Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Film Junkie's 5 Favorite Films: Vampires

Confessions of a Film Junkie: Film Junkie’s 5 Favorite Films: Vampires

By: Brian Cotnoir

Two Octobers ago, I did “Vampire Movie Month” here on Confessions of a Film Junkie.  So I decided I’d do a little bit of a follow up.  I’ve always had a fascination with vampires ever since I was a young child: I just found them to be mysterious and awesome, and I had a lot of Vampire books, and movies, and comics, and I wrote short stories about Vampires in my spare time.  There was a time when Vampires were the coolest and most important thing in my life...Then I went to College and Stephanie Meyer’s book Twilight became super popular and it spawned a film franchise, and quickly saw the thing I enjoyed the most be destroyed and degraded...so I moved away from vampires after that, and switched to zombies because the mere mention of vampire from Twilight or True Blood would send me into a blinding nerd rage, but that fad is done and played out so I feel like I can openly say I love vampires again without someone asking a stupid follow-up question.  So I am here today to countdown my 5 Favorite Vampire Films.  Just keep in mind these aren’t what I consider to be the 5 Best Vampire Films of All-Time; this is just my 5 personal favorite films involving vampires.  Enjoy.

5.)  Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Academy Award Winning Director Francis Ford Coppola gave Dracula a much needed film reboot in 1992; 60 years after the original film adaptation of Dracula.  The film featured massive sets, top notch costuming, and an all-star cast including Gary Oldman, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Tom Waits and Winona Ryder.  This was actually the first vampire film I ever saw...I was 10.  I think somehow or another, my older sister and I convinced our mother to rent this for us.   This is still my favorite adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel.  I like the casting and especially the music of Wojciech Kilar, which just takes the dark and gothic atmosphere of the film to the next level.  It is just a great film.

4.)  Thirst

Thirst” was one of the four films I reviewed in my Vampire Movie Month, 2 years ago.  It’s a foreign film and it is the story of a Catholic Priest who gets turned into a vampire through a botched medical experiment.  The film follows him as he tries to adjust as to his new life as a vampire and the story of how he fell in love with a wife of a childhood friend and how he transformed her into a vampire.  “Thirst” was the creation of famed South Korean director Park Chan-wook who also directed “Oldboy”, and he does an amazing job of giving us humorous and interesting characters and making the stories seem as realistic and possible.  That’s one thing “Thirst” has going for it: it’s pretty realistic.  I honestly do believe that if Vampirism was an actual disease than “Thirst” would be the most accurate portrayal of that lifestyle change.  I will admit that this is a long film to sit through, and I honestly think that Park Chan-wook could’ve stretched this film into two films: I’d have the Priest discovering his newfound vampirism in the first film and the second film would show him and him and his new vampire bride living their day-to-day life.  I highly recommend that you check out “Thirst” if you’ve never seen it.

3.) Let the Right One In

Another Excellent Foreign Vampire-Horror film is the 2008 Swedish film “Let The Right One In”.  Based on a novel of the same name it is the story of a young Boy named Oskar who befriends a mysterious girl named Eli.  The two become close friends, but there friendship is really put to the test when Oskar finds out Eli is actually a vampire.  I’ve been a fan of this film since the first time I saw it, and I became an even bigger fan of the film after I read the novel, however, I do not share the same feelings for the Americanized version “Let Me In”.  It’s not just a great vampire film, but it also has a nice-innocent love story.  I actually bust this film out around Valentine’s Day, and I think I’ve convinced a few people to do the same; kind of a nice Holiday-Vampire Film Watching Tradition.

2.) Stake Land

Now this is a bad a$$ vampire film!  It has everything action, adventure, horror, drama, kick a$$ characters, and of course vampires!  I reviewed this film already for the blog, so I won’t talk too much about it (click the link below if you are interested in what I thought of the film).  I will say that the character Mister is one of the toughest and greatest characters I have ever seen in a film. I also liked how the vampires in this film were more creature-like than human-like.   And I also like how the film has two sets of villains: The Vampires and a Group of Religious Fanatics, which adds to the drama, because no longer are vampires the only thing left to be feared in the world, instead you have other (paranoid) humans with a Join Or Die motto.  If you haven’t seen “Stake Land” yet, you must!  It is simply too great of a film for you to not see.  You will not regret watching “Stake Land”, I promise.

1.) Suck

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before on the blog at some point: but I HEART the movie “Suck”.  It’s the story of a struggling rock and roll band named The Winners, who finally find success after their bassist Jennifer is turned into a vampire.  Pretty soon the other bandmates realize that they can capitalize on the gimmick and the rest of the band have Jennifer turn them into blood sucking vampires.  I like “Suck” for a number of reasons:  Not only does it have an interesting story, funny and memorable characters, and some kick a$$ tunes throughout, but it also features many famous musicians like Alex Lifeson of Rush, Dmitri Coates from the Burning Brides, Iggy Pop, Moby, Alice Cooper, AND my personal hero Henry Rollins.  And just when I thought this film couldn’t get any better, Malcolm McDowell—one of my Favorite Actors of All-Time—appears in this film as well.  If you’re a fan of Punk Rock and vampires you have to see “Suck”.  It has laughs, it has gore, and it has drama; it’s pretty much a 90 minute Vampire Punk Rock Music Video.  There is no reason why you should skip over this film, just see it!

     I hope you all enjoyed this list and are interested in checking out some of these great films if you haven’t already, and stay tuned for future editions of Das Film Junkies 5 Favorite Films.

Classics: Five Reasons to Celebrate Seventy-Five Years of Gone With the Wind By Lauren Ennis

1939 is often remembered as the best year in cinema, as during this one year numerous classics including Ninotchka, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and The Wizard of Oz were released. Despite the fine quality of these films, however, one production eclipsed them all; MGM’s adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s epic tale of life and love during the American Civil War, Gone With the Wind. It has been seventy five years since iron-willed Scarlett O’Hara first appeared on screen, and in that time her struggle to not only survive, but thrive in a world that has exploded beneath her has only become more mesmerizing. Here are just five of the countless reasons to celebrate seventy-five years of Gone With the Wind in all of its romance, excitement, heartbreak, and ultimately its glory.
No gentlemen or ladies in this war!

1.      CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: Chronicling twelve years in the life of Scarlett O’Hara against the backdrop of the Civil War and Reconstruction, Gone With the Wind is truly epic in scope. While its four hour running time may seem redundant, the film manages to keep viewers on the edge of their seats through every minute of it. This ability to entertain is largely due to the way in which it accurately portrays the growth and development of each of its characters in response to the turbulent times in which they are living. The most startling changes take place within its central heroine as Scarlett seamlessly evolves from a fiery but sheltered plantation belle, to the embittered but resourceful head of her struggling family, to a successful but ruthless businesswoman. While such drastic changes might have come across as false or forced in another film, the script’s writers portray the drastic experiences that mold its characters with such honesty and nuance that Scarlett’s transformation is only logical. Similarly, her roguish suitor, Rhett Butler, slowly reveals himself to be far more decent than the gentlemen who scorn him as he risks his life to transport Scarlett and her sister in law, Melanie, out of a burning Atlanta and proves himself to be a far more devoted husband and father than even Scarlett thought him capable of. Even the film’s supporting characters face a number of changes as delicate Melanie acquires a quiet strength and dreamy Ashley is finally forced to face reality after returning home from war to a world that no longer has a place for him. Through its portrayal of real people living in all too real hardships, the film ensures that audiences understand and care about each and every member of its massive cast from its opening in the twilight of plantation living to the aftermath of war and occupation.

2.      SIGHTS AND SOUNDS: One of the first things that any viewer will notice when watching Gone With the Wind is the skill with which it was produced. Despite its 1939 release, the film’s visual and sound effects remain nothing short of stunning. The sets are rendered with such detail that it is shocking to realize that the rolling fields of Tara, bustling streets of Atlanta, and battered remains of the Civil War were not filmed in Georgia, or anywhere in the south but actually on a series of studio lots. The period costumes are also impeccably accurate and highlight the stark changes in the character’s circumstances better than any dialogue could. Scarlett’s costumes were such stand-outs that her dresses (a certain curtain comes to mind) remain staples of fashion inspiration and pop culture reference. The dazzling Technicolor that the film was shot in brings the long since vanished world of the Old South to vibrant life, leaving viewers with the sense that they have actually been transported back in time to this critical juncture in history. Max Steiner’s lilting score is nothing short of iconic and provides an emotional soundtrack to the film’s proceedings. In particular, his “Tara’s Theme” remains one of the most recognizable themes to ever come from a cinema speaker through its ability to evoke nostalgia, struggle, and ultimately triumph in its notes.

3.      HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: The success of the film can be measured in as many terms as there are members of its cast. The film won a total of ten Academy Awards with Best Actress and Best Actor Oscars going to stars Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable and the picture earned that most coveted of awards, Best Picture. Hattie McDaniel’s Oscar win for her by turns comical and heartfelt portrayal of O’Hara family slave turned devoted family confidant, Mammy, marked the first time that an African American took home the gold statue and began the process of breaking down the racial barriers that dominated Hollywood. Even after seventy-five years of passing trends and new blockbusters, the film maintains the title of all time highest ticket sales and top grossing film of all time when adjusted for inflation, a fact that is particularly daunting when considering the limits of marketing campaigns and consumer resources during the Great Depression.
Nothing gets past Mammy

4.      REALISTIC ROMANCE: One of the most memorable aspects of the film is the timelessness of the romance between Scarlett and Rhett. While many films idealize romance as a pure thing that effortlessly conquers all, Gone With the Wind reminded its audience of the complexity and brutality that love all too often encompasses. Rather than coming together through a convenient meeting and instant attraction, these startlingly modern lovers fight, struggle, and endure their way to love. The early banter between the two reveals that each is more intelligent and complex than they present themselves as to the outside world, and more importantly that each is able to see those qualities in the other. Despite her two previous marriages and his many amorous exploits, neither can fully be themselves except when they are together. It is only in Rhett’s presence that Scarlett is able to show both the vulnerability that she is careful to hide and the shrewdness that society forbids ‘decent’ women. Similarly, it is only with Scarlett that Rhett is willing to put aside his cynical persona and reveal his true sentiments. While there is no denying the attraction between them, however, neither Scarlett nor Rhett is able to let down their guard long enough to reveal the true extent of their feelings to each other. Although their vicious cycle of each wanting the other but lashing out instead of showing it can be frustrating, it is also incredibly realistic. In movies and books love triumphs, but in life it is only as strong as the people who feel it and their courage to reveal it. In real life people feel fear, insecurity, and pride just as strongly if not more so than love, and it is all too often those feelings that drive our actions. Even after, or perhaps because, they have survived war, occupation, poverty, and personal loss, Rhett and Scarlett are too frightened of the possibility of rejection to allow themselves to come to terms with the acceptance that is actually right in front of them. While it might not be the stuff that dreams are made of Scarlett and Rhett’s romance is one that is based more in reality than such romantic favorites as Titanic, The Notebook, or even Casablanca.

5.      MORE THAN JUST A LOVE STORY: Despite the enduring power of the tragic love between its leads, Gone With the Wind is far more than a mere love story. Instead, it is the story of a place and its people; of those who go under when the world around them collapses and those who press on at any cost. The story relates more than the struggles of Scarlett O’Hara, although that alone would have made enough for a best-selling novel. Through Scarlett’s devastating lows and soaring highs viewers are witness to the leisure and hypocrisy of life in the Old South, the devastation of the Civil War both on and off the battle field, and the deprivations of Reconstruction. Following the novel’s release, it became a coveted, and often illegal, best-seller in Nazi occupied Europe and later in Soviet controlled Eastern Europe, war-torn Vietnam, and finally presently oppressed North Korea. As diverse as those societies seem, they all have two things in common; they have known the horrors of oppression in one form or another and their people still refuse to give up on hope for another day. It ultimately this same universality and timelessness that has made Gone With the Wind one of the most iconic and successful films world-wide. Coming of age tale, war story, family saga, historical epic, and so much more are encompassed in the four syllables Gone With the Wind.
After all tomorrow is another day!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Do Horror Films help the American people cope with their own fears?

Confessions of a Film Junkie: Do Horror films help the American people cope with their own fears?

By: Brian Cotnoir

     I am very passionate about Horror films.  I have been watching them since I was a teenager.  When I was younger my parents forbade me from watching Horror films because they said they would give me nightmares.  I think that’s part of the reason why I was initially drawn to them; they were sort of a forbidden fruit, if you will.  As I got older, I was drawn to the mindless violence of Wes Craven’s “Nightmare on Elm Street” and the Rob Zombie Horror films because I began to just view them as entertaining.  For the longest time I thought Horror films were only there for entertainment, but then I began to look at them from a different perspective.  Could Horror films—films that are made with the intention of frightening and shocking audiences—actually help the American people cope with their own fears?                                                   
Seriously Check it out!
So I was watching one of my favorite documentaries: “Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue: The Evolution of American Horror Films”, and I was noticing certain patterns with Horror films over time, a pattern in which American Films reflect what was going on in the country at the time. Let’s look at some examples:  From 1929 until the start of World War II the entire nation was in the grips of the Great Depression, the worst Economic crisis in the nation’s History.  It affected millions of people nationwide; banks and businesses were shut down, people lost their jobs and all their money, and people were struggling to find food to feed their families, it truly was a horrid time in American History.  It was also during this time that Universal Studios began to release a number of different Horror films (some based on great literary works of Horror), many of these films involved Horrific Monster creations. The masses were introduced to frightening creatures such as Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, White Zombie, the Mummy, and others.  The Universal Horror Monsters created a total diversion for the many victims of the Great Depression.  Not only did movies provide an distraction from the peoples troubles, but also gave them something else to be afraid of:  No longer was poverty the most frightening thing they could face when compared to the Horrors of being attacked by Count Dracula or encountering the Frankenstein’s Monster.  These Universal Movie Monsters would go on to frighten people throughout and to the end of World War II.         
    Then the Baby-Boomer Generation came to be; the country entered a new world of economic prosperity.  But with new way of life and success came a great new fear.  Communism, the Russians, Cold War, and Nuclear Holocaust became the new great fear in America.  Around the country people began constructing fallout shelters, preparing to go to War with Russia, and a Nuclear Armageddon.  The Cold War gave Americans an endless supply of things to fear.  So it should come as no surprise that many Horror films of that time reflect the fears of the time.  Films like “Them!” instilled the fear that Nuclear Testing could lead to genetic mutations in some creatures like ants and cause them to grow to gigantic sizes.  What is “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, but a Horror-Science-Fiction metaphor for the Red Scare and the fear a Communist Invasion in America?  There are dozens and dozens of Horror films from the 1950’s and 1960’s that have to deal with fear of nuclear annihilation and war with Russia.      
From late 1960’s through the 1970’s Horror films helped American’s cope with their fears like the War in Vietnam and the ever growing usage of narcotics like marijuana, cocaine, and hallucinogens like acid, and LSD.  The good, clean, and wholesome way of life started in the 1950’s was being replaced with a lifestyle that encouraged sex, drugs, and rock & roll and this was  major culture shock to those who grew up in the Baby Boomer Generation. Look at the John Carpenter’s 1979 classic “Halloween” one of the first films where it is made apparent that the good behaved teenager survives the psychotic killer while the teens that use drugs and have promiscuous sex are punished by the killer.  In a way it’s like a terrible “Scared Straight” program.  It’s almost like the filmmakers are saying, be sure to live a clean and courteous life or it could cost you your life.   This style of writing characters and plot in Horror films has become so cliché that it’s still in use to this very day! Those clichés were the basis for early Horror films in the 1980’s, where they were given unique twists due to the fear of the crack and AIDS epidemics, so to help American’s overcome these fears we were treated to creations like Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees: creations that only existed in in the most horrific nightmares.                    
   In the 90’s the technology boom provided a new way to frighten Horror film audiences.  As technology became bigger and bigger in the home and the work place it ushered in a new style and new way to tell a story in a Horror film.  With all the worlds information only a mouse click away, it quickly disproved many urban legends around the globe.  People were no longer interested in ghost stories; they wanted real stories with cold-hard facts.  It was here we got films like “The Blair Witch Project”, which was an early attempt at writing a Found Footage Horror film; story telling that gives the illusion that a film made with a home movie camcorder could pass as a Horror film.  Found Footage Horror films give off the illusion that what is transpiring on film could be real and that cast and crew could be in grave endanger.  This low-budget style of filmmaking continues to be popular to this day and has found success with films such as Oren Peli’s “Paranormal Activity” Franchise and the Vicious Brothers “Grave Encounters” Franchise.           
    Only one year into the new millennium and the United States suffered its Worst and Most Tragic attack of All-Time.  The attacks of September 11th and the scare of anthrax being sent through the mail led most of the nation in to a heightened xenophobia.  Never in the History of this great country was it more terrifying to be an American.  During this time we got films like Eli Roth’s “Hostel” a film that affirmed many American’s fears about being targets outside of the country. Many American’s feared that they would be kidnapped or killed if they travelled to a foreign country just for being Americans.       
    Whether they realize it or not, I do feel that there is a High Chance that many American’s go to see Horror films to help them cope with their own fears. Many people have their own fears in life—some rational other irrational—and so they seek refuge in the plot and characters of Horror films to help them cope with those fears, by giving them some, possibly, more frightening and terrifying to be afraid of.  What do you think?

Classics: A Review of Darling Lili By Lauren Ennis

Time is often referred to as being ‘of the essence,’ but in Hollywood, timing is often even more essential. For many films, the year in which they are released can often lead to skewed perceptions that have more to do with passing trends than the film’s actual entertainment value. Such was the case for the 1970 musical espionage tale Darling Lili, which despite a unique script, a talented cast, and an award winning score became labeled ‘box office poison’ when it became a commercial failure upon its release. While timing proved to be the film’s weakness, the passage of time has proved kinder as critics and audiences have begun to warm up to the musical that dared to bring a little more than the standard snappy tunes and smiles into the genre.
Espionage at its most heartwarming

The story begins in World War I as British music-hall entertainer Lili Smith (Julie Andrews) leads a group of patrons in a patriotic song during a German air raid. The film then takes an interesting turn when Colonel Kurt von Ruger  (Jeremy Kemp) arrives at Lili’s house after the show and is revealed to not be her uncle, as he pretends to , but actually an elite spy-master and Lili’s boss. This unexpected twist in turn leads to the revelation that while Lili seems to be an unassuming English singer, she is actually half-German, and leading a double life as a seductive spy. Von Ruger proceeds to assign Lili to her latest target, Major Bill Larrabbee (Rock Hudson), who is believed to be involved in a top-secret operation code-named “Crepe Suzette”. Unfortunately for the German government, Larrabbee has plenty of wiles of his own and the sultry spy soon finds herself up against a weapon that even she might not be able to handle; love. The ensuing plot contains enough spy-jinks, romance, history, and toe tapping numbers to keep even the most cynical cinephile entertained.

Despite the film’s original approach to the well-worn Mata Hari story, audiences were unfortunately simultaneously well past and unprepared for the story that director Blake Edwards was trying to tell. After the movie-musical’s hey day during the 1940’s and 1950s’, Hollywood released a series of flat efforts to capture the allure of an era that had already gone by. The loosening of Hay’s Code restrictions and subsequent release of several envelope pushing pictures sparked the public’s demand for more gritty stories that adults could relate to, which musicals were unable to satisfy. As the upheaval of the 1960’s continued, audiences found the glitz and optimism of musicals to be an unfulfilling way to pass time rather than the exciting escape that earlier audiences had regarded them as. By the time that Darling Lili hit theaters, the routine efforts of Hello Dolly!, Can Can, and Paint Your Wagon, had already soured audiences on the genre, ultimately leading them to spend their money elsewhere.
The Western front just got a whole lot hotter

While the use of song and dance in film was becoming a tired effort, Darling Lili was actually far more refreshing than its ad campaign would have indicated, and perhaps more fresh than audiences were prepared for. Instead of treating its espionage thrills with deadly seriousness as its predecessors like Mata Hari and Dishonored had done in the pre-code era, Darling Lili infuses its proceedings with just enough humor to poke fun at its genre trappings while still covering the expected spy territory. The film also takes the seductive spy stereotype into a modern direction as the usually wholesome Julie Andrews burlesques her way into international espionage with more va va voom than established glamour queens had been permitted to display in earlier spy films. Beyond its mere use of sex appeal and comedy, Darling Lili’s strongest suit is the way in which it subtly weaves these elements into a traditionally serious tale of love and honor in a world at war. The mixing of these diverse techniques created a story that is as three dimensional as the events and people it was attempting to chronicle, but unfortunately left audiences shaking their heads in confusion. For moviegoers hoping for a family friendly musical, the film’s more risqué element left something to be desired, and fans of spy thrillers were disappointed by the many musical and humorous interludes that took away from the story’s thrills, leaving moviegoers unsure of who the film’s target audience actually was. As a result, the film was left without a solid target base and ticket sales suffered, leading to a net loss for the film’s makers. Adding to the already low blow of low sales, Edwards had spent a significant amount of the film’s $25 million budget to recreate the aerial fights of WWI with complete historical accuracy, much to Paramount’s frustration. The constant studio interference, filming delays, and lackluster commercial box office performance left Edwards so distraught that he put his experiences into the cynical 1981 Hollywood satire S.O.B.

While the script may have left some scratching their heads, the cast turns in performances that are without question entertaining. Julie Andrews satirizes her good girl image in her portrayal of straight laced songstress by day and sultry spy by night, Lili. Beyond the simple balancing of dual extremes Andrews adds genuine emotion to her role and lends credibility to Lili’s dilemma as her political resolve gives way to emotional uncertainty. Similarly, Rock Hudson holds his own as Lili’s all-American love interest, Bill, as he infuses his rugged character with enough humor and charm to leave little question as to why Lili is swayed by him. The supporting cast lends excellent support to the story with Jeremy Kemp and Gloria Paul turning in scene stealing performances as Lili’s stalwart boss and a ditzy burlesque dancer.

Today, Darling Lili is no longer shorthand for cinema flop, and has actually gained a softened second look from critics and audiences alike. Through its daring effort to combine several seemingly incompatible genres into a cohesive, if unconventional, whole, the film earned its still disputed place in cinematic history. The score alone is worth the price of admission with WWI standards playing equally well as more swinging original  Henry Mancini tunes, including the Oscar winning “Whistling Away The Dark”. The dynamic script and engaging performances will be sure to please fans of musicals, spy spoofs, and history buffs alike. For a truly explosive script that refuses to fit ‘in the box’, look no further than Darling Lili.
Ever hear of knocking?!
If you enjoy spies like Lili, don't forget to check out my full-length drama Through Enemy Eyes http://www.jacpub.com/Full-Length/Ennis_EnemyEyes.htm

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A review of "The Battery"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “The Battery”

By: Brian Cotnoir

     So a little story before I dive into this week’s review: My parents own a campground in Connecticut that I work at during the summers.  During July I ran into a camper, named Jeremy who was staying there with his girlfriend, and we struck up a conversation, and I found out that he had directed and starred in a movie that he wrote.  So obviously we had a lot to talk about: Him the filmmaker, me the internet film blogger.  He told me of the numerous awards that his film had won and the film festival that it had been shown at, and I was impressed and excited to see his film.            
Now not many film bloggers get to actually meet the directors/cast of the film before seeing them: I had the perfect opportunity to get the inside scoop on this film I could’ve asked him anything I wanted about the film, and despite this AMAZING opportunity to have the chance to ask the director any question about his film, I decided not to.  The reason why is quite simple: I had such a great time talking with him and his girlfriend about making movies and films we like that I was nervous that I would feel obligated to write a positive review just because they were so nice to me, and I wanted to be nice back.  So when he asked me if I had any questions about the film, I politely declined and said “No, I want it to be a surprise”.  The only thing Jeremy told me about the film is that the beginning of the film is a “slow burn”. So here is my honest to your God opinion on what I thought about the film “The Battery”.                      
    Now when I first saw the DVD Cover to the film, I thought I was going to be a low-budget Splatter-Film like “Sick Girl”, but I was wrong.  “The Battery” is set during a zombie-outbreak and is about two ballplayers from Pittsfield, Massachusetts named Ben and Mickey. Ben and Mickey are travelling across the back roads of Connecticut looking and hoping to find other survivors—and hopefully a few less zombies—as they attempt to survive themselves in this confusing and chaotic world.                 
Our Heroes, Ladies & Gentlemen \m/
   All right now from that description of the plot, I will admit this film doesn’t sound that interesting or appealing, but honestly it’s better than it sounds.  It’s not the scariest or the most unique zombie film, but the one thing “The Battery” has going for it, is that it is very realistic.  In fact, this is probably the most realistic zombie movie I’ve seen to date.  And I don’t mean like “oh the zombies in this film were so realistic looking, they looked like they could be actual zombies”.  I mean the plot, the dialogue, the characters all feel and sound like real events and real people.  Now in a typical zombie film you’ll have you’re bad a$$ zombie-killing hero like a Ash Williams and you’re quirky comedic-relief zombie killers like Shaun and Ed from “Shaun of the Dead”, but those aren’t real people, nothing about them is real: they’re only there to entertain us.  Now Ben & Mickey from “The Battery” are just two dudes who used to play baseball with each other who are trying to survive this zombie-outbreak together.  Any person can watch a movie and say “I want to be a bad a$$ killer zombie killer like Daryl Dixon or Tallahassee”, but that just makes them admirable, it doesn’t make them relatable.  I hate to burst peoples bubbles, but if a zombie outbreak were to happen tomorrow the world wouldn’t be filled with Daryl Dixon’s, it’d be filled with the guys like Ben and Mickey: just two regular dudes going about the business and trying not to get bitten or killed by zombies.  
Making due with what you got
Another thing that makes Ben & Mickey relatable is that they’re overwhelmingly under-armed.  Ben and Mickey (or just Ben I should say) travel across the back roads and woods of Connecticut armed only with a Louisville Slugger baseball bat and a pistol, and again I want to point out that if a zombie outbreak were to happen tomorrow, there would be more people carrying out baseball bats and small handguns as opposed to automatic machine guns and samurai swords.  I mean think about the people you know:  do you actually know anyone who is that heavily armed that could take on a horde of zombies at a moment’s notice?  My best friend has a few swords and small various blades, but I’m not sure how effective it would be defending against the undead.  Not only that, but they also rely on older technology: they don’t have cellphones that work or can communicate any one so they use battery powered walkie-talkies.  Mickey doesn’t have an Ipod to listen to music, so he uses a discman!  I can’t tell you the last time I saw a person with a discman, and he’s using one throughout the film.  The last thing I’m going to tell you that makes this film feel realistic is the dialogue.  The dialogue between Ben & Mickey in this film is feels like the two of them were just shooting the breeze and carrying on a regular conversation.  The film does not have one line of pretentious dialogue or zany one-liners (that I can remember); it all just sounds like pure and natural flowing conversation.  It’s all these little details like that make this film more believable and relatable.                              
Ben and his captured prey
Now that I’ve talked about how real Ben and Mickey appear on film, let’s take a look at their actual character traits.  Ben in the film is played by Jeremy Gardner who also wrote and directed this film.  Ben is definitely an alpha male character.  He’s not a hard-a$$ or commanding character, his demeanor is along the lines of “We’re doing what I want...because I said so”.  He acts as Mickey’s protector, doing a majority of the zombie kills in the film.  He keeps Mickey in line and is probably the only reason that Mickey has managed to survive as long as he has.  He is at time tough on Mickey.  One of my favorite moments in the film comes when Ben baits and traps a zombie and then locks him in a room with a sleeping Mickey who is forced to bludgeon the zombie to death with a baseball bat.  He does it not just as a cruel prank on his friend, but to also show him that he needs to learn how to survive.     
You're going to be okay, Mickey
Now as for Mickey, I feel he is a character that most guys would be able to relate too.  Mickey is played by actor Adam Cronheim; he isn’t the strongest, or the smartest, or the funniest character he is just a regular guy.  The world is crawling with zombies and he’s not thinking about survival or killing zombies, he just puts on his headphones and forgets about his dire situation.  Mickey is a definitely a dreamer/optimist a stark contrast from Ben’s Realist/Alpha-Male personality.  All he wants to do is sleep in a real bed in a real house and find a girl who loves him (in this zombie apocalypse), and small things like being able to brush your teeth.  Again, I can totally see Mickey as a real person during the zombie outbreak.  He refuses to kill zombies, and he isn’t looking for shelter or safety, he’s pursuing any woman, which gets him in trouble in more ways than one.  You see Mickey, is a character who thinks a lot with his penis.  In one scene he is sitting alone in the car that he and Ben are traveling in when the zombie remains of a young woman comes out of the woods and tries to attack him.  So what does Mickey do in this situation?  He doesn’t call for help, he doesn’t try to kill her, he instead pulls down his shorts and proceeds to jerk it because this zombie girl is—for him—the hottest girl he’s scene in months.  Wow...hey, I don’t mean to judge, Mickey, I understand dead girls are easy, but most guys who do that sort of thing in front of a corpse don’t have to worry about it coming back to life and trying to eat its flesh.   Mickey may be a weirdo, but he’s at least likable weirdo.                                
     Now, like all films “The Battery” does have its faults. For one thing, the first 32 minutes of the film are incredibly boring, after that it starts to get better, but again I was briefed on that beforehand, so I felt it was only right to inform you all of the same.  In the film Ben & Mickey talk to these people who live on an “Orchard”, whom we only see very briefly in the film, and we don’t know much about them other than they don’t want Ben & Mickey around.  The people at the Orchard give off the same kind of vibe as the Others from the TV show “Lost”; you don’t know much about them, but you hear about them enough, and it pisses you off that you ultimately don’t get a lot of answers to the questions you have about them.  My last problem I had with the film is that it is a film about surviving a zombie outbreak and—until the last 20-25 minutes of the film—there are very little zombie appearances.  Now, I like zombie movies because one of my favorite parts of a zombie movie is the zombie kill.  Well there’s only a handful of zombie kills in the movie, but those scenes are typically really short.  I was really hoping that I’d get to see Ben & Mickey bludgeon a few zombies with the baseball bat, but it didn’t happen as much as I prefer.  And I should point out they do address why there are so few zombies in the film: Ben & Mickey are travelling through the woods and the back roads is because there are (probably) less zombies out there: Okay, that’s smart.  Again the realism factor plays in:  The Zombie Outbreak happen are you going to run into the secluded woods or you going to hide out in a bustling urban area?      
Well that's gotta suck
So if I had to give “The Battery” a ranking I’d give a ranking of 3.5-out-of-5 stars because it has a vibe the reminiscent of “Jugface” and “Night of the Living Dead” (even though it’s stretched out over a few months and not a just one night) and the realism factor is what pushes that movie that extra half-a-star.  I would not consider “The Battery” to be a “Horror Film” as there were no points in the film where I felt scared or fearful, I would say it’s more along the lines of a Black-Comedy and whether or not the humor in this film is intentional or not, there is no denying that it will make you chuckle a few times.  So should you check out “The Battery”?  I say yes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Classics: Four Stars Who Left Us Too Soon By Lauren Ennis

In the wake of the recent deaths of such icons as Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall, and Joan Rivers, I have been thinking of the many beloved stars who have come and passed on the silver screen. In this reminiscing, I was also reminded of the many talented actors whose careers were tragically cut short before their time. In honor of the many stars who have made their way into our hearts only to leave this life too soon, I have written this tribute to four stars whose outstanding work has and will continue to live on despite their premature deaths.

JAMES DEAN: Despite the fact that his career consisted of only three leading roles, James Dean has become an icon of disillusioned youth and 50’s glamour. Like many actors who began their film careers during the 1950’s, Dean was a devoted follower of Method-style acting that was popularized in America by Lee Strasberg. While many actors of his generation utilized the Method, however, few were able to do so in a way that was as raw or riveting. After several walk on parts and extra roles, Dean finally found his breakout role in the 1955 World War I family saga East of Eden. When the film’s director, Elia Kazan, set out to cast the part of under-appreciated son Cal in 1953, he said that he wanted to find, “another Brando”, and discovered just that in the young Dean. After stealing the picture through his mulit-layered and sympathetic portrayal of troubled Cal, he went on to star in the equally compelling films Rebel Without A Cause and Giant, both of which were filmed in 1955. While his role as angst ridden new kid in town Jim Stark remains his best remembered, he reportedly preferred his work in the supporting role of a wealthy oil tycoon nursing bitterness over a past unrequited love in Giant. Through his work in Giant, Dean hoped to break away from the tormented young men he had built his career playing and move on to more mature and varied parts. During filming of Rebel he also began to pursue an interest in auto racing, which developed into a true passion. Unfortunately, audiences never did see the rising actor fulfill the promise of his first roles, as his life was tragically cut short. While driving on California’s State Route 46, Dean’s vehicle was struck head on by a vehicle that had crossed into his lane at eighty-five miles per hour. The impact of the crash left Dean trapped within the vehicle with his foot lodged between the gas and the break and caused him to suffer a broken neck as well as numerous internal and external injuries. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital; he was twenty four years old and had yet to see either the release of Giant, or his Oscar nominations for his roles in East of Eden and Giant. In the years since his tragic death, audiences have realized just how great the loss of this young actor was for American cinema with Dean becoming an icon of classic cool. In only three films, James Dean accomplished more than most actors do in a lifetime as he made complexity cool and cynicism sexy, all while providing a disillusioned generation with a role model who genuinely understood their fears, frustrations, and ambitions. No matter how many tough guys come and go on the silver screen, there will forever be only one James Dean.

JEAN HARLOW: Long before Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe, Pamela Anderson and Scarlett Johannsen, there was a wisecracking dame who brought the words ‘blonde bombshell’ into the American vocabulary; Jean Harlow. Harlow received her first major role in 1930 in Howard Hughes’ World War I aviation epic, Hell’s Angels. In the notoriously risqué film, Harlow debuted her newly dyed platinum blonde hair and the infamous line “Would it shock you if I were to put on something more comfortable”. Although critics panned her performance, audiences couldn’t get enough of the snappy blonde and she quickly developed a devoted following. She went on to appear in a series of films that capitalized on her newfound fame as a screen vamp, but quickly grew tired of the brash persona that the studio had labeled her with, saying “must I always wear a low-cut dress to be important?”. She was finally able to rise above typecasting when the advent of the Hays Code in 1934 prevented studios from writing the racy parts that she had previously been relegated to. While the restrictions of the code hampered the careers of many 30’s stars, those same restrictions actually provided Harlow with the artistic freedom that she had been craving, and enabled her to improve upon and test her range as an actress. The films she made during these years prove that she was far more than a mere pretty face with a striking hairstyle and was actually a gifted comedic actress. In 1936, Harlow began complaining about health concerns such weight gain, sunburns, fatigue, nausea, and abdominal pain, but her doctors concluded that she was simply feeling the after effects of a particularly serious bout of influenza. By 1937 her health began to seriously decline, as her body swelled to twice its normal size and she became so fatigued that she was barely able to maintain her work schedule. After being in and out of hospital care for several months, Harlow entered a coma while shooting her final film, Saratoga, and was admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital where she was diagnosed with kidney failure. It is now believed that the dye she used to obtain her infamous hair color may have contributed to her illness, as its combination of bleach and ammonia combined to create hydrochloric acid, a chemical that is poisonous after chronic exposure. Harlow was pronounced dead on June 7, 1937 at age twenty-six.; even if she had been diagnosed earlier, the limited medical treatments of the 1930’s would not have been able to treat her condition. In her twenty-six years, Jean Harlow lived through more triumphs and tragedies than many people do in a century. She was also a multifaceted artist who left behind twenty one starring films ranging from drama to slapstick, as well as a posthumously published novel. Harlow once said, “I’m not a born actress. No one knows that better than I”, whether she was born with her talent or cultivated it, there is no denying that she was an endlessly fascinating actress without whom cinema would be much less entertaining.

RIVER PHOENIX: Child actor turned emerging star River Phoenix remains a haunting example of the dangerous excesses that often accompany a life on camera. After surviving a childhood living under the oppressive rules of the Children of God cult, River Phoenix was spotted by a top child actors’ agent while pan-handling on the streets of Los Angeles with his siblings. Following his chance discovery, he began his career on a series of television commercials and quickly moved on to made for television movies and several short-lived series. After several years of performing in forgettable projects, he found his break-out role in the 1986 coming of age drama Stand By Me. Although already fifteen at the time of production, Phoenix perfectly captured the contradictory adolescent desires to grow up while still grasping onto the remains of childhood as tormented tough Chris Chambers. He followed up his success in Stand By Me with Peter Weir’s family drama The Mosquito Coast, in a role that eerily mirrored his own childhood as he portrayed a teen forced to live in increasingly desperate circumstances when his parents relocate to South America to join a cult. Despite Phoenix’s belief in the project, the film ultimately proved to be a critical and commercial failure. He returned to top form, however, with his Oscar nominated turn in the 1988 drama Running On Empty, in which he portrayed the teen son of domestic terrorists on the run from the FBI. He continued in a series of successful roles into the early 1990’s which culminated in the Venice Film Festival, National Society of Film Critics, and Independent Spirit Award winning role as an adolescent prostitute in the Generation X take on Shakespeare’s Henry IV, My Own Private Idaho. During this time, Phoenix also pursued his first love, music, and contributed to the soundtracks of several of his films and also invested in the founding of the original House of Blues in Cambridge, MA. He also participated in extensive work on behalf of animal rights as a spokesman for PETA. He further helped animal rights by  buying 800 acres of Costa Rican rainforest for preservation and donating to numerous animal rights charities. Unfortunately, Phoenix’s success masked his losing battle with drugs and alcohol. On the night of October 30, 1993, Phoenix collapsed and began convulsing outside of a nightclub in which his friend, Johnny Depp, was performing. Despite efforts to resuscitate him, he was pronounced dead at Sinai-Cedar Medical Center of cardiac arrest at age 23. Toxicology tests later determined that he had suffered an overdose of cocaine and heroin that ultimately lead to heart failure. During his all too short career, Phoenix proved to critics that he was more than just another child star as he matured into increasingly complex roles while still pursuing a burgeoning music career and doing his part to give back through environmental activism. At the end of Stand By Me, the narrator says of Phoenix’s character, “Although I hadn’t seen him in more than ten years, I know I’ll miss him forever”; so too will audiences continue to miss Phoenix’s electrifying presence as the years go on.

HEATH LEDGER:  From teen heartthrob to independent film sensation, Heath Ledger was an emerging master of his craft. Inspired by his older sister’s stage performances and his love of Gene Kelly films, Ledger journeyed across Australia to pursue an acting career upon graduating high school at age 17. In Sydney, he embarked upon a television career with parts on several programs, including the wildly successful soap opera Home and Away, before making his film debut in the 1997 crime drama, Blackrock. He gained international notice in his first starring role in the American romantic-comedy 10 Things I Hate About You in which he played a high school outcast who charms a shrewish classmate. His career continued to thrive with such roles as a teen trying to survive the American Revolution in The Patriot, a medieval knight with a Gen X attitude in A Knight’s Tale, and a British soldier turned pacifist attempting to find redemption in the remake of the A. E. W. Mason classic, The Four Feathers. Ledger’s most acclaimed role came in the 2005 western/romance Brokeback Mountain, in which he played a ranch hand struggling to maintain his family life while leading a double life in a homosexual love affair with an aspiring rodeo rider. For his work as the tormented Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain Ledger earned a New York Critics Circle Award, a San Francisco Film Critics Award, a Golden Globe Award, and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. He followed up his mainstream success with a return to independent films as a heroin addict trying to kick his addiction in Candy, and an incarnation of 1960’s folk icon Bob Dylan in I’m Not There. He also began to pursue an interest in directing, and after directing several music videos turned his attention to beginning work on a documentary and a feature film. His final mainstream success came with his chilling take on the Joker in The Dark Knight. Unfortunately, before the release of The Dark Knight, Ledger was discovered unconscious and not breathing in his apartment by his housekeeper, Teresa Solomon. Solomon immediately called Ledger’s friend, former child star Mary Kate Olson, and his masseuse, Diana Wolozin called 911. Paramedics arrived at the apartment moments later, but were unable to revive him. A toxicology report identified oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, doxylamine, and alprazolam in his blood stream. Police reported that Ledger had been taking the drugs for treatment of anxiety, insomnia, pain, and a recent bout of pneumonia. Authorities were not able to determine if the drugs were prescribed to the actor or if they had been purchased illegally, leading to suspicion falling on Olson as Ledger’s possible drug connection, as she had also been known to abuse drugs. Controversy continued to hang over Ledger’s death as his will had not been updated to include his daughter, Matilda, or her mother Ledger’s ex-girlfriend and Brokeback Mountain co-star Michelle Williams and several of his relatives came forward to contest the legality of the will. At age twenty-nine, Ledger was just beginning to scratch the surface of the success that he possessed the talent and potential to achieve. While his death remains an alarming example of the dangers of prescription drug abuse, his true legacy will be the impact of his work both on and off camera.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A review of "Stage Fright"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “Stage Fright”
By: Brian Cotnoir

     Well this film certainly is different.  I mean, whenever you cross film genres the result is usually either really great or really bad.  I have to be honest with you, I can’t think of any other films out there that are listed as a “Slasher-Musical”.  So without further ado, I present to you my review of the 2014 film “Stage Fright”.                                          
Stage Fright” opens up—like all great musicals—on opera, as we see the final scene to “The Haunting of the Opera” (a parody of “Phantom of the Opera”).  The star of the show is actress Kyle Swanson who puts on the performance of her life.  After her immaculate performance she is greeted by her two young children Camilla & Buddy, and the show’s producer, Roger McCall (played by the greatness that is Meat Loaf).  Camilla is in awe of her mother, and aspires to be a great stage actress and singer like her mother someday.  However, their mother is savagely murdered backstage by a mysterious masked killer.  Camilla and Buddy are taken in by Roger, who gives them both jobs in the kitchen at his Summer Theatre Camp for privileged young adults.  All the while, Camilla still aspires to be a great actress like her mother.  She convinces one of the camps counselors, Joel, to let her audition for the camps rendition of “Haunting of the Opera”.  She catches the attention of the film’s director Arthur who decides to pit Camilla against another one of the campers, Liz Silver, for the leading female role in the show.  Camilla wants the role more than anything—even if that means letting the shows director sexually harass her for the part—and it works to her advantage.  However, when the director turns up dead, Camilla and her brother believe that the role and show that cost her mother her life, may somehow be cursed, and that Camilla may be in danger, but does she really have anything to fear or is it all just stupid paranoid superstition?             
Ummm...that's not a microphone
What’s neat about “Stage Fright” is that it features a primarily young cast.  Most of the characters in the films are anywhere from pre-teens to early mid 20’s, I think you can count every adult who appears in this film on just one hand.  The only really iconic adult performance comes from Meatloaf, because he’s Meatloaf.  As for the villain (who is known as Opera Ghost) well I really dug his mask; he looked like King Diamond meets Jigsaw.  He was also very dramatic and intense.  In fact Opera Ghost is one of the Best Movie Villains, I’ve seen in a while.   As for the songs in the film they are well written and comedic.  I can’t think of any song in the film that I thought was particularly bad, I found them all to be well composed and enjoyable.                   
Sing Camilla, Sing!
I enjoyed “Stage Fright” so much—I truly did—I think it may be a front runner for the SPLATTER! Award for Best Film of the Year.  “Stage Fright” offer so much: thrills, comedy, romance, charming musical numbers, it is great.  I’m actually surprised that there aren’t more Slasher-Musical films out there, because I think “Stage Fright” could set the stage for similar projects in the future.  It’s an ideal film for those who are fans of Horror-Comedy.  If you like films like “The Cabin in the Woods” and “Tucker & Dale vs. the Evil” then I think you will enjoy “Stage Fright”. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Classics: A Review of Suspicion By Lauren Ennis

The precursor to the ruffy-colada
Alfred Hitchcock has held the title of master of suspense amongst cinema buffs for nearly seventy years. After directing over fifty films in both England and America in a career that began in the silent era and lasted well after Hollywood’s Golden Age had faded, he remains synonymous with thrills, chills, and unforgettable twists. Unfortunately for Hitchcock, however, many of his greatest works were considered ahead of their time due to their original themes and adult content. As a result, some of the director’s best works were altered and marred by the efforts of the studio system to make his unique visions fit the established standards accepted by contemporary audiences and censors. One such film is the 1941 thriller Suspicion, a film that has been debated to be among both Hitchcock’s best and worst projects due to its controversial, censor induced, ending.

The story begins, like many Hitchcock films, with a whirlwind romance. In this case, the couple in question is wealthy wallflower Lina McLaidlaw (Joan Fontaine) and impoverished charmer Johnny Aysgarth (Cary Grant). Lina and Johnny briefly meet when she helps him pay for a first class train ticket when he is caught sneaking into her first class car after only paying for a coach ticket. The two later meet again through mutual friends who cue Johnny in to Lina’s wealth and class status and tell him that she’s ‘out of his league’. Despite or, even more likely, because of their income and class differences, he proceeds to relentlessly pursue her. While she resists his charms at first, she eventually gives in and agrees to marry him because she is equally flattered by his attentions and afraid of remaining single and being labeled a spinster. Upon returning from their honeymoon, Lina is shocked to learn that Johnny is far more destitute than she realized and that their house, furniture, and trip was not actually paid for by Johnny, but by loans that he had taken from his friends. She is horrified when she confronts him and he laughs off the matter, saying that they should not have any trouble paying back the loans with her monthly income from her parents’ trust. She grows increasingly disillusioned with him as time goes on and he takes on a job at her urging, only to lose it after being caught embezzling, and pursues a series of ‘business deals’ that are later discovered to be attempts at obtaining quick cash through gambling. The situation finally reaches a boiling point when Johnny convinces his gullible friend, Beaky (Nigel Bruce), to finance a land development scheme that he has concocted, which Lina suspects is really a clever con-job. After overhearing her begging Beaky to decline his offer, Johnny angrily decides to call the entire deal off. Before Beaky can dissolve his and Johnny’s corporation, however, Beaky is found murdered in Paris and Lina discovers that Johnny has taken a substantial life insurance policy out on her, leading her to suspect that there is something sinister behind her husband’s easy charm.

While films often diverge from the novels that they are based upon, Suspicion would have greatly benefited had its studio-altered ending been replaced with the original ending in its source novel, Before the Fact. Just as in the film, in the novel Lina eventually comes to suspect that there is more to Johnny than his playboy persona following Beaky’s death and her discovery of Johnny’s secret insurance policy. In the novel, however, the plot follows to its logical conclusion with Johnny poisoning his wife in an attempt to collect insurance on her life. The twist in the novel, however, is that Lina is already aware of her husband’s plan when he brings her a tampered drink, but consumes it anyhow as a final act of devotion to ensure that he can collect the insurance money and finally be rid of his many debts. While the ending in the novel hinges on Lina’s preposterously extreme fixation on her husband’s happiness, the final act of Johnny killing her is perfectly in line with the story’s preceding action. In the film, however, the plot builds to Lina accepting the poisoned drink, only to later realize that it was not poisoned after all and her suspicions were in fact unfounded. Although Johnny’s innocence is an equally intriguing twist that could have turned the film into an exploration of paranoia, there is nothing within the film’s plot that could lend credibility to such a turn of events. Furthermore, Lina’s discovery that Johnny was only researching untraceable poisons in an effort to commit suicide makes little sense, as he could have killed himself in a number of more simple and effective ways. Had Johnny taken the insurance policy out on himself the interest in untraceable poison would have supported his innocence and proved that he wanted to use the information to conceal his suicide in order to ensure that Lina could collect on his policy. This ending also leaves Beaky’s murder without any resolution, making his death little more than a frustrating red herring and a wasted use of an entertaining character.
Alfred Hitchcock: Reducing Grown Women to Toddlers Since 1941

Beyond its jarring effect upon the film’s plot, Suspicion’s ending also calls Johnny’s behavior into serious question. At the start their relationship, he treats Lina with obvious condescension, mocking her lack of romantic experience, insulting her personal style, and calling her by the degrading nickname “monkeyface”. As their relationship continues his behavior toward her continues to be callous as he sells her treasured family herilooms without her consent, insists upon living off of her inheritance rather than earn his own living, and continues to treat her like a child or simpleton each time that she questions his actions. Johnny’s demeaning treatment of Lina would make sense if he were strictly interested in her for her money, but becomes baffling with the final revelation of his innocence and genuine love for her. Similarly, the lies that he tells to the police following Beaky’s death become illogical, as they only serve to hinder the police’s investigation into his supposedly dear friend’s death and implicate him in the murder in the eyes of his wife. Although the hasty resolution of Lina’s suspicions could be read as her forcing herself to believe yet another of Johnny’s lies with him left free to fulfill his plan once they arrive home, there is not enough evidence to definitively support that theory. While the studio does share part of the blame for the film’s anticlimax, Hitchcock was equally responsible for using the illogical filmed ending instead of another proposed ending that would have satisfied Hay’s Code regulations concerning criminals receiving punishment. In the alternative ending, Lina would have drank the poison with full knowledge of Johnny’s intents, but instead of letting herself die in an act of love she would have also have arranged for Johnny to mail a letter to her mother that secretly revealed Johnny’s plot to kill her. Although this version would have still required Lina to die, she would have been doing so in an effort to serve justice by ensuring Johnny’s capture rather than in a bizarre attempt to assist his psychotic behavior. Had it been utilized, this ending would have served as an effective climax that contained the trademark Hitchcock twist while still appeasing censors.

Although the script does contain a substantial let down, the film is saved by its intriguing performances. Cary Grant takes his famous charm into a fascinating direction in his portrayal of Johnny’s manic recklessness. In Grant’s hands, Johnny is an effectively ambiguous character who could be easily viewed as either an underestimated villain or misunderstood anti-hero. Joan Fontaine attempts to turn in an engaging performance as Lina, but is prevented from doing so by the lack of material that the script provides her to work with as her character regresses into a simpering waif over the course of the film, leaving her with little to do but wring her hands and pleadingly stare at Grant. Finally, Nigel Bruce enlivens the proceedings in his endearing portrayal of Johnny’s lovably oafish best friend and business partner, Beaky.

While it may fail to live up to the suspenseful potential of its premise, Suspicion is an entertaining film that was an essential stepping stone in Alfred Hitchcock’s career. The film stands out for its ambiguous ending (even by Hitchcock’s standards), and for the fact that it was one of only two Hitchcock films to win an Oscar over the course of the director’s expansive career. I recommend this film as a curiosity for Hitchcock fans and suggest that the best way to approach viewing it would be to watch it with an open mind and allow the suspicious atmosphere to weave its spell rather than focus upon the devil lurking within the plot's implausible details.
An inconspicuous way to kick off a romance
IF YOU ENJOYED HITCHCOCK'S TALE OF PARANOIA, ROMANCE, AND MURDER DON'T MISS MY MURDER MYSTERY ALL IN THE PAST http://offthewallplays.com/2014/11/19/past-murder-mystery-play-scripts/