Rock's Cheapo Theatre of the Damned

→ in
Tools    





I remember Sundance occasionally indulging in exploitation now and then. What's really 180 degrees was when Sundance either got bought out or changed management around 2010 and shifted their programming to Die Hard marathons and Law & Order reruns. I'm surprised they didn't just change the name.




He did love him some writhing lesbian vampires.
In Canada, we got a pretty bland selection of "indie" movies (stuff that either I had already seen or had no interest in). I don't remember it getting quite as bad as what you refer to, but I'd stopped paying attention to the channel at that point. It's also possible the Canadian version had a different programming slate than the American version.



minds his own damn business
In Canada, we got a pretty bland selection of "indie" movies (stuff that either I had already seen or had no interest in). I don't remember it getting quite as bad as what you refer to, but I'd stopped paying attention to the channel at that point. It's also possible the Canadian version had a different programming slate than the American version.
I actually really enjoyed the Sundance of yore, and along with IFC and TCM were the movie channels I spent most time with. I still have a bunch of Sundance stuff on videotape like short film collections, docs, the original uncensored Greg the Bunny films, etc. IFC also went the way of becoming just another content regurgitator. I think the last really great original show there was Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town. That was 2009ish.
__________________



I actually really enjoyed the Sundance of yore, and along with IFC and TCM were the movie channels I spent most time with. I still have a bunch of Sundance stuff on videotape like short film collections, docs, the original uncensored Greg the Bunny films, etc. IFC also went the way of becoming just another content regurgitator. I think the last really great original show there was Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town. That was 2009ish.
We did get a version of IFC as well, but from my hazy memories it was also probably a bit watered down. I confess I didn't pay as much attention to it, as the free preview periods would coincide with the ones for Scream, and the latter always had my attention due to the timing (October-ish).


TCM was in a more or less intact form, though, except maybe some lazily inserted Can-con during off hours (in the middle of the night). Unfortunately, that one stopped offering free previews after its Canadian launch and was only available as part of a needlessly expensive package, so didn't get to take as much advantage of it as I'd like.



Uncle Ray's Dirty Movie Steck-tacular




I have yet to read Bram Stoker's Dracula, but I understand in the original novel, Dracula has a mustache. For this reason and perhaps others, Jess Franco's Count Dracula is considered one of the more accurate adaptations, from my understanding. In this exact respect, Ray Dennis Steckler's The Mad Love Life of a Hot Vampire is perhaps an accurate adaptation as it too features a mustached Dracula. In probably every other respect, I suspect it takes a lot of liberties with the source material. As I have not yet read the source novel, I cannot analyze it from this perspective, but I will note that it features probably the sorriest Dracula I can remember. The character has been played by the likes of Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee, guys who look the part of an evil vampire and have great presence. Here he's played by a guy who looks like Nathan Lane and sports a Shemp haircut. Now, I like Nathan Lane enough (I have fond memories of seeing Mouse Hunt as a child and enjoyed his role in Frankie and Johnny when I watched it earlier this year), but he is no Dracula, and neither is this guy. Also extremely pathetic is his hunchbacked assistant, who at least gets to partake in a sex scene while keeping on his turtleneck while Dracula nods and pumps his fist in approval, as well as Van Helsing, played by a portly guy who we're introduced to as he interrupts a couple making out.

The title implies that Dracula gets a lot more action than he does, but alas his love life consists of instructing his female minions to collect blood on his behalf. The girls are sent in robes carrying vials (and no pockets to put them in; also their robes don't match) and go pick up their victims, and proceed to have sex with them in separate motels. One of the guys comments on his partner's strange outfit ("like out of a horror movie or something") but alas neither of them are any wiser until the scenes reach their gruesome denouement (instead of the usual money shot, we get to see the expected results of a vampiric blowjob, accompanied by manic zooms). The scenes with each couple takes place in a separate motel room and are cut together. One of the scenes has the girl getting mad at her partner for his poor performance and slaps his ass like a pair of conga drums; the other is mostly shot from the most dreaded angle in porn, the under-the-balls shot. (I preferred the former.) These scenes take up most of the sub-hour runtime, and the climax involves Van Helsing using a stake that looks an awful lot like a knitting needle, and the hunchback getting beaten up by a guy in a shiny shirt. This is far from good, even by the standards of the genre, but does have a certain halfassed charm to it. Steckler isn't taking this all that seriously and at least injects some humour into the proceedings, while his ex-wife Carolyn Brandt (credited as "Jane Bond") appears as Dracula's wife, and provides colour commentary ("Dracula decides to make love, not war", "Dracula is grooving", "Run, Dracula, Run!"). I enjoyed seeing her pop up in this, even if all her scenes were obviously shot separately.

Compared to The Mad Love Life of a Hot Vampire, Carolyn Brandt has a bigger role in The Sexorcist, in that she actually interacts with other cast members. This one is about a sex-mad devil worshipping cult who demonically possess a prostitute (who explains her profession succinctly: "I **** and suck and make a buck") and the sexorcist who must defeat them. Brandt, playing a reporter doing a story on the sexorcist, helpfully explains what a sexorcism is ("Removing the devil from your body while he's sexually possessing him"), which sounds like the difference between a GP and a specialist. The bulk of the movie involves a cultist, who resembles a more unsavoury Adam Driver and wears a robe but no underpants, possessing (read: having sex with) the prostitute and then commanding her to do his bidding (read: have more sex). At one point a portly guest with a porcine demeanour (he makes snorting and slurping noises) arrives and is murdered. (The cultist makes uncharitable comments about his stature: "Oh master, he's a big one, open both doors and accept this sinner.") The sex scenes are interminable and set to festive steel drums (think Commando or American Ninja II: The Confrontation), and the one vaguely stylish shot (from overhead) is immediately jettisoned in favour of the dreaded under-the-balls angle. (The cultist also boasts that she can't hurt his dick, no matter how hard she bites it: "See, you've tried, you can't hurt it!". Also, "Abandon all hope! Your will is mine! I am the power!") There are some brief jolts thanks to the slasher movie style violence, but Steckler's direction is nowhere near forceful enough for these moments to actually save the movie. The mix of the occult and sluggish, low energy sex brings to mind Ed Wood's Necromania, but Wood seemed to be having fun there and Steckler does not here, and neither does Brandt, to be honest. Still, I enjoyed spending time with her much more than anybody else in this dismal affair. Hard pass.

In Red Heat (not to be confused with Walter Hill's Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle), Steckler directs under the pseudonym Cindy Lou Sutters, which is also the name of the narrating character played by Brandt, a lady pornographer who came from L.A. to Las Vegas to make porno movies. When Brandt's character isn't "directing" the sex scenes we see, she offers a lot of insights about the business. ("It's important when making adult films that you get good wet shots. Those cum scenes can make your film a success. People who pay to see x-rated films want to see some real action. They're not interested in lots of dialogue. They can see that for free on TV.") Her attempts to direct a porno are intercut with scenes where a redhead (the "Red Heat" of the title) goes around killing people and a motorcyclist separately goes around sticking people up at gunpoint ("Hey ****ers, the tax collector's here"). All of this is punctuated with endless street footage of Las Vegas, and we get to see all kinds of signs and billboards (Tom Jones, Redd Foxx, Buddy Hackett and Tina Turner at Caesar's Palace, Tony Bennett & Joey Heatherton, "All drinks 75 cents", "Peekarama", America, Poco, Helen Reddy, the list goes on).

There is a fun time capsule quality to this footage, and there is an interesting concept at the core of this movie (a mix of slasher, crime thriller and meta movie), yet Steckler's direction is nowhere near firm enough to capture the necessary sense of drift or interplay to hold the different elements together or mine them for engaging rhythms. This is a very obvious attempt to salvage completely unrelated footage into a movie, but the end result doesn't flow together at all and feels interminable at an eighty-minute runtime. The sex scenes are a bit more enjoyable than the ones in The Mad Love Life of a Hot Vampire and The Sexorcist, in that they at least seem competently directed if not especially stylish. (One scene does however feature some POV shots, a flourish that I don't believe was common in pornography at the time. Also, this is the third movie in a row that makes a reference to having one's manhood bitten. To paraphrase Voltaire, I suspect Steckler was into this kind of thing.) Brandt's narration lampshades a lot of the film's shortcomings ("The girls weren't much to look at, but we had to make do with them as we were running low on money", "We decided to shoot downtown Vegas. We needed a more seedy atmosphere"), and she must have been an especially good sport to deliver the porno dialogue (replete with moans and groans) during the sex scene her character "participates in" via a stand-in. I assume the divorce was amicable.



Rewatched the 2018 Halloween to pre-game for the new one coming out, let me dig up my old review (and try to class this thread up a little after the Steckler pornos).



Halloween (Green, 2018)



Set 40 years after the original Halloween, this latest film in the series positions itself as a direct sequel to original and in some ways is a conversation with that film, the franchise and the horror genre at large. It finds Laurie Strode still psychologically battered by the events of that night, dreading the inevitable return of Michael Myers. But unlike in H20, which covered similar material (and which this one erases from continuity), Strode is not trying to hide from Myers but has instead spent those forty years preparing, turning her house into a fortress and committing to a rigorous self-defense training regime. This preparation has come at the cost of alienating her family, and along with the total commitment of Jamie Lee Curtisís performance (this is a character she knows like the back of her hand), the movie uses her age to suggest deeply ingrained emotional wounds in a more impactful way than Iíve seen in most horror movies. (The closest comparison might actually be the mileage Paris, Texas gets out of Harry Dean Stantonís face, although this movie isnít quite on the same level.) But of course, this being a Halloween movie, Strode ends up being right and Myers breaks out while being transported between mental institutions and resumes killing again.

The movieís fundamental worldview is that evil canít be rationalized away or reasoned with and must be met head-on, and it manifests in interesting ways that I think might make this a good one to revisit and chew over. We reunite with Myers in this movie as heís approached by two true crime podcasters, one of whom produces his mask in an attempt to trigger a reaction, and I wonder if this is the movieís jab at what it feels are the exploitation and cheapening of real life horrors by the kind of true crime media thatís flourished in recent years. The movie also seems like a rebuke of Rob Zombieís Halloween films, whose attempts to psychoanalyze Myers backfired when they coughed up his childhood in a trailer as the motivation behind his killings, a lesson Zombie himself learned and wisely exaggerated the psychobabble into total nonsense in his superior second entry. (This movie also throws in a psychiatrist character that doesnít play too differently from Zombieís take on Loomis, so perhaps their differences are more in terms of goals than strategy.)

Between the movieís refusal to sympathize with its killerís condition and its prominent gun usage, one can probably read a greater political stance into it, but I think theyíre more direct responses to common genre elements, and the gunplay and DIY self-defense climax actually plays like a riff on Wes Cravenís oeuvre. David Gordon Greenís direction is probably stronger than anything the series has seen since John Carpenter held the reins, and he doesnít shy away from restaging iconic images from the original. The attempts at giving depth to Strode play better than in H20, which couldnít rise above its slick Ď90s horror pedigree, and even the deployment of shakycam plays more assuredly than Zombieís use of the same flourish. But in trying to interrogate and wring meaning from the material, it reaches a conclusion similar to its lessons about Myers the character, that sometimes simpler is better. For all its sophistication, this new Halloween canít match the ruthless elegance of the original.




minds his own damn business



The trick is not minding
The Halloween reboot of 2018 wasnít that bad. It was certainly better than anything that came before it, sans the original and itís direct sequel.
I often wonder how 3 would have been perceived had it not been billed as a sequel?
I still didnít enjoy it, regardless.



minds his own damn business
After 35 five years of awful Halloween sequels?





But it's still a pretty stale saltine.



The Halloween reboot of 2018 wasnít that bad. It was certainly better than anything that came before it, sans the original and itís direct sequel.
I often wonder how 3 would have been perceived had it not been billed as a sequel?
I still didnít enjoy it, regardless.

Yeah, I think the 2018 movie is self-defeating in some ways, but I enjoyed it enough for what it tried to do. I also watched 6 last night (now there's a movie; although there's apparently another cut which is supposed to be less terrible), which probably helped my enjoyment through contrast.



I still haven't seen 4, 5 and Resurrection (which is staring at me on Prime), but aside from the original and this one, I do like 2, H20 and the second Zombie film. And as bad as the first Zombie film is, I do respect that he brings his own ideas to the material, which wasn't always the case in the mid-2000s era of endless remakes/reboots.



I knew 3 was going to be its own thing going in, but something still felt off about the execution. Aside from Tom Atkins yelling into the phone, it wasn't nearly as much fun as I expected. Some nice Dean Cundey cinematography, though.



Speaking of comedians with...objectionable material in their routines...you seen the new Chappelle yet? IIRC you were a fan of his last one, so curious to get your thoughts. (Happy to go to IMs to respect the rules/norms here around certain topics.)



minds his own damn business
Speaking of comedians with...objectionable material in their routines...you seen the new Chappelle yet? IIRC you were a fan of his last one, so curious to get your thoughts. (Happy to go to IMs to respect the rules/norms here around certain topics.)
We'll see how it goes.


I liked the special. I like that Chappelle is taking a stand on the value of provocative comedy, but I disagree with many of his critics that these provocations are either gratuitous or based in hate. I think that what Chappelle is interested in - concerning gender specifically - is language surrounding the subject. It's interesting as an aside that the first use of the genus-rooted term 'gender' as a synonym for biological sex started in the Middle Ages when writers wanted to avoid the more erotic associations with the word 'sex'. The use of 'gender' to refer to the exclusively social construct of gender roles is much more recent. The language is also fluid, and complicated.



"Gender is a fact" may have been too crass a simplification, but sex is certainly a fact. (I personally don't care for the term "assigned"; assigned by whom?) But it's worth considering that if gender, as a larger concept of sexual identity, was not a fact, then why would there be any significance in asserting one's gender identity? If gender doesn't exist then it wouldn't make any difference for someone to transition to another gender. Clearly these gender distinctions have significance one way or another. Gender can be a fact, and transgender identities can also be a fact within this masculine/feminine pole. So I don't feel that Chappelle was denying the reality or value of transgender people so much as questioning the implications of the language being used, language which many well-intentioned people aren't familiar with (which Chappelle has pointed out in an earlier special) and language which, frankly, isn't always coherently consistent.


There's also the more general social engineering interest in eliminating gender and sexual distinctions entirely, which actually does nothing to forward the transgender movement at all, in that it would also eliminate the need to have a gender identity at all. Transwomen who assert their womanhood today would likely be as ridiculed tomorrow as much as the more classical "terf" feminists today. I'm personally not convinced that gender neutrality - the elimination of gendered language, sex on birth certificates, etc - is the net benefit that others see it. Like Chappelle, I would prefer more equitable gender distinctions than no gender distinctions at all. To me, this 'gender-blind' vision is as naive and counterproductive as a color-blind vision. I want to be gender and color aware and appreciative.



One critic I saw was saying that Chappelle was reducing women down to their reproductive faculties, ignoring that these faculties lie at the heart of why women have been historically oppressed in the first place, and why reproductive autonomy became a specific and significant point of pride for women. It would be like taking James Brown's "I'm Black and I'm Proud" and saying that he's reducing black people down to their complexion, which requires enormous ignorance of the history and context of their oppression.


In this language and context, there are some unsettled implications which would be desirable to investigate and discuss. I think that positing these questions as coming from hate or fear is a convenient and not-very-respectable way of shutting down this discussion, and the taboos that Chappelle is poking is based on the fact that a large segment of the audience has been made to feel uncomfortable discussing it even in the best of intentions. And this kind of rhetorical coercion, rather than the realities of individuals' sexual proclivities and identities, is what Chappelle is attacking. As he pointed out, the only transgender person harmed in this was the one who was bullied to suicide by the toxic mob on Twitter. (I strongly suspect that Dave's reference to this as "not a real place" offended his critics more than anything else.) The self-righteousness can be blinding, but it's worth considering that Twitter outrage is just as toxic as Instagram when it comes to the shaming and alienation of vulnerable people. We've seen a number of examples in the last few years of progressives engaging in dehumanizing those who they disagree with, and trying to excuse this toxic habit in increasingly facile rationalizations. To reference Michelle Obama, everyone's going low these days, and everyone is deluding themselves that they're the ones on high ground.



Good points. From what I've glanced at the reviews, I did find it a bit annoying the extent to which they insisted on ignoring the context Chappelle was placing his most inflammatory (for lack of a better word) claims in. It's one thing to take issue with his argument or his craft (and for the record, I didn't find this as forceful as Sticks and Stones, which had me laughing so hard my sides hurt, but that was by design, I suppose), it's another to seize on a number of phrases and tune out everything else. (Especially as stand-up has a tradition of playing around with offensive language, and Chappelle in particular seems to be practicing a kind of empathy through self-immolation, for lack of a better phrase.) As Crumb harps with some regularity, most of these critics are kind of **** at their jobs.



Suddenly in the Dark (Go, 1981)




I have to admit that Korean cinema is a pretty big blind spot for me, and the only other pre-New-Wave films I've seen are The Housemaid and Woman of Fire, two versions of the same story from Kim Ki-Young (I understand he gave it a third go with Woman of Fire '82, which I've yet to see). Having now seen Suddenly in the Dark, I do find it interesting that all three have been about the collapse of a domestic situation after a female outsider enters the situation. Here, the outsider is a nineteen-year-old girl who shows up with a creepy looking doll inherited from her shaman mother. Will there be weird and scary and possibly sexy happenings related to this doll? You bet. On one hand, I understand that The Housemaid was enormously popular and influential and it would be natural for another movie to pull from its premise (its own director did it himself more than once), but at the risk of repeating the sins of a wealth of bad film criticism wherein every bit of minutiae around a film is considered emblematic of its cultural context, I have to assume this spoke to certain anxieties in Korean society at the time. (I suspect such family-centric premises lend themselves easily to this kind of cultural interpretation. From the same year, I've seen Satan's Slave from Indonesia, and you can see how that movie frames its horror in relation to social mores and the role of religion. Fun movie too, definitely worth checking out.)

This movie is set entirely in domestic or domestic-adjacent spaces (trips to the grocery store, pharmacist and the heroine's friend's home are the only time we leave the heroine's home), and the heroine's husband does most of his work out of their home as well. I can't help but find his line of work, a professor studying butterflies, pointedly emasculating. (To the extent we see him hanging out with the boys, they get together and look at slides of butterflies like a bunch of manly men. For the record, I do not have anything against studying butterflies; I am merely pointing out stereotypes.) In that respect, the movie does distinguish itself from those other films, where the closest we get to a member of the household is to the husband, who has some complicity in the proceedings. This is framed from the perspective of the wife, whose reliability as a narrator is called into question. And it's the wife who first shows signs of sexual attraction to the maid (helping her take a shower at the first opportunity), which I think interestingly subverts the male gaze common in the genre. Considering how much of what transpires is coloured by her deteriorating psyche, it's not even clear that the husband feels any attraction to the maid. This is the point where I could make a glib statement about how all this is a manifestation of societal repression in South Korea and make some vague references to their geopolitical situation at the time, but I'll merely point out how incongruous and potent the presence of the maid's shamanic doll feels in this context.

As for the film's qualities as a work of horror, there is a bubbling weirdness throughout that gives resonance to the above elements. Much of the movie is shot in an antiseptic style, enhanced by the forceful yet deadening hues of the decor, and the presence of a heart-shaped cobra statue (through which many a shot is framed) would feel on the nose if it weren't so odd a decoration. This flatness, for lack of a better word, is punctured by flourishes such as a kaleidoscope effect, a shimmer (the effect is like if you have something tears in your eyes and blink) and a fisheye effect (likely achieved with a mix of a wide angle lens and the placement of a jar or something to that effect in front of the camera), which disrupt the proceedings in a way as to call into question our heroine's state of mind. I do think the movie miscalculates as it keeps things in this state for a little too long (eighty of the movie's hundred or so minute runtime) and without enough tonal build-up. But there's no denying the climax benefits from the contrast, when it kicks up the energy level substantially and pulls from the aggressive colour scheme of Suspiria (as well as a key moment from The Shining) to subject the viewer to a barrage of harsh blue and red lighting, bruising camera angles, thunder, lightning, rain and blood. (And that kaleidoscope trick too. It's also worth noting that the house is left completely in shambles at the end, as if it's a third participant in the violence between the wife and her aggressor.) Let's just say that if you expected a certain kind of movie when you first saw that creepy looking doll, you'll get your money's worth with the final minutes.




minds his own damn business
Good points. From what I've glanced at the reviews, I did find it a bit annoying the extent to which they insisted on ignoring the context Chappelle was placing his most inflammatory (for lack of a better word) claims in. It's one thing to take issue with his argument or his craft (and for the record, I didn't find this as forceful as Sticks and Stones, which had me laughing so hard my sides hurt, but that was by design, I suppose), it's another to seize on a number of phrases and tune out everything else. (Especially as stand-up has a tradition of playing around with offensive language, and Chappelle in particular seems to be practicing a kind of empathy through self-immolation, for lack of a better phrase.) As Crumb harps with some regularity, most of these critics are kind of **** at their jobs.
Some of the criticism certainly is dumb. I keep seeing how Dave "defended" and "lent support" to DaBaby. Did he though? Not exactly! Kind of weird support to say, "Oh, he's done so much worse things than that!" He's saying that DaBaby is a murderer. And then what's really funny, in their convoluted way, a lot of these critics, attacking Chappelle for defending DaBaby's comments on AIDS (which Dave did not do either), they'll turn around and defend DaBaby's murdering ways by citing his claim of "self-defense". In fact, the only reason why DaBaby wasn't charged for that crime is because the sole witness, DaBaby's associate, failed to show in court to testify. Which sounds like some classic old-school gangster ****. But Dave's point is that it wasn't even controversial.



Some of the criticism certainly is dumb. I keep seeing how Dave "defended" and "lent support" to DaBaby. Did he though? Not exactly! Kind of weird support to say, "Oh, he's done so much worse things than that!" He's saying that DaBaby is a murderer. And then what's really funny, in their convoluted way, a lot of these critics, attacking Chappelle for defending DaBaby's comments on AIDS (which Dave did not do either), they'll turn around and defend DaBaby's murdering ways by citing his claim of "self-defense". In fact, the only reason why DaBaby wasn't charged for that crime is because the sole witness, DaBaby's associate, failed to show in court to testify. Which sounds like some classic old-school gangster ****. But Dave's point is that it wasn't even controversial.
Sorry JJ, sounds like you're endorsing murder here. I hereby declare you canceled...for the night (so I can go to sleep).



The Wolf Man (Waggner, 1941)



When approaching older films, I find that it helps to view them in their original context. Certainly, I bring my own baggage and that colours my experience with a given film, but to get more out of my viewing, I feel I have a responsibility to meet the movie halfway, to paraphrase Richard Nixon. What I'm getting it is that when it comes to depictions of minorities, I do go in with an expectation (but not endorsement) that the movie will likely not meet modern sensitivities, and while I think it's worth examining movies from this lens, I find it a little counterproductive if one views the exercise like math and, say, knocks off a grade for featuring a certain stereotype. All that being said, I have found myself pleasantly surprised when movies prove to be progressive within these contexts. I think The Wolf Man is interesting in this respect, in that it features a more sympathetic portrayal of the Romani people than I expected from this period. More importantly, it's a Romani character who proves most helpful to the hero and most understanding of his lycanthropic affliction, even when her people's traditions are viewed with condescension, suspicion and dismissal (a priest scoffs at her people's funeral rites, while another character immediately suspects her of wrongdoing despite an unambiguous confession by the hero).

What I'm saying is that this was a pretty nice development in a movie I put on because I wanted seventy or so minutes of a guy running around in furry makeup biting people. Of course, if you want those pleasures, the movie does deliver, in force if not in duration. Characters speak ominously about a reign of terror, yet there are only two deaths in the movie, although in village of, like, fifteen people, I suppose that's a lot. One can't avoid pointing out that the Wolf Man of the title doesn't look an awful lot like a wolf, yet the makeup effects here were enormously influential and defined how werewolves looked on film until the '80s when movies like An American Werewolf in London and The Howling introduced a more lupine appearance and more sophisticated transformation scenes. This movie uses dissolves, and I was shocked that the famous closeup sequence of the hero turning into a werewolf was not in this movie. (One wonders if Howling II, wherein the werewolves are played by guys in leftover Planet of the Apes costumes, might have been better received had it been released at least a decade earlier, when the default look of the movie werewolf was closer to this film.)

Of course, as a work of horror, this movie benefits tremendously from the sturdy sense of craft. I've spent a lot of time over the last year and a half watching and rewatching movies from decades past, and it does strike me that the average studio release today is more poorly made than it was even two decades ago. (Comparing Rush Hour 2 and Rush Hour 3, which are both unfunny, unexciting pieces of hackwork, you notice that the former at least at handsome cinematography and coherent action scenes, despite being made less than a decade before the latter. I'm sure someone has better examples to cite, but this comparison is the most I got out of either film, aside from a deeper dislike of Chris Tucker. The first one still holds up though, I was pleased to find.) I understand that early sound films had lost some of the visual dynamism of the late silent period thanks to the unwieldy equipment required at the time, but this comes more than a decade into the sound era and features plenty of fluid, atmospheric horror scenes with aggressively dark shadows and fog so thick you could cut it with a knife. I got my money's worth in this respect, is what I'm saying.

If the movie suffers, it's primarily at the hands of Lon Chaney Jr. in the lead role. Compared to some of the other classic monsters, let's use Dracula as an example, the Wolf Man is distinguished by his lack of agency, so a forceful presence like Bela Lugosi might not be a natural fit. That being said, there is a way to play this role to make it compelling (going outside the genre, I think Henry Fonda captures the right level of aggrieved while maintaining his dignity in The Wrong Man), and I think Chaney is a little too resigned and pitiable to pull it off. I liked his work in Spider-Baby, where his sad sack presence nicely complemented the decrepit production around him, but in a slicker product, it sticks out like a sore thumb. It sticks out all the more because the movie contrasts Chaney with Lugosi (whose role as the added novelty of a great big mustache), who in his few minutes of screentime proves more virile a presence than Chaney ever rises to during the entire movie. With this scene and its nuanced depiction of the Romani people, the movie invites us to ponder a better version of itself, framed from the Romani perspective and with Lugosi as the monster. Still, this one has its qualities.




But compare the model kits.


Still going with Drac, thanks to the bats and the cape. Probably easier to paint too, given the fur detail on the Wolf Man.