Saturday, October 3, 2009

Halloween Movie Marathon!

Most of you know that I'm a bit of a cineophile! I love movies - classics, B-films, and even the contemporary popcorn munchers. But nothing blows my skirts up more than a good, solid horror flick. That's why every October, I dedicate the month to the genre. Some are movies I've seen; others are movies that I've not. I realize that a lot of you know I have a soft spot in my heart for Italian horror (I know, I know, the Japanese are cranking out the creepy ones right now - but, Italians dominated the 70's and 80's).
Because I have to work...ugh...and have BizarroCon...hooray!...I'm squeezing in a few mini-marathons in. Here's the first. If you haven't checked them out, I strongly encourage it.

The Wolf-Man Marathon:
The Wolf-Man
The Wolf-Man Meets Frankenstein
The House of Frankenstein
Sure, on the surface it may not seem that these films are connected. However, it's the first example of a Hollywood trilogy (the subsequent Frankenstein and Dracula films followed these). The other unique factor here is that Lon Chaney Jr is the only actor to play a Universal Monster through all the flicks. That's right, he WAS the Wolf-Man. Frankenstein's Monster was played by Boris, Bela, Glenn and others and Dracula was played by too many actors...but in the Universal world look for Bela Lugosi and John Carradine.
The Wolf-Man is cinematic perfection. It doesn't give away too doesn't give away too little. Interesting factoid: it's not the film that famous for the amazing Lon Chaney transformation. You see the lap-photography, but it's not 'til the last ten minutes. What you see if a transformation of the feet.
If you've never seen The Wolf-Man, do so. It's a great thriller and it clocks in at just over an hour - it's easy to squeeze in. Lon Chaney is an amazing physical actor. The stuff he does with the character is pretty remarkable, especially considering that he's a big guy. Too, the generic score used here (as it was recycled in all the Universal monster movies) works.
The big sequel to The Wolf-Man is The Wolf-Man meets Frankenstein. It's better than the first, if that's possible. Chaney, here, gets a chance to show his acting chops. He's wonderful as the sad-sap, afflicted everyman. Of course, he does happen upon Frankenstein's monster...and interesting concept that would be mimicked in the 60's...and their interactions are quite remarkable. Bela plays the monster in this flick, and I'll tell you, it's the first time you truly miss Karloff. Not that Bela's not talented. Playing the monster, though, you always though anyone could play it. Not true.
There's no real showdown between the two giant monsters until the last two minutes. Still, it's a fairly remarkable effort to contiue the story of Larry Talbot's troubled soul, with a passing mention of Frankenstein's name.
Finally, there's a joy! House of Frankenstein. This is probably my favorite Karloff performance. He plays an imprisoned mad scientist who idolized Frankenstein. He even has a hunchback follower named Daniel. Karloff is absolute evil here. He cares nothing about any other character. All he cares about is his own gain. And to that end...he drags all the Universal monsters into the batter.
First he frees Dracula (played by John Carradine, who's not bad, it's just after Bela Lugosi you kind of long for that authentic European flavor), then comes across the frozen corpses of Larry Talbot and the Frankenstein Monster (played here by Glenn Strange) from the end of the Wolf-Man Meets Frankenstein.
This was the first effort at a legitimate franchise and Universal nails it! The movie paces better than the other films in the Universal monster collection. It's also tributed to great performances (Boris and Lon are really at their very best).
If you're up for some classic horror...though, not scary by today's standards...check this trilogy out.

More to come...

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