Monday, October 29, 2007

Movie Monster Runoff

A little fun for All Hallow's Eve...

Boris Karloff as Adreth Bay/Imhotep

No "Aliens", no "Predators", no Godzillas, no Jasons, Freddy Kruegers, or Lestats... This is a traditional contest. Who was the best "classic" movie monster?

Take your pick, until Universal pulls the clips off of Youtube.

First Category: Best Univeral Studios Movie Monster of the 1930s and 1940s

The nominees:

1) Boris Karloff as Frankenstein (1931)

"It's alive!" A big, misunderstood, not so gentle giant... Karloff actually has you feeling a little sorry for him when the villagers trap him in the windmill.

2) Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolfman (1941)

Picking up from where his dad, Lon Chaney Sr, left off. I like the dark, foggy, Gypsy chic. Here, he succumbs to a beat-down from Claude Rains with a silver-tipped cane. Who knew Claude was such a hard guy?

3) Bela Lugosi as Dracula (1931)

Lugosi makes Transylvania a household word, displaying old world charm, and apparently, what passed for sex appeal at the time. Can you figure? Poor Bela started to get the idea after a while, that he really was Dracula.

4) Boris Karloff again, as The Mummy (1932) Editor's Choice

Karloff as the Egyptian priest and mummy, "Imhotep". His lean, sinewy physique worked very well here again, like it did in Frankenstein. He was a kind of physical genius. I think this movie was pretty cool. I love the use of the Egyptian hieroglyphics, legends, and symbols in a Victorian/Edwardian, slightly inaccurate, dusty, Harvard-Peabody Museum kind of way.

Second Category: Repressed and Frustrated Movie Monsters of the 1950s

I don't think the Sexual Revolution started in the 1960s. Looks to me like the lid was already coming off the pressure-cooker well before then.

1) Michael Landon in I was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)

Michael, before his Little House On The Prairie days, making mischief in the school gymnasium. Who was that mad-scientist guy in all those 50s films? Whit Bissell... He was in everything...

2) Ben Chapman in The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) Editor's Choice

The "Gill-Man" was my favorite movie monster when I was a kid. Pretty fancy swimming there by Ben Chapman, in a full body rubber suit, you must admit (there's your opening for pithy remarks, drive a truck through it if you wish...). I think Julia Adams was quite fetching. Wonder whatever happened to her?


crystal said...

The Creature from the Black Lagoon was great! 3D science fiction in the Amazon - who could ask for more? Full body rubber suit .... the creature wasn't Catholic, I guess :-)

Jeff said...

Ah, those Brazilian Catholics, it's tough keeping them in line.

I do think his intentions were honorable. I think he wanted to marry her. I wasn't around in 1954. I wonder how the Catholic League of Decency rated this film...

Hey, I think it's a doctoral thesis waiting to be written. Fears of the Atomic Age, Preservation of the Amazon Basin, and Catholic Sexual and Scientific Ethics as Portrayed in 'The Creature From The Black Lagoon. Sillier ones have been proposed.

cowboyangel said...

Where's Kong?! You've got all the classic monsters except for him. Do you see him as being different? He really loved her, you know. [Tom Waits has an amazing blues song about Kong on his most recent album. "And they shot him down. They thought he was a monster. But he was the King.")

Of the first set, I think I'd have to go with Frankenstein, as much as I like The Mummy and The Wolf Man.

And the Creature from the Black Lagoon definitely rocks.

Yes, I remember watching Julia Adams in the scene you include. Feeling things as a boy that I probably should have offered in confession. Man, those racy 1950s movies.

According to IMDB, she's actually had an amazingly extensive career, primarily in TV. She recently appeared in Lost and in Cold Case. I had no idea.

And I don't think your dissertation proposal sounds silly at all. I'd read it!

cowboyangel said...

Wow. The set design in The Wolf Man reminded me of the old Sherlock Holmes' films with Basil Rathbone, so I went to IMDB to investigate. The set decorator was a man named R.A. Gausman, and I was sort of correct, in that he did many of the Rathbone-Holmes films, but not Hound of the Baskervilles, which is the one I was really thinking of. But I was stunned when I saw that Gausman worked on an unheard of 695 films!!!! Check out the list of his films. 695!!! Incredible.

Jeff said...

Hi William,

It's nice to see that you survived the wedding weekend with the Moore clan. How's your head? :-)

You know, I did consider putting up Kong. I loved that movie, but I'm wasn't so sure if an oversized gorilla really fit the "monster" category I was looking for. Great film. The latest remake is actually pretty good, if you can get past the fact that it has Jack Black in it.

I remember watching Julia Adams in the scene you include. Feeling things as a boy that I probably should have offered in confession. Man, those racy 1950s movies.

I still carry that with me. I felt the same way then, and I feel like I should go to confession for posting it now. Old Monsignor Louis Cunney would have insisted upon it. As Boston radio talk show host Howie Carr puts it, "nobody gets held accountable in a serious way for the abuse scandal, everything gets swept under the rug, and nobody wants to admit that they were at fault, but if you went to see 'From Russia, with Love' when you were 14, well, the same guys would have told you - that, that, was your fault.

I have to cut the young traditionalists some slack here, though. I know where they are coming from. Any depraved thing can be found out there at the mere tips of their fingertips. We were sheltered from a lot of temptations when we were growing up. The whole society was more protective.

she's actually had an amazingly extensive career, primarily in TV

I noticed that! She even has her own fan website. Good for her. It looks like she's had a long and distinguished career. It's nice to see that someone was able to survive the whole Hollywood scene of the 50s, 60s and 70s without getting completely messed up.

Jeff said...


That's an amazing body of work by Gausman. Not only is it an astonishingly long list, but it has a lot of big name films in it too.

I love the potential of black-and-white film in the hands of directors and cinemtographers who really know what they ar doing. With the proper lighting, it seems like there's more that you can do with it than with color film. Take Karl Freund, for example, the cinematographer for 'Dracula' and 'The Mummy'. Look at that opening shot of Karloff when his eyes suddenly get lit up. What a great sequence.