Showing posts with label monsters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label monsters. Show all posts

Friday, October 6, 2017

Halloween Watch 2017: The Mummy



I didn't mean to watch all of The Mummy (1932), but as so often happens, I did.

This Universal monster movie was one that, the first time I watched it, I loved the first ten minutes and then felt waning interest in everything but Zita Johann.  But, the past two or three times I've given those first few minutes a shot (because I love the opening), I've really changed my tune.  And, in fact, have to retract initial statements made about dull camera-work in comparison to the grand, gothic guignol of Dracula or the surrealist landscapes of the first three Frankenstein films.

The lighting, sets, and FX employed are far more deft than I'd originally wanted to give credit, and leave you in a murky place where you know Bey is employing mystical shenanigans, but it's hard to put a finger on what and how.  Add in Karloff's performance, as well as that of Johann, and you've got something that's been aped more in vampire movies than anywhere else the past 85 years.

Karloff is actually terrific as Imhotep/ Ardath Bey, and the overall effect of the picture is not so much horrifying as it is eerie and uncanny.  Unraveling the machinations of what he's up to (ripped off for the past thirty or forty years of Dracula movies), and it's good stuff.

Weirdly, TCM rated the movie TV-14, and for the life of me, I have no idea why.  This is one I'd watch with a kid aged 10 or up.  There's no blood, minimal on-screen violence, a lack of nudity or sexual innuendo...  But Mummies are scary, I guess.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Halloween Watch 2017: Theatre of Blood, Altered States, House of Dracula


Well, it's that time of the year, and we're watching movies about monsters and murders and transdimensional-psychotic states brought on by a rich cocktail of hallucinogens.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Basil Gogos Has Merged With The Infinite



If you're a Monster Kid of any stripe, you know the work of Basil Gogos. Whether from his work painting covers of Famous Monsters of Filmland to album covers, Gogos spent the back half of the 20th Century and early 21st Century as king of a niche others are just now entering - illustrative portraiture of cinematic marvels and monsters.

Yesterday I became aware of the news that Basil Gogos has passed beyond this veil of tears.  But of this I am certain - his work is now as much a part of Monster Movie fandom as the films, actors and creators.  His uncanny visuals have been wonderful additions to pop-culture and modern culture itself.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Kaiju Watch: Shin Godzilla (2016)



I had two failed attempts to see Shin Godzilla (2016) when it was released in October 2016 and then had a quick return to the screen around New Years 2017.  The first time something at work came up and I had to cancel.  The second time I went to see the movie with PaulT and Jamie and something was wrong with the film.  It started and a 1K tone was laid over the soundtrack to the movie.  Which was both awful and hilarious.  Anyway, they stopped the movie about three minutes in, we had this weirdly informal conversation with the manager about what we should do, and I got a couple passes to come back, but couldn't attend the next screening as it was my first day back to work after the holiday break.

And the more stuff I saw about the movie, the more goggle-eyed I became.  I really wanted to see this flick.

In case you don't know what Shin Godzilla is, essentially Toho Studios rebooted the Godzilla franchise from square one (it was also marketed in the US as Godzilla: Resurgence).  And if you've never seen Gojira, the 1954 Godzilla that is the Japanese version and lacks Raymond Burr (a) shaaaaaaame on you, and (b) fix that immediately.  It's a terrific film.  And aside from Godzilla 1985, Gojira is one of the only movies that's just about Godzilla (aka: Gojira) attacking Tokyo by himself and for mysterious reasons and is not fighting, say, Anguirus*.  Here, in a re-booted universe that's never heard of Godzilla, our scaly pal returns again for the first time to wreak just horrible, unthinkable havoc upon an unsuspecting Tokyo.

And it is really, really good.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Godzilla Man-In-Suit Actor Haruo Nakajima Has Merged With The Infinite



Harou Nakajima, the original Man-in-Suit, has passed.

Watching Godzilla movies will tell you that our gigantic, atomic-fire-breathing-pal had a definite personality.  And I think you can chalk a good chunk of that up to Mr. Harou Nakajima.

To get a better idea of what I mean, give those first few Godzilla movies a spin and watch as the big fella becomes more himself.  A sort of cranky giant who definitely has opinions.

I recently saw this video interviewing the actor.  It is absolutely inspiring and a testament to a certain mindset we could all stand to try on.








Saturday, April 1, 2017

Ape Watch: King Kong (1976)



With Kong: Skull Island checked off my "must see" list, I noted King Kong starring Jessica Lange was on Amazon Prime.

If ever a movie was a mixed bag, it's the 1976 version of King Kong.  It's a movie only the 1970's could have produced, still in the echoes of the pessimistic Planet of the Apes saga but brimming with the romanticism we'd see in Superman: The Movie and Star Wars.  It features two/ three stars busting out - nobody aware they'd become Hollywood icons - in Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange and Charles Grodin, who would go on to be Charles Grodin (and that is not a complaint).

But it's also a movie with a very good mask/ make-up on a guy in an ape suit, big animatronic hands, arms and legs for Lange to cling to, and a re-writing of the premise as an Energy-Crisis-conscious abandoning of the showbiz angle of the original for something about oil exploration.  And it really whittles down the wonder of Skull Island - dumping the dinosaurs in exchange for more dialog and human moments, severely diminishing the idea that this is an adventure film.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Artist Bernie Wrightson Has Merged With The Infinite



Artist Bernie Wrightson of Swamp Thing, Frankenstein and Cycle of the Werewolf fame, has passed.  He had been fighting cancer for some time.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Ape Watch: Kong - Skull Island (2017)




Box office numbers will give me the answer to the question "was anyone really wanting a new King Kong movie, let alone a re-imagined one?"  Because I really don't know.  Our theater was near sold out, but I had the distinct impression it was full of the kinds of movie goers who think picking what movie they'll see ahead of time is a waste of time - you just buy tickets for whatever is starting next.

King Kong, like Frankenstein, is one of those movie concepts that bled out into the pop culture to such a degree - it's just part of the cultural lexicon.  This in spite of the fact very few folks you talk to have actually sat through the original films.  But the imagery of both has become so iconic, the concepts both bizarre and yet easy to grasp and the metaphor so accessible... we all get it.  Giant apes and flesh golems tend to stick in the mind.

Weirdly, Kong: Skull Island (2017) arguably throws away all of that metaphor, telling a different story.  No more Ann Darrow, no John Driscoll, no showboating Carl Denham.  No more "'twas Beauty who killed The Beast."  This is a 1970's-era landing on Skull Island by a mix of government scientists and soon-to-be-done Army soldiers, rotating out of Vietnam and a whole lotta explosions.

The end result is also something altogether different, and that alone can take some getting used to.  You're in for two hours of fast-moving excitement, a razor thin script, name actors without much to do, and a Vietnam known only via high-profile filmic depictions.  All in all, Kong: Skull Island (2017) is maybe not what I was expecting, but it is visually stunning, entertaining, contains some pretty amazing FX and action sequences, and if you don't have a bunch of people talking behind you, is going to keep you glued to the screen for the run-time of the movie.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Godzilla Watch: Tokyo SOS


It's not often I watch a whole Godzilla movie.  I probably watched 3/4ths of about 3 or 4 of them last year, but they never showed up on my movie-list as I don't watch them from beginning to end.  Usually I stumble in 1/4 of the way in, have no idea what's happening, and just keep on watching.

And that's kinda too bad.

I never quite recovered from missing Shin Godzilla in the theater this year (twice I had tickets!  TWICE!), but over Christmas, the El Rey network celebrated the holiday with "Kaiju Christmas", which was something like 36 hours of Godzilla movies.  In fact, I wrapped up Christmas Day night watching the second half of Godzilla vs. Destroyah.

I'd never seen Godzilla: Tokyo SOS (2003), but heard it was a fun one, and, indeed it was.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Lust for a Vampire (1971)



Editor's Note (12/5/2016):  Sometimes we sort of half-watch a movie while we're on our computer, and sometimes we aren't paying correct attention.  This has, from time to time, meant that we've totally misunderstood plot-points, found movies unengaging, etc...  

I was a bit embarrassed to learn from someone via twitter that, despite the fact I thought Christopher Lee was in this movie, he is not.  Which is weird.  I like Christopher Lee.  I know who he is.  And I thought it extremely odd he was so lightly used in this film (see below).  Which puts me in a bit of a position.  What did I watch?  

The actor in question is Mike Raven, who bears a passing resemblance to Mr. Lee, especially in facial hair.  I'm now genuinely feeling like I did not give the movie a fair chance and may need to give it a whirl again to reconsider.  When I am wrong, I am wrong, and I try to be open to that idea, especially when I'm so rudely dismissive to a film, book, what-have-you.


Thanks to Judy Jarvis for the correction.



So, I hated this movie.

I was grabbing a few movies at Vulcan and was looking for Vampire Circus (which they literally only had on VHS, so...) or another Ingrid Pitt movie in their Hammer section and saw they had this sequel, and figured "ah, what the hell.  Why not?"  And, why not?, indeed.

I'd argue Lust for a Vampire (1971) is boring, overly long, devoid of even psychological drama, has dull leads, and is a poor successor to it's predecessor, The Vampire Lovers.   That movie was based on a novel with a few centuries under its belt, and, yeah, this was a fresh story about the same vampire coming back to life and being put in a girls' school.  But they replaced Ingrid Pitt as the lead character, which I was willing to accept, and forgot to not just write scene after boring scene where nothing happens.

So, Lust for a Vampire (1971), has some goofy love story where an author falls for Carmilla and so maneuvers his way into teaching at her girls' school where... I dunno.  It doesn't matter.  Even the sex scenes are awkward and boring, and the vampire scenes don't really exist.  Just turning over bodies to see puncture wounds.  AND, unbelievably, it features Christopher Lee and he's basically in a supporting role anyone could have filled in.  Maybe he was just hanging around?


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Halloween Watch: The Wolf Man (1941)


TCM was on a Universal Monsters sprint last night, and after the frighteningly monstrous loss by the Cubs in Game 3 of the World Series, I needed to chillax for a bit with some creepy mayhem.  I watched the last twenty minutes of The Invisible Man (a movie I always give short shrift.  It's really good.), and then moved into The Wolf Man (1941).

The Wolf Man is a movie of highs and lows.  It sets up a great mythology from whole cloth and the modern-age denial of werewolfism as the result of some psychic shock suffered by our tortured protagonist.  Of course all of these things are beats every werewolf movie since has imitated.  It contains Claude Rains and Bela Lugosi - even a young Ralph Bellamy.  I'm in the camp that likes the monster make-up, but the Wolf Man scenes are better in concept than execution, never really feeling like much more than a large guy manhandling people instead of a monster rending them apart.

It's kind of strange that Universal's 2010 go at rebooting this franchise was such a mess, because - this is a very simple movie.  Seems like it should have gone better than it did (I only really liked the bits in the medical college and then in the streets of London - and that felt more like a Landis-homage than anything to do with this movie).

It's certainly a crucial movie for getting monster movie history, and I still think it's very well realized.
But there's an elephant in the room by name of Lon Chaney Jr.  And that elephant isn't much of an actor.  I really want to like Chaney Jr., but he's playing on the same screen as Claude Rains.  There's just no comparison here, and his character spends most of the movie hitting on an engaged woman (I think I found your real wolf here).  I wish the scenes with the Wolf Man felt more full of menace, but no matter how well shot and well-lit those scenes are... man.  It looks like a hirsute lumberjack on a bender.



Monster Mash by Alex Ross


Alex Ross working on a Universal Monsters print set.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Halloween Watch: Critters (1986)



Back in the 1980's, I remember seeing a lot of movies like Critters (1986) on the shelf at the local home video rental shoppe.  The boxes would show you a goblin sort of creature, and promised a certain level of horror that wasn't necessarily going to go in for splatter and gore of a Chainsaw variety or even a Freddy Kreuger level of scare.  Maybe some broad humor in there, plots as basic as a Dukes of Hazzard episode.  It was always maybe a little gorier than a modern PG-13 film, but, in retrospect, there's no question that these movies were basically aimed at kids with VCR's.

There's nothing wrong with it, but I wasn't a fan of the sub-sub-genre.

I don't think I was exactly aware the movie was aimed at me as a 12 year-old-or-so as I was when I saw this movie the first time at someone else's house.  My recollection is that the kid was very excited about the movie Critters, and his dad showed up with the movie in hand "hey, I rented CRITTERS!" and I was like "y'okay..." whereas my pal couldn't have been more jazzed had we just been given a stack of fireworks to shoot off all night.  He loved the movie, and I just settled in, because... what are you gonna do?  So, I've seen it once before.

Point of fact - Jamie and I have been together 21 years this month, and I can't tell you how many times she's mentioned liking Critters as a kid.  Or, I guess, watching Critters as a kid.

And so it came to pass that when I said "well, we need to watch something Halloween-ish", she tossed out Critters, and as she has never, ever previously stated a desire to watch any Halloween movie but Young Frankenstein, I just said "y'okay..."

So, we watched Critters.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Halloween Watch: Night of the Demon (1957)


Back when I was a little kid, Jason and I had a few books on movie monsters, and among them was the book Super-Monsters by Daniel Cohen.

On the cover of the book was a really pissed-off looking monster that I kind of assumed was an off-brand Godzilla-type thing (I didn't know the word "Kaiju" until college), and didn't think much about it except that I wasn't sure what movie this monster was actually associated with.   Also, I don't know why my folks were like "hey, look, a snarling hell beast!  The kids'll love it!", but this was the 1970's and back then we were still raising our kids to be ready for anything.


The book had short entries about the plots of various monster movies, and I can trace my interest in those strange creatures to this book.  Even if this same book led me to believe Young Frankenstein was a very odd, badly made Frankenstein movie until I finally  saw it and clued into the Mel Brooks canon.

But I had no idea who the monster was on the cover of this book until about 5-10 years ago when I stumbled across some information about the British horror film, alternately titled Curse of the Demon and Night of the Demon (1957).    Last year I tried to watch this movie on or around Halloween, but realized I was exhausted and didn't pull it off.  And then my DVR went crazy and I lost the recording.

But this year, SimonUK brought it over, and with Steanso in tow, we all gave the movie a whirl.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Halloween Watch: Frankenstein (1931)



My Halloween viewing is a little slowed by the arrival of Luke Cage on Netflix, but Sunday night TCM presented a Frankenstein Triple Feature.  They'll be showing Frank movies all October on Sundays (and Christopher Lee, star of the month on TCM, will be Mondays, so check for Hammer Horror).

This year marks the 85th Anniversary of the release of James Whale's screen classic, Frankenstein (1931).   So, I appreciate the Franken-centric approach to Halloween that TCM is going for all month long.

Turner Classic kicked it off right with the three Frankenstein pictures that defined the monster and mad scientists for the 20th and early 21st Centuries.  They showed the Universal movies that started with the 1931 Universal feature, Frankenstein, starring Boris Karloff as "The Monster".  Then, of course, TCM went right into Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein.*

I've seen Frankenstein numerous times since first watching the film back in college, and I've written on the topic often enough that I've given Frankenstein it's own tag on the site.  I'm a fan, and I watch the movie at some point every October.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Comic-Con Trailer Discussion! DC, Marvel, Kong!



Randy suggested I take a look at the trailers that came out during Comic-Con, and while I haven't looked at every one of them, and some of them I have no opinion on in general (like the new Harry Potter), I guess I can do this fairly quickly and painlessly.


DC


Wonder Woman



I've already been asked how accurate this is to the original comics, but as one always has to say with DC comics and characters, in particular, the specifics aren't that important.  Especially trying to bring the character to the big screen in 2017 versus what the characters were like in their 1941 original first appearance.

The question needs to be:  how did they handle the origin in general (do the producers understand the character well enough to understand the importance and resonance of the most important details of the character), and what did they do to demonstrate that the character is not a new character masquerading as the titular character?

I am not expecting the poly-sexual, bdsm subliminal antics of the original comics to ever make the big screen (we can make arguments about Season 1 of the Lynda Carter show some other time).  This is the Wonder Woman of the Greg Rucka era, who still carries the lasso, but is like to pick up a sword and shield.  To avoid comparisons to her contemporary creation, Captain America, the origin story has been transported to WWI instead of WWII, a change which I feel doesn't exactly make sense for a downed aviator to find Themyscira by accident (the range on those flyers was not putting them out over the mid-Atlantic, and aircraft carriers barely existed at the time).

But, ignoring the logistics of aviation history, I have to say I'm as excited by this trailer as I likely am to be about anything spinning out of DC/WB's theatrical efforts.  Gadot isn't my first choice, but she seems fine in the part.  The action looks like it's not softened in the slightest and the Amazons are living up to their potential from the comics if this trailer is to be believed.

Like Captain America, the action is likely to move to the modern era for any sequels, which kind of begs the question "why set it in WWI when it's going to draw so many comparisons to Captain America?"  It's not like we've lacked for military conflict in the past 20 years.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Raimi Watch: Darkman (1990)


I don't believe anyone in the movie actually calls the main character "Darkman", btw

What to say about Darkman (1990)?

It's hard to categorize as "good", and I think my affection for it is rooted in nostalgia and the electric current I got seeing this very, very strange movie when I was 15.  It came out just shortly after I'd moved to Spring, TX, where I'd live from grades 10-12.  I was vaguely aware of a movie called Evil Dead 2 that you were supposed to see, but I hadn't seen it yet, and I'd never heard of Sam Raimi.  I just took Darkman for what I thought it was and what I'm sure the studio brass also thought they had: a royalty-free superhero movie they could make cheaply and quickly to ride on the coattails of Batman (1989) and America's awakening interest in superhero movies about "dark" heroes.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Franken-Watch: The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)


This year on the 80th anniversary of the release of The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), I wrote a post celebrating the film.   You're welcome to check out what I said there about the movie.

Each Halloween I now make it a habit to watch a string of horror films from across the past hundred years, and while the rest of what I'll watch I might change up, I always include the first two Frankenstein films from Universal Studios, Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein.  Of course I just watched Frankenstein (and I really do recommend catching these movies in the theater, when possible), but I found no listings for the movie here in Austin, so I busted out my BluRay copy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Halloween Watch: Revenge of The Creature (1955)

Firstly, yes, this movie absolutely features a very young Clint Eastwood as a scientist in a walk-on part.  My jaw was on the floor.

Secondly, there is no Julie Adams in this movie.  Lori Nelson is fine, but... yeah.

Thirdly, apparently you can see this movie as an episode of MST3K, so you know what I'm doing with my Thanksgiving break.



I literally have no idea why (a) it seems like Universal really struggled with making a good Creature of the Black Lagoon movie after the first movie, and (b) why someone hasn't remade a Creature movie in recent years when, frankly, the formula shouldn't be complicated.  He's a super strong lake-monster with claws and a penchant for destruction.  Get on it, Universal.

I promised myself I'd watch the two remaining Universal Creature sequels this Halloween season as I'd owned them for about 10 years and never watched them, always totally happy to watch the first film.  The first sequel screening went a little poorly.  For me.  But I'd watched the movies out of order, jumping from the stellar first to the third film which killed the franchise.

Tuesday evening I took in Revenge of the Creature (1955), a sequel released just a year after the 1954 original.

The logic of the set-up isn't that crazy.  We had survivors in the prior film, and the stories they told spawned interest in the Gill Man.  Thus, someone finances a hunting expedition of sorts to the Black Lagoon to capture or kill the creature and bring him back to civilization.  It was the middle of the 20th Century.  We could shoot or kill or displace whatever we wanted to for science.

Whereas the first film took place on the creature's home turf, we've duped ol' Gill Man into our trap and within 20 minutes we're somewhere in Florida in this movie, placing Gil in a tank at a proto-Sea World.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Halloween Watch: An American Werewolf in London (1981)



As An American Werewolf in London (1981) concludes, the screen goes dark, and then the following appears on screen:
Lycanthrope films limited wishes to extend its heartfelt congratulations to Lady Diana Spencer and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales on the occasion of their marriage - July 29th 1981
It's one of the oddest moments in an incredibly odd horror film, one that was part of the 1980's deconstruction of media tropes as the generation of film and media students got jobs in the world and Marshall McLuhan's ideas trickled into the zeitgeist.

The internet suggests that the tag regarding the marriage of Prince Charles is there as a sort of pre-emptive apology to Charles for hurling a homophobic slur at him in the course of a scene where our lead character is trying to get arrested, but it's also part of the undercurrent of the alien nature of an American in England, werewolf or not, that's part of the movie.  With England's somewhat stricter censorship rules of the time, perhaps that bit might have required an edit for a UK release.  I don't know.  But it's just one more bit of an American trying to behave himself in England and making a mess of it, as something that can't possibly be taken as anything less than an eye-rolling apology to propriety.  Frankly, I don't know how any American would meet such a congratulatory message with anything but a groan or chuckle at the end of a brutal werewolf rampage and Creedence blasting from the Dolby sound system.

You know, this is the same filmmaker who brought us Animal House just a few years before.

We didn't necessarily need to meet any particular criteria for what a horror movie was, anymore, Landis was saying.  We can be genuinely funny.  We can be snarky and a but subversive.  And we can be absurd.  But none of that, he seemed to be saying, really makes a good werewolf rampage any less horrific.  Just, you know, bizarre.