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Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Study in Classic Horror- ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1953)

If there’s one thing you can say about the Abbott and Costello monster movies, it’s that, despite the comedy, they were willing to let the monsters be monstrous.  They quite smartly leave the shtick to Bud and Lou when I’m sure it was tempting to just have Mr. Hyde slip on a banana peel. That being said, it still seems this movie could have been funnier. Not that it’s unfunny; it definitely has its moments; I certainly laughed out loud when Bud Abbott, usually oblivious to the dangers that threaten his partner, screamed in terror at his first glance at Mr. Hyde. It just doesn’t quite reach its potential.

I guess what I really wanted was a completely different script. Abbott and Costello are at their funniest when they’re doing their, mostly verbal, stage routines. Here the humor mostly boils down to Costello’s wild takes when confronted with danger. A sequence when Lou is transformed into a giant mouse gets some mileage, as does the two-Hyde climactic chase, but it still doesn’t quite hit the mark.

And then there’s Karloff. Just as with the previous Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff, his talents aren’t used to their full potential. In his performance I see ghosts of the film that could have been. It’s no secret that uncredited stuntman Eddie Parker stood in for Karloff for the Hyde scenes, and given the physical demands of Hyde in the film, I can see where they might have been difficult for the aging actor, but I would have loved to have seen what the movie could have been like if only Karloff could have played both parts; a movie where there is more to Hyde than simply running and snarling. Also, I’m afraid the characterization of Jekyll leaves much to be desired. He gets one monologue where he articulates his desire to rid the world of evil impulses thus bringing an end violence and bloodshed, but he quickly abandons that desire to become the monster so he can eliminate those he feels have wronged him. In fact, his role as the jealous older man echoes his role in The Climax. The Karloff performance I would have liked to see is the Jekyll who made that monologue juxtaposed with a more sinister conniving Hyde.

I suppose this is really more of an unfair entry on the film that wasn’t than the one that was, and I apologize for that. Overall, I certainly don’t think this was a bad film. It was still a lot of fun; I just can’t escape the notion that it could have been much more.


Supporting features:

Tom and Jerry in Fraidy Cat (1942)

The Our Gang short The Kid From Borneo (1933)

Next time:
Son of Dracula (1943) starring Lon Chaney Jr., Robert Paige, Louise Allbritton, and Evelyn Ankers
 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Study in Classic Horror- THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (1928)


Between my enjoyment of Paul Leni’s The Cat and the Canary and my appreciation for the works of Victor Hugo, I was really looking forward to this one, and it did not disappoint. While it joins the list of films in this project that aren’t really horror, it may be my favorite of the silent works. Certainly in the horror genre it’s hard to top The Phantom of the Opera, but judged as a film of any genre, it comes darned close to being a masterpiece. With The Cat and the Canary Leni, through use of artful camera shots and creepy art direction made a wonderful atmospheric dark comedy that delivered a well-balanced dose of laughs and chills. With The Man Who Laughs he got to apply his skills to an epic.

The story is that of a nobleman’s son who is kidnapped and disfigured by gypsies, his love for the blind girl he grew up with, and the events surrounding the reclamation of his birthright. Gwynplaine’s disfigurement has left a permanent grotesque grin on his face, and he has become famous throughout the French countryside as a carnival performer known as the Laughing Man.

Like most epic films of the time, it’s very melodramatic, and maybe a tad simplistic, but as a whole I’d say it belongs on the must-see list of any die-hard film buff. There are many memorable performances by the likes of Cesare Gravina, Brandon Hurst, Olga Vladimirovna Baklanova, and, of course, the lovely Mary Philbin, but most of all, we have Conrad Veidt’s amazing turn as the title character. In a time when performers had to resort to exaggerated gestures and facial expressions in order to convey a concept or emotion, Veidt delivers his entire performance through his eyes. Whether with the disturbing grin, or with the lower half of his face covered, those eyes communicate every nuance of Gwynplaine’s tortured existence. 

I’m glad to have spent some time with this story, even if it is the Hollywood take on it. I’ll have to explore the book in the future, and hope I’ll get the chance to see the 2012 French adaptation.

I’ll close with one last tip of the hat to Paul Leni. Based on the two films I’ve seen, I’d say he was ahead of, and died well before, his time.

Supporting features:

Daffy Duck in Nasty Quacks (1945)

The Our Gang short Forgotten Babies (1933)

Next time:
Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953) starring Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Boris Karloff, and Eddie Parker



Saturday, January 26, 2013

In Memoriam - 2012

My own list of notable people (and others) we lost in 2012 whose time on this planet left some impression, big or small, on me. Of course, like all the other lists, it doesn't include everybody, so feel free to remark on anyone you'll miss in the comments.

In Memoriam - 2012

Victor Arriagada Ríos, aka Vicar
Comic book Artist
April 16, 1934 - January 3, 2012

The Senator
Cypress Tree
c. 1500 BC – January 16, 2012

Dick Tufeld
Actor / Voice over artist
December 11, 1926 - January 22, 2012


Robert Hegyes
Actor
May 7, 1951 – January 26, 2012

Ian Abercrombie
Actor / Voice over artist
September 11, 1934 – January 26, 2012

Ben Gazzara
Actor
August 28, 1930 – February 3, 2012

Bill Hinzman
Actor
October 24, 1936 – February 5, 2012

David Kelly
Actor
July 11, 1929 – February 12, 2012


John Severin
Comic Book Artist
December 26, 1921 – February 12, 2012


Steve Kordek
Pinball Machine Designer
December 26, 1911 – February 19, 2012

Jan Berenstain
Author / Illustrator
July 26, 1923 – February 24, 2012

Davy Jones
Singer / Actor
December 30, 1945 – February 29, 2012



Ralph McQuarrie
Film Conceptual Artist
June 13, 1929 – March 3, 2012


Robert B. Sherman
Songwriter
December 19, 1925 – March 5, 2012


Jean Giraud, aka Mœbius
Comic Book Artist
May 8, 1938 – March 10, 2012


Sid Couchey
Comic Book Artist

May 24, 1919 – March 11, 2012


Jim Duffy
Animator
July 2, 1937 – March 23, 2012

Earl Scruggs
Musician
January 6, 1924 – March 28, 2012


Dick Clark
Television Host / Producer
November 30, 1929 – April 18, 2012


George Lindsey
Actor
December 17, 1928 – May 6, 2012


Maurice Sendak
Author / Illustrator
June 10, 1928 – May 8, 2012


Tony DeZuniga
Comic Book Artist
November 8, 1932 – May 11, 2012

Donald “Duck” Dunn
Musician
November 24, 1941 – May 13, 2012

Dee Caruso
Television Writer
April 7, 1929 – May 27, 2012

Dick Beals
Voice Actor
March 16, 1927 – May 29, 2012


Jim Unger
Cartoonist
January 21, 1937 – May 29, 2012

Richard Dawson
Actor / Television Host
November 20, 1932 – June 2, 2012


Ray Bradbury
Author
August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012


Frank Cady
Actor
 September 8, 1915 – June 8, 2012


Judy Freudberg
Film  / Television Writer
July 12, 1949 – June 10, 2012

Henry Hill
Mobster Turned Informant
June 11, 1943 – June 12, 2012

Susan Tyrell
Actor
March 18, 1945 – June 16, 2012

Lonesome George
Pinta Island Tortoise
c. 1912 – June 24, 2012

Nora Ephron
Screenwriter
May 19, 1941 – June 26, 2012

Don Grady
Actor
June 8, 1944 – June 27, 2012

Andy Griffith
Actor
June 1, 1926 – July 3, 2012

Ernest Borgnine
Actor
January 24, 1917 – July 8, 2012

Donald J. Sobol
Author
October 4, 1924 – July 11, 2012

Celeste Holm
Actor
April 29, 1917 – July 15, 2012

Tom Davis
Television Writer / Comedian
August 13, 1952 – July 19, 2012

Sally Ride
Astronaut
May 26, 1951 – July 23, 2012

Sherman Hemsley
Actor
February 1, 1938 – July 24, 2012

Mary Tamm
Actor
March 22, 1950 – July 26, 2012

Marvin Hamlisch
Composer
June 2, 1944 - August 6, 2012

Mel Stuart
Director
September 2, 1928 – August 9, 2012

Carlo Rambaldi
Special Effects Artist
September 15, 1925 – August 10, 2012

Joe Kubert
Comic Book Artist
September 18, 1926 – August 12, 2012

Ron Palillo
Actor
April 2, 1949 – August 14, 2012

Phyllis Thaxter
Actor
November 20, 1919 – August 14, 2012

Tony Scott
Director
June 21, 1944 – August 19, 2012

Phyllis Diller
Actor / Comedian
July 17, 1917 – August 20, 2012

Jerry Nelson
Puppeteer
July 10, 1934 – August 23, 2012

Neil Armstrong
Astronaut
August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012

Hal David
Songwriter
May 25, 1921 – September 1, 2012

Michael Clarke Duncan
Actor
December 10, 1957 – September 3, 2012

Andy Williams
Singer
December 3, 1927 – September 25, 2012

Herbert Lom
Actor
September 11, 1917 – September 27, 2012

Turhan Bey
Actor
March 30, 1922 – September 30, 2012

Alex Karras
Athlete / Actor
July 15, 1935 – October 10, 2012

Lucille Bliss
Voice Over Artist
March 31, 1916 – November 8, 2012

Larry Hagman
Actor
September 21, 1931 – November 23, 2012

Reinhold Weege
Television Writer
December 23, 1949 – December 1, 2012

Dave Brubeck
Composer / Musician
December 6, 1920 – December 5, 2012

Rusty Mills
Animator
December 16, 1962 – December 7, 2012

Ravi Shankar
Musician
April 7, 1920 – December 11, 2012

Charles Durning
Actor
February 28, 1923 – December 24, 2012

Jack Klugman
Actor
April 27, 1922 – December 24, 2012

Gerry Anderson
Television Producer
 April 14, 1929 – December 26, 2012