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Garfield’s Halloween Adventure – Review

Garfield’s Halloween Adventure – Review

Oct 24, 2010

reviewed by hallo
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Every year at Halloween my DVD player becomes very familiar with three disks:  1. John Carpenter’s 1978 Halloween.  2.  Disney’s animated the Legend of Sleepy Hollow (found in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad).  3.  Garfield’s Halloween Adventure.  The first is obvious, the second is a timeless classic, and the third is a true gem that sadly not too many folks know about.  So, here is a review that will hopefully rekindle some love for one of my favorites.

Garfield’s Halloween Adventure is a half-hour animated television special that debuted on October 30th, 1985.  It was shown every year after that up until the year 2000.  The story follows the famous Garfield cat who is at first a bit annoyed at Binky the Clown, a show on television, for waking him up.  But after he learns that Binky has exciting news, that tonight is Halloween night and lots of candy is in store for trick-or-treaters, Garfield wakes up and sets out to find the right costume, along with his sidekick Odie.  They both end up going as pirates, much to the delight of Jon their owner.  After setting out for some candy, Garfield’s greed takes over and they decide to cross the river to get even more candy.  They unfortunately get caught up in the current, lose their oars (thanks to Odie taking Garfield’s “put out the oars matie” a bit too literally), and end up at a super creepy house where an old man is warming himself by a fire.  He tells them a story about a band of pirates that are returning to that very house on Halloween night to reclaim treasure they buried 100 years ago.  The old man knows the story because he was the pirate’s cabin boy.   Well, sure enough, the pirates come, but not before the old man steals Garfield’s boat and makes off down the river.  So, Garfield and Odie must deal with the ghost pirates.  Odie ends up saving Garfield and they make it back safely home.

There are way too many great things about Garfield’s Halloween Adventure to mention in this review.  Here are a few.  The songs are downright perfect.  “What Should I Be”, “Scardy Cat”, and “Over the Raging Sea We Go” are my favorites and I actually sing the latter all year long.  The sequences blend a perfect mix of humor and, at times, scares.  The skull on Garfield’s pirate hat changes expressions depending on what situation they are in.  The clock actually rings 12 times during the frantic music and craziness of Garfield and Odie trying to stop it from chiming.  But most importantly, the half-hour program gets forever etched into your soul as one of those beloved memories from yesteryear.  Watching it today makes me remember so many wonderful Halloween experiences as well as still appreciating the great cartoon that it is.

So, if you haven’t seen Garfield’s Halloween Adventure, and chances are you haven’t, then get it now!  You will absolutely fall in love.

Click Here to purchase Garfield’s Halloween Adventure

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Four Reasons AMC’s The Walking Dead will flop (and two reasons it wont)

Four Reasons AMC’s The Walking Dead will flop (and two reasons it wont)

Oct 20, 2010

Danny has written this commentary concerning AMC’s The Walking Dead.  It was originally published at his website NerdBloggers.com and is reprinted here with minor revisions.

Between Nerdbloggers.com and my podcasting on The Body Count, I’ve made no secret of my love affair with The Walking Dead comics.  As far as extended-run, non-super hero comics go, I think it is the best series of all time.  The psychology, the pathos, the existentialism, and, to be sure, the action and gore, all put the series high up the ladder.  In fact, I’d say that the first 60 issues are as good as any long story arc ever seen in the comic world.  And now we are on the cusp of having all that goodness turned into a well-budgeted television series made by talented people who have kept creator Robert Kirkman close and involved.  It should be a no-brainer that The Walking Dead on AMC will blow our socks off like a close-up shotgun blast, right?  Not so fast.  I can see a number of reasons that The Walking Dead could come and go quickly, and, unfortunately, some of the risks are related directly to what makes the comics so good in the first place.

  1. They will focus on all the wrong things:  This is my number one concern.  Television, like film, is a predominantly visual medium.  The Walking Dead is loaded with visual elements that will pop on the small screen—scary imagery, a post-apocalyptic landscape populated by zombies, and gore by the bucket full.  However, none of that is the meat of the comic.  More than any other horror comic ever written, The Walking Dead is a character study.  If the production spends too much time trying to dazzle us with shiny objects and too little time exploring the layered psychological elements that power the story, the show will only appeal to people fascinated by shiny objects.  That isn’t The Walking Dead comic book readership and it isn’t the AMC viewer that comes for classic films or Mad Men and sticks around to see what this new show is all about.
  2. There will be too much gore:  Seriously.  When I heard about the project, my first thought was, “They can’t do that on television.”  It turns out “they” can.  The question is, should they?  Kirkman has been quoted as saying that AMC hasn’t flipped out over any of the gore they have seen in the dailies, and it is generally accepted that it is going to be like nothing ever seen on free television.  That’s good for me, and maybe for you, but it isn’t good for building an audience of housewives and soccer moms that will be needed to keep the ratings up.  If the show is done right, the story and characters are compelling enough to hold the attention of the Mad Men fans or anyone else that stumbles upon it while channel surfing, but not if they are so disgusted by the gore that they don’t give it a shot after the first episode.    I think the show would be better off if they gradually ramped up the gore over the first season.  The truly iconic violent images from the series tend to be toward the end of story arcs, so that shouldn’t be a problem.  If they come out with all guns blazing, it will please horror hounds, but it might backfire with the larger audience.
  3. The season will be too short to build an audience.  Despite debuting right before Sweeps, The Walking Dead is basically the length of mid-season replacement series.  This means that the show has very few episodes to expand the audience beyond the comic book and horror fans that will be with the show from day one.  We know that a second season isn’t a given, and with just six episodes worth of material to put out there, will the general audience have time to discover the show?
  4. Horror is the red-headed stepchild of series television:  This is the only reason my life in the current Nerdtopia isn’t perfect.  Sure, we get adaptations of The Game of Thrones, The Watchmen, The Walking Dead; we get great Batman and Spider-man movies (nuh-nuh-nuh-spider-man 3-I can’t hear you-nuh-nuh).  Indy comics are hitting the big screen in uncompromised glory (even if no one is actually watching them).  It is a great time to be a nerd, but, alas, not so much for the horror nerd—at least not on television.  The last horror series to be a hit on network television was…wait, there has never been a hit horror series on network television.  Buffy was a critical hit and had a great seven-year run, but it faced cancellation at the end of nearly every season.  Supernatural has experienced a similar fate though with lower highs and higher lows.  The only time we have seen any real success is with a horror/sci-fi blend: X-files,  V, Fringe.  There have been a number of good series, just not many successful ones.  “Why” is a topic for another post, but I wonder if there are enough fans of the genre to make a horror show a hit, especially when the show is epic and expensive and really needs to be a hit, not just a moderate success.

Two Reasons Not to Worry About the Above and (Why We Expect The Walking Dead to be a Huge Hit)

  1. The source material kicks all kinds of butt:  As I said in the intro, The Walking Dead is as good as it gets in the comic book world, in the horror world, in the writing world.  If the team stays on target and puts the best elements of the comic on the screen, the show will find an audience.  There is probably a great play on “the cream always rises to the top” idiom using blood or brains or something to use here, but I can’t come up with it.
  2. They are keeping Kirkman close:  All reports are that Robert Kirkman has been involved creatively in nearly every facet of the show.  No one knows better than him what makes The Walking Dead great, and his involvement should be the gris-gris that keeps the evil spirits away.

We won’t have to wait long to see which of the above scenarios plays out.  The counter on the web site tells me we have only ten days and a few odd hours to wait.  Personally, I’m an optimist.  I always see the zombie as half dead.  The worst-case scenario:  we have a great Season One box set to slide in beside Firefly on the bookshelf.

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Horror of Dracula – Review

Horror of Dracula – Review

Oct 18, 2010

reviewed by hallo
directed by Terence Fisher, 1958
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Horror of Dracula (as it is known in the USA) is the first and probably the best of a series of Bram Stoker inspired Dracula movies created by legendary British movie studio Hammer Film Productions.  During a period in the late 50’s through the 70’s, Hammer Films and horror movies went together like Dracula and Van Helsing – one was virtually synonymous with the other.  Horror of Dracula remains my favorite vampire movie thanks in part to the performances of two movie icons:  Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

Although the actor who has best portrayed the legendary role of Count Dracula might be a debatable discussion, I can think of no one who comes remotely close to the performance offered by Peter Cushing as the great Dr. Van Helsing.  One the one hand, Cushing comes across so tenderly and compassionate that we feel like have known him as a close personal friend for many years.  On the other hand, he presents an icy-cold demeanor and is unwilling to stop his pursuit until the “unholy terror” of Dracula is dealt with once and for all.  Take, for example, Van Helsing’s dealings with Arthur Holmwood after the surprising and disturbing realization that his sister, Lucy, had become a vampire.  Helsing wishes to allow Lucy to lead them to Dracula.  Arthur is repulsed at the idea of leaving her in the wretched condition of the undead any longer than necessary.  Although Helsing knows this is the best course of action, and in fact pursues this course when Arthur’s wife Mina is turned to a vampire, he nevertheless drops the issue with compassion and proceeds to relieve Lucy of her misery (which is another incredible scene where Arthur is beside himself as Van Helsing stakes Lucy, but at Helsing’s gentle prodding, Arthur is relieved as he looks in the coffin and sees Lucy resting in peace).  I say with all confidence that without Peter Cushing, Horror of Dracula is a mediocre movie at best.

And then there is Christopher Lee.  What you get in Horror of Dracula is classic Lee, with his quick, pointed dialogue, simple smile, and overbearing presence.  I don’t think Lee is my favorite Dracula, yet his presence brings the final “nail in the coffin” that creates a perfect rivalry and spectacular picture.  One thing I appreciate about Lee’s performance is that he does not over-do it.  With the successful and iconic imagery we have of Bela Lugosi and the 1931 classic Dracula, many have created more of a caricature with their performance than a realistic, terrifying villain.  Lee does not make that mistake; the person of Dracula is very believable in this particular film.

The movie is certainly a product of its time, with forced and at times awkward dialogue and strange transitions from scene to scene.  Yet, it remains fresh and very re-watchable.  Horror of Dracula is on my “watch” list at least twice a year and is one of those films that you will find playing in the background in my downstairs den all the time.  The movie does alter slightly from the novel, as most Dracula movies do, but the story is solid, the supporting cast is wonderful, and the final confrontation between Dracula and Van Helsing is classic.  The demise of Dracula is still effective today despite the special effects available in 1958.

So, Horror of Dracula is one you should certainly watch, especially during the Halloween season.  I give it a strong recommendation.

Click here to purchase Horror of Dracula

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Body Count Podcast #1016

Body Count Podcast #1016

Oct 16, 2010

Danny and Hallo answer questions sent in by readers from the September DVD Giveaway.

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Off to Orlando, FL

Off to Orlando, FL

Oct 7, 2010

I will be boarding a plane tomorrow morning for Orlando, FL where I will be attending the Spooky Empire Horror Convention as well as experienceing Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios.  John Carpenter, Robert Englund, and other legends will be at Spooky Empire, so The Blackest Eyes is thrilled to be a part of this event.  I will make updates and post some pictures when I arrive.  Until then, stay scared!

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