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Pulp Culture
Movie festivals
offer chills but
fewer classics


October 10, 2002
By Franklin Harris

(Note: All times Central)

Don't touch that dial, horror fans. As always, October brings various and sundry horror-film festivals on cable television.

The granddaddy of them all is American Movie Classics' annual Monsterfest. But it is showing signs of age. Formerly cable TV's best stop during the Halloween season, Monsterfest suffers the same ailments that now afflict AMC in general. Many of the films AMC airs are too recent to be "classics." Often, they are edited for content. And AMC no longer shows movies without commercial interruption.

This year's Monsterfest runs from Oct. 25 through Oct. 31. Highlights include a couple of Roger Corman/Vincent Price collaborations, "The Raven" and "Masque of the Red Death," on Oct. 26 and the best of the Universal monster movies: "Dracula," "Frankenstein," "The Mummy" and "Bride of Frankenstein."

Newer entries this year include "The Serpent and the Rainbow," "The Bride" (starring Jennifer Beals and Sting), "Fright Night" and the second through fifth installments of the "Halloween" series. The best "Halloween" film, the original, is conspicuously absent.

Of the newer films, I confess a fondness for "The Bride," a poorly regarded take on the Frankenstein story. True, Sting is dreadful as Baron Frankenstein, but Clancy Brown excels as Frankenstein's creature, and Beals is passable (and easy on the eyes) as the reluctant bride. If nothing else, "The Bride" is a gorgeous film to look at, thanks to director Franc Roddam and cinematographer Stephen H. Burum, a veteran of numerous Brian DePalma efforts.

"The Serpent and the Rainbow" is also worthwhile, but suffers when edited to meet "broadcast standards."

Meanwhile, unlike its main competition, Turner Classic Movies continues to show movies uncut and without commercials.

TCM is airing horror movies every Thursday night this month. Highlights include letterboxed broadcasts of "Poltergeist," "The Exorcist" and "Village of the Damned" on Oct. 24, Roman Polanski's comedy "The Fearless Vampire Killers, Or: Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are In My Neck" on Halloween and Bela Lugosi in "White Zombie" and Boris Karloff in "The Mask of Fu Manchu" on Oct. 17.

Tonight's TCM lineup includes the 1942 version of "Cat People" at 7 and "Curse of the Cat People" at midnight.

Set your VCR, because TCM is also airing the films of Italian horror master Mario Bava every Saturday at 1 a.m. The two not to miss are "Black Sabbath" on Oct. 19 and "Kill, Baby, Kill" on Oct. 26.

"Black Sabbath" stars Boris Karloff and is widely regarded as one of Bava's best films. Bava claimed it as his own favorite. "Kill, Baby, Kill" is a creepy ghost story set in rural Eastern Europe, and it has inspired filmmakers from Federico Fellini to Martin Scorsese.

TCM will show "Kill, Baby, Kill" in widescreen, which is the only way to truly appreciate Bava's hypnotic photography.

The Sci-Fi Channel is marking Halloween with a "Tales from the Crypt" marathon on Oct. 30 and a "William Shatner's Fright Night" marathon on Oct. 31.

"William Shatner's Fright Night" is simply a bunch of direct-to-video horror movies repackaged for television, and Shatner's host segments are more entertaining than the movies.

For the youngsters, Cartoon Network is offering an all-day marathon of "Courage the Cowardly Dog" on Halloween.

For full schedules, see amctv.com, turnerclassicmovies.com and scifi.com.

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