich the Stock Market crash only made a small dent in their fortune. They send older brother Lawrence (the always sleazy Warren William) and his best friend Peabody (the always pudgy Guy Kibee) to rescue Brad from the horrors of singing and dancing on Broadway. But when the two wealthy gentlemen come to the pad o gals, and Lawrence wants to know how much money it will take to buy Polly in order to release his brother from her spell. Due to some confusion they think Carol (Joan Blondell) is Polly and she insists that this conversation take place somewhere more civilized, over a bottle of champagne and a steak. So Lawrence and Peabody end up on a double date with Carol and Trixie (Aline MacMahon)... and we get to the gold digger part of our story. The gals could easily make a bunch of money by selling Polly’s love for Brad, but they would never do anything to harm Polly and the concept that love has a price offends them. This is an interesting social point, as Lawrence believes that love can be bought, and Carol and Trixie believe it has no price. When you are wealthy, everything has a price. When you are broke, you learn the true value of simple things like love and friendship.

Somewhere in here, an impossibly young Sterling Holloway (WINNIE THE POOH) show up as a bellboy and gets a single line of dialogue. Also in the cast in small roles (uncredited) are future Mrs. Ronald Reagan and Oscar Winner Jane Wyman, future tough guy and LEOPARD MAN star Dennis O’Keefe, future cowboy star Wild Bill Elliott (as a dancer!), and character actor Charles Lane (IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE) as the snooty society reporter who blows Brad’s cover.

The two gals manage to hook Lawrence and Peabody. There’s a great scene where a passed out drunk Lawrence is stripped and put in Carol’s bed, wakes up, and once again tries to buy his way out... but realizes that maybe these actresses are not evil incarnate, and maybe he’s *in love* with “Polly” (Carol). This creates a huge problem, because he thinks that he is in love with his brother’s gal! As the show goes on, we get a great false identity farce, which ends with a triple wedding. As usual, no shortage of half naked women, because this is precode. Side boob, top boob, underboob, and lots of sheer lingerie.



Let’s talk about the musical numbers for a moment, because there are some great ones here including an amazing show stopper at the end. The film opens with “We’re In The Money” with Berkeley’s signature “Parade Of Face” where every one of the beautiful chorus girls gets a big close up. Ginger Rogers sings this number, which (because we are still pre code) features scantily clad women with giant gold coins. The most amazing thing about this number is Rogers singing in *pig latin* for a verse or two! I couldn’t talk in pig latin that fast, let alone sing it! This is the cold opening number of the show, and ends prematurely as the repo men come to take the sets and costumes and props in a very funny scene.

Next up is one of the songs from the show, “Petting In The Park”, with Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell and a bunch of scantily clad gals in very risque situations. Billy Barty plays a horny baby (you read that right) who at one point, as the chorus girls are undressing behind a shade with *naked* silhouettes of bouncing boobs, starts to slowly pull the shade up! By the time the shade is raised, the chorus girls have changed into tin (!) breastplates and panties and dance away. The number ends with Powell unable to get into Keeler’s pants or breastplate, and Barty hands him a can opener! Powell proceeds to open Keeler’s outfit and we fade out. Hey, the *subject matter* of this song is heavy petting! This is one of those scenes you can’t believe are in a film made in 1933. The silhouettes behind that shade are *nude*.

One of the most beautiful dance numbers ever put on film is the “Shadow Waltz” with Powell and Keeler and Rogers and the rest of the gals. The chorus girls have *neon violins” they play in the dark, creating amazing kaleidoscopic images when the lights turn down. If “Petting In The Park” focused on ass, this number focuses on class. It’s worth the price of admission.

View That Number Here.

But it’s not the best number in the film. That would be the closing song, “My Forgotten Man” sung by Joan Blondell and Etta Moten. This has been a film about the Great Depression, and the social and class issues that event brought to the surface in America. This number focuses on the problems of impoverished veterans... and hits hard. All of those soldiers who fought in the Great War (WW1) returned as broken men, only to be broken again by the Great Depression. The number is in stark German Expressionistic images and deals with homeless vets. So many great moments in the number, including a policeman rousting a homeless man sleeping on the street, and Blondell opening the homeless man’s lapel to display war medals. This is a heart breaker of a song that shows how poorly the country treated war veterans after the economy went south. Hey, no parallels to today, right? The number ends with an amazing Busby Berkeley dance number that combines soldiers marching off to war in the background as homeless men march in search of jobs in the foreground. This is the conclusion of a film that has mostly been a comedy look at the struggles of surviving in the Great Depression... and makes you realize how serious poverty is.



Warner Brothers cranked out musical like this throughout the depression. Berkeley choreographed dance numbers in *five* musicals in 1933 alone! These films allowed people to forget their troubles for a couple of hours without ignoring that they had those troubles. The pad of gals and it’s concept that if people work together we can get through these temporary problems gave people hope and probably kept them from fighting with each other when things got tough. These films kept Warner Brothers in the black, and maintained their identity for gritty realism... even with these lavish musical numbers!

Bill

Friday, May 29, 2020

Hitchcock: Content vs. Technique

Here's another bit of advice from Hitchcock while I get some writing done...



- Bill






Of course, I have my own books focusing on Hitchcock...

HITCHCOCK: MASTERING SUSPENSE


LEARN SUSPENSE FROM THE MASTER!

Alfred Hitchcock, who directed 52 movies, was known as the “Master Of Suspense”; but what exactly is suspense and how can *we* master it? How does suspense work? How can *we* create “Hitchcockian” suspense scenes in our screenplays, novels, stories and films?

This book uses seventeen of Hitchcock’s films to show the difference between suspense and surprise, how to use “focus objects” to create suspense, the 20 iconic suspense scenes and situations, how plot twists work, using secrets for suspense, how to use Dread (the cousin of suspense) in horror stories, and dozens of other amazing storytelling lessons. From classics like “Strangers On A Train” and “The Birds” and “Vertigo” and “To Catch A Thief” to older films from the British period like “The 39 Steps” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” to his hits from the silent era like “The Lodger” (about Jack The Ripper), we’ll look at all of the techniques to create suspense!

Films Included: NOTORIOUS, SABOTAGE, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, THE 39 STEPS, REBECCA, TO CATCH A THIEF, FRENZY, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, THE LODGER, THE BIRDS, TORN CURTAIN, SABOTEUR, VERTIGO, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1934), THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1955), SUSPICION, and NUMBER SEVENTEEN. 17 Great Films!

Only 125,000 words!

Price: $5.99

Click here for more info!

OTHER COUNTRIES:


UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.

And....

HITCHCOCK: EXPERIMENTS IN TERROR






USA Readers click here for more info!

HITCHCOCK DID IT FIRST!

We all know that Alfred Hitchcock was the Master Of Suspense, but did you know he was the most *experimental* filmmaker in history?

Contained Thrillers like “Buried”? Serial Protagonists like “Place Beyond The Pines”? Multiple Connecting Stories like “Pulp Fiction”? Same Story Multiple Times like “Run, Lola, Run”? This book focuses on 18 of Hitchcock’s 52 films with wild cinema and story experiments which paved the way for modern films. Almost one hundred different experiments that you may think are recent cinema or story inventions... but some date back to Hitchcock’s *silent* films! We’ll examine these experiments and how they work. Great for film makers, screenwriters, film fans, producers and directors.

Films Examined: “Rear Window”, “Psycho”, “Family Plot”, “Topaz”, “Rope”, “The Wrong Man”, “Easy Virtue”, “Lifeboat”, “Bon Voyage”, “Aventure Malgache”, “Elstree Calling”, “Dial M for Murder”, “Stage Fright”, “Champagne”, “Spellbound”, “I Confess”, and “The Trouble with Harry”, with glances at “Vertigo” and several others.

Professional screenwriter William C. Martell takes you into the world of The Master Of Suspense and shows you the daring experiments that changed cinema. Over 77,000 words.

UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

THRILLER Thursday: WAXWORKS

SEASON 2: WAXWORKS

The spider web fills the screen, it's Boris Karloff's THRILLER!



Season: 2, Episode: 16.
Airdate: January 8, 1962.

Director: Herschel Daugherty.
Writer: Robert Bloch, based on his short story.
Cast: Oskar Homolka, Ron Ely, Alan Baxter, Booth Colman, Antoinette Bower.
Music: Morton Stevens.
Cinematography: Benjamin Kline.
Producer: William Frye.



Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “I can not tell a lie. I cut it with my hatchet. A very famous quote from an even more famous gentleman. But his good father had no trouble obtaining the confession - afterall his victim was nothing more than a cherry tree. While ours? Ours was living flesh and blood. I wonder if an admission of guilt can be extracted from a chap who, as we have heard, has already been executed. Not once, not twice, but three times. Yes, my friends, Vardack the mass murderer certainly should be harmless now. Now that he’s merely a cleverly molded figure in the waxworks. Which, as it so happens, is the setting and the title of our story. A moving amidst models of monsters and murderers you will encounter some very real people. Our players. And they are: Pierre Jacquelin, Master sculptor whose wax companions include no less than fifty of the world’s most diabolical murderers, played by Oskar Homolka. His niece, Annette, beautiful, beguiling, a pleasant contrast to her sinister surroundings, played by Antoinette Bower. Colonel Bertroux, a pursuer as relentless as he is mysterious, portrayed by Martin Kosleck. Detective Hudson, a very young man in a very dangerous business, played by Ron Ely. His more seasoned colleague, Sargent Dane, who is to learn that flesh and blood murderers are much easier to capture than the other kind, enacted by Alan Baxter. And Lieutenant Baily, whose not so enviable responsibility it is to solve the mystery of the waxworks, portrayed by Booth Colman. So come, let us go into the chamber of horrors together! I’ll vouch for the fact that you’ll enjoy yourselves, and it’ll be interesting to see if you can find your way out... alone!



Synopsis: Pierre Jacquelin (Homolka) owns a traveling wax museum of killers, and shows a tour around. Each diorama shows the killer in the act. All look very lifelike... and one of the guests thinks one of the statues are moving. A pretty woman (Amy Fields) is sketching one of the killers - Vardack - who has a bloody ax, and Jacquelin notes that her sketch missed the lift in the killer’s right shoe - one leg was shorter than the other. It’s closing time and everyone leaves... except for the woman who lurks behind finishing her sketch, and is now locked in with the 50 wax killers. The wax figure of killer Vardack that she sketched begins walking towards her - great suspense! We see the feet - one shoe with the lift - as they stalk her in the dark housed of wax. Closer and closer and closer and... She gets to the doors and tries to get out...

The City Morgue: Lt. Baily (Booth Coleman) and Sgt Dane (Alan Baxter) ask the Morgue Attendant (J. Pat O’Malley) about cause of death and other clues - she was killed with the ax, and they will have to wait for the Medical Examiner to finish up with another customer before they can get details. There’s a great bit here where the Morgue Attendant opens one of the refrigerated drawers with a dead body and pulls out his lunch - hey, just keeping it cold! Lots of witty lines.



Police Station: The Detectives look over the victim’s persona; effects... and the sketch pad. The drawing of the man with the ax... her killer? Did she know her killer? And why would he *pose* with the murder weapon? They can’t identify the man in the sketch, so Sgt Dane goes to the Waxworks to interview Jacquelin.

Waxworks: Sgt Dane shows the sketch to Jacquelin and ask if he has ever seen this man. He has... and leads the cop to the diorama of the ax murderer. What? Jacquelin expects them to believe that a wax dummy murdered the girl? That’s crazy! There are 50 wax murderers in the waxworks, Jacquelin knows a lot about murder. Dane asks if Jacquelin has an alibi for the time of death, and his niece steps out of the shadows and says they were working on a new exhibit. When Jacqueline goes to show a group around the waxworks, Sgt Dane question his pretty niece Annette (Antoinette Bower)..

Dane asks if he can search the studio - and Annette allows him to poke around. There is a vat of wax, a work bench, all kinds of wax body parts - it’s spooky as heck! Dane wants to open a closed door, Annette tries to stop him... too late! The Detective opens the closet door and there is a *man* inside. An old bearded man! And he falls out - right at the Detective! Who catches him. Annette moves in to help - it’s a wax dummy. The very one that Jacquelin was working on last night. This is a great shock moment.



After he is satisfied that Jacquelin isn’t the killer, Sgt Dane asks if he can buy Jacquelin dinner and they walk down the foggy street at night... when they hear the roar of a car engine. The car zooms right at them - hitting and killing Sgt Dane! Behind the wheel of the car: The wax dummy that was in the closet!

After Jacquelin makes her statement at the police station, handsome young Detective Hudson takes her home. Meanwhile, Detective Baily has a theory - what if the killer is after Annette? He mistook the artist girl for Annette, and then the car was trying to kill her instead of Sgt, Dane.



As Hudson walks her home, a man follows them in the shadows. They stop at a Chinese restaurant for dinner, and afterwards each lies about what their fortune cookie says. Annette says it reads “Don’t stay out to late on the first date” - when it really says “Beware of the dark stranger.”

Just when they may be about to kiss, the man who was following steps out of the shadows with a gun! He is Colonel Bertroux (Martin Kosleck) - and Detective Baily and Jacquelin blast out of the waxworks doors and tackle him... arresting him for both murders.

Except he’s not the killer - he’s a French detective who has been tracking a serial killer. This serial killer seems to strike wherever the waxworks sets up shop. Every city in Europe where the exhibition set up camp was plagued with killings. Bertroux’s investigation has found no evidence against Jacquelin nor Annette... He believes the wax figures may be doing the killings. The M.O.s for all of the killings have matched the 50 wax figure’s killings. Bertroux has the crazy idea that the wax figures can come to life, and rattles off a series of legends and myths about statues coming to life. He’s wacky!



But Sgt, Dane was killed by a car - none of the wax killers used an automobile. Bertroux says there was a killer who murdered with a car... and the name is the same name as the new wax figure that was in the closet!

The spooky waxworks at night. Pounding at the door. Annette opens the door - to Colonel Bertroux, who has a crazy theory that Jacquelin is stealing hairs from the killers when he makes his death masks and is using black magic to bring them to life. Dude be crazy! He wants to confront Jacquelin, breaks down the bedroom door and pulls back the covers... exposing a wax figure in Jacquelin’s bed. What?

Then Bertroux hears footsteps coming closer. The hook handed killer wax figure enters the room, raises his hook... and kills Bertroux! The wax figures ARE alive!



Lt Baily and Detective Hudson pound on the door of the waxworks - they were following Bertroux. They break down the door and enter the dark, spooky waxworks - filled with 50 wax killers! They pass a wax killer with a huge butcher knife poised to stab a woman - he looks so real! Then Baily realizes that Hudson is no longer behind him, and re-traces his steps. This time the wax killer’s hand is empty - no butcher knife. The knife is in dead Hudson’s back!

A door pops open behind Baily, he spins - it’s Jacquelin. With Bertroux’s gun. Bertroux is in the bubbling caldron of wax in the workshop. Baily says he went through Bertroux’s files before coming here - evidence of murders throughout Europe, wherever the traveling Waxworks was. Baily thinks that the murders were not committed by wax figures, but by a man who disguised himself as those wax figures: Jacquelin.



They wrestle for the gun, Baily manages to grab it. Asks where Jacquein’s niece is. “I have no niece... she is my wife.” Baily opens a closet door and there is Annette... except she’s freakin’ ancient! And a wax figure. You see, she was a murderer witch who was executed and Jacquelin used black magic to bring here back - stole her body and molded wax over her dead form - a wax figure that comes alive. He needs fresh blood to keep her alive - hence the victims. Obviously he’s crazy. He takes a candle to illuminate her face... then tries to grab Baily’s gun. In the struggle Jacquelin is killed and the candle lights the wax figure of Annette and she burns - exposing a skull and skeleton underneath!

Jacquelin wasn’t crazy - Annette was really a wax figure come to life!



Review: This is a great creepy episode, with lots of suspense and twists... Daugherty was one of the “staff directors” and sometimes his episodes are great and sometimes they seem rushed for time (it’s TV, and you have to shoot the episode in time for it to air or there will just be a test pattern). But I wonder how much the writer ended up part of that equation? Robert Bloch is one of mt favorite horror writers, and his work was frequently adapted for THRILLER and often - like in this case - by his own hand. I learned a lot about creating dread and terror by reading his stories, and I assume that he carried those techniques over into his teleplays. If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage! How many of the scary episodes are due to suspense scenes being in the screenplay, so that they were scheduled into the shoot? That opening scene where the wax killer stalks the woman trapped in the waxworks after closing could have just been: “Vardack kills her” in the script, and scheduled as a couple of seconds of screen time - with only a few minutes to shoot. But if it had been written out as a suspense scene, they would have scheduled more time to shoot it and there would have been time to get all of those creepy shots. Could that be the reason why the same director has different results?



Oskar Homolka was a silent star in Austria back in 1926 who became one of Hitchcock’s great villains ten years later in SABOTAGE, and spent 50 years in the business playing all kinds of great roles including Russian Colonel Stok in a couple of the Harry Palmer movies. He was one of those dependable character actors who could show up for work and knock it our of the park. He’s so charming, here, that you know why he has evaded the police for so long.

Ron Ely is impossibly young in this episode. A few years later he would play Tarzan, and so far he is the only one to play Doc Savage on film. Antoinette Bower began her career in a TV version of Poe’s TELLTALE HEART and has had a huge TV career including playing Berlin Betty on HOGAN’S HEROES and played the principal’s wife in PROM NIGHT... and is still with us. Martin Kosleck had a career playing Nazis in movies and on TV (HOGAN’S HEROES), but I know him as the homeless guy sleeping in the windmill in FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT. Alan Baxter was in Hitchcock’s SABOTEUR.



The story is a semi reworking of Bloch’s YOURS TRULY JACK THE RIPPER with a series of murders that fallow the pattern of previous murders and the driven expert from across the pond who aids the police in their investigation... but also is one of the prime suspects. But the whole things gets a fresh coat of paint and a completely different concept. Instead of Jack The Ripper, we get the very creepy idea of house of wax killers coming to life. Instead of the victims being women and that trip to a 60s strip club, most of the victims are men and we focus on the super creepy house of wax at night. So Bloch took the skeleton of the story and jettisoned everything else, creating a completely new story. I find this stuff interesting. If you are making a living writing and selling short stories, you have to keep turning them out! How do you keep that up? One of the way Lester Dent (Doc Savage) managed to write a novel (or two) a month was to have a handful of story patterns - or formulas - that he could use as the skeleton. You can read all of those books back to back and they seem like completely different stories because the details are different. Here, Jack The Ripper being split up into the 50 wax killers in the house of wax - and the completely different resolution - make it a completely new story. All of the scenes are different. The skeleton is similar.

After last week’s crime story disguised as a horror story (the dream sequence opening), we’re back to real horror - and this is a fun, creepy episode! Next week - a period episode about witches!

- Bill

Buy The DVD!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Tales From The Script

From Ten Years Ago...

If you believe that after you win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay you will suddenly be treated better by Hollywood and your writing will be respected and not messed with by the damned dirty apes of development... think again! You’ll have to deal with all of the same problems - you’ll just get paid more.

Two weeks ago I went to the Aero Cinema in Santa Monica to see the pre-DVD release screening of...




TALES FROM THE SCRIPT is a great documentary that all screenwriters both new and abused should see. Filmmakers Peter Hanson and Paul Robert Herman interviewed dozens of professional screenwriters about their work, the business, and how the role of the screenwriter has changed over the years. The film is broken down into chapters, with many screenwriters addressing the same issue in each chapter. Shane Black, Frank Darabont, William Goldman, David Hayter, Paul Schrader, Ron Shelton, David S. Ward, and just about any writer you can name is interviewed. You learn the truth about screenwriting - a truth you may not have wanted to know, but that will help you navigate the treacherous waters of the screenwriting business. Though the film is simple talking head interviews - these folks are all great storytellers, and when they tell a war story about the business it’s a heck of a good story! I was never bored - and usually too busy laughing or squirming with terror.

If you have seen the film on screen, the DVD has 3 big special features:
47 minutes of additional interviews.
12 minutes of William Goldman’s advice.
9 minutes of advice for new screenwriters from the pros.



There is also a companion book with *different interviews* and *different screenwriters*.

The DVD is available on Amazon and on Netflix - check it out.

After the screening there was a great panel of screenwriters doing Q&A, many of them I know. It was kind of cool. Steve DeSouza, Peter Hyams,. Stephen Susco, Bruce Joel Rubin, Adam Rifkin, and a couple of others. It was a great Q&A session - many things that probably will never see print or film or tape - because these guys want to continue to work in this town. Bruce told a horror story about a big name star who has no story sense at all - but is so big that whatever he wants in the script goes in the script... even if the resulting film sucks. The film is filled with stories like this!

POPATOPOLIS!



And Thursday May 27th at 7:30pm at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, the Los Angeles Premiere of POPATOPOLIS - a film I saw at the Raindance International Film Festival in London last year. The movie is being released on DVD, and this screening is a celebration...

POPATOPOLIS is a film that answers the question - can you make a feature film in 3 days with a crew of only 2, starring women with freakishly large breasts who may be too top heavy to stand? B movie director Jim Wynorski can... and this doc chronicles every crazy minute.

Here is a link to my review from London - POPATOPOLIS.

If you are in Los Angeles and like sleazy low-end Z movies, come on down and see this documentary on how they are made!

- Bill

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Trailer Tuesday: With A Friend Like Harry (2000)

A FRIEND LIKE HARRY (2000)

Directed by: Dominik Moll.
Written by: Dominik Moll and Gilles Marchand.
Starring: Laurent Lucas, Sergi López, Mathilde Seigner, Sophie Guillemin.
Cinematography by: Matthieu Poirot-Delpech.
Music by: David Whitaker.




After seeing THE GUEST I was reminded of this French film, and decided to pop WITH A FRIEND LIKE HARRY into the machine and watch it again. I had seen it in the cinema, bought the DVD... and it sat on my shelf in the shrink wrap ever since. The odd thing about those silly French folks is that while America seems to shun most thrillers, the French love them. One of my favorite Don Westlake non series novels, THE AX, is about the economic downturn in the USA and a mid level management guy who realizes there are a couple dozen guys applying for the same jobs that he is... everyone is out of work! Then he decides the only way to land a job is to eliminate the competition, and becomes a serial killer of downsized mid level executives. Great *American* story... but no studio in America seemed to want it, so it was made in France by none other than Oscar Winning director Costa Gavras... with French actors speaking French. Hey, things were tough all over. But why do great American thrillers end up being made in France?

HARRY is an original screenplay by Gilles Marchand and the director Dominik Moll, but it’s the kind of story that Patricia Highsmith (STRANGERS ON A TRAIN) might have written.



I'm sure we all have had someone come up to us, call us by name, talk about some shared experience... and we don't know who the hell they are. We have forgotten them, but they have not forgotten us. They were nothing in our lives, but we were everything to them. Okay, that scene happens in a highway rest stop men's room at the opening of HARRY... do you want to be recognized while you are peeing? Do you want to shake some stranger’s hand, or worse: hug them?

Michael* (Laurent Lucas) and his wife Claire (Mathilde Seigner) and their three little girls (one a perpetually crying baby) have been taking a road trip to the ramshackle country house a couple hours past the retirement community where his overbearing parents live. They have a beat up old station wagon without air conditioning... and France is in the middle of a heat wave. The kids are miserable, and so are Michael and Claire. They stop at the gas station to change the baby’s diaper and use the facilities... never thinking that Michael might run into some one he knows.

Or, pretends to remember.

It seems that Michael and Harry (Sergi López) went to high school together years ago, and Harry claims that Michael collided with him on the soccer field once and broke Harry’s front tooth. Michael remembers none of this. Harry claims they were friends way back in high school because they had so much in common, but now one is a struggling teacher with a wife and his three little (always screaming) kids and the other has inherited his father's fortune after he and his mother died in that tragic accident and drives a Mercedes sports car with a hottie named “Plum” (Sophie Guillemin) in the passenger seat. Michael has a life full of problems... and Harry believes in solving problems... permanently. Harry would like to buy dinner for Michael and his family, but Michael says he needs to get to the country house before nightfall so his kids can get to sleep at their bedtimes. Harry says he has some bottles of wine in the trunk, why not follow them to the country house and have a glass or two with them? Have you ever had someone invite themselves into your life and you just didn’t have the balls to tell them “no”?

It just keeps getting worse!

This is a great set up for a thriller because it has happened to all of us, and opens our life to potential peril when we allow some sinister stranger into our home... our lives... our family.

Basically Harry and Plum move in, sleeping in the best bedroom (because Michael wants to impress him). And Harry begins helping the struggling teacher. When the stationwagon breaks down, Harry buys them a brand new SUV. Michael tries to turn down the gift, but Harry explains ever since his parents died he has had more money than he could ever spend, so why not help out an old friend?

Because they missed a planned stop at the retirement community so that Michael’s overbearing parents could see their grand kids, his father calls and *insists* that they drive over. Michael tries to dissuade them, his father really shouldn’t be driving at night, and ends up agreeing to drive out in the new SUV and pick them up, then deliver them back to the retirement community afterwards.

When he gets there, you understand why Michael keeps his distance from his father and mother, and does not accept any gifts from them... those gifts come with *many* strings attached. His father is a manipulative ahole, a retired dentist who *insists* on giving Michael a dental exam and teeth cleaning in the spare room where he has all of his old dental equipment! This is one of those brilliant absurdist thriller scenes which help the audience feel ill at ease as they suppress their laughter at how silly (but creepy) the scene is. One of the great things about this story is that they keep finding odd things that you can relate to... that person who recognizes you but you do not recognize them, this scene where the overbearing father offers something you do not want, but you can’t really decline without hurting his feelings, and later scenes where Michael and hottie Plum meet in the bathroom and have a strangely erotic moment... it’s filled with uncomfortable scenes that just get weirder and weirder!

Michael mentions Harry, and his father remembers him! In fact, his father tells the same story about how Michael *irresponsibly* ran into Harry on the soccer field and broke his tooth and Michael’s father had to repair it for free... always cleaning up after his screw up son...

When Harry meets Michael’s parents, he realizes that they are what is holding his old friend back. They seem to go out of their way to belittle him, they offer him help (but in such a way that Michael would be forever in their debt if he accepted), and they won’t just help him financially without a bunch of strings and lectures and shaming. Harry realizes that Michael would be better off if his parents had the same sort of tragic accident that befell Harry’s parents... and makes it so! He calls Michael’s parents and says it is an emergency, they must drive out to the country house... then Harry steals a delivery van and runs them off the road, killing them.

Eventually things come to the point that Michael realizes all of his recent good fortune is due to Harry’s help... and that he has become an accomplice to Harry’s crimes. Can he let this man continue to kill people... even if it means that Michael gets everything he secretly desires? Or should he stop Harry before it’s too late?



WITH A FRIEND LIKE HARRY is a great thriller with the genre’s required humorous absurdity. Like STRANGERS ON A TRAIN’s rocky relationship between two men, one who may secretly love the other, HARRY takes us deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole until helping him bury a body just seems normal. An average man’s life suddenly spins out of control and he must step up to set it right... can he do that?

A couple of years ago they announced a US remake which would be directed by Kimberly Peirce with a script by Wentworth Miller, but according to a Variety story, she is no longer attached... which is too bad. After seeing Miller penned STOKER I would have lost Miller and kept Peirce. Though you can't judge a screenplay by its movie, I always worry a little about actors who write. Actors sometimes have a tunnel vision about *their* craft which results in a screenplay with good scenes that often don't add up to a story. STOKER's big problem was the script. We’ll see what happens if they ever make it.

Bill

* I've used the American spelling instead of "Michel" to avoid confusion.

Friday, May 22, 2020

MISSION: HITCHCOCK!

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT was the first time the same director has been brought back for a second film. When they began the series the plan was to bring in a different director for each film, so that each movie had a different feel. The slightly amusing part of this is that the first director, Brian DePalma, set the tone for all of the rest of the films in many ways including his reverence for Hitchcock. My latest book, STORY IN ACTION: MISSION IMPOISSIBLE looks at how Hitchcock has influenced most of the films.

The previous film by Christopher McQuarrie, ROGUE NATION, has a great scene at the Vienna Opera where Ethan Hunt spots *three* assassins aiming sniper rifles at the Chancellor or Austria! The scene is reminiscent of the assassination scene from Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much", but director Christopher McQuarrie says it's actually inspired by a Freixenet Sparking Wine commercial. Say what? But the commercial was directed by some guy named Martin Scorsese and supposedly based on a script by Alfred Hitchcock, and is definitely in the style of Hitchcock. So the scene in ROGUE NATION is inspired by a commercial that was inspired by THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH!

And here is that commercial!

The Key To Reserva: A Short by Martin Scorsese from Ben Grossmann on Vimeo.



NEW!

bluebook

THE MISSION IMPOSSIBLE MOVIES

All Six Movies analyzed! All of the mission tapes, all of the “that’s impossible!” set pieces and stunts, the cons and capers - and how these scenes work, the twists and double crosses, the tension and suspense (and how to generate it), the concept of each film as a stand alone with a different director calling the shots (broken in the sixth film), the gadgets, the masks, the stories, the co-stars and team members (one team member has been in every film), the stunts Tom Cruise actually did (and the ones he didn’t), and so much more! Over 120,000 words of fun info!

THE MISSION IMPOSSIBLE MOVIES - Only $3.99!

Here's the plan: I want this book to be #1 on Amazon's Screenwriting List on Wednesday 2/27. So if you guys tell your screenwriting and film fan friends about this book - and the plan to make it #1 on Amazon on Wednesday - I think we can make it! And they get the VINTAGE SCREENWRITING #1 book for free...

NO KINDLE REQUIRED! Get the *free* app (any device, except your Mr. Coffee) on the order page on Amazon!



UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

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India Folks Click Here.

Austrailian Folks Click Here.

Of course, I have my own books on Hitchcock...

HITCHCOCK: MASTERING SUSPENSE


LEARN SUSPENSE FROM THE MASTER!

Alfred Hitchcock, who directed 52 movies, was known as the “Master Of Suspense”; but what exactly is suspense and how can *we* master it? How does suspense work? How can *we* create “Hitchcockian” suspense scenes in our screenplays, novels, stories and films?

This book uses seventeen of Hitchcock’s films to show the difference between suspense and surprise, how to use “focus objects” to create suspense, the 20 iconic suspense scenes and situations, how plot twists work, using secrets for suspense, how to use Dread (the cousin of suspense) in horror stories, and dozens of other amazing storytelling lessons. From classics like “Strangers On A Train” and “The Birds” and “Vertigo” and “To Catch A Thief” to older films from the British period like “The 39 Steps” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” to his hits from the silent era like “The Lodger” (about Jack The Ripper), we’ll look at all of the techniques to create suspense!

Films Included: NOTORIOUS, SABOTAGE, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, THE 39 STEPS, REBECCA, TO CATCH A THIEF, FRENZY, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, THE LODGER, THE BIRDS, TORN CURTAIN, SABOTEUR, VERTIGO, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1934), THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1955), SUSPICION, and NUMBER SEVENTEEN. 17 Great Films!

Only 125,000 words!

Price: $5.99

Click here for more info!

OTHER COUNTRIES:
(links actually work now)

UK Folks Click Here.

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Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.

And...




HITCHCOCK: EXPERIMENTS IN TERROR



Click here for more info!

HITCHCOCK DID IT FIRST!

We all know that Alfred Hitchcock was the Master Of Suspense, but did you know he was the most *experimental* filmmaker in history?

Contained Thrillers like “Buried”? Serial Protagonists like “Place Beyond The Pines”? Multiple Connecting Stories like “Pulp Fiction”? Same Story Multiple Times like “Run, Lola, Run”? This book focuses on 18 of Hitchcock’s 53 films with wild cinema and story experiments which paved the way for modern films. Almost one hundred different experiments that you may think are recent cinema or story inventions... but some date back to Hitchcock’s *silent* films! We’ll examine these experiments and how they work. Great for film makers, screenwriters, film fans, producers and directors.

Films Examined: “Rear Window”, “Psycho”, “Family Plot”, “Topaz”, “Rope”, “The Wrong Man”, “Easy Virtue”, “Lifeboat”, “Bon Voyage”, “Aventure Malgache”, “Elstree Calling”, “Dial M for Murder”, “Stage Fright”, “Champagne”, “Spellbound”, “I Confess”, and “The Trouble with Harry”, with glances at “Vertigo” and several others.

Professional screenwriter William C. Martell takes you into the world of The Master Of Suspense and shows you the daring experiments that changed cinema. Over 77,000 words.

UK Folks Click Here.

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Bill

Thursday, May 21, 2020

THRILLER Thursday: Parasite Mansion

Best Of THRILLER: Parasite Mansion.

Next week another new entry! A Robert Bloch story!

The spider web fills the screen, it's Boris Karloff's THRILLER!



Season: 1, Episode: 30.
Airdate: April 25, 1961

Director: Herschel Daugherty
Writer: Donald Sanford, based on a story by Mary Elizabeth Counselman.
Cast: Jeanette Nolan, Pippa Scott, James Griffith, Tommy Nolan and Beverly Washburn.
Music: Morton Stevens
Cinematography: John Russell
Producer: William Frye



Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “Hospitality. Good old Southern hospitality. That’s what I like about the South. This is a room in Parasite Mansion, the name of our story tonight and the home of the Harrads. A fanily plagued for generations with a horrible curse. Parasite Mansion is a terrible place to visit, but obviously an excellent place in which to die. Featured in our story tonight are Jeannette Nolan, James Griffith, Beverly Washburn, Tommy Nolan, and Pippa Scott. One of these poor unfortunates is doomed to die before your eyes. Oh, oh! Don’t try to guess, you might be right and spoil all the fun.”

Synopsis: A stormy night somewhere in the backwoods of Louisiana. Marcia Hunter (Pippa Scott) takes a wrong turn after encountering a detour when the main highway is closed for construction... and sees a rambling old house through the pouring rain. Maybe an old plantation house. She drives towards it... and someone begins shooting at her! Marcia spins the steering wheel, hits a tree and crashes her car... hitting her head against the steering wheel and blacking out.

From the house, Victor Harrod (James Griffith) and Granny (Jeannette Nolan) brave the rain to investigate. Victor says they need to keep that rifle out of Rennie’s hands, he keeps doing stuff like this.



Marcia wakes up in an ancient bed in the old house... wearing only her underwear. What happened? Just as she works up the nerve to get out of bed and get her clothes on the other side of the room, perpetually drunk Victor and Granny enter the room and she gets back under the covers. Marcia wants to leave, Victor says that’s not possible. No phone to call for help (nearest phone is ten miles as the crow flies through the swamp), and it’s going to take a couple of days for Victor to fix her car so that it runs. Plus, she needs her rest, Victor had to put five stitches in her head. Marcia says, so you’re a doctor? Victor answers, “Not a doctor. We gotta learn to do our own doctoring out here.” Marcia pleads to leave: she was headed home to her parent’s in Shreveport... but Granny has gone through her purse, and read her mail, and knows that she’s actually headed to New Orleans to meet a man. They have completely violated her privacy. Victor tells her to just get her rest and they leave.

Marcia waits until night, puts on her clothes, and sneaks out... noticing a door at the top of the stairs with a massive padlock (what could be inside there that they need to lock it in?) on her way down to the front door... but once outside, Rennie (Tommy Nolan) starts shooting at her! Yelling that “She’s one those folks who took ma!” Victor wrestles the gun away from Rennie and Granny grabs her, “You can’t leave here alive!”



Marcia wakes up in the bed again. She tells Victor she doesn’t blame Rennie, she understands that the authorities came and took his mother to an asylum and he’s afraid he’ll be taken as well. Granny comes in with food, mentions the house’s dark secrets. “The Dark Fear”. When they leave, Victor locks Marcia in the room.

Marcia tries to find a way out... the windows are boarded up, door locked... but she notices a door frame behind the wardrobe. Pulling the wardrobe back (no shortage of cobwebs) she opens the door... into more webs and darkness. Grabbing the lantern, she finds a staircase and climbs up to a room... where a frightened teenaged girl Lolly (Beverly Washburn) is hidden. Lolly’s room is behind that padlocked door upstairs. Weird drawings on the walls of the room. Lolly says “You’re here to take me away!” Marcia calms her, says she’s a friend, offers Lolly her broach... and suddenly the broach levitates and flies across the room on its own! Lolly screams, her arm has suddenly begun bleeding. Granny is at the doorway, says now you’ve seen the whole family, time to go back to your room.



Back in the room, Granny asks if he has any last requests? Marcia tries to bribe Granny with her engagement ring, Granny says she’ll get that one way or the other anyway...

Downstairs Victor wants to let her leave, Granny says “She saw!” Now she can never leave. Victor tells her they will *all* have dinner in the dining room tonight. Marcia and Lolly and Rennie.

Marcia finds the door unlocked, goes downstairs, tells Victor that what Lolly has is stigmata, and he has read about it. Victor says he has, too... shows her a wall of books on stigmata. None of them have the answers. “We’re afraid of *it*: the thing that threw your broach, the thing that scratched Lolly.” For the past couple of generations the Harrod family has been cursed by *it*. Do you know what a poltergeist is? “An invisible parasite that attaches to people... it has attached itself to every woman in the Harrod family for the past three generations. Granny says you get used to it, like lice and other crawling things.



A tense dinner. Marcia notices that there is an extra place setting at the table. That’s for the poltergeist, she’s told. Wham! Lolly’s cup jumps off the table and begins striking the little girl in the head again and again! Granny laughs. The cup beats Lolly’s face and she begins bleeding... she runs away! Everyone is scared except Granny. Marcia says poltergeist or not, she’s going to destroy it and get the hell out of here!

When Marcia goes back to her room, Granny tells Victor they have to kill her. If she messes with the poltergeist, it’s just going to take it out on the whole family. They can kill her, put her in her car, and dump it in the swamp.

Marcia sleeps as the secret door opens and Rennie comes into the room with a knife. He creeps to the side of her bed and gets ready to stab her... but can’t. Granny whispers “Kill her! Kill her!” from the secret doorway. Granny takes the knife from Rennie to kill Marcia herself. Marcia wakes up, fights Granny for the knife, knocks it out of her hands... but Granny makes the knife levitate! The knife zips across the room into Granny’s hand! *Granny* is telekenetic! The family curse began when Granny married into the family and moved into the house. Granny has made everyone think that it’s a poltergeist haunting the Harrod women, when it was her all along! Victor comes in, hears all of this, wrestles with Granny... but Granny is more powerful! Except they have knocked over the oil lamp, and it ignites Granny’s dress, setting her on fire! She runs out of the house in flames and dies in a burning heap in the swamp.

Marcia asks Victor if their poltergeist ever acted up when Granny wasn’t around? The poltergeist is gone, the family curse is lifted... it was Granny.



Review: Nice creepy entry. They must have used a ton of cobwebs to dress this set! The cobwebs on the secret door are particularly cool because they stretch when the wardrobe is pulled away from the door. Though this was made before wires could be digitally removed, the effects are really good! You can’t see the wires at all, and the cup and broach and knife move convincingly.

One of the great things is how the story evolves. At first we think the “curse” is insanity, then it’s a poltergeist phenomena in teenage Lolly, and it finally becomes evil Granny who is secretly causing all of this dark fear in the family so that she can control them. It is a house of secrets, and when one secret is revealed it just creates another. The mysteries drive the story, with Marcia thinking that family insanity is the secret only to discover Lolly locked away, only to discover the poltergeist activity. But even that isn’t the secret, and she keeps digging until she finds out. Just when you think you know what’s going on, another secret door opens and you realize you are still in the dark.

I really wanted to read this story before writing this entry due to Granny’s line about the lice and crawly things, which are parasites like the poltergeist. I was wondering if there was more about that in the story... but the book is out of print, and my local library branch didn’t have a copy. They could get it for me, but not by “press time”... so I will have the answer to that whenever all of these entries add up to an ebook.



I know that this was one of Stephen King’s favorite TV shows, and since one of the elements of this episode is a teenage girl who seems to have telekinetic powers which includes knives shooting across a room, I wonder if this was an inspiration for his novel CARRIE?

The spooky old mansion will return in a few episode in Stephen King’s favorite episode, PIGEONS FROM HELL... but next week we have a fun episode starring Edward Andrews who did three episodes of THRILLER and specialized in whimsical malevolence. You know his face from every TV show ever made plus movies like GREMLINS. He is the adult image of mischief!

Bill

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