Saturday, October 13, 2007

Grampa's Monster Movies

My day today, in a word: ugh.

At the very least, on a positive note, I can say that it is finally feeling like fall in the city.

Too bad I feel a little bit like I'm falling.

Last night's selection was not per se, but rather "Grampa's Monster Movies," an hour-long collection of trailers for classic Universal horror movies, hosted by "Munsters" star 'Grampa' Al Lewis. In shot-on-video segments, Grampa appears inbetween sets of trailers to make corny jokes and introduce the segments. He says things like,"I like pasta and bones" and "My favorite day- that's every day! I always start it off with blood and coffee." He also talks to the offscreen "Igor" and sings "Some Enchanted Evening." Based of references to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and "Bad," and the general production value, I suspect this was made sometime around 1989 or 1990.

In addition to his most famous, career-defining role on "The Munsters," Al Lewis starred on the earlier TV comedy," Car 54, Where Are You?" He also had smaller roles in such classic films as "They Shoot Horses Don't They," with Jane Fonda, and "They Might Be Giants," with George C. Scott (both are personal favorites on mine). Lewis ran for governor of New York in 1998 as a member of the Green Party. He died last year at the age of 83.

The collection of trailers in this program is pretty enjoyable, certainly full of classics, but you also get some more obscure titles here as well (there were even a few that I must admit to having never heard of). Among them are: "House of Frankenstein," "House of Dracula," "Son of Dracula," "Dracula's Daughter," "Dracula" (with Lugosi, re-release trailer), "The Invisible Man Returns," "Invisible Agent," "Invisible Woman," "The Invisible Ray," "Frankenstein" (with Karloff, again the re-release), "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man," "Bride of Frankenstein," "Ghost of Frankenstein," "Phantom of the Opera" (color version, with Nelson Eddy), "The Climax" (with Karloff. This is a color film, something touted in the trailer, yet oddly enough the trailer itself is in black-and-white. Interestingly, this trailer also advertises Karloff as the star of "Arsenic and Old Lace," of which he only starred in the play, not the film), "Werewolf of London," "The Mystery of Marie Roget," "Murders in the Rue Morgue," "Flesh and Fantasy," "The Wolf Man," "The Mummy," "The Mummy's Hand," "The Mummy's Curse," "The Black Cat" (with Basil Rathbone), "The Cat Creeps," "Black Friday" and "Horror Island."

Most all of these films start some combination of Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr. and John Carradine.

While overall this tape is pretty entertaining and far from taxing at only and hour long, it's not as good as some similar tapes that were made available during the 80s and 90s. You'd do well to seek out "Horrible Horror," hosted by Zacherle, the "cool ghoul," a former New York area late night horror show host and the singer of the novelty hit "Dinner with Drac." Zacherle's tape draws on a wider array of sources than the Al Lewis tapes does, and includes, in addition to trailers, scenes and outtakes from various (public domain) films. Zacherle is also quite funny, slightly less corny than Lewis, though still pretty corny in his own particularly endearing way. Also of interest is "Film House Fever," a well-produced 1986 trailer and clip compilation video hosted by a then-unknown Steve Buscemi and his comedy partner Mark Boone Jr. (an established character actor in his own right these days). "Film House Fever" features mainly clips from H.G. Lewis movies, as well as a few more recent Roger Corman productions like "Suburbia" and "The Warrior & the Sorceress," a "Conan" knock-off starring David Carradine. Why can't he be the governor of California?

Unfortunately, of these three, only "Grampa's Monster Movies" is available on DVD, though I'm sure used VHS copies of the other two aren't especially hard to find. Both were sold as budget tapes throughout the 1990s. As far as I know, all three of these tapes were produced in the NYC area.

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