Horror Movie Trivia: The Trifecta

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I apologize for the lack of horror movie posts last week - I was on vacation. I'd like to tell you that I was visiting the Stanley Hotel or Sleepy Hollow or Gettysburg or some other haunted location, but I was actually at Disney World. I enjoyed lots of rides on the Haunted Mansion and the Tower of Terror, if that counts for anything. So, with the countdown to Halloween now in the single digits, let us continue with the horror movie trivia posts from the week before last.

The Shining

Classic Kubrick, classic Nicholson. Released in 1980, the Shining was one of the first films (and definitely the most famous of these early movies) to use the newly-invented Steadicam. It was a camera that was weighted, which allowed for smooth movement even in smaller spaces. Anyway... the trivia!

• Jack Nicholson's visitors on the London set of the Shining included Anjelica Huston, Mick Jagger, George Harrison, John Lennon and Bob Dylan.

• Other actors considered for the Jack Torrance part were Robert DeNiro, Robin Williams (can you imagine?) and Harrison Ford. Nicholson was always the first choice, though. DeNiro later said the movie gave him nightmares for a month. Stephen King didn't like any of those choices and tried to talk Stanley Kubrick into using Jon Voight or Jack Palance.

• Diana Vreeland is more or less the reason the movie was able to continue shooting. Jack's back was bugging him from a previous movie injury and he was popping all kinds of pills to try to alleviate the pain. Nothing worked and he was starting to get worried that his pain was going to have to halt production. The fashionista heard about this while at dinner and promptly left her meal and had Jack's driver take her to a pharmacy, where she purchased two back plasters. Then she went back to the eatery, commanded that Jack drop trou and applied the plaster right then and there. It worked, and the film was finished.

• Jack Nicholson claims he wrote the scene where Jack Torrance writes, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," over and over and over. "That's what I was like when I got my divorce," he said.

• It got baaaaad reviews: Variety said it was the "biggest box office disappointment since Exorcist II", the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner said it was "completely fake and banal" and the Wall Street Journal said it failed not only as a horror movie, but as any other genre as well.

• The famous "Heeeeeeeere's Johnny!" line was improvised.

• Although most exterior shots were done at the Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, Oregon, all of the interiors were a movie set. Kubrick refused to film in the States if he had to, since he was an ex-pat. At the time, the movie set was the largest ever built.

• Stephen King didn't care for much of the Kubrick version, which is why he made his own T.V. miniseries version in 1997. Among other things, he didn't agree with the casting of Shelley Duvall as Wendy Torrance. He pictured Wendy as a blonde, cheerleader type who had clearly never known any type of hardship - pretty much the opposite of Duvall. He cast Rebecca DeMornay in the 1997 version, which, you have to admit, fits King's original vision much better.

Rosemary's Baby

This was really Mia Farrow’s breakout role. Prior to this she acted on Peyton Place but was mostly just known as Frank Sinatra’s wife. The film rights to the book were purchased before the book was even released because producer William Castle convinced Paramount that the book was going to be a huge hit – and it was.

• The book the movie was based on was written by Ira Levin, who also wrote The Stepford Wives. Strangely, he also wrote a play about a hillbilly who joins the Air Force - the play that launched Andy Griffith's career.

• The book, which was published in 1967, had the birth of Rosemary’s baby occur in June, 1966 (6/66).

• That creepy lullaby (title: “Lullaby”) that accompanies the credits is actually sung by Mia Farrow. It hit 111 on the Billboard charts.

• The movie caused a bit of marital strife for Mia Farrow and Frank Sinatra, who was her husband at the time. Filming and post-production ran longer than expected, which made Sinatra angry because he wanted his wife to appear in one of his upcoming movies (The Detective). He actually called the production offices and demanded that the movie wrap by November 14, 1967, because Mia was scheduled to be on his set by Thanksgiving. It didn't happen, and he told her that her choice was to be done with the movie or be done with him. She stayed with the movie after Roman Polanski convinced her she was all but guaranteed to win an Oscar (she didn't). Sinatra then had her served with divorce papers on the set of the film.

• Jack Nicholson and Robert Redford were both considered for the role of Guy Woodhouse - Redford was actually the first choice.

• When Rosemary calls the actor who went blind, allowing her husband to land the role, the actor on the other end of the line is Tony Curtis. Mia Farrow recognized his voice but couldn't quite put her finger on how she knew it, so the confusion you hear in her voice in that scene is Mia trying to place his voice.

• Lots of rumors plague the movie - that Anton LaVey consulted on the movie, that he wore the devil costume in the scene where Rosemary is raped, that Alfred Hitchcock was scheduled to direct, and that Sharon Tate was one of the party-goers in the scene where Rosemary throws a party to see her friends. None of them are true.

• Polanski was incredibly true to the novel. Ira Levin wrote in the book that Rosemary had her hair cut at Vidal Sassoon, so Polanski actually made sure that Mia Farrow's iconic pixie cut was shorn by Sassoon himself.

• Also - apparently a remake is scheduled for 2010. I'm horrified.

• Ira Levin published Son of Rosemary in 1997. Rosemary wakes up in 1999 after the witch coven put a spell on her to keep her in a coma. However, the last witch has finally died, freeing her from the spell. Her son with the devil is named Andy and was raised by Minnie and Roman Castevet, and he is now the CEO of a huge charitable foundation. There’s a big twist at the end, but I won’t reveal it in case you want to read it. I find it to be a cop-out ending, but I’ll let you decide for yourself. If you want to know now, here you go. • And a non-movie-related fact: after the divorce, Mia Farrow traveled to India to study with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who the Beatles were also studying with at the time. She brought her sister Prudence, who inspired John Lennon to write "Dear Prudence" for the White Album.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

We’re breaking into a new horror genre here, but I think that’s OK - Nightmare is a classic in its own way. According to the book Nightmares in Red, White and Blue, the movie was inspired by some articles in the L.A. Times. Apparently there had been a rash of cases where people had nightmares so horrific that they didn’t want to do back to sleep in case they fell into the nightmare again. So they tried to stay awake for as long as possible, but when the urge to sleep finally came over them, they died in their sleep. You can see why Wes Craven was inspired – that’s some pretty creepy stuff.

• When you’re watching movies like these, check out the posters on the walls in bedrooms and similar scenes. Wes Craven and Sam Raimi have a running joke with the posters. Here’s the whole story – and hang on, the Nightmare reference is in here, but it’s going to take a minute to get to. First, in Wes Craven’s 1977 movie The Hills Have Eyes, a Jaws poster can be seen in the background. There was speculation that Wes Craven specifically put that poster there to say that his movie was much scarier than Jaws, which had come out two years before. So, in Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead, he placed a poster of The Hills Have Eyes to suggest that his film was even scarier than Hills. Not to be outdone, Wes Craven referenced The Evil Dead twice in Nightmare - there’s a poster on the wall, of course, but it’s also the movie that Nancy watches to keep from falling asleep. Evil Dead II features Freddy Krueger’s glove hanging above the door to the tool shed – which, according to the DVD, is the real glove from the movie. I’d be willing to bet that the subsequent Nightmares and Army of Darkness contain more Craven/Raimi references, but I think I’ll stop there – it will give you something to look for next time you catch them on T.V.

• Robert Englund, the actor who plays Freddy, could have been in Star Wars. He was best friends with Mark Hamill in the ‘70s. Englund went to the studio to read for the surfer part in Apocalypse Now and ended up going across the hall to read for Han Solo. Rumor has it that he was the one who told Hamill to read for Luke Skywalker, but Englund didn’t actually address that part of the story. The interview is here if you want to read the whole thing – it’s pretty interesting.

• Johnny Depp’s part came down to Johnny and two other actors. Johnny got the part because Wes Craven’s daughter thought he was the cutest. I must say, that girl has phenomenal taste!

• Disney was one of the first companies to express interest in the film, but asked Wes Craven to tone down some of the violence and gore. He didn’t think that was in the best interest of the movie, so he held out. New Line Cinema picked it up and it really launched their company – prior to Nightmare, it was just a film distribution company.

• Two reasons have been given for Freddy’s red and green sweater – Wes Craven once said that he read those that color combination was the hardest for the mind to process, so he used that combo to achieve an unsettling effect. He has also said that Freddy was partially inspired by an elderly guy who scared him as a child that was wearing a similar sweater.

• More than 500 gallons of fake blood were used to make the movie. Sometimes it was just water tinted red (it flowed better during the geyser scenes) and sometimes it was a mixture of corn syrup and powder and dye.

• The name is said to have come directly from Wes Craven’s childhood bully – Fred Krueger. I think I'll try to squeeze one more in before the big day. The last post will focus on three of these six movies: Evil Dead, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Child's Play, The Blair Witch Project, Friday the 13th and Psycho. Or maybe the Birds. Hmmmm. Tune in to find out!

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Steadicam Trivia:
A "steadicam" camera mount is much more than just a weighted camera for smooth shots in tight spaces.

It lets someone hold the camera. That is a big deal!

Prior to the Steadicam, holding a camera meant the footage would be shaky. Traditionally you needed a tripod or build an expensive dolly setup on location to keep shots smooth. With a Steadicam you can just hold the camera and run around on foot filming anything you wanted and the shots still looked fluid and smooth as though you had used a dolly track.

The movie "Rocky" is the first film to get the movie industry to notice the Steadicam. All those shots of Rocky jogging around Philly could not have been done on the production's limited budget without the Steadicam.

The Shinning had a big budget, but how could you shoot the little boy riding his Big Wheel around the Hotel without seeing the dolly tracks for the camera? But with a Steadicam, the shot was simple. All they had to do was walk behind the boy holding the camera.
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I loved Kubrick's version of The Shining, though Jack Torrance is much different than he was in the book. I read at TempleOfTheDemon.com that King also felt Martin Sheen or Michael Moriarty would have been better in the role. Also, I guess King felt Shelley Duvall did a terrible job as Wendy.
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Lizzy - my source for that particular piece of information is the book "Five Easy Decades: How Jack Nicholson Became the Biggest Movie Star in Modern Times" by Dennis McDougal... so if that is an incorrect fact, I place the blame squarely on Mr. McDougal :)
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Hate to nitpick, but there's no way John Lennon would have visited the London set of The Shining in 1980. The last time he was in England was 1971, when he left to move to the US. He never went back.
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Blairwitch Project would be a nice one, one of the highest grossing independent movies of all time (though far overrated in my opinion as a horror film).

I would like to know where the filmmakers truly got their idea for this movie from. Was it Cannibal Holocaust as I suspect (the old "film crew missing but their film was found" plotline). And what was up with all the shaky hand held camera work.
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