4/21/11

13 Things I Love About The Fog (1980)

Today is a red letter day. Not only is it the day that the events that unfold in The Fog take place, but it is also the wedding anniversary of myself and The Lady Bugg. This day 13 years ago we were married, and ever since we’ve managed to avoid ghost pirates of all sorts. So I thought in honor of the date of The Fog and my own nuptials, I thought I would look into 13 things that make me love The Fog. (Listing 13 reasons I love my wife would have just been too easy.)

1. The Story Told Around a Campfire

John Houseman can scare little kids with a story around a campfire, intimidate law students (that’s a Paper Chase reference for those not old enough to remember), and knows how to make money the old fashioned way. I love movies such as The Fog, Sleepaway Camp II, and Madman that kick off with the convention. They always seem to be among my favorites. Here’s the complete text of the story Mr. Houseman tells the kiddies.

”1:55, almost midnight. Enough time for one more story. One more story before 12:00, just to keep us warm. In five minutes, it will be the 21st of April. One hundred years ago on the 21st of April, out in the waters around Spivey Point, a small clipper ship drew toward land. Suddenly, out of the night, the fog rolled in. For a moment, they could see nothing, not a foot in front of them. Then, they saw a light. By God, it was a fire burning on the shore, strong enough to penetrate the swirling mist. They steered a course toward the light. But it was a campfire, like this one. The ship crashed against the rocks, the hull sheared in two, mars snapped like a twig. The wreckage sank, with all the men aboard. At the bottom of the sea, lay the Elizabeth Dane, with her crew, their lungs filled with salt water, their eyes open, staring to the darkness. And above, as suddenly as it came, the fog lifted, receded back across the ocean and never came again. But it is told by the fishermen, and their fathers and grandfathers, that when the fog returns to Antonio Bay, the men at the bottom of the sea, out in the water by Spivey Point will rise up and search for the campfire that led them to their dark, icy death.”

2. Debra Hill

There are some things that just go together perfectly. I could write a clich├ęd list, but you know what I’m talking about. One thing that should be added it the team of Debra Hill and John Carpenter. They began their professional career in 1975 on the set of Assault on Precinct 13, and it eventually lead to them co-writing Halloween, The Fog, and Escape from L.A. as well as Hill producing Carpenter’s films on several occasions. It also lead to a personal relationship between the pair. Sadly, Hill passed away in 2004 from cancer, and for fans of Carpenter’s films, she will forever be missed. After her passing, John remembered her by saying that knowing her was "one of the greatest experiences of my life - she had a passion for not just movies about women or women's ideas but films for everybody".

3. Tom Atkins as Nick Castle
Seriously, how much fun is Tom Atkins? From Night of the Creeps to Halloween III to The Fog, I always think of Tom as a contradiction. He seems like World’s Biggest Ham, but when you get down to it, he often plays his roles very small. My favorite thing about Atkins in this film is his first scene with co-star Jamie Lee Curtis. She plays a hitchhiker happy to get a ride to the “the other side of town”, as if she would be able to resist Atkins animal magnetism that far. (And she can’t, in their very next scene they are lounging in post-coital bliss.) The only thing holding Atkins back here is his bare upper lip, but even lack of ‘stache can’t contain Tom’s awesomeness.

4. Adrienne Barbeau is Stevie Wayne
I know it’s my anniversary and I shouldn't mention other women, but I think even The Lady Bugg would agree with me on this one. Who wouldn't want Adrienne Barbeau whispering sweet nothings though their radio all night? Stevie Wayne is the axis that the whole film moves around, and Barbeau gives an impressive performance that only features spare interactions with her co-stars.

5. Characters named Dan O’Bannon and Dr. Phibes.
Carpenter does love to put his friend’s names into his films, and The Fog is no exception with a character named after Carpenter’s longtime friend and Dark Star writer Dan O’Bannon. John also tips his hat to Vincent Price by naming the local doctor after Price’s Abominable Dr. Phibes.

6. Cinematography by Dean Cundey
Carpenter and Cundey is a team up that can do no wrong in my eyes. While Cundey got his start working with the Lair’s good friend Greydon Clark, he did so much amazing work with Carpenter on six of both men’s greatest films. (The Thing, Halloween 1 and 2, Big Trouble in Little China, The Fog, Escape from New York) The work he did here, balancing light, shadow, fog, monsters, actors, and everything else Carpenter had going on in a frame, was nothing less than masterful.

7. Creative Journal Writing
The keen eye’d repeat viewer will eventually notice this little bit of production department tomfoolery, but it never fails to amuse me. Here’s the summation from IMDBing movie prop. F--ing a--. It's time to bring in the word guide and the big t--s tattoos and shaved b---s..."

8. The Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe

On a more serious writing note, the film starts off with a couplet from an Edgar Allan Poe poem, here’s the entire text to “Dream within a Dream”

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! Yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! Can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

9. Two of the Greatest Scream Queens of All Time in One Movie.
Mother and Daughter Scream Queens Janet Leigh (Psycho) and Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween) only appeared in three productions together, The Fog, Halloween H20, and an Episode of The Love Boat called “Til Death Do Us Part, Maybe”. Though I don’t think they share but a brief bit of screen time in The Fog, it is awesome to have them together in a film.

10. Fog
I don’t care how much CG you throw at it or how many fog machines that a film maker sets off. Fog effects have never looked better than in Carpenter’s film. Much of it I know was accomplished by running the film backwards, but every sequence, especially by the time the fog is rolling around the city streets, is just spot on and amazing to see.

11. Ticked Off Sailors
I know what with all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies that people have about had enough of pirates (I actually just hit that point this morning when I found out Patti Smith was in the new PotC film.), but Carpenter’s seadogs are not all eye liner and Keith Richards speak. These pirates mean business. After all they have a great legend, and they also happen to be….

12. Ghosts
Or zombie ghosts, or undead, or special fog creatures, who knows? It doesn’t really matter because they’ve shown up to kill everyone in town. They’re rarely seen, they are vicious as they can be, and they appear to be unstoppable. The final sequences at the Church and the Lighthouse should not to be missed by any horror fan as they are as near to perfect as one could imagine.

13. Writer/director/composer John Carpenter
I know this is a cop out, but I love John. Even Ghosts of Mars I kind of like. While he might not have delivered a classic in a number of years, the sheer amount of films he was responsible for is off the charts. Out of my top 10 films of all time, he garners at least 2 spots, and if we’re just talking about horror that number rises considerably. The Fog is early Carpenter doing what he does best, scaring the hell out of his audience and haling a great time doing it.

So there we have it, 13 things I love about The Fog. While I mentioned earlier that doing 13 things I love about my wife would be too easy, it would also not be nearly enough. So Happy Anniversary my dear, lets hope for 87 more so at the century mark we can show up somewhere on a galleon dressed like ghost zombie sailors. That’s right. I know how to keep the romance alive.

3 comments:

  1. Fine, fine just show up my measly 10 things why don't you!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Amen to each and every one of 'em. Brilliant post!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't know how I missed this, but it's awesome!
    This is one of Dylan's favorite movies. So in turn, I've seen it a million times. I love it too though.

    ReplyDelete

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