Tag Archives: Donald Pleasance

My Thoughts on: Halloween (1978)

*deep breath* I did it. I’m scared out of my mind but I did it, I watched the original Halloween from beginning to end without stopping.

I should explain: I’ve had a fixation with horror/slasher movies for years, by which I mean I’m fascinated by them but I’ve always been too scared to watch them (being the kind that scares quite easily). However, this year, with everything that’s been going on in the world, I decided that now was the perfect time to dive in and check out some of the films that I’ve always been too scared to try in the past (YOLO right?). The original Halloween seemed like the perfect place to start (and also like the one I’d be most likely to get through given my other options were A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th).

If you haven’t seen it, Halloween is the first film to feature the silent killer Michael Myers (Nick Castle), who might be the Boogeyman given how callous he is when it comes to killing people. Fifteen years after committing a brutal murder (in a first person sequence that had me scared to death), Michael escapes from an asylum to return to the scene of the crime…and it’s on Halloween night. Michael is pursued by his doctor, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance), who hopes to stop Michael before it’s too late. Unfortunately, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is in for a Halloween she will never forget.

I knew going in that I’d be scared, but my God…..from the moment the film started I was neck deep in a sea of tension. And why? Because of that iconic music!!! You know what I’m talking about: that spooky piano melody that permeates the film. As soon as I hear it, it sends chills up my spine and puts me completely on edge. And that music can start at ANY time, you never know when it’s going to start up again, and it just makes things so scary! Speaking of music, I was also spooked by the sudden “moan” that comes into the music whenever Michael lunges out for the kill. It’s almost just as terrifying as the iconic theme. This is definitely one of those films where the music 100% contributes to the terror.

Despite this feeling, it actually takes most of the film for things to get messy (i.e. violent). Except, by that point (when Michael finally comes after Laurie), the tension has become completely unbearable. By this point (when Laurie finds out what’s happened to her friends), I’ve been watching Michael stalk (and kill) for over an hour, and I’m thoroughly spooked. So much so, in fact, that when Michael’s face slowly appears out of a darkened doorway behind Laurie, I swear to God I nearly screamed in terror. THAT is how you do a scary horror movie, build the tension to by-God-unimaginable levels of terror and then turn the scary killer loose on whoever’s left standing. I’m not sure I’ll be able to sleep tonight, but by God I can admit when a film is well done, and that was well done indeed! (Also, I had no idea the sound of breathing could be made to sound so scary!)

Donald Pleasance is a joy to watch in this film. The way he talks about Michael speaks volumes about the silent character, how soulless and evil he is. Which is quite helpful since, as Michael himself never speaks, we have no way of knowing anything about him other than what Dr. Loomis tells us. I think what got to me the most though, was how calm Dr. Loomis was about it all, like he expected all of this would happen sooner or later. Then again, there was a pretty blatant hint about “unescapable fate” early in the film….

I identify so strongly with Laurie Strode it scared me to death. Like Laurie, I was the goody-two-shoes who focused on her studies, babysat, and wasn’t really interested in boys. I could easily see myself in her place and it was scaaaaary (particularly when Laurie was hiding in the closet). Even though I knew Laurie would come out of this alive (I always read plot summaries for films that I know will scare me so I know where most of the jump scares are), the film does such a good job of making it scary that I was freaked out the whole time.

Honestly, I have no idea how I’m going to sleep soundly tonight. I haven’t been this scared in I don’t know how long. Halloween was just as scary as I always thought it would be, but it wasn’t quite for the reasons I thought. The terror comes from the tension and anticipation of what Michael will do, less on what he actually does (although that’s just as scary too).

Am I glad I watched Halloween? Ultimately, yes, yes I am. I got through it, and even though I was really scared I didn’t turn it off. Will I be watching the movie again anytime soon? Ehh…..I wouldn’t hold my breath on that (it’ll probably be a yearly thing….maybe). I am really proud of myself though, for finally watching what everyone told me was an iconic horror film (and they were right!)

Let me know what you think about Halloween in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: Fantastic Voyage (1966)

I watched a lot of science fiction films growing up and Fantastic Voyage remains one of my favorites. The film is a slight twist on the genre in that, instead of exploring outer space (as many science fiction films do), Fantastic Voyage explores the inner workings of the human body, an environment filled with strange and wondrous things. The film follows the submarine crew of the Proteus, a vessel that can be shrunk to minute proportions, as it is injected into the body of a scientist fleeing the Iron Curtain in order to fix a brain aneurysm. It’s vital to save the scientists life because he has learned the secret of miniaturizing both people and items for an indefinite period of time (the process currently works for an hour).

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The crew consists of Grant (Stephen Boyd), a government agent; Captain Bill Owens (William Redfield); Dr. Michaels (Donald Pleasance); surgeon Dr. Peter Duval (Arthur Kennedy); and his assistant Cora (Raquel Welch). Once placed inside the body, they’ll have one hour to travel to the brain, eliminate the aneurysm and reach an extraction point, otherwise they’ll start to grow and be attacked by the scientist’s body.

For years clips of Fantastic Voyage were played in medical schools to explain various facets of human anatomy; and once you see the film it’s easy to see why as the story covers a large chunk of the body. In no particular order, the Proteus passes through: the heart (the circulatory system), the lungs (the respiratory system), the brain, the inner ear and several veins and arteries. Various bodily processes are explained (for the sake of Grant, who serves as the audience surrogate) with a great degree of detail and it really changes how you think about your own body.

During the journey to the brain, the crew has to dive outside the ship several times and I was amazed to learn that none of those scenes were filmed in water. Instead, everyone was suspended from wires and miming the motions of being underwater (if you look carefully, you can see the wires and harnesses in most of these scenes, despite the production’s best efforts to disguise them).

*warning, major plot spoilers can be found below*

I can’t end this article without discussing the climax of the film. For most of the journey, Grant has suspected a saboteur is on board, someone who doesn’t want the mission to succeed. He suspects Dr. Duval for most of the journey, but out of the blue Dr. Michaels is revealed as the culprit. Michaels attempts to flee with the Proteus (which is starting to grow back to normal size) but can’t control the vessel and it crashes, attracting the attention of a white blood cell (which views the growing ship as a threat). Grant, being a good guy, enters the damaged ship to get the rest of the crew out to safety and finds Michaels pinned inside the pilot’s compartment as the white blood cell begins to descend.

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It’s terrifying enough that Michaels is stuck looking up at an organism that will dissolve him into oblivion (a painful way to go), but it becomes even worse when you remember that Michaels has a fear of enclosed spaces and being trapped. Thus, the would-be saboteur is living all of his worst nightmares at once. Grant tries everything to get Michaels free, but it’s no good, he’s hopelessly stuck. During these last few minutes, Michaels’ voice slowly rises in panic as he realizes he’s going to die. It’s a hard scene to watch, and one of the more gruesome comeuppances I’ve ever seen for a villain.

It’s hard to believe that Fantastic Voyage is 52 years old, but all things considered the film has aged extremely well. If you ever get the chance to check it out, I highly recommend it. If you have seen Fantastic Voyage, let me know your thoughts about it in the comments below and have a great day!

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