March 30, 2009
March 29, 2009
March 28, 2009
And much like the spiders, I too can now return to my backyard and deck, which double as my workshop (at least during the months that they're not buried under snow drifts). And the first outdoor project? The removal of last fall's accidentally splattered spray paint from the side of my house before any family members notice it. Luckily for me, they're not an exceptionally observant group.
March 27, 2009
March 24, 2009
March 20, 2009
I always seem to get sick at the end of cold and flu season. Just when I'm feeling smug about having come through the winter unscathed. Perhaps this advertised cold remedy will help. I'm sure what I'm feeling falls somewhere between a cold and malaria. If that doesn't work, at least I've got the frakking end of Battlestar Galactica to comfort me tonight.
March 19, 2009
March 14, 2009
March 13, 2009
March 12, 2009
March 8, 2009
Until finally, when for reasons never explained, he was held captive in A Witch's Tangled Hare before playing matchmaker to Hazel and William Shakespeare.
Through the years, I never felt much sympathy for Bugs' broom-wielding nemesis. She was mean. Greedy. Cruel. Shrill. Not at all like that nice Witch Hazel in the Disney cartoon, Trick or Treat. The one who helped Huey, Dewey and Louie take their Halloween revenge on Donald after he greeted them with tricks instead of treats.
This Witch Hazel had a soft side. A sweetness. She seemed as though she could be the other Witch Hazel's hillbilly cousin. But I never suspected for a minute that they might actually be related.
But related they are. As I discovered when, like the Special Features addict I am, I absorbed every moment of the interviews and documentaries included with my classic Looney Tunes collection.
The story goes that Disney's Witch Hazel appeared on the scene first. Brought to life by the wonderful voice actor, June Foray. The story is well-known. Hazel swooped into Duckburg one Halloween night, stayed long enough to make Donald's life miserable (which is never difficult to do), and then she was gone. But she had not gone unnoticed.
She had caught the attention of Chuck Jones, who thought a witch named Hazel would be an ideal match for Bugs Bunny. And he asked June Foray to put on the witch's hat once more. She said no. Not because of any dislike of Hazel, but because she feared Disney would sue. After all, Warner Brothers was using the same name for their character, even if she bore absolutely no resemblance to her predecessor.
But Disney didn't sue. But not because of a sudden burst of old-fashioned Halloween spirit. No. Apparently it was because witch hazel is the name of an unassuming little plant and the medicine derived from it. Disney held no rights to it. Which is why witches named Hazel can pop up anywhere. Disney. Warner Brothers. Little Lulu. Tom and Jerry. Sabrina. And probably a zillion other places I'm not aware of.
So June Foray stepped under the witch's hat for Bugs Bunny's next two encounters with Hazel.
I think that learning the history of the Hazels makes me feel a little closer to both of them. Although if I had to encounter one of them on Halloween night, I think I'd prefer Disney's version. Altogether a kinder, gentler Hazel. The other Hazel would have me constantly looking over my shoulder.
I was reminded of the two Witch Hazels recently while gathering up my remaining VHS tapes and deciding which of them to part with and which to keep a little longer. While I own most of Bugs Bunny's run-ins with Witch Hazel on DVD, I'm still holding on to my VHS copy of Trick-or-Treat. At least until I get around to picking it up on a DVD collection. Or maybe Blu-ray if I wait long enough. Whatever I end up with, it has to have Special Features. Plenty of Special Features.
March 7, 2009
This first piece, a mix of crayon and watercolour, has always seemed to me the true embodiment of the trick-or-treating spirit. Armed with a flashlight and candy bucket, an intrepid devil ventures out into the night, past the cemetery and the haunted house, unperturbed by the sinister presence of ghosts, bats and witches hovering in the sky above. Hmmm . . . on second thought, those ghosts don't look terribly sinister after all. Moving on . . .
March 6, 2009
March 3, 2009
I don't consider The Invisible Man a horror movie. Suspense? Yes. Science Fiction? Perhaps. Slapstick Comedy? Occasionally. But horror? No. Not even 1930's horror. However, Universal has seen fit to include these films in its classic horror collection, so why quibble? Start melting the butter.
The Invisible Man tells the story of a brilliant scientist who discovers the secret of invisibility but fails to notice the fine print on one of the ingredients in his formula warning of the minor side effect of insanity. And as mad scientists do, he has tested his formula on himself without working out an antidote. So now he must seclude himself away from prying eyes while he works out a way to make himself visible again. And where better to do this than a rented room above a noisy pub?
It is here that the film veers wildly between suspense and physical comedy. Bumbling policemen. Buffoonish villagers. Hysterical landladies. Our invisible man spends the remainder of the film attempting to find his antidote while always remembering to take some time off to enjoy himself, laughing maniacally as he does so. Needless to say, it doesn't end well.
It was several years before Universal created a sequel in The Invisible Man Returns. And this is rather deceptive. The invisible man does not return. This is an entirely different invisible man. We learn that the original invisible man had a brother who is now conveniently in possession of the invisibility formula. But the brother does not use the formula himself. Very sensible. Since there is still no antidote and that pesky insanity side effect remains an issue. But when he learns that a friend is about to be executed for a murder he didn't commit . . . well, given the choice between death and insanity, they come down firmly on the side of insanity. The formula has clearly been refined since it is now accessible through drinking a potion rather than injecting it under the skin. And who knows? Someone may develop that antidote any moment.
In a celebration of invisibility, The Invisible Man Returns was followed in the same year by The Invisible Woman. With its original tag line "The Year's Funniest Fun", it becomes immediately obvious that this movie has absolutely nothing in common with the first two, apart from the word "Invisible" in the title. No secret potion. No murderous insanity. No antidote to worry about. But that's okay. A little light-hearted romantic comedy makes a nice mid-marathon break.
Two years later, the U.S. had joined the war and it's difficult to imagine a better contribution to the war effort than an Invisible Agent.
This time around, it's the grandson of the original invisible man who has somehow gained possession of the invisibility formula. He's living quietly under an assumed name, presumably because everyone was pestering him to make them invisible. Despite his best efforts, however, the Axis powers have tracked him down and are demanding the formula. Instead of giving in, our hero decides volunteer as an invisible spy behind enemy lines. What follows can perhaps best be described as The Invisible Man meets Hogan's Heroes. And it's as far from H.G. Wells as you can get.
Finally, when all hope was nearly extinguished, Universal returned to its invisible roots with the atmospheric The Invisible Man's Revenge.
We're back to the English village with it's bumbling characters, although the police appear slightly more competent than in the first film. We follow Robert Griffin (no relation to the invisible Griffins of previous films) as he escapes from a mental hospital and makes his way to England to seek revenge on those believed to have left him for dead and stolen his fortune in diamonds. At first, he simply approaches his former partners, demanding their money and property. Oh, and he'd also like their 20-something daughter thrown in to complete the deal. Predictably, they refuse. Our hero then wanders into the countryside where he encounters a slightly-mad scientist with a house full of invisible pets and a desire to test his formula on a human. So why not?
In this case the "antidote" is a transfusion with the blood of another human. And we don't have to worry about the formula causing insanity. This guy is already insane.
The Invisible Man's Revenge is as close as any of these movies comes to horror. But if I had to pick a favourite, it would have to be the second film, The Invisible Man Returns. I want to choose the original. But I just can't get past that annoyingly hysterical landlady. No matter how much the film's director reportedly loved her performance. And Claude Rains maniacal laughter. Grating. And cheesy. But there are worse ways to spend an icy grey day. And when it was over, the rain was no longer freezing. Just wet. And . . . I think those just might be patches of grass in the yard.