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Happy Halloween from the year 1973

I can’t confirm that this trailer for William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty’s “The Exorcist“, supposedly unreleased because it was too scary, is authentic — though it feels authentic. However, I can confirm that it’s extremely creepy, whoever put it together.

THE EXORCIST: Movie TrailerWatch today’s top amazing videos here

I’ve only seen “The Exorcist” once — yes, I’m a big cinema chicken who managed to wait until the 2000 re-release to see it. And, yes, when I did I suddenly had to go to the bathroom just before the spinal tap scene. But I don’t remember Mr. Devil Man in there at all. Anyhow, if any “Exorcist” mavens are reading, I’m wondering if maybe the other reason this trailer was “banned” by the studio is that it was actually kind of misleading and oversold the horror aspects. Better to create a sense of anticipation than blow things up too much in the trailer.

Certainly, the Warners marketing people did a good enough job. It was the first of a series of seventies and eighties megahits for which, before the era of the multiplex, audiences would wait literally hours to see. I’m old enough to remember being surprised by the crowds outside the recently torn down National Theater in L.A.’s Westwood Village. Here’s some of what was going on inside. If you think “Paranormal Activity” is creating a sensation, take a look.

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Happy Halloween from the year 1971

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Sir Christopher Lee, CBE, in a musical mood

He’s got an awe-inspiring 266 credits listed on his IMDb c.v. Nevertheless, finding good embeddable clips for Christopher Lee, one of the most beloved yet also underrated actors of the 20th and 21st centuries, hasn’t exactly been easy. Sad, considering how much enjoyment he’s given audiences, how many good movies he’s enlivened, and how many mediocre-to-godawful ones he’s come darn close to saving single-handedly. However, in honor of his well deserved knighthood today, we have what we have. And they both involve music.

My personal favorite Christopher Lee movie, and I think his as well, is 1973′s “The Wicker Man.” Below in a great scene which, for reasons much too complicated to go into here, is deleted from the most commonly seen version. In it, Lee as the avuncular and dangerous pagan Lord Summerisle takes part in a ritual with Britt Ekland as the local high priestess of sexuality. He also recites some poetry by Walt Whitman, as Edward Woodward’s repressed “Christian copper” tries to get to some sleep, snails make more snails, and Peter Giovanni sings the hauntingly erotic “Gently Johnny.”

The Wicker Man – Gently Johnny

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Lee actually sings — quite well — in “The Wicker Man” but that can’t be found. So, moving with warp speed from the sublime to the completely ridiculous, I found this incredibly strange number featuring a full-throated Lee from “The Return of Captain Invincible,” an ultra-ultra-obscure very pre-”Dr. Horrible”  1983 superhero musical starring Alan Arkin and Lee, with music by a number of people including Richard O’Brien of “Rocky Horror” fame. In it, a villainous Sir Christopher sings of a subject of my own interest — cocktails. Always, a gentleman of taste.

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Friday film news dump, pre-Halloween edition


So much going on today that, unless my Google Reader is lying to me, not a single one of the many film sites and blogs on my list of usual suspects has mentioned that Christopher freaking Lee was knighted today. (I, however, will be paying my respects in the next post.)


* The biggest news of the day was expected, I guess. The New York offices of the once might mini-major Miramax, founded by Harvey and Bob Weinstein and since sold off to Disney, have been closed and the annual slate of films significantly downsized. In addition, the division’s “prexy” Daniel Battsek is stepping down, though he is supposed to be supervising the consolidation of the NYC and L.A. offices through January and no replacement has been set. Not surprising in tough times for “small” films. Anne Thompson partially blames what you might call movie mission creep, among other factors.

The main problem with the studio sub-divisions that are being slashed if not eliminated is that they simply don’t return enough on investment. They inevitably drift away from small-scale divisions that push low-budget films into more ambitious upscale operations with more employees and more overhead. With growth comes bigger budgets, more P & A, wider releases, more grandiose Oscar campaigns and often, smaller profits.

Her entire piece is definitely worth a look as she mentions how even some seemingly successful award pictures as “There Will Be Blood” and “Doubt” became money losers or earned less than you might think due to marketing costs and award campaigns.

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WitStream is the comedian’s answer to Twitter

Michael Ian Black

I understand that Twitter is a cultural phenomenon, but for one reason or another, I don’t have one. Maybe it’s because none of my friends use the service either, I don’t know. However, do I really want to know what my friends are doing every half hour? I’ve known most of them for years and, judging by that familiarity, they maybe experience one exciting moment per week on average, if that. Thus, I use my $15 cell phone, or my email, or I surprise them by knocking on their door (nobody does this anymore).

So, if people aren’t following the minutia of their friends’ lives on Twitter, who are they actually following? The company is supposedly valued at over $1 billion, so somebody is using the damn thing.

The service would have never blown up without celebrities, many of whom have millions of followers. In a way, Twitter is becoming the MySpace of micro-blogging. Companies use the service as a vehicle to advertise their products and celebrities use it as a vehicle to advertise themselves. The only “social networking” really happening is when users comment, most often on celebrities’ accounts. In the end, everybody is selling something. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s just proof that Twitter is more of a giant billboard board than a worldwide chat room. Perhaps that was their ulterior motive. For companies, Twitter is a wonderful and free promotional tool.

Since Twitter is a powerful social amalgam of celebrities, companies, and people like you, there obviously is a ton of junk flying through their site. Twitter has a new “lists” feature, which allows users to organize accounts by various categories. While this should clean things up a bit, users are still on the mother site, and will undoubtedly encounter unwanted information.

Lisa Cohen is attempting to capitalize on this idea of categorizing. She has partnered with the hilarious Michael Ian Black to create WitStream, a social networking site exclusive to comedians.

Read the rest after the jump...

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A Chat with Dean Stockwell (“Battlestar Galactica: The Plan”)

Dean Stockwell is one of those generational actors, the kind who’s known for a different project for every decade that he’s been in the business…and since he was playing against the likes of Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly by the time he was ten years old, that’s a lot of projects. Maybe you know him from “The Boy with the Green Hair” or “Gentleman’s Agreement,” or perhaps from his work as Al on “Quantum Leap,” or as Ben in David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet.” In short, the guy gets around. As of late, he’s been picking up raves for his portrayal of the Cavil model of Cylon in “Battlestar Galactica,” a role which he has reprised for the new film, “Battlestar Galactica: The Plan.” We chatted with him about just how evil Cavil is, of course, but we also learned about his connection to Neil Young, his longtime friendship with Dennis Hopper, and that, once upon a time, there was actually a chance that a film entitled “Werewolf of Washington” could’ve been a classic.

Join us now for…

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Iron Man: Armored Adventures – Volume One

Following the box office success of “Iron Man” last summer, it was pretty much a given that Marvel would move forward with an animated series. When it was announced that Tony Stark would be getting the high school treatment, however, my interest in the project plummeted. Fortunately, I still had a lingering curiosity as to how it would turn out, and although a teenage version of Iron Man certainly isn’t ideal, the show actually works better than expected thanks to some solid writing and slick CG animation. Loosely based on the comic book roots, the series begins with teenage prodigy Tony Stark putting the finishing touches on his latest invention. But before he can show it off to his dad, he’s killed by longtime business partner, Obadiah Stane, in a coup to take over Stark Industries. Now, with the help of his friends Rhodey and Pepper, Tony begins to unravel the mystery behind Stane’s takeover, all while playing superhero in his new Iron Man armor. Sadly, only six episodes are included in this Volume One collection, so while we do get to see classic Iron Man baddies like Mandarin, Whiplash and Crimson Dynamo, you’ll be left wanting more when it’s all over. That may be Marvel’s intention, but with the new sequel due out in theaters this May, let’s hope they release the entire first season in time for casual fans to discover what they’re missing.

Click to buy “Iron Man: Armored Adventures – Volume One”

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“The League” debuts on FX

FX’s original broadcasting has a reputation for being pretty racy and adult-oriented — after all, this is the network that brought us “The Shield,” “Rescue Me,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “Nip/Tuck” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

Last night, “The League” debuted. It’s a half-hour comedy that follows a group of friends that are all in a fantasy football league together. One guy is the defending league champ, and his wife doesn’t want him to play, even going so far as giving away his lucky draft shirt. Another’s wife is supportive, and actually runs his team for him. Then there are the two clueless friends that are either too high or too ill-informed to compete in the league.

But fantasy football doesn’t dominate “The League,” which is more like “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” for the married, suburban set. It’s raunchy, but often funny.

FX is replaying the premiere tomorrow (Saturday) night and before the second episode next Thursday.

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The History Channel gives you a reason to buy a new TV: “WWII in HD”

I am neither a history buff nor a particular aficionado of war footage, but when The History Channel presented its TCA panel for the upcoming series, “WWII in HD,” premiering on Nov. 15th, I don’t mind telling you that I was absolutely enthralled. Culled from thousands of hours of lost and rare color archival footage gathered from a two-year-long worldwide search through basements and archives, the miniseries – narrated by Gary Sinese, with additional contributions from Ron Livingston, LL Cool J, Rob Lowe, Steve Zahn, and others – is unquestionably going to change the way a lot of younger people think of World War II…and by “younger,” I’m talking from, like, 50-year-olds on down the line.

I’ve seen the first couple of episodes, and it’s just mindblowing to see all of this color footage, so much so that you’ll almost be embarrassed that you’re having a hard time accepting that it’s real. For instance, my wife and I were watching footage of a Nazi rally, with Adolf Hitler riding down the street to a crowd chanting his name, and we were just stunned. I mean, you’ve seen pictures of Hitler, and you’ve seen the grainy black and white footage, but to see him in living color…? It’s truly bizarre, and the same goes for the moments where you see FDR, Churchill, and any number of other familiar faces from the era. It’s almost disconcerting, frankly, and that’s not even getting started on seeing the scenes of combat.

Here’s the trailer for “WWII in HD,” so you see at least a little bit of what I’m going on about:

Keep in mind that the trailer itself isn’t in HD, of course, but I dare say you can see how much they’ve cleaned up this found footage. It’s truly remarkable, and it is absolutely must-see.

Mark it on your calendar now: Nov. 15, 9 PM, The History Channel.

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Halloween on the Small Screen: 31 Memorable Halloween Episodes

Too old to trick or treat but not popular enough to get invited to a Halloween party? Fortunately, we have the perfect solution to keep you in the spirit of the holiday while keeping your brain occupied enough to forget how uncool you are: a list of 31 great Halloween episodes from throughout TV history. It’s not a complete list, of course, and we’ve left out specials, so leave your complaints about the exclusion of “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” at the door. Instead, just embrace the fact that we’ve found as many clips and complete episodes for your viewing enjoyment as we possibly could. You’re welcome…and Happy Halloween!

1. The Addams Family, “Halloween with the Addams Family”: The Addams family are all busy preparing for their favorite holiday, but their celebration is bolstered by a pair of bank robbers…one of whom is played by Don Rickles…who they welcome as trick-or-treaters.

2. The Andy Griffith Show, “The Haunted House”: Maybe it isn’t officially a Halloween episode, but it first aired in October 1963, and it focuses on Barney and Gomer trying to retrieve a baseball from a supposedly haunted house and finding some strange goings on inside. As far as I’m concerned, that’s close enough for jazz.

3. Angel, “Life of the Party”: Lorne throws a Halloween party for all the firm’s clients and employees, but during the gathering, his advice to his friends starts happening literally: Fred and Wesley get drunk after Lorne tells them to loosen up, Spike and Harmony dance the night away, Angel and Eve do the horizontal bop, and, Gunn, uh, relieves himself after being told to “stake out his territory.” Good times.

4. Beavis and Butthead, “Butt-o-ween”: It starts simply enough, with the guys trying to master the concept of trick or treating, first without costumes, then wearing Beavis’s “monkey sheets” and going as ghosts. Eventually, however, Beavis + Halloween candy = Cornholio. The equation was ever thus, and here it leads to a quest for more candy…and, y’know, some T.P. for his bunghole.

Bevis and Butt-head-Butt-O-Ween

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5. Beverly Hills 90210, “Halloween”: The stock line is that Halloween costumes allow a woman to bring out her inner slut, and when the gang from West Beverly goes to a Halloween party, Kelly’s seductive costume leads a college student to translate “no” as “yes.” It’s absolutely inexcusable, of course, but – whew! – you can’t say she doesn’t make an impression. Meanwhile, Brenda and Dylan go as Bonnie and Clyde, Steve is Zorro, and Donna comes as a mermaid, a move which seriously hinders her dance moves.

Watch the episode at!

6. The Big Bang Theory, “The Middle Earth Paradigm”: Penny throws a great Halloween party, and she makes a pretty kitty, too, but it’s hard to top the meeting of the four Flashes.

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