Much like romantic and action films are two very different genres on either end of a gender spectrum, comedic and horror films could not be any further from each other in terms of similarities. In fact, this dichotomy can probably be traced all the way back to Ancient Grecian theatre, with the dual masks of Sock and Buskin representing the genres of comedy and tragedy, respectively (which I realize I’ve written about before). As such, it can be somewhat difficult to act in both genres well enough to be known for both. After all, each genre requires somewhat different skills. To excel in comedy requires timing and delivery, whereas the horror genre requires certain amounts of ignorance and persistence. Despite the difficulties, Jamie Lee Curtis has managed to make herself an icon of both comedy and horror. This week’s two films examine these two genres in her repertoire.
A Fish Called Wanda
Length: 108 minutes / 1.8 hours
“Dying is easy, comedy is hard.”
If we are to believe this amusing quotation, Jamie Lee Curtis has committed most of her career to this difficult task. To her credit, quite a few of her performances have been in timeless comedy classics and have also earned her recognition in the form of multiple awards. Films like Trading Places (1983), True Lies (1994) and Freaky Friday (2003) have shown that she has consistently maintained her comedic talent over the decades. That being said, the heyday of her comedy was definitely from the mid-1980’s to mid-1990’s with A Fish Called Wanda (1988) landing square in the middle of it. Of course, this observation is partly due to films like Christmas with the Kranks (2004) and Beverly Hills Chihuahua (2008) receiving mixed to poor reviews, both of which featured Curtis.
A different Wanda from the titular fish, Wanda Gershwitz (Jamie Lee Curtis) is one of two American con artists who have been brought over to London to perform a jewel heist. Her partner and lover, Otto West (Kevin Kline), pretend to be siblings so she can seduce their employers: mob boss George Thomason (Tom Georgeson) and his lackey, Ken Pile (Michael Palin). After the successful heist, Wanda and Otto betray George, resulting in his arrest. In order for him to stay in prison, Wanda continues to use her feminine wiles on Archie Leach (John Cleese), George’s lawyer. While Ken attempts to kill the one eyewitness of the burglary, the courtroom hearings do not go as planned, causing Archie to now want the diamonds for himself. Fortunately, Wanda knows just where they are, so the two of them grab the money and retire to Rio de Janeiro.
Length: 91 minutes / 1.52 hours
Before Jamie Lee Curtis began her comedy career, she was known as the “scream queen” for her roles in early 1980’s horror films. In fact, Scream (1996) highlights her role as one of the founding forces of the horror film cliché, even if she didn’t directly appear in it. What’s interesting is that, while she is prominently featured in quite a few horror films, they were all released in a two-year period. Films like The Fog (1980), Prom Night (1980), Terror Train (1980), Roadgames (1981), and Halloween II (1981) compromised the golden years of slasher films, and all of them starred Jamie Lee Curtis. Some of these films were even remade years later, to critical disdain; The Fog (2005) and Prom Night (2008) being of note. Still, the role that started Curtis down this horrific path was that of Laurie Strode in Halloween (1978).
A high school student in Haddonfield, Illinois, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is concerned that someone is following her. Her friends dismiss this feeling, considering that the day is Halloween, and a lot of spooky things are likely to happen that night, regardless. Later that night, the girls find themselves babysitting, an opportunity a few of them use to have sex with their boyfriends. Unfortunately, Laurie’s original fear that someone was stalking her turned out to be true as the girls and guys are murdered by recently escaped killer, Michael Myers (Will Sandin). Soon, Laurie is the only one left alive, trying to protect the children she is babysitting from the knife-wielding maniac. After a few successful assaults, Laurie is finally saved by Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence), the psychiatrist who has been tracking Michael. Unfortunately, the killer disappears, even despite a shotgun blast to the chest.
2 sum it up, 2 films, 2 Jamie Lee Curtis genres
Bacon #: 1 (Queens Logic / Kevin Bacon)