Remembering Creature Double Feature 

By Ed Davis

One of my fondest memories growing up was the chance to see Creature Double Feature every

Saturday. I didn’t live in the Boston area but, here in Guilderland, NY WPIX channel 11 was interrupted for WLVI every week. I don’t know why they did that but I was really glad they did.

My Saturday’s started with cartoons, of course! Laff-A-Lympics, Thundarr The Barbarion, Godzilla, and of course, Challenge of The Super-Friends. I was an only child so my assorted Mego dolls

acted as my companions for these early morning adventures. Around noon time, Lost in Space would be on, and that killed the hour before the monsters began.

I remember putting a lawn chair in the living room or blowing up a swimming pool float to lay on and setting up my Shogun Warriors and Godzilla to take part in the festivities. What a treat every week! I learn about giant monster invasions, vampires, mummys, the dangers of radiation, and more. It was this whole new world, and one that I submerged myself in weekly.

I remember the end of The Mummy, sinking into the bog. Powerful stuff! The scientist in Tarantula turning into a monster himself, and hoping they wouldn’t show his face again. The Mushroom people, they were creepy! If I didn’t see them again, it would be too soon. And of course, my favorite monster hero, Godzilla. The original was very scary, so dark! But, my favorite was Destroy All Monsters. Where else could you see all of the monsters in one great film?

Universal gave a chance to enjoy that with House Of Frankenstein and House of Dracula. Another couple good monster romps featuring all of the Universal Monsters. I was always disappointed that Bela didn’t play Dracula in them.

I remember watching The Incredible Shrinking Man and discovering we had to go out that day. His boat went through the strange mist that caused him to shrink and that was that. Out the door we went. In those days, no DVR to record it. It would be a whole year or so before I knew what happened.

Eventually, like all good things, it was gone. No announcement or anything. I remember getting the TV Guide every week, hoping to see another double feature listed. It would be years before I had a chance to discover these films again, thanks to DVD. I have a pretty good collection of the movies shown, and my plan is to own all of the movies shown on Creature Double Feature someday.

I never realized how many monster kids there were out there, experiencing all of this too. Almost daily, I get a chance to reminisce about these films. And now, there are even conventions! The Creature Double Feature Round Up 2 is coming up at the end of September, and I am looking forward to meeting my TV brothers and sisters.

I think the most amazing part is getting to write about all of these movies. I head a column called, “Monsters & Memories” at www.HorrorHaven.com and much like this site, they pay great homage to Creature Double Feature. The site also has The Fright Channel, an online station showing Horror and Sci-Fi the way it’s supposed to be.

It’s a real honor to have the chance to write about all of this, and look forward to talk with more of you about the Monster Kid about it! Drop me a line at starwarzed@hotmail.com some time, and we’ll all keep doing out part to keep Creature Double Feature alive.

REVIEWS


The Ghouligans

Hello Fellow Monster Movie Fans,

I was recently treated to one of the most bizarre pieces of video I’ve watched in a long time. “The Ghouligans Super Show ” is a new production from Slack Pack Productions. In all honesty, after watching this video, I’m really not sure what I’ve beheld, but I know I like it! Created and developed by Michael Koscik and Sean King, this program packs a wallop.

Part Classic Monster tribute, part comedy/variety show, this video seems to owe quite every bit as much to the conventions of 60′s comedy classics as “Laugh in”, and ” the Benny Hill Show” as the great Universal Monster movies of the 40′s and 50′s. At different points in the show, I was reminded of classics such as “The Uncle Floyd Show”, and more modern cult hits like “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job”. Played against a backdrop of our favorite old time monsters dealing with modern day hang-ups, this anachronistic motley crew of ghouligans faces one hysterical misadventure after another.

As we move through the program, we are presented with various vignettes that put the usual monster archetypes (Frankenstein, Dracula,Wolfman, Zombie) through a series of hilarious (if somewhat absurdist) adventures. One of my favorites is a sketch where some typical 1950′s horror movie teens (victims) sneak into a graveyard to resurrect a vicious zombie named Void (ala Candyman, speak his name 3 times out loud). The comedy plays out much like the aforementioned 60 television shows, but the kicker is, that here the punchlines are delivered by folks dressed up in monster costumes.

And boy, what costumes! Adding to the overall humor and mood, are the outrageous suits that the actors wear. In fact one of the most interesting and visually appealing parts of the program are the likenesses of the Zombie(Void, played by Sean King), and the Fish Creature(Krill Gill, Rick Maggio). Other featured monsters include Boris (Frankenstein’s Monster), played by Michael Koscik, the hapless Count Farnham (Dracula), played by Justin Hertz, and the hysterical Elvis impersonating Wolfgang (Wolfman), played by Peter Bune. While they are designed to exaggerate, and perhaps lampoon the features of our monster friends, I must say that I find the suits very cool to look at. Overall I found the visuals of the show outstanding, the video quality, the sets, and last but not least the beautiful go-go girls who adorn many of the sketches in their 60′s inspired attire. Yes, I’m a sucker for sexy scream queens, and this program has ‘em to spare!

Overall, “The Ghouigans Super Show” was a sensational breath of fresh air for this die hard classic monster movie fan. I found that the performances of the monsters were all done with a fun, fresh spirit (My favorites being Void, and Wolfgang the Wolfman, played by Sean King and Peter Bune respectively), with enough sense to not take themselves too seriously. The only real room for improvement I see would be the need for a little bit more serious editing, and a bit of punching up in the sound effects department. Some of the bits tend to have some dead space in between the dialogue that could have been cut out, this coupled with the lack of more attractive sound effects to spruce up the action, tend to leave the viewer with a tendency to drift off from time to time.

The music is provided by Paul T. Laino, who does a great job of capturing the overall sixties feel that the show seems to really be trying to capture. My only regret here is that there tends to be a heavy reliance on drum machines which hinders the overall excitement of the tunes.

While I think that this show would be best suited for classic monster movie fans, I’m sure there would be plenty for anyone who likes a good laugh to sink their fangs into. Some of the themes may not be appropriate for small children, but I wouldn’t think this would be offensive to anyone else.

In closing, I highly recommend this program for anyone looking for some offbeat, crazy monster fun.

AJ

 



THE WOLF MAN

ALL BARK AND NO BITE � UNIVERSAL�S RE-IMAGINING OF THE WOLF MAN
By Dean Vanderkolk

WARNING!! This post will contain spoilers about the film. Read at your own risk.

Let�s get the positives out of the way first. The Wolf Man, Universal�s big-budget remake of the classic horror film starring Lon Chaney, Jr., looks great. It manages to evoke a sense of period, the cinematography is outstanding, and the special effects are, for the most part, perfect. Unfortunately, in this day and age those things are to be expected to be done well, especially given the money and talent behind the film.

The real problem with the movie is its complete misunderstanding of what made the Lon Chaney Jr. character so compelling. The original film was, in essence, a tragedy. A man is doomed through a quirk of fate to become a monster, and he is powerless to do anything to stop it. Indeed, the nature of his curse is such that he is guided by fate toward the inevitable murder of those things most dear to him. It is a character study of the psychological torture this man is forced to undergo, as well as the pain felt by the people who surround him. They sympathize with him, but since they cannot believe his tale, they cannot do the things that would help him most.

In the remake, Benecio Del Toro plays Lawrence Talbot, who returns to his London home after receiving a letter from the girlfriend of his brother. Seems the brother has gone missing, and she requests that Lawrence come home to aid in the search. The movie does not answer the question of why she believes Talbot can help. Indeed, since Talbot has not been home for years, it seems a curious request. The only possible explanation for his return is that the film needs him in London, so that�s where he is going to be.

Talbot has an estranged relationship with his father, a cold and distant man played by Anthony Hopkins. He barely seems to care that his son has returned, and certainly seems undisturbed by his revelation that Lawrence�s brother has already been found and was the victim of a savage, brutal murder that left him torn to pieces. In the course of Lawrence�s investigation into the death, he is eventually attacked by a savage beast. He survives, only to find that he has become a lycanthrope and will change into a beast every time the full moon rises. This is where the movie ultimately falls apart.

In this film, Talbot seems to have little remorse for his actions. He doesn�t seem to care that he kills dozens and dozens of folks (this wolf man is a far more efficient killing machine than Chaney, Jr. ever was). He suffers no torment of conscience, he doesn�t seek a cure for his condition, and he doesn�t wish to die to spare others. Indeed, he is motivated purely by a desire for revenge upon his father, who, it turns out, is actually a werewolf himself and killed Lawrence�s mother and brother before passing the curse onto Lawrence. This severely undermines the sympathy and compassion we have for Del Toro. No longer are we watching the complicated struggle of a man caught in a horribly cruel joke of fate, we are simply watching an action picture calculated to afford an opportunity for two werewolves to duke it out onscreen.

The love story is also severely underdeveloped. Talbot falls in love with his dead brother�s fianc�e, and she falls for Talbot as well. But we are never really given a chance to see why they care for each other. They barely speak to one another in the film, and the only moment of tenderness and affection they have comes when Lawrence teaches her how to skip stones. The love story is also pointless, as the entire angle of Talbot being destined to murder the person he loves as a result of the curse is omitted entirely from this reimagining.

The people surrounding Talbot are also completely unsympathetic to his plight. The sanitarium where he is committed is merely a torture chamber, and the doctor takes great pleasure in punishing Lawrence over and over. This is done only so the movie can murder him in a particularly grisly way and we won�t feel sorry for the man. Imagine instead if the doctor was sincere in a desire to help Talbot, but is unable to face the truth about the man because of his reliance on science. Further, imagine that Talbot understands this. The eventual death of the doctor could then have served a dual purpose as it furthers the elements of Greek tragedy in the case of the doctor (a man destroyed by his own hubris), and could have further strengthened our sympathy for Lawrence, who sincerely would have regretted killing the man.

Talbot�s father, indeed, is positively gleeful about being a werewolf. He delights in murder. He feels no real guilt about his crimes or the life he has condemned his son to. Contrast this to the original film in which Claude Rains desperately wants to help his son, and eventually does so in the only means he can: by killing him and ending his torment. It is a moment loaded with emotion and pathos and again bonds us to the essential humanity of all the characters in the piece.

Del Toro�s performance is weaker than that of Lon Chaney Jr., although, in his defense, he does the best he can with the script given him. The character is passive. He is an individual to whom things happen, and he takes little active role in furthering the plot. In fact, in this version of the film, a very minor re-write could have eliminated him completely.

The film also fails to deliver the scares of the original. The action scenes are all paced at breakneck speed. Gone are the wonderfully atmospheric and suspenseful scenes of the original. We never see the beast track his victims. He merely runs them down with lightning speed, tears them to pieces and then moves on to the next victim. Slowing things down and focusing on sustained scenes with the stalking and attacking of single characters could have been far more frightening. Instead, the film relies on a truly staggering number of �false scares�, having characters and objects constantly pop unexpectedly into the frame for a quick jump.

The filmmakers are clearly unsure about what type of beast they wish to portray. Often, he is a two-legged man-wolf, as in the original film. But the movie also has no reservations about dropping him on all fours to race about the countryside. Sadly, these scenes of the four legged beast are the weakest in the film, their CGI nature screaming at you each time they are used. Rick Baker does a wonderful job with the transformation scenes and all scenes with the two-legged beast. Yes, these are CGI as well, but they are expertly done and only serve to highlight the deficiencies of the other sequences.

If the audience I saw the film with is any indication, I am certainly in the minority regarding my opinion of the film. But I still say that your time and money would be much better served by renting John Landis� An American Werewolf In London, which understood the nature of the beast and was much more effective as a fright film.

Last year, I had the honor of meeting Ron Chaney, grandson of Lon, and hearing him speak about his grandfather. He clearly loved the man, and his reminiscence pointed out what a kind and tender man Lon Chaney Jr. really was. Those elements of his nature shone through his portrayal of the Wolf Man, and they are a large part of why we connected so strongly with the character. If there is any bright spot concerning this version of The Wolf Man, it will come through its re-focusing attention on the original. Hopefully, it will serve to remind folks of what a masterful actor Lon Chaney, Jr. was.

 

 

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