Join me for the heart-warming tale of a scientist gone mad! A madman become invisible! An invisible man gone wild! It’s Claude Rains in James Whales’ 1933 classic The Invisible Man! I don’t really care for this picture beyond Rains’ performance and Gloria Stuart’s sweet, sweet 1930s damsel act, but I try to have fun and not lament Una O’Connor or the camp humor too much.
Watch as a man you can’t see minces around in nothing but a shirt! Gasp as the Invisible Man steals a bicycle! Thrill as he sleeps thru a phone call! Wonder why he doesn’t just put makeup on! Look interested while he explains how he can be detected! Try to stay awake while policemen meet to discuss what to do! And did I mention: montage! montage! montage!
It’s not as bad as all that, but you be the judge.
Start the commentary with the Carl Laemmle title card, on the countdown.
It’s still alive! Sherlock Holmes and Dracula meet Bambi and Frankenstein’s Monster in the 1939 extension of the Frankenstein mythos. I mock the hilariously bizarre architecture, the ridiculous dart game, the absurd hair (and somewhat suspicious parentage) of little Peter, and the Frankenstein Village board of commerce. I explore the father-son theme and compare it to the previous films and boldly suggest that 47+ years is a long damn time for a monster to be roaming the countryside murdering people without being discovered or getting some kind of name, especially from his decades-long live-in companion.
I also suggest that if your town became famous for having a monster roaming around it, you could make a good buck off that if you market it the right way. And I gratuitously, but only momentarily, compare the Frankensteins to the royal family of England.
Start the commentary with the Universal title card, on the countdown. (48 MB)
Mrs. Frankenstein appears in another of the eight (8!) films she made in 1935 along with her ancient husband and aged childhood playmate in the very first feature-length werewolf movie! Mad botanist (you read that right) Dr. Glendon picks up a social disease in a foreign country and hides it from his wife while he tries to find a cure. Join me as I give the film a gentle ribbing even while admiring its entertaining aspects. I explain the history of werewolf lore and cinema, and I compare it to vampire and Frankenstein stories, not to mention the Hulk. And I disassemble it as a metaphor for serial killers versus a metaphor for puberty. Oh, and I ramble on after the end of the movie for about 10 minutes.
Early on, I seem to say that the 1931 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was not well received. What I meant was that this movie was negatively compared to it; Frederic March actually got Best Actor Oscar for playing Jekyll and Hyde.
Wait for my countdown to start the film with the Universal title logo. (37 MB)
She’s alive! Alive! The inferior-yet-still-classic sequel to Frankenstein is given the full Tysto treatment. I compare this film to the 1931 original and to Young Frankenstein. I complain bitterly about Una “Jar-Jar Binks” O’Connor. I welcome Valerie Hobston’s cleavage as the replacement Elizabeth and welcome back Dwight Frye as the assistant-who-is-definitely-not-the-dead-hunchback-Fritz. I complain a bit about the presence of Doctor Pretorius and compare him to Doctor Waldman of the first film. And I finally get around to mentioning Jack Pierce, the legendary make-up effects artist.
Start the film at the Universal logo when I give the cue. (37 MB)
It’s alive! It’s alive! It’s the horror super-classic that introduced the world to Frankenstein’s monster as we know it today. I compare it (sort of) to the novel and (sort of) to Young Frankenstein, as well as to Dracula, which I’ve also done a commentary for.
I give a lot of background and talk about the economy of story-telling that lasts until the film slows to a crawl with talky drawing room scenes. I sympathize with Fritz and then blame him for the whole tragedy. I sympathize with the monster and explain that I want my misunderstood monsters to act with criminal negligence. I point out plot holes, such as how a brain in a jar could be better than the brain of a fresh corpse with a broken neck and how Maria’s father knew she was murdered. I mistakenly say that Mary Shelley doesn’t mention grave-robbing, but she does, briefly. I pan James Whale and praise Karloff as one of the greatest of all cinema heavies and one of the nicest men you’d ever hope to meet.
Bonus: The entire novel, searchable and browsable.
Start the film at the stage introduction when I give the cue. This commentary features the first use of my EchoSync technology, to make it easier to syncronize the movie with the commentary. (36 MB)
Just in time for Halloween! A campy lawyer becomes a bug-eating lunatic in thrall to the king of all vampires: Count Dracula, as personified by Bela Lugosi. I compare the film to the Bram Stoker novel, to the stage play, and to other Dracula movies. I point out how the film set the standard for vampires from the incredible opening featuring the brides of Dracula (and the possums of Dracula) to the thrilling discussion-on-a-divan scenes to the pulse-racing discussion-on-a-staircase scenes to the chilling look-over-there-while-I-stab-Dracula ending. I mix up Joan Standing (the English nurse) and Moon Carroll (the American maid). Maybe there are no fangs and no blood (or score); maybe the actors all stand motionless to deliver their lines, maybe everything interesting happens off-screen, but this is the granddaddy of ‘em all and well worth a look.
Bonus: The entire book! Searchable and skimmable!
Start the film with the original studio title (not the new Universal logo, if there is one) at the same time you start the commentary. (36 MB)
Running commentaries that you listen to while you watch the movie.