Monday, October 27, 2014

Gathering of The Vultures

Caught this cool spectacle of vultures gathering on a power line in early spring.
They circled and landed all in about 5 minutes,,
Made one sound and they definitely got spooked and regathered over a few minutes...

I haven't seen them gather here since..

Horror Rises From Grave in Franklin!

Chance find on south Caruthers in Franklin. I really need to get out and bookmark these spots where horror-love trumps traditional Franklin religious freakout.
Nighttime shot needed a tripod, which I didn't have with me.. Hopefully I get a chance to re-visit.
Looking to cruise downtown Franklin this year on the the 30th in hopes they will be set up..
I'll report with pics!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ned's Dead, Baby

During preparations for the big yard haunt I set up a new "temp" named Ned (naming courtesy of the wife). He's collecting tips against a spooky blue hue...
I've caught a few neighbors driving by pretty slowly.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Davis Graveyard 2014 - Drone-shot

Mind boggling. These guys are the professionals.
Click the image for a drone-shot video of their 2014 haunt!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Many Faces of Bray Studios

I'm fascinated by trying to place bits and pieces from the various Hammer Horror films shot at Bray.
It is easiest to ID the town square with the large pass-thru used in various films (most noticeably Brides of Dracula, Curse of The Werewolf etc.). Other times, though familiar it is hard to place the shot. I would love to visit Bray and Black Park one day - though I suspect the bulldozers will arrive before I will.
This page is a good as any I've found at comparing the evolution of the Hammer Bray sets.

Bray back lot from Brides of Dracula

..and from Curse of The Werewolf. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Horror Hoot Prizes 2014 by Evil Pumpkins

As we do every year at Evil Pumpkins, we have a custom set of best-costume prizes for top winners.
This year is the first to feature the new character "Uncle Cruddy". Hand-made sculpt, resin-cast and airbrushed.. Good luck to the contestants!

First "Funkin" of 2014

We typically add a few new Funkins (commercially available foam carving pumpkins) to the Halloween haunt arsenal every October. This fellow is the first of (hopefully) many!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

#1 The Curse of Frankenstein

That's right Monster Kids - number one on my top-ten favorite Frankenstein films is The Curse of Frankenstein! Hammer Studios' first foray into gothic horror is a full-blown Technicolor masterpiece.
(Though I just learned today that this film was pitched to Hammer by the man that would go on to head Amicus Films - the 'other' great British house of horror).

There will never be a greater Dr. Frankenstein than Peter Cushing (nor a better Van Helsing for that matter). If Cushing was of the correct age he could have easily been the guy in the early Universal Franken-films. A perfectly convincing classic horror actor - who just as easily wears the shoes of a hero or a villain. And in The Curse of Frankenstein make no mistake, Cushing is the villain..

The movie is one of only two Hammer retellings of the Shelley' Frankenstein tale. All the other Hammer-Franks are penned outright by filmmakers. The film starts with the young doctor taking on an in-house science tutor name Paul Krempe. Flash forward to Dr. Frankenstein as a young adult and Krempe as his contemporary, who later essentially becomes a reluctant assistant. They successfully 'torture' a dead puppy back to life (in the name of film science I suppose) and create some crazy electro-paddlefans and that is enough for the good doc to go off the deep end and cave in fully to his ego.

Though at no time does the doc seem to have a second to spare he apparently maintains proper with his bride-to-be cousin Elizabeth (horror actress Hazel Court) and random booty-calls with slightly-too inquisitive house-maid Justine (Valerie Gaunt - Horror of Dracula).

Between debauching the 'servantry' and ignoring every bit of life advice from Krempe, the doc hasn't just been raiding the gallows and crypts - but outright murdering people to piece together a truly horrifying Monster (Christopher Lee). The monster is utterly hideous and entirely malevolent. Few Frankenstein films were made by anyone outside of Universal to that point so the appearance of the monster is pretty much established as the block-headed Karloff/Strange creature.
I would have LOVED to been in the cinema when that 1957 audience gets their first, horrifically zoomed, full-color look at the Chris Lee monster, who in all intents and purposes looks more human and terrifying than the Universal creatures. The monster literally looks like a re-assembled, very pruned corpse. Horrifying!

Not a chap you would want to run into in the woods, especially with your old, blind granddad!

An all-time very favorite horror-film visual is when Justine has snuck into the forbidden laboratory and surveys the trouble she might get into. Unbeknownst to her, the monster is just behind her - but we only see the extremely frightening shadow of his arm moving from the darkness towards her..

The movie to an extent becomes a tense, high-stakes "get out of the room" thriller with some characters just making it - and others not. The music is as forceful and unrelenting as the monster and for the first of many times the legendary, always recognizable (but never the same twice) Down Place at Bray Studios would be cast as the Frankenstein Castle..

The Curse of Frankenstein was considered so gory and frightening in 1957 that it was derided by writers of the day as an affront to good-hearted god-fearing audiences. Funny how today it is almost unanimously hailed as the best Hammer film made.

Well there you have it folks - the top ten is complete. The Curse of Frankenstein trumps em all!
If you see the list differently don't hesitate to share yours! Until the next top ten, "Rarrrrrrrrrrr!"

Friday, October 3, 2014

#2 The Son of Frankenstein

"One doesn't easily forget, Herr Baron, an arm torn out by the roots." -Krogh

That's right kids, my top Universal Frankenstein film is the one where the screenwriters essentially said "Mary Shelley be damned - we're writing our own stories now". And that would mostly be the way they addressed classic horror from that point on. Why choose "Son" and not the very popular "Bride"  or the first film - most popular among the purists? I'd say that's an easy one - Son of Frankenstein is the darkest, most frightening and most well rounded horror film of the three. It is a true classic thriller. Rather, when fall rolls around it's the one I look forward to seeing the most.

Years after the initial horror in the tiny Frankenstein hamlet, the good doc's son, Wolf (Basil Rathbone) and family roll into town on a particularly dark and stormy night, expecting to be greeted with a kegger of SpatenBrau, pretzels and happy, dancing Bavarians. Instead he encounters that same old howling, angry mob this town is already well known for. The chief of police Inspector Krogh immediately infers that nothing good can ever come from a Frankenstein homecoming. We know all too well the inspector is never wrong.

It's hard to say just what the hell is going on with Basil Rathbone during this film. It's been suggested he didn't take the horror genre as a serious acting gig (explains why he did so many other horror films afterwards - not), but I wonder if he didn't simply see it as being the way to best portray this character as very high strung and possibly addicted to caffeine - as he was definitely losing his way and feeling the pinch between his new found aspirations to make monsters, the one armed, dart-tossing Krogh and of course dear Ygor, the murderous crook-neck with revenge plots aplenty bubbling inside his shaggy noggin.

"They hanged me once Frankenstein. They broke my neck. They said I was dead. Then they cut me down. They threw me in here, long ago. They wouldn't bury me in holy place like churchyard. Because I stole bodies, eh they said. So, Ygor is dead!" -Ygor

Karloff is billed as the monster but is Ygor, played to glorious horror perfection by Bela Lugosi here that is actually the most monstrous character in this film. Wolf's first moment encountering Ygor is highlighted by nearly being splatted like a giant Bavarian mosquito at the murderous hand of Ygor via a tremendous, foam-filled boulder. Nothing Ygor says or does at any point in this film infers that he would be a good pal to keep around for a laugh. Good for us!

 Karloff's final go-round as the monster features a particularly ghoulish "dead" appearance to his makeup and of course that fan-favorite woolly vest. A classic look. Thank goodness he has also apparently again lost the ability to speak since the last film. The monster no longer seems to long for female companionship. He only seems interested in doing the murderous bidding of his old pal Ygor.
The "giant" appears to have pretty insightful knowledge of the wondrous Frankenstein castle, trekking through secret rock-laden halls and into rooms via hidden doorways.

The home itself is a character in the film and I'd be remiss not to mention it. I particularly love the scene in Wolf's library during the storm that features very Haunted Mansion-ish lightning through the windows..

Old TV Guide Creature Feature ads always seemed to infer graphically that Wolf's young son Peter, played by Donny "Voice of Bambi" Dunagan was the "Son" of Frankenstein. Peter for the most part is the true 'WTF?' character in this movie - but having personally quoted most of his utterly comical dialogue probably thousands of times over the years I couldn't imagine this film without him. Dunagan is still living today and I would love the chance to meet him at one of the horror cons some day. It would be difficult not to holler out "Welllllllllllll hellllllllllllllllooooooooooooo!"

Finally, I wanted to mention the scene where Elsa, Wolf's wife arrives in the extremely shadowy and black Frankenstein Castle - after riding through hundreds of miles of the creepiest, decrepit terrain ever shown on film - in a horrific late-night storm. She politely asks the house maid about the castle - "Are the bedrooms cheery??".
If the maid would only answer: "look around lady, what the fuck do you think?"....

Thursday, October 2, 2014

#3 The Bride of Frankenstein

Five minutes into The Bride of Frankenstein we realize that this is not merely a 'part two' of Frankenstein but a pretty concerted effort by the filmmakers to utilize whatever improvement in grand skills they had learned in the few short years since the first film and to up the ante with loads of on-screen personality and stylish, gothic photography.
We first meet Minnie (Una O'connor) who (outside of the slightest bit of fun with the old Baron in film one) is the possibly the first legitimate comedic Franken-foil of the series (makers of Young Frankenstein probably had a field day studying her). She's a legitimate old bat with a cockney swagger but still proves no match for the late-night visiting, smug-face-making, no-time-for-women, alchemist Dr. Pretorius - who carries both the comedy and the villainy loads from the moment of his introduction through the rest of the film. Pretorius forces the all-of-a-sudden sensible Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive - filming the movie with broken leg - just prior to his death) back to his stitch-sewing bad habits. Somewhere in this part of the film we find out Lady Frankenstein has possibly had too much Laudanum and is seeing spooks and phantoms in the bedroom fireplace.

Then there' the Dr. Pretorius' 'little people' scene… This bit  is simply baffling, absurd - and is maybe an example of the influence of style on this film exceeding story telling. It's a real head scratcher. Fortunately the alchemy angle from that point on loses favor to Pretorius' outright villainy anyway. The scene would probably have been a better, well-storied, rare outtake for DVDs than eating up screen time. Because they knew about DVDs in the 30's. 

Karloff's monster packs up the baloney sandwiches and goes on the road in this film - making a quick stop in the blind man's cottage, where he learns all about friends, wine, cigars and good, hot food. He also makes it clear that fire pretty much sucks as far as he's concerned. Later he takes his new found indulgences to the crypts where he of course parties down with Pretorius, who is more than happy to share Gene Simmon's favorite drink (Cold Gin - which Pretorius' only weakness apparently). At some point they establish that the monster needs a sexy Franken-mate and that she should look exactly like Mary Shelley for some reason. We also discover that Dr. Pretorius has also invented the telephone. Oh, and the monster can talk now - but he never uses the phone - go figure.. "Hey doc, it's the Monster. I just wanted to give you a quick buzz and say hate living, love dead…"

If much of this sounds like I'm more interesting in goofing on the film than praising it's achievements it's because that is exactly the film this is - an exquisite goof. Visually it is a gothic masterpiece - and the musical score equals the visuals. The characters are cartoonish and the film appears to be edited to a strange pace (mostly at the end). And all of this is why I wouldn't change a thing (well maybe the little-people) - because like the monster and Pretorius, we don't belong to a movie critic's club - we belong dead