JOHN CARPENTER’S SECOND ACT
JOHN CARPENTER’S SECOND ACT
Written by Eric Plaut
One of the main panels at the 2010 Texas Frightmare Festival featured some of the cast of the 1983 film Christine, which is based from Stephen King’s novel. Its director John Carpenter was there along with four of the actors: Keith Gordon (Arnie Cunningham, the misfit and car buff); John Stockwell (Dennis Guilder, the jock and best friend); Alexandra Paul (Leigh Cabot, the girlfriend); and William Ostrander (Buddy Repperton, the bully). Conventioneers could ask the cast questions as well as hear about their experiences on making the movie. Carpenter—who also composed scores for his films such as Halloween, Christine and The Thing—was asked by the Emcee (and birthday boy) if he’d ever consider releasing an album of his spontaneous themes. The director deadpanned “No!” to a room full of laughter.
Now let’s fast-forward to six years later.
John Carpenter has now released four studio albums of his music, not counting the soundtracks to the films that he directed. He has begun touring throughout the United States and Europe this year. Taking center stage on synthesizer, Carpenter relishes playing the themes he composed himself for his films—both the classics and the cult favorites. His literal right-hand man is his son Cody, also on synthesizer. (Cody’s mother Adrienne Barbeau appeared in a few of her ex-husband’s movies including The Fog and Escape From New York.) John’s godson Daniel Davies—son of the Kinks’ Dave Davies—performed on guitar. The band was also backed up with a bassist, a drummer and an additional guitarist.
Carpenter on the synthesizer while |
the fiery 1958 Plymouth Fury
from "Christine" is in the background.
I saw the tour on July 18th in Milwaukee. It was on the final leg of its tour of the United States. With the T-shirts, posters and albums they were selling at the Pabst Theatre, it really felt like a rock show. (The albums that John Carpenter signed sold out very quickly at the Pabst!) His fans were decked out in T-shirts from Halloween and other Carpenter classics.
The audience enjoyed seeing the live performance. John Carpenter seemed to be rocking out during the 75-minute performance. It felt like he could’ve been performing in rock shows dating back to the late 1960’s. Carpenter would tend to spout out one-liners relating to his films every now and then. Behind the performers, a large screen depicted the film scenes from its certain soundtrack. These videos helped enhance the music and the show itself.
Music and scenes from Escape From New York and Assault on Precinct 13 started off the program. Some of the music was difficult to figure out at first unless they showed scenes from its film on the screen. They Live showed the late Roddy Piper sporting shades (similar to what John Carpenter sported during this movie’s music and film scenes) and battling villains, while The Thing (which Carpenter once dubbed as “El Tanko” due to the low earnings at the box office) had some of the most graphic images of the night depicted on the big screen. Carpenter’s top star Kurt Russell appeared in five of his movies including Big Trouble in Little China and Escape From New York.
Halloween’s theme music and film scenes were what most of the audience was waiting for that night. They wanted to see Michael Myers, the man in the white William Shatner mask, and all of the scenes. Co-written with the late Debra Hill, this film is considered John Carpenter’s magnum opus. It opened the door to the teen-aged slasher films. Halloween spawned seven sequels as well as two remakes directed by Rob Zombie. “Just send me a check,” Carpenter quipped at the 2010 Texas Frightmare Fest in referring to being paid for remaking his films such as Escape From New York and Halloween. Again his fans responded with laughter.
John Carpenter played some music that wasn’t based from his films. Distant Dream was one of his songs. His music on the synthesizer could be compared to composers including Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. It’s so memorable that Carpenter’s tunes can turn into earworms and get stuck in your head! How’s that for a director known for his horror films? And Carpenter stated in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he never minded being stereo-typed as a horror-film director because “they’ll always be a need for them.”
John Carpenter on the synthesizers |
with a film scene in the background.
Music from his other films included In the Mouth of Madness and The Fog. “Watch yourself going home, Christine is out there,” John Carpenter joked at the final of the 75-minute performance. Carpenter concluded the show with scenes and music from his 1983 film Christine, in which its title character, a red-and-white 1958 Plymouth Fury, was the actual star. By the way, Stephen King’s novel and the film came out when I was in junior high school. Christine was considered to be for the boys in my class a “rite of passage” to read, and seeing the film afterwards was considered cool. Christine is in my Top Ten films of All-Time and the only horror one on my list.
Carpenter’s crew will finish off the year with some shows overseas starting later this month in Helsinki, Finland. And where will the tour be on October 31st (Halloween)? His crew will be performing the first of two shows at the Troxy in London, England. The first show is obviously sold out, but if you’re in London the next night—go see this show! If Warren Zevon were still alive, maybe he and Carpenter could’ve performed a duet on Zevon’s classic hit Werewolves of London. The audience in London would’ve had a great memory from this coming Halloween. (By the way, Stephen King dedicated Doctor Sleep—the sequel to his best-selling novel The Shining—in memory of Warren Zevon.)
What I felt was missing from the show I’d gone to were a question-and-answer (Q&A) session and having John Carpenter tell his audience how some of the scenes depicted on screen were made. Yet overall, this show was something new for film buffs to take part in. John Carpenter’s show was phenomenal, and I’d recommend it to any film buff out there. However, due to excessive scenes of graphic violence shown and profanities spoken in several of his films (most of them being rated R), I wouldn’t recommend this program to the faint-hearted and those prone to seizures and to children under 14. Otherwise, this show provides a major bang for your buck!
John Carpenter’s Web site is http://www.theofficialjohncarpenter.com/. Here you can check out information on his music, films and tour dates.