Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Halloween Film Festival at Daystar Center starting October 3, 2015

Gothic Noir: The Horror Films of Val Lewton
Where: The Venue 1550 at the Daystar Center, 1550 S. State Street, Chicago, IL
Hosted by Stephen Reginald
All films screen at 6:30 p.m.*

Films screened and discussed:
Val Lewton

Cat People (Jacques Tourneur, 1942) October 3, 2015

I Walked With a Zombie (Jacques Tourneur, 1943) October 10, 2015

*The Leopard Man (Jacques Tourneur, 1943) October 17, 2015 This film screens at 7:00 p.m.

The Seventh Victim ( Mark Robson, 1943) October 24, 2015

The Curse of the Cat People (Robert Wise, 1944) October 31, 2015

“Everything good dies here. Even the stars.” **

Val Lewton is credited with elevating the horror film to artistic levels during the 1940s. At RKO he set a standard few modern horror filmmakers have matched (they certainly haven’t surpassed it). Where other horror films of the period featured creatures and monsters that didn’t exist, Lewton’s films were populated with ordinary people. The horror did not come from monsters or demons, but from neighbors, coworkers, and those in positions of authority. And Lewton knew that nothing on screen could match the horrors conjured up inside the mind of the viewer. By combining believable characters, literate scripts, film noir-like cinematography, and clever editing, Lewton’s films drummed up more suspense and horror than all the monsters on the Universal lot combined…and that was his goal. Not only were Lewton’s films truly frightening, but they explored themes not often associated with the horror genre.

Cat People

Val Lewton started his movie career working for David O. Selznick as a story editor. Under Selznik’s employ, Lewton had a hand in shaping movie classics like A Tale of Two Cities (1935), A Star is Born (1937), Gone With The Wind (1939), and Rebecca (1940). But working for Selznick, who took all the credit, wasn’t fulfilling. Lewton wanted to produce his own films, based on his own ideas.

In 1942, Lewton was named head of the newly formed horror unit at RKO. At the time of his hire, RKO was in financial straits because of their costly relationship with Orson Welles and the failures of Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons to connect with the public. Lewton’s task was to make horror films that: cost under $150,000 per picture, did not run more than 75 minutes, and used the lurid titles supplied to him by the studio bosses. Starting with Cat People in 1942, Lewton produced a string of successful horror films that helped keep RKO in the black. At RKO, Lewton worked with director Jacques Tourneur (Out of the Past) and gave Robert Wise (West Side Story) and Mark Robson (Champion) their first assignments as film directors. Although not a household name, Lewton left an indelible mark on the horror film genre and influenced numerous filmmakers, including William Friedkin, Martin Scorsese, George Romero, and Alfred Hitchcock to name a few.

Frances Dee leads the way in I Walked With a Zombie.


**Spoken by the character Paul Holland in I Walked With a Zombie (1943)


Have some Joe and Enjoy the Show!
Before the movie, grab a cup of coffee from Overflow Coffee Bar, located within the Daystar Center. You can bring food and beverages into the auditorium; we even have small tables set up next to some of the seats. General Admission: $5 Students and Senior Citizens: $3.

Join the Chicago Film club; join the discussion
Once a month we screen a classic film and have a brief discussion afterward. For more information, including how to join (it’s free), click here.The Venue 1550 is easily accessible by the CTA. Please visit Transit Chicago for more information on transportation options.

Stephen Reginald is a freelance writer and editor. He has worked at various positions within the publishing industry for over 25 years. Most recently he was executive editor for McGraw-Hill’s The Learning Group Division. A long-time amateur student of film, Reginald hosts “Chicago Film Club,” a monthly movie event held in the South Loop, for the past two years. Reginald has also taught several adult education film classes as Facets Film School, Chicago.

Daystar Center located at 1550 S. State St. works through a grassroots network of collaborations and partnerships with individuals and other nonprofit organizations. Through this web, they’re able to provide educational, cultural, and civic activities that enrich and empower their clients, guests, and community members. To learn more about classes and events offered at the Daystar Center, please visit their Web site.


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