All posts tagged: Joe Dante

Farkakte Film Flashback: Off-Kilter Christmas Movie Edition

When I was a kid, every year around this time I would watch Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. I did this despite the fact that critics regularly put this 1964 movie on their list of the worst films of all time, probably because of its inane plot, juvenile dialogue, bargain-basement costumes and the fact that it appears to have been filmed entirely in a single room that may or may not have been made of cardboard. I think I may have watched it because as a child, it’s comforting to know that Santa, in addition to bringing you toys every year, is also capable of warding off an alien invasion if necessary. Also, New York’s Channel 9 scheduled it on a Saturday afternoon every December — your choice was either that or reruns of “Hee-Haw” on Channel 11, and Roy Clark certainly never conquered any aliens, with the possible exception of Minnie Pearl. (Incidentally, I’ve embedded the entire Santa Claus Conquers the Martians below via Hulu, in case you ever have a spare 80 minutes …

Revival House: “They’re eating the guests, sir.”

With Piranha 3D in theaters now, I thought it might be fun to revisit an old favorite from 1978. Movies like Piranha happened in the good old days of drive-in theaters, when a producer like Roger Corman knew that his low-budget exploitation flicks would always find an audience. The thing is, the talent pool he drew from back then is a very impressive list nowadays, including Ron Howard (1977’s Grand Theft Auto), Jonathan Demme (1974’s women-in-prison opus Caged Heat), Martin Scorsese (1972’s Boxcar Bertha), Francis Ford Coppola (1963’s Dementia 13), and Joe Dante, the director of Piranha. With Allan Arkush, Dante had previously codirected Hollywood Boulevard (1976) for Corman, but Piranha was his first solo directorial effort. I must admit a particular affinity for Dante’s films, most likely due to the fact that our brains were both warped at a very young age by watching far too many Warner Bros. cartoons. I saw Gremlins (1984) no less than six times in the theater during its run, and the underrated Explorers (1985) made my Revival House list of …

Soundtrack Saturday: “Gremlins”

Here’s the thing — I love holiday-themed horror films. In fact, one of my favorite Christmas movies is the original Black Christmas (1974). You may think that makes me sick and twisted, but I’m really not; there’s just something about taking “the most wonderful time of the year” and adding blood and gore and evil that fascinates me. I think Gremlins (1984) may have been the starting point for my love of horror-filled holiday fare. It’s the embodiment of my reasons for loving Christmas-themed horror movies: the joyous and adorable turned into the frightening and demonic. Directed by Joe Dante, written by Chris Columbus, and executive-produced by Steven Spielberg, Gremlins begins with struggling inventor Rand Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) trying to sell his wares at a store in the Chinatown section of New York City. There he becomes enamored of a strange creature called a mogwai and decides it’ll be the perfect Christmas gift for his teenage son, Billy (Zach Galligan). He’s told at first by the store’s owner (Keye Luke) that the mogwai isn’t for …