Hey Guys,

So for my video I was inspired to make a little mock scary movie trailer. I compiled a bunch of scary movie scenes to create my own little rendition of the typical scary movie. The film follows the trail of 3 friends and “a little boy” as they deal with Leatherface and zombies! The point of it is that movies, especially scary movies, have certain elements in common with one another. There are certain aspects of a scary film we can usually expect to see, such as running, and intense screaming women, etc… Throughout the class, I kept noticing this and therefore thought it will be funny to mash some of these movies together. I hope it makes you laugh 🙂

Btw youtube blocked this for copyright reasons so you could only watch it while logged into our account

Reminder: Project Proposal Due on Thursday, 4/22

This is a reminder that your project proposals are due in my inbox before class on Thursday the 22nd. I need to know the following:

Who is involved in the project? Is it a group or individual project? If the former, who is in the group?

What are you planning to do? Give me an idea of what you’re doing in as much detail as possible.

Why are you proposing what you are proposing?
In a few sentences, describe the connection between your project and the themes and movies of this course. Why, in your opinion, does it make sense for you to do what you are proposing for the final project? Why and how does your proposed project fit the goals of this course?

Do you have any additional questions or requests?
How might I help you with your project?

Blog Assignment #3

Ok, bloggers, here’s the last round. I was really impressed with what you did with found material from the Internet so let’s do it again but with one new parameter.

For this next round of blog posts, I’d like you to once again do what you did for the last assignment: find something interesting on the Internet (video, image, blog post, a conversation on a forum, etc.) that relates to our films or to the broader themes of this course and respond to it, much as you did last time. This time however, don’t use YouTube. That’s right, no YouTube. We can discuss my reasons for this in class if you wish.

So feel free to scour,, the Internet Archive, Creative Commons,,, even the forums at movie sites like IMDB, Cinema Blend, or Movie-Vault. You can even try shopping sites like or even Google Products. Use your imagination. Just no YouTube.

Please don’t forget to embed or link to whatever you’re writing about and to tag your posts and to assign them to the “blog assignment #3” category.

I look forward to another great round of posts. So far, they’ve been truly great.

Midterm Exam

This is a take-home exam due at the start of class on Thursday, April 8th.

Choose 3 of the following 5 questions (not including the extra credit question) and respond to each as thoroughly as you can. Each of your responses should be 2-3 double spaced pages in length. Be sure to address every part of each question you choose.

1. Is Romero’s Night of the Living Dead scary? Why or why not? If so, what about it frightened you? If not, how might it have been scarier? Does it still resonate for the reasons Phillips discusses?

2. Peter Dendle argues that movie zombies can be seen as a “barometer of cultural anxiety.” According to Dendle, the preponderance of zombie movies over the years, in other words, speaks to various anxieties and fears that inform a particular cultural moment. What other genre (or sub-genre) of movies speaks to our fears and anxieties in a similar way? How? Why? Has it evolved in a way that might be compared to zombie movies? Be sure to use plenty of specific evidence from movies or our readings to back up your arguments.

3. Watch Touch of Evil and pay careful attention to the final scene. Consider the last few lines, spoken by Marlene Dietrich’s character, and discuss their significance to the movie. What does she mean by “He was some kind of a man . . .What does it matter what you say about people?” How might we interpret that line? How might we connect it to the moral sensibility typical of film noir according to Schrader, Naremore, Grossman, or Borde and Chaumeton? Use evidence from the film and our readings to back up your argument.

4. Watch a movie released in the 1940s or 1950s (it can be one that’s assigned, recommended, or one you choose to watch on your own on Netflix or and discuss how it does or does not adhere to one or more of guidelines for patriotic, anti-communist movies as delineated by Ayn Rand in her 1950 pamphlet, “Screen Guide for Americans.” Be sure to back up your assertions with evidence from the movie and Rand’s infamous pamphlet.

5. Released in 1964 by Columbia Pictures and based on similar source material, Fail Safe and Dr. Strangelove both speak to prevailing fears and anxieties over the very real threat of global nuclear war. They do so, however, in distinctly different ways. Discuss how each film presents the threat of a nuclear apocalypse. What sort of conclusions do they seem to reach about the cold war conflict and the possibility of a doomsday scenario? Be sure to cite evidence from the films and our readings by Whitfielfd and Perrine in supporting your argument.


6. “Are you now, or have you ever been a Communist?”

Nuclear War Films on the Digital Campus

In addition to the three required films for next week (Fail Safe, Dr. Strangelove and The Day After), two more movies nuclear war themed movies have now been added to the Digital Campus page. These are On the Beach and The Bedford Incident (1965) (which Whitfield briefly discusses). Though I will not hold you responsible for these two movies, I do recommend that you watch them if you have a chance. It will enrich our discussions on Tuesday and Thursday.

If you encounter problems with streaming from the Digital Campus, please let me know in an email so I can report it the folks at the library. Please be as specific in your description of the problem as possible.

The Red Scare and the Hollywood Blacklist: For Tuesday

As you’ll see on the calendar page, our viewing for Tuesday is The Front, a 1976 comedy starring Woody Allen about McCarthyism’s impact on the entertainment industry and Trumbo, a 2007 documentary about Dalton Trumbo, a well known screenwriter who was blacklisted but continued to write and and win awards under psuedonyms. Both are available for streaming on Netflix.

Also, please take a look the following films. Together, they’ll give you some additional context for the two films as well as our reading from Whitfield’s The Culture of the Cold War. Most of these are already in our Delicious feed.

“Hollywood ‘Red’ Probe Begins, 1947/10/20 (1947)” A newsreel on the beginning of HUAC’s probe of alleged communist activity and influence in Hollywood.
I Married a Communist(a.k.a. The Woman on Pier 13)(1949). An RKO feature starring Robert Ryan and an exemplary red scare propaganda film along with My Son John and I Was A Communist for the FBI.

“The Hollywood Ten” (1950), a 16mm short critical of McCarthyism and the blacklist. The director, John Berry, was blacklisted after the film’s release and fled to France where he worked until his return to the US in the 1970s.

“Make Mine Freedom” (1948). A propaganda cartoon on the virtues of democracy and what Americans stand to lose if communism should prevail.
“Communism,” a 1952 educational film about the threat of Soviet Communism.

A Quick Update

As I mentioned in class, the schedule for presentations and required viewings is now available for download here. Take a look at that when you have a chance. Also, the next two readings are now available as well: the Melley article on brainwashing for Thursday and chapter 6 of Whitfield’s Culture of the Cold War. You’ll notice on the updated calendar that next week is going to look a little different from what I described to you last week.

Since Swank will not be ready in time to post to the Digital Campus the movies I had intended for you to watch, I had to improvise a little given what is available on Netflix. Rather than watching the two 1950s anti-communist movies as planned (let’s face it, they’re more interesting than entertaining, especially to contemporary audiences), I’m going to switch things around and ask you to watch the 1962 version of The Manchurian Candidate for Thursday. If you can find the time to watch the 2004 version, you should. Both are available on the Digital Campus and are linked to on the calendar page.

Since we can’t get primary material, we’ll go for the secondary. For the following Tuesday, please watch The Front, a 1976 comedy with Woody Allen about blacklisted writers and Trumbo, a 2007 documentary about Dalton Trumbo, a screenwriter who was blacklisted and wrote many films under psuedonyms — one even won an Oscar. Both are available for streaming on Netflix. I’ll also post some links to a few shorts from the Prelinger archive. Most of these are already on our delicious page, so take a look. For that Thursday, 7 Days in May should be available on the Digital Campus site. Once that’s set, it should be smooth sailing for the remainder of the semester.

Blog Assignment #2

Since we’ll be reaching the end of our first posting cycle at the end of this week, here’s your next blog assignment:

1) find a video, audio file, blog post, image, article, or even a whole website that is somehow related to themes of this course or one or more of our assigned movies. (By themes I mean fear, anxiety, paranoia, most obviously, but also topics like zombies, nuclear war, conspiracy, terror, monsters, etc., etc.)

2) embed it or link to it somewhere in your post (make sure you credit the source) and

3) use it as a springboard for a substantive discussion of one or more of our assigned movies or ideas explored in our readings or in class discussion. You might talk about the connections between what you’ve found and our movies and themes or you might take an idea expressed in what you’ve found and explore it in the context of the movies we’re watching and the ideas that run through them. Feel free to run ideas past me if you’d like some help brainstorming. Please be sure to assign your post to the “blog assignment #2” category and to add 3 or 4 tags based on the themes your post covers, (e.g. “coldwar, zombies, fear”) You can enter tags just above where you select your categories.

You’re free to use anything you find in a Google or YouTube search but I encourage you to look beyond those and explore the Internet Archive, which is an amazing treasure trove of all sorts of media on an incredibly wide range of topics. You might play around on Flickr, Photobucket, Vimeo, delicious and the Creative Commons as well. You’re welcome to use any of the items I’ve posted to our class delicious account, but your choices will be rather limited. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you could try sites like WFMU’s Beware of the Blog or Ubuweb, a collection of avant-garde writing, video and audio.

If you have questions, please feel free to ask me in a comment or via email.

Chinatown (1974) and the Recommended Viewing for Thursday

There are several ways to watch Chinatown online. It is available for “rent” for around $3 from Amazon VOD and the iTunes store. Click here for links to the movie on both services.

It is also available to you on Swank’s digital campus site for free. The copy on Swank seems to have been cropped to a 4:3 aspect ratio (that means it’s not widescreen like the original) and the quality may be not quite as good as the paid versions. But it is still Chinatown, it is still superb, and it is free. I will email you with instructions for how to access the digital campus from here at Baruch and from off campus as well. Because there are copyright issues involved, I cannot post the access information in this public space.

Kiss Me Deadly and Touch of Evil are available via the digital campus as well. If you have not seen them, please do. They will be on the midterm.

The recommended films this week are Taxi Driver and Blade Runner. While I will not hold you responsible for them, I suggest you watch them if you can. I realize there is a paper due on Thursday, but if you have the time to watch the recommended films, you definitely should. Taxi Driver is available for streaming from Netflix and Blade Runner is available on line at Click here for the link.

A Few Small Changes to This Site

I have made a few small changes to this site which will hopefully enhance your experience using it and will better facilitate discussion.

1. Email notifications. You are now subscribed to receive email noifications of new posts and should have received an email about this post. If you didn’t, please let me know and I will make sure this feature is working properly. If you use an RSS reader or check the site regularly anyway and wish to unsubscribe to the notifications, you may do so by logging out, entering your email address in the “Subscribe” field in the sidebar, and clicking “unsubscribe.”

Screen shot 2010-02-23 at 2.29.04 PM

2. Avatars. Comments now have avatars enabled. This means that you can have an image of yourself (or anything else) appear at the beginning of any comment. This is useful for associating names with faces and giving your comments a bit more personality. In order to use an avatar on this site, you will need to get a Gravatar, or Globally Recognized Avatar. You can do that here. Visit the Gravatar site, set up an account and associate any image with your email address. The use of avatars is totally optional, naturally, but I think it will make commenting and responding to comments a bit more fun.

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3. Threaded Comments. You’ll notice that each comment now has a “Reply” link. This allows you to prespond to individual comments rather than the whole post. You can respond to the entire post by entering your comment into the comment field like you have been doing. To reply to individual comments, click the “Reply” link under the comment you wish to respond to.

Screen shot 2010-02-23 at 2.43.29 PM

4. Most Commented. If you look in the sidebar on the left, you’ll notice a “Most Commented Posts” list which tells us which posts have inspired the most discussion. Make of that what you will, but some folks have the competitive spirit and who am I to deny that. That said, please don’t spam comments.


Reading Mulvey

For Tuesday I’ve asked you to read British film theorist Laura Mulvey‘s hugely important and influential 1975 essay, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Since the copy we have is all marked up, you can download a clean version from another source here. It’s also available in HTML at the Brown University Wiki.

As I noted in class, this is a very challenging essay. It relies heavily on psychoanalytic theory and can seem confusing at first, but it is logically organized and reasonably argued. While some of the concepts Mulvey works with may be difficult and unfamiliar, a careful, attentive reading will reveal an interesting and provocative argument that makes sense whether or not you agree with it. So go slowly and make note of what you don’t understand, want to discuss, or would like clarified further. You may not totally grasp every idea Mulvey raises right away, but you should be able to get a pretty good sense of her overall argument — enough to give us a lot to talk about in class on Tuesday. This is a well known and controversial essay that has been discussed, debated, refuted and refined by film students, scholars and filmmakers for the last 35 years and now we’re going to join the conversation.

At it’s most basic, Mulvey’s argument is that the perspective of Hollywood films has historically been a male one, predisposing viewers to identify with men onscreen and to see women in the movies merely as passive objects, there to be looked at by by both the male characters and the spectator.  The “gaze” Hollywood films offer, she argues, is a male one so that when we watch a movie, we look with the men, but look at the women.

Grace Kelly and James Stewart in Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954)

I am looking forward to our discussion on Tuesday and to establishing explicit connections between Mulvey’s argument and the films we’ve seen so far, particularly the noirs we’ve been watching for the last two weeks.

If you have questions you’d like to pose before our discussion (or even after), feel free to post them here in a comment.

Blogging Assignment and Posting Schedule

As I noted on the syllabus, participation on this blog, both posting and commenting, counts towards your participation grade. So, if you have not done so already, please add yourself as a member of this blog. Instructions for doing this are here.

I am asking all of you to post to the blog at least 3 times over the course of the semester. The posting schedule can be downloaded here. Please post a response to the prompt below by your scheduled date but feel free to post more often on related topics as well.

I also ask that you read and comment substantively on others’ posts. The more you comment, the livelier the blog will be. I am not going to require you to comment a specific number of times but will suggest that you should try to comment at least two or three times a week. If you are someone who tends not to speak much during class discussion, commenting frequently is a great way to make up for that and ensure that your participation grade does not suffer. I’ll say more about commenting in class.

At this point, you’re probably wondering what it is you will be blogging about. Rightly so. So here’s the blogging prompt for the first round of posts (I’ll give you a new one around the 1st week of March):

The Prompt

Pick a a scene, a character, a single frame, a sequence of shots, basic plot, or any other element from a movie (required, recommended or one one you’ve seen on your own) and connect it to either 1) any of the main themes of this class — fear, anxiety, and paranoia, or, 2) an idea explored in any of our readings, whether those assigned already or those that will be assigned by the time your post is due.

For example, you might write a post where you explore how Peter Lorre’s character in M might be said to exhibit paranoia, or you might consider the 1931 Dracula from the perspective of the definition of fear we read for our second class. You might even discuss the figure of Lugosi’s Count Dracula and what Phillips says about him in light of various contemporary, updated vampires we see in movies like Blade,  Twilight or Daybreakers.

Use your imagination. Be creative. Feel free to link to other sites and to incorporate images, video or other media into your posts (YouTube, Flickr, Photobucket, or Google Images can be goldmines.)

Please be sure to select “blog assignment #1” in the list of categories on the right before you publish your post.

Before you write: Keep in mind that your post is not a term paper. It should be more exploratory and open ended (not to mention shorter). Your post’s goals are to 1) enable you and your readers to play around with new and interesting ideas and 2) to generate conversation rather than present a finished, polished argument. I don’t expect you to have all the answers, but to move towards finding them. Don’t be afraid to ask your readers questions.

I am happy to discuss post ideas with you so if you are stuck and don’t know what to post about, let me know and we can brainstorm together. If you have questions about the blogging assignment in general or any aspect of the prompt above, feel free to ask it in the comments to this post.

A Note on Blogging: A blog is a kind of online journal or diary. Blog posts are usually less formal and more conversational than the sort of academic writing you are typically asked to do. There is more room for creativity and experimentation here than in the typical academic paper in no small part due to the fact that you can easily incorporate various media — still images, video, or audio.

Your audience and purpose are different here as well. You’re writing not for a professor to whom you hope to demonstrate mastery of your subject matter, but sharing ideas with a broader audience — your “readership” — who, in this case consists of your classmates, me, and whoever happens to visit our site and read your post. Keep in mind that your writing to this blog is public — don’t be surprised if you get a comment form someone not enrolled in this class.

Try to have fun with your posts and comments. Keep in mind that this is your space. You are now a member of what’s typically called a “group blog” where multiple authors contribute posts on related topics — in this case, fear, anxiety and paranoia and the movies.

Welcome to ENG3940H

Welcome to the online home of ENG3940H: Topics in Film: The Cinema of Fear, Anxiety and Paranoia.


Make yourself at home, say hello and introduce yourself!

Here’s what you’re in for:

Course Description (from the About page):

This course will explore representations and manifestations of fear, anxiety, and paranoia in American films between the end of WWII and the present. We will consider the ways in which films speak to broader cultural anxieties particular to specific historical moments. We will likewise explore the ways in which the stylistic and aesthetic means of representing fear and anxiety on screen have evolved over the medium’s history. Viewing will include a variety of films across periods and genres including Pickup on South Street, Rear Window, Dawn of the Dead (Romero and Snyder versions), The Conversation, and The Manchurian Candidate (Frankenheimer and Demme versions). Readings will include works of social history as well as theoretical texts on spectatorship, the psychology of fear and paranoia, film genres, and film aesthetics; they will facilitate a critical exploration of the complex ways popular films are informed by, play on, and reinforce prevailing fears and anxieties.

Course Learning Goals
In this course, students will:

1) become familiar with key principles of film studies

2) develop a critical vocabulary for film analysis

3) engage the complex interplay between commercial films and cultural norms, mores, and anxieties

4) explore the nature of spectator experience and the means through which films evoke visceral experience and emotional responses, particularly fright, anxiety, and disgust

Visit the course calendar page for specific details on viewing, reading and writing assignments.

Here’s looking forward to an exciting semester.