N – “Neverending Story” to “Nosferatu”
NEVERENDING STORY, THE (1984)
Somewhere between The Dark Crystal and Legend, exists The Neverending Story. A kiddie cult-success on video and an early-cable sleeper, it tells the story of a boy locked in a library overnight by bullies where he bides his time getting sucked into a really big book that combines fantasy elements of Oz and Narnia. The kid finds himself beginning to interact with the book (very D&D). At the end he scares off his bullies by chasing them down a city street on the back of a white fuzzy dragon. It still plays well to kids, but its nostalgia factor is handicapped by the fact that it’s pretty silly. Still, at the time the effects were top shelf for a movie without a single star in it. And its heart truly seems to be in the right place. The theme song was a very marginal summer pop hit. Some direct-to-video sequels and animated spin-offs followed it.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)
NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987)
Heather Langerkamp returns for the second Elm St. sequel which wisely ignores part two. The last of the Elm Street kids are all hospitalized in a mental ward because their nightmares have been causing weird behavior and suicidal tendencies. Nancy returns, as a counselor to save the kids from what she knows is the real trouble: Freddy Krueger. We get some back-story on Freddy that reveals that he’s “the bastard son of 100 maniacs”…which would be effective if it made any biological sense. Subsequent sequels would prove that the less we know about Freddy, the better. A very young Patricia Arquette plays the lead, Kristen, who’s able to pull others into her dreams. Lawrence Fishburn plays a sympathetic orderly. John Saxon returns as Nancy’s police captain pop. The special effects are first rate and the story is the strongest in the series. Even the acting is better. Langerkamp, so perfect in part one, seems oddly out of her depth here. There is a disturbing cameo by Zsa Zsa Gabor and Dick Cavett. The video for the theme song, by Dokken, is included on the tape. This was the high point of the sequels and everything that followed was worse than the one before it. ***
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER ( 1988 )
Renny “Cutthroat Island” Harlin…er, Renny “Exorcist IV” Harlin directed this Elm Street installment early in his career and it’s a sign of things to come – for both the director and the Elm Street franchise. A glossy production, but the first predictable installment in the series. The style and story structure from part three is aped here to ill effect. Kristen, now played by Tuesday Knight (who’s no Patricia Arquette) passes her “dream powers” to her high school gal pal; the mousy wallflower, Alice. Kristen and the rest of the survivors of part three are then quickly dispatched as a handful of new victims is introduced. This continues part three’s trend of Freddy killing characters with ironic twists on their singular identifying trait. The asthmatic girl has the air sucked out of her. The girl who hates bugs becomes one and gets stuck in a roach motel. If your eyes aren’t rolling, they should be. By this time Freddy’s unfunny puns have become the norm and he’s, consequently, not remotely scary. Nice looking and obviously made under a bigger budget than the other films, but still completely lame. Still, the series would get decidedly worse. This was the most financially successful Elm Street to preceed Freddy Vs. Jason nearly twenty years later. One character is done in when the pin-up model on his bedroom wall (Playmate, Hope Marie Carlton) seduces him into his water bed – this installment’s most creative moment. Watch for a diner called the Crave Inn. Har.
NIGHT OF THE GHOULS ( 1960 )
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD 3D (2006)
The first filmed adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula is arguably the best. Though not a direct adaptation in name, due to some stubbornness on the part of Stoker’s widow and estate, German silent-era maverick F.W. Murnau changed the names and locations and added his German expressionistic aesthetic. Still creepy to look at, it will likely bore the life out of those whose only experience with silent films involves Charlie Chaplin. Max Schreck embodies all that is vulgar and horrific about the vampire mythos playing Count Drac- er…Orlok, with his talon-fingers, pointy ears, misshapen skull and wild eyes – he’s a long way from the Hungarian gentlemen we associate with Universal’s Count. Rewarding for film school students, vampire fanatics and silent film aficionados even if there’s not much here to interest, say, teen girls at a slumber party. Regardless, it’s a classic and with good reason – Nosferatu terrified audiences during its initial release in a way that modern movies can’t. No one had ever seen anything like it at the time. Watch for a reverse photography carriage ride to the Count’s castle for some very interesting early special effects that manage to capture the true foreboding that that scene deserves and other adaptations squandered. Shadow of the Vampire, starring John Malchovich as Murnau fictionalizes the making of Nosferatu to mixed affect.
NUDE ON THE MOON (1962)
Two evidently freelance scientists build a rocket and fly to the moon which ends up looking suspiciously like Earth, but with a population of about ten naked ladies. Doris Wishman and her signature incompetence craft a nudie feature so bad that it can’t be saved by boobs. Check out the powder blue space suits, the shoddy space helmets and a decidedly cramped rocket cockpit. The moon girls’ space-speak is pretty hilarious as is the sincere attempt at acting. This one is strictly for nudie connoisseurs. At about 80 minutes it’s not much of a commitment.