LikeTelevision Blog

Friday, October 31, 2008

Recommended Halloween Reading: Comics!

Happy Halloween, folks! In continuing with our Halloween-themed celebration -- a "spooktacular," if you will -- of all great scary stuff, I thought it might be interesting to talk about some excellent horror comic books. That's right, comic books. While comics generally have a for-kids-only, superheroes-in-tights stigma, the medium actually has a long history of producing terrific horror stories. Thusly, here are a few personal favorites that are sure to deliver thrills and chills.

The EC Archives: Shock Suspenstories
EC Comics, a comic book publisher from the 40s and 50s, produced a slew of innovative horror comics -- notable, aside from how frightening they are, for introducing new techniques in art, narrative, and overall chance-taking -- before being all but shut down thanks to some very irrational fears about the effects of comics on kids. Thanks to the EC Archives series of hardcover collected reprints, these long out-of-print tales are being rediscovered. EC created several stellar titles, including Tales From the Crypt and Weird Science, which aside from providing scares, also worked as smart morality plays on racism, anti-Semitism, and more. Shock Suspenstories was no different, as this omnibus is filled with excellent horror, crime, and war stories that will scare you and make you think. But don't take my word for it; EC fan Steven Spielberg wrote the foreword to this wonderful collection. An essential piece of comic book history.

The Goon: Volume 1 - Nothin' But Misery
The Goon, a story about a hulking, emotionally scarred gangster with a heart of gold -- created, written and drawn by Eric Powell -- is one of the best comics on the market today. A mash-up of horror, crime, and comedy, The Goon contains everything cool: zombies, werewolves, 30s gangsters and tough guys, vampires, mad scientists, killer robots, and more. Powell is a supremely gifted storyteller when it comes to his writing, as he deftly jumps from the heart-wrenching to the gut-busting, and he pulls it off with aplomb. But his art is also startlingly unique, combining pencils, watercolors, and deep inks with a kinetic energy that recalls Jack Kirby. It's best to start here at the beginning, and see how Powell slowly builds The Goon's world, characters, and tone. Before you know it, you're amazed. Highly recommended.

Torso: A True Crime Graphic Novel
Brian Michael Bendis is probably comics' biggest writer these days, as he has written just about every major series that Marvel Comics publishes, including Ultimate Spider-Man, New Avengers, and the current mega-event, Secret Invasion. But I think his best work remains Torso, a black-and-white graphic novel based on the true story of the Cleveland Torso Murderer serial killer. Disturbing and dark, this comic is like a great crime novel, with a true can't-put-it-down quality.

The Walking Dead: Volume 1 - Days Gone Bye
Zombie comics have been around forever, but none have really had as great an impact as Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead. Created and written by Kirkman, and presented in awesome black-and-white, The Walking Dead recalls George Romero's excellent zombie films, with a balanced focus on zombies and smart story. Telling the story of a cop named Rick, his family and others they've met along the way in trying to survive a zombie outbreak, the real brilliance of The Walking Dead lies not so much in its scare-factor of a catastrophe, but rather, in its questioning of how far are we willing to sacrifice our morals and ideals in the face of that catastrophe? No character is safe in this sprawling epic (which makes it all the more fun), and if you start here with volume one, you'll be hooked.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dudley Moore & Peter Cook

A little Halloween fun for all - check out this 1960s classic, Bedazzled starring Dudley Moore as a cook at a greasy spoon, and Peter Cook as Satan. Plus, Rachel Welch, who stars as one of the deadly sins, Lust.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Free Horror Movie Classics

Let's turn it up a bit, shall we? A Top 10 list, NO! We'll go one better, 200% better in the top 10 horror movie calculations. - yes, a Top 5 list, in this case, The Best 5 Silent Horror Movies. Not only do we provide a list, we also have the entire films to watch online for free. Let them drum roll begin, or better still how about an a J.S. Bach Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Okay, here goes.

5) Hunchback of Notre Dame(1923). The Victor Hugo classic was released in 1923 and starred Lon Chaney as Quasimodo. Plus, a killer preview by LikeTelevision's own, Frank Random.

4) Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde(1920). Based on another classic literary work, in this case Robert Louis Stevenson's story called The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Plus - this could be John Barrymore's greatest performance. Really amazing acting, a must for all wanna be thesbians.

3) Nosferatu(1922) - Okay folks, this 1922 F.W. Murnau film is really creepy. Based on Bram Stoker's epic novel Dracula, Max Schrek is amazingly frightening as the Vampire Nosferatu. In a fit of insanity, Frank Random worked like a maniac to put a new soundtrack on it. Have fun.

2) The Phantom of the Opera (1925). Lon Chaney is brilliant in his role as the music genius named Erik, who gets disfigured and becomes the Phantom of the Opera.

1) The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari(1921) starring Werner Krauss as Dr. Caligari. Nothing is more frightening than one's mind - wondering what is real and fantasy, and wandering between the lines of sanity and madness. The Mother of all horror films - Check out Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari. Or watch Frank Random's preview for a taste.

Monday, October 27, 2008

LikeTelevision's ScreamFest 2008

As if the political season and the financial markets aren't scary enough... it is once again time for the LikeTelevision Streaming Screaming Halloween, also known as ScreamFest, now in it's ninth year!!! We have been adding lots of fun stuff in the Horror department and hope to include another classic later this week, though lately we have been swamped with real world horrors - like the phone just won't stop ringing. I am really getting annoyed by all the solicitations and Robo calls, and remembered this gem from ages past, that is so deeply hidden, i could barely find it. But thanks to google... it can now be resurrected. Basically, a clever fella created a loop, and when he got a sales type call, he'd put them on hold, and then send them to a recording. Check it out... a telemarketer's worst nightmare. You know, i feel sorry for the guy, imagining him just trying to make a living, pictures of his kids on the desk... and then he gets tricked into the looped recording.

But let's get back to stuff that is entertaining scary. Here's a top 10 list of you favorite horror titles on the site. If you are more selective, just search for Vampires, or Witches. Another great title is Frank Random's bizarre soundtrack for the original Dracula film, Nosferatu.

We'll be offering more halloween themed video content all week... so come back to the blog and check out LikeTelevision at it's creepiest, where movie quotes like - have a little fire scarecrow... can only be doused with Holy Water.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Recommended Halloween Viewing: John Carpenter's "The Thing"

Hey everyone. Firstly, introductions. You're probably wondering who I am and what I'm doing here (and rightfully so). My name's Dan; in a nutshell, I'm your average dude from New York who grew up in the 80s, and thus has a (unhealthy) love for all things pop culture. As such, I'll be contributing posts every now and then concerning movies, television and the like. Thanks very much to the fine folks of Like Television for giving me a podium from which to speak, and allowing me to make something of my otherwise useless geek knowledge. Since Halloween is coming, I figured now would be a good time to talk about my favorite horror flick and kind-of forgotten gem: John Carpenter's The Thing.

(editor's note 11/25/08. You can now watch The Thing at our site.)

The Thing (1982) is technically a remake of 1951's The Thing From Another World. I say "technically" because it actually shares very little with the original film -- especially when it comes to creature design and gore -- and is more faithful to the 1938 short story "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell, Jr. that the '50s flick is based on. Without giving away too many details about the plot, the long-short of it is that a grotesque, deadly alien makes its way to a remote research outpost in Antarctica. The alien, however, can take the form of anything with which it comes into contact, from humans to animals, and the outpost's crew of scientists (led by a very beardy Kurt Russell) slowly begin to grow paranoid, tense, and downright distrustful of each other, as one or more of them could be the alien in hiding.

In many ways, The Thing is very reminiscent of Ridley Scott's seminal Alien, except I think it's actually better. Sure, both films have a similar premise: a ragtag crew in an isolated environment face off against a seemingly indestructible creature. But whereas Alien got its scares by a tall dude in a costume creeping in the shadows, Carpenter puts the danger right out in the open. This thing could be anywhere; it could be anyone; it could strike at any moment. The movie isn't even that dark -- whereas Alien and most horror films use the dark and space to build tension and fear, Carpenter's film is set in the middle of a bright, white, icy nothingness. True, The Thing's alien is frightening to see (we'll get to that in a minute), but Carpenter doesn't rely on it to make his movie work. No, Carpenter uses his alien's shapeshifting ability to create a sense of danger and impending doom that gives the film its power. The characters don't trust each other, they're in a vast snow-covered wasteland, and there is no escape. That's where the real scares of The Thing come from. That being said, when seen in its true form, the creature itself is pretty damn scary.

There's no perfect way to articulate what the monster looks like here, because it (brilliantly) does not have a singular form. Once revealed and forced out of hiding behind a human or animal facade, this alien is not a guy in a monster suit, nor is it a weightless, soulless piece of CGI animation. Rather, it is an amorphous being that can grow to the size of a room, or can detach itself, limb from limb, to make an escape. Tentacles flail, teeth gnarl from different places all over its body, and its size changes. And it's thanks to Rob Bottin, the special effects master whose work in The Thing is nothing short of genius; particularly amazing is "the head-spider" scene, which I won't spoil by discussing any further. If any film could show that good puppetry and makeup can trump modern CGI any day of the week, it's The Thing. There's a horrifying, tangible quality to the monster in The Thing and the way all the characters interact with it, which is largely due to the fact that it looks so good and is actually there. If this had been a CGI-fest, the movie would be much less effective. (Thankfully, Carpenter has not followed George Lucas's atrocious "Star Wars Special Edition" route and added awful digital effects to this or any of his films.)

To my mind, The Thing is John Carpenter's last truly great film. I love They Live and Big Trouble in Little China, but in both of those, Carpenter seems to just be trying a little too hard, whether with the action or the humor. In The Thing, everything really works: the tone, the effects, the dialogue, and the acting (Kurt Russell, as usual, is fantastic). I can't recommend it enough. A great film that only gets better, and for me, it's the best work of a master filmmaker.

(For those of you who have seen and enjoyed The Thing, I'd also recommend checking out Dark Horse Comics' The Thing From Another World comics. They take place right after the end of The Thing, and are surprisingly true to the spirit of the film. Apparently, Carpenter himself loved them. The comics are currently out-of-print, but they can usually be found on ebay for decent prices.)

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Clips from Big Trouble in Little China

Thought you folks might enjoy a few clips from Big Trouble.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Brad Spivey Gets Older

Today marks the birthday of the one and only Brad Spivey - noted html author, actor and star wars freak. I am not sure how old he is, but I do know... he is old enough to know a few things, and has in fact proven more than once, that he is indeed capable in his server query language works of global importance. Who is Brad Spivey, well sit down partner, and check out this page - Urinal Screen, showcasing his skills as one of the first internet thesbians. If you want more Spivey, check out Zim Zum - he is interviewed by Dodge Benson in episode six. But what Spivey is best known for... well, he's the techno maestro who build the database and backend that holds all those videos on the LikeTelevision web site. So, on behalf of the 30 million plus campers who enjoy the site - Happy Birthday dude!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Coming Soon - ScreamFest 2008

That's right ladies and gentlemen, it is that time of the year again - October, time for the annual LikeTelevision ScreamFest. And how much fun, we launch the 2008 ScreamFest on Bela Lugosi's 124th birthday. (Béla Ferenc Dezsõ Blaskó, a.k.a. Bela Lugosi was born October 20, 1884 in Romania.) So by all means - check out a few Bela Lugosi movies today if you like. My favorite is called White Zombie, made in 1932 - this is the mother of all Zombie movies... in fact, this 1932 movie is the first zombie movie ever. It happened so long ago - that the black people in the film are afraid of their own shadows... ahhhhhh, and filled with all kinds of fearful voodoo mojo silliness. BOO!... ahhhhhhhh. Eyes opened VERY wide. ahhhhhhh. Anyway... the irony of where we are today, with a black well educated gentleman running for president offers quite a sharp contrast to Hollywood's embarrassing racial stereotype portrayal from 1932. Nuff said. I am treading too close to politics.. and well, Screw politics... personally, I abhor all this passionate yammering he said, they said, you lied, quasimodo died... whatever. Thank God for baseball and the world series. You see, politicians, like most of us, are all wise till they open their mouths. But i digress... Popeye for President. I am with the Spinach Party. Come to think of it, politics could be the scariest part of this halloween season. Enjoy the ScreamFest - we'll be posting new stuff, so check back at the blog for updates.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

St. Teresa of Avila

October 15th, St. Teresa of Avila's feast day, where thousands, perhaps even millions of people pause to remember this wonderful woman. She lived in the 16th century, and during her life as a Carmelite nun, she was so in love with God, she received mystical experiences. When she was deep in prayer, tales of her ability to levitate and even fly continue to this day. And oh my, she was a very funny woman, with a mountain of spunk. Her comment here is a good example -
About the injunction of the Apostle Paul that women should keep silent in church? Don't go by one text only.
Another story involves her falling in a puddle and getting her bright white nun formal outfit covered in mud. She scolded God,
if that's the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them.
St Teresa of Avila is also the subject of some amazing works of art. There's a mountain of major works of art featuring her, but let me point you to two of the best. First Peter Paul Rubens painting, Teresa of Avila. The painting features an older St. Teresa with a book and a feather pen in her hand. The feather pen references her writings, including an autobiography that she was forced to pen by her church authorities. As such, St. Teresa was compelled to write down and share her mystical experiences, just do it Tess. And wow, what experiences she had. Her three best books are must reading if you have an interest in spiritual mysticism. Check out The Interior Castle, The Way of Perfection and Teresa of Avila, autobiography.

Which brings us to the other amazing piece of art about St. Teresa of Avila. Gianlorenzo Bernini's masterpiece - The Ecstasy of St. Teresa of Avila. Bernini draws upon the writings in her autobiography to use as inspiration for his sculpture in marble.
Beside me on the left appeared an angel in bodily form . . . He was not tall but short, and very beautiful; and his face was so aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest ranks of angels, who seem to be all on fire . . . In his hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times so that it penetrated my entrails. When he pulled it out I felt that he took them with it, and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God. The pain was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one can not possibly wish it to cease, nor is one's soul content with anything but God. This is not a physical but a spiritual pain, though the body has some share in it -- even a considerable share.[from Teresa of Avila, Autobiography, Chapter 29]
This amazing sculpture, (~ sculpt-sure?) can be viewed at Santa Maria della Vittoria, in Rome, Italy. When viewed after reflecting on her writing, & reading the words that inspired Bernini to create this massive work (11 1/2 feet high) in stone makes a powerful work even stronger. The face Bernini gives St. Teresa in this work just oozes profound joy, rapture, both sensual and spiritual, and in a word - Ecstasy.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Time to Jump, again

Well it's October again, and that means it is once that time of year when I plan to jump out of an airplane. Last year in October, i sky jumped for the very first time. And yes, certainly I suspect it will be even more fun than it was last year. It goes down on Sunday morning at around 11:11 am. After going to seven o'clock mass of course.

Dressed to Kill Basil & Angie

The first version of Dressed to Kill starred Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as his trustworthy friend, Dr. Watson. They are searching for clues in enigmatic music boxes in order to find some missing currency plates. It would undermine the financial structure if these plates got out. In 1980, Brian DePalma came out with a new movie called Dressed to Kill, starring Michael Caine and Angie Dickinson. This is a very scary movie. You have been warned.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Biwa Diddy

Strange times indeed. We still have a few more tweaks before we launch the 9th annual Screamfest, but we thought we would give you something to whet your whistle. With all the recent financial turmoil, we thought we should get a little perspective, of how hard life can be for some. For instance, at the beginning scene of Hoichi the Earless, we are thrust into an ancient sea battle of Japanese clans. One gets anihilated... not graphic or anything, but sad all the same. If you go to the Hoichi page, scroll down and look closely - you will see a hidden link to a master stroke of genius from Frank Random. Yes folks, that's a crazy mixed up mix of Jose and Hoichi, soing some street biwa diddy. Hoichi the Earless is part of a 4 part film, called Kwaidan, which roughly translates as Weird Tales.