Friday, October 27, 2017

The Films of Frankenstein

If any character is is the running for more films than Dracula... it's Frankenstein. First appearing the classic book Frankenstein - the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley in 1818, it is the story of a scientist who learns how to piece together dead tissue and re-animate it - in effect creating a new life. He is horrified by this accomplishment and rejects the creature which leads to both their deaths many years later and after considerable tragedy.

As with Dracula, there are far to many films that take inspiration from Shelley's book to every be listed fully. In light of that I am concentrating on films that are more landmarks of the monster's movie career and focus more or less (usually less) on the original story.

Frankenstien 1910

While only 16 minutes long, this is the first film adaption of the book and begins the long standing tradition of ignoring most of what was in the original story. The creation of the monster, done by burning a puppet and playing it reverse, is still kind of creepy looking. In the end the creature is touched by the love it's creator feels for his new wife and disappears into a mirror.

Frankenstien 1931

This is the best known version on film of the tale. Directed by James Whale and starring Boris Karloff as the creature, it cemented the look of the monster forever in the mind of popular culture. If you combine this film with it's sequel, the Bride of Frankenstein (1935) you could edit together a more complete version of the story but each film stands on it's own as classic examples of Universal Studio's horror films. There was also a third movie, making it a trilogy which was also very well received and successful at the box office. (Son of Frankenstein - 1939)

The Curse of Frankenstein 1957

Hammer studios decided to take on the character, as it would later with Dracula, even to the extent both were played by Christopher Lee. The film was savaged by critics for lack or originality and being depressing and gruesome, but the public loved it enough to warrant a series of Hammer films to be made that featured Doctor Frankenstein and less so his creation.

Frankenstein 1973 (TV film)

Dan Curtis threw his hate into the ring with this TV adaption. It remains fairly close to original text but suffered from a low budget by today's standards and was filmed on video. Not long after it was aired Frankenstien - The True Ttory, a British 2 part production, was shown on NBC and overshadowed Curtis' attempt.

Young Frankenstein 1974

While more a take on the previous films from Universal than the novel, this Mel Brooks parody sets the standard for many film parodies. Even though it's a very funny comedy, the cinematography and music are truly top notch, way above many serious takes on the topic. It's funny and beautiful at the same time.

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein 1994

While following the plot very closely for most of the film, it jumps the shark at the end - pretty much ruining an otherwise strong attempt to finally tell the actual story. Starring and directed by Kenneth Branagh and nicely filmed with a dream cast - including Robert De Niro as the monster and a slew of great supporting actors and actresses. It's a worthy attempt at least and it does introduce us to a very sexy, sweaty Doctor Frankenstein. So 10 points for that.

Frankenstein (miniseries) 2004

This multi-part hallmark adaption of the Shelley gothic novel is perhaps the most loyal to the source material to date. Well received and lauded for it's treatment of the subject, it was later edited to a movie for British audiences.

The list could go on, but in recent years less attempts to be true to the spirit of the novel have been produced in lieu of flicks like I, Frankenstein. The novel's monstrous creation becomes less and less monstrous as time goes on. In far too many versions, the creature just looks like a muscular pretty boy with some scar makeup applied to his face. I think this is shortcut to make the viewer feel compassion for him, but who really feels bad for well built fashion models? Following his arc in the book, anyone would easily feel the horrible position the Doctor has put his creation in by abandoning him to the world.  My personal favourite Frankenstein is the book version illustrated by Bernie Wrightson and I wish there was a film version using that as a template.

Oh - there was a ballet which I did not see but I will provide this photo for you to decide for yourself how faithful to Shelley it was.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The 14th Another Hole in the Head film festival

The 14th Another Hole in the Head film festival will be held in San Fransisco October 25th - November 8. My two recent films, Staley Fleming's Hallucination and The Oval Portrait will be shown, but so far no times have been published. If you are in the San Fran area... please go and gush over my work and make sure everyone sees you!

Dates and places for the shows!  Click to see where and when.

Staley Fleming's Hallucination

The Oval Portrait

Watch this post for updates!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Creature from the Black lagoon

The Creature from the Black Lagoon
was maybe the last of the classic Universal monsters to be created. Released in 1954 in 3D, it was a success and contemned to be re-released in various forms - both 2D and 3D - for decades to come. It's screeching theme music (which must be played 100s of times during the course of the film) is truly iconic and always gets a reaction from audiences. The popularity of the creature got it not one but two sequels and while remakes have been rumoured for decades, the soon to be released The Shape of Water looks like the reboot fans of the monster have been waiting for, but for legal reasons, it isn't technically the creature from the black lagoon. 

After a scientific expedition discovers a fossilized hand of an amphibious human like  animal - another group goes to the Amazon to discover more about it, only to find out there is still one of the things swimming around in the titular black lagoon. The gill-man kills off most of the crew and manages to develop a crush on girl scientist Kay Lawrence. (The 1950s, while known for a certain sexism, always seem to have female scientists as bait for monsters but also they always show competence in their fields - which I suppose can be taken as a positive aspect of these films.) Of course the creature's lust becomes it's downfall and after being shot multiple times, sinks to the depths of the lagoon only to rise again in the sequel.

The Revenge of the Creature.
Haven't not been killed by bullets in the first film afterall, the monster is captured and taken to the Ocean Harbour Oceanarium in Florida where he, of course, escapes, developed another girl crush and while dragging her into the sea gets once again shot by bullets until he releases her. This 1955 film was also released in 3D but didn't capture the public's imagination, or the critics praise nearly as much as the first film. The creature did, however, walk again.

The Creature Walks Among Us,
released in 2D only in 1956, takes up right after the last film left off. A group of scientists from the oceanarium led by jealous misogynist Dr. William Barton along with his wife recapture the creature who is badly burned  in the process and taken back to the oceanarium. While there he begins to transform into something more human and is therefore given clothing.... OK I don't get it either. In any case, the jealous Doctor kills a colleague he thinks is going in on his life, and shifts blame for the murder to the gill-man. The evolving creature is not happy being a scapegoat and goes on a rampage, eventually making it to the ocean where, because he no longer has gills, seems to drown himself. This film isn't as bad as it sounds and does give us some sympathy for the creature not present in the first two movies.

The production of these films is as spotty as you might imagine but the design of the creature is stunning. Much harder to pull off than Dracula, Frankenstein or even the Wolfman - the costume is really well done and truly scary looking. The underwater shots are wonderfully composed and executed. The scene from the first film where the creature teases Kay by swimming directly under her is both captivating and terrifying. By the time of The Creature Walks Among Us, the new look of the gill-man seems cheap and has transformed him into something more human and oddly enough, less relatable.