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Monsters on Monday

My brain does not feel up to any Middle-aged Musings nor yet Mental Meanderings, so I went to Facebook and looked around for some pictures to share.  Eventually I found my way to a page I like called Famous Monsters of Filmland.  Who doesn’t like monsters?  Oh, I know there are some that don’t, but I just imagine they were put off by today’s headline.  I amused myself my downloading a few classics.

“I bid you welcome.”

One of the most debonair of monsters is Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula.  I’m thinking Dracula reached his height point of sexiness with Frank Langella in the 1970’s, but I never saw that movie.  I’m just going by what I heard.

The new spokesmodel for Norelco?

We go from sexy to shaggy with the Wolfman.  I don’t know what movie or actor this is (I suppose real bloggers research these things and here we come to the ugly truth about me), but I liked him.

Ranking high in the annals of bad first dates…

I can’t help by notice there is a dearth of good female monsters.  The Bride of Frankenstein, despite being the title character, had an embarrassingly small part in a sequel.  I find that a little sad, especially given that she was portrayed by the wonderful Elsa Lanchester.

Oh, Julie, your date is here!

And here is the Creature of the Black Lagoon.  I think his body is scarier than his face, but that is one scary body.  Official Julie Adams (who played the object of the Creature’s desire) is another page I like on Facebook.  She seems to be a very gracious, classy lady.

The scariest one!

I think I have used this photo before, but I wanted to close with Nosferatu, which gets my vote for the scariest movie ever.  And I see I am approaching 300 words.  I don’t think that is bad for a brain-dead Monday.  I hope to see you all on Tired Tuesday.


Halloween Pictures on Tired Tuesday

My hair is actually a little shorter than this.

This is my new profile picture on Facebook.  I open today’s Tired Tuesday post with it, because, what a surprise:  I got nuthin’ else.  Of course I like having the Bride of Frankenstein as my profile pic, I’ve had it before, but I really liked this one for the saying.  I like to embrace my own imperfections.  They are what make me, me.

I don’t suppose it is October yet.

This picture has nothing to do with the preceding paragraph, but it is Halloween-ish and I have not used it before.  Also, it is Bela Lugosi.  There could be no possible objection.

My hair is more grey than this kid’s.

This must be a picture Steven downloaded at some point.  He finds the coolest stuff.  This is an appropriate picture to include here, because as soon as I hit “Publish,” I am going upstairs to read in bed before going to sleep.  I am actually not reading a ghost story.  I am quite absorbed in a biography of John Barrymore.  I am a huge fan of his brother, Lionel, and I also admire their sister, Ethel.   However, John was pretty cool too.  The next time I run in place on the mini-tramp, I may watch the silent movie, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” starring John.

At last I am over 200 words.  I’ll call that respectable for a Tired Tuesday.  I hope to see you all on Wuss-out Wednesday.


A Mod Vampire?

Here, at long last, is the post I began some time ago about the cheesy horror movie I saw.  Full disclosure:  some people do not consider Hammer Studios films to be cheesy, but I have made bold to so categorize it for the purposes of this blog post.

Spoiler Alert!  I am probably going to give away most of the salient plot points of Dracula A.D. 1972, so if you have not seen it and like to be surprised at developments, read no further.  Also, if you have seen the movie and liked it, you also might like to read no further, because I not only did not like it, I did not pay a great deal of attention to it, so my write-up is likely to annoy you.

I DVR’d Dracula A.D. 1972 from TCM some time ago and finally got around to watching it on my recent birthday.  I had hopes of getting a blog post out of it, but, well, we’ll see.

I could tell by the title that the movie takes place in what were then modern times (I guess during the ’70s it would have been Mod Times, but that’s neither here nor there), not the pseudo past we often see in horror movies, which usually means the ladies wear long dresses and everybody gets around in horse and carriage.  I like the pseudo past better for a cheesy horror movie.  Perhaps I’ll try to analyze why one of these Lame Post Fridays.

One might ask, “Well, why did you DVR it if you thought you weren’t going to like it?”  That is the flip side of the yahoos that say, “How do you know you won’t like it when you haven’t seen it?” as if I have infinite time to watch every movie ever made! I gave this movie a chance because (1) Hammer Studios, (2) Peter Cushing AND Christopher Lee, (3) they just don’t show that many horror movies I think I am going to like.

I did not completely dislike this one.  I may even watch it again to clear up my confusion on the parts I missed.  In the meantime, I’ll write about what I remember.

The movie opens, as many of these movies do, with a kind of a prologue, showing something that happened long before the events of the movie proper take place.  We see Peter Cushing (Van Helsing) finish off Christopher Lee (Dracula), who almost immediately crumbles into dust or, I guess, ashes. Then we see a henchman-looking guy making off with a vial full of ashes.

I talked about this when I wrote about Dracula Prince of Darkness.  There is no way that guy got all the ashes!  When he reconstitutes that vampire, it is going to be missing something.  In Prince of Darkness it was the power of speech (oh yeah, there was a story that Lee refused to say any of the lines because the dialogue was so badly written.  I like my explanation better).  And so I repeat myself.

Back in “modern” times, the horror action grinds to a complete halt with a wild party scene that goes on and on.  Its purpose, I suppose, it to introduce the group of young people who will fall afoul of Dracula.  A worthy purpose, a very dull scene.  I learned that the kids are wild and their leader is a thoroughgoing jerkface.  If there were any subtleties or further character traits, I missed them.

After fleeing the police (long story), the kids repair to the pub in search of further thrills.  Jerkface proposes a Black Mass.  The kids are down with this, but Satan will have to bring “his own booze, his own bird, and his own pot” (I may have that quote wrong.  Oh well).

As the Main Girl rides home with her Boyfriend, we learn that her grandfather is Van Helsing, presumably offspring or descendant of the guy in the first scene (following the movie tradition that descendants look EXACTLY like their forbears) (really I don’t mind this tradition; it is kind of like movie shorthand) (and makes casting easier).  Boyfriend wants to consult the grandfather about Black Masses and calling up Satan and stuff, but Main Girl demurs.

We meet Peter Cushing briefly in the next scene, but it mainly shows that he has a good relationship with his granddaughter and she is not as wild as the crowd she runs with.  There is no hint of any other family members, another handy arrangement common in fictional settings (oh, I’m sure it happens in real life as well.  Just because I’ve never seen it).

Jerkface goes home and grabs the vial of ashes we saw in the prologue. I never saw any explanation of how he came by the ashes.  A descendant of Henchman?  The same guy, immortal but not as powerful as Dracula?  These are the things I hope to pay more attention to if I ever watch this flick again.

So Dracula gets re-constituted at the Black Mass about 45 minutes into the movie. I made a note of it in the TV Journal but neglected to note when the prologue ended, so I don’t know how long we had to wait for him to return.  I was happy to see him, because I was tired of this gang of miscreants and was ready to see them get picked off as vampire food.

Now here is a question I must look up sometime in Vampires for Dummies:  When does a vampire victim become another vampire and when are they merely a bloodless corpse?  Is it up to the vampire that bites them?  I just mention it in passing.  I have no real problem with bloodless corpses in a movie of this kind.  For one reason, I don’t like to keep track of too many characters.

Speaking of keeping track of characters, have any of you been wondering whatever happened to Peter Cushing?  I was, but no, he doesn’t come back yet.  First we have the rather lengthy Black Mass where Jerkface adds blood and stirs well.  He’s all excited to see Christopher Lee and wants congratulations on a job well done.

“It was my will,” Christopher Lee intones.

I was like, “YOUR will?  How could you will any anything?  Hello, you were ashes!  Get over yourself!”

Well, I heard Christopher Lee had an ego and I’m sure Count Dracula did, too.  I guess that immortal, blood-sucking thing could go to anybody’s head.  And the fact that you CAN be re-constituted from ashes, whether or not you willed it from that state (or were completely there when re-constituted), is a pretty unusual talent.  So I guess I should cut a newly un-dead vampire a break.

Anyways, I had really lost track of the plot by this time, but the police get involved when the first bloodless corpse is discovered.  then Peter Cushing gets involved, because, you know, vampires and his granddaughter being friends with the corpse (before she was a corpse).  The police do not tiresomely dismiss Van Helseing (Cushing) as a crackpot, that hoary cliche, but they don’t jump on board with crucifixes and wooden stakes, either.

It’s really not a bad movie.  I might try to see it again if I get a chance.  I don’t promise to pay more attention, but if I do perhaps I could write a better blog post about it.  In the meantime, I hope at least some of you are pleased that I did not publish yet another post about Why I Can’t Write a Post.


Actors Have Bills to Pay, Too

Spoiler Alert! I intend to pretty much recount the plot of the following movie. I will not give away the ending, however, because by that point I had almost entirely ceased paying attention.

I had DVR’d Dracula Rises from the Grave (1968) when I DRV’d the other Christopher Lee Dracula movie whose name escapes me. Saturday I watched it while Steven was at work. I would have waited and watched it with him, but Steven is pretty much All Christmas All The Time these days (with the occasional DVR’d Castle episode or true crime show thrown in).

In pre-movie commentary, Ben Mankiewicz says that Lee did not want to play the role a third time, but the studio talked him into it, probably with a fat check. It must have been, because they sure didn’t tempt him with a great script that offered acting challenges and Oscar talk. Well, I’m not judging. Actors have bills to pay, too.

The movie opens with a cheerful young man whistling as he rides his bike to the church, where he works. When he goes to ring the bell, blood is running down the rope. Eek! I like a movie that doesn’t waste any time. In a creepy shot, we see a slaughtered young lady hanging upside down inside the bell (cue jokes about her face ringing a bell).

The young man spends the rest of the movie saying, “Ah-uh-ah!” instead of actual lines, apparently shocked into imbecility, because he seemed pretty normal before. These movies love to have a character that can only say, “Ah-uh-ah!” I’m sure it makes it easier to write dialogue.

As the movie progresses, the lady in the bell takes on a real “Waaait a minute” quality, because Dracula actually has not yet risen from the grave at this point. It’s never explained. I guess it’s just a set piece to start us off creepy and get the kid out of having to learn any lines.

There’s this fairly wimpy parish priest with the oddest pattern of baldness I’ve ever seen, a narrow strip down the middle of his head. All he wants to do after the bell lady incident is sit in the pub and drink. This is where the Monsignor finds him. The Monsignor is told that nobody will go to church because they fear the evil Dracula. Yes, we thought he was dead, but the shadow of his castle falls on the church, obviously a bad sign.

The Monsignor decides that he and Wimpy Priest will go to the castle to prove the evil has been destroyed. Stand by for the next “Waaaait a minute” development. The two holy men leave before dawn, carrying a really big crucifix for good measure. Finally Wimpy Priest can go no further, they must turn back, soon it will be dark.

Excuse me, what? How far away is this castle? And how big is it if from that distance it can still cast a shadow that touches the church. Perhaps it is on a mountain that goes straight up, but still.

Now, anybody who saw the previous Christopher Lee Dracula movie (whose title escapes me) knows the titular vampire went to a cold, watery end (I can’t say “grave” because that’s where he sleeps when he is undead). So right away Dracula is better off in this movie, because you may recall that he began the other movie as a box of ashes. At least now he is already reconstituted. And apparently the cold water helped him regenerate his vocal chords, because he has lines this time. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Monsignor begins some exorcism rite at the door of the castle, leaving Wimpy Priest to wait for him partway down the mountain. There is a lot of thunder and lightning. I’m not entirely clear on this, but I think what happens is that Wimpy Priest falls, hits his head and bleeds on frozen Dracula.

You may recall that blood revived Dracula when he was ashes, and so it is now that he is frozen. And it doesn’t take a whole person’s worth of blood to do it this time, so bonus for Wimpy Priest: he gets to be in the rest of the movie.

Monsignor, meantime, has completed his exorcism (or whatever it was) and sealed the door to the castle with the big crucifix. I had thought that in cases like this you burned the castle (or house or mansion, as the case may be) and scattered the ashes. Apparently not always.

Boy, is Dracula ticked off when he arrives home to find the locks have been changed.

And we’re off on a vampire revenge caper. We meet a beautiful blonde, a tawdry redhead and a stalwart hero, among others. “Ah-uh-ah” boy makes another appearance, and Wimpy Priest gets to be Dracula’s henchman.

I have to admit, I pretty much stopped paying attention after a while. I only let the recording play out so I could write this blog post. And I see I am over 800 words, so I guess it’s a good idea to stop my plot summary now anyways. It actually isn’t too bad of a movie. I may DVR the other Christopher Lee Dracula movies if they turn up on TCM. I’ll let you know.

(NOTE: The movie title that escaped me earlier was Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966); I wrote a blog post about it.)

Just a Common or Garden Vampire

Spoiler Alert! I’ll try not to give away the dramatic conclusion, but I am pretty much going to tell you what happens in this picture.

I have to confess that I am not as fond of the horror movies made after 1960. Could it be the color film which is so much less atmospheric? Could it be the increasingly graphic quality of the violence (don’t even get me started on the body count slasher flicks of the ’70s)? In any case, it was in some trepidation that I sat down to watch Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966).

I noted that it was a Seven Arts/Hammer Production. Hammer, I learned recently, was a British company that became somewhat renowned for its horror movies in the ’60s. On consulting one of his movie books, Steven informed me that this movie was the sequel to Horror of Dracula. I imagined we would be able to follow the plot in spite of having missed the first installment. I was right.

The movie opens on a life and death struggle between a vampire and some guy. We never find out who the guy is, but he triumphs and the vampire eventually crumbles to dust in a not bad special effect for the time. My guess is that this is how the first movie ended, which I certainly like better than the whole movie being a flashback telling us how we got to this point.

So call that the prologue. The real movie starts with an old woman chasing down some sort of funeral procession starring a beautiful young blond girl. I thought she looked a little like a young Cybil Shepherd. That reminded me of her eponymous sitcom where her character was a actress who would have been grateful to get a dead body part.

The anchor guy in the procession carries a wooden stake, and the procession leads to a pile of sticks. Apparently they are going to stake the young woman and burn her JUST IN CASE she is a vampire. And that is the first “Waaait a minute” moment in the film. If she was a vampire, wouldn’t she be crumbling into dust from the daylight? No matter, these guys are taking no chances, despite the old woman’s protests that her daughter deserves a proper Christian burial.

Enter a monk on a horse with a shotgun, who stops the whole thing, insists the girl be buried, but does not stick around to see it carried out. We don’t see it carried out either, but I think it was done. Anyways, that was just more background: the vampire is dead but people still fear him.

Next we’re in a tavern where an upper class guy is doing what looks like a fraternity party chug-a-lug with the lower classes. His sister-in-law disapproves but his wife thinks he’s cute and, besides, “We can afford it.”

When the monk (I can’t capitalize it or you’ll think I’m talking about the Tony Shaloub show on USA) shows up, hollering at the crowd for being such superstitious louts, he meets the upper class foursome: two brothers and their wives on vacation to improve their minds.

The monk, refreshing himself with mulled cordial and hiking his robes up to warm his backside at the fire, invites them to come stay at his monastery. At any rate, they mustn’t go to Carlsbad, where they originally intended, and if they do they must stay away from the castle.

Hmmm…. Where do you suppose they’re going to end up?

How they get to the castle is less “Waaait a minute!” than “Oh, PLEASE!” Nobody but Disapproving Sister-in-Law is the least bit disconcerted that they find themselves dropped off at the castle by runaway horses, their luggage mysteriously brought upstairs, and dinner ready to be served by a singularly creepy servant who appears to be the castle’s only inhabitant.

You know, I’m all for mysterious things happening in horror movies. And I’m even OK with going with the flow and having an adventure. I KNOW that if these people would have sensibly gone to stay at the monk’s house it would have been a dull movie. But I think these people took things entirely too far.

In a rather gruesome scene, one of the four gets sliced open in order to bring the vampire’s ashes back to life. Apparently the creepy servant carefully preserved them in a funereal-looking box.

And you know, I think they missed a bet. Have you ever tried to sweep up ashes? Heck, even sweeping ordinary household dirt you don’t get it all. You know how it is: you sweep, sweep, sweep it into the dustpan, then you scatter around the last little bit that you just can’t get. And then some of it stays on the broom or in the dustpan. There’s no way that entire vampire would have been there!

Actually, come to think of it, he wasn’t. As Dracula, Christopher Lee has no lines. Was this so the producers wouldn’t have to pay him as much, or were Dracula’s vocal chords still stuck in the cracks between the flagstones where he met his end? Points to ponder.

Be that as it may, the movie continues with another member of the party lured to her doom. Of course she becomes a vampire, which improves her personality as well as her hair-do. Eventually the other two are fleeing for their lives.

They meet up with the monk again, who tells them how to kill a vampire. Did you know you could drown a vampire in running water? I didn’t. I thought it was sunlight or stake through the heart, although you can temporarily chase them off with garlic or a crucifix.

I was a little disappointed in the movie. For one thing, it didn’t really seem like Count Dracula. He just seemed like any common or garden vampire, and he didn’t even have that big a part. He was scary enough when he was onscreen, although as with many movie monsters, he moved too slowly. Perhaps I should cut him a break on that one, though. After all, he was only ashes just that morning.

But he was not onscreen enough. It took forever to get him brought back from ashes and even then he didn’t spend nearly enough time chasing his victims to suit me.

But perhaps I ask too much. At any rate, I have another Christopher Lee Dracula movie on my DVR, probably a sequel to this one. I’ll watch it and report on whether he gets a little more personality or at least the use of his vocal chords.

Blood, But Not Bloody Cheesy

Saturday night I took a break from both cheesy horror movies and Mohawk Valley adventures by popping in Dracula (1931) starring Bela Lugosi.

Steven gave me Dracula as a present some time ago. I was reminded of it while looking over previous posts. So I have written about it, but not much about it, so I thought I could get away with at least a short post about it. It is, in fact, my only option, because it has been too damn hot to do anything else and I really don’t feel like writing yet another post about Why I Can’t Write A Post Today (but I will probably feel like it tomorrow when I go back to work. Just warning you). I will also mention that, although I own this movie, I think yesterday’s was only my second viewing of the movie in its entirety. I had forgotten a lot.

Black and white photography is perfect for this movie. I suppose that was merely making a virtue out of necessity in 1931, but I enjoyed it. The entire look of the movie is eerie, like a foreboding grey sky just before a storm. I hadn’t been looking at the movie very long before I grabbed the TV Journal and made the note: There is nothing cheesy about this movie.

The scene where we first see the vampires is scary. And a little gross, because there are rats. I hate rats. Renfield has just arrived at Count Dracula’s castle and has no idea he has been hired by a vampire, the warnings of the villagers having made no impression on him. One line I was particularly waiting for was when Dracula says, “I never drink… wine.” I remember Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi saying it in Ed Wood, one of my all-time favorite movies.

Dracula is very atmospheric. In fact, I’m afraid there is more atmosphere than action, which was a little disappointing to me, but I got over it, because the atmosphere was so well done. I’ve spoken about horror movies that manage to be unsettling with only noises, camera angles and acting. This one uses mostly acting and cinematography.

Slow as the action seemed to me, you had to pay attention or you missed a few plot points. Steven had to tell me Renfield had got bit (in my defense, I was knitting and probably had my eyes off the screen). I also thought some things were kind of glossed over, like the entire crew perishing on the voyage to England. There is a deliciously creepy shot of the shadow of the dead captain tied to the wheel. A few lines of dialogues from onlookers and a newspaper clipping explain.

The creepiest shot in the picture was a newly insane Renfield looking up the stairs. Ooh, he’s creepy.

The movie is not very informative about vampire lore. I would have had a hard time keeping up, but I remembered what I had learned in Lost Boys, a fun vampire romp from the ’80s. I was a little surprised when I realized who Dr. Van Helsing was. I had thought he was supposed to look more like Hugh Jackman. Oh, I know, I’m just being silly. I had to say it.

I greatly enjoyed my second viewing of Dracula. I highly recommend it to lovers of old movies, non-cheesy horror movies, and vampires.