I thought I'd end these Halloween classics with a real bang, and bring in not just a super positive review, but a moment of story time, in memory of George A. Romero. It all starts with an invite from one of my readers to a horror expo in our hometown, back in 2016. Director George A. Romero was gonna be there to sign autographs and meet with his fans, so I jumped on the opportunity. Plus a horror expo is just a great place to get awesome, rare horror memorabilia.
As we're browsing around, I turn my head and spot Romero, sitting at his table, seemingly waiting for something to happen. I paused, confused as all hell, wondering how in God's name the Godfather of zombie horror had not one person at his table. I decided to go for it. I said "hello", told him how much of a fan I was without gushing too hard, and straight up asked him if he was signing autographs yet. He was all smiles, told me he'd be happy to sign what I had (in this case, a 'Night of the Living Dead' DVD), and we got into a short convo about how much I appreciated him for making zombies what they were today. He signed my DVD, I thanked him, and turned to walk away.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, Romero goes "Hey wait a minute, do you want a picture?" and needless to say, I was shocked. I mean, I was under the impression I needed to pay for such things. Anyway, long story short, we now have one of my favorite photos that not only shows me with a horror movie legend, holding his "baby", but Romero, himself, with a big smile on his face. Every time I look at it, I'm reminded of how humble and kind he was, proving that even the biggest celebrity names are still regular people, just with glamorous jobs. This pic can be found at the bottom of the review. Speaking of which, it's about that time.
Everything starts with siblings Barbara (Judith O'Dea) and Johnny (Russell Streiner) visiting their father's grave. On their way out, Johnny is suddenly attacked and killed by some strange man (a zombie). Barbara runs, and seeks shelter in a farmhouse, but the weirdo from the cemetery and more zombies start to close in on the house before our hero Ben (Duane Jones) comes along to secure the house with them inside. Ben soon learns things like fire can fend them off as well as a trusty rifle.
They are soon joined by survivors Harry and Helen Cooper who come out of the cellar (Karl Hardman and Marilyn Eastman, respectively) and their daughter, Karen, who is left in the cellar after an "injury" (we all know what that means). A teenage couple, Tom and Judy (Keith Wayne and Judith Ridley, respectively) also joins them, seeking shelter after a radio broadcast tells them they need to be indoors after several brutal killings. Together, they must team up and set aside whatever differences they may have (Harry's the big opposing asshole here - every zombie film needs one) to try to survive the night from a horde of flesh-eaters.
When looking at the plot, one might consider it something they've seen time and time again. But it's important to remember that most zombie tropes that exist today come directly from 'Night of the Living Dead' and its follow-up, 'Dawn of the Dead'. Zombie movies existed before this, but not quite of this caliber that was literally the birthplace of the modern zombie (at least, until they started bringing in fast zombies). Ideas like shooting them in the head to kill them, using fire against them, barricading yourself inside a house with zombies raiding it, and I believe even the idea of the zombie bite turning you (although I might be wrong) all came from this.
Perhaps the most notable thing for fans in this film, especially considering the fight for equal rights and how strong it is nowadays, is the idea of a black lead in a 1968 film. That wasn't really a thing at that time. The cool thing about it is that Romero simply suggests that color didn't enter into it. Duane Jones simply read the lines right, and delivered a good audition, so was given the role. According to Romero, this wasn't meant to be any sort of risk or gamble, it was just a casting choice based on talent - good on him!
Throughout the years, the film has inspired several sequels, remakes, further films, comic books, TV series, video games, books, Halloween costumes, the list is endless. Before 1968, there wasn't much of an attempt at an all out zombie horde movie. We'd see them more as individual characters, not quite on the same level as Dracula, the Mummy, or even Igor. One could easily argue that Frankenstein's monster was a kind of zombie, but back then, that wasn't really what a zombie was yet. What Romero made here helped shape a specific subgenre of horror enough that the zombie, in general, is now one of the great Hollywood monsters that lives among some of the classic greats.
When I went over 'Psycho' in my "Screening Suggestions", I highly recommended it as the quintessential Hitchcock movie. However, with that, there comes a real flip of the coin. One may very well argue their preference for 'The Birds', and it would be very well warranted. Where 'Psycho' helped launch the slasher genre, this helped make nature scary in such a way that it hasn't even really been attempted since because the idea seems so absurd - birds! (except maybe 'Birdemic: Shock & Terror', but let's try not to count that as a movie).
For yours truly, I sort of split the film into two parts. The first half of it is a lot of talking, getting to know characters, etc. and subtle things start happening around them. The second half plays the horror card a lot more, and the suspense of it all still holds up fairly well today - although some of the green screen effects may not. Still, this is a masterfully scary movie for its time, using something so everyday that it makes one wonder about the effect it had on audiences at the time. Imagine leaving this and looking around at birds all perched and eerie-looking. Time has passed, and it might not have the same effect nowadays, but try Googling "birds attacking humans" and you'll find out things are a bit more common than we think.
The film opens at a San Francisco pet store where Malanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) comes across Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), who is looking to buy a couple of lovebirds for his sister, Cathy's (Veronica Cartwright) 11th birthday. After a brief misunderstanding, Mitch leaves empty handed, but Malanie decides to make amends by purchasing, and delivering the lovebirds as a gift. When she finally tracks him down in Bodega Bay, she takes a boat across the bay to deliver the birds, she is attacked by a gull. Thinking it strange at first, they sort of brush it off, but further attacks start happening and becoming more abundant. Soon enough (and after some long character developing stories from everyone), Melanie and Mitch find themselves trapped in a house, surrounded by flocks of crows, gulls and more.
With them end up being Mitch's ex; a teacher named Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette), Mitch's mother, Lydia (Jessica Tandy) and the young and terrified Cathy, who really sells it with her acting. It makes me wonder what cruel technique Hitchcock may have used on her to make her cry as distressfully as she did - like a traumatized kid who just witnessed her cat get hit by a transport truck. As far as explanation for the birds behavior, we never do get it, but that's also what makes it so good. We don't always need to be spoon-fed such things, and sometimes no explanation lends itself to the experience - as though you're one of the trapped people in a scary situation with no clue as to why it's happening or what to do. This further lends itself to the film's truly bizarre ending, which is quite a "WTF" moment, but it leaves you to interpret what Hitchock meant by it all.
Those who know me well know that on this particular coin-flip of film, I very much prefer 'Psycho'. There was something truly disturbing there that has held up to this day very well. With 'The Birds', though a lot of it does still hold up, a lot of it can look pretty dated and corny. There also seems to be a lot about it that's trying to be almost too symbolic, if you feel like doing some deep digging on the subject. I don't mind symbolism, but I mean, to directly quote an article "The Birds is a political allegory about the psychological violence of capitalism and the fear-mongering of the Cold War." 'Psycho' is just about a killer who lost his damn mind, and is the grandfather of slasher horror.
Between liking one or the other more, it's all gonna depend on what you're after. I may prefer 'Psycho', but I can't deny that a lot of the emotions that run here along with certain visual sequences are still pretty scary. For example, at one point we see a character with his eyes pecked out, covered in blood. That scene works as something scary now, let alone 1963. One could easily make this not such a "thinker" and have fun with it as a suspenseful thriller all the same. That's what I did, and the entertainment value is certainly still there. I don't find it to be perfect, but it gets a tremendous amount of respect from me for what it has accomplished. If nothing else, I have memories of this being something scary enough to lose sleep over as a kid, so much like with Freddy, these birds have a certain horrific nostalgia tied to them as one of the first things that legitimately scared me.
I wanted to take a look at something a little more under the radar than other much more famous titles I have on this list. 'Carnival of Souls' is one of those low budget titles that has gained a massive cult following over the years, and is often regarded nowadays as one of the all-time great horror movies. I must say, I can get where some of that is coming from, but for the most part, I'm not sure I understand what makes it so good.
As the film opens somewhere in Kansas, we loosely meet Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss), as one of three women attempting a drag race against a few guys. During this race, they get to a bridge, and the women's car plummets into the river below. The police search for them, but the only one they manage to find is Mary, who has miraculously survived and pulled herself to land. She is later hired as a church organist in Salt Lake City, and while headed there, she starts to see visions of a strange, pasty-faced man (Herk Harvey). She also spots an abandoned pavilion along the shoreline which she finds out was carnival before it closed. When she attempts to explore it, though, the minister of the church that employed her stops her, telling her it would be illegal.
In the meantime, she meets the only other lodger where she's staying, John Linden (Sidney Berger) and develops a bit of friendship with him, although the guy is quite the horn dog, and a few more real-life horrors are sprinkled in there with him as well. She also keeps seeing this creepy mysterious man, and if that's not enough, soon experiences moment in which she might as well not exist - people cannot see nor hear her. There's also some sort of magnetism for her towards the abandoned pavilion, and the big question is what does it all mean?
Although the film is widely regarded nowadays as a cult classic horror, I must confess that I can't really climb on board that train. To the film's credit, a lot of the imagery is pretty disturbing for the time, especially considering 'Night of the Living Dead' wasn't a thing yet, and this portrays some ghoulish, zombie types. On top of that, I have to admit that there was something I liked about how it all ended. It may have been a risk move for something today, but back then, it counts as something pretty original. However, unfortunately for yours truly, not much about the ending made up for how much I felt the film dragged - even for a film not even an hour and a half long. But I wanna consider that more of a nitpick on my part, as clearly there's something people dig about this movie.
The film's only real overall problem for me were the characters. In order for me to appreciate a lot of films, I need to be able to relate somewhat to the lead, or at least one other major character. Truth be told there was no one here that really stood out, and the character of Mary is one of the least likable horror heroines I can think of. Everything she does is in a confused daze, and she's almost zombie like. To be fair, that may have been the point, but that doesn't necessarily mean I have to enjoy it. In my humble opinion, the characters in the film only really helped things to drag. The only character I even remotely liked was "The Man", who was genuinely creepy, acting with only looks. But he's only just there to pose, leaving me with not much to route for either way.
On that note, please don't let me ruin it for you just because I wasn't a fan. Opinions are bound to differ, and this movie made many "Top Horror Film" lists for a reason that perhaps I'm not entirely in tune with. It certainly has its place among classic horror titles. I liked moments of this movie, but as a whole, it's not something I'd see going on my Top 10 or even Top 20 all-time horror lists anytime soon. This is another one of those titles that has my respect for what it was for its time, as well as its cult following. But personally, I'm not really a fan of it, and would sooner watch something else.
Truth be told, I'm far more familiar with the 1995 remake that I didn't actually know was a remake until stumbling upon this title for my Classic Horror Review list. I saw the '95 version quite a while ago, and pretty much thought it to be stupid, but not without a creepy moment or two. In looking back to the original, it actually turns out that much like 'Psycho', the remake is just about shot-for-shot, with any differences being incredibly subtle. That said, there's a touch more of something I got out of this, but more on that later.
The film opens in the small British town of Midwich, where everyone suddenly seems to drop dead from some invisible force. As the military blocks roads into town, they send in one of their own with a gas mask, and he too falls victim to whatever this mystery is. However, when thy pull him back, they discover that he, and seemingly everyone else in town is merely unconscious. A little while later, everyone who survived the ordeal comes to (some people have crashed cars and even planes during this "blackout"), and life carries on, but with one bizarre exception - every woman in town able to bear children is now pregnant.
These fetuses grow at an alarming rate, getting into the 7-month phase of development at about 5 months. All of these women give birth on the same day, and all of the children have the same specific physical features that include hair and eye color, along with oddly narrow fingernails. As the children grow up, they get more in more in tune with their telepathic abilities, and it's further discovered that they work on a sort of hive mentality. The same thing evidently happens in other parts of the world as well, but not much goes back to that idea.
When these kids get into their puberty days, these children become downright creepy, and many of the villagers end up living in fear of them. They speak like distinguished adults, dress every day like it's a fancy event, show no signs of real conscience or love, and are generally cold and zombie-like. For an easy go-to reference, check out the 'Simpsons' episode 'Wild Barts Can't be Broken' from Season 10 (definitely one of the better episodes of the series downward turn). They also learn that they can take control of opposing adults by making them do what they want, providing the audience with that eerie eye-glow you see in the accompanying picture.
I think this is a fine example of one of those horror themes I just don't quite understand completely. The idea here is to make children the thing to fear, and children can definitely be downright creepy on their own (just check out this link). It's likely effective for its time and for parents with overbearing children. But I'm a bachelor who tends to get along with my friends' kids pretty well, so the idea of a straight up evil kid doesn't fully compute with me (although there are exceptions, like that time Hitler was a child), and this is nothing but over-the-top supernatural. It's eerie to me, but not exactly scary, and I just don't have a whole lot more to say about it. It's.... average.
One reason I wanted to cover this movie is that it's one of the most famous B movies in regards to audience participation. Another is that it has to do with a centipede-like creature, and I hate the ever-blazing hell out of those things, and would drop a nuke on one to kill it. Director Wiliam Castle opens the film by informing the audience that some of them may experience a strange tingle while watching the film. He further tells us that we can protect ourselves by screaming at the appropriate time. This is followed by a bunch of loud, screaming heads, and the film opens up.
One day, a pathologist named Dr. Warren Chapin (Vincent Price) makes an astonishing discovery, and something actually pretty horrific to think about. It turns out that when one experiences fear and the spine tingles, it's due to a centipede-like creature that dwells within all spines of humankind. He calls it a "tingler", and that idea is creepy enough on it's own. Not only does this movie play on audience fears of centipede-like creatures, but parasites that dwell within us. The very idea of things like tapeworms or even lice is enough to gross just about anyone out. Now just imagine one that goes up the length of your back.
It turns out that these "tinglers" feed, and grow stronger with fear, so that if one is afraid enough, the tingler crushes the spine. However, screaming keeps the thing at bay. This concept is furthered with a movie theater owner named Oliver Higgins (Philip Coolidge) and his deaf and mute wife, Martha (Judith Evelyn) who can't scream. One night she dies of fright, owing to her inability to scream, and the tingler within her spine eventually growing and breaking it. This is removed during an autopsy, and soon Chapin has to figure out how to stop it before it... tingles everyone, I guess? It latches on with its pincers but doesn't really do much. And once again, simply screaming keeps it at bay. It's gross, but hard to see as a real threat.
When all is said and done, this is a dumb movie. But one has to give it at least a touch of credit for being as self-aware as it is. There's so much about it that makes it a popcorn movie, simply meant for the theater. This includes scenes taking place in a theater (much like with 'The Blob') and camera tricks, like throwing the color red into the water in an otherwise black and white film. To top it all off though, in a world where gimmicks were taking off in an attempt to save independent movie theaters, William Castle introduced "Percepto" here. This was where a select few theater seats in the audience buzzed at appropriate times - perhaps what the film is most famous for.
At this point in the game, it's just a fun thing to throw on for a laugh. It's cheesy, not scary at all, and is very much a product of its time. The tingler itself looks almost too "puppetty" at times, even for 1959, and you can see just how gimmicky the whole thing is. That unfortunately dates it, but it's important to remember that a lot of the B movie era was all about gimmicks as much as 3D took off like hellfire around 2009. It's easy to find, it's fun for what it is, and an interesting piece of cinema history when researching old horror. It's short too, so if you're looking for a good laugh of creepy proportions, it's decent enough.
Here's where I make the confession about the fact that I haven't actually seen either version of this title all the way through, until now. I always just found the concept almost too simple, as far as this one goes, and the '88 remake actually just scared me into not watching it. I saw the scene with the girl disintegrating in the car way too early (at least that's what I remember happening). I'd be curious to see it nowadays though, and compare the two. This version, I saw as more fun than anything horrific. It's just so beautifully cheese-tacular; the epitome of an 1950's drive-in movie.
Taking place in a small Pennsylvania town in the then-present day, Steve Andrews (Steve McQueen) and his high school sweetheart, Jane Martin (Aneta Corsaut) are doing the teen thing at a lovers' lane when they witness a meteorite make a crash landing nearby. They decide to go check it out, but what they come across instead is an old man (Olin Howland) who seems to have gotten himself into a spot of unusual trouble with something very strange consuming his hand and not letting go. The couple then takes the old man to the doctors to get examined.
Not knowing how to deal with it, Doctor Hallen (Stephen Chase) sends Steve and Jane back to the crash site to see what more info they can gather. But as they head out, whatever is stuck to the old man's hand starts growing, and consuming the man first, then moving along to consume everything in sight. As Steve and Jane try to report the blob creature to the police, however, they see them as lying and causing trouble, as it wouldn't be the first time they've been pranked by the local kids (McQueen damn near 30 here, playing a teen). It may be all up to Steve and Jane, with the help of a few of Steve's friends to try to stop this thing before it takes out the whole town; growing with every little thing it consumes.
There's not a whole lot to say about this one. I think by now, everyone gets the gist of it, and as I said before, the plot IS pretty basic. Imagine the writing room on this one, pitching ideas for some kind of unstoppable alien creature and someone says something like "let's just make it goo". I mean, I just don't see a whole lot of imagination behind such a thing. But with that said, I can't deny that because it's so basic, it's also sort of genius in its own way. What could be more inexplicable than a literal blob that simply can't seem to be stopped by anything. Although when they figure out what does stop it, it feels silly that they didn't figure it out a bit sooner.
I'm not sure that I'd put this in any sort of a "so bad it's good" category, but it is about as B movie as a B movie gets, and still incredibly cheesy, but in a good way. This is the kind of movie you wanna get some friends together and check out while chowing down on popcorn, and it would work great as a sort of return-to-drive-in flick. I'd consider it to be a pretty solid time capsule of the kind of thing horror was back in the 50s. It has to be somewhere on the top of the list of sci-fi horror from the 50s, if only because it seems to balance the horror of an unknown and unstoppable force against a sort of almost self-aware sense of humor. I couldn't see this played for scares as much as for laughs, but it's worth checking out for a good time with an old school B movie.
My personal history with 'The Fly' comes with seeing the Cronenberg version first. What made this extra strange was the fact that it didn't actually bother me as something scary that was gonna make me lose sleep. I just thought it was really gross. Mind, I think I saw it at a time when I couldn't quite comprehend what "scary" was. Much like 'Temple of Doom' and the heart-ripping scene, I watched it later and wondered what the hell was wrong with me.
Anyway, when I eventually learned to appreciate older titles, I thought a good way to start would be to check out titles that have known famous scenes. In this case, the chilling "help me, help me" scene. I eventually managed to check it out while over at a friend's house when it came on TV. At the time, I felt it sort of dragged, but that famous scene actually did manage to get under my skin. This viewing is the first since then, passing probably almost twenty years. So, did I learn to appreciate it more than I did upon first viewing? Well, yes and no. But more on that later.
The film opens with the dead body of scientist, André Delambre (Al Hedison), crushed in a hydraulic press. His wife, Hélène (Patricia Owens) confesses that she's the one who killed him, but hesitates to give a motive for fear of sounding crazy. Her behavior also shows a bizarre obsession with flies, particularly one with a funny white head. When André's brother, François (Vincent Price) fibs about having the fly she's looking for, he uses it to get her motive for the murder out of her.
The rest of the film, until the end, is presented in a flashback where André, Hélène, and their son Philippe (Charles Herbert) are living happily, while André is working on something that could potentially change the world - a matter transporter he calls "the disintegrator-integrator". He starts with inanimate objects, moves on to animals (including the poor family cat) and eventually, himself. After that experiment, however, he refuses to come up from his basement lab. We all know by this point it's because he tried his experiment with a fly in the chamber with him, and it lead to him getting the head and arm of a fly, and vise-versa. Everything now depends on Hélène finding the white-headed fly mentioned earlier.
There's plenty to appreciate here as a simple B horror movie from the 50s. It does a good job at being shlocky, and Vincent Price is one of those names you could put in anything and it's automatically a bit cooler. I also enjoy David Hedison's performance as the man-sized fly. He does a lot with his body language, like twitching his head, and delivers a sort of alien-likeness to the role. I don't know that I'd consider it any sort of must-see horror classic for its time, but it's worth checking out if you can bear in mind you're there to have fun, and not to take anything seriously.
If you were to ask me which version of 'The Fly' I like better, I honestly don't know which one I'd gravitate towards. They're both sort of "just okay" to me. Cronenberg's grosses me out, but the casting is great. Meanwhile this version has the famous scene that once managed to give me chills, but I still think it drags a bit in parts. For the record, in an hour and a half long movie, there's not much to see horror-wise until about an hour into things. But to be fair, once it gets going, it gets fun. Again, it's a B movie, and not to be taken seriously. With the right mindset, one can still have a good time with this.
When it comes to classic Universal Monsters, I consider them to be a sort of "Sinister Six" (mostly based on my childhood enjoyment of 'Monster Squad'). These characters consist of so many that I've covered in these reviews; Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Wolf Man and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. This review finally brings that group together, but isn't it surprising how long it took to get here? It's been over 20 years since 'Dracula' started it all (speaking for the Bela Lugosi role)
It's funny, I always thought I'd be into the Creature, but it turns out that for me, he's pretty well dead last on the list of six (the Wolf Man is #1 in my books). This may be unpopular opinion, but I found this movie to sort of drag, and I'm not sure I quite got it. I think for its time, it may have been trying to show off some underwater camera work, the same way 'The Lion King' recently showed off how far we've come with CG. And let me tell you, there is a LOT of underwater footage in this - all speechless, all often over the top music (though it fits just as often as it doesn't). I think for me it's just date, although I must admit, it's pretty crazy to see how well underwater actor Ricou Browning can swim with that rubber suit.
An Amazon expedition lead by Dr. Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno) uncovers the unusual skeletal remains of a hand with webbed fingers. Further research indicates that this hand could provide a link between land and sea animals. This leads to Dr. Mark Williams (Richard Denning) funding a return expedition to attempt to uncover the rest of the skeleton, upon the request of his employee, Dr. David Reed (Richard Carlson); a friend of Carl's. The expedition gets underway, and consists of David, Carl, Mark, a Dr. Edwin Thompson (Whit Bissell) and Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams); David's girlfriend and colleague.
As the search for the skeletal remains continue, the group has to brave the terrain of the Amazon which is problematic enough. Little do they know, however, that this mysterious hand will ultimately lead to a strange fish-like creature, credited as "The Gill Man" (Ben Chapman by land, Ricou Browning by sea) who, though curious at first, soon develops a temper against these humans for attacking him out of shock. In your own way, you can't really help but feel for the Gill Man, considering how humans react to him. This makes the creature yet another very sympathetic monster, much akin to something like Frankenstein's monster; he's misunderstood and curious, but if you mess with him, he'll just kill you.
It's not really much of a surprise to see that this is seemingly another movie about judging a book by its cover. This time around they could just do it underwater, and that does add an interesting dimension to things. There are certain scenes that are creepy for anyone who is already iffy about swimming. Perhaps the best is when Kay takes a dip and the Gill Man is just checking her out, swimming below her. After all, that's usually what the fear of swimming seems to be about - what might be below you that you can't see. It even gets to me sometimes. So in that regard, it's relatively effective for the time. I just feel like the general plot is a bit of an old-news thing, even for the time.
I will give the film some respect though, as a lot of those underwater shots came out very nicely. Once again, I have to give it up to Ricou Browning for enduring that whole ordeal of swimming in that suit. So the underwater stuff really drags, but at the same time, it's just interesting enough. It was like being at the concert of someone you're only a semi-fan of, waiting for that one song you really like, but it never gets played. Despite that, you sort of mildly enjoy yourself, wishing it was better, but able to walk away content. I think for me, it's just another dated monster movie, and the concept has since been done better. I just needed to wrap up the "Sinister Six" of classic horror.
One might notice right about now, in my review series, that things are about to spread out a bit. That's only really because there are so many great titles out there in the horror genre, covering anything from the mainstream to the underground. So starting with 'The Thing from Another World', I'll be covering the next batch of movies for various reasons - each given in the review. We start here with the film that plays in the background of 1978's 'Halloween', and ultimately brought about 1982's 'The Thing'; one of my all-time favorites.
This version opens with journalist Ned Scott (Douglas Spencer) visiting with friend, Lieutenant Eddie Dykes (James Young), a Captain Pat Hendry (Kenneth Tobey), and a flight navigator named Ken "Mac" MacPherson (Robert Nichols). He's on the lookout for a story, which in these kinds of movies always lead to something crazy. This time around, our reporter heads with these military men to Polar Expedition Six at the North Pole upon request of its head scientist, Dr. Arthur Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite). The call-in has to do with a nearby, crashed aircraft which is eventually found to be a flying saucer, stuck in the ice.
Throughout a thawing process, using thermite, a reaction with the saucer's metal alloy ends up destroying the ship. However, nearby, their Geiger counter detects a body nearby. The group takes the body out of the ice and brings it back for research. Before they all know it, they are trapped in a bad snow storm along with this alien creature who is oddly enough determined to be more flora than fauna - but it's still a carnivorous plant being that feeds on blood, and scary nonetheless. Meanwhile, Hendry also rekindles his romance with Carrington's secretary, Nikki Nicholson (Margaret Sheridan), so there is a side romance in this version. But you'll be happy to know it's not exactly shoved down your throat.
Much like the '82 version, it's a survival movie, but unlike it, the horror isn't based on whether not not the group can trust each other. It's another monster movie, but with the change of the monster being an alien life form. I admit, it's imaginative to make this alien a carnivorous plant, but the look of the creature is bound to be a dated mess for some. It's fairly hard for me to tell if the makeup was even that good for the time, but there's still an eeriness to it, especially with that weird noise he makes.
I will say that the '82 version is something I very much prefer. But I can't say this movie isn't without its merits. It seems abundantly evident that it was a big inspiration for John Carpenter's filmmaking, considering its spot in 'Halloween', and the fact that Carpenter directed the '82 version of this. As far as myself, I can say that for its time, it's still pretty creepy. It does have an atmosphere to it, a great score that puts one on edge, likable characters, the alien's sound is very otherworldly, the list goes on. I may like Carpenter's version more, but this is still a great flick. Plus where would Carpenter's version be without it.
So, if you wanna get in on a little piece of horror history (which most of my upcoming titles do), this is a decent place to look. It shows an interesting connection to the horror of my generation, and it's neat to think of how it inspired one of my favorite horror films of all time. If you haven't seen it as a fan of the '82 version, I might suggest checking this out just to see where Carpenter's came from. To cap it off, this is where "keep watching the skies" originally comes from, as the final line of the film. Interestingly enough, I always thought that was from 'The X-Files'. It just goes to show, it's a good thing I'm educating myself on these golden and silver age horror films.
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!