Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing in THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960)

Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing in THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960)


 As a lifelong Peter Cushing fan, I enjoy revisiting his signature moments. 

From his memorable action sequences— he’s always leaping over something, or wrestling with some monster, or being strangled by Christopher Lee— to his superbly acted scenes, to his incredibly clever lines of dialogue.

 THE QUOTABLE CUSHING deals with the latter, the dialogue.  Granted, these lines were written by writers, but it was Cushing who delivered them, who brought these lines to life, and it’s Cushing who will be forever identified with them, in effect making them immortal.

 Last time, we looked at memorable Peter Cushing lines from his first performance as Baron Victor Frankenstein, in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957).

 Today, we look at notable dialogue from his other signature role, the iconic vampire hunter, Dr. Van Helsing. 

The second time he played Van Helsing was in the Hammer Film THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960) considered by many to be the best looking and most atmospheric Hammer Film ever.  It’s a great movie, the only drawback being that Christopher Lee declined to return as Dracula, out of fear of being typecast (of course, he’d change his mind a few years later) and so this one’s about Van Helsing battling one of Dracula’s disciples, Baron Meinster (David Peel).  Peel is decent as the main vampire here, but he’s no Christopher Lee.

 Anyway, as always Peter Cushing enjoys some memorable lines of dialogue as Van Helsing in THE BRIDES OF DRACULA, screenplay by Jimmy Sangster, Peter Bryan, and Edward Percy.

When Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) confronts the Baroness Meinster (Martita Hunt), the mother of Baron Meinster, who has been turned into a vampire by her own son— interestingly enough, BRIDES was released in 1960, the same year as the most famous son/mother horror story, PSYCHO (1960)— she asks him:

 BARONESS:  Who is it who is not afraid?

 VAN HELSING:  Only God has no fear.

 BARONESS:  You know who I am?

 VAN HELSING:  I know who you were.



At one point, Van Helsing attends a funeral of a young woman killed by Baron Meinster.  It’s an open casket, and so he examines the body and notices wild garlic flowers placed around the body. 

 VAN HELSING:  Wild garlic?

 INN KEEPER:  It’s supposed to be a protection against evil, vampires and such.  You must humor these local superstitions.

 VAN HELSING:  There’s usually a good reason for all these old customs.  (As he shows the Inn Keeper two bite wounds on the woman’s neck.)


With the local priest, he tells the religious that he’s going to dig up the woman’s grave in order to prevent her from becoming a vampire.  The priest is horrified.

 PRIEST:  Isn’t that sacrilege?

 VAN HELSING:  No, Father.  It’s as I told you.  An act of healing.


But one of my favorite lines from the movie comes not from Van Helsing, but from the eccentric local doctor, Doctor Tobler, played by character actor Miles Malleson, who enjoyed some memorable appearances in several of the early Hammer Films.

 Van Helsing and Tobler are examining the body of a woman killed by Baron Meinster, a teacher at the all girl’s school in the village.  Van Helsing doesn’t want to alarm the school administrators, and so he tells Dr. Tobler not to say anything to them about vampires.

 VAN HELSING:  Will you leave everything to me?

 DR. TOBLER:  Oh, I’ll leave everything to you.  Except the fee, of course!


 Thanks for joining me on THE QUOTABLE CUSHING.  I hope you enjoyed these Peter Cushing lines from THE BRIDES OF DRACULA

 See you again next time.


FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR now available!


For The Love Of Horror cover

I’m happy to report that my short story collection, FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, is now available as an EBook from NECON EBooks at

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR contains 15 short stories, 7 reprints and 8 original stories, plus a wraparound story that ties everything together.  I wrote this with the old Amicus anthology horror movies in mind, films like DR. TERRORS HOUSE OF HORRORS (1965) and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1971).

It’s a love story, but it’s actually more of an anti-love story.  The folks in these stories make more mistakes and handle relationships in such appalling ways— well, let’s put it this way, if you do the opposite of what most of the characters do in these stories, you’ll be in good shape.  Then again, you can do everything right, and your relationship can still go down the toilet.  It’s the nature of the relationship beast, and it’s one of the themes of this book.  Men and women want to be involved with each other. Men and women need to be involved with each other.  But more often than not, it’s not a pretty process.  And sometimes it’s downright sinister.

As a sneak preview, here’s a look at the book’s table of contents: 

The Stories

 LITTLE BOYS WITH FROGS © 2012 Michael J. Arruda


 BLACK HEART OF THE WOLF © 2012 Michael J. Arruda

 THE HORROR CURSE © 2002 Michael J. Arruda (originally published in THE STEEL CAVES)

 GOOD TO THE LAST DROP © 2002 Michael J. Arruda (originally published in E-THOUGHT)

KISSES ©      2012 Michael J. Arruda

 THE PAINTING © 2000 Michael J. Arruda (First prize winner in the Horror Fiction category of THE SALIVAN SHORT STORY CONTEST and originally published on THE SALIVAN WEB SITE in 2000).

 FRIENDS FOREVER © 2001 Michael J. Arruda (originally published in MORBID MUSINGS.)

 ON THE ROCKS © 2012 Michael J. Arruda

 RECONCILIATION      © 1998 Michael J. Arruda (originally published in the anthology THE DARKEST THIRST.)

CURSE OF THE KRAGONAKS © 2012 Michael J. Arruda

 THE MONSTER WHO LOVED WOMEN © 2012 Michael J. Arruda

 THE HOUSE OF MR. MORBIDIKUS © 2001 Michael J. Arruda (originally published in the anthology THE DEAD INN.)

 HE CAME UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR © 2001 Michael J. Arruda (originally published in THE ETERNAL NIGHT CHRONICLE.)

 FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR © 2012 Michael J. Arruda

Well, that’s it for now.  Again, FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR is available from NECON EBooks at  Hope you enjoy it!

Thanks for checking it out!


Remembering RICK HAUTALA

Rick Hautala

Rick Hautala

I’d be remiss if I didn’t write something today in remembrance of Rick Hautala, who passed away unexpectedly this past Thursday, March 21, 2013.

Rick and I were never close friends, but he was a good friend, which says an awful lot about the type of man Rick was.  I met him at NECON, back in 2001, and immediately, here was this best-selling author talking to me, this horror fiction newbie, like we’d known each other for years.  Sure, part of that is NECON, and for everyone who’s gone to NECON knows what I mean, how friendly and accessible everyone is, but most of it was Rick.

Later that year, when Dan Keohane and I started up the New England Chapter of the Horror Writers Association, Rick was one of the first big name New England authors to climb on board, offering his support and advice, and he was a fixture at many of our New England Chapter events, dinner get-togethers and group book signings.  It was always a pleasure to see Rick and Holly walk through the door.

Through the years, seeing him at NECON was for me like getting a chance to hang out with a favorite uncle. I loved listening to his stories, and a highlight for me was always the opportunity to sit in on whatever panel Rick was on.  Inevitably, in a weekend where I’d come away with valuable information (not to mention the occasional “valuable prize” or two) about the genre and the craft, it was always Rick, it seemed, who’d say that one thing that I’d remember most.  Whatever topic he spoke on, he always seemed to nail it, and I’d be sitting there thinking, “That’s it. That’s what it’s all about.”

 I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating:  of all the authors I’ve met and had the pleasure of talking to and listening to, Rick Hautala was the wisest one of all.  I never left a meeting with Rick where I didn’t learn something new.

 And his sense of humor was out of this world.  So many times on those NECON panels, or often when he was just sitting in the audience, he’d say something that would bring the house down with laughter.

He was so generous with advice, it breaks my heart that he’s not going to be there offering it anymore. And as I said at the outset, Rick and I were not close friends.  We didn’t get together for a beer or dinner once a month.  I usually just saw him once a year at NECON.  And yet there he was without missing a beat as if we’d just seen each other the week before. 

 He was a good friend.

 Early on, he was always encouraging me, offering writing advice and support.  He also offered to read excerpts from my novels, and he gave me valuable feedback.  When my IN THE SPOOKLIGHT movie review collection came out earlier this year from NECON EBooks, he generously wrote a blurb for it. 

In the mid-2000s, we were actually in touch less, as my fiction output took a hit due to personal reasons (i.e., divorce and its aftermath) and so I attended fewer events and wrote less, but it was Rick again at NECON who was there offering advice about life after divorce, and he spoke from experience. 

We weren’t close friends, but he was a good friend.

I’m going to miss him.

I wish you well on your journey, Rick.  I will miss your words of wisdom and advice, your smile, and your humor.

 I can only hope that someday somewhere I’ll hear your voice again.


SPRING TIME FOR HORROR MOVIES – Memorable Horror Movies since 2008

CLOVERFIELD (2008) poster - Something has found us, all right.  My pick for the best horror movie of the 2000s.

CLOVERFIELD (2008) poster – Something has found us, all right. My pick for the best horror movie of the 2000s.

In spite of what the foot of snow on the ground in my yard is telling me, it’s spring.  

It’s spring time for horror movies, too.  Sure, there have been a lot of awful horror movies the past few years, but there have been some good ones too.  I think when we look back at the early 21st century, we’ll find that mainstream horror movies enjoyed a decent run.

 Here’s my list of some of the better horror movies that have come out in major theatrical releases the past six years in no particular order:













































DARK MOON DIGEST ISSUE #10 is full of weird cool stories



What I’m Reading – Dark Moon Digest Issue #10


First off, this is a tricky review since my story “Death Takes the Phantom” appears in Dark Moon Digest Issue #10.  Nonetheless, I recently finished reading the entire issue and would like to comment on it.  I simply won’t critique my own story.

 That being said, there’s a lot of cool fiction within the pages of Dark Moon Digest Issue #10

 Leading off the issue is my pick for the best title in the book, “Death Is An Asshole” by Christopher Hivner.  “Death Is An Asshole” is a somewhat humorous tale of a good Samaritan helping out Death who it seems has gotten himself lost while searching for an address.  You can tell by the title that Death isn’t overly appreciative for the help.  This story also features a conversation regarding one of my favorite songs, “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult.  It’s a cool story.

 Next up it’s “Tangled, Blue” by S.L. Schmitz, a chilling story, especially for those of us who don’t like spiders. “Simon Dunn:  Former Zombie” by Steven Jenkins is an amusing zombie tale that examines the difficulties a former zombie has trying to find a job. It includes some hilarious lines like “Dad.  I miss him.  I really wish I hadn’t eaten him.”

 “Fin” by Rose Blackthorn is a paranormal fish tale where certain unsavory fishermen get their comeuppance by a supernatural entity.  While I enjoyed this story, I saw the twist coming ahead of time.  Then there’s “Norman Rockwell is Dead” by Alan Zielinski, a story of the perfect family life in the perfect neighborhood gone wrong.

 In “Be Careful What You Wish For” by Suzie Lockhart, an unhappy wife unexpectedly gets her wish regarding her lazy husband. 

 One of my favorite stories was “The Itch” by Jessica Rushing because it was so maddening.  It’s the story of a young woman suffering from an uncontrollable itch, and so she scratches, scratches, scratches—.  Not a happy ending.  And did I mention that the itch in this one is actually a living entity?  A neat story.

 “Dr. Fulsom’s Experiment” by P.G. Harvey was another of my favorite stories in this issue.  A young man seeks help from a doctor because his soul has fallen out of his body.  It’s a very creative mix of science fiction, horror, and fantasy.  “Florida At Night” by KC Redding is a bizarre yet potent tale of an underwater threat that is as poetic as it is deadly.

 My contribution to the digest, “Death Takes The Phantom” is next, and it’s a tale of a back room deal between two beings over the fates of Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Sr.  I’ll just add an anecdote, that I wrote this story long hand while monitoring a very long and silent study hall at school.

 Next up it’s “Big Bad” by Jack Maddox, a variation of the Red Riding Hood story.  The only thing I didn’t like about this one was the wolf character’s name, Jacob, as it reminded me of that shirtless werewolf Jacob in the TWILIGHT series.

 “The Letter” by Andy Rigley is a bizarre tale of a lost man stumbling into a weird world involving creepy children.  It’s followed by “Rapture” by Chris Castle, a neat little tale about an ongoing human sacrifice, and “Crocodile Rot” by Lydia Peever, a lurid tale about the unsavory business of shooting up with drugs.

 “Ash” by Richard Allden is one weird tale I’m not sure I understood.

 The issue concludes with “Ripe” by Alice Edward, a mesmerizing story about a family’s battle over generations with a tenacious blackberry bramble, of all things.  It provides a strong finish to the book.

 If you like weird and lurid stories, you’ll enjoy Dark Moon Digest Issue #10.







The Invisible Man's grand entrance

The Invisible Man’s grand entrance

Here’s my review of the Claude Rains classic THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933), another sample from IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, my collection of horror movie columns now available as an EBook from NECON EBooks at

This review was originally published in the HWA NEWSLETTER in April 2002.





“I meddled in things man must leave alone.”

            One of the most famous lines in classic horror cinema.  Who said it?  No, it wasn’t Colin Clive.  [He got to shriek the most famous of all- “It’s alive!” in FRANKENSTEIN (1931)].

            It was Claude Rains in THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933).

            THE INVISIBLE MAN is not always mentioned in the same breath with FRANKENSTEIN, DRACULA (1931), or THE WOLF MAN (1941).  Nonetheless, it’s a topnotch horror film that entertains from beginning to end.

            Directed with flair by James Whale, the man who brought us FRANKENSTEIN and its superior sequel THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), THE INVISIBLE MAN is full of the stuff that makes old black and white horror movies so magical.  Take the Invisible Man’s first entrance, for example.  The tavern door swings open, and through the entrance steps a mysterious man in a trench coat, his head and face completely bandaged.  All noise within the tavern ceases.  The only remaining sound is the howl of the swirling blizzard winds outside.

            The screenplay, by R.C. Sheriff, is a nice adaptation of the H.G. Wells novella.  It tells the story of Dr. Jack Griffin (Claude Rains), a scientist who becomes invisible when he uses his invisibility formula on himself.  Unfortunately, the concoction also drives him mad, and he causes a reign of terror over the countryside.

            Claude Rains, in his starring debut, excels as Dr. Griffin, a.k.a. the Invisible Man.  Enough cannot be said about an actor who steals a movie just by using his voice!  Rains’ voice dominates the film, capturing Griffin’s madness perfectly.

            And Rains is supported by a fine cast.  Gloria Stuart, nominated for an Oscar in 1998 for her supporting role in TITANIC (1998), plays the leading lady who’s in love with Griffin.  Her father is played by Henry Travers, most famous today for his portrayal of the angel in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946).  Also on hand are Una O’Connor at her shrieking best, and E.E. Clive as the befuddled police constable.  Even Universal favorite Dwight Frye makes an appearance, as does John Carradine in a quick snippet on the telephone!

            The special effects by John P. Fulton are amazing.  They’re incredibly fun to watch.

            THE INVISIBLE MAN is full of humorous moments.  My favorite is the scene where the screeching old lady runs down the street.  As she disappears off camera, we see the reason she is screaming.  Along the road comes skipping a pair of pants, and we hear Claude Rains’ voice singing, “Here we go gathering nuts in May, nuts in May, nuts in May—.”

            And director Whale doesn’t skimp on the horror either.  THE INVISIBLE MAN contains one of the scariest murder scenes in all classic horror.  Griffin captures the cowardly Dr. Kemp and binds him in his car at the edge of a cliff.  He then tells Kemp in gruesome detail what’s going to happen to him when he pushes the car over the edge.  As the vehicle plunges from the cliff, we hear Kemp’s high-pitched shrieks just before the car hits bottom and explodes.  Chilling.

            Since it’s that time of year again, and we’re all thinking about the best horror works of the year, why not check out one of the best horror movies of all time?  THE INVISIBLE MAN.  A classic chiller that is high quality entertainment all the way.

            “This will give them a bit of a shock.  Something to write home about.  A nice bedtime story for the kids too if they want it!”  — Claude Rains as the Invisible Man.

(April 2002)



Peter Cushing as Baron Victor Frankenstein in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957)

Peter Cushing as Baron Victor Frankenstein in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957)


 As a lifelong Peter Cushing fan— I’ve been watching Peter Cushing movies since I was a wee little kid— I enjoy revisiting his signature moments.  There are so many.

 From his memorable action sequences— he’s always leaping over something, or wrestling with some monster, or being strangled by Christopher Lee— to his superbly acted scenes, to his incredibly clever lines of dialogue.

 THE QUOTABLE CUSHING will deal with the latter, the dialogue.  We’ll have some fun examining some of Peter Cushing’s more memorable movie quotes.  Granted, these lines were written by writers, but it was Cushing who delivered them, who brought these lines to life, and it’s Cushing who will be forever identified with them, in effect making them immortal.

There are so many key quotes I don’t know where to begin.  Most of my favorites come from his many performances as Baron Frankenstein.

 Today we’ll do what usually works best:  we’ll begin at the beginning.  Today we’ll look back at his first appearance as Baron Victor Frankenstein in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957).  Here are just a few of his memorable lines from THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, screenplay by Jimmy Sangster.

 A furious Paul (Robert Urquhart) confronts Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) after Victor has murdered Professor Bernstein and removed his brain to use inside his creature.

 PAUL:  I can’t prove you murdered him.  But I can stop you from using his brain.

 VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN:  Why?  He has no further use for it!

 This hilarious line was used again in the third film in the Hammer Frankenstein series, THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN (1964).

 Moments before he pushes Professor Bernstein to his death, Victor invites him to look carefully at a painting at the top of the stairs.

 VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN:   “If you step back a little, you’ll see it better.”


 When his maid Justine (Valerie Gaunt) tells Victor that she’s pregnant, and that he’s the father of her baby, and that since he promised to marry her, he has to make good on that promise, Victor coldly replies,

 VICTOR:  “Why choose me as the father?  Choose any man in the village.  Chances are it’ll be the right one.”


 And of course near the end of the film, when Paul confronts Victor about his complete failure to create a human being, as they watch Christopher Lee’s pathetic and hideous Creature respond to simple commands like a dog, Victor tells Paul unequivocally,

 VICTOR:   “This is your fault, Paul.  Do you understand?  Your fault!”

 Yup, there’s no denying that Victor Frankenstein is one obsessed cold-hearted bastard in this movie.  It’s a testament to Peter Cushing’s superb acting abilities that he was able to bring this character to life to the point where he’s not just a one-dimensional villain but a very likable anti-hero.

That’s it for now.  See you next time on THE QUOTABLE CUSHING.




Trust Your Eyes By Linwood Barclay – Fun thriller full of surprises



What I’m Reading – Trust Your Eyes By Linwood Barclay


 Trust Your Eyes (2012), a novel by best-selling author Linwood Barclay, is a thriller that asks the question: if you saw it with your own eyes, would you believe it?  It’s one of the recurring themes in this exciting novel that has enough twists and turns to satisfy even the most hardcore mystery enthusiasts. 

 Ray Kilbride is a successful illustrator who returns home upon his father’s death to settle the estate and take care of his schizophrenic brother Thomas, who had been living with his dad. Thomas is obsessed with maps and spends his days sitting in front of his computer watching a program called Whirl360, a program that gives him a bird’s eye view of every city in the world.  With his remarkable mind, Thomas spends his days memorizing every detail of every city, believing that he is working for the CIA and former President Bill Clinton.

 One day, while looking at Whirl360, Thomas witnesses what he believes is a murder in an apartment window.  He shows the image to his brother Ray who, knowing his brother’s condition, doesn’t really believe it is a murder but admits that it does look suspicious.  To humor his brother, Ray decides to take a day trip to New York to visit the apartment where the image was taken, hoping that perhaps he’ll find a logical answer to what his brother saw.  Ray makes the trip because Thomas hardly ever leaves the house.

 Ray is also distracted by something that has been bothering him since he arrived at his father’s house.  His dad died in a tractor accident, as he had been mowing the lawn on a steep embankment, and his rider mower had flipped over, crushing him.  Ray is disturbed because when he examined the tractor, he saw that it was in the off position and the blades had been raised, which indicated that his father had stopped the mower before he had been killed, perhaps to speak to someone.  Ray knows that his father could have stopped the mower for any number of reasons, not necessarily to speak with someone who ultimately may have pushed him to his death, but still, the idea troubles him.

 Ray returns from New York with little or no information about the apartment, which is now vacant.  However, before long, sinister forces target Ray and Thomas, forces that will do anything, including murder, to silence anyone who witnessed the scene in the apartment window.

 Trust Your Eyes is a real page turner, filled with captivating characters and innovative situations that continue to surprise throughout.  By far, my favorite part of the novel is that it takes several twists and turns that I didn’t see coming.  This is always fun. 

 On the other hand, some of the surprises weren’t as well concealed.  For example, in a key murder scene, the murderer observes a car on the street below with a funny apparatus on top, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that it’s a car equipped with a Whirl360 camera.  But there are enough slights of hand to overcome these moments, bombshells which Barclay has a knack for setting up.

 Ray Kilbride is a very likable main character, and his schizophrenic brother Thomas is a fascinating and accurate study of a man with special needs.  These two brothers drive the story along.

 The supporting characters are also excellent, especially the villains.  I’m happy to say that in this story there is no shortage of baddies, and they’re multidimensional, one of them even sympathetic.

 If I have any complaints it’s that at times, the story does get a bit convoluted.  The bad guys in this one go to such lengths to cover things up, and they make such a mess of things in the process, you wonder if they would have been better off simply observing Ray and Thomas and deducing that Thomas, a schizophrenic, and Ray, completely disinterested in the events in the window, posed no threat to them.

 Taken as a whole, the story is rather farfetched, but this didn’t stop it from being loads of fun.  It held my attention throughout, and author Barclay crafted several moments where I laughed out loud because of their sheer ingenuity, especially one key moment involving a phone call which may or may not be from Bill Clinton.

 Trust Your Eyes is a very satisfying thriller, filled with fascinating characters, compelling situations, and several surprises along the way.

Highly recommended.









Here’s my latest IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column, now up in the current edition of the HORROR WRITER’S ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER, on the goofy Godzilla flick TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (1975).





 I don’t know which is more ridiculous:  that I actually watched TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (1975), or that there’s actually a Godzilla movie from the 1970s called TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA.

The last thing the Toho super lizard from the 1960s and 1970s instills is terror.  He’s about as frightening as Barney the Dinosaur.

The plot of TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA is Toho silliness at its best.  Aliens have taken over the Earth— of course they have— and they’ve rebuilt Mechagodzilla, the 400 foot robotic replica of Godzilla destroyed in the previous movie in the series, GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA (1974), to help them do it.  Not only that, but they’ve also employed the services of a scientist who wants vengeance against humankind because of the poor way they treated him— poor baby!  Welcome to the real world, doc!

Anyway, this scientist happens to control a powerful dinosaur, Titanosaurus (And the number one reason you can tell your neighbor is a mad scientist:  he owns a dinosaur as a pet.), and he lends out Titanosaurus to the aliens, so now they have two weapons to use on humankind. 

As you would expect, the military and its weapons are powerless to stop the aliens, Mechagodzilla, and Titanosaurus.  What are the people of Earth to do?  Why, turn to Godzilla of course!

And right on cue, Godzilla shows up to save the world.  After a dramatic entrance worthy of Hamlet, Godzilla dukes it out against Mechagodzilla and Titanosaurus.  No need to tell you who wins.  Did I mention yet that this movie is silly?

TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA is so silly— how silly is it?  It’s so silly that the aliens look like they graduated from the PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1959) academy for space aliens.  It’s so silly that when Titanosaurus roars, he sounds like a cross between a car low on transmission fluid and Mickey Mouse on helium.

But for Godzilla purists, there are some things to really like about this one.  For one thing, the monster battle scenes, which after all, are the main reason we watch Godzilla movies, are excellent.  And there are a lot of them.  Sure, things begin slowly in this department, and Godzilla doesn’t make his grand entrance until the second act of the film, but once he does, and the bouts between the mammoth beasts begins, the film kicks it up a notch.

TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA is also significant because it’s the last of the “old” style Godzilla movies.  The next film in the series is GODZILLA 1985 (1985) the failed attempt to reboot the series.  That wouldn’t happen until the next film in the series, GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE (1989) which is a better movie than 1985.  Of course, the best Godzilla movies in terms of seriousness and production values— other than the original film, GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS! (1956)— were to come later in the 1990s and continue all the way up into the 2000s.

I often forget that TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA is the last of the old style Godzilla movies because GODZILLA VS. MEGALLON (1973), a dreadful film and my personal pick for the worst movie in the Godzilla franchise, wasn’t released in the U.S. until 1977, two years after TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA.  I remember this because it received a heavy ad campaign that year, complete with movie posters showing Godzilla and Megallon battling atop the World Trade Center towers, obviously created to tie in with the 1976 KING KONG remake.  It was a ridiculous ad, since the film takes place in Japan and the titled monsters don’t appear anywhere near New York.

I once read that TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA was one of the darker films of the original series.  Really?  Seriously?   Dark?  About the only thing dark in TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA is the space between the aliens’ ears.

That’s not to say TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA isn’t an enjoyable film.  It is.  Highly so.  Why?  Well, that’s the million dollar question.

For starters, as nutty as this may sound, Godzilla is a mighty compelling character.  For instance, in TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA, when Godzilla makes his dramatic first appearance, set to save the human race from the aliens, Mechagodzilla, and Titanosaurus, and the memorable rousing Godzilla theme music begins to play, a tune familiar to anyone who’s ever watched a Godzilla movie, suddenly, you just can’t help being drawn into the action.  Go, Godzilla, go!  Knock those creatures on their butts!

Sorry about that.  I got carried away.  But that’s the beauty and magic of the Godzilla movies.  You know they’re silly, you know they’re ridiculous, yet on some level, they work, they draw you into their world, and suddenly you find yourself rooting for this giant fire breathing lizard, clearly a man in a rubber suit, to save the earth, to defeat the evil giant monsters, also clearly men in rubber suits.

Why?  What makes Godzilla so compelling?  The answer is longer than I can go into here, but for the purposes of this column, it suffices to say that Godzilla is fun to watch because he appeals to the youth inside all of us who likes to watch giant monsters battle it out, and like most little kids, we like to hang out with and be under the protection of the biggest baddest dude in the neighborhood, and in the monster movie world, there isn’t anyone bigger or badder than Godzilla.



BODY OF LIES decent thriller from Ridley Scott – Blu-ray Review


Body of LIes poster

Blu-ray/DVD Review:  BODY OF LIES (2008)


Michael Arruda


I caught up with BODY OF LIES (2008) on Blu-Ray the other day, Ridley Scott’s thriller from 2008 about terrorism in the Middle East.  It stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, and while both actors do a fine job, DiCaprio in particular, it’s Mark Strong who steals the show as the head of Jordanian intelligence.

 Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a young CIA operative working in the Middle East trying to locate the mastermind behind a series of terrorist bombings.  His superior officer, Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) works behind the scenes back in the States and the two are in constant contact via cell phone. 

 Hoffman hooks Ferris up with the head of Jordanian security, Hani (Mark Strong) in their efforts to track down the terrorist.  Hani tells Ferris he’s happy to work with him, but under one condition:  “don’t ever lie to me.”  You know right off the bat that this is going to be a problem.

 At Hoffman’s urging, Ferris does lie to Hani, and once Hani finds out, he tells Ferris he no longer will work with him, nor will he be responsible for his safety.  As if he doesn’t have enough on his plate, Ferris finds time to befriend a young nurse Aisha (Golshifteh Farahani), and the two become romantically involved, giving Ferris’ enemies a card they can play against him.

Ferris and Hoffman devise a new plan to catch the elusive terrorist, but things don’t go as expected, and Ferris suddenly finds himself in a predicament in which there seems to be no escape. 

 BODY OF LIES is a decent thriller, but don’t expect anything as intense as the Kathryn Bigelow films THE HURT LOCKER (2008) or ZERO DARK THIRTY (2012).   It’s based on the novel by David Ignatius, and it plays more like a fictional tale than a true to life espionage account.  This isn’t necessarily the fault of the screenplay by William Monahan, which includes realistic and captivating dialogue, and likable characters, but of the story itself, a tale of elaborate plots that seem more at home in a movie than in real life.  Monahan also wrote the screenplay for THE DEPARTED (2006), a film that was actually darker than this movie.

 Although Ridley Scott does a fine job at the helm, for a thriller, the film isn’t all that suspenseful.  The most suspense the film generates comes at the end, when DiCaprio’s Ferris finds himself in the hands of the enemy, and when they start the video cameras rolling, you know exactly what they have in mind for the young CIA agent.  It’s nail biting time, and then some.  But before this, the film, while generally engrossing and entertaining, is not exactly all that intense.

 That being said, you can’t blame Leonardo DiCaprio, because he brings his usual intensity to the role of CIA agent Roger Ferris, and it’s a very similar performance though not as good as his work in THE DEPARTED (2006) and BLOOD DIAMOND (2006), two of my favorite DiCaprio roles. 

DiCaprio also shows off his softer side here, as his scenes with nurse Aisha are warm and enjoyable.  He and Golshifteh Farahani share a nice chemistry together.

And then there’s Russell Crowe. 

 It’s funny about Russell Crowe’s performance here.  He portrays Ed Hoffman as a veteran operative whose best days are behind him.  He works behind the scenes, from the safety of his own home most of the time, communicating to his agent Ferris by constantly talking into his headset while performing mundane duties, like taking his children to soccer practice and grocery shopping.

 He’s supposed to be a man who has let himself go, and the funny thing is, in recent films, that’s how Crowe has appeared.  No longer the beast of a man who was Maximus in GLADIATOR (2000), Crowe has been a rather overweight assassin in THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (2012) and a rather ineffective Javert in LES MISERABLES (2012).  Life imitating art?

 But the two best performances in BODY OF LIES both come from supporting players.  First, in my favorite performance of the movie, it’s Mark Strong as Hani, the head of Jordanian intelligence.  Strong is one of those actors who looks different in nearly every movie he’s in, and who manages to deliver compelling performances in these films, and his work here in BODY OF LIES is no exception. 

 Strong originates from Britain, but in BODY OF LIES he seems at ease and natural portraying a Jordanian.  If you didn’t know his background, you’d never guess that he wasn’t from Jordan.  Likewise, in his performance as the villainous Frank D’Amico in KICK-ASS (2010), probably my favorite Strong performance, you’d never know he wasn’t from New York City.  Strong has appeared in SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009), GREEN LANTERN (2011), JOHN CARTER (2012) and most recently in ZERO DARK THIRTY (2012).

 As Hani, Strong is suave, confident, and ruthless.  It’s a great performance.

 The other memorable performance in BODY OF LIES belongs to Golshifteh Farahani as Aisha, Ferris’ love interest.  Farahani comes off as genuine and sincere, and she’s a breath of fresh air compared to the deceit which permeates the rest of the characters in this story.  She also projects a heartfelt sensuality not often found in female movie characters.  I absolutely bought the notion that she had feelings for Ferris and that she didn’t have ulterior motives or felt for him because she was turned on by a sense of adventure or daring.  She just genuinely seemed attracted to the guy.  Refreshing.

 BODY OF LIES didn’t blow me away, either with its story or its acting performances, didn’t have me on the edge of my seat, with the exception of the sequence where Ferris is captured by the terrorists, and this comes late in the game, but for its 128 minute running time, it held my interest and succeeded in making its point that our actions the past decade in the Middle East, for right or wrong, are a body of lies.