A Wish is Granted as the Monkey’s Paw Resurfaces

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It’s likely that most of us have seen some version of the classic short story, The Monkey’s Paw. The tale, written by W.W. Jacobs in 1902, has been heard on numerous radio adaptations, featured in comics and incorporated into a variety of television shows, such as The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror. Of course, the story has even been told in a long list of celluloid adaptations, ranging from short films and anthologies, such as Tales from the Crypt (1972), to several feature length films dating back to 1915 and as recent as 2013. However, adapting a short story into a full length film has some obvious drawbacks. I recently had one of my own wishes granted as I had the opportunity to view the rare 1933 version.

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First, some of you may not be familiar with the story itself. It’s a fairly simple supernatural tale involving a mysterious monkey’s paw. Anyone who possesses the paw is granted three wishes. However, the advice to be careful what you wish for has never been more accurate as there is always a price to pay for taking a shortcut to one’s happiness. In the tale, a couple find themselves the new owners of the paw after the previous owner attempts to burn it in a fireplace, realizing the horrors it can bring. The couple, dealing with financial issues and wishing for money, finds that they soon have their wish granted. However, the cost is their son’s life as the payment is a settlement for a work incident. Of course, they then wish for their son to return without thinking of what condition he’ll return in. Mrs. White doesn’t care and is eager to answer the knock on the door, knowing it’s her baby boy returned from the grave. But her husband soon realizes that the thing at the door is no longer their son and uses the third wish to send him back to the grave. This was truly horrifying material for the early 1900s.

The 1933 film was not the first time Jacobs’ story had been brought to the big screen. It was made at least twice during the silent era, first in 1915 and, again, in 1923. Sadly, the 1915 version appears to be lost but the 1923 British version does exist, or at least part of it does. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to track down a copy to compare it to the next two versions that were made in the decades that followed. Until just a few weeks ago, the 1933 film had also eluded me. That was until it had a special screening at the recent Monster Bash in Mars, Pennsylvania. It was considered lost for years and many websites still list it that way. However, it was first reported in 2014 that a French dubbed copy of the film had resurfaced in a private collection. A few people then began to claim they had seen it through a DVD-R copy. Author and historian Tom Weaver had hoped back in 2014 that the reports were true and that it would be publicly released with English subtitles. Sadly, that has yet to officially happen but Tom did acquire a copy for his own collection and it was screened to an eager audience of horror aficionados. On a Friday night in a darkened hotel ballroom, I sat eagerly anticipating this rare screening, hoping it would live up to my own personal expectations.

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For starters, the current print is in rough shape. It is dark and it’s hard to decipher what is going on in some scenes. The dubbing takes a little away from the true acting of the cast but, thankfully, subtitles have been created that help the story unfold for those of us who don’t speak French. We get only a fraction of Max Steiner’s opening score but what we hear is tantalizing. Our story begins with images of army troops in India and we meet Nura (Nina Quatero), a young woman who used the monkey’s paw to seduce a man into loving her. But, her happiness is short lived as she ends up killing herself. The paw is now in the possession of Sgt. Major Morris (C. Aubrey Smith, Tarzan the Ape Man), an army commander who uses it to defeat the enemy moments before a bomb kills his entire unit and leaves him with only one arm. Years later, he tells the mysterious tale of the paw to Mr. and Mrs. White (Ivan Simpson and Louise Carter). Mr. White immediately wants the paw and eventually steals it from Morris. As he holds it, he swears the paw moves. He eventually wishes for a fortune to help him out of his poor financial situation, which they ultimately receive through a legal settlement after their son is killed at work. Of course, we know where this is headed as Mrs. White eventually forces her husband to wish for their son to return and, moments before a mysterious figure knocking at the door is able to enter the home, Mr. White wisely wishes their son back in the grave.

With an original running time of 58 minutes, the classic tale had to be fleshed out to fit into a feature film. I think directors Wesley Ruggles and Ernest B. Schoedsack (Most Dangerous Game, Son of Kong, Dr. Cyclops and Mighty Joe Young), along with writer Graham John, partially succeed as there is genuine suspense at times. There is a lot of padding, making it a little slow at times, but it’s still entertaining and the climax is both atmospheric and chilling. It’s not necessarily a classic but I think it’s far superior to the 1948 version, which I reviewed back in 2016. That film suffers from a tremendous amount of padding and doesn’t really get going until the last 15 minutes.

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The print shown at the Bash had a running time of around 50 minutes, so apparently some eight minutes of footage is still missing. Supposedly, a happy “it’s only a dream” ending was cut off for the French version. While this leaves the ending of this version rather bleak and sudden, I think it may actually be better as I’ve never been a fan of those types of twist endings, such as we get in Mark of the Vampire (1935). Ultimately, I walked out of the room quite satisfied, knowing that what I had seen was something rare. Frankly, we’re fortunate the print even exists.

Despite the rough and incomplete condition, The Monkey’s Paw (1933)should be available for the public to view. Unfortunately, it still resides in the hands of a private collector and existing copies have been made on the condition it doesn’t get publicly released. I’m thankful Tom Weaver provided a copy to Ron Adams so monster kids finally got a chance to watch this previously lost horror film. Hopefully, we all can add a copy in our own collection someday in the future. For now, the Monkey’s Paw remains barely visible in the dark, silently waiting for its next victim.

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Classic Horrors Club – A Trip To Mars

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This month on the Classic Horrors Club Podcast, episode 33 is for two groups of people: those who went to Mars, PA, last month for Monster Bash... and those who didn’t. Relive the adventure, or live it vicariously as Jeff and I highlight our favorite moments and play some great audio clips of the featured guests.

On the way home, we also listened to two classic British radio programs. First up was The Slide (1966), starring Roger Delgado (The Master on Doctor Who, The Mummy’s Shroud). Then, things really got going with Aliens in the Mind (1977) starring Vincent Price and Peter Cushing in the “movie” we never got to see them make.

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It’s a long one, so let’s take our seats and call this month’s meeting to order…

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Email us at classichorrorsclub@gmail.com

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Find Jeff at Classic Horrors Club: http://classichorrors.club!

Mihmiverse – Terror in the Wax Museum (1973)

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This month on episode 57 of the Mihmiverse Monthly Audiocast, the Kansas City Crypt opens up for another horror flick from director George Fenady, Terror in the Wax Museum (1973)! With some of the same cast as Arnold, such as Elsa Lanchester, along with Ray Milland and Maurice Evans, this flick takes things a little more seriously. Unfortunately, we still have to suffer through the musical “talents” of Shani Wallis.

Be sure to check out the online home of the films of Christopher R. Mihm for all of the great merchandise and information on how you can help make future films happen! Chris is hard at work on not one but two new chapters in the Mihmiverse story as The Phantom Lake Kids in The Beast Walks Among Us and That Which Lurks in the Dark are on the horizon for 2020. Check out the website to learn how you can contribute today!

As always, tell ’em Monster Movie Kid sent you!

Classic Horrors Club – Dracula and Dr. Jekyll Meet the Gorgon

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In episode 32 of the Classic Horrors Club Podcast, Jeff and I start down the road to Monster Bash as we discuss three films with a connection to the annual conference in Mars, PA. First up is The Gorgon (1964), the inspiration for Joshua Kennedy’s new film, House of the Gorgon (2018), which has its U.S. premiere at the Bash. Next, it’s Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde (1971), starring the lovely Martine Beswick, who will be a special guest at the Bash. Finally, it’s Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972), featuring Christopher Neame, who will also be a special guest at the Bash.

It’s another Hammer trilogy from The Classic Horrors Club Podcast, one that takes you from the end of the studio’s classic era into the heart of its sexy 70’s era. Which era is your favorite?

We want feedback! Call us at:

(616) 649-2582
That’s (616) 649-CLUB

or email us at classichorrorsclub@gmail.com

or join us in our clubhouse at https://www.facebook.com/groups/classichorrors.club/

Find Jeff at Classic Horrors Club: http://classichorrors.club

Mihmiverse – Arnold (1973)

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This month on episode 56 of the Mihmiverse Monthly Audiocast, the Kansas City Crypt opens up for a forgotten horror comedy called Arnold (1973)! I stumbled upon this fun little flick after a Saturday morning conversation with my wife Karla, who had actually seen this movie many years ago.

Be sure to check out the online home of the films of Christopher R. Mihm for all of the great merchandise and information on how you can help make future films happen! Chris is hard at work on not one but two new chapters in the Mihmiverse story as That Which Lurks in the Dark and The Phantom Lake Kids in The Beast Walks Among Us are on the horizon. Check out the website to learn how you can contribute today! As always, tell ’em Monster Movie Kid sent you!

Dread Media – Blood Feast (1963)

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It’s time for episode 614 of the Dread Media Podcast and Monster Movie Kid is finally diving into the world of the legendary Herschell Gordon Lewis. I’ve never really felt inclined to watch any of his films but, thanks to Joe Bob Briggs and Last Drive-In over at Shudder, the time is now! I was actually surprised that the gore, while excessive, really didn’t have quite the impact on me that I thought it would. As always, tell ’em Monster Movie Kid sent ya!

Godzilla Regains His Throne as King of the Monsters

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When Godzilla was released in 2014, anticipation was high for Warner Brothers and Legendary to do right by Toho franchise. While it certainly surpassed the ill-conceived American film from 1998, audience reaction was mixed. Most fans felt it needed more monster action and less plot. They also wanted to see more of Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe. I enjoyed it when I first saw it but definitely felt like it could have been better. I wanted more monsters! Upon revisiting the film the other night, I have to say that the film doesn’t quite hold up as well as I remembered it. It’s not the worst of the franchise but it did leave me going into the sequel with lower expectations. I can now say that I was pleasantly surprised with Godzilla, King of the Monsters (2019) and I believe fans most definitely got their wish. There are more monsters and a lot more kaiju action on the screen than we’ve seen in a long time.

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Godzilla, King of the Monsters starts off by introducing us to our two lead characters, Mark and Dr. Emma Russell, as they are searching for their lost son in the rubble during the climatic events of the last film. Flash forward five years, their son is gone and the Russells have split up. Mark is shooting wildlife pictures while Emma is working for Monarch, which has come under fire for failing to publicly reveal their efforts to conceal just how many monsters, or titans as they’re called here, are roaming the planet. Their daughter Madison is greatly concerned about her mother, foreshadowing some plot twists that set everything in motion for the monster rumble of all rumbles to take place with Earth as the battleground.

Godzilla gets significantly more screen time here as he is now clearly the protector of Earth against the evil Monster Zero aka King Ghidorah. Our old friend Mothra is introduced as is Rodan, along with several other new kaiju. Godzilla looks better here with minor revisions but mostly because he is much more mobile in this film. Ghidorah has never looked better and Rodan has received some significant upgrades from his early days at Toho. Mothra remains mostly unchanged except for enhancements courtesy of CGI technology. The battle sequences are awesome but here lies my biggest problem with the film. I think the final battle is simply too bombastic. I had the same concerns with Aquaman and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. They could have toned it down a notch and held back a little to get better results. Sometimes, less is more and that philosophy would have worked here. However, I think director Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat, Krampus) was trying to give fans more after the complaints of the first film. Someone in the editing room should have reined him in a little as the end result seems a little long and excessive. It was certainly a lot of fun but also somewhat exhausting after a while.

The cast includes Kyle Chandler (First Man) and Vera Farmiga (The Conjuringfranchise), both turning in good performances. Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things) was great as Madison and plays a key role in the finale but hopefully she’s given a little more to do in next year’s Godzilla vs. Kong. It was fun to see Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) back and Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister on Game of Thrones) clearly had fun chewing up the scenery as the evil Jonah. He was a perfect bad guy and I think we’ll be seeing him again.

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I also have to mention how fun it was to hear Akira Ifukube’s Godzilla theme and Yuji Koseki’s Mothra music. This homage to the past was amazing. It was also great to hear the classic rock tune “Godzilla” over the end credits but I wish Blue Oyster Cult’s version would have been chosen.

Godzilla fans will definitely be pleased with the 32nd film in the franchise. It’s not perfect but much improved over Godzilla (2014) and it sets the stage for next year’s Godzilla vs. Kong. Kong is casually referenced in this film but absent from the big showdown. Make sure to read the numerous headlines at the end of the film as it establishes that Godzilla clearly has a new rival in the making for the title of King of the Monsters!

All pictures copyrighted by Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures.