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Discussion in 'Classic' started by mutleyhyde, Apr 16, 2003.
If you like Peeping Tom, try The Naked Kiss.
Classics aren´t made; they escape.
Reading the posts in this thread make me wonder if movies could be considered classics if they have certain actors in them. For example, things with Lon Chaney Snr in will almost certainly be classics due to the age of them, whereas some of Peter Cushing's later films (apart from a few of them being awful) may not appear as they did not come out until the '80's (although I don't think anyone would doubt that his seminal Hammer films are classics). Again, because Christopher Lee's career covers such a huge timespan, I wouldn't necessarily put his later stuff in, but those of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff would be naturals.
I do think that most of Hammer's '60's offerings (i.e. Brides of Dracula to Taste the Blood of Dracula) should be considered classics, judging on the criteria of age, production values and influence, but I wouldn't put something like Dracula AD 1972 (as much as I love the film in a perverse way) down as a classic.
There seems to be conflicting definitions here in terms of what is a classic.
I'll define it as a movie that remains effective and emotionally absorbing over the decades. As I see it, the best horror films (or movies of any genre) are those that are character studies. It's vitally important that
the audience empathizes with the people in the story so that when terrifying things happen to them, they feel as if it's happening to them too. Thus, classics with timeless impact are films like "Psycho", "Night of the Living Dead", "The Exorcist" and "Carrie" since a great deal of the screen time was spent developing the characterizations. The shocks and gore scenes came out of the narrative and were not put in for mere effect.
Films that have not withstood the test of time artistically are pictures like "Friday the 13th". The reason is that they went solely for the shock effect of the moment which might have been fun in the eighties but seems rather tame now. Since characterization is scant or non-existent in these type of horror films, they lose their effectiveness and I don't consider them classics.
I don't agree that a classic is a picture that has a cultural impact. That, in itself, is of interest historically but is one of the factors that
tends to date movies for the long run. For example, you could say that
movies like "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" has tremendous cultural impact at the time but now seems very pretentious and 'much ado about nothing' now since attitudes have changed. In the horror genre, films like "Mark of the Devil" were considered shocking decades ago but today have special effects that are not that impressive and the story and chracterization are of no interest.
I'm not suggesting that the typical or formulaic slasher or gore film from the past is not worth a look and cannot be enjoyed as an 'antique' genre film but the term 'classic' should not be applied providing you agree that the word implies a film that falls into the category of cinematic art.
As I've stated in my two books, one of the problems I have will all post-1970 films is the poor color cinematography. Prior to the seventies, the use of color was an integral part of the narrative. You cannot discuss movies like "Vertigo" or "Bonnie and Clyde" without noting their unique color cinematography and thier impact on the story. In the seventies, the use of color tended to be functional. Today, I find most movies aesthetically ugly to watch with de-saturated color and fleshtones. It's certainly difficult to compare a movie like "Minority Report" with "2001: A Space Odyssey" and not note the quality difference in both the style of lighting and use of color. The latter is a work of art and the former looks like a murky dupe. The overall preponderance of de-saturated/bluish cinematography is so many current films makes me wonder if the cameramen are color blind.
i prefer classics that are made by great film masters.
those classics that build up slowly to teh watcher, untill like a huge wave they crash on you.
Or in this case the viewer has a cold wave of shock wash down on them at teh prime grabbing point in it.
To me it's:
A: Significant historical importance.......Birth of a Nation, Jazz Singer,
B: Changes Audience perception and film progression........Star Wars, Blood Feast, Frankenstein.
Re-Penetrator is destined to be a classic....
Simplicity in plot and some cinematographical (is that how you psell it) talent.
Its all about the spirit...Look at The Fog or Evil Dead....these movies have got the spirit in the setting and the vibe you get from the way its acted out. This is why I can come back to watching these movies many many times.
I got to thinking about this question yesterday, to have a more personal definition of what makes a classic film.
I realized that all the films I consider classics are made up of distinct qualities. When I think of a classic I immediately think of those special qualities that make it great. Like everything that makes Dawn of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead and not just some zombie movie. You know a classic when you see one because it should go beyond being just another genre movie and stand alone in being great.
It's not the cultural impact that MAKES the classic. This just helps to establish the classic's STATUS. It's not the age that MAKES them either. There's always been mediocre films, it's just that most classic films have survived time because of what makes them great and we forget all the rehash. If the film is good because of it's distinctive qualities it will stand the test of time and be remembered.
A while back, a friend on the cultstitch.com message board asked why there is such a lack of possible classics nowdays and this is the exact reason. You can't make a classic or even a very good film when your just giving people the same tired ideas or this years hash.
I think a film needs to stand the test of time to truly be considered a classic.''Classic" is a word tossed around lightly these days.People run out giggling after a movie with a big grin on their faces talking about how "that ones a classic !" Well......O.k.,you enjoyed it,thats great,but lets give it a little time.See it again.I've known people to drop a movie from "classic" status to "crap" in less than a month,sometimes in a week ,upon a second viewing !
If you can sit down and watch a film for the 10 or 20th time and still enjoy it just as much(if not more) than you did the first time,thats a good sign.If you remember it vividly,if your eyes light up at the mention of its' title a decade after you saw it.Thats a good sign.If it has elements that lesser pics break their necks scrambling to imitate,thats a very good sign.If it's original,you can bet your ass someones gonna try and steal from it !
Remember,this years hot ticket could be almost forgotten in two years,sometimes a film is very "of the moment" but looks badly dated soon after.The best of them,the true classics,cast a spell that lasts a lifetime.Box office isn't the sole measure of success,shelf life is longer lasting .
Yeah, Erick I'm with you. Classic is what defies time.
yeah.......its an intangible thing.
Same for the term CULT CLASSIC. Thats even tougher. Cause they can be both good or bad films.
I always looked at it as the highest ranking possible. A product of pure excellence. So referring to films, it would be 5 star category. Movies that are the best of the best that will last the test of time.
I think we get caught up in that "classic" is mostly B&W films. Because quite frankly thats where there were quite a few films that held in this standard of pure excellence.
You have to watch some of those films and compare them to any A+ movie now to see what I mean.
To use cars for an example. Some late models were like moving works of art, compared to the unoriginal crap that we have out today.
It is really hard to say... if you read through this thread everyone has a really strong basis for their opinion.
I tend towards the definition of a classic as something that has worked its way into the cultural lexicon.
The one thing I somewhat disagree with is that classics have to have a certain technical excellence. I think we would all call Dracula (1931) a classic but in reality it is a very poorly made film (Karl Freund's outstanding cinematography notwithstanding). The reviews at the time were not overly kind. BUT... over time Bela's euro-accented line readings and cape became iconic and - poof - a classic is born. By that standard - could we not call Nightmare on Elm Street a classic? Is Freddy not the Dracula of the 80s?
No. Dracula was/is a vampire.
Freddie the the bastard son of a 1000 madmen.....:evil:
What makes a classic? Here is my version of the answer. Any horror or sci-fi horror film between the silent era and 1968. Which was the year of the Classic Horror film in History,Night of the Living Dead. Call me mad but think about what the film did:
Took zombies away from the Voodoo roots and made them into cannibals craving human flesh.
Reset the standards for leading men by casting a black man in the role.
Snapped us out of the fairy tale ending we were so use to from Hollywood with an ending that is still talked about today.
Now sure there have been many films since this one that turned up the gore or ended with a shock but it all comes from this single and important moment in Horror history. There has been nothing since it's release that can even come close to equaling the impact it had.
I personally have a passion for Classic Horror and Sci Fi Films.My mom told me at the tender age of 3 I grew attached to Dracula and now at 30 I refuse to let go of them. I don't want people telling me the oldest Horror movie they ever saw was Halloween. That sends my right to my collection to show them what there missing. Who knows maybe they will show some friends and they will show friends etc.. and a new Horror boom for classics would begin.
I always think of horror in terms of before and then after Night of the Living Dead. There was a build up with the more science based horror of the 50's but these all retained classic horror sensibilities. Hitchcock's Psycho was perhaps the first modern horror film but although it was revolutionary it didn't catch on. For the most part horror movies continued along the same path.
It wasn't until Night of the Living Dead that filmmakers caught on with how it's done. I'm still not quite sure what really makes the difference. I still consider NotLD classic horror but it's different somehow. Cannibals as the result of science wasn't knew to horror, Hammer's The Revenge of Frankenstein had it ten years earlier. I don't think the fact of a black lead changed perceptions of how horror can be done. Neither was the anti-fairytale ending the difference maker as horror has had a legacy of tragic endings.
No I think it's the straight forward realistic narrative of these elements. Horror was always fantastical before, at least theatrical. Night of the Living Dead took efforts to make things real. They showed news footage and gave characters simple down to earth problems like try to get gas. Zombies seemed more real that way. That was the true horror, the idea that society could break down because of a freak event not evil forces conspiring against us.
Before horror was about losing your soul. Even sex crimes were seen as losing one's chastity. It was about good versus evil. Night of the Living Dead was just about trying to survive. The undead weren't presented as hell bound just re-animated corpses, machine like really. They were mindless, not evil.
I think that's the way modern villains are portrayed now, "bad" but not "evil" real evil. It's a product of modern psychology I think. No matter how many times Donald Pleasence says Michael Myers is "evil" and no matter how fantastic his feats are modern sensibilities work against this. He's seen more as a psychopath than anything else.
Perhaps this is why many modern audience struggle with the idea of pure "evil" of classic films. There's no power in it. Audiences don't buy it anymore.
I always avoided this thread because I didn't want to have to think about it too much. However, for what it's worth, I have never thought of Night of the Living Dead as being a central piece in the evolution of horror. Zombies created by science of some kind wasn't all that unusual prior to NOTLD.
But as I say, I'd rather not think about it too much in case my head explodes.
If I had to pick a film that would signify the divide between Classic Horror and modern horror. Night of the Living dead would be that film.