Universal Monsters

universal monsters collection dvd bluray boxset cover.jpg

Last October I listed my ten favorite Halloween movies, so this time I decided to write about some Halloweeny films I’ve seen since then.

 

Earlier this year, my girlfriend bought a blu-ray box set collection of old Universal Studios monster movies.

I enjoyed all of these film on some level, but a few of them did fall short compared to the others.

 

One thing I will not be mentioning too much is how these films look, but they have all been graphically restored, so you can just keep in mind that they all look amazing!

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Dracula (1931)

dracula 1931

Directed by Tod Browning, this classic based on Bram Stoker’s novel is probably the best film out of all of these.

 

The vampire Count Dracula, played by Bella Lugosi, moves to England and sets up residence next to an insane asylum.

There he feeds on the daughter of Dr. John Seward, an action which garners the attention of Professor Abraham Van Helsing, who then attempts to defeat the bat!

But the count has many abilities, and the aid of his insane brainwashed slave Renfield.

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Frankenstein (1931)

frankenstein 1931

The first out of three films directed by James Whale, this is sadly the one I like the least of these movies.

Much of my dissatisfaction with the film is due to how the story and presentation does not depict ‘Frankenstein’ as how I understand the book was meant to be read.

 

Dr. Frankenstein is depicted as a likable guy with an obsession with science, but by the end of the film he leaves that life to go get married, and gets a happy ending.

While Boris Karloff does an admirable job in portraying him, the monster is just a crazed confused beast stumbling into murder and mayhem, instead of an introspective individual.

By the end of the film, the monster is slain by an angry mob of villagers as retaliation for him accidentally killing a little girl. And it feels like we are meant to cheer on the crowd.

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The Mummy (1932)

the mummy 1932

This film by director Karl Freund seems very much like an Egyptian retread of ‘Dracula’, and I am fine with that.

The setting and flavor adds enough to this to place this on the top half out of these films, in terms of my enjoyment.

 

This time it is Boris Karloff who gets to play a calm, intelligent and hyper-powerful being who controls people with hypnosis.

The plot centers around the mummy of an ancient Egyptian high priest named Imhotep, who believes that a woman played by Zita Johann, named Helen Grosvenor, is the reincarnation of his long since dead lover, forbidden lover, the Princess Ankh-es-en-amon.

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The Invisible Man (1933)

the invisible man 1933

While ‘Dracula’ is probably the best film on this list, this one is my favorite. I’m a sucker for comedy, and this is a really funny movie.

The fact that this was also directed by James Whale makes me think that some of the silliness I did not enjoy in ‘Frankenstein’ might have been silly on purpose.

 

Claude Rains stars as the titular character, and it is clear that he is having a blast in the role, hooting and hollering his way into our hearts!

When Dr. Jack Griffin invents and consumes a formula for gaining invisibility, he soon turns mad from the effects it had on his mind.

Now he is menacing the English countryside, and the police are powerless to stop him!

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The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935)

The Bride of Frankenstein 1935

James Whale’s second shot at directing Frankenstein hits the bullseye, and this film has everything the first one lacked.

In the sequel, Boris Karloff’s monster is an intelligent and lonely creature, rather than a bumbling oaf.

 

The best scene in the entire film, and probably in the entire box-set, is when the monster makes friends with a blind hermit. When I was watching it, I was honestly wishing that the movie could just end there and then, but I knew there would be some tragic outcome that would ruin their rare and sweet friendship.

I may go back to just see that part again, and then turn it off, to pretend that is where it ended.

 

Just don’t get to exited about The Bride’s appearance, she is barely in this.

She is good when she gets there, but I suspect they just wanted a catchy title.

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The Wolf Man (1941)

The Wolf Man 1941

Larry Talbot, played by Lon Chaney Jr., returns to his father, played by Claude Rains.

(While I first thought that these actors were the same age, or that Lon Chaney could even be slightly older, Claude Rains is in fact 17 years his senior.)

 

Larry tries out his fathers new telescope by looking into the windows of homes in the town nearby.

When he sees a lady getting dressed in her bedroom, he naturally visits the antique store she works in, on the ground floor of the same house.

When she tries to sell him some antiquities, he tells her that he would rather have the earrings on her bedside table.

Despite her being visibly unnerved by the situation, and continually saying no, he insists on them going on a date together.

When he shows up later, despite being explicitly told not to come, she has brought a friend for protection.

Even when learning that she was engaged to be married, Larry did not stop his pursuit.

 

And all of this is played as romantic, with whimsical music in the background!

The only person playing it as creepy is Evelyn Ankers as Gwen Conliffe, and that may have just been due to her and Lon Chaney Jr. reportedly not getting along due to some dressing room drama.

 

Oh yeah, and Larry also turns into a werewolf when a gypsy Bella Lugosi bites him.

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Phantom Of The Opera (1943)

phantom of the opera 1943

This film directed by Arthur Lubin sticks out like a sore thumb in this lineup, as it is filled with color, lightheartedness, melancholy and music!

It seems like only a select few scenes are meant to convey fright, and the mood quickly reverts back to either joyful or sad.

 

Claude Rains really is a half-forgotten treasure, and should be remembered as well as Bella Lugosi and Boris Karloff have been remembered.

Here he plays a violinist who gets his face (slightly) disfigured by acid, and has to hide out in passages under the opera he used to work at, after killing a music publisher for wrongly assuming that he was trying to steal his own original music.

 

Even before becoming the phantom, this man was obsessed with a singer, played by Susanna Foster.

From clues in the film, you can work out that he is actually her estranged father, but an overt reveal of this were removed from the final film, as censors for some reason felt the whole thing was very incesty.

I have to say that this is something that the censors must have brought to the table themself, not something that would have crossed the mind of most people.

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The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954)

The Creature From The Black Lagoon 1954

Despite coming out over ten years later than Phantom, this film directed by Jack Arnold feels much more of kind to the other movies I’ve written about here than that one did.

 

A crew of scientists’ search for the remains of a fossil instead leads them to a descendant of the fossilised beast.

The Gill-Man now stalks them from the water, and the crew has to use whatever they have at hand on their boat to defend themselves.

But remember, it was they who disturbed him in his natural habitat.

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Happy Halloween! 🎃

IT is fine. IT is great!

it is fine it is great

I recently saw both the 1990 version and the 2017 version of IT, the movies based on Stephen King’s 1986 horror novel.

While the 2017 IT was an immediate breakout hit, the 90s version is mostly remembered for Tim Curry’s portrayal as Pennywise the Dancing Clown.

it 1990 tim curry pennywise

But while I found both versions of the story to be very compelling, I have seen people online who have criticised the 1990 version for not being as scary as they remembered from when they were children, and even that the story did not make any sense.

This is baloney.

 

One of the major complaints is that Pennywise seldom tries to hurt the main characters, but instead just scares and teases them. But this is not a fault in the story, but rather a feature.

it 1990 pennywise

The monster It is a being with psychic powers that lives under a small Maine town called Derry.

It manipulates people (mostly children) into seeing their worst fears, and uses its powers to lure people into the sewer system in which it resides.

It merely projects an image of Pennywise the Dancing Clown to interact with its intended victims, but cannot physically harm them until he has manipulated them to move to a location where he can reach them.

 

This is a much more interesting dynamic than just another mindless monster attacking hikers in the woods.

The monster instead employs psychological warfare to get its prey to hike to it.

 

The Acid Zombie

nfd

I decided to make a mixed drink for this month’s geeky recipe, and it is naturally Halloween themed.

It is a slight variation on a mojito, with extra lime and mint leaves, topped with a frozen “brain” containing water and blackcurrant juice.

 

For a single glass, you’ll need to mix:

4 centilitres of lime juice

6 centilitres of soda water

7 centilitres of white rum

1 whole pot of chopped up mint leaves

3 topped teaspoons of sugar

1 dash of bitters

1 ice-cube containing blackcurrant juice, frozen in a brain mold

 

And there you go, brain freeze in a glass!

the swamp zombie drink