Category Archives: 2001

13 Ghosts, Horror by Design

 

One of the finest crafted horror films of all time would have to be the remake of 13 Ghosts (2001), which boasts the most comprehensive movie set I’ve ever seen. It also has a wickedly fun script, engaging props, great characters and a slew of fantastic actors.matthew-lillard-13-ghosts

13 Ghosts is based on an original film by horror master, William Castle that is about a family who inherits what proves to be a haunted house, but a special pair of goggles allows them to see their ghostly tormentors. It was one of his special presentations where something crazy happens during the showing, in this case, every person in the audience was given a special pair of glasses to see the ghosts. The “ghost viewers” contained a red filter and a blue filter. The red filter would cause the ghostly images to intensify while the blue filter caused the images to fade.13-ghost-house

The remake takes the idea of the glasses and actually puts it into the movie in a very creative way.  The characters put on the special glasses to see the grewsome ghosts. The remake is about Cyrus Kriticos, a very rich collector of unique things, who dies, then leaves it all to his nephew and his family. All including his house, his fortune, and his malicious collection of ghosts!  As the Kriticos family explores their bizarre new home – a modern architectural masterpiece, filled with Cyrus’s collection of priceless antiques – Arthur and the children can hardly believe their good fortune. But it isn’t long before they discover that there is something hideous trapped behind the house’s elegantly etched crystal-clear walls: one by one, twelve evil spirits – each horribly disfigured by their deaths – are being released and begin stalking the family. ghost-in-13-ghosts

If they are to leave the house alive, Arthur, the children and their mortal companions must solve its deadly riddle – a lethal puzzle that contains the key to their imminent salvation or destruction.  It is Kalina who uncovers a clue to the deathly enigma in “The Arcanum,” an ancient manuscript filled with inscriptions and sketches, including containment spells for the tortured spirits trapped within the house. But the darker secret buried in The Arcanum reveals that Cyrus’ house is much more than the impressive glass and steel structure it appears to be.13-ghosts-house-set

The house is in fact a machine – a machine fed by the energy of the ghosts as they are released. As the machine “powers up,” one ghost at a time, it opens The Ocularis… or the Eye of Hell.  According to The Arcanum, he who controls The Ocularis is the most powerful man on earth. It appears that Cyrus built this deadly machine in the guise of a home to power the Ocularis and pursue his malevolent goal of penultimate power.13-ghosts-house

The most incredible thing about the film is the design of the house, designed by production designer Sean Hargreaves, based on the architecture of the the New York Science Museum.  During the three months that it took to design the set, Hargreaves and his production team worked closely with Director Steve Beck to ensure that the remarkable structure would be both visually compelling and function as a practical film set.  Another important aspect of the house’s design is its relationship to a key element in the script.  “In the story, an ancient book known as “The Arcanum” contains the blueprint which Cyrus used to build the house,” Hargreaves explains. “It’s filled with writings and drawings and sketches, almost like a Da Vinci notebook, and it’s illustrated with pages of Latin inscriptions. These inscriptions are actually containment spells for the ghosts trapped inside the house, which we transferred onto the glass walls of the set. “production-design-for-13-ghost

More than 3 miles of etched glass walls and a total of 8,500 square feet of glass were used to construct the set. The Latin “etchings” were actually rendered on a plastic overlay and adhered to the glass walls to achieve Hargreaves’ “Arcanum” design motif. Bridge welders were brought in to fuse the house together, using nearly five tons of steel in the process.  The construction of the centuries-old Arcanum book itself is another example of the attention to artistic detail evidenced throughout the production of the film. A great deal of painstaking effort went into the materials and design needed to make the book look authentically ancient. Propsmaster Dean Eilertson reveals that three people worked for a week just to age the parchment paper used in the four books that were eventually created.set-design-for-13-ghosts

Along with the house and props, each ghost was extremely detailed with their visual look and backstory. It made for a very fun and scary experience for the actors. The cast is filled out with some of the finest actors with F. Murray Abraham, Tony Shalhoub, Embeth Davidtz, Matthew Lillard, JR Bourne, and Shannon Elizabeth.thirteen-ghosts-2001

David Swift, Man of Many Hats

 

David Swift had notable credits as an animator, director, writer, producer, musician and actor…it’s as if there was nothing he couldn’t do! David started out as an animator for Disney’s early films from Snow White to Peter Pan, but then soon moved over as a writer for a bunch of TV shows like Norby and Mister Peepers and then moved again to directing.David Swift and Pollyanna

As a writer-director he started with a hit right out of the gate when he made the feature films Pollyanna for Disney in 1960 and then followed it up with The Parent Trap in 1961. Both films starred Haley Mills and both are still amazing family films!  According to director David Swift, after looking at 362 girls for the part of Pollyanna, they still did not have anyone to play the part. One day, Walt Disney’s wife Lilly went shopping with Disney studio head Bill Anderson’s wife while they were in London on business. The two ladies saw Hayley Mills in Tiger Bay (1959) and thought she was perfect for the role of Pollyanna. The two men didn’t listen to them, but they were so persistent that the men finally agreed to watch the movie and immediately decided to cast Hayley.David Swift and The Parent Trap

There’s a lot of very fine character actors in these films as well with Jane Wyman, Adolphe Menjou, Nancy Olsen, Karl Malden, Kevin Corcorin and Agnes Moorehead in Pollyanna and Brian Keith, Maureen O’Hara, Charles Ruggles, and Joanna Barnes in The Parent Trap. He has a real talent for putting together very talented casts. He continued this trend with Under the Yum Yum Tree in 1963 with Jack Lemmon, Carol Lynley, Dean Jones, Paul Lynde, Edie Adams, Imogene Coca, and Bill Bixby and with How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying in 1967 with Robert Morse, Rudy Vallee, and Michele Lee.David Swift and Under the Yum Yum TreeThe original Broadway production of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” opened at the Forty-sixth Street Theater in New York on October 14, 1961, ran for 1417 performances and won the 1962 Tony Awards for the Best Musical and Book and was nominated for Best Score. Robert Morse (Winner of the 1962 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical), Rudy Vallee, Ruth Kobart and Sammy Smith recreated their stage roles for the movie version.David Swift and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

I also want to mention that he wrote the screenplay for one of my favorite Disney movies of the 70’s…Candleshoe, in 1977 starring Jodie Foster, Helen Hayes, David Niven, and Leo McKern. Interestingly enough, I loved Jodie Foster in this, but she’s the reason he ultimately didn’t direct this film. He developed this project for Disney for several years and was intially set to direct it. However, he felt Jodie Foster (then one of the most popular teenage actresses in the country) was all wrong for the part of Casey and stepped down. I believe he was wrong, as she’s great in this movie.David Swift and Candleshoe

Final of four cinema movies that Jodie Foster made with the Walt Disney Pictures studios during the 1970s. The feature films include Candleshoe (1977),Freaky Friday (1976), One Little Indian (1973) and Napoleon and Samantha (1972). During this period, Foster also made a fifth Disney feature title, but made for television, it being the tele-movie Menace on the Mountain (1970), the first of the 70s era batch.

Best Movie Stunts of the Year List 2000-2009

 

Here is the list for the Best Movie Stunts for the Decade 2000-2009 as listed in the book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

2000 – Mission: Impossible IImission motocycle

The motorcycle stunts in this John Woo Directed film performed by Tom Cruise and the rest of the stuntmen are worth the ticket of admission. Great bike stunts here.

2001 – Black Hawk Downblack-hawk-down-57593_3

Military precision is on full scale display in this fine film directed by Ridley Scott.  The actors went through a serious boot camp to get them ready and to make this as realistic as possible. Very well done.

2002 – Jackass The Moviejackass golf carts

The first time a successful movie was released with UNTRAINED stuntmen performing all the stunts.  Some of them are quite dangerous and most of them just downright silly and stupid.  But all of them entertaining.

2003 – Ong Bakong-bak-2003-13-g

Stuntman-turned-Actor Tony Jaa sparkles in this fantastic martial arts film.  In the past most martial arts films uses wires and then cgi to cover the wires later, but not in this one.  Jaa seems to have elastic legs with the kicks, jumps and splits he performs at lightning speed.

2004 – District B13District B13 Lobby Card

The French turn in a fantastic film full of Parkour stunts performed by one of the creators himself, David Belle and another great stuntman and top stunt choreographers in his own right, Cyrill Raffaelli.  If you are a fan of Taken with Liam Neeson, then you’ll love this film as Pierre Morel directed this one first.

2005 – Batman Beginsbatman

Now another Director who likes to film the action scenes himself enters the list, Christopher Nolan with this film and the sequel 3 years later.  He wanted to direct a bond film and got this franchise instead and really took it to heart.  He’s a big fan of doing practical effects and the audience gets the benefit of it all the way.  Thank you, Mr. Nolan.

2006 – Casino Royalecasino jump

Speaking of Bond, Daniel Craig‘s first entry as bond has some great Parkour in it as well.  I liked it so much I used a still as the cover for the 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts book.  It also boasts a World Record by flipping a car a record seven times!

2007 – DeathproofZoe Bell in Deathproof

I love to be able to announce another bad-ass stunt woman on the scene and Zoe Bell is not one who disappoints.  She spends the better half of Quentin Tarantino‘s movie strapped to the hood of two racing cars, with Stuntman Mike in the other car trying very hard to kill her at every chance.  Stuntman Mike played by Kurt Russell.

2008 – The Dark Knightdark_knight_7Here’s Christopher Nolan‘s sequel to Batman Begins and in so many ways it tops the original.  He manages to flip an eighteen wheeler end to end for this one by driver Jim Wilky and an amazing stunt crew.

2009 – Fast & Furiousfast-and-furious-1

The previous versions of this series were more racing films and this one transforms the series into a more stunt spectacular series from here on out.  All of the original cast is back and film is chocked full of great stunts.  Justin Lin would be the Director I would give credit to making this franchise more Universal.  And we are all the better for it.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM

Cast and Stunt Performers for Black Hawk Down

 

When a film has prolonged action throughout, it can be easy for the actors to sometimes forget that they are literally making a movie as they can spend months in the trenches. This is a good example with Eric Bana on this film. This was his first major motion picture, his US film premiere and he later went on to say that the experience was an ultra-realistic one and that he frequently forgot that they were only making a movie.Black

There is a great documentary on the making of this movie (it’s actually longer than the movie itself) called, The Essence of Combat: The Making of Black hawk Down. It shows a lot of what the stunt performers and the actors went through to create the incredible footage of the film. The film actually uses four Black Hawks from the US Military.blackhawkdown3

Many of the actors bonded with the soldiers who trained them for their roles. Actor Tom Sizemore later said,”What really got me at training camp was the Ranger Creed. I don’t think most of us can understand that kind of mutual devotion. It’s like having 200 best friends and every single one of them would die for you.”

Black Hawk Down was directed by Ridley Scott for Revolution Studios.blackhawkdown

Things to look up (click on item to go to IMDB page or Website):

  • Black Hawk Down
  • Ridley Scott
  • Eric Bana
  • Tom Sizemore
Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!
Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM