Police pick up a shell-shocked little girl in the New Mexico desert. They also spot an abandoned car and trailer, and when they check them out they find a war zone sprinkled with sugar. What on earth could have happened?
As more similar crime scenes appear, Police Sergeant Ben Peterson (Whitmore) investigates with the help of his trooper, who quickly becomes another victim of the unseen threat. FBI Agent Robert Graham (Arness) replaces the dead trooper, and with their only clues being strange tracks, sugar, and huge amounts of formic acid in the victims’ bodies, the investigators call in some experts. Dr Harold Medford (Gwenn) arrives, accompanied by his daughter, Dr Patricia Medford (Weldon). The two of them have some crazy theories.
The culprits are giant ants, mutations made by radiation from nuclear bomb tests in New Mexico (see “Godzilla: Bombs are Bad“). The team manage to destroy the nest, but realise that three queens have managed to escape. Now they must track them down and destroy them before they destroy all of humanity.
As mentioned, we watched this as a double feature with Godzilla, and they really are a perfect match. Atomic monsters threatening major cities who must be destroyed by scientists and the military working together, with a sprinkle of romance and humour. We loved them both, although Them! seems the slightly sillier version of the same general idea.
A cult classic which is surprisingly tense given the premise, Them! is a great film if you’re a fan of creepy creature features with slightly dated effects but otherwise great performances and lots of eerie sounds. We loved both Doctors Medford, and had a great time watching this.
Belle (Day), the beautiful young daughter of a merchant, is being Cinderella’d by her rooty tooty snooty sisters after their family’s fortune was lost at sea. As her father gets word of one of his ships having reached port safely, he travels to the city to regain some of his fortune, only to find it has all been seized in payment of his debts. Returning home through a scary forest in a storm, he seeks shelter in a castle which seems abandoned yet has a marvelous feast set out for him.
He spends the night in the castle and, when leaving the next morning, picks a rose for his daughter as that was her only request for a present. Big mistake. A frightful Beast (Marais) sets upon him and tells him he must die for this offence. The merchant manages to make a deal to go home home to see his family if he promises to return promptly or send a family member in his place. Belle, being the good daughter, offers to go to the castle instead of her ailing father.
Instead of finding a primitive beast ready to devour her, Belle meets a gentlemanly one who proclaims her mistress of the castle and himself her humble servant. She stays with him for months, and though every night she refuses his marriage proposal, they develop a friendship and companionship which is quite mutual, despite him looking like he’s always on the verge of reciting Shakespearean soliloquies. Case in point:
After a while, Belle finds out that her father is grievously ill and asks to go home to see him. The Beast agrees on the condition that she returns one week later, and gives her a magic mirror to see him, his glove which will return her to the castle whenever she’d like and, for some reason, the key to his fortune.
Of course, Belle’s cunty sisters, her idiot brother and his friend Gaston, uh, we mean, Avenant (also played by Marais), persuade her to stay on a bit longer, steal her key and decide to go kill the Beast and steal his fortune. However, Belle sees the Beast half dead from grief in her magic mirror and uses the magic glove to return to him at the same time her brother and Avenant arrive to dispose of him. There are declarations of love, the Beast transforms to his true princely form and all live happily ever after. Except for the intruders, one of whom is himself transformed (to take the Beast’s place as guardian of the castle? Of the afterlife? Of purgatory? Who knows?), but that’s their own fault.
Cocteau’s version is a very faithful adaptation of the traditional French fairy tale despite him, naturally, having taken some artistic licenses. Visually, this film is wonderful with amazing details, especially in the enchanted castle which is like Barbie’s Gothic Dream House – creepy but luxurious. The disembodied arms which act like servants and the half-living statues that adorn the halls and rooms are fantastic (in all senses of the word) and add an extra layer of surrealism and magic to the film. The costumes are extravagant, if not necessarily always flattering, and the beast is superbly made up.
Both the good(?) doctor and his creation survived the burning windmill at the end of Frankenstein and they are back. The creation (KARLOFF! KARLOFF! KARLOFF!) doesn’t exactly redeem himself in the beginning, by killing both parents of the girl he inadvertently drowned in the first film.
The old hermit treats him like a person and teaches him humanity and compassion, something his creator failed to do. Of course, eventually angry villagers destroy his peace and he must once again go into hiding.
Meanwhile, Henry Frankenstein (Clive) is nursed back to health by Elizabeth (Hobson). When he recovers, he swears off playing God for the foreseeable future. That is, until his old mentor Dr. Pretorius (Thesiger) comes calling and lures him back in.
If you haven’t seen this one, we have no idea what you are waiting for. The cast is brilliant; the effects are very impressive (such as the tiny seed-people), the sets are wonderfully stylistic and the film is beautifully lit. Like the first installation in the Frankenstein series, the story is loosely based on Mary Shelley’s novel, but a lot of liberties are taken with the story and the characters. They try to pay tribute to the author though, by introducing Shelley with her trophy husband Percy Bysshe and their mutual friend Lord Byron in the beginning of the film, but here Mary sort of comes off as a silly little girl which doesn’t do her justice. Still, it’s a nice nod to the creator of it all (although it gave Sister the Oldest flashbacks to certain scenes in Gothic ).
What we learned: Dr. Pretorius must have won some sort of masturbation championship to create so much life from his seeds.
A man (Rains) is walking through a snow storm. He has 1/2 mile left to go to civilization. Cut to the Lion’s Head pub, a local pub for local people – there’s nothing for our man there! Nevertheless, the stranger enters and demands a room and privacy. Inn keeper Jenny Hall (O’Connor) is so done with his shit even before he is installed in his new rooms.
The stranger, who we learn is scientist Jack Griffin, has managed to turn himself invisible and is working on a cure whilst also spiralling into madness brought on by one of the drugs in the invisibility cocktail. When the Halls finally move to evict their disruptive tenant, he throws a fit and shows off just how much of a bastard he is, assaulting the landlady and going on a bit of a spree.
After wreaking havoc on the small village, Griffin goes to see Kemp to enlist his help in creating an antidote and taking over the world. Not necessarily in that order. From that moment on things take a turn for the worse, and murder and mayhem ensue.
Despite being a horror film, this is as funny as it is scary. There’s some very entertaining slapstick (how could there not be, with a naked, invisible man with no boundries running around?), and some amazing secondary characters. Griffin himself is a megalomaniac, but it seems he has become that way after turning invisible, possibly because he is no longer confronted with himself in the mirror, or because he can now get away with pretty much anything. Or because of the “monocane” he’s injected himself with. No matter the reason, he’s kind of hilarious when he’s not running around killing people.
King Kong needs no introduction, but we’ll try to summarise the plot anyway. In depression era New York, evil David Attenborough Carl Denham (Armstrong), is preparing for a journey to find a mythical beast. He has the ship and the crew ready to go, but for some reason he has trouble finding an actress willing to travel on an isolated ship with several strange men to an unknown destination. Girls used to be so picky.
This being the depression, there is no shortage of unemployed actresses and one night on the streets of New York is enough to find a suitable girl with nothing to lose, Ann Darrow (Wray). Once at sea, Denham reveals their destination – an uncharted island known as “Skull Island” which is rumoured to be the home of a mythical creature known only as “Kong.”
When they arrive at the island the locals are in the middle of a ceremony wherein a girl is sacrificed to be the “bride of Kong.” However, when the local chief spots Ann among the men, he decides “the golden woman” is a more suitable offering. That night, tribe members sneak aboard the Venture and kidnap Ann, and by the time the crew realise what has happened, she is already tied up and the beast is being summoned.
Denham, Ann’s love interest Jack Driscoll (Cabot), and several disposable crew members chase Kong and Ann into the jungle, and on the way they run into several other “monsters” such as Nessie, a couple of huge lizards and a freaking T-Rex.
Eventually, Jack manages to save Ann with the help of an unwitting pterodactyl and they get back to the surviving crew members. However, Kong is quite smitten with Ann and not ready to let her go, so he follows them to the village where he eats (well, chews) a few villagers before Denham gas bombs him and transports him to New York. Because that seems like an excellent idea.
Then, on opening night, a whole Young Frankenstein-thing happens with the flash photography of the reporters and Kong is on the loose. He finds Ann and climbs the Empire State Building with her for the climactic and iconic final scene of the film.
This film is another old favourite and we still love it. Sure, the effects might seem a little bit dated, but they are still impressive and it’s a lot of fun trying to figure out how each shot was done. (Yes, we’re aware that there are probably hundreds of articles and documentaries on exactly how each shot in King Kong was done, but it’s much more fun to try and analyze it yourself with limited knowledge of film making.) We heartily recommend it!
What we learned: it was Beauty killed the Beast. Also, buy a girl an apple and a cup of coffee and she’ll be in your film, no questions asked.
One of our favourite horror classics, The Mummy is another great example of why Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi (sadly not appearing in this movie) were the go-to actors for horror films in the 1930s. In 1921 the mummy of Imhotep (Karloff) is discovered in Egypt along with the Scroll of Thoth; an incantation to raise the dead. Naturally, the junior expedition member decides it’s a good idea to follow these instructions and the mummy awakens.
Flash forward ten years and Imhotep, looking slightly more human, goes by the name of Ardath Bey and has a cunning plan. He directs a new expedition towards the grave of his long lost love Ankh-es-en-amon (long lost because she’s been dead for 3700 years) in order to be reunited with her. However, since her body has not been preserved in the same way as his, her soul must possess another’s body – that of half-Egyptian Helen Grosvenor (Johann).
Enter our hero! No, not Brendan Fraser, David Manners. He has fallen in love with Helen and teams up with the very jumping-to-conclusiony Dr Muller (seriously – whose first idea is it that perhaps the native guy is a mummy come back to life? I mean, even when it’s a correct guess, it’s not what most people would first assume) to save her. In the end though, Helen is perfectly capable of saving herself (with some help from an ancient Egyptian deity, that is).
Another must-watch (so far, most of them are) that anyone can enjoy. Even if horror isn’t your thing, there are some great performances in this one, most notably Karloff himself. The scene when the mummy awakens is worth the ticket price alone – it’s so gradual that it’s hard to tell if it’s really happening at all.
Based on H. G. Wells’ The Island of Dr Moreau (1896), The Island of Lost Souls opens with shipwrecked Edward Parker (Arlen) being rescued by a floating zoo. After an altercation with the captain he is unceremoniously tossed off the ship to a remote island owned and operated by mad scientist Dr. Moreau (Laughton) where Parker runs into several scary humanoid creatures. This being the 1930s though, everyone is very polite about the whole thing and he is invited to stay the night in Moreau’s house.
The creatures in the jungle are the experiments of the good doctor, who we learn was driven from London when one of his experiments escaped. They are mutated and surgically altered animals kept at bay through “religious” doctrine, enforced by “The Sayer of the Law” (Lugosi). Moreau then decides to introduce his only female creation, the Panther Woman Lota (Burke – credited only as “the Panther Woman”), to Parker and see if she’ll seduce him. Because that what fathers do with their daughters.
Like Frankenstein, Moreau has a pesky little God complex which will (of course) be his undoing, and like his German counterpart, he will learn that if you create life and mistreat your creation, you gonna get fucked. Meanwhile, the audience are treated to such simple philosophical questions as “what makes a soul?” and “what makes humanity?”
This film is awesome – easily the best adaptation we have seen of Wells’ novel (which we haven’t read, but we’ve seen three film versions, so we like to pretend we have). It’s beautifully shot and has some great performances. The only thing missing is a song- and dance-number but, fortunately for us, The Mighty Boosh took care of that. Enjoy!
What we learned: Oh so much! Ships make people slaphappy; Bela Lugosi is awesome even in small roles; don’t play God and mess with nature unless you want to be killed horribly; watching Freaks and The Island of Lost Souls back to back before bedtime will give you weird dreams.
Another classic horror film (and old favourite of ours), Frankenstein probably needs no further introduction. But we’ll give you one anyway. Somewhere in Germany (we assume), the “astonishingly sane” Henry (not Victor for some reason) Frankenstein and his hunchback assistant Fritz (not Igor) are building a man from human cadavers. Frankenstein believes he has the knowledge and technology to reanimate the dead, and he succeeds in his efforts only to regret his decision almost immediately. They then go on to lock up and torture the poor creature (wonderfully portrayed by Boris Karloff) before leaving it to fend for itself while its creator gets married. Excellent parenting there.
The film is basically about a bunch of horrible people doing horrible things to a (more or less) defenceless innocent newborn and who are subsequently surprised when said newborn tries to defend himself and turns on them. Seriously, they all had it coming.
Angry mobs and fire abound, as do pretty dresses. The ending is heartbreaking, although we suspect it would have been hard for the Creature to attempt a normal life.
The film takes its concept and some of the story from Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, but it differs in many respects. However, this film is possibly even more iconic than the book, so much so that many of the things people believe about Frankenstein come from Whale’s film rather than Shelley’s original (such as the character of Igor, the use of electricity to awaken the monster and the bolts on his neck).
We recommend both reading the book and watching the film, as you cannot have enough Frankenstein in your life. Then watch other film versions (especially Young Frankenstein ). Then reread the novel.
In conclusion: you need to watch this film. But if you do not feel for the Creature you are a coldhearted bastard and we will have nothing more to do with you.
Things we learned: there’s not enough Bavarian folk dancing in our lives.