Archive for the Frankenstein Movies Category

In the Spooklight: THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957)

Posted in 1950s Horror, 2010, Christopher Lee films, Classic Films, Evil Doctors!, Frankenstein Movies, Hammer Films, Horror, In the Spooklight, Michael Arruda Reviews, Peter Cushing Films, Reanimated Corpses with tags , , , , , , on December 26, 2012 by knifefighter

This is a reprint of my 100th IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column, which originally appeared in the HWA Newsletter in December 2010.  It’s on THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, one of my all-time favorites, and one of a handful of movies that influenced me at a young age and got me into this horror business in the first place.  Hope you enjoy it.  And don’t forget, my IN THE SPOOKLIGHT collection – 115 reviews in all— is now available as an EBook at http://www.neconebooks.com.  Thanks for reading.

—Michael Arruda

 IN THE SPOOKLIGHT

By

Michael Arruda

The_Curse_of_Frankenstein_poster

Welcome to the 100th IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column.  Woo hoo!  It’s been a fun ride.  Thanks for coming along.

In honor of the occasion, let’s look at THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957), Hammer Films’ first horror hit.

To make their Frankenstein movie different from the Universal 1931 original starring Boris Karloff, Hammer Films decided to concentrate more on the doctor rather than on the monster.  Enter Peter Cushing as Baron Victor Frankenstein.

Hammer Films’ signing of Peter Cushing to play Victor Frankenstein in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN was a major coup for the tiny studio which made low-budget movies.  In the 1950s, Peter Cushing had become the most popular actor on British television.  To British audiences, he was a household name.

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN was Cushing’s first shot at being the lead actor in a theatrical movie, and he doesn’t disappoint.  In fact, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN belongs to Peter Cushing.  He dominates this movie and carries it on his shoulders.  He’s in nearly every scene.

Cushing succeeded in creating a character who was the perfect shade of gray, a villain who was also a hero.  He’s so convincing in this dual persona that we want to see Victor Frankenstein succeed in his quest to create life, even though he murders a few people along the way.

Peter Cushing went on to become an international superstar.  He delivered countless fine performances over the years until his death from cancer in 1994.  Yet, his performance as Victor Frankenstein in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN is arguably his best.

Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein

Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein

Like the 1931 version of FRANKENSTEIN before it, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, while based on the book by Mary Shelley, is not overly faithful to the novel and takes lots of liberties with the story.

Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) enlists the aid of his former tutor Paul (Robert Urquhart) to conduct his experiments, to “create the most complex thing known to man- man himself!”  Victor wants his creation to be “born with a lifetime of knowledge” and so he invites the brilliant Professor Bernstein (Paul Hardtmuth) to his house for dinner.  After dinner, Victor promptly murders him.  Later, when Paul confronts Victor and says he’s going to stop him from using the brain, Victor replies with one of the better lines from the movie, “Why?  He has no further use for it.”

Lightning strikes and starts the lab equipment, while Victor is out of the laboratory, and the Creature (Christopher Lee, also in his starring role debut) is brought to life without Victor present, saving him from an “It’s alive!” moment.

Victor opens the door to the laboratory and finds the Creature standing in the doorway alive.  In the film’s most memorable scene, the Creature rips off the mask of bandages covering his face, and the camera tracks into a violent grotesque close-up of the Creature’s hideous face.  It’s a most horrific make-up job by Phil Leakey, and it’s unique to Frankenstein movies, since in all six of the Hammer Frankenstein sequels to follow, this Creature, so chillingly portrayed by Christopher Lee, never appears again.

Christopher Lee as Frankenstein's Creature

Christopher Lee as Frankenstein’s Creature

Lee’s Creature is a murderous beast, and he quickly escapes from the laboratory.  Victor and Paul chase him into the woods, where Paul shoots him in the head, killing him.  Or so he thinks.  Victor promptly digs up the body and brings it back to life again.

Victor performs multiple brain surgeries to improve the Creature, but eventually things get out of hand, as Paul goes to the police just as the Creature escapes again.  The film has a dark conclusion which I won’t give away here.

Over the years, Christopher Lee has been criticized for his portrayal of the Creature in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Sure, Lee’s Creature is not the Karloff monster.   However, the Creature, who appears fleetingly here and there, has an almost Michael Myers quality in this movie, a killer who creeps in the shadows, here one moment, gone the next.

Lee is scary in the role.  His Creature is an insane unpredictable being.  As the Creature, Lee doesn’t speak a word, and he hardly makes a sound, using pantomime skills to bring the character to life.  His performance has always reminded me of a silent film performance, a la Lon Chaney Sr.  Lee captures the almost childlike persona of a new creation born into the world for the first time, albeit a child that’s a homicidal maniac.

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN has a great music score by James Bernard.  It’s haunting, ghastly, and memorable.

Director Terence Fisher, arguably Hammer’s best director, is at the helm here.  As he did in all his best movies, Fisher created some truly memorable scenes in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  The Creature’s first appearance is classic, one of the most memorable scenes of its kind.  The scene when Victor murders Professor Bernstein features a great stunt where Victor pushes the Professor off a second floor balcony to his death, and we actually see the stunt double hit the floor head first with a neck breaking thud.  It’s a jarring scene.  And this is 1957.

There are lots of other neat touches as well.  When Victor’s fiancée Elizabeth (Hazel Court) peers into the acid vat in which Victor has been disposing unwanted bodies and body parts, she covers her nose- a great little touch.

Jimmy Sangster’s screenplay is one of his best.  Probably the best written scene is the one where Victor tries to convince Paul how well he has trained his Creature by having the Creature stand, walk, and sit down.  Paul is unimpressed, saying “Is this your perfect physical being, this animal?  Why don’t you ask it a question of advanced physics?  It’s got a brain with a lifetime of knowledge behind it, it should find it simple!”  It’s also a great scene for Christopher Lee, as it’s one of the few times he invokes sympathy for the Creature.

But THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN sinks or swims with Peter Cushing.  Rarely has an actor delivered such a powerful performance in a horror movie.  Cushing is flawless here.  He draws you into Frankenstein’s madness and convinces you he’s right.

If I could give you one gift this holiday season, it would be to watch THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Rediscover it today, more than 50 years after it was made.  It’s time this movie received its due as one of the best ever, which isn’t news to those who saw it in 1957. After all, it was the biggest money maker in Britain that year.

One of its original lobby cards reads “THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN will haunt you forever.”

It will.

—END—

© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda

Quick Cuts Presents: Movie Ideas for HALLOWEEN NIGHT!

Posted in 1950s Horror, 1980s Horror, 2012, 70s Horror, Classic Films, Evil Kids!, Frankenstein Movies, Quick Cuts, Satan with tags , , , , , , on October 30, 2012 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS:  Halloween Movies
With Michael Arruda, L. L. Soares, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, Paul McMahon, and Mark Onspaugh

MICHAEL ARRUDA:   Tonight on QUICK CUTS, we ask our panel of Cinema Knife Fighters,

What are you watching this Halloween night? 

Specifically, if you could line up a triple feature this Halloween, which movies would you be watching?

 *****

SHERI SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL:

This Halloween, I would highly recommend a trio from Hammer Films. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the over-the-top camp of Hammer productions.

I would start out my Halloween triple feature with a viewing of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1962). Herbert Lom, who played the Phantom in this exceptional version of the Gaston Leroux novel, died earlier this year. This makes the film even more poignant to me. Andrew Lloyd Webber this is not. Lom’s phantom is genuinely frightening, a menacing killer. The film gives us an added bonus with Michael Gough, who went on to play Alfred Pennyworth in Tim Burton’s BATMAN (1989), playing a truly nasty fellow.

PARANOIAC (1963) would be the meat in my Hammer sandwich. This film is a solid example of British psychological horror. Call it Hitchcock Light. Oliver Reed portrays a drunken, bitter aristocrat with ease. It’s the role he was born to play. If you’re looking for a gripping break from creature features, this one will satisfy.

I would round it all out with THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957). I’m a huge fan of Peter Cushing. I do love his heroic roles, but it’s nice to see him play a villain. In this case, he portrays Baron Victor Frankenstein, a cold, obsessed scientist who will stop at nothing to bring a creature comprised of the best parts from corpses back to life. The plan goes horribly wrong when the brain he intended to use is damaged, and the monster escapes. Christopher Lee plays a chilling, disturbing monster, a true original even for those who have seen Universal’s FRANKENSTEIN (1931).

Christopher Lee as The Monster in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957).

*****

PAUL MCMAHON:

 My Halloween triple-feature is a feast of monster movies from the “S” column.

First is SLUGS (1988) based on the Shaun Hutson novel.

I’m following that up with 2006’s SLITHER, directed by James Gunn.

Closing things out will be the creepily unusual SPLINTER (2008) directed by Toby Wilkins.

*****

MARK ONSPAUGH:

I’d like to cheat a little bit and offer two classics as an appetizer—THE WASP WOMAN (1959)  by Roger Corman and William Castle’s THE TINGLER (1959) — if had to choose just one, I’d  keep THE TINGLER because you’ve got to have Vincent Price on Halloween.

I LOVE all the Universal monsters, but they’re more like old friends at this point and I want to feel uneasy—So next up would either be Cronenberg’s THE BROOD (1979) or (if that weren’t available) THE CHILDREN, that 1980 oddity where kids exposed to a toxic cloud get black nails and a lethal touch—and people cut their hands off! Dang!

Finally, BURNT OFFERINGS (1976), because it still creeps me out.

Happy Halloween, ev’rybody!

*****

L.L. SOARES:

Well, first off, I’d choose Roman Polanski’s ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968). Why? Because it just got a special release from The Criterion Collection on DVD and Blu-Ray. No matter what you think of Polanski, ROSEMARY is a movie all horror fans should see at least once, because it’s an amazingly well-made flick, with a great cast, very strong atmosphere, and even some scares. In it, an innocent woman (Mia Farrow) learns she may be carrying the child of the devil. You won’t soon forget this one. Check out the brand new edition(s) with tons of the usual Criterion extras.

Keeping with the theme of horrific children, I’d continue with Larry Cohen’s mutant baby classic, IT’S ALIVE (1974). This time a woman gives birth to a man-eating monstrosity. I remember the TV commercial for this one being even scarier than the movie (back in the 70s, they knew how to make movie trailers that scared the hell out of you). You can even get this one on a “Triple-feature DVD” with its sequels IT LIVES AGAIN (1978) and IT’S ALIVE III: ISLAND OF THE ALIVE (1987). And if you get that DVD set, then you’d already have a Halloween triple feature in one box.

And you can top the night off with the Spanish classic, WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? (1976) where a couple find themselves on an island full of homicidal children. Can they bring themselves to fight back? This one will send shivers through your spine.

And, of course, any of these are interchangeable with William Friedkin’s mega-classic THE EXORCIST (1973), with Linda Blair as the ultimate child possessed by the devil, or David Cronenberg’s monster-kid masterpiece, THE BROOD (1979).

*****

 MICHAEL ARRUDA:

This year I’m in the mood for some 80s horror.  So, my triple feature would kick off with HELLRAISER (1987), written and directed by Clive Barker.

Pinhead and his Cenobite pals from HELLRAISER (1987).

Next up, David Croneberg’s THE FLY (1986), one of those rare instances where the remake is better than the original.  Featuring Jeff Goldblum’s finest performance.

And to finish things off, I’d go with CREEPSHOW (1982), directed by George Romero, written by Stephen King, and with Leslie Nielson in the cast, good for some laughs as well as some chills.

Happy Halloween, Everyone, from all of us here at Cinema Knife Fight!

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, Paul McMahon and Mark Onspaugh

FRANKENWEENIE (2012)

Posted in 2012, Animated Corpses, Animated Films, Frankenstein Movies, Scientific Experiments, Sheri White Reviews, Tim Burton Movies with tags , , , , , , , , on October 9, 2012 by knifefighter

FRANKENWEENIE (2012)
Movie Review by Sheri White

 

I had absolutely no desire to see Tim Burton’s new animated film, FRANKENWEENIE. The commercials did nothing for me, and the Renfield-like boy character got on my nerves. It was a pain getting there, because there weren’t many showings in regular format; it was mostly IMAX and 3-D. And to top it off, it was cold and rainy when I finally was able to go.  So I didn’t go in with a very open mind…

Victor Frankenstein is a weird kid who mostly keeps to himself. His best friend is his dog Sparky. But one day, Sparky is killed in an accident, and Victor is inconsolable. The next day in class, his science teacher demonstrates how electricity reanimates dead muscle and tissue.

You know where this is going.

Victor digs up his dog and brings the dog back to life. I swear, that accident must have dismembered the poor dog, because he is stitched up everywhere. Victor is overjoyed, but realizes he has to keep his reanimated dog a secret. Sparky gets out while Victor is in school, and his creepy classmate, Edgar, sees the dog. He blackmails Victor into helping him reanimate something so he’ll win the science fair. Then other creepy classmates find out, and they all decide to reanimate their dead pets for the science fair. Chaos ensues.

Like I said, I had low expectations for this movie. But when that dog got hit by the car in front of Victor—I almost cried. Victor’s grief was very well portrayed, because he broke my heart.

A boy and his dog – Victor and his beloved pooch, Sparky, in Tim Burton’s FRANKENWEENIE.

At the end, it looks like Sparky doesn’t get another chance. I found myself wishing and hoping that silly, stitched-up dead dog would be okay.

I didn’t take my girls, because I didn’t think they’d want to go. So I was there by myself, rooting for a zombie dog. I wish I had brought them along; I know they would’ve loved it. My youngest would’ve teared up, too.

I don’t think I’d recommend this for a child younger than seven or so. It’s very atmospheric, and there are some “jump” moments that would really scare a little kid. The characters are downright creepy; they are obviously drawn with old horror movie actors in mind.

And speaking of old movies, FRANKENWEENIE is chock-full of old horror movie references. Parents will get a kick out of the nods to such as movies as THE BIRDS (1963), THE MUMMY (1932), JURASSIC PARK (1993) and GREMLINS (1984), to name a few. The science teacher looks like Vincent Price.

When the science teacher is vilified by most of the parents for encouraging the science fair, he makes a great speech about ignorance, science and fear of questioning things. That was a great message.

In addition to being kind of creepy for little kids, it’s pretty traumatic when the dog dies. If you have a sensitive young child, you may want to wait for the DVD. And be prepared to answer questions about death, science, and bringing things back to life.

© Copyright 2012 by Sheri White

Sheri White gives FRANKENWEENIE ~ FOUR knives!

Monstrous Question: BEST HORROR MOVIE MAKE-UP (Part 4 of 4)

Posted in 2012, Frankenstein Movies, Horror Movie Makeup, LL Soares Reviews, Monsters, Monstrous Question, Planet of the Apes, Roger Corman with tags , , , , , , on April 20, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  MONSTROUS QUESTION
Question by Michael Arruda
Featuring Michael Arruda,Dan Keohane, Mark Onspaugh and L.L. Soares
Part 4 of 4

Today’s MONSTROUS QUESTION:  What are your picks for the most memorable make-up jobs in a horror/monster movie?

##

L.L. SOARES responds:

It’s funny what kind of things leave their imprint on you when you’re growing up. It’s not that you can’t tell the difference between quality work and dreck when you’re young, but you are much more accepting of the bad stuff, because you can at least see the imagination that went behind it.

Growing up, Jack Pierce was one of my heroes. As an avid fan of old horror movies, especially the Universal classics, it was hard not to appreciate the fine work of the master. This was the man who single-handedly stamped the image of the FRANKENSTEIN Monster on our brains (in Mary Shelley’s book, he is quite different, but the 1931 film is where we get our visual for him). Pierce also did the make-up for DRACULA (1931), turning Bela Lugosi into the ultimate creature of the night,  THE MUMMY  – both Boris Karloff’s Imhotep (1932) and Kharis, played by Tom Tyler in THE MUMMY’S HAND (1940) and the great Lon Chaney, Jr. in the rest of the Kharis film series from 1942 – 1944.

Jack Pierce's FRANKENSTEIN Monster is the gold standard for horror movie makeup.

Pierce was also a pioneer in the makeup of classic werewolves, having given us Henry Hull’s memorable beast in the WEREWOLF OF LONDON (1935), as well as the iconic Larry Talbot’s alter ego in THE WOLF MAN (1941). He worked right up until his final years in the1960s.

The Westmore name was even more synonymous with make-up in Hollywood’s golden days, especially brothers  Bud and Wally Westmore. Usually, if there was some golden-age horror make-up that wasn’t by Pierce, chances are it was by one of the Westmores. But they didn’t just do horror movies. In fact, the Westmore name can be found in the credits of literally hundreds of movies of the 30s, 40s and 50s. Bud did the monster makeup for ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948), while Wally Westmore cut his teeth doing the makeup for movies like the Frederic March version of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1931) and the  breath-taking classic,  ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1932).

The strange creatures from THE MOLE PEOPLE, created by Bud Westmore.

There are lots of iconic images throughout the history of horror that are not as well known, but which are just as fresh in my mind after so many years of movie watching. Fascinating make-up creations like THE MOLE PEOPLE (1956) with makeup by Bud Westmore; the Morlocks in George Pal’s THE TIME MACHINE  from 1960 (makeup by William Tuttle ), the creatures from the Hammer films, especially THE REPTILE (1966), whose image (created by the great Roy Ashton) still stands out for me. In the science fiction cult classic THIS ISLAND EARTH, we were introduced to the Metaluna Mutant (created again by Bud Westmore), a throwaway character who was a sight to behold – I was always disappointed that he was never used again in other movies.

The creepy Morlocks from the original version of THE TIME MACHINE (1960).

Hammer great Roy Ashton's still scary makeup for THE REPTILE.

You might have seen the Metaluna Mutant on MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 when they laughed at the movie THIS ISLAND EARTH. But he's still cool as hell.

In the 60s and 70s, I (along with Michael Arruda and Mark Onspaugh) was captivated by the PLANET OF THE APES movies and their (at the time) cutting edge make-up effects, the work of the great John Chambers.

Their heirs have names like Dick Smith, Rick Baker and Tom Savini. All masters of their craft, who have impressed us with their creations over the years.

As for bad makeup, there is no shortage of that in the movies. Standouts include the wonderfully awful movie ZAAT from 1971 (also known as THE BLOOD WATERS OF DR. Z) – creature by Lee James O’Donnell; ZONTAR THE THING FROM VENUS by the legendarily horrible director Larry Buchanan; and just about anything Roger Corman did in 1950s, especially the laughably terrible monster from CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA (1961), designed by Beach Dickerson.

Run for your life! It's the monster known as ZAAT!

If this doesn't terrify you, nothing will. The monster from CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA!

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares
“Monstrous Question” created by Michael Arruda

—END Part 4—

Monstrous Question: BEST HORROR MOVIE MAKE-UP (Part 3 of 4)

Posted in 2012, Frankenstein Movies, Horror Movie Makeup, Mark Onspaugh Columns, Monsters, Monstrous Question, Planet of the Apes with tags , , , , , , on April 14, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  MONSTROUS QUESTION
Question by Michael Arruda
Featuring Michael Arruda,Dan Keohane, Mark Onspaugh and L.L. Soares
Part 3 of 4

Today’s MONSTROUS QUESTION:  What are your picks for the most memorable makeup jobs in a horror/monster movie?

Our panel was asked to consider the following questions:

–What’s your pick for the best makeup job, that movie monster whose look is the best you’ve ever seen, perhaps your favorite.

–What’s your pick for the most over-the-top embarrassingly campy makeup job?  That monster you can’t help but laugh at?

–And last, simply the worst makeup job, meaning the most disappointing, that time when you looked at the monster and thought, that’s supposed to be scary?  That is the lamest looking monster I’ve ever seen!  The one that is so bad there’s nothing funny about it.

##

MARK ONSPAUGH responds:

Best makeup job of all time is Dick Smith’s awesome aging of Dustin Hoffman (then 33) to an 121-year old man in LITTLE BIG MAN (1970)—that old age makeup is still the gold standard. Smith did a huge number of appliances, including delicate EYELID appliances to complete the illusion. Unlike a monster, you can’t cover up a screw-up in a human face with an “I meant to do that” excuse… Just amazing.

Dick Smith aged Dustin Hoffman prematurely for LITTLE BIG MAN.

As for monsters, Jack Pierce’s concept and execution for the Frankenstein Monster in FRANKENSTEIN (1931) is a makeup that created an icon – other interpretations have come and gone (Hammer films, etc.), but the 1931 monster is probably the best known monster of all time—squared-off head, neck bolts—what kid hasn’t drawn him? He’s been in everything from comic books and bubblegum cards to movies, cartoons and plastic model kits. In the day, we called him “Frankenstein” or “Frankie”—to think that look was achieved in the days before foam rubber and silicone appliances is just breathtaking.

All the Universal monsters still rock—and the Creature from CREATURE OF THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) is another awesome design, though it’s more of a mask than an appliance makeup.

For puppets, Giger’s Xenomorph from ALIEN (1979) was something fresh, disturbing and different—how many bad movies ripped off that design in the 80’s? Too many to count. It was something out of nightmare, yet its disturbing anatomy made sense—a true landmark.

Lastly, though crude in some ways, I remember being riveted by the ape makeups in PLANET OF THE APES (1968)—these were a revelation and helped sell a fantastic-beyond-belief presence —no crude mask (at least for the principle actors), these designs allowed for emotion and “soulful” beasts. The product of John Chambers (who trained Tom Burman), the apes were followed up later by the animal men of THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1977)—forget the Brando version —the makeups in the earlier one are sublime.

John Chambers created the amazing look of the Apes from the PLANET OF THE APES movies of the 60s and 70s.

My picks for the most over-the-top embarrassingly campy make-up job include ROBOT MONSTER from 1953 (gorilla suit, space helmet), ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES from 1959, ZONTAR THE THING FROM VENUS (1966), IT CHALLENGED THE WORLD (pickle monster!) and ATTACK OF THE THE (sic) EYE CREATURES (1965) all had horrible monsters – the Eye Creatures had visible zippers and some actors had black body suits and a mask—they tried in vain to hide behind bushes—no sale.

The bone-chilling horror that is ROBOT MONSTER!

One weird, disturbing makeup that actually made my roommate and I laugh was the movie FEAR NO EVIL (1981), a sort of CARRIE meets THE OMEN piece of crap-pie that featured the Son of Lucifer as a loser high school nerd… Until his powers start to kick in…At one point, he gives the abusive jock bully huge breasts, and the bully stabs himself to death in the shower… I imagine some people needed therapy after that scene.

The spooky Son of Lucifer himself from FEAR NO EVIL.

My biggest disappointment(s), I think, were in SWAMP THING (1982) —they should have taken a buff dude and just glued roots and such to him and painted him so he’d look like the Bernie Wrightson creation from the comics – instead, they went with a full rubber suit, which was cumbersome and made Swampy look like he had been patronizing a bayou Krispy Kreme Donuts every stinkin’ day… And the Arcane Monster from that film is just ridiculously bad—not scary, not awesome, just silly.

His secret is out. Is SWAMP THING addicted to Krispy Kreme?

Another makeup that was both bad and cool is the puppet heads for BEAST WITHIN (1982) —my first wife turned away in disgust, but I was delighted as the kid’s head inflated to the size of a basketball – it’s crude and laughable, yet oddly compelling… I think I have to go rent that.

© Copyright 2012 by Mark Onspaugh
“Monstrous Question” created by Michael Arruda

—END Part 3—-

Monstrous Question: BEST HORROR MOVIE MAKE-UP (Part 1 of 4)

Posted in 2012, Christopher Lee films, Frankenstein Movies, Hammer Films, Horror Movie Makeup, Michael Arruda Reviews, Monsters, Monstrous Question, Planet of the Apes with tags , , , , , on April 6, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  MONSTROUS QUESTION
Question by Michael Arruda
Featuring Michael Arruda, Dan Keohane, Mark Onspaugh and L.L. Soares
Part 1 of 4

Today’s MONSTROUS QUESTION:  What are your picks for the most memorable makeup jobs in a horror/monster movie?

Our panel was asked to consider the following questions:

–What’s your pick for the best makeup job, that movie monster whose look is the best you’ve ever seen, perhaps your favorite.

–What’s your pick for the most over-the-top embarrassingly campy makeup job?  That monster you can’t help but laugh at?

–And last, simply the worst makeup job, meaning the most disappointing, that time when you looked at the monster and thought, that’s supposed to be scary?  That is the lamest looking monster I’ve ever seen!  The one that is so bad there’s nothing funny about it.

Our panel responds:

##

Up first, it’s MICHAEL ARRUDA:

When I think of monster makeup, I can’t help but think of the classic monster movies from yesteryear.  They’ve always been my favorites and still are today, so most of my choices come from the era of classic horror.

I’m also a big fan of FRANKENSTEIN movies, and a lot of my picks are from FRANKENSTEIN films.

Jack Pierce did the iconic makeup for 1931's FRANKENSTEIN.

For example, two of my favorites are obvious choices, Boris Karloff as the Monster in FRANKENSTEIN (1931), makeup by Jack Pierce, and Christopher Lee as the Creature in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957), makeup by Phil Leaky.

Then there’s Karloff again, as Im-Ho-Tep THE MUMMY (1932), makeup by Jack Pierce.

I love Lon Chaney Sr. as THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925), makeup by Lon Chaney Sr.

The most underrated for me is Christopher Lee in HORROR OF DRACULA (1958), makeup by Phil Leaky.  There’s something very natural and frightening about Lee’s look as Dracula in this movie.  Later on in the Hammer Dracula sequels, he would be made up more heavily, with his flesh looking paler, almost white, and often he’d be photographed with green light aimed at him, and he’d have deep red bloodshot eyes.  But a lot of these effects came off as over-the-top.  There’s none of this present in HORROR OF DRACULA.  When I think of the most frightening Dracula ever, I think of Lee as Dracula in HORROR OF DRACULA, and a lot of this is because of the way he looked.  Very scary.

Christopher Lee as the Prince of Darkness in THE HORROR OF DRACULA (makeup by Phil Leaky).

Speaking of scary, I think the scariest makeup job ever is Linda Blair in THE EXORCIST (1973), make-up by Dick Smith.

But my favorite monster movie makeup probably belongs to Lon Chaney Jr. as THE WOLF MAN, and of Chaney’s many performances in this classic role, my favorite makeup job on Chaney as the Wolf Man is in FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943), makeup by Jack Pierce.

And my favorite of all time?  It’s not from a classic horror movie, but from a science fiction movie, and that would be PLANET OF THE APES (1968), makeup by John Chambers and a bunch of other people.  I’m still wowed and impressed by the ape makeup in that movie, as well as in the entire series.

My choice for the best of the campy make-up jobs would be the monster in I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN (1957) makeup by Phillip Scheer.

The worst ever?  The Frankenstein monster in  DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN (1971), makeup by Gary Kent.  It’s the ugliest Frankenstein monster ever, and sadly, the most laughable.

And my choice for the most disappointing make-up job belongs to Hammer’s THE GORGON (1964), makeup by the usually reliable Roy Ashton.  It’s a really cool movie, and stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and it’s directed by Terence Fisher, but when you finally see the Gorgon at the end, it’s horribly fake looking  Couldn’t they have found someone who didn’t mind having real snakes around her head, instead of the fak- looking rubber snakes which didn’t even move?  One of the few times Hammer embarrassed themselves in terms of the monsters they created.

A possible misstep from the great Roy Ashton from THE GORGON.

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda

—END Part 1—

Monstrous Question: BEST MAD SCIENTIST MOVIE? (5 of 6)

Posted in 1930s Horror, 2011, Frankenstein Movies, Mad Doctors!, Mark Onspaugh Columns, Monstrous Question with tags , , , on August 12, 2011 by knifefighter

MONSTROUS QUESTION
(Part 5 of 6)
Created by Michael Arruda

This month’s MONSTROUS QUESTION comes to us courtesy of our good friend Pete Dudar.

PETE:  Okay, so what’s the best ‘mad scientist’ movie? Is it FRANKENSTEIN? RE-ANIMATOR? THE FLY? We fans want to know.

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Our panel answers:

MARK ONSPAUGH:

The “mad scientist” club is full of over-achievers, from Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Moreau to Herbert West and Dr. Heiter (HUMAN CENTIPEDE (2009). But to me, the best mad scientist movie is a tie between FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935).

This is not just a kneejerk answer. Think about it: this was not the first Frankenstein movie (Edison Studios released a 16-minute silent short in 1910), but it is still the classic, defining film of Shelley’s novel. James Whale gives us powerful images and manages, with the brilliant performance of Boris Karloff, to portray a monster who is rejected and angry at his “father”.

The monster is not just a collection of parts crudely stitched together and shocked into life with lightning, he is a feeling creature wanting love and acceptance. Whale shows this beautifully as the monster reaches toward the sunlight before the skylight is closed and he is once again in darkness.

Jack Pierce’s amazing makeup created not only a version of the monster very different from the book, but an icon that everyone knows today – flat head, bolts in the neck – it’s the Monster (or, as we called him back in the day, Frankenstein).


The theme of the need for love and belonging are further explored in BRIDE, a rare sequel every bit as wonderful as its predecessor. And how awful and terrible is that scream when Elsa Lanchester first sees her intended mate? How poignant, how sad when the monster concludes “We belong dead.  “?

Add to this dizzying mix of talent the performances of Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein, Dwight Frye (DRACULA 1931) as Fritz and Mae Clark as Elizabeth, the special effects of John Fulton PLUS the amazing lab set featuring electrical effects ($10,000 of the $262,007 budget) by Graves, Strickfaden and Lindsay, and you have a masterpiece (two, actually), and I don’t use that word lightly.

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© Copyright 2011 by Mark Onspaugh