BCLMC BROOKLYN CAMPUS LIBRARY MEDIA CENTER
October 21, 2005:
The Spooky Monster Midnight Thriller Chiller Halloween Issue! (scary! blah! argh!)
"For what we are
about to see next, we must enter quietly into the realm of genius." --Dr.
Froederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder), Young
In the Mix: a random shuffle of some movies we've played recently in our Now Playing program:
This month, we've been playing just about every spooky little thing you see linked to in the newsletter.
Other sites we like:
Christopher Lee was Hammer Studios' Dracula, of course, and you may have seen him recently as an evil wizard in The Lord of the Rings. In most Hammer films, Lee had few lines, either as Dracula, or the Mummy, or Frankenstein's monster, but in Rasputin, the Mad Monk, Lee got to chew the scenery all over the place, hamming it up as the legendary and hard-to-kill Russian mystic, in a performance that reminds you of Barrymore's Svengali, from the long, greasy hair and beard, to the hammy accent, to, of course, the mesmeric stare.
A more subdued Lee appears as a diabolical stage magician in The Hands of Orlac (see also, Peter Lorre in an earlier version, Mad Love), a dark and effective British take on the old murderer's-hands-grafted-onto-a-famous-pianist genre.
A Mr. Norman Bates, from the Bates Motel, writes:
"Are you sure you wouldn't like to stay just a little while longer? Just for talk?"
thanks, bud. I gotta go take a shower. Wait, scratch
that. I don't need a shower so bad. Hear me, I am NOT
taking a shower. Got it, Normy? And take off that silly wig,
pal. You look like your mother.
From somewhere inside the house, an anonymous knife-wielder in a ghost mask writes:
"What's your favorite scary movie?"
Are you even paying attention, people? That's what this issue is all about! Take a gander to the right and take your pick. And don't play with knives, kid, you'll hurt yourself.
This spooky issue of BCLMC is brought to you all the way from the back row by Media Assistant and lycanthrope Patrick "Igor" Jewell. Tell your friends.
'Nighty night, kids. And remember what Bugs Bunny said: An interesting monster should have an interesting hairdo.
Zombies? Yeah, We got Zombies
Victor Halperin's White Zombie (1932), starring a post-Dracula Bela Lugosi as nefarious voodoo master Murder Legendre (is that a great nefarious voodoo master name or what?), is usually considered to be the first zombie/voodoo film. It holds up well today, with atmospheric sets, foreboding tone, and a creepy storyline: for a price, Legendre agrees to zombify a young bride for the benefit of her failed suitor.
George Romero is King of the Modern Zombie Movie. He changed all the rules with his low-budget scarefest midnight-movie staple, The Night of the Living Dead and its sequels. Romero's relentless, shuffling, brain-eating hoards have been animated not by voodoo, but by some unknown force suggestive of an apocalyptic plague, and they have become such a familiar pop-culture image that they continue to be used in straight horror films as well as parodies, video games, cell phone commercials, and, of course, that catchy old Michael Jackson video.
Werewolves? Right here
Before it was a Warren Zevon song, Werewolf of London (1935) was Universal's sturdy first stab at adding the myth of the werewolf to its stable of monsters. But it wasn't until The Wolf Man came stalking along in 1941 that they had found a werewolf character good enough to prowl alongside Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster. Lon Chaney Jr.'s Larry Talbot is a doomed and haunted man desperate to escape his bestial curse, and even though he dies at the end of the movie, the studio found a way to resurrect him for some of their all-star monster jams that followed, like Frankenstein vs. the Wolf Man, House of Dracula, and, last but not least, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.
Wolfen (1981) is a very strong modern take on the werewolf myth, mixing thriller and Native American mysticism in NYC. For those of you who like you're genres crossed, shaken, and stirred, try The Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001), set in 18th century France and featuring both werewolves and the martial arts.
Creatures Great and Small
King Kong, of course, is the king of giant creatures, and he needs no introduction from me. In an earlier film with effects by Kong's Willis O'Brien, The Lost World, a brontosaurus runs loose in old London. Can't get enough hot rods and rock n roll with your monsters? Then The Giant Gila Monster is the sick flick I pick quick for all you cats and kittens, you dig the trick, Slick?
By the way, who doesn't love The Creature from the Black Lagoon?
Have you met Dr. Cyclops? He shrinks folks down to doll size. Meanwhile, there's only one thing wrong with the Davis baby...It's Alive! That's right, a monster killer baby is the heavy in that movie. I remember the commercials scared the bejeezes out of me when I was a kid.
Vampires Have a Certain Something
The movies have always loved vampires. It's the cape, I think. Or the eyes. Or the conceptual tension implicit in the fact that the mythical, sepulchral vampire, a creature that embodies the very antithesis of light, seems so much at home on the silver screen, a medium that exists purely of flickering light, projected across a darkened room, like Plato's shadows dancing on the cave wall. Nah, never mind the silly tension, it's gotta be the cape. Chicks dig the cape. Anyway, start with your Draculas, first Max Schrek, then Lugosi, and then Christopher Lee. The Christopher Lee Draculas are bloody good Technicolor fun. Like your vampires artsy? Try Daughters of Darkness. But don't blame me if you fall asleep. Are you a big-time film buff? Treat yourself to the hallucinogenic early film Vampyr. And don't forget, you could do worse, much worse than Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I'm talking about the TV show, although the movie has its moments. Near Dark is a wild and woolly story of trashy vampires on the road from director Kathryn Bigelow. Did you know Roman Polanski made a vampire movie? It's a not-that-funny parody called The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth are in my Neck.
Mad Mad Mad Mad Scientists
We begin with Frankenstein, of course. James Whale's 1931 version put Karloff on the map, and forever etched the neck-bolted, hand-stitched, and flat-headed growling monster in the pop culture canon. Bride of Frankenstein is usually considered that rare animal, the sequel that's better than the original. Hammer Studios is represented by the weird Evil of Frankenstein, and boasts Peter Cushing as the not-so-good doctor with the god complex. For a good time, take home Mel Brooks' and Gene Wilder's loving parody Young Frankenstein. For a different kind of good time, try the adolescent Frankensteinian fantasy Weird Science.
David Cronenberg's remake of The Fly, stars Jeff Goldblum and a lot of icky, gooey prosthetic makeup. It is by turns funny and frightening, and it gave us the famous tagline, "Be afraid. Be very afraid." The original, of course, has its own famous line, spoken by the tiny human head on the fly's body: "Help me! Help me!" [By the way, our record is wrong: Vincent Price plays a concerned friend and not the unfortunate scientist.]
Roger Corman Deserves a Category All His Own
We call this category: the Roger Corman Category. Catchy, isn't it? Roger Corman, by the way, is the King of Ultra-Cheap Quickie Independent Filmmaking. The Little Shop of Horrors is one of the ultra-cheapest and quickiest, and yet, one of his best and most influential movies, inspiring a Broadway musical and film version of the musical. Famously shot in just two days, it is a dark comedy about a bloodthirsty plant and its nebbishy inventor, and it's played broadly with some great Mad magazine-style dialogue. Look for Jack Nicholson as a very funny masochist in the dentist's office.
Corman also made a series of well-produced adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe, usually starring Vincent Price. The Masque of the Red Death combines the title story with Poe's The Hop Frog, and it is gorgeously shot in lavish color. The Tomb of Ligeia is an entertainingly gothic tale replete with ghosts, hypnosis, and a fresh young bride who may be possessed by Price's dead first wife. "Honey, I'm home!" Plus, it's the one where Price wears them crazy Sgt. Pepper shades. If you like these two, come on back for The Pit and the Pendulum, Tales of Terror, The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Raven.
Like Nicholson, many future stars, writers, and directors got their starts working for Corman. One of Francis Ford Coppola's first films was the eerie Dementia 13, made long before masterpieces like The Godfather series and The Conversation.
The Mummy, starring Boris Karloff, is basically the Dracula story in Egypt. The high-octane films, The Mummy and The Mummy Returns are more Indiana Jones than Im-ho-tep. John Carpenter's Halloween, like Romero's NOTLD in more ways than its shoestring budget, was a watershed in the slasher genre, which finds its roots in Hitchcock's Psycho. Don't forget to watch Scream for a smart and funny PoMo take on the slasher pic.
Dead of Night is one of the first great anthology horror films, and Tales from the Hood is an entertaining update on the horror anthology format. In the first, make sure you watch the segment with Michael Redgrave playing the ur mentally-unbalanced-ventriloquist [try this, for a hip and more recent riff on the ventriloquism plotline]. In the second, Tales from the Crypt meets Blacula, in an urban, African-American take on the anthology form, directed by Rusty Cundieff (Fear of a Black Hat).
Finally, Italy's Dario Argento is one of cinema's most stylish horror directors. Suspiria is a hallucinatory, nightmarish film about an American student visiting a dance academy in Europe, and our 3-disk anniversary set includes the film in widescreen format, a documentary about its making, and original soundtrack cd by Goblin.
The Media Center is located on the fifth floor of the Library Learning Center. Come up and see us some time.
"Wait! Where are you going? I was going to make espresso." Blind Hermit (Gene Hackman), Young Frankenstein (1974)
BCLMC BROOKLYN CAMPUS LIBRARY MEDIA CENTER
Comments? Contact us.
Librarian (718) 488-1311 Andrea.Slonosky@liu.edu