Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sierra Madre: Halloween Movie Capitol of the World?

Freddy K: Local boy makes good
I'm not sure there is any town in America that takes Halloween more seriously than Sierra Madre. As far as I can see the only holiday that surpasses it in overall citywide participation might be Christmas. But again, I am not completely sure about that. It's close.

Certainly more homes get decorated at Christmas, and there is a little bit extra of that "for the kids" feel to much of it. Especially the part having to do with the buying and consuming of mass amounts of stuff. But as far as people just throwing themselves into the spirit of it all? Getting dressed up and playing the part? Halloween just might take first prize in our little world. Just head downtown tonight and you will see what I mean. There you'll find people decked out in the holiday way for about as far as the eye can see. There really is no other place quite like it.

The only place I know about in town where Halloween is not traditionally observed is Bethany Christian School. When my kids attended preschool there October 31st was known as "Storybook Character Day." All the kids used to dress up as their favorite figures from children's literature to celebrate. God bless them.

Movie makers have apparently long viewed Sierra Madre's innate quotient for the frightening to be the perfect fodder for its horror films. I was surfing around the Internet and there really have been quite a few horror movies filmed here. Perhaps it is because we are not too far from Hollywood and cinema folk find it a convenient place to film. Though I am also of the opinion that not appearing too much like so many of our more au courant California neighbors could be a contributing factor as well. Certainly there are a lot of spooky older looking homes and neighborhoods appropriate for the genre in this town.

But there is likely more to it. Sierra Madre could very well just be a scary place. Obviously, and in so many different ways. While the exact reason for this might be difficult to pin down, the movie industry apparently seems to recognize it. And when it comes time to film movies in a horror genre kind of way, this is the town they often come to in order to get the job done right.

One interesting site that I came across is called "Best Movies Filmed in Sierra Madre, California." You can access this beauty by clicking here. Out of the 8 films this site claims were made here, 6 of them are horror films. Here is that list along with the supplied short description:

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956): Dr. Miles Bennel returns to his small town practice to find several of his patients suffering the paranoid delusion that their friends or relatives are impostors.

Scream (1996): A masked killer is on the loose in a small town. He terrorizes local teenagers using his knowledge of horror movies and condemns them for not knowing the unspoken rules. A sleazy tabloid journalist is determined to investigate and link this killer to a crime that happened one year ago.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982): This sequel has a plot that is unrelated to the earlier movies of the same name. In this horror story, a large Halloween mask making company has plans to kill millions of American children with deadly masks.

Family Plot (1976): Filmed by Alfred Hitchcock, fake medium Madam Blanche (Barbara Harris) and her taxi driver boyfriend George (Bruce Dern) make a living by scamming people with her phony powers. They are hired by an aging widow Julia Rainbird, to find her nephew who was given away for adoption many years before.

Halloween II (1981): It's the same night as the original Halloween. Michael Myers is around the neighborhood, after being gunned down by Dr. Loomis six times. Now he's in a hospital where the girl Laurie Strode was taken. And there's a reason why Michael is after her ...

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991): In part six of the Nightmare on Elm Street series, dream monster Freddy Krueger has finally killed all of the children of his hometown, and seeks to escape its confines to hunt fresh prey.

That is an impressive list. Oddly, since it most definitely was filmed in Sierra Madre, the first Halloween movie is not listed here.

Another interesting site that discusses Sierra Madre's attraction to horror film makers is called Dark Destinations (link). The dark destination in this case being our very own Pioneer Cemetery. Two films of note are discussed, the first being Alfred Hitchcock's 1976 classic, Family Plot. This was apparently Alfred's final film before he himself passed on to that other realm. Here is how the role of our town's celebrated place of eternal rest is described:

In the film, Sierra Madre's Pioneer Cemetery doubles as Barlow Creek Cemetery. It appears in a sequence where Dern's character pursues a widow at her husband's funeral, hoping that she will lead him to the mysterious nephew. That pursuit comes to a stop at the fake grave of the nephew who faked his death years earlier.

The other film that starring Pioneer Cemetery is the original Halloween, filmed in 1976. Here is how Sierra Madre's appearance is described:

Sierra Madre Pioneer Cemetery appears in a sequence early on in Halloween, where Myer's doctor, Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasence), comes to the cemetery to seek out Judith's grave. The caretaker (Arthur Malet) leads him to the grave (Row 18, Plot 20) where they discover that the headstone has been stolen. While the caretaker attributes it to a Halloween stunt performed by the local kids, it is a confirmation to Loomis that Myers has returned to Haddonfield - or as he puts it, "He came home."

However, this is not where Pioneer Cemetery's claim to cinematic notoriety ends. Another website called "I Am Not A Stalker " (link) notes that our local graveyard plays a cameo role in the idiosyncratic television series Twin Peaks. (Not to be confused with the town out in San Bernardino County by the same name.) In particular as the site of the show's climatic first season finale. Here is how Not A Stalker discusses this important matter:

As I mentioned in my post last month about The Old Place restaurant, thanks to fellow stalker/David-Lynch-aficionado Brad, from the Brad D Studios website, I recently discovered that fave television series Twin Peaks was shot almost in its entirety in Southern California.  Because I have long been a Twin Peaks fanatic, I was beyond eager to start stalking the many locations mentioned on Brad’s blog – the most exciting of which was Sierra Madre Pioneer Cemetery, the site of the funeral of Laura Palmer (aka Sheryl Lee) in the Season 1 episode titled “Rest in Pain.” Surprisingly, even though Sierra Madre is located just a few miles east of Pasadena and even though the cemetery has been featured in several spooky productions over the years, until perusing through Brad’s site in early September, I had never before even heard of it!  So, because the place fit in perfectly with my Haunted Hollywood theme, I waited to drag the Grim Cheaper out there until this past weekend.

Back when the Sierra Madre Patch was posting a lot more original material about this town than it is now, our own Tony Brandenburg contributed an article about Sierra Madre's penchant for horror films called, "Halloween: The Night He Came Home (to Sierra Madre)" (link).

Tony notes here that the Episcopal Church of the Ascension was used for filming a few sequences of the horror classic The Fog (1979). However, when it comes to serving as the backdrop to Sierra Madre cinematic horror film glory, our favorite church on East Laurel cannot hold a stick to Alverno High School:

Alverno High School is listed as a location for and horror and suspense themed movies, including  Tim Burton’s biopic of Plan 9 from Outer Space director Ed Wood (1994), and Poison Ivy (1992). It also was used for a couple of episodes of V, the Series. Bailey Canyon was listed as a film location for Nightmare on Elm Street VI: Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991). My favorite discovery, hands down, was learning that Sierra Madre was listed by IBDM as the single locale for the z-grade comedy horror picture The Worm Eaters (1977) which was directed by the late Herb Robins, alumni of Dennis Steckler films The Thrill Killers, Steckler’s send-up of- what else?- Hitchcock’s Psycho.

Tony also tells us that a scene from Halloween III was shot inside The Buccaneer. Something that makes sense to me, and on several levels. This is a great article, and devotees of the Sierra Madre - Halloween nexus really do need to check it out. As Tony puts it:

Sierra Madre has been a locale used for some very... interesting films. From Invasion of the Body Snatchers, to Halloween, to The Worm Eaters. Sierra Madre, bask in your cinematic glory.

One Sierra Madre movie that does not get mentioned on any of the horror film genre sites I've seen is the nuclear terror film Testament (click here). Nuclear war may not have too many Freddy Krueger overtones, but it is nonetheless suitably frightening. If you haven't seen this film you really do need to check it out. Scene after scene includes footage straight off the streets of Sierra Madre. You could very well come away from the experience believing the world really has ended, and that it all happened right here. Water crisis and all.

Have a great Halloween! You are in one of the very best places to do it.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

81 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. since Allegria is a block party - are the residents being charged for police services?

      too many kids from El Monte showing up - alot of adults and the most scary aspect of the entire evening is our PD is armed....yikes

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  2. Zombie bills haunt corridors of California Capitol
    http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2013/10/am-alert-halloween-comes-to-the-california-capitol.html#storylink=cpy

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  3. Testament was quietly shot in 28 days in the City of Sierra Madre, California. Testament features not a single scene of destruction, but builds psychological and emotional horror few films sustain at this level. Schindler's List did. So does Testament, a gut wrenching tale that imagines a domestic holocaust with similar power and meditation.

    What really added to the film was not only seeing our town in the movie, local people, but knowing that this really could happen. If you haven't seen this movie you really should.

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    1. Maybe the most depressing film I've ever seen. Won't ever watch it again.
      Brilliant production.

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    2. It is even more real when you see your child in the movie.

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  4. With the way this city is being run I feel like I'm living in a horror movie but the show never ends and I've run out of popcorn.

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    1. City Hall is pod territory.

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    2. Yes, the horror of incompetence.

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  5. Fun read. Thanks.

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  6. 7:47 is right, Sierra Madre is being run like a bad movie. Problem is the same people are behind the push to put their people in. The people who get voted in are not good business people and they are afraid to get a new city manager. I finally got the filter replaced and the coffee does taste better but I refuse to make cool aid. Oh, I have a good idea who the which is at city hall, who can guess?

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  7. Maybe some of that public art money can be used to erect a statue of Alfred Hitchcock in the Pioneer Cemetery. It is time Sierra Madre honored a legacy.

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    1. So all the people who are buried in that cemetery, and their relatives, have agreed to have their tombstones appear in a bunch of junky movies, and have bored and cynical cast and crew kicking it on their resting places.

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  8. I've heard that if Josh Moran decides not to run for reelection Freddy Krueger is ready to take his place.

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    1. If Freddy is anything like Josh the only thing he won't slash is the budget.

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    2. Freddy would make a mean water bond peddler.

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    3. Freddy would be more civil than Josh

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  9. The police booth on Alegria is really a downer.
    So are all of the bussed in out of towners from south of us.

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    1. Some people don't like the crowds, but I do. It really is quite a spectacle.

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    2. Oooo scary stuff, those "out of towners south of us" ... I see you have your racist bigot costume on.

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    3. How awful. People coming to Sierra Madre to have fun and spend money.

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    4. spending money???? how do you figure that?
      Alegria started as something for the LOCAL kids. It costs the residents on that street hundreds of dollars to have enough candy for the out of towners.
      I have even heard several non locals parents complain that they don't get good candy.
      The day after when one man was taking down his decorations, an out of towner got mad an said the man had no right to take down the decorations. He was told Halloween is over.

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    5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    6. Well I guess it's smaller Halloween, smaller government, and smaller pea brains.

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    7. Steve has a very small brain.

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    8. Nope. Not Steve. Just an old time Sierra Madrean tired of all the right wing bs

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    9. Not giving out candy is a big political issue for you?

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    10. Can I make you a nice dinner, 12:04? Would that be politically correct enough?

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    11. Nope. Has nothing to do with candy

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    12. Alegria is Sierra Madre giving fun and candy to all the communities around us. It does cost us. 11:33 is right. I figure as long as the people on that street want to do that, it's up to them. Having to pay for our police is something else.

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    13. yeah, try living on Allegria - it costs a small fortune for the candy

      why don't the city chip in and defray the cost of candy?

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    14. if the residents of Allegria want to throw a massive party they should fund the cost of the police services

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    15. Why do we even need off duty police there? Aren;t there any on duty? The city charges the taxpayers $135 an hour for off duty cops. That is what the problem is. Nobody can have any fun in this town without the city sucking all of the life out of it.

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    16. The neighbors decorate their houses just like a lot of people do for Halloween. It is not their problem if thousands come to trick or treat on their street. It is the city that chooses to be there. The police were not invited. I also think it is the volunteers that are the police presence.

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    17. It is SMPD and the city is greedy.

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    18. Off duty SMPD get $135 an hour with a 4 hour minimum. $540 per officer.

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  10. Not surprising that Bethany didn't celebrate Halloween. Too bad they didn't explain in appropriate language why. Born again Christians view Halloween as a non-Christian pagan, devil, whatever, celebration. Too bad for them, avoiding it does not make it go away and hardly purifies their soul by this misunderstanding. Pretty anti-Catholic of them actually.

    I was on a jaunt to Olvera St some years ago with two women, one who was incarcerated in China as a child with her missionary parents during WW2 and another one, born again, who walked out of one wonderful shop that is dedicated to El Dia de los Muertos (all year long so I don't know if it was November 1st and 2nd or the middle of July). Her loss and misplaced anguish. The missionarie's child and I enjoyed the place just the two of us.

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    1. The funny thing is, All Hallow's Eve is a Christian holoiday. It is where Christians, assured that they have eternal life, laugh at death. It is a victory celebration over that greatest evil, dying and being dead. Some people just miss the point.

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    2. In America, we have freedom of religious belief.

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    3. Along with the right to disagree.

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    4. if the religious zealots on Duck Dyansty can celebrate Halloween, why not Bethany?

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    5. Yes, 12:25, that would be the freedom part.

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  11. Husband's running group went through there last night and said it seemed that there were fewer houses participating. I remarked that I had heard that it was pretty costly to provide candy to the masses of visitors and that is why some of them have dropped out.

    Anyway, go check out the pumpkin motorcycle with the skeleton rider. Well, done you guys!!

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    1. some families put out decorations today

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    2. I think I saw your husbands running group. They were all dressed as Mad Hatters

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    3. Steve is feeling cranky today.

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    4. I am not Steve. I think you need to take care of / and provide for your own. Not expect others to meet your needs, wants, or desires.

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    5. There are a lot of people we call Steve here. Saves a lot of time and effort.

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    6. Not sure 2:56, but I think 1:02's comment was referring to posts that carry a same kind of critical complaint. a whine, that brings to mind past posts by a poster named Steve, who likes to read and comment on blogs s/he doesn't approve of.

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  12. Wow. Where did you hear that?

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    1. Hear that "it was pretty costly to provide candy for the masses of visitors". Who did you hear it from?

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    2. Any idiot can figure it out. Even at a nickel per treat times 4,000 is $200.
      My friend based 4,000 on the number of candies per bag and the number of bags they went through.

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    3. 11:39 is right. Price a bag of candy, estimate the number you give out, multiply, and you'll get the amount. Of course if you're rich, you won't care about the extra few hundred. But not everyone in Sierra Madre is rich.

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    4. no different than last year same houses if not one more

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    5. People get worked up over the craziest things.

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    6. No candy - no peace!

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  13. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween
    Halloween or Hallowe'en (/ˌhæləˈwin, -oʊˈin, ˌhɒl-/; a contraction of "All Hallows' Evening"),[5] also known as All Hallows' Eve,[6] is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows' Day. It initiates the triduum of Hallowmas, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers.[7]

    According to many scholars, All Hallows' Eve is a Christianized feast initially influenced by Celtic harvest festivals,[8][9] with possible pagan roots, particularly the Gaelic Samhain.[6][10][11] Other academics maintain that it originated independently of Samhain and has solely Christian roots.[12]

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  14. That's a very accurate description to call the Alegria production a block party.
    Why did the city make it an exception?

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    1. I am sure the city would love to ding someone for Alegria. It is not a block party. The neighbors don't ask the city to bring in the police and have them set up shop, bring in the big, lights, or close the street. That is the city's doing. Can you imagine how much staff time the city would spend if they were involved. Alegria is tradition the city hasn't not managed to take over.

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    2. Rule of thumb - if the city is involved it's about money.

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  15. is there a horror movie being filmed at Nancy Walsh's house?

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    1. Every am when she looks in the mirror she see the witch of the west

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    2. The Horror movie is filmed in council chambers every other tuesday!

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  16. Alegria used to be a fun quaint occassion in a single block - now it's moved across Mt. Trail



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    1. it has been across mt trail for many years

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  17. Neo Nazi like all racists need to be protected against themselves or their children will take revenge on them for society.

    A judge on Thursday sentenced a 13-year-old boy, convicted of killing his neo-Nazi father, to a youth correctional facility, he was convicted of killing his father, regional neo-Nazi leader Jeff Hall, on May 1, 2011. Joseph Hall was 10 years old.

    This crazy neo Nazi member beat his child like a dog and his mother let him do it to the child she needs to be fix too!

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    1. So let that be a lesson to you. If this little dummy shows up at your door tonight and you don't give him candy, you're a neo nazi.

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  18. It took only until the second post until someone to turn a light hearted informational article into something political, GIVE IT A REST! And shame on you John for allowing a great article to devolve into nothing than more of the same....

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    1. Oh c'mon. We all know you wrote half of those comments.

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    2. It's Halloween, 5:35. The goblins are out.

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  19. Shame on the Mod, 5:35? Really?

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    1. If 5:35 gets upset over people talking about politics, why on earth would she ever come to this blog? Isn't that what people do here? Go to the Patch if you want to talk about doily tatting.

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  20. 5:35, you know whats on people's minds when they always turn it around to politics, maybe it's because our city government is always in our lives, or should I say our pocket books. Can you say trying to kill our lives here and take our money. You can call it candy if you want but city hall wants our money. It was a night when many had fun here from towns all around and that was good, the kids had fun, the local government just drooled. $

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