Like most people, I remember several Disney flicks fondly from my childhood. However, I was a weird one. I liked anything and everything scary (thus fueling my undying love for horror films to this day), so naturally the darker Disney offerings appealed to me most. No other Disney movie was watched and rewatched quite as much as “the Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad”, or more specifically, “the Legend of Sleepy Hollow” segment of that film. I swear, that Beta cassette was virtually reduced to dust by the time we upgraded to VHS…in 1997 (we were behind the times in my family).
The film begins with an adaptation of “the Wind in the Willows”, narrated by the great Basil Rathbone. Mr. Toad (Eric Blore) is a flightly fellow with a limited attention span. Just as soon as he’s obsessed over one hobbey, his fancy shifts to something new. On the bright side, he happens to be obscenely wealthy, so he can afford it. Or can he? After being found guilty of motorcar theft, Mr. Toad is sent to prison and finds his mansion under the ownership of a gang of vile weasels. It’s up to Mr. Toad’s friends, Mole (Colin Campbell), Rat (Claud Allister) and Angus MacBadger (Campbell Grant) to spring Mr. Toad from prison, clear his good name and help him relieve the weasels of the deed to his home.
Considering how often I watched the movie as a youth, I was surprised at how little I remembered of this segment. In fact, I don’t think I’d ever watched it in its entirety until the other day. Odd, that. While I can’t say I felt I had really missed anything, “the Wind in the Willows” is a fun short film at any rate. I was most surprised when I saw the weasels and realized that they were the same group of thugs who appeared in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”. I had always thought they were made up for that film. So it’s the little things that surprised me. Basil Rathbone’s narration was great since he’s got a voice worth listening too. Strangely, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of his work on Sherlock Holmes. I actually recognize him best for a series of Edgar Allen Poe books on tape which he narrated.
Now to the part of the movie I really love; legendary crooner Bing Crosby narrates Washington Irving’s “the Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. A new schoolmaster has just rolled into the backwater town of Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod Crane, and he’s sweeping all the ladies off their feet, particularly the lovely Catrina. This doesn’t sit well with the town’s hero, Braum Bones, who decides to play on Ichabod’s superstition to get even and spins him a yarn about a spectral Headless Horseman who chases travelers who wander to close to the local cemetery late at night. This folk tale turns out to be more truth than fiction, as Ichabod becomes the prey of a sword-wiedling, pumpkin-throwing headless lunatic on a thundering steed.
Often considered the perinneal adaptation of Irving’s world-famous short story, Disney’s version of “the Legend of Sleepy Hollow” withstands the test of time for a reason: it freakin’ rocks. It starts out rather whimsical, with lots of upbeat songs and cartoonish sightgags to keep you smiling, but as soon as Ichabod enters the party at Catrina’s estate, the atmosphere takes a turn for the ghoulish. The entire chase sequence between Ichabod remains one of the most exciting and heart-pounding moments from any Disney film, with some of the best animation they had ever produced at the time. The Headless Horseman himself is a grand villain and one you rarely see in Disney films today. He’s a blood-thirsty madman with an echoing, otherworldly laugh that actually is kind of frightening (for a kid’s movie, I mean).
I think what really sets “the Legend of Sleepy Hollow” apart from other Disney adaptations of popular stories is that they play it straight and adapt it accurately. Ichabod, the hero of the story, loses and Braum Bones, the secondary villain of the story, wins and even gets the girl. Had this film been made today, Disney would have no doubt altered the ending to all Hell and made it as happy-go-lucky as possible, but back in 1949, Disney was a bit more risqué.
There are lots of great adaptations of this story. Tim Burton’s “Sleepy Hollow” is an obvious one, but another favorite of mine is the Rabbit Ears adaptation narrated by Glen Close. And if you ever get a chance to see a Japanese flick called “Robot Carnival”, you’ll find a wonderful homage to Disney’s version of the story in the final segment of the film. Still, when all is said and done, Disney did it best. “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is a Halloween tradition in my house; I watch it every year.
So while “the Wind in the Willows” is a tad mediocre, “the Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is utterly fantastic. Due to this, the grade kind of averages out to a B. But individually, I’d give Mr. Toad a B- and Ichabod an A.
Denzel Washington revealed that he developed a real respect for Harlem heroin kingpin Frank Lucas during the filming of American Gangster, set to hit the big screen this Friday. While Washington knows that Lucas had blood on his hands — responsible for hundreds of deaths — but felt he was a “product of his environment.” The druglord had turned to crime after witnessing his cousin’s murder by Ku Klux Klan members.
The movie will document Lucas’ rise to power, his remarkable charisma, and the intricate and colorful eventsthat make his story so compelling — even to Washington and the cast members of “American Gangster.”Â Â
When people think of the Grinch they always remember “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, but there was a lesser known Grinch-oriented holiday special which I always preferred: “Halloween is Grinch Night”. It was freaky, it was weird, it had catchy music: it was right up my alley. Personally, when I think of the Grinch, I think of this TV special.
Halloween has fallen upon Whoville and that can only mean one thing: Grinch Night! The sinister Grinch and his wagon of unspeakable horrors are on their way down from Mt. Crumpet and all the Whos are barring their doors and shutting their windows…all except for one. Little Ukaraiah isn’t afraid of the Grinch and he’s willing to brave the Grinch’s horror show in order to keep him occupied until Halloween is over.
There are so many reasons why I prefer this TV special over both “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat”, but I think my primary reasoning is that the Grinch is 100% evil in this special. In both of his other appearances, which I didn’t see until long after “Halloween is Grinch Night”, the Grinch turns good at the end and falls victim to his conscience. But the Grinch is no pussy in this one. He abuses his dog (Max), he tortures small animals (a woozle), chants demonic spells which transform his eyebrows into rampaging bats, threatens hideus evil over an entire town and even locks a young boy away in his own private torture chamber. This Grinch doesn’t “see the light” at the finale thanks to his heart inflating in his chest or nostalgic memories of his dead mother: he’s evil and he doesn’t care.
Dr. Seuss’ artstyle always kind of creeped me out when I was little. All the people looked human but…weren’t. They had weird furry fingers and were just abnormal-looking. Director Gerald Baldwin takes full advantage of the inherent weirdness of Dr. Seuss’ style to let things get as freaky and surreal as possible. The one scene that sticks with most people who have seen this special is the climax where Ukaraiah is chased through the Grinch’s chamber of horrors. It’s basically a montage of scary and wacky monsters trying to kill the kid set to the tune of ”U-ka-rai-ah! U-ka-rai-ah! Grinch’s gonna get ya! Grinch’s gonna get ya!” It’s like the worst acid trip you’ve ever had.
As has already been mentioned, I saw this special long before I saw the more popular “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, so when I hear the voice of the Grinch in my head, it isn’t Boris Karloff. Nope, it’s Hans Conried, who does a fantastic job as the title villain. You might know him better as Captain Hook from Disney’s “Peter Pan” and he just oozes the pure evil that is this incarnation of the Grinch with every spoken word.
“Halloween is Grinch Night” is one of the fonder memories from my childhood and still ranks as one of my all-time favorite Halloween specials. I’m not the only one who enjoyed it either, considering it won a primetime Emmy and all. It’s currently available on DVD as the fourth part of a collection of Dr. Seuss shorts titled “Green Eggs and Ham”. It’s worth checking out for certain and definitely something to show your kids if they’re into scary things.
I remember picking up the graphic novel of Steve Niles’ “30 Days of Night” several years ago and thinking “Man, this would have been a lot better as a movie”. Indeed, the idea seemed to be to turn it into a movie as soon as it was published, only it’s taken until now to finally have that intention realized. And just as I suspected, the film version of “30 Days of Night” is mostly superior to its comic book counterpart, but does that make it any good? Well, to be frank, the comic wasn’t all that good to begin with. A decent idea and some freaky art, but I found the whole thing to be wholly overrated. While I enjoyed the film to an extent, and found it to be a better interpretation of the story than the source material, the end result is none-the-less mediocre.
Point Barrow, Alaska, the northern most point of the United States, undergoes thirty days of darkness each year. As soon as the sun sets, the town finds itself under siege by a horde of hungry vampires, ready for a month-long feast. Eben (Josh Hartnett), the town sheriff, and his wife, Stella (Melissa George), are left to gather as many survivors as possible and try to ride out the thirty day massacre without being found. Not so easy, as Point Barrow is a small town and the vampires don’t want to leave any trace once they’re finished.
I’ve only ever read the first graphic novel for “30 Days of Night”, and while I thought it was pretty good, it didn’t impress me enough to indulge in the myriad of sequels that came afterward. My primary issue with the comic was that it was far too condensed. It was supposed to be a tale of survival, but that aspect of the story was played down in favor of an action-packed opening and climax. The movie adaptation, thankfully, focuses heavily on the small group of townspeople struggling to keep hidden from the bloodthirsty ghouls out to get them.
The movie also did away with a few aspects of the comic that I thought were kind of, well, stupid and/or lazy. The subplot about the voodoo cult in New Orleans trying to get video evidence of the vampires is nowhere to be found, which is fine by me, as it felt completely tacked on and unnecessary in the comic. Also, the generic evil vampire overlord who shows up at the end to berate the leader is also left out, which didn’t bug me at all, considering that was a fairly mundane deus ex machina, anyway.
So ultimately, these changes coupled with the less-condensed story-telling are what left me with a more satisfied feeling after watching the movie than when I read the comic. But source material aside, what was the movie really like? Fairly boring, I have to confess. The shaky-cam effects were terrible, making a lot of the more violent action sequences a chore to follow, if you could follow them at all. Only about three or four members of the band of survivors have anything even remotely resembling character depth or personality, leaving the rest as little more than cows for the slaughter. A horror movie standard, I know, but they still didn’t do anything for me.
“30 Days of Night” is more an action flick than a horror movie and isn’t particularly scary. Most of the scares revolve around loud noises and the usual “jump” gags we’re all so tired of. I’ll admit that the vampires themselves are more entertaining than the prissy goth crybabies a lot of vampire flicks make them out to be, and are nicely gruesome, but still no great shakes. The artwork in the comic was very surreal which is what lead to its unsettling quality. These vampires are just guys with really sharp teeth that like to shriek way too much (the shrieking, by the way, gets annoying very quickly).
“30 Days of Night” is a good adaptation of the comic and actually an improvement, but it really only takes a mediocre graphic novel and makes it slightly less mediocre. I didn’t hate the movie, but it seemed more like something I’d rent or wait until it hit TV.
With my favorite holiday Halloween just around the corner, I thought I’d open a forum on what are the best spooky holiday flicks.
So, what do you think? What is your favorite Halloween movie? Are you a classic fan & go with the ever-entertaining Michael Meyers? Or are you more of a Jason or Freddy fan.
You tell me.