Thursday, August 07, 2014

Thursday's Ways Not To Die

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I think a lot of us in the online horror community were looking forward to the release of this movie's beautiful fancy 4K restored version on blu-ray in about a month not just to stare at its prettiness (and it is gorgeous - I got to see it on a big screen and they did a bang-up job) but also as an opportunity to talk about the movie - I'd certainly been planning on doing this post around then. But here now with this week's sad and unexpected death of actress and premiere final girl Marilyn Burns at just 65 years young, we talk early.

I wish I were better about hitting up horror conventions; it seems like everybody's got a story of having met Burns at one, and everybody says the same thing - what a nice lady. I do know that she came off great in Gunnar Hansen's book about the making of the film Chain Saw Confidential (a super read if you're into such things) - the fact that he actually sliced her hand open to get a shocked reaction from her in the scene in the house and she didn't storm off set or sue anybody speaks to a depth of presence, I'd say. She kept plugging along, probably a little bit deranged at that point, but my god did she make it work. 

Her performance as Sally Hardesty is in the top tier of the horror pantheon - charming and self-possessed and naturalistically low-key at the start (believably irritable with irritating Franklin, but allowing for a history to live between them too) letting the film's world seep in and feel unfailingly real around her, around us, and then with the moment shown above it's off to the races. Thirty or so minutes of screaming and running and screaming and running and throwing herself through windows and screaming and running and not a single goddamned false note the whole time. 

Do you know how hard it is to sell true fear like this? If you've watched as many horror movies as I have over the years you've seen the streets littered with failures, piled to the sky with unconvincing eye-bulging and inappropriate half-smirks; with people who go limp when they think the camera isn't looking. Of course the shooting situation had plenty to do with this - the heat, the desperation, the fact that they were beginning to feel themselves merge with this off-reality after the endless nights of filming. But Tobe Hooper can only point his camera and pray something shows up in front of it, really, and Marilyn Burns put something, something exquisite and unforgettable, onto his film-stock. She singed the burnt brown edges of cinema forever. She's always have that last laugh.

Other pieces to read on Marilyn's passing:
Final Girl met and interviewed her 
Screen Crush talked to her days before she died
MovieMorlocks writes a beautiful paean to Sally & Marilyn
Kindertrauma shared a smoke with her once

Links to all the previous Ways Not To Die after the jump...
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Previous Ways Not To Die: The Lady in the Iron Mask -- Croaked -- Exit Stage Crazy -- Cold Cocked By Colin Farrell --  Comb Over -- Wishing You Happy Father's Day -- Bright Light Bright Light -- Flame With Ash Highlights -- Don't Spoke Unless Stuck Onto -- Teen Angst Bullshit -- Come What May (Day) -- Dodge This -- The Dead Knock At Dawn -- A Gentlemenly Sacrifice -- Spade & Neutered -- Flambe By Vincent -- L.O.O.K.E.R Over -- Something in the Fog -- Polly Wants A Scalpel -- Major Swirly -- White Meat Dark Meat -- Oh Dae-su You Devil -- Unto Darkness Delivered -- A Hammock Built For Slew -- Venom Down -- Worm Turned -- This Anaconda Do Want Some -- Cereal Murdered -- Deady Dearest -- Spotted Dick -- Chinatown Syndrome -- Feeling the Fury -- Blank With the Blank in the Blank -- Kill the Cook -- You be The Steeple -- Boiled Bashed Stabbed & Gassed -- Iced Princess -- Straight Razor Symphony -- Prey For Mantis -- Talos Unplugged -- A Mysterious Raptoring -- Mad Monkey Robo Rampage -- Give Me Liberty, Or... -- Horns of Plenty... Dead! -- Mistress-And-Run -- Wolverine Interrupted -- Who Let The Guts Out -- Zzzapped Innards-Side-Out -- Bad Romance -- Twas Beauty (And Also Aeroplanes) -- Bad Head -- Valentine's Day Massacred -- Belly Buster -- For Being Not The Babysitter -- Splat In Slo-Mo -- To Be Dis-Continued -- For Being Mouthy -- Do You Smell What Billy's Mom Is Cooking -- The Milk Done Gone Bad -- An Inability To Stop Drop and Roll -- Bug Sprayed -- Extreme Makeover: Leatherface Edition -- Window Seat Suck -- Razor Bunting -- Stabbed Thru The Heart And Witches Are To Blame -- Shark Kibble -- Is That a Straight Razor In Your Trunks Or Are You Just Happy To See Me -- Bad Dates -- Fry Guy'd -- Super Battle Bystander Shrapnel Shred -- Staring Contest of the Dead -- Satanic Self Sacrifice -- Fist and Fortune -- Psychedelic Penis Slice To Window Toss -- For Crimes Against Accent -- Sacked -- Speed Bumped For Traffic Spikes -- Shark Versus Jet-Ski -- Hot Oil Treatment -- Tucked In By Jason -- Just A Pair of Snowbodies -- Poison Pellet Kibble Swap -- Dolly Disassembled -- Fire Escape Fall Out -- Unbuggered -- Tell 'Em Large Marge Sent'cha -- Blue Man Gooped -- Tongue Stung -- Now Wouldn't Cha, Barracuda? -- Leaving on a Rat Plane -- Panthers! -- Fashion Faux-Pwned -- "It's Just A Box." -- Blasted Pigeons -- Taunting Ahnuld -- The Too Hot Tub -- Beyond the Veil -- Sunken Prayers-- Super Crack -- Brains Blown -- Fur For The Boogens -- White Hot Bunny Rabbit Rage --Dragged To Hell -- The TV Van That Dripped Blood -- Don't Mess With Mama -- Heads Ahoy --Martyred For Sheep -- Heads Nor Tails -- He Loves Me Knot -- The Great Bouncing Brad --Miss Kitty's 8 Mishaps -- Boat Smoosh -- Meeting the French-Tipped Menace -- A Magic Trick -- Slick Suck -- We Who Walk Here Walk Alone -- Raptor Bait -- Kneegasm'd -- Dare to Dream in Fincher -- Reach Out and Throttle Someone -- De-Faced -- Voluntary Drowning -- Cross Borne -- Pulled Up Hell's Sphincter -- An Arrow Up The Ass - The Numerous Violent Unbecomings of Olive Oyl -- Ack! Ack! Zap! -- Baby's First Acid Splash -- Chop, Drop and Sashimi Roll -- Forever Rafter -- Can't You Hear Me Now? -- Daisies Ways #5 - Harpoony Side Up -- Acid Dip -- On a Wing and a Prey -- For Standing in the Way of Sappho -- Busting Rule Number Three (For The Purpose of Number Two) -- Daisies #4 - Window Dressed To Killed --Hands Off the Haas Orb -- Bullet Ballet -- A Single Vacancy at the Roach Motel -- A School Bus Slipped Thru The Ice -- Trache-AAHHHH!!!-tomy'd - For Mel Gibson's Sins -- A Wide Stanced Slashing --- Daisies Ways #3 - Scratch n' Snuffed -- The Victim of a Viscous Hit & Run-- Curled -- Kabobbed -- Daisies Ways #2 - Aggravated Cementia -- Boo! Nun! -- 2009's Ways Not To Die -- Bug Scratch Fever -- Daisies Ways #1 - Deep Fat Fried in My Own Unique Blend of 500 Herbs & Spices -- By the Yard End of the Stick -- Screwed From A Very Great Distance-- A Righteous Bear-Jew Beatdown -- Fisted By Hugo Sitglitz -- Xeno Morphed -- Fuck-Stuck -- A Vengeful Elevator God: Part 4 -- Lava Bombed -- The Cradle Will Rock... Your Face Off!!! -- The Food of the Nilbog Goblins -- The Slugs Is Gonna Gitcha -- Phone Shark -- Hide The Carrot -- Sarlacc Snacked -- Avada Kedavra!!! -- Hooked, Lined and Sinkered -- "The Libyans!" -- Axe Me No Questions -- Pin the Chainsaw on the Prostitute -- The Wrath of the Crystal Unicorn -- The Ultimate Extreme Make-Over -- Drown In A Sink Before The Opening Credits Even Roll -- The Dog Who Knew Too Much -- Don't Die Over Spilled Milk -- Inviting the Wrath of Aguirre -- An Inconceivable Outwitting -- The Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique -- Nipple Injected Blue Junk -- Your Pick Of The Deadly Six -- Thing Hungry --Don't Fuck With The Serial Killer's Daughter -- DO Forget To Add The Fabric Softener -- Any Of The Ways Depicted In This Masterpiece Of Lost Cinema -- Rode Down In The Friscalating Dusklight -- Good Morning, Sunshine! -- Mornin' Cuppa Drano -- The Cylon-Engineered Apocalypse -- Tender-Eye-zed -- Martian Atmospheric Asphyxiation -- Maimed By A Mystical Person-Cat -- The Sheets Are Not To Be Trusted -- Handicapable Face-Hacked -- I Did It For You, Faramir -- Summertime In The Park... Of A Pedophile's Mind -- A Vengeful Elevator God: Part 3 -- Strung Up With Festive Holiday Bulbs By Santa Claus Himself -- A Vengeful Elevator God: Part 2 -- A Vengeful Elevator God: Part 1 -- Decapitated Plucked Broiled & Sliced -- Head On A Stick! -- A Trip To The Ol' Wood-Chipper -- Pointed By The T-1000 --Sucking Face With Freddy Krueger -- A Pen-Full Of Home-Brewed Speed to The Eye --Motivational Speech, Interrupted -- A Freak Ephemera Storm -- When Ya Gotta Go... Ya Gotta Go -- Hoisted By Your Own Hand Grenade -- Having The Years Suction-Cupped Away --Criss-Cross -- Turned Into A Person-Cocoon By The Touch Of A Little Girl's Mirror Doppleganger -- Satisfying Society's "Pop Princess" Blood-Lust -- Done In By The Doggie Door-- Tuned Out -- Taking the 107th Step -- Rescuing Gretchen -- Incinerated By Lousy Dialogue-- Starred & Striped Forever -- Vivisection Via Vaginally-Minded Barbed-Wire -- Chompers (Down There) -- Run Down By M. Night Shyamalan -- Everything Up To And Including The Kitchen Toaster -- Sacrificed To Kali -- Via The Gargantuan Venom Of The Black Mamba Snake -- Turned Into An Evil Robot -- The Out-Of-Nowhere Careening Vehicle Splat -- "Oh My God... It's Dip!!!" -- Critter Balled -- Stuff'd -- A Hot-Air Balloon Ride... Straight To Hell!!!-- Puppy Betrayal -- High-Heeled By A Girlfriend Impersonator -- Flip-Top Beheaded --Because I'm Too Goddamned Beautiful To Live -- By Choosing... Poorly... -- Fried Alive Due To Baby Ingenuity -- A Good Old-Fashioned Tentacle Smothering -- Eepa! Eepa! -- Gremlins Ate My Stairlift -- An Icicle Thru The Eye -- Face Carved Off By Ghost Doctor After Lesbian Tryst With Zombie Women -- Electrocuted By Fallen Power-Lines -- A Mouthful Of Flare --Taken By The TV Lady -- Bitten By A Zombie -- Eaten By Your Mattress -- Stuffed To Splitting -- Face Stuck In Liquid Nitrogen -- Crushed By Crumbling Church Debris -- Bitten By The Jaws Of Life -- A Machete To The Crotch -- Showering With A Chain-Saw -- In A Room Filled With Razor Wire -- Pod People'd With Your Dog -- Force-Fed Art -- Skinned By A Witch -- Beaten With An Oar -- Curbed -- Cape Malfunction -- In The Corner -- Cooked In A Tanning Bed -- Diced -- Punched Through The Head -- Bugs Sucking On Your Head

5 comments:

Rob K. said...

Great essay JA and RIP Marilyn. Her role in TTCM is one of the great horror film performances of all time. She was unforgettable in it.

Stacie Ponder said...

"Do you know how hard it is to sell true fear like this?"

So, so true. Like comedy, it's much more difficult to portray than most folks think. No one's touched her performance in TCM as far as I'm concerned.

I'm wondering about the new 4k Blu-ray that's coming out...I generally only upgrade if there's a significant benefit. I've got the Special Edition that Dark Sky put out a few years ago and I'm wondering if this'll be worth it.

*checks link* never before seen outtakes? Ordered. The cover art is dreadful, though, hope it's not final.

JA said...

Rob - thanks!

Stacie - I was really skeptical about the restoration before I saw it; so much of TCM is that grittiness ya know? That feeling like there's filth smudged on the lens, the sweat and dust in the air. Anyway I needn't fear they did a beautiful job, keeping all of that whilst pumping up the colors in places -- this scene in the woods specifically is where I noticed it the most - you can actually see what's going on now; Leatherface's yellow apron roaring thru the blues of the sticks is gorgeous. And the shots of Sally's eyeball in close up will take your breath away. I can't speak for the extras on the disc but the restoration itself is pretty astonishing.

Rob91316 said...

R.I.P., Ms. Burns -- one of the greatest "scream queens" in the history of cinema.

Stacie Ponder said...

Okay, now you've got me really excited for it!