The Day of the Triffids was a science fiction classic by John Wyndam, first published in 1951. Like many of the books and movies of the 1950s and 1960s, it reflects cold war paranoia, and to no small extent, suspicion about new technology.
I’m a big fan of old movies, especially old horror and science fiction. They often tell us a lot about both our dreams and our fears. There was a move adaptation in the early ’60s which I haven’t seen. According to reviews, it was mediocre at best. But I recently had a chance to see the 2009 BBC version, and I was impressed. A movie about tall, walking, carnivorous plants doesn’t sound that appealing, but I had read the book as a child, and the BBC adaptation had good reviews, so why not take a chance? Glad I did, there turned out to be a lot more going on here that you would guess from the description. (more…)
It’s Halloween and time to be scared. Most years I pull out the classic DVD’s, John Carpenter’s Halloween with Jamie Lee Curtis being terrorized by Michael Myers. Or the scariest movie of all time, The Exorcist, by William Friedkin. Everyone has their own scariest movie, and The Exorcist did it for me, even after having read the book the previous year.
I’ve noticed that the really scary movies are about serial killers or supernatural forces. Whether the threat is supernatural or a deranged psychotic, once in awhile some horrific and alien creature can push that primal fear button. In those stories, bargaining or appeals to logic or mercy just don’t work. When they are after you, they are relentless. Jaws was a classic example of that theme. It won’t help to plead with the shark, you’re just meat. (more…)
I first heard House of the Rising Sun at my high school talent show. I think it was 1963. I didn’t know the teenage girl who sang that night, but I remember the purity of her voice. Such a sad and mournful lyric, coming from that young girl, it was electrifying. To this day I still think about that moment whenever I hear the song.
It’s strange how a moment like that can stay with you for decades. Memories are not locked in stone. Your subconscious makes decisions about what you remember and how you remember it. Contrary to what we would like to believe, a memory is not like a video recording, the physical fact of a moment that remains unchanged forever. I can’t even guess what made that particular girl, her voice, and that song, have such an effect. But it stuck with me and I still wonder what happened to her. Did she have a career in music? (more…)
There are a few songs have a kind of evil magic that grabs your subconscious and won’t let go. Bobbie Gentry’s Ode to Billie Joe is one of the best. When it was released in the summer of 1967 it was an instant hit, selling 750,000 copies its first week. It knocked the Beatles “All you need is love” out of the number one slot.
Like everyone else I was fascinated by the mystery of what was thrown off the Tallahatchie Bridge. The popular theories of the time suggested a token of failed romance, perhaps a wedding ring or flowers. There were many people who believed in a much darker story. It was even suggested that the object thrown into those muddy waters was an aborted fetus. Years later, a movie was made that tried to answer those questions. The movie was an unfortunate exercise written without any help from Bobbie Gentry. She was the wise one, these stories are much better when every detail is not spelled out. A little mystery lets the audience read in their own fears and beliefs. (more…)
Anyone out there remember Louie Louie? It was all the rage in the mid 60s, accompanied by a lot of speculation about dirty lyrics. No matter how close you press your ear to the radio, your chances of deciphering actual words were pretty much impossible. This factoid is burned into my memory because there was a moment when understanding those words became extremely important. That event took place in the back seat of a 1955 Oldsmobile. (more…)