Tag Archives: Dracula

Tis’ the season.

Isn’t this the coolest Halloween card ever?  The little skeleton guy dances.

Hope you guys have something scary planned for the month ahead.  I’ve got a short list of movies I’d love to make time for: “Dracula” (1939), “House of the Devil” (2009),  “Annabelle Creation” (2017) and “Mr. Mercedes” Season 3 (2019).  Yeah, I know that last one isn’t a feature film, but it’s a program of truly cinematic quality.  “Mr. Mercedes” has been the best kept secret in Stephen King fandom — no, its antagonist isn’t as flashy as Pennywise the Clown or The Gunslinger’s various nemeses.  But it’s a gorgeous adaptation of a King novel that might even be better than its source material.  Check it out, seriously — skip “American Horror Story” if you have to.

There are two movies I need to get to that have been recommended to me with a lot of enthusiasm.  The first is “In the Mouth of Madness,” 1994’s H.P. Lovecraft adaptation starring Sam Neill.  (I actually started it a few years ago after a friend in New York urged me to, but it just didn’t hold my interest.)  The second is 2001’s “Shadow of the Vampire,” which features Willem Dafoe doing Nosferatu.  (I only discovered just now writing this that John Malkovich portrays F.W. Murnau.)

I’ll tell you something else, too — I’ve checked out one or two short films on the free ALTER channel and they’ve been terrific.  Maybe I’m due for another visit there.

 

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Getting into the spirit of things …

I just need a Halloween horror playlist, though.  I’ve already seen this year’s “Castle Rock” and (of course) the second season of “Mr. Mercedes.”

“Vampire” (1979) and “The Last Broadcast” (1998) both come highly recommended by some horror-fan friends that I truly trust.  I also believe that I have never seen any of the classic Universal Studios monster movies in their entirety.  I’ve watched bits and pieces of a couple of them on television when I was a young kid, including “Creature From the Black Lagoon” (1954) and “The Invisible Man” (1933).  When I was a tot in the very late 70’s, the studio’s Gothic monsters were still very much a part of the zeitgeist … my older brother even had the Aurora model kits.  I finally enjoyed F. W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu” for the first time a couple of years ago, but of course the 1921 German film preceded the Universal movies, which re-imagined Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” entirely in 1931.

I’ll probably start first by trying to hunt down a copy of “The Wolf Man” (1941).  That’s the one that other everyone always recommends.

 

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Throwback Thursday: Vampire Blood!!!

I’m not even sure that this should be a Throwback Thursday post, as I’m pretty sure it’s still being sold in stores before Halloween.  In the 1980’s, this was indispensable every October to aspiring Draculas everywhere.  You could also order it from the Johnson Smith & Company catalog — which was sort of a Bible to little boys who loved pranks and monsters.

We just called it “Dracula blood.”  You didn’t put it on your fingers, like the kid in the illustration — you applied it on your face to make it look like blood was running out of the corners of your mouth.  Maybe once in a while, you’d get a tubeful derived from an inferior batch of the stuff, and it would be orangeish.  But it was always fun.

 

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Nolanferatu’s tip for a trippy vintage horror double feature!

Well there’s one thing I can cross off my bucket list.  (There’s a lot on there, and some of it’s weird.)  I finally saw F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu: ein Symphonie des Grauens” (1922).

And am I damn glad I did!  I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would.  I love plenty of classic movies; “The 39 Steps” (1939) and “To Have and Have Not” (1944) are among my all-time favorites.  But I’m accustomed to modern horror — my tastes generally extend only as far back as “The Birds” (1963) and “Night of the Living Dead” (1968).

I waited until I was in just the right mood.  (This is the first silent film I’ve ever seen from start to finish — the only exception being Mel Brooks’ 1976 parody, “Silent Movie.”)  Then I began it shortly before midnight.

The movie just worked for me. It was sublimely creepy.

I think it helped that the grainy, flickering, black-and-white period footage made this expressionist movie utterly atmospheric for a modern viewer.  These, combined with the shots of Max Schreck superbly made up as “Count Orlok,” were damned unsettling.  Schreck also appeared to be a great physical actor, with his gaunt stance and stilted, inhuman movements.  (Was he unusually tall too?)

The vintage footage also enhanced my enjoyment of the movie in a way that Murnau probably couldn’t have expected.  I know this is strange, but … nearly a century later, the thought that occurred to me several times during this movie was this: “Everyone involved in this production is long dead by now.”  Yes, I know that is a morbid thought — I’ve never done that before!  I think it was just the film itself that did that to me — it’s about undeath and immortality, after all.

It also helped that I’d read Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” (1897), of which this film is an unauthorized adaptation.  The resulting lawsuit by Stoker’s estate is interesting reading: supposedly all copies of the movie were ordered by the courts to be destroyed, bankrupting Prana, the production company.  But a permanent cult following developed for the few surviving prints.

Anyway, I followed this up with the palate-cleansing “Night on Bald Mountain,” the final segment of Disney’s “Fantasia” (1944).  That combination, too, totally worked for me — I followed up the black-and-white nightmare-fuel of the seminal vampire film with some vivid, incongruously hellish Disney nightmare-fuel.

“Nosferatu” is in the public domain.  You can view the entire film on Youtube at the link below.

 

 

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Throwback Thursday: Universal Monsters action figures.

Tonight’s Throwback Thursday is a quick one, but a fun little ghost of Christmas past — Remco’s Universal Monsters action figures in 1980.

I received Dracula, Wolfman and the Phantom of the Opera unexpectedly under the Christmas tree.  As you can see from the photo below, they were well crafted toys, and damn fun.  I wonder how well they sold, though … How many kids in the 1980’s would excitedly ask their parents for toys featuring movie monsters from a half century earlier?  I could understand Dracula being timeless enough to attract a child — he was still a perennial favorite for boys on Halloween.  But … the original Wolf Man?  And did most kids even know who the Phantom of the Opera was?

I did.  But that’s only because I had a children’s book about the Universal Monsters.  Because I was way too into monster movies even in the second grade.

 

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