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Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Writer's Life 10/27 - Movie House Fun

Tax revenue in NYC from April-August was down. Expect a new blitz of nuisance tickets.

James Kallstrom is the former Assistant Director of the FBI. Here's short clip of his emotional view on the election:

Here's a fun article appropriate for Halloween from It was written by Jay Serafino, edited by your truly: In order to become a true classic, a horror flick can't just work on the surface; it has to get inside the head. That's what a technique dubbed "Psycho-Rama" tried to achieve. My World Dies Screaming, later renamed Terror in the Haunted House (1958) introduced audiences to subliminal imagery designed to have the scares sink in more deeply than in a conventional film. Skulls, snakes, ghoulish faces and the word "Death" appeared on-screen for a fraction of a second—not long enough for anyone to consciously notice, but enough to make folks uneasy. Psycho-Rama didn't really catch on with the public or the film industry, but directors like William Friedkin, The Exorcist (1972), have used the technique.
William Castle didn't make a name for himself in the film industry by directing classics. He relied on shock and shlock to fill theater seats. His movies were full of what audiences craved at the time: horror, gore, terror, suspense and a heaping helping of camp. But his true genius was marketing—and the gimmicks he used are legendary amongst horror fans. His most famous stunt was a life insurance policy he purchased for every member of an audience that paid to see Macabre (1958), a real policy backed by Lloyd's of London. The family of anyone who died of fright in his/her seat would have received $1000. Of course, the policy didn't cover anyone with a preexisting medical condition or someone who committed suicide during the screening.
Then there was Hypno-Vista. James Nicholson, president of American International Pictures, suggested that a lecture by a hypnotist precede Horrors of the Black Museum (1959), whose plot focused on a hypnotizing killer. For 13 minutes, Dr. Emile Franchel talked about the science behind hypnotism -- and then tried to hypnotize the audience in order to have them feel more immersed in the story. Nowadays it comes off as overlong and dry, but it got people into theaters back then. Screenwriter Herman Cohen claimed the lecture had to be removed whenever the movie aired on TV, as it did, in fact, hypnotize some people.
Alfred Hitchcock's insistence that no audience member be admitted into Psycho (1960) once the movie started garnered a lot of publicity. The Master of Suspense's reasoning was less publicity and more about audience satisfaction. Because Janet Leigh is killed off so early in the picture, he didn't want people to miss the murder and feel misled by the marketing. The tactic wasn't completely novel. The groundbreaking French film Les Diaboliques (1955) had a similar policy. This was an era when people would stroll into a screening at any point in the running time, so to have a director insist on showing up at the outset was a novel way to pique interest.
Another classic William Castle gimmick was the "fright break." While Homicidal (1961) was hurtling toward its gruesome climax, a clock would appear. Audience members had 45 seconds to leave and get a full refund. There was a catch, though. Those who left were shamed into a "coward's corner," a yellow cardboard booth supervised by a theater employee. And they were forced to sign a paper reading "I'm a bona-fide coward," before getting their money back. The risk of such humiliation kept most people seated.
The most interactive of William Castle's schlocky horror gimmicks put the fate of the film itself into the hands of the audience. Dubbed the "punishment poll," Castle devised a way to let viewers vote on the fate of the character in the movie Mr. Sardonicus (1961). Upon entering the theater, people were given a card with a picture of a thumb on it that would glow when a special light hit it. "Thumbs up" meant Mr. Sardonicus would be given mercy, "thumbs down" meant … well... Audiences never gave ol' Sardonicus the thumbs up. Although Castle claimed the happier ending was filmed and ready to go, no alternative ending has ever surfaced.
Most horror fans are masochists. They don't want to be entertained—they want to be terrified. So when the folks behind Mark of the Devil (1970) gave out free vomit bags, how could any self-respecting horror fan not be intrigued? It wasn't just the bags that the studio was advertising; it also claimed the film was rated V for violence—and maybe vomit?
Duo-Vision was hyped as the new storytelling in cinema—offering two times the terror for the price of one ticket. Of course Duo-Vision is just fancy marketing lingo for split-screen. Audiences saw a film from two completely different perspectives side-by-side. Wicked, Wicked (1973) was shot from the points of view of both the killer and his victims. Seems like a perfect concept for the horror genre, right? Well, Duo-Vision wasn't just employed during the movie's most horrific moments -- it was used during its entire 95-minutes. Brian De Palma used it to better effect in Sisters (1973) Alas, it soon fell out of favor.
Jay Serafino is a writer and editor for mental_floss. He has written extensively on movies, television, comic books and history.

The floating book shop was rained out today. My thanks to Frank, an old friend, who rated Close to the Edge five stars at Amazon.
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