What makes a classic?

Discussion in 'Classic' started by mutleyhyde, Apr 16, 2003.

  1. mutleyhyde

    mutleyhyde Fuck it.

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    A question became evident in another thread here about Manhunter and I posted this there, but I think it deserves a thread of it's own due to the topic's importance... and the fact that nobody replied to it in the other thread - you bastards. ;)

    Q; Just what is a classic?

    A; Like I know. ;)

    Sometimes it's a hard call to drag some threads from General, or other forums into this one. I basically look at age, whether a film has lasting impact (or had mass impact at one time) and/or excellence in production. It's the combination of these three merits that I personally evaluate where to place my own threads, and when the need arises, to relocate other members' threads. Also, the absence of one criteria doesn't automatically rule anything out; let's say a film has an exellence of production but wasn't made all that long ago. While it may not be old, and has not had a chance to prove itself of lasting impact through the test of time, it could still be considered a classic based primarily on excellence of production. And with newer films, an exception could also be made for lasting impact depending on the film's mass impact at the time. That said...

    Movies from the 60's and back aren't a problem. It's when we go into the '70s that we have trouble. There are several movies from this era that could be considered slashers, and a lot of movies from the era simply fall into General for whatever reason. I feel more than justified in dragging films like The Excorcist, The Omen, and The Stepford Wives in here because while they could be considered as being recent by some old geezers, the '70s in all actuallity was a long damned time ago! :lol:

    It's when we get into the '80s that we begin to have trouble. Ahh, the '80s; harbinger of the preponderance of formulaic slashers. While many films of this era fall in that category and hence are easily relegated to the Slashers forum, there are some serious classics here, that have an excellence of production, have lasting impact - proven by the test of time, and can still be considered old by some of you pesky young whippersnappers out there. I feel justified yet slightly trepidatious relocating films like Alien, American Werewolf in London, and Hellraiser from General to Classics.

    When it comes to the '90s and '00s, I pretty much leave well enough alone. While I personally feel films like Sleepy Hollow and From Hell, or even Brotherhood of the Wolf meet and exceed my requirement for excellence in production, they have not really had the chance yet to be proven by the test of time for lasting impact, and only the snottiest of young punks considers them to be old. :p My approach to these films is pretty much hands off of others' threads, but I might myself post threads on them here.

    So basically, I feel that the forums here set a framework, but are not so defined as to be restrictive, nor do I think that they should be. If somebody wants to place a thread on Maniac in here rather than Slashers, hey, knock yourself out. Again, I haven't seen Manhunter, so I'll opt to take Rock's word for it and leave it here... until I get around to watching it. If I determine it's a pile of crap, it's out of here. ;)
     
  2. Grim

    Grim Well-Known Member

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    One of the most intelligent things i've ever read, you're exactly right.
     
  3. Shannafey

    Shannafey Don't Monkey With Me!

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    I feel a film is a classic, if it had a heavy influence on later films, both in look and feel, and in story and style. If it comes up in film conversations for years to come. If it is the kind of film you can watch over and over again, and at any time. If it's a film you keep upgrading, from vhs to laser to the umpteenth dvd incarnation ie: Evil Dead.
     
  4. marioscido

    marioscido New Member

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    Authentic and authoritative are words usually associated with classic. The word is derived from the Roman era, where the highest position in society was called the 'classicus' in Latin.

    Certainly, the lasting impact and influence of a film have much to do with how we define classic. "Halloween" is a classic, specifically because of its impact on the horror genre and its influence on the development of the slasher. But does it belong in the Classic Forum of horrordvd.com?

    I think the folks who designed this site were thinking of classic in the sense of age - like a good bottle of wine. And I think that's ok, because this little corner of ours is the only place on this forum where people can drool over the forgotten films of the 1920s and 1930s (and beyond). And since there aren't many of us posting in this section, I think it's important to know that there is a place for these films in the ongoing conversations on the horror genre.

    While one need not be restrictive about definitions, I think the Classic section should be recognized as a place where people discuss those forgotten films (or not) that do not make the top ten lists of most horror fans. I use forgotten here, not because the films are literally forgotten. On the contrary, classics are not forgotten films!! They are celebrated films. "Nosferatu," "The Wolf Man," "Night of the Demon" are not forgotten films, neither is "Them" or "Peeping Tom," but most people on this site prioritize contemporary horror over older films. One can regularly find comments like this: "I usually find older films dated, but this one was..." Older films tend to be discussed only if a new dvd is released. However, in other sections, contemporary films and directors have long ongoing discussions without any new dvds on the horizon.

    I am not interested in discussions on the pros and cons of the new "Dawn of the Dead" remake. If that's important to some folks, good. But it isn't very important to me. "Dawn of the Dead" is a classic, but that discussion belongs in another section.

    I would rather post threads in this section about the old gems of the horror tradition, with folks like Mutleyhyde, MaxRenn, and others who love and respect these films, even if we will always be in the shadows of the next huge thread on the new Rob Zombie movie. I've always been more comfortable on the margins anyway.

    And while I love a good pint of beer, I would pick an old bottle of wine over beer any day. For me, this section is about how those wines, when opened, surprise you with their subtlety and style. But then again, beer can do that too - and it is more accessible.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2003
  5. MaxRenn

    MaxRenn Member

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    Interesting topic - I agree with a lot of the sentiments expressed here. It seems to me that there are two uses of "classic". One a loose term for all older movies like marioscido talks about, one a narrower definition for a film which "lasts" that mutleyhyde defines very well in his post. I think that in this forum we are using the first definition.

    It is interesting that bonafide "modern" classics like Night of the Living Dead (36 years old) and Texas Chainsaw Massacre (29 years old) are not discussed in this forum. That is probably because people saw those films when younger and identify them as being modern in their themes and sensibilities. So they get discussed in "General". Yet some of the Hammer films of the same era (late 60s onwards) are discussed here. Maybe their sensibilities and content do not seem too modern.

    Personally, I'm happy discussing any film of any kind in this forum!
     
  6. marioscido

    marioscido New Member

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    I don't think a classic should be reduced to age, but I will post threads here based on this definition, because the forum is set up in such a way.

    You make a very good point MaxR. I guess Hammer films from the early 1970s are understood as being produced by a studio in decline. And so, the vintage dimension tends to take precedence. Both "Night of the Living Dead" and "TCM" were very new and groundbreaking for their times, and very much a product of the ethos of their times (Vietnam). They spoke to the anxieties of contemporary audiences in the late-60s early 70s in the same way "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" addressed anxieties about middle-class conformism in the 1950s. In this sense they are certainly classics. But as you have pointed out, threads on these films are never posted here. I think that's because they embody themes that are still very much alive in our own history - especially with the present war. They still seem very relevant to us now, close to our contemporary experiences.

    I think classics have much more to do with this kind of impact than with age, excellent production, and mass appeal - although all of these can be important factors. Obviously, they are popular and appeal to many people because they speak to contemporary concerns. These concerns then translate into a historical perspective that continues to makes sense many years later. In this sense, I guess you could say that a classic is authoritative; it speaks to the anxieties of the times and also beyond them.

    Some classics, like "Carnival of Souls" go unnoticed for many years, while some films, like "Poltergeist," while having much appeal at the time of their release, remain lightweight films.

    I watched "Profondo Rosso" tonight. A classic of the giallo, a deeply important film in the development of the American slasher, and a film made during what is now called the "leaden times" in Europe - a time of deep pessimism, violence, and political unrest. In my books, it is certainly a classic; it speaks volumes about the Italy of the 1970s and continues to translate that reality for us almost 30 years later. Would I post a thread on it here? Or would I post a thread on "Nosferatu" (1922) in the Euro section? Why not. But I think I will stick to the narrow definition of classic that reduces it to age and post threads in this section on older films that don't get much coverage anywhere else. That's just my bias...
     
  7. mutleyhyde

    mutleyhyde Fuck it.

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    Um, guys, I do appreciate your thoughts, really, but it seems to me you've missed my main point somewhere along the way.

    To reiterate, age, cultural impact (both lasting impact and/or mass impact at one time, not necessarily mass appeal), and production quality, which includes all aestetic aspects of filmmaking (i.e., script, cinematography, acting, sets, etc.) all should go into your decision process of what to post here, not just age.

    Just to point out, I'm the Classic Forum moderator, and have been since back when it was the Hammer fourm, after the Hammer Queen, HammerFanatic, went her own way. While I didn't help to create this site, I feel pretty confident that I have a good idea of what this forum should be. :)

    There's no need to constrain yourself. If you post something somewhere and we move it, it's no big deal.

    To touch on some specific examples...

    Night of the Living Dead, and even the sequels, could definitely go here. Chainsaw would probably do better, as far as getting a conversation going, in Slashers, but I have absolutely no problem with anyone opening a thread on that bonafide classic here. :)

    While I do think of Argento's films as classics, I think they definitely belong in Euro Horror.

    There's no doubt Carnival of Sould belongs here, but I would think that Poltergeist could do well here or in General. That would be up to the individual poster. I might come in here from time to time and see it bare, okay, that's actually a lot ;) , and I might go harvest some modern classics out of General just to even things out.

    I personally feel the Sci-Fi Horror such as 70s Body Snatchers and Alien would be fine here, although they could easily go in General as well.

    Jason and Freddy, no matter how much you think they're classics, should go in Slashers. :)

    As for those silent german expresionistic films, don't you dare put those in Euro!! ;) I think of "Euro Horror" defined as being more a style from the 60s and 70s, rather than simply films from that region. Nosferatu, Caligari and Dr. Mabuse, as well as any silent horror, all belong here. That ain't open for debate. :p

    To sum up, if it's old, even if only slightly old, doesn't blatantly fall into the other niche forums, and it's kick ass (not "surfer dude" kick ass, but "snooty film snob" kick ass ;)), then post it here. This forum has been a deadbeat for too long folks... get posting!
     
  8. marioscido

    marioscido New Member

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    In my previous posts, I was thinking out loud about definitions of "classic," outside of the boundaries of this forum. I'm happy to find out that this section was Hammer focused before it changed to classic. I did not know this. My reference to age was simply an observation based on what has been posted here since my arrival not long ago (Sept 2002). It was not meant to be presumptuous. The explanation, "Hammer, Universal, Hitchcock, Ed Wood, Silents, etc," lead me to this conclusion.

    I respect the decisions you make with regards to what should be included in this section what should not. The intention of my posts was to provoke a conversation on "classic" as a wider category, not to attempt to change the framework you have set up for this section. I won't be posting threads on "Profondo Rosso" here soon!! Like I said twice already, I' m sticking to the oldies for this section.
     
  9. mutleyhyde

    mutleyhyde Fuck it.

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    It's all good Mario! Like I said, I truly appreciate evreybodys input, I just don't want this thread to evolve into some misunderstanding of "how classics are defined by this forum". With your post and MaxRenn's, it seemed it could have taken that turn.

    From the posts I've seen of yours Mario, you pretty much know what's up, so don't worry bud. [​IMG]
     
  10. MaxRenn

    MaxRenn Member

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    Thanks mutley, I see where you're coming from. Like I said I'm not too worried which films we're discussing where and I'm sure you'll move threads around as necessary. You're right - this forum needs a little more activity.


    mario, have you seen the documentary "American Nightmare"? It examines many of the classic horror films from NOTLD through Halloween in the context of the era in which they were made. It includes many great interviews with directors like Hooper, Craven, Cronenberg and Romero and gives a real insight into how the cultural and political climate of the times affected their movies. The resulting depth of these movies is what has made them last in impact and relevance. Maybe the current uneasy world climate will start a new cycle of "classic" horror films.
     
  11. rhett

    rhett Administrator

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    To me, when I think classic, I think pre-1970. In my opinion, it takes years for a classic to truly be acknowledged and regarded as a true "classic". I see a film like PSYCHO as a classic, but a movie like FRAILTY, despite its obvious quality in production design and direction, should not be considered a classic.

    This is just my opinion, but I think it is important that the Classic Forum not spread its wings too broadly to include films like Dawn of the Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. To me those films are still very much contemporary and not "classic" in the traditional sense. I guess I kind of echo Mario in that the Classic Forum is important for recognizing those late, great Hammer, silents and the like.

    By broadening the Classic Forum, it would more than likely shift the focus away from those old movies that deserve preserving. The Slasher Forum, for example, could easily be expanded to include the similar gialli films, but doing so would shift the focus away from an already minimal amount of slasher films.

    Including films like ALIEN and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON would no doubt liven the Classic Forum, but I am not sure that is entirely a good thing. I think the inclusion of those modern favorites would take a bite out of the old films that deserve their own spot in the universe.

    Of course Hyde, I am more or less just playing devil's advocate, so whatever you want to do is alright with me. I just want to make sure we look at both sides of the subject. :)
     
  12. mutleyhyde

    mutleyhyde Fuck it.

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    No, I hear ya Rhett. As far as age goes, I pretty much would cut films off at the '60s as well, but there are some films of the '70s and '80s that, in my mind, are definite classics. The thing is that the '70s ushered in a new breed of filmmaking overall, not just in horror. The sacred triumvirate of The Excorcist, Rosemary's Baby and The Omen absolutely are classics. They're classics more on the merits of production value and mass appeal however, not so much for age.

    I guess what I'm getting at is that the more modern a movie is, the more important the aspects of production value and mass appeal become in determining classic status. It's easy to consider Universal's The Wolf Man a classic, but did it have quite the level of impact on the filmgoing audience at the time as The Excorcist did? Of course, the more recent we get, the more strict we have to be on these other two aspects. I personally consider From Hell and Sleepy Hollow instant classics, but I would probably actually discuss them in General to be honest. I can't think of anything from the '90s off the top of my head that I would include here, let alone the '00s. I guess I'm starting to lean a bit towards determining a cut-off point at the '90s, but I really don't want to put restrictions on anybody. If somebody feels that they have a bonafide classic movie from the '90s to discuss here, I'd rather them feel that they can post it here and we'll figure it out as we go.

    I guess as a rule of thumb, anything from the '60s back, that isn't clearly a slasher or Euro film (Bava belongs in Euro for sure, not here. Bava is definitely classic, but his stuff is pretty much the birth of what I consider Euro Horror) or Asian, would be safe here. Getting into the '70s and later, serious conderation should be paid to production value and cultural impact. Getting into the '90s, it's probably a safe bet it belongs in General.

    Okay, I'm off to watch some Hammer. Latah! :cool:
     
  13. mutleyhyde

    mutleyhyde Fuck it.

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    Oh by the way, thank you very much MrGrim! :)
     
  14. marioscido

    marioscido New Member

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    No, I haven't seen it, but it sounds like I would probably enjoy it quite a bit. I will definitely look for it Max. Thanks for the tip. I love documentaries on the horror genre. There is a wonderful film, distributed by Kino, called "The Kingdom of Shadows," by Brett Wood (1998). It's narrated by Rod Steiger and it's about the mixture of horror and religious themes in the early years of cinema - silent cinema only. It looks at everything from Méliès to Murnau, from Griffith to Dreyer. Really worth a look. We should start a thread on horror documentaries!
     
  15. mcchrist

    mcchrist A new breed of pervert!

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    A classic for me has nothing to do with age, rather something becomes a classic when it affects or becomes integrated in the popular culture milieu.

    EDIT: and a classic is born when these changes in the cultural environment become permanant. And a classic can become a classic even if it remembered for a single word, still, whatever.
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2003
  16. Atmims

    Atmims Guest

    A classic to me is an old, boring, black and white movie. :D

    Nah, Really I agree with almost exactly what Rhett said but I would say pre 1960 would be considered classic. I've always considered the classic forum to be all about the older movies, 40-50 years old.
     
  17. Deaddevilman

    Deaddevilman Guest

    A 1966 Ford Mustang!;)
     
  18. r_burgos2003

    r_burgos2003 Guest

    atmosphere
     
  19. Rock

    Rock Member

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    I just watched PEEPING TOM last nite for the 1st time and, while I can just imagine it was outrageous in its day, time has not been kind to this classic, especially after you've seen something brutally modern like IRREVERSIBLE...if I NEVER watch that one again, it will be too soon...
     
  20. etale

    etale Guest

    I'd say that a film to be a classic, it needs to stand the test of time.
    I'd say give 'em 10-20 years at least.
     

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