Monday, December 26, 2011

Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971)

One more Frankenstein movie! Well, almost.

Lounge singer with unbelievable cleavage (Regina Carrol) is looking for her sister who took in with the terrifying underworld of surfer dudes. Unbeknownst to her, sis's head was chopped off by Chaney Jr. That's ok, though. His boss, Dr. Duryea (J. Carrol Naish), can put them back on. Does it all the time. Ya see, he runs a museum of murder and needs freshly decapitated women to keep his exhibit fresh, or something like that. Or is it that he is the last member of the Frankenstein family and he needs to experiment? And what's up with the idiot bikers? And what, is Dracula being played by Greg Brady?

I could try to piece together the story line of this turd, but it's not worth the effort. What happened is this was supposed to be a biker movie with different lead actors, then it was turned into a monster movie with earlier footage was clumsily spliced in. There is little to no mystery, no horror, and little to distinguish itself. I watched it for no reason than because it was the last film of two horror icons: Great talent J. Carrol Naish and great nothing Lon Chaney Jr. Chaney played a mute head-chopping monster and Naish was a shell of his former self. Skip it. Need proof? Take a look at the Monster. They weren't even trying. AMRU 2.

Instead I will spend my time on Regina Carrol, the only thing here worth looking at. The movie starts with her singing a silly lounge song and I presumed it was dubbed in as she was clearly just eye candy. Turns out, she actually sang the song. So, nice set of lungs. Regina starred in a variety of explotation flicks like Satan's Sadists, Angel's Wild Women, and Girls for Rent. Dracula vs. Frankenstein, despite being in a similar vein, had almost no nudity to speak of. By the way, Regina's husband directed all of them.

Regina retired from Hollywood in the late 70's but continued to perform on stage. She died of cancer at age 49. Less than four months later, director hubby remarried. Less than three years after that, he tragically died when someone popped a cap in his ass.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Trip to the Moon (1902)

Or, Le Voyage dans la Luna. Oh, la la!

Wizened old scientist proposes a trip to the moon to other wizened old scientists amidst fanfare and women with nice butts. One scientist disagrees but is convinced when he is pelted with books.

They visit the worksite where workers are building their space bullet and cause trouble. Later, the ship is ready for launch. The old men are loaded into the ship assisted by woman with decidedly less than nice butts. They wave to the camera.

A civil war general orders the launch and they are shot to the moon. The trip takes several seconds. The moon is not happy.

The scientists marvel at their surroundings and the sight of an Earthrise. They are narrowly missed by a meteor and decide to take a nap. The stars and planets and whatnot come out, and they awake when it begins to snow. They go underground and find moon mushrooms. They are confronted by exploding moon men and are captured, and taken them to their leader. They blow up said leader and make their escape.

They climb into their bullet craft, push it over a cliff, and land in the ocean. On Earth. A moon man comes along for the ride. They are welcomed as returning heroes and do a dance with the moon man. The end.

Georges Melies wrote, directed, produced, and starred in one of the earliest examples of science fiction. Melies, however, didn't make much money on it. Seems some bastard named Edison pirated his movie and showed it all over America.

The movie seems to be something of a farce. The scientists are comedic, foolish old men. The notion of going to the moon (67 years away, across unthinkable scientific advancement) was laughable back in aught 2. But the movie stands up. Not because of anything it predicted. Just about everything was wrong, not that he cared. The moon does not rotate with respect to the Earth, therefore there cannot be an Earthrise. Not the point, here. But because it was inventive, imaginative, and whimsical. It's a pleasure to watch. I've watched it about four times so far. AMRU 4.

Monday, December 12, 2011

To Be or Not to Be (1942)

Husband and wife stage actors Joseph and Maria Tura (Jack Benny and Carole Lombard) are in Warsaw when a young pilot (Robert Stack) falls in love with Maria. She tells him to visit her dressing room when her husband starts his soliloquy. You know the one. Very famous.

Anyhow, when the Nazi's invade, Lt. Sobinski flies to England to help with the war effort there. Professor Siletsky, working for military intelligence, lets slip that he will be going undercover to Warsaw, Sobinski asks him to deliver the message "To Be or Not to Be" to Maria. When it becomes clear that Siletsky has never heard of the great Maria Tura, our young Lieutenant becomes convinced he is a double agent. He flies to Warsaw ahead of him to warn the underground. The theatre company uses their theatrical skills to thwart the Nazis.

It was fairly brave of Hollywood to release a movie, early in US involvement (filmed before, actually), that showed the plight of civilians caught up in the crossfire. Heroic Americans Doing Everything Right was de rigueur when they strayed from fluffball musicals. Still, they weren't brave enough to use the word Jew. They implied the Hebrew heritage, but never said it.

This is a comedy, folks. In fact, my 11 year old declared it the funniest of dad's crappy old movies, high praise indeed. It's an interesting blend of grave seriousness and screwball comedy, and done so well that they augment each other rather than detract. Jack Benny, whom I've never seen before, was hilarious. I remember back in the day people trying to explain who Jack was by impersonating him. "Oh, he acted gay", I'd say. Seriously, look at a Benny impersonation and not think that! Anyhow, he was great and the chemistry with Poor Carole was pitch perfect. She would die before the movie was released.

And of course, Lionel Atwill pops up unexpectedly yet again! I didn't notice his name in the credits, but instead recognized him dressed as a Nazi. It was a small role. The movie encouraged me to see the Mel Brooks remake, which wasn't bad. But, sorry Mel, it doesn't hold a candle to the original. AMRU 4. By the way, Brooks isn't afraid to use the word Jew ...
"Maria Tura: It's becoming ridiculous the way you grab attention. Whenever I start to tell a story, you finish it. If I go on a diet, you lose the weight. If I have a cold, you cough. And if we should ever have a baby, I'm not so sure I'd be the mother.
Josef Tura: I'm satisfied to be the father."