This program is about unsolved mysteries. Whenever possible, the actual family members and police officials have participated in re-creating the events. What you are about to see is not a news broadcast.
From 1987 to 1997, Unsolved Mysteries was the scariest thing on television. My parents wouldn’t let me watch it as a kid, so I had to sneak over to a friend’s house after dinner on Wednesday evenings. The format was simple. Each episode featured interviews and reenactments about two or three mysteries involving missing persons, lost loves, unsolved murders, alternative history, and occasionally something supernatural. My favorite episodes featured ghost stories, of course, particularly Chicago’s Resurrection Mary.
It aired on NBC from 1987 to 1997 before being canceled due to declining popularity. CBS picked it up from 1997 to 1999, Lifetime from 2001 to 2002, and Spike TV from 2008 to 2010. None of these continuations had the raw, spine-tingling impact of the original. The show was interactive–featuring a tip line where viewers could call in with information on the cases. Sometimes these tips helped solve the mystery.
Robert Stack (1919-2003), from Los Angeles, California, hosted the show from 1987 until 2002, when he fell ill. Stack was a veteran actor of more than 40 feature films and numerous TV shows with a characteristically deep voice. Stack’s voice, together with the show’s theme music, were genuinely terrifying. To this day, there’s nothing like it on television. What happened? Actor Dennis Farina took over as host on Spike TV, but it just wasn’t the same.
Boomer’s Tap in Des Plaines, Illinois served as a neighborhood bar at 1000 E. Prairie Avenue for nearly a century, except during Prohibition. According to the Chicago Tribune, efforts to shut it down began after a customer was arrested in November 1999 for trying to sell cocaine to an undercover cop. The Baumhart family of Arlington Heights ran Boomer’s Tap for 50 years. I think it was torn down in early 2002. I passed it plenty of times when I was in high school, but it closed before I turned 21. Does anyone remember this place?
Is Halloween an evil holiday? Is it secretly pagan? Is Halloween too dangerous for children to celebrate? These are all questions that, sadly enough, many parents ask themselves every year. When I was a kid (way, way back in the 1980s), I can remember trick or treating with my older sister (when I was very young) and then when I was older, with a group of friends. We trick or treated at dusk, or when it was dark, and then afterwards we joined our parents for a Halloween party at a neighbor’s house. Nearly every home was decorated in some way for the holiday.
Years later, when I was in college, I joined my then girlfriend for Halloween at her parent’s house in a small town in central Illinois. I couldn’t believe what I saw. Parents actually drove their kids from house to house and walked them to each door (the few that came). The idea seemed to be “hurry up and get away” from your neighbors as fast as possible. As we drove through town, we saw very few homes decorated for the holiday. Where was the sense of community I had experiences as a child? As I’ve gotten older, particularly in the last several years, Halloween seems to have turned into just another excuse for twenty-somethings to dress in “sexy” costumes and get drunk. What happened to my favorite holiday?
Scott Richert, editor of Chronicles Magazine and the About.com Catholicism expert, has written a series of enlightening articles about Catholicism and Halloween, why Christians should celebrate the holiday, and where a lot of misconceptions about Halloween come from. These articles will be interesting to secular-minded readers as well. I’ll summarize them below, but you can read all three at these links: “Halloween, Jack Chick, and Anti-Catholicism,” “Why the Devil Hates Halloween,” and “Should Catholics Celebrate Halloween?”
This afternoon I watched a special 30th Anniversary theatrical showing of Jim Henson’s final film, Labyrinth. I loved Labyrinth as a kid. It was the only VHS tape my grandma owned, and I watched it every time we visited. Seeing it in the theater was definitely an experience worth having. I was surprised to learn Labyrinth did not do well at the box office. I suppose seen for the first time through the eyes of an adult, it would seem like a silly movie. But to a child, it’s magical.
Henson’s puppets are finely crafted and the sets and characters are unique and entertaining. The music by David Bowie and Trevor Jones is outstanding. It’s a testament to the quality of the film that rather than be forgotten, 30 years later it’s being replayed in theaters around the nation.
Released in June 1986, Labyrinth is the story of a teenage girl, Sarah (played by Jennifer Connelly), who must journey to the center of a complex labyrinth to rescue her infant brother, Toby, who has been kidnapped by Jareth (played by David Bowie), the Goblin King. Along the way, she makes friends with colorful characters like Hoggle, a dwarf; Ludo, a large hairy beast; and Sir Didymus, a tenacious Fox Terrier. The film was a commercial disappointment, losing $12 million. Depressed by the failure, Jim Henson never made another feature film. He died four years later, in 1990.
The 30th Anniversary theatrical showing included interviews with Jennifer Connelly (who was 14 years old in 1986) and Jim Henson’s son, Brian, as well as a look at the Henson collection at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, Georgia. It showed the care and detail that went into making the puppets. In Labyrinth, two brass door knockers seem to come to life. The door knockers are not CGI: they were actually made of foam painted to look metal. The illusion holds up even on the big screen.
I’ve always thought that CGI hasn’t come close to the puppets, miniatures, and practical effects of the 1980s in terms of realism. There’s something too clean, too perfect and precise about CGI. Labyrinth does use some effects like matte paintings and green screen that look terrible, but overall the effects quality is solid. Interestingly, Labyrinth contains one of the first uses of a CGI animal in a film–the owl in the opening credits.