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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Wolf Man: 1941

Release date: 1941 (initial release)
Director: George Waggner
MPAA rating: R
Prequel: Werewolf of London
Sequel: Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man

   Welcome to my second Halloween review! In case you are not a dedicated follower, or you don't often read my reviews, every Hollows Eve I review one of the Golden Age horror films. These were the various films that were released by Universal Studios and which feature many of the classic horror film monsters, such as Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein, and the movie I have chosen to review this year, "The Wolf Man." Now, I haven't  dabbled about too much in this area of film, although my first ever review was "Nosferatu" which was one of the first Dracula films ever made. The golden Age is a very special area of horror that I have decided, through my ramblings in the genre, should be handled with care. After all, some pretty incredible things can come out of a film that spawned an icon that would live even past its expiration date. This is, "The Wolf Man."

   "The Wolf Man." The iconic character of horror that stands right next to others like Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, and The Mummy! What secrets would this furry beast hold? Well, Lon Chaney Jr. told me, and I'm going to tell you, but don't you tell anyone because it's a secret! Okay, so lycanthropy, or werewolf ism  has to do with transforming from a man to a wolf at the sight of a full moon. The first alleged "Wolf Man" was Peter Stubbe, a resident of the German town Bedburg in the late 1500's. Now, Peter was not recorded to have ever transformed into a wolf, but his actions pertaining to them were quite clear. Peter Stubbe was executed for literally devouring sixteen humans, most of which were children. As punishment, he had his arms and legs broken, was skinned and finally cremated...Lon Chaney Jr. on the other hand, was not, and this is his story.

   Sir John Talbot's (Claude Rains) son, (Lon Chaney Jr.) comes home and is the first to discover that a werewolf is residing in the forest of their town. After saving someone from getting killed by the wolf, he himself gets attacked and bitten. Through the duration of the film our hero must overcome the primal instincts of the curse brought upon him. Will his human side defeat the wolf inside him, or will this curse ultimately destroy him? I love this film, and it's great for so many reasons. Let's start with Lon Chaney Jr, son of the famous ""Phantom of the Opera." Here we have a performance that surpassed my expectations. Lon Chaney Jr. had adopted an acting talent unlike his father. One of the reasons why I like this character is because of his instant likability, and heroism. You really end up feeling bad for him when it is he who has to become the werewolf, and even more sad when the very person who has to kill him is (insert spoiler here).

   In any case, Lon Chaney lives up to his father's fame, and it is quite interesting; the various similarities they have with their acting abilities. Moving on, the film does manage to retain a spooky atmosphere because of its forest and Gothic scenery. And yet it still takes place in the present (or rather ITS present); it being made in 1941. I'd like to think that the fact that the film is putting you in this position is making it much spookier. Most of this is due to the production value, which is wonderful. All I can really say is that golden age films just naturally fit together, retaining a camp as well as a spook factor far superior to other films alien to its kind. If you're a fan of horror that had been disappointed by, "The Wolf Man" 's counterpart released not too long ago, all may not be lost.


Watch "The Wolf Man" Here:
Next Review: The Rocky Horror Picture Show 1975

Monday, November 5, 2012

Plan 9 From Outer Space: 1959

Release date: July 22, 1959 (USA)
Director: Ed Wood, Jr.
DVD release date: May 18, 1999
Screenplay: Ed Wood, Jr.
Sequel: Night of the Ghouls

     Lets talk a little bit about Ed Wood. This overly-optimistic director of several titles, was deemed the worst film director of all time. His movies are corny, they are campy, and although I do like Ed Wood and the name he has made for himself, the movies that he makes with the meager finance he is given, are just bad. But the person behind these films, "Glen or Glenda", "The Ghoul Goes West," and, of course, "Plan 9 From Outer Space," is the real story.

     Ed Wood was  an odd ball of sorts. Secretly a transvestite, Ed wood worked in Hollywood for a short time before signing over to screen classics, a studio which specialized in B-movies. He made his first film, Glen or Glenda which expressed his love for wearing women's clothing. This passion of his ruined the marriage with his first wife, but not his second. Befriending Bela Lugosi, who was currently a drug addict, made making films a bit easier for Ed, because in his mind Bela was still a star. Although appearing in many films, Bela's popularity died down drastically with the atomic age of films. This was a period in film history that was confined to the 50's, and consisted mostly of bugs that grew 50 feet tall and started destroying the tranquil city of fill in the blank. Ed Wood would continue to make B-movies with Bela, and eventually they became good friends. Supposedly during this time, Bela checked himself into rehab as one of the first celebrities ever to do so. Ed Wood would continue to make movies, and would later be dubbed, "The Worst Director of all Time." You can't get more depressing than that.

   Plan 9 From Outer Space is one of those movies that you don't necessarily dream about, more so that one movie that you don't believe exists until you watch it. You have, a science fiction film, that has implemented horror into it. Now, if it were to be done correctly, we may have a good film, or at least a decent one. Often times science fiction can become quite scary. This, however, is not one of those cases. In fact, very rarely would you come across a science fiction film that is also a horror film from the 50's. But that doesn't mean that they aren't out there. I think what Ed Wood may have been trying to do was put everything he liked into one movie, and this is one of the reasons that "Plan 9 From Outer Space" simply does not work. Alien's from another planet come to earth to execute "plan 9" which involves the resurrection of the dead. Why do they do this? I honestly could not catch onto their motives. In this sense the film can become apparently cryptic to some viewers, mainly me. At least we have the satisfaction of every character being on the same page as those that are watching them. 

   The editing for "Plan 9" is just one of the worst things I've seen in awhile. Normally editing in a film isn't something I talk about in a review, but I need to address this. Normally in a film,  the final product will create for itself a smooth transition from each and every shot. The purpose of editing is to create a seemingly fluent narrative for the viewers to comfortable watch a film in. "Plan 9" instead resorts to still shots one after the other in the same position almost every time. This is why, if you were watching this movie now-a-day's you would so bored you wouldn't know what to do with yourself. Because of this complete lack of fluency within the film, it appears to be only a play being recorded by a camera. When it appears as though the camera or operator of the camera (Ed) isn't invested in what he is creating, no-one else will be. Obviously Ed Wood was very excited with making movies and, by the looks of this film, he must have had complete control.

   Complete control is not necessarily a bad thing. Why, look at Citizen Kane, where the studio hated what director and actor Orson Welles created, but he had complete control, and ultimately created one of the greatest films ever made, and continued to create fantastic films then-after. But while Welles and Wood knew what they wanted, it was only Welles that, lets face it, knew what he was doing. But I hope as the years keep passing, humans will find the capacity to appreciate "Plan 9" not for the film making, or the acting, or the editing, or the genre, or the direction, or the set design, or anything aesthetic about the film at all, but the insertion of everything Ed Wood stood for exclusively in one film. We have to appreciate this amount of independence that is possible in a project like this. 

   Ever since I began this blog I have learned many a deal of film related things, for instance, "how to make a film" and "how not to". But I have always wrote by one fact that I have made for myself, and that is that film is interpretative, and any film can be seen in a number of ways. This is why it is important to read many reviews of a film, and not just mine. The growth of film is based on new ideas, and the only way to formulate said ideas is if you can learn through the best ways that define you as a film-maker,review,viewer, anything-er. I think that Ed Wood lived a life when no-one at the time knew how important it was to think outside of the box. No, Ed's films are not good. But that was never the point. He did what he wanted because he loved making movies. Any film maker does this, if not for, um, the money, i guess.

Movies are only good as the viewer perceives it to be...


Watch the full movie here:
Next Review: The Wolf Man 1941