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OK, I'm on a roll. I am going to get on top of film reviews today. I'm going to do it. Not Doctor Who reviews or book reviews. That would be crazy! But film reviews - yes. So here we go.

I saw both of these last night in a Halloween-themed double-bill at the beautiful Art Deco Stockport Plaza, each one introduced by a man playing an organ which rose up at the front of the theatre, and in company with the lovely ms_siobhan, planet_andy, minnesattva, Andrew Hickey and a young lady in a Dracula T-shirt.

36. Thir13en Ghosts (2001), dir. Steve Beck

We were disappointed to find ourselves sat in front of the 2001 remake of this film, rather than the 1960 original by William Castle, complete with Illusion-O which we had been expecting, but so it goes. We had paid, so decided to sit through it. Part-way in, I realised that I had seen some of the middle sections of the film before while channel-hopping on TV, and yet it also became clear not much later that I hadn't seen the end. In other words, I had been sufficiently unimpressed at the time not to bother with more than about half an hour of it.

Now that I've seen the whole thing, I can't say I've changed my mind. It has Tony Shalhoub in it, who is most famous as Monk, and whom I really like in that role. And I guess it helps to provide a small extra insight into his career, since he started as Monk the year after this film, which also features him playing a man broken by the death of his wife in a fire, and (in this case literally) haunted by her ghost. So it looks like a pretty major factor in why he was cast. Otherwise, though, it is a fairly standard modern horror film full of under-developed characters and nonsensical business about ancient magical machines, and relying on crude shocks to excite the audience. As a Classicist, I did like the concept of the titular ghosts of the story being contained by Latin words written on glass, but then again we were never given any idea what the Latin said, or even allowed to read it properly as the cameras scrolled over it, so even this boiled down to little much more than "Latin! Isn't it cool?", which is nice but a bit unsatisfying.

In summary, I'm glad I didn't drive all the way to Stockport just for this.

37. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), dir. Terence Fisher.

This, on the other hand, was more than worth it! I have seen it before of course, including on the big screen, which experience I reviewed earlier this year, so I won't repeat the points I made there (mainly about queer readings). I will repeat my enthusiasm for it, though. The lavishness and ambition of the production (by Hammer's standards at the time) are obvious, but I think what really gives it staying-power are all the small but beautifully-observed details (whose equivalents in Dracula (1958) very much fuel my ongoing passion for that film, too). For example, the way the horse rears up when the body of the condemned criminal which the Baron has just cut down from the gallows falls into the wagon it is hitched to, as if to signify the horror of the natural order at what he is planning - a horror which the Baron is of course completely oblivious to. Or the way that after the Baron has killed Professor Bernstein, destroying a wooden balustrade in the process, the continuity is carefully set up to show us that the balustrade is never repaired properly for the rest of the film, but merely patched up with a single beam of wood, so that we are constantly visually reminded a) that the Baron has little interest in anything other than his experiments, and b) of the lengths he is prepared to go to in their pursuit.

It's possible to pick flaws in this film if you want to. For example, though Phil Leakey's design for Christopher Lee's make-up as the Creature is epically good on the whole, there are a few scenes where it become apparent that he didn't quite think hard enough about how it would match up with the collar of his costume, so that you can quite clearly see where the latex face-covering abruptly stops and Christopher Lee's neck begins. Also, the person who plays the blind grandfather in the woods (one Fred Johnson, apparently), is frankly awful, to the extent that he is roundly out-acted by the all-of-seven-years-old little chap playing his grandson. But next to the genre-defining Gothic visuals, the utterly compelling performances by Lee and Cushing, James Bernard's pitch-perfect music and the crisp efficiency of the script, those are very small beans indeed. I will happily watch this one again and again.

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 25th, 2014 11:04 pm (UTC)
I just explain away being able to see the join as that being the seam where the head was attached to the body...
Oct. 26th, 2014 05:49 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that's about the best which can be done for it - though if so, it isn't a very good seam, as the latex is gaping quite distinctly!
Oct. 26th, 2014 11:17 am (UTC)
The first film was utter shite, with no redeeming features other than I was watching it with chums in such a lovely picture palace, and it is always a complete treat to see the delectable Mr Cushing on a big screen. Every time I see Curse I love it more and more Lee's performance is outstanding and Cushing's evil obsessed Baron is amazing too, my quibbles are more along the lines of social etiquette mistakes in that the era isn't exactly specified but is presumably victorian so Elizabeth should be in deep mourning for her mother and she wouldn't be living with her cousin and his male friend prior to the marriage without a LOT of chaperones.

It was marred a bit for me though by the couple who kept on frigging talking though - selfish twunts!!
Oct. 26th, 2014 05:50 pm (UTC)
Yep, those people were bloody annoying! If you want to have a conversation, go to the pub, FFS!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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