Growing up on shows like 'Tiny Toons', I have seen quite a few parodies of this, but I never actually bothered to sit down and check it out for some reason. I won't lie, a part of it back then was always "black & white equals old and boring", but I didn't appreciate what these old films have gifted us over the years; often inspiring present-day works that I love. This particular title has become a bit of a legend, often dubbed one of the best comedies ever made. But is it dated in any way, or does it hold up as some sort of significant Halloween treat? Spoiler alert, it's most definitely the latter.
The film opens in London, England with good old Larry Talbot, aka the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.) making an urgent phone call, overseas from a train station in Florida. There, Chick Young (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello) work as luggage clerks. Talbot tries to warn Wilbur about a shipment due for a local wax museum called "McDougal's House of Horrors", owned by a man named McDougal (Frank Ferguson). The shipment coming through apparently consists of the remains of Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and Frankenstein's Monster (Glenn Strange). The warning doesn't quite get through, as Talbot changes into a werewolf during the conversation.
Carrying on, Chick and Wilbur eventually deliver the crates after hours to the museum for inspection from an insurance agent. Alone in the creepy wax museum, the pair continue to open the crates which unveil Dracula's coffin (with Dracula inside) and Frankenstein's Monster, although as old school comedy goes, Wibur is the only one who keeps experiencing face-to-face time with any monsters throughout the film. We soon learn that Dracula's grand plan is to give the Monster a better brain; one less brutish. The person in "mind" for the transfer ends up being Wilbur. Dracula then uses his lovely female "assistants" to lure him in, Dr. Sandra Mornay (Lenore Aubert) and the hypnotized Joan Raymond (Jane Randolph) and the comedy duo soon find themselves between various classic Universal monsters.
This was a lot of fun, and I was quite thoroughly entertained by it after seeing so many of these monster movies that have taken themselves so seriously. Although these monster movies did start becoming a little more self-aware before this, I believe this was what truly solidified the concept. Apart from the comedy duo, the regular monster performances hold up great. Bela Lugosi brings back his classic charm to the Dracula character and plays it totally straight, even while goofy stuff is happening around him. As for Lon Chaney, I felt like he was all-too self aware of his role here, almost providing a stereotype of the role he's probably best known for - and that was a good thing. As for the Monster... well, he's the Monster, doing his thing as only a small portion of the film. Why it's not called 'Abbott & Costello Meet The Wolf Man' or 'Abbott & Costello Meet Dracula', I dunno, but there we have it.
This may not have been the first horror-comedy in existence, but it probably has the distinction of being the most famous of the era, and I think it's for good reason. Perhaps the best part of this is getting some of those original and/or famous portrayals of these monsters to get in on the project. It seemed that with this, everyone involved was simply having a lot of fun with it. It didn't need to be dramatic in any sense, and by this point, the idea of a self-aware comedy really lends itself to the genre. This was most definitely a laugh and a half, and I had a great time with it. It's a solid hour and a half of Halloween fun for the whole family!
Here we have yet another Universal Monster crossover, but this one isn't quite as good as previous ones. At this point, things are officially old and predictable, and as a result we'd soon get 'Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein' in a straight up parody. The crossover is pretty much the same as last time, as we get Dracula, The Wolfman and Frankenstein's monster; who has now been well-established as more or less immortal. Beyond that, we get a doctor and his hunchbacked assistant because for whatever reason, assistants have to be hunched. At least this time the original take is that she's a woman.
Dracula (John Carradine) comes to the home of a Dr. Franz Edelmann (Onslow Stevens) in the hopes that he can cure him of his vampirism. Agreeing to help, along with his assistants, Milizia (Martha O'Driscoll) and the hunchbacked Nina (Jane Adams) he comes up with something he may think help, involving blood transfusions, using himself as the guinea pig. Meanwhile, Dracula crashes in his basement during the day because he just so happens to have his own coffin down there.
Soon, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) comes to the castle seeking help from the doctor to cure his animalistic condition as well. In desperation, he gets himself incarcerated by local police so he can prove that night, by the light of the full moon, that he changes into a werewolf. As per usual, he lives with the fear and torment of basically being taken over by the wolf and killing innocent people. When Edelmann tells Talbot that he'll have to be patient, Talbot attempts suicide by jumping off a nearby cliff. He survives, however, and Edelmann finds him in a cave along with Frankenstein's monster (Glenn Strange) who he brings back to his laboratory basement.
While trying to help the two monsters out of their respective curses, however, Edelmann finds that Dracula's blood starts to change him to a man of evil. This adds yet another monster to the bunch; a monster who may very well be willing to resurrect Frankenstein's monster to unleash on the nearby town. I would probably chalk this one up to being a guilty pleasure at best, as it's really just going through the motions. The only thing I find they really do different here is have Dracula seeking a cure for his vampirism, and the resulting effects of the experimentation. Otherwise, the Wolf Man is still the Wolf Man (my favorite, but far more interesting in 'House of Frankenstein') and the Monster has seemingly just become a prop at this point.
If I'm honest, I found this one a bit boring for most of it. As I was sitting through it, things just felt sort of old and used, like the film is representative of a hand-me-down t-shirt you know is a good ten years old plus. It's not bad if you're a fan of these movies already, and I admit that it's not without its moments I appreciated. But at this point it just feels like they are looking for reasons to get these creatures together with "what if" scenarios. In this case it's "what if Dracula wanted to be cured?" Then because the Wolf Man always wants to be cured, that can be thrown in for balance, and Frankenstein's Monster should be a part of it too because... Frankenstein? Needless to say, it's not my favorite.
The film isn't without some noteworthy factoids, however. The idea of getting an attractive actress to play a hunchback was kind of a big deal for the time, as until then , they were seen mostly as hideous freaks. 'House of Frankenstein' did lighten that up quite a bit, but this really followed through with things seeing it more as a physical flaw than something from a freak show. This is also the final film in Lon Chaney Jr.'s contract for portraying The Wolfman, but it's fun to note that he'd return regardless to make fun of himself in 'Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein'. So this isn't terrible, but it still feels like an "old news" thing in a way. It passes, but just for the fun of it being a somewhat fun, albeit silly Universal Monster collective.
Ah ghost movies. I always teeter with tales of the supernatural. I have seen some that I can so easily toss aside because they just go through the motions, but others just plain do their jobs. I think, for me, I can find a ghost movie very cheap. It'll be full of predictable jump scares, stupidity when it comes to dealing with the spirits involved, or a creepy girl with black hair (Netflix's 'Hill House' was the last time this really worked for me, and if you've seen it, you know why it works). But I think after seeing this I've come to realize that what I look for in a good ghost movie may be laying further in the past than I realize.
Taking place in 1937, Rick Fitzgerald (Ray Milland) and his sister, Pamela (Ruth Hussey), open the film while a poetic narration takes place. The pair happen upon an abandoned seaside house when their dog chases a squirrel into it. As they explore the house, they fall more and more in love with it, and decide to make the move to try to purchase the property from its owner, Commander Beech (Donald Crisp). They manage to get it for a surprisingly low price, based on stories about its previous owners and potential "hauntings" to which they are both too skeptical to care.
Meanwhile, a young lady named Stella Meredith (Gail Russell), granddaughter of Commander Beech, is rather upset at the sale. Windward House (as the house is named) was where she spent her last moments with her now deceased mother who fell to her death from the cliff the house resides on. Rick soon becomes infatuated with Stella, which gains her access to the old place. However when strange noises such as sobbing in the middle of the night occur, accompanied by lovely scents, it becomes obvious that the house is haunted, and further details lead to a connection between the ghosts of the house and Stella. As the mystery continues to unfold, events get creepier and creepier, suggesting that perhaps Stella's mother may not be the obvious ghost.
As far as early horror goes, I found that there was something that stood out about this movie among so many others I've seen. It carries an atmosphere with it that's actually almost perfect. Music will chime in the odd time, but all in all, there's an eerily still silence to things here. That blends with the lighting they use, casting long shadows, and often having things by candlelight. For 1944, this was some pretty incredible stuff, and even today there's this genuine creepiness to it. This was nominated for a Best Cinematography Oscar, and let's just say it was well-deserved. They even get a ghostly apparition in there that looks quite good for the time.
The film has the distinction of being among the first films to feature ghostly hauntings in a dramatic sense, and its main theme of 'Stella by Starlight' has been adapted many times for its hauntingly beautiful sound. It has been adapted by several artists both instrumentally with people like Miles Davis, and lyrically by people like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles just to name a few. It really is a beautiful and classy tune. You almost feel like you need to open up a bottle of wine while having dinner by candlelight as you listen to it (I think Ella Fitzgerald's is my favorite).
In all honestly, despite perhaps some dated and corny acting here and there, this is one of the better haunting movies I think I've seen. For me, a haunting movie should be scary, but not just scary. There needs to be some sort of dramatic effect going on that makes the ghost more intriguing, and most of the time, I think we get that. But there have been duds all the same. This one does just what it needs to do for the effect it wants to deliver. It's eerily creepy but not exactly scary, and it seems to take the chances other ghost films up until this point haven't bothered to (although bear in mind, my knowledge of film back then is like looking at a library with 10 books in it). I still have some more first-time ghost movies to get through, but damn, this was really good! Hell, it even ends with a punchline.
As I wade through these old films, there's an interesting balance I find in them. Most of these are actual first-time watches, and I think it's safe to say that most of them I have respect for, even if I don't particularly love them myself. But once in a while, there's a real gem I take away from this experience, and I can say with gusto that 'House of Frankenstein' is one of the best - and no, I don't care about its sad sad Rotton Tomato ratings. I'm completely against the grain on this.
When Dr. Gustav Niemann (Boris Karloff) and his hunchbacked helper, Daniel (J. Carrol Nash) make a far too easy escape from prison, they murder a travelling showman named Professor Lampini (George Zucco) and steal his travelling horror exhibit. Niemann's plan is one of revenge on Bürgermeister Hussman (Sig Ruman) for putting him in prison in the first place, and some former associates of his who stabbed him in the back. This whole revenge plots results in the resurrection of a handful of classic horror heroes for the time; Dracula, The Wolf Man, and Frankenstein's Monster.
Niemann finds and revives Count Dracula (John Carradine), whose role is short-lived here, but it's an interesting take on the character. He's actually a bit of a badass here, and even gets involved in a wagon chase (or car chase, if you like). Eventually Niemann and Daniel head to the flooded ruins of Castle Frankenstein, some time after the events of 'Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man'. He finds the bodies of both Frankenstein's Monster (Glenn Strange) and Larry Talbot, aka The Wolfman (Lon Chaney Jr.), and takes it upon himself to revive them.
Larry is revived first, and explains his whole werewolf situation to Niemann, and how his resurrection is a horrible curse waiting to happen. However, Niemann offers him an experiment that should rid him of his curse, by giving him a new brain. But since Niemann has another revenge plot against a couple of former associates, his interest in reviving the monster takes a bit more of a priority. What more can I say? For the time, this movie seemed to have everything. It's like 'The Avengers' with monsters - like what they tried so hard to do with the Dark Universe concept, failing miserably. I still claim it could work if they just kept things closer to classic, but I digress.
This one was a real treat for me, because as luck would have it, the primary focus of a monster is actually The Wolfman. I've come to really like his tragic character, and Lon Chaney Jr. plays the role so incredibly well as both the scared man and the animalistic werewolf. The other most intriguing character here is Daniel, as Nieman promises him a different body, and we get to see the struggles of the hunchback for once. Any other movie just has the hunchbacked assistant as something creepy and somewhat off to the side, but this delves into the idea of this guy being innocent, and just wanting to be attractive - this includes him falling in love with someone kind at first, but he eventually scares her off all the same. I have to say, I really enjoyed that the film dug into that.
This is most definitely one of my favorites in this collection I've been going through. I love how the story includes just the right amount of monsters, and every one of them serves the story. They didn't crowbar in The Mummy or The Invisible Man for no reason; it just sticks to these big three (or four if you include the hunchbacked assistant), and everything just fits. It's quite well-constructed. The only time I might have a bit of a beef with these characters is how abrupt Dracula's appearance is. But I can't even be that mad about it, because it just makes room to further the plot which explores the Wolf Man and Daniel quite generously. I really enjoyed this one; it's fun, dramatic, just creepy enough, and it's a high recommendation for a Halloween hit.
I have to admit that it's actually pretty intriguing to go back to a time before George A. Romero gave us the form of zombies we all know and love now. I covered a little bit of that in my review for 'The Ghost Breakers', but I thought it might be a good idea to delve a little deeper into the origins of what it actually meant to be a zombie at one point.
Nowadays, zombies are considered a pretty damn basic concept; flesh-eating, re-animated dead people, often representing society's "zombie-like" ways. They are usually some sort of metaphor; 'Dawn of the Dead' made that concept super famous by having the zombies basically represent having consumerism take us over. But back before this idea became standard, zombies were still very much based in Voodoo, and that's the case here. These "zombies" aren't exactly dead people, they are just mindless, and obey commands at the ready.
It all starts when Betsy Connell (Frances Dee), a Canadian nurse, is hired to care for sugar plantation owner, Paul Holland's (Tom Conway) wife, Jessica (Christine Gordon). This leads her to the Caribbean island of Saint Sebastian; home to a small white community and descendants of African slaves. Here, Betsy meets the likes of Wesley Rand (James Ellison), Paul's half brother, and Jessica, but she meets Jessica as a zombie-like character, vacant in expression and quite creepy to look at. Betsy soon learns that Jessica's the victim of spinal cord damage from a serious illness, leaving her with none of her own willpower.
As Betsy begins to fall for Paul, she makes it her mission to make him happy by doing anything it takes to cure Jessica. Soon, Betsy is lead down a dark and mysterious road of voodoo, zombies, and the seemingly bizarre culture of the island's locals. She also begins to discover that there's much more than meets the eye when it comes to the Holland family. So, it's not quite as action-filled or dreadful as your commonplace zombie movie today, but it's an interesting look into voodoo culture (at least as it was interpreted in 1943) nonetheless. I bring it up a lot when it comes to this kind of material, but I still think 'The Serpent and the Rainbow' may be the most intriguingly scary look into this stuff. Just remember that Voodoo, in reality, isn't quite what it is in the movies.
The film is quite passable, but I have to admit that I found it to drag in certain parts. What does sell this film, however, is the sheer creepiness of it all. Certain lighting techniques, and some creepy acting from certain characters really add to the atmosphere. There's even a particularly spooky looking starway that leads up a tower here that reminds me a lot of the atmosphere I encountered with 'Nosferatu'. So when it came to setting an appropriately creepy mood, they accomplished things quite nicely here. It's also short enough that, though there's a certain drag, it doesn't drag for long until you come to something interesting.
While the film isn't particularly fun by any means, it's quite serious in tone, and that adds a whole new twist of horror to what we've seen lately with a lot of the fun Universal monster stuff that's been going on. 'White Zombie' technically predates it, but it does still stand as one of the famous "roots of zombie lore" films out there, and rightfully so. I can't say I consider it a masterpiece, necessarily, but it's certainly solid for its creepy tone, and a lot of the visuals hold up even now as something with the potential to send chills up one's spine. I mean, just look at the zombie dude in the picture.
Remember when The Avengers first assembled and it was all the rage? To think of a Marvel crossover universe at the time was such a big deal, it was considered unprecedented, and a giant leap forward in the was comic book movies were handled. But the idea of the crossover film in general dates all the way back to 1953, with this particular title, technically making this the first "team-up" movie (it isn't 'Frankenstein vs The Wolfman')
The film opens about four years after the events of 'The Wolfman' and 'The Ghost of Frankenstein'. Since I never reviewed 'Ghost', here's a Wiki link for all the details. Two unknown men break into the Talbot family crypt, where they find Larry Talbot's (Lon Cheney) body, and a ring they seem to be after. The full moon shines through the crypt, and brings the Wolfman back to life. Larry is found the next day, and brought in for a head wound (sustained in 'The Wolfman') to be treated by Dr. Mannering (Patric Knowles). During the next night, Larry transforms again, kills, and begins reliving his curse all over again.
Larry eventually seeks out the Gypsy woman, Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) for help. Being the only one who could possibly understand what Larry is going through, Maleva leads him to the village of Dr. Ludwig Frankenstein, and given the history of the village, the townsfolk aren't too keep on helping. The goal is to find the doctor's notes, and end his life through scientific means, since he's immortally cursed. The problem is, the good doctor is now dead.
After another attack, Larry finds himself fleeing from an angry mob and into the ruins of Frankenstein's castle where he finds the Monster, frozen in ice. The Monster, funnily enough, was portrayed by Lon Chaney Jr. in 'Ghost', but here is portrayed by the legendary Bela Lugosi who actually played Ygor in 'Ghost'. So there's this interesting swap-out that happens here based on a sort of limit of go-to horror actors. Imagine such a thing nowadays. Anyway, he befriends the Monster, and soon seeks out the help of Baroness Elsa Frankenstein (Ilona Massey), daughter of Ludwig as well.
It all leads up to the whole mad scientist thing yet again. Dr. Mannering eventually helps with the experiment that will potentially allow Larry to rest, which involves using the Monster. But he gets a bit of that "big red button" syndrome, wanting to see the Monster at full potential. This all takes place during another full moon (they get a lot of them around those parts somehow), and soon the movie finally sees the Monster and the Wolfman duke it out for just a few minutes before the end of the film. Waiting for it is a bit like waiting for New York to appear in 'Jason Takes Manhattan', but surprisingly worse.
The film is very representative of the time in which the Universal Monster films started to become parodies of themselves. It's basically the 'Scream' for its time, for just as 'Scream' ultimately farces the slasher genre that it belongs to, this seems to be a playful experiment as opposed to a solid story in which the monster in question represents something internal. This is where they finally said "this is just fun now". Although it's not the best of them, I can't deny that I had fun with it, and it's interesting to see that Universal seemed to just have a set of specific actors for these monstrous roles. It shows a very different time
My only real criticisms about it are that it ends too abruptly, and I very much prefer Boris Karloff as the Monster. Bela doesn't really sell me on it, but he's still an awesome Dracula and Ygor. Lon Cheney Jr. and Maria Ouspenskaya are just as great here as they were in 'The Wolfman', but I got way more out of that than this. I can still, however, give it up to the film's attempt at taking a stab at trying something very new, and unprecedented for its own time. Further to that, this is at least pretty fun to watch nowadays, and a decent Halloween watch. I don't think I can quite dig at this as much as other critics have in the past though, because at worst, I just see it as a failed first attempt. I'm not sure I would have expected it to be anything amazing at the time. But will these crossovers improve? We'll find out soon enough.
It just goes to show how detached I am from Universal's monster lineup when I had no idea until recently that this movie existed. Not only that, but this s THE sequel to 'Dracula', as it picks up where the original movie left off. Dracula has just been killed by Professor Von (not Van) Helsing (Edward Van Sloan), and he's arrested by to police officers and sent to Scotland Yard. There, he explains the situation to Sir Basil Humphry (Gilbert Emery).
Von Helsing fully confesses with the greatest of ease and simplicity that he killed Count Dracula, but he's also already been dead for 500 years. Things are passed off as mere folklore and tales at first, and it leads Von Helsing to stand alone on his case, enlisting the aid of one of his star students; a psychiatrist named Dr. Jeffery Garth (Otto Kruger). His case is that since Dracula has been dead for 500 years, what he did can't be considered murder, and he was also doing the town a favor by ridding it of the king of the bloodsuckers.
In an interesting take on vampirism, we are introduced to the film's namesake; the Countess Marya Zaleska (Gloria Holden). She remains alive, despite her father's demise, and she discovers that her thirst for blood doesn't wane, because apparently she wants it to. She tries to free herself from all of this vampire stuff several times, and in constantly failing, she turns to Dr. Garth for help, only to find that she has the desire to turn him over to the dark side of vampirism as well. Sooo, pretty basic stuff if you ask me, but I can't deny that it's interesting to see what may be a first attempt at giving a vampire that much of a human side. Sure, Dracula had a bit of a human side too, but he embraces his curse whereas Marya wants to be free from it.
All in all, I feel that the general metaphor here may be something along the lines of addiction. Marya wants out of that vampiric curse of hers in her own way, but she can't help but have those cravings. She lays the hypnotic eyes on at least a couple of people here, and we all know Dracula for that. But in this case, it almost looks like she's the one who's hypnotized by these humans. It's as though you see that inner struggle of needing something as opposed to just wanting something, and whether it be cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, or drugs in general, we've all experienced that inner struggle - perhaps most of us have experienced it when trying to diet and/or lose weight.
It's a neat take on things, but I have to confess that all in all, I found the film rather boring altogether. There was a lot of talk, and you didn't get that underlying sense of dread you got from Dracula with Marya. With Dracula, you saw his victims as a sort of fly in a spider's web. Here, it's like the spider wants to capture her victim, but sit down and have a nice chat over tea before moving in for the kill. Even when it comes to any kills, it's all pretty well offscreen, and theres just no sense of fear to anything at all. But then there's the comedic aspect. I can certainly give it credit for a few funny moments of dialogue, but it's not quite enough to pull me in. For me, the only reason to watch this is to see what happened next as a sort of epilogue - not so much to be quite as fully entertained as you were with 'Dracula'.
In the realm of Universal Monsters, I have probably always found the wolf man to be one of the most relatable. So, I was looking forward to getting to these titles; this being, not the first werewolf film, but Hollywood's first mainstream werewolf film. It was here that a lot of the common werewolf clichés come from. I'd probably venture to say that werewolf films have this to thank for perpetual material much like zombie films have 'Night of the Living Dead' to thank for their subgenre.
A renowned botanist named Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull) travels to Tibet in search of an elusive plant called the mariphasa. He succeeds in locating it, but on is journey is bitten by a werewolf. After heading back to London, he is approached by fellow botanist, Dr. Yogami (Warner Oland), who claims to have met him in Tibet while he was on the same quest for the same plant. He further explains that the mariphasa plant is the only thing that can stave off the effects of "werewolfery" (otherwise known as lycanthropy).
Glendon passes it all off as superstition, but soon finds out that he should have listened when he sees fur starting to grow on his hands under a moon lamp. That night, he experiences the full effects of lycanthropy. But while he's able to hold things off on the first night, he may experience some competition with the mysterious Dr. Yogami, who the audience can pretty much figure out right away is another werewolf. It may not have been quite as predictable at the time of the film's release, but nowadays things are pretty obvious, based on the first conversation Glendon and Yogami. Further to all of that, Glendon's human side also wants to protect his wife, Lisa (Valerie Hobson). It's all pretty standard stuff nowadays
Today, it's probably a bit dated and cliche, but it doesn't stop it from being a pretty solid story. Monsters from this era are fascinating, as they all have some sort of strong humanistic side to them. Dracula is a hopeless romantic, Frankenstein's monster wants a friend and is misunderstood, The Mummy is.... stuck in the past? I've always seen the werewolf as something closer to Jekyll and Hyde. It's a personal fight with one's more animalistic side, often representing things like the effects of alcohol or drug abuse, or perhaps just one's angry and violent side. There is something a bit more classy about these monsters than the 80s slashers I love so much. Jason may be the only one that's at least a little sympathetic - the rest are pretty much serial killers.
Back to the film at hand, however, I have to say that to effects are pretty great for their time. The makeup is a bit more subtle here than what we're used to, and it adds more to the human side of things when the creature isn't just full wolf. I've always actually preferred the two-legged classic werewolf for that as opposed to the complete change (think 'The Wolfman' vs 'Twilight' - I've seen the trailers at least). At the end of the day, it's a good classic monster movie for that Halloween list, although I may prefer and recommend 1941's 'The Wolf Man' a bit more.
Personally, I've always been kinda "on the fence" about the Mummy creature, in general. Of all the old monsters you can think of, he's probably the least intriguing to me. It's really just personal taste, but I feel like the others have more to offer in some way. I also find that the metaphorical scare of this monster comes from something I've never really had to think about, for myself.
Taking place in 1921, Egypt, a field expedition led by Sir Joseph Whemple (Arthur Byron) uncovers the mummy of prince Im-Ho-Tep (Boris Carloff), along with the Scroll of Thoth, which holds the power to bring the dead back to life. Upon inspecting the mummy, Dr. Muller (Edward Van Sloan) discovers that the prince must have been buried alive. One night, Whemples assistant, Ralph Norton (Bramwell Fletcher) reads the scroll out loud, and prince Im-Ho-Tep's mummy springs to life, driving Norton insane.
Ten years pass, and disguised as a modern Egyptian named Ardath Bey, Im-Ho-Tep finds Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann). She is seen by him as a reincarnation of his former lover, Princess Ankh-es-en-amon. We discover here that he was condemned and buried alive for sacrilege, upon trying to resurrect the princess in his previous life. This leads to him wanting to kill, mummify and resurrect Helen so they can be together forever. So really, Brenden Fraser's 'Mummy' movie wasn't quite as far off as I may have originally thought.
As for the whole execution, as mentioned before, the Mummy was kinda always on the bottom of the list for me as far as these old school monsters go. It's not really for me, but it's also not without its moments. There are some good close ups to the Mummy's face, and Karloff does a pretty good job at seeming like a man out of time (at least for 1932). For some, the underlying concepts of this movie are pretty scary, but again, I can't relate to it as much as something like Franenstein being misunderstood, or the Wolf Man dealing with the beast within.
I suppose this is largely about desire, which is definitely relatable, but not to such an insane degree. Again, the horror here comes from being in Helen's shoes, and this is a bit closer to the... romantic?... concepts behind 'Dracula'. The difference being that Dracula's a bad ass, sexy dude, and Im-Ho-Tep has next to no personality, other than wanting to be with his one-and-only for eternity.
So, this is a classic in its own right, and the Mummy is still classified as one of the several classic Universal monsters, so I'd recommend checking it out due to that. But it's also my opinion that the '99 'Mummy' is just a lot more fun (dated CG effects aside). This one's kinda dry and humourless, and though it's only about an hour and a half, I felt it dragging after a while. At least with '99 you get the likes of O'Connell, who's basically a mish-mash of Indiana Jones and Star Lord. It's also just more exciting, overall, and the Mummy feels like much more of a threat. That's just my humble opinion though.
I'll be honest. The silent film era stretches just a bit far back for my taste. Those films have my respect for being the sparks that would soon create so much cinematic history, and they have a place in my heart. However, I'm pretty happy to finally be away from reading the movie. I get much more entertainment from actual voices as opposed to having to make up my own in my head - unless of course I'm reading a book, but that's different.
This is completely debatable, but I tend to give this one credit for starting real, mainstream cinematic horror. With it, a universe was born where many of these monsters would be featured together once in a while, and those reviews will be coming up shortly. But for now, we look at our 'Iron Man' of the Universal Monsters, 'Dracula' - played here by Bela Lugosi, who would essentially become largely known as the quintessential Dracula that to this day is beyond compare. Any time you hear a stereotypical Dracula voice, it was probably inspired by Lugosi's version of the character.
So, for those of you who have read my 'Nosferatu' review, you should know that this really is just a remake of that (yeah, they were doing a lot of it back then too). Real quick plot; A guy by the name of Renfield (Dwight Frye) makes his way to Count Dracula's castle to finalize transferring ownership of Carfax Abbey, an estate in London, to him. Renfield is hypnotized by the Count, and turned into a servant with no real will of his own, protecting Dracula on board his voyage to London. This eventually makes Renfield mad, and the funniest character in this non-comedy movie.
Arriving in London, Dracula soon goes after Mina Seward (Helen Chandler), daughter of Dr. Seward (Herbert Bunston), who contacts a specialist to diagnose Mina's health named Dr. Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan). Van Helsing, as we all know, is pretty much a vampire expert, and attributes her failing health to vampirism due to a couple of neck holes. Now he must do what he can to prevent Mina from becoming a vampire, herself.
Now, I started this list largely to try to catch up on some of the almighty classics that I've actually missed in life. The whole Universal Monster thing was just "old news" to my ignorant mind, growing up. Aside from about three titles on this list, I haven't actually seen any of them. So, how does it fare today? Quite well, actually, but with a slight tweak as to why, exactly.
Though it's seen as a horror classic, and it's supposed to be pretty scary for its time, I had more fun with this than anything. After years and years of being exposed to the Dracula stereotype, and recognizing that this Renfield, is not that far removed from the 'Dead and Loving it' version (Peter MacNicol), it was really just a good and mostly uncreepy time.
I do have to give the filmmakers credit as far as making Lugosi as creepy as he should be, though. His hypnotic stare actually still holds up, quite well. It might remind one of holding the flashlight up to one's face to try to be spooky while telling a ghost story. When he had to be scary, he did a good job. I can imagine the audiences of the early 30's
I had a few genuine laughs here, and I happily place it high up on my list of Halloween recommendations. It's just the right amount of creepy, the kids can probably watch it just fine, it's a lot of fun, and you know that it's a classic that spawned so much. This is one title I was particularly looking forward to seeing the this month, and it didn't disappoint. I may have even uncovered a new Halloween tradition!