Growing Up With Spider-Man

During the late 90s, when I was between six and nine years old, I was a giant Spider-Man fan!

I never read any of the comics, I was more into Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck comics when I was little, but I have enjoyed his adventures through other media.

 

I was first introduced to the character through the Norwegian dub of the Fox Kids cartoon.

I used to play with my friends, but instead of Cops & Robbers we’d play as Spider-Man and his villains.

Spider-Man villains are the best in the genre, with only Batman villains coming close, so they were a huge reason for my infatuation with the series.

 

I liked to play as Shocker, due to his cool costume and ability to shoot shock-waves out of his hands. Although I had him confused with Electro for years as a result of his powers being changed from sound based to electrical based in the cartoon for some reason.

 

Later, I fell in love with Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man films from 2002 and 2004.

MovieBob’s Really That Good episode about those films thoroughly explains why they are as great as they are.

When I saw Spider-Man 3 in 2007, I was afraid that I had grown out of the franchise, so I was very happy when I later learned that the film was universally despised.

I wonder how many people have thought that they have grown out of something they loved simply because they saw a bad iteration of it.

 

‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ film from 2012 and its 2014 sequel did a lot to make me forgive Spider-Man 3.

Spider-Man 3 may have been the worst of the Raimi films, but it was still a film about Spider-Man, not a Sony marketing campaign starring a cool dude dressing up as Spidey on a lark.

 

So after three subpar Spider-movies in a row, it felt amazing to see Peter Parker show up in ‘Captain America: Civil War’ in 2016, fighting alongside Iron Man and the other Avengers, back in the nurturing arms of Marvel Studios.

 And then ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ took that ball and ran with it the very next year, and now ‘Homecoming’ is my second favorite Spider-Man film ever, my favorite being Spider-Man 2.

 

This year, Spider-Man played a pivotal role in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, next year will have sequels to both ‘Infinity War’ and ‘Homecoming’ with ‘Avengers: Endgame’ and ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ being released, and at the moment I am having a great time playing the new PlayStation 4 Spider-Man game.

It really makes me feel like I’m a friendly neighborhood spiderman, as I swing through New York with ease.

 

And today, 14th of December 2018, the new animated film ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ is released, and by all accounts I’ve heard so far, it is great.

This is truly a wonderful time to be a Spider-fan!

 

 

I don’t know what it is about Spider-Man that makes me like him so much.

I have a fear of heights (and I don’t much care for speed either), yet I often imagine myself swinging from building to building.

Perhaps, with great imagination comes a loss of anxiety.

 

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! 🎃

InterRail 2010 – Part 10: Alnwick Castle

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After visiting Cardiff I took the train back to England, and traveled north up to Newcastle, Northumberland.

After dropping my rucksack of at a hotel, I hopped on the bus out to Alnwick Castle.

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I had traveled to this particular castle because this was the castle which had been used as the filming location for Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter movies, ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’ and ‘The Chamber of Secrets’, and had as a result informed the look of Hogwarts in all subsequent films.

In the movies there were of course a lot added to the castle in post-production, mostly in height, but I did not mind. Hogwarts was a place I had wanted to visit ever since I devoured the books as a child.

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While doing research for this post, I learned that the castle had been used to film many other things than just Harry Potter, but one of them made me really exited.

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In February of 1983, Rowan Atkinson and his co-stars were filming around Alnwick Castle, as it would double as King Richard IV’s castle for the first Blackadder season, titled ‘The Black Adder’.

Blackadder is one of my favorite comedy shows, so I wish that I would have noticed that when I was there.

After I was done soaking in the Hogwartsian atmosphere, I took the bus back to my hotel.

And after a night in Newcastle, I started my journey southwards, to France!