14 Days Until Halloween (part 2), 2014: The Name Of The Game Is Kill! (1968)

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Yes, just like every year, I screwed up the timing of my countdown. Hopefully this “part 2” of “14 Days” gets me back on schedule…

Anyway, I just found out this movie is available, restored and widescreen, on DVD and I’m buying it immediately. Like many other genre fans, it was one of my “holy grails” for years: a movie I obsessively sought based on the reputation it developed thanks to vocal genre enthusiasts like Tim Lucas (I’m linking to a Video Watchdog article on the film for more information and background). When internet happened and bootlegs became easier to get, I finally acquired a copy that was pretty much the same quality as what you’ll see here. Grainy and turned slightly pink from age, the aesthetic of film decay lent an added layer of mystery and corruption to the already dark film. Because it is so beautifully filmed, with the assistance of noted cinematographer Vilmos Szigmond (who also filmed DELIVERANCE), I’m excited to see the cleaned up version now available. At the same time, I have no reservations about presenting this “aged” version. Like a fine wine, it carries the flavor of its time, adding spice and subtlety to the story in a way the freshly pressed image surely cannot.

I wasn’t the least bit disappointed, by the way, when I first saw THE NAME OF THE GAME IS KILL (even as my expectations built during my long wait). It is top notch and deserves the cult following its garnered. The Video Watchdog article I’m linking to covers the bases as far as a review is concerned (I’m short for time again today), but I would like to share a few snippets of info/thoughts related to the movie:

– The Electric Prunes wrote a song for the soundtrack of THE NAME OF THE GAME IS KILL and it is used well in the film. That should be a hook for many of my music geek friends. The composer Stu Phillips had a part in writing that Electric Prunes song as well as having composed the rest of the beautiful, evocative score for the film. Stu Phillips had a long, respected career in scoring movies and television shows, but his most familiar work, for my readers, would likely be the theme music for “Knight Rider” and the original “Battlestar Gallactica.”

– I’ve posted quite a few films this year that deal with the “dark side” of the supposedly “feminine” character. That might be an unexpected side-effect of my recent taste for “gothic horror.” The horror genre has always had, I believe, a rich tradition of artists exploring complex issues related to psychology, sexuality, and gender in Western culture. That’s part of the many reasons I’m attracted to it. Recently certain voices within the “Men’s Movement” or “Men’s Rights Movement” have lamented that feminists exploit and exaggerate the “demonic” aspect of the male persona while minimizing the “female demonic”. While there is much that I respect in the writing of some Men’s Movement writers, this is a gross oversimplification of feminist scholarship over the last twenty or so years (at least when it comes to its treatment of the horror genre).

If anything, feminists as a whole have added to a more nuanced understanding of the “female demonic” in popular culture and pointed toward methods by which these cultural archetypes can be integrated into a richer, more balanced understanding of female identity. There was a time, in the early to mid nineties, when I felt disparaged by reductive feminist critiques of (always a select few) horror movies that only interpreted them as an expression of “patriarchy” or “male violence against women”. Though that early feminist/horror criticism might still have some influence in popular culture or intro level college courses, the overall emphasis in feminist / horror criticism has changed and today some of the best writing on horror is done by critics interested in female psychology and “feminist issues”. “House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films,” by Kier-La Janisse, is one example, but there are many scholarly articles by feminist critics that approach the same level of understanding and generative criticism when it comes to horror and its treatment of gender relations.

What is missing, and perhaps what “men’s movement” scholars might contribute, is a correspondingly acute exploration of the “male demonic” in popular culture and, rather than dismissing these “demons” as inaccurate cultural stereotypes used to perpetuate misandry (echoing the simplistic approach taken by some early feminist critics of horror,) exploring how such archetypes might contribute to the healing of a fractured male identity. I’m hardly prepared to argue here for how embracing one’s inner “woman-hating murderer” might ultimately be productive for male psychology and gender relations, but I submit the hypothesis for future analysis…

– Before watching the movie, please do not read any reviews or articles about THE NAME OF THE GAME IS KILL apart from the Video Watchdog article I link to. The ending has a twist, and I don’t want it ruined for you…

The Video Watchdog review:

http://videowatchdog.blogspot.com/2008/12/you-cant-buy-ticket-to-see-this-movie.html

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