Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A master of the macabre enters the mist

Another literary loss to report this week,folks...Ira Levin has passed away. His name may not be familar to some,but if you've ever used the phrase"Stepford Wife" or "Rosemary's Baby",he is the reason why. Levin wrote for television and theater as well as novels and was the creator of the long running play,DeathTrap(which was turned into a film starring Michael Caine and Christopher Reeves). Other works of his that have been adapted into film include The Boys From Brazil,A Kiss Before Dying and Sliver.

Levin was one of the few modern writers in the horror/fantasy genre who used slow and steady pacing in order to build up the tension in his books. Usually,his story climaxes were not huge,splashy showdowns but the true fears of the lead character realizing that he/she has just allowed themselves to be surrounded by their worst nightmares and befriended their real enemies.

Subtley and clever wordplay from any writer is something to be cherished,and Levin's work had that in spades. Not every book or film adaptation he created did well(the film version of Sliver is godawful;as much as I would like to blame Sharon Stone and William Baldwin for that,it's not fair to do so. Joe Eszterhas screwed up that screenplay.)but the ones that did have clearly made their mark on the world.

Let's look at a few of Ira Levin's creations at play:

ROSEMARY'S BABY: Mia Farrow's most memorable performance as the unwitting mother of the AntiChrist is only one of the high notes of Roman Polanski's film. Ruth Gordon raised the roof as Minnie,a chief enabler of Satan's spawn and John Cassavetes was the ultimate career husband who belonged in Hell. This early trailer for the film leaves some rather haunting images,to lure folks in:

STEPFORD WIVES: This chilling tale of the ultimate feminist fear has inspired several sequels and a lackluster remake but the original movie still packs quite a punch:



THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL: Gregory Peck played against type here,as Dr. Mengele who has decided to create what Ed Wood would call"a race of atomic supermen!"(actually,Hitler clones). James Mason and Sir Laurence Oliver also round up the cast which,believe it or not,includes a young Steve Guttenberg(listed as "Steven Guttenberg"). I must confess that I haven't seen this one but will definately make amends for that soon:

A KISS BEFORE DYING: Matt Dillon is damn scary as a murderous hustler who is desperate to cover his tracks concerning the "suicide" of his pregnant rich girlfriend and devious enough to start wooing her unsuspecting twin sister. Sean Young was pretty good here(despite the double Golden Razzie noms she recieved for the movie)and even tho this is a remake,I remember it as being very well done:

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