Film Review – HALLOWEEN II (1981)

Halloween II is Better Than the Original & Here's Why | Horror Obsessive |  Film ReviewHALLOWEEN II (1981, USA) ***
Horror, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), Columbia-EMI-Warner (UK); pr co. De Laurentiis / Universal Pictures; d. Rick Rosenthal; w. John Carpenter, Debra Hill; exec pr. Joseph Wolf, Irwin Yablans, Moustapha Akkad (uncredited), Dino De Laurentiis (uncredited); pr. John Carpenter, Debra Hill; ass pr. Barry Bernardi; ph. Dean Cundey (Metrocolor. 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.35:1); m. John Carpenter, Alan Howarth; ed. Mark Goldblatt, Skip Schoolnik; pd. J. Michael Riva; set d. Peg Cummings; cos. Jane Ruhm; m/up. John Chambers, Michael Germain, Frankie Bergman; sd. David Lewis Yewdall (Dolby Stereo); sfx. Lawrence J. Cavanaugh; vfx. Sam Nicholson (uncredited); st. Dick Warlock; rel. 30 October 1981 (USA), 25 February 1982 (UK); cert: 18; r/t. 92m.

cast: Jamie Lee Curtis (Laurie Strode), Donald Pleasence (Sam Loomis), Charles Cyphers (Leigh Brackett), Jeffrey Kramer (Graham), Lance Guest (Jimmy), Pamela Susan Shoop (Karen), Hunter von Leer (Gary Hunt), Dick Warlock (The Shape / Patrolman #3), Leo Rossi (Budd), Gloria Gifford (Mrs. Alves), Tawny Moyer (Jill), Ana Alicia (Janet), Ford Rainey (Dr. Mixter), Cliff Emmich (Mr. Garrett), Nancy Stephens (Marion), John Zenda (Marshall), Catherine Bergstrom (Producer), Alan Haufrect (Announcer), Lucille Benson (Mrs. Elrod), Howard Culver (Man in Pajamas).

After Doctor Samuel Loomis (Pleasence) shoots Michael Myers six Times and falls off a balcony. Michael escapes and continues his massacre in Haddonfield, Laurie (Curtis) is also sent to the Hospital and Dr Loomis gathers a group of police officers to hunt down Michael and put an end to his murderous rampage. This sequel is a more formulaic and bloody continuation but makes effective use of the almost empty hospital setting. Curtis gives a much more physical performance here, requiring little dialogue, whilst Pleasence manically tries to convince others that Myers lives on despite the number of bullets he has put in him. The most effective moments are those that mirror set-pieces from the classy original, which emphasises the film’s weakness in that it has nothing new to offer and merely feels like an extension of the first movie. Followed by the unrelated HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982). The true sequels picked up with HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS (1988), HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1989), HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1995), HALLOWEEN H20: 20 YEARS LATER (1998), HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002), HALLOWEEN (2018) and HALLOWEEN KILLS (2021). The film was also remade by Rob Zombie in 2009.

Film Review – HALLOWEEN (1978)

Halloween' 1978: The Times Finally Reviews a Horror Classic - The New York  TimesHALLOWEEN (1978, USA) ****½
Horror, Thriller
dist. Compass International Pictures (USA), Miracle Films (UK); pr co. Falcon International Productions; d. John Carpenter; w. John Carpenter, Debra Hill; exec pr. Irwin Yablans, Moustapha Akkad (uncredited); pr. Debra Hill, John Carpenter (uncredited); ass pr. Kool Marder (as Kool Lusby); ph. Dean Cundey (Metrocolor. 35mm. Digital Intermediate (4K) (2018 remaster), Panavision (anamorphic). 2.35:1); m. John Carpenter; ed. Charles Bornstein, Tommy Lee Wallace; pd. Tommy Lee Wallace; set d. Craig Stearns; cos. Beth Rodgers; m/up. Erica Ueland; sd. William L. Stevenson (Mono | Dolby Surround 7.1); sfx. Conrad Rothmann (uncredited); st. James Winburn; rel. 25 October 1978 (USA), 25 January 1979 (UK); cert: 18; r/t. 91m.

cast: Donald Pleasence (Loomis), Jamie Lee Curtis (Laurie), Nancy Kyes (Annie (as Nancy Loomis)), P.J. Soles (Lynda), Charles Cyphers (Brackett), Kyle Richards (Lindsey), Brian Andrews (Tommy), John Michael Graham (Bob), Nancy Stephens (Marion), Arthur Malet (Graveyard Keeper), Mickey Yablans (Richie), Brent Le Page (Lonnie), Adam Hollander (Keith), Robert Phalen (Dr. Wynn), Tony Moran (Michael Myers (age 23)), Will Sandin (Michael Myers (age 6)), Sandy Johnson (Judith Myers), David Kyle (Boyfriend), Peter Griffith (Laurie’s father), Nick Castle (The Shape).

Halloween 1963, 15-year-old Judith Myers has been stabbed to death, by her 6-year-old brother, Michael. After being institutionalized for 15 years, Myers breaks out on the night before Halloween. No one knows, nor wants to find out, what will happen on October 31st, 1978 besides Myers’ psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis (Pleasence). He knows Michael is coming back to Haddonfield, but by the time the town realizes it, it will be too late for many people. Carpenter’s landmark slasher movie spawned many sequels and imitations, but none has bettered this masterclass in building tension through visuals, tight editing and innovative camera work. The use of steadycam hand-held camera to create the illusion of a first-person point of view was a new technique at the time. Carpenter expertly builds the tension through the performances of his young cast and crew. Curtis is excellent as the square student heroine. Pleasence has fun as the psychiatrist who believes Myers is beyond redemption. Carpenter also contributed the eerie synthesised soundtrack, which has become a classic example of marrying music and image to create atmosphere and tension. It is also notable that there is very little blood, despite the carnage, as Carpenter relies more on lighting, editing and music to create the shocks. Curtis’ first feature film. The extended TV version runs 101m featuring footage shot during the filming of its sequel HALLOWEEN II in 1981. Remade by Rob Zombie in 2007.

Film Review – THE MASK OF FU MANCHU (1932)

Pre Code Confidential #4: Boris Karloff in THE MASK OF FU MANCHU ...THE MASK OF FU MANCHU (USA, 1932) ***½
      Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); Production Company: Cosmopolitan Productions / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) ; Release Date: 5 November 1932 (USA), 24 November 1932 (UK); Filming Dates: 6 August 1932 – 21 October 1932; Running Time: 68m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Sound System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Charles Brabin; Writer: Irene Kuhn, Edgar Allan Woolf, John Willard (based on the novel by Sax Rohmer); Director of Photography: Tony Gaudio; Music Composer: William Axt (uncredited); Film Editor: Ben Lewis; Art Director: Cedric Gibbons; Costumes: Adrian; Make-up: Cecil Holland (uncredited); Sound: Douglas Shearer; Special Effects: Warren Newcombe (uncredited).
      Cast: Boris Karloff (Dr. Fu Manchu), Lewis Stone (Nayland Smith), Karen Morley (Sheila Barton), Charles Starrett (Terrence Granville), Myrna Loy (Fah Lo See), Jean Hersholt (Von Berg), Lawrence Grant (Sir Lionel Barton), David Torrence (McLeod), Everett Brown (Slave (uncredited)), Steve Clemente (Knife Thrower (uncredited)), Willie Fung (Ship’s Steward (uncredited)), Ferdinand Gottschalk (British Museum Official (uncredited)), Allen Jung (Coolie (uncredited)), Tetsu Komai (Swordsman (uncredited)), James B. Leong (Guest (uncredited)), Oswald Marshall (Undetermined Role (uncredited)), Chris-Pin Martin (Potentate (uncredited)), Lal Chand Mehra (Indian Prince (uncredited)), Edward Peil Sr. (Coolie Spy (uncredited)), Clinton Rosemond (Slave (uncredited)), C. Montague Shaw (Curator Dr. Fairgyle – British Museum Official (uncredited)), E. Alyn Warren (Goy Lo Sung – Fu Manchu Messenger (uncredited)), Olive Young (Cantina singer (uncredited)).
      Synopsis: Englishmen race to find the tomb of Ghengis Khan. They have to get there fast, as the evil genius Dr. Fu Manchu is also searching, and if he gets the mysteriously powerful relics, he and his diabolical daughter will enslave the world!
      Comment: Karloff is excellent as Sax Rohmer’s evil Dr Fu Manchu in this pre-Hays code adventure controversial for its racial overtones. Stone leads an expedition to Africa in search of the tomb of Genghis Khan to claim the sword and mask from within. Karloff seeks the treasures for his own benefit. Sumptuously designed and with torture scenes that would have pushed the censors a couple of years later, it is a fascinating adaptation of Rohmer’s simplistic story if rather leaden due to the static camerawork. Loy is deliciously treacherous as Karloff’s daughter who seduces Starrett – the pair being an obvious influence on FLASH GORDON’s Emperor Ming and Princess Aura. Charles Vidor was fired after a few days of shooting and replaced as director by Brabin. Rohmer’s original novel was serialized in Colliers between 7 May and 23 July 1932.

Film Review – THE WOLF MAN (1941)

The Wolfman (1941) movie poster – Dangerous UniverseTHE WOLF MAN (USA, 1941) ***½
      Distributor: Universal Pictures; Production Company: Universal Pictures; Release Date: 9 December 1941 (USA), 13 March 1942 (UK); Filming Dates: 8 September 1941 – 25 November 1941; Running Time: 70m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: George Waggner; Writer: Curt Siodmak; Executive Producer: Jack J. Gross; Producer: George Waggner; Director of Photography: Joseph A. Valentine; Music Composer: Charles Previn, Hans J. Salter, Frank Skinner (all uncredited); Music Director: Charles Previn; Film Editor: Ted J. Kent; Art Director: Jack Otterson; Set Decorator: Russell A. Gausman; Costumes: Vera West; Make-up: Jack P. Pierce; Sound: Bernard B. Brown; Special Effects: John P. Fulton (uncredited).
      Cast: Lon Chaney Jr. (Larry Talbot – The Wolf Man), Claude Rains (Sir John Talbot), Warren William (Dr. Lloyd), Ralph Bellamy (Colonel Paul Montford), Patric Knowles (Frank Andrews), Bela Lugosi (Bela), Maria Ouspenskaya (Maleva), Evelyn Ankers (Gwen Conliffe), J.M. Kerrigan (Charles Conliffe), Fay Helm (Jenny Williams), Forrester Harvey (Twiddle), Jessie Arnold (Gypsy Woman (uncredited)), Leyland Hodgson (Kendall – Butler (uncredited)), Connie Leon (Mrs. Wykes (uncredited)), Doris Lloyd (Mrs. Williams (uncredited)), Ottola Nesmith (Mrs. Bally (uncredited)).
Synopsis: A practical man returns to his homeland, is attacked by a creature of folklore, and infected with a horrific disease his disciplined mind tells him cannot possibly exist.
      Comment: Universal’s second Werewolf film after WEREWOLF OF LONDON (1935). It is a fun outing with a strong sense of atmosphere, created by Valentine’s moody photography and Pierce’s impressive make-up. Chaney is Lawrence Talbot, who returns to father Rains’ estate and falls for antique shop-girl Ankers. After visiting a gypsy camp, where he meets the mysterious Lugosi he is bitten by a werewolf and his nightmares begin. Chaney is too stiff to carry off the leading man role but is better when in full make-up and snarling at his intended victims. Rains delivers the best performance, capturing subtly his character’s dilemma of not wanting to believe his son is the murderous monster, but deep down knowing he must do what is right. Waggner directs with pace and the movie proved to be a success. Chaney would appear as the Wolf Man four more times, but only as part of multi-monster offerings. Followed by FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943) and remade as THE WOLFMAN (2010).

Film Review – THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933)

THE INVISIBLE MAN (USA, 1933) ****
      Distributor: Universal Pictures; Production Company: Universal Pictures; Release Date: 3 November 1933 (USA), 30 November 1933 (UK); Filming Dates: August 1933; Running Time: 71m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording Sound System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: James Whale; Writer: R.C. Sherriff (based on the novel by H.G. Wells); Executive Producer: Carl Laemmle; Producer: Carl Laemmle Jr.; Director of Photography: Arthur Edeson; Music Composer: Heinz Roemheld (uncredited); Music Supervisor: Gilbert Kurland (uncredited); Film Editor: Ted J. Kent;  Art Director: Charles D. Hall; Make-up: Jack P. Pierce; Sound: Gilbert Kurland (uncredited); Visual Effects: John P. Fulton.
      Cast: Claude Rains (Dr. Jack Griffin aka The Invisible Man), Gloria Stuart (Flora Cranley), William Harrigan (Dr. Arthur Kemp), Henry Travers (Dr. Cranley), Una O’Connor (Jenny Hall), Forrester Harvey (Herbert Hall), Holmes Herbert (Chief of Police), E.E. Clive (Constable Jaffers), Dudley Digges (Chief Detective), Harry Stubbs (Inspector Bird), Donald Stuart (Inspector Lane), Merle Tottenham (Millie), Walter Brennan (Bicycle Owner (uncredited)), Robert Brower (Farmer (uncredited)), John Carradine (Informer Suggesting Ink (uncredited)), Dwight Frye (Reporter (uncredited)), Bob Reeves (Detective Hogan (uncredited)).
      Synopsis: A scientist finds a way of becoming invisible, but in doing so, he becomes murderously insane.
      Comment: H.G. Wells’ novel is brought to the screen in the stylish hands of director Whale and nuanced voice performance by Rains, who is only visible in the final shot. Rains has experimented with a serum that has made him invisible. Madness and megalomania increasingly take him over in his fruitless search for a cure. Rains’ vocal inflexions are both haunting and comedic and the material is often played for straight comedy. The character’s psychotic undercurrent becomes apparent as he commits a series of murders – firstly to protect his experiment and increasingly as spite, notably a scene where he derails a passenger train. The shifting tone is skilfully handled by Whale whose visual creativity along with the wonderful invisible effects by Fulton ensure the film remains absorbing throughout. The supporting performances are variable from O’Connor’s screeching innkeeper’s wife to a remarkably mannered Harrigan as Rains’ former assistant who Rains seeks revenge on for his betrayal. The movie was highly influential on the horror and fantasy genres and made a star out of Rains. Followed by THE INVISIBLE MAN RETURNS (1940) and THE INVISIBLE MAN’S REVENGE (1944).

Film Review – THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US (1956)

The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US (USA, 1956) **½
      Distributor: Universal Pictures; Production Company: Universal International Pictures (UI); Release Date: 26 April 1956; Filming Dates: late Aug–mid Sep 1955; Running Time: 78m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: John Sherwood; Writer: Arthur A. Ross; Producer: William Alland; Director of Photography: Maury Gertsman; Music Supervisor: Joseph Gershenson; Film Editor: Edward Curtiss; Art Director: Alexander Golitzen, Robert Emmet Smith; Set Decorator: John P. Austin, Russell A. Gausman; Costumes: Jay A. Morley Jr.; Make-up: Bud Westmore; Sound: Leslie I. Carey, Robert Pritchard; Visual Effects: Clifford Stine.
      Cast: Jeff Morrow (Dr. William Barton), Rex Reason (Dr. Thomas Morgan), Leigh Snowden (Marcia Barton), Gregg Palmer (Jed Grant), Maurice Manson (Dr. Borg), James Rawley (Dr. Johnson), David McMahon (Captain Stanley), Paul Fierro (Morteno), Lillian Molieri (Mrs. Morteno), Larry Hudson (State Trooper), Frank Chase (Steward). Uncredited: Ricou Browning (The Gill Man (in water)), Don Megowan (The Gill Man (on land)), George Sowards (Ranchhand).
      Synopsis: In this third Gill-Man feature, the Creature is captured and turned into an air-breather by a rich mad scientist.
      Comment: The second sequel to THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) starts promisingly if more than a little familiarly. Merrow and a group of scientists hunt the Gill Man in the Everglades. Merrow has brought along wife Snowden, who sets the pulses racing amongst the rest of the crew sending Merrow into jealous rages. Reason debates ethics with Merrow and the production becomes a little too talky during its mid-section. Once the Gill Man is captured and loses his gills via a fire the creature begins to adopt human physicalities. Unfortunately. this means the impressive creature design is shorn of its elegance and the Gill Man turns into a lumbering Frankenstein-like monster, but lacking any expressiveness through the heavy rubber mask. The finale at a coastal clinic reverts to formula and the creature becomes enraged when violence is inflicted on others, notably his fellow captive animals. The denouement is hugely disappointing lacking any resolution other than Merrow’s ultimate fate. Impressive underwater photography and the desire to stretch the characters are pluses in an otherwise largely routine fare.

Film Review – HORROR EXPRESS (1972)

Image result for HORROR EXPRESS QUAD POSTERHORROR EXPRESS (Spain/UK, 1972) ***
      Distributor: Gala Film Distributors  (UK), Scotia International (USA); Production Company: Benmar Productions / Granada Films; Release Date: November 1973 (USA), December 1973 (UK); Filming Dates: December 1971 – January 1972; Running Time: 91m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Eugenio Martín; Writer: Arnaud d’Usseau, Julian Zimet; Producer: Bernard Gordon; Director of Photography: Alejandro Ulloa; Music Composer: John Cacavas; Film Editor: Robert C. Dearberg; Production Designer: Ramiro Gómez; Set Decorator: Ramiro Gómez; Costumes: Charles Simminger; Make-up: Julián Ruiz; Sound: Antonio Illán; Special Effects: Pablo Pérez; Visual Effects: Brian Stevens.
      Cast: Christopher Lee (Prof. Sir Alexander Saxton), Peter Cushing (Dr. Wells), Telly Savalas (Capt. Kazan), Alberto de Mendoza (Father Pujardov), Silvia Tortosa (Countess Irina Petrovska), Julio Peña (Inspector Mirov), Ángel del Pozo (Yevtushenko), Helga Liné (Natasha), George Rigaud (Count Maryan Petrovski), Alice Reinheart (Miss Jones), José Jaspe (Konev – Conductor), Víctor Israel (Baggage Man), Juan Olaguivel (Creature), Vicente Roca (Station Master), Barta Barri (First Telegraphist), José Marco (Vorkin), José Canalejas (Russian Guard).
      Synopsis: In 1906, in China, a British anthropologist discovers a frozen prehistoric creature and must transport it to Europe by train.
      Comment: Euro-horror transfers the plot of THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD from the remote base of the Antarctic to the Siberian Express. The production starts unsteadily but slowly gathers momentum building to an exciting climax. Great make-up effects for both the monster and the effects of its work. Neat use of lighting in the confined spaces of the train helps to generate mood and tension. Lee and Cushing add dignity amongst a largely solid European cast. Savalas is delicious as a sadistic soldier who enters the story late in the day. Although set in the icy Siberian landscape the film was shot in Spain.
      Notes: Various roles are dubbed by Roger Delgado (the Police Inspector), Robert Rietty (Father Pujardov), and Olive Gregg (all female voices).

Film Review – REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (1955)

REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (USA, 1955) **½
      Distributor: Universal Pictures; Production Company: Universal International Pictures (UI); Release Date: 29 March 1955; Filming Dates: late Jun–early Aug 1954; Running Time: 82m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Universal 3-D (dual-strip 3-D); Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1; BBFC Cert: PG – mild violence, scary scenes.
      Director: Jack Arnold; Writer: Martin Berkeley (based on a story by William Alland); Producer: William Alland; Director of Photography: Scotty Welbourne; Music Composer: William Lava, Herman Stein (both uncredited); Music Supervisor: Joseph Gershenson; Film Editor: Paul Weatherwax; Art Director: Alexander Golitzen, Alfred Sweeney; Set Decorator: Russell A. Gausman, Julia Heron; Costumes: Jay A. Morley Jr.; Make-up: Bud Westmore; Sound: Jack A. Bolger Jr, Leslie I. Carey.
      Cast: John Agar (Professor Clete Ferguson), Lori Nelson (Helen Dobson), John Bromfield (Joe Hayes), Nestor Paiva (Lucas), Grandon Rhodes (Jackson Foster), Dave Willock (Lou Gibson), Robert B. Williams (George Johnson), Charles Cane (Captain of Police).
      Synopsis: The Creature from the Black Lagoon is back! This time he’s captured by scientists and transported to an aquarium in south Florida.
      Comment: Sequel to CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) follows genre convention by having the creature (the Gill Man) taken from its natural habitat (the Amazon) to be exhibited at a sea life centre in Florida. There professor Agar and student Nelson study the creature and try to assess its level of intelligence. Of course, the creature escapes and mayhem ensues. There are some well-shot scenes that stand out as individual moments, but once the creature is on the rampage the film descends into routine thrills and chills. Agar is pretty wooden as the male lead, but Nelson is appealing. The finale is something of a let down in its swiftness of resolution.
      Notes: Look for a young, uncredited Clint Eastwood in his first screen appearance as a goofy lab assistant. Also shot in 3-D. Followed by THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US (1956).

TV Review – DRACULA (2020)

Image result for dracula bbc 2020DRACULA (UK, 2020) **
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: Hartswood Films / British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) / Netflix; Release Date: 1-3 January 2020; Running Time: 3 x 90m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Atmos; Film Format: HD; Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Jonny Campbell, Paul McGuigan, Damon Thomas; Writer: Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat (based on the novel by Bram Stoker); Producer: Ben Irving, Larry Tanz, Sue Vertue; Executive Producer: Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat, Ben Irving, Sue Vertue; Director of Photography: Tony Slater Ling; Music Composer: David Arnold, Michael Price; Film Editor: Colin Fair, Tom Hemmings, Paulo Pandolpho; Production Designer: Arwel Jones; Art Director: Harry Trow; Casting: Kate Rhodes James; Costumes: Harriet Ferris; Make-up: Dave Elsey, Lou Elsey; Sound: Doug Sinclair; Special Effects Supervisor: Paul Dunn; Visual Effects Producer: George Tully.
      Cast: Claes Bang (Count Dracula), Dolly Wells (Sister Agatha Van Helsing/Dr. Zoe Van Helsing), John Heffernan (Jonathan Harker), Morfydd Clark (Mina Harker), Joanna Scanlan (Mother Superior), Lujza Richter (Elena), Jonathan Aris (Captain Sokolov), Sacha Dhawan (Dr. Sharma), Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Adisa), Catherine Schell (Duchess Valeria), Youssef Kerkour (Olgaren), Clive Russell (Valentin), Natasha Radski (Mother), Lydia West (Lucy Westenra), Matthew Beard (Jack Seward), Mark Gatiss (Frank Renfield), Lyndsey Marshal (Bloxham), Chanel Cresswell (Kathleen), Sarah Niles (Meg), Phil Dunster (Quincey Morris).
      Synopsis: In 1897 Transylvania, the blood-drinking Count draws his plans against Victorian London.
      Comment: Adaptations can go one of two ways. Either a faithful representation of the source material or a completely different take. So, what to make of Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat’s take on Dracula? It seems to me that it tries to be all things to all people and will therefore likely end up disappointing most. Why? Moffat, in particular, for some-time now has been trying to be too smart in his writing, going for showstopping revelation after show-stopping revelation. He brings that thinking to Dracula as the adaptation veers increasingly further away from its source material as it painfully slowly progresses the narrative. The story is divided into three distinct sections across the three episodes. the first deals with Jonathan Harker’s visit to Castle Dracula and the horrific discoveries he makes there. the second with Dracula’s voyage to England and the third with the ultimate showdown in London. Gatiss is an ardent fan of the horror genre and of Hammer films in particular. His influence is seen at its greatest in the atmospheric first episode, which for the most part establishes a truly gothic and horrific setting. The problem is that after this promising opener, the second episode stalls during the interminable and repetitive voyage, with Dracula picking off the crew one by one, before it finally veers off the rails completely in the third episode by moving the action to a modern-day setting. The result is jarring and neither does justice to Stoker nor succeeds as a post-modern interpretation. Gatiss and Moffat’s vision comes across as two writers trying to be overly smart without the needed controlling hand to challenge their increasingly wild ideas.  It’s a shame because there is a lot to commend the production from a technical standpoint and in the charismatic performances of Bang and Wells – if you can accept both in their wise-cracking characterisations. Viewers not familiar with the Dracula legacy both in print and on-screen may find much to enjoy, but those more acquainted with Stoker or Lugosi or Lee will likely see the smugness of the characters as an unnecessary enhancement. For me, I finished the viewing experience having enjoyed aspects, mostly those which steered a closer course to my ideal, but was frustrated by the liberties taken with the material and the looseness and laziness of some of the writing –  the close of episode two with Dracula emerging from the sea after over one hundred years only to find a police task force and helicopter waiting is written for effect without a care for logic. Stronger editing could have condensed this self-indulgent and bloated misfire into something leaner and more efficient. A shorter piece would have made the viewing experience much more rewarding and avoided a lot of the repetitiveness. Four and a half hours of Gatiss and Moffat’s trying to demonstrate how clever they are as writers to me detracted from the core story and whilst their vision for Dracula can be seen as a brave attempt to do something different it strays too far from the novel and legacy to be satisfying.

Film Review – CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954)

Image result for creature from the black lagoonCREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (USA, 1954) ***½
     Distributor: Universal Pictures (USA), General Film Distributors (GFD) (UK); Production Company: Universal International Pictures (UI); Release Date: 12 February 1954 (USA), 9 December 1954 (UK); Filming Dates: 13 October 1953 – 15 November 1953; Running Time: 79m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Universal 3-D (dual-strip 3-D); Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
     Director: Jack Arnold; Writer: Harry Essex, Arthur A. Ross (based on a story by Maurice Zimm); Producer: William Alland; Director of Photography: William E. Snyder; Music Composer: Henry Mancini, Hans J. Salter, Herman Stein (all uncredited); Music Supervisor: Joseph Gershenson; Film Editor: Ted J. Kent; Art Director: Hilyard M. Brown, Bernard Herzbrun; Set Decorator: Russell A. Gausman, Ray Jeffers; Costumes: Rosemary Odell (wardrobe for Miss Adams); Make-up: Bud Westmore; Sound: Leslie I. Carey, Joe Lapis.
     Cast: Richard Carlson (David Reed), Julie Adams (Kay Lawrence), Richard Denning (Mark Williams), Antonio Moreno (Carl Maia), Nestor Paiva (Lucas), Whit Bissell (Dr. Thompson), Bernie Gozier (Zee), Henry A. Escalante (Chico). Uncredited: Ricou Browning (The Gill Man (in water)), Ben Chapman (The Gill Man (on land)), Art Gilmore (Narrator (voice)), Perry Lopez (Tomas), Sydney Mason (Dr. Matos), Rodd Redwing (Louis – Expedition Foreman).
     Synopsis: A strange prehistoric beast lurks in the depths of the Amazonian jungle. A group of scientists try to capture the animal and bring it back to civilization for study.
     Comment: Late contender in the classic Universal monster series has a basic plot and variable performances from its cast. These deficiencies are countered by the excellent creature design and some effective and tense underwater footage. Adams also makes for a strong heroine, with whom the creature has become fixated (echoes of “Beauty and the Beast”). The music score was compiled from work by three different uncredited composers as well as stock material, but the memorable (if oversued) creature theme was written by Stein.
     Notes: Underwater sequences were directed by James Curtis Havens and the creature was designed by Milicent Patrick. Originally produced in 3-D. Followed by REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (1955) and THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US (1956).