It is now November, so I just wanted to say that’s a wrap on “Halloween Twenty-Fifteen”, the column I started back in September to lead up to my favorite holiday. There were 40 installments including this one, covering paranormal investigations, creepy legends, and also horror movie reviews. I hope everyone enjoyed it, and I will definitely bring it back next year with a different name. To read all the different articles, please click here. As for what is coming up in November and December, it is hard to follow up what ended up being a widely read column. I was thinking maybe some JFK postings since the anniversary is this month, but I am not sure how much time I will have for research. There are a few restaurant reviews which have been sitting on the shelf because I did not want them to interfere with all the Halloween stuff, so those will be posted shortly.
Well folks, this will be the final installment of “Halloween Twenty-Fifteen”. I hope you enjoyed the column which I started in early September. This upcoming film also happens to be the 1000th I have seen in my lifetime according to IMDB (more on that at a later day).
The body snatching days of the 1800’s have always been such a fascinating part of our history. Doctors, students, and colleges all trying to learn as much as they can about the human body, yet not allowed to use humans for dissection—the only logical way the learning could be done. Some exceptions were made for paupers and criminals, but for the most part, the acquiring of cadavers by medical schools became a shady business. There were grave-robbers and shadowy deals, and in some instances, even murder. The Body Snatcher is really not much of a horror movie. It will not scare you with jumps, but rather with subject matter. It essentially encompasses the entire history of the grave-robbing era and throws it into this movie, using Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel as the source.
I will spare you all the backstory, because it is enough for another book. I have a second manuscript already finished detailing the paranormal occurrences which happened at Strauss Mansion in Atlantic Highlands last October. Maybe one day when I have the time, I will sit down and edit them for publication on this blog. Or, better yet, maybe come into some money to make a second book release possible. Nevertheless, the best evidence I ever shot was on last Halloween, 2014. We had just wrapped up one of our most intense paranormal investigations and seances. We stuck around after one of our lantern tour events since it was the perfect night for it. The energy was through the roof, stronger than it had ever been. We shut off all the lights and locked up for the night only to go outside and see one of the upstairs hallway lights was on. I asked Lou Fligor if we should go in and shut it off. Wanting to get out of there after a rough night, he said, “No!”, but continued to stare at the window. Damn it, I know he wants to go back in there. So, the two of us headed back inside. I turned my phone’s camera on and off we went. Nothing remarkable happened inside, but when we got back out, everyone was standing, staring up at a second floor window dumbstruck. Something was moving.
Boris Karloff’s tremendous screen presence notwithstanding, I actually enjoyed this 1959 remake of The Mummy even better than the original. The colors pop with vibrancy. The acting is sincere. The script is clever. The one from the 1930’s deserves its special place among the greats, but this version directed by Terence Fisher manages to trump it in almost every way. There are slight variations, but overall, the story is similar. A team of archaeologists uncover the famed mummy of an Egyptian princess, and through this disturbance, awaken another mummy, Kharis (Christopher Lee), who was doomed to watch over her for eternity. Thousands of years ago he was sentenced to be buried alive for attempting to bring the dead princess back to life. It is revealed that there is a modern-day cult which still worships the old gods, and has turned Kharis on the loose to kill the three main archaeologists who uncovered the tomb.
While I suppose this is one of the better Frankenstein remakes made over the years, it took some Scotch before it became even remotely interesting. I really do not see what all the fuss is about. Then again, I was not crazy over the original either. Anyway, The Curse of Frankenstein is an honest if not underplayed redux of the original classic. That’s its main strong point. In a project which has been given credit for single-handedly resurrecting the horror genre in the late fifties, it would have been easy to go over-the-top. Instead, we get something very close to what die-hard fans would have wanted. Peter Cushing is the astute yet mad Dr. Victor Frankenstein, obsessed with creating life out of an assembled mass of body parts. His goal is to create a being of superior intellect and model form. Of course, all he gets is a maniacal murdering monster.
How far would you go for fame and fortune? Would you sell your soul? That is exactly what happens in this oddball horror movie from 1971, The Mephisto Waltz. Alan Alda plays music critic Myles Clarkson who must conduct an interview with the so-called “greatest pianist alive”, Duncan Ely, portrayed perfectly by Curt Jurgens (as a side note, this is the first time I have seen Jurgens as anything other than a Nazi officer). As the conversation progresses, it is revealed the critic is a former and disgruntled concert pianist himself, who quit after his first and only concert was met with scathing reviews. However, Ely recognizes the talent he has just by looking at his hands, and has him play a few tunes. The two soon become best friends and their families intermingle. Is Ely just a nice guy, or is something sinister at hand?
I lasted only 36 minutes before I had to start skipping through this sucker. Even if The Fall of the House of Usher was good, one would not be able to write such a review without at least drawing minor comparisons to Roger Corman’s 1960 version of the Edgar Allan Poe haunted house-story. But its not good. Not in any way. There’s a reason why this film has been buried over the years, hardly ever emerging except for a showing on TCM when they run out of other horror movies to show. While it is not poorly made, overall, it is nothing but a dud with a preposterous time-killing sidetrack. We have the House of Usher, cursed along with its family members. We also learn of how the curse was put on the family. The main character’s sister is suffering from some affliction, and much like other renditions, the story and ending is posited to us in a way that makes us wonder if she is really ill or is being driven to madness by her brother.