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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

My top 10 favorite moments in all of the scifi/science-fantasy/horror films I have seen

BEST SCREEN MOMENTS


1. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS  1958

O.K. Here's my favorite moment from all Science Fiction, Fantasy and horror films I've seen. . .

In this absolutely terrific movie, Kevin McCarthy knows full well that if anyone from his community where the body snatchers are replacing humans with outer space unfeeling replicates of its citizens -- if anyone  falls asleep, that during that unconscious moment, the body snatchers will take over and you will wake up, not "you" anymore and never to be you again.

   McCarthy and his girl, Dana Wynter escape the town, make a run for it. But it's late and they are getting more and more tired. McCarthy goes to search for a path for them to take. When he returns, he sees Dana asleep on the ground and tries to wake her. Here's the moment: Close up. She opens her eyes. They are unseeing, utterly passive, opaque. She's been snatched!

 

2. IT'S ALIVE  1974

One of the great science fantasy movies, this one by Larry Cohen. Sharon Farrell has given birth to a very small but deadly monster. But she's his mommy. She loves him. She hides him away. But he keeps killing people.

   Finally the police are onto the little guy and with ludicrously unnecessary force, about 44 police cars surround the big building where the child is hiding. His dad is appointed to go in and get him and surrender him to the police in whose keep his baby will surely be put to death.

   John Ryan looks at his little son, knowing what he must do and what he is going to do. Great tears of love and sorrow fall from his eyes and were falling from mine, I can tell you. What a moment. It's emblazoned within forever. But without the masterful performance by John Ryan this moment would not have been realized and would not have become unforgettable.

 

3. SPIRITS OF THE DEAD  1968 TOBY DAMMIT segment

This film is a collection of three shorts or segments, one by Frederico Fellini, one by Louis Malle, and a third by Roger Vadim. The short by Fellini about a tormented actor named Toby Dammit and played by Terence Stamp, is in fact known as a great film. When it was last screened at a theater in L. A., respected directors who know good film came out of the woodwork to see it. 

   Toby Dammit is pursued by a small, glitteringly happy little girl who represents death in the film. The great screen moment, in this horror science fantasy film, is as follows: Toby Dammit, a famous actor, walks through the audience toward the stage where a TV interview has been set up for him. The stage has roaring blatant white lights and looks more like a fighter's ring than a television broadcast. As he walks, he looks down upon all those faces in the audience upturned towards him. They are Fellini faces: splendid and sordid, people who are real yet seem to have arrived from a nearby circus with skin a little too white, lips a little too red.

   Faces, faces, faces, and the great screen moment was there for me. I swear I got high watching them.  I went into a trance of some kind. Only the genius of Fellini could transport his audience in this way.

 

4. UNEARTHLY STRANGER  1964

The only way we can tell that this beautiful woman, Julie Davidson, played so wonderfully by Gabriella Lecudi, is not from our planet is that when she achieves human emotion and cries, great dark crevices appear in her face where the tears have fallen. And the other way? She experiences no heat. The moment occurs when her husband Dr. Davidson, played by John Neville, suddenly walks into the kitchen to see his wife taking a 400 degrees, steaming hot casserole out of the oven with her bare hands. You've got a lot of  'splainin' to do Lucy!

 

5. DRACULA  1931

I know this is a popular favorite. That does not mean that it is not one of the best moments ever to be seen in the horror genre and really, it must be mentioned. 

   Count Dracula, played by Bela Lugosi, is welcoming Van Helsing, played by Edward Van Sloan, to his castle, and is standing on a vast gray, splendidly crumbling staircase. There is a noise. We all know what Dracula will say. And he says it so beautifully that many of us can remember his exact inflections.  "Listen to them.  Children of the  night.  What music they make!"

 

6. THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE  1974

Would anyone but Tobe Hooper ever be masterful enough in the horror genre to think of having people be utterly casual at the moment that someone is waiting to be slaughtered?

   In "Chainsaw Massacre," the father of the ratty household and his son sit chewing on the decision, arguing in the most casual of ways, as to which one of them will slice off the girl's head and let it fall into the bucket placed in front of the chair onto which she has been tied. This chair, by the way, is between the two men, each trying to impress the other with how right he is to do the task, so we can watch her enduring this contest while she waits for her horrible end. An entirely original and unforgettable moment in all of horror films.

 

7. TERMINATOR  1984

Here is a stunning classic moment so good I'm surprised it's never occurred before in film: Arnold Schwartzenegger holds out his hand and stops an enormous truck dead in its tracks. I think it's his right hand.

 

8. E.T.  1982

We all know and love this moment: Drew Barrymore and Henry Thomas' mom, played by Dee Wallace, looks into the closet in which her children have hidden the little loveable guy from outer space!  She scans the shelves. The children hold their breaths. So do we! We see a shot of what she sees: rows and rows of dolls and stuffed animals of all kinds. The moment comes when we all breathe a sigh of relief, because to their mom, E.T. looks just like every other stuffed plaything sitting  to his left and to his right! Adorable. 

 

9. DAWN OF THE DEAD  1978

We are all used to that ominous knowledge, watching zombie movies, that the undead are man-eaters!  But in this George A Romero movie a zombie simply walks toward camera and actually takes a big bite out someone's shoulder in a shopping mall. Pretty neat and it let me know that Mr. Romero has quite a sense of humor.

 

10. TWILGHT ZONE Episode title: "Time Enough at Last"  1959

Henry Bemis, played by Burgess Meredith, absolutely loves to read, but works so assiduously at his bank, he never has enough time to do so. Outside the thick, protective walls of the bank's vault, a terrible war ensues, and at its end, there is no more work nor any world for Henry, but what there is, is "time enough at last" to read and read to his heart's content. But alas, the violence of the blast has shaken him and his glasses have fallen. And now, the unforgettable moment: he steps on his own glasses  and shatters them and also his own hopes for a contented future.



What are your favorite moments?  Mind you I don't mean your favorite movies, I mean those moments you will take with you for a lifetime.

 

8 comments:

Lynn said...

Hi Karen,

My favorite moment is while standing in Gold Stream Park on Vancouver Island by a stream with my life partner as we simultaneously heard an ancient native voice, not of this world. Later we found out that the stream is part of a traditional ritual of becoming an adult.

I love your work and used to watch your sister on TV when I came home after school. I hope you are both doing well!

Steven said...

Dear Karen,

I saw Five Easy Peaces again today, I think for the fourth or fifth time. It never disappoints me, and one of the reasons for that is your role. I really like the part of Rayette, which you played so very, very well. Thank you very much for that performance Karen!

Kind regards,

Steven Barg
The Netherlands

PS: I will think about my top ten scifi moments

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Anonymous said...

The ending of "Trilogy of Terror" when Amelia has called mother and told her to meet her at her house and she hangs up, bares her teeth (fangs) and starts to stab the floor with the butcher knife.
Still terrifying after all these years.

insermini said...

Hi Karen,

What about segment Prey, from Trilogy of Terror? The Zuni fetish doll trying to catch you in the bathroom, or the ending when you open the mouth and show your sharped teeth.. I love you and I love that movie


greetings from a spanish fan!

Jay Carleton said...

Exorcist when Mom first see girl going crazy in bedroom. Ellen Burstin should have gotten that best actress award.

Or, Jaws, when we see leg fall from above to below - our first glimpse of what we are up against.

Love to all the Karen Black fans.

Jay
Pittsburgh

Larry Klein, SF said...

The shocking and sad end to: Night of the Living Dead, when the viewer realizes that she/he is the only witness to what went on in that house; Invasion of the Body Snatchers (77') when D. Sutherland points and shouts; Planet of the apes when C. Heston realizes he is home. Totally with you re. the Twilight Zone/Bemis and of course with everyone else on Trilogy of T. Have you seen R.E.C.? First movie to scare me out my wits for years.

Anonymous said...

One of my all time favorite moments occur near the end of BURNT OFFERINGS when (SPOILER ALERT!!!!)you take the driver's seat... and the chauffeur's face! That one never fails to chill me down to my spine.

Other favorite moments:

Robert Wise's THE HAUNTING I: "Whose hand was I holding in the dark??" screams Julie Harris when she realizes she was alone all the time.
THE HAUNTING II: Julie Harris climbing up the top of that shaky spiral staircase and what happens when she gets there.

Robert Mulligan's THE OTHER: Halfway through the movie, when you realize there really IS something wrong with one of those twins.

SLEEPAWAY CAMP: Operative word here is "Camp". Production and acting values are on the level of 70's gay porn without the porn in what looks like a "so-bad-it's-good" Friday the 13th knock-off - That is until you get to the final twist in the very last frame which is so good it's bad (really bad) for your nerves.

ROSEMARY'S BABY: Mia Farrow plays scrabble and solves an anagram. I'd be thrilled to achieve both at once. She's not.

And talking of Mia Farrow, here's my all-time favorite moment:

FULL CIRCLE aka THE HAUNTING OF JULIA: a very hard-to-find gem the last moments of which(including the end credits) are sad and beautiful... and absolutely chilling.


Patrick