Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Busy, busy, busy, busy....

Sorry, folks, more blogging (and a few late responses to comments--Stay alive, Marty, I will find you!) tomorrow...hopefully.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

It Came from Netflix: Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein

Three films entitled (among other things) Dracula vs. Frankenstein were made between 1970 and 1972. Actually, that wasn’t the original title of two of the movies, as they were European, but all three were released at some point under that title to American theaters and drive-ins.

The first and best of these—and this is ominous—was a Spanish flick starring a depressed looking Michael Rennie as a space alien and the ubiquitous Paul Naschy as not only his trademark character, Waldemar Daninsky the werewolf, but the Mummy, a manqué Dracula figure, and the “Franksollen monster.” As was often the case with Naschy’s films, the premise proved a lot more exciting than the actual result. On TV the movie tended to play under the title Operation Terror. (Surely somebody is readying this for a DVD release somewhere?)

The second, and second best of these—and that’s definitely an ominous statement—was the infamous 1971 Al Adamson flick starring (*cough*) Zandor Vorkof as Count Dracula and John Bloom as the Frankenstein Monster, along with support from J. Carrol Naish, Lon Chaney, Jr., Russ Tamblyn, Anthony Eisley and Greydon Clark.

Now, Adamson’s film is an all-time stinker, and I would have been highly dubious about the prospect of another film with the same title actually being worse. However, my doubts were assuaged when I saw the terrifying words, “Directed by Jesus Franco.”

Even that, sadly, proved insufficient warning, as Dracula vs. Frankenstein (a.k.a. Dracula contra Frankenstein, and now out on DVD as Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein, presumably to differentiate it from Adamson’s picture) is easily the most torpid Franco film I’ve seen. Admittedly, I’ve seen but a handful of Franco’s nearly 200 (!!) movies. However, when you’re talking about films like The Diabolical Dr. Z, Future Women, Orloff Against the Invisible Man and the like, there shouldn’t be that much room left for more boredom.

It turns out there was. Lots and Lots.

I fear describing the movie, since nothing I can write can fail to make the film sound more interesting and watchable than it is. It seems beyond the ken of Man that you could pack Dracula, the Monster, a mad scientist, a hunchback, several sexy female vampires, and even a werewolf into an 80 minute movie and yet invoke nothing from the viewer but utter boredom. Well, here’s the proof.

Let me put it this way: The movie moved so slowly—and I mean that literally, in that the actors and ‘action’ movies at a consistent snail’s pace—that I watched nearly the entire film at double time by employing the first of my DVD player’s fast forward speeds. And as anyone familiar with my cinematic tastes knows, I’m hardly a novice at watching fundamentally boring movies. However, this one broke me. There was no way I was going to watch this at ‘regular’ ‘speed,’ despite the already (seemingly) brusque 80 minute running time.

Even reducing it down to nearly 40 minutes (maybe 50 minutes in total due to the occasional drop down to regular speed), the movie still moved slowly, and remained a chore to watch. Now, you might think, “Hey Ken, if you watched the film in fast forward, you couldn’t hear the dialogue. Is it really fair to judge a movie like that?”

As it turns out, the answer is yes. See, although the disc has literally no other extras, it does provide subtitles, and on my DVD player those still play at 2x speed. However, I nearly never needed to slow down to actually hear the dialogue (or read it) when so alerted, because there’s like five minutes of dialogue total in the whole damn thing. I’ve seen silent movies with dialogue cards that featured more dialogue than this movie did.

Even Franco-ites, and God help us, there are some—will be perplexed by the complete and utter lack of nudity (despite amble opportunities) or eroticism or gore of even the most elementary sort. However, one of Franco’s trademarks is on display: Literally hundreds of pointless and ill executed zoom shots.

Seriously, this film sucks. Stay away.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Gibson, rapists & Communists...

I don't think I've allowed my political stances to play much of a part in my blog postings, but the recent Mel Gibson affair does raise some questions.

Without defending in any way Mel Gibson’s horrific and genuinely disgusting anti-Semitic remarks (I can only hope for the state of his own soul that the sober Gibson truly is as ashamed of his tirade as he says he is), I do have a couple of questions.

1) For those calling for him to basically be tossed out of the Hollywood community, how many of them voted for Roman Polanski to win an Oscar for The Pianist, and how many of them have no problem with John Landis or Victor Salva continuing to make movies? Surely molesting/raping minors and being responsible for the negligent deaths of an adult and two children is a worse moral offense than even the most appalling verbal tirade and/or deeply held racist beliefs.

2) I realize to an extent this is apples and oranges, but if it’s OK to argue that Gibson should be cast out of the community—in other words, kept/discouraged from making movies—for believing, as he obviously does at some (hopefully unconscious) level, that Jews are evil or whatever, what is the big problem with the film community shunning Communists back in the ‘50s? Being a Communist back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, the heyday of Stalin and Mao, was certainly at least as morally disgusting as being anti-Semitic, isn’t it?

If the general critique of the Blacklist is that one should never be ‘persecuted’ (in this case, lose his job) for his political beliefs, shouldn’t Gibson fall under that protective umbrella as well? At least Gibson has apologized (hopefully sincerely) for his sins. How many of the Hollywood Ten or their ilk (since the vast majority were in fact card-carrying Communists, let’s not get sidetracked into discussions of those who were innocent) have ever presented themselves as anything other than heroes and martyrs whiling dodging entirely the moral dimensions of their beliefs? Meanwhile, Elia Kazan and the like are still hated by many in the filmmaking community.

By the way, I'm sure that Gibson will continue to make movies, and that his career will basically continue on based on his box office popularity (meaning that the public does indeed, in the end, have the final word).