Film: Cat’s Eye (1985)
Directed by: Lewis Teague Written by: Stephen King Starring: Drew Barrymore as Our Girl James Woods as Morrison (from segment 1: “Quitter’s Inc.”) Robert Hays as Norris (from segment 2: “The Ledge”)
When I was a kid, I would lie down to sleep and hear that pulsing in my ear..
Instead of thinking to myself, this is normal go to bed, I would have these strange feelings that a small troll was waiting beneath my head to suck out my breath.
This is what Cat’s Eye did to me as a child.
To be honest, I didn’t really remember much else about the film, before reaching it for this edition of Natsukashi. But after I popped the DVD in the memories came roaring back.
James Woods stealing a smoke on the expressway. That stupid little pigeon pecking away on the ankle of a man walking a ledge. Image after image I began to remember why I was so drawn to this movie as a kid.
Some may call the film a bit cheesy, especially when watching the torture-filled, shaky cam, ultra slick horror movies of the present.
Cat’s Eye’s editor Scott Conrad marks a first for us here at Natsukashi, for he is our frist Oscar winner to speak with us, earning that golden guy for his work on the seminal Sylvester Stallone flick, Rocky. He’s amassed more than 50 films to his resume so far, including working twice with Cheech & Chong, directors such as Curtis Hanson (The Bedroom Window), horror-meister Tom Holland (The Stranger Within), and just wrapped working with Tim Allen on his directorial debut Crazy on the Outside, with Sigourney Weaver, Ray Liotta, and J.K. Simmons.
Scott has some great encounters with writer Stephen King and producer Dino De Laurentiis that he shares with us, as well as many fond memories of working with the cast on the set of the film, and we thank him for letting us look into Cat’s Eye with him.
Directed by: Mel Damski
Written by: Noel Black
Starring: Doug McKeon as Jonathan Kelly Prestonas Mailyn Catherine Mary Stewart as Bunny
By Rob R.
Pre-screening memories: Every kid has a list of films they can recall that were placed near the top of their parents blacklist.
Mischief was one that was vaulted to the top upon its release.
Perhaps it was the timing. The early 1980s had saturated the screen with temptations of “t and a” and the promise of illicit thrills for the hormone-drenched males.
Or, perhaps it was this trailer…
“There’s no time like the first time,” was the end tag. Seven words the sealed the deal for my parent’s watchful eyes.
The film could have walked off with more Oscars than Titanic, but there was no way in hell their son was going to see it. They would happily accompany me to another screening of Rambo, where flesh was on display the way it was meant to be seen: sweaty, bloody and being shredded apart by shrapnel.
Throughout the years, I was able to catch pieces of the film, but never in its entirety, only through late-night,interrupted airings and watered-down made-for-TV edits.
When I was old enough to see it, it had faded from memory and was no longer help the illicit thrill that it had been for the underage version of myself.
Post-screening memories:I cannot express how wildly off the mark not only my parents were, but the entire marketing department at 20th Century Fox. For it was not the Porky’s-esque romp in raunch that it was purported to be, but possessed a tenderness uncommon for films of the era. Even today, its Wikipedia entry unfairly classifies this as a “teen comedy,” noted for a “full frontal” by one of its female stars.
Sure, as a youngster, this may have been the only mental notes I would have taken during a screening, but its grossly underselling a film that could soundly stand toe-to-toe with similar comedies at the box office today.
This crass bio unjustly lumped a film that overflows with heart, humanity, and male bonding seldom seen since.
A note about the Natsukashi‘Mischief’ podcast:We had such a great time chatting with the fim’s leads, we had to break it into two podcasts. BothDoug and Cathy were more than gracious with their time, so we had to break it up and make it a two-parter. We think their tales will make it well worth the listen.
Our featured guests: Doug McKeon and Catherine Mary Stewart
Doug McKeon: Breaking into show business at an early age, McKeon had worked with the a number of industry legends before he was even old enough to graduate high school.
After starring in the soap The Edge of Night, Doug graduated to television films, in which he co-starred with Burt Young, Susan Dey and John Ritter. And for his first two cinematic projects (Night Crossing and On Golden Pond), he shared the screen with John Hurt, Jane Alexander, Jane Fonda, Kathryn Hepburn and Henry Fonda.
Mischiefwas his next big-screen role, but McKeoncontinued to share his demonstrate his talents on the small screen as well, starring as Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and co-starring with Jason Robards and Eva Marie Saint in Breaking Home Ties.
Doug has since ventured behind the camera, writing and directing the well-received The Boys of Sunset Ridge and directing the family drama Come Away Home.
Catherine Mary Stewart: If there was a cult-classic poster girl for the 80s, if Stewart did not have the crown, she was certainly in the running, starring in such beloved films as The Apple, The Last Starfighter, Night of the Comet, Dudes and Weekend at Bernies.
On television, she starred alongside Anthony Hopkins, Roddy McDowall, Candice Bergen, Angie Dickinson and Rod Steiger in the popular Jackie Collins mini-series Hollywood Wives.
Stewart continued to star in film and television in the years following, starring alongside some of the greats, but her primary focus was on raising her children. She has recently starred in the controversial The Girl Next Door and 2009’s Love N Dancing with Amy Smart and Billy Zane.
Thanks to both Doug and Catherine for lending us their time to chat about their film.
Film: The Dark Crystal (1982)
Directed by: Frank Oz and Jim Henson Written by: Jim Henson (story) and David Odell (screenplay)
Puppeteers: Jim Henson as Jen Kathryn Mullen as Kira Frank Oz as Aughra and Chamberlain Dave Goelz as Fizzgig
Former memories: One of the benefits of being involved with Natsukashi is the rediscovery of a film that lingered in memory as a child very distinctly, but becomes something else entirely when seen through the eyes of an adult. The Dark Crystalwas such an experience, a movie that was best recalled as a source of fear when I was a child (those creepy Skeksis still give me the wiggins).
As a young boy, I was terrified of the beaked Skeksis, the Garthim, creatures existing somewhere on the evolutionary ladder between a beetle and a crab, and the horrible fates of the Podlings as their life essence is drained for the use of the warped Skeksis civilization. These are the perceptions of a child, one who has grown accustomed to fears, now, but was rattled by these images when first exposed to them.
New memories: As a grown-up, what I found upon a return to the world of The Dark Crystal was something I not only didn’t remember clearly, but was amazed by: the beauty of this film. In a world dominated by CG imagery, The Dark Crystal is a deep and satisfyingly real movie experience, and I was reminded of how a movie could create such an authentic experience while wrapping itself in imagery that is decidedly authentic while remaining imaginative and unique.
Within the film, there are hints of Eastern philosophy, mythology that is worthy of dissection by the Joseph Campbell crowd and a hero that is as naive as he is brave. Speaking with one of the creators of this film has been one of several highlights of recent years, and getting a glimpse of David Barclay’s work not only gave me an appreciation for the film’s tricks, it made it all the more magical for the twinkle in the artist’s eye that can still be heard clearly.
Dave has had the kind of career that most sci-fi/fantasy geeks dream would sever an appendage for. Learning a craft of on-screen puppetry under the caring eye of Jim Henson, starting your career by bringing Yoda to life. Working with Roger Rabbit, Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors, Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, as well as the much-anticipated Spike Jonze adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are, Dave’s work reads like a laundry list of movie lovers’ desert island features.
Dave is living the dream, quite literally, as it was his desire as a young child to pull the strings as a puppeteer. The Dark Crystal was one of his earliest gigs (after assisting in a couple of small films called The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) and, as the first Brit to do so, he perfected his craft in the house that Muppets built, the Jim Henson Company.
Today, he continues to stretch the limits of his craft, working with both the digital technology as well as the time-honored art he grew up with.
We were quite honored to have Dave join us and we know that a lot of Natsukashi listeners will enjoy his recollections of time spent on such influential films.
Film: Rockula (1990)
Directed by: Luca Bercovici Written by: Luca Bercovici and Jefery Levy
Starring: Dean Cameron as Ralph LaVie Toni Basil as Phoebe LaVie Thomas Dolby as Stanley Tawny Fere as Mona Susan Tyrrell as Chuck Bo Diddly as Axman
Pre-screeening memories: Rockula doesn’t exactly fit in neatly with the other movies I’ve covered for Natsukashi – they all represented formative experiences in my developing love for film, while I first saw Rockula when I was already out of my teens.
I don’t think Rockula is any less important than those films, because while those other films shaped my tastes in one way or another, Rockula is the first film I’d ever seen that seemed to have been made specifically for me.
Why does it seem that way? Simple – everyone has a unique sense of humor that values different things (wordplay, slapstick, irony) at different levels, and are generally too complex to explain in a sentence or two. If you want to gauge a person’s sense of humor, there is a simple method available – ask them what the single funniest situation possible is. While it’s not going to give you a complete understanding of that person or their humor, it’s a great first step.
If ever asked that question, I have an answer ready: The funniest thing possible is having a civil conversation with a monster. So it’s no surprise that Rockula would come in high on a list of my favorite films of all time, since it’s the story of a forlorn vampire trying to find love in the world of the Los Angeles club-rock scene.
The strange part about the movie is that, living in Canada, where the film was apparently never released, I’d never heard of it when it just sort of turned up one day. My writing partner and I had just started working together, and we had a habit of renting a few odd movies and brainstorming as we watched them. One time he came over announcing that he’d found my “favorite film that I’d never seen.” Since that’s essentially a challenge, we watched the film immediately, and I discovered that he was completely right. It wasn’t just that the movie was delightfully absurd, or the fact that I’m always impressed by original screen musicals, what captivated me most about the film was how confident it was. Almost as if the film had no idea how crazy it was. The premise is so odd that it’s nearly impossible to imagine it being presented without constant winks and nods at the audience, but there aren’t any to be found.
It’s an utterly absurd premise delivered with a completely straight face, and that’s basically my favorite type of comedic film. The fact that I had never heard of the movie before that day was proof enough that it hadn’t been a big success, but no matter how few people saw it, there was an audience for it.
This led me to believe that no matter how crazed or insane a movie might be, as long as it was made well, there would always be a group of people who would appreciate it, seek it out, and support it. With this in mind, my writing partner and I pledged to work on personal projects, eschewing tradition and trying to offer our own unique comedic vision to the world. And while that’s been a professionally disastrous decision, it’s also incredibly creatively fulfilling, and I can credit it largely to how impressed I was with Rockula.
Tragically, I was only able to see the movie that one time. The video store it was rented from went out of business soon after, and I was unable to find another copy anywhere, nor was it available on DVD. Never before had I regretted not illegally copying a videotape. It lived on in my memories, though, and in the constant references that my writing partner and I make to ‘Rapula’.
New memories with recent screening – I’d go so far as to state that every bad thing the internet has given the world has been equally weighed, if not outbalanced, by the boon that is Youtube. Essentially operating as an internet nostalgia repository, I can’t count the number of childhood memories it’s managed to refresh (although, to this day, it fails to offer the theme song from Captain Redbeard)
No, it wouldn’t be until the advent of Youtube years later that I would be able to see it again. And the film would prove to be everything I remembered it to be and more. Sure, it was full of my kind of comedy, but beyond that, I was surprised by just how well-made a movie it was. If that sounds like I’m damning it with faint praise, I don’t intend to, it’s just that so many of these ‘nostalgia’ movies turn out to have such glaring flaws that I wind up questioning my taste.
Rockula, on the other hand, succeeds at everything it sets out to do. Not only is it a wonderfully fun vampire romantic comedy, but in the part I’d completely forgotten, the songs are just great. They all fit the period and tone of the film perfectly, and are hummable in their own right. I can’t remember the last time I wanted a soundtrack this badly, but one was never released. Luckily there’s the internet, where the songs can be found in their film versions, but it’s a poor substitute for a studio soundtrack.
Just as watching the film on Youtube is a poor substitute for being able to buy this movie on DVD. Look on any shelf in the DVD section of a electronics store (that’s where people buy DVDs now, right?) and you’ll see a few dozen movies that aren’t as entertaining or as high quality as Rockula. There’s no excuse for this movie not being out there, and I’m officially making it my quest to get this movie released on DVD. I’m not really sure what form that quest is going to take, but I’m very passionate about it. Which makes this the second time I’ve been inspired by Rockula. Can there be a better grounds for recommending a film?
Also, Rapula name-checks William Saffire. If you were ever looking for the definition of ‘reaching for a rhyme’, that’s it.
or rock out right here with our little on-site player:
Our featured guest: Luca Bercovici
Luca is the mad genius who put the rock in Rockula as its writer and director. The multi-talented artist got his first cinematic break with Demi Moore in the 3-D horror flick Parasite. As a writer, Luca began in 1984, crafting the first of the Ghouliesfilms. The film was the highest-grossing independent film of 1985 and, like the Ghoulies themselves, went on to multiply three sequels.
After Rockula fell victim to the changing hands of studios in 1988 and unjustly fell off the radar, Luca went on to direct the thriller Dark Tide, and then revisited the horror genre with The Granny with Stella Stevens. Luca continued to alternate in front of and behind the camera, starring in mainstream fare such as American Flyers, Clean and Sober, K2 and Drop Zone, while helming The Chain, Convict 762 and Luck of the Draw.
Luca now splits his time between the states and Budapest, Hungary, where he serves as Head of Production for Raleigh Film Budapest.
He has some exciting news of future projects (hint: Mickey Rourke reprising a beloved role) which he divulges to the Natsukashi listeners and we thank Luca for recounting his time spent creating the cult film that is begging for a DVD release, Rockula.
For those interested, you can view Rockula chopped up into nine parts on Youtube. The first segment is below. If you have an interest in getting this film a proper DVD release, drop us a line and we will make sure it gets in the proper hands.