Midnight Movie Madness

“The Haunting” – (112 minutes UK-USA 1963)

“It ought to be burned down… And the ground sowed with salt.”

Dr. Markway (Richard Johnson), an anthropologist interested in paranormal phenomena, puts together a diverse group to study Hill House: Theadora (Claire Bloom), a clairvoyant, befriends Eleanor (Julie Harris) who was the subject of unexplained poltergeist activities as a child. Theadora may be attracted to Eleanor, but Eleanor develops a crush on Markway. Russ Tamblyn is the youngest of the owners, trying to figure out what kind of business to make of the old mansion. Together the group explores Hill House and face their own insecurities.

“The Haunting” is the quintessential Midnight Movie, a true masterpiece which almost never happened were it not for Robert Wise’s vision, although I’m not certain he truly knew what acquiring the rights to Shirley Jackson’s book would lead to. Wise ended up setting up production in the UK, since he could secure better financing there. This movie’s influence is felt even today, not as easily defined as a shot or a few bars of music, rather like a suggestion, transcending and advancing several genres.
Is it the story of Eleanor’s (Julie Harris) mental breakdown, or of the house and its haunting?
By the end, you sense that the house is a gestalt, blending suffering souls ended in our dominion, to form a different natural order. Jean Cocteau might have smiled upon this house, though perhaps reservedly.

This is visual poetry, with elements of horror, thriller, and psychological study. No wonder, perhaps, since this movie was based on a book by Shirley Jackson.

Two other recommendations for the subgenre:
“Stir of echoes” (1999) starring Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Erbe and Illeana Douglas;
“The changeling” (1980) starring George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere and Melvyn Douglas.

“The Haunting” gets 5 JellyBeans…

5 beans


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Latest Pet Food Recall

Sponsored by Jellybeansofdoom staff, Tito & Kitsune.

This is a heads up for our dog friends and their humans.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — SECAUCUS, N.J. – September 3, 2010 – The Hartz Mountain Corporation is voluntarily recalling one specific lot of Hartz Naturals Real Beef Treats for Dogs due to concerns that one or more bags within the lot may have been potentially contaminated with Salmonella. Hartz is fully cooperating with the US Food and Drug Administration in this voluntary recall.

Hartz Mountain Corporation is recalling 74,700 8-oz bags of Hartz Naturals Real Beef Treats for Dogs, lot code BZ0969101E, UPC number 32700-11519, which were imported by Hartz from a Brazilian supplier, Bertin S.A., and which were distributed to a number of customers in the United States. While regular testing conducted by Bertin (prior to shipment to the US) did not detect the presence of Salmonella in any packages of this product, random sample testing conducted by FDA did indicate the presence of Salmonella. Hartz is aggressively investigating the source of the problem.

You can read more about it here.

We have to watch out for our pets.  Best wishes to all the pets and their humans.

Tito’s Guide to cats

MeeMee! You want to get a kitty huh?

Before I say anything else, please-please-please never buy a cat or dog from a pet store. No reputable breeder will ever sell to a pet store. Only the puppy and kitten mills do that. Mills are horrifyingly bad places for dogs and cats. Don’t support them. Around here, pet stores are not allowed to sell cats and dogs.

If you already have one, you know the drill. If you don’t, then you need to do a bit of research. Do you want a kitten? Is a full grown cat better for you? Are you away from home a lot of the time? Cats are as varied as people. Some need more company than others. Some are more independent. Some are outgoing and some are timid. You have to match a kitty to your personality and home.

Kittens are wonderful and cute, but there are a great many adult cats who need a good home. The shelter is a very good place to look. If it’s a purebred you want, the shelter is still a good place to look. There are also purebred rescue groups. Granted, the kitty will be spayed or neutered, but unless you plan on breeding it’s for the best. My brother and I are both neutered. We have less health and behavioral issues that way. We’re good kitties. Well, Kitsy isn’t: he’ll steal your food when you aren’t looking.

I came from the San Francisco SPCA

This is my baby picture

Tito baby pic

Dad found my picture at the SFSPCA’s website. He sent the pic to mom. Then they came to meet me. It was love at first sight.

I was a bit scared when I first got home

Tito scared

Now I’m all grown up. I’m not much of a talker. I say MEE! sometimes, but I’m fairly quiet most of the time unlike my naked brother. He yells all the time. I’m also a nervous kitty. If you wear shoes in the apartment, I hide. If you move furniture, I hide. My mom and dad love me anyway.

I’m a good example of why shelters are such great places.

If you truly feel the need to get a purebred and can’t find one at a rescue group, then you need to research catteries.

A good cattery will be located in the breeders home. You should be able to go and meet your kitty and the breeders. Never pay for a cat you haven’t met yet, unless it’s a deposit on kitten not yet born. A really good breeder will want to meet you and see how you are with the kitties. You will also want to meet the breeders to be sure that reputable and loving when it comes to breeding their cats. Right now, with the economy in such a mess, a lot of catteries have stopped breeding and closed.

The Cat Fancier’s Association glossary describes a cattery this way.

CATTERY – A name registered by a breeder to identify their line of breeding. A registered cattery name always appears as a prefix to the name of the cat bred by that cattery/breeder.

CATTERY REPORT – A listing of all individually registered cats bred by a particular cattery/breeder. The computerized print-out gives cat names, numbers, litter numbers, birthdates, CH/GR points, and owner names. The list is guaranteed complete only with those cats that were registered after 1978, and is available only to the registered cattery owner.

Well, well, well, I guess that’s my advice for the day.

Oops, I almost forgot something. Kitties do better in pairs. If you have room for one, please consider two. They keep each other company and the playtime keeps them exercised.

MEE!


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Sued for sexual harrassment, Dracula gets charge reduced to tailgating!

Might as well start with a joke… I was going to do a review of “Nosferatu” for Wednesday’s Midnight Movie Madness, but then realized I’d not only done a write up on “Daughters of Darkness” last week, but we also brought in Dan Simmons’ “carrion comfort” from the library. Enough suckers for a week…
That being said, in his introduction of the 20th anniversary of his book, Simmons has interesting things to say about what he calls the mind-vampire.

In real life, this mind-vampire appears to be abusive, immature, governed by compulsion and survival needs, with a keen understanding of others but unable to care about them. He is perhaps cunning rather than intelligent and skilled in the uses of suggestion. In short, a manipulative bully, a hybrid of vampire and serial killer.

What makes the serial killer perhaps scarier is that he’s not bound by rules. No garlic, running water, sunlight or crucifix, no requirement to even be invited in! This frankly makes the vampire seem, well, civilized by comparison, as though the vampire represented waning aristocracy. And in Murnau’s “Nosferatu”, the count is pretty mangy indeed, filthy even, with his rodent features and traveling as he does with coffins filled with dirt and plague-carrying rats.

“This vampire killed many rats… In the litter box, mostly…”

Dracula Tito in red

Today’s vampires are merely grungy, probably listening to Pearl Jam and Nirvana, driving their black Euro SUVs at night.
Back in real life, the old saying of treating others the way you’d like to be treated has another side: don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want them to do to you. The thing is that much of human interaction boils down to rape, the imposition of one upon another, and hard times show that most people are unfortunately not bound by any moral or ethical restraint. The mind-vampire could most likely be a boss, such as the infamous Richard C. Woollam (formerly of BP) but perhaps a spouse, a relative, anyone really, who can detect vulnerabilities and inflict damaging words or words conveying some threat.

No man or woman is an island as they say, and so if you can’t be bullied or cajoled into acting against your own interest, the mind-vampire will influence others and turn them against you.
Human nature being what it is, manipulation readily crosses into coercion or worse. I think that’s been shown in part by Stanley Milgram’s (Yale, 1961) and Philip Zimbardo’s experiments (Stanford, 1971).
Well then, how’s about a good ole ghost story…?


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Science Droppings

I found a few more science droppings that were interesting. Have fun.

Oink! Oink! From Science Daily

Experts from the university’s School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development have shown for the first time that a pig’s mood mirrors how content he is, highlighting that pigs are capable of complex emotions which are directly influenced by their living conditions.

You can read more here.

A cat mimics it’s prey From Science Daily

In a fascinating example of vocal mimicry, researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and UFAM (Federal University of Amazonas) have documented a wild cat species imitating the call of its intended victim: a small, squirrel-sized monkey known as a pied tamarin. This is the first recorded instance of a wild cat species in the Americas mimicking the calls of its prey.

You can read more about it here.

Diabetes help for cats, dogs, and other animals From Science Daily

A University of Missouri researcher is using a continuous glucose monitoring device — commonly used in humans with diabetes — to help treat dogs and other animals. The device, which provides a detailed glucose picture of an animal over several days, will help pet owners manage their pets’ diabetes.

You can read more here.

These droppings were brought to you by Tito and Kitsune


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Hiking San Francisco’s Fort Funston

A friend commented on our blog that it needed more dog.  Since we needed to go for a good walk and fresh air anyway, we went out looking for some canines.

Our destination was Fort Funston. It’s located south of Ocean Beach in San Francisco and adjacent to Lake Merced. Fort Funston is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) and operated under the authority of the National Park Service. I should also mention that it’s FREE, and in this economy, “free” is just fine with me.

Fort Funston parking is just off of Skyline Blvd. south of John Muir Drive. If you are coming from the north, it’s about a half mile south of the intersection. If you are coming from the south, you will need to go to the intersection and make a u-turn. The road for Fort Funston is signed.

Fort Funston once housed military batteries.  Now, it’s host to scores of dogs and dog walkers.  It is one of the premier “off leash” places in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Also, due to the Funston Shear, as it’s called, it is very popular with hang gliders. Fort Funston ranks as a Hang III (intermediate) site. There is wheelchair access to the observation deck and upper trails. There is no wheelchair access to the beach.

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The main trail to the beach is adjacent to the hang gliding landing zone. There is a dog watering station at the trail head. Fort Funston Dog has all the information you need to go have fun with your dog.

Once at the trail head, you head south to the sand ladder which is made of logs linked together by cables. It makes it easier to descend the dunes without causing erosion.

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This trail is steep and full of loose sand. It’s not long but taxing, especially on the way back up. Be sure to make regular stops along the trail to take in the view. Do be sure to carry drinking water with you.

………………………………………………………Once at the beach, you’ll see scores of dog walkers. Some are professional dog walkers and others are just humans taking their dogs out to play in the surf.

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……………………………………………..I must point out that the beach can be dangerous. I would advise against wading as rip currents are common, as are sneaker waves: those odd, larger waves that come unexpectedly. Don’t turn your back on the water.

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………………………………………………………………………………You don’t need to have a dog to enjoy the beach and trails at Fort Funston: the beach is beautiful and is fun for bird watching. Riders on horseback can also be seen along the shore. All in all, it’s a truly lovely place to visit.

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A word of caution: On August 19, a dog named Lenny was out with his human when a man stabbed him. You can find the story here.  Lenny survived the attack, thank goodness.  The attacker has been identified, but there has been no arrest yet, so be vigilant.


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Midnight Movie Madness

Daughters of Darkness – Fateful encounters (100 minutes Belgium/West Germany/France 1971)

“I was wrong, after all… What you did wasn’t foolish, Stefan, it was merely… Unrealistic.”

Almost 40 years on, “Daughters of Darkness” shows even better than when it was first released. This is not a gore-fest, and while I wouldn’t call it a character study, it certainly has more layers than the Horror genre typically leads you to expect. It means neither to blow the viewer away, nor to titillate.  It is absorbing, somewhat like “let the right one in”. But more on this later…

When this movie came out, the vampire sub-genre was waning: “Daughters of Darkness was book-ended between Roman Polanski’s “the fearless vampire hunters” (1967) and “Dracula and son” (1976), a French spoof starring Christopher Lee.

I remember the early ‘70s as a sort of “either or” proposition, in terms of cinema: serious films (at times overly so, veering into pretentiousness) or exploitation flicks, with little in between. On the face of it, and given when “Daughters of Darkness” came out, I suspect it was wrongly perceived as exploitation, with elements of horror and soft-porn. Many reviews tend to label it as “lesbian vampire horror” or “erotic vampire” story, and while this is not entirely inaccurate, it tends to lessen the scope of the film.

Yes, there are several shots of full frontal nudity, and female characters kissing, but… Vampires by nature are sexual beings seducing their prey before feeding on them. The need defines the skill.

There are really two main story arcs in “Daughters of Darkness”, as well as two predators. We begin with the young newlyweds, Valerie (Danielle Ouimet) and Stefan (John Karlen), and soon realize Stefan is essentially a sadistic child in a man’s body. He remains emotionally detached from Valerie, only reaching out to her after she is hurt by his behavior: he appears to feed on her vulnerability and attraction to him, and keeps testing her. Much of this is like watching a kid pulling the wings and legs off a fly.

Such behaviors are more widely understood nowadays than in 1971, thanks in part to self-help literature and talk shows, but in retrospect John Karlen’s role and his performance were highly unusual for the day and accurately portrayed a fractured individual swaying between fear and rage, projecting his need for control upon his bride.

A revealing influence on Stefan’s character is the personage referred to as “Mother” and “Lady Chilton”, who turns out to be an older man growing orchids in surroundings of green and purple (director Kumel also relies on color to define characters and events): more sugar daddy than mother as it appears, and something Stefan is desperately trying to conceal from Valerie. Appropriately enough we are introduced to them as they travel to Ostende on a train, appropriate because Stefan is compelled to compartmentalize his relationships.

They arrive at the Palais des Thermes during the off season, the sole guests in this oppressive looking structure. Shortly after sunset, another couple arrives: the countess Elizabeth Bathory (Delphine Seyrig) and her companion Ilona (Andrea Rau). Dressed in 1930s fashions, the countess appears to the stunned concierge in exactly the same way as she did 40 years prior, to which she replies he probably remembers her mother. That is until she calls him by his first name, “Pierre”, toying with his apprehension with a jab at his fear. You see, Pierre remembers a series of unsolved murders which took place in the region 40 years ago. This is unspoken and slowly revealed as the story unfolds.

In real life, countess Elizabeth Bathory was in fact a historical figure from, of all places, Transylvania. Born in August 1560, she died sometime in August 1614 at the Cachtice castle where she was walled in.  During the Long War against the Ottomans, while her husband was away, she provided for and defended the peasantry of their lands.

Sometime after her husband, Ferenc Nádasdy, died in 1604, four of her servants were tried and executed for participating in crimes which she was rumored to have ordered, the torture and murder of hundreds of young girls. The crimes were said to involve mutilations, sexual abuse, and baths taken by the countess in her victims’ blood for the purpose of maintaining her youth. Later on, allegations of vampirism took place. For political reasons, she was not tried, but imprisoned at Cachtice until her death.

Now, in the neighboring town of Bruges, the bodies of young women drained of their blood raise old fears.

Stefan and Valerie witness the body of such a victim being taken away by ambulance and a retired policeman takes note of these foreigners.

He follows them to the hotel where the familiar figure of the countess is waiting for them. What unfolds is a sinister game of musical chairs between the protagonists. Ilona wants to leave the countess, eventually getting her wish. Stefan, who bound Valerie to himself, already yearns to be free from those ties and also gets his wish. Perhaps more than companionship, the countess herself was looking for a “vessel”.

They all may get theirs, but only the countess through power and dark skills, found satisfaction.

Is there any form of retribution at last?

To quote Francis Urqhart, F.U. to his friends, “you might very well think so, but I couldn’t possibly comment.”

Listen closely to Valerie’s last words…

“Daughters of Darkness” gets 5 jellybeans.

5 beans


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Latest Pet Food recall

Sponsored by Jellybeansofdoom staff, Tito & Kitsune

Here’s a shout out to anyone in the Loveland, CO area.  There is a small recall that may have an effect on you.  Please take care.

P&G Recalls Small Number of Bags of Cat Food From Stores in Loveland, Colorado

August 29, 2010 – CINCINNATI  — Procter & Gamble (P&G) is voluntarily recalling a small number of bags of its Iams Proactive Health Indoor Weight & Hairball Care dry cat food which may have been sold recently in one or two stores in Loveland, Colorado.These bags have the potential to contain salmonella, although no illnesses have been reported.  No other Iams pet food products are affected.

The Iams Proactive Health Indoor Weight & Hairball Care cat food in question is sold in blue 6.8-pound bags.  These bags feature a code date of 02304173 (B1-B6) and the UPC number 1901403921.

The rest is available at the link above.

We will try to keep all our pet people notified of any recalls.  My apologies for the delay on this one.  We had a major computer problem that took us a couple of days to fix.  Since our pets (and probably yours) are more than animals, but full-fledged members of the family, it’s a subject that is important to us.

We had friends who lost cats and dogs during the Melamine Pet Food Recall of 2007.  That was a truly horrifying event and we hope to never see it’s like again.  However, given that we can’t even keep human food production clean (Eggs anyone?), we won’t hold our breath.  At best, we can remain vigilant and do our best to protect our pets.


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Adventures Through Time and Space

“The Mighty Boosh” – Surreal adventures through time and space (UK 2004)

“Don’t be cynical

It’s a follicle miracle!”

Sometime in 2007, a co-worker e-mailed me a link to a Youtube video taken from a show I’d never heard of. The clip was maybe 9 minutes long, from a British comedy series called “the Mighty Boosh”. This was from an episode from season 2 entitled “the legend of Old Gregg”.

I waited another two years for the series DVDs to be released here. I was hooked.

The Mighty Boosh’s first season (8 episodes) introduces Vince Noir (Noel Fielding) and Howard Moon (Julian Barratt), two zookeepers working at the run-down Zooniverse managed by Bob Fossil (Rich Fulcher). Vince Noir is obsessed with hair products, electro music and is the apparent air-head of the two. Howard Moon is a Jazz fanatic and prone to embellishments.

Season two (6 episodes) finds Vince and Howard sharing an apartment with fortune teller Naboo (Michael Fielding, real-life brother of Noel) who really is a shaman, and Bollo the gorilla (Dave Brown in a gorilla suit). As to Season 3 (6 episodes), Vince and Howard now work for Naboo at his shop (the Nabootique).

No explanations are given for the changes in settings between seasons, much like in a dream, you find yourself in different places without transition. What matters are the adventures and characters, from the North Pole to planet Xooberon, even the afterlife, where the Ape of Death suffers from bad hair as well as a short temper and Death (actually Deaths, plural) ferry the departed in taxi cabs through space and speak with a Cockney accent.

Each episode has a different story arc, giving this series a leisurely pace, as opposed to say, “Big Train” which is composed of short sketches. Flashbacks are often done using colorful animations and there are several musical numbers per episode. Most of the songs are pretty catchy and contribute greatly to the feeling of whimsy. The look of the series is very colorful and never dull, as the entire series was shot in studio, with special effects described as cheap by some viewers, but in actuality charmingly quaint. For instance, a scene in which protagonists are being chased by the Yeti was shot with the actors running in place in front of a backlit screen rolling in a loop. It’s a pretty common technique used in older films and series, which helps give the Mighty Boosh some sort of “grounding” visually.
Each DVD set includes two discs and plenty extras, such as interviews, making of, Boosh music, bloopers, etc. for many hours of enjoyment. Rich Fulcher is the sole American of the cast and deserves a special nod. He is extremely funny in his various roles, the deviant Bob Fossil, the Ape of Death and kinky Eleanor among others. The bloke is mental.
The series followed a common development pattern in Great Britain, from stage to radio and finally television, with plenty of time to refine and hone a wonderful and unique program. The Boosh really has to be experienced.
A word of caution, however, due to the common usage of profanity (four letter words), I would not recommend it for family viewing if you have young children.

“The Mighty Boosh” gets 5 jellybeans

5 beans


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And now for something completely different…

This wonderful, melancholy clip accompanying “valse triste” by Jean Sibelius is an excerpt from the animated film “Allegro non troppo” by Italian animator Bruno Bozzetto. Bozzetto’s 1976 homage to Disney’s “Fantasia” is one of our all time favorites here at JBoD.

This “valse triste” segment has my preference, although the one highlighting Ravel’s “Bolero” has some personal significance in that “Bolero” was the first program I took my wife to at the San Francisco Symphony, an unforgettable evening. Even the kittehs approved and gave us space afterwards… ‘Nuff said.  Note:  due YouTube limitations the first 3+ minutes are missing from this recording.  The rest is great.


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