Friday, May 05, 2006

Happy Birthday, Lance Henriksen...

I name drop Lance Henriksen’s moniker quite a bit, usually in despair that someone isn’t giving this fine actor better roles. (I remain flummoxed particularly that the producers of Deadwood, a show that seems to specialize in casting well-known character and B-movie actors—Brad Dourif, Jeffrey Jones, Keith Carradine, Ricky Jay, Titus Welliver, Peter Coyote, William Sanderson, Powers Booth, Alice Krige [and that’s just the first season!]—hasn’t found a part for this guy.)

The gravelly-voiced Mr. Henriksen popped up in several early James Cameron films, and played the hero in the director’s first, Piranha II: The Spawning. Henriksen was Cameron’s initial choice to play the killer robot in The Terminator, and purely in story terms, would have been a lot more logical choice than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Instead, Henriksen played one of the cops slaughtered in the raid on the police station. Perhaps his biggest sci-fi role was as the android Bishop in Camerson’s Aliens.

Henriksen remains best know for his genre work, and his horror and sci-fi credits are extensive: Mansion of the Doomed, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Damien: Omen II, The Visitor, Nightmares, The Terminator, Savage Dawn, Aliens, Near Dark, Pumpkinhead, The Horror Show, The Pit and the Pendulum, Alien 3, Super Mario Brothers, Man’s Best Friend, and many more. Sadly, though, as noted above, he now generally appears in tepid DTV fare.

However, if he is best know for his genre work, Henriksen has also appeared in his share of more mainstream movies: Dog Day Afternoon, The Right Stuff, Prince of the City and The Quick and the Dead. He also played the villain in two very fun action flicks, Stone Cold and Hard Target. Like most character actors that have hung around long enough, Henriksen has worked for the best of directors (Cameron, Spielberg, Philip Kaufman) and the worst (Albert Pyun).

Probably his signature role, however, came via fizzled TV wunderkind Chris Carter, who followed up The X-Files by casting Henriksen as the lead character, Frank Black, in the highly anticipated Millennium. (Which also starred another actor much like Henriksen, Terry O’Quinn. The latter has had rather more luck, lately, as one of the stars of TV’s hottest show, Lost.)

The show ran for four years, and had some great episodes. However, the ratings never were as high as they could have been, and this led to tampering with the program’s basic storyline with each new season. They never found the right mix, and eventually the show was allowed to die. Carter and Henriksen later provided an elegiac coda to the series when Black later appeared on an episode of The X-Files.

Mr. Henriksen is one of the few actors working today—Tony Todd being another—who in another era (pretty much anything through the ‘70s) had the chops and charisma to have become an old-school horror star. Instead, the breed seemed to die with Donald Pleasance, mostly because most schlock horror now is direct-to-video stuff rather than theatrical releases. As well, this product is far more boring and cookie cutter than it used to be. As objectively bad as the poverty row fare churned out by Bela Lugosi and (to a lesser extent) Boris Karloff back in the ‘30s and ‘40s, at least that stuff retains a certain charm about it.

Sadly, however, Henriksen has lately been in stuck in mostly tiresome cheapies generally only elevated by his own presence. When Alien vs. Predator is the biggest title on your résumé for the last ten years, something has gone horribly awry. While both Henriksen and his fans must be at least pleased that he continues to work steadily—he has four films listed as being in pre-production on the IMDB, including two Pumpkinhead sequels, and 40 credit listings since 2000 alone—one could certainly wish the actor was getting the sort of roles worthy of his talents.

Mr. Henriksen is 66 today. Someday he will no longer be with us, and people will look back and mourn that his talents were so tragically wasted over the last decades of his life.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Things you learn on the Internet...

From [the website of a Canadian newsweekly magazine]:

"Maddox is a master at a certain kind of writing -- the combination of mock anger and fake pomposity -- that has flourished on the Web: the deliberately bizarre, floridly written rant that attracts attention for dealing with subjects that are too weird or obscure for "conventional" publications. These online writers like to give an absurd spin to mainstream subjects; Maddox devoted an essay to explaining the best methods of suicide, including "Eat a tub full of beans" and "Headbutt the sidewalk." Other times, they deal with obscure pop culture: Canadian Ken Begg, of, writes tens of thousands of words analyzing bad movies like Pia Zadora's The Lonely Lady..."

Of course, there was always the editorial written following a blog comment I wrote somewhere:

"A response to one Ken Begg, Catholic Martyr."

(I should note the the author of this editorial seems to have somewhat randomly assigned to me many political and social opinions that I do not hold, and that I don't believe were inherent in what I wrote.)

Ken Begg, Catholic Canadian!

DVD misc...

I'm sure anyone who cares has heard this by now, but George Lucas has already caved to fan pressure (and maybe he intended to all along--$$$$$$), and later this year the first three Star Wars movies will be available in two disc sets with the original, unaltered cuts. And yes, Han will again shoot first. The other disc will contain the altered versions.

Fox, who happily seems to be growing a spine in terms of ignoring the politically correct crowd, is releasing a four movie set of some of the best Warner Oland Charlie Chan movies in June, but has also announced a four movie set of Peter Lorre Mr. Moto films. (Fox dithered on releasing these films, fearing complaints, but the fact they invested $2 million remastering the entries in both series probably won the day.)

I just hope these sell. Unlike Warners, who has packaged zillions of box set--the Val Lewton one, for example--that give you huge amounts of movies and extras for a very small price, Fox continues to perhaps overcharge for their sets. Both the Chan and Moto sets, again featuring four films each, retail for $60. You can probably find them for around $40, which in the days of video would have been a good price, but now that's a tad high.

Let's take Amazon. They are pre-selling the four-disc Chan set, with four movies and a scattering of extras, for $41. Meanwhile, the Val Lewton set costs $48 at Amazon (and can be found elsewhere on the Web for about $42), and features eight films, many of them authentic horror classics, along with a feature length documentary on Lewton and six full commentary tracks by recognized genre experts, etc. If you're the kind that would actually listen to all that (and I am), you're getting three to four times as much bang for your buck.

Fox will also release the 1946 murder thriller Shock, in which Vincent Price is a headshrinker who finds himself in charge of an amnesiac patient he realizes saw him kill his wife. Not a classic, but anything with Price is worth a look. John Stanley (presumably the author of the Creature Feature Movie Guide) provides a commentary.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Nightmare Before Christmas back for 3-D!

Cool news, as this is maybe my favorite film of the last twenty years. Moreover, the sets and puppets really would seem to lend themselves to this sort of thing:

"Disney has staked it's claim to the Halloween weekend as The Nightmare Before Christmas prepares to roll into theaters on October 20, 2006. The movie will be digitally remastered and shown in 3-D, making it the second re-release of its kind for Disney (Chicken Little was the first).

"When visitors came to visit the set of The Nightmare Before Christmas, they were always amazed by the intricate sets and beautiful puppets -- that they actually existed in miniature. It was disappointing to see this effect lost on film. By remastering for 3-D, I hope that some of this magic can be captured and shown to the audience in a way they've never seen before," said Henry Selick, the The Nightmare Before Christmas director.

The Nightmare Before Christmas was originally released in 1993, grossing over $50 million domestically. The October release figures to be at digital theaters across the country. Chicken Little's re-release played at over 80 locations and The Nightmare Before Christmas figures to greatly surpass that amount.

Word has it the 3-D glasses handed out at each screening will collectible rather than standard fare."