First Aired: 1964-66
The Munsters probably needs no introduction. When I was a kid I have to admit I much preferred the Addams Family but, as I grew older, I began to appreciate The Munsters more and now, probably, hold the two shows in the same regard. Of course there were differences, Addams were much more a gothic looking/acting family whereas the Munsters actually were monsters – based upon the Universal staples.
As I look at the characters, backgrounds and lore please note that changes were made through other incarnations of the show (those being four feature films, two with (most of) the original cast and two without, the spinoff series The Munsters Today, which ran 1988 to 1991 and a one hour animated movie called the Mini-Munsters) but I shall ignore those for this article and concentrate only on what the show gave us.
Whilst this is a vampire blog one cannot argue with the fact that the central character of the show was Herman Munster (Fred Gwynne). Herman was built by Dr Frankenstein and is 150 years old (this is quoted at several points through the series, though character ages did shift) – though he very much acts like a child, throwing many tantrums. He is exceptionally strong and generally deemed a goof. Herman believes he has a single living relative, his no-good twin brother Charlie (Fred Gwynne), but in season 2 we meet Johann (Fred Gwynne), his cousin and one of Frankenstein’s early attempts to create his creature. Herman is married to Lily (Yvonne De Carlo).
Most of the Munster family characters took on several monster roles in their design. Lily has ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ white streaks in her air and is a palm reader but she is also a vampire. Lily doesn’t have overt powers like her father, Count Dracula AKA Grandpa (Al Lewis), though we do, on occasion, see her levitate but we do discover quite a bit about her. She married Herman in 1865 and is, herself, 137 – though their son Eddie (Butch Patrick) claims her to be over 400 in a school composition.
In the same composition he claims that she has died several times but is alive at the moment. At another point, when told something would really kill her, she drolly replies “It’s a little late for that.” In one episode we are told she if off to the “dentist to have her teeth filed”. She has plenty of brothers and sisters – though we only meet one, Lester (Irwine Charone), in show – she says that, when growing up, the mausoleum contained many of her brothers and sisters to play with. She often wears a necklace with a wolf’s head and bats wings – this is important but first…
First I need to mention the original unaired pilot – filmed in colour – which did have Al Lewis as Grandpa and Fred Gwynne as Herman, as well as Beverley Owen as Marilyn Munster. However, the first concept of the show did not have Lily as Herman’s wife but Phoebe (Joan Marshall). She was somewhat more Gothic looking and was dropped as it was felt she was too close in look to Morticia from the rival Addams Family. It was also a different actor, Happy Derman, who played Eddie who was a lot more bratty and quite like a feral wolf.
Eddie, or Edward Wolfgang Munster, is Herman and Lily’s son and, at first glance, would appear to be a werewolf. Indeed he has pointed ears, baby fangs and howls at the full moon. His favourite toy is Woof-Woof, a doll in the form of the wolfman, but Eddie also shares some vampiric traits – such as sleeping in a coffin. It is clear that his wolf-ness comes from his maternal side as there are werewolves in the Dracula family and I guess that is why Lily wears a pendant with wolf head and bat wings.
I have mentioned Marilyn and she was played by Beverley Owen for a short while and then replaced (when Owen left the show due to pregnancy) by Pat Priest. There is some confusion as Marilyn is the niece of Lily and Herman, daughter of an unnamed sister of Lily, and yet carries the surname Munster and we can only assume she has been adopted. No one in the family know why she looks as she does – a normal attractive girl – and her looks are often called plain and referred to as her handicap. The character was underdeveloped next to the other main family members and tended to serve as a cypher for Herman and Grandpa's antics.
For me the star of the show – even if Herman was the central character – was Grandpa, who was skilfully played by Al Lewis. Grandpa is a mad scientist but is also Count Dracula – first name Sam. He is most definitely a vampire and tries to bite Lily’s wrist in the opening credits of season 1 (in the pilot he went for Phoebe’s throat). Indeed early on he tried to bite several wrists as he kissed a lady's hand, but this trait vanished later in the shows' run. He often mentions blood and blood banks.
The stories of his past are never quite kept straight but despite various ages being given through the show we know he was born in 1367. When he builds a drag racer – the Drag-U-La – he puts his original Transylvanian Licence plate on the car which tells us this. Sometimes he gives his age as younger but often he claims he knew historical figures such as Nero or Richard the Lionheart who lived prior to this date. His thoughts often go back to the good old days in 'the old country' and at one point, when he phones Transylvania, from his conversation with the Werewolf Junction telephone operator it becomes clear he is somewhat of a celebrity over there.
We know he has been married many times – in one episode he tells us 167 times and though all his wives are dead he still keeps in touch with them. Some of these marriages have led to children. We know of Lily and meet Lester, a werewolf, we also know of Marilyn’s mother. Lily mentions the numerous brothers and sisters in the mausoleum. During the series Grandpa looks for a bride through a dating Agency and is duped into a wife he never had.
He is a mad scientist but also somewhat of an alchemist though his potions have varying degrees of success. He once uses a pill to turn into a bat but can actually turn into a bat and a wolf naturally. He likes to sleep hanging upside down but also has a slab in the mansion on which he sleeps. He claims to have met Svengali and learnt some hypnotic tricks from the man (he bought them off Svengali when the man was down and out). Al Adamson would have Dracula and Svengali meet years later in the awful Doctor Dracula.
Of other characters we meet there is Uncle Gilman (Richard Hale), who is the Creature from the Black Lagoon. I thought at one point that Grandpa’s chequers rival was the invisible man but it became apparent it was a spirit that the family could see but we couldn’t. We meet Herman’s boss from the funeral parlour he works in, Mr Gateman of Gateman, Goodbury and Graves. Gateman was played by John Carradine who would appear with Yvonne de Carlo again in the weirdly bad Nocturna. It has to be said that the mansion itself, 1313 Mockingbird Lane, was as much a character as any played by a human, with its cobwebs, dust and coffin phone booth.
I should also mention the pets. A cat with the roar of a lion, an under the stairs dwelling dragon named Spot who likes to chase cars and eat their hubcaps, Elma the pet snake (mentioned but not seen), the Raven in the Clock called Charlie (Mel Blanc and Bob Hastings) and a couple of alligators that Eddie has in his room. Grandpa has Igor – a bat and a fine example of Crap Bat Syndrome, utterly false and yet wonderfully charming.
The show ran for just two seasons – it has been suggested that batman being in colour did for its ratings. It was an almost standard family sitcom with a ghoulish twist (that owed quite a bit to Poe as well as to Universal, I would say), which lifted it above the television norm, and yet, to a degree, as good as it is, the show did become a tad repetitive towards the end. That might have more to do with me watching every episode over a week for this review, however. Whilst such a complaint might be serious, in this case I think it wasn’t too important – watched weekly, as intended, that repetitiveness would be subsumed by the fact that each episode contained much that was genuinely funny. This owed a great deal to the marvellous performances by the principles – and whilst I have a soft spot for Lewis, all of them deserve praise.
Most of the humour came from a gentler place than modern TV, a more innocent age we could say, and yet occasionally it would cut to the bone through its own farce exposing a society where divisions based on class, money and perceptions of normality were (and still are I’d guess) prevalent. I could have gone on ad nauseum about the show and I am sure I have missed out things readers would have expected.
8 out of 10 for a classic TV show. The imdb page is here.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Tickets and full details are available from the festival’s Homepage.
On to the films (the website will post the running order in September):
Al’s Beef, a feature length film.
Back Alley Butcher a short film.
Blood on the Highway:
After a gastrointestinal mishap with their map, three twenty-somethings on a road-trip accidentally wander into Fate, Texas, only to find the town populated by bloodthirsty, dimwitted vampires. A brutal run-in with two carnivorous convenience store clerks leads the three to take refuge with the town's only surviving humans and prepare for battle with an army of the undead.
Brain Dead (2007), a feature length film.
Brother’s Keeper, a short film.
Caution Sign, a short film.
Cheerbleeders, a short film
Colour from the Dark, a feature length film.
Dead Bones, a short film.
Damned by Dawn, a feature length film.
Death in Charge, a short film.
Una Storia Di Lupi, a short film.
Dracula, the Vampire and the Voivode:
The first documentary ever to reveal the TRUE story of Bram Stoker and his legendary novel... Dracula
See my review here.
Drag Me to Hell, a feature length film.
Dying Breed, a feature length film.
Excision, a short film.
The facts in the case of Mister Hollow, an animated short film.
Family Demons, A feature length film.
Fun on Earth, a short film.
George’s Intervention, a feature length film
Hair Extensions, a feature length film.
Harvest Moon, a feature length film.
Hansel and Gretel, a feature length film.
How my Dad Killed Dracula:
A Short. A Halloween practical joke turns a family tradition into a night of comic terror when two young teens don't believe their cousin's dad killed Dracula. Insisting on proving it, Dad picks up a shovel and starts to dig.
I sell the Dead, a feature length film.
Idiots and Angels, an animation.
Inside, a feature length film.
It came from another world. A feature length film.
Kirksdale, a short film.
The Machine Girl, a feature length film.
Probably a ‘Vamp or Not?’ this is the sequel to Baby Blood. The Synopsis runs: The French are coming out with yet another gory installment for the genre entitled Lady Blood, a sequel to the fairly unknown 1990 film Baby Blood.
The movie opens in cinemas in France on August 19th 2009. Given its title you'd expect to get a lot of the red stuff. Seventeen years after giving birth to a hideous creature, Yanka, the young heroine from the first film has finally rebuilt her life. She’s now married to the psychiatrist who healed her psychological wounds.
Now a mother and a Chief of Police. She nonetheless lives a peaceful and pleasant life, allowing her to leave her painful past behind. Everything is going great until a strange occurrence disturbs her new life. A series of vicious murders obligates her to tenaciously pursue a sadistic killer. As the mutilated bodies pile up at a fearful rate, she realizes that the clues the murderer leaves behind are directed at her. She's convinced that the monster she spawned so long ago is back to haunt her. It seems to be reaching out for her with the intention of beginning the horror anew—every day it gets worse… heading an investigation into the local mob leads to the discovery of horrible crimes, so much like the bloody carnage she herself committed while under the monsters influence all those years earlier.
Murder Party, a feature length film
Being a vampire kinda sucks. At least that's the premise of this mockumentary comedy in which a small film crew follows six of the undead in their night-to-night lives.
Forget about capes, they dress just like us. They watch a lot of bad TV. They're more concerned with paying the rent on time than they are with crossing Van Helsing. However, everyone has enemies, and our subjects are no exception. Enter the vampire hunters; comic book loving geeks who have made it their mission to vanquish these demons of the night with signature homemade weapons. When these two sides come fang to face things get pretty ugly, but for all concerned parties it's just another day in the everlasting battle between good and evil.
3D re-imagining of the Silent classic based on the story "Dracula." Vampire Count Orlok expresses interest in a new residence and real estate agent Hutter's wife.
My review of the original film is here.
Penance, a feature length film.
The pick up, a short film.
Prombies, a short film.
Reel Zombies, no genre given but presumably feature length.
RetarDEAD, a feature length film.
Schrick, a short film
Smile, a short film
After a heavy night out with the girls, Isabel, an attractive young professional woman catches an illegal mini-cab home. Things take a turn for the worse when the cabbie pulls her into an ally and violently forces himself onto her, taking her life. From high above on the rooftop, an ancient female Vampire notices. Taken in by Isabel's beauty and innocence, she dispatches the Cabbie and feeds Isabel a drop of her immortal blood. Isabel awakes with 48 hours to decide whether to embrace immortality, or kill herself before she becomes undead
Thicker than Water: The Vampire diaries Part 1:
Thicker Than Water is the first part in the Vampire Diaries Trilogy. It tells the story of the Baxters, an ordinary suburban family whose world is turned upside down when their youngest becomes a vampire.
See my review of this one here.
Wasting Away, a feature length fil.
Zombie Honeymoon, a feature length film.
Posted by Taliesin_ttlg at 12:45 AM
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Some time ago we looked at an indie version of Dracula named Alucard which I described as brave but suggested that director John Johnson had bitten off more than he could chew.
This was another film by Johnson, actually released in the same year as Alucard and was perhaps more in keeping with the low budget ethos. It was the sequel to a 2006 film by Johnson (Skeleton Key), which I have not seen but this was so topsy turvey that I doubt that mattered at all. It is perhaps best described as a fanboy film – for indeed that is what Johnson himself has it called in a moment during the film when the film we are watching is ‘reviewed’ and many of the
rip-off moments are sourced.
The actual film begins with a very brief introduction by Conrad Brooks, as himself, and then we are with an unseen video store customer (as we are in POV) who is cornered by video store employee Neil (Liam Smith) and the customer has rented Skeleton Key 2. The customer is kidnapped and forced to watch the movie with Neil (who is in the movie).
After a theme tune best described as an Addams Family rip-off we meet Howard (John Johnson) – the central character it seems from the first film. He has a secretary (Terry Chandeline Nicole Westfall) with a whipped cream bra and a girlfriend Sandy (Denise Shrader) who is cheating on him, at that time in the guest room, with another girl (Chelle Fire). The sight of them together causes him to abandon his suit and wear ripped up clothes. Then a package arrives from Nilbog (which, incidentally is the city in which Johnson set Alucard but in this seems to be a town in Virginia).
Realising he can’t watch a beta tape, a second package – with a DVD-r in it – arrives and depicts his friend Cornelius (Karthik Srinivasan) captured by zombies. He wonders how the packages arrived, opens the door and is attacked by a leprechaun (Hans Moore); but this is a vampire leprechaun, complete with fangs. Once it is defeated, by a lesbian wielding a pizza, it is explained to Howard that the leprechaun survived the sun by wearing sunblock, came back to life as the wood was pulled from his heart and was defeated due to garlic on the pizza. Indeed when we briefly see him later he has a pizza shaped burn on cheek.
The only other vampire activity comes much later in the film when Howard is captured and handed to the Bloufer lady (Syn DeVil in a role performed, in the first film, by Debbie Rochan). Obviously the name is a corruption of the name given to the vampiric Lucy in Dracula. He is taken to a room and meets a girl (Eryka Soleil) who has travelled with them and doesn’t want to die a virgin – strangely, as she already had sex with Howard and two other girls. They get to it when the Bloufer Lady rises behind the couple and bites her, whilst two other vampire girls handcuff him where he lies.
They leave her body atop him, ready for when she turns and needs a meal. She bites him and he turns. He goes through the vampire ladies like a dose of salts feeding on them all. Eventually Evil (Michael McDonnell) – who seems to be Howard’s own personal manifestation of evil – has had enough as the man is acting even more evil than he. He stakes Howard and then brings him back, cured, using a 1up (as in a video game save).
That’s it for vampires, indeed we mostly have blue skinned zombies in a film that isn’t good film making. It does have song moments – set to base toilet humour lyric wise – it has busty maidens (in this case Danielle Fluker) endangered by zombies and gratuitous breast shots to boot. It is silly, uncoordinated, badly acted with rubbish effects but you can tell the people involved had a hoot making it and that actually lifts it (despite itself) as you watch it. It is deconstructive, though those moments can be ham-fisted – but it just says to me I’d like to see what Johnson could do with some more budget and a blooming good script editor, it might be interesting but then again...
The imdb page is here.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Director: Conrad Brooks
Release date: 2008
If there is anything worse than a poor film it is a poor film that is self-contradictory to the previous films in its series. This is the third in Conrad Brooks' Gypsy Vampire series (the first two films are here and here) and whilst it does answer one question left over from the second film it is also contradictory to that film and its predecessor.
The question it answers from the second film was, how could a vampire be killed by being stabbed? Answer, it was in the heart by a silver knife. I’m glad we got that one established – I’ll sleep easier at night now! The film is subtitled ‘Freaky Vampire’ and that is due to the fact that the start of this film concerns a freak show on a boardwalk. Like the pervious film, at time of review there is no imdb page or actor to character list in the credits.
The landlord of the boardwalk is owed money by Professor Knish, who runs the show – 6 months rent in fact. Knish isn’t there and so he is shown round the (rather tatty) show. At one point they get to an electric chair with a skeleton in it. His guide says it is Brook Conrad, a notorious bad film director who was executed (presumably for his bad films) – at least there is a knowledge of the cheapness and craptitude of these films! After being briefly accosted by a two headed monster man the landlord gives Knish his marching orders.
Knish goes to visit his old friend Dr Kielbasa (John Durham). Why the spelling of the name changed on the blurb of this DVD, and turned him into a sausage, I don’t know. Knish wants to find Count Lugo (Bruce ‘Porkchop’ Lindsay) and Kielbasa confirms his remains did vanish and so he might just be undead again (they say alive, but surely it would be undead again). They go to meet the castle owners. Marvin is out of town but Joe is around, Joe is played by Joe Tilton, the original Joe and not the replacement one from the second film. He suggests that Davida (Gail Maureen Hansen, I think) could lure the Count out.
Who? This is one of the changes. Remember Sandy from the second film, whom Lugo was going to make his bride? Well not only has the actress changed but the character has changed her name completely. So Knish and Kielbasa go to the castle, with Davida and a couple of servants. Knish intends to make him an offer of being a freak in his show in return for blood and shelter (actually he says that, as no one believes in vampires he could get victims as they travel) but Lugo has his own agenda – including revenge and matrimony.
The lore in this changes slightly, from being generally unbothered by crosses in the first film they now hold him back! We also discover that wolfsbane acts as a vampire deterrent, being poisonous to them. Other than that it is fairly much business as usual with Lucy still ghosting around and (I suspect) played by yet another actress.
Lugo is killed in this one by having gasoline thrown in his face. Now you’d think that they might set him alight but such stunt work costs money. Rather he is blinded in his one good eye and stumbles out of the castle catacombs into the daylight. Out there he stumbles around for an inordinate amount of time until he smokes a little and ends up a skeleton, with bandana but no other clothes.
Brooks’ cameos again, this time as a character called digger whose presence has more plot functionality than the character he played in the first two films. At one point we go into a movie within the movie (actually lifted from the Brooks’ 1999 film Jan-Gel, the Beast from the East, it would seem), which consists of some sort of very fat caveman fighting a rubber snake for what is three minutes of the screen time but feels like hours! Actually, one of the saving graces of this film is that we are still easily under an hour when the credits roll and that is after a blooper reel at the end of the flick!
All the same problems that the first films had with the added annoyance of characters just changing name and lore changing for no good reason. 0.5 out of 10.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
It might seem odd that I would give an Honourable Mention to this 1994 Tim Burton flick, even if it is a masterpiece in its own right, but whilst I decided that Plan 9 From Outer Space is not a vampire film, the fact that Wood's film (nearly) featured Lugosi, as well as the focus this film has on Lugosi's vampiric roles, and that the Vampire Girl was played by Maila Nurmi in her Vampira persona (played in film by Lisa Marie) made me feel that I could feature this as a mention.
Now, I am a big Tim Burton fan and I do believe that this Biopic of the career of Edward D Wood Jr (Johnny Depp) is one of his better films as well and thus it does have a special place for me – even if he wasn’t exactly accurate with the biopic side of things.
What he did was create a film that was both funny and filled with pathos as well – the pathos coming from the relationship between Ed and Bela, whom Ed meets when Bela is trying out a coffin, and of course Bela’s actual life. Some of that Pathos is based around the truth, Bela had become hooked on intravenous drugs by the time he worked with Ed, but not all of it.
Some of the pathos is based on historical falsehood. We see an actor who claims he has not worked for four years when, in fact, he made two films the year before he made Glen or Glenda with Ed – Bela Lugosi meets a Brooklyn Gorilla and My Son the Vampire. It also suggests that he died alone, with his wife having left him and only Ed’s misfit cohorts at his funeral. Lillian did leave him in 1953 but he was remarried in 1955 to Hope Lininger. His son, Bela Lugosi Jr, was a part of his life from what I can tell and has confirmed that he was part of the decision to have Bela buried in his cape – from research it appears that Frank Sinatra paid for the funeral.
Even so we see a man whose past glories have faded and the marvellous portrait of him as Dracula in his home stands testament to those glories past. The Lugosi character is actually so good because of the unbelievably fantastic performance by Martin Landau – who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for said performance. Incidentally Landau’s daughter Juliet plays Loretta King - Juliet would also play the vampire Drusilla in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.
I am, of course, putting this on the blog during a season based around Conrad Brooks and Brooks is played in the film by Brent Hinkley. He is a character appearing often in the film as one of Ed’s crew/actors but he is also the person he manages to get Bela on a rant with regards Karloff. At the end of the film, when Burton gives a little about what happened to those involved, it is mentioned that the New York Times called Brooks the “Gielgud of bad movies”.
However Brooks is not just portrayed in the movie but also briefly cameos in the film as a bartender. He even gets a line to speak. Bizarrely, if I were scoring this movie it would be the highest rating I had given to any film with Brooks in it.
A marvellous film and well worth anyone’s time.
The imdb page is here.
Night of the Fools
This is completely on the other end of the scale of filmmaking. Indeed it is so bad that not even Edward D Wood Jr – in this played by Dash Titan – would have put his name to it. This supposedly concentrates on the events leading up to the making of Plan 9 From Outer Space and the ‘strange and eerie’ alien abduction of Ed Wood.
Yet what we have is badly shot – especially given this was done in 2004, badly cast, badly acted rubbish with depressingly bad effects and not a lot in the way of sets. It goes nowhere and does very little.
Ed – in wig – has come up with the idea for a film and goes round to see the guys. His first stop is with Bela Lugosi (Tim Timkoko). Now I would say that Timkoko looked nothing like Lugosi but did make a passable Tom Mason but I don’t think that is the case either. In fact none of the cast look like those they are portraying, at all. Anyway, Lugosi is depressed but Ed has a new project, he can even be Dracula in it.
He phones Tor Johnson (Shep Winfield), Maila Nurmi (Yahuba Daly) – note that the credits on imdb have Nurmi’s name wrong – and Criswell (Don Mouskouri) whose coffin is depressingly cardboard! He invites them all out for a spaghetti dinner and then they can talk about his movie, Grave Robbers From Outer Space.
So they end up at the restaurant and after some banter and some spaghetti Ed realises that he hasn’t got his wallet. He gets the others to leave and then talks to the waitress (Trza Vante) telling her she would be perfect in his next movie and that he will give her acting lessons. He explains how he was taken to dinner and they have all gone and offers to leave his car as collateral – all this is done as Titan clearly reads from a script on the table – but she won’t hear of it and picks up the tab.
In a park they get drunk and talk of the movie, Ed explains the parts they will all play. By the time he is back in wig and pearls they have all fallen asleep. We see a saucer above Hollywood and it is depressing that Wood managed to make a more convincing scene 45 years earlier. It abducts Ed.
Ed is in a spacecraft and is told that he has been paralysed (though somehow he can still swig from a bottle) and that he will make his movie, it will fall through the cracks but indelibly stamp itself on the collective psyche of mankind, stopping us destroying ourselves eventually. He will not remember these events but they will be marked by the name of the film being changed as Grave Robbers will bring about negativity and thus it will be known by the non-entity name Plan 9 From Outer Space.
There is nothing in this film to commend it. Poor performances, no effects and no real story as such. Not really an honourable Mention but actually a dishonourable one. In terms of the Conrad Brooks season I am running he is not even mentioned but it double bills with Gypsy Vampire’s Revenge on DVD and fit thematically (though not in quality) with Burton’s Ed Wood for this blog Double Bill.
The imdb page is here.