Underneath the opening credits is an image of something dark and murky. It is revealed to be a mud puddle in the courtyard of a seedy boarding school for boys just outside of Paris. The dark and murkiness establishes a motif and sets the tone for the story to follow, a tale of mental as well as physical abuse, a plot of murder gone wrong, and all the diabolical intrigue that follows. Much of the cinematic imagery mirroring these elements consist of dimly lit interiors, long shadows and grey exteriors.
Reaching into international film history, one can see the influences for les Diaboliques. A true autéur, director/screenwriter Henri-Georges Clouzot exercises a masterful control of the extreme darks and lights which hark back to the German Expressionism (with surrealism touches) of works like Cabinet of Caligari (1920), Nosferatu (1922) and Warning Shadows (vt, Schatten - Eine nächtliche Halluzination, 1923). The movie’s key shock scenes are the drowning of the abusive husband, his ’dead’ body being transported from the apartment to the swimming pool and his eventual rise from the dead - with totally blank eyes. This is all accomplished in the truest sense of film noir intermingled with heavy doses of le Grande Guinol. The title is translated as either ‘The Devils’ or ‘The Fiends.’ All involved in the diabolical plot can be defined as devils or fiends, for sure. With the retitling for the US release, Diabolique, there is an emphasis on an intangible plot element; something diabolical is going on here. In either interpretation, the title works.
The thematic element of placing the setting at a boy’s boarding school, that has definitely seen better days, is reminiscent of Jean Vigo’s Zero de Condiute (Zero For Conduct, 1933). As pre-teen and teenaged schoolboys do, they laugh, joke around, complain, and yet are reluctantly obedient to their adult supervisors. This is played out among these same adults who are experiencing emotional turmoil. While plotting the intrigue that would go with a murder and it’s sinister aftermath, they must function in their every day routines as educators and administrators.
This play between what we, the audience, are shown, what we are told, and, consequently, what we are led to believe is the essence of the suspense of the story. Along with the fragile Christine and stoic Nicole, all present are also victims of the abusive and insulting headmaster Michel. If ever a character in a story was being groomed for elimination, it’s this slick, chain-smoking lothario: students and staff are compelled to dine on bad fish; Christina is humiliated by being forced to swallow this very same bad fish with everyone looking on. Yet, being adolescents, the students rebel by ending up not eating their meal, instead using it for an impromptu food fight. Rebellion is definitely in the works, but it’s not only the students who rebel.
Because of her weak heart, Christina’s physical state is established early on as a ‘petite ruin.’ The question as to whether or not she and Nicole truly managed to murder Michel, or if he’s ‘risen from the dead,’ causes much on-screen tension. Two interesting exchanges containing ‘death’ lines occur in les Diaboliques.
Christina to Nicole: “If only I could die and not see him any more.”
Michel: “Why don’t you dear? Go and die. We‘ll bury you, and good riddance”
Christina and Nicole arguing whether their victim Michael is truly dead:
Nicole: “There’s an explanation for everything, there are no miracles”
Christina: “Each time I shut my eyes - I think I see him come in.
Nicole: “Will you be quiet! He must be in a pretty state by now.”
Christina: “If he’s dead!”
Nicole: “I’ve seen dead people before. Michel is very dead.”
An evil fairy, proudly proclaiming she's "The Mistress of All Evil," she relishes her dark charms and heart-curdling magical surprises like fire-breathing dragons and lingering curses.
She may be a cartoon, but she's a sexy, bewitching one at that. Those alluring sinister eyes, that dominatrix outfit, ruby red lips against pale green skin, and an attitude for graceful wickedness make Maleficent a formidable villainess.
Tim Burton thinks so, too, which is why he's been working on a movie to call all her own.
"I still want my money back," insisted
Zombos. He gets like that when we see a movie he doesn't like.
"Fine, then," I relented. Here's your
six dollars. But I'm not paying for the popcorn and Junior Mints. You ate most
of those anyway." Zombos folded the money and pocketed it, then rushed
back to the concession stand. Probably to buy more Junior Mints. While I waited
for him, I thought through my impressions of Catherine Hardwicke's Red
A child's imagination of fairy tale prettiness
infuses everything. Clothes, people, the surrounding medieval forest, it's all
colorful, cheerful, and naively pretty. Clothes are clean and neat, people are
clean and neat, and the village is clean and neat. No Dark Ages grunge or
malaise to be found here. Cindy Evans' television series costuming (the way
rustic villagers in Stargate SG-1 episodes are dressed, for example),
reinforces this lightness. And although snow is falling and winter is upon
them, no one is bundled up against the chill. No frosty-breath comes from
mouths and the ladies' bosoms are bared for spring, especially Valerie's
(Amanda Seyfried). When Grandmother (Julie Christie) gives her the red-hooded
cloak, it's a fashion statement, not a garment to wear because it's cold.
The Village of Daggerhorn has been beset by a
killer wolf for many years, yet the village is happy, a thriving place with
everyone well-adjusted, immaculately groomed, and nattily attired. The forest
is happy with its bright fields of flowers, and the village idiot is happy, and
as pretty and well groomed as everyone else. He doesn't act too idiotic,
either, just enough to be adorably off.
Father Auguste (Lukas Haas) is the only one who
is dour and shows concern. He has sent for the witch and werewolf hunter Father
Solomon (Gary Oldman playing Gary Oldman). Father Solomon's prior experience
with a werewolf left him traveling around in an armored carriage with heavily
armed guards. Arriving in the village, one guard, sitting atop the carriage,
keeps aim with his crossbow, sweeping it back and forth as if he expects
trouble any second. It looks pretty silly. Solomon also travels with a large,
hollow, bronze elephant, with a door in one side. He locks people he doesn't
like in it and lights a fire underneath to torture them.
This is as medieval as it gets.
Before Father Solomon arrives, Valerie's sister
is killed by the wolf, sending the men off to hunt it down. They find a gray
wolf, kill it, bring its head back, and show it to Father Solomon, claiming
he's not needed. He disagrees and gives them the standard rundown on
werewolfism. They ignore him and hold a rave party instead (or what would be
the equivalent of one, I’d guess, for medieval times). The computerized
werewolf shows up, chews up the scenery and townsfolk, and speaks to Valerie
before he leaves. She notices his big brown human eyes as he tells her to run
away with him or else he'll put the bite on the entire village.
Valerie now has a difficult decision to make.
Run away with the darkly handsome, tousle haired, woodcutter Peter (Shiloh
Fernandez), or stay and marry the handsome, tousle haired blacksmith Henry (Max
Irons), or run away with a real stud, the tousle haired werewolf with big brown
eyes. There is no tension or suspense produced by her difficult decision:
Hardwicke's tone is non-committal, David Johnson's story is vapid, and
Seyfried's performance is overshadowed by her hooded cloak. I had a more
rewarding time at the concession stand making up my mind between Junior Mints
and Reese's Pieces.
The romance turns into a whodunit as Valerie
stares into people's eyes, wondering who (maybe whom?) the werewolf is. When
the revelation comes it's like an ending from an Agatha Christie mystery.
Despite its all star cast, and the return of
Boris Karloff to the fold, the movie was the silliest and dullest of the entire
series. In its non-stop and methodical rushing through stock horror sequences,
it approached the standardization of the "B" Western, and even lacked
the kind of bravura dialogue that at least can provide a pseudo-Gothic veneer. (William
K. Everson, Classics of the Horror Movie)
pans House of Frankenstein, this
second monster rally from Universal's production treadmill is not silly or
dull, and steps lively through its "stock horror sequences" of
brain-swapping mad science, murderous hunchbacked assistants, and star-crossed
lovers, all with a patina of Gothic-noir finesse. It's slick-slacks, neatly
pressed and sharply creased, and while it does not dwell deep in meaning, House
of Frankenstein remains a
well-directed, entertainingly acted, and visually appealing Universal-style
Carradine's portrayal of Dracula is another matter.
Except for his
glowing, mesmerizing, ring providing most of the vampire's menace—it offers a
glimpse of evil shadows moving furtively in a nightmare world—Carradine's Big
Bandleader accoutrement and eye-pop stare brimming from under a silly, tilted
tophat and short opera cape dandily draped across his shoulders, do their best
to murderlize the spookshow tone entirely. At least Dracula's early demise in
the movie lessens our burden of having to suffer Caradine's ham and corn buffet
for long, and frees Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr) to pine away and lament his
lycanthropic curse, which is really the main storyline anyway.
was banking on the audience appeal for the Frankenstein name, but House
of Frankenstein and the subsequent House
of Dracula are two peas in
a pod, and should have been named House of the Wolf Man and Sublet of the Wolf Man respectively.
Maleva the gypsy
is no where to be found; and the Frankenstein brothers, daughters, and
baronesses are gone, too. The Monster (Glenn Strange) remains; more lifeless than ever in body and spirit,
but still recognizable dressed in those defining neck bolts. Erle C. Kenton's patent leather direction, Hans J. Salter's mood-rich music (along
with Paul Dessau), and the creative
best from the art and set decoration B movie crews with what's at hand all
funnel through a lean filming schedule and penny-pinching budget to stir shadow,
menace, and monsters briskly when the lightning strikes again.
Doctor Gustav Niemann (Boris Karloff) escapes the dark, dank prison cell he's
in, along with the homicidal Daniel (J. Carrol Naish), a hunchback outcast
dreaming of a straight and handsome body. Niemann's incessant raving about
brain transplants, swapping human brains with dog brains, and getting even on
those who locked him up appeals to Daniel, who buys into the bad doctor’s
promise to give him a better body.
And isn’t that what the Frankenstein
franchise has always been about? A yearning to be better at science and
medicine; a yearning for a better existence; a yearning for a better companion;
a yearning for a better brain; and a yearning for a better body?
Daniel follows the
Doctor when a lightning bolt blasts open an escape route for them through their
dark prison’s massive stone walls, hoping Niemann will place his brain into that
better body. As the rain pours down, they chance upon Lampini's (George Zucco)
traveling sideshow of horrors. Lampini's reluctance to take them where they
want to go ends abruptly between Daniel's tightly gripping hands, shown through
a flash of sudden terror in Lampini's eyes, Daniel lurching menacingly closer
with those outstretched hands, and a gurgling cry as Niemann smirks in quiet
With plans for
revenge on those who imprisoned him, and a driving desire to find the life and
death secrets of Frankenstein, Niemann assumes Lampini's name and travels to
Visaria ( or freel free to insert your own village name here since continuity
went out the door with Lampini's body).
Bela Lugosi was originally slated to play
the role of Dracula, but the movie’s shooting schedule was dependent on the
presence of Boris Karloff being released from the stage tour of Arsenic
and Old Lace(1944). Shooting was
delayed, and John Carradine was cast instead of Lugosi, who had a prior
engagement: ironically, playing Karloff's "Jonathan Brewster" role in
another touring company of Arsenic and Old Lace (IMDb entry
on House of Frakenstein).
In the mold of Bride
of Frankenstein's Pretorius, Niemann is a maniacal scientist bent
on one-upping Frankenstein. Brain-swapping becomes modus-operandi, raison d'être, and bargaining
chip for Niemann as he pursues his revenge, first on Burgomeister Hussman (Sig Ruman),
with the help of Count Dracula.
Early drafts of
the story reportedly involved more characters from the Universal Stable,
including the Mummy, The Mad Ghoul, and possibly The Invisible Man (Wikipedia),
but the only monster to remain in Lampini's traveling horror show is Dracula. Curiously,
he is not the vampire late of Whitby Abbey, or even the vampire last seen
burning to ashes in Dracula's Daughter. No
continuity from there to here is intended.
remains of Dracula, with a stake embedded deep into its ribcage, is pure
spookshow dramatics parlayed into a rapidly unfolding and stylish vignette of
terror for Hussman, kicking off Niemann's revenge with a flourish. It begins
with the piecemeal reconstitution of Dracula's body and clothes when Niemann
pulls out the stake in a huff after meeting the Burgomeister. With his threat
of the dreaded stake poised to strike again, and his promise of fealty to the
Lord of the Undead, Niemann convinces Dracula to help him.
succession, Dracula ingratiates himself to Hussman, seduces and hypnotizes Hussman's
Americanized (meaning perky and hip) granddaughter-in-law Rita (the
effervescent Anne Gwynne), turns into a large bat to kill Hussman (done with a
nifty animated transformation capped by a neck attack shown in silhoette), and
is discovered by Hussman's son Karl (Peter Coe) who realizes what's happening
and sounds the alarm to Inspector Arnz (Lionel Atwill).
With the inspector
and his men in hot pursuit on horseback, Dracula, in turn, chases after Niemann
and Daniel as they race away with his coffin in Lampini's wagon. With the
sunrise moments away, Niemann directs Daniel to dump it. Unable to reach his
daytime santuary in time, Dracula is reduced to a skeleton once again. His
hypnotic influence over Rita ends when his ring falls off his boney finger.
directed and succinct in execution, it's still exhilarating and entertaining
with flair, and certainly not the script calamity it's purported to be in many
critical analyses. Carradine projects a more energetic Dracula when he's not
staring with widened eyes or donning his tophat, but he doesn't have Lugosi's
seductive and menacing silent presence, or malevolence
when in motion, which, arguably, could be considered a hindrance to the faster
pace of action here.
Continuing to Visaria, they rest at a Gypsy campsite, where
Daniel comes to the aid of a girl being whipped. He insists they shelter her
and Niemann reluctantly agrees. Daniel's infatuation with the playful Ilonka
(Elena Verdugo) is not returned when she sees his hunchback, making him more
impatient to receive the new body promised to him by Niemann.
And the one he wants is already occupied by
La Maldicion De La Llorona (The Curse of the Crying Woman) lobby cards are unusually subdued in their illustration (for a Mexican horror movie lobby card, that is), and imply a Gothic tone and romantic mood for this story of evil witches, dark spirits, and spooky mansion surprises. These two action-filled picture inserts, on the other hand, cry supernatural terror and woman in peril.
A motif found in the majority of horror movie poster and lobby card artwork for any country: the female victim. The strategic dappling of blood across her ample bosom accentuates the terror of helplessness. I doubt Dungeons of Harrow (1962) brings, as the lobby card states, all the suspense as the major productions of Alfred Hitchcock. I don't think suspense is the key audience attractor here.
Gremlins is a good example of how cute monsters can tie into merchandising the "horror" experience. This British pressbook for the movie is chock full of product tie-ins. The merchandising page (click image to enlarge) mentions items including soft drink concentrates, backpacks, tote bags, t-shirts, jigsaw puzzles, stickers, toys, and more. Who could resist a little Gizmo doll in his little car? Of course, true horror fans prefer Stripe.
Bob at Bobby's Monster Models steps into the closet for a little glue sniffing, kit building, and hobby chat.
What is it about building and painting model kits that's kept you a fan all these years?
At the start, it was all about the beginning of my mid-life crisis. And it was about recuperating from a broken heart. I was 35 years-old. Then I had a couple more bad knocks set me back, and diving into monster models and toy collecting became my escape. I was finding pleasure in rediscovering things I had long since forgotten as a child.
These models take me back to a time when things felt more secure, when I had no worries, when the world was right-side up and not upside-down. My hobby became cathartic. It turned into a tool for healing. And it worked! It became a physical obsession to distract me from other mental obsessions that weren't doing me any good. Now that I've made it through my "dark night", it's just become a passion that I truly enjoy.
How did you learn to build and paint your model kits like a pro?
When I first started, I knew what I wanted to achieve, but had no idea how to get there. I've been an artist, painting and drawing all my life. I knew if I applied that to these models, that hopefully, I'd pull off a decent kit.
I painted my first monster model, since the early 1970's, in 1998. My first 4 or 5 models were my learning curve. I was using paper towels instead of brushes to achieve a dry brush look. It worked to some degree, but I wanted better. Todd McFarlane Productions was releasing fantastically detailed monster toys. I started scooping them all up. I began studying how they were painted. I started surfing for monster models like crazy on the web. Downloading tons of jpg's of painted up kits, studying the strengths and weaknesses of the paint jobs, the colors, the contrasts. What worked, what didn't. Figuring out how to make it better. I had gotten into enamels, which I used as a boy. Acrylics dry too fast. I liked taking my time. But with enamels you do wait a long time between base coats and several rounds of dry bushing.
Another big help were the plastic model forums. I asked lots of questions about painting. I'd post pics of great paint jobs and pick everybody's brains about how they thought it was pulled off. Then I'd go back to my models and try lots of different techniques. I have found that the secret of a great looking monster model is the dry-brushing. And keep that brush dry! Your dry-brushing technique will make or break the model. If you can make your dry brush look like an air brush, then you're set. Or you could just buy an airbrush!
One day I might get an airbrush, but for now, I'm digging the dry brush. Oh, and BTW, I don't do resin kits, just styrene. It's just a choice. Each kit is a challenge. I have no idea how I had the patience to build them as a child. And I've always been a perfectionist, so there's no room for slop or error. The littlest waiver in a painted line and I have to clean it up. I have really high standards when building and painting these things. To me, they are fine art, and I have always had to have an artistic outlet. I work in technical illustration/graphic arts by day, so this is something I do for fun, but I do take it seriously.
P.S. - Lastly, I could never do a kit justice without my magnifying goggles. I have horrid vision!
Do you have a favorite model kit? What makes it your favorite?
That's a hard question to answer. I love all my models equally. They all have a special place in my heart. Hmmmm, if I had to pick one, it would be Sleepy Hollow. That was an awesome kit to build. I was very happy with the way the horse, the base, and Tim Burton's severed head turned out. It's a really creepy model, and it's huge! My runner up would be the Munsters Living Room. Another huge kit, with 4 figures! I like the big diorama-style kits, because not only do you have a monster, but you have his environment, too.
Tell us about your monsterkid years growing up.
At night, when I was young, whenever a scary movie/show came on TV, my parents would tell me "It's time to go to bed". They'd give each other that knowing look, "If we don't turn this program off, we will never get him to go to bed."
I was one of those kids that was put to bed and would keep calling my Mom to come to my room, "I'm scared", and she would ask what I was afraid of, and I could never really pinpoint exactly what was scaring me. I think it was all the snapshots I took in my mind of the tiny glimpses of horror that I was privy to see on TV. I was attracted to the whole genre like a magnet because it was forbidden. And at a young age, if I was told NOT to do something, I instinctively wanted to do it.
Around 6 years-old I was allowed to watch the classics (Frankenstein, Dracula, Creature), we would hang in my basement on Saturday afternoons (lights out/blankets over the windows). When Halloween rolled around, I always had to be a monster, a devil, a grim reaper, or a ghoul.
Around 1970, at 7 years-old, I got into building Aurora monster models. My Mom had taken me over to visit one of her friends, and this woman's son, several years older than me, had monster models sitting around his bedroom, and I was in complete awe. They were scary and I wanted them badly. I wanted to know where he got them, and how I could obtain them. I built a bunch of them.
Eventually, the monster models faded. I blew them up, lit them on fire, and shot them with my BB-gun. You'll have to excuse me while I wipe the tear from my eye.............okay, that's better. So, from there it was horror movies through my teens, and then the inevitable reality...adulthood.
Us monsterkids and toy fans know how difficult it is for family and friends to truly understand our mania.
How do you handle the looks and the knowing nods?
Screw 'em. Politely, of course. That's my philosophy.
It's funny, I've hung out on lots of toy forums, and this question comes up often. I've read about people whose wives/husbands think it's weird they collect monster toys; guys who were asked to part with their collections; guys who were told they needed to "grow up". That's sad. I love my hobby! I've never been ashamed of it. I'm sure there are people out there who think "eww, how creepy", but to me it's more like, "here's an adult that can still connect with the kid inside". And that's a great thing, because there are alot of adults out there who do not know how to have fun.
I believe our bodies are nothing more than vessels for our souls. Just because the body ages, doesn't mean the being itself has to vanquish youthful interests. Childlike innocence is what keeps our hearts pure. Am I going off topic? Where were we?
Oh yeah, my family and friends think it's a very cool hobby. When they step into my toy asylum, they are usually overwhelmed and quite amazed. So much to look at. It's sensory overload! People are starting to tell me I need to open a toy store. It's that bad (or is it good??) Usually, the folks that find it "strange" are folks that have "folksy" hobbies, more puritanical views, or they just plain out cannot deal with horror movies (the freak-out factor).
Another interesting thing is when I'm at check out in a toy store, they always ask me if I want a gift receipt. They just assume because I'm an adult, that the toy could not possibly be for me, and I always say, "Nope. This toy's for me." And they always smile...and I smile back. I have never been a conformist. I've always marched to the beat of my own drum. I've been single for a number of years now, and the last time one of my sister's saw my toyroom, her comment was, "We really need to find you someone." I laughed.
When you have an "extreme" hobby you can't always expect compliments. Bah! When I'm old and gray, I plan on being a very eccentric toy collector. I just hope I can find someone that will carry the torch, and cherish what I spent a lifetime collecting.
You obviously believe in the dictum, He Who Dies With the Most Toys Wins. What do you like to collect?
I'm all over the place with my toy collection. Some things I buy for investment and some things I buy for me. When I first got into it, my goal was to try and track down all my old toys that got thrown out growing up (Major Matt Mason, Marx miniature playsets, toys and games like Green Ghost, Kabala, Battling Tops, Fang Bang, Ants in the Pants, Spirograph, etc). Ebay loved me and I was addicted.
For awhile there I literally had a package in front of my door almost every night when I got home. It was like Christmas 365 days a year. It got very expensive. Eventually, I got to the point where I had to pick a genre, and since I had fallen in love with the old Aurora monsters again, I naturally picked monsters.
So now, I mainly collect monsters. Recently, I picked up the new Mego-style Frankenstein and Wolfman from Diamond, and I also recently obtained the Gremlin and Kanamit "Twilight Zone" figures from Bif Bang Pow! And I'm always up for any truly weird/odd/creepy/strange toy...I love my Zombie Hamster. My 80 year-old Dad bought me the new Exorcist boxset from NECA, and an Elvira figure this past Christmas.
I must admit though, I still have a weakness for some non-monster toys. Four Horsemen just reinvented the Outer Spacemen from the 1960's - I had to have them. I inventoried my collection in January, on an Excel spreadsheet, and found I am the proud parent of over 1500 toys, figures, games and accouterments.
What influenced you to showcase your monstrous hobby at Bobby's Monster Models?
Back in 2000, I was working for a small ad agency, on the print side of the business. We had hit a slow period during summer and I asked my boss if he'd mind me trying my hand at web. He let me build my first monster model site. I had a younger guy sitting next to me that helped me set up my page templates. The site was very dark, like the one I have now, but it had a more "glow-in-the-dark-haunted-fun-house" feel to it. It was pretty neat for my first site. I had sound bites buried in all the pages of lines from famous horror flicks.
I left there in 2001 for a job drawing in 3D, completely forgot how to run the web software (Dreamweaver), and couldn't find anyone to update my site. In 2005, I got laid off from the 3D job, and needed to find work. Every prospective employer wanted someone with web experience and I needed to get my portfolio on the web for quick review by a future boss. I ended up taking a college night class in Dreamweaver, on building websites. I did well, and after getting my portfolio up (and landing a new job) I decided it was time to do a brand new monster model site. I was proud of the kits and wanted to show them to the world again.
I put my current site up in 2008. The site is growing and slightly morphing in how I handle the individual model pages. I just started using "Lightbox", so it's going to be alot easier to add lots more photos now instead of just a few, or even just one. The new Dr. Deadly page is an example. No more thumbnails. My site isn't constantly updated. It all depends when I feel like building. I took this past winter off. I like to spray my base coats out in the hot sun. I do plan on adding assorted, related monster pages to the site over time. You'll have to dig for stuff though, like my Exorcist page, which makes surfing into a site fun. Recently, I moved, so I am getting ready to add another Toy Asylum page to showcase the new toy set-up. That's coming soon. And I have a new kit in the works...just waiting for the warm weather to kick in so I can spray paint outside.