We open with a helicopter tracking shot of American countryside, and Leonard Nimoy delivers his best oration yet:

"They've been reported in dusk or at the dead of night. In clearings, amidst still woods and fields and lonely farm country. Sometimes they come in silence, sometimes with quiet thunder. Often, they leave marks in the earth, signals of their passing. They've been seen but fleetingly, and their extraordinary presence creates a frightening mystery."

I don't believe in flying saucers for a second and that sent a shiver down my spine. If you're a believer, that's gotta be super awesome.

Science!
Science!

In the studio, Nimoy tells us about Kenneth Arnold's famous UFO sighting in 1947, from which the term 'flying sauce' originates. As Nimoy says, the Arnold's 'saucer' analogy referred to the way the UFOs moved – like thrown saucers skipping over water – rather than to the shape of the things. The fact that many future sightings were described as saucer shaped is interesting. ...continue reading In Search Of… S01E21 UFOs

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When I was a boy, I got a couple of books about the Universal Monsters out from my local library, and they were both scathing about Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein. At the time, I sort of bought the argument. Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, the Wolf Man reduced to foils for a pair of bumbling idiots? Hah!

'Rah! Why you not understand 'Who' is name of first baseman?'
'Rah! Why you not understand 'Who' is name of first baseman?'

I mean I like an Abbot and Costello movie now and then. They're no good for binge watching, because they reuse too much of their own material, but they're fine entertainers. Perhaps they lack the genius of the great comics of the 1920s and -30s – Chaplin, Keaton, Fields, Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers – but at their best they're both very talented and at their worst they're still perfectly competent. They're rapid back-and-forth routines are legendary – so much so that Lou Costello's skill as a physical comedian is often quite underrated. Still, bottom line, they're comedians and the great monsters deserve to come off better than second best to them.

But (and yes, you can ignore everything I said before 'but') watching the Universal Monster series in order changes this superficial assessment. Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein may be a parody, but it's way better than most of the later Universal Monster films. It's the best Wolf Man movie since Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. It's the best Frankenstein's Monster movie since Son of Frankenstein, if not Bride of Frankenstein. And it's the best Dracula movie since, well, Dracula. ...continue reading Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein – 1948

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Buck Dusty was ringing up a sale in the power tool section when his trigger finger started to itch. He looked up at the time. The hour hand on the clock behind the key cutting counter pointed straight up. The minute hand was off by maybe twenty degrees. Three minutes to High Noon. He knew what was coming.

He wanted to hitch up his belt, spit on the floor and mosey out to the stand in front of the mailboxes, but the last time he'd done that he'd been given an official warning. Instead, he fought down the squirming in his gut and finished the transaction.

"Afraid we don't take AmEx, suh," he said to the man in the expensive shirt who was buying an overpriced biscuit joiner.

"No one takes AmEx!" the customer whinged, and produced another credit cart.

His duty done, Buck gestured to Christian to take the counter. Then he hitched up his belt, but refrained from spitting at the floor. ...continue reading Do It Yourself – Chapter 30: Showdown at Loading Bay Gulch

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We open on a ruined castle before the Loch, and an electronic attempt to approximate bagpipe music. Oh, yeah! Drink it in, this is the good stuff. Nimoy gives a beautiful narration over artsy close-up shots of the loch's surface. There's a particularly nice touch when we see what looks like the Monster's reflection in the water, but as the ripples clear we see that it's a swan. So good!

Loch? Discovered. Ness? Discovered. Monster? We'll get back to you,
Loch? Discovered. Ness? Discovered. Monster? We'll get back to you,

In the studio, Nimoy makes an entrance from behind a picture of a Mayan pyramid and introduces himself. I get the feeling that this was meant to be the first episode? He tells us that there were hundreds of sightings of Nessie over hundreds of years, which is a bit of a stretch. He then tells us that recently we have seen compelling evidence. Well, we'll see about that, no doubt. ...continue reading In Search Of… S01E20 The Loch Ness Monster

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House of Dracula. Seventh Universal Frankenstein movie. Forth Wolf Man.  Either third or fifth Dracula, depending on whether you count Dracula's Daughter and Son of Dracula. The poor old series is very tired now. Tired, and in dire need of a little nap.

Please count, treat my house is if it were your own. It's the only way we can justify the title.
Please count, treat my house is if it were your own. It's the only way we can justify the title.

There's a spooky house on a hilltop. Dracula (John Carridine) arrives late at night, and checks out a woman sleeping inside. But he's not there for her. He lets himself in and talks to the house's owner, Dr Edelman (Onslow Stevens) who is dozing in a chair. The two men have a rambling conversation. Dracula leads the doctor to the basement and shows off his coffin. Dracula wants to stay there and have the doctor treat him for his vampirism. The kindly doctor rattles off some rationalisations for vampirism, and agrees to help.

In the morning, he discusses his work with his hunchbacked nurse, Nina (Jane Adams). He then examines Dracula's blood and asks Nina to prepare an antitoxin. Now that's how you cure vampirism! Get your nurse to do it. ...continue reading The House of Dracula – 1945

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Ms Shen looked at the letter and found that it had stubbornly refused to change its meaning while she'd been looking away.

"Can we appeal it?" Marlon said

"Yes, easily," Ms Shen said. "I tried to raise the issue with the Minister already, but he didn't seem very willing to chat."

The plan had been simple. The Super Centre had a carpark slightly smaller than that of the neighbouring Mega Centre. This meant that when the Super Centre carpark was full, the Mega Centre got the overflow. By increasing the size of the Super Centre carpark, the situation would have reversed. ...continue reading Do It Yourself – Chapter 29: Escalation

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Life After Death

The light at the end of the tunnel?
The light at the end of the tunnel?

We open in a hospital ward, with a 'code blue' in progress. People in white uniforms running about in that wonderful sort of disciplined panic you see with trained emergency people. Leonard Nimoy's narration adds a suitable note of urgency to the proceedings. It's a good, solid opening but I have a sinking feeling about where it's going.

Sure enough, Nimoy tells us that people who have been resuscitated sometimes come back with stories 'about what it is like on the other side.' My fears come true. We're looking at near death experiences (NDEs). ...continue reading In Search Of… S01E19 Life After Death

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I was going to move on to something more interesting this week, because I'm already getting tired of the late Universal Monster Mash. Then I decided just to power through this one and House of Dracula. Ok, here goes:

HouseFrank9
It's like seeing double here! Four Frankenstein Monsters?

A circus cart drives through the rain, then we cut to Neustadt Prison. A guard opens the hatch on a door and Boris friggin' Karloff reaches out and tries to strangle him. Ok, good start. Let's see where we go from here. The guard calls Karloff (aka Dr Niemand) a 'would be Frankenstein'. Niemand basically agrees, promising to follow in Frankenstein's footsteps when he escapes.

Niemand tells his hunchbacked cellmate, Daniel (J. Carol Nash), that his father was Frankenstein's assistant and passed his secrets on to him.  Daniel sees possibilities here, and wonders if Niemand might give him a non-hunchbacked body.

The prison collapses in the storm, and they easily walk out through a tunnel. The Shawshank Redemption it ain't. Coming across the circus carts, they help the showman get the wheels out of a ditch and join him inside. The cart is the property of Dr Caligari Dr Bruno Lampini, who makes a living showing what he claims is Dracula's skeleton. Niemand observes that removing the stake from the skeleton would bring Dracula back to life. ...continue reading House of Frankenstein – 1944

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Axel looked down at the pile of glass terrarium bottles he'd just unpacked, and realised that he'd put them all on the wrong shelf. In his frustration, he kicked the base of the shelving unit, which hurt his toe far more than it did the massive steel form of the unit.

Why didn't Captain Stellar just fight him?

That was the thing. A week before, Stellar had confronted him about the incident with the death ray. He'd guessed everything. Everything!

Axel ought to have known that Stellar would figure it out eventually, once he'd sobered up and pulled himself together. But no, Axel had been caught flatfooted. His mind had raced, searching for some strategy for fighting Stellar without causing any damage to the Handy Pavilion. But before he'd even finished ironing out the issues with his third contingency plan, Stellar had waved goodbye and walked away.

Ever since then, Axel had been off his game. ...continue reading Do It Yourself – Chapter 28: Axel’s Enemy

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