Category Archives: thriller

The Strangler

The Strangler ~ Rather well done for its day, this 1964 crime thriller might seem dated by today’s standards. It was designed to exploit the real life Boston Strangler killings but then relocated and altered to distance itself from the case.

Held back by a sad cast, and reportedly the director Burt Topper as well, Victor Buono still rises to the top as the mother and doll obsessed serial killer. He appears to be the only one acting among a crowd of cue card readers.

Had it not been for the lackluster cast, and the uneven score, this could have been a movie on par with Psycho or The Boston Strangler, but it fails to even be a good exploitation flick, despite Buono’s performance.

The King of Pop, Dead at 50

My first memory of Michael Jackson is in third grade when I smuggled my AM transistor radio to school, and tuned in to WFIL as I was walking home from school, and “Rockin’ Robin” came on. The kids that were with me were all excited that it was Michael Jackson. Dummy me, I didn’t know who that was, but I was quickly schooled that he was one of the Jackson 5, and that he was actually our age – or at least a little kid just like us.

Over the years Jackson continued to be part of the soundtrack of my early life. Whether it was the Saturday morning cartoon featuring him and his brothers, singing the theme to Ben, or his entry into the disco scene with “Off the Wall” and also with his brothers now just the Jacksons – he was always around.

After I graduated high school Michael made a comeback known as “Thriller” In the advent of MTV I was working at a record store during the Christmas that the album was out. It’s one thing to say it was one of bestselling albums of all time, it’s a whole ‘nother thing to be working retail when it was at its zenith. I can remember filling the shelves and walls over and over and over again.

This was also at a time when VCRs were fairly new and at the back of the store we were demonstrating them, and demo-ing them with a very special new videotape, “The Making of Thriller.” Every time when the music video for the title song would come on, the back of that tiny mall store would fill up with no less than a hundred people. It happened that way at least once an hour all through that Christmas season. That’s how hot Michael Jackson was at the time.

I remember the night of the Motown 25 special, just as I remember the night Fox aired the longform video for “Black or White” when he smashed up a car and grabbed his crotch. I remember the releases of “Thriller” follow-up albums “Bad” and “Dangerous.” As his behavior became more erratic and the paparazzi more insidious, Michael became even more bizarre and reclusive. With all the strangeness, it began to affect his popularity, and he retreated further.

It was at this time that allegations of child molestation began to surface. Sadly his fame became infamy as the allegations and rumors mounted and continued. Michael, while a pariah in the States still maintained an Elvis-like fame in the rest of the world. His death earlier today by cardiac arrest, was on the brink of a major new tour.

Despite what may or may not have happened in recent years or before that, Michael Jackson was a gigantic talent, a serious musical force that shaped the world, a phenomenal performer, and he will certainly not be forgotten.


William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead

To celebrate the end of Zombiedelphia Month we went to see the Plays & Players production of William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead.

Detailing the zombie invasion of 1599, where notables of the time take refuge in the newly built Globe Theater while London is under undead siege, this is actually a well-researched, smart and clever little play. Seriously, zombies aside, somebody really knows their Shakespeare. The controversy of who really wrote what and how much ‘borrowing’ the bard did from experience and people he knew and work he saw and read is center stage here, with just a bit of living dead horror thrown in just for kicks.

I really loved this. The midnight show featured free drinks for those who dressed as zombies, and to be sure, the audience would have made George Romero proud. Like a Rocky Horror experience, the production was interactive with zombies in the audience and blood (Karo, peanut butter and chocolate syrup) being spilled and spurted from the stage. Luckily for the squeamish, plastic sheets were provided for folks in the first couple rows – the splatter zone.

Cast standouts include Ryan Walter as the boisterously entertaining Will Kemp, Molly Casey as Kate Braithwaite, and special props to Jacqueline Halloway who choreographed the fight and dance scenes. yes, there was a bit of zombie-fighting but the prize of the show was the finale to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” After all, what better way to end any undead production than “Thriller.” Dazzling!