Fiona sat in the Handy Pavilion break room, using her powers to make whirlpools in her orange juice. Whirlpools were easy and she soon tired of them. Water spouts were a little more fun, but only a little. She sighed deeply let the juice fall back into the cup. She concentrated for a minute, and then the tiny orange figure of a man rose out of the cup, a sculpture in orange.
She concentrated a little longer, and the details of the figure became more focused, more precise. From a rough outline of a human form it transformed into the figure of a man. Wellsey, with his bald head and apron. Fiona made the figure as perfect as she could, willing the molecules of water into polymer chains, willing the chains into solid forms. The shape of Wellsey gave way to a figure of Norman. Then Ms Shan, Norman, Zorbar, Nalda, Donna, dear old Adam, Sadie and Angela.
The last one broke her concentration. She hadn't meant her figure to be either of the MacGregor twins specifically, but somehow she found her little water sculpture breaking into two. Annoyed, she stopped and let the juice resume to the shape of the cup.
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.
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"
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!
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"
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 Mailboxes and Doormats, 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 he was processing.
"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.
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!
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"
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.
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"
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"
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.
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:
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"