I recently watched the horror film Strange Behavior (1981) for the first time. Early in the film was a party scene that caught my attention initially because one of the characters was sporting a tuxedo-print tee shirt (I think there must have been an entire costume department dedicated to the tuxedo-print T-shirt in the 1980s). The bizarre choreographed dance party scene that followed really added a surreal touch to the film and got me thinking about moments of dancing in the horror films of 80s. I'm curious as to if any other decade had as much boogying in its horror cinema as the 80s did. Somehow, I doubt it.
After looking through my DVD collection and on YouTube for examples of dance in 80s horror films I began compiling a list. As I did this I couldn't help but compare the moments, creating a horror dance competition. I also broke the competitors into three categories, group dance (3 or more dancers), pairs and solo performance. I did include a few horror-themed comedies because the list just wouldn't have felt right without them. So, without further ado, I present Dancing With the Scars!
Runner-up: Teen Wolf (1985)
Hey, another movie featuring a tuxedo-print tee shirt! Let's see, silly dance, cheesy music complete with robot voice, popular kids scowling at the hero as he dances and at least one guy dancing with hat, red bowtie and slim sunglasses... yup it's an 80s film alright! Gnarly, Dude!
Runner-up: The Howling III: The Marsupial Werewolves (1987)
Another dancing werewolf! I'm not much on ballet, but the end of this dance number is awesome. I love the face the guy makes just before getting his head bit off. This scene would have place higher on the list had it involved roller disco instead.
Runner-up: Once Bitten (1985)
I watched this movie far more than I should have as a teen. The entire plot of the movie can be summed up in this dance scene. I wish I could dance like Jim Carrey.
Third Place: Strange Behavior (1981)
This party scene has an unsettling staged-feel before the dancing even starts. It feels as though the characters haven't entered a costume party but rather a trap disguised as a costume party. That sensation worsens once the dancing starts. It appears as though teens at the party have spent at least one prior evening choreographing an awkward dance to perform together. This clip scores extra points for the girl wearing that creepy buck-toothed Pippi Longstocking mask and the dude dressed like Hoss from Bonanza even though he doesn't dance (he just vomits in a sink).
Second Place: Near Dark (1987)
This is really just a series of dances, two solos and a pairs dance, but I couldn't separate them. The whole moment has a choreographed feel from the moment the vampires enter the bar. Their entrance is timed so perfectly with the music beginning, you'd swear Jesse made the others wait with him just outside the door until his vampire hearing picked up the sound of the jukebox about to play just the right song. Dancing-wise we have Severen's spinning chicken dance accompanied with wolf-howl, followed by a tender dance between Mae and an unlucky bastard who just can't allow himself to enjoy (I'd jump out the window if I was offered to Adrian Pasdar too, even if he wasn't a vampire), lastly the bar scene finishes with Homer's swaying little dance upon the bar as the joint burns down (sadly not featured in this clip).
Winner: Night Train to Terror (1985)
It took the transformation and combination of three other failed horror films to create this Voltron of crap. Night Train to Terror is literally sewn together from the corpses of other grody films and the stitches used to hold the pieces together are scenes of god and the devil talking interspersed with this music number being performed on a train. The same song is repeated over and over like a music video from hell, when the train finally crashes it is relief and not horror that is felt. To make it even worse, the song taunts the audience for watching the film, "Everybody's got something to do! Everybody but you!"
Third Place: Prom Night (1980)
I love 80s movies that feature gum-chewing jocks who look like they just smelled something bad. Oh, it even has the characters dancing to a song with the title of the movie in the chorus... and there's another tuxedo-print t-shirt! Totally excellent! It's amazing how this high school was able to provide their students with the set from Saturday Night Fever to dance upon in the gymnasium. That damn chorus lingers with you long after. "Prom night! Everything is alright!" DIG IT OUT OF MY BRAIN!
Second Place: Night of the Comet (1984)
Two sisters dancing around in a shopping mall in a montage set to Cyndi Lauper's Girl's Just Wanna Have Fun! Eightiesgasm! I bet this scene had George Romero slapping his head and wishing he'd condensed the entire second act of Dawn of the Dead into this montage.
Winner: Fright Night (1984)
I'm straight, but it's definitely Chris Sarandon who is making this dance scene sexy and not Amanda Bearse. He could have been seducing an aging Roddy McDowall out on that dance floor and the scene still would have been sexually charged. Hell, the vampire's seduction of Evil Ed in the alleyway isn't far off.
Runner-up: Ghoulies (1985)
Oh, it's 80s crazy sunglasses bestfriend-guy again! What a wonderful stock character he was! In this scene, he has a seizure and the crowd cheers. Nobody tries to stop him from biting his tongue off. They only show concern when all the tic-tacs fall out of his shirt pockets.
Runner-up: Cat's Eye (1985)
I need a room like this in my next house. Sure, I'd love to hear all about the vacuum/encyclopedia/religion that you are selling. Just wait in this room here and I'll be right back. Oh, never mind that grate on the floor and please take off your shoes...
Runner-up: Friday the 13th Part 5: A New Beginning (1985)
What the hell is up with the character Violet in this film? She's some sort of New Wave goth-type and yet she is robot dancing. It is perhaps the most angsty robot dance I've ever scene. She looks so intent doing it. Unfortunately for her, Jason's temporary scab replacement does not like robot dancing.
Runner-up: Night of the Demons (1988)
This is closer to how a goth girl dances, though she's usually shaped more like the girl from the last clip. Oh, there's a guy with a mullet in this scene!
Third Place: A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)
While Chris Sarandon made me a little bit gay with his dance in Fright Night, Mark Patton's dance sends me screaming back to being straight. Oh man! Dig those sunglasses though! What teen boy hasn't been caught by his mom and girlfriend dancing with a tiny baseball bat in front of his crotch? Here New Line has a horror franchise that was being embraced by metal fans and for the second film they gave us a hero dancing to some sort of Debbie Gibson clone. Bogus, Man!
Second place: Return of the Living Dead (1984)
I didn't have porn as a teen. I had this moment from Return of the Living Dead instead. To this day I have a thing for punk girls with unnatural red hair (even though Linnea Quigley was clearly wearing a fake-looking wig). Thanks to the use of a flesh-colored crotch patch to cover Linnea's nethers, anyone can convert a Barbie doll into a Trash doll and have it still be anatomically correct. Warning: Not safe for work.
Winner: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Even though he is technically dancing with someone, Crispin Glover wins in the solo category. His dance is so totally tubular that the girl he's dancing with just disappears. His awesomeness becomes a spotlight. I think there should be an Internet campaign to get Crispin a contestant spot on Dancing with the Stars.
Thank you for reading the blog. Apparently everybody has something to do... everybody but yooooooouuuuuu!
This entry was edited on December 10, 2010, 2:02 am.
Tomorrow marks 78 years since the birth of Johnny Cash. His final album, American VI: Ain't No Grave, came out this past Tuesday, more than six years after the iconic musician passed away. Johnny Cash's relatives and the record company that released the final album are encouraging fans to celebrate his birthday by wearing all black on Friday. They are running a Facebook event for that day with free prizes being awarded to some of those who post photos of themselves wearing black.
During the 1970s, Johnny Cash made his tendency toward wearing black clothing into a trademark, releasing the album Man in Black. In the title song from the album, Cash explains why he wore black so often.
Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black.
Considering how much of my own wardrobe is black, it is likely that I would have been wearing all black tomorrow anyhow. So, I will honor Johnny Cash's birthday instead by choosing the birthplace of Johnny Cash and his hometown as the Dark Destinations for this week.
This Friday will mark 19 years since the suicide of Jeremy Wade Delle. Delle, a student at Richardson High School in Richardson, Texas, took his own life in front of his fellow students in their English class on the morning of January 8, 1991. The 15-year-old had recently relocated to Richardson from Dallas and had apparently been in counseling at the time.
Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder happened upon a news story about the incident which inspired him to write the lyrics for the song Jeremy. The song wound up being one of three hit singles from the band's debut album Ten. When interviewed by Rockline in 1993, Vedder said the following about the song and its controversial music video:
"It came from a small paragraph in a paper which means you kill yourself and you make a big old sacrifice and try to get your revenge. That all you're gonna end up with is a paragraph in a newspaper. Sixty-three degrees and cloudy in a suburban neighborhood. That's the beginning of the video and that's the same thing is that in the end, it does nothing... nothing changes. The world goes on and you're gone. The best revenge is to live on and prove yourself. Be stronger than those people. And then you can come back."
Two different music videos were made for the song, with the second one being the one shown on Mtv, though in a censored version which caused some confusion and further controversy.
35 years ago on this date, the famous Grand Ole Opry country music radio program relocated from its home of over 30 years, the Ryman Auditorium, to the recently constructed Opryland USA theme park. It appeared to be the end of the Nashville, Tennessee landmark as it was left vacant and not maintained. Interest in restoring the Ryman's glory emerged in the 1990s and in 1994 it was reopened as a performance hall and museum.
Given that the auditorium dates back to 1892, the Ryman Auditorium has many fascinating stories, but perhaps one of its more intriguing legends is tied back to that famous radio show. The legend is known as the "Curse of the Grand Ole Opry" and it emerged following the untimely (often violent) deaths of several people that performed in its halls. Among its reputed victims are such names as Patsy Cline, Ira Louvin, and Jim Reeves. Death has come in the form of plane and automobile accidents, drugs/alcohol, murder, fire, and more. In fact, there are names like Hank Williams Jr. and Jack Greene that have suffered near-fatal accidents but survived - though the accidents are still attributed to the "Opry Curse." Apparently, the supposed curse continued despite the move from the Ryman. It has been reported that 14 people died in a three-year period at Opryland following the move and the deaths just fed the stories of the curse.
The so-called "Curse of the Grand Ole Opry" may have moved on to other grounds, but that is not to say that all of its stories have. In addition to its past ties to the reputed curse, the Ryman reportedly continues to be haunted by no less than three ghosts that still to make their presences known. Among them are the building's original owner, a spirit simply known as the "Gray Man," and a country music legend.
The night was clear and the moon was yellow,
And the leaves came tumbling down.
I was standing on the corner, when I heard my bulldog bark.
He was barking at the two men, who were gambling in the dark.
It was Stagger Lee and Billy, two men who gambled late.
The song is Stagger Lee by Lloyd Price - the first commercially successful version of a folk murder ballad that had long been a mainstay in nightclubs throughout the South. It may have also been one of the first versions of the tune (also known as Stagolee, Stack Lee, etc.) that was also commercially viable, as early renditions were often more graphic with more than a few of those words that George Carlin warned us all about. It was also not entirely accurate.
The weather at the time is not known, but it most definitely was not the fall. In fact (and perhaps ironically), the legend of Stagger Lee was born on Christmas Night, 1895 in the Bill Curtis Saloon in an area of St. Louis, Missouri that at the time was the red light district. The two men were Lee "Stack Lee" Shelton (an area pimp with political connections) and William "Billy" Lyons. And despite the song's portrayal of a night of gambling gone bad, the conflict really began over an argument of politics after an otherwise innocent night of drinks and laughs.
Stagger Lee shot Billy.
Oh, he shot that poor boy so bad.
'Till the bullet came through Billy
And broke the bartender's glass.
That much is true, though the fate of the bartender's glass is unclear. In fact, the bartender was one of the few witnesses left in the saloon after Shelton had pulled out his .44 and took aim. Like the song suggests, he was after his white Stetson hat; though not because he lost it in a bet but rather because Lyons had snagged it after Shelton had broken his Derby in the heat of the argument. The end result was the same though - Shelton shot once and calmly walked out of the bar, while Lyons was rushed to the hospital where he later died.
So how did a known pimp and a murder in an area that was infamous for crime transform into one of the most well-known murder ballads of all time? It is not entirely known, though it is worth pointing out that Duncan killed Brady (Duncan and Brady) quite literally across the street just five years earlier, while Frankie shot Johnny (actually Allan Britt - of Frankie and Johnny fame) four years later a couple blocks away. It is safe to say that some balladeer was kept busy.
At any rate, Stagger Lee has come to represent the baddest of the bad in musical form; not unlike Mack the Knife or Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, though if you listen to some renditions of Stagger Lee, he could take them out without breaking a sweat too. And it all started on Christmas Day.
The Bill Curtis Saloon may no longer exist, but a few blocks away is a historic home (photo above) that looks somewhat out-of-place in a primarily industrial area and was once the home of Lee Shelton - complete with the "crib houses" for Shelton's working girls. Also in town is the St. Peters Cemetery where Billy was buried in an unmarked grave. Ironically, Shelton is buried only a block or so away at the Greenwood Cemetery (also in an unmarked grave), where he was laid to rest after succumbing to tuberculosis while serving time at the Missouri State Penitentiary for a separate crime. And though it has since been closed town, the story even inspired a local bar and grill to take on the name of the city's local legend for awhile - Stagger Lee's.
So I leave you with this often overlooked Christmas legend and wish you and your family a very happy and safe holiday.
This entry was edited on December 17, 2010, 10:57 pm.