August 18th, 2010

Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Public Domain Horror "the Phanton of the Opera"

Cinema Historians have debated Lon Chaney Sr.'s impact upon "The Phantom of the Opera." The film thrives when Chaney is near and the Phantom dominates the final half of the film, with villainy that inspired generations of bad guys. Think of Bela Lugosi or a James Bond master villain or Darth Vader and see the bloodline from Erik the Phantom of the Opera. The Phantom's demise sets up a hook for a potential sequel, Erik is that formidable.

For the scenes without The Phantom, this 93 minute film drags thanks to Rubert Julian's stage direction. After a fistfight, Chaney directed his own scences and the rest is cinematic history.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Public Domain Horror ~ "Indestructible Man"

In December 1946, Lon Chaney Jr. was released from his contract from Universal Studios, thus ending his hey day as a tortured leading man. With the exception of "Bud Abbott & Lou Costello meet Frankenstein," Chaney Jr. made a living portraying small character roles and thugs. When one sees Chaney first appearance behind a jail cell, one sees an actor who aged much in 10 years since "House of Frankenstein."

Released the same year as "The Searchers," "The King and I" and "Around the World in 80 Days," "Indestructible Man" looks like a black & white episode of "Dragnet," complete with lead detective's narration. Chaney Jr. portrays the condemned killer, "Butcher" Benton. Like Lon Chaney Jr.'s role as Dynamo Dan the Electric Man from "Man Made Monster," Butcher is executed but is brought back to life by two familiar character actors from television, Joe ("McHale's Navy's" Admiral Binginham) Flynn and Bob ("Superman's" Inspector Henderson). At 71 minutes this film does drag, but like his father's scenes in "The Phantom of the Opera," Chaney Jr. makes "Indestructible Man" interesting view of a traditional monster in a modern time.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Public Domain Horror "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"

Victor Hugo's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is a gothic novel with a touch of Hans Christian Anderson's steadfast tin soldier. The Hunchbacked hero, Quasimodo gave his love to a gypsy girl during the unrest resulting in the French Revolution. Victor Hugo's book takes on a tragic dimension and a morbid, but satisfying conclusion. It his interesting to note how each generation that remade "The Hunchback" has changed their ending to show the sign of the times. Heck, in 1996 Walt Disney animation made a musical out of Victor Hugo's gothic romance.

Universal Studios went all out to produce an epic staring their Master Character Creator, Lon Chaney." Chaney's herculean efforts as a sympathetic monster set higher standard for performance on film for future Quasimodos like Charles Laughton, Anthony Quinn and Sir Anthony Hopkins. This 1923 version has visual power that could only be reproduced today with computerized CGI and green screens. To the distributors credit, much attention was paid to the aural elements of this silent movie, especially with the use of sound effects and appropriate musical score. Lon Chaney's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is an epic not to be missed.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Public Domain Horror "Nosferatu"

In this time of romantic pretty boy vampires featured in "Twilight" and "True Blood," "Nosferatu" is a reminder about how ugly a blood sucker can be. For those following Guillermo Del Toro's "Strain" trilogy, on can see the visual influence of Max Schreck's "Nosferatu." One wishes that if universal Studios followed the visual direction of this 1922 film, Bela Lugosi's original "Dracula" would have dated better.