Monday, March 28, 2005

Weekend viewing

The Fog (John Carpenter, 1980)
I rented this thinking not only that I wanted to see this particular film, but also that I hadn't seen nearly enough Carpenter films. Imagine my surprise looking on IMDb after the film to discover that this is actually the eighth Carpenter film I've seen. I think the problem is that I've seen more of his later, crappier work (Village of the Damned, Vampires) and less of his better early work, like this. It's an old-fashioned ghost story, told economically and effectively, with minimal special effects (basically, um, a bunch of fog). I think Carpenter was at his best just creeping people out like here and in Halloween, rather than going for too much tongue-in-cheek camp like in the aforementioned later work.

Peeping Tom (Michael Powell, 1960)
One of those movies that is allegedly legendary but I had never heard of until NetFlix recommended it for me. It's touted as the British answer to Psycho, and indeed it is extremely Hitchcockian, to the point where if you told me it was a lost Hitchcock film I'd probably believe you. Like Psycho, it features a strangely sympathetic killer, and Powell does Hitchcock one better by making the killer the unambiguous protagonist. Apparently enormously controversial in its time, it feels tame by today's standards but is still pretty damn creepy.

Tom Dowd and the Language of Music (Mark Moormann, 2003)
A friend recommended this documentary highly, and while it's fawning to the point of obsequiousness, it's also an interesting look at one of the unsung heroes of 1960s and 70s pop music. Dowd was an engineer and later a producer on seminal recordings by Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Cream, Lynyrd Skynyrd and many others, and he's an affable and engaging presence in Moormann's zippy documentary. Moormann nicely glosses over what Dowd did after his height of working with influential acts, and the film feels incomplete for not addressing, say, the last 20 or 30 years of the man's life. But as a record of Dowd's accomplishments and an insight into the early days of rock, it's fascinating.

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