Category Archives: universal monsters

Ace Kilroy Returns!

Ace Kilroy by Rob Kelly and Dan O’Connor returns today with a new strip daily.

What is Ace Kilroy?

“THE YEAR IS 1937. Another World War is brewing in Europe, and the United States Government, headed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, is doing all it can to prepare. However, recent intelligence from that part of the world has uncovered an even more disturbing, almost unbelievable, set of facts: that the world’s worst supernatural monsters, thought only to be the stuff of nightmares, are real! Even worse, that Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich has unleashed a multi-pronged effort to turn those monsters to the side of the axis powers!

“President Roosevelt, backed by a small band of his most trusted advisers, has decided to commission decorated World War One veteran and soldier of fortune Ace Kilroy to go undercover in Transylvania and see if the threat is real–and if it is, to stop it…at all costs.

“ACE KILROY harkens back to the classic American newspaper comic strips of the mid-20th Century like Dick Tracy, Steve Canyon, and Buz Sawyer. We feature a new black and white daily installment every day, with an extra-large “color supplement” on Sundays!”

Check it out now, right here!

The Black Cat

The Black Cat ~ This 1934 film, ignoring the many others that use the same title (there have to be at least eight that I can think of, right off the top of my head), is the first onscreen meeting between Universal horror stars Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, the first of eight Universal horrors to feature them both.

In a futuristic mansion built on the site of a World War I fortress, the two rivals engage in a battle of wits, chess (yes, chess), and torture, both physical and psychological. Caught in the middle are a newlywed couple, dropped into the conflict with circumstances almost hilariously similar to Brad and Janet’s in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And much like that film, horror and hilarity ensues, but without the musical numbers. Apparently, Boris tortured Bela on this site during the war, and Bela is back for vengeance. The houseguests, among others, are pawns in this game of cat and mouse.

Boris Karloff’s Hjalmar Poelzig is a subtly sinister Satan-worshipping priest in the style of Aleister Crowley, but with the fashion sense of the wicked queen from Snow White and the Huntsman. It truly is a contest of ‘what will he wear next?’ in this flick. His height, and his physical presence, are much scarier than his calm demeanor, and the effect, for me at least, makes him seem even more frightening here than in his Frankenstein roles.

Bela Lugosi makes a worthy opponent for Karloff here as Dr. Vitus Werdegast. Bela, more so than any other role I’ve seen him in, puts in a fabulous performance. In fact, he steals the film. I have always thought him to be an over-actor, relying on his accent to excuse him from any real work, but here he is really quite good. I was impressed.

Also starring in this Universal horror is the house and stage set itself. Art deco was very popular in the 1930s and it was made into a starring character as the backdrop here. As the drama unwinds, even in the slow parts, one cannot help but marvel at the very expensive (for then) sets, a relic of a lost time in architecture.

The film itself is supposedly based on the Edgar Allan Poe story of the same name, or at least it is, according to the credits. Director Edgar G. Ulmer later admitted in an interview they used the title to get publicity for the movie. It should be mentioned this flick was quite violent for the time, went through several cuts, and was even banned in certain European countries. While the most successful Universal film of that year, this has become a mostly forgotten film, but definitely worth a watch for horror fans and film fans alike.

The Wolfman

The Wolfman ~ This 2010 remake of the Universal classic has so much going for it – a script by Andrew Kevin Walker, a novelization by Jonathan Maberry, and a phenomenal score by Danny Elfman that features an almost Jaws-like opening. I was surprised and liked it however, it didn’t knock my socks off.

Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins are at best adequate in subtly over the top roles that require their level of talent to pull off and yet neither steps up to the plate. Rick Baker’s make-up effects are stunning, and they should be – the original flick is what made him want to do make-up in the first place. He’s come full circle.

Speaking of the original, this is a fairly tight remake. The Walker script has lots of nods and winks here. I especially like the reference to the actual French werewolf murders at Gevaudan, and the brief glimpse of topiary animals a la Stephen King’s book “The Shining.” And the asylum scenes are very brutal.

This remake is very moody, very atmospheric, and unfortunately very dark. A light here or there wouldn’t hurt, folks. You have the care going with everything else, you don’t need the dark to help you – especially when it hinders the visuals. And as far as visuals go, the climax is quite impressive. Check it out.

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The New Wolfman

The new film version of The Wolfman starring Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins opens February 10, 2010.

And don’t forget to check out the novelization by Jonathan Maberry.

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The Original Creature Passes

Ben Chapman 1928-2008

Thanks to Sam for hipping me to this.