Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception... for a better now

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

HALLOWEEN RECOMENDATION 1: the book of Frankenstein!

Many of you readers will at some point this month be at the DVD section of some store and think: "Man, I should get a cheap spooky movie, or set thereof, to wow the loved ones come All Hallows Eve," but upon looking at the vast expanse of iffy titles, may walk away with nothing or--worse--some piece of trash that will turn you off forever from the obsessive world of horror movie collecting. For that reason, let me steer you to these following can't miss recommendations:

THE FRANKENSTEIN Legacy Collection (Universal)
Packaged in a dark book of greens and blacks, for $25 or less you get FRANKENSTEIN, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN SON OF FRANKENSTEIN and right there, that's a great trilogy... that's the lord of the rings of Universal Horror (as opposed to, say, The Matrix trilogy, which would be the INVISIBLE MAN box). The first two are rife with intentional mythic symbolism and eccentric British character actors, cronies whom director James Whale brought over from the London stage to Hollywood. The beauty of Karl Freund's stark black and white photography meshes brilliantly with Whale's gift for staging and lurid symbolism.

If you've grown up watching these films on UHF TV, you will be with jaw agape as whole swaths of detailed information on coded sexual relations is made apparent through the inclusion of long-excised scenes such as the infamous "Now I know what it feels like to be God" line and the actual tossing of the girl into the pond. Hunts through the mountains by torchlight for "the monster!" have morphed from merely exciting small screen stuff to magnificently gloomy Art especially if you have a big screen or projector. All the sequels follow a continuing storyline, picking up where the last left off - with the monster now frozen in oil or crusted over by dry sulfur, waiting to be revived by yet another foolish operator with delusions of godliness.

For SON OF, Bela Lugosi shows up as a crazy proletariat hunchback who controls the monster via his Pan-like pipe through to GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN, then the Wolfman shows up and suddenly the production values dip a bit, you realize there's another world war going on behind the camera, and the paucity of lurid decadence shows it - Lon trying to stay sober, looking for his silver bullet ticket out of town, and in FRANKENSTEIN VS. THE WOLFMAN, Bela Lugosi in the throes of drug addiction, struggling under an oppressive mantle of stage makeup as the monster. But that's actually over in the Wolfman set, which is a whole other ball of wax.

After that there's a few more in the story and then it dies a rather timid death in the seemingly censor-transcribed HOUSE OF DRACULA. But for the $$ you can't go wrong... all the giddy delights of classic horror are wrapped up here for cheap, so don't be a chicken... take the plunge into the war-sandwiched nether-Europe of Universal.

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