Friday, October 31, 2014

DRACULA (1931)

DAY 12

 Librarian’s Journal
(January 7)
I was in a state of great consternation when I saw the Count again. My fear was he and all that surrounded him would be too slow moving, that his pacing would be too static. These were justifiable fears, but I must say I found him to be largely accessible. Iconic is a word bandied about and I think my time with the Count reinforces that thinking with me as well. Other Counts have come and gone and some have made a lasting impression, but our image is now and will probably always be of this Count.

His castle was a wonder. The swirling stone steps, the giant cobwebs, the candles, the armadillos. The armadillos? I confess I have never seen a castle with armadillos before and I don’t know how they got there, but I hope it is a sight I will never see again. The three women of the night will be filling my dreams for a fortnight, I’m sure. Whether for good or for evil, God only knows.

But the count, the women, the castle and the armadillos were outdone by one. The one who made the greatest impression on me. The one referred to below.

Librarian’s letter to the late Dwight Frye

(January 9)

Dear Mr. Frye,
I understand that you left this plane in 1943, but I hope you can somehow get the message that you are so cool! Love your laugh and your crazy smile and did you know that Alice Cooper wrote a song about you? I love that song Billion Dollar Babies . Do you like Billion Dollar Babies, Dwight? May I call you Dwight? Sorry about that whole typecasting thing and lack of roles after Dracula, but honestly, who would ever remember you if you played a kindly clergyman in some Robert Montgomery melodrama or the renegade brother in a Fred MacMurray/Claudette Colbert historical romance?
But we remember Renfield. Yes, we do!
In conclusion, just let me reiterate: RENFIELD RULES!

Librarian’s Correspondence to the Criterion Collection

(January 8)

Dear Criterion,
Another excellent job with The Dracula Legacy Collection. Restoration was a success. Version with Phillip Glass musical store, though interesting, proved to be too much over the long hall. The commentary with Dark Carnival author David Skal was very good. He incorporated the Bram Stoker novel in the discussion at all the right times. The documentary about the evolution of Dracula from original conception to 1931 film was informative. Other movies included in this collection: Son of Dracula (Sorry, Lon Chaney Jr. is NOT Dracula), Dracula’s Daughter (Missed Lugosi and Frye in this one and who is Gloria Holden again?), House of Dracula (Just throw all the monster in and see if any of them stick) and the Spanish version of Dracula (This was the best of all the extra movies, and is a must for Dracula buffs and not just for the scantily dressed Lupita Tovar..) Good work Criterion. We’ll meet again.

And one more picture of Lupita because
there is no such thing as too many pictures of Lupita Tovar!
(January 10)
From Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, and McCormick M. D. M. R. C. S. L. K. Q. C. P. I ETC, ETC, ET AL, ET AL, vis-à-vis, i.e., in lieu, to wit, semi colon, ipso facto, quote unquote.
Gentleman? (On the penultimate not on the diphonic)
Forgive me, I need to brush up on my Transylvanian, so get a Transylvanian and brush up on him. In relation to the letter, remember to not leave out the body. Which isn’t a given when you’re dealing with Vampires. So, leave the body and mark it fra-jilly. If you can’t spell it, look it up under fragile. Let’s also include two quotes. Which makes four pints. Four pints? Well, that takes care of dinner for the evening. And that reminds me of the time I shot a vampire in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I’ll never know. I was saying something about sending the soil from my homeland to London. But I made two carbon copies of this letter and threw the original away. Then I threw the carbon copies away.

Regards and Happy Halloween!…

Thursday, October 30, 2014


DAY 11
Nosferatu 1922
Nosferatu 1979
Nosferatu, the Vampyre (1979) is how you do a remake! You bring all the elements from the original: the creepy castle of Nosferatu, the ill-fated ship transporting the vampire, and the confrontation between Nosferatu and his beloved at the end of the film. But you add new elements to the story to round the whole thing out. The embellishment on the details of the plague is the chief example, as well as the surprise twist to the ending that those that have seen the original (me at least) may not have been expecting here.

The scariest thing about the original is just the look of Max Schreck's Nosferatu. You may say his exaggerated features make him look too non-human. But I think Schreck's look is the best thing about the original. Klaus Kinski's Nosferatu  in this remake is still scary looking, but his appearance is toned down considerably. His eyebrows are less out of control, his ears less exaggeratedly pointy, but he is still a scary looking vampire. His at least reasonable proximity to a man does give him room to seem closer to the human species than the original. But not by much.

Additional casting notes: I recall on the commentary track for the movie Fitzcarroldo, how director Werner Herzog talked about how difficult Klaus Kinski was to work with. It should tell you about how good Kinski was that Herzog would keep using him in film after film. He is a marvelous and intense Nosferatu and is great to watch on screen. Extra hazard points to director Herzog for being able to rein in this difficult thespian here and elsewhere.

The movie also benefits from two strong actors in the roles of Jonathan and Lucy Harker: Bruno Ganz (later my all-time favorite Hitler in Downfall) and Isabelle Adjani (two-time Academy Award nominee.) 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


DAY 10

Pontypool is actually not in the 1001 book, but I had heard some good things about it and thought I might be give it a go.

The plot concerns a radio station featuring a radio shock jock named Mazzie and his station manager who slowly gets word of odd events in their town that leads them to eventually realize that their community is being overrun by strange and monstrous forces.

The big difference in this film and other zombie films I have seen (I admit I haven't seen too many of this genre) is that it relies heavily on dialogue and suspense as supposed to shock value. Admittedly, there are a couple of  scenes of traditional horror like the engineers descent into the undead in the picture above, but much is left up to the viewers imagination.

But is this film actually an allegory on how the words that spew from these radio shock jocks infects its listeners and causes them to be zombies at best or angry and violent at worst? Maybe Ted Nugent should have played the lead.

Additional casting notes: I didn't really mean that about casting Ted Nugent because Stephen McHattie does such a grand job in this role. McHattie has seemingly been around forever and ads a grizzled deep-throated credibility to the role of Mazzie. I was wondering what I remember McHattie the most in. He's played small parts in big films like 300 and Watchmen, TV shows like Seinfeld and movies like Pterodactyl Woman from Beverly Hills, a movie that I somehow missed. For some reason, I also remember him in an uninspired TV remake of Rosemary's Baby from the 70's called Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014



I still have a great deal of affection for those Universal horror movies from the 1930's. They can be a bit stiff and clumsy and these old films seems ready to snap, crackle and pop off the screen at times! But that's part of their appeal. This loose adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe story features Bela Lugosi as Dr. Peter Verdegast (a great name) who through a series of circumstances ends up at the creepy home of his former colleague and adversary Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff! and another great character name). He  arrives there with a couple he met at on the coach on the way to see Poelzig. The movie is creepy at times and silly at other times, but really, the main reason to see the movie is Bela and Boris.

Additional casting notes: Bela Lugosi hit big with Dracula in 1931 and Karloff hit it big with Frankenstein the same year. It was only natural that Universal would quickly try to team the two of them up. The Black Cat was the first of eight films they made together. 

Lugosi can go over the top at times. It's really part of his charm, to be honest. His screaming at the sight of a black cat is a little much for me. But the scene where he gets emotional over his departed wife is pretty touching. Karloff does sinister well. He exudes that old world charm, but you always suspect him of having bodies in the basement. In this film, that is literally true! It is great to see them together and I even enjoy the scenes of them playing chess.

The Tim Burton movie Ed Wood shows Bela at the end of his life as a drug addict who can only appear in movies with the worst filmmaker in the world (Ed Wood Jr., not Tim Burton). He is shown as being hopelessly jealous of Karloff and out of touch with reality, but the film's closing crawl points out that Bela's memorabilia far outsells Karloff memorabilia.

But in the Bela vs. Boris debate, I'm definitely a Karloff guy. So many good horror roles (Tower of London, The Body Snatcher, The Bride of Frankenstein) over the years and his final role in the 1968 film Targets, where he essentially plays himself is a favorite of mine. By all accounts a very proper English gentleman (real name Henry Pratt), who loved the game of cricket and a good cup of English tea, but when cameras rolled, the proper Mr. Pratt became Boris Karloff, the greatest horror star of his time.

Monday, October 27, 2014



I really wasn't planning to watch two Dario Argento movies in the same week, (Suspiria being the other) but that's the way the tables often turn going through this list at times. This film does have a serial on the lose and contains its share of violence, but it is primarily a police procedural with a fish out of water American caught in the middle of a murder investigation and gets too heavily involved in trying to help solve it. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is a pretty good thriller at that and doesn't play its plot hands too quickly.

Additional casting notes: It was great to see Tony Musante pop up as the lead in this movie. I remember Tony mostly from his one season as Toma, the master of disguise cop TV show from the early 70's. Tony left Toma after one season and the show was changed into Baretta and became an even bigger hit.

It's was also great to see  leading lady Suzy Kendall (To Sir, With Love) in anything. Truly one of the great beauties of the 60's. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014



There's this videotape that if people watch it and a nearby phone rings afterward, they die within a week. A reporter investigating this story gets a copy of the tape and watches it and realizes she is probably doomed.

The movie has some good scares (always accentuated by scary music) but it strikes me as more of a thriller than a horror story in that the reporter and her ex-husband painstakingly piece together clues attempting to figure out what the video means in the hope of stopping the curse.

SPOILER ALERT: The ending conclusion the reporter comes to is the way to break the curse is someone who sees the original video has to copy the tape and make someone else watch it who then in turn has to do the same to someone else and so on and so on. But even though her ex-husband didn't make a copy and show it to someone else and ended up dying, I don't see the logic of why she came to that particular conclusion. Perhaps someone else can enlighten me.

Additional casting notes:
I was just thinking how Ringu was remade a few years later as The Ring, starring Naomi Watts. Yesterday's post for Funny Games was also a film that was remade in the U.S. as a film starring Naomi Watts. And wasn't Naomi Watts the star of the King Kong remake from a few years ago? Well, she isn't known as The Queen of the Remakes without good reason.

There must be other 1001 movies that cry out for a remake starring Naomi Watts.
Here's a quick top ten of "Potential 1001 Movie horror remakes that could star Naomi Watts!"

Number 10. As the mother in a remake of The Exorcist.
9. Clearly as Marion Crane in yet another Psycho remake.
8. Is Roman Polanski up for a remake of Repulsion with Naomi?
7. The female lead in yet another version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
6. Isn't it time for another remake of The Fly? Can't you hear Naomi saying "Be afraid, be very afraid?"
5.Perhaps as the plotting circus performer Cleopatra in a remake of Tod Browning's Freaks?
4. A remake of Hitchcock's The Birds? Only if Naomi plays the Tippi Hedren role, that is! 
3. Maybe Polanski is up for a remake of Rosemary's Baby with Naomi as the mother?
2. Don't Look Now remake with Keifer Sutherland and Naomi Watts. Think about it.
and number 1....Naomi Watts as THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN!

Naomi Watts in The Ring (2002),
 a remake of  the 1001 movie entry The Ring (1998)
Naomi Watts in Funny Games (2007),
 a remake of  the 1001 movie entry Funny Games (1997)
Naomi Watts in King Kong (2004),
 a remake of  the 1001 movie entry King Kong (1933)

Saturday, October 25, 2014



Plot: A family is terrorized by two serial killers at their lakehouse. To add insult to injury, the lead killer has the nerve to make occasional comments to the audience.

Favorite part: When the killers commit their first murder, the scene with the family comes to a virtual standstill. It is most dramatically effective. I also like the contrast to the smooth classical music beginnings and the heavy metal music closing credits.

Least favorite part: When the killer reverses the film with a remote control to change an action in the film he doesn't like. Come on! That isn't fair!

Scariest part: When the golf ball drops, signifying the return of the assailants and the viewer losses all hope.

Best Screaming: The guttural groans of a grieving father.

Additional casting notes: Ulrich Muhe and Susanne Lothar add a great deal to the demanding role of the terrorized couple. Muhe was later cast in the lead role in the Oscar winning film The Lives of Others. Lothar also starred in Funny Games director Michael Haneke's later film The Piano Teacher. Muhe and Lothar were married in real life.

Friday, October 24, 2014


 DAY 5

Plot: .It's the Dracula story. You mean you don't know it?

Favorite part: I always like many of the little touches that Francis Coppola and his crew put together for his films, particularly period pieces. Just the meeting between Dracula and Mina at the Cinemateche is a nicely disconcerting scene.

Least favorite part: .I have nothing against this adaptation. I think it's a fine adaptation of the book. And I've read the book a couple of times. But I've seen so many Dracula movies now! There's the Bela Lugosi Dracula, there's two different versions of Nosferatu, there's The Horror of Dracula and there's this version by Francis Coppola. And these are all entries in at least one edition of the 1001 book! This doesn't take into account the many other versions of Dracula and it's sequels and TV versions and musical and ballet Dracula's, etc. etc...I'm just a little Draculed out.

Scariest part: The stake through the heart and decapitation of Lucy.

Best screaming: I like Renfield's (Tom Waits) screeching pleas from behind bars about wanting to serve his master. But I was always partial to Renfield.

Additional casting notes: The actor who seemed to get the most raspberries for this film was Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker. I admit, he doesn't exactly steal the movie. But I do think Winona Ryder as Mina and Anthony Hopkins as a very animated Van Helsing are fine. And I've liked Richard E. Grant (Seward) in everything I've seen him in. And, yes, Gary Oldman's Dracula seems to be imitating Lugosi in the opening scene (which I liked) but he quickly makes the character his own.

Thursday, October 23, 2014



Plot: A young American woman named Suzy arrives at Swiss dance academy only to find evil lurking around every ballet bar.

Best screaming: The one's from the young lady during the opening scene who had just ran away from the academy only to be attacked at a friend's house. The screams from Suzy's friend Sarah when she falls on the razor wire are pretty good, too.

Scariest part: When Suzy's friend Sarah (above) gets trapped on some razor wire before she is to be killed. Of course, this may have something to do with my phobia about being trapped on razor wire.

Least favorite part: What is going on in this movie? One may rightly ask this question at about the halfway point. No worries. Suspiria supplies this information to the main character in the guise of a rather conveniently placed psychiatrist and professor, who know all about the history of the academy and tell it all to Suzy. Good to know these things, but wish they could have been conveyed to the audience in a less obvious manner.

Favorite part: When things start percolating in the academy at the end and we see all the evil come to the surface, it's a nice payoff for an at times confusing plotline. But maybe we should be confused and unsure to relate more to the heroine's plight, eh?

Additional casting notes: I had always liked Jessica Harper (above) in several films from the 70's and 80's such as Inserts, Stardust Memories, Love and DeathPennies From Heaven and My Favorite Year. I had no idea that a cult Italian horror film may be her best known role!

And in addition, it's interesting to see Joan Bennett playing a similar matronly role in this film that she played for years on my favorite cult soap opera Dark Shadows during the 60's.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014



Plot: Graduate student explores urban legend about a lethal figure named Candyman who returns to commit mayhem whenever you say his name five times in a mirror.

Favorite part: When Helen the graduate student abruptly turns from the film's investigator to the film's accused.

Least favorite part: I wish the Candyman character enunciated a little better. Had trouble making out some of his dialogue. I'm sure it was scary though!

Scariest part: Whenever Candyman appears to commit mayhem, it's usually pretty quick and frightening.

Best Screaming: Grad student accused of murder screams that Candyman is under the bed!

Additional casting note: I always liked Candyman leading lady Virginia Madsen, most specifically as the sexy expert on all things wine in Sideways. I didn't realize that an even more noted role for her was the starring role of this horror flick. And she always looks great.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014



Plot: Five college students go to a remote cabin only to be terrorized by forces out of their control...but in control by something totally unexpected.

Favorite part: When all hell breaks loose in the labyrinth of horrors underneath the cabin. Also, when Josh from The West Wing (above right) finally gets his wish and sees a merman.

Least favorite part: The story set up with the college students was necessary, but still a trifle slow.

Scariest part: When we learn that a well armed and trained SWAT team is no match for a motivated group of unleashed monsters.

Best screaming: The screams when the zombie redneck torture family first attack are pretty good. But the first scream is usually the best in these films.

Additional casting note: I didn't even recognize that the guy who played one of the students went on to later play Thor until after I watched the whole movie. I guess a lot of people don't recognize me either when I'm not wearing my Thor outfit.

Monday, October 20, 2014


DAY 1 

Plot: Three college students go out in the woods to film a documentary about the legendary Blair Witch. It does not go as planned.

Favorite part: Little tricks of the film, such as the leaving behind of cairns or faraway noises by the unseen antagonists add much to the tension of the film. (By the way, is this film a real documentary or not?)

Least favorite part: I'm not trying to be prudish here, but our travelers use of four letter words throughout their filmmaking journey got to be distracting after awhile. Save the cursin' for when the witch is chasin' ya!

Scariest part: The end, when we see one of the characters performing a ritual that was subtly alluded to during the course of the film.

Best screaming: At the end of the film, we hear the remaining survivor screeching for her companion, Mike! Wait! Mike!! Mike!!! Mike!!!! Mike!!!!

Additional note: The critical rating on this movie is thirty percent higher than the fan rating on the rotten tomatoes website. Perhaps what seemed so different and unique at one time can start to seem old hat to viewers if it gets imitated enough.