I’m 15 and at the the St James cinema in Beverly Hills with a mate from school. We shuffle down the line, grab a movie ticket, a choctop and an orange cordial drink from the candy bar, we feel like we’re in heaven. We feel this way because the cinema is screening a couple of thrillers, a Sunday arvo double feature. The movies are The Birds and Psycho starring Anthony Perkins.
‘We all go a little mad sometimes’ – Norman Bates
I hand our tickets to to the usher, pick a seat and wait for the picture to start. The Birds is up first. I chomp into my choctop just as Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) enters the pet store looking for a pair love birds, where she encounters handsome Mitch Brenner, played by fellow Aussie Rod Taylor. That screening introduced me to my first real idol, Alfred Hitchcock. Back then I was a pimply-talkative kid with a vivid imagination, not much has changed although I am pimple free. I miss those days and I miss those unforgettable screen characters from my youth. When I think of them now, they feel like distant friends or relatives. I thought it might be fun to reminisce a little, using the letters T-H-R-I-L-L-E-R-S as a trigger, and see what pops into my mind. So, grab a cup of tea and a packet of Iced VoVos, and enjoy my trip down memory lane as I recall the thrillers I love.
‘My idea of Heaven is a solid white nightclub with me as a headliner for all eternity, and they LOVE me!’ – Father Dyer
T is for The Exorcist – R Rated – I recall begging mum to take me to see The Exorcist at the Rapallo theatre. “Please mum, can we, go on.” I was of course under age at the time, but mature for my age so I believed. After some serious nagging over the Graham Kennedy Show on telly, mum reluctantly agreed. On the day, mum brought the movie tickets. I was surprised no one asked me my age, and believed the platform shoes I was wearing helped disguise the fact I was not yet eighteen, or an adult. Years later, I worked as a casual usher at the Rapallo and managed to save enough money to live in London. To this day The Exorcist is one of my favourite movies. My rating 5 stars – A masterpiece.
’What’s the boogeyman?’ – Laurie Strode
H is for Halloween – When Halloween opened in Australia it wasn’t the classic it is considered to be today and Jamie Lee Curtis was an unknown actress. Halloween took on cult status due to VHS video. Almost every Australian home had a copy in their video cupboard. I can still see the cover which read, ‘the most successful independent film of all time.’ Halloween introduced me to another idol of mine, director John Carpenter. I’ve seen everyone of his movies. I remember baby sitting my niece and nephew and us watching a VHS copy of Halloween together. I would try and scare them by jumping out from behind something during the film. Years later my niece thanked me for being great fun to be around when she was growing up. My rating 5 stars.
‘A murderer would never parade his crime in front of an open window’ – Lisa
R is for Rear Window – based on a short story by Cornel Woolrich. Believe it or not, I didn’t see Rear Window until I was in my mid 20’s, Rear Window disappeared from public view after its initial run. Hitchcock had withdrawn it from circulation, and held the copyright. My first viewing of Rear Window was at the Sydney Film Festival in the State Theatre and the event was hosted by no other than, James Stewart. Hitchcock had passed away sometime earlier. I remember watching it with my partner at the time. My relationship sadly didn’t go the distance but Rear Window certainly has stood the test of time. I love it! My rating 5 stars – Murder delivered with a touch of class.
’You must die! Everyone must die!’ – Marcilla
I is for Ingrid Pitt – Mum and dad often dropped me out front of the Capital Theatre in the city. One Saturday arvo I went to see an M rated movie (kids must be accompanied by an adult) on my own called the Vampire Lovers, with Hammer Horror’s leading scream queen, Ingrid Pitt. The Vampire Lovers is a film full of…well, saucy lesbian vampires and lots of tits. Mum had no idea what the movie was about, I didn’t tell her. God knows what I made of all the heavy girl-on-vampire-dyke-action. To this day The Vampire Lovers is one of my favourite thrillers. My rating 5 stars – See it with someone you want to have sex with 😀
‘In this court of law, I’m pleading for love’ – Clarence Darrow
L is for Leopold and Loeb and Compulsion. Filmed in stark black and white and directed by Richard Fleischer, Compulsion is based on the trial of Leopold and Loeb, two homosexual students who murder a school mate for thrill of it, and to prove they are intellectually superior. Famous for a speech towards the end by Orson Wells believed to be the longest monologue in film history, and taken from the transcript of the original trial. My rating is 5 stars
L is for The Last Wave – I can’t pass up mentioning this great Aussie thriller directed by Peter Weir. The Last Wave was made by South Australian Film Corporation at a time when Australians loved hearing the Aussie accents on screen and cinema chains invested heavily in Australian movies with a Hollywood star, in this case Richard Chamberlain. Australian films at the time were billed as an event. The Last Wave started my interest in aboriginal culture, and the ‘dreamtime.’ I even have a pair of message sticks in my home, a gift from the Festival of Dreaming which I worked on in Sydney, a year before the Olympic Games. My rating for The Last Wave is 5 stars – Thought provoking, alarming, spiritual stuff.
‘Smile nicer. Don’t make your lips tight’ – Marjorie
E is for Extremities – Based on a successful stage play, about an attempted rape written by William Mastrosimone, Extremities is famous for proving once and for all that Farrar Fawcett could act. While a bit dated, I can’t help mentioning it because I directed the play in Brisbane at the Cement Box theatre, and every time it comes on TV I think to myself, ‘golly Noel, you’ve directed this.’ Flashback – I’m sitting in the rape crisis centre with the cast and the centre workers, discussing the options open to woman who have been sexually abused. So, for me, E is for Extremities (pic from my production not the film) a personal favourite. My rating is 3 stars for the movie, 5 stars for the stage version and the good memories.
‘This no dream. This is really happening’ – Rosemary Woodhouse
R is for Rosemary’s Baby and Katherine Ross from The Stepford Wives – Ira Levin as far as writers goes is in a league of his own. One of my favourite authors, these are two of my favourite thrillers. I’ve seen both movies a trillion times and love every minute of both films. I even loved it when at a rep cinema twenty minutes from the end of Rosemary’s Baby, the film broke. In shock and on the edge of my seat, I started booing and stamping my feet along with everyone else. I remember thinking, ‘this is not a dream Noel. This is really happening.’ My rating 5 stars – Ira Levin can do no wrong.
S is for Suspiria – Where do I start? An adult fairytale handled with flair and grandeur by one of the worlds great auteurs. Suspiria was released with a pounding soundtrack by Italian pop group the Goblins. I remember sitting alone in a cinema on George Street in Sydney and being bowled over by its brilliance. Suspiria introduced me to another idol, the Italian Hitchcock, Dario Argento. In fact I became obsessed with Italian thrillers, particularly ‘giallo.’ You know, where the murder is seen from the perspective of the killer, often a gloved hand holding a big bloody knife. My rating 5 stars – Unforgettable
Thrillers I Love? I just remembered, I wrote and directed a thriller called The Perfect Match about marriage, adultery and revenge. It was my official entry into Tropfest in 2002. The signature object that year – a match. It was made before the world wide digital revolution. I thought The Perfect Match was lost forever but I found this recording on an old VHS Tape in a box in my cupboard. The VHS sound is a bit dodgy but the film is a helluva lot of fun. 5 stars from me, enjoy 5 minutes of thriller magic Noel Anderson style.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Noel has directed over 50 theatrical productions and worked in film and TV. He completed NIDA’s Playwright Studio in 1996. Noel’s written work includes Ghost Story , Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame and the musical Audrey Hepburn and I Consider Our Assets. Learn more: Noel Anderson Website