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The Chaney Blogathon: HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, USA with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2013 by goregirl

House of Frankenstein reviewed for The Last Drive In & Movies Silently as part of The Chaney Blogathon.

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Erle C. Kenton directed one of my all time favourite horror films; Island of Lost Souls (1932). Island of Lost Souls is not the only horror gem Mr. Kenton directed that is near to my heart. Kenton directed three films in the Universal monster franchise; Ghost of Frankenstein, House of Dracula and today’s subject review House of Frankenstein. Clearly Universal studios was milking the commercial and critical success of Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931) and The Wolf Man (1941) with multiple entries featuring the three aforementioned monsters. It was overkill, but that is no reason to write the series off. You would be missing out on plenty of goodness. Some very talented directors and actors were involved in the making of these films. Actors such as Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and of course Lon Chaney Jr. who is the reason I am doing this review. Chaney played Larry Talbot aka the Wolf Man four times. The follow-up to 1941’s The Wolf Man was Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) which I thoroughly enjoyed and reviewed for a werewolf feature I did a while back. House of Frankenstein I suppose could be the sequel to Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man as we do meet Frankenstein and the Wolf Man where we left them; in the ruins of Castle Frankenstein. Dracula makes an appearance in this one and there is a random mad scientist with a hunchback assistant. Continuity is not really a huge concern in these later monster films.

lobbycard for house of frankenstein

No matter though, the more monsters the merrier if you ask me! House of Frankenstein is action packed! Erle C. Kenton wastes no time at all getting into the action. We get a prison escape, a kill, and Dracula in the first 15 minutes. The film’s runtime is only seventy minutes and it just flies by. In seventy minutes our mad scientist and his hunchback assistant meet Dracula, the Wolf Man and Frankenstein and in classic movie fashion ends with a lynch mob. The sets and set pieces are decent enough although there isn’t much that particularly stands out. The cave-like ruins of the Frankenstein place was pretty neat though. The effects are admirable; Dracula’s silhouette on the wall that becomes a bat was well done. Chaney’s Wolf Man makeup looked great and the transformation is well done. Well done except they forgot to put fur on Chaney’s hands! Normally I am not one to notice things like that, but he is looking in the mirror during the transformation and you can really clearly see his hands in a prolonged shot. There was no getting around that oops. House of Frankenstein’s best asset is definitely its performers who are all just perfect. Boris Karloff has long been one of my favourite actors and especially when he is playing the villain. Karloff wears these roles like a finely tailored jacket and they fit him to a tee. John Carradine plays the suave variety of vampire but he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. I enjoyed Carradine as Dracula although his character doesn’t linger long. J. Carrol Naish who plays Daniel, Dr. Niemann’s hunchback assistant is promised a solution to his ailment in exchange for services. Daniel is not a particularly likable character but I nonetheless found him an empathetic one. Glenn Strange who plays Frankenstein’s monster was apparently coached by Karloff who played the monster in the original 1931 version as well as The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Strange plays the large lumbering creature convincingly well and I think he looked superb in the makeup. Strange apparently also did all his own stunts! Last but certainly not least is Mr. Lon Chaney Jr. who plays Lawrence Talbot also known as the Wolf Man. Lawrence Talbot is a tortured character. Talbot is well aware of his crimes and is unable to control his transformations. He knows he should not exist but like all living things he has an instinct for survival. Werewolves represent men’s inner struggle and Chaney’s performance captures this so beautifully. Lon Chaney Jr. is the most sympathetic monster of all time in my opinion. I highly recommend checking out House of Frankenstein; a non-stop, fast-paced multi-monster thrill ride loaded with top-notch performances that looks a little something like this….

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A Vehicle in a travelling show called Professor Lampini’s Chamber of Horrors runs into some trouble outside of Neustadt Prison.

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A natural disaster creates the perfect escape route for Dr. Gustav Niemann (Boris Karloff) and fellow convict Daniel (J. Carrol Naish).

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The unfortunate and unlucky Professor Lampini (George Zucco), gets “a hand” with his stranded vehicle from the conniving doctor and his sidekick. Lampini invites them in to his trailer and boasts about his main exhibit “The Actual Skeleton of Count Dracula the Vampire”. They kill Lampini and take over his show.

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Step right up and see the skeletal remains of Count Dracula the Vampire!

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Dracula (John Carradine) has been resurrected!

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Dracula mesmerizes Rita (Anne Gwynne) who just so happens to be an in-law of Dr. Niemann’s sworn enemy Carl Hussmann.

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Dracula transforms into a bat.

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Daniel meets a pretty Gypsy Lady named Ilonka (Elena Verdugo) whom he falls in love with.

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Dr. Niemann and Daniel explore the ruins of Castle Frankenstein and find the frozen bodies of the Wolf Man and Frankenstein’s creature.

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Dr. Niemann thaws the two creatures out and we meet Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr) in his non-Wolf Man form.

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Ilonka, Daniel’s gypsy lady takes an instant liking to the handsome Lawrence.

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Dr. Niemann makes the promise of a cure for Talbot’s wolfism.

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Daniel divulges Lawrence’s secret to Ilonka.

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Frankenstein (Glenn Strange) is ready to wake from his long slumber.

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Dr. Niemann’s promise is shallow and he has no intention or desire to help Lawrence. Lawrence transforms into a werewolf and kills a local man.

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The death of a local man brings unwanted attention from the local police.

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Ilonka and Lawrence share a tender moment.

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Lawrence gives Dr. Niemann a piece of his mind.

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Dr. Niemann is far more interested in his current project; the re-awakening of Frankenstein’s creation!

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Lawrence Talbot’s transformation into the Wolf Man.

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Dr. Niemann.

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What is a monster movie without a lynch mob equipped with torches?

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Erle C. Kenton

Starring: Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, Anne Gwynne, Peter Coe, Lionel Atwill, George Zucco, Elena Verdugo, Sig Ruman, William Edmunds, Charles Miller, Philip Van Zandt, Julius Tannen, Hans Herbert, Dick Dickinson, Glenn Strange

VIFF, Vacation & Good Vibrations

Posted in movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2013 by goregirl

After moving stuff into my new apartment on October 2nd I went to my first film of the festival. Starting the Vancouver International Film Festival out with the impossibly boring Yumen was unpleasant and the short Lovers Are Artists (Part 2) that preceded it did not help the cause. We fared better the second evening with A Touch of Sin; a well-made and well-acted film with some solid twists. It did not move me much just the same. The documentary Liv and Ingmar had a contrived setup and flowery music but thankfully its talented and lovely subject Liv Ullman was a charming tour guide through her life with director Ingmar Bergman. And I did like the film clips that were included. I quite enjoyed Liv and Ingmar despite its flaws. Later that same night it was Bruno Dumont’s Camille Claudel 1915. A gorgeous film filled with bleakness and hopelessness exceptionally acted by Juliette Binoche. No complaints and that said no reason to re-watch it either. I was not feeling super enthusiastic about the choices made for the festival. I had yet to be wowed by anything and unfortunately Wolf Children the next film in the queue did not change that. I liked the story and the animation is quite nice, especially the environments. I even got teary eyed in the finale. Unfortunately I also found it too sentimental too often, I didn’t care for the sappy music and it felt long particularly through the middle. The highlight of the festival was 3x3D and the short Cochemare that preceded it. A trippy, sexual, extra sensory 3D trip taken by a female in a space station. The visuals were hypnotizing. Also in the category of hypnotizing is Peter Greenaway’s stunning visual history lesson Just in Time; the first short of the trilogy 3x3D. It is one of the most stunning uses of 3D film I have seen in a theatre (which is admittedly a pretty low number). Just in Time is an absolute visual extravaganza. Edgar Pêra’s Cinesapiens is another visceral pleaser; a wacky, wonderful and humorous short about people who watch movies. They usually save the best for last in anthologies but in the case of 3x3D, director Jean-Luc Godard’s entry The Three Disasters was my least favourite. Godard makes little use of the 3D technology and his is certainly the least visually appealing. Overall 3x3D was rather unique and special; it makes me sad I will never be able to experience this film the same way again. The next film was the alarmingly dull Halley. This was the stake to the film festival heart for me. I seen this with two friends and the three of us looked at each other afterwards in exasperation. Why in the hell did we sit through that? We could have been watching Doris Wishman films! Any enthusiasm I had for the festival had been sucked from my marrow. We bailed on The Oxbow Cure. It was not getting very good feedback and I had enough film disappointments. While the festival choices were a mixed bag with a couple huge letdowns the films watched afterwards were the absolute cat’s ass.

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I had watched three Rainer Werner Fassbinder films just before the festival started; In a Year of 13 Moons, Whity and Chinese Roulette. I love all three but I was especially smitten with In a Year of 13 Moons. There was serious overindulgence in Doris Wishman with Bad Girls Go to Hell, Another Day, Another Man, Indecent Desires, The Sex Perils of Paulette, My Brother’s Wife and Too Much Too Often. I enjoyed them all in varying degrees but the real stand-outs were Another Day, Another Man, Bad Girls Go to Hell and the queen bitch of them all Indecent Desires. I freaking loved Indecent Desires.

Indecent Desires

Also watched during the holiday, Michael Findlay’s The Curse of her Flesh which has one of my most favourite finales of recent memory. I will definitely be checking out more Michael Findlay stuff. I watched a fourth Fassbinder flick; Querelle which was brilliant. I also took in the outstanding The Name of the Game is Kill as well as the solid little horror entry The Love Butcher; both of which I will be reviewing before the end of the month. Also thrown in the mix was the badly cut and censored pseudo XXX comedy musical Let My Puppets Come (I will be watching the uncut version in the immediate future). Finally I discovered a very entertaining video review show on YouTube called Unboxed, Watched and Reviewed along with the magazine Cinema Sewer both thanks to my friend David. Cinema Sewer harkens from my very city; Vancouver B.C. Author and artist Robin Bougie works at one of my favourite spots in the city Videomatica Sales.

Cinema Sewer

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It was also my birthday while I was off and I got some spectacular gifts this year from my most awesome friends.

First of all, this pot of gold published in 1974; The Films of Boris Karloff

Boris Karloff

Than this very cool The Shining shirt

the shining shirt

And this beautiful graphic novel treasure; Madwoman of the Sacred Heart illustrated by Moebius and written by Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, Santa Sangre, The Holy Mountain, Fando and Lis)…

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Madwoman of the Sacred Heart

The Film Festival was a disappointment and I didn’t have a refrigerator that worked for my first six days in my new place but I can not remember the last time I felt this relaxed and happy. I even did some touristy stuff; check out my Tumblr post of images taken at The Vancouver Maritime Museum; Tattoos & Scrimshaw “The Art of the Sailor” Exhibit. Oh yeah, and Goregirl’s Dungeon has a Tumblr page so be sure to visit every single day!

Diving Suit

Happy New Year! Karloff Rules!!

Posted in horror, movies with tags , , , , on January 2, 2012 by goregirl

First post of the year and I can not get Boris Karloff out of my head! Karloff rules! Check out my delightful top ten favourite Karloff films slideshow! Music by Roy Orbison. Mother Joan of the Angels review coming soon!

THE BODY SNATCHER (1945) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, USA with tags , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2010 by goregirl

The Body Snatcher is the fourth film I’ve reviewed from producer extraordinaire Val Lewton. I spent enough time singing the praises of the brilliant Mr. Lewton in my previous posts so I won’t go on and on but the man’s contribution to the horror genre is massive. Lewton produced some of the greatest horror films ever made, and in 1945 he was responsible for bringing genre legend Boris Karloff into the fold. Karloff appeared in three Val Lewton produced films for RKO: Isle of the Dead, The Body Snatcher, and Bedlam. (The following text “in italics” was taken from Wikipedia). In a 1946 interview with Louis Berg of the Los Angeles Times, Karloff discussed his three-picture deal with RKO, his reasons for leaving Universal Pictures and working with producer Lewton. Karloff left Universal because he thought the Frankenstein franchise had run its course. The latest installment was what he called a “‘monster clambake,’ with everything thrown in—Frankenstein, Dracula, a hunchback and a ‘man-beast’ that howled in the night. It was too much. Karloff thought it was ridiculous and said so.” Berg continues, “Mr. Karloff has great love and respect for Mr. Lewton as the man who rescued him from the living dead and restored, so to speak, his soul.”

The Body Snatcher is based on a Robert Louis Stevenson’s story and takes place in 19th century Scotland. The use of cadavers was imperative in advancing medicine but the supply was scant and grave robbers were often employed to retrieve the bodies. Doctor MacFarlane heads a school of medicine and employs one such gravedigger to provide specimens for his students. While MacFarlane may be employer to gravedigger Gray it is Gray who yields the power. Gray and MacFarlane share a sordid past which Gray threatens to expose at every turn. Gray’s constant smirking reminders never fail to fluster the usually cold and composed MacFarlane. Gray’s taunts effect MacFarlane’s judgement and he soon begins to lose his grip on reality.

As in all Lewton films, the strength of the characters is key. In a career full of epic horror performances The Body Snatcher may very well be Boris Karloff’s best. That, I suppose is a matter of opinion, but his sinister turn here as Cabman Gray is one of those monumental genre performances that stays firmly engraved on the brain. With that marvellous voice of his delivering the promise of much malice how could you go wrong? Karloff’s performance is definitely a showstopper but it is his relationship with his co-star and partner in crime Dr. Wolfe ‘Toddy’ Macfarlane, played by Henry Daniell that gives the film its bite. Dr. MacFarlane is a hard looking man with a cold exterior and does not appear to be the type of man easily intimidated. In our introduction to MacFarlane we see him turn down a desperate mother in need of care for her wheelchair bound daughter. We get a glimpse of his icy demeanour not to mention his horrific bedside manner. We see a warmer side to MacFarlane when he is alone with his mistress, but the fact that she is a dirty little secret who poses as his housekeeper for the rest of the world cancels it out. MacFarlane is a pretty unlikeable guy, but I still could not help but feel a little empathy for him. Gray serves as a constant reminder of MacFarlane’s guilty past. Gray takes great pleasure in calling MacFarlane by his old nickname ‘Toddy’. “You’ll never get rid of me that way, Toddy,” (It inspired bad Karloff imitations for days around our house!) The nickname and the taunts never fail to fluster MacFarlane. The two characters are locked in a relationship of hatred and dependence that neither can escape. MacFarlane and Gray are an inspired pairing and every last second of banter between the two is ugly, nasty and a complete fascination to behold. Gray and MacFarlane give the story its dark heart and a naive young doctor adds a bit of levity. Donald Fettes is a student under MacFarlane who also acts as his lab assistant. He is the films moral center but even he is willing to compromise his principles to save a life. Fettes becomes involved with a woman and her crippled daughter who is in desperate need of surgery. He pleads with MacFarlane to help the child but is told they will need another body for further study before they can proceed. Soon Fettes is wandering the streets at night looking for Gray in hopes that he can acquire another specimen. Russell Wade does a decent job playing the mild-mannered Fettes although he is a little flat at times. Finally we have poor Bela Lugosi. If you were hoping for another great classic pairing of two horror icons, don’t look here. Lugosi’s plays one of MacFarlane’s servants and his role is tiny and not terribly significant.

The Body Snatcher’s intriguing story and its magnificent characters are perfectly complimented by its visuals. Filmed in black and white, oozing with malice and a foreboding atmosphere that escalates until it reaches its final tragic conclusion. The films wardrobe and sets do a commendable job of capturing 19th century Scotland. There are very few exterior shots used as much of the film takes place in the homes of MacFarlane and Gray. The tiny, dark, confines of Gray’s abode seem much bleaker in contrast with MacFarlanes large, elaborate and well-stated residence.

I tried to keep this review as vague as possible as it would be a terrible disservice to the film to give away too much. The Body Snatcher is well paced, beautifully filmed, and its excellent story and intriguing central characters were completely engrossing. My only complaint was it ended too soon! You must acquire a copy immediately and watch it with the lights out. You’ll do that for me now won’t you Toddy? Highest of recommendations!

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Robert Wise

Starring: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Henry Daniell, Edith Atwater, Russell Wade, Rita Corday, Sharyn Moffett, Donna Lee

FRANKENSTEIN (1931) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, USA with tags , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2010 by goregirl

My classic film knowledge was severely lacking before I started this blog in January 2009. A huge horror fan for most of my life and I had yet to see what most horrorphiles and cinephiles in general would consider basic viewing! I can now check off two more classics from the list; James Whale’s Frankenstein and Bride Of Frankenstein. With a massive list still awaiting me, I have to say that Frankenstein without a doubt has been one of my favourites thus far!

Even if you have never seen this 1931 original, chances are, you’re familiar with the story based on the book by Mary Shelley. Brilliant scientist Henry Frankenstein successfully animates a man he created using body parts from cadavers. This concept alone must have been pretty horrifying to moviegoers in 1931! But Frankenstein is a film about human nature, not just the creation of a “monster”. Boris Karloff who plays the monster does so with little dialog but manages to create a sympathetic character who is intimidating and complex. The amazing makeup in no small way contributes to the awesomeness. Frankenstein’s creation has the mental capacity of a child and is unable to communicate with words, just grunts and hand gestures. Clearly Karloff’s monster wants to communicate and be understood. Of course it takes a child, a little girl named Maria to offer the monster a bit of kindness. An unfortunate misunderstanding behind the concept of a floating flower shatters this brief touching moment. There are some genuinely poignant moments in Frankenstein and a few surprises also, including a rather bleak ending that left me feeling a bit choked up. Of course, there is a sequel to the film, so the ending as it turns out is not as bleak as it appeared. But then the damn sequel pulls the rug out from under me too with an equally bleak ending! I actually watched Bride of Frankenstein immediately after but didn’t get a review done for it. A truly brilliant sequel, with equally impressive visuals and another awesome performance from Karloff combined with the truly exquisite Bride (who is in the film WAY too briefly!) makes it mandatory viewing. If by some small chance you’ve yet to check out this pair of classics I highly recommend watching these films back to back. What a treat!!

The film is a beautiful masterpiece. The camera is constantly moving and exploring, there is no unnecessary dialog and the pacing is perfection. The sets are an amazement. Particularly impressive is Frankenstein’s lab. The insane contraption he has built to lift the surgeon’s table up through the roof is nothing short of spectacular! Karloff is definitely the shining beacon among the cast, but the other performances are generally decent. Strangely my least favourite character in the film was Henry Frankenstein. I have to admit it bothers me that Frankenstein is totally let off the hook. His creature, is tortured, terrorized and then lynched but the good scientist gets no flack whatsoever. A timeless story, great visuals, and a truly amazing performance from Karloff make this film an enduring classic that is imperative viewing for any fan of film! Highest of recommendations!

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: James Whale

Starring: Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, John Boles, Boris Karloff, Edward Van Sloan, Frederick Kerr, Dwight Frye, Lionel Belmore, Marilyn Harris

Mary Shelley’s timeless story has endured the ages and has inspired countless celluloid interpretations. Just for the hell of it, here’s a list of 40 films that have borrowed (regardless how loosely) from the Mary Shelley novel…

1. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
2. Blackenstein
3. Bride of Frankenstein
4. Curse of Frankenstein
5. Dracula vs. Frankenstein
6. Edward Scissorhands
7. Erotic Rites of Frankenstein
8. Evil of Frankenstein
9. Flesh For Frankenstein
10. Frankenhooker
11. Frankenstein
12. Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh’s)
13. Frankenstein 1970
14. Frankenstein 80
15. Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell
16. Frankenstein Conquers the World (Frankenstein vs. Baragon)
17. Frankenstein Created Woman
18. Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster
19. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
20. Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed
21. Frankenstein Reborn
22. Frankenstein Unbound
23. Frankenstein’s Daughter
24. Frankenweenie
25. Ghost Of Frankenstein
26. House of Frankenstein
27. I Was a Teenage Frankenstein
28. Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter
29. May
30. Revenge of Frankenstein
31. Rocky Horror Picture Show
32. Son of Frankenstein
33. The Bride
34. The Horror of Frankenstein
35. The Monster Squad
36. Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl
37. Van Helsing
38. War of the Gargantuas
39. Weird Science
40. Young Frankenstein