Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Famous Monsters of Filmland: The Web Site

I grew up with Forrest J Ackerman's Famous Monsters of Filmland always in the house. I get teary eyed thinking about it's place in my formative years of the late 70's and early 80's. Now, under the leadership of Phil Kim the name Famous Monsters of Filmland is jumping to the web with a new web site.

Now I am a realist. I know that there can never be another FM like the one Uncle Forry gave us (I'm not going to rehash the dirty laundry of the 1990's relaunch and lawsuits, you can dig up that information on your own), and any attempt to emulate it would come off as a bad copy cat. So this is not the FM I fondly remember being on my bedroom floor next to my Remco Frankenstein action figure (not a doll, action figure), nor do I think I would want it to be.

I'm going to give this new incarnation of FM a chance. It has up to the nano second fantastic movie news, videos, and commentary. The design of the site evokes the feel of FM, and it doesn't try to ape Uncle Forry's style. I want to see this site develop it's own persona and voice.

So let's see how Famous Monsters grows into the next fifty years.

Until Next Time, Stay Insane!

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street Trailer

Okay, the trailer is alright.

I'm torn here. I love the original Wes Craven film starring Robert Englund and Heather Langenkamp, and I really don't see a reason to remake it (I don't see a reason to remake almost any remake that's come out in the last five years, but that's me). Given that, the trailer is very good and looks very stylish. I can even forgive the re-staging of some of Craven's classic scenes.

Part of it for me is the fact Englund for the first time will not be playing Freddy Krueger. Englund brought so much to the role he defined, that having someone else step into the part is a little hard for me to swallow. I like Jackie Earle Haley and think he's a good actor. He's probably the only choice if you're going to recast this iconic part. He's a great character actor and I'm sure he's going to give it his creepiest.

So aside from the fact I have contempt for the current slate of remakes and dislike Hollywood tearing apart my childhood for ideas since they can't come up with anythign new, will I see the film? I'll let you know.

A Nightmare on Elm Street in HD

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Oriental Trading Monster Mash-Up

Okay, file this under just cute.

Oriental Trading, the company that sells party supplies, arts and crafts, toys and novelties , has a site where you can put your family and friends into a mini Monster Mash Video. Click HERE to view.

What you do is pick one of three scenes, upload photos of your friends and family(or you can use Facebook to snag their faces) to turn into the heads for the monster characters and your done. After you preview your movie you can email to anyone or post it on Facebook.

It's in the same vein (I know, very punny) as the Jib Jab videos and it's only for the Halloween season (they don't let you download it due to licencing issues). Hurry up and go get yours made today.

Until Next Time, Stay Insane!

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, What Could Have Been

I love Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, it has to be one of my all time favorite films. From the opening in the crypt where the Wolf Man is resurrected by the light of the moon to the final battle between the two title characters, it's just a monster junkie's best fix.

But with all fixes, there's the come down after the high, and FMTWM has one big downer for monster fans.

At the end of Ghost of Frankenstein Ygor played by Bela Lugosi has his brain implanted in the body of Lon Chaney Jr. as the Monster, and we get to hear the Monster talk with Lugosi's voice. Because Ygor's and the Monster's blood type are different the Ygor/Monster goes blind before a fiery house collapses on him.

The script for FMTWM has the blind and weakened Monster, still with Ygor's brain, buried in an ice cave that must of been under the house that burned to the ground in the last movie. Bela Lugosi was hired as the Monster so the voice would match the end of Ghost of Frankenstein. Ironic since Lugosi walked away from playing the Monster twelve years earlier.

Apparently there was an early screening of a cut with Lugosi speaking the monster's lines went badly and Universal re-cut the film taking out any reference to the Monster talking or being blind. This made Lugoi's stumbling, arms out stretched, blind Monster look stilted. Critics often put the movie down and sight the Lugosi's Monster as a low point, not understanding that Lugosi was actually doing what the script called for.

Instead of a mute mindless Monster, we could of had a sinister Monster wanting to be powerful again. It adds a dimension to the character that could of been expanded upon in the next movie, but it was not to be.

Today no footage of Lugosi's originally filmed scenes exist. The original screen play which was published in the 1990's (it's out of print now) so we can use our imaginations to try and recreate what we today would of found to be a great performance.

Below is the trailer for FMTWM.

Until Next Time, Stay Insane!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sugar Hill (1974)

I got the pleasure of seeing Sugar Hill again this past Friday, a often overlooked voodoo zombie Blaxploitation horror movie from A.I.P. in 1974 starring Marki Bey, Robert Quarry (Count Yorga himself) and Don Pedro Colley turning in a real sinister performance as Baron Samedi. It was directed by Paul Maslansky, who never directed again and went on to produce the Police Academy movies.

The story involves a white gangster and his crew killing a man who wouldn't sell his club to them. His girlfriend has a 100 year old voodoo queen do a spell to bring forth Baron Zamedi, the Lord of the Dead. Sugar and the Baron, with his silver eyeballed zombies of dead slaves, take revenge on the gangsters one by one.

Marki Bey didn't have much of a career, which is a shame since she was spectacular in this role. She did some episodes of Starsky and Hutch, and her last credit was in 1979 on Trapper John M.D. Like Dwight Frye from yesterday's blog, it's sad her career never took off since you can see so much potential.

Robert Quarry, who was A.I.P.'s go to guy in the 1970's, was good as the sleazy head gangster.

Don Pedro Colley's performance as Baron Zamedi is voodoo-licous. I wish he could of reprised his role in other films, the good Baron could have been up there with Dracula and Freddy in horror fame.

The film is dated by it's dialog (Sugar keeps calling white people 'honk') and some of the supporting acting is pretty bad (white dock manager, I'm looking at you), but otherwise it's a good film that never got it's due. If given a chance I recommend you see it.

Until Next Time, Stay Insane!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Dwight Frye in The Circus Queen Murder (1933)

Today TMC showed The Circus Queen Murder from 1933, and to my surprise Dwight Frye had a leading part. Any time I see Frye in a movie it's a treat, he was in my mind one of the greatest character actors ever.

Theatre trained, everyone who worked with him said he was very versatile actor and could do anything from drama to comedy. Unfortunately Hollywood either typecast him as a lunatic or gave him one of those tiny background roles as a villager where he got lost most of the time. It's sad how someone with such potential was wasted by the film industry.

Ten years after The Circus Queen Murders was made Frye was working as a draftsman for Lockheed Aircraft, with only tiny roles coming in here and there. He was to have a good part in a proposed bio flick on Woodrow Wilson, but died of a heart attack coming home from seeing a movie with his son.

Still, watching him put his own twisted spin on the parts he was given, from Renfield to Fritz to even Flandrin in this mystery movie, is a joy to behold. I hope somewhere he's seeing people still enjoying his performances 80 years later.

Until Next Time, Stay Insane!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

House of the Wolf man

UPDATE: I noticed that the video gets cut off on the right side in some settings, so the direct link to the youtube video is HERE.

This looks really cool. I really, really, really, REALLY hope it's good. Sometime...okay, almost all the time when someone tries to make a movie in the vein of the the Universal Horror movies it comes off campy...But I have a good feeling about this one.

The star is Ron Chaney, who is the grandson and great grandson of Lon Chaney Jr. and Lon Chaney Sr. respectively, so you know there is love mixed into the blood of this film.

My first feeling when watching this trailer is this is the type of movie I wanted to make when I was twelve. Okay, I still would like to make a movie like this. But these folks have actually done it, so I am a little jealous. It takes a lot to get me excited these days, but this has me giddy like a zombie...if zombies were giddy.

There is no release date yet, but keep an eye out for it. The web site has the one sheet done in the style of a 1940's Universal Monster poster, which will be my desktop image in a few minutes.

Until Next Time, Stay Insane!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vincent Price's Monster a way

After posting the Mannheim Steamroller clip of Monster Mash yesterday I wanted to find another cool version of the song. Searching Youtube I found this one by great Vincent Price.

Warning, the song doesn't start right away, the person who posted the clip edited in the closing scene from Monster Club before the song which kinda-sorta matches. The song was recorded by Price in 1977 and has a disco vibe to it, which given the era it was done can be forgiven.

Oh, did you noticed those dancers edited in too? They were called Pan's People from Britain's Top of The Pops. In the days before videos, when a performer was unable to appear to sing the song on the shop, this group would dance to the song. Reminds me a little of Alice Cooper's dancers from his Welcome To My Nightmare tour.

Until Next Time, Stay Insane!

Monster Mash by Mannheim Steamroller

I'm not a big Mannheim Steamroller fan except around Christmas, so I was surprised to find this video of them covering the great Bobby (Boris) Pickett's Monster Mash. It's pretty cool, they don't try to sound exactly like the original, which some people make the mistake of doing, and switch it up a bit for fun. I'll post more covers of Monster Mash as I find them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Trivia from The Mummy's Curse

Virginia Christine, who played Princess Ananka in Lon Chaney Jr.'s The Mummy's Curse, was in her later years Mrs. Olsen the Folger's Coffee Woman. Yes, the sexy female mummy that rises from the mud in Curse only to fall to dust at the end was also the kindly Mrs. Olsen, sooth sayer and constant coffee drinker.

I'd forgotten this little fact until this past Labor Day when I watched a marathon of the Mummy films from Karloff's The Mummy to The Mummy's Curse. As I watched I grabbed my computer and looked up the different actors and actresses to see what became of them (via

Move Horror movie fun facts to follow...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Chiller Theater from WPIX NEW York

If you grew up on Long Island during the 1970's and were a horror fan you knew this six fingered hand. I have fond memories of staying up late on Saturday nights with a stack of comics and monster mags to watch Chiller Theater. There was no horror host (I was born too late for Zacherley the Cool Ghoul), so this was the closest we in New York got until Elvira's Movie Macabre was syndicated. I still wonder if Zacherley was the one to intone "Chiller" in the opening, it sounds like him or someone doing an impersonation of him. If anyone knows let me know.

Asylum (1972) Review

It's rare that there is a horror film from Amicus Productions that I didn't see, but Asylum was one of them. For some reason I had never come across it either on T.V. or in the video store during my youth in the 1980's. I knew of it, I remember a photo of a sinister toy robot creeping up behind an unsuspecting Patrick Magee, but never got to see it. This weekend, thanks to NetFlix, I finally did.

This production, written by Robert Bloch and directed by Roy Ward Baker, is a fine entry in the Amicus horror anthology line (as if there was a bad horror anthology from Amicus). The framing device had Robert Powell as a doctor coming to an asylum and interviewing four patients, all of which tell him their deranged stories.

This was a very minimalist movie, with each episode have just a few sets (mostly a single setting) and at most three actors per story. The tightness of the script by Bloch works here. There is no fat, no unnecessary characters, no scenes wasted, nothing to get in the way of the movie making.

Peter Cushing is great, if a little under used in the second story. But even with a small part (I think his screen time is less than five minutes) he shines and makes an impact. They don't make them like him anymore.

Usually there is one weak story that ruins the flow of the movie for me in anthologies, but here even the weakest story kept my interest. I do have to say my favorite episode was the first one called Frozen Fear.

Pros: Robert Bloch script, great direction from Roy Ward Baker, of course Peter Cushing and a neat little twist at the end that would make M. Night Hasabeen jealous.

Cons: Too short (I wanted more, but that can be a Pro too), weakest story telegraphed the surpirse (making for no surprise) and those horrible 1970's fashions.

On the Cinema Insane Sanity Meter this gets 9 straitjacket's out of 10.