Day 31 – Frankenstein (2011)

0

2018 Countdown to Halloween – Day 31: Frankenstein (2011)
Cast:        Benedict Cumberbatch as Victor Frankenstein
Johnny Lee Miller as The Creature
Naomi Harris as Elizabeth
Karl Johnson as De Lacey

Based on the novel by Mary Shelley
Adapted for the stage by Nick Dear
Produced and Directed by Danny Boyle

Plot: The classic tale of a creature created by a scientist on the quest to discover the secrets of life.

Richard’s Review: I first viewed this amazing rendition of the classic Frankenstein story several years ago with Johnny Lee Miller in the role of Victor and Benedict Cumberbatch as The Creature. It was thoroughly engaging and I’ve been waiting anxiously for another opportunity to see it. This year is my first time seeing them in the opposite roles and I was not disappointed.

There are several differences in this version of the story, such as the opening of the play being the birth of the Creature and the tale being presented from the view of the Creature. We witness the Creature learn how to walk and talk, ultimately becoming very educated and wise despite his physical deformity. He is presented here as compassionate and loving as well as vengeful and vicious. One scene in particular is shocking as it shows the Creature commit an act typically never touched on before.

The music and stark sets help you focus more on the performances of the suberb cast, and there is much to take in. The ending confrontation between Victor and the Creature is stunning as both travel to the North Pole together rather than Victor pursuing the Creature, another key difference in this version.

I highly recommend you seek this out whenever it plays at your nearby theater. It is well worth the price of admission for any Frankenstein fan.

Frankenstein2

Karla’s Thoughts: I really loved this version except for the rape scene between the Creature and Elizabeth. I wasn’t expecting that and it can be quite shocking for someone more sensitive to such things. Beyond that, I found the story quite compelling with lots of interesting twists to the original story. Victor is nearly as compassionate as he is in other versions while the Creature comes across as more brutal, yet more educated and human than Victor does at times. The round object which the Creature comes out of at the beginning, symbolizing a womb, was quite unique. I also loved the lighting at the top of the stage. I would definitely watch this one again, especially to see Benedict Cumberbatch as the Creature.

Trivia:

  • This is a filmed presentation of a play that was originally seen at the Royal National Theatre in England. It ran from February 5 through May 2, 2011.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller would alternate the roles of Victor Frankenstein and The Creature.
  • The two versions of the play were recorded on March 17 and 24, 2011 for National Theatre Live.
  • Danny Boyles is well known for 28 Days Later (2002) and 28 Weeks Later (2007), which he directed and produced accordingly. He also directed the underrated sci-fi film, Sunshine (2007) and the ward-winning Slumdog Millionaire (2008).
  • Both Cumberbatch and Miller won awards for their performances, sharing the Olivier Award for Best Actor. Cumberbatch also won the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards Best Performance by an Actor in a Play award.
  • The play also won the Olivier Award for Best Lighting for the filament light bulb display above the stage.

Availability: Frankenstein is not available on home video nor will it be in the near future. However, it has been presented annually at Halloween in select theaters through Fathom Events.

Advertisements

Day 30 – The Uninvited (1944)

1

2018 Countdown to Halloween – Day 30: The Uninvited (1944)
Cast:       Ray Milland as Roderick Fitzgerald
Ruth Hussey as Pamela Fitzgerald
Gail Russell as Stella Meredith
Donald Crisp as Commander Beech
Cornelia Otis Skinner as Miss Holloway

Based on the novel by Dorothy Macardle
Screenplay by Dodie Smith & Frank Partos
Directed by Lewis Allen

Plot: When a brother and sister move into a mansion by the sea, they soon discover it to be haunted. As things go bump in the night, will they be able to solve the mystery before the supernatural occurrences reach a dangerous level?

Richard’s Review: It’s been quite a few years since my last viewing of The Uninvited, so it was almost like a first watch for me. This is a classic ghost story, perfect for the Halloween season. I loved Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey as brother and sister Roderick and Pamela. It was nice to see them progress as the film moved forward, united as family while each finding love by the end of the story. Along with Stella, they were all very likeable. On the other hand, you have the almost intolerable Commander Beech, who does soften a little by the end and does have some reasons for his actions. Miss Holloway is also quite creepy and I enjoyed seeing a young Alan Napier in his pre-Alfred days as Dr. Scott.

The ghost storyline was well-handled with the supernatural elements reserved but well-played out. I especially appreciated the final moments when we finally see Mary Meredith’s ghost. Moments later, we get the usual 1940s happy ending, which was a pleasant break from some of the other darker films we watched this month. This was a top-notch effort and I highly recommend The Uninvited for Halloween viewing!

Karla’s Thoughts: I really enjoyed this from the cast and characters to the great atmosphere throughout the film. The main characters were all likeable while Commander Beech and Miss Holloway were almost the villains of the piece. I liked how the ghost was presented, especially with the use of the perfume and the classic ghostly occurrences such as cold spots. I also enjoyed the twist at the end. Of course, I loved the happy ending. One of my favorites of the month and I would definitely watch it again.

Uninvited-3

Trivia:

  • This was the feature film debut of director Lewis Allen. He also directed The Unseen (1945), a mystery that is sometimes referred to as a sequel to The Uninvited. Before eventually settling into television, one of his last films was Suddenly (1954) with Frank Sinatra.
  • Ray Milland also appeared in Charlie Chan in London (1934), Ministry of Fear (1944), The Lost Weekend (1945) and the Hitchcock classic, Dial M for Murder (1954). Genre fans will also remember him for several horror films in the 1960s, including The Man with X-Ray Eyes (1963) and Premature Burial (1962).
  • Alan Napier, who played Dr. Scott, is better known for his role as Alfred in the 1960 television series Batman.
  • Ray Milland reprised his role in the 1949 radio adaptation on the Screen Director’s Playhouse.
  • The lesbian undertones of the Miss Holloway character alarmed the Catholic Legion of Decency, which once held influence over Hollywood.
  • The ghosts in the film were originally to be unseen but Paramount Pictures opted to include some special effects against the director’s wishes.

Availability: The Uninvited is available on Blu-ray as part of The Criterion Collection.

Day 29 – The Evil of Dracula (1974)

0

On the 29th day of the 2018 Countdown to Halloween, it’s time once again to tune in to the Dread Media podcast for the final entry in the Bloodthirsty Trilogy, The Evil of Dracula (1974)!

Take a listen to episode 583 to hear my thoughts on this once-rare Japanese classic. And as always, tell ’em Monster Movie Kid sent ya!

Availability: The Bloodthirsty Trilogy is available on Blu-ray from Arrow Video.

Image result for evil of dracula

Day 28 – The Vampire and the Ballerina (1960)

0

2018 Countdown to Halloween – Day 28: The Vampire and the Ballerina (1960)
Cast:        Helen Remy as Luisa
Tina Gloriani as Francesca
Walter Brandi as Herman
Isarco Ravaioli as Luca
Gino Turini as Giorgio
Maria Luisa Rolando as Countess Alda
Pier Ugo Gragnani as Professor

Written by Ernesto Gastaldi, Giuseppe Pellegrini & Renato Polselli
Directed by Renato Polselli

Plot: When Luisa, Francesca and Luca find an abandoned castle in the forest, they encounter the beautiful Countess Alda. She reaches out to Luca and is in need of help. Who is the mysterious Herman and what is his connection to a hideous vampire preying on the women of the nearby village every full moon? And what hold does he have over the lovely Countess?

VB-2

Richard’s Review: This was an interesting mix of gothic horror with then contemporary music and sexy women. The young women, who are supposed to be ballerinas, are really more dancers as their performances are clearly a blend of ballet, dance and erotic movements. Gothic settings, such as the abandoned castle and hidden prison cells are seen through both traditional music as well as a jazzy soundtrack that seems vert out-of-place at times. However, it clearly established at the time that the film was something new and different.

The story of the Countess and her servant Herman is a bid odd as it presents a new version of the vampire lore. Why Herman, which is a very odd name for the time period, changes from a hideous creature to a handsome young man is never fully explained. It’s also puzzling that he would turn the young Brigida at the beginning of the film only to kill her shortly thereafter. And why was she buried alive on the day after she was initially bitten? Her family acted like she was dead but they had to see that her eyes were open.

The script made some odd choices like this that are never really fleshed out while a lot of time is spent watching the girls dance around seductively. It made sense at the time it was made since they wanted to mix horror and sex but it stands out now as deterring from the main plot. All that said, I did enjoy The Vampire and the Ballerina for the most part. I can overlook some of the weaker elements, such as the ending scene on top of the castle. The deaths are well done but the abrupt nature is a little nonsensical. This definitely is something different for a late night creature feature viewing.

VB-3

Karla’s Thoughts: It always gets me how people enter these houses uninvited and just start snooping around. It never ends well but, then again, we wouldn’t have much of a movie if they didn’t. The title of this one is wrong as the girls are more dancers than ballerinas. I know, a minor point but one that stood out to me. All of these characters made choices and none of them were very likeable. This different take on the vampire legend was a little weird and the ending seemed rushed. I didn’t hate this one but I found it to be lacking something. Not sure I’d watch it again.

Trivia:

  • The original ending of the film was much more graphic, focusing on more prolonged close-ups of the melting vampire faces.
  • This film is considered the first to mix a horror and vampire film with modern-day sex, becoming an influence on future European horror films, especially those from Hammer.

Availability: The Vampire and the Ballerina is available on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory.

Day 27 – The Long Hair of Death (1964)

0

2018 Countdown to Halloween – Day 27: The Long Hair of Death (1964)
Cast:        Barbara Steele as Helen/Mary Karnstein
George Ardisson as Baron Kurt Humboldt
Halina Zalewska as Lisabeth Karnstein
Umberto Raho as Von Klage
Giuliano Rafaelli as Count Humboldt

Story by Ernesto Gastaldi
Screenplay by Tonino Valleri & Antonio Margheriti
Directed by Antonio Margheriti

Plot: When an innocent woman is burned alive for being a witch, she curses the family responsible and vows revenge. Years later, an evil Baron marries her daughter as a plague threatens the land. Secrets will be revealed as the older daughter, murdered by the Count, returns to fulfill her mother’s curse.

Long-2

Richard’s Review: I watched this one years ago but remembered nothing about it. Since then, I’ve grown to appreciate European horror so much more, so I was excited about revisiting The Long Hair of Death and I was not disappointed. Director Antonio Margheriti is a master of gothic horror and his talent is on full display here. From the set pieces to the lighting, this one is full of classic gothic goodness. Add in the legendary Barbara Steele and you have an engaging ghost story full of revenge and truly horrific moments. The ending is quite chilling.

Long-3

Raro Video’s film print looks amazing but the quality on the interviews is low budget and looks dated, most likely reused from previous releases. I would have loved a more in depth documentary on the making of the film or maybe a segment on Barbara Steele. However, the film more than makes up for the lack of extras. Highly recommended!

Karla’s Thoughts: I really liked this one even if it was a little too long and drawn out. I was easily confused by the ending as it was hard to determine which character Barbara Steele was playing. I’m curious as to how the mother and daughter came back to haunt the Count and his son. Were they really witches or just ghosts? Also, how Lisabeth didn’t die was a little confusing as well. Despite these minor issues, I did enjoy it but I’m not sure I’d watch it again.

Trivia:

  • Antonio Margheriti also directed Horror Castle (1963), Castle of Blood (1964) and Web of the Spider (1971), as well as several sci-fi flicks such as The Wild, Wild Planet (1966) and Snow Devils (1967).
  • Barbara Steele’s credits include Black Sunday (1960), Pit and the Pendulum (1961) with Vincent Price and Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968) with Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee.

Availability: The Long Hair of Death is available on Blu-ray from Raro Video.

Day 26 – Dracula’s Ghost (2017)

0

2018 Countdown to Halloween – Day 28: Dracula’s Ghost (2017)
Cast:        Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula
Lionel Atwill as Dr. Otto Von Neimann
Fay Wray as Ruth Bertin
Melvyn Douglas as Karl Brettschneider
Dwight Frye as Herman Gleib

Produced by C.S. Lamb

Plot: Who is responsible for the bodies being found drained of their blood? Vampires are rumored to be lurking in the village. Is it the odd fellow named Herman? Or is it the legendary Count Dracula?

Richard’s Review: I knew going into the film that this was a love letter to the classic horror genre. Producer C.S. Lamb had created this 54 minute flick using mostly footage from The Vampire Bat (1933), while adding clips from other public domain sources to slightly change the story so that the villain of the piece is Count Dracula. I also knew it was intended to look like some long lost worn film print. So, knowing all that, does it work?

The film print quality is indeed rough at times with some very dark scenes that leave it hard to tell what is going on. Unfortunately, the production quality is low too, which really hurts the presentation. The story flows rather well despite the repetitive clips of Count Dracula. But, with nobody ever mentioning the name of Dracula at any point, the story becomes disjointed. The ending is very rushed and makes no sense but this should have been expected considering the small amount of Dracula footage Lamb could use.

Another writer and producer are credited, which may be real names or not, but the original writers and directors are not mentioned at all, which is a major oversight. Proper credit should have been given. Lamb does promote this film as a novelty and is very upfront that it is not high definition. Yet, the cover is very well done, leaving one to think it’s worth the high price tag of $20. Unfortunately, it is not. My DVD had a minor production glitch and no image on the burned DVD. I loved the spirit in which this was made but it should be free on YouTube. Maybe worth $5 but not the $23.50 I paid for it. Therefore, I cannot recommend adding this to your collection.

Karla’s Thoughts: There is definitely some great atmosphere buried in the overly dark print. It’s so dark at times that it’s hard to make out what is happening. There is little character development, which is common to cheap films of the time period. Despite that, it was an interesting film but the ending, or lack thereof, was greatly disappointing. I’d watch it again if it’s on TV but I wouldn’t seek it out.

Trivia:

  • Producer C.S. Lamb created this “lost” classic using mostly elements from The Vampire Bat (1933) and Bela Lugosi snippets from the Dracula (1931) trailer and White Zombie (1932), amongst other sources.

Availability: Dracula’s Ghost is available on DVD from the creator on eBay.

Day 25 – The Maze (1953)

0

2018 Countdown to Halloween – Day 25: The Maze (1953)
Cast:        Richard Carlson as Gerald MacTeam
Veronica Hurst as Kitty Murray
Katherine Emery as Edith Murray
Michael Pate as William

Based on the novel by Maurice Sandoz
Screenplay by Dan Ullman
Directed by William Cameron Menzies

Plot: When Gerald MacTeam is summoned to a family estate, he abruptly calls off his upcoming marriage to Kitty Murray. However, Kitty doesn’t take no for an answer and she vows to find out exactly what is happening in the Scottish highlands.

Richard’s Review: I had seen The Maze once many years ago and remember being greatly underwhelmed by the ending. However, I had honestly forgotten much about this film, so it felt like a first time viewing. Well, that was until the big reveal. Prior to the climax of the film, there is a lot to love about The Maze. First, you have Richard Carlson, who I also enjoy watching. Second, you have a lot of atmosphere, resulting in an almost old dark house feel at times. There is genuine mystery and suspense with some interesting performances. Unfortunately, when the creature is finally revealed, it really is a big letdown. That said, I recommend you check out The Maze on a rainy afternoon. I think you’ll enjoy it if you go in with lower expectations.

Karla’s Thoughts: This one was very atmospheric and creepy, so I really enjoyed it up until the reveal, which was simply ridiculous. I never understood why having a woman at the castle was dangerous, other than they might find out the truth. And why was the housekeeper killed? Of course, I liked the happy ending, so I’d watch it again but I’m going to laugh out loud every time the reveal happens.

Trivia:

  • William Cameron Menzies was an art director on It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) and Rebecca (1940), as well as a production designer on Gone with the Wind (1939). As a director, his credits include Chandu the Magician (1932) and Invaders from Mars (1953).
  • Richard Carlson is well known for his roles in Creature from the Black Lagoon (1953) and It Came from Outer Space (1953).
  • Michael Pate also starred with Boris Karloff in The Strange Door (1951) and The Black Castle (1952), as well as the underrated Universal vampire flick, Curse of the Undead (1959).

Availability: The Maze is available on Blu-ray from Kino Classics in both 2-D and 3-D.