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IT WAS critically derided when it was released but The Fog has come to be regarded as a cult classic movie.

The spooky tale of drowned seamen who rise from their watery grave to seek revenge on the 100th anniversary of their murder was clich-ridden, predictable and creaking at the joints.

But it was successful enough to further establish the credentials of John Carpenter, for whom it was the first feature film since Halloween had terri-fied cinema-goers two years earlier.

You could tell all was not well in the Californian coastal town of Antonio Bay when a thick fog rolled in from the sea. For a start, it was glowing with movie menace. And it moved against the wind.

Meanwhile, town priest Father Malone was in his study at the church when a large piece of stone fell from the wall, revealing a cavity.

Inside was his grandfather's diary from a hundred years earlier.

It revealed that, in 1880, six of the founders of Antonio Bay deliberately sank and plundered a clipper ship named the Elizabeth Dane.

The ship was owned by Blake, a wealthy man with leprosy who wanted to establish a colony near Antonio Bay.

During a foggy night (of course) the conspirators lit a fire on the beach near treacherous rocks, and the crew of the ship, deceived by the false beacon, crashed into them.

Everyone aboard the ship perished.

The townspeople had been motivated both by greed and disgust at the notion of having a leper colony in their back yard.

YOUR Antonio Bay and its church were founded with the plundered gold.

Cue the ghostly invasion by what looked like leprous pirates looming out of the fog...

Carpenter has stated the inspiration for the story was drawn from British film The Trollenberg Terror (1958), which dealt with monsters hiding in the clouds, and also by a visit to Stonehenge.

Conveniently, history noted the deliberate wreckage of a ship and its subsequent plundering in the 19th century near Goleta, California.

Put the two together and the movie was born.

Carpenter borrowed from thriller heritage, too.

Kathy Williams, wife of a missing fisherman and the driving force behind the town's centenary events, was played by Psycho screamer Janet Leigh.

And appearing as hitch-hiker Elizabeth Solley was a young Jamie Lee Curtis, who had also memorably screamed the house down in Halloween.

But the main stars were a family affair.

Adrienne Barbeau (Carpenter's then wife) played late-night DJ Stevie Wayne while Tom Atkins (a friend of Barbeau's) was cast as action man Nick Castle.

Dependable Hal Holbrook played the hapless Father Malone who survived the foggy fright, only to be decapitated almost as an after-thought in the closing moments, realising too late that fog is a health hazard.

STAR: Jamie Lee Curtis MEMORIES... For real movie buffs, there had been a host of injokes and clever Carpenter references to his own heroes and friends.

Nick Castle was also the name of the real-life actor who played Michael Myers in Halloween; Dan O'Bannon had been a scriptwriter who worked with the director on sci-fi cult classic Dark Star; Tommy Wallace was a sound designer pal.

A radio report mentioned Arkham Reef, a setting from HP Lovecraft's sinister stories (and later inspiration for Gotham City's Arkham Asylum).

There was a Doctor Phibes, named after the character made famous by Vincent Price in the early 1970s.

Just to prove you really can't have too much of a good thing, The Fog was re-made in 2005 by director Rupert Wainwright and was so awful it was unanimously panned by critics and audiences alike.



STAR: Jamie Lee Curtis
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Feb 19, 2012
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