Hello Film Fans! Those of us who have stayed away from the movie theaters for the past year or more have been waiting for the big movies to drop. Films like the James Bond movie with Daniel Craig, the Eternals with Angelina Jolie and an all-star cast looking to reset the Marvel Universe; the Dune Remake and more.
The Film Festivals have seen a revival with some mixed viewings of in-person and streaming events. The same is true for the movie theatrical releases, with a mixed bag of reporting on the box office numbers and the way films are being seen these days.
For October, there is always a new batch of horror flicks to keep us entertained. Those who love their horror have been waiting for the return of Michael Myers and the Halloween tales that continue. We are talking about the best of Horror showing on Turner Classic this month.
Strong female role models at the movies!
6 Degrees also features a look at some of the pioneering strong women featured each month on the classic movie channel. This month, Olivia De Havilland is back, along with Myrna Loy and Katherine Hepburn. We haven’t mentioned Lucille Ball before but as she is a featured player, it’s important to note how the comediennes were trailblazers for women’s rights.
Starting with Mae West, females who worked in comedy films were able to get away with a new level of openness and honesty that was a breath of fresh air when the stifling rules and ‘codes’ of film were applied, particularly to women!
Lucille Ball is featured on TCM in October
Her films are featured on Turner Classic throughout October. The Fuller Brush Girl and the The Long, Long Trailer are two of her best that we recommend. But she really made her mark on “I Love Lucy” in the fifties as she and her then-husband Desi Arnaz were true trailblazers in the field of situation comedy and the new burgeoning art form that was television.
First, Lucy’s adamant decision to cast Desi Arnaz was such a courageous stand at the time. They wanted to cast her opposite a fairly innocuous white guy to play her husband in the weekly TV show. She put her foot down and it was a stroke of genius. Not only did Arnaz pave the way for any LatinX or Hispanic actor to break into film and television, but it was a way for audiences to see a ‘real world’ look at an America that was not purely white and purely male.
Some of the episodes we know have hilarious sequences. The Chocolate Factory bit with Vivian Vance and the Vita-meta Vegamin show where Lucy gets tipsy are two that get a lot of play. But there was a huge and rich comic panoply on full display with the four actors who performed brilliant bits across a wide spectrum of TV plots for situation comedy.
Some favorites: Lucy and Ethel met up with Elsa Lanchester on a road trip to Florida that had hilarious consequences when the two women had to change a tire by the road. The shows done in Hollywood had classic bits with famous actors of the day like William Holden & John Wayne. The Brown Derby scene with Lucy & Ethel ogling William Holden was one of the funniest.
Fred was played by William Frawley, who was an old Vaudevillian actor that worked particularly well opposite Lucy. The two were placed on the Long Island Ferry in one episode where they took Dramamine and slept the entire day on the Ferry! And the episodes where she went to Europe provided all kinds of classic comedy. A particular favorite was the one where Lucy passes off a packet of expensive cheese as a baby on the plane in order to avoid paying customs fees. All hilarious comic gold.
Horror in the House at Turner Classic in October
On TCM this month, the horror theme is always played out with the usual suspects. But some of the most interesting films that delve into horror don’t even hold our attention with the classically defined tropes of horror such as the murdering rampager of Halloween or the killers on the roam.
Real horror sometimes plays out best with the psychological torture that is on display in some of the best films screened this month. “The Haunting” with Julie Harris comes to mind, in addition to some of the standard fare shown with veteran horror stars like Vincent Price and Christopher Lee.
Horror films always remind me of the description my Dad gave of seeing Frankenstein at the movies for the first time. Imagine being a young boy of eleven and sitting in a dark theater when the face of Frankenstein is shown for the first time! It would have been terrifying. Not at all like the cartoon-ish and campy versions of the monster we have seen through the years. And comic figures like Herman Munster or The Addams Family have taken the edge off and suddenly made the horror seem either tame or just amusing. I remember seeing the film Halloween as a teenager, in a dark theater with a bunch of my friends. And I was so terrified I had my feet on the back of the chair in front and I was scrunched down in the seat as low as I could possibly go. And I watched through my fingers as Jamie Lee Curtis was stalked by the horrifying monster that was Michael Myers.
Terror comes in many forms. In Carnival of Souls from 1962, it took only one viewing for the true horror to form. The Shining and a later showing of George C Scott in The Changeling proved that you don’t always need a noisy killer with a knife to invoke horror. The Others with Nicole Kidman and the other more recent classic, The Sixth Sense with Bruce Willis all offer different variations of fear and horror.
And Horror cannot be thoroughly examined on film without mentioning Hitchcock. He was the master of suspense, but also the High Priest of Horror. Psycho and The Birds cemented his title as they dealt not just with horror, but also the psychology behind the suspended disbelief we often feel when watching scary movies.