Wednesday, October 31, 2012

48 Scares of Casper #48

Well, it's about time. What goes around comes around, I guess.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

31 Days of Dracula | Hotel Transylvania (2012)

On the most recent episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour, Stephen Thompson talks about how Halloween children's entertainment has lately been mostly about demystifying monsters by presenting them as the good guys. To be fair, Anne Rice kind of started that whole deal, but Thompson is right and Hotel Transylvania is the worse for it. Beyond how difficult it is to get past Adam Sandler sounding exactly like Adam Sandler doing a Lugosi accent, it's also tough to see everyone's favorite vampire seriously afraid of humans.

If you can deal with that though, there's a nice story in Hotel Transylvania about being a domineering parent or just a control freak in general. And in a very broad way, domination and control-issues seem like appropriate character traits to make a comedic Dracula have to deal with. It's also a very funny movie and does a great job of creating a believable world that's fun to spend time in. For all the Adam Sandlerness of it, it's also a Genndy Tartakovsky film. You can see those aspects duking it out onscreen, but for me, Tartakovsky wins and I ultimately enjoyed the movie. Depending on the strength of your feelings about the two men, your mileage may vary.

48 Scares of Casper #47

Don't worry, I haven't miscounted! Stay tuned for the Casper's last scare (this year)!

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Don't let the monsters get you!

[Photo via Tassels]

Monday, October 29, 2012

31 Days of Dracula | All-Action Classics (2008)

Ben Caldwell’s version of Dracula may just be my favorite representation yet. He strikes just the right balance between seductive and menacing. I’ve never seen anyone pull that off before. As we've seen this month, the Count is usually either horrendous and disfigured or he’s dapper and handsome. Caldwell’s design with its switch-thin frame and terrible, crooked teeth leans toward the horrendous, but Dracula’s body language conveys a confident, powerful, compelling presence. Caldwell’s Dracula can seduce, but it’s a seduction based on the vampire’s awful will rather than romance.

The lettering in All-Action Classics: Dracula helps with this image too. The tails on Dracula’s word balloons don’t point straight at him like everyone else’s in the book. They curl and wind, suggesting a silky, hypnotic voice.

Seriously, if you consider yourself a fan of the character and Bram Stoker's novel, do yourself a favor and check out this version.

48 Scares of Casper #45

Sunday, October 28, 2012

31 Days of Dracula | The Cownt (2009)

You knew I was gonna have to include my own Dracula-inspired character, right?

For those who don't know, my wife's brother and I created our vampire-cow character during a slow session of tabletop role-playing many years ago. Artist Gavin Spence and I eventually worked the Cownt into a parody of Steve Niles' Cal McDonald and 30 Days of Night stories for the horror anthology Tales from the Inner Sanctum. Then in 2009, Gav and I teamed up with Jessica Hickman and Paul Taylor to make Cownt Tales, a one-shot anthology of three stories all written by me and each drawn by a different artist. It's full of udder gags, cow puns, and some fantastic, hilarious art. It makes me extremely happy to know that it exists in the world.

I have a few copies left if you'd like one. Just shoot me an email and we'll work out the details.

48 Scares of Casper #44

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Song of the Week | "If You Wanna" by The Vaccines

31 Days of Dracula | Little Book of Horror (2005)

In the mid-'00s, Steve Niles teamed up with some excellent comics artists to create a series of picture books called Little Books of Horror. He adapted Frankenstein with Scott Morse, War of the Worlds with Ted McKeever, and Dracula with Richard Sala.

Niles makes some changes to Stoker's novel, presumably to simplify the story, but there's nothing wrong with that. Lucy's gone, as are all of her suitors. Dracula attacks Mina directly when he arrives in England and Van Helsing is called in by Mina's dad. Van Helsing and Mina hunt Dracula alone and the end of the story is completely different (though it shares some similarities to the Lugosi film). Knowing that though, it's a fun twist on the story and Sala was the perfect choice to illustrate it, with his dark, but humorous style.

The book by itself is out of print, I think, but it's included in IDW's Big Book of Horror with the other two adaptations. I reviewed the whole collection for Robot 6 a while back.

48 Scares of Casper #43

Part Two of Two.

Wait a minnit! Those guys can't get scared and run away! There's a woman coming down!

Don't worry. Casper's on the job and he catches her, but man the comic got dark for a second there.

Gonna tweak the comment system

Just kidding. No one's banned. You guys are all way too awesome.

However, I've heard that Blogger's word verification system is making it impossible for some folks to comment, so I'm turning that feature off. Unfortunately, I still have to have a way to control spam and the only option I can see with Blogger is for me to moderate all comments. I'm willing to do that if it lets more people participate in the discussion, but it does mean that your comments won't appear until I've had a chance to look at them. I'll try to be efficient about that.

Just wanted to let you all know what's going on and that it's not that I'm trying to control conversations. In the seven years I've had this blog, I don't think I've ever seen a rude comment. I love hearing from all of you and just want to include as many people as possible.


[Update: Snell from the awesome Slay, Monstrobot of the Deep! has encouraged me to have more trust in Blogger's spam filter and I think he's right. Since I turned off verification last night, more spam is coming through, but Blogger's catching it all so far. I'm going to turn off moderation for a while and see if that continues to work. Thanks, Snell!]

[Update to the update: Well, that didn't last long. Spam filter's catching everything, but it's still filling up my email with notifications. With word verification off, there's way more spam than I can deal with, even if it doesn't show up on the blog. I had to turn verification back on or abandon my email account. I'm sorry it didn't work. I'll keep thinking and I'm very open to suggestions and recommendations.]

Friday, October 26, 2012

31 Days of Dracula | Dominic Purcell (2004)

The Blade movies were based on a character from Marvel's Tomb of Dracula comics, so including Dracula in the series was not only a natural move, but - for comics fans - a necessary one. That finally happened in the third film, Blade: Trinity.

Unfortunately, writer/director David S. Goyer chose not to have Dracula resemble at all the tall, dark, and sinister character from the comics. Probably it was because Wesley Snipes' Blade was such a physical presence and it would have been difficult to sell the classic Dracula as a plausible threat. I don't know if that was the reasoning, but it's easy to imagine that as part of the decision-making process. Whatever the cause, Goyer hired Dominic Purcell (Mission: Impossible II, Prison Break) to play a much hunkier Dracula than we're used to. I like the movie, but Dracula is the character in name only, and for the most part not even that. He's called Drake for most of the film.

48 Scares of Casper #42

Part One of Two. Don't worry, there's firemen below. We'll meet them tomorrow.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

31 Days of Dracula | Richard Roxburgh (2004)

Probably the less said about Van Helsing the better. It should have been SO good. Hugh Jackman as a young Van Helsing teams up with Kate Beckinsale to fight all the classic monsters...

Actually, it's probably that last part where it went wrong. It doesn't make a lot of sense to have Van Helsing fight Dracula before Dracula. Maybe if they'd stuck to one monster - Frankenstein's for instance - it would have been easier to keep under control. Save werewolves for the sequel, then move on to a mummy or something. That would have been awesome.

But no, they wanted it all, including Dracula and his teenage-girl haircut. Disappointing.

48 Scares of Casper #41

Sewer spelunkers hate cephalopods

[Pulp Covers]

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

31 Days of Dracula | Gerard Butler (2000)

I really need to see this again. When Dracula 2000 came out, the biggest name in it to me was... well, Christopher Plummer, of course. But after him, it was Danny Masterson from That '70s Show and Jeri Ryan from Star Trek: Voyager. I didn't know who Gerard Butler was. Or Jonny Lee Miller. Or Omar Epps. Even Nathan Fillion was just The Boyfriend from Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place.

Oh, look, it's on Netfilx streaming. Let's bump that to the top of the queue.

Even without all the Before They Were Famouses, I remember liking this pretty well. Plummer makes a great Van Helsing, who claims to be a descendent of the original and is in charge of guarding the coffin containing the slumbering body of his ancestor's old nemesis. Unfortunately, Jennifer Esposito and Omar Epps steal the coffin (not knowing what it is; just that it's valuable) and take it to New Orleans. Dracula (Butler) escapes of course, so Van Helsing and his protege (Jonny Lee Miller) have to hunt him down.

The movie has to fudge some vampire lore to get there, but there's also an interesting and unique origin story for Dracula. Nathan Fillion plays a priest and Jeri Ryan is... well, I won't spoil what Jeri Ryan is, but it's kind of cool. All around, a fun B-movie and I'm looking forward to revisiting it.

It's got two direct-to-DVD sequels: Dracula II: Ascension (2003) and Dracula III: Legacy (2005). I've never seen those, but there are some cool actors in them as well, including Jason Scott Lee, Roy Scheider, and Rutger Hauer. Unfortunately, they sound pretty ridiculous. Jason Scott Lee's character, for instance, is a Vatican vampire hunter who was bitten by a vampire, but burns away the infection every day by standing in the sun. I'm not nearly as eager to check those out.

48 Scares of Casper #40

Tonight: Frankenstein on the big screen

Totally doing this tonight. It'll be David's first time seeing these movies.

I was about his age when the children's museum in my hometown ran a Halloween showing of Son of Frankenstein. That was my first time seeing any of the classic Frankenstein films and I can still remember the experience.

If you're interested in checking out a showing near you, Fathom Events has details.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

31 Days of Dracula | Leslie Nielsen (1995)

I'm usually a big fan of Leslie Nielsen (Wrongfully Accused is one of my favorite movies of all time), but I passed on Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Mel Brooks' attempt to cash in on Bram Stoker's Dracula the way Robin Hood: Men in Tights had cashed in on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves two years before. I know Men in Tights has its fans, and I didn't despise it, but I also didn't think it was very inspired or funny. The trailers for Dead and Loving It didn't convince me that it would be any better, nor does the 9% rating it has on Rotten Tomatoes.

Still, Nielsen can make me laugh by just standing there, so he makes the 31.

48 Scares of Casper #39

Monday, October 22, 2012

Indestructible Man (1956)

Who's in it?: Lon Chaney, Jr.; Marian Carr (Kiss Me Deadly); Max Showalter (Ward Cleaver in the first episode of Leave It to Beaver, Sixteen Candles); Robert Shayne (Inspector Henderson from The Adventures of Superman)

What's it about?: A homicidal criminal (Chaney) is accidentally made invulnerable by a completely sane scientist (Shayne) and uses his new power to take revenge on his double-crossing team.

How is it?: Chaney is horrible in it. His drinking was so bad at this point in his career that he was unable to remember lines, so they made his character mute. And for some reason, the director chose to have a LOT of close-up, reaction shots to Chaney's glassy, twitching eyes. It's impossible to watch Chaney in it without getting really sad.

What makes the film bearable is Showalter as the good-natured cop in charge of closing the robbery case. There's still a bunch of money missing, so in addition to Chaney's revenge, finding the loot takes up most of the plot. Showalter reminds me of William H. Macy. He's so smiley and affable that he's easy to latch onto and root for.

I also like Carr as the burlesque dancer whom everyone thinks is Chaney's girlfriend. She's not though, and I love the simple, believable explanation she gives for how she got involved in the whole mess. There are a couple of backstories like that: how Showalter became a cop, for instance. Instead of coming up with dramatic motivations for everyone, the script is comfortable with, "Yeah, it seemed like the right thing to do after college." It's mundane and kind of stupid, but so is life. I dig it.

Rating: Bad.

31 Days of Dracula | Vlad the Impaler (1993)

A direct result of the '92 film, Dracula: Vlad the Impaler was a three-issue mini-series published by Topps (who also published the comics adaptation of the film by Roy Thomas and Mike Mignola). Since the film spent some time on how Dracula became a vampire, Topps thought it would be cool to dig deeper into that story. And it was.

Vlad the Impaler was also written by Roy Thomas, but was drawn by Esteban Maroto (Red Sonja, Vampirella). It was a pretty faithful telling of the story of the historical Vlad Ţepeș, embellished to include insights into Vlad's motivations and his transformation into vampire at the end. It's been a long time since I've read it, but my memory is that is that it's quite good and an excellent bridge between the historical Vlad and the fictional Dracula.

48 Scares of Casper #38

Sunday, October 21, 2012

31 Days of Dracula | Gary Oldman (1992)

I would've enjoyed Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula adaptation more if it hadn't called itself Bram Stoker's Dracula. The implication was that it was a faithful retelling of the story, but - though it was more faithful than, say, Lugosi's - James V. Hart's screenplay took a lot of liberties with Stoker's novel. I've got no problems with changing the story in an adaptation, but it's crappy to do that and then market yourself as the original version.

That aside, I'm still not a huge fan of the movie. It's lavish, has great visuals (Mike Mignola worked in the art department), and a fantastic cast, but it owes more to Anne Rice than Bram Stoker, and I'm not a fan of Anne Rice. Dracula (Gary Oldman) is presented as a tragic, romantic figure who only wants to be reunited with his true love. That she's apparently been reincarnated as Mina Murray (Winona Ryder) is bad news for her and all her friends, but the movie asks its audience to at least pity the Count if not outright root for him. It would be an interesting exercise in cognitive dissonance if it were handled more skillfully, but the movie doesn't succeed in making me care about Dracula, and it kind of pisses me off that it even tries.

There were a couple of positive results of the film though. One is that it was extremely popular and got people creating Dracula stories again. The other is that it finally got me to read the original novel, if only to prove to myself that what was on screen wasn't what Stoker wrote.

48 Scares of Casper #37

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Song of the Week | "Hummingbird" by Imaginary CIties

31 Days of Dracula | Batman: Red Rain (1991)

Dracula rested in his tomb through most of the '80s. Other than the Monster Squad movie (which I talked about a little last year), there really wasn't a major Dracula appearance that decade. The next time he shows up is in Doug Moench and Kelley Jones' graphic novel, Red Rain, in which he fights Batman. This was the year before Dracula mania really picked up again (thanks to tomorrow's Dracula), but I wonder how much of that was just really great timing and how much of it came from knowing what was coming the following year.

Red Rain was part of DC's Elseworlds line in which popular superheroes were placed in alternate realities where they could be explored from new perspectives. In Red Rain, Batman fights Dracula, the original bat-man. It's kind of a genius idea and Kelley Jones' creepily exaggerated artwork really sells it. The book was popular enough to spawn two sequels by the same creators: Bloodstorm (1994) and Crimson Mist (1999).

48 Scares of Casper #36

Friday, October 19, 2012

31 Days of Dracula | Drak Pack (1980)

Sporting mostly the same premise as Monster Squad, this Hanna Barbera cartoon lasted a couple of seasons on CBS Saturday mornings. Drak, Frankie, and Howler are all descendants of classic monsters and are "dedicated to reversing the evil image of their forefathers" by becoming superheroes. Unlike the Monster Squad characters though, these three have secret identities as high school students.

When trouble appears - usually in the form of the supervillain group, O.G.R.E. - the trio gives each other the Drak Whack and transforms into monster form. They have a flying, amphibious car and superpowers. Drak's a telekinetic shape-changer, Frankie's super strong with electrical powers, and Howler has a sonic howl and super breath. The group also receives direction from Drak's great-uncle, Dracula himself (whom they call "Big D").

O.G.R.E. (Organization for Generally Rotten Enterprises) is made up of Doctor Dred, Toad, Fly, Mummyman (who controls his bandages and uses them as weapons), and Vampira (another shape shifter).

48 Scares of Casper #35

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Professional wrestlers hate cephalopods

[Dr. Hermes]

31 Days of Dracula | Quackula (1979)

Man, Dracula was popular in '79.

Not to be confused with either version of Count Duckula, although the creator of one of them certainly saw similarities. Cartoonist Scott Shaw! created the first Duckula for the debut issue of the funny-animal anthology comic Quack!. The 1976 story was called "Duckula... and his hairy henchman, Bearzanboltz," so when Filmation created Quackula (about a vampire duck who lives in the basement of a house owned by a bear, Shaw sued.

The second Duckula was a Danger Mouse villain who got spun off into his own show in 1988. All-in-all, it sounds like a better show than Quackula, but we didn't get either Danger Mouse or Count Duckula in my town, so I'm not very familiar with them.

Quackula was part of Filmation's Mighty Mouse/Heckle & Jeckle Saturday morning cartoon for one season, but though the matter was settled out of court, Shaw's lawsuit seemed to put a stop to it. In the second season, the Quackula-less show was shortened from an hour to a half-hour. It didn't make it to a third.

I was stubbornly refusing to outgrow cartoons at the time, but there weren't many that still kept my interest. I was bored by the repetitive antics of Mighty Mouse and Heckle & Jeckle, but still liked classic monsters enough to be entertained by Quackula, even though his adventures were also formulaic. He would awaken in his egg-shaped coffin to do battle with the bear upstairs with a lot of the humor coming from his not being very successful in scaring anyone.

I've only just now realized it, but reading that description, Quackula was a huge influence on the funny-animal vampire I co-created. But we'll get to him later.

48 Scares of Casper #34

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

31 Days of Dracula | Frank Langella (1979)

Coincidentally, the same year that Klaus Kinski was going old-school in the Nosferatu remake and George Hamilton was hamming it up in Love at First Bite, Frank Langella was also playing Dracula in a more or less straightforward (if not exactly faithful) adaptation of Stoker's story. (Salem's Lot also came out that year; a big one for vampires.)

Like Lugosi, Langella had played Dracula on Broadway and it was the success of that production that got the film greenlit. The '79 version (also distributed by Universal) had Lawrence Olivier as Van Helsing, Donald Pleasance as Jack Seward, and 7th Doctor Sylvester McCoy in a small part. Pleasance was originally approached to play Van Helsing, but he thought it would be too similar to his role in Halloween and turned it down. John Williams wrote the score. Notable changes to the story include Van Helsing's being Mina's father, Seward's being Lucy's, Mina and Lucy's switching places in the plot, and the whole finale.

I've seen it, but it's been years. I remember it's not being as gothic as I hoped from a '70s vampire film, but it was interesting that Dracula was played as a handsome character. I've heard that Bela Lugosi was supposed to be dashing in his version - and maybe he was in his day - but it's difficult to see him that way after the countless imitators and goofy parodies. Christopher Lee's not bad looking, but he's so sinister that his seductive qualities have to come from somewhere outside of his appearance. Langella's Dracula was set in the early 1900s, but with his poofy hair style, he looked like a modern sex symbol. It's been too long since I've seen it for me to testify about whether or not it worked, but Langella claims that men come up to him all the time and tell him how much action they got after their wives saw him in the role. Either way, it was an interesting choice.

48 Scares of Casper #33

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

31 Days of Dracula | George Hamilton (1979)

Monster Mania was a little past its expiration date in 1979, but I'm glad it didn't stop anyone from making this spoof starring George Hamilton, Richard Benjamin, Susan Saint James, and Arte Johnson. Before I was anywhere near the age that my parents would let me see a bawdy comedy like Love at First Bite, I got my hands on one of those fumetti Fotonovel comics of it. I read that thing over and over and over and over, laughing at Dracula's (Hamilton) antics as he chases a supermodel (Saint James) whom he believes to be the reincarnation of Mina Harker, much to the chagrin of her boyfriend (Benjamin). This was before I'd read Dracula or even seen the Lugosi version, so I didn't get most of the references - especially the ones with bug-eating Renfield (Johnson) - but it was naughty and funny and I loved it.

Oddly, when I finally saw the movie as an adult, I didn't like it as much. I don't know if the humor is dated, if it was that I didn't feel like I was getting away with something, or if I just built it up so much in my mind that it couldn't possibly meet my expectations. I need to check it out again though, because I love Hamilton when he's cheesy and this (along with Zorro: The Gay Blade) is him at his best.

Apparently, Hamilton wants to do a sequel that pits his Dracula against Twilight-like vampires. I don't care about the Twilight part, but I'd watch the crap out of Hamilton playing the Count again.

48 Scares of Casper #32

Monday, October 15, 2012

31 Days of Dracula | Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979)

When F.W. Murnau made Nosferatu in the '20s, he had to change the characters' names and some story details to avoid copyright infringement on Bram Stoker's Dracula. Even so, the inspiration was undeniable and Stoker's widow succeeded in obtaining an order for all copies of Nosferatu to be destroyed.

Fortunately, some prints escaped, so by the '60s the Dracula copyright had expired and the movie began to be circulated again. German director Werner Herzog became a huge fan of the film and decided to remake it. And since Dracula was now in the public domain, he could even use the names of Stoker's characters.

Still, Herzog's Nosferatu is a remake of Murnau's film before it's an adaptation of Stoker's novel. Murnau's plot changes still show up, including Renfield being Harker's boss, as well as the awesome way that (spoiler!) Dracula is ultimately destroyed. What doesn't make any sense is that Harker's wife isn't called Mina in Herzog's film, but Lucy. It's an odd, pointless change.

There's also an additional twist in the last scene, but that one sounds pretty cool. Unfortunately, I haven't seen the film yet, but I'm adding it to my list.

48 Scares of Casper #31

Sunday, October 14, 2012

31 Days of Dracula | The Electric Company (1971)

I got this one out of chronological order for some reason. I think I was looking at the last time Morgan Freeman played Dracula on The Electric Company instead of the first. As far as I can tell, he was playing Dracula in the first season, which started in '71.

If you're too young to remember The Electric Company, it was from the makers of Sesame Street and was designed to introduce older kids to reading fundamentals and foster a love for reading. My brothers and I never exactly "graduated" from Sesame Street to The Electric Company. We just enjoyed both for different reasons. Morgan Freeman is no Count von Count, but he has his own campy charm. He'll always be the one, true Blacula to me.

48 Scares of Casper #30

Song of the Week | "Thread" by Now, Now

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

Who's in it?: Lon Chaney (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)

What's it about?: Show biz is seductive, but evil. Or am I reading it wrong?

How is it?: I feel like I need to spend some time on this one, but I'm not going to do all of that tonight. For one thing, there are two things I need to talk about here: 1) the movie itself, and 2) the print in the Mill Creek box set I've been working through.

I'll start with the film itself, because that (mostly) doesn't change from print to print. It's a spectacle with lavish sets and unforgettable make-up by Lon Chaney. I grew up looking at magazine stills of Chaney in his Phantom make-up, terrorizing the crap out of Mary Philbin. It was one of those movies that I longed to see, and it's no less memorable than those photos.

Chaney's Phantom is as horrible at heart as he is in appearance. He's a true spirit in that he haunts viewers long after the movie's done. He's a super effective villain. And the supporting cast is all really effective too. Those who are there for comedy relief are funny. Those intended to cast suspicion and build tension are appropriately creepy and mysterious. Norman Kerry plays the heroic Vicomte Raoul de Chagny, and he's a man to root for.

The only character who's ever given me a problem is Christine Daae (Mary Philbin). She's sort of engaged to Raoul, but we learn early that she's been carrying on a secret relationship with an unseen "Master" who's been training her and using nefarious means to advance her career. I think maybe that she's supposed to be torn in her allegiance, but she just comes across as fickle. Before we ever see her, Raoul's older brother is trying to warn him about rumors of Christine's disloyalty. Raoul dismisses the warning, but in her first actual scene, Christine's telling him that she can't be with him. Her heart belongs to her career.

If she feels that way, why is Raoul just now hearing about it? How has he not seen this coming? The most obvious answer is that she's been giving him reason to believe that they could actually end up together. If that's true, it makes her extremely fickle and I have a problem with that.

What works for me though is to back away and see the whole thing as a metaphor. She's struggling to balance romance and career and hasn't figured out how to do it. She sees the choice as an all or nothing proposition. And in her day, it probably was. If I'm right, that makes the Phantom a true Spirit of the Opera in the sense that he personifies it. And - by extension - any career in the arts. He/the Opera seduces Christine early on, but once she spends some time with him/it, she realizes how demanding and selfish he/it is. Spoiler: she ultimately rejects him/it for a life of romance with Raoul.

I don't know if that was the filmmaker's intention, much less the intention of Gaston Leroux, who wrote the original novel. I've read the novel, but it's been years and I don't recall if or how much Leroux made that point. It's a valid way of reading the movie though, and it makes Christine's indecision easier to swallow. I can't relate to her choosing an unseen "Master" over a human being who loves her (and to whom she's obviously attracted), but I can relate to her struggling to choose between two conflicting life paths. And as much as modern me rebels against the idea that she should have to choose, I can't really argue that art is ultimately selfish and demanding. Not that artists are necessarily selfish and demanding, but that Art itself is. We can unpack that more in the comments if you're interested, but regardless of whether you agree with my reading or with whatever point the movie's making, it's a thought-provoking film as well as a viscerally exciting one. It deserves its reputation.

The specific print that the Mill Creek set uses is better than the first VHS copy that I owned, but only barely. That VHS copy took "silent movie" literally and didn't even include music. I used to throw on some classical music when I watched it, but that had the effect of changing the mood in weird ways. Depending on the track I picked and how it synched with the film, exuberant dance sequences could become solemn affairs, while creepy moments were sometimes oddly playful. It was a fun experiment in the effect of music on film images, but it wasn't a satisfying way to watch the movie.

The Mill Creek version does the same thing. It's got a music soundtrack, but it's made up of random classical pieces without any thought about how they affect the story. That's especially tragic given that there are some awesome "gotcha" moments in the film that deserve some musical support. Or at least deserve not to have the music actively working against them.

That's what I want to talk more about another time. I've got a second VHS print that uses original music composed especially for the movie, and I've got a DVD coming that does the same thing, but with a different score. It should be interesting to compare those two with the Mill Creek version. And while I'm at it, I should pull Dracula into that conversation. My DVD copy of the Lugosi movie has two different soundtrack options (three, if the Spanish version is different; I don't remember).

The Mill Creek print does include the hand-colored section during the bal masqué, so it has that going for it. Which is nice. I'll talk more about that when I write about the soundtracks.

Rating: Classic

31 Days of Dracula | Monster Squad (1976)

I know that for children of the '80s, Monster Squad is a movie where a bunch of kids fight Dracula (Duncan Regehr) and his monster pals. For '70s kids though, it was a Saturday morning TV show in which Gopher from Love Boat brings to life some wax statues of Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, and the Wolf Man.

Just like in Dell's Dracula comic, the statues decide to make up for the misdeeds of their namesakes by fighting crime as superheroes. They had utility belts, a Monster Van, codenames (Dracula was "Nightflyer"; the other two were "Green Machine" and "Furball"), and battled villains like Julie Newmar as Ultra Witch. Dracula was played by Henry Polic II in the classic Lugosi manner.

48 Scares of Casper #29

Friday, October 12, 2012

Something had to give

Unfortunately, three daily features has gotten to be more than I can handle. It's a good problem to have, but I'm busier than I was in mid-September when I came up with this idea, so I've got to make some changes or I'll turn into the Walking Dead.

It's not writing three posts that's the time-consumer; it's watching a movie a night. I can't keep up with that pace and need to cut back on the 50 Horror Classics posts. I'm going to keep watching them and posting about them; just at a slower pace. I'm sorry about the mid-course correction.

31 Days of Dracula | Andy Warhol's Blood for Dracula (1974)

Like Flesh for Frankenstein before it, the Andy Warhol-produced Blood for Dracula plays with the intersection between horror and sex. Udo Kier (who played Baron Frankenstein in Flesh for Frankenstein, and played a less well-known vampire in Blade) plays a dying Dracula who now needs virgin blood to survive. Thinking that a Catholic country might be the place to find that, he moves to Italy and meets a rich guy with four daughters. Whether they're virgins - and how their sexual status affects their fates - is what the film is most interested in exploring.


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