Wednesday, November 10, 2021

The History of WWE Survivor Series (1999)

We've reached a pretty dark time in the history of this great event.  Survivor Series 1999 is one of the worst wrestling shows I've ever seen....

Survivor Series 1999 - Joe Louis Arena - 11/14/99

I hated this show.  HATED it.  Survivor Series 1999 is very high on my all-time worst PPVs list.  It's just pure tripe almost from start to finish, and full of half-assed short-attention-span bouts.  Plus the much anticipated triple threat between the WWF's top three stars ended up not happening as planned due to one of them being unable to compete prior to the show, thus necessitating an incredibly stupid injury angle.

Shane and Steph are very concerned.  Imagine how Vince must've felt.

There were four traditional elimination matches, only one of which passed the ten-minute mark:
The Godfather, D-Lo Brown and The Headbangers faced The Dudley Boyz and the Acolytes.  Godfather and D-Lo won in a quick and forgettable nine-minute bout.

The History of WWE Survivor Series (1998)

One of the worst wrestling tournaments ever, that was super entertaining at the time....

Survivor Series 1998 - Kiel Center - 11/15/98

The 1998 edition almost defies critique as a wrestling event.  Almost.  As an angle played out over a three-hour running time it was rather genius.  As a professional wrestling show it was abysmal.  Once again nothing about this show earned it the title of Survivor Series.  The PPV was built around a WWF Title tournament after Steve Austin lost the belt under controversial circumstances and the belt was vacated.  As with WrestleMania IV, the company tried to cram far too much into one show, and this didn't even have the benefit of a fourth hour.  Fourteen matches in three hours.  Simply batshit insane.

There were two non-tournament matches, Sable vs. Jacqueline for the new Women's Title (this one stunk), and a Triple Threat for the Tag belts pitting The New Age Outlaws against The Headbangers and D-Lo Brown/Mark Henry (this one was mediocre).

The tournament itself was shabbily thrown together and had some baffling inclusions such as jobber Duane Gill, midcarder Al Snow, newcomer Steven Regal, who had only been in the company a few weeks, and two first-round matches featuring McMahon henchman the Big Bossman.  Now the storyline going into this was that Vince would do anything to keep Austin from regaining the Title, and had handpicked (rather reluctantly) Mankind to be the next Champion (Mankind had shaved off his beard and styled his hair for the occasion).  Mankind opened the show against pushover Duane Gill to allow him easy advancement.  Steve Austin's first round match was against Bossman, tasked specifically with injuring Austin and hindering him going forward (why not just use a crooked referee to take Austin out of the tournament right at the beginning?).  The Rock, who had been slowly turning babyface and had run afoul of Vince, was slated to face Triple H in the first round.  Triple H, despite being injured, was nonetheless billed to appear on this show in a rather shameless bait-and-switch.  Instead Rocky faced the Bossman (making his second first-round appearance) and quickly rolled him up in a four-second match.

The second round featured a shitty Undertaker-Kane rematch, a very good little Rock-Shamrock rematch (where Bossman's interference on Shamrock's behalf backfired), a Steve Austin bye into the semis, and an exceedingly brief Al Snow vs. Mankind bout.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

The History of WWE Survivor Series (1997)

November 9th, 1997 - perhaps the most infamous day in wrestling history....

Survivor Series 1997 - Molson Centre - 11/9/97

Speaking of PPVs that are a complete fucking mess, the 1997 Survivor Series suffered from all kinds of problems.  I'm guessing that due to the turmoil and uncertainty surrounding WWF Champion Bret Hart's impending departure from the company (essentially forced by Vince, mind you), there wasn't much time or energy left to focus on the rest of the card.  Bret had initially agreed to stay through November '97 and drop the title before he left, Vince insisted it had to be to Shawn in Montreal, Bret refused, you know the rest.  Anyway there were seven matches on the card, most of which were mediocre or just too rushed and/or chaotic to be very good.

First up was (what a shock) an elimination match consisting of four tag teams.  The New Age Outlaws teamed with The Godwinns to face The Headbangers and The New Blackjacks.  This was watchable and helped get the Outlaws over as the hot new heel team, but otherwise not much going on.

Second was a totally pointless elimination match between Crush's DOA stable and an Apartheid-inspired heel stable, the Truth Commission.  Essentially the whole point of the Commission was to get over a new giant wrestler named Kurrgan, whose career fizzled very quickly but who can be seen in such blockbuster films as 300 and Sherlock Holmes.  Kurrgan basically won the whole 9-minute match by himself.  Welcome to ThrowawayLand.

The History of WWE Survivor Series (1996)

Here's a PPV that felt barely cobbled together but was still mostly enjoyable....

Survivor Series 1996 - Madison Square Garden - 11/17/96

Survivor Series '96 might be the best-ever PPV thrown together with seemingly no logic or common sense.  There are some good matches on this show, but really look at it - the lineup is a complete fucking mess.  Aside from one singles match there wasn't much of a reason for anything that happened here.  Four new wrestlers made their in-ring debuts on this show (FOUR!  That's way too many debuts all at once.), only one of the three elimination matches was assembled around a feud, one of the three singles matches was totally unnecessary at this point, and the WWF Title challenger had no business getting a title shot.  I really don't know what they were thinking putting this show together the way they did.

The opening match was entirely built around nothing.  Yet another two-teams vs. two-teams elimination bout, Tag Champions Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith teamed with The New Rockers against The Godwinns and WWF newcomers Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon.  Furnas & Lafon were a celebrated team in Japan but American audiences were not familiar with them at all, and they made no RAW appearances before debuting at this show.  Yet immediately they were positioned as the #1 Tag Title contenders.  Aside from this match having a lot of good wrestling, there was no reason to care about any of it.

Match #2 was the fourth PPV meeting between The Undertaker and Mankind.  Now, let me preface this by saying the Taker-Mankind feud from 1996-1998 was and is one of the greatest feuds of all time.  But they had already wrestled each other on PPV in a regular singles match, a Boiler Room Brawl, and the first-ever Buried Alive match.  So to follow this up the company opted for.....another regular singles match??  This made no sense.  If the level of violence wasn't going to escalate, have Taker and Mankind each captain a Survivor Series team.  Ya know, since the show is called Survivor Series??  This match was fine, but totally anticlimactic after their three previous efforts, and was probably the weakest of this entire feud.

The one elimination match involving a real feud was next, as I-C Champion Hunter Hearst Helmsley led Crush, Goldust and Jerry Lawler against Marc Mero, Jake Roberts, "The Stalker" Barry Windham (what a laughable gimmick), and another debuting star, Rocky Maivia (at least with Rocky the WWF showed a bunch of vignettes leading up to this).  This match was just ok, but I did like that both captains were eliminated before the end.  Rocky overcame the odds to win the whole thing, much to the delight of.....no one really.  This was long before Maivia showed us all what a true star he could be, and I'll confess that until his 1997 heel turn I didn't see any real potential in him.

The History of WWE Survivor Series (1995)

Another return to form for Survivor Series as the November tradition moves to Sunday night...

Survivor Series 1995 - USAir Arena - 11/19/95

To paraphrase Bobby Heenan, comparing Survivor Series '94 to Survivor Series '95 is like comparing horse manure to ice cream.  The 1995 edition was such a monumental improvement it's hard to even consider them as the same type of event.  While the '94 edition felt disorganized and largely inconsequential aside from a few key moments, this show featured multiple strong elimination matches and a big marquee Title match.

1995 was not a very successful year for the company, as Diesel failed to draw as WWF Champion and fans instead preferred the athleticism of Bret Hart and hot new babyface star Shawn Michaels.  But several newcomers were added to the roster which freshened up the product, such as Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Ahmed Johnson, Hakushi and Goldust.

The first match featured mostly bottom-level talent but ended up being one of the best on the show.  The Bodydonnas - Skip, Rad Radford, Tom Prichard, and surprise member The 1-2-3 Kid took on The Underdogs - Marty Janetty, Bob Holly, Hakushi, and Barry Horowitz.  These eight guys wrestled like they had something to prove, as the match featured lots of aerial moves and spectacular high spots (for example Janetty's mindblowing top rope powerbomb on Skip).  The Kid stole a victory in the end after his new stablemate Sycho Sid interfered, and this seemed to be the beginning of a nice heel push for Sean Waltman.  However due to some drug issues his career stagnated and he left for WCW several months later.

Next up was a women's match reminiscent of the Team Sherri vs. Team Moolah bout from 1987, featuring several Japanese women wrestlers utilizing intricate, crowd-pleasing movesets previously not seen in the WWF.  The Women's Champion Alundra Blayze captained a team of Kyoko Inoue, Sakie Hasegawa and Chaparita Asari against Bertha Faye's team of Aja Kong, Tomoko Watanabe and Lioness Asuka.  This was a highly entertaining, action-heavy showcase of Japanese-style wrestling that seemed to signal the push of Aja Kong as a major women's star.  Unfortunately Alundra Blayze defected to WCW a month later and the planned Women's Title feud was off.  Still this is easily worth a watch.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Music Review: Mastodon - Hushed and Grim (2021)


Man, this album is a doozy.  Prog/sludge/psychedelic metal maestros Mastodon are back at long last, with their eighth studio album Hushed and Grim, a double-disc, 86-minute marathon dedicated to their manager Nick John, who passed away from cancer in 2018.  As the title suggests, the album is steeped in melancholy, a cathartic exploration of loss from a band all too familiar with the subject (As you may recall drummer Brann Dailor has written numerous lyrics about his sister Skye who committed suicide at 16, and the band's 2011 album The Hunter was named after guitarist Brent Hinds' deceased brother.).  Mastodon's signature offbeat guitar riffs and Dailor's Buddy Rich-esque percussion are present but more muted than usual; the songs here tend to be driven by emotion and sentiment rather than trying to dazzle you with metal acumen.  The result is a sprawling 15-track opus creating something beautiful out of tragedy.

Early tracks like "Pain with an Anchor," "The Crux," and "More Than I Could Chew" ease the faithful listener in with familiar-sounding Mastodon compositions, Brann and bassist Troy Sanders supplying the vocals (oddly Brent Hinds only sings on two songs).  Things get a bit proggier on the odd-time "Sickle and Peace" (one of Sanders' best-ever vocals) and veer into Southern rock on the jangly "The Beast" (one of Hinds' heartfelt appearances on the mic), before moving into more pensive territory on "Skeleton of Splendor" and "Teardrinker."  The first disc closes with the stripped-down first single "Pushing the Tides," a song chosen for its middle ground status, representing a little of everything on the album.  Disc 1 boasts nary a miss in its eight tracks, its 43 running time cruising by at an incredible clip.  

The History of WWE Survivor Series (1994)

Back to sub-standard Survivor Series fare.....

Survivor Series 1994 - Freeman Coliseum - 11/23/94

Here's an ugly bit of business.  Survivor Series '94 saw the return of 5-on-5 elimination matches, which sounds like it'd be great.  Unfortunately the WWF didn't seem to care about making them seem at all important, so they came off as a jumbled mess.  The two main events on the show were singles matches (this began an infuriating trend of every major feud on a Survivor Series card being settled in a singles match while the elimination matches were treated as obligatory filler), neither of which really delivered.

Far too similar to the first match on the 1991 card, the opening match here had all the hallmarks of a classic.  The Bad Guys - Razor Ramon, 1-2-3 Kid, British Bulldog, and The Headshrinkers vs. The Teamsters - Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart, and Jeff Jarrett.  A bunch of good workers and a bunch of future main eventers.  What could go wrong?  Well, much like its 1991 counterpart, this match started out great, establishing Diesel as a killing machine, and then about twenty minutes in, ended with five - FIVE - men getting eliminated at the same time, with one guy left standing as the winner.  This was so unbelievably stupid.  It all happened after Shawn accidentally superkicked Diesel (the third time this had happened), leading to Diesel chasing Shawn out of the ring and back to the dressing room.  The rest of their team went with them to try and break up the impending melee, and the referee counted the whole team (yes, the WHOLE TEAM) out of the ring.  Umm, shouldn't only the legal man be counted out?  And then the next legal man would get counted out?  So like, shouldn't the referee have had to count to fifty to eliminate the entire team?

Hey look, it's the Kliq......and Davey Boy.

Look, dummies.  Here's what you do with this match.  The main objectives were obviously to break up Shawn and Diesel, turn Diesel face, and position Diesel as the next main event guy.  So instead of wasting everyone's time with a 20-minute match without a third act and a totally nonsensical ending, how 'bout you have Diesel run through Razor's whole team (like he did), tag Shawn in (like he did), hold Razor for the superkick (like he did), have Shawn miss and hit Diesel (like he did), and then have Razor roll Shawn up for the pin.  Then Diesel (now the legal man) realizes what happened and angrily chases Shawn back to the dressing room, thus getting counted out and making it a 3-on-1 match.  Razor gallantly battles Owen, Jarrett and Neidhart, eventually eliminating "The Anvil," befor Owen and Jarrett's heel tactics become too much and Jarrett covers Razor for the win (thus setting Jarrett up as the #1 I-C contender, which they were gonna do anyway!).  Would that have been so hard?  Then you'd have an epic, dramatic elimination match that elevated Diesel and Jarrett, set up the Shawn-Diesel feud, and painted Razor as a courageous fighter who never gave up despite the long odds.

Nope, let's just throw out another potentially awesome Survivor Series match.  Next?

Thursday, November 4, 2021

The History of WWE Survivor Series (1993)

After three pretty bad editions of the Thanksgiving Night/Eve Spectacular, the show returned to its roots in 1993...

Survivor Series 1993 - Boston Garden - 11/24/93

Well that's more like it.  The '93 Series PPV was something of a return to form after the format had been watered down and then abandoned completely over the three previous years.  This show marks the first time a wrestling PPV had ever been held in Boston, so it has some sentimental value for me.  I was tempted to buy a ticket, but since it was Thanksgiving Eve and I'd have to travel home to the 'burbs anyway, I opted to watch on the tube.

This show not only put the focus back on the elimination matches, but for the first time since 1990 the main event was one of them.  The company made the most of a terribly depleted roster and put on a pretty damn good show, all things considered.  This would sadly be Bobby Heenan's final WWF PPV, as he would soon leave the company and wind up in WCW.

The History of WWE Survivor Series (1992)

Oh look, a non-Survivor Series show.....

Survivor Series 1992 - Richfield Coliseum - 11/25/92

Survivor Series '92, or as I like to call it, Generic Wrestling Show '92, returned to the place where it all started, the Richfield Coliseum.  This was the first Survivor Series after Hulk Hogan's departure and featured a host of brand new main event stars.  The WWF had moved away from the superhuman power wrestlers due to mounting steroid allegations, and focused on smaller grapplers and more athletic action.

Sadly they also moved away from a Survivor Series format for this installment and it became just another PPV event.

The show opened with the newly-signed Headshrinkers (or Samoan Swat Team as they had been called in WCW) vs. High Energy (Owen Hart and Koko B. Ware, who for some reason both wore Jim Neidhart's old MC Hammer-style pants).  This was a serviceable kickoff tag bout but little more than a showcase for the Wild Samoans: NextGen team.

Next up was The Big Bossman facing Nailz (a "former convict" whom the former prison guard Big Bossman had allegedly mistreated in the clink) in a Nightstick on a Pole match.  Nailz was comically evil and had a digitally enhanced speaking voice to make him sound more monstrous.  This was his final televised WWF match, as he was later fired for physically assaulting Vince McMahon.  Probably not the smartest move to beat up your boss, but then again Steve Austin made a great living that way.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The History of WWE Survivor Series (1991)

Consider this ugly little number, which ended up a sleazy sales pitch for another PPV...

Survivor Series 1991 - Joe Louis Arena - 11/27/91

Wow.  Not only was Survivor Series 1991 not a good PPV, it was little more than a hype show for the newest WWF PPV offering six days later, This Tuesday in Texas.  This was such a cheap-ass bait and switch, and had I actually paid to see this show I'd have been LIVID.  In an odd way this PPV was ahead of its time in that it essentially accomplished the same thing as every PPV in the Vince Russo era - hook the paid viewers into watching an upcoming show.  Just mystifying.

The opener looked fantastic on paper.  Ric Flair, The Mountie, Ted Dibiase, and The Warlord vs. Roddy Piper, Bret Hart, Davey Boy Smith, and Virgil.  This was Ric Flair's first major feud in the WWF, and the heat between him and Piper was fantastic.  Piper had been an announcer for a while and got put on probation for getting physically involved with Flair, to the point that President Jack Tunney threatened suspension if it happened again.  Flair then took advantage, taunting Piper repeatedly and slapping his headset off, hoping to provoke a fight.  Piper snapped, was fired as an announcer and reinstated as a wrestler.

Anyway what a great lineup - Flair, Dibiase, Piper, Bret and Davey Boy all in the same match!  And for about 22 minutes this was a pretty damn good elimination match.  Took its time, didn't rush to get to the end, had all the markings of an epic harkening back to the '87 and '88 shows.  Aaaaaand then a wild brawl broke out where five guys all got disqualified at once, leaving Ric Flair as the sole survivor.  Get the fuck right outta here.  FIVE-MAN DISQUALIFICATION.  This had to be the cheapest and laziest booking of the decade.  There was no discernible reason they couldn't have gone the traditional route, made this a 27-minute match that came down to Flair vs. Piper, and had Flair win using a cheap rollup while hooking the tights.  Then this could've been one of the best WWF matches of the year.  But no.  Let's just toss the whole thing out.  Unbelievable.

Image result for survivor series 1991 flair"
What a promising match this was....

Next we had, for the second year in a row, a pointless match involving Sgt. Slaughter, as he led Jim Duggan, Kerry von Erich, and Tito Santana against Col. Mustafa, The Berzerker, Skinner, and Hercules.  Slaughter had finally lost his feud with Hulk Hogan and once again embraced America, turning on his Iraqi sidekicks.  So the guy around whom they had built most of 1991 as a traitorous, flag-burning terrorist-type was now begging the fans to take him back.  This is reason #387 why the US-Iraq angle was a terrible idea: once you have the villain publicly side with a murderous totalitarian with whom America was actually at war, it's a little tough to get the fans back on his side later on.  Not surprisingly this new Slaughter-Sheik feud didn't exactly light up the wrestling world.  Also they had the babyfaces sweep the heels here, immediately negating the novelty of 1990's Visionaries-Vipers sweep.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

NJPW Power Struggle 2021 Preview & Predictions

Well, COVID restrictions are loosening over in Japan, and that means NJPW is once again allowed to run full-length, nine-match cards in front of up to 5,000 people.  So this weekend the annual Power Struggle show will be the first NJPW PPV in nearly two years to feature a full lineup.  And aside from a few warmup tag bouts it looks pretty solid.


The G1 is behind us and the road to the Tokyo Dome is ahead.  Kazuchika Okada has his sights set on regaining the company's top championship, though he does not recognize Shingo's IWGP World Title as the true championship (nor should he, that belt sucks).  He's been carrying around the REAL IWGP Title and I hope at WrestleKingdom we'll see that belt reinstated.  Regardless, before Okada can make that happen he has to get past the one man who beat him in the G1, Tama Tonga, and I'm betting he'll also insist on a rematch with Kota Ibushi at the Dome.  Meanwhile Shingo Takagi will have his hands full with the reinvigorated Zack Sabre Jr., who went on a submission warpath during the G1, tapping out Takagi clean in the middle of the ring.  Similarly, Hiroshi Tanahashi will face a man who scored a G1 upset over him, Kenta.  Not a bad trilogy of matches on tap, plus we'll get a Jr. Title contest.

But first....



NEVER Openweight 6-Man Championship: Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Evil, Sho & Yujuro Takahashi


These titles have now been around for six years and they've never really meant anything.  This is why I'm resistant whenever I see people clamoring for AEW to introduce a Trios Title - six-man teams don't stay together consistently or long enough to make a belt like this carry any prestige.  Remember the NWA version?  Thing had to be vacated every few months because of injuries or departures.  Pointless.  Anyway, this Chaos faction has held the title for a year or so, so that at least helps.  I think they'll lose them here though - the Evil wing of Bullet Club is hot thanks to the addition of Sho.

Pick: House of Torture





KOPW Trophy Amateur Rules Match: Toru Yano vs. Great-O-Khan


Ugh, I have no interest in this stupid trophy.  This is kind of NJPW's equivalent of the 24/7 Title - a meaningless achievement contested mostly in comedy segments.  This one is amateur rules and both guys do have an amateur background, so maybe the match will be entertaining.  I guess I could see O-Khan winning here just to give him a little something-something to do.

Pick: O-Khan

The History of WWE Survivor Series (1990)

Sadly the WWF followed up its first three good-to-excellent Survivor Series PPVs with a totally phoned-in edition...

Survivor Series 1990 - Hartford Civic Center - 11/22/90

Dear God this show sucked.  For the first time (and certainly not the last), the WWF took the amazing Survivor Series concept and diluted it beyond all recognition.  The 4-on-4 format was still in effect from 1989 but they added the wrinkle that the survivors of each match would meet at the end of the show for a "Grand Finale" match.  A very cool idea in theory, but a terrible one in execution.

For one thing it resulted in six elimination matches - far too many for a three-hour PPV.  For another, the company also added a Mystery Egg segment - the climax to a weeks-long series of teasers where at the TV tapings they would show this giant turkey egg in the arena and let everyone know it was due to hatch at the PPV (How did they pinpoint the exact date, might I ask?).  At the Series, the egg hatched, and it was a man in a turkey suit, known as the Gobbledy Gooker.  The Gooker ran down to the ring and danced with Mean Gene Okerlund, and that was it.  That's what this whole angle was built around.  Just a colossal waste of everyone's lives.

Anyway, the show opened (OPENED!!) with the match involving WWF Champion The Ultimate Warrior.  This was the match I was most looking forward to, mind you; the hyped main event, and it went on first.  Warrior captained a team of Kerry Von Erich and the Legion of Doom, against Mr. Perfect (with whom Warrior was NOT feuding at the time) and the three members of Demolition.  Nevermind that Warrior was actually feuding with Randy Savage (who I presume wasn't medically cleared to wrestle, being that the two never fought until the following March), the lineup still looked intriguing.  And then it only went fourteen minutes.  Wait.  Thus far the shortest-ever Survivor Series match was almost 18 minutes, while the others were well over 20.  The MAIN EVENT of this Survivor Series PPV lasted fourteen minutes??  Something ain't right here.  Warrior won, incidentally.

Hmm, which of these four guys doesn't belong?
Incidentally only one of these men is still living.

Next was the Dream Team of Dusty Rhodes, Koko B. Ware, and The Hart Foundation against the Million Dollar Team of Ted Dibiase, Honky Tonk Man, Greg Valentine, and mystery partner Kane the Undertaker (that's right, his first name was originally Kane).  This match was pretty good partly due to the intrigue of Taker's introduction, and partly because of the later stretches of the match when it came down to Bret vs. Dibiase.  Ted won the whole thing.

The History of WWE Survivor Series (1989)

Wait, it's not five-on-five anymore?  And the tag team match is gone??  WHAT THE DAMN HELL??

Survivor Series 1989 - Rosemont Horizon - 11/23/89

Here's a Survivor Series I went into just eager to hate the whole thing.  When I found out they had changed the format to 4-on-4 and done away with the 20-man tag team-based match I was livid.  This felt like it would totally water down the concept and ruin what had been one of my favorite gimmick matches.  Instead of putting all the tag teams in one supermatch, they paired two singles wrestlers with each tag team, and in the case of the Hart Foundation, actually split them into separate matches (something I still find baffling).

Fortunately though, Survivor Series 1989 was still a fun show to watch and featured some very good elimination bouts.  This was also the first Series where each team had a name - a silly touch, but it added a sense of officiality to the whole thing.

The opening match featured The Dream Team - Dusty Rhodes, Brutus Beefcake, Tito Santana, and The Red Rooster vs. The Enforcers - Big Bossman, Bad News Brown, Rick Martel and Honky Tonk Man.  On paper this looked like a yawner but it was actually pretty good.  Rhodes and Beefcake outlasted the Bossman team.

Second was the match I was initially looking the most forward to, as Randy Savage captained The King's Court, with Dino Bravo, Greg Valentine, and originally Barry Windham, who had jumped to the WWF as The Widowmaker.  I loved Windham at the time and had high hopes for his WWF run.  Unfortunately Windham only spent about six months in the company, for reasons I still don't understand, and was replaced by the WWF's newest monster heel Earthquake.  Savage's opponents were the 4x4s (a name that makes little sense since Jim Duggan carried a 2x4, not a 4x4): Jim Duggan, Bret Hart, Ronnie Garvin, and Hercules.  This match was solid and featured some rare televised Bret Hart vs. Randy Savage interaction (why they never had a major feud with each other I'll never know).  Savage's team was dominant thanks largely to Earthquake's involvement.

Monday, November 1, 2021

The History of WWE Survivor Series (1988)

Time to talk about my favorite Survivor Series....

Survivor Series 1988 - Richfield Coliseum - 11/24/88

Well somehow they did it.  The WWF managed to top the near-perfect 1987 Survivor Series with an EVEN BETTER show in 1988.  They crammed 50 wrestlers on the show (granted some were hardly A-listers but still) and presented 4 huge elimination matches once again.  Because of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage being presented as co-faces of the company, each team this year had two captains instead of one.  Kinda silly but it's a minor nitpick.

The opening match was once again built around the Intercontinental Championship feud, as new champ The Ultimate Warrior and Brutus Beefcake captained a team including Sam Houston, The Blue Blazer, and former Killer Bee Jim Brunzell (subbing for Don Muraco), against The Honky Tonk Man & Outlaw Ron Bass, and their team of Greg Valentine, Bad News Brown, and Danny Davis.  This bout was nothing special but kicked off the show with a fast-paced match and a feel-good moment, as the Warrior overcame the odds to survive.

The second match on this show is my favorite elimination bout in Survivor Series history.  Once again five tag teams were partnered up on each side of the ring, and this might be the greatest assembly of tag teams in a single match.  Newcomers (and Road Warrior clones) The Powers of Pain captained a team of the Hart Foundation, the British Bulldogs, the Rockers, and the Young Stallions (that's an unbelievably stacked crew right there) against Tag Champs Demolition, the Brain Busters, the Rougeaus, the Bolsheviks, and jobber team The Conquistadors (okay so they probably didn't belong).  The match was an epic 42-minute war where all the teams got plenty of ring time and the action was more or less non-stop until the closing minutes.  Then a shocking double-turn occurred, as Mr. Fuji turned on Demolition, causing their elimination.  The Powers of Pain then made short work of the Conquistadors and adopted Fuji as their new manager.  Demolition went on to become one of the most beloved teams in WWF history and set a new record for the longest Tag Championship reign (which held until The New Day eclipsed it in 2016).  This match holds up as a classic example of elimination wrestling.  Spectacular stuff.

That there is an even BETTER tag team division.

The History of WWE Survivor Series (1987)

From the wrestling-dependent jackoff who brought you The Histories of WWE WrestleMania and SummerSlam comes the official Enuffa.com History of WWE Survivor Series.


Welcome to my retrospective about what has traditionally been one of my favorite wrestling concepts, the Survivor Series.  The PPV debuted in 1987 when the WWF's chief rival, the NWA, decided to venture into the PPV market with Starrcade '87.  Vince McMahon, in full-on predatory mode, created a new gimmick PPV to go head-to-head with Jim Crockett's flagship show, but also told the cable companies they would have to choose between Starrcade and Survivor Series, and if they chose the former they would not be permitted to carry the following year's WrestleMania event.  This unfortunately crippled Starrcade's distribution (a shame since Starrcade '87 was a helluva show) and essentially ruined Crockett's PPV hopes, leading to the promotion's sale to Ted Turner in 1988.

The Survivor Series was built around a simple but ultra-awesome concept, superteams of five men (with either one or two captains depending on the year) battling for supremacy in a sequence of elimination matches.  The last team (or portion thereof) left standing would be the winners.  I had seen six-man elimination tag matches but the idea of a 5-on-5 version blew my freakin' mind and I absolutely loved this plan.

For the first few editions the show was entirely comprised of these elimination matches, but as the years have worn on WWE has almost disowned them and made the card more like a regular old PPV with an occasional elimination bout thrown in.  The result has been a very watered-down version of a once epic annual tradition.  But let's take a look at the history of WWE's second-oldest PPV event.


Survivor Series 1987 - Richfield Coliseum - 11/26/87

The original Survivor Series was an absolutely colossal extravanganza.  The three-hour PPV consisted of only four matches, three of which pitted teams of five against each other.  The fourth (and this was fucking GENIUS) stacked five tag teams to a side, and when one man from a tag team was eliminated, both members were gone.  So for example if Dynamite Kid got pinned, his partner Davey Boy Smith had to leave the ring as well.  This match type was only featured in the first two Survivor Series' (and was brought back in 2016), but it was amazing.  It also demonstrated how incredibly deep the tag team division used to be.

That there is a tag team division.

The first event opened with the team of Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Jake Roberts, Brutus Beefcake, and "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan facing the Honky Tonk Man, Hercules, "Outlaw" Ron Bass, Harley Race, and Danny Davis.  Savage and HTM were feuding over the Intercontinental Title, and the "Macho Man" had become the second-most popular babyface in the company.  Also consider how monumental it was that Savage and Steamboat were teaming up only months after their venomous blood feud.  This match was absolutely thrilling and kicked off this historic event in style.  Team Savage was dominant, winning the match with three survivors (Savage, Steamboat and Jake) after the hopelessly outnumbered Honky Tonk Man took a powder and got counted out.  Just twenty-four minutes of BOSS.

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