Saturday, October 20, 2012

Recommended Double Feature: COUNT DRACULA (1977) and FRANKENSTEIN : THE TRUE STORY (1973)

Two great mini-series adaptions of classic monster stories, two examples of 70's made for TV madness, They take liberties with the source text (as most adaptions of Frankenstein and Dracula do) but are still highly entertaining. Both feature memorable and distinctive takes the iconic monsters, some amazing moments of gore for TV movies and some pretty sexy moments as well.

As per IMDB the plot of COUNT DRACULA (1977)“For those familiar with Bram Stoker's novel, this adaptation follows the book quite closely in most respects. Jonathan Harker visits the Count in Transylvania to help him with preparations to move to England. Harker becomes Dracula's prisoner and discovers Dracula's true nature. After Dracula makes his way to England, Harker becomes involved in an effort to track down and destroy the Count, eventually chasing the vampire back to his castle.”

There is no trailer so here is a scene from the film.

Thoughts: A long time favorite, when I first saw it at 10 years old it blew my mind. The entire cast is terrific. Louis Jordan does a fantastic job as Dracula, he's as charming as he is evil, the gentleman of the Bela Lugosi combined with the savagery of Christopher Lee. I think his is one of the best takes on the character. Let’s not forget Frank Finlay’s performance as Van Helsing; brave, wise and maybe just a little bit crazy. His is probably my second favorite Van Helsing of all time but only because no one can ever top Peter Cushing. Everyone else involved with the production does a great job as well. The films use of video effects to be arty sometimes fall flat but one the other hand there are moments of bloodshed that will scare and disturb.

And as for Dracula’s three sexy brides. Well, my 10 year old self might not have sold his soul for a chance to be their vampire lord but he might have looked over the price list.

As per IMDB the plot for FRANKENSTEIN : THE TRUE STORY: “A more psychological telling of the Mary Shelley story has a different kind of monster...”

Here is the trailer for the film.

Thoughts: Now if COUNT DRACULA took liberties with the source material, FRANKENSTEIN : THE TRUE STORY throws most of the book out the window. The movie lifts elements from just about every aspect of the monsters cinematic history and rearranges them as it sees fit. You get glimpses of the James Whale’s classic, the Hammer films and the Bride of Frankenstein. In this version of the story the monster starts out as a very handsome man and slowly deteriorates over time. Like all the best versions of the story the creature is an innocent but Victor’s rejection makes him into a monster. In doing so this gives the whole affair a very original spin. The side plot concerning Dr. Polidori’s creation of Prima only adds to the story of science mad science and betrayal. The entire cast is excellent, James Mason’s Dr. Polidori is wonderfully loathsome, over the years I have come to appreciate Michael Sarrazin performance as the monster more and more and despite the fact he brings much of the ensuing misery on himself you can’t help but feel sorry for Leonard Whiting’s Dr. Frankenstein.

Once again, for a TV movie, this production is surprisingly violent and sexy. You can’t take your eyes off Jane Seymour as the sexy and evil Prima and the scene where she meets her final end is particularly gruesome.

When I first saw this at age eight I thought the title meant that the Frankenstein monster had really existed. It really changed my worldview for a while...

Monday, October 15, 2012

And it is back to THE LIGHTNING BUG'S LAIR for a review of ABSENTIA.

Absentia is a film that I started to watch a dozen or more times before finally making the plunge. I don’t know if it was the generic looking art of a screaming woman being dragged away or the legalese sounding title which looked out of place on a horror film, but it just didn't seem like the kind of horror that would appeal to me. However, after hearing about it for a while, and Netflix’s relentless campaign to suggest it to me, I relented and I am glad I did. There seems to be a new wave of horror that combines the bone chilling and the supernatural with a hefty dose of human drama. Stories of longing or loss pervade these films, and while some succeed in the balance (Exit Humanity), others (I’m looking at youThe Tall Man.) feel more like a bait and switch than horror fare. While Absentia takes some time to get rolling, it is a film that manifests some genuine emotional moments nestled neatly with the notes of a creepy creature feature...


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