Ain't It Cool News (
Movie News

More on the John Carpenter Retrospect at the Cinematheque

Hey folks, Harry here with a pair of reports about the John Carpenter Retrospect at Los Angeles CINEMATHEQUE! I've been lucky enough to have spent a good deal of time with John, but frankly I've never really gone after questions about his films, we tended to talk about 50's Horror Sci Fi, Pulps, Howard Hawks, Westerns.... That good stuff, so these reports are great treats. If you attended and feel that something is missing out of these reports... REPORT IN! I love getting these treasures! Besides, it is good bedtime reading to rock Agent Clock to bed with... Looky at him, isn't he cutseywootsie? Awwwwwww...

Hey Harry,

Ask and you shall receive, here's a recap of the American Cinematheque's John Carpenter retrospective, which is continuing by the way. I will try to remember all I can, unfortunately I didn't write everything down he said.

Opening Nite: "Assault on Precinct 13" & "Dark Star" Q&A between films.

Of all his films, "Precinct 13" was the only film I've never seen. Yeah, I know it's been out on video and DVD but I just never got around to seeing it. I'm glad I held off because seeing it for the first time on the big screen, with a surprisingly good print, was a trip. This movie was awesome, it enters my top three favorite Carpenter films, it comes behind The Thing and Halloween. Not to be morbid, but I knew I was in for something special when the little girl was shot point blank right in front of the camera. I didn't expect that. Whoops, I guess that was a spoiler, sorry. Great script, brisk action, fine acting, awesome score, just plain cool. I was eating it up and so was the audience.

John Carpenter and Austin Stoker were involved in the Q&A; Stoker played the Lieutenant who has the misfortune of commanding the doomed precinct.

About the 'R' Rating:

Carpenter was told by the MPAA that unless they cut the aforementioned spoiler that the film will get an 'X'. This part was an integral part of the whole movie and would have totally screwed things up. Carpenter thought for sure he would have to cut it but to his surprise he didn't. The studio said just cut the scene out of the MPAA's screening print; we'll leave it in in the release print. I wonder if the MPAA knew about this. This elicited much laughter and applause.

About casting:

Carpenter has seen Stoker in a couple films and hired him over lunch. Darwin Joston happened to live in the same apartment complex as Carpenter, that's how the ball got rolling with them. I know there was more casting info here but I can't recall.

About the inspiration for the film:

It was a tribute to Rio Bravo, one of his favorite westerns. Carpenter's pseudonym for editor was John Wayne's character's name in Rio Bravo.

About doing a real western:

"I don't know. You have to shovel up all the horseshit between scenes." There was more here but this paraphrased quote was all I could recall about it.

There was some discussion about what director's look for in casting, info was provided by Austin Stoker in this department.

They were on for about 15 or 20 minutes. Sorry, I can recall everything from the Q&A perhaps someone out there who attended can fill in any blanks from here on in.

Dark Star started up afterwards. Sadly, the print wasn't in that great condition. It is an original print and looked alright for being 27 years old. With age comes appreciation, I saw this when I was a teenager didn't like it that much. Now, 31 I liked it much more.

It was a great start to the retrospective.

Nite 2: "The Thing" "Halloween" & "The Fog"

The Thing looked and sounded great. It looked like a fairly new print. I distinctly remember this movie as a turning point for me. I use to be a bit squeamish in horror films, Rob Bottin's work didn't repulse me it fascinated me. I was 11 when this came out, my love for horror films began there. However, now a days it's pretty much dead.

I think Randy covered the main points of the Q&A. Here are some additions:

About CGI vs Stop Motion:

He doesn't like CGI, it's too fake. Two examples, Harry Potter's two faced demon at the end and The Scorpion King in "The Mummy Returns." He said they should have done that with a live stop motion and the Scorpion King didn't look anything like the Rock. I liked the effects in Potter but I can't argue with him that the Scorpion King was rendered too well. He believes that if The Thing was made with CGI it would be nowhere near as good as the film we see today.

He spent much time praising Dean Cundey's cinemaphotography.

About the Dogs acting ability:

The dog was a wolf mix, mostly wolf. They had to be real careful when working with the dog. The dog acted on it's own without any real direction.

A funny story about Richard Dysart:

During the Q&A for Escape from NY, the addition of the nose ring on Dysart's nose was actually Dysart's idea. Carpenter discussed a story that everyone sat down and came up with backstories for their characters. Dysart from some reason believed himself a Russian spy undercover out to steal secrets and kill people. You know, I've seen this movie many times on my Signature Collection laserdisc but this was the first time I noticed the nosering. Thank God for the big screen!

There may be more info at this Q&A but I need help filling in the details.

There was a break we left the theatre and then went back in for the second event of the evening, Halloween and The Fog. I think "The Thing" sold out and "Halloween" came close.

Before Halloween started, there was a prescreening discussion about Halloween.

He discussed how the film had its origins as "The Babysitter Murders." It was the producer's idea to change the title to Halloween.

About the sequels:

Paraphrased: "I'm terribly sorry about my business partners churning out sequel after fucking sequel. It's fine by me because I get paid everytime they make one." Amen to that. 1-4 were good, 7 was alright, 5 & 6 were terrible and I expect 8 to be abysmal. Also, the way they ended the original was in no way leaving the door open to make a sequel.

Where was it shot:

I'm kicking myself for not remembering it all but he told us where to find the infamous street that Halloween was shot on. I remember Sunset and La Cinega but I can't remember the rest.

About casting:

It was Debra Hill, I think it was her, who brought Jamie Lee to his attention. She was lobbying for her casting, she's cute and it doesn't hurt that she's Janet Leights daughter.

Donald Pleasance was funny because during their meeting he said the only reason he's doing the movie is becuase he has some alimony to pay. It turns out, Carpenter learned that Donald likes to torment the directors and make them think he doesn't want the role when in fact he really wants it.

The Film's Influence:

He had no idea that the film would be a benchmark in film and so influencial on other horror/thrillers.

The Mask:

They were down to two choices, a clown mask and the now well know Shatner mask. "Yes, I owe everything to Shatner." Again, paraphrased but pretty damn funny.

Again, there was probably more discussed but can't recall. I don't believe he discussed The Fog.

Halloween was the same print they showed a few years back for the reunion; I was extremely upset I missed that. It looked great. This was the first time I've seen it in a movie theatre and it was awesome.

The Fog didn't look to great, but it was decent. It's been a long while since I last watched this on laserdisc and got me jumping during scenes I forgot were coming.

Night 3: Escape from NY & Big Trouble in Little China

I almost didn't make this one, even though I had tickets. I was watching the Rams/Eagles game, I was born and raised in the Philly area so I was torn. It was the fourth quarter so I taped it and avoided any and all discussions and TVs showing highlights. It was a cold, wet, rainy night in LA.

This is the first time I've seen Escape in the theatre. I remember my father asked me and my brother what we wanted to see the summer of '81. My brother said "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and I said "Escape from NY." I thought the movie was about Noah's Ark, hey I was ten years old. I saw a preview for NY but never saw anything on Raiders. We saw Raiders and the rest is history. When I finally saw NY, it was on cable. Eventually I finally saw it on laserdisc, letterboxed.

The print was in fair/good condition. For the many screenings I've attended, this was the first time that I saw the Egyptian have projector problems. The film broke at the end of the second reel. I use to work at a movie theatre and when shit like this happens everyone wants blood, especially the projectionist. Everyone was actually quite civil and unphased. People hit the restrooms, hit the concession stand, went out for a smoke. They never even thought of yelling at anyone. WOW!!! Even during the second forced film break to fix a problem that could only be fixed after the reel went through, no one was upset. God love the Cinematheque members. They picked the perfect time for a break because it picked up right before Snake's streetfight with the bald bull.

On a 9/11 note, I knew that the WTC played a major part in the film but I knew Air Force One didn't hit it. However, the scene where the stunned guard on the wall watches the jet fly over heading for Manhattan, the towers are right there on the left side of the screen. My heart sank and didn't come back up for several minutes after AFO broke up. I didn't expect that. It was more stunning because you're watching it on a giant screen and not your 27" TV.

The Q&A jumped around regarding NY and other films.

Where was it shot:

It was primarily shot in St. Louis in a fire ravaged region of the city. They had complete cooperation from the city and were able to shut down downtown St. Louis and lite it with fires, planewrecks, and debris. The Statue of Liberty is really the only scene from NY shot in NY.

The Inspiration for Snake:

There was a guy he knew in school who had a devil-may-care world view. He doesn't want to help and doesn't want to get involved, he just wants to move on. He also said that Snake was kind of his alterego.

How the film came about:

He wrote the film many years ago, the early seventies. He was contracted to do one more film for Avco/Embassy. At the time, he was working on "The Philadelphia Experiment." He opted not to do it becuse he couldn't find a third act and instead presented Escape from NY and got the go ahead. I'm not sure if the film that was "The Philadelphia Experiment" is the same as the one he was working on.

"Charles Bronson in John Carpenter's Escape from New York"

Believe it or not, that's who the studio wanted to play Snake. Hmmm, may have been interesting. Although, they never could have made Escape from LA.

Discussion moves to Big Trouble and other films:

Jack Burton is really John Wayne:

"The Duke comes to town and fucks everything up." Paraphrase summing up Jack Burton. He said Kurt is basically playing John Wayne, listening to his delivery he is.

The Action-Buffoon:

He mentions this in the commentary of the DVD, the studio wasn't too hot about the idea of the lead star being an idiot who screws everything up. They didn't get it.

Will he and Kurt work together again:

Yeah, if they give us the money.

Why was the fight in "They Live" so long and how was it working with Roddy Piper?

"Why Not?" He wanted to make the longest single fight ever filmed, nearly ten minutes. He said Piper was great, taught him some moves, and put him in a sleeper that actually worked.

About audio commentaries:

New commentaries were recorded for "They Live" and "Prince of Darkness." However, this is only in foreign markets with no word on release in the States.

Your World View:

He admits that it's dark and he always seems to be heading towards some point of doom.

What's he working on now:

He's on vacation working on the NBA playoffs. I assume he was referring to the NFL playoffs since the NBA doesn't start till June.

About scoring his films:

Like any filmmaker, he watches his film again as a composer and decides where to put the music.


If you look at his early films, there are many names that have achieved great success in film. He is very proud of everyone he's worked with.

I know there was much more discussed but can't recall.

Finally, Big Trouble came on and the print was gorgeous. The audience was in to this one, receiving the biggest round of applause of any of the films shown so far. This was a fun ride and it was great experiencing it with an audience who "Got It."

Night 4 has "Starman" in 70mm and "In the Mouth of Madness" Wed. 1/30 @ 7:30pm Night 5 has "They Live" and "Ghosts of Mars" Thurs. 1/31 @ 7:30pm

It's been a great weekend. I wish they could have double billed NY & LA together. I also wish they had Prince of Darkness and Memoirs of an Invisible Man. I loved those two.

I was crossing my fingers that perhaps Kurt Russell would make the NY/Big screenings but nope. He does live in the LA area.

I hope this has been helpful and informative. This is one of the reasons I moved to LA and I'm glad I got to see it. Last month was the Wes Craven retrospective, this month Kubrick and Carpenter. Thank God for The Cinematheque.


Until next time,

The Film Maven

And now for the ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK screening looked at by a man, a legend, a ballerina in brass... take it away!

Hey Harry -

I hope you post this because I have been giving you scoops for a while and you have never bothered posting them, so I'll be surprised if you post this.

I was at the double feature of Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York yesterday with John Carpenter in attendance. It was truly a wonderful night. The print of Escape from New York was an original, so it was very scratchy and kept breaking down.

Afterwards, Carpenter came out for a Q&A to a round of applause. I'll try and remember the juicy stuff he said:

On Escape from New York - the television series:

"We were going to do a television series, but the network backed out at the last minute, saying it was too dark. They wanted everything happy."

On the EFNY robbery sequence that was supposed to open the film:

"It's lost. It was too slow, it was supposed to open the movie, but it was cut, and I thought there was a negative still, but it's all gone."

On September 11:

"I don't think films inspire violence. Monsters live on the screen. Real monster, the human monsters, live out there."

On audio commentaries:

He recorded audio commentaries for They Live and Prince of Darkness, but they won't be released in America unfortunately.

Working with Kurt Russell again:

"Sure, if they pay us enough and the material is right."

Working with a big budget star:

"I was going to do a movie with Mel Gibson for about ten seconds in the eighties, but it didn't go through. It turned out to be No Way Out with Kevin Costner."

On Snake:

"It was based on a guy I knew in highschool, and partly my alter-ego. The studio wanted Charles Bronson, but I wanted Kurt."

On making more tongue-in-cheek movies like the old days: "I don't know. I guess I've been too lazy. One day. But some critics would argue that some of my new movies are tongue-in-cheek."

What's next:

"The NBA playoffs."

Finally, I got enough nerve to ask him a question I've been dying to hear an answer to. I said, "I'm trying to think of a smart way to ask this, but I can't, so I'll just ask, why is the fight scene in They Live so long?" The audience started laughing and applauding, because everybody wants to know why. Carpenter took long pause and said, "Why not?!" Everybody burst into applause. He continued "Because I had Roddy Roddy Piper and he could kick some ass and I wanted to create the single longest fight scene in the history of movies."

He left and they played a nice print of Big Trouble and it rounded off a truly memorable experience.

Call me Brass Bancroft.

Also, I know for a fact that those star cameos in Austin Powers 3 are true. The movie opens up with them making a movie-within-a-movie, where Tom Cruise plays Austin Powers, Kevin Spacey plays Dr. Evil, Gwyneth Paltrow plays the girl, and Danny DeVito plays Mini-Me. I emailed this to you a while ago as well as an advance review of Tenenbaums, but you never posted them. Hoepfully you'll put this up.

Brass Bancroft.

Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus
    + Expand All
  • Jan. 29, 2002, 6:19 a.m. CST


    by Airwinator

    Cool stuff! :)

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 6:35 a.m. CST

    By all accounts, "Assault on Precinct 13 is..

    by Aronld Scazziger

    ..still Carpenter's best movie. The main theme still gives me the chills. IMHO, he's directed some great movies (Halloween), some good movies (Escape from New York), some mediocre ones (Vampires) and some BAAAAD flcks (They Live)... So, a Carpenter movie is like a box of chocolates, ya never know what you're gonna get (well in the last ten year we got mostly BS)

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 7:37 a.m. CST

    Quick Carpenter Top 5 Poll Anyone?

    by Fitzy Funk

    My picks: 5. The Thing 4. Vampires 3. Assault on Precinct 13 2. Halloween 1. Escape From NY

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 7:52 a.m. CST

    Carpenter top 5

    by SpacePervert

    Tricky. I'll try. 5. Dark Star 4. Escape from New York 3. The Thing 2. Assault on Precinct 13 1. The Fog Runner Up: They Live

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 8 a.m. CST

    Was I The Only One...

    by AliceInWonderlnd

    Who thought that Vampires was one of the worst movies ever made? Oh well. I dug The Fog and Halloween, though.

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 8:21 a.m. CST


    by scrofula

    I'm pretty sure that one of the infamous locations from Halloween was shot at an old mental hospital in Bowling Green, Kentucky, about 30 miles from Smith's Grove where Carpenter grew up.

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 8:28 a.m. CST

    NO FOG COMMENTS?!?!?!?!

    by Paul Allen Voiq

    Assult 13 was the first Carpenter film I ever saw, it was great and that soundtrack.WOW. It really pisses me off that THE FOG (which is one of his best) gets such shit treatment even there(No comments) . Of course I live on an Island so its a little more freaky when I drive by the shore on a foggy night and crank my sountrack of The FOG while im driving just to torture the poor sap who asked me for a drive homeI liked everything he did up to THEY LIVE Then Mr Carpenter went away.....

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 8:36 a.m. CST

    More on the Fog and kirk mask.

    by Paul Allen Voiq

    Does enyone else think that the post Shatner Halloween mask suck and to not at all look creepy? Man I wish I had one of those masks. I remember when they were denying it was shatner's face they used. Also does anyone know anything about a tv series Based on The FOG they were going to make some years back?

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 8:49 a.m. CST


    by Paul Allen Voiq

    I think I like his soundwork almost as much as his 70s early 80s films. My 5 FAV FILMS ARE.. 5.Assault on Precinct 13 4. Christine 3.The Thing 2.Halloween. 1. The Fog TOP 5 SOUNDTRACKS 5.Christine 4 Escape From NY 3.The Fog 2.Assault on Precinct 13 1.Halloween

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 9:29 a.m. CST

    Sounds like it was fun

    by SamWave

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 9:37 a.m. CST

    5 best

    by conalcochran

    5)Christine - his single most underrated flick, great teen performances, one of his best scores, and GREAT effects that would be ruined if they were done CGI, 4) Escape From NY - one of best anti-heroes ever, and again, great score, a welcome anti-dote to all that is wrong with action movies now, 3) The Fog - actually, maybe this is his most underrated, from here on out, all his flicks are on the list for the same reason - ATMOSPHERE, 2) THE THING - been praised to death, I second all of you, the pinacle of real effects, atmosphere to boot 1) HALLOWEEN - the single greatest horror film ever, the mask, the score, the montage at the end of locations of the film with the music playing.........cinematic perfection. It's too and John's slump allows some to take shots at one of the greats. Come back, John. And even if you don't, thanks for the flicks thus far. You've given us more than enough. PS - Am I the only jerk who loves Halloween 3?

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 9:48 a.m. CST

    Even off his best form Carpenter has given more to genre cinema

    by JackBurton

    And better still, he's always been happy and proud to work within genre cinema, none of this

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 10:17 a.m. CST

    carpenter fans

    by donnie_darko

    This just proves a point I've been makingf for a while now- JC fans are the most down to earth, unpretentious people posting on AICN.I know it's preaching to the choir, but you all agree I'm sure. Just here to give a salute to my comrads- true fans of old school genre filmmaking. We may be the underdogs, but we like it that way damnit.

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 10:18 a.m. CST

    carpenter fans

    by donnie_darko

    This just proves a point I've been makingf for a while now- JC fans are the most down to earth, unpretentious people posting on AICN.I know it's preaching to the choir, but you all agree I'm sure. Just here to give a salute to my comrads- true fans of old school genre filmmaking. We may be the underdogs, but we like it that way damnit.

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 10:34 a.m. CST

    I liked Halloween3 !!!

    by Paul Allen Voiq

    Great film sure, nothing to Do with Mikey Myers But WOW what an evil film. Would like to see a special DVD with outtakes and hear why the producers went this route. to this day I tell Blair witch freaks about the plot and they are "wow sounds twisted and evil" That would be a fucked up James bond film huh? I love the ending. Damm Great soundtrack as well. I have it, its a Carpenter. Anyone who has not seen this film needs to check it out for the pure evil of the concept alone as well as for the soundtrack. Oh and......Happy Halloween.

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 10:55 a.m. CST

    Carpenter is my all-time favorite filmmaker.

    by Sod Off Baldric

    Even his mediocre movies (Vampires, Memoirs of an Invisible Man) are loads of fun (plus they blow modern Hollywood pablum like the Scream series and I Know What You Did Last Summer right out of the water). As for my personal top five, I would have to say (in no particular order): The Thing, Escape from New York, In the Mouth of Madness, Big Trouble in Little China, and They Live. Starman gets an honorable mention.

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 10:56 a.m. CST


    by SpacePervert

    It's not an ideal solution, but you could go multi-region. I don't know if American DVD players accept handset hacks to access other regions. Unfortunately, that means paying the inflated prices we have to for DVDs via

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 11:13 a.m. CST

    Carpenter-My Top Five

    by samloomis13

    Since everyone else is doing it why not me. Here goes. 5)Big Trouble in Little China, 4)Starman, 3)Assault on Precinct 13, 2)The Thing, 1)Halloween; Honorable Mentions go to Escape From New York, Dark Star, Prince of Darkness, Christine, and Elvis (Does anyone even remember this one? Great film)

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 11:32 a.m. CST

    halloween was pants

    by vineyard

    pants, i tell you.

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 12:13 p.m. CST

    The RobMonster's top 5

    by RobinP

    1 Halloween 2 The Fog 3 Christine 4 The Thing 5 Escape from New York. That's it...the five, in my personal order of preference. Damn shame he never made that Vietnam "Chickenhawk" movie, the book (which he optioned) was awesome !

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 12:26 p.m. CST

    Did anyone have the balls to ask Carpenter why he made a 're

    by Monkey_King

    I stopped believing in Carpenter and the boogeyman after he put out that piece of shit ESCAPE FROM L.A. Village of the Damned was good, but everyone since has been excrutiatingly painful to watch and enjoy after knowing he "used to" make good films.

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 12:55 p.m. CST

    i envy you, Gordo!!! grrrrr

    by VincentSpain

    and, yes, Halloween 3 was quite good

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 1:14 p.m. CST

    Assault on P 13 on the big screen, WOW!

    by otis von zipper

    I've only seen Assault on TV (edited no less) so the idea of seeing it on the big screen fills me with longing. Someday right? I think of all of Carpenter's films, Assault shows off his greatness best. Someone used the word atmosphere in describing their favorites, and Assault has it in spades. Onto Dark Star. As a kid I was lucky enough to see Dark Star on the big screen as the 2nd feature to some forgettable 70's flick. I thought it was hilarious. Those days of double features with obscure gems are long gone and it's a damn shame. I would have never seen Dark Star in the theatres otherwise.

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 1:40 p.m. CST

    I love L.A.!!

    by Veidt

    Escape From LA is one film I totally dig. It's flawed as hell - I think mostly because JC was rushed through post-production. But as imperfect as it is, I love the gonzo spirit of LA and I love the fact that they were finally able to make Plissken into the ultimate bad-ass he was supposed to be. Escape from New York is a great film but due to budget restrictions, Plissken rarely gets to do more than walk through the eerie streets of New York. But in LA we really get Plissken in every outrageous situation. And he never falters or comes up short. I think a lot of people didn't respond to the humor of LA but for me, watching Snake Plissken surfing a tsunami wave down Whilshire Blvd. pursuing Steve Buscemi is enough to make it a cult favorite for me. Not to mention the fact that LA has the ending to end all endings where the hero shuts down the entire planet out of spite. I mean, that's got to be in the "Fuck You" Hall of Fame. I wish Carpenter had had more time to fine tune LA but I'll take it as it is.

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 2:19 p.m. CST

    God Bless you beautiful FILM FANS!

    by Rodzilla

    Most annoying AICN Talkback geeks just click on a John Carpenter Talkback link to use profanity and rant about how much he "sucks" and how everyone who doesn't think so is an idiot. I'm one of world's biggest Carpenter fans. His films have a tangible feeling of "cool" that nobody can replicate. He is truely one of the old masters of guerilla film making; one who is always true to himself regardless of current popular tastes. So, in the spirit of this conversation, here are my top 5 favorites (a harder task I can't imagine!): 1) Halloween (That one is pretty easy just in terms of its influence on horror films), 2) The Thing (his most critically reviled film at the time by film critics and fans has proven its metal over the course of time), 3) Escape From New York (a film school course on how to make a low budget action movie and create an incredible anti-hero), 4)Big Trouble in Little China (one of the best kung-fu/ghost/action/comedy/monster movies ever made!) and 5)The Fog (a highly atmospheric ghost story that remains unappreciated because it was the follow-up to Halloween. People have a hard time accepting both the creepy atmosphere and expected jump scares). "Star Man" was a little too mainstream for my tastes. It's good, but it feels like a standard studio picture. Nothing against it, though! Shoot me, but I thought "Vampires" recaptured the "Carpenter cool" with James Woods as the best Carpenterian anti-hero in a long while.

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 2:30 p.m. CST

    The first guy had a memory to match that guy from Memento.

    by Milktoast

    Why is Vampires so disliked, by the way? The dialogue is bad, but you don't go to a Carpenter film for dialogue. I had a great time at that movie, and it even converted a friend of mine who was very skeptical to be seeing a film called "vampires" (converted to being a fan....). James Woods was a bit off the mark as an action hero, but, again, not a big problem for me. Vampires had a nice spin on vampire lore. Great action sequences (particularly the hotel), great visuals (the vampires coming out of the ground at dusk), and a great unapologetically testosterone drenched (ewww) attitude rarely seen since (besides other Carpenter films) Peckinpah. Well, I forget Walter Hill. Still... And I was surprised what an effective vampire fucking Thomas Ian Griffith VI was. He was very tall and had very black hair. It was like being at The Castle on a Monday night. I'd like to see Carpenter tackle more though. He hasn't reall grown since Starman and Big Trouble. Invisible Man was a try, but I think the unfair reaction to that may have robbed him a little of his initiative. Hence Children of the Corn, Mouth of Madness, Escape LA. At least Vampires was good. Ghost of Mars, while I didn't much care for it, was still fun. Good music in that one, too. Clea Duvall is always nice to see.

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 3:24 p.m. CST


    by AliceInWonderlnd

    There were several reasons I thought this film blew, but the astounding misogyny (the hooker gets slapped around like a punching bad, tied naked to beds for no reason other than to show her ass to the audience) really nailed it for me. If not, James Woods beating the shit out of the priest while enquiring about the state of his erection also bears honourable mention, as does the dumbest drive into the sunset ending in the whole world. Additionally, the soundtrack was lame. Of course that's just my opinion. I think a lot of his other stuff rocks, but I did think Vampires was one of the worst movies I ever saw. It's not often I consider walking out of a film (the next films I thought of walking out of was Planet of the Apes and Dude Where's My Car, so I don't know how that rates me on the taste-o-meter). On the other hand, Battlefield Earth was much worse, but you couldn't have dragged me away. That was like watching a car wreck. You just couldn't look away.

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 3:24 p.m. CST

    "Allright, sit tight, keep the home fires burning and if we'

    by Cash Bailey

    Classic line, classic movie.

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 3:54 p.m. CST

    Cundey vs. Kibbe: The real reason recent Carpenter just isn'

    by Charles Grady

    Every Carpenter flick from 1976 to 1986, including even HALLOWEENS 2 AND 3, which have the full-on Carpenter feel are very much of a piece...Totally awesome, stylish, cynical, blackly funny, etc., fueled by those great scores and, in most cases, Dean Cundey's cinematography. Then, starting around PRINCE OF DARKNESS, and DEFINITELY by the time of MEMOIRS, a lot of Carpenter regulars started to move on to other projects and didn't work with Carpenter as much. What I feel is the real reason for our latter-day disappointment with JC's films is that a lot of these old collaborators really added to that "Carpenter feel," and he hasn't found the same quality B-level supporting actors, music collaborators, and visual people. The old Carpenter flicks had those awesome white-on-black-font credits, which are now a thing of the past. He used to callaborate with Alan Howarth on those killer minimalist synth scores. Now we get blues rock and heavy metal, which are NOT SCARY. We used to get killer supporting actors like TOM ATKINS, CHARLES CYPHERS, DONALD PLEASANCE, ADRIENNE BARBEAU, BUCK FLOWER, HARRY DEAN STANTON, DARWIN JOSTIN, NANCY LOOMIS, etc. Now we get cool name actors camping it up in a way that suggests slumming instead of a genuine one-ness with JC (Cliff Robertson, Clea Duvall, Ice Cube, Pam Grier, Peter Fonda, Robert Carradine, etc. Only James Woods really captured the essence of a Carpenter antihero in VAMPIRES.) And saddest of all, we no longer get Dean Cundey's GORGEOUS widescreen blue and black compositions. Instead, we get Gary Kibbe's workmanlike made for cable look. These are the REAL reasons for why post-80s Carpenter has never really felt the same. The man himself is still smart, funny, and dark as hell, but his recent flicks are limited by the flatness of their look, the suddenly non-scary scores, actors who aren't on a page with JC, and an over-reliance on KNB effects that are more campy than gory and scary (a la Bottin's work in THE THING.) Any other JC freaks like me wish he'd get back with some of the old crew? Wouldn't a good old-fashioned Howarth/Carpetner synth mood score and some Cundey images elevate the Master to his heyday? Wouldn't you love an appearance by Atkins and Cyphers? THAT's what's needed for a killer Carpenter flick. Anyone with me on this? Don't hesitate to email if you're an old school Carpenter fan and you wanna bemoan the lack of his old cronies.

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 4:12 p.m. CST

    Alice in Wonderland

    by TechLord

    "Hooker getting slapped around like a punching bag?" What movie were you watching? The hooker got hit ONCE after she bit the shit out of the fat Baldwin's arm. I'm sorry, but if some hooker that's a vampire bites me and turns me into the undead, I'm gonna hit the bitch too! TWICE! Although she probably didn't NEED to be naked on the bed, seeing Sheryl Lee's ass ain't gonna kill me...

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 6:21 p.m. CST

    Single best line in movie history

    by Ambush Bug

    "I've come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubble gum."

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 7:53 p.m. CST

    Vampires - Not for the sensitive

    by Veidt

    I think there's a great drinking game to be had in Vampires. Knock one back every time someone beats, kicks, slices, or pushes around meek Tim Guinee as the hapless priest who gets the full brunt of James Wood's hospitality (my favorite moment being when Woods unceremoniously cracks Guinee in the face with a phone). For me, any movie (and Vampires pretty much stands alone here) that has its "hero" kick the living shit out of a mild-mannered priest not once but repeatedly is an automatic good time. Vampires exaults in the Peckinpah tradition of outlaw bastards and it's one of the best of Carpenter's recent films.

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 8:49 p.m. CST


    by Westrum

    I saw some others do it, so i figure, why not? Haven't posted in a while, but always enjoy the talk backs. If i weren't so drunk I'd be able to type faster...#5 is The Fog! #4 is Assault on Precinct 13! #3 is Elvis! #2 is Escape From New York! and #1 is...drumroll, please? #1 is The Thing! Was there much surprise in #1? I know most people throw Halloween in there, but I don't. I like to be different. That's why I'm a man and I use hand creams. Bye Bye. Love you all madly, Jake.

  • Jan. 29, 2002, 10:41 p.m. CST

    Bug on Carpenter

    by Ambush Bug

    Although Carpenter's most recent flick, Ghosts of Mars, may not make my top five, you gotta give the guy some credit. While Craven, Cunningham, Raimi, and the rest of the old school horror meisters have moved on to safer Hollywood friendly pics, Carpenter is stil out in the horror trenches making decent B-movies. My top five: 5. Vampires - Didn't read the book, didn't expect classic cinema, got a decent flick with a kick ass James Woods. Those who read the book seem to hate it, but James Woods in all his bad-assedness is worth it. 4. In The Mouth of MAdness - Damn, if this one ain't cool. Dark, dark, dark as hell. That freaky old lady with the tentacles and the kid growing older every time he passes the car are pretty scary. Sam Neil does madness well and the ending is classic-Carpenter. 3. They Live - Rowdy Roddy Piper. Keith David. Fights and guns and aliens and that repeated music score over and over and over. Piper's alien blasting rampage through the supermarkets and banks of LA is cooler than beans. 2. Halloween - of course, this is one of the movies that made me love horror cinema. It is top knotch and a template that the horror genre has molded itself to since it scared audiences over 20 years ago. 1. The Thing - The only Carpenter flick better than Halloween. We've got a superb cast. Paranoia. Effects that will never be beat, no matter what super computer program is invented. Wilfred Brimley at his most haunting. Spider heads. Torso teeth. A cool hero in Kurt Russell. And another classic Carpenter ending. You can love his flicks or hate em, but respect this man for keeping a tepid genre alive. I'll take a Ghosts of Mars over a Craven flick about violins any day.

  • Jan. 30, 2002, 3:11 a.m. CST

    Yes, 1-4 were good...

    by FilmMaven

    1 is of couse a classic. Halloween 2 could have been a terrible sequel but actually turned out decent, advancing the story. I still don't like the brother/sister idea but I can live with it. Halloween 3 was good becuase for one it tried something new, and it was a good movie. I did like and it sits proudly in my DVD collection. Halloween 4, despite bringing back a character that obviously died, had a good deal of suspense. They made an attempt to make a good horror movie and pretty much succeeded. I love how it ended and I thought that was it for Michael. 5 was bad, 6 was beyond bad, 7 was just okay. I'm not looking forward to 8. As for my top 10: 10: Prince of Darkness 9: Memoirs of an Invisible Man 8: The Fog 7: Starman 6: They Live 5: Escape from NY 4: Big Trouble in Little China 3: Assault on Precinct 13 2: Halloween 1: The Thing My least fave: Village of the Damned.

  • Jan. 30, 2002, 6:43 a.m. CST

    "Heard you were dead!"

    by SpacePervert

    Charles, I think you may have something there in terms of the "feel" of the films, although I quite like "Madness", and Jurgen Prochnow/Sam Neill are two very fine, very spooky actors. Mr Baby Man: I'm sure JC is man enough to handle a few questions that aren't just fawning sycophancy. This from IMDB: "The fight between Nada and Frank was only supposed to last 20 seconds, but Piper and David decided to fight it out for real, only faking the punches to the face. Carpenter was so impressed he kept the scene intact." Sounds like a legitimate question to me, but hey, I wasn't there.

  • Jan. 30, 2002, 11:10 a.m. CST

    Carpenter's worst film is Vampires

    by cifra2

    And it is still a good movie... His masterpieces are Halloween, The Thing, In the mouth of madness and Assault... By the way, I liked Ghosts of Mars a lot... and I really can't understand why it was an upset for a lot of Carpenter fans!!! It was pure fun! Do I need to say it was well received by Spanish critics???

  • Jan. 30, 2002, 12:04 p.m. CST

    Carpenter is as close to Harlan Ellison cinema will ever get...

    by mortal

    Ellsion never gave a damn about Your opinion. THEIR opinion. Carpenter was the same way back in the day. He saw a story as it may look to a kid and if it looked cool, he ran with it. he knows what works and what doesn't. jeez, i want flawed heroes. I want a mockery of redeeming qualities. Slap a priest. Fumble a knife in a uzi fight. be a sexist pig dinosaur that knows how to get a NOW feminist to scream. some of us see john wayne and see a joke. he almost never dies, he never dodges, ducks or retreats. Give me Han running into 200 troopers and running away. that's what carpenter did. You can make a hero 10 feet tall and still, left handed or god forbid, missing an eye. (okay, that Sh&%t about making free throws with one eye...hey, we're pals, John, don't try to sell that much crap...) anyway, he is a notable legend in mainstream cinema, but a god in B-movie history. pax.

  • Jan. 30, 2002, 12:04 p.m. CST

    I'm with ya, Darth Zoloft

    by conalcochran

    I'm with you, Darth. I personally love Halloween 3, and wish others wouldn't crap on it so much (I'd much rather have Halloween sequels like this now than the standard claptrap they throw at us). As weird as this sounds, I consider it to be much closer to the original two than the rest of the sequels, mainly because the tone is just right. Has the same feel to it. I guess they were setting themselves up, and can see why others dislike it so. But here's where you're spot on, Darth - there's one undeniably great aspect to that flick - it's truly awesome soundtrack. Probably my most played soundtrack. Perfect atmosphere music. It's dark and atmospheric and kinda resembles Tangerine Dream's music. Say what you will about the flick, the soundtrack is frigging great, and anybody with a taste for JC soundtracks should get it. That is, if they can. I just lost mine, and found out the soundtrack went out of print (typed with a sniffle).

  • Jan. 31, 2002, 3:17 a.m. CST

    Vampires Rocked

    by Evil Muffin

    I'll throw in my 2 cents here and just say Mr. Carpenter is a class act that continues to make films that will influence the next generation of film makers. I don't see how anyone who claims to be a Carpenter fan can bash Vampires. What a kicking thrill ride that was with James Woods the perfect Carpenter anti-hero. Just for the record, another top 5 list... 1. The Thing (Set new standards in both horror and sci-fi) 2. Big Trouble (Classic cross genre. I pity those that "Don't get it".) 3. Escape from NY (Brilliant!) 4. Halloween (Benchmark Film) 5. Vampires (Kicks major ass) I've enjoyed all the Carpenter films and hope he continues on making films the way he wants. Give me "They Live" over a big Hollywood production like "Armageddon" anyday. Rock on John.

  • Jan. 31, 2002, 11:08 a.m. CST

    and another THING...

    by mortal

    I am not a wuss, but i'll be damned if I cannot sit still listening to The Thing in the background, or listen to the soundtrack- a few friends used the soundtrack for a 10 minute movie a few years ago and I kept the CD- anyway, the point is simple: Damn fine movie is one that can scare the hell outta you when you aren't even really watching it. As someone already said, Rock on, John.

  • Feb. 2, 2002, 9:29 p.m. CST

    Escape From NY/LA double bill would have been brilliant; EFLA wa

    by Darklon Bayne

    As far as I'm concerned, the film-savvy audience like those at these screenings would have been perfect for this double bill. EFLA can be seen as a very clever re-working of many of the satndard conventions of the first movie; I believe that Carpenter was trying to challenge himself by figuring out just how he could re-interpret in a new way almost every scene in EFNY for EFLA. As I loved EFNY before I saw EFLA, I could appreciate the brilliant parallels between the two movies when EFLA came out. Over time, my point of view will be vindicated. Until then, I will pray for an "Escape From Mars" movie, starring Ice Cube as Desolation Williams, and Snake Pliskenn aka Kurt Russell. It would be the ultimate team-up and/or battle. The two ultimate Carpenter movie bad-asses in the galaxy in one movie? Hell yeah, and is it merely coincidence both anti-heroes even wear similar black top and camo pants, or foreshadowing?

  • March 4, 2002, 2:17 p.m. CST

    The John Carpenter Five

    by mrplissken

    Being a fan since the early 80's, I've always referred to my faves as the JC 5: 5. Assault on Precinct 13, 4. The Fog, 3. Halloween, 2. The Thing, 1. Escape From New York. Nothing quite like these early Carpenter films; the atmosphere, the characters, the tone. Runners up: Big Trouble, Star Man, Halloween II (even though he didn't direct it) and They Live. Vampires was a decent return to form, but still lacked in several areas, and had too many missed opportuntites. EFLA was a massive failure- EFNY is my all time favorite film and EFLA just made my heart sink. I also felt that Carpenter was a bit politically heavy handed and silly with this film (but Kurt still looked great as Snake- he deserved a better script and film!). I wish John would get his mojo back, but even if he doesn't, he's given me a lifetime of wonderful film experiences and the JC 5 will always be benchmark standards of what genre films can be. Even though he's an an athiest, God Bless John Carpenter! PS- Comeback tip to John: I AM LEGEND with Kurt Russell in the lead!