Sights and Sounds

Wes Craven: 1939–2015

Wes CravenThe month of October is one of the most popular months for watching films of the horror genre.   It also seems a suitable time to post a tribute to the August 30th passing of director Wes Craven who did much to influence the direction of the modern horror film.   His 1984 Nightmare on Elm Street introduced Freddy Krueger, one of the longest lasting and memorable horror characters since Boris Karloff’s monster in the 1931 movie Frankenstein.  In 1996 he introduced us to “Ghostface” in Scream, a second horror creation destined to become almost legend.  Yet it would be wrong of us to limit Wes Craven’s talent to only the horror genre.   He was also known for films such as Music of the Heart starring Meryl Streep as a music teacher struggling to teach violin to inner city children and as one of twenty directors of Paris, je t’aime a collection of stories about the city of love.  

This month is a perfect time to explore the legacy of films that we have been left by this notable director.  The link below will create a list of DVDs owed by the Library for your enjoyment.

The Films of Wes Craven

The Wild, Wild, West – Television Series

When I was young, maybe too young as I was only eight at the time, my father introduced me to a series of books by an author named Ian Fleming about an English secret agent known as James Bond.  Prior to this my heroes were all from world of television.  I was enthralled with the “Adventures of Superman,” “Roy Rogers” and “The Lone Ranger.” As you may have noticed two of my favorite heroes were from westerns.  James Bond suddenly took precedence over them all.  I loved the intrigue and the action in the books.  But I still loved my westerns.  Then, in 1964 a television western, The Wild, Wild West, set in the mid 1800’s appeared about two agents of the newly established U.S. Secret Service; James West and Artmus Gordon.  Each episode had the intrigue and mystery of a secret agent like James Bond as well as the special gadgets and gizmos a spy would use and best of all, it was a western.  I was hooked.

They Might Be Giants

George C. Scott often manages to bring a believability to even the most unbelievable role. In the dark comedy They Might Be Giants, Scott plays Justin, a man believing himself to be the illustrious fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, who’s turned over to a psychologist, played by Joanne Woodward, for evaluation and treatment. She’s a young woman whose last name just happens to be Watson—a situation that doesn’t exactly help Justin’s delusions—and she’s soon drawn into his search for Moriarty, following “Holmes” hither and yon through Manhattan and into dangerous situations.

Lt. Robin Crusoe U.S.N.

There are times when I just want to laugh.  I don’t really care if the movie is a great movie.  I don’t really care if the acting is great and I don’t care if the plot makes sense. I just want to laugh and enjoy wasting my time for a little while.  Lt. Robin Crusoe U.S.N. staring Dick Van Dyke serves this purpose perfectly for me.   The movie is housed in the Juvenile collection even though to really understand all of the jokes it is helpful to at least be familiar with Daniel Defoe’s story of Robinson Crusoe. 

As one might guess from the title the film tells the story of a castaway on a deserted island. Lt. Crusoe is forced to abandon his navy jet when the engine fails. 

Mister Roberts - Teleplay

In 1984 NBC broadcast a full-length production of Mister Roberts. Along with a great many others before it aired, I felt the 1955 movie (about which I've posted previously) was definitive; I certainly didn’t feel that there was a need for another version of this classic film. What I didn’t realize was that this was not a remake of the movie—it was a play, filmed before a live audience. 

Mister Roberts (1955)

Mister Roberts (1955), starring Henry Fonda, is based on the stage play by Frank Nugent. Fonda, who starred in the Broadway play, reprised his role as Lieutenant Douglas Roberts for this film, with an A-list of players supporting him. Jack Lemmon also stars as Ensign Pulver, a role which won him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor; James Cagney as Captain Morton and William Powell as "Doc" round out the cast. Sadly, the film also ended the longtime friendship and working relationship between Henry Fonda and director John Ford who, in a fit of anger, reportedly sucker punched Fonda in the mouth.

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