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Dracula (#110 of 4)

Killer Smiles and Satanic Wiles Mr. Sardonicus & The Brotherhood of Satan

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Killer Smiles and Satanic Wiles: Mr. Sardonicus and The Brotherhood of Satan
Killer Smiles and Satanic Wiles: Mr. Sardonicus and The Brotherhood of Satan

As delightful as William Castle’s movies are in any venue, you lose out on one of their most appealing aspects—call it their rowdy carnivalesque dimension—when you watch them in the atomized privacy of your home theater. This point was brought home to me recently when I had the chance to watch Mr. Sardonicus in 35mm at a local repertory house, and then received Mill Creek’s admittedly excellent Blu-ray transfer for review. Differences in the film’s comparative impact had less to do with the size of the respective screens than with the viewing environment. Castle’s movies were meant to be seen in your local picture palace, crammed cheek by jowl alongside other moviegoers, shoveling popcorn out of a paper bag, and feeling the tug of tacky puddles of pop at your feet.

The ultimate promotional showman, Castle created an inventive series of publicity stunts in order to put his bargain basement productions over with viewing audiences. Whether it was sliding a skeleton along a string over their heads during House on Haunted Hill or rigging electric buzzers beneath select seats to deliver sudden shocks to their posteriors during fraught moments in The Tingler, Castle never met an attention grabber he couldn’t use. By all accounts, though, Castle was never content merely to reign as king of the gimmick flick. He also wanted to imprint his indelible persona on his films (it’s clear he relished playing the glib, shamelessly schlocky impresario), taking his cue to some degree from Alfred Hitchcock’s sardonic appearances on the master of suspence’s eponymous TV show.

15 Famous Movie Vampire Hunters

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15 Famous Movie Vampire Hunters
15 Famous Movie Vampire Hunters

For high-concept, lowbrow thrills, your hot ticket this weekend is surely Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Timor Bekmambetov’s visualization of Seth Grahame-Smith’s why-the-hell-not novel, which reimagines that most benevolent president as a part-time vamp vanquisher. The revisionist actioner may not be bound for the bloodsucker canon, but its lead character proudly continues a surprisingly prevalent filmic trend: that of the hero whose key duty is to pound a proverbial stake through the heart of evil. From Blade to Buffy, we’ve always needed fearless soldiers to battle creatures of the night, and to make sure that the only thing Dracula and company are biting is the dust.

What’s That Smell?: A Small Fire and Dracula

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What’s That Smell?: A Small Fire and Dracula
What’s That Smell?: A Small Fire and Dracula

Adam Bock’s plays need to be handled as delicately as someone balancing an egg on a spoon from room to room; one false move and splat. In works like The Thugs and The Receptionist, Bock explored the underbelly of mundane office worlds (many of us can relate to those), and how their appearances are not always what they seem. Bock’s teasing non-reveals can seem laborious to some and revelatory to others, but I think both camps should be thoroughly satisfied with A Small Fire, a searing new evolutionary step for the playwright, simply in that his furtive playfulness is still there, but in the most accessible and honest of ways. It’s only six days into 2011, but it might not be too early to keep this one on the front burner of truly stellar works, so to speak.

The play begins on a construction site with Emily (Michele Pawk), a hard-talkin’, tough broad who laces the profane and the decent in one luminous whole, and her right-hand man and best friend Billy (The King of Queens’s Victor Williams), a lumberjack-built pigeon racer. Then we shift to Emily’s home life, her seemingly staid marriage to the fervently loyal John (Reed Birney) and her tentative feelings about her daughter Jenny’s (Celia Keenan-Bolger) upcoming nuptials to a cheese importer she clearly doesn’t like. After a kitchen scare in which Emily ceases to smell a gas fire, her senses begin to mysteriously disappear one by one, leaving this once indestructible force of nature stripped down to an unenviable core.

House Playlist Basement Jaxx, Sky Ferreira, & Girls

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House Playlist: Basement Jaxx, Sky Ferreira, and Girls
House Playlist: Basement Jaxx, Sky Ferreira, and Girls

Basement Jaxx, “Dracula.” “Dracula,” Basement Jaxx’s lopsided, Schaffel return to form, may very well have been commissioned by Audi to sell their A7 Sportback. Whatever it takes to get their motor revving again is fine by me, even if in this case I could never possibly afford the object of inception. Never mind. The gloriousness of the gears grinding in this mean little snit of a choon (the refrain: “Wanna bite you up like Dracula”) would sound good in the beaten-down ’93 Ford Escort I still burned rubber in up until just a few years ago. Felix and Simon’s first two LPs, Remedy and Rooty, balanced songcraft with hot temper, both elements that have sadly been lacking in their most recent work. “Dracula” only finds them recovering the latter, but there’s no denying its lean velocity. It actually may be their most straightforward, stripped-down release since “Get Me Off.” Eric Henderson