He Has His Father’s Eyes – A (Semi-Grudging) Happy Birthday to Roman Polanski, 79


She’s got a pretty strong case for that one. I say “semi-grudging” in the subject line because I’m not too thrilled about how he’s treated a few certain women. He has, however, gone through some unusually horrifying tragedies, such as the brutal murder of his 8-months-old pregnant wife, and both he and his father survived Auschwitz. His mother was murdered there. Now that I think of him living through that, I feel like an icy bitch, so I’ll focus on two of his movies rather than his personal life.

Rosemary Woodhouse: Awful things happen in every apartment house.

She’s got a hell of a point. Regardless of what I think of Polanski as a person, it’s undeniable that he made two very influential movies that actually helped broaden what a horror movie can be.You might even be able to go so far as to say that with Repulsion (1965) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968), he helped change the face of horror.
A beautiful but unbalanced woman who is slowly losing her mind, seeing waking nightmares, leaving fresh meat out to rot and draw flies in her kitchen, and soon after, dead bodies to rot and draw flies in her bathroom (though the landlord has it coming), and is still so frightened she won’t come out from under her head. Outside of Hitchcock, there weren’t too many psychological thrillers with female protagonists in the 60s.

A woman who only wants to protect her baby, going up against what turns out to be a conspiracy when no-one (outside the conspiracy) believes her, and that conspiracy is even more monstrous than she imagined.  When Rosemary figures out that her baby is alive, and finally pulls the curtain to the bassinet back (a moment that gives me chills to this day) only her horrified and shocked reaction is shown and is one of the best examples in cinema history of leaving a sight to your imagination. She also spits directly into her husband’s smug face when she discovered he has betrayed her to further his career, in one of the truly satisfying moments in the film (to me, anyway).

There’s three movies I recall that, when I was in grade school, my parents ordered me out of the room when they aired on TV and announced loudly that it was “time for bed, now!”. The first was the Omen , the second was The Exorcist, and the third was Rosemary’s Baby. I got to watch maybe the first 20 minutes of DePalma’a Carrie, so I guess that doesn’t make the list. With The Exorcist, I don’t even think I made it through the credits or opening scene before getting hustled off to bed.

You know what? I think that was actually a good call. I was way too young to see them, and they really would have haunted me forever, especially The Exorcist, which actively frightens me as an adult. Speaking of that, I’ve only seen Repulsion once in the mid-80s, and there’s stuff that sticks with me to this day.  The hands coming out of the walls, the manicure mis-fire, the skinned rabbit, all the POV shots are as fresh as they ever were. That movie—Polanski’s first English-language movie, by the way—is fucking disturbing. It was so nightmarish that I only needed to see it once.

I have two trailers for Rosemary’s Baby; I should add that the trailers for both movies are bursting with spoilers, so skip them if you’ve been meaning to watch either and haven’t got around to it yet. The first one is considered rare:

not to mention creepy as shit, too. The next one is arguably the most frightening  trailer:

Repulsion’s trailer here is also chock full of spoilers (and cymbal clashes), but so amazing I couldn’t stand to omit it.

There’s barely any blood in either movie, and what there is just seems kind of quaint now compared to modern horror movies.

For every quote where Polanski came off sounding like an arrogant, there are ones that I, and many movie fans, passionately agree with. My personal favorite is “Cinema should make you forget you are sitting in a theater.” Now that’s the test of a good movie.

Here’s some fun trivia:

  • One of my personal heroes, William “Step Right Up” Castle, had previously acquired the rights to Ira Levin’s novel Rosemary’s Baby. He’d looked forward to directing it, but studios weren’t so thrilled with his reputation for gimmicks like “Emerg-O” for The House on Haunted Hill (an inflatable, glow-in-the-dark skeleton that would get wheeled over the audience during a similar scene in the movie) and… OK, that’s a different article. No way could I (or anyone) beat the piece John Waters wrote on Mr. Castle*, anyway.  Castle ended up producing the movie (which worked out well for him financially) and having a quick cameo.
  • Mia Farrow was not the first, second, or even third actress they wanted for Rosemary.
  • She really did eat raw meat during the kitchen scene.
  • Ira Levin was very, very happy with the movie adaptation of his novel.

Last night, Rosemary had the strangest dream…

*I highly recommend “Whatever Happened to Showmanship?” (1983) in Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters.


Carrie White Burns in Hell and other Classic Horror Jumps (Vote for Your Favorite)

Sometimes I get the brilliant idea (based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever) that if I remember the [jump] scene in vivid detail, I’ll sort of deconstruct it and it’ll lose some of the scare value. Well, 99% of the time, I turn out more freaked out then before…

We’re talking BIG jumps. You know, the kind you either block out after you see the movie because your brain is trying to protect itself from you hitting your head on the ceiling more than once, or, more likely, the kind how may have seen decades ago and will forever be entrenched in your central nervous system. With some jumps, especially those below, I started feeling panick-y just remembering the scene –mainly because I can completely recall the first time I ever saw it in the theater OR my home–and the feeling of my heart skipping a beat …or two. Some are still as fresh in my mind as if I saw them days, not years, ago.

“Slow ahead.” I can go slow ahead. Come on down here and chum some of this shit.

Only halfway through jotting them down, I realized I had well over a dozen and decided to split it into “classic jumps” (during the 70s and 80s) and “contemporary jumps.” I have trivia to add on almost every single one. Some of it, you’re probably aware of, but maybe one or two will be news to you. Sometimes I get the brilliant idea (based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support my theory) that if I remember the scene in vivid detail, I’ll sort of deconstruct it and it’ll lose some of the scare value. Well, 99% of the time, I turn out more freaked out then before. Every time I try it, I know it will almost certainly backfire on me, so I learned to do it a little less now… most of the time. I doubt I’ll ever completely learn my lesson.

Okay… there’s nothing out there on the wing of the plane… I’m seeing things… I’ll just gather my nerve and slide the shade up to double-cheEAAAAAAAAAAAH!

You can put your own answer down if you don’t see your most memorable jump here, but there’s a pretty fair chance it’ll show up in the next poll in the series (or, just comment away). Since the poll lists ten moments (and one of them is a two-fer) I allowed up to four repeat votes, in case you couldn’t pick just one.  I think I know which one will be the most popular –but hey, I could be wrong.  Let’s find out together, shall we?

Vote away! Even if you’ve only seen one or two of the movies, it’ll come to you which one made you jump highest, I can promise you that…


*Writing this post at 4:00 AM was a terrible goddamn idea!

Final Trailer in “Ten Trailers to Keep You Awake” #10 – The Exorcist (1973)

My drawn-out list of Ten Trailers to Keep You Awake has come to a close–until Ten More Trailers to Keep You Awake, of course (think there’s only ten out there)?  I saved the best for last. Seriously, if you’re feeling jumpy and need to wind down to fall asleep because you have to get some rest …well, it might not be good timing to watch this. Perhaps wait till daylight, or when you’ve got work to do and feel yourself nodding off, and you’re out of coffee, would be a more practical time.

This is actively frightening and STRONGLY reminded me of why The Exorcist usually holds the top spot on many, many “Scariest Movies Ever Made” lists, and not just fan lists, but all kinds of print media around the globe. I have yet to see one complaint or someone taking issue with this ranking.

Not that the other nine trailers weren’t scary as hell, but the Exorcist was in the ten-item list for quite some time. I didn’t save it for last as part of some complex thoughtful advance plan; instead, every time I’d think yeah, need to put up the Exorcist trailer and finish the list already, my pulse would speed up. And just fucking forget posting it after dark when I’m the only one in the house still awake. So at 3AM, I got the bright idea to go find the specific version of the trailer I wanted, got the shit scared of out me when running it to ensure I had the right one (and I turned the “mute” on ten seconds in, too), then figured  since it was too late to turn back on the whole racing pulse-causing-insomnia thing, I’d finish what I started.

The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you! The power of …oh fuck it.

Before they re-released the movie in theaters in, I believe, 2000-2001, restored and re-mastered. they sold a special edition, which I ended up buying to see the notorious spider-walk scene that was cut. Middle of the day, sun out, hopped on my stair climber for my early workout while I watched (as was my routine at the time). Oh, the special features start with several original trailers? Awesome! Batter up! First thing I see is the below trailer. Huh, the 1973 TV spot, wonder how good th–

Then after my hand stopped shaking enough to work the remote to dial down the volume a little, I get…

Oh, by the way, that reminds me. After it was way too late, I discovered a fun fact: This last trailer above is rare due to the fact that was pulled from theaters out of concern that it would be too frightening for audiences (I fucking agree). Well well!  Isn’t that funny? Oh,  I totally understand; just maybe a little heads-up for those of us watching at home would have been nice, though.

Often imitated –NEVER equalled.

I have a TON of Exorcist content (some of it hard to find online), but I’ll try to keep from taking a sleep-aid by not sharing that in this post. Here’s what someone called an “Exorcist Trailer”, but it turned out to be a (well-crafted) fan-made montage containing 90% of the most horrifying scenes. If you haven’t seen the movie, and plan to, I advise you to skip it, too spoiler-y. If you don’t want to see the, say, the bloody crucifix scene (which still makes me wince every time; I think the Foley artists made it twice as brutal) or a line that sounds like but is not “your mother sews socks that smell”, or are easily offended, REALLY skip it. Now that the spoiler warnings are out of the way,  this should do the trick if you’re still sleepy. This is actively frightening and STRONGLY reminded me of why The Exorcist usually holds the top spot on many, many “Scariest Movies Ever Made” lists, and not just fan lists, but all kinds of print media around the globe. I have yet to see one complaint or someone taking issue with this ranking.

OK! That about does it for me watching anything else related to The Exorcist for tonight! Or any night for about a week after dark! Meanwhile, as a kind of palate-cleanser, here’s the hilarious pre-credits Exorcist parody from Scary Movie 2. Also very, very R-Rated, but it always makes me laugh when I get a little freaked out. Enjoy!

Wonder if James Woods knew the cameras were rolling from between 1.20 and 1.50? Heh. Hope that last clip brightened up your Monday a little! To be continued…

Well lissen, I gotta get going here…