Brides of Dracula

Posted in Dracula, Vampires with tags , on 20 November, 2008 by Cavan

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‘The Most Evil Dracula of All’

‘He feeds his unearthly desires on youth and beauty… As he turns a girls’ school into a Chamber of Horrors!’

Director Terence Fisher
Writer Jimmy Sangster, Peter Bryan and Edward Percy

Stars Peter Cushing (Doctor Van Helsing) Martita Hunt (Baroness Meinster) Yvonne Monlaur (Marianne) Freda Jackson (Greta) David Peel (Baron Meinster)

Certificate X
Year 1960

Dastardly Plot
Old Drac is dead but his vampires still haunt Transylvania (no wonder they can never get tourists). However this doesn’t stop French school-teacher Marianne Danielle from taking a position at a Transylvanian girl’s school (yup, clever career move there girlie.) Of course, this being Transylvania before you know it her pesky coachman’s done a bunk leaving her no choice but to take shelter at the nearest spooky castle, the guest of an even creepier Baroness. But why does the Baroness keep her son, who every one believes is dead, chained up in the castle? And will Marianne be stupid enough to fall for his charms and his bizarre hair and free him? 
Well, what do you think? Thanks heavens Dr Van Helsing has been called in for a spot of vampire-busting. Well, who else are you going to call? 

Vicious Verdict
OK, first of all it has to be said that the title is ever so misleading. Dracula doesn’t appear in this film. Yup, he’s mentioned repeatedly but at this point in Hammer’s history Christopher Lee’s bloodsucker was definately out for the count. 

Bizarelly this fatal flaw in its marketing doesn’t hurt the film at all. Quite the opposite in fact. You’ve got no time to miss old fang-features as the spell of the Brides washes over you. In fact, I would say (and this is where I commit heresy) that this is actually a better film. 

First up, it’s genuially creepy at points. The Baroness herself sets the skin crawling far more than Christopher Lee’s slightly wooden performance in Dracula (whoops, there goes that heresy again) and the idea of padlocks just dropping off a victims coffin is actually more unnerving than it deserves to be. And the cackling, insane Greta calling through the fresh earth, talking a newly-vamped member of the undead how to claw out of the grave is wonderfully disturbing.

Then there’s the pathos of new vamp on the block, Baron Meinster’s mother plea for Van Helsing to put her out of her misery and the shocking extent of the Baron’s vengeance on old Helsing (Did anyone actually see that coming when they first watched the film?). OK, so the resolution of Van Helsing’s fate makes no sense but at least it makes no sense with plenty of shocks and winces. Yes, the blood may be redder than ketchup but the violence is gritty and looks like it would hurt. 

As with many of the Hammer classics the plot is a little on the thin side and full of holes (for example, if the Baron can transform into a highly-unconvincing bat why couldn’t he do this to escape his mother’s chains?) but the shortcomings can be forgiven for the sheer style of the piece. 

Terrifying Trivia 

  • The pressbook for the film offered the following advice for cinema managers – ” Make sure that at all performamces of The Brides of Dracula you have nurses or St John’s men prominently patrolling your theatre. Rig up a First-Aid Station near the entrance fully stocked with smelling salts, aspirin and sal volatile…”
  • The original script was entitled ‘Dracula and the Damned. ‘ 
  • The climax of the film was originally have the baron destroyed by a swarm of bats. This was abandoned as too expensive but would be recycled three years later for the climax of Kiss of the Vampire

 

High Points 
Greta and the ‘birth’ of a new vampire by the grave, the Baron’s revenge on Van Helsing and the good Doctor’s brave return from the brink of death, the gruesome makeup after Van Helsing gives the Baron a little facewash with holy water.

Low Points 
Unconvincing villagers, even more unconvincing bats, the ‘Brides’ bizarre foundation – do the undead forget how to apply make-up?

Skulls out of Five

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The Wolf Man goes Solo

Posted in Universal, Werewolves with tags , , on 18 November, 2008 by Cavan

wolf man han solo I wonder where the team behind Universal’s new Wolf Man movie looked for inspiration for costumes?

If this early shot of the Mezco action figure is anything to go by, its the pilot that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.

Well, Han always had a soft spot for walking carpets.

Curse of the Werewolf

Posted in Werewolves with tags , on 16 November, 2008 by Cavan

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‘He fought the hideous curse of his evil birth, but his ravished victims were proof that the cravings of his beast-blood demanded he kill… Kill… KILL!’

‘He had but one body – yet lived with two souls!’

‘Half-man… Half-wolf’

‘Even the innocent girl who loved him was not safe… once the full moon rose!’

Director Terence Fisher
Writer Guy Endore (novel), Anthony Hinds (screenplay)

Stars Clifford Evans (Don Alfredo Corledo), Oliver Reed (Leon Corledo), Yvonne Romain (Jailer’s Daughter), Catherine Feller (Cristina Fernando), Anthony Dawson (Marques Siniestro) Richard Wordsworth (Beggar)

Certificate X
Year 1961

Dastardly Plot
An old beggar stumbles on the wedding of the local Marques and his buxom wife (well, this is a Hammer film) After the rotter makes the hobo dance for his supper he promptly chucks him in jail. Years later, the beggar’s been left to rot, cared only by the jailer’s mute but (obviously) buxom daughter. He’s not alone for long though as, after the daughter resisted the Marques advances she’s also thrown in the clink where, to thank her for her years of kindness the beggar rapes her. On being released from behind bars she takes no time in stabbing the Marques and running off, only to nearly drown in the local lake. Found by Don Corledo she promptly has a baby and shuffles off this mortal coil to leave her cursed son in Corledo’s hands.
(Have you worked out this isn’t a happy film yet?)
After a trouble childhood of worrying sheep and therefore worrying his parents even more, young Leon grows up to be the spitting image of Olly Reed and promptly falls in love with a surprisingly not so buxom lass in all of 23 seconds. But can their love survive the fact that he gets a bit hairy when the moon is full?
Probably not…

Vicious Verdict
Let’s make no bones about it – Curse of the Werewolf is one grim movie. Don’t be expecting much in the way of comic relief here. The, slightly overlong, introduction to Leon’s parentage reveals a succession of characters that are mad, bad or scuicidal. Then as poor Leon enters manhood the curse weighs heavy on every scene with the wolfy-one murdering left, right and centre and then torturing himself in the aftermath.

Unfortunately, for all its pathos, the film hardly rarely raises the interest levels. There are plenty of original ideas, such as the fact that the lyncanthropy is a result of a curse from heaven for an unwanted baby being born on Christmas day rather than the traditional bite, but these are lost in the general tedium of the affair.

And you have to wonder why Fisher decided to wait so long to finally reveal the werewolf itself. The iconic make-up only goes under the moonlight in the last ten minutes or so, wasting the monster in a pointless romp around spanishesque buildings in an obvious case of padding. Yes, the reason was probably so that the film examined a man wrestling with his internal demons and struggling with an unescapable fate, but at the end of the day this is a Hammer monster movie and the people would have flocked to the cinema to see the monster itself. It’s a little too little too late.

No-wonder the box-office results didn’t prompt Hammer to go down the werewolf route again.

Terrifying Trivia 

  • The film is based on Guy Endore’s 1944 novel, The Werewolf of Paris which was originally optioned by Universal who later subcontracted it to Hammer. The company had been working on The Inquisitor, a project concerning the Spanish Inquisition but had taken the decision to drop the production after threats of condemnation by the Catholic Church. However, to at least salvage the expensive sets, the werewolf was transfered from France to a decidenly Kent-like Spain.
  • In one of the earlier drafts the beggar was also a werewolf but the censor decided that sex plus supernatural equaled one step too far.

Quaking Quotes
“A werewolf is a body where a soul and a spirit are constantly at war. Whatever weakens the human spirit, this brings the spirit of the werewolf to the fore. And whatever weakens the spirit of the beast… warmth, fellowship, love… raises the spirit of the soul…”

High Points 
The child with unnaturally hairy arms, the baptism’s ‘rejection’ of the cursed child, the iconic werewolf (don’t say Wolfman if you don’t want to be sued) make-up.

Low Points 
The fact that our anti-hero isn’t exactly known for his charm and yet manages to form a deep and meaningful relationship in less time that it would take Casanova to tie his shoe-laces. Hasn’t he heard that being too keen can scare aware a woman?

Skulls (out of five)

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Dear Vlad

Posted in Dracula with tags on 14 November, 2008 by Cavan

180px-vladtepes-756616Things you will never see in newspapers # 1:

Vlad the Impaler stands in for the Sun’s agony aunt Dear Deidre…

Dear Vlad, I have been in a good relationship for three years but have recently found out that boyfield has been cheating on me what should I do?

You poor baby. He’s obviously a rotter. I would suggest that you insert a sharpened pole through, say, his side or rectum, you can then plant your cheating pig of a boyfriend as a washing line pole in the back garden. 

Of course if you really want him to suffer you can insert the stake so that it avoids immediate death and will function as a plug to prevent extreme blood loss. his agony will be prolonged for many hours. 

For more help phone my HOW TO IMPALE YOUR CHEATING PARTNER helpline. 

I played a practical joke on my boyfriend to prove that looks are only skin deep. But now it’s backfired and I’m scared it will end our relationship. 

It started when I was teasing him about how he hates ginger hair. When he was away one weekend I dyed my hair red. 

I thought he’d see the funny side but he was furious. He said he’d be embarrassed to go out with me and I should dye my hair back. But I feel the truth came out that night. I am still ginger and want him to prove he loves me for who I am, not how I look. Am I being over-sensitive? 

No, of course you’re not being over-sensitive. Why not teach him that he shoudn’t be so shallow by nailing a red wig to his head? I’m sure he’ll be more sensitive after that. If all else fails, you can always impale him…

For more help phone my HANGING YOUR INSENSITIVE LOVER FROM A RUSTY SPEAR helpline.

Dear Vlad, My flatmate has bought a gerbil. I can’t stand small furry animals. What should I do…

Have you tried impaling the little fella?

The Mummy Dark Resurrection

Posted in The Mummy, Universal with tags , , , on 3 November, 2008 by Cavan

There are a few things I couldn’t fit into Mummy month, so there will be some more mummified muttering over the next few days…

Dark Resurrection is the six of Dark Horse’s Universal Monster novels but unlike its predecessors, Michael Paine’s novel isn’t a direct sequel to the classic movie but a re-imagining. Imhotep’s backstory is slightly retconned and a new story is woven around Ardath Bey. It’s a nice little page-turner but unfortunately never really holds together. The old suspension of disbelief wears a bit thing as the cursed Joss Brandt starts having family members dropping dead left, right and centre, all in mysterious circumstances, but is still is worried about throwing a birthday party for his aging gran.

The other problem is that Paine has forgotten this is a mummy novel and instead delivers a shed-load of zombies, as corpses galore rise from the dead to rip the living apart. At first these scenes are quite chilling, but soon follows an increasingly familiar formula; a previously unseen member of the Brandt dynasty (who largely don’t seem very nice at all) are torn asunder and found dead before the action immediately shifts back to an increasingly confused Joss.

So much of the novel is spent with these undead killings, that when we finally get to the conclusion it feels as if Paine has rushed to tie up all the strands that have flapped around like a bunch of rotten bandages for the previous 200 pages.

It’s just a shame that Ardath Bey only really makes an impact on the plot in these final, rushed pages and even more of a shame that you can’t ever imagine Boris Karloff acting out the character that is supposedly based on the role he so perfectly created.

This one should have probably stayed in the tomb…

2 (out of 5) tana leaves

Dead Set: The climax

Posted in Zombies with tags , , on 1 November, 2008 by Cavan

So, Dead Set has finished its run for halloween on E4 with a final chilling montage of shots that were chillingly depressing and therefore classic zombie.

I loved this series. OK, there were a couple of points when it dragged a bit but on the whole it nipped along like a rabid, brain-hungry, breathing-impaired meat-lover. 

Five things I loved about Dead Set:

5. The brain-dead contestant casually flicking through a copy of Heat while a zombie claws at the locked door.

4. The slimy, egotistical producer enjoying gutting the corpse of a transvestite male nurse a little bit too much.

3. The zombies almost licking the glass of the two way mirrors as Kelly peers out oblivious that it’s so close.

2. That gut-wrenching climax that snatches utter despair from the jaws of well, a little less despair at least. Romero would have been proud (in fact, Dead Set could, dare I say it, teach the old master of the shuffling dead if Diary of the Dead is anything to go by)

1. Zombie Davina. Who would have thought she would have been that good?

4 (out of 5) tana leaves

Save the Werewolves

Posted in Werewolves on 31 October, 2008 by Cavan

How many times have we heard this story? Parents bring home their children a rabid creature from the darkest pit of hell for a special Halloween treat. They think it’s all cute at first, the hideous mutations, the mountains of bloody corpses, the way it wakes up the next day naked and confused in the local zoo, its eyebrows meeting in the middle….
And then, as November rolls on, the novelty wears off. Soon the werewolf finds itself abandoned, with hundreds in danger every year of being drowned in the local brook or, worse of all, finding themselves at the wrong end of a silver bullet.

If we’re not careful, our grandchildren will only experience werewolves in captivity. No danger of them being ravished by one if they wander off the path and then being forced to go home with a fit nurse with a fondness for showers – when they’re not being plagued by the endless, recurring nightmares of nazi zombies hiding behind their curtains of course. No more innocent souls tormented by their inner demon and doomed to end their days being hunted down and shot like a wild animal.

Is that the kind of world you want them to live in?

So, when you consider bringing home a changeling for this 31st October remember that a Lyncanthope is for life, not just for Halloween…

This campaign could change our world for the better and ensure that the curse of the lonely werewolf will continue throughout this century and being. Please consider signing up and pledging your support and watch this space for the wallpapers, button badges and campaign t-shirts…

Together we can Save the Werewolves