100 Days of Horror welcomes you to ... SATANFEST 2013

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"Y'all know me, know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish! Not like going down to the pond and chasing bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow ya whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', and down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that'll bring back the tourists, that'll put all your businesses on a payin' basis. But it's not gonna be pleasant! I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I'll find him for three, but I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you've gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don't want no volunteers, I don't want no mates, there's too many captains on this island. Ten thousand dollars for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Eighty-Nine - "Frankenstein!"


Trying to get to this thing early today, seeing as how I've nothing better to do. Unfortunately, I am here at work and not at home, where I could enjoy this movie by myself, in my underwear, with a bowl of salsa and a bag of chips in my lap. I'll just pause to let that image sink in .... and we're done.

I hope everyone can get comfy later in the undergarments of your choice, and consume salty snacks until you retain water as you enjoy an undeniable classic - James Whale's "Frankenstein!"

Frankenstein (1931): Directed by James Whale. Starring Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Mae Clark, Dwight Frye and Edward Van Sloan.

The Skinny: Scientist Henry Frankenstein believes he's found the secrets to life and death - and to test those theories, he will build a man to his design.

What's Good: This is one of the best movies ever to emerge from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Even though many people were familiar with Mary Shelly's original Victorian-era story, the first definitive film version takes a few liberties with her ideas - particularly by removing it from its period settings and essentially making it a more modern tale. Regardless of the changes, the core of the story - a man who dared to play God - remains. And the character of Henry Frankenstein (Victor in the book) is brought to stunning life by the late, great Colin Clive in all his hysterical glory. No one could fill this man's shoes, in my opinion. He is the personification of the Mad Scientist archetype that has been often imitated and never duplicated. His quavering, clipped voice, his icy stare, his aloof, sometimes fey nature - what a performance. He almost - but not quite - steals the show from Boris Karloff as the Monster, who even with no speaking lines manages to convey the emotion and pathos within this abhorrent creation. With just a whimper and an off-handed gesture, Karloff gives the mute creature true life, and with a growl and a clawed hand, he can terrify you to the bone. Take in the shot where we first see the Monster up close as he emerges from the shadows of creation and steps into the light of reason. Whale then juxtaposes a few up-close shots that show off Jack Pierce's iconic makeup. Karloff removed his denture plate to give his cheeks that extra sunken-in look, and it pays off - he is simply monstrous. The film was utterly controversial at the time of its release - the lines about Henry being god and the scene where the monster tosses a little girl into a lake were heavily censored back in the day. But now, every malicious scene is perfectly restored and gives the film a timeless resonance that demonstrates just how much (and how little) we've accomplished as a society since those Halcyon days.

What's Bad: Although "The Bride of Frankenstein" is considered a superior film by many (myself included), the original can't be beat. Watch it on a Saturday afternoon in late October, close to sundown, and you'll understand why. I guess my only complain could be the lack of a score, but that was problematic for many productions at the time. All else is gold.

Why We Like It: I love every single frame of this movie. It stirs something in me that is undefinable - a mythic longing that I can't seem to put my finger on. The iconic images - Death towering over their shoulders as they dig bodies, the burning windmill on the hillside - are so powerful they stay with you after just one viewing. I dare any modern film to top this movie's standards. How many great horror movies have been made in the past 30 years? How many of them have so moving an image that you can't shake it for days after? Not many, I think. And I should know - I've seen a bunch of them. The acting, the sets, the makeup, the rich black and white cinematography by the great Arthur Edelson - it's so goddamn good, it's spooky.

Memorable Stuff: Lots of people point to the creation scene as the movie's finest moments - and with good reason. The state-of-the-art effects, designed by Kenneth Strickfaden, give the scene a neo-noir Art Deco kind of vibe that is difficult to replicate. And Henry's ecstatic breakdown when the creature stirs a finger ("In the name of God! Now I know what it's like to BE God!") is just fucking fantastic. But for me, the final confrontation between Man and his monstrous creation in the burning windmill seals the deal for me. As I said before, the image is powerful.