Frozen in Time: Making the Present Period

When Dino De Laurentiis announced plans to remake the Eighth Wonder of the World, King Kong, in 1976, there was no question the movie would take place in the present, just as the original had.  The present, for the original, was 1933 and the present for the remake was 1976.  However, when Peter Jackson decided to remake King Kong in 2005 there was no question for him that the film would be period, just like the original, which wasn’t period but now kind of was because 1976 was out of the question.   Jackson’s version took place in 1933 to play off of the original’s time period which, for whatever reason, works better than the present, especially when dealing with giant apes.   Except that in 1933 it was the present and no one seemed to have a problem with that then.  For what it’s worth, I think placing the movie in 1933 was the right decision because an undiscovered island in the world of GPS just doesn’t fit.    I don’t doubt that if the film were made again, it would still take place in the past. 

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100 Years of Horrors!

1910.  One hundred years ago yesterday, the Edison Kinetograph Company released the first-known adaptation of Mary Shelley’s 1817 novel Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus.  Shot over the course of three days in January of that year, FRANKENSTEIN is a somewhat stagebound 12 minute retelling of the story with some special effects that surely looked impressive a century ago… and still do, to my old school eyes.  Charles Ogle isn’t my idea of the ideal Frankenstein monster but I owe him a debt of thanks anyway for kick starting what would turn out to be a full century of shock and awe.  [...MORE]

Feel the burn

Here I am talking about vampires again.  In the course of our discussion last Friday about the size of fangs in vampire movies, my fellow Morlock Moirafinnie asked “What do you think of the changing effect of sunlight on various vampires over time in movie history? I always think it’s a gyp when a Dracula figure doesn’t start to sizzle when the sun’s rays hit him or her. Where do you stand, RHS?”  Of course, I could have given Moira a simple answer but why do that when I can squeeze a whole ‘nuther blog post out of the topic? [...MORE]

Nice fang work (if you can get it)

Back when TV Guide was as important a publication to me as The Cub Scout Handbook or Famous Monsters of Filmland, I often ran across the phrase “Good fang work” in the one-sentence reviews that accompanied listings for vampire movies.  I don’t know whose wording that was (the neologism was ported into Leonard Maltin’s movie guides in the 1980s) and its provenance is immaterial to this discussion.   “Good fang work” always struck me as a touch condescending even back before I really understood the meaning of the word.  I didn’t need some faceless adult patronizing me.  I knew good fang work when I saw it… and I still do.

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The Crooner and His Megaphone

I was browsing TCM’s August schedule and came across a title on Tuesday, August 9th at 6 am ET I had never heard of called CROONER (1932). Directed by Lloyd Bacon, starring David Manners, Ann Dvorak and J. Carrol Naish and clocking in at a brisk 68 minutes, it sounded like a potentially intriguing Pre-Code programmer.     [...MORE]

20 Years of Inappropriate Laughter

We all have our seminal texts.  These are the books that made us who we are, that are hard-wired to our psyches, whose very pages float like paper sailboats in the salty brine of our DNA.  At the far end of my life, I’d rate Don Whitehead’s THE FBI STORY (a sanitized “adapted for young readers” spin on the Bureau’s history minus J. Edgar Hoover’s endless fascination with other people’s sex lives ), Jules Feiffer’s THE GREAT COMIC BOOK HEROES (my THE HERO HAS A THOUSAND FACES) and Carlos Clarens’ AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE HORROR FILM as the most influential in sculpting the bona fide weirdo that is me.  Somewhere in the middle, encompassing my college and bohemian years in New Haven and New York, I’d have to say Bram Stoker’s DRACULA and Jack Kerouac’s ON THE ROAD are (you should pardon the expression) neck and neck for the most character-building and aesthetic shaping… although both might be overshadowed by WARTS AND ALL.

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Spend September With Bernard Herrmann

Hermann

Every Tuesday night in September, starting tonight, TCM will be screening a diverse selection of films (23 in all) scored by the legendary Bernard Herrmann (the dandy image above was created by the Bernard Herrmann Society). As an appetizer, I’ve compiled a list of my ten favorite Herrmann scores, from radio, TV, and film. It’s easy to forget, but Herrmann was a master of radio orchestration before he created those distinctive tonalities for the screen. He had an innate sense of how to adapt his musical ideas to different formats, sounding more descriptive on the radio, and increasingly atmospheric and emotional on the screen. His work wasn’t merely music added to images – he composed out of these images, creating an organic whole that lifted the films he worked on into another level of artistry. How can one think of The Mercury Theater, Citizen Kane, or Hitchock without him?

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“Death waits for those who dare to spend the night here!”

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Universal’s HORROR ISLAND (1941) was rushed into production in the spring of 1941 to be sent to theaters as the B-picture on a double bill with MAN MADE MONSTER (1941).  The word “rushed” doesn’t really begin to tell the tale… from the start of principal photography on March 3rd of that year, only 23 days elapsed before HORROR ISLAND was being previewed for exhibitors.  Budgeted at just under $100,000, the “Universal Mystery Thriller” had a punishing 12-day shooting schedule, which required director George Waggener to push his cast and crew around the clock, shooting around existing sets with a script by Maurice Tombragel and Victor McLeod that no doubt seemed, even at the time, derivative and corny.  And yet it is precisely these shortcomings which give the thoroughly unremarkable HORROR ISLAND its undeniable charm. [...MORE]

Things of beauty

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LSK9s7cDKk]

Our friend Jonathan Lapper, the brains behind the Cinema Styles blog, has been hosting an “October Kill Fest” all month.  The series, bespoke for spookiness and dead-icated to the eternal (restless) spirit of Halloween, isn’t always for the squeamish… but all diehard MonsterKids and fans of classic Hollywood cinema should have a ball with this montage Beautiful Monsters, posted today. [...MORE]

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