Posts

Disney's 1959 Shaggy Dog Scared the S—t Out of Me

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Tommy Kirk in The Shaggy Dog  In my last post , I described why I think the scene after Duncan's murder is one of the most frightening in Macbeth . I forgot to mention one of its most frightening features, that Macbeth can never return to being what he was before the murder.  This made me think about a movie that scared the s—t out of me when I was a kid: the 1959 Walt Disney comedy The Shaggy Dog . I saw it in 1969 as part of a rerelease double feature with The Absent-Minded Professor .  The film was advertised as "a new kind of horror movie . . . HORRIBLY FUNNY!" But to me there was very little that was funny about it. The main character's metamorphosis was scary, but what was truly terrifying was the sense that the transformation was permanent, that he could never go back to what he was. That was far scarier than the fighting trees in The Wizard of Oz , though those were plenty scary.

A Candidate for the "Scariest Moment in Shakespeare"

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  Jon Finch and Francesca Annis in Roman Polanski's 1971 Macbeth   Two years ago, Andy McLean asked me to be part of a panel for Bell Shakespeare, the national Australian Shakespeare company. We were asked to vote for Shakespeare's greatest death scene and greatest lovers . Choosing the death scene was easy—I think it's hard to top Cleopatra's suicide. Choosing the lovers was tough. I went with Romeo and Juliet, though when I saw the winner, Shakespeare and the "lovely boy" of the sonnets , I wished that I had thought of it.   This year, I've been asked to choose a candidate for the " scariest moment in Shakespeare ."  I simplified my decision by eliminating moments that are not merely scary, but horrifying, like Lavinia being dragged away to be raped and mutilated in Titus Andronicus .   Macbeth has its moment of pure horror—when the Macduff boy is murdered in front of his mother—but much of the rest of the play is "scary," in the s

Seven Reasons Why Someone Who Doesn't Usually Read Epic Fantasy Might Want to Try Joe Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy

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I gobbled up a huge amount of science fiction and fantasy when I was a kid, but had largely stopped reading it by the time I went to college. Though I still read SF&F by "literary" writers, for years I didn't read anything that might be found in a bookstore's science-fiction-and-fantasy section. I even sold my collection of SF&F paperbacks, something I regret, much as Ray Bradbury regretted selling his collection of Buck Rogers comics . About fifteen years ago, I began reading science fiction and fantasy again. I'm not sure why. Perhaps what happened to me was what C. S. Lewis told his goddaughter might happen to her—I became "old enough to start reading fairy tales again" (dedication in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe ). Or perhaps I was inspired by reading fantasy children's books aloud to my daughters (the greatest reading experience of my life). Or perhaps the change came when, prompted by good reviews, I read Susanna Clar

Alexander Barnett's King Lear

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Alexander Barnett's King Lear , which was released worldwide in October, is also available in a fifteen-episode version on Vimeo . Here's a preview.  

My Votes for “Shakespeare’s Greatest Lovers and Most Epic Deaths”

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The second most common question I get asked when people find out that I taught Shakespeare is, “Did he write the plays?” which is like asking a biology professor if she believes in evolution. I usually respond with the old joke that Shakespeare’s plays weren’t written by Shakespeare, but by a man with the same name. If people are really interested, I provide a short history of authorship conspiracy theories, cribbing from Schoenbaum’s brilliant Shakespeare’s Lives . A more common question is, “What’s your favorite play?” Choosing a single play is impossible for me, but, on any given day, I can provide a favorite comedy, history, tragedy, and romance. (Today those are Twelfth Night, 1 Henry IV, Hamlet , and The Winter’s Tale —I might have different favorites tomorrow.) I’m also sometimes asked, “Who’s your favorite character?” which is also an impossible question, but if we can narrow it, I’m willing to give it a go. One of my tweeps, Andy McLean, is compiling a list of “Shakesp

Happy New Year, Bardophiles!

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Henry Fuseli, "Falstaff in the Laundry Basket" (1792). "If I be served such another trick, I'll have my brains ta'en out and buttered, and give them to a dog for a New Year's gift."      Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor (3.5).

Adam West's Batman Was a Bardophile

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A bust of Shakespeare in Bruce Wayne's library played a crucial role on every episode of the 1960s Batman TV show, with the now deceased Adam West. After getting a call for help from Commissioner Gordon, millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne would tell his young ward Dick Grayson, "To the batpoles!" Wayne or Grayson would pull back Shakespeare's bust and flip the switch that made a bookcase slide away, revealing the batpoles. They would then jump on the poles and slide to the batcave, changing their outfits en route.