Favorite Horror Films: The Curse of Frankenstein: Revisited

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Terence Fisher directed The Curse of Frankenstein for Hammer Studios in England, and Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Hazel Court starred. This 1957 movie was the first in the Hammer Studio’s emergence as a major producer of horror films and it was the beginning of a new horror movie cycle. The result was an innovative, fast paced, and  vividly colored film. Hammer Studios completely changed the approach to horror movies of the Universal Studios that had dominated the horror movie cycle from 1931-1945. Color, explicit violence, and sexuality were introduced as central filmic components.

The Curse of Frankenstein was, like so many other movies, loosely based on the great work of Gothic English Literature by Mary Shelley: Frankenstein: Or The Modern Prometheus (1818). Yes, that is the accurate subtitle, although it is usually omitted in most printings of the book.

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This movie was highly successful, both financially and critically.  And like Horror of Dracula would, as Hammer Studios expanded their treatments of classic Gothic novels, it spawned a long series of sequels. A major difference between the direction of the following films was the focus: the monster Dracula was the recurring character in the vampire movies, while Dr. Frankenstein, and not his creature was the repeating protagonist/antagonist of the Frankenstein movies. This is also an  important distinction between the Hammer and the earlier Universal movies in which the Creature was the primary recurring character.

The Creature was also a mindless killing machine in this film, and none of the Creature’s humanity was kept from the novel, which is the film’s major flaw. It is, nevertheless, an important film from this era, and if you enjoy or are interested in horror films, then I recommend it.

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Favorite Horror Films: The Wolfman: Revisited

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“Even a man who is pure at heart
and says his prayers by night
may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright.” (The Wolfman)

This is the well-known poem that is at the heart of the 1941 Universal Studios film The Wolfman. This film completes the quartet of monsters that are at the heart of the Universal horror franchise: the Frankenstein Monster, Dracula, The Mummy, and the Wolfman. While there were certainly other creatures and monsters in the films in this time period, these are the four most prominent.

While we see science run out of control and ancient evils in the other films, in The Wolfman, we view a story of tragedy that is focused on an ordinary man, Larry Talbot, who is swept up in unfortunate events beyond his control. Because he is bitten by a werewolf while trying to save a girl and lives, Larry Talbot is fated to become such a beast himself.

The director and producer was George Waggner, and the writer was Kurt Siodmak. Most of our contemporary views about werewolf behavior do not come from ancient traditions or medieval European beliefs but from the mythology that Siodmak created for this movie. Siodmak created the idea that the time of the full moon is when a werewolf takes it form and that to become one, a person must be bitten by a werewolf and survive.

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More importantly, he included elements of tragedy, of a man fated to murder and to be destroyed, despite his desire to be a good person. The incantation the gypsy woman Maleva intones over Larry Talbot after his death illustrates this theme:

“The way you walked was thorny through no fault of your own, but as the rain enters the soil, the river enters the sea, so tears run to a predestined end. Now you will have peace for eternity.” (The Wolfman)

Siodmak also addressed contemporary issues, specifically the idea of a star marking the next victim of a werewolf, much like a star marking the Jewish people of Europe by the Nazis. Siodmak was a German Jew who had been successful as a writer but had to flee Germany with the take over by the Nazis. While the reference is not direct, it is still a clear metaphor for the horrors of the Nazis. The film demonstrates that evil is both natural and human created.

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In addition to excellent writing, the cast was also of the very best. Along side the star Lon Chaney Jr. were Claude Rains, Ralph Bellamy, Bela Lugosi, Maria Ouspenskaya, and Evelyn Ankers. Jack Pierce, as in the other main Universal horror films, created the unforgettable makeup that is the foundation for all other filmic and literary werewolves.

It was a film that was excellent in every level of production, and it maintains its excellence today.

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Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

Gallows Hill in paperback can be found here.

An interview about Gallows Hill can be found here.

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

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Favorite Horror Films of the 1940s: Cat People: Revisited

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In 1942, producer Val Lewton and director Jacques Torneur, advanced the making of horror films by expanding the possible topics and boundaries. This extraordinary film is not one that relies on a standard “monster”; instead, Torneur employs psychological suspense and subtle development of terror.

This film offers a sophisticated and understated treatment of sexuality and its impact on people. The main character, Irena, a fashion designer, born in Serbia, and played by Simone Simon combines the modern world of high fashion in New York City with the old world beliefs that she is descended from people who are shape-shifters and who turn into big cats when sexually enticed and aroused. Torneur builds a new variation on the established theme of lycanthropy, in which a male changes into a wolf. Additionally, the film demonstrates the tension between science and superstition, the modern era versus the medieval times, and religion versus secularism.

While to a contemporary audience, this movie might seem dated and subdued, I believe it still carries great impact in its study of horror that is felt rather than seen, slowly created rather than visceral, and suggestive rather overt.

Cat People did very well at the box office, but it received a mixed range of reviews at the time. Since the 1940s, it has come to be seen as one of the more important horror films of the 20th Century.  If you have the opportunity, I recommend watching Cat People.

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Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

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My Very Own “Book Bucket List”

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via My Very Own “Book Bucket List”

Thank you so much to James J. Cudney for including my novel, Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society, Book 1!

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Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

Gallows Hill in paperback can be found here.

An interview about Gallows Hill can be found here.

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

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Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

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Who Is One Of Your Favorite Authors?

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I have asked about specific books and movies before in my blog, but I thought I would offer a different question this time. I have many authors whose work I both love and admire. Answering the question I am going to ask, therefore, is difficult for me, but it is fair that I answer before anyone else.

Who is one of your favorite authors?

To answer this question today, I will choose Stephen King.

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I first started reading King with the novel Carrie, and I have read everything he has published since then. I hold Mr. King to be not only one of the most successful writers of our time, but also he is one of the best. I do believe that he will be remembered in the future as a great writer. Let me emphasize that  I am now speaking as a member of the Academy, as a Professor of English Literature.

Among his absolute best works are The Stand, The Dark Tower Series, and Hearts in Atlantis.

I ask again: who is one of your favorite writers?

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Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

Gallows Hill in paperback can be found here.

An interview about Gallows Hill can be found here.

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

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Back From The 2018 Writers Digest Conference

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I attended the 2018 Writers Digest Conference in New York City this last weekend. I have been to this event several times, and each time I have learned more about writing and publishing. This time was no exception.

First, I want to say thank you to my wonderful in-laws, with whom I stayed during the event on Staten Island.  They are lovely, sweet, and caring people, and I am very thankful to them for their hospitality.

The event went from Friday to Sunday, and each day I attended many events–this year I focused on learning as much as I can about marketing.

I also attended the pitch slam session, which is, essentially, speed dating with literary agents! During this event, writers get 3 minutes to deliver their pitch for their books, so it is suggested that we divide the time in half–90 seconds for the pitch and 90 seconds for feedback. It went well, and I have several agents interested in my YA novel. I will send out the materials to these agents next week–as soon as my work for teaching the second summer session at the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College is over.

I also met and networked with other writers.  I suggest to all writers to attend writers conferences if you are able to do it.

Plus, I had the added pleasure of riding the Staten Island Ferry two times each day!

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Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

Gallows Hill in paperback can be found here.

An interview about Gallows Hill can be found here.

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

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Thank you!

The book trailer:

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What Do You Enjoy About Writing?

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Writers have many aspects to what they do, and creating a book is a large and arduous task. It often requires research, numerous drafts, editing, and proofreading to name some of the components.

And this is hard work.

But why do writers do this work if they do not enjoy what they do? I think most writers do take joy from their efforts, and I think they find reward in it. I would like to hear from you what you enjoy in the act of writing.

It would be completely legitimate, as I tell my students when posing a question to them, to ask me: what do I enjoy about writing?

Well, many aspects occur to me, but what I enjoy the most is the act of story-telling, of creating characters and seeing what happens to them.

So, I ask: what do you enjoy about writing?

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Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

Gallows Hill in paperback can be found here.

An interview about Gallows Hill can be found here.

32570160

Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview