Monthly Archives: October 2012

Review: Puppetmaster

October Horror Month

Charles Band’s Full Moon film production company have been turning out strange and entertaining low budget horror films since 80s and have been the company behind a lot of the wok of Re-Animator director Stuart Gordon. One their longest running series of film is the Puppetmaster series revolving around puppeteer Andre Toulon who comes across the secret of animating inanimate objects and use this to create his puppets.

It is 1939 the Puppetmaster Andre Toulon (William Hickey) is working on his puppets in his room at the Bodega Bay Inn on the coast of California. His puppets are unique since they are animated and move around on their own. One of his puppets, a Mandarin watches out of the window as Toulon put the finishes touches to the paintwork of Jester whose head is in three parts that spin independently and allows his expression to change. He puts his head over the head of the puppet says some magic words and Jester comes to life

Two German agents arrive at the hospital and they are looking for Toulon. Another of Toulon’s puppets the skull-headed Blade was keeping watch outside and when he sees them he rushes back upstairs and there’s a nice bit of POV camera work here.

Toulon already knows they are on their way and he packs his puppet up in a large trunk, including blade when he finally gets up to the room. He hides the trunk behind a panel in the wall and just as the agents get to the door he puts a gun in his mouth and blows his brains out

Forward to the present or at least the 80s version of the present and four psychics in different parts of the US have visions. Alex Whitaker (Paul Le Mat) is in his office when he has a vision of young woman with a man who puts a gun to her head. Dana Hadley (Irene Miracle) is at a fairground working as a fortune teller giving a BS reading to a couple when she gets a real vision sees woman being attacked. Psychic researchers Clarissa Stamford (Kathryn O’Reilly) and Frank Forrester (Matt Roe) get a call from Alex and Frank says Dana has been in touch too. They all agree it is a message from an associate Neil Gallagher (Jimmie F. Skaggs) and Frank is sure it means Gallagher has found the Puppetmaster’s hideout and Dana knows where he is.

When they get to the Bodega Bay Inn they are shocked to discover that Gallagher is dead and almost as shocked to find out that he married the inn’s owner Megan (Robin Frates). Megan was expecting them because Gallagher left instruction that he wasn’t to be buried until they got there but she has no idea who they are. Megan takes them into a room where Gallagher’s body is in a coffin and he certainly looks dead. Megan is upset since there was no hint the Gallagher was suicidal. The psychics are puzzled because they had never sensed Gallagher killing himself.

Alex gets taken up to his room by Megan and he tells Megan that they are psychics who used to work with Gallagher. Clarissa Frank and Dana stay behind to pay respect to Gallagher but they really want know how he died without them sensing it. Dana takes out a very long needle and pushes it into his chest and through his heart and concludes he’s definitely dead but they know Gallagher too well to think he isn’t still up to something.

The hotel chambermaid Theresa (Mews Small) shows Dana to her room and Dana burns some strange wood and waves the smoke around the room and around Theresa to cleanse her aura Dana says. Dan warns he to stay away from the fireplace because he can sense something bad will happen to Theresa a the fireplace. When Dana unpacks a small stuffed dog from her luggage Theresa leaves, thinking Dana is crazy

When Theresa takes Frank and Clarissa up to their Clarissa senses that Frank raped a woman in the elevator and Theresa suggests that they keep that to themselves and not tell Megan about it. In their room Clarissa is very excited to sense that their bed is a movie star bed snddhrsay s Calrk Gable and Carole Lombard had sex there. Clarissa’s powers work though her emotions and she is especially good at sensing sexual emotions but Frank reminds her that they are here on business.

At dinner that evening everyone is curious about how she met and married Gallagher. Gallagher was staying at the inn when about her parents and Gallagher was very kind and helped her get over their deaths. When Gallagher asked her to marry him she was only too happy to accept. After they were married Gallagher suggested they close down the inn for remodelling and Gallagher would spend all his time there in the rooms that were being remodelled until he killed himself. Once Mega finshes he story Dana tells Megan what Gallagher was really like. He had gathered them together to get their help in discovering the secrets of the alchemists. The last known alchemist was Toulon the Puppetmaster who could give life to inanimate objects but Neil ran out on them when he found Toulon’s last resting place and they are here to find out what Gallagher discovered.

Theresa is bust poking the fire in the lounge and she hears a noise at the piano but when she looks no-one is there so she goes back to the fire. She hears someone playing with piano so she goes back to check and again no-one is there. She goes back to the fire but the poker is missing and the Pinhead puppet with the big muscular body and tiny head thwacks her on the back of the head with the poker.

Later they hear megan scream and find her passed out in th lounge. Gallagher’s body has been propped up in a chair and this gave her a shock when she came. They speculate about who could have done it and since Theresa had gone missing so they blame her. Alex stays with Megan until she comes round. Alex tell her about his dream and that he came here to make sure his dreams didn’t come true

Clarissa and Frank are going to try to get in touch with Gallagher by having lots of extremely noisy kinky sex that involves Frank being tied to the bed and blindfolded while Clarissa rides him. It’s certainly different from the usual séance. The noise of their research keeps Alex and Dana awake so Dana gets drunk and Alex goes for a walk. Alec sees Dana I corridor who warn him that Gallagher intends to kill them all> She invite Alex to come into her room to do some research of their own but Alex is not interested and he heads off downstairs

We get a puppet POV in the corridor where their rooms and the puppet drags a chair to a door outside and through the keyhole it sees . It the drag the chair to the next door and sees Frank and Clarissa he door opens and the Tunneller puppet enters the room and hides under the bed. Clarissa thinks she something moving and she gets off Frank to look under the bed. She sees the puppet dressed like an Italian officer and with drill on the top of his head. Tunneller starts his drill and rams straight into Clarrissa’s face. Frank has no idea what going on be but he likes it when he feels something soft and wet on his skin. He’s not so happy about it when he gets the blindfold off and discovers that he’s being covered in leeches by the Leech Woman puppet.

When Dana gets back in her rom she finds Gallagher’s boy body in and she waves her charm stuff. Pinhead rushes her breaks her leg and throws he onto the floor then he tries to choke her but she throws him away. She crawls out into corridor but Pinhead recovers and comes after her and manages to land a few punches before Dana throw s him over stairwell. Now Blade comes after her, cutting her with his little knife. She get into the elevator and gets out at the ground floor but Pinhead is waiting there for her and he punches and she throws him away again but Blade was waiting on the roof of the elevator and slits her throat

Mrs Gallagher knock on Alex’s door and wakes him up she wants to show him something and takes him up to a big empty white room where she dances with a man wearing a white mask. When he takes the mask off it’s Gallagher under the mask and he shoots Megan and Alex wakes up in bed. Megan knocks on the door and what happens next is just like in his dream so much that he can finish what Megan says to him. She takes him to a padlocked door but in the dream this led to the large white room. This time there’s a desk with Toulon’s diary. Alex reads that Toulon feared what his puppets will do under the control of someone evil. Alex get a sense of where the others are and they go into the dining room and see Frank Clarissa and Dane all sitting at the table dead and the Tunneller puppet is on the table and the others are around the room.

Gallagher enter and Megan says that he‘s dead which Gallagher confirms. But Gallagher has found Toulon’s secret and used it to make himself immortal. Alex points out that only means he can’t die a natural death he can still be killed. He brought the others here to kill them in order to keep Toulon’s secret to himself because with their psychic connection there was a risk one of the other would discover it too. Gallagher also killed Megan parent and married her to get full access to the inn. He also used their bodies test the Puppetmaster’s methods to reanimate her dead parents. He says he finished with using puppets which is not something that happy about.

When Megan protest at what he’s done Gallagher punches Megan and the puppets really don’t like that. Gallagher attacks Alex and Megan smashes vase over Gallagher’s head to save Alex and they try to get out of inn but the doors are locked and the front door is blocked by a reanimated Theresa. Gallagher fights with Alex and is really beating him badly but Alex manages to trap him in the lift shutting Gallagher in. Pinhead is already in there and he starts attacking Gallagher but Gallagher throws him aside and pulls off his head. The other puppets enter through the hatch on the roof of the lift and they all attack Gallagher together and tear him apart then Leech Woman drop one of leeches in his mouth and Gallagher dies.

Alex and Megan are the only ones left alive Alex says goodbye and leaves. Megan lift up Dana’s stuffed dog and walks up the stair and when we see her at the top of the stair the dog is completely alive suggesting Megan always knew Andre Toulon’s secret.

This film is like a small chapter in a larger story and it feels like a sequel. The puppets are pretty well done but they feel a bit underused and aren’t really at the core of the story. The human actors were mostly passable but the lead seemed more wooden than the puppets. The back story of Toulon’s run in with the Nazis hints at a much more interesting story but that had to wait until Puppetmaster 3. Despite its flaws I enjoy watching this film and many of series the sequels that followed are entertaining

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Posted by on October 31, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: The Abominable Dr Phibes

October Horror Month

Rough draft

I love Vincent Price and this is one of my favourites, a tale of grossly dispropionate vengeance carried out by a monster with a twisted imagination and a great sense of style and humour.

An organ plays and it rises out of the floor of the stage and we see a figure in a hooded robe his arms waving wildly as he plays. The figure is Dr Anton Phibes (Vincent Price). He goes to his mechanical clockwork jazz band and switches them and they begin playing music. A tall attractive woman Vulnavia (Virginia North) appears framed in a doorway wearing a fancy white dress with feathers and art deco head gear. This fits in well with the art deco design of the ballroom. Phibes and Vulnavia dance for a while to the music. A bird cage covered in black velvet is lowered into a vintage car. Phibes gets in the back and the side windows have profile photographs of Phibes on them hiding him. Vulnavia has changed her costume to a skirt and blouse and a large fur hat and she gets in the driver seat.

Dr Dunwoody is in his bed sleeping. The velvet covered cage gets lowered into the room through a skylight ad the cover removed and the empty cage is pulled back up through the skylight. There’s a sound of fluttering wings and Dunwoody wakes to find a cute little fruit bat crawling up his chest dazed by drugs, sorry about that, it is a vicious bat that attacks and rips his face into shreds He is found dead the next morning by his butler. Phibes returns home and the clockwork jazz band a play a jaunty happy tune. He switches them off and plays the organ which takes down the lower level. He removes a golden amulet he wore around his neck and places it over a wax bust of Dunwoody then he melts the bust with a blowtorch. We can see that he has several other busts.

The police are baffled by what happened to Dunwoody. They found several bats and identified as them as a species of vampire bat from West Africa. Inspector Trout (Peter Jeffrey) says he’s never seen anything like it. Sergeant Schenley (Norman Jones) says it reminds of a recent death of another surgeon who was stung to death by bees so it looked like he was covered in boils which is a strange thing to say.

Phibes puts on his face and gets ready to go out to a masquerade. A man at the party introduces himself as Dr Hargreaves and adds that he’s a psychiatrist or a headshrinker he adds as a joke. He asks for help with his frog mask which has a complicated catch mechanism. Phibes helps and Hargreaves heads up the stairs. But that catch mechanism is very complicated indeed and every second a gear turns and the mask shrinks crushing his skull and the mask fills with blood and he falls down the stairs dead. Phibes melts a bust of Hargreaves in his basement

Inspector Trout think that deaths of three doctors killed in elaborate ways is pattern worth investigating but his boss Crow doesn’t think so and he certainly doesn’t want him saying anything to the press about a maniac targeting doctors

Dr Longstreet (Terry Thomas) is in his home and his housekeeper has prepared his dinner before leaving for the night. Longstreet is impatient for her to leave because he’s received a can of film in the post and wants to watch it. In private nudge nudge wink wink. Once she’s gone he tacks up a white sheet to use as a screen and put the film into his hand-cranked projector while he enjoys a drink and watches a woman dancing around with a snake. He get interrupted by hi housekeeper who pops her head in before she leaves. She’s a bit puzzled by Longstreet’s projector set-up but she doesn’t really ask too many questions. After she has gone Longstreet settles back to watch his slightly dirty movie. His projector breaks down and when it startsup again the image is projected on the screen with Vulnavia above it and it looks like the body is Vulnavia’s for a moment. She removes the sheet and he doesn’t fight her as she ties him up to a chair. Longstreet is looking forward to something strange and kinky but he’s only half right. Phibes enters Longstreet gets worried as Phibes put needle into his vein and drain all of his blood into bottles left on a side table. It is a slow process and Longstreet remains conscious for most of it. Vulnavia plays a violin as Phibes fills the last bottle and cleans up. Back home Phibes melts the bust of Longstreet.

Sgt Schenley has found a connection between the victims to an eminent surgeon Dr Vesalius so Trout goes to speak to him and meets his teenage son Lem () who lets him because Vesalius (Joseph Cotten) is busy with his train set. Vesalius can’t think of connection between the men that is a motive for murder. Trout gets a call from station to tell him that Longstreet has been found dead. Trout heads down there and the elaborate nature of the death leaves him in no doubt that it’s the same killer. He talks to Longstreet’s housekeeper who remembers hearing a violin and car door closing. The police also found an amulet Phibes left behind.

Phibese doesn’t worry too much about the missing  amulet and just goes ahead with his ritual of melting the wax bust of Longstreet. There’s a jeweller’s mark on the amulet so Trout goes to talk to the jeweller who said he made it for an attractive young woman who ordered a set of ten with different symbol on each and she paid for them in cash. Trout asks if he knows what the symbol is and he says it is the Hebrew symbol for blood. Trout talks to a rabbi (Hugh Griffith) who said the symbols are in the Tanach where it talks of the ten plagues of Egypt. The plagues are boils, bats, frogs, blood, rats, hail , beasts, locusts, death of the first born and finally darkness to end forever the sleep of man. The list is not quite the same as the ones I learned but it’s not like this is actual history.

Vesalius tells Trout he has worked through his records and he has found that he only worked with all of the victims on just one case, that of Victoria Regina Phibes. Trout wonders if there is a husband or relative that might be seeking vengeance but Vesalius tells him that her husband was burned to death in car crash rushing to be at her side.

Phibes has designed an elaborate speaking apparatus which he plugs into the side of his neck and his voice comes from speaker cone of a gramophone cone. He talks to shrine dedicated to his wife and speaks of his plan to avenge her death. He says, “9 killed you, 9 shall die, 9 eternities in doom.“

Now Trout knows about the link between the victims he can work out who is at risk and have them put under police protection. Schenley tells him that they know where the others are except for Dr Kitaj and Dr Hedgepath.

Phibes is in his car parked at the side of road while Vulnavia stand by the car with dog on a lead and looks she’s looking for help with her car. Doctor Hedgepath’s car drives past and Hedgepath has his driver stop and go to help Vulnavia. When the driver bends over to examine the engine Phibes uses a Vulcan nerve pinchon him and knocks the man out. Vulnavia put a musical clockwork figure into Hedgepath’s car then Phibes puts in strange device. When the police find the doctor’s car the doctor has dead, frozen to death by hailstones created by Phibes’ machine.

While Vesalius is talking to his son the boy mentions the name Phibes and shows him old posters he bought from an old music collector called Darrow. Trout and Vesalius go to talk to Darrow who thinks Phibes is still alive. The police have more information on Phibes. Phibes has several degrees including both music and theology. He also left his entire estate to a mysterious young woman.

Trout and Vesalius go to the Phibes family tomb. Inside Phibes’ coffin they find ashes, which are only to be expected but as Trout says that only proves that someone burned to death in the car, not that it was Phibes. They open Victoria’s coffin and find her body is missing.

Police superintendent Waverley (John Cater) has been facing questions from the press who have found out about the maniac killing off surgeons (and a psychiatrist). Waverley demands that they get busy stopping any more murders. Schenley knows where Kitaj is and jumps in a car to get to him before Phibes does.

Phibes is on a hill with Vulnavia overlooking an airfield and they have a brass telescope on a tripod. The young sporty Dr Kitaj gets into his two-seater plane and taxis onto the runway. Schenley gets to airfield before Kitaj takes off but Kitaj’s plane is already picking up speed and he takes off. Phibes watches the plane soaring through the air while Vulnavia plays her violin. Rats appear in the cockpit, crawling all over Kitaj and biting him in the neck and face. His plane swoops this way and that and Kitaj screams as he loses control and the plane crashes.

Back hi shouse Phibes and Vulnavia drink have a drink to celebrate being so close to the completion of his plans. Because Phibes doesn’t have a working mouth he pours his drink through the side of his neck. The clockwork jazz band play music and they dance.

There only three people left of Phibes’ kill list. Nurse Allen is being closely guarded by the police at the hospital where she is on duty. Dr Whitcomb is in his private gentleman’s club and Trout and Schenley are there to escort to somewhere more secure. As they head for the door out of nowhere a brass unicorn hits Whitcomb in the chest and the horn goes right through his body killing him instantly. There a scene of very dark humour where they police are having to unscrew Whitcomb’s body from the wall and are discussing whether it has a left or a right-handed thread.

Superintendent Waverley is not happy that the police failed to prevent any of the murder even when get there before the killer. Trout is confident that they can protect Nurse Allen though he realises with the twisted genius of Phibes there no way to even know what form the attack will take.

It is an interesting problem Phibes faces, how to make plant-eating locusts into something that will kill a person. First he makes a sprout soup. He goes to the hospital dressed as a member of the kitchen staff. They pay so little attention that Phibes even travels in same lift as Trout as he escorts Nurse Allen to her bedroom in the hospital. She sees Vesalius and asks him if this is necessary and Vesalius tells her that her life is danger. He recommends that she takes a sleeping pill. Trout is confident that this time they will catch Phibes and says all criminals get caught out by their mistakes and Vesalius point out Phibes hasn’t made any.

In the room above Nurse Allen’s Phibes put plan of her body the floor to use as guide to choosing to where to drill and he drills a hole directly above her head. Phibes attaches a pipe to his jar of green soup and puts the other end of the pipe down hole over Allan’s head. Her head and face is covered in green goo yet she never woke up. Phibes now takes another pipe and attaches it to a jar of locusts and he sends locusts down another pipe.

Vesalius tells Trout that he’s sure Phibes is leaving him for last and he tries to work out what Phibes might mean by a plague of darkness. Vesalius has dismissed the death of the first-born applying to him since he has an older brother. Trout points out the obvious fact that it might not be Vesalius who is the target but his first-born son Lem. Trout sends men to check and the boy has already been taken. Trout goes to check on Nurse Allen and they find her covered in locusts that have eaten all her flesh.

Trout takes Vesalius back to his house and Phibes calls and tells Vesalius to come to Phibe’s house alone but Trout won’t let him go alone so Vesalius knocks him out and goes to Phibes’ house. Vesalius gets to Phibes’ place and plugs in to the speaker to greet him. Phibes tells Vesalius that his son will have a powerful acid drip on his face disfiguring and probably killing him. The operating table is held in place by a chain attached to halter padlocked across Lem’s neck and the key to the padlock has been surgically implanted next to Lem’s heart. While Vesalius operates to remove the key Phibes rants and taunts him. He rips off his mask to reveal how badly disfigured he is.

Phibes tells Vulnavia to destroy everything he has created. And she gets busy with an axe. Phibes then goes to his organ, descends to the lower level where the body of his wife waits in a coffin built for two and it even has telephone. Phibes a puts needle in his arm and his blood gets replaced with embalming as the coffin lid closes Vesalius manages to get the key out in time and unlocks the padlock, getting his son to safety. Vulnavia re-enters the room backwards followed by the two policemen. He is directly under the acid when it starts dripping out of the tubes and we don’t see the after effects.

Trout and Schenley go to the organ and press the keys until it takes them down to the lower level. The lights go out on the coffin lid and this is somehow the curse of darkness. Trout thinks Phibes has escaped them and the film ends to tune Somewhere Over Rainbow.

Rating 9.0/10

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Posted by on October 29, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: Dracula

 October Horror Month

This the last film in the Universal Classic monsters box set and it’s the vampire film that everyone knows about even if they have never sat down and watched it. It is based on a successful stage adaptation of Bram Stoker’s gothic horror story and it retains a lot of the feel of the play, including the performance of Bela Lugosi. His performance is so memorable that when people think of vampires in general or Dracula in particular it’s the black-suited figure with widow’s peak that comes to mind and you’ll most of the this image used in many Halloween decorations and costumes.

A group of passengers are on a very rough coach ride in the Transylvanian mountains. Conveniently for he audience an American woman is reading aloud from guide-book about the region. one of the other passengers is a superstitious peasant who worries aloud that it is Walpurgis Night and nosferatu will be abroad. They stop at an inn and everyone gets off

One passenger is an English solicitor called Renfield (Dwight Frye)  and he wants the coach to go onto the Borgo Pass as he has to meet a coach there. The innkeeper is astonished at the idea that there will be a coach meeting him there but when Renfield tells them the coach is to take him to Count Dracula’s castle he begs him to not go and tells him very plainly that Dracula and his three brides are vampires that feed on the blood of the living. Renfield explains he has to go as he has important business with Dracula and tries to dismiss vampires as old stories. The locals know different but it’s clear that Renfield will not be dissuaded. Before the coach leaves an old woman presses a cross into his hand for protection.

In Castle Dracula Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and his three brides emerge from their coffins. The coach gets to Borgo Pass and the coach driver throws Renfield’s luggage down onto the ground then rushes off as quickly as he can. Almost immediately a coach arrives and the driver is Dracula himself. He says nothing as he takes Renfield’s luggage and sets off as soon as Renfield has boarded. The coach races along the rough road, throwing Renfield around a bit and he pokes his head through the window to say something to the coach driver but he can’t see him. He does see a large bat flying just above the heads of the horses. Finally they reach the castle and when Renfield goes to have a word with driver there’s no-one there.

The coach drives off before Renfield can unload his luggage. The huge castle door creaks open and Renfield enters hesitantly. Inside the castle is dilapidated and does not look lived-in for many years. Dracula comes down the massive stone staircase and in a slow deliberate tone he introduces himself and welcomes Renfield. He leads Renfield up the stairs they hear the sound of wolves howling and Dracula says appreciatively “Children of the night. What music they make,“ which doesn’t exactly put Renfield at ease. There is a massive spider web across the stairs which Dracula just passes right through but Renfield has to break through, disturbing the massive spider that made it. Dracula makes an even more worrying  remark about spiders feeding on flies and that blood is the life.

Dracula has a room prepared for Renfield with a large fire and a desk with a meal ready for him and Renfield is glad that somewhere in this place has been set up for comfort. Renfield is here to make arrangements for  Dracula to lease Carfax Abbey in England and to assist him in his move there. All Renfield really needs is Dracula’s signature on the lease. Dracula has arranged a ship to take them to England. Renfield talks about luggage labels and Dracula says he is only taking three boxes. Renfield sits to eat the meal the Dracula has prepared for him. Dracula serves him wine and Renfield asks if he will be drinking too and the Count replies, “I don’t drink – wine,” This line and Lugosi’s delivery has been copied and parodied so much down the decades but his delivery is perfect and the line is a nice little knowing wink to audience. Somehow Renfield cuts his finger and Dracula’s careful control almost breaks at the sight or smell of the fresh blood but he gets control before Renfield notices.

Dracula wishes Renfield a good night and leaves. Moments later the three female vampires appear at his doorway and slowly enter the room totally unseen by Renfield who has gone to open one of the windows. A large bat flies in over him and he passes out. The three women creep to ward their helpless prey but Dracula enter and waves the away from Renfield then he crouches down and feeds on the man himself.

Next night Renfield is in the hold of the Vesta, a schooner headed for England. Stock footage of a ship being battered by storm is cut into the scene. Renfield is talking to one of the three boxes to Dracula who is resting inside and now he’s very changed man full of manic energy and he calls Dracula master. He opens the box and Dracula gets out and leaves the hold followed by the sound of men screaming. Sometime later the ship is being boarded by people who talk about the horror they find such as the ship’s captain found dead tied to the wheel. Renfield cackles in the hold and they hear him. When they open the hatch Renfield is on the steps with a look that just screams madness and he just keeps chuckling as he climbs up.

English: A screenshot from Dracula Italiano: U...

English: A screenshot from Dracula Italiano: Uno screenshot del film Dracula (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In London a flower girl is trying to sell flowers to bustling crowds of people out for the night. Dracula appears and he wants much more than flower and he engulfs her in his cloak and feeds then slips quickly away, leaving the girl’s body to be found by the police. Dracula goes to the opera and he mesmerises an usher to deliver a message to Dr Seward (Herbert Bunston) who is in a box enjoying the opera with his daughter Mina (Helen Chandler), her friend Lucy Weston (Frances Dade) and her fiancé Jonathan Harker (David Manners). On the pretence of overhearing Seward’s name Dracula introduces himself as their new neighbour as Dr Seward operates a sanatorium in the grounds next to Carfax Abbey. The message was that Dr Seward has got a phone call so he leaves. Mina asks Dracula will be fixing the Abbey up but he says he likes the ruins which reminds him of home. His talk of ruined battlements inspires Lucy to recite a morbid poem about death. Mina stops her continuing and Dracula comments there are worse things than death.

Mina is staying with Lucy that night and as they get ready for bed Mina jokes about Dracula’s strange manner and morbid talk but Lucy seems to have found him fascinating and romantic. Mina is happy with her pretty little idiot Jonathan. Dracula is in the street watching Lucy’s window and when she goes to bed he turns into a bat and flies into her room where he changes back into human form and drinks her blood. Next day a team of surgeons are trying to save her life in an operating theatre but she is suffering chronic blood loss and she dies. There is no apparent wound on her body that could have caused it except two strange raised red marks with white centres on her throat.

In Seward’s sanatorium Renfield is trying to stop Martin the orderly from throwing away his spider collection. Martin thought Renfield was only interested in flies but it seems Renfield has moved up a link in the food chain. Dr Seward has called in an expert Dr Abraham Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) to help the investigation of deaths of Lucy and others. Due to Renfield’s obsession with blood Van Helsing decides to test his blood and he seem to confirm the presence of vampire blood in Renfield’s. Seward is deeply sceptical and Van Helsing says that vampires use that scepticism of modern people to operate freely He promise Seward that he will bring him proof that vampires are very real.

Renfield is brought in to see Van Helsing and he seems fairly calm and rational but he gets angry when Van Helsing tries to examine his hands. Renfield pleads with Seward to send him away and when he’s pressed for reason he believes that his screams at night may disturb Miss Mina. We see Dracula rising from his coffin and there’s the sound of a wolf howling and Renfield seems to hear Dracula’s voice in the howling. Van Helsing brings out a bunch of herbs that seems to upset Renfield says Van Helsing knows too much. Van Helsing tells Seward that the herb is wolfbane and that it repels vampires. Renfield is taken back to his room and Van Helsing tells Seward to have a close watch kept on him at night. Back in room Renfield has a talk with unseen person who has plans for Mina that Renfield doesn’t like.

Mina is sleeping in her room and Dracula appears and silently creeps up to her and bites her. Next morning Mina tells Jonathan, Seward and Van Helsing about her terrible dreams and she describes what happened the previous night. Jonathan tries to reassure but Van Helsing is concerned. Mina is dressed slightly different with a high collar concealing her neck and she acts defensive when asks if he can examine it. He finds two marks just like the ones found on Lucy’s neck. Jonathan asks what could cause marks like that and with perfect timing a maid enters and introduces Count Dracula.

Seward introduces Van Helsing who right away seems to suspect right away that there’s something not right about him. When Dracula hears about Mina’s nightmares he apologises in case there’s his morbid tales of the old country have excited her imagination. Van Helsing sees that Dracula has no refection in the mirror of a cigar box and he shows this to Seward. He takes the cigar box to Dracula and asks him if he could explain a strange phenomenon then open the box. Dracula bats the box away. Dracula and Van Helsing stand sizing up each other carefully before Dracula says he has to leave and that Van Helsing will explain why.

When Jonathan looks to see Dracula leaving he only sees a large black dog. Van Helsing explains that Dracula is the vampire and he talks about their ability to change form into a bat of a wolf and their need to sleep in the soil of their grave during the day and he must have brought some with him. Jonathan is sceptical. Renfield has escaped his room again and was listening to them. He comes in and tells Jonathan and Seward they had better listen to Van Helsing and is about to say more when a bat enters and he freaks out knowing Dracula can hear him and begs for mercy. Van Helsing asks him about Dracula and Renfield denies even hearing the name before.

While they were talking Mina went out into the garden to meet Dracula who bites her once more. She is found by a nurse who screams then comes to tell Seward that Mina is dead. Seward, Van Helsing and Jonathan rush out into the garden leaving the nurse with Renfield. She faints when Renfield looks at her with his crazy eyes and we see him creeping up on her but don’t see what happened next.

In the garden they find Mina is not dead but she is very weak. There have been reports of a strange woman in white who has been seen biting children. Van Helsing asks when she last saw Lucy and Mina reveals it was recently, well after Lucy died and was buried.

The following day Mina is in a depressed mood and she thinks that she will die just like Lucy did. Jonathan tries reassuring her and turns to Van Helsing for support but says nothing. He wants Mina to come indoors before the sun sets and stay in her room which has been protected with wolfbane. Jonathan wants to take Mina away but Van Helsing insists that they need to keep her somewhere where they can protect her and Seward agrees.

Van Helsing, Jonathan and Seward are in Seward’s office talking about how they can destroy Dracula when Renfield comes in again laughing at so-called rational men talking about vampires. He speaks of his master and how he can make things happen. He speaks of a red mist and a flame of fire that parted to reveal rats, millions of them, full of blood all for him if he obeys his master. Seward takes him to put him back in his room

Once Van Helsing is alone Dracula confronts him. Van Helsing that will search the whole Abbey and find Dracula’s coffin and put a stake through his heart. Dracula tries his mesmeric powers on him but Van Helsing is too strong for him and Van Helsing brings out a cross which drives Dracula away.

Mina is out on the terrace and Jonathan notices something different about her. She seems to be listening to voice of Dracula in her head and is about to bite Jonathan when Van Helsing comes to the rescue with his cross which seems break Dracula’s spell. Mina tells them about how Dracula made her drink his blood. They put Mina in her room again and leave her alone again to do other things while Dracula mesmerises a nurse to make her open the window in Mina’s room and let him in and he carries Mina back to the Abbey.

Van Helsing and Jonathan go to the Abbey to end Dracula permanently. They see Renfield enter th Abbey in front of them and they follow him. Renfield tries to stop Dracula who throws him down the stairs and kills him for leading Van Helsing to him. Dawn breaks and Dracula is forced to flee with Mina to a cellar.

Van Helsing and Jonathan find the cellar and they find Dracula’s coffin. Van Helsing fully expected Mina to have been turned and be lying in the second coffin but she’s not there. Jonathan goes to look for her while Van Helsing goes about the grisly task of staking Dracula who hear dying noisily off screen. Mina screams as Dracula dies and his is spell over her is broken. Jonathan takes her away while Van Helsing says behind clear up.

This film may seem a bit melodramatic to modern horror tastes but when modern vampires are sparkling in the sunlight it is good to remember how they used to be monsters before they became the lifestyle choice for the angsty and sensitive. Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye are definitely the best things about this film.

Rating 8.5/10

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Posted by on October 27, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: The Wolf Man

October Horror Month

Next in the Universal Classic Monsters box set is not the earliest werewolf film but it’s the one that people have at least seen and it set the template for many future werewolf films by establishing some of the rules for how the monsters come to be and how they are killed.

Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) has been in the United States for 18 years and has come home to Talbot Castle to reconcile with his father Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains) after his older brother, also called John, was killed in hunting accident. As the first born son John was due to inherit his father’s estate and had been brought helping to run the estate. Larry has been away learning practical skills and while likes fixing thing like his father’s telescope he’s not very interested in using it to look at the stars. He does find a very practical use for the telescope when he sees and attractive young woman getting ready in the a flat above an antique shop

Larry heads into town and goes to the antique shop and meets Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers) working her father’s shop. His first move is creep her out by mentioning earrings that he saw through the telescope but he pretends to be psychic rather telling her where he saw the earrings He quickly drops that and instead say he wants to buy a walking stick. He selects a stick with an ornate silver handle in the shape of a wolf and a pentacle. He asks what that symbolise and Gwen mentions that everyone knows about werewolves and recites a poem that is apparently famous

Even a man who is pure in heart,
And says his prayers by night,
May become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms,
And the autumn moon shines bright.

Gwen says the pentacle is the mark of the werewolf and werewolves see the mark on the right hand of its next victim. Larry buys the cane and Asks Gwen when she finishes work and Gwen says she will not be meeting him. They see gypsy caravans arriving and Gwen mention that they come every year and there are fortune tellers. Larry says he fancies having his fortune read and tells Gwen that he will meet her later at eight but Gwen says no, she won’t be meeting him.

When later arrives Gwen waits expectantly for Larry. Larry shows up like he said he would and Gwen denies waiting for him. Larry asks if they are going to see the fortune teller. That’s when Gwen’s friend Jenny comes out of the shop. She wants to see a fortune teller too and is coming with them. On the way to the gypsy camp Jenny sees a patch of flowers growing and Jenny picks a bunch before saying that the flowers are wolfbane and she recites the werewolf poem. They get to the fortune teller and Jenny wants to go in first. While they wait Larry and Gwen go for short walk and talk in the woods and Larry confesses he saw her in the telescope but he realise how creepy that is and promises not to do it again. Gwen tells Larry she’s engaged and will be getting married soon but Larry still thinks he’s got a chance

Bela the fortune teller (Bela Lugosi) deals out cards to read Jenny’s fortune but he is disturbed by what he sees in the cards. Bela says he wants to read her palm and when she turns her hand over he sees a pentacle on Jenny palm. He notices the flowers Jenny is carrying and he abruptly ends the reading and sends her away leaving her worried about what he may have seen and isn’t telling her. Jenny runs of scared by Bela’s tone and she gets attacked and killed by a wolf. Larry sees the wolf and attacks it with his cane and he gets bitten. He beats it to death with the silver-handled cane and ends up badly injured and Gwen gets help from an old gypsy woman Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) to take Larry home in her cart.

The local chief constable Captain Montford (Ralph Bellamy) is in Talbot Castle drinking with Sir John when Gwen comes in with Larry and tells them about what happened. One of the local comes in and tells them that Jenny has been found murdered and Montford goes out to investigate what happened with a reporter and Dr Lloyd (Warren William) and just as Larry said Jenny’s body looks like it was attacked a large wild animal. But instead of finding the animal Larry said he killed they find the battered body of Bela the fortune teller and next to it Larry’s cane.

Next morning Montford and Dr Lloyd and come to see Larry. Dr Lloyd wants to treat his wound and Montford tells him that Bela was found dead. Larry’s bite also seems to have healed. Larry can sense their doubts and says he is sure he killed a wolf not a man. Dr Lloyd suggests they let Larry get some rest and Montford can ask his question when he’s better and they leave Larry’s room. Sir John comes up with a plausible sounding story about what happened. Montford still wants an explanation for a wound that healed overnight

Larry goes the village and sees Bela’s body being taken into the church and follows it inside. Bela’s mother Maleva comes to see him and the local priest is not happy with respecting her pagan beliefs and customs but he leaves her to it. Larry Talbot creeps into the chapel and stays in background watching Maleva as she recites a eulogy over Bela’s body.

The way you walked was thorny,
Through no fault of you own,
But as the rain enters the soil,
The river enters the sea,
So tears go to a predestined end.
Your suffering is over Bela my son.
Now you will find peace.

After she leaves Larry goes to the coffin and weeps over the body of Bela

In the antique shop Gwen sits down in a back room. Jenny’s mother comes in with a few other severe old women and demands to see Gwen to ask why she left Jenny alone with the gypsy. The mother says it was because she too busy with Larry and they are practically calling her a tart for seeing other men. Gwen hears all this in the other room and is upset at their callous bitterness. Conliffe orders them to get out. Larry enters the shop and the women all run off. Larry apologises to Mr Conliffe for getting Gwen involved in this. He was thankful Gwen didn’t hear them but she clearly did.  Gwen’s fiancée Frank Andrews (Patric Knowles) comes in to see them and his dog won’t stop barking at Larry so he takes it out. Larry introduces himself to Andrews then leaves in hurry.

That evening Frank takes Gwen to the gypsy fair which is full of lively music and dancing. This is the gypsy funeral the priest was so upset about. They see Larry and Frank want go to talk to him to prove that’s he’s not jealous. Larry tells them he’s going home and Frank suggests they try the shooting range. Sir John watches with Montford and is pleased to see Larry is pretty good but when a wolf target appears Larry feels strange and can’t hit it.

Larry sees Maleva she wants to ta to him in her tent. He tells her that he was sure he killed an animal and not Bela. Maleva tells him he did kill an animal and that the animal was Bela. Bela was a werewolf and because he bit Larry he’s one now. She gives him a charm that may protect him and stop the change He leaves feeling a bit freaked out. Maleva passes the word around the gypsies about the werewolf and they all start packing up right away.

Larry runs into Gwen who is on her own after quarrelling with Frank He shows her the charm and tells her what Maleva said about him being a werewolf and gives her the charm. Larry notices the gypsies packing up and Gwen says she has to go too and runs off. Larry asks a gypsy why they are going and is told it because there’s a werewolf in the camp. Larry gets a montage of dream images of Maleva, Bela, Jenny, Gwen pentacles and the wolf.

Larry goes home and he sees changes starting, hair growing and he sits down in a chair to look at his feet growing hairier and he changes in to a werewolf or least his feet do. The werewolf goes into the woods and he attack and kills the gravedigger. There‘s the sound of a wolf howling and several villagers including Montford and Dr Lloyd go to the church yard to investigate and find the body grave-digger with wolf tracks around it

Next morning there are wolf prints that lead to Talbot Castle in through a window and up to Larry lying in bed. Larry wakes up confused and sees the wolf prints and cleans them up until he sees Montford in the grounds following the trail so he hides out of sight.

Next day Larry asks his father what happened and Sir John tells him about the gravedigger being killed by a wolf and finally Sir John addresses the problem that there are no native wolves in England by saying it may have escaped from zoo or a circus. Larry asks him about the werewolf legend a Sir John says that folklore from all over the world has something about men who become beasts. Sir John states that it’s a form of schizophrenia and dismisses the idea of physically changing into a wolf

They got to church but Larry doesn’t stay to face the stares of the villagers and slips out the back while they sing the first hymn. At Talbot Castle Sir John is discussing what to do about the wolf with Montford, Dr Lloyd and Frank. Larry says it was a werewolf and Montford laughs at him. Dr Lloyd thinks it may be a type of madness like Sir John had said. Larry asks if the madness can be cured. Lloyd says yes but Montford just says lock ‘em up. Dr Lloyd is very concerned about Larry’s sanity an suggests to John sending him away

Andrews and Montford supervise laying traps in the woods to catch the wolf. That night the werewolf gets caught in a trap. The hunting party is close behind him with sniffer dogs. Maleva finds him first and she says those words from Bela’s eulogy which returns Larry to human form. The Dogs are coming and so he runs off and two of the hunting party stop him until they see its Larry they tell Montford

Larry goes to see Gwen and tosses pebbles at her window to wake her up. Larry tells her he to leave and she wants to go with him but he tells she can’t. He has to go alone. Suddenly he sees pentacle on Gwen’s hand a realising that means she’s the werewolf’s next victim’ and he runs off. Larry tells his father he was bitten by Bela the werewolf and now he’s one too. They hear dogs and Larry say they hunting him. Sir John thinks this is all crazy talk. Larry mentions the gypsy woman and Sir John thinks he has the source of the problem. Sir John ties Larry to a chair to try to convince him he isn’t a werewolf, and since Larry is a werewolf that will go as well as you’d expect. Larry urges Sir John to take Larry’s walking stick with him when he leaves to join the hunt for the wolf.

Sir John joins the others at a hunting stand then wander off into woods where he meets Maleva who he blames her for filling Larry’s head with werewolf nonsense. She notes with approval that he’s carrying the walking stick. He hears shooting and he run back to the platform

Gwen appears looking for Larry and Maleva urges her to come with her but she runs off looking for Larry. The werewolf attacks Gwen and Sir John drives it off with the stick and they struggle but Sir John manages to beat of the beast and keeps striking it until it dies. Maleva arrive and say the spell/eulogy over the werewolf and Sir John watches astonished as the werewolf changes back into Larry. The others arrive and Frank goes to check on Gwen who is fine while Montford makes up a logical sounding story to explain everything.

This is the original tragic werewolf tale if you don’t count the versions of the story that take the form of Jekyll and Hyde story. There is more a relaxed naturalistic performance from the actors compared to the earlier horror films which shows the way the industry was developing away from its roots in theatre into its own style. I was surprised to realise on re-watching it that the full moon seems to play no part in this story. Lon Chaney Jr. is excellent as Larry Talbot and liked the way they developed the relationship between his character and that of his father. By today’s standards the film probably seems tame since there’s no gore but it does have an excellent look especially during the night-time scenes.

Rating 8.5/10

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Posted by on October 27, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: The Bride of Frankenstein


October Horror Month

I‘m doing short run of the Universal Classics and since I reviewed Frankenstein it’s time for one of the best sequels ever. The director James Whale never wanted to do a sequel but when promised full creative control he agreed and though it has element taken from Mary Shelley’s novel this really is Whale’s film.

The film opens with three infamous libertines Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon), Percy Shelly (Douglas Walton) and his wife Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester), the author of Frankenstein and after Byron comments on contrast her delicate nature with the horror she wrote. Percy says that the story left him wanting more so Mary starts her tale where the last one left off.

The villagers are all still at the burning remains of the windmill which was set on fire with creature inside and the Burgomaster (E.E. Clive) is trying to convince the excitable Minnie (Una O’Connor) that the man they called a monster died in the fire. They take the body of Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) back down to town. The burgomaster makes everyone leave until only an old couple are left. The man is called Hans and he wants to make sure the creature is dead because it killed their daughter Marie. Hans is looking for the Creature’s body in the remains of the windmill and he falls into a flooded cellar. The Creature is down there in the mud and when he sees Hans he grabs him and drowns him. Hans’s wife can’t find Hans and she hears the noise of the Creature climbing out of cellar and she thinks it’s Hans and she gives him her hand to help him out of the cellar. When she sees the creature she screams and the Creature throws her down into the cellar. The Creature lumbers through the graveyard and it surprises Screaming Minnie and she runs away.

Down in town they take Frankenstein into his castle and there is a lot of over-dramatic weeping and wailing from the staff as the men lay his body on the table in front of his fiancée Elizabeth (Valerie Hobson). Minnie also arrives and tries to warn the butler about the Creature not being dead but he doesn’t believe her. Anyway they all think Frankenstein is dead until Minnie sees his arm move and she squeals and I will never hear that frequency again. Frankenstein recovers consciousness before Minnie screams again and Elizabeth weeps with joy.

That night Frankenstein is resting in bed and Elizabeth is there with him. Frankenstein talks of being cursed because of what he achieved and this a theme that Elizabeth takes up while Frankenstein goes on to get excited about what he did and speculates that perhaps he is part a some divine purpose. Then just when you think Frankenstein is the crazy one in the room Elizabeth starts raving about seeing the shadowy figure of death approaching. There’s a knock on the door of the castle and Minnie answers it to a very curious old fellow called Dr Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger) who insists he has to see Frankenstein on a secret matter of grave importance. He greets Frankenstein as Baron which means that Frankenstein’s father died between the two films in an unfortunate case of death by sequel. Pretorius used to teach philosophy at the university that Frankenstein but he was booted out because he knew too much according to Pretorius. He’s here to try to persuade Frankenstein to work with him. He makes a threat about Frankenstein being really responsible for everyone the Creature murders. What finally persuades Frankenstein to come with him is when Pretorius tells him that he has created life himself.

Frankenstein goes with Pretorius to his rooms and Pretorius pours them both a gin and he makes a toast “To a new world of gods and monsters.” He brings in a box that looks a lot like a small coffin. Inside are several glass cylinders. He brings out the first cylinder and removes the cloth covering. Inside is a miniature humanoid creature that he has dressed up as a queen. His other cylinders contain a king, a bishop a devil, a ballerina and a mermaid. This fascinates Frankenstein but also confuses him because this does not seem to have anything to with science and Frankenstein thinks it’s closer to magic. Pretorius claims that he grew these creatures. He wants to work with Frankenstein to create a woman.

The Creature is wandering through the countryside and stops at a pool next to a waterfall and has a drink of water. The creature also sees his own reflection and is upset at how ugly he is. He sees a young shepherdess but when he tries to approach her she screams at the sight of him and falls into the river and gets knocked out. The creature jumps in and rescues her but when she recovers and sees him again she screams and tries to fight him off. A couple of passing hunters hear the commotion and they shoot at the Creature who runs off, so the hunters return to the village to warn the people that the Creature is still around.

Back at the village the hunters tell the Burgomaster about seeing the Creatures he organise an angry mob to chase him down. The mob through run through the woods and chase down the Creature from sheer number they easily overpower him and tie him to a large stake. When they raise the stake with Creature tied to it there’s a momentary Jesus Christ pose before they dump him into a wagon full of straw. They take him back to the village and chain him up in a dungeon. Minnie and other locals stare in the window at him but the Burgomaster chases them. Once he’s alone he pulls at the chain and within minutes he’s got free and he smashes his way through the doors killing several guards. He gets out in to the street and people are feeling in panic and somehow a little girl call Freda is found dead but I really can’t remember seeing her.

The Creature escapes into the woods and he comes to family of Gypsies who are cooking meat over a fire. The Creature tries to indicate that he wants some food but the family flee screaming. The Creature tries to grab the meat but burns himself on the fire and runs off whimpering. Deep in the woods the Creature hears music coming from a cabin and is enchanted by it. The music comes from an old blind hermit who is playing a violin. The Hermit hears someone outside and goes out to find out who it is. He invites the Creature inside. He realises the Creature and cannot speak and he’s injured. He has the Creature sit down and gives him a bowl of food from a large cauldron he has cooking over a fire. After the creature has been fed he speaks with creature and manages to begin communication. The Hermit praises God for bringing him a companion to ease his loneliness.

The Creature really settles in happily with the hermit who has been teaching the Creature to speak and The Creature is having a great time learning the words “food”, “wine” and “friend”. The Hermit shows him how to smoke a cigar and the fire freaks him out a little but he really enjoys the cigar. Both of them are really happy but the creature is not destined for happiness. Those two hunters from earlier appear at the cabin and when they see the creature they attack it and drag the Hermit out of the cottage. Soon the cabin is in flames and the Creature is on the run once more with the angry mob chasing him.

He gets to a graveyard and throws open a tomb and climbs inside to hide from the mob. By an amazing coincidence Dr Pretorius has chosen to raid the same tomb for parts to make his woman and he’s got two criminals with him, Karl (Dwight Frye) and Ludwig (Ted Billings). After he’s got what he wants he send the two men back to his lab with the body while he says behind for a picnic among the dead with food and wine and a cigar. The creature come out of hiding and Pretorius’s reaction is like mild surprise, “Oh, it’s you,” and he invites the creature help himself to the food and drink. Pretorius agrees he is he Creature’s friend and thinks he will come in very useful in persuading Frankenstein to co-operate. Pretorius tells him that he plans to create a mate for him.

Pretorius goes to Frankenstein to tell him that it’s up to him to complete his half of the project. Pretorius has grown a human brain and now he needs Frankenstein to put it in a body and give it life. Frankenstein refuse to do it so Pretorius brings in the Creature and it demands he create a woman for him. Frankenstein is freaked out just by the Creature’s presence never mind the fact that it can talk and refuses to discuss anything while he is there. Pretorius sends the Creature away and continues trying to persuade Frankenstein to co-operate. While he’s keeping Frankenstein talking the Creature breaks into Elizabeth’s room and kidnaps her. Pretorius promises Frankenstein that Elizabeth will be returned unharmed.

Frankenstein and Pretorius go to Frankenstein’s laboratory in the tower and work on creating a woman. Frankenstein is working on the heart but it’s an old organ that’s not up to the job and they can’t get it to keep going. Frankenstein needs a fresh heart and Karl agrees to get one for 1000 crowns. Karl finds a heart in the body of a young woman he murders in the street and Pretorius probably knows how he got it but Karl tells Frankenstein that he bribed a coroner. The heart works fine and since the brain is already in place they are ready to finish. Frankenstein is getting tired but the Creature is impatient and insists he finishes. Pretorius takes the Creature and gives him a drugged drink to keep him out of Frankenstein’s way. Frankenstein is starting to fear that Elizabeth is dead but Pretorius lets him to speak to her over an anachronistically early telephone.

There’s a convenient storm coming and they get the body ready on the table and there’s a lot of messing about with the electrical apparatus with Karl and Ludwig assisting him up on the roof. Frankenstein has a couple of kites that he launches into the storm. Once they are ready he raises the table with the body to the roof. The Creature appears, hoping to see how they are getting on with making him a woman and he goes up to the roof. Karl must remind him of Fritz because the Creature grabs him and throws him off the roof to his death.

The table gets lowered back into the lab and once more Frankenstein has succeeded but his cries of “She’s alive, alive,” doesn’t quite have the same manic passion of his first success. They unwrap the bandages and apart from the scar around her neck she’s a very striking woman with the ultimate in scare hair.

Pretorius calls her the Bride of Frankenstein. The Creature appears to see his woman and he say ‘”Friend” to her softly and she screams in horror at his appearance and ruins to Frankenstein. He tries a bit of tenderness which fails. “She hate like all the other,” he says dejected and the Creature goes to pull a lever Pretorius warns him it will blow them all up which is what the Creature wants. Just then Elizabeth bangs on the door calling for Frankenstein. The Creature tells him to go and live but to Pretorius he says, “You stay. We belong dead,” then he pulls the lever and the whole tower blows up, completely destroying the Creature, Pretorius and the woman.

This film really is fantastic and in many ways it is better than the original. The creature is even more of a victim in this one too, of people prejudices and fears and of certain other people’s despicable schemes. Colin Clive is not as passionate in this film but Ernest Thesiger as Pretorius is outrageously evil and he loves it.

Rating 10/10

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Posted by on October 23, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: Frankenstein

October Horror Month

There’s a funeral of weepy relatives at a highly stylised cemetery  and from just over mound a creepy strange little face appears. It’s Fritz (Dwight Frye) and he’s with Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) watching, hiding and waiting for the mourners to leave. Then it’s just the gravedigger they are waiting on who fills in grave and he lights his pipe and leaves. As soon as he’s gone Frankenstein and Fritz dig up body and put it on a cart and wheel the cart to a gallows and Frankenstein sends Fritz up to cut the rope. Frankenstein is disappointed to discover that the body’s neck is broken?? Truly he is a medical genius. He tells Fritz that he needs to find another brain

Dr Waldman (Edward Van Sloan) is giving lecture to class of medical students and he’s got two brain in jar a normal brain and abnormal brain of a criminal psychopath and gets them to note the difference in the size of lobes and the depth of the grooves. Fritz is watching this from a window and when the lecture is over Waldman say he will leave the brains out for the students to examine themselves. That night Fritz breaks into the lecture theatre and hobble up to the table with the two brains He startles himself when he knocks into a human skeleton. Fritz grabs the normal brain but drops it when there a sudden unexplained gong so he picks up abnormal brain.

Frankenstein’s close friend Victor Moritz (John Boles) and his fiancé Elizabeth (Mae Clarke) are worried about Frankenstein. He has sent Elizabeth such a strange letter she wants to go see him to check up on him. When Victor recently saw him he was acting paranoid and secretive. They speak with Dr Waldman who used to teach Frankenstein when he was at medical school who thinks he’s brilliant but erratic. Elizabeth asks why left and Waldman say his research took him beyond what they were prepared to tolerate in his insane ambition to create life. They couldn’t help him with the material he needed which was fresh human bodies and he wasn’t worried about how he got them. Elizabeth wants to go see him and she begs Dr Waldman to join them in trying to talk to Frankenstein but Waldman is not confident he would do any good

Frankenstein is in his lab getting ready with the body he created out of dead parts. He wants to make use of the electric storm and he has Fritz go up on the roof to makes sure the electrodes are connected. He does one final test, throws the switches and there’s crackling electricity through the circuit and he’s happy. There’s a knock on the door and he sends Fritz to the door to get rid of them and not let them. Outside the door are Waldman, Victor and Elizabeth and they all getting soaked in the storm. Fritz just opens up the hatch inn the door and tells them to go away and wanders off muttering to himself. Victor and Elizabeth call up to Frankenstein who want to know what they want. They ask to be let in out of the storm and he relents and lets them in.

Frankenstein tries to persuade them to go away since his work has reached a crucial point. Victor calls him crazy which seems to be Frankenstein’s crazy button. He invites them up to the lab and tells them to sit and watch. He’s gone beyond ultraviolet and discovered a ray that gives life into the world. He created a new body from bits stitched together from dead bodies

The storm has arrived so he and Fritz get the body ready then raise platform up into the storm which increases in violent intensity and after a few minutes he brings it down again. As the platform reaches the floor he see the hand twitch with life and Frankenstein starts screaming hysterically, “It’s alive it’s alive IT’S ALIVE. In the name of God? Now I know what it feels like to be God.” Now that is just asking for trouble.

Victor and Elizabeth talk to Baron Frankenstein (Frederick Kerr) father of Henry who is worried about the wedding of Frankenstein to Elizabeth and he thinks there’s another woman. Burgomaster Herr Vogel come to talk to the Baron about wedding but the Baron says there’ll be no wedding if Henry doesn’t appear. After Vogel leaves the Baron decides that he’s going to go see Frankenstein himself and bring him back

Back at the windmill Waldman and Frankenstein are talking and the Creature andWaldman thinks it’s dangerous and Henry starts a defence of the need to take risks for truth, for science. Waldman thinks he’s become arrogant because of his success and he’s not seeing things clearly. This thing he’s created will get out of control. Frankenstein insist that the Creature’s brain just needs time to develop and that’s it’s a perfectly normal brain. That’s when he tells Waldman he got it from Waldman’s office and Waldman tells him brain stolen was not normal, it was criminal brain. This shakes Frankenstein for a moment but he just dismisses it as not important, it’s just raw material.

The Creature (Boris Karloff) comes into room backwards then turns revealing that dead face and dead eyes. It slowly walks, its feet dragging, and it sits down when Frankenstein orders it to. Frankenstein opens a skylight and the creature stands up and reaches up to the light. When Frankenstein closes the skylight the creature is sad and wants know where it went. The Fritz appears with a torch and the fire freaks out creature and Frankenstein tells him to take it away. The three of them manage to get the panicking Creature tied up and then chain it in the cellar

In the cellar later Fritz is amusing himself by whipping the Creature. Frankenstein tries to get him to leave it alone but Fritz doesn’t stop and starts taunting it with a torch. Upstairs Frankenstein hears Fritz screaming. He rushes down with Waldman to find the Creature has killed Fritz and is still angry. Frankenstein and Waldman get it locked back in the cellar but it’s only a matter time before it breaks out. Waldman says that they have to destroy it and Frankenstein prepares a hypodermic needle of sedative to inject the creature and gives it Waldman who gets knocked out after injecting the Creature. It tries to choke Frankenstein until the drug takes effect and it falls unconscious.

There’s a very insistent banging on the front door. It’s Victor who has come to warn Henry his father is on the way with Elizabeth. Waldman and Victor get the Creature hidden away while Frankenstein gets cleaned up. The Baron and Elizabeth arrive and they go upstairs t the Lab and Frankenstein greets them then collapses and they take him home and Waldman promises to get rid of creature. Later after they are gone Waldman has the creature on the table in the lab and he gets surgical instruments ready but he doesn’t see that the creature is conscious and its choke life out of Waldman and escapes

Next day Henry is at home relaxing with Elizabeth and he’s much more relaxed and rational. They talk about when their wedding should be and Frankenstein says it should be as soon as possible. The scene cuts to the wedding day itself and the Baron drinks a toast to a son to the house of Frankenstein. Village all singing and dancing it’s a big happy celebration

The Creature wandering through countryside and it meets a little girl called Maria at the lake who is picking flowers. When she sees Creature she introduces herself and invites him play tossing the flowers into the water. The Creature is delighted and she gets the Creature to try tossing in flowers. When they run out of flowers he throws the little girl into water but she drowns instead of floating and creature runs off in a panic

Back in the village there’s all sorts of happy slappy dancing and the street party is in full swing. Elizabeth needs to talk to Henry before wedding. She is worried that they haven’t heard from Waldman. She senses something dreadful is coming and Frankenstein tries to calm her. There’s a knocking on door. It’s Victor who tells Henry that Waldman been murdered. They hear the creature in the house and search for him in cellars. But the creature is outside the window of Elizabeth’s room. It breaks through the window and when she sees it she screams and it mocks her and leaves her passed out and hysterical

The village are all still singing and dancing and Maria’s father arrives with is child’s limp body in his arms as a he passes the celebration stops. When he reaches the steps of the town hall to see the burgomaster Vogel the partying village has became an angry mob and Vogel promises them justice

Frankenstein wants to destroy the creature or there will be no wedding. Vogel organises three groups to search for the creature, alive if possible. With flaming torches held aloft they hunt the creature in mountains. Frankenstein gets separated from the rest of the and of course he finds the creature and tries to use the torch to frighten it but its not scared of fire anymore and attacks Frankenstein and knocks him out

The rest of the search party spot the Creature and release the hound to chase him. It carries Frankenstein all the way back to the windmill with the mob on his tail. They try to break in. Frankenstein wakes up and crawls away but the creature sees him and they struggle and it throws Frankenstein down to the mob below Frankenstein is still alive and broken and they carry back him back to the village. They set fire to the windmill and the creature screams as the flames grow. It has nowhere to run and it gets trapped by a falling beam as whole windmills burns

There’s is an epilogue. A large group of servants come to Frankenstein’s room with a glass of his Grandmother’s special wine. The Baron comes to the door and he looks back to see Frankenstein and Elizabeth kissing so he discretely closes door and drinks the wine himself.

This film is one of the most famous horror films and its influence in popular culture is so pervasive that many familiar tropes of horror began here. It made the career of William Pratt or Boris Karloff with an effective performance as monster that is more to be pitied than hated. It was still the early days of talking films so a lot of the performances are very stagey, especially Colin Clive as Frankenstein and Dwight Frye as the hunchback assistant Fritz. No matter how many modern adaptations have appeared the image of Karloff’s Creature is the one that comes to mind when Frankenstein is mentioned.

Rating 10.0/10

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Posted by on October 22, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: Dog Soldiers

October Horror Month

When I first saw this werewolf film I had never heard of it or its director Neil Marshall but I loved it right away. I love the characters, the locations, the gallows humour, the fantastic werewolf design and I want a Spoony.

A couple are camping in the woods in the Scottish Highlands and they are celebrating the guy getting a promotion. She’s bought him a present, a solid silver letter opener. It’s a strange present but the guy seems pleased and they kiss and go into their tent, probably to have sex. They get interrupted by someone slowly opening their tent. Then a pair of monstrous hands grabs the woman and there’s a short tug of war with guy trying to pull her into the tent while whatever it outside pulls her legs. She screams as she is ripped in half and she dies. Whatever killed her then comes into the tent after the guy and we see him trying to reach the letter opener but he fails and we hear him die.

At the same time in the Welsh countryside we see a soldier Private Cooper (Kevin McKidd) trying to evade soldiers dressed in black and he takes down several of them before being caught by Captain Ryan (Liam Cunningham). Ryan congratulates him on evading capture for so long. This was a test to see if Cooper can get admitted into Ryan’s special forces squad and Ryan is impressed but tells Copper that they key to avoiding getting caught is to remove your enemy’s ability to track you and tells Cooper to kill the tracker dog. Cooper refuses, even when Ryan tells him it’s an order. Ryan calls him useless if he can’t even kill a dog but Cooper says he won’t kill that dog for no good reason. Ryan fails him and shoots the dog himself. Cooper is outraged but manages to get a punch in, wiping the smug superior expression off Ryan’s face

Some time later a squad of soldiers get dropped off in highlands of Scotland for a training mission led by Sergeant Harry G.Wells (Sean Pertwee) and the rest are Private Cooper, Private ‘Spoon’ Witherspoon (Darren Morfitt) who is scrappy little smartarse, Private Joe Kirkley (Chris Robson) who is constantly whining and resents missing a football, Private Terry Millburn (Leslie Simpson) and Corporal Bruce Campbell (Thomas Lockyer). Wells and Cooper discuss the layout on a map and make plans. They are up against Special Forces and Wells wants them to go in hard and brutal

They walk for a few miles they stop for rest and a smoke. Cooper mentions the deaths of the two campers in that area only a few weeks ago but they don’t take the story seriously. They walk on a few more miles and they all whistle a tune called Tom Hark that seems to be popular on the football terraces but with various lyrics. As they walk they are being watched by Captain Ryan through a pair of binoculars who says to one of his men. “Contact the camp tell them the flock is heading for the fold.”

When it gets dark they stop next to a cliff and settle in with a fire. Joe whines about their processed food and is still in a bad mood because he’s missing the football and the others wind him up about it, especially Spoon. Cooper asks them about what scares them and Bruce gives a really pretentious answer about the state of the human condition. Spoon says he’s scared of castration which gets a general murmur of agreement. Joe is scared of the football match ending in penalty shoot-out and Terry is scared of watching a penalty shoot-out with Joe. Cooper says he’s scared of spiders, women and then adds spider-women.

They all believe that Wells won’t be scared of anything but he tells them a creepy story of a friend who got tattoo of a laughing devil and when he got blown up the only part of him that wasn’t damaged was the bit of him with the tattoo. This story makes everybody go quiet so Spoon starts telling a joke. He doesn’t get to finish it because a dead cow drops out of the air with a thud and a splash of blood that covers Terry who freaks and shoots at it while Spoon rolls about laughing and Joe reminds Terry that he’s firing blanks. They examine the cow and Cooper thinks it looks like it was attacked by an animal. Wells decides that there’s nothing they can do about it in the dark and arranges a watch schedule and tells the rest to get some sleep

Ryan sees something moving around in the dark and whatever it is it attacks him. In the morning Wells and the squad have a look around and find the place the where the cow went over the cliff. There is a trail of blood so the cow seems to have walked some distance from where it got it attacked. Wells is curious about what happened to it and so, ignoring Joe’s complaints, they follow the blood. When they get to the place the cow was attacked they figure something bad happened to it. In the air they see a signal flare.

They head towards the location the flare came from and find guns, ammunition, nets and tranquilizer darts but no sign of the men, except for a pile of guts that Terry steps in. Things have turned serious so Wells orders all of them to drop their fake guns and get armed for real. Ryan pops up from behind some boxes of equipment and he’s been torn open. Wells orders them to put a field dressing on him and they try to get him to tell them what happened but he keeps raving about how there should only have been one. Their radio was sabotaged by Ryan and the Special Forces radio has been wrecked

They get organised and move through the woods while catching glimpses of massive hairy beasts with big teeth and claws chasing after them. Bruce is guarding their rear and he sees something coming but his gun isn’t working so he runs through plantation of young fir trees with something coming after him. He isn’t looking where he’s going and he impales himself on a broken branch that goes right through and out his back and while he’s hanging there dying a werewolf attacks him. Wells comes to look for him and the werewolf comes for him but he shoots at it and manages to get away and he finds Bruce’s body. The werewolf catches up and rips his guts open. Wells is just lying there with his guts hanging out and he probably thinks he’s going to die but Cooper arrives, shoots at the werewolf and forces his guts back into his body and patches him up.

With werewolves on their tails and two seriously injured men they really need to get to safety. Spoon gets to a road and he sees a jeep coming so he leaps down the hill and dives on to the road right in front of the oncoming vehicle which stops just before hitting him. The driver is a young woman Megan (Emma Cleasby) who tells them all to get in the jeep. Megan had been out looking for them because she heard gunfire the previous night.

Megan tries to drive off but they are stuck in the mud and the jeep gets attacked by a werewolf. The werewolf rips through the roof and tries to grab them but Spoon puts a knife through its arm and Megan finally manages to get the jeep moving. Cooper say they need to get to a shelter and Megan tells them that the only people nearby are a family who have a cottage a few miles away.

When they reach the cottage there is no sign of the family and the cottage seems to be empty. Cooper enters first and there’s a pot of food on a lit gas stove, suggesting that the inhabitants haven’t been gone long. They go inside and Cooper sends Spoon to check out upstairs who says “Little pigs little pigs we’ve come to nick your video,” as he heads up the stairs. Cooper hears a noise and finds a dog shut in a cupboard. They get Wells and Ryan out of the jeep and Cooper notices that Ryan no longer seems to as injured as he was.

Joe spots the pot of hot food on the stove and helps himself telling the others that it tastes like pork. It probably isn’t pork but Cooper approves of them getting some food and tells them all to help themselves. Spoon puts a dressing out on Wells and Cooper asks Megan where nearest town is. She tells them Fort William is about 4 hours drive so they should get going right away.

Cooper and Spoon go to check outside and find out the engine of the jeep has been shredded and the werewolves are prowling around in the tree-line  They shoot at them and get back inside and the jeep blows up from a stray bullet hitting the fuel leaking out from the jeep. A werewolf tries to get in the door and there a bit of running around and shouting. To add to the chaos the dog starts biting at Wells’ bloody bandage and of course Ryan wants to kill the dog. Suddenly Terry pukes on Ryan’s head and it all goes quiet. Ryan starts having a go at Terry but Joe gets right in his face and Ryan backs off and goes upstairs to clean himself

Cooper checks if Terry is okay and Terry jokes that he fancies a kebab. Cooper gets him to boil some pots of water and while he’s doing that he makes them all tea. They work on securing the windows and doors. Spoon compares the situation to Rourke’s Drift (as seen in the classic film Zulu) and Joe is pissed because Spoon seems to be enjoying himself too much and of course he thinks it’s bone which is apparently not at all good. Megan tells Cooper about what they are up against and explains that they are part wolf part human or in other words they’re werewolves but he’s sceptical. Megan and Cooper take Wells upstairs and Joe, Terry and Spoon hunt for weapons. Joe finds an axe, Spoon finds a sword and Terry can only find an electric knife.

Cooper and Megan put Wells in a bed and give him a lot of booze to drink so he soon completely plastered. They use superglue to put him back together. Wells is getting far too drunk but the pain is getting terrible and he demands that Cooper knocks him out and it just takes two punches. Now they can get fix his wound with a lot less trouble. Cooper asks Megan about the werewolves and she tells him she’s a zoologist and she came here chasing rumours about them and she was just as sceptical as Cooper but she knows they are real now and she promises that Cooper will know it to before the night ends

Cooper and Megan come downstairs. Spoon is really enjoying himself playing with the sword but when Cooper comes back down he takes the sword and not the frying pan Spoon offers him. Megan tells them about werewolves and Spoon is totally happy with that explanation but Joe is sceptical like Cooper. Cooper tells Megan who everyone is but doesn’t introduce Ryan until Megan asks. Cooper doesn’t know why Ryan is there and why he seems to be a lot better so he demands Ryan show them his wound. Ryan objects to that and pulls his gun which Megan smacks out of his hand. While Joe holds Ryan down Cooper peels off the dressing to look and he sees that the wound has healed up nicely.

They tie up Ryan and discuss torturing him for more information but suddenly the lights go out. The werewolves have cut the power and are going to attack so everyone goes to the windows and gets ready. The werewolves try to get in the doors or the window and the squaddies throw everything they’ve got at them: guns, fire, hot water and even just smacking them with pots. Joe gets grabbed by one and Cooper chops its arm off with the sword. He hears one upstairs where Wells is sleeping. Cooper fights it off with the sword and finally Wells wakes up and joins in shooting at it and chasing it away

Downstairs things have gotten quieter and Terry sneers at the werewolves and calls them pussies and just then gets grabbed through the window by a werewolf. When Cooper comes down he gets told they took Terry. He wants to go get him but Ryan says he knows Terry is dead. Megan talks about what lives in the shadows. Ryan is sneering at them again and Megan tells Cooper that she’s already met Ryan and she was hired to advise his group about the werewolves.

The plan is to hold out until dawn but the are getting low in ammo and the guns might hurt the werewolves but they don’t kill them. Megan tells them about a Landrover kept in the barn and if they can hotwire it they might be able to get away. Joe volunteers and they decide to get Spoon to be a decoy to give Joe the chance to get to the Landrover. Spoon gets outside shouts and waves flare and taunts the werewolves and when they start coming at him Spoon runs back to cottage with a werewolf on his tail

Joe gets to the Landrover and in the light from the headlights he sees a werewolf eating Terry and it throws Terry’s head at him. Joe gets the Landrover started and backs out of barn but he realises a werewolf is sitting behind him and he gets slaughtered. The others find Joe’s body when they open the door of the car

Megan plays Clair de Lune on the piano while everyone sits depressed. Wells is up and about again and feeling fine. Cooper checks out the Landrover and realises the car is knackered. Cooper wants to know what Ryan is really up to.  Ryan explains that Special Weapon Division wanted a werewolf but it went wrong when there was more than one. Well’s squad was expendable bait for the werewolf and Ryan chose Cooper’s squad out of petty spite. Ryan then turns into a werewolf. Wells picks up something to use a weapon but it’s just a stick so he throws it at Ryan and says fetch. Cooper grabs the sword and shoves it through Ryan’s chest and Spoon shoots him so Ryan jumps out of the window.

Cooper figures that since they are mostly human the werewolves are the family who live at the cottage so they aren’t going anywhere. Megan tells them that the werewolves will be hiding out in the barn. They decide to use the Landrover and a large of bottle of propane to kill or hurt as many werewolves as they can by sending the car into the barn and blowing it up. Cooper asks Wells how he is and he feels fine and knows what that means. He’s turning into a werewolf but doesn’t know when but Wells is going to fight to the death against the werewolves. Cooper starts the Landrover and Spoon cuts the fuel line so it leaves a trail of fuel as it goes to the barn. Spoon can’t get a match to light so Wells throws a petrol bomb at it and the barn goes KABLOOOEY FWUMP.

Then Megan apologizes and tells them that there’s no hope of getting out. There were no werewolves in the barn. She doesn’t have a house in the next valley and the only reason she’s not in the family photos is that she took the photos. And lastly she let the werewolves in because she is one and then she starts changing. Wells shoots her in the head and then he and Cooper get upstairs, while Spoon heads for the kitchen. Spoon runs out of ammo pretty quickly but still dares the werewolves to come on

Upstairs Wells hides in the toilet (khazi) but he has a werewolf trying to break the door in. Cooper breaks a sink and smashes his way through the wall into the toilet next to Wells then breaks through another wall into a bedroom.

In the kitchen Spoon really goes totally mental on a werewolf, punching it, battering it with a frying pan and stabbing the hell out of it but a second werewolf grabs him and his last line is “I hope I give you the shits you fucking wimp,” then the two werewolves tear Spoon apart and eat him.

Upstairs the werewolves are getting into the bedroom so Cooper and Wells get into a wardrobe whose floor is littered with old human bones. Wells shoots a hole right through the floor and they get down into the kitchen. Wells finds a pile of gore with his watch in it that he gave to Spoon earlier and when Cooper asks where Spoon is Wells replies, ”There is no Spoon.”

They find a trapdoor down to the cellar and Wells makes Cooper and the dog go down there while Wells stays behind to take care of the werewolves He cuts the gas pipe to the stove and gas soon fills the kitchen. Wells can feel the werewolf change is coming but manages to hold on until the werewolves break into the kitchen and he ignites the gas KABOOMBOOOMBOOM

Cooper and the dog survive in the cellar but it turns out that Ryan is in the cellar too, hiding among the dead bodies of his Special Forces squad. Ryan and Cooper fight and Ryan gets Cooper pinned and he forces the sword that is still penetrating his body into Cooper’s mouth but the dog jumps him. Cooper spots the silver letter opener and stabs it into Ryan’s chest and then finishes him with a bullet into the brain.

As I said before I just love this film. It has great characters and I really believed their banter even when it was about werewolves. The stand out character for me is definitely Spoon, he’s just so funny and totally crazy but the whole cast are brilliant, natural and funny. I know it’s possible to find plot holes and weaknesses but when I watch it usually I’m usually enjoying myself too much to notice them.

Rating 9.5/10

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Posted by on October 21, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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