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Friday, August 17th 2007

8:50 AM

Weekend Highlights

  • Posted by: Steve Biodrowski

After running out to see the first screening of THE INVASION this morning, you're probably wondering what else to do with your weekend. Here are some suggestions for horror and sci-fi fans in Los Angeles...

As part of the American Cinematheque's annual Festival of Fantasy, Horror, and Science-Fiction, there is a double bill of British sci-fi at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood starting at 8pm tonight: CRACK IN THE WORLD and QUATERMASS AND THE PIT. I've not seen the former, but the later is a quite good movie from the 1960s about a crashed UFO discovered will digging a new tunnel for a London subway. It turns out that Martians visited Earth millions of years ago and influenced the evolution of mankind as a means of paving the way for the Martians' eventual return; their amazing powers are at the root of all superstitious beliefs, and now some kind of dormant intelligence in the ship is reawakened and ready to take over the world. If it all sounds vaguely family, the basic idea was stolen for GODZILLA 2000. NOTE: American fans probably know QUATERMAS AND THE PIT under its U.S. title FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH.

Also at the Egyptian Theatre, this time on Saturday, is a "Gathering of Ghouls," a live musical performance in the courtyard. For the same ticket price, you also get admission into three films: THESE ARE THE DAMNED, Joseph Losey's excellent 1960's tale of a secret government project traiing radiated children to survive a nuclear holocaust; plus NEVER TAKE SWEETS FROM A STRANGER and MANIAC. The first film starts at 5:30pm

The Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo - which usually specializes in silent movies - offers up the 1943 Technicolor stereo version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, starring velvet-voiced Claude Rains in the title role. Unfortunately, the film is marred by the decision to treat the material like a musical: long (and I do mean loooooonnnnngggggg) stretches of mock-opera assault our ears (the movie was shot during World War II when it was impossible to license the rights to genuine European operas), and only every once in a while does the film remember to be scary. Still, the production values are pretty amazing, and this is an extremely rare example of a glossy, big-budget, color horror film from a period noted for low-budget black-and-white efforts.

In any case, the Old Town Music Hall is worth the trip in and of itself. Equipped with its own in-house organ (dubbed "The Mighty Wurlitzer"), the theatre kicks off all its programs with a live recital, including music from the period and a sing-along. Before the screen drops down for the movie, you can actually see the various devices emitting the musical sounds. For those of you who don't know, a "house organ" is sort of the forerunner of today's MIDI controller keyboards. The organ itself emits no sound; it is connected to a series of instruments - pipes, drums, bells, etc - actually built into the structure of the building, which the organisit controls from his perch behind the keys, using pedals and valves to activate the different sounds. The interesting thing about these instruments is that, being a part of the building in which they are situated, each one is unique - you won't hear anything quite like it at any other location.

So much for local events - I'm off to see INVASION...

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