Happy Birthday, Mr. Karloff!

As a young horror fan, Boris Karloff was the first of my horror heroes, and all of these years later, remains my all-time favorite. He was the first one that I knew the name of the person who was behind the monsters that he played. That came from probably his most famous role as the creature in James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931), or possibly because he narrated the Grinch, but I would later learn and appreciate more and more of his roles.

One reason for this was due to Richard Bojarski’s book The Films of Boris Karloff, which I checked out so often from my middle school library that I was told I couldn’t check it out any longer, to apparently give others a chance to check it out. I would page through there, looking at all the different roles that he appeared in, especially the horror ones, and dream of the day when I might be able to stumble across it on TV some Saturday afternoon. Oh, how naïve we were back then, huh?

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Jack Pierce: Hollywood Makeup Master Book

I came across this title recently on Amazon, which looks like it was published a couple of months ago, but felt it needs some attention. I have not read it (yet!) but will be ordering it soon and at some point, will have my review posted. But since it is on one of the greatest makeup artists in history, I think it is important to mention here. I mean, this is the guy that created most of the faces on what we consider the Classic Universal Monsters, right?

This 332 page book by author Christopher Lock, that features over 350 photos and graphics, is the only “personal and professional memoire on Jack Pierce available anyway”, which gives fans a “comprehensive and unique insight into the background, psyche, and motivations of Jack P. Pierce; from his childhood in Greece to his immigration to America, his career rationales, his psychological instincts, his rise to fame and recognition, and his eternal legacy”, according to the listing on Amazon.

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David Warner – Rest in Peace

Wow. What an icon to not only the horror genre, but to movies in general. There wasn’t a sub-genre that he couldn’t or hadn’t worked it and always nailed it. Yes, Mr. Warner has passed away at the age of 80 years old, and I was still hoping to meet him one day at a convention. He had been in so many of my favorites. Then again, when you have 228 acting credits, you’ve obviously made a lasting impression in the industry. His look. That voice. Damn.

One of my earliest memories of Warner was that in Time After Time (1979), playing Jack the Ripper who gets arrives at modern times, thanks to the time machine invented by H.G. Wells, played by Malcolm McDowell. Then of course, playing Evil in Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits (1981), followed the next year playing Stark in Tron (1982), really made me take notice of him. Of course, one of his earliest appearances in the horror genre was Amicus’ From Beyond the Grave (1974) in the segment about the haunted mirror. Followed by The Omen, where he has one of the most memorable deaths in cinematic history! He even played Frankenstein’s creature in a 1984 version, alongside Robert Powell and Carrie Fisher.

So yeah, the movie industry has lost a true talent, and I know I am so sad to hear this news. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family during this difficult time.

Frankenstein . . . Ninety Years & Counting

Cinema history changed 90 years ago on this day, with the release of James Whale’s Frankenstein. Sure, Dracula had been released in February and was a big hit, but some thought it was a fluke. But once Frankenstein hit the screens, the wheels started turning for what would become the Universal Horror Classics. Can you imagine being in that audience 9 decades ago, having no idea what you were going to be seeing onscreen?

Of course, one of the reasons the picture was a success does fall on the shoulders of Boris Karloff and his incredible performance. He not only sparked a multitude of nightmares to adults with this character, but children from around the world saw through the makeup and saw the “monster” for what he really was, an innocent outsider. Growing up as a horror fan, like a lot of us, knew what it was like to be different and looked upon as strange or weird. So the creature has always had a special place with me.

This film has always been a personate favorite of mine, and would be in my top ten films of all time. It still is as impactful and powerful today as it was 90 years ago, thanks to everyone from the mad genius James Whale, the anxiety-ridden character of Henry brought to life by Colin Clive, the set designers to created this world they lived in. And of course, had it not been for makeup man Jack Pierce, we might not be celebrating this anniversary.

Here’s to another 90 years to our deeply misunderstood creature. May people continue to learn not to judge people from the way they look, but what is inside them.

Horror History: Robert Florey

Robert Florey
Born Sept. 14, 1900 – Died May 16th, 1979

Director Florey is almost as famous famous for the movie he DIDN’T direct as much as the ones he did. He was the one that brought the idea of doing Frankenstein as a follow up to Dracula (1931), as well as H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man and Edgar Allan Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue. He was attached at one time to do Shelley’s novel but after a failed screen test with Bela Lugosi, he was dropped from the project, giving him Poe’s Murders to do instead. Florey apparently didn’t read his contract close enough because when he thought he was going to do Frankenstein, his contract said that he would direct “a picture”, not a specific one in particular. But many of the elements from his script would later be found in the final Whale picture.

He started working in Hollywood as a journalist, even working in the foreign publicity department for names like Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. He started directing in 1927, with the film One Hour of Love. In 1929, he directed The Cocoanuts, the very first Marx Brothers film. 

Nonetheless, Florey would go on to give us a few great genre films, as well as working in just about every other genre out there. While not as much of a classic as Frankenstein, his adaptation of Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932), starring Bela Lugosi, is a perfect example of how they were really pushing the limited in the Pre-Code era. Florey would also direct Peter Lorre in two other well made titles, The Face Behind the Mask (1941) and The Beast with Five Fingers (1946).

Eventually, he would later move to working in television, where he stayed for several years.

He may be knowns as the guy who almost directed Frankenstein, but I think he could be very proud of his output, in the horror genre, as well as in genre. It is just up to us fans to make sure he is remembered.

Halloween Favorites

Fright FavoritesHorror scholar David J. Skal has a new book coming out this fall, just in time for Halloween, entitled Fright Favorites: 31 Movies to Haunt Your Halloween and Beyond. Presented by Turner Classic Movies, Skal takes on 31 films ranging from the silent era, hitting a few titles from each decade through the ’80s, and a few beyond that. Most of these everyone will agree are classics, with a few comedies listed in the later day titles. The description in Amazon says they are “family-friendly” but not sure The Exorcist (1973) and The Thing (1982) are ones I would be screening for 8-year old Timmy! Continue reading

Ian Holm – Rest in Peace

Ian HolmYesterday, we lost a incredible talent in the movie world, that of Ian Holm. He passed away at the age of 88, from complications of Parkinson’s. He appeared in so many role over the years, in all genres, that his was a face and name that as soon as you knew he was in the film, you were going to see something special. He could project more in a look than some actors could do in a 10-minute monologue! His genre appearances in films like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) and David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ (1999) showed his range. In fact, in 1968, on a TV series called Mystery and Imagination, he played both the creator and creature in an adaptation of Frankenstein. Of course, how can anyone forget his portrayal of Bilbo in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy?

But for most of us old horror fans, it was his role as the android Ash in Ridley Scott’s Alien when we became aware of this actor and his incredible talent. When his character goes off the deep end, I can remember thinking “what the hell is going on?” 

A great talent like this will be missed. But as I always say, at least those wonderful characters and performances have been captured in time that we can revisit time and time again. Rest in peace, Sir Ian. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family during this difficult time.

Movie Review: Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein

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Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein (aka Drácula contra Frankenstein, 1972)
Directed by Jesús Franco
Starring Dennis Price, Howard Vernon, Paca Gabaldón, Alberto Dalbés, Britt Nichols, Geneviève Robert, Anne Libert, Luis Barboo, Fernando Bilbao, Josyane Gibert

DPoF posterI know it is hard for some fans to think of Jess Franco as a highly crafted filmmaker, but there are more than a few examples in his filmography to prove that. This, however, is not one of them.

The first time I saw this film was from the Wizard Video VHS tape, under the title The Screaming Dead, which is quite different when comparing it to the DVD of Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein. Right away you’ll notice that it is extremely cropped with most of the opening names in the credits being cut off on the sides. The film is sequenced differently as well, having some parts in there that are not in the DVD version! For the sake of sanity, I’m just going to talk about the DVD version from Image Entertainment back in 2006. Continue reading

2019 Year End Review: Part 1 – A Look Back

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End of another year. Another decade. I know one thing for sure that this last decade will not be remembered as one that didn’t produce any good horror movies! Just look at 2014 and you’ll find a ton of amazing films, from here in the US to around the world. As a horror fan, I feel pretty blessed with these last ten years of terror. Let’s hope the ’20s bring us another long list of great cinema.

I had thought that this would be a personal low when it came to films watched, only because it didn’t feel like I had watched that many. In fact, there were a couple of months were I only got to a handful of films. With my book coming out, doing another retrospective for HorrorHound, and the usual holidays, it takes time away from being able to sit and watch movies. But once the tally was done, it turns out that I had watched more in 2019 than I did since 2013! The final number was 236, with almost half of them, a total of 115, being first time viewings. There were a few trips to the drive-ins, some movie marathons, a couple of Turkey Days, and other mini-marathons with friends or just by myself. And I intend to do it all over this year! Really going to try and hit 250 viewings in 2020. Continue reading