Wednesday, April 06, 2011

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



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.



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.



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!"



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.



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. 



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.