Tuesday, March 20, 2007

dissertations could be written, careers can be built, studying the work of director john carpenter. in the '80s alone he crafted not 1 but 2 masterpieces. the thing and escape from new york are on the surface adventure/sci-fi/horror stories, but peel the skin back a little and you find some seriously subversive shit: cold-war paranoia, distrust of gov't systems, entropy in full swing and so on.

it is interesting to note that carpenter enlisted kurt russell for both those films as the anti-hero. what with russell's aplomb and matinee-idol good looks he would seem an unlikely choice as snake plisken in escape or as the drunken helicopter pilot who rises up to battle a deadly, shapeshifting creature in thing.

but it's just that aplomb, a swagger on the screen and a glint of either good or evil in his eye, that carries forward such characters to the bitter end. perhaps it's just the chutzpah that attracted tarantino to russell in the 1st place. tarantino's portion of the forthcoming grindhouse is a film titled death proof with russell as the bad-guy lead called stuntman mike. looks pretty bad-ass to me. and i'm literally salivating to see this film.

back on point. i started this ramble talking about carpenter. the great filmmaker has never gotten his due. a few weeks ago i caught starman which features jeff bridges and karen allen. the gist is that bridges as the eponymous creature is visiting earth, takes the form of allen's dead husband, while both fall in love with each other as the u.s. gov't is in pursuit of the alien. bridges character is a bit over-goofy. but allen's tough sweetness carries the film. she is magnificent. in the end carpenter's film becomes simply a believable love story. no mean feat, that. not a masterpiece, it lacks the anarchic nihilism of his best movies. but even so, carpenter should be given a billion dollars to make whatever types of films he wants to make on the strength of starman alone.

a list of my favorite movies from the 1980s would have at least 4 of carpenter films. that is no small praise.

6 Comments:

At 12:34 PM, Blogger Logan Ryan Smith said...

THEY LIVE! is one of my faves. the line, "I have come here to chew bubblegum, and kick ass... and I'm all out of bubblegum," floors me everytime.

apparently, though, with a quick google-search, that line was adlibbed by piper.

 
At 4:56 PM, Blogger dfb said...

prince of darkness is stand out, and assault on precinct 13 is very good

they live is so underrated - i don't know anyone who has seen that movie and not loved it

carpenter has neat music in a lot of his movies that he did as well

he is good

 
At 7:53 PM, Blogger Jill said...

Richard,
I've always liked Starman. Yes, not a masterpiece, but believable and affecting, understated in a genre that rarely is. I've seen it a few times. -- Jill

 
At 12:27 PM, Blogger Steve Caratzas said...

The Thing is a brilliant film: great story, amazing special effects and terrific acting.

I quite liked Prince of Darkness when I first saw it, but upon a recent re-viewing, it seemed ludicrously dated. Which is unfortunate, because there is something incredibly scary about it that I can't quite pinpoint.

 
At 11:29 PM, Blogger richard lopez said...

they live is also a masterpiece. i was quite enthralled with piper at the time. when the wwf came to sac in '85 piper was the headliner. 1st time at a professional wrestling event. piper was great.

steve, there is that image of satan glimpsed in the doorway of the church all grainy and hand-held camera that i find extremely creepy. that is without a doubt masterful filmmaking. plus also anything to do with the devil for someone who grew up even slightly catholic is scary shit.

assualt on precint 13 is one of my favorites from the 1970s. there is honor and courage displayed in that film that is i think heavily influenced by u.s. westerns. also, saw it for the 1st time as a tyke on tv middle of the day. the stoicism combined with the doggedness of the gang scared the shit out of me. the gang was no one to be fucked with.

 
At 5:11 PM, Blogger Geof Huth said...

"The Thing" is a favorite of mine. "Starman," an enjoyable jaunt. How does the line go?

"Red means stop. Green means go. Yellow means go faster."

Geof

 

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