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DREAMCATCHER: Delirious fun?

Plus: A Vic Mizzy Classic debuts on CD and the usual ramblings

An Aisle Seat Entry
By Andy Dursin

One of the first film scores to ever draw my attention as a youngster was Vic Mizzy's THE SPIRIT IS WILLING, a late '60s William Castle ghost comedy that aired one rainy Saturday afternoon on Channel 56's "Creature Double Feature" in Boston.

It didn't matter that the movie itself wasn't so funny (despite having a cast including Sid Caesar), or that I was likely too young to find anything amusing in it to begin with. What did matter, though, was that I loved Vic Mizzy's score.

Sure, it might have helped that my other fave film when I was six years old (aside from "Star Wars") was "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken," another classic scored by Mizzy that I hope will be released on CD one day. Mizzy's toe-tapping, infectious melodic score was instantly appealing to my senses, and for years I futilely scanned the catalogs at Intrada and STAR hoping that the score was released somewhere in the world.

So, I was thrilled to learn a few months ago that Taylor White and the folks at Percepto were championing Mizzy's masterful score and finally giving THE SPIRIT IS WILLING an actual, bona fide soundtrack release -- paired on CD with another Mizzy effort, "The Busy Body."

The resulting CD is a labor of love that comes highly recommended to anyone who enjoys Mizzy's unique, unmistakable sound. The haunting (no pun intended) Main Title - - presented sadly without the composer's long-lost vocal track -- sets the tone for a score filled with ballet-like melodic cues ("Bedroom Cares"), jaunty comedic tracks with a dose of the "Addams Family" groove ("Where's She Hiding"), and sly, lyrical underscoring ("Sinking").

While the film was deemed a misfire (despite having been based on an acclaimed, and straight, ghost story by Nathaniel Benchley), Mizzy's score is a gem. "The Busy Body" is likewise a lot of fun, with the composer bringing his distinctive sound to another (unsuccessful) parody film concocted by William Castle.

Percepto's CD offers both scores in clean monophonic sound, along with a colorful booklet featuring notes from the composer. Needless to say, this package comes highly, highly recommended -- now, where's that "Ghost and Mr. Chicken" soundtrack when you need it??


In Theaters

DREAMCATCHER (**1/2): Most of you know that I have a certain affection for good bad movies -- films that are gleefully entertaining not in spite of their flaws, but because of them.

Lawrence Kasdan's adaptation of Stephen King's DREAMCATCHER is one of those deliriously fun movies that sadly comes down the pike only once in a long while. It's an end-of-the-world sci-fi/horror movie that borrows freely from ALIEN, TREMORS, THE THING, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, and SPECIES to name just a few, not to mention King's own IT and STAND BY ME.

Thomas Jane, Damian Lewis, Timothy Olyphant, and Jason Lee play four childhood friends who spend one weekend a year at a secluded Maine cabin during the dead of winter. One year, the guys -- who also have psychic abilities -- happen to time their vacation with the outbreak of a strange disease of alien origin that sends a deranged military man (Morgan Freeman) and his squad out to contain the outbreak.

What follows from there is an almost indescribable potpourri of sci-fi cliches and King staples including but not limited to: invading extraterrestrials, disgusting alien parasites that travel through the human digestive system, childhood friends who form an unlikely alliance through their adult years, men possessed against their will, and an evil alien who announces his villainy by speaking with a British accent!

DREAMCATCHER has been roundly booed off the screen by critics and most audiences, but even with its awkward passages and laughable dialogue (with plot holes as large as the gap in the Maine woods that the alien ship leaves behind), at heart the movie is a gooey and entertaining "Saturday matinee" creature flick that more often than not delivers the goods for genre fans. Sure, you can ask what screenwriter William Goldman and co-writer/director Kasdan were doing slumming in material like this, but I'd still gladly take this movie any day over the filmmaker's more pretentious piffle like "Grand Canyon" and "Mumford."

Even with serpentine aliens exploding from the anuses of unsuspecting Maine townsfolk, Thomas Jane and Damian Lewis fare well as two of the lifelong friends combating the otherworldly invaders. Freeman, meanwhile, is completely over-the-top in a performance filled with inane dialogue -- what more can you say when Tom Sizemore plays his military cohort, and comes off as incredibly subdued in comparison!

DREAMCATCHER starts slowly but takes a turn toward the outrageous (and entertaining) once the aliens show up about midway through. What follows from there isn't quite on the level of "Lifeforce" (an Aisle Seat favorite you can read about here), but as big studio-backed horror movies go, it's pretty darned close. The final confrontation between the chief alien and the guys' "special" friend Duddits (Donnie Wahlberg) is somehow both hilarious and exciting at the same time, capped by the immortal line "Scooby-Scooby-Doo, we have some work to do!!"

Needless to say, there are some choice moments scattered throughout the movie, and I'd rather not spoil them if you're up for seeing the flick in theaters or later on DVD. Either way, DREAMCATCHER is worth it for those special moments, ILM's terrific special effects, and James Newton Howard's fine score. Just remember to bring some popcorn along for the ride. (R, 134 mins.)


New On DVD

GHOST SHIP (*1/2, 91 mins., 2002, R; Warner Home Video): From the "so bad it's good" to the just plain bad, this third Halloween release from Robert Zemeckis and Joel Silver's Dark Castle Entertainment is a by-the-numbers affair that strands a good cast in a sea of horror movie cliches.

Julianna Marguiles and Gabriel Byrne play members of a salvage vessel that discovers a long-lost ocean liner stranded deep at sea. As we learn from an especially bloody prologue (presented with colorful, '60s-like credits -- oh, the irony!), the crew and passengers of the Antonia Graza were killed instantly when an accident claimed their lives -- or did it? Marguiles, Byrne, and their crew soon find a stash of gold onboard the ship, along with a collection of ghosts trying to be set free.

Steve Beck directed the previous (and superior) Dark Castle effort, "13 Ghosts," but with GHOST SHIP he's saddled with a tepid script credited to Mark Hanlon and John Pogue. The movie's premise is promising, but the screenplay never settles on a consistent tone, with few scares or impressive effects outside of the unpleasant opening sequence.

Where the movie really goes wrong is in its final third, which introduces an antagonist with motives so poorly developed that you're lost trying to figure out what's going on. Throw in a groaner of a "twist" ending and GHOST SHIP manages to botch what little positive elements it had going for it in the first place.

Warner's DVD is a solid affair, though. The 1.85 transfer is excellent and the 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack passable enough, though I was surprised by the relative lack of surround effects for a movie of this kind. There's no audio commentary on the DVD, though like the "13 Ghosts" DVD, the disc includes short character vignettes, extensive Making Of featurettes on the make-up and FX, a Cinemax special, and a music video.

GHOST SHIP made a modest sum at the box-office last fall, but its R-rated gore kept its numbers down while the PG-13 rated -- and far spookier -- THE RING became a breakthrough success. With a meandering script and downright awful finale, this is one SHIP that deserved to sink.
 


Aisle Seat Mail Bag

From Jeremy Moniz:

We film music aficionados are a strange lot and I really enjoyed [last week's] intro covering the new Legend Of Zelda release. Video games have evolved into an excellent league of their own when it comes to visuals, plot, and, of course, underscore.

I thought that you might like to know, if you didn't already, is that Don Bluth is supervising a "cel shaded" 3D remake to "Dragon's Lair" due later this year. Hopefully the praise you've given Zelda will pale in comparison to this long awaited game remake. And, if we're lucky, Christopher Stone will record some fantastic new music for the game. I believe he composed the brief cues for the original laserdisc version and also for Space Ace.

Jeremy, thanks for the kudos -- ZELDA is quite an achievement and a lot of fun, as well. As far as the DRAGON'S LAIR remake goes, it actually was released on the major systems late last fall, and was, sadly, poorly received.


Soundtrack Alert!

If anyone is still hunting for a copy of Georges Delerue's ultra-rare and limited FRENCH REVOLUTION CD re-issue, the Canadian online retailer Archambault.ca has them for $44 (Canadian). I received my copy last weekend, and suspect they still have them in- stock at the moment. English is accessible by clicking on the tab in the upper-right hand corner, and the CD is listed under "REVOLUTION FRANCAISE." Definitely recommended!


Next Week: The FAMILY GUY comes to DVD, plus your comments and more reviews! Send all emails to dursina@att.net and we'll catch you then. Excelsior!


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