I love Halloween and ghost stories and anything to do with the fine art of booga-booga.
I owe this love to my grandparents who ALWAYS taught me the value of a good old-fashioned scare. I remember my Grandmother waking me up at midnight so that I could watch the monthly CBC Friday night Fright Night – which consisted of four back-to-back old-school horror movies. I would go to bed early that night and just before midnight she would wake me up and I would plug my grandfather’s television earplug into my ear so as not to keep anyone else awake and I would spend the whole evening watching Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. and Christopher Lee making with the cinematic booga-booga.
I am talking movies like FRANKENSTEIN. (1931)
This is the original, you understand – the film that shot Canadian immigrant William Henry Pratt, better known as Boris Karloff – to Hollywood fame as the actor who would scare the entire world.
I can still picture the beginning of that movie when actor Edward Van Sloan (the dude who played Van Helsing in Bela Lugosi’s great 1931 flick DRACULA) breaks the television screen by stepping out from behind a theater curtain and warning the viewers that “It’s about to get scary around here.”
Then, following the credits, we are treated to that opening scene of a funeral. I love the look of that graveyard with it’s drastically tilted tombstones and crosses and that gigantic statue of Death himself. I love how it echoes the sharp oblique lines of German Expressionism. I love the feel of good old-fashioned black and white terror.
Don’t get me wrong.
I am no caveman Luddite – although I do not own nor will ever own a cell phone.
But all the same there is something moving and ethereal about a black and white horror movie. It is almost like the filmmakers had somehow figured out how to paint in shades of nightmare and delirium.
I watch this movie at least once a year.
I am talking movies like The Mummy’s Curse. (1944)
This was the fifth installment of the Universal Horror series and it is one of my favorites. I have ALWAYS loved the way that Universal figured out how to string one movie after another with Frankenstein and the Mummy and the Creature From The Black Lagoon – although they never quite managed the trick with Dracula or The Wolfman. Hammer Films would later follow this tradition and I likewise enjoyed watching all of the Christopher Lee Dracula movies – looking forward each time to seeing how they brought the Count back to life and how they managed to kill him again and I could happily a dozen Frankenstein or Dracula movies strung back to back.
Lon Chaney Jr. never much cared for his appearances as The Mummy. He felt the make-up too restrictive and uncomfortable and he far preferred his appearances as Larry Talbot, the Wolf Man.
Which brings us to our next movie.
I am talking about movies like FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN (1943)
This was Lon Chaney’s FIRST follow-up to his classic THE WOLFMAN (1941) and Universal’s FIFTH follow-up to FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and as far as I recollect this was the first BIG monster mash-up where the filmmakers would bring two successful movie monster franchises together – kind of like watching Hulk Hogan square off with Andre The Giant.
Toho did the same thing with Godzilla meeting King Kong, Mothra, Ghidrah, Megalon, Mechagodzilla and a whole alphabet soup’s worth of oddly-named kaiju. FREDDY VS. JASON (did the same thing for the same reasons. It is just a natural sort of evolution for movie monsters. Sooner or later, the viewer begins to wonder – gee, I wonder what would happen if an Alien met a Predator?
The actor portraying Frankenstein was Bela Lugosi. There is a certain undeniable irony in the fact that Lugosi had originally tried out for the first Frankenstein movie and had been turned down flat because he showed up dressed in something that looked a little bit like the 1915 silent movie, THE GOLEM. Now here he is hidden beneath all of the Frankenstein make-up. Lugosi was never as successful a monster as Karloff was – but it is interesting to note that he is the actor responsible for that iconic stiff-legged walk that everybody gives Frankenstein’s monster nowadays. When Lugosi first portrayed the Frankenstein Monster he was told that he had been blinded in the last movie. So Lugosi naturally adopted that stiff, arms-straight-out walk that stuck like Krazy Glue to the character from there on out.
Sadly, I am also talking about movies such as FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER (1965).
I remember how totally bummed out I was when I first watched this movie and realized that Frankenstein wasn’t in this one little bit – and yet schlocky Ed Wood Z-Grade monster films like this are a strong part of the monster movie tradition. Movies like this one are like the Halloween hobo costume that you throw together with your Dad’s old fedora, a suit jacket bought for three dollars at a local used clothing store and a bindlestiff made out of a stick from the garden and your mother’s favorite handkerchief.
Now – what I want to ask is does ANYONE else remember the CBC putting on a monthly Fright Night? I have exhausted my feeble powers of Google-Fu and cannot find a single reference to this event that played such a huge role in my childhood and helped to foster my love for horror movies.
This blog entry was written as part of the OCTOBER FRIGHTS BLOG HOP, an event for readers and authors and Halloween-groupies and fans of the fine art of booga-booga madness. We have brought over FORTY-freaking-FIVE fine authors of horror and paranormal together to share their Halloween booga-booga thoughts with all of you fine folks.
And lastly, let me tell you about the special gift that I have arranged for all of your reader-types out there – especially you folks who dig crazy horror.
From today until October 3, 2015 my collection OCTOBER TALES will be available FREE for all of you Kindle readers.
Yours in storytelling,