February 27, 2013

My Top Ten Women in Horror

Aren't you all glad that another "Women in Horror Month" has come to an end? If you didn't even realise it was happening, I'm not surprised. Either I'm not mixing in the right internet circles or those wannabe actresses and lamest of horror bloggers have lost so many of their big players that they didn't even cause a blip on my radar this year. It's been quite a relief to not have to read about their half-arsed conventions or e-begging schemes every time I log in.

However, I can't really let this month go without putting up my own top ten list of my favourite women in horror. These are the ladies who have done things so right that I now honour them like the pervert I am with some nice pictures.


1. Melissa George


Currently, Melissa George is the "A list" celebrity of all things horror as far as I'm concerned. I will blind buy any movie starring her just because her name is on the DVD sleeve. Her best so far: "The Amityville Horror", "Turistas", "30 Days of Night", and "Triangle".


2. Adrienne Barbeau


Of course, it's mainly because Adrienne Barbeau played sexy Stevie Wayne in "The Fog" that I still like her although let's not forget that she was also in "Creepshow", "Swamp Thing" and "Escape from New York". Really, let's not forget "Swamp Thing"!


3. Katharine Isabelle


Does this choice really need any explanation? Not only is Katharine Isabelle currently hotter than hot as "American Mary" does the rounds, but she'll always be the best reason to watch "Ginger Snaps".


4. Olga Fedori


Olga Fedori hasn't done a lot of horror, but she was fantastic as Lena in "Mum and Dad". She was also Maleva's daughter in "The Wolfman" remake.


5. Ingrid Bolsø Berdal


Yeah, it's all about being Jannicke in the "Cold Prey" (or "Fritt Vilt") movies. Although Ingrid Bolsø Berdal was in "Chernobyl Diaries" and lent her voice to part of "The ABCs of Death", I'm not going to hold either of those against her. She isn't bad in "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" either.


6. Belén Rueda


Belén Rueda isn't really known for horror movies outside of "The Orphanage", but she's the hottest MILF in Spanish thrillers right now. Most of us have seen "Julia's Eyes", but "The Body" and "The 7th Floor" should be with us shortly.


7. Monica Keena


I will watch Monica Keena in just about anything. I've even endured "Snow White: A Tale of Terror" and "The Devil's Advocate" because of her. My favourite films of hers so far, however, are "Freddy vs. Jason", "Long Distance", "Left in Darkness" and "Night of the Demons". The latter is my favourite remake of all time.


8. Britt Ekland


We all know her as Willow from "The Wicker Man" for two obvious reasons, but Britt Ekland was also Lucy in the third segment of "Asylum". Aside from being a Bond girl in "The Man with the Golden Gun", her famous horror roles include Busotsky's Mother in "The Monster Club", Ann-Marie in "Satan's Mistress" and Madame Cassandra in "Beverly Hills Vamp". I don't really like to think of those last two movies too much though.


9. Gayle Hunnicutt


I must admit that I like Gayle Hunnicutt in her TV thriller roles more than in her movies, but she's most memorable for the hottest scene in "The Legend of Hell House". Unlike Roddy McDowell, I wouldn't have turned her down whether she was possessed or not! She was also really good in "Voices" which was a half-way house between the stage play and film version of "The Others". I wish "Eye of the Cat" would appear on a legitimate DVD, but it's unlikely now.


10. Agnes Bruckner


Yes, I felt short changed with Agnes Bruckner's five minutes in "The Pact", but one day I'm sure that she'll be in something as big as "The Woods" or "Blood and Chocolate" again. For now, I'll try to forget that "Vacancy 2: The First Cut" ever happened even though she was the best part of it.


My top ten women in horror are always subject to change depending on who I'm in the mood to watch, but at this moment in time, these are the ones who I rate the most highly.

Who are your favourites?

February 25, 2013

The Bloody Oscars 2013


Since the real Academy Awards were won by a load of boring crap which nobody with a brain has any interest in watching, once again I've created my own alternative list of winners.

Unfortunately, we've had a pretty lacklustre selection of horror films over the last year (and especially in recent months) so take the following with a huge pinch of salt. I couldn't even find enough good ones to fill all the categories.


BEST PICTURE

The Awakening


BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Pat Healy - The Innkeepers


BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Johnny Lewis - Lovely Molly


BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Gretchen Lodge - Lovely Molly


BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Ashley Greene - The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2


BEST ART DIRECTION

Nicki McCallum - The Awakening


BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Eduard Grau - The Awakening


BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Daniela Matus - Perras


BEST DIRECTING

Guillermo Ríos - Perras


BEST FILM EDITING

Juan Bernardo Sánchez Mejía - Perras


BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Perras


BEST MAKEUP

Daniel Phillips - The Awakening


BEST MUSIC

Alison Wright - The Awakening


BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Andrew White - Lovely Molly


BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Diego Vazquez Lozano - Perras


BEST WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

Melissa Rosenberg - The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2


BEST WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

Guillermo Ríos - Perras


Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below.

February 22, 2013

Beautiful Creatures (2013)



"Ethan longs to escape his small Southern town. He meets a mysterious new girl, Lena. Together, they uncover dark secrets about their respective families, their history and their town."

Based on the "acclaimed bestseller" that I've never heard of, "Beautiful Creatures" is yet another bland teen romance meant to fill the gap left by "Twilight". Apparently, it has bombed at the box office, but I decided to watch it anyway because I'm a masochist like that. It's not as if there's anything else related to the horror genre to see right now. We're still over a month away from the "Evil Dead" remake and whatever dubious joys it may bring to the table.

Although "Beautiful Creatures" is overlong, a bit slow, and contains too much exposition instead of action, with a $60,000,000 budget there's plenty to look at this film especially the hot actresses, Alice Englert and Emmy Rossum as Lena Duchannes and Ridley Duchannes respectively. If you're a lot older, even Emma Thompson looks nice with her shoulders bared. I still like her anyway.

Green screen effects were allegedly kept to a minimum with a lot of practical effects such as the changing colours of Macon's living room and the spinning dinner table being highlights. I'm no expert, but I'm certain that a lot more was enhanced afterwards. When it comes to the obligatory magic lightning bolts trickling out of fingertips though, "Beautiful Creatures" doesn't contain the worst examples.

Like theatrical releases should be, it's beautifully filmed, looks the part in nearly every way, and even the CGI is acceptable when it happens. Thus, "Beautiful Creatures" certainly lives up to its title. In other ways, not so much, but I'll come to them by and by.

Hot sexy witch. 'Nuff said.

The biggest problem is that "Beautiful Creatures" really is all about how it looks. The story is too messy, obviously conflated from a piece of literature which must be even more character driven, and is instantly forgettable. In fact, it's rather tedious even if you are into romance. Despite a promising start, it soon becomes "Southern American Cliché: The Movie" with bad accents and every available teen movie trope other than farting for comic effect lifted from something better. At one point, I thought it was going to turn into "Footloose"!

Given the lack of risk taking in Hollywood (or Summit/Lionsgate) at the moment, I almost want to let the lack of originality slide as something which we've all become far too used to, but I can't. Due to the nature of the movies I usually watch, I immediately noticed that the most important plot point about choosing between light and dark borrows heavily from "Night Watch" (2004). There are even moments when the protagonists step into "the gloom" to discuss things or do battle outside the world as perceived by mortals. If that isn't enough to create the stench of plagiarism, the cursed "coming of age" cliché has been done to death by nearly every trendy supernatural drama since the 1970s. Depending on your era, if you've seen "Alison's Birthday", "The Craft" or "The Covenant", there's nothing new here.

With its credible acting, witty moments of dialogue and genuine attempts at characterisation, "Beautiful Creatures" probably isn't a bad movie if you're twelve or younger and haven't seen anything else like it. It may be possible to actually care about the smart-talking characters, think they're kind of cool and hope that love will conquer all at the end, but anyone older isn't going to be so easily pleased or lenient even given the internal logic of the fantasy itself. Let's face it, witches and wizards aren't real, never have been, and never will be. The whole premise of the film is undoubtedly silly and, in my opinion, would have worked better as a more obvious '80s-style comedy. Please note that I say that as someone who detests comedies.

"I hope you kids are using protection."

The story is a horrible mixture of being contrived and timid at the same time albeit with a couple of scenes which push the boundaries regarding underage sex. The twenty-four year old Alden Ehrenreich (as Ethan) and nineteen year old Alice Englert (Lena) aren't that convincing at acting younger than their ages in spite of valiant efforts to do so. The whole relationship between Ethan and Lena suggests paedophilia (or statutory rape) in no uncertain terms. Not that any of us necessarily want to see them bumping uglies on screen, but cutting to a sign burning in the background at one point like something out of the 1950s is also likely to incite more groans from the audience in displeasure than anything else.

Unlike "Twilight", these "kids" can't wait to lose their cherries. But if you're going to show "teenagers" getting it on then show it! And if you're going to get us excited about Emmy Rossum walking around in a black négligée at least be nice enough to provide a money shot after she's been writhing on a blanket with a sickly looking youth! If there's one thing crucial to a story in this genre, it's a deflowering or two! Given the PG-13 rating, obviously that doesn't happen. I have no idea if it happens in the book either although I assume it does since normal teenagers rarely read books aimed at their age group unless there's something saucy in them. I'm sure they won't miss the insinuation of incest between Macon and Sarafine either. I don't want to digress too much so I'll get on my soapbox about the pointlessness of "YT" horror fiction another time.

"Stop! In the name of love... before you break my heart..."

I'm not sure how to fit this into my critique, but I really need to hop on my soapbox for a moment about something else in "Beautiful Creatures" which bugged the Hell out of me (no pun intended): the depiction of Christians. Since they are made out to be a bunch of small town puritans with hillbilly superstitions, could the writing really be any lazier? And could this feeble clichéd jibe be an indication of a much bigger problem behind the scenes of the media as we know it? I'm not going to push this any further, but it's something to think about. I'd say the agenda was more in the mind of the authors, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, than director Richard LaGravenese, but either way, it's lame. In a book or movie about witches though, you have to have something wrong with you to be attracted to this guff in the first place.

Suspending your disbelief about immortal witches (instead of vampires or werewolves) isn't the only hard part. If you're American, the plethora of fake Southern accents in "Beautiful Creatures" will definitely drive you insane. They are even harsher and less intelligible to British ears especially when delivered from the mouths of the very British Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson. Through no fault of his own, Jeremy Irons makes my flesh crawl at the best of times even when he isn't trying to sound like Foghorn Leghorn.

Other cast members are more in the background apart from the better looking of the stereotypical clique of "popular girls", Zoey Deutch, who deserves to go further. I can't wait to see her in "Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters" next year. I'm not sure who Viola Davis is because I've never knowingly seen her in anything else, but apparently it's kind of a big deal having her in this movie. Thomas Mann, who plays Link, was also in "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" recently, but Pruitt Taylor Vince, Eileen Atkins and Kyle Gallner are almost completely wasted in their bit parts. It's not worth going through any more of the actors because you won't have heard of them and are unlikely to see them in anything else. Having said that, you barely get to see any of them here either. You do get to see massive CGI thunderstorms instead though.

I love excessive, big budget wastes of money like this because it almost justifies the price of the ticket. I'd rather pay $10 to see something with high production values than the same amount for some half-arsed camcorder crap no matter what the subject matter may be. Unfortunately, "Beautiful Creatures" isn't all explosions, bangs, and the kind of spectacle which makes for a true cinematic experience. It has its moments, but it's mostly a drawn-out romantic drama with a kind of "Harry Potter" aesthetic and dialogue which wouldn't be out of place in "Jennifer's Body", "Juno" or some other pop-culture reference filled piece of pseudo-hipsterishness for little girls.

My advice is to wait for this to come out on DVD and then rent it.

February 20, 2013

I've got nothing to write about

This is awful.

I've been going through various subjects to find something to write about, but other than a review of "Beautiful Creatures" which I'm still crafting into an acceptable level of hatred, I have nothing for you right now.

I haven't been completely idle though. I've been watching a lot of documentaries about WW2 on YouTube to fill in my lack of education about when the world was in black and white. Now I at least know who was in league with who, why, and how it all turned out. You can blame the British education system for that little foray into the realms of the History Channel because all I knew beforehand was that the Nazis had really snazzy Hugo Boss uniforms.

Also on YouTube, the levels of mental retardation have reached a new low with hundreds of channels making their own version of the "Harlem Shake" meme. In case you don't know what that is, some gimp dances badly for a few seconds then a quick cut reveals everybody around him dancing like maniacs to the same crappy '80s hiphop. It's funny once. Grudgingly, I suppose the "Harlem Shake" is slightly more entertaining than "planking" or last year's "coning". The latter was, quite frankly, just a shocking waste of ice cream.

The highlight of February has actually been the latest song from Blood On The Dance Floor. I probably shouldn't, but I do like these guys. This song makes a great anthem against my own haters out there.



In other news, it looks like Horror Movie A Day is going to come to an end any day now. He's either had enough or scored a better gig. I have no idea which it is because I don't read that blog regularly. Some people might call it a shame, but I can imagine how liberating it must be not to have to write about crappy horror movies every day just for a gimmick. I'm 99% sure that this will be the last year of "Dr Blood's Video Vault" too since I've grown out of horror.

As a prelude to my own abandonment of the genre, I've been rather quiet on the internet recently. I even gave up on the "real women in horror" series that I was doing due to lack of interest. Just to be an ass, I was eventually going to post some really sexist pictures of scream queens in kitchens or cleaning toilets to finish February off, but I can't be bothered now. The whole "women in horror month" is a ridiculous joke anyway which doesn't fool anybody. The fact that nobody in his or her right mind is ever going to donate to the "WIH" e-begging/Kickstarter projects (or any other nowadays) is a big enough victory for all of us who appreciate real talent both behind and in front of the camera. I'm not going to gloat or kick those girls while they're down. I may need one of them to make me a sandwich one day.

Maybe for the rest of the year, I'll do an occasional series of posts about multi-feature horror DVDs which I still haven't got round to watching. Maybe something will turn up at the cinema which amazes us all again and creates a whole new generation of horror fans who will flock to my blog to find out what was worth watching years ago. I doubt either thing will happen.

If you have an idea for something I can write about, leave me a comment below. I'm up for all kinds of movie related challenges other than comedies, cartoons or Disney.

February 16, 2013

The ABCs of Death (2012)



"A 26-chapter anthology that showcases death in all its vicious wonder and brutal beauty."

"The ABCs of Death" is responsible for another 2 hours of my life which I'll never get back, but on the bright side, at least I didn't have to wait to see this megaturd at one of the 30 or so selected cinemas which will be showing it next week. "The ABCs of Death" has been available as a VOD for some time now although I don't recommend that you pay for it if you can help it. It's even more of an insult to any normal human being's intelligence than "V/H/S". I wouldn't even let animals watch this crap.

Because I couldn't care less if I spoil this for you, here's the list of the 26 short "movies" (hahaha, what a joke to even call them that!) or segments and what I thought about them. My ratings are in parentheses.

"A is for Apocalypse" - very short but to the point with decent gore. (4/10)

"B is for Bigfoot" - predictable, but the pretty Mexican actress has lovely boobs. (3/10)

"C is for Cycle" - I didn't get it. Like most of the movies in this anthology, it makes no sense. (0/10)

"D is for Dogfight" - nice choreography but stupid, and I didn't understand the ending. (2/10)

"E is for Exterminate" - Angela Bettis' entry is too quick and predictable. (2/10)

"F is for Fart" - the Japanese girls are kinda hot, but the story is too bizarre. (2/10)

"G is for Gravity" - What? Did a shark get him or something? Who cares? (0/10)

"H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion" - just weird. I didn't like it or understand what was going on. (0/10)

"I is for Ingrown" - What was ingrown? I expected toenails and got nothing. (0/10)

"J is for Jidai-geki" - a couple of stupid masks, and that's it. (0/10)

"K is for Klutz" - a badly drawn cartoon. Entertaining in a childish way but pointless. (1/10)

"L is for Libido" - one of the better ones. Reminiscent of "A Serbian Film" but with more punches pulled. (4/10)

"M is for Miscarriage" - Ti West gave less than a minute to this. Who cares though? All his movies suck anyway. (0/10)

"N is for Nuptials" - the bird is funny. Reusing an old Jethro joke isn't. (2/10)

"O is for Orgasm" - I have no idea what this is about other than a mess of camera tricks and a woman with bad skin. Feel free to enlighten me by writing your answer on the back of a stamp. (0/10)

"P is for Pressure" - very nasty ending and based on something which really happened online. I don't even want to talk about it, but it's another reason to boycott anything else from Simon Rumney. (0/10)

"Q is for Quack" - nice boobs at start, cute duck at end, but "meta" all the way. (0/10)

"R is for Removed" - utter crap. So surreal that I have no idea what it's supposed to be about. (0/10)

"S is for Speed" - also didn't make any sense to me. Heroin isn't the same thing as speed, is it? (0/10)

"T is for Toilet" - crappy claymation with a twist ending. Not acceptable. (0/10)

"U is for Unearthed" - a handycam vampire exhumation. Some originality, much borrowing. (1/10)

"V is for Vagitus" - lots of sci-fi action and gore, but no point. (1/10)

"W is for WTF?" - exactly, just a mess and even more "meta" than "Q". (0/10)

"X is for XXL" - beautifully gory and very good storytelling. If you find this segment online on its own, save yourself some time by only watching this one. (8/10)

"Y is for Youngbuck" - another story which makes no sense. (0/10)

"Z is for Zetsumetsu" - which is apparently some kind of weird Japanese porn with lots of fake sexual organs and sushi. (0/10)

It comes to something when a dog is the best actor in the film.

I've seen many terrible movies in my time, but "The ABCs of Death" really deserves some kind of award for being such a self-indulgent waste of the 26 lots of $5000 which each filmmaker was supposed to spend on his or her segment. Apparently, it costs $5000 for Ti West to throw some uncooked meat wrapped up in toilet paper down the bog and film a girl in glasses with a plunger in her hand looking at it. Well done, Ti, for proving yourself a total douchebag.

As for the animal cruelty (either shown or implied) which has been dumped in this just to be controversial, I'm against most forms of censorship, but if I had the power to do anything about it, I would pull "The ABCs of Death" in a second, have all copies of it destroyed, and have the filmmakers prosecuted individually. Kids who are looking for cheap thrills will always find them because of rumours, but sicker kids will seek out a "movie" like this and use it as inspiration.

All copies of "The ABCs of Death" ought to be destroyed anyway in case today's braindead generation start thinking that burning a load of glorified YouTube videos onto a DVD is the equivalent of making a real movie. With this lack of talent for them to emulate, no wonder horror is dead. In another 20 years, there probably won't be any movies except for 5 minute long ones on video hosting sites.

Furthermore, I have no idea why Amazon lists this as starring Ingrid Bolsø Berdal. She's not in it anywhere.

According to the IMDb, "The ABCs of Death" will be in movie theatres from February 28th. I advise you to watch something else.

February 15, 2013

Warm Bodies (2013)



"After R (a highly unusual zombie) saves Julie from an attack, the two form a relationship that sets in motion a sequence of events that might transform the entire lifeless world."

"Warm Bodies" feels like an unofficial sequel to George A. Romero's "Land of the Dead" (2005) but toned-down to a PG-13 rating for the "Twilight" crowd using a similarly romantic story. Apparently, it's based on a book by Isaac Marion. I probably don't need to tell you that I've never read it and probably never will do either.

Essentially, it's another "Romeo and Juliet" designed to cash in on the last dregs of the zombie craze which has already gone way beyond annoying. On the plus side, "Warm Bodies" is quite decently made and enjoyable enough to watch. The slow pace and teenage comedy will put a lot of people off this one though. Once again, it's not really a horror movie.

Everybody will be comparing "Warm Bodies" to "Twilight" so I might as well get those aspects out of the way. Yes, the lead zombie is English just like Robert Pattinson and even looks a bit like him from some angles. His name, "R", could even be an homage to Robert Pattinson if you are dumb enough to not push it all the way to it's Shakespearean predecessor. The girl is, by necessity, Julie in case you still don't get it. And just like "Romeo and Juliet", "Twilight", and every other love story, they fancy each other but can't be together because they are from different worlds... blah, blah, blah. I can't really complain about "Warm Bodies" too much given my status as one of the few "Twilight-friendly" horror bloggers, but I didn't really get a lot out of it.


Nicholas Hoult (Tony from "Skins") and Teresa Palmer (Vanessa from "The Grudge 2") are okay in their roles. There's nothing special to report about them one way or another. They look the part except that they are both too old to play teenagers now. I'm not sure if they are meant to be teenagers really though. I was going to bitch about them mumbling enough to be teenagers, but I now think that's intentional.

Rob Corddry as "M" (which turns out to stand for Marcus not Mercutio) has the best lines, but isn't very memorable. I have no idea what he's been in before although I'd guess it was a lot of TV shows along with the rest of the cast. Again, there's nothing wrong with his performance. It is what it is.

Hipsters who have never seen any other films starring John Malkovich will love that he is also in this for a couple of phoned-in minutes as Julie's father. He's a bit miscast and would be more appropriate as Julie's grandfather given his age, but then it wouldn't be so obviously a "Romeo and Juliet" knock-off as intended.

Ultimately, it's nice to see that Jonathan Levine has directed something again after "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane" (2006), but "Warm Bodies" is a bit bland and very predictable. It looks nice, the "boney" zombies might scare small children, yet it's not an exciting "zombie gorefest" by any stretch of the imagination.

February 14, 2013

My Top Ten Valentine's Day Horror Films

Although I'm far more interested in "Half-price Chocolate Day" on February 15th, some of you will be wondering what to watch later with your objects of affection other than the classics.

If you're a wussypants and "Grotesque", "A Serbian Film", "Irreversible", "I Spit on Your Grave" or "The Human Centipede 2" aren't your idea of a good time, I've compiled a quick top ten list of the best "normal" horror films to get you in the mood on Valentine's Day.

I, on the other hand, will be watching all of the "Saw" movies back-to-back because I find them ever so romantic.


1. The Loved Ones (2009)

"When Brent turns down his classmate Lola's invitation to the prom, she concocts a wildly violent plan for revenge."




2. Jennifer's Body (2009)

"A newly possessed cheerleader turns into a killer who specializes in offing her male classmates. Can her best friend put an end to the horror?"




3. Boy Eats Girl (2005)

"A boy declares his love for his girlfriend, only to die the same night. He is brought back to life by his mother as a flesh-craving zombie, who sires more teen undead while trying to control his, er, appetite for his beloved."




4. Love Object (2003)

"The twisted tale of Kenneth, socially insecure technical writer who forms an obsessive relationship with Nikki, an anatomically accurate silicone sex doll he orders over the Internet."




5. Tamara (2005)

"Tamara, an unattractive girl, who is picked on by her peers returns after her death as a sexy seductress to exact revenge."




6. Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

"The vampire comes to England to seduce a visitor's fiancée and inflict havoc in the foreign land."




7. Daughters of Darkness (1971)

"A newlywed couple are passing through a vacation resort. Their paths cross with a mysterious, strikingly beautiful countess and her aide."




8. Meridian [aka Phantoms] (1990)

"Two American students go to Italy after graduating from art school, one to work in restoration of paintings, the other because she's inherited her father's castle. When the restorer visits her friend at the castle, they invite the players of a traveling sideshow to dinner, and are slipped drugs, leading to an orgy of abandon."




9. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

"Mary Shelley reveals the main characters of her novel survived: Dr. Frankenstein (goaded by an even madder scientist) builds his monster a mate."




10. The Invisible (2007)

"After an attack leaves him in limbo - invisible to the living and also near death - a teenager discovers the only person who might be able to help him, is his attacker."


February 12, 2013

A quick tally of the films I've been watching recently

As you know, I have the attention span of a gnat so I often give up on horror movies for a while and drift around other parts of the internet looking for entertainment. Sometimes I find it, sometimes I don't, but this time I got caught up with watching a lot of older "classic" movies which I had to work my way through before coming back to the horror genre.

I intended February to be all about the real women in horror movies from every era, but I got bored with writing about them. What's the point when you can look all that stuff up on the IMDb and Wikipedia anyway? Like so many bloggers, I don't really add anything new except rehashes of the same old information (and misinformation occasionally).

Thus, I started "reading around the subject" or, in this case, "watching around the subject" (because I don't read and I'm ignorant, yo). It all started with tracking down a documentary series on YouTube called "Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film" which I didn't even know existed back in the day.



It took a couple of days to finish, but I thoroughly enjoyed this series (only two parts about war films were missing which didn't interest me anyway). I learnt lots from it and was going to write something against modern "indie horror films" using things from the earlier episodes as examples, but I couldn't be bothered. You all know that I hate "hobby horror" handycam movies so there's no point in flogging a dead horse anymore. Nobody but the very retarded has bought any of those films for the last two or three years anyway. Let's face it, they were never in the same league as the Hollywood pioneers unless you include "stag" films.

Once I'd finished the series, I got the urge to watch a lot more old movies so I just started randomly choosing films which I'd never watched all the way through before. My list included old Laurel and Hardy comedies (the only comedies I can stand), "Betty Boop" and "Tom and Jerry" cartoons, "Sunset Boulevard" (1950), "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane" (1962), "Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte" (1964), "Mommie Dearest" (1981), "Chaplin" (1992), "Gods and Monsters" (1998), and "The Notorious Bettie Page" (2005). For some reason, I also ended up watching "Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Mork & Mindy" (2005) which had a great impersonation of Robin Williams in it. When I have nothing better to watch, I quite like biopics depending on who the subject is or who is playing them. I draw the line at Kurt Russell as Elvis though. Puh-lease.

I had a few other films lined up to watch which I ended up switching off because I got bored with them. In particular, "The Wild Bunch" (1969) was supposed to be really good, but I didn't find it very violent and gave up on it after the shootout at the start. One of the top 100 films ever made? Really? Nope, not for me. I'll probably never try to watch "Citizen Kane" (1941) or "The Third Man" (1949) ever again either. Jesus wept! I'd rather watch the banana boat song from "Beetlejuice" 20 times in a row than that shit. Actually, no, I wouldn't. I'd prefer to be struck blind and deaf for a week than have to endure that load of bollocks!

In my "To Watch" list, I still have "It Happened One Night" (1934), "Sullivan's Travels" (1941), "Cabaret" (1972), and "Hollywoodland" (2006). I have no idea about the contents of any of them other than "Cabaret" which I know is a musical and may end up getting snapped in half along with "Chicago" (2002) if I ever watch either.

I'm in the mood for a gritty yet mainstream drama full of taboo subjects, but there's just nothing out there that I haven't seen. Any suggestions are welcomed although I don't do comedies or westerns. Feel free to leave something good as a comment.

February 7, 2013

Women in horror during the 1920s - part 6

1926 was another classic year for women in horror films. Not only did we have F.W. Murnau's "Faust" co-starring Yvette Guilbert (Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's favourite model) but also, in the States, Rex Ingram's "The Magician" with his lovely wife Alice Terry playing the victim.

Alice Terry in "The Magician"

I'm not going to say anything about "The Magician" right now because, as it was a precursor to James Whale's "Frankenstein" (1931), I'd rather wait until I come to talk about the women in that film later. I might even review "The Magician" on its own sometime too because it's far too good to pass over by concentrating on only one character. Just watch it below and enjoy Alice Terry hallucinate being ravished by a satyr in Hell.



This post is going to be about one of the first German remakes, "The Student of Prague" (1926) and some of the differences to the 1913 original. Yes, the Germans were remaking their films too although only in the rare cases where they needed to be remade for the better. Never satisfied, they even remade this again in 1935.

Many people consider "The Student of Prague" (1913) to be Germany's first horror movie. In fairness, it's more of a diabolical "Jeckyl and Hyde" fantasy with a tragic ending than anything scary. Whatever the case, there are two women in the remake who stand out, Elizza La Porta as Liduschka and Agnes Esterhazy as Comtesse Margit.

Elizza La Porta

Before getting stuck into their roles, I need to give you an idea of how small the original parts were for Lyda Salmonova as Lyduschka and Grete Berger as Komtesse Margit. Note that the slight spelling differences in their names isn't important as the plot is identical. I've embedded the movie below though so that you can see how little backstory each has in favour of the "sausagefest" around them.



Interestingly, chubby Paul Wegener was the original Balduin who went on to play Oliver Haddo in "The Magician" while Conrad Veidt took his place here. We may moan about the overexposure of horror actors continuing to appear in the same movies nowadays, but such typecasting had been going on from the very beginning. To cut the long story of how it happened in 1920s' Hollywood short, the producers thought it made more sense to import the male German leads rather than the more easily replaceable women. Despite often being an important part of ensemble casts, German actresses were less likely to travel than their male counterparts. Maybe it was because the German actresses were nearly all married to directors who had contracted other work for them. Maybe they didn't have the "star" power to sell a movie. Maybe it was just sexism. Who knows? I suspect it was a combination of reasons in every case with only the really big name European actors getting offered roles outside of their own countries. Like everything, there were exceptions to that rule especially when it came to politics and money.

Although that was more of a digression than a segue, let's now have a look at "The Student of Prague" (1926) also known as "The Man Who Cheated Life" to see what a bigger German budget made of it. Unfortunately, the print quality of the Public Domain version available on YouTube (and Alpha DVD) isn't even half as good as the 1913 version. This makes it hard to tell who is who so you'll just have to take my word for it that the acting and special effects are supposed to be better.



The remake of "The Student of Prague" certainly did the right thing by lengthening the scenes. In the original, it's hard to tell what Lyduschka's motivation is apart from being a troublemaker, but it's more obvious that Liduschka is in love with Balduin in the remake. Similarly, the now more attractive Margit isn't only a trophy to be fought over and also has some genuine affection for Balduin. Her love triangle with the latter and Ferdinand von Alten as Baron Waldis-Schwarzenberg is, arguably, still a weak point.

Agnes Esterhazy in The Student of Prague (1926)

Agnes Esterhazy

Casting the Hungarian-born Countess Agnes Asterhazy as a "Komtess" in the former Austro-Hungarian city of Prague (which became the capital of the newly formed Czechoslovakia at the end of the first World War) made her role far more authentic and appealing to a wider audience. In modern times, you don't find many royals involved in show business on a performance level outside of Catherine Oxenberg and the late Grace Kelly (as Princess of Monaco), so there's another novelty to enjoy here.

Allegedly, Agnes Asterhazy was involved in the "Berlin scene" with all of its occult and sexually perverted weirdness, but not that much is really known about her except that she was another victim of the age of talkies and couldn't make the transition. One day I really have to buy a book about early German cinema to see if there is more information available. If you have any book suggestions for me, please leave them in the comments section below.

In "The Student of Prague", Agnes Asterhazy's Margit is portrayed as quite wilful and choosy which is in contrast to Liduschka's subservience and desperation. As both women look quite similar facially, I assume that this female echo of the good Balduin compared to his evil mirror self is intentional. The whole film is about mirrored personality images after all.

Margit isn't evil although she's not the most likeable of characters either. Liduschka's actions, on the other hand, are morally borderline and obsessive, but that's got more to do with her class and self-esteem than anything else. There are so many things which can be read into the differences between the two women that it makes me wish that I was a better writer and more informed about the period to be able highlight them all. Suffice it to say that Liduschka has to be the clingiest girlfriend ever while Margit definitely isn't. In fact, by the end of the film, Margit is absolutely terrified of Balduin with some obligatory fainting thrown in for good measure. Even if Balduin had been the Devil himself, he wouldn't have scared off Liduschka so easily.

Having spent far too long watching these movies over the last three days while being constipated and fighting a malfunctioning furnace which almost caused me and the cats to freeze to death, I'm going to end this rambling here. I've been too distracted to put my best work into this, but I'll post it anyway so that we can all move on. With my ever decreasing number of pageviews since I started this series of posts (only 9 views on the last one which I thought was quite well written), I realise that none of you philistines like silent horror movies, and I'll be glad to see the back of them too.

February 6, 2013

Women in horror during the 1920s - part 5

Staying with Hollywood for another day, it's time to look at the first werewolf movie ever made (or at least the earliest one which has survived): "Wolf Blood" also known as "Wolfblood: A Tale of the Forest". Although not made by a major studio, this Ryan Brothers production is notable for being directed by and starring George Chesebro. If you don't know who he was, shame on you for not watching old Republic westerns! Only kidding, I've never watched any of them either.

Of far greater interest to me is the centre of the love triangle in this movie, Marguerite Clayton, As an actress who was coming to the end of her 179 movie career, her name hardly trips off the tongue of horror fans, but I still think she deserves some recognition.

Marguerite Clayton in Wolf Blood (1926)

Marguerite Clayton as Edith Ford

In a change from starring in short westerns about Bronco Billy, Marguerite Clayton plays the owner of a logging company. How emancipated is that? Well, not very when push comes to shove. She's clearly a socialite who has inherited the business and doesn't really know what to do with it. If her 5 minute "flapper party" doesn't give that away, her engagement to a rich doctor (Ray Hanford) and the fact that handsome Dick Bannister (George Chesebro) is the real guy in charge of the lumberjacks surely does.

Students of women in film would get a lot out of "Wolf Blood", but don't worry, I'm not going to write the essay for them. Even though women had something a lot closer to equality in 1920s' America than ever before, it wasn't without some male resentment albeit often treated humourously in the movies. Generally, "new women" were portrayed as shrewish or sluttish, so the Edith Ford character here is a joy to watch as a more traditional, less emancipated heroine in spite of her initial backstory.

Edith loves getting flowers.

There's no "hard of heart like a man" Clytaemnestra stuff going on in this movie as Edith is quite the girlie-girl. She changes her outfit at least half a dozen times while the men appear to wear the same clothes throughout, she's as indecisive about the two men in her life as Bella Swan in "Twilight" (2008), and she loves getting flowers. Just ignore how she wears pants later on and you're good to go.

Actually, now that I've mentioned "Twilight", there is a proto-"Twilight" love triangle in this which seems weirdly familiar. Okay, so there are no real vampires or werewolves, but there is a doctor who performs a blood transfusion and a guy who everyone thinks is a werewolf. Could Stephanie Meyer have watched this movie at some point in her life? Who knows? It's funny where ideas for stories come from as even the most original is as old as the hills. They don't call these emotional relationships full of conflicts "the eternal triangle" for nothing.

What's this? Women can read?

All traces of whatever businesswoman Edith Ford was meant to be are thrown out of the window once she starts playing nurse to her injured Dick. Oh yes, I did just write that. There's sensuality in her performance, and I have to admit that (imitating the language of another of the characters in the film) I wouldn't mind me some of that Marguerite Clayton lovin' myself. She's absolutely gorgeous in some scenes, and she's a cuddler. I'm not entirely convinced by her chemistry with either of the male leads, but given the limitations of such a stagey production, her acting is better than you'd see in a lot of other movies from this time.

Pensive, sexy Edith

Some of Marguerite's scenes are pure eyecandy, but not in a gratuitous way. Take the shot above which could be straight out of a German expressionist movie. Perfectly framed and lit, it highlights how alone Edith is with her thoughts. Who should she choose, Edward or Jacob? Sorry, wrong story, but you get the idea.

Unless you watch a lot of silent movies or are a big movie buff, the chances are that you didn't realise how many of these old movies were tinted. Just as we all take sound and colour for granted nowadays, tinting was the "in thing" back in the 1920s. I'm not a film historian (I just watch a lot of films) so I've been surprised by it myself. Apparently, there were certain rules attached to which tints and where to use them. I don't know them all, but I assume that green was meant to highlight being outside. In a movie like this with so much forest action, it seems logical. I find green to be a depressing colour though, and I think it makes Marguerite look even sadder in the still below. She has such an expressive face.

Pretty as a picture but so sad.

Call me a pervert ("Hey Dr Blood, you're a pervert!"), but I found Marguerite Clayton very attractive in this movie. I suppose that's the point or some hideously ugly woman would have had her role instead. Only saying. The more of these old movies I watch the easier it is to appreciate the unflattering hairstyles, bizarre fashions, and a way of life which is completely alien to me. It also helps enormously when a genuinely beautiful women is in a movie rather than the modern trend to throw in a "girl next door" type and praise her as the Emperor's new clothes.

To end this post, I have to draw your attention to some of the amusing dialogue on the intertitle cards. Remember how I said that "new women" in the '20s often had fun poked at them. Well, here are two examples from Pop (Frank Clark):

Are you sure about that, Pop?

True story.

Now let's watch the movie together. It's just over an hour long.



Minor spoiler:

Although it's only a horror movie for the last 20 minutes or so, "Wolf Blood" features an offscreen transfusion using wolf blood (hence the title) as a means to introduce the Loup Garou myth. Like so many early horror movies, the drama relies on an impossible medical procedure. While it is actually within the realms of scientific possibility according to the documented case of Dr. Jean-Baptiste Denys (the eminent physician to King Louis XIV of France) who transfused the blood of a sheep into a 15-year-old boy, such a thing would only work with a very small amount of blood and is more likely to be fatal. Whatever the case, you wouldn't turn into a werewolf (or a weresheep) afterwards! Also, you have to question why Dr. Horton didn't use his own blood?


Tomorrow: Agnes Esterhazy in "The Student of Prague" (1926)

February 5, 2013

Women in horror during the 1920s - part 4

In case my previous posts have made you think that I'm not too keen on the silent era of Hollywood, let me just confirm that fact by presenting you with the biggest fiasco of the mid-1920s: "The Phantom of the Opera".



Suffice it to say that "The Phantom of the Opera" was a mess from start to finish with the original director walking out and multiple cuts needed to make the story more entertaining for the low-brow masses. Test audiences were less than impressed by Universal's attempt to ape the European film industry's style of faithfully adapting novels for the silver screen so comedic characters, more action scenes, and various changes to major plot points were tried and removed until a middle ground was reached. Finally, a chase scene was added to the end as the heartbreaking finale of the novel by Gaston Leroux didn't work for bloodthirsty Yanks.

Even though "The Phantom of the Opera" wasn't the first "horror movie" to be remade, it was still most assuredly a more lavish and overlong remake of the 1916 German version by Ernst Matray, "Das Gespenst im Opernhaus" or "Das Phantom der Oper" (which allegedly was co-written by Greta Schroeder of "Nosferatu" fame). Talkies hadn't even arrived and already Hollywood was out of ideas!

What makes "The Phantom of the Opera" even more ludicrous in the age of silent films is that it's about an opera! I suppose that's almost as daft as writing a book about an opera, but if ever a movie needed sound, it's this one! Universal did indeed create a semi-talkie version in 1929, but it's now considered lost.

For all the gory details about the making of "The Phantom of the Opera" and the different versions, I suggest taking a look at the Wikipedia page. Instead of rehashing all that information, this post is simply going to be about the actress who played Christine Daaé. In other words...

Mary Philbin in The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

Mary Philbin

One thing you can definitely say about Mary Philbin is that she was a very beautiful girl. Call Hollywood filmmakers shallow, but their movies have always been about exceedingly good looking stars. While the European movies were full of plainer "character faces", Hollywood in the 1920s was all about the glamour. You can say what you like about Lon Chaney in his scary make-up, but he was still a rather handsome chap underneath the prosthetics. Similarly, Mary Philbin's onscreen love interest, Norman Kerry, was a typical moustachioed leading man of the time who was not too dissimilar to Clark Gable given the right lighting.

Thus, it's hardly a surprise that Mary Philbin was cast almost entirely because of her looks. You can possibly throw in a wee bit of nepotism since she was friends with Carla Laemmle, the equally beautiful niece of the producer and founder of Universal pictures, Carl Laemmle, but that's not quite how things happened. Carl Laemmle didn't really think Mary was lead material until she'd been in a few other movies. Until "The Phantom of the Opera", she may have been lovely to look at, but Mary was still thought of as an untrained and fairly mediocre actress who had a terrible high-pitched speaking voice and couldn't even sing! Ironically, that made her perfect for a silent movie role as an opera singer.

Mary Philbin as Christine Daaé

Having watched quite a few silent movies (although not at the time they came out because I'd have to be a vampire or have a time machine to have done that), I don't think Mary Philbin's acting in "The Phantom of the Opera" is as bad as many of her detractors might have had people believe. She seems very competent in that slightly awkward silent movie era style, but is a lot less mechanical in her actions and movements than the other performers until much later in the film. She was clearly learning as she went along, and it shows in how she detrimentally changes from very natural to horribly stylised. The story is that Lon Chaney gave her and other cast members direction in place of Rupert Julian which, of course, led to a lot of arguments. Not taking anything away from Lon Chaney's obvious talents and credentials, but if that was indeed the case, Rupert Julian may have been either too ahead of his time or too theatrical. it all depends on who was the bigger influence. As Mary Philbin claimed that she learned a lot from Lon Chaney, if the scenes were filmed in chronological order, I'd hazard a guess that Chaney's exaggerated old school mannerisms rubbed off on her and not in a good way.

There's one particular moment (around 43 minutes in) where Mary Philbin sparkles with delight in a way that only Audrey Hepburn would be able to emulate later in "Roman Holiday" (1953). It's possible that such a look is due to the Irish blood in both actresses, but I don't really know about such things. All I can say is that when a pretty actress seems to genuinely show delight, it's guaranteed to make the viewer fall a little bit in love with her.

Mary Philbin as Christine Daaé again.

Ultimately, Mary Philbin was unable to make the transition to talkies and retired from the movie industry. Her personal life behind the scenes was a fascinating and sad story, but I'll let you read that on the IMDb at your leisure. For this post, it's enough to remember Mary Philbin as she was as Christine Daaé.

In spite of all the flaws, "The Phantom of the Opera" generated so much profit for Universal that it laid the foundations for the famous horror movie monsters of the 1930s. Without Mary Philbin as the object of the Phantom's desire, we may have never seen Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy or The Wolf Man. It's entirely up to you if you think that's a good thing or a bad one though. I'll be saying what I think about the horror movies of the 1930s later.


Tomorrow: Marguerite Clayton in "Wolf Blood" (1926)

February 4, 2013

Women in horror during the 1920s - part 3

I'm going to jump ahead a couple of years past "Körkarlen" (1921) with Hilda Bogström (one of Sweden's most legendary silent film actresses), skipping Lola Urban-Kneidinger in "Anita" (1922) - a German film about hypnotism, and even completely ignoring Lois Meredith in "The Headless Horseman" (1922) because I can't find any big pictures of any of them. I do, however, still encourage you to watch all of these movies especially "Körkarlen" (below).



Should you have more hours to spare, I also recommend "Häxan" (1922) since it was the most expensive Scandinavian silent film ever made and features lots of women (some of whom get naked). It's a documentary about "witchcraft through the ages" with many dramatised scenes which place it nicely into the horror genre. Some may prefer the shorter updated version with jazzy background music and narration by a rather bored sounding William Burroughs, but I don't.



And so, having reached 1924, there really is only one horror movie worth going into any detail about along with its female co-star...

Alexandra Sorina in The Hands of Orlac (1924)

Alexandra Sorina as Yvonne Orlac

Polish-born Alexandra Sorina has a massive role in this Robert Wiene film which easily equals that of Conrad Veidt. "The Hands of Orlac" begins with Yvonne Orlac reading a sexy letter from her husband, and she remains as the focus throughout the frantic search of the train wreck. From then on, she's never more than a couple of minutes away for the first half of the film. Conrad Veidt may have the lead, but there's so much going on in their relationship that Alexandra Sorina is far from being a supporting player.

Yvonne loves flowers a little bit too much.

Yvonne is by Orlac's side from the moment he is found. She begs the doctor to save Paul's hands, shows a huge range of emotions as she waits expectantly outside his operations, and is by his bedside as he recovers. Yvonne is desperately in love with her piano-playing spouse and, in spite of feeling more and more neglected as time passes, is still the one who faces the couple's creditors as they run into debt. She even goes to Paul's estranged father, who she's scared to death of, to beg for money. Paul Orlac may be traumatized from having his hands replaced by those of a supposed murderer, but that's no reason to be quite such a useless bugger. It's pretty obvious who wears the lederhosen in this marriage, and it sure isn't piano boy.

Yvonne Orlac realises that she'll have to hold Paul's pee-pee.

Imagine, if you will, that with Paul Orlac's predicament, Yvonne probably has to hold his thing for him while he pees and wipe his ass. I'm sure she's up for giving him relief in other ways too even though it's never shown. In spite of being extensively censored (and banned) in some places until 1996, "The Hands of Orlac" isn't a very adult movie in that way.

Yes, I do know that "The Hands of Orlac" was censored because of its potential to encourage far-fetched criminal activity, but this still isn't a thriller for little kids. Some of the situations stray precariously into areas which a modern director would have a field day with. Unfortunately, none of the American remakes so far have ever had the balls to visit those places because, let's face it, they're American and most Americans are coddled overgrown children with childish tastes. Looking back on the "old dark house" horror-comedies which were released in Hollywood during the 1920s and 1930s, it's pretty obvious that the rot had set in quite early on and the industry never recovered. Despite borrowing imagery and trying to remake everything, Hollywood horror has always been a poor substitute for the European classics. People who moan about the lack of originality in today's Hollywood don't have a clue. While European filmmakers were highly obsessed with adapting plays and bestselling novels, Hollywood never had an original idea to begin with. But I've digressed.

The uber hot maid with Yvonne Orlac.

As far as wives go, Yvonne Orlac is almost perfect. She may suffer from bouts of syncope (although that could still be considered a bonus) and a tendency to cuddle bunches of flowers, but she loves the sexy off-the-shoulder dresses so much that they barely stay on her. It's just a pity that she isn't quite as hot as their maid, Carmen Cartellieri, who must be able to cook and clean like a real woman should, but you can't have everything. Slightly pudgy faces, rosebud lips, excessive eye make-up and bad hairstyles were clearly the "in thing" in 1920s' Germany. Aside from a few emo kids with puppy fat who I've seen on Tumblr, I don't think that look is coming back any time soon so start hitting those treadmills and leave the cakes alone, fatties!

If you want to see Alexandra Sorina's outstanding performance in "The Hands of Orlac", or simply want to enjoy Conrad Veidt grimacing, holding his hands out a lot and lurching around the screen as if his legs don't work either, once again, I've embedded the full movie for you below. Ignore the medical impossibilities and enjoy!




Tomorrow: Mary Philbin in "The Phantom of the Opera" (1925)

February 3, 2013

Women in horror during the 1920s - part 2

As a preface to this continuing list of the real women of horror in the 1920s, I suppose I ought to tell you that I am fully aware of what was going on in Hollywood horror with Lon Chaney and his female co-stars at the time. Unfortunately, due to the infamous MGM vault fires, most of those movies no longer exist. Lamentable as it may be, I don't really care that much about Hollywood in the 1920s anyway.

For the sake of completeness, I found a picture of Lon Chaney with Ethel Grey Terry looking terrified in "The Penalty" (1920), but decided not to repost it as everyone considers it a "crime drama" rather than a horror movie. Having watched it on YouTube, it's a damned good film, but I would call it a revenge flick with horror elements. Maybe I'll review it for a "Thriller Thursday" eventually.

Similarly, I almost skipped over Martha Mansfield's role alongside John Barrymore in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1920). Apparently, it's not to be confused with J. Charles Haydon's identically named 40 minute movie from the same year although, honestly, I'd never watched either of them before last night. I found the Public Domain version of the longer "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" on YouTube and have embedded it below, I've also given you a picture of Martha Mansfield looking hot to make up for my faux pas.



Martha Mansfield as Millicent Carew

As they say, "even Homer nods". In my defence, I've never been able to make it through any older version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" without getting bored. The story is too well known even to those who have never read the book by Robert Louis Stephenson, and the 1920 movie version is both confusing in the middle and far from being the best adaptation. On the bright side, Martha Mansfield and several of the "prostitutes" are nice to look at.

Anyway, after that slight digression, it's time to talk about Greta Schröder (or Schroeder - either spelling is acceptable) and mention how she has been totally eclipsed in favour of Max Schreck by everyone who writes about F.W. Murnau's "Nosferatu". I can't entirely redress the balance because I don't know very much about either of them except what I've read on the internet, but I've got enough information to say something.

Greta Schröder in Nosferatu (1922)

Greta Schröder as Nina

Depending on which version you watch, Greta Schröder plays either Ellen Hutter or Nina (rather than Mina) Harker. As you may know, changing the names of the characters didn't help F.W. Murnau to escape the wrath of Bram's Stoker's widow who wanted all copies of the film destroyed for plagiarism and copyright infringements. I can't say that I blame her because I'm not the biggest fan of "Nosferatu" either. I'm at a loss to explain why, nowadays, The Asylum doesn't get sued by the makers of the movies which they rip-off or even why there are so many clones of horror movies in the first place, but back in in the 1920s, copyright offences were still prosecutable albeit only in civil lawsuits.

Although Max Schreck only has 9 minutes or so on screen, his hideous Graf Orlok character is obviously the most remembered image from the film. It may surprise you to learn, however, that Greta Schröder has almost the same amount of screen time including 30 seconds playing with a cat. As far as I'm concerned, that makes her far more important. Apart from her wig (please don't let that be her real hair!), she's a lot better looking too.

Nina plays with her pussy cat.

Greta Schröder's other movies include "The Golem" (1920) where she plays the girl with the rose, and another small part in "The Lost Shadow" (1921). Both of these parts were undoubtedly due to being married to director Paul Wegener (although she was previously married to another actor). According to Wikipedia, in "Shadow of the Vampire" (2000), she is portrayed as having been a famous actress during the making of "Nosferatu", but in fact she was little known.

Well, now Greta Schröder can also be known for being part of my "real women of horror" month. Here's a still from "The Golem" where Greta looks a lot prettier:

Greta gives a rose to the Golem.

If you've never seen "Nosferatu", I've embedded the full movie for you below. Greta may not do a lot except cuddle Gustav von Wangenheim and point at things, but she's still an iconic horror heroine. She's the reason why Count Orlok gets caught in the sunlight too. Let's not forget that little detail.




Tomorrow: Alexandra Sorina in "The Hands of Orlac" (1924)

February 2, 2013

Women in horror during the 1920s - part 1

You know their faces, but do you know their names? That's the challenge which I will present to you every day during this "real women in horror" month.

Of course, it may be a little bit unfair of me to go right back to the 1920s to make a point especially as 99.9% of movie fans weren't even alive back then, but no matter what age you are, you should already be familiar with Robert Weine's "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" (1920), F.W. Murnau's "Nosferatu" (1922) and Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" (1927). They turn up in so many budget DVD compliation packs that you have no excuse for not having them in your movie collection several times over. Arguably, the latter isn't a horror movie, but that really depends on your point of view. There's certainly a lot more to "Metropolis" than sci-fi.

Isn't it funny how the names of the directors fall so easily from everyone's lips? But can you name who played Jane Olsen, Ellen Hutter (Mina Harker depending on the version) or Maria without looking them up? I wonder why that is. Could it be that you just don't care? Well, you're not leaving this blog without the answers so keep your pudgy fingers away from that Google search button!

The 1920s were a time of more artistic freedom and sexiness than ever before or since. If you have some strange idea that the 1920s were much like the puritanical Victorian era, think again! Although all the drug taking, sexual perversions and prostitution barely made it from real life onto the silver screen, those elements were certainly in the background of every European movie production. In America, not so much, but then America has always been puritanical and at least 50 years behind the rest of the world anyway. Americans who went overseas during the 1920s to the "Sin Cities" of Paris, Shanghai and Berlin didn't want to return. Those who did certainly spiced things up for a while, but I'm not here to give you a political history lesson. Just watch the documentary which I've embedded below:



Thus, it's no surprise that the three big German horror movies of the 1920s contained the sexiest women of the time. Sex always sold well and men flocked to these movies to see such beauty. It wasn't just the dirty mac brigade who would go to sit with their bowler hats on their laps either. The audience for horror movies was made up of a far more diverse movie-going public than some clique of perverts. Horror was respectable entertainment back then and not a grubby little secret.

But that's enough introduction, let's get to the girls...

Lil Dagover in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Lil Dagover as Jane Olsen

Lil Dagover (born as Marie Antonia Siegelinde Martha Seubert in 1887) was one of the biggest stars in German cinema. To have some idea of how popular she was, she made 139 movies from 1916 until a year before her death in 1980. 139 real movies, ladies and gentlemen, and not one of them a crappy camcorder job!

Say her name as many times as you can to get it established in your mind: LIL DAGOVER... LIL DAGOVER... LIL DAGOVER... If she appears in a mirror behind you, you're doing it wrong.

As Jane Olsen, the "frail, menaced heroine" of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari", Lil Dagover was the world's first silent scream queen. Think about that for a while.

At least in Germany, Lil Dagover was an "A-list" celebrity actress. She never needed to hang out at conventions signing autographs for $20 a pop or panhandle the crowds to raise cash for the next low-budget nasty. Okay, so she got many of her roles because she was briefly married to a director, but let's not got there. Lil Dagover was an accomplished stage actress before (unlike Sheri Moon Zombie) which guaranteed her a career with UFA.

Did I mention that Lil was Hitler's favourite actress? I have now.

Want to know what an A-list German actress from the silent era looks like in action? Just watch her:




Tomorrow: Greta Schröder in "Nosferatu" (1922)