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Archive for the ‘Masters of Horror’ Category

MastersOfHorrorAdendum

by Jaime Grijalba

File #6.1 – F.W. Murnau’s ‘Phantom’

Did you miss this? No? Well, here I come back not with the full feature that you’ve been used to, but with an Addendum to the sixth installment of this particular series of essays on the Masters of Horror. This comes up now because I had finally the time to watch one of the movies that I had piled up in watching schedule, a movie that wasn’t part of my retrospective of the horror films of F.W. Murnau, because in my personal database it wasn’t named as such, it was catalogued as in the ‘fantasy’ genre, and while it did have a horror-like name, it wasn’t included in my list because of what I said earlier. So, here comes the publishing date of the sixth installment (of a total of seven so far) that have been made, and everyone seems to enjoy and read it quite well, but there’s one particular guy who doesn’t seem to be pleased. You can read here the F.W. Murnau edition of my Masters of Horror feature, and in the comments you can read Peter asking me why I didn’t put ‘Phantom’ (1922) in the survey, to which I replied that I didn’t see it because of the reasons that I’ve already mentioned, but then I made a promise, that I haven’t been able to fulfill until this day, and here we are, reviewing ‘Phantom’ (1922) but not for a little paragraph as I said, but for a full review, as I need to say a few things about this silent movie. (more…)

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MastersOfHorrorPaulLeni

by Jaime Grijalba.

File #7 – Paul Leni

Hey, look! Another director that is familiar in the ranks of Wonders in the Dark, at least, I think he is. I wanted to start right on topic just to sway a little bit into my usual wandering of ideas in this opening paragraph, because I know that this is much more a niche project than anything and I wish that those who enjoy it continue to do so, but at the same time I have to cover some ground regarding the times and the prospect of this project, and the thing is that it will become huge any moment now, and I need more time to write these retrospectives and watch the films (that is one of the main reasons as to why this particular post is coming up so late), so I’m having some ideas on how to solve that, they aren’t entirely constructed so I’ll keep it shush, but for now I’m just going to say that maybe we’ll only have two Masters of Horror every month and the other two thursdays will be used for something different, what is and how/when it will appear, I’m not sure, but you’ll find out eventually. So, back to the topic at hand, here we have another german director who directed silent cinema in Germany and went on to direct silent cinema in the US, gaining some fame and following as well as being tremendously influential to the studios and filmmakers of the time, he practically invented the (at that time) modern haunted house genre with hidden passageways, murders and mystery, all influenced by the mystery novels that were popular at that time, but adding the layer of supernatural entities and presences that may or may not be real, but the fear and the horror is there, and that’s what counts. He was also one of the most interesting people in terms of visual craft, as he worked as an art director and custome designer in many german films before having directed his first feature (and even after that he continued working on some german films), and he is, for all we can say, a worthy disciple of the visual school of german expressionism, mainly because he managed to bring it to the films of the US and we can say that his movies there influenced the likes of Tod Browning and James Whale when they started to make their own horror films with visual lavish and grandiose scope, he brought the over-complex image to the american screen, filling it with labyrinths and people, moving and always interacting with each other, people marching towards the camera or the camera itself moving to develope a visual wonder, it’s all there and he is most assuredly related to Richard Oswald (previously discussed in an earlier installment of Masters of Horror) than to the likes of romanticists like F.W. Murnau, in a sense I can say that those who fell into the expressionism and never truly left it (like Leni) failed to deliver more profound works of art if they evolved into a more romanticist point of view towards the visual language (like Murnau did). Besides all this, I can honestly say that I can’t wait for the first non-german Master of Horror (no offense here). (more…)

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MastersOfHorrorMurnauby Jaime Grijalba.

File #6 – F.W. Murnau

Hey! What do you know? Another well known director for this installment of Masters of Horror! I’m glad that as we move forward in time the names get more recognizable, yet at the same time maybe we will still find some unearthed treasures around here, so we might as well have some discussion here on the merits of certain ‘masters’ (there was a nice comment from Allan Fish on one of the earlier pieces, in it he questioned the qualification of the director written up as a master), or even if you have certain complaints regarding other directors that may have been forgotten as we move ahead, please go ahead and point them out, I’m following some shady guidelines, and I might miss some if they don’t meet them, but they might as well be worth writing about, specially if they are truly masters of the horror genre, or of the craft, whatever. So, continuing to divert from what meets us here, I have to say that there’s another idea that is making the rounds in my head: there are certain filmmakers that have a great ouvre, a nice group of films in their filmography, but there’s one spot where they continued (or not) their explorations in cinema with a film of the horror genre, and that is the only one they make (easy examples are Stanley Kubrick and John Huston), so I’m putting this forward if anyone else wants to write on the One Hit Horror films of the history of cinema, I’d be so glad to lend this space once a month so people can write about it, it’s an open call! So, back to the subject, Murnau, one of the most known german directors after Fritz Lang and Werner Herzog, easily one of the masters of the silent cinema in terms of how they perfected the narrative and the visuals that were needed at that time, he also knew that horror was one of the most powerful feelings that a human being could be affected by, making more than 5 pictures inside those realms, nevertheless, when one takes a look at the visual style of certain specific films, specially his horror ones, makes one think about german expressionism, and as I’ve said before this clasification is wrong in most cases regarding german filmmakers of that era, expressionism was mostly expressed through painting and only a few times it went ahead and made the jump to the movie territory, Murnau expresses what a romanticist style would be in the realm of filmmaking, with lustrous visuals, but a style nearer to what the emotions portray over any effect the visual flamboyance of painted shadows would make on the viewer Lamentably many of them are lost forever in the seas of memory and film, and that is a sad thought, that maybe one of the greatest artists of the image has lost some of his films (and most of his horror films while following that thought), and with that sour note, we take a look at Murnau at one of his strongest suits, shall you dwelve with me into the dark corridors of his mind, where the moral and squeamish shall cry? Go on. (more…)

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MastersOfHorrorPhoto3

by Jaime Grijalba.

File #5 – Robert Wiene

This german director is quite well known by most film buffs, and it’s thanks to one of the films that we’re going to talk about in this particular edition of ‘Masters of Horror’, and first of all I must say sorry for the long hiatus, but between the trip to Argentina and the trip back, it all turned a bit messy in terms of watching the films necessary for this edition, as well as the availability of some of them (I truly go the extra mileage to cover all that’s possible within the genre of horror and these filmmakers), so that’s that, sorry. Well, going beyond that, let’s say that many people know Robert Wiene because of his horror films, but who here can honestly say that they’ve seen more than two films directed by Robert Wiene, or let’s take the stakes up, who here has seen more than two Robert Wiene horror films, maybe more than I can think of, but Wiene has become the staple of what we call german expressionism, and here we can truly go and fully comprehend the roots and how it evolved as the decade progressed, as how it started as more a pictoric elements, something that was relegated to the background of the characters, in terms of what could be called expressionistic paintings that splashed the screen with its vivid shadows (when would you hear that again) while the characters remained unaffected, and as time progressed, the elements of makeup (that were timidly appearing) and finally the spaces in which the characters walked through, the cinematography itself turned into an expressionistic feature, and even down the road, when it was fading away, the elements remained and even became translated to those of the plot, that made the films shocking and filled with emotion, giving the cinematography and the characters all the tropes and characteristics to make it feel like a movie that pertains to the german expressionism. This director managed to create and become the most clear example of that artistic intention/taste, and in his horror films he put that to the limit. So, now that we’ve seen how he might’ve single-handedly (well, maybe with Paul Wegener) changed the genre of horror for good, but let’s take a look at the films he made. (more…)

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by Jaime Grijalba.

In Memoriam

I wish to start this week article by dedicating this and all the future pieces to Jesús (Jess) Franco, a true master of horror and one of the most clear examples of someone who loved and worked inside the genre filmmaking, as well as making it lyrical, pure and horrific at the same time. This is for you Uncle Jess, we will miss you.

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File #4 – Richard Oswald

Another austrian filmaker, but this one is particularly prolific, and as the majority of the directors that were of that area and Germany, had to flee the Nazi Germany before they got caught, killed or obliged to make propagandistic films. In the particular case of Richard Oswald, there is something even more complicated: he was jewish, he had to get out or probably we would’ve had another number in the most gruesome and awful death toll of all humanity, but looking in the bright and dark side of the life of this particular director, we must say that as prolific as he was in Germany and other countries (after his exile), he surely dedicated some of his ouvre to the horror genre, yet none of the movies he made after leaving Germany ever had anything to do with the genre ever again, maybe he knew that the horrors of the real life, the horrors of the holocaust were enough for the audiences that were seeing his movies, maybe he wanted a change, maybe he was heartbroken after he made it out in the german audiences with his first horror movies (most of them now almost impossible to get), this particular director’s ouvre inside the world of horror (which convoque us every thursday) is almost entirely lost to us viewers right now, if it wasn’t for some scavengers in the world of Internet we wouldn’t have any of the movies that will be discussed today, so this entry is dedicated to the “internet zoldierz” who every day look for the rarest and most precious material for us to have in our hands, just because modern companies and stores who sell DVDs don’t see any future in old re-releases, restorations of silent films, and these are movies that need it desperately, and even if some companies have promised a long time ago some Richard Oswald films, they still come up empty handed, a dire future is ahead and the “internet zoldierz” are making it just a bit brighter than it should be. On the issue of Richard Oswald, you might see that he is a bit unconsidered in the world of filmmaking, but he did have some important and groundbreaking achievements in the horror genre, shall we take a look? (more…)

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by Jaime Grijalba.

MastersOfHorrorPhoto

File #3 – Henrik Galeen

This Austrian-born and German-working filmmaker is one of the most important figures of the birth of what’s been wrongly called german expressionism, and while he did work in some actual expressionism features (like the first Golem film) his shadow casts longer in films that are more akin to what I was talking about last time: german romanticism, since he was also a screenwriter of the epitome of that style in the horror genre: ‘Nosferatu’ (1922), as well as working in the direction of other two horror films that are strongly tied to that style. Hence, he is one of the most important masters of horror even though he didn’t direct more than 3 films inside the genre (one of them lost except for a few fragments), he is a capital figure and has been named so by many sources and scholars, so I couldn’t just ignore him. In a sense we are skipping ahead in years a bit, just because I wanted to tackle this particular filmmaker first. Why? Because we named him in the last week’s installment of the series, on the great actor/director Paul Wegener, and since we were on some sort of ‘german expressionism or not’ conundrum, I guessed that it was better to get this over with, even though he practically doesn’t make the full criteria (at least 4 horror films directed, with at least 3 watchable in some form, and at least Galeen has that last one checked). But hey, let’s just count ‘Nosferatu’ (1922) and the rest of the Golem features (in which he worked as a screenwriter as well) and call it a day, shall we? He surely had a vision of what horror looked like and how it must feel to the audience, let’s give him the credit he deserves, let’s see some of his films! (more…)

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MastersOfHorror

by Jaime Grijalba.

Brief Introduction/Thanks

I want to thank for all the support that this new series has garnered and I hope that in the near future it can gain more discussion into the ouvre of the auteurs that will be mentioned in the near future. I don’t know if this particular master was expected or not, but I’m mostly interested in your opinion on this particular filmmaker, so, let’s take a look at this german filmmaker of grand stature.

File #2 – Paul Wegener

I’m not sure if there’s been specialized books on the figure, stature and importance of Paul Wegener, after all he is one of the most important early figures of german cinema in general and to the world of horror in particular, he was one of the co-directors of what’s been widely recogniced as the first feature-length horror film, and that isn’t something that you can go saying around without getting some praise and lauded comments, it doesn’t actually matter the actual quality of the film itself, it’s the freaking first horror film ever made, of course you’re going to get attention then and now, either from the historians, the fanatics and specially the horror hounds that like to call themselves that because they are able to watch from every angle and spectrum of the genre and never be dissapointed. Anyway, back to this handsome fellow. Wegener it’s not the first, but maybe here we have one of the greatest examples of the actor/director, he directed and acted in many of what would become the seminal films of the early horror period in Germany, and he was another pioneer, as he practically invented the modern horror franchise, by having him playing the same character in a trilogy of films, playing not other role than the one of the main monster, and by that making his name, his makeup, his monster (the Golem) one of the first known institutions of horror in years to come. The thing is that there aren’t many horror directors that are also actors… maybe the only exception that comes to mind is the one of Ed Wood Jr., which isn’t very enciting (though is he a Master of Horror? we shall know soon enough), and maybe I’m wrong, but I’m just putting this out there because while most of what we consider horror is thanks to the aesthetical aspect of the whole endeavour, there aren’t many award winning performances in horror films historically, and while I do consider this to be a mistake (most of my favorite performances of all time come from this genre, specially from the female protagonists), I think that it’s rare to see a horror film where the main source of the admiration and praise comes from the actors, but I think here we have a special condition: Paul Wegener enters the directing world at the same time as he enters the acting world in his first film, mainly because he has an interest in the aesthetics and the sets, but gradualy his own acting talents permeate the feature and the attention that its given to: closeups start to appear and the makeup gradualy starts to become important. Paul Wegener created the film monster… and oh, so many other things. (more…)

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MastersOfHorror

by Jaime Grijalba

An Introduction to the Series

Welcome one and all to a new series of articles and features at the Wonders in the Dark. In this new segment that will go up most thursdays (when the research and watching of a certain master is complete, and that may take longer for each and every master of horror out there) I shall bring forward a film director that had an interest during some or the majority of his/her career in the genre of horror, usually the cut is that he made more than 3 films that can be described as inside the genre of horror. I’m taking a chronological view of the genre so we are going to see many directors that may not actually sound as directors that are directly related to the horror genre here, maybe because they made 4 or more horror films in their long careers. I know that the criterion exposed right here isn’t enough to qualify someone as a ‘master’ of something, we don’t even know if they’ll be masterful filmmakers… or even good filmmakers, but their appreciation and inclination towards the genre for some part of their lives makes them masters and lovers on my eyes.

Every article will have a small introduction to the world of the filmmaker, then a small list of the films of his filmography that are catalogued as horror (no matter if they are available or not), then a small description/review of the best film of the bunch, then a small description/review of the scariest of them all (if they coincide, well, the small article will turn into a long-ish one), then a brief paragraph on each of the rest of the films, and to end it all some personal thoughts on the films as a group and the director, and maybe a ranking of the films if possible. So, without further ado, let’s start our dark journey through the cracks and slippery sides of the horror genre, maybe we will find some auteurs that we didn’t think of before as masters of the horror. Special thanks to Bob Clark for creating this simple yet amazing banner for the series! (more…)

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