September 29: Our Modern Maidens
I’ve been meaning to watch this film ever since I made the goal to watch every single Joan Crawford picture ever made. As I’ve noted in the past, I’m doing well, but it seems there is always going to be another picture to see. This was a rather important one in Joan’s career, one that really cemented her as Hollywood royalty and a fan favorite. Listen to me going all TCM on you! Do you think I will ever get to work there? I hope so! The film grossed over $800,000 and back in 1929, that was not a flop! You can’t even hire a good actress for that kind of money these days. I’d do it, though. I’d work for $25,000, at least at first. The picture is about Billie, one of Joan’s many names before she became Joan, who is a socialite. Weren’t they all in those wonderful years? I long for that society to return. Now, you can only be well known for being famous, there aren’t many society people making headlines anymore, they have to cross over to celebrity if they want to be known. Anyway, Billie is engaged to a fellow who is in love with her friend and Billie, in turn, is in love with her friend’s fiancé. Quelle drame. It all works itself out in the end and Joan looked wonderful. I didn’t think it was an amazing movie, but it was good fun. I’m not a fan of silent movies, I try and I try, but to no avail. The sequels, such as, Our Dancing Daughters, is a talkie. Praise the Buddha! [My Rating: 6/10]
September 30: Frankenstein
Last night, for one night only, there was a double showing of Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein presented by TCM. I thought it would be rather marvelous to see these movies on the big screen and so I went. I snuck in a sugar cookie from Panera Bread (decent, not spectacular) and settled myself in for the show. I had seen the movie years ago, but it didn’t captivate my imagination. I read the book, but it was just alright. I don’t know why I expected it to be so much better this time, but it was. I thoroughly enjoyed the picture. Perhaps it was because it was on a giant screen, the way it was meant to be shown, I don’t know, but I loved it. You’ve probably seen the movie, so I won’t delve too much into the plot. It’s about a mad scientist who creates new life by sewing together different pieces of different dead bodies. He finds success, but the monster ruins his personal life. The makeup and set design were brilliant. There was an obvious inspiration from the dreadful picture, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The digital restoration really enhanced the movie, gave new life to it. It was beautiful to see the windmill aflame, the terrified monster, the angry mobs. Absolutely brilliant. [My Rating: 10/10]
FILM of the MONTH [September]: September wasn’t the best month for movies, and as I’m looking over the pictures that rated FILM of the WEEK, I can’t really decide. I’m giving it to… Grey Gardens. Fascinating and revealing documentary.
October 1: The Bride of Frankenstein
Sequels never do justice to their predecessors, but in this case, the sequel outshines the original. This film is genius and hilarious! It was as if a drag queen were suddenly overseeing the film, and I mean this in the best way possible, there was an obvious and hilarious camp sensibility to the picture. It was serious, but didn’t take itself at all seriously. Marvelous! The film picks up right where Frankenstein left off, but from the beginning, the changes for the better are apparent. There is an old woman, who is freaking hilarious and won’t shut up. Her character was obviously the basis for Frau Blucher in Young Frankenstein, a film I appreciate much more after seeing the source materiel. The film moves at a deliriously fast pace and all of a sudden we’ve met another mad scientist who goes out of his way to convince Dr. Frankenstein to help him create a woman monster so that they can breed and create a new race. Frankenstein isn’t at all sure of this and refuses, but when his wife is kidnapped by the Monster and will not be freed until the Monster has a mate, he relents. So, off they go, back to the laboratory, an entirely new creature waiting for life to be given to it. The scene is much more elaborate this time–stunning really. Success again! The Bride of Frankenstein is alive! It’s alive! Unfortunately, that girl be crazy. She moves with a wonderfully robotic manner. It’s stunning to see, and her hair was fabulous with that lighting streak of white running up her crazy curls. She hates the Monster from the very moment she lays eyes on him and the Monster is devastated. He can’t go on alone without companionship and if this creature won’t have him, who will? He terrifies all that he sees. So, he decides to blow up the laboratory and kill both he and the new creature, along with the scientist who insisted upon it. He lets Frankenstein and Elizabeth go free because they do love each other and have hope of being happy. Quick ending, but stunning. Since I saw the picture, it’s been heavily on my mind, I can’t stop thinking of it. I thought that it was beautiful and tragic. A pivotal scene in the movie happens very early on when the monster is still roaming through the woods. He finds they cottage of a blind hermit who plays beautiful violin music. They become unlikely friends and are both contented with this communal existence. It is never said how long they were together, but it is obvious that some time has passed. Eventually, peasants find that he is living there and split them apart–neither was doing anything wrong by society’s conception of what normal was split them apart to be alone and sad. They had found each other but weren’t allowed to have what they wanted. Tragic. This is a wonderful film, see it. [My Rating: 10/10]
October 2: The Son of Frankenstein
The Son of Frankenstein was not the last Universal film to feature the monster, but it was the last time the role was performed by the inimitable Boris Karloff–no great tragedy when you see later representations of the monster. This picture, more than any of the others, seems to have been the one that inspired Young Frankenstein the most–we are introduced to Ygor, the gendarme with the false arm, the idea of Frankenstein’s son, and even more angry villagers. In this story, the son of Frankenstein arrives in his ancestral village with his wife and young son. He does not know much about his father, it seems that he had little to nothing to do with him, perhaps he died–it was never discussed, which was odd. Sadly, this film didn’t have the same campy humor as its predecessor, and that’s a real shame because it really enhanced the movie. The new Dr. Frankenstein decides that he should revive the monster, who didn’t die again. This was simple for him and the monster is on a rampage again, slaughtering the public. He must get bored of this. I would. So, they have to destroy him…again. Will it ever end? The makeup was interesting, it seems that as time goes on his scars are healing, he doesn’t look so much like a patchwork quilt. The monster is knocked into a sulfur pit and burns up. The Frankenstein’s are totally over the village, so they deed the castle to the town and say, “Ciao!” [My Review: 6/10]
October 3: The House of Dracula
This was a strange movie, and mildly enjoyable. One evening, Count Dracula seeks out a genius doctor to cure him of his vampirism–he’s over it and wants to be normal again, so the doctor begins looking for a cure. In the meantime, the wolfman also stops by and begs the doctor to cure him of his malady as well, he can’t bear another transformation. The doctor’s nurse also needs some attention to cure her humpback. To solve all these issues, they need to harvest a special type of mold that is found in a cave. In the cave, they stumble upon Frankenstein’s monster, of all things. The doctor, who at this point is going crazy–in the evenings he now wants to kill, decides to revive the monster. Why he thinks that this is a good idea is beyond me. Of course, all Hell breaks loose at the end, I didn’t love this movie. I thought it could be great as it was a veritable monster mash, but it took itself way too seriously! How can you be serious when Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman, a hunchbacked nurse, and a murderous doctor are hanging out in a basement laboratory? You can’t. [My Rating: 4/10]
October 4: Man With a Million
I didn’t plan on this being any good. I should know by now that I’m a terrible judge of movies. If I think it shall be wondrous, it shall be dreadful. If I think it will be a monster, it will be a magnificent triumph of cinema. I don’t consider this a triumph of cinema, but it was awfully good. It stars Gregory Peck, a name I’ve always known, but couldn’t put a face to, as Henry Adams. He’s basically a stranded hobo in Victorian London–he was a yachtsman who somehow got lost in the fog and then a boat picked him up and forced him to work his way to London. I didn’t follow that plot point very well, so I ignored it. Henry becomes an integral part of a bet between two eccentric brothers. They have had a one million pound note created (one of only two ever made, in the movie, anyway) and have decided to give it to a smart hobo to see how he fares with it. So, Henry takes the money and his world changes tremendously. He is never forced to actually spend the money, just by letting people know he is a millionaire, he is able to get whatever he wants for free. He becomes respected just for his money. He acts no differently now that he is rich as he did when he was a hobo, but that doesn’t seem to matter–because he’s well dressed and has a whiff of cash about him, he can do no wrong. Henry is accepted into society, becomes engaged to a member of the aristocracy, and has a great time. Unfortunately, the money also has the potential to serve as his destruction. When it is reported that he is no longer a millionaire, people no longer trust him and want him to settle all his accounts. It’s funny–the richer he is, the easier life is for him. Very true in our modern society. I understand why couture houses give celebrities clothes to wear, but it does seem rather stupid, doesn’t it? The middle classes can’t afford beautiful Dior suits, but Zac Efron can get one for nothing, when he can more than afford it. I would never deny anybody the opportunity to see Zac in a suit, so I guess I really have no complaints.
The movie was wonderful, but there was a plot point that I didn’t understand. Part of the bet is that in a month’s time, he needs to return the million pound note without spending it to be given a job and settle his debts. Why not just cash it and spend it? He would have fared infinitely better by just taking the money. There wouldn’t have been a story then, though. [My Rating: 8/10]
October 5: The Orphan
My father believes, for some reason, that for years and years we have had a Halloween movie party. This is not true. But that’s not the point. Last year, we decided to buy some food and watch a movie in the month of October. It was not a party, and the movie I picked was beyond dreadful. It was called The Haunting. Everybody goes on and on about what a fabulous movie it is. I have to believe that I had a different version, because that shit was shit. Until then, I’d never been so bored by a movie. This year we got together at Jessica’s freezing house and had some pizza and watched this movie. It was pretty great. It’s one of those films where I don’t want to tell you too much, because it’s insane and the ending is totally…”What?” But I highly recommend the movie. It’s about two idiots, Kate and John who secretly hate each other, but decide to bring another child into their home. Kate lost a baby so she thinks she has an abundance of love to give to a 9-year old Russian orphan. We all know no good comes from lonely orphans who like to paint, don’t we? Well, Kate and John don’t. The deaf mute daughter likes the Russian, Esther, but the boy with skater hair didn’t. Good on him. Nobody dies for the first hour, which was an odd touch of restraint in a horror film. But then, shit goes cray! It is quickly revealed that Esther is insane. She slaughters a nun, she tries to cut off her adopted brother’s penis, she has a large vulgar vocabulary, she wears too many ribbons, and she loses her mind in a public toilet. More and more bad things seem to happen around Esther, and finally Kate catches on and starts to believe that there is something wrong with her. John is stupid and hates Kate (with reason, that bitch had no redeeming qualities. She was an awful wife and mother) and always does the opposite of what she says just to subtly piss her off for being an alcoholic. Soon, after lots of blood, Kate discovers that Esther really came from an Estonian mental hospital, not a Russian orphanage! I won’t tell you anymore, because I don’t want to give it away, but you should certainly watch it. It’s insane. [My Rating: 10/10]
MOVIE of the WEEK: It’s a tie between The Bride of Frankenstein and The Orphan. Both were great.