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fantasy and science fiction movies for the best part of fifty years now - one of my ...
on 2 July 2014
A study in contrasts.
I've been watching 'horror', fantasy and science fiction movies for the best part of fifty years now - one of my earliest memories is of being terrified by 'Darby O'Gill And The Little People' at the local fleapit. Some of these movies are 'art'. Most are not. Many - as John Landis has said - are 's**t'.
So, what happened to Universal Studios by the late 30s/40s? I have to admit to a deep fondness for 'Werewolf Of London'. It was one of the first of the classic Universal movies I saw on TV (circa 1969?). I've read the criticisms of Henry Hull over the years - and, yes, the movie does have its faults - such as the two old biddies standing in for the irritating Una O'Connor (ruins 'The Invisible Man' for this viewer) and some flaws in the script. The atmosphere, though, is pretty good - not actually eerie but all right - and Valerie Hobson was very easy on the eye.
As to 'The Wolfman', I've never been able to figure out just why the character was so popular. Chaney Jnr. was a terrible actor (in this type of movie anyway; he was okay otherwise), and Evelyn Ankers was no substitute for the likes of Gloria Stuart, Zita Johann or Valerie Hobson. Claude Rains was terrific as always, as were some other members of the supporting cast (including Lugosi). This - like 'Son Of Frankenstein' - seems to mark the definite end of a cycle; the beginning of something new and rather cynical. Okay, the Depression was over and World War Two looming - was there a change of attitude on the part of studio production chiefs and the cinema audience? I've never forgiven Universal for launching Abbott and Costello. Watching their movies as an adult is positively painful (like the worst of Laurel and Hardy and the Marx Brothers), and Universal should have been ashamed of turning the Frankenstein monster, Lugosi's Dracula - and, yes, even Talbot - into figures of fun.
Now, I'm no particular fan of James Whale - but Stuart Walker appears to be doing a Whale in 'Werewolf Of London'. Why so? Had Whale been slated to direct it?
Maybe, in the end, the devil is in the detail: 'A Good Cast Is Worth Repeating', that sort of thing: the Universal house-style. One thing's for sure, Frankenstein never should have met the Wolfman. I'm sure Curt Siodmak considered it a pile of poop (though writing garbage made him a rich man, it seems).