Hallowee’en Horror Fest Meets the Wolfman

Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943)

It wouldn’t be right, to review a load of horror movies and not include something from Universal.  I couldn’t forgive myself.  Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, though not at the more critically acclaimed end of the Universal catalogue, is a hell of a lot of fun.

Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr) is revived – in very creepy style – from his tomb.  Sometime later he’s treated in Cardiff hospital (yes, you read that right), only to disappear on a quest to destroy himself and his werewolf curse.  Eventually, Talbot finds his way to Frankenstein’s castle, where he aims to persuade the doctor to aid him.  Instead, Talbot finds the Frankenstein monster (Bela Lugosi), and ultimately chaos ensues… 187699-werewolves-frankenstein-meets-the-wolf-man-poster

This film features some great Universal sets and lots of atmosphere.  It wins bonus points from me, for setting the first part of the film in Wales – though the supposedly Welsh actors don’t tackle the accent at all!  It’s a bizarre fact that Hollywood chose to set it’s Wolfman saga in Wales, though I have no idea why.

Lugosi’s attempt with the monster falls a little short, though apparently his dialogue – which would have enhanced the performance – was cut.  As a result, the last part of the film doesn’t meet early, high expectations.

The thrill with Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman is seeing two Universal monsters together in one film.  When I heard about these Universal “team-ups” when I was a monster obsessed kid, this idea fascinated me.  It was like superhero team ups in comic books, and all seemed very exciting.  The end result doesn’t quite deliver, but I love it all the same.

8/10

Hallowe’en Horror Fest Must Be Destroyed

Ed Wood (1994)

OK – so Ed Wood doesn’t have any shocks or frights.  Nor does it contain anything remotely supernatural.  Yet it does have Bela Lugosi, Vampira, a Hallowe’en scene and references to some of the worst horror B-movies of all time.

This film charts the career lows (and more lows) of Ed Wood, a man whose movies are largely considered absolute disasters.  Played by Johnny Depp, Wood and his band of misfits blunder from one production to another, with far more enthusiasm than talent.  Thus we see a dramatised version of Wood’s life behind the scenes of such turkeys as Bride of the Monster and Plan 9 From Outer Spaceed_wood_ver2

Bela Lugosi is played fantastically by Martin Landau, in a role that elicits great sympathy from the audience.  The film also stars Sarah Jessica Parker, the legendary Bill Murray, Patricia Arquette and Lisa Marie as the aforementioned Vampira.  Depp, too, does a riveting job, making Wood likeable – a failed hero the audience can root for.

Directed by Tim Burton, this is a film that I can watch again and again.  You don’t have to be familiar with the works of Wood, but it does add another dimension if you are.  It’s a wonderful film that has, at it’s core, a story of succeeding against the odds.  Sort of.

Not a horror film then, as such, but the fact that Ed Wood features such icons of early horror makes this film an unmissable Hallowe’en treat.

10/10

Day of the Dead (1985)

So it’s post apocalypse and there are zombies everywhere.  There are these survivors holed up in an underground mine/storage facility.  Tensions mount between the survivors –  some being scientists and some military – as they each have their own agendas.  Eventually everything goes belly up and it’s zombie attack time.

I don’t think that gives away too many spoilers – you weren’t expecting anything else, were you?

Director George A Romero was also responsible for the completely thrilling Night of the Living Dead.  He also made Dawn of the Dead, a very fine sequel.  However, for me, Day of the Dead doesn’t quite reach the heights of the two earlier films.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to get your teeth into here, and there are a few genuinely innovative moments.  It’s just harder to relate to people stuck in an underground cavern than it is a shopping mall.

I won’t mention the zombie Bub, a character that I definitely thought was too much.  But check it out, certainly if you’ve seen the other Dead films.

7/10

The Munsters

It’s that old question: what’s the best – The Munsters or The Addams Family?  I love both programmes and have watched them since as far back as I can remember.  My favourite, though, is The Munsters.  I guess because they’re a family of actual monsters, whereas the Addams family are just, well… weird.  No disrespect to the Addams family, that’s a great show too, but the residents of 1313 Mockingbird Lane are my personal choice. 2991642-munsters

Herman (Fred Gwynne)  is the father, a Frankenstein’s monster whose bumbling antics create a great deal of the plot in their misadventures.  Yvonne De Carlo plays his wife, Lily – a vampire keeping the family on track.  Her father, Grandpa (Al Lewis) is Count Dracula, with a nice sideline in magic and mad science, in his laboratory basement.  Young Eddie (Butch Patrick) is the son, who’s also a werewolf.  Cousin Marilyn (Pat Priest) is the black sheep of the family, as she’s the only one that looks normal.  All of them are bemused why the world is so surprised at their appearance.

The Munsters is a classic TV show.  Though some of the gags and plots are a little dated now, this series oozes charm.  It reminds me of my Halloween celebrations many years ago, also evoking an innocent American age of the early 60’s (whether that’s real or imaginary).  No, it’s not scary, but it is enormous family fun.

And yes, I always had a crush on Yvonne De Carlo as Lily Munster…

Hallowe’en Poem – Fear

Fear

 

Fear is black

It sounds like a clock striking midnight in the distance

And a strange creak on the stairs when you’re alone.

Fear looks like a long, dark road at night

Lined by the skeletons of trees as the moonlight creeps through.

It feels like your hair standing on end

When someone taps you on the shoulder…

Fear is black.

 

 

Son of Hallowe’en Horror Fest

28 Days Later (2002)

When Mrs Platinum Al and I went on our very first date, this was the film she wanted to see.  I’d heard it was good, and being a fan of the Director Danny Boyle’s earlier works (Shallow Grave, Trainspotting) agreed it would be a good choice.  What followed was one of the most extreme cinematic experiences I’ve ever had.  You’ve heard stories about people walking out of the cinema?  I saw that during this screening.  Audience members were getting up and leaving.  I’m sure that it wasn’t because the film was bad – it was because 28 Days Later is utterly terrifying. MV5BNzM2NDYwNjM3OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNDYxNzk5._V1._SX337_SY500_ (1)

Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in hospital after being in an accident.  Slowly he finds that the world he knew has crumbled, as an infectious virus called “Rage” has decimated the population by turning the victims into violent, mindless killers.  Jim meets other survivors, and together they begin a journey to find a cure for Rage, and safe refuge from the Infected.

28 Days Later was never billed as a zombie flick originally, at least not as I remember it.  Although obviously inspired by zombie movies and other post apocalyptic films, it was promoted as a film exploring what could happen following the outbreak of a pandemic.  Scenes of an abandoned London created emotions of despair that were related, in the press, to the aftermath of 9/11.  Psychologically, the audience is submitted to a world of sheer desperation that pervades every minute.

As a result, 28 Days Later gives us much more than a zombie re-hash.  It has shocks and creates tension in the viewer unlike any other film I have ever seen.  But it also asks questions: how far away are any of us, in a world of road rage and social unrest, from mindless uncontrolled violence?

Quite simply a superb film on every level, 28 Days Later horrifies beyond belief.

10/10

Hammer Glamour

Through out its illustrious career, the Hammer film studio became synonymous with two things: horror and sex.  The studio’s reputation encompassed both the lurid Technicolor gore; and the heaving cleavages of its female stars.

To say that’s all Hammer movies were does them a great disservice, yet the two key elements of horror and glamour have become the trademarks for which the company was known.  Alongside the great Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, numerous beauties also  graced these fine films. raquel-welch-one-million-years-de

There’s a great book, “Hammer Glamour” by Marcus Hearn (Titan Books, 2009).  If this topic is of interest to you, I recommend you pick it up.  I’ve been lucky to meet some of the female stars of classic Hammer movies at fan events, and they’ve been kind enough to autograph my copy of the book for me.

It’s no easy task, but here are my favourite ten Hammer actresses.  It’s been a pain-staking process analysing the contribution of each of these ladies, but my selection is below.

10. Martine Beswicke

Appearing in three Hammer movies (One Million Years BC, Prehistoric Women and Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde), Martine Beswicke’s career with Hammer covered both gothic horror and dinosaur movies.  Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde is her greatest contribution, where in a novel twist on the traditional tale, she plays the evil “sister” transformed from Dr Jekyll (Ralph Bates).  She also appeared in two Bond movies – From Russia with Love and Thunderball. I’ve met Martine and she happily signed my copy of “Hammer Glamour”.

9. Barbara Shelley

The lovely Barbara Shelley appeared in more Hammer movies than anyone else on this list.  Her films include The Gorgon, Rasputin the Mad Monk and Quatermass & the Pit.  Barbara’s best role, however, was in Dracula Prince of Darkness, where she is transformed from Victorian lady to vampiric creature of the night.  She also appeared in the great Village of the Damned.  Again, Ms Shelley has signed the book, I’m very happy to say – she was extremely nice, for a vampire.

8. Stephanie Beacham

I remember Stephanie Beacham from numerous television appearances growing up, notably Dynasty.  She appears in Dracula AD 1972 as Jessica Van Helsing, granddaughter of Peter Cushing’s Professor.  A great camp classic, this is one of my favourites, and Stephanie looks ravishing.  I’ve yet to meet Stephanie to ask her to sign the book, I’ve got my fingers crossed.

7. Veronica Carlson

Starring in three Hammer horror films, Veronica holds the distinction of having starred alongside two different Baron Frankensteins: Peter Cushing (in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed) and Ralph Bates (The Horror of Frankenstein).  She also appeared in Dracula Has Risen From the Grave – all great films.  Ms Carlson was lovely when I met her not too long ago. proxy

6. Valerie Leon

Although she appeared in just one Hammer film, Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb, Valerie Leon makes a fantastic impression in it.  A great film and a beautiful actress.  She also appeared in Carry On and Bond movies, making her a true 70’s film sensation.  You can read more here.  Very charming and another welcome signature for the book. Countess-Dracula

5. Ingrid Pitt

No-one encapsulates Hammer Glamour more than Ingrid Pitt.  She seems synonymous with horror movies.  Classic films she starred in include the brilliant The Vampire Lovers and Countess Dracula, alluring as the evil Countess.  She also starred in genre classics for other studios, such as The House That Dripped Blood and The Wicker Man.  Sadly, Ingrid passed away in 2010.  A true legend. HAMMER GLAMOUR CARLSON OMARA 10

4. Kate O’Mara

Gorgeous Kate O’Mara appeared in The Vampire Lovers and Horror of Frankenstein.  Prim in the former and sexy in the latter, Kate’s contribution to Hammer is excellent.  Her exotic looks have been a regular on-screen ever since, I remember her well in Dynasty.  I’ve not met Kate, but would love her to sign my Hammer Glamour book.

3. Madeline Smith

madeline-smith-hammer-horrorAppearing very briefly in Taste the Blood of Dracula, Madeline Smith looks absolutely dazzling in The Vampire Lovers and Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell.  She also appeared briefly in Theatre of Blood and was a Bond girl in Live and Let Die, as well as numerous other film and TV credits.  Ms Smith has signed the book and was very nice too.

2. Raquel Welch

Possibly the most beautiful woman to ever walk the planet, Raquel Welch became a screen icon when she appeared in One Million Years BC.  Unfortunately, she never appeared in any more Hammer movies (hence she only reaches number two in this list).  Raquel has made many other great films in a pretty fabulous career, since her debut in that “silly dinosaur movie” (her words, not mine!). caroline-munro-dracula-a-d-1972-publicity-shot

1. Caroline Munro

The stunning Caroline Munro appeared in two of my favourite Hammer films, Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter and Dracula AD 1972.  She’s also appeared in many other cult classics – try At the Earth’s Core and Starcrash, for starters.  Ms Munro is probably most famous for her role as Naomi in The Spy Who Loved Me.  With her beautiful, long brunette hair, I’ve been smitten with Caroline for a long time.  She’s also a very lovely person with plenty of time for her fans, as I found out when I met her.  Caroline Munro is a Queen of classic cult cinema, and top of the Hammer Glamour list!

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Meeting Caroline Munro at NEC Memorabilia

A special mention should be made to some of the lovely ladies who didn’t make the top ten, including Joanna Lumley (Satanic Rites of Dracula); Catherina Von Schell (Moon Zero Two); Julie Ege (The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires) and Ursula Andress (She).  There are many more, of course.

If you’d like to buy a copy of “Hammer Glamour”, you can find it here.

www.hammerfilms.com

Hallowe’en Horror Fest Has Risen From the Grave

Gather round, courageous ones.  It’s time for more horror movie reviews at the Virtual Hot Tub!

Dead Snow (2009)

Great film.  A group of Norwegian students decide to take a break in a remote cabin up in the mountains.  Surrounded by snow, their initial fun and games turn nasty when a group of Nazi zombies awaken and begin to terrorise them.  Mayhem, blood and gore is the result.

I love this film.  Dead Snow is  obviously inspired (and is a homage to) numerous other similar movies.  There are jumpy parts, gruesome parts – it ticks all the boxes.  Some of the humour is a little too much sometimes, but there’s enough great content to excuse any ideas that were a little too silly. dead-snow

Besides, what’s not to like?  Nazi zombies?  Is that not the ultimate bunch of evil bad guys ever?  A very cool movie, it still worked on a second viewing and highly recommended.  Norway also looks beautiful, I’d love to go there.

9/10

Night Watch (2004)

Many years ago, a truce was called between the warring factions of good and evil.  Now the forces of good police the day, while the forces of darkness hold control over the night.  In this world we meet the Night Watch, who are entrusted with keeping the vampires of the forces of darkness in line.

This Russian movie promised a lot, and indeed it looks spectacular.  There are several scenes that definitely impress.  However it’s more spectacle than substance, and I was left disengaged by the last half hour.  There’s undoubtedly vast imagination at work here, so perhaps repeated viewings or more familiarity with the source material would aid my appreciation.

On the whole, it’s more dark fantasy than horror.  I was hoping for more.

6/10