The Greatest Pumpkin Story Ever Told

Belief is a peculiar thing.  Just the very act of having faith is an incredible achievement.  Sure, science can come along like an all-knowing bully with a big smug tape ball on its glasses and human logic can easily dictate like Mussolini, but sheer raw belief can overtake both of those, disregardless of their respective positions.  For instance, the more grammar-sensitive among you are saying right now, “Ahem, ‘disregardless’ is not an actual word, you buffoon.”  Au contraire!  I have supreme faith that it is an actual word and your subsequent arguments are worthless.  Ah hah! 

Upon reflection, this is quite a heady beginning for this admittedly rather trivial blog!  I could go anywhere with it and I can especially sense your anticipation and/or apathy towards what barely salient point of view I will have going forward.  Should I go down a path where I take some figurative piss out of the world’s other religions?  Perchance I could invite a fatwa of sorts on my positions and I’d have to go into hiding. Picking a nondescript name such as Turkeyloaf Reginald, the Duke of Upper Western Flatulence, I could continue to correspond from a bunker in Tahiti or at the very least, in Rhinelander, WI.

Words fail me. In care you were wondering what happens when you type “Jesus Pumpkin” in Google, wonder no longer.
You’re welcome?

Allow me to alleviate your qualms and assure you that I won’t be poking a stick into the eye of any of the world’s major religions today.  Well, save for one…  (And no, I’m not talking about those folks that followed the inscription on some gold plates that were discovered in New York back in the early 19th century.  I could go into more detail, but I would need my special decoder glasses to explain further.)  No, dear readers, today I will go into as much detail as I feel like making up and explain that most baffling religion, that faith of one: belief in the Great Pumpkin.

Of course it is a purely contrived coincidence that I’m also writing about It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  But thankfully it is the most in-depth record of the Great Pumpkin faith we have so I would be foolish to ignore the wealth of information that it provides.  Also one of the main attributes of the animated special is that it has a knack to make me very hungry for Zingers snack cakes for an unknown reason.  Fortunately, this is an affliction that only the faithful suffer from, so I feel blessed.  (Do they still air the Peanuts Zingers commercials?  I don’t watch TV anymore really so I don’t know.  All I know is that Zingers are/were/will always be miles ahead of Twinkies in this man’s soul.  No, they are.  They are.) 

Super Zingers?! Since when? Mind. Blown.
Each and every day proves that I’m living in the wrong decade.

This simple story involving the Peanuts gang had a simple origin as well.  Frankly, their Christmas special did well with the advertisers, so why not follow-up with a cash in?  After all, this was a good six years before CBS could air M*A*S*H ad infinitum, so they needed to broadcast something.  By an incredible stroke of good fortune, a team of television paleontologists have discovered the origins of this animated special! The following information was achieved from a combination of extensive carbon dating and a team member accidentally tripping over a box of scripts in a warehouse. 

The original plot of the special derived from a hitherto unknown and obviously unused script for The Andy Griffith Show.  Gullible deputy Barney Fife is trying to convince Andy that there is a magic gourd that comes out at night and would give everyone in Mayberry gifts if they just believed in it.  So Andy, being the good sort that always humored his deputy, sits up all night with Barney in a farm field, until a gourd actually seems to rise.  In a panic, Barney takes out his bullet, puts it in his gun, and shoots at the dark form rising in the field.  Andy discovers that it turns out to not be a magic gourd at all, but rather it was Aunt Bee! 

You see, Frances Bavier and Andy Griffith did not really get along that well behind the scenes.  So having Don Knotts gun her down in cold blood, while rather shocking for the overall established tone of the show, was a handy way to write her out with dignity.  This of course was all mooted when Don Knotts left Andy Griffith to star in a series of movies that eventually would make Jerry Lewis cringe.  (Knotts and a toupee both eventually shared the aptly-named role of Mr. Furley in that hard-bitten cynical drama, Three’s Company.)

Barney’s first replacement unfortunately never really went anywhere after the show.

CBS, not wanting to waste a prime opportunity with a script that they already owned, foisted it upon the Peanuts crew and hoped for the best.  After editing the part where Linus would have shot Snoopy, the writers opted to have Linus faint instead.  But otherwise the script was mostly shot intact, with Goober, Otis, and Helen Crump being changed to Charlie Brown, Pigpen, and Lucy respectively.  As there was no real parallel for Floyd the Barber, his character was just written out and Snoopy was given even more moments to shine in order to pad the runtime.

Even Captain Kirk knows that Mayberry is the best place to get a haircut.

But getting back to before the television paleontologists irresponsibly burned through the grant money that was recklessly given to them in the first place, tremendous faith is shown in Great Pumpkin.  Who better to showcase that belief than Linus Van Pelt?  After all, he was the voice of faith in A Charlie Brown Christmas, bringing everyone back to the main point of that season in a succinct and poignant moment near the end.  Who better than him to declare his unwavering conviction in the Great Pumpkin?

Digging back even further into the origins of the Great Pumpkin, recent research, hastily dating back to about ten minutes ago, has uncovered in ramshackle fashion that the basis for this faith does extend back to the Netherlands of the mid-1300s or so, give or take a century or two.  Back then, the Netherlanders were only mainly concerned with not starting the Dutch East India Company.  Even the tulip was only in the very earliest planning stages, with only several sketches of concept art that have hopefully survived to the present day due to their never being discovered in recorded history.  It was here that the legend of the Great Pumpkin fictionally emerged.

A local farmer named Hjørn Väïndënschnöük, after a hard day’s work in his similarly umlauted pumpkin fields, came upon one of his crop that not only appeared to be bearing a smile but also had various trinkets surrounding it.  Thinking this to be the work of a sentient being, this humble farmer, whose name I am not even going to attempt to pronounce, decided that he would stay up all night and see if the pumpkin would produce gifts in the morning.  In between moments of falling asleep and passing out due to a combination of weariness, drunkenness, and fatigue from even more drunkenness, the farmer finally discovered nothing at all.  Rather than just sensibly giving up, he decided to inform all of his neighbors of the occurrence.  The citizens of the town reacted with quiet moderate reflection as they burned him alive as a witch.

A artist’s rendering of the well-mannered and thoughtful Dutch villagers.

The legend grew throughout the country as generations of Hollanders passed along this tale to their children and their children’s children.  Soon the story came over to the New World and while relaying the events to the local indigenous tribes, the settlers were respectfully slaughtered and then ignored.  But a colonizer, one Silas Van Pelterin, managed to survive.  He then cruelly made his descendants pass along the legend of the Great Pumpkin.  This Dutch tale eventually became the overriding faith of his great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandnephew: Linus Van Pelt.

And so it all comes full circle!  We are back to where we almost started, which is actually quite a feat considering the amount of total dithering that exists in the above paragraphs.  But on the subject of faith, it is quite prevalent throughout the special.  Linus of course has faith in the Great Pumpkin.  Sally has faith that Linus is right about the Great Pumpkin.  Snoopy has faith that he can pull off being a World War I pilot behind enemy lines.  Charlie Brown has faith that he will kick that football and that he will get candy for Halloween.  However, only Snoopy’s faith is rewarded, while the others get burned.  Linus doesn’t see the Great Pumpkin, Sally thinks Linus is a blockhead, and Charlie Brown sails through the air after his kick attempt and gets nothing but rocks from the cruel townspeople of the Peanuts universe.

Speaking of WWI, brilliant tactical minds like these are the ones that ensured
that The Great War would have a sequel.

By the way, why rocks?  Why such overwhelming and unnecessary malice directed at Charlie Brown?  Is this a subtle way of saying that Charlie Brown is actually being stoned for his faith as a martyr?  Is this the deeper subtext that I have stumbled on?  But that doesn’t make sense because why would the town just treat Charlie Brown with such vitriol?  After all, the obvious religious nut of the town was at that point in a pumpkin patch, freezing his tuchas off with Sally Brown, awaiting a large present-bearing pumpkin.  Shouldn’t the townspeople have shown that same contempt to Linus instead?  But Linus gets viewed as a harmless kid and Chuck gets treated like a leper.  Well, a leper that should have thrown those rocks right back at the houses that gave them in the first place.

Perhaps I am diving too far into Great Pumpkin.  Perhaps my children have watched it so much at this time of year that my mind overthinks this ½ hour cartoon.  Perhaps I cannot wait for the Peanuts Thanksgiving special because the only faith portrayed involves Peppermint Patty’s belief that she can be a massive imposition on Charlie Brown.  Perhaps all of these perhapses could be avoided with just one simple thing.  Faith.  The shining misguided faith of one Linus Van Pelt. 

Caught in Great Pumpkin fever, Linus writes a misguided letter to the 2017 Houston Astros.

Let’s all try to be more like him in our daily lives.  Let’s always try to have the music of Vince Guaraldi in the background.  Let’s never draw pumpkin faces on the back of the bald kid’s head no matter how much pre-visualization help it could provide prior to carving.  And above all else, as there are a great many beliefs that are actually dangerous to others, remember that the Great Pumpkin isn’t one of them.  So let the Great Pumpkin believers have their brief shining moment of faith this time of year.

And let Charlie Brown try to kick Lucy instead of the football next time.  If he gets to at least do that, then I know at least my faith will be rewarded. 

Almost Equal Sequels Part VI: Psycho II

Yet another week in October?  That means we need to take the time to focus on the reason for the season: horror sequels that aren’t that bad!  No, really!  They are a delight!  And thankfully, there are hundreds, if not billions of them to peruse.

Again, thanks to those of you out there in the Interwebnets who have continued to read this earthshattering blog despite the horribly late to the point of nonexistent updates!  You are the bedrock of a foundation of a cornerstone of an amazing experience.  If it was within my limited and shockingly miniscule power, I would see to it that all of you would receive a half price discount on your favorite beef jerky.  No need to thank me, that’s just who I be.

Oh and spoilers are thriving throughout.  I mean Psycho is 60 this year and Psycho II is 37 years old.  So, dry your tears and relax.  Take a shower. 

22 years away from home? At least someone left a light on for him.

The Sequel:  Psycho II (1983)

Original Movie: Psycho (1960)

Key Cast/Production Staff Returning from 1st Installment:

Anthony Perkins      as Norman Bates
Vera Milesas Lila Crane
Virginia Greggas Norma Bates (voice)
Hilton A. GreenProducer (Assistant Director on Psycho

To Start With:

 “It’s starting again.”

Why in the hell would anyone want to make a sequel to Psycho?  Seems absolutely insane, doesn’t it?  That’d be like making Two Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Another Bridge on the River Kwai or Pulp Fiction II: Pulp Harder.  Golly, that’d be as daft as making a sequel to Gone with the Wind!  Oh, wait.  Never mind.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was a titanic hit upon release in 1960.  Paramount didn’t have much faith in it at the time; they wanted something along the lines of Hitchcock’s previous successes like North by Northwest.  This was an exploitative nasty horror film based off of a violent book by Robert Bloch which was partly based on a grisly horrid crime.  (By the way, hello Plainfield, WI!  Home state pride, I tells you!)

So Hitchcock went ahead with his Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV crew, shot Psycho in black & white to save money, developed an publicity stunt by urging theater owners to not allow people into the theater after the film started, and when all was said and done…it workedPsycho became part of film history, influenced dozens of other films, and has stood the test of time as one of Hitchcock’s great films.

“Tony, dear boy, can you imagine making a follow-up to this movie?
It is funny, isn’t it?”

Psycho became such a part of the entertainment landscape that even Saturday Night Live couldn’t help but lampoon it when Anthony Perkins hosted during the first season.  Remember this dialogue from Norman Bates himself?

          “Yes, a diploma in motel management can be your passport to prosperity, independence, and security, but are you motel material? Let’s find out with a simple quiz.

Question 1: A guest loses the key to her room. Would you…

  1. Give her a duplicate key
  2. Let her in with your passkey
  3. Hack her to death with a kitchen knife”

Michael O’Donoghue was right on point when he wrote this.  He knew the incredible impact that Psycho had, even including shots of the stuffed birds in the motel office during the sketch to add atmosphere.  It certainly helped that everyone knew the twist from the first movie, as evidenced by the live audience reaction.  Can you imagine trying to make a follow-up to Psycho?  Where could the story possibly go?  A sequel was an absolutely crazy idea.  And yet…

By 1983, Universal now owned the distribution rights for many films in the Hitchcock catalogue, including Psycho.  During that same timeframe, slasher movies were making a killing.  (Extremely easy pun very much intended!)  Why not make a little TV sequel to Psycho to cash in?  Better yet, why not make a theatrical release with Anthony Perkins returning as Norman Bates, hire Hitchcock acolyte Richard Franklin fresh off of Road Games as director, and bring back the cinematic granddaddy of the genre to show these stalk-n-slash young’uns how it’s done.

See, you get free morning papers with your stay at Bates Motel!

Amazingly, Psycho II not only was made, but also came out really well.  (Check out The Birds II: Land’s End if you want to see how a bad Hitchcock sequel could be…)  For an over 20 year gap in-between Psycho films, the odds were long, but they paid off handsomely.  Perkins shone once again in the role that established and forever typecast him.  Franklin’s direction was well done, Dean Cundey’s cinematography was great, Tom Holland’s script was tight, and Jerry Goldsmith’s music was apropos.

Is it the first movie?  Oh, no.  It isn’t.  But that’s okay.  Just rehashing the same in the sequel wouldn’t have done Psycho II any favors.  That would have been just as silly as doing a shot for shot remake of the original film, in color even!  Good thing that idea is just an erratic statement from an irrational soul like myself and would never ever see the light of day.  Whew!

Yep, run away. Don’t look back. Run.

Anything Done Better than the Original?

“That is legal hocus pocus! And when he murders again, you will be directly responsible!”

Oh, this is dangerous ground for someone that enjoys Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s films as much as I do.  (Then again, I think 2010: The Year We Make Contact is better than 2001: A Space Odyssey, so I can be outlandish too!  Hah, suck on that Kubrick!)  But I don’t think I’m overreaching when I say that Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates is better than ever.

Granted, you need to know the events of the first film, but using that as a springboard, Perkins brings sympathy, humor, pathos, madness, and more.  Unlike sickos like me that want Jason Voorhees to rise from the dead to begin slaughtering again, we don’t necessarily want Norman to slip back into insanity.  We cheer him on, hoping against hope that he can battle his demons because we see the mental anguish he’s experiencing.  Perkins was a terrific actor and he puts on Norman like a pair of comfortable shoes.  Kudos and more kudos to you, sir.

The original Psycho had Simon Oakland as a know-it-all psychiatrist to wrap things up with a tidy bow.  In that film, he comes out of nowhere, unwelcomely over-explaining things to death.  And if not for Oakland’s deteriorating health, he would have reprised that role as the doctor that rehabilitated Norman.  Instead, we get…Robert f*cking Loggia! (And yes, that is his damn name.  Don’t fight me on this; he’s dead and I’m still scared he’d come back and kick my arse straight off the planet.) 

Robert Loggia is one of my absolute favorite actors.  Normally he’d be a mob lieutenant or any role that required someone who conveyed a “hey, I’m not taking any of your shit”-type of attitude.  God love him for that.  So seeing him as a shrink is amazing!  Can you imagine the therapy sessions?  “Look Norman, you’re going to be well by the time I count to ten or I’m going to break your damn kneecaps. Capisce?”  To his credit, Loggia is believable, because again, he’s Robert f*cking Loggia!

Why yes, I have Robert f*cking Loggia’s autograph. And I’m too scared to ever move it.

Anything as Good as the Original?

“When I was little, I had a fight with my mother, so I put some poison in her tea, you know. But I’m all right now.

The mystery within this film is done very well.  We don’t know if Norman is necessarily going crazy or if perhaps someone is driving him crazy or if perhaps someone else other than the people driving him crazy is driving him crazy.  Yes, the final twist is a bit of a letdown, but overall this idea works. 

Vera Miles as Lila Loomis has been given a bit more to do compared to the first movie.  Her quest to nail Norman to the wall is understandable, given that he had made sure that her sister never got to fill out her comment card at the Bates Motel.  Being one of the only original cast members to survive Psycho, it was good they got her, she performs admirably, and her death was worthy of any kill from the slasher film catalog. 

And yes, I have an autographed picture of the gracious Vera Miles as well.
Go see her in Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man. She’s fantastic.

By the way, John Gavin, who played Sam Loomis in Psycho, was unavailable to join the film because he was serving as the U.S. ambassador to Mexico at the time.  (No, really.  Reagan put him there.  Yes, I’m serious.  Look it up!)

Jerry Goldsmith had an unenviable task of trying to write a score after Bernard Herrmann’s iconic music from Psycho.  Herrmann’s violin shrieks are still used in everyday culture when someone is stabbing a pumpkin or a random motel guest.  But Goldsmith didn’t simply rearrange or regurgitate Herrmann’s work; he made his own score, which is a masterful piece of music indeed.

 Anything Not-So-Good as the Original?

“At least, my customers have a good time! What do yours get, Bates, huh? Dead, that’s what they got! Dead, murdered by you, you loony!”

While the cops aren’t outright goofy, they are out of their depth.  The sheriff in the original was rather matter of fact and completely believable.  This sheriff is not laughably bumbling, at times even giving Norman the benefit of the doubt, but he also is never a full-on threat to Norman.  Perhaps if the sheriff was always around to keep an eye on things, always suspicious, always waiting for Norman to trip up, might have been a better way to go.

Maybe it comes down to my personal taste, but I don’t really care for Meg Tilly in the movie.  Yes, there are others that have given her the thumbs up and yes, I know that she’s essentially playing a role-within-a-role here, but I’ve never believed her performance.  If Psycho II had stayed a quickie TV movie, she’d probably be a fine choice, but for a theatrical film with these supporting actors, I think this part needed someone with more range.  Tilly has said that she didn’t have an easy time on set with Perkins and the director.  While that might explain part of it, she still doesn’t come across for me, even after the reveal that she is…the…daughter of Lila Loomis!  Dun…dun…duuuuhnn!

“Well you see, the sandwich attacked me first, so I had to defend myself.”

Anything Far Worse than the Original?

Eh, the ending sticks in my craw as it messes with the Norma/Norman Bates mother/son dynamic.  To have Mrs. Spool (who?) claiming to be Norman’s actual mother is a bit off.  Not that Norman wouldn’t have killed Norma Bates anyway mind you.  She still was a headcase that made Norman’s life a henpecked hell.  But it takes a smidge of the matricide angle off with the implication that Norman killed essentially a loony foster parent and not a loony birth mother.  Psycho III attempts to fix this plot element by making it hogwash, but that’s rather slapdash in execution too.

Of course, Norman kills Mrs. Spool suddenly, violently, and almost hilariously right at the end.  I’ve noticed myself giving a reflexive laugh whenever I’ve watched that part and I hope that I’m not alone with that reaction.  (And if I am alone with that reaction, then I was just joking.  Yep, joking!  Ha!  Ha-hah…  Ahem.) 

“I make my coffee so strong, you’d swear it smacks you right in the back of the head.”

Normally I love Dennis Franz, but here?  How in the hell did someone dripping with a foot-thick Chicago accent get stuck in the middle of tumbleweed laden Fairvale, CA?  But his calling Norman Bates an actual “psycho” is a bit too on the nose for my liking.  While I’m nitpicking, Franz’s death is odd too.  He looks like a werewolf in early transformation stages as he is offed, due the blood effect piping in his not-as-shadowy-as-it-should-be face. 

Now if Franz was doing his best pre-Sipowicz/post-Dressed to Kill impression as the town sheriff, then that would have been an interesting dynamic…  But he didn’t, so it wasn’t.

“Don’t worry Dennis! No one will ever notice!

“You could stop stuffing bloody towels in toilets and peering through peep-holes in the wall.”

Follow-up installments?

“Well what are you gawking at? Go down stairs and open the motel! What do you expect us to live on, hope?!”

Since Psycho II made money at the box office and earned some good reviews to boot, Universal greenlit Psycho III, with Perkins also directing for the first time.  His Norman is as good as ever.  Watching Norman fall in love is wonderfully awkward and sad too.  I especially like the touch of Norman straightening out a picture that his intended victim knocked slightly when trying to escape him.  Because “Mother” must keep things tidy, you know!

But when Norman isn’t the biggest psychopath in the film, thanks to an over-the-top Jeff Fahey, it takes a bit of steam out of the experience.  Plus “Mother” at times is just slashing to slash, which is unusual and out of character for the normally motivated matriarch.  That’s fine if you’re Jason Voorhees, but not if you’re Norman Bates.  (That reminds me: special mention to Juliette Cummins, who was killed in Friday the 13th Part V in 1985, was killed by “Mother” here in 1986, and then was killed in 1987’s Slumber Party Massacre II!  You got the hat trick!  Great work, Juliette!)

Speaking of 1987, NBC decided to make a TV series called Bates Motel, starring Bud Cort.  They then thought better of it, threw the pilot out there to fend for itself, and it died a supernatural death.

Coming soon to NBC: Loggia’s Law. Watch Robert Loggia make his own laws because he’s Robert f*cking Loggia. Also stars Vera Miles as the Assistant D.A.
and Anthony Perkins as the loveable bailiff!

1990 brought about another TV movie, Psycho IV: The Beginning.  It was a sequel and a prequel, showing Norman’s childhood and past events that guided him on the path to insanity.  Perkins was back as current day Norman, and Henry Thomas, who played the younger Norman in flashbacks, did a great job.  Olivia Hussey was marvelous, playing a beautiful yet mercurial and unhinged Norma Bates.  Special nods to the always wonderful CCH Pounder and John Landis in a cameo where he cameos so everyone can say “Hey, that’s John Landis!”  Psycho IV essentially ignores Psycho II and III, but I don’t mind as long as the late great Anthony Perkins is giving his Norman one last appearance on the screen.

Now if they only had made a wacky romantic comedy, right?
I would have called it I’m Crazy For You!

Then there was the looniest idea since the idea of making a sequel to Psycho: doing a shot for shot remake in color of Psycho in 1998.  Director Gus Van Sant, seemingly flush with the success that Good Will Hunting brought, presumably decided to dare the studio to do this experiment.  Now if he just wanted to do a cheapie, “let’s see if I can do this”-type of film graduate program project movie, then I’d probably be okay with it. 

Instead it took $60 million dollars with name stars and a poster that flagrantly gives away the film’s biggest twist.  The stars are ill-cast for the most part, save for Julianne Moore as the thankless Lila Crane and William H. Macy as the P.I. Arbogast.  The entire movie has a bit of polish, with updated script references so the film doesn’t seem dated, but ultimately it begs the question of why Van Sant just didn’t make a period piece redux?  Instead we get what we got and nobody wanted that and then some.

Oh, I could have included a screenshot from the remake,
but why bother when I can show Robert Loggia again?

And because a reboot/reimagining/redo is trendy, a Bates Motel series launched in 2013 for five seasons on A&E.  It was a 50 episode version of Psycho IV and received critical plaudits and I’ve never watched it.  But it is there, so enjoy!

And Finally:

“Would you care to share my toasted cheese sandwich?”

Psycho II has no business being as good as it is.  From starting the movie with the iconic shower scene of Psycho to ending with a full blown loon Norman Bates standing outside his house, the constantly moving clouds in the night sky behind him, I think there’s definitely more good here than bad.  Psycho II is an overall win for Norman, Mrs. Bates, and their booming hospitality service. 

Nowadays, the nostalgia factor smothers us.  It is completely common for studios and the like to grab any profitable property they can in order to spit shine it and present another entry, good or bad and, more often than not, it is bad.  But in 1983, this was an outrageous idea.  You just didn’t wait that long for a follow-up or a sequel.  It was insane, but Norman was ultimately right: a boy’s best friend is his mother and “Mother” turned out to be our best friend after all.

“I don’t think you’ll be wanting the free continental breakfast.”

“Remember, Norman. I’m the only one who loves you. Only your mother truly loves you.”

Almost Equal Sequels Part V: Dracula’s Daughter

Another week in October!  That means we need to take the time to focus on the reason for the season: horror sequels that aren’t that bad!  Oh and since you probably won’t have trick-or-treating, since the world has been taken over by the children of the town leaders in Footloose who somehow crossbred with the Omega House’s descendants from Animal House, be sure that everyone grabs their own bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups and chows them down.  Hell, don’t even take off the wrapper.  We’ve all earned it.

Again, thanks to those of you out there in the Interwebnets who have continued to read this earthshattering blog despite horribly late to the point of nonexistent updates!  You are the backbone of an amazing experience.  As of right now, I’m signing you all up for a (Something) of the Month Club.  (Once I pick what the something is, you’ll know.  I don’t want to tip my hand, but be sure you all have an aquarium in good working order.) 

Oh and spoilers are throughout.  This movie is 84 years old as I write this.  Now’s your chance to…well, I’ve warned you! 

Is it like that feeling you get when you go over a steep hill in your car really fast? That is weird!

The Sequel:  Dracula’s Daughter (1936)

Original Movie: Dracula (1931)

Key Cast/Production Staff Returning from 1st Installment:

Edward Van Sloanas Professor Van (Von?!) Helsing
Garrett Fort Screenwriter
Milton CarruthEditor 
Jack P. PierceMakeup Artist
John P. Fulton Visual Effects

To Start With:

 Superstition? Who can define the boundary line between the superstition of yesterday and the scientific fact of tomorrow?

Universal Studios established itself as the place where horror movies could thrive.  They had success in the 1920s with The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera, but in the 1930s they released horror hit after horror hit.  Just look at this line-up: Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Old Dark House, Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Invisible Man, The Black Cat, Werewolf of London, Bride of Frankenstein, The Raven.  Macabre yet fun, these films defined Universal and were for bread-and-butter earners for the studio.  They helped solidify the careers of directors like James Whale and Tod Browning and they made stars out of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.

Speaking of Bela, this particular horror cycle kicked off with him in the titular role of Dracula in 1931.  It was a tremendous hit and together with Frankenstein, it convinced studio founder Carl Laemmle that perhaps his son, Universal production head Carl Laemmle Jr., was on to something.  (And yes, Universal in those days involved more nepotism than the membership requirements to be in the Marx Brothers.)

Nowadays it is taken for granted that success breeds sequels coming out within ten minutes of the first movie, but that wasn’t necessarily the case 90 years ago.  Frankenstein was an exception, given that it made money hand over fist for Universal.  They couldn’t get that sequel started fast enough and after finally getting Boris Karloff back with director James Whale, 1935’s Bride of Frankenstein became a bona fide classic in its own right.

The film that became Dracula’s Daughter had a similar gestation.  But without the involvement of director Tod Browning, who made the ever-interesting and ever-controversial Freaks and somehow still managed to be a director after that, and star Bela Lugosi, who seemed to be on a downward career slide as soon as Frankenstein was released, the sequel didn’t come easy.  There was also some fighting over filming rights as well as Universal finding itself in dire straits financially, which meant the sequel took longer to come to market.

That’s either Bela or a slain Johnny Cab from
Total Recall.

When the film finally arrived in 1936, Universal had changed.  The Laemmles were out of the studio they founded, a new, not-related-to-each-other management team came in, and horror films were no longer part of the new Universal’s future.  (Well…until they saw that re-releasing Dracula and Frankenstein in theaters made a lot of cash so they went ahead and made 1939’s Son of Frankenstein, but that’s a story for another day.)

But what of Dracula’s Daughter?  The timing of the original release came when Universal was taken over, none of the movie’s characters became classic icons, and it just seemed destined to be just another movie in the endless Dracula collections that the current Universal pumps out on discs every single year.

I think it deserves more respect.  Somehow the Bride became a classic horror icon by being in Bride of Frankenstein for about 1½ minutes, but Dracula’s Daughter, who is in plenty of the runtime of her own movie, gets skipped over?  Where’s her action figure?!  Where’s her Madeleine Kahn parody?  Well, no longer, I say!  Granted, this film is not without its flaws.  However, it is easily the best of Universal’s Dracula sequels as well as being a good entry amongst the other films in the Universal classic horror cycle. 

Anything Done Better than the Original?

“You know, this is the first woman’s flat I’ve been in that didn’t have at least twenty mirrors in it.”

The pacing is much quicker and this film really moves in comparison to DraculaDracula’s Daughter is just like Halloween II, Friday the 13th Part III, and Phantasm IV, in that it takes place immediately after the events of the preceding film.  No need to build a universe, no need to establish shots of anything.  Starting with Renfield’s still warm body at the bottom of the stairs that Dracula threw him down and Van Helsing just finishing his stake driving activity, we are in right away.

Now don’t get me wrong.  The original Dracula does take its time, but for most of that film, especially the first half, I can give a pass.  The opening all the way through to the ship coming to England is drenched with atmosphere to the point where you can smell the musty decay, feel the damp fog, and think you’re in the hall with those armadillos (don’t ask if you don’t know).

No, my dear, I’m far too busy making $140 a day
Postal Inspector. I couldn’t possibly be in your movie! *sigh*

With Dracula’s Daughter, the atmosphere is there at the start.  Granted, some of that is immediate residue from the previous movie, but along the way this sequel earns its own keep.  The cinematography is dark, the feeling of dread is there.    

I always admire a sequel that doesn’t feel the need to rehash events of the preceding movie.  It just pads the runtime unnecessarily.  Instead, Dracula’s Daughter says, “Welcome!  We’re assuming that you’re here because you already know this stuff.  Moving on with our story!”  (I guess what I’m saying in a roundabout way is that you don’t need every damn Batman movie showing Bruce’s parents getting whacked.  Can we get to him beating the snot out of The Penguin now?)   

Anything as Good as the Original?

“Possibly there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your psychiatry, Mr. Garth.

Gloria Holden, as Dracula’s daughter Countess Zaleska, is very good despite being in what she considered a thankless lead part in a horror movie.  For her first starring role, she does incredibly well, carrying the film as she portrays vampirism as an addiction and a curse.  She elicits our pity at times and our sympathies are with her in a way that never existed with her famous ruthless father.  Holden also comes across as quite exotic with a sensuality that is palpable. 

For a vampire, she also casts fearsome shadow puppets.

Having Edward Van Sloan return from Dracula was a wise move, even though I wished they had given him more to do.  I can even ignore the fact that in the five minutes between movies, his hair grew quite a bit from his original crew cut.  That’s mere quibbling.  But having him named Von Helsing instead of the correct Van Helsing is frustrating.  (How did the screenwriter, who wrote both films, let that error slip?  I don’t care what the cast list says, I am calling him Van Helsing in this post.)

My only regret is that I didn’t use more stakes.

Van Helsing is still in full vampire-killing mode.  Even his being arrested for murder at the start of the film doesn’t distract him from the righteousness of his staking Dracula to his casket.  Van Sloan is great again, truly a model for what Dr. Loomis would be in the Halloween series.  He gives no quarter, only caring about destroying the evil!

Special mention for Irving Pichel as Zaleska’s manservant, Sandor.  This could have just been a tossed off role, but Sandor is actually more malevolent than Zaleska at times.  She is fighting her vampirism, while he is encouraging it.  It makes for an interesting dynamic.  Besides, Dracula had the gibbering Renfield, Zaleska has the coolly menacing Sandor.  Nothing against the marvelous Dwight Frye, but I think Zaleska came out ahead in the deal. 

 Anything Not-So-Good as the Original?

“Well, at any rate a good tramp over the moors and the smell of the heather may help me forget London, and case histories of neurotic ladies.”

Otto Kruger as Dr. Garth, our main protagonist, doesn’t really it do it for me.  Yes, David Manners in Dracula is a bit of a stiff, but at least he wasn’t too irritating.  I think the script was trying to invest some color into Garth to at least make him more interesting to play, but he comes off as a kind of a dink.  The less said about his condescension on the female gender the better.  Normally, this wouldn’t bother me as I realize that 1936 was a different time in regards to dames and skirts.  Besides, if the lines were good and sharp, I’d turn a blind eye.  However, they’re just barbs for the sake of being barbs and not clever.

Yes, I call his one ‘Puppies and Rainbow Gumdrops from Giggleland’.

Come to think of it, Kruger actually would make for a better villain.  Check out Hitchcock’s Saboteur to see what I mean.  I’ll wait.  No, go ahead.  Finished?  Excellent!  See what I mean?  Kruger comes across as a classic Hitchcock villain.  He just exudes this smug, smooth confidence of being three steps ahead of everyone else.  When he applies this quality to a bad guy role, you love to hate him.  When he applies this to a good guy role, you just hate him.  Now have Kruger actually as someone shielding Zaleska, with an urbane veneer that conceals the malevolent darkness within and that would have been quite the plot twist! 

Would it have been that hard to use the shots of Dracula’s castle and such from Dracula?  Just for continuity?  Same goes for the village near the castle.  Suddenly the townsfolk can now see the castle from their courtyard. This means that as soon as Dracula left for England a few weeks ago, apparently the local citizenry pulled up their stakes and rebuilt their town to within a football field of the castle towers.  Or again, continuity wasn’t at a premium with this installment. 

Anything Far Worse than the Original?

“Get me my heavy topcoat and revolver. I’m going out after vampires!”

Any time a film of this sort includes “funny” cops to act as “comic relief”, my eyes roll back into my head, my arms cross furtively, and I completely check out of the film.  Dracula avoids this by having a “funny” attendant looking after Renfield, but no wacky London bobbies.  But Dracula’s Daughter has examples of the goofy police force throughout. 

Even the Scotland Yard officer bends towards his version of wit, almost wanting to use phrases like “Dash it all!” with tones usually found around his fourth brandy as he trips over his moustache on the way to the snooker table at his club.  “Stuff and nonsense old chap; this is tommyrot!”

What’s all this then, m’lord? ‘Ere ‘ere, pip pip!

There is one titanic issue I have with the start of this film.  Van Helsing is arrested because two cops show up for some reason at Carfax Abbey in the immediate aftermath of Dracula.  So the cops see the staked Dracula, Van Helsing admits he did it, so they take him in.  Scotland Yard wants to nail him for murder and so that’s why Van Helsing drags his former student Dr. Garth into this to defend him and away we go…

BUT, and it is such an important “but” that I italicized it, where in the hell is Jonathan Harker?  Where is Mina?  Where is Dr. Seward?  Van Helsing helped save Mina, who is Harker’s fiancé as well as Seward’s daughter, and yet none of them can come to testify on Van Helsing’s behalf?  Instead they just let him twist in the wind as Sir Britisher Englander VI from Scotland Yard harrumphs all over the good Professor’s vampire-staking?  Ungrateful bastards!

And Ms. Churchill here emotes more in this picture than in the entire film.

Follow-up installments?

Dracula’s destroyed. His body’s in ashes. The spell is broken.

After this entry, direct Dracula follow-ups weren’t really a priority for Universal.  The new Universal couldn’t stop cranking out Mummy or the Invisible Man sequels fast enough throughout the 1940s.  Dracula more or less became a supporting character in a series of Avengers-like crossovers in one big monster shared universe.

1943 saw the next official Dracula sequel, the imaginatively titled Son of Dracula.  Now I’ve nothing really against Lon Chaney, Jr.  When given the right part, the right direction, he was a fine actor.  Check out Of Mice and Men or High Noon if you don’t believe me; I’ll wait again.  Ah, you’re back?  Good.  See what I meant with Chaney in those movies?  He’s good, right?  Yes, indeed.

Blimey guv’ner! ‘Ee’s turned to wax!

To that end, Chaney was a marvelous Larry Talbot, the Wolf Man.  He was okay as the Mummy and passable as the Frankenstein monster.  But as kin of the smooth and slick Lugosi-type vampire?  After Holden’s tortured and nuanced performance?  Unless the Dracula family tree has some lunkhead branches like any normal family, Chaney is a casting misstep.  Since he played the tormented Talbot so well, the character could have at least been constructed with that in mind to reflect Chaney’s skills.  But the script does him no favors, and Chaney’s out of his element.

After the success of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man in 1943, having more and more monster team-up films was assured.  Universal pressed on and made 1944’s House of Frankenstein and 1945’s House of Dracula.  John Carradine took the role of Dracula, such as it was, in these entries.  At least we’re a bit closer in appearance for Dracula, Carradine being rather gaunt and cadaverous after all.  But he still isn’t the Universal Dracula, the one who just reeks of sophistication and mystery.  Carradine just reeks like he should be the town’s undertaker in a John Ford western instead of being the dark lord of the vampires. 

I think Zaleska and Sandor could have had their own Ma & Pa Kettle-type comedy series.
I can see it now: Zaleska and Sandor at the World’s Fair, Zaleska and Sandor’s Big City Adventure,
A Zaleska and Sandor Christmas, the possibilities were endless!

Then there was one last go-round: 1948’s Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.  While I’m not really an Abbott and Costello fan, this film is rather fun.  Chaney is back as the Wolf Man and…Lugosi is back as Count Dracula!  (It only took 17 years!  Sheesh, Universal.  What, was Carradine just too big of a name to pass on with the earlier installments?  Sheesh again, Universal.)  For being a last hurrah with the Universal horror characters, they come off just fine and the humor works.  I even had the chance to see this film with a theater audience a few years ago, and it still plays very well, despite having Abbott and Costello in it.

And Finally:

“Someone… something that reaches out from beyond the grave and fills me with horrible impulses.”

Ultimately time has been kind to Dracula’s Daughter.  It is a hidden gem to be sure.  Oh it isn’t rough and tumble like The Wolf Man or filled with directorial wizardry like Bride of Frankenstein, it is a quieter film.  By taking the time to go over the idea of vampirism as an addiction, this is where the film shines.  The acting is subtle as well, there’s no real scenery chewers amongst our principals.  Holden certainly needs to be given a lot of credit for playing this role straight, bringing pathos throughout.  Dracula loved to hunt for victims, Dracula’s daughter is compelled to do so the same.

Honey, have you seen my arro…ah…nevermind.

Speaking of playing something “straight”, let’s talk about the elephant in the room about this film.  In recent years, the sexual orientation of Countess Zaleska has become a focus point for the movie.  Some saying that this is a pioneering film in regards to certain scenes, namely when Zaleska essentially seduces a female victim.  I suppose this is true, given what could be shown during the censorship and Production Code of the day. 

That being said, Zaleska does attack a male victim earlier in the movie.  She also wants to keep Dr. Garth around forever.  Zaleska seems to be more like a predator that doesn’t really care about a victim’s orientation when she gives into her addictions.  Blood is blood to her.  Her dad was the same way as he presumably pounced all over his vampire brides in his castle before moving over to Renfield and the entire male crew of the Vesta and then later giving his attention to Lucy and Mina in London. 

I just feel that a scene does not necessarily a movie make.  For instance, Bullitt does have a groundbreaking car chase, but it is also a tight detective film that also deserves a closer look beyond the dueling horsepower.  With Dracula’s Daughter, if you’re looking for it, it is certainly there; if you’re not looking for it, it is still there just not as much as you might be led to believe.  So please take the film with a grain of garlic salt.

Well, perhaps there was a bit more going on with this film… It is warm in here, isn’t it?

It was the end of an era at Universal and Dracula’s Daughter was a definite bookend to the first round of classic horror movies at the studio.  Fortunately it was a well-made little film that is certainly worth another look. 

Now…if you are looking for a full-fledged, red blooded lesbian vampire movie, I think you might want to dive into the 1970s Hammer Studios catalogue instead of the mid-1930s fare here.  **coughcoughThe Vampire Loverscoughcough…** Ahem.  Sorry, I had something stuck in my throat.

“Now look here. I’m tired of being annoyed after office hours. If you don’t stop calling me, I’ll come over there and, regardless of your sex, I’ll smack you in the nose!”

Almost Equal Sequels Part IV: Halloween II

Has it really been since July since I’ve had a blog entry? Gosh, I wish more was going on in the world today so I’d have something to irreverently comment about.  I should be more responsible.  This is why I could never adopt a highway.  The state would see how little I would emotionally and financially support my highway and then they’d take it away in a nasty custody battle that would certainly make the news given how slow the news cycles are nowadays.  I shall press on, thankful that I can freely throw trash out of my car windows, telling myself, “Well, who cares?  It isn’t my highway!”

Again, thanks to those of you out there in the Interwebnets who have read my earthshattering whimsy before, despite horribly late to the point of nonexistent updates!  And since it has been a while, here’s a hastily typed and haphazardly constructed sequel article! Enjoy!

Oh and spoilers are throughout.  Yep.  Deal with that. 

Yes, there were plenty of 2nd place finishers in the 1981 Haddonfield Pumpkin Carving Contest.

The Sequel:  Halloween II (1981)

Original Movie: Halloween (1978)

Key Cast/Production Staff Returning from First Installment:

Donald Pleasanceas Dr. Samuel Loomis
Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode
Charles Cyphersas Sheriff Leigh Brackett
Nancy Stephensas Marion Chambers
Debra Hill  Producer/Screenwriter
John Carpenter Screenwriter/Music 
Dean Cundey Cinematographer

To Start With:

 We’re all afraid of the dark inside ourselves.

Tis the season, right?  And there’s always a reason for the season, so let’s take a look at that reason why sequels truly exist: horror movie franchises!  From the classic Universal monsters to the success of Hammer Studios to the modern day equivalents with The Conjurings and Saws and Paranormal Activity installments, horror series have been a firm foundation in the world of cinema for decades.

Since the first Halloween was a hit, there was thought about making a sequel right away.  So when Friday the 13th, the mega horror hit of 1980 was going to have a sequel, the producers of Halloween, the mega horror hit of 1978, saw a chance to cash in as well.  After all, Friday the 13th was made as a lucrative cash grab after the remarkable success of Halloween, why shouldn’t Halloween return the favor?

However, John Carpenter, the director/co-writer of Halloween, really didn’t want anything to do with a sequel to that film.  He was against repeating himself, always intending that Halloween was a one-and-done film with a deliberately open ending that didn’t warrant a sequel.  However due to the machinations of lawsuits and producers, Carpenter was obliged to reluctantly be a part of it along with producing partner/screenwriter Debra Hill.

So after admitting that alcohol was needed to get through it, Carpenter and Hill finished their script for Halloween II.  Hill was back as producer, Carpenter was back for music and did some reshooting, and every cast member who survived from the first movie for the most part returned.  Even Nancy Loomis returned for a cameo as the still dead Annie from Halloween.

Halloween II: The Musical! was an early draft

Halloween II would pick up about 14 seconds after the first movie ended as a continuation of the night HE came home…  The body count would be upped, a long-lasting and forcibly wedged plot twist would rear its head (more on that later), and overall the result of bringing Michael Myers back into the world 3 years after the first movie was…not bad.  Not bad at all really.  It actually bookends the first movie rather well.

I think that most horror fans, myself included, rank it fairly high on the enjoyable watch list.  We can’t say that about many other horror sequels.  Hell, we can’t even say that about most of the other Halloween entries in the series.  But for what it was, it came out better than expected.  It hits more than misses.  Plus the last damn Starfighter is in the cast!  You gotta love that!  No, really.  You must love that.

Speaking of faces from other movies, it was wonderful that
Amity Island’s favorite deputy became a small town dentist in Haddonfield, IL.

But that doesn’t mean it is a perfect film.  Frankly I think that at times Halloween II gets more love than it otherwise would have earned because many of the subsequent Halloween sequels/reboots just aren’t that great.  So it is possible that the filter of rose-colored glasses glosses over the rough spots.  This follow-up should be judged on its own merits and flaws accordingly.  So I guess it is time to dive a little deeper into the horror that Haddonfield’s favorite son, li’l Mikey Myers, brought this time around…

Anything Done Better than the Original?

I shot him six times!  I shot him in the heart, but…he’s not human!

Thank heavens for Donald Pleasence.  His Dr. Loomis is a godsend to this series.  The presence of Pleasence (always wanted to write that!) brings much-needed gravitas to the proceedings.  And while he was great in Halloween, here he shines.  Granted, I don’t think I’d want him as my psychiatrist.  However, when the poo hits the fan, I know he’s coming packing heat to dish out a different kind of therapy. 

Dr. Loomis is in full blown “Kill the EVIL!” mode in Halloween II.  Oh, he’s not necessarily wrong, mind you, but here we see what lengths he’ll go to get Michael Myers.  He’s emptying his .357 at Myers (twice!), he’s asking his nurse to lie for him, he’s indirectly responsible for Ben Tramer’s accidental death, he’s blowing out a squad car window, he’s holding a marshal hostage, he’s blowing up an O.R.  Loomis is obsessed and I love every single moment of his ominous foreboding and his gun-slinging remedies.

I’d say this therapy session is going rather well, Doctor.

Beyond the wonderful bedside manner of Dr. Samuel Loomis, what is better the second time around on this infamous night in Haddonfield, IL?  Hmmm…I like this title sequence better than Halloween’s where the candle inside the pumpkin just went out.  Here the punkin opens up to reveal none other than a menacing, barely lit skull amongst the pulpy sinews within!  (Could this be what awaits Linus each Halloween as he sits in that pumpkin patch for the Great one?  Is he aware of the powerful evil inside that gourd?) 

Hm.  That might just do it.  I could argue that the poster art for the sequel is better but I’m not really going to die on that hill.  It depends on my mood.  So there.

Anything as Good as the Original?

Why won’t he die?”

Dean Cundey was Halloween’s cinematographer par excellence.  Bringing him back to have continuity between the two films was a great decision.  The lighting, the camera placement, the camera movements: all done very well.  There is a reason why he became an elite cinematographer after spending years in the trenches of fun exploitation films.  He learned his craft and learned it well.  Working with John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, and Robert Zemeckis certainly didn’t hurt.  Not to mention he lensed the great Greydon Clark’s Angels Revenge and a little picture called…Road…House…  Need I say more? 

I enjoy it when his camera becomes the eyes of Michael Myers.  Yes, it has been done before in other films, but Cundey not only manages to make the audience become Myers as he’s lurking about in the dark, but also does it seemingly effortlessly.  Of course taking place during the same night as the first movie meant for more moments for Cundey to also use the absence of light and shadows for effect.  Even his lens flares look good and not forced.

“Frankly, I don’t care if you are Dana Carvey,
this article is too long already to mention you!”

Having John Carpenter come back to do the music was a good move as well.  I heartily enjoy the score that Carpenter and Alan Howarth made for the film.  In fact, I think I listen more to Halloween II’s soundtrack than its predecessor.  The score brings a forbidding presence with more atmosphere and a fuller sound.  Given the budget limits of the first film, Carpenter was the cheapest composer he could find, so the score for Halloween is spare and minimal.  A slightly larger budget for the sequel resulted in more scoring and arranging.  The sequel soundtrack builds from the original and certainly establishes itself.

 Anything Not-So-Good as the Original?

“That little kid who killed his sister?  But he’s in a hospital somewhere!”

The influence of Friday the 13th is present here.  Now, I love Friday the 13th, but it should stay its own thing.  Introducing a body count doesn’t make a Halloween film more effective.  Halloween is about the nuance and creepy atmosphere.  The idea that evil is always watching you, waiting to strike, but taking its time.  Friday the 13th is about unobservant people getting creatively killed.  Not better, just different.

That being said, Halloween II isn’t a flat out gore fest.  Not by a long shot, especially when compared to other slasher movie fare.  But Halloween was the influencer of others and then the sequel became influenced by others.  There are too many characters that are introduced, not developed, and killed because they’re there.  Halloween had a body count of five, plus a dog.  Halloween II had a body count of ten, plus Ben Tramer.  (Poor, drunk Ben Tramer…  And this is the doorknob that Annie wanted to set Laurie up with?  On top of everything else, wait for her to find out that date isn’t happening.  Sad, sad, sad…) 

Ben Tramer, we hardly knew ye…you poor dope.

Speaking of Laurie, Jamie Lee Curtis is for the most part a lump in this installment.  Either confined to a hospital bed or crawling around screaming, she just isn’t the resourceful character she was in the earlier film.  Yes, she was scared in the first film, but she fought back.  Here she just hides and runs more often than not.  She does shoot Myers, but only after Loomis pushes a gun on her.  Seeing a resourceful Laurie in H20 and the 2018 Halloween just makes this role an anomaly.  Curtis is stronger than this so she just seems off for the most part.

Anything Far Worse than the Original?

Samhain isn’t evil spirits.  It isn’t goblins, ghosts, or witches.  It’s the unconscious mind.

All right here we go: I hate when it is revealed that Laurie Strode is Michael Myers’ sister.  That plot point is wedged in so late in the film and is handled so clunky, you’d think that the actors got this script note the day they shot it.  The emotional impact of Vader saying that he’s Luke’s father in Empire resonated.  It wasn’t lazy, it was impactful and made you go “Whaaaaat?!”  In Halloween II, when the family connection is mentioned, it is unnecessary.  In fact, you could entirely remove it and that wedged-in dream sequence from the film and miss nothing.

Furthermore, this plot point impacted the entire series going forward, save for Halloween III, which is its own thing, and the 2018 Halloween, which got rid of all the other movies after the first.  Thereafter the other Halloween films had to have some kind of familial relation to Myers and it just wasn’t needed.  It also retconned the effectiveness of the first movie.  Michael Myers just killed before because he was a nebulous evil that found victims to stalk.  Now he has this background to motivate him and even ancillary emotion connected with the deeds he commits.  It weakens him.

I suppose a dance sequence could have helped this plotline, but…naaahhh…

So with that plot revelation, you can understand why Myers goes after Laurie.  Fine, great.  But why did he go after Laurie’s friends in Halloween too?  He spent a lot of time toying around with Annie before killing her.  He even dresses up like a ghost to mess with Lynda.  Why bother?  Why would he plow through the entire hospital staff in Halloween II?  He wants to kill his sister, what’s with Myers’ elaborate staging to bleed a nurse dry or stabbing the drunk doctor in the pupil with a hypodermic needle?  It isn’t like any of them knew him or were protecting Laurie so they deserved to get whacked.  (I know, I know…  I’m overanalyzing a Halloween movie.  Well, when I put you putting it that way, it sounds silly.) 

If you cut those two minutes of sister-plot related stuff out of Halloween II, you don’t have a family connection, Michael Myers stays inherently evil with no motivation other than existing, and you don’t hamstring the sequels with trying to connect previous plot baggage.  And by the way, this was Carpenter and Hill’s fault for writing that in when they didn’t have to.  Not that I’m blaming the choice of the creators, but I’m blaming the choice of the creators. 

Ah, murder and mayhem!
The pause that refreshes!

Follow-up installments?

“I didn’t let him out.  I gave orders for him to be restrained.”

Oh my stars and garters, yes, so buckle up.  This series is a long one and at times, a tortured one.  We’ve got installments of all kinds here: sequels to the original storyline, sequels in name only that have nothing to do with the original storyline, reboots, sequels to reboots, sequels that ignore certain entries…and now I’ve gone all cross-eyed…

Following Halloween II out of the gate was 1982’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch, an entry that has nothing to do with Michael Myers but is actually a tidy little sci-fi movie with sprinklings of horror thrown in for good measure.  It got dumped on at the time, it shouldn’t have, it is actually pretty decent, so give it a watch.  Tom Atkins is the bomb in it and Dan O’Herlihy is a wonderful menace.

“Paging Dr. Myers, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard! I’m kidding!”

So audiences, being a fickle sort, decided that they wanted Mikey back, so 1988 brought the world Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers.  It is rather fun, not great, but great for this series.  Donald Pleasence returned and we got to see Danielle Harris be awesome, so there’s that.  Points deducted for not using Roman numerals for the title though.  You don’t see Friday the 13th running around doing that kind of thing!  “Back in my day, sequels used Roman numerals and by cracky, that’s how we liked it!”

Since the fourth movie made moolah, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers sprang forth rather quickly in 1989.  1989 was a massively competitive year for franchise sequels and Batman.  Unfortunately, even with Donald Pleasence and Part 4’s Danielle Harris coming back, this one couldn’t be saved.  Sure it has moments, as it is always fun when Michael drives a car, but the bad far outweighs the good.  I think the nicest thing that one could say is at least Part 5 wasn’t Part 6. 

“So you’re saying that as long as Michael Myers is loose, I could earn a mint, eh? Hmmm…”

Speaking of Part 6, I had the great pleasure of seeing 1995’s Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers in the theater.  It was my first Halloween on the big screen and I was psyched.  I even brought a friend of mine and two German exchange students that we had befriended to this showing.  By the by, they never saw a previous Halloween movie.  And I was just as confused as they all were.  What a mess.  Not a fun mess either.  Not even Paul Rudd could save this muddle involving cults and runes and child sacrifices and argh.  Donald Pleasence is barely in this film, dying before it was released.  Later a different cut of the film was found and released.  So now there are two not-that-great Halloween 6s for the world to not enjoy.  Hooray?

1998 saw Jamie Lee Curtis return for Halloween: H20, where she and son Josh Hartnett battle against Michael.  This sequel was the first to ignore previous continuity and skipped over Parts 4, 5, and 6, making H20 a direct sequel to Halloween II since Halloween III has nothing to do with Michael Myers and I’ve gone cross-eyed again.  Great ending though.  Watching Laurie finally take Mike’s head off with that fire axe was cathartic to say the least.  There was no way to screw up that ending.

So they decided to screw up that ending with 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection.  Laurie apparently didn’t really kill Mike, but accidentally beheaded an innocent guy that had Mike’s mask on.  Great.  Oh and then Mike kills Laurie in the first 15 minutes.  Great, again.  And the rest of the movie is an anti-climax involving reality TV and Busta Rhymes using martial arts on Mike.  Yeah, sure, great.  Well, at least, it couldn’t get worse.

“Here, use my .357 Therapeutic Inducer. Take it! TAKE IT!!!”

So in 2007, it got worse.  Now, I enjoy Mr. Robert Cuthbert Higgenbottom-Zombie’s musical work as well as 2005’s The Devil’s Rejects, so I was intrigued when he was tapped to reboot Halloween.  Apparently his creative idea was to have Haddonfield be populated by nothing but ugly assholes.  He also showed the terrible motivations for why Michael Myers became the killer we all know and love.  Despite some good acting work from Brad Dourif and Malcolm McDowell as well as having the always welcome Danielle Harris return, the film was a Rob Zombie movie and not a Halloween movie.

Then in 2009, it completely went off the rails.  Halloween II (no, the other one) saw the return of Rob Zombie at the helm and if you thought the reboot was nasty, you now get to experience the miserable existence of all living creatures on earth.  Despite the opening, which was an effective reimagining of the hospital motif of the original Halloween II, it turns out it was dream sequence and then all bets are off.  With no protagonists, this film is at the very least Zombie’s own but it is a tough watch indeed.  Again Dourif and McDowell are good and of course Danielle Harris is killed because that’s something else to piss us off.

Then in 2018, the creatively named Halloween, came out as a direct sequel to the original film.  It ignored every single sequel, even tossing away the events of the original Halloween II, and Jamie Lee Curtis returned.  The film was surprisingly good but I’ve already talked about it elsewhere. 

And Finally:

“It’s time…Michael…”

Golly, after all that, I do enjoy Halloween II.  It could stand for a nip and a tuck editing-wise, but overall, it is a nice horror sequel and does feel like a continuation of the first movie more often than not.  Dr. Loomis carries this film on his shoulders despite not being anywhere near Michael Myers until the last 10 minutes.  Still, Donald Pleasence is a treat to be sure.

I want to give some props to director Rick Rosenthal.  It could not have been easy for him.  The stakes were raised due to the success of Halloween, so he had more eyeballs on what he was doing than Carpenter ever had to deal with on the original film.  To that end, Rosenthal usually gets dumped on as the reason for any flaws in the movie, while Carpenter gets the praise for the good stuff.  That seems rather unfair to me.  I can give him respect for what he was trying to do and for how he kept this humming along, despite second guessing over his shoulder and editing made without his participation.

Oh and Dick Warlock is a good Michael Myers.  Getting shot, walking through a glass door, doing a full body burn, Warlock should have been the Kane Hodder of the series going forward. 

Well, that’s about it and…waitaminute!  So Nick Castle played Michael Myers for a lot of scenes in Halloween, right?  And Lance Guest was in Halloween II and Dan O’Herlihy was in Halloween III.  So that means that the director and two of the stars of The Last Starfighter were all in Halloween movies first?!  That is too weird!  No one else but me cares!  But care I do! 

“You have been recruited from Haddonfield Memorial Hospital
to defend the Frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada!

Neighbor: “Is this a joke?  I’ve been trick-or-treated to death tonight.”

Dr. Loomis: “You don’t know what death is!”

The Return of A Full Rich Blather!

Despite the overwhelming odds, vitriolic disparaging, crippling ennui, and mild rage, the Blather returns looking shinier and prettier than ever before…again!

Yes, folks, here we are and here we go.

Looks pretty snazzy, doesn’t it? I concur. Even this font bespeaks of the cream colored pages that you would find in a quirky, off beat humor book that you received as a joke gift a decade ago, finally decided to read about a month ago, and quickly donated to St. Vincent’s for the tax write-off only yesterday.

So after all the harumphing and hooting and hollering, why the slicker look? This was for several pre-formatted reasons:

  • Because the text content really won’t be any different, so why not have it nicer to look at?
  • Because of the deep personal reasons that I would never bring forth to the public at this point because each memory stabs me in the eyes like a jagged piece of licorice, if you will.
  • Because there’s only so much Columbo one can watch in a day before getting around to writing something. (Although, I’m starting to prove this point incorrect.)

At any rate, this blog looks smarter despite the author being anything but. And that is the most important part. So without further adieu, as there has been a veritable surplus of adieu to the point that the pallets of unused adieu have proven to be quite a nuisance indeed, please enjoy the newer, sweeter smelling A Full Rich Blather!

To break up the monotony of my verbiage, here is a picture
of the glamorous Thelma Todd with an anonymous fan.

For a first time reader, let me get you started by getting you to ask yourself a few questions:

  • If you went to all the bother in learning how to read, why did you start reading here out of all the other places on earth?
  • Did you use the potty before clicking here? Because I’m not going to stop along the way if you have to…you know…
  • How many Frenchmen can’t be wrong? Give up? Well, you were warm and so was she, but don’t be discouraged. With a little study you can go a long way and I wish you’d start now.
  • If you could truly have it all, how much closet space would you need? It is never enough, is it?

Ah, I’m glad you asked these questions that I asked you to ask yourself. Feel better? Good. You might experience a bit of nausea the first time around, but that is only natural given your horrid diet. So allow me to return again to thank you for choosing to read A Full Rich Blather!