It’s hard to imagine a more perfect adaptation of a Dr. Seuss story than the 1966 Chuck Jones feature; perhaps, “The Butter Battle Book.” In either case, I was one of the many children that grew up watching the TV version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” It’s such a wonderful combination of talents and rich enthusiasm for the source material, that it’s tough to not like it. There’s Boris Karloff, Chuck Jones, and Dr. Seuss, not to mention the perfectly simplistic tale about anti-materialism and the true meaning of Christmas.
It’s pretty crummy that Abbott and Costello don’t get to do much with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In fact you have them in a movie with Boris Karloff who doesn’t get to do much to spook them beyond his monster mask, and you have the pair of knuckleheads that almost play second banana in their own movie. In fact, they don’t really show up until twenty minutes in to the movie, and their entrance smacks of sloppiness and lack of ideas. The pair should have memorable introductions, and yet here their characters Tubby and Slim are only in the story by circumstance.
In this follow up to “Meet Frankenstein,” Abbott and Costello don’t so much meet Boris Karloff, as they do a character Karloff plays named Swami Talpur. I still think the potential for Abbott and Costello meeting Karloff is potential never realized, and that’s pretty sad. Karloff only plays a side character, and appears for a few scenes, including an extended bit with character Freddie Phillips (Lou Costello) that’s still hilarious, at least. You don’t often see someone’s sheer idiocy save their lives, but you have to love how Freddie avoids all forms of vicious death by his slow wittedness.
This October, zombie fans are able to scoop up the newest film compilation from Mill Creek Entertainment. With over sixteen hours of classic and not so classic zombie movies, this is for the horror fans looking for more with their bucks. The 1962 shocker “Carnival of Souls” is a classic spook fest, about a young woman who crashes in to a lake and survives to tell the tale. Trying to make sense of the incident, she finds herself being stalked by pale bug eyed zombies, all of whom are identical and desperate to take her. For reasons unknown (until the very end), she can’t escape their grasp.
Rankin Bass’s “Mad Monster Party” (or “Mad Monster Party?”) is a monster bash of animated proportions that brings the great Boris Karloff aboard to lend credibility to an already fun animated film. Comprised of some excellent voice work and some classic stop motion animation from the Rankin Bass studio, “Mad Monster Party” sets down on the geeky and lovable Felix Flankin, a pharmacist with an allergy problem who is called to his old uncle Baron Boris von Frankenstein’s island for a party where he plans to announce to his monster community that he’s giving up the life of monster making and plans to hand over the business to his nephew.
As with all box sets, there will be controversy and debates among horror fans about what belongs in this set and what doesn’t. “The Bride of Frankenstein” is the only sequel, there’s a baffling inclusion of the Claude Rains “Phantom of the Opera.” And no “The Fly”?
In either case, included in a wonderful box set, with a copy of the 48-page booklet “The Original House of Horror,” and of course eight horror gems for fans of Universal Studios that completely changed the horror genre forever. Not to mention, they changed the way film was made, forever.
(1931, 75 min.)
For me the main attraction of “Dracula” is the performance of Dwight Frye. While “Dracula” is a stellar and often compelling bit of vampire fantasy horror with the great Bela Lugosi offering the most iconic portrayal of the vampire lord, for me the performance that always stuck out was Dwight Frye. His turn as the assistant Renfield is magnificent and his devious laugh is just chilling.
This is a man who has lost all semblance of his persona to Dracula, and now just an animal. He’s mad, and he’s vicious. “Dracula” lives up to its reputation as an entertaining and whimsical bit of horror cinema with remarkable performances, and incredible set pieces, all of which marked a turn in the genre thanks to director and visionary Tod Browning. “Dracula” is where Bela Lugosi was at his all time greatest, and as the count, he drips magnetism, charisma, and threat of a century old monster desperate for blood shed and willing to destroy whom ever he feels stands in his way.
I would love to be one of those movie geeks who explain that the first time they saw a Hollywood legend like Boris Karloff was in a movie only five people have seen for years, and I explain the details of the plot and make you feel bad for not having watched it and give you some impression of my knowledge of movies because you have yet to see it or can’t even find it. But no. My first time ever coming close to Boris Karloff’s insane greatness was during “The Grinch That Stole Christmas.” Yes, it was “The Grinch,” a half hour animated movie animated by Chuck Jones that played on television every single year. Not very impressive? I don’t care.