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This October, I’m proud to present the latest entry in the EPHEMERA screenings: SAFETY FIRST!   Featuring safety and instructional videos from the 1930s to the early 2000s, SAFETY FIRST is what happens when a pile of vitally important and boring information has to be shown to an audience who doesn’t want to hear it. There’s a few general approaches, including The Paternal Condescender, The Shock and Awe (aka The GoreFest or ‘You’ll Poke Your Eye Out’), and The America’s Funniest Home Videos, but today I’ll focus on The Goofus And Gallant.

(Oh, and if you’d like to see more stills from all the films, I’ve also created a Pinterest board where you can see all the shining weirdness of these ephemeral films for yourself.)

Goofus and Gallant films feature a ‘Gallant’ – a Johnny Do-Right who follows all the rules to a T and is rewarded with health and prosperity. He’s often accompanied by a Goofus, some slacker who heightens Gallant’s proper example with his oafish slacking and blatant disregard for the rules. If he gets injured (usually he just comes perilously close), the violence is cartoonish and silly. Sometimes the relationship is supernatural, with Gallant being a guardian angel-type who must continually rescue the dimwitted Goofus from certain harm.


First we have ‘Domestic Disturbance’, a training film for officers responding to domestic disturbance calls. In this case, the Gallants are in active danger from the Goofuses, and following the rules becomes doubly important as everyone’s safety is in the hands of the Gallants. The film acknowledges officers’ reluctance to respond to such calls – as one office says ‘at least with a standoff you know the situation…domestic disturbances are unpredictable’. ‘Domestic Disturbances’ was filmed in 1970s Minnesota, making for an unfortunate overlay of awkward clothing and accent distracting from the serious matter at hand.

personal space

Domestic Disturbance  calm direct


‘Safety: In Danger, Out of Doors’  was also obviously filmed in the 70s and features Guardiana, a crossing-guard-turned-superhero. Guardiana must rescue the stupid children around her from danger, but not before lengthy voiceovers pointing out every stupid step they’re taking towards getting themselves killed.


guardiana 1


‘Christmas Tree Harvest Safety’ (2002) seems to be made for a multilingual audience. Voices are dimly heard and mostly hidden behind loud ‘ding ding ding!’ noises when something’s done right, or a car-alarm when something’s done wrong. The Goofus of this film is a lanky white guy who takes every possible opportunity to chop his leg off with a chainsaw, and the Gallant, a middle-aged Hispanic man, is the one pointing and gesturing the proper steps to take. I’m going to say the film’s continuous use of The Mexican Hat Dance whenever the Gallant points out correct action is probably racist.

Christmas tree safety


‘Hazards In Motion’ (2001) features an actual guardian angel, helping the film’s Goofus avoid certain death at the hands of mining equipment and his own blind confidence.

Hazards In Motion white overalls


‘Hospital Safety’ is mostly neutral, showing people repeating actions done wrong immediately (except for the one time that guy caught everything on fire).

Hospital Safety lift

Hospital Safety  body lift


‘Hands In Motion’ is 90% a Shock-And-Awe film, avoiding gore by using an adorable abstract hand cutout to show the many, many, many ways you can mangle your fingers. Here we see a Gallant of a glamour shot – proper glove-wearing for handling molten metals.

On Every Hand power glove


From ‘Days of Our Years’, the most depressing and moralizing of the films (available as an MST3K short which helps it go down a bit easier), we see the RIGHT way to approach someone wielding a giant torch: using ‘gentle touch’. Of course the protagonist was too excited to do that and got blinded before he ever saw his first child, but that’s just the way this movie rolls.

RR sparks

RR gentle touch


‘Stairwell Safety’ takes a look inside the mind of the modern secretary pool. Featuring a bee woman instructing fellow ‘drones’ on how to not get killed on the stairs, the inspiration for this likely came from a whimsical Hallmark calendar sitting on someone’s desk.

Stairwell Safety attention

Stairwell Safety seriously


I just included this image because office dress code is ok with ‘Big Dog’ t-shirts.

Stairwell Safety bee lady

Oh, ‘Will You Be Here Tomorrow’. You are the violentest, most over-the-top safety film I have ever seen. Here is one of the brief moments in this short film where someone is not actively losing a fake limb and spattering blood everywhere.

Will You Be Here voice of experience


The protagonist of ‘A Safe Day’ achieves a full 1000 days of safety, because he makes it his business to be safe. He’s the ultimate Gallant example, carefully thinking through every action and stopping potential injuries before they happen. Goofuses and their horrible manglings are bloodlessly shown through double exposure.

A Safe Day smiley

A Safe Day common sense

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Just a reminder – the essay contest ends this Friday….at midnight! That comes off much scarier if you read it with a Boris Karloff accent. And speaking of horror:


A dive into the fascinating pre-history of cinema (or rather, as that grouping seems unfair, several disparate inventions that when lumped together chronologically sort of point the way to what would eventually become cinema) led to the phantasmagoria, a macabre performance incorporating special effects and gruesome projections by way of some form of magic lantern. Several popular phantasmagoria were even staged in tombs, though as they were abandoned Capuchin tombs I doubt the good monks minded much.


image from the Magic Lantern Society

One standout show was put on by Johann Georg Schröpfer, a coffee-shop owner-turned-necromancer/illusionist. He claimed he summoned spirits during his performances, and even held a seance for Prince Charles of Saxony. Unfortunately for Schröpfer, he believed his own hype and committed what appeared to be suicide, shooting himself in the head after telling a small group he would resurrect himself soon. Most sources repeat the same small bits about him, though this account goes a bit deeper.

Historically the phantasmagoria’s been wildly popular in lands rife with fear and uncertainty, including post-revolutionary Paris and America. Considering the current climate, perhaps it’s time for a revival.

Below are some magic lantern images, courtesy of Early Visual Media Archaeology

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Hello All. Did everyone enjoy ‘Marwencol’? Was everyone sufficiently moved by the triumph of an individual over personal demons using means at hand to help, resulting in a beauty that only comes of truth? Great! Glad we got that out of our systems. It’s October, and high time to gird ourselves for a month of cardboard sets, flimsy plots, and laughably unscary monsters! IT’S B-HORROR MONTH here at the I.Q. Movie Club!

To ease us gently in, we’ll kick this week off with one of Roger Corman’s classier Edgar Allen Poe adaptations, ‘The Tomb of Ligeia’. It’s got all the hallmarks: a tormented Vincent Price, a young lady in danger from the supernatural, evil cats, confused servants, and buildings collapsing as they burn!

Searching for the trailer, I came across this infinitely crappier modern version. Note the smurf-blue coloration and flashed footage apparently indicating horror. Also checked off the list: creepy kid at night, a well, bad CGI and burlesque. Nothing terrifies like a random, mostly nude dance sequence!

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Hello, and welcome once again to the Instant View Movie Club, the weekly film review for the lazy cinephile. Next week’s film will be a harrowing peek into the dark corners humanity..no, not ‘My Super Sweet 16: The Movie’, but Ingmar Bergmen’s ‘Hour Of The Wolf’, chosen partly because the title’s mentioned in Oingo Boingo’s ‘No One Lives Forever’. First though, let’s revisit this week’s film:

From the 30-second clip last week, I suspected 1927′s ‘The Cat And The Canary’ would be entertaining, but nothing prepared me for camp of this magnitude:

Layered, giant, hovering cats! An old man trapped in bottles dropping dead! Metaphor made head-bangingly literal! THIS is how you open a movie, people! Right from the start ‘The Cat And The Canary’ avoids the staginess plaguing so many movies (including modern ones) adapted from plays, utilizing its medium to full potential. The liberal use of tracking shots is surprising considering the era; imagine the poor cameraman who had to carry a full-weight 35mm camera down hallways and around corners. It’s also extremely effective, putting the viewer right into the path of danger and letting them experience the setting in complete dimensionality. The use of layering to evoke all senses is also clever; it’s hard not to hear the clock gonging as the hammers hit twelve o’clock.

Even the intertitles get into the act, with plenty of animation and comic-style lettering:

I’m not sure exactly why, but this fellow reminded me of John Hodgeman:

It could just be the suit and glasses. And what a rare treat, to have two typical ‘leading man’ types relegated to the background in favor of a well-meaning nerd/cowardly comic relief in the fore! Sorry ladies, you’ll have to wait for this guy’s next romantic comedy to swoon:

This film was just the right blend of genuine entertainment and campy goodness. I haven’t really set up any sort of rating system and find Netflix’s pentatonic 5-star notes limiting, so let’s just say, I highly recommend it. Normally this would be an extensive essay on the film’s various points, but as there are other posts to post here’s a random selection of thoughts:

This was one of my favorite sequences in the movie.

Monster hands reaching out towards the unaware and trapdoors opening to reveal bodies are clichèd now, but back then this was some Wim Wenders shit.

Here’s a helpful hint- if people are constantly accusing you of being insane, you may want to tone down the crazy eyes.

Tommy Lee Jones makes a guest appearance.

For a second I thought the film was going to turn into ‘Un Chien Andalou’. Considering the timing and popularity of the movie, I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘Un Chien Andalou’ was influenced by ‘The Cat And The Canary’, in particular this weird scene with the doctor. Everything about it was unnerving, especially the constant danger the heroine seemed to be in from the seemingly benign doctor:

Creepy hands!

Portrayals of the mentally insane weren’t as sensitive in the past.

This yokel direct from Central Casting had to be an inspiration for Disney’s Ichabod Crane.

And now, what you all came here to see:


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Hello all. Hopefully you found ‘The Botany of Desire’ an interesting peek into the manipulative world of plant evolution, and not a snorefest apace with watching plants grow. Do let me know any thoughts and opinions in the comments.

This week’s movie is ‘The Cat and the Canary’, a 1927 silent thriller featuring that ol’ chestnut of a plot – inherit a fortune…IF you spend the night in a HAUNTED MANSION! Wooooh! Here’s a taste of what we’re in for:

A friend of mine once said of silent films, what’s the point? Black and white was boring enough but no sound? I nearly had an apoplectic fit trying to explain the beauty of pure image as he went on to tout the awesomeness of 3-D.

This isn’t calling him a Philistine by any means; he has a damn good point. Why watch a style of movie we’ve long evolved past? Movies are supposed to be entertainment, not exercises in grim academia and historical stodginess.

To watch and appreciate silent movies is to learn a different language, a language of film preceding the use of recorded dialogue (to repeat the oft-mentioned obvious, silent films were never ‘silent’, often accompanied by live music, prerecorded sound effects, and live foley). Just like learning any new language, it’s a challenge rewarded by understanding a different point of view. Yes, the acting style is often histronic. Yes, the pace is far slower than today’s movies (although at an average runtime of 80 minutes they’re less bloated). Yes, they often lack the extended denouement we’re used to in modern storytelling (thank goodness, says I) and cut right to ‘THE END’. All these differences reflect the attitudes and mindset of the time they were created in, and aside from being fascinating historical documents in that right, are often pretty campy and entertaining once you get into them.

That being said, if you’re in the NYC area and still aren’t sold on silent, Film Forum is showing ‘Dial M for Murder’ in 3-D so you can have your multidimensional cake and eat your classy cinema studies too. You know what, that phrase ‘have your cake and eat it too‘, barely makes any sense. From now on I’m using the Italian vuoi la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca (“you want your bottle full of wine and your wife drunk”).

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