Horror Movie Week! Let’s watch Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1931)


If you have lots of patience, you can watch the silent movie version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous story (in the public domain), but the visual quality of the film is poor.

I wouldn’t bother watching the 1941 version with Spencer Tracey and Ingrid Bergman. Ms. Bergman was horribly miscast and Tracey did not do the role justice.

But the 1931 version directed by Rouben Mamoulian and featuring Frederic March and Miriam Hopkins…THIS is the one to watch. It was a box-office hit that received critical praise from The New York Times, among others, on its release.

It’s a Halloween must-see! And you can rent it on YouTube!

The movie is an interesting commentary on the duality of human nature and our struggle between our morals and our impulses. There’s some discourse on that.

The transformation scenes are horrific, even by modern standards.

Frederic March is very good in his two roles as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde…he won an Oscar for his performance.

There are notable performances by the supporting actors who play the doctor’s best friend, his butler and his fiancée.

But Miriam Hopkins is outstanding in the role of Ivy, her breakthrough role. If you get a chance to see her other movies, do.

The scene where she attempts to seduce Dr. Jekyll is famous. This was pre-Code stuff. It’s rather overtly sexual and was later censored, then restored for the DVD versions. Thank goodness, because it’s amazing!

Mamoulian, an experienced stage director, went on to direct “The Mark of Zorro” and “Blood and Sand” and several other Hollywood films. He has a star on the Walk of Fame.

We should consider ourselves lucky to have this film to watch today. MGM did a terrible thing when they released the 1941 version (which, as I said, was just awful). They bought the rights to the 1920 silent version and the 1931 Mamoulian pic. Then they destroyed every reel they could find, ostensibly to remove comparison to their film. Fortunately, some reels survived.

You can rent this on YouTube and I highly recommend it!


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It’s Horror Movie Week! Let’s Watch Dracula (1931)

red lugosi

The mother of all vampire movies and my very favorite. Not the first, not the last, but certainly the best. Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

You can rent this on YouTube, if you don’t already own it. If you haven’t seen it, please do!

It has such a delicate, different pace. When it was released, it was not even called a horror film, as the genre had not really developed. It was called a “mystery” film. The New York Times gave it an excellent review.

The actors were experienced stage actors. Many of the actors had also appeared on the silver screen in silent movies. In fact, this movie was shown as a silent movie in theaters that had not yet been updated to sound. So, there is a bit of that “silent movie” quality — with the dramatic pauses and pronounced movements.

The Hungarian actor, Bela Lugosi, who plays Dracula, had played this role with great success on the stage and managed to convince the producers to hire him by accepting a low rate of pay. He appeared as Dracula in several subsequent films. Every vampire costume, vampire accent, hair — that came from Lugosi in this film. He defined what most people think of when they think of vampire…at least until Twilight and all the vampire TV shows came out.

If you have the opportunity, check out the Spanish language version, which was filmed each night on the same sets, with entirely different casts, and some different approaches.

Aside from Lugosi’s amazing performance, the Spanish language version definitely has high points.

The two Draculas are distinct. In the Spanish language version, Dracula has more ferocity and intensity. He is more beastly, perhaps.

In the English language version, Dracula is definitely a sadistic, serial killer type, alternating between refined artistocrat and mocking, plotting murderer. Although I prefer Lugosi, the Spanish speaking actor did a fine job.

Renfield must be a difficult part to play but both actors handle it expertly. It’s impossible to forget their portrayals of madness. They haunted me. I used to have to skip over that part because it was too intense for me! I can’t say which is better — they are both wonderful in their own way.

The part of Eva is played differently, as well. It’s so interesting to watch both versions. Director Tod Browning sticks with subtlety, while Merton doesn’t hold back. In the English language version, we guess, but do not see what Eva is about to do to her fiancé. Her eyes are really cruel but she plays her part rather coolly. In the Spanish language version, Eva’s intention is more overt. Lupita Tovor is a splendid actress who is delightful to watch, especially in the moonlight scene. You can just sense she is being taken over by the vampirism in her. We see her open her mouth and sink her teeth into her fiancé. The best part — and it is only a second — is this little moment when she recoils then prepares for a second attempt. She looks absolutely animalistic in that moment, like a feral cat getting ready to spring. It’s almost obscured by the next cast members rushing into the scene but it’s priceless. You see it here midway through this clip…

The final line of this film was a mystery to me until I saw the Spanish language version, in which Van Helsing explains that he will remain behind (ostensibly, to administer the final cure to Renfield, to save his soul and prevent him from becoming a vampire, as he promised Renfield he would do, if necessary). In the English version, Van Helsing hurries Mina and Dr. Harker along with a delicate promise to follow “presently.” And… for decades, I really wondered about it! It is such an odd, abrupt ending. But there is real closure in the Spanish language version, with a beautiful closing shot.

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Two Brews for Oktoberfest and Halloween

On a recent visit to the Reston Total Wine store, I asked for some recommendations for pumpkin spiced brews.

There were lots of those…and I like pumpkin ale. But he steered me to two “Marzen” beers, instead. Marzen beers are called “March” beers because that is when they were brewed in the days before refrigeration. Then they are released for Oktoberfest. They are typically only available during the fall.

The salesperson recommended Great Lakes “Oktoberfest” ($10/6 pack), a highly rated, award-winning Marzen-stlye lager from Ohio. The color of an autumn leaf, this malty beer is smooth, light and toasty, with caramel and pine notes.

He also recommended a beer from nearby Ashburn, Virginia that would go great with bratwurst and pretzels. Lost Rhino Brewing Company’s autumn seasonal “Rhin o’Fest” ($11.99/6 pack/cans) is the traditional, malty, smooth Marzen lager drunk during Oktoberfest. Washington Post named it a beer of the week back in 2016.

I’ll go back and try these… but I went home with The DogFather ($8.99), an ebony, bourbon barrel aged stout from Idaho Laughing Dog brewery. I’ve never tasted an American stout before and it came highly recommended. First time for everything!

The folks at Total Wine are great. Go by and see them if you are looking for something different to try.

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Horror Movie Week begins with The Black Cat (1934)

Come back every day this week for a discussion of a classic scary movie during Horror Film Week.

In the 1930s, Universal knew how to produce eerie, memorable films.

The Black Cat stars both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi as two old friends and rivals who meet again on a fateful night.

It is a strange film that unfolds like a nightmare, not always linear or complete, but cohesive in its way and seeming to mean something greater, although the meaning is elusive.

Maybe there is symbolism you may recognize. I won’t give away any further spoilers. The futuristic, angular sets and occult references, to me, are evocative of the German Expressionist films of the 1920s and 1930s, as is the odd but compelling pacing. According to this author, the aesthetic is Bauhaus.

The character played by Karloff was based on a real person, a notorious occultist, Aleister Crowley, a figure that fascinated the movie’s director. Crowley was known to be a chess player. I won’t say more, for fear of spoiling the surprises of the this film. I warn there are some disturbing scenes and that this is not a film for children to view.

Not everyone will like this film, although it was a box office success in its time. I accept its imperfections, mystery and originality. I own this and have watched it several times.

Maybe this is just my opinion, but I believe The Rocky Horror Picture Show was influenced by the early plot line of this movie, which they turned to camp and humor. Let me know what you think of that idea — if you see the references!

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Halloween wines

“I never drink…wine.” — Count Dracula

That’s okay, Count, more for us!

I visited Total Wine in Reston (Plaza America location) in a quest for Halloween wines and they did not disappoint. I was provided with two recommendations.

Witching Hour ($6.99) is a California red blend. This is the wine to bring to a Halloween party or enjoy at home. I was suspicious because of its low price, so I bought a bottle. I liked it!

I recommend that you decant and let it breathe for an hour or so (although that’s not always possible at parties). Swirling this red wine in the glass should also help. I noticed an improvement in taste when I let it breathe an hour and a half.

This wine is medium-bodied with a dark cherry flavor. I had a glass with some Cabot Vermont Sharp cheddar and Pepperidge Farm wheat crackers. Yum! I’ll drink this tomorrow with my dinner of mushroom stew. This would also pair well with a good steak or hearty pasta dish.

Mascota Vineyards Unaminé Gran Vino Tinto ($25). an Argentinian red blend, is more expensive but highly rated.

The lovely label has a border of bats. The bat mascot is a reference to the chief winemaker’s childhood memory of being sent to fetch wine from his family’s cellar where bats resided.

It is a full-bodied blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec that has notes of blackberry and chocolate.

Decant this wine and allow it to breathe before drinking for best taste results.


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Prepare to be amazed by these Halloween displays

You know, at Christmas, who doesn’t love driving around and looking at Christmas lights? But it wasn’t until my son was little that we started driving around to look at the “spooky houses,” as he called them. Now, it’s driving around and looking at the best Halloween decorations is part of our Halloween tradition.

There are two places I highly recommend you visit to get in the Halloween spirit this year, if you haven’t yet already! Both are in Northern Virginia, both are free, and both display the tremendous creativity of their residents.

Enchanted sculptures at The Haunted Half Acre

In Falls Church City (510 East Broad Street, near Seven Corners and across from Dulin Church), art sculptor John Lanouette (@enchantedsculpt) erects the “Haunted Half-Acre” at his family’s home every October. Visitors are welcome to check out his amazing soft sculptures all October long during the day or evening. While there is no parking on Broad Street (Route 7), there is street parking in the neighborhood. This is a lovely place for walk, as well, and the trick or treating in the neighborhood is top notch!

Fantasy Pumpkins: the most amazing jack o’lanterns you’ll ever see!

If you want to see Noel Dickover’s (@NoelDickover) stupendous, carved jack o’lanterns, you’ll have to visit on Halloween night between 7 p.m and 9:30 p.m. I think you’ll be glad you did! You might have seen these spectacular jack o’lanterns featured on the news.

We made the trek to the front lawn of his home in Centreville (14223 Hartwood Court) last year, and it made our Halloween! Last year, we saw Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Star Trek, Washington Capitals, and other themed jack o’lanterns.




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Happy Alt Halloween – Music for your fears

For your Halloween playlist…with spooky music videos, as well!

You can listen to and watch them all on my YouTube Playlist! For free!

I included some new songs by Billy Eilish, Of Monsters and Men and Avril Lavigne. I dipped into the 80s to pick up some Duran Duran and Depeche Mode. There’s a lot in between. I even included some good songs from bands I’ve never heard of before, like The Haxans.

Here’s a list of the tracks I picked for 2019. Let me know if I left anything great out!

  1. Omen – The Do
  2. Ghost sYMbOL – Zero 7
  3. Roseblood – Mazzy Star
  4. Everyday is Halloween – Ministry
  5. Bring Me To Life – Evanescence
  6. Heathens – twenty one pilots
  7. A Little Wicked – Valerie Broussard
  8. The Killing Moon – Echo And The Bunnymen
  9. Disturbia – Rihanna
  10. Let’s Kill Tonight – Panic At The Disco
  11. Don’t Call Me Angel – Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, Lana Del Rey
  12. Monster – Imagine Dragons
  13. all the good girls go to hell – Billie Eilish
  14. Evil Eye – Franz Ferdinand (I could not playlist the official video for this because I am squeamish about blood 🙂
  15. I Fell In Love With The Devil – Avril Lavigne
  16. Shake It Out – Florence + The Machine
  17. Hunting For Witches – Bloc Party
  18. Alligator – Of Monsters And Men
  19. Way Down We Go – Kaleo
  20. E.T. – Katy Perry
  21. Blood In The Cut – K. Flay
  22. Devil Inside – INXS
  23. Graveyard – Halsey
  24. Only Happy When It Rains – Garbage
  25. Heads Will Roll – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  26. Emperor’s New Clothes – Panic! At The Disco
  27. Monster Hospital – Metric
  28. bad guy – Billy Eilish
  29. Bury Me – The Smashing Pumpkins
  30. Season Of The Witch – Lana Del Rey (cover)
  31. In The Woods Somewhere – Hozier
  32. Howl – Florence + The Machine
  33. I Put A Spell On You – Bryan Ferry
  34. bury a friend – Billy Eilish
  35. Arsonist’s Lullaby – Hozier
  36. Help I’m Alive – Metric
  37. Heart-Shaped Box – Nirvana
  38. Do I Wanna Know? – Arctic Monkeys
  39. Cold Cold Cold – Cage The Elephant
  40. My Boy Builds Coffins – Florence + The Machine
  41. Tonight, Tonight – The Smashing Pumpkins
  42. The Ghost in You – The Psychedelic Furs
  43. Waiting For The Night – Depeche Mode
  44. The Wolf – Fever Ray
  45. Keep The Streets Empty For Me – Fever Ray
  46. Werewolf – Cat Power
  47. Call Me When You’re Sober – Evananescence
  48. Strangelove – Depeche Mode
  49. Monster – Paramore
  50. Full Moon Tonight – Silvastone
  51. Set Me On Fire – Flyleaf
  52. Pretty Visitors – Arctic Monkeys
  53. Born To Die – Lana Del Rey
  54. Ghost Town – The Specials
  55. My Immortal – Evanescence
  56. Zombie – The Cranberries
  57. Come Undone – Duran Duran
  58. Cat People – David Bowie
  59. Building A Mystery – Sarah MacLachlan
  60. Theme Song: Charmed – Morrissey
  61. Theme Song: Buffy The Vampire Slayer
  62. Ballad For Dead Friends – Dashboard Prophets
  63. Black Cat Bone – The Haxans
  64. Dirty Magic – The Haxans

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Fun stuff to do this weekend in NoVa Oct. 18 – 20

Friday, October 18


Saturday, October 19


Sunday, October 20

  • Farm Harvest Days and Fall Carnival. Frying Pan Farm Park, Herndon.
  • Cox Farms Fall Festival. 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Centreville, $20.
  • Ghost and Graveyard Tour. 7:30 p.m. Old Town Alexandria, $15.
  • Jack’s Pumpkin Glow jack o’lantern outdoor display. Lake Fairfax Park, Reston. $23.
  • Fields of Fear.  7:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. Cox Farms, Centreville. $20 – $35.
  • Halloween Spooktacular concert and instrument “petting zoo.” All ages and sensory friendly. 2 p.m. Kennedy Center. Tickets: $15 – $18.

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Halloween 2019 Makeup Picks

Come back every day this week to explore Halloween costume looks during Halloween Costume Week on Autumn in Virginia!

If you are interested in makeup and looking really different on Halloween, then I have some ideas!

Wet and Wild Fantasy Makers 2019 Collection

Wet and Wild has introduced their Fantasy Makers 2019 Collection. It’s pretty fabulous, and of course, affordable and cruelty-free.

Wet and Wild Eyeshadow Collection in Coffin Break

Wet and Wild Eyeshadow Collection in Coffin Break

I wear Wet and Wild makeup and eyeshadow and have good experience with their products, except for the 98 cent Kohl eye pencil. You know, I used to go from store to store to try and find Fantasy Maker makup, because it sells out pretty quickly. But you can order it online, right from the website. Check out this fun makeup tutorial…

This year, they have 3 shade-shifting blushes in Zombie Blush, Ghoul and Vampy. 🙂

Also new: $2.99 Multi-Sticks, including Black, which look like they would be great for using with the stencils for face and body designs.

Four new $5.99 eyeshadow palettes have been introduced, including these really nice shades. It’s called Coffin Break! Like coffee break, get it? LOL. I think these would be nice to wear before and after Halloween. Ten shadows!

Eyeliner That Isn’t A Drag

You may be using eyeliner in different colors. I like Scandal Eyes by Rimmel London. It is inexpensive (about $3.50) and smooths without dragging. I have several colors and I like them all. I also like Urban Decay eye pencil. I only have a small Urban Decay pencil but it has really lasted a long time, and when you put it on, it really lasts.

Here’s a fun way to use eyeliner for Halloween in a witchy look…

Lipsticks in Halloween Colors

If you are looking for a gray lipstick, check out Maybelline New York Color Sensational Powder Matte Lipstick in Concrete Jungle. See how Nikki French used a similar colored product, Smash Box matte lip color in Chill Zone to create a Moon Child look. She really turns makeup application into an art form.

Also available in colors below, about $7. I haven’t worn these. My go to lip color is Maybelline Super Stay 24 hour lip color in Chestnut. But I think I will try one of these for Halloween. The problem is picking a color! Maybe Serpentine. Also this Wickedly White is the first white lipstick I’ve ever seen…

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Falling Leaves in Fairfax County


It’s fall! So, when are the leaves going to start turning and falling?

Because we had a long, hot and rainy summer — remember all those storms? — the leaves stayed greener a bit longer. But it won’t be long now…and the leaves will drop as trick-or-treaters swish through them at the end of October through early November.

Colors in our area should peak in the second and third week of October. The first leaves to fall will be the yellow poplars and black walnut trees. Their leaves turn golden yellow.

Beech leaves turn yellow to orange.

Dogwood leaves turn scarlet to purple. Red Maples also are scarlet. Japanese maples turn purple.

Oak leaves are gold to red to brown.


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