Sunday, August 13, 2017
Book review by Doug Gibson
I really enjoy reading "The Monster Movies of Universal Studios," Rowman & Littlefield, June 2017, the latest film genre offering from the prolific James L. Neibaur (an Amazon link is also included). This book is not as deep a dive as "Universal Horrors: The Studio's Classic Films, 1931-1946," from Tom Weaver and Michael and John Brunas. But it's not intended to be that comprehensive.
Neibaur focuses on only the monster movies, with Dracula, the Mummy, Invisible Men and Women, the Frankenstein Monster, Wolf men and a woman, and the 1950's Creature From the Black Lagoon. He also includes the Abbott & Costello monster comedies.
While I have to confess I probably would have preferred chapters from Neibaur on the early Universal films "Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Black Cat" and "The Raven" instead of a couple/or three of the so-so Invisible Man sequels, I was impressed by the research and smooth writing skills of the author, which have become a staple of his books, the most recent (at least I read) a take on WC Fields' films and soon to come is one on Andy Clyde's Columbia shorts --- sheer manna for us!
Twenty-nine films are assessed, starting with "Dracula" and ending with "The Creature Walks Among Us." Generally, the chapters start with an info box cover, the genesis of the films from conception to planning -- who writes scripts, who directs, the cast assembled -- with a synopsis of the film. Also covered are budgets, how the filming went, how the film was received both critically and financially, what was planned for the future, and the author's assessment of the film. Neibaur has gathered film reviews and exhibitor assessments of the period, and includes sourced quotes, mostly from film participants.
As I mentioned, this is not as detailed as "Universal Horrors" but even that will make it a perhaps more relaxed read for the more casual films of the genre. As the father of a 12-year-old son who, thanks to my efforts, loves the old Universal horrors, he's soon to read "The Monster Movies of Universal Studios," while a turn at the larger "Universal Horrors ..." is still a few years away.
And there is fun, interesting information gathered by Neibaur. For example, a young Betty Grable was considered for the female lead in both "Dracula" and "Frankenstein." She didn't quite pass muster, though. In the early 1940s, Universal really trimmed its budgets. "The Mummy's Hand," for example, was made for a mere $80,000! In fact, as Neibaur notes, the films generally easily made money due to the parsimony of the studio. Also, an angry Bela Lugosi, in his more prosperous first half of the 1940s, swore never to work for Universal again. That would change as he gladly accepted his iconic role with Abbott & Costello a few years later. Another interesting tidbit is that Lou Costello was convinced "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein" would be an unfunny box office failure. So sure was he, Neibaur notes, that he seemed annoyed that it was a success.
One more thing that gets across in the book is that Neibaur generally both loves and has great respect for these films with now-iconic monsters. There's none of the snark that occasionally can sour a good read about this genre. About the only film that gets a solid pan is "She Wolf of London," which frankly merits it, since it's a -- in my opinion -- shallow attempt to capture the spirit of Val Lewton.
There are a few typos in the book that could be fixed with another edition or at least e-book or Kindle. An example is Universal spelled as Universale in some chapters. But it's a fact-filled, genre-fun read of a piece of Hollywood history that so many cult film fans love. It merits real estate in your book case. And, trust me, it's a relief to read about Boris Karloff as the Mummy after watching that dreadful Tom Cruise Dark Universe film release.
Monday, August 7, 2017
Review by Doug Gibson
"Twins of Evil," Hammer's 1971 tales of Count Karnstein turning one part of a lovely pair of twins into a vampire, is not as impressive as other Carmilla-themed films, such as "Lust For a Vampire," or "The Vampire Lovers," but nevertheless it retains its status as a classic due to star Peter Cushing's strong performance as Gustav Weil, fanatical vampire hunter, so enslaved by the mysogyny of his faith and his fear of the undead that he'll solemnly burn to death any young woman who doesn't act normal. The opening scene, where Weil and his brotherhood abduct and burn a young girl to death, indicts Weil as a dangerous fanatic, a man not safe with young women and their instinctive sexuality.
Appropriately, Weil's eagerness to burn female flesh provides righteous indignation for viewers. Yet Cushing is no Matthew Hopkins, as portrayed by Vincent Price in "Witchfinder General." Weil is no hypocrite nor a luster of his victims, nor is he a man who revels in his evil acts. He's a fervent believer in the Old Testament "thou shall not suffer a witch to live." Cushing's Weill, while acting with a maniacal religious fervor, believes he is freeing his victims, releasing them from vampirism to a life with Christ. Late in the film, when it slowly dawns on Cushing that he may have been too zealous, that some of his victims were indeed innocent, his pain and remorse is evident. As both atonement and revenge, he fails to protect himself as he goes after the evil count.
"Twins of Evil" is a prequel to the Carmilla story and films. The evil Count Karstein (Damien Thomas) is tired of the limits to pleasure and evil he can attain as a mortal. He summons an ancestor vampire, Countess Mircella, (Katya Wyeth) who turns him into a vampire. Eager to satiate his lusts and increase his evil, he sets his sights on two gorgeous twins who have moved to Karnstein from Venice to live with Weil and his wife, Katy, (Kathleen Bryon). The twins are portrayed by Playboy models Mary and Madeleine Collinson. Mary plays Maria Gellhorn and Madeleine is her twin Frieda. Maria is the more timid, pious twin. Frieda is rebellious, furious with her uncle Gustav and eventually is drawn to Count Karstein, who willingly becomes a vampire. There is a subplot where Anton, a liberal teacher at the girls' school, is attracted to Frieda. Anton and Gustav, not surprisingly, clash over the latter's vampire hunting. The film climaxes with a hunt for Frieda and the ensuing possibility that the virtuous Maria may pay for her sins.
As I have mentioned, it's easy to hate the fanatical, misogynous Gustav, but he does have one fact to rest on: there are vampires out there stealing the souls of the innocent. Midway through the film, it's a testament to Cushing's acting skills that the audience starts to root for him as he goes after Frieda and the Count. The Collinswood twins are gorgeous. They are not trained actors, and it shows in their performances. Madeleine does a better job than her sister Mary, but that may be only because she as the meatier role as the bad Frieda. The print I saw has very little nudity. The most explicit scene is where Frieda, pretending to be the innocent Maria, attempts to seduce and bite schoolteacher, Anton.
The Karnstein saga was a Hammer trilogy that, as mentioned, includes "Lust for a Vampire" and "The Vampire Lovers." This is intended to be the first chapter. Watching these movies is a pleasant reminder of how vulnerable and difficult it once was to be a vampire. With the constraints of the cross, daytime, coffins, foes such as Van Helsing and Weil, and native soil, one could understand why successful vampires such as Carmilla and Dracula had pride that overlapped into egotism. They had survived through time. Count Karstein and Frieda are, ultimately, not-too-difficult prey for Weil, Anton and others. It remains a constant annoyance to this reviewer that the above-mentioned disadvantages are not a problem for today's "Calvin Klein" vampires that infect films such as "Twilight," "True Blood" and "Being Human" ...
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
By Steve D. Stones
In honor of the legacy of director George A. Romero, here are five of my most favorite Romero films. Romero's impact on the horror film industry cannot be objectively measured or overstated. Romero was a true maverick loved by those who worked with him. He will be greatly missed.
- Night of The Living Dead (1968). Here is the zombie horror movie that lays the foundation for every zombie movie that follows. A young woman named Barbara is attacked in a Pennsylvania cemetery by a zombie. She finds her way to a small farm house occupied by five other people hiding in the basement. News footage seen on a television gives the film a realistic, documentary feel that continually puts the viewer on the edge of his seat. The occupants of the farmhouse fight for their lives to stay alive. Our hero is an African-American man, Duane Jones, who does not triumph in the end, but makes a strong political statement on the coat tails of Martin Luther King Jr. and the race riots of the 1960s. Remade in 1990.
- The Crazies (1973). Romero continues on with a post-apocalyptic theme seen in Night of The Living Dead, and will continue even further in Dawn of The Dead. Like Night of The Living Dead, this film also has a realistic, documentary feel that leaves the viewer nervous and tense. It shows how our trusted institutions, such as law enforcement, news media and military, can be torn apart in the event of a tragedy. No one is to be trusted or can be turned to in the event of a disaster. A cynical view, but one which permeated American culture in the mid-1970s after President Nixon's resignation. A film which coincides well with the Watergate Era. Also known as Code Name: Trixie. Remade in 2010.
- Martin (1978). This creative film is an interesting take on the vampire myth. Martin is a peculiar young man who has a taste for blood – literally and figuratively. There's just one problem. Martin does not have fangs like a vampire, nor does he sleep in coffins during the day or avoid sunlight. All the established vampire iconography is stripped away in this film. Martin even has to use razor blades to get blood from his victims. Romero has often mentioned Martin as his best film. Many film critics agree.
- Dawn of The Dead (1979). Occurring just a few years after Night of The Living Dead, this film is a direct commentary on the consumer culture of the American lifestyle. Even in death, American zombies have the mind dulling sense to flock to a shopping mall to consume more stuff they cannot afford. The zombie becomes a parody and cartoon character, adding to Romero's critique of consumer culture. The irony here is that the living want it all too, but eventually end up dead because of their greed. We are all mindless zombies who want to consume more and more, in the eyes of Romero's Dawn of The Dead. Remade in 2004.
- Creepshow (1982). An anthology of five short stories in comic book fashion, Romero teamed up with horror writer Stephen King for this installment. The first story, Father's Day, is my favorite of the five. Here, a deceased father exhibits his patriarchal power over his daughter, even from the grave. He crawls his way out of the grave to complain about not getting a Father's Day cake. Actor Ed Harris gets smothered with his tombstone after falling into the grave. The father finishes the day by serving up his daughter's head on a platter. Who could ask for a better Father's Day?
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Christopher R. Gauthier, seen above in an artistic license photo with his favorite actor, Bela Lugosi. Christopher runs the A Celebration of the Art and Life of Bela Lugosi Facebook page (here). It's a growing group that consistently provides interesting graphics, observations and information on Lugosi.
Besides his interest in and contributions on Lugosi's life and career, Christopher also writes poetry on Bela Lugosi. We'll share some on this post but he recently read some poetry on a radio broadcast. (Here at about the 53.44 mark). He is also working on a novel about Lugosi. Christopher was also acknowledged for assistance with research and images in the new BearManor Media Scripts From the Crypt book "Dracula's Daughter."
I enjoyed this interview with Christopher, who has a real passion for the actor so many of us love on the blog.
-- Doug Gibson
1) When was the first time you saw Bela in a film? Was that when you determined he was a great influence in your life or did it take a while?
GAUTHIER: It is very difficult to say what Lugosi movie I first stumbled upon, I as far back as I can recollect have been drawn to the mystique of the man. One very vivid memory that I do have, is when I first watched The Body Snatcher and found his role of Joseph to be the most interesting character in the film. To me there had to be something so much more to this actor, I thought to myself, as I watched the film. I was never the same after that. I guess, I was born a Lugosi fan. I read everything I could possibly get my hands on regarding his career and life -- he inspired me to try and pursue a career in acting, and he was my teacher who I learned more from than anyone else in my life then, now and throughout the time I was growing up. He was A major influence on me in every aspect, as well as creatively speaking, I wanted to be just like him. Whenever something terrible goes bad in my life I watch one of his films, and life doesn't seem so bad because he provides me with solace that few others do.
2) What are your favorite Bela films and why?
GAUTHIER: I adore everything Bela ever was in. It is almost impossible to select which films are my all time favorites because I deeply love them all. The Raven, The Black Cat, White Zombie, Dracula, The Return of The Vampire, Chandu The Magician, Son Of Frankenstein, Broadminded along with Spooks Run Wild, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and Bride Of The Monster stand out as some of my favorites, but as I have said every production he was in is worthwhile and something close (and) deep in my heart.
3) You have a successful Facebook Lugosi page. How does that assist in your study and appreciation of Lugosi and what it is like to interact with Bela fans across the world?
GAUTHIER: My page "A Celebration of The Life and Art of Bela Lugosi" has brought together all loyal Lugosi aficionados from all corners of the globe. We are very different from other groups, we emphasize on the great things he did, as an artist and as a man. We are sophisticated and the page is held very sacred to me, a safe haven for serious Lugosi fans. We also encourage other artists to share their art, whether it be performance, literature or material arts, it is welcomed and valued and always appreciated and respected. It has brought me to encounter and become acquainted with like hearted people who revel in celebration of the great man's life and work.
4) Can you tell us about your novel in progress about Bela?
GAUTHIER: My novel being written to honor Lugosi is a labor of love I have been meticulously crafting with unwavering devotion for a number of years. I believe that at the end of his life he would have really appreciated this type of material I am writing to honor my hero. I am not going to say too much on the subject because it is a work fathomed deep in progress. But it is for Mr. Lugosi and I have the inclination he would be very pleased with it, and even moved. I have been advised to write a screenplay -- but I much prefer to honor him in a novel, as I do not think that there are any such actors that can bring proper justice to emulating the masterful Bela Lugosi.
5) You've had poetry about Bela published. Can you share a little bit with the blog?
GAUTHIER: I have written several poems for Lugosi, you may read some below. I have had a few Lugosi poems published when I was an adolescent but they are nothing in contrast to what I have written as of these passed few years in accordance to the novel and certain pieces of poetry dedicated to my Hero.
6) What's' it like motivating yourself to write about Bela? AND 7) You have an impressive amount of graphics and other art relating to Bela and his career. You were acknowledge in the recent book on Dracula's Daughter. What are some memories of Bela that you wish were available? I can think of finding a video of a Dracula play.
GAUTHIER: I am motivated to write my novel and pay homage to my Patron Saint who has above anyone else, in any force, shape or form, been there for me. He has touched my life beyond what words will ever be properly able to convey. The man has saved my life. I owe whatever success I have now and if any awaits me in the future entirely to him. He is my artistic savior, my creative muse, the source of what dreams are made of, my ultimate Hero, my greatest friend and my surrogate father and the father to all the lost children of the night- He is and always has been my greatest friend. I write because I must, inside the crux of my heart he guides me, and I am just offering my contribution to the world that honors The Great Bela Lugosi.
8) Do you have a bucket list of Lugosi related goals, travel, conversations with scholars?
GAUTHIER: Imagine what it would have been like to see him on the stage or to have known him as a friend in person. I wish I could have seen him on stage and that I were alive to help him when the tragic circumstances took the betterment of his life towards the final years. I wish I was alive, affluent and be able to finance any production of his choice. I would have done anything for him. He deserved so much more than what hand of cards he had been dealt by lady fate.
9) Finally, let a novice Lugosi fan know of four essential films and three essential books.
GAUTHIER: For a novice Lugosi fan I would encourage them to watch The Black Cat, Broadminded, The Raven, Dracula and The Return of The Vampire. As far as books go, I have found that each biographer offers something unique in all books related to Lugosi. But I would recommend Arthur Lennig's The Immortal Count, Robert Cremer's The Man Behind The Cape, The Films Of Bela Lugosi by Richard Bojarski, Leo Wiltshire's Reign Of The Vampire- A Tribute To The Perseverance of Bela Lugosi and of course, first and foremost anything written by Gary Don Rhodes and Bill Kaffenberger
Thanks so much, Christopher. We appreciate you sharing your observations with us. Below are a couple of Christopher's poems:
Thank you Bela LugosiFather To All Lost Children Of The Night
The lunar jewel drinks in the turmoil
Nightmares evolve into mollifying dreamscapes surrealistic beyond rational belief
The old creaky baronial movie house breathes in the crux of its heart a docile sigh of relief
Your motion pictures of sparkling black and white gold immerse the great looming movie screen, You are my indisputable Hero and friend who sometimes visits my dreams
When such reverential occasion transpires
To feed the creative fires
Beneath the moon beams
Neither foe, nor victim nor vampiric concubines are able to bellow a scream
The nightmare is no longer a nightmare, but a beautiful dream.
You should have been given so much more
Than just the Horror genre you bestowed upon the entertainment industry, But yet you have left us with your undying legacy and have achieved perpetual immortality
And have long become a phantasmagorical Hollywood Legend and forceful source of so much folklore,
Bela you have everlasting legions of fans who truly adore
Every contribution an artistic actor and humanitarian man you are loved forevermore
You shield me behind the sanctuary of your sheltering protective vampire cape and offer me solace from the hateful world abroad
And when you end each performance, I humbly applaud
For there is no greater Actor
At least that is my opinion and the law within my domain
If I had not discovered you my life would have never been the same.
The world praises and thanks you for all you have given and done
In the end you have defeated the exploitive traitors and have everlastingly won
A place in the elysian Hollywood constellation of riveting and celebrated luminaries and Stars
Your pathos is not forgotten but healed have the scars
You are my deepest friend and ultimate Hero above all
May you continue to live on as your dynasty shall forever enthrall
Thank you Bela, my Hero and friend for all you have done
Let us watch the lunar jewel vanish and bask in the morning warmth and rise of the sun
---- Christopher R. Gauthier
Bela, you changed the face of the golden age silver screen
Your memory comes to mind in the cast of the full moon and its radiant beam
Beyond all compare you have captured the heart and imbued us all with mystical intrigue, you are in a class lone to itself in your very own artistic league--
You have helped so many by the brave examples you've set
In another life I feel in my heart we must've met
And knew each other as very close friends
from then to eternity my awe and adulation knows no end.
I wish I could have given you so very much more than what hand of cards you were dealt, you persevered against in the face of adversity and were always humbled without the shadow of a doubt,
For the love your fans expressed to you over the years,
and to all your lost children of the night you wipe away the tears.
What a symbol of hope you are to us all
You lift up the crestfallen when they stumble and fall.
I have known no greater friend throughout the entirety of my life
and on behalf of us all We thank you for all you have done in the howl of the night
Our Hero, Our Friend and Eradicator of woeful doom
You reveal the comfort that is immersed in the gloom-
of things that are macabre and beyond the realms furthermore
You conjure the indisputable magic and open the mystical door
leaving us all wanting your Genius forevermore.
My friend you are with me in these darkened times I am going thru
I know that I can always depend on the nobility that is you.
You will never fully know how much you have touched my life and the cores of my soul, in both your life and in every celluloid role,
May peace forever be present in your family and in the crux of your golden heart
My great friend your legacy will never depart
like The Immortal Count Dracula, you will live forever in the annals of time
And you shall also be remembered for being ever so kind
To all the lonesome lives you have brought solace and touched
You, who have given everything of yourself, so very much
In you I know I have a friend, as in my heart you do in mine.
Take care Bela, my greatest friend
My love for you always is boundless without end.
-- Christopher R. Gauthier
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Review by Doug Gibson
To get an even better overview of genre scholar Frank Dello Stritto's new book, "A Werewolf Remembers: The Testament of Lawrence Stewart Talbot," I urge readers to go to our Plan9Crunch interview with Frank about six weeks ago. Then read this review.
The book, as well as others by Dello Stritto, is published at Cult Movies Press. You can also buy it at Amazon.
Readers, particularly genre fans, will be awed by the knowledge the author possesses of both the Universal horror films of the 1930s and 40s as well as the other studios' -- small and large -- offerings during that golden period. There are dozens of films that have reference in this mock testament of cursed Wolfman Larry Talbot, as well as a observational chapters from his biographer researcher narrator.
"Condemned to Live," the Frankenstein films, the Dracula films, "Return of the Vampire," any film with Lawrence Talbot, of course, "Werewolf of London," films from PRC and Monogram, "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein," even characters from "Bride of the Monster," "The Alligator People" and "Thriller" TV series flit through this unique book.
What Dello Stritto has managed to do is provide a continuity to the films that involve Dracula, the Wolfman and the Frankenstein monster. This is not an easy task as these monsters continually die and are continually (inexplicably) resurrected. In Talbot's testament, he describes a deep non-living stage, a stagnant location on the path the deceased take to eternal life. There, unable to move on, exist Talbot, the Frankenstein monster and Dracula. Talbot and Frankenstein's monster are victims. Dracula represents evil. Periodically the trio are returned to an earthly existence.
Genre fans, and hard-core enthusiasts will enjoy this book the most, but even the casual viewer of several Universal horrors would enjoy "A Werewolf Remembers." Lon Chaney's Talbot eventually became the central character of the Universal horror films and in his final appearance, "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein," he goes after his major nemesis, Count Dracula. This film serves as the climax of "A Werewolf Remembers." What drives Talbot on his pursuit to destroy Dracula I'll leave for readers to discover.
Some characters are explored in more detail than others. Dr. Yogami, who Warner Oland played in "Werewolf of London," is an altruistic man trying hard to cure Talbot with the tmariphasa plant. That fails and Talbot infects Yogami. Another hero of Talbot's testament is Dr. Edelmann of "House of Dracula," who sacrifices his sanity and life to provide relief, albeit temporary, to Talbot. It's nice to see Talbot's gypsy protector, Maleva, have a dignified end to her life in the book.
But the book goes beyond the horror genre. Dello Stritto has created a family line of the Talbots and familial customs. In order to make good use of the many, many photo stills that serve as historical records, he has created news services, city and town archives, police photos, entertainment photos and an even a Talbot historical society that remains in the family home. In the book, Lawrence, not a first-born son, is exiled, per tradition, to America in the late 19th century, where he spends time in the Alaska gold fields and eventually California. He rubs shoulders with, among others, Jack London and the characters from several films, including "King Kong," Murders In the Zoo," The Most Dangerous Game," "Mad Monster," "Jungle Woman" and "Return of the Ape Man."
(The time frame is necessary to fit Talbot's presence in the many different films and time periods. As he explains in his testament, he ages very slowly.)
I need to mention that Lawrence Talbot is considered a "Red Talbot," more nomadic and wild. There are "White Talbots," who stay home and are more studious. Dello Stritto's conception of Lawrence Talbot is faithful to his movie portrayals as a man who seeks death and deeply suffers over his affliction, which makes him eagerly attack, kill and eat human prey. If he fails to do that when the moon is full, he suffers. He is tortured with regret.
The final chapters, where Talbot, in pursuit of "Dracula," interviews his past victims, including characters played by Helen Chandler and Nina Foch, are fascinating reading. The ending is appropriately open. But there is unspoken hope, as its apparent that no sightings of Talbot or the other monsters have appeared since the late 1940s. Maybe he gained peace after grabbing "Dracula" at the end of "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein."
The book is structured well. It is told in fast-paced sections within larger chapters, some lasting only a few to several paragraphs. Also, the testament, followed by the narrator's observations provide agreeable change of pace.
As mentioned, the author's knowledge of nearly a half century of research, dozens of essays and several published books provide the continuity and knowledge necessary to create a mock documentary that sticks to the genre facts and makes it a real treasure for readers. Trust me, you'll be amazed by the tale(s) the author has weaved throughout this book. Only reading the book can do it justice.
At Plan9Crunch, we have articles on Dello Stritto's writing and observations here, here, here, including a review of the remarkable, well-researched book, co-authored with Andi Brooks, Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi in Britain.
Saturday, July 15, 2017
On Sunday, July 16, 2017, Turner Classic Movies will air the B-movie classic "Gun Crazy." It starts at 8 a.m. MST. We urge film buffs to watch this low-budget film that packs a powerful impact. It's mentioned in Danny Peary's book Cult Films. Director Joseph H. Lewis was an A director in low-budget films. For example, he was easily Bela Lugosi's best Monogram director, helming "The Invisible Ghost." Here's a short review below.
Gun Crazy: 1950, King Brothers Productions, Peggy Cummins and John Nall. 4 stars - This low-budget gem is a film noir classic of the lovesick male with a reform school past who falls for the bad girl and follows her to both of their dooms. Cummins and Nall, little-known actors, generate real sparks as greedy sharp shooters who don't have the patience to live a normal life. When she kills in a robbery and the law closes in on them, the claustrophobic atmosphere director Joseph H. Lewis creates is outstanding and final love to the death moments between these two losers is moving. There's a reason Gun Crazy is taught in many film schools. Don't miss it. It's easy to buy and pops up on TV often.
-- Doug Gibson
Sunday, July 9, 2017
Review by Doug Gibson
I really like 1944's Monogram film, "Voodoo Man," the last film Bela Lugosi starred in for Sam Katzman's Monogram/Banner film company. It was released, however, prior to the earlier Lugosi film, The Return of the Ape Man. I love all of the Monogram Lugosi films, the wild plots, the very low budgets, the dank lighting, the dreary non-horror leads, the typed-last-night dialogue. "Voodoo Man" for a long time was not seen as much as other Lugosi Monograms, and it took a while years ago to find and buy. However, with the Net generation, you can watch it above courtesy of YouTube. Still, I never see it on Turner Classic Movies or other television, even today.
That's too bad, because it may be the best-paced, least convoluted Monogram film Lugosi made. It's ably directed by William Beaudine and looks like a lean, mean film-in-a-week film. (It was helmed in October of 1943). The plot involves Dr. Richard Marlowe, who kidnaps young lovelies in an attempt to transform their conscious life into his "dead" comatose wife, Evelyn (Ellen Hall). In typical Monogram nonsensical fashion, he lures his prey (and he has a home full of zombie-like beautiful women) with the help of a service station owner, George Zucco, who sends the girls to Lugosi via a roadblock. Lugosi, watching them on that newfangled thing called a television transmitter, sends an electrical ray that stops their cars. At that point, two moronic but relatively gentle henchmen, played by John Carradine and Frank Moran, kidnap the lovelies and take them to Dr. Marlowe's lair, where Zucco, a high priest to the God, Ramboona, attempts to transfer their lives to Marlowe's "dead" wife.
OK, you're wondering why I call this non-convoluted. My only defense is to recount the other Lugosi Monogram plots but I don't have 100 pages to do so. ... Back to the film, a Hollywood screenwriter, Ralph Dawson, off to marry his sweetheart, is sent by his studio boss (named SK, an inside Sam Katzman joke) to write a screenplay about the missing girls, which has, not surprisingly generated a lot of news.
The film, 62 minutes long, moves swiftly and carries the viewer's interest. It may be outlandish, but it's never dull. Lugosi is, actually, a his biographer Arthur Lennig notes, a sympathetic character, despite his kidnappings. He's endured 22 years of his wife's zombie-like state, and conveys his despair well. "Voodoo Man" has a dream cast, with Lugosi and Zucco together. It's a lot better than their other pairing, "Scared to Death." Carradine is cast out of type as one of the henchmen and has been criticized but I like his work in the film.He seems to be having fun and even manages to look creepy when he bangs the drums during the Ramboona God ceremonies. Moran, a former prizefighter, is good as his partner.
Monogram starlets Louise Currie and Wanda McKay are two of my favorites. Both are gorgeous and capable actresses who worked with Lugosi more than once. In fact, Katzman called Currie the low-budget Katharine Hepburn because of her striking beauty. Unlike most Monogram.Banner romantic male leads, who tend to be stiffs, Michael Ames' Ralph Dawson has energy and personality on the screen. He later changed his screen name to Tod Andrews and guest starred on both and early late Andy Griffith Show episodes, Veteran actor Henry Hall is well cast as the amusing sheriff and has a fun time saying "Gosh All Fishhooks!" when the script calls for it.
But the best, and perhaps most famous line, is delivered by Ames' Dawson in the film's epilogue. Handing the script to the producer, he turns to movie company's president and suggests a casting choice: "Why don't you get Bela Lugosi. It's right up his alley!"
It certainly was, but it was Lugosi's last Monogram film role. Initially, things looked better for Bela in 1944. He was in a higher-budget horror spoof, "One Body Too Many," for Fine Arts Productions and then signed a three-picture deal with RKO that included "The Body Snatcher." But his film career would dry up in the latter 1940s, and he only made two films in that decade after the RKO deal. One, fortunately, was "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein." As the decade progressed, most of his earnings would come barnstorming the country, on the stage in summer stock and other venues, usually performing as "Dracula" or as "Jonathan Brewster" in "Arsenic and Old Lace."
Saturday, July 1, 2017
Review by Steve D. Stones
It's A Gift, from Paramount, is one of comedian W.C. Fields' best films. The funny gags in this film will have you rolling in the aisles. Watch for a hilarious shaving scene by Fields early in the film.
Fields plays a humble middle class New Jersey grocery store owner named Harold Bissonette who is constantly hounded by his overbearing wife Amelia, played by Kathleen Howard. After a blind man accidentally breaks his store front windows and a display of light bulbs, and a child spills a barrel of molasses on the floor, Bissonette decides he has had enough of the grocery business and sells the store. He has dreams of moving to California to start an orange grove business.
Bissonette's uncle Bean is ill and eventually dies from choking on an orange, which is ironic – since Bissonette dreams of running an orange grove one day. Bissonette receives some inheritance from Bean. Bissonette purchases a ranch in California where the orange grove business is prosperous.
To get some sleep from his constantly nagging wife, Bissonette goes outside on the second floor deck to sleep. Here he is tortured by an infant, played by Baby LeRoy, who pours grapes down a hole in the floor to hit Bissonette in the face as he tries to sleep. Bissonette is also pestered by an insurance salesman on the bottom floor. A milkman also arrives while loudly banging milk bottles. Will Bissonette ever get any sleep? The viewer really sympathizes with Bissonette's challenge to try to get some sleep during this long scene.
After informing his wife that he no longer owns the street corner grocery store, he makes plans to head out to west with his family to California to start his orange grove business. When the family arrives in California, they find a run down land with an old shack that is not in livable condition. This of course angers Amelia. Luckily, a race track owner arrives to offer to buy the property for $44,000 so he can build a race track on the land.
What I find particularly funny in this film is when Bissonette continually walks out on his wife in every scene when she nags at him. Instead of disagreeing with her and arguing, he simply agrees with her, but then walks out of the room when her back is turned on him. She continues to nag and nag, even long after Bissonette leaves the room. Bissonette seems to keep his cool with all the women in his life, even in the opening shaving scene with his daughter Mildred, who pushes him away from the bathroom mirror as he shaves.
For further information about the career and films of W.C. Fields, see author James L. Neibaur's book – The W.C. Fields Films, published by McFarland in March 2017. Happy viewing.
Art by Steve D. Stones
Saturday, June 24, 2017
Review by Doug Gibson
The latest BearManorMedia Scripts From the Crypt offering, "Dracula's Daughter" (buy it here) continues the high quality of the cult films books' series. Penned mostly by Gary D Rhodes, it satisfies a constant of our genre fans: it breaks new ground. New nuggets, big and small, of scholarship are unearthed. And, as with all the books, you have Tom Weaver's observations and opinions. Love them or hate them, they are unique and the product of an original mind. There's also an introduction and essay on the music of the film from contributors David Colton and Michael Lee.
The best reading comes from Rhodes' exhaustive treatment of the film's creation. Early on, he discusses the role of women in vampire lore, using Theda Bara and other vamps to explain that vampire once meant a woman who sucked the heart and soul out of their doomed male lovers. This is relevant because later we learn that early treatments for the film included a female vampire who was sexually aggressive and delighted in the torture, degradation and dissipation of her male captives. (I am assuming blog readers have seen "Dracula's Daughter." If not, do so now.) Gloria Holden's sympathetic yet resolute Countess emerged as a result of the watering down of the plot's actions.
As Rhodes' notes, "Dracula's Daughter," a 1936 release, emerged as the moralistic production code was gaining strength. Scripts and treatments for the film endured rough seas with the censors. John Balderston, Kurt Neumann, and RC Sherriff all had their hands on the typewriter. Eventually Garrett Fort's subdued, more sanitized script became the film. Milton Carruth, who edited "Dracula," also impacted "Dracula's Daughter" with his editing, Rhodes notes.
Some of the early treatments would have been interestingly daring. The Countess as a man hunter, entering the film after already killing a lover/slave. She nearly physically, spiritually and mentally destroys the hero before succumbing. Screenwriters assured the Laemmle overlords, soon to lose the studio, that a woman conducting such sexual sadism on men would pass code approval. Witness what Balderston wrote in his treatment: "The use of a female vampire instead of a male gives us the chance to play up SEX and CRUELTY legitimately."
At one time James Whale was slated to direct. He might have been able to convey such a film in a subtle manner to fool the censors. Lambert Hillyer, a talented, workmanlike, solid director who eventually got the role, lacked the Whale magic to do that had he even tried.
We learn that Bela Lugosi was once considered to be in the film. He was even paid $4,000. However, a reading of the fascinating screenplay excerpt, from Sherriff, of a prologue that would have featured Lugosi creating his daughter, is so bizarre and sexually depraved that I think it would have trouble getting made even in the pre-code era. Lugosi, and a bunch of sadistic companions terrorize the peasantry, kidnapping women, and with exaggerated faux grotesque courtesy, torturing and murdering them. "Dracula's Daughter" is made a vampire by the Count.
But that is not the "Dracula's Daughter" that we watch today. It's a fine film with a haunting performance by Gloria Holden. Otto Kruger and Marguerite Churchill are a better hero couple than David Manners and Helen Chandler. Kruger and Churchill actually have romantic chemistry. Irving Pichel is very creepy as Holden's mortal companion, and presumably her lover. His quiet rage at watching Holden prefer Kruger to him as an immortal companion is suitably sinister. Nan Gray (Grey) is great as a poor girl, perhaps streetwalker, who eventually dies, we assume due to the Countess' unquenchable thirst. And Edward Van Sloan is back as Van Helsing, inexplicably called Von Helsing in the sequel.
Yes, Dracula's Daughter is an above-average film. The book informs us that it received generally good reviews and appears to have done well at the box office. But as Weaver rather shrewdly notes, one can watch "Dracula's Daughter" and not be convinced that the title character is really a vampire. We know she is only because that is the script's design. But this is a bloodless film. As Weaver points out, she is killed by an arrow shot through her heart; anyone would die of that.
"Dracula's Daughter," as much as I enjoy it, is neutered by the production code. It's respected within the genre, but never will it be placed anywhere near the pedestal that say, "Bride of Frankenstein" has. "Dracula's Daughter" is not a film that takes risks or tries to pierce our deepest obsessions or fears as James Whale does. It's a worthy entry at a time when Universal was still making at least A-minus budgeted horror flicks. Perhaps its finest moment is that it takes the action back to Transylvania in the final reel, something that "Dracula," still a better film, did not do.
Lest anyone think I am ungrateful, let me reiterate my deep appreciation for writers such as Rhodes and Weaver, and others, as well as thanks to BearManor Media for publishing these types of books. They are manna for me and I'm sure so many others. So much minutiae to eagerly wade through -- we love it! We learn, for example, the salaries of the stars. Holden, incredibly, only received $1,450 for a performance that is almost iconic. Kruger did a great job, but really, $9,583.30 is out of whack compared to Holden. Churchill received $1,250, Van Sloan $2,400, Pichel, who really earns it, $2,950, and unbelievably, Nan Gray (Grey), who probably is second-most remembered due to the much-debated lesbian overtones to her scene with Holden, received a paltry $200!
The entire script as shot is in the book, and as I have mentioned, the many treatments are included. There's a section on contemporary reviews the movie received; there's a fascinating press book. As mentioned, the whole back story of the film is captured, including even a "Junior" Laemmle-inspired treatment for the end. There's dozens of photos, and a tender heart-wrenching letter from Holden late in life to film fan David Del Valle, in which she stoically talks about the tragic death of her son, We even get a treatment for an adaptation of "Carmilla," another female vampire tale. This one wasn't filmed
I could spend many more paragraphs detailing what's in these pages. But just go buy the book. It's a gem. I can't wait for the next one, which is slated to be about two unrealized films from "Dracula" director Tod Browning.
Sunday, June 18, 2017
This is a screwball horror film, but a lot more entertaining than most viewers will expect. It's sheer pulp horror that doesn't take itself too seriously. The plot of The Ape Man involves a scientist (Lugosi) who for unexplained reasons accidentally turns himself into an ape man. Not trusting his sanity, he frequently locks himself up with an ill-tempered ape (Van Horn in a campy performance). Lugosi's ape man needs human spinal fluid to have even a chance to regain his former appearance and posture. This involves murder and when a colleague (Hall) refuses to help, Lugosi literally goes ape, and commits several murders. He's encouraged by his creepy sister (Urecal) a noted spiritualist who records the groans of ghosts. Lugosi's nemesis are a reporter/photographer duo who soon become wise to all the creepy occurrences.
The film is slightly marred by a truly goofy character who acts as a red herring, cutting into scenes for no reason and offering cryptic comments and warnings. At the end, he reveals himself to be the author of the tale. As The End is flashed on the screen, he remarks "Screwy, isn't it?"
The Ape Man plays occasionally on UEN's (Utah Educational Network) Sci Fi Friday and has a podcast to go along with it. There are many versions of the film. It is free to watch on the Web. Hopefully, Turner Classic Movies will air a pristine print of the film soon. Watch it below
Saturday, June 10, 2017
Review by Doug Gibson
A while back I reviewed "... The Harry Langdon Scrapbook," a fascinating visual treat of the comic's life and career. It was a treat from small publishing house Walker and Anthony and it prompted me to want to read and review another vintage comic scrapbook subject, Charley Chase. It's "The Charley Chase Scrapbook."
Chase, with an iconic face, worked very had to build his career as Charles Parrott, comic actor. Once living in poverty, he moved himself into prominence as a vaudevillian and early silent comedy actor. He gained initial acting stature, starting as an extra, with movie man Al Christie, and moved to Keystone and Mack Sennett, mostly as a director and writer. Pay disputes prompted him to freelance a while, again directing more often. He worked, among others, with Fox-Films and Bulls-Eye, mostly behind the camera, often directing Billy West, a Chaplin imitator who was popular.
During these years he married a dancer and English teacher named BeBe Eltinge, and two girls were added over a few years, Polly, who later acted with her father, and June, many of whom's recollections were gathered and eventually used in the Scrapbook. Charley's marriage with BeBe was a strong union that remained until his death.
Chase eventually gained stardom with Hal Roach studios. About that time he took the "Chase" last name, selecting it out of a phone book. His younger brother, James Parrott, who acted as Paul Parrott, came to Hal Roach a little before Charley and was a director, writer and briefly an actor. By 1926, Chase's career was rolling; but James', due to poor health, was slowly receding The rise of Laurel and Hardy and Our Gang comedy teams would eventually eclipse Charley Chase's stature at Roach's studio.
Concern over his brother, and a problem with alcoholism, would plague Chase the rest of his life. In the early days of sound, a medium he was well equipped for with a great singing voice, a bad ulcer nearly killed Chase. He rebounded with Roach studios working consistently for the first several years of the 1930s.
In my opinion, and many may disagree, Chase was at his best in the sound era. He was a very talented silent comedian, among the Top 10, but his voice and mannerisms work well with sound, and are well suited to talkies. In the Laurel and Hardy feature, "Sons of the Desert," Chase is superb as a pushy but likable prankster with the boys at a lodge convention. And although he did his best work overall with Roach studios, The Heckler, a Columbia comedy short he made late in life, captures Chase's talent so well as he plays an abrasive, jokester fan at a tennis match. He's great with an outraged Vernon Dent.
Eventually, Chase left Hal Roach studios. A note from Chase in The Scrapbook shows that he took his disappointing departure with humor and grace. Chase stayed busy, soon signing with Columbia's comedy shorts department, and doing what he was best at, acting, directing and writing. One of his better-known directed shorts is "Violent is the Word For Curly," from 1938.
Concern over the health of his deteriorating brother, James, wore Chase down in the 1930s. Before drug addiction literally destroyed his career, James directed the classic Laurel and Hardy short "The Music Box" and some Chase's films as well. But drug abuse demolished James' career, and eventually cost him his life in May 1939.
According to the Scrapbook, Chase blamed himself for his brother's death, and continued to drink heavily. Although he had a loving family and a still-strong career with Columbia, the excess drinking contributed to the heart attack that killed Charley Chase 13 months later, on June 20, 1940. He died in his home.
The Scrapbook is designed much like the Langdon one, with stills, posters, writings, drawings, family photos, handwritten entries, newspaper interviews, drawings, articles, and other communications providing a montage of his life. These scrapbooks provide readers glimpses into the personalities of the subjects. You witness Chase's drive and love of his craft. In this case, the picture is worth at least hundreds of words.
Many of the Scrapbook items are from Chase's personal collections, preserved by his grandson Charley Preshaw. The pictures of Chase, late in life, holding grandson Preshaw as an infant, provide a warm, human look at the comedy legend.
Chase rubbed acting shoulders with the best of his era. The book serves as a history of his era, a glimpse into a time capsule that fits on a coffee table. "The Charley Chase Scrapbook" is not inexpensive. It's a small press labor of love. It's a must for Chase fans, or fans of Hal Roach's vintage comedy. I recommend it for early film comedy fans as a fitting inclusion in your genre bookcase.
Saturday, June 3, 2017
UPDATE: YOU CAN NOW PURCHASE A WEREWOLF REMEMBERS AT CULT MOVIES PRESS. Here is the link.
Frank J. Dello Stritto has written some great books, essays and articles on classic horror films. I place him with Gary Rhodes and Arthur Lennig as the finest scholars chronicling the career of Bela Lugosi. Like his peers, Dello Stritto has written essays on many genre subjects, including King Kong, Svengali, The Phantom of the Opera, etc.
He's published a book of essays, "A Quaint and Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore," full of genre articles, many of which were published in Cult Movies Magazine. He, along with the best Bela Lugosi blogger Andi Brooks, broke new research ground with "Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi in Britain," that detailed Lugosi's last major Dracula tour as well as provide strong overviews of his British films. The first edition was superb; a longer second edition even better.
Several years ago Frank published a memoir, "I Saw What I Saw When I Saw It" that recalled his life as a child, a Monster Boomer, becoming familiar with the films children loved in the "shock theater" TV days. As interesting is his account of how these films, particularly "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein," extended their influence into adulthood, prompting him to search for films of that era he missed, leading him into fandom, and eventually scholarship.
Frank's latest book has just been released. It's "A Werewolf Remembers: The Testament of Lawrence Stewart Talbot." It's a fascinating pseudo non-fiction "documentary" account of the "Wolf Man's life," and how it interacts with much of the monster genre of almost two generations of films. "A Werewolf Remembers" also contains the the "journal" of Talbot, detailing the many journeys of his existence. Frank introduced the book at the recent Monster Bash.
This is a work only a scholar could weave together. I plan to review it in a few weeks. I was fortunate enough to help proof a draft of the book six months ago. I'm happy to announce its publication on our blog and interview the author. This is a lengthy interview, but it's well worth your time and will whet your appetite for "A Werewolf Remembers."
Readers will be able to purchase "A Werewolf Remembers" very soon (we'll let you know when). It will be at Amazon, as well as the Cult Movies Press website where his other books are available.
In the meantime, enjoy this interview with Frank Dello Stritto, about "A Werewolf Remembers."
-- Doug Gibson
Why was Lawrence Talbot the primary individual to focus on? Is it his ubiquity in the films and his relationship to so many aspects of the genre?
DELLO STRITTO: Talbot certainly gets around. He is always searching, and thus crosses paths with a lot of people. In my book, he meets everyone seen in his movies, and he meets a lot more.
When I began the book, I did not plan that Lawrence’s tale would span so many of the horror and monster movies of the 1930s and 1940s, but that’s what happened. When I needed a character to advance the plot, or an adventure for him to have, I found them ready and waiting for me in movies, whether Lawrence appeared in them or not. In his movies, the only werewolf that Lawrence meets is Bela the Gypsy, who infects him. In my book, he encounters many characters from The Undying Monster, Return of the Vampire, Werewolf of London, The Mad Monster, The Cat People, and so on. He even meets Carl Denham. Lawrence is a real wanderer, and having so many characters cross his path was not hard.
I hope readers will enjoy the challenge of identifying the movies from where I plucked each character. Some are easy to spot, some are really hard.
Lawrence befriends the real-life writer Jack London. I could not resist bringing him into Talbot’s tale. The real London took the name of his stepfather. His birth father was (probably) an astrologer named William Chaney. With London’s tie to Talbot (played in his five films by Lon Chaney), and his apparent fixation on wolves (Call of the Wild, White Fang, The Sea Wolf), I had to bring him in. In my book, Talbot meets a few other real-life figures as well.
I can’t say that I was looking for excuses to bring other movie monsters into Talbot’s story, but when the chance arose, I jumped on it.
Talbot’s travels are not why he is the center of the story. Lawrence is a character whose story begs to be told. We know something about him from his movies, and my book fills in the gaps. From the films, we know that he is the son of a Welsh aristocrat, and that he left home at age 13. We know that young Lawrence went to America where he did a lot of jobs working with his hands. He worked at Mount Wilson Observatory in Southern California. At age 31, he is summoned home. His older brother has died, and Lawrence is now heir to the Talbot estate. The first part of my book fleshes out the life of young Lawrence.
The theme of his life, before and after becoming a werewolf, is resolving his issues with his father. The doctors from whom he seeks help are surrogates for his father. But their real goal is to revive Frankenstein’s Monster, just as Sir John Talbot would bring back his older son if he could.
What kind of research was necessary, in both studies of the films and the first half of the 20th century, to create both parts of the book, the diary and the historical narration?
DELLO STRITTO: I had to stay consistent with Talbot’s story as told in his five movies. When he meets a character from the real world, like Jack London, or from other movies, like Carl Denham, the narrative has to be consistent with their lives as well. So, I watched the movies a lot, and studied up on the real world figures to be sure that I got their stories straight. And from that I got a lot of ideas for the plot.
The big challenge is that I had to place those stories on a timeline consistent with the real world. Talbot’s last film appearance, in Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, was in 1948. So, I anchored his last (known) day on Earth as February 25, 1948, and worked backed from there. That involved both World Wars, the Great Depression, and basically all of early 20th Century history. Sir John Talbot was an astronomer, and I involved him to the hunt to prove Einstein’s Relativity Theory. The Talbots live in Wales, so I read up on Welsh history. In The Wolf Man Sir John mentions a distant ancestor, “Red Talbot,” and so I made him the founder of the Talbot line. That was important, because in my book, Lawrence’s family history weighs heavily on him.
As I developed the narrative, I always knew what the Moon was doing. Fortunately, the dates of the Full Moons going back centuries are easy to find online. Also, lunar eclipses figure in Talbot’s tale, and their dates are also pretty easy to find. In my book, when the Moon is full, or when an eclipse occurs, it occurred in real life.
Of course, some things in the movies are really hard to reconcile with reality. In Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, Talbot takes an airplane from London—after Full Moon sets—and arrives in La Mirada, Florida before the Moon rises again. Not easy to do now, and all but impossible in 1948. I managed to explain that in my book, but I can’t blame any readers who say “I don’t think so.”
I'm intrigued by your explanation for the immortality of Talbot, the Frankenstein Monster, and Dracula. It helps to explain the many deaths and resurrections of these characters. Explain your reasons for making Dracula the supreme evil and the monster a more sympathetic character?
DELLO STRITTO: The Universal monsters—The Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, and—though he’s not in my book, The Mummy—are immortals. Thanks to super science or the supernatural, they are not bound by the same laws of life and death that we are. But they do go to apparent “deaths” for long periods until they return to “life.” For my book, I had to have Talbot go somewhere—which he calls “The Deep Darkness”—and I got a bit creative with that. I hope readers will be intrigued by those segments of the story when Talbot is supposedly “dead.”
It is Talbot who makes Dracula the supreme evil. One of the unexplained elements of Talbot’s tale as told in the movies is his drive to hunt down and destroy Dracula in Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. In my book, I give Talbot a personal motive for hunting Dracula, and the vampire became more and more evil as the story developed. Another unexplained feature of Talbot’s movies is his return to lycanthropy after being cured at the end of House of Dracula. My story ties those loose ends together, but still leaves some mysteries for the reader to ponder.
I don’t think that I made The Monster more sympathetic than he is in the films. Dracula and The Wolf Man hunt for victims, but The Monster rarely acts for any other reason than self-defense. He is a tragic figure, an outcast, a victim of mad doctors who create and revive him with no regard for The Monster himself. Before he meets Talbot, he can be a murderer, particularly in Ghost of Frankenstein, but with Talbot he is quite a sympathetic figure.
Besides Universal, of course, other studios' efforts are included. I particularly enjoy The Cat People references and think it's great that even The Alligator People are included. What was the research process of tying so many films together? Did you need a solid outline to write this book?
DELLO STRITTO: I needed an outline for the first part of Talbot’s life, before the movies pick up his tale with The Wolf Man. And I needed an outline for the gap between the end of House of Dracula and the beginning of Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. The outline between those two segments really came from the plots of The Wolf Man movies, because I had to stay consistent with them.
Once assembled, think of the outline as a Christmas tree, and then you start hanging the ornaments. That’s the fun part. Talbot passes through New York City, on the way home to Wales (which is the start of The Wolf Man). So, I have him meet some characters from The Cat People (which takes place in New York). Later, Talbot searches for a doctor to cure his lycanthropy. In the movies, he goes straight to Dr. Frankenstein (who dies before Talbot reaches him), but I had him go to a few others first: Lady Jane Ainsley (from Return of the Vampire) and Dr. Yogami (from Werewolf of London).
When I bring in those characters, I have to create lives for them outside of their movies. Since the actress who played Lady Jane (Frieda Inescort) also played the doctor in The Alligator People (which also stars Lon Chaney), I brought some of that movie into my story. I do that throughout the book with a lot of characters and movies.
Personally, who were some of the characters you enjoyed fleshing out beyond their activities in the actual films?
DELLO STRITTO: Almost every character had to be fleshed out quite a bit, particularly Lawrence’s father, Sir John. But the character who almost wrote himself was Vollaz Yogami. I gave him that first name, or maybe he gave it to me. Once I brought in Dr. Yogami, the writing took on a life of its own. Nothing like that has ever happened to me before. It was as if I were not writing, but taking dictation. I am not a fast writer, but the chapters with Yogami wrote themselves very quickly.
As a Monster Boomer, do you have satisfaction in creating a narrative that brings the films together and works to solve so many continuity problems?
DELLO STRITTO: Definitely. When I first watched the movies as a child, any inconsistencies in the plots—and there are plenty—nagged at me. So did any plot disconnects between movies, and there are a lot of those, too. Of course, as I developed the plot for my book in detail, I uncovered more (like Talbot’s flight from London to La Mirada). A lot of these had to do with the timeline. Keeping the story consistent with the movies, and with a chronology that made sense was a challenge.
One of the inconsistencies is geography. The Frankenstein and Wolf Man movies confuse the villages of Frankenstein, Vasaria and Visaria. I resolved that, I think.
As a kid, I was always trying to resolve the discrepancies within the movies and between the movies, and it was fun to do it again in my book.
Do you think the book provides more than just a tale of Lawrence Talbot and his many interconnected experiences? Is there an intention to comment on any issue beyond the monster genre?
DELLO STRITTO: At face value, the book is, I hope, an exciting tale and a homage to the horror and monster movies of the 1930s and 1940s. The book’s dedication is “To Second Sons Everywhere, And Their Older Brothers.” Talbot’s relationship with his father, and his older brother is at the core of Talbot’s story, and at the core of my book. I expanded on it when I could, and I tried not to hammer the reader with it. If the book is any more than the tale it tells, it is how our closest blood relations, dead or alive, are never far from us. In the book, those relations are all male because in Talbot’s movies they are all male. I bring plenty of female characters into the story, including Talbot’s mother, but the basic tale is fathers, sons and brothers.
How will the book be publicized? Do you have another one in mind?
DELLO STRITTO: A Werewolf Remembers is my fourth book. Whenever I finish one, I always think: that’s it, I have no more to say. That’s how I feel now, and have no plans to do another book. Time will tell. Whether or not I write another one may depend on another mode of writing. My first book (Vampire Over London – Bela Lugosi in Britain) is non-fiction history. My second one (A Quaint & Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore – The Mythology & History of Classic Horror Films) is analysis and criticism. My third one (I Saw What I Saw When I Saw It – Growing Up in the 1950s & 1960s with Television Reruns and Old Movies) is a memoir. And A Werewolf Remembers – The Testament of Lawrence Stewart Talbot is fiction.
I did not set out to write on the same topic in different ways, but that’s what happened. I suppose a new mode is what I need to get the creativity. But I really don’t know—we will see.
Publicizing the book: well, I will go to movie conferences where the likely readers congregate. I will be getting my website (cultmoviespress.com) overhauled soon. I will have to become more active and savvy in social media to get the word out. Honestly, I am not looking forward to that.
What's an issue I
missed, something that you'd like readers to know about your book?
DELLO STRITTO: I would like to make the premise of the book clear.
Lawrence Talbot was last seen on Feburary 25, 1948 when he went off to confront Count Dracula. A few weeks later a steamer trunk arrived at the apartment house where he had rented a room. The landlord put it in storage room, and there it stayed for 30 years.
That landlord was my Uncle Joe. When he died, the trunk passed to me, and in it I found Lawrence Talbot’s journals. I read them, and thought them the fantasies of a delusional man. Yet, the deeper I looked into his story, the more it squared with any facts that I could uncover.
So, the book is both Lawrence Talbot’s story, and my investigations into his claims. It is a journey for me as well as for him.
ONE MORE THING: Enjoy this recent chat with Frank at Plan9Crunch that deals with Bela Lugosi's "Poverty Row" films.