Christopher Lee Warns Against the Occult

The great actor debunks the rumor that he is an occultist with a collection of 20,000 books on the subject, then delivers a warning about messing with such things at all: “You’ll not only lose your mind. You’ll lose your soul.”

I spent the weekend re-watching many of his Hammer movies. The man is a titanic presence on screen.


Lost Sherlock Holmes Film Discovered


William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes

A long lost silent film starring William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes has been discovered and will premier at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. The find, made a few weeks ago at the Cinémathèque Française, is one of the most important discoveries in both Holmesiana and silent film that I can recall.

The film marks the only recorded appearance of the legendary William Gillette performance as Holmes. Gillette introduced the bent-stem pipe to Holmes lore, and more fully evoked the original Sidney Paget illustrations by wearing a deerstalker cap and using a large magnifying glass and violin as props. All subsequent stage and film depictions of Holmes can trace some element back to Gillette.

Conan Doyle had tired of Holmes and killed the character off in 1893, only to find himself short of cash. He made a deal with Gillette to bring the character to the stage. Gillette studied the stories and wrote a play that became  huge hit, further cementing the success of Holmes.

Until now, no filmed version of his performance has ever been seen. This version was made for Essanay Studios in 1916.

Note: The light blogging for the past week has been due to a family health crisis that is now, thank God, finally passing.


‘Desire of the Everlasting Hills’: A Powerful Witness to Catholic Teachings on Same-Sex Attraction

Last Saturday, I spent the evening at Villanova speaking with three impressive and eloquent people. Paul, Dan, and Rilene all have same-sex attraction, and all have embraced the Church’s teaching on chastity.

Their stories are told in Desire of the Everlasting Hills, a new documentary from Courage International. The approach is powerful and effective because it completely avoids buzzwords and polemic. It tells three very human, very moving stories.

My article on the film is up now at the National Catholic Register. Here’s an excerpt.

Their stories are unique, as befits detailed portraits of individuals, but the broader contours of their lives will be familiar to many with same-sex attraction. There is a movement into a lifestyle that is embraced with various degrees of acceptance and gusto, a life as a person attracted to persons of the same sex and then an interruption: an epiphany. Something radical and unexpected breaks through.

The most striking story is Paul’s. While driving to get his HIV test results, his sense of impending doom is interrupted by a feeling of peace and comfort and a voice: “Paul, you do not have AIDS because you have too much to do to make up for the way you’ve been living.” He was, indeed, HIV-negative, which was something he never expected, given his number of partners.

These moments are what drove the three to go public with their stories. Paul calls the documentary “a prayer answered. I felt that I came back to the truth very late in life, so, suddenly, I felt that need to use any time I have to express my love to God and my appreciativeness for all he’s done and that he never forgot me during all the decades I forgot him and turned against him. I prayed: Jesus, please give me a few years of strength and energy. It’s not because I don’t feel he has given total forgiveness and mercy, but so I can make up for the lost years when I couldn’t tell him how much I loved him.”

Read the whole thing.

Due to length, I cut some of my interview material that seems worth printing here.

Paul, from “Desire of the Everlasting Hills”

Paul was a member of Dignity (a dissident pro-homosexual “Catholic” group) before he found Courage, and I asked him to compare the two approaches to same-sex attraction. He faults Dignity’s “feel good” approach of affirming that what he was doing was good. “It’s very feel good and everybody loves you and God loves you no matter what you do. It was an affirmation that what I was doing was okay. It made me feel good because I thought I could have it all and be the person I wanted to be, and these people are thinking God is liking the way I am.

“There was never discussion in Dignity about consequences. We were never striving for anything. There was no goal. It was buttressing out entire being in what we are doing. The Catholic Church is more welcoming because it really cares so much that we find God in our hearts and once we do that we do that we follow that relationship. I didn’t feel like anyone [in Dignity] cared about me.”

Watch Joss Whedon’s New Movie On Vimeo

In Your Eyes is a supernatural love story written and produced by Joss Whedon, and directed by first-timer Brin Hill.

Whedon, ever-willing to experiment with new media and film-making techniques (as he did with Much Ado About Nothing and Dr. Horrible), is making the whole feature available now as a $5 72-hour rental on Vimeo.

This is how more and more artists are going to deliver their creations directly to the people. Joss Whedon can reach a bigger audience than most because, well … he’s Joss Whedon. But smaller indies will also be able to get hyper-low-budget films out there through non-conventional means.

The story is about two people who develop a psychic link as a children. You can watch the first three minutes online, and here’s the trailer.

Do You Like Classic Movie Posters?

Who doesn’t?

And do you like Catholic patristics and apologetics? Now you can combine those loves by checking out author Rod Bennett‘s new project: 10,000 movie posters.

Rod has spent years compiling and digitally restoring images of thousands of vintage posters, and now he’s offering his work on 10 DVDs, with 1000 posters each, for $12 a pop. Here’s the official line:

The ultimate warm-up for your next home theatre movie night! Over seven years to collect—thousands of man-hours spent on Photoshop restoration. Incredible conversation starter for movie buffs.

Imagine having 1000 of Hollywood’s greatest poster images to display on your screen at home. Well, these discs put the images you see here daily at your disposal—huge jpeg images (averaging 3MB or more) that will display at near-fullsize if your screen is big enough. (The discs will play on most DVD and Blu-Ray players, and all home computers).

Many of the paper originals on these titles have sold for $50,000 or more. These digital versions give you the same awesome graphics, cleaned up and color-corrected to look just as they did when displayed outside the movie palaces of their day. Chipping, discoloration, watermarks, even fold lines—all have been digitally removed via the magic of Photoshop, leaving them looking brand new—better in some cases!

Each 1000-poster disc includes a full range of classic films from the 1890s to today, carefully chosen to give a “great moments at the movies” feeling that will put you and your guests in the mood for a movie like nothing you’ve seen!

Only the films that “resonate”—fan favorites, cult classics, Academy award winners. No “filler” posters. No junk posters just to fill out the thousand. These are the best titles from every genre. Many, many hours have been spent by me selecting only the cream of the crop.

Any lesser titles on the disc are there solely because the poster art is unusually good—more fun than the film itself.

Among the genres featured:
B Westerns, silent comedy, recent blockbusters, kung fu, Blaxploitation, Universal monsters, film noir, AFI Top 100, musicals, animated features, serials, Disney, Pixar, Lucas/Spielberg, Harryhausen, Hitchcock, superheroes, travelogues, newsreels, classic art house, 80s slasher, spaghetti westerns, sword & sandal, samurai, screwball comedy, 40s weepies, 50s Sci-Fi, Japanese monsters, short subjects, spook show, IMAX, Hammer horror, Elvis Presley, pre-code, two-reel comedies, all-colored cast, cartoon shorts, and more.

Join his Facebook page to get new previews every day. They make great shares for movie buffs.


8 Happy Things From My Week

Summer is already shaping up to be a lot looser here on GATM. Traffic is always a little lower in summer, and the content tends to be slightly less serious in general. We’ve also been going through quite a lot here, and the heavy thoughts are not coming with great ease, so here are a few things I’ve encountered this week that made me happy.

 1. Joseph Ratzinger

I’m spending a semester immersed in the writings of Benedict/Ratzinger for a graduate class, and  my family got me Christ Our Joy: The Theological Vision of Pope Benedict XVI for Father’s Day. It focuses on the theme of joy in the pope’s writings, and how Christianity is an outpouring of and invitation to a life of pure joy. I’m enjoying it so far.

 2. The Lego Movie

Lego is the Greatest Toy Ever. Lego games are full of sly wit and brilliant use of pantomime. Even Lego TV shows are pretty decent. About the only bad thing I can say about Lego is the magnetic quality they have for the soft flesh of the bottom of the foot.

And this just looks grand:

3. Universal Monsters

I’m a 1970s Monster Kid, raised on Universal Monsters, AIP, Hammer, Toho, Harryhausen, Corman, Kong, Aurora Models, and Famous Monsters of Filmland. The original Universal films remain one of my true cinematic loves, and even though I insisted I would not upgrade my whole DVD collection to Blu-Ray, I am picking up some select reissues. The latest are the restored titles in the Universal Classic Monsters Essential Collection. For the first time, the major linchpins of the Universal stable–Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolfman, Phantom of the Opera, Creature From the Black Lagoon, and the Invisible Man–have been treated to superb digital restorations and cleanups. They have never looked this good, and some, such as Dracula, are an astonishing improvement. Beautiful work on important films, with features carried forward from the old DVD sets and a couple new features as well.

4. Critters

Bertie hanging out in my son’s chess trophy.

Carrie, getting closer to laying

Bell, helping with the gardening

 5. Eggs

My new batch started laying early. Happy happy joy joy.

6. Ridiculous Fishing: A Tale of Redemption


Drop your toaster-, hairdryer-, and chainsaw-equipped lure into the water; let it drop as deep as possible; catch as many fish as you can on the way up; and then blast them with your orbital laser. Oh yeah. (For iPhone and iPad.)

7. Popeye Volume 5: Wha’s a Jeep?

We now have all but one of Fantagraphics’ beautiful books reproducing EC Segar’s complete run of Popeye. My daughter devours these as soon as they show up. I love ’em too. In many ways, they’re as good as the Carl Barks and Dona Rosa runs on Uncle Scrooge.

8. This 

And, er … This…

Have a good weekend, folks. May it be filled with popes, Daleks, exploding fish, and 1970s-era kids with mysteriously inappropriate TV show merchandise.

A Legend Has Died

Ray Harryhausen was one of the heroes of my youth. His visions of monsters and mythological creatures brought my dreams to life, and there are sequences from Jason and the Argonauts and the Sinbad films that are as vivid in my mind’s eye as memories from life. Computers may make things look better and more realistic, but they’ll never capture the life–the real heartbeat–you see in the handmade work of Harryhausen.

Today, at the age of 92, Harryhausen finally joined his friends Ray Bradbury and Willis O’Brien in that great movie studio in the sky:

Ray Harryhausen, who brought sword-fighting skeletons to the 1963 movie Jason and the Argonauts and was known as the master of stop-motion animation for his work on that and other films such as Clash of the Titans and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, has died.

The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation says on its Facebook page that he passed away Tuesday in London. Harryhausen, who was a producer and director as well as a model animator, was 92.

In 2004, Harryhausen told NPR that it was seeing King Kong in 1933 that led him to a life in the movies. “I couldn’t figure out how it was done,” he said of the stop-animation in that film, and he set out to learn.

Here’s a quick trip through the work of one of the great visual artists of the 2oth century. (Turn the sound off: it’s awful.)

Ray and Ray, together again:

A Short Christian Film From a Master Animation Director

Frank Tashlin tends to be largely overlooked in the history of both animation and live action film, but Looney Tunes buffs will recognize his name from some of the classics of the Golden Age. His animation style is almost always easy to spot. No one in the Warner Brothers stable was quite like Tash: angular figures, hyper-fast editing, exaggerated motion, and strange angles. Along with Tex Avery, he was the major influence on the Warner Bros. style.

He left animation and made a successful transition to film, working with Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, and Doris Day. His live action work wasn’t well-regarded at the time, but films like The Glass Bottom Boat hold up much better–and appear more innovative–than a lot of mainstream fair of the same period.  Tashlin has been getting more respect lately thanks to the Looney Tunes DVDs and boosters like Leonard Maltin, John Waters, and Joe Dante.

I was happy to see this appreciation of Tash at Cartoon Brew on the centenary of his birth, and surprised to learn that his peripatetic nature brought him even further afield from his roots. In 1947, with the backing of the Lutheran Church, he made a short film called “The Way of Peace,” about human violence and rejection of God, the coming of Christ, and the dangers of the nuclear age in a world without God.

The strangest thing is that it’s stop-motion, with a bit of straight puppetry and stock footage mixed in. There’s some first class talent involved, including narration by Lew Ayers, George Pal’s Oscar-winning special effects man Gene Warren, and Wah Chang, a modeler best known for his work on Star Trek. (He designed the communicator, the Salt Vampire, the Bird of Prey,and other iconic props and creatures. Yes, even the Tribbles.)

Here is the entire film. The print quality is a bit dodgy, but it’s worth your 18 minutes:

A Note From Your Proprietor: I’m sick and on deadline this week, so updates will be sporadic.