Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Thursday Thirteen: My Classic Monster Wishes


Over at the Universal Monster Army message boards, a subject thread popped up called Your Classic Monster Wish! in which forum members started posting their wishes and dreams regarding classic monster movies. I thought it was an interesting topic, and decided to hijack it for this installment of The Thursday Thirteen.

- Ben Chapman appeared as the Gill-Man in all three Creature... films. This isn't a slight against Tom Hennesy or Don Megowan (Revenge of the Creature and The Creature Walks Among Us respectively), but it would have been nice to see Chapman as the on-land Gill-Man more. As it is, Chapman only played the Gill-Man on screen twice - once in the original Creature from the Black Lagoon and once on television on "The Colgate Comedy Hour."

- Hammer Films all had distribution deals with the same companies. Wouldn't it be nice if the jumping-through-the-various-distribution-companies hoops were taken out of the equation when it came to releasing the entire Hammer Films catalog on DVD or Blu-ray?

- Speaking of Hammer, more Brian Donlevy as Professor Quatermass. Again, not to slight other performers who've played the role, but, for me, there's something about Donlevy's take on Quatermass that hit me just right. He's a cocksure hero-scientist that drags us along on his save-the-world adventures, and I wish there were more movies like that.

- Some sort of explanation why Larry Talbot is still suffering from lycanthrophy at the start of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein when he was cured at the end of House of Dracula. I know it's a nitpicky kind of thing (and, actually, it IS explained in Jeff Rovin's excellent 1998 novel Return of the Wolfman, but I want an in-movie explanation), but it's always bugged me a little bit. (I probably read too many comics as a kid and get really hung up on how everything matched up continuity-wise.)

- Clear up the rights issues regarding I Was a Teenage Werewolf and I Was a Teenage Frankenstein. These movies are typically easily purchased at various horror conventions as bootlegs as they don't have DVD releases, but I'd love an official DVD release for these movies, and as an added bonus, some special features to boot!

- Speaking of special features, more special features for these classic, and sometimes not-so-classic, monster movies. While I enjoy the simple pleasure of opening up the latest collection from Mill Creek Entertainment and finding a genre movie from the 40s that I don't already have on disc or haven't watched in a long time, I doubly enjoy finding a movie, like, say, White Zombie (previously released by Mill Creek, and anyone else who has access to a public domain print of the film) that's been rereleased by Kino Lorber with a new commentary track. As fans of these kinds of movies, we're collectors, and as much as our wallets might cry about it, we'll spend a few extra bucks for interviews, commentary tracks, something more than a trailer and a screen of cast and crew information.

- Soundtrack album releases. Those who know me know that I'm a film score collector, and companies like Monstrous Movie Music make me VERY happy. Again, my wallet might not like it, but I'd love more soundtrack albums from these films.

- Mark of the Vampire was completed/released as originally intended. Bela Lugosi walking around with a gunshot wound in his head makes for an interesting visual, but there's no explanation, no reason for it as the film exists now. It would be nice to see what director Tod Browning and company originally had in mind for what could have been a really interesting movie.

- More Bela Lugosi. Speaking of my favorite Hungarian, I would have loved to see him get more work at Universal. Bring him back for House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula. Let him do more when he finally dons the monster make-up in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf-Man. Even today, the original Frankenstein seems to be more attention than the original Dracula (although I am happy that Dracula got the amazing restoration treatment in the recent Blu-ray release), and I feel that's been a massive injustice. From the beginning of his horror career, Bela Lugosi (for a number of different reasons) never got the same bump Karloff did, and that's just not fair.

- London After Midnight existed somewhere today. I'd like to think that it's out there somewhere. That a more complete version of the 1927 film Metropolis turned up a few years ago is pretty amazing, so maybe . . . MAYBE this lost Lon Chaney film will surface.

- More Captain Kronos films. Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter was intended to launch a franchise, and I would love to see more films in this series.

- I realize this is a little Lugosi-heavy, but whenever I watch 1932's The Murder in the Rue Morgue, I wish they didn't use a close-up of a real chimpanzee whenever they showed a close up of the primate's face. Charles Gemora was an amazing Gorilla Man, and did a great job in this film, but every time the camera cuts to a close-up of Erik the ape, the movie stutters for me and just feels cheap.

-  And, finally, I wish there was some way I could go back in time and watch all these classic monster movies I love today when they were first released theatrically!

1 comment:

Stephen D. Sullivan said...

Interesting list. Here are some thoughts...

Personally, I wish Andrew Kier had been Quatermass in all the films. Maybe it's just 'cause I saw him first, but I think he hits just the right tone of brash and brainy without slipping into the bullishness of Donlevy.

I've always been of the opinion that A&CMF takes place _before_ the Wolf Man is cured in HOD. Really, though, it's completely out of continuity with all the rest, and shouldn't be taken seriously. The fact that the monsters are played straight is what makes it great -- and seeing Bela in the cape one more time.

I suppose you and I could release our own Special Edition White Zombie and do the commentary. ;-)

Not sure why you think Mark of the Vampire was released in a form other than intended -- because it's a remake of London after Midnight and has all of that film's plot flaws and goofy story. Sure, Lugosi didn't want it to be fake -- and I wish it wasn't, either -- but the vampire was fake in LAM, and thus...

FWIW, this seems to have been a "thing" with browning, who did many of Chaney Sr.'s pictures and included the same "twist." Chaney would create a flawless armless man makeup, and then Browning would reveal that man to be faking his injury. IIRC, there are several other instances, too. Browning seemed obsessed with fake "freaks."

As to Dracula, while I love the film, it's just not nearly as _good_ as Frankenstein. You can see what Drac could have been by watching the Spanish version, which, aside from missing Lugosi and some of the moody camera work, is just a better film. I wish that an "uncut" print of Lugosi's Dracula existed. Clearly, the same scenes must have been shot -- but they're probably long gone by now. I've seen a fan re-cut of Dracula which actually makes it a better flick just by rearranging the scenes (and adding a couple of cuts from the Spanish version).

And I think that's part of Bela's problem: the film just isn't as good. (Though we both love it.)

Also, I fear Bela's accent hurt him. Certainly, that's one reason why they removed all of his dialogue from Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man -- though he was playing Igor as the monster, so it wasn't really his fault.

That's a cut I'd like to see. Though audiences laughed at the time, forcing the re-cut, I bet we'd "get" it.

Also, Boris chose (or got offered) better parts. Lugosi never really recovered from turning down the Frankenstein monster. Sure, Murder Legendre and Mirakle are fun -- but compared to the monster, the Mummy, and the other run that Karloff had then?

Happily, we have several wonderful films with the two together, foremost among them The Raven and The Black Cat.