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Man the Maker: Gene Wilder, Wes Craven and other scary stuff

MoviesWes CravenJanet LeighJill ClayburghSam Shepard

Comic actor and author Gene Wilder, of the Harpo-esque hair and large liquid eyes, is a resident of Stamford and a patron of the Avon; he'll be on hand for Q&A and to present one of the biggest box office successes of his career, a film that paired him with the popular and unpredictable Richard Pryor to produce one of the great comic duos of the 1970s. Directed by Arthur Hiller, Silver Streak combines escapes and slapstick, villains (ably played by Patrick McGoohan and Ray Walston), a damsel in distress (comic everywoman Jill Clayburgh), and a speeding train. If tickets are available, snap them up.

This fall the Avon has been featuring films with cult followings, and this Thursday, with Halloween approaching, the films to be shown are a secret — suffice to say, it's "A Surprise Wes Craven Double Feature" showcasing two of the horror-master's best films from the 1970s. Guess which titles, then go see if you're right. The films will be presented by Brian Solomon of the The Vault of Horror blog (thevaultofhorror.blogspot.com ) and Captain Cruella.

The Criterion continues its mini-festival of Hitchcock films with one of the suspense master's most chilling excursions. Frenzy (1972) is a film that can make one profoundly uncomfortable. Off-beat, grisly, and oddly ironic, the film still makes me uneasy when I think about it. Lauded for his playful wit with regard to all things macabre, Hitchcock, in this film about a genteel-looking serial killer (Barry Foster) loose in London (a kind of demonic Alfie), gives new bite to the term "lady killer." Jon Finch plays an innocent man arrested on circumstantial evidence, and Alec McCowan as the detective trying to crack the case, with a little help from his wife.

Both theaters will present Hitchcock's Psycho (1960). It stars Janet Leigh as a woman on the run who fatefully stops at the Bates Motel where she meets Norman Bates, a soft-spoken but creepy young man with something to hide. The "shower scene" shocked the hell out of audiences when they first saw it, and no matter how many times we've seen it, it still makes us marvel. The characters in the film play like a corny B-movie at times but that only makes the cinematic control of the scary scenes more shocking. And there you have the formula for almost every horror or slasher film since.

To celebrate the centenary of the birth of Max Frisch, an influential Swiss author, Volker Schlöndorff's film of Homo Faber, Frisch's best-known novel, is screening. The original title means "man the maker" and expresses Frisch's intention to depict man as a figure of control. Frisch was an architect and the protagonist of the film (played by Sam Shepard) is an engineer whose life, we learn via flashbacks, comprises a journey that involves him in either strange coincidences or fateful occurrences that question the degree of human control over events.


Silver Streak

6:30 p.m. Oct. 25, Avon Theatre, 272 Bedford St., Stamford. $25-$40. 203-661-0321.

Wes Craven Double-Feature

9 p.m. Oct. 20, Avon Theatre, 272 Bedford St., Stamford. $6-$10. 203-661-0321.

Hitchcock Mini-Festival

11:30 a.m. Oct. 22-23, The Criterion, 86 Temple St., New Haven. 203-498-2500.

Psycho

11 a.m., Oct. 29-30, Cinema City at The Palace, 330 New Park Ave., Hartford; 11:30 a.m., Oct. 29-30, The Criterion.

Homo Faber

6:30 p.m. Oct. 25, Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall St., New Haven. (203) 432-0670, yale.edu/whc.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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