Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A HISTORY OF WEREWOLF MOVIES!!! By Harriet Von Lupin

Harriet Von Lupin
OW-WOOOOOOOO!!  Hi there!  This is Harriet Von Lupin, your roving reporter for The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween, and I hope it's been a happy one for you!

Frankie and Bethany have already done some posts on here about horror movies that feature Creatures and vampires, so I thought I'd do something like that.  Besides, if your favorite monster is the werewolf (like mine!!), you might have wondered to yourself where all of this comes from.

All cultures in the world have stories of werewolves, or people who could change into some kind of animal.  (It isn't just wolves, y'know.)  The earliest known descriptions of werewolves go back all the way to the early Greeks, whose literature depicted men who took on the form of wolves for a few days each year, or men who were transformed after they ate human flesh.  (Of course, we don't eat humans anymore--with all that prepackaged food and fast-food stuff you eat now, you guys taste terrible!  You really are what you eat, y'know!!)  But when motion pictures came into vogue, people didn't gravitate to making movies about werewolves right away, mainly because there wasn't as much literary pedigree.  Vampires had Bram Stoker's Dracula and Creatures had Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, but werewolves didn't have their own books or anything like now.

Wolf Blood, 1925
The earliest known werewolf film is a lost film called The Werewolf, made in 1913.  Although nobody today has ever seen it, records about it still exist.  The story is about a Navajo woman who uses witchcraft to change herself into a wolf so she can avenge her dead lover, and it was directed by Henry McRae, who had a 20-year career of filmmaking and racked up over 160 films!  But even though nobody's seen this film, there was another film made in 1925 called Wolf Blood.  This was directed by George Chesebro, a silent-film star of Western movies who also was the star of this film.  In it, a lumberjack gets assaulted by other guys from a rival logging company and left for dead.  A doctor saves him, but has to give him a blood transfusion from a wolf.  Soon Lumberjack Guy starts having dreams about running with a pack, and then the bad loggers start getting attacked by wolves, which makes everyone think that Lumberjack Guy is a werewolf!  This one is the earliest known werewolf film that still exists.

Hull and Oland fighting over the mariphasa
Now I bet all you guys were thinking that Universal Studios' The Wolf Man was the first werewolf film, huh?  Wrong!!  Even though it's a great film, it wasn't the first, and it wasn't even the first werewolf film that Universal did.  That one is Werewolf Of London, in 1935, while Wolf Man was made six years later, in 1941.  Werewolf Of London starred Henry Hull as a botanist (that's a plant doctor) who gets bitten by a werewolf in Tibet while searching for a rare plant called a mariphasa.  Soon after, another guy, played by Warner Oland, shows up and tells him that the mariphasa can be used as a cure against lycanthropy.  Henry kinda blows him off, but he suddenly discovers that Oland might be right, because when he's exposed to moonlight, Henry starts turning into a werewolf!  The makeup stuff in this movie was done by Jack Pierce, the same guy who did the makeup later for Lon Chaney, Jr., when Universal made The Wolf Man.  (Henry could only take four hours at a time in the makeup chair, which is why his Werewolf looks the way it does.)

The Wolf Man, 1941
Werewolf Of London wasn't so successful at the box office, so it took awhile before Universal came out with the alpha of werewolf movies, The Wolf Man.  This was the one that fully established a lot of what is now tradition with werewolves, including the silver allergies and the transforming at the full moon, all of which was written by scriptwriter Curt Siodmak.  (He wasn't far off!)  Wolfie appeared four more times in Universal's horror movies, in Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944), House Of Dracula (1945) and Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).

Return Of The Vampire, 1944
However, that wasn't the end of werewolves in movies.  The 1940's were kind of a big year for werewolves, because in 1942, just a year after Wolfie came out, PRC did a movie called The Mad Monster, and 20th Century Fox did a werewolf film the same year called The Undying Monster!  Columbia Pictures did a film called Return Of The Vampire (1944) which had Bela Lugosi doing his Dracula thing as a vampire named Armand Tesla, who had a werewolf assistant.  Columbia also did another film that same year called Cry Of The Werewolf, about a Gypsy girl (Nina Fuch) who discovers she's got some lycanthrope in her bloodline.
I Was A Teenage Werewolf, 1957

After that, werewolves kinda disappeared for a little while.  But in 1957, werewolves came back with Michael Landon starring in a teen horror flick called I Was A Teenage Werewolf, in which a troubled kid (Landon) who's got some problems is experimented on by a doctor, who makes him into a werewolf!  In 1961, Hammer Films released the super-cool Curse Of The Werewolf, starring Oliver Reed.  This one meant that werewolves finally ended up with a literary pedigree, because this movie was based on Guy Endore's 1933 novel The Werewolf Of Paris!


Werewolves On Wheels, 1971

Werewolves got really goofy in the Seventies, though.  (It was a goofy time, but still...)  In 1971, we had the first werewolf biker film, Werewolves On Wheels, which became a favorite with those who like so-bad-it's-good movies.  (Kinda like our Mad Doc!)  Spanish horror star Paul Naschy created a looong series of films that was all about a werewolf named Valdemar Kanisky, but it's generally accepted that one of the best ones was his 1972 film Fury Of The Wolfman.  (Of course, he kinda got it wrong, because that film says that werewolves come from Yetis...)  And another English film studio called Amicus Productions, which featured a lot of the old Hammer stars, released The Beast Must Die in 1974.  But when the Eighties rolled around, werewolves had a banner year in 1981, which saw the release of some of the most famous werewolf films there are: An American Werewolf In London, The Howling, and Wolfen!
The Beast Must Die, 1974

 
So if you're looking for a cool film to watch for Halloween, just remember there's plenty of werewolf movies to watch, and maybe with this offering we've given you an appetite for some!  And speaking of appetites, I gotta go grab a snack before doing some more Halloween prepping, but we'll be back soon with more cool stuff for The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween!  See you soon!  OWWW-WOOOO!!!


Love,
Harriet Von Lupin


CHEAPSKATE HORRORSHOW: REVIEW OF NIGHT CREATURES By John Rose

Cheapskate Horrorshow
Welcome back to The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween. 

It goes without saying that we in the Monster Shop love Hammer Films.
The poster
The Studio From Across The Big Pond turned out some undisputed classics in the world of horror and presented Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing to the world.  Today I'm taking a look at a film that's not as well-known as their Frankenstein and Dracula cycles, but is still a great suspense film nonetheless (something Hammer was also known for in their native England).  The film is Night Creatures, released in England as Captain Clegg.

The story of this film actually comes from a series of novels that began in 1915, written by Russell Thorndike, about Doctor Syn, a vicar from the village of Dymchurch who pursues revenge after his wife is seduced by his best friend.  In the course of his adventures Syn turns to piracy and becomes the most feared pirate of his day.  Upon his eventual return to Dymchurch, Syn takes leadership of the local smuggling ring (which is operating against a corrupt government) and takes on the identity of the ghostly Scarecrow Of Romney Marsh to protect the people of Dymchurch.  Much of this may be remembered by Disney fans as the story of the film Dr. Syn, Alias The Scarecrow, which also came from these novels.
The Disney version


The bad guys, and the badder guys...
Night Creatures opens with a crewman mutilated and left to die by notorious (and unseen) pirate Captain Clegg, as punishment for the rape and murder of Clegg's wife. (Nope, not very Disney.)  Several years later, the officious and by-the-book Captain Collier of the Royal Navy (Patrick Allen) is assigned to investigate reports of "Marsh Phantoms" in Romney Marsh, as well as enforce the excise tax on liquor trades there.  After discovering the dead body of a local townie named Ketch (Sydney Bromley, who dies of fright after being run down by said Marsh Phantoms), Collier begins throwing his weight around, which makes the townspeople very unhelpful in his quest for justice.  (This is one of those byproducts of having your local businesses seized and searched by unruly soldiers.)  The only person who treats Collier with any civility is the local parson, Dr. Blyss (Peter Cushing), who turns out to be the leader of the local smuggling ring, and cue the highjinks.  Said highjinks include the question of whether or not Captain Clegg is really dead (there's a grave in Dymchurch, and someone's in it, but still...), a deafmute in the employ of Collier, who goes nuts whenever he's around Parson Blyss (I'll leave
Participants in the obligatory romance
you to connect the dots on this one) and the obligatory love story between townie beauty Imogene (Yvonne Romain) and favorite son Harry Cobtree (Oliver Reed) which is endangered by Mr. Rash (Martin Benson), the jealous cohort of Parson Blyss.  And of course, there's the ongoing mystery of those pesky Marsh Phantoms.


The Marsh Phantoms
If you're used to Hammer being the home of horror, then this film is an introduction to some of Hammer's other output; in addition to horror, Hammer also produced comedies and thrillers like this one.  Night Creatures isn't a horror film in the traditional sense, but it is a suspenseful Gothic film with a bit of supernatural dressing, and the very busy if somewhat convoluted plotline keeps you interested in what's going to happen next.  Most modern horror films have eschewed this for buckets of gore and creative death, so if you're interested in seeing some old-fashioned ghostly mystery this Halloween, Night Creatures is a good place to start.

Join us again for The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween, coming soon...

MAD DOCTOR'S NOTE: Night Creatures is available in The Hammer Horror Series 8-Film Collection, which is available here.








THIS OLD DARK HOUSE... AND THAT OLD DARK HOUSE By Frankie Franken

Hello, everybody!  This is Frankie Franken with the next installment of The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween, and I hope that so far it's been a happy one for you!

The poster (1932)
These days, people are doing all kinds of remakes of stuff, whether it's movies or TV shows, and this is  happening in horror films too.  Recently there were remakes of both Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday The 13th, and even though there's a lot of demand for original content, Hollywood still keeps doing remakes.  Today we'll take a look at a recently rediscovered classic horror film, The Old Dark House, which was originally made in 1932 by James Whale, who directed Frankenstein and The Bride Of Frankenstein.  This same film was remade in 1963 by horror auteur William Castle, who directed 13 Ghosts and The House On Haunted Hill (both of which got remakes, too!).

Horace and Rebecca Femm:  There's one in every family...
The Old Dark House is the film that more or less invented the "old dark house" genre of horror movies, and has a lineage that includes such diverse films as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and certainly more than one episode of Scooby Doo, Where Are You!  Three travelers, Philip and Margaret Waverton (Raymond Massey and Gloria Stuart) and their friend Roger Penderel (Melvyn Douglas) are caught in a rainstorm and arrive at a remote, decaying old mansion looking for shelter.  The house belongs to the Femms, a family of recluses that seems more than a little crazy.  The Femm family includes craven, fearful Horace (Ernest Thesiger), his fanatical sister Rebecca (Eva Moore), their mute butler Morgan (Boris Karloff) and their brother Saul (Brember Wills) who spends most of the film locked in the attic.  The Femms are reluctant to entertain the travelers, but bring them out of the storm
...but in this one there's several: Morgan Femm and Margaret Waverton
anyway.  Soon, Sir William Porterhouse (Charles Laughton) and his mistress Gladys DuCane Perkins (Lillian Bond) arrive at the house, which seems to make the Femms behave even more strangely.  Things come to a head when Morgan, who is unfortunately alcoholic, gets drunk and releases Saul, who turns out to be a psychopath and a pyromaniac.

Upon its release in 1932, TODH was not well reviewed.  Although most New York reviewers praised the film for its wealth of talent (including horror luminaries Karloff, Thesiger and Laughton), the film was panned by Variety and The Hollywood Filmograph, and suffered negative word-of-mouth.  For several years it was considered a lost film, until a print was found in the Universal Studios vaults in 1968 and restored.  Today it is considered a cult film and enjoys a reputation as an interesting landmark in the career of director James Whale.

The poster (1963)
In 1963, William Castle remade The Old Dark House as a joint effort with Universal Studios and Hammer Films, starring Tom Poston, Mervyn Johns, Robert Morley, Janette Scott and Fenella Fielding.  The remake deviates from the original in many ways: apart from being in color, the remake is the story of Tom Penderel (Poston), an American car salesman traveling in London who delivers a car to an old mansion in Dartmoor, the family home of his eccentric roommate Casper Femm (Peter Bull) who has told Tom that he must return to the mansion each night before midnight.  Upon arriving, the car is damaged in a storm and Tom is invited to stay at the Femm house, where he meets Jasper, Casper's twin brother (also Bull), his two nieces Cecily (Scott) and Morgana (Fielding), gun-obsessed father Roderick (Morley) and Uncle Potiphar (Johns) who is building an ark in anticipation of another Great Flood.  Though initially frightened upon discovering that Casper is dead, Tom is attracted to Cecily, and ends up staying the night.  Tom is drawn into the Femms' weird world and soon discovers himself in the midst of a murder plot against the Femms, where someone is attempting to gain the family estate by killing all the living heirs.

Tom finds a fiend
Poston, Scott and Morley
TODH '63 is considered inferior to TODH '32, despite the fact that TODH '32 was kind of an oddball film all its own.  Though the stories are basically variations on the theme of outsider trapped in an old house with strange people, I think TODH '63 has a few merits of its own.  The macabre comedy is played up, bringing a kind of Addams Family feel to the picture (the film's credits even feature drawings by Addams himself!), and the actors for TODH '63 were pretty talented too: Morley was a well-known and established actor in film and theatre, Johns was a distinctive character actor in England who was known for his Bob Cratchit to Alastair Sim's Scrooge, Poston was a noted comic actor in both film and TV, and Fielding was a popular actress who had appeared in several films, most notably to horror fans in the comedy Carry On Screaming.  All in all, TODH '63 is a very different film, and shouldn't be judged for its connection to the original.  The Mad Doctor said this about the Dark Shadows movie, if you'll remember, and I kind of feel the same thing is going on here.  So if you're interested in seeing either (or both) of these films, they're worthy additions to your viewing experience, especially at this time of the year.

Well, that's it for me, and I'll see you soon.  Come back for the next installment of our Thir13en for Halloween!

Sincerely,
Francesca "Frankie" Franken


MAD DOCTOR'S NOTE: Both versions of
The Old Dark House are available from Amazon and Netflix.  Check them out.