Friday, March 23, 2007

YAAAGH! It's The '70s Again!

I tell ya, it's deja vu for this old fart: an interminable, hopeless, unnecessary unprovoked foreign war failing on multiple fronts; the President heard and seen everywhere this week, trying to bully/squirm his way out of pending investigations and subpoenas; some fucking Hills Have Eyes movie opening on a Friday... oh, look! Thankfully, there's the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie opening, too.


It's just the '90s again!

Wotta relief.

There's still hope, then, between
  • Marlboro College alumni and Brattleboro Food Coop vet Artemis (aka Ashley Flagg, no relation to 'Cash Flagg' of The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, I promise you!) proposing a bold new 2008 Presidential campaign strategy, amid her ongoing spinning and weaving,
  • or sharing the giddy joy with Burlington amigo Phil Beruth about the current Democratic investigations working up some steam.
  • And that's all I'll evoke on that topic today, if only to keep things light on such a lovely spring morning as this.

    Alas, though, there is the sad news that
  • Freddie Francis passed away on March 17th.
  • Freddie Francis's work sparked many a movie screen in my youth, betwixt his bewitching cinematography for films like The Innocents (1961) -- including the still-most-convincing shot of a ghost (the spectral nanny sitting amid the reeds) I've ever seen in a movie -- and his robust, imaginative direction of juicy potboilers like Paranoiac (Hammer, 1963), The Skull (Amicus, 1966, a visual tour de force and real corker in its day when seen on the big screen!), Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (Hammer, 1967, and still among my favorite Hammers for its splashy color imagery), and two of my fave Amicus anthology excursions, Dr. Terror's House of Horrors and Torture Garden. The latter remains especially memorable for it's "Man Who Collected Poe" finale, pitching Jack Palance against Peter Cushing as to whom is the more dedicated, obsessive completist collector -- hey, I can really relate!

    Alas, Francis's directorial career careened into the toilet by the '70s with the likes of Trog! (to be released this summer by Warner Bros. on DVD in a "Camp Classics" collection -- sigh), Crazed (wherein Palance scraped belly to bottom, too, clowning for producer Herman Cohen in his crassest exploitation vehicle) and the ill-fated Tyburn Studios films for Freddie's son, the producer Kevin Francis. Still, I found moments to savor in these films, too, including the terminal portmanteau potpourri Tales That Witness Madness, with its amorous tree and cannibal Hawaiian cookout. I can't even call these guilty pleasures, though, as they were clearly nails in a coffin buried deeper than one cares to contemplate for long.

    Thankfully, in my adult film-viewing life, Francis returned to the fore to grace David Lynch's The Elephant Man, Dune and The Straight Story with his most splendid cinematography work. I hoped for his return to directing, though, and found myself among the minority who found Francis's return to form via his realization of Dylan Thomas's long-unproduced script for The Doctor and the Devils a real pleasure; I caught it twice during its short theatrical run, and still love the film.

    R.I.P., Freddie Francis. You brightened and inspired this youthful imagination, in its formative years, and you showed me what a ghost might really look like.

    Have a great Friday, one and all...

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