#397- Frankenstein

Quick recap: The classic story of Dr. Frankenstein, who manages to create a monster that wreaks havoc on the countryside and still lives happier ever after.

The monster even mauls the bride and SHE STILL MARRIES HIM

Fun (?) fact: Boris Karloff, who played The Monster, was such an unknown that he wasn’t even invited to his own film premiere.

I don’t get it either, buddy

Thoughts and Observations:

Welcome to another year of Horrorfest, that wonderful time of year when I only watch Horror movies from the 1001 Movies to See Before You Die list. In years past I have done themes but this year my goal is to watch whatever is streaming.

We start with Frankenstein, which is actually the perfect movie to kick off this celebration. As a monster, its terror factor falls somewhere between witches and werewolves. A bit scary when you think that it’s a dead guy, less scary when you realize his childlike nature. I talked my 11 year-old into watching with me, which was a task in itself because he has vowed to not watch any horror. ‘Space is frightening enough for me!’, he says more often than you’d imagine.

We both agreed that the effects were so good for this era and both regretted a little that we have lived only through the parodies and references. I think had I been around in the 1930s, this definitely would’ve creeped me out some. The first ‘reveal’ as Dr. Frankenstein coaxes The Monster into the light is so masterfully done. It gave me chills in a way I didn’t imagine a movie this old could. The fear was short lived as Karloff does such a wonderful job of playing a frightening monster as well as such a sympathetic man. My son felt the same until the scene where he drowns the little girl, and then he wanted only revenge. I’ll admit that scene of the father carrying his dead child through the wedding celebration was absolutely heartbreaking, but I still just wanted The Monster to be ok and maybe be loved by someone.

But that’s not to be, as we all know. I remember being shocked when I read Frankenstein in high school to find that it doesn’t end the same as the movie because to me at the time, they were one and the same. It says something to the makeup artists and designers that our version of Frankenstein comes directly from the movie and not the novel, even though it paints a much more horrifying picture. Even the beginning credits seem to downplay the novel, referring to Mary Shelley as ‘Mrs. Percy Shelley’. And the scientist seems more situationally mad in this adaptation as well, which I guess helps the audience to forgive him at the end for making something so awful.

Watchability score: 4/5 This made me want to binge watch all of the monster films of this time period

Up next: Only Horrorfest knows!

#392-Voyage in Italy

Quick recap: A miserable husband and his equally miserable wife go on vacation where they find out just how miserable they truly are.

A barrel of fun, these two

Fun (?) fact: The Naples hotel the couple stayed in was the very same one Tony Soprano, of the Sopranos, stayed in many years later.

Thoughts and observations: 

As much as I fantasize visiting another country one day, Italy is just never in my Top 5 Destinations. But after watching this film, maybe it should be. If we can just ignore the main characters for a second ( or longer, if possible) there were so many breathtaking scenes- from the swanky hotel in Naples to the awe inspiring catacombs to the freaking VOLCANO just sitting there behind the villa. And these two married people-Katherine and Alex Joyce- hated every minute of it. Maybe I wouldn’t jump for joy if offered a trip to Italy but at least I wouldn’t be as miserable as these two. Among the many things they griped about:

  • the food. There’s a scene in which Katherine can barely stomach the spaghetti because she doesn’t know how to eat it.
  • people who speak Italian
  • how the air is too comfortable and it makes them sleepy
  • being at a party and having too much fun
  • being at a party and not acting like you are enjoying yourself

And it goes on. But what Katherine and Alex can at least agree on is how tired they are of each other and I totally get why. Alex spends his time criticizing his wife and shrugging off the few times she attempts to share deeply with him. And Katherine lives in a world of romance instead of reality, which causes her to deeply despise her husband. And yet when the two get the opportunity to spend time away from each other, they spend the entire time feeding their deep seated jealousy against one another. At the end of the movie, divorce is finally mentioned. Alex can’t be bothered to show any emotion while Katherine is about to lose her mind. The very last scene is of them getting out of their car during a parade, embracing, and saying ‘I love you’.

What I love about director Roberto Rossellini is how he was able to convey everything we needed to know about this couple just from their ‘slice of life’ vacation. There is a mention of a former lover of Katherine’s but that’s about it. No stories about how the two of them fell in love or shared previous vacations together or even whether the two had children. But that information isn’t needed because I could already tell the story just from the way they interacted. The best example of this is towards the end when Alex and Katherine visit the buried city of Pompeii. As they look at the fossilized remains of the people, Katherine is overcome with emotion and has to leave. Alex looks completely drained of any emotion but it’s easy to see just how much he is actually holding back. The way he looks at her as she pours her heart out to him is all the proof needed to know how much they truly care about each other. They should still check out a marriage counselor soon though, if there is any hope of a future for the two of them.

Watchability score: 4/5. Beautiful movie and interesting characters but the dubbing was a little confusing at times

Up next: SHAFT

#390- The Nutty Professor

Quick recap: Professor Kelp is tired of being bullied by everyone so he creates a potion to turn him into a stronger version of himself. What emerges instead is Buddy Love- a handsome but absolute jerk of a person.

Is it weird that the pigtails turned me off more than Professor Kelp’s nerdy look?

Fun (?) fact: Here’s some hot 1960s gossip for you: Buddy Love was apparently based off of Jerry Lewis’ partner Dean Martin. What a scoop!

Baby Professor Kelp is the most offensive part of the movie. Fight me

Thoughts and Observations:

As my ten-year-old put it, ‘ That movie was………something. Not what I expected at all’. And to be fair, I agree wholeheartedly with him. When I suggested watching the movie together I roped him in by saying it was a light comedy. I think my exact words were, ‘It’s got NUTTY in the title! You can’t go wrong with that!’

It didn’t take long at all to realize how very wrong I was. The meanness of the bullies in the film didn’t bother me as much as I thought they would, which was surprising. Lewis worked hard to make sure everything was over the top in that regard. If I had to put my finger on it, I guess I felt mostly annoyed at the character of Professor Kelp more than sympathetic. Sure, the Dean of the college could’ve been nicer but this guy just blew a hole through a classroom on top of constantly letting football players stuff him into cabinets. And then there is the matter of Kelp having a mad crush on his student Stella, who looks 35 but wears pigtails for some unknown reason. I was so relieved when it came time for the transformation to happen because no matter what emerged, it had to be better than Kelp.

And here comes the second time I can admit wrong- what emerged was not in fact better. Buddy Love, Kelp’s alter ego may have been better looking but he was an absolute jerk to everyone, including Stella, his crush. Sure, Love could sing well and had a presence that made girls swoon but he was so awful. I did eventually have sympathy when Love transformed back to Kelp in front of everyone at the dance and admitted how awful both parts of him were. It was a really touching scene in a movie filled with so many cringeworthy moments.

The 1001 movies book that I get my research from made an excellent point that in some ways, Jerry Lewis playing Professor Kelp vs Buddy Love was showing Lewis’ public vs private side. The entertainer in different forms, so to speak. I don’t know much about Lewis to comment but I think that theme is one that almost anyone can relate to, to some extent.

Watchability score: I’ll go with 3/5 although my son would give it a 2.

Up next: Gallipoli

 

#381- L’Atalante

Quick recap: Juliette marries Jean, a ship captain. She learns that living on a ship isn’t as romantic as it sounds and actually really sucks most of the time. Except for the cats, of course.

Fun (?) fact: This was the last film Jean Vigo directed before his death at the age of 29. This was definitely NOT a fun fact but it’s all I have. Have some more cats!

Thoughts and observations:

Excluding the fact that the wedding party was all dressed in black and somberly waved her off, I can’t imagine Juliette had any idea what she signed up for when marrying Jean. Maybe she imagined an exciting adventure as her new husband steered the ship to faraway ritzy places. Maybe she imagined settling into her role as caretaker for the shipmates and earning their respect in return. At the very least, she must’ve enjoyed the thought of being on the river, blue sky as far as the eye could see.

Instead, she got:

  • A very dirty ship with hardly enough room for everyone
  • Days full of fog and cold weather
  • cats. SO MANY CATS
  • Jules, who is best described by the picture below-

So, I’d say not an ideal beginning to any new marriage. I totally understand how frustrating it must’ve been for Juliette to be so close to Paris and not be able to experience it. Considering all the new situations she was thrust into, it’s a wonder she didn’t try to escape sooner. I really love how she tried to adapt to all these things and it was Jean who ultimately pushed her away. Which I guess is why working with a spouse is a bad idea, but that’s a rant for another day.

Jean Vigo may have been young, but he really had a strong understanding of couples and their needs in any relationship. It says something that I was able to identify with both characters, even when they were being ridiculous and stupid. Maybe I didn’t abandon my spouse in a foreign town without any money or way to contact me, but I know what that’s like to be angry at the person you love the most. The reunion at the end of the film, although a result of ridiculous coincidences, was very sweet and gave me hope for these characters continuing relationship.

Now, onto the most important part of the film: THE CATS. There were SO many cats of all kinds- old ones, kittens, hyper ones and honestly I could’ve used more of them. They are all taken care of by Jules, which I thought was a wonderful way to show his humanity even though he looked and acted so rough. My favorite scenes were when someone would be sitting somewhere and a cat would just fly into the scene because you know that had to be someone’s job. I don’t think I’d want to be a cat wrangler in another life but I would’ve loved to watch the mayhem.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Gaav