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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 16: The Mummy

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 16: The Mummy

I often feel like the Gill- Man from Creature from the Black Lagoon got the shaft. Other than a pair of sequels in 1955 (Revenge of the Creature) and 1956 (The Creature Walks Among Us), the scaly monster from the deep has not been featured in any other films, other than The Monster Squad and Hotel Transylvania, since his initial unveiling.

Perhaps a television show called The Creature Diaries didn’t have quite the same ring as the CW’s sudser about another creature of the night? I’m guessing The Gurgling wouldn’t have appeared as menacing atop a poster hanging in the lobby of the local cineplex as another more lupine film from Joe Dante in 1981 did. Certainly, had Kevin Bacon wanted to team with Paul Verhoeven to give us The Hollow Thing from Deep Down in a Cove Somewhere in The Amazon, the marketing people would have shot it down in favor of their other 2000 film nobody saw (get it?!).

Today’s film, however, features a classic monster that hasn’t suffered the same fate as his green gilled partner in slime.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 16: The Mummy


Director: Terence Fisher
Year: 1959
Cast: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Yvonne Furneaux
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Specs: 88 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85.1 / MPAA Rating:
Rating: ★★★★★ / A

After being woken from years of hibernation within his tomb, mummified Egyptian high priest Karnak seeks out those responsible for his awakening, when they disturb the tomb of his lover and Princess, Ananka, to avenge their desecration.

The opening music is amazing, deep and resonating as the opening credits unfold. Composer Franz Reizenstein helped create an atmosphere of wonder, accompanied by the wonderful sets and wardrobe expected in a Hammer film.

I always appreciated when the classic monster films were period pieces, allowing for a more immersive tale of fantasy and intrigue. This film does not deter, nor does it disappoint.

There were some directorial decisions that I found jarring, such as the numerous fades to the next scene as someone is speaking, and wondered if I were missing some excised scene, or if my stream had hiccuped. Overall, however, the calibre of the story, acting, and scenery overcame any misgivings I may have had.


The action and the suspense are simply top-notch. Special-effects are also superb, bearing in mind the time in which they were made. Many elements of these Hammer films, in part due to its being set in the past, no doubt, are timeless, and hold up against any modern film in the same genre, often surpassing it in originality.

I recommend this film to any fan of the classic Universal monster films. I suggest this film to any fan of the other entries in Hammers stable of features. Lastly, I urge any fan of the more recent outings from Universal and Stephen Sommers to view this film immediately, lest the curse of Ananka fall on you.

By the way, for those keeping score, the films/tv shows mentioned in the exordium were The Vampire Diaries, The Howling, and The Hollow Man, natch.

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Posted by on October 16, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 11: House of Dark Shadows

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 11:  House of Dark Shadows

As a young child, I would sit in front of the television, playing with my Imperious Leader, Ovion, and Daggit action figures as my father would watch The White Shadow. I remember my mother would also make comments about Dark Shadows, a soap opera that she enjoyed watching along with the likes of General Hospital and One Life to Live. I would often confuse the two well into my early adult years. It wasn’t until recently when I truly became aware of the distinction between the two. When Johnny Depp was announced as playing the star of the remake/reboot of today’s film and its universe, I moved to seek out the original to see exactly what Tim Burton was choosing to ape.

As an aside, I’m not sure, and I’ll save this for another day, why we keep getting comedic remakes of films that weren’t originally comedies. Who are they making these films for, the original audience? They’re bound to be disappointed. A new audience are less likely to have knowledge of the source material, thus entirely missing the satirical elements of the feature..

With that being said, onto today’s entry.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 11: House of Dark Shadows

house_of_dark_shadows_xlgDirector: Dan Curtis
Year: 1970
Cast: Jonathan Frid, Grayson Hall, Kathryn Leigh Scott, David Henesy, Roger Davis
Language: English
Country: United States
Specs: 97 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85.1 / MPAA Rating: PG
Rating: ★★★½
/ C+

Vampire Barnabas Collins, a member of an aristocratic family, returns from a long slumber, where he encounters a woman who resembles his long-lost love.  He embarks on a journey to find a cure for his curse, in order that he be allowed to live life as a human once again, and be reunited with his lover.

I’ve never seen an episode of the television show that this film was based upon. I’ve noticed that there are episodes available to stream on Hulu, and while I would like to go back and visit it at some point, having learned that it’s over 1200 episodes long, it is unlikely I’ll have much opportunity in my overworked life. Thus, going in, I knew little to nothing, as you’ve already seen in my opening paragraph, heading into today’s viewing. I eagerly sat down to see what the draw was to this long-running TV show and its 2 theatrical sequels. I was curious why it had spawned numerous books, games, television reboots, and other forms of merchandise.

Dark Shadows car

I’m happy to say that while I didn’t find the film a brilliant sortie into vampire fiction, I also didn’t find it deplorable. It was simply prosaic, lacking any nuances to justify a repeat viewing. Perhaps had I been familiar with the original series I may have gained more out of my viewing experience? I was a little confused as to who the characters were, and felt that they didn’t truly offer much exposition to clear my confusion.

The cinematography did stand out, as well as the sets and locale lending an air of authenticity. The spooks and blood also did play more like a film coming from Hammer Films than a 70s television sudser. However, the acting does come across like an extended episode of a soap opera, and is theatrical and over-the-top at moments.

House of Dark Shadows [1970]

The greatest thing that I experienced while watching the film was the desire to sacrifice some of my precious time set aside that I may catch up on other storied series to watch the original series. I also would like to watch the sequel, in the hopes that I may gain more clarification to the questions I had without resorting to 600+ hours and more searching for on googling. I’d actually love to hear what others who are familiar with the television show thought of the film, or if they believe it’s worth my time and effort to visit the original series.

Perhaps, as the Tootsie Owl once heard it said, the world [me] may never know. (That actually sounds like Elmo. Oy vey)

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 3: Frankenstein Created Woman

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 3: Frankenstein Created Woman

I fondly remember Saturday afternoons, seated on the floor of my bedroom in front of my 15″ black and white RCA television, the click of the dial filling the air as I prepared to watch the weekly television program, Creature Features. Often, I’d take in a Godzilla film, a masterpiece written by Richard Matheson, a mesmerizing horror anthology featuring Vincent Price, or a bloody spectacle from a studio located across the pond, Hammer Film Productions (or as I erroneously knew it, Hammer Studios).

I love the old Universal Monster films. When I think of Dracula, the hypnotic image of Bela Lugosi, outstretched hand commanding devotion, instantly comes to mind. When I think of The Wolf Man, I’d be stretching the truth if I didn’t say Lon Chaney, Jr. was the only person I imagine in that titular role. The same can be said for Boris Karloff in regards to The Mummy and Frankenstein. When I think of Hammer Films and their catalogue of monster movies, there is none other than Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.

As I prepared my list of films to watch for this month long series, I knew that I had to include a film or two from the massive back catalogue I had missed as a youth. For my first film, I chose a candidate I knew would likely be absent from many casual horror movie viewers queue (having spent the past decade as a film professor proved this to be true).

31 Days of Frights and Films – Day 3: Frankenstein Created Woman


Director: Terence Fisher
Year: 1967
Cast: Peter Cushing, Susan Denberg, Thorly Walters
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Specs: 86mins. / Color / OAR 1.66.1 / MPAA Rating: N/A
Rating: ★★ / D

Dr. Frankenstein, having learned how to capture the soul of a recently deceased person, experiments transferring said soul into the body of another individual suffering from an untimely fate. Unfortunately, the woman whom he revives in said manner turns into a mindless killing machine, recking havoc on all in her path.

This film, while I appreciate the effort of the filmmakers to divert from the formula that made up the previous films in this series, is a film I likely will never visit again.

Sadly, the film lacks any suspense, thrills, creatures, or supernatural elements, all elements even the youngest of horror film neophytes would expect. Instead, the filmmakers rely solely on the premise of a persons brain being surgically implanted into another’s body. Were the acting not dialed in by Cushing, or were there anything resembling acting from the supporting cast, perhaps it could have been more enjoyable. Even Cushing, for reasons unknown to me, sounds dubbed over.


The film also lacks any F/X, which was another baffling instance, beings that this is a feature from a studio famous for it’s abundance of blood, guts, and other macabre imagery. With the exception of a decapitated head making an appearance at the end of the film, the lack of any lurid effects implies it were made on the cheap by an amateur without a budget.

True to a Hammer Films production, it thankfully does feature excellent costuming and sets, but even then they are barren, compared to what we’ve beheld before.


Disappointingly, the ending doesn’t bring finality, nor leave the viewer on a cliffhanger. It simply is abrupt, having the impression it were written by a screenwriter not knowing where to take it or how to properly resolve it themselves. Perhaps this is an unfortunate result of writer Anthony Hinds having run out of ideas.

In the end, I simply wish Frankenstein had created a better film.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Howl-oween: Day 27 – Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde

John Barrymore.  Frederic March.  Boris Karloff.  Spencer Tracy.  All names synonymous with todays character.  Hammer Studios, no stranger to the character themselves, decided to revisit this iconic character, and added an interesting twist to set the film apart from the others before it.

In fact, they added a few twists, melding together both historically factual elements with the obviously fictional.  What was born from such efforts?  Todays film, of course!

31 Days of Howl-oween

A Review of Films Filled with Frights

Day 27

Film #27


~  Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde ~

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Posted by on October 27, 2010 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Howl-oween: Day 24 – Captain Kronos

It’s rare that I don’t somewhat enjoy a classic Hammer film.  The company essentially made household names of staple stars Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and Ingrid Pitt.  Occasionally, however, they would have a film that did not feature their regular cast.

Today’s film was one of those.  Besides featuring a primarily different cast, they chose to put a twist on familiar territory, giving audiences a glimpse at a variant on a long portrayed monster.

Although not initially received with praise, the film has gone on to garner a rather devoted cult following.

31 Days of Howl-oween

A Review of Films Filled with Frights

Day 24

Film #24


~ Captain Kronos ~

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Posted by on October 24, 2010 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Howl-oween: Day 01

The leaves are changing colors.  The pumpkins are ready to be picked.  Some rocks are ready to be given to Charlie Brown.  That could only mean one thing.  It’s Halloween time.  In celebration, I am happy to bring you a review of a different Halloween themed film every day this month.  I deliberately am going to seek out the rare and hard to find features, as well as those that are a little more readily available.  My only hope is that you too will start a list, add some of these to it, and find some true treasures.

So sit back, dim the lights, and have a frightfully good time, as we begin…

31 Days of Howl-oween

A Review of Films Filled with Frights

Day 01

Film #01

~ Kiss of the Vampire ~

Director:  Don Sharp
Year:  1962
Cast:  Clifford Evans, Edward De Souza, Jennifer Daniel, Noel Willman
Language:  English
Country:  United Kingdom
Specs:  88 mins. / Color / OAR 1.66:1 / MPAA Rating: NR

Gerald and Marianne Harcourt (de Souza and Daniel), two lovers on their honeymoon find themselves stranded in a remote Bavarian town.  Count Ravna (Willman), a local aristocrat who lives in the town castle, invites them to stay as a temporary inn.  Unbeknownst to them, the count is the leader of a vampire cult — and he has disastrous plans for Gerald and the lovely Marianne, whom the count would like for himself.

Hammer Film Productions films have always been in my “must see” list come Halloween time.  Without question, Kiss of the Vampire is certainly on that list.  While not featuring the matchless Christopher Lee as the head blood sucker, the character of Dr. Ravna is riveting in his own nostalgic way.  The film features enough suspense for any fan of classic horror to delight in.

The Masquerade Ball scene is quite eerie, with all the creepy masks sending the faintest of chills up the spine.  I found it to be oddly reminiscent of Stanley Kubricks mesmerizing “Eye’s Wide Shut” ball.  The story itself was entertaining, and thankfully, not too contrived.  In fact, it is “Twilight Zone”-ish in its suspense.

However, I did find the scene at the end of the film lacking, becoming rather vacuous, and not quite as fulfilling as I had expected.  Unfortunately, the film suddenly ends on that scene, bringing any kind of suspense to an abrupt halt.  It certainly could have lasted another few minutes to bring some resolution to an otherwise enjoyable excursion into the world of vampires.

No Trick here.  Certainly a Treat.

My Rating**** / B-

Available from Amazon: Kiss of the Vampire

Stay Tuned…

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2010 in Movies

 

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