Lots of Special October Theater Screenings

Wow! I love special screenings and there are a remarkable number of them this month. Sadly, I won’t be able to attend most of them due to work and family obligations but YOU, you could go!.

Fathom Events, your source for special if overpriced movies, is showing the RiffTrax version of Miami Connection tonight at 7:30. For those not familiar with RiffTrax, it is very similar to Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) in execution (people onscreen mocking the events in the movie). Tomorrow night (10/7 at 7:30), Fathom presents the extended version of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The extended version of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies concludes the trilogy on 10/13, also at 7:30.

Dracula

Turner Classic Movies presents a Dracula double feature on October 25th and 28th at 2 and 7. The original Bela Lugosi version of Dracula will be shown followed by the Spanish version that was filmed at night on the same sets. Finally on October 29th at 7:30, Fathom and SpectiCast are bringing back John Carpenter’s Halloween.

Not movie related but Fathom Events is bringing a filmed live version of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet to theaters on 10/15. It is four hours long but I’m going to that with a couple of dear friends.

Back to the Future

Regal Cinemas is presenting the entire Back to the Future trilogy on the big screen one day only, 10/21/15 (naturally, for those who are familiar with the timeline). Strangely, it appears to currently be priced as a single matinee ticket. AMC and other theater chains are also participating so check your local listings. Unfortunately for me, this embarrassment of riches conflicts with a local showing of The Exorcist at Carolina Cinemas, 10/21 at 8.

My Fair Lady

Epic Cinemas is also getting into the trend of bringing back classic cinema to the big screen. On 10/18 at 2 and 10/21 at 7, they will be showing My Fair Lady.

I love that the theaters are doing all of this. My only complaint is that they usually do a terrible job of advertising and the screenings are often close to empty. This of course leads to a cancellation of future showings. Regal used to have a classic cinema series but abandoned it due to poor attendance.

 

Hobbitses Everywhere! – Dracula (1931), The Iron Giant, Hobbit Extended in Theaters

I am all in favor of bringing back classics to theaters so they can be seen again as they were meant to, on the big screen.

Hobbit Extended

However, Peter Jackson’s deeply flawed Hobbit trilogy does not qualify as classic. Still we hardly get any fantasy movies. To celebrate the release of The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies extended edition, Fathom Events is bringing the extended versions of all three Hobbit movies to the screen for one night each.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – 10/5 at 7:30

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – 10/7 at 7:30

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies – 10/13 at 7:30

Because these are Fathom events, be aware that you’ll pay a premium price.

The Iron Giant

Fathom Events is bringing The Iron Giant back to theaters in a newly remastered version with additional scenes.

The Iron Giant – 9/30 at 7 and 10/4 at 12 noon

Dracula

Finally, to end the month, TCM and Fathom are bringing us a double dose of Dracula. They will be showing the Bela Lugosi original and the Spanish version that was filmed at the same time on the same sets but with different actors.

Dracula – 10/25 & 10/28 at 2 and 7 p.m.

FREE August Movies at The Carolina

Carolina Cinemas

 

Every Tuesday at 8 p.m., the Asheville Film Society puts on a FREE movie at the Carolina in theater 6. Membership is not necessary to attend. Arrive early as they have gotten very crowded.

8/5 Unconquered (Cecil B. DeMille, 1947)

8/12 Liliom (Frank Borzage, 1930)

8/19 Four Men & Prayer (John Ford, 1938)

8/26 Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932)

Thursday Horror Picture Show

 

Every Thursday night at 8, Ken Hanke & Justin Souther put on a FREE horror movie. This used to be in the cinema lounge but has become so popular that it has been moved to theater 6.

8/7 DOUBLE FEATURE: White Zombie (Victor Halperin, 1932) & The Ape Man (William Beadine, 1943)

8/14 DOUBLE FEATURE: I Walked with a Zombie (Jacques Tourneur, 1943) & Zombies on Broadway (Gordon Douglas, 1945)

8/21 Phantom of the Opera (Rupert Julian, 1925)

8/28 The Fearless Vampire Killers (Roman Polanski, 1967)

FREE March Movies at The Carolina

Carolina Cinemas

 

Every Tuesday at 8 p.m., the Asheville Film Society puts on a FREE movie at the Carolina in theater 6. Membership is not necessary to attend. Arrive early as they have gotten very crowded. March is apparently dedicated to Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

3/4 Almost Famous (2000, Cameron Crowe)

3/11 Doubt (2008, John Patrick Shanley)

3/18 Synechdocche, New York (2008, Charlie Kaufman)

3/25 Pirate Radio (2009, Richard Curtis)

Thursday Horror Picture Show

 

Every Thursday night at 8, Ken Hanke & Justin Souther put on a FREE horror movie in Carolina’s cinema lounge.

2/6 Bela Lugosi DOUBLE FEATURE: Night of Terror (1933, Ben Stoloff) and The Corpse Vanishes (1942, Wallace Fox)

2/13 Curse of the Cat People (1944, Gunther Frisch, Robert Wise)

2/20 Phenomena (1985, Dario Argento)

2/27 Daughter of Dr. Jekyll (1957, Edgar G. Ulmer)

The Devil Bat

The Devil Bat is currently available on Amazon Prime.

The Devil Bat (1940)

“Dr. Carruthers feels bitter at being betrayed by his employers, Heath and Morton, when they became rich as a result of a product he devised.”

The Devil Bat is yet still another horror quickie where Lugosi was the only actor of note in the production. Not to say that the other actors are bad but that they are merely window dressing for Lugosi’s performance. Lugosi is at his best when he is gloating over a victim and here he gets to do that many times.

Lugosi plays Dr. Paul Carruthers. Dr. Carruthers must never sleep because not only is he the kindly village doctor but he also develops fragrances for a cosmetics company and has a hidden laboratory where he raises giant bats for nefarious purposes. We get lots of wonderful shots of him feeding and talking to his bats, often while wearing goggles and operating sparking scientific machinery.

I love that Carruthers wants to destroy his enemies because he feels they cheated him out of a fortune yet he was actually the one who cheated himself. The owners of the company try to buy him off with a $5,000 bonus check but that only adds gasoline to the fire. I also love that every time someone says good night to him, he says goodbye.

Dave O’Brien plays Johnny Layton here. He is enshrined in bad movie history (no not for this movie!) as the only person to overdose smoking pot in Reefer Madness )aka Tell Your Children). He frantically orders “Play it faster! Play it faster!”. Later he would find fame in the Pete Smith shorts for MGM. He would finish his career as a writer on The Red Skelton Show.

Yes, the special effects are completely laughable. The giant bats vary wildly in size from shot to shot and descend on wires. When they attack, the actors hold them on. It is still a fun movie.

The Devil Bat is not much more than Lugosi alternately gloating while rubbing his hands together, being suggestively menacing, and playing his kindly doctor persona. On the other hand it is just a little over an hour and Lugosi is superb. Thankfully the print and sound are much better than White Zombie.

Sequelitis: This picture was so successful for PRC that they made both a sequel and a reboot in 1946. The sequel is titled Devil Bat’s Daughter and it is not really a sequel. The main character, Nina MacCaron, is the daughter of Josephine MacCaron and Dr. Paul Carruthers. The tale has very little to do with the original although it does have some bats.

The reboot of sorts is The Flying Serpent. George Zucco, the poor man’s Lugosi, plays Dr. Andrew Forbes. Dr. Forbes realizes that he can kill his enemies by planting a feather of Quetzalcoatl on them. Quetzalcoatl will then track them down and kill them.

“Its name is Quetzalcoatl… just call it Q, that’s all you’ll have time to say before it tears you apart!” (tagline from Q – the other Quetzalcoatl movie).

The Human Monster

The Human Monster is currently available on Amazon Prime

The Human Monster (aka Dead Eyes of London, 1939)

“A series of strange deaths takes place in London. All are accidents but the victims are single men with no family and they all have a link to a life insurance company run by the mysterious Dr. Orloff. “

“You have been very foolish, Lou. You are blind, and you cannot speak. But you can hear – and that will never do!”

The Human Monster is based on the 1924 novel The Dark Eyes of London by Edgar Wallace. This is more mystery than monster movie as both British movies of the era and Edgar Wallace novels tended to be. Many of the plot devices are trite by today’s standards but perhaps they were fresher then. There is a plot twist that I won’t spoil but you will probably see it coming a mile off (though my wife didn’t).

Adapted for the screen and directed by Walter Summers, The Human Monster became the first British film to receive a rating of ‘H’ (Horrific). While Summers directed thirty-eight movies and wrote forty-six movies, he would only direct two more before retiring: The Torso Murder Mystery (1939) and House of Mystery (1940).

Bela Lugosi headlines here and is urbanely evil. He plays a philanthropist but it quickly becomes apparent that he insures clients and then profits from their demise. He only gets to go into megalomaniac mode late in the film but that does not make his performance any less enjoyable.

Wilfred Walter plays a brute named Jake. You can tell he is a brute because he has bad teeth (bad guy shorthand). He does a fine job of grunting but the teeth look like they were purchased from the back of a comic book. Greta Gynt, a very popular British actress of the 30s and 40s plays Diana Stuart, the female lead. Gynt tried, unsuccessfully, to parlay her fame to Hollywood fame in the 1950s but it was too late.

There is also an American detective visiting London. He is used to poke fun at American police methods (i.e. brutality). The commentary is fun but not subtle.

Much of the plot revolves around a home for the blind. Blindness is treated better here than in most films. The Stainsbury/Stainsby machine, a shorthand Braille typer, is shown here as are several instances of Braille and a variety of coping mechanisms in the home.

Sequelitis: This was remade in 1961 as Dead Eyes of London, one of a series of German Edgar Wallace adaptations.

White Zombie

White Zombie is currently available on Amazon Prime

White Zombie (1932)

“A Haitian plantation owner convinces his young friends to wed at his residence, hoping he can use the opportunity to lure the woman away from her fiance. When this ploy fails, he turns to the help of his mill operator for assistance, hoping the man can use his voodoo knowledge to make the woman his slave.”

“Why did you drive like that you fool, we might have been killed.” – “Worse than that monsieur we might have been caught”

One of the main problems for the non-Universal horror movies was that they would only grab a star (Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff) and not all the wonderful supporting players (Dwight Frye, Una O’Connor, Lionel Atwill, etc.). Bela Lugosi was paid a mere $800 for his starring role. On the other hand, that was for only eleven days of work during the Depression. The eyes menaicng you from the poster are Lugosi’s and he has a high old time here.

The best scene in White Zombie is where Lugosi introduces his enemies to a client and it is nicely chilling.There is an equally chilling scene as Lugosi teases an incapacitated victim. While the movie is a cheapie, Lugosi is definitely at the top of his game.

Madge Bellamy plays Madeline Parker, the woman that all three of our male leads are after. Madge had a fascinating career in silent movies (40+) but had her Fox contract terminated when she turned down The Trial of Mary Dugan, a property Fox had purchased specifically to star her. It seemed as though she could have made the transition to talkies if she had not shot herself in the foot. Her career was essentially over after White Zombie. She also married a stockbroker for three days in 1928 and was famous again in 1943 when she shot her millionaire lover.

The wonderful Jack Pierce did the makeup. The zombies do come off looking goofy with goggle eyes. They are very distinctive but I’m not sure they are memorable in the way Pierce would have liked. I do love what he did with Lugosi’s eyebrows, beard and mustache. Lugosi looks awesome here and diametrically different from Dracula.

For those who like Latin music, the legendary Xavier Cugat composed the music for White Zombie (even though he is not credited). He is however credited with popularizing the rumba in America (no, not the vacuum). The score is not particularly memorable other than that Cugat was the composer.

Unfortunately the public domain print is watchable but only just. It is washed out and contrast is overblown. Some of the dialogue is popped out as well. This is yet another reason why the Universal features hold up better – their prints are cleaned up and not public domain.

People Watch: Clarence Muse plays a coach driver here but he was also Sam in Casablanca. What’s that you say? You remember Dooley Wilson playing Sam? Well, Clarence Muse played Sam in the short-lived 1955 television series.

He also played over a hundred and fifty other roles. The majority of these roles would make for a great paper on what it was like to be an actor of color in Hollywood in the pre-civil rights era. Here is a partial list for just the 1930s and 1940s: porter, janitor, servant, servant, doorman, shoeshine man, janitor, doorman, servant, servant, servant, bootblack, doorman, servant, servant, bootblack, porter, porter, porter, porter, porter, porter, porter, porter, porter (seriously) and at least twice a death row inmate.

The Wolf Man – Classic Horror Week

The Wolfman is currently available on instant Netflix.

The Wolf Man (1941)

“Upon returning to his ancestral home in Wales, Larry saves a local girl from a werewolf but is bitten during the attack. Cursed by the werewolf’s bite, Larry suffers torturous full-moon transformations and tries to escape the townsfolk who hunt him.”

“Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright. “

Universal made Werewolf of London in 1935. Jack Pierce developed the Wolf Man makeup for that film but Henry Hull refused to sit in the makeup chair that long. Pierce’s iconic makeup would go unused for six years. The werewolf transformation showcased in The Wolf Man blows away that used in Werewolf of London.

Lon Chaney Jr. was not a very good actor but he did excel at portraying depressed-types. He is wonderful as the doomed Lawrence Talbot and would reprise this role repeatedly. Even when he isn’t playing Talbot, his characters come across as maudlin. His Son of Dracula was the biggest sad sack of a vampire until Twilight.

Universal seemed unsure of Chaney as a horror icon. Chaney started out acting as Creighton Chaney but in 1935, a producer insisted he change his name to Lon Chaney Jr., a ruse he hated. For The Wolf Man, Universal even had him drop the Jr. from his name. Even at that, Chaney is last/eighth billed here. This is not surprising as he was a last minute replacement for Dick Foran, who himself was a replacement for Boris Karloff.

While Lugosi is always a welcome sight, he receives fifth billing for what amounts to a cameo. Claude Rains is excellent here, returning to Universal after a string of films including The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Sea Hawk. He anchors the picture as Larry’s father, the no-nonsense Sir John Talbot. Patrick Knowles, playing Frank Andrews here, would return in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man as our Dr. Frankenstein substitute, Dr. Mannering. Finally a young Ralph Bellamy plays Colonel Montford.

The women receive short shrift here. If you look on the poster, their billing is in tiny print. Evelyn Ankers plays Gwen Conliffe, the woman at the center of a romantic triangle. She would go on to be a Universal horror star in Son of Dracula, Captive Wild Woman, The Mad Ghoul, The Frozen Ghost and others. The delightful Maria Ouspenskaya plays Maleva the gypsy fortune teller, a role she was born for. She would reprise it in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.

Universal has all the normal accoutrements here except a castle: fog-shrouded moors, graveyards, an old-fashioned village, and gypsies. Chaney’s German Shepherd gets a cameo as the wolf Larry fights with.

Sequel-itis: Larry Talbot continues his story in Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944), House of Dracula (1945), and Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1950).

Son of Frankenstein – Classic Horror Week

Son of Frankenstein is currently available on instant Netflix.

Son of Frankenstein (1939)

“When Wolf von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone), son of the infamous madman, returns to the estate to claim his inheritance, he finds the deranged Ygor (Bela Lugosi) hiding in the castle with the comatose monster (Boris Karloff). On Ygor’s pleading, Frankenstein revives his father’s creation. And Ygor takes his revenge on those who condemned him. Lionel Atwill and Josephine Hutchinson also star in this third tale in the classic horror franchise.”

“One doesn’t easily forget, Herr Baron, an arm torn out by the roots. “

By 1938, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi were in terrible career slumps. In spite of, or perhaps because of, the wonderful horror movies of the early 30s, Britain imposed an embargo on Hollywood horror films in 1936. This caused Universal and other studios to not make horror movies and Karloff and Lugosi were left with little to do.

Thankfully, in 1938, there was a double-bill re-release of Dracula and Frankenstein that was phenomenally successful. Son of Frankenstein was quickly rushed into production with both horror stars.

The third of Universal’s eight movie Frankenstein series is the last one that can be taken seriously. It is also the last time Karloff would portray the monster in a movie. Basil Rathbone is fun as the titular son of Frankenstein but is easily upstaged by Karloff, Lugosi, and even Lionel Atwill.

Bela Lugosi is simply riveting as Ygor and is more of a reason to watch the film than Karloff. Lugosi’s Ygor would be almost as iconic as his Dracula even though he would only play him twice. Karloff is just fine as the monster but they have dumbed him down a bit in both senses. With Ygor being evil and Frankenstein (Rathbone) being misguided, the monster ends up being more of a force of nature and plot device than an actual character. Lionel Atwill steals the show as the suspicious Krogh.

This is the fun Frankenstein – the first two films are better but don’t hold up well to repeated viewings (too many long plot stretches and endless fiddling with scientific machinery) and the ones that follow this descend into camp. Digression – the same can be said of Alien. Alien is a better movie than Aliens – a whole new world is developed from scratch and explored in a stately manner but Aliens is undoubtedly the more fun movie as the initial concepts do not need to be explained at length.

Set design is also quite wonderful. The rooms are ridiculously tall, angles are often skewed, stairways appear to go nowhere, and doors appear to be medieval siege gates.

If you have not seen this but feel a sense of deja vu that is because Mel Brooks drew most of his inspiration for Young Frankenstein specifically from this film with Kenneth Mars doing an uncanny Atwill.

Sequel-itis: The Monster would appear again in The Ghost of Frankenstein with Lon Chaney Jr. as the monster, Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman with Bela Lugosi as the monster, House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and, ultimately, Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. The monster was played by Glenn Strange in the final three movies.

Dracula – Classic Horror Week

Dracula is currently available on instant Netflix.

Dracula (1931)

“Bela Lugosi turns in a landmark horror performance in this 1931 adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic vampire novel. Revisit Transylvania for the eerie mood created by spectacular cinematography and Lugosi’s oft-copied take on the infamous Dracula. Dwight Frye as Renfield also helps define the grotesque and sniveling sidekick role.”

“For one who has not lived even a single lifetime, you are a wise man, Van Helsing.”

Universal made plenty of horror movies prior to Dracula. Their big silent horror star was Lon Chaney who not only played all the horrific roles but designed his own makeup for them as well. His Hunchback of Notre Dame and Phantom of the Opera are iconic.

Even though Bela Lugosi was famous as Dracula in the Hamilton Deane stage play, Universal planned this for Lon Chaney. With Chaney’s untimely death (is anyone’s death timely?) in 1930, the role passed to Lugosi. Lugosi and Edward Van Sloan were the only two actors carried over from the play.

Lugosi’s performance is obviously wonderful. The actors who would later play this role for Universal (Gloria Holden, Lon Chaney Jr., and John Carradine) are positively anemic (teehee) in comparison. His accent works for him in this role and he had a very successful three-year run playing Dracula in the theater to help him know which lines and syllables to emphasize. In film, he would only repeat the role once more, in Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).

Acting is generally stagy as this is an adaptation of a popular stage play. Edward Van Sloan is amusingly professorial as Dr. Van Helsing. Dwight Frye is a delight as the cringing Renfield and steals all of his scenes. Helen Chandler makes for a very delicate and fragile Mina and David Manners is a standard stalwart John Harker.

While he did not get credit, cinematographer Karl Freund ended up directing portions of the film as Tod Browning was still quite distraught over Chaney’s passing. Freund brought a wonderful sense of expressionism over from Germany in filming Dracula. The scene where the three brides advance on Harker is haunting.

The sets are impressive, especially the open expanses of the castle. The catacombs beneath the castle are fantastic. The atmosphere is appropriately thick and the matte paintings are quite good. The music is nice but unfortunately the sound is tinny and hissy. Universal recently released a classic horror blu-ray set that hopefully corrects this but it is very pricey.

Every night after filming was finished, a hispanic crew came in to film the Spanish version on the same sets. The Spanish version featured the same sets and essentially the same script but with a completely different cast. The Spanish version is available in the Legacy collection.

People Watch: Director Tod Browning plays the voice of the Harbormaster. Carla Laemmle, niece of Universal head honcho Carl Laemmle, gets to speak the first line of dialogue as a coach passenger.

Sequel-itis: Universal followed up with Dracula’s Daughter (1936) w/ Gloria Holden as the titular daughter and Edward Van Sloan returning as Van Helsing. Lon Chaney Jr. played Son of Dracula in 1943. After the offspring were disposed of, Universal brought back Dracula, albeit an emaciated John Carradine, with House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula. Bela Lugosi finally returned to the role in Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)