6 Trailers For October 2nd, 2022


With Horrorthon underway, it’s time for a special October edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse Trailers!  Today, I bring you 6 spine-tingling trailers from the 30s and the 40s!  Say hello to old school horror at its best!

  1. Dracula (1931)

First off, here is the original trailer for the 1931 version of Dracula!  Yes, it’s a bit grainy and it’s a bit creaky and …. well, it’s old.  But listen, if I had been around in 1931 and I saw this trailer, I definitely would have been at the theater on opening day.  “Do vampires exist?” the trailer asks.  No, they do not but who knows?  Maybe the trailer would have made me question my beliefs for at least a day or two.

Apparently, the odd scene with Edward Van Sloan and the mirror was taken from an outtake.  The scene itself is not in the film and presumably, that mirror was not supposed to fall off the wall.  Also, it’s interesting to note that Dracula was not a Halloween film but instead, it was released just in time for Valentine’s Day!

2. Frankenstein (1931)

Of course, Universal followed Dracula from Frankenstein.  Again, this is one of the original trailers for the film and not a trailer that was put together and released in later years.  The trailer does, at one point, say, “It’s coming back!,” so I’m assuming that this version was sent to theaters where the film had played previously.  The trailer features a few scenes that were cut from the film and also a few alternate takes,

3. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

If you have a weak heart …. you better leave now!  The early Universal horror films are not necessarily thought of as being grindhouse films but this trailer is pure grindhouse.

4. The Wolf Man (1941)

In the 40s, Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster were joined by a werewolf named Larry.  Here is the original trailer for The Wolf Man.

5. Cat People (1943)

In 1943, horror took a new, psychological turn with the original Cat People!

6. House of Frankenstein (1944)

Finally, in 1944, all of the great monster came together.  Before The Avengers, before the Justice League, before the Snyder cut, there was the House of Frankenstein! 

Next week …. more horror trailers!

Bela Lugosi As Henry Frankenstein?


When it comes to the 1931 film version of Frankenstein, the piece of trivia that everyone seems to know is that Bela Lugosi was the original choice to play the Monster.

As the story goes, Lugosi had just finished filming Dracula and Universal’s Carl Laemmle felt that it would only make sense for Lugosi to play the lead role in Universal’s second horror adaptation.  Not only would Lugosi be firmly established as Universal’s favorite monster but it would also reunite him with Edward van Sloan and Dwight Frye, both of whom played prominent supporting roles in Dracula.  However, the story continues, Lugosi turned down the part when he saw that the monster wouldn’t have any dialogue.

Well, the story is partially right.

The truth of the matter is that Frankenstein was one of several books to which Universal had the rights.  And when Lugosi learned that one of the studio’s directors, Robert Florey, was interested in directing a film based on Mary Shelley’s novel, he did meet with Florey to say that he was intrigued by the idea of playing the monster.  Lugosi even did a makeup test, one in which the proposed look of Lugosi’s monster reportedly owed much to 1920’s The Golem.  As a director, Florey was heavily influenced by German expressionism so it makes sense that he would look to The Golem for inspiration.

The Golem (1920, dir by Paul Wegner and Carl Boese)

Lugosi eventually lost interest in the role, not because of the lack of dialogue but because he felt that he wouldn’t be able to give a good performance while made up to look like the Monster.  His face would be barely visible and, as an actor, Lugosi naturally wanted to be recognized.  Lugosi had no objections to the script because the script itself hadn’t been written.  When Lugosi lost interest, so did Florey.

Instead, the project was taken on by director James Whale, who specifically asked for the project because he felt it would be a change-of-pace from the war movies that he had been directing.  Universal suggested John Carradine for the role of the Monster.  Whale, however, spotted Boris Karloff sitting in the studio’s cafeteria and specifically asked him to test for the role.  Karloff, with his imposing frame but gentle manner, more aligned with Whale’s version of the Monster as essentially being a child who is easily angered but ultimately more of a victim than a victimizer.

From the start, Whale also wanted Colin Clive to play Henry Frankenstein and Mae Clarke to play Elizabeth.  The studio, who wanted at least one star in the film, tried to convince him to go with Leslie Howard as Henry and Bette Davis (who, at that time, was just starting her career) as Elizabeth.  While the studio was willing to substitute the more glamorous Clarke for Davis, they were a bit less enthusiastic about Colin Clive as Henry.  If Whale was that opposed to Leslie Howard, the studio suggested, how about Bela Lugosi instead?

As we all know, Whale held firm and he eventually got Colin Clive.  Still, it’s interesting to imagine Frankenstein with Bela Lugosi, in the role of Henry, bringing Karloff’s Monster to life.  Personally, I think Whale made the right decision.  Lugosi would have been a bit too obviously sinister for the role of Henry Frankenstein whereas Colin Clive really nailed the characterization of Henry being an essentially good man who allowed his own obsessions to get the better of him.  Still, it’s interesting to imagine a Frankenstein that not only reunited the stars of Dracula but which included Boris Karloff as well!  Not only would it have been Lugosi and Karloff’s first film together but who knows?  Perhaps if a Lugosi-Karloff version of Frankenstein had been as successful as the Clive-Karloff version, Lugosi and Karloff would never have started their rivalry and Lugosi could have escaped the Dracula typecasting that hampered the rest of his career.

Though they didn’t share the screen in Frankenstein, Karloff and Lugosi would go on to appear in several films together.  Unfortunately, unlike the universally beloved Karloff, Lugosi’s career would be sabotaged by his own addictions and personal demons.  Lugosi would eventually get his chance to play Frankenstein’s Monster in 1943’s Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man.  Unfortunately, that film is considered to be one of the weaker of the Universal horror films and Bela really didn’t get much of a chance to make a huge impression as the monster.  (He was right about the difficulty of being recognized under all that makeup.)

Bela Lugosi would die in 1956, at the age of 73.

Boris Karloff passed away 13 years later, at the age of 81.

Boris and Bela

Horror Scenes That I Love: Edward Van Sloan Introduces Frankenstein


For our first Scene that I love for this year’s Horrorthon, I’m sharing the opening of the 1931 classic, Frankenstein.  The scene below features neither Colin Clive or Boris Karloff.  Instead, Edward Van Sloan breaks the fourth wall and, in his humorously avuncular way, lets the audience know what’s in store for them.

Today, of course, we all know the story of Frankenstein and his monster.  However, imagine how audiences in 1931, many of whom probably knew nothing about the story they were about to watch, must have felt when Edward Van Sloan specifically took a minute to warn them that they were about to see something terrifying.  You have to remember that Van Sloan was talking to the first generation of regular filmgoers and he was introducing them to one of the first true horror films of the sound era.  Today, it’s easy to smile when Van Sloan says, “You can’t say we didn’t warn you.”  In 1931, I imagine it probably sounded more like a dare.  Van Sloan was asking, “Do you have the courage to stay in theater?”  It’s kind of charming, isn’t it?

Edward Van Sloan was a bit of fixture when it came to the early Universal horror films.  Not only did he play Henry Frankenstein’s mentor but, in the same year, he played Prof. Van Helsing in Dracula.  He also had a key supporting role in The Mummy.  When it came to explaining the supernatural and the undead, no one else did it with quite the class of Edward Van Sloan.

8 Shots From 8 Horror Films: The 1930s


4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we take a look at the 1930s.

8 Shots From 8 Horror Films

Dracula (1931, starring Bela Lugosi as the Count, Dir by Tod Browning, DP: Karl Freund)

Frankenstein (1931, dir by James Whale, DP: Arthur Edeson)

White Zombie (1932, directed by Vincent Halperin, DP: Arthur Martinelli)

The Mummy (1932, directed by Karl Freund, DP: Charles Stumar)

The Invisible Man (1933, dir by James Whale, DP: Arthur Edeson)

Bride of Frankenstein (1935, dir James Whale, DP: John J. Mescall)

Mark of the Vampire (1935, dir by Tod Browning, DP: James Wong Howe)

Son of Frankenstein (1939, directed by Rowland V. Lee, DP: George Robinson)

4 Shots From 4 Boris Karloff Films


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Since we yesterday paid our respects to the great Bela Lugosi, it only seems right that today, we should honor Boris Karloff.  By all account, Boris Karloff was a remarkably gentle and friendly man.  Perhaps that’s why he could find the soul in almost any character, even the ones who didn’t have one.

It’s time for….

4 Shots From 4 Boris Karloff Films

Frankenstein (1931, dir by James Whale, DP: Arthur Edeson)

Bride of Frankenstein (1935, dir James Whale, DP: John J. Mescall)

Black Sabbath (1963, dir by Mario Bava, DP:Ubaldo Terzano and Mario Bava)

Targets (1968, dir by Peter Bogdanovich, DP: Laszlo Kovacs)

4 Shots From 4 James Whale Films: Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man, Bride of Frankenstein


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

This October, we’ve been using 4 Shots from 4 Films to pay tribute to some of our favorite horror filmmakers!  Today, we honor the one and only James Whale!

4 Shots For 4 James Whale Films

Frankenstein (1931, dir by James Whale)

The Old Dark House (1932, dir by James Whale)

The Invisible Man (1933, dir by James Whale)

Bride of Frankenstein (1935, dir by James Whale)

6 Horror Performances That Deserved An Oscar Nomination


Despite making some inroads as of late, horror films still never quite get the respect that they deserve when it comes Oscar time.  That’s especially true of the performers who regularly appear in horror films.  If it’s rare for a horror movie to receive a best picture nomination, it’s even rarer for someone to get nominated for appearing in one of them.

And yet, it takes as much skill to make a monster compelling as it does a historical figure or a literary character.  In fact, it may take even more skill.  After all, everyone knows that Queen Elizabeth I actually ruled over England and that Atticus Finch was an attorney in the South.  However, everyone also knows that there’s no such things as vampires and that the dead cannot be reanimated or raised as a zombie.  It takes a lot of skill to make a monster seem human.

With that in mind, here are 6 horror performances that deserved, at the very least, an Oscar nomination:

1. Boris Karloff as The Monster in Frankenstein (1931) and The Bride of Frankenstein(1935)

The great Boris Karloff is perhaps the most egregious example of a deserving actor who was consistently ignored by the Academy because of the type of films in which he appeared.  In the role of Monster, Karloff was never less than brilliant and he set the standard by which all future monsters are judged.

Dracula (1931, directed by Tod Browning)

2. Bela Lugosi in Dracula (1931)

When viewed today, it’s perhaps a little bit too easy to be dismissive of Lugosi’s grandly theatrical interpretation of Dracula.  But, if you can ignore all of the bad imitations that you’ve seen and heard over the years, you’ll discover that Lugosi’s performance is perfect for the film in which he’s appearing.  Indeed, Lugosi’s best moments are the silent ones, when he goes from being a courtly (if vaguely sinister) nobleman to a hungry animal.  In those moments, you see why Lugosi’s performance endures.

3. Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in Psycho (1960)

Ah, poor Anthony Perkins.  Before he played Norman Bates, he was considered to be something an up-and-coming star and even something of a neurotic romantic lead.  As with Lugosi’s Dracula, we’ve seen so many bad imitations of Perkins’s performance that it’s easy to overlook just how good he is in the role.  He was so perfect as Norman that spent the rest of his career typecast.  And, sadly enough, he didn’t even get a much-deserved Oscar nomination out of it.

4. Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man (1973)

Christopher Lee was one of the great actors and, though he may be best remembered for his horror work, he actually appeared in almost every genre of film imaginable.  Lee was often dismissive of the Dracula films that he made for Hammer so, as much as I’d love to argue that he deserved a nomination for The Horror of Dracula, I’m instead going to suggest that Lee deserved one for the role that he often cited as his favorite, the pagan Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man.  Lee brings the perfect mix of wit and menace to the role and, in the process, shows that not all monsters have to be undead.

5. Donald Pleasence as Dr. Sam Loomis in Halloween (1978) and Halloween II (1981)

Much as with Lugosi and Anthony Perkins, it’s important (and perhaps a little bit difficult) to separate Pleasence’s performances in these two slasher films with all of the imitations that have followed.  In both films, Pleasence does a great job of playing a man who has been driven to the verge of madness as a result of having spent too much time in the presence of evil.  As potentially dangerous as Sam Loomis sometimes appears to be, there’s no way not to sympathize with him as he continually tries to get people to understand that he wasn’t the one who left Michael escape.  If nothing else, Pleasence deserved a nomination just for his delivery of the line, “As a matter of fact, it was.”

6. Betsy Palmer as Pamela Voorhees in Friday the 13th (1980)

“I’m an old friend of the Christys.”  AGCK!  RUN!

6 Good Films That Were Not Nominated For Best Picture: The 1930s


1937 Oscar Banquet

Continuing our look at good films that were not nominated for best picture, here are 6 films from the 1930s.

Frankenstein (1931, dir by James Whale)

Henry Frankenstein may have created life and revolutionized the horror genre but his creation got absolutely no love from the Academy.  Starting a very long history of snubbing successful horror films, the Academy failed to nominate Frankenstein for Best Picture.  Not even Boris Karloff got a nomination!  Fortunately, the public recognized what the Academy failed to see and Frankenstein remains a classic film.

Scarface (1932, dir by Howard Hawks)

Gangster films may have been all the rage with the public in the 1930s but the Academy felt different.  Little Caesar, The Public Enemy, and Scarface may have excited audiences but none of them received much love from the Academy.  It was hard to decide which gangster film to specifically use for this post.  In the end, I went with Scarface because of George Raft and his sexy way with a coin.

King Kong (1933, directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack)

King Kong thrilled audiences, impressed critics, made a ton of money, and has gone on to influence just about every monster film made since.  It received zero Oscar nominations.

My Man Godfrey (1936, dir by Gregory La Cava)

My Man Godfrey, one of the best of the screwball comedies of the 1930s, received a total of 6 Oscar nominations.  It was nominated in all four of the acting categories.  It was nominated for best screenplay.  It was nominated for best director.  However, it was not nominated for Best Picture.  (My Man Godfrey is the first and, as of this writing, only film to receive four acting nominations without also receiving a nomination for best picture.)  Best Picture that year would go to The Great Ziegfield, which, like My Man Godfrey, starred William Powell.

Bringing Up Baby (1938, dir by Howard Hawks)

My Man Godfrey was not the only screwball comedy to be ignored by the Academy.  Bringing Up Baby features Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn at their best.  It also features an absolutely adorable leopard.  Somehow, it was not nominated for best picture.

The Women (1939, dir by George Cukor)

The competition was fierce in 1939.  If you want to know why 1939 is considered to be one of the best years in Academy History, just consider the ten films that actually were nominated for best picture: Dark Victory, Gone With The Wind, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Love Affair, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Ninotchka, Of Mice and Men, Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz, and Wuthering Heights.  Amazingly, even with that list of nominees, some equally good film went unnominated.  One of those films was The Women.

Based on Clare Boothe Luce’s play, The Women features a witty script, assured direction from George Cukor, and an amazing talented, all-female ensemble cast.  Though the competition was undeniably fierce in 1939, it’s still a shock that this film received not a single nomination.

Up next, in about an hour or so, the 1940s!

Scarface (1932)

Horror Film Review: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (dir by Kenneth Branagh)


Oh my God, this is an exhausting movie.

Directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, the 1994 film Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein sticks pretty closely to the plot (if not the tone) of Mary Shelley’s original novel.  What that means is that this movie includes a lot of the good stuff that often seems to get left out of other Frankenstein adaptations.  For instance, we learn more about the life of Victor Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh) before he created his monster.  We find out about his family and his troubled romance with Elizabeth (Helena Bonham-Carter).  Victor’s good friend Henry Clerval (Tom Hulce) is included and so is Professor Waldman (John Cleese) and Captain Robert Walton (Aidan Quinn).

It also means that we get to watch as the Monster (Robert De Niro) flees into the wilderness and later befriends a kindly blind man (Richard Briers).  The Monster, as always, is happy until mankind interferes and treats him unfairly.  The Monster learns to speak and, after it learns to read, it discovers who created it and it sets out for revenge.  We watch as everyone that Victor Frankenstein cares about dies, all as a result of his desire to play God.

And yet, while you have to respect the fact that Branagh tried to stay (more or less) true to the plot of the original novel, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a bit of a chore to sit through.  A huge part of the problem is that Kenneth Branagh cast himself to play Victor Frankenstein.  In the book, Victor is a rather sickly character and his desire to create life is probably as much inspired by his own poor health and the death of the people close to him.  In the film, Branagh plays Victor as being almost a Byronic figure, with the camera emphasizing his flowing hair and his muscular physique.  Even when Victor does push himself to the point of death in his research, you never really believe it because Branagh the director isn’t willing to let Branagh the actor look weak or malnourished.  However, turning Victor into an alpha male also turns him into a jerk.  Unlike say Colin Clive or Peter Cushing in The Curse of Dracula, you never find yourself sympathizing with Kenneth Branagh’s Victor.

And then you have Robert De Niro as the Monster.  Now, really, I imagine that — in 1994 — the idea of De Niro playing the Monster seemed like an obvious one.  I mean, the Monster is a great role and De Niro’s one of the greatest actors who ever lived so if anyone could find a new and interesting way to play Frankenstein’s Creation, it would have to be De Niro, right?

But no.  First off, De Niro may be a great actor but it’s hard to accept the idea that a monster created in Germany would speak with a New York accent.  Even under tons of makeup, De Niro does an okay job of projecting the Monster’s rage but, unlike Karloff or Christopher Lee, De Niro never seems to really connect with the character.  You never forget that you’re watching a heavily made-up Robert De Niro.  De Niro often seems to be rather detached from what’s happening on screen.

Branagh’s directs in a manner that can only be called operatic, which turns out to be a mistake.  The story is already dramatic enough without Branagh spinning the camera around every few moments.  There’s not a subtle moment to be found in the film but unfortunately, Frankenstein is a story that needs just a little bit of subtlety.  It all gets to be a bit overwhelming and, by the time the Monster is literally ripping a heart out of a body, you’re just like, “Enough already!”

It’s just a really tiring movie.