Key Posts Category
Daily Mail Attacks Manchester City’s Joe Hart And Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere For Following Its Health Tips
HOW football journalism works, with the Daily Mail’s Neil Ashton. Before the World Cup, on May 20, 2014, England were at the Grove Hotel for the Lions and Roses dinner. The charity event hosted by the England Footballers Foundation “raised £362,000 in a night for charity… and even Premier League stars were surprised at that amount of money!”
One bidder paid £10,000 for a round of golf with Manchester City’s Joe Hart and Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney. Ashton notes:
In an era when it is so easy to casually criticise the players, this event, in football parlance, could be described as ‘a leveller’. Every member of that squad, from captain Steven Gerrard and vice-captain Frank Lampard to Southampton trio Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Luke Shaw, understood their roles and responsibilities.
WHEN you think of children being in bands, you immediately think of the Jackson 5 or Hanson. They’re slick, pro-outfits that have been tutored and taught within an inch of their lives.
That’s not to say they’re bad in any way, but they’re basically making music by adults, aimed at kids. The youthful joy is there, but what about the abandon and awkwardness which makes children such a fascinating prospect?
Flippers and faps: the dark side of dolphins
THINK of dolphins and you might think of Fred Neil’s beautiful, poignant song of that name, performed here, in one of his many versions, by the late Tim Buckley…
Or – if you are of a certain age – you might be transported with warm fuzzy memories of Porter Ricks and his marine mammalian mate Flipper: ‘No-one you see is smarter than he…’
THINKING outside the (penalty) box: tackling the ‘professional’ foul
WITH the World Cup semi-finals upon us, it’s as good a time as any to remember Laurent Blanc, the French captain who received a red card – the only one of his entire career – in the semi-final of the 1998 World Cup, and missed the final thanks to Slaven Bilic’s theatrics.
There were no Gazza tears, just Gallic stoicism. He said he had only himself to blame for raising his hand.
Blanc shared the presentation of the cup with Didier Deschamps, and avoided any John Terry-style ridicule for doing so in his team shirt, but it must have been a bitter pill to swallow all the same.
In recent years, FIFA have addressed the problem of accumulated yellow cards, thus making career-ruining suspensions less likely for finals – although a red in a semi will still see you banned.
But what of the other side of the coin? What of the teams who are knocked out of the tournament because of cynical, calculated ‘professional’ fouls which deny them a crucial goal?
These days, denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity is supposed to be punished by a straight red. Sometimes it is punished by both a red card and a penalty.
THE jihadis of ISIS are using Hello Kitty notepads to organise their massed ranks. Either that or else the pad in the photo below is official ISIS merchandise, filled with directives and sent from the shadowy figure of the Great Kitty herself.
Can she be stopped. Can Hello Kitty become See You In Hell Kitty?
We’ve assembled the weapons that ISIS are using to foment Armageddon.
Hello Kitty Airsoft
STUDENTS get drunk, do stupid things and feel homesick: those were the shocking secrets uncovered in the first episode of The Secret Life of Students, Channel 4’s latest slice of unflinching voyeurism. While it focused on a clutch of freshers at Leicester University, the twist this time was that the programme makers were able to delve into their subjects’ social media postings, texts and Google searches, flashing their contents up on screen as the unsurprising stories unfolded.
The Flying Circus Comes To Town: Python’s hidden gems
THE Flying Circus is back in town, for one last hurrah – or rather a string of them – at London’s O2. The famous old sketches will be enacted again, and the audience will be word-perfect even is the performers aren’t.
The story can be found in a special programme here…
In honour of the reunion, but in the spirit of discovery, we offer a selection of the Pythons’ most obscure back pages….
The album that never was
Monty Python albums weren’t just a way of reliving the sketches in the days before video recorders; they were classics in their own right. Far from being mere cash-ins, they were actually superior to the TV shows, and played a crucial but unsung role in establishing the Monty Python phenomenon.
Back in the day, a generation of schoolboys learned French verbs and poetry by rote, then spent their spare time committing Monty Python sketches to memory in similar dead-parrot fashion, using the tie-in albums and books for homework. Meanwhile in America, where the shows were virtually unknown, the records (on the ‘progressive’ Charisma label) became an integral part of the post-Sixties ‘stoner’ culture. FM djs gave them airplay, and rock stars championed them at every opportunity. They were known as ‘The Pythons’, which sounded like a rock group, and before long they were de facto rock stars themselves, with sell-out live tours and screaming fans. There was even a live album, replete with extra swearing. (The albums were quite risqué, in marked contrast to the strict censorship of the BBC at the time.)
ROLF Harris is the sexual predator who hid in plain view. Everything the Australian artist/singer did is now shrouded in his crimes. You can read about his depravity here.
Rolf spent a lot of time with other people’s children.
He was educating them. Uncle Rolf, you see, just loved to help.
We’ve pulled together a gallery of 22 ways in which Rolf Harris presented himself as lovable man you could trust. But if you look now, it’s wonder he got away with for so long. He really is remarkably creepy:
ROLF Harris has been found guilty of 12 counts of indecent assault against four victims, including a teenage friend of his daughter Bindi and a seven year-old fan.
Everything he ever did in life is now darkened by his depravity.
Since news of Harris’s arrest emerged last year, the NSPCC has received 28 calls relating to the entertainer, 13 of which were from women who claimed to have been sexually abused by him.
At the height of his sexual offending, the disgraced star fronted an NSPCC-affiliated child abuse awareness video, which was widely shown in British schools.
He hid in plain view – right to the end:
Denying all charges, Harris tried to entertain the court by singing snippets of one of his well-known songs.
Hearing that, I thought of that scene in Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa, where the underage girl forced into prostitution blocks out the pain of her horrific rape at the hands of a sordid old man by singing a nursery rhyme to herself:
There once was a man named Michael Finnegan,
He had three whiskers on his chinnegan,
The wind came up and blew them in ag’in,
Poor old Michael Finnegan (begin ag’in)
Harris is now redrawn as a saddist. The Times notes:
In week three of the trial, wearing one of his iridescent purple ties, he told a journalist that she was wearing a lovely blouse.
He sat doodling pictures of the jury. He regaled them with jokes. This was lovable Rolf who had just hugged young girls:
Harris had a “technique”, Wass [prosectuing] told the court. The indecent assault that he had inflicted in the towel and come-and-see-my-paintings incidents, for instance, had involved him inserting his fingers into the teenage girls’ vaginas, so unexpectedly they weren’t sure what was happening. Sometimes he would spit on his fingers first; always he would behave afterwards as if nothing had happened.
“We see that technique of yours, the hug followed by the indecent touching in many victims of the case,” said Wass: “Sexual molestation disguised as a friendly hug.”
Harris is a manipulative, predatory liar.
A witness who worked as an executive on Rolf’s BBC show Animal Hospital told the court: “Rolf is a hugger. Rolf is kind, he’s affectionate. [He’d tell a stranger] My God you’re beautiful in a non-sexual way.”
Uncle Rolf just loves praising women on their dress sense. He told the 13-year-old he really loved her bikini. He told a woman journalist outside the court, he just loved her blouse.
Had he sexually assaulted a girl in Cambridge back in 1978? He said he’d never been there. But one woman had a video recording of Harris appearing in a TV show called Star Games. It was filmed in Cambridge, back in 1978.
The video was played to the court.
Sasha Wass QC, for the Crown, had a question:
“When you told the jury with such confidence last week on Tuesday that you had never been to Cambridge until four years ago, that was a deliberate lie, wasn’t it?”
Harris: “It wasn’t. I had no idea. I don’t think any of us knew.”
Wass: “Nobody knew they were in Cambridge?”
Harris: “None of the stars knew. I was there but I didn’t know it was Cambridge.”
Detective Chief Inspector Michael Orchard, who led the investigation against Harris, told media:
“Rolf Harris has habitually denied any wrongdoing, forcing his victims to recount their ordeal in public. He committed many offences in plain sight of people as he thought his celebrity status placed him above the law.”
Stefanie Marsh writes of Harris’ abuse of his daughter’s freind, which had begun when she was 13:
In his second statement to the police, Harris conceded that it had happened more than once — in the dock he explained that he’d been too embarrassed to discuss such matters in front of “two very attractive” female members of his legal team. But the “affair” — barring the fact that he’d hidden it from his family for umpteen years, and that he’d been 40 when it had started — had been thoroughly above board and, he said, “stemmed from a feeling of love”: the alleged victim had definitely been over 18. Besides, she was the one who had “started it”, he would later say with the faint air of a victim. One morning, as was his habit, friendly old Rolf had innocently brought her a cup of tea in the bedroom she was sharing with Bindi, and she had grabbed his elbow and pulled up the covers to show him her bare leg. “I touched her leg. My heart was thumping like mad . . .”
“If you can put this Mills & Boon scenario into context,” Wass interrupted tartly, “In 1983 Mr Harris was 53, he had known [the alleged victim] since the age of 2.”
“Did it occur to you you could be misreading the signals?” she asked Harris at one point.
“One doesn’t think about the alternatives,” Harris had said.
THE Toff, or to give him his proper name, the Honourable Richard Rollison, was the creation of the novelist John Creasey and first appeared in the tuppenny weekly crime magazine in 1933. The first novel ‘Introducing the Toff’ appeared in 1938. There were eventually fifty-seven books in the series the last of which, ‘The Toff and the Dead Man’s Finger’ wasn’t published until five years after the author died in 1973.
Fifty-seven novels is a lot of writing (Creasey occasionally published six Toffs in just one year) but actually it was just a fraction of Creasey’s output who, according to his publisher, is the 6th or 7th most prolific writer of all time.
TERRY-Thomas had arrived. It wasn’t exactly overnight but most people thought so. It was 1946 and he was compèring a revue called Piccadilly Hayride at the Prince of Wales Theatre. The revue, its star Sid Fields and the gap-toothed compère were a tremendous success – critically and with the paying public. Within three or four weeks of the run the newspapers were already reporting that Terry Thomas (the hypen was to arrive the following year) was to appear in that year’s Royal Variety Performance.
IF the Seventies proved a fertile time for imaginative horror filmmakers, the 1980s very much represented a new age of plenty, a span wherein every idea that had worked in a movie once before was hauled out a second, third and sometimes fourth time.
And because of the home video revolution and VHS technology, new filmmakers had the opportunity to get their movies seen by more eyes than ever before.
In terms of the decade’s horror then, there was more of everything to enjoy: more slasher films, more Jaws films, and more holiday-themed horrors too.
EAR we go again: the tooth about celebrity ear-bites
Hot on the heels of the Suarez outrage comes news of another bizarre biting from Brazil.
Pictures have emerged of England fan Robert Farquharson having his ear bitten off by a ‘fellow’ England supporter in the Arena Corinthians stadium following the defeat to Uruguay.
Such attacks are not as uncommon as you might think, and there has been a series of such incidents in English towns over the past few years. The most recent, in Manchester, involving a man described as a ‘Suarez lookalike’, although the CCTV picture does not support this fanciful claim.
“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written.”
– Oscar Wilde
Dr. Wertham’s 1954 book, Seduction of the Innocent, was an American bestseller – it tapped into the fears of parents from sea to shining sea and led to the a frenzy of censorship in the comic book world. The irony, however, is that the book was so poorly researched, that much of its content was simply made up. Of course, the public didn’t give a baker’s f**k about facts, and Seduction of the Innocent became a sensation.
PAUSE for thought?
Hello… and… uh… welcome to… er….welcome to… uh… this… uh… article… in which we, er…. will be… uh… touching… on… an issue which… er, which is… uh… becoming increasingly prevalent in… the…uh… in the… broadcast… media.
Listen to Radio 4’s Today or PM flagship current affairs programmes and you will hear the mellifluous Scottish tones of two presenters in an increasingly intensive competition to break the world record for dead air by the simple expedient of… pausing… between… almost every… other… word.
But this phenomenon is nothing to do with uncertainty, or nervousness, or an inability to string two words together. These are assured, experienced, eloquent, senior journalists.
So why do they do it?
1. The Carpenters
Everyone remembers that scene in Tommy Boy where Farley and Spade declare their distaste for The Carpenters. After all, The Carpenters are “lame”. Only the biggest loser would actually like The Carpenters.
Fast forward a bit, and they’re singing their little hearts out to “Superstar”….
The fact is, The Carpenters are awesome. I’ll admit it. I’ll also admit to 4 others… but don’t let me stand alone. Join me in pronouncing once-and-for-all that it’s “okay” to love these artists. Don’t carry these secrets with you any longer. Shout it from the rooftops. Your soul shall be cleansed.
2. Barry Manilow
In similar fashion to Tommy Boy, there’s a scene of sweet release in Family Guy. After a news report on Barry Manilow airs, the gang at the bar vigorously denounces the singer, but can’t contain their shameful secret for long. Within moments, all four giddily come out of the Manilow closet…
They end up drifting into Manilow’s “Ready to Take a Chance Again”, as well they should. Manilow rules.
3. John Denver
I remember when the Silver Fox (Charlie Rich) protested John Denver’s award at the CMA’s by literally lighting the ballot on fire on live television.
The incident made Rich look like a drunken douchebag, but the damage had been done; Denver had been publicly denounced. He wasn’t accepted in the country genre, and he definitely had no friends in the rock world. Denver’s cool points equaled zero.
Yet, all this derision was unfounded. Denver wrote about the Earth and an appreciation for the natural world better than anyone. While most bands of the Seventies were singing about f***ing, Denver was singing about the inner peace one only can find deep in the woods.
Sure, he didn’t look as cool as Ritchie Blackmoore twirling his guitar or Robert Plant thrusting his junk every which way… but must we always have the twirling and the thrusting? Sometimes it’s okay to just take the rock theatrics down a peg, and just stand there and sing your songs.
4. Bee Gees
I think we may have reached a point in our society where it’s okay to admit to liking the Bee Gees. However, for a couple decades after the fall of disco, you didn’t dare. In fact, Barry Gibb had to literally go undercover to write his music. You didn’t know Kenny Rogers (“Islands in the Stream”) or Dionne Warwick (“Heartbreaker”) were singing Gibb tunes, but they were. The Bee Gees were, frankly, too reviled to dare release these songs.
But, damn, Barry effing OWNED the late Seventies…
Starting in 1976, when Gibb discovered his flair for the falsetto on “Nights on Broadway” it was off to the motherf***ing races. He gave a few gems to his brother Andy (“I Just Want to Be Your Everything”) then the trio released “Jive Talking” and a string of hits that would continue unabated until 1980. The Gibb’s made the Billboard charts their bitch for about 4 straight years.
Barry was a hitmaker for everyone: With Streisand (“Guilty”), Samantha Sang (“Emotion”), Yvonne Elliman (“If I Can’t Have You”), Frankie Valli (The theme song for Grease) and Andy (“(Our Love) Don’t Throw It All Away”, “Shadow Dancing”, and “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water”).
Add in the hits he recorded with the Bee Gees, and it’s truly astounding. In 1978, the Bee Gees owned 5 of the US Top 10 (a chart dominance not seen since The Beatles in ’64), and Barry became the only person to ever record 4 consecutive US number one hits.
Then came the disco backlash and the Brothers Gibb were the prime casualties. True, their massive Sgt. Pepper fail didn’t do them any favors, but the venom they received was undeserved. They were the poster boys of disco, and disco was considered an embarrassment for many years to come.
Well, I say “no longer”.
5. Neil Diamond
Poor Neil has never been cool. But like Manilow, he had a following in the 70s almost exclusively consisting of white thirtysomething females, which certainly didn’t add to his street cred. Wear a Neil Diamond concert shirt to school, and expect to be punched repeatedly in the nuts. Schoolmates didn’t take kindly to public expressions of Diamond fandom.
Diamond’s early hits were respectable enough “I’m a Believer” and “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” became hits for the Monkees, and Diamond followed them up with count’em 10 number one hits in the US. “Cracklin’ Rosie”, “Cherry, Cherry”, “Sweet Caroline”, “Song Sung Blue”, “Red Red Wine” and “Solitary Man” are all stellar.
The problem is, Diamond jumped the shark. Somewhere along the way, he started dressing like Liberace and attracting hordes of housewives to his concerts. A cheesy duet with Streisand (“You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”) followed up by the cheesiest song ever recorded, “America” just made matters worse. Then the nail in the coffin: the song inspired by the movie, E.T. There was simply no going back….
Good God, that is awful. But just as Vegas Elvis shouldn’t cloud our memory of early Elvis, I won’t let Sequined Jacket Wearing Diamond cloud his early work. I will wear my Neil Diamond concert tee with pride. Viva la Diamond!
WATCHING Meet The Mormons (Channel 4) felt like taking part in a bizarre game of Where’s Wally? as the camera caught glimpses of the Church PR people lurking just out of shot. There are 200,000 Mormons in the UK and the elders at the church’s Salt Lake City HQ seemed to think giving director Lynn Alleway access to a young British missionary could up that number. But for viewers whose knowledge of the sect stretched no further than Osmonds, this hour-long look at 20-year-old Josh from Sussex beginning his two years mandatory missionary work was far from edifying.
A representative from the Church was always just out of shot and often creeping into view as Alleway worried that the young man was struggling to cope with his challenge. We saw him in tears early on before resigning himself to the constant attention of his mentor, a Swiss missionary named Elder Bauman who was not much older than him but far steelier in his determination to knock on every door in Leeds and remain upbeat despite the constant knock-backs.
THE Country is in fear of “Monster Rats As Big As Cows”.
Cows are pretty big.
AS impossible as it is for me to believe, Glen Larson’s version of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979 – 1981) turns thirty-five years old this year.
Today, this cult-TV series is often remembered for its spandex fashions, its gorgeous female stars and guest stars, its penis-headed robot Twiki (Felix Silla/Mel Blanc), and its oppressive re-use of familiar or “stock” visual effects in the space dogfights.
Though Buck Rogers in the 25th Century had its weak installments, for certain (like the dreadful “Space Rockers”) it was also a light science fiction series — a romp, essentially — and the series is recalled fondly by fans on those terms too.
THE obvious way to sell men’s clothing is to proclaim that the garments will somehow turn the average guy into an irresistible Studasaurous. From the late Sixties to early Eighties, when Baby Boomers were in their sexual prime, this marketing tactic went into hyperdrive. Boomers were ready to mate, and menswear adverts proclaimed that their apparel was the gateway to sweet, sweet lovemaking. Here are a few examples.
MUCH debate over the Luis Suarez biting incident. On seeing it, did you jump from your chair and yell “Ha! Brilliant”?
Did you shake your head and worry about the state of the planet, the kids and the ozone?
Were you tuned into ITV and heard Clive Tyldesley break the borefest of England plodding along against Costa Rica’s second XI to tell us about the bite: “It’s on ITV4. Bye bye, everyone”?
Do you just marvel at how grown men can tie themselves in knots over a bit of nibbling?
Alejandro Balbi, Suarez’s lawyer, is as entertaining as his client (well, nearly), alluding to the player’s teeth being the tools of an Anglo-Italian conspiracy:
“We don’t have any doubts that this has happened because it’s Suárez and secondly because Italy was eliminated. There’s a lot of pressure from England and Italy. We’re polishing off a defence argument.”
“ROCK and Roll isn’t dead. It just smells bad.”
I am, of course, paraphrasing Frank Zappa’s famous response when asked whether jazz was dead. Who would have guessed that quote would be applicable to rock music just a few decades later.
There are many of you already feeling your blood pressure rise at what I’m saying. I can hear you now: “There are tons of great bands today! All you have to do is stop wallowing in the past you old bastard, and dig for it!” Problem is – if you have to dig it up, it’s probably dead.
BY THE 1980s, the Baby Boomers, who had enjoyed the Sexual Revolution as trim youth, suddenly found themselves with a little extra weight as they entered their thirties. The alarm was sounded, and what followed can only be described as a cocaine-fueled mania. One manifestation of this fitness assault was an aerobics explosion. I don’t think anyone really knew what they were doing, but they looked wonderfully insane doing it.
Of course, this whole maniacal phenomenon would’ve never gotten off the ground were it not for the necessary endorsement from celebs. Jane Fonda made a mint off her workout video, but other famous names were only too quick to jump on the new trend.
‘The Same Animals…Only Functioning Less Perfectly:’ The Five Most Underrated George A. Romero Movies
GEORGE Romero’s impressive movie-making career stretches back to the Pittsburgh area in the late 1960s and spans over forty years.
Like many horror filmmakers of his generation, Romero has seen his share of big successes, like Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Creepshow (1982), critical darlings like Martin (1976), cult classics such as The Crazies (1973) and the occasional out-right bomb, like Diary of the Dead (2007).
But several of Romero’s finer films didn’t meet with financial or critical success, and deserve to have further light shone on them. Accordingly, my selections for the most underrated of his feature films are listed below.
Hungry Wives (1971)
George Romero’s self-described “feminist” horror movie, also known as Jack’s Wife and Season of the Witch, involves a bored suburban house-wife, Joan Mitchell (Jan White) who is only able to define herself in terms of her place in the suburbs as a married woman and a home-maker.
In an attempt to rebel against her “accepted” role in society, Joan delves into witchcraft and then adultery, but the movie’s crafty point is, commendably, that witchcraft is no more defining or self-actualizing for Joan than being a house-wife had been. She has merely changed her demographic affiliation or club, while everything else in her life remains the same
Hungry Wives is so powerfully-wrought because George Romero serves as both editor and director, and his editing flights-of-fancy make the movie’s point plain in terms of visualizations. Early on, for instance, Joan experiences a telling dream in which her husband leads her around on a leash, like a dog. One of the film’s final images reveals Joan involved in a coven ritual, a red rope looped about her neck, and the symbolism is plain: she has merely traded one trap for another. This visual counterpoint is underlined by the counsel of Joan’s therapist, who advises her that she is imprisoning herself, and must change that pattern if she hopes to make her life better.
Day of the Dead (1985)
Before 2007 at least, Day of the Dead (1985) was the least-appreciated of the famous Romero living Dead cycle. This lack of approbation was a result, in part,of the film’s overtly and relentlessly serious tone. For all its mayhem and violence, Dawn of the Dead — set at a shopping mall — also had a fun or jaunty side to it. But Day of the Dead proved a totally different animal: a solemn and extremely gory exploration of mankind’s last chapter as the dominant species on Earth.
Rather unconventionally, the movie ends with a committed and likable protagonist, Sarah (Lori Cardille) realizing it is all over but the crying, and essentially giving up the fight so as to live her last years (and the last years of humanity…) on a nice island beach somewhere with two decadent helicopter pilots.
But importantly, Day of the Dead also moves the cycle forward in significant fashion via its introduction of Bub (Howard Sherman), a zombie who has been domesticated, after a fashion, and reveals both rudimentary memory, and rudimentary humanity.
In fact, this lovable zombie shows more humanity than the film’s brutal military leader, Rhodes (Joe Pilato), and thereby suggests that the change in the social order might not be all that bad, if the zombies continue to evolve towards something…civilized.
Finally, Day of the Dead features an epic and awe-inspiring opening,:a view of a city in Florida completely overrun by the living dead. This moment is arguably the biggest in scope of the entire dead run, and establishes brilliantly the zombies’ numerical advantage. As this shot reveals, Day of the Dead is actually the Twilight of Man.
Monkey Shines (1988)
I still remember discussing this Romero horror film at length with visiting movie critic Molly Haskell at the University of Richmond in the late 1980s. We agreed that the critical community had virtually ignored what was a very powerful and very relevant film about human nature.
Monkey Shines involves a man, Allan (Jason Beghe) who is paralyzed in an accident and becomes a quadriplegic. As such, he is provided by his scientist friend (John Pankow) a capuchin monkey named Ella to act as his arms and legs. Before long, Ella and Allan form a close bond of friendship and dependence…but then each begins acting on each other’s emotional states and desires. Soon bloody murder is being committed…but is it at Ellas behest, or Allan’s?
Monkey Shines informs audiences that the “devil” is “animal instinct,” which acts by its “own set of laws,” and then asks the pertinent question: are we that different from the lower animals we treat as pets? Are we truly evolved, or — underneath the surface — are we just as violent and capricious as cousins in the jungle?
The scenes involving Ella in Monkey Shines are convincing and powerful, save for a few moments where an inert stand-in is clearly utilized, and the film’s debate about instinct (an avatar for the human subconscious in some critical way…) makes the film stand out in an era when rubber reality and slasher movies reigned supreme.
The Dark Half (1993)
Here’s a Stephen King adaptation that almost nobody loves, or even remembers. In The Dark Half (1993) Timothy Hutton plays Thad Beaumont, a writer grappling with his famous nom du plum, George Stark. When Beaumont elects to kill his famous literary name, however, the alter ego comes to life and threatens the writer and his entire family.
A deliberate and modernJekyll-Hyde story, The Dark Half is part of an early 1990s “meta” or post-modern movement in horror. Films such as Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994) and John Carpenter’s In The Mouth of Madness (1994) gazed at worlds in which the line between fiction and reality were blurred. The Dark Half treads meaningfully in similar territory, and gazes at the act of writing as literally a physical birth, as an independent creation that – much like a human child – can no longer be fully controlled by its creator.
There’s nothing flashy or expensive about The Dark Half, and the ending is a bit of a bust, but otherwise Romero crafts a thoughtful, low-key horror film that possesses some electric jolts. One early scene, set in an operating room is downright terrifying, and another — with a woman broaching an invader in her dark apartment — also gets the blood flowing.
More than anything, however, The Dark Half explores the idea that the creative act of writing represents a violent assertion of will. “The only way to do it is to do it,” one character notes, and this same determination indeed is what wills the Dark George Stark into the world.
Survival of the Dead (2009)
Survival of the Dead is yet another Romero living dead movie, and another seriously underrated work of art. Since the very beginning of his career in 1968, director Romero has used his zombie saga to explore political and social issues of the time.
For example, Night of the Living Dead speaks to the political violence and upheaval of 1968, and to race relations in America. Dawn of the Dead very much concerns conspicuous consumption and the “Crisis in Confidence” Carter Age. And Land of the Dead (2005) explores post 9/11 territory.
Similarly, Survival of the Dead is a thoughtful, point-for-point allegory for American involvement in the Iraq War. Unfortunately, horror movie fans were too busy complaining about CGI blood effects to notice the movie’s clever thematic framework.
In short, Survival of the Dead involves a refugee, O’Flynn (Kenneth Welsh) — the fictional equivalent of Ahmed Chalabi — who tricks American armed forces into fighting his war for him, and ousting his enemy, Muldoon (Richard Fitzpatrick) — a Saddam Hussein figure – from the land that he would like to lead, paradise-like Plum Island.
Obligingly the National Guard moves in — guns blazing — only to find that matters aren’t so straight-forward. The soldiers have become involved in a pissing match that, ultimately, doesn’t concern them or their well-being.
The film features an Old West sort of milieu on Plum Island, with rivals O’Flynn and Muldoon (Richard Fitzpatrick) wearing cowboy hats and riding horses while zombies (here called Dead-Heads) are trapped in the nearby corral.
Again, Romero’s thoughtful set-up makes it impossible not to think of the post-911 “dead or alive” rhetoric from the Bush White House. The film’s final imagery — which depicts cowboy zombie versions of O’Flynn and Muldoon trying to kill each other under a bright moon — makes one despair that human nature is ever going to change.
With neo-con dead-enders everywhere on cable news stations this week attempting to re-enlist America in the war in Iraq a decade later, Survival of the Dead is more relevant than ever. Accordingly, this Romero film is really about discredited zombie ideologies that have long outlived their usefulness, but which keep coming back from the dead to threaten the rest of us.