With the start of a new season of the Cult Film Club I thought it was high time that I started posting some more fun Top Five lists. I thought it would be fun to revisit the glowing theme from my first CFC Top Five, except instead of taking a look at awesome glowing characters I’m gonna go through the list of my favorite mysterious glowing objects. More specifically my top five favorite glowing boxes. Weird sure, but after re-watching Ghostbusters and remembering how much I love the ghost traps the idea for a list of cool glowing boxes has been in the back of my mind. Before I get into the final list I wanted to give a shout out to a couple of honorable mentions that didn’t make the cut, the Lament Configuration (Cenobite puzzle box) from Hellraiser and the Tesseract from Captain America (and The Avengers.) Both awesome glowing boxes, but I kind of wanted to focus on boxes that had lids and either sucked junk inside or unleashed some sort of eerie power from beyond! Again, weirdly specific, I know. So, talking about Ghostbusters, let’s segue on to the first box on the list…
#5 The Ghost Trap – Ghostbusters 1984
As I mentioned, the ghost trap from Ghostbusters got me thinking about this list. Of all the gadgets from the flick, this is probably one of my favorites because it’s one of the most mysterious (in conjunction with the main containment unit at the firehouse HQ.) Part of this is because it has a sort of “bag of holding” quality where it’s bigger on the inside (though I’m not sure an argument can really be made for ghosts having any real mass or size), and part is because I’m super curious what it’s like inside this little ghostly prison. According to the credits sequence of the cartoon these traps can hold a whole horde of ghosts up to and including the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Also, the trap test sequence has one of my favorite dryly-delivered Ramis/Egon lines: “…I looked at the trap Ray…” Always cracks me up…
#4 Marsellus Wallace’s Briefcase – Pulp Fiction 1994
Probably the second most well known glowing box in film history, Marsellus Wallace’s briefcase is also probably one of the most mysterious when it comes to its contents. Fans have been crafting theories since the film debuted ranging from logical – a mountain of diamonds that were stolen by the crew in Tarantino’s first flick Reservoir Dogs (it’s possibly Mr. Pink escaped with the loot, though unlikely, to the very illogical – Wallace’s soul. According to co-writer Roger Avery during the scripting it was intended to be a stash of diamonds, but since Tarantino already used that with RD, he ditched that idea and went with a full on MacGuffin. Someone in the design crew got the bright idea (pun fully intended) to stash a light bulb in the case and voila, cinema history (and one heck of an homage) were born.
#3 The Ark of the Covenant – Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981
If the briefcase is the second most popular glowing box in cinema history, than the most well known has to be the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders of the Lost Ark. In terms of mysterious glowing boxes, this one will literally melt your face off! Well, if you’re a Nazi that is, and dumb enough to stare into its illuminated foggy depths.
#2 The Great Whatsit – Kiss Me Deadly 1955
About seven or eight years ago my best friend Kevin and I embarked on a quest to watch a bunch of film noir so that we could acquaint ourselves with some older B-movie classics. There were definitely flicks from that list that I enjoyed, but the one true standout for me was a little film starring Ralph Meeker as Mike Hammer called Kiss Me Deadly. Filmed during the waning years of noir, the flick follows Hammer as he’s pulled into a world of crazy women, gangsters, and a seriously mysterious box that is hot to the touch and coveted by all. Though it’s never reveled what exactly is in the box, the general consensus is that it’s some sort of nuclear material or bomb component, and it’s totally my favorite MacGuffin in film history (which was the basis for the Pulp Fiction briefcase homage I mentioned earlier.)
#1 Dr. Frank Parnell’s ’64 Chevy Malibu – Repo Man 1984
Though not strictly a box perse, the crazy killer Chevy Malibu from Repo Man is by far my favorite glowing “container” on film. I don’t want to give too much away on this as I hope to cover this flick during season two of the CFC, I will say that this is probably the cult-iest of all the mysterious glowing boxes of cinema.
So, how about you guys and gals? Any favorite illuminated MacGuffins?