That was an excellent one.
I don't have all the words right now but this film is a work of art.
It's funny, it's tense, it features two great performances from two actors and the director expertly creates a web of odd tension where you actually don't know what is happening for the majority of the run time.
The movie's neither hopeful in contrived ways, nor hopeless in different contrived ways. Somehow it manages to be wonderful
This documentary about the unique horror franchises that came out of Universal studios during the 20s and 30s, pretty much ending with the Wolfman in 1941, really is universal, in that the documentary makes ties from the Universal films to the German silents that were their forerunners, and even ties the Universal monsters to subliminal guilt some felt over WWI, embodied in its often deformed survivors. Maybe this guilt is one reason isolationism held the U.S. from entering WWII until it was almost too late? But I digress. The film analyzes in detail the Dracula, Frankenstein, Invisible Man, and Mummy franchises, and talks a little about the Wolfman. They entirely omit any discussion of Creature from the Black Lagoon, probably because that was the 50s, and after the nuclear bomb and the Nazis who is really afraid of a giant fish anyways? The documentary mentions that the production code and the loss of Universal by the Laemmles is what really ended the classic cycle of horror at Universal, because the new owners just never got the hang of making horror with the same insight into the public's subliminal fears like the films from the 20's through 1936 did.Commenters include author Ray Bradbury, who says he drew some of his inspiration from these films, and James Karen, giving his boyhood memories of seeing these films in the theater as a child. He had no ties to anybody at Universal, but just seems like someone who is young at heart. He is still with us and soon to be 94. Film critic David Skal gets annoyingly enthusiastic, but maybe horror is his passion. He is being shot in a room full of horror memorabilia, but, hey, maybe he has rooms in his house each dedicated to all different kinds of film including anime? Boris Karloff's daughter Sara, Gloria Stuart - once a Universal contract player, and Carla Laemlle also talk about their experience in and around the sets of these famous Universal horror films.Horror films from other studios are also mentioned such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde as well as Mystery of the Wax Museum and King Kong.This film does a very thorough job of discussing Universal horror films in general, and ends with a bit of a mystery, almost sounding like a curse. Carl Laemmle Jr., head of Universal at the time the Laemmles went into bankruptcy, came down with an undiagnosable illness and lived the rest of his life as an invalid. A chilling end to a chilling and fascinating documentary.It only makes me wonder, how can a studio make such a great documentary filled with thorough understanding of their own film history, and then treat that film history so shabbily? Probably Paramount and Universal are the two worst studios about giving no care at all to their catalogue of classic films.
This documentary on classic horror is found on the DVD of the 1932 version of The Mummy. It consists of interviews with actors, crew, experts and those who have been inspired in various ways by the movies, clips of them(from different decades, silent and spoken alike, and you can see the evolution of film-making), behind-the-scenes footage and stills as well as narration(Branagh seldom lets us down, and this is no exception). The amount of journalism alone is impressive here, and the presentation is so smooth and compelling that you end up not able to take your eyes off it. I'm not used to being this captivated by something presented in this medium which is not fiction. They cover a massive amount in the well-paced 95 minutes that fly right by. The technical aspects, different language versions(some of them superior to the American originals!), Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, make-up, the connection to WWI(the popularity of the thrilling flicks was partially on account of grotesquely hurt and disfigured people(victims of the war) living on, because of medical advances), the accusation of these pictures causing real life crimes, European styles and look, Gothic, Bauhaus, expressionism, art, etc. They even give away how some of the FX were done(including an early version of blue-screen!), and you really understand why these were beloved. Editing is crisp, and this never dwells excessively on anything. There is a lot of disturbing content, gory and violence in this. I warmly recommend this to every single fan of the medium, not just of the period or the specific genre. 8/10
Universal Horror (1998) *** 1/2 (out of 4)This Kevin Brownlow documentary has Kenneth Branagh doing the narration as we're told the history of the Universal Studios monsters. The documentary clocks in at just over ninety-minutes and if you're unfamiliar with the studio and their monsters then it's certainly a must see.We get interviews with historians as well as people who actually worked at the studio and in some cases in the monster movies themselves. The likes of Ray Bradbury, Nina Foch, James Karen, Carla Laemmle, Sara Karloff, Gloria Stuart, David J. Skal, Fay Wray and Lupita Tovar among others are interviewed for the documentary.Again, I think the people unfamiliar with the studio are going to be the ones who enjoy this the most since the story is aimed more at people who might not be experts on the studio and the films. I say this because the documentary mainly looks at the higher known pictures like Dracula, FRANKENSTEIN, THE MUMMY, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and THE WOLF MAN. Yes, the sequels as well as some of the other films are discussed but the documentary doesn't go into great detail about some of the smaller or lesser known pictures.Still, the interviews are certainly priceless today as many of the people here are now deceased so getting to hear their thoughts on the studio will be great for history. I did have a few issues with the film including the fact that a good portion of the start takes a look at Lon Chaney who wasn't a Universal star. There's no doubt he was important to the genre but I would have preferred hearing more about the lesser known Universal horror films over Chaney and his work at MGM.
This is really one of the better horror movie compilation/documentaries out there. A big reason for that is because of it's subject: Universal Pictures. This is the studio that produced the definitive versions of such films as Dracula, The Invisible Man, Frankenstein, The Wolfman and on and on. This documentary is interesting as it traces influences on these movies. It brings out that facial disfigurement in the movies was perhaps a reflection of veterans of World War I coming home with injuries from war, the idea of evil in ordinary looking people who were truly monsters was a reflection of the normal looking men who were otherwise nazi monsters. Traces origins in movies of the most famous Universal characters, showing clips from silent movies and also tracing the careers of various directors and the Laemmles who were in charge of Universal. People who were in these movies are interviewed and also, as a treat for the horror fan, well known personages in the Horror fan community such as Forrest Ackerman and others are interviewed and they share their earliest memories of seeing Universal films. Recommended to the horror fan. If you are new to classic horror films of the 1920s through the 40s, this would be a great education and shows you the most important and influential films to track down.