Monday, October 5, 2009

Halloween Marathon Continues...

So, we started with classic wolf-man fare. I gotta say, the werewolves get no love. Sure, they pop up in all the vampire cultural phenomena, but as nothing more than background fluff. I don't want to make the case that werewolves are cooler than vamps, or vice-versa (Lord knows there are too many "Twilight" fans and "True Blood" fans that would love to lynch any lycanthropes from rising to power). Alls I'm sayin' is that werewolves are pretty freakin' cool. And, I think that may be because their usage is sparse, in comparison to the mass expansion of vampires in pop-culture today. Think of it, though...there have been some pretty cool werewolves. Michael J. Fox, Jason Bateman, Jack Nicholson, and, soon, Benecio Del Toro (though, he was the dog-boy in Big Top Pee Wee...that counts, right?).
But I digress.
I did follow up the initial trilogy with two addendums - fluffy, sugary, nonsensical cinema. But the two films compliment the Wolf-Man saga pretty well.
First, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Now, Abbott and Costello are comic geniuses, make no bones about it. What's fascinating about this match-up is the supporting cast. Of course, Chaney is back as the tormented Larry Talbot (give the man credit) and Bela Lugosi returns into the role of Dracula. Karloff is not in the mix. Instead, Glenn Strange shows up as the Frankenstein Monster.
Don't ask me how all these characters came together. It was an interesting plotpoint in House of Frankenstein, in A&C Meet Frankenstein, it's just nonsense. It doesn't matter, though, it's friggin' Abbott and Costello.
If you've never seen it, you're doing yourself a huge disservice. This is classic comedy. The interactions between Costello and the Wolf-Man in the woods is hilarious and on the verge of classic Three Stooges. And watching it, it reminded me of growing up with classic cinema and classic comedy like this...which is not found in today's raunchy comedy.
The other bookend on this trilogy, which also reminded me of childhood (though the Saturday morning cartoons), was Van Helsing.
I know, I know. Everyone HATED Van Helsing. If you're a hardcore hater, go back and take another look. It's not that bad. Yes, it's B-Movie grade with B-Movie acting that's trying to pass itself off as A-List material. That's the movie's fatal flaw. However, Van Helsing is the powdered sugar of movies. It is what it is. And, what it is, is fun...if you can get past the pretentions it brings.
If Roger Corman had been given a Speilberg-sized budget back in the sixties, this is the flick he would have churned out. No doubt in my mind.
So why did people hate it?
1.) Wolverine's not playing Wolverine; 2.)Nobody cares about the Universal Monsters anymore; 3.)Kate Beckinsale wasn't wearing her Underworld PVC dominatrix get-up.
Stephen Sommers did the same thing here he did with The Mummy franchise. He funned it up a bit, and got to play like a kid. Difference? He does some very cool stuf here.
Three reasons why you should revisit the film:
1.) Universal Monsters are very, very cool. The opening sequence is a beautifully well done homage to the classics;
2.) Shuler Hensley as Frankenstein's monster. I loved the Frankenstein monster storyline here. Karloff got close to humanizing the monster...but there's was only so much he could do. The role evolved into Peter Boyle adding humor to the beast. Now, Shuler Hensley perfects it. He truly is remarkable.
3.) Animation. The CG creatures are outstandingly remarkable. Remember, this is 2004 we're talking about. CGed Transformers hadn't come out yet. The animated beasts are insane! My personal favorite - Mr. Hyde (voiced by the wonderful Robbie Coltrane).
So, check 'em out, if you haven't already: Abbott and Costellor Meet Frankenstein & Van Helsing.
5 down...26 to go.

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