It’s been a graveyard smash…
Hey boys and ghouls,
We sincerely hope that you guys have enjoyed our Halloween Horror Movie Spooktacular. We have crossed 3,000 hits and the hits keep coming. In celebration of the day all things scary walking the earth, lets do the Monster Mash with Boris Karloff and a hoard of go-go dancers to celebrate! Tune in tomorrow for our final review of the horror film you guys chose. Happy Halloween!
The Mummy (1932)
by Corinne Rizzo
Boris Karloff, is quite the king of stiff and mechanical movie monsters. I don’t know who’s idea it was to do something like this, but not unlike George Lucas as the model for Wookies everywhere, I think maybe Karloff saw these things in himself. No research on it quite yet because Movie Monster Week must go on and there are no moments to spare. Regardless, Karloff is almost scarier as the Mummy than he is as Frankenstein. Though the two characters are pretty close aesthetically. Almost is the key word.
Running the longest of all the monster flicks I have reviewed this week, The Mummy has the most complex story line of the lot. Set the mid thirties, a crew of British excavators is lead to the tomb of an Egyptian princess by none other than an Egyptian prince, raised from his tomb by the alleviation of a curse that he was punished under back in ancient times. The film begins with an original set of explorers who come across this Mummy and while discovering more about his tomb, end up waking the Mummy from its sleeping state.
The Mummy then adapts into the culture provided by the current team of excavators and remains unnoticed as a native for a time, until he begins to give himself away.
To be completely honest, after watching Frankenstein, The Mummy was a little less exciting and ran a little bit longer than I expected any of these films to run. Maybe it’s the mood I find myself in today, on a rainy and cold day in Akron, but I just wasn’t into it.
I could go on to tell you more about the plot, but it would be in an effortless way that might demean a reader looking for a genuine opinion. I can give my genuine opinion and it is this: The Mummy fits in with the theme of Universal Movie Monsters, because he is in fact a monster, but breaks the sense of community built up between the previously reviewed films. Whereas the rest of the films use reoccurring actors, playing reoccurring roles, creating an occult following of these small tragic towns, The Mummy breaks that mold and almost feels out of place.
The plot of the film is everywhere and there are scenes that seem extraneous and ill fitted. As a viewer I found myself saying “I have no idea what is happening here,” which is common when I find that I am being given more information than I need to stick with a film.
Plus, The Mummy looks just like Frankenstein’s Monster and I found myself wishing to just revisit those movies again. Just like the Monster. Why would they do that? Because Frankenstein was such a hit? Most likely. It makes me uncomfortable when an industry’s motives are so transparent. I think Universal could have worked harder at The Mummy as a character aesthetically and personally.
Grade: C (for a serious lack of imagination and an overwhelming incorporation of details)
by Corinne Rizzo
To put the breaks on third person narrative, if you asked me what my top five favorite books were, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is somewhere near the top three. Nowhere near five, but probably not one. The story line spoke to me one day in my senior year of high school (which at the time was required reading), and I finished the book almost overnight leaving me as the leader of discussion in class and in turn, the teacher’s pet. More than that though, Frankenstein and his Monster showed me that I wanted to write and that I could write and that I should write. Not that I ever had an interest in fiction, but imagine if one could find a story just as weird in reality and be able to share it in a style that got people really thinking about god and life and death—things, I believe average minds don’t consider on a daily basis. Like Frankenstein himself, I was on the brink of my greatest discovery and literature and I haven’t parted since.
As Dr. Frankenstein abandons house and home to bring life to this creature that he has scavenged graveyards and laboratories for, he becomes so overwhelmed with the idea of bringing a life into this world that he totally overlooks the natural processes of things. He has a fiancée and she’s dedicated and beautiful—why don’t they just go through the motions of creating life the way we all know how? This is a thought the viewer might only consider when sitting down to write a review because throughout the film as we watch those short moments before the Monster comes to life, it is easy to see that the man is passionate and should be left to his work. Plus, I wouldn’t mess with a madman like the good doctor. He’s got his sights set and isn’t interested in what gets in the way.
Science is the answer for Frankenstein and it is not biology, but electro-biology. He serves to show that life can be brought upon the dead by a single ray that surrounds us daily. But other oversights begin to come into play as he gets his Monster up and running; he realizes that he has taken no interest in where the organs and limbs originated, or who they belonged to. In fact, he has implanted the brain of a criminal into his Monster and with total faith in science, believes that it will have no ill effect on his creation.
When the Monster kills off a loyal professor of his and innocent people living in the hillside, it is then that Dr. Frankenstein has come to the conclusion too late that faith and science are not tools that work in harmony. Like oil and water, when science failed him, Frankenstein was left to faith to decide that his Monster would not be criminally minded as he was warned.
Before I go on any longer sounding like a prewriting exercise for a thesis paper, and I could literally ramble on all day about the film, you should see it. It is the epitome of classic and a gateway to the literature behind it. In fact, while you’re at it, you should read The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells. The entire line of Universal Monster Movies is a lesson in the classics and will leave the viewer needing to know more. Leave us a comment if we can answer any questions, or seek them out yourself on the giant encyclopedia that is the internet. Watch clips, see the art that has been inspired by these films. It is a microcosm that one should at least test out before writing off.
When deciding which film to watch first in the entire collection, ask yourself if you want to save the best for last. Then decide whether you should watch Frankenstein first or last because if you watch it dead center of all the other films in the series, you’ll be thrown for a loop and have to go back and watch the other ones again.
Top Five Reasons to See Frankenstein:
Actually—there is no top five. You should just go see it.
by Corinne Rizzo
Backward down the number line of chronology, Dracula, released on Valentine’s Day in 1931, is not the first in the series of Universal Monster Movies, but it certainly is one of the most refined.
Beginning not unlike the last two films reviewed this week, Dracula begins with a grand arrival, much like the arrival of the gypsies in The Wolf Man and The Invisible Man’s entrance into the pub, Renfield arrives via horse and carriage to a small valley town just below the mountain top where Dracula resides. The townspeople are hurried in their actions and are surprised to see someone new arriving so late in the evening. In an attempt to warn him at once, the villagers encourage Renfield to stay for a night and begin his travels again in the morning. When the tale of Dracula is told, Renfield laughs it off and reminds the village that he is not scared and must continue. Little did Renfield know that his arrival would give way to his enslavement.
When the audience meets Count Dracula, a slow and cautious character is introduced. His actions are calculated and lack confidence, though he knows what he is capable of. The Count’s character traits almost mimic the action within the film and just as his movements are akward and slow, the film continues in a calculated though anticlimactic way. For instance, each one of Count Dracula’s victims is visited by him in the form of a bat before they are taken down. Then, they almost casually fall unconscious, while Dracula slowly goes for the jugular. The audience can always tell when a victim is about to fall, though the viewer never sees the blood, leaving a much desired horror effect.
It is easy to write off nuances like this and chalk it up to the film being dated and that the viewer may just be used to a certain standard by now, but honestly, the story told by the villagers in the beginning seemed more menacing than the villain in this film. Think about it. Assuming you’ve seen Dracula and are reading this review to support the site or for whatever reason, every night The Count comes creeping out of his casket where he keeps native soil to rest in and he brings his three lovely assistants, whom he only calls upon to show off in front of, and there is smoke floating all around the caskets, a slow creep out with those gangly awkward fingers and then…there is no smooth and casual way of showing it, but all of the sudden Dracula is standing up! It’s enough to turn the audience giggling every time the scene is repeated. The camera shot is panned away from the casket for just a moment and suddenly, without a trace of dirt or a hair out of place, Dracula is on his feet and ready to roll.
Things like this within the film are rampant. The only way to tell if someone has been affected is that their eyes get really big, the bat that Dracula turns into to spy on his victims is super hokey and Dracula almost has too many weaknesses against him to be menacing. The guy can’t tolerate light, is spooked by mirrors, wolf vein, and crucifixes. There are so many ways to keep Count Dracula out of one’s life and the film really felt like it was stretching to find ways around those ideas.
This is not to say that it wasn’t a valiant effort on Universal’s part to depict such a character, the film was enjoyable enough to watch, though fell short of certain expectations one could develop after being exposed to The Wolf Man and The Invisible Man. There are many parallels within Dracula to keep an avid Monster Movie buff interested in the entire series, the incorporation of things like wolf vein and evil being equated with wolves, the repetition of scenes and the noticeable calculation of scenes, even the token female character—all across each film so far could keep a campy crowed happy through marathon, though taken alone, Dracula falls short in this best of three.
Top Five Reasons You Should Watch Dracula
1) Bela Lugosi is Dracula! The same gypsy werewolf in The Wolf Man!
2) There are way more dames in this film than the others so far.
3) Bats, usually a frightening creature, are the size of small pigs and hilariously nonthreatening.
4) An actual quote about these pig bats is “Watch out, it will get in your hair.” Leading the viewer to believe that whoever wrote the script believes that the everyday woman of the twenties and thirties has bat/hair issues.
5) It makes Twilight less sexy (not in that “Oh, I want to do you way, but in that overexposed American way) and more pervy (and even more awkward).
The Wolf-Man (1941)
by Corinne Rizzo
Never being previously exposed to a Universal Monster Movie before, a viewer can find themselves overwhelmed by the extensive library of movie monsters available to them. There are, one will learn, your most popular among the classics, then the more underrated, then of course the overrated in every category of film though there isn’t much chatter among the masses of Universal Monster Movies anymore. There’s still time to exhume that excitement, and The Wolf Man circa 1941 is one of best ways a moviegoer can remind themselves of where suspense and horror began, where things first went bump in the night and how to never underestimate a timeless movie ever again.
Larry Talbot arrives home from nearly two decades in the United States for seemingly one reason—his brother had been killed in a hunting accident, but shortly after his arrival, Larry’s distant relationship with his father becomes prevalent and the viewer now understands that not only is Larry home to grieve, but replace his brother in his father’s heart. The formalities between Larry and his father make for cold interactions using such terms as “sir” and shaking hands instead of hugging or even a handshake/hug combo.
When Larry sees the opportunity to impress his father by swooping up the Conliffe girl tending the antique shop across the way, he does all he can to get her alone, which is where his fate turns.
Following the action of the film’s plot is easy enough and even an inattentive viewer would be able to spot the foreshadowing involved. The repetition of a fable and talks of Little Red Riding Hood signal to the viewer that soon enough, our guy will become a main player in his own werewolf legend. Along with leaving the viewer with no doubts of the foreshadowed events, The Wolf Man moves along quite slowly, which could leave any audience yawning or shuffling to the kitchen without pressing pause. The film goes on for a solid forty five minutes (Gosh, it really did feel like forever) without any real action. There is plenty of talk of werewolves, surprise third wheels showing up on dates and ruining everyone’s time, but no real werewolf action by our main guy.
When the audience finally does catch a glimpse of our man as wolf, it is lack luster at best, but also simple enough to catch this viewers attention. Not one for scary movies or any film that incites anxiety or fear, it was almost a relief to find the make-up and violence to be tame and understated. Plus, with all of that waiting around to see Larry as the werewolf, anything might have been a relief. It was then that then Universal Movie Monster franchise made sense and the appeal of The Wolf Man is not unlike the appeal of simple independent films some viewers find themselves seeking regularly.
There is something to be said for a classic film, which in its day was a hit, is now a muted outline for the gory atrocity of horror films today. Though the film ends just as the players begin to understand that Larry isn’t crazy and that he is in fact an unstoppable and blood thirsty werewolf (or in other words, just as it was getting good), the film still incorporates a steady incline of suspense with a swift and heavy climax involving father and son in a death match. The viewer is left feeling like there could have been more to the finish of the film, though with some soul searching, it is apparent that there is nothing left of the story, which makes it easy to abandon that feeling and just accept what was shown.
Arguing with a classic is useless anyway.
Top Five Reasons to see The Wolf Man (1941)
1) The entire film is supposed to be set in England but no one has a British accent.
2) The viewer begins to weigh the pros and cons of either being considered crazy or actually being a werewolf.
3) The audience is treated to a rare glimpse of what a werewolf were to look at had he a telescope.
4) The Wolf Man’s father is The Invisible Man, but don’t tell anyone.
5) It makes you feel so much more included in the horror scene without actually having to watch a scary movie.