Happy Halloween…until next year

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Ah, Halloween night…when the veil between this world and the next is thinnest! I hope your celebration is spooky and fun! Thank you for joining me here to celebrate all that is wonderful about fall and Halloween. It’s been a challenging year but we are making it work out the best that we can.

I would like to extend a special thank you to the subscribers. I’m honored to have you. I don’t earn any money from this but I do get a lot of satisfaction knowing there are readers out there! Big pumpkin hugs to you!

After Halloween ends, I invite y0u to join me on the Cool Yule blog…where we will celebrate the best of winter and the winter holidays, including Thanksgiving (yes, technically a fall holiday), Christmas, New Year’s and other celebrations.

Take care, everyone!

Mary

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Happy Halloween! Let’s watch Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

Let’s celebrate Halloween and wrap up 2020’s Horror Movie week of 1930s and 1940s films with a mildly spooky, classic comedy. It takes place on Halloween so I thought this was the perfect choice for today.

Like many movies of its time, Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) was a popular Broadway play before it was made into a comedy.  The New York Times called it “good, macabre fun.”

Starring Cary Grant and Peter Lorre, the movie also featured actors from the Broadway production in the most memorable roles, including Josephine Hull and Jean Adair (the Brewster sisters) and John Alexander (Teddy Brewster). Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life) directed the movie.

I read that after U.S. service men watched this while stationed, they used to yell “Charge!” like Teddy did — and it took a while for the commanders to figure out that they were mimicking the movie! That’s kind of funny 🙂

I don’t want to give too much away, but one of my favorite scenes occurs in the very beginning when the Brewster sisters hand out Halloween goodies to trick-or-treaters, including ENTIRE PIES! Did they really give away whole pies in those days? Lucky kids!

I was in this play when I was a young woman. I played the female lead of Elaine Harper. That’s me in the photo. I had to scream and get tossed around by the villain and kiss the star! It was a lot of fun.

The movie is available to rent online on YouTube. The preview below links to the video. I hope you enjoy it and I hope you have a very Happy Halloween.

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It’s Horror Movie Week! Let’s Watch The Mummy (1932)

When I was a little girl, my mom worked late on most Saturday nights at her second job. I would wait up for her to come home while watching “Shock Theater” on Channel 8 in Richmond, Virginia. This was a late-night horror movie program featuring the host, Bowman Body, a vampire-like comedian. They often showed a mummy film and I first saw this movie on that program.

The next day, my sister and I played monsters, and I would pretend to be the Mummy, dragging my left foot dramatically as I lurched around, moaning and snarling like Boris Karloff.

I guess I was an odd little girl! But I still love horror movies and this is one of my favorites. You can rent it on YouTube. I hope you enjoy it.

From YouTube: “Boris Karloff’s legendary performance has become a landmark in the annals of screen history. As the mummy, Im-Ho-Tep, he is accidentally revived after 3,700 years by a team of British archaeologists. It is revealed in a flashback that he was a high priest, embalmed alive for trying to revive the vestal virgin whom he loved, after she had been sacrificed. Alive again, he sets out to find his lost love. Today, over 50 years after The Mummy was first released, this brooding dream-like film remains a masterpiece not only of the genre, but for all time.”

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It’s Horror Movie Week! Let’s watch Dracula’s Daughter (1935)

How often is a female the protagonist of a horror movie? I can tell you: not often. Of course, in Carmilla, sure, and in some of the Hammer films, they are, but still. If not unique, it is certainly unusual when that the “monster” protagonist of a movie is a woman.

Gloria Holden steps into the role of Countess Zaleska. She is beautiful, mysterious, intelligent and cold. And she doesn’t want to be a vampire, anymore. But, like her side kick reminds her, it is simply in her nature.

She also has a fabulous wardrobe (Ms. Holden also worked as a model).

The Countess is a subtle vampire. Unlike her male counterparts, she cannot hope to woo or overcome her victims (both male and female) without help. So, she lures them, with the assistance of her servant. I particularly enjoyed the creepy interaction between Countess Zaleska and her manservant, Sandor. They interacted almost as peers (unlike the henchmen in other movies).

She then surprises them at a vulnerable moment. One way she causes them to be vulnerable, in the case of her models, is by having them partially undress. For this reason, and others, some reviewers determined that there were deliberate lesbian undertones to this movie.

Since this was also true in Sheridan LeFanu’s vampire story, Carmilla, I can see that.

Themes of loneliness, desire, control, willpower and male and female roles in relationships emerge, as in all vampire movies. There is a poignant scene where she expresses the desire to change that is reminiscent of the struggle of an addict or alcoholic.

One interesting tidbit is the way she lures some of her victims is by telling them she needs an artist’s model. In real life, Gloria Holden had worked as an artist’s model.

You can rent and enjoy this movie on YouTube. Let me know what you think of it!

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It’s Horror Movie Week! Let’s watch The Old Dark House (1932)

This is a beautifully restored rendition of the 1932 Universal Horror classic that may be rented and watched on YouTube. Starring Boris Karloff, Charles Laughton and Melvyn Douglas, the plot revolves around the story of stranded travelers who seek refuge when caught in a storm in the Welsh countryside. The five people come upon an old house, and find themselves at the mercy of its strange and dangerous inhabitants. Drunken attacks, pyromania and murder result. Like most 1930s films, the horror is infused with episodes of comedy and romance.

The movie is a based on a 1927 novel, Benighted, about disillusionment after Word War I. The film’s director (James Whale), cinematographer and set designer also worked on Frankenstein. It’s not a long movie. Enjoy!

 

 

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Happy National Black Cat Day! Let’s watch Cat People (1942)

Are you a cat person or a dog person? I’m more of a dog person myself. But this movie isn’t about that. Like Dracula’s Daughter, Cat People features a woman protagonist who has an evil and dangerous streak.

This celebrated 1942 RKO studios film was directed by Jacques Tourner (I Walked With A Zombie and Night of the Demon for Columbia Pictures). The camera angles and lighting in Mr. Tourneur’s films give them an evocative, moody and mysterious quality. The plot is about a young woman, Irina (played by Simone Simon), who believes she is cursed to shapeshift into a beautiful but homicidal black panther whenever she becomes sexually excited. Newly wed, she refuses to have sex with her husband for this reason. She seeks the help of a psychiatrist and spends afternoons visiting a panther in the zoo. But when a woman appears to show interest in her husband, she begins to show her claws.

One author opines that maybe she doesn’t transform at all, noting that you never actually see her turn into a panther. Maybe she has a mental illness and believes she does. Or maybe she is sexually repressed and cannot bring herself to meet the realities of marriage. These are interesting ideas!

Other themes explored in this movie include the nature of romantic love, superstition, violence, religious devotion, sexual jealousy and power.

You can watch this classic movie on YouTube.

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Happy National Black Cat Day

Black cats are an enduring symbol associated with Halloween. And why wouldn’t they be? They’re nocturnal, difficult to see at night and a little easy to spook — just like we are on Halloween! Today, we love the fun image of the Halloween cat. But that wasn’t always the case.

Our Halloween traditions began as ancient Celtic traditions. In those culutres, black cats were considered lucky and somewhat magical. However, elsewhere in Europe, black cats were believed to be associated misfortune or witchcraft for centuries. The superstition that black cats were unlucky, especially if one crossed your path, originated in Germany.  Sadly, some black cats were burned along with people who were accused of witchcraft. Cats were burned at the stake in France and Belgium. The Puritans who colonized New England also burned black cats on the day before Lent to in the belief it protected their homes. Even Edgar Allan Poe, who was a cat lover himself, perpetuated this notion in his story, “The Black Cat.”

But black cats aren’t unlucky at all. The truth is, black cats are really amazing! One interesting feature about black cats is that they carry a gene that provides them with stronger immunity to disease than other cats. They also have a sweet and playful nature, and become attached to their owners. Many black cats are American Shorthairs. They have soft, dense fur and  tend to be good mousers.

I grew up with a mostly-black and white cat (also known as a Tuxedo cat) and she was the most amazing and intelligent creature. She jumped on the TV (which was next to our apartment door) every evening when she heard my mom’s footsteps, as she came home from work. She would meow and meow until my mom came inside, and then she would continue to meow, almost like she was asking her questions. She didn’t do this to be fed because my sister and I fed her. I think she just really liked my mom! 🙂

Unfortunately, black cats are not adopted at the same rates as other cats. Some shelters will not allow these ebony beauties to be adopted around Halloween because they are sometimes treated as props for parties rather than long-term companions.

If you are looking for a long-term, loving cat companion, consider adopting a black adult cat.

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Toon Tuesday! Mickey Mouse in the Haunted House, 1929

orange mickey

Poor Mickey!  This one is a little scary.

It’s interesting to note that this was released only about six weeks after the Stock Market crash. People must have appreciated the levity in early December.

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It’s Horror Movie Week! Let’s watch the first zombie movie

“White Zombie” is a scary classic, the first full-length zombie movie ever made. I suppose most zombie movies and TV programs owe a debt to this film for the halting, distinctive gait of the zombies presented in “White Zombie.”

The story takes place in Haiti. Starring Bela Lugosi, the movie was not well-received by critics, who said the performances by some of the actors were overly dramatic. It has the same “silent movie” style of blocking you see in the 1931 film, “Dracula.” I think that is part of its appeal, however, and it still made money at the box office when it was released.

The themes of desire, control and hypnosis are explored. It gave me nightmares for years when I was a little girl!

I apologize for the title. I feel it is offensive, and although I do not believe that was the original intent, of course, it still is. I am sharing the movie in the belief that it does not present any other negative racial sterotypes. But I could be wrong about that, and if I am, I apologize. Please let me know in this case, and I will take it down from the blog. I do not wish to offend anyone.

The movie is in the public domain, so you can watch it here or on YouTube.

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Happy National Pumpkin Day!

Mary with pumpkins at Merrifield Garden Center

Happy National Pumpkin Day! Today would be a great day to pick out some pumpkins for your Halloween jack-0-lanterns.

Did you know?

The word “pumpkin” comes from the Greek word, meaning “large melon.”

Pumpkin is in the melon famil; it is a fruit! Other fruits masquerading as vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and zuchinni. If it has seeds, it’s a fruit!

A cup of cooked pumpkin is barely 50 calories and is low carb. Nutrition benefits: vitamin K, vitamin A, fiber and a bunch of other nutrients. Try this recipe for pumpkin-pear soup — it’s one of my favorites.

Pumpkin seeds are a good source of magnesium. Magnesium helps build bone density, which can mitigate osteoporosis that develops after menopause.

The U.S. produces more than 1 billion pounds of pumpkin each year. The “Pumpkin Capital” of the world is the single high school community of Morton, Illinois, and it’s sounds like a really nice place.

Plain, canned pumpkin is healthy for cats and dogs.

The aroma of pumpkin was a favorite of men, in a study. If you want to have a romantic evening with a guy, try putting a pumpkin pie in the oven or lighting a pumpkin scented candle!

The Great Pumpkin first appeared in Charles Schulz’ Peanuts strip in 1959. The animated television special came later, in 1966.  Speaking of great pumpkins, the largest pumpkin in the world was a Belgian beauty weighing 2,624.6 pounds.

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