It’s the Great Anti-Climax, Charlie Brown!

Another Halloween has come and gone, and somehow I still haven’t been killed in a post-coital attack by an eight-foot-tall mask-wearing lunatic who turns out, in a surprise plot twist, to be my long-lost brother. Not even *once*! I tell you, my life needs better writers. It would be amazingly cool to have Donald Pleasance follow me around for months at a time, screaming “The evil is gone!” every few minutes. That just wouldn’t get old.

I hope you all had a nice witching season. Halloween is my favorite day of the year, and I did all the usual stuff: took the kids trick-or-treating, watched some scary flicks on DVD (specifically, Nosferatu and The Shining), and pilfered all the best treats from my kids’ candy stash while they were distracted.

Nosferatu (see my last post) is a film that entrances me like few others. Some of the acting is a bit hammy by today’s standards, but it never fails to captivate. Director F.W. Murnau was so far ahead of his time in terms of shot composition and atmosphere that some people still fail to appreciate his considerable achievements in advancing the art of the motion picture. I’d love to see the rest of his surviving movies.

As with many silent filmmakers, however, much of his work has now been lost to the passage of time. (My fellow Doctor Who fans know what I’m talking about… Patrick Troughton, we hardly knew ye.) Silent movies weren’t considered “important” after the advent of sound and Technicolor, and little to no effort was made to preserve some of these historic early works. Indeed, it’s only due to the outspoken passion of Martin Scorsese, Roger Ebert, and a handful of other influential movie lovers that any serious effort has been made to preserve and restore some of these masterpieces. A damn shame that it’s taken this long, but better late than never.

I listened to the audio commentary track for The Shining this week. It’s an informative track with Garret Brown, the inventor of the Steadicam (he also operated the camera on this film), and John Baxter, a Kubrick historian, with each man recorded separately. Baxter is often reduced to simply describing what’s on the screen, but Brown dishes the dirt on Kubrick and actually brings several interesting pieces of information to light. (We learn that Kubrick did *148* takes of the scene where Scatman Crowthers and Danny discuss “the shine,” and apparantly stopped only because Crowthers broke down in tears. And fun fact #2: The snow was not snow at all, but 900 tons of salt.)

Although Brown occasionally reveals a mild streak of arrogance (he describes his own camera work as “revolutionary” on two different occasions), he’s definitely interesting. A good listen, with very little dead air.

I also saw, for the first time in over a decade, the classic It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!, which was a perennial part of my childhood. My kids had never seen it, and the three of us watched it together. I was amazed by the crispness of the writing — it really held up well. Jeffrey seemed to enjoy it (especially the “I got a rock!” gag), but Bryan seemed a little fidgety. Afterwards, he confided to me that he doesn’t think he likes Charlie Brown movies.

My heart is broken.

-CSJ

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