Steven Speilberg does it agan

Instead of Kansas, Steven Spielberg gives us New Jersey in his latest film, The Fabelmans. Instead of Dorothy, he gives us Sammy Fabelman. Instead of Uncle Henry and Auntie Em, he gives us Burt and Mitzi Fabelman. And there’s a Wizard in the movie too. That’s Uncle Bennie. Instead of a tornado, it’s a train wreck that will transport Sammy to Oz. And not just any train wreck. It’s the circus train wreck in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth. And it won’t be the Yellow Brick Road that will get young Sammy to Hollywood, but making home movies.

It’s 1952, and Burt and Mitzi Fabelman are trying to convince young Sammy that he’s going to love The Greatest Show on Earth. When he sees the train wreck on the big screen, he is hypnotized. Not by the movie or the train, but by the train wreck. He’s got to see that again.

When his father gives Sammy a toy train for Hanukkah, Sammy wrecks it the way they did in the movie. The train isn’t wrecked but his father tells him he needs to be more responsible.

Now we know that when a parent tells a kid in a movie to be more responsible, there’s going to be trouble. And sure enough Sammy sneaks around and does it again. Only this time, his villainy is aided by his mother. Mitzi Fabelman has turned into Glenda the Good Witch. Instead of a pair of red slippers, Mitzi gives the hero of this tale a camera. “If you film the train wreck, you can see it over and over again.”

And that is how Steven Spielberg begins his autobiographical film. Movie making is Sammy’s Yellow Brick Road to the Oz of the 20th Century and those childhood fantasies of wonder, JawsClose Encounters of the Tihird Kind,  E.T., Jurassic Park, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

But things aren’t all peaches and cream in the Family Fabelman. It’s like Professor Harold Hill sang in The Music Man. “There’s trouble right here in River City.” But the one thing that keeps Sammy going is making movies. It’s something that will lead him straight to a legendary filmmaker’s office.

As you can tell, I thoroughly enjoyed The Fabelmans. Enough to see it twice. And want to see it again. It reminds me of why I love movies the way Cinema Paradise did. When we can stream whatever movie or tv series we want, there is something that is missing for me. And that’s the WOW experience. The kind of experience I got when I first saw No Time for SergeantsBen HurPsychoIt’s a Mad Mad Mad World, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings and The Color Purple, and so many others on the big screen in movie theaters.

The Fabelmans gave me that rare experience.

Keep off the moors


John Landis, director of “Animal House” and “The Blues Brothers”, directed “American Werewolf in London” (1981). It’s a horror movie. Not that “Animal House” and “The Blues Brothers” were not horror movies. It may be a stretch but I’d say those had a monster or two in them. Only this time Jake Blues and Blutarsky are no where to be found. Imagine how awesome this one would have been if Blutarsky had been slumming in the north of England.

You heard that right. Northern England. Can’t say there is a better place for a horror movie. Unless it’s the woods in Northern Michigan or a Gothic little Southern town. When someone drops you off in the middle of nowhere and says, “Keep off the moors”, wouldn’t you tend to keep off the moors. Even if you didn’t know what moors are. Unfortunately this is a horror movie and it is pretty well established that someone is going to end up on the moors. Especially if they are American tourists. In this case, David and Jack.

David Naughton plays David. He could have been a Tom, a Dick, or a Harvey. Perfectly good American names. Instead he gets to be a David. An actor can go his entire career and not play a character with his name. I mean, Richard Burton was a great actor and he never played anybody named Richard Burton. Maybe the director thought David Naughton had way too many lines and it would help to take the load off by giving him the name David. Jack is played by Griffin Dunne.

David and Jack are taking in some of the fresh English air before they go off to see the Colisseum in Rome. Our two tourists come to a small English town with a pub, The Slaughtered Lamb. If I came across a pub with a name like that, I’d tend to want to get out of Dodge real fast. Or, at least, off the moors.

In the pub, there’s a five-pointed star painted on the wall right out there for everybody to see. One of our two young Americans comments, “Maybe it’s to ward off monsters.” You think. The pub regulars give the two the very cold shoulder. As David and Jack leave, they are warned, “Keep off the moors.” We’ve already warned them, but they didn’t listen to us. You’d think they’d listen to the locals in a pub named The Slaughtered Lamb with a five-pointed star out there for everybody to see. But no. They’re Americans, and like Americans everywhere, they ain’t afraid of any moors.

Unfortunatley it’s a full moon night. As sure as this is “An American Werewolf in London”, the Americans fumble their way off the road and into the moors they were told to stay off of. But this would not have been a horror movie if they had stayed on the straight and narrow. Evidently these two may be the only two people on the planet who have not seen movies with moors in them.

Guess you can guess what happens next. And yes, you’re right. They encounter the Big Bad Wolf. Before you know it, the two young Americans are down to one. When the survivor asks “Where’s Jack?” it’s obvious he didn’t climb a beanstalk.

Next thing we know, David wakes up in a hospital bed. Within minutes, he is having himself some visions.  And they are not of the Virgin Mary. They’re nightmares. Really bad stuff. If that isn’t enough, Jack shows up in bad make-up. I wonder why David doesn’t ask who did the whack job on your makeup. But he doesn’t. The two have a very normal conversation. If you call normal, being urged by Mr. Bad Makeup to kill yourself. Before Jack leaves, he’s doesn’t say, “Keep of the moors.” No, that one is way too late to say. Jack says, “Beware the moon.”

There is a consolation prize for all the bad stuff coming down. David gets to hang with Nurse Alex Price, played by Jenny Gutter. I’ve heard of a lot of pickup lines but the one he uses on her takes the cake. “I’m a werewolf” just won’t get you a second date 99.9% of the time. Unless she’s a werewolf too. Then the two of you can have a howling good time next full moon.

Evidently the werewolf bit works. Nurse Alex invites David to her apartment. Then she delivers one of the all-time classic romantic lines: “Perhaps you’d like to watch the telly while I take a shower.”

Yadda yadda yadda and it’s later. Jack corners David and urges him to kill himself. Otherwise there’s going to be trouble in River City. David will turn into a big bad wolf and kill people all over the place. David tells him to bug off. He’s not taking advice from a meatloaf.

David’s doctor, Dr. Hirsch, goes to check things out at Werewolf Central, The Slaughtered Lamb. He immediately notices the five-pointed star. The regulars boo him out of their home away from home. One of the men sneaks outside and meets the doc. “There’s something wrong with this place,” he says. Of course, there’s something wrong with the place. It’s got a five-pointed star in a pub named “The Slaughtered Lamb” and there are moors and there are folks bitten into werewolves. I’d say that’s enough wrong for two movies.

Nurse Alex is on night duty. She leaves David in the apartment. He goes for a walk. A dog barks at him. A cat hisses at him. That ought to give him a clue. Maybe, just maybe, David is a werewolf. You think.

Maybe this is England’s way of getting even for losing the American Revolution. The Brits every so often choose a young American tourist and turn them into a werewolf. Take that, you naughty Americans. And here I thought we’d made up.

Doctor Hirsch returns to the hospital. Nurse Alex is on duty. He tells her, “We have a werewolf problem.”

One thing is for sure. If, on a full moon night, you find yourself alone and you hear some growling a half block away, it’s obvious. You have a werewolf problem.

After your trick or treat extravaganza tonight, enjoy your treats and watch “An American Werewolf in London” tonight. It’s the Halloween thing to do.

Ultimate Halloween Movie: One Haunted House

It’s that time. The time the scary stuff comes out. We dress up the pumpkins. We put on someone else’s face. Usually a scary someone like Dracula or Frankenstein’s Monster or a Werewolf or a Kardashian. It’s a time when we really don’t want to go down in the basement. It gets so scary some years we may find ourselves calling for the Ghostbusters. (“Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters.”)

It’s time for a spine-chilling movie. What better spine-chilling movie than a haunted house film? But I gotta tell you. For me, there have been very few haunted-house movies that can measure up to a Big Scare.

The Haunting measures up. It was directed by Robert Wise. You mean, the Sound-of-Music, The-Day-the-Earth-Stood-Still Robert Wise. Yes, that Robert Wise. A Robert Wise who came out of the Studio System when directors got to work in a lot of different genres.

“The Haunting” is adapted from Shirley Jackson’s novel, “The Haunting of Hill House”. Nelson Gidding’s screenplay does not deviate much from the novel. It is filmed in black and white, creating an aura that accentuates darkness the house gives off. (Please don’t ruin your experience by seeing the 1999 remake. It’s not good.)

The movie opens with the house silhouetted against the night sky, not an inviting scene. The house whispers to the viewer, “Stay away if you know what’s good for you.” With the appearance of the house, there is the discordant music of a harp and a piano. Then the narration begins. “An evil old house…Whatever walked there, walked alone” Suddenly I realize that it might not be good to watch this one alone.

Then there is the cast. Not your usual horror movie cast. Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn (from “West Side Story” fame) and Lois Maxwell (the original Miss Moneypenny). No Vincent Price. No Boris Karloff. No Christopher Lee. No blood and gore either. Just fear.

“The dead are not quiet in Hill House,” Mrs. Sanderson, the current owner, warns the scientist. He has approached her, asking her to allow him to research the psychic phenomena in the house.

Soon we learn just how not-quiet the dead are. Which makes this one a perfect Halloween movie.

Do you have a favorite Halloween movie?

The Haunting of Miss Tina


According to Wikipedia: This is a poster for The Lost Moment. The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist. It is used only to provide a review of the film. There were no decent trailers of the movie. So all I can provide is the poster and this German trailer. The film is in English. It can be found on

I had seen the film a long time ago. I could not remember its name or any of the actors or even the story. Scenes from the film kept appearing in my dreams. For quite some time I searched for it on IMDB, Amazon, Turner Classic Movies and the New York Times website. I haunted flea markets and used book stores and used movie sellers, thinking it was in one of their bins. I spent hours and hours at this obsession and still no results. Until a week ago…

I was out driving in my car with no particular destination. It was one of those kinds of Sunday drives we make to get the worries out of our systems. I found myself in an area I didn’t remember visiting before. I came upon this old used bookstore in an out-of-way place on the side of a dirt road. Not the friendliest sort of place, but still I was desperate to find the film. I had to see this movie. Otherwise…well, let’s just say, otherwise.

I pulled into the parking lot beside the lone car. I crossed my fingers hoping the store in the old dilapidated building was open. I went to the door and turned the knob. Yes, it did appear the store was open it. As I entered the store, a bell above the door rang.

Across the floor of the store, there were dozens of wooden bins, webs falling from beneath each. Dust was everywhere. The paint peeling from the walls.  The ceiling in places crumbling. The floor squeaked as I crossed it. The store seemed as haunted as my dreams.

Behind the counter, there was an elderly pale man, his hair gone white and his eyes a kind of gray that might be expected from one who was a ghost. He nodded to me. I nodded to him. Then he went back to what he had been doing before I came into the store.

Every bone in my body said leave. This was no place I wanted to be. Yet something had led me to this place. So I was determined to try to find the film here.

I began my search, hungry for the treasure. After hours of searching bin after bin, no luck. Outside the light was fading and the night was closing in. Finally I went to the counter to thank the old man for his time. He came from the office behind the counter. With tears in my eyes, I explained my dilemma. He shook his head. He seemed just as disappointed. I turned to go. Then I saw it. Well, I wasn’t sure that it was it. But I saw a DVD case in one of the displays. On its cover was a drawing of the ancient hand of a woman and her finger wore a large ring. “The Lost Moment” the case said.

I flipped the case over and there were three black-and-white photos. The first one had a man and a priest standing over a woman. Yes, that was my dream. This was the movie that had haunted my dreams for years.

A Labor Day Movie: They Keep Moving My Stapler

We’ve all had one of those jobs. Let’s just say we’ve all had those jobs. There’s a word for it. Cubicle and the paranoia it brings out in us is cubiclestic. It is so universal Scott Adams created a cartoon around it. Dilbert.

To celebrate this kind of job, Mike Judge has created a very special movie, Office Space (1999). He could have called it “Take this job and shove it”, but he didn’t. That title had already been taken. “Office Space” is to Labor Day what “The Christmas Story” is to the Holiday Season. It’s that Chinese Restaurant we go to for Christmas Dinner when the neighbor’s mutts have destroyed our Christmas dinner.

Once you see “Office Space”, you will understand the laws of the cubicle-verse. Such as, you will now know what happened to your stapler. Or will you? Thing is that I don’t know where the basement is. My gps can’t find it. And if it did, I remember what happens in the basement. It’s not pretty. That is why we keep saying, “Don’t go down in the basement.”

It isn’t the flair I wear; it’s how much flair I wear. Thirty-seven pieces is the preferred amount. Today. Who knows how many it will be next week. Fifty? Sixty? Seventy? Pretty soon I won’t be able to move with all that flair.

I’m in the slow lane. I switch lanes. The new lane is slower than the one I switched from.

So see “Office Space” when you get a case of the Monders because you were backed up in traffic on the way to work. Don’t forget your boss can always move your stapler. Remember “Good things can happen in this world.” Especially when Mike Judge is on the job.

By the way, don’t forget to read the memo. A Cover Sheet must go on your TPS Report.

What is the worst job you have ever had?