Showing posts with label Halloween. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Halloween. Show all posts

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Halloween Watch: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994)




Watched:  10/31/2020
Format:  Amazon Prime
Viewing:  2nd?  3rd?  4th?  It's been decades
Decade: 1990's
Director:  Kenneth Branagh

We already watched the classic Universal Frankenstein and the Hammer Frankenstein for the podcast, but I always watch Frankenstein and Bride as my final movie or so of Halloween.  So, I swapped in this version, which I hadn't seen in forever.  And I know I hadn't seen it in forever, because Jamie had never seen it.  

My memory was "that sure felt like it thought it was much better than it was".  It was directed by already-respected Shakespearean actor/director Kenneth Branagh, borrowed indie cred by casting Helena Bonham Carter (who was the indie-fan's sex symbol of the time), borrowed established cred with Robert DeNiro as the Monster, Tom Hulce of Amadeus fame, Ian Holm, John Cleese and others.  The sets are lavish, the score: sweeping.  

Halloween Cartoon Watch: Happy Halloween, Scooby Doo! (2020)




Watched:  10/31/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Maxwell Atoms

Uh.  So, I guess there's a rabid fanbase of adult fans of Scooby Doo, which, you know, I really like Superman, so, no stones shall I throw.  I was just never a big Scooby Doo fan, even as a kid.  I mean, it was what was *on* in the few hours I was allowed to watch TV as a kid, so I watched it, but I didn't take to it.  Nor did I get onboard with the live action movies from a couple of decades ago.  Basically -  I am out of the Scooby loop.

But...  this year Hanna Barbera/ WB Animation released Happy Halloween, Scooby Doo! (2020), an animated movie featuring the voice talent of Cassandra "Elvira" Peterson as herself/ Elvira.  I gathered from something I read that she didn't just wander in, do a joke, and disappear again, so I paid to rent the film.  




As I mentioned, there's a rabid adult fanbase of Scoob-o-philes, and I was kind of curious how they felt about this movie.  The Scooby Doo I remember had the bland Fred and Daphne, Velma trying to keep things together, and Shag and Scoob as two slackers who had no business in the monster-chasing business and made dangerously large sandwiches.  The new take looks like classic Scoob, but Fred is... dumb?  I couldn't figure it out.  Daphne is... insane?  and the other three felt like how I remember them.  And, honestly, Scooby Doo himself was deeply back burnered, which is not how I remember the show working.

Elvira was allowed to be more or less a PG version of herself, and they went weird with some bits I can see Peterson finding pretty funny.  Bill Nye also plays a sort of Q role for the team, air dropping them a new mystery machine.

Well, according to what I saw online, the adult fans hate this take.    Which - sure.  Key characters are out of character, even with the fan-base approved voice cast.  

The movie is kind of weird, structurally - from including a Batman villain, to an extended road chase that just keeps going.  

Anyway, I probably enjoyed it more as an Elvira movie than as a Scooby Doo movie - and actually understand if fans are weirded out by their favorite characters acting out of character.  See: my confusion about recent DC Comics movies.  I'm not sure I've ever really been much of one for the Scooby Doo formula, but it was interesting/ weird to see the characters looking the same but (especially Fred and Daphne) updated to be more like modern animated characters.  Not sure it worked - but it was something to ponder.  






Watch Party Watch: House on Haunted Hill (1959)




Watched:  10/30/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1950's
Director:  William Castle

We were trying to find an ideal movie to prep friends for Halloween, and I think a William Castle spooktacular starring Vincent Price is a pretty good option.  

House on Haunted Hill (1959) is a classic in part because it's an examplar of Castle's interactive theatrical experiences (I believe during this movie, he released a skeleton over the audience on wires) and because it seems to be in the public domain.  But, I dunno, I kind of like it.  It's cheesy, it's giddily malicious, and it makes no sense unless you say "I guess maybe the house WAS haunted?"

Anyway - it's not high art, and doesn't have quite enough spooky scenes, but it's still a fun one.



Saturday, October 31, 2020

Halloween Doc Watch: Wolfman's Got Nards (2018)




Watched:  10/29/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Andre Gower

I saw The Monster Squad at Showplace 6 on a weekday in late summer when I was a kid.  I must have said something about the movie and thinking I'd miss it (it wasn't released until mid-August of 1987, which would have been just as school was starting), so I'm guessing I thought the clock was ticking.  My dad loved movies, too, when we were kids.  Not like some of your dads who showed you Carrie or whatever, he just liked going to the movies or making a bucket of popcorn at home and watching a movie with us.  

All I know is that on a weekday in the few weeks Monster Squad was out, my dad took the afternoon off work - came home and got me, we watched the movie - and then he dropped me off and went back to work.  I don't think he remembers this at all, but it meant a lot to me when I was 12.  

Hammer Watch: Dracula A.D. 1972




Watched:  10/28/2020
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Alan Gibson

So, we skipped a Dracula movie in there because we read it was super not good, and Jamie's been watching these with me, and I'm trying not to make her hate this.  I have a weird fondness for this very not good movie, which I'd seen before and picked up on discount on BluRay.  But, you know, from a critical standpoint, and through the eyes of 2020, it's hard to say Dracula A.D. 1972 aged particularly well.  

Friday, October 30, 2020

Friday Amazon Watch Party: House on Haunted Hill


Day:  October 30th, 2020
Time:  8:30 Central



One part Vincent Price, one part William Castle, and a dash of Elisha Cook Jr.!  It's a house!  It's on a hill!  And maybe, just maybe, it's HAUNTED.  

A favorite of MST3K, Elvira, and inexpensive UHF Halloween-time programming, Vincent Price is caught in a bad romance with a cranky blonde.  For her birthday, he's rented a house with a reputation as a site of murder and, more recently, GHOSTS.  Like, angry ghosts!  

Price has invited several strangers, each in need of some quick cash.  If they can survive the night, they get a sack of dough.

As a welcome gift, each of the guests receive a gun.

Anyway - it's a kooky, campy good time, with Price being all dapper in a well-cut suit.  There's some good jump scares, crazy ideas and Elisha Cook freaking the @#$% out.  Skeletons.  Old ladies making faces.

It's a whole scene.

Halloween at League HQ - 2020 (a brief tour)

and, yes, Scout wandered into the picture there at the bottom


It's Spooky Season at League HQ.  We did do some indoor decorating this year.  However, some of this stuff is up all year long.  For example:  My Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein posters are always a feature in The Hall of Gentlepersons.



Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Spooky Comedy Watch: Hubie Halloween (2020)




Watched:  10/25/2020
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Steve Brill

Look, Adam Sandler movies are not my thing, but we'd been drinking.

This is a perfectly good Halloween comedy, and is more or less exactly what you expect out of a an Adam Sandler comedy, if you like that sort of thing.  It is also feels weirdly more like it *understands* Halloween more than almost any film I've seen.  It gets what the holiday is, and doesn't need to make the lead *hate* Halloween and be won over by the holiday.  And doesn't oversell what happens on Halloween.  

While Sandler doesn't exactly light up the critical heavens with each release, he clearly has made his sets somewhere people want to be.  The cast on this thing is amazing, including faces I haven't seen since, like, Happy Gilmore.  And everyone gets a chance to be funny.  It's really generous, cooperative stuff.

Probably safe for 11 and up.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

PODCAST: "Van Helsing" (2004) - our Halloween 2020 Finale! w/ SimonUK and Ryan




Watched:  10/18/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  2000's
Director:  Stephen Sommers



Well, what better way to wrap up our review of classic monsters and monster movies than to discuss 2004's mish-mash of Dracula, Frankenstein, werewolves, hats, hair, bodices and swing around on ropes? Universal threw money at the guy who gave them the 1999 Mummy franchise and he promptly went bananas, abusing SFX teams and creating the worst kind of fan-fic. Join us as we make our way through Van Helsing.
 


Music
:
The Monster Mash - Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt Kickers

Monday, October 26, 2020

Watch Party Watch: The House That Dripped Blood (1971)




Watched:  10/23/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming Watch Party
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Peter Duffell

Really, an excuse for me to watch an Ingrid Pitt movie, I subjected friends to The House That Dripped Blood (1971), a horror anthology starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Denholm Elliot and, of course, Ingrid Pitt, all in different sequences.  

The budget is modest, but it does have a sort of fun "let's tell spooky stories over the campfire" vibe to it, with four episodes of horror, all in complete different genres.  One - a writer conjures the villain from his book to life.  Two - a retired actor stumbles upon a wax figurine in a wax works in the village that reminds him of a woman with whom he failed to kindle a relationship, and he becomes obsessed.  Third - a man moves into the house with his young daughter, who may be a bit too much like her deceased mother.  Fourth - a horror movie star and his much younger girlfriend/ co-star move into the house while he also secures a cape that may really, really get him into the role of a vampire.

It is a silly movie, in many ways, but a darn good one for the Halloween season.  


Sunday, October 25, 2020

Hammer Watch: Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)




Watched:  10/24/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:   Peter Sasdy

I actually liked this Dracula a bit more than I expected.  We're hitting 1970 by this time, Hammer was loosening up, and the characters feel a bit more three-dimensional around Dracula - which is welcome what with the lack of Peter Cushing.  

Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) picks up during the events of the prior Dracula film, with Dracula impaled on a golden cross.  A wayward English traveler comes upon the scene at that very moment, and, being an enterprising fellow, collects Dracula's cape, his clasp and his ring after the count is "dead".  As well as putting some of his blood in a vial.

Hammer Watch: Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1968)




Watched:  10/22/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1960's
Director:  Terence Fisher

I've watched the few Frankenstein movies from Hammer that I've seen completely out of order.  And this is no exception.  I think this is the second to last movie, but, really, do not know.

Completely spinning the opposite direction from Universal, Hammer decided the selling point for their Frankenstein films was not the monster, but the good doctor himself.  Building on the arrogant sonuvabitch from the novel, this version of Frankenstein is NOT humbled by his first creation, but emboldened by his success, and so the subsequent films are him doing what all good scientists would do - keep working on it.  

Friday, October 23, 2020

Hammer Watch: The Vampire Lovers (1970)


 

Watched:  10/21/2020
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Third
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Roy Ward Baker

A few years ago I included The Vampire Lovers (1970) in my list of one of the best movies I'd watched that year, but I don't think I'd actually watched it again since.  Maybe in bits on cable, but this year I've been saving another rewatch for Halloween-season.   The last few Octobers were obnoxiously busy times for me (in no small part because of baseball, but the Cubs were very bad this year).  But, last year I squeezed in a listen to the audiobook of the source material, the novella Carmilla.  (I should mention, the novella predates Dracula by about 15 years).

Thursday, October 22, 2020

PODCAST: "The Mummy" (1932) and "The Mummy" (1959) - Universal and Hammer Horror for Halloween 2020! w/ SimonUK and Ryan

 


Watched:  10/10/2020 and 10/13/2020
Format:  BluRay and Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  Unknown (a lot) and Third
Decade:  1930's and 1950's
Director:  Karl Freund and Terence Fisher




We get wrapped up in some positively ancient horror favorites; two takes on the ancient dudes coming back and causing a lot of problems for colonial pillagers of ancient burial sites! First up is the weirdly undiscussed 1932 Universal feature starring Boris Karloff as a former clergyman who would do anything for love, then we talk the 1959 version starring Christopher Lee in a similar role - but this time opposite Peter Cushing. We'll walk a Nile in their shoes as we dig deep and discuss two horror classics!
 

Music: 
The Mummy Opening Titles - Franz Reizenstein, The Mummy OST
King Tut - Steve Martin, 45rpm edition

Saturday, October 17, 2020

PODCAST: "Phantom of the Opera" (1925) and (1962) - Universal and Hammer Studios! - Halloween 2020 w/ SimonUK and Ryan


Watched:  October 4 ('25) October 6 ('62) 2020
Format:  BluRay (Kino Lorber) and Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  1000th and First
Decade:  1920's and 1960's
Director:  Rupert Julian and Terence Fisher



SimonUK and Ryan cannot remain silent on the topic of that wacky phantom what lurks beneath the opera! We take a look at two of the many film appearances where a creepy music teacher stalks and abducts his pupil while making the most of a poor real estate situation and skin condition. We take a look at the 1925 film from Universal as well as the 1962 take from Hammer, and, boy howdy, are these two different films. 
Toccata and Fugue in D Minor - JS Bach (unknown performer)
Don Juan Triumphant?   I'm not sure, honestly


Halloween and Horror (everything at The Signal Watch)

Hammer Watch: Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968)

 


Watched:  10/14/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1960's
Director:  Freddie Francis

Let's start by saying "continuity" is not the watch-word for Hammer's Dracula series.  

The remote village which last saw Dracula die by drowning in a frozen moat around his castle is now located in a steep mountain area (as suggested in prior films, but which always seemed a whole lot like a forested area in a topographically uninteresting meadow).  I think the movie opens during Dracula's brief return to life from Dracula: Prince of Darkness when Dracula must have stopped off for a bite in the village, leaving a village maiden dead and inverted inside the bell of the local church.  

The plot is a bit windy, but involves a good-hearted Monsignor showing up, trying to ensure Dracula cannot return after the events of the prior movie, but a fallen priest winds up bringing Dracula back (and becomes Drac's henchman).  Dracula tracks the Monsignor home where he targets his niece.  The niece is dating/ apparently shagging a local student/ outspoken atheist.

Prior characters and locations are kind of nodded at, but only in the faintest ways.  The nearby abbey featured prominently in the prior film is unmentioned, as are any previously seen characters.  You'd think folks would invent speed-dial just to keep Van Helsing on it.

As in prior Hammer vampire films, there's a question of how Christianity and faith intersect with the abomination that is Dracula - and this film puts a fine point on it, featuring a priest who has lost his faith, a priest who has not and a smart mouthed atheist college student.  A cross is a good way to put Dracula off, but it requires faith in the object - something an atheist doesn't have (nor a fallen priest).  Released in 1968, while Britain and the US were wrestling with youth culture movements (our juvenile lead is doing his best to look like Roger Daltrey circa 1968) there's certainly a strain of "this new-fangled thinking by the youths is gonna get us all Dracula'd".  

Of course, seeing the inverse of God and miracles is a pretty good argument that one is not getting the full picture and answers questions of someone who might ask them - and so there's an emergency (and logical) jump to faith, or at least a reasonable facsimile of faith.  And the lack of faith by the fallen priest has made him vulnerable to Drac's evil ways and not even particularly interested in resistance.

Yeah, it's a bit on the nose that Dracula is literally impaled on a cross at the end, but given the themes, it's got a certain poetry and we'll allow it.  There does seem to be some sort of divine will at play in this film, but you don't want to be a flirty barmaid/ cannon fodder for the plot.

This is the Hammer Dracula with the weird "Drac Lens".  It's not a terrible effect, but once you notice it, you do keep looking at it instead of the action of the screen. It's not without motivation, but would have worked better as a POV device.

It's good to have Lee back as Dracula, who even has lines this time, and other familiar faces like Michael Ripper and Rupert Davies.  

All in all - enjoyable as the last, if very different in tone as this one was not directed by Terence Fisher.  



Thursday, October 15, 2020

Watch Party Watch: Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965)




Watched:  10/13/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1960's (and how!)
Director:   Robert Gaffney

Jenifer picked this particular gem for our Tuesday screening, and it was a g-d delight.  

For reasons that are never explained, NASA creates a sort of synthetic man they want to launch into space in place of an astronaut (we are all fine with automation in our space probes, and I'm not sure why the ruse is necessary).  He doesn't actually work very well, but they go ahead with the plan.

Meanwhile, aliens from a distant world that has experienced a wave of self-destruction via nuclear exchange have come to Earth in a space ship roughly the size of a small house, with plans to steal our women - because they have none.  Except for their leader, a sort of imperious-but-fun Space Queen (Marilyn Hanold) in a heck of a pant-suit and head dress.  


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Amazon Watch Party: How to Make a Monster (1958)




Watched:  10/06/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director: Herbert L. Strock

How to Make a Monster (1958) turned out to be a surprisingly watchable bit of borrowed-thunder schlock from American International Pictures, an indie studio that knew Universal couldn't copyright wolf men or frankensteins and really focused on the hep teens as an audience.  You know they loved the kids because a character, just at the far end of middle-age, literally monologues for a minute about how great "teens" are, just sort of out of the blue.

On the heels of I Was a Teenage Werewolf (an early Michael Landon film) and I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, I guess AIP decided to do some metacommentary and, thus, How to Make a Monster is about how monster pictures are no longer the cool thing, daddio, so our aging movie-monster specialist is told that after this last movie, he's being cut loose.  See, new producers just bought the studio and they basically want to make singing and dancing pictures (a real eye for the future, these guys).  

The make-up specialist has figured out that a formula he's been working on for make-up application has a hypnotic quality, and he uses it to get the teens he's so fond of to start murdering the interloping new bosses.

There's plenty of 1950's B-movie hijinks, some deeply questionable decisions, and a seemingly stable make-up artist who has a whole different scene going on in his private life than you'd have guessed.

I am unsure if the movie is trying to comment upon the career of Jack Pierce, famous for the creation of Frankenstein's monster, the Wolf Man, the Mummy and others - who was ousted in 1946 from Universal.*  After all, the movie is about a make-up artist who created wolfman and Frankenstein monsters and who is let go as new studio brass comes in and wants a change in tone for the studio.

Jack Pierce didn't go on to murder anyone that I know of, nor was he a master of mind-control, and finished his days working on Mr. Ed.  It's really been the rise of the Rick Baker's of the world who discussed Pierce that means he's discussed today among make-up nerds.

It is not clear why the villain needs to put on full make-ups in order to get his minions to kill people, or why he puts recognizable make-ups on them, but the effect is something else as the poor kids run around strangling business guys just going about their own business.  Nor is it clear why the make-up man doesn't clear out to give himself a better alibi, rather than waiting around while the murders happen.  

But, all in all, a cheery little horror movie that abruptly goes into color in the final reel, making for a jolting effect that feels almost surreal.




*there's a whole weird chapter of Hollywood make-up history that includes a near mafia-like relationship between the Westmore family and all of the studios.  The Westmores basically took over make-up across LA in the 40's and 50's, and were jealously protective of their reputation.  In some ways, the relationship continues to this day with SyFy's Face Off monster movie make-up contest - a product of the Westmore family.  Some of this, I believe, is covered in the recent Lady From the Black Lagoon book, which describes the sidelining of Millicent Patrick as a designer for the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Amazon Movie Party Watch: Corpse Grinders (1971)


 

Watched:  10/09/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Ted V. Mikels

There are no words.

Hammer Watch: Dracula - Prince of Darkness (1966)


 

Watched:  10/09/2020
Format:  DVD
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1960's
Director:  Terence Fisher

This Halloween, we're making our way through the Dracula films from Hammer Studios.  This is the second appearance of Christopher Lee as Drac and the third in the series (the second film, Brides of, dealt with a sort of faux-Dracula making like Drac and building up his own creepy harem).  

Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) sees a pair of English brothers and their wives touring around Eastern Europe when they decide, against the advice of everyone, to head to a town near Dracula's castle.  They're met by a cleric who is VERY against the idea of going anywhere near the castle (which isn't on the map, and so they believe must not exist, despite the assurance it does).  Being British, which in this movie means everyone who is not a British male of a certain standing must be wrong about everything, the tourists head right for the path the cleric warned against, and, hey, get dropped off right in front of Dracula's castle by a coachman who is NOT putting up with these dummies.

Helen, one of the wives, is a bit of a pill, but she is 100% right about everything and no one listens to her, which is why you want to not be a pill about everything.  The foursome come across a random DRIVERLESS CARRIAGE, and GET IN, thinking they'll take it to town - I suppose because these men think a free carriage for the taking is a reasonable touch befitting their place and not at all weird -  until the horses ignore their directions and dump them the crew in front of the castle.

A Lurch-like minion welcomes the quartet and sets them up comfortably.

Turns out, Drac is still "destroyed", but like Sea Monkeys and tap-water, he can be brought to life if you add blood to his ashes.  So, our minion, Clove, goes about making that happen.

Like Horror of Dracula, the scale of the Dracula story here is rather small.  The travelers are a small party, Dracula only ever really seems to threaten them (for all the talk about the force he is), and a lot of the movie depends on people - in classic horror tradition - making bad choices.  Which, before 2020, seemed like a contrivance, but, well...  While I very much liked Father Sandor, played by Andrew Kier - I became a fan of Helen (Barbara Shelley) who is the only one with any common sense and who gets to let her hair down as a vampire (even if Dracula is a bully to her).  

Lee doesn't have any actual dialog in the film, and there are two accounts of how that happened.  The screenwriter claims he didn't give the titular character any, and Lee says he refused to say any of the dumb dialog as it was written.  I have no idea, but I tend to believe Lee.  So it's weird to have your villain just sort of growling and hissing at people when he also seems to care a lot about his appearance (I mean, he always looks neat as a pin). 

As promised, we're paying attention to the role of Christianity in these films, and it's hard to ignore the role of Father Sandor and his pals in the monastery.   A monastery that's surprisingly cross and crucifix free.  But it does show the readiness of the literate clergyman to combat evil in physical form, and, yes, there's ample deployment of the cross as a deterrent.  It's NOT clear why the church hasn't just set the castle ablaze, which seems to the prudent move when you have the King of the Undead a carriage ride away*, but we at least get Father Sandor laying the smack down.  

I'm making fun, but I liked the movie a pretty good deal.  It's not amazing cinema, but it is a sensible follow on to Horror of Dracula and manages some genuine thrills, if not chills.  


*I'm not one to call for murder, but it doesn't count when your target is an unholy monstrosity bent upon the devastation of human life, yo