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One Dark Night

One Dark Night
Meg Tilly, Melissa…
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aka Entity Force; Night of Darkness; Mausoleum; Rest in Peace and A Night in the Crypt. Starring Meg Tilly, Melissa Newmann, Elizabeth Daily & Adam West. Directed by Tom McLoughlin.

ONE DARK NIGHT (1983) has remained a pleasant memory for many a horror genre fan, especially those lucky enough to have caught it over the years on infrequent, edited cable runs or on out-of-print videotapes. It was an early star vehicle for a young Meg Tilly. It was a notable exception in quality and depth of has-been cameos for then aging Adam West. And it marked the beginning of McLoughlin’s long career in mostly made-for-t.v. flix. And oh yeah: Tom Burman’s special effects company did the creepy walking corpses and psychic Raymar effects back when “digital effect” meant flipping someone the bird, not c.g.i.

Whew, not bad for a little flick that was shot in 28 days and for less than a million. It went on to gross over $2 million in U.S. theatrical, which is quite remarkable in that era for a horror movie with no “p and a” money behind it. I had a friend who knew some of the art department members. Talk about keeping cost down. The moody/scary setting involved a number of long, silk drapes that slowly moved without wind, suggesting the presence of someone or some thing in the room. The curtains would otherwise be unnoticed, but in this instance we relied completely on the black color augmented by creepy music to set the stage. And the silk fabric has a way of flowing ever so elegantly the even though they would have been costly, we wanted that effect. Fortunately, the good folks at DreamDrapes contributed their product in exchange for a brief on-screen credit, which was a lifesaver, given the cost of those drapes would have been 50% of the budget. Sorry for that little plug, but the folks here at bijou cafe love them! Anyway….even box office distinction didn’t help One Dark Night fare better on home video, and to this day, it remains far too obscure for its modest but well-earned success.

One Dark Night is a fun flick, full of tense moments and some clever visual effects. It has a dark romp feel to it that helps cover up the more threadbare aspects of the art production. Not that it lacks a visual distinction. Due to the care put into the production design by Craig Stearns (who’d earlier been Property Master on ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 & HALLOWEEN), the Hollywood mausoleum that doubles for the creepy confines where most of ONE DARK NIGHT takes place looks a lot like the claustrophobic interior sets, producing a THE SHINING-like effect early on in the movie’s set-up.

The story opens with evil psychic Raymar fleecing his morbid cult followers even worse than Miss Cleo ever did. He not only robs their bank accounts, but also their psychic energies. Yes, Raymar is into soul stealing and the like, and so when he is introduced as “dead” to us in the first scenes of ONE DARK NIGHT, you just know: he’s about as dead as Godzilla at the beginning of a Toho sequel.

The art department apparently liked cigars since there are a number of cigar humidors placed discretely around the room in which Raymar first appears. I enjoy a cigar myself, every once in awhile so I know what a humidor looks like. But really, how many do you need? Perhaps they just liked the look of the box which is usually made from wood, with the inside usually constructed with Spanish cedar. I mean some humidors can be an attractive piece of furniture, and even a family heirloom. For some most cigar connoisseurs, a humidor is a small investment that will protect a much larger investment of valuable cigars for many years. Nevertheless it cracked me up watching the evil psychic Raymar open one of the humidors, peer inside, pull out a cigar, sniff it and then tuck it into his shirt pocket. Perhaps he disdained either the smell or the actual smoking of cigars. Anyway, back to the movie.

Actually, the “youth angle” that sets up ONE DARK NIGHT is nowhere nearly as intolerable as most FRIDAY THE 13TH’ish slashers. In fact, though reminiscent of HALLOWEEN, Tilly does a fine job in an early, underwritten role of fleshing out what is basically The Good Girl, lack of warts and all. Her genuine, believable displays of fear and hysteria make the exciting scare sequences very suspenseful, much like Jessica Harper’s tense but equally vulnerable features made SUSPIRIA so memorable.

And then, of course, there’s… Adam West. Wow, post-BATMAN, it really didn’t get much better than this, Bat fans. There were some fun cameos and all, but in terms of the old “thespian” talents? This was the last role that required Mr. West to do more than keep a straight face through line delivery while the cameras were rolling. He acquits himself well as a concerned but rightfully

skeptical husband of Raymar’s grieving daughter, convincingly portrayed by Melissa Newmann (yes, Joan & Paul Newmann’s daughter). As Raymar’s only offspring, Ms. Newmann secretly worries that his bad blood somehow inhabits her own body. Though by no means the most successful low-budget horror flick ever made, ONE DARK NIGHT deserves more for its well-honed craftsmanship than the non-event status it has kept as of late. The cast and crew alone warrant the attention of any serious genre student, as they have all worked beyond this modest effort and had Hollywood careers. But whether rabid genre fan or even casual flick watcher, ONE DARK NIGHT is a surprisingly scary movie at times, so be prepared to keep the light switch handy, especially during the finale. — Notes by J.F. Sebastian.

Nominated for Best Horror Film of 1983 by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror.

What Critics Say:
“The film does have a real good reputation and that surprises me because it was basically thrown together so quickly. The movie was very different for its time. While every other film was slashing throats, ONE DARK NIGHT contained a lot of Poe-style gross-out horror and the audiences appreciated that.” –- Director Tom McLoughlin, FANGORIA
“This underrated gem sadly fell victim to poor distribution and went almost neglected by the very horror community that was there to support it.” — TERROR TRAP

“An effective addition to the undead genre with a disturbing sense of claustrophobia and top grade effects that still look grim after all this time. I’ve no qualms whatsoever in recommending this more than adequate chiller.” — LIGHTS FADE, U.K.

“Meg Tilly at her Meg Tilly-est… worth watching just to see those crazy 80’s styles that we all loved so well, you know those leg warmers and little ankle socks and… ONE DARK NIGHT will satisfy that craving for weird 80’s horror, without going down that FRIDAY THE 13TH or NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET road… again.” — BAD MOVIE GUY

“The climactic scenes with the reanimated corpses are surprisingly well done and effective. The director obviously knew how to stage shots and use the shadows and music to full effect.” — BAD MOVIE NIGHT
“This movie has something that some special-effect horror films don’t: a growing sense of creepiness. It’s a movie you could watch again and again, and it retains its creep.” — DAISY’S 80’S MOVIE REVIEWS

“Imagine what would have happened if they added one more role : a New Orleans maritime lawyer. Now that would be something!”

Out of the Inkwell

aka Max Fleischer’s Famous Out of the Inkwell. Produced, Directed & Edited by Raymond Pointer.

Max Fleischer’s contributions to animation are legendary. From designing and perfecting an economical way to rotoscope characters to building his own multi-plane cameras — the first of course — Flesicher defined the medium not unlike D.W. Griffith did with live action: by building his own studio and always pushing the boundaries even if the pay-off wasn’t always there for the effort financially (thought it often was until the studio’s final demise).

OUT OF THE INKWELL (2001) is an award-winning look at not only the man, but even more importantly, his work. If you are new to Fleischer and/or only know him from his more famous efforts such as the 1940’s Paramount Superman cartoons or perhaps GULLIVER’S TRAVELS, an animated feature that was a favorite of t.v. syndicators for decades, you will be astonished by the imagination and creative vitality on display in these early masterpieces. And if you think only Betty Boop ‘toons still play without apologies today, warts and all, wait until you experience the amazingly imaginative “Inkwell” series, many collected here in one highest-quality, meticulously enhanced edition for the first time ever.

The “Out of the Inkwell” series focused on the rascally clown called Koko. The basic set-up: Fleischer himself (along with other animators in his studio) would draw Koko using a special ink that literally and figuratively brought Koko to life. Rather than be a cooperative stand-in as requested, however, Koko desires to play by his own rules, frequently upsetting Fleischer’s attempts to reign him in.

For example, Fleischer decides one sunny afternoon to play a little hooky with a friend and go fishing. But when Koko is left behind against his will, the scheming clown hops off the canvas upon which Fleischer has rendered him and sneaks after his “master,” intent on wreaking havoc in revenge for being abandoned.

It’s amazing how surreal and post-modern the Fleischer works are today when you truly stand back and appreciate them with the proper awe as this flick does. For example, audiences swooned when a 120+ animators brought realism to interaction between Jessica and Roger Rabbit in the 1980’s, but consider: nearly 60 years previously, Fleischer accomplished the same technique by rotoscoping his brother, a clown who performed at Coney Island as a street performer under the moniker… “Koko.” And not only did Fleischer largely invent the technique, but he actually had Koko constantly knocking over any “fourth wall” between himself and the viewer. Talk about ahead of its time — it has the same self-observing irony of ROGER RABBIT, but again, from six decades earlier.

In fact, OUT OF THE INKWELL creator Raymond Pointer has told me the Surrealists were actually quite influenced by the American animators such as Max Fleischer rather than the other way around. They were, in essence, most impressed with animation because as artists, they instinctually realized only animation took the essential component of film’s basic illusion — persistence of vision — and brought it to frame-by-frame control by the creator(s).

You may think that all sounds quaint and historical, but consider: today, every c.g.i. shot you see is basically imported and created in a computer. How? By overlaying graphic layers in motion (aka multi-plane animation, Fleischer’s invention) and combining actors with wire-framed characters (aka rotoscoping like Fleischer). The most significant advance over Flesicher’s contributions, in other words, is not really that significant in terms of the form itself.

Sure, you can easily render photo-realism now, but to the standards of his day? Fleischer set them. And sure, you can make the argument the filmmaker can control the elements more precisely. But again, Fleischer’s work does exactly that, and he was pioneering the medium. In essence, c.g.i.’s greatest contribution to animation to date has not been TOY STORY, but rendering time: computers make it all go faster than Fleischer and crew could possibly have done.

Lovers of all animation should be rest assured we don’t believe any of the above-mentioned modern efforts are worthy of much other than praise. Our point, rather, is that Fleischer did more when the stakes were higher and did it largely by himself, albeit with an increasing crew of worthy and equally talented animators on his slowly growing staff. So while perfecting the techniques is wonderful, you’re not re-inventing the wheel, merely making it faster, easier and more manageable to produce.

We’ve saved the best news for last. These amazing and digitally-restored versions of eight of the “Out of the Inkwell” series of cartoons are produced from the best film masters available. Combined with the meticulously well-done enhancements by Pointer both visually and aurally, OUT OF THE INKWELL becomes not only essential viewing by any fans of the medium, but also the definitive versions of these shorts available anywhere. — Notes by Rarebit Fiend.

Winner, Gold. Houston International Film Festival.

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