Saturday, November 13, 2010

Multimedia lycanthropy

Like many kids of the MTV generation I marveled when Michael Jackson broke new ground (yet again) with the 13-minute short film video clip that accompanied his 1983 smash Thriller.

But is there something familiar about the sound effects of the attacking werewolf Michael when he leaps in front of Ola Ray after chasing her through the forest (when we cut to 80s and Michael and Ola watching the movie in the cinema you can still hear him as he attacks the cops who attend the scene)?

Of course there is - Thriller, like 1981's horror classic An American Werewolf in London - were both directed by none other than John Landis, who used a few recordings from the stock of sound effects where werewolf David (David Naughton) attacks his various victims.

Friday, October 29, 2010

8814 Clear spotted again!

I found it again! The stock audio file containing the female police dispatcher's voice saying '8814 clear' that gives this blog its name can be heard during a sequence of the TV mini series adaptation of Stephen King's The Tommyknockers.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Live forever or screw up the spacetime continuum

As every movie geek who grew up in the 70s or 80s knows, Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) took nearly 30 years to realise his vision of time travel after waking up from a fall with the flux capacitor as clear as day in his head.

That's why the first ever trip through time was taken by his friend Marty (Michael J Fox) early in the morning of October 26, 1985 while trying to escape the gunfire of Libyan nationalists upset after Doc has supplied them with used pinball machine parts instead of their promised plutonium.

Later on, in another fantastical universe from Back to The Future director Robert Zemeckis, vacuous show biz women Madeline (Meryl Streep) and Helen (Goldie Hawn) compete over everything – including Madeine's husband Ernest (Bruce Willis). But now the ultimate prize of 1992s Death Becomes Her is a serum to not only reverse but stop the aging process.

Madeline needs no second bidding, certain it's her final victory over her adversary. But when Helen turns up looking as young and gorgeous as Madeline does, she immediately knows what her old enemy's been up to. Madeline demands to know when Helen took the serum and the answer is October 26, 1985 – the day Marty McFly unwittingly drove the DeLorean straight to 1955.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The French ministry of movies?

Watch the opening credits any film produced in France or by a French director. You'll inevitably see the words 'Canal+'. It's a French pay TV station, owned by Vivendi, the company that owns Universal Pictures.

But here's the thing, it's on every French movie. I think it must be the law that if you make a movie in France you have to put their name on it.

Will the real Stacks Edwards please stand up?

If it's been years since you've watched Martin Scorsese's definitive gangster document Goodfellas, give it another go.

It'll settle the niggling sense that you recognise the actor playing Parnell 'Stacks' Edwards – the driver of the Lufthansa job who comes to a messy end in his seedy apartment when Tommy (Joe Pesci) blows his brains all over his bed.

That niggling sense was right. It's none other than a very young Samuel L Jackson.

Fatal Attraction or Errant Breasts

There's a scene in Fatal Attraction the morning after Dan (Michael Douglas) and Alex (Glenn Close) first spend the night together.

Alex is sitting up in bed while Dan gets dressed, trying to extricate himself from the situation neatly. After all, he's married to the sweet Beth (Anne Archer) and it was just a fling – he has no idea Alex is going to give us our most endearing cultural shorthand term for a psychotically jealous lover (bunny boiler).

During the scene, director Adrian Lyne cuts from the end of the bed to a position off to one side, and if you watch closely Glenn's breasts are exposed from one angle and covered by the sheet in the other.

I can't believe it was a continuity error, everyone would have been watching it (or them, as the case may be) – was Lyne just playing with us?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Want to see something really scary?

There's a recording somewhere in a Hollywood vault you can hear in a hundred horror scenes, scenes set in jungles and scenes set in zoos from a hundred movies and TV shows. It's the sound of a jaguar or puma roaring with considerable wrath.

I've searched on the web for an mp3 of it to no avail. You might have more luck than me, or it might be safely behind a firewall at one of the studios after they paid considerable money for a sound recordist to go to a zoo and torment a big cat.

But you know the weirdest place you'll hear it? John Landis' bookend sequences in 1983's Twilight Zone movie. Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks are driving down a deserted road late at night discussing old TV shows when they start talking about the Twilight Zone and how scary it was.

'Want to see something really scary?' Dan says. He hides his face for a second, then turns on Albert having transformed into a long haired, grey-skinned zombie monster thing. And he emits none other than that famous recording of the roaring jaguar that's as much a classic 70s icon as The French Connection.

Friday, February 19, 2010

You're walkin' where?

If you grew up in the 70s and 80s like I did, you were probably much more aware of the Back to the Future films than Midnight Cowboy, the Oscar winning redemption tale from 1969 that was so controversial it was slapped with a X rating.

But I'll bet you didn't know about the on-screen connection between them. In Back to the Future Part II, Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) is following his future son (also played by Fox) around the town square of Hill Valley in 2015.

The young McFly is klutzy and easily distracted, and when crossing the street, a futuristic car screeches to a halt when it almost hits him, the driver laying on the horn. Cue McFly's angry cry of "I'm walkin' here, I'm walkin' here!"

It's an homage to the same line Midnight Cowboy's Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) yells at a cab while he makes his clumsy way through the streets of New York. It's long been said (including by Hoffman) the line was ad libbed when the cab drove too fast into the shot, but director John Schlesigner later insisted the line was scripted.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Beethoven, for sci-fi and brutal sexual assault alike

Have you ever heard a piece of music by Beethoven called Symphony No 7 in A Major? It's uniquely beautiful and haunting, and bizarrely, I heard it in two films I watched one after the other that couldn't have been more different from each other.

One is John Boorman's head-scratcher sci-fi Zardoz, starring a be-Speedoed Sean Connery as a primitive killer who stumbles into a heaven-like world - 'the Vortex' of peace, agelessness and silly outfits.

The other is Gaspar Noe's rape revenge shocker Irreversible, a film that makes you feel like you need a shower and (if you're a man) castrate yourself at the first opportunity.

The funny thing is, when it appears in both films, it suits the relevant scenes perfectly.