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Jan 132016

One of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous poems is The Raven. I first heard about it as a segment on the very first Simpsons Halloween Special. Then shortly after I discovered that back in the 60s there was a full-length movie about The Raven based on that old poem, but with many new additions.

Dr. Erasmus Craven (Vincent Price) is a sorcerer mourning the loss of his wife Lenore (Hazel Court). Then it’s revealed that Dr. Craven has a daughter, Estelle (Olive Sturgess), and that’s just the first of many added elements to the movie that were not in the original poem.

The raven that comes to Dr. Craven through his window is actually another sorcerer under an enchantment and can say a lot more than just “nevermore”.

This sorcerer is Dr. Bedlo (Peter Lorre). He loves wine and has hilarious antics. The chemistry between Peter Lorre and Vincent Price is so great that I can always tell that whenever they team up, it’s easy to see that the movie will be a hilarious horror feature.

Dr. Beldo also has a son named Rexford (Jack Nicholson). Even though The Raven was one of Jack Nicholson’s earlier films, I can’t get over how amazing it is to see how young he looked back then.

The main villain is master sorcerer Dr. Scarabus (Boris Karloff). It was he who transformed Dr. Bedlo in an unfair duel and took his magic equipment. Now Dr. Bedlo wants revenge. Dr. Craven joins him after realizing how powerful Dr. Scarabus has become and that Lenore’s spirit is also involved.

First when Dr. Bedlo takes him on, Dr. Scarabus stops him easily. He actually melts Dr. Bedlo’s wand by blowing on it. That’s a funny highlight when Dr. Beldo reacts to it by saying, “You dirty old man.”

The real display of power is shown when Dr. Craven and Dr. Scarabus battle in a magic duel to the death. The effects may appear cartoonish compared to today’s standards, but are still just as exciting.

This is a real horror classic and it’s so poetic how Vincent Price narrates as he recites part of the original poem. He’s such an amazing actor. In fact it was this movie, The Raven, that first got me interested in other Vincent Price horror films of that era. I’ll be blogging about some of those in the future.

May 142013

I have come up with something special for my 600th post. Batman has faced many colorful villains in Gotham City over the years, but one of his first archenemies, who is also one of the most dangerous is the Joker, also known as the clown prince of crime. As Batman has an evolution, so has the Joker. I’ll admit that the Joker has gone through quite a few changes in the comics over the years, but what I remember best are his appearances on various Batman movies and TV shows.

1966: In the original Batman TV series, Cesar Romero played the role. The Joker uses practical joke devices to pull off his crimes, some of which are highly sophisticated contraptions. Other times he leaves riddles as clues, but not like the Riddler does. Joker uses a more joke-like method.

1968: As much as I enjoy the first Batman animated series, The Adventures of Batman, the storylines and characters are pretty mediocre. The Joker is no exception here.

1972: When Batman and Robin made appearances on The New Scooby-Doo Movies, they always go up against the Joker, accompanied by the Penguin. They like to use spooky tactics on the heroes, but are extremely mild in comparison.

1977: The Joker returns to his old tricks in The New Adventures of Batman. The biggest differences are that he likes to leave joke riddles more frequently and has a pet hyena named Giggles. He can also do voice impressions that are highly convincing. Now that’s a rarity.

1989: Next came Tim Burton’s movie version of Batman, which features Jack Nicholson as the Joker. At this point, Joker’s background is finally revealed. He was once a gangster named Jack Napier, who worked for Underworld mob boss Carl Grissom. During a battle with Batman, Napier fell into a vat of acid, which bleached his skin and paralyzed his face. After some cosmetic surgery, Napier kills Grissom and becomes the clown prince of crime. Come to think of it, this is also the first time Joker actually kills anyone.

1992: Mark Hamill voices the Joker on Batman the Animated Series. He is now funnier than ever before and as an added bonus, it’s the first series to feature Joker’s girlfriend, Harley Quinn, who is just as big of a favorite.

2000: When Batman Beyond came along, the colorful archenemies were all new ones, but stay true to some of the original classics, particularly the Joker. One of Gotham City’s biggest street gangs is called the Jokerz, who all dress like Joker minions. However, in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, the clown prince of crime himself returns with more of an edge than he ever had before and Mark Hamill reprises the role. How exciting is that?

2002: The Joker (Roger Stoneburner and voice of Mark Hamill) was only featured briefly during the pilot episode of Birds of Prey, but he did leave quite an impact. After losing a major battle against Batman, he took revenge by killing Catwoman and shooting Batgirl, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. And it was all because Batman refused to kill his biggest enemy.

2004: The Joker is back in yet another Batman series called The Batman. This is a more wild and crazy take on the classic super villain. His fighting skills are smooth and his comedic persona leans on the psychotic level more than ever before. When he pulls a crime, he goes all the way.

2008: Then there was the highly popular version of the Joker in The Dark Knight, played by Heath Ledger who brings the character to a whole new level. This Joker is highly psychotic. His background isn’t revealed, only that he wears the white makeup to scare people along with a smile that’s cut on his face. It looks all swollen and creepy with several stories behind it. Whichever story is actually true is anyone’s guess.

2009: It seems like the Joker has gone back to his old roots as a reoccurring villain on Batman the Brave and the Bold when he wasn’t so brutally psychotic. However, Joker still remains to be an unpredictable criminal, considering how many theories there were about his back-story.

2010: Then came the Joker on Batman: Under the Red Hood. He’s comedic, but merciless. Even in the face of danger, Joker can’t help but make funny remarks and not show any fear.

2012: Last, but not least, the most recent version of the Joker was on Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. He is a lot different from other Batman films because he’s more brutal than ever with the way he kills innocent people so smoothly. Joker still uses comedic remarks, but they’re not as creatively funny as they used to be.

Although the Joker is basically on the same level as Batman’s other archenemies like Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze, etc., he will always be Batman’s first biggest foe to bring comic relief to the franchise in his own twisted way.

Jul 162012

Following the success of Independence Day, there came a sci-fi film about Martians invading Earth with an all-star cast called Mars Attacks!.

It starts with hundreds of spaceships arriving on Earth, covering every square inch of the planet. After careful consideration, the President of the United States James Dale (Jack Nicholson) informs everyone by televising an announcement that these aliens could be peaceful.

Before the aliens actually land though, the movie jumps around in several directions. None of these scenes have very much to do with preparing for the aliens’ arrival. It’s just random people doing random things and played by some big stars. They include Martin Short, Danny DeVito, Michael J. Fox, Annette Bening, Jack Black, and others.

Pam Grier, who I met at Cult Fiction Drive-in 2011, is also in this movie.

That begins to change when TV show hostess Nathalie Lake (Sarah Jessica Parker) interviews Professor Donald Kessler (Pierce Brosnan) about his thoughts of the aliens as an expert in astronautics. It would go so much smoother if Nathalie would just cut down on the flirting.

It’s soon revealed that the aliens are cheesy-looking Martians that speak a bizarre language. Once they land and the leaders greet the U.S. Army and everyone who arrives on the scene, the Martians say that they come in peace. Then all of a sudden, they attack and kill people with their laser blasters as if they were having fun doing it. Nobody could have seen that coming, as rude as it was of those Martians.

With Professor Kessler’s help, the President tries to make things right with the Martians. The killing spree earlier was believed to be a cultural misunderstanding because there was a dove released to celebrate the peace and the dove was the first to be shot.

The Congress meets up with the Martians again, but this time with no applause and no birds. The Martian Ambassador is apologetic, then suddenly out of the blue, the martians kill everyone as before. Seriously, what is with these aliens? Can’t any Earthlings even talk to them without getting shot and turned into a colorful skeleton?

By this point, everyone is convinced that these Martians have no humility and like to kill for fun. The Martians even tried to infiltrate the White House and shoot up a Tom Jones concert in Vegas while destroying the Earth. How low can these monsters get?

Now the entire human race tries to escape the Martians with their lives, but an unlikely hero finds their weakness, which is a very unusual one, I might add.

I admit that this wasn’t much of a favorite. The story wasn’t too bad, but the way these Martians manipulate people is awful.