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So while Alan Moore is known for being historically difficult, the reason may be that he has been hoodwinked more than a time or two. And WATCHMEN perhaps being the most painful of the many various conflicts he has had with publishers and other creators, would notoriously be a sore subject with Mr. Moore.
At the end of the day, 35 years removed from Moore’s heyday in comics, he is still that name we reach toward when we think of what is best in comics. So to have the medium’s best writer, our modern day Shakespeare (a writer, writing in a castigated medium for the mob, works that would stand the test of time) not involved with the adaptation, and not wanting the adaptation of his most acclaimed property; well you tend to understand, as a fan of that writer and that property, and not really need to see that adaption.
So I wasn’t calling for a WATCHMEN film, and I was not boycotting it either, I just had no interest in seeing it. Two things started to excite me about the film, One/ that Zack Snyder was attached as Director (coming off 300 he had skyrocketed as one of the most exciting directors, and one of my favorite directors) and Two/ then seeing that first trailer in 2009. The first trailer with the Smashing Pumpkins song… holy cow!!!
For someone to take a long un-filmable project, that had been gestating for decades, and bounced between different writers, directors, production teams, and finally land with one of the most stylish action directors to come along since Sam Peckinpah and John Woo, and to produce a trailer like that— mic drop.
That trailer, as someone like many, who loved Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN; that trailer completely screamed Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN. And more than that it screamed iconic, it screamed visionary, it screamed Zack Snyder.
Visionary is a high compliment, but when looking at the visuals of Zack Snyder, it is well earned. And that vision and love for the source material was all on display in that trailer, and add that perfect song…and you have something that highlights the strengths of Zack Snyder, his visuals, and replaces dialog and plotting, with the pure emotion of the right song.
To this day, that first WATCHMEN trailer remains my favorite trailer of all time. And while the movie was not the trailer (meaning it could not maintain that level of perfection and excitement over 2+ hours, but arguably no film can), the film while definitely having issues (overlong, pacing issues); at the end of the day, flaws and all, it is an achievement of film-making.
You could not cast that film any better than it was cast, it starts great, it ends great, and in-between it is compelling if overlong (but given the depth of content, it was the length it needed to be). And let us speak of that ending, I spoke earlier of adaptions that are better than the original; this film is not better than the graphic novel, but there are moments in this film, that are. One of those moments is the ending. The culmination of Ozymandias’ master plan makes far more sense in the film than in the Graphic novel.
All in all Zack Snyder’s WATCHMEN is a flawed masterpiece, and I’ll take that every day of the week. And the trailer… flawless. Check out the below review.
Anyhow that was just a quick aside about how much i love the 1st 2009 WATCHMEN trailer, and while Zack Snyder has been hit and miss for me film-wise, his visuals (with the exception of the stupid costumes/CGI for the FLASH and CYBORG) are always top notch; and the trailers… genius.
I just saw the trailer for JUSTICE LEAGUE THE SNYDER CUT, and once again, that marriage of iconic visuals as only Zack Snyder can do it, with the perfect song– it makes me excited now to see this, when I had no interest in a ‘Snyder Cut’ of a film that did not work for me the first time.
“You won’t let me live, and you won’t let me die.”
In a very impressive trailer weekend for DC/Warner Brothers, the SNYDER JUSTICE LEAGUE may be my favorite trailer, just edging out both THE BATMAN and WONDER WOMAN 84. Now I definitely think both WONDER WOMAN 84 and THE BATMAN are going to be vastly better films than this re-cut JUSTICE LEAGUE CUT (I don’t see the edit substantially being able to change/better the film. Change it a little, yes. Better it a little, yes. But substantially? No.); however based just on trailers, the Snyder Cut hearkens back to his successful 1st WATCHMEN trailer, and that formula (for the trailer) just works.
It is nice to have this film on the Criterion roster in a truly gorgeous semi digi-book packaging with scintillating, vibrant art and accompanying book. However, the Blu-ray (released on the 30th anniversary of the film) while stellar in packaging feels underwhelming in actual special features.
That is until you look at the SECOND Disc, which is chock full of additional interviews and features done just for this release. Highlights being TWENTY YEARS LATER (absolutely a must watch), and THE ONE AND ONLY DO THE RIGHT THING.
Which makes this film not just great to have on Blu-ray, but great to have it accompanied by current reflections on the film.
Here, well into the 21st century, streaming has quickly made itself King. However what physical media offers is 1/sumptuous content, mastered in pristine quality, that will not change due to bandwidth throttling, or ISP load caused bit-rate fluctuations, or political games, or the screeching of the uninformed mob and 2/extensive special features that show a love and concern for the central film.
This Criterion release succeeds in both those broad areas. And in this release competes with other labels, including stellar non-us labels, that are stepping up their game and giving us simply jam-packed releases with often multiple new commentaries and special features.
Final Grade: While I still miss an up to date commentary done for this release, on the whole — Criterion continues to make a physical object that cries out for a place on better bookshelves and display cases everywhere. A+ for the film. B+ for the Criterion release.
LOOKING AT THE WORLD OUTSIDE YOUR DOOR SHOULD DRIVE HOME THE NEED TO BE … PREPARED.
CLICK ON THE IMAGES FOR MORE DETAILS OR TO ORDER.
DISC 1: THE FILM
I’ve seen the movie before, years ago, as well as other Romero films. And while understanding the significance of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, I have never been a fan of the zombie/ghoul genre. Most likely due to its over-saturation by lesser filmmakers just regurgitating Romero’s novel approach, as well as simply not being a fan of gore.
Romero’s re-imagining of the Zombie as a flesh eating corruption never stood well with me. It was the myth of the ghoul, rather than the older Haitian mythology of the Zombie. A Zombie, as understood from Haitian lore, was something dead, that had been transformed into something beyond death and beyond corruption, more in common with the Jewish Golem, and seen most visually in the Val Lewton produced I WALK WITH A ZOMBIE
Romero’s flesh eating, rotting monstrosity, that was all corruption, could not be more different than the idea of the Zombi. However, to Romero’s credit he did identify the creatures accurately in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD as ghouls, but for whatever reason ; the press or marketing latched onto calling them by the incorrect nomenclature of Zombie. If I had to guess, I would think the more exotic sounding Zombie, simply appealed to them more, than the more crude (but accurate) term of ghoul.
So while I appreciated NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, I was never the biggest fan of it. It’s a little too strident for me, and argumentative, filled with unlikable people, which may or may not be accurate in such a situation; but was for me, not what I wanted to spend time viewing, and was a bit plodding because of it.
However, re-watching the film, on this Criterion release I have a new appreciation for the film.
First thing that strikes you is how stunning this film looks, in this Museum of Modern Art remastered edition. The Black and White cinematography is beautiful, and I see now exactly how stylish the film was in its use of camera angles and shadows. It may be Romero’s most beautiful film because of its noirish and dutch angle filled aesthetic.
2nd, the very structure of the film, while commonplace today, at the time the ‘house under siege’ motif was new, most notably seen in 1964’s Vincent Price vehicle THE LAST MAN ON EARTH. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD managed to build on that premise, and deepen it, by adding group dynamics to the mix, as well a claustrophobic ‘you are there’ intensity, in its cinema verite shooting style. Not to mention the creation of a whole new breed of monster.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, taken in context of when it was made, is ground breaking in terms of how it is filmed; the mixture of science fiction, horror, group dynamics and intended irony and unexpected social commentary, along with the running commentary of the media helping to tell the film’s back-story. And just the general bleakness of the film is astonishing, even watching it today. Given how truly threadbare and Indy this film was, in a time before the concept of Independent film even existed, its nihilism still has the power to impress.
Duane Jones gives a compelling performance as Ben, and is the bedrock upon which the film cements itself as a classic. But all the performances are surprisingly intriguing, from Russell Streiner and Judith O’Dea and William Hinzman (lead Ghoul) who effectively open the film in a now iconic sequence, to on-screen couples Keith Wayne and Judith Ridley and Karl Hardman and Marilyn Eastman, and Kyra Shon as their daughter.
A word on Marilyn Eastman who plays Mrs. Cooper, she gives, in a small role, one of the best performances of the film, up their with Dwayne’s work. You can not take your eyes off of her when she is on screen, she is so nuanced and compelling in a very contained performance, that plays all the more effectively in counterpoint to the histrionics and testosterone around her. She also was part of the crew and is on this commentary, and her insights are always an informative part of the commentary.
DISC 1 SPECIAL FEATURES
Regarding the Special Features, Co-producer Russell Streiner in the INTRO TO NIGHT OF ANUBIS feature, explains NIGHT OF ANUBIS was the working title for the film as it was under production. NIGHT OF ANUBIS was actually the 2nd title for the film, they originally wanted to title the film THE NIGHT OF THE FLESH-EATERS. However a cease an desist order from a studio with plans to release a movie called FLESH-EATERS led to Romero coming up with the title NIGHT OF ANUBIS.
So the movie would go all through production with the title NIGHT OF ANUBIS, however once the film wrapped the distributors did not like the title ANUBIS, found it too esoteric no doubt, so the name was changed for the last time for its release, and the film NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was born.
Romero and select Crew- It’s not the most interesting commentary, one reason is because there are so many voices on the commentary, and they are all going in different directions, and largely they are discussing minutiae even by commentary standards. Whether eye-glasses were supposed to be half on or all on, and discussions like that.
It is initially a very pedantic, pedestrian, minutiae focused commentary. However the commentary does pick up in moments, and becomes quite incisive, such as about 25 minutes in as they discuss the actors, among them the lead Duane Jones. and the thoughtful changes he made to his character. One intriguing thing is, it was colorblind casting. The role was not written for a Black guy, they actually had another actor, a White Actor, they were going to go with, but then Dwayne Jones came in an auditioned. His audition impressed everyone and he got the part.
It was a threadbare Pittsburgh production, and for the character of Ben they just needed a big guy to play him, as initially he was supposed to be a Brutish trucker. So largely they lucked out with Duane, as they got an actor who brought so much more to that character, than was on the page.
Necessitating rewriting that character for the more erudite and thoughtful presence that Duane brought to that role.
That in hindsight the film is notable for a Black protagonist, I think overlooks the stronger blessing of that casting; which is that they were lucky enough to get a great actor for that role. Duane Jones ended up bringing a unique variable to that performance, that would have been lost – not just by an actor of a different ethnicity, but an actor of lesser sophistication. By any actor that was not Duane Jones.
There is a humanity Duane brings to a brutish character, that careens it away from the facile, surface level histrionics— to instead explore someone captivating and heroic and flawed. The takeaway from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is not that they cast a Black actor in the role, but rather that the best actor for that role, was a great actor, who was also Black. It is a subtle distinction but I believe an important one, that is still not quite embraced today.
Another interesting segment on the commentary, is an hour into the film, where they discuss the making of one of their more involved shots, the Washington DC based tv coverage, where the crew drove down to DC, and play the roles of reporters and military personnel. Involved, because for all intents and purposes this was just a very small Pittsburgh production, done by the crew, in any free time they could carve out, around their full time jobs.
The commentary than segues into discussion of Duane Jones before his passing. From this point to the end, the commentary gets far more intriguing. Overall, while not always fluid, this commentary gives you historic insights into the film and the performers that otherwise would have been lost to time. For this reason while not a great commentary, there are gems in here that make it an essential commentary.
Commentary Two has even more people involved, so lots of similar voices overlapping. Russell Streiner (producer/actor ‘He’s coming to get you, Barbara!‘), helping to sheep-herd this conversation, gets it off to a more compelling, entertaining start than the first commentary. And it places this commentary in time, to hear them discuss the upcoming laserdisc release. As someone who remembers laserdisc and still own some, it is a nice nostalgic touch.
And I like that, in this commentary, they reassert that NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was not made as a social message film, they were simply making a horror film, and Duane was hired simply because he was the best actor who auditioned for the role. Add to that a running gag about Marilyn Eastman and lumber, and it is just a fun, affable commentary.
DISC TWO : A WHOLE DISC FULL OF SPECIAL FEATURES
Holy cow. Is this a loaded, feature rich release. This disc includes over 12 special features. Including interviews with the cast, and new documentaries made just for this release. It is just wonderful grab bag of content that you can revisit and dive into at your leisure. Including just a wonderful 1987 audio interview with Duane Jones recorded with Tim Ferrante.
“That moment, the total surrealism of the racial nightmare of America, being worse than whatever we were doing as a metaphor in that film, lives with me to this moment.”
-Duane Jones, 1987
All in all, is a must own physical media release. In terms of beauty of the product on your shelf, and the content itself, and booklet. I came to this release a bit hesitantly, because as I mentioned I was never a huge fan of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Revisiting this film, and listening to the commentaries, and going through the special features, I have to say this is one of the treasures of my collection. Highly Recommended.
It stumbles in the 3rd act, but most of it keeps your attention, and plays initially like a smarter and less gory SAW.
Riveting and dangerous and endlessly surprising viewing experience. A great debut feature film by writer, director Marvin Choi, and marvelously performed by Darnel Powell and Joseph Price. All of these men, are talents to watch. Grade: B+. Highly Recommended.
And perhaps no Film Noir highlights this as much, as Robert Aldrich’s 1955 masterpiece… KISS ME DEADLY. From the opening sequence, which remains one of the best opening sequences of any film, to the last scene of a world put on notice, Aldrich’s KISS ME DEADLY, in a genre that is style codified, stands out as the most stylish, and yet does so while also being one of the most substantive Film Noirs.
There is so much in this film, from how it is shot, to its location, to its soundtrack by the great Nat King Cole, to its performances led by the great Ralph Meeker, to its wealth of diversity, showcasing a city peopled with a diverse range of colors, and nationalities and ethnicity. People of color, with speaking parts, not shown as stereotypes but just as intriguing people, to the wealth of memorable female roles, to its brutality, to its depiction of its protagonist— that continues to make KISS ME DEADLY, unique.
And no, I won’t be upgrading this to 4K, or 8K, or 16K. I’ve got an up-scaling multi-region Blu-ray player, 20-20 vision, on a less than 65″ screen, this Blu-ray satisfies the needs of my TV, and of my eyesight. Beyond a certain point the search for more is a game of pixels and real estate, and moving the newest shiny model (to use car talk), and not quality.
Click the image below to get your copy, while still in stock.
Also as a bit of trivia, the film may be the earliest to display a character giving someone the finger. 🙂 . Watch it for free courtesy of the Kanopy Roku Channel, and when suitably impressed, get the Blu-ray by clicking on the image below.
Special Features: Audio commentary by film critic Sam Dhegihan | Booklet essay by film critic Peter Tongue-tie | Interview with film critic Tony Rains | Trailers
There are about two dozen truly great audio actors, whose work on audio books, is a MUST OWN. Among them are Orson Welles, David Birney, Harlan Ellison, Roddy McDowall, James Mason, Michael Boatman to name a few.
Some of these guys work, for various reasons such as rights etc, are not available via streaming or in some cases even on CD. But these are preeminent works, of the greatest voice actors of their respective era, giving their greatest deliveries. And they can still be picked up via LP or cassette, at affordable prices, and deserve to be.
Once bought on LP or cassette go ahead and digitize it so you have these must own works in a preserved format. Here then without further ado, is the first of our 5 must own audio books!
Roddy McDowall reads WOLFEN- I am a huge fan of the 1981 WOLFEN film, I think it is a flawed, but unjustly overlooked masterpeice. However, I love this audio book version as much, perhaps even more, and that iis down to Roddy McDowall.
Roddy McDowall, a prolific actor with over 250 credits to his name, who is likely only remembered by a younger generation for his turn in FRIGHT NIGHT (1985), gave some of the great, humanistic performances of cinema in his abundant career. From Academy Award winning turn in HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941) to his immortal role as Caesar in PLANET OF THE APES (1968) to THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973) to the aforementioned FRIGHT NIGHT (1985), and everything in between, Roddy McDowall, despite the quality of the film or script, never gave a bad performance. The consummate actor, he always carried his role, you always believed him; and he brings that veracity to this audio book, and paints with his voice the hallowed and harrowing world of WOLFEN.
Click on the link below to acquire this essential bit of audio book history.
|Material Type:||Fiction, Audio book, etc.|
|Document Type:||Sound Recording|
|All Authors / Contributors:||Whitley Strieber; Roddy McDowall
Find more information about:
|Notes:||Abridged from the author’s book of the same title.|
|Performer(s):||Reader, Roddy McDowall.|
|Description:||2 audiocassettes (approximately 180 min.) : digital, Dolby processed, 1/8 in. tape|
|Responsibility:||author, Whitley Strieben.|
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