Friday, October 21, 2016

House of Frankenstein

Year 8, Day 295 - 10/21/16 - Movie #2,473  

BEFORE: I told my office-mates that yesterday was my birthday, but if they wanted to do something on Friday, get a cake, some doughnuts, whatever, or nothing at all, it was fine by me - on one condition, that there would be no singing of the "Happy Birthday" song.  Why?  Well, for starters, I'm not a child.  I think when you're 5 or 10 years old, you really look forward to the song, because all eyes are on you, and it's official when you hear the song, you're a year older.  (Even though, technically, you're just one day older than you were yesterday, each day you get 1/365th of a year older, but I digress.)  When you get to your late forties, however, you may dread hearing the song, because you're forced to realize that you're one year closer to the end of things.  

Also, it's awkward to have to stand there for what, 30 seconds?  While everyone else in the room sings, and you can't do anything but be confronted by your own mortality.  So, no singing.  Cake? Sure.  Candles?  If you must, but why can't people just say "Happy Birthday" out loud, like reasonable adults?  Or "1, 2, 3, Happy Birthday!" if proper timing is your thing.  I can't take a stand against Daylight Savings Time, but I can take a stand against this damn song.  

And really, can't someone write a better song that can catch on?  We've been stuck with the same birthday song for over a hundred years, and just because it's "popular", it doesn't mean we can't improve on it.  People write songs every day, and there's always a new song taking over the top of the Billboard chart.  Get Sondheim working on this, or Tim Rice or Jim Steinman - how come people can right #1 hits but they can't improve on what we sing to people having birthdays?  I mean, really, as a society we can invent the cell phone and thousands of apps, we can land a module on Mars, but oh, no, writing a catchier birthday song is just too HARD!  It feels like we're just not trying, and that's sad.  

Also, somebody needs to invent a better thing than the umbrella to keep us dry in the rain.  Just saying. Umbrellas are horrible, they break, people are always losing them, and you get wet ANYWAY when you use them, just on the parts of your body that are closest to where the rain falls off the edge.  I feel like I'm drier on the rainy days when I forget my umbrella, and the rain that hits me gets dispersed all over, instead of concentrated on my sleeve and back.  Again, there's room for improvement, but it seems we've collectively given up. 

Wrapping up the Frankenstein chain tonight, and Lon Chaney Jr. carries over again, playing the Wolf Man.  No more vampires after tonight, either - but TCM's still running Frankenstein and Dracula films next week, so it's about to seem like I've made little progress - next year I'll have at least four films with each character to cover.  


THE PLOT: An evil scientist and his hunchbacked assistant escape from prison and encounter Dracula, the Wolf Man and Frankenstein's Monster.

AFTER: It's a literal Monster Mash-Up tonight, with three of Universal's top monsters in the same film.  Come on, you couldn't get the mummy in there somehow?  And Boris Karloff is back, only he's not playing a monster, he sort of aged out of the program, and in this one he plays the mad scientist, because completely rational scientists just aren't as much fun, trust me.  But why does Larry Talbot seek out a brain transplant doctor to cure his lycanthropy?  That's like taking your sick dog to your auto mechanic.  His solution is always going to be "let's take your brain out and put it in another body" and that's not always the best solution. 

Would that even help him?  Like, is werewolf-ness a disease of the body or the brain?  If you get it from being bitten by another werewolf, doesn't that make it a blood disease or a virus?  The mad scientist, Doctor Niemann, says "I'll build you a better brain" and Talbot just says, "OK!" as if that's the answer to his prayers.  Why doesn't he say, "Umm, I'm kind of fond of the brain I have now, I was thinking more along the lines of stopping my werewolf disease and murderous impulses, not KILLING ME and putting someone else's brain in my body!"  

But first, there's a tangent storyline with Dracula (no longer played by Bela Lugosi).  Niemann gets out of jail, along with the traditional hunchbacked assistant (this one's called Daniel, not Igor), and they encounter a traveling sideshow that claims to have the skeleton of Dracula.  Niemann takes over the sideshow and the identity of the show's owner, just to pull out the stake to see if Dracula will come back to life.  He does, and Niemann blackmails him into getting revenge on the people who jailed him years ago.  But in a following chase scene, Niemann drops Drac's coffin out of his carriage, and Drac can't get to it before the sun comes up.  Too slow.  

Moving on, Niemann and Daniel go back to the dreaded Frankenstein castle, and find both the Monster and the Wolf Man frozen in the catacombs.  And yup, they find yet ANOTHER copy of the old Doctor's journal.  This is where Niemann's plans get a little complicated, there are still two associates he wants to get revenge on, so he's going to put one's brain inside the Monster, and the other's brain inside the Wolf Man's body.  Because when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  

Frankenstein's Monster was really starting to look like Herman Munster at this point, and the ending that features the demise (yet again) of the main monster characters feels really rushed.  It feels like they were running out of film (or ideas), so let's just wrap things up.

Also starring Boris Karloff (last seen in "The Body Snatcher"), John Carradine (last seen in "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex"), Anne Gwynne, J. Carrol Naish (last seen in "Captain Blood"), Glenn Strange, Lionel Atwill (also carrying over from "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man"), George Zucco, Elena Verdugo, Sig Ruman (last seen in "Way...Way Out"), Philip Van Zandt.  

RATING: 3 out of 10 flaming torches

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