Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘John Carpenter’

John Carpenter had only shot and scored two semi-obscure features when the executive producer Irwin Yablans came to him with a proposal: make a low-budget movie about babysitters being murdered. ‘It was a horrible idea,’ Mr. Carpenter said in a recent telephone interview. “But I wanted to make more movies, so I said, ‘Great!’ . . . My job, plain and simple, was to scare the audience. It didn’t need to be anything more than that. The movie was a thrill ride.”
‘Halloween’ at 40 by Bruce Fretts/NY Times

That little $300,000 film that John Carpenter wrote and directed was released in 1978 and is still being talked about today.

And one of the people talking about it is the Jamie Lee Curtis; “It’s the greatest experience I’ve ever had professionally. It gave me everything in my creative life.” And that includes a chance to star in the latest version of Halloween. 

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

“Nobody knew anything. We were just a bunch of kids making a movie.”
John Carpenter on making Halloween when he was 29-years-old
(Though there is some understatement from Carpenter who grew up in Bowling Green, Kentucky and eventually graduated from USC film school back when John Ford and Orson Welles were guest speakers.)

The fun part about embracing your limitations is seeing where it will take you. What kind of odd connections can you make that will be fresh and interesting? My post yesterday (The Perfect Ending) had a video clip of David Nutter winning an Emmy for directing, and I noticed on that clip that the actress handing him his Emmy was Jamie Lee Curtis. I wondered if there was a way I could play off that today on my all month-long of writing posts connected to filmmaker Robert Rodriguez.

When I think of Curtis I think of her first feature film role in Halloween (1978). And when I think of Halloween I think of John Carpenter who directed the film from a script he wrote with Debra Hill. And it just so happens that Rodriguez interviewed Carpenter on The Director’s Chair.

“Why would a young hispanic filmmaker from San Antonio, Texas ever believe he could be a filmmaker? It was because of your movies. I would see John Carpenter’s The Fog—I’d say who’s this guy? Why is his name above the title. Well look, he’s writing it, he’s directing it, he’s editing it, he’s scoring it, and I’d think this guy is having so much fun. He’s doing it without a studio. He’s doing it independently. He’s doing it with a low-budget. Two hands, boot straps, check, got it— we can go.”
Robert Rodriguez to John Carpenter
The Director’s Chair, Episode 1

I don’t write too much about horror films because it’s not a genre I’m drawn to these days. But like every other teenager in 1978 I remember watching Halloween in a packed theater with people screaming. Great memories. I’ll never forget the one dude being picked up in the movie and being nailed to a door by the bad guy’s knife—ending with the shot of his feet just dangling in the air.

And I remember when I was 12-years-old being enthralled watching the house burn in the House of Usher when they showed the movie one night at the junior high where my mom was a teacher.  Visions of Dracula, Godzillia, Cujo, Norman Bates, Hannibel Lecter, Alien Queen, and those giant ants in Them! will follow me to the grave.

There are plenty of classic horror films throughout film history; The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1922), Nosferatu (1922) Dracula ( 1931) The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Exorcist (1973), Alien (1979), Friday the 13th (1980) and Poltergist (1982). And the low-budget films The Blair Witch Project (1999), Saw (2004)  Paranormal Activity (2009) are still in the top 20 of movies that percentage wise are the most profitable movies of all time.

“Horror will always be the same. Horror will always be with us. It was around at the beginning in the birth of cinema. Edison did Frankenstein. It’s one genre that translates around the world. Big monster comes through the door everybody, in every country jumps up and screams. It’s a universal language. You don’t make horror movies to make money. you don’t make horror movies to be popular. You want to do it because you have a story to tell.”
John Carpenter
Interview with Robert Rodriguez on The Director’s Chair

The Devils Castle (1896 or 1897) written, directed and starring George Melies is often credited with being the first horror film, so ending with the beginning seems a fitting way to round out this post:

P.S. House of Usher (based on an Edger Allen Poe short story) starred Vincent Price and was directed by Roger Corman. Didn’t know that until I did some research writing this post. I have written much about Corman over the years and Carpenter names him as his inspiration from wanting to be a filmmaker.

Related posts:

Fear of the Unknown ““The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear.” H.P. Lovecraft
The Creature from…
Coppola & Roger Corman
The ‘Piranha’ Highway
Screenwriting Quote #189 (Darren Bousman)
Stephen Susco Q&A at Full Sail * Think primal. Fear and personal loss are the foundations of many fine films.
Writing ‘Silence of the Lambs’
Orson Welles at USC (Part 1) 

Scott W. Smith 

Read Full Post »

“When they offered me the remake of The Thing, rather than remaking the original film I thought I’d go back to the short story which I felt was never done.”
Director John Carpenter

Monster Blizzard…how long until that comes out as the title of a Hollywood film? Or maybe a sequel to Buried, Buried…in Snow. Perhaps the movie, Jim Cantore—Force of Nature.

 

Lake Shore Drive in Chicago— AP/Kichiro Sato

 

 

The best thing about the snow storm that (as I type this) is hammering a chunk of the country is I’m getting a lot of writing done. I thought I’d share with you what I’ve come up with overnight while all cooped up:

Okay, maybe that’s from The Shining, but have you noticed that  snow storms in movies tend to bring out the worst in people? Probably because one of the key elements of drama is conflict. Bad weather usually equals conflict. Just look what it did to poor Jack…

Over the years there have been a few films where bad weather is like a character in a film.  Here are a handful of films that are either “man vs. nature” stories or stories where unusual atmospheric conditions serve as the backdrop for stories:

The Perfect Storm
Twister
Touching the Void
White Squall
Ice Storm
The Thing

A quirky screenwriting sidenote to The Thing (1982) is it was written by Bill Landcaster, who just happened to be the son of Oscar-winning actor Burt Landcaster (Elmer Gantry). And if that’s not odd enough, how about the fact that Bill Landcaster not only wrote that classic sci-fi film, but his first feature was the comedy Bad New Bears starring Walter Matthau and Tatum O’Neal.  And to top it off, The Thing was directed by John Carpenter and starred Kurt Russell who had worked together on the excellent TV movie Elvis (1979). That’s a lot of genre mixing talent. (And just for the record, I think Russell is the king of Elvis impersonators.)

While Carpenter said that he loved the 1951 film The Thing from Another World, for The Thing he decided to return to the original short story/novella Who Goes There written by John W. Campbell. (Campbell also wrote under the name Don A. Stuart.)  Isaac Asimov called Campbell (1910-71) “the most powerful force in science fiction ever.”

Here’s a taste of The Thing and The Thing from Another World and some behind the scene stuff with John Carpenter.

Scott W. Smith


Read Full Post »

“Although I have only a small driblet of fame and fortune, it’s enough. My life has gone very well in all spheres except for my physical health.”
Dan O’Bannon

Screenwriter Dan O’Bannon died earlier this month after a 30 battle with Crohn’s disease. He’ll be most remembered in film history for writing Alien.

O’Bannon was born in St. Louis and stated that his early creative influences were comic books, monster movies of the 1950s, and H.P. Lovecraft novels. He would go to Washington University in St. Louis and MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Illinois, before going on to USC where he earned an MFA.

William Froug, in his book The New Screenwriter Looks at The New Screenwriter, had this to say about O’Bannon, “Looking back over twenty years of teaching at both USC and UCLA, I single out Dan O’Bannon as the most original, unique student I encountered. Dan was a quiet, modest young man, quite a bit undernourished, gentle, and soft-spoken. Dan was also something of a loner. It was clear he had his own vision, and it was the vision of an iconoclast. I was fond of him from the first time we met in one of my non-writing classes.”

O’Bannon met director John Carpenter in film school at USC and they made a student film together called Dark Star that they later expanded into their first feature film. After Alien O’Bannon went on to make several other films including The Return of the Living Dead, Total Recall, and Blue Thunder.

In an interview that he did with Froug I’ve pieced together what O’Bannon said was his way of working;

“I’m a structuralist myself. We believe in discipline, hard work, and architecture. Writing a script is like carpentry…In my early days of writing, I was afraid that working it all out in advance would destroy the creative impulse. Now I don’t even start seriously writing until it’s all worked out on paper…I keep retyping from the beginning. I list all my scenes. Then I rearrange them into three acts. I just keep working on it until I run dry of stuff that should go into an outline, and then I start on the script. I don’t start writing the script until it’s completely working in an outline. Until all the pieces are there…So the first big thrust is to get the structure first and then the script goes fairly quickly.”

O’Bannon was part of solid list of writers & filmmakers from Missouri. (See post Screenwriting from Missouri.)

There is a Dan O’Bannon website that is up and running as well as being in the process of being further developed and is sure to be a wealth of info on his writings.

Scott W. Smith


Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: