As a rule, I don’t like horror films – not because I scare especially easily but more due to the fact that I am both disgusted and bored by gore. However, I recently read about the relationship between director Alfred Hitchcock and star of The Birds and Marnie, Tippi Hedren, a model and actress discovered by Hitchcock in the early 1950s. Hitchcock’s reported unreciprocated obsession with Hedren effectively ruined her career: her contract with him preventing her from working for anyone else. Perhaps most shockingly of all, however, during five days of filming of the penultimate scenes of The Birds, Hedren was in fact pelted with live birds.
This real life romantic obsession/revenge dynamic was fascinating to me. So, while I may claim not to appreciate the genre, I decided there was analysis to be had in The Birds: also known as My First Hitchcock. Of course, the film has been reviewed numerous times over the years, and there is simply one aspect I want to focus on: the female characters, specifically Melanie. I expected little from the female characters in this film: firstly because it was produced by a man in the early 1960s, but more specifically due to Hitchcock’s feelings regarding Hedren. I was thus pleasantly surprised to discover that, for the majority of the film, Melanie is in her own right a fantastic character. She is confident and strong, warmly charming those around her in order to
achieve her goals. Her relationship with Annie (Suzanne Plechette) is something that I feel modern day film makers could learn a lot from.
(Suzanne Plechette and Tippi Hedren in ‘The Birds’)
Although there is brief animosity between the two invoked by their respective relationships with the male lead, Mitch (Rod Taylor), Melanie and Annie do not treat each other like bitter love rivals, instead respecting each other enough that they even become friends. Perhaps more realistic than the hair pulling cat fights seen frequently in more recent productions. Melanie is also taken seriously throughout the film. For example, when alerting locals in a café to the dangers posed by the gathering birds, she is not dismissed as simply an irrational woman – because she is not. My positive feelings about the film and its female characterisation lasted until the penultimate, bird-chucking scenes. While Mitch and his family sleep in the living room of their house that has been boarded up in order to prevent death-by-beak, Melanie decides it would be a great time to carry out a little exploration upstairs. Naturally, this is when all feathery hell breaks loose. As she slowly climbed the stairs, I felt myself screaming at the screen. Why would a character who has otherwise been so rational and intelligent decide to make this move? Curiosity? Hysteria? Rebellion? It’s fair to say that Melanie’s reputation of rebelliousness precedes her at the beginning of the film, but she adamantly defends herself throughout, both vocally to Mitch, but also in her behaviour. My fear is that she is sent upstairs in order to make Mitch the hero, the stereotypical image of masculinity, carrying Melanie’s limp, injured body back down the stairs and leading the family to safety. I wouldn’t have such a problem with this if that had been the apparent dynamic throughout the movie – but I truly expected more. I did enjoy The Birds. The suspense was fantastic and I appreciated that it resulted from something other than the threat of an axe murderer. I will definitely continue to explore Hitchcock’s work, but my expectations of characterisation have been pared right back once again. It’s a shame, that.
Today is new comic book day. Today is Halloween. Marketing opportunity ASSEMBLE.
There are a number of new and interesting horror comics hitting shelves today and quite a few of them are worth a look.
Ghosts #1 | Various | Vertigo
This book gives you 80 pages of ghosts and horror from some of the best creators in the industry. Yes please. If you are going to buy one book this Halloween this has to be it. The slightly higher price point may be a little off putting for some but this anthology book promises amongst its many stories the tale of ‘a spirit who wants to play synthesizer in a techno band’. If that doesn’t get you reaching for your wallet I don’t know what will. Perhaps the impressive line-up of creators including Geoff Jones, Phil Jimenez, Joe Kubert, Amy Reeder Hadley, Paul Pope and Jeff Lemire to name a few.
Lot 13 #1 | Steve Niles & Glenn Fabry | DC
DC have really grasped this Halloween new comic book day by the horns with the release of the above book from Vertigo as well as this new horror title. When it comes to horror comics Steve Niles is one of the industry’s biggest names, he created 30 Days of Night. This haunted house/apartment story drawn by preacher artist Glenn Fabry promises to be a creepy affair.
Bedlam #1 | Nick Spencer & Riley Rossmo | Image Comics
Nick Spencer created one of my personal favourite new books of the last couple years Morning Glories, which was discussed a few weeks back on this site. The current winning streak of Image Comics new releases also gives me huge confidence. The preview doesn’t give too much away but expect murder and mystery with the story of a homicidal maniac who ‘got better’. If the mystery and horror of some of Morning Glories are anything to go by this will be a book you will want to pick up from the start. All that plus the gorgeous artwork from Riley Rossmo, as seen in Cowboy Ninja Viking, make this a must for horror fans.
As well as the above new series there are also a few continuing series being released today that may satisfy your horror needs.
Whispers #4 from Image Comics is released today, though if the story of a mentally troubled man leaving his body in ghost form to manipulate others in disturbing ways tickles your fancy I would go and seek back-issues/help.
Dark Horse has their Buffy Season 9 comic book Angel and Faith #15 if vampires and continuity are your thing. Also out from Dark Horse is the confusingly titled B.P.R.D: Hell On Earth #100 Return Of The Master #3 make of that what you will.
The zombie/vampire mash-up New Deadwardians #8 comes to a close this week. I would wait for the trade on this one.
IDW are the clear Halloween winners with the releases of so many of their biggest horror related licenced properties – Ghostbusters, 30 Days of Night, Godzilla, True Blood and a rather interesting sounding Mars Attacks Holidays One Shot.
All in all it is a rather good time to be a horror/comic book fan.
Ignore the fact that London gets all the premieres, red carpet receptions and star-studded frippery. Disregard Sheffield’s Sean Bean-themed chip shops and rugged sky; snub Derbyshire’s rugged hills (what, like there’s nowhere else to film a Jane Austin adaptation?). The Athens of North has
more than its fair share of movie locations.
Let’s get the obvious one over with, shall we? One Day has several scenes set in Edinburgh – notably Anne Hathway and Jim Sturgess’ first on-screen kiss – which takes place on Cockburn St in the Old Town.
Princes St features right at the start of the 90’s classic, with Euan McGregor’s Renton and Ewan Bremner’s Spud being chased down the city’s foremost high street. McGregor’s iconic voiceover playing over Lust For Life made this exhilarating opening scene one of the most famous in British cinematic history.
A weird, magnetic film, Hallam Foe stars Jamie Bell as an oedipal teenager on the run in Edinburgh. He lives in the clocktower of the Balmoral Hotel and spies into his lover’s apartment on Cockburn Street, and somehow nobody thinks this is strange.
An enchanting animation from the makers of Belleville Rendesvouz that sees a French magician leave Paris on an impromptu search for work in Edinburgh. Most of the animated scenes of the city are idealised, though Salisbury Crags and the Jenners department store both feature. In one iconic scene, the magician watches a Jacques Tati movie in the main screen of the Cameo cinema on Leven St.
Chariots of Fire
Whilst Salisbury Crags might be an imposing, rugged stage on which to shoot a pivotal scene of your film – the filmmakers got one major thing wrong about this section of the film that sent Hollywood into an Anglophiliac frenzy. Namely, that nobody in their right mind ever goes for a jog in Holyrood Park in the rain. It just doesn’t happen.
Euan McGregor features again in this dark, grimy film about coal miners in the Central Belt. It heavily features the Union Canal (which starts in Edinburgh’s West End and runs all the way to Glasgow), because much of it set on a coal barge.
The Thirty-Nine Steps
The colour remake of Hitchcock’s 1935 adaptation of Buchan’s thriller was mainly shot in a studio, but used footage of the Forth Bridge to recreate Hitchcock’s shots of the bridge for a scene where Richard Hannay climbs out of a train.
Two Weeks In September
You’ve probably never heard of it, but this 1967 film had some profound consequences on the local area; it means that Brigitte Bardot visited Portobello beach. That strip damp of sand just got a lot sexier.
As if yesterday’s comic selection wasn’t enough to brighten up the start of term, here is a selection of films. This list is stuffed with films you’ve probably already seen but you should see again because the likelihood is they are a damn sight better than homework or “playing outside”.
Breakfast Club sets out to be the ultimate bottle episode and capture High School in one Saturday. For those who don’t know, a “Bottle Episode” is where a cast is brought together in one place where they are forced to deal with underlying tensions. For example the mall episode in every single 90s/00s high school show. Breakfast Club is taking on the underlying divisions common in every High School, it sets out to break down the superficial barriers by humanising each character in the others eyes. It is a touching and funny film and should be top of every high-school movie list on the back of the script
alone. In my opinion the breakfast club is the ensemble to end all ensembles, it deals with the group dynamic brilliantly while maintaining strong identity for each character. The performances are universally strong whether this is the actors fault or John Hughe’s I don’t know. Everyone has their favourites, Emilio Esteves and Judd Nelson are the standouts for me mainly because of Andrew’s dancing and Benders ankle bandana. John Hughes spent the greater part of his post Lampoon career trying to capture High School, I’m glad he did.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Welcome back now that we have all enjoyed these films lets talk Bueller. Ferris is who everyone wants to be, everyone, he drives awesome (semi-stolen) cars, he sings on floats, he does a dynamite “sausage king” impression. I can’t write enough praise about this film, I love it, I’m entirely biased and have no criticism. Hilarious script, excellent performances, singing, dancing and a truly unbelievable car. You’ve seen it you know why I love this film, it’s a ludicrous feature-length fantasy about grabbing life by the bollocks and singing twist and shout, whats not to love?
Watch the film again, school will still be there in 90 odd minutes and you will be in a much better mood.
The Lindsay Lohan starring Mean Girls is one of the funniest films Tina Fey has ever written about High School. The ability to turn one of Hollywood’s biggest disasters into an essentially likeable character is a miracle of modern cinema. Examining High School through an outsiders perspective is hardly ground breaking but it does allow for some really funny moments and great performances (mostly by the adult cast but also a few stand out kids). It approaches the issue of compartmentalising kids in school on a much grander scale than other films with ludicrous results. It’s a bit of a dumb film but worth a watch if just to enjoy the comedy of Lindsay Lohan trying to act like a human being.
Adventures in Babysitting
To say this is the most ridiculous film in this list is an incorrect use of the word “ridiculous”. Adventures in baby sitting follows Elisabeth Shue, an entirely irresponsible baby sitter, and her wards. This unlikely ensemble of minors genuinely stumble upon multiple gun fights, car thief’s, the mob, abusive frat guys and a mechanic who looks like Thor. It’s a silly film but you will enjoy it, the cast are surprisingly capable actors who stumble through a series of Goonie like escapades. The only reason this made it on the list instead of the Goonies is I watched this more recently and am still reeling from the experience. Genuinely they almost foil the
mob, I still can’t get over it.
Lets talk about Juno Home skillet, lickety split and whatever other phrases we were supposed to believe an actual human being used. In 2008 Juno provided us with a surprisingly humorous and touching look at teenage pregnancy and adoption. With regressing adults highlighting Juno’s growth and ludicrous turns of phrase highlighting the benefit of watching tv and listening to that MTV. Through Juno (described in my favourite line in the film as a “cautionary whale”) we get an intelligent and funny look at teenage life in the noughties.
NB. I was trying to write a “baby bump/ bumps along the way” pun for like half an hour, if you think of one fire it in the comments. High five for my favourite
It”s that time of the year, doesn”t matter how old you are summer ending is bullspit. End of the summer means end of the Olympics, end of good weather and, for those of a certain age, back to school. Well cool off, I am here to brighten up even the worst summer hangover. Over the next couple of days I will be aiming you towards stuff that should keep the September blues at bay
I know what you”re going to say “Angus I”m going back to uni”, “Angus I spent all my money in the fringe”, “Angus I”m scared the leaves are changing” well quit moaning I”ve got some comics for you.
Morning Glories Vol: 1-3
Image comics has recently released the third volume in this expansive series and there has never been a better time to pick it up. Until a week ago I hadn”t heard of Nick Spencer”s interesting take on High School, I have since inhaled all three volumes.
Morning Glories is set in one of the worlds leading preparatory schools, classrooms stocked with the best resources and all other available space stuffed with unresolved mystery. Following a group of pupils providing a Breakfast Club-esque cross section of the high school society. This group”s initial excitement at being accepted to this prestigious school is soon replaced with horror as they realise the Orwellian arsenal of despair and torture the staff utilise to achieve their unknown goal.
Spencer draws on influences from across the board, whether its room 101 or John Hughes. The key influence on the overall style however are the JJ Abrams” shows Lost and Fringe. Extensive backstory all tying into one mystery, each issue drifts in and out of flashbacks and/or flash-forwards? (wibbly wobbley timey wimey). This style of narrative is infuriatingly compelling but possibly to0 grand for the comic format. I read the series in three volumes and this was very enjoyable, however I cannot see myself enjoying the single issues to the same extent. The story can be slow and convoluted, waiting a month for an issue which ends up a flashback that won”t be relevant for another four issues (months) would drive me to the edge of insanity.
It”s a testament to the writing that I am only now discussing the art of this series. Morning Glories has consistent but frankly muted art. It”s functional but not much more, the only stand out feature I felt are the expressive characters. This means one of two things 1) they wanted to create an atmosphere of mundane drudgery in the school while aiding character development with expressive close ups or 2) they spent all the budget on a decent writer and got stuck with an average artist.
The size and ambition Casino games paid for for any mere 11% (individuals online slots can’t be introduced rapidly enough) while bingo notched a 4% share. of this project is infuriating but enjoyable. I was excited to read the third volume, I want to know what happens. It”s more compelling than a lot of content currently produced, especially when read in trade paperbacks. However if Spencer so much as thinks the word purgatory when writing the ultimate payoff, I will riot.
Freshmen Vol: 1
What if a group of college freshmen suddenly got superpowers based on what they were
thinking in one split second in 2004?
I”ll give you a minute to mull that mammoth question over.
You”ve just read the first issue of Top Cow”s Freshmen co-created by Seth Green and Hugh Sterbakov. Penned by Sterbakov, Freshmen aims to capture the fresher experience utilising super powers and a talking beaver. It”s a simple comic from a simpler time, it”s a super powered “Undeclared”. This simplicity however plays to the relative strength of Sterbakov”s writing, silly humour (one character”s power is to make people drunk and the Beaver talks) is used to mask a fairly strong arc of character development. There are some gaps in development later in the series, however this is more due to the unusual size of ensemble.
Volume one does a good job combining a standard super-hero origin story with a college freshers group dynamic. A pared down story which focuses entirely on characters is pleasant relief after the heavy “Morning Glories”. It is a funny book which handles an overly large ensemble well, the bad guy is menacing if a little basic and Freshmen set itself up well for a second volume. Overall I would recommend Freshmen Volume One, its funny, silly and provides some good action with a fun group dynamic.