Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Halloween 2005

We usually just pass candy out the door on Halloween night, usually with some spooky movie or music playing, but this year the weather was so nice, so we decided to set up some chairs on the porch and pass out candy outdoors.

Beginning with a visit from Darth Vader, a hooded executioner and Herman Munster, the evening continued with visits from the usual Freddy Kruegers, purple-haired princesses, pointy-hatted witches and flour-faced undead. Our next-door neighbors ran out of candy early and came over to visit us with their four month-old baby, who was dressed as a red chili pepper. Not too many of the houses on our street were participating, and we noticed some parents helping their little ghouls and goblins reach illuminated houses by literally driving them door to door. A fire truck drove down our street, piloted by someone wearing a long white wig and a Viking helmet. Other than that, there wasn't much in the way of passing cars, and we saw a few cats wandering around the street, silhouetted by the backlight of street lamps. I took a little bowl of dry food out to the sidewalk to nourish an apple-headed Siamese that came close to our house, but it snubbed the friendly offering and went off in search of juicier findings. One straggling Halloweener came to our porch sans makeup of any sort and said, "Would you like to know what I am?" Yes, we would. "An escaped mental patient from a state hospital." Naturally, we filled the young man's bare hands with candy, for no other reason than to reward his candor. The usual number of adult trick-or-treaters turned up, some of them carrying a second bag ("This is for my baby"), but we figure that they're out there working for it, so why not? At least they're not carrying protest signs declaring that Halloween is Satanic.

We had a fun time -- that is, until we realized that we had locked ourselves out of the house without our keys! To make a long story short, we had to stop passing out candy for a short time while we tried to gain entrance to our impassible fortress. While my neighbor and I were fetching another neighbor's ladder to help us reach our only open window -- my office on the second floor -- Donna tried to reach a rear window unattended and fell off a patio table onto our back porch, straining a muscle in her leg. (She's limping about today in some pain, silly thing, but is mostly determined to stay in one place where she can keep it iced and elevated.) I climbed the ladder myself, but I was neither comfortable with the height or successful at forcing the screen up, so our neighbor heroically volunteered and managed this with comparative ease. After he came down and unlocked our front door, we all sat around on the porch having drinks and conversation till some time after Halloween was officially over, while their baby contentedly dozed. It was a worrisome Halloween for awhile, but one I'm sure we'll be reminiscing about for years to come.

Oh, yes: CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD was finally broadcast early this morning on TCM at 3:30 a.m. National Film Museum Incorporated logo, rephotographed main titles, the Markovic boys prominently credited, the director's name misspelled (there is only one "f" in "Warren Kieffer"). Any name that was cut in half by the pan&scanned AIP-TV prints was not included/recreated, so there was no credit for assistant director Michael Reeves. The movie was letterboxed, or should I say matted to appear letterboxed. I haven't compared it to the standard ratio cropping but it didn't strike me as looking conspicuously worse than usual -- I've seen some very poor copies of this over the years, dupey dubs, overscanned broadcasts with heavy commercial interruptions, miserable public access transmissions, you name it. Some of the long shots might have actually convinced me that the film was properly letterboxed, but the framing of the closeups and especially the medium shots (which always cropped half of one actor when three actors stood side-by-side) provided all the evidence one could need that Aldo Tonti's compositions were being... what's the term? monkeyed-with.

I think this is a very good movie -- it's certainly better than THE SHE BEAST, Reeves' official first movie as director -- and a proper presentation of this title is probably my Number 1 priority as a fan of the golden age of Italian fantasy. Are there any European WatchBlog readers out there who possess a properly letterboxed copy of this movie in French? Italian? Lithuanian? Any help/leads would be much appreciated.

CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD was preceded on TCM by Antonio Margheriti's HORROR CASTLE. I was watching something else, Jess Franco's LAS FLORES DE LA PASION (2003), which I paused long enough to check out the broadcast quality of this fine gothic giallo. It was letterboxed and looked... okay, but I noticed something queer about the color, which seemed to limn Rossana Podestà's nightgown with magenta on the left and lime green on the right, an anomaly I'd never seen before. Did anyone out there see this from the beginning? Did it carry the original HORROR CASTLE titles, or were they recreated à la the National Film Museum?

PS 5:12 p.m.: Joe Dante has written to inform me that HORROR CASTLE's main titles were not just recreated "à la the National Film Museum" but were in fact the work of the National Film Museum. At least it was a meticulous recreation -- in the sense that it didn't bother to correct the Italian misspelling of 'Cristopher' Lee's original screen credit. I believe this film is still copyright protected as THE VIRGIN OF NUREMBERG (it's available on DVD from Media Blasters), so it would seem that copyright issues were skirted here by resurrecting its orphaned US theatrical release title. It would be interesting to know also if any changes were made to the film's soundtrack in the interests of "authorship."

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