So, this is RM, back from his Sabbatical and here to talk about Glenn Strange. Now, I hear some of you asking "Who the Hell is Glenn Strange" and I don't blame you but if you are one of those people, YOU are the reason I am writing this article.
Yes you. Don't play coy. Don't go look him up on Wikipedia (at least not yet) and pretend you know who he is. You aren't fooling anyone. Because it has come to my attention that Glenn Strange is not as well known as he should be and that's a shame.
So who is he? Frankenstein (or more accurately, The Monster), that's who. "But RM, " I hear you saying, "Surely everyone knows that the One True Frankenstein's Monster is Boris Karloff." And you are not entirely wrong. Karloff originated the role and he was great and he deserves all the accolades he has ever gotten. But, he was not the only Frankenstein. After Karloff quit the role, it was picked up by Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr...and then by Glenn Strange who played the role in three films, as many as Karloff. And while one of those three was the comedic "Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein" he put his mark on the role as much as the others and in my humble, yet never wrong, opinion he deserves the same recognition as the others who walked in Frankensteins big clunky shoes.
At 6'5" and 220 lbs, Strange was almost born for the role. But prior to becoming The Monster, he was mostly a cowboy actor. He tended to play outlaws and the occasional sherrif. He inherited the role by accident. He was recruited by Jack Pierce, the famous make-up artist who had created Karloff's look as the Monster and had stayed on for subsequent films, who wanted to try some tests makeup for the upcoming "House of Frankenstein". Pierce liked how Strange looked as the Monster and this led to Strange landing the actual role.
After "House of Frankenstein", he went on to play The Monster again in "House of Dracula" and once more in "Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein". He would also appear as the Monster in promotional material throughout the fifties. In short, in the 40's and 50's he WAS the monster every bit as much as Karloff. In fact, in a sad twist of fate, when Karloff died, The New York Times posted a pic of Strange in the monster's makeup while captioning it as Karloff.
The stint was a mixed blessing for Strange. He was a cowboy actor before (and during) his run as Frankenstein's monster, he went back to being one after without skipping a beat. He managed to avoid the typecasting that would plague the bigger names at Universal like Karloff and Lugosi, but he never quite got the recognition they did either. His last role was as Sam the bartender on "Gunsmoke" and most viewers in 1973 were unaware that was Frankenstein's Monster serving Marshall Dillon and his crew their booze.
I think it's a shame that a man who spent so much time as one of the most iconic movie monsters of all time should get so little recognition for it. In a way, he was a key part of one of the earliest "Cinematic Universes" in movie history, as he got his start in Universal's monster mash-ups that brought all their famous creatures together. So let's just give a little shout out to the Strangest Frankenstein of them all.
So there are several services that offers old movies on the big screen: two are Flashback Cinema and TCM Big Screen Classics. They tend to show in a variety of theater's around the United States.
The weekend before last, we got to enjoy Jaws on the big screen, and that was a blast. Jaws really holds up well and is still a great movie. Yes, you will need a bigger boat. I saw it when it was originally released in the Drive-In with my mom, but I was 6 years old and don't remember much about it other than my mom getting blasted by people for taking her young daughters to see such a gory movie, so it was fun to see it on the big screen. My son had a minor heart attack a few years ago and ended up spending some time in the hospital. One day we were bored, so I was flipping through the channels, and we came across Jaws which was just starting. My son had never seen it before, and was less than enthusiastic, but ended up loving the movie, and so he was thrilled to get to see it on the big screen. BTW, now we have to see ALL movies about sharks that come out, but that's okay because RM and I like them as well. But I digress.
We have also had the pleasure of watching Its a Wonderful Life on the big screen as well, and it was amazing! It is such a wonderful movie, and although some people claim it doesn't feel like Christmas until the Rankin and Bass cartoons come on, for me, its not Christmas until I see Its a Wonderful Life. Although not a big hit when originally released, due to an oversight in the copyright, it ended up being in Public Domain, so every station out there showed it repeatedly around Christmas because it was FREE!!!! up until Ted Turner picked up the movie's copyright. The movie is interesting because Frank Capra made it with the intent of shining a light on religion, but he failed because the movie is more about humanism and not how important a god is, but that each person can have a great impact and how a community can come together.
Coming next week to Flashback Cinema is Jurassic Park, which I saw when I was pregnant with out youngest on the big screen. I remember the amazing impact on the big screen that just isn't as powerful on a smaller screen.
In all the older movies, I have seen on the big screen it amazed me every time how much detail I miss on the smaller screen. I have seen Its a Wonderful Life about 12000 times it seems, but it wasn't until I saw it on the big screen that I noticed the little skull sitting on Potter's desk. Watching Jaws spring out of the water is amazing on a big screen.
So, yeah, you can probably watch old movies at home for free. You can make your own popcorn and get your own soda without having to take out a second mortgage, but it just isn't as fun as watching it on the big screen. A fun time for the family on a drowsy Sunday or hectic Wednesday.
- The One With the Hump.
Horror comes in many forms, but one of my favorite forms is the funny horror. RM's and my son has Down Syndrome; he is an amazing man who shares our love of horror . On weekends he always wants to watch "funny scary" movies. Funny Scary movies are an art form in and of themselves. It is not an easy balance to get the horror and the humor all in one. I am not talking about the fun of schlocky horror - those can be funny, but it is not intentional although they must be a lot of fun to make. I am talking about horror that is meant to be funny as well.
Take the movie Shaun of The Dead - it combines all that is great in horror and humor, providing you like dry British humor, which we do. This has got to be one of my favorite movies. It has it all. Humor, Horror, Love, Matricide, Sacrifice...It pays homage to other films as well. One scene, in particular, is definitely a homage to Reservoir Dogs with each person holding a broken bottle to the neck of the next person, but done with humor. Simon Pegg is brilliant in this as is Nick Frost and it even has Peter Serafinowicz who went on to play the Tick hilariously well in the Amazon Prime series. The calm way Simon Pegg's character just casually walks by the most horrific events because he isn't aware of what is going on - how many of us go through our daily routines in that "routine fog" . You know those times you get to work, like you have a hundred times before, and don't remember anything after turning off your alarm this morning? Those. How much do we miss because we are in that fog? Of course Shaun of the Dead takes it to the extreme, but that is what is funny. Would we notice on our daily commute if a zombie were eating one of our neighbors? Maybe Mr. Martin is just hugging Ms. Martin. Who knows!
A few weeks ago, my son wanted to watch a zombie movie, but I couldn't find any that we hadn't already seen, so I recommended Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil - A hilarious movie that riffs on movies such as the Hills Have Eyes (yes, the link is for the 1977 version, not the 2006 version because it was a much better movie and it had the Wonder Dog in it) and Deliverance and a bit of Friday the 13th movies. The perception is of teens going into the woods and being preyed on by evil hillbillies, but it isn't the case at all. It is all a massive misunderstanding, and again done very well. If you can laugh over some kid diving head first into a wood chipper, you know the humor is done well. It helps that it like Shaun of the Dead has a great cast - the amazing Alan Tudyk as Tucker and Tyler Labine as Dale - the hicks who are just trying to fix up their new vacation home, and run into one comedy of error after another leading to the teens basically ending up killing themselves off. My son loved it.
One can never go wrong when looking for funny horror than to go with awesome Bruce Campbell who brought us The Evil Dead. Let's face it, Bruce Campbell makes everything better. The movie would have been just another cheesy horror movie without Bruce Campbell's portrayal of the cocky Ash. Look at the bad remake - they tried to do it serious, and it was a mess while the original is pure fun movie. A haunted cabin, a mysterious basement, some audio tapes that give The Ring a run for its money on evil media. I understand it was not meant to be funny, but it turned out that way, and it was a better movie for it. It was also made on a shoestring budget. Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn while technically a sequel, was really a remake of the original but with a bigger budget. While it was still a fun movie, it can touch the original.
Of course we can't forget Army of Darkness, where Ash travels though time and in trying to return to his own time, ends up releasing the evil dead when he misreads the Necronomicon- Claatu Varata Necktie...cough, cough. Ash returns more cocky than ever! And now with his Boom Stick, and he saves the day, wins the girl (Groovy Baby), and returns to tell his tale to his star struck co-workers!
So go watch some wickedly funny horror. And remember: Shop Smart, Shop S-Mart!
- The One With the Hump (You've got red on you!)