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What I Watched In… January 2017

wishful-drinking

Favorite of the Month: Wishful Drinking

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

  1. Yoga Hosers (2016), C
  2. The Wild World of Batwoman (1966), D; MST3K Riff, B
  3. Girl in Gold Boots (1968), D; MST3K Riff, B-
  4. The Killer Shrews (1959), D+; MST3K Riff, B
  5. The Hateful Eight (2015), A-
  6. Africa Screams (1949), C+
  7. Wishful Drinking (2010), A
  8. Pod People (1983), F; MST3K Riff, B+
  9. House of Frankenstein (1944), C+
  10. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), A-
  11. R.O.T.O.R. (1987), D; RiffTrax Riff, B
  12. Youth (2015), B+
  13. Jim Gaffigan: Cinco (2017), B+

What I’ve Watched In… October 2016

wnuf-halloween-special-dvd-cover-movie-poster

Favorite of the Month: WNUF Halloween Special (2013)

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

  1. Deadgirl (2008), C
  2. Heathers (1988), B
  3. Westworld (1973), B
  4. Re-Kill (2015), C-
  5. Victor Frankenstein (2015), C
  6. The Bride and the Beast (1958), D; RiffTrax Riff, B+
  7. Return to Horror High (1987), D+
  8. House II: The Second Story (1987), B-
  9. Frankenhooker (1990), D
  10. Frankenstein: Day of the Beast (2011), C-
  11. Theatre of Blood (1973), D
  12. Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988), D
  13. Dawn of the Mummy (1981), F
  14. Life After Beth (2014), B
  15. Dead 7 (2016), C
  16. Ouija (2014), C
  17. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966), A
  18. Toy Story of Terror (2013), B
  19. The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again (2016), C-
  20. Cottage Country (2013), C+
  21. Terror From the Year 5000 (1958), D; MST3K Riff, B
  22. Disney’s Halloween Treat (1982), A
  23. Garfield in Disguise (1985) A
  24. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994), C
  25. Dreamscape (1984), C-; RiffTrax Riff, B+
  26. WNUF Halloween Special (2013), B
  27. Carnival of Souls (1962), D; RiffTrax Riff, B
  28. Kiss of the Tarantula (1976), D; RiffTrax Riff, B
  29. The Worst Witch (1986), C+
  30. Frankenstein (1931), A
  31. Bride of Frankenstein (1935) A+

What I Watched In… February 2016

HHGG-DVD

Favorite of the Month: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1981)

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

  1. Frankenstein (1910), B
  2. The Shadow Strikes (1937), C
  3. Grey Gardens (1975), C+
  4. Mitchell (1975), F; MST3K Riff, A
  5. Turbo Kid (2015), B
  6. Cooties (2014), B+
  7. Dracula Untold (2014), C-
  8. It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012), A
  9. Stagecoach (1939), A
  10. Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014), B-
  11. Master Ninja I (1984), F; MST3K Riff, B
  12. Master Ninja II (1984), F; MST3K Riff, B
  13. Deadpool (2016), B
  14. War of the Worlds (1953), B
  15. Home (2015), B
  16. The Witch (2016), B
  17. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1981 Miniseries), A-
  18. Inside Out (2015), A
  19. Batman: The Movie (1966), C

What I Watched In… March 2015

Favorite of the Month: Birdman (2014)

Favorite of the Month: Birdman (2014)

I’m a few days late with this list, but I’m gonna go ahead and play my “Sorry, I was hospitalized” card. I’m home now, and trying to get myself back to normal. So…

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

1. Nick Offerman: American Ham (2014), B-
2. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009), B+
3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), B-
4. Parallels (2014), B
5. 42 (2013), A-
6. 88 (2015), D
7. The Last Days (2013), B+
8. The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977), D
9. Big Hero Six (2014), A
10. Love Hotel (2014), C
11. Harmontown (2014), B
12. Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014), B
13. Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (2015), B+
14. Mud (2012), B
15. It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012), A-
16. Back Issues (2014), C
17. Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks (1974), D; Cinematic Titanic Riff, B
18. Open Windows (2014), B+
19. Birdman (2014), A
20. The Usual Suspects (1995), B
21. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989), A-
22. Last Action Hero (1993), B-
23. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011), B
24. 300: Rise of an Empire (2014), C
25. The ABCs of Death 2 (2014), B-
26. V/H/S: Viral (2014), C
27. To Be or Not to Be (1983), B+
28. European Vacation (1985), B
29. Deep Impact (1998), B+

In Defense of the Universal Monsterverse

Universal Classic Monsters

Universal Classic Monsters Essential Collection Blu-Ray (a perfect Christmas gift for wives named Erin to buy their husbands)

Universal Studios has been catching a lot of crap lately about their announced plans to reboot their classic Monster franchises as a shared “Cinematic Universe,” similar to what Marvel Studios has done with their Avengers and related movies. A lot of the internet snark about this particular topic can be dismissed simply by pointing out ill-informed snark is what at least 37 percent of the internet is for (it’s the third most dominant form of content, after porn and pictures of cats), and usually, I think the best way to deal with snarkers is to ignore them entirely. In this case, however, I feel like two of the most oft-cited criticisms of the Universal plan are so blatantly unfair that something needs to be said, and since Bela Lugosi isn’t around to do it, it’s up to me.

First, let’s talk about the notion that Universal is merely trying to copy Marvel’s success. Well… sure, of course they are. Let’s be honest here, that’s what Hollywood does. Virtually any successful film or franchise spawns imitators, plain and simple. Marvel’s parent company, Disney, is doing it themselves, attempting to emulate Marvel’s success with a new series of Star Wars movies. Warner Bros is doing the same thing with the DC Comics characters. Sony and Fox are doing it with their respective Marvel licenses, Spider-Man and the X-Men. Warner Bros is also planning a trilogy of Harry Potter prequels showing the history of the Wizarding World, and Sony is considering a shared universe franchise based on Robin Hood, of all things. And while each of these has been met by at least some level of e-cynicism, the bile being diverted to Universal seems particularly ludicrous to me because, far from copying Marvel, if anything, they did it first.

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf-Man

In Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943), the monsters began to meet

In 1943 Universal released Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, and after that the floodgates were opened. The franchises became inexorably intertwined, Dracula soon entered the picture, and the “monster mash” films became the norm. Granted, the films being made in the late 40s had very little concern with continuity. Characters would suddenly leap to different time periods so they could coexist, dead characters would return to life with little or no attempt at explanation, and nobody gave a damn about consistency. But despite this, it was an early example of what people now think of as Marvel’s model, and in fact is the earliest example of such a thing I’m aware of. (If you know of an earlier one, please tell me, because I want to see those movies.) To be certain, Universal is reviving the concept now because Marvel has been so successful at it, but that in no way negates the fact that they did it over sixty years before Marvel rolled their first foot of film.

The other thing that people are complaining about, a complaint that admittedly has at least a little more validity, is Universal’s recent statement that the new Universal Monster movies will be less of a horror franchise and more of an action-adventure series. I can at least understand why someone would be perturbed by this. The image of Lugosi’s Dracula, Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein monster, or Lon Chaney Jr.’s Wolfman are some of the most enduring images of classic terror. But it is in the characters’ enduring nature that we find the problem. Fear stems from the unknown. The more we know about any subject, the more we understand it, and the harder it is to truly fear it. Drac and Frankie are so well known at this point that modern efforts to make them terrifying invariably run the risk of becoming self-parody.

Pictured: Icon of Evil

Pictured: Icon of Evil

Or to put it more bluntly, we live in a world where the first vision of Frankenstein’s monster kids see is his pink counterpart selling them marshmallow cereal. You can’t make that scary. And they don’t want it scary.

Even in the 40s, Universal seemed to know the monsters were becoming too popular to be frightening. When you watch the old monster mash movies, the emphasis is rarely on fear, but instead on providing you a few awesome fights between beloved creatures. Perhaps the crowning achievement of that period was not House of Dracula or any other such picture, but instead, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

It’s not just Universal, either. One reason Ridley Scott’s first Alien movie was so scary was because we didn’t see the monster in full until the very end. By Aliens, since we all knew what it looked like, James Cameron shifted genres from suspense to action, and it was the perfect move. And what about more modern horror icons like Freddy Kruger, Jason Voorhees, or Chucky? How many films did each of these villains get before they switched from being embodiments of darkness to winking at the camera and going for the most over-the-top kills possible? In fact, horror franchises that don’t go meta often fall apart entirely: Halloween’s sequels grew tepid and dull before a reboot that itself was tepid and dull by the second film, and the Saw franchise limped to the finish line a garbled, confusing shadow of its own early sharp as hell installments.

It's easy to forget, but the 1999 version of The Mummy was actually pretty good

It’s easy to forget, but the 1999 version of The Mummy was actually pretty good

And lest we forget, Universal itself has had success with this approach in the past. In 1999, when director Stephen Sommers was tapped to reboot The Mummy, the resulting franchise owed far more to Indiana Jones than to Karl Freund, and it hit very big for a while. They tried to get scary again with the 2010 remake of The Wolfman, and it flopped. Last month’s Dracula Untold, which had a tacked-on post-credits sequence that could have made it a sort of back door pilot for the new Universal Monsterverse, similarly bombed. (Although the studio has not made any official declaration as to whether Dracula Untold will be “canon” in its new universe, I for one am betting against it.) I’m not saying it’s no longer possible to make Dracula or Frankenstein scary, but to do the sort of long-term franchise Universal is picturing, taking an action-adventure route is not only easier, it’s more practical as well.

If the movies come out and suck, then sure, I’ll complain. I’d rather have no Universal Monster movies at all than have bad ones. But nothing that has been said so far indicates an inherently bad idea. Granted, if people online were inclined to wait for evidence to complain about something, an awful lot of bloggers would run out of things to talk about. But frankly, that’s a chance I’m willing to take.

What I Watched In… October 2014

Favorite of the Month: Gone Girl (2014)

Favorite of the Month: Gone Girl (2014)

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

1. Devil’s Pass (2013), B
2. Gone Girl (2014), A
3. Josie and the Pussycats (2001), B-
4. F For Fake (1973), C
5. Beautiful Creatures (2013), C+
6. Witch’s Night Out (1978), B+
7. Summer Lover (2008), D
8. When the Zombies Come (2013), B
9. The Canterbury Tales (1972), C-
10. Screamtime (1983), D
11. Market Hours (2014), B+
12. St. Vincent (2014), A-
13. Leprechaun (1993), F
14. Werewolf (1995), D-; MST3K Riff, B
15. Standing in the Shadows of Motown (2002), B+
16. The Wacky World of Dr. Morgus (1962), C+
17. Dracula (1931), A
18. Dracula’s Daughter (1936), D+
19. Son of Dracula (1943), C+
20. House of Frankenstein (1944), C+
21. House of Dracula (1945), B-
22. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), A
23. Interview With the Vampire (1994), B-

Showcase Presents the Universal Dracula Legacy

It’s Halloween once again, and the Showcase crew assembles for their (mostly) annual monster movie marathon. This year the gang tackles the six films that make up the legacy of the king of the vampires: Dracula, Dracula’s Daughter, Son of Dracula, House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

 

What I watched in… May 2014

Favorite of the month:  X-Men: Days of Future Past

Favorite of the month:
X-Men: Days of Future Past

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

1. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), A+
2. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), C
3. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), A
4. Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010), B+
5. The Grapes of Wrath (1940), A
6. The Great Gatsby (1974), A
7. Time Piece (1965), A-
8. The Rescuers (1977), B
9. Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles (2011), B
10. Son of Batman (2014), B
11. +1 (2013), C+
12. Class of Nuke ‘Em High (1986), C-
13. Zeta One (1969), D
14. The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), D; MST3K Riff, B
15. A Trip to the Moon (1902), B; RiffTrax Riff, B+
16. Godzilla Vs. the Sea Monster (1966), C; MST3K Riff, B
17. Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah (1991), C+
18. Maximum Overdrive (1986), D
19. The Frankenstein Theory (2013), B-
20. Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989), B
21. Godzilla (2014), B+
22. Dragon Wars: D-War (2007), D; RiffTrax Riff, B
23. Phineas and Ferb: Across the Second Dimension (2011), A
24. Dear Mr. Watterson (2014), B+
25. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), B
26. Super Mario Bros. (1993), D; RiffTrax Riff, B+
27. The Way, Way Back (2013), A
28. Don Jon (2013), B-
29. The Croods (2013), B+
30. X-Men: First Class (2011), A
31. Sisters of Death (1977), F; RiffTrax Riff, A-
32. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), A+
33. The Bermuda Triangle (1978), D; RiffTrax Riff, B+
34. Goon (2011), D
35. Stalled (2013), C
36. Godzilla Raids Again (1955), B-
37. Escape From Tomorrow (2013), C
38. Gabriel Iglesias: I’m Not Fat… I’m Fluffy (2009), B-

Building a Franchise

In this weekend’s episode of the All New Showcase podcast, Kenny Fanguy and I talked about the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as other studios that are trying to duplicate their success. Sony is trying to expand their one Marvel franchise — Spider-Man — into a full-blown universe, while 20th Century Fox is planning to merge their two Marvel properties (The X-Men and the Fantastic Four) into one world. Warner Bros is finally launching a DC Cinematic Universe, and Disney seems to have similar plans for the Star Wars franchise now that they own Lucasfilm. It’s the usual pattern in Hollywood, folks — whenever somebody finds success, everybody else wants to duplicate it. In this case, though, I applaud it. A lifelong comic book nerd, the shared universe style is something I dearly love. And in fact, it’s something that kind of surprises me has never been done in the movies before.

Oh, there have been small crossovers. Alien Vs. Predator comes immediately to mind, and Freddy Vs. Jason. Godzilla faced off against King Kong and a plethora of other kaiju back in the day, and if we go back to the 40s, Universal Studios had their “Monster Rally” sequence of films, in which the likes of Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, the Wolf-Man, and Abbott and Costello would encounter each other over and over again. But nobody ever did it on the scale that Marvel has, or that these other studios want. In fact, I’ve heard some rumors buzzing that the big movie studios are looking at a lot of their different properties to see just how this may be done. So that gets me thinking: what other film properties might evolve into this sort of larger cinematic universe?

The first thing that comes to mind for me is Harry Potter. Granted, the books have all been adapted, but Warner Bros has recently announced a new sequence of films based on the spin-off book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This should surprise no one. For over a decade now, the top-grossing Warner Bros movie has either been a Harry Potter film or a DC Comics film. Since they’ve got neither scheduled for 2014, they’re no doubt looking to fill the gap in their schedule. If they can get creator J.K. Rowling on board for this, I’m fine with an expansion of the Potter universe. Now let me make something clear — I don’t want any more movies about Harry Potter. His story is over and done with, and I really don’t need to see his adventures as an Auror after the death of Voldemort, because frankly, anything else is going to be anticlimactic. But one of the best things about the Harry Potter world is that Rowling did, in fact, create an entire world — a rich, detailed world, one with many curious ideas and facets that she only brushed up against in her original seven novels. Fantastic Beasts will be the story of Newt Scamander, a wizard who lived centuries ago and cataloged the most amazing magical creatures in the world. There’s plenty of story potential there. Stories of young Dumbledore or McGonagall? I’d watch that. The story of the founding of Hogwarts? I’m there. There are ways to expand the Potterverse that don’t require Harry, Ron, or Hermione, and if anything, that’s the direction Warner Bros should go in.

Universal Studios is planning a remake of Van Helsing, which itself was an attempt to do a sort of modern “monster rally” film. I say they should go all-out. The Universal versions of Frankenstein and Dracula are still the most recognizable in the world, so why not use the new Van Helsing to relaunch a Universal Monster Universe? Throw in Frankie and Drac, put in a Wolf-Man, give us the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Tie in the Brendan Fraser Mummy films while you’re at it — the original Van Helsing had a very tenuous tie in the first place, and it’s easily the most successful Universal monster franchise in decades. Even kids who have never seen a Boris Karloff picture love the monsters, and this is a perfect time to bring them back.

20th Century Fox, as we’ve said before, has both Aliens and Predator in its pocket, and regardless of the quality of the crossover films in those franchises, it’s a pretty natural pairing. The two concepts fit well together, and I think there’s still more that could be done with them. But you know what else Fox owns that could do with a bit of a boost? The X-Files. Think about it for a minute… a new X-Files movie, one that opens with Mulder and Scully sent to investigate a mysterious crash site uncovered beneath the arctic ice, and they wind up finding a Predator, or one of the Engineers from Prometheus. Ridley Scott may not be wild about it (especially if, as the rumors persist, he plans on linking the Aliens franchise back to this own Blade Runner film), but I think there’s room for connectivity here.

I’m just spitballing, friends, I’m throwing stuff around to see what sticks, but I think there could be fun had in any of these directions. If Sony insists on bringing back Ghostbusters, why not build that into a universe with not just ghosts, but all manner of supernatural entities and different squads of heroes combating them? Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are probably done with Men in Black, but there’s plenty of juice left in that universe. Sam Raimi is already planning to tie the reboot of The Evil Dead back into the original Evil Dead/Army of Darkness franchise — why not take a page from the comics and have Ash encounter the likes of Freddy Kruger, Jason Voorhees, or Herbert West?

I know I’m throwing a lot of things around here, but that’s how these things start. Here’s hoping that somebody decides to run with this ball soon, and decides to do it the right way.

DRACULA WEEK DAY 1: John Carradine in House of Dracula (1945)

House of DraculaDirector: Erle C. Kenton

Writer: Edward T. Lowe Jr.

Cast: John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr., Martha O’Driscoll, Lionel Atwill, Onslow Stevens, Jane Adams, Ludwig Stossel, Glenn Strange, Skeleton Knaggs

Plot: Count Dracula (John Carradine) approaches a scientist, Dr. Franz Edelmann (Onslow Stevens), and asks him to discover a cure for his immortal curse. Edelmann and his hunchbacked assistant, Nina (Jane Adams) study Dracula’s blood and discover an unknown parasite. As Edelmann begins his experiments on Dracula a new patient arrives – Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.), who seeks a cure for his own curse. When told the doctor is unavailable, an upset Talbot flees to the police station and demands to be locked up. The police summon Edelmann to examine him, and he arrives just in time to witness the rising full moon and Talbot’s transformation into the Wolfman.

Edelmann believes he can cultivate a mold that will allow him to reshape Talbot’s skull, which will relieve the pressure on his cranium and prevent his transformation. (It doesn’t make a lot of sense in the context of the movie either.) Unwilling to wait for enough mold to be cultivated, Talbot flings himself from a nearby cliff. That night, as Edelmann searches for Talbot, the Wolfman attacks him. Talbot changes back before Edelmann can die, and the doctor discovers he’s hiding in a cave perfectly suited to grow the spores he needs. As they search the cavern, they find something totally unexpected: the Frankenstein monster (Glenn Strange). Because what the hell. They bring the monster to the hospital, hook him up to machines that can bring him back to life, then decide not to do it. This should end well.

Dracula, remembering that his name is in the title of the movie, stops by and sees Edelmann’s assistant Miliza (Martha O’Driscoll) playing the piano. For no discernible reason, he uses his power to mesmerize her. Wary, Edelmann tells Dracula he will require another transfusion to test his theory, and Dracula agrees. Edleman falls asleep during the experiment, though, and Dracula reverses the transfusion, placing his own blood into the doctor’s veins before fleeing. Edelmann follows Dracula to his coffin, which he drags into the sunlight and opens, reducing the vampire to a skeleton and laughing at the fact that there’s still a third of the movie left to go.

The transfusion begins to affect Edelmann, darkening his eyes, causing his reflection to vanish. He is becoming a vampire. This conveniently leads to him having a dream sequence largely made up of clips of earlier Frankenstein movies, which tempts him to resurrect the monster. The good in him forces back the evil, and he decides to use the spores to operate on Nina while he’s still himself. She convinces him to use his time to operate on Talbot instead, and he does so, knowing it will not be until the next full moon that they can be certain he was successful.

Edelmann, meanwhile, begins to succumb to the vampire, killing a villager and fleeing the same crowd of angry townspeople who spent most of the 1930s and 40s waiting for Universal to make another monster movie so they could find work. The police come to Edelmann’s hospital, believing Talbot responsible for the murder. Talbot realizes Edelmann is the real killer, and he pledges to help him stay sane long enough to help Nina, then destroy the evil within him. As the next full moon approaches, Talbot is astonished to find he does not transform: the operation was a success. The Wolfman is no more. As Nina tries to tell Edelmann, she finds him resurrecting the Frankenstein Monster, having given in to the evil within him. He kills Nina and has the monster attack the police. Talbot retrieves a police weapon and guns down Edelmann as the mob arrives for their scheduled appointment. The lab catches on fire, because 1945, and the monster is destroyed as the mob, Talbot and Milizia flee.

Thoughts: By 1945 the Universal Monster franchise had largely evolved into a bizarre mishmash where the monsters – particularly the three heavyweights – appeared in each other’s films indiscriminately and with little to no regard to continuity. Just the year before, in House of Frankenstein, audiences saw Dracula, the Wolfman and Frankenstein’s monster each meet their demise, but here they are without any attempt at an explanation. Today we’d just call it a “reboot” and pretend the earlier movies never happened, but nobody wants to ignore the Universal Classics… nobody in their right mind, anyway.

If there’s one thing this movie proves, it’s that trying to come up with a scientific explanation for what has always been supernatural in-canon is usually a bad idea. The parasites in Dracula’s blood are bad enough, but the explanation for Larry Talbot’s transformation Wolfman is close enough to “it’s all in your head” as to almost be insulting to fans of the character. One can easily believe George Lucas watched this movie just before he whipped up the concept of Midi-Chlorians.

The good news is, no matter how crappy the plot of a movie, it was always a treat to watch Lon Chaney Jr. and Glenn Strange in their legendary forms. Chaney’s Wolfman has always been the saddest and most tragic of the Universal monsters, a creature that wishes for nothing but peace but is utterly unable to find it. When Stan Lee created the Hulk, he always credited inspiration coming from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but I’ve often thought the sad case of Bruce Banner had more in common with Lawrence Talbot. And with that in mind, it’s nice to see him sort of get a happy ending for a change. Sure, by the time he met Abbott and Costello three years later he was the Wolfman again, but so what? Frankenstein wasn’t burned anymore and Dracula had regenerated from a skeleton back into Bela Lugosi somehow. Who cares? It’s the 40’s! Party!

Anyway, on to Dracula himself. John Carradine as the legendary nosferatu has surprisingly little to do in this movie, even though he’s the title character. (In truth, at this point Universal’s naming convention was practically random: grab the name of any monster that appears in the movie and add a few other words. This film could just as easily have been titled Curse of the Wolfman or Return of Frankenstein or Dr. Edelmann’s Wonder Emporium and it would have been equally – if not more – accurate.) To Carradine’s credit, in the time he’s on screen he puts forth a solid performance. There’s a charm and a menace to him, and one can believe a woman would allow herself to be in his presence long enough to be affected by his hypnotic powers, which is convenient, because that’s exactly what the alleged plot calls for.

That said, the Dracula in this film is written in a terrible fashion. He begins the story by seeking a cure for his vampirism (something he never showed any particular interest in before), then starts going right back to his old “hypnotize ‘em and suck their blood” routine as if he wasn’t tired of that crap at all. He falls for Edelmann’s transfusion trick entirely too easily, then sabotages the very experiment he asked for in the first place. I spent half the film watching Carradine and shouting: “WHY ARE YOU DOING THINGS? STOP. THIS MAKES NO SENSE. YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE A HOUSE.”

The real star of this movie is Onslow Stevens as Dr. Edelmann, who starts out as a well-meaning scientist skeptic before becoming a creature of cartoonish evil. The dream sequence he has is nearly laughable, as his “good” and “evil” selves seem to argue over whether or not to resurrect the Frankenstein Monster… as if there could be any doubt that he would. Stevens does a great job with what he’s given, he’s just not given A material.

This is not a very good movie, to be blunt. But even the worst of the Universal Monster pictures had a strange sort of charm to them… the fun of seeing these characters overcame the cheesy effects or the ludicrous storylines. While this should never be anyone’s first choice of a monster movie to watch, if it’s available or if you’re doing a marathon of the classics, it has its place.

The first Reel to Reel study, Mutants, Monsters and Madmen, is now available as a $2.99 eBook in the Amazon Kindle store and Smashwords.com bookstore. And you can find links to all of my novels, collections, and short stories, in their assorted print, eBook and audio forms, at the Now Available page!