Thursday 31 March 2011

The Defector (1966)

Montgomery Clift was a fascinating but ultimately tragic individual.  He only made a handful of films but was nominated for an Oscar four times.  He was an impossibly handsome man and a heartthrob to his female fans but was also a conflicted and guilt-wracked homosexual who abhorred celebrity.  In 1957, at almost the height of his fame, he suffered terrible facial wounds in a car crash and despite extensive plastic surgery never truly recovered.  Addiction to painkillers and alcohol made his behaviour erratic and after 1962 he became virtually unemployable.  His close friend Elizabeth Taylor persuaded him to accept a part in her forthcoming film REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE (1967) and by way of preparation after four years away from films he accepted the lead role in a Cold War espionage thriller.  It was called THE DEFECTOR and it turned out to be Montgomery Clift's last film.

Monty, c. 1950
Monty, c. 1966

Watching it now it's impossible to divorce it from its historical context but it comes across as a sombre, moribund film - totally different, for example, from the elegaic tone of John Wayne's last film THE SHOOTIST (1976).  Clift appears gaunt and lined.

He seems uncomfortable with the action scenes although gamely takes on all of the running, jumping and even swimming that is asked of him.

Monty takes a dip
I know he is playing a reluctant hero - Prof James Bower, a physicist coerced by an American spook into helping a scientist defect from East Berlin - but it really does feel like he's just going through the motions.  It's not a bad performance exactly, more a listless one that feels like it is fading away even as you watch it.  It's a bit like watching one of Elvis Presley's last shows: you know he's ill and that his talent is burned out but you still hope for one last flicker, which never comes.  Someone watching THE DEFECTOR who knew nothing about Montgomery Clift would never guess he had been one of his generation's most talented and beautiful stars less than ten years before.  But they probably wouldn't be surprised to learn he was dead before the film had even been released.

This washed out shot is typical of the film's muted atmosphere
There's not much that needs to be said about the film itself, being as it is a collection of various cold war spy cliches.  There is one good sequence where Bower is drugged in his hotel room and hallucinates while the Stasi sweat him down.

Monty has a bad night's sleep
The location photography is good and there is an interesting emphasis on the bureaucracy of totalitarianism but it doesn't really do anything new.  It doesn't have the oblique dialogue of THE QUILLER MEMORANDUM (1966), the excitement of THE IPCRESS FILE (1965) or the grimness of THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD (1965).  The sad but inescapable fact is that, if it remembered at all, it is remembered for being Clift's final screen appearance.  Who knows what path his life and career may have taken had he lived  to play his intended role, as a closeted homosexual, in REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE (1967) - a part eventually played by Marlon Brando.

Roddy MacDowall, a good friend of Clift and also Elizabeth Taylor, plays the US control and Hardy Kruger plays the German agent trying to snare Bower.  Kruger's blond hair, tanned skin and breezy charm makes for a powerful contrast with Clift.  Love interest is provided by Macha Meril who has had a long career in European movies - she's in my favourite Dario Argento movie PROFONDO ROSSO (1975).

The lovely Macha Meril, who went to the same school of elfin charm as Zoe Wanamaker
Films fans won't want to miss the silent cameo by Jean-Luc Godard who briefly appears in a walk on as an acquaintance of Kruger's Russian control, played by David Opatoshu.  I was also delighted to see a brief appearance by Hannes Messemer who plays the Camp Kommandant in John Sturges' THE GREAT ESCAPE [1963], one of my very favourite films.  Soundtrack fans will also want to note that the music was composed by mercurial Frenchman Serge Gainsbourg.

David Opatoshu - note his resemblence to Lenin's picture on the wall
Hannes Messemer (L)
Jean-Luc Godard (R)

The director, Raoul Levy, was mainly a producer - he made several films with Brigitte Bardot and also worked with Henri-Georges Clouzot and Godard in the 50s and 60s.  He took his own life on New Year's Eve in 1966.

Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)

SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER is an adaptation of a play written by Tennessee Williams in 1958.  It was directed by Joseph L. Manciewicz and the script was written by Gore Vidal and Williams himself.  It stars Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift and Katharine Hepburn.  A prestige production then, bringing together some of the biggest names in film and theatre.  So it is perhaps surprising that the film deals with some uncomfortable themes, including a few that were practically taboo in Hollywood at the time.

It tells the story of Catherine Holly, an emotionally disturbed young woman who has been incarcerated in a convent since witnessing the death of her friend Sebastian Venable while holidaying in Europe the previous summer.  Sebastian's mother Violet, who idolised her son, wants the girl to be lobotomised, ostensibly to reduce her suffering but actually to prevent her from repeating her account of Sebastian's death, which conflicts with Violet's idealised view of her son.  The extremely wealthy Venable offers a large donation to the impoverished Lion's View Mental Hospital on the condition that talented neurosurgeon Dr John Cuckrowicz performs the surgery.  After meeting Catherine, Cuckrowicz is convinced the girl can be treated without surgery, if he can persuade her to confront the truth about what happened last summer.

Williams uses this plot to explore the relationship between reality and perception, and the effect on people of changes to their perceptions of reality.  It's also about repression and the extremely damaging consequences of repressed beliefs and emotions (note the film's opening image - a vast brick wall).  To depict the interaction of all these forces, the film uses imagery based around the idea of people feeding off each other.  Violet fed off her son in life and off his memory in death, Sebastian fed off hjs mother and Cathy, Cathy's mother and brother leech off Violet's wealth, as does the mercenary hospital administrator, and so on up to the final, shocking revelation of exactly how Sebastian met his death.  This imagery is encapsulated by the memorable sequence in which Violet, meeting Dr Cuckrowicz for the first time, shows him her prized venus fly trap and feeds it some live flies.

Ironically, the film's treatment of repression was affected by the prudish morality of '50s Hollywood.  Unable to explicitly address Sebastian's homosexuality, special dispensation had to be sought even to merely allude to it.  Similar problems afflicted several other film adaptations of Williams' work.  For example, in Richard Brooks' CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1959) the reason why Brick Pollitt won't sleep with his wife is never made clear; and in Jospeh Losey's BOOM! (1968) the central relationship is between a heterosexual thirtysomething couple, rather than the intended older man and his much younger male lover.

Nevertheless, I think Manciewicz's film is remarkably effective.  The self-deluding matriarch Violet Venable is as cruel and viscious a character as Williams ever wrote - the effect that her smothering delusions have on others is traumatic and widespread; and Mrs Holly is another in his long line of grotesque, twittering Southern belles whose outward politeness cannot conceal their rotten venal core.  Katharine Hepburn and Mercedes McCambridge, respectively, are excellent in these roles although Hepburn's more traditional acting style does jar a bit with the Method style, of which Clift was a student.  Elizabeth Taylor at times seems to think that all she has to do is effect a sing-song Southern accent, which is a bit annoying, but when really called upon to act - as in the final revelatory scene - she really delivers the goods. You can use that scene as proof to people who say she couldn't act her way out of a paper bag.  Montgomery Clift has a supporting role but, as in all the films of his I have seen, he plays it with intelligence and sensitivity.  The slow but inexorable decline of his life and career from this point on was a genuine tragedy.

Montgomery Clift
One or two trainspotter points.  Albert Dekker, who plays the grasping Dr Hockstader, was a veteran character actor who is possibly best known as the even more grasping Pat Harrigan in Sam Peckinpah's THE WILD BUNCH (1969), his final screen role.  Gary Raymond, who plays Cathy's brother George, is a British actor who was in a few American films around this period (notably as the treacherous Acastus in Don Chaffey's wodnerful JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963)) before returning to the UK and settling into parts in various delirious TV series.  He even popped up in an episode of the fondly-remembered HAMMER HOUSE OF HORRORS in 1980.

Mercedes McCambridge and Gary Raymond
Mercedes McCambridge was a real one-off: she started out as a member of Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre company and ended up voicing the demon in William Friedkin's monumental THE EXORCIST (1973).  In between she acted with James Dean in GIANT (1956), won an Oscar for her performance in ALL THE KING'S MEN (1949) and appeared in arguably the most delirious western of all time, the proto-feminist JOHNNY GUITAR (1954).  And as if that wasn't enough, she successfully battled alcoholism and suffered the tragedy of losing her son, who killed himself after murdering his wife and daughters.  A thoroughly remarkable woman, she died in 2004 aged 87.  The director, Joseph L. Manciewicz, had a patchy career at 20th Century Fox but did direct a couple of films I'm rather fond of: the Brando / Sinatra musical GUYS AND DOLLS (1955) and the original version of SLEUTH (1972).

Sunday 27 March 2011

Elizabeth Taylor (1932 - 2011)

I was in two minds as to whether to post about the death of Elizabeth Taylor: my view has always been that despite being a massive star in the 1950s and 60s she largely appeared in forgettable movies, to the extent that her personal life became more italked about than her work.  Until her death last week she was perhaps the last remaining major figure from the period when the studio system and the star system were dominant in Hollywood.  In that context, if no other, her passing deserves to be noted.

But then I had a look back over her filmography and was surprised by the number of unusual and interesting films she had made.  There was SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER (1959), a troubling and these days little-seen film about repression and madness.  And there was DR FAUSTUS (1967), in a bit part admittedly but nevertheless the original 'man who sold his soul to the devil' story.  And there was REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE (1967), John Huston's barking melodrama about closeted homosexuals in the US military.  And BOOM! (1968), a really weird Joseph Losey version of a Tennessee Williams play about a mysterious poet who may be the Angel of Death.  I couldn't make head nor tail of it when I first saw it but then read that it's really about a homosexual relationship; it made perfect sense after that.  Another odd one is HAMMERSMITH IS OUT (1972) an impossibly hard to find satire directed by Peter Ustinov, which was apparently also based on the Faust legend.  I have a copy of this but haven't watched it yet.  Stand by for a review soon.  She also made an uncredited appearance in William Richert's excellent conspiracy thriller WINTER KILLS (1979) which starred Jeff Bridges as the brother of an assassinated US President.

Taylor was evidently quite prepared to act in films that dealt with unwelcome or taboo subjects, particularly homosexuality, which was an unusual and brave attitude to take at that time; in that respect you could add CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1958) to those listed above.  So it turns out that someone whom I had previously tended to dismiss as the epitome of mainstream cinema actually did more than her fair share of offbeat stuff, including a few good and a couple of very good films.  I suspect that, in the short term, Taylor will be remembered primarily for her lifestyle but it may just be that in years to come people will start to reappraise her film career and judge her more favourably.  I hope so.

Saturday 26 March 2011

Repo Man (1984)

Read enough of these blog entries and you'll find me make plenty of references to Alex Cox.  When I was kid, just getting into the more esoteric side of cinema, Cox made a good number of witty and illuminating introductions to screenings of cult films on BBC2 television in a strand called "Moviedrome".  Through him I learned not just about the films themselves but about the sometimes nefarious workings of the film industry, and about politics, literature and music.  Cox had, and probably still has, very strong views about films but it was refreshing to hear someone talk so animatedly and knowledgably about the kind of films I was interested in.  Up to that point, the only show on British TV that discussed films was bloody Barry Norman on the anodyne Film 88, or whatever the year happened to be.  Norman was one of those critics who loved 'quality' cinema and was usually pretty scathing about delirious films.

Unfortunately, Cox stopped doing Moviedrome sometime in the 1990s and was replaced by the vowel-mangling Mark Cousins who, while still preferable to Barry Norman, clearly saw himself as more of a film scholar than a fan like Cox.  The introductions were still worth watching but if you look them up on YouTube and compare Cousins to Cox, you'll find Cox is much better: more passionate, more irreverent and ultimately more insightful.  Cox, of course, was only moonlighting as a TV presenter because he was a director in his own right and his debut feature REPO MAN (1984) is, not surprisingly, another candidate for the title of Definitive Cult Movie: it's weird, it pays homage to plenty of other movies, it has a cast full of oddball characters, it has a witty script and a kind of anti-authoritarian sensibility which cocks a snook at conformity.

Lost in the supermarket
Bud explains the Repo Code to Otto
What I like most about REPO MAN is its energy and verve: it's always on the move, there's always something interesting going on and it doesn't waste any time.  In those respects and also in its insouciance it reflects Cox's love of punk.  In fact you might go so far as to describe it as a punk movie - the music, characters and settings are all influenced by, if not actual depictions of, the punk scene of 1980s Los Angeles.  Cox went on to direct at least two more overtly punk movies: SID AND NANCY (1986) and STRAIGHT TO HELL (1987) although the punk sensibility is present in most of his work.

Punk robbery
Don't open the trunk!  Alex Cox's nod to Robert Aldrich's KISS ME DEADLY (1955)
While Cox's love for the punk scene and its US equivalent is plain enough, his contempt for other aspects of US life and culture is equally obvious.  The generic branded goods in the stores point to an almost blind consumerism and Otto's parents' zombie-like consumption of moronic TV is funny and dispiriting at the same time.  The government, in the form of hordes of Federal agents, is shown to be duplicitous, incompetent and utterly unconcerned about the welfare of its citizens.  It's a pretty scathing depiction of modern America and one which he made perhaps even more explicit in WALKER (1987), which effectively ended his Hollywood career.

Mom and Dad ...

... and the US government
The cast reads like a who's who of delirious cinema.  Apart from Emilio Estevez (who's actually not bad as Otto), there's Harry Dean Stanton who has appeared in more delirious films than you or I have had hot dinners; there's Tracey Walter, as the spaced out mechanic Miller, who has made a career out of playing oddballs, misfits and cowards; and there's Vonetta McGee, as the no-bullshit Marlene, who was in a number of blaxploitation movies in the 1970s and also appeared in one of Alex Cox's favourite films THE BIG SILENCE (1968), a Sergio Corbucci spaghetti western which got its first British TV screening on, yep, "Moviedrome".

Miller explains his philosophy to Otto

Eraserhead (1977)

This is about as close to the definitive cult movie as you're ever likely to see.  As well as being weird, stylish, revolting, arty, dreamlike and resolutely impenetrable, it's also totally unique.  I've never seen anything else like it, outside of other films by David Lynch.  I hesitate to offer a plot summary because there isn't a plot in the conventional sense.  In fact there's nothing about it that could be described as 'conventional'; not even the credits, which jump about from cast to crew to cast again.

The main character is a chap called Henry Spencer, a painfully shy man who lives in a dingy one room apartment in some nameless, clanking urban hellhole.  A series of bizarre things happen to him, culminating in him apparently being eaten by a planet.  It's that sort of film and having sat through it all, the ending doesn't seem as weird as it must do just reading about it now.

Lynch has steadfastly refused to offer an explanation of what the film means, preferring to describe it as "a nightmare".  As far as I'm concerned it's about fear or, more precisely, phobias.  Henry seems to be terrified of everything but above all human interaction.  He fears being alone, being in a relationship, commitment, rejection, parents, children, you name it.  The sum total of these fears is an omnipresent dread, which leads Henry to stay in his room most of the time, occasionally scuttling outside, hugging the walls like a timid mouse.  The personification of that dread may be the unidentified, horribly scarred man who appears at the beginning and end of the film, pulling levers like some omnipotent signalman.

Henry on his way home
From what I've read, Lynch had spent some time living in extremely poor and unpleasant parts of Philadelphia and has described the dread that was a constant feeling during his time there.  He has replicated this on screen in ERASERHEAD but it's difficult to describe how because there isn't really any violence or villains.  I think it's just that no-one in the film really seems to care at all about anyone else, resulting in a terrible feeling of alienation.  Normal situations - spending time with a girlfriend, visiting her parents, eating dinner, feeding the baby - become nightmarish experiences either through people's abnormal and unsettling behaviour or revolting detail.  There are occasional moments of tenderness - Henry nursing his ill 'baby' or his brief liaison with his alluring neighbour - but they are brief interludes in the awfulness of life.

Henry tends his 'baby

An amazing sequence where Henry and his lover literally sink into his bed
It's difficult to imagine now quite what the impact of ERASERHEAD was on its first release; we've grown accustomed to David Lynch's surreal visions and to an extent they have become acceptable - you'd never have pegged him in 1977 as the future director of a worldwide smash hit TV show.  But when you consider that ERASERHEAD was released a year before something as utterly derivative and mundane as THE EVIL you can perhaps get a sense of the context.  Like a lot of cult films, or delirious films as I prefer to call them, it was met with widespread bafflement, if not revulsion, on first release although some notable figures championed it and Lynch, paving the way for his move into bigger budget film-making.

An iconic still of Jack Nance as Henry Spencer
Jack Nance, who plays Henry, was part of Lynch's stock company, appearing in at least half a dozen more of his films before his untimely death at the age of just 53 following a blow to the head during a drunken scuffle.  One other point to note for film anoraks like me is Darwin Joston in a tiny part as Paul, the man to whom a boy brings Henry's head during the dream sequence which gives the film its title.

Darwin Joston as Paul
... and as Napoleon Wilson in ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13
Joston had a much bigger role as the good-hearted convict in John Carpenter's brilliant ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976) showing considerable charisma.  His film career never really took off, sadly, and he ended up working as a teamster on film and TV productions.  Joston died of leukemia in 1998.

Wednesday 23 March 2011

The Evil (1978)

I made it a haunted house double-bill with this largely forgotten effort which was directed by someone called Gus Trikonis who, the ever-reliable imdb informs me, worked almost exclusively in TV after this.  There's an interesting cast though: Richard Crenna, who was a good supporting actor (BODY HEAT (1981), FIRST BLOOD (1982), WAIT UNTIL DARK (1967)) but rarely got lead parts - although he did star opposite Alain Delon in the great Jean-Pierre Melville's UN FLIC (1972) ; Joanna Pettet, an English actress who was in some interesting films in the late 60s before moving to the US and generally appearing in crud; Andrew Prine, who has a CV as long and patchy as you're ever likely to see; Mary Louise Weller, who delirious film fans will recognise as Mandy Pepperidge - the focus of John Belushi's lust in ANIMAL HOUSE (1978); and Victor Buono, who worked with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962).  Two of that lot can also own up to having appeared nude in magazines ... guess who?  (Answers at the end)

Essentially the plot is the same as SESSION 9 (reviewed previously) only in this case the group are a drug rehabilition physician and his volunteers, and the location is a large isolated house they are planning to renovate and use as the rehabilitation centre.  It transpires that the Devil himself is locked in the basement and Crenna unwittingly removes the crucifix which seals him in place.  All hell is then let loose, so to speak, as the house seals itself, trapping the hapless cast inside.

Richard Crenna and Joanna Pettet

Not in fact Dr Snuggles, but the Devil himself

The direction is flat, the photography is as dull as ditchwater, the script frequently clunky and some of the acting has to be seen to be believed.  On top of all that, it bears all the signs of having been mucked about with in the editing room: characters are introduced, disappear and reappear just to get killed off.  Similarly, something momentous will occur only for the action to cut to something else with no reference whatsoever to what has gone before.

Richard Crenna spots his ludicrous fake eyebrows

Don't worry, Andrew Prine always uses a fake hand when sawing
Despite all that, there are still some effective shock moments.  Pete's attempt to escape by shimmying down a cable from the roof is tense and frightening; Professor Guy's bid for freedom being cut off just as it appears to have worked is well done too.

Prine comes to a sticky end

And there's a very unpleasant sequence in which Felicia is tossed around by unseen forces in an empty room, which threatens to turn into something from THE ENTITY (1982).  The building itself is great.  It's a real place, called Montezuma Castle and is in New Mexico; apparently it's now used as an education facility by the United World College organisation.  You can see some pictures of it here.

Oh, and those two nude models?  Joanna Pettet and Andrew Prine, neither of whom have, er, anything to be ashamed of.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Session 9 (2001)

SESSION 9 is an American psychological horror movie that was directed by Brad Anderson and stars David Caruso, Peter Mullan, Steven Gevedon, Josh Lucas, Brendan Sexton III and Paul Guilfoyle.  It's about a small firm of industrial cleaners who are hired to remove asbestos from a derelict asylum and find that a malevolent force may be lingering there.  In other words, it's a haunted house movie.

It's not bad actually although you do wonder in this post-SCREAM world quite how a bunch of grown men can be quite so unaware of how not to behave when working in a derelict asylum.  It's an interesting question actually because cinema has, by and large, moved away from the high gothic horror film, as practised by Universal and Hammer, towards a greater degree of realism, as far as that is possible.  So we get films like this one, which doesn't feature mad scientists or heroic professors but a group of blue collar industrial cleaners.  We learn about their personal lives, their foibles and so on, to make them appear credible.  And yet they still behave as if in this ostensibly 'real' world they inhabit, they've never seen a horror movie: they split up, they wander off by themselves, they leave important things behind, they forget mobile phones, they wear headphones while digging aroung derelict asylums in the middle of the night.

It must be a problem for directors: on the one hand, they are trying to create a believable world so we go along with the film, but on the other hand they need their characters to do stupid things in order to get them into perilous situations.  You can't, unless you're making a spoof like SCREAM, have a character say "I'm not going down there!  It looks spooky!" and avoid anything vaguely nasty looking because you wouldn't have a horror movie, you'd have a health and safety video.

Idiotic behaviour notwithstanding, I quite enjoyed it.  The asylum is a great horror location: flooded rooms, dripping walls, underground tunnels, spiral staircases, the whole bit.  The cast is pretty good too - everyone's favourite Glaswegian Marxist, Peter Mullan, is totally believable as the head of the firm, as is David Caruso as his foreman.

Peter Mullan (L) and David Caruso
It seems a long time ago now that David Caruso was a massive TV star on NYPD Blue and looked set to make the jump to movie stardom.  Unfortunately, his first big movie - William Friedkin's JADE (1995) - totally stiffed and his film career never really recovered.  He's now back on TV in one of the ubiquitous CSI type shows.  It's a shame because he's a charismatic guy and a fine actor.

Saturday 19 March 2011

Phantasm (1979)

There are all sorts of horror films: those that make you jump, those that disturb you, those that gross you out and those like PHANTASM which are just fun, like a ghost train.  They're not especially frightening, they might look a bit shonky but you can't help enjoying them.

PHANTASM was directed (and written and edited and shot) by a 25 year old guy called Don Coscarelli and it was clearly a labour of love not just for him but his family too - his dad produced it and his mum did the production design, make-up and costumes.  I understand it was shot on rented equipment over the course of two years, during which the cast and crew became very close friends.  That cameraderie is delightfully plain in front of the camera: the realtionship between the two brothers and their buddy is warm, funny and believable.  Consequently you really care about them and desperately hope that nothing nasty happens to them.  I would compare it to the friendship between Val and Earl (Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward) in the great TREMORS (1990).

Three amigos: Jody (L), Reggie and Michael
It must be incredibly difficult to build up that rapport between the characters and the audience because so few films manage it.  Most horror films are guilty of setting up a bunch of one-dimensional nothings simply in order to mow them down.  If you think of the horror films - and not just horror, any film - that has had a big impact on you it's probably because the characters were well drawn.  You don't necessarily have to like the characters but you have to believe in them and empathise with them.  After all, you've got to want to spend 90 minutes in their company.

Once Coscarelli has established that relationship then all sorts of benefits accrue.  I've already mentioned that dangerous situations seem more frightening, but the comedy also seems more natural - wisecracks between brothers and friends.  It's hard to resist a film in which a man stuffing a dead alien dwarf into his ice-cream van asks "This guy's not gonna leak all over my ice-cream is he?"

There's attention to detail too, which must have been a real challenge in such a piecemeal production.  For instance, early on it is established that 13 year-old Mike is a decent mechanic.  It seems an incidental detail at the time and isn't mentioned again until a sequence right at the end, when we recall it as Mike improvises a tool to help him escape a tight spot.  It's very satisfying.

Michael figures out what to do
As you might expect from a low-budget effort, the special effects are a bit ropey but Coscarelli does manage a couple of memorable gory moments, including one device which became a centrepiece of the franchise that PHANTASM developed into.  However, the film looks good and is crisply shot in widescreen; the exteriors especially are good to look at.  The low-budget was probably a major reason why there are so few characters in this film - it's one of those that features almost no extras or shots of the general public.  It helps to create a more intense and also slightly surreal atmosphere, as if the action is being played out slightly outside of reality.  It's a trick that was often used on the brilliant TV series THE AVENGERS.


Another dimension
 A quick word about the cast.  Michael Baldwin makes a terrifically gonky but resourceful and resilient teenage hero and while Bill Thornbury as his brother Jody is a more traditional blandly handsome horror lead, he isn't without wit and charm.  Their friend Reggie, played by Reggie Bannister, is a hoot - a balding, pony-tailed schlub he may be, but he's a brave and loyal one too.  And then there's Angus Scrimm as the Tall Man.  He is truly the stuff of nightmares: a seemingly unstoppable and implacably evil presence who is genuinely frightening even when simply striding down the street.

He's tall and he's a man: he's the Tall Man