7 posts categorized "Gothic"

October 30, 2023

BLUE VELVET — SHOCKTOBER!

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THE BLOOD OF DRACULA

ColeSmithey.comIn 1986 David Lynch broke the language of cinema wide open in the same way that Jackson Pollock did with the art world in the early '40s.

Using a minimalist filmic palate for a neo-noir set in small town America, Lynch blends surrealist elements into a suspenseful story of adult sexual awakening (vis a vis BDSM) juxtaposed against violence, mystery, and mental illness.

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Using iconographic character names drawn from '50s Americana iconography (see Frank, Sandy and Ben), and a moody musical score to match, Lynch presents returning hometown boy Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan).

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After his father suffers a heart attack while watering the family lawn, Jeffrey unearths a severed ear in a field that he crossed thousands of times in his youth. Unspeakable acts are being carried even in America's most seemingly provincial towns. Every city has its "bad side of town."

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Our curious protagonist finds a willing ally for his impromptu private investigation into the mystery of the ear's owner in the local police detective's romantically inclined daughter Sandy (Laura Dern). On the surface, Sandy seems like natural girlfriend material for Jeffrey, but this guy has a taste for the exotic (if incestuous) that vanilla Sandy can't fulfill. 

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However, Jeffrey is unprepared for the psychological and emotional upheaval that will devour him when he stalks the fetishized life of Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini), a sultry nightclub singer used to playing rough with a very debauched criminal named Frank (Dennis Hopper). The bi-polar Dorothy has a nasty little taste for kink.

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"Blue Velvet" is David Lynch's greatest cinematic achievement next to "Eraserhead." His balance of symbols, and artful use of montage, is at its most poetic and powerful. His metaphoric allusions about the dysfunctional nature of the ideal "American Dream" family incite hellish visions of the abusive father (as embodied in Hopper's character) and the traumatized wife/mother who needs saving from her idealized son.

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Every role is perfectly cast. Dennis Hopper's portrayal of a whacked-out crime boss is terrifying. Lynch's haunting small-town mystery carries an indescribable undertow that kicks like a spastic mule in heat. 

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"Blue Velvet" is the closest that any filmmaker other than Buñuel has ever come to such a daring cinematic feat.You can bet that Quentin Tarantino took notes from "Blue Velvet" in creating "Reservoir Dogs." Here is a film that alters everyone who sees it.

Rated R. 120 mins.

5 StarsModern Cole SF SHOCKTOBER!Cozy Cole

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October 13, 2023

THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER — SHOCKTOBER!

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does. This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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THE BLOOD OF DRACULA THE BLOOD OF DRACULA



ColeSmithey.comCharles Laughton, a consummate British actor of stage and film, directed only one film during his lifetime, but he made it count. The ubiquitous novelist, screenwriter, and film critic James Agee provided the fact-based source material that Laughton sculpted into his personalized masterpiece of Gothic cinema.

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By incorporating angular set and lighting designs — inspired by such German expressionist films as “Nosferatu,” Laughton created an American Gothic style that informed generations of filmmakers in various genres. Although critics dismissed “The Night of the Hunter” at the time of its release in 1955, it eventually earned its rightful place among the best films of all time.

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Laughton took an innovative approach toward satirizing America’s Christian belief system and methods of manipulating its society. The setting is West Virginia during the Great Depression. Robert Mitchum plays serial killer Harry Powell. He marries women, kills them and steals their money. Harry dresses as a preacher. He wears a plantation necktie and wide-brim black hat. He peppers his language with biblical phrases. “L-O-V-E” is tattooed on the knuckles of Harry’s right hand. “H-A-T-E” is tattooed on the left. Reverend Harry wins friends and influences strangers with a well-practiced sermon about a battle between good and evil, now an iconic scene in cinema. Harry demonstrates the conflict by locking his fingers and twisting his hands back and forth as he displays his mastery of evangelical showmanship. Privately, Harry likes to carry on conversations with God. He believes in the Holy Ghost. Or maybe just himself.

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The movie opens with a group of children discovering the corpse of one of Harry’s female victims. The narrative cuts to Ben Harper, a family man on the run from police after carrying out a bank robbery. Approaching sirens get louder as Ben decides where to hide the money before making his son John (Billy Chapin) and younger daughter Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce) promise to never reveal the secret.

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Arrested for car theft, Harry is thrown in a cell with Ben (Peter Graves). Ben talks in his sleep. Ben’s execution coincides with Harry’s release. Harry goes straight to Ben’s weak-willed widow Willa (Shelly Winters) and insinuates himself into her heart. Marriage follows. The crux of the story coalesces around the couple’s would-be conjugal bed, where Harry makes clear that the purpose of sex is only for procreation. Laughton’s Gothic melodrama explodes. Since Willa agrees she doesn’t want more children, intercourse is off the table. Only Harry’s fire-and-brimstone speechifying will guide Willa’s psyche through prayer.

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The centerpiece of the film is a lingering underwater shot of Willa’s corpse sitting in the front seat of the Model T in which Harry buries her in a nearby river. Laughton shows the chilling scene from different angles to quell any hope that the victim might still have a breath of life left in her. The horror is real. So is the genius of this unforgettable film.

Rated PG-13. 99 mins.

5 StarsColeSmithey.com THE BLOOD OF DRACULATHE BLOOD OF DRACULAScreen Shot 2023-10-13 at 12.21.35 PM THE BLOOD OF DRACULA THE BLOOD OF DRACULACozy Cole

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March 12, 2022

THE INNOCENTS — THE CRITERION COLLECTION

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does. This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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ColeSmithey.comTruman Capote's script contributions to adapting Henry James's ghost story "The Turn Of The Screw" appear to have fleshed out the novella's potential for maximum psychosexual impact.

This 1961 gothic horror classic has informed everything from "The Exorcist" to "Crimson Peak."

Creepy, creepy.

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Director Jack Clayton delivers penetrating chills with economy buffeted by lush set designs that define the creeping insanity of Deborah Kerr's governess character.

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Miss Giddens has some twisted BDSM ideas escalating in her imagination. Meanwhile, she suspects the young brother and sister in her charge are up to no good.

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Child abuse is at the core of this unsettling shocker.

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Nightmares may follow.

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Don't underestimate "The Innocents."

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This is one effed up movie.

Not Rated. 100 mins.

5 StarsColeSmithey.com THE BLOOD OF DRACULA THE BLOOD OF DRACULA SHOCKTOBER! KITTIESCozy Cole

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