Category: HORRIBLE OPINIONS


BEACH BLOODY BINGO

Summer has become a time for Hollywood to release its blockbusters to eager audiences who would rather be inside then out. I remember reading movie ads in the paper proudly touting theatres having the wonders of air conditioning. Movies about summer are another bottle (now comes in a tube) of suntan lotion as they have all but disappeared. I speak of those beach party films; those drive in specials when you didn’t really watch all of the film or a Saturday matinee like THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH made in 1964 by Del Tenney

The horror film, alien invasion film, war film, biker film, silly musical, and sword and sandal epics were yours, all for one ridiculously low price. Most adolescent boys ended up re-enacting the fights outside the theatre and sometimes during the next feature. THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH sums the genre up for me. You can write many articles of this film style and I probably will later on as believe it or not each is derivative yet different at the same time, which is the charm.

It has an interesting history to it, along with a cheesy man in a rubber suit monster that we all put down yet enjoy with comfort compared to what passes for today’s horror. It contains all the components of those films such as the motorcycle gang, the hot rodders, the rock and roll band, the beach itself, the love story and the clean cut hero.

The plot of this film is not important to its charm, just that it is executed with what was thought to be a precision that became the exploitive style. The short running time of 78 minutes made it possible to fit into those Saturday matinee and drive-in venues. A short running time also meant more showings in regular cinema house although I suspect THE HORROR OR PARTY BEACH was booked into those “B” and “C” circuit places- almost grindhouse style. It was paired with another Del Tenney production THE CURSE OF THE LIVING CORPSE. Both pictures were marketed in the William Castle showman tradition of having audience members sign a, ‘fright release,’ coupled with newspaper ads stating: “For your protection! We will not permit you to see these shockers unless you agree to release the theater of all responsibility for death by fright!”

The history of THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH is that in fact it was not shot in California as inferred but in Stanford, Connecticut with beach scenes done at a place called Shippan Point. The biker gang in the film was an actual gang from Riverside, Connecticut called the Charter Oak Motorcycle Club. The Del-Aires were an actual band from Paterson, New Jersey who wrote three of the songs (Drag, Wiggle Wobblin’ and Elaine), and performed all six songs in the film. Edward Earle Marsh composed the film’s soundtrack; Wilfred Holcombe is credited as the musical director. Marsh and Holcombe wrote the other three songs that are performed in the film: “Joy Ride”, “The Zombie Stomp,” and “You Are Not a Summer Love.”

One of the monster suits made for the film apparently shrunk so that the hired actor could not fit into it, paving the way for production assistant Ruth Glassenberg Freedman’s son, Charles, who was 16 at the time, fit perfectly into the suit and thus portrayed a monster in the film.

The charm of these pictures is the naivety of the story and the people. Those activities such as slumber parties took place. Girls would sit around listening to 45 rpm records, giggle, and dream about boys. Not much has changed as it is interesting to note that in the HALLOWEEN , FRIDAY THE 13TH and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchises, the derivative of girls dreaming about the ‘evils’ of sexuality or indulging sexual relations out of wedlock became victims of the monster as a penalty for these impure thoughts.

These pictures also featured the ‘lantern jawed hero’- in this case portrayed by the James Franciscus look- a- like John Scott – who tries to work with the adults of the film to combat the monsters. These begs for speculation about typecasting as Franciscus was making a name for himself on television in the role of teacher in MR NOVAK which led to him being brought to Hollywood in 1964 to star in the picture, YOUNG BLOOD HAWKE.

These pictures usually have the rebel hero such as early Steve McQueen in THE BLOB as an outsider trying to convince the authorities that the menace exists, only then working together do they defeat the monster. Hank Green works with the authorities of the film in the person of Doctor Gavin (Allan Laurel) to discover the creatures vulnerability to ‘metallic sodium’ instead of being the brooding, social outcast teen.

An indulgent side light to these pictures for me is watching some cool cars and bikes in action. You get to see cities as they were in perhaps a simpler time. For example, Hank Green’s speedy drive to New York City passing through Central Park and Time Square. The fashions and the hair styles are also worth a look in these shows if you are into these things.

It took me a few years to see this picture as I learned about it in the Warren Magazine publication photo book in which frame blowups were captioned like comics. One of my childhood friends, Stanley, kept calling it THE HORROR OF THE BEACH PARTY which leads me to believe perhaps he did not like rock and roll or beaches that much at that time.

You can laugh at it, poke fun at it, yet it is a fact that it and films of this nature were made and seen by a segment of the public which is more than can be said of some lofty concept ideas of large studios or independents. Just because you don’t have major backing does not mean your film is not strong nor does having big money and the ‘Hollywood machine’ behind a project does not guarantee success. THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH is simply there fulfilling its purpose to make money for the company utilizing available people and sets of a time which it is still doing.

GODZILLA !!!!!

Some things are simply made to be seen on the large screen and some large things are made for the same reason. The original GODZILLA or Gojira is one of these momentous beasts. I had the good fortune of attending a screening of this 1954 classic in glorious black and white at the Egyptian theatre in LA at the 2014 TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL. I thought it deserved larger post then I was able to do.

I was not born when this picture came out in 1954 and it took me a number of years to see the original cut on DVD. I did see the North American version featuring those infamous inter cuts of fellow Canadian Raymond Burr (born in New Westminster, B.C.), playing American reporter Steve Martin. Gojira functions on three levels making it a more interesting picture in scope, story and execution.

Film reflects the society that produces it. The theme of atomic testing and its repercussions that were spilled upon the earth to hasten the end of the Second World War are woven throughout. It has also been written that Gojira has an undercurrent of guilt for this country leveling destruction. The creature is a metaphor for the real life annihilation that was only a few years in the past. The main difference in Gojira is the terror comes from local legend – not an outside force as shown when an Island elder recounts the story of creature to ridiculing people. This moment mirrored real life as Japanese fishing vessel Fukuryu Maru with 23 crew members was caught in the radioactive fallout of a detonation off Bikini Atol. Dr. Yamane is the voice of reason in the picture, listening to the elder’s story and leading the research with an open mind. This changes as he learns more.

The initial evidence that Gojira is alive in the film begins at night on raging seas and later in a typhoon where we see footprints, lending a haunting quality to the film. Like most good monster pictures it is not the creature itself that is the real story instead it’s the effect it has on people caught in its influence. Vignette on the train at night in the rain as two people talk; one makes reference that they survived the Hiroshima blast when it is learned Gojira is on direct path to Tokyo. A weeping woman sitting near a wall, holding her baby saying that, “They will soon be with their father,” as the city is destroyed around them by Gojira are missing from the North American print. Audiences in the rest of the world did not want to put a face to what had happened. The moments showing the vista of the firestorm burning Tokyo plus the hospital with injured people being tended to are eerie reminders of a not too distant past.

The second story is that of a re-occurring theme in fifties Science Fiction film of science taking responsibility for its actions and consequences. A rogue researcher Serizawa has discovered a way to remove oxygen from the ocean. This is knowledge solemnly terrifying to him and the opposite in others when he demonstrates it in a small aquarium eliciting a horrible shriek from Emiko. Women still scream and men act stoic with an interesting exception in a city council scene in which a female councillor chastises her male counterpart for lack of action and hiding the truth from the public of the Gojira menace.

The third story is a love story involving Dr. Yamane’s daughter Emiko, who wants to end an arranged marriage to Serizawa in favour of sea going sailor Ogata. Serizawa is the loner; moody, physically scarred scientist, living in a large house who is tortured with the fact he discovered the oxygen destroyer formula. The traditional lifestyle meets the technological new world. Ogata respects Serizawa enough to regret inflicting this shame on him, yet the scientist is too preoccupied in his research to care that his relationship has ended. Many couples altered or went ahead with marriage plans in the face of the Second World War.

The responsibility of great power brings about the end of the film. The formula for removing oxygen from the oceans is thought to be the only way the destroy Gojira when conventional weapons fail. Dr .Yamane urges saving the creature to find out how it survived atomic testing, which is refreshing since it always seems we have kill the monster to re-establish the status quo.

Gojira’s demise is handled with great respect and the oxygen destroyer is deployed in a surreal sequence of floating divers. Serizawa sacrifices himself as he knows that the oxygen destroyer formula is still in his mind – something he cannot bear. The bubbles, the withering of Gojira all make a poignant end that as we know wasn’t really the end as a durable film franchise started. None of the films that followed from Toho Studios and Director Ishiro Honda had the same impact for me on as the original version.

The North American Version GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS, changed the story to a monster stomp epic thought to be more acceptable for the mass market.

The scenes of a proud society with dignity and ceremony are in this film along with Dr. Yamane warning that further testing will unleash more monsters. This was post-war Japan – a society on the verge of a new era of prosperity-which would go on to produce a cycle of these destruction pictures along with some of the most graphically violent films in the horror and gangster genres. The dichotomy that is both versions of the film is very pronounced. Recommend seeing GOJIRA in limited widescreen release if you can. Looking forward to the new version in 2014.

(Photos courtesy of TOHO PRODUCTIONS and RIATO PICTURES)

THE NOTES FROM HELL

“A house is not a home without music, mood music. When lights are low and all is still. The songs from the HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN settle over you. It makes you a real cut up.”

The above quote is part of the original narration introduction as performed by Bob MacFadden from the album THEMES FROM HORROR MOVIES by Dick Jacobs and his orchestra. The album this came from was one of the first to feature music from the horror genre. The record is also one of those signposts for us “Monster Kids” as it was the first time this style of music could be held in our skeletal hands.

Before that, there was the “Monster Mash” by Boris Pickett and the Crypt Keepers. You could get TV horror host John Zacheley’s records of “spooky rock and roll,” all released between 1960 to 1963 -the beginning of the monster boom on television. ‘Serious records’ followed; mostly sound effects records such as CHILLING THRILLING SOUNDS FROM A HAUNTED HOUSE which is still available in some shape today. The Forry Ackerman penned AN EVENING WITH BORIS KARLOFF AND HIS FRIENDS was also available. These were all pretty cool selections but THEMES FROM HORROR MOVIES was the “real thing” : real music taken seriously to scare ourselves silly and it worked.

What of today’s music in horror pictures? Looking at some of the surveys of horror film music there is a propensity to mention only the main theme. The way that music is used throughout the film is a neglected form. Today, we have replaced memorable melodies with specifically recorded rock and roll (usually metal) tunes sprinkled about the film in order to boost soundtrack sales for the show or the band. The soundtrack for the Steven King picture MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE featured past AC/DC songs plus one specifically penned for the film, WHO MADE WHO.

I would like to go back in time to the early days of horror film music. Phantom of the Opera with Lon Chaney survives today in its many versions with many different film scores. The original music score and cues are lost except what is known is that most films used straight classical music pieces, and the Phantom used excerpts from the opera Faust. The surviving notes do say the premiere of the picture features music cues from D.W. Griffith’s BIRTH OF A NATION. Today the film has been re scored many times influenced by the Broadway musical not all the time in a dignified manner

Tod Browning’s DRACULA (1931) featured the theme from Sleeping Beauty Ballet over opening titles which is odd for a style in that the rest of the picture featured no music except for the Opera sequence. James Whale’s FRANKENSTEIN with the exception of its rousing opening theme was non-event with most of the film devoid of music except for village wedding reception. Sound pictures were in their infancy for capturing dialogue, and the microphones and consoles were sluggish and uneven until technology got better with use and development. Film music was window dressing for many except in the musicals.

WHITE ZOMBIE 1932 (Discussed in fully another post) featured a rather lively yet again classical inspired musical score for such a dark themed story. One could argue that the score was used to lighten the tone of the film as perhaps Lugosi and the story of control of the dead was deemed too frightening for the audience.

The first great score in the horror genre was BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935). The score by Franz Waxman set the gold standard for film scores at that time in this style. The music aided the story with the ominous five note monster theme signalling Karloff’s appearance to the church organ used in the hermit sequence to create the pious atmosphere. The highlight of the score is the creation of the Bride herself with the heart beat tones and pastoral tones complete with chimes as a parody of the wedding bells as the Bride is presented to the world. Waxman follows with the frantic building of horns and violins – stroking almost Bernard Hermann style – as the tower’s destruction unfolds. This score is much studied by film music people and is considered a classic.

Throughout the monster cycle UNIVERSAL STUDIOS found it necessary to recycle key musical parts as a cost cutting measure yet produce many fine film scores. T like SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939) by Frank Skinner which was reused in some serials that the studio also produced.

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN 1943 features a full song called FARO-LA FARO LI performed by villagers in which Larry Talbot reacts strongly to its sentiment of eternal life. The use of that song does not seem out of place as musicals were flourishing and everyone had a voice, even if it wasn’t your own. The songs again lift the mood of the film while furthering the plot.

Glossing over things slightly, the science fiction genre at Universal with CREATURE FORM THE BLACK LAGOON, THE ISLAND EARTH, THE DEADLY MANTIS, THE MOLE PEOPLE, all featured some (no pun intended) haunting melodies. Studios such as 20th Century Fox gave us the iconic score by Bernard Herrmann for THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951). Louis and Bebe Barron created a score of electronic tonalities for the classic FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956), which inspired one of my favourites, the theme from FANTASTIC VOYAGE (1966), and later the big budget BLADE RUNNER(1982) by Vangelis.

The 1950s films brought out the idea that the teenager was the market for much of film style you find so derivative yet exciting scores sprinkled in with rock and roll which was on the rise.

The subject of the music of HAMMER FILMS from the fifties to the seventies is the subject of greater article study. These pictures from CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, X THE UNKNOWN, THE GORGON (With its haunting soprano vocals in the opening theme), and THE DRACULA SERIES all raised the bar for instilling fear. It should be noted that soundtracks of the scores of these films be it simply the themes or the full scores were great sellers on the cd market. I have often wondered when attending Halloween concerts why this music is not played again with full orchestra instead of the umpteenth version of the Bach Toccata fugue. The music of HAMMER FILMS is brilliant, engaging, and challenge to play yet simply perhaps not as well known on this side of the ocean.

This whirl wind look brings me back to the modern age of the horror film. There is a whole other section of music linked to horror in the spawn of horror pop, psychobilly, death metal, black metal and horror punk some of which finds its way into film.

Two of my favourite film scores 1960’s films scores come from controversial Roman Polanski for THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1967) with its unnervingly haunting use of vocals in the theme plus its entire score is a direct homage to HAMMER FILMS which was still going strong. ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968) also directed by Polanski for again its Lullaby theme which has a note of dread as sung one of the film stars Mia Farrow plus the use of discordant notes through out the film created the sense that these events are off kilter. This use of discordant material was not seen till it was revived in THE EXORCIST with its slashing string instruments and actual religious chant in the prologue.

Today we have lost the emphasis for the horror film score. The sellable theme or rock and roll tune inserted into action is the new normal. If you can’t sell the actual sound track, why not boost it with a popular tune? Sometimes, you will also find band members actually part of the film or the television series. I remember the massive selling album TUBULAR BELLS from composer Mike Oldfield which was used in the genre shaking, THE EXORCIST (1973). The actual piece used was very short yet an entire album was built around it including some demonic growls mixed with some aggressive guitars.

The film scoring of the horror genre has been neglected with a few exceptions, such as ALIEN (1982) by Jerry Goldsmith. I may have missed some examples, yet I feel music needs to be revived. Many people don’t go to these films today for the music. Somewhere out there, there are notes waiting to be woven together into a chilling film score. These are the ‘musical notes from Hell’ we wait for.

THE HORROR OF IT ALL

I wanted to write on ‘Classic Horror’ in film, television, and literature and in areas that these images touch. We can look on our breakfast table and see Count Chocula, Frankenberry and Boo Berry cereals. The ‘monsters’ become ‘friends’ that you marvel at as you appreciate the mythology. It is why I am reluctant to discuss the ‘new horror’ that is produced today. I find most of the film, television and books to be offensive to my sensibilities of taste and story.
People have approached me when they learn I have an interest in this and get annoyed when I don’t seem that interested in watching BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974) over the holidays. I would actually prefer to see MAD MONSTER PARTY (1967) or NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993).

There is a line of demarcation between horror fans who want to see graphic blood and gore which started in the sixties with the films of Mario Bava, and those of Hammer Studios that continue today in a more amplified version. The horror film becomes an episode of endurance, self- torture and self-documentation. Post your photo of your scared friends. Appear in an on camera promo for the film you just saw outside the theatre. It is more than a ramped up version of William Castle exploitation techniques. Who will be the first to turn away from what is seen on the screen? Who will endure what is being done to a person as part of some strange ritual of passage between the audience and the film makers? I find nothing interesting in the sub genres of horror particularly in Asia and Europe such as torture porn, medical torture or cannibal holocaust style pictures. Do we have such a need to feel superior that we need to watch these acts being perpetrated on others and then walk away?

I am not charting the naïve course through the world of horror in general. On the contrary, I am showing or hope to show the inadequacies of some of what is produced today. Today’s audience is vastly different in temperament, mobility, income, and technology from those of the past. There should be a change in audiences as the years advance. There should be new points of view, new ideas, and new ways of doing things and what follows are new audience requirements.
I wrote some of that in a posting regarding how fans get up to the minute information today as opposed to having to wait for one of two magazines that came out each month. Some people are more in love with the act of information gathering then the content they receive. Every film update, every new advance, not need to be thrust upon us but it is by the film makers, the studios, the effects people in order to sell that all important next thing. Get those bums in the seats, grind them silly and get them buying the Blu ray or DVD.

Today’s audience is not motivated like the audience of yesteryear. They go to watch the acts of decadence, dismemberment, CGI indulgence to experience an endurance test from the safety of the theatre chair. They read online on some sites the number of kills in a picture and the way things are done. No way does this cause as some people say the sudden outbreak of violence we see and read about in the newspapers and television. We make our own monsters through other means that are not the subject of a film blog. I have wondered if today’s audience of the horror film really watches what is on the screen. I will say they don’t and if they do, what do you see that makes you come back?

This is not a giant retort against everything new in the horror genre, or some pining for the good ole’ days. It is about perspective, it is about message, it is about value that has changed in a genre that has in many cases become derivative. How much longer can the ‘zombie’ craze go on? How much longer can the high school vampire stories continue to be produced? The answer is simply as long as people keep going to see them. The basic formula of that part of film making has not changed since the days of Lon Chaney, Lumieire Brothers and Thomas Edison. The upside to it all is that the genre of horror has entered the mainstream commercial consciousness. The work is exposed to a wide audience causing many people to begin developing as film makers, writers, actors, directors and effects people. The downside is now that everyone has a script, everyone does effects, and, as we all know, everyone has a camera. One hopes that amidst all that is being produced that new talent will rise up from the rest.

I suggest people learn to use the information from the net, actually read it and be concerned with the content. The new films are a manifestation of our accelerated, immediate gratification, crisis photo op, watch/read what is called popular in spite of not understanding it society. We all seem to want the payoff then onto the next thing. Why not stay a while, smell and taste the coffee?

Lastly I find it personally difficult to watch many of the newer films because they show a side of society that is best seen by the unlikely few such as homicide police, mental health professionals, animal/ humane society people and child welfare workers. One does not need to watch torture porn film when one can live it as the stories of the confinement and abuse come to light. One does not need to see people such as Paul Bernardo (Search the name it if you don’t know) on screen as their stories onscreen would pale in the soul destroying they have done. How many times have you heard the phrase, “It was just like a Hollywood movie?” You couldn’t write what happens in real events into a film since you would never believe it. Those that really experience the blackness of the human monster are in a film they can never walk away from.

Some of the newer pictures of this genre that I have enjoyed to a point in no particular order are THE OTHERS (2001) , LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008) and the remake LET ME IN (2010), HOUSE (1986), HOUSE 2 (1987), HAUSU (1977). WOMAN IN BLACK (2012) , HENRY PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (1986), RE ANIMATOR (1985), EVIL DEAD (1981), EVIL DEAD 2 (1987), THE FRIGHTENERS (1996), SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004) and FRIGHT NIGHT (1985). Just because you can show everything doesn’t mean you should. The monsters in the blog are my friends with a sense of history and I hope they will be yours.

When I set out to do this blog, I gave myself the deadline of one article per week, alternating between NITRATE FROM THE GRAVE and the Classic Hollywood Blog STARDUST and SHADOWS. I said I would write what I thought would be interesting in each on that time frame. Sometimes I had half formed ideas. Other times I thought I would be regurgitating what others had said regarding a film or an idea. Since some of the best monsters are patchwork being I thought I would settle this instalment into fragments that had crossed my mind.

I recently sat down one evening and enjoyed a wonderful print of WHITE ZOMBIE (1932) with Bela Lugosi and Madge Bellamy. I saw this picture years ago in what I recall as a very poor print, possibly 16 mm. The moment when Lugosi (in what I think is one of his best roles; although some will say it is little more than DRACULA different eyebrows and beard) menaces the film hero by calling down his band of zombies, “For you, my friends, they are the Angels of Death.”

I was surprised by the quality of the print and the atmosphere of the sets; even if they were borrowed from Universal studios by the Halpern Brothers, later released by MGM. The scream of the ravens were piercingly similar to a human scream. The musical score was refreshingly different from other 1930s horror pictures. The closest parallel is the piano hypnotism scene in HOUSE OF DRACULA (1945)in which the music becomes a seductive force between John Carradine’s Dracula and his possible victim.

There was a recent theatrical restoration of the WHITE ZOMBIE, which this print could had been a part or from the recently released blu-ray. Lugosi’s performance is full of grand theatrical gestures, all well and good as it was the acting style of the time especially for one from European theatre.
The end of the helpless zombies on the cliff stuck me as being quite sad and correct considering what was happening. I will not reveal any spoilers for those that want to see it for the first time. I would be interested to see this picture on the wide screen in a 35 mm print, not just a projection of a blu ray or DVD.

I find I am fascinated with the news regarding releases from HAMMER FILMS. I speak particularly of DRACULA (1958) and CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1956) both of which have not been released in Canada yet I have viewed them both. Now much to my happy gnashing teeth on Blu-ray, we have THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, VAMPIRE CIRCUS and DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS and FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN released or soon to be on this planet.

A pleasure was to get “Dracula fangs’ if you were a boy or ‘zombie eye glasses,’ if you were a girl upon entering the theatre to see DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966). I was told that they were all gone when I went which is a tough thing for a young person to swallow yet I moved on. The film itself, featuring a dopey performance by Christopher Lee as a mute Count, reduced to hissing and gazing with vile glee, is stolen by Barbara Shelly. I had hoped that the mute Count would not suffer the fate of the mute Frankenstein Monster, as in GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942), and end up speaking in the voice of Bela Lugosi. That would have be interesting to hear as we get two Draculas for the price of one and a remarkable feat since Lugosi had been dead for ten years in 1966.
The transformation of Barbara Shelley’s character from prim, proper lady to lustful creature of the night is remarkable as she uses her wiles to be “invited in”.

The other aspect of this film for me is the wonderful opening sequence of the funeral procession, dramatic entrances followed by some snappy dialogue between the Kent brothers, their wives, and Father Sandor played by booming Andrew Keir. Good solid mix of personalities, body types and style make it a fun scene to watch with just enough dialogue to tell us who these people are. The resurrection scene in the crypt instigated by Klove the butler is simply not to missed . DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS is more story of the vampire’s effect on people and a village; which is a slightly new perspective. Urban legend has it that Lee refused to say the ridiculous dialogue as it was written and wanted more money so his screen time was cut.

BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960) is actually the sequel to the 1958 version has been released on bluray is also in this same vein (yes, I said it) of the effect of vampires on a group of people. Peter Cushing did not battle Christopher Lee as Hammer found they could not afford both of them. The result was again a very credible if not more insidious film with darker subject and a truly suave deliciously evil Baron Meinster played David Peel. Take a look at Mr.Peel when you view the film and wonder where Robert Pattinson’s look got some inspiration. For my money while I find them all interesting I wait to see DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE and TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA on blu ray.

Finally as we enter this festive season of holidays for some and work for most of us I say that in spite of my enjoyment of things macabre in the Cinema, I say shut off your televisions and be with your family and friends if you can. If you are not able to do that by circumstance, then may I suggest you curl up with a good book of Ghost stories and your favourite beverage(s). Yes, it’s not technically cool, you can use a e-reader, it is still best to read the stories by candlelight or better still a Hurricane lamp.

Engage your mind in something that is not electronically pounding – the enjoyment of the simple printed word in paper form. Visit a second hand book shop or check your local library and watch the rich history that ghost stories have especially at Holiday time. Take in the likes of H.P Lovecraft, Sheridan La Fanu, Charles Dickens, William Hope Hodgson, Lord Dunsany and my personal favourite Algernon Blackwood. Invite them into your home for the holidays when the snow is blowing and you can’t see anything outside. When all is quiet and you are alone with your thoughts.

Curl up and be entertained.

STARDUST AND SHADOWS
Classic Hollywood Blog

https://glitterbest52.wordpress.com/

QUALITY OF MADNESS

One of the staple images that cross over between horror and science fiction is the ‘mad scientist.’ That character could manifest as part of mainstream cinema; for example, the sinister pharmaceutical company in THE FUGITIVE. The medical industry as a whole is the evil ogre in countless novels, stories, and television series. And even the news. Every film goer has their favourite. My favourite for his portrayal amongst mad scientists is Lionel Atwill.

Today, Lionel Atwill completely overlooked except by those who watch these sorts of pictures for the love alone. We delight at Dwight Frye in DRACULA, although I prefer him in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN in a rather ruthlessly edited part. Lionel Atwill is always in a brilliant supporting role.
My first contact with Atwill came out of the long playing record called AN EVENING WITH BORIS KARLOFF AND HIS FRIENDS. I purchased it from a bin in an Ottawa department store because it had a hole punched out of the record cover. This brought its price to a grand total of $2.00. I still have that record. I listened to it many times including the monologue that Atwill spoke regarding his unfortunate childhood encounter with the Frankenstein Monster in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939). I used it as an audition piece along with Colin Clive’s creation speech from FRANKENSTEIN (1931) It was many years before I saw the SON OF FRANKENSTEIN on television that I saw the full impact of the speech.

Lionel Atwill was a classically trained staged actor born in Croyden, England. His booming voice and modulated delivery of lines made him able to play bullying, brusque authoritative characters and aristocrats. Atwill played opposite Errol Flynn in CAPTAIN BLOOD (1935), and went to being opposite Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable in BOONTOWN (1940). He made total of nine films.
The role of Dr. Otto Von Nieman in THE VAMPIRE BAT (1933) is the most significant provider of lunatic logic. No one delivers this style in quite the same way. Colin Clive in FRANKENSTEIN (1931) utilized a style of controlled frenzy, punctuated by bouts of arrogance and resolution, captured in the famous cut line,” I want to know what it’s like to be a god. This is delivered in a laughing way to the heavens that is mocking and at the same time triumphant over rational thought. (Video note. The overt Christian view point in this presentation is not of my choosing. I am not a creationist.)

Atwill’s read on the character is different; as is his quality of madness. In the film, he shows no remorse. There is only a finality that he had done the deed, as he spouts off his claims to a shocked Fay Wray. Interesting that Clive’s performance was two years previous to Atwill in THE VAMPIRE BAT (1933) and two years before a more sedate, manipulated Henry Frankenstein makes his appearance in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935).

Lionel Atwill went on to do variations of this role in MAD DOCTOR OF MARKET STREET (1942) to another favourite of mine; the role of the wax sculptor Ivan Igor MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM (1933). It changes the face of madness to obsession to re-create and preserve Art. This picture features a particularly grotesque scene as one watches wax figures slowly dissolve in the heat of a fire. Tame today, yet symbolic as the figures melt their faces elongate and distort we see the destruction of the human form. Here is the raw material for the re-creation.

Lionel Atwill’s personal life had its share of tragedy and drama. His career was cut short by a famous sex scandal involving a wild party, naked party guests, under age girls, and pornographic films. This was an all too common occurrence as many young women – usually with their family in tow – pursued the Hollywood dream of stardom by frequenting parties usually kept secret. Atwill had the nickname of ‘Pinky’. To be invited to one of his parties was a secret social event of apparent renown. Legend has it the party was found out as one of the underage girls testified to being assaulted. Atwill perjured himself on the stand to protect the guests and was sentenced to five years probation . His film career was effectively finished in the age of morals clauses in contracts. Thereafter, he could only find work in so called ‘poverty row’ studios and serials, dying in 1946 of lung cancer.
Hollywood says it doesn’t judge yet it does often harshly to the point of career extinction or alteration as in the case of Errol Flynn. Flynn was acquitted on similar charge yet the stigma remained with him to his dying day hence the phrase from the time ‘in like Flynn.’ Many more of these incidents went unreported or were paid off by the studios that had great power. Such is the price of of madness.

MONSTERS FROM YOUR PAST

For those of you who have taken the time to read my bio on this blog you will know that I am a ‘Monster Kid” from way back. We face the fact that information is at our fingertips now with this wonderful tentacle entwining, tube filled creature called the internet. How easy it is to follow what the genre has to offer – both good and bad – with the right terms into a search engine. This is not a lament for the old ways; nor is it a condemnation of what this rapid retrieval system has to offer.

Years ago, it was about magazines and books. It is still is in some cases. I had the opportunity to visit a brilliant bookshop called STRAND on a recent trip to New York City. Ebooks are excellent for getting people to read as they make it convenient and cool to be seen holding up a device. There is nothing like the heft of the printed word in your hands as you cradle a volume be it from the library or bookshop. The important action is to engage the mind whatever way possible.

I hear you muttering, “What does all this have to do with horror?” Nostalgia for the magazines I see in shops now. Large glossy photos of some current film or the opposite end of the scale the almost fanzine look of some ‘classic horror’ papers crammed full of little print designed for those with good eyesight and the patience of Imhotep to read all the material.

Today’s Monster Lover gets their fix from digital editions available free or through payment site. Some of these offer “enhanced” enhanced extras with interviews and clips to be replayed again and again. It is a far cry from trundling to the nearest store in the snow to see if they have put out the latest copy of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, CREEPY, EERIE, MODERN MONSTER, VAMPIRELLA. Those black and white photos coupled with silly captions were the only connection to the classic and new film releases.

I purchased a slightly crappy dub of a film called HORRORWOOD which featured Forest J. Ackerman (Uncle Forry or Dr. Acula depending on who was speaking from his type writer) about FM in its formative years. Ackerman made us remember that ‘LON CHANEY SHALL NOT DIE’ ,‘LUGOSI LIVES ETERNAL’ and ‘KARLOFF IS KING’. FM magazine was the gateway that kept these elements of film history from being forgotten, adding momentum to the “monster boom” of the early sixties.
FM was glorious yet frustrating in some ways as being in Canada one could not order anything from Captain Company in the back of each issue. What self respecting Monster Kid would not want a “Full head Frankenstein” monster mask, or the “Screaming Skull?” Who would not want to own eight mm or subsequent super 8 mm fifteen minute versions of your favourite films? Long before home video came on the screen.

As a side note to this I did not learn about the lonely, short, tragic life of Dwight Frye in Famous Monsters but instead from a short run magazine called FOR MONSTERS ONLY produced by people who did the MAD magazine rip off “CRACKED” Those school nights of staying up late to watch programs like HORROR HOUSE which came on after the NEWS and HULLABALOO which was a music show plus A GO GO 66 with Robbie Lane and the Disciples as hosts (my first taste of rock and roll) at least where I was in Ottawa.

Memories of finding LP records in Friemans Department store of THEMES FOR HORROR MOVIES with Dick Jacobs and his Orchestra. I still have the copy in its original sleeve on Coral Records. This is not to be confused with today’s release of the same record which does not include the graveyard comedy intros to each selection by Mort Good. I was also lucky to find a copy of “AN EVENING WITH BORIS KARLOFF AND HIS FRIENDS” in the delete bin when they has such things in record shops for three dollars. That record was the first time I heard Bela Lugosi speak since I had to wait years to see FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA on the big screen in a double bill for three fifty.

 

Horror fans today have a lot to choose from as the genre has fragmented more than Christopher Lee destruction on any of the Dracula films. You have conventions, you have magazines, you have stars, directors and writers on Twitter that talk directly to fans. It is a changing landscape which shifts like something out of a story by William Hope Hodgson or Algenon Blackwood. It is filled with new ideas that blossom everyday which are communicated at the rattle of a keyboard.

I would very much like to recommend the site called simply THE CLASSIC HORROR FILM BOARD. It is a literate, free billboard site with many discussions on both film and literature. I cannot say enough about it and encourage people both alive and undead to join.

THE CLASSIC HORROR FILM BOARD link
http://monsterkidclassichorrorforum.yuku.com/directory#.UjkHMdKkrDQ

This is by no means a wishing for the good old days of Horror fandom when you had to get your material differently. Instead it is a pleasant journey or as the closing song for long gone and perhaps forgotten monster Saturday Morning cartoon MILTON THE MONSTER said ‘ Now let’s take a creepy trip down Horror Hill. Beware of the dangers along the way or you might take a spill.” Ha and we haven’t even touched those cartoons yet. Enjoy the ride.

ZOMBIES ARE GOOD FOOD

We live in time in which the Net can make someone (anyone) into a music star without even doing press, touring and getting the music heard by playing shows until you can’t stand up why should I be surprised that the zombies have literately risen to the forefront of the horror scene. Why do we see events like “zombie football” and “zombie walks” plus books, graphic novels, television series and of course a multitude of films.
The zombie as a horror archetype has been around much longer then the current craze has been in effect. The George Romaro original picture NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) along with its sequels have become the watershed for this craze. Zombies have been around in such pictures as WHITE ZOMBIE (1932) with Bela Lugosi and my personal favourite with the lurid title yet not a lurid film I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE(1943) Directed by Jacques Tourneur and Produced by Val Lewton. These pictures portrayed the zombie as a mindless creature doing the bidding of a master not the flesh eating beings we see now. The fear of the zombie was that you or your loved one would become a creature that would disappear forever not knowing who you were. Popular story is the zombie being closely linked with the practice of voodoo in which the belief the victim would work in sugar cane fields at night until they dropped again never to return to former life.

In World War 2, the men conscripted under the NATIONAL RESOURCES MOBILIZATION ACT or the NRMA who refused to “go active” were derisively called “zombies” both in Canada and overseas; Farley Mowat recalls in his volumes of war memoirs savagely disliking those who wore the uniform but refused to make the same sacrifices he and his brothers-in-arms were called on to make in Italy and North-West Europe. So how does all this bring us to the George Romero zombie idea?
I would like to continue with the reasoning out forth in the brilliant book THE MONSTER SHOW, A Cultural History of Horror by DAVID J SKAL. The book unfolds the idea that each monster archetype is the direct product of the current history of its time. Recommend you read the entire book for an interesting study.
I believe that the reason for the zombie being so popular with everyone is the it is a monster for “everyone”. It doesn’t come from the annals of history with lineage like the Mummy of the Vampire. It is not fabricated out of other part of bodies, appears under a full moon or a result of a potion. The zombie is monster that you don’t have to learn any background or have a particular garb. Zombies can be everyone and everything. “Instant gratification” for what you do without social convention without pretension.

The Zombie knows no age limit or sexual preference in fact it is the great equalizer of people. You can rich, poor, any body type, shy, an extrovert/introvert you get the disease or whatever is in the story and you become one. No hierarchy as in the Vampire such as a leader or other creatures only a common fountain head of a disease. The leaders are usually the unaffected humans being acted upon. Sort of anarchy against lawful behavior within a social framework. The ever present class system that “puts us in our place’ that some have in their lives by there appearance, family situation or monetary circumstances does not exist. When you are a zombie no one looks at your clothes. the car you drive or you home. Where it could actually inspire is an interest in learning make up, special effects, anatomy, art, graphic novel creation for a new generation of people from those that did the same from magazines like FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILM LAND and STARLOG MAGAZINE.

Zombies get to run a muck doing anything they want much like the people we see in the footage of riots or protests Zombies get to to eat all the time with out restriction in this world where what you eat, how you eat with proper manners. You can eat what you want without fear of gaining weight, making a mess, making a noise or fear of leaving something on your plate. You can also get to smash anything down that gets in your way without discipline.
Being a zombie in a ‘Zombie walk” or some such event means the person can be creative with their own appearance. Nothing is wrong when it comes to scars or mutilations except creative skill in applying and resources. You can tear any piece of clothing and it becomes a zombie costume. You get to do this and shuffle around with your friends grunting and screeching.

The Zombie is representative in our “consumer” society doing what it wants within a group yet still being an individual with one common goal of food. You even share a common mode of death (Shot to the head) with members of your gang. A”hungry vandal’ bent on running around the city or the world without care of time, space or obligation. Everything some people with an excess of responsibility, worry about their looks and weight in a regimented life of work or school with expectations for success. How could all that not appeal to people of all economic levels and statures even for a hour. Next time you see those hordes coming at you on the News or at an event remember they aren’t really lost souls just people letting themselves go which I believe is the universal appeal.