Universal Monsters rewatch – Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man 1951

Rewatching the Universal Monsters! It’s a return to comedy land with Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man.

Here’s what happens: Abbott and Costello play private detectives who run into a Tommy Nelson boxer turned fugitive, framed for the murder of his manager. Tommy takes the invisibility serum to hide out from the cops, and he and the bumbling PIs enact a plan to find the real killer.

Monster! This Invisible Man isn’t all that monstrous, but the movie points out that the invisibility serum originates from Joe Griffin. A photo of him is shown, and it’s Claude Rains from the original Invisible Man. Therefore, this is in continuity, as the serum keeps getting passed around from Griffin to the other.

Also a monster! The real villains are mobsters, led by Morgan. The real show-offy villain role, however, is Boots Marsden, a sexy seductress whom Bud tries to woo to get information from. I wanted her to be revealed as the big bad at the end, but no.

Bud and Lou: The movie leans into our heroes being detectives by having Lou wear a Sherlock Holmes deerstalker cap and horse around with a magnifying glass. We quickly leave that behind for some boxing action. Most of the movie is Lou pretending to be a boxer while the Invisible Man actually throws the punches, leading to much slapstick.

 

Hapless humans: The emotional core of the story – such as it is – comes from the Invisible Man’s fiancé, who is on hand throughout to worry about him. We also get some bumbling cops and a befuddled psychiatrist, for some additional straight men for Lou to mess around with.

Thrills: The only horror/thriller scene is the finale, when Morgan pulls a gun and tries to sort out where in the room the Invisible Man is, with Bud and Lou caught in the middle.

Laughs: Again, while the slapstick is the big selling point, it’s the wordplay and the one-liners that are the biggest laughs. I’m assuming the psychiatrist scenes originated from Abbott and Costello’s standup/radio days.

What’s all this, then? A rival boxer is named Rocky. Rocky? Seriously?

Thoughts on this viewing: A low-substance movie, but not without its charms. It lacks the monster-movie fun of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, but taken on its own it’s an amusing enough crime spoof.

Next: Creature feature.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Genosha is lovely in the springtime

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Vol. 3 issue #11 includes a new villain, an exotic locale, brain-swapping, and even some crime scene investigation.

We begin with a flashback to the FF’s origin, which will run sporadically through the issue. The story proper starts on the next page, where Sue, Ben, and Johnny arrive at the crime scene where Reed was abducted last issue. Using some of Reed’s tech, Sue deduces that Reed was abducted by the Press Gang, a group of mutants from Genosha who’ve turned mercenaries.

Later our heroes meet with Dr. Cooper, the White House liaison on metahuman affairs. She fills them (and the reader) in on Genosha. Located to east of Africa, Genosha is a paradisiacal island nation where superhumans were the underclass. Then there was open revolt, which turned into all-out war, leaving the entire island a quarantined wasteland. Cooper fears that the Genoshans want Reed’s genius to help them combat a new threat to their country. She then says the US cannot offer aid to the FF in this matter. Sue responds by saying the team has a lot of work to do.

The FF prepare to take off in their new pogo plane. Ben says goodbye to genius Alyssa Moy, who kisses him on the mouth (!), and newcomer Alysane Stuart promises to watch Franklin while they’re gone. The cop from the crime scene is also there, also promising to take care of Franklin. During the flight to Genosha, Johnny points out that Reed has been acting differently since his encounter with Crucible (back in issue #5), but Sue says she like Reed spending less time on science and more time with her.

Then a missile strikes the plane, seriously damaging it. Ben brings it down for a crash landing, and bursts from the wreckage looking for a fight. He’s confronted by a gold-skinned woman, who says the FF represent a threat to her plan.

A short fight breaks out, with the woman seemingly able to counter the FF’s powers. She makes Johnny’s fire go crazy, so that Johnny actually burns, and she summons a bunch of tiny creatures to swarm Ben. When trapped in Sue’s force field, she commands Sue to disappear, but for real this time. As the fight ends, the woman says she has many names but for now to call her Ayesha. Turn the page, and we see what appears to be a corrupted version of Sue, Ben and Johnny, looking evil and dressed in edgy black outfits.

Then there’s another twist, as we cut to Crucible and Ayesha addressing three strangers – Jomo Kimane, Farisa Mansour, and Harry Soong. Except that this is really Ben, Sue, and Johnny whose minds have been put into these three peoples’ bodies. Sue theorizes that this allows Crucible to create his own fighting force of metahumans while eliminating competition at the same time. Crucible gives a big villain speech about he is actually tempering humanity, making humans stronger for even greater trials in the future.

Crucible leaves the heroes alone in a room inside his skyscraper headquarters. Johnny, trapped in an old man’s body, fakes a heart attack to bring in the guards, and Sue and Ben punch them out. Cut back to Crucible, and we see the evil FF from a few pages earlier are the three Genoshans, having their bodies switched into the FF’s bodies. One of them is testing the Human Torch’s power, only he can’t control himself and lets loose the nova flame, destroying part of the building. The FF manage to get inside an ambulance and make a run for it, only to get caught in the blaze. The ambulance crashes, taking the powerless FF with them.

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Reed’s briefcase was found at the crime scene, and we’re told that it was a gift from Sue for the first anniversary. You’ll have to forgive me for not going back through all the old issues trying to track the continuity of this briefcase.

Fade out: Sue does a lot of science-speak at the crime scene. She says she picked up a lot of science know-how from being married to Reed over the years.

Clobberin’ time: Ben takes the body-switching thing in stride, saying this isn’t the first time this has happened. He also calls out Crucible for being too similar to Dr. Doom, in an amusing meta moment.

Flame on: Johnny is having a hard time with his mind inside an old man’s body. He has to be careful not to over-exert himself for fear of his now-weak heart. Except that gives the team the idea to escape later on.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Alysande Stuart wears a tank top with a number 4 on it, but I don’t believe this means she’s an official member of the team at this point. We’ve only seen her alter ego Caledonia once so far, and just barely.

Four and a half: Franklin just barely appears in this issue, saying goodbye to his mom, and reminding the others that he now has an alien dog for a pet.

Commercial break: It’s magic!

Trivia time: The supporting characters continue the trend of Chris Claremont reintroducing characters from various X-Men comics in Fantastic Four. Officer Charlotte Jones was regular in X-Factor and Uncanny X-Men, and even wore the blue-and-yellow X-Men uniform for a while. Dr. Cooper is Valerie Cooper, who was something of a villain in Uncanny X-Men, often in league with Freedom Force, who was really the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

The Genosha exposition only covers part of the Genosha story, which also includes Magneto and the Acolytes, the Legacy virus, and more. You look it up the Marvel Wiki just as easily as I can.

A caption says Pier 4 is located “above Stuyvesant High School.” This is a real school in NYC known for its accelerated education programs. I believe “above” in this case means the pier is north of the school, and not physically on top of the school building.

Fantastic or frightful? It’s fun to see Sue be team leader again, and the fight with Ayesha is pretty cool, but the brain-switching stuff is handled way too awkwardly and confusingly. A mixed bag, I guess.

Next: “I will become him.”

****

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Universal Monsters rewatch – Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein 1948

Watching the Universal Monsters! The ones no the Blu-ray box, that is. And you just can’t discuss the monsters without Abbott and Costello.

Here’s what happens: Buddies and co-workers Chet and Wilbur get caught up in a plot involving Count Dracula wanting to revive Frankenstein’s monster. They’re aided by Larry Talbot, a.k.a. the Wolf Man, who is on a mission to stop Dracula.

Monster! The big deal here is that the great Bela Lugosi finally returns as Dracula. His accent is a lot less pronounced after two decades, and Drac is more like the various B-movie mad scientists he’d been playing. Still, he’s having fun, playing the role with devilish smile the whole time.

Also a monster! Instead of making us wait all movie for Frankenstein’s monster, the monster is up and about in the opening scene. Still the marquee star, he gets another great scene at the end, smashing up the laboratory like he always does.

Also a monster! In House of Dracula, Talbot finally got the cure he so often sought, and his curse was lifted. But now he’s back, still transforming into the Wolf Man. He’s a full-on antihero this time. We get the sense he’s been pursuing Dracula for some time, now putting him in the Van Helsing-type role.

Also a monster! Sandra, a researcher, starts out as Dracula’s assistant. To ensure her loyalty, he bites her. She apparently turns into a vampire after this, attempting to bite Wilbur at one point. She later gets tossed out a window during Frankenstein’s monster’s rampage.

Also a monster! Then there’s one more classic monster who shows up at the end. I won’t spoil it, in case anyone still hasn’t seen this movie.

Bud and Lou: The plot (yes, there is a plot) has to do with Dracula setting up a lab so he may transplant Wilbur’s brain into Frankenstein’s monster’s body. Why? One line says this will make the monster less combative and more submissive to do Dracula’s will. Another line says it’s because Wilbur has witnessed the monsters and therefore is open to supernatural experiences. Should we add Wilbur to the official list of Universal monsters?

Hapless humans: Joan is an insurance investigator who, along with Sandra, pretends to woo Wilbur to uncover info about Dracula. The movie kind of forgets about Joan in the third act, suggesting that she ends up with another character, Professor Stevens, who doesn’t do much. There’s also McDougal, who works with Chick and Wilbur. He accuses them of stealing, and later gets killed by the Wolf Man.

Thrills: After all this time, this is the movie that offers the big multi-monster brawl that the franchise keeps promising. Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and the Wolf Man all duke it out in lab, and then on a burning pier. The Wolf Man taking out Dracula in the final moments is especially exciting. Hardcore monster fans turned off by Abbott and Costello should at least see the final battle.

 

Laughs: Our heroes have two modes in the movie. One his boy-who-cried-wolf antics, in which Wilbur reacts outrageously with fear upon seeing the monsters. Then the pivot into romantic comedy mode, in which Wilbur has two beautiful women pursuing him romantically, much to Chick’s befuddlement. Wilbur’s over-the-top screams are supposed to be the big comedic set piece, but I prefer his and Chick’s various one-liners and quips, which are the real comedy gold.

 

Thoughts upon this viewing: What’s great about this movie is that the monsters are (mostly) played straight, so that it’s not just comedy, but a bona fide monster movie. Despite all of Wilbur’s hysterics, the stakes are high and the monsters are genuinely dangerous. It’s the real deal.

Next: Visual comedy.

****

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Fantastic Friday: It’s a trap

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In vol. 3 issue 10, writer Chris Claremont brings back more obscure villains, including good ol’ Paste Pot.

Even though the Saturnyne and Roma storyline wrapped up two issues back, this one begins with Saturnyne and Roma inside Saturnyne’s palace at the center of the universe. They are spying on Reed, wondering when Reed is going to use the data crystal Roma gave him. (When did this happen? The caption says it was off-panel, between issues 8 and 9.) In Reed’s lab, he is indeed working on the crystal, saying it is packed with data, depicting a vast starscape affected by a field of distortion.

Feeling that he’s fallen into a rut Reed asks his computer to activate an exercise program – revealing that this is a holodeck in all but name. He creates a simulation of New York under attack by Annihilus, Blastaar, and Terrax. This holo-fight goes on for several pages, with Reed finally winning. He collapses with exhaustion, saying he pushed himself to the limit, and it felt great.

Just before dawn, Reed checks on sleeping Franklin, and Franklin’s new pet, an alien dog Franklin has named Puppy. Reed ponders how science used to be his whole life, but now his family is his reason for being. Nearby, Ben and super-genius Alyssa Moy return from a sightseeing trip to Paris, courtesy of Alyssa’s flying car. She gives him a kiss on the cheek before flying off. He catches up with Johnny who is trying to figure out how to free the FF’s other new female ally Alysande Stuart of the gold shackles she apparently can’t remove. Whatever the shackles are made of, they cannot burn. Alysande, we learn, was a slave (!) in her home dimension, before the FF brought her to Earth.

Johnny flies to the ruined and abandoned Four Freedoms Plaza, where Alysande has been living. They share a breakfast and she tells him that she’s the last remaining Scot in her universe, after Scotland was destroyed by an evil emperor. Because of this, she is hesitant to visit the Scotland of Johnny’s universe. At the pier, the rest of the FF joke about how they know Johnny is secretly letting Alysande stay at the old building.

Reed hails a cab to take him to his teaching gig at Empire State University, only for the cab driver to flip a switch and trap Reed inside. As the inside of the cab fills with poison case, Reed says he recognizes the driver as Hawkshaw, a mutant from Genosha who leads a group of villains called the Press Gang. Reed provides exposition, saying the Press Gang has only ever been interested in hunting down mutants who emigrate from Genosha. Hawkshaw doesn’t give a proper answer, only to be joined by two other members of the Press Gang, Punchout and Jenny Ransom.

Reed manages to fight off all three of the Press Gang, only to confront their co-conspirator, the Trapster, formerly Paste Pot Pete. Reed fights all four baddies, evading the Genoshans, and not proving no match for the Trapster’s glue. Except that he isn’t. After knocking out the Press Gang, Reed loses the ability to shape-shift. The Trapster says his glue coated Reed’s uniform with polymer that stabilizes the unstable molecules, meaning Reed and stretch, but his clothes can’t. He wraps a similar fabric around Reed’s head and proclaims his victory.

The Trapster hands Reed off to the Press Gang, saying he doesn’t want payment for his services, just the knowledge and he went toe-to-to with Mr. Fantastic, and he won.

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Reed’s aggressive behavior, and his enjoying all the fighting, is another result of Crucible messing with his mind a few issues back. Crucible will make his return very soon.

Fade out: Sue finally realizes that Reed has been acting strangely, but she says she loves the new Reed.

Clobberin’ time: They’re definitely setting up a romance between Ben and Alyssa. He says their Paris trip was the most fun he’d had in a long time.

Flame on: Similarly, Johnny and Alysande are also flirtatious. In addition to buying her breakfast, he also buys her a new wardrobe to get along on Earth.

Fantastic fifth wheel: H.E.R.B.I.E. the Robot can just barely be seen in the background in Franklin’s room. Freakin’ H.E.R.B.I.E. the Robot.

Four and a half: This issue notes that Franklin’s alien pet Puppy bears a similarity to the Inhumans’ dog Lockjaw. Although editor Tom Brevoort said on Tumblr that Puppy is Lockjaw’s son, the actual comics have to date never revealed Puppy’s origin.

Commercial break: Don’t knock uphill ice skating until you’ve tried it.

Trivia time: This is the Press Gang’s only appearance not related to the Genosha storylines in various X-Men comics. They later became Genosha’s official police force, renaming themselves the Magistrates. They have a fourth member not appearing in this issue, named Pipeline.

Paste Pot Pete, um, I mean the Trapster mentions he was just “sprung” from jail. He was locked up after confessing to the murder to a criminal Joey Z. in Spider-Man #92. It was later revealed that Norman Osborne was the real killer.

Fantastic or frightful? Another issue where very little happens, made even more egregious by a multi-page holodeck fight that adds very little to the plot. The relationship-building is interesting and it’s fun to see more obscure villains, but there’s not much here.

Next: Material girl.

****

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Universal Monsters rewatch – She-Wolf of London 1946

Rewatching the Universal Monsters! The ones on the Blu-ray box, at least. She-Wolf of London is another oddity on the box set, as it has no relation to The Wolf Man, but is it worth seeing?

Here’s what happens: All of London is on the verge of panic after a series of wolf-related murders. Wealthy socialite Phyllis is increasingly fearful about the murders, not helped by her conspiratorial aunt and cousin, whom she lives with. As family secrets are revealed, could Phyllis be… a werewolf?

Monster! Phyllis gets more and more unhinged as the movie goes along, fearful that she’s got the ol’ werewolf family curse. She has a few great speeches where she ponders superstition, ancient cults, and her mysterious visions.

Also a monster! Shocking twist: It was all Aunt Martha’s doing, committing the murders and coming up with the whole “werewolf” story all in an attempt to frame Phyllis and get ahold of Phyllis’ inheritance.

Our hero: Phyllis’ fiancé Barry goes to great lengths to be there for Phyllis, investigating the murders on his own, and refuting Martha’s attempts to separate them.

Hapless humans: Phyllis’ cousin Carol seems like she’s on Carol’s side at first, but then is revealed to be a co-conspirator after she sets her sights on claiming Barry for her own. The family maid also appears to be in on the conspiracy, acting sneaky the whole time. The ending, though, reveals who’s side she’s really on.

Thrills: Most of the wolf action takes place off screen. When we finally do see the titular she-wolf, it’s a figure dressed in a white robe and hood lurking through the fog. That’s a pretty neat visual, but fans expecting Lon Cheney-style transformations might be disappointed.

Laughs: Two London cops do the “Greek chorus” thing, popping in and out of the movie to make observations and hacky jokes.

Thoughts upon this viewing: This is less a horror movie than it is a whodunit (a whatdunit?), but I really enjoyed it. The performances carry the movie more than anything, and everyone is a likable and interesting character.

Next: I Don’t Know’s on third.

****

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Fantastic Friday: That’s so Kraven

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In vol. 3 issue #9, Spider-Man stops by, along with one of his classic villains. Kraven the Hunter is the original tiger king.

It’s morning at Pier 4, when Sue, still in her bathrobe, answers a knock on the door. There are two TV reporters there, saying they had an appointment to interview the FF for a documentary on the daily life of the superheroes. She takes off, only for Johnny and Ben to take over. After they horse around with the reporters for a bit, they pass them off to Reed. Ben, Johnny, Franklin, and family friend Alyssa Moy head out to Manhattan for some shopping.

The gang walks through Tribeca, where they run into the one and only Stan Lee, who has a side gig cooking sausage at a sidewalk stand. They walk past the old Four Freedoms Plaza (was it always in Tribeca?) and there’s a lot of exposition-speak recapping the events of Onslaught, Heroes Reborn, and Heroes Return. Alyssa worries that the FF might disappear and leave Franklin alone again, while Ben says Four Freedoms Plaza is still abandoned after the Thunderbolts went on the run, and city has yet to determine whether the building is still sound.

In the sewers under Four Freedoms Plaza, construction workers investigate a strange noise and come face-to-face with… Kraven the Hunter! He tells the workers to leave him alone, and that he will inform their bosses when the “threat has been eliminated.”

Back at Pier Four, there’s a lot of sitcom stuff with Johnny horsing around with the reporters, when Ben and company return with a bag of bagels for everyone. Then Sue is visited by NYC fashion designer Kay Cera (Marvel superfans will recognize her as “Cuckoo,” one of the Clan Destine) and her team to give Sue another makeover.

What happens next is a little hard to follow. Johnny sneaks away, and into an old-fashioned London phone booth, displayed as a novelty outside the pier. He steps inside, walks through a blank white void. He’s grabbed from behind and apparently pulled back to Earth by a knife-wielding woman. Johnny recognizes her as a woman he rescued from the Captain Britain Corps on Roma’s world in the last issue. (Don’t remember this from last time? This issue is this character’s first appearance. The flashback to the Captain Britains is a bona fide ret-con, as this is the character’s first appearance. Johnny said he couldn’t leave her behind in Roma’s world, so he brought her to Earth, and he’s working on finding her a place to stay. She can’t stay at the pier because Johnny hasn’t told her about Reed yet, but he says he’s come up with an alternative. Johnny then flies her to Four Freedoms Plaza, where they’re met by Spider-Man.

The mystery woman finally gives her name, Alysande Stuart. (Marvel fans no doubt remember another Alysande Stuart who was a main character in Excalibur for a while. That Alysande died in Excalibur #55, and this new one is an alternate universe version.) Spidey saw Johnny’s flame and thought they should have a proper reunion after Johnny came back from the dead in Heroes Return.

While Johnny and Spider-Man joke around, Alysande gets upset and runs off into the building. The two heroes follow her. There’s another short scene back at the pier with the interviewers, then it’s back to the former HQ, where Spider-Man finds Kraven the Hunter inside. Spidey refers to Kraven as “Alyosha,” revealing this is Alexei Kravinoff, mutant son of the original Kraven. He tells the heroes that they are not his prey, and he tells them to leave. Then Alysande says she is the protector of Kraven’s prey. Alysande strikes her knife to the ground which magically transforms her into an armor-clad warrior woman named Caledonia.

Johnny, Spider-Man and Caledonia all fight Kraven. Although outnumbered, Kraven puts up a good fight with a dart gun and a bunch of other hunting gadgets. A loud roar comes from deeper within the building, and everyone realizes there’s a dangerous animal nearby. Kraven runs off, saying he’ll come back for the beast after it is done killing the three heroes. Caledonia, however, marches ahead to confront the monster, saying there is nothing to be afraid of.

Back at the pier, the FF are wrapping up the interview, while Sue is once again concerned about Franklin being unprotected. Then Johnny, Spider-Man and Caledonia return with the monster. It’s an Inhuman dog, similar to Lockjaw, except smaller. Franklin and the dog immediately bond, and I guess this means he’s got someone watching his back now.

Unstable molecule: Reed had forgotten to tell the rest of FF he scheduled a TV interview that day, which is this issue’s only reference that Reed is acting out-of-character after his fight with Crucible in issue #5.

Fade out: Johnny is able to “see” Sue when she’s invisible, because he senses the natural ambient heat around her. This is a shout-out to comics from years earlier in which he did the same thing.

Clobberin’ time: When Ben is interviewed, he says he’s come to peace being a big rock monster, in that it’s given him opportunities he wouldn’t have had otherwise, including traveling to outer space.

Flame on: Johnny mentions that he’s officially certified as a New York firefighter after auditing a series of firefighting courses. He says learning about stopping fires has given him better control when starting them.

Four and a half: The opening recap page says Franklin’s powers have exhausted themselves for now. The concern, then, is worrying about his feelings of abandonment during Heroes Reborn/Heroes Return. We’ll learn more about his new pet next issue.

Commercial break: Epic crossover!

Trivia time: Johnny mentions that he recently ran into Spider-Man’s friend Hornet. What Johnny doesn’t know is that Hornet was an alternate hero persona used by Peter Parker during Spider-Man’s Identity Quest storyline. The other two personas were Ricochet and Dusk. The three personas were eventually handed over to three other guys for their own spinoff, Slingers.

The bit with the English phone booth goes unexplained. It’s obviously a reference to Doctor Who, but Marvel’s short-lived Doctor Who comic was its own timeline that never crossed over with the regular Marvel Universe. Johnny says the phone booth came from Reed’s “strange doctor friend,” which has some fans speculating it came from Dr. Strange instead.

The two reporters mention having met the X-Men. This occurred during the Fall of the Mutants crossover, when the X-Men seemingly died, only to hide out in Australia for a while.

Captain America can be seen on the FF’s TV in the background. I’m assuming this a hint at two big Cap events the month this was published. In Captain America Vol. 3 #9, Cap’s shield was replaced with his cool new energy shield (it didn’t last). This was also the month of Captain America: Sentinels of Liberty #1, which depicted a near-future Captain America.

The Marvel Wiki states that Stan Lee cameos are considered exempt from continuity, so we don’t have to bother figuring out what he’s doing cooking Sicilian sausages on the sidewalk.

Fantastic or frightful? I want to give writer Chris Claremont the benefit of the doubt, but this issue is a mess. The introduction of Alysandre/Caledonia is baffling. She just comes out of nowhere. Also, Kraven just runs away, and Spider-Man lets him go? That feels out of character for them both. I like that this is an attempt at a lighter, sitcom-ish story, but that’s about it.

Next: It’s a trap!

****

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Universal Monsters rewatch – House of Dracula 1945

Rewatching the Universal Monsters! The ones on the new Blu-ray, at least. The monster mash-up of House of Frankenstein gets a follow up in 1945’s House of Dracula. It’s the original House II: The Second Story.

Here’s what happens: Dracula has come back to life, and decided he’s had enough. He seeks a cure for his vampirism. He goes to Dr. Edelmann for help, but this is bad timing, because Larry Talbot, a.k.a. the Wolf Man, also shows up Edelmann’s door asking for a werewolf cure. This sets of a chain of events leading to the return of Frankenstein’s monster.

Monster!: Dracula says he wants a cure because immortality is too great a curse. But then he gets right back to Dracula-ing when he tries to seduce Edelmann’s lovely assistant Militza. He’s quick to forget his cure and instead plots to make Miritza his vampire bride.

Also a monster!: Poor Larry Talbot hits rock bottom in this movie, more interested in suicide rather than a cure. The movie would have us believe that Talbot is finally cured in this one, in somewhat undramatic fashion, but we all know there’s one more Wolf Man appearance after this.

Also a monster!: Edelmann’s other assistant is Nina the hunchback, a different kind of monster for this series. Not only is she a lady monster, but she’s played sympathetic from the start, showing that the franchise has now circled all the way around to monsters-are-the-heroes phase.

Also a monster!: Frankenstein’s monster does very little in this, possibly the least he does in any of these movies. We wait until the very last minute of the movie until he comes back to life, and then all he does is stumble about for a bit.

Our hero: The movie’s marketing insists that Edelmann is a “mad doctor” but he’s really the protagonist. He’s a science-her0, genuinely trying to help the monsters. He even gets his own Indiana Jones-style action scene where he explores some underwater caves in search of the Wolf Man. Late in the movie, Edelmann is infected with Dracula’s blood and goes a little crazy, but not unlike the Wolf Man, he fights his own dark side throughout.

Hapless humans: Poor Miritza is first romanced by Dracula and then by the Wolf Man. She can’t catch a break. A carriage driver named Ziegfried gets a lot of screentime, just so he can get a death scene. Actor Lionel Atwell, who appeared in most other Frankenstein films, is back again as another police officer.

Thrills: As with House of Frankenstein, Dracula is taken out early on, diving the movie into the Dracula half and then the Frankenstein half. It’s kind of a disappointing final chase for Dracula this time. The Wolf Man’s transformation while in jail is a great moment, as is Edelmann leading the villagers in a mad chase through town.

Laughs: Not a lot of room for comic relief in this one, although we get a fun moments with the local villagers, who are some kooky characters.

Thoughts upon this viewing: While I liked House of Frankenstein, this one felt more all over the place.

Next: She’s a man-eater.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Operation Saturn

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Vol. 3 issue 8 has it all – cosmic beings, superpowers going haywire, and references to obscure characters.

Recap: The FF just wanted a nice night out in NYC, only to be attacked by interdimensional hunters the Warwolves, and interdimensional bounty hunters Gatecrasher and the Technet. These baddies are in the employ of evil space queen Opal Luna Saturnyne, who has sent them after Franklin. After defeating the Technet, our heroes were then confronted by the Captain Britain Corps. This issue starts with them fighting the Corps, with Reed explaining the obvious, that this is a whole bunch of alien Captain Britains. The FF puts up a good fight, but they’re outnumbered, and the Corps has advanced tech that can anticipate the FF’s moves.

Franklin, hiding in a corner with genius and friend-of-the-family Alyssa Moy, decides he’s had enough. He uses his reality-bending powers to make the FF’s own superpowers increase by a vast amount. Now the Corps is no match for the FF. Nearby, the Technet plans a hasty retreat, but an unconscious Captain Britain falls from the sky and knocks out Yap, the team’s teleporter. Johnny takes to sky, barely able to control his new power increase. He sees Gatecrasher making a run for it and confronts her. Gatecrasher has a device that reveals that Franklin is pumping out cosmic power off the charts, and also that the Corps did not teleport to Earth, but that the FF teleported, and are now on an alternate Earth. Johnny demands that Gatecrasher take him to her leader.

Through unknown means, Johnny and Gatecrasher arrive at the Starlight Citadel, an otherworldly place that can view every plane of the omniverse. Inside, Johnny comes face-to-face with Saturnyne, who introduces herself as the “omniversal mastrex.” Gatecrasher adds that Saturnyne “represents absolute power over all the worlds in the infinite tapestry of being.” Turn the page, and we see Roma is also present. The daughter of Merlin, Roma is the “omniversal guardian,” and this citadel is her home. Then two more cosmic beings appear, Eternity and Infinity. Remember that Eternity is living embodiment of all existence at once, and Infinity is the living embodiment of time. Roma says they have an abiding interest in what is about to occur. Further, it was Roma and not Saturnyne who sent all the bounty hunters after Franklin.

Roma describes a hypothetical (or not?) situation in which the FF use their new powers to destroy an alien spaceship, and she argues Franklin is the cause. Johnny says that Franklin is no threat as long as his loving family is looking out for him. Saturnyne withdraws a crystal which she says represents Johnny’s entire universe, and she threatens to destroy it. She gives Johnny a choice – either Franklin is destroyed, or his whole universe is destroyed. Johnny says she’s bluffing, and again says the FF is better equipped than anyone to teach Franklin. He adds, “Just ask Galactus.” Roma says she has, and Galactus admitted that in all the cosmos, the FF has earned his respect.

Johnny continues to negotiate, saying that if the FF can keep Franklin under control, Roma’s needs are satisfied. If the FF fails, then Roma gets to come after them all. Roma asks if Johnny truly speaks on behalf of the FF, and he says yes. Then she says, “We have ourselves a deal.” Back at the battle, all the Captain Britains vanish as Johnny returns, saying he’s got quite a story to tell.

Wait, there’s more! The issue also includes five pages of a never completed Fantastic Four and the Inhumans event comic. This was to be an ambitious two-year mega-epic drawn by hot up-and-coming artist Jose Landronn. It never went beyond these five pages before being stalled, and Landronn went on to draw Cable instead. The might-have-been story has Ben and Reed on an adventure in a futuristic “floating New York.” It’s a Blade Runner-like setting, all flying cars and cyberpunk. After surviving crash-landing an experimental aircraft on a city street, Ben and Reed come across a glowing energy gate, only for the Inhuman Royal Family to emerge from it… and we’ll never know what would’ve happened next.

Unstable molecule: Reed spontaneously kisses Sue at the end of the issue, the only suggestion that he’s been acting out of character after his encounter with Crucible in issue #5.

Fade out: After Sue’s powers are enhanced by Franklin, her force fields appear to have a glowing orange effect. No word on whether this a result of Franklin upping her power, or if it’s just drawn that way for the reader’s benefit.

Clobberin’ time: With his strength enhanced, Ben punches the street and creates shockwaves powerful enough to topple nearby skyscrapers.

Flame on: Obviously, the big deal about this issue is that it’s Johnny and not Reed or Sue who communes with cosmic beings this time around, doing so in his own signature style. It’s not out of character when we remember how Johnny “went cosmic” during the original Galactus trilogy.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Both Crystal and Medusa appear in the final panel of Fantastic Four and the Inhumans, but they don’t say or do anything.

Four and a half: This issue would appear to be a big character growth for Franklin in that he can control his reality-bending powers by making specific things happen, rather than reality just going haywire when he gets upset.

Commercial break: Freakin’ Gorgonites.

Trivia time: What’s the deal with the Captain Britain Corps? The idea is that every parallel universe has a Captain Britain, and that Roma (or Merlin before her) can summon some or all of them to help the Marvel Universe’s Captain Britain when needed. They’re usually noble heroes, and not bounty hunters as depicted in this issue. Seen in this issue are members Officer Saxon, Samurai Saxon, Maasai Marion, Hauptmann Englande, and Britanotron, among many unidentified ones. Two of the prominent Corps members, Captain UK and Captain Albion, sit this one out.

The comic never says that the FF’s new power levels are undone, but there’s no mention of them being dangerously over-powered next issue, so let’s assume it was reversed. The Marvel Wiki, however, does insist that the team was teleported back to their home universe after this, so that’s something.

Because the Fantastic Four and the Inhumans story remains unfinished, it’s considered non-canon.

Fantastic or frightful? An odd wrap-up to an odd storyline. It’s clearly an excuse for writer Chris Claremont to use a bunch of Excalibur and Captain Britain characters, and also to raise their importance in Marvel continuity. Johnny standing up to the cosmic beings remains a pretty great scene, though.

Next: Amazing friends.

****

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Universal Monsters rewatch – The Mummy’s Curse 1944

Rewatching the Universal Monsters! The ones on the Blu-ray box, at least. Time for our final go-around with Kharis in The Mummy’s Curse.

Here’s what happens: A big company is threatening to drain the swamp from the previous movie, last known location of the Mummy Kharis from the previous film. A group of archeologists come to town to find the mummy first, dealing with superstitious locals and a devious cultist plot.

Monster!: Lon Cheney Jr. is back as Kharis, and there’s a “sympathetic monster” vibe to the mummy this time. As he lumbers about in confusion, we see that all he wants is to be with the girl.

Also a monster!: Kharis’ bride, the reincarnated Queen Ananka, also rises from the swamp and is born again as a beautiful young woman. Her reemergence kicks off the plot, with everyone in town wondering what’s up with the mystery girl, and Kharis and the cultists hunting her down.

Also a monster!: Dr. Zandaab and his sidekick Ragheb are the cultists who revive Kharis so he can do their evil bidding. Like all the others though, they eventually lose control of Kharis and he comes after them in the end. Freakin’ cultists never learn.

Our hero: Heroic archeologist Dr. Halsey is on a mission to find the mummy, suggesting he knows from the start what Kharis’ deal is. He romances Ananka for a bit, but the movie ends with him in a romance with another woman named Betty.

Hapless humans: Although the previous film stated this town was New England, this movie has the same town in the deep South, with plenty of Cajuns and country bumpkins filling out the supporting cast.

Thrills: The filmmakers seem to be going for atmosphere and suspense rather than blockbuster thrills, with shots of the mummy in the shadows being the big set pieces. Then we get to the finale, with knife fighting and another great mummy rampage.

Laughs: Comic relief is an unfortunately culturally insensitive character who is insensitively-named “Goobie.” On the plus side, the movie opens with an amusing song and dance number in the local bar.

Thoughts on this viewing: There’s not a lot to say about this one. It has its moments, but it’s pretty much the same as the other Kharis flicks. File this one under “for hardcore fans only.”

Next: The second story.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Warwolves? There wolves

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Writer Chris Claremont continues to bring his characters from Excalibur into the FF with vol. 3 issue #7.

Last issue, Reed was acting uncharacteristic and took Sue out for date night. At Pier Four, Ben and genius Alyssa Moy were attacked by interdimensional bounty hunter Gatecrasher and her oddball crew the Technet. They abducted Ben, but Alyssa escaped with Franklin. This issue begins with Alyssa pulling over a passing police car. She explains to the cops that Pier Four has been attacked, and the attackers are after Franklin. Alyssa then points out that the cops have English accents and are driving a London police car. The cops are revealed to be the Warwolves, hiding out in New York.

Okay, what are these things? The Warwolves were genetically engineered by weirdo alien Mojo to be his henchmen. After several fights with Excalibur, the Warwolves ended up as permanent residents of the London Zoo. They are able to kill humans and then wear their victims’ skin (!) making themselves look just like their victims. They’re also skilled trackers, which explains how they’ve found their way to Alyssa and Franklin.

The Warwolves attack some real cops while Alyssa tries to protect Franklin. She tries to escape in the police car, only for the Warwolves to swipe the keys. Then Alyssa produces an invention of hers, a universal key. She starts the car and she and Franklin take off. Just when it looks like they’ve escaped, they’re attacked by Ferro-2, the swordfighting werewolf from Technet, who jumps down from above and slices up the engine.

At the Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center, Reed and Sue continue their romantic evening on the town, with no idea that all this is happening. Cut to Ben, who has been shrunken down to tiny size and swallowed by Bodybag, another Technet creature. The Technet has gathered in a wooded area (Central Park, I’m guessing) where Gatecrasher says she wants Franklin found, with a lot of technobabble about how communications and transportation are being monitored in their search.

Out in the city, Franklin cries out for his mom, and certain Marvel heroes can psychically “hear” him – Spider-Man (thanks to his spider-sense), Jean Grey, Dr. Strange, the Watcher, Roma the Omniversal Guardian, and Kitty Pryde, who is not psychic but is still good friends with Franklin. Alyssa tries to calm Franklin down, promising to protect him.

In an alley, Alyssa is using some more of her genius tech to New York’s fiber optic data-net. Franklin acts as lookout, and cries, “the monsters are coming!” The run for it, just barely staying ahead of the Technet. They run through a busy nightclub hoping to lose the aliens in the crowd, not realizing they’re running past Johnny in one panel. Leaving the nightclub, Alyssa and Franklin next run into… the Bacchae. Who is this? Turns out this is the Bacchae’s first appearance. They’re a group of female cyborg assassins. They’re fighting a guy named Lao Wei Chung, Master of the Golden Sword, unrelated to all this Technet stuff. Chung escapes from Bacchae thanks to Alyssa’s interruption, and he gives Alyssa a kiss before running off.

At the Rainbow Room, Sue looks out a balcony and sees the “4” symbol lit up on skyscrapers all over NYC. Reed tries to contact Pier Four, only to find it offline. Sue, in her sexy evening dress, takes off over the skies of the city riding one of her force fields. Sue catches up to Alyssa and Franklin, just in time for Gatecrasher to show up. Gatecrasher says she has a legal warrant for Franklin, but Sue says that, as Franklin’s mother, she is the ultimate authority. Using the fight moves she learned from Iron Fist in combination with her force fields, Sue beats the crap out of Gatecrasher.

Reed and Johnny arrived as the rest of the Technet join the fight. Reed frees Ben from Bodybag. The Technet might have the FF outnumbered, but the FF have them outpowered. Ben knocks out Thug, Johnny stops China Doll with a wall of flame, and Scatterbrain’s illusions are no match for Reed’s intellect. The only advantage the Technet gets is when Joyboy looks into Sue’s subconscious desires and transforms her into the Queen of Atlantis and consort of Namor (!). The transformation wears off, though, putting the FF back into the fight.

Gatecrasher calls for the FF to surrender or face the consequences, and Ben answers “You and what army?” Gatecrasher responds, “This army!” The FF turn around and find themselves face-to-face with… the Captain Britain Corps, a whole bunch of Captain Britains of all shapes and sizes.

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Reed’s strange behavior isn’t addressed in this issue. He has a wristwatch computer tied into Pier Four, which alerts him to when the systems go down.

Fade out: Sue surrounds herself with a force field as if it’s armor, so she can properly beat up Gatecrasher.

Clobberin’ time: Reed frees Ben from Bodybag by reaching into Bodybag’s mouth and pulling Ben out. There’s no explanation of how Ben became un-shrunk, so I guess it just wore off.

Flame on: Look closely, and you see Johnny is in the nightclub that Alyssa and Franklin run though earlier in the issue. He’s too busy flirting with some girl to notice them.

Four and a half: Why Franklin’s psychic cry reached these specific characters is a mystery. Spidey, Jean Grey, and Dr. Strange make sense as all having some form of psychic power. Kitty because she and Franklin are friends. But why Roma? As the daughter of Merlin, she too was in Captain Britain and Excalibur and has a history with the Warwolves. That could explain why she got the call.

Commercial break: “Sure. We saved the world. I say we party. I mean, I got all pretty.”

Trivia time: These Bacchae characters showing up out of nowhere foreshadows them playing a bigger role in future issues. The Bacchae’s leader, not named in this issue, is Bloody Mary.

This appears to be the only appearance of Lao Wei Hung, Master of the Golden Sword. There was a martial artist named Chung who was henchman for crimelord Vachon in Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, and another Chung who was a security guard who helped fight the Hellfire Club in one issue of X-Men, but I doubt these are all the same guy.

Fantastic or frightful? It’s obvious by this point that Chris Claremont is using Fantastic Four as his excuse to write more Excalibur. I’m all for bringing something new to the series, but Heaven help any readers who hadn’t followed Excalibur or its predecessor Captain Britain and doesn’t know all these references.

Next: The rings of Saturn (-yne)

****

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