10/09/2018

The Franchise Chronicles: Frankenstein (1931)

By Edward O'Hare




Welcome to The Franchise Chronicles, a movie-by-movie look at the development and evolution of cinema’s most enduring sagas. I am currently exploring the classic Universal Monsters and this week’s movie is Frankenstein (1931) directed by James Whale.

While Dracula can be seen as a good film for its time, Frankenstein is timeless. Even its effects and stylization hold up and it has an emotional center that is still heartbreaking and relevant today. All of the horror films Universal put out over the next quarter century were attempting to recapture what this film achieves.

Based on Mary Shelley’s novel the film tells the story of Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive), a medical student who becomes obsessed with the idea of re-animating dead tissue and winds up bringing to life a Monster (Boris Karloff, credited here as “?”), made from sewn-together body parts and an abnormal brain, that escapes Henry’s castle and unwittingly terrorizes a small mountain town. It is worth noting that this, like all of the ‘30s monster films, take a story that today would be a two and a half-hour movie or a ten-part Netflix series and whittle it down to 71 minutes but still keeps the key essence of the novel intact.

Aesthetically the film definitely feels like it comes from the same universe as its Transylvanian cousin. Much of this is due to the fact that it mostly takes place at night in the mountains of Europe. However Whale and Art Director Charles D. Hall take it to the next level. We get to see the dark and stormy backgrounds and the detailed foregrounds but they throw in trees and rock formations in between them to create levels and depth. This makes the landscape look much larger than it really is. The gothic details of the architecture and interior design also add to the overall mood of the film.

The cast helps to build the cinematic universe these films are creating but the star is a stark contrast from that Vampire we discussed the last two weeks. Two actors who played major parts in Dracula show up in Frankenstein. Edward Van Sloan, who played Van Helsing, appears here as Dr. Waldman, another knowledgeable scientist who is unfortunately not as heroic in this film. Dwight Frye, who played Renfield, also shows up as Dr. Frankenstein’s deformed assistant Fritz. Frye looks very different in this part but is just as scary and intense. His wretched disdain for the Monster is so raw. He is the real villain of the piece and his hate extends through the film long after his character is killed. While today it may seem contradictory to cast the same actors in different roles, it does give us the sense that these films belong in the same family. Frye and Van Sloan are in the same company of actors, much the same way the Coen brothers re-use actors like John Goodman and Frances McDormand.

Boris Karloff’s performance is the real jewel of this film and everything he does right distinguishes him from Bela Lugosi as a completely different type of horror actor. Lugosi’s Count is a charming and menacing villain who stalks his victims in an effort to prolong his own vile existence. Karloff’s Monster is hideous with cold, dead eyes that couldn’t charm anybody. The Monster is a tragic figure with the mind of a child that did not ask to be brought into this world and only encounters hatred and pain. He only hurts people in retaliation or because he does not understand his own strength. Given his druthers, He probably prefers he had never been created in the first place. It is the juxtaposition of these two performances that has linked them in viewers’ minds for the past 87 years and it is the triumph of both of these films that allowed Universal to expand into other monster stories and eventually begin linking them together.

Next week Karloff returns to claim his second monster mantle in The Mummy.


Edward O’Hare, nickname TBD, has been poking around the deep caverns of pop culture for some years now. His hobbies include making Starfleet org charts and badgering people who haven’t seen the Adventures of Captain Marvel movie serial from 1941. He one day dreams of teaching Bill Simmons that superheroes and pro athletes are not all that different.

10/08/2018

WTP 178 The Changes Start Here


This week it is Bill, Bob, and Ed. The intro is smooth except for Bill’s attempt to save Bob yet Bob helps hang himself anyway because that’s who we are, and that’s before we even get to the official business!

Then we get distracted and talk about Pizza because we can’t help but defend the only kind of pizza that matters, New York Style!

Then, Ed drops a bombshell!

News: Banksy's self-destructing painting, a Star Wars Live-Action TV Show is coming to Disney's subscription streaming service and it's called The Mandalorian, Birds of Prey (the Ladies of Gotham) is almost done with casting selections, Gibson Guitar is now out of bankruptcy, a 4-generation Star Trek crossover is coming in 2019.

CHATGAME: Terrible Cosplay/Halloween Ideas

Meanwhile, Bill finally started watching The Americans and he’s digging it, plus he recommends Chris Gethard’s Beautiful Stories For Anonymous People (a podcast). Bob’s taken a Heavy Trip, a Finnish road trip movie about four guys in a death metal Band. Ed recommends The House with the Clock in its Walls, says that Venom is best when viewed with a group, and he’s all about Amazon’s faithful adaptation with Jack Ryan.

EMAIL! Be poor and help people or be rich and hurt people?

This is The Wicked Theory Podcast, and for that, we apologize.

But thanks for listening! Hear us wherever good podcasts are given away for free or LISTEN LIVE every Saturday at 7pm eastern until … whenever! (On desktop just go to http://Mixlr.com/wicked-theory  or download the FREE Mixlr app and search for us! Join the chatroom and click the “FOLLOW” button for reminders when the show goes live!)

Support our humble endeavors for as little as just $1 a month with other reward tiers available! http://patreon.com/wickedtheory

Follow the guys on twitter: Bill (@WickedTheory)  Dom (@Dom_Torre)  Bob (@BobWTPC)  Ed (@EdwardOHareTBD)  Jay (@UncleJaysThing) and Provisional Remote Assistant Producer @AgentPalmer

 

Still bored? Check out WickedTheory.com and visit our YouTube Channel and join our FB Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/500230130359994/


Thanks For Listening!

10/06/2018

DC TV Report for week ending 10/6/2018

New episodes are on the horizon, which means Ed and Sara are bidding farewell to the Batman: TAS retro picks (for now). Plus, they discuss Krypton’s new Lobo, the lunacy of Venom, the legacy of Columbus Day, superhero therapy, and the uselessness of fondant. Spoilers ahead, so jump over the ones you don’t wanna know about.

Where we left them (in advance of this week’s premieres):

The Flash – 7:29

Black Lightning – 16:00

News updates:

Supergirl – 24:03

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – 26:12

Gotham – 27:37

Krypton – 30:22

Lucifer – 32:15

Titans – 32:50

Doom Patrol – 34:52

Stargirl – 36:43

Batman: TAS recap – 41:40

Got a burning question or keen observation? Send an email to dctv@wickedtheory.com or chat on Twitter at @dctvreport, @EdwardOHareTBD and @SaraNetzley. And don't forget to subscribe, rate, and review. Shazam!



Check out this episode!

10/02/2018

The Franchise Chronicles: Spanish Dracula

 By Edward O'Hare


Welcome to The Franchise Chronicles, a movie-by-movie look at the development and evolution of cinema’s most enduring sagas. I am currently exploring the classic Universal Monsters and this week’s movie is the Spanish language version of Dracula (1931) directed by George Melford.

This is a unique artifact of the transition period between silent films and talkies. Silent film was a universal medium and adding sound potentially made it harder to reach foreign language audiences. Before methods like dubbing or subtitles could be refined, some studios opted to shoot alternate versions of their major releases in Spanish and Dracula was one of the more notable films to use this process. So during the day Tod Browning would direct Bela Lugosi and his castmates, and at night George Melford (who did not speak Spanish and used an interpreter) would direct the Spanish versions using the same sets and effects as Browning. While the plot and dialogue is identical, there are differences in style and tone that give this film a unique feel. This is also a unique case for the franchise chronicles because it is not a sequel and was intended for a completely different audience.

In my post on the English Dracula I talked about how Browning shot it very much in the style of a silent film. The Spanish version is much more dynamic. I don’t mean that in the charismatic sense. I just mean that the camera moves around much more. Instead of holding still and letting you take in the production, Melford moves in more to puts the focus on the characters. The most notable instance of this is the Count’s introduction where the camera climbs up the stairs hand-held (you can see the bumps in the movement that you would not get with a dolly or a crane) and ends with a close-up on Dracula (Carlos VillarĂ­as).

The acting style in Spanish Dracula also differentiates it from the English version. Instead of Lugosi’s cold stare, VillarĂ­as makes his eyes seem enormous with a huge toothy grin. He seems more weird than creepy but is just as dangerous. Overall the other characters are portrayed with flamboyance and flair. They are much less reserved. Lupita Tovar’s portrayal of Eva convincingly shows us someone dipping in and out of madness. At times, she feels more like the main character of the film and the threat of the Count looms more in the background. Her revealing costume and let-down hair are reminiscent of modern Spanish soap operas.

From a “franchise” perspective, this film is part of a two-pronged approach to showcase the Dracula concept. It is one of the only examples where you can see 2 different casts and crews use the same script and sets. It makes one wonder how different these films would be if they swapped directors. Would Lugosi’s performance be more memorable with Melford’s camerawork? Would Browning let his actors be so eccentric? It can certainly be said that both films contain the core elements that have allowed the Dracula legend to endure to this day.


Next week we get to meet our next big monster and a prominent head on the Rushmore of Monster actors in Frankenstein.


Edward O’Hare, nickname TBD, has been poking around the deep caverns of pop culture for some years now. His hobbies include making Starfleet org charts and badgering people who haven’t seen the Adventures of Captain Marvel movie serial from 1941. He one day dreams of teaching Bill Simmons that superheroes and pro athletes are not all that different.

10/01/2018

WTP 177 - Too Many Mutants


This week its the return of Uncle Jay, with brothers Bill and Bob rounding out the cast.

News: Bruce Dern is replacing Burt Reynolds in Tarantino's next flick, Deadpool 2 is getting a PG-13 rerelease, rumor has it that Gambit is a "romantic comedy," plus trailers for Dark Phoenix and Creed 2, movie release dates moving and The Wild Bunch is being remade and Jay has some thoughts…

Meanwhile, Bill is enjoying Netflix’s Maniac, Uncle Jay finally saw The Punisher, and catches us up on Unsane, The Last Movie Star, The Predator, White Boy Rick, and Assassination Nation.

CHATGAME: Things Overheard in The MCU

EMAIL! What NPC characters would the guys want to be? And then we go down some kind of retro game/cartoon rabbit hole… And lastly, Uncle Jay tells some stories and gives some drinking advice.

This is The Wicked Theory Podcast, and for that, we apologize.

But thanks for listening! Hear us wherever good podcasts are given away for free or LISTEN LIVE every Saturday at 7pm eastern until … whenever! (On desktop just go to http://Mixlr.com/wicked-theory  or download the FREE Mixlr app and search for us! Join the chatroom and click the “FOLLOW” button for reminders when the show goes live!)

Support our humble endeavors for as little as just $1 a month with other reward tiers available! http://patreon.com/wickedtheory

Follow the guys on twitter: Bill (@WickedTheory)  Dom (@Dom_Torre)  Bob (@BobWTPC)  Ed (@EdwardOHareTBD)  Jay (@UncleJaysThing) and Provisional Remote Assistant Producer @AgentPalmer

 

Still bored? Check out WickedTheory.com and visit our YouTube Channel and join our FB Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/500230130359994/


Thanks For Listening!

9/30/2018

DC TV Report for week ending 9/29/2018

Get ready to flash those pearly whites because Ed and Sara are talking about a gleefully bonkers Joker episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Plus, the Arrowverse crossover has a title, Legends of Tomorrow has a unicorn, and Sara’s aghast to learn that Staten Island doesn’t do autumn cookouts. Spoilers ahead, so jump over the ones you don’t wanna know about.
 
News updates:
 
The Arrowverse crossover – 7:20
Arrow – 15:17
Supergirl – 18:52
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – 21:25
iZombie – 23:51
Lucifer – 27:17
Titans – 29:55
Doom Patrol – 34:29
Swamp Thing – 37:35
 
Batman: TAS recap/ next week’s retro pick – 40:25
 
Got a burning question or keen observation? Send an email to dctv@wickedtheory.com or chat on Twitter at @dctvreport, @EdwardOHareTBD and @SaraNetzley. And don't forget to subscribe, rate, and review. Shazam!


Check out this episode!

9/25/2018

The Franchise Chronicles: Dracula (1931)

 By Ed O'Hare

Welcome back to The Franchise Chronicles, today we start our next series and it’s a big one: the classic Universal Monster movies. 31 of these bad boys were recently released in a blu-ray box set and I could not resist the chance to wade through what may be the oldest cinematic universe. Are you excited? I am way too excited… Okay I just chugged a glass of water. That calmed me down. Let’s do this. The first film up is Dracula (1931) directed by Tod Browning, which serves as a unique artifact of the transition period from silent films to talkies and lays the groundwork for the aesthetics we associate with horror movies to this day.

At first glance this film may be jarring for the modern movie-goer. It moves at a very slow and deliberate pace. Who’d a thunk a 75 minute long movie time could drag. Most of the scenes stand still in a wide shot and only cut to close-ups for important dialogue. It almost feels like the medium shot was yet to be discovered. These are the conventions of the time. Sound in film had only been around for four years. Browning seems to approach this subject like a silent film, which always put strong focus on the compositions of each frame. The production designers worked really hard on those gorgeous matte paintings and the beautiful layout of the castle. Browning wants to give us time to take them in. The actors think through every line and sometimes stand still at awkward moments more like they are posing for a photograph than acting.

This is also an adaptation of a stage play so much of it is framed like a proscenium (think of the way most multi-cam sitcoms are shot). Dracula is also completely void of a music score. This adds a little to the eeriness but I am willing to bet many theatres at the time still had their organists playing along with the movie. I watched it without the music but the blu-ray does offer an optional score and I bet that it probably helps those pacing issues I was talking about.

Alright, enough with the technical stuff. Let’s talk about what makes this story last. The plot is strange but simple. Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi), a bloodsucking vampire, hypnotizes a real estate agent named Renfield (Dwight Frye) and takes a boat to London where he seduces two of his new neighbors. Big D kills Lucy (Frances Dade) and bites Mina (Helen Chandler), but before he can finish her off, Dr. Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) finishes the handsome paleface with a stake through the heart. I never really understood why the Count was going to London in the first place, but who cares because this movie looks so cool.

Lugosi’s look is iconic. The way his cape flows and envelopes him, you believe he could melt into a bat at any moment. He is also very handsome and his striking stare is entrancing. This movie has no carnage. All of his kills happen off screen but his menacing brood and smile make him just as imposing as modern slashers. It is easy to tell why every incarnation of Dracula since has aped Lugosi in some way. However, as good as he is, the performance that really stands out to me is Dwight Frye. His turn as Renfield is so insane and wild but also real. Any guy who can make a character determined to eat bugs and rats feel grounded certainly deserves recognition.

When you get down to it, Dracula is important because of the basic horror elements that it introduced into the mainstream. Much of these have been improved upon, but this is the film we remember because it got the ball rolling. In the next article, we will check out the Spanish language version of Dracula that was shot simultaneously with this film. Come join me to see how these versions hold up against each other.

Edward O’Hare, nickname TBD, has been poking around the deep caverns of pop culture for some years now. His hobbies include making Starfleet org charts and badgering people who haven’t seen the Adventures of Captain Marvel movie serial from 1941. He one day dreams of teaching Bill Simmons that superheroes and pro athletes are not all that different.

9/24/2018

WTP 176 - Ol' Dirty Batman


This week its Bob, Bill, and Bill’s hype-man Ed!

Oh, this Joker movie and now we have promos to discuss. Then we kick off Uncle Jay Watch 2018 or Where in Pop Culture is Uncle Jay! Batman’s junk made its first appearance in the comics this week on DC’s new Black Label. Michael B. Jordan becomes a Tom Clancy character. CBS All Access is getting The Twilight Zone with Jordan Peele. And the PlayStation Mini is coming…

CHATGAME: Super Rappers

Before we move on, Ed left a fortune cookie earlier in the week at Bill’s and Bill makes him open it.

Meanwhile, Bill read Agent Palmer’s expose on DiC Entertainment and Bill’s also catching up with Bojack Horsman. Ed saw Assassination Nation and really liked it, like really really! And Bob watched Kevin Smith: Silent But Deadly.

http://agentpalmer.com/18008/miscellany/inspiration/whatever-happened-to-dic-an-attempted-oral-history-on-the-saturday-morning-cartoon-powerhouse/

Then nothing says loving like Emails from the oven. One listener doesn’t like Predator but Ed says “you’ll enjoy it on VHS.” Ed learns Wicked Theory has an Instagram @Wicked_Theory, please follow us for grams. Another wants to know what actor (dead or alive) we would want to work with on a project.

https://www.instagram.com/wicked_theory/

This is The Wicked Theory Podcast, and for that, we apologize.

But thanks for listening! Hear us wherever good podcasts are given away for free or LISTEN LIVE every Saturday at 7pm eastern until … whenever! (On desktop just go to http://Mixlr.com/wicked-theory  or download the FREE Mixlr app and search for us! Join the chatroom and click the “FOLLOW” button for reminders when the show goes live!)

Support our humble endeavors for as little as just $1 a month with other reward tiers available! http://patreon.com/wickedtheory

Follow the guys on twitter: Bill (@WickedTheory)  Dom (@Dom_Torre)  Bob (@BobWTPC)  Ed (@EdwardOHareTBD)  Jay (@UncleJaysThing) and Provisional Remote Assistant Producer @AgentPalmer


Still bored? Check out WickedTheory.com and visit our YouTube Channel and join our FB Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/500230130359994/


Thanks For Listening!