1981, 40th Anniversary, Baton Rouge, Bon Marche Mall, Cairo, California, Cinema 8, Disney World, Disneyland, DisneySea, East Baton Rouge Parish, Film, Film Trailer, Florida, Force Ten From navarone, Friday, George Lucas, Han Solo, Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones, Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull, Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, John Williams, June 5, Louisiana, MGM Studios, Movie, Movie Magic, Movie Theater, Orlando, Peruvian, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Sneak Preview, Star Wars, Steven Spielberg, The Empire Strikes Back, Tokyo, TV Commercial
I arrived home to the apartment where I lived with my mother and sister in the late afternoon on Friday, June 5, 1981. School in East Baton Rouge Parish in southeast Louisiana had already been out for the summer for a week or two. I was an elementary school student.
I was helping my sister unpack groceries when a commercial came on TV for Raiders of the Lost Ark (now known as “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark”). There was to be a sneak preview (remember those?) that evening at Cinema 8 movie theater at Bon Marche Mall in Baton Rouge. Cinema 8 had been chosen as one of many theaters in many cities around the country to premiere the film a week before general release.
I was occupied at the time and didn’t pay a lot of attention to the commercial. As with many TV commercials for films in the eighties, it happened quick with a lot of fast, random flashes of action and not enough to show you what the film was really about—a smart marketing tactic compared to today where you already know the essence of the film (and sometimes the spoilers and big reveals) in the very first trailer. All I remember seeing was Harrison Ford playing a cowboy riding a horse and holding on to the front of a big truck in a desert, and that it was a collaboration between George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.
Harrison Ford is doing a cowboy film? I thought. I don’t know that I want to see this. In 1981, in my mind, Harrison Ford was Han Solo. He was a sci-fi/fantasy actor. O.k., I did like him in Force Ten From Navarone (1978) after Star Wars, but I could not imagine my screen hero playing a cowboy. He is not a cowboy in Raiders, but when I saw him wearing a wide brim hat in the TV commercial (I didn’t know the difference between a fedora and a cowboy hat back then) I just assumed that it was a cowboy flick.
The phone rang. It was my mom calling from work saying that a friend of hers had scored tickets to the sold-out sneak preview at Cinema 8 and that we were all going that evening. Lovely. I thought that I was just going to see another cowboy film from a genre that I had no interest in. Little did I realize that Raiders of the Lost Ark would turn out to be the most thrilling time I had in a movie theater since The Empire Strikes Back the year before.
From the opening scene in the Peruvian temple to the closing credits, the audience at Cinema 8 that night was on the edge of their seats enjoying a non-stop rollercoaster adventure the likes of which has rarely been equaled or surpassed in film. I had never experienced such a boisterous and energetic audience reaction in a movie theater before and have not since. The scene where Indy shoots the swordsman on the street in Cairo brought the house down. Talk about audience participation!
1980, 1991, 1996, 20th Century Fox, 40th Anniversary, A galaxy far away, Baton Rouge, Boba Fett, Bon Marche Mall, Bon Marche Twin Cinema, Boris Vallejo, bounty hunter, C-3PO, carbonite, Cloud City, Coca Cola, Dagobah, Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, era, Film, George Lucas, Han Solo, Hoth, Jabba the Hutt, John Williams, Lando Calrissian, Louisiana, Lucasfilm, Luke Skywalker, Millennium Falcon, Movie, Princess Leia Organa, Saga, Space Fantasy, Star Wars, Star Wars: Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back, The London Symphony Orchestra, thrilling, Yoda
Even though I want as many people as possible to read this post, I must give fair warning. This post contains information that gives away important plot points from the Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back, commonly referred to these days as just Star Wars: Episode V. If you have never seen the film and intend to do so, then you may want to proceed with caution or skip this post altogether. On the other hand if you have seen it, then I hope that you will enjoy this little stroll down memory lane.
It was almost forty years ago to the day that I saw the greatest and most influential science fantasy film of my life…The Empire Strikes Back. As mentioned above, the more familiar title is now Star Wars: Episode V. I prefer the original title. I remember when first released, people laughed at the title. It didn’t sound dignified enough for the Star Wars series. Over time it grew on us. We got used to it. Decades later it seems to be the more appropriate title for the film. It is the original title after all.
There seems to be discrepancies in the exact date of the film’s release. I remember it being in late May of 1980. Supposedly, it had a limited release. I saw it about a week or so after it’s premiere at Bon Marche Twin Cinema behind the Bon Marche Mall in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where I was living at the time. The movie got a much wider nationwide release a month later in June. Baton Rouge is the capital of Louisiana, and as far as I remember only one theater in town was showing the film initially. I could be wrong about when it was released in Baton Rouge. I would be happy to hear from you in the comments below if you know something to the contrary. Also, chime in and let me know when the film premiered in your town.
Spring was blooming in May of 1980, and my family had relocated to Baton Rouge a couple of months before from our hometown an hour east. It was a clear, sunny and mild Saturday afternoon. I had just been released from…sorry…gotten out of…school for the year. My older brother and sister (I was the youngest) had seen the movie during its opening week. I had not seen it yet, even though I was the biggest S.W. fan in my family.
award, Bram Stoker, C.I.C.A.E., candles, Cannes, Count Orlock, Count Orlok, dark humor, E. Elias Merhige, F.W. Murnau, Film, film noir, garlic, gothic, Happy New Year, Hollywood, Horror, John Malkovich, Max Schreck, Movie, Nicolas Cage, Nosferatu, Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, nostalgia, old-fashioned, Oscar, Saturn Films, Shadow of the Vampire, sinister, vampires, Willem Dafoe
Happy New Year!
“The script girl…I’ll eat her later.” – Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe)
As mentioned in a recent post, Shadow of the Vampire is a film that I strongly recommend if you are interested in learning more about the myth behind Max Schreck, the German actor who portrayed Count Orlok in the original classic silent film Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror.
Shadow of the Vampire is directed by E. Elias Merhige, a director whom I was not familiar with before this film. It stars Willem Dafoe as the mysterious Max Schreck, a method actor who has a reputation for delving deep into the characters that he portrays, so much so that it puts him at odds with F.W. Murnau, portrayed brilliantly by John Malkovich, and the other members of the cast and crew. It was the first production of Saturn Films which was co-founded by Nicolas Cage. Saturn Films would later produce another vampire film called Underworld: Awakening from the famous vampire vs. werewolf series, as well as other well-known films and TV shows.
The general public doesn’t often react well to films that are about the making of other films, even classic ones. However, Shadow of the Vampire is focused on the actors and creators of the film, rather than the actual filming of the movie itself. This makes the film more interesting, and it’s a history lesson as well as an interesting character study. I enjoy history, so I don’t normally have an issue with films about the making of films, especially when it comes to such an iconic vampire film as Nosferatu.
“Did I kill…some of your people, Murnau? I can’t remember.” – Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe)
Shadow of the Vampire works upon the premise that, unbeknownst to the cast and crew, Max Schreck is not an actor but a vampire hired by Murnau to add an uncanny authenticity to the role. Murnau knows that Schreck is a vampire, but Murnau’s nightmare begins when things go crazy on the set and crew members start to disappear.
Shadow is a brilliant example of film noir. It shows the condition of vampirism in a unique, stylish and artsy way, but in a more direct and down to earth fashion. Many art films about vampires have a tendency to be extremely abstract and vague. Some vampire films are shot with the use of cold, blue filters that remove the viewer from the story and make it difficult for the audience to connect with the characters. S.O.T.V. doesn’t do that. The film has a warmth about it not often felt when watching vampire films. The cinematography is intimate and inclusive. It makes you feel like you are there, sharing the filming experience of Nosferatu with the cast and crew. The interiors of the charming inns where some of the scenes of the filming of Nosferatu happen are cozy and inviting. The castle scenes and the areas inside the vampire’s lair are especially enthralling. The movie was filmed in Luxembourg, doubling for Germany and Czechoslovakia (The Czech Republic). Continue reading
1840s, Bram Stoker, Count Graf Orlok, Count Orlock, Daywalker, Dracula, F.W. Murnau, Film, gothic, Henrik Galeen, Horror, Malcolm Rymer, Movie, Nightwalker, Nosferatu, novel, serials, Shadow of the Vampire, The Feast of Blood, Thomas Peckett Prest, To Sleep in the Ground, vampire fiction, vampire novel, Varney the Vampire
It’s one of the most challenging questions for writers of vampire fiction: Should the vampires in my story walk during the daytime or only appear at night?
This was an issue for me when first writing my vampire novel To Sleep in the Ground. I’m an ‘after six’ person. The evening is my favorite time of day. I could have easily written Marco, the main character of my story, to be a nightwalker only. The silent film classic Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horrors (now known popularly by the simple title of Nosferatu) directed by legendary German director F.W. Murnau helped fuel the myth that vampires could be destroyed by sunlight. Some say that the film created the myth, but I’m not so sure about that. Hollywood would embellish the concept that vampires were strictly nightwalkers with the sun frying them to a crisp if so much as a hint of it touched their pale skin, and the myth has become a mainstay of vampire fiction.
Instead, I decided to follow the tradition arguably established literarily by James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest, authors of the Varney the Vampire (or the Feast of Blood) serials from the middle to late 1840s and allow Marco to walk around in the daytime with limitations; he is weaker and not able to access the full potential of his dark gifts.
Decades later, Bram Stoker’s timeless masterpiece Dracula also echoed the folklore that vampires could walk by day. Those of us who write vampire or horror literature know Stoker’s novel and love it. It isn’t the first vampire story ever written, but it is the standard by which many, dare I say most, of us write our vampire fiction today. It was the inspiration for the influential Nosferatu. And it’s quite possible that Murnau’s Count Orlok was susceptible to sunlight rather than a stake through the heart because neither he nor the screenwriter Henrik Galeen had official permission to make a film version of the novel. Count Orlok needed to be different from Count Dracula for obvious reasons. On a side note, if you’re interested in knowing more about Nosferatu then I suggest the film Shadow of the Vampire. It’s one of my favorite vampire movies and a wonderful piece of film noir. It also explores the interesting legend of Max Schreck the actor who portrayed the vampiric Orlok in the film. I’ll address the film in more detail in my next post. Be sure to stick around for that.
So, what do you think, should fiction portray vampires as daywalkers, nightwalkers or both? I say “both” with limitations on the potency of their abilities during the daytime, but I want to hear the opinions of you writers and readers of vampire fiction. Open up the coffin and chime in. Feel free to cast your vote via the comments section of this post. I look forward to hearing from you all…and keep the garlic close to the bedside!