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

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

Sunday, October 25, 2020

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.  


Monday, October 12, 2020

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





PODCAST: "The Wolfman" (1941) and "Curse of the Werewolf" (1961) - Universal/ Hammer Halloween 2020 w/ SimonUK and Ryan



 
Watched:  Wolf Man 09/26/2020  Curse of 09/27/2020
Format:  BluRay/ Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  Unknown/ Second
Decade:  1940's/ 1960's
Director:  George Waggner / Terence Fisher




Things get hairy as SimonUK and Ryan take a look at two movies where a fellow is really not feeling himself. We look at the classic Universal take on werewolves and the lesser known entry from Hammer (Spanish werewolves!), which are wildly different in some ways, but really agree on the "sorry, you're doomed" angle when it comes to curses that turn one into a ravening beast who still politely wears trousers. 

Music:
Wolf Man Main Theme - Charles Previn
Curse of the Werewolf Theme - Benjamin Frankel
 



Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Hammer Watch: The Brides of Dracula (1960)


 

Watched:  10/04/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1960
Director:  Terence Fisher

I'd not paid much attention to the non-Christopher Lee movies from Hammer that pitched themselves as Dracula, but decided this Halloween I'm going to watch all of the Draculas from the studio in order.  So, next up from Horror of Dracula is the 1960 entry, The Brides of Dracula.  

A prologue lets us know that the film takes place in proximity to the death of Dracula in the prior film.  The opening follows the journey of a young Parisian woman headed to teach French in a school in Transylvania.  She is held over at an inn (unknown to her, intentionally so) where she meets a wealthy Baroness who takes her to her castle.  

Sunday, October 4, 2020

PODCAST: "Frankenstein" (1931) "Bride of Frankenstein" (1935) and "Curse of Frankenstein" (1957) - Halloween 2020 w/ SimonUK and Ryan

 


Watched:  09/18 (Curse), 09/19 (Frank), 09/20 (Bride of)
Format:  Amazon Streaming, BluRay
Viewing:  Third, Unknown, Unknown
Decade:  1950's, 1930's
Director:  Terence Fisher, James Whale


It's the story of a scientist with a dream and the friends he made along the way! We stitch together three films for one monstrously excellent discussion about one of pop culture's favorite go-to's, the mad scientist and his shambling pal(s). From the shocking arrival of the 1931 film by Universal to the mid-50's experiments by Hammer to bring the story to life, we chat what makes the story work from any angle, and why we're still watching 90 years later.




Music
Frankenstein Main Theme (1931) - Giuseppe Becce
Bride of Frankenstein Suite (1935) - Franz Waxman


Halloween 2020
Halloween and Horror

Not That Spooky Watch: Little Shop of Horrors (1986)




Watched:  10/03/2020
Format:  Amazon Prime?  Jamie put it on
Viewing:  ha ha ha... I have no idea
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Frank Oz

I think SimonUK and I are going to podcast this movie after Christmas, so I'm not going to write it up. Weirdly, despite the fact I do watch this movie fairly often - somehow I've never written it up on this site, which is kinda odd.  There's a few mentions of the movie on Melbotis.com, but the format over there was kinda all-over the place. 

Here's a post from back when I did DITMTLOD posts where I talk about Ellen Greene as Audrey.

Anyway, this seems like good incentive to actually cover it on the podcast this winter.




Wednesday, September 30, 2020

FRIDAY WATCH PARTY: Vampire Circus (1972)

 



Day:  10/02/2020
Time:  8:30 Central



This movie was recommended to me by the great JAL and is absolutely bananas.  

Several years after villagers have killed a local vampire, a plague has descended upon the town.  Ain't nobody happy.  But then a circus arrives - a circus that may not be all that it seems....

Vampires.  It's chock full of vampires.  

SEXY vampires.

Anyway - things get downright weird.  And nothing can prepare you for the sexy snake dance.


Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Watch Party Watch: Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter (1974)


 

Watched:  09/27/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Brian Clemens

I kinda like this goofy movie. 

Hammer had the not-all-that-bad idea in a post-James Bond era to frame a new character as one of the disaffected antiheroes that had made their way into film.  I am certain this was intended to be the first of several films starring Captain Kronos, but Hammer studios was on the verge of collapse and wsn't able to continue the adventures of the good Captain.  

The movie is also - I learned - part of the Karnstein vampire saga which began with an adaptation of the 1872 novel Carmilla starring Ingrid Pitt and retitled The Vampire Lovers.  As an alternative to the Dracula films, Hammer had found new angles on the Karnsteins across 3 films in 1970 - 71 before the incredibly iffy return of Drac in 1972.

This film sees a vampire that haunts the woods outside a remote village.  The local doctor calls in a friend from "the war", an expert swordsman who pairs with a Van Helsing-like expert in vampire affairs to root out and eliminate the fiends (and in Hammer, especially, the vampires are not just misunderstood weirdos or X-Men with a blood addiction).  Kronos is Hammer's version of a bad-motherf@#$er - chain smoking his way through the film, rescuing a grateful Caroline Munro from her small-minded fellow villagers and bringing her along for the inevitable sex scene and to fawn over him throughout the movie.  

For their part, the vampire is draining young girls of their youth and essence.  Meanwhile, clues start mounting up pointing at the wealthy rich family in town.  

All in all, it's pretty straight-forward stuff.  Hammer was looking to get a bit more action-adventure with their movies and maybe push their aging cast of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing as the leads for young film fans to enjoy.  It's actually a good enough formula that a smattering of non-Dracula vampire movies of the past thirty years have borrowed the idea of cool vampire hunters, from Vampire Hunter D to Vampire$ and a bunch I'm not thinking of.   But - Blade the Vampire Hunter appeared in Marvel comics a year before this movie arrived in theaters.  Pretty wild.  Something was in the air.

The movie does include some swordplay, but it never quite reaches Errol Flynn-ness.  And maybe suggested a cantina scene to a certain Mr. Lucas.  

There's no, like, deeper themes to the movie.  It's pretty straightforward, sets up Kronos and his pal and what their adventures look like, and then mic drops.  If you're looking for something that does some good genre bending and is clearly having a good time doing it, sure!  

PODCAST! "Dracula" (1931) and "Horror of Dracula" (1958) - Halloween 2020 w/ SimonUK and Ryan



Watched:  09/11/2020 and 09/12/2020
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Unknown and Unknown
Decade:  1930's and 1950's
Director:  Tod Browning and Terence Fisher



It's Halloween! This year SimonUK and Ryan are taking on the classics of horror from not just one - but two studios! We're starting with a monster that really sucks - our dear old pal, The Count! Join us as we talk two great takes on Dracula - from Universal and Hammer Studios, respectively - that cemented the character in the collective imagination and which still continue to thrill! Let's talk creepy castles, alluring monsters and rubber bats! 

Horror of Dracula Main Theme
- James Bernard
Swan Lake - Act II (excerpt) - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky 


Halloween 2020 Playlist
All the Halloween and Horror

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Watch Party for Friday: The Monster Squad (1987)


Day:  08/28/2020
Time:  8:30 Central
Amazon Watch Party Link HERE

Look, I get the skepticism - but this movie has a huge cult following, and that's not by mistake.

I was going to hold off for Halloween, but this leaves Prime at the end of the month.

Monster Squad is about a group of monster-movie fans who realize that Dracula, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein's Monster, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and a Mummy have arrived in their small California town to... well, it's not friendly.

It's got a great version of all the Universal Monster staples, some good storylines, and answers one question you never thought to ask!

And under the make-up are some cult-favorite actors.  Guys, it's @#$%ing Tom Noonan as Frankenstein's Monster.  And Duncan Regehr is AMAZING as Dracula.  And you'll be amazed at who plays Wolf Man.

Written by Shane Black, directed by Fred Dekker - I think you'll enjoy it.


Saturday, July 11, 2020

Kaiju Watch: Son of Godzilla (1967)


Watched:  07/08/2020
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  First (all the way through)
Decade:  1960's
Director: Jun Fukuda

Between you, me and the wall, I have been kind of dreading getting to these Godzilla films.  I'm not necessarily a fan of Minilla, but I understand his place.  Some of my first exposure to Godzilla was via the 1970's cartoon series which included "Godzooky", a character intended to appeal to the youths who was a doofus time sink taking away minutes from Godzilla fights.

We're only 13 years away from the amazing work of the original Gojira by this point, but as happens when kids glom onto a character, all the edges were knocked off (see: Mickey Mouse or Batman by 1940).  Godzilla is a big goof who people are afraid like maybe you'd fear a giant cow, and the introduction of "Baby Godzilla" in this context is mostly about giving kids an avatar to project what it'd be like to hang out with Godzilla and learn how to use your own atomic breath. 

I've never really been one for this line of thinking - I never wanted to be Robin if I could be Batman.  I suspect I at least kinda liked Godzooky as a kid.  A funny Godzilla was probably pushing the right buttons for me.  But there is nothing cute or particularly funny about Minilla.  In fact, he's kind of grotesque.

he looks like shirtless, toothless, old, fat man who can't find his slippers
It's just no way to run a monster island. 

Our story is that several scientists have come to a remote, supposedly empty island to work on a weather control experiment that will somehow assist with resolving world hunger.  This island is a popular napping spot for Godzilla.  It also contains mantises the size of a human.  The experiment goes kooky and radiates the island and the mantii grow to Godzilla sizes.  Minilla hatches from an egg and in his original form looks like a tadpole mated with a cow patty.  Its revolting and you kinda root for the mantises to make short work of the abomination. 

But Godzilla shows up and saves him. 

There's also a giant spider on the island (who is a dick).  And a fetching island girl who is the sole survivor of an archaeological expedition that went on way too long. 

This is also one the doofiest designs for Big G.  And I don't even know what they were thinking.

what if an alligator and avocado fell in love?
This movie is pretty clearly more or less aimed at the kiddies, and that's fine.  Jamie tells me it was straight to TV, which is wild.  But it does sort of have that budgetary look.  They forego multiple sets for just building pretty good mantises and a great looking spider muppet.  Why Minilla and Godzilla look like flaming garbage, I do not know.

Anyway - this is the era I've been bracing for as its "Godzilla, Friend to the Children" time, and I soon need to watch stuff like All Monsters Attack, which I have never successfully navigated. 


Thursday, July 9, 2020

Stop Motion Watch: 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)



Watched: 07/07/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  third
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Nathan Juran w/ special fx by Ray Harryhausen

These days The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) is most famous for being part of the line of films with stop motion special FX by Ray Harryhausen, the great miniatures expert who is the direct line between King Kong and everything through Jurassic Park.

I dunno.  It's a lot of fun!  But - you know - in the unlikely event someone shrinks your beloved down to a 4" action figure size, I do not recommending putting her in a tiny box and then shoving it down your pants.  That's just weird, Sinbad.