Larry Talbot aka The Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.) and the Frankenstein Monster (Bela Lugosi)  emerge from an icy cave in FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943).

Larry Talbot aka The Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.) and the Frankenstein Monster (Bela Lugosi) emerge from an icy cave in FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943).


Whenever we’re stuck in a cold and snowy winter, I think of FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN since a key scene in this classic monster movie bash from Universal pictures takes place in a snowy icy cave.

The scene I’m talking about, pictured here in today’s PICTURE OF THE DAY, is when Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) discovers the Frankenstein Monster (Bela Lugosi) frozen in a slab of ice.  It begins when the mob of angry torch-wielding villagers chase the Wolf Man into the countryside.  The beast, fleeing the mob, accidentally falls through some loose earth and lands in a frosty subterranean cave.  After trying futilely to escape the cave, and after some dramatic flip flops in the snow, looking like a pet dog playing in the snow for the first time, the Wolf Man passes out.

When he awakes, he’s back in his human form as Larry Talbot, and as Talbot, he notices the body of the Frankenstein Monster buried in ice.  He chips away at the ice and releases the Monster from his icy grave, and he’s interested in the Frankenstein Monster because he’s looking for Dr. Frankenstein’s notes on his experiments, because Talbot believes that since Frankenstein was such a medical genius, in his notes there may be something there indicating how he Larry Talbot- a man cursed to eternal life as a werewolf- could actually die.  Why Talbot doesn’t get hold of a silver bullet and do the job himself, I don’t know!

Also, since he’s never laid eyes on the Frankenstein Monster before, how does he know that that’s the Monster frozen in the ice?  Perhaps those electrodes sticking out of his neck gave him away!

And of course the Monster comes right to life— no need for any new electric shocks to recharge his batteries— because, like Talbot, he’s cursed with eternal life.  That’s because Dr. Frankenstein made him so he could never die.  Quite the scientist, that Dr. Frankenstein from the Universal monster movies.  Not only did he create life, build a body from other bodies, and then brought it to life, he also built so it would live forever!

In this photo, we see the Frankenstein Monster in the familiar pose with his arms stretched out in front of him.  As I’ve written in previous articles, Bela Lugosi was the first actor to portray the Monster in this fashion, with his arms outstretched in front of him, and this was because in the original script for FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN, the Monster was blind, as he lost his vision at the end of the previous film in the series, THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942).  Sadly, all references to the Monster’s blindness were eventually cut from the film, making Lugosi’s performance puzzling until you realize he was supposed to be blind.

It’s really too bad this was cut from the film because it made perfect sense.  At the end of THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN, Dr. Bohmer (Lionel Atwill) puts the brain of the evil Ygor (Bela Lugosi) into the Monster.  So, in FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN, it made sense for Lugosi to play the Frankenstein Monster, because the brain of Ygor was now inside the Monster’s body, and originally the Monster was to speak with Ygor’s voice in FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN.  Again, to the misfortune of Lugosi, all of dialogue as the Monster in FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN was cut from the final film, again taking away from Lugosi’s performance as the Monster.  Evidently, Universal thought an evil Frankenstein Monster speaking with Ygor’s voice was too frightening for movie audiences, and they balked at the idea and cut all references to Ygor from the film.  There was also some concern, supposedly, that the Monster’s plans to take over the world were too close to the real life rants of Adolf Hitler who in 1943 was trying to do just that.  We can only imagine how much better FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN would have been had the original concept of the Monster with Ygor’s brain been kept in the film.  Lugosi would have had a field day.

So, back to walking with his arms outstretched, again Lugosi was the first actor to play the Monster in this fashion, and it would make sense for a blind person to walk this way.  Karloff’s Monster didn’t move this way, nor did Lon Chaney Jr. in THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Interestingly enough, Glenn Strange in his three performances as the Monster in the final three films of the series, did walk this way with his arms outstretched, even though in those three films his sight was restored.  How do we know this?  Well, at the end of FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN, with Dr. Mannering (Patric Knowles) pumping electricity into his body, Lugosi gives his Monster a sinister smile, and it’s because it’s the first time in the film that he can see again.

But early on, as he is in the scene pictured here, he’s as blind as a bat, which is why he walks with his arms stretched out in front of him.

Hey, bundle up guys!  It’s freezing in that cave and neither one of you are wearing a heavy coat!

Maybe that’s where the Monster is taking Larry Talbot.  He knows where the winter gear is stored.

Thanks for reading!





Lon Chaney unmasked in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925) still one of the most shocking scenes in horror movie history.

Lon Chaney unmasked in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925) still one of the most shocking scenes in horror movie history.

By Michael Arruda

Welcome to SHOCK SCENES, the column where we look at some of the more memorable scenes in horror movie history.

That’s right.  We’ll be scouring horror movies throughout the decades looking at some of the brightest- er, darkest moments they’ve had to offer.  It should be a fun trip.

First up, a look at the unmasking scenes in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA movies.  Now, there have been a bunch of film versions of the famous Gaston Leroux tale— see my blog column THE HORROR JAR:  THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA MOVIES posted on September 12, 2014 for the complete list— but for today’s column, I’d like to concentrate on the first three film versions:  the 1925 Lon Chaney silent classic, the 1943 Universal remake starring Claude Rains, and the 1962 Hammer remake starring Herbert Lom.  These are the three best versions, as none of the remakes since have been as good.

Most surprisingly, however, is that the definitive and most impressive version of this horror tale remains the original 1925 silent Lon Chaney version.  I still find this difficult to believe.  The film was made in 1925.  It’s a silent movie.  And yet this is the best version.  No one since has been able to match it.  Unbelievable, but true.

Similarly, when you look at the famous unmasking scenes, again, it’s the Chaney version which stands above the rest, and seriously, it stands way above the rest.  No other version even comes close!

The Chaney version also is the most faithful version of the Gaston Leroux novel, and likewise, it handles its unmasking scene in a way that is most true to the book.  For starters, in the book, the Phantom is unmasked early on, as he is in the Chaney version.  For some reason, both the 1943 Universal remake and the 1962 Hammer remake chose to unmask the Phantom at the end of the movie.  Bad idea.

In the 1925 silent version, the first half of the movie, the Phantom (Lon Chaney) is exactly that:  a phantom.  We see only glimpses of him, a shadow, a hand, a silhouette, and he’s there wreaking havoc at the Paris Opera House for reasons we don’t know at the time.  The movie captures this brilliantly, and director Rupert Julian truly makes the unknown Phantom a threatening and menacing presence without the audience ever really seeing him.

When the Phantom shows interest in young Opera singer Christine Daae (Mary Philbin) and secretly whisks her away from her dressing room, we see him for the first time, and he’s wearing a mask so neither Christine nor the audience can see his face.  In the famous unmasking scene, which occurs midway through the film, the Phantom plays the organ, while Christine sneaks up behind him and attempts to remove his mask.  In classic suspenseful fashion, she reaches for it but then backs off, afraid he’ll turn around, before finally ripping it off his face, exposing the horrific make-up by Lon Chaney.

This is one of the best scenes in the 1925 THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.  In fact, it’s one of the most memorable scenes in horror movie history.  The same cannot be said for the unmasking scenes in the 1943 and 1962 versions.

Chaney’s Phantom opens his mouth in what looks like a shriek of terror, and then he turns on Christine with a viciousness that would make Mr. Hyde proud.  He physically attacks her, thrusting his face into hers, screaming at her to behold is ugliness, and then he laughs at her, in what we can only imagine to be an insane maniacal laugh.  It’s a terrifying and brutal scene.

Supposedly, Chaney shot most of this scene himself— he and director Julian were at odds throughout the production and Chaney directed most of his own scenes— and to get the desired reaction shots from Mary Philbin, Chaney hurled insults at her, and she was under the impression he was furious with her and disappointed with her acting abilities, and so her reaction here was based on real emotions.

Interestingly enough, more than one version of this scene exists— heck, various versions of this movie exist!  The history of this film reveals there were multiple cuts of the film upon its release, and over the years as it was re-released multiple times things didn’t get any simpler and different prints surfaced.  I’ve only seen one version, but supposedly there exists out there another version of the unmasking scene shot from different angles.

After this shocking scene, the Phantom lets Christina go, to return to the Paris Opera House, but later, when he spies her with her lover Raoul (Norman Kerry) he vows revenge and then brings his wrath down upon the Opera House one last time while abducting Christina once more in the film’s extremely exciting conclusion.

In the 1943 version, Claude Rains portrays a very different and much more sympathetic Phantom. His Phantom is a violinist who is ultimately wronged and then goes insane later in the movie, and so when this film starts, there is no Phantom haunting the Opera House since he’s a meek violinist at this point in the story.

The mask in this version is probably my favorite mask in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA movies, and it’s so prevalent in this movie that it becomes synonymous with the Phantom, much more than Chaney’s mask.  When you think of Lon Chaney as the Phantom, you see his terrifying make-up, but when you think of Claude Rains as the Phantom, you see his slick white mask.

The entire time Rains is the Phantom, he wears the white mask.  Unlike the 1925 version, the unmasking scene in the 1943 film doesn’t come until the end of the movie.  This scene just doesn’t have the same effect as the Chaney scene.  The mask comes off, and we see minimal make-up on Rains’ face, and then he promptly dies in the film’s conclusion.  Gone is the maniacal laughter, the threats to Christine, the essence of what made the character the evil Phantom.  I like the 1943 version a lot, but its unmasking scene and its abrupt anti-climactic finale are two of the weakest parts of this movie.

Claude Rains unmasked in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943).

Claude Rains unmasked in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943).

For some reason, Hammer Films chose to follow the style of the 1943 version instead of the 1925 version.  I’m guessing this decision was a financial one.  The 1925 version was an epic production, complete with a massive set of the Paris Opera House, and its enormous catacombs, which were used in a huge part of the movie, unlike the subsequent remakes which spent little time underneath the Paris Opera House.  Hammer probably didn’t have the budget to make a movie on the scale of the 1925 version.

Hammer’s 1962 version gets off to a rousing start, however, as the Phantom (Herbert Lom) is wreaking havoc immediately, and so in this regard Hammer did choose to follow the 1925 version.  And I’ve argued that the first half of the 1962 PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is among Hammer’s and director Terence Fisher’s best work, but then things take a dramatic turn as we see via flashback the story of how the Phantom became the Phantom, and suddenly Herbert Lom’s Phantom becomes even more sympathetic— albeit, even heroic— a heroic Phantom?  Come on!— than Claude Rains’ Phantom.

And the unmasking scene in the 1962 version might be even weaker than the one in the 1943 version.  Again, it occurs at the end of the movie.  Again, there’s no insane rants by the Phantom, there’s nothing terrifying or frightening, as there was in the 1925 film.  Again, the make-up is inferior to the Chaney make-up.  There’s a little excitement involving a falling chandelier, but it’s so quick and abrupt that if you blink suddenly you’re reading “The End” on the screen.

Herbert Lom unmasked in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1962).

Herbert Lom unmasked in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1962).

The 1962 version by Hammer Films cries out for an additional 20 minutes where after the Phantom is unmasked, he whisks Christine into the catacombs beneath the Opera House while the heroes pursue them into the Phantom’s lair, where they must face all the traps set for them by the insane Phantom.  But alas this doesn’t exist.  The Hammer version simply ends with the unmasking.  The good news is this part of the story does exist in the 1925 silent version, and it’s one of the more exciting parts of that film.

The unmasking scene in the Lon Chaney 1925 version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is one of the most terrifying scenes in horror film history.  It’s not to be missed.  The unmasking scenes in the 1943 Universal Claude Rains version and the 1962 Hammer Films Herbert Lom version are both duds and strangely remain the weakest parts of both movies.  Go figure!

So, there you have it:  a look at the unmasking scenes in the three most prominent PHANTOM OF THE OPERA movies to date.

I hope you enjoyed this new column, SHOCK SCENES, and that you’ll join me again next time when I look at more classic scenes from classic horror movies.

Thanks for reading!


Books by Michael Arruda:

TIME FRAME,  science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.  

Ebook version:  $2.99. Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.


 Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com.  Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, short story collection by Michael Arruda.  

For The Love Of Horror cover

Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.  

TIME FRAME By Michael Arruda – Sneak Preview!- Chapter 1


time frame coverMy science fiction novel TIME FRAME is now available as an EBook from NECON EBooks at http://www.neconebooks.com.

Here’s a sneak preview:  Chapter 1 of TIME FRAME.  Look for Chapter 2 coming soon in a future post!

And remember, if you like what you read, please spread the word and feel free to post reviews on Amazon as well.

Hope you enjoy the preview.

Thanks for reading!



Time Frame


Michael Arruda

Necon Science Fiction #2

Cover Art by Matt Bechtel

A digital edition published by Necon E-Books

This Edition © 2014 Michael Arruda

Cover Art © 2014 Matt Bechtel

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


For my grandfather


And for all the loved ones who have passed


We wish to see again


He was alone, for one thing.

No one noticed him, no one spoke to him, no one looked him in the eye. He was a shadow, a figure in the background, a convenient excuse to pull out a cell phone and talk into it as if he wasn’t there, a corpse. In fact, he attracted less attention than a corpse. People noticed a dead body. They didn’t notice him.

He didn’t want to be noticed, that much was true, but he was lonely all the same.

Some days he wished it were a dream — the life he had loved so much, he wished had never happened.

It would be so much easier that way. The pain he felt just wouldn’t be as unbearable knowing that he had dreamt it all, had made it all up in his desperate imagination.

But he knew this wasn’t true. It had happened.

And now it was over. All over.

He sighed in disgust.

Where the hell was he, he wondered? What was he doing? He looked down, and the sunshine blinded him. He looked away and thought it odd that the sun was beneath him.

He sucked in the salt water air, and just like that his senses returned to him. He sat by the water, and the sun which blinded him was simply a reflection.

The sun felt good on his face, and the fresh sea air filled his nostrils with an energy that almost made him want to live. In fact, he almost smiled, but didn’t. It was spring, his favorite season, though he also enjoyed summer and fall. Only winter pained him. Living on the street in the cold could kill a man, and though he wished for death, he wanted it on his terms, not Old Man Winter’s.

His hands by his side, palms down, he became aware of the soft grass underneath his flesh. He massaged the blades with his fingers.

The sunshine, the sea water, the grass, he was at his favorite spot, his private sanctuary.

He would never tell anyone about it. He had discovered it quite by accident some time back when he had been walking around the mills, roaming behind the red brick buildings, some of them abandoned for decades, others still in operation.

He had walked to the back of one of these mills, and when he reached the end, had decided to see what was behind it. He found a small trickling stream. He walked to the banks of this stream and followed it as it curved around the back of another mill and then like a miracle, opened into the bay. He hadn’t realized the mills were so close to the ocean. There was a grassy bank on which to sit. No fishing vessels or dock side bars spoiled the view. He had discovered his own private beach.

He was glad he had. The docks smelled of fish and garbage and had no scenery other than fishing boats, garages, and bars. The beaches were too crowded. He didn’t want people to see him, not the way he was now. He wished he were invisible. The beaches were also full of children. He couldn’t be around children. It made him remember.

He didn’t want to remember.

Funny he should still love the ocean, after what had happened. He understood why, though. The ocean was the only thing on earth he allowed himself to love because he knew it wouldn’t leave him. For as long as he lived, it would be there for him. He’d always have the ocean.

But on the ocean was where it had happened, and so regardless of how he felt about it, it was a reminder, and he didn’t need any more reminders.

He felt it in his heart, thought it in his mind, and he opened his mouth and almost spoke the words, “My family.”

Above him, some seagulls floating on the sea air cried out.

He looked up at the birds with only his eyes, and then he gazed out at the water. This time he did speak, and loudly too, because the emotions pounding away at his heart punched through his defenses, and overcame him to the point where he didn’t care anymore, didn’t care if he went to the dark place.

“I miss you. I miss all of you.”

The seagulls stopped their crying, as if they were listening to him.

I miss you!”

The seagulls cawed in response.

He didn’t hear them. He heard only the sounds of his own raw, empty voice.

He waited for their answer, not the gulls, but those he was talking to. He wanted to hear them say they were back, that he wouldn’t have to be alone anymore. In his mind, he almost heard their voices, and again he almost smiled, but then he remembered.

He tightened his grip around the blades of grass and with a shriek ripped them from the ground.



Papa had been dead for seven years.

So when Adam Cabral opened the back door to his house to find his grandfather standing there on the porch, wearing a great big smile, to say he was shocked at the sight didn’t do the moment justice.

“Papa?” Adam said. What else could he say?

“Yes, it’s me,” Papa said. His voice sounded exactly the way Adam remembered it. “It’s good to see you, Adam. Can I come in?”

There was a twinge of apprehension in his grandfather’s voice even though he smiled, and Adam took note of this for about two seconds before his senses became completely overwhelmed as he stared at the man in front of him from head to toe and back again.

This man looked exactly like his deceased grandfather. He looked as if he had just come from church, dressed in casual but neat attire, smelling of cologne and looking generally neat and spiffy. He wasn’t dressed up by any means. Papa never did. But he wore blue cotton pants and a light blue cotton jersey with brown shoes on his feet, and since it was spring and fairly warm, he had on a dark blue spring coat, unzipped.

He looked young and healthy again. He reminded Adam of the way he looked when Adam was a young child. Papa was in his 50s then. Adam barely remembered this version of his grandfather. Indeed, most of his memories of this time period were from family photographs.

“Is your grandmother inside?” Papa asked.

“Nana?” Adam thought. “No. She’s — .”

For a moment, he wondered why his grandfather would ask such a question, but then he remembered, gradually, since he was still stunned at the sight of the man standing on his back porch, that the house he and Sandy and his family now lived in used to be Papa’s and Nana’s house. He and Sandy had bought it and had moved in after — .

“Someone at the door?”


Adam looked over his shoulder and saw his wife walking towards him. He thrust his right hand at her, his palm pressed outwards, like a police officer motioning for an oncoming driver to halt.

“Stop!” he said.

She stopped, but she looked at him with a confused expression, and he knew she was put out by his terse order.

“Stop?” She said. “What’s the matter with you?”

“Don’t come any closer,” Adam said.

This had all happened so suddenly. A man who should have been dead was standing on his back porch looking, not only very much alive, but better than ever. Adam knew that whatever he said or did next wasn’t going to come out right.

“I need some time.”

“Time for what?” Sandy asked. “Is someone at the door or what?”

“Yes. That’s the problem,” he said. He winced when he said it because he still held the door open with his left hand, and he knew his grandfather had heard him refer to him as a problem. Then again, the man on the porch couldn’t be his grandfather. Could it?

“Jehovah’s Witness?” Sandy said.


“At the door.”



“No. Just, stop, please.”

“I’ll come back another time,” Papa said.

“No!” Adam said, looking at his grandfather and shaking his head. “Just stay right there. I’ll be right back to let you in.”

Adam closed the door gently.

Sandy had big, round, beautiful blue eyes, her most striking feature. She was smiling at him, and her eyes seemed to be twinkling. “What is up with you?”

Adam stepped towards his wife and took her hands in his.

“Something really weird is happening,” he said.

“I’ll say. What’s up? Who’s at the door? Jesus?”

Adam laughed. “How close you — never mind. Where are the boys?”

“The boys? They’re upstairs playing. They’re supposed to be getting dressed — what’s this have to do with who’s at the door?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know what to do.”

“You’re shaking,” his wife observed.

He didn’t want his behavior to spook her. He pulled her close and hugged her and rubbed her back affectionately.

“It’s nothing bad,” he said. “It’s just — incredible! I don’t know what else to say. It just happened. Maybe if I had had the chance to talk to him first, I wouldn’t feel so —

“Talk to who?” Sandy interrupted.

Adam stopped rubbing his wife’s back, kissed her on the forehead and pointed towards the closed door.


“Who? Who’s at the door, Adam?”

Adam bit his upper lip, a nervous habit he had possessed since childhood. He took a deep breath and decided to just spit it out. “A man who looks exactly like my grandfather!”

“Your grandfather?”

“Yes, my grandfather, Papa.”

“Your dead grandfather?

“Yes, my dead grandfather. That’s why I’m shaking.”

“Well, it’s obviously not him!” she said.

Adam shook his head but then changed it to a nod. “He says he’s Papa.”

“He’s lying.”

Adam gritted his teeth. His wife was a strong woman, not prone to keeping her opinions to herself. He didn’t want a confrontation. “Lying’s a strong word, honey. Maybe you should look for yourself, but I warn you, he’s a dead ringer, pardon the pun.”

“Yes, I’d like to see for myself,” she said. She stepped for the door.

Adam grabbed his wife’s arm.

“I’m serious,” he said. “You’d better prepare yourself. He looks exactly like him.”

“Yeah, yeah, this coming from a man who thinks George Clooney and Billy Bob Thornton look alike.”

Adam shrugged his shoulders. “There’s a resemblance.”

“Yeah, they both have brown hair,” Sandy said. She marched to the back door and opened it.

Adam closed his eyes. He didn’t want to see.

“Jesus Christ!” Sandy shouted.

He opened his eyes and saw his wife with her hands to her face.

“No, it’s just me, Papa,” said the man at the door.

Adam touched the back of his wife’s shoulders, and she moved away from him. She looked as if she were about to hyperventilate.

“Breathe, Sandy,” Adam said.

She nodded, and she started sucking in deep breaths.

“Good job, honey,” he said.

“Your grandfather’s dead! We buried him! We all saw him in his coffin at the wake!” Sandy said. “When you die, morticians remove your blood and pump embalming fluid into your veins! There’s no way anybody comes back after that!”

Without looking, she pointed at the door.

“That man is not your grandfather! Who the hell is that on our porch?”

“It’s okay,” Adam said. “Remain calm. Keep your voice down. I don’t want the kids to see us like this.”

“I really think I should leave. I don’t want to upset you,” said the man on the porch, as he stuck his head through the doorway.

Adam turned towards him. “No, please don’t go. Come in.”

Come in? Sandy repeated. She accentuated the two syllables like an irate grade school teacher, and Adam knew he had said something that was going to place him in extremely hot water, yet, what else could he have said? He was not about to let this man who both claimed to be his grandfather and looked just like him walk away. Hell, he didn’t look “like” him, he was him, at least in terms of physical appearance and voice. Who in their right mind would let the man walk?

“You’re letting him come in here?” Sandy said. “Adam, we don’t know who that is!”

“Well, let’s find out,” Adam said. It seemed the reasonable thing to say. He leaned into her ear. “There’s two of us and one of him.” He smiled.

“It’s not funny!” Sandy said.

“I’m not laughing. I’m just trying to calm you down. You’re upset.”

“You’re damn right I’m upset! Aren’t you?”

“Y-yes, but I’d like to find out who — I’d like to hear what he has to say. I think it’ll make us less upset if we do that,” Adam said. He turned to the man in the doorway. “Would you come in and do that? You do have something to say about — you.”

The man nodded. “Yes, but if your wife is too upset, I can come back another time.”

“I don’t think I could get through the rest of this day without some kind of explanation right now,” Adam said. “Please, come inside. Sandy, it’ll be alright.”

Adam wasn’t exactly sure everything would be alright, but he needed to calm his wife down. If she worked herself up into one of her moods, it would be a very long day, and he really did want to hear what his “grandfather” had to say.

“It really is me, you know,” the man who would be Papa said as he tentatively stepped into their home.

As he came into the light of the dining room, his appearance to Adam became even more uncanny. The crew cut, his short wide body, the way he stood, all vintage Papa. The only thing missing was his eyeglasses.

“It’s good to see you, Adam,” he said. “You look good. How old are you now?”


The man smirked. Adam nearly cried right there- how he always loved that smirk!

“You look like a kid,” he said to Adam. He turned to Sandy. “I remember when you two first got engaged. I was so happy. I remember you had a little engagement party. Remember that day? It rained so hard. I remember because it was one of the last times I went out, before I got really sick and — .”

“And died!” Sandy finished.

“Yes,” the man nodded, “and died.”

“And now you’re back to life even though all your blood was removed? Even though you’ve been dead and buried for seven years?” Sandy asked.

“Sort of, but not really,” the man said. “I do have an explanation.”

“I bet you do!” Sandy said.

“Let’s go into the living room,” Adam said calmly. “It’ll be easier for us to talk there.”

Adam tapped his wife gently on the arm. “It’ll be okay.”

“You promised us an explanation. Let’s hear it, please,” Sandy said.

Adam wanted to remind Sandy not to snap or be rude, but he thought better of it. Just keep things calm and easy, don’t agitate an already volatile situation, he told himself. He hoped the comfortable surroundings of their living room would coax a civil mood.

“Certainly,” Papa said. “I don’t expect you to understand at first. It might take a little while for this to sink in, for you to make sense of it and understand it. I didn’t arrive at your doorstep today from my grave. In fact, if you were to go to the cemetery right now, and dig up my grave, you’d find my body in it.”

Adam looked at Sandy. Her usual soft white complexion had truly hardened into a deep tomato red.

“I’m what you call — I really don’t like this word. It’s so cold and inhuman, but there’s no other word for it. I’m a clone,” the man said.

“A clone,” Adam repeated. He was about to ask how that was possible but Sandy didn’t give him the chance.

“I’m sorry, old man, but I don’t think so!” she snapped.

“Oh, no,” Adam thought to himself.

“First of all,” she said, loudly, “it’s impossible for you to be a clone of Adam’s grandfather. You look 60 years old or so to me, and correct me if I’m wrong, but cloning didn’t exist 60 years ago! It doesn’t even exist now, at least where humans are concerned.”

“You’re right,” the man said. “It doesn’t exist now. But it will, in the future.”


That’s it for now.

Remember, Chapter 2 will be coming soon in a future post!  And again, you can read the entire book at http://www.neconebooks.com.

Thanks for reading!


STATION ELEVEN By Emily St. John Mandel Provides Masterful Literary Science Fiction


Station_ElevenWhat I’m Reading – Station Eleven  By Emily St. John Mandel



Apocalyptic stories seem to be the rage these days.  Whether it be the threat of zombies or the world running out of food, the world as we know it is over and every day folks like us have to adapt and fight to survive.


In Station Eleven  by Emily St. John Mandel, it’s a deadly flu epidemic which does the trick, wiping out most of all of humanity, leaving only a few survivors to carry on.  That being said, Station Eleven is much more than just an apocalyptic story— much more.  It’s a literary novel written with flawless prose by author Emily St. John Mandel that tells its story so creatively you’ll forget you’re reading a science fiction tale because it all comes to life so genuinely.


St. John Mandel weaves her way through multiple storylines so effortlessly reading her prose is like enjoying a fine meal.  Every bite is a treat.  Indeed, for a story that jumps back and forth through time, includes as one of its main characters a person who dies in the opening pages, it’s amazingly easy to follow and not confusing in the least.  I loved every minute of Station Eleven and frankly didn’t want the book to end.  I wanted to keep reading and find out what happened to these characters next.


Famous film star Arthur Leander suffers a heart attack while performing Shakespeare’s King Lear on stages.  Sitting in the front row is a young man Jeevan Chaudhary who has been studying to be a paramedic, and he leaps onto the stage in order to perform CPR on Leander, but his efforts fail and Leander dies.  Watching this awful scene is child actress Kirsten Raymonde, who during her time on King Lear had grown close to Leander.


After this tragic evening, Jeevan is on his way to visit his brother when the story breaks that a global pandemic has struck, as a fatal flu is quickly spreading across the world.  In amazingly rapid fashion, people die in droves and those who are left face a dramatically different world.


Station Eleven  proceeds to tell its story through these three main characters, as well as some others, and the result is a richly written thought-provoking tale that kept me riveted from the first page to the very last.


While the story does jump back and forth through time, author St. John Mandel makes the wise decision to tell her story in clusters.  So, large chunks of the tale follow one character, and then when another character is referenced, the story logically moves on to that character.  Somehow, the story makes complete sense and seems to follow a perfectly logical order.


Through Jeevan, we learn of the initial days of the pandemic.  He spends the first few weeks holed up with his brother in his brother’s apartment.  They watch the news together, and witness the poignant and terribly sad scenes of newscasters performing their final broadcasts before all the TV stations eventually cease to exist since no one remains to operate them.


A running theme through the book during this time period is the expectation that at some point rescue would be imminent.  The government would send in the Marines or the National Guard, and there would be clinics set up to treat the sick.  But the sad reality hits that there is no rescue.  There simply are not enough people left alive.  The survivors face the grim reality that life as they knew it is over.  This includes things like the internet, electricity, transportation, everything that people knew dies because there are no longer people left to work them.


Kirsten’s story takes place twenty years after the pandemic, set in the apocalyptic universe of the post-flu world.  Kirsten travels with an acting troupe— safety in numbers—going about the countryside performing music and Shakespeare plays. She lives in a world where a generation of children has been born never having known the world as it was before.  They have never seen cars drive, airplanes fly, refrigerators, air conditioners, electric light.  It’s also a world where violence occurs, as there are no more governments or police forces to provide law and order.


One of the more suspenseful parts of the novel is when Kirsten and her acting troupe enter a town run by a religious fanatic who goes by the name of The Prophet.  When they make it clear they want no part of his town or his beliefs, and they leave, they soon find themselves being pursued by The Prophet’s forces, and one by one they begin to disappear.


Arthur Leander’s story is told through flashback, obviously, as he dies in the opening pages, but this doesn’t seem to bother author St. John Mandel, and Leander’s story is one of the best written stories in the novel.  It’s also the most important, as Leander is the glue that holds the story together.  Everyone in the story has some connection to Leander, including his former wives and also his best friend Clark.


The main story of Leander involves him looking back at his life and wondering how it all happened.  He never set out to become a famous film actor, and he never really grew accustomed to the fame that went with it.  The story follows his relationships with his multiple wives.  He has a son with his second wife, a son he never is able to grow close to, and in fact on the day he dies, he’s planning to make amends and finally spend time with his young son.  Leander’s story works so well because we know how it ends.  We see him die in the first chapter, which makes his plans to reunite with his son all the more painful because we know they never happen.  He doesn’t live long enough.


His friend Clark becomes a major character in the book, and he’s involved in one of the more memorable sequences of the story.  He had been travelling on the day the flu epidemic broke out, and his plane was diverted to an airport in the small town of Severn City.  Clark’s story follows the early days, as he and a small group of survivors set up a society in the airport as they wait for rescue, which never comes.  Years later they remain at the airport and set up a society there.  Clark also starts collecting items from their past life and eventually sets up a museum, which includes things like cell phones and other now useless electronic devices from the past.


Leander’s first wife Miranda plays a central role as well.  In fact, the title Station Eleven refers to an unpublished comic book series that Miranda was working on, one that she ultimately gave to Leander, who, not really appreciating them or knowing what to do with them, gave them to young Kirsten as a gift.  As a child, Kirsten loves the comics, loves the exploits of the main character Dr. Eleven in his science fiction adventures, and years later during the apocalypse, craves to know who wrote them and why no one besides herself seems to have heard of them.


Leander’s second wife and their son also play a central part in the story, as they happen to be on the same plane as Clark and find themselves stranded at the same airport, which leads me to one element of the story that didn’t work as well as the rest.  All the characters are so intertwined, that it becomes a difficult stretch of the imagination that all these folks who knew Arthur Leander would all find themselves survivors of the apocalypse and even more hard to believe at the same airport, which ultimately happens.  This is a minor quibble, because I absolutely loved this book but I did find myself having a difficult time believing that all these characters would be so connected with each other.


I also found similarities between the villainous character the Prophet and a comparable character from THE WALKING DEAD, the Governor.  Now, there are certainly enough differences between the two to keep the Prophet a fresh character, but the way he leads his group, the way he twists the truth, and ultimately the way he uses violence reminded me an awful lot of my favorite WALKING DEAD villain, the Governor.


I also would have liked a more dramatic ending.  That being said, the ending as it stands does fit in nicely with the rest of the novel.  It’s just not very exciting.


As a STAR TREK fan, I enjoyed the many references to the STAR TREK universe.  This begins with a tattoo on Kirsten’s arm with the quote “Because survival is insufficient,” which her close friend derides by saying “I’d be impressed if you didn’t lift the quote from STAR TREK.”  The phrase is a quote from the character Seven of Nine on an episode of STAR TREK:  VOYAGER.


Station Eleven  is a highly recommended read.  It’s the most satisfying novel I’ve read in a long while.






THE LEGEND OF HERCULES  wasn't so legendary.  This snoozefest is on my list for the Top 10 Worst movies of 2014

THE LEGEND OF HERCULES wasn’t so legendary. This snoozefest is on my list for the Top 10 Worst movies of 2014



Michael Arruda


Here’s my list for the Top 10 Worst Films that I saw in 2014.


10- OCULUS – another muddled tale of the supernatural, this one has flashes of creativity, but they’re ultimately lost in a smoke and mirrors gimmick about— mirrors.


9- A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST – I’d settle for just a couple of ways to laugh in the west, in this very uneven Seth McFarlane comedy.


8- SEX TAPE – this comedy starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel about a married couple’s efforts to reclaim a homemade sex tape they mistakenly shared with family and friends sure tries hard to be funny, but ultimately the writing and the jokes just aren’t there.


7- THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 – this awful rebooted series continues. Somebody make it stop!


6- 22 JUMP STREET – This Jonah Hill/Channing Tatum sequel is nowhere near as funny as the first film.  Lots of jokes- most of them misfire.


5- THE LEGEND OF HERCULES – zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Coming in at #5 is the terribly mediocre THE LEGEND OF HERCULES starring Kellan Lutz as Hercules.  This one was so bland Hercules could have been some guy name Joe, for all we care.  There was nothing blatantly wrong with this movie, but it was all just so very— average.  Nothing stood out about this one.  There weren’t any memorable action sequences, no crowd pleasing moments, no excellent performances, no memorable dialogue, it was all just— there.  Not very Herculean when you think about it.


4- NO GOOD DEED – Not even Idris Elba can save this silly implausible thriller.

My Number 4 pick is NO GOOD DEED, a silly thriller where Idris Elba plays an escaped convict who terrorizes a young mother and her child.  This one went south for me as soon as the mother agreed to let the character played by Elba into her house, even though she’s alone with her child, and she doesn’t know this guy from a hole in the wall.  Who does that?  Not someone I want to watch a movie about.  As much I like Elba as an actor, he couldn’t save this movie.  He’d make a helluva James Bond, though!


3-OUIJA – who’s moving that planchette?  Come on.  Someone’s moving it, right?

My pick for Number 3 is the awful horror movie OUIJA.  This is one of the movies I did detest this year.  This one was so bad it completely wasted the talents of Olivia Cooke, a fine young actress who I enjoyed in both THE QUIET ONES and TV’s BATES MOTEL.

 OUIJA is so by-the-numbers it’s ridiculous.  It’s just an excuse to build a movie around a group of teenagers and throw them into some scary scenes, because as soon as you think about what’s going on, the story falls apart.  All the main characters are teenagers, and it’s one of those movies where all the adults conveniently disappear, and so any credibility the story could possibly have immediately goes out the window.

OUIJA is a terrible horror movie.  Go buy the silly board game instead.


2-DEVIL’S DUE– who’s your daddy?  Could it be— Satan???

My pick for Number 2 is another horror movie, the one horror movie I liked less than OUIJA this year, and that is DEVIL’S DUE.  This lame-brained horror movie about a demonic possession was so bad that the audience I saw it with at the theater laughed throughout the entire movie.  This was another of those hand-held camera movies, where the main character, in this case the husband in the story, is obsessed with filming everything.  People like that sure are annoying!  Hubby should have paid more attention to his young wife instead of his camera because she gets raped by Satan and then has Satan’s baby.  Yup, that’s the premise of this ill-conceived (heh, heh!) horror movie.  Gee, where have I seen this storyline done before?  A lot of places, and much better too!


1-BAD WORDS – I can think of a few bad words to properly describe this “comedy.”

Okay, my pick for Number 1, the worst movie of 2014, is the odd Jason Bateman comedy BAD WORDS.  Now, I realize I may have missed the boat here, because Bateman’s character Guy Trilby is supposed to be an unlikable jerk, but I despised this guy so much I was sick of him within the first five minutes of the movie and could barely sit through the remaining 84.

BAD WORDS is about a bitter forty year-old man Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman) who enters a middle school spelling bee with every intention of winning it and then moving on to win at the national level, which he does.  Why?  He has his reasons, and when you learn what they are, you’ll no doubt  think the same thing I did:  so what?  That’s the big the reason you’ve become a jerk your whole life?  What a loser!  Show some backbone, you wimp!

BAD WORDS is one of the oddest and most unlikable movies I’ve seen in a long time.


So, there you have it, my picks for the worst films that I saw in 2014.

Thanks for reading!











Best Movies of 2014

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY poster- my pick for the second best movie of the year.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY poster- my pick for the second best movie of the year.



Michael Arruda


Here’s my list for the Top 10 Best Films that I saw in 2014.


10 – JERSEY BOYS – Clint Eastwood’s film version of the popular musical about the life of singer Frankie Valli.

9 – CAPTAIN AMERICA:  THE WINTER SOLDIER – I love the Marvel superhero movies, and I enjoyed this Captain America sequel more than the original.

8 – EDGE OF TOMORROW – I really enjoyed this science fiction tale starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt.  Clever, creative, and so much more than just a science fiction variation of the GROUNDHOG DAY gimmick.

7 – THE BABADOOK – creepy horror film most notable for me for its lack of false scares.  Nearly every fright in this one is genuine.

6 – THE QUIET ONES– this horror film by Hammer Films about a college professor trying to disprove a demonic possession case didn’t do well at the box office but it really is an intelligently made horror movie that is as eerie as it is thought-provoking.

5 – NIGHTCRAWLER –slick thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a sociopath named Louis Bloom who spends his evenings stealing scrap metal and other items in order to sell them and make some cash, before deciding to become a photographer for the nightly news.  This high-energy thriller came out of nowhere this year, as I had heard very little about it, and then suddenly there it was.

Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a phenomenal performance, as he gives the main character Louis such tremendous energy and vitality that everything he does, no matter how outlandish, you believe it.  He also makes Louis likable, which is no easy task.  NIGHTCRAWLER also has a lot to say about today’s media, as the television news station continues to buy Louis’s videos, even when they know he’s manipulating events to get the footage.  It’s all about ratings!

NIGHTCRAWLER is a high octane thriller that features an outstanding performance by Jake Gyllenhaal.  It’s not to be missed.


4 – GONE GIRL – superior thriller in which nearly everything works, thanks to director David Fincher. It features a terrific performance by Ben Affleck, and an even better one by Rosamund Pike.  The story of a husband blamed for his wife’s disappearance starts out as a straightforward thriller but there’s oh-so-much-more going on here, with twists and turns you’ll no doubt won’t see coming.  The other thing I really liked about this movie was that three of the main characters were women, and that’s not something you see every day, unfortunately.  There was Rosamund Pike as the missing wife Amy Dunne, Carrie Coon as Ben Affleck’s sister, Margo, and Kim Dickens as the hard-nosed Detective Rhonda Boney, and all three of these performers are excellent.

3 – THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY – a deliciously smart and enjoyable feel-good movie starring Helen Mirren, THE HUNDRED FOOT JOURNEY tells the story of an Indian family led by its patriarch, Papa (Om Puri), that relocates to France where they open an Indian restaurant 100 feet across the street from the most popular eatery in the area, a fine French restaurant owned by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren).  The comedy stems from Mallory’s and Papa’s efforts to continually try to one-up the other, and things grow more complicated when Papa’s son Hassan (Manish Dayal), who he promotes as the finest Indian chef in the land, turns to Madame Mallory for training so he can become an even better chef.  Everything works in this movie, as it has terrific acting, a top-notch directorial effort by director Lasse Hallstrom, and an excellent script by Steven Knight.  Just don’t see it on an empty stomach.  The dishes in this flick are absolutely delectable.

My favorite feel-good movie of the year, featuring some of the most mouth-watering dishes you’ll see in a movie.


2 – GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – the most fun at the movies I had this year, this is one of the best superhero movies ever made, and it’s hilarious to boot.

I loved this movie! The humor was spot-on, thanks to a hilarious script by Nicole Perlman and director James Gunn, and the performances were all top-notch, from Chris Pratt in the lead role of Peter Quill, “Star Lord,” Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Dave Bautista as Drax, and the voice talents of Bradley Cooper as Rocket and Vin Diesel as Groot.  There hasn’t been a superhero group like this since The Avengers, and these guys are more fun!  If there were an Island for Misfit Superheroes, these guys would be on it.

There was pretty much nothing I didn’t like about this film, and in terms of all-time great superhero movies, it’s up there with THE AVENGERS (2012), IRON MAN (2008), and THE DARK KNIGHT (2008), but what I think makes this one so special is just how light and funny it is without sacrificing the integrity of the superhero story.  It’s not mindlessly stupid.  On the contrary, it’s intelligently funny.


It also has an amazing soundtrack.


1 -INTERSTELLAR – My pick for the Number 1 film of 2014 is INTERSTELLAR, Christopher Nolan‘s ambitious big budget science fiction thriller which one day may rank as one of the all-time great science fiction films.  It stars Matthew McConaughey as an astronaut who leaves his family and travels to the far reaches of space in a desperation mission to find a habitable planet on which to relocate the human race because Earth is dying due to a lack of food.

For me, INTERSTELLAR was a near perfect film.  It had everything:  acting, direction, script, pacing, twists and turns, but by far the best part for me was that it tackled some truly big ideas:  it dealt with worm holes, the theory of relativity, time travel, black holes, and what happens when someone enters a black hole.  It remained intelligent enough throughout to keep its science fiction believable.  It also scored high with its human element, as the tale of McConaughey’s character Hooper’s plight to return home to his family no matter what was a winner and grabbed me from the get-go.  It also had an excellent cast led by McConaughey that also featured Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, Casey Affleck, Michael Caine, and John Lithgow.

Of all the films I saw in 2014, INTERSTELLAR was the most satisfying.


So, there you have it, my picks for the best films that I saw in 2014.

Next time I’ll share my list for the worst films that I saw in 2014.

Until then, thanks for reading!



TIME FRAME – My Debut Novel- Now Available!


time frame coverTIME FRAME – My Debut Novel Now Available!


Michael Arruda


Nothing like writing your own press release!


Seriously, though, self-promotion goes hand in hand with being an author.  You’ve got to get the word out about your work.  Books don’t sell themselves.


Self-promotion is, after all, one of the main reasons I write this blog.  Sure, I have fun writing it, and I enjoy writing about movies and the horror genre, but the goal really of the whole thing is to get my name out there so that if people like what they read here, they’ll take a chance and buy some of my books that are on sale.  That’s the theory anyway.  I don’t think about it too much since I have so much fun writing the blog.


Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  If you write, you have to spend as much time and effort marketing your work as you do writing it, or else you’ll be writing for you and you alone, and that simply isn’t much fun!


So, that’s what I’m doing here today, promoting my new novel.


My debut novel, TIME FRAME, is now available as an EBook from NeconEbooks at www.neconebooks.com.  And right now it’s on sale for the very low price of $2.99.  What a bargain!


TIME FRAME is a story about time travel.  I love time travel stories, and I set out to write one that played with multiple timelines and had some fun taking traditional time travel tropes to the extreme.


Writing TIME FRAME was a challenge because it’s a story with multiple timelines and I had to make sure that by the story’s end that they all made sense.  I think they do.  I also wanted to take things as far as possible, to write a story where I took those traditional time travel tropes and blew them out of the water.  Not sure if I succeeded, but the story does include a large explosion on the high seas.


I also didn’t want my science fiction tale to be cold and stoic.  I wanted heated and emotional, which is why I wrote as my main characters a close family, with the thought in mind:  how far would you go to protect your family?  Would you break the rules of time travel to save your loved ones?


This one also started with a single idea. I had recently lost my own grandfather, who I was very close to, and I couldn’t get the thought out of my head that I just wanted to see him one more time.  And so I came up with the single scene of a young man opening his front door and finding his grandfather standing there looking perfectly normal, which the man knew had to be impossible because his grandfather was dead.  This scene was the genesis for TIME FRAME, and I built the story around that, as I thought about possible scenarios that could make this scene true.  What could account for a man who had been dead for several years returning to his loved ones looking happy and healthy again?  The answer became the novel TIME FRAME.


Here’s what others are saying about TIME FRAME:


TIME FRAME is one of those books that had me from the first scene. It begins when Papa, who has been dead for several years, knocks on the door of his adult grandson’s house. Why he’s there (and more importantly, how) opens up a whole plethora of questions and answers involving the future, time travel, and deadly conspiracies to keep certain mouths shut. Somehow, Arruda is able to put a fresh spin on the concept of time travel, and deliver a gripping book that will have you eagerly turning pages to see what happens next. There’s also something about his style and characters that has a quality similar to comfort food. You’re in for a treat with this one. TIME FRAME delivers.”


–L.L. Soares, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of the novels LIFE RAGE, ROCK ‘N’ ROLL and HARD



TIME FRAME, by Michael Arruda, serves up both a tender family drama and mind-bending time travel story. An earnest debut novel with a lot of heart and plenty of twists and turns.

–Daniel G Keohane, author of SOLOMON’S GRAVE



“Michael Arruda’s TIME FRAME is the kind of science fiction novel I love – full of great characters and ideas.  It speeds along at a frightening pace with complications and time conundrums hurled incessantly at our heroes.  In this way, it hearkens back to those great tales from the golden age of science fiction, but with all the time travel, explosions, fires, and heady concepts, it is ultimately the story of the importance of family in our lives.  What a great ride!”


–William D. Carl, author of THE SCHOOL THAT SCREAMED and BESTIAL



“Arruda works the time lines, like a weaver on a loom.  TIME FRAME is a fun, quirky and entertaining read.  Time travel, clones, the occasional temporal paradox and a pinch of violence thrown in for good measure.  A very enjoyable ride.”




I wrote TIME FRAME with the spirit of time travel movies and TV shows in mind, films like THE TIME MACHINE (1960), TIME AFTER TIME (1979), and any number of STAR TREK episodes.  If you enjoy time travel adventures, chance are you’ll enjoy TIME FRAME.  I hope you decide to check it out.


And if EBooks aren’t your thing, the print edition will be arriving soon, a little bit later on in 2015.


Thanks for reading!




Hazel Court as Elizabeth in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957, as the Creature (Christopher Lee) peers down at her through the skylight.

Hazel Court as Elizabeth in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957).  That’s Christopher Lee’s Creature peering down at her through the skylight.


By Michael Arruda


Welcome back to LEADING LADIES, the column where we look at leading ladies in horror movies, especially from years gone by.


Today we look at the career of Hazel Court, the beautiful actress who graced many of the horror period pieces of the 1950s and 1960s.  She played Elizabeth opposite Peter Cushing’s Baron Frankenstein in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957), and her performance as Elizabeth in this movie just might be my favorite Elizabeth performance in a Frankenstein movie, with perhaps the possible exception of Madeline Kahn’s over-the-top performance in Mel Brooks’ YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974).


Hazel Court enjoyed a long career, appearing in movies and TV shows beginning in 1944 and continuing all the way up to 1981.  She has 71 screen credits.  While I know her most from her horror movie appearances, she also appeared in a bunch of TV shows in the 1960s, appearing on such shows as TWILIGHT ZONE (1964), THE WILD WILD WEST (1966), MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (1967), MANNIX (1967), and MCMILLAN & WIFE (1972).


I will forever remember her for her appearance as Elizabeth in the Hammer classic THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  What I enjoy about her most in this movie is the class she brings to the role.  Peter Cushing is an absolute devil as Victor Frankenstein, and Court’s Elizabeth is so beautiful, charming, and genuine, it makes what Victor does to her all the more painful, as he lies to her continually and cheats on her as well.


Her character seemed so genuinely interested in Victor’s work, I often wonder what her reaction would have been had Victor made good on his promise to tell her the truth about his work and show her his creation.  Would she have been horrified?  Or would she have been supportive?  Judging from her character in this movie, I’d guess it would be the latter, that she, unlike Victor’s former tutor-turned-assistant Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart) would not have been offended but would have offered her help to her husband to make his dream of creating life come true.  But alas, this doesn’t happen, as Elizabeth is nearly murdered by the Creature (Christopher Lee), and thanks to Paul’s betrayal, Victor is sent to the guillotine.


My favorite Hazel Court scene as Elizabeth in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN is when she boldly decides to search Victor’s laboratory on her own, to learn for herself just what it is that has caused such a rift between Victor and Paul.  She picks up a candle—the same one that Victor would use moments later to engulf his Creature in flames— and searches the area, and when she comes to the acid vat where Victor had been disposing his body parts, she brings her hand to her nose just as the Creature looks down upon her from the rooftop skylight. She looks up and cries out, “Who’s that?”  But the Creature is no longer there.


Here is a partial look at Hazel Court’s career, concentrating mostly on her horror film appearances:


CHAMPAGNE CHARLIE (1944) – Hazel Court’s first screen appearance, an uncredited bit in this comedy musical.


GHOST SHIP (1952) – ghosts on the high seas!


DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS (1954) – Hazel Court’s not the Devil Girl, but she is terribly sexy in this campy science fiction tale about a woman alien from Mars dressed in leather who’s come to Earth to dominate men.  Court plays a fashion model named Ellen Prestwick, and she definitely looks the part.  She’s never looked sexier!


THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) – plays Elizabeth to Peter Cushing’s Victor Frankenstein in Hammer Films’ first horror hit.  That’s Court’s real life daughter Sally Walsh playing the character of Elizabeth as a child.  My favorite Hazel Court performance.


THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH (1959) – Janine Du Bois- reunited with THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN director Terence Fisher, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, and star Christopher Lee in this thriller from Hammer Films.


BONANZA (1960) – Lady Beatrice Dunsford – guest spot on the popular TV western in the episode named “The Last Trophy.”


DOCTOR BLOOD’S COFFIN (1961) – Nurse Linda Parker- low budget horror movie written by director Nathan Juran, who directed such classics as 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957) and THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958), both films featuring special effects by Ray Harryhausen.


ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS (1958-1961) – appeared in four different episodes of this popular television show.


THRILLER (1961) – Leonie Vicek- appeared in the episode “The Terror in Teakwood” in this horror show hosted by Boris Karloff.


PREMATURE BURIAL (1962) – Emily Gault – stars opposite Ray Milland in this handsome horror movie directed by Roger Corman based on the Edgar Allan Poe story.


THE RAVEN (1963) – Lenore Craven – gets to star with Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Jack Nicholson in this horror comedy by Roger Corman, loosely based on the Edgar Allan Poe poem.


TWILIGHT ZONE (1964) – Charlotte Scott – stars in the episode called “The Fear” in this iconic science fiction series.


THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964) – Juliana – in danger from Vincent Price’s evil Prince Prospero in this horror movie by Roger Corman based on the Edgar Allan Poe story.


THE WILD WILD WEST (1965) – Elizabeth Carter – appears in the episode “The Night of the Returning Dead” directed by Richard Donner, in this western TV series starring Robert Conrad and Ross Martin.


MISSION:  IMPOSSIBLE (1967) – Catherine Hagar – appeared in the episode “Charity” of this spy television series starring Peter Graves.


MCMILLAN & WIFE (1972) – Frances Mayerling – appeared in the episode “The Face of Murder” in this mystery TV series starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James.



Hazel Court passed away from a heart attack on April 15, 2008 at the age of 82.


Hazel Court.  February 10, 1926 – April 15, 2008.


Thanks for reading!






the black cat posterHere’s my latest IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column, on the Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi masterpiece THE BLACK CAT (1934), up now in the January 2015 edition of The Horror Writers Association Newsletter.







THE BLACK CAT (1934) is my favorite teaming of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.  It’s also the first time these two horror stars appeared together in a movie.

THE BLACK CAT was made when both Karloff and Lugosi were at the height of their popularity, each coming off the success of their first horror hit, Lugosi with DRACULA (1931) and Karloff with FRANKENSTEIN (1931).  Audiences definitely responded, as this was Universal’s biggest money maker at the box office in 1934.

Since the two play adversaries in THE BLACK CAT, it’s very easy to see this movie as Dracula vs. Frankenstein.  This concept wasn’t lost on director Edgar G. Ulmer, as he takes full advantage of these two actors’ famous monster counterparts.  Lugosi gets to spout haunting dialogue throughout, a la Dracula.  When Karloff is introduced, it’s through a silhouette.  We see his solid physique which in shadow strongly resembles the Frankenstein Monster, and Karloff’s first few minutes of screen time are spent in silence, as if, like the Monster, he cannot speak.

In THE BLACK CAT, Dr. Vitus Verdegast (Bela Lugosi) returns to Hungary in search of his wife.  On his way there, he befriends two Americans on a train, author Peter Allison (David Manners) and his wife Joan (Jacqueline Wells) who for some reason are honeymooning in Hungary.  Whose idea was that?  When there is a car crash in a storm, and Joan is injured, Vitus brings the couple to the home of Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff), in order to treat her injuries.  Poelzig is the man Vitus has come to see, believing that his wife is now living in Poelzig’s home.

The two men have a history.  Poelzig was the commanding officer of the military unit in which Vitus served in World War I, and according to Vitus, Poelzig abandoned his men, leaving them to be killed or worse yet, captured, which is what happened to Vitus. After spending fifteen years in prison, Vitus has returned to claim his wife back from Poelzig.  Vitus demands Poelzig bring him to his wife, and he does, but his wife is dead, her body preserved in a glass case.

It turns out, Poelzig is a Satanist, and he has set his sights on Joan as his latest sacrificial victim, unless Vitus can stop him.

THE BLACK CAT is one of the more interesting Universal horror movies of the 1930s.  It has many things going for it.  It has Karloff and Lugosi of course, and it also has an amazingly talented director at the helm, Edgar G. Ulmer, who does a phenomenal job with this movie.

Ulmer offers a lot of neat touches.  There’s some nifty camerawork, offering creative transitions from scene to scene.  Ulmer also made the unusual decision to include background music in nearly the entire film.  Most films during this time period employed very little music other than during the opening and closing credits.  Nearly all of THE BLACK CAT has music playing in the background.

It’s a compact little film.  At 65 minutes, things move briskly and efficiently.  There’s no time to daydream.

The screenplay by Peter Ruric tells a haunting story which was quite gruesome for its day.  Karloff’s Poelzig keeps women—evidently his dead wives— preserved in glass cases in his own personal museum— talk about trophy wives!  He most likely killed all these women, making him one of the earliest movie serial killers.

There’s also a very gruesome “skinning alive” scene that still makes me squirm each time I see it.

Poelzig’s ultra-modern house is incredibly cool.  It has a modern design because Poelzig is supposedly his country’s most talented architect.  The house is unlike anything else seen in the Universal monster movies.  Usually the events in these movies take place in decrepit castles and laboratories, but here, we have revolving rooms, slick sliding doors, communication systems, and interior architecture which resembles something you’d find on STAR TREK.

Although the title THE BLACK CAT comes from the Edgar Allan Poe short story, the film has nothing at all to do with Poe’s tale.  In fact, the only connection to the events in the movie and the black cat is that Vitus suffers from an intense fear of cats.

By far, the best part of THE BLACK CAT is Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.

Lugosi is on top of his game throughout, and he gets to deliver one memorable line after another.  For me, it’s always a treat listening to Lugosi speak in a movie, as his voice and his accent have a poetic quality about them that make his dialogue all the better, and he’s got some classic lines in this movie.

When speaking of Poelzig’s home, which was built on a massive battlefield graveyard, Vitus says, “The masterpiece of construction, built upon the ruins of the masterpiece of destruction.”

Karloff’s got some great lines as well.  My favorite is when Peter Allison barks at him that the phone is dead, Poelzig turns to Vitus and says, “The phone is dead.  Do you hear that, Vitus?  Even the phone is dead!”

So, you have Lugosi strutting his stuff throughout, displaying all the skills which he used to create Dracula, and you think, there’s no way anyone in this film can be better, but then you get to Karloff, whose style is the antithesis of Lugosi’s.  While Lugosi is commanding and authoritative, and all about the dialogue which he uses to great dramatic effect, Karloff is the opposite, seeming so relaxed and subtle.  With Karloff, it’s a nuanced expression, the raising of an eyebrow, the clenching of a hand.  He incites fear in his audience so effortlessly it’s amazing.  His is a different style, and he not only holds his own against Lugosi, he surpasses him.  The interactions of these two actors in this movie is a nice microcosm of how their careers played out in real life, with Karloff continuing to grow stronger over the years on his way to becoming the “King of Horror.”

There’s just a relaxed glee about Karloff, like when he comments on Lugosi’s fear of cats, lines he delivers with a devilish smile:  “You must be indulgent of Dr. Verdegast’s weakness.  He is the unfortunate victim of one of the commoner phobias, but in an extreme form.  He has an intense and all-consuming horror of cats.”

Even David Manners, who’s usually the straight—and dull— leading man in such films as DRACULA and THE MUMMY (1932)— gets to display an edge here not always seen in his other roles.

Not only is THE BLACK CAT one of Universal’s best horror movies and the best of the Karloff/Lugosi pairings, it’s also one of the finest horror movies ever made, period.

Looking for a winter vacation destination?  Check out Hjalmar Poelzig’s place.  I’m not sure how the skiing is, but I hear the skinning is just fine.  Ouch!