Everyone has their staples for Halloween watching, like John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and “Nightmare Before Christmas.” But be forewarned, gentle reader, because your master of Scarimonies (God, I sound like the Crypt Keeper), Dukey Flyswatter, will suggest some gems and themes that may have flown drastically under your radar, like a schizophrenic Vampire Bat.
Week One: Horror Anthology Films. Often referred to in Europe and England as Portmanteau films, they contain a selection of stories during the course of a normal feature running time.
Wednesday. Oct. 5: “The Illustrated Man” (1969)
Director Jack Smight. Stars Claire Bloom, Rod Steiger, Robert Drivas.
Ray Bradbury’s classic anthology, published in 1951, features tales that are funny, ironic, sad and creepy in that wonderful lyrical style of his. So it was a shock to see his Sci-Fi adaptation so full of bleakness, misanthropy and adult school dread. The critics hated it, but the more I see it the more I can appreciate it for being flavored by the disillusionment and angst of the late sixties. The wrap-around story introduces the Illustrated Man as a hateful transient constantly seeking the witch woman who cursed him with living tattoos.
Perhaps Bradbury’s most famous tale from “The Illustrated Man” kicks off the celluloid omnibus, and it’s perhaps the best of the bunch. This one is about parents in the future who are worried that their children are spending too much time in the play room of holograms hanging out in the African Veldt while lions hover over a fresh kill some fifty yards away. In “The Long Rain,” a company of stranded astronauts tries to find a rescue station on a grey planet of perpetual downpour that can make you deaf. The final story, “The End Of The World” struck me hard as a teen, with it’s “No Fucking Way” irony. It’s not a classic, but it does stick with you. I remember when the movie played the Pantages on Hollywood Blvd., there was a wax figure of star Rod Steiger outside wearing nothing but a fig leaf so you could check out all of the tats. I wonder if that still exists? You can get the DVD off of Amazon and I’ve seen it on a couple of streaming sites.