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

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Happy Birthday, Christopher Lee

Yesterday, May 27th was the birthday of actor and presence Christopher Lee.

the actual most interesting man alive

At the end of the day, Christopher Lee should be known for his voice.  Booming like you imagine a Roman Senator ought to, commanding like sort of guy who bosses around dark forces of the netherworld, eloquent like the trained actor and brilliant fellow I like to believe Lee is.

I first read Lee's name in monster movie books when I was a lad.  He was a main player for Hammer Films back in the day when Hammer was in full throttle putting out new movies of Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mummy, cultists, all kinds of good stuff (I prefer his Dracula in Curse of Dracula to his "Creature" in the Frankenstein films, but it's all good) and his picture and name came up over and over.

As a cult favorite actor, Lee has also appeared in everything from The Man with the Golden Gun to Captain America '77, a TV movie.  I've been thinking a lot lately about the difference between "fans" and folks who appreciate or follow film from the art appreciation angle, and there's always room for both.  And while you see indie darling directors and some actors, "fans" get excited by the gravitas of particular (and often peculiar) talents.  And when they come into their own as professionals, the fans cast the actors they love.

And so, at 91, Lee has two more Hobbit movies coming as Saruman, he's forever immortalized as Count Dooku - maybe one of the best parts of the Star Wars prequels, and he keeps popping up in various Tim Burton projects in cameos and small parts. And, he blew the doors off in Scorsese's Hugo.

And, he just released his second heavy metal album, this time partnering with Judas Priest.

He also does the occasional audiobook, and I highly recommend giving one a whirl.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ray Harryhausen Merges with the Infinite

I think I only checked out five books from the library at UT for pleasure reading while I was a student and, two of them were on Ray Harryhausen.  In college, I had dreams of becoming an animator- and then computers happened.  But until then, I really wanted to know how Harryhausen became the master he undoubtedly was when it came to creating fantastic imagery for the silver screen.

I was sad to hear of Harryhausen's passing when a tweet or two mentioned it and I saw the headline when I got back to my hotel room.


If you don't know Ray Harryhausen, he's easy enough to investigate.  He was one of the greatest FX artists in the world, spawning a world in which we eventually had movies with AT-ATs and Terminators, and his understanding of motion foretold what the CGI era would bring to the big pictures.  But he did it with tangible artistry in stop motion effects.

Harryhausen brought us Greek Titans, dinosaurs, Venusian aliens, angry skeleton armies and an endless stream of characters that mingled with live action players and fired the imagination.

I've only seen a handful of his movies (and I'm not even sure which Sinbad movies I have and haven't seen... I'd have to watch them again), but Clash of the Titans came out in 1981, and all we knew was that it was amazing.

If you've never tried to film animation by hand, it's a frame-by-frame feat of utter concentration and requires determination and love for what one is doing on a scale there whipper-snappers and their computers and whatnot from today probably get, but they do it at a monitor, not hunched over a table with lights, moving the neck of the monsters a tiny, tiny increment for every exposure - and every frame could be the last if something happens between clicks.

It's obsessive work, and craftsmanship that's fading from mainstream American film - especially as the

So long, Mr. Harryhausen.



Thursday, February 28, 2013

King Kong Released March 2, 1933

I don't remember a time in my life where I didn't generally like the concept of King Kong.  One of the books I remember best from about the age of 4 or 5 was a story book of King Kong, based on the 1933 film with nice illustrations, that my folks read to me.  In the way things are when you're a kid, I just knew who King Kong was, already.  I knew he'd climbed buildings and wreaked havoc, but not much else.

if Kong can make it over there, he can make it anywhere...!


I saw the 1970's Jessica Lange/ Jeff Bridges/ Charles Grodin version on TV around 1st grade, right up until Kong was walking through New York and stepped on some people and, I still recall, me freaking out a little.

By the mid-80's, my folks dropped me and Jason and someone else (I think our own Matt A.) off at Showplace 6 to go see King Kong Lives.  If you've not see it, and I haven't since a brief cable run shortly after it was in the theater, it was amazing.  Oddly, it never really took off as a fan favorite.  It does star a young Linda Hamilton.

One evening when I was in high school AMC finally ran the original, and I taped it in glorious VHS and then watched it, like, three times.  If I liked King Kong as an idea before, I adored the original movie.

If you've never seen it, it's an amazing technical masterpiece for the time.  The stop-motion animation and miniatures are terrifically seamless with the practical sets and actors, the puppetry for Kong manages to create a true character, and the entire Empire State Building Sequence is just truly a remarkable feat.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Trailer for "Pacific Rim" - summer 2013

This is a movie by a big name director who decided to make a movie about giant robots fighting kaiju.

I don't know how I'm not supposed to see this movie.



Yes, it looks ridiculous, but it's a summer movie, y'all.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Signal Reads: The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) by R. L. Stevenson

The only other Robert Louis Stevenson I've ever read was Treasure Island back in elementary school.  I remember it being quite good, but that was also 1984-85, so it's been a while.  I will also state that, in third grade, I read an adaptation for kids that was still very gripping to me at the time, and pretty scary, but I think it had elements from the movies sprinkled in.

I have seen multiple version of the Jeckyll/ Hyde story in film, from silent versions to Mary Riley, so it's not like I was unfamiliar with the story, but as Dracula and Frankenstein are adapted again and again, the books they sprang from often seem forgotten entirely in the adaptation - so I wanted to give the novella a spin.  I found a copy a long time ago narrated by Christopher Lee, but it doesn't appear to be available on Audible anymore.  Needless to say, Christopher Lee is a tremendous talent, and his range suits the book incredibly well.

But this was my first time reading the actual novella of The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde by Stevenson.



Here's the thing about this book...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Octoberama! Sundays with The Bride! Part 2!

As we head into Halloween, let's just celebrate with some Bride Miscellenia and fan art from around Tumblr!

As Ms. Lanchester celebrates her 110th somewhere in The Infinite, clearly I'm not the only one with a thing for girls with interesting hair-do's.

If you didn't read our post on Ms. Lanchester earlier today, please take a moment to do so.  It's her birthday.

from the Mondo Universal Horror celebration.  Saw this in person, and it is absolutely stunning.
This is a collection of fan-art of varying provenance - some official, most not.  From what I can tell, somehow The Bride and The Monster have become icons for the rockabilly-retro crowd as it exists in 2012, applying late 50's aesthetic to the 1935 character with the tattoo sensibilities of today.

Go, pop-culture.

Octoberama! Sundays with The Bride - Happy Birthday, Elsa

Last week, JimD emailed me and asked if I planned on posting about Elsa Lanchester's 110th Birthday, which happens to fall on today, the day I'd planned the finale post for Sundays with The Bride.  Honestly, I had no idea the birthday was coming, so, everybuddy, take a moment and thank JimD and then take another moment and appreciate cosmic happenstance.

I had another post ready, and so you'll still see that today, later, but as it's Elsa's birthday, we need to give the lady her due.



We all grew up seeing clips from The Bride of Frankenstein, or saw the role of The Bride parodied in other films, in cartoons, or pop art.  The role passed into western iconography as much as the rest of the Universal Horror pack of monsters, but - oddly - The Bride appears for a total of one scene in this single film.  The Bride has no speaking lines, and, of all the Universal Horror "monsters", she is the only one which hurts nobody.

But that's only if you don't count breaking hearts.

Friday, October 26, 2012

October Watch: Dracula (1931)

With the arrival of the Universal Horror Blu-Ray set, I wanted to get Dracula (1931) in before Halloween.

I first saw Dracula back in high school when it was going through a bit of a renaissance, probably because of those @#$%ing Anne Rice books that I kind of blame for leading to Twilight.

As a kid my concept of Dracula the character was fairly benign and drawn from things like The Groovy Ghoulies and the 70's-monster-plosion.*  But Dracula never seemed to be available on VHS, and I sure as hell wasn't going to read a whole book, but thanks to the monster-magazines and books I always seemed to have growing up, I already knew the story, including the character names and basic plot elements.



I was surprised how spooky I did find the film the first time I saw it.  I've always been of the Ed Wood school of willing-suspension-of-disbelief, even in movies which have long traded on literalism for the most part.  If I see a giant fake bat on a string, I guess I just buy that that's supposed to not just be a bat, but Dracula travelling incognito.  If there are armadillos in Castle Dracula, then, by gum, Transylvania must be overrun with cousins of my fellow Texans.  I dunno.  As long as I'm enjoying the film, I've always been willing to forgive a lot.**

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October Watch: Frankenstein (1931) and Bride (1935) Double-Bill!

I don't really keep a list around of "what is my favorite movie?" (I mean, go ahead and check out my recommendations at the tab above, but...) but the first two James Whale directed, Karloff-starring Frankenstein films are in the mix somewhere.

It's one of those things that is difficult to explain.  And it's funny, because I am absolutely not alone in my admiration of these two films - but the folks who like these movies also seem to have a hard time putting feelings into words.  Even the eloquent Neil Gaiman seems at a bit of loss, but I think he does as good of a job explaining the appeal of The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) as you're likely to see.

The Honest Truth About Why No Post and Mondo Gallery

I've already pre-loaded a number of October posts, and you'll get those for several days.

Sadly, now is one of those times that I'm terribly busy at work, and things like AWS going down don't make my job any easier.  Especially when I'm flying to Denver in a week and a half to talk about why my organization uses AWS.

So, the bottom line is that I've been super busy.  I worked Sunday night and I worked tonight when I got home.  I'll be taking tomorrow night off, but then I'll be working again on Thursday, and then on Saturday and Sunday.  Because: deadlines.

In the meantime, I'll try to provide some content, but I'm pretty busy, y'all, so bear with me for a couple of weeks.



I did make a trip during my lunch hour today to the Mondo Gallery in Austin.  They're doing a show on the theme of Universal Horror Movies, focusing on Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolfman, The Invisible Man, Creature from The Black Lagoon and Phantom of the Opera.  As you may know, it is Universal Studio's 100th Anniversary, and, historically, their most enduring franchise includes those creature features, even if they haven't known what to do with them for quite a while.*

Monday, October 22, 2012

October Watch: An American Werewolf in London

I cannot begin to come to An American Werewolf in London (1981) objectively.  I had to leave work fifteen minutes early or so to make the picture, and someone said "I've never seen it.  Is it good?" (my co-workers are well aware of my love of movies like The Room, so my interest in a movie is not a sign of my belief in the film's quality).



I paused and said "You know, I don't really know.  I've seen this movie a half dozen times since I was sixteen or seventeen, and I know I like it."  And I suspect that's true for a lot of us who saw the movie when we were the right age to enjoy the horror, the comedy (it is a wickedly funny movie), the sex, and the rather pragmatic ending to the film.  Like the better horror films, you don't really worry about the bad science, the faults in the make-up or effects (and this is Rick Baker so the effects were completely groundbreaking for 1982 and still look mostly terrific.  @#$% CGI.) because its not about whether you can see the string on the bats or the seam in the creature's suit.  In a weird way, as expensive as a creature feature could be to produce, it really is about the story.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Octoberama! Sundays with The Bride!

Here's a bevy of posters used to promote screenings of The Bride.

FYI - you can see The Bride of Frankenstein and Frankenstein on the the BIG SCREEN on October 24th!

Get tickets now at Fathom Events. These are two of my favorite films of all time. If you're in Austin and want to go, let me know!






Saturday, October 20, 2012

Octoberama! Phantom of the Opera - Masque of the Red Death

Over the years, it was somehow mostly forgotten that at one point, a lot of early movies were tinted for color.  The film might be shot in black and white, but the prints themselves would be processed with a tint to have color that evoked the mood, etc...  However, by 1925 there was already a two-color process, and that's what you're seeing here.

The Lon Chaney starring Phantom of the Opera (1925) is a beautiful movie if you've never seen it.  At least some of the prints feature color, and the Masque of the Red Death sequence, even without color, was always powerful stuff.  With color - I think it's amazing.

At this point in the film, the Phantom has been causing problems (including deaths) but has been unseen.  Here he strides into the middle of a party of the wealthiest in Paris and threatens them all from behind the skeleton mask of Death.

Here it is - silent. You can provide your own music in your own head.



You can see the color better here, but I forewarn you, its synched to the music of the Broadway musical of the same name.

In the first movie and the book, unlike the musical, The Phantom is a spooky bad-ass. So if all you know if Andrew Lloyd-Webber, I recommend looking up the 1925 film.

October Watch! Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

If you've never seen Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), it's an absolute blast of a movie and pretty much sets the tone for every succeeding creature feature to follow - but it also leans a bit on the set-up of movies like King Kong.  Intrepid explorers/ scientists have some vital but benign evidence, return to the spot  far from civilization where it was found, and modern man can't deal with the havoc that ensues when an unexpected monster appears (and makes off with the stunningly attractive woman along for the ride).



Creature is fun partially because of the raw science-adventure tone that movies like Prometheus try to capture, of lantern jawed scientists throwing themselves into the path of danger in the name of discovery - along with a scrubby but affable crew along for the adventure who know their protocols are there for a reason.  As well as knowing natives may be superstitious, but they're also not crazy, so sometimes you just avoid their "Black Lagoons" if they suggest that's not a good place to bring your boat.  But: SCIENCE.

Happy Birthday, Bela Lugosi

Today is Bela Lugosi's 130th Birthday.

Born Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó in Hungary, Lugosi arrived in America in the early 1920s. By 1927 he was cast as Count Dracula in a Broadway show.

Most famous for his role as Dracula in the 1931 film, Lugosi found himself typecast and caught in a strange whirlwind of the Hollywood system which kept him in spook pictures, more or less, his entire career.


It's the Halloween season.  Go out and get yourself a copy of Dracula if you've never seen the original movie.  He's pretty darn good.


Monday, October 15, 2012

October Watch: Ed Wood (1994)

In 1989 I caught my first episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, which featured the movie Bride of the Monster.  At the time I had never heard of Ed Wood, and I wasn't terribly aware of the sea of terrible monster movies out there.  But I like to know that my adoration of terrible movies sort of begins and ends with the work of Edward D. Wood, Jr.

When I watch a movie like Birdemic: Shock and Terror, a movie so abysmally, ineptly put together that those watching it assume it has to be a put on, I think of Ed Wood and his sincere belief in his projects, and while I understand the desire to refuse to believe anyone could be so myopic...  no.  We're funny things, us people, and we have rich visions that we are often unable to translate.



Ed Wood was released in 1994, and among the folks I worked with in film school, it was a bit of a totem.  We quoted from the movie endlessly, and we believed in the central conceit of trying to follow your uncompromised dreams to make the product you want to make.  And sometimes that meant exactly using pie-plates on sting to recreate a UFO crash.*

This scene (language NSFW), is more or less every project I ever did in film school in a nutshell.

October Watch: The Phantom of the Opera (1943)

It speaks volumes about the work done in the 1925 silent version of Phantom of the Opera that its still the version of the story most people are familiar with, and which evokes images in the mind somehow more powerful than a smash Broadway musical that's been running for 250 years.

For reasons as mysterious to myself as anyone else, I read the original novel by Gaston Leroux when I was 15.  The book was a spirited, if creepy, adventure story about a very odd, very deadly music enthusiast living in the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera House.

If you've never seen the Chaney-starring version of the movie, you absolutely should.  I saw it the first time in high school when I bought a copy of the movie out of a bin of movies which had seen their copyrights expire and I've tired to own a copy in whatever has been the latest video technology.  You can watch the film now at Netflix!

However, that's not the version that came with my new Universal Monsters boxed set, likely because of the lapsed copyright.  Instead, I got this 1943 version starring the always terrific Claude Rains as The Phantom.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Octoberama! Sundays with The Bride!

Hair and make-up check.

It takes work to look this good.



October Watch: Frankenweenie (2012)

I had actually planned to go see Hotel Transylvania this weekend, but then I looked at Rottentomatoes and had second thoughts.  That movie had scored a 43%, but I noticed Frankenweenie was cruising at around 86%.

The trick is that I like Halloween movies, and Jamie will not watch anything scary.  I've had The Thing on BluRay forever, and one day she'll watch it, but that day has not yet come.  But we can do movies where all the monsters are silly, etc...  My biggest issue is that I haven't really cared much for Tim Burton's work since the golden age of Ed Wood and Mars Attacks.*  I know he has his devoted following, and good for you.  I am not to be counted among your number.

Anyone who's marginally aware of Burton's history knew he was working at Disney when he made Vincent and the original short of Frankenweenie, which, in the post-Batman brouhaha, used to be available on VHS for rent, but for some reason I never did.