Category Archives: dracula
If you’ve been to the Biff Bam Pop! website, you know that other than the regular pop culture features, we’re all big horror fans there. Special for this month of October, and culminating today on Halloween is 31 Days of Horror.
31 Days of Horror takes a look at the past and present in horror movies, both in front of and behind the camera, horror television, horror comics, and even horror videogames.
Highlights include reviews of The Shining, The Exorcist, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Monster Squad, 28 Days Later, Freaks, Night of the Living Dead, The Ring, Sinister, Nightbreed, Prometheus, Paranormal Activity 4, Evil Dead, 30 Ghosts, Tomb of Dracula, Dexter The Game, “666 Park Avenue,” episode by episode analysis of the new seasons of “American Horror Story” and “The Walking Dead,” and interviews with Danielle Harris and Richard Crouse. It’s the best way to celebrate Halloween!
Oh, and if you just want to read my stuff on the site, I’m here. Happy Halloween!
Hotel Transylvania ~ I gotta be up front with this one. It’s not bad, but honestly I was expecting so much more from Genndy Tartakovsky’s first foray into big screen animation. “Samurai Jack,” “Dexter’s Laboratory” and especially the most recent “Sym-Biotic Titan” are among my faves on Cartoon Network. Yeah, I know he also worked on “Star Wars: Clone Wars,” but let’s get real, it is sooo not in the same league.
Hotel Transylvania is not bad, but it’s not that good either. Simplistic, and borrowing more than a little from Rankin/Bass’ Mad Monster Party? from decades ago, it struggles more than it needs to by using the voice talents (and I use the word ‘talent’ very loosely) of Adam Sandler as Dracula. It’s like listening to Sandler’s annoying Opera Man voice for almost two hours. Where there’s Sandler, there’s also Kevin James as Frankenstein, as well as a cornucopia of unfunny “Saturday Night Live” veterans.
This one is good for the kids, but might be a bit much to take for the adults. Be warned, the end breaks into a rap celebration that must be missed. Embarrassing for all involved. Seeing Steve Buscemi involved in this movie tells me he owes somebody a big favor, or he needs to fire his agent. As for Genndy Tartakovsky, his next project is rumored to be a big budget animated Popeye. I’m hoping for the best, and not more of this.
My mother-in-law and I talk about film a lot. An ongoing discussion seems to be that she doesn’t like horror movies – or creepy, scary, or anything like that of the kind. She’s often puzzled that I do like them. The argument that comes up most frequently is why would someone want to be scared. The point is I don’t want to be scared. I wouldn’t watch these things if they truly scared me. In fact, there is one movie I will not watch because it does absolutely terrify me.
Nosferatu – A Symphony of Horror ~ This 1922 classic of German silent horror is perhaps one of the greatest and most enigmatic and most legendary of all horror films – and I have made a conscious effort not to view it for years, as when I have, it’s given me nightmares, when I was able to finally get to sleep that is.
I’m not sure if it’s the imagery of the horrifying Max Schreck who played the vampire Graf Orlok or not. I am able to watch movies that emulate the visuals like the remake from 1979, or “‘Salem’s Lot,” or even Shadow of the Vampire, which is about the making of this film. So it just must be the wonderful shadowy direction of F.W. Murnau, and Max Schreck himself. Oddly enough, Graf Orlok only appears on screen for nine minutes, but it’s enough. No matter how you cut it, Schreck is scary here. The Renfield character played by Alexander Granach is also pretty fearsome as well.
Nosferatu is an unauthorized filming of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” thus why so many names are changed while the story remains much the same. Because of an ugly lawsuit, Stoker’s widow had every print and negative of the movie destroyed. Luckily (depending on your outlook), copies reappeared in other countries around the world. It has since fallen into the public domain, and has been accompanied by several wonderful soundtracks, including one by Type O Negative.
I had mentioned the shadow work previously. It is some of the best ever in film history in my opinion, and the German silents were masters of the artform. And still, I won’t watch it. I love watching old movies on the big screen, which is why I’m such a big fan of the Silver Screen Classics on the local Rave, but notably I once turned down a chance to see Nosferatu in a theater, it scares me that much. I probably won’t even look at the pics supporting this blog entry.
The Little Girl who Lives Down the Lane ~ This is one of my favorite movie-of-the-week-style suspense thrillers from the 1970s. Very straightforward, only a few characters to worry about – heck it could be a stage play easily, and most importantly, it’s scary without being bloody or gory. Are you paying attention, Eli Roth? These things do not go hand in hand. Now I may have gone a bit hard on Jodie Foster earlier this month, but I really do like her. She is a talent powerhouse and here she shows just how good she was even at a young age. Also showing his superior acting chops is Martin Sheen, always a favorite of mine (pre-“West Wing” at least). He is the epitome of the creepy pedophile in this flick. Excellent fodder for a popcorn-filled Halloween Friday night.
The Batman Vs. Dracula ~ I was kinda put off by “The Batman” animated series when it began with its manga design, obsession with the telling of the early stories and its changes for the sake of change. This made-for-DVD movie pitting this new animated version of Batman against the real prince of darkness turned my head and got my attention. In my opinion, this movie was also the turning point for the TV series as well. Dracula is a real vital threat outside the safe constraints of ‘children’s programming’ and the creators take full advantage of it. This is a rare Halloween treat for genre and non-genre fans alike.
Invisible Enemies ~ This is what I get for stopping on one of the Christian broadcasting stations in the middle of the night. Actually this mini-movie with a lesson is pretty good. Like a “Twilight Zone” episode crossed with They Live with heavy evangelistic overtones poured on top, this is the tale of a young man who finds a pair of magical glasses that allow him to see demons in our world. As good as it could be to teach a lesson, and still hold your attention.
Kongo ~ This entry from 1932 is a talkie remake of the classic Tod Browning flick West of Zanzibar. It’s okay but it lacks the power of the original. Walter Huston is good, but he’s no Lon Chaney. But then again, no one is, and few approach him.
Got a late start today and friend and fellow Comic Widows writer Anthony came along for the ride this time. The main thrust of the trip today was to attend the Avengers panel, so after showing the press room to Ant, trying to do some writing and helping myself to one of their kindly offered Cokes, I was off to Avengers-land.
In attendance: king of the Annihilation pimps Bill Rosemann, the gracious Molly Lazer, Jim McCann, CB Cebulski of Loners (applause) fame and of course, Bendis (who was late).
The panel began with (what else?) a slide show. We got to see House of M: Avengers again. They said that libraries and bookstores had requested more House of M because it were so popular(!). They pushed Avengers/Transformers really hard. It made me wonder if they were worried about this one, or just really proud of it. It’s got the pre-Civil War Captain America in it, now there’s a selling point.
Then we dived into Skrull territory. With the dead Electra being revealed as a Skrull in the most recent issue of New Avengers, the vibe has been – who can we trust? Who is a Skrull and who isn’t? Bendis pointed out that this has been going on for almost three years at least, referencing the “shadowy figure on page two of New Avengers #1.” Hmmm, I had always thought that was Nick Fury, but maybe it was the Skrull double of Nick Fury?? Nevertheless, Bendis said the Skrull story will come to a head early next year.
Next slide was about appearances of Tigra, Machine Man and Sleepwalker in upcoming issues of Ms. Marvel. The cover shown looked like a ‘catfight’ between Carol and Tigra. I’m glad my buddy Ray wasn’t there today. 😉
The talk returned to Skrulls. Bendis put forth the idea that this was a great opportunity to get more for your money with your comics. You could re-read all the books from the last few years, play detective and look for clues as to who is and who isn’t a Skrull. What is out of character behavior because of a change of attitude, and what is a change because of Skrulliness? The Skrulls have always attacked with rayguns and spaceships, why should they when they are shapechangers and could just infiltrate us? This is especially viable with the state of the world today with terrorism and all that. Who can you trust?
Next up for me was the Marv Wolfman panel, which wasn’t really a panel at all, but just himself with a slideshow. He talked his career from fanzines to Warren to Marvel to DC and today. He of course spotlighted Tomb of Dracula, New Teen Titans and Crisis on Infinite Earths. When the slides were done he went to the room for questions.
Regarding Crisis Marv said he hated continuity. Continuity ties the hands of good writers with the stories of bad writers. Interesting. This was merely the first of many astonishing statements from Mr. Wolfman. He doesn’t read any series he’s written after he’s left that book. He never saw Deathstroke as a villain. He didn’t want to kill the Barry Allen Flash, that was forced on him. He thinks we are in the ‘real Golden Age’ now because we have so many truly talented people in the industry today. What about your generation and before, Marv? Told ya, astonishing.
Wolfman discussed his creation of the current version of Lex Luthor. He grew up in the 1950s where Luthor in his prison grays would escape every other issue, and thought the super-suit was a mistake, as Luthor would never be Superman’s equal physically. He surmised Luthor’s greatest weapon was his brain, so he should use it to conceive crimes he could never be convicted of. Also, jealousy not vanity would be why Lex hates Superman. Better idea, better motivation. He also praised Michael Rosenbaum for his portrayal of Luthor on “Smallville.”
Marv talked of Dick Grayson and how he preferred Robin as the responsible leader of the Teen Titans rather than the jerky pun-spouting brat who was Batman’s partner. He said when the Bat-editors wanted Robin back he suggested they create a new one. They loved it, and came up with Jason Todd and Marv made Dick Grayson Nightwing. He didn’t care, as long as he got to keep Grayson.
He briefly discussed new projects like a new Superman series, and he just finished the script for the new animated Teen Titans movie. All in all, a pretty enjoyable if surprising panel of one. By that time, Anthony and I were hungry and beat. After a stop at Philly’s Hard Rock we were done.
I had a lot of fun and really wore myself out. I was stunned by the amount of folks who knew me, both from Comic Widows and especially Avengers Forever. I have to say that comparatively this was a smaller con than most Wizards I’ve been to. Perhaps New York and the Heroes Con in Charlotte are taking a bite out of Wizard’s reign?
THE ORIGINAL BLACK BIRD
A Video Review of “Dangerous Female” also known as “The Maltese Falcon” (1931)
Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker
Really no one but film buffs know that Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon” was made into a motion picture twice before the famous 1941 classic starring Humphrey Bogart. Bette Davis starred in Satan Met a Lady in 1936 but Dangerous Female was the original.
The story sticks pretty close to the Hammett novel. Private investigator Sam Spade seeks both a rare jeweled statuette and the murderer of his partner unaware the cases are related. Dangerous Female is classic film noir from Hammett, the original master of the literary genre.
The cast for the time is phenomenal. As Sam Spade is Ricardo Cortez who was originally considered to be Rudolph Valentino’s successor. While this is an interesting turn from his usual smirking Latin lover routine he makes for an entertaining if most un-Bogart-like Spade. It is harder to get past his bizarre cigarette gestures than the idea of a Hispanic Sam Spade. This is however ironic because Cortez is actually Austrian. That’s right, he’s more Arnold Schwartzenegger than Jennifer Lopez.
Bebe Daniels who plays Ruth Wonderly worked with Harold Lloyd as a teenager but is probably better known for her parts in classic musicals like Rio Rita and 42nd Street. Otto Matieson as Cairo proves he is no Peter Lorre here in a bad bit of casting. Dwight Frye, most infamous as Renfield in the 1931 horror classic Dracula, shines as the baby-faced but menacing Wilmer Cook. Longtime character actress Una Merkel plays a nice counter to Cortez’ Spade as secretary Effie. She’s a treat in any role.
As Iva Archer, the widow of Spade’s dead partner, is the beautiful Thelma Todd. This blonde bombshell also known as ‘Hot Toddy’ is a Hollywood legend. At the peak of her success she was also a businesswoman and one of Tinseltown’s brightest stars. She did however have a tendency toward bad boys. It is believed her relationship with mobster Lucky Luciano led to her being found dead at the wheel of her car in her own garage. As you can see from this role it was quite a loss.
Despite the cast Dangerous Female is stagy in places and seriously lacks a proper soundtrack although soundtracks were rare at the time. Other than the 1941 Bogart classic this is the best version of “The Maltese Falcon.” If you can find it definitely check it out.