We’re almost halfway through October, which means, if you’ve been doing it right, you’ve been celebrating Halloween for at least a month and a half. If you’re late to the game, fear not– the Somerville Theatre has prepared twelve hours of chills and spills to get you up to speed. Beginning at noon, TERROR-THON brings you no fewer than eight bona fide genre classics from eight different decades, all in glorious 35mm, and all presented on the gigantic screen of their main theater. There will also be prizes, shorts, and other surprises, but the real meat of it is the movies. Here’s a quick look at what you’re in for:
THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1920) directed by Robert Wiene
The festivities kick off, appropriately enough, with one of horror cinema’s earliest mindfucks. A mysterious doctor travels into town with the titular Cabinet, which contains a man who has been asleep for 25 years, and only wakes up to foretell untimely deaths. Sure enough, a series of grisly murders ensues. But what’s the doctor’s true secret? And what does it have to do with the creepy old insane asylum on the hill? A masterpiece of German Expressionism where every frame is a claustrophobic nightmare of jagged lines and painted backdrops. The film is a direct inspiration for Rob Zombie’s “Living Dead Girl” video, as well as every thought that has ever run through Tim Burton’s head.
THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933) directed by James Whale
The Invisible Man doesn’t get as much love as his Universal Monster brethren– which is a shame, because his 1933 debut is one of the most entertaining of the bunch. Where Count Dracula is a dark romantic, and Frankenstein’s monster just wants to be loved, Claude Rains’ take on the mad Dr. Griffin is simply a bastard. Watch as he crashes trains off cliffs, showers himself in stolen money (naked!), and rants about how the moon is afraid of him, all while sounding like he’s having just as much fun as you or I would doing these things. Also keep an eye out for a hot young Gloria Stewart, a long way from the withered old Titanic survivor we all know her as today.
DR. CYCLOPS (1940) directed by Ernest D. Schoedsack
A mad scientist (with the perfect mad-scientist-hat-trick of pencil mustache, coke-bottle glasses, AND a shiny chrome dome) discovers a rich natural source of radium in South America. Naturally, he uses it to invent a shrink ray. His team of brilliant (non-mad) scientists attempts to thwart his nefarious schemes. I’ll give you three guesses how he deals with them. Lots of goofy scenes of tiny people tangling with relatively giant cats and dogs, all shot in gorgeous Technicolor by Ernest B. Schoedsack (who directed the similarly size-minded SON OF KONG and MIGHTY JOE YOUNG).
FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) directed by Fred M. Wilcox
The fifties have become so synonymous with schlocky sci-fi that it’s easy to overlook some genuinely thoughtful gems. Look past the perfectly round flying saucers and the flashing panels that don’t do anything, and you’ll find a surprisingly sober adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Add to that some dazzling CinemaScope photography and a groundbreaking electronic score, and FORBIDDEN PLANET starts to look as futuristic as it clearly wants to be. Starring a pre-fart-humor Leslie Nielsen, who is soundly upstaged by Robbie the Robot, perhaps the world’s first android character actor.
PLANET OF THE APES (1968) directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
Okay, so this movie and 2011’s RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES effectively serve as spoilers for each other, simply by virtue of existing. That doesn’t change the fact that this is a hell of a movie, smuggling in heady ideas about religion, class struggle, and patriotism by wrapping them in rubber ape masks (chalk this up to screenwriter Rod Serling, who pulled this sort of trick weekly as the creator of The Twilight Zone). Rated G, despite containing both human taxidermy and Charlton Heston’s bare ass.
WESTWORLD (1973) directed by Michael Crichton
Sure, JURASSIC PARK was a chilling look at the worst case scenario in a futuristic theme park. But for pure badassery, all the CGI dinosaurs in the world can’t hold a candle to Yul Brynner’s murderous robot cowboy. The Delos Corporation has created a sort of ultra-violent FantaSuites where rich vacationers can visit Romanworld, Medievalworld, or Westworld, and immerse themselves in a scripted world of lifelike animatrons. But Brynner’s cyber-gunslinger programming is a bit too strong, and he’s playing for keeps. It’ll make you think twice before taking the kids to Chuck E. Cheese’s.
THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE EIGHTH DIMENSION (1984) directed by W. D. Richter
Hoo, boy– easily the most batshit insane of the mid-’80s action/sci-fi boom. A world famous neurosurgeon/astrophysicist/rockstar/crimefighter (played by Peter “Robocop” Weller) must call upon his worldwide network of operatives to take on the alien-possessed and outrageously-accented Dr. Emilio Lizardo (played by John “10-10-321” Lithgow). What follows are 103 minutes of pure madness, including inter-dimensional warfare, identical twins, an army of aliens named John, Pynchon references, inexplicable watermelons, and Jeff Goldblum in a bright red cowboy suit. Stick around for some of the greatest end credits in history, which Wes Anderson lifted pretty much wholesale for The Life Aquatic.
TREMORS (1990) directed by Ron Underwood
The festivities close as all great journeys must: with Kevin Bacon being chased around the desert by giant sand worms. The semi-tongue-in-cheek monster movie has become something of a safety net for low-budget filmmakers (SHARKNADO, anyone?), but TREMORS shows how to do it right: with good-natured humor and commitment to real excitement. Oh, and giant sand worms. The sand worms help.
The TERROR-THON will be held at The Somerville Theatre from on 10/12 from 12PM to 12AM. $35 is the price admission for the entire screening.