The Phantom of 42nd Street

The Phantom of 42nd Street.
Producers Releasing Corp. 1945.

Before watching the movie:

Sometimes I just want a pulpy mystery. And it doesn’t hurt if it’s closer to one hour than one and a half or two because I’m busy.

I know I’ve seen the name Alan Mowbray around, but I couldn’t place him to anything specific. Seems like someone I should know.

I wonder if audiences outside New York are supposed to get the reference to 42nd street being a cross street with Broadway (something I only know because of the poster) and presumably a place where there are theaters. My initial guess would be that 42nd street would be far enough out of town that it’s not a very nice theater, but New York is gigantic next to the cities I’ve gotten a feel for, so maybe it’s in the heart of the theater district. I don’t know. I’m not a New Yorker, much like most of the people who would be watching this.

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The Ghoul

The Ghoul.
Gaumont British Pictures 1933.

Before watching the movie:

It never really seemed consistent to me what kind of supernatural entity a ghoul is. I kind of settled on a subtype of ghost that’s more corporeal than a spectre. I looked up the definition and it wasn’t very helpful. “A monstrous humanoid associated with graveyards and consuming human flesh” is broad enough to include zombies, only this is from pre-Islamic Arabia instead of from Haitian Vodou.

In this movie, Boris Karloff comes back from the dead to get revenge on those who wronged him, but I don’t think he eats flesh, just strangles or snaps necks or something. I expect a lot of overwrought tension that comes off as corny today.

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The Old Dark House (1963)

The Old Dark House.
Columbia Pictures 1963.

Before watching the movie:

I learned of this movie from a preshow for some spooky movie at a theater where they play classic videos along the theme of the movie during seating. A horror comedy starring… Tom Poston? The quirky old neighbor on like a dozen 80s/90s sitcoms? In a slasher comedy of errors? Well, why not? For one thing, apparently this is a remake nobody asked for, but I’m not burdened by the expectations of the 1932 movie, so I’ll probably enjoy it more than it was enjoyed at the time.

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Fright Night

Fright Night. Vistar Films 1985.

Before watching the movie:

I somehow got the sense that there’s a whole blend of spooky stuff going on in this movie to the point that it might be an anthology movie or at least have an episodic progression. Turns out it’s just “there’s a vampire next door”. I guess the broad title comes from the horror show that the main character likes to watch that he eventually recruits the host from after nobody else believes him.

I’ve also gotten the impression this is really campy in just the right way, but it doesn’t seem to actually be considered a comedy, so I think I probably know what kind of tone to expect, but I thought this was a completely different movie until earlier today.

After watching the movie:

Charley Brewster is obsessed with two things: the late night horror movie show Fright Night, hosted by Peter Vincent the former star of cheesy vampire movies, and getting his girlfriend of over a year Amy to do more than kiss with him. He notices a coffin being carried into the basement of the house next door, and the next day sees a woman entering that house, and later sees the neighbor in the window brandish fangs and begin to bite her. Charley sees her appear on the news the next day as the second killing in town that week. After a failed attempt to get the police to intervene, Charley realizes he’s tipped his hand and now the vampire, “Jerry”, will be coming for him. Charley tries to solicit Peter Vincent’s help, but Vincent dismisses him too. Concerned with Charley’s obsession, Amy and their friend “Evil” Ed pay Vincent to help them prove to Charley that Jerry isn’t a vampire, but Vincent gets spooked off when, after Jerry passes the staged tests, Vincent sees that Jerry has no reflection in a mirror.

The first half of the movie seems very disconnected from the title, since Vincent only appears on TV and Charley is completely alone in his knowledge of Jerry’s secret. Even though this isn’t much more than 90 minutes, it felt like it was an hour of Charley alone and then an hour of Charley with his friends and Vincent. Eventually it comes to the point where it feels like it’s been building to make the title meaningful, but for a long time, it seemed like an afterthought title.

When I read that the horror host’s name was “Peter Vincent”, my immediate thought was that he would be a legally distinct echo of Vincent Price, but Roddy McDowall completely removed any impression of Price from my mind. He has an entirely different take on playing a former B-horror hero.

Jerry Dandridge seems to be an early step in modernizing vampire depictions. There’s a visible line running from him to the characters in Interview with The Vampire to the Twilight vampires. He’s aggressively normal, at least until his illusion slips. Charismatic in a modern sensibility. And they do take advantage of the R rating to demonstrate his seductive abilities. But I don’t think there’s any name that strikes less of a “vampire” chord than “Jerry Dandridge”.

This is just a little short of the true classic quality, but I can definitely see its merit as a cult classic, and it’s not surprising there’s an extensive franchise underneath it. The charm is there, there’s an inventiveness (or reinventiveness) to it, but it doesn’t quite have the polish it could have.

The Creation of the Humanoids

The Creation of the Humanoids.
Genie Productions 1962.

Before watching the movie:

The log line that I read said something about robots putting humans in immortal synthetic bodies so they don’t go extinct, which sounds nice of them and I don’t see how this gets spun as a horror movie.

A little more in-depth description refers to humans getting entirely too dependent on the robots and factions trying to keep the robots from becoming “too human” and taking over, which sounds like the kind of allegory that robots as a science fiction concept were invented from.

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From Noon Till Three

From Noon Till Three.
United Artists 1976.

Before watching the movie:

I’ve probably seen Charles Bronson in things before, but I don’t really recall him, and I don’t seem to have a tag for him. He is playing very against type in this movie, but I don’t really have a bearing on what that is other than “macho”.

I’m also not really clear on what this is about, since every summary I’ve seen seems to pick a different thread to focus on. There’s a bank robber who leaves his gang, there’s a widow whose story becomes a famous book, and it all starts with a life-changing three hours they spend together, and this is in some way a comedy. I hope I can keep my synopsis coherent.

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Some Kind of Hero

Some Kind of Hero.
Paramount Pictures 1982.

Before watching the movie:

The first brief summations I read for this just say that the character is a veteran having a hard time coming home and getting into “trouble”. Which also describes First Blood. A slightly more involved summary mentioned that he ends up in a criminal heist for the mob, which I can certainly see being played for laughs or drama, and in fact, the book this is based on was a serious drama, but this is a dramedy because the studio insisted that Richard Pryor do comedic scenes. I think it will be interesting to see Pryor do as much drama as the suits will allow him to.

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Three Husbands

Three Husbands. Gloria Films 1951.

Before watching the movie:

The premise as I’ve seen it summarized sounds like it could be just a framing device. A recently deceased prankster’s final wish on the afterlife’s doorstep is to watch his three poker buddies’ reactions to receiving letters from him stating that he’s had an affair with all three of their wives. They can’t even be sure if it’s the truth or one last prank. It sounds like the prankster could set the scene for us and then drop out, or mainly appear in flashbacks, but mostly this seems to be a bowl of jealously-fueled comedy arguing.

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Spirited Away

Spirited Away
(Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi). Studio Ghibli 2001.

Before watching the movie:

I don’t know anything about this movie except that it seems to pretty consistently be considered the best Studio Ghibli movie. And I recall the title refers to something about the character being stuck in a place of spirits. I’ve seen most of Kiki’s Delivery Service, but that’s all of Ghibli I’ve seen despite having several friends and former roommates who have extensive collections.

I rarely go into movies as cold as this. Usually I have descriptions from boxes or streaming platforms, but with this one, I just decided “we’re going to watch this movie everyone loves”.

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Mystery of the 13th Guest

Mystery of the 13th Guest. Monogram Pictures 1943.

Before watching the movie:

What intrigues me most about this story is that it’s about returning to the case 13 years after the presumed crime happened. The girl’s father invited 13 people to a party and died suddenly shortly thereafter, and now his will has requested that she return to the house and find the truth.

I don’t expect a great masterpiece, but uncovering clues that long after the crime was committed will probably be interesting.

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