Thanks to Cinematical for referring me to Scarecrow Video’s exhaustive list of all the movie references in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.” A nice reminder of why “independent, brick & mortar video stores that employee real people” are not “outmoded and in need of extermination by mail based corporations.”
Mary Shelley, daughter of two leading intellectuals and wife of a brilliant poet, was a teenager when she was challenged to write a ghost story and came up with one of the most enduring and often-filmed scary stories of all time, now considered the first true science fiction novel as well. She called it Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. And, as we all now know, it is the story of a scientist who tries to triumph over death by creating life. On screen, Frankenstein and his creation have co-starred with everyone from Abbott and Costello to Alvin the Chipmunk. The monster has been played by Boris Karloff, Robert DeNiro, Randy Quaid, David Warner, Tom Noonan, Peter Boyle, Michael Sarrazin, Lon Chaney, Jr., David Prowse (the actor who played Darth Vader) and John Cleese and inspired the character of Herman Munster, played by Fred Gwynne.
We Belong Dead: Frankenstein On Film is a good resource for the movie versions of Mary Shelley’s story. Some of the best Frankensteins include:
Frankenstein (1931) The James Whale-directed classic starring Boris Karloff is an unquestioned masterpiece of mood and filled with iconic moments.
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) Whale and Karloff returned with this sequel, which many consider even scarier. Elsa Lanchester plays both Mary Shelley and the title character. Whale’s skill at making the story not just horror but tragedy makes this a compelling film that transcends genre.
Gods and Monsters (1998) This is not the story of Frankenstein but the story of James Whale (brilliantly played by Ian McKellan), whose depiction of Shelley’s story would be as influential in the 20th century as her book was in the 19th. The re-creations of the scenes from Whale’s films are meticulous and illuminating.
Young Frankenstein (1974) This loving spoof of Shelley and Whales has a hilarious script by Mel Brooks (who directed) and Gene Wilder (who starred as Dr. Fronk-en-STEEN). As influenced by Whales as by Shelley, this wildly funny film used some of Whale’s original sets and props.
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) Brook and Wilder were not the first to see the comic possibilities in a monster film. Abbott and Costello run into a whole bunch of movie monsters with a lot of silly, Scooby-Doo-style scares.
And be sure to check out the Frankensteinia blog, which is a tribute to all things Frankenstein.
Please watch this X Factor clip of Danyl Johnson singing “I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends” in what the notoriously critical Simon Cowell calls the best first audition he has seen since the show began. Johnson, a 27-year-old teacher, takes a song that already has been unforgettably performed by the Beatles and Joe Cocker and makes it his own with a dazzling, supremely confident performance with indefinable but unmistakable star quality. You will want to be a part of this talented singer’s career from the beginning. He will be getting by with the help of a lot of new friends.
The end of August is the worst time of year for movies. This makes no sense to me. I would think that people would want to see some good movies before the end of vacation. But it has been true for as long as I can remember and this year is no exception. Because Labor Day comes so late this year, we have two weeks filled with movies not screened for critics like “Halloween II,” “Final Destination 3D,” “Gamer,” and “Carriers.”
This provides a moment to look back on the summer’s hits and misses. Time Magazine has a good piece called 10 Lessons from the 2009 Box Office. Keeping in mind the perennially re-learned lesson from Oscar-winner William Goldman — “Nobody knows anything,” Time’s Richard Corliss has some important insights. Stars don’t guarantee success (“Land of the Lost” and “Funny People” did poorly; “The Hangover,” “Star Trek,” and “District 9” did well). Women go to movies — this is a lesson Hollywood always forgets, until the next “Julie and Julia” comes along. Big budget films did well.
Five other films in the summer’s top 10 domestic winners — “Up,” “Star Trek,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” and “Angels & Demons” — had budgets of at least $150 million. Their sponsors must have been pleased, since each of the five earned more than $350 million worldwide.
You could make just as strong a case for the other side by comparing “District 9” ($30 million budget, $80 million box office) to “G.I. Joe” ($175 million budget, $124 million box office). But it is true that big budget movies did better than smaller independent films. This summer had no “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Blair Witch Project,” “March of the Penguins,” or “Juno.”
For me, the most interesting point Corliss makes is the way technology has changed the way people make decisions about what movies to see.
Instant-messaging can make or break a film within 24 hours. At any rate, something viral happened to Brüno, Sacha Baron Cohen’s followup to Borat. Its opening-day gross was a burly $14.4 million, which that Saturday plunged an abysmal 40%. Somebody got out the word — stinker — and did it quick, possibly in 140 characters. The movie’s opening-weekend total was $30 million, and it’s taken six weeks to earn its second $30 million.
So, keeping a movie from critics may not make much of a difference. They can run, but they can’t hide from the audience members who become critics via Twitter and Facebook.
But the most surprising fact in the article was which movie was the top world-wide box office champ of the summer, in fact of the year so far. I’ll bet you can’t guess. Think for a moment before continuing, and, if you have the nerve, give me your guess in the comment box before clicking ahead to see the answer.