I declared Halloween 2008 over. I guess that means we’re now in the Halloween 2009 season? Truth be told, everyday is Halloween around here so I’m not ever really clear on when the whole season begins and ends. At Target, Halloween shopping season seems to begin sometime around the 4th of July, but that’s probably my imagination. Whatever. Anyway, this was too good not to share:
The animation that transformed the top-hat wearing Count Dracula into a bat in House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula reminded me of my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoon, Transylvania 6-5000. I hadn’t seen it in years, maybe since I was a kid, so I was excited to find it online in it’s entirety.
About House of Dracula – Glenn Strange returns as The Monster but footage of Lon Chaney (Ghost of Frankenstein) and Boris Karloff (Bride of Frankenstein) are used to pad the movie. Chaney also has a starring role as Lawrence Talbot, the Wolf Man who’s despair is at the heart of many of these movies. The poor immortal bastard just wants to quit chasing cars and howling at the moon, but every scientist he finds who’s willing to try to cure him turns out to be mad. Plus, they always turn out to have a fetish for reviving Frankenstein’s Monster that screws everything up by the final reel and leaves Lawrence Talbot once again in need of some new clothes and a case of flea collars. Poor WolfMan, he’s got the worst HMO ever.
The Haunting is every bit as good as when it came out. Beautiful cinematography filled with shadowy depth, a stellar cast, solid writing, amazing sets, and jolts and scares that come from subtle sound effects rather than flashy visuals that would look tired and dated 40 years later.
Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman grapples with eternal questions, such as, “What in the hell is going on in this movie?” and “I wonder when dinner’s going to be ready,” and “Did I take the clothes out of the dryer?” It’s the wolfman’s picture, the Monster is only in a few scenes. Although this one picks up where Ghost of Frankenstein left off (sort of), different actors play some key roles. Lon Chaney, jr, who played the Monster in Ghost, is, of course, Larry Talbot, the beleaguered Wolfman who wants nothing more than to end his eternal life. Bela Lugosi plays the Monster now, since Ygor died at the end of the last film but lived on in the body of the Monster thanks to a brain transplant. If you think too much about the continuity issues in this movie you’ll need a brain transplant by the end of it.
So far, Husband has missed every movie in the Halloween marathon. He was sad to miss the Frankenstein fest so I put on Son of Frankenstein so he could catch up – it’s his favorite of the post Bride-movies and all. (The things we do for love). While he watched, I looked up the annoying kid, Donnie Dunagan, to see if he ever worked again. Would you believe he was the voice of Bambi? After that – a lengthy career in the Marine Corps.
At one hour and 40 minutes, Son is, in Husband’s words, “a bit of a trial.” I wandered off for about 30 minutes and baked pumpkin cupcakes. I’m so tired I didn’t bother to make any frosting. They came out quite well, regardless. I didn’t pay attention to the cupcake liners I bought, I just grabbed the last package on the shelf. They seem to be comedy cupcake liners, they’re twice as tall as normal ones. When I first put them into the pan I thought I’d grabbed an extra-shallow pan from the cabinet. We have a lot of pans, and, like I said, I’m really tired.
After we ate cupcakes, we forged ahead to the mercifully shorter Ghost of Frankenstein. Bela returns as Ygor, who you only thought died at the end of Son. At the end of Son, the Monster had been thrown into the sulfur pits. At the beginning of Ghost, he’s accidentally freed. All that time encased in sulfur was good for the Monster’s wardrobe. In Son he shuffled around in some of sort of nasty fleece vest, but when he’s freed from the sulfur he’s wearing the ill-fitting jacket from the first two films.
Just don’t think too much about these things, they’ll make your brain hurt.
Our – if by “our” you mean “my” – goal tonight is to get through Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, but I suspect we’ll be throwing in the towel after the first two. Besides, Ben Affleck is supposed to be playing Keith Olbermann tonight on Saturday Night Live and I’d like to catch that before I lose consciousness. We’ll see….
First up, was Barack Obama. Then, Bride of Frankenstein. I’d forgotten how wooden the preamble is. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron gather on the proverbial dark and stormy night to babble about Mary’s unpublished novel. Mary is certain it’ll be published one day. Lord Byron rapturously summarizes the major beats of the story while the viewer sees a montage of these very same events. They suspiciously resemble the arc of the film, not the novel. Fortunately, it’s over in mercifully short order and Mary begins to tell a new tale, the story of the creation of the Bride of the Monster. Elsa Lanchester, who had a lengthy and varied career (all those Disney movies!), plays both Mary Shelley and the Bride.
Bride of the Frankenstein features the creepy scene where mad Dr. Pretorious shows Dr. Frankenstein his success growing tiny, Barbie-sized people who he keeps in Bell Jars. What makes the scene particularly disturbing is the whimsical music, it underscores the complete of Pretorius and his complete disconnection with that funny little thing called sanity.
It’s a fine film, once you get through that preamble (it’s only a few minutes long, use it to open a bottle of wine), Director James Whale was truly an artist. The fictionalized film about Whale’s death, Gods and Monsters, takes it’s name from a line in Bride of Frankenstein. Boris Karloff is terrific as the Monster. The pop culture image of the Monster is that of a lumbering, emotionless creature. The Monster of the book, and the first two films, is anything but. The scene with the blind man in the cabin, where the Monster cautiously makes his first friend, is quite moving.
Next up, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, which was on at 10 instead of 8 because of the Obama-thon.
I watched Son of Frankenstein and have already posted about it and about the epic decline in quality the franchise suffered after Bride, so I pushed ahead to 1942’s Ghost of Frankenstein. In Son of Frankenstein, the Doctor’s son, Wolf, inherited the castle, the crazy hunchback, Ygor, and, of course, the monster. (Who is now played by Lon Chaney, Jr).
In Ghost, Wolf’s brother, Ludwig, takes up dear old dad’s work after the villagers capture the monster, who it turns out escaped with Ygor at the end of Son. Wackiness ensues. Or maybe that’s the wine talking.
After an intermission to watch Obama on the Daily Show, I planned to move on to House of Dracula, except I realized it hadn’t arrived yet. I also realized that I don’t really care so I skipped on to House of Frankenstein. I should note that House of Dracula marks the debut of Glenn Strange as the Monster. Lon Chaney, jr remains, but now plays Lawrence Talbet/the Wolf Man. John Carradine plays Dracula. Bela is nowhere to be seen. This cast remains the same for House of Frankenstein, and I should mention that Lionel Atwill gamely continues to play the Inspector.
Three Frankensteins were enough for one night. Plus, I was out of wine, so I watched Rachel Maddow and went to bed.
When I moved to Washington, DC in 1988 (holy shit, that was 20 years ago) my real introductions to the town were Adams Morgan Day and the Drag Race. I missed the Drag Race this year, but I think the Washington Post article sums it up beautifully:
I’m deeply sorry I missed the polygamists.
Theory: It is impossible to witness the drag race and not utter the word “Fabulous.”
The Cher/Gwen Stefani/Princess Di-and-bodyguards? Fabulous. Judy Garland making eyes at Liza Minnelli? Creepy and fabulous.
Those nine middle-age guys dressed up as polygamist-sect members in matching pink gingham? Fundamentally Fabulous.
Tonight I forge ahead with the Frankenstein film fest. I have to admit I put on Bride of Frankenstein last night and then immediately became so occupied undoing the screwed-up sleeve on my dress that I was startled when the closing credits started running. I’d completely tuned out the whole movie, so tonight will have to be a do-over. Bride is the best of the batch, after all – if it was one of the crappy later monster flicks I might have let it slide.