I usually start these essays by summarising the plot, but as Frankenstein Chronicles is a meandering six episode series, it's probably not a great idea to go into it in too much depth. Even so, there may be spoilers. Basically, Sean Bean is Inspector Merritt of the Thames Water Police in 1827. While investigating a crime, he discovers a body – or rather parts of several bodies that have been stitched together into a single body. He is ordered to investigate by Sir Robert Peel (Tom Ward) himself, who feels that the murder is an attempt to derail the Anatomy Act of 1830. His investigation leads him to learn about the story of Frankenstein. But is the patchwork body just a mad killer's whim or an actual attempt to raise the dead?
It's a very atmospheric piece. Sean Bean is excellent as the stolid Marlott, a dogged, guilt-ridden and slowly dying man. The rest of the cast is almost as impressive and the filming is absolutely gorgeous. After all, British TV seldom fails to do right by nineteenth century period pieces. On the downside, the pace is not just slow, it's glacial. More frustratingly, the show brings up a laundry list of interesting ideas, it doesn't do anything satisfying with them. ...continue reading "The Frankenstein Chronicles Season 1 (2015)"
Cold open on Bigfoot. You heard me. Clear, unambiguous footage of three sasquatches walking along, while Nimoy gives us time, date and place. He then says that they're just guys in suits, but still – bold opening. Nimoy assures us that these figures are exact duplicates of real sasquatches, but the wasp waist on what I assume is the female sasquatch seems a little out of place.
This episode is looking at the people who spend their time out in the woods, looking for Sasquatch. That's pretty familiar ground for supernaturally themed shows nowadays, but I think it was a fairly fresh topic when this was first broadcast.
Now we're at… Loch Ness. Is this the third or forth time We've heard the In Search Of Sonata for Electronic Pseudo-Bagpipes? I've lost count. Anyway, Nimoy talks about the Loch Ness Monster. Again. Same footage as last times. Oh god, the music's even worse this time. The narration then blatantly misrepresents the Loch Ness Monster episode and claims that In Search Of took the 'most authenticated' photo of Nessie ever. Cut to Surgeon's Photo.
Victor Frankenstein (Samuel West) makes his Monster (Shuler Hensley), just as the angry torch-wielding mob arrives. We learn that Frankenstein's experiments have been funded by Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh), who wants the Monster for an undisclosed purpose. Dracula kills Frankenstein, but the Monster escapes, only to seemingly die in a burning windmill.
Meanwhile, Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) – a warrior for a interdenominational holy anti-monster order – is sent to defeat Dracula. He travels with Carl (David Wenham), basically a monkish version of Q. In Transylvania, van Helsing meets Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsdale) a warrior woman whose brother recently died fighting the Wolf Man. ...continue reading "Van Helsing — 2004"
Last time we had a sort of general look at Metropolis, as it relates to early Frankenstein cinema. It's a big subject, and honestly I'm not going to cover all of it even with a supplementary essay, but I did want a closer look at two things. Firstly, religious symbolism and secondly the role of women in Fritz Lang's Metropolis and James Whale's Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein.
The novel Frankenstein is fascinating in that it is full of conscious religious imagery, but contains little sign of God's actual presence. The Monster is compared frequently to both Adam and Satan. Both are creations that rebel against their creator, with the difference being that neither of them is a match for God. The Monster is a match for Frankenstein. This is why the various attempts to make Frankenstein into a Christian parable tend to be perfunctory. A story in which a being, angry at its creator is able to stand eye to eye with that creator is simply unprecedented in the Bible. Imagine if Job could just get tired of arguing with God and kick him in the shins. Completely different story.
This, ultimately, is the point of not only Frankenstein, but a huge chunk of the whole science fiction genre: how do we deal with the themes and ideas invoked by religion without invoking God? ...continue reading "Metropolis – 1927 (Part 2)"
I usually like to give a fairly thorough synopsis of movies I review, but let's face it: this one is just too damned long. So short version: Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel) is the leader and architect of a seemingly utopian art deco city. His son, Freder (Gustav Froehlich), is a feckless gadabout who does nothing but hang out in the pleasure gardens. When a woman named Maria (Brigette Helm) brings a group of grimy children into the garden, Freder learns for the first time that poverty exists.
He goes in pursuit of Maria, and finds himself in the underground factories that drive the Metropolis. There he views an industrial accident, and has a vision of the vast machines as a temple to the demon Moloch, and the workers as sacrifices. Horrified, he confronts his father, who turns out to be perfectly aware of the appalling work conditions and content to keep things that way. He's more worried about mysterious plans turning up in his workers' clothes. ...continue reading "Metropolis – 1927"
Back in the 1960s that blandest of bland American cultural icons, Archie was brought to TV as an animation. From that show came a more fantasy-centered spinoff, based on Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and spun off from that came a weird show called the Groovie Goolies. It has two things in common with Archie spinoffs: it's A) not very funny but B) waaaaaay funnier than Archie.
The Groovy Goolies are basically cute cartoon versions of a bunch of different monsters – ghosts, mummies, witches, gouls and what have you. They live in a castle called Horrible Hall, and play in a bubblegum rock band headed by Dracula, the Wolf Man and Frankenstein's Monster. However, these horror elements are all purely decorative. The characters and situations are all perfectly kid friendly, no scares to be seen – in fact, the monstrous main characters were frequently depicted as terrified by perfectly mundane situations. ...continue reading "The Groovie Goolies – 1970-71"
In medieval Prague, the learned Rabbi Löw (Albert Steinrück) predicts that the Jewish Ghetto will be threatened by the Emperor, who wants to drive out or kill the Jews. Sure enough, the Emperor (Otto Gebühr) gives just such a decree to his douchiest knight, Florian (Lothar Müthel). Florian takes the message to the Ghetto, falling in (requited) love with the Rabbi's daughter, Miriam (Lyda Salmonova).
Rabbi Löw builds a man out of clay. With the help of his assistant Famulus (Ernst Deutsch), he summons the dark spirit Astaroth, and force it to give them the magic word to animate the clay man. This word is placed in an amulet which is put around the neck of the clay man and it comes to life as the Golem (Paul Wegener). The Golem is clearly not happy at being ordered around and knocks Famulus over, but Löw discovers that he can deactivate the monster by removing its amulet. ...continue reading "The Golem: How He Came into the World (1920)"
I'll just race through the synopsis of Frankenstein: Day of the Beast. quickly. This is because, while there's lots of running and screaming in this movie, not a lot actually happens. What does happen is pretty icky. Just thought I should warn you. On the other hand, it does give a nice jumping-on point to talk about the character of Elizabeth Lavenza.
Frankenstein is tracking the Monster through the snow with some soldiers. He is seen by the daughter of the old blind man. We have a little look into their family dramas, then the Monster kills them all, the daughter last of all. We see the dying daughter being stitched back together in a darkened room. ...continue reading "Frankenstein: Day of the Beast – 2011"
After Eddie Munster (Mason Cook) turns into a werewolf and attacks his friends in his boy scout troupe, the Munsters have to move house. They settle on 1313 Mockingbird Lane, a house at the centre of a terrible string of murders. Herman Munster (Jerry O'Connell) has a heart attack, but revived by Grandpa Munster (Eddie Izzard), who warns him that he will soon need a replacement.
Grandpa wants Eddie to know that he's changing into a werewolf, while Lily (Portia de Rossi) and Herman want to break it to him gently. Marylyn helps Grandpa to show Eddie something of the monsterous world. Grandpa enslaves one of the neighbours with blood-laced cookies. ...continue reading "Mockingbird Lane 2012"
.A while back, I had a look at the Munsters in general. This time, I'm going to look at the Munster's only cinematic release, Munsters Go Home.
The Munsters learn that Herman (Fred Gwynne) has inherited a valuable estate and a noble title from his adopted family in England. Lily (Yvonne de Carlo) later explains that Herman was adopted by the Munster family after leaving Dr Frankenstein's lab. They take passage on a steamer to England. Herman gets seasick the instant they leave port, Marilyn has a shipboard romance with a rich guy with an indeterminate accent (Robert Pine) and Grandpa accidentally turns himself into a wolf. ...continue reading "Munsters Go Home – 1966"