Archive for in the spooklight

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  Thanks for reading.

—Michael Arruda



Michael Arruda


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.


© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda



Posted in 1950s Sci-Fi Films, 2011, B-Movies, Drive-in Movies, Giant Monsters, In the Spooklight, Michael Arruda Reviews, Mutants! with tags , , , , , , , on June 10, 2011 by knifefighter

This column on THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN originally ran in the HORROR WRITERS ASSOCIATION (HWA) NEWSLETTER way back in 2003.  I’ve selected it tonight to serve as a companion piece to L.L’s review of THE CYCLOPS which appeared on this site a few weeks back.  Both are Bert I. Gordon films about giant bald men.  I wonder if there’s a story behind this. —Michael Arruda

By Michael Arruda

When one thinks of THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN, the 1957 science fiction horror film about a plutonium explosion gone wrong, one generally dismisses it as just another radiation-causes-giant-monster flick from the 1950s.  One certainly doesn’t compare it to the excellent thought provoking THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (also made in 1957), which contains a remarkable script by Richard Matheson. And rightly so.  THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN is in a class by itself.

However, THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN is more than just a giant monster movie.  Director Bert I. Gordon, who also did the film’s special effects, co-wrote an intelligent script with Mark Hanna that really examined the horror of what it was like for a man to wake up one day and find that he had become a 60-foot giant.

Sure, the final third of the film shelves intelligence for the more traditional monster-battles-the-army finale, and can’t compare to Richard Matheson’s philosophical conclusion to THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, but it still manages to work, somehow.  It’s fun, and the film’s switch to camp is almost a welcome relief from the seriousness that preceded it.

THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN tells the story of Glen Manning (Glen Langan, in a terrific performance), an army colonel who is accidentally exposed to a deadly plutonium bomb blast.  When Manning awakens after the explosion, he finds that he has grown to almost 18 feet tall.  Eventually, he reaches a height of 60 feet.

Bert I. Gordon’s script really delves into what it’s like for Manning to go through this ordeal, and it’s clearly the best part of the movie.  Actor Glen Langan also has a field day with the dialogue.  We feel his pain as well as laugh when he pokes fun at himself.  For example, when he jokes about his wardrobe, his expandable shorts, “Army ingenuity,” he says.

The best line, though, and my favorite from the movie, comes when Manning’s loyal girlfriend (Cathy Downs) encourages him not to give up.  His response, “What sin could a man commit in a single lifetime to bring this upon himself?”  That says it all.

Pay attention to these scenes of anguish and you can actually forget you are watching a 1950s science fiction film called THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN.  The script is far and away above where you’d expect it to be.

The special effects are OK.  Seen better.  Seen worse.  The most memorable effect is when the two scientists who are trying to cure Manning attempt to inject him with an antidote by jabbing him in the leg with a giant needle.  Manning pulls the humongous syringe from his leg, and then hurls it down at the vulnerable scientists, impaling one of them through the chest.  It’s quick, but you see it go right through the guy!  Pretty gruesome for 1957!

In the mood for some colossal fun?  Check out THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN.  He’ll grow on you.


© Copyright 2003 by Michael Arruda

In The Spooklight: MARK OF THE VAMPIRE (1935)

Posted in 2010, Classic Films, Horror, In the Spooklight, Remakes, Universal Horror Films, Vampire Movies with tags , , , , , , , on March 11, 2011 by knifefighter

The Bela Lugosi movie MARK OF THE VAMPIRE was mentioned in our recent FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE COLUMN in which L.L. and I debated Bela Lugosi vs. Christopher Lee as the screen’s ultimate Dracula.  I dug up this column on MARK OF THE VAMPIRE which was originally published in February 2010.~ Michael Arruda, 3/11

By Michael Arruda

Made four years after DRACULA (1931), by the same director, Tod Browning, and with Bela Lugosi again cast as the vampire, MARK OF THE VAMPIRE (1935) appears at times to be DRACULA II.

But it’s not.

I wish it had been a genuine sequel to DRACULA.  But even more so, I wish it had been a genuine vampire movie.

Generally heralded by critics as a classic of the genre, MARK OF THE VAMPIRE, thanks to the talents of director Tod Browning, and a strong cast that included Lionel Barrymore, Bela Lugosi, and Lionel Atwill, is a well-made horror movie that does rival DRACULA.  However, its plot is largely disappointing.

You see, MARK OF THE VAMPIRE is a remake of the silent lost classic LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT (1927), also directed by Browning, starring Lon Chaney Sr., in which Chaney plays a police inspector [SPOILER ALERT!!!] who dons the disguise of a vampire in order to catch a criminal.  In short, although MARK OF THE VAMPIRE is so rich in atmosphere you can almost taste the bed of vampire earth on your tongue, the vampire elements in this movie are false.  This is almost as bad as playing the “it was just a dream” card, which is too bad, because MARK OF THE VAMPIRE is one of the best-looking vampire movies ever made.

Sir Karell Borotyn (Holmes Herbert) is murdered, apparently by a vampire, in a village where everyone believes in vampires and lives in mortal fear of them, or would that be immortal fear?  Anyway, Inspector Neumann (Lionel Atwill) calls in Professor Zelen (Lionel Barrymore) to help dispel the vampire rumors, but the professor only adds fuel to the fire because he believes in vampires too.

Things get worse for the Inspector and his efforts to prove that Borotyn was murdered by an ordinary human being when members of Borotyn’s household begin seeing the suspected village vampire Count Mora (Bela Lugosi) and his daughter Luna (Caroll Borland) lurking around the house.  Borotyn’s daughter Irena (Elizabeth Allan) and her fiancé are also attacked by a vampire, and suddenly the entire household is terrified.

Of course, it turns out that the vampires are really actors, and the entire scheme has been part of a ploy by Inspector Neumann to smoke out the real killer.  This plot point does not work for me at all.

Still, there is an awful lot to like about MARK OF THE VAMPIRE.  Director Browning seems to pick up right where he left off with DRACULA. The scenes in Count Mora’s castle are reminiscent of the scenes in Dracula’s castle, complete with spider webs and scurrying creatures and critters.  Lugosi looks terrific as Count Mora in a mostly mute role, as he gets to lurk around dark corners and windows, and Caroll Borland is even more vampiric as Mora’s daughter Luna.

Lionel Atwill, as he always does, turns in a solid, enjoyable performance as Inspector Neumann.  Sure, he became typecast over the years, playing police inspectors in several of the Universal monster movies, most memorably in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939) but truth be told, nobody did it better than Atwill.

The lead went to Lionel Barrymore, today most remembered for his performance as the villainous Potter in Frank Capra’s Christmas classic, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946), though his career spanned several decades.  He overacts here as Professor Zelen.  Edward Van Sloan is sorely missed!

The screenplay by Guy Endore and Bernard Schubert is very good and includes some memorable lines, but the real stars in this one are the atmospheric direction by Tod Browning, and the undead shenanigans of Bela Lugosi and Carol Borland.

With this one, they certainly left their mark, the MARK OF THE VAMPIRE!


© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda

Bela Lugosi and Carol Borland in MARK OF THE VAMPIRE


In The Spooklight: REPTILICUS!

Posted in 2010, Campy Movies, Dinosaurs, Giant Monsters, In the Spooklight, Michael Arruda Reviews with tags , , , on November 5, 2010 by knifefighter

Just saw MONSTERS this week, and we’ve got SKYLINE coming up soon, so I’ve got giant monsters on the mind.  This column first appeared in the HWA NEWSLETTER in November 2008, on the silly Danish film REPTILICUS from 1962.

—Michael Arruda, 11/4/10

By Michael Arruda

It’s so bad it’s good.

There aren’t a lot of genres where this statement is true.  Horror films are one of them.

Sometimes the brain can recognize everything wrong with a movie, but the heart is somehow won over.

REPTILICUS (1962), that rarity of rarities, a giant monster movie not from Japan but from— Denmark?— for example, is a god-awful movie, weak every which way you slice it, but somehow, when all is said and done, and you’ve finished watching it, the flick is, dare I say it, charming?

Let’s examine this strange phenomenon.

For starters, REPTILICUS sports your standard giant monster movie plot.  The frozen tail of a giant prehistoric beast is unearthed and then accidentally thawed out by scientists.  The biological term regeneration is pressed to its limits as the entire creature regenerates from just its tail.  It then escapes from the laboratory and goes on a rampage, terrorizing Denmark.

The special effects are ridiculously poor.  The “fire” spit out by the giant reptile is obviously scratched into the film a la someone’s backyard film project.  And the monster itself is about as real looking as something you’d find in the discount toy aisle at Wal Mart.

Yet, somehow, this all works to the movie’s advantage.  The look of the title creature, Reptilicus, is unique.  Hey, I have to give credit where credit is due.  You just don’t see too many movie monsters looking like Reptilicus, and I suppose the look of the creature is part of the movie’s charm.

Reptilicus looks less like a dinosaur and more like a dragon—albeit a dragon with just a long neck and no body.  Where is the creature’s body?  It’s hardly ever seen, as most shots simply show the neck and head moving from behind buildings.  The monster is obviously a puppet, and looks like something created by the late Jim Henson’s evil twin.

And when we do see the body, it rolls along the ground like a giant wind-up toy.

And then there’s that wild sound that Reptilicus makes, like a car in serious need of transmission fluid.  The creature also sports wings, and rumor has it that in some prints it even flies!

The dialogue and the acting are so bad you’ll be laughing out loud.

In all seriousness, the movie does include a terrific stunt, as panicked bicyclists plunge from a drawbridge into the sea while fleeing from the rampaging puppet monster.  Supposedly, real bicyclists were paid to ride off the bridge into the water.

The movie also has a great over-the-top dramatic music score.

So, why is a movie like this worth the time of any serious horror writer?  The obvious reason is that it never hurts to see what NOT to do.  But I think a better reason is sometimes, you just have to let loose and have fun and watch something so bad it’s good.

What’s interesting here, is that REPTILICUS is a movie that obviously doesn’t work the way it was intended.  Director Sidney Pink didn’t set out to make a bad movie.  Still, REPTILICUS is a bad movie—a bad movie that works, just not in the way it was intended to work.  It works because in spite of it blatant flaws, it’s entertaining.

REPTILICUS is not a movie you’d want to study, but as a student of the horror genre, it is one you’d want to see, at least once.  This way you’ll understand why GODZILLA and KING KONG are part of our popular culture, while REPTILICUS is just a maniacal dragon puppet with wings.


© Copyright 2008 by Michael Arruda


In the Spooklight: THE TOMB OF LIGEIA

Posted in 2007, Edgar Allen Poe, In the Spooklight, Roger Corman, Vincent Price with tags , , , , , on October 8, 2010 by knifefighter

This column, on the Roger Corman/Vincent Price classic THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (1964), is from October 2007 and is another Halloween edition of IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, part of our month-long celebration of Halloween here at CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.—Michael Arruda, October 8, 2010

by Michael Arruda

I prefer horror to be an emotional experience, which is why, sometimes Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe adaptations don’t work for me.

THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (1964), starring Vincent Price, Corman’s eighth and final Poe adaptation, is a perfect example.

Technically, the film is flawless. It’s arguably Corman’s best job at the helm. The film looks phenomenal, there’s great use of locations, and the camera work is extremely stylish. For these reasons alone watching THE TOMB OF LIGEIA can be as rewarding and mouthwatering as reading a good novel. Your intelligence won’t be let down.

It also has a decent screenplay by Robert Towne, which lives up to its source material. (Towne went on to write classics like 1974’s CHINATOWN).

However, THE TOMB OF LIGEIA has never been one of my favorites because as it plays out, it’s as cold as a corpse with about as much life (unless of course you’re talking vampire and zombies, which get around rather well, but there ain’t no vampires or zombies here!). Perhaps this is on purpose, and perhaps it’s just another sign of Corman’s genius. Could be. But for me, the fact remains that as I watch THE TOMB OF LIGEIA, and as I recognize while watching that “Hmm, this movie is extremely well made,” I also realize I’m not emotionally invested in the characters or the situations.

THE TOMB OF LIGEIA tells the story of Verden Fell (Vincent Price) who’s—what else? —brooding over the death of his wife, Ligeia. When a new woman, the Lady Rowena (Elizabeth Shepherd, in a dual role, as she also appears as Ligeia) expresses interest in Verden, the ghost of Ligeia takes offense, setting off the usual, standard ghostly shenanigans. We learn that Verden isn’t mourning his deceased wife—he’s afraid of her— afraid that she’s not really dead. It turns out Ligeia was a bold, energetic woman who had asserted she would never die, and she definitely got inside Verden’s head.

It’s this part of the film that works best for me. Is Ligeia really a ghost?  Or is it Verden, so brainwashed by his deceased wife that he himself is causing the mayhem? On this level, the film works well.

And the performances by the two leads are terrific. Price stands out as Verden. His look, with the dark brown hair and dark glasses, to shield his ultra sensitive eyes from the light, is unique to this movie. Price moves through this role effortlessly, as if he could do it in his sleep. Elizabeth Shepherd is just as good as The Lady Rowena. Her portrayal of Rowena as a strong woman who is not intimidated by evil spirits is refreshing.

But THE TOMB OF LIGEIA fails to connect on an emotional level. Price’s Verden isn’t that likeable, and while Shepherd’s Lady Rowena is, she’s not a central enough character to carry the movie on her own. I don’t really care about these characters, and as a result, I don’t care all that much about what happens to them, which makes for a lackluster movie viewing experience.

THE TOMB OF LIGEIA is a mixed bag, which for Halloween, is OK. In a trick or treat bag, chances are you’ll get candy you’re not crazy about along with your favorites, but still, it’s candy, and you’re not going to throw it away. Likewise, THE TOMB OF LIGEIA is a stylish, almost beautiful, horror movie that is pleasing to the eye and the intellect, but not so attractive to the heart. For those of us who tell tales, the heart can be the difference maker. Still, it’s Corman, it’s Price, it’s Poe, it’s candy.

It’s Halloween. Eat up.


© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda



Posted in 2010, Classic Films, In the Spooklight, Jekyll and Hyde in Cinema, Michael Arruda Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on September 10, 2010 by knifefighter

This column on the 1932 version of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE first appeared in the HWA NEWSLETTER in October 2006, and so there’s a reference to Halloween, but this is okay, since it’s never too early to start thinking about that special night, when pumpkins, black cats, and monsters rule.

—Michael Arruda    9/10/10

by Michael Arruda

Before Anthony Hopkins won the Best Actor Oscar in 1991 for his portrayal of everybody’s favorite cannibal in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, the only other actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor in a horror film was—Fredric March for his brilliant work in 1932’s DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE.

DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1932) was the first sound version of the famous Robert Louis Stevenson tale, but it was by no means the first film version. There were a bunch of silent versions dating back to 1908, the most famous starring John Barrymore in 1920.

The 1932 version with Fredric March is widely considered to be the best, and I would agree, though the elaborate Spencer Tracy version from 1941 is nearly its equal.

Fredric March shines in the lead role. His Dr. Jekyll is heroic, strong, and self-assured, likeable rather than arrogant. His performance as Jekyll is natural, not stagy, unlike many of the other male leads from the 1930s horror films.

As Hyde, March really stands out. Wearing make-up by Wally Westmore, that gave him a Neanderthal appearance, March is the most hideous Hyde of them all.

The initial transformation scene in DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1932) is amazing.

The initial transformation scene is amazing. Director Rouben Mamoulian pulled it off by using a special light sensitive make-up that could be manipulated by the use of colored filters. The result is we see March change before our eyes without the use of any cuts or dissolves. It’s remarkable to watch. And Hyde grows more hideous as the film goes on, as he becomes more decadent and evil.

The screenplay by Samuel Hoffenstein and Percy Heath, based upon the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, is just as responsible for creating the horrific Hyde as both March and Westmore. Hyde has some truly menacing and maniacal dialogue.

Besides Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins also delivers a top-notch performance as Hyde’s love interest, Ivy. Their scenes together, Hopkins as Ivy and March as Hyde, are chilling and tense, nightmarish. The scene when an angry Hyde returns to Ivy after she thought she was rid of him will give you chills for a long time afterward.

Director Rouben Mamoulian adds a lot of creative touches that raise this film to a very high artistic level. There’s the use of the subjective camera, for instance, supposedly the first time this effect was used. When we first meet Jekyll, we don’t see his face, as he’s behind the camera. The first time we see him is in a mirror. Interesting.

DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE was released upon the heels of Universal’s DRACULA (1931) with Bela Lugosi, and FRANKENSTEIN (1931) with Boris Karloff, and at the time, was just as popular as these two films. But over the years, as the Lugosi and Karloff films became more and more famous to the point of icons, March’s Jekyll and Hyde all but disappeared. Part of the reason for this is that it did disappear. When MGM released its 1941 version with Spencer Tracy, it bought the rights to the Paramount Fredric March version and removed it from distribution. It wasn’t discovered again until the 1970s.

One can make the argument that taken as a whole, counting performances, direction, and writing, DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1932) is actually a better movie than either DRACULA (1931) or FRANKENSTEIN (1931).

DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE is a disturbing piece of storytelling that more than holds its own today, more than 70 years later. What better way to celebrate October and Halloween by watching a classic of horror movie cinema, Fredric March as DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE.


© Copyright 2006 by Michael Arruda



Posted in 2009, Aliens, Giant Monsters, Godzilla, In the Spooklight with tags , , , , , , on August 13, 2010 by knifefighter

Since my fellow CINEMA KNIFE FIGHTER L.L. Soares and I will be reviewing SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD this weekend, my mind has wandered to movie battles I’d rather be seeing. I’ve chosen this column from 2009 for that reason, so here’s my “In the Spooklight” column on GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO (1966), featuring everyone’s favorite kick-ass giant monster, Godzilla, kicking more giant monster butt.  Enjoy the destruction!

—Michael Arruda, 8/13/2010

by Michael Arruda

He’s the biggest, baddest monster on the planet.  Yet, just how seriously can we take Godzilla?  And how seriously can we take a film with the title:  GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO (1966)?

These days, we can take Godzilla very seriously.  For the last 20 years, the Godzilla movies have become increasingly more adult.  But, alas, this wasn’t always the case.

In the 1960s and 70s, Godzilla was reduced to a friendly super monster, battling “bad” monsters and saving the human race from all sorts of evils time and time again.  Many of these movies were downright silly, including today’s “In the Spooklight” feature, GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO (also known as MONSTER ZERO).

Can such a movie be anything more than fun for the kiddies on a rainy Saturday?

Let’s find out.

In GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO, beings from another planet seek Earth’s assistance in defeating the evil monster King Ghidrah.  The aliens request that we give them the monsters Godzilla and Rodan to help them destroy Ghidrah.

But these aliens wear funny dark goggles and never smile, sure signs that they shouldn’t be trusted, and they soon turn all three monsters against humankind.  Not to worry, the resourceful humans find a way to break the aliens’ hold on Godzilla and Rodan, setting the stage for a climactic battle between these monsters and Ghidrah.

GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO is one of the few Godzilla movies in the series to include an American actor, Nick Adams, whose scenes weren’t inserted later, a la Raymond Burr in the American release of the original GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS! (1954).  Nick Adams was actually in Japan and actually appeared in the Japanese version as well.  Adams also starred in the Japanese Frankenstein film, FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD (1965).  Adams is quite entertaining here as the token American tough guy.  Tragically, Adams died of an accidental prescription drug overdose in 1968 at the age of 36.  He was a fine actor who appeared in several genre films, including the Boris Karloff movie DIE MONSTER DIE! (1965).

The special effects in GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO are OK.  There’s been better in the series, and there’s been worse.

It’s also directed by the man who directed the original GODZILLA movie, Ishiro Honda.

But what about Godzilla?  How does the “big guy” fare in this flick?  Well, for starters, he could have used more screen time.  More Godzilla and fewer aliens would have been a good idea.  His fight scenes are entertaining enough, as he gets to share the “good guy” role here with flying buddy Rodan.

Still, there’s no getting around the fact that GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO is one silly movie.  So, why in the world would you watch this movie?  Why would I watch it?  Why did I watch it?  And heck— why am I writing about it?

Because Godzilla is a gigantic part of horror movie lore.  If you’re into horror movies, you just can’t ignore Godzilla, or at least you shouldn’t.

Plus, there’s no denying that there’s something fun about watching Godzilla kick some bad monster’s butt.  And hey, you’ve got to dig those mini toy tanks that teeter along those miniature roads in those miniature cities!

So, how seriously can we take Godzilla?  Well, in GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO, about as seriously as we take Scooby Doo and Shaggy throwing cheeseburgers with the works at some masked phantom.

But that’s okay.  Sometimes you have to kick back and be a kid again.

So grab yourself an ice cream soda and some candy and indulge in the battle for giant monster supremacy in GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO.


© Copyright 2009 by Michael Arruda