If you’re looking for some film-related options for your Halloween weekend, check out a few of my favorites:
Go see: THE BOOK OF LIFE (PG, 95 mins, in theaters now) They called it THE BOOK OF LIFE but it’s all about Dia de los Muertos — the Day of the Dead. This is 2014’s feel-good movie — a feast for the eyes, ears and soul. It’s a beautiful, humorous and touching mediation on life and death. This is a passion project from director Jorge Gutirerrez and the film’s producers which includes Guillermo del Toro — and the passion shows in every frame. The songs are great throughout and so far there’s been no FROZEN aftertaste to them. THE BOOK OF LIFE is a great date night movie and it’s great for the whole family — especially if you see it on November 1 (The Day of the Dead).
Watch: ARSENIC AND OLD LACE (1944, 118 mins, Warner Bros.) Hands down my favorite movie set against the backdrop of Halloween. With a script that crackles — adapted by the Espstein brothers (CASABLANCA) — and a cast that sparkles, this is a dark comedy that plays like slapstick farce. Here is Cary Grant at his madcap best and Capra at the zenith of his career. The film was actually shot in 1941 but held for release until 1944 because of contractual obligations that the film not interfere with the play’s Broadway run. This caused some financial strain on Capra who was depending on profits from the film to tide his family over while he was serving in the Signal Corp during WWII. Every year after the Trick-or-Treaters have gone to bed and the Halloween lights are extinguished at my house, I pop in the DVD of ARSENIC AND OLD LACE and enjoy it all over again.
PSYCHO: Behind the Scenes of the Classic Thriller by Janet Leigh with Christopher Nickens. Ms. Leigh waited 35 years to set the record straight on everything — including the then infamous, now iconic shower scene. The book is a breezy 190+ pages including lots of great photos. It’s obviously a labor of love. It’s also a treasure trove of collected memories from people Leigh and her co-author interviewed as well as documentation from the film’s production, post and distribution phases. (published 1995, Harmony Books)
Do: Sneak a peek at Ennis House (if you’re in L.A.). A couple of years ago my friend, Chris Ellis, rode in the navigator’s seat of my rental and guided me through Griffith Park, up Glendower to the Los Feliz home that is instantly recognizable to anyone who’s ever seen HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959) or BLADE RUNNER (1982). This Frank Lloyd Wright creation is one of three Wright homes in L.A. It’s a sight to behold and you’ll marvel at what effort it must of been to build in 1924. As far as it’s movie bona fides go, it’s mostly been used for exteriors over the years. It inspired the interior look of DECKARD’S apartment which was built on a set at Warner Bros for BLADE RUNNER. Ennis House is not currently open to the public and I’m sure the neighbors grow weary of gawkers filling the narrow streets looking for this architectural wonder, historic landmark and piece of cinematic history — so don’t tell ’em I sent you.