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The Making of Michael Jackson's Thriller

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When the 14-minute long short film known simply as Michael Jackson’s Thriller came out back in 1983, it forever revolutionized the music video industry. And, while you’ve likely seen it dozens of times in the 28 years since its release, you may never have seen what went into making it. Luckily, the web contains a number of videos detailing the production of the King of Pop’s crowning achievement.

This video contains rare footage of legendary producer Quincy Jones discussing the making of the video on the phone with Jackson – as well as the odd delight of watching Jackson casually interacting in full zombie makeup.

This video shows director John Landis calling the shots on set and details Jackson’s transformation into a werewolf in the film – a process that included taking a full facial cast, affixing inflatable foam latex balloons to his face, and applying extensive makeup, false teeth and gigantic yellow contacts.

If you're interested in what became of some of the other people involved in the creation of Thriller over the years, here is a quick rundown:

Ola Ray
After Thriller, Michael’s video girlfriend went on to make appearances on popular TV series like Cheers and Gimme A Break!, and play a small role in 1987’s Beverly Hills Cop II, but has been largely absent from show business since. After several publically-voiced complaints (and one subsequent retraction) about unpaid Thriller royalties, Ray sued Jackson a few months before his June 2009 death saying “I got the fame Thriller, but I didn’t get the fortune.”

John Landis
At the point Landis began working on Thriller, he was already one of the most well-known directors in Hollywood, responsible for Animal House, Trading Places, An American Werewolf in London and The Blues Brothers. He was also known at the time for having been in charge of the ill-fated production of Twilight Zone: The Movie that led to the tragic death of three actors on set. In the years immediately following Thriller, Landis directed Spies Like Us, Three Amigos and Coming to America. More recently he directed several episodes of the show Psych and the 2007 documentary Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project.

Vincent Price
The 1950s and 60s horror film great was in the latter stages of his career when he delivered Thriller’s pitch-perfect creepy narration. In the years that followed, Price would make appearances in a number of other projects, including lending his iconic voice to the 1986 Disney film The Great Mouse Detective and appearing as the inventor in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands.

Rick Baker
The makeup and visual effects genius responsible for turning Jackson and a group of dancers into "grisly ghouls from every tomb" has won a total of seven Academy Awards for Makeup (An American Werewolf in London, Harry and the Hendersons, Ed Wood, The Nutty Professor, Men in Black, Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Wolfman) and been nominated five other times. In fact, he is responsible for the fact that the creators of Norbit can honestly refer to the film as an Oscar-nominated piece of cinema.

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How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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Live Smarter
How to Make Sure Your Child’s Halloween Costume is Safe
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For kids, Halloween is a time to let their imaginations run wild and offers them chance to inhabit some of their favorite characters. For parents, it’s a time to make sure their children don’t gorge on candy and that costumes don’t pose any unnecessary dangers. Owing to poor production quality or design, some outfits and masks hold the potential for tripping, skin irritation, or—very rarely—becoming a fire hazard, ABC News reports.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are a few ways to mitigate those risks. When shopping for costumes, look for nylon or polyester materials or tags that indicate the material is flame-resistant. Flimsy fabrics, particularly in outfits with long sleeves or big skirts, might brush up against candles and ignite.

Mobility is another concern: If a costume has a long skirt, it shouldn’t interfere with walking. Masks shouldn’t significantly obstruct vision and should provide ample ventilation; kids should be advised to lift them up when crossing streets to make sure they can see crossing traffic. For trick-or-treating after dark, reflective stripes on treat bags can help visibility for passing motorists.

Kids who get together to try on one another’s costumes pose a less serious, though potentially troublesome, hazard: head lice, which can be passed from sharing masks and costumes. If your child plans on exchanging disguises, sealing the costumes in plastic bags for 48 hours or drying them on high heat for 45 minutes should kill any pests.

[h/t ABC News]


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