Halloween movies 

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein Bud and Lou as two delivery men with an oblong package for Frankenstein's castle. As burlesque and later radio comics, Abbott and Costello found their metier in bizarre patter routines; they never got the hang of the kiddie slapstick Universal assigned to them, and their physical comedy is low, heavy, and graceless. This 1948 effort is probably the last of their watchable films, though it's a long way from their best. Critics used to complain that their films weren't plotted; these days, they look like Dickens. With Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., and Glenn Strange. Charles Barton directed. 83 min. (DK) Screening as part of a double feature with Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (see separate listing). a Sun 10/28, 3:30 PM, Portage.

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy Bud Abbott, probably the sharpest straight man in movie history, was badly alcoholic and almost as pudgy as his partner by the time they made this rote horror comedy (1955), their last for Universal. Charles Lamont directed; with Marie Windsor. 79 min. (JJ) Screening as part of a double feature with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (see separate listing). a Sun 10/28, 2 PM, Portage.

RHalloween John Carpenter's 1978 tour de force, perhaps the most widely imitated film of the 70s. As a homicidal maniac stalks the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois, Carpenter displays an almost perfect understanding of the mechanics of classical suspense; his style draws equally (and intelligently) from both Howard Hawks and Alfred Hitchcock. Though the film seems conscious of no significance beyond its own stylistic dexterity, its buried themes of sexual transgression and punishment appear to have touched something deep in the soul of the American teenager. The film, in its duplicitous way, makes a powerful plea for the comfort and security of puritanism. With Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, and P.J. Soles. 93 min. (DK) a Wed 10/31, 8 PM, Portage.

Halloween 4 and 5 Subtitled, respectively, The Return of Michael Myers (1988, R, 88 min.) and The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989, R, 96 min.), these two sequels in the endless series brought back the masked killer after he was retired for Halloween III. Also screening are two short documentaries, Halloween: Faces of Fear and Meet the Michaels. a Tue 10/30, 7:30 PM, Lincolnshire 20, River East 21, and South Barrington 30.

The Haunting Robert Wise's 1963 black-and-white 'Scope translation of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House was pretty effective when it came out; it may be a little stiff in the joints by now, but it's still a much better scare show than the stinker remake, and clearly aided by Wise's skill as an editor. With Richard Johnson, Claire Bloom, Russ Tamblyn, and Julie Harris. 112 min. (JR) DVD projection. a Wed 10/31, 7 PM, Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington, Evanston, 847-866-0300. F

Horror of Dracula Having hit the jackpot with The Curse of Frankenstein, Britain's Hammer Films updated another monster classic with this 1958 Dracula remake, which distinguished itself from earlier efforts with its dripping blood, bared fangs, women's cleavage, and compulsive gong banging on the soundtrack. This Grand Guignol treatment bowled people over in the 50s, and it still yields some potent shocks--the sudden cut to a rabid Christopher Lee in tight close-up during Dracula's first attack is particularly hair-raising. Peter Cushing carries most of the ho-hum script as Dr. Van Helsing, though the well-lit color photography, central to the Hammer formula, can't compare with the shadowy magnificence of Nosferatu (1922) or Dracula (1931). Terence Fisher directed. 82 min. (JJ) Also on the program: a cartoon version of The Tell Tale Heart narrated by James Mason and Spooks (1953), a Three Stooges short directed by Jules White. a Sat 10/27, 8 PM, LaSalle Bank Cinema.

Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter God's only begotten son teams up with a Mexican wrestler to save the lesbians of Ottawa from marauding vampires. Lee Gordon Demarbre directed this 2001 feature. 85 min. Screening as part of Doc Films' free Halloween screening and costume contest. a Wed 10/31, 11:59 PM, Univ. of Chicago Doc Films.

Films by David "The Rock" Nelson Two backyard horror flicks by the Chicago independent filmmaker: Devil Ant and The Mummy 1993 A.D. a Tue 10/30, 8 PM, Portage.

A Night of the Macabre Presented by Chicago Cinema Forum, this program of short works includes Georges Melies' The Merry Frolics of Satan (1905), Buster Keaton's The Haunted House (1921), Walt Disney's The Skeleton Dance (1929), and David Lynch's The Alphabet (1968). a Tue 10/30, 8 PM, Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, 773-278-1500.

RA Nightmare on Elm Street Horror master Wes Craven first broke away from the pack with this nifty 1984 slasher about a quartet of high school kids menaced in their dreams by a barbecued bogeyman in a slouch hat and ratty pullover (Robert Englund). It spawned countless sequels and a TV series, though here the idea of sleep as the ultimate threat is still fresh and marvelously insidious, and Craven vitalizes the nightmare sequences with assorted surrealist novelties (carpeted stairs that behave like quicksand, a victim sucked into a sinkhole in his mattress). With Heather Langenkamp, Ronee Blakley, Amanda Wyss, and Johnny Depp in his screen debut. 92 min. (JJ) a Sat 10/27, 8 PM, Portage.

RNosferatu A masterpiece of the German silent cinema and easily the most effective version of Dracula on record. F.W. Murnau's 1922 film follows the Stoker novel fairly closely, although he neglected to purchase the screen rights--hence, the title change. But the key elements are all Murnau's own: the eerie intrusions of expressionist style on natural settings, the strong sexual subtext, and the daring use of fast-motion and negative photography. 84 min. (DK) Mark Noller will provide live organ accompaniment. a Sat-Sun 10/27-10/28, 11:30 AM, Music Box.

RPhantom of the Opera Critics rank this 1925 feature well below Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, but Lon Chaney's performance as the hideous organist prowling the sewers beneath the Paris Opera is still a cornerstone of gothic horror. Chaney based his death's-head make-up on a description from the Gaston Leroux source novel, though as film historian David J. Skal has observed, viewers at the time would have been more immediately reminded of the disfigured men who came home from World War I. Aside from the famous unmasking scene, the movie's most striking moment is the two-strip Technicolor sequence in which the Phantom, clad in the scarlet robes of Poe's Red Death, terrorizes a masked ball; the image seals Chaney's reputation as the grim reaper of the Jazz Age. 79 min. (JJ) With live organ accompaniment by Jeff Weiler at the Music Institute of Chicago and by Jay Warren at the Portage. a Fri 10/26, 8 PM, Music Institute of Chicago, 1490 Chicago, Evanston, 847-905-1500, ext. 108; also Mon 10/29, 8 PM, Portage.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show This 1975 film version of the bisexual-chic rock musical tries its damnedest to be outrageous but finally has a hard time justifying its R rating. The picture might have made a pretty good college show--with Dr. Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry) sewing up a homemade stud to the accompaniment of a sexually ambiguous kick line (the chorines all look strangely like Lina Wertmuller). But the wit is too weak to sustain a film, and the songs all sound the same. 95 min. (DK) Presented at Music Box with live camping by Midnight Madness. a Fri-Sat 10/26-10/27, midnight, Hollywood Boulevard and Music Box.

The Wolf Man A stodgy Universal thriller from 1941, redeemed by a name-heavy cast (Claude Rains, Warren William, Ralph Bellamy, Patric Knowles, Bela Lugosi, and the imponderable Maria Ouspenskaya) and by Lon Chaney Jr.'s lumbering, affable performance in the title role. George Waggoner directed; the fogbound photography is by Hitchcock's frequent collaborator Joseph Valentine. 70 min. (DK) Svengoolie will attend the screening. a Fri 10/26, 8 PM, Portage.

RYoung Frankenstein More about the myth of Karloff than the monster, this Mel Brooks pastiche (1974) is probably his best early film: within limits, it has unity, pace, and even a dramatic interest of sorts. Its satisfying look, which Brooks has yet to equal, is probably due to Dale Hennesy's production design and Gerald Hirschfeld's polished black-and-white cinematography. With Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Peter Boyle, Cloris Leachman, and Kenneth Mars. PG, 104 min. (DD) Screening by DVD projection as part of the Beverly Arts Center's "Halloween Bash," which includes a costume contest and live music. a Wed 10/31, 7:30 PM, Beverly Arts Center.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Horror of Dracula.

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