The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth: Happy Birthday, Tod Browning!

(Ho-stess’s Note: Mr. Browning’s bday was actually yesterday, but my comp got itself an STD and needed a day to recover. Can’t NOT celebrate someone so rad, though, so as always when I’m late w stuff, just #gowithit, please… 😉 xoxo)

Happy Birthday(ish ;)) to cinema’s dark ringmaster, Mr. Tod Browning!
While he directed a wide variety of films in many genres, Mr. Browning is known for his many ho-orr films and bizarre melodramas. Like many of us, Browning was utterly obsessed with carnivals and circuses. So much so that he literally ran away with the circus. Tod lived the dream and traveled with many sideshows, carnivals, and circuses. Some of Browning’s jobs included being a talker for the The Wild Man of Borneo, performed a burial act as “The Living Corpse,” and performed as a clown with Ringling Brothers Circus. Browning later worked in vaudeville as an actor, dancer, and magician.
Browning may have left the circus, but the circus never left him. Many of Browning’s films dealt with the sideshow in fascinating, often macabre ways. No doubt due to his eXXXperience, his circus pictures has an air of authenticity to them. Browning would hire actual sideshow performers, giving audiences a genuine taste of the beautifully unique side of show business. Of all his circus pictures, his most beloved is 1932’s Freaks, a cl-ass-sick of ho-rror sinema that’s as powerful today as it was back then.
Browning often collaborated with site favorite Lon Chaney, resulting in some of the best work in both men’s careers. Between 1919 and 1929, Browning and Chaney made 10 films together, most dealing with misfits and the bizarre. Among their films was London After Midnight, the legendary lost vampire film that still fascinates and eludes horror aficionados. While they made many great films together, our favorite is 1927’s The Unknown and we recommend it to anyone who wants an introduction to their peculiar style,

The Unknown, in its entirety: 

Beyond the circus pictures, Browning made other brilliant contributions to the ho-rror genre. In 1931, he directed Dracula with Bela Lugosi. The film was originally intended to be another Chaney/Browning collaboration, but Chaney sadly passed away before it could happen. However, the film we got is one of the most important American ho-rror films ever made and launched the career of another great macabre movie star. Lugosi and Browning would later sink their teeth into Mark of the Vampire, a remake of the aforementioned London After Midnight. Browning’s final fright film was The Devil Doll, a wonderfully weird picture about a cross-dressing criminal using miniaturized humans to exact his revenge.
Happy Birthday, Tod! You made sinema a circus of ho-rrors! 🙂 xoxo

#MonsterMovieMonday: White Zombie (1932)

Just another Monster Movie Monday here at Kinky Horror, and this one’s a real clas-sick. We’re going all the way back to 1932 disturb the dead and resurrect… White Zombie!

White Zombie is a personal favorite o’ mine and is one of the finest fright flicks to rise from the public domain. It stars Bela “Bringing SeXXXy Drac” Lugosi as Murder Legendre, who is certainly no traditional bokor, but knows how to get the dead movin’. He’s hired by Charles Beaumont (not the Twilight Zone one) to work his wicked witchcraft, although, he knows, it’s strictly taboo. Ol’ Charlie wants him to make the beautiful Madeline his wife, so Murder makes her a zombie! However, Charlie soon learns that trusting a man called “Murder” who controls zombies may not have been the smartest move…

The film is often cited as the first zombie film ever made, but don’t eXXXpect much flesh-eatin’ goodness. What makes this film a true nightmare is its bizarro, hypnotic atmosphere. Sure, it lacks gore, but it’s still pretty darn spoopy! This film puts you in a terrifying trance, as if you were under the control of Murder himself. Speaking of that ghoul, Lugosi’s deliberately stilted performance is brilliantly weird and from a realm different from our own. Murder is certainly not the most endearing of Lugosi roles, but its definitely one of the creepiest.
Oh, Murder… we love that voodoo that you do so well… 🙂

Fall under the spell and watch White Zombie below:

P.S-. A little-known rock band named themselves after this movie… I hope those kids go places. 😉

News Bleed: The “Big Mummy in Little China” Edition

The writer of Aquaman goes swimming with The Creature from the Black Lagoon. 🙂 Deadline

Is The Blob creeping again? Dread Central

Some endings are like people: some shine and some don’t… The producer of The Shining reveals some alternative endings. Entertainment Weekly

The Shin Godzilla VFX team unleashes another terrifying monster… to promote Kitakyushu tourism! 🙂 JAPAN TODAY

Yessir, you best believe I ordered me the Big Trouble in Little China board game!  io9 – Gizmodo

Bela Lugosi’s “haunted” home is now on sale! Bloody Disgusting

Get a better look at the horror of The Mummy with this new trailer! 🙂 Rolling Stone

#FBF: The “When Betty Met Drac” Edition

Ho-wdy, Ho-rror Ho-mies! Is just me or does cartoon flapper eXXXtraordinaire Betty Boop have a thing for the spooky-cool side of (after)life? She’s always running into demons, ghosts, weirdos, and other creep-peeps I really dig! In this Hollywood on Parade short from 1933, Betty really amps up the fright factor by running into Bela Lugosi, the king of Ho-llywood Ho-rror! The short starts innocuously enough with a Hollywood wax museum… then ends with Dracula (presumably) killing Betty Boop! Ho-ly Heck! Before his unholy deed, Dracula utters what may be his greatest quote ever: “You have booped your last boop!” I bet Bram Stoker is kicking himself for not adding that to his novel! 😉

For the greatest crossover in film history, check out the video below:

P.S.: There is some controversy over who is portraying Ms. Boop in that clip. Some claim it’s original “Boop-a-Doop” girl Helen Kane, others say it’s the famous Mae Questal, and still others say it’s Bonnie Poe. We here at Kinky Horror like to think it’s Ms. Poe… if only because it’s awesome to say “Poe” faced Dracula!

 

A comparison between Bonnie Poe and the Betty Boop in the short.

Black Friday (1940)

(In what is quite clearly an act of blasphemy, Mr. Dr. Anton Phibes dared submit a Friday the 13th post that is not remotely related to Mah Boo!! After fighting the urge to machete some sense into him, I decided to take the high route and reward the lad’s courage…But don’t let it happen again, Phibes!!! 😉 xoxo)

Happy Friday the 13th to all you wonderful fright fiends out there!

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Considered by many to be the unluckiest day on the calendar, Friday the 13th’s dreadful reputation has excited the imagination and aroused the superstition of many for eons. For horror lovers, this is the time to honor masked maniac Jason Voorhees and the Friday the 13th film series. As fond as I am of the inimitable Mr. Voorhees, I feel I have very little to say that hasn’t been said countless times before. Jason is a very popular ghoul and is so frequently discussed on this site and others that any thoughts I have would be simply redundant. Just know that I love that camp creep dearly and will always watch one of his fright features on this most unlucky of days. However, for this particular Friday the 13th, I thought I’d spotlight something a little different…

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Black Friday (1940) is the last Universal picture to feature both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. The main action of the film takes place on Friday the Thirteenth and concerns Dr. Ernest Sovac (played by Karloff), a brilliant neurosurgeon who transplants the brain of dead gangster Red Cannon (Stanley Ridges) into the body of Prof, George Kingsley (also Ridges) in an attempt to save his life. When Sovac learns that the deceased criminal  had $500,000 in ill-gotten gains stashed away, he plans to probe that inform from Kingsley when he recovers, surmising that his new brain must retain the knowledge of its previous owner. Unfortunately, the operation had the unexpected side effect of completely transforming the kindly professor into the murderous gangster. With a new body and a mind on fire, Red Cannon is now free to exact his revenge on those who have wronged him.

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This cast of this particular picture played a bit musical chairs. Bela Lugosi was originally cast as Dr. Sovac and Boris Karloff as Kingsley/Cannon, Instead, Karloff played Sovac, Stanley Ridges played Kingsley/Cannon, and Lugosi ended up in the somewhat minor role of gangster Eric Marnay, once again getting the short end of stick as often did with Universal. While the exact reason for this is unknown, the most common (and most likely) explanation is that Karloff was great the kindly Kingsley, but horrendous as the hardboiled, Cagney-like Cannon, so he was recast as the mad doctor. Lugosi is given very little do, to the point where he doesn’t even get to share a scene with Karloff! Karloff is fine, but the grand surprise of this picture is Stanley Ridges. Ridges was generally a secondary player, but in this rare leading performance, he was pretty darn terrific! Pulling a Jekyll-and-Hyde, Ridges is not only convincing as both personalities, but nearly unrecognizable without even relying on heavy make-up! The transformation is wonderfully subtle and relies almost entirely on Ridges.BlackFriday8

Happy Friday the 13th and may you have the best of luck.

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Fangs for the Memories (aka Happy Birthday, Bela!)

(Submitted by Anton Phibes, on behalf of all of us Kinky Ho-s…HAPPY BIRTHDAY BELA!!!! 🙂 xoxox)

belabdayToday we remember Mr. Bela Lugosi on what would’ve been his 133 birthday.

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Mr. Lugosi, as I’m sure the lot of you know, was one of great icons of the golden age of horror and the most iconic Dracula to have ever risen from the grave. So inextricably tied to our modern conception of The Count is Lugosi that nearly every pop culture parody or tribute to the Vampiric Prince of Darkness speaks with an extravagant Hungarian accent. To many, Chaney is the only man behind The Phantom‘s mask, Karloff is the one true monster of Frankenstein, and Lugosi is the only Dracula with bite. No matter who sports the cape, Lugosi’s Dracula is the one we will all remember and has earned his place as one of History’s Greatest (Movie) Monsters.

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For those who have tasted the blood of Dracula and crave more, I recommend Return of the Vampire from 1944. Our Dark Lord Lugosi plays Armand Tesla, a vampire not far removed from Dracula. Curiously, this was only the second (arguably, the third) time Lugosi, an actor so very associated with Dracula and the Undead, has portrayed a vampire on the Silver Scream. This is also one of the few straightforward vampire films of the era, long before Hammer would open the mausoleum to a plethora of delightfully cheap Fang Features.

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Though not a Universal Picture, this film does fit in with the kind of fare the House of Monsters was doing at the time. I would be lying if I said I thought this was one of the finest Vampire films of all time, but I do have certain soft spot for it. With beautifully gothic sets, fog so plentiful is seems to seep from the screen, and a werewolf thrown in, it almost feels like a Horror’s Greatest Hits package and what fan of creepy creatures and gothic thrills could resist that? There is a kind of magic here only a good gothic fairytale can cast.

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Speaking of that werewolf, he’s one of the very few werewolves to speak like a Human! Not particularly frightful, but certainly memorable in his own right. Imagine if Renfield was a sideshow wolfboy and you have the werewolf here. Of course, the true star is our Birthday Boy, Bela. Lugosi is truly in fine form here, despite given very little memorable dialogue to work with. He commands the screen, like Tesla commands his lycanthropic lackey. With his always musical delivery and intense stare, Lugosi once again proves he is king of all vampires.

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Happy Birthday, Bela. Like a true Creature of the Night, you shall never die.

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