Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fright Night (1985)


Jerry Dandrige: Now we wouldn't want to wake your mother, would we Charley?  'Cause then I'd have to kill her too, RIGHT?
[Dandrige throws Charley across his room and picks him up by the throat]
Jerry Dandrige: Do you realize how much trouble you've caused me, Charley?  Spying on me. Almost disturbing my sleep this afternoon.  Telling policemen about me!  You deserve to die, boy.  Of course... I can give you something I don't have.  It's a choice.  Forget about me, Charley.  Forget about me, and I'll forget about you.  What do you say, Charley?
[Charley pulls out a small cross from his pocket, but Dandridge catches him and twists it from Charley's hand before he can raise it to Dandridge's face]
Jerry Dandrige: Fool!
For young Charlie Brewster, nothing could be better than an old horror movie late at night.  When two men move in next door, Charlie, with his horror movie experience combined with scenes he has witnessed involving the two, has no doubt in his mind that they are a vampire and his friend is an undead day guardian.  What can Charlie do?  Get the help of Peter Vincent, the host of Charlie's favorite TV show, "Fright Night."

"Fright Night" made its broad US premiere on August 2, 1985.  It's competition that same day weekend were the premieres of "Weird Science" and Sesame Street's "Follow That Bird".  With it broad following nowadays, one would think that "Weird Science" would have dominated the other two at the Box Office, right?  Wrong.  On its opening weekend, "Fright Night" was the highest grossing film having brought in over $6.1 million.  With a budget of $9 million, "Fright Night" grossed more than $24.9 million in 1985.  Argentina was next in line to see the film on October 10th and Australia was fortunate enough to have seen its release on Halloween, October 31st.

Written and directed by Tom Holland, "Fright Night" was Tom's directorial debut.  At the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, this film was nominated for six awards (which is huge for these genres): Best Special Effects, Best Director, Best Actor (Chris Sarandon), Best Writing, Best Supporting Actor (Roddy McDowall), and Best Horror Film.  "Fright Night" won the latter three.

"Fright Night" starred Chris Sarandon as Jerry, William Ragsdale as Charley, Amanda Bearse as Amy, Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent, and co-starred Stephen Geoffreys as Evil Ed and Jonathan Stark as Billy (this film was Jonathan's debut).

Filmed at Laird International Studio in Culver City, California and at UCLA in Los Angeles, here's some other information you might appreciate regarding "Fright Night"...

1.  Charlie Sheen auditioned for the role of Charlie Brewster, but the director decided his looks weren't right for the character, so William Ragsdale was ultimately cast.  "Charlie Sheen was a hero," Higgins commented in an interview.  "Ragsdale in playing Charlie Brewster was the guy next door."

2.  William Ragsdale went through several callback auditions for the film. On Halloween night 1984, he was told that he had the part.

3.  The cast extensively rehearsed the script prior to filming and writer/director Tom Holland invited friend and fellow writer/director Colin Higgins to sit in on rehearsals and give input.  (Colin directed "Foul Play" [1978], "9 to 5" [1980] and "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" [1982] and also wrote the screenplays for "Harold and Maude" [1971] and "Silver Streak" [1976]).

4.  The character Peter Vincent is named for two actors well-known for their appearances in horror movies: Peter Cushing and Vincent Price.

5.  Writer/director Tom Holland conceived the role of Peter Vincent with the idea of Vincent Price playing the role, but Price's health was declining and he was trying to shy away from accepting horror roles by that point in his career.

6.  Tom Holland had total control in the casting decisions. The only suggestion he got was from Guy McElwaine who asked Holland to meet his friend Roddy McDowall, who'd be cast. In an interview Holland said that "it was a terrific suggestion".

7.  When playing Peter Vincent, Roddy McDowall based his character's movie persona on some bad actors from the films he used to watch as a child. To depict how his character reacted to the situation he was thrust into, McDowall found inspiration in The Cowardly Lion from "The Wizard of Oz" (1939). 

8.  Stephen Geoffreys auditioned for "Fright Night" while filming "Fraternity Vacation".  Both Stephen and Amanda Bearse (Amy) were in "Fraternity Vacation" together.  "Fright Night" was their very next film.

9.  Amanda Bearse was the last actor cast as the director couldn't find the perfect "girl next door."

10.  Although William Ragsdale and Amanda Bearse are playing teenagers, in reality Ragsdale turned 24 and Bearse was 26 during filming.

11.  At the time this was being filmed, the studio was sinking all its efforts into making a hit out of films like "Perfect", and they also gave high priority to "The Slugger's Wife".  "Nobody paid any attention to Fright Night," commented writer/director Tom Holland. "It was wonderful!"

12.  William Ragsdale injured his foot running down a staircase during the last shot filmed on 24 December 1984, just three weeks into principal photography. Ragsdale's action scenes were postponed until he was healed sufficiently to perform them and the director filmed other scenes to stay on schedule.

13.  According to Chris Sarandon, he wanted Jerry to whistle "Whistle While You Work" rather than "Strangers in the Night" when first confronting Charley, but Disney would not give their permission to use the song.

14.  The fact that Amy resembles a lost love of Dandridge's was Chris Sarandon's idea.  He wanted Dandridge to have added dimensions - and not just be some evil bad guy.  Another idea of Chris' was to have Jerry eating apples throughout the film.  While researching Vampire lore, Sarandon looked at information about bats and concluded, "Jerry had a lot of Fruit Bat in his DNA." 

15.  When Jerry lifts Charley by the throat and carries him across the room, the actor was being pulled on a furniture dolly.

16.  Roddy McDowall doesn't appear in the flesh until 34 minutes into the film.

17.  While directing actors, Tom Holland accidentally broke a bat creature, which was fixed and then filmed.

18.  In the infamous "Dance Sequence", the actors Chris Sarandon and Amanda Bearse were actually swaying to the theme song "Come to Me" by Brad Fiedel on the set.  It was the song being played during their seduction scene a few scenes later in the film.

19.  The character of Peter Vincent claims he has been fired from hosting Fright Night because "all they want are demented mad men running around in ski masks hacking up young virgins." - an obvious reference to the Friday the 13th franchise.  It's interesting to note that the bouncer who first confronts Jerry at the night club (played by Nick Savage) plays one of the 3 motorcycle gang members killed by Jason in "Friday the 13th Part III" (the film he was in prior to "Fright Night").

20.  The custom contact lenses for the eyes were hard plastic, handmade and excruciating for cast members. Stephen Geoffreys was temporarily blinded and suffered severe scratches; Amanda Bearse found herself extremely uncomfortable with her second pair and had to stop shooting to have them sanded down.  Jonathan Stark was supposed to be wearing a pair of vampire contacts when he came up the staircase, but the actor was blinded by the lenses and kept tripping on the stairs, so the director told him to remove one.

21.  Chris Sarandon claimed that, because of the long hours in makeup he had to endure, if he didn't try hypnosis or meditation to cope with it, he'd go stark-raving mad.  It took 8 hours to do the makeup for Jerry's final transformation.

22.  Chris Sarandon has often joked that the finger extensions he was required to wear made it difficult for him to go to the bathroom.

23.  In an attempt to produce an authentic reaction of fright when Charley sees Amy as a vampire for the first time, William Ragsdale did not see the stunt actress in makeup prior to shooting the scene.

24.  Roddy McDowall got a little upset with Stephen Geoffreys for getting too physical in the scenes where Ed attacks Peter.  However, Geoffreys was encouraged to "go all-out" by Tom Holland.

25.  For "Evil" Ed's transformation scene, a full size wolf puppet was made. However, it's actually actor Stephen Geoffreys buried under the more werewolf-like makeup and fake head.  When Stephen Geoffreys is buried under the werewolf mask, the FX team poured a solution into his mouth to add a thick saliva-like texture and then realized they'd used dental adhesive, which was gluing the actor's mouth shut.  Also, for the final transformation of Evil Ed, Stephen endured 18 hours of makeup.

26.  Not the only film of 1985 to feature someone who collects a lot of clocks and puts them on walls. Doc Brown did the same in "Back to the Future".

27.  Pays numerous tributes to 1979's Salem's Lot such as the house with the large staircase and window backdrop, the basement finale at dawn, the older man and the younger boy as vampire hunters, the human guardian and his demise on the stairs and the head vampire in Fright Night is similar to the Barlow character in the novel by Stephen King that was changed in the teleplay.

28.  "Fright Night" was the first vampire film ever to spend over one million dollars on special effects. 

29.  "Fright Night" was released as a different title in various countries around the world: "The Time of Terror" (Argentina), "Terror Night" (Finland), "Vampire, you said Vampire?" (France), and "Dracula Lovers" (Indonesia).

And now you know.

One may think that there seems to be a type of gay undertone in a couple of scenes in the film.  One being "Billy" on his knees in front of "Jerry" as he bandages his hand, the other being the scene between "Evil" and "Jerry" when "Jerry" confronts him in the alley.  In an interview, Tom Holland said, "You could say Evil Ed is the gay kid who was bullied, but I wasn't thinking that.  I was thinking he's the kid who reads all those E.C. Comic Books."  He commented on the implied gay relationship between Jerry and Billy, "The stuff with Chris Sarandon and Jonathan Stark, that's me."

Upon closing I'd like to offer this to you: the original theatrical trailer to the film... 

Now the key characters...

And now lastly, in chronological order, picture stills of the film itself... 






Peter Vincent: [brandishing a crucifix] Back, spawn of Satan!
Jerry Dandrige: [chuckles] Oh, really?
[Dandridge grabs the cross, crushes it, and throws it aside]
Jerry Dandrige: You have to have faith for this to work on me!

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