The latest ep in my sporadically airing lil' Pod experiment, Geek Talk...This time I feature Mr. Joe Bob Briggs. ("Ho-w'd you ever get him???", I'm sure you're ass-king yourself right now... ;)
William Castle directed a Hammer film.
Somehow, the Omnipotent Goddess of Horror Films saw it fit to unite these two forces in fear... and lo, did The Old Dark House materialize.
Hammer and William Castle are like an active Roman candle and a newborn baby: they are remarkably beautiful on their own, but the combination of the two is not recommended. Hammer specialized in solemn melodramas with literate scripts; Castle approached the genre with a carny talker's exuberance and cheeky humor. And while Hammer was known for technicolor splatter, Mr. Castle was primarily recognized for black-and-white ghost train gags. And when that fateful Old Dark House remake emerged from that unlikely union, the world greeted it with a mighty "blecch."
Everyone hates the 1963 version of The Old Dark House: William Castle fans hate it, Hammer fans hate it, and admirers of James Whale's The Old Dark House ABHOR it. Critic Tim Brayton called it the "absolute nadir of both Castle's and Hammer's horror films." Seldom is it mentioned in recounts of Hammer's history, as if to bury the film entirely. Yes, it seems that everyone does hate this film, with one notable exception: us.
We are not going to call this version of The Old Dark House a motion picture marvel or anything like that, and we do understand the criticisms: the shadows and dry wit of Universal's film have been replaced with broad clownery and garish color; It's gaudy, it's silly, and its gags are goofy. However, we think there is a zany charm to whole affair. At the very least, it's an amusing relic from the Sinister Sixties.
William Castle always brought a peculiar brand of camp and creep to his films, and The Old Dark House certainly embraces that style. Hammer's visual bravura is also on display, giving this cornball comedy a proper Gothic look. Chas Addams (creator of The Addams Family) drew the opening sequence, which is just incredible. If you love the cartoonish macabre, you probably dig this like a grave.
In many ways, Castle always struck us as the Tim Burton of the '50s/'60s: both primarily worked with strange/dark material, but they always injected a whimsical sort of humor into their films. While nowhere near the level of Beetlejuice, Old Dark House's arsenic-dipped buffoonery and candy-colored haunt remind us of Tim Burton's seminal spook-comedy. It's also the spiritual ancestor to films like Clue and Murder By Death. And fans of The Ghost and Mr. Chicken may find a lot to love.
The Old Dark House is a nutty, corny movie, but there's something oddly endearing about it. It's far from perfect, but we think it deserves rediscovery. Even if their styles don't exactly sync up, seeing a Hammer film spiced up with Castle's corn-on-the-macabre gusto is a pretty amusing novelty. This House is a very, very, very fine house!
Well, judge for yourself! Check out the film below!
Let's talk about Universal Monsters.
Oh man, I can talk a blue streak about the Universal Monsters... and I have! Many times over, in fact, and I'll keep doing so until I'm cold and buried! I mean, Universal's menagerie of menacing monstrosities have done more for horror than any other assorted collection of creeps! We owe our fandom to the beasts of Universal; they are the founders of the fear film! The creators of the creature feature! The horror genre as we know it wouldn't exist without them!
Now, I have expressed some variation of the above sentiment before... but what exactly is a Universal Monster? Sure, that sounds pretty self-explanatory: monsters from Universal horror films. And that is true... to a certain extent. Generally speaking, when one talks about the "Universal Monsters," they're referring to the creepsters from the '30s and '40s: Frankenstein, The Mummy, Dracula, etc. Many also include silent film creations like the Phantom of the Opera and the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Oh, and let's not forget the Creature from the Black Lagoon from the Fearsome Fifties, arguably the most popular of the Monsters today.
But Universal didn't stop producing monster movies after Creature from the Black Lagoon, and the monsters contemporaneous with the Creature seldom join the gang. Of the gill-less monsters introduced in the Atom Age, only the Metaluna Mutant from This Island Earth receives semi-regular representation in toys and other merchandise. The Mole People are even more rare, and never do you see the likes of Tarantula and The Leech Woman.
Universal also distributed several Hammer horror films, including Brides of Dracula, Curse of the Werewolf, and the 1962 Phantom of the Opera, yet those fabulous fiends are almost never invited to the Mad Monster Party. Hammer's kids did get the opportunity to play with Universal's in a Monster Old Maid card game from the 1960s and a few official commercials for home video releases; Hammer's Phantom was even included in a featurette on a DVD release of the 1943 Phantom of the Opera. Alas, after those few and meager instances, Universal never acknowledged their Hammerlings again.
The original House of Horror never really stopped manufacturing monsters; The Thing, David from American Werewolf in London, Darkman, The Mummy of '99, and Peter Jackson's King Kong are all monsters of Universal, but they are never identified as "Universal Monsters." Perhaps it's because they came decades after the Golden Age, but Creature was also later than the other members of the Monster crew. Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho was released in 1960, about six years after Creature from the Black Lagoon; should Norman Bates be considered a "monster?" Sure, he has no supernatural abilities, but the Phantom of the Opera is also without fantastical powers.
Even some monsters of the '30s and earlier are overlooked. Outside of box-sets, Dracula's Daughter has been buried. The Man Who Laughs never graces lunchboxes and Doritos ads. How often is Erik from Murders in the Rue Morgue seen in crowd? Why aren't iconic mad scientists counted? The trailers for House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula made mention of devious doctors as monsters, so why are they not part of the brand today?
Though there have been some deviations over the years, I would say the main Universal Monsters are:
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Chaney)
The Phantom of the Opera (Chaney)
The Mummy (Karloff)
The Invisible Man (Rains)
Bride of Frankenstein
The Wolf Man (Chaney Jr.)
The Creature from the Black Lagoon
That's pretty solid rogues' gallery, and it is generally the lineup we refer to when we say "Universal Monsters." They're the cats on pinball machines, pizza boxes, and whatnot; the most famous of all famous monsters. However, though those glorious ghouls shall always reign supreme, we would love for Universal to expand the brand by including the aforementioned creeps and maybe some we left off. Maybe more violent, R-rated monsters can form their own brand: the "New Universal Monsters" or something. With a history of horror as rich as Universal's, maybe it's time to let other monsters join the mash.
When will those fools realize that you can't kill Boris Karloff? They tried electrocuting him in The Walking Dead, and he shocked 'em right back. The Mummy had him mummified alive, but the uncanny Karloff refused to stay under wraps. And did the fire reduce him to ashes in Frankenstein? Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein say otherwise. I'm almost certain that Mr. Karloff attended his own funeral, As far as we know, ol' Boris could be reading this article right now.
In another flagrant display of disrespect for the Reaper, the endless Boris made a complete mockery of the hangman's noose in The Man They Could Not Hang, a 1939 chiller-diller from Columbia Pictures. It was one of three Karloff resurrection tales directed by Nick Grinde, the other two being The Man with Nine Lives and Before I Hang. When fright fans discuss the great films of Boris Karloff, this film never enters the conversation... which is a damn shame. Now, I'd be lying if I said that this film was on the same level as Bride of Frankenstein, but this nifty little spooker has a lot going for it.
Karloff plays Dr. Savaard, a man who believes that he has found a way to conquer death. In order to prove his theory, he needs a body. A young medical student volunteers to be the guinea pig in this experiment, which means that the doctor has to kill him... in a humane manner, of course. Unfortunately, the man's fiancée fears that Savaard will fail and has him arrested before he can finish. Condemned and executed, the man who would end death is himself dead... but not for very long. Seeking revenge against those who sent him to die, Dr. Savaard discovers that it's just as much fun to take life as it is to give it.
The first half of this film is completely novel, combining science fiction with courtroom drama. Savaard is put on trial for his crime, and he is found guilty. A furious Savaard gives a fantastic speech that damns the people responsible for his demise. Boris Karloff delivers his monologue with much venom, but he never loses the audience. We are led to believe that the experiment would've worked, so our sympathy is completely with him. The uncanny one is at his absolute best in this sequence, which is saying something.
Once Savaard is dead, the real fun begins. His assistant brings him back from the grave, so Savaard is free to destroy his murderers. While the first half is more unique, the second is pure classic horror bliss. A far cry from the noble healer we saw earlier, the revived Savaard is an abominable fiend... and we dig it! In true horror villain fashion, he rigs his house with dastardly traps and invites his enemies over for a death-dealing dinner. This section of the film is just devilishly delightful. Serving as a precursor to both House on Haunted Hill and the Dr. Phibes philms, it would take a unblackened heart not to enjoy the macabre melodrama here. Karloff proves why he is the king of horror in this half, balancing the sinister and the charming with perfect ease.
The Man They Could Not Hang is an undeservedly buried shock-show that deserves to be unearthed. If you're a fan of Boris Karloff and you haven't seen this picture, you need to remedy that immediately! The Man They Could Not Hang is a sensational yelp-yarn and a shocking showcase of Karloff's refusal to stay dead.
Check it out below, Ho-rror Ho-mies!
Salutations from the world of the weird! With Marvel's Avengers: Endgame heading into theaters this week, we felt it was appropriate to pay tribute to the mightiest of all Marvel monsters: The Incredible Hulk. Now, the Jade Giant is more firmly associated with the outside-underwear crowd, but bestial blood has always coursed through the veins of the ill-tempered titan. Superheroes and monsters share much of the same DNA, and never has that been more clear than in the strange case of the Incredible Hulk.
First appearing in the monster-mad '60s, the Hulk was the creation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. In Origins of Marvel Comics, Lee had this to say about the smashing super's eerie influences:
It was patently apparent that [the monstrous character the] Thing was the most popular character in [Marvel's recently created superhero team the] Fantastic Four. ... For a long time I'd been aware of the fact that people were more likely to favor someone who was less than perfect. ... It's a safe bet that you remember Quasimodo, but how easily can you name any of the heroic, handsomer, more glamorous characters in The Hunchback of Notre Dame? And then there's Frankenstein ... I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the Frankenstein monster. No one could ever convince me that he was the bad guy. ... He never wanted to hurt anyone; he merely groped his torturous way through a second life trying to defend himself, trying to come to terms with those who sought to destroy him. ... I decided I might as well borrow from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as well—our protagonist would constantly change from his normal identity to his superhuman alter ego and back again.
"Is He Man or Monster Or… Is He Both?" was the question proposed by the cover of The Incredible Hulk #1 in 1962, and it certainly sets the tone for the rest of the issue. Resembling an EC comic more than Superman, dread permeates the comic like the thickest fog. The moment Bruce Banner is exposed to gamma radiation is treated with supreme horror; Banner's screaming face is illuminated by the hideous glow of the gamma rays. When the Hulk emerges, it plays out like a werewolf thriller, not the coming of a superhero.
Banner attempting to control the beast within is pure fright mag material, and it is the driving force in most Hulk stories. The Jekyll and Hyde of Bruce Banner are constantly at war; both souls fighting for the physical body. If not for the years of TV shows, toys, movies, and video games to soften us to the green giant, the Hulk would be an utterly horrifying concept. The initial dread of the inaugural issue has largely been extinguished by the popularity of the character. He is now a figure of awe rather than a creature of terror.
Still, traces of the Hulk's fearsome origin remain. The Immortal Hulk series (highly recommended to fright fans) portrays the character as an undying monster, completely playing up the inherent horror of the brute. Even the children's Halloween special, Hulk: Where Monsters Dwell, plays with the dark side of the character. Many other versions show glimpses of the macabre, even if "Goofy Green Guy" seems to be the default.
"Goofy Green Guy" Hulk is as swell as they come, but we would love to see Hulk as horror more often. When they inevitably reboot the Hulk in film, we think the filmmakers should embrace the monster movie roots of Hulk and give us one heck of a super creature feature! Still, even at his silliest, Hulk is Marvel's greatest monster and we can't get enough of him!
Hail Hulk, our Marvel-ous Monster of the Month!
Attn. Mutants: Here's where you can find Mr. Joe Bob (and sometimes me ;), if'n that's a thing that interests ya! (Updated on the reg, so check back often! :)
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We're in the final stretch!! Tune in and watch Mr. Joe Bob break down two more Fright Flicks on Shudder...and I'll bring in some of your letters for him to read! :)
Bristol IMAXxx, Syracuse NY
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An Evening with Mr. Joe Bob Briggs
Bristol IMAXxx, Syracuse NY
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The Penultimate Ep of The first(?) season of The Last Drive In. This week we're showing one I've been wanting to show for a while...Any guesses? ;)
The Belcourt, Nashville TN
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An Evening with Mr. Joe Bob Briggs
The Belcourt, Nashville TN
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All amazing things must cum to a (ho-pefully temporary!!) end...Join us for the season finale of The Last Drive In. I promise that in true JBB fashion, we'll be going out in style!! ;) xoxo
My epic, extended, erotic (for those of us into 6 foot bunnies) shower death from the upcoming Bunnyman 3, Grindhouse edition.
Big thanks to the fine folks at MasiMedia who got this shindig together, and also to Mr. Roger Jackson (pictured intro-ing a screening of the film in Stu's backyard!! :) who not only came out to party with us, but-t also left me this terrifying vm that I will treasure for the neXXXt billion centuries!! :) xoxo
The 2018 Dark Circus did NOT disappoint!! It was going to be hard to live up to what I had told people about last year's, but I'm happy to report another five out of five, upside down crosses for this year's festivities. Check out the video and see for yourself. :)
My Interview with Clint Freakin' Howard!!!
(nude Clint Howard and snow globes...need I say more?)
High History: Why I love Scream so much!
(remember to finish him)
This shit is legit.