Showing posts with label frankenstein. Show all posts
Showing posts with label frankenstein. Show all posts

Friday, October 12, 2012

October Watch: Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

Probably the weirdest thing about this movie, an all ages movie featuring classic Universal Monsters at their least scary meeting the comedy duo of Abbott & Costello, is that there's a sort of continuity to the Universal Monster pictures, and this movie is absolutely a part of the long narrative tied together by meetings of Frankenstein, Wolfman and Dracula.

In fact, in addition to the stars in the title, this movie also features Bela Lugosi as Dracula, Lon Chaney Jr. as Talbot/ The Wolfman, and Glenn Strange as Frankenstein's monster (who he'd played in at least 2 prior films).  It's 17 years after the first Dracula film and 16 years after Frankenstein (and 7 years after The Wolfman, so you don't need to look that up).

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Octoberama! See the 1910 "Frankenstein" from Edison Studios!

I'll be honest with you cats. I thought this film was lost until I stumbled across it this week while doing something completely unrelated. Apparently, totally not lost.

So, spend 12 minutes with a movies made 110 years ago, why don't you?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Signal Event: Anyone Want to Catch a Frankenstein Double-Bill on October 24th?

Holy cats, people.

On October 24th, Fathom Events will be showing both of the James Whale directed Frankenstein movies at cinemas all across the country.

Basically, the movie theater will show a high-resolution digital copy of the movie in full cinematic sound, etc...  and you sit in your theater seat and eat popcorn and whatnot and know you're sharing the same experience with people all across the country.

So, a double-bill?  Well, yes.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: Frankenstein Island (1981 - but you'd never know it from looking at the movie)

I don't really know where to start.


To explain, we watched the VOD version of this movie from RiffTrax with Doug, and he was right - the new VOD stuff RiffTrax is doing is every bit as good as the better MST3K stuff.

While the RiffTrax guys strayed from the world of punching-bag-bad movies and have stepped up to big budget Hollywood stuff in this format (and absolutely killed with it), it's still fun to see the old tools come out and see these guys at work.

So...  Frankenstein Island (1981).  

Oh, John Carradine, even your unused b-roll deserved better...

There are many things one could say about this movie, and among those things is the idea I find inescapable that director Jerry Warren, who had spent the mid-50's through the mid-60's creating the exact sort of movie that wound up on MST3K in the first place, was sitting around with his pals and said "Hey, let's do one more!  It'll be great.  Let's make a movie!" and this is what happened.  And so, in a way, I really hope those guys had fun making the movie, because it makes no sense and it's both mind-boggling and boring.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Frankenstein turns 80 (sort of)

According to website Frankensteinia (who I would think would know), today the movie Frankenstein turned 80 in that August 24th, 1931 marked the start of filming.

You kids today and your "Final Destinations".  In my day our monsters grunted and  wore sport coats, like gentlemen!
I don't know exactly when I finally watched Frankenstein.  It certainly was never on TV while I was growing up (black and white movies did poorly back then, thus the horrendous Turner colorization effort circa 1991), and I recall it just wasn't really around much of VHS that I ever saw at Blockbuster or wherever else I was renting movies.  Mostly I remember books around the house about monster movies, but who knows when I saw this at long last?  I do know I saw the Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein movie first when I was at a birthday party when I was very little (it was on 8mm.  Pre VHS, people).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The League's Favorite/ Least Favorite Monsters Part 1

So now its up to me, I guess.

Let's start with the obvious.

1)  Frankenstein and his Monster - favorite

"What's up, party people?"
Shelley's Frankenstein hit me over the head like a ton of bricks when I read it as assigned reading in high school, and the character of Victor Frankenstein and his unbridled ambition, followed by his inability to take responsibility for what he'd created...  pretty good stuff.

While there's no question the Monster is murderous, Shelley also infuses him with a craving for understanding and a humanity that Frankenstein himself may have set aside.

The movies, of course, turn the monster into an invulnerable, inarticulate beast, but the first three in particular explore much of the same themes, and are a lot of fun in their own right.

Is The Monster actually scary?  Well... yeah.  I mean, he's a hodgepodge of parts of various people sewn together and brought to life through artificial means.  He also kills folks both accidentally and intentionally (and just to make a point - that's gangster).  In the movies the Monster is more or less a superhuman, immortal walking weapon with quite a different personality.  However, I think we can look at Victor/ Henry* Frankenstein as us, and he, of course, is far scarier than the Monster.  After all, he dreamed the creature into being, and he failed to contain what he'd made.

but for my dollar, I'll take The Bride...

Baby, you can re-animate for me anytime
Of course, the portion of the novel featuring The Bride and the movie follow two entirely different trajectories.  I think the pursuit of The Bride (or a mate or whatever) for The Monster is so terribly tragic and part of what makes the story so haunting, that longing for contact and love that humans can grasp, and the lengths the Monster will go to for fulfillment of that need can read as the horrible act of a murderer, but that's a pretty dim reading of the characters.

Of all the monsters, its the understanding forged between The Monster and his creator that's the most fascinating aspect to me (more so in the novel than in the movie, but the movie doesn't shy away from this, either).  Having to face down the monster you've created and abandoned, who you've rejected and whose one dream you've torn apart?  Well, that's a pretty tough conversation to have.  In the sequel, Dr. Pretorious certainly adds a whole new aspect to the proceedings as Whale was making a movie completely separate from the novel.

Curiously, its Young Frankenstein that seems to be the one version of the story we can see that bridges the gap between the monster and its creator. 

The original novel is the template for a thousand more stories, movies, comics, whatever... but in my book, the original is still the best in both novel and the first two movies, and its a template for a reason.  The story says something very interesting about us as a creative species, and its a lesson you hear reflected and rebounded throughout science-fiction. 

As per The Monster, he's the avatar of that creation, and one that is entwined hopelessly with its creator.

*that's what he's called in the movies

2) American Remake Godzilla - Least Favorite

I like a good Godzilla movie from Toho studios.  Man in Suit is where its at, if you ask me.  And I love how Toho always makes sure there's some reason Godzilla is rampaging across Japan, be it an anti-nukes warning, people not loving one another enough, or as a reminder to recycle.  Whatever.  Godzilla is sort of a nation's conscience and psychic backlash stemming from guilt writ large and with atomic breath.

With total sincerity, I contend that this is a metaphor.  Also, its @#$%ing awesome.
In the summer of 1998, Roland Emmerich (I assume, I can't remember) got his hands on a high-grade CGI crew (well, 1998 good) and went about making an American version of Godzilla.  I went opening day, popcorn and Diet Coke in hand, and was naively quite excited to see what a couple hundred million thrown at a Godzilla movie would get me.  The answer: an absolutely horrendous movie featuring a CGI Godzilla that made me long for the days of Man in Suit.  And it featured a complete waste of Vicki Lewis.

This version of Godzilla is so reviled by true-blue Godzilla fans that the creature and the movie is referred to online as "GINO" or "Godzilla in Name Only", which I fully support.

While Godzilla in this movie was also created by nuclear tests, Americans get off guilt free as the tests were French atom bomb tests.  And, of course, we were just hapless victims in our version of the story, which...

Anyway, there's my social commentary quota for the month.

Yes, the monster looks a little like a squatting mime playing dinosaur
The monster-as-emblem-of-psychic-punishment-for-national-shame angle is completely missing from this Godzilla, but...  that's of course not quite enough.

The creature just looks stupid and does stupid things.  Its a 30-story monster that sneaks around between sky scrapers, runs so quickly in the middle of Manhattan that it ditches military helicopters, and slithers through the New York subway line.  It has a bizarre and almost lithe body for something of its scale, including oddly human limbs.  Its just really perplexing to see on something of that scale that's just so off that your brain knows it and sort of sends you signals about how this just doesn't look right at all.

Godzilla has really been hitting the gym
American Godzilla is supposed to be a mutant iguana, I think, so the filmmakers decided that while a 30 story iguana with shoulders* isn't a stretch, apparently giving us some nuclear-fueled fire breath is just getting silly (although they do give it a sort of "air blast" thing, which...   @#$% you, American Godzilla.  Your dumb fake fire breath via exploding gas line isn't going to cut it here!).

I recently watched this movie in its entirety, by the way, convinced it couldn't be as awful as I'd remembered (I took Jason to see the movie because he wouldn't believe it was as bad as I'd said).   It may have been worse.  Just.... truly...  an horrendous movie in so many ways, from scripting to acting to derivative creatures and scenarios to the worst love interest in a movie I can remember...  and it will make you very glad we escaped 90's big-budget movie-making alive and intact.

What's stunning is that so many people had to have worked on that GD iguana, and apparently nobody pointed out that this thing just made no sense, and wouldn't it just be better to redesign based upon the Japanese version rather than start from scratch?  And didn't anybody talk to a biologist or even a high school anatomy student while figuring out what a 30-story animal would look like if they were going to walk away from Gozilla classic?

Anyhow, this movie has largely been forgotten, and gladly so.  I wouldn't mind another American remake or Japanese/ American remake where it seemed like everyone wasn't so busy patting themselves on the back and second guessing 50 years of awesome movies that they wound up with a boorish movie with a crummy looking monster.  Sure, go CGI and do some mild redesign, just so long as Man in Suit never goes away...

UT is hosting an informational seminar on the bio-mechanics of  Kaiju (Giant Monsters) on Wednesday.  Be there or be square.

*btw: an anatomical difference between lizards and dinosaurs?  Lizards have splayed legs vs. how dinosaurs have hips that place the legs under them.  Think how monitor lizards get around versus how triceratops stands.  See, you learn important stuff here all the time.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Monstering it Up

We've received quite a few Monster posts, and I hope we get a few more! (The Admiral is even threatening to participate).

A short while ago someone suggested I try eating Franken Berry Cereal while watching a Frankenstein movie.

We do requests!

Mission accomplished

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ghost of Frankenstein: Not Very Good

Oh, dear.

So, this evening I watched the fourth in the series of Frankenstein movies from Universal Studios.  Perhaps its fitting that this fourth and uninspired edition falls into the same category as many un-asked for fourth installments, like, say...  The Phantom Menace, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Whatzit, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, and on and on.

By this installment, Karloff had bailed on the role and Universal had brought in Lon Chaney, Jr., the guy who played the Wolfman in the original, uh... The Wolfman and son of much more talented actor, Lon Chaney.  Much as how you really were surprised how much better Peter Weller was as Robocop than Robert Burke as the cyborg cop, so Karloff is to Chaney.  Chaney seems to believe just standing there or walking around stiffly is all that's required.

Lugosi and Chaney, Jr. are going to find a way to raise this child together
The plot...  well, the villagers in the village of, uhm, Frankenstein, decide to tear down the castle, and it turns out Lugosi/ Ygor is still living in the castle despite having been shot point blank in the chest in the previous movie.  The Monster sort of falls out of the wreckage of the castle (don't ask), and gets hit by lightning, and then they take him to see this brother of the son of Franken...

You know what?

This movie more or less marks the sure breaking point for the franchise into unintentional self-parody.  From here on out, it seems the Universal Pictures are mostly monster meet ups and team ups, and the sort of stuff that more or less slowly squeezed the life out of the characters and turned them from big screen draw to kid's matinee material.

In short, it wasn't very good.  Despite a plot that involved brain transplants and a weird subtext to the Karloff/ Lugosi rivalry when Lugosi's Ygor gets his brain put into the monster (thereby more or less killing Karloff's version of the monster), something just doesn't click.  Anyway, you can't fault it for either jumping through plot hoops to make sense and tie into the previous films or a shortage of wacky ideas.  Its just...  I dunno.

And, yeah, there's a ghost of Henry Frankenstein for, like, three seconds and...  it just doesn't really make any sense.  But he is still very definitely into SCIENCE.

This sort of creepier than anything in the actual movie

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rounding Up: Longhorns, Interactivity, Son of Frankenstein

1) Longhorns at Nebraska

I am not at all confident about Longhorns and Football going into today's game vs. Nebraska. Apparently the Huskers are still a bit peeved about UT's last-second win against them a while back and have done nothing but train for a year to figure out how to beat UT. And the UT team they planned to beat has graduated, leaving the "gosh, gee-willikers, it's a buildin' year!" Longhorns we're now watching. So... that's gonna be interesting. Right now our greatest hopes for success require a complete psychological breakdown for Nebraska, the 'Horns accidentally being bathed in Gamma Radiation*, and/or the spread of a nasty stomach virus this morning amongst UT's foes.

"I'm totally going to throw this ball 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage.  Because that is what I am awesome at."
Heap upon this the fact that Colt "Oh, My Arm Seems to Have Stopped Functioning" McCoy is starting for the Browns against the punishing Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday?

Ah, well.

2) Where are the entries for our Halloween Interactivity?

You've got several days, but we've only received ONE entry for the 2010 Halloween Monster Interactivity! People, this is going to be super-lame if we don't get more submissions, and I know you want your voice heard.

And don't forget: A submission means you receive an awesome Signal Corps Fun Pack!

3) Son of Frankenstein

Just look at these handsome devils.  That's Lugosi and Karloff, btw.
So last night I watched Son of Frankenstein, the third in the series of the Universal Studios-produced Frankenstein movies.  It's a bit embarrassing to admit that I had never made it past Bride of Frankenstein when I'm such a fan of the first two films, but in all fairness, there's no Elsa Lanchester after Bride of Frankenstein, so why go on? 

Son of Frankenstein stars Basil "Sherlock Holmes" Rathbone as Wolf Von Frankenstein, son of Heinrich Von Frankenstein, the creator of the monster in the movies.**  Bela "Dracula" Lugosi plays Ygor, Heinrich's old lab assistant, now a mad man living in the ruins of the laboratory, and Karloff returns as The Monster.

The story isn't as large in scope, nor as nail-bitingly over the top as the two James Whale directed Frankenstein films, and Whale's touch is sorely missed.  The fever-pitch madness of Bride is almost completely absent until about the third reel, when Rathbone's Wolf Von Frankenstein realizes he made have made a mistake that' causing a whole lot of problems.

You would not believe the paperwork you have to do for the FDA before experimenting with the reanimation of monsters
It does establish some of what's actually going on with the monster, and basically sets up The Monster as the original Jason Voorhees.  Basically, you find out that whatever Henry Frankenstein did to re-animate the Monster meant that the Monster no longer has the ability to die, in addition to being super-human.

The set design on the movie is pretty wild, and I have to give the film's creators credit where credit is due.  Where Whale's forest and castles were gothic and detailed, the castle and sets of this film seemed to go back to German Expressionism, with vast spaces punctuated with odd angles, and twisted pathways.  Which, of course, our Frankenstein just adores when he walks into the castle (because he's got the Frankenstein madness, see).

This is how the Frankensteins eat dinner.  No, seriously.
If you've never seen Young Frankenstein, I pity you.  Its one of my favorite comedies and has been since I saw the movie at the Dobie my freshmen year at UT.  One of the best comedic casts I can think of***.  Despite the fact I've seen Young Frankenstein a half-dozen times, Somehow it never occurred to me that the movie was actually referencing characters from movies beyond the first two Frankenstein movies, but Son of Frankenstein is somewhat the template for the movie, right down to the one-armed Burgomeister (who totally uses his wooden arm to hold his darts).

If you've seen the first two Frankenstein movies from Universal, its worth checking out this third in the series, but its sort of suffering from some of the sequel-of-a-sequel-without-the-original-director malaise that you'll see in movies like Jurassic Park III.  I'll let you know how the 4th movie in the series is:  Ghost of Frankenstein - the first film without Karloff as the Monster.

the terrifying "birthday cake" scene

*That's a Hulk reference, kids
** For reasons I can't fathom, Universal changed the name of the monster's creator in the movies to Henry Frankenstein from Victor, as it appears in the 1818 book.  
*** Mel brooks directed, starring: Gene Wilder, Terri Garr, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle and with Gene Hackman in a brief cameo role.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I saw 22 of 25 "classic" sci-fi films from the list on iO9

i09 posted a list of "25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watch"

I had not seen:

1) Primer - never heard of it, so I'm calling shenanigans on "classic" here
2) Children of Men - came out at an awkward time, and I've meant to see it. Not sure anyone would call it "classic", though.
3) Moon - is really new and gets very mixed reviews (sorry, Jamie, its true). I think calling it classic is a stretch, but it is directed by Zowie Bowie (look it up), so that give sit extra sci-fi pedigree, I guess.

Mostly, the list doesn't feel very "classic". Firstly, its incredibly sparse on vintage film. Yes, "Forbidden Planet", "Metropolis" and "The Day the Earth Stood Still" all still hold up remarkably well, and are instantly recognizable, but do we really need to jump from there to "Planet of the Apes"? You could fill the list with all kinds of stuff from the middle of the century. I mean: where the @#$% is Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, the most important sci-fi concepts of the 20th Century?

Not here, that's where.

And while I loved "District 9", its like time traveling to 1989 and declaring "Alien Nation" a sci-fi classic. And for goodness sake, Jamie is going to see "Inception" in the theater again this evening. Shouldn't something have had to make it to Blu-Ray before we declare it a "classic"? To use "classic", you need to point to more than classic tropes, you need to prove that the film endured and influenced other works.

I do not think that word means what you think it means.

I'd include:

1) Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein - Look, Frankenstein is straight up science fiction. It might be scary, but so is "Alien".

2) Fahrenheit 451 - if we're going dystopian future, why not include the one about the future that's rapidly becoming our present?

3) Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind - You included ET, but not Close Encounters? That's just wrong. Also, Richard Dreyfus + potatoes gave me ammunition for dinner table antics for years.

4) 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Nuclear powered submarine in the 19th Century.

5) War of the Worlds - Steven Spielberg is an amazing guy, but his remake doesn't hold a candle to the 1950's original (or the terrifying radio drama that caused all that hubbub in 1938).

6) The Time Machine - I don't love this movie, but even I'll agree it should have been included

7) Things to Come - Straight up, if you want to use the words "science fiction" and "classic" and "list" in the title of your article, this has to be on it. The fact that this wasn't on the list tells me Charlie Jane Anders needs to get herself to a video store.

8) The Fantastic Voyage - If Raquel Welch in a white lycra suit cannot get you to watch a movie about people miniaturized and placed inside a dude to laser out a blocked artery... I cannot help you.

9) Godzilla (and its many sequels) - Man mucking with forces beyond his understanding creates 30-story, atomic flame spewing (yet adorable) bi-pedal engine of destruction. There is nothing not awesome or classic about our buddy Gojira.

10) About half of the Ray Harryhausen Catalog - When he wasn't making swashbuckling monster movies, he was making movies about giant monsters that would eat you alive in your car. 20 Million Miles to Earth is pretty darn good.

11) Omega Man - Seemingly missing the point of the original novel, which was remade with the novel's title but yet another ending, this riff on I am Legend is a wild ride of a post-catastrophe zombiefied world in which Charlton Heston is the last sane man on Earth. As it should be.

12) Marooned - This movie is totally depressing, but it is also fiction about actual science. And unlike Moon, it will be watched long after the last hipster has hung up their skinny pants and ironic sunglasses.

13) When Worlds Collide - This movie has been imitated so much, I have no idea if people even know about the original.

14) Them! - The original Atomic Age cautionary tale. Also: Aliens totally ripped this movie off.

15) A Clockwork Orange - This is technically sci-fi. It happens in the future and uses technology that does not yet exist.

16) Buck Rogers - There aren't any straight up Buck Rogers movies. I'm only aware of the serials.

17) Flash Gordon - The Star Wars to Buck Rogers' Star Trek, Flash Gordon is far more fantasy than sci-fi, but its impossible to ignore the influence of Flash Gordon.

18) Akira - Lately its become trendy to bag on Akira. @#$% those guys. Akira is @#$%ing amazing. I don't care if, like all anme from the era, it totally falls apart in the 3rd act.

Anyway, I could go on.

A very partial list of classics I haven't seen:

Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Destination Moon
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Rocketship X-M
Donovan's Brain

More recent sci-fi films that I think will endure?

Donnie Darko
28 Days Later
Total Recall (because I love Total Recall)
Jurassic Park
12 Monkeys
The Abyss

There are also films that are cinematic favorites that seem to have been ignored as they're not American:

La Jetee
City of Lost Children
Until the End of the World
Wings of Desire

So what do you think?