Wednesday, November 2, 2016

DVDs & Cemeteries

     It's been an interesting week at my house. First this alien thing popped up. Shocking and hard to get rid of but fortunately Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley was up to the task. Frankenstein also dropped by and brought his lovely bride. Sadly Dr. Frank N. Furter couldn't make it. Something really frightening kept him from the party.
    Those are some of the stars of my spooky movie binge that happens every year about this time. Now being a thoughtful, sensitive individual my film tastes are usually more hi-brow: Blazing Saddles, The Blues Brothers and old James Bond movies. Things of that caliber. But the last week of October, in a nod to Halloween, it's always horror movies.

     Alien, beyond being the scariest film ever, has a certain appeal to those interested in the natural sciences. There are those harrowing scenes of descent to the hostile crash site that presaged the discovery of any real exo-planets. And the creature's metamorphose seems to mimic our earth bound arthropods, down to the detail of a living host stage. In the best science fiction the story seems realistically plausible. In the best horror films it's about engaging the imagination with subtle suggestion, anticipation and unbearable tension. Director Ridley Scott gets it and Alien stands out as a masterpiece of both genre.  

     Footnote: I want Sigourney Weaver on my team. In Ripley she creates a character who is strong and smart in the direst situations. Plus, and our cultural expectations probably requires this of an actress, she wears her undies well. Weaver once had a place in the Adirondacks and I know friends who have hiked with her. Alas, and this is one of the small disappointments of my life, I was not among them.

     It's a "beauty to the beast" leap to go from Sigourney Weaver to Frankenstein. But remember that the archetype of all monsters was born in the imagination of a woman. Her name was Mary Shelley and she wrote her novel way back in 1816. That was the year without a summer after the eruption of Mount Tambora. Some see a connection between that event and her creation. The story was made into a movie in 1931 that proved popular and profitable. This being Hollywood, there were sequels and the monster - played by Boris Karloff - became an early franchise.

     The library has a DVD with all the Frankenstein movies plus commentary and I've watched the original film as well as The Bride of Frankenstein several times. Most critics consider Bride as the best of the bunch. It has wit, style and thoughtfulness to balance the scary stuff. There's also that jolting electric hair-do! Christian imagery and even gay themes (in the 1930's!) add to the moralistic tale of who gets to create and take life. Cringe as Dr. Pretorius raises a toast "To a new world of gods and monsters" while Dr. Frankenstein exults "It lives. She Lives." But in an ironic twist it's his creation, who just wants a "friend", making the life and death decisions by the end of Bride.

     Both Frankenstein movies have cemetery scenes and perhaps they have contributed to our conflicted relationship with these familiar landscape features. Especially this time of year, especially at night. Watching Dr. Frankenstein and his charming assistant exhume a freshly buried body while proclaiming "He's just resting, waiting for a new life to come" has a certain chilling effect. 

     But I like visiting cemeteries, as long as it's not a one way trip. I enjoy the stones - marble used to be common, now it's more often various types of granite and I believe you can find some cut from slate up by Granville. The sculpting and the inscriptions are endlessly fascinating. The remembering of lives lived gives perspective and time to think about lives yet to come.  And about what kind of world we will leave them.
     Too much work and a down and out old truck - ready for the junkyard, if not the cemetery - have kept me from my Halloween tour this year. But the graveyards aren't going anywhere, they'll be waiting until I'm ready. Whether to pay quiet respects or for a little seasonal spook, I hope you get to visit one of Washington County's old burying grounds soon. 
     Here's a photo gallery sampler of what you might see:


Worth watching...

     I mentioned that Dr. Frank N. Furter was a no-show at my 2016 Halloween film festival. You probably recognized him as the mad scientist from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. This campy spoof adds some musical levity to a category that can get a little dark and heavy. Too bad its cult status attracts those who don't understand that library material is meant to be borrowed, enjoyed and returned. Check the catalog and you'll often find Rocky Horror listed as LOST. Sad...

     Want to be really scared? Watch Orson Welles Citizen Kane and tell me it doesn't remind you of a certain presidential candidate we've been hearing a lot of this fall.

     When I was old enough to get my first tinny little transistor radio they were playing Bob Dylan songs on it. Some fifty odd years later and they're still playing him. Maybe that's why they decided to give him a little prize recently. Isn't that noble? Trouble is, Dylan's out there working so hard playing his music that he doesn't know he's gotten an award yet. If you want a portrait of the artist as a young man check out Martin Scorsese's documentary No Direction Home. If that's not nostalgic, then give me another word for it...

No comments:

Post a Comment