Archive for They Live!

The Madness of Crowds

Posted in FILM, Politics, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2015 by dcairns


Re-watched QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (1967) — not to be confused with family R&B act Quatermass and the Pips — because Fiona was on a Nigel Kneale kick. It stands up very well. I was shocked last time I watched the first Hammer QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT to discover that the studio’s warping of the title character from Kneale’s BBC serial, to make him an arrogant bully, in fact a model for the studio’s vision of Victor Frankenstein, really worked quite well. Of course, Kneale wasn’t an anti-science, pro-church, pro-military conservative, so he was horrified by this, but as a statement of the studio’s philosophy it is coherent and compelling.

Roy Ward Baker’s film, however, restores the sympathetic Quatermass of the original series, embodied here by the feisty Scot Andrew Keir, a Hammer stalwart, who plays him like an angry terrier in tweed. James (“Madness! Madness!”) Donald, another Scot, plays heroic archaeologist Dr Roney. Nothing like Indiana Jones — he’s a heroic intellectual, the one character who seems to have out-evolved our deplorable Martian inheritance (read a plot synopsis elsewhere if I don’t seem to be making sense).


We were debating whether the Jumping Leaping Man was played by the same actor in both TV and movie version. It turns out he wasn’t, but the performance is quite similar. Remarkable, since Duncan Lamont (ALSO raised in Scotland) would not have been able to refer back to the TV serial, since it went out live and no recording was known to exist. Happily, it’s since been found. (Nigel Kneale complained that the BBC had junked his ground-breaking series while keeping all the Oxford-Cambridge boat races — “They’re all the same!”) Both actors deliver the line “Jumping! Leaping!” with demented brio, but only Richard Shaw in the original supplements this with a creepy, hilarious and bizarre lolloping gait, which Fiona will impersonate at parties for interested parties.


Very taken with the closing credits, which simply show an exhausted Keir and Barbara Shelley in the burning rubble of Hob’s Lane. Kneale was inspired by racist riots in his depiction of a breakdown of civilisation in which part of society tries to “purge” another. The credits rise somberly as the shot goes on, and on — actually it’s on a loop, with dissolves linking each repeated section, but that doesn’t seem to matter, might even be better. It’s a solution to the possible abruptness of the ending — Kneale doesn’t need to have Quatermass make a speech summing up what we’ve learned, as the unfolding story has already made its points. But simply solving the immediate problem and fading up a THE END title would seem too sudden. This approach suggests lingering unease, trauma and real consequences.

It also reminded Fiona of the ending of John Carpenter’s THE THING, where the face-off has even grimmer implications (or maybe not — the two survivors in the snow are fearful of one another — Keir and Shelley’s characters are alarmed by what they have found within themselves). Carpenter is a huge Kneale fan — an attempted collaboration on HALLOWEEN III rather fell apart, and PRINCE OF DARKNESS is a sort-of tribute, but Carpenter’s emphasis on pure emotion was always slightly at odds with Kneale’s intellectual, even didactic aspect. Two guys who should never approach each other’s material.

Although THEY LIVE is distinctive in Carpenter’s oeuvre, isn’t it? Ideas-led. And the central notion, that the aliens are already among us, quite established and in fact running our society, can be traced back to QUATERMASS II.

The Carpenters

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2008 by dcairns


As a change from my usual past-time of making up compendium movie titles (you know, like, THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN IS A WOMAN, or DIAL V FOR VENDETTA or WHEN DIRTY HARRY MET CRAZY LARRY) which allow one to save time by imagining two or more films at once (there are TOO MANY MOVIES! Couldn’t we just mislay Brett Ratner’s entire oeuvre or something?), I’ve been working on a scheme to miniaturise John Carpenter’s career, converting his feature films into music promos for popular music artistes. This would allow his entire body of work to be watched in an afternoon, making film studies quicker and simpler.

Allow me to demonstrate.

ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK would become ESCAPE FROM NEW ORDER, replacing one electronic soundtrack with another, and playing the whole film just slightly faster to make it the same length as Blue Monday. The belated sequel (and I plan on writing something about that particular phenomenon, with ideas for how D.W. Griffith and Fred Niblo might revive their careers) could be called ESCAPE FROM E.L.O. Carpenter’s pointless remake of VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED could even retain its title, but with Captain Sensible and Rat Scabies digitally inserted in place of Christopher Reeve and Kirstie Alley. I’m not saying it’s an improvement but it is a refreshing change of direction.

ELVIS! can also keep the same title, but now it’s going to be about Elvis Costello. Sorry.

TV thriller SOMEONE’S WATCHING ME will now incorporate the song of the same name by Rockwell, who will be played by Adrienne Barbeau.

THEY LIVE! will now be a concert film, with the full title THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS: LIVE!

Here are some more:








That last one could have just been called IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS and been about Madness, but it made me laugh and in fact is the entire reason I wrote this post. If anyone has any more pop group/movie title mash-ups ideas, let’s have them.