Archive for October, 2009

AWESOME-tober-fest 2009: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein book review

Posted in AWESOME-tober-fest, books, Classic literature, Frankenstein, Halloween, pop culture, reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2009 by Paxton

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Today, I review the book that started it all, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Shelley Frankenstein cover
Mary Shelley’s tale of the Frankenstein monster is perhaps one of the most classic and iconic horror tales of all time.  Shelley’s book has spawned not only other books, but movies, TV shows, plays, satire and short stories. It’s a veritable horror franchise in and of itself.  Her book, along with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, helped ground the incredibly popular Universal Monster stable of monster movies in the ’30s. Famously played by Boris Karloff in the Universal movies and by David Prowse (Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies) in the cult favorite Hammer films, the monstrous green, lumbering Frankenstein monster created by a mad scientist looking to create artificial life is what is most popularly known by the public at large.  Is this basically what the original book is about?  Are the events in the book different?  Before this article, I had no idea.

Having never read the original Frankenstein novel by Shelley, I couldn’t answer that question.  So I picked up the classic novel for this year’s AWESOME-tober-fest and read the original novel. I had no prior knowledge of Shelley’s book (other than it existed) and all of my imagery of Frankenstein and the monster pretty much come from the Universal movies as well as cheesy ’70s and ’80s adaptations like The Monster Squad, The Munsters and The Groovie Goolies. Let’s see how different the original novel is from the image burned into our collective pop consciousness.

Frankenstein cover 2

Published in 1818, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is considered a horror classic. Having written the book when she was only 18, Shelley originally published the book anonymously. It wasn’t until 1831 that the book was first published with her name on it.  The genesis of this novel began one night when Mary Shelley, her husband Percy and Lord Byron were at Byron’s villa telling ghost stories.  They all decided they should each write their own supernatural story.  Byron began to research a vampire story that would eventually be written by another author.  Percy Shelley would die before he could write his story. Mary came up with her story after a vivid dream.  Subsequently, hers would be the only one published as originally intended.  The gist of the story centers on Victor Frankenstein and his creation of a monster from dead body parts.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2009: Monster Force cartoon

Posted in cartoons, Frankenstein, Halloween, holiday, monsters, pop culture, TV shows with tags , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2009 by Paxton

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I finish Frankenstein cartoon week with a little known monster gem from the mid ’90s:  Monster Force.

Monster Force
This series was created in 1994 and lasted 13 episodes. The story is set around the year 2020 and features a team of teen warriors using high tech weaponry to battle the Universal Monsters as well as other spiritual beings.  Frankenstein’s monster, aka The Monster, fights on the Monster Force team as does Luke Talbot, the Wolf Man (descendant of the original Larry Talbot from the Universal movie).  Also on the team is a psychic girl named Shelley Frank who is somehow connected to Frankenstein.

The main villain of the cartoon is Dracula (with a weird goatee-type thing that looks totally beatnik) and his faithfully gross servant Renfield. Other monsters like Hotep (The Mummy) and The Creature (from the Black Lagoon) also pop up within the first 7 episodes.  Monster Force was released on DVD this year.  I got it off Netflix to watch expecting a cool, monster vanquishing adventure series. The verdict? It’s awful. Imagine a retarded kid doing a book report on Japanese stereo instructions. Now imagine that this book report is a tighter, more interesting script than anything you see in this show.

For instance, the psychic girl, Shelley Frank. Her name. Get it? Shelley, as in Mary SHELLEY. And Frank, as in FRANKenstein? And you know that she’s psychic because she and the team mention it probably three or four times EVERY EPISODE. You know, in case you forgot in the five minutes it takes for them to mention it again. Shelley is also the only one with wings on her battle armor so she can fly. Why? Why did they not think the rest of the team would want f’n WINGS on their battle armor? I would.  I’m on the team, I want to f’n fly, dammit. That’s the type of character development you see in this show.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2009: Drak Pack cartoon

Posted in cartoons, Frankenstein, Halloween, holiday, pop culture, TV shows, werewolves with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2009 by Paxton

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Continuing my look at cartoons featuring Frankenstein’s monster.  Today I look at Drak Pack.

Drac Pack

This show originally aired on CBS between 1980 and 1982 and it was created by the Australian arm of Hanna-Barbera.

The cartoon had a great premise.  As descendants of the original monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and Wolf Man), the three main teens use their monster abilities, and taking orders from the legendary Dracula, to fight crime and atone for their ancestors’ evil doings.  Here is the opening sequence that explains the entire premise of the show (like many Hanna-Barbera cartoons are want to do).

This was a very clever series that merged the superhero genre as well as the monster genre. As you can see, the teens appeared normal until they called on their monster identities to fight evil.  The three teens are Drak Jr (or just Drak), Frankie and Howler.  They each had different abilities in their monster forms.  To change into their monster personalities they high fived and yelled “WHACK-O!” (called the Drak Whack). Surprisingly, they went by the same names whether as regular teens or as the monsters which makes you wonder why they used secret identities.  But I guess walking around as a 7 ft green monster would be a bit much.  To get around they drove a bad ass hot rod called the Drakster which not only looked cool but had a ton of James Bond-ish gadgetry hiding within it.

Drak Pack newspaper

I remember really enjoying this show.  I only ever saw it a few times because the time that it aired constantly changed.  I was always on the lookout for it but never could find it.  It was released on DVD in Canada, but you can order it from Amazon (it’s Region 1, so you can watch it on a US DVD player).  Unfortunately Netflix has not added it to their library just yet.

Definitely worth a look for monster fans as well as Hanna-Barbera fans.  Another really great series staring every0ne’s favorite monsters as heroes.

Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2009: The Groovie Goolies cartoon

Posted in cartoons, Frankenstein, Halloween, holiday, pop culture, TV shows, werewolves with tags , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2009 by Paxton

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Okay, the Frankenstein theme begins in earnest this week.  All the entries from here on out will feature the giant, green skinned behemoth in some pop culture incarnation.  This week’s entries will look at Frankenstein cartoons.  Next week I’ll look at Frankenstein novels and the final week of AWESOME-tober-fest will be spent looking at Frankenstein movies.

So, like I said, this week is cartoons.  Frankenstein has been in a bunch of cartoons.  He’s headlined a few, been a part of a few.  Let’s take a look at one of the more fun ones.

Today’s entry is The Groovie Goolies

Groovie Goolies

This cartoon originally aired on TV between 1971 and 1972. The show was created by one of the best animation houses around, Filmation, who also created He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra, Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids, Star Trek the animated series and many other of your favorite cartoons.

Frankie on piano Drac and Wolfie

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2009: Coney Island’s Dante’s Inferno and a few other dark rides

Posted in Frankenstein, Halloween, movies with tags , , , , , , , , on October 9, 2009 by Paxton

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Today, I finish talking about haunted dark rides. I’m going to start with a former Coney Island attraction but I’ll also talk about a few others as a bonus.

Let’s begin…

Dante's Inferno entrance
Dante’s Inferno (Coney Island, NY) — Constructed and originally located in Europe, this two story portable dark ride was brought to New York’s  Coney Island Astroland in 1971.  It was originally run as an independent carnival concession until the owners of Astroland bought it outright a few years later.  In the ’90s ride designer Lou Nasti completely redesigned the inside.  Despite the name, the ride isn’t based on Dante’s poem nor is it a “ride into Hell”.  A “bumper” type car would ferry you through several unconnected scenes of horror including monsters and human torture.  As of 2008, this ride as well as the entirety of Astroland has been closed.  Check out an in-depth article including pictures about this ride here.

The Haunted House
The Haunted House (Ocean City, MD) — Located in Trimper’s Amusement Park, this ride was originally built in 1964 by Bill Tracy, a legend amongst dark ride enthusiasts.  In 1988, the ride was expanded with new and updated scares.  However, at least 20 of Bill’s original stunts are still intact throughout the ride making it the most complete Bill Tracy ride still in existence.  Check out Surfing Pizza’s nostalgic rememberances of this ride as well as the unofficial website.

Castle Frankenstein

Castle Frankenstein (near Darmstadt, Germany) – I couldn’t pass on mentioning this when my theme this year is Frankenstein!!  Built sometime in the 13th century by Konrad Reiz von Breuberg (who took the name Frankenstein) it is said that this castle was the inspiration for Mary Shelley’s novel.  However there is a lot of controversy about this and there is nothing historically to prove it.  For instance, in the actual Shelley novel, there was no Frankenstein castle. It would be James Whale’s 1931 movie that would popularize the idea of a Frankenstein castle. This “real life” Frankenstein castle, however, is now mostly in ruins as there are only two towers and a chapel left standing.  If you ever go to Germany and want to see it, tours are available.