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Retro Horror Films (Part 2)

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For many years I have ignored black and white films. Not because I thought they were extremely bad or uninteresting. Maybe it was because they seem so dated and mostly terribly slow compared to movies of our time. But thanks to a “Horror Challenge” and the encouragement of a like-minded person, I started watching movies from the old days. And to be honest, after a while I started to appreciate them. Admittedly they are dated and some of them are terribly slow. Yet they radiate a certain charm and you can consider many films from that time as the foundation for later films.

 

As promised, another selection of watched movies

 

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

 

I am not much of a fan of silent movies, but I found this one very entertaining. A classic among monster movies. Now I know where “The Bollock Brothers” got the front-picture used on their LP “The Slow Removal Of Vincent Van Gogh’s Left Ear”. The sets are impressive. The ghost does look very creepy. Obviously, the expressions and movements are hugely exaggerated at times. But how else could one convey drama these days? All in all, I thought it was a pleasant experience.

 

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)

 

Not exactly the first “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” movie that was made. I’ll probably watch the 10 years older version with Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins as well. This version does have a more famous cast. I thought Spencer Tracy was suitable for this role as the split personality. The man has a naturally calm facial expression that emphasizes the contrast with the psychopathic looking Jekyll. By the way, I thought the transformation (although it looks old-fashioned) was quite successful. And then you have Ingrid Berman and Lana Turner. Two ravishing beautiful women. I wonder if other versions of “Jekyll & Hyde” reach the same level.

 

The Wolf Man (1941)

 

Yet another monster movie from Universal. Filmed in an atmospheric way, but not really exciting. But isn’t it characteristic of most horrors of that period? The most positive thing I can say about films from that period is the length of time. Perfect as a quick inbetweener.

 

Cat People (1942)

 

I found this one quite disappointing. A lot of blabbering and little action. I have to admit, I liked the 1982 remake a bit better. But that must be due to the fact that I could marvel at the sensual body of Nastassja Kinski and that this film version did indeed portray the transformation. Admittedly, in 1942 the techniques were not yet so advanced that this could be achieved. For me, it was more about love affairs and their problems, than horror.

 

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)

 

This was also disappointing. Bela Lugosi is certainly not the very best Frankenstein. I fear the sole reason for this movie’s existence was the success of the other two movies. The original films “Frankenstein” and “The Wolf Man” were so successful that some smart marketing employee came up with the bright idea to put both creatures in one and the same film. Success guaranteed. However, there was certainly no quality guarantee!

 

House of Frankenstein (1944)

 

 

I thought it would be a nice idea to unite all the key characters from the monster movies. Only Dracula missed that mysterious quality you experience with Lugosi and Lee. Frankenstein looked quite comical. Too bad they gave Boris Karloff the role of Doctor Niemann. Only Lon Chaney was allowed to reprise the role of Wolf Man. All in all, I thought it was a poor continuation of the Frankenstein franchise.

 

Dead of Night (1945)

 

Another golden oldie. Who knows. Maybe one of the first anthology horror-thrillers. Some good stories (The Mirror & Dummy). One bad one (The Golf Players).

 

Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

 

Well, given the age of this film, it’s not surprising that it feels quite dated. The humor is a bit lackluster. They reminded me of Laurel & Hardy and it got a little annoying at times. Still had to chuckle a few times (the union joke and the expression on Costello’s face when he pulled a tablecloth, for example). But I don’t think I’ll immediately watch the films about the encounters of this duo with other lurid characters.

 

The Thing from Another World (1951)

 

Really a movie that fascinated me. There are certainly points of contact with Carpenter’s “The Thing“. Only that this 1951 film looks a bit dated (but still stood the test of time). Obviously, the budget was limited at the time because the conversations flash by at a very fast pace. No time to waste. Also fun to see how they kept laughing till the end during conversations, even though the world is about to be conquered by intellectual creatures.

 

The Man from Planet X (1951)

 

One word describes it best: boring. Ok I admit, it’s a very old movie. But it seems as if the alien just fled from a puppet theater. The spacecraft resembled a tin dart. “The Invisible Man” from 1933 looked much better, even though it was made about 20 years earlier.

 

To be continued …

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Classics

Retro Horror Films (Part 1)

Published

on

For many years I have ignored black and white films. Not because I thought they were extremely bad or uninteresting. Maybe it was because they seem so dated and mostly terribly slow compared to movies of our time. But thanks to a “Horror Challenge” and the encouragement of a like-minded person, I started watching movies from the old days. And to be honest, after a while I started to appreciate them. Admittedly they are dated and some of them are terribly slow. Yet they radiate a certain charm and you can consider many films from that time as the foundation for later films.

 

Hence this first episode with a summary of watched horrors from days long gone.

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920)

 

Well, you always come across this one somewhere at the top of a horror list. Apparently it’s mandatory to watch this ancient movie. Historically of inestimable value. But not my dada, such a silent film. Though, it does have an original design for its time. The sepia colors, the abstract and avant-garde design of the sets.

 

Dracula (1931)

 

The illustrious figure Dracula. A classic and I think the first time that Bela Lugosi takes on the role of this blood-sucking count. A suitable person for this role with his imposing eyebrows and diabolic look. It’s strange, however, that this vampire’s razor-sharp fangs do not come into view for a moment. And not a drop of blood can be found. Also, I found it weird that Renfield runs loose every once and a while in the so-called psychiatric institution. Furthermore, I thought John Harker was a kind of a stick-in-the-mud who acted overly nerdy. Edward Van Sloan was brilliant as the infamous Van Helsing. Add to that the atmospheric and dark sets and you get a hell of a movie.

 

Frankenstein (1931)

 

Most famous monster in movie history. And probably Boris Karloff’s most famous role. To think that a whole series of movies have been made starring Frankenstein’s monster. Most, however, cannot rival the original movie.

 

The Mummy (1932)

 

A pretty meek and super slow story about Imhotep, an Egyptian prince buried alive, who comes back to life and somehow wants to be reunited with his wife. The only thing that impressed me was Boris Karloff’s face with a skin that looks like parchment.

 

Freaks (1932)

 

This one had been on my wish list for a long time because it kept popping up in some Horror list. I’ve always put it off for myself because of the year 1932. I was already expecting blurry images, a terrible soundtrack (or no sound at all), and wooden acting in this almost 100-year-old film. I was therefore pleasantly surprised when I saw the quality of all the listed aspects. Perfect picture quality and the way it’s portrayed. This film was way ahead of its time. And the acting was simply formidable. No exaggerated gestures and facial expressions. No wooden characters and forced dialogues. And a bizarre world was sketched. So hats off. The only thing I have a problem with is the horror label. I’d call it a drama with a moralistic slant. According to IMDb, the most confronting scenes were left out. Apparently, there was a scene where Hercules was neutered and then showed up at the end as a member of the freaks with a high-pitched voice. Maybe it would have been a bit more horror then after all.

 

King Kong (1933)

 

 

Finally, I’ve watched the original King Kong movie. Probably a breathtaking spectacle for the public at that time. Now it looks quite dated. The stop-motion technique worked, but the perspective was sometimes not so perfect. The close-up of Kong’s face also caused hilarity. It seemed as if this bloodthirsty primate kept grinning. Still quite daring for that time in my opinion. The monster was not exactly mild to its victims. And the lead actress sometimes wore little disguising clothing. In the end anyway when Kong ripped off her clothes and she made frantic attempts to cover certain body parts. I can imagine that the female public was quite outraged about this. All in all, a pleasant experience to watch this piece of film history.

 

The Invisible Man (1933)

 

A real classic. For such an old film, it’s fantastic how they achieved those special effects. Admittedly. The acting is a bit wooden and over the top. It seemed like Comedy Capers at times. The hysterical screaming of the inn’s owner was just hilarious. And you can’t really call it horror. Am convinced it was unbelievably scary and thrilling for the audience at the time.

 

The Black Cat (1934)

 

Two icons from classic horror films, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, playing in the same movie. You’d expect fireworks. Well, they used blanks in my opinion. First of all, I didn’t really think this was a horror. Second, I wondered why this was called “The Black Cat” as this beast didn’t really play a major role (besides the fact that Bela is terrified of it). There’s only the terrifying gaze of Karloff. The story itself can be described as thin and quite sober. In my opinion, the changing of bedrooms felt like slapstick. No, this was a minor setback. Fortunately, it was a short movie.

 

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

 

After the great success of the first Frankenstein film, a sequel was destined to be made. “Bride of Frankenstein” picks up where the first story ended. This film is not really more exciting. The humor level was increased considerably. You can see how the monster learns to talk, smoke, and drink. The only downside for me was the fact that what the film is initially about (namely the bride) is only briefly included in the story. I thought this was a missed opportunity.

 

The Invisible Man Returns (1940)

 

It’s a pity that after 7 years no real progress had been made in the field of special effects. It looked almost identical to the first movie. Only now Vincent Price had the honor of playing the invisible man. There were no real comic situations here. And strange but true. In the first movie, it was monocane that made you invisible. Here it was duocane.

 

To be continued …

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Classics

Bull Durham | Classics Re-Visited

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Given the fact I was born in the early 80’s I’ve always had a soft spot for 80’s and 90’s movies. Don’t get me wrong here. There are a lot of good movies made today but there is just something special about that era of cinema and it’s a bit lost today with all the viewing options and places to get entertainment.

With the start of the Major League Baseball season days away, I decided to get a couple of good Baseball movies in. I haven’t watched Bull Durham in a few years so I was due.

Released in 1988, the synopsis of the movie is a highly-touted prospect, Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) is a talented young pitcher for the Minor League Team, the Durham Bulls. He’s green and needs some guidance to get to “THE SHOW” so the team trades for veteran Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) to help bring the youngster along. Two guys in two different points in their career must co-exist and not kill each other. Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon), is a baseball fanatic who catches the eye of LaLoosh while he’s in Durham. She also catches the attention of Davis, but with drastically different intentions. LaLoosh and Davis struggle to get along with Davis being the grizzled veteran trying to teach LaLoosh the ropes while contending with LaLoosh’s ego. Davis is trying to balance all of this while also fighting with father time in his own career and where it is headed. An era of time in these people’s lives plays out for our entertainment.

This is one of my top 2 or 3 baseball movies. The amount of comedy balanced with the drama and love story is one of the better cinematic accomplishments I’ve ever seen. There are so many memorable scenes and quotable lines from this one. I still call people “lollygaggers” thanks to Skip. Costner was in his prime at this point and plays his part to perfection. Robbins had done a lot of TV but outside of a role in Top Gun, hadn’t done anything major so as far as I’m concerned, this was his breakthrough role. Somewhat of a “Southern Belle”, Susan Sarandon was arguably as sexy as she’s ever been and was a fantastic casting decision.

There’s not a whole lot I can say about this movie without somewhat ruining the funny parts or the story, so I’ll leave it with this:

Baseball is the core of the film, but you don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy it. If you’ve never seen this classic, enjoy it now before the “Boys of Summer” take the baseball fields in a few weeks. It will help get you primed for the upcoming season.

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