Presentation for Friday 02.13.15
Alex missed a good one tonight. The Amazon UK blu-ray looks great – even revealing some monster-operating wires that no one would notice in old VHS copies. Peter Cushing, as always, brings charm and charisma to the proceedings as he and another scientist travel to a small island off Ireland to investigate a dead body found with (wait for it) . . . no bones! Seems some reclusive scientists on the other side of the island have accidentally bred "silicates" – slimy, crawling slug-like creatures that divide & multiply like cells – who inject a substance that melts down the bones of their victims. One gruesome scene caught us all off guard. Summer was not happy. Still, an overall enjoyable SMN!
Presentation for Friday 02.06.15
Revisiting a classic of the sic-fi film world this week. Great film with grand ideas, space dudes brimming with testosterone, cute Anne Francis strolling around in her space age mini skirts, an invisible id monster and, of course, Robby the Robot. Only the annoying drone of some of the "futuristic" sound effects detract from an otherwise stellar evening of classic cinema!
Presentation for Friday 01.30.15
13 years into SMN, and I'm always looking for something new that's been off my radar. Enter, the Mexican horror film. Hey, it's a Mexican-western-mystery-horror film – what's not to love! It's a reworking of the classic Mexican legend of the crying woman. Fun and entertaining. Some good creepiness, all while not taking itself too seriously.
Presentation for Friday 01.23.15
Curt Siodmak. Really, that's all you need to know. One thing I've learned in 13+ years of Spooky Movie Night, is that Mr Siodmak was kinda The Man. He wrote screenplays for classics like The Wolfman, House of Frankenstein and I Walked with a Zombie. Here he tells a gripping tale of two A-Men (Atomic Men) who are investigating the presence of a strange magnetic field that appears suddenly in a small town. The source is eventually traced to a new atomic element that uses the magnetic field to convert energy to matter. As it grows out of control, it threatens to throw the earth off it's orbit. Classic 50's post-war end of the world potboiler!
Presentation for Friday 01.16.15
Now THIS is why I bought that region-free blu-ray player!! Without it, we would have never seen this absolute gem that's unavailable in the US – which would have been a crime! An architect shows up at a country manor for contracted work only to find that the house – and everyone in it – have been appearing in his recurring nightmares. He knows some bad mojo is afoot as he keeps predicting people who enter the story and events that eventually unfold. Several eerie tales unfold in anthology style, shifting in tone without taking you out of the film's grip. The kids and I were blown away. Simply fantastic!
Presentation for Friday 01.09.15
Another win for the region-free player as we load in the UK blu-ray of an amazingly intellectual treatment of the same sort of concept explored in the fun, but ultimately less satisfying, "I Married a Monster from Outer Space". Had never seen this one and I was surprised by it's depth of emotion for what is essentially a B movie. I chalk it up to the Brits, who prove again that they can do creepy sci-fi in a though-provoking way that transcends the genre. Certainly earned our applause as the credits rolled.
Presentation for Friday 01.02.15
The American title of this British classic was "The Creeping Unknown"– and a fitting title that is! This is a creeping, slow-burn of a chiller. A rocket returns from space with one survivor and only empty clothes left of his two crew mates. To make matters worse, there seems to be something very wrong with the survivor...and he's getting worse by the day. Crotchety Professor Quatermass throws his scientific weight around while trying to get to the bottom of what became of the missing astronauts. Tension builds steadily in this cerebral alien invasion film – Fun stuff!
Presentation for Friday 12.26.14
Summer was asleep early, so Corbin, Alex and I opted for a rare silent film. The plot sounded compelling: Every year, the last soul to die before the clock chimes in the new year is forced to drive death's carriage for the next year, picking up all the lost souls who have died. The special effects from this 1920 Swedish film were impressive for the period. Sadly, at 107 minutes, the film goes on too long (some editing was needed). What was unexpected was that this ended up a pretty potent tale of redemption. Obvious Christian undertones gave us a good post-film discussion. Would been about perfect if it'd just been about 20-or-so minutes shorter.
Presentation for Friday 12.19.14
Beautiful blu-ray transfer of a classic Italian sic-fi that's a bit on the deceptive side where it's title is concerned. Let me say this up-front: This is NOT a vampire film. What it is, however, is some pretty engaging space opera fun. A race of bodiless aliens mess with the minds of space explorers, causing them to violently turn on one another. The dead come back to life, and things start to feel more like a zombie film than anything having to do with vampires. Fun stuff though...lack of actual vampires notwithstanding!
Presentation for Friday 12.12.14
Last year's Christmas gift of a region-free blu-ray player has led to GREAT fun as I'm able to find stellar Amazon UK discs to replace my washed-out, scratched up, taped-from-TCM copies. Case in point, this week's pristine blu-ray of Hammer's 1966 classic, The Reptile! The film is just some great, creepy fun, and it looked & sounded better than I've ever seen! The story is sort of a werewolf-vampire-creature from the black lagoon mashup. While the kids may not appreciate its technical aspects – they really dug this classic gem from the Hammer House of Horror!
We've all probably heard of the K.I.S.S. principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid. I'd like to suggest a new version of that familiar axiom. I have admittedly struggled to make a more compelling acrostic than the original, but I think I'll land on Kick In Something Special. That really tells the story I want to talk about here.
If you were a boy growing up in the mid-seventies it's hard to imagine that you were not a fan of the band KISS. They had me hook, line and sinker. I honed some of my young artistic abilities drawing band members and the KISS logo. I played my Destroyer album until the vinyl almost turned white. And in sixth grade . . .
Yes, that's me in the middle as Peter Criss (with the rulers doubling for drumsticks). We were the last act to go on at the sixth grade talent show – and we rocked the house. Kids were chanting "Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!" while we setup behind the drawn curtain (complete with dry ice being fanned-in from just off-stage).
Say what you will about the band, but they have always been about kicking it up a notch (as illuminated in Gene's quote above). And I know, the cynic in us (OK, in me) says, "yeah, but it was only to make a buck." But it's actually more than that.
Gene Simmons may be a lot of things – but dumb ain't one of them. He has always been a keenly shrewd business man. He not only wanted to get merchandise to fans, he wanted a level of excellence they wouldn't find elsewhere. Gene knows that if you deliver a flawed product to your fans, then they will have no reason to keep coming back – and that is the key to the insane success of the KISS marketing machine.
KISS has over 2,500 licenses for the use of their image. Between 1977 and 1979 worldwide merchandise sales (in-store and on tour) reached an estimated $100 million – and that's in 1970's money! As an example of the Kick In Something Special idea, they were featured in their own comic book (in magazine format) produced by Marvel Comics in 1977 – but it was printed with ink that was mixed with samples of their real blood. I'm not kidding.
But my favorite example is a little-known story about bootleg albums. If you don't know, bootlegs albums were created from audience recordings during concerts. They were hugely popular at record shows and fetched insane prices. Due to the secretive nature with which these recordings had to be made, sound quality, as you can imagine, left a lot to be desired.
People were making a TON of money on KISS bootlegs (none of it going to the band of course) and the fans were getting inferior products, albeit rare ones. You can probably see where this is heading . . .
Enter the band, who secretly began making recordings of their own shows. But not just any recordings –recordings straight from the soundboard with infinitely superior quality to what was being done by audience members. To maintain the "allure" of an authentic bootleg, they never let on that they were the ones behind it. Instead of cracking down on these recordings as most other bands wanted to do, they made a boatload of money all the while providing their rabid fans with a quality product.
Personally, I love that story. And it has broader applications than KISS, music or even merchandising. In your efforts to excel, don't forget the fans of what you do. It may be your clients, your target audience – I'd venture to say it includes friends and family as well. You, your work, or your products or services have fans. They line the sides of the road that leads to success.
Take the time to really dissect what it is they want from you. How can you deliver in such a way that it fans the flames of their fandom. Do all you can to deliver – then Kick In Something Special.
I love Barney Fife's explanation for his academic ineptitude in one episode of the Andy Griffith Show. He explains to Andy that he made straight A's once and the teacher made a big fuss about it and the other kids hated him for it. Not wanting them to think he was a snob or an egghead, he "buckled down and got bad marks."
Maybe I can use that excuse to explain away some of my shortcomings in college. I was not the most academically committed individual on the campus. I was a bright lad – but I missed WAY too many classes (I personally blame my friend Chuck Horsman for leading me astray). But I did manage to retain quite a bit of what I learned when I decided to show up.
I remember slugging my way through a History of Letters sort of class taught by the wonderful Earl Snellenberger. When creating a logo recently, I was flashing back hard to the days of learning about Celtic Knot design. What at times seemed a bit like basket weaving with a pen has proven itself a worthy exercise many times, professionally. Being the incurable pack rat that I am, I still have my original folder with all my lettering guides and worksheets. Here's one of my original sample worksheets to give you an idea of what I'm talking about:
Over-under-over-under. It seemed tedious – and I was pretty sure that I wouldn't be doing design work for the ancient Celts in my post-collegiate career. But, as with much of design teaching, it's about the overarching concept and not the specific application.
Fast-forward over 20 years. I get a call from a client in Macau, China who is opening a new line of luxury eyewear stores. The brand needs to be culturally relevant and convey a high level of sophistication expected with a luxury brand. The name of one of the founders, Jean Scott, would be the name of the store as well.
The winning solution combined the initials J and S, woven together in a what looks to be a double figure-eight pattern. In Chinese culture, the number eight has great significance. The word for "eight" sounds like the Chinese word for "prosper" or "wealth". And doubled-up, they convey "joy" or "happiness" –even bearing a visual resemblance to characters which mean "double joy".
To understand how significant the number is to the Chinese, you may recall that the Beijing Summer Olympics started on 8/8/08 at 8 minutes and 8 seconds past 8 PM (local time).
For this project, the old "over-under-over-under" was an invaluable resource to have tucked away in my gray matter. 20-some-odd years ago, doing Celtic basket-weaving with a pen led me to a design solution for a luxury eyewear brand in China. Whodathunkit?
Here's the new logo for Jean Scott to see how it all came together:
For the record, anytime you can get your brand to communicate that it brings prosperity and a double-potion of joy should be considered a successful day at the office!
But remember . . . you have to speak the same language as your audience. Even if you aren't communicating across cultures, you need to understand what things are important to them, what they need and how to communicate that you can supply it.
Just like when I was in college. Chuck knew that if he asked me to blow off class to join him for some cheesy garlic bread at Pizza Hut that I'd say "no" – until he said "I'll buy the beer". Sad, but true. He knew his audience and what (at least at that point in life) was important to them.
Thankfully though, I stood firm in my commitment to learning (such as it was) during the days of discovering the fine craft of Celtic Knotwork.
For this project, it certainly helped me "Nip it in the bud!"