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

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.


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.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Monster Watch: The Monster Squad (1987)

When I was about twelve, one of the signs that The Admiral was secretly listening to me, and not just thinking up new and interesting fatherly pearls of wisdom to dole out, was when he took the afternoon off from work to take me to see The Monster Squad (1987).  I'd wanted to see the movie, no one else did (except for him, I guess), and so one day he took the afternoon off in the middle of the week - I guess it was summertime - and we hit the Showplace 6, ate some popcorn and watched Wolfman take one in the crotch.

I recall we both liked it, it was darker than I expected, maybe even a little grittier, and Dracula was straight up frightening in my twelve year old eyes.  And, as anything you consider to be not-dinner-table-conversation occurred, I sort of cringed at having to let my dad know I knew what a virgin was outside of the Christmas story.

The prior year, he'd also taken me to see Little Shop of Horrors when no one else wanted to go, so apparently The Admiral was into taking me to see movies that would bomb at the theater, but gain a following on home video.  But he also got really jazzed at the opportunity to watch old sci-fi movies like War of the Worlds with me, and was always up for a trip to see something like The Last Starfighter or The Untouchables.  Way to go, man.

But, man, it really seemed like nobody else but The Old Man and myself had seen this movie until the last fifteen years.  Although, eventually friends did see it on VHS or cable, as did I.

At some point, maybe in 2008, pal JackBart and I caught a screening at The Alamo Drafthouse with a good chunk of the cast, director Fred Dekker and screenwriter Shane Black in attendance.  The place was packed, the Q&A was great, and the cast and crew pretty forthcoming with details.  I was one of five people who let out a loud whoop when Black mentioned he was working on Doc Savage.

One thing that really stuck with me from that screening was the honest recollection of studio compromise, of what was originally envisioned, and a script that the director felt had been very watered down to serve studio hopes for a Goonies-type film leading to franchise dreams, rather than a movie about adolescents growing up when you know, Dracula shows up.  I'd love to read that original script some day.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Let's Watch "The Monster Squad" this Friday!

Movie:  The Monster Squad (1987)
Day:  Friday, October 23rd
Time:  9:15 PM Central, 10:15 PM Eastern, 7:15 PM Pacific
Stream From:  Netflix
hashtag:  #wolfnards

This Friday I'll be barreling across Texas in the afternoon to make it home in time for a screening of The Monster Squad, the 1987 adventure/ horror film.  It's a great Halloween, all-ages fright-fest with a post-Spielbergian depth to our suburban characters.

Note the Shane Black screenplay.  No, it doesn't take place on Christmas, but good question.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Lagoon Watch: The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)

I quite like the original Creature From the Black Lagoon.  It's just really well shot, has a compelling story, and it is nigh-impossible to beat the creature design.  I just love the way that fella looks.

I'd love to see an updated remake, but when I consider what it'd be like without Julie Adams, well, I have a moment of pause.  And it's that moment of pause that's kept me from ever watching the sequels, two of which I own on a DVD set I purchased at least a decade ago.  But I told myself I was going to watch both sequels this October, because, hey... why not?  I mean, aside from the glaring mistake of not including Julie Adams.

This one image is more or less that whole movie in a nutshell

Alas, we're not here to ponder Julie Adams.  We're here to talk about the inevitable Universal sequel, The Creature Walks Among Us (1956).  Actually, it's the sequel to the sequel, but I watched the damn things out of order, so, there you go.

Who Wants to Live-Watch "Monster Squad"?

Stuart, who kicked off the whole Masters of the Universe live-watch, has pointed out that the 1987 horror/ adventure movie The Monster Squad is now on Netflix.

I'm going to go ahead and pitch the movie as our Halloween Live Tweet Meet-Up.

I'll propose October 23 at 9:15 Central Time for our meet-up point.  I'm travelling on the 16th and figure the 30th will be a little busy for folks with kids, so the 23rd is really the best compromise I can do.

If you've not seen the movie, it's about the mainstays of Universal Horror flicks descending upon a small town in California and the middle-school aged kids with whom they must do battle.  I have extremely fond memories of the movie from when I was a kid and when I saw it a few years ago at the Alamo Drafthouse with a bunch of the cast in attendance.

I'd love to do this one with you guys, mostly because we can all talk about how Jon Gries and Tom Noonan are totally underappreciated as actors.  Also, their makeup in this movie is pretty awesome.  Way better than it needs to be.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Full Review of Kino Lorber's "Phantom of the Opera" 2-disc BluRay collection

Lon Chaney, man of 1,000 faces, as The Phantom of the Opera.
Credit Kino Lorber

Preamble:  This review was originally released at Texas Public Radio.  As I'm a bit obsessive about losing columns at other sites, I'm archiving it here.  But, if you haven't read this one yet, I recommend clicking the link back to TPR and giving them a hit rather than reading here.

Full disclosure - The disc was a review copy provided by Kino Lorber to Texas Public Radio, and this column was edited with the generous help of NathanC of TPR.  

2015 marks the 90th anniversary of the release of seminal American horror/thriller, The Phantom of the Opera starring Lon Chaney. The film stands as a hallmark of both horror film and silent cinema, and as a survivor of the many mishaps and hardships that befell many other films of the era. Today, it continues to thrill audiences.

This fall, Kino Lorber delivers a terrific two-disc Blu-ray set which fans of the film will enjoy as they dig in to the treasure trove of special features, and those newly arrived to the film can enjoy for the magnificent presentation and contextualizing available in the special features.

Lon Chaney, in both his make-up and performance as Erik, remains such a recognizable concept that The Phantom of the Opera has endured in the popular imagination while the film’s contemporaries have faded, surviving mostly in the domain of serious film buffs and historians. The film stamped itself onto the zeitgeist thanks not just to the film’s perennial Halloween showings, but because it brought audiences something both novel and universal in its shadowy tale of outsiders and the chilling wonder of the unknown.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Halloween Watch: The Mummy (1932)

Hot on the heels of the success of Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931), Universal wanted to catch lightning in a bottle for third time, so they threw in the Egyptology craze that was still echoing a bit after the King Tut discoveries of 1923.*

if the poster makes you think this movie is about a dead guy and a gal in slinky dresses, you are correct

The Mummy (1932) isn't my favorite Universal horror film, but every time I watch it, I like it a bit more.  It's part Dracula, part Jack Pierce make-up genius, has loads of Karloff, a mythology that's been ripped off so many times it feels almost bland in 2015, and Zita Johann, who is busily trying to compete with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford for most memorable eyes in a Hollywood film, 1932.

Weirdly, it's only really book-ended by thrills at the beginning and end of the film, and the rest of the movie is sort of a slow, mystical boil.  For my dollar, one of the creepiest things in a Universal Horror film is the opening of The Mummy's eyes in the first few minutes of the movie.  It's everything you absolutely do not want to see happen around a guy who has been dead for 3 millennia.  And all of that works thanks to the astounding conception of the scene in lighting, make-up, direction and Karloff.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

slow posting - blame Nathan C

Hi all.

Posting may be slow this week as I've been given a writing assignment by Nathan C.  This one is a ton of fun, but it's going to take a while.  No worries.  When I'm done, I'll share it here one way or another.

To cut to the chase, I'm getting to review a really nice BluRay set starring this fellow:

Turns out the set includes multiple cuts of the movie and varying audio tracks, including film historian commentary.  So, what should have been about a 2-hour viewing is now stretching into something like 8 hours.  Plus, however long it takes to write about all this at some point.

Anyway, I look forward to sharing, but I'm doing a little legwork at the moment.  Fortunately, it's all around a movie I already like quite a bit and topics around which I already have a casual interest.  Movies, film history, film preservation and distribution, patient zero influential films, and, of course, movie "monsters" and horror/ thrillers.

Y'all give it up for Mr. Chaney.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Michael Mann Watch: The Keep (1983)

So, a few days ago, pal JuanD posted something to Facebook about German electronic musical combo, Tangerine Dream, and - knowing neither Juan nor I had any better plans for Saturday, I got us all fired up, as I'd recently seen that Amazon Instant was offering up the 1983 Michael Mann opus, The Keep.

I didn't promise the movie would actually be good.  I'd seen it before.  But if you're looking for an extended mix and meshing of the finest in early synth odyssey and forgotten tone-poem movie making, well, my friends, have I got a commercially unviable flick for you.

The first time I saw The Keep was some point circa 1988.  I'd actually heard of Tangerine Dream thanks to a sci-fi book I'd read a year or so before (The Architect of Sleep) in which the first-person narrator was a fan of the band.  I'm thinking that I saw that name come up prominently and stuck with the movie.  In an era when most of what was on the radio was by Guns N' Roses and Janet Jackson, I didn't have a lot of Tangerine Dream immediately available to me, and this was the first time I'd actually heard them.  It's also possible I also saw the name of Miami Vice and Manhunter mastermind Michael Mann listed as director, but I don't remember when I knew the movie was his work.

If you've seen The Keep, it's kind of remarkable that I gave up an evening of my life watching the movie (and loved it), but back then, I had no real preconceived notions of what a movie should be.  Around that same time I recall watching My Life as a Dog, first with English dubbing and then with subtitles, on two consecutive nights, and agreeing with my brother that it worked much better with subtitles.

Later, I'd ask other people if they'd ever seen the movie, and realized that the completely random viewing on a local UHF channel that led to me seeing the movie meant I was one of very few people who'd seen it.  In college I met people who knew it either by reputation or because of the Tangerine Dream connection, but can't recall anyone who had seen it (though I suspect JAL had watched it, and I'm just failing to recall).  The studio has more or less disavowed the movie.  It's not really been available since VHS, and even the version available on Amazon is in SD.  When I saw the movie a few years ago at The Alamo, we weren't watching the 35mm copy the studio sent around for rentals.  We were watching the only copy the studio owned, and they so didn't give a shit about it, they were sending it out for viewings.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sci-Fi Watch: It Came From Outer Space

I'm always surprised by how many 1950's sci-fi movies I haven't seen.  Especially the bigger budget productions.  I certainly have no aversion to 1950's sci-fi.  I love the messaging, the aesthetics, the fact you could have a hero who was a younger person smoking a pipe and knitting their eyebrows a lot.

I'd heard of It Came From Outer Space (1953) at some point, and it's likely it makes an appearance in a 1970's or 1980's movie as a "late show re-run" movie our hero is watching, and which is a sly nod to what's coming later in the movie you're currently watching, but the name is so terribly generic for a sci-fi'er of the 1950's, I think it just bypassed me up until now.  It also doesn't star anyone I particularly care about (sorry to my cross-over readership of die-hard Russell Johnson fans).

Sunday, March 8, 2015

SFANTHOR opens in Austin: Sci-Fi/ Fantasy/ Horror museum and shop on South Congress

For reasons I cannot firmly recall other than fanboyishness, I follow Vincent Price on facebook.  So, I was a little surprised on Friday to see the folks managing the account - managers of the Price estate - be the ones who broke the news to me via a link to an Austin Chronicle article that the weird castle that's been under construction on touristy South Congress was not a hipster medieval bar, but a WAX MUSEUM AND HORROR-THEMED STORE.  

I had no Saturday plans, so I grabbed JuanD and he and I braved the usual Saturday traffic and crowds of South Congress (it's the kind of place where you stand in line for 45 minutes for a magical Austin ice cream - hint, it's just Marble Slab - or 2 hours for a @#$%ing cheeseburger.  G**damn this town), and went to check it out.

I was maybe two feet inside when I wished Stuart were here to see this.

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.