Random tricks/random treats

October 31, 2008
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Some random thoughts on cultural horrors.

 --Boris Karloff may be Hollywood's most underrated golden-era star. Watch him in "Son of Frankenstein" if you get a chance (although the film itself isn't as good as the perversely fun "Bride of Frankenstein").

--When we complain about Hollywood remakes (there's a new "Friday the 13th" reboot on the way), we forget that this isn't anything new. For instance, the studios cranked out version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" in 1920 (John Barrymore), 1931 (Frederic March), and again in 1941 (Spencer Tracy). Of course, there's a difference between these actors and the hockey-mask-sporting gents in the "Friday the 13th" films.

--I pride myself on not seeing any of the "Saw" movies. Life's too short and I prefer supernatural scares to serial killers.

--The first place I ever saw on Broadway was "Dracula." When I finally went to New York--my first trip there--I was disappointed to learn that the original star, Frank Langella, had just left the show. His replacement, though, was stunning. That guy? An unknown named Raul Julia. Best vampire ever? In my biased book, yes.

--At some point, some creative artist will figure out a way to merge quality theater with one of the local haunted house attractions and come up with something must-see for Halloween. A haunted house "Macbeth," anyone? Anyone?

--While I've been a long-time fan of classic horror films, I was very disappointed in both the "Bram Stoker's Dracula" and the Kenneth Branagh sweat-and-slime "Frankenstein" remakes. The first didn't come close to Christopher Lee's "Horror of Dracula," the later didn't even reach the level of my guilty-pleasure favorite, the TV movie "Frankenstein: The True Story" with Michael Sarrazin and Jane Seymour.

--Abbott and Costello did not meet Frankenstein, as the title of their movie suggests. They met Frankenstein's monster.

--The loudest prolonged screams I ever heard in a theater were at a screening of "Evil Dead." Those screams came from my college friend Hans Kellner.

--The crew from Theatre on the Square's "Evil Dead: The Musical" did a terrific job on Fox 59's morning show yesterday. It's tough to make theater look compelling on TV news cameras---let alone at 7:30 in the morning, but TOTS pulled it off.

--When my wife was pregnat with our first child, we watched "Child's Play" thinking it might help enduce labor.

Your thoughts on favorite stage and screen horrors?
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  • Hah! I laughed out loud reading your post today, Lou. Thanks!

    My favortie stage and screen horrors...hmm...

    I had to sit with my feet pulled up while watching Jaws when it was in the theatre years ago. The da-dum...da-dum portion of the soundtrack still can give me the willies, even after all of the spoofs that have been done on it.

    I was appointed the screamer for an interactive mystery play/party for teens at my local library years ago (Eagle branch, if you're interested.) My boss suggested I watch...oh, who is that sexy woman who now writes children's books about being adopted? She was the screamer in the first Halloween or Friday the 13th movie - one of those.

    No! Actually, my boss didn't suggest I watch that movie until AFTER our event. She said I had screamed just like that then-unknown actress.

    What struck me most about that one-minute acting job was how shaken up I was from screaming like that just once - from deep in my body and soul, with as much anguish and fear as I could bring forth. It was a cathartic experience, and it made me laugh later, after I had finally stopped shaking.

    But it also made me appreciate how much energy actors expend in doing their jobs.

    I'll keep thinking about other scary shows. And books! I know there have been books that I had to read with all of the lights on in the house.

    Hope Baugh
    www.IndyTheatreHabit.com
  • Bravo, Lou, for bypassing the Saw movies (me too!). Two of the scariest movies for me are both black and white masterpieces: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu. There was also a special on A&E about Vlad the Impaler--a real person who inspired the Dracula legend. Ruthless, blood-thirsty guy who murdered thousands.
  • United Artists showed the original 1931 Frankenstein on the big screen a couple of weeks ago. I think the theater was nearly sold out. It was great to see such a classic on the big screen.

    I love vampires and have seen just about all the vamp movies mentioned above. One of my favorites is a very low budget one called Tale of a Vampire. It stars Julien Sands. It weaves Poe's poem, Annabel Lee through the movie. I also loved Shadow of a Vampire with Willem Defoe playing Nosferatu. He was great in that role!

    Another creepy sort of movie is Freaks. Directed by the same guy as the original Dracula. It uses real circus freaks of the time. It was banned for ages. I also really like the original Wolfman and I'm intrigued to see Universal's remake with Benecio Del Toro. The Wolf make-up looks very close to the orginal which I like. So we'll see. The Original Mummy with Boris Karloff is also high on my list. He does a creepy stare like no one else!

    PS - I will never see a Saw movie as long as I live. I can't stand gore!
  • I've never really been in to horror movies, and I've never seen a Freddy movie, and whoever it is that wears the hockey mask.

    I did enjoy Bram Stoker's Dracula though, for the music (which I listen to often!) and the whole romantic twist on it. I also love the book, even though they are quite different. I also love quasi-Halloween movies, like Beetlejuice, Sleepy Hollow, etc etc.

    I also enjoy though are shows like FishersMom speaks of, about people who inspired horror figures (I love to learn about Vlad the Impaler and also the Blood Countess, Elizabeth Bartholdy). And even though I don't believe in ghosts, those haunted houses/ghost hunter shows always reel me in.

    I'm seeing Nosferatu tonight though, for the first time. I'm looking forward to it! Happy Halloween everyone!
  • The movie Halloween tops the list for me, the original one with Jamie Lee Curtis. I didn't sleep normally for weeks after I saw that in theaters. I think it was so terrifying because it wasn't just gory, it was suspenseful and terrifying.

    With Friday the 13th, I remember seeing the first knife blade come up through the bottom of the top bunk and out of someone's neck, then sat through the rest of the movie with my eyes covered. I haven't seen any Saw movies, either, and won't.

    I don't go see horror movies anymore. I just can't remember that they're 'just a movie.' Life's too short to be scared!
  • Jamie Lee Curtis! THAT is who I was trying to think of. Thanks, Cindy!

    :-)

    Hope Baugh
    www.IndyTheatreHabit.com

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