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Creature Feature


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Over on the General Discussion board, I created a thread (Family Movie Night) were I talk about my desire to get my small family together for some classic movie enjoyment via TMC on a regular basis. I don't have too much experience in "old movies" to go on, but I'm learning alot from online sources and the nice people on this site.


One area I am fairly well-versed on is historic cinematic horror. I'm no expert, but I do have some knowledge of the films, actors and creators. While looking over the TCM schedule I was suprised to find that I may know about the movies, but I have not actually seen very many of them. I guess that as a child, Famous Monsters of Filmland was my main source of info about the movies that I seldom got a chance to actually watch. I'm going to try to remedy that now.


Not only am I going to attempt a Family Movie Night, but my 12 year old daughter and I are going to have a regular Creature Feature event courtesey of TCM. Nobody does a TV style creature feature anymore, so we will create our own. We are gong to start off slow with the tamer stuff and maybe someday work up to the Hammer works as her age and interest allows. By the way, my wife has no interest or tolerance for horrorsci-fifantasy, so she will not be participating in this experiment.


Anyways - First up for our inaugural event will be Frankenstein, the 1931 classic. Of course.


Edited by: dirtyape on Oct 5, 2013 3:43 PM

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Creature Feature #1: Frankenstein (1931) - Blu-ray from personal collection.


My daughter picked this one, with some gentle prodding from her dear dad. It was not on the TCM schedule, so I ordered the Blu-ray. It's a beautiful reproduction! I also just recordied Bride last night on TCM, so we are good to go for next week!


My daughter has never seen a out-and-out horror movie before and she was a bit apprehensive. She has seen Frankenweenie, which is much more intense than any Universal film, imo. I explained that these movies are more creepy than scary, and she may actually find them a bit amusing. We had a brief discussion on Universal Studios, Borris Karloff and Mary Shelley. Then we got out the popcorn, sat down and fired up the classic. Note: Early Afternoon viewing only, no nightmares please.


Most everyone has seen this movie and knows about it's incredible influence, so I'll just provide some interesting comments from my daughter (Spoiler Alert):


She asked alot of questions at first. Why they were digging up a dead body, why was a dead guy just hanging there, why were they being so secretive? You see, it's illegal to steal dead bodies. Then she caught on and settled down.


She called out that Fritz (we called him Igor) was going to take the abnormal brain. Good call.


She was disappointed in the lack of a specific lightning hunder strike that gave life to the monster. They just put him up there and a few loud noises later, brought him down. And no way that would have worked!


She hid her eyes when the monster first came out, but quickly got used to him. "This is not really that scary, but it is interesting" came a little later, with a "I told ya so" from me.


Fritz was a jerk.


She got a little upset when she thought the monster was going to attack the little girl. She immediatley recognized his misunderstanding with a "Oh no, he thought she would float too!". The scene of the father carrying her body into town still is pretty powerful.


I had forgot about him, but we both really enjoyed Baron Frankenstein in all his haughty grumpiness!


She thought the end a little too abrupt, but enjoyed the movie overall and was happy to find it not as terrifying as expected. She also was happy with the lack of "jump-scares" and we talked about building tension with slow reveals and the audience-can-see-but-the-character-can't approach.


The bottom line: It was all Fritz's fault for getting the bad brain and tormenting the monster, otherwise he would have turned out to be nice.


Next: The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) via TCM and my DVR.

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*Creature Feature #2: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)* - recorded from TCM


The Monster Demands a Mate!


After watching Frankenstein last week, my daughter checked out the Mary Shelley novel from the library. She had just gotten to the "creating a woman" part when we sat down to watch the classic "Bride of Frankenstein". Perfect timing!


The introduction with Mary Shelley was also perfect timing for that same reason. It provided a great recap and setup for the coming story. Concerning Shelley, my dear daughter (dd) thinks it amazing that a girl could come up with such a horrifying story. I'm not. I assured her that women could be downright terrifying when they want to be! ; )


This was the first time that I realized the same actress played Shelley and The Bride. Big-screen TV's are very helpful for us slow-witted types.


My dd appreciated the fact that the movie picked-up right where the first movie ended. She wasn't frightened at all by the reappearance of the Monster. She has mentioned that the Monster reminds her of the Incredible Hulk, almost heroic in a way. Yeah, a more murderous way!


Una O'Connor was more irritating than funny to us. My dd was sure that she would end up being the Bride of the monster. Boy, I'd really feel sorry for ol' Frankie if that were the case.


Ernest Thesiger played the sickly humorous and psychopathic Pretorius perfectly. His confident and fearless mad scientist was a perfect adjunct to the neurotic and hapless Henry. When he was in the crypt having a drink and conversation with the skull, my daughter declared him obviously "crazy". And his immediate acceptance of the monster to his party solidified that diagnosis. The part of the movie that always has disappointed me the most was the scene with the little people. After pulling out the miniature casket and revealing the covered bottles, my dd was fully prepared for something gross and disgusting. Then suddenly we are in some fairy tale with cute little kings and ballet dancers. How much better would it have been to have his little creations be disturbing monstrosities!


The two major monster scenes are some of my all-time favorites. The capture and then escape of the monster is so well done. I loved watching it again! And the scene with the old blind man is such a touching, overtly religious moment. "Friend, good!" My dd felt the sadness we all felt when the hidden paradise of the two outcasts is violently ripped apart.


I still don't get the scene after the monster breaks free and they find the body of the girl and the two people in the house. Did the monster kill them?


My dd was disappointed that the Bride herself was only in the movie for a few moments at the end. She was the title character after all! She also thought the movie was not nearly scary enough. She only got a little scared when the Bride first moved and opened her eyes, but that was it. The first movie was scarier and better in her opinion. I would agree. While Bride is a better movie overall, the first movie had that perfect feel of creepiness and insanity - more atmosphere and edge. We both give "Bride" a severed thumbs-up though. A true classic! Hopefully, TCM will give us a showing soon of Son of Frankenstein to complete the trilogy!


Next week: Switching gears from man-made monsters to terrors from beyond - It Came from Outer Space (1953) via TCM.


Edited by: dirtyape on Oct 13, 2013 4:15 PM

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*Creature Feature #3: It Came from Outer Space (1953)* recorded from TCM.


An amateur astronomer tries to convince the townspeople that aliens are afoot.


(Spoilers Ahead)


This early sci-fi thriller was originally presented in 3-D and it was fun for us to identify the parts that were obviously meant to "jab" out at us. The Alien eyeball would have been the coolest! But this wasn't just a gimmick movie. It was very tense and scary for a while!


When the alien ship's door opened and the camera moved inside to get that first glimpse of the alien, my daughter was hiding under the pillow. She also was startled when the alien jumped out in front of the couple's car. She wasn't expecting that!


The alien itself was rather impressive. Very slimy and scraggly looking and that one big eye was icing on the cake. Certainly not as hokey as I was expecting. I like that it was revealed early on and not reserved for the end of the movie.


Once the aliens took human form, the story became more of a mystery and less terrifying. What were the aliens up to? The script was surprisingly good and the arguments were sensible. Not much to laugh at other than a silly scream here and there.


My dd was impressed with how scary the music was. The TCM host told us about the Theremin that was used in the film and many other sci-fi classics. It's an electronic instrument that you actually play without touching.



My daughter liked the movie, but thought that the aliens should have been on earth for a more specific reason. They just crashed, had to fix their ship and left. That seemed silly and pointless for such high intellect aliens. We had a good discussion about why the aliens didn't want to reveal themselves to earth and about how people try to destroy the things that make them afraid or are repulsed by. The film's "squash a spider" metaphor was good to drive that point home. I was fully expecting the aliens to turn evil at some point, but my daughter took them at their word just as Richard Carlson did in the movie. She explained to me that just because something is ugly doesn't mean that it is evil. Lesson learned.


Above average sci-fi fare to me! Better than expected all the way around. It moved quickly and the mystery kept us interested throughout.


Next up: Back to Mr. Karloff - The Mummy (1932) via TCM.

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*Creature Feature # 4 - The Mummy (1932)* ? watched live on TCM.


Imhotep awakens after 3000 years, and like any guy, he has one thing on his mind.


LINK: Check out these Mummy Jokes!


I haven't seen this classic in many years and remember very little about it. I do remember not caring for the fact that Karloff didn't spend all of his time as the iconic "wrapped-up" mummy and I suspect that my daughter will be disappointed too. My wife and daughter baked some "Mummy Cupcakes" for the showing and we settled down to some sugar-backed Universal goodness, fresh off of TCM.


The Opening scene was pretty intense and suspenseful. You kinda knew what was coming and when the mummy opened his eyes, my dear daughter squealed in delight. We both fully expected the mummy to kill the laughing guy, but he just took the scroll and high-tailed it - sort of anti-climatic. My dd wanted to know why the guy was laughing so much. Because he has been driven mad! They overdid it though, as he was laughing so much that it sucked all the creepy tension out of the scene. I even started laughing!


My dd is currently studying Ancient Egypt in school. She was the one to provide most of the background information this time. I learned about the rea1 Imhotep and the step pyramid he built, the different Egyptian deities, and how to read hieroglyphics.


When Karloff re-entered the movie as Darth Bay (or whatever his name was), my dd was initially disappointed that he was no longer covered in gauze. She adjusted quickly and fully bought into the change. However, she couldn't believe no one in the movie would have found him to be obviously inhuman.


She immediately recognized "the guy from Frankenstein" and was even more impressed with his performance and makeup here. Another Karloff fan is born!


Her favorite part was the flashback scene where poor Imhotep was wrapped up and buried alive. The burial detail getting gorily speared was pretty horrible in that too!


We were both intrigued by the strangely attractive Helen (Zita Johann). Her round face and huge eyes gave her that appropriately exotic look. Her skimpy Egyptian princess outfit wasn't very appropriate though! Quite risque! My dd thought it looked like something that would be worn on "Dancing with the Stars".


My daughter proclaimed the movie to be almost the equal of Frankenstein. She liked the beginning but was a bit bored in the middle. Once Imhotep's identity was revealed, the movie took off with increasing excitement and never let up. Once again, we get the way-too-abrupt ending. Not only did we not get a wrap-up, we barely had a chance to catch our breath before the credits popped up. I guess we should get used to that with these golden oldies.


Next: The living dead theme continues with I Walked with a Zombie (1943).

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Creature Feature #5 - *I Walked with a Zombie (1943)* recorded from TCM


Who do the hoodoo on the floozy? Was it voodoo?



I've never seen a Val Lewton movie before, but he seems to have a pretty good reputation. While I've heard of a few of them, I always thought they were just run of the mill schlock that just never got shown on TV while I was growing up. So it was with great interest that we settled down for some 40's zombie action!


We did some pre-movie research into the origins and history of voodoo. Seems the religion came out of West Africa and spread to the Americas via the slave trade, where it was blended with certain aspects of Roman Catholicism. It is still practiced throughout the Caribbean as well as parts of Louisiana. We talked about some of the beliefs and rituals, as I was pretty sure they would be referenced in the film. Lastly, we compared and contrasted those beliefs with our Christian faith. It was a good review and the movie did end up hitting on just about everything we discussed!


We also had to differentiate between the types of Zombies. We're dealing here with dead guys who are brought back to life to do the usually-sinister bidding of someone. No eating brains required.


Well, the first half of the movie dragged along pretty slow. There was a good bit of set-up and it was easy to get lost. We totally missed that the calypso singer's song was about the affair between Jessica and Wesley. I was left wondering why there was so much conflict between the brothers! It wasn't until the mother confessed that we pieced it all together. Nurse Betsy fell in love with Paul Holland a little to easily for our taste too. The first appearance of Jessica on the shadowy staircase was very cool, though. Creepy!


Once Betsy decided to take Jessica to the voodoo ceremony, things picked up nicely. The walk through the sugar cane field was extremely well-done, with all those disturbing voodoo images. Carrefour was awesome and single-handedly pushed up the fright factor. I wished he had got to do more in the film. The voodoo ceremony was believably passionate and ominous. The best part of the movie!


The end of the film seemed like a bit of a let-down. The build-up was powerful and the tension was high, but then not much happened. It lacked real excitement and was almost too melodramatic. Carrefour never got to shine and we only get the strange beach scene and a narration about just deserts.


Once the movie was over, we worked out the areas of the plot that either of us had have missed and watched the Calypso song again. My daughter felt that the movie gave the impression that the voodoo stuff that happened was "not real", but then Jessica seemed under the control of the voodoo doll - and she didn't bleed when stabbed. We supposed that it was up to the viewer whether she was a real zombie or not.


Bottom Line: The story was interesting and had some great elements, but my daughter did not like the execution. It was overly complex and never delivered a defining moment for her. She gave it a thumbs down. I think she expected a movie that focused more on the zombie angle, and not a emotional love-mystery. So her initial expectations were not meet nor were any new expectations she developed as the movie went on. I appreciated the movie more and will probably watch it again sometime. IMO, it is one of those films that is better the second time around - when you know what is going on and you have no particular expectations.


Next: No, Yellow Peril is not a Crayola color. The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932).

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*The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)* - recorded off of TCM.


Rape the white man's horses and ride off on his women.


Oh, my! Lots of pre-movie material to cover here! The mystical and mysterious Far East was certainly a realm of fascination and fear to the Western World in the early 20th century. When my daughter and I reviewed the notorious historical context (Genghis Khan and The Golden Horde) with the then-more current events (the Boxer Rebellion and the rise of Imperial Japan), we came to see how easily a unified East could have been construed as the greatest potential threat of the West's world dominance. Add to that the xenophobia bred from a predominant nescience of the culture and history of the orient, and it became clear how a villain like Fu Manchu could become popular as the embodiment of the "Yellow Terror". We also talked about the "color" stuff (Yellow-White, East vs West, Us vs Them) and how sensitivities have changed since then. That even brought on a conversation about the Washington Redskins!


Boris Karloff returned to us as the sadistic genius, Fu Manchu. My daughter thought Mr. Karloff did a great job and his make-up was cool, but she couldn't relate to the character or his objectives in any way. There was not much to like about him! He and his daughter displayed a little too much pleasure in the pain they produced. Fu's torturous treatment of Sir Lionel was brutal with the bell ringing, food tempting and salt water drinking! And my dd was understandably confused by the Fah Lo See whipping scene followed by some creepy kissing and innuendo. I wasn't touching that one.


The other torture devices were interesting. The crocodile pit and spiked walls caused us to squirm a little and we were glad that the heroes escaped from them!


My daughter can't stand tarantulas and she got super worked-up by those (and the snakes) that appeared.


The movie was the most brutal we have watched so far. The torture and casual killing, the severed hand with Barton's ring on it, the poor watchman who got a knife in the back, even Fu getting chopped down with the giant sword - nothing funny about those moments. After the movie, we slo-mo'd the knife scene and identified the thick padding in the man's back that absorbed the knife. Still a dangerous stunt though. I guess they had a trust-worthy knife thrower on set!


The ending wasn't bad. Fu should have had some security controls on that lightning gun. The sneering. leering Asiatic horde is zapped and the sword of Genghis Khan is cast into the ocean. The "White Man" is safe and Fu Manchu and his plans for world conquest are gone forever... or are they? I'm surprised they never made another Fu Manchu movie in the thirties. He makes a great villain and Karloff gave an awesome performance imo.


My daughter gave the movie middling marks. At this point, she only seems to have an affection for the famous Universal monsters. I suspect that next week's movie, Cat People (1942) will be a another disappointment. She doesn't mind. "I like watching them all, even the bad ones." That's my girl!

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I'm interested in what your daughter thinks about Cat People.


That is a so called 'thinking man's' horror film. (today that would be thinking gal since your daughter is more likely to go to college than the boys in her class).


Anyhow, Cat People is unique so I wonder what someone her age would say about it.

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*Cat People (1942)* - recorded from TCM


My daughter and wife love cats. Me not so much. We don't have a cat mainly because of my allergies, and there is a smoldering resentment towards me that will always simmer in our house. So despite the chance of stroking that ill will, I presented another Val Lewton film to my daughter. I've never seen it, but it is supposed to be his best. She didn't care for the bizarre and melodramatic "I Walked with a Zombie" at all, so I was a bit apprehensive about this one too. But as I soon found out, subject matter counts.


No pre-movie study required unless you want to point out Serbia on a map, or define what a T-square is.


The strange and beautiful Irena is introduced immediately and we find that she doesn't like the zoo's black panther much. Or does she? What is for certain - she is a weird one and the alarms should have been going off for poor Oliver Reed! But they fall in love and get married with nary a kiss. The wedding night is spent in separate bedrooms and I'm cracking (clean) jokes all over the place. Months go by and not much has changed. They (finally) decide to seek some counseling. That Oliver sure is a trooper! Not even a kiss! My daughter had no problem grasping the strange context minus any hidden sexual implications, and I appreciated the movie for not hammering that aspect home. I can only imagine what a modern movie would do with it.


The movie did a good showing of how torturous Irena's existence was to her. Afterwards, my daughter spoke of her in terms of a hero as well as a villain. It would be cool to turn into a big cat - as long as you could control yourself.


It was sad to watch the married, but never intimate, couple interact as their strange relationship begins to normalize. You really feel Irena's fear and sorrow and Oliver's concern turn to regret and eventual infidelity. Speaking of which, I thought it was clever how they handled the character of Alice as a sort of benevolent homewrecker- she even refered to herself as "the new type of other woman."


We were treated to some well-choreographed scary parts. The tools of shadow, sound and silence were skillfully used to build up the tension. If they had used a few "jump scares" in those parts, it would have put us through the roof! Unfortunately, shadows and sounds are about all we got. There were no great visual horrors or payoff moments (except when the doctor finally gets it at the end). Surprisingly, my daughter had no complaints about "nothing really happening." She seemed satisfied with what was shown and not-shown. The scene on the way to the bus stop was probably the most frightening, but again, we only see some rustling bushes and a few dead sheep. The pool scene would surely end in horror! Nope. The apprehension and atmosphere there was awesome, but no coup de grace. Cats are afraid of water I suppose. My daughter thought those scenes were great and was probably glad they didn't end in death and bloodshed. I expected a few bodies to pile up to establish the threat.


The story's end was good and we finally get to see Irena turn into a cat and kill someone. Well, we didn't actually see it, but you know what I mean. "Is he crazy! Why would he kiss her!" my daughter exclaimed as the doctor sealed his doom. He didn't believe in the curse and was a little too full of himself, frankly.


Bottom Line: My daughter was under the impression that the "cat people" would be turning into actual house cats and was slightly disappointed that they didn't. Oh, that would have been exciting - a gory cacophony of torn curtains and ruined upholstery! Other than that, she surprisingly enjoyed the movie a great deal. I felt some slight boredom throughout the film and expected her to also, but she seemed engrossed in the story - drama, romance and all. The cat theme helped, I think. She had no complaints and gave the movie high marks. "Much better than the Zombie movie!" I did not concur. The acting was strong and the storyline was unique and displayed intellect, but I wanted more action. Much like "I Walked with a Zombie", there were awesome build-ups crafted, only to peter out in some anti-climatic fashion. Like telling a enthralling ghost story in the dark, only to have your mom switch on the lights and break it up right before the best part. But if you like your horror more thoughtful and subdued, Cat People is the ticket.


Next: Our first foray into the Silent Era - with Lon Chaney as The Phantom of the Opera (1925).


Edited by: dirtyape on Nov 18, 2013 11:12 AM

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*Phantom of the Opera (1925)* - recorded from TCM.


I was really pumped up for this one! I've seen a handful of clips from the film and a whole bunch of stills, but I've never seen the entire movie. Silent films never got played on TV when I was growing up! I've seen the musical, and my daughter can play "Music of the Night" as part of her piano lessons, so we are both familiar with the story. I presented the movie to my daughter as the first Universal monster movie (with an asterisk for Lon Chaney's Hunchback). Getting to "experience" her first silent movie would be an added bonus! Her excitement level remained tepid, however, and I was apprehensive. I knew that the possibility of future screenings of Nosferatu or Metropolis may be dependent on the Phantom's ability to impress!


I didn't inundate her with too much technical jargon when we discussed why these early films were silent. We just left it at "the technology to create synchronized sound had not been developed yet." We did delve into what was used in it's stead - live music and title cards. She found it interesting that a actual piano or organ player would sit in the theatre and play along with the movie. That would have been "a cool job", not to mention unique for the viewer. The difference in experiences between various movie houses depending on their capabilities must have been pronounced! We imagined: "Phantom was pretty good at the local movie house, but I want to see it again at the city theatre with thier giant Wurlitzer!" I guess that would be like IMAX to us today.


I knew all about the famous "unmasking scene" and had kept it a secret from my daughter in hopes of catching her unguarded reaction! Two days before our viewing, she found a movie guide book I recently bought and she read about the movie there. "I heard that it has a scary scene where she pulls his mask off", she casually told me later. I was crushed!


Even with the spoiler, that scene still had some punch to it for her! She knew it was coming and pulled a pillow up to her eyes, but still caught the full brunt of that defining moment. "Ewwwwwww!" Ya got another one after all, Lon! After the movie, we talked about "The Man of a Thousand Faces" and discussed the makeup techniques he used in the movie.


I read the title cards aloud, just to add some drama. My daughter didn't complain! I even added a little of my own dialogue here and there if I thought she wasn't grasping a scene. We had some fun with that!


The sets used in the film were awesome! The giant backstage props, shadowy cellars, watery passageways and devious torture rooms were stunning in their tinted complexity! The rooftop scene was gorgeous with the Phantom gesturing wildly atop the giant statues, red cape billowing in the wind!


The color ballroom scene was "weird", but the Masque of the Red Death got another approving "ewwwwww!" when he showed up!


Bottom Line: She found the lack of spoken word to be quaint, but that didn't make up for it's absence. She wanted some talking to provide explanation and emotion. I told her that she had to use some intuition and pay close attention to the dramatic facial expressions. She wasn't buying it, "It would have been a lot better with words." Of course it would be! Who wouldn't want to hear the Phantom's caressing voice and maniacal laughter! But it is still a great experience without that! "It was ok." Fair enough. I don't expect her to be clamoring for more silent films in the future, but she should be fine if I slip one in once in a while!


Next: A special request! My daughter has read the H.G. Wells book and wants to see the movie. Striking while the iron is hot, I ordered the DVD. - War of the Worlds (1953)!

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*War of the Worlds (1953)* - from the current DVD edition.


A few months back, my daughter read the condensed version of War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells and thought it was great. When I mentioned that there were several film versions, she insisted we watch one of them. I figured we could fit the classic 1953 movie into our Creature Feature, and not wanting to wait for TCM to show it, I bought the DVD. I've seen the Tom Cruise version and liked certain parts of it, but had no desire to see it again.


Having recently read the book, she was more familiar with the story than I was. I just had to make sure she understood that the movie would present a modernized version of the story that she had read. Well, modernized up to the standards of the 1950's! Come to think of it, wouldn't it be cool to see a remake done in the original late 19th century time period?




At the movie's start, we were treated with a exposition on the members of our solar system and why the Martians chose Earth to colonize. My daughter pointed out that they skipped Venus! Maybe the Martians skipped it because the highly advanced Venusians would have kicked their butts!


Things get moving right away! The first Martian ship lands (crashes) and all of our characters are introduced. The actors all did a solid if not very memorable job. Gene Berry came across as a less lanky Jeff Goldblum and Ann Robinson was adequate in her hysterics. Everyone else just served to move the story along.


And who cares! The Martian war machines were the real stars of the movie. From the time that the hatch begins to unscrew to the triumphant end, we are treated to one awesome action-packed thrill ride! The "battle" between the army and the Martians was about as impressive as it could have been. Guns, tanks, heat rays, jets, and disintegrators all blasting away! Reinforcement meteors falling like rain! The Martians put on quite a dominating performance. I remember my daughter describing the Martians as "unstoppable" while she was reading the book and they were no less so in the movie! Poor, brave Earth was helpless before their onslaught!


The atomic bomb drop was a hoot! We even got to see some footage of the rare YB-49 Flying Wing bomber! But once everyone wiped the fallout dust from their eyes, we see that the Martians are still unscathed beneath those darn forcefields, which were a great-looking special effect btw.


The farmhouse scene gave us a more personal look at the invaders. The creepy camera snake followed by an actual Martian provided the movie's most frightening moments. We didn't see much of the alien, but what we did see was well-done with the pulsating skin and weird three-color eye.


I was really impressed with the special effects. My daughter never laughed out loud at any perceived "fakeiness", giving further credence to the high level of craftsmanship involved. Strings not withstanding, the hovering Martian ships looked as good as anything could have back then, imo. The miniature work was solid, especially in the city battle scenes. And those Martian sound effects were unforgettably classic!


The ending was not a surprise to us of course, but still iconic with the Martian war machine taking a header and the dying arm extending out of the hatch. Prayers are answered as earth's smallest and deadliest defenders go to work on the invaders.


Bottom line: Truly a war of the worlds. Actually, it really had a real war movie vibe to it throughout. I had seen and liked parts of the movie before, but I am even more enamored with the film in whole. We have a lot of 50's sci-fi to watch yet, but I can't imagine anything topping this one. My daughter was engrossed the entire time and had nothing but praise for the movie. No complaints about bookmovie differences either. "That's my favorite creature feature so far!" she proclaimed. She even watched it again a couple days later.


PS - the DVD extra on the making of the film is excellent. How cool would it be to have one of those original 4ft. wide brass war machines now. They were sold for scrap after the movie was made!


Next: Call the exterminator! It's Them! (1954)

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*Them! (1954)* - recorded from TCM.


Pre-screening review: Giant Ants. Period.




The movie starts off great! The little girl, wrecked trailer, bloody clothes, strange tracks, etc. all build up a pretty good mystery. It becomes much scarier and more ominous when we get to the general store. My daughter cringed at the sight of poor, dead Gramps. And those strange sounds! She was hiding her eyes a lot.


The tension continued to mount until we finally got a glimpse of the creatures. My daughter was initially repulsed, but quickly decided that the ant wasn't as frightening as she expected. In fact, the ants received a mixed review from her overall. They were gross and she appreciated that they were "real" (full-size), but they didn't seem all that threatening. They didn't move very fast and seemed more like lumbering giants as opposed to swarming insects. Still, they managed to pass the "laugh" test and we took them seriously. The ants were certainly impressive when one considers that we're dealing with a 50's sci-fi film. They must have even seemed somewhat revolutionary to the viewers of that day!


The catatonic little girl was freaky and when she finally stirred and began screaming "Them!", my daughter exclaimed "That's were the name comes from!" in a eureka moment.


The ant nest scene was great. Another cringe was induced by the human bones scattered around the opening. The exploration and destruction of the nest was lots of fun too! "No way would I go in there!"


Then the film really bogs down. Trips to here and there, generals and

G-men, a gauntlet of silly witnesses, and film presentations on ant behavior all served to bring the tension to a crashing halt. Our interest waned and my eyelids got heavy. I was a little tired and cranky already, so that didn't help either. They finally find the missing queen and the action and suspense picked back up as they entered the storm drains.


Ben Peterson's death was intense and kinda gruesome! The scene with him squatting in the connector shaft with his flamethrower was very Alien-like!


I missed Leonard Nimoy's part and had to got back later to find it!


Bottom Line: My daughter thought the movie was ok and compared it to "It Came from Outer Space" with it's desert mystery motif. The ants were cool, if not very scary. I was a bit disappointed and was expecting more from a highly regarded film. I saw the movie when I was little, but remembered only the first thirty minutes. I may have never made it through the whole movie and almost didn't this time! The acting was good, story well-thought out and the effects were respectable, but that Dragnet stuff in the middle killed the mood for me. The first and last thirds were great though, and I do appreciate it as the first atomic giant bug movie.


Next: Just in time for her classroom study of Ancient Greece - Jason and the Argonauts (1963)!

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  • 2 weeks later...

*Jason and the Argonauts (1963)* - recorded from TCM.


My daughter is currently studying Ancient Greece in school, so I bumped this movie up in our schedule to coincide. Her class had already read the original myth and she wanted to know why the title didn't include "The Golden Fleece". I suppose that "Argonauts" just sounds cooler?


I remember this film well from my childhood. Always a favorite.


No pre-screening research on this one. My daughter already knows a great deal about mythology and the various Greek gods.


After the initial introductions and setup, the film is really just a long string of awesome monster scenes and the first one is Talos. The bronze giant is visually stunning and those neat metal grinding noises he makes as he moves sounded perfectly menacing! He really needs to learn how to shake his leg, though.


My daughter was impressed by the scene where Jason stands on the game board and converses with the giant gods. I explained that it was done by filming different scenes and then combining them to look like they are together in a single scene. We looked it up later and found that the effect is called compositing.




Hercules was a fun (and hairy) character, but my daughter thought him a troublemaker and was glad to see him go!


The harpies were the creepiest creatures! We both wished the movie had put in some close-up shots of them, maybe with actors in makeup. Budget restraints we guessed.


Triton (or was that Poseidon?) popping up out of the sea got a "Whoa!" out of my daughter. She wasn't expecting that!


Of course, the skeleton swordfight was the highlight of the movie. I love how they grow out of the ground, begin marching in unison and then finally attack in screaming fury! The fight choreography is outstanding and holds up well even today.


Here is an awesome action figure that is available!




Did you know the designs on the Skeleton's shields are based on other Harryhausen movie monsters? How cool is that!


Bottom Line: Such a classic! Fast moving monster mayhem that still has the power to impress! My daughter loved it and explained to me all of the parts that were different from the myth. She was disappointed that the story didn't continue back to Pelias for his comeuppance. Was there a sequel? Sadly, no. Doesn't matter, it was still great fun!


Next: We must complete the Karloff Monster trilogy - Son of Frankenstein (1939)!

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  • 2 months later...

You mentioned two scenes in two films that, for me, stand out as two of the most memorable-ever scenes: Telos in JASON - what camera work on a little model! The sound, the hugeness - if you have a chance to see this on Big Screen, sit in the first third of the seats and flatten out as Telos creaks and comes to life. MOST incredible.


And the opening scenes of THEM. This should be a lesson in How To Begin A Thriller for all film students. I don't think any film has done it better - starts slow, plodding, driving along, boringly following a plane but tense to hear they're searching for some lost-in-the-desert little girl. Bits and pieces, strewn out in front of us, baiting the hook until it's already set, and I was hooked and couldn't possibly leave that film.


This is another all-time favorite and, again, if you have a chance to see this on the big screen with a large audience, it's always a wonderful experience.

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