Friday, July 03, 2009

John Carpenter Triple Bill

Inspired by the John Carpenter Retrospective over at Horror Etc, as well as some similar discussion at Mondo Movie, I decided that it was high time I revisited three John Carpenter movies that I had seen in years.

I decided to do this triple bill in chronological order, so I started out with Escape From New York. The last time I watched the movie, it was on a VHS 'taped from TV' copy I'd had for years. The lighting was dark, and the sound was terrible. That had always lessened the impact of the film on me. Seeing it on DVD on a good (still not great) TV made all of the difference in the world. I just love this flick, and the casting was perfect. I've always felt that the likes of Lee Van Cleef, Harry Dean Stanton and Isaac Hayes work best in smallish doses (15 minutes or less) and Carpenter's synth music has never been more appropriate. I watched this with my wife, and even she'd admit that it's a ton of fun.

Moving on to The Thing - I decided to watch this while listening to Anthony and Ted's commentary from the Horror Etc podcast: . I'd never done this kind of thing before - and it was a lot of fun synching up my iPod and sitting back with a beer. I felt like I was watching the movie with old friends. What can I say about the actual film? It's amazing - still looks perfect nearly 30 years later. The Horror Etc boys really added a lot to my viewing experience with comments on some possible clues as to the alien's whereabouts, as well as technical aspects such as blocking and visual effects. It was a very enjoyable and educational experience. Love the ending - it's perfect, but I agree that there is room for a prequel.

Feeling in the 'commentary' mood, I decided to rent Big Trouble in Little China and watch it while listening to the Carpenter/Russell commentary. Holy crap, was that ever a lot of fun! I'm run a bit hot and cold on the film itself. It has its moments, and I've always loved some of Russell's lines as the reluctant non-hero but it feels a bit long in the middle act. It's obvious that Carpenter and Russell are just nuts about each other, and their laughter is infectious. You could have a drinking game based on the number of times they are talking about something other than the movie. Lost of fun, and they even manage to give you some insight into the movie making process. Trust me, listen to this commentary and you'll wish you were best friends with both of these guys.


pete doree said...

Escape from New York is the greatest comic book movie that isn't actually based on a comic book ever, and The Thing is STILL magnificently creepy, plus it has the best monster effects ever ( courtesy of Rob Bottin & Mike Ploog! )
I agree with you that Big Trouble is a lesser piece, but yeah, any of these films is worth it for the John & Kurt commentaries. Great, drunken stuff!

The Mutt said...

Jack Burton is not a "reluctant non-hero." He absolutely thinks he is John Wayne. What he doesn't realize is that he is the sidekick in his own movie.

Watch it again with that in mind and you'll see why I think it's one of the funniest movies ever.

And he never, ever does anything right. (Except throwing the knife into Lo Pan's head. Reflexes.)

The commentary by Russell and Carpenter is hysterical. Doesn't Kurt seem like a guy you'd love to have a beer with?