Movie Meals to Cure the Thanksgiving Blues


"Maybe I should just serve myself?"  ---the Monster (Peter Boyle) tries unsuccessfully to have some soup served to him by the Blind Hermit (Gene Hackman) in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974).

“Maybe I should just serve myself?” —the Monster (Peter Boyle) tries unsuccessfully to have some soup served to him by the Blind Hermit (Gene Hackman) in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974).

THANKSGIVING – Movie Meals for the Birds


Michael Arruda



It’s Thanksgiving week here in the United States, that holiday where we get together with our families and pause to reflect on what we’re thankful for this year, remembering as we do so the Pilgrims from 1620 who began the tradition so many centuries ago.  Okay, most of us don’t remember that far back, but that’s the idea. 


What this really means for most of us today is a day off, a day to spend with family, eat lots of food, especially the traditional roast turkey, and watch NFL football games.  Not a bad day all around.


Of course, if you’re like me, no matter how happy the holidays are supposed to be, for some reason or other, melancholy seeps in.  It could be something specific and immediate, like an argument with a family member, or it could be something more long term, like mourning the loss of a loved one, or looking back at a year— or years— that really have been a struggle.


Believe me, I’ve been there, and sometimes it’s difficult to shake off that feeling of melancholy, even when surrounded by family. 


So, with that in mind, on this Thanksgiving week, if you find yourself down and out for whatever reason, remember, when these things happen, you’re not alone.  No one is immune from the blues.  In fact, some folks have it a lot worse, especially if they’re in a horror movie.


Here are some folks whose meals didn’t turn out so well, guaranteed to make you thankful that you’re not sitting in the room with them.


Take a look:


DR JEKYLL & MR. HYDE (1941) – Dr. Jekyll (Spencer Tracy) tries to explain his theory of good and evil to his dinner companions but ends up getting chastised and laughed at, not to mention it happens in front of his fiancé.  Pass the humble pie!  No thanks, I’ll just drink my Mr. Hyde potion for a nightcap, thank you very much!


DRACULA (1931) – Dracula (Bela Lugosi) prepares dinner for his guest Renfield (Dwight Frye) and offers him some very old wine.  Dude, Renfield, ask for the check and run.


KING KONG (1933) – Kong munches on some natives as he rampages through the village searching for his dinner date, Ann Darrow (Fay Wray).  Yummy!


JAWS (1975) – Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) gets drunk, Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) asks to eat a plate of leftovers, and Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary) embarrasses herself by saying to Hooper, “Martin tells me you’re into sharks.”


PSYCHO (1960) – Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) invites Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) to a small dinner in his back room and discusses his mother and his taxidermy hobby.  All in all, it’s a pretty successful dinner, so much so that Marion feels pretty good about herself, so good in fact that she returns to her room to relax and take a shower—-.


DRACULA- PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966) – Dracula (Christopher Lee) has been dead for ten years, but his servant has kept his castle open for guests— gee, what a nice guy!  When four guests do arrive, they are impressed by the dead Count’s hospitality, and they offer him a toast over dinner.  Before the night is over, one said guest will have his throat slit, and his blood will be used to resurrect the Count.  No one ever said a Hammer Film was subtle. 


THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) – The Frankenstein monster (Boris Karloff) is served bread and wine by his new friend, the kind blind man, but the moment is short-lived when two hunters happen upon them and spoil the party.  For my money, this is still one of the saddest moments in horror cinema history.  Leave the friggin monster alone, already!


YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974) – In Mel Brook’s hilarious parody of the Universal Frankenstein series, the Frankenstein Monster (Peter Boyle) attempts to enjoy dinner, but his blind man friend (Gene Hackman) pours the soup onto his lap, breaks his mug of wine, and lights his thumb on fire instead of his cigar.  With friends like this—.


ALIEN  (1979) – The crew of the Nostromo is having a dandy old time over dinner, that is, until a baby alien decides to burst from Kane’s (John Hurt) chest.  Rolaid, anyone?


Have a monstrously fun Thanksgiving!







HORROR OF DRACULA Restoration – The “Mina Sequence” – A Follow-up Post


Dracula (Christopher Lee) puts the bite on Mina (Melissa Stribling) in another image from the restored "Mina" scene from HORROR OF DRACULA (1958).

Dracula (Christopher Lee) puts the bite on Mina (Melissa Stribling) in another image from the restored “Mina” scene from HORROR OF DRACULA (1958).

HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)Long lost version finally restored!

The “Mina” Sequence – Update


It’s come to my attention that the video in my blog post from Friday, October 18, 2013, featuring the original Japanese reels of the missing “Mina” footage from HORROR OF DRACULA, has been blocked due to copyright reasons.


I feared this might happen.  When I was initially putting these posts together on the newly restored HORROR OF DRACULA prints, I had come across on YouTube the original Japanese prints from which the restored version was derived.  This print was divided into three sections, and the first section had been blocked due to copyright reasons.  I figured it was only a matter of time before the other sections were blocked as well.


Honestly, I think it’s ridiculous and quite silly to block these things.  If the restored version of HORROR OF DRACULA was available here in the United States,— it’s not, as of yet— viewing a raw damaged print from Japan is not going to stop me from buying it.  On the contrary, the more people who see it and like it, the more people will buy it when it finally becomes available. 


But that’s not how these things work.  So, to the powers that be, hurry up and release the restored version here in the United States, thank you very much!  And shame on you for blocking material on the web that you have no business blocking.  Well, I suppose if you own the copyright, then it is your business, but readers, you know what I mean.  I’m just venting.


Anyway, in the meantime, enjoy this photo from the lost “Mina” sequence, a different one from my October 18 post.


And for more information about the HORROR OF DRACULA restoration story, check out my earlier posts from September 30, 2013 and October 18, 2013.


Thanks for reading.





REDEMPTION (2013) – Decent Drama for Action Star Jason Statham


Streaming Video Review:  REDEMPTION (2013)


Michael Arruda


Jason Statham is one of the best action movie actors working today, even if his movies tend to gravitate towards the familiar. 

 Redemption poster

The good news for Statham fans is that REDEMPTION (2013), Statham’s latest movie, which is now available on streaming video, tweaks this familiar pattern, as it’s less of an action film and more of a dark drama.  And Statham is just as enjoyable here in a role that gives him more to do than just beat up on people. 


The bad news for Statham fans is the movie’s plot doesn’t always hold water.


In REDEMPTION, Joey (Jason Statham) is a former Special Forces soldier who has dropped off the radar in an attempt to elude a military court martial.  While serving in Afghanistan, Joey’s unit was ambushed and killed, and in retaliation, Joey took vengeance upon innocent civilians.


Joey is now homeless and living on the streets of London.  But just when things seem to have hit rock bottom for him, Joey finds himself inside an apartment belonging to a man who’s away for the summer.  Joey decides to secretly live inside the apartment, using it as an opportunity to get his life back.


He befriends a young nun Cristina (Agata Buzek) who runs a soup kitchen, and she promises to help Joey locate his missing girlfriend.  Sadly, Cristina discovers that the girlfriend has been murdered, and Joey decides to seek out the killer.  Joey also finds work as an enforcer for a gangster named Mr. Choy (Benedict Wong).  Joey uses his earnings from breaking people’s heads on Mr. Choy’s behalf to give back to his homeless buddies, delivering items like pizza and Chinese food to Cristina’s soup kitchen.  What a thoughtful guy!


Joey and Cristina eventually become involved in a relationship, and as their romance deepens, Joey closes in on his former girlfriend’s killer.  Ultimately, he has to make the decision between pursuing his relationship with Cristina and pursuing his former girlfriend’s killer, all the while eluding the authorities who are after him.


REDEMPTION is a nicely acted thriller that works surprisingly well in spite of a plot that flirts with absurdity at times, and if not for the convincing performances of the two leads, Statham and Buzek, I wouldn’t have bought the half of it.


The script by writer/director Steven Knight isn’t going to win any awards for most credible screenplay.


For example, Statham’s Joey sets up shop in the abandoned apartment so easily you’d think his name was on the lease.  He conveniently discovers the keys to the apartment, and he finds the owner’s bank card and pin number in the mail, giving him access to the man’s bank account.  I guess the guy, who’s gone for the summer, forgot to have his mail held.  How convenient for Joey!  This man also doesn’t notice the large sum of money withdrawn from his account.  This is all possible, of course, but not very credible.


Then there’s the relationship between Joey and Cristina.  Statham and Buzek share a decent amount of chemistry and I liked them both, easily believing that they had feelings for each other.  However, as refreshing as the two actors make this relationship, it’s still rather bizarre.  Cristina is a nun, and yet here she is involved with Joey, and she only appears mildly troubled by this development, but as a nun, shouldn’t she be really troubled?   


Granted, later on we do learn more about Cristina’s background and the reason she became a nun in the first place, which does explain perhaps why she might not be the most faithful religious, so this helps, but for the most part, Cristina’s character is not clearly defined.  Is she having a difficult time being a nun?  Is she seeking this relationship because of a lack of faith?  Is Joey so hot a catch she can’t resist him?  Is this relationship causing her angst?  I wanted to know these things, but the film doesn’t satisfactorily explain them.


And I’m not so sure I completely bought Joey’s “Robin Hood” act.  He’s a little too selfless for my tastes.  I mean, he makes a point of sharing his earnings with his former homeless buddies, with Cristina’s soup kitchen, with Cristina herself, buying her things like a new dress, and with his ex-wife and young daughter.  How nice can this guy be?


REDEMPTION doesn’t really have much of a villain either.  Mark Forrester (Christian Brassington), the man who murdered Joey’s former girlfriend, is the main bad guy, but he isn’t really in the movie all that much and doesn’t make a huge impression when he is.  This bothered me less than usual, since REDEMPTION is more a character study of Joey and Cristina than an action tale in need of a strong villain.


And it’s on this level that REDEMPTION worked for me.  I enjoyed the performances by the two leads, Jason Statham and Agata Buzek.  Statham stood out because it was a change of pace for him.  Sure, he’s still a tough guy, a walking assassination machine, but there’s much more going on emotionally with Joey than what we usually see with a Jason Statham character, and Statham handles the extra depth with relative ease.


Agata Buzek was probably my favorite part of this film because she was such a unique leading lady.  She’s not your typical glamour beauty.  She has a look to her that is quite different, refreshing, and still very sexy. 


Director Steven Knight has made a slick-looking, solid if unremarkable thriller.  I can’t say that any scenes truly stood out, suspense, action, or otherwise, but with two very strong leads in Statham and Buzek, it all seems to work.


I’ve been a Jason Statham fan for a while now.  Compared to his other recent films, REDEMPTION falls somewhere in the middle.  I enjoyed the over-the-top fun of PARKER (2013) and THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012), the grittiness of BLITZ (2011), and the plot twists of KILLER ELITE (2011) better, but REDEMPTION was more satisfying than the sloppy and weakly plotted SAFE (2012).


REDEMPTION is not a knockout by any means, but it is a decent drama that provides solid entertainment, even if its road to redemption Robin Hood story doesn’t always ring true.











THE SEARCHERS – THE MAKING OF AN AMERICAN LEGEND By Glenn Frankel – Comprehensive But Tedious History of John Ford’s Classic Western


The Searchers - CoverWhat I’m Reading – The Searchers – The Making Of An American Legend By Glenn Frankel




THE SEARCHERS (1956) directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne, is one of my favorite westerns of all time, and it’s the reason I picked up The Searchers – The Making Of An American Legend by Glenn Frankel, an exhaustive and meticulously researched volume on the entire story behind the movie THE SEARCHERS.  And I mean the entire story.


The Searchers – The Making Of An American Legend covers the historical events on which the movie THE SEARCHERS was based, from the slaughter of the Parker family by the Comanche Indians in East Texas in 1836, to the abduction of nine year-old Cynthia Ann Parker, to the grueling search for her and other abducted family members by her uncle James Parker, to the story of her half-Comanche son Quanah Parker who would later become Chief of the Comanches.


It then moves to the story of how western author Alan Lemay wrote the western novel The Searchers in 1953, and eventually recounts the events behind the making of the movie, THE SEARCHERS, chronicling John Ford’s domination on the set and his cantankerous relationship with his actors and crew, including John Wayne.  Wayne, like others who worked with Ford multiple times, appreciated the director’s genius and looked past his social shortcomings in order to be involved in the high quality movies Ford continually made.


It’s a fascinating story, and author Frankel seems to cover every last inch of it.  It’s an exhaustive piece of research.  Unfortunately for the reader, it’s also a bit exhausting. 


While I enjoyed learning about every aspect of this story, I nonetheless struggled to get through this 343 page volume.  The prose reads like a textbook and hardly stimulates the imagination.  While I was impressed with the amount of research and detail here, sometimes it was a bit much.  I felt as if John Ford had discovered a new lunch recipe for his crew, Frankel would have spent an entire chapter devoted to how he found the recipe, who wrote it, its origins, and the cultural implications of the recipe, and where that recipe is today.  In short, a lot of the writing here is overkill.  This is not to imply that Frankel spent time on trivial matters, but to emphasize the point that his research here is all-encompassing, to the point where sometimes you wish you could skip over about 10 pages to get to the next topic.


The book begins with the historical account of the massacre of the Parker family.  This is a particularly brutal part of the book, as the Comanche massacres are described in gory detail.  Frankel takes the bold stand not to sugarcoat the conflict between the Comanches and the settlers, and he makes the point when describing the Comanche attacks that these folks don’t fit into the politically correct view of Native Americans we espouse today:


Still, by the mid-eighteenth century the Comanche had become the most relentless and feared war machine in the Southwest.  They butchered their prisoners- torturing, amputating, eviscerating, mutilating, decapitating, and scalping- for entertainment, for prestige as warriors, and for the belief that to destroy the body of an enemy was to doom his soul to eternal limbo.

The intense brutality reflected the harsh conditions Comanches faced.  Food and other resources were scarce.


The modern image of Indians- nurtured by the Native American rights movement, revisionist historians, and the film DANCE WITH WOLVES– has been one of profoundly spiritual and environmentally friendly genocide victims seeking harmony with the land and humankind.  But the Comanches were nobody’s victims and no one’s friends.  They were magnificent, brutal, and relentless.


The book goes on to describe the sad tragic fate of Cynthia Ann Parker, how she was ripped from her home and taken by the Comanches.  It describes her initial hardships with the Comanches, and tells how eventually she became a welcomed member of their community, accepted their culture, and had children.  The Cynthia Ann Parker story concludes just as tragically, as she’s eventually “rescued” and returned to white civilization against her will, ripped away from her children.  She lived the rest of her days yearning for her children, and she died never learning their fate or ever being reunited with them.


The next part of the book follows Cynthia’s son Quanah who would grow to adulthood and become a famous Comanche chief.  Quanah lived in a time when Indian raids had ended, and Native Americans were forced to live on reservations.  Quanah did quite well for himself, cooperating with the United States government and taking full advantage of the system.  He would spend his life trying to honor the life of his deceased mother, Cynthia Ann Parker.


The story of Cynthia Ann Parker became legend and was recounted over the years with Cynthia known to Americans as a tragic figure. 


When author Alan Lemay chose to write his novel The Searchers, he decided to focus on the man doing the searching rather than the victim, Cynthia Ann, and thus he focused on the uncle, James Parker.  In reality, James Parker searched for a short time before eventually giving up, unlike the character in Lemay’s novel, who ultimately finds Cynthia Ann.


The book concludes with John Ford choosing The Searchers for the subject of his next movie, and by far, this movie account is the most readable part of the book.  But by this time, my interest had waned because the first two thirds were a labor to get through.  Again, the content was thought-provoking, but the textbook prose dull.


I enjoyed the account of the making of the movie the most, although it was not fun learning about Ford’s domineering personality, and the way he often tormented his cast and crew.


It was also interesting to read how THE SEARCHERS failed to catch on when it was first released, not earning the critical acclaim that most people involved with the film expected. It wasn’t nominated for any Oscars, nor did it earn an immediate reputation as being anything more than just a John Wayne western.


The critical acclaim came much later, as only recently has the film been recognized as one of the best westerns ever made.  Frankel also argues that the film was slow to be recognized because of the presence of John Wayne, whose right wing tendencies often turned off intellectuals who would have otherwise seen the film for what it was.


Audiences also missed the dark themes of THE SEARCHERS back in 1956.  Accepting THE SEARCHERS as just another John Wayne movie, audiences in 1956 seemed to miss the gravity and racism which Wayne gave the character of Ethan Edwards, which went relatively unnoticed for decades.


Frankel includes some fascinating tidbits.  For example, how Buddy Holly and his drummer Jerry Allison wrote the song “That’ll Be The Day” after seeing THE SEARCHERS at the movies, because “that’ll be the day” is the catch phrase John Wayne uses multiple times in the movie.  The song would later be the first demo recording by the Beatles.


The Searchers – The Making Of An American Legend is an exhaustive and comprehensive look at the making of the movie THE SEARCHERS, and at the legend on which it was based.  It’s everything you wanted to know about the back story to THE SEARCHERS and more. 


However, in spite of the fact that it’s full of facts and anecdotes, it’s not a fun read.  It’s challenging to get through this encyclopedic volume which really could have benefitted from some humor or creative prose to stimulate the reader’s imagination.  I enjoyed the content but not the style.


It also doesn’t help that the real life Cynthia Ann Parker story is so tragic and depressing.  This disheartening content adds to the difficulty of getting through the first half of the book.  And while the second half is definitely more enjoyable for film buffs, this story is dark as well, as John Ford, in spite of being a genius filmmaker, is described here as a man that you really wouldn’t want to spend time around.


I liked The Searchers – The Making Of An American Legend  in spite of these drawbacks, but I can’t deny that in terms of reading pleasure, it was about as enjoyable as working on a movie set run by John Ford.





Full-sized bust of King Kong used in the 1933 classic, KING KONG.

Full-sized bust of King Kong used in the 1933 classic, KING KONG.




Wow!  What a bust!


Here’s a behind-the-scenes picture from the greatest monster movie ever made, the original KING KONG (1933). 


Several models were used for Kong in this 1933 classic.  The most famous were the 18 inch varieties used for the stop motion animation sequences filmed with precision by Willis O’Brien.  


But larger models were used as well.  A large model of Kong’s hand was built, for instance, which was used for close-ups with Fay Wray.  And as depicted in this photo, the enormous bust and head of Kong.  The full-sized head was used for shots of Kong’s face as he chewed on his victims.


I wish I had this in my backyard for Halloween.  Wouldn’t it be nice if these models survived the decades, surfaced, and were put on display in a museum? 


The amazing special effects still hold up today, so much so, that most of the action in KING KONG involving Kong and the various dinosaurs on Skull Island looks realistic.  No CGI back in the 1930s, and so it was all stop-motion animation by special effects genius Willis O’Brien.


This picture comes from a site called THE RED LIST, located at –











Peter Cushing in FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969), his darkest portrayal of Baron Frankenstein.

Peter Cushing in FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969), his darkest performance as Baron Frankenstein.



Michael Arruda



Today on THE QUOTABLE CUSHING, that column where we look at Peter Cushing’s best lines in the movies, we check out the Hammer Frankenstein flick, FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969).


FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED has long been one of my favorite Peter Cushing Hammer Frankenstein movies.  By far, it’s Cushing’s most villainous turn as the evil Baron, so much so, that at times it’s almost a turn-off.  Cushing excelled at making his villains heroic, which is why his Baron Frankenstein has always been such a compelling character.  You recognize he’s doing some terrible things, but you like him anyway.  However, Cushing pushed the envelope with his portrayal of Baron Frankenstein in FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED, and as a result it’s difficult to like the character this time around.


Still, there are some terrific memorable quotes from this movie.  So, here we go, a look at some cool Peter Cushing quotes from FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED, screenplay by Bert Batt, based on a story by Batt and Anthony Nelson Keys.


The tone is set early on in this scene where Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) overhears a conversation among his fellow guests at the boarding house where he’s staying.  The guests are discussing Professor Brandt, an inmate at the local asylum.  Brandt is infamous because of his experiments involving the transplanting of people’s brains.  The guests think it’s ludicrous that anyone undergoing such an operation would survive, and they believe that these ridiculous experiments are responsible for driving Brandt mad.


Of course, the guests don’t realize that Baron Frankenstein is sitting in the room with them. 


BARON FRANKENSTEIN:  Excuse me, I didn’t know that you were doctors.


GUEST:  Doctors?  We’re not doctors.


BARON FRANKENSTEIN:  I beg your pardon.  I thought you knew what you were talking about.


GUEST:  You’re damn rude, sir.


BARON FRANKENSTEIN:  I’m afraid that stupidity always brings out the worst in me.


GUEST:  Stupidity?


BARON FRANKENSTEIN:  Yes, stupidity!  It’s fools like you who have blocked progress throughout the ages. You make pronouncements on half facts that you don’t understand anyway. 


GUEST:  — Explain the word “progress” in this context.


BARON FRANKENSTEIN:  You wouldn’t understand it.  But I will give you a parallel that you may just appreciate.  Had man not been given to invention and experiment, then tonight sir you would have eaten your dinner in a cave.  You would have strewn the bones about the floor, and then wiped your fingers on a coat of animals.  In fact, your lapels do look somewhat greasy.  Good night.




In FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED, Baron Frankenstein plans to break Dr. Brandt out of the insane asylum so he can operate on him to cure his insanity because Brandt has a secret that the Baron must know.

Frankenstein blackmails a young doctor Karl (Simon Ward) and his girlfriend Anna (Veronica Carlson) to help him when he learns that they’re stealing drugs and selling them on the black market in order to pay for medical services for Anna’s mother.


Frankenstein tells Karl to steal the floor plans to the asylum so they can break Brandt out, but Karl refuses to help the Baron until he learns who he is.


KARL:  Who are you?


BARON FRANKENSTEIN: Did you get the plan?


KARL:  I’ll do no more until you tell me who you are, what you’re involved in—.


(FRANKENSTEIN strikes Karl across the face.  He then points at Anna.


BARON FRANKENSTEIN:  Stay where you are!  I am Baron Frankenstein.


ANNA:  Frankenstein!


KARL:   I thought the world had seen the last of you.


BARON FRANKENSTEIN: So did a lot of other people.





Later, Karl wants to know why Frankenstein is so interested in Dr. Brandt.


KARL:  Why are you doing all this?


BARON FRANKENSTEIN:  Brandt has a secret that I must know.  In order to learn that secret, I must cure his insanity.  


KARL: What secret?


BARON FRANKENSTEIN:  We were involved in the problems of transplanting of the human brain.  We both achieved it.


KARL:  Utterly impossible.


BARON FRANKENSTEIN:  I assure you, it isn’t.  We had both found a way of making an immediate transplant from one body to another.  We corresponded on the subject.  Our next step was to find a way of freezing brains without destroying the living cells so they could be stored for future use.  My research went badly, but Brandt discovered the technique.  He wrote to me.  And we arranged to meet for the first time.  He was to tell me the secret.   Unfortunately, two days before we were due to meet, he went mad, the pressure of his work had broken him.  He disappeared.  Shortly afterwards, I was hounded out of the country.


KARL:  It’s horrifying.  But it still doesn’t explain why you were doing it.


BARON FRANKENSTEIN:  We were seeking to preserve for all time the great talents and geniuses of the world.  When they die their brains are at the height of their creative power, and we bury them under the ground to rot, because the bodies that house them have worn out.  We want to remove those brains at the instant of death, and freeze them, thus preserving for posterity, all they contain.



Hot on Frankenstein’s trail throughout FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED is the snuff-sniffing Inspector Frisch (Thorley Walters).  When Mrs. Brandt (Maxine Audley) tells him she met with Baron Frankenstein but didn’t go to the police immediately, he tells her bluntly:


INSPECTOR:  That was very stupid of you, Mrs. Brandt.




In the film’s fiery finale, Brandt, his brain now in the body of Professor Richter (Freddie Jones) sets a trap for Baron Frankenstein.


BRANDT:  I fancy that I am the spider, and you are the fly, Frankenstein.  I know why you did this and what you’ve come for.


BARON FRANKENSTEIN:  Brandt?  Our work, our research, remember?  We must continue together!


BRANDT:  Better you had killed me.


(The sound of horses and a coach galloping away.)


BRANDT:  That will be my wife on her way to the police.  What you want is on the desk in my study.  The game is for you to try and get it!


Baron Frankenstein steps towards a closed door, and Brandt hurls a lamp at him, igniting the area in flames.


BRANDT:  Wrong door.


Frankenstein rushes towards Brandt, but Brandt pulls a gun on him.


BRANDT:  You must choose between the flames and the police, Frankenstein.  You haven’t got long to get those papers.


And the game is on!  FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED probably has the most exciting finale of the entire series.





And we finish with one of Baron Frankenstein’s most condescending lines in the film, when Karl asks him to let Anna go.


KARL:  You don’t need her.


BARON FRANKENSTEIN:  I need her to make coffee


And there you have it, memorable quotes from a memorable Peter Cushing movie, FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969).


See you again next time.


Thanks for reading!



PACINO and WALKEN Buddy Up in STAND UP GUYS (2012)


stand_up_guys posterBlu-Ray Review:  STAND UP GUYS (2012)


Michael Arruda

Take Al Pacino, pair him with Christopher Walken, and then throw in Alan Arkin, and what do you have?  A group of stand up guys!


STAND UP GUYS (2012) is a comedy-drama that had a very limited release when it came out last year.  Although I had seen trailers for it at my local theater, it never opened in my neck of the woods, which is too bad because I really enjoyed STAND UP GUYS, having finally caught up with it on Blu-Ray the other day.


STAND UP GUYS opens with a convict named Val (Al Pacino) released from prison after serving a sentence of 28 years.  Val is met at the door by his best friend Doc (Christopher Walken), and what makes this more than just a best buddy reunion, is that Doc has received orders from crime boss Claphands (Mark Margolis) to kill Val.  You see, Claphands blames Val for the death of his son, and being the vindictive bastard that he is, he allows Val to serve out his 28 years in prison, and then on the day he’s released, orders his best friend to kill him.  Doc doesn’t want to kill Val, but Claphands makes it clear that if Doc doesn’t do the job, he’ll end up dead, too.


Doc asks for more time, and Claphands gives him until 10:00 the next morning to kill Val.  And this sets up the plot for the rest of the movie, as Val and Doc enjoy a night on the town together, reminiscing about old times and getting into mischief together once again. 


Their overnight antics include a comic run-in with Viagra, a visit to the local brothel, and funniest of all a reunion with their former driver Hirsch (Alan Arkin), who’s ill and dying.  For old time’s sake they steal a car and Hirsch drives them around town, outracing the police at one point.  They also visit family to make amends, and help a woman Sylvia (Vanessa Ferlito) they find naked in the trunk of their stolen car get back at the men who raped her.


What makes things more interesting is that Val knows Doc has orders to kill him, and Doc knows he knows, yet both men choose to spend the evening together.  As zero hour draws near, the tensions rise as Doc has to make his decision regarding what he’s going to do about Val.


The best part about STAND UP GUYS is the interplay between Al Pacino and Christopher Walken as Val and Doc.  I could watch these guys all night, and as I watched this movie, I almost wished it was a television show so I could see these guys again.  They really are stand up guys.


The screenplay by Noah Haidle includes hilariously raw dialogue that had me laughing out loud.  The scenes in the brothel with Wendy (Lucy Punch) are priceless.  And when Val and Doc break into a pharmacy for the Viagra that Val needs, they end up spending a longer time there because Doc decides to stock up on his prescription meds.  “How much stuff are you on?”  Val wants to know.


The comedy works not only because the dialogue is funny, but because these guys genuinely care for one another.  STAND UP GUYS is a great friendship movie. 


There are also some nice poignant moments, like when Val asks a woman to dance with him at a club.  When he explains to her that all he wants to do is dance, without any monkey business, and if she dances with him, she’ll never have to see him again, it’s such a moving sincere moment.  Pacino nails the emotions of a man who’d been in prison for nearly three decades, here having his first opportunity to hold a woman close again.


Some of the other serious scenes don’t work as well.  The scenes where they seek out Hirsch’s daughter Nina (Julianna Marguiles) fall rather flat and seem rushed.  The scenes with the young waitress Alex (Addison Timlin) who Doc visits regularly work better, but I figured out the revelation about this relationship beforehand.


Directed by actor Fisher Stevens, STAND UP GUYS is a tour de force for Pacino, Walken, and Arkin, and as such, Stevens wisely remains in the background and allows these powerhouse actors to strut their stuff.


As you would imagine, the performances here are topnotch, and Pacino and Walken share a genuine chemistry together.  I truly believed they were lifelong friends.  Throw Alan Arkin into the mix, and you’ve got a clinic on both comic and dramatic acting.


The supporting players are also very good.  Lucy Punch is hilarious as Wendy, the woman who runs the brothel, and Addison Timlin is like a bright ray of sunshine as Alex, the young waitress who Doc visits regularly.  Vanessa Ferlito makes her mark as Sylvia, the woman who gets to avenge the men who raped her, and only Julianna Marguiles doesn’t fare as well as Hirsch’s daughter Nina, mostly because it’s not the most memorable part.


Mark Margolis makes for an effective heavy as crime boss Claphands, even though it’s an underdeveloped character.  Margolis spends his brief screen time screaming threats and looking angry, as opposed to actually doing things.  Of course, Margolis does anger well, and if you’ve seen the TV show BREAKING BAD you know what I mean.


I wasn’t crazy about the ending.  While I understood and completely bought into Doc’s decision at the end, what happens afterwards was somewhat of a letdown.


That being said, the weak ending in no way takes away from all that came before it, and as a result, I still found myself enjoying STAND UP GUYS a lot.


It’s all about friendship, and looking back at one’s life from one’s twilight years and having some buddies there looking back with you, helping you make sense of it all, the kinds of friends you can count on.  In short, stand up guys.





Carrie (1976) posterHere’s my latest IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column, published in this month’s HORROR WRITERS ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER, on the Brian De Palma movie CARRIE (1976) based on Stephen King’s first novel.






I’ve never been that big a fan of CARRIE (1976). 

Granted, there are those who love it, who hail it as a masterpiece by director Brian De Palma, but this interpretation of Stephen King’s novel has never quite done it for me.

I caught up with it again the other day on streaming video, in preparation for the October 18, 2013 release of the remake, starring Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore.

While this 1976 version of CARRIE failed to wow me yet again, I came away during this latest viewing with a deeper appreciation for its two lead performers, Sissy Spacek as Carrie, and Piper Laurie as her mother.

The story of CARRIE is quite simple.  Awkward Carrie (Sissy Spacek) is made fun of and bullied in her high school classes.  She’s awkward because she’s raised by her religious fanatic mother Margaret (Piper Laurie) who’s prone to locking Carrie in her room to pray for forgiveness for her sins.  In short, her mom’s a lunatic.

One of Carrie’s classmates Sue (Amy Irving) feels sorry for her and arranges in good faith to have her boyfriend Tommy (William Katt) ask Carrie to the prom.  However, the vindictive Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen), angry that her bullying of Carrie led to a week-long detention, plots with her boyfriend Billy (John Travolta) to sabotage the prom date.

Oh yeah.  There’s one more thing about Carrie.  She has telekinetic abilities.  She can move objects at will, just by using her mind, and when she gets angry, she kinda loses control of herself.  So, if I were Chris and Billy, or Carrie’s mom, I’d be careful about pushing her buttons, but I’m not, which means these folks don’t have a clue about what they’re getting themselves into, and it goes without saying, that they get what’s coming to them.  Big time.

CARRIE is a disturbing tale of a young high school student dominated and tormented by her mother and bullied by her classmates.  The mother-dominated relationship has shades of Hitchcock’s PSYCHO, and I’m guessing this is what attracted director De Palma to the project, since so many of his early movies were rip-offs— er, homages to Hitchcock movies. 

De Palma’s best films display a creative visual style that some critics say were rip-offs of Hitchcock, but I liked De Palma’s signature moments, and when he’s on, it’s difficult not to enjoy his work.  That being said, there’s not much of that style to be found here in CARRIE.  The prom sequence which is nicely choreographed comes closest, but for most of the film, De Palma’s camerawork is uncharacteristically subdued.

My favorite part of CARRIE is Sissy Spacek’s performance.  She creates a perfect shy and withdrawn teen, and she’s totally believable in the role. 

Equally as good is Piper Laurie as Carrie’s mother Margaret.  By far, Laurie is the scariest part of CARRIE.  She’s absolutely terrifying, and it’s frightening to imagine what growing up under her roof would be like.  If she had a son his name would have been Norman Bates. 

Both Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie were nominated for Academy Awards for their roles, Spacek for Best Actress in a Lead Role and Laurie for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.  Neither actress won.

The rest of the cast plays like a “who’s who” for up and coming stars of the 1970s.  Amy Irving plays good girl Sue Snell, and she’s okay.  Irving would be even better in De Palma’s THE FURY (1979).

William Katt, TV’s GREATEST AMERICAN HERO (1981-86) does a nice job as nice guy Tommy Ross, and pre- SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (1977) John Travolta plays bad boy Billy Nolan.  Travolta actually enjoys one of the film’s most entertaining scenes, when he’s in the car with his girlfriend Chris (Nancy Allen).  It’s a great scene, as Chris goes back and forth between teasing her boyfriend and tormenting him, manipulating him perfectly, and Travolta’s confused reactions during this sequence are priceless.

As Chris, Nancy Allen delivers one of the better performances in the movie, right up there with Spacek and Laurie.  Chris is a royal pain in the butt, and Allen is full of spoiled angry energy throughout.  Allen appeared in several other Brian De Palma’s movies after CARRIE.  She starred in DRESSED TO KILL (1980), and BLOW OUT (1981).  No surprise since she was married to De Palma at the time.


And P.J. Soles who we’d see later in HALLOWEEN (1978) and STRIPES (1981) is also on hand as one of the conniving teens.


The screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen, based on the novel by Stephen King, tells a very sad story.  High school can be a scary place, and for Carrie it’s full of horrors.  Her home life with her mother is even worse.  This is the horror that is CARRIE, a sad portrait of a lonely girl.

For some, this is what horror is all about, producing an emotion in the audience, in this case extreme sympathy for Carrie.  This is all well and good, but I prefer my horror with a greater sense of fun, and by “fun” I don’t meant “let’s-throw-a-party” type deal, but “let’s get you squirming in your seats” type of fun.  There’s none of that here, which is a major reason why I’ve never been all that into CARRIE.  There’s nothing fun about it. 

It also has a ridiculous over-the-top ending that just doesn’t fit with the rest of the movie.  And it’s a bit dated.  For example, there’s a scene where a teacher slaps a student, which is something that wouldn’t happen today, and later on we see high school students casually driving while drinking beer. 

Compared to the other big horror hits of the 1970s, films like THE EXORCIST (1973), THE OMEN (1976), and HALLOWEEN (1978), CARRIE just doesn’t measure up.  It’s not as scary as these other movies, its story isn’t as riveting, and it’s not as stylish.

While you’re watching it, CARRIE plays like a depressingly bad prom date.  It’s painful to get through.  But after it’s over, and time passes, you realize it’s really not that big of a deal.

Neither is CARRIE.


—Did you like this column?  Then check out the book, IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, available now as an EBook from NECON EBooks at www.neconebooks.comand also as a print edition at






Tom Hanks’ First-Rate Performance Leads CAPTAIN PHILLIPS


captain-phillips-posterMovie Review:  CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013)


Michael Arruda


CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013) almost wowed me.


It’s exciting enough, and Tom Hanks certainly delivers a first-rate performance in the lead role, but once again, it’s a case where a movie’s trailer reveals too much information about the film’s plot.  I pretty much knew the entire story going into the theater because I had seen the trailer.  There were few surprises left.


CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is based on the true story of the hijacking of an American ship by Somali pirates in 2009, the first time an American vessel had been hijacked in two hundred years.


Tom Hanks plays Captain Richard Phillips, the captain of a cargo ship, the U.S. Maersk Alabama.  Captain Phillips is a competent captain, and once his ship is in international waters near Somalia, he immediately instructs his crew to go through the proper drills because he’s aware of the frequent pirate activity in the area.  His fears are quickly confirmed, as armed pirates are spotted racing towards the ship.


Phillips orders the ship to take evasive maneuvers, and the crew use hoses to fend off the pirates, but it’s not enough as a small group of armed Somalian pirates make it on board.  At this point, Phillips orders the ship into full lockdown, where the crew hides to avoid becoming hostages.


The pirates are led by a young man named Muse (Barkhad Abdi) who is trying to prove his mettle by taking on such a huge ship. Phillips offers to give them the $30,000 that’s in their safe, but that’s not enough for Muse.  He decides to search the rest of the ship for the crew and other treasures. 


Muse is driven by the need to bring back large amounts of money to the armed lords pulling the strings in Somalia. 


When things go wrong, Muse and his pirates take Captain Phillips hostage and leave the ship in a lifeboat, where they are pursued by the U.S. Navy who has orders to do whatever it takes to prevent Phillips from reaching Somalia.


All of this was pretty much shown in the film’s trailer.  The only thing in doubt was how it would end, and based on my memory of the real event back in 2009, I had a pretty good idea where things would go.


That’s not to say I didn’t like CAPTAIN PHILLIPS.  It’s just that I would have enjoyed it more had I not seen so much of it already before I paid for my ticket.


CAPTAIN PHILLIPS sinks or swims with Tom Hanks, and since he turns in his usual strong performance, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS doesn’t sink.  As the movie goes along, and things grow tenser, Hank’s performance intensifies as well.  The emotions he experiences reminded me somewhat of what Sandra Bullock’s character goes through in the recent movie GRAVITY (2013).  Now, GRAVITY is a much more stylish and original film than CAPTAIN PHILLIPS and as such I enjoyed it more, but in terms of acting, Hanks’ performance is right up there with Bullock’s. 


Barkhad Abdi in his first acting performance is pretty darn good as Muse, but the fact of the matter is I never felt much sympathy for Muse and his pirates, nor was I that interested in their back story.  While the movie does show us a little bit of what their life was like in Somalia, it doesn’t show us enough.


Nonetheless, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS tells a riveting story, and it’s told in a straightforward linear manner by director Paul Greengrass, with the suspense gradually building towards a very tense conclusion.  That being said, I enjoyed last year’s ARGO (2012) much better than CAPTAIN PHILLIPS.   ARGO knocked the ball out of the park when it came to building up the tension, and it simply had a more interesting story to tell.


Director Greengrass actually scored higher on the suspense meter with his BOURNE movies, as he directed THE BOURNE SUPREMACY (2004) and THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM (2007), the second and third movies in the Matt Damon Bourne series.  Greengrass also directed UNITED 93 (2006) and GREEN ZONE (2010), a thriller about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, so he’s no stranger to films about current events.


The screenplay by Billy Ray, based on the book “A Captain’s Duty:  Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea” by Richard Phillips, tells a straightforward story which does a nice job with the human element.  Not only do we get inside the head of Captain Phillips and feel his fear, but we also get a good sense of how afraid the crew felt.  That being said, we don’t really get to know any of the other crew members all that well.  Captain Phillips is pretty much it.


That’s because Ray’s screenplay also builds itself around the pirates.  The second most developed character in the movie is the lead pirate Muse.  Ray didn’t seem to be building sympathy for Muse and his motives as much as an understanding.  In this regard, Ray succeeds.  I had a pretty good understanding of Muse’s motives.  I just didn’t feel much sympathy for him. 


Ray also worked on the screenplay to THE HUNGER GAMES (2012) a movie that did a better job fleshing out its characters and telling its story.  I liked CAPTAIN PHILLIPS well enough.  I just didn’t love it.


The best part of the movie by far is Tom Hanks’ performance, and he gets better as the film goes along and his character faces more and more peril. The rest of the movie, the acting, the actual story, direction, and the screenplay are all above average, but what’s missing is edge-of-your-seat suspense and characters you can both root for and sympathize with.  These latter two elements are several notches below what Hanks brings to the film.  It’s too bad because Hanks brings quite a lot. 


CAPTAIN PHILLIPS reminds us that even though our world is changing dramatically, human beings still remain trapped in situations in which they have little control, often leading them to make decisions to harm others for profit.  In this regard, the world hasn’t changed much at all.