IMDB Entry – The Wolfman
Mid October seems like the perfect time for a werewolf film. The Wolfman is a recent big budget remake of a classic that is long overdue for a festival showing. This version stays relatively faithful to the original until it doesn’t. That said, it’s a nice attempt to retell the story of Lawrence Talbot in a manner that audiences under 60 might appreciate. Don’t worry, this version of The Wolfman is not in black and white. It’s in a muted color format that works really well at recreating the look of the Universal version but still providing full color. Although the Hammer films look great, I always had to wonder where the local tailors found such a wide variety of patterns and colors of fabric.
The Wolfman actually credits Curt Siomak, the screen writer of the original version as the source for the film. They even start the movie with Curt’s classic “Even a man who is pure at heart, and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright”. Like the original, Lawrence Talbot returns home, meets a girl, encounters gypsies, gets bitten by a “wolf” and becomes a werewolf. That part is quite well done. The action and transformation scenes far surpass the original.
After that the role of Lord Talbot becomes more significant in this version. Claude Reins played the original wolf dad and he played it like a concerned aristocratic father. Anthony Hopkins gets the role here and he plays the role like Anthony Hopkins. He acts like a nut job for most of the story. The Lord Talbot role is bigger this time around and provides a lead in to a really good werewolf vs. werewolf throw down. After that the villagers show up in time for a quick finish in typical Universal style.
The Wolfman is a very good attempt to rework a great film. The film makers get straight A’s on all of the technical aspects and the action sequences are top notch. The werewolves look great. Talbot manor is impressively old and spooky looking. I’ll admit I wasn’t crazy about the changes to Lord Talbot but that’s minor. My big complaint with The Wolfman is lead actor Benicio Del Toro. Unbelievably, he has far less charisma than Lon Chaney Jr., an actor famous for being uncharismatic. Del Toro has the same blank expression from start to finish. At least Jr. knew how to smile.
IMDB Entry – Thirst
I spotted the film Thirst on Netflix some time ago but never bothered renting it. The premise of a priest becoming a vampire sounded like it would be the story of a “good” vampire. I should have checked closer. After watching the excellent The Handmaiden, by South Korean director Chan-wook Park, I noticed that Thirst was one of his films. I knew right away that I had misjudged the movie as Park never does mainstream ideas. True to form, Thirst is not a typical vampire movie by any definition.
Thirst takes place in South Korea where a Catholic priest volunteers to take part in an experiment that may help to identify a cure for a mysterious illness. Naturally, the experiment fails and the priest is infected. He grows a bunch of really ugly boils on his face, spits up blood and seems to die. To everyone’s surprise he recovers and many people believe he can cure the sick. It doesn’t take long until the priest notices that he needs a steady supply of blood to keep the boils off his face. He raids the hospital blood bank and even sets up a counseling service for terminally ill patients so he can get their blood.
A woman spots the priest and begs him to cure her son. He visits their home and it turns out he knows the family from childhood. The son starts feeling better. The son has a wife who is treated as the family slave. The wife seduces the priest and the two of them engage in some wild sex. The wife tricks the priest into killing her husband. The mother has a stroke. The priest turns the wife into a vampire. Unfortunately, she enjoys killing and goes on a spree.
Yes, Thirst breaks all kinds of taboo’s regarding Catholic priests. I noticed that South Korean films are willing to explore topics that are typically off limits in American movies. Chan-wook Park excels at making movies that are interesting as well as provocative. I’d highly recommend watching either Lady Vengeance or Oldboy and I don’t mean the Spike Lee Version. Both films deal with extreme revenge and topics too hot for Hollywood. The Spike Lee Oldboy was a remake of Chan-wook Park’s film but Lee’s version was heavily toned down to be inoffensive. It’s rare that talent and a willingness to offend merge this gracefully.
IMDB Entry – Frankenstein Created Woman
I was originally planning on running Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter in this slot but due to technical difficulties Honest Abe will have to be rescheduled. Fortunately I was able to raid the House Of Stuff film vault for a replacement. I feel like it’s been a while since I ran a Frankenstein movies so I bring you Hammer’s Frankenstein Created Woman. Naturally Peter Cushing stars as the beloved baron. The film was directed by Terence Fisher from a screenplay by Anthony Hinds, both Hammer regulars.
Despite the title, Frankenstein Created Woman is not a remake of Universal’s The Bride of Frankenstein. It’s a completely different story although the good Dr. does reanimate a female in both films. Frankenstein Created Woman is somewhat unique for it’s genre. Cushing’s Baron Frankenstein in a minor character for most of the film. The star of the film is undoubtedly Susan Denberg in the role of Christina, a scared cripple who Frankenstein turns into a hottie. The rest of the cast is made upf of excellent character actors, particularly Thorley Walters as the usually sloshed town doctor.
This is the story of a boy named Hans. He accidentally sees his dad get his head chopped off on the town guillotine. He grows up and gets a job as Franlenstein’s go-fer. Hans also has a girlfriend, Christina. Christina’s left side is in seriously bad shape, her face is scarred and her arm and leg barely function. Three drunk jerks torment the unhappy couple with tragic results. Baron Frankenstein does his thing and Christina returns to get revenge on the tedious trio. All in all a very entertaining classic.
It won’t be long until the big Famous Monsters Convention in beautiful San Jose. This year’s show is shaping up to be a dilly. I’m particularly looking forward to visiting the Hall of the Dead experience, honoring George Romero. Featured guests include mad scientist extraordinaire Jeffery Combs, Ricco “Creature From The Black Lagoon” Browning, Amanda “Married With Children” Bearse and many more. It’s sure to be a blast. If that’s not enough, it’s only a short 20 minute ride to the world famous Brass Rail. See you there!
Frankenstein Created Woman
IMDB Entry – It Conquered the World
If there is any movie that deserves a big budget remake that movie is It Conquered The World! This is an early movie directed by Roger Corman and the story is quite good. The sets are sparse to say the least, often little more than a desk and two chairs. The control room for the space program consists of a couple of boxes with dials and a paining of a blank monitor screen. The might of the United States military is depicted by 1 jeep and a dozen foot soldiers. On top of everything else It Conquered The World features the undisputed Rodney Dangerfield of monsters.
The creature that gets no respect was eventually christened Beulah. Low budget special effects wizard Paul Blaisdale designed the brute based on input from Corman. Blaisdale also designed the fiends that terrorize the public in The She Creature and Earth vs. The Spider. Blaisdale’s creation for It Conquered The World has a really unique look that is anything but scary. Unfortunately Beulah was miscast in a serious science fiction movie. If It Conquered The World had been a comedy, on the order of Ghostbusters, Beulah would have been applauded for it’s quirky design. It’s easily one of filmdoms most memorable looking creatures.
Lee “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” Van Cleef stars as the world’s most brilliant scientist. He’s considered a nut job these days because of his recent anti-space exploration stance. The truth is, he’s been in contact with a bug eyed bean from Venus. The bean has convinced him to betray Earth. He confides in fellow scientist Peter “Mission Impossible” Graves, the movie’s “hero”. Actually Graves doesn’t do much and he accomplishes even less. Beverly Garland steals the movie playing Van Cleef’s wife. She doesn’t buy into the nonsense her brainwashed husband is spouting. Garland becomes royally pissed, grabs a rifle, steals a car and goes after the monster herself. Unfortunately for her, Dick Miller and the other soldiers arrive to late to help.
It Conquered The World has a strong plot and great acting. It does borrow just a bit from The Day The Earth Stood Still. Actually Corman may have envisioned It Conquered The World as a reverse version of that earlier groundbreaking film. The picture also swipes a little from Robert Hienlien’s novel The Puppet Masters. There was a cheapo made for TV remake in 1977 called Zontar: The Thing from Venus and It Conquered The World was also given the MST 3000 treatment. I’d love to see a major studio remake this picture as a serious alien invasion movie but with a more appropriate looking alien. On the other hand, bringing back Beulah for a slapstick comedy sounds even better.
It Conquered the World
IMDB Entry – Count Dracula
What’s a Halloween Film Festival without a Dracula movie? Lame! Count Dracula, a film by Spanish director Jess Franco had it’s festival premiere last night. Count Dracula is a more or less faithful adaptation of the novel by Bram Stoker. This seems to be the first film to attempt to adapt the novel rather than the stage play that was adapted from the novel. Many of the scenes depicted in Count Dracula were also presented in the super big budget Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Yes the big money, new technology version is better in every aspect but I found the contrast intriguing. This is a cost conscious but efficient version of the Dracula story.
The film boasts an impressive cast beginning with Christopher Lee as Dracula. Lee played the Dracula role 8 times in his career mostly for Hammer Films. Count Dracula was his fourth time in fangs. It was released between Hammers’ Dracula Has Risen From The Grave and Taste The Blood Of Dracula. Lee was known to complain endlessly about how much he hated playing the role and yet he went out of his way to make Count Dracula while he had a break between Hammer Dracula movies. This is a much different Dracula that the guy Lee usually plays. He talks a lot more and he’s much less physical.
The rest of the cast ain’t bad either. Herbert Lom plays the Van Helsing role. Lom had an extensive career that blossomed in the 1940’s and continued through the 90’s. He played all kinds of roles but will always be remembered as Police Commissioner Charles Dreyfus from the Pink Panther. Also on hand, up and coming weird looking guy Klaus Kinski plays Reinfierd. The role of Lucy is played by the lovely Soledad Miranda, a pop singer who also appeared in soft porn movies directed by Jess Franco.
Jess Franco gave up a promising career as a director of low budget horror films to pursue a future in pornography. Count Dracula was pretty much the highlight of his horror output. After meeting up with Soledad Miranda, he moved the crew from Spain to France to enjoy additional artistic freedom. In 1970 alone the two combined to make 6 soft porn films. After her mysterious death, he went hard core, pumping out stroke films faster than greased lightning, or whatever … While Franco did occasionally return to making low budget horror films like Dracula vs Frankenstein, it clear that porno was his passion.