Night of the Comet – Not So Secret Obsession

I love everything about this movie.  It had zombies before all you bacon-loving clown-fearing hipsters were all about them.  The fashion, the music, the dialog, all perfection, all 80s.  I have even included the entire film at the bottom of this post.  You should at least watch the first 15 minutes.  I love the poster for Red Dust on the inside of the backstage door.  First 15 minuted, I promise.  You’ll want to stay for the dancing sequence in an abandoned shopping mall, it is one of the best music montages ever.

Directed by: Thom Eberhardt

Produced by: Andrew Lane, Wayne Crawford

Written by: Thom EberhardtRelease date: November 16, 1984

Night of the Comet is a 1984 film directed by Thom Eberhardt and starring Catherine Mary Stewart, Robert Beltran, and Kelli Maroney. It has elements of such diverse genres as science fiction, horror, zombie apocalypse, comedy, and romance. The film was voted number 10 in Bloody Disgusting’s Top 10 Doomsday Horror Films in 2009.

The Earth is passing through the tail of a rogue comet, an event which has not occurred in 65 million years, the last time coinciding with the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs. On the night of the comet’s passage, large crowds gather to watch and celebrate the event.

18 year old Regina “Reggie” Belmont (Catherine Mary Stewart) is an employee at a movie theater in southern California. Annoyed that her #6 high score on the arcade game Tempest was beaten by someone with the initials “DMK“, she decides to have sex with her boyfriend, the theater projectionist, in the steel-lined projection booth. Meanwhile, Reggie’s 16 year old sister Samantha “Sam” (Kelli Maroney) argues with their stepmother, and she gets punched in the face.

The next morning, a reddish haze covers everything. There is also not one sign of life, only small piles of red dust and empty clothes. Reggie and her boyfriend wake up, unaware that anything strange has happened. Her boyfriend steps outside behind the theater and is immediately killed by a zombie. When Reggie comes looking for her boyfriend, she finds the zombie eating him. The zombie tries to attack, but she escapes. Finding herself in an empty world, Reggie goes home to find her sister. Sam had spent the night in a metal yard shed after the fight and is also alright.

After figuring out what has happened, they hear a radio disc jockey and race to the station, only to find it is automated and just a recording. They do find another survivor there, Hector Gomez (Robert Beltran), who spent the night in the back of his steel semi truck. When Sam interrupts the recorded show and makes an announcement, the broadcast is heard by government researchers in an underground think tank. They call the station, telling the survivors that a rescue team is on the way. The scientists note that the zombies, though less exposed to the comet, will soon disintegrate into dust themselves. Reggie tells Hector that, as military brats, she and Sam were taught how to use firearms by their father. Hector then leaves to see if any of his family survived, while Reggie and Sam go foraging at a local mall. After a surprise firefight with some zombie ex-stock boys, the girls are taken prisoner but are saved by the rescue team from the think tank.
Reggie is immediately taken back to their base. Audrey White (Mary Woronov), a dying, disillusioned scientist, offers to remain behind with Sam to wait for Hector. Another scientist who stays with them believes Sam has been exposed and should be executed. However, Audrey realizes that Sam is actually healthy. After purportedly euthanizing Sam, she then kills the other scientist. When Hector returns, Audrey provides enough information for him and Sam to try to rescue Reggie. Audrey then gives herself a lethal injection.

The researchers had suspected and prepared for the comet’s effects, but inadvertently left their ventilation system open during the comet’s passage allowing the comet’s deadly dust to permeate their base. Meanwhile, Reggie has become suspicious, escapes, and discovers that the dying scientists have hunted down healthy survivors and rendered them brain-dead, so they can harvest their untainted blood to look for a cure.
Hector and Sam find Reggie, along with a young boy and a young girl Reggie has rescued. Some of the researchers are killed in the escape, while the rest presumably perish from the comet’s after-effects.

Eventually, rain washes away the red dust and the world is left in a pristine condition. The group becomes a conventional family unit, except for Sam who feels left out. When she ignores Reggie’s warning and crosses a deserted street against the still-operating signal light, she is almost run over by a sports car driven by Danny Mason Keener, a teenager her own age. After apologizing, he invites her to go for a ride. As they drive off, the car is shown sporting the initials “DMK” on the vanity plate.

Happy Birthday Tippi Hedren

Today is the 85th birthday of Tippi Hendren.  I have said it before, that choosing your favorite Hitchcock blonde is impossible and it’s true.  They all have their qualities that make them special.  Her Hitchcock blonde possessed darker secrets that hinted at a past.  Her continued animal activism has helped create sanctuaries for endangered and at risk animals for decades.  The world is a better place because she is in it.NAME: Tippi Hedren
OCCUPATION: Animal Rights Activist, Film Actress, Television Actress
BIRTH DATE: January 19, 1930
PLACE OF BIRTH: New Ulm, Michigan
ORIGINALLY: Nathalie Hedren

BEST KNOWN FOR: Actress Tippi Hedren was discovered by Alfred Hitchcock, who cast her in her two most notable films The Birds (1963) and Marnie (1964).

Nathalie Kay “Tippi” Hedren (born January 19, 1930) is an American actress and former fashion model. She is primarily known for her roles in two Alfred Hitchcock films, The Birds and Marnie (in which she played the title role), and her extensive efforts in animal rescue at Shambala Preserve, an 80-acre (320,000 m2) wildlife habitat which she founded in 1983.

Hedren is the mother of actress Melanie Griffith, and they share credits on several productions, notably Pacific Heights (1990).

A Louis Vuitton ad campaign in 2006 paid tribute to Hedren and Hitchcock with a modern-day interpretation of the deserted railway station opening sequence of Marnie. Her 1963 publicity picture from The Birds was the cover for Jean-Pierre Dufreigne’s book Hitchcock Style (2004). In interviews, Naomi Watts has stated that her character interpretation in Mulholland Drive (2001) was influenced by the look and performances of Hedren and Kim Novak in Hitchcock films. Watts and Hedren later acted in I Heart Huckabees (2004) but didn’t share any scenes together onscreen. Off-screen, the film’s director David O. Russell introduced them both, and Watts has said about Hedren, “I was pretty fascinated by her then because people have often said that we’re alike.” Watts was once expected to star in a remake of The Birds (1963) and has dressed up as Hedren’s title character from Marnie for a photo shoot for March 2008 issue of Vanity Fair magazine. In the same issue, Jodie Foster dressed up as Hedren’s character, Melanie Daniels from The Birds (1963).

In another issue of Vanity Fair, the magazine referred to January Jones‘s character in Mad Men as “Tippi Hedren’s soul sister from Marnie”. The New York Times television critic earlier had echoed the same sentiment in his review of Mad Men. January Jones said that she “takes it a compliment of sorts” when compared to Grace Kelly and Hedren. Actress Tea Leoni said that her character in the film Manure (2009) is made up to look like Hedren.

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Happy Birthday John Dos Passos

Today is the 119th birthday of the author John Dos Passos.  I got to know his work through Hemingway and Fitzgerald.  His membership in the Lost Generation meant his boos were required reading for me.   As he aged, he retreated from his previous thoughts and beliefs and became much more politically conservative.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: John Roderigo Dos Passos
BORN: January 14, 1896
BIRTHPLACE: Chicago, Illinois
DIED: September 28, 1970
PLACE OF DEATH: Baltimore, Maryland

John Dos Passos, American writer, one of the major novelists of the post-World War I “lost generation,” whose reputation as a social historian and as a radical critic of the quality of American life rests primarily on his trilogy U.S.A.

The son of a wealthy lawyer of Portuguese descent, Dos Passos graduated from Harvard University (1916) and volunteered as an ambulance driver in World War I. His early works were basically portraits of the artist recoiling from the shock of his encounter with a brutal world. Among these was the bitter antiwar novel Three Soldiers (1921).

Extensive travel in Spain and other countries while working as a newspaper correspondent in the postwar years enlarged his sense of history, sharpened his social perception, and confirmed his radical sympathies. Gradually, his early subjectivism was subordinated to a larger and tougher objective realism. His novel Manhattan Transfer (1925) is a rapid-transit rider’s view of the metropolis. The narrative shuttles back and forth between the lives of more than a dozen characters in nervous, jerky, impressionistic flashes.

The execution of the Anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in 1927 profoundly affected Dos Passos, who had participated in the losing battle to win their pardon. The crisis crystallized his image of the United States as “two nations”—one of the rich and privileged and one of the poor and powerless. U.S.A. is the portrait of these two nations. It consists of The 42nd Parallel (1930), covering the period from 1900 up to the war; 1919 (1932), dealing with the war and the critical year of the Treaty of Versailles; and The Big Money (1936), which races headlong through the boom of the ’20s to the bust of the ’30s. Dos Passos reinforces the histories of his fictional characters with a sense of real history conveyed by the interpolated devices of “newsreels,” artfully selected montages of actual newspaper headlines and popular songs of the day. He also interpolates biographies of such representative members of the establishment as the automobile maker Henry Ford, the inventor Thomas Edison, President Woodrow Wilson, and the financier J.P. Morgan. He further presents members of that “other nation” such as the Socialist Eugene V. Debs, the economist Thorstein Veblen, the labour organizer Joe Hill, and the Unknown Soldier of World War I. Yet another dimension is provided by his “camera-eye” technique: brief, poetic, personal reminiscences.

U.S.A. was followed by a less ambitious trilogy, District of Columbia (Adventures of a Young Man, 1939; Number One, 1943; The Grand Design, 1949), which chronicles Dos Passos’ further disillusion with the labour movement, radical politics, and New Deal liberalism. The decline of his creative energy and the increasing political conservatism evident in these works became even more pronounced in subsequent works. At his death at 74, his books scarcely received critical attention.

Happy Birthday Charles Schulz

Today is the 92nd birthday of the Charlie Brown illustrator Charles Shulz.  The world is a better place because Charles was in it and still feels that loss that Charles has left.

charles schulz1NameCharles Schulz
Occupation:  Writer, Illustrator
Birth Date:  November 26, 1922
Death Date:  February 12, 2000
Place of BirthMinneapolis, Minnesota
Place of DeathSanta Rosa, California

BEST KNOWN FOR:  Charles Schulz was the creator and cartoonist behind Peanuts, a globally popular comic strip that expanded into TV, books and other merchandise.

Cartoonist and creator of the Peanuts comic strip Charles Schulz was born on November 26, 1922, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Schulz developed an interest in comics early on. As a teenager, he learned the art of cartooning from a correspondence course.
‘Peanuts’

After serving in World War II, Schulz worked as an art instructor and created his first comic strip, Li’l Folks, which was published in a local newspaper. He sold the comic strip to United Feature Syndicate in 1950, and the company retitled it Peanuts.

Peanuts became one of the world’s most successful strips, and has been adapted for television and stage. Schulz based the Charlie Brown character on himself and the inspiration for Snoopy came from a childhood pet.
Illness and Death

In December 1999, Schulz retired from cartooning, citing health problems. His final daily Peanuts newspaper strip appeared on January 3, 2000, and his Sunday Peanuts strip ran on February 7, 2000. A few days later, on February 12, Schulz died at his home in Santa Rosa, California, from colon cancer.

After his death, Schulz received several honors, including the Congressional Gold Medal from the U.S. Congress in 2001.

Notorious – Required Viewing

Notorious

The Wiki:

Notorious is a 1946 American thriller film directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains as three people whose lives become intimately entangled during an espionage operation. It was shot in late 1945 and early 1946, and was released by RKO in August 1946.

Notorious marks a watershed for Hitchcock artistically, and represents a heightened thematic maturity. His biographer, Donald Spoto, writes that “Notorious is in fact Alfred Hitchcock’s first attempt—at the age of forty-six—to bring his talents to the creation of a serious love story, and its story of two men in love with Ingrid Bergman could only have been made at this stage of his life.”

The film is known for two scenes in particular. In one of his most famous shots, Hitchcock starts wide and high on a second floor balcony overlooking the great hall of a grand mansion. Slowly he tracks down and in on Ingrid Bergman, finally ending with a tight close-up of a key tucked in her hand. Hitchcock also devised “a celebrated scene” that circumvented the Production Code‘s ban on kisses longer than three seconds—by having his actors disengage every three seconds, murmur and nuzzle each other, then start right back up again. The two-and-a-half minute osculation is “perhaps his most intimate and erotic kiss”.

Happy Birthday Joan Fontaine

Today is Joan Fontaine‘s 97th birthday.  If nothing else, watch The Women (1939) (and Rebecca and Suspicion and and and…), it is one of the best all time ensemble casts ever created.  You will not be disappointed.

NAME: Joan Fontaine
OCCUPATION:
Film Actress
BIRTH DATE:
October 22, 1917
DEATH DATE:
December 16, 2013
PLACE OF BIRTH:
Tokyo, Japan
PLACE OF DEATH:
Carmel, California
AKA: Joan Burfield,
Joan Fontaine
ORIGINALLY:
Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland

Best Known ForAcademy Award-winning actress Joan Fontaine has appeared in such films as Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Jane Eyre (1944) and Othello (1952).

The Wiki:

Born in Tokyo, Japan, on October 22, 1917, actress Joan Fontaine was a sickly child. Her mother Lillian moved the family to California when she was young to help improve her health. Her parents split up around this time. Fontaine and her older sister, Olivia (de Havilland), seemed to have a difficult relationship from the start, with the pair fighting for their mother’s attention and affection. According to some reports, Lillian favored Olivia.

In 1932, Fontaine moved to Japan to live with her father. Their reunion proved to be short-lived, however, and she returned the United States after about a year. Before long, Fontaine began her acting career, following in the footsteps of her older sister. She reportedly studied with Max Reinhardt, just as her sister had done before her.

Using the name Joan Burfield, Fontaine made her film debut in 1935’s No More Ladies, starring Joan Crawford. She eventually took the last name “Fontaine” after her stepfather. Continuing to work in movies, Fontaine appeared alongside Fred Astaire in the musical A Damsel in Distress in 1937. She was better suited to dramatic roles, however, made apparent by her performances in films like Gunga Din (1939), with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Cary Grant; and The Women (1939), with Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell. She reportedly also missed out another great role that year, turning down the part of Melanie in Gone With the Wind—a role eventually won by her sister, Olivia de Havilland, and for which Olivia earned great acclaim.

Fontaine’s career reached new heights in 1940 with her starring role in Rebecca, Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of the popular Daphne du Maurier novel. She played the title character, starring opposite Laurence Olivier. The following year, Fontaine reteamed with Hitchcock for the thriller Suspicion, co-starring with Cary Grant. She received Academy Award nominations for her performances in Rebecca and Suspicion, taking home the golden statue for Suspicion. This win became the latest flare-up in the feud between Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland, who had been nominated as well.

In 1943, Fontaine picked up her third and final Academy Award nomination (best actress) for her performance in The Constant Nymph. She went on to co-star with Orson Welles in 1944’s classic romantic tale Jane Eyre. The pair worked together again in 1952’s Shakespearean tragedy Othello. That same year, Fontaine had another hit with Ivanhoe, co-starring with Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor.

By the 1960s, the once-busy Fontaine saw her career slow down. She made only a handful of films in her later years, and played a number of television roles. She made guest appearances on such shows as Wagon Train, Hotel and The Love Boat. She also had a recurring role on the daytime soap opera Ryan’s Hope in the early 1980s.

Fontaine has been married and divorced four times: In 1939, she married actor Brian Aherne. The couple divorced in 1945. The following year, she wed producer and actor William Dozier. Dozier and Fontaine had one child together, a daughter named Deborah, before splitting up in 1951. In 1952, she married Collier Young, a writer, and their union lasted until 1961. Her final marriage to journalist Alfred Wright Jr. lasted from 1964 to 1969.

In 1978, Fontaine released her autobiography, No Bed of Roses. She wrote about her long, troubled relationship with sister Olivia, much to Olivia’s dismay. Their final straw between the two siblings reportedly came with their mother’s death around the same time. Fontaine has said that she was not invited to the funeral, and has threatened to talk to the press about being omitted from the service. The date of the funeral was changed so that Fontaine and her daughter could attend, but Joan and Olivia have allegedly not spoken since their mother’s funeral.

Psycho – Required Viewing

 

The Wiki:

Psycho is a 1960 American suspense/horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock starring Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, and Janet Leigh. The screenplay is by Joseph Stefano, based on the 1959 novel Psycho by Robert Bloch loosely inspired by the crimes of Wisconsin murderer and grave robber Ed Gein.

The film centers on the encounter between a secretary, Marion Crane (Leigh), who ends up at a secluded motel after embezzling money from her employer, and the motel’s disturbed owner-manager, Norman Bates (Perkins), and its aftermath.   When originally made, the film was seen as a departure from Hitchcock’s previous film North By Northwest, being filmed on a low budget, with a television crew and in black and white. Psycho initially received mixed reviews, but outstanding box office returns prompted reconsideration which led to four Academy Award nominations, including Best Supporting Actress for Leigh and Best Director for Hitchcock.

It is now considered one of Hitchcock’s best films and praised as a work of cinematic art by critics and film scholars. Ranked among the greatest films of all time, it set a new level of acceptability for violence, deviant behavior and sexuality in American films.[4] After Hitchcock’s death in 1980, Universal Studios began producing follow-ups: three sequels, a remake, a television movie spin-off and a TV series.

In 1992, the film was selected for preservation by the US Library of Congress at the National Film Registry.