What’s Screening: October 1 – 7

A lot of classics are turning up in movie theaters this week. We even have a double bill! But it’s October, and Halloween approaches. There’s nothing like screaming with everybody else in the middle of an audience.

Festivals & Series

Another chance to see (theatrically)

A In the Heights (2021), New Parkway, Friday, 4:30; Saturday, 6:20; Sunday, 4:10; Wednesday, 6:30; Thursday, 4:00

What makes this movie worth watching is the music, the singing, and the spectacular dancing! There’s a big production number in a swimming pool that outdoes Busby Berkeley, and a duet on the side of building. The thin story shows us life in NYC’s Washington Heights neighborhood (supposedly), or at least a musical version of it. People struggle on thin incomes. A couple don’t realize they love each other. What do you expect in a musical?

Great double bills

B+ Frankenstein (1931) & C+ Dracula (also 1931), check theaters, 1:00pm matinees

Frankinstein: James Whales’ original Frankenstein is atmospheric and beautiful. Besides, No one played Dr. Frankenstein’s nameless creation like Boris Karloff, who interpreted the monster as a child in a too-large body – an outcast torn between his need for love and his anger at the society that rejects him.
The film that started Universal’s famed horror series really doesn’t deserve its classic status. The picture suffers from stilted blocking and too much mediocre dialog–common faults in early talkies, especially those based on stage plays. But it has a few wonderful moments, most of which are wordless. True, it was the first to star Bela Lugosi in the role that made him famous, but he would only play that character one more time.

Theatrical revivals

A The African Queen (1951), Balboa, Wednesday, 7:30

16mm (if you consider that a good thing). Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Africa, and Technicolor all make for splendid entertainment in John Huston’s romantic comedy action adventure. The start of World War I traps an earthy, working-class mechanic (Bogart) and a prim and proper missionary (Hepburn) behind enemy lines and hundreds of miles of jungle. It’s a bum and a nun on the run, facing rapids, insects, alcohol (he’s for it; she’s against it), German guns, and an unusual (for Hollywood) romance between two moderately attractive middle-aged people in filthy clothes. See my Blu-ray review.

A Night of the Living Dead (1968), New Parkway, Friday, 10:30

This is fear without compromise. The slow, nearly unstoppable ghouls were shockingly gruesome in 1968 (sequels and imitations renamed them zombies). Decades later, the shock is gone, but the dread and fear remain, made less spectacular but more emotionally gripping by the black and white photography. Night of the Living Dead is scary, effective, occasionally funny, and at times quite gross. It can be viewed as a satire of capitalism, a commentary on American racial issues, or simply one of the scariest horror films ever made. Read my essay.

A Spirited Away, various theaters, Sunday & Wednesday dubbed; Monday, subtitled

Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece is a beautiful, complex, and occasionally scary tale of a young girl cast into a strange and magical world. The intriguing and imaginative creatures, not to mention the moral dilemmas, are beyond anything that Dorothy ever had to deal with in Oz. A truly amazing work of animation.

B+ The Shining (1980), New Parkway, Thursday, 9:00

For once, the cliché is true: Stephen King’s novel, The Shining, is much better than the movie. Stanley Kubrick, brilliant as he was, missed the main point of the book – that the protagonist loves his family, and is a good man struggling with his inner demons. Without that, it’s little more than a sequence of scares (all good scares, but just scares). Kubrick added some surprising and effective touches, but overall, he turned a brilliant novel into a pretty good horror flick. Read my longer article.

B+ The Lost Boys (1987), New Mission, Tuesday, 7:00,

This clever and funny – and even occasionally scary – teenage vampire movie was shot in Santa Cruz and is clearly set there (even though they give the town another name). So, you have the undead partying in the summer on the beach, on the boardwalk, and dealing with teenage angst. But then, what do you do when peer pressure tells you to become an immortal bloodsucker? Hey, all the cool kids are doing it. A lot of fun in a horror movie that refuses to take itself seriously.

B- A Clockwork Orange (1971), New Mission, Monday, 7:00

Stanley Kubrick’s strange, “ultra-violent” dystopian nightmare about crime and conditioning feel self-consciously arty. But several scenes–the Singin’ in the Rain rape, the brainwashing sequence, Alex’s vulnerability when he’s attacked by his former mates–are brilliant, as is Malcolm McDowell’s performance as a hooligan turned helpless victim.

B- What We Do In the Shadows (2016), New Parkway, Saturday, 10:00pm

This vampire mockumentary’s basic idea is funny and promising: An unseen documentary camera crew follow the afterlives of four vampires who share a house in a modern city. They argue about household chores, go out looking for victims, and talk directly into the camera about their undead existence. But the basic idea begins to wear out around the half-way point. The jokes are still funny, but they come farther apart. Read my full review.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics