American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
I've got another classic to add to my collection of Great Moments in Bad Movies. Michael, the young hero of “Phantasm”, slams a door on the hand of a sinister figure that is chasing him. Then he slices off the fingers with a knife. The hand spurts bright yellow blood. The plucky youth takes one of the severed fingers home with him and sticks it in a little box. The next morning, the box bounces around because the finger is still alive. Michael explains this to his older brother, Jody, who doesn't believe him. So Jody ever-so-gingerly opens the box. Inside is a severed finger squirming in a pool of yellow blood. "OK," says Jody, closing the box. That Jody has a gift of gab.
“Phantasm” has a couple of other nice moments like that. It features, for example, the most ingenious device I've seen in a horror film since Dr. Praetorious furnished his laboratory. It's a flying stainless-steel sphere with hooks on either side of it. When it slams against your forehead, the hooks hang on, a little screw comes out and drills into your forehead, and the sphere pumps all of your blood out in a steady stream. Technology Comes to Vampirism, or, the Cuisinart Lobotomy.
The movie itself is not, alas, up to the high standard of these Great Moments. It's put together rather curiously out of disjointed scenes, snatches of dialog, and brief strokes of characterization. It's about the two brothers, who live alone, and about the younger brother's penchant for spying on the activities in a mysterious nearby funeral home.
The funeral home is not any funeral home; It's an enormous white ante-bellum mansion in the midst of a giant cemetery, and inside--well, there's The Tall Man, who makes John Carradine look plump. And there's the evil undertaker. There are sinister marble corridors and basements full of shadows and hearses that drive themselves--and then there is the mystery of what really does happen to the corpses that disappear into this haunted house.
At the ripe age of 89, Oscar can still be a notoriously picky fellow when it comes to what constitutes a contender fo...