Archive for Frankenstein

Billy the Kid Week 2011: Review of Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities

Posted in Billy the Kid, comic books, Frankenstein, monsters, reviews with tags , , , , , on July 11, 2011 by Paxton

Billy the Kid Week

Our last Billy the Kid Week was last August when I celebrated the 22nd birthday of the movie Young Guns.  Now, nearly a year later, it’s time for another Billy the Kid Week.  This time, I am celebrating the 130th anniversary of Billy the Kid’s death.  It happened this week back in 1881.  This week, I’ll be reviewing various fiction/non-fiction books featuring Billy the Kid.

For today, I’m beginning Billy the Kid week with a review of the comic book mini-series, Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities.  It was released in 2005 by Dark Horse Comics.

Billy the Kids Old Timey Oddities

The comic is written by Eric Powell who also writes another popular comic, The Goon.  Like most of the Billy fiction I’ll read this week, this comic book assumes that Billy was not killed by Pat Garrett back in 1881.  That he somehow escaped. The comic starts off with a drawing of what looks like an old newspaper article talking about the chase, capture and killing of Billy the Kid (left).  At the top of the article is an image that homages an old dime novel woodcut from 1881 called “Killing the Kid” (right). I thought, historically, that was a nice touch.

billy the kids death killing the kid woodcut

Initially, we see Billy riding a train.  A man named Bill Sproule approaches Billy while on the train.  Of course Billy is suspicious, but Sproule offers Billy a job with his traveling circus, Bill Sproule’s Biological Curiosities.  Billy is reluctant at first, but decides to go with Mr Sproule to see what the job entails.

So, Billy goes to work for another guy’s traveling freak show.  Now, I think it’s weird that the title of the book is Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities.  Like Billy owns the freak show.  That’s actually what I expected.  I guess not.  *shrugs*  Let’s press on, shall we?

The traveling show is populated by a bunch of awesomely freaky characters like a tattooed lady who’s tattoos constantly change to predict the future and a wolf man.  Billy is, of course, stubborn and immature.  He manages to alienate all the “freaks” immediately after meeting them.  Then continues to use “freak” slurs when describing them.  At first, it’s irritating.  Billy just seems like a mean douche.  But as the story goes on, Billy’s edge softens a bit and he helps the group when they get in trouble.

And they do get in trouble.  The group goes looking for a jewel called The Golem’s Heart.  It is owned by none other than Dr Victor Frankenstein.  So the group goes after it and immediately becomes trapped by the mad doctor.  The doctor has been performing ghastly medical experiments on the people in the surrounding town.  He plans on using the freaks in some of these experiments.

Dr Frankenstein comic Dr Frankenstein movie

I love the depiction of Victor Frankenstein in this book (pic on left).  It’s eerily close to Peter Cushing, who portrayed Victor Frankenstein in a bunch of movies for Hammer Films in the ’70s (pic on right).  Just a really nice touch by the artist.

So Victor traps all of the group in his castle and plans to do horrible, horrible experiments on them.  Billy becomes locked in a chest but escapes and helps the group overcome and defeat Frankenstein.  They manage to turn Frankenstein’s mutated creations back on him.

It’s a pretty good book.  I enjoyed the majority of it and the artwork is perfect for the story.  It reminds me of some of the early EC work in Vault of Horror or Tales from the Crypt.  Very cool.  I can honestly recommend it to people wanting a nice, quick, fun read.

Billy the Kids Old Timey Oddities v2
(Via Dark Horse.com)

Last year, Dark Horse released a sequel called Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities and the Ghastly Fiend of London (that’s a lot of title to type).  However, I was not able to track down a copy to read, but it looks pretty awesome.  It looks like a Billy the Kid and freaks vs Jack the Ripper.  When I finally get a copy, I’ll put up a review.  It seems Powell is including his other comic creation, The Goon, as a backup feature to this second volume of Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities.  I look forward to reading this.

Stay tuned, this week on the Cavalcade is full of Billy the Kid as we lead up to the 130th anniversary of the outlaw’s death on Thursday.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2010: The Legion of Monsters plus The Creature Commandos

Posted in comic books, Frankenstein, monsters, werewolf, Wolf Man with tags , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2010 by Paxton

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In the ’70s, Marvel had several “monster” characters that were fairly popular. I talked yesterday about Werewolf by Night, but there was also Man-Thing, Morbius the Living Vampire and Ghost Rider. They decided to team these guys up to see if a super team of monsters would be popular with readers. The team up would happen in 1976.

In Marvel Premiere #28 (Feb 1976), Werewolf by Night would join forces with the aforementioned Morbius the Living Vampire, Man-Thing and Ghost Rider to form the first Legion of Monsters.

Marvel Premiere #28Legion of Monsters intro

At the time, all four of these characters were very popular, so this was an interesting exercise by Marvel.  However, the story, doesn’t really live up to the idea.  In this horribly zany story a giant mountain appears in the middle of LA on the same day that Morbius, Werewolf, Man-Thing and Ghost Rider all happen to be passing through. Ghost Rider and Man-Thing are somehow drawn to the mountain while Morbius and Werewolf also make their way to the mountain, but not before they get into a fight because Morbius tries to drink Werewolf’s blood.  While investigating the mountain, some giant golden guy on a horse shows up.  This guy.

StarSeed

He calls himself StarSeed (I am not kidding, he seriously calls himself that) and in the middle of a long convoluted story about his origin, Morbius attacks and tries to drink his blood (you sense a pattern here?). Ghost Rider is hypnotized by the golden StarSeed’s beauty so he tries to fight off Morbius.  Man-Thing tries to help but Ghost Rider thinks he’s also attacking.  Goldie and all the monsters get in a fight, Ghost Rider freaks out at Man-Thing and totally runs away on his motorcycle and Werewolf is given a vicious back hand across the face. While trying to help, Man-Thing takes the giant dude down with his “touch of fear” and after conceding defeat, StarSeed uses his cosmic powers to transform everyone back to their alter egos thereby giving Morbius, Werewolf and Man-Thing a brief respite from their curses… only to change them back again 30 seconds later (what a dick). The monsters head out of town sad because they’ve killed their only chance at curing themselves and we never see anyone resolve the giant f’n mountain in the middle of LA. So, like I said, ZANY.

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Boris Karloff Blogathon: Review of House of Frankenstein (1944)

Posted in Frankenstein, monsters, movies, pop culture, Universal Studios with tags , , , , , on November 25, 2009 by Paxton

Well, I mentioned on Monday that this week is the Boris Karloff Blogathon over at the awesome blog, Frankensteinia.  There are over 100 blogs participating in this event to celebrate Boris Karloff’s 122nd birthday.

Boris Karloff Blogathon

This past October, for my Halloween celebration called AWESOME-tober-fest, my theme was Frankenstein and I reviewed the three original Boris Karloff Universal Frankenstein movies; Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein. In each of these, Karloff played the role that he made famous, the Frankenstein monster.  All were fantastic movies and, to me, earned their status as classics.

However, after Son of Frankenstein, Karloff did not return to the role of the monster in any Universal motion picture.  The fourth Frankenstein movie, Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) featured The Wolf Man’s Lon Chaney Jr as the monster.  The fifth movie, Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1944) had Dracula’s Bela Lugosi in the monster role.  Interestingly, Lugosi was originally offered the Frankenstein monster role in Universal’s 1931 movie but turned it down thinking it was beneath him to play a mindless brute.  This rebuttal lead the way for Karloff to take over the role.  Glenn Strange would then assume the monster role in this movie,  House of Frankenstein (1944) as well as Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)  and House of Dracula (1945).

So, House would be the third Universal Frankenstein movie to not feature Karloff in the role of the monster, but Karloff did return to star in this movie.  And this is the movie I decided to review for the Boris Karloff Blogathon.

House of Frankenstein poster

So, yes, Universal was able to get Karloff to return to the Frankenstein franchise, but not as the monster.  Karloff instead plays the mad scientist, Dr Gustav Niemann.  It’s also interesting to note that Universal tried to get Bela Lugosi to reprise the role of Dracula for this movie, but the actor had a last minute scheduling conflict and John Carradine was hired as Dracula instead.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2009: Watching a bunch of Frankenstein movies

Posted in Frankenstein, Halloween, holiday, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , on October 29, 2009 by Paxton

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So, I watched the Edison Frankenstein and the first three Universal Frankenstein movies with Boris Karloff. What next? I decided to check out some other Frankenstein movies that aren’t the classic Universal monster movies. For instance, Hammer Films made like 7 Frankenstein movies. Andy Warhol made a near pornographic one and even Roger Corman took a shot at a Frankenstein movie.

There are literally dozens of Frankenstein movies to choose from.  I chose three.  I was really close to picking the Andy Warhol one because I heard it’s really weird, but I instead opted for three fairly mainstream choices.  One a direct adaptation of the novel, one a classic horror film and, to change things up a bit, a parody version of Frankenstein.

Let’s see how I did.

Gods and Monsters
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) — Directed by Kenneth Branagh, this movie takes its story solely from Shelley’s original novel. It is very faithful to the book, however, there are some changes Branagh made, one of which was to add a mentor character for Victor. The movie is packed with stars including Branagh, Helena Bonham-Carter, Ian Holm, John Cleese (playing the aforementioned mentor) and Robert DeNiro playing the titular creature. However, despite the pedigree, and the faithfulness to the book, the movie was a tad boring. Except for the creation sequence, I had trouble staying focused on the action. Also, I had trouble accepting Bonham-Carter as Elizabeth as I imagined her character differently while reading the book and DeNiro was somewhat wasted as the creature. The movie wasn’t bad, it just didn’t come together for me as a whole. So, I say check it out if you are interested, but don’t expect too much.  I guess I was also disappointed because I thought a straight adaptation of Shelley’s novel would somehow be better.  I guess not.

Curse of Frankenstein
Curse of Frankenstein (1957) – Hammer Films’ classic monster movie starring Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein and Christopher Lee as The Monster.  It was originally to star Boris Karloff but Universal threatened a lawsuit if any element came near their Frankenstein movie so Hammer rewrote the script and changed up the makeup for the Creature.  Also, this was the first Frankenstein movie to be filmed in color.  It would launch Hammer Films as a horror powerhouse and garner six sequels.  It would also launch Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing into the just as popular Hammer Dracula series. The story in this doesn’t follow the novel, it actually is a variation on the Universal movie, almost a remake or reboot of the Universal movie. And thinking of it that way, it really works.
I see why so many people like these Hammer Horror films. They are good. The atmosphere is creepy and the horror is actually horrific, despite the effects being less than top shelf. Peter Cushing is great as the obsessed Dr Victor Frankenstein. He really brings across Victor’s obsession with creating life. Christopher Lee brings something different to the monster. Different, but just as good. I really enjoyed the pacing of the plot and the acting in this movie. I would definitely watch the next few Hammer Frankenstein movies as well as start the Hammer Dracula series.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2009: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

Posted in Dracula, Frankenstein, Halloween, holiday, monsters, movies, Universal Studios, Wolf Man with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2009 by Paxton

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Yesterday, I watched the first three Boris Karloff Frankenstein movies, the last one being Son of Frankenstein in 1939.  Today, I’m going to jump ahead almost 10 years to talk about my next movie, 1948’s Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein.

Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein

This movie was a horror comedy (Horr-edy?!) staring the comedy team of Abbott & Costello. It is notable because it features three of the Universal monsters, two of which are played by their original actor. Lon Chaney reprises his role of The Wolf Man and Bela Lugosi returns as Dracula (this is the only time Lugosi played Dracula apart from the original 1931 classic). Karloff, however, had stopped playing “The Monster” after Son of Frankenstein in 1939, so Glenn Strange played the titular monster in this movie (as he had for The Ghost of Frankenstein a few years earlier). Karloff would actually appear with Abbott and Costello in another movie, Abbot and Costello Meet The Killer, Boris Karloff, one year later. This movie is considered the “swan song” of the original Universal Monsters as the popularity of the Universal Horror movies had waned towards the end of the ’40s. As a matter of fact, Bud Abbott did not even want to do the movie, but Universal offered him so much money he couldn’t turn it down.  Also, Universal was set to cast another actor as Dracula because it believed that Bela Lugosi had died!  However, Lugosi’s agent had informed Universal otherwise (his movie career was almost non-existent at this point) and convinced the executives that they owe Lugosi the role he originated.  As for the Wolf Man, it is the only character to be portrayed by the same actor (Lon Chaney) throughout the original Universal monster movies (including this one).  Despite the pedigree, this movie was a cash grab for Universal.  And it kinda shows.

Abbott and Costello 2

I can see why Abbott didn’t want to do the movie. It’s dumb. Apart from the novelty of having the original Universal Monsters all together, this movie is silly and hard to watch (even boring at times). Having Dracula try to reanimate The Monster and being opposed by Abbot, Costello and Larry Talbot (The Wolf Man) is a good idea on paper, but the execution is lacking. I’ve watched this movie twice and I barely made it through each time.  The idea is definitely better than the result.  Abbott and Costello are funny, but I prefer the Universal Monsters in a horror setting where they are taken seriously, not in this comedy setting where they seem more ludicrous and out of place than scary.


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AWESOME-tober-fest 2009: Watching the Boris Karloff Frankenstein movies

Posted in Dracula, Frankenstein, monsters, movies, Universal Studios, Wolf Man with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2009 by Paxton

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Welcome to Day 2 of Frankenstein movie week.  Yesterday we discussed the 1910 Edison Frankenstein movie.  Today, I look at the Universal Frankenstein movies, which have shaped much of what we know about the Frankenstein myths.

Universal would make several Frankenstein movies, but the first three would be the most iconic.  Let’s look at the first three movies staring the legendary Boris Karloff as The Monster.

Frankenstein

Frankenstein (1931) –Since I read all those books last week about Frankenstein, I had to go back and watch Universal’s original 1931 Frankenstein movie directed by James Whale and staring Boris Karloff. I vaguely remember the movie, and while reading the book I was constantly surprised about how different the novel and the movie are. Several of the main characters are pretty much all the two have in common. While watching this movie I realized the events in this movie encompass most of what people associate with the tale of the creation of the Frankenstein monster. The movie character of Dr Frankenstein (Victor in the novel but renamed Henry for the movie) is more a “mad scientist” than the “curious genius” portrayed in the book.
My thoughts after watching are that this movie is pretty good.  I was surprised that a movie in the ’30s began with two guys digging for corpses in a graveyard.  It was a nice, macabre beginning to the movie. The monster looks good and so do a lot of the sets. The story drags a bit here and there but when it gets going the action is surprisingly good. And, obviously, the end leaves you hanging (as there are, not surprisingly, like 6 sequels to this movie). It’s exactly what one thinks of when you remember Frankenstein and his monster. I see why this is a classic monster movie.  The Frankenstein makeup in this movie (by Jack Pierce) is iconic.  I didn’t remember how emaciated the monster looked.  Apparently Karloff took out some temporary bridge work to give the monster this sunken cheek look.  That along with the lighting created a very dramatic effect.  I was very much looking forward to Bride of Frankenstein when this movie was over.

Bride of Frankenstein
Bride of Frankenstein (1935) — Like I said, I was looking forward to this first sequel to Frankenstein because it was made using the same actors as well as the same director, James Whale. It was a serious sequel that many believe is as good (if not better) than the original.  I’m torn, I like both…A LOT.  Overall, this movie’s script seems a bit tighter.  Karloff’s Frankenstein is wonderful as always.  The sunken cheeks are gone because Karloff was asked not to remove the bridge work this time out.  The sets are even grander this time around.  It’s definitely more of the same, but in a really good way.  My only beef, and I didn’t know this going in, the title monster, The Bride, only appears in the final 5-8 minutes of the movie.  I kept waiting for her to show up, but she doesn’t until the end.  Very disappointing, which is probably why I can’t put this movie above the original Frankenstein, even though it’s a fantastic horror movie.
Oh, another thing, the character of Minnie, the housekeeper, was BEYOND annoying. Every little thing, scary or not, would cause her to scream this Banshee-like wail throughout the scene. I wanted to tear her vocal cords out and stomp them into the ground. SO. F’N. IRRITATING. I believe this is where Cloris Leachman’s character came from in Young Frankenstein.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2009: The Thomas Edison Frankenstein movie

Posted in Frankenstein, Halloween, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , on October 26, 2009 by Paxton

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Welcome to Day 1 of Frakenstein movie week. Last week I looked at different novels and comic books that featured the Frankenstein monster. This week, I’ll be looking at different movies that feature the Frankenstein monster.

I’m going to start with the first movie to adapt Mary Shelley’s novel. Filmed in 1910, today we are looking at Thomas Edison’s Frankenstein.

1910 Frankenstein

Created by Edison Studios in New York, this was the first filmed adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel.  Also, since horror as a genre didn’t exist in 1910, this also marks the first horror movie ever produced.  At the time of its release, the film was censored and banned as being too frightening and weird (David Lynch would probably have been shot, burned and drowned as a witch in 1910).

Frankenstein title card

Shortly after release, the film was taken out of circulation and prints were scattered.  Some to collectors, some to be destroyed.  The film became so lost that when Universal’s 1931 Frankenstein was released, Edison’s film was never even mentioned.  For many years it was thought that this silent film had been lost for good.  No copies could be found anywhere.  Then, in 1963 a film historian discovered the above Edison Studios catalog with details and accompanying pictures of Edison’s production and a frantic search was begun to find the missing cinematic treasure.  The film never turned up in over 20 years.  Then, in the late ’70s, it was learned that a film collector, Alois Detlaff, had the only remaining copy in his collection.  Rights and money issues are still keeping this film from being released in theaters or on home video.  There is a version of the movie that was filmed from the projected image.  You can see it here.  It’s a short, silent film, but fascinating to watch as an example of EARLY, early filmmaking.

That’s Day 1 of Frankenstein movie week. Check back tomorrow as I review the Boris Karloff Frankenstein movies from Universal.


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