Thursday, April 9, 2020

Like Father, Like Son

Film: Son of Frankenstein
Format: DVD from personal collection on various players.

One of the great characters in Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein is the local police inspector with the trick arm played by Kenneth Mars. I’d always considered him just a concoction of Brooks’s fevered imagination until today, when I watched Son of Frankenstein, the third movie in the series and the last, I believe to feature Boris Karloff as the Monster. It turns out that just as the peasant played by Gene Hackman was a riff on Bride of Frankenstein rather than the original, the police inspector who had his arm ripped off by the monster is canon as well. They even play darts!

Awesomely-named Wolf von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone) has inherited the family castle and has moved his wife Elsa (Josephine Hutchinson, the character name being an obvious nod to Elsa Lanchester) and young son Peter (Donnie Dunagan) to start life anew. The townspeople of the village of Frankenstein are none too happy that someone has returned to the family home, especially when that person is the son of the feared and hated Baron who created the Monster. The Frankensteins are given a cold reception by the townspeople, notably the Burgomaster (Lawrence Grant) and the aforementioned Inspector Krogh (Lionel Atwill).

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Coffin Something Up

Film: The Oblong Box
Format: DVD from personal collection on basement television

You never quite know what you’re going to get with an adaptation. For instance, you might get something that is relatively accurate to the source material with some changes due to time constraints. Jaws, for instance, is similar to the book in a lot of respects (and better in most). You might get something with significant changes for one reason or another. Minority Report has the basic idea in common with the original short story, but little else. Major characters in the movie don’t exist at all in the story, and none of the characters in the film resemble their short story inspiration. And then you get a movie like The Oblong Box. This claims to be inspired from the Poe short story of the same name, and yet the only resemblance the film has to the story is the title and the presence of a coffin.

In the original story, a man encounters someone on a ship off the coast of South Carolina. The man in question is alleged to have a beautiful, young wife but is seen with a wife who is quite unattractive. The man also is traveling with the titular oblong box in which the narrator believes he has stored a piece of valuable art. When we get to the end of the story (yes, spoilers for a 150+ year old short story; deal with it), we learn that the man’s “wife” on the voyage was actually his servant. His wife died shortly before the trip, and it was her body in the oblong box, because, well Edgar Allen Poe.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Le Loup des Baskervilles

Film: Brotherhood of the Wolf (Le Pacte des Loups)
Format: DVD from personal collection on basement television.

Silly me thought Brotherhood of the Wolf was going to be a werewolf movie. It’s not; as the title of this review would suggest, it’s a great deal closer to the old Sherlock Holmes story of the Hound of the Baskervilles. Our story is going to be told in the past tense, as a sort of reminiscence of a noble named Marquis Thomas d’Apcher (Jacques Perrin as an old man, Jeremie Renier through the bulk of the movie). The reflection he’s going to give us is of this event in his past, when the province of Gevaudan was held in the grip of terror by a marauding monster that killed more than 100 people.

Enter Gregoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan), a naturalist and taxidermist, who is exploring the flora and fauna of the area. He is intrigued by the stories of the creature and comes to investigate along with his Iroquois companion Mani (Mark Dacascos!). What he learns is that the creature is evidently wolf-like, but much, much larger. He also meets a number of the locals who are properly noble and stuffy. This is particularly true of weasel-faced Jean-Francois (Vincent Cassel), and decidedly untrue of Jean-Francois’s sister Marianne (Emilie Dequenne).

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Personal Demons

Film: The Wailing (Gok-seong)
Format: DVD from personal collection on basement television.

I’ve said for a long time that one of the more interesting national cinemas going is South Korea. South Korean films, at least those that get exported, tend to be interesting, smart, and well-made; evidence Parasite. One of the genres in which South Korea excels is horror. The Wailing is one of those films that people point to not merely to suggest just how good South Korea’s film industry is, but as an example of their exemplary horror movies.

The real question about The Wailing is what kind of horror movie it is. Is it about possession? A haunting? Some sort of plague? It’s kind of all of those and none of those. We start in a small Korean village called Gok-seong (hence the Korean name of the film) where a rash of bizarre murders is taking place. Police officer Jong-goo (Kwak Do-won) is one of the people charged with investigating the crimes. What he discovers is that a Japanese man (Jun Kunimura) has recently moved to the village, and the problems started soon after. He also hears rumors about the man that seem to coincide with disturbing dreams he’s been having.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Camera Eye

Film: My Little Eye
Format: DVD from personal collection on basement television.

Horror more than any other genre is indicative of the fears of the country from which they are made. Expect to see a lot of plague-related and confinement-adjacent horror movies in the next couple of years as a reaction to COVID-19, for instance. Horror is also extremely reactive to culture. With the rise of the internet in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s combined with shows like Big Brother, a film like My Little Eye was more or less inevitable.

Stop me when you guess where this is going to go. A group of 20-somethings are recruited to be in a new web show. Five of them are selected and put into a house. If they all stay the whole time, they split $1,000,000. If any one of them leaves (defined effectively as not being in the house at curfew), none of them get anything. We are given a short introduction to our five people, and then when the movie starts, we’re just a couple of days away from the six-month goal.