Thursday, October 1, 2009

Classics For Halloween!

Here we are on October 1st. Where did the summer go? Oh that’s right, we didn’t actually HAVE one! Oh well, maybe next year. In the meantime the Fall really kicks off, for me, with Halloween. As I do every year, I open the DVD Vault in the Maglio household, brush away the cobwebs and rummage through my library of over 5000 films which include such classics as:
White Apache

Bela Lugosi Meets the Brooklyn Gorilla

Billy the kid Meets Dracula

And of course the deathless

Count Yorga – Vampire (what else would someone named Count Yorga BE?!)…

After much deliberation and mindless staring off into space I have come up with my theme and list of the Horror films that I will make sure to screen during Halloween week. Perhaps YOU dear reader will decide to watch some of these films as well…

I decided that THIS year I would screen Classic Horror (Pre 1960 Only). Last year was MODERN Horror so it seemed only fair. So here we go. TEN deathless horror films from the halcyon days of yore (or even mine)

1) Phantom Of the Opera – The silent Lon Chaney classic can still chill your bones to this day. The scene where Mary Philbin unmasks Chaney and the subsequent quick cut close-ups to the skull like visage of The Phantom set the audience screaming in 1927 and still shocks every time I see it. If you are a horror fan you owe to yourself to see the great Chaney at the very height of his powers. Some recently reissued prints show some scenes shot with early versions of Technicolor.

2) Nosferatu – 1922 – The first full length adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula was made in violation of copyright but is no less marvelous for that fact. F.W. Murnau , Director and Max Schreck, Star give certainly the creepiest version of Dracula ever committed to film. Unlike the urbane, and good looking Lugosi who would make the role his own in 1931, Nosferatu features a rat faced vampire who is a monster both inside and out. The film’s special effects hold up wonderfully even today. This film DRIPS atmosphere. Watch it with the lights out!

3) Frankenstein/Bride Of Frankenstein (1931/1935) – You have to see these Karloff/ James Whale classics as a single piece. This original was released in the same year as Dracula and Lugosi was actually first cast by the studio to play The Monster as early press kits confirm. Thankfully a relatively unknown actor named Boris Karloff was finally cast and the rest is history. Between Karloff’s performance (greatly enhanced by the makeup genius of Jack pierce), Whale’s fluid directing style and a sequel that surpasses the original as one of the great black comedies in cinema history, this is a double feature you can’t pass up.

4) Dracula – 1931 – Bela Lugosi. This was a straight adaptation of the 1927 Broadway stage play. Lugosi had played the role over 1000 times before he ever portrayed the Count on screen! Bringing a combination of terror and sexual allure to the role, Lugosi wrote the book on cinematic vampires that is still followed today. While more static than the Spanish version, which was filmed concurrently, the 1931 Dracula remains vital simply because Lugosi is in it.

5) Mark of the Vampire – Bela (you know who!) – This was a 1935 remake of the lost Lon Chaney film London After Midnight. It is really more of a detective story and I won’t spoil the ending for you. As always, any excuse to see Lugosi in the cape is an evening well spent. Mark of the Vampire was originally 75 minutes, but was cut back to 60 minutes by MGM. Reportedly this was due to incestuous overtones ,then unacceptable by the standards of the production Code, between Count Mora (played by Lugosi) and his daughter.

6) The Wolfman - Even a man who is pure at heart, and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright. What horror fan does not know that rhyme? But did you know that it has no place in werewolf lore? In fact it was written FOR the film but has since become an accepted part of lycanthropic legend. Chaney Jr. ! Jack pierce makeup! SEE IT!

7) Dracula’s Daughter – 1936. – This film was actually the direct sequel to the 1931 Dracula. EASILY the sexiest of the 1930’s horror films. It is atmospheric and languidly paced. More a seductress than murderer, Gloria Holden’s Vampire has a real taste for the ladies. Universal acknowledged the emphasis on lesbian overtones in the film. Quite ahead of it’s time!

8) The Invisible Man – 1933 – Based VERY loosely on the H.G. Wells Novel, The Invisible Man combines bitingly funny black humor in the James Whale style, with genuine terror. The film is fast paced and engaging from start to finish. The film also introduces American cinema to Claude Raines (Casablanca) who we don’t actually see until the final scene of the film where he is revealed in of of the great process shots of all time. Watch for the wonderful Una O’Connor in a hilarious turn as an hysterical housewife who crosses paths with the Invisible man himself!

9) Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman – 1943 – If one monster is good, Universal reasoned, then TWO monsters must be great! Anyway that was the idea. For the most part the universal “team Up” monster movies were not all that good, but Frankenstein meets the Wolfman was the first and (almost) the best. By 1943 Lugosi’s star had fallen far enough that he was willing to play the Frankenstein monster (a role he had turned down in the original). The final clash between The Wolfman and The Monster WAS very exciting. Lon Chaney Jr. has the distinction of being the ONLY actor to portray Lawrence Talbot (The Wolfman) for Universal and as always brought a sense of pathos to the role.

10) Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein – 1948 – Now THIS was the greatest “Monster team Up” movie ever made. Frankenstein! Dracula! The Wolfman! And even a cameo by The Invisible Man! PLUS Abbott And Costello. This may be the greatest horror comedy ever made! It’s pacing and sheer lunacy rivals and in some cases surpasses Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. The scene where Lou inadvertently sits in The Monster’s lap is a classic. Outtakes pf that scene show that Glenn Strange (The Monster) could not get through the scene without being cracked up by the great Lou Costello’s antics. This film is the last appearance Lugosi would make as Dracula and his last film for Universal.

There you have it! My top ten for Halloween 2010! The BEST thing about these films?

They are ALL available on the cheap on DVD! Run…don’t walk…get some of them!...better yet…buy them ALL. You won’t be sorry!

See you at the movies!

That’s 30!


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