Sunday, October 7, 2012
F This Movie! - Universal Monsters
Don't forget to take part in the Scary Movie Challenge III!!
Download this episode here. (31.6 MB)
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Also discussed this episode: Frankenweenie, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Eaten Alive
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I love the Universal horror films. To be sure, there's an element of nostalgia there. I still remember sitting down Sunday afternoon for our local "creature feature" on television. It always started with the instrumental opening for Pink Floyd's "Time" from Dark Side of the Moon, set against a series of paintings of weird monsters and aliens. To this day, I can't hear that song without thinking of scary movies.ReplyDelete
Nostaliga aside, I think the main reason I keep coming back to these movies is the atmosphere. Universal horror films have an aesthetic all their own - a black-and-white world of overcast skies, windswept steets, and fog-shrouded forests. I can't wait to immerse myself in that world. It's a little like sitting at your grandfather's feet by a roaring fire, late at night with a storm outside. "Tell me a story, grandpa." And what stories! Call me crazy, but Shakespeare's got nothing on Frankenstein for addressing the human condition.
I think what attracted me to the Universal Monsters first was that the stories took place in far away lands. The idea that there were places outside of my hometown where monsters were real, the moonlight was full, wolves howled in the distance, etc. was thrilling.ReplyDelete
Also, when I was a child I had a 3D View Master (remember those?) and I had all the Monsters in 3D Kaleidoscope displays and that was amazing.
One last thing, Van Helsing's comment at the end of the stage show of "Dracula" always reminded me of the ending tag of Joe Dante's "Gremlins", which makes sense since Dante himself is such a huge fan of the Universal Monsters.
I bought them four times so far..vhs, initial dvds (still have them because of the cover art) and the legacy sets and the anniversary sets...but if i could afford to upgrade to blueray i would buy them AGAIN. (never did buy laserdiscs..i saw them as a backward technology since they were larger in size. i figured i'd wait until something better came out)ReplyDelete
All right, all right! You wore me down. I just pumped $55 into the British economy. Even with the pip-pips and pond crossing, I should still have my Blu-ray set in plenty of time to go through these movies (many for the first time, I'm ashamed to admit) before the end of Scary Movie Month.ReplyDelete
Let's you and me start a side podcast covering British movies. We'll call it "Pip-pips and Pond Crossing."Delete
You've made a great investment.
PPAPC episode ideas:Delete
- Top 5 Birds Wot Gone Up The Ol' Apples 'n' Pears
- Snatch: a 10-part retrospective
- Mr. Bean/Benny Hill "footie" deathmatch
Balderdash and tommyrot, I say!Delete
I came to the Universal Monsters very late, much later than I should have. I used to watch Hammer Monster movies when I was a kid, because the local TV channel that showed horror on Saturday afternoons had an aversion to Black & White.ReplyDelete
When I finally did get to see them, I found them effective and interesting. I think they can still work a nerve, just a different nerve than they once did.
After all, I saw Dracula and Frankenstein after I'd seen Interview With the Vampire and Young Frankenstein, which meant I came in prepared to have sympathy for the monsters. I've been seeing things from the monster's point of view so long that I was thinking I'd find it quaint and silly to look at things from the point of view of the humans. Not only that, but I was fully ready for them to seem campy and silly.
What surprised me was how they don't come off as campy, they're not silly, they still work. I was invested in the people I was supposed to be worried about. I was really pleased to find that these worked so long after their time was supposed to have passed.
My introduction into Horror was in the silver age with Freddy and Jason, and up until recently I had never journeyed further back than them in my horror movie viewings. Recently I have been going back to some 70s horror films, but Im already noticing a reduction in the impact they are having on me.ReplyDelete
After about a year of hearing JB talk about Bride of Frankenstein I went and watched it and was unfortunatly unimpressed. A lot of it felt like a pantomime with very little of what would I categorise as horror (definition?).
I put the blame for this squarely on my shoulders though. I dont think I "get" this era in a Horror sense. I respect it and appreciate it from a historical sense, but I dont get the emersion into another world that i get from modern films (very much like how I respond to Golden age comics).
While you spoke about the Universal Monster movies being your gateway into movie love and horror films, im thinking that for me they may be more the end goal. Once I get a more fully rounded understanding of movie making and movie history then I will be able to view these movies in a better context.....I think.
At the end of the day I just feel like I am missing out on something very special and I hope to rectify it soon.
Educate Me Oh Masters!
Also, regarding the Silver Age horror icons:ReplyDelete
JB, which do you prefer, Pinhead or Chucky?
Pinhead. Definitely Pinhead.Delete
Very cool. I figured as much.Delete
BTW, congrats on the new remixed version of the intro tune for 'Scary Movie Month.' I guess that makes 'Scary Movie Month' officially a pretty big deal now. Also, with the movies talked about in this podcast, you've broken your previous oldest movie talked about in a podcast (Ed Woods' "Plan 9 from Outer Space" from 1959) by 28 years. Hooray! :-)ReplyDelete
I wish I could share on your enthusiasm for the Universal monsters but to me they're perfectly serviceable but not Earth-shattering movies that I saw as a kid and a handful of times as a grown-up but for which I have very little fondness or interest in seeing them (except when TCM shows them on a themed marathon or something). I feel for them like you guys feel for "Citizen Kane" (which I love and watch frequently): the 'homework' assignment movie to prove my film lover credentials. It's also a genre for which, frankly, I just prefer newer stuff (not current movies but the new wave of horror that followed the '31-mid-50's first wave) or other genres from the same era like war movies, comedies and/or dramas. Unless its expressionistic European stuff horror before the mid-50's seems pretty dull to me.
Maybe it's because I seldom saw them on TV at an impressionable age (before 16) when I was more into reading so I read many of them as written stories that I enjoyed instead of (or better than) the movie counterparts. To this date, as good as the movie is, I prefer to read Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" book (i.e. collection of back-and-forth letters) than watch Whale's movies. The completist in me will get the Blu-ray Box eventually (when it's cheap) but for now I'm just glad it exists for all other classic monsters lovers in the world to get their fix. And who knows, when I eventually do get around seeing them (many for the first time in years) I may have to eat my words and issue a big fat 'mea culpa.'
One more thing. Forgot my now-mandatory-but-timely-now push for JB, Patrick and anybody that likes "Frankenstein" to seek out Victor Erice's "THE SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE" (1973) on Criterion DVD and or Criterion's Hulu.com channel. If the love I hear for these Universal monsters is true (and it has to be) then seeing this quaint Spanish movie in which "Frankenstein" plays a big role (despite not being a horror movie or about "Frankenstein" at all) will absolutely be worth your time. I couldn't recommend it higher, which might actually be the problem. :-(Delete
I promise you, it is on my list.Delete
Cool, I'll shut up about it now. :-)Delete
The special Scary Movie Month remix of the FTM! theme is courtesy of Smokey & Casper, who also did our regular theme song. It's great, right? There's a link to his site at the bottom of our home page for all of you who want to check out more stuff.Delete
That's an interesting, quiet and effective movie, J.M.Delete
Bela Lugosi is my all time favorite actor, and not ironically. Writer Steve Haberman referred to him as the most intense movie star of all time, a sentiment I agree with it.ReplyDelete
I never saw his style of acting as being hammy, as many do, but as portraying great STRENGTH. If you think that's easy to do, just try it the next time you're haggling with your car mechanic.
As for the Universal Monster films, I have a very pure love for them that one can only have for the films they grew up on. No one else has to love them, and I will rationally listen to any argument against any one of them, but there could never be a dent put in my affection.
Great podcast, guys. Like Erich, I'm now forced to drop money that I shouldn't on this set. Why are you doing this to me? Do you not want my children to eat?ReplyDelete
I am sure I speak for Patrick as well when I say that I want your children to feast on their Father's happiness (and his brain).Delete
I highly recommend ordering the set from Amazon.co.uk. No idea how quickly it will arrive, but it was a great price AND I got to feel like I was buying something from an alternate dimension, where instead of "Shipping Soon" they say "Dispatching Soon." It's so WEIRD!Delete
I should be getting my set from Jolly Old England today - I'll start with "Dracula" so I can listen to the rest of the podcast!Delete
Amazon.co.uk has some amazing deals, especially on blu-ray box sets (Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, Matrix, Bourne, Oceans and Spider-Man sets are like $20 shipped at the moment) - I find their shipping reasonably fast as well - less than 10 business days always, usually 5-7. I am in Canada though, so they might give special treatment to Commonwealthers.
I've gotten some insane blu-ray deals in the last couple of years from Amazon.co.uk. I got the Batman box set a few years ago (the Burton versions, 4 movies) for about 30 bucks new, and I got the first 4 Fast and Furious movies in a box set for about 15. I mean, what's the deal? The best part is, each box set came with a tin of harrogate toffee, repressed emotions and a strong sense of keepin' calm and carryin' on.Delete
I ordered the Alfred Hitchcock: Masterpiece Collection on blu-ray a couple of weeks ago for around $100 (including shipping) on Amazon UK. It's awesome.Delete
Got my email this morning that my order has "been dispatched." That either means it's on the way, or they buried it in a shallow grave by the side of the Thames. You never can tell with the British.Delete
Sounds like you got the "deluxe" package, Heath. I didn't have enough scratch for the toffee. Mine only comes with a Short, Sharp Shock.
(Apropos of absolutely nothing, next door to Horrorbles in Berwyn is one of my favorite restaurants, Autre Monde, which is reopening this Saturday after a fire a few months ago.)ReplyDelete
OMG, this was awesome. So awesome that I unabashedly use teenager text abbreviations. ROFL, WTF.ReplyDelete
I had passed on the Universal Monsters blu-ray set when it came out because I didn't feel like I could afford it and because I have the Legacy sets, which is a lot better than nothing. Well, Patrick's news of the Amazon UK site was a game changer, and those blu-rays are on their way. How did you hear about that? I got it for 30 pounds, 55 dollars shipped. That's incredible. I mean, what's the deal there? That's amazing. Quick question, I'll be rewatching those movies when that set comes. Can I do another seven word review if I watch the movie twice?
As for this episode itself, it was AWESOME. I knew JB was a big Universal guy, but I didn't know Patrick was, and it was good to hear about that. Regarding the loss of that kind of horror, it is sad that it does seem to be going away, along with just about everything else that I love. It makes me hopeful that Woman In Black was a success, because it means that at least some people still care about creepy atmosphere and not just torture porn horror. But there's also hope because I know that lots of people my age (many of them on this site) have discovered Universal Horror and are showing it to their children. We watched Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, and Wolf Man as a family last week, and our six year old immediately wanted to watch each one of them again. I don't know that I'd say she finds them scary, but I can tell that there is something attractive about it to her, which is the same thing that attracts me to it. There is a timelessness to the stories. They're classic in every way. They're iconic. They've created a huge portion of our pop culture. As long as the torch is still being passed, there is hope for future generations of classic monster lovers.
This was such a fun episode, and it was great to hear JB talking about how much he loved these movies, Patrick sharing his history with them, and the news of the blu-rays. You guys should get some sort of commission from Universal, especially JB, who sold those special features like a water to a man dying of thirst.
This is a great month.
I'm one of the F-Heads watching these films for the first time for Scary Movie Month. I'm going pretty slow because I want to watch them with my fiancee and she's only up for 1 or 2 each weekend. I've just been watching the Legacy DVDs from the library but this podcast has gotten me totally excited for the Blu-rays. With JB's anecdote of having purchased the movies so many times previously it suddenly seemed like a pretty sweet deal to buy the definitive Blu-ray editions for a first viewing.ReplyDelete
I do feel a little left out though because seeing these films for the first time as an adult I know I will never be a "Monster Kid".
You can be a Monster Kid AT HEART.Delete
What I mean is that I think these films need to get to you by a certain age to take their hold. I can enjoy them and admire them for their place in cinematic history but I don't know that they'll ever resonate for me the way they do someone who grew up with them.Delete
I just watched most of these movies for the first time last year, and I'm in my thirties, yet still feel a deep resonance and connection with them. I'm sure it's not quite the same as a movie that I grew up adoring, but these movies, like the Ark of the Covenant, ARE history. I get the same feeling when I watch Casablanca and The Wizard of Oz: like I'm watching magic happen. But then again, maybe all this is putting too much pressure on them, and you may find you aren't enjoying them as much as if you went in with no baggage. On second thought, these movies suck! I mean, they're okay, I guess...Delete
Wait...as a female I'm NOT supposed to want movie posters on my walls?ReplyDelete
So that's what I've been doing wrong.
What about my Robot collection? Can that stay? :-p
Unfortunately, as someone else commented, I was not introduced to these movies as a young person and, having now watched Dracula and Frankenstein, I can say for certain that they will never produce in me quite the same love that you two have for them, BUT I am happy to report that I am the new, modern viewer of these movies that you were hoping for. I can totally recognize how these were groundbreaking achievements in film-making that laid the foundations for horror as we now know it and I'm enjoying them very much (so far) for what they are - can't wait to watch them all and already looking forward to rewatching the two I have (I think it's difficult to fully appreciate a CLASSIC the first time as you go in with so many expectations). I won't give a full review of them - it's all been said - but yeah, really enjoyed them both. At this point I'm giving the edge to Frankenstein - such a great performance by Karloff and the (SPOILER) drowning of the little girl still felt shocking - I can only imagine how audiences of the 1930s must have reacted.ReplyDelete
I can't say I'll ever be the kind of Universal Monster fan that you guys are, but I am a fan nonetheless - great podcast!
It sounds like you're not alone, Sol -- a couple people have said they watched the movies and understood why they're good, but didn't really fall in love with them. I think that's all we can ask: the people give them a chance, approach them with an open mind and at least try to place them in the proper context. It sounds like you did all that. And it's great to have seen them, because my opinion has always been that it's always better to see stuff than to not see stuff.ReplyDelete
All of the comments have been great. It's so cool to read everyone reacting to these for the first time.
I just wouldn't throw around the "love" word quite yet - I do actually like what I've seen so far a lot, but without that childhood connection it's hard to say how deep it'll go. Like, Jaws holds a special place in my heart - I've loved it since before I even started school - I can see how a young person watching it today would really like it but probably never feel that DEEP affection for it that (and I'm talking completely out of my ass here but it has some truthiness to it) might only come when you're injecting it into your brain while it's still developing.Delete
What I'm really looking forward to is being able to introduce these to my kids when they're young - if I can't be a Monster Kid, I can at least be a Monster Dad!
A local indie theater in Gotham is showing "Creature from the Black Lagoon - in 3D!" for a week today via digital projection (propably using the same 3D effect/master they used for the Blu-ray; Universal is sponsoring this theatrical revival). I love 3D and haven't seen this one yet, so, yay?!? :-)ReplyDelete
Two other questions about the set that I can't find elsewhere...ReplyDelete
Does the Dracula disc include the alternate Philip Glass soundtrack?
And did they trash the commentary track by the writer of "Dracula: Dead and Loving It" who thinks the Spanish version is crap (I hope)?
Regarding the universal appeal of these movies:ReplyDelete
I'm a relatively young person who loves not only the Universal films, but also a great deal of older "dated" movies as well, which is an important lens through which to view my opinion. I love movies. There.
So, when for the past two years I went to the Massacre and the Music Box of Horrors this year, I became distraught. I stress because everyone thinks every damn thing is funny. I'm talking about The Wolf Man, I'm talking about The Invisible Man. In a certain sense, I get it--I'll occasionally see some facial expression or something that will make me chuckle--but I hardly find these films to be comedies, and this year was the worst. Movies like Squirm are meant to be over the top (so says Jeff Lieberman), but up until about 4 am it seemed as though each film had a laugh track--Universal, MGM, even the Fulci film. What I don't understand is why you would pay good money to sit for that long and make fun?
Perhaps the appeal of these movies to my generation is to sit on top of the hill of the 21st century and laugh at how everything that hasn't made it to the top is inferior. I am pretty sure that your cynical perspectives are the more appropriate ones, though perhaps for the wrong reasons. I recently saw TCM's screening of The Birds and found that the audience had a similar reaction--everything's so damn funny--and it worries me about the preservation of classic films, but also about the quality of films as we move forward. Am I wrong? Should a twenty-one year old be more optimistic? I wish I were.
I hear you bro. I went to see a couple of Douglas Sirk movies at a local NYC theater a few months back, and half the crowd obviously came to laugh at every got damn thing in "Magnificent Obsession" and "Written on the Wind" (although the latter eventualy won them over, or they just got sick of laughing). And this is NYC, home of (allegedly) the most passionate and discriminating movie fans in the States.Delete
Yet those of us that came to watch these Sirk movies and appreciate them for what they are (melodramas pitched to a specific type of audience in the 1950's) had to put up with a soundtrack. The more attended these theatrical retrospectives of old movies are the more likely is that jokers will be present; sparcely or poorly-attended screenings of old movies I've been to don't seem as afflicted by laughter because the few people that showed up seemed to be there for the respect of the theatrical movie experience instead of the shared 'group viewing' thingie.
I think though that it's the 'theater with a crowd' effect that causes some of these movies to come across funnier in a theater. At home, where the solitary viewing experience actually enhances one's ability to get involved into old movies for what they are/were, old movies play and rule supreme. Ironic, given that at one time these old movies were enjoyed by everyone the same.
And please, don't blame "Mystery Science Theater 3000" or its riffing style of comedy for bringing down the standards of viewing old movies theatrically. The show and its writers/performers respected good movies and never targeted or made it a mission objective to make fun of a movie for the hell of it (with a couple of notable misfires like Rifftrax's commentary track for "Casablanca"). They cherry-picked movies specifically tailored to be mocked because they were bad or risable on their own ("Bride of the Monster," "Manos," "Space Mutiny," etc.) and their writing/riffing enhanced how ridiculous an already-bad movie was. The assholes that show up to laugh at every movie made before 1999 screened theatrically are just jerks with no manners. Take it from a diehard MiSTie since 1995: "MST3K" loves and respects good movies, and most "MST3K" fans do as well. That idiots use the show's style of comedy to mock what shouldn't be (i.e. everything that's not "new") is a society thing, not an "MST3K" thing.
Yes, Patrick and I commented on this in our podcast on last year's massacre, and I actually wrote a "Shitting on the Classics" column about the Music Box's TCM screening of The Birds. It's a depressing phenomenon, Michael.Delete
So, who's going to the Phatom Events double feature of "Frankenstein" and "Bride of Frankenstein" tomorrow (Wed. Oct. 24th) at 7PM ET? I wasn't because I thought it conflicted with Rifftrax's live concert/riffing of "Birdemic," but I found out that's on Thursday at 8PM. No conflict, so I'm going to both. :-)ReplyDelete
I attended the matinee and evening screening of both films at my local AMC in Arlington, Tx.....only about 15 folks at the matinee, and 20-25 at the evening show. Audience at matinee was adults, many women...few couples. Evening had couples, several families, and few singles. All were very quiet and respectful to the films, I was the only one to applaud after the end credits had run. Knowing this may be my only chance to see these films on the big screen, I attended both....my wife attended the matinee with me. I am 60, and grew up watching these on tv, with my Dad, who would tell me what it was like seeing them in a theater, like he had done. I love these films, and even as a child, wanted to know more about the actors, directors, make up, etc.ReplyDelete
Disappointing that the turnout wasn't bigger, but it's great that you got the chance to see the movies on the big screen. Thanks for sharing your story!Delete
Help, Patrick! This won't download!ReplyDelete
Hmmm. Try now!Delete
You're the best...AROUND!Delete