Archive for the frankenstein Category

Countdown to Halloween – Frankenstein’s Moon

Posted in frankenstein, halloween countdown on 10/19/2012 by vincentstark

Radio Four this week presented an interesting science/arts program that will be of interest to readers of this blog –

Did the Moon shining into Mary Shelley’s bedroom in June 1816 play a part in the genesis of her Frankenstein story? Forensic astronomer Don Olson has been investigating by charting the Moon’s historical path over Lake Geneva and surrounding hills.

Adam Rutherford explores the influence of astronomical and other celestial phenomena on the work of writers and artists, such as Galileo’s painter friend Ludovico Cigoli, Arthur Conan Doyle and modern Sherlock creator Mark Gatiss. Adam also talks to contemporary artists inspired by science: Semiconductor with their solar animation ‘Brilliant Noise’, and Cornelia Parker about her fascination with shooting stars. One of Cornelia’s artistic ambitions is to send a meteorite back into space.

Listen to the show HERE

Advertisements

Halloween Countdown – The Great Directors – James Whale

Posted in frankenstein, halloween countdown, james whale, Uncategorized on 10/10/2012 by vincentstark

James Whale had always intended on being an actor and it was while chasing this dream in the English theater that he found himself drawn more towards stage design which eventually led him to directing. He had experienced terrible times as a soldier in the first world war and so he seemed the perfect choice to helm the stage production of Journey’s End, a play by R C Sheriff which looked at the futile loss of young life in the trenches. The production was such a success that Whale was invited over to Hollywood where he became a dialog director on the Howard Hughes movie, Hells Angels (1930). And that same year Whale got to direct a movie himself with a version of Howard’s End. In 1931 he made Waterloo Bridge but the film that made the director a superstar was Frankenstein which was the first of four horror pictures Whale made for Universal.
The success of the picture meant that Whale was given a free hand with his next project, and the director turned in the classic The Old Dark House which again starred Boris Karloff, the actor who of course played the monster in Frankenstein. The movie was another huge success and Whale’s next picture was, The Invisible Man. Claude Rains starred in the movie and does a great job even if he does spend most of the picture wrapped in bandages.For the time the movie featured state of the art special effects.

Whale’s next movie was his masterpiece and is one of those rare occasions when a sequel turns out better than the original movie – 1935’s Bride of Frankenstein did everything this original did but did it bigger and better. Although much of the gallows humour of the original has been toned down, which in places leads to subtle slapstick. Still it’s a fine movie and an undisputed classic of the genre.


Whale was openly homosexual which was extremely rare at the time, and many feel that his flamboyant lifestyle prevented him from becoming as big a director as he should have been. Whale’s next movie, following Bride of Frankenstein was The Road Back, a sequel to All Quiet on the Western Front but by now his career was already in decline and he would never again reach the heights of his early work for Universal.

Whale committed suicide by drowning himself in his swimming pool on 29 May 1957 at the age of 67.He left a suicide note, which Lewis withheld until shortly before his own death decades later. Because the note was suppressed, the death was initially ruled accidental.

The note read in part:

“To ALL I LOVE,
“Do not grieve for me. My nerves are all shot and for the last year I have been in agony day and night—except when I sleep with sleeping pills—and any peace I have by day is when I am drugged by pills.
“I have had a wonderful life but it is over and my nerves get worse and I am afraid they will have to take me away. So please forgive me, all those I love and may God forgive me too, but I cannot bear the agony and it [is] best for everyone this way.
“The future is just old age and illness and pain. Goodbye and thank you for all your love. I must have peace and this is the only way.
“Jimmy”

Hammer Horrors – The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

Posted in frakenstein, frankenstein, hammer horrors on 10/17/2011 by vincentstark

Knowing that they couldn’t replicate the monster make-up from Universal’s classic Frankenstein series, British film studio, Hammer took a different tack and made Baron Frankenstein the real monster of the piece. This was hinted it in Universal’s series but Colin Clive’s Baron Frankenstein, although driven by his work at the cost of his personal life, didn’t come close to Peter Cushing’s Baron in terms of ruthlessness. Where Clive’s Baron would rob from graves to secure body parts, Cushing’s Baron gets his own hands dirty by resorting to murder.

Both versions are excellent movies and although Universal’s has the edge simply because of Boris Karloff’s stunning performance as the monster, Hammer’s film comes a close second. Christopher Lee’s make up has been described as looking like a car crash and perhaps for this reason he is unable to create sympathy with the viewer, but then the film doesn’t take that direction –   Lee’s monster shambles about like an ill coordinated  drunken lunatic. One heavily cut scene involving the monster coming across a blind man in the woods is a direct play on a similar scene in Universal’s original movie.

 

At the end of it all though, Curse of Frankenstein is a classic movie that any horror fan worth his/her salt will want to seek out. It made a mega star of Peter Cushing and was the first time those two horror heavyweights Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing appeared on screen together.

 

A great screenplay from Jimmy Sangster and effective direction from Terence Fisher makes this movie one that will be watched over and over again. It’s just a pity the DVD release doesn’t contain any real extras – this is, after all, an important film in the history of British cinema and kickstarted Hammer’s horror cycle.

 

 

The essentials – The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

Posted in frankenstein, HAMMER FILMS on 05/17/2011 by vincentstark

I tried to play the character as an ill-coordinated childish creature.” Christopher Lee on playing Frankenstein’s creation.

Hammer’s first film in its Frankenstein cycle was originally conceived as a very different movie to the version that ended up on the screen. Initially Hammer had intended to follow the blueprint set out by Universal Pictures with their classic 1931 version – Hammer even had a make-up in mind that would resemble the Boris Karloff look. However discovering that although Frankenstein was in the public domain, Universal had taken out a copyright on their make up and Hammer were threatened with legal action if any part of their film resembled the Universal version.

Jimmy Sangster rewrote the script and made the inspired choice to make Baron Frankenstein the real monster of the piece – ( IMDB summary in italics) In prison and awaiting execution, Dr. Victor Frankenstein recounts to a priest what led him to his current circumstance. He inherited his family’s wealth after the death of his mother when he was still only a young man. He hired Paul Krempe as his tutor and he immediately developed an interest in medical science. After several years, he and Krempe became equals and he developed an interest in the origins and nature of life. After successfully re-animating a dead dog, Victor sets about constructing a man using body parts he acquires for the purpose including the hands of a pianist and the brain of a renowned scholar. As Frankenstein’s excesses continue to grow, Krempe is not only repulsed by what his friend has done but is concerned for the safety of the beautiful Elizabeth, Victor’s cousin and fiancée who has come to live with them. His experiments lead to tragedy and his eventual demise.

There was no way that Christopher Lee’s make up was going to best the version used on Karloff. But Hammer’s make up was more logical – as the monster was pieced together by used parts, so to speak,  the resulting monster here looked like the victim of a accident. One critic likened the make up to a car crash.

To my mind Universal’s first two Frankenstein movies are the definitive versions of the story, but Hammer’s film is no slouch. Peter Cushing is excellent as the demented Baron and Christopher Lee manges to create a believable monster. There are some beautiful sets and the saturated colour scheme still looks wonderful.

As soon as the camera rolled we all gave it one hundred per cent. Peter Cushing.

Depressing and degrading for anyone who loves the cinema – The Tribune

The critics hated the film but it was a massive success and started the famous Hammer cycle of horror films. So impressed with the movie were Universal that they relented and allowed Hammer to remake Dracula for a share in the US distribution.

The film may seem slow by modern standards but it’s still worth watching – indeed is essential viewing for anyone with a serious interest in horror cinema.

The entire history of Horror cinema in one go

Posted in b movies, bela lugosi, drive in horror, frankenstein, HORROR MOVIES, killer b's, STEPHEN KING, the creature, universal creature features on 05/16/2011 by vincentstark

No other site would even attempt it, no else would be so bold, but here at Scary Motherfucker we are not known for a lack of boldness, nor common sense, and so in one post, a few minutes reading, we will present the entire history of horror cinema in one go.

Readers with weak nerves are asked to leave this site now.

You have

been

warned!

Horror has been around since the dawn of cinema – in 1910 the Edison Company produced an unofficial version of Frankenstein called Der Golem. Der Golem like Baron Frankenstein was concerned with the creation of life . Shit let’s call a spade a spade, it was actually a copyright avoiding version of the Frankenstein story.  Nosferatu (1922) used the vampire mythos, borrowing from Stoker’s Dracula, and is perhaps one of the best remembered silent horror movies.

However it was the coming of sound that brought in the Golden Age of horror films. King Kong in 1933 showed what could now be done with the wonders of the motion picture camera. The 30’s and 40’s were indeed a special period with Universal’s mostly excellent series of creature features, as well as countless cheap and cheerful drive-in shockers, keeping fright fans happy. There are several all time classics among the many films Universal produced, Dracula, Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolfman to name but three.

The 50’s was the age of paranoia and horror cinema reflected this – creatures were no longer spawned by the occult but by this new terror called radiation, and the Communist threat came not from Russia, but from outer space.  British studio Hammer did however continue to make money with the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein and other monsters of the golden period. Interestingly Hammer also produced sci-fi/horror hybrids with the Quatermas films being among them.

The 60’s was a far more cynical time in terms of horror – Hitchcock gave us environmental horror with the Birds, Rosemary’s Baby brought the supernatural into the real world. Roger Corman was the king of the low budget horror flick and produced a string of Poe adoptions usually with Vincent Price. British shockers, Hammer were at this time in their most inventive period and 1966’s Plague of the Zombies is a classic. It was during the early part of this decade that the blueprint of the slasher movie was set down with Hitchcock’s Psycho. Another notable film of the decade was Romero’s Night of the Living Dead – a low budget masterpiece that defined cinema zombies.

The 70′ s saw taste go out of the window and demons come back into the room. The Exorcist heralded a slew of demonic films – The Omen being only one in a series of movies based on the concept of the Antichrist. Speilberg took horror to the seaside and invented the event movie with Jaws. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) brought in a new wave of violent horror. And the Italians were reinventing the horror movie, as they had previously with the western, and selling it back to us. At the tale end of the decade John Carpenter gave us the classic  Halloween – surely the best of the modern slasher movies. The decade was also notable for birth of the Stephen King movie with Carrie which was a massive success and ever since movie makers have not been able to leave Stephen King books alone. Indeed Stephen King is now the horror author with the most films made from his work.

The 80’s was a period of technical highs and repetition – many classics came from this period – Evil Dead, The Thing, The Elm Street Series. There were more serial killers at work in the cinema during this period than ever before and horror film sequels became the order of the day. The decade also saw big name directors such as Steven Speilberg and John Landis working in the genre. The 80’s also saw the rise of the home video market and the video nasty scare – that’s something for a future article.

The 90’s – post-modern time, folks.
Scream parodied everything else and then itself. Seven dressed itself up in class so as not to appear like a horror film. Frankenstein and Dracula became respectable in the hands of Francis Ford Coppola and Kenneth Branagh – shit De’niro even took over the old Karloff (Karloff was better, though.) role and Gary Oldman made a cool Dracula but again Christopher Lee was better. Silence of the Lambs dominated the box office and although not marketed as a horror movie it was certainly structured  like one.

The 00’s brought us more remakes, some good, some bad and a fair few classics – The Orphanage was astounding, as was The Ring. And the Blair Witch Project told its story in a minimalist fashion  and scooped the big bucks as a reward. There was also gentle horror with The Six Sense but Saw brought back the gore by the bucket. The decade also saw some inventive and original twists on the zombies on the rampage genre – 28 Days Later took it all seriously and gave us hyped up zombies, while Shaun of the Dead gave us one of the most entertaining brain munching films ever.

And that’s it folks – with more than a million omissions, the entire history of horror cinema. There’s no telling what the future will bring for the genre but one thing is certain – there will always be horror movie….

The essentials – Frankenstein (1931)

Posted in frankenstein, HORROR MOVIES, universal creature features on 05/14/2011 by vincentstark

William Henry Pratt

A name can conjure up an image of a person – Take Troy McClure from The Simpsons for instance. With a name like that he could be nothing other than a square jawed, clean living hero. Similarly Dickens’ Bill Sykes could be  nothing other than a brutal low life.

But what about William Henry Pratt?

That was the name Boris Karloff was brought into the world with – In 1909, Pratt travelled to Canada and began appearing in stage shows throughout the country; and some time later changed his professional name to “Boris Karloff”. Some have theorized that he took the stage name from a character a mad scientists no less,  in the novel The Drums of Jeopardy  called “Boris Karlov”. However, the novel was not published until 1920, at least eight years after Karloff had been using the name on stage and in silent films.

It was James Whale’s 1931 classic, Frankenstein that made Karloff a star, but this movie came at the end of a decade and more of backbreaking stage work, silent movies and menial labour.

We are about to unfold the story of Frankenstein, a man of science who sought to create a man after his own image without reckoning upon God. It is one of the strangest tales ever told. It deals with the two great mysteries of creation – life and death. I think it will thrill you. It may shock you. It might even – horrify you. So if any of you feel that you do not care to subject your nerves to such a strain, now’s your chance to – uh, well, we warned you.

Bela Lugosi was originally slated to play the creature but the actor, then a considerable star after the success of the Dracula movie, wasn’t happy to play a part with no dialogue, and so he quit the production. “I was a star in my own country,” Lugosi told reporters. “I will not be a scarecrow over here.”

Indeed plans for Lugosi in the role were so advanced that advertising posters, feature the actor in the role, had already been released. Take a look at the poster here which shows how different Lugosi’s make up would have been. Lugosi actually went through several make up tests before leaving the production. Of course Lugosi would play the role years later in Frankenstein meets the Wolfman.

Karloff though was brilliant in the role and all these years later it is impossible to think of anyone else bringing the creature to life in the way Karloff had. Bela Lugosi couldn’t do it, nor could Christopher Lee, Robert DeNiro or any of the others who have tried over the years.

In Karloff’s hands the creature created by Frankenstein went in a direction even the film’s director, James Whale couldn’t imagine. It became a sympathetic character – this patchwork creature made from the dead was childlike, innocent as it shuffled upon ill coordinated limbs. Immediately Karloff’s representation of Frankenstein’s monster became firmly lodged in the collective consciousness. Even today artists and film makers use Karloff’s monster as the blueprint for any new creation. For instance think of the TV show, The Munsters – Herman certainly wasn’t based on Christopher Lee’s version of the monster and even sebsequent editions of Mary Shelley’s novel used a Karloff-alike figure on the covers.

So how does the  movie hold up now? Is it watch-able by the post slasher film fan? Well yes – it has a charming quality all of its own but it still has the ability to suck the viewer in so that the story becomes very real, and for the duration of the movie that slightly creaky monochrome world exists within our imagination.

A classic of the genre that no serious fan can do without.

Even now, in the age of hi definition and Blu-Ray – “It’s alive.”