Friday, October 29, 2021

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Gojira, or As You Know Him, Godzilla

Welcome to another installment of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com, where I dissect a beloved piece of cinematic work, nitpick its drawbacks, and generally ruin it for everyone.


Today I'll be talking about one of the most famous monster movies of all time, one that gave us an absolutely iconic giant monster whose fame and marketability are nearly unparalleled.  I'm talking about the 1954 Japanese film Gojira (or Godzilla as us dumbass Americans renamed him).  Inspired by the US B-movie The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Gojira is an atomic age parable about a gigantic lizard monster that emerges from the ocean and decimates Japan.  Made at a time when the country was still dealing with the aftermath of World War II, Gojira is rife with subtext about nuclear devastation and its consequences; despite its B-movie subject matter the film's tone is deadly serious and its concepts lofty.  Gojira was an enormous hit and spawned literally dozens of sequels, reboots and imitations.  But how is it as a film?  Well like so many horror movies it has its pros and cons.  Let's take a look at both, shall we?




The Awesome


Creature Design

The monster design by Teizo Toshimitsu, Akira Watanabe and Eiji Tsuburaya is simply one of the most iconic and instantly recognizable in film history.  Regardless of the technological limitations and the clunkiness of the suit itself, the combination of T-Rex, Iguanadon and Stegasaurus made for such a cool-looking giant monster it's hard to take your eyes off him.  Couple that with his ability to shoot radioactive beams from his mouth like an atomic age dragon, and you've got an absolutely BOSS movie monster.  Godzilla is up there with Frankenstein's monster, Superman and Mickey Mouse in terms of pop culture iconography, inspiring cartoons, comics, and some of the best-looking Japanese toys you'll ever see.

He's just fuckin' badass-lookin'....



Political Commentary

Gojira was made less than ten years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Japan was still reeling from that devastation.  Thus the monster is a metaphor for nuclear holocaust, released from his underwater lair as the result of American H-bomb testing and wreaking devastation and death on the entire country.  The film is rife with themes of mankind meddling with technology they aren't equipped or evolved enough to handle.  Even Serizawa's oxygen destroyer draws parallels with the H-bomb - he's stumbled onto a terrible discovery and won't tell anyone about it until he can find a use for it that benefits humanity, fearing it will be used for destructive ends (I'm not sure what said use would even be, but that's a discussion for later).  Then there's Professor Yamane, who wants Godzilla kept alive so his resistance to radiation can be studied.  This film contains much more symbolism and subtext than is required of a monster movie, so that's a plus.



Acting

By the same token, the acting in this film is quite solid, better than a film like this necessarily needs.  Akira Takarada as Captain Ogata, Momoko Kochi as his love interest Emiko, Akihiko Hirata as the tortured genius Serizawa, and Takashi Shimura as Dr. Yamane all turn in capable performances that rise above the B-movie material and lend themselves to the human drama, making this more than just a kaiju movie.

We're talkin' about solid professionals.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Top Ten Things: October PPV Matches

Welcome to another Halloween-themed (but not really) Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com.  Instead of this column relating to Halloween and all things scary, instead it's October-centric.  Specifically I'll be counting down the top ten October PPV wrestling matches.

While pro wrestling's autumn season (falling as it does between the SummerSlam peak and the beginning of The Road to WrestleMania) has been pretty consistently known for B-level PPVs, shoddy writing, and rather stale characters, many of the October PPVs over the years have produced some excellent matches.  Here now are the ten greatest October PPV matches of all time.





10. Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio - Halloween Havoc 10.26.97


Quite possibly the greatest WCW Cruiserweight match of all time, Guerrero vs. Mysterio was voted WCW's Match of the Year and it's not hard to see why.  The action was breathtaking and impossibly fast.  Both men were in peak form and easily upstaged the rest of the WCW roster.  Mysterio won the Cruiserweight Title with a stunning top rope hurricanrana. 





9. Rock vs. Chris Jericho - No Mercy 10.21.01


This was the match that elevated Chris Jericho to a main eventer.  For the previous two years he had struggled to rise past upper-midcard status, but on this night he bested The Rock for the WCW Title in a spectacular 24-minute war, turning heel in the process.  Sadly the company hotshotted the belt back to The Rock only two weeks later, but this match proved Jericho could hang with the WWF's top stars and deliver a classic main event.






8. Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle vs. Rob Van Dam - No Mercy 10.21.01


No Mercy 2001 featured two amazing Title bouts.  After the Rock-Jericho classic came the WWF Title match, as heel Champion Steve Austin defended against archenemy Kurt Angle and white-hot tweener Rob Van Dam.  The bout was a whirlwind of intense brawling, virtuosic grappling, and daredevil highspots.  Austin narrowly retained and added to his succession of fantastic 2001 PPV matches.


Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Movie Review: Dune (2021)


Denis Villeneuve is back with another triumphant sci-fi opus, this one a new adaptation of Frank Herbert's classic novel Dune.  Well, to be more precise, half of the novel.  Not wanting to make the same mistake as his predecessors in cramming the densely complex source material into a single film, Villeneuve has opted to give Dune the IT treatment, shooting only half of the story and saving the rest for later.  This tactic certainly allowed the story to breathe and made for a much clearer narrative, but also left this filmgoer eager to see the rest, now please....

As with his breathtaking Blade Runner sequel, Villeneuve and his collaborators (not least of which is cinematographer Greig Fraser) have created a meticulously detailed, visually dazzling landscape in which this classic tale of enviro-politics plays out.  The various worlds are fully realized, creating real spaces in our imagination, from the picturesque beaches of Caladan, home of House Atreides, to the Harkonnens' murky, industrial wasteland of Geidi Prime, to the desolate, arid Arrakis, the titular "Dune."  The production design here is on point, as is the gorgeous photography.

But where Dune soars even higher is in the audio department.  Legendary composer Hans Zimmer provides the booming, ominously textural score, his low strings echoing some of his work in Christopher Nolan's films (Villeneuve cites Nolan as an influence and it shows) while finding new ways to create otherworldly sounds via built-from-scratch instruments.  Even above Zimmer's always prodigious work though, the sound design is Oscar-worthy.  For example, Paul Atreides and his mother Jessica practice "the voice," a Force-like use of vocal sound to control an enemy's actions, depicted here as a monstrous, rumbling growl mixed with distant, forceful screams.  At one point we see a legion of Sardukar troops assembling at the instruction of a chanting leader whose voice resembles an overdriven didgeridoo.  Baron Harkonnen's voice is a mixture of Stellan Skarsgard's own voice and what sounds like a gritty digital distortion.  Touches like this make us feel like we're really in a world unlike our own, and it's truly immersive.

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Welcome to yet another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com!


Today's entry is for me one of the great disappointments in cinematic history.  In 1994 Francis Ford Coppola followed up his critically and commercially successful Dracula adaptation with a production of Frankenstein, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, with Robert Deniro as the creature.  Like Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was an operatic, gritty, almost pulpy screen version of the novel that featured fairly graphic blood and gore, and appealed to the mid-90s culture of excess.  Unfortunately it wasn't nearly as well-received as its counterpart and flopped in the States, though it did pretty well overseas.

Being a huge fan of Coppola's Dracula, I was salivating at the prospect of a faithful Frankenstein adaptation, and for a solid five years I tried to convince myself that this film worked.  But it doesn't.

So what went wrong?  How did such a promising endeavor fail to connect with its audience?  Let's take a look....



The Awesome


Robert Deniro

In an odd bit of casting against type, Robert Deniro was tapped to play the reviled, misshapen creature, and even stranger, his character/performance is the most understated and relatable.  In a film where almost everyone has comically histrionic moments of distress and anguish, Deniro oddly provides an anchor, portraying the creature as a misunderstood brute who is pretty gentle by nature until pushed too far.  Despite having to act through heavy makeup, Deniro, like Boris Karloff in the 30s, was able to convey a wide range of emotions and make us care about him.

Looks like Leatherface almost



Helena Bonham Carter

She's asked to go a bit over-the-top occasionally (to go along with her absurdly large hairstyle), but overall Carter's performance as Victor's fiancee Elizabeth is tender and nuanced, making the romantic elements of the story ring true even as the rest veers into parody.  She comes across as a strong 90s cinematic love interest while staying true to the period setting.  

"The hair needs to be bigger on top!
It's gotta be a wall, a wall!"

Monday, October 25, 2021

Awesomely Shitty Movies: House of Dracula (1945)

Welcome to another installment of Awesomely Shitty Movies here at Enuffa.com, where I cut open a piece of Hollywood schlock and see if I can figure out what went wrong, or what they were thinking, or what the point of the movie was, or what have you.  Today's subject is the final film in Universal's Frankenstein series (before Abbott & Costello got involved that is), House of Dracula!


Released in 1945, House of Dracula was the third film in the series billed as a monster crossover.  After the success of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and the "blow your wad" approach to House of Frankenstein, the studio assembled all its monsters for one last romp, this time in a story focused primarily on Dracula.    

This oddly crafted tale concerns Drac inexplicably seeking a cure for his vampirism and turning to unorthodox scientist Dr. Edelmann, who believes he can cure the Count with a series of blood transfusions.  On the side, Drac is also making romantic overtures to one of Edelmann's assistants Milizia, who he apparently knew years ago.  Separately Lawrence Talbot, better known as The Wolf Man, also seeks Edelmann's help to cure his lycanthropy, which Edelmann believes he can cure by reducing swelling in Talbot's brain (Edelmann theorizes that it's not the moon that causes the transformations, but rather Talbot's *belief* that the moon causes them).  Separately still, Edelmann promises his other assistant Nina that he can cure her hunchback with spores from a plant he's discovered.  And further separately Edelmann stumbles onto Frankenstein's monster, thought dead after sinking into quicksand in the last movie, and contemplates reviving him to full power (like every scientist who comes across this mute motherfucker).

Lotta threads happening in this movie, all of them involving monsters and freaks, and all of them tied to Edelmann and his research.  I had a lot of issues with this film, which I'll get to in a bit, but first let's talk about the positives....

Friday, October 22, 2021

NJPW G1 Climax 31: Is New Japan Cursed?

On today's installment of New Japan Can't Catch a Break, we'll be talking about the just-completed G1 Climax 31.  Join us, won't you?


Fuckin' hell, what is going on with NJPW?  Let's recap the year they've had.  Hiromu Takahashi vacates the Jr. Heavyweight Title due to injury.  Then Will Ospreay vacates the World Title due to injury.  Then Kota Ibushi misses the Wrestle Grand Slam main event to crown a new World Champion due to illness.  Then Tetsuya Naito misses all but one night of the G1 due to injury.  Then, in perhaps the cruelest moment of all, Kota Ibushi, in his fourth consecutive G1 Final, missed a Phoenix Splash and came down hard on his right arm, dislocating his shoulder and forcing a ref stoppage.  Kazuchika Okada unceremoniously won his first G1 trophy in seven years, in a match that was on its way to being a legit MOTY contender, before this tragic, unplanned finish.  So that's five instances of major stars having to miss time in a single calendar year, one of them twice.  What vengeful bastard deity did Gedo piss off?  Maybe God was really a fan of the old IWGP Heavyweight belt?  Or the Intercontinental one?  On a more hopeful note though, Okada in his post-match promo did say he wanted the Heavyweight Title back.  So maybe this World Title experiment can come to an end after WrestleKingdom?  I'm not a superstitious man, but I can't help but notice the timing of all these injuries.....

Anyway, as for the G1 itself, it was a pretty good tournament.  Nowhere near the quality of 2015 through 2019 - how could it be given all the missing talent - but there were plenty of good-to-great wrestling matches and a few unexpected participants made their mark.  Okada looked like his old dominant Rainmaker self in this tournament, leaner than perhaps we've ever seen him.  Tanahashi at age 44 has been wrestling like a man in his mid-30s this year.  Ibushi up until the injury was on fire through most of this tour.  Zack Sabre Jr. went on a submission tear, tapping out a slew of opponents in a row, including Ibushi and the champion Shingo.  Shingo of course looked great.  Ishii was once again a force of nature.  And Jeff Cobb punched his ticket as the most dominant NJPW heel in a long time, winning eight consecutive matches before losing to Okada in the B block finals.  But the two biggest surprises in this tournament were the coming of age of The Great O-Khan, who put up several strong showings and actually stole the show twice (against ZSJ and Ishii), and the performances of Tama Tonga, who looked like a bona fide singles star against no less than the likes of Tanahashi and Okada (whom he handed his lone defeat).  This is the best I've ever seen Tama look in action, and I hope he gets a good singles run out of this.  Maybe a NEVER Openweight Title reign?

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Awesomely Shitty Movies: House of Frankenstein (1944)

Welcome to another Frankenstein-themed installment of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com!  If you haven't been following this series and want to catch up, make sure you start at the beginning with our take on the original Frankenstein!  Or jump in from our previous installment, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man!


Well we're six movies into the Universal Frankenstein series.  After two genuinely good films and one admirable near-miss, the studio morphed these films into cheap monster exploitation fare, culminating in the first-ever crossover movie with Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man.  That movie was such a hit the studio decided that more = better, and they added Dracula to the mix for the followup, House of Frankenstein.  And to sweeten the deal they included a new hunchback character and a wacked-out scientist just so the posters could include five "monster" characters.  It was the 1940s equivalent of The Avengers or Justice League, with all the in-house freaks in one movie.

Set thirty years after Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, the story this time centers around Dr. Niemann, an evil scientist, and his hunchbacked assistant Daniel who escape from prison and decide to get revenge on all the men who put them there.  To that end Niemann steals and revives Dracula's corpse and then makes his way to Frankenstein's castle where he resurrects the Frankenstein monster and Larry Talbot, who were washed away at the end of FMTWM.  Niemann promises his assistant and Talbot that he'll transplant their brains into better bodies but all hell breaks loose as usual. 

But was it any good?  Ummmm, nope.  Still, on a stupid fun level there's some enjoyment to be had with House of Frankenstein.  So let's take a look, shall we?



The Awesome


Boris Karloff

Karloff made his return to the Universal Frankenstein films here, but instead of reprising the role that made him famous, he plays the main character of the mad scientist.  His presence lent the film a bit of much-needed credibility and it was fun to see him in such a different role from that of the monster.  If this movie has nothing else going for it (and it's close), at least it has Karloff.

Look it's Frankenstein and Dracula together....sort of.




Visuals

Like Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, House has some lovely black & white cinematography and well-designed expressionistic sets.  This entire series made great use of scenery, lightning and cinematography (Ghost of Frankenstein excepted - that movie looks like garbage), so even amidst the hammy acting and nonsensical plotting at least there's always something nice to look at.  One set I particularly loved was the ice cavern.

Super cool set


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1943)

Welcome to another Frankenstein-related Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com!  Continuing with the Universal Studios franchise, we've arrived at the first cross-over film in the series, Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, starring Lon Chaney Jr and Bela Lugosi.  If you missed our Ghost of Frankenstein review, click HERE.


FMTWM served as both a continuation of Ghost of Frankenstein (review HERE) and the 1941 classic The Wolf Man, and the studio wasn't coy about the two characters' eventual showdown.  The story here finds The Wolf Man Lawrence Talbot accidentally brought back to life and searching for a way to kill himself.  His travels take him to the old Frankenstein castle, where the monster is somehow still alive.  This barebones plot is just a way to get the two monsters in the same room so they can fight.  Not unlike a certain DC Comics crossover film released a few years back....

Anyway, there is unabashedly little substance to this movie but the filmmakers at least found ways to make it visually engaging, and its 74-minute running time flies by.  So let's take a look at the pluses and negatives of Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man....



The Awesome


Dutch Angles

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, despite its obvious status as an early schlock film, is actually pretty visually stunning, in part due to extensive Dutch angles to create a sense of being off-balance.  Unlike Ghost, which featured flat angles and drab cinematography, the filmmakers here made a conscious effort to at least draw the viewer in with the visuals.

Crooked cameras.....


Use of Shadows

In the same vein, this movie has a distinctly Expressionist look, with intense shadows that add to the gothic flavor.  There may be very little going on plot-wise, but this is damn sure a fun movie to look at.

Nice, atmospheric sets in this movie

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)

Sigh.....welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com.  Today we look at the moment when Universal's Frankenstein franchise took a screeching 90-degree turn and went tumbling, ablaze, off a cliff into the night.  That moment when the studio ceased making top quality films about everyone's favorite flat-headed clod and transformed him into a mindless B-movie ghoul.  That's right, I'm talkin' about Ghost of Frankenstein....  (Click HERE if you missed Son of Frankenstein)


When Son of Frankenstein was another smash-hit, Universal realized there was still a ton of money in these movies and began churning them out at a rapid-fire pace, without paying attention to the annoying little details like story, characters, acting, or in this case visual style.  Ghost picks up the story shortly after the events of Son, where the villagers of Frankenstein are still angry and hysterical because the apparent death of the monster hasn't magically fixed all their woes (Kinda like with American politics).  They believe the monster might still be alive, not to mention Ygor (Good guess), and it's kept them under a curse.  The mayor eventually gives in to their badgering and greenlights their plan to destroy Frankenstein's castle (Because apparently the authority figures in this town are cool with rioting).  As they smash and burn the castle, Ygor stumbles onto the preserved monster, embedded in a block of solidified sulfur.  He breaks free and Ygor takes him to the village to find Wolf Frankenstein's brother Ludwig, also a scientist who might have the secret to restore the monster to his former glory.  Here we go again.....

So what worked and what didn't (Spoiler alert: Most of it didn't work)?  Let's take a look.....



The Awesome


Bela Lugosi

Bela's back as Ygor, and despite being directed to play the character completely differently than before, he gives another solid turn as the villainous hunchback, manipulating both the monster and the scientists to bend to his will.  No matter how cheesy and low-rent the movie, Lugosi's presence is always a welcome one.  Just ask Ed Wood.

"Hello young lady.... vant to see the inside of my van?"


Twist Ending

After a pretty tedious, meandering hour, it all comes down to Ludwig's decision to take out the monster's criminal brain (Remember that from the first movie?) and put in a healthy one.  Unfortunately though, Ygor has convinced his assistant Dr. Bohmer to substitute Ygor's brain, which will allow him to live in a strong, healthy body instead of his current mangled form.  Ludwig unwittingly puts Ygor's brain in the monster's head and revives him, and the monster begins triumphantly speaking in Ygor's voice.  But just then he discovers his eyesight is failing due to Ygor not having the same blood type as the monster.  Yeah this is all pretty goofy, but it's kind of a cool, disturbing plot twist for this series and I would've liked to see where they took this storyline.  Problem was, in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man the studio hated Lugosi's performance as the monster and cut all his dialogue, removing any references to this scene, including the monster's blindness.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Son of Frankenstein (1939)

Welcome to the third Awesomely Shitty Movies piece dedicated to the Universal Studios Frankenstein series!  In case you missed part 2, check it out HERE.  Today we're talking about the third film in the franchise, Son of Frankenstein!


After the critical and commercial triumph that was Bride of Frankenstein, it seemed like another sequel would be a natural.  But Carl Laemmle Sr and Jr were soon forced out of the company due to their extravagant spending, and it seemed monster movies were off the table as well.  It was only due to an LA theater reviving Dracula and Frankenstein as a double feature, and the ensuing huge box office success, that the studio opted to jump back into that pool.  James Whale was not interested in returning however, and Rowland V. Lee was hired to direct the third film.  Son of Frankenstein was originally to be shot in color as well, but the monster's makeup didn't look quite right, so that plan was scrapped.

Son of Frankenstein was another box office success and helped pull Universal out of its financial slump.  Following this movie the studio began churning out cheesy Frankenstein sequels and crossovers, making Son the last serious entry in the series.

So what worked and what didn't?  Let's take a gander...



The Awesome


Visuals

This series thus far has been full of rich, expressionist lighting, off-putting Dutch angles, and an emphasis on intense lights and darks to plunge the viewer into this bizarre world.  Son of Frankenstein continues this trend and in some ways takes it a step further, with some of the sets including angular, surrealistic staircases that cast jagged shadows on the walls behind.  Almost every set in fact has bare, textureless walls so the shadows can come across more strongly.  More on that aspect a little later.  The Film Noir genre was just beginning to blossom at this point, and many of those films must've taken some visual cues from Son of Frankenstein, among others.

Great use of lighting and angles


Friday, October 15, 2021

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Welcome to the second installment in our Awesomely Shitty Movies series pertaining to Universal Studios' Frankenstein franchise!  (Part 1 can be seen HERE)

Today it's the Frankenstein sequel that is almost universally (heh, get it?) praised as being superior to the first film, Bride of Frankenstein!


After the monumental success of the 1931 adaptation, Universal Studios understandably pushed for a follow-up, but James Whale was initially skeptical, thinking there was nothing more that could be explored in the material.  Instead Whale directed another hit horror film, The Invisible Man, and the studio pushed even harder for a Frankenstein sequel.  Whale finally agreed on the condition that Universal would produce a film of his called One More River, and when directing Bride opted to swing for the fences.  It would be a much larger-scale production with garish surrealism and subversive undertones, blending monster horror with dark comedy.  On paper this movie should never have worked as well as it did.  Whale was allowed to inject so much of his own personality into the film and its characters, and thus it became a celebration of those who live outside the "norm."  With the expressionist influences of the first film turned way up for the second, and the drama ranging from horrific to funny to genuinely touching, Bride of Frankenstein is the pinnacle of the Universal monster films.


Now let's criticize it.....



The Awesome


Karloff Again

Boris reprised the role that made him a superstar, once again slipping on the giant boots and flat head.  This time the monster actually spoke, lending more depth to the character and making him even more sympathetic.  Indeed, Bride of Frankenstein is much more about the monster's character arc than Frankenstein's.  His driving motivation in this film, much like in the novel, is the search for a companion of some kind, and Karloff gives a largely quite tender, vulnerable performance that further solidifies the monster as a misunderstood brute.

Still the man




Elsa Lanchester

Despite very little actual screen time between her two roles (Seriously, it's maybe five minutes total), Elsa Lanchester brought to life one of the great movie monsters and gave a tremendously memorable turn.  Also notable is the disparity between her two characters; Mary Shelley is sweet-faced and proper, while the title character is wild-eyed and bird-like (Lanchester apparently based her head movements on those of a swan).  Her brief onscreen interaction with Karloff is bizarre and climactic; one of the great monster movie payoffs.

Makes sense her hair is standing up,
she did just get electrocuted technically


Thursday, October 14, 2021

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Frankenstein (1931)

Welcome to a special Halloween-themed Awesomely Shitty Movies, where I dissect a beloved classic and ruin everybody's fun, like an unwashed neighborhood kid pissing in the community swimming pool.

Today's subject, and the first of a series of ASM articles, is the 1931 horror milestone Frankenstein, based on the legendary 1818 novel by Mary Shelley (of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein fame).


Now look, before you get upset that I'm referring to this film as "awesomely shitty," please understand I hold Frankenstein in very high regard.  I've been a fan of this film since I was about six years old and I make it a point to watch it (and its first sequel) once a year during Halloween season.  That said, there are quite a few flaws with the film and I'm here to point them out and probably piss a lotta people off.  But whatever....

Frankenstein first emerged as a novel after its author, her husband Percy, and their friend Lord Byron were rained in one night on vacation and decided to have a little ghost story contest.  Mary had a "monster" of a time (Get it? Eh??) coming up with a story idea, but it finally came to her one night in a dream - the vision of a medical student bringing life to a man he'd stitched together from parts of the dead.  Eventually the tale grew into a full-fledged novel, and a literary classic was born.

The visual aspect of the story instantly lent itself to theatrical interpretation, and nearly a century later as the film industry blossomed it found itself the subject of several cinematic attempts (the first being Thomas Edison's 1910 short).  But it was Universal Studios and producer Carl Laemmle jr. who would make the word "Frankenstein" a household one.  Coming off the heels of a tremendously successful Dracula adaptation, Laemmle hired director James Whale and veteran actor Boris Karloff to bring the story to life.  Frankenstein was a "monster" hit (I did it again, did you catch it??), spawning three direct sequels and four crossover films, and changing monster movies forever (No no, that time it wasn't a pun).

So what worked about this immortal film and what didn't?  Well, I'm here to set the record straight....



The Awesome


Makeup

In bringing Frankenstein's monster to life, makeup artist Jack Pierce and director James Whale collaborated to create one of the most instantly recognizable characters in cinema history.  The flat head, heavy brow and neck electrodes were all strokes of genius, as was Boris Karloff's added touch of mortician's wax on his eyelids to give him a half-awake zombie-like appearance.  This makeup immediately became iconic and it's still considered the definitive Frankenstein look, used extensively in Halloween decor and marketing.

Such a great look


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Movie Review: Titane (2021)

Julia Ducournau, director of the triumphant body horror flick Raw, is back with her sophomore effort, an even more bizarre film, part body horror, part family drama I guess, known as Titane.


Titane is the story of a woman with a metal plate in her head (hence the title), the result of a severe car accident she suffered as a child, who now works as an exotic dancer at a car show and has a strange fetishistic fixation on automobiles.  Oh, and on top of that, she's a serial murderer.  

I'm going to issue a spoiler warning here, as it's more or less impossible to talk about this film without giving away some things....

So the main character, Alexia, has a sexual encounter with one of the muscle cars from the show (the logistics of this are left ambiguous), and goes on a killing spree that includes a co-worker (played by Raw's Garance Marillier) and her three roommates, and ends with Alexia's own parents, before heading out on the lam.  While at a train station she sees a missing persons billboard about a boy named Adrien who disappeared a decade ago, and decides to change her appearance to match his, cutting off her hair, taping up her breasts and breaking her nose on the bathroom sink (in one of the film's cringiest moments).  She turns herself in as the missing boy, and Adrien's father Vincent picks her up at the police station, deluding himself that this person is in fact his missing child.  Despite the obvious truth that Alexia couldn't ever be mistaken for Adrien, the two of them live together as father and son, and Vincent, a fire chief, takes "Adrien" under his wing as a firefighter/EMT trainee.  Oh and one more thing, Alexia discovers she's pregnant with the....car's....baby?  She begins to drip motor oil from various parts of her body and later the skin on her belly starts to tear, revealing a chrome plate matching the one attached to her skull.

Weirded out yet?  

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Top Ten Things: King of the Ring PPV Matches

Welcome one and all to a special edition of Enuffa.com's Top Ten Things!  In light of the return of the WWE King of the Ring tournament once again, I thought I'd assemble my list of the ten greatest matches to take place at the once-historic King of the Ring PPV event.


The King of the Ring tournament was originally a special house show attraction held annually in New England, before the WWF decided to add it to the PPV schedule in 1993.  At the time the WWF calendar only featured the Big Four PPV events, so creating a fifth was a pretty huge deal.  The inaugural edition was built around making Bret Hart a top babyface again after WrestleMania IX hurt his stock somewhat.  Bret carried the show, working three good-to-excellent matches and winning the tourney before Jerry Lawler abruptly attacked him during the coronation ceremony.  It was an uneven show but featured some excellent work from "The Hitman."

The KOTR PPV history contains quite a few highs and lows.  The '94 edition only had a few matches worth seeing while 1995's had none.  But the '96, '98 and 2001 PPVs were all varying degrees of excellent (2001 is one of my all-time favorite PPVs).  King of the Ring would run a full decade before sagging buyrates prompted the company to discontinue the series and replace it with Bad Blood.

The tournament itself would return to free television in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2015, and of course this year, with generally very little impact on star-building.  The '06 winner Booker T made the most of the "King" gimmick, adopting an obviously phony English accent which was amusing for a while.  William Regal's tourney win in 2008 led to precisely nothing of value, while Sheamus's victory in 2010 actually hurt his career for about eight months as he free-fell down the card.  2015's winner Wade Barrett was maybe the crown's worst victim, as his career went into a tailspin from which he never really recovered.

Truth be told I do miss the KOTR PPV.  The tournament itself was rarely presented well; if it was a one-night bracket most of the matches got shortchanged, and if only the semis and finals were included on the PPV the tourney felt less important.  But several rising stars were able to use the tourney as a major stepping stone, and when the PPV was good it was great.  If they were to bring it back now I'd suggest having the winner of the tournament get a PPV Title match of their choice, have the first two rounds on episodes of RAW and Smackdown the week before the PPV, and have the semis and finals on the PPV itself, with the finals ALWAYS being the main event.  Then the King of the Ring would actually mean something again.

But let's go back and look at some of the in-ring classics to come out of this once-important event.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Alien Resurrection

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com!

Since I examined the gorgeously shot suckfest that was Alien 3 last week, I thought I'd move on to its sequel, 1997's Alien Resurrection.


As I mentioned last time, the third Alien film was a massive disappointment for me, as I'd been led to believe (through no fault of my own, mind you - d'ya need to see that teaser again?) that we'd get a true continuation of Aliens, wherein there'd be some sort of battle between xenomorphs and humans taking place on Earth.  Instead we got a languid, uninspired retread of the first movie, with one alien killing off humans in a confined location, Ten Little Indians-style.  Then Ripley dies.  I hated it.  I hated it all.  The franchise that should really have ended after two films got a completely unnecessary, tacked-on third installment just so Ripley could be killed off.

Fast-forward five years, and suddenly the series was resurrected (I see what they did there...), with a Ripley clone having been created 200 years after her death, on a military/scientific vessel that has begun experimenting with the aliens.  As part of the breeding process the scientists on board have illegally purchased cryo-frozen humans for use as hosts.  A mercenary ship arrives, delivering said hosts, but before long the aliens escape captivity and all hell breaks loose.  That's about all there is to the plot of this film, though I guess that's about twice as long as the premise of the third film.

My hope going into this was that it would really be something different and maybe even right the ship.  We'd finally see something in line with my expectations for Alien 3, or so I thought.  As it turned out Resurrection was just as poorly received as 3 (if not moreso), and the possibility of ever seeing another truly good Alien film again was all but gone.

Still, Resurrection did have some intriguing elements, some amusing horror-action, and plenty of gooey xenomorphs.  Let's take a closer look at this awesomely shitty movie....

(Note: I think if I were making a fourth film around this time I'd have simply revealed at the outset that Alien 3 was a dream, and have Ripley wake up from cryosleep to find Newt and Hicks still slumbering in their pods.  Then the story would adhere closer to the original Alien III script, where the xenos end up on Earth and the company actually intends on exploiting them for their Weapons division.  But that's just me.)




The Awesome


Something Different

After the dull, lazy retread that was Alien 3, it was nice to see the franchise go in a different direction with this film.  Ripley is back, but as a clone of the original character, and with a bit of xenomorph DNA which gives her some superhuman abilities.  It's corny, it's a bit comic booky, but hey, at least they tried something new with this film.  Setting it 200 years after Alien 3 also adds an element of the dystopian future, where the infrastructure is breaking down and mercenaries like the Betty crew have become commonplace.




Sigourno-morph

Sigourney Weaver clearly has a lot of fun with this new incarnation of Ripley, getting a chance to show off her newfound skills but also to convey the conflict arising from her longtime arch-nemesis now being a part of her.  This creature that has ruined her life is now ingrained in her biology.  A smarter, more thoughtful script would've done a lot more with this, but it's a start.  That theme comes into play later in the film when the alien queen seems to treat her almost as a loved one and the alien/human hybrid regards her as its mother.  Joss Whedon's script introduces some novel concepts for this franchise, and it's refreshing to see that at least. 

Oh, Ripley 8 will fuck you ups....



Friday, October 8, 2021

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Flatliners

At long last we're back with another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com!  For those unfamiliar, I take a popular (or not so popular) film, pick it apart, separate the good stuff from the bad stuff, and more or less ruin it for everyone.  Sooo, let's get after it....


Today I'll be talking about the 1990 suspense thriller Flatliners, starring Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon and Julia Roberts, and directed by Joel Schumacher.  The premise involves a group of medical students who each decide to briefly experience death, hoping to prove once and for all what happens in the afterlife.  But each character unwittingly brings something back with them, and they all end up haunted by demons from their past.  Flatliners got mixed reviews but made a solid profit upon its release and later became a bit of a cult favorite.  Aaaand therefore Hollywood released a remake sequel a few years back.  Just fuckin' shameless, those people.....

But does the film actually work?  Let's take a closer look.



The Awesome


Acting

The whole cast is quite good in this film, from Keifer Sutherland's turn as the tormented visionary and original "flatliner" Nelson Wright, to Kevin Bacon as the likable pragmatist David Labraccio, to Julia Roberts as the generous and gentle Rachel Manus, to Oliver Platt and William Baldwin as the sarcastic worrier Randy Steckle and the hopeless horndog Joe Hurley, respectively.  Each actor gets clear territory to explore, and each of them brings their character to life admirably.  The two standouts are Sutherland and Bacon, who begin the film as best friends and gradually become romantic rivals as the story progresses.  I especially like the scene when they all confront Nelson outside David's apartment and all the cards are laid on the table.  Solid work all around.

A fine cast.  And handsome too.  Except Platt.  Sorry, that was mean....


Cinematography

Schumacher and Director of Photography Jan de Bont fill the frame with a visual richness and atmosphere that lends itself to the material and the mood.  Chicago's Loyola University served as the bulk of the film's locations, giving everything a very old-world, gothic feel.  The breathtaking opening helicopter shot for example takes the viewer across Lake Michigan right up to Kiefer as he stands on West Devon Ave.  This is a fine-looking film.

One of the most striking zoom-in shots I can recall.


Concept

The whole idea of a med student voluntarily dying so he can be revived with the secrets of life and death is certainly intriguing and creative.  It's oddly relatable on some level - who wouldn't want to know what lies beyond and live to tell about it?  Not to mention it's ripe material for farming cinematic suspense.  After all, reviving someone who's clinically dead is no exact science and there's little room for error.  The film doesn't explore this theme nearly as effectively as it could have (more on that in a bit), but the initial story idea was pretty inspired.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Awesomely Shitty Movies: The Lost Boys

Welcome back to Enuffa.com for another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies!  

Today we'll be examining the brazenly tawdry late-80s time capsule known as The Lost Boys.  Before the Twilight movies forever ruined the vampire genre Joel Schumacher gave us teenage vampire garbage we could really sink our teeth into.  Teeth, get it??  Cuz vampires like to bite people?  With their teeth? 

Buckle up and set the DeLorean for 1987, the heyday of such screen legends as Corey Haim, Corey Feldman (what's with all the Coreys??), Jason Patric, Jami Gertz, and the one teen heartthrob from this era whose career escaped more or less unscathed, Kiefer Sutherland.




Originally The Lost Boys was to be a Peter Pan-inspired film about pre-adolescent vampires, stemming from the idea that Peter could fly and never grew old (Kiefer's character was originally called Peter, while the protagonist brothers were Michael and John, later to be Michael and Sam).  However when Schumacher came on board he decided teenage characters would be much more marketable/sexier.

The resulting film is delightfully "late-80s," from the costumes, to the heavy metal-influenced fashion sense of the teenage characters, to the awesomely dated soundtrack, to the southern California setting.  It's a quintessential 80s summer movie.  And it's fantastically dumb.



The Awesome

The Cast

This movie's got a pretty great cast, all perfectly suited to their roles.  Corey Haim, while never ascending to the heights of great acting, was exactly right for the main character of Sam.  Sam is the audience's guide through the story, usually in way over his head and scared shitless the whole time.  Jason Patric as his older brother Michael is the character with the real arc (he goes from brooding, sullen prettyboy to brooding, sullen vampire), and he's the one whose relationship with the villains sets things in motion.  Dianne Wiest is excellent as always, as their mother Lucy.  Corey Feldman, whose childhood work was actually pretty underrated, is hilarious as the aspiring vampire killer Edgar Frog. 

Corey, Corey, and that other guy.

And of course the showstopper is Kiefer Sutherland as David, the leader of the vampire gang.  Sutherland was fresh off his breakout performance as teenage deliquent Ace Merrill in Stand By Me, and his performance here is similar, but with the volume turned way up.  In The Lost Boys he's a total badass motherfucker who repeatedly toys with the protagonists and kills rival gang members without remorse.  Great villain.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

An American Werewolf in London, Forty Years Later

Forty years later, why does An American Werewolf in London still resonate, scare, and get laughs?  Let's look back at this horror-comedy classic.....


An American Werewolf in London.  Sounds like the name of a Gene Kelly musical.  Or a Gene Wilder spoof.  Or a Gene Simmons KISS-branded product for sale at www.BuyKissCrap.com.  Okay, maybe not that last one.  No, An American Werewolf in London is for my money the greatest werewolf film ever made, the brainchild of a young assistant director named John Landis, then working on the Clint Eastwood war vehicle Kelly's Heroes.  Landis was inspired to write the script after witnessing a Yugoslav burial ritual in which the dead were interred feet-first and sprinkled with garlic cloves to prevent them coming back to life.  Struck by the solemnity of the ritual, Landis wondered how he would react if someone he knew was dead came back to life to visit him, and the creative spark for AWIL was ignited.  The script was completed in 1969 and its unique blend of scary and funny earned Landis numerous writing gigs, but no one wanted to actually produce this particular script, ironically due to said horror/comedy blend, which every producer deemed either too funny to be scary or too scary to be funny.  Fast-forward eleven years and two smash-hit movies, and Landis was finally able to secure financing for his gruesome pet project.  

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Alien 3

Welcome to another Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com, where I complain about someone else's hard work!


Today I'll be talking about one of my least favorite sequels ever, Alien 3!  Yup, it's gonna be a struggle to come up with many positives about this film, as I hate it.  HATE. IT.  But I wouldn't be telling the truth if I failed to talk about its good qualities.  Directed by the great David Fincher, Alien 3 is a stylish, exceedingly bleak sequel to the mega-popular thrill ride that was James Cameron's Aliens.  Picking up where that film left off, Alien 3 finds Ripley stranded on a penal planet populated by the worst criminals in the galaxy, when a stray alien breaks loose and starts butchering people by the dozen.  Ripley and the others must find a way, sans weapons, to kill the alien before a Weylan-Yutani supply ship arrives to bring the specimen back to Earth.  And, well, that's about it.  Nothing terribly complicated about this story, and the film was such a troubled production for the first-time director that Fincher has disowned the movie.  The studio began shooting without a completed script and questioned Fincher on nearly every creative idea, to the point that his intended cut was very different from the theatrical version (The "Assembly Cut" as it's called is widely considered superior to the latter, but I still don't like it).

But before I begin shredding this movie, let's take a look at what did work.....



The Awesome


Acting

Sigourney Weaver is back as Ellen Ripley of course, and she once again brings a sense of both empowerment and vulnerability to the role that made her famous.  She doesn't have quite the emotional arc here as she did in Aliens, but considering what she's given to work with she excels as always.  This film has a number of strong supporting performances as well, the two biggest standouts being the dignified and understated Charles Dance as Dr. Clemens, and Charles S. Dutton as the reformed murderer and spiritual leader of the prison, Dillon.  Add accomplished character actors such as Pete Postlethwaite and Brian Glover, and there's no shortage of convincing work on the acting front.

There are some fine thespians in this tripe movie.



Visuals

As with all of his films, Fincher lent Alien 3 a distintive, stylish look, with filthy, gothic sets and a muted color pallette of yellows and browns.  The one area where this film surpasses Aliens for me is its unique visual style.  This is a gorgeously photographed movie from a young director already demonstrating his superior skill.  'Tis a shame the story didn't have more going on, as it's akin to a beautifully painted but mostly empty landscape.

There are also some fine visuals.



Effects (mostly)

Most of the special effects in Alien 3 still hold up, from the grotesquely sloppy chestburster scene to the amazingly lifelike Bishop head/torso, to the frightening closeups of the full-size alien.  The blood n' guts look first-rate, and aside from terrible compositing of the rod puppet used in wide shots (The puppet looks great, the blue screening looks like garbage), any xenophile should be satisfied with the effects.

And a boss-looking alien.


Monday, October 4, 2021

Top Ten Things: Vampire Movies

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  Continuing with the Halloween festivities, today we'll count down what are in my estimation the ten greatest vampire films of all time.

Before Stephanie Meyer forever ruined the vampire genre by turning it into insipid teen melodrama involving beautiful undead emo heartthrobs (who despite not technically being alive can somehow procreate), there used to be quite a few excellent films devoted to the subject.

Being a vampire really isn't any fun when you think about it.  I explored this topic a little in my Awesomely Shitty Movies piece about The Lost Boys:

"It is possible to create complex, thought-provoking films about vampires, exploring at what cost such powers come: isolation, loneliness, unending bloodlust, tedium, having to live with murdering people, having to evade capture and prosecution for murdering people, etc."

The vampire, no matter how romantic a character you try to make him, is still at heart a repulsive, predatory creature who must kill human beings in order to survive.  Think of how awful his breath must be after drinking all that blood.  Imagine how filthy his clothes would be after sleeping in dirt every day.  Really, are the fringe benefits of being eternally young and having superhuman strength and speed worth all the other headaches? 


Anywho, here's my ten picks.


10. Near Dark (1987)


Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow's second film was an unusual mashup of the vampire movie and the Western.  Starring Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, and Jenette Goldstein of Aliens fame, Near Dark tells the story of a gang of vampires who live in a sun-proofed van and drift from place to place, going where the food is.  One of their group, Mae, inadvertently turns a young man named Caleb into a vampire and because of her romantic attachment to him, persuades the others to accept him into their gang.  Caleb spends much of the movie struggling with his transformation and trying to appease the others so they don't kill him.  Near Dark is a very unusual and modern take on the genre, portraying the vamps as scavenging marauders not unlike the post-apocalyptic villains in the Mad Max films.  They are evil but charismatic, and Bill Paxton especially shines as the brutal second-in-command Severen.  With this film Bigelow showed her adeptness at eschewing the conventions of genre films and gave us an exciting new take on the vampire mythos.




9. Dracula (1979)


In the late 70s the well-renowned John Balderston-Hamilton Deane theater production of Dracula was revived in London and on Broadway, and its success prompted Universal Studios to remake the 1931 Bela Lugosi film for modern audiences.  The result was this stylish, romantic Frank Langella version.  Directed by John Badham and featuring an excellent score by John Williams, this update of Dracula depicts the Count as a suave, handsome seducer, to whom women willingly give their last drop.  Langella is excellent as this debonair demon, imbuing the character with both smoothness and a fearsome underlying rage.  The rest of the cast is also first-rate - the legendary Laurence Olivier plays Dracula's nemesis Van Helsing, Kate Nelligan is an unusually strong and independent Lucy Seward (in this version Lucy and Mina's names are oddly swapped), and Tony Haygarth is a rather degenerate incarnation of the Renfield character.  This film is a triumph of production design and atmosphere, and a gritty, original take on the Lugosi version.