‘Cat’s Eye’ with Oscar-winning editor Scott Conrad

movie poster

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”)

By Joe Campenella from CinemaFist

gremlinWhen 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 woodsJames 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.

I, for one, call it great fun.

Download Natsukashi’s ‘Cat’s Eye’ podcast with Scott Conrad here

or, creep down a little further to listen to it right here…

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scott conradOur guest: Editor Scott Conrad

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.

drew and catScott 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.

‘Christine’ with Alexandra Paul

christine

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.)

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Download the ‘Christine’ with Alexandra Paul podcast here

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

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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.

‘Rawhead Rex’

 

Title: Rawhead Rex
Rated: R
Directed by: George Pavlou
Starring: David Dukes as Howard Hallenbeck
               Kelly Piper as Elaine Hallenbeck
               Niall Toibin as Rev. Coot
               Heinrich von Schellendorf as Rawhead Rex
Tagline: Someone has awakened him. He lives again to feed again.

By Rob Rector (featuring Bo from Last Blog on the Left):

Clive Barker was Shakespeare to an adolescent young sci-fi/horror nerd such as myself. As a young, voracious reader, my bookshelf slowly shed its pre-teen skin – made of volumes of “Black Stallion,” Hardy Boys,” and Jack London adventures – into the darker, more depraved musings of Stephen King. Well-worn paperbacks of “Carrie,” “Christine” and “The Shining” replaced titles like “Black Stallion’s Blood Bay Colt” and “Hardy Boys and Secret of Skull Mountain.”

Pre-screening memories:

Then, I remember reading about “The Damnation Game.”

It was endorsed by none other than the King himself. I remember the cover of the book did not look as threatening as that of the ghostly screaming face of my jaundiced paperback of “The Shining.” Hell, even the ominous shrunken head on the cover of “Hardy Boys: The Clue in the Embers” was more menacing than that of “Game’s” iron mask floating in a cheesy pink mist.

But King proclaimed him to be “The future of horror,” so I had to give him the benefit of the doubt. I had yet to be introduced to his “Books of Blood” series which preceded it, but immediately took a liking to the Faustian riff of a boxer selling his soul for immortality.

This, of course, led to hearing of the first film to be written by the invoker of many a nightmare — “Rawhead Rex.” It blew through theaters like the zephyr, so it was not until video that I was able to watch his monstrous creation in the flesh.. well, in the latex.

Honestly, I recall more the violent-sounding title (the not-so-subtle sexual reference of his name was completely lost on me)and the newspaper ad of the big hulking beast than the film itself. I seem to recall a trailer park getting pretty torn up and a few shots of Rex – looking like an American Gladiator from the Mesozoic period (a Pangaea Gladiator?) — triumphantly holding a severed head in his dirty claws. It had left an impression on me at the time, but I think more for its gory special effects than its haunting imagery.

Oh, and the priest getting pissed on by Rex.

Yes,one of the film’s most notable scenes involves Rex giving a golden shower to a man of the cloth. For what reason I am not all that sure. And I will abstain from any mention of suggesting this film took place in Boston.

Other than that, I got nothing. I have since followed Barker’s written and cinematic works, but never felt the need to view the monster again. And with “Rex” not being released on DVD, I never had the opportunity even when the casual curiosity arose. As mentioned in a discussion with Shelley Stillo for Hellraier, Barker’s work is steeped in sexual and religious overtones, so I know there must have been a number of subtext thoughout “Rawhead” that my young brain was just to underdeveloped to process. This, of course, made me eager to return to “Rex.”

Was Rob “baptized” by the whole viewing experience, or did it leave him all wet? Check out his discussion with Bo from Last Blog on the Left? You can download the podcast right here, or click the player below.

‘Hellraiser’

Hellraiser (1987)
Rated: R
Written and Directed by: Clive Barker
Starring: Andrew Robinson as Larry Cotton
                Clare Higgins as Julia Cotton
                Ashley Laurence as Kirsty Cotton
                Doug Bradley as Lead Cenebite (aka Pinhead)

Tagline: It will tear your soul apart!

By: Shelley Stillo

Pre-screening memories: The thing I remember most about viewing Hellraiser as a pre-teen is precisely how much it didn’t effect me. I got started as a horror fan young. I was raised by a group of pop culture mavens who compared family members to characters from Poltergeist and Children of the Damned, who let me stay up late and watch Tales From the Darkside on overnight visits to their houses. By the time I was 10, I’d had the good sense to become best friends with the video-store lady’s daughter.

In those pre-blockbuster days, the horror shelf in the video store was a special place—a vast undiscovered country of illicit sights. Today, as most people order their dvds from Amazon based on movies they’ve already seen or heard of, or worse yet, they `flix everything they watch, DVD cover art is a pretty sanitized business. Actors you recognize, a scene from the film, the promo poster you’ve seen a thousand times. Mid-80s VHS cover art was different, especially in the horror aisle. Intense color and extreme graphics were the only ways to give your film a chance to be seen, especially in an era when many horror films were independently produced or released direct to video. VHS covers could be downright terrifying. A trip down the horror aisle at the video store could often be an act of bravery for my 10-year-old self, and, unfortunately, most often a much richer artistic experience than viewing the films inside those Technicolor cases.

But it was also an act of pure pleasure, as I anticipated my weekly visits to the horror aisle with an insane glee other children reserved for Disneyland. In the three or four years during which my best friend’s mother worked at the video store, my friend and I burned through every horror film on the shelf, each of our family’s taking weekly turns at playing host to our all-night bloodbath versions of the pre-teen girl sleepover.

Back then, Hellraiser was just another movie to add to the list of horror films I’d seen. Even though “Pinhead” was already an iconic figure in the genre by the time I’d encountered him, he left little to no impression on me. I liked that he was a cool-looking villain, but I didn’t know why he got so much attention in all of those horror documentaries I watched. And while this lack of effect was in part a consequence of my attraction to more kid-friendly horror—the comical Freddy films that spewed forth from the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise and PG-13 Stephen King adaptions chief among them—it wasn’t like I had no appreciation for more mature horror. I also counted Nosferatu and The Haunting among my favorite films. But Pinhead and his “magic box” never meant anything to me, besides the occasional ability to quicken my heart—and my step—when I saw their images on a VHS box.

New memories: I was recently able to view Hellraiser on the big screen, and my immediate reaction was “I’ve never really seen this movie before.” Even though Hellraiser has most likely made numerous appearances on my horror viewing lists (which haven’t stopped growing), I never really saw the movie until I watched it this year. This is obviously due to the fact that as a pre-teen horror fan, I had no capacity whatsoever to understand the erotic dynamics of a horror film that explicitly delves into the world of sado-masochistic pleasure (“Demons to some, angels to others” indeed). But because I’ve heard countless talking heads ruminate about Barker’s use of this subject matter over the years, I really thought I had a sense of this film—what it was about and how it worked—even though I hadn’t seen it for at least ten years. But I really had no idea, which can be a bit of a surreal experience, to realize that something you honestly believed to be familiar is actually an absolute unknown.

Obviously, as someone enthusiastic about rebel art (an enthusiasm that was only stoked by Barker’s own live introduction to the screening I saw, which included blow-job jokes and a raspy “Art should never be made for the man. Art should be made to take down the man.”), I was impressed by the frankness with which this film approached the topic of pain as pleasure. But the film seemed to go even further than that by criticizing, or at least portraying as equally horrific, the “normal” sexual couple. Kirstie’s father’s and boyfriend’s obliviousness to possibilities that don’t conform to their narrow view of the world seems as problematic as Uncle Frank and Stepmother Julia’s (if you can’t tell, there’s also a bit of an incest plot here, which only adds intensity to the atmosphere of the film) violent fantasies.

The other thing that keeps this film resonant and current is how well the special effects have held up. As a frequent attendee of midnight movies, I can definitely say that special effects rarely hold up. But despite the outrageouness of some of the imagery Barker tries to capture—the aforementioned skinless Frank and the “meat board” are two notable examples—you never laugh or flinch at an outdated technique watching this film. Perhaps it is actually because of Barker’s outrageousness that these visual moments hold up. The depths of imagination it takes to conjure such images guarantees that they’ll shock and disturb, even at more than 20 years old.

I can’t end this review without a word about the cenobites. They’re inventive villains, even to a 10-year-old who has no grasp of their meaning. In context (or, more accurately, when the context is understood), they’re the kind of characters that attach themselves to your psyche, and may never be completely shaken loose. The rich dialogue they’re given helps (quotes), but their visual characteristics truly are the stuff of nightmares. And as much as Pinhead is still a cool looking villain, it’s the sound of those chattering teeth that keeps me up at night today.

Is Shelly still interested in raising ‘Hell’ after all these years? Listen to the podcast, or dowload it here.

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