Siskel and Ebert Versus Jason

“I think the people who made this movie ought to be ashamed of themselves…” sez Roger Ebert in one of his classic anti-FRIDAY THE 13th rants that most provoked his outrage during the 1980’s. And Paramount was indeed ashamed to a degree they downplayed the series’ massive success, leading to the MPAA asking for severe cuts (pun yes) to the gore and violence, no doubt prodded by Siskel and Ebert’s two-man war on the genre. I understood their general point about the misanthropic nature of the films, but as teens, we went to the films to be scared and laugh, a ritual as old as I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF, albeit with spears impaling young lovers and an eyeball popping from a skull in 3D. Of course, FRIDAY THE 13th: THE FINAL CHAPTER is easily one of the best in the series, with Tom Savini back for some nifty effects, including Jason’s awesome head-sliding-down-the-machete demise (sic), which had my audience stomping and cheering: we wanted to see the brutal killer get his own prosthetic comeuppance. Good times. The man who wrote BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS and UP! should have found a different stance, but it made for an interesting era…

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24 Responses to “Siskel and Ebert Versus Jason”

  1. Good point. Makes you wonder what the pair would have said about ‘Tucker & Dale vs. Evil’? (which I’m enjoying at the moment, mind you) No… wait. How about something I won’t go near: ‘A Serbian Film’? It was different time, alright.

    • TUCKER AND DALE etc is on my queue.

      A SERBIAN TALE…I can’t do it. Strange how my gore-acious (TM) film appetites became more sensitized; Ebert missed the larger point of the 80’s hack and slashers becoming the classier serial killers of the 90’s and culminating with the torture porn genre….

  2. siskel & ebert, legend that they were, were also couple of sissies of EPIC proportions. exhibit A: their review of ‘aliens’:

    good grief, i was less of a big girl’s blouse by age 10.

    fetch the smelling salts mother, oh the horror, the horror!

    • actually, in this case after the ‘siskel & ebert friday the 13th pt 4’ review, the above should be ‘exhibit B’.

    • I understand his point about the film feeling like an assault; I did and went back the next day to see it again to make sure.

      I could never figure Ebert’s contrary taste out. Siskel actually seemed to understand the FRIDAY THE 13TH series – and of course the 3D version made 19 million in one weekend in 1983, which was HUGE. And shitty 3D films spooled forth…killing the boom in a year. But FT13TH3D is still the best.

    • Ebert wrote a scene with a shemale slicing the head off a handbound naked dude! Wha’ happened?

  3. thinking about and trying to articulate what sort of annoys me about that s&e ‘aliens’ review – beyond ‘crikey what sissies!’ – is this:

    while i appreciate critics being upfront about their prejudices and aversions to aspects of film such as violence and gore, intensity, scariness, etc, which inevitably and unavoidably colour their impressions/interpretation of a film, if one is in the position of self-appointed assessor of art with the (likely necessary) accompanying ego to actually recommend to ‘the public’ what to see and what not to bother with, it think it’s incumbent on the critics – who by the nature of their job view a wide variety of genres and sensibilities – to take one’s personal taste out of the equation as much as possible, at least to the extent that the film should be first and foremost evaluated on whether or not the piece succeeds at its INTENT, if it works in terms of what it’s clearly meant to do to the viewer as an achievement in film-making.

    in this case (aliens), ebert feels it appropriate to qualify his review of the movie by stressing that he felt upset and unsettled and so freaked out after the end that it took him a while to get back to ‘normal’ – and then goes as far as to say that he would actually caution people from seeing it based on his personal reaction – but fails to mention that this is clearly the INTENT of the movie, what it strives for and makes it so effective – cameron clearly wanted people to come out of the theatre feeling like they’d been to war, put thru the wringer and knocked on their asses – so for the movie/review to earn a caution for achieving exactly what the movie intends to do seems verging on too personal and somewhat unprofessional to me.

    as for siskel and his ‘children in peril!’ hang-up: well i guess that’s fair enough, but again he says how badly he felt newt’s pain and that she was in genuine, sustained peril, which made him very uncomfortable and he thus gives the movie a bad thumbs-down review — but he seems oblivious to the fact him feeling newt’s pain and peril is actually the ultimate compliment to the film-making on display, but he can’t seem to look past his own personal ‘tut tut girl in peril’ prejudice to even acknowledge that the way he felt mean that movie achieves what it sets out to do rather brilliantly. so this supposedly professional evaluation also strikes me as poorly considered and inadequate in terms of encompassing, insightful film criticism goes.

    (having said all that i actually don’t give that much of a shit about it or reviews in general, just felt like having a good whinge. gotta find something to complain about!)

  4. “Thumbs down on this cruel BAMBI. Uncle Walt should be ashamed.” – Roger Ebert’s first review, 1943

  5. Charley Brady Says:

    That was one hell of a rant there, Leah. Keep them coming!

    But come on, you have to feel a little bit bad for these guys. I mean, imagine how stricken they must have been when Newt turned up dead in Alien 3 (best of the series in my less than humble opinion).

    This kind of nonsense goes to the very heart of censorship: it’s just a couple of ordinary guys who have taken it upon themselves to say, well, I’m an intelligent person and I can review this kind of thing because it won’t damage ME but I don’t think that the ordinary cimema goer is capable of distinguishing between what I am able to see without taking an axe to someone and what THEY are able to see without it harming them.

    Ebert has defended quite strongly stuff that I personally consider to be vile in the past (Last House on the Left) so you just listen, be entertained by his way of presenting his argument and then decide for yourself anyway. I never pay much heed to reviewers but I always read them. Hell, the world would be boring at times without them.

    Charley.

    • Yes, leah’s comments are epic bonza – I might have to give her a column.

      Yes, Ebert’s praise of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, which I recall watching on their “Guilty Picks” show, isn’t too surprising as Craven’s film is artful enough to engender more microscopic scrutiny while the FRIDAY THE 13TH series has none of Craven’s philosophical underpinnings (and the irony that LAST HOUSE co-producer Steve Miner directed FT13th!)…And I think that too much preoccupation with slasher films probably isn’t the healthiest trait in the world but Ebert also famously panned NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD because it was shown to a young audience. Which isn’t Romero’s fault and says nothing about the film.

      And because you’re a great new contributor I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that ALIEN3 is the best in the series. I can’t hear you, there’s a facehugger on my head.

  6. ha, you guys are troopers for wading through my stream-of-consciousness ravings, i thank you for bothering really. (i do need to engage in a bit more rigorous proofreading; weirdly i find it takes me far longer to properly fix typos and edit than it does to tap out a long babble. that can’t be normal.)

    charley, interesting comment re: the film review as a form of censorship, i’m not sure i’ve really thought about it in those terms but i’m gonna start…but what is this ‘alien3’ movie you speak of, such a thing doesn’t exist in my little world (because i put my fingers in my ears and sing LA LA LA LA LA real loud). i can agree to disagree tho, as much as it may pain me. charley horse!

    i also agree with christian about ebert’s inconsistency, he’s all over the show — but he always states his case convincingly and with aplomb.

  7. Charley Brady Says:

    Yeah, saying that Alien 3 was the best was a case of mouth opening before engaging brain. It’s the second best. I remember doing a piece on it when it came out and going into all kinds of buried themes in it including the right to abortion. What a pretentious git! Anyway, how did you guys understand the English accents? Was it sub-titled for you?

    As for Left House, I’m sorry. I just couldn’t see anything in it except ugliness. But as always that’s just one man’s opinion.

    And as for giving Leah a column, go for it! If her stuff is stream of conciousness I can only say that it reads better than many a supposedly thought out review.

    Charley

    • christian Says:

      I’m pretty good with Brit accents thanx to an Anglo-TV/Film culture diet of Bond, Benny Hill, Monty Python, Upstairs Downstairs, and The Young Ones.

      LAST HOUSE is ugly and unwatchable twice for me, but Craven has his finger on something in the themes of vengeance…

      I’d let Leah post whateva column she wanted. Fortunately, she keeps the comments going…

      • that’s very kind of you c but i defer to you as the column master and commander. i’ll keep blathering here till you kick me off tho, or until i can blather no more (which i hope isn’t any time soon for my own sake)

  8. fwiw having grown up down here in the farthest outpost of the commonwealth on a steady diet of uk accents on tv, news, movies etc i have no trouble understanding british/irish brogues, tho every once in a blue moon some bit of unfamiliar slang will trip me up

    (perhaps the most amusing to me re: examples of this phenom is when i happened to catch ‘mad max’ while in the states back in the olden days, having not previously realised that mel had dubbed over his lines from the original theatrical cut with a milder accent so that the yanks could understand him, it was bizarre to behold)

    • christian Says:

      What I find bizarre and hilarious — and revealing — is how much American reality TV uses subtitles for Americans.

  9. Charley Brady Says:

    Sorry, Christian, I’m guessing you meant where was it printed? I’m freelance so I can’t remember that far back. I started to trawl through memory sticks then it dawned on me that it would have been on floppy disc in those days(God, you would think it was centuries ago now) so it’s probably–not to mention fortunately–consigned to that famous dustbin of history by now.

    That crack about the subtitles was meant to be tongue-in-cheek but I do recall thinking that Americans might have a problem with the slang. I still stand by Alien 3 being a very fine and thoughtful film, much undervalued and a very good starting point for David Fincher, considering some of the very dark subject matter that he’s tackled since. I can hear Leah LA LA LAing in the background. Going off on a tangent I seem to remember Fincher doing a very good music video for “The Wild Boys” by Duran Duran just prior to that film’s release but I’m open to correction there.

    Anyway, if you want to waste a few minutes of your life you can get some of my stuff on the net if you type in Charley Brady Irish Examiner USA. It’s usually political but I always try to get in some kind of movie reference. There’s also an ongoing column for years now in Chicago’s Irish American News under the opinion column called Swimming Upstream.

    Charley.

    • christian Says:

      Nah, I actually meant that ALIEN 3 does not exist in my dojo;]

      I think it has some interesting ideas but it’s just a mess. Which bald-headed death-row inmate was I supposed to not want to see Alien-ized? And CG aliens don’t work at all – they lack the physical intimacy that makes the first two films so disturbing. Plus, I don’t like Fincher’s style. And Fincher didn’t do The Wild Boys video – that was Russell Mulcahey.

      The only constant is Sigourney Weaver’s awesome performances in all four films, two of which are lesser films around her.

      Glad to see your work!

  10. charley (i looked you up, cool bananas man), the truth is, if alien/aliens didn’t exist as the knockout one/two punch from my formative years that it is, as a stand-alone movie i may not even dislike ‘alien3’, i don’t know it’s weird… on one hand it just feels like a big fuck-you poke in the eye – from its messed-up inception under v ward, royally screwed over, to it’s final incarnation with fincher’s (and some would say weaver’s) heavy-handed thematics meets bizarre prison-auditorium old-london-town thug-o-rama wherein everything that came before was disposable as a tissue and watching it i keep thinking, “christ, lighten up dude” – but as a piece it’s certainly not without some interesting design and ideas and mood and tension and even a good scare or two in its own operatic way; so if i disconnect i can intellectually understand how someone could appreciate it for the detour it is, just not emotionally or spiritually or instinctively (apparently it’s against my religion).

  11. Charley Brady Says:

    Thanks Leah. I didn’t really mean to get so heavy about this. I suppose it’s just that the film has been so consistently knocked down through the years that I couldn’t understand that. I was completely blown away when I saw it on its release.

    One objection that is voiced often, which you touch on and which I can understand, is that Newt arriving dead felt like a betrayal for everyone who had suffered and empathised with the kid through the second one. I can understand that but to me it just seemed properly in keeping with the whole…oh, I’m not even sure if this is the right word…nihilistic feel of the movie and which I felt led as a natural progression to Fincher’s next one, 7even.

    I loved Cameron’s wham bam approach and it was an astonishing film, but for good or bad I just respond a bit more to the dark side of things. Less action, more gloom and doom!

    Who knows? Maybe time for an Alien 3 critical resurrection? Jeez, what a God-awful pun.

    • “well you can count me out!”

      (just a bit of perhaps fitting ‘aliens’ quote humour there to lighten the mood… nah, if you can’t get all heavy and serious discussing movies on a movie blog, well what’s it all about then?)

  12. Charley Brady Says:

    Ouch, Christian, consider my wrist well and truly slapped! You’re right of course, it was Mulcahey. I’m probably going out on another limb here but was that around the time HE did his debut. I remember enjoying a low budget Australian film that I think was his called “Razorback”.

    I’m holding out the wrist again…

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