Picture of the Week #51: Jack Arnold


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This blog has seen more than its fair share of monstery movie posters, but it’s Jack Arnold’s (1916 – 1992) birthday today, or at least it was when I wrote this, and still is (just!) in some places far West of here. Anyway, it’s a flimsy excuse to liven up my blog with a batch of posters and images from some of Arnold’s best known films like Tarantula, Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Incredible Shrinking Man. The sensational imagery and hyperbole of the marketing campaigns is matched in the films themselves not by a similarly one-note gigantism, but with a considered delivery of that premise. Well, maybe not Tarantula, which is about a massive spider, but The Incredible Shrinking Man is quite a mournful, agonising account of the effects on its protagonist of an ongoing process of ensmallening (it’s a perfectly cromulent word). Plus, it has one of the most extraordinary, unforgettable endings in all science fiction cinema, which I won’t reveal here.

Initially an actor, Arnold’s career path was diverted when he enlisted in the Air Corps after Pearl Harbor:

As luck would have it they sent me to join a unit that was making a film produced and directed by Robert Flaherty. Now Flaherty was a kind of idol of mine so I decided to tell him the truth. I went up to this giant of an Irishman and said, look, I’ve got something to tell you–I’m an actor, not a cameraman. But I told him that I thought I would be able to handle the job. And I guessed he liked the fact that I had told him the truth instead of trying to fake my way through it and he kept me on.

After I got out of the Air Force a buddy of mine who had been in my squadron said, let’s go into business together. So we started a documentary film company. We made a number of documentaries over the years – for the State Department, the Ford Motor Company and so on, and we won some prizes. Then I made a film for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union called These Hands. It was a feature spanning fifty years of the union which was good enough to be released theatrically, and it got very good reviews. I was even nominated for an Academy Award which brought me to the attention of Hollywood. Universal gave me a contract with them as a director and I started working for them in 1950.

Splice: Modern Family


[You may consider some of what follows to contain spoilers, but I’ve tried to avoid too many.]

“There are moral considerations,” says Clive (Adrien Brody) to Elsa (Sarah Polley) as they’re arguing over the course of the secret scientific experiments they are conducting. Breaking away from the roadmap set out for them by their corporate sponsors, they are trying to see how far they can go, just out of curiosity, with creating a new lifeform spliced with human DNA. The intricacies of this process are shown to using a montaged bunch of whip-pan, fast-cut sciencey bits (lots of wireframe models, scans, incubators and test tubes that give the impression that these tech people know what they’re doing), so that you can get beyond the how and focus on the what if? Moral considerations? Yes, there are. We know this, because we’ve seen other science fiction movies where people in white coats go a bit mavericky and “play god”. We know for instance that they will not resist their curiosity, will not abort the experiment, and that things will all go horribly wrong. Other clichés and conventions abound – the corporate end of the scientific complex will be populated with unscrupulous slimeballs, a woman chased through the woods will bang her head and fall over, and the cute little alien thing you just spawned in a lab will not stay sweet and cuddly forever. But this mash-up of familiar things hides its fair share of spikes, wings and stings.

Read on…

Picture of the Week #34: Twenty Monster Movie Posters


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This week, your pictorial reward is a bunch of monster-themed posters from my collection of poster JPEGs. Next week, you can look forward to sexy-themed (to use the scientific term) posters for your delectation, followed by comic and heroic posters. The week after that, I’m open to suggestions for a theme – I have quite a lot of posters to display, and not enough picture-of-the-week spaces to put them in. I hope you enjoy the scenery of these garish, trashy marvels. Check on the slideshow above, or browse below for larger views of any of the pics.

Army of Darkness Randomised


[This post refers to the 96-minute Director’s Cut of Army of Darkness, and comes with a WARNING: the third of the randomly selected frames from the film gives away the ending, and you should not proceed, or even cast your eyes down the page, if you haven’t seen, and plan to see it.]

[See also The Evil Dead Randomised and The Evil Dead II: Randomised by Dawn.]

The final entry in this trilogy of randomised Evil Dead posts is Army of Darkness, a lighter, sillier installment of the franchise that takes the story in a different direction. Ash (Bruce Campbell) has been transported in time to a medieval period where the locals are living in fear of the deadites, and he becomes a mighty champion. Of sorts.

The randomiser has selected the 6th, 21st, and 87th minutes of the film. Come get some…..

Click here to read on…

Evil Dead II: Randomised by Dawn


[See also The Evil Dead Randomised]

And so the randomisation continues. The 1987 sequel to The Evil Dead is something of a system reboot, a kind of remake with an expanded budget; although it continues from where it left off, with Bruce Campbell’s Ash having survived the events of the previous night in the demonically possessed cabin, it restages and amplifies the key motifs of the first episode. We are still in a cabin in the woods, and Ash is still forced to battle frothing-at-the-mouth nasties, this time armed with chainsaw and shotgun. The sequel addresses an audience it has already selected and wooed – it misses the first film’s element of surprise, but compensates with a hyper-kinetic and hysterical visual style that speaks for an accelerated race through genre conventions and the systematic brutalisation of its long-suffering hero.

If you need to know how these “randomised” posts work, take a look at some of the earlier entries here. This time around, the randomiser has coughed up the 2nd, 40th and 59th minutes of the film. Let’s hope that gives us a good spread, and that the 2nd minute isn’t just opening titles:

Click here to read on…

The Evil Dead Randomised


I remember the first time I saw The Evil Dead. I was an undergraduate, and it was loaned to me on a 3rd or 4th generation VHS copy, so it was fuzzy as hell and fitted with one of those wobbly soundtracks that you only get on movies that have been duped on home machines and passed from grubby hand to grubby hand. Younger readers might be surprised to hear of “the old days”, when plenty of films were not available for download or freely available on shiny DVDs, which lose none of their detail from one copy to the next. The Evil Dead was still fairly notorious, since it featured prominently on the BBFC‘s list of “video nasties”, films targeted by moral commentators in the UK media, resulting in the Video Recordings Act of 1984, which attempted to regulate the content of VHS tapes. It led to the withdrawal of many titles from the shelves of rental stores, and Sam Raimi’s directorial debut survived only on illicit copies salvaged from the purge. In those days (typing those words makes me feel so old), you couldn’t just go online and order a copy from abroad. In restrospect, I’m quite nostalgic for my old taped copy – I made my own (5th generation?), and I still have it somewhere in my office, complete with homemade sleeve. But today I’m working from a DVD version, which was finally released uncut in the UK in 2001.

Click here to read on…