Science-Fiction Films of the 1930s: Frankenstein

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The movie that I will discuss in this installment is Frankenstein.  This 1931 film was directed by James Whale and produced by Carl Laemelle, Jr. Universal Studios was following up its huge success with Dracula earlier in the year, so this film seemed like a natural choice to make. I have posted on Frankenstein before in my series on horror films, but like its namesake novel, it can also been seen as early science-fiction.

While the title and characters come from the 1818 Mary Shelley novel, it is a loose adaptation of the text.  Interestingly, the sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein, is a much more faithful treatment of the novel than this first film. This movie, one of the most important in horror film history, introduces Boris Karloff as the Creature. Karloff gives an impressive performance as the lost and lonely being who is unsure of who he is and his place in the world.  This sounds like so many teenagers and young people, and while frightening, Karloff also gathered empathy from viewers in his nuanced performance.

Bela Lugosi had been offered the part of the creature but apparently turned it down because of its lack of speaking lines.  Lugosi made a terrible career choice, because Karloff would supplant him after this film’s success as the top box office star and would continue to dominate Lugosi’s subsequent film career.

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The movie is powerful and atmospheric and is highly influenced by the artistic movement German Expressionism that had a stylistic impact on cinema especially in the 1920s and 1930s. Whale used large Gothic structures in the set and deep slashing shadows in creating the atmosphere of the film.

Jack Pierce designed the Creature’s distinctive makeup, which was an ordeal to apply and remove from Boris Karloff each day before and after filming. It is a work of design masterpiece, but it is completely different from the Creature’s appearance in the novel.

For those familiar with the novel, it is significant that not only the Creature’s appearance but also his personality and level of intelligence are vastly different from that of the character from the book. In Mary Shelley’s work, the creature is one of the narrators and is both intelligent and self-educated.  Both of those characteristics are missing from the inarticulate and not very bright film Creature. This kind of vastly different portrayal of characters and themes is something that is, unfortunately, typical of many horror films, or should I say, many film adaptations of books. That, however, should be the topic of another post.

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This movie incorporates the stuff of science-fiction, and we see Dr. Frankenstein and his then advanced technological equipment as he attempts to capture the essence of life. In fact, there is more such machinery in the film than exists in the book. So, is Frankenstein horror or science-fiction? I argue it is both.

The film was very successful financially for Universal Studios.  It is also considered by many cinema historians and critics to be one of the most important films made. It spawned numerous sequels and parodies, not limited to movies.  From Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein to the character of Herman Munster in The Munsters to Young Frankenstein, the story of Victor Frankenstein and his creation have been fertile ground for satire and spoofing.

 

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Favorite Science-Fiction Films: A Trip to the Moon (1902)

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

I teach a course for the Wescoe School at Muhlenberg College: English 255 Literature & Film, which makes me very happy, because I am able to look at both literature and film, both media which I love. In one of the lectures for the class on film history, I speak to the earliest examples of cinema.

One of the first movies is also a science-fiction film: A Trip to the Moon (La Voyage Dans La Lune). Georges Méliès, one of the innovators of cinema, was the director, and he based the film, at least loosely, on Jules Verne’s novel From The Earth To The Moon (1865).

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

This movie is revolutionary not only in its being an early example of cinema but also in the treatment of science-fiction. Human beings have been explorers for the entirety of our existence, and this movie suggests that it was possible to move our journeys from the Earth to other worlds, a concept that informs our science-fiction cinema from the beginnings to our current films.

The plot shows scientists explaining how to get to the moon, the trip there, including a spaceship being shot out of a cannon, landing on the moon, being chased by inhabitants of the moon, and finally escaping back to Earth. This film explores adventure, imagination, advances in technology, and human potential.

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(https://commons.wikimedia.org)

This movie is usually considered by critics to be one of the most important in film history. It can be seen at https://archive.org/details/ATripToTheMoon1902 . If you are interested in the history of film and science-fiction, you should see this important historic and artistic film artifact.

The film runs, depending on the print from about 10-15 minutes.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

 

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

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Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

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Liebster Award!

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Thank you very much to Angie Dokos for nominating me for the Liebster Award! It is always an honor to be recognized by other bloggers, so I am happy and humbled. Please visit Angie Dokos at https://angiedokos.wordpress.com and you will find a lively, intelligent, and entertaining blog.

The Rules:

  • Say thank you to the person who nominated you for the award.
  • Answer the 11 questions you have been asked.
  • Nominate and notify 11 bloggers for the award.
  • Ask those you have nominated 11 questions.

The Questions:

1. Why did you choose book blogging over something else?

Actually, I blog about books, writing, film, tv, quotations, and anything else that comes to mind!

2. What is one thing you’re really passionate about beside books?

I love to learn about the world, in a myriad of aspects. This includes philosophy, art, physics (although I do not have great math skills), and many other areas of exploration.

3. Have your reading tastes changed over the years?

Not counting being very young, I have always loved reading a wide variety of kinds of books.

4. What is your favorite vacation spot?

Either going to a lake or for a vacation of the future–going to Italy!

5. Do you collect anything (other than books)?

I have a collection of odd knick-knacks related to books, superheroes, and fishing.

6. What has been your favorite book so far this year?

I reread The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and it remains one of my favorite books!

7. What is one law you would change if you could?

I would have all states have immediate voter registration as people turn 18. Voting should be inclusive not exclusive.

8. If you had to donate money to a charity, which one would you choose?

To Teddy Atlas’ foundation — The Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation — which serves the needy in New York. It is not well known,  but he does extraordinary work with this charity.

9. What is your favorite genre to read?

This is difficult, since I love so many, but if I had to choose, it would be Gothic.

10. What is your dream car?

A reconditioned 1967 Volkswagon Beetle!

11. What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

I finally finished my Ph.D. in English Literature several years ago.

My nominees:

K. D. Dowdall   https://karendowdall.com/

Sarah Higbee  https://sjhigbee.wordpress.com/

Chape  https://chapeblog.com/

Shehanne Moore  https://shehannemoore.wordpress.com/

Yinglan  https://yzhengblog.wordpress.com

David Prosser  https://barsetshirediaries.wordpress.com

Jeanne  https://seasonsapoeticjourney.com/

Annette Rochelle Aben  https://annetterochelleaben.wordpress.com/

Esther  https://femiiesther.wordpress.com

pjlazos  https://greenlifebluewater.wordpress.com/eco/

KSBeth   https://ididnthavemyglasseson.com/

The Questions:

1.) What is your favorite, or one of your favorite, movies?

2.) What is your favorite breakfast?

3.) What was the last live performance of a play that you attended?

4.) Are you a day or night person?

5.) Are you writing something now? If so, what are you writing?

6.) What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

7.) Is there a book that you reread?

8.) Where would you like to visit that you have not yet gone to?

9.) Do you have a historical time period with which you are fascinated?

10.) What is your favorite season of the year?

11.) Do you prefer coffee or tea?

 

Again, I thank Angie Dokos for nominating me for the Liebster Award.

 

 

Favorite Horror Films of the 1940s: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

This film might seem like an unusual choice for my series on horror films, especially since it is primarily a comedy, but I do have a fond place for this movie in my heart for several reasons.

As a youngster, I loved the hosted horror films shows that often appeared on Saturday afternoon, and I saw most of the Universal Studios horror films on those shows.  Also, I heard several times from my parents that they saw this movie when they were on their honeymoon in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, it is an extremely funny movie.

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(https://commons.wikimedia.org)

This film, made in 1948, was the completion of the Universal classic horror movie cycle, and it included the big three monsters of the Universal pantheon: The Frankenstein Monster, Dracula, and the Wolfman.  One of the signals of the end of a film genre cycle is when it reaches parody, and this film qualifies.  Horror very often is a reflection of the concerns of the larger world, and with World War Two completed, the fears of the world had changed and would be seen more in new science fiction films. (I examine some of these movies in my series on Science-Fiction films.)

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

The premise is silly and features Dracula attempting to revive the Frankenstein Creature, and Larry Talbot, the wolfman, trying to find a cure for his lycanthropic infection. I should add that this is one of the finest performances by Lon Chaney Jr. despite the comedic tone of the movie.  Of course, Abbott and Costello are brilliant in their comedic routines. This movie never fails to make me laugh, no matter how many times I have seen it. Bela Lugosi plays Dracula for the last time, and Glenn Strange takes his turn as the Creature.

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(https://ils.unc.edu/dpr/path/horrorfilms)

If you have not seen this movie and you enjoy the classic Universal Studios horror films and you love slapstick 1940s comedy, then you should watch it! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

 

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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

Favorite Horror Films of the 1940s: Cat People

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

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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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

 

What Is One Of Your Favorite Movies?

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I have posted before about favorite books.  I will come back to that idea again in the not too distant future, but I was thinking about movies, because I am going to teach a hybrid online/traditional in-class course on Literature and Film at Muhlenberg College for The Wescoe School (the adult program) this summer. This will be an early question I will ask my students, so it is only fair that I think about it.

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My answer would be the same as if this question were for books: The Lord of the Rings by director Peter Jackson (all 3 movies considered to be one–the same as with the books.) I think this adaptation is one of the best adaptations of a book to movie that has ever been accomplished. I love the depth of the story, the issues raised of political power and corruption, war and peace, good and evil, life and death, love and hatred, industrialization and the decimation of the natural world, heroes, both large and small, and the connection of all people. I recommend this filmic adaptation to all.   Please also read the books!

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So, I ask everyone: what is one of your favorite films?

Favorite Horror Films of the 1930s: A Series Revisited: Dracula

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When I first considered doing an examination of my favorite horror movies, I thought that going decade by decade would be sufficient, but I realized that some periods have far more excellent films than others.  A simple examination of 2-4 movies from the 1930s will not work, so I am going to look at one film at a time for that decade. I will begin with Dracula, a film I love, and which I have taught in college classes such as Literature and Film and Gothic and Horror.  I also hold the novel to be an excellent and very important book.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

Dracula, made in 1931, and released for Valentine’s Day–a nice touch–was a huge success and established Bela Lugosi as a top box office star. This production was itself based on the very successful theatrical play Dracula by Hamilton Deane and James Balderston. Stoker’s novel did not see great success during his life, but after his death and the success of the play, it became one of the best selling novels of the 20th Century–worldwide.

Carl Laemmle Jr, capitalized on the story’s growing popularity and produced the movie.  Tod Browning, who had directed Lon Chaney Sr. in several movies, directed this piece. This film is highly atmospheric with a Gothic set and influenced by German Expressionism. Lugosi was brilliant with his authentic Hungarian accent and menacing presence. His performance and voice set the standard for the image of Dracula and vampires for decades to come. Dracula was a sensation and terrified people; today’s audience would probably find it slow and not at all frightening, but that reflects our jaded views that have been glutted with gore as the staple ingredient of contemporary horror.  This film depended on story telling, atmosphere, and acting. The film’s success created an era of classic horror films through the 1930s and part of the 1940s with Universal studios leading the way.

Additionally, Dracula is generally accepted by most film critics as one of the best horror films made.  I certainly consider it to be one of the best and most important.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

It is an interesting and little known detail of film history that in addition to the English language version, Universal also made a Spanish language film at the same time.  The  two films shared the same sets, and the same basic scripts, but with different actors and a different director: George Melford directed, and Carlos Villarías stared as Dracula.  While not as well known, an argument can be made that this is a better film than the more established English language version.  If you ever have the opportunity to see it, I recommend that you do.

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Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I by Charles F. French is available for purchase on Amazon either as an ebook or a print book!

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