Monday, May 27, 2013

John Carpenter: Memoirs of an Invisible Man

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After the back-to-back success of his smaller projects, Prince of Darkness and They Live, Carpenter found himself — like he was post-Halloween and The Fog — once again intrigued by the prospect of working within the studio system. With a better, less na├»ve, understanding of how making a movie for a big studio works, perhaps Carpenter felt that he could try his hand at it again albeit with a more carefree, detached approach that wouldn’t leave his confidence in shambles this time around. Unfortunately, Carpenter was assigned a film that was losing proposition from the onset. Like Starman, Memoirs of an Invisible Man shows Carpenter at the helm of another studio film with an interesting premise that begins promisingly enough but ultimately tapers off, becoming something uninteresting and tiresome.

Monday, May 20, 2013

John Carpenter: They Live

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John Carpenter’s deconstruction of the American action hero was never more honed than it was in his 1986 film Big Trouble in Little China. Kurt Russell’s portrayal as Jack Burton was filled with all kinds of wonderful moments of bumbling bravado — the perfect satire of the Rambo prototype littering theaters in the late ‘80s. In Carpenter’s brilliant, politically charged science-fiction film They Live, he offers up another ‘80s action hero prototype for deconstruction in the form of a drifter named Nada. Nada is the “Man with No Name” prototype (and in fact is never mentioned by name in the film) and is played by professional wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Nada, in a lot of ways, is the quintessential Carpenter action hero: quiet, terse, intense, and bound by a code of ethics akin to the old gunslingers of the wild west. A mix of catchphrase espousing Burton and the brusque Snake Plissken without the cynicism, Nada is one of Carpenter’s most memorable heroes, making They Live one of my absolute favorite Carpenter films.

Monday, May 6, 2013

John Carpenter: Prince of Darkness

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Carpenter’s disillusionment and frustration with the major studios after their constant over-the-shoulder producing and general overall interference on the set of Big Trouble in Little China is quite known by now. Because of this, Carpenter swore off the studio system he so badly began his career wanting to be a part of and instead went back to basics. In 1987, Carpenter returned to his independent and horror roots with Prince of Darkness, an extremely underrated horror picture that is often seen as a throwaway entry in the American auteur’s oeuvre. But Prince of Darkness, as “silly” as Carpenter claims it to be, isn’t a throwaway picture in the least — the film is one of Carpenter’s most atmospheric and satisfying efforts — and in the opinion of this humble blogger fits perfectly in slot number three of Carpenter’s best horror films right underneath Halloween and The Thing.