…and we’re back (and some updates!)

For all three who noticed we were gone for a little bit, thank you.

To ensure a more regular posting schedule, I would like to pose a question. As some may know, I also run a site Use Soap, that I use as a repository for my weekly review column at a local newspaper. I would like to propose that I run my reviews from that site on here, along with the regular features in Natsukashi. I still will post the podcast, as well as “Messing with Memories” and other various and sundry nostalgic movie morsels.

Please drop me a line and let me know what you think, I welcome any and all suggestions.

Also, you will notice a certain little logo at the top right of this blog. That piece of artwork is from none other than Flixster.com, one of the largest (and coolest) movie sites on the internet.

Our little blog has been invited to become part of the Flixster fam! Go us!

We are certainly excited about this move and hope that our incredibly inflated egos do not become even more drunk with power and end up snorting blow off the sweaty ass cracks of Malaysian ladyboys…again.

Sorry, where was I?

So we look forward to getting back into things, keeping everyone updated on upcoming remakes, hobnobbing with those in the industry who helped create the movie memories of our youth, and looking at films currently in release.

Thanks for sticking with us and, as always, your suggestions help keep us going, so please let us know what you think.

‘Never Cry Wolf’ with writer Richard Kletter

Never Cry Wolf (1983)
Rated: PG
Directed by:
Carroll Ballard
Written by:
Farley Mowat (novel)
Richard Kletter (screenplay)
Curtis Hanson
Sam Hamm
Chales Martin Smith as Tyler
Brian Dennehy as Rosie
Zachary Ittimangnaq as Ootek
Samson Jorah as Mike

By Bo from Last Blog on the Left (with special guest star Shelley Stillo)

Pre-screening memoriesNever Cry Wolf was an important film for me when I was a child.  An animal lover at an early age, I found myself seeking out those books and movies that focused specifically on dogs and their ilk.  Sounder was my favorite book, and when Never Cry Wolf arrived on home video, I was quick to find it.  What I wasn’t prepared for was the beauty of the film, the quiet and somber tone that was such a revelation to a young viewer. 

At that time, there was nothing political or environmental in my thinking, having been raised on a steady diet of cartoons and Sesame Street.  When I followed Tyler into the Alaskan Arctic, his revelations were my own.  The natural world, until then a patch of woods behind my home, became a reality, a world that I could only visit, at the time, through film, but one that I learned to value.  Additionally, the film inspired a love of the wolf that has remained to this day, admiring their familial and societal nature, the lonely howls, the eerily perceptive and intelligent eyes.   

New memories: To this day, I am a dog lover first and foremost.  Some of that, I think, is based on my first encounter with Caroll Ballard’s Never Cry Wolf and my fixation on the domestic canine’s wilder cousin.  There is a playfulness coupled with instinct that I still find fascinating in the wolf.  Looking back on the film, now, I have discovered the same amazement, the same awe that I first felt upon my initial viewing of the movie.  It is a stunningly gorgeous film, one that begs for a Blu-ray transfer, and a somber story of man’s progress and the effects of that progress on the world around him.   

There is a sadness in this film, too, made more melancholy by the exacerbated problems we see in the remaining wilderness.  I am forever torn between the Carlin-esque hopelessness for our species and the nagging belief that maybe, under the right circumstances, we could live in concert with nature.  This film poses no answers to this dilemma, but Never Cry Wolf beautifully illustrates the problems without lapsing into moralizing, and gives us a glimpse into a world of wonder that shrinks each day.

Download Natsukashi’s ‘Never Cry Wolf’ podcast here

…or listen in the right in the comfort of this very site

Our featured guest: Screenwriter Richard Kletter

Richard Kletter began his film career as a producer on independent films including Cannes Festival winner, Northern Lights. Since then, he has written, directed and/or produced more than 20 films and TV movies. His films have received Golden Globe nominations and won awards at various festivals.

Kletter teaches screenwriting at USC School of Cinematic Arts. His feature credits include Dangerous Indiscretion (with C. Thomas Howell and Malcolm McDowell), and The Black Stallion Returns. Some of his television credits include the series The Magnificent Seven, the Lifetime movie She’s Too Young (with Marcia Gay Harden) the acclaimed films Odd Girl Out and Queen Sized.

He’s currently working on a script about a young girl of privilege kidnapped by a biker gang. Hell, yeah! We are soooooo there, Richard! Thank you for joining us.

‘Flowers in the Attic’ with director Jeffrey Bloom

Flowers in the Attic (1987)
Rated: PG-13
Written by:
V. C. Andrews (novel)
Jeffrey Bloom (screenplay)
Directed by:
Jeffrey Bloom
Louise Fletcher as Grandmother
Victoria Tennant as Corrine
Kristy Swanson as Cathy
Jeb Stuart Adams as Chris
Lindsay Parker as Carrie
Marshall Colt as Father

By Shelley Stillo

Pre-screening memories: As with most American households in the 1980s, Shelley’s family bookshelf had room for a few titles from V. C. Andrews. The author was on her way to becoming a vertible literary industry, not unlike a certain ‘Twilight’ author today.

But Andrews tawdry Gothic tales were much more enticing to young readers, like Shelley, who would pull the copy down, crack the spine and read aloud some of the book’s more lacivious passages with her young friends.

Their mix of Southern Gothic, romance, fairy tale and horror were like a literary burrito for young Shelly.

New memories: After watching the film for the first time in 20 years, did it result in a flood of raunchy memories of late-night readings with friends? And, perhaps more importantly, just why the hell was such a novel that featured rape, incest, child cruelty, incest, death and a little more incest so popular in the first place?

You can download Natsukashi’s ‘Flowers in the Attic’ podcast here

or you can simply head to our basement below to listen on the site

Our featured guest: Director Jeffrey Bloom

Jeffrey Bloom does not count Flowers in the Attic as a high watermark in his directing career. Bloom’s cinematic career began in the early 1970s, writing made-for-TV films such as Snow Job (aka The Great Ski Caper) and 11 Harrowhouse (aka Anything for Love).

His first time behind the lens was the 1975 comedy Dogpound Shuffle, followed by Blood Beach and a host of made-for-TV films.

Flowers in the Attic was the last feature film Bloom directed, and once you hear all the behind-the-scenes events that took place, you may understand why.

Jeffrey pointed us to a student-made video of the film Flowers in the Attic, which will gladly repost here:

Jeffrey is now a professional photographer in Studio City, California.

‘The Legend of Billie Jean’ with cinematographer Richard Walden

Legend_of_Billie_JeanFilm: The Legend of Billie Jean (1985)
Rated: PG-13
Directed by:
Matthew Robbins
Written by:    
Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence Konner
Helen Slater as Billie Jean
Christian Slater as Binx
Keith Gordon as Lloyd
Richard Bradford as Pyatt

 By Shelley Stillo

Pre-screening memories: I stayed home from school a lot when I was young. I don’t know if my parents were lazy (throw a big enough fit….), ’80s permissive, or if they were just sympathetic. I suspect it was sympathetic.

You see, from a pretty early age, I was the teased kid. I started watching horror and sci fi in grade school. By third or fourth grade I was identifying as a Dr. Who fan, conventions and all. By fourth grade, I had a best friend geeky enough to play “Lost Boys” with me on weekends (we would write our own elaborate, soap opera-esque plots for the “Lost Boys” characters and act them out. She was Michael’s (Jason Patric) girlfriend, I was David’s (Keifer Sutherland), though I think we both secretly lusted over the more age-appropriate Coreys).

I wouldn’t trade geekdom for the world. But it made for a rough childhood. 90% of the time, when I whined to stay home from school, it was because I was afraid of bullies, and my parents knew it. They had a heart; I had a lot of sick days.

That’s why you’ll hear me say, “I think I was home sick in bed…” so often on this podcast when I’m asked how I first encountered a movie. “Home from school” was where I was when I first encountered The Legend of Billie Jean. Before watching it again, I had very vague memories of this film. I remembered an image, and the themes, and that is it. The image I remembered was of the colossal Billie Jean statue burning near the end of the film.

slaterAs for the themes, I remembered that the movie was about outlaw teenagers in some kind of epic struggle. Despite the famous use of Pat Benetar’s “Invincible,” throughout the film, it took me years to figure out where these flashes of memory had come from (of course, once I did, I couldn’t hear the song without aching to see the film again). Now that I have seen the film again, I am not surprised that my bullied young self had such an affinity for it. Billie Jean might have been the town heart throb, but her family and her friends were outcasts, and I wasn’t at all shocked to find that the whole film is triggered in by an act of bullying.

New Memories: The plot has an element of absurdity to it that gave it an “only in the 80s quality” for me that I loved. But that absurdity is pleasantly mixed with a sense of earnestness—even when what is happening on screen is pushing silly, everything feels real and feels palpable.

yeardlyThe experiences Billie Jean and her friends, especially her little brother Binx (Christian Slater) and her overzealous young neighbor Putter (a pre-Lisa Simpson Yeardley Smith) are often dead serious even when the scenarios are not: Billie has to fight off an attempted rape, Binx is fascinated yet frightened by the possibilities of violence, and the needy Putter is the victim of abuse.

However, these instances are not the “issues” that drive the films, they’re simply the realities these characters contend with day in and day out. And as such, they ground the action without stifling it with “meaning.” There are also elements of Neverland (of the Peter Pan, not the Michael Jackson, variety) in the film that I’m sure appealed to me as a child, and appeal even helen short hairmore to me now, such as the character’s temporary home in an abandoned mini-golf course, or the introduction of the character Lloyd (Keith Gordon), whose home resembles a Universal horror film prop closet. These settings lend an air of Goonies-esque fantasy to this much grittier Texas based film.

But seeing it again has convinced me that it is the “golden rule” theme of how you treat others that appealed to me most when I caught this film during one of my numerous experiences with playing hookie. Now that I have seen the film, I can understand why I identified with its ethic of “fair is fair” treatment, and why such a mantra would have been so resonant that I have felt this film for so many years, more than I have remembered it.

Download Natsukashi’s: ‘The Legend of Billie Jean’ podcast .

or, you listen right here, because fair is fair:

Our featured guest: Richard Walden

truck shotWe here at Natsukashi love us our Richard Walden. How can you not?  The man is warm, gracious and always happy to help us walk through the films from his resume. Richard returns to join us after his Continent Divide podcast earlier this summer, and here dishes on working with the young cast of then-up-and-coming actors, the parallels between Billie Jean and another strong female protagonist who controversially cut her hair, Felicity (on which Richard also worked).

His most recetly worked on Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, from Harry Potterdirector Chris Columbus and starring Uma Thurman, Pierce Brosnan and Rosario Dawson. He’s also recently worked on Ramona and Beezus, a film adaptation from the popular Beverly Cleary “Ramona” book series.

‘Shocker’ with its star Camille Cooper


Title: Shocker (1989)
Rated: R
Written and directed by: Wes Craven
Starring: Peter Berg as Jonathan Parker
                   Mitch Pileggi as Horace Pinker
                   Camille Cooper as Alison

By Shelley Stillo

chairPre-screening memories: If this site has taught me anything, it is that I witnessed far too many age-inappropriate movies as a child. I bore witness to more acts of violence, mayhem and destruction before I was even able to remove the training wheels from my bike.

I will leave the analysis of its effects for a therapist to deal with, but all that viewing has instilled in me a life-long admiration of the horror genre. And of all the beasts and boogeymen that made it into my living room television set, Wes Craven was the one I connected with most frequently.

glowy camiThere was something more under the surface of Craven’s brand of horror, commenting on our culture, or state of society. And even though my brain was barely beyond what was on the Saturday morning cartoon showcase, it still seemed to pick up the impulses of Craven’s transmitted messages.

Shocker was a film I discovered on the shelves of my local video store, after A Nightmare on Elm Streethad made its permanent mark on my mind. I would search for anything with his name affixed to it, and I eagerly grabbed it and brought it home.

It is a film that today divides its audiences, between those who ridicule its over-the-top scenario, its dime-store special effects, and its lapses in logic, and those who enjoyed it as a wild ride laced with a commentary on a television-obsessed society. I fell into the latter category, realizing that, despite its limitations, Craven still had more on its mind than just the standard slash-and-scream horror.

armchairNew memories: Time may not have been kind to its already-limited special effects budget, and there are certainly more than one moments that illicit an eye roll, but I still find myself connecting with the film’s message and its gritty charms.

Sure, Horace Pinker will never be synonymous with Freddie Kreuger, but he did, and still does, make an indelible mark on this young horror fan.

Download Natsukashi’s ‘Shocker’ podcast with star Camille Cooper here

Or, plug in to our player on this very site below:


Our featured guest: Camille Cooper

camiCamille Cooper has worked professionally in film and television for a number of years, starring in five films, including Meet the Applegates and Like Father, Like Son, and television series including General Hospital and Knots Landing. She has been featured in numerous commercials and print ads (for Coke, Milky Way and Campbell’s Soup, among others). She has been interviewed and photographed for such publications as Premiere Interview, Egg, and The New York Times, and has appeared on the cover of Working Mother. Recently she was a guest on a little program called The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Cooper quit the biz more than a decade ago and dedicated herself to speaking out about the effect of media on young women and body image

Since her show business retirement, Cooper has co-chaired the Committee for the Empowerment of Young Women since 1994, and has lectured across the country, educating and encouraging young women to question what they see, to define themselves by their abilities and their dreams, and to take action to promote positive change.

She was gracious enough to share her memories of working with Wes Craven and the Shocker set, and we thank for for her humor and recollections of the film.

‘Mischief’ with stars Doug McKeon, Catherine Mary Stewart


Film: Mischief
Rated: R
Directed by: Mel Damski
Written by: Noel Black
Starring: Doug McKeon as Jonathan
                   Kelly Prestonas Mailyn
                   Catherine Mary Stewart as Bunny

By Rob R.

mischief1Pre-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.

Kelly_Doug_MischiefPost-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.

Download the Natsukashi ‘Mischief podcast with Doug McKeon’ right here,

or listen in our player below


Download the Natsukashi’Mischief with Catherine Mary Stewart’ podcast here

or listen to part two in our player below

Our featured guests: Doug McKeon and Catherine Mary Stewart

doug and chrisDoug 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.


cathyCatherine 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.

‘Christine’ with Alexandra Paul


Film: Christine (1983)
Rated: R
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: Stephen King (story)
Starring:  Keith Gordon as Arnie Cunningham
                    John Stockwell as Dennis Guilder
                    Alexandra Paul as Leigh Cabot

By Shelley Stillo

Pre-screening memories: The first novel I remember reading for fun was by Stephen King.cujo  It was Cujo and I picked it up from around the house after my mother had finished reading it. I was intrigued by the cover: a snarling snout with teeth bared emerging from a dull beige background.  I was nine, I was terrified, and I loved every minute of it.  In these post-PMRC days, when parental warnings air even before shows on the Family Channel, some Natsukashi-readers might be horrified by the idea of an elementary school student reading Stephen King novels cover to cover, one after the other (or, given that you’re a fan of this site, maybe you aren’t!).

There was strong violence, horrific imagery, indecent language, and a surprising amount of sex (I’m still a little bit traumatized by the pre-pubescent gang bang in It).  But this was the 80s, and King was, well, king. It seemed that every novel he published was more acclaimed and more successful than the last.  And far from corrupting my youth or warping my psychology, being a pre-teen King fan gave me entrée in the adult world.  It was something I could talk about with my family and my parents’ friends.

My mother was a King fan (this was how I gained access to all of those novels—they were just there), my uncle was a King fan. For the first time, I had something in common with adults. We could talk about King novels on something like equal ground. I felt like I had knowledge and authority about a subject for the first time. It is likely significant that this equality was achieved through literature; I am sure it is no accident that I am an English professor today, even though some of my peers might balk at applying the “L” word to King.

christine2Some of my earliest cinematic memories are thanks to King as well.  Despite the appellation of the label “misogynist” to the horror genre, King often wrote about strong female characters a young woman, especially one who didn’t quite “fit in” could identify with. There was the intensely sad, yet satisfying, prom scene in Carrie, there was little Drew Barrymore, just about my own age at the time, in Firestarter.  Amidst this mini-King storm of my childhood was Christine, a novel and a film in which the strong female character is imagined with a hemi-sized twist:  “she” is a car, and one hell of a car.  I really don’t remember the particulars of my first viewing of Christine.  It was just a part of my “King phase,” and the details have blurred together with all the other King films I saw around the same time. I wouldn’t be surprised if, at that age, I preferred Maximum Overdrive to Christine:  the evil car in that film was almost cartoon-like, which I am sure would appeal to children more than the Detroit muscle car beauty of Christine. Besides, I was going through a bit of an Emilio Estevez phase back then as well, so I am sure his presence in Maximum Overdrive appealed to me on a completely different level.

inside carNew memories: In some ways, Christine is the male version of Carrie.  The nerdy, effeminate, and consistently bullied Arnie (Stuart Gordon) undergoes a transformation as a result of his relationship with Christine that allows him to become the coolest guy in school, to get the girl, and to avenge his enemies, but all of this comes at a tremendous cost.  Christine is a possessive lover, and she makes it difficult for Arnie to take full advantage of his new-found popularity by killing anyone who garners even the slightest of Arnie‘s time and affection. 

I’ve been reading a lot of Poe and Hawthorne lately, so the first thing that struck me as I re-viewed this film for the first time in 20 years was how frequently male anxiety is displaced onto the female body in the Gothic genre.  In Poe and Hawthorne, men grapple with scientific advances, with male competition in the workplace, and with their own psychology in the presence of dead and dying women.  In Christine, Arnie and  best friend, popular jock Dennis (John Stockwell) grapple with their emerging sexualities, their position in the intense social hierarchy of high school, and male competition through their highly charged relationship to a feminized automobile.  In a way, the character of Christine turns this male-centered Gothic trope on its head.  In one sense, it is very traditional—the female, sexualized body, Christine, serves as a sort of lynch pin for male anxiety. 

From another perspective though, Christine is a highly ironic feminized symbol, being that cars, especially sexy cars like the stingray, have long been associated with male sexual and social identities.  King is able to parody the Gothic’s use of femininity and America’s “masculine” obsession with the automobile in one character.  This parody troubles the typical 80s high school stereotypes in the film.  As a friend of mine pointed out to me (Christianne from http://krelllabs.blogspot.com/), Arnie and Dennis look like traditional types initially, the cool guy and the loser, with the cool guy as white in shining armor.

But not only are their roles quickly reversed by Christine’s influence on Arnie, King immediately emasculates Dennis’s jock hero when his character suffers a debilitating injury during a football game early in the film, a scenario that could be read as a symbolic castration.  As with many of the 80s films we have discussed on this site, Christine provides an ironic commentary on the genres—horror, teen flicks, high school dramas—from which it is fashioned. 

carIn addition to the complex gender issues in the film, the other thing I will take away from my recent viewing of Christine is how beautifully made it is.  Christine is a exquisite car, she is the kind of car any exploitation film fan dreams about at night (eat your heart out, Quentin Tarantino), and she is photographed beautifully throughout the film.  The camera angles early in the film render familiar scenes, of high school hallways and family living rooms, uncomfortable and hint at the horror to come, suggesting to viewers that terror is always lurking at the edges of the familiar.  One scene in particular, of Christine, engulfed in flames, running down one of Arnie‘s tormentors, is one of the most beautiful sequences of film I’ve seen in a long time. And I couldn’t help but wonder, as I watched this moment, if it was the inspiration for Radiohead’s ethereal “Karma Police” video? 

honda civic(Ed. note: I was extremely happy to re-view this, as the first car I ever owned had an appearance in the film, briefly. It was a canary yellow 1975 Honda Civic with a pull choke.  And yes, she had a name: Charo, for she shook when she got really excited.)


Download the ‘Christine’ with Alexandra Paul podcast here

…or, steer into our little on-site player below:


paulOur featured guest: Alexandra Paul

Christine marked one of Ms. Paul’s first big-screen outings, where she played Leigh, the new girl in school and the “other woman” to a 1958 Plymouth Fury.

Since then, Ms. Paul has been active both on screen and off, starring in such big-screen films as American Flyers, Dragnet, 8 Million Ways to Die, and Spy Hard. On television, Paul has performed on Melrose Place and has hosted  Outdoor Life Network’s Wild Watersand We’s Winning Women.

But perhaps her biggest pop-culture legacy is that of Lt. Stephanie Holden on the globally popular Baywatch series.

But Paul’s passions run deep and she has carved a formidable path for herself away from the camera as well, signing up voters well before she was age to cast her own ballot, co-writing and producing JamPacked, a documentary on overpopulation, as well as The Cost of Cool, about simple living. As an owner of an electric car since 1990, Paul was also featured in the riveting documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?, where she strapped herself to the last GM EV1 to be taken off the Burbank lot.

And if that were not enough, Paul is an award recipient from both the ACLU and the United Nations.

And dare you doubt her Baywatch athleticism, she is a finisher in the grueling IronMan Triathlon competition (Ed. note: time to rethink the title of that race!), an accomplished swimmer who has propelled herself in distances ranging from 6.2 to 10 miles in the water (and preparing for another this year, as you will hear in the podcast).

We are truly honored to have Ms. Paul join us to reflect on a film that many of our listeners recall so fondly and wish her the best in all her future endeavors.

‘Night of the Comet’ with star Kelli Maroney


Title: Night of the Comet
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Thom Eberhardt
Written by: Thom Eberhardt
Starring: Robert Beltran as Hector
                   Catherine Mary Stewart as Regina
                   Kelli Maroney as Samantha
                   Mary Woronov as Audrey
                   Geoffrey Lewis as Carter
Tagline: It’s the last thing on earth they ever expected.

By: Shelley Stillo

Pre-screening memories:  I was never a rebel. I usually maneuvered through my childhood with little friction.  Perhaps that is why I found myself gravitating toward those who broke the rules on the big screen.

I envied those who flipped authority the bird and damned the consequences, for it was something that I secretly desired to do as I walked the straight and narrow.

screencapPerhaps that is what drew me to Night of the Comet, for it featured not one, but two female leads who embodied strength, power, courage and conviction. Oh, and they battled Comet-scarred zombies to boot.

I recall its heady mix of science fiction, dipped in horror, frosted with comedy and sprinkled with a little romance, as well. All of these elements sweetening the package of Comet all the more for a pre-teen such as myself.

It was all just a thrilling mix that felt like the perfect blend of everything I enjoyed separately in my movies of the time. I can recall just how real Regina and Samantha felt to me when I watched them battle their way for survival. Though I had not yet entered high school, these were the kind of girls I could envision myself hanging with, even though I may have quietly ridden in the back seat while they raced through the empty post-apocalyptic California freeway.

They were the high school equivalent to Aliens‘ Ripley, and they were able to carry with them their femininity while effortlessly whooping a mess of zombie ass at the same time.

I know that witnessing a comet is usually a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but I have to say that I am grateful for the chance to see this one blaze in front of me once again.


Download the podcast: ‘Night of the Comet’ with Kelli Maroney

Listen to it here:


kelli_maroneyOur featured guest: Kelli Maroney

We are honored to have the star of the film, Ms. Kelli Maroney, join us for a return to her ‘Night.’  Kelli has become a cult heroine for her roles in this film as well as her role in Chopping Mall. Kelli got her first big break in film as a cheerleader in Fast Times at Ridgemont High ( a role that landed her the lead in Comet), and has worked on stage and screen ever since — most recently seen in the hit HBO series True Blood.

But her role as the no-nonsense cheerleader Sam in Comet that is perhaps her most iconic so far. It has earned her legions of fans, including many of us here at Natsukashi.

Kelli spoke about her experience on the set, as well as some of her other works and the overall state of the female cinematic heroine. We are very thankful to Kelli for sitting down and chatting with us and sharing her thoughts and memories and eagerly anticipate her slate of upcoming features. For updates on Kelli, please swing on over to her myspace page, or check out her website.



Freaked (1993)
Rated: R

Directed by: Tom Stern and Alex Winter

Written by: Tim Burns, Tom Stern, and Alex Winter

Starring:    Alex Winter as Ricky Coogan

                 Michael Stoyanov as Ernie

                 Randy Quaid as Elijah C. Skuggs

                 Brooke Shields as Skye Daley

                 Mr. T as the Bearded Lady

                 Bobcat Goldthwait as Sockhead

                 Larry “Bud” Melman as tourist

                 Keeanu Reeves (uncredited) as Dogboy


Tagline: Butt ugly. But funny.


By Shelley Stillo


Pre-screening memories:  In every future cinephile’s life there is that special someone — an older sibling, the neighborhood stoner, or maybe just an unwitting parent who left the porn cupboard unlocked.  Whoever it may be, there is always that one person who introduces you to the good stuff. 


Sometimes, that person just unintentionally left that copy of “Last House on the Left” sitting on the coffee table after watching it, or conveniently didn’t notice when the youngsters slipped into the room while it was playing.  Maybe the person had a mean streak, and purposely switched the Barney tape with Return to Oz. Or wanted to rebel against mom and dad by making sure there were two Half Baked fans in the family.  But those of us who were really lucky had genuine pop culture mentors, someone older and more knowledgeable, usually both, who actively took us under the wing and made sure that we knew as much about Black Adder goes Forth as we did about All Quiet on the Western Front.


 Mine was my cousin Rob.  By the time I reached high school, I’d been introduced to Monty Python (well beyond Holy Grail), pre-Pulp Fiction Quentin Tarantino, and A Clockwork Orange.  One of the films my cousin screened for me that has remained relatively little-known due to a horribly botched release by 20th Century Fox is the reference-comedy Freaked.


Even though I’ve been milking (no pun intended!) the scenester points my knowledge of this film has earned me for years, I remember very little about it. All I really remember is that there is a joke about macaroons at some point, and even though I don’t remember what that joke is, whenever I see macaroons I think of this film. The only other thing I really remember about it is that there was a lot of controversy over whether or not Keanu Reeves was the actor who played “Ortiz” in the film. The role was uncredited, but most suspected that Reeves took the role as a favor to his buddy, Alex Winter.  As far as I (and IMDB) know, this rumor has been confirmed, but at the time, it was a fun detail to speculate about.


Post-screening memories:  Even though this movie remains strikingly funny, I was thoroughly depressed when I turned off this flick.  I was depressed because it felt dated.  It is the first 90s film that has ever felt dated to me.  My depression stemmed not from any feelings of getting old, but because I have always regarded the 90s as completely relevant to my contemporary self — the culture, the politics — every thing about the 90s continues to resonate with me. When I am teaching a class about subcultures (yes, I actually get to do this), I introduce goth or riotgrrrls as completely current examples.  I honestly don’t even know what “emo” means, even though I have had it explained to me several times.


But this film felt less relevant to me now than any other product of its era.  Michael Stoyanov brought his Blossom fashions to the film, and that aesthetic affected the entire atmosphere.  The predominant colors of the picture were so bright, perhaps to evoke a carnival atmosphere, that I felt like Mayim Bialik had exploded on the screen.  What was more disturbing to me was the dated feeling of one particular stock character/caricature–the activist chick who is both the object of desire and the object of ridicule. As soon as Megan Ward’s character Julie appeared on screen, a flood of 90s comedies came into my mind, most notably PCU.  Suddenly I remembered this woman, the girl whose annoying do-gooder enthusiasm had to be either overcome or pushed to the side so that she could be a suitable match for the film’s anti-hero (this was the 90s, after all).  This characters frequency in the 90s hit me like a ton of bricks because of her invisibility now.  Where has this figure gone?  Have American college students become so apathetic that this character no longer represents them, or even resonates with them?  Has America moved so far away from the progressive politics that were a joke in the 90s that they’re not even funny in the 21st century? 

Once I got over this initial shock, I was happy that the film’s jokes, referential as they are, hadn’t lost their relevance.  The cameos alone make this a must see for pop culture fanatics–where else will you see Morgan Fairchild, Mr. T, and Larry Bud Melman in the same movie. And some jokes are just timeless; hopefully Paul Lynde and “I like Ike” signs will always be funny.  Plus, there is a wonderful smattering of subtle, deadpan humor that is often surprising, and therefore effective, thanks primarily to Randy Quaid and William Sadler.


It is too bad that Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is the movie that Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves will be best known for, because Freaked is definitely a winner.  Hopefully the movie really was a joke though, since Winter’s career seems to have been lost somewhere in the South American jungle!


Was Shelly’s return trip and excellent adventure or a bogus journey? Find out here, or by listening below:


‘Night of the Demons’

Title: Night of the Demons (1988)
Rated: R
Directed by: Kevin Tenney
Starring: Linnea Quigley as Suzanne
                Amelia Kinkaid as Angela
                Billy Gallo as Sal
Tagline: “Angela is having a party…Freddy and Jason are too scared to come. But you’ll have a hell of a time.”           

By Shelley Stillo

Pre-screening memories: When people ask me to recommend a legitimately scary movie, I’ll usually say Nightmare on Elm Street or Night of the Demons.  Trouble is, I don’t remember the first thing about Night of the Demons. Sitting down to write these pre-screening memories has revealed to me that I can honestly only conjure up one scene from the entire movie.  And what I remember isn’t really scary.  So why has this film stuck with me all of these years? 

It may be because I also remember it as one of the naughtiest films I’ve ever seen.  I don’t remember why, but I do know that my prudish 12-year-old self was shocked by this film.  And if there is any stage when fear and sex combined are going to make their strongest impression, it would be the preteen years. I’m not sure, given the fact that I’ve oft thought about this film, why I haven’t taken the opportunity to revisit it before.  One reason might be that, as I got older and started enjoying my horror with company, I was afraid the film would be even naughtier than I remembered, and lead to an embarrassing group viewing experience.  (This has really happened to me–more than once–with the odd anime screening).

The one scene I do remember from the film does nothing to underscore either the films’ scariness nor its naughtiness.  It is a “Twilight Zone”-style morality moment that occurs at the end of the film.  At some point in the movie, we are introduced to an elderly man who plans to put razor blades in his apples on Halloween night.  In the final moments of the film, his wife decides to bake him an apple pie.  He realizes, with shock, horror, and dismay, that the pie has been made of left over apples just as several razor blades cut through his throat.  How he managed to chew and swallow the razor blades without noticing them, and while leaving them intact enough to cut through his flesh, is anyone’s guess.  When his wife smiles at the end of the film, we realize that she has killed him on purpose, likely as revenge for his feeding razor blades to the kids in the first place.  I’m sure, as an avid watcher of weekly television horror and sci-fi programs, I didn’t find this moment in the least scary, but I was satisfied with the joke.

New memories:  Immediately after I re-viewed this film, I was fairly stunned that I’d remembered it at all.  It was still plenty naughty, maybe a little more than other ’80s horrors (though certainly no more naughty than Revenge of the Nerds), but it wasn’t scary, or even that interesting.  It has a very standard plot:  a group of teens, featuring all the typical players — the good girl, the ‘greaser,’ the token black guy, the goth girl, the slut, the party couple, etc. — break into an abandoned funeral parlor to throw a Halloween party.  They decide to hold a seance and unknowingly unleash a demonic force that commences to possess the party guests one by one. Who will survive to party another day?

I kept thinking about the movie though.  It would have been easy to say “well, what a 12 year old found appealing in 1988 just isn’t appealing anymore.”  But I couldn’t just leave it at that because this movie continues to have a very solid reputation among horror fans; yes, even those who have seen it recently as adults.  I kept trying to think what could make this movie “hold up” for so many people.  One reason is certainly the appearance of horror goddess Linnea Quigley in the film, who teases here certainly capitalize on her tombstone striptease from Return of the Living Dead.  But I think the real appeal of this film is how it simply embraces the genre, its heights and its foibles.  It never moves into the realm of horror comedy, but it doesn’t take itself seriously.  Without pretension, it uses the tools — self consciously, I’m beginning to suspect — the genre provides and runs riot with them.  So, unless you’re trying to recapture an experience that is 15 years gone, and mostly forgotten, it is easy to get into the spirit of the film and go revel in the fun.  It’s not a film that exceeds genre expectations, but its not a soulless regurgitation of them either.

Would Shelley still accept the invitation to the party? Find out here, or listen below:

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