October 28, 1999
By Franklin Harris
I didn't go all out for Halloween this year, unlike last year, when I littered the front porch with plastic jack-o-lanterns and other assorted and admittedly tacky decorations.
I decided it was too much trouble to hide those gaudy, yellow and orange electrical cords, which are the only kind certified for outdoor use. So, this year I opted for something more subdued. I hung two candleholders from the big tree in my front yard and propped a real, live (well, dead, actually) jack-o-lantern between where three great branches rise up from the tree's trunk.
All was well until the summer-long drought finally came to an end with two days of steady, misting rainfall.
Mold spores that had been dormant all through the summer's dry heat suddenly came to life. And they were hungry.
I awoke one morning to find my jack-o-lantern covered in fuzzy white. All of an afternoon's carving had gone to waste and was now going to the city dump as quickly as I could manage.
My ill-fated jack-o-lantern was the first real one I'd had since I was a child. I carved it in a fit of nostalgia, I guess. I might have thought better of it if I'd had any remembrance of how icky and gooey pumpkin innards are. How you can make pies out of the things is beyond me.
Anyway, I hope that nasty, old, velvety white fungus chokes on it. And the candleholders still look nice.
As I write this, I'm listening to John Carpenter's soundtrack to his classic, 1978 horror flick, "Halloween."
Carpenter's minimalist score is the perfectly eerie background music for the season. It works even without the accompanying film. Only Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells," which gained its fame when it was used as the theme to "The Exorcist," can evoke such instant feelings of dread.
It's strange how Halloween has failed to inspire many popular songs. After all, it is, after Christmas, the holiday Americans spend the most money in celebrating, which must say something as to its popularity. Yet nobody sings about Halloween.
How long has it been since party songs like "Monster Mash" and "Purple People-Eater" were recorded? There are Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters" theme, but they're both so hopelessly '80s. Maybe in 20 years I'll admit to having had both in my record collection, but for now I'm pleading the Fifth.
I will admit, however, to being a fan of Hollywood's most famous cheapskate director/producer, Roger Corman.
I happened to catch a showing of Corman's "Masque of the Red Death" recently on American Movie Classics.
"Masque" is one of Corman's legendary cycle of films based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe and starring Vincent Price, this time as the evil Prince Prospero. It also may be his best film, period. (Others give that honor to another Poe film, "The Tomb of Ligeia.")
I considered dressing up as the Red Death this year, but red Grim Reaper cloaks are hard to come by. The black ones, with accompanying plastic scythes, are everywhere.
As long as I have the goatee, I might as well find some pointed ears and go as the evil Mr. Spock from the Mirror Universe.
Anyway, it's a shame Corman's best films are virtually impossible to find on video or DVD while his production company's more recent exploitation flicks are readily available. Not that I have anything against exploitation films, of course, but I do think the Poe films should get priority over "Black Scorpion II" and a remake of "The Wasp Woman."
Actually, Corman has been turning out a lot of inferior remakes lately. He remade "Masque" with Adrian Paul ("Highlander") as Prospero.
Speaking of Vincent Price and remakes, Geoffrey Rush ("Mystery Men") looks amazingly like the late horror-film thespian in the upcoming "House on Haunted Hill."
The film is a remake of the 1958 movie of the same name starring Price and directed by William Castle. Naturally, Rush is cast in Price's role.
"The House on Haunted Hill" opens Friday, and hopefully it will prove a better remake than "The Haunting" did earlier this year.