Movies that Influenced

This page is devoted to short reviews, tidbits and thoughts on the movies that influenced me most and have left impressions on me from my childhood through my early adult life. As a movie lover in general, it would be a painstaking task to present a perfect compilation of information and reviews concerning each and every movie that I've ever loved, and so many countless recent movies have left an impression on me as well. I've decided to devote this page to a handful of the movies that, for good or bad, left their marks upon the impressionable psyche of a young life already haunted by the inner fantasies he'd often revert to apart from the inspirations of films and television, all of which would eventually manifest into his own works and writings. These films helped to make me who I am.
--Nicholas Grabowsky

It's Alive (1974) John Ryan, Sharon Farrell, Andrew Duggan, Dir. Larry Cohen

This movie haunted me for years on end, and I hadn't even seen the film until it's video release. The t.v. commercial for the film was enough to give me endless nightmares, and I was obsessed with interrogating fellow school classmates who saw the film for every bit of info to appease my inquiring mind. "Some people are just a little bit frightened when they have their first baby," the commercial voice-over spoke hauntingly as a baby carriage spun slowly to the sounds of a rock-a-bye baby music box, to be replaced by the thump-a-thump of a heartbeat, "the Davis's are terrified. You see there's only one thing wrong with the Davis baby. It's Alive!" This spawned the most terrible mental images I have ever known, just to imagine what this thing looked like. My parents would not allow me to see it, so everything was left to my imagination for a good handful of years. My nights were filled with terrifying dreams, and I spent night time hours on end staring at the foot of my bed or the opened crack of my bedroom door fearing a nocturnal visit. Nightmare after nightmare contained hearing the news that an It's Alive baby was born somewhere in my town, and I would flee through neighborhoods and streets and backyards trying to get out of town, knowing it would eventually find me. When I finally saw the film on video, I was disappointed with the low-budget quality and the look of the baby was far less terrifying than I imagined. Still, I've been drawn to watching it over and over ever since, and I've grown to become impressed with the film's execution, from the script, to the acting, to Bernard Hermann's exceptional score, to even Rick Baker's title creature itself, barely seen, and understandably so. Thank you, Larry Cohen.

The Blob (1958) Steve McQueen, Aneta Corsaut, Earl Rowe Dir. Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.

This film haunted me throughout my entire childhood life, since I first saw it on television when I was....oh, six or seven years old. It was formless and indestructible, and it devoured people in as painful a way as though they were being eaten by acid. Its vision was incredibly menacing to me, and its nocturnal visit was just something else to dread beneath my covers in the middle of the night. It created the most outrageous, horrific nightmares for me, and there were times when I would experience a succession of nightmares every single night where I would frantically devise ways to stop it from within my dreamworld, from electricity to hiring a team of scientists to trap it in my bedroom and absorb its energy. Even its Burt Bacharach/Hal David theme song, as bubblegum as it was, freaked me out.....its guitar rhythms spoke to me as if to say "I'm going to tell you a story now, a terrible, old-time story." To top it all off, The Blob fell from the sky, just out of the blue, one dark starry night. The mystery of where it came from and the whole random occurrence added to the personal terror the whole thing gave me. At times, I'm still afraid.

Five Million Years To Earth (a.k.a. Quatermass & The Pit) (1968) James Donald, Andrew Keir, Barbara Shelley Dir. Roy Ward Baker

A magnificent sci-fi/horror classic that definitely left an impression. An archeological dig unearths an alien spaceship which holds the preserved bodies of minikin insectoid creatures that crash landed centuries ago....Martians. They were demonic little things that, although technically dead, left horrific telepathic visions upon its Englishmen discoverers which drove them mad, and ultimately revealing to them that mankind's origins were not exactly what anybody had read about in history books. This was a television favorite of mine, and outside of the cool instectoids, what freaked me out the most was the towering electric insect demon at the film's climax.

Voyage Into Space (1970) Mitsunobu Keneko

On a lighter note for a moment, I have to put in a word or two about this wonderful gem. Voyage Into Space was actually taken from the Japanese series Johnny Sokko and his Giant Flying Robot, and most of my grade school years were overwhelmed by my obsession with this series. The movie itself is taken from the first and last episodes, and a few in between. On the playground at recess time, I actually played "Giant Robot" with my schoolmates, and some other kid would be Johnny Sokko, barking commands for me into his wristwatch as I would shoot down invisible monsters with my finger rockets and confound the Gargoyle Gang. The movie would always be a must-see on a Saturday afternoon, and the television series, whenever it would air on some UHF channel, would keep me in front of the tube after school. If only the Power Rangers which arrived two decades later had been this creative.....and they owe much of their existence to this almost-forgotten monsterfest fantasy! For more info, go to web pages such as http://www.expage.com/page/johnnysokko/

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (1973) Kim Darby, Jim Hutton, William Demarest Dir. John Newland

This made-for-television flick tugged at the very strings which evoked a range of nightmares for me involving little creatures. A couple moves into a house where demons inhabit a cemented-in basement fireplace leading to an abyss. The demons crawl out of the fireplace in the dark and haunt "Sally," the female protagonist, whispering her name over and over and driving her crazy. No one believes her stories about the house's horrible inhabitants until it's too late, and she gets dragged into the fireplace at the film's conclusion. Great imagery. Those same demons have whispered my name from time to time in the dead of night, or so I imagined. I recently heard rumors of a 2004 theatrical remake. Interesting!

Alien (1979) Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto Dir. Ridley Scott

We all know this movie, so a synopsis or a review here would be a bit pointless. But during its theatrical release, I was a sixth grader who wasn't allowed to see it. Missing out on seeing this important cinematic event wasn't a good thing, but every chance I got I would collect information about it much like I did It's Alive. By the time the 1980 Academy Awards aired, I had a VCR and recorded the scene they showed where the alien burst out of John Hurt. Wow. That was one of the most impressionable scenes ever embedded into my mind. I finally saw the movie a year or two later, when most of my weekends and after-school time was spent renting videos and recording them onto blank ones for my growing library. I managed to sneak a copy of Alien into my room and watched it several times in succession. I couldn't take my eyes off of it. Over the years, I became a real fan of everything Alien, H.R. Giger, Ridley Scott, Carlo Rambaldi, and every member of what was probably the best ensemble cast in movie history.

The War of the Worlds (1953) Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, Dir. Byron Haskin

This film was truly ahead of its time, and producer George Pal was the true visionary who pulled it off. Even for its time, the movie had a great deal to live up to, for to not do justice to the H.G. Wells novel and even the notorious 1938 radio broadcast would leave audiences feeling ripped off for as long as the movie existed. The stunning vision, approach, and acting made this another MAJOR childhood favorite, so much so I memorized most of the film's dialogue. The ending always made me cry (boo hoo) just because I was so overwhelmed with the "church life" and in the movie mankind was saved by "the littlest things that God in all His wisdom had put upon this earth." The aliens themselves, suction-cup fingers and all, were the most fascinating cinematic creatures to watch, and I would spend hours wondering how they lived and visualizing a normal business day on Mars. It's almost a shame they didn't devote more screen time to them. For decades of film and television prior to and ever since where extraterrestrials are primarily realized as humanoids that look like us, these aliens were a breath of fresh air. Then again, a breath of our fresh air was what killed them.

INTERFACE DESIGNER

Mad Monster Party (1967) Phyllis Diller, Boris Karloff, Gale Garnett, Dir. Jules Bass

This was my "Wizard of Oz." Every time it was on television, it was an event, namely on The Family Film Festival on Saturday afternoons. I've always been a sucker for musicals, for one, and for monsters. Musical-wise, every collaboration of Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass, from Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer to The Daydreamer was a work of genius, utter genius, not to mention the puppetry and the storylines and the vast amount of voice talent. Monster-wise, this jewel spot-lighted just about every single film monster there could possibly have been up to that point, from Dracula to Dr. Jeckyll to the Wolf Man to even a Blob cameo. I knew each song by heart and still do, and to this day Rankin and Bass remain ultimate idols.

Superman The Movie (1978) Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando, Margot Kidder, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Glenn Ford, Terence Stamp, Susannah York, Valerie Perrine, Phyllis Thaxter Dir. Richard Donner

By now you've probably realized that horror movies aren't the sole basis of inspiration for me, although when I write, I stick to horror or a similar genre. When I dream, more than half of what I dream about I end up flying in that dream, and when I fly, I fly like Superman. Sounds silly? It's great when you're the one doing it. I owe this all to Superman the Movie. Aside from that personal insight, this really is a fantastic film, with one of the most monumental casts ever assembled. And thank God for Christopher Reeve. Superman could have been an idiot. This was one movie I was allowed to see during its theatrical run, and I saw it numerous times (as I did Star Wars, which opens another can of worms), but its television premier showcased around twenty minutes of extra scenes which made my head spin, driving me into a frenzy to see them again but failed for years until the extended DVD arrived and gave me everything I ever hoped for. What a flick.  (Note:  I am a Superman movies film lore buff!)

Invaders From Mars (1953) Helena Carter, Arthur Franz, Dir. William Cameron Menzies

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Dir. Don Siegel

I had to mention these two together, for they evoked similar images, similar nightmares, and the films share the same era and plot content. Invaders From Mars taught me to always watch my step in open fields, especially around sandy areas. Invasion of the Body Snatchers made me deathly afraid to sleep at night, long before Freddy Krueger was even dreamt of. Both explored the alien invasion concept with different twists and shared in the plot device of strange occurrences taking place in small towns that the chief protagonists witness while no one believes them. I found them easy to sympathize with, and the alien concepts equally scary. As a young boy, they evoked feelings of paranoia upon going to bed after having seen them, but just like any other movie which scared me to wit's end, I had to watch them every chance I could.

DEVELOPER

Logan's Run (1976) Michael York , Richard Jordan, Jenny Agutter, Farrah Fawcett, Peter Ustinov, Dir. Michael Anderson

When this movie came out and I was a kid, I remember when my mom had to babysit by schoolmate John Walker because his mom had to go see Logan's Run in the theaters.  I saw all the television ads about it and I was so hooked that one day (I was maybe 11 or 12 years old) I took a stroll to the grocery store a couple blocks away (Alpha Beta, exactly, in Anaheim on the corner of Ball Road and Brookhurst I think) and grabbed a copy of the paperback, stuffed it in my pocket and walked out.  Got away with it (though I didn't later with other things at that store).  But I read and read that book and my mind absorbed the center photo pages, and when I finally saw the movie (first on TV I think, before video tapes) I could not help but think in the back of my mind how obvious the miniatures were....you know, of the city and all....and how sparkling clean (and not having the lived-in look) the sets had....despite many of those obvious flaws, I was very much taken in to that world.  

Heck, what a world it was....I mean, a society that wants all its human occupants to live the same lifespan as Romeo and Juliet times, and even they had a better chance those centuries ago at living longer than in Logan's Run's dismal future.  And the government LIES!  Reality:  you die to keep the population steady.  What THEY say:  if you submit yourself to public execution, you will have a rebirth, but if you choose not to do that and run (hah!).....well, the Sandmen will chase you down like a Blade Runner to a synthetic and KER-BLAM!  

Hey, I even watched the series on TV back in the day.  And when Box had Logan and Jessica naked in his ice domain, I so wanted to see more of Jessica.  Wink wink.  Also, Peter Ustinov was as much of a breath of fresh air, with his cats and all, as it was Logan and Jessica's freedom.

War of the Gargantuas (1966)  Russ Tamblyn, Kumi Mizuno, Kenji Sahara  Dr. IshirĂ´ Honda

DAMN!  Now this here gem was one of the many Toho films (the Godzilla people) that I saw all the time on television growing up.  Did they play these often?  Or was it just that whenever they played I was drawn to making it a point to watch them when they came on.  This was one of my favorites.  Another one was where a wierd caveman-looking dude came to Japan as their interpretation of Frankenstein's monster who grew larger than tall buildings and ate cows and people.  Loved that one.  Had no idea back then that War of the Gargantuas was a sequel.  It starts out with a giant squid terrorizine and destroying a sea ship, and then there's this Godzilla-sized jolly green giant who's the BAD gargantua and then his bro the GOOD one, who is brown like Bigfoot maybe, who tells the green bad one no no no, you can't eat people.  And I tell you, when I was a kid, when the bad green one ate that lady especially after that sweet song she sang in front of all those people, and then grab chomp chomp.......talk about a movie that influenced!!!!

The Fly  (1986) Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz  Dir. David Cronenberg

And wow, ain't I a sucker for romantic tragedies.  And horror movies.  I saw this gem when it had its theatrical run probably ten times, some by myself.  It played at the theater a block away from my house on Gilbert street in Anaheim as a double feature with Aliens.  I would always leave the theater wishing I would have done better as Goldblum's character if I'd only known the outcome, and I'd always flinch when the fly got caught in the telepod with him, but then after that, it was all downhill from there and I could very well relate to at the time.  I loved it so much that I actually bought the VHS video for $99.  That's 99 dollars.  Wow.  So after I bought it, and then to this day, I've probably seen it about 50 plus times.

Anyhoo, the magic in this movie, to me, is the downward spiral the characters go through when if everything actually went right, Seth and his girl would have lived in a wealthy notariety bliss with no fly stuff or horror anything going on at all, but I bet you anything that somewhere down the line Seth's invention would change the world so much that teleportation would kill two people in Star Trek the Motion Picture in a beam up malfunction and those people's families will sue Seth's successors and whoa....I've said too much. 

Brazil (1985)  Jonathan Pryce, Kim Greist, Robert De Niro  Dr. Terry Gilliam

For years I said this was my favorite all time movie.  These days I don't think I have a single one, but this remains tops and at least one of the top five always, despite a shuffle over the years.  And wow, this one pressed all my buttons, must've seen it almost as much as the original Star Wars.  Seriously.  And Terry Gilliam always kicks ass, the best director talent from the Monty Python group or from anywhere!

Poor Jonathan Price (and wasn't he great as a James Bond villian?!)  He's stuck in a world worse than Office Space where terrorism is a far worse problem than nowadays and technology is a merging of old and new school, mostly old, even as far as old-style televisions and typewriters and commercials selling the best in duct ventalation systems and plastic surgery, and commuting in tiny run-down cars.  Sam (Jonathan Price) is an office worker in a sea of countless others trying to work their ways up in a world of mounting paperwork, and his mother can help pull the strings.  But Sam has other problems, like his plumbing, which is fixed by underground plumbing expert Robert Deniro who is not only wanted by authories for his cohert plumbing business, but is the Tuttle authorities were looking for that got confused with a guy named Buttle who was murdered by the government when his family was watching Marx Brothers movies on TV during Christmas.

So okay, it's complicated, but it's funny, thrilling, tragic, and one of my faves of all time.  Don't ever want to live in that world, though, but love the soundtrack too, and Terry Gilliam's little twin girls.  "That's okay big boy I won't see your willy."  You gotta be there. 


Nicholas Grabowsky's Diverse Compendium

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