4 (Fictional) Serial Killers Who Love Musicals

A couple years back Cracked wrote an article about studios tricking audiences into seeing bad movies and one of their examples was Sweeney Todd: Demond Barber of Fleet Street.  Not that the film is bad (in my expert opinion) but Warner Bros decided it would be easier to release trailers which didn’t disclose that the film was a musical because they felt that everyday audiences would be put off by all this singing malarkey. To demonstrate the dilemma Warner Bros was in, Cracked developed this delightful pie chart.

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(http://www.cracked.com/article_15876_5-ways-hollywood-tricks-you-into-seeing-bad-movies.html)

I’ll admit I’m too squeamish to be a horror fan (let alone serial killer) but I’ve watched a lot of movies with murderous characters and noted that a love of musicals and love of killing do occasionally go together, like rama lama lama
ke ding a de dinga a dong.

 

Leon from Leon the Professional

Working as a professional hit-man, Leon lives without friends, family or even a conscience. He is reluctant to let Mathilda into his life after her family is killed but over time they form an emotional attachment, proving he is capable of love after all. Of course the film can’t just jump from a man having no soul to becoming a father figure, so early in the movie they place little hints that he is capable of feelings. Firstly is the love and care he takes to tent for his house plant. But secondly, and more important for the purposes of this article, is the look of wonder on his face when he goes to the cinema.

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That look of wonder is inspired by Gene Kelly’s seminal classic Singin’ in the Rain. Now before you argue that the wonder of cinema itself is inspiring him, Leon is not exactly a movie fan. Later in the movie, Mathilda dresses up as famous actors such as Charlie Chaplin and Marylin Monroe. Leon doesn’t even recognise, let alone care for these characters, but when she begins singing and dancing around with an umbrella, as Kelly did in Singin’ in the Rain, it’s all smiling and fatherly affection.

What I’m trying to say is, people who don’t like musicals are more inhumane than some serial killers.

 

Alex in A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange was years ahead of Sweeney Todd in combining carnage and a good show tune. Alex proclaims his love of “Ultra violence” is brought upon by the music of Beethoven and Mozart, but one of the film’s most shocking scenes is the gang rape of a woman while belting out the lyrics to Singin’ in the Rain.

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Makes you wonder what is up with that film when two of the killers on this list love it so much. Though this is the only example we get that Alex even cares about musicals, he does know all the words and I’m pretty certain that makes you a bit of a fan. Clockwork fans must have picked up on it because they developed this little mix of iconography.

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This killer has no redeeming features. Call me old fashioned, I know lots of likeable characters who technically (or straight up) count as killers, but does rape definitely crossed the line between good and evil. The only good thing we can take from this is that even in such a bleak future, quality music at least survives.

 

Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs

Once again we have a killer who primarily listens to opera (which makes me think I should re-write this list about murders who love opera). But Hannibal does quote song lyrics from the classic Broadway musical Oklahoma! when he says to Clarice that “people will say we’re in love.” He also rips the face off a man and wears it, shortly after eating another man’s ear.

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There are two murders in the film and Lecter the Oklahoma! fan is the favourite by far. The film has been made into a musical know as Silence! The Musical but it is a parody with the opening number actually sung by lambs.

 

Patrick Bateman in American Psycho

Patrick Bateman rapes and kills women and men in his apartment with a Les Miserables poster on his wall.

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He also mentions that he has matinee tickets to the show so he’s a pretty big fan. Anyone who has read the book or seen the film will know that it acts as a critique of soulless consumer culture. Musical fans may know that the 1980s not only marked the boom of Wall Street (which is blamed for giving these characters the money to be so consumer driven) but the rise of Megamusicals like Les Mis. These shows were heavily marketed money-making machines, hated by critics for having a lack of substance underneath all the epic stories and big sets. So it’s fitting that Bateman would love the high-grossing blockbuster musicals that are void of any real sentiment. His love of Les Mis is as much an understanding of this shallow character as his love of perfect business cards and Rolex’s.

I tip my hat to you author Bret Easton Ellis for creating an inside joke for us musical fans. Even though I love Les Miserables and in no way consider it part of the consumer culture or lacking in sentiment (I’ve yet to meet anyone who has seen it without crying), I understand why it has been viewed as such. Once again the film/book has been made into a musical, hopefully Bateman moonwalks with an axe to a decent show tune.

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The Top 7 Movies Abut Theatre Life

7. The Band Wagon  (Minnelli 1953)

the band wagon

While countless movie musicals have a plot that can be condensed into the simple ‘let’s put on a show’, The Band Wagon is one of the best and exclusively discusses theatre instead of film (Singin’ in the Rain) or putting on a show in a barn (Babes in Arms). Of course, being a musical comedy, the show will turn out to be a massive hit but there are some troubles along the way. All the off-stage drama comes second only to Vincent Minnelli’s beautiful dance sequences, especially those with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse.

6. The Red Shoes (Powell and Pressburger 1948)

the red shoes

A young woman is torn between the man she loves and a ballet master who can realise her burning ambition to be a prima ballerina, as symbolised by the red shoes she wears. Dancers in real life find the film relatable and it is even referenced in A Chorus Line as inspirational for many of the auditionees growing up. Of course I have to mention that the splendid ballet sequences are choreographed by Australian national treasure: Robert Helpmann.

5. 42nd Street  (Bacon 1933)

42nd street

The greatest elements of the backstage musical take the lead from this Busby Berkley film. The sweet rising star, the creative director who believes in her, the bitchy lead actress who feels threatened by the new-comer and the hard-up producer attempting once last hit show: these characters became classic tropes after this musical. And of course it created the iconic line “You’re going out there a youngster, but you’ve got to come back a star!”

4. The Producers  (Brooks 1967) and (Stroman 2005)

the producers

Whether you’re a fan of the original Mel Brooks film or the musical remake, it’s the zany escapades of these characters putting together a Broadway show that produces such a fit of giggles. After discovering a way to make more money with a flop than with a hit, Broadway producer Max Bialystock romances little old ladies for investment money to help make the worst play ever written. Though Max’s business technique provides many laughs, other theatrical characters including playwrights, actors and directors are also hilariously mocked.

3. Black Swan  (Aronofsky 2010)

the black swan

Black Swan takes elements from 42nd Street, The Red Shoes and All About Eve, but the effect is completely different. The film is a psychological thriller, following the usually timid Nina (Natalie Portman) who finds her dark side after taking on the role of Odile (the black swan). Again the ballet scenes are beautiful and correspond with perfectly with Nina’s mindset. Though it tends to be a film you either love or hate, if you’re part of the theatre world you can understand the toil of performing as portrayed in this film.

2. Amadeus  (Forman 1984)

amadeus

This fictionalised story of rivalry between composers Salieri and Mozart makes for truly great cinema. Though it deals with opera in 18th Century Austria, the desire to create unforgettable art resonates with all forms of theatre and surely all composers have felt that mix of awe and jealous anger at seeing a rival’s masterpiece. The film also gives insight into Mozart’s influences, namely the relationship with his father. Both lead actors ( F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce) received Oscar nods for their performances but sound and costume design also won awards, largely due to the amazing opera scenes.

1. All About Eve (Mankiewiczs 1950)

all about eve

Established theatre actress Margo channing (Bette Davis in her most renown role) begins to feel threatened by her young ingénue Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter). Though the film’s moral about the dangerous ambitions could apply to any career, it’s the characters of the theatre world that bring all the wit and humour to this film. George Sanders makes a wonderful theatre critic full of spiteful remarks but Margo has the best dialogue, including the film’s most iconic line: ‘Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!’ demonstrating her theatrical off-stage life.

The 4 Redeeming Features of The Phantom of the Opera Movie

The Phantom of the Opera continues to be a phenomenon on-stage but the film version is generally considered an embarrassment for failing to even touch upon any kind of achievement. There are a number of obvious reasons for this; watching a chandelier fall on-screen and is far less impressive than seeing it fall to the stage from above your head, Joel Schumacher (the man responsible for bat nipples) was directing. Also they shoe-horned fake breasts into 18th century costumes.

Meg

To be fair, the show was a bit lacking in breasts

I put up with the film for a long time because it was the only way I could get my Phantom kicks. During these many viewings I managed to get past the initial terribleness of it all and appreciate the things they managed to get right or even insightful ways they tried to add to the stage production. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t touched my DVD since the 25th anniversary concert screened and I could still produce a long winded rant about the film at the drop of a hat, but credit is where credit’s due and the movie deserves respect for the following…

4. A good looking Phantom

This is not me being shallow. This is all audiences being shallow and Hollywood being monetarily motivated to thus put pretty people in films. Casting Gerard Butler opens the forum to a whole heap of abuse but the man is atheistically pleasing.

Gerad

At least he was then.

Look at Michael Crawford as The Phantom and compare the two.

Gerad MaskMichael Mask

See how tiny Gerard’s mask is? And the visible parts of his face show no signs that the covered area will be any different from the rest of his face. Then boom! It’s all the more shocking on the reveal and all the more tragic that he was so close to being loved and appreciated as a handsome man. And of course the stage version can’t do this because it needs a big obvious disfigurement that can be seen from the back row.

3. Madame Giry

In the show Madame Giry has knowledge of the opera house and an authority over its occupants that is only matched by The Phantom himself. There appears to be some understanding between the two characters as she delivers his messages, warns people not to speak of him and knows his secret hideaway but it’s not entirely clear why she does this. No one could ever convince me that the flashback to young Madame Giry visiting the circus and setting free the young Phantom was a good idea but they used this backstory to develop her character in some interesting ways.

Madame Giry

That is one of many shots of her gazing wistfully at The Phantom with Christine. Using close ups like this and the brilliant subtlety of actress Miranda Richardson, you can see that she is actually in love with the Phantom. This explains why she does his bidding and doesn’t immediately tell people the whereabouts of his lair after the first murder. It also adds to the complexity of The Phantom’s hamartia. The Phantom is so convinced that his face is responsible for his unrequited love and pretty much everything else bad that’s happened to him. Yet here is a woman who has seen his face, knows him as he truly is and loves him. He doesn’t even notice her affections because he couldn’t conceive of a woman loving him after seeing his face.

2. The Ending

The constant flash backs to the black white future are pretty high on the list of complaints I have against this film (just under Raoul’s wig), but I will admit that the added ending is particularly good. The show has the same opening as the film, older Raoul buying an organ monkey, but apart from the reappearance of the organ monkey, this opening is never referenced again. At the end of the show the audience is usually far too blown away by the finale and The Phantom’s exit to really give much thought to the opening. Few people stop and wonder “why did Raoul buy the monkey organ decades later? For all the great memories?”  Well for the people who wondered that, the film has answered. After the Phantom’s less than impressive disappearance on-screen, the magic of editing allows Old Raoul in the future to gently place the Monkey on Christine’s grave. And there on the grave is also a rose from The Phantom. A little scene that adds tragedy and mystery to the story of the Phantom.

1. It wasn’t camp

Now I’ve discussed a couple of things they did right but here’s something they managed to not do wrong. Why should I reward a film points for this? Look at any other adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera and notice how tacky it looks.

Or the original music video.

This is what we call camp and it can be a good thing but when you’re trying to present a more serious musical, accidental camp can be death. The man responsible for bat nipples somehow managed to make the Phantom look kinda badass instead of hilariously gay. I think that deserves a mention.

The Great Gatsby

The Roaring Twenties are in full swing in this latest adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel. Mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) throws extravagant parties in the hope that his lost love Daisy (Carey Mulligan) will come back and help him repeat the past.

The movie is narrated by Gatsby’s neighbor and friend Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) as he recalls the story to his doctor; apparently story-telling is very therapeutic. This framing device may have worked for Moulin Rouge! but Carraway is a boring character played by an actor with no personality and these additional scenes only add to the bloated 142 minutes running time. When we do get round to meeting Gatsby, he makes such an entrance and continues to steal each scene so that you could very well forget the first 30 minutes.

DiCaprio gives an impressive performance conveying the depths of Gatsby from the outwardly nouveau riche playboy to the tragically devoted romantic within. In his first meeting with Daisy, audience’s hearts collectively melt at the sight of him nervous and rain soaked. Though the novel is famous as a critique of America, here the love story takes centre stage creating a romance as good as any great costume drama. Mulligan’s youth gives Daisy a girlish charm and partly excuses the character’s capriciousness. Seriously, Daisy is more fickle than The Australian Labour Party when it comes to choosing between her philandering husband and a rich Leonardo DiCaprio.

The movie is surprisingly faithful to the book; even striking images such as the white curtains blowing when we first meet Daisy are taken from Fitzgerald. The visually stylised film is at its element during the decadent party scenes but even the speakeasy and Times Square are extravagant and highly detailed. While bold visuals may work in some scenes, others could use more subtlety. Cars don’t just speed: they drag race, swerving through traffic and cutting off other motorist, as if the world needed a vintage version of The Fast and the Furious. Every driving scene is a whirl of scenery, a roar of engines and angry horns and a churn of audience stomachs. These characters are not so much careless drivers as suicidal maniacs. Even Gatsby isn’t spared from Baz’s unsubtle direction, saying his unique term of endearment “Old Sport” a whopping 51 times till it is nothing more than an annoying catch phrase.

The hip hop soundtrack was a necessary evil for the sake of commercial audiences and album sales. Though it manages not to clash with the Twenties setting, it doesn’t add anything to it either. The ladies costumes aren’t the iconic fashion inspiring outfits that pre-release buzz promised but would you ever take style tips from a movie that dresses its leading man in a pink suit? Even though the soundtrack and costumes didn’t live up to the promotional hype, the movie definitely succeeded in its promise of a box office smash. This doesn’t speak so much to the quality of the film than to the amount of people who love the novel. Or want to see a film version as an alternate to actually reading the 120 pages or so novel. Baz hasn’t silenced the critics with a masterpiece, but it’s no Australia either.