Life after death -- 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.

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

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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We open on an open window at night-time, curtains moving with the breeze, an owl hooting, and Leonard Nimoy talking about ghosts. Yeah! Drink it in! This is what I watch this show for! 'Aliens built the pyramids'? That ok. But Leonard Nimoy telling ghost stories? That's just awesome.

I hope you enjoy this image, because it's a solid third of the episode.
I hope you enjoy this image, because it's a solid third of the episode.

But it doesn't last long. After the campfire story opening, we're back to the studio where Nimoy is explaining that there are scientific rules to ghostly behaviour. I'd say 'ho hum', but when the scientific theory being pitched is that 'a ghost might be thought of as the spirit of someone who died in emotional turmoil' then… well, all I can say is, that's some science right there. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S01E18 Ghosts"

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This is a dull movie and kind of pointless, and yet its historical importance is undeniable. The central idea -- taking two successful characters from different franchises and throwing them together -- didn't begin here. But by the same token I think this is where the idea started to appeal to the owners of properties, rather than just to creators. At the same time, similar ideas were being explored in the nascent comic book publishing business, and these days the idea of 'take two characters that you love and make them fight' is a dominant one at the box office.

I'm going to illustrate my point with this picture, because all of the fight scenes are rubbish.
I'm going to illustrate my point with this picture, because all of the fight scenes are rubbish.

In purely Frankensteinian terms, this film represents a big change for the Monster. Teaming him up here with the Wolf Man is just the start. Later, Dracula would be added, and the next thing you know the trio become inseparable in the public mind. There are a lot of iterations of this trio, whether as heroes, villains or comic foils. A lot. And it all starts here. ...continue reading "Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman – 1943"

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Easter Island Massacre

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Waves crash on a rocky shore, and Nimoy is telling us about a mysterious massacre. And we're looking at the moai of Rapa Nui, aka the stone heads of Easter Island. And they look pretty damn cool. They look like a bunch of ancient people thought to themselves 'what's the most awesome sort of thing we can make?' and got the answer perfectly right. With their sheer massive size and their features, somehow both impassive and expressive, the moai are made out of awesome. And compressed volcanic ash, but mostly awesome. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S01E17 Easter Island Massacre"

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Fridays were the worst days, Laura decided. No, wait. Saturdays were the worst. Not counting Thursdays, obviously. She sighed, and looked at her watch. Only three hours to go. Then she could take off, change into her Voyager costume and go fight some crime.

She grimaced at the thought. She'd never really wanted to be a superhero, but the job had grown on her. Yeah, a lot of it was kind of stupid. That whole alien gorilla thing she'd dealt with the week before… seriously, what had that been about? But sometimes--not always, but sometimes--the people she had to put in prison were very bad people indeed. It made the whole thing seem a little less pointless. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 27: Terror from Tomorrow"

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'So this is where Dracula was buried?' 'Yup.' 'The actual, literal, tomb of Dracula?' 'Yup.' 'So the vampire brides...' 'Give it up, dude.'
'So this is where Dracula was buried?'
'Yup.'
'The actual, literal, tomb of Dracula?'
'Yup.'
'So the vampire brides...'
'Give it up, dude.'

Near Innsbruck, Nimoy tells us, there is a monument to perversity. And we're off to a flying start! A monument to perversity! I wonder what's written on the brass plaque on front? Something saucy, perhaps? But no, we're talking about Castle Ambras in Austria, which contains a collection of portraits of people who were wounded or deformed, and also a portrait of… Vlad Dracula.

...continue reading "In Search Of… S01E16 Dracula"

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Obviously not a Frankenstein movie as such, the Cabinet of Dr Caligari is a classic silent film that has cast a long shadow across the horror genre, and particularly across the Frankenstein subgenre.

Man, why did skinny jeans go out of style? They look awesome.
Man, why did skinny jeans go out of style? Those look awesome.

I saw Caligari as a pretentious teenager and pretended to like it. I tried to watch it again a couple of years ago, as a pretentious adult, but couldn't get more than ten minutes in. Most recently, I watched it while half asleep on a very long train ride. That's how to do it. The film has a deliberately dreamlike quality to it, and watching it while wide awake takes something away from it. If you're half asleep and slightly depressed, this is the film for you. ...continue reading "Frankenstein and Caligari"

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The trouble with being dead, Bruce thought, was that is was really bloody boring.

The problem of boredom didn't seem to bother the other ghosts. Not that there were many ghosts around. He was the only one in the Handy Pavilion, and there were just a few others in the Super Centre. Yet these others all seemed to have a purpose.

Take young Vinnie. Sixteen year old petrol-head. Died when a tire had blown out while he was doing burnouts in the carpark late one night, sending his stolen Mazda crashing into an open stormwater drain. His spectral vehicle could still be seen from time to time, doing doughnuts in the moonlight. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 26: Ghost in the Machine"

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