Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Dreaded Horror Blindspot: Part II

We've all got one: a segment of our nerdly obsessions which isn't quite as thoroughly clued in as might be expected. As I discussed in part one of this series (which I suggest reading before continuing) the truth of this disability is willfully and purposefully hidden from our contemporaries. I will not lower my head in that similar shame. My area of genre emptiness is Hammer Horror and I've set about filling in my knowledge like a veracious hair club for men candidate. Though I am admittedly on a much slower path to recovery, it can't be said that I'm motionless. So I tucked up to the table, draped the cloth to my neckline, and dove in mouth first.

Today's menu begins, centers and ends on 1970's Peter Cushing-less Horrors of Frankenstein. Instead Ralph Bates steps into the familiar digs of Victor Frankenstein. Bates was also in Taste the Blood of Dracula , another Hammer Horror film released that same month staring Christopher Lee, but might be best remembered as Dr.Jekyll in Dr.Jekyll & Sister Hyde (which I'm working on tracking down a copy of). What's fascinating about this specific retelling of the Mary Shelley story is what Bates brings to the table. In one instance he's friendly, amiable and charming. Split seconds tick off the clock and in that small sequence of time, he's now conniving, cold blooded and ruthless. Absent from the proceedings is the misunderstood, driven genius that we're so commonly presented with in the innumerable spinnings of the Frankenstein yarn.

The rest of the films' trappings can be found among those commonly attributed to period Hammer: lavish recycled gothic sets, lovely busted beauties bearing some flesh (though not as much as is customary) and a fantastically epic-esk score. Topping off the tank are a lovely scheming house keeper, a charming best friend to Victor, a fun grave robbing husband-wife pair and David "Darth Vader" Prowse- the latter looking burly and scarred as "The Monster".

Prepare for a bold proclamation. Horrors of Frankenstein has become my favorite film version of the classic Mary Shelley legend. There is just so much going on behind the calculating eyes of a young Victor Frankenstein, who will not be stopped in his goal of bringing about new life. The lies he connives are brilliant, the line between his ruthlessness and his charm so razor thin and his manipulation is so very subtle. The bottom line here is that you need to see this underrated monster movie. This might not be an easy task as it seems to only be available as an out of print DVD released in 2001 but if you've got a region free player, the Hammer collection is always available to you.

Next on my Blindspot list is Vampire Circus, which (as luck and fate have procreated in my favor), is playing in 35mm as part of the Colonial Theatre's First Friday Fright Night series on May 4th. See you at the midnight movies.



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