Friday, August 5, 2011

Worth Mentioning - With the Lights Out

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

This week, Cody discusses Frankenstein 1970 and Jay checks out a Nirvana documentary.

FRANKENSTEIN 1970 (1958)

I, Frankenstein, began my work in the year 1740 A.D. with all good intentions and humane thoughts to the high purpose of probing the secrets of life itself - with but one end - the betterment of mankind.

The story of Frankenstein is true, it actually occured in 1740. To mark the 230th anniversary of this famous event, a small film crew has come to Germany to make their own monster movie in and around the Frankenstein castle.

Boris Karloff stars as Baron Victor von Frankenstein, great-great-grandson of the creator of the Monster. Victor is the last of the Frankenstein bloodline and he feels that he's on his way out, in fact he fears that even "a month could see the end". The man has had a rough life, having been captured and tortured by the Nazis during World War II. He's left with a limp and a droopy, scarred face, but his surgeon hands were spared so he could perform the unholy operations that the Nazis forced him to do.

Victor is allowing the film crew to use the castle as a location because he's running out of money, having already sold off the family acquisitions and art collection. The production team is paying him with what he desperately wants: his own personal atomic reactor, supposedly to run electric power for the castle.

What he really wants the reactor for is to bring to life the monster that he's making in his secret lab hidden below the vaults of his ancestors in the cellar of the castle. Which did lead me to wonder - how did he get his atomic reactor into his lab without anyone knowing? Where did they think he put it?

Victor has a deal with the director of the local morgue, which is how he was able to craft the body of his monster. But now he needs fresh vital organs. Most of these organs are provided by his unlucky servant Shooter, but a problem arises when he fumbles the jar with Shooter's eyes in it and drops them on the floor. Compatible eyes must be found, leading to more murders within the castle.

While all this is going on, most of the males in the castle also take an interest in the film production's lead actress Carolyn Hayes. Victor himself seems to be infatuated with her, and has unknown plans for the girl...

The monster in the film-within-a-film is kind of reminiscent of the Wolf Man in body language and with its long-nailed fingers. The monster that Victor creates is more like a bucketheaded Mummy, as it walks around still wearing its bandages. The monster is played by 6'5" or 6'8" former wrestler Mike Lane, who went on to play a Frankenstein's monster again in the short-lived mid-'70s kids show Monster Squad (no relation to the '80s movie).

1970 wasn't the first year chosen to set this film in, they considered some others during development, trying to find the year that sounded properly futuristic. 1960? Not futuristic enough. 1975? Too futuristic! 1970? Just right.

Karloff is fantastic in this film. His character is a man who intends to finish his experiment at any cost, yet is clearly remorseful that people have to die for it happen. One standout scene for his performance comes when the film director gets the idea to have the Baron provide a Cryptkeeper-like introduction to his movie, speaking to the audience from the vaults of his ancestors. Karloff rocks his creepy monologue, full of improv lines from the character, blowing away both the director and myself as a viewer.

It was an 8 day shoot and Karloff worked all 8 days, carrying the movie on his shoulders. This was his return to the world of Frankenstein over a decade after his last Frankenstein-related film, House of Frankenstein, and over 25 years after he became famous for playing the Monster. The Monster is now the creator, which is a great way to take things full circle and bring closure to a very important part of Karloff's career. Still, Karloff did take more trips to Frankenstein territory, for the Halloween 1962 episode of Route 66 and when he provided the voice of Baron Boris von Frankenstein for 1967's animated Mad Monster Party.

Jay's mentions:

First things first, earlier this week, I announced the first bit of casting for my new film with the addition of POP SKULL star Lane Hughes. Read all about it over at my Shoe-String blog!

80 minutes, Petal Productions

This 80 minute documentary is slightly odd in its compilation, as the first 40 minutes are nothing but old interviews from MTV and various other media outlets, then a newer and slicker documentary style segment begins after these have ran their course. I enjoyed the old VHS interviews more than anything, as they move quickly and represent the time period well. There isn't anything groundbreaking here if you've followed Nirvana or know Kurt Cobain's story, but if you're a diehard fan who can't get enough or just someone looking to learn a lot in a quick amount of time, this little documentary should have you covered.

It features a lot of Cobain himself discussing his rise to fame as well as the rest of the band sharing their experiences. It then delves into Cobain's suicide and has some really interesting footage with the electrician who found Cobain's body as well as the highly played audio of Courtney Love reading his suicide note.

There's nothing earth-shattering here, but I found it to be an informative look at Cobain/Nirvana and I love the first 40 minutes as an unfiltered look at the main figures discussing their rise to fame. There's no in-between or filler stuff, just the band members and their stories.

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