Tag Archives: little bits of movies

In Memorandum: Sean Connery As Not Bond

What a shitty year for James Bond fans eh? Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg, Michael Lonsdale and now Sean Connery. For the last few days, I’ve struggled with trying to write something in way to pay respects to the great Sean Connery. I’ve sat here, just staring at a blank white screen and a blinking cursor for about an hour or so, no idea what to say now that Connery has sadly passed away. It’s not that there’s nothing to write about, just that, I already pretty much said it all back in August for his birthday. The man was an acting legend and one I’ve toughly enjoyed watching over the years. In my eyes, he deserves a memorandum write-up from me, just as I have done with others I admire and we’ve lost. But as I said, I’ve already pretty much covered his career for his birthday.

I suppose I could just be lazy and repost my article, give it a little update. But no, Sean Connery deserves better than that.

Every other article you’ve read about Connery, now that he’s gone, would probably prominently be about James Bond, it’s the character he was best known for and a character that has stood the test of time. He was the first to play James Bond don’t you know? Well technically, he was the third, but let’s not split hairs. But, he was so much more than one character, Sean Connery had a very lengthy career where he played numerous characters. That’s when it hit me, I could write a Sean Connery article that doesn’t mention Bond (except for this intro)  So, no James Bond from this point on, but a look at other characters Mr Connery has played over the years instead. In no particular order… except for the first and then saving the best for last, here’s some of my favourite Sean Connery performances that aren’t that famous British spy.


Zed

SEAN CONNERY ZARDOZ

I had to pick this one to start, I just had to. Just look at that for a striking image of a man! John Boorman’s Zardoz from 1974 is a sci-fi film that is very…. ‘interesting’. The film is set in 2293 and is about how the human race are split into two groups. Immortal ‘Eternals’ and the mortal ‘Brutals’. Connery plays Zed, a Brutal Exterminator, these Brutal Exterminators are ordered by a huge stone head called Zardoz to hunt, terrorise and kill other Brutals.

Look, the film makes no sense and was ravaged by critics at the time. It had a convoluted plot and connects to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that I really can’t be bothered to get into here. It’s a really stupid film, but one that has gone on to gain cult status among film fans. Plus, it had given us one hell of a great image of Sean Connery to remember him by too.

“Brain emissions refract low wavelength laser light, passing through the crystal in the brain. They’re a code sent to you for interpretation and storage. Yes or no?”

– Zed

Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez

RAMIREZ

Or just Ramírez to his friends. Oh how I love the 1986 flick, Highlander. You got Christopher Lambert, an American born actor, raised in France, playing a Scottish 16th century warrior. Then you have the very Scottish Sean Connery, playing an Egyptian from Spain. That’s some brilliant casting. Highlander tells the story if a secret war among immortals, who are destined to battle each other to the death until only one remains. But just how do you kill an immortal? Well, you cut their head of of course. Seriously, Highlander makes no sense… but it’s glorious.

Though I grew up watching certain famous spy movies as a kid which starred Sean Connery, this was the film that really made me a fan of his work. Just hearing that unmistakable Scottish brogue as the voice of a character who is an Egyptian from Spain (?) always made me chuckle. I love that, even though Connery was a truly amazing actor, he just never bothered to chance his voice. But his voice was almost like his trademark, hearing Sean Connery not sounding like Sean Connery just wouldn’t work. Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez is a perfect example of this.

“You have the manners of a goat and you smell like a dung-heap. And you’ve no knowledge whatsoever of your potential.”

–  Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez

Henry Jones, Sr.

HENRY JONES

It was my older bother who took me to the cinema back in 1989 to watch Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. By then, I was a huge Indy fan as well as being an admirer of Sean Connery too. So to have the two meet and for me to watch them on the big screen was a pure joy. When the end credits rolled and as Henry Jones and his son rode off into the sunset, I had a huge smile on my face. The perfect end to a great trilogy (as it was then).

Despite there only being a twelve year gap between Harrison Ford playing Indiana Jones and Sean Connery as his father, the duo and chemistry between the two worked. They bounced of each other perfectly and created a very memorable double act that felt like a genuine father and son. Henry Jones, Sr was more than capable of keeping up with his adventurous son, in more ways than one… just ask Elsa.

“It tells me, that goose-stepping morons like yourself should try reading books instead of burning them!”

– Henry Jones, Sr.

Daniel Dravot

DANIEL DRAVOT

Michael Caine and Sean Connery were very close friends, it really is a shame these two titans of the big screen never did more films together. In fact, they only ever did one, 1975’s The Man Who Would Be King, based on Rudyard Kipling’s 1888 novella of the same name. In it Connery plays Daniel Dravot, a British Army soldier who, along with Peachy Carnehan (Michael Caine) got to Kāfiristān (modern-day Afghanistan) to forcibly take over as rulers.

The Man Who Would Be King is one of those great classics with both Michael Caine and Sean Connery on tip-top form. It is when Connery’s Daniel Dravot is mistaken for a God when things really get underway here. Both Sirs, Caine and Connery put in amazing performances, you can really tell how close they were as friends as their real life chemistry is right there on the screen. In fact both Michael Caine and Sean Connery went on record as saying that working on The Man Who Would Be King was the best experience of their careers.

“Now listen to me you benighted muckers. We’re going to teach you soldiering. The world’s noblest profession. When we’re done with you, you’ll be able to slaughter your enemies like civilized men.”

– Daniel Dravot

Draco

DRACO

Sean Connery was so damn amazing that he really could play anything, even a dragon! DragonHeart from 1996 saw Connery provide the voice for the last dragon in the world, Draco who teams up with a dragon hunter to take down a tyrannical leader. The twist is that some years before Draco saved this naughty leader when he was a child by giving him half of his heart.

Just as with any of his previous roles, Connery never changed his voice. So we have a very Scottish dragon in this fantasy action-adventure film, but it works. That was the beauty and majesty of Sean Connery’s voice, it just worked. From conveying anger, resentment to more lighter jokey lines, Connery really helped to bring this dragon to life. I mean, you don’t hire Sean Connery for voice work if you don’t want that iconic voice do you?

“You should never listen to minstrels’ fancies. A dragon would never hurt a soul, unless they tried to hurt him first.”

– Draco

King Agamemnon

AGAMEMNON

Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits is one of those film you either ‘get’ or don’t. A surreal, very Gilliam-esque, time jumping fantasy adventure film. It is when the film’s main character Keven, finds himself in Mycenaean Greece when he crosses paths with King Agamemnon, played by Connery. This really is just an extended cameo and Connery is first hidden behind a helmet to reveal the surprise.

In fact, Terry Gilliam wrote in the script that King Agamemnon takes of his helmet ‘revealing someone that looks exactly like Sean Connery, or an actor of equal but cheaper stature’. Gilliam wanting someone as iconic as Connery, but knowing that having the man himself play the role would be almost impossible due to budget constraints. But the script for the film made its way into Connery’s hands and he loved it, the next thing Gilliam knew, Connery’s agent was on the phone saying how much he wanted to play the part. It really is a joyous performance and you can tell Sean Connery was having a lot of fun with it. A role he was in for the pleasure of acting over the money he was being paid.

“Well… You’re certainly a chatty little fellow, aren’t you?”

– King Agamemnon

John Patrick Mason

JOHN PATRICK MASON

He actually looks good with long hair eh? At this point, Connery was in his mid-sixties when he starred in the all action romp, The Rock from 1996. Playing John Mason, ex-SAS, all round bad-ass and the only man to have ever escaped Alcatraz Island. A bunch of of rogue U.S. Force Recon Marines take control of Alcatraz, holding tourists as prisoners and threatening San Francisco with missiles armed with toxic VX gas. Mason is forced to team up with the FBI’s top chemical weapons specialist to stop them.

I love this film, it’s just a great slice of action nonsense. It really is Sean Connery’s performance as the ageing John Mason that lifts this above just being another bog-standard action film. His chemistry with Nicolas Cage as FBI agent, Stanley Goodspeed really works. Connery almost becomes mentor-like to the inexperienced and nervous Cage, both on and off screen.

“I’ve been in jail longer than Nelson Mandela, so maybe you want me to run for President?”

– John Patrick Mason

Captain Marko Ramius

MARKO RAMIUS

The Hunt for Red October from 1990 is one of Connery’s most talked about roles… mainly for the fact he still used his thick Scottish accent to play a Russian submarine Captain. Set in 1984, Marko Ramius takes command of nuclear missile armed submarine, Red October. Making the sub seemingly ‘disappear’, the U.S. believe that Ramius is planning a renegade nuclear strike on U.S. soil. However, he actually wants to defect.

I’ve not seen this is a long time, yet I always remember it as being a pretty damn good thriller. Based on Tom Clancy’s novel of the same name and the first film appearance of the character, Jack Ryan. But it is Sean Connery’s Captain Marko Ramius that makes this film what it is, a tense and taught thriller about a submarine.

“Once more, we play our dangerous game, a game of chess against our old adversary, The American Navy. For forty years, your fathers before you and your older brothers played this game and played it well. But today the game is different. We have the advantage.”

– Captain Marko Ramius

Jim Malone

SEAN CONNERY UNTOUCHABLES

This really is the big one. You see that main image for this article at the top, the one with Sean Connery lifting his first ever Oscar? Well, this is why he won it. That picture was taken at the 1988 Academy Awards, at that point Connery was a screen legend, already acting in movies for almost thirty-five years, yet that was his first and only Oscar win. It was this role as tough Irish cop (with a Scottish accent) Jim Malone in 1987’s The Untouchables that landed Connery that Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

A fantastic cast, a wonderful story, with some beautiful directing from Brian De Palma makes this one hell of a great flick. Yet, for me, it was Connery playing the straight-talking, no bullshit taking Jim Malone that really makes this worth watching again and again.

“You just fulfilled the first rule of law enforcement: make sure when your shift is over you go home alive. Here endeth the lesson.”

– Jim Malone


So that’s it, just a few choice picks from Sean Connery’s illustrious acting career of some of my favourite characters. From silly sci-fi to gritty thrillers, Sean Connery was a true screen legend. The world is a slightly less enjoyable place without him.

SEAN CONNERY SMILE

“I have always hated that damn James Bond. I’d like to kill him.”

– Sean Connery

My Personal History Of Horror: How I Became A Horror Fan

I’ve been writing this blog for a while now and I always enjoy doing my Halloween specials every year. I really do love horror films and the horror genre as a whole, yet I’ve never really put much thought into how I became a fan of horror films… until recently. I’ve been reminiscing the last week or so on the movies I grew up watching and the flicks that scared me when I was younger. Right here, I’m going to try to create a history in words and pictures form, looking back at just how I became a horror fan. A little journey through my own personal history of watching horror films.

WATCHIG HORROR FILMS

Now, I can’t be 100% sure of the first horror film I ever saw, but I do have vivid memories of moments of my life that are related to horror films and TV. Growing up, we didn’t get a VHS player until the late eighties. So if I did see any horror films before then, it would’ve been on a TV broadcast or at someone else’s house. One memory that instantly comes to mind as I write this, is staying with my grandparents at their house, I was maybe about five or six years-old. Nan would often let me stay up late-ish and watch some TV before bed (don’t tell Mom). I remember one Saturday night when the Spielberg classic, Jaws was on TV. Nan and Granddad must’ve let me stay up late to watch the whole film and I remember Nan going into the kitchen to make a bit of supper, she came back with strawberry jam sandwiches. It was the finale of the film when the shark was attacking the boat, and Robert Shaw’s Quint slid down the deck of the Orca into the shark’s mouth. The great white slammed shut it’s jaws, chomping down on Quint, a small geyser of blood spurts from his mouth as he gets eaten alive. It terrified me… until I looked away from the TV and over to Nan, with strawberry jam purposely dripping from her mouth, making me laugh to help take my mind of the horror I just saw.

I was around the same age when I first saw a scene in a film that both scared and mesmerised me. It was a sleep over at my Aunt and Uncle’s house, me, my two brothers and our two cousins. My Aunt and Uncle had a VHS player and would often rent out tapes from a local shop down the road, that’s how I first saw Raiders of the Lost Ark. As terrifying as the Nazi face-melting finale is in that film, it’s not the one that I’m talking about now. I’m talking about a dog’s head being split open.

THE THING POSTER

John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of my all time favourite horror films. There’s this one particular scene from that film is one that is burnt into my memory forever. That cute Vancouver Island wolf-Alaskan Malamute cross breed, played by Jed (he even has his own Wikipedia page) was adorable. Unbeknown to us viewers and the characters in the film at the time, that cute dog had been assimilated by an alien. Soon after finding refuge with the humans, that little doggie turns inside out. It’s an amazing piece of special effects work that I feel still holds up today. Yeah, it scared me as a kid, but I also found it strangely beautiful to watch too. It’s that moment before the dog becomes the full on The Thing, as it is transforming and the head splits open like a peeled banana that has really stuck with me all these years. That one specific shot only takes up a few seconds of a much bigger scene, but those few seconds are firmly ingrained into my mind. I have been fascinated with practical effects work in horror films ever since. That one scene and only few seconds of that one scene are the reason I’m so in awe of artists like Tom Savini, Rick Baker and Stan Winston. With Winston being the man created the dog scene in The Thing. Now, before horror fans start screaming at the screen that it was Rob Bottin who did the effects work on The Thing (he did), Bottin became overwhelmed with all the work and ended up in hospital with exhaustion, so help was brought in. That help was Stan Winston, who brought in his team to do the whole dog scene.

THE THING DOG

Poltergeist, that was another film I saw for the first time at my Aunt’s house on VHS. Aside from remembering my cousin, Sam, hiding behind a cushion for pretty much the entire film, there’s the face peeling scene which definitely had an impact on me. Still, as gruesome as that scene is, it’s nothing compared to that fucking clown doll. I was a kid when I saw this, the fact it happens in a kid’s (Robbie) room full of toys (some I had), helped put me in the shoes of Robbie. For weeks after, whenever I went to bed back then, I would check underneath just in case there were any killer clown dolls were lurking. Still, I blame the parents, why kind of mother and father buys something that looks that terrifying as a gift for their son?

POLTERGIEST CLOWN

I was still a young kid when I first saw one of the most iconic scenes in horror film history, from the man who directed a bread commercial in 1973. Just a few years after that simple ad, Ridley Scott would go on to direct one of the most seminal and ground-breaking horror films ever, Alien. I remember the first time I ever saw the infamous chest-buster scene in Alien. It was very late at night, probably early hours of the morning when I think about it. Everyone in our house was asleep… everyone except me. I had noted that Alien was being sown on TV and set the alarm on my wrist-watch to wake me up, I snuck downstairs, doing my best to avoid the creaky step, not wanting to wake Mom up. I slowly opened the living room door and flicked the TV on. The film had already started, I missed the first ten minutes or so. I needed a little company… just in case I got too scared, so I carefully tiptoed to the kitchen and opened the door so our dog, Ben could join me on the sofa. Me and Ben sat there watching Alien. I had manged to watch the face-hugger jump scare as it latched onto John Hurt’s face, that didn’t scare me… much. So I was pretty sure I could take anything this film threw at me. Then the dinner scene happened. 

ALIEN CHESTBURSTER

It’s the family atmosphere thing that really sells this particular scene. Everyone sitting around and enjoying a meal. They’re laughing and joking, John Hurt starts chowing down on some (I think) noodles. He coughs, splutters and starts to choke, Yaphet Kotto makes that quip about the food not being that bad, still maintaining a sense of humour. Then, it just all flips on its head. That jovial atmosphere suddenly ends as John Hurt lies on the table, there’s that first burst of blood followed by silence… just for a few moments. Then utter chaos, the blood sprays everywhere as the alien is ‘birthed’. To be honest, I didn’t even make it to the end of the scene. It was the early hours of the morning, pitch black dark and I was eight, maybe nine years-old with only the family dog to keep me company. I turned the TV off before the alien fully emerged, put the dog back in the kitchen and went back to bed, too scared to sleep. So anyway, Mom when you read this. I snuck downstairs to watch Alien on TV about 1984-85-ish.

As I said before, I can’t actually remember the first horror film I ever saw, or at least I can’t be 100% sure of what it was. I do have two very clear memories that I think could’ve been the first though. I don’t have many memories of my dad, long story short, he walked out when I was very young. But I do remember he used to have one of the old reel-to-reel projector things, before VHS became popular. I remember dad coming home one day with some film reels to watch, he said he had a film with Sylvester Stallone in it, my child brain then just heard the word Sylvester and I instantly thought of this guy…

SYLVESTER CAT

The Sylvester film wasn’t a cartoon with a cat though, it was First Blood. Yes I know that First Blood isn’t a horror film. Still, I do remember dad setting up the projector, getting a white bedsheet and hanging it up on the wall as a makeshift screen and we watched First Blood. As I said, he had other films too and after First Blood, we watched another film, Carrie (at least I’ve managed to make my articles link this year!). I don’t actually remember watching the film if I’m honest, but I know I was definitely there while it was on. There’s this one moment that is practically fresh in my mind, it’s after the whole school prom and pigs blood thing. Carrie is already in the midst of her revenge as the school burns, she in on the street walking home when the school bullies Billy and Chris try to run her down in the car. Carrie does some of her telekinesis stuff and causes the car to crash. It was that moment when I remember my dad exclaiming: “Go on Carrie!”, cheering her along. That one line from my dad is one of the very few memories of him that I have, and it’s connected to a horror film.

I did say that I have two horror film memories connected to my dad, Carrie was one, the other? Some low budget horror flick called The Evil Dead. Now, being from England, The Evil Dead was a bit of a hot topic in the early eighties. I mean, it was part of the whole video nasties thing. Basically, there were a load of old geezers in charge of the ratings at the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) who brought in a law (Video Recordings Act 1984) which saw a lot of films either heavily censored or just outright banned. Mostly, the films caught up in this new law were horror films and one of those flicks was The Evil Dead. While never outright banned (it was censored), The Evil Dead was put under section 2 by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). This meant that while the film was not banned, anyone selling or distributing it could be liable to prosecution. Look, there a fantastic article that goes into great detail over the whole The Evil Dead video nasty thing right here. Point is that the film was incredibly hard to come by in the UK… but my dad got a copy, I don’t know how he got it or where from, but he did. I clearly remember the card guessing scene, “queen of spades, two spades, jack of diamonds, jack of clubs…” then possessed Cheryl turns around… scared the crap out of me to the point where no matter how long it’s been, if The Evil Dead is ever mentioned by anyone, then that is the one scene that instantly springs to mind.

Looking back on my childhood, and I used to watch some pretty messed up stuff. I mean, I’m still only around six or eight years-old when I would’ve seen these films, even younger in some instances. I’m not even in double digits yet and I’ve already seen some of the most famous and infamous horror films made. Hammer Horror films were another mainstay of my growing up. I used to love being terrified by the Frankenstein and Dracula movies. Hammer produced some of the finest horror films of fifties, sixties and seventies. They really treated the classic monsters with respect (mostly), and gave new life to a dying genre. Plus, they gave the world the most terrifying version of Dracula ever.

CHRISTOHPER LEE DRACULA

Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee were like family friends to me… really scary family friends. But it wasn’t just movies, Hammer House of Horror was an anthology horror TV show (obviously) from Hammer. Thirteen hour long episodes were made and all of them are worth watching, very dated and a little cheesy now yes, but still worth a view. But there is one episode that is lodged in my mind, The House that Bled to Death. A tale about a young family who move into a house where a murder took place some time before. It’s all a bit The Amityville Horror (another flick I saw as a kid) but with that very distinct British, Hammer Horror style. The house does its best to scare its new owners, which all leads to a child’s birthday party and one of the bloodiest scenes over on TV. Oh, and an ending that satirises the whole The Amityville Horror thing too. All you have to do is say Hammer House of Horror to British people of a certain age and they’ll know…

HAMMER HOUSE BLED TO DEATH

Amicus were another British production studio famed for their horror flicks. They were ever rivals to Hammer Horror for a while. They had a similar style, used a lot of the same actors and so on. But it was their portmanteau horror films where they really excelled. In fact, I did an article a few years back about those very films, looking at every story of every Amicus anthology film. Please excuse the poor formatting and overall presentation in that one, I was still finding my feet as a writer and all that back then. Anyway, those Amicus films were amazing. Particularly the original Tales from the Crypt, before it became a TV show, but after the EC Comics. This was a film I remember watching more than a few times as a kid. All of the stories are great, Poetic Justice being my favourite with the brilliant Peter Cushing in one of his finest roles.

POETIC JUSTICE

When we did finally get our own VHS player, late eighties-ish, that was when a whole new world of horror opened up for me. My older brother would often rent out tapes and they’d always be a horror film or two in them. Plus, I didn’t have to stay up late or sneak down to watch horror films on TV anymore, cos we could just record them off the TV instead. I heard about Freddy Krueger long before I ever saw him, kids at school would talk about this guy who came after you in your dreams. It was the late eighties, the fourth film had already been released and Freddy had already become a pop culture icon by then. I wanted to know who this Freddy guy was that kids at school were talking about, so I asked my older bother to get a ‘Freddy film’ next time he went to the video rental store. He came back with A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, the scariest Freddy has ever been. I didn’t see the original film for a few years later, but that is what got me into slasher films. Shockingly enough, I hadn’t seen Halloween, Friday the 13th, etc up to that point, but now we had our own VHS player, I could and I did. Whether they were recorded (and heavily censored) from the TV or my brother rented them out, I got to catch up all those horror film I had previously missed. The late eighties and early nineties were when I went on a horror film marathon. Hellraiser, The Shinning, Return of the Living Dead, Phantasm, The Fly and so many more. I was soaking horror of films up like a sponge through the nineties.

THE FLY

Unfortunately for us here in Blighty, we still had old stick-in-the-muds running the BBFC and the whole video nasty thing was still very much going on. The shocking and brutal murder of James Bulger didn’t help either. Horror films were used as the scapegoat, particularly Child’s Play 3 and horror films were still being banned and censored all over. Then in 1998, James Ferman the director of the BBFC retired and so did his archaic rules. By 1999, many previously banned and censored films were being released fully uncut. It was twenty-four years since it was first released, but I finally got to see The Exorcist, fully uncut for the first time ever. I knew of the film’s infamy, I had seen images and a few small clips from the flick too, but I never actually got to see the film until 1999. I loved it and still think it’s the greatest horror film ever made. All the hype, all the stories surrounding The Exorcist helped build my anticipation for it and I was not disappointed one bit. Plus, I was twenty-three in 1999, which meant I could watch anything I liked without restrictions and I was old enough to go buy my own films too…and I bought a lot of horror films.

THE EXORCIST

The new rules at the BBFC blew open the doors for so much more horror for me. Films I had previously seen that were heavily edited were now being released uncut. Infamous films like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Cannibal Holocaust, The Driller Killer, The Last House on the Left and so many more began to fill my VHS collection. The first time I saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I remember being a bit bored. I knew of the film, I knew of its infamy and reputation… yet I thought it was crap as I say there staring at the TV, it was more annoying than scary, especially with that Franklin character. Then it got to the dinner scene and fuck me. One of the most unsettling and disturbing scenes in a horror film ever.

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE

I would sit there, night after night, just watching all these horror flicks that I had not been able to watch before. That era of the late nineties and early two-thousands was a horror haven for me. When I got my first DVD player, the first DVD I ever bought was The Evil Dead Trilogy, all films fully uncut for the first time.

But strangely enough, as much as I loved that period of discovering all these classic horror flicks, it was also when I began to fall out of love with the horror genre. Well, to be more specific, I fell out of love with modern horror. I remember watching Scream in 1997 and loving the whole meta-storytelling thing. Very clever and it did something pretty unique. Final Destination was another one that brought some new ideas to the genre… but then it all got a bit ‘meh’. I’m not saying there haven’t been any good horror films since, the first Saw was brilliant. But soon, everything was turned into a franchise and just became tired, the horror genre was dying. There was no originality in horror anymore, it got to a point where even if a film was new, I had already seen it before watching a single frame of film. I still loved the classics, I got more and more into sixties, seventies and eighties horror flicks, my collection grew and grew as I sought out more previously banned or unseen films. I got to re-watch those films that scared me as a kid and found a new appreciation for them, Jaws, Alien, The Thing and more. Watching them as an adult over a kid made me want to look into how the films were made. I grew a deep interest in all the behind the scenes stuff and that is when I really became a horror fan.

I recall staying up late one night and watching a horror film festival on Channel 4 here in the UK. The festival had been running for a week and they were showing classics and foreign horror flicks. Ringu came on, my introduction to Japanese horror. A much slower and tense style of storytelling and a sub-genre which had past me by. The slower pace of Ringu enthralled me and it was doing things in the horror genre I thought were unique. The ending with Sadako coming out if the TV genuinely scared me when I first saw it, the first time I’d been scared by a horror film since I was a kid. Even The Exorcist (as much as I loved it) didn’t scare me.

RINGU

From then, I went on a bit of a Japanese horror crusade. I discovered Ju-On: The Grudge, Dark Water, Audition and Battle Royale. Yeah I know, that last one isn’t really considered a horror film, but for me it is. That whole set up of school kids being forced to kill each other to survive is pretty horrific.

Generally though, the modern horror films bored me, but those classics? I couldn’t get enough of them, the advent of DVDs and the extras, makings of, DVD commentary, behind the scenes documentaries and so on, really hooked me. I’d watch a classic like The Thing, then instantly re-watch it with the commentary on to hear the behind the scenes stories. I’d watch every single extra on the disc over and over. I grew this passion for how/why the films were made and that interested me more than the actual films themselves… and I adored the films.

Even now, my main attraction is horror films from sixties though to the eighties. There’s just something about that era that has never been bettered. Those three decades are where horror film was at its finest. If I ever fancy watching a horror film now, rarely will it be anything from  the last two decades as they just don’t hold my interest. But I never tire of the classics, those flicks from my childhood that shaped me to be the horror fan I am now. I just watch, reminisce and smile.

NORMAN BATES

Sin Never Dies: A Carrie Retrospective

Yes, it’s Halloween again, so time for my annual Halloween article(s). This year, I’m looking at a certain teenager with a pretty unusual talent.

Stephen King is arguably one of the greatest horror/supernatural writers of any generation. Celebrating his seventy-third birthday just last month, he’s still going strong too with his latest novel due out next year. Of course, as famed as Stephen is for his more macabre scribblings, using either his real name or the pseudonym of Richard Bachman, he’s also penned many non-horror novels and stories too, such as The Green Mile, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption and 11/22/63 to name a few. But I’m here to look at his very first published novel (fourth he wrote but first to be published), Carrie and it’s entire franchise.

CARRIE ART 2

The Novel

Originally published in 1974, after several years as a struggling writer, the world was finally introduced to Stephen King via his novel, Carrie. Telling to story of troubled teenager, Carrie White and her strained relationship with her deeply religious mother, Margaret. I think we all know the plot of this one by now. Still, I’ll quickly go over it regardless. Just another quick one, SPILOERS ahead, even if you know the film, the novel still has some differences and surprises, though I will just summarise the plot and not reveal everything.

Carietta ‘Carrie’ White, aged sixteen, is a socially awkward, overweight and unpopular outcast in her school. She is often verbally bulled for her frumpy looks, acne, being fat and outdated clothing. One day, after gym class and while showering, Carrie has her first period. Due to her mother’s religious beliefs and very despotic nature, she never taught Carrie about menstruation. Completely unware of what is happening to her, she begins to panic, believing she is bleeding to death. This is when her bully classmates take the opportunity to ridicule the distraught Carrie as much as they can. Led by the popular girl, Chris Hargensen, the other girls begin to throw tampons as Carrie as she becomes increasingly more upset and confused over what is happening, her anger boils over and a lightbulb in the shower room explodes. Gym teacher, Rita Desjardin enters the shower room and breaks up the disruption. She cleans Carrie up, explains all about menstruation and takes her to the principle. After the principle continually get’s her name wrong, the upset Carrie lashes out and an ashtray on the desk flips onto the floor. Carrie is excused from school for the day and goes home.

On her way home, Carrie is harassed by a local kid riding a bike. Her rage returns and the kid falls off the bike, this is when she realises that she caused it to happen and begins to question her powers. When she gets home, Carrie quizzes her mother, Margaret on why she was never told about menstruation. Margaret’s (unnatural) religious beliefs make her think her daughter is filled with sin, she loses it, beats Carrie while spouting scripture and then locks her in a closest for six hours of praying.

The next day at school and Mrs Desjardin punishes the girls who bullied Carrie in the shower with a week of detention. If they disobey the detention, then they will be excluded from the up and coming school prom. Main bully-girl, Chris, defies Mrs Desjardin and so, is told she can’t go to the prom. Chris tries to get her influential father to reverse the punishment, which is unsuccessful. A now very angry Chris decides to plan revenge on Carrie. Meanwhile, one of the other bullies Sue Snell begins to genuinely feel sorry for Carrie, she asks her boyfriend, Tommy Ross to take Carrie to the prom in a bid to help her begin to feel better about herself. After some distrust (and who can blame her?), Carrie agrees to the date.

Chris begins her plan for revenge by rigging the prom queen votes so Carrie wins, meaning she would be called up on stage. Another part of Chris’ revenge includes killing pigs and filling two buckets with their blood, with the help her boyfriend, Billy Nolan. Chris’ plan works, Carrie and Tommy are voted as prom queen and king, both being called up on to the stage. Tommy even begins to find Carrie attractive in her homemade prom dress. With the couple on stage, Chris, who is hiding, drops the two buckets of pigs blood on the couple, drenching them both. One of the buckets hits Tommy on the head and kills him. Carrie stands there in shock, covered in pigs blood as the crowd of watching teens begin to laugh at her. Humiliated, confused and ashamed, Carrie leaves the building as the torment continues.

Now outside of the school, Carrie decides to try her telekinetic powers. She seals everyone inside, using electricity, fire and just good old fashioned throwing people around to kill everyone. As Carrie’s rage builds, the bodies pile up. A fire spreads, leading to an explosion that destroys the school. Carrie makes her way back home, on the way she destroys gas stations, power lines and more. She also sends out a telepathic message which the townsfolk can hear, telling everyone that she is responsible for the carnage and deaths. Now back at home, Margaret believes her daughter has been possessed by the Devil himself and tries to kill Carrie. She is stabbed in the shoulder, our of anger, Carrie kills her mother by using her powers to stop her heart.

Bleeding heavily, Carrie leaves her house and sees bully-girl Chris and her boyfriend Billy, who ran away after the pigs blood thing, but before Carrie went telekinetic crazy and killed everyone. With Billy driving, he and Chris try to run Carrie over, but she takes control of the car and drives it into a wall, killing them both. Sue Snell, who heard Carrie’s previous telepathic message, finds Carrie bleeding to death from the previous stab wound. Carrie dies while crying out for her mother.


I think what is quite surprising about the book is how it is written and presented. It’s not a ‘normal’ book at all. Right from the opening few lines, you are told that Carrie has telekinetic powers, so it’s not a surprise (unlike the film for instance). Carrie herself does not realise until later, but you the reader are told right from the start. Plus, the book almost comes across as a documentary over a piece of usual novel-like storytelling. There are no chapters and it’s one long continual plot, but it is broken up with quotes and references from (fictional) newspaper/magazine articles and books covering the story of Margaret and Carrie White. There are investigations into the possibly of telekinetic powers from science books, interviews with people who knew Carrie and her mother, newspaper reports and the like. These a large section were one of the White’s old neighbours is interviewed about a strange occurrence that happened when Carrie was three years-old. These parts of the book all work to fill in backstory and flesh out the plot as you read. It’s kind of told as if the events in the book have already happened as you read them, an epistolary novel, one that feels more like a documentation than a story being told. For a first (published) novel, it’s a bold writing style, but it really works.

CARRIE NOVEL

I saw the film long before I ever read the novel. I did first read the book a good twenty years ago, but lost my copy. So I bought a new one just for this article and re-read it. Despite watching and knowing the film very well indeed, and despite already reading the book years ago, there are still some great surprises here and plot elements I had forgotten about. Really enjoyed reading this again for this article and very much recommend it, even if you know the film as well as I do, the novel still has the power to surprise and shock with sub-plots dealing with teenage pregnancy and more. Plus, if you’ve never read a Stephen King novel before, then this is a great place to start. It’s unusual, documentary-like presentation may take a while to get used to, but it really is worth it in the end.

The Movies

Carrie was never meant to be a franchise, but it eventually kind of became one. There was only one true sequel to the first film, but several different versions of the original.

Carrie

CARRIE 76 POSTER

Released in 1976 from director, Brian De Palma was the first ever Carrie film. I’m not really going to dwell on the plot as it’s pretty much the same as the novel, which I have already covered up there ^^^. There are a few changes here and there between the two versions. Pretty much all of the sub-plots from the novel are gone, the documentary style storytelling of the novel is also gone, and so too is any of the backstory about Carrie as a little girl, as the film offers more of a straight forward narrative. Oh and they spelled Stephen King’s name wrong in the trailer too.


For me, Sissy Spacek as Carrie, I think she is just perfect casting, her portrayal as the shy and scared teenager is utterly brilliant. She is very different from the book though, no longer overweight and covered in spots, but still bullied and ridiculed by the other girls. The way she goes from that introvert girl at the start, to learning about her unique talent to quite frankly, terrifying mass-murderess at the school prom is one of my all time favourite horror performances. That image of Carrie covered in pigs blood is one of the most iconic horror images ever.

CARRIE 76 BLOOD

Then there is Piper Laurie as Carrie’s over-controlling and deeply religious mother, Margaret. As much as I love Sissy Spacek in this flick (and I do), Piper Laurie is on a whole other level. She’s fucking crazy! The speech Margaret gives over how Carrie was conceived is both touching and terrifying. The way she abuses her daughter, for what she believes is the better, is heart-breaking… and then there is Margaret’s demise which is a wonderful resolve (different from the book), yet one Carrie regrets despite all the abuse. Both Sissy and Piper were nominated for Oscars (Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively) for their roles in Carrie, neither won, but a multiple Oscar nonlimited horror film is a rarity, especially back in the seventies.

CARRIE 76 JOHN

Of course, Carrie also introduced the world to some young actor called John Travolta, who played Billy Nolan, the boyfriend to one of my all time favourite cinematic bullies.  Nancy Allen as Chris Hargensen is just such an evil and spiteful little bitch. Her hatred toward Carrie is a major driving-force and the catalyst to the entire massacre at film’s climax. Plus I have to give a mention to Amy Irving as Sue Snell, one of the few survivors of the film and a character that actually ends up wanting to help Carrie despite starting out as one of the bullies.

Simply put, Carrie is one of the all time great horror films and still very effective now, forty-four years later. Between the movie and the book, I feel this is one of the very rare occasions where the film is better… and the novel is great.

The Rage: Carrie 2

RAGE CARRIE 2 POSTER

Then just a short twenty-three years later, a sequel was made in 1999. The Rage: Carrie 2 sees Rachel Lang (Emily Bergl), a teenage girl living in a foster home after her mother suffers a schizophrenic episode, believing her daughter’s telekinetic powers are linked to the Satan himself. Rachel is a school outcast with only one real friend, Lisa. However, when Lisa commits suicide, Rachel soon learns why. Lisa was used for sex and then rejected by a popular school jock, Eric.

Taking the story to the police, Eric, who is eighteen years-old, could be arrested for statutory rape. Enter school guidance counsellor, Sue Snell (Amy Irving) from the original film who offers her support to help Rachel. Eric learns that it is Rachel behind the implications into Lisa’s death and turns up at her house to scare her into not talking to the police. Only it is Eric who gets scared when Rachel lets loose with her telekinetic powers. Meanwhile. Sue notices Rachel’s powers and begins an investigation of her own, one that drags up some personal history. Sue discovers that Rachel’s mother had an illicit affair with Ralph White, Carrie’s real father. Rachel is Carrie’s half-sister. Sue takes Rachel to the ruins of her old high school, the one Carrie destroyed in the first film, this is where Sue tells Rachel the story of Carrie and who they are related.

RAGE CARRIE 2

Long story short and Rachel is invited to a house party, under false pretences and things go very… well they go very Carrie when Rachel learns how she had been deceived. She unleashes her powers and goes on a killing spree.


I think the biggest problem with The Rage: Carrie 2 is that it’s just so very average. As a sequel to one of the finest horror films ever made, it doesn’t do anything worthy of note. It not only just re-treads the original film, pretty much beat for beat, it also falls into a typical nineties horror film category. There are no genuine surprises here and you can tell exactly where the film is going after the first ten minutes. If it wasn’t for the tenuous links to the original film, there would be no reason for this to be a sequel at all. It’s a very cheap re-hash of a classic piece of cinema and while I don’t really dislike The Rage: Carrie 2, I don’t particularly enjoy it either.

RAGE CARRIE 2 SUE

Emily Bergl gives a very one-note and uninspired performance as Rachel. She plays that ‘misunderstood’ teenage girl you’ve seen before, it’s just all very typical. Admittedly, it was nice to see Amy Irving back as Sue from the first film, but even that is just one of those pointless and tenuous links that really didn’t need to be there. The Rage: Carrie 2 is an utterly superfluous sequel. It’s not a bad film in of itself, just a pointless sequel that really does nothing interesting other than offer typical nineties horror-fare that’s a little bit like the original Carrie.

Carrie

CARRIE 02 POSTER

Then in 2002, the first remake or perhaps more apt would be re-adaption of Carrie was released. This one was a made for TV movie based more so on King’s novel than the original 1976 film. Again, It’s not really worth going into the plot as it’s pretty much the same as the original film and novel, with a few minor changes here and there. But is it any good?


No, not really. It all just feels very desperate and pointless. As superfluous as The Rage: Carrie 2 was, at least it was trying to add to the mythology of the story. This version doesn’t even do that. The whole thing feels very ‘cheap’ with poor effects work and a very poor adaption of King’s novel. In terms of it being closer to the book… yeah, I guess it kind of is.

This version does explore Carrie’s childhood and backstory, just like the novel did. The ending of this version is a bit more like the book, but also puts its own spin on it too. Sadly, it’s all just so very dull. The lack of budget as it’s a TV movie really shows, some of the effects are laughably bad, especially for the infamous stone shower scene from the novel. I’m not sure how a film from 2002 can look worse than one from 1976, but here it is.

CARRIE 02 BLOOD

Angela Bettis as Carrie is about the only enjoyable thing about the whole film. She’s hardly award worthy, but she’s a damn sight better than anyone else in the film. The worst crime this film commits is that it’s just not scary. It’s one of the least tense and frightening horror films ever made. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the sexual references and blood, you could show this version of Carrie to your kids. If this had a bigger budget and better talent both behind and in front of the camera, it could’ve been great. A really interesting adaption of King’s novel… but it’s just so flat.

Carrie

CARRIE 13 POSTER

Yes, there is yet another Carrie. This one is a full on, big budget remake, unlike the previous TV movie, so it should be good then right?  Released in 2013, directed by Kimberly Peirce. Starring Chloë Grace Moretz at Carrie with Julianne Moore as her mother, Margaret.


For me, this is pretty bad. I watched this at the cinema and remember coming out thinking it was okay. I re-watched it for this article and thought it was terrible. Again, there’s little point in covering the plot as it really doesn’t differ all that much from the novel or the 1976 film adaption. This version claims to be based more on the novel and not the first flick, I’m not 100% sure about that. There are some plot points from the novel that make their way into this version, though they are tweaked for a more modern audience. But I just felt this was a bog-standard remake of the 76 film more so than anything else.

CARRIE 13 CLOHE

Chloë Grace Moretz as Carrie just does not work for me at all. The character is supposed to be this frumpy, out of place and awkward girl due to her looks. Have you seen Moretz? She’s a stunning looking girl. Now, I’m not saying they couldn’t cast a pretty young woman in the role… cos they already did that with the original. Sissy Spacek was very pretty, especially back in the mid-seventies when Carrie was being filmed…

SISSY SPACEK 70s

The thing is, they used a great wardrobe and make-up to make Spacek look more ‘Carrie’ in the film. That just does not come across in this remake. Aside from some outdated clothing, Chloë Grace Moretz looks just as pretty pre-school prom as Carrie as she does during the prom. There just seemed to be little to zero effort put in to make her look ‘out of place’, where as the original had that perfected. Then there’s the acting itself, again, going back to the original and Sissy Spacek nailed it (that’s why she was Oscar nominated). She felt awkward in her performance. I just never got that with Chloë Grace Moretz here. She does this one thing where she hunches her shoulders and looks down… that’s it. That’s the entire performance of Carrie until the prom massacre… and about that.

The grand finale of the film is its most famous scene and you’ve got to get it right. It’s the pay-off to all the bullying and abuse Carrie as suffered. While the effects work is good, it’s the acting that ruins that scene here. Moretz does this hand waving thing every time she uses her powers and it looks stupid. Go back and watch the original film, watch how Sissy Spacek conveys the rage and anger, the use of her powers just with the movement of her head, her eyes… that’s all she does, cos that’s all that was needed. Less dramatics, but a much more powerful performance. Here, Chloë Grace Moretz come across as a second rate magician at a seven year-old’s birthday party with all the hand gestures and arm waving. It just ruins the feeling of rage when you look like you’re trying to pass an audition on a shitty Simon Cowell talent show.

CARRIE 13 PROM

Then there’s Julianne Moore as Margaret. I love Moore, I think she’s a brilliant actress… I’ll even praise her performance in the Psycho remake. She should be amazing as the religious nut, Margret White, but she’s not. It’s just a very plain and subdued performance, almost phoned in. The few times she does snap and go crazy, it’s just all very ‘pantomime villain’. Piper Laurie in the original was sublime (again, Oscar nominated), she’s one of the great big screen villains, pure evil. Which considering she was playing a deeply religious character was wonderfully ironic. Where as Julianne Moore here is just very ‘meh’. But I don’t blame either actress for the missteps here, it’s  a directing issue. I honestly feel that Kimberly Peirce was just clueless of how to work with the material and actors she had.

This remake is just plain bad, woeful.


And that’s about it for the movies. Overall, the 1976 original is still a fantastic piece of cinema and well worth watching today. One of the finest horror films ever made. The sequel, The Rage: Carrie 2 is very mundane and middle of the road. The 2002 TV movie is a wasted opportunity. Then the 2013 remake is just terrible. Read the novel, watch the 76 flick… maybe take a look at The Rage: Carrie 2 if you’re curious. But, that’s the best of the lot.

Carrie

CARRIE MUSICAL

Okay, so there is one final thing worth looking at. A rather strange curiosity… a musical. Oh yeah, there was a Carrie musical. Originally performed in February on 1988 in Stratford-upon-Avon, it eventually made it’s way to Broadway later the same year. Now, the original 1988 performance is known as one of the worst stage shows ever. It even inspired a book, Ken Mandelbaum’s, Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops from 1992.

However, though the show was a complete flop, it has been revived several times over the years, with the most recent performance being in 2019. There have been several recordings of various performances of the musical over the years. Here’s the original 1988 one, another from 2013, and this one filmed in 2019.

I’ve not actually watched any of the musicals, cos I’m kind if a bit Carrie fatigued now to be honest. But that’s about it, the entire Carrie franchise covered. I do have one more article for Halloween…

No Time To Release: Bond Delayed… Again

Ahhhhhh, Mr. Delay, I’ve been expecting you.

Perhaps the most obvious and unexpected news about the new James Bond flick, No Time To Die, has been announced. It has been delayed… again. Originally set to have been released in November of 2019, but it was pushed back to February 2020, before being delayed once more until April 2020. Then, well… the world went a little crazy as the whole coronavirus pandemic took over.

So, No Time To Die was delayed again for the third time to November 2020. Then more recently, it has been delayed… again, again until April 2021.  For those counting, that’s over a whole year of delays from its initial November 2019 release until its (supposed) April 2021 date. Now, it was originally said that the first round of delays from 2019 to 2020 were due to original director, Danny Boyle leaving the project. Then producers claimed the delay from April 2020 to November of the same year wasn’t due to the whole covid-19 thing, but because traditionally, Bond films had been released in November since GoldenEye in 1995. I checked, it’s kind of true as the films have been released October – December time. But that reason can’t wash now with a delay from November 2020 to April 2021 can it? No, I think it’s pretty clear the delay now is more certainly due to this pandemic and it’s effects on the economy.

NO TIME TO DIE CAR

Anyway, the point I want to make is… the film is done, its ready to be released and has been for months now. Delaying again is pointless because the virus isn’t going anywhere and will most definitely still be around come April 2021. Studios can’t keep delaying films and the cinema, as a business, just had to crack on with it. No Time To Die is just one of many that have been delayed. We were supposed to have gotten the new Ghostbusters Afterlife film this summer too, but that has been delayed until 2021 now. Wonder Woman 1984, Black Widow and many more have been delayed. And the thing is that new films are being made as we speak… so where will they fit into the release schedule if all these other films are being delayed and taking up screen time? There will be a major problem with future release dates.

Releasing a film digitally on streaming services has got to be a better option than just delaying indefinitely. Or even better, release both in the cinema and digitally, then let the audience decide which they would prefer. Disney released their Mulan remake digitally and their streaming service instead of delaying and Disney had a 68% increase in Disney+ downloads. It’s not know exactly how much Mulan has made, but it made a lot more then the nothing if it hadn’t been released on Disney+. The new Bill & Ted flick, Bill & Ted Face the Music did both a cinema release and a digital rental service, and it became the top rented film on demand where made $32 million (and still counting) just from the U.S. alone via a digital release in two weeks. Currently, No Time To Die is making a grand profit of nothing, where as it could be making some money from both a cinematic and digital release. Either that or they just wait it out until April 2021 and when coronavirus proves to still be very much with us and people are still weary about going to the cinema, delay yet it again?

Delaying all these films will have a serious knock on effect with cinemas in the long run. One of the UK’s biggest cinema chains is already close to closing due to having no films to show. Having some money coming in has got to be better than no money at all, right? If studios keep delaying films like this, there won’t be any cinemas to show them in the very near future. Then what? The only outlet film stuidos will have is digital, which is exactly what they’re trying to avoid, the irony…

Honestly, by the time No Time to Die is released, they would’ve already cast Idris Elba as the next 007, no one will remember who Billie Eilish was or her song, the excitement over the film would’ve died down and there won’t be any cinemas to show it. Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, just release the damn film already. Making some money from partial cinema sales and a digital release has got to be better than nothing. Let fans see Daniel Craig’s final outing as James Bond before we all get bored of waiting and before the cinema industry is destroyed. As I wrote on Twitter back in September when the delay to November was first announced…

TWEET

Cinema’s biggest hero, James Bond, is going to kill off cinemas.

Fresh Prince: Thirty Years Of TV Family Bliss?

So there’s going to be a 30th anniversary reunion of The Fresh Prince of Bell Air.  DJ ‘Jazzy’ Jeff Townes announced that the reunion has been recorded and will air on HBO Max in the near future.

ANNOUNCMENT

What with the recently announced Fresh Prince reboot, which will be a gritty drama instead of a lighthearted comedy like the original, there’s a resurgence of interest in this classic sit-com. In a world where pretty much every time your read/hear the news, it’s something shitty, this Fresh Prince reunion is a much needed ray of sunshine. Check out the pics below and try to work out why nobody has hardly aged over the last three decades…

FAMILYASHLEY AND JAZZCALRTON AND JAZZHILLARY AND JAZZJEFFY AND JAZZJAZZY JEFF AND FRESH PRINCEWILL AND JANET

And yes, that’s the original Aunt Viv, Janet Hubert with Will Smith. I’m not going to go into details here, if you know your Fresh Prince history, then you know just how monumental that image really is. Sadly, one of the biggest and most important cast members will be missing as Uncle Phil, played by the amazing James Avery died back in 2013. Best TV father ever! But I’m sure that while he can’t be there physically, he’ll be there in spirit and will be fondly remembered by the rest of the family.

Anyway, I love The Fresh Prince of Bell Air, it’s genuinely one of my all time favourite TV shows. I’m so excited for this reunion, so I thought I’d take a look at some of my favourite moments from this amazing sit-com with the greatest ever theme tune.

Originally airing in 1990 and running for six seasons, Fresh Prince was The Cosby Show for cool people… only with far less rape (is it still topical to do a Bill Cosby joke?). The Fresh Prince of Bell Air told the story of a fictionalised version of Will Smith moving from West Philadelphia (born and raised) to live with his Aunt and Uncle in the more affluent Bel-Air, after getting himself into some trouble. The series often contrasted Will’s street-wise lifestyle with that of his more upper-class relatives. While a comedy at heart, Fresh Prince also dealt with more serious issues and topics. With over one hundred and forty episodes, there’s a lot of great moments to chose from, whether they be funny or more emotional and heart-breaking… and I’m going to take a look at just a handful of my favourite bits right now.

The Theme Tune

I guess I really need to start with the first ever episode. My favourite part though is not anything from the episode itself, but the intro. The first ever episode was one of the very rare times when the theme tune was played in full.

Usually the second verse it cut from the opening as we often got the truncated version of the theme tune, but here with the first episode, we got the whole thing and it is glorious.

That Dance

Aunt Viv’s (Janet Hubert) dance. This is perhaps one of the most iconic moments of the whole show. The episode (The Big Four-Oh) revolved around Aunt Viv turning forty. While going trough a bit of a mid-life crisis, Viv decides she wants to be a dancer. At a dance class, she is ridiculed by some of the regulars and made to feel more than a little uncomfortable. The dance teacher goes over the complex move-set and plays some C+C Music Factory (Everybody Dance Now), then Viv steps forward. What follows is about forty seconds of pure bliss as Viv blows everyone away with her dance moves. The fact that Janet was actually trained in dance at Juilliard kind of helps, but even so, this was one of the best ever moments.

What Wall?

Wherever Will, or others, would break the forth wall. Too many individual moments to chose from and aside from the many times Will looked directly at the camera to the audience, but here are some that come to mind.

  • When Will is in court (Will Goes a Courtin’) and his opening statement recites the lyrics from the show’s theme song.
  • The Banks family disusing how rich they are (Same Game, Next Season), for Will to ask if they are so rich, why don’t they have a ceiling, as the camera pans upwards to reveal the TV set with the lights and rigging overhead.
  • Will pranks Carlton into believing he killed someone (Will’s Misery). Carlton then begins to scream in terror and runs around, moving between different several sets and even into the audience.
  • Will says he want’s to stay in Philadelphia (What’s Will Got to Do with It?  -Part 1), but NBC executives throw him in the back of a van and take him back to Bel-Air saying the show is called The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and not The Fresh Prince of Philadelphia.
  • While back in Philadelphia (The Philadelphia Story), one of Will’s friends talks about someone called Omar Boware. Carlton asks who that is and Will says: “The dude that be spinning me over his head in the opening credits”.
  • Perhaps the most famous and best forth wall break was when Janet Hubert was replaced as Aunt Viv by Daphne Maxwell (Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way – Part 1). I’ll let the scene speak for itself…

Arrrhhhhhhh!

Whenever Jazz got thrown out of the house (or similar). It was a long running gag where Jazz would usually upset Uncle Phil, to then be thrown out of the house. Jeff Townes playing Jazz had to wear the same shirt so the continuity matched as they reused the same clip of Jazz’s flying exit multiple times.

JAZZ THROW

While it was mostly the same gag reusing the same clip and Jeff having to wear that same shirt, there were a few variations. Uncle Phil has actually been thrown out once, though it was via a nightmare. Will has also been thrown out in the same way as the Jazz gag. Jazz has even thrown himself out to save Uncle Phil from doing it. Plus there are other versions, like the one at the end of the forth wall break clip above.

Tom Jones

Carlton’s obsessive fandom of Tom Jones was always good for a laugh. From sly jokes made at Carlton’s expense to that dance. The song, It’s Not Unusual had a bit of a resurgence thanks to Fresh Prince, Carlton played it a lot and would always break out his best dance moves. Alfonso Ribeiro as Carlton always threw everything he had at the dance too no matter how many times he had to do it, and every time, it was TV gold. But it got even better.

TOM JONES

The man himself, Tom Jones even appeared on the show as Carlton’s guardian angel. In the episode, The Alma Matter, a bit of a It’s a Wonderful Life parody where Carlton is feeling a bit depressed, he wonders what it would be like if he never existed. Enter Tom Jones to put Carlton right and show him how much he matters to the family.

Big Issues

Despite being a family friendly sit-com, Fresh Prince still got a little heavy now and then. The hi-jinks would take a back seat to deliver a more sober and often poignant point. Racism, alcohol abuse, sexism, mortality and other important subjects have been covered… and covered really well too.

  • Will and Carlton are asked to deliver a luxury car to one of Uncle Phil’s business associates. In the episode (Mistaken Identity), Will and Carlton are pulled over and arrested, with the white cop believing the two young black youths must’ve stolen the car based on nothing but the fact they are black. There’s an amazing moment when Uncle Phil turns up at the police station and berates the police officers, threatening them with legal action, well he was a high-class lawyer. But even as great as that moment is, it’s the finale where Carlton tries to rationalise and justify the police officer’s actions, he just didn’t see the racism. That’s when Will has his say and puts Carlton right.
  • More racism here (Guess Who’s Coming to Marry?), but with a bit of a twist.  Will’s mother’s sister… or Will’s other Aunt, Janice brings her new fiancée to the Banks’ house for the first time. His name is Frank..and he’s white. The family are surprised, but don’t make too much of a big deal about it… except for Will’s mother, Viola. She really gets upset over the black Janice wanting to marry the white Frank. There are arguments and disagreements as Viola’s bigotry is revealed. Of course, this being a family sit-com means that everything works out fine in the end. But it was really interesting to see the racism thing handled from a very different angle.

FRESH PRINCE SCENE

  • Uncle Phil’s cholesterol level rises (Home is Where the Heart Attack Is) and he is put on a diet… a diet he chooses to ignore. While enjoying a cheeseburger, Uncle Phil has a heart attack and is rushed into hospital. The family head to hospital to be by his bedside and offer their support, everyone goes except for Carlton who refuses to go, scared that his father could die. Will eventually talks to Carlton and tells him about his own dead-beat father and gives Carlton some home truths, like the fact he has an amazing father, something Will never had. Carlton does eventually go to the hospital, but reveals how he just could’t face seeing his father suffer. Its a great little tale about fears and mortality.
  • Will is challenged to a drinking contest (You’ve Got to Be a Football Hero). Carlton steps in and tries to stop him, but he’s too focused on bettering his peers, wanting to prove a point. Will drinks way too much and passes out. Left in a graveyard and while unconscious and drunk, Will meets several ghosts, one a child killed by a drunk driver. The dead child really hits a nerve with what he has to say and convinces Will to never drink again… and he never did. This one has a great message, if a little ham-fisted and preachy at times.
  • Will and Carlton are mugged at gunpoint while taking out some money from an ATM (Bullets over Bel-Air), Will gets shot. Taken into hospital, Will pulls though but Carlton has a rather extreme reaction to the mugging, he goes out an buys a gun. It’s when Will learns about the gun and really lays into Carlton for him to give it up where this one stands out. An interesting look at gun crime and its effects.

There are many more deeper and sombre topics handled in Fresh Prince, but this article is getting a bit to long now and I need to bring it to an end. But before I do, I have to cover perhaps the greatest moment in the entire show. Another hard-hitting moment that involved Will’s estranged father.

Papa’s Got a Brand New Excuse

This really is the great episode. Will’s father, Lou turns up after being absent for the last fourteen years. Lou walked out on Will and his mother and never looked back. Still feeling a little bitter about the whole thing, Will eventually forgives Lou and agrees to give him another chance at being a dad. There’s some bad blood between Uncle Phil and Lou as Phil sees through his lies, even if Will doesn’t see it himself. Long story short, and Lou eventually walks out on his son once more and Will finds solace in Uncle Phil’s arms. Look, my description just won’t cut it, you need to experience the scene for yourself…

“No, you know what, Uncle Phil? I’ma get through college without him, I’ma get a great job without him, I’ma marry me a beautiful honey, and I’ma have me a whole bunch of kids. I’ma be a better father than he ever was, and I sure as hell don’t need him for that, ’cause there ain’t a damn thing he could ever teach me about how to love my kids!…

…How come he don’t want me, man?!”

– Will Smith

Will has gone on record as saying that one scene was the most important of his young acting career. There are many behind the scenes stories surrounding it too, from cast members crying (if you listen just before the credits roll, you can hear Karyn Parsons (Hilary) sobbing). Will thinking he couldn’t pull it off, to be pulled aside by James Avery and given a major confidence boost. Even James himself has been reported as whispering “That’s fucking acting right there” into Will’s ear during the scene when they hugged at the end.

Oh and a quick bit of myth busting. It has been said that Will wasn’t really acting in that scene because his father abandoned him and he was just conveying all the hate he felt toward his real-life dad. Not at all true. Will’s parents did split up when he was young, but his father never abandoned him. In fact, Will and his father had a great relationship and he was a huge influence on Will’s career too. Sadly, Willard Carroll Smith, Sr passed away in 2016. Here’s a clip talking about that very scene from 2018. Well worth watching.

Of all the times Fresh Prince made me laugh over the years, it also made me cry . This episode and whole scene really hit hard with me personally as my father walked out when I was young and never looked back. I’ve always had that same “fuck him” attitude too, I’ll do and have done just fine without him, “I’ma be a better father than he ever was”, damn right. Anyway, it’s all getting a little too personal, so I think I’ll end this one here.


But yeah, I’m really looking forward to this reunion. Three decades of The Fresh Prince of Bell Air and I still think it’s as watchable now as it was then. It’s still relevant and many of the issues the show raised are (sadly) still problems now. It’s still funny and while Will Smith is as charismatic as any one person could ever be, the entire cast are mesmorising and all bring something worthy to the table. Will may have been the main star, but he was supported by a galaxy of others.

UNCLE PHIL

And as for James Avery, best TV dad ever. The big guy with the even bigger heart and smile is very sorely missed.

“Monetary success is not success. Career success is not success. Life, someone that loves you, giving to others, doing something that makes you feel complete and full. That is success. And it isn’t dependent on anyone else.”

– James Avery