OHC – Odds and Ends, part the first

Let this post serve as a pick-up spot for movies watched and not yet reviewed. Films that got out of place, skipped over, or rewatched due to lack of interest and then fell out of the proper rotation. Here we go…


Frankenstein (1931)
Directed by James Whale

Turner Classic Movies, through Fathom Events, has been bringing movies back into theaters through the magic of modern science and satellite broadcasting. On 24 October, TCM brought both Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein to the outdoor mall that’s about a half-hour from my house. Even though I’d just watched Bride a couple days before, and in 35mm to boot, I’m not one to pass up watching any kind of classic movie on a big screen in any format. TCM’s presentation was quite well done, with the requisite introduction from Robert Osborne, and also an interview with Bela Lugosi, Jr., Sara Karloff, and special effects master Rick Baker. Getting to see the first two Frankenstein films back to back like that was definitely a treat. My only regret was bringing my parents, who are such huge fans of Young Frankenstein (as am I) that they could not stop laughing at all the scenes that Mel Brooks lifted wholesale for his movie. Hmmph.

my exact face throughout most of the evening, thanks mom and dad.

The Frankenstein story is so ingrained in the collective consciousness that to rehash the entire plot would be a waste of space. If you haven’t seen Frankenstein before, why not? Of course Boris Karloff as the monster is the main reason to watch the film, but Colin Clive as the titular doctor is probably the highlight. Every time I watch either Frankenstein or Bride of Frankenstein, I wonder if anyone else sees a resemblance between the monster and his creator. It’s in the eyes, the sunken eyes. Clive’s sunken-eyed look might have been due to his battle with alcoholism, but it still makes him look as haunted as the monster. And it’s hard not to get chills when he delivers the best line in the movie (the entire scene is below), a line which was covered up by a clap of thunder due to Production Code enforcement and not fully reinstated until 1999 (!):

“In the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!”

Brilliant acting there, just brilliant.

Unfortunately, there have been reports of less-than-stellar projection for this particular double feature. At his blog, Will McKinley breaks down the problems with digital projection and satellite delivery of classic films into theaters. A friend on twitter mentioned that their print looked pixellated at times. Our theater, thankfully, did not experience any of these issues – the picture quality was crisp and clear, the audio was perfectly synched. The only issue was what looked like a small in-camera cut near the start of Frankenstein, which could have been in the original print. I say this not to dissuade people from going to these classic movie re-releases, but as a general sort of heads-up, and also as a plea to those of you who live close to old theater houses that still show films on film, places like the Portage and Music Box theatres in Chicago, the Redford Theatre in Detroit (where we saw Bride of Frankenstein and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man in 35 mm this month), and the State and Michigan Theaters in Ann Arbor, to make a habit of patronizing these places on a regular basis. These places need our support now more than ever, in the ongoing fight to preserve classic cinema. So while I support the idea of going to the theater to see awesome old movies, I support even more the idea of going to awesome old theaters whenever possible to see awesome old movies. Films like Frankenstein never look as good as they do on a big screen.


Prometheus (2012) – FTV
Directed by Ridley Scott

There was some discussion over on the October Horror Challenge Facebook Group whether or not Prometheus counted as a horror film. The consensus was ultimately that yes, due to certain elements, it did indeed pass the smell test. I remain on the fence over whether it truly does count, because it is too mired in science fiction, and not even good science fiction, that even a hamfisted attempt to be part of the Alien oeuvre can’t save it. The story is basically about scientists who travel to a planet where they strongly suspect human life originated. What they find there is essentially an outpost that had been set up by the Engineers, who are apparently the creators of human life, to plan a mission to return to Earth to destroy all humans. It’s hard to figure out all this from one viewing, really. I had to cheat and look at Wikipedia’s synopsis. So the movie’s timeline basically is as follows: the Engineers manage to create human life when one Engineer drinks this bubbly black goo and then melts into a puddle that gets washed into a swirling waterfall; the black goo is a biological weapon, more or less, that causes literal meltdowns, but also forms into weird tentacle creatures; one of the scientists, unbeknownst to him, drinks a bit of the black goo and impregnates the film’s lead with a squid baby that eventually grows to unusual size; that squid baby orally impregnates an Engineer, who later explodes/gives birth to a xenomorph. The end?


There’s a load of other stuff that happens in the movie in addition to all this black goo, which is the cause and final solution to human life. The film tries to posit that humans are essentially a science fair project gone wrong, that we were made on something of a whim. That’s kind of depressing, but also sort of cosmically funny. There is, much like in the first Alien film, an android with an agenda who ends up getting his block knocked off. Prometheus also features one of the more horrific birthing scenes in recent memory – actually, “birth” is less accurate than “self-abortion.” Good god, y’all. I could go on, but there’s literally so much happening in this movie, and not much of it fits together into a single coherent thread, that you kind of have to see it for yourself.

I don’t want it to sound like I didn’t enjoy the movie or that I was completely bemused by it. I got what Ridley Scott was trying to do overall, and as a director, he still knows how to create some mind-blowing visuals. If nothing else, Prometheus is gorgeous to look at. But it’s too ambitious, too bloated a movie, to be everything it aspires to be. It’s rather fitting, given the film’s title, inspired by the ancient Greek myth – the film overreaches its grasp. Interestingly enough, Frankenstein is the great-grandfather of movies like this: both stories are warnings about the dangers of scientific exploration and about how man both searches for and attempts to be God. Trivia side-note: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was originally subtitled The Modern Prometheus. If I had more smarts, I’d be able to write a massive essay on both films, but not tonight or probably ever.


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