Flesh for Frankenstein (1973)

FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN (1973)
aka Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein
Article 3204 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-27-2010
Posting Date: 5-23-2010
Directed by Paul Morrissey and Antonio Margheriti
Featuring Joe Dallesandro, Monique van Vooren, Udo Kier
Country: USA/Italy/France
What it is: Over-the-top horror and sex black comedy

Baron Frankenstein is in the process of creating a man and a woman in his lab in the hopes that they will mate and produce a race of perfect Serbians. His wife/sister has the hots for the oversexed stable boy and brings him into the house as a “personal servant”. Their two children sneak around the house and observe everything.

Though IMDB doesn’t classify it as a comedy, I think that’s the only way to interpret this ultra-gory sexed-up version of the Frankenstein story. We have a Baron Frankenstein whose extreme sexual repression has manifested itself in some truly outrageous ways, which are unfortunately picked up by his impressionable but stupid assistant. We have the oversexed wife/sister who is only disgusted with sex when someone else is getting it, and the stud of a manservant who actually seems a little bored with it all and has other things on his mind. You have a case of mistaken identity; the doctor is searching for the head of a man for his monster who is sex-obsessed and ends up with the head of man who aspires to be a monk. If you think about it, this is all pretty amusing, and the over-the-top gore is just part of the joke. It was originally shown in 3D, and even watching it flat you can see how it made some interesting (if occasionally disgusting) uses of the gimmick. I remember that I first saw this one on the USA network (NOT a pay channel); I’d actually like to see it again having seen the unedited widescreen version, if for no other reason than to marvel at the ingenuity they must have used to edit this into anything that could have actually been shown on the channel. Andy Warhol was one of several producers, but you can ignore the Antonio Margheriti credit; he was credited for quota reasons in Italy, but had nothing to do with the movie.

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Figures de cire (1914)

FIGURES DE CIRE (1914)
aka The Man of the Wax Figures
Article 3162 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-9-2010
Posting Date: 4-11-2010
Directed by Maurice Tourneur
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Early psychological horror

A man accepts a bet to spend the night alone in a wax museum. Can his nerves stand the strain?

My copy of this short silent movie has title cards in French, but the plot isn’t really that difficult to scope out; I was able to figure out the basic plot before I hunted up some plot descriptions, and they match. I won’t give away too much on this one because I honestly wasn’t sure which direction this was going to go, and I think the movie is best off that way. Let’s just say that it manages to work its way up to a nice shock ending. This movie was considered lost for many years, but was rediscovered in 2007, and the print shows quite a bit of damage at one point. Nevertheless, this is an effective and fun early horror movie.

Frankenstein’s Cat (1942)

FRANKENSTEIN’S CAT (1942)
Animated short
Article 3158 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-4-2010
Posting Date: 4-7-2010
Directed by Mannie Davis
Voice actors unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Mighty Mouse cartoon (sort of)

When a robot cat kidnaps a newborn bird, Super…er Mighty Mouse comes to its rescue.

The early version of Mighty Mouse was called Super Mouse, and when this cartoon was brought to television, it was modified to replace “Super” with “Mighty”; in fact, when he is first introduced in the cartoon, you can almost here the word “Super” before a slightly different voice comes in and says “Mighty”. The fact that the villain is a monster cat modeled after the Frankenstein monster gives this cartoon a little more horror content, and it does add a few nice little horror touches; the cat lives in a big castle, and when birds and mice march on the castle, they do it in classic quintessential angry-villagers-with-torches mode. Still, the cartoon is perfunctory; it’s neither very exciting or funny. It’s also weird to hear Mighty Mouse with a Brooklyn accent as well.

Faust (1960)

FAUST (1960)
Article 3129 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-21-2009
Posting Date: 3-9-2010
Directed by Peter Gorski and Gustaf Grundgens
Featuring Will Quadflieg, Gustaf Grundgens, Ella Buchi
Country: West Germany
What it is: Classic sell-your-soul-to-the-devil drama

Faust sells his soul to the devil.

This movie is for all practical reasons a photographed stage play of the first part of Goethe’s classic story of Faust that runs for over two hours long and is in unsubtitled German. If that’s enough for you to throw in the towel before you’ve even gotten wet… well, I can appreciate that; if I weren’t a committed fool to this project, I’d probably do the same. Those who persist will find some incredibly good acting, especially from Gustaf Grundgens, who had been essaying the role of Mephisto for three decades; as always, I maintain that good acting can be spotted even if you don’t understand the language. It also makes some real effort to keep the “photographed stage play” approach from getting too stodgy; changes in camera angles, close-ups, and occasional cinematic special effects enliven the production. As for not understanding the movie, that can be easily solved by grabbing a translation of Goethe’s work and reading it in preparation for the viewing, as I suspect this version is quite faithful to it. I didn’t quite have the time to prepare, and though I’ve read the original play many years ago, I barely remember it and recall it being a difficult read. There’s also a mind-blowing sequence that pops in about fifteen minutes before the movie is over, and it makes some rather creative use of atomic bomb stock footage. It’s quite interesting, albeit intimidating, but I’ll make sure I’m more prepared when I watch a second time.

Faust and Marguerite (1900)

FAUST AND MARGUERITE (1900)
Article 3093 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-6-2009
Posting Date: 2-1-2010
Directed by Edwin S. Porter
Cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Melies-style trick film

Mephistopheles tries to get Faust to decapitate Marguerite, but Faust refuses. When Mephistopheles decides to do it himself, complications ensue.

Basically, the complications have to do with people magically switching places, vanishing or turning into skeletons. It’s not the stuff of great tragedy by any means, but then, were any of these very early adaptations of Faust little more than trick films? It’s okay, but it lacks the verve of a real Melies short.

Frozen Scream (1975)

FROZEN SCREAM (1975)
Article 2980 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-5-2009
Posting Date: 10-11-2009
Directed by Frank Roach
Featuring Renee Harmon, Lynne Kocol, Wolf Muser
Country: USA

Doctors are working on a process for immortality that involves lowering the body temperature and injecting them with a fluid that increases the healing process. Unfortunately, the subjects turn into soulless zombies who occasionally go wild.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie of such startling ineptitude. First of all, there’s the acting – yes, I know some of the characters are soulless zombies, but that’s no reason for almost everyone in the cast to act that way, and two of the more energetic performances are from the “soulless zombies”. Then there’s the direction and editing; the story makes no sense, the scenes seem edited at random, and the voiceover narration that’s supposed to clear things up comes up at all the wrong moments and mostly concentrates on the least relevant plot issue – the narrator’s love life. Lil Stanhope may be attractive, but she has one of the thickest accents I’ve ever heard and it’s compounded by lack of articulation. And could someone please explain to me why the rock group that performs “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Rock Around the Clock” see fit to change the lyrics? They’re not fooling anybody. Throw in some bad gore effects, horrible dialogue and incompetently staged fight scenes, and you know you’ve got a candidate for one of the worst films of all time. Only one thing works; I got one honest intentional laugh out of a wino’s comment upon being assaulted by a zombie.

Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981)
Article 2979 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-4-2009
Posting Date: 10-10-2009
Directed by Steve Miner
Featuring Amy Steel, John Furey, Adrienne King
Country: USA

Camp counselors arrive at the camp across from the now-closed Camp Crystal Lake, the site of a series of murders from five years ago. Legend has it that the supposedly drowned son of the murderess from five years ago is still alive and stalking victims. It’s considered just a legend… until people begin showing up murdered.

I see the slasher film as basically a cross between one of the old “Old Dark House” stories (in which people in an old dark house are knocked off one by one by a murderer) minus the mystery elements and the old dark house, crossed with the homicidal psychopath trend that started with PSYCHO, minus the psychological underpinnings for the murders. In a way, they’re stripped-down bare-bones horror movies; they’re out to deliver the scares and the blood, and everything else is just window dressing. I suspect that the reason this series lasted as long as it did was because it more or less delivered on the expectations of those who came to see them. Though as a movie, it’s not very good, it’s markedly better than a lot of other slasher movies I’ve seen, and maybe that’s the best way to look at it. This is the movie in which Jason takes over the killing, though it’s still before he wore his trademark mask, so we get lots of shots of his boots. For the record, I don’t think this one is as good as the original, but since I’m not a particular fan of this subgenre, that may not mean anything to those who are fans. I do find myself wondering just how many more of these I’m going to see, though.