Bela Lugosi

Dracula 1931

Every year near Halloween, I find myself re-watching at least some of the classic Universal monster movies from the 30s, 40s, and 50s. This year, thanks to purchasing the Universal Classic Monsters 30-Film Collection, I’m pretty much revisiting all of them. Kicking off that list is Tod Browning’s timeless classic Dracula, which was the first Hollywood production of the character and also the risky endeavor Universal diving into the monster movie market. Of course, being more than 80 years old, there are no contemporary filmmaker commentaries available on this title. In the DVD box set, which packages together all the Legacy Collection discs, we are left with a commentary by film historian David J. Skal and the screenwriter from Dracula: Dead and Loving It. As much as I enjoy Mel Brooks’ works, I felt it was a better bet to go with the possibly drier but more insightful historian. This was a good choice as Skal packs quite a bit of information into this relatively short 75-minute film.

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haitianzombies-truth1

Halloween is fast approaching, and as many cinephiles start watching as many horror films as they can in the month of October, you’ll start to see a trend. One of the most popular – and historically one of the most recent – monsters in horror movies are zombies. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a listing of October horror movies to watch without finding at least one or a dozen tales of the undead creeping (or rather, stumbling) in there. Zombie popularity is at an all-time high, with mainstream television series like The Walking Dead and summer tent pole releases like World War Z bringing in serious cash to Hollywood. However, like other classic monsters that have their roots in fact (like lycanthropy being applied to people with mental illness or vampirism being attributed to an exhumed corpse whose gums had receded and fingernails had appeared to grow), one might question how much truth there is to this whole zombie thing. It was a flight of fancy, until a gruesome real-life attack happened in May 2012, which may have been caused by recreational drugs. So that got us thinking. Could there be something to this zombie thing? Are zombies real?

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Frankenstein DVD Commentary

IT’S ALIVE! IT’S ALIVE! For 81 years, those words have surely been said from at least one person to another every year around Halloween time, and for good reason. Not only is Frankenstein arguably the best of the Universal monsters from the 1930s, the monster at the film’s center has become a pivotal image for October 31st. So, to round our horror slate of commentaries, we’re diving into the classic original, our oldest film covered to date. Naturally, this means we aren’t listening to any of the cast or crew from the film (although we get some quotations from director James Whale). Since the first commentary track came out in 1984 – King Kong Criterion Collection, which will be covered at some point here – films from days of old have to settle for film historians to talk shop while they play out. That’s not to say there aren’t invaluable bits of information found here, but expect lots of film theory and LOTS of snobbery. Who knows? Maybe Rudy Behlmer, who is featured here, likes to check his brain at the door with the rest of us. Checking brains at the door. Frankenstein’s monster. There’s a joke in there somewhere, but probably not a very funny one. Let’s get the commentary started, shall we?

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culturewarrior-horror60

1960 changed horror filmmaking forever. Don’t believe me? Read on.

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