The Golem & Karl Freund

The Golem is currently available on both Netflix streaming and Amazon Prime.

The Golem (1920) – Not Rated

“Writer, director and actor Paul Wegener delivers the third and final leg of his Golem trilogy, a story based on a legend in Jewish mysticism about an astrologer (Albert Steinrück) who predicts doom for Jews in 16th-century Prague. The three films make up what is widely credited as the first horror series ever created, with Wegener’s original film, The Golem, premiering in 1914 and its sequel, The Golem and the Dancing Girl, released in 1917.”

As mentioned in the description above this is actually the third film in a trilogy. The real title is The Golem: How He Came Into the World. This probably became known simply as The Golem because there is no surviving footage of Paul Wegener’s first two Golem films. Paul Wegener is not only the writer and director but plays the monster as well in all three movies.

The sets are incredible. Rabbi Loew’s home has an amazing staircase that I’d love in my house. There is a massive gate walling off the Jewish ghetto from the rest of the city. All of the architecture runs off at bizarre angles with equally bizarre curves.

Karl Freund, credited as camera here but essentially the cinematographer, does a fantastic job. He has an amazing way with shadows. He was the cinematographer on F.W. Murnau’s The Last Laugh and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927). As a result Freund helped develop many of the techniques that defined German impressionism.

Freund later came to America and is thought to have essentially directed Dracula (1931) even though Tod Browning is credited. He directed (fully credited) The Mummy (1932) and Mad Love (1935) and was cinematographer on hundreds of Hollywood films including Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) and Key Largo (1948). Late in his career Freund developed the three-camera system for sitcoms that is still the standard today.

Golem’s story, sets, use of shadows and even the monster’s high-soled boots are a clear precursor to James Whale’s Frankenstein. There is even a scene with a child that is paralleled by a similar (though different) scene in Frankenstein. I did find it hysterical that after foretelling the doom of the Jewish people and creating a golem in response, Rabbi Loew uses it to chop wood and fetch water from a well.

The restoration job from Kino is quite well done. Yes, this film is nearly a century old and there is print damage, flickering, etc. but overall the film looks quite good. The tinting of the frames takes some getting used to and the darker tints obscure some film detail.

It’s a Blood Bath! The Countess is on a Rampage!

I had to laugh when I saw this. Netflix streaming has three different movies telling the exact same story – that of the Countess Bathory. I very much enjoyed the Hammer version (Countess Dracula) but I have yet to watch the two newer versions.

Countess Dracula (1971) – Rated PG

“This Hammer Productions cult classic stars Ingrid Pitt as Elisabeth, a countess who discovers that the blood of young virgins can restore her fading beauty. Her twisted lover, Captain Dobi (Nigel Green), is happy to keep her in supply. But soon, the town begins to miss its nubile residents, and Dobi becomes enraged when he learns that Elisabeth has been posing as her own daughter in order to seduce a younger man.”

Bathory, Countess of Blood (2008) – Rated R

“While her husband is off battling the Turks, 16th-century countess Erzsébet Bathory fights to protect her family and her land, woos the Italian artist Caravaggio and endures vicious rumors that she bathes in the blood of virgins.”

The Countess (2009) – Not Rated

“Blaming her advancing age for a failed romance with a younger man, 16th-century Hungarian countess Erzebet Báthory begins murdering virgin girls and bathing in their blood, believing that the grim ritual will restore her youthful beauty.”

Saint Nick aka Sint

Saint Nick (Sint/Saint) is currently available on instant Netflix.

One Line Review: What if someone made Black Christmas with a real Santa Claus killer?

Saint Nick (2010) – Not rated

“In this yuletide gorefest, jolly St. Nick gets a dark makeover as a sinister medieval cleric who returns to Amsterdam’s snowy streets to avenge his death by killing innocent children. Can a high school student and a disgraced cop stop the rampage?”

“Your parents have told you that he doesn’t exist…”

Whereas Rare Exports was a quasi-horror movie that was almost family friendly, Sint lets you know in the first few minutes that it is a straight-up horror movie. Also Sint is dubbed instead of subtitled. This is a little jarring as writing on the blackboard is in Dutch as is a song that the children sing but dialogue is in English.

I also have to post a note about offensiveness for Sint: Rare Exports contains much male nudity. Sint, on the other hand, contains a couple characters in ‘blackface’. I’m not sure if this is a real Dutch tradition or one made up for the movie but there you go.

As is typical for independent films, this is a one-man show. Dick Maas directs, writes, produces, and even composes for Sint. Sint is filmed and plays out like a half slasher/half zombie film, albeit with a supernatural protagonist.

Like Rare Exports, Sint just gets going when *boom* it’s over. The film is fun and fascinating but the ending leaves a lot to be desired.


Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is currently available on instant Netflix.

One Line Review: Darkly fun alternative to A Christmas Story.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) – Not rated

“In the frozen beauty of Finland, local reindeer herders race against the clock to capture an ancient evil: Santa Claus. A single dad and his son are caught up in the chaos as scientists dig for artifacts. What they find endangers the entire village.”

First off, for all of you subtitle-hating Netflix people, while Rare Exports begins in English, the majority of the film is in Finnish with subtitles. Honestly I understand not wanting to concentrate on reading while watching a film but you will miss out on quite a lot by dismissing all foreign language films.

Secondly I can’t believe how gorgeous Finland is. It is a little bleak but I love winter landscapes. It is pretty neat to see snowmobiles as the primary method of transportation.

Note to the easily offended: There is a fair amount of full frontal male nudity in Rare Exports. None of it is sexual in any way but I thought I’d warn you anyway.

There, now that those nits are picked, how is the film? It is light on the horror as a young child is the protagonist. Rare Exports still ends up being a darkly humorous film.

The movie zips along at a brisk pace. Start to finish is a mere 82 minutes including credits. There are no subplots to distract and no female characters to be a love interest. It tells a simple story in an unusual setting and it does the job well. Acting, particularly by the young boy, is just fine.

Rare Exports does follow the usual trope of having no one listen to the adolescent characters but our protagonist gets the adults’ attention quite well. The movie ends just as it seems to be getting started but at least it doesn’t overstay its welcome. This is a fun Christmas romp.

Invasion of the CW on Netflix Plus The Rockford Files

The torrent of television shows arriving on Netflix is showing no sign of letting up. The latest deluge is brought to you by the CW. These just arrived for viewing:

Ringer Season 1 (2011) – TV-14

“A young woman on the run from the mob poses as her wealthy twin sister to try and evade them, but soon discovers that her sister has a price on her head as well.”

Poor Sarah Michelle Gellar never found her footing after Buffy. Who would have thought that Allison Hannigan would have been the one to make it big from that show?

The Vampire Diaries Season 3

“Trapped in adolescent bodies, feuding vampire brothers Stefan and Damon vie for the affection of captivating teenager Elena, who attempts to unravel the many dark secrets of her hometown of Mystic Falls.”

I really enjoyed this show once I got past the first few episodes. Kevin Williamson’s writing is pretty snappy.

The Secret Circle Season 1 (2011) – Rated TV-14

“Six teenage witches form a coven in Chance Harbor, Washington.”

90210 Season 4

In this spinoff of the 1990s series, aspiring actress Annie and her adopted brother, Dixon, deal with nonstop drama at their exclusive new high school, where tumultuous friendships and roller coaster romances rule.

The Rockford Files (1974-1979) – Not Rated

“James Garner shines in this iconic 1970s series as Jim Rockford, a Los Angeles private eye with a trailer on the beach, a wisecrack on his lips and the intellect to crack every case. Not the usual loner, Rockford is hardboiled but never hard to like. Rockford’s biggest fans are his dad, Rocky (Noah Beery Jr.), and best friend, cop Dennis Becker (Joe Santos), who help him as he nabs bad guys on the dangerous but scenic streets of Los Angeles.”

Netflix has finally added more episodes of this iconic series.

An Evening with Kevin Smith – Red State Edition

I am very fond of Kevin Smith. He and his films are foul-mouthed but they have a real resonance. Warning: if you are offended by frank sexual talk and situations, coarse language, and such then none of Kevin Smith’s films are for you.

One Line Review: Disjointed, profane yet intelligent horror based on the Westboro Baptist Church.

Red State (2011) – Rated R

“Director Kevin Smith puts a unique spin on the horror genre in this tale of hormonal urges gone awry. Three high school boys answer an online ad from a woman seeking wild sex and soon find themselves in the hands of some dangerous religious zealots.”

“How much do you think a cross like that costs?” – “You mean in dollars or common sense?”

Red State is Kevin Smith’s follow-up movie to Cop Out. Cop Out was the first film that Smith directed without having also written. Normally directors shouldn’t also be writers but Cop Out was just awful. I had lowered my expectations for Red State wondering if Smith had lost his touch.

I needn’t have worried. Red State is easily Kevin Smith’s darkest film. The script is all over the map as if segments were written at completely different points and with different intentions but each part is fascinating. The Netflix description only touches on how the film begins and every time the film settles into a comfortable niche, it changes direction.

Character actor Michael Parks shines as the charismatic preacher Abin Cooper (named after Green Lantern Abn Sur, Smith is such a comics geek). The role was written specifically for Parks after Smith saw him in From Dusk Til Dawn. The character of Abin Cooper is a very scary re-imagining of Westboro Baptist Church leader Fred Phelps. Parks also does all of his own singing in this movie and is quite good at that as well.

The federal agents called out are played quite well by John Goodman and Kevin Pollak. For some reason I’m always surprised at how good an actor Goodman can be (probably because I naturally think of Roseanne anytime his name comes up).

If you enjoyed Red State then definitely watch Kevin Smith: Burn in Hell. His talks are normally fascinating (if a little self-indulgent) but this one details his experiences making this film and talking with members of the Westboro Baptist Church.

People Watch: Michael Parks reprises his From Dusk til Dawn role of Texas Ranger Earl McGraw in both parts of Kill Bill and both parts of Grindhouse (Death Proof and Planet Terror). His real life son James Parks plays his Texas Ranger son Edgar McGraw in the Death Proof segment of Grindhouse, Kill Bill volume 1, and From Dusk til Dawn 2 as well as playing Mordecai in Red State.

It’s Hammer Time plus Liam Neeson Among the Wolves

I’ve had mixed feelings about the new Hammer films. I have seen three of their four new offerings. The Resident was not very good, Wake Wood had an intriguing premise but was flawed, but Let Me In was a magnificent remake of Let the Right One In. I missed The Woman in Black but look forward to catching it down the line.

Hammer Films now has a YouTube channel. They plan to rotate some of their older films. Currently you can view these films in their entirety: Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter (1974), The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), The Man in Black (1950), Dick Barton Special Agent (1948), and The Last Page aka Man Bait (1952). The Quatermass Xperiment is wonderful, Captain Kronos is fun (and you can see where they hoped it would be a series) but I have not watched the other three.

* Whoops! Apparently The Quatermass Xperiment and Captain Kronos are blocked in the United States.

The Hammer Films channel also has trailers and featurettes but is still a work in progress. I really like the restoration work they are doing before releasing their back catalog on Blu-Ray. Unfortunate not in the United States as yet and they are far too expensive for me to start importing. I’d have to find a region-free Blu-Ray player as these are region-locked and then they would cost me 10-17 pounds apiece plus shipping.

Compare that price to The Ultimate Hammer Collection on DVD. The collection costs 26 pounds but for that you get 21 movies including my favorite (and long out of print in the U.S.) Quatermass and the Pit. I bought a region-free DVD player and this set and it was still cheaper than buying the out of print Quatermass.

I sure hope the Blu-Rays will come over here at some point. Until then I will have to content myself with Synapse’s Twins of Evil Blu-Ray and perhaps I’ll even spring for Vampire Circus.

If you are patiently awaiting Taken 2 in theaters then try Liam Neeson’s latest manly manfest The Grey – now streaming on Netflix.

After narrowly surviving a deadly plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness, a band of oil riggers must fend for their lives in the ice and snow. But thanks to wolves that view their presence as a threat, they aren’t alone.”

Once Upon a Time, Revenge, Scandal, Rules of Engagement, Terra Nova

Boy Netflix just keeps adding to their catalog. They just added five new TV series. I have not seen Scandal or Rules of Engagement but the other three are very enjoyable.

Once Upon a Time (2011) – TV-PG

“Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin and Robert Carlyle star in this fantastical series that follows the travails of a young woman who is drawn to a small Maine town and discovers that it’s filled with the mystical elements of the fairy tale world.”

The ladies are great but Robert Carlyle steals the show as Mr. Gold. This show had one of the most satisfying season enders I’ve seen in a long time. No spoilers but it is clear that season two will be quite different.

Revenge (2011) – Rated TV-PG

“The Alexandre Dumas novel The Count of Monte Cristo inspires this modern-day drama about a lovely young woman who moves to the Hamptons and charms the pants off her new neighbors — while plotting their downfall for sins committed against her family.”

Revenge is a wonderful guilty pleasure. The first dozen or so episodes and the last couple are good but there are several episodes in the teens that bog down and become tedious.

Scandal (2012) – TV-14

“Olivia Pope leads a team of Washington, D.C., lawyers who specialize in making scandals disappear. As they secretly handle crises at the highest levels of government, the dysfunctional team must also cope with problems closer to home.”

Rules of Engagement (2007-2011) – TV-PG

“Three diverse perspectives on love and relationships are examined in this ensemble sitcom about longtime married couple Jeff and Audrey, the newly engaged Adam and Jennifer, and cynical bachelor Russell.”

Terra Nova (2011) – Not rated

“In this sci-fi drama series, the Shannon family travels with other settlers from the scorched Earth of the 22nd century to the prehistoric past, where they establish a colony to give humanity a second chance at survival.”

The Best of Friends

My best friend is my wife. That should go without saying and yet needs to be said. If you are married, your best friend should be your spouse. If not, why are you married? What do you think marriage is?

Of course my wife has not always been my best friend. Once upon a time that title belonged to a wonderful man named Patrick Grady. One time he went with us on a family vacation to The Smokies (before we realized that we could just move there). The second night he took my girls out on the town in Gatlinburg so Jen and I could have some alone time. The picture above commemorates that event.

I’m posting this today because my best friend Patrick died on 9/11. No, not the national tragedy of 9/11/2001 but, for me, the very personal tragedy of 9/11/2006. Back in 2003, Patrick was diagnosed with advanced colorectal cancer at the age of 38 and given a three-year prognosis.

He fought long and hard with many operations, chemo, and radiation therapies but did not outlast his prognosis. We would sit and watch movies every month when I made the nine hour trip down to Florida – sometimes at his home, if not then I would bring a player to the hospital and camp out. The nurses were so wonderful about letting me ‘sleep’ in the chair in his room.

His favorite movies were ones about superheroes. He actually managed to go out with me twice in the few months before he passed to see X-Men: The Last Stand and Superman Begins. I know it’s silly but I always regret that he didn’t get to see The Dark Knight or Iron Man or Thor or The Avengers. Every year the list gets longer.

The last meals Pat was able to enjoy were my beloved father-in-law’s homemade pizza fests. Sadly my father-in-law too passed away from cancer after a courageous six year battle. I am sorry to realize that getting older means losing the people you love.

Every year I take the 11th of September off and spend it watching the superhero movies Pat would have loved to have seen. Domino’s is no substitute for my father-in-law’s pizza but it will have to do.

I miss you Pat

Dark Tide

Oooh another new shark movie!

Haiku Review:

Storm afraid of sharks,

a failure to stay afloat,

Berry bad movie

Dark Tide (2012) – Rated PG-13

“”Shark whisperer” Kate has lost her magic after a shark attack kills a diver on her team. But when an ex-boyfriend offers her a chance to get her mojo back by leading a millionaire on a risky shark dive, she decides to go for it.”

Wow! Poor Halle Berry! Back at the turn of the century, she lands the plum role of Storm in The X-Men. She does a great job in it and the first sequel. Between those two she wins the Best Actress in a leading role Oscar for Monster’s Ball and becomes the latest Bond girl in Die Another Day. Everything was looking up for her.

In 2004, Halle Berry won both the Worst Actress Razzie and Worst Couple for Catwoman. In 2006, she finished her role as Storm in the last modern X-Men movie, X-Men III: The Last Stand. I would have loved to have seen more but the cast was too large and they all wanted good money so the next film was just about Wolverine and then they rebooted the actors with X-Men: First Class.

Halle Berry took a couple years off and now she is back with this direct-to-DVD drivel. I like to think that she took this job because she wanted to vacation in South Africa, just as Samuel L. Jackson takes some of his roles for the nearby golfing.

Director John Stockwell is quite familiar with the water having directed Into the Blue and Blue Crush. Sadly his work here is very dark and murky – so much so that I wondered what went on in a few key scenes. It didn’t help that the Netflix encoding appears to pixelate occasionally during underwater scenes. I also noticed this pixelation in Piranha.

I quite appreciated the way in which the sharks were portrayed in a very realistic manner (i.e. they are not unstoppable killing machines). Sadly the same cannot be said of the humans.

The film opens with Kate’s (Halle Berry) assistant that she dearly loves about to retire – after this one last dive of course. Okay, now that we have gotten our initial shark attack out of the way, we can focus on Kate’s newfound reluctance to swim with sharks and how her boat and gear are about to be repossessed. I wonder how she could possibly raise the money to *ahem* stay afloat?

Enter the handsome Jeff. Jeff is played by forty-six year old Olivier Martinez so at least he and Halle are comparable ages. That said, seeing such beautiful forty-somethings makes me feel a bit inadequate as I start bearing down on the big five-O.

They are joined by Ralph Brown as the, of course, super rich Brady. The answer to Kate’s money problems just wants to bring his son along and swim with the sharks before he dies of cancer. As in slasher movies, he is that overbearing character that you can’t wait to see killed off.

Kate is cajoled into going on this trip but is going to do this on her terms. When she is thwarted, she completely flips out. I won’t tell you what she does but it is definitely something she does solely because the script dictated it.

The subject matter and title Dark Tide make it seem like this is a horror movie but it comes off more as an adventure film minus the adventure or perhaps a character study of stock characters. Some of the African cinematography is nice but overall Shark Night is a more interesting film and that is saying a lot.