So how was your Hallowe'en? Did you dress up? Go to a party?
Take the kids Trick or Treating?
It is taking a while for us here in the UK to catch up with the fabulous Hallowe'en celebrations that take place in the US. But slowly, we're getting the hang of it . . . very slowly. Personally, I've always loved Hallowe'en ... it's three days before my birthday and five days before Guy Fawkes Night ... plus it's a celebration of all things spooky.
What's not to love?
This year we decorated the house and carved a pumpkin as usual, and then started thinking about which films to watch. I thought of Hocus Pocus, the 1993 American comedy horror film starring the amazing Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as the Sanderson Sisters. The sisters, Winifred, Mary and Sarah, are a trio of particularly nasty witches who like to suck the life force from children in order to regain their youth. In 1693, they kill little Emily Binx and transform her brother, Thackery, into a black cat for eternity, when he tries to save her. The sisters are captured and burnt at the stake – yes it really is a comedy – and Binx the cat guards the cottage to prevent them being brought back.
Three hundred years later on Hallowe'en, an unwitting teenager lights the black flamed candle which allows the sisters to return. The ensuing madness has the sisters struggling to understand Trick or Treaters, modern technology, and attempting to use a hoover for a broomstick. There's even a fabulous version of, I'll Put a Spell on You by Ms Midler.
It's a great movie, even if the special effects don't live up to today's CGI. One of my favourite characters is Billy the zombie, undead proof that Winifred was once a woman scorned. Lots of fun.
Of course anyone who knows me, knows of my passion for vampires, and in particular Dracula. I adore the early Hammer films, in particular the first two Dracula films, Dracula (1958) and Dracula Prince of Darkness (1966) - I have both on DVD in a wonderful Hammer box set which also boasts The Devil Rides Out (1968) - another favourite of mine. All three films star Christopher Lee, who apparently now refuses to discuss his role as the infamous Count. What a shame, because in the 1958 film he makes a deliciously scary and sexy Dracula. With his towering height and resonating deep voice, he is quite simply, perfect in the role.
Hammer's first foray into the vampire Count's world, pays lip service to Stoker's novel, but only just. In fact, the only version close to the original book, is the BBC's 1978 Dracula, starring Louis Jourdan as Dracula.
But back to the first Hammer film. I hadn't watched it for some years, so it was fun to see it again. It's very dark and Gothic, and Lee's opera cloak is very swishy. Peter Cushing makes an elegant Van Helsing and acts some of the lesser characters off the screen. But one thing I have never understood about movie adaptations of books, is why do they mix and match the characters? To find Mina married to Arthur Holmwood instead of Jonathan Harker, and Lucy engaged to Jonathan – and being Arthur's sister – was confusing to someone who loves the original book as much as I do. Why bother using the names at all, if they are going to be different characters? Perhaps I am too much of a purist?
Of all the Dracula Hammer films, my favourite will always be Dracula, Prince of Darkness, but my main criticism will always be that Lee is reduced to snarls and hisses, and has no dialogue. Definitely they missed a trick, because his voice is so good. Perhaps he wanted too much money for speaking ... but in his third outing as the Count, Dracula Has Risen From the Grave also 1968, Lee is back in a speaking role.
One trick Hammer did, which I love, is that they use the end shot of each movie as the beginning of the next. So at the end of Dracula, he is reduced to ashes by sunlight, and in Prince of Darkness his ashes are reincarnated by an unfortunate traveller's blood. Clever.
So ... how was your Hallowe'en?