Sunday, October 10, 2010

Celebrating 20 Years of Twin Peaks

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Twin Peaks, arguably the single greatest series in the history of broadcast television. So when I heard that a cast reunion was being scheduled in Burbank for this weekend, I decided it was worth making a special trip down to check things out.

The first major player to arrive was Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey Horne), who I had autograph my Boxing Helena one-sheet. She was extremely sweet, and still looks great. The film was directed by David Lynch's daughter Jennifer, who was also in attendance, so I naturally had her sign it as well.

Most of the cast members are looking surprisingly good, considering it's been 20 years, and obviously those who played the high school kids tend to have changed the most. Seeing Bobby Briggs and Harold Smith with gray hair was a bit of a shock. 

Other attendees included Ray Wise (Leland Palmer), Peggy Lipton (Norma Jennings), Chris Mulkey (Hank Jennings), Walter Olkewicz (Jacques Renault), Dana Ashbrook (Bobby Briggs), Connie Woods (the 'new' girl at One-Eyed Jacks), Lenny von Dohlen (Harold Smith), Russ Tamblyn (Dr. Jacoby), Charlotte Stewart (Betty Briggs), Kimmy Robertson (Lucy Moran), James Marshall (James Hurley), and Catherine Coulson (the Log Lady), and yes, the Log (itself).

I talked to Ray Wise briefly—prior to the second season of the show you'd expect him to be the nicest guy, but after we found out more about his character it's hard to look at him and not see a devilish streak. Great actor, and fortunately a very nice guy in person.
I also spoke with Russ Tamblyn and picked up a signed photo from The Haunting, one of the two films he did for director Robert Wise (the other being West Side Story, in which he starred opposite fellow Twin Peaks alum Richard Beymer).

But the highlight of the trip, and the deciding factor in my actually making the flight, was the opportunity to meet Sheryl Lee, who portrayed Laura Palmer in the show. When you consider her initial role in the series was playing the corpse of Laura Palmer, you wouldn't think that she would have a chance to leave such an indelible mark. She shined as Laura's cousin Maddie in the television series, although it wasn't until the prequel film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, that she really blew me away. Regulars at The Slaughtered Lamb Cinema know that's one of my all time favorite films, as evidenced by its inclusion in our 40 Years, 40 Movies series earlier this year.

It was a great honor to be first in line when Sheryl arrived, and to be able to tell her that I thought she gave an amazing, layered performance in the film. The range she exhibits is truly amazing, from playful to tortured (psychologically - not to mention physically) to terrified. She seemed genuinely touched by the sentiment, as I think she realized that I really meant it. I can't think of a better performance, particularly in such a demanding role.

I had Sheryl sign my Fire Walk With Me one-sheet as well as my hardcover copy of The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer. As that book was actually written by Jennifer Lynch, I had her sign it as well. In addition to signing it, she actually added me to the book... forever linking me to Laura Palmer.
It was a great trip, and my only regret was not staying through Sunday so as to get to spend a litle more time chatting up the cast members (as I expect the crowds had thinned considerably compared to Saturday).

All in all, 2010 will go down as a great year for meeting some truly inspirational people.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Reunited after 35 years

I grew up on the very tail end of the monster kid generation. In fact, had my brother not been four years older than me, I might have missed it altogether.

He had several Aurora kits, hailing from the square box/glow-in-the-dark run of the early 70s. Frankenstein, the Phantom of the Opera, and King Kong are permanently etched into my brain, as they sat atop the shelf above the drapes in our shared bedroom.

I was younger, less patient, and therefore with a predisposition for snap-together kits. Fortunately, Aurora was there for me, too. The Monsters of the Movies series was right up my alley, a slightly smaller scale but quickly built up and with movable parts. While I recall spending my hard-earned allowance to get the only one at Kiddie World at the time, the least exciting Dr. Jekyll kit, my all-time favorite was the MOTM Creature From the Black Lagoon I acquired in 1975. Not only did it have a better likeness than the standard Aurora Creature, the pose was awesome - the Gillman mid-stroke while swimming. You could literally fly him around the room like you might a toy airplane in this pose.

While I managed to retain a significant percentage of the toys I had as a kid (including the majority of my Creature from the Black Lagoon collection), this particular piece was lost to the ages. (We pause here for a moment of silence.)

Through the years I've kept an eye out for a replacement kit - built-up would be fine - but the cost of even that was prohibitive. I watched as countless companies reissued numerous other Aurora monster kits, including the MOTM Dracula, Franeknstein, Rodan and Ghidrah, but the Creature was nowhere to be found among them.

Fast forward 35 years. A few months back, the announcement finally came through. Moebius Models would re-release the MOTM Creature this summer. Despite our busy summer schedule, this was easily a high point of anticipation for 2010.

Click here to order your own Creature re-issue kit through
Our special order arrived and I picked him up last week. Now that he's home, we'll give him some time to acclimate before we introduce him into the display case with his brethren.

It's been a long time coming, but it's good to have him back home where he belongs.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Night of the Living Dead Blu Ray

Night of the Living Dead [USA] [Blu-Ray]My Blu Ray copy of George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead arrived today, and I couldn't help but pop it in for a quick look (sorry Netflix, The Road will have to wait until tomorrow). Just to clarify, this is the Forgotten Films release, which is available direct on eBay for under $20 or for twice that through Amazon. This is not the region locked Optimum nor region free  Network UK release, but an actual domestic Blu Ray edition.

Considering I've seen this movie more than 100 times through the years, and on every format it's been released, in every imaginable condition, my expectations were pretty low. Would this be another dupey, public domain print forever preserved in high definition? Considering it wasn't coming from Elite Entertainment or Dimension Films, I assumed it could not live up to their definitive DVD version. 

Based on a cursory review - the first 15 minutes followed by skipping through chapters up through and including the end credits - I was blown away. In many scenes I was seeing a level of detail I had never seen before, even from watching my own personal 16mm prints of the film. While I have not gone back to do an A/B comparison to the DVD yet, I am comfortable saying that this edition has far exceeded my expectations. 

The presence of a 'The End' title present on the Elite Entertainment LaserDisc leads me to believe the folks at Forgotten Films had access to a print struck from that restoration. It's generally that clean (I spotted a line in one of the outdoor zombie scenes, and will have to go back and look for that on the Elite release). 

It's important to note that the copyright listed is to Forgotten Films and not Image Ten, so it's clearly not an 'authorized' edition (which I would happily purchase and support in the event of its release). For now, I can't imagine there's a better way to watch the greatest horror film of all time. If you're a fan, you'll definitely want to pick this one up.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Catching up with George Romero

Kyle, Tony and I had a great time tonight at the San Francisco preview of Survival of the Dead (which thankfully allowed me to maintain my unbroken streak of having seen the last four of Romero's zombie films on the big screen). I've now seen the film three times, and while I still have some issues with the acting and CGI effects, it continues to grow on me.

Following the screening, George Romero participated in a brief Q&A. Between the hard hitting journalistic questions (In the event of a zombie outbreak, would you take off in a hot air balloon or head for the tundra?), I was able to sneak in a quick query about his forthcoming novel, The Living Dead

The Living Dead: The BeginningUnfortunately, despite a July 1, 2010 publication date listed on Amazon, Romero confirmed that he's only about 150 pages into it, and still struggling to find what he wants to say, particularly in today's world where zombies are everywhere - movies, comics, games and soon to be television. He also confirmed that this will not be the aborted web novel (The Death of Death) he started a number of years ago. That was an experiment that Stephen King talked him into - publishing without the need for a publisher. Unfortunately, nobody bought it. (For what it's worth - I did.) So the bad news is we won't have a Romero zombie novel to read this summer. On the bright side, it has not been abandoned, so hopefully we'll eventually see it.

On the movie front, George confirmed he has two more ideas that expand on characters introduced in Diary of the Dead (as Survival does). While Night of the Living Dead is in the public domain, Dawn, Day and Land of the Dead are each owned by different groups (who like the characters in his films, don't get along). Beginning with Diary, Romero owns the characters, and is therefore able to utilize them in future stories. As much as I'd like to see George do more personal films like Martin or Knightriders, I will always welcome additional zombie films from the master.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

They Won't Stay Dead - Night of the Living Dead soundtrack CD

We'll have one more reason to celebrate on May 25th this year - in addition to it being Vonna's birthday and the 33rd anniversary of the release of Star Wars, it is also marks the CD release of the most comprehensive collection of original library tracks used in the making of Night of the Living Dead.

Coming from our friends at Zero Day Releasing, the team behind the excellent Autopsy of the Dead documentary, it's available for pre-order now.

Here's the track listing (using the original library track names - which I think add a nice bit of historical perspective to this collection):

1. Eerie Heavy Echo (L-1204)
2. Night Suspense (JB-33)
3. Heavy Agitato (TC 416)
4. Light Suspense (JB-37)
5. Fateful Fire (TC 151)
6. Dreary Danger (TC 157)
7. Weird Eerie (ZR-87C)
8. Small Disaster (TC 130)
9. Reserved Disaster (TC 127)
10. Space Drama
11. Black Night (TC 155)
12. Shock Suspense
13. Dream
14. The Music Box
15. Mystery Hour
16. Curious Danger (TC 158)
17. Dramatic Eerie (PG 190)
18. Mysterioso (8-ZR-8)
19. Danger In The Night (Take 9)
20. Mysterioso (ZR-68)
21. Emotional Bridge
22. Somber Emotional (L-33)
23. Punch Disaster (TC 132)
24. Attack at the Window (Medley)
25. Shock/Stormy
26. Acoustic Space Station (Take 8)
27. Weird Suspense
28. Mysterioso (ZR-65)
29. Mysterioso (ZR-9)
30. Serene Heart (TC-306)
31. Tension (TC 402)
32. Sting 44 (TC 344)/Sting 27 (TC 329)
33. Fire (JB-28)
34. Chase (ZR-62)
35. Heavy Dramatic (CB 16B)
36. Heavy Dramatic (CB 54)
37. Heavy Dramatic (CB 15A)
38. Heavy Dramatic (CB 15B)
39. Eerie Heavy Echo (L-1216)
40. Eerie Heavy Echo (L-1214)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What price Survival?

I've been a fan of George Romero since I first saw Night of the Living Dead on Creature Features at a very young age. When I first saw Dawn of the Dead, on its initial home video release, I was amazed. He had done it again, in a completely different way. Day of the Dead was the first Romero zombie film I saw in the theater, and I loved it; in some ways most of all. It was another fresh take on the genre he had established, with what I'd argue are Tom Savini's greatest effects achievements. A fitting climax to what I assumed would be his zombie trilogy.

Fast forward quite a few years, and there's word of a new Romero zombie offering in development. Imagine my disappointment when I found out it was being shot in Canada, pretty much eliminating my chance of fulfilling that lifelong dream of being a Romero zombie extra. Dead Reckoning evolved into Land of the Dead, and I'll admit, somewhat to my surprise, Romero came through again. Given a real budget to work with, he proved his ability to make an equally powerful film. He combined some amazing practical effects with a restrained use of CGI that I thought worked just fine. We had the pleasure of seeing the film at its Las Vegas premiere. Unfortunately, Universal had the brains (of one of the zombies) to release the film in the middle of summer blockbusters, rather than waiting for a targeted Halloween release, and the film didn't have the breathing room to make a lasting impression. As a result, we won't see a direct follow up to the one film that I think would be best suited for it.

But things don't end there. Following the big studio experience, he decided to get back to his guerrilla style roots. Sure, I was a bit concerned when I heard the marketing pitch of Blair Witch meets Night of the Living Dead - but I knew Romero was a leader, not a follower, and was not going to turn out a derivative product. I saw Diary of the Dead at a midnight premiere screening, and while the film had it's share of weaknesses, some with casting, some with a dependency on less successful CGI effects, I thought it offered an interesting statement for it's time, as all the previous films had.

Which gets us to Survival of the Dead. The first Romero zombie film in 25 years that I first saw on home video (albeit on a 104" wide screen). I can honestly say it's the first time that one of Romero's zombie films didn't exceed my expectations. Is it horrible? No. I particularly liked the western feel, and would have liked to have seen that played up even more. Unfortunately, my issues were once again with the acting (Alan Van Sprang, reprising his small role from Diary is okay, but lacks the charisma I've come to expect from Romero's leading men) and CGI effects (which, literally from the first shot, are groan inducing). I suspect that over time I'll consider it on par with Diary, but never in the same class as the original trilogy or Land.

So have I lost faith in George? Absolutely not. I cannot wait to read his zombie novel, The Living Dead: The Beginning. And if he makes another zombie film, I'll be right there on opening day. Because the worst Romero zombie film is sure to be better than the average imitator.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Survival of the Dead US Release info

For those of you outside the reach of the Region 2 DVD release, I've got good news - Magnet releasing will be premiering George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead on VOD, Amazon and Xbox Live April 30th, with a theatrical release scheduled for May 28th!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Survival of the Dead approaches!

While a domestic release remains TBD, we're looking forward to the imminent arrival of the UK release of George A. Romero's latest zombie effort, Survival of the Dead. For the first time, Romero carries over (albeit supporting) characters from another film (in this case, Diary of the Dead). Interestingly enough, the same actor played a similar role in Land of the Dead - where his fate confirms this film cannot be a sequel to that. :) The reviews have been primarily positive - particularly from fans disappointed with Diary. For my money, the worst Romero zombie film will still be far better than the majority of by-the-numbers zombie efforts that have come out in his wake.

It's available from Amazon in the UK, and we'll know shortly if the BluRay release is all region or not.

Monday, February 22, 2010

They Won't Stay Dead! A new Night of the Living Dead soundtrack CD

For those of you who used to own the Varese Sarabande soundtrack album will be excited to hear about the forthcoming title from Zero Day Releasing: THEY WON'T STAY DEAD! Music from the soundtrack of Night of the Living Dead. It's due out on April 13th, and can be pre-ordered on through the link provided.

If Zero Day Releasing sounds familiar, that's because they're the folks behind last year's Autopsy of the Dead, which is up for a Rondo award!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

40 Years/40 Movies Attendance Breaks 200!

We did it! 40 Movies in 30 days. And I didn't have to do it alone. Our total attendance of 201 means that on average there were five of us watching each screening.

Thanks to everyone who helped us celebrate over the last month. I can honestly say it would not have been  the same without you.

We're looking forward to settling back in to our normal schedule of Wednesday night screenings and monthly Movie Parties.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

40 Years/40 Movies Attendance Breaks 100 in Week 2!

Things have been relatively quiet on this side of the fence as we've been focused on our 40 Years, 40 Movies series at The Slaughtered Lamb. If you haven't been following along, you can do so at the 40/40 Blog.

We're having a blast, and we still have three weeks to go, with many more great films to be screened. Last night our attendance surpassed 100, and while it's optimistic to think we might double that before we're through, each week has brought with it new surprise visitors, so you never know!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ed Harris presents Knightriders live at the Egyptian Theater

KnightridersFriends of The Slaughtered Lamb who live near Los Angeles won't want to miss the opportunity to see George Romero's Knightriders at the Egyptian Theater this Saturday, with Ed Harris in attendance.

Harris and Tom Savini give amazing performances in this unique tale. If we weren't hip deep in our 40 Years, 40 Movies series, I'd be tempted to fly down for this very special event.

If you do check it out, we'd love to hear about it!