Saturday, June 30, 2012

Poltergeist (V)

Another day in the middle of the week, in the middle of summer vacation. Another day with not much to do. Another day in which I saw Poltergeist at the Northpoint.

I wonder if the people who worked there noticed I had been there four previous times at this point? The theater was never very crowded on those weekend viewings, so maybe a 12-year-old girl by herself at the movies over and over gained a comment or two?

Probably not. They were most likely bored teenagers just a tad older than me.

Here are a couple more reviews I saved, one from the Examiner, and another from Trashola...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Missing is a weird movie to throw into a summer full of science fiction and horror, but for some reason, I saw it.

And actually, it's not a bad movie, and it ended up being one I would watch a few more times, whenever it turned up on cable. It was probably my first introduction to politically charged cinema, and it certainly was my first introduction to the real-life political upheavals that took place in Central and South America in the 1970s and 1980s. A year or so later, I'd be going to Rock Against Reagan concerts, and protesting the President's support of the Nicaraguan Contras.

Communism seems like such a quaint and long-ago threat now that I sometimes forget that the 1980s were part of the "Cold War," and the political upheavals in Latin America, and the United States' support of very dangerous and questionable rebel factions, all had to do with lingering fears about a communist takeover of the world. So, I grew up not fearing communism, but instead fearing the government's fear and response to it.

I saw the movie at the York, on a Saturday afternoon, and it must have been playing with something else, but apparently I didn't bother with whatever movie that was. As I mentioned, it's a politically-charged movie, and one that is, ultimately, pretty anti-American government. It's based on a true story, and a book called The Execution of Charles Horman: An American Sacrifice, about events in Chile in 1973. I'd end up reading the book, too, and I actually recommend both. While they might be considered "good for you" works, both are actually pretty suspenseful, and play out like well-plotted thrillers.

The movie was, for the most part, critically acclaimed, so I've always been a little surprised by Roger Ebert's tepid response to it. I wonder if it's a movie he's gone back to since then. I know I have, and I think it holds up really well, even if it feels a tad dated at this point in history.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Blade Runner

Seeing Blade Runner for the first time in 1982 was another sneak preview experience. It was a Thursday, so it was just the night before the film opened, and I'm not sure if it was a public screening, or one in which you needed a pass to get in. (I'm going to try and confirm it was one or the other during a trip to the library.)

The preview was at my beloved Coronet, and I remember since it was so crowded, we had to sit a lot further back in the "loge" than we usually preferred to sit. I'd have better seats the second time I went to go see it, about two weeks later.

I loved the movie, but apparently not enough to give it a five on my rating scale; it garnered a mere four-and-a-half. I think even then I could see there were two big problems with the movie: Harrison Ford's awful narration, and the silly happy ending. I remember thinking, "If there's a place so beautiful and green and free out there, why doesn't everyone take advantage of it?"

I've got the deluxe five disc DVD set that comes in a "Voight-Kampff" briefcase, and rewatched the 1982 version, and indeed, after being exposed to versions that don't have Ford's deadpan narration throughout, it's kind of painful to sit through. Still, I was able to look past that enough when I first saw it to realize it was a pretty amazing movie.

Of course, at the time, it got its fair share of bad reviews, (as you can see below), and it was a flop. Its box office failure probably had a lot to do with E.T.'s dominance at the ticket booth, but also with Harrison Ford's presence in the movie. Raiders of the Lost Ark had been released the year before, and was, of course, a huge hit, so at that point, Ford was both Han Solo AND Indiana Jones in the public eye. But in Blade Runner, he's an asshole who shoots women, (OK, fine, a replicant woman) in the back, and gets his ass kicked (more than once!) by androids. (A friend at the time, who had a HUGE crush on Harrison Ford, was totally grossed out that he makes-out with, as she called Rachel, "that fake robot." I appreciate the contradiction in that statement.)

Most of the reviews praised its visuals, but felt the story was flimsy; it was all show and no soul (kind of like a replicant!), but obviously, it's stood the test of time. I think even if the various "director's cuts" hadn't been released, Blade Runner would still have ended up being considered one of the best science fiction films of all time.

Also, it takes place in 2019, so does that mean we're only seven years from off world colonies and flying cars? I can't wait!!

I'll have some more to say about it in another post, so for now, here's a less-than stellar review from the Examiner, plus some capsule reviews from the Chronicle:

And a review from the East Bay Express, continued on a second scan, where you can also see a review from Trashola.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Poltergeist (Four)

June 22nd, 1982. A Tuesday. What to do?


Which I did. Still at the Northpoint, I'm pretty sure.

Here's a depressing fact: I am now older than the parents in the movie were supposed to be, and indeed, am older than both Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams were at the time.

I don't think I've ever been as "adult" as that, and I probably never will be! And to prove it, I'm going to be really juvenile and post the only truly gross scene in the movie. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Thing

My first exposure to John Carpenter's The Thing came at a fantasy/comic book/horror/science fiction convention that I can't, for the life of me, remember the name of. It wasn't WonderCon; it wasn't Comi-Con; it wasn't Space-Con. I'm sure buried in some box under a pile of junk in my storage unit is a program from that convention, but until I unearth that, it may remain a mystery.

It was held in the Holiday Inn on Van Ness and California, and was tiny compared to the conventions we see today, but was still full of nerds selling comics and movie memorabilia, and, of course, at least one presentation of that "Star Trek" blooper reel.

I know I went to this particular convention with my father at least twice. I think 1982 was the first time, and the following year, after I had seen and become obsessed with Cat People, I spent most of my time looking for collectible stuff related to that movie, things like foreign posters, or lobby cards and film stills. I did end up finding some stuff, and would usually trade one or two Blue Harvest t-shirts for the loot. (At that time, those shirts were rare and coveted, and because my dad had access to the original screens that printed them, he could run off a dozen or so and use them for trade. Come to think of it, it was almost like printing money. Or at least printing nerd money.)

The convention must have taken place early in the year, as it was several months before The Thing's June release, and we were treated to about a ten minute scene from the film. The funny thing is, the print they had was 70mm, and while they had a 70mm projector to screen it with, they didn't have a screen big enough, so we had to watch it shrunk down to what was, essentially, the size of a big modern day TV screen. This is the first half of that scene, (the second part, not seen here, is when they find the flying saucer buried in the ice).

I was already a John Carpenter fan, so was definitely excited to see The Thing, and the clip only validated that excitement. My dad was also keen on seeing it, as he was a fan of the original film, and seeing that one in a theater as a kid was one of his most memorable movie going experiences.

We ended up seeing it at the Royal Theater, at a sneak preview showing. Back then, sneak preview screenings weren't really secret, and you didn't always need passes to get in. They'd just run an ad in the paper announcing the film, time, and theater, and you'd show up. There would usually be a line, but there usually was on opening night, too, so it wasn't any less convenient.

So, we got to see it the Sunday before it opened, sat in the balcony, and loved every slimy minute of it.

Of course, as is proving to be the case with a lot of these 1982 films, what are now considered classics, weren't always loved at the time, and that's certainly the case with The Thing. As I ended up seeing it a second time the following month, I'll save some of my further thoughts about it for another post, and leave you with a few of the film's less-than-stellar reviews...

Turning the Page

We've reached page two of my movie ledger, pictured below. If you want to see what movies will be coming up, this is where to look!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Deathtrap is a movie I have no real fondness for, though it's not a bad movie at all. It's just not really my cup of tea, and I remember being a tad bored by it, even though it does--for a movie filmed on one set, with only four characters--have a lot of twists and turns.

It looks like we saw it at the Balboa Theater, a theater that is actually still around, bless its multi-screened heart. It must have been a second-run showing, or at least a matinee, as it only cost $2.50 to see. (TWO-FIFTY!)

I'll be honest. When it comes to Deathtrap, the first thing that comes to mind is what was, at the time, a controversial moment, which is a huge reveal in the movie, and is therefore a gigantic, whopping spoiler. So, if you haven't seen the movie, and want to see it unspoiled, you should probably stop reading now.



All right.

It's this moment between Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve, and while it wouldn't raise an eyebrow now, it raised quite a few back in the day.

I rewatched the whole film, and my opinion on it hasn't really changed. It's fine, but nothing extraordinary. Like most films based on plays, it's a tad claustrophobic. Michael Caine isn't one of my favorite actors, so I found his character a bit grating. (Also, his hair is at its Michael Caine-iest.)

I actually found Dyan Cannon the most entertaining thing in the movie, even though, apparently, she was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for worst supporting actress for the role. I guess some people just don't find her constant screaming as funny as I do, and that was always kind of her thing...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Poltergeist (3)

Five days after seeing Poltergeist for a second time, I went and saw it AGAIN.

Get used to it. Three more viewings to go!

Because of that, I'll limit this post to a few clippings. Below are some reviews; the big one's from the Examiner. The review is continued on the second scan.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Poltergeist ²

As I mentioned previously, I went to see Poltergeist a lot in the summer of 1982. There were a number of reasons for that, the first one being, I just loved the movie. That's probably the most important reason of all.

But it was also really easy to just go see it again and again. It was rated PG, so I could get in without a parent; the Northpoint was just one bus ride away (the 19 Polk) from where I lived; and school was out, most of my friends were away for the summer, and I was bored. It was better than sitting at home watching "The Brady Bunch" reruns all day, (which, don't get me wrong, I did a LOT).

One of the best things about the movie is the kids. Spielberg--aside from the travesty that was Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom--has a knack with child actors, and the kids in Poltergeist are cute without being cloying, especially the little girl...oh crap. What was her name in the movie again?

Right. Carol Anne!

But seriously, Heather O'Rourke really was a find; totally adorable, but also kind of spooky at times.

Sadly, she died young, and her death, combined with the murder of Dominique Dunne, (who played her teenage sister), and the subsequent deaths of some of the actors in the sequel, built up belief that there was some kind of "Poltergeist Curse" plaguing cast members. Except that, you know, two of those actors that died were already old or sick when they were cast in the sequel, so...

Perhaps the weirdest lingering effect of the early death of O'Rourke are the countless video tributes that you can find posted on YouTube today. Seriously, just search for "Heather O'Rourke tribute," and you've got yourself a day's worth of creepy entertainment.

I'll end this post with some more items from my Genre Book, this time just a couple of newspaper ads...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Road Warrior

As I've mentioned before, in looking back my 1982 movie experiences, sometimes I have no idea where I actually saw a movie, and other times, the memory is so clear, it's like I went last week. For The Road Warrior, it's like the latter, as I instantly remembered that my parents and I went to see it on a Saturday at the Stonestown Twin.

How come it's always the crappy theaters that are still around? Indeed, the Stonestown is still around, although these days it shows mainly indie and foreign films. But, come to think of it, The Road Warrior is technically a foreign film, isn't it?

So, at the time, I had not seen the first movie, Mad Max, though I did know of its existence and was aware that Road Warrior was kind of a sequel, but kind of not, which is to say, you really didn't need to see that first one to get any enjoyment from its follow-up. (And in fact, I've only seen parts of Mad Max since, and only the badly-dubbed version that was forced upon American audiences for years.)

And enjoy The Road Warrior I did. I mean, come on. The movie is nuts.

In re-watching it now, its flaws show through a little stronger. The car chases and crashes are certainly still spectacular, but the movie is pretty low budget, so director George Miller relies on speeding up the film a lot of times, (especially whenever "nitro" is engaged), and there's also some weird reverse motion stuff here and there. Also, the autogyro moments are pretty lame. While I'm definitely a proponent for using traditional effects when possible, there were many moments in watching it again when I wished CG had been in use way back then.

It's also kind of sad watching it now, knowing the trajectory Mel Gibson would eventually follow. He's definitely amazing in the movie, and man, was he a handsome mofo. But I have to admit I'm not that upset that he's not the star of the latest Mad Max movie that will be coming our way...

There are a few things in my Genre Book to include here. The first is an ad that includes a blurb from Herb Caen, who wasn't a movie critic, but had enough local name recognition as a columnist that I guess he had some influence when it came to such matters...

And here are few capsule reviews, from the Examiner, the East Bay Express, and the Chronicle.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Diner ²

I have no memory of going to see Diner for a second time in a theater back in 1982, but apparently I did. And this time I saw it at the Coronet. It makes sense, though, since I loved the movie right away, and loved that theater even more.

As I mentioned previously, there were two San Francisco theaters back in the 80's that one always hoped a movie would play in: The Northpoint and the Coronet. I've talked about the Northpoint in a few other posts, but I guess I didn't actually get to see a movie at the Coronet in 1982 until this second viewing of Diner on June 4th.

The Coronet was easily my favorite of the two big theaters, mainly because of all the great movie memories associated with it, including viewings of Bugsy Malone, Star Wars, Superman, Blade Runner, Return of the Jedi, Aliens, Batman, The Thin Red Line, and the Star Wars re-release. At almost all of those movies, we had to stand in line outside, usually for at least an hour, and I don't remember caring one bit about the wait; it was part of the fun. 

Damn, I loved that theater.

I said pretty much all I wanted to say about Diner in my previous post, so here's another clip. It's not the best scene in the movie, but unfortunately, there aren't a lot of clips available online. But it does have a stripper in it, so, there's that...

Saturday, June 2, 2012


On Wednesday, June 2nd, 1982, I went to a preview screening of Poltergeist. Preview screenings were always pretty exciting to me, and I got to go to a lot of them because my father worked for a company that did t-shirts and merchandising, and they would often get passes. When you're a kid, getting to see something before everyone else does feels great. This one was at the Northpoint Theater, and I think it was preceded by dinner across the street at Caesar's Restaurant. A fun night!

I'll just state this up front: I absolutely LOVED this movie. Adored. Which is why I ended up seeing it a total of SIX TIMES in the theater that year. Six times!!

I thought it was funny, and scary, and I loved the dynamic of the family, and it even made me cry a few times. (OK, a lot of times.) Yeah. I cried during Poltergeist. Puberty! It's a crazy thing.

Since I saw it so many times, (SIX!!) I'm going to save some of my thoughts on the movie for future posts about it. (SIX!) But I can say this: In rewatching it, I'm kind of amazed that I can still basically recite all the dialogue in it. It's embedded in my noggin.

And being that I loved the movie back then, I was compelled to write a review of it right away. It's really kind of, (OK, totally), embarrassing, but I'm just gonna suck it up and include it here for your amusement. (Click the image to magnify.)

In my review, I mention how there was a bit of controversy surrounding who actually directed the movie: Tobe Hooper, or producer Steven Spielberg. This was something I had read about in the Pink Section of the Chronicle, in the following article.

Back then, I didn't really give a crap, and really didn't understand who Tobe Hooper was, or the cache he had in the horror genre, as I had yet to see his The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Eventually I did, and could understand why there was serious doubt about him directing something as clichedly "Spielbergian" as Poltergeist. I'd like to think it was just a friendly collaboration, and the movie ended up with the best (and some of the worst) aspects of both the directors, (just watch the scene where the family is doing a patented "staring into the light" Spielberg moment, but what they're looking at is the complete destruction of their house; wonder and horror at the same time), but I have a feeling Spielberg probably did most of the heavy lifting...

I'll have more to say about just why I think I fell in love with the movie in some future posts, as well as some more newspaper clippings and articles...