A blog about movies and filmmaking.

Back when movies went to music videos

In Actors, cult film on June 26, 2009 at 2:30 am

So, with the death of Michael Jackson, there comes an end to the innovator of the music video that was really a short movie. Whatever thoughts were on his personal life, his cosmetic surgery schedule or anything else this man created pop music that will always be remembered and the basis of acts (for good or bad) for years to come. But, it was his dramatic flair that brought such movie directors like Martin Scorsese, John Landis to the music video realm, long before it was vogue to take music video directors and give them movies.

His breakout music video, “Thriller”, that helped to usher in the MTV generation was a 13 minute long experience where the already crowned “King of Pop” tries to woo a girl – after seeing a “movie” seemingly in a parallel universe to I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF, with Jackson starring in a similar Varsity jacket – while telling her that there’s no ghosts/zombies/werewolves; until, you know, they show up…And start dancing. With (for the time) amazing makeup effects, and a never-ending barrage of people paying homage – and staging their own massive performances – dance sequence, there’s little wonder why this is/has been one of the best selling albums as well as probably the most well-known music video in the world!

John Landis having just come off of working on his segment on the THE TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (called Segment 1, and the Prologue – with the most memorable and frightening Dan Ackroyd moment ever!) and his success with AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and THE BLUES BROTHERS, teamed up with Jackson and special effects master Rick Baker, to create the ultimate in horror movie/music videos.

Landis would also go on to direct another Jackson video, “Black or White”. Also, interesting is the narration done by Vincent Price – and his wonderful laugh at the end of the video, Forrest J. Ackermann (the progenitor of the term “Sci-fi”), Janet Jackson as one of the dancing zombies and Marlon Brando’s son Miko.

Secondly, is the music video “Bad”, again featuring Jackson starting off in a real-world scenario then taking it off into a fantastical world where he goes from being bullied – by the likes of Wesley Snipes – where Jackson’s character (Daryl) is forced in to trying to prove to the neighborhood roughs that he’s “bad” by sticking up an old man. When Daryl helps the guy escape instead, the steely grey, hue of the video turns to full color as Michael Jackson (I don’t think that he’s still supposed to be the character) shows the thugs who’s bad. The video directed by Martin Scorsese (coming off his own Spielberg tinged project AMAZING STORIES and AFTER HOURS), directs with other appearances by Paul Calderon as a crack dealer and Roberta Flack as Daryl’s mother.

Both of these videos, as well as the majority of Jackson’s other videos all have to do with singing and dancing as opposition to violence, or sort of his answer to it. Other videos include “Beat It”, “The Way You Make Me Feel” (which honestly kind of comes across a little date-rapey and sexual harrassment-like), “You Rock My World” and I’m sure plenty others.

The other movement that Jackson participated in were two music-movie specials. One called MOONWALKER, is mostly a series of clips about Jackson, about kids and some other fantastical elements. Including a moment where he turns metallic and transforms into a car.

The other was called CAPTAIN EO and was a 3-D show hosted at the Walt Disney themeparks, it was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, produced by George Lucas and starred Angelica Huston. It was a story about a starship that was bringing a gift to the Supreme Leader (Huston) and are captured and interrogated. I never saw this movie, but is sounds…amazing.

So, beyond the music Michael Jackson brought a lot of the affairs of video and movies. While, I can’t say I’d really been a fan of anything of his in a long time (I think that “Dangerous” was the last actual album of his that I’d listened to). I will never forget these two videos.

(I would have embedded Youtube videos of the videos, but they weren’t embeddable, so just do a search and you’ll find the full versions of THRILLER and BAD – and they’re worth it.)


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