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Tag Archives: Robert Osborne

Vampires and a Big Reveal

BIG Spoiler Alert! Seriously, if you’re going to watch Mark of the Vampire (1935), PLEASE do it before reading my silly write-up.

I will, in fact, try to write about this movie without giving away the big reveal, but I don’t know how successful I will be. In fact, already I’ve said too much.

In pre-movie commentary, Robert Osborne says Mark of the Vampire is a murder mystery as well as a vampire movie. I think that gives away a lot right there, and he didn’t even give a spoiler alert. Anyways, I think it is mostly a vampire movie.

The movie begins, as these things often do, with travelers being warned to go nowhere after dark. This is all we see of the travelers, so I guess those actors did not have very good agents. The vampire(s) (I don’t think people know at this point how many there are), it seems, is (are) after folks that have lived in the area for some time.

I’m sorry, but I don’t think that’s very good scripting. Of course we don’t want characters reiterating to each other stuff they darn well already know. That would be like me saying to Steven, “As you know, we’re married and have a cute little dog.” However, I think there are better ways to set up background than sticking in extraneous characters we are never going to see again, just so they can get warned.

Perhaps I am too demanding. Anyways, that was an easy way to fill up a paragraph without giving away any major plot points (except to let you know you aren’t going to see those travelers again).

Bela Lugosi is the main vampire, and I wished he would have gotten more screen time. He is very mysterious and scary when he shows up, though, so that’s good. There is another, younger, girl vampire. She is spooky, but the actress does not have Lugosi’s gifts. She doesn’t act so much as walk around slowly with a completely blank look on her face. I suppose that is what the part called for and what the director told her to do, but I didn’t think she had the presence to carry if off properly. Oh well, she was young. I daresay she improved if she went on (didn’t make a note of the actress’ name).

Lionel Barrymore is a vampire expert. I just adore Lionel Barrymore. I don’t care if he puts the beautiful girl in danger to catch the vampires. That’s what a movie vampire expert is supposed to do.

Osborne warns us that nothing is as it seems, and that is pretty much the case. It is one of those movies where, after you find out the big secret, you kind of want to watch it again, to see if they were really playing fair. I’m actually pretty sure they did not play fair (I know some of you are saying, “Whatever that means”), because in post-movie commentary, Osborne tells us the actors did not know the big reveal till they actually filmed those scenes.

Since this is a personal blog, I feel free to interject here that I would be majorly ticked off at a director that played that kind of a game with me. If it is something my character knows, I certainly want to know it. If it is something my character doesn’t know, I would still prefer to know it and ACT. But that’s just me; I’m not all method like some people.

I enjoyed Mark of the Vampire. I may watch it again (perhaps when TCM shows it next October) and write another blog post from the point of view of somebody who already knows the big reveal. If I remember it.

The Zombie Eyes Have It

Spoiler Alert! If you think you might want to see White Zombie (1932) with Bela Lugosi, I would advise you watch it before reading this. I think it is better enjoyed if you’re not thinking, “Oh, this is that part she was telling us about.”

According to Robert Osborne’s pre-movie commentary, White Zombie is believed to be the first movie ever made about zombies. I find it hard to believe there are no silent movies featuring zombies, but I’m not that knowledgeable about silent movies (it’s difficult to crochet or knit during a silent movie, because you have to keep your eyes glued to the screen or you’ll miss something).

First or not, it’s an atmospheric, eerie movie. The zombies are the old-timey slow moving creatures with staring eyes. They don’t eat flesh, but some of them do kill a guy and try to kill a couple of others (I did include a spoiler alert, didn’t I?) (I think it’s a bigger spoiler to let you know they only try to kill someone, don’t you?).

The movie takes place in the West Indies, home of voodoo, zombies and assorted other creepy weirdness, it seems. A Beautiful Girl and a Handsome Young Man (side note: why don’t I just refer to him as a Boy and be symmetrical?) are in a horse drawn carriage (to give you an idea of period) on their way to some rich guy’s house.

At least, I think he’s rich. Yes, my famous lack of attention is once again my undoing. Rich Guy has gotten Handsome Young Man a job back in the states and wants the couple to be married from his house. It soon transpires that he is in love with the girl and is willing to use fair means or foul to make her his.

Enter Bela Lugosi. Ah, but before he does, Rich Guy’s butler warns him to have nothing to do with that sort of person. Well, it wouldn’t be much of a movie if the characters listened to sensible advice, would it?

First Rich Guy tries fair means, by propositioning Beautiful Girl as he escorts her to her marriage ceremony. Anybody still wondering why this guy is alone? Of course it doesn’t work, although she tries to let him down easily in the limited amount of time available to her. So it is on to foul means and the zombie meat of the movie.

The nefarious plot perpetrated by Lugosi involves turning Beautiful Girl into a zombie. It is not clear to me how he does it. Something to do with carving some wax and sticking it into the flame of a streetlight. She falls dead into her new husband’s arms.

Soon she is the glassy-eyed possession of Rich Guy. Well, that’s not the chick he fell in love with. He demands Lugosi turn her back into a person even if it means losing her. I guess he’s not such a bad guy for someone who resorted to foul means to win the girl. But Lugosi will have none of this and is soon tormenting Rich Guy in ways that ought to make anybody sorry for him, even viewers who still consider him a lousy beautiful girl stealer.

Lugosi, as usual, utilizes his scary eyes to good effect. The things that especially struck me in this movie were his wild and wooly eyebrows. I think Count Dracula must have tweezed.

Eventually Handsome Young Man finds help and hurries to the rescue, as you probably figured. But can he rescue her? I guess I can’t spoil everything. This movie is recommended. I’ll look for something cheesier next time.

Don’t Pooh-Pooh Your Wife!

I continue my Halloween week posts with a horror movie that is not cheesy. I find that oddly appropriate for a Wuss-out Wednesday.

I DVR’d Cat People (1942) with high hopes. When I learned it was a low-budget, independent film, that sounded even better. When Robert Osborne said in pre-movie commentary that it was part of their series about monsters who needed a little TLC from the opposite sex, I hesitated. Then again, Bride of Frankenstein falls into that category, so I said, “Bring it.”

It turns out Cat People is one of those movies that rises above its limitations to present a scary, suspenseful story. There are no special effects to speak of, but shadow and suggestion are used with excellent results. So with my usual Spoiler Alert, let’s get started.

The story centers around the marriage between a fine young man (at least, I don’t think he’s so fine as things turn out, but that’s getting ahead of myself) and a mysterious foreign girl. The two meet in front of the panther cage at the zoo. The girl will return to this site as her life goes downhill. The zookeeper tells her the panther is evil and quotes Revelations in support of this. That rather impressed me. I know very few people who can quote from Revelations. He quotes one of the scarier passages, so that is some nice foreshadowing.

More foreshadowing happens when the young man tries to gift the girl with a cat and the cat hates her.

Pause for PSA: Don’t randomly give people pets! First make sure (a) they want a pet, (b) they are able to care for a pet, and (c) they are not cursed from some ancient foreign village thing. Back to the movie.

They trade in the cat for a bird, after every bird in the shop expresses fear and loathing of her. Fighting fate, she says she is certain the bird will love her and vice versa. No more about that bird, because you know how I hate to see an animal come to a bad end.

So the Girl tells some scary stories of the village she comes from and expresses the fear she could be cursed. When an evil-looking, vaguely feline woman greets her as “sister” at their wedding party, the Girl’s fears increase. We never see the evil-looking one again, which of course was a disappointment to me. I greatly prefer a thorough-going evil monster to a conflicted, unhappy, cursed one. Then again, I’m trying to talk about the movie I did see, not lament the one I wish I had seen.

Young Man pooh-poohs his new wife’s fears, and they are off in pursuit of wedded bliss, which naturally eludes them.

I blame the husband, and not just because I’m a girl. You should never pooh-pooh your spouse unless he or she is clearly hoping to be pooh-poohed. Young Man goes on to make a number of stupid moves regarding the attractive, all-American woman he works with, arousing his wife’s jealousies.

Things soon start to get creepy, but Young Man still insists the fears are pooh-pooh-able. He gets the Girl a psychiatrist instead of a priest or exorcist or lion-tamer or somebody.

There are a couple of really scary scenes utilizing footsteps and lighting. The body count is not high, and there are no gruesome scenes of the cat slashing away. I call that making a virtue out of necessity, because it turns out to be a pretty satisfying Halloween watch.