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Archive for October 22nd, 2018

by Sam Juliano

Chilly temperatures have suddenly arrived, though the calendar has been hinting at such a wake-up call for a few weeks now.  Halloween is in full regalia in schools, homes and at parties, and some are already adored with multi-colored hair and masks.  Horror film fans of course will not have a better time of the year to engage in their passion, and on the new release front plenty genre staples are slated to appear in the coming two weeks, most with new transfers.  Of course at this time of the year political signs and adds are all the rage, and I’m urging all to support the Democratic candidates nationally and locally.  James Uhler’s Horrorfest 2018 continues with two more from the timeless Universal series:

The Ghost of Frankenstein (E. C. Kenton… 1942) Universal monster

House of Frankenstein (E. C. Kenton… 1944) Universal monster

Recently, when Universal announced that in an attempt to compete with the ever expanding cinematic universe of Marvel that they would bring back their great legacy of Monsters in a series of original, new stories, and eventually build to a series of mashups and combinations, something of a Horror equivalent to the The Avengers and Infinity War, most saw it as a great idea. The studio badly needed a cagey move to expand their revenue across a bunch of different avenues as most media conglomerates had operated under since at least the 1990’s, and given that they didn’t have a franchise themselves (like Marvel, DC or Star Wars) it was only seen as even more sound in judgment. 

Of course, there was a whole other set of people who saw it merely as a rejiggering of an idea they’d done half a century earlier. Once the initial run of Universal Monsters had run their course—I briefly discussed this during my The Wolf Man (1941) piece—they started a series of mashups and meet-ups, squeezing every drop from characters they’d given birth to a decade prior. You can see Universal’s turn to franchise now as them following current trends, but us Horror fans know Batman v. Superman (2016) first saw its cinematic home in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943). 

That’s a good place to start, as the franchises starting crossing over by now; with these two E. C. Kenton films sandwiching Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. Thus, the first one, The Ghost of Frankenstein and the first sequel after the official Bride of Frankenstein James Whale sequel classic, starts things in reboot fashion. Really both films do; each of these begin by castled walls being destroyed to free imprisoned monsters from ‘earlier’ movies (I use quotes as both use characters we’ve never seen before). Marauding angry villagers start the destruction of a castle in The Ghost of Frankenstein that free Ygor (Bela Lugosi) and the Monster (who eventually looks to get struck by lightning intentionally to reinvigorate himself, not unlike so many Jason rebirths as the beginnings of several Friday the 13th offerings), while House of Frankenstein sees a storm destroy the castle, freeing our sadistic, revenge minded Dr. Niemann (Boris Karloff) and his hunchbacked servant Daniel. The Ghost of Frankenstein then moves to Ygor’s story essentially, him trying to maneuver to force Dr. Frankenstein (a descendant of the original Victor who knows his secrets but is reluctant to use his brilliance for evil ends) to put his brain into the Monster so that he can live forever. It’s a decent film—often recalled for its wonderful score now—but it lags too, even at 67 minutes your attention is often checking your watch. Part of it is restarting the series with wholly new characters in key spots—Chaney Jr. is an inert and lifeless Frankenstein Monster—part of it is the poetry of Ygor’s ultimate demise being as much fulfilling for us to see a baddie die than being anything emotional (thus robbing the film of some of its purpose). But, haunting images abound, the sulfur/concrete prison that Frankenstein’s Monster is resurrected from in the beginning is tremendous for example, and much of the camp—the series moves from A status to B here—offers fun, odd sets and character choices.  (more…)

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