The Silver Emulsion Podcast: Ep. 8 – The Curse and Strangeness of Lucy’s Civil War

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Episode 8! I wasn’t feeling it that much this week, so the show is shorter and without a feature segment. Consequently, I didn’t have an obvious episode title so I just mashed all the movies I talked about into one title!

Music Notes

Intro:

  • Herbert Windt – Excerpt from Marathon
  • James Brown – I Refuse to Lose

Outro:

  • Bob Dylan – I Feel a Change Comin’ On

If you’ve got feedback, throw it into the comments below, or you can email it to me via the contact page, and I’ll include it in a future show!

The podcast is embedded directly below this, or you can go directly to Podbean (or use their app) to listen. If you want to subscribe, paste http://silveremulsion.podbean.com/feed/ into whatever reader you’re using, such as iTunes.

The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)

legendof7goldenvampires_1The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires [七金屍] (1974)
AKA The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula, Dracula and the 7 Golden Vampires

Starring Peter Cushing, David Chiang, Robin Stewart, Julie Ege, Shih Szu, Chan Shen, Lau Kar-Wing, Huang Pei-Chih, John Forbes-Robertson, Tino Wong Cheung, James Ma Chim-Si, Wynn Lau Chun-Fai, Ho Kei-Cheong, Wang Han-Chen, Lau Wai-Ling, Robert Hanna

Directed by Roy Ward Baker (with an uncredited assist from Chang Cheh)

Expectations: Been looking forward to revisiting this for a while now.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
threehalfstar


What a difference a few years makes. When I first reviewed The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, Silver Emulsion was only six months old, I had never seen a Hammer horror or a David Chiang film, I had no idea who Shih Szu or Chan Shen was, and I definitely couldn’t recognize Lau Kar-Wing on sight. If I remember right, my main takeaway was that it was OK, but nothing special, and that I wanted to watch some actual Hammer films. This initial reaction is a great example of why I set out about reviewing the Shaw films chronologically.

Taken as a single film, it’s true, The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires isn’t anything all that special. It is a watered-down Shaw film, mixed with watered-down Hammer elements, and I can understand it not resonating with staunch fans of either studio. But within the context of the Shaw output of the time, along with an understanding and appreciation of the Gothic Hammer feeling, the mixture adds up to one very fun, fast-paced film filled with thrills. I only see my love for this film growing with each successive viewing.

Continue reading The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974) →

The Brides of Dracula (1960)

Starring Peter Cushing, Martita Hunt, Yvonne Monlaur, Freda Jackson, David Peel, Miles Malleson, Henry Oscar, Mona Washbourne, Andree Melly

Directed by Terence Fisher

Expectations: Moderate, I’ve heard this one was weak.


I can’t believe it, but it’s been a whole year since last October! I know, right, who woulda thought? What I’m getting at is that last October I watched my first Hammer Horror films, loved them and hoped to check out more during the following year. The DVD of The Curse of the Werewolf also came with The Brides of Dracula, so I thought I was well on my way to attaining that goal. I decided to wait a bit after October, but weeks turned to months, and while I got dangerously close to watching this a number of times during the past few months, I instead decided to just wait until October and go for the whole full circle thing. Watching The Brides of Dracula has reminded me of something I had somewhat forgotten in the wake of my first Hammer films: that Hammer films are incredible! Oh man, I have no idea how I survived for so long without ever seeing one, as these would have been instant classics with me during my horror-starved adolescence.

The Brides of Dracula is an interesting Dracula movie in that there’s no Dracula! Spoiler alert for the first film in this series, but Dracula got plumb fucked up! The sun streamed down as he lay on that lovely zodiac wheel on his tile floor, and Dracula turned to ash. So I’m not totally surprised that in the sequel he’s still dead; there’s not really a way to come back from that, is there? OK, OK, there must be, because Hammer brought Christopher Lee back for the next film, and honestly I’m quite interested to see how exactly he does come back from that. But anyway, The Brides of Dracula! Don’t be fooled by the title, this isn’t specifically about Dracula’s brides, although the Dracula stand-in does eventually have a little harem going on.

Continue reading The Brides of Dracula (1960) →

The Mummy (1959)

Starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Yvonne Furneaux, Eddie Byrne, Felix Aylmer, Raymond Huntley, George Pastell, George Woodbridge, Harold Goodwin, Denis Shaw, Willoughby Gray, Michael Ripper

Directed by Terence Fisher

Expectations: High. The Mummy was my favorite Universal horror film as a kid.


For the final film of my four film Hammer series, I decided to go with the hallowed tale of The Mummy, a standby favorite monster of my childhood via the 1932 Universal film starring Boris Karloff. What was always interesting to me about that film was Karloff’s vulnerability and the fact that while he was killing people and generally doing wrong, he had a reason to do so that was understandable. He was a sympathetic monster and coupled with the copious Egyptian motifs, I was powerless to the power of the mummy.

So going into Hammer’s take on the tale, there was a pretty high hill to climb. Unfortunately, I can’t say what I’ve said in all the previous Hammer reviews, that “This one is even better than the Universal version!” I stand firmly by the original, and while I did greatly enjoy Hammer’s film, I thought it was slower than it needed to be. When your monster is a shambling corpse wrapped in ancient bandages and caked with thick swamp mud, you do get something of a pass, but I can’t excuse away all of the film’s crawling pace.

Continue reading The Mummy (1959) →

The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

Starring Clifford Evans, Oliver Reed, Yvonne Romain, Catherine Feller, Anthony Dawson, Josephine Llewelyn, Richard Wordsworth, Hira Talfrey, John Gabriel, Warren Mitchell, Anne Blake

Directed by Terence Fisher

Expectations: High. Loving these Hammer movies, love the werewolf character.


Hammer continues to impress with this stunning rendition of an old, tired tale. Once again they choose to go in a completely opposite direction from the classic Universal film, delivering a film that is not only better, but incredibly so. How did they manage such a feat? By following their tried and true method of focusing on the characters. The Curse of the Werewolf is not quite epic in its scope, but it does seek to present a nuanced portrayal of a life in its entirety. This is the werewolf by way of Charles Dickens, and I loved it.

The first half hour or so is dedicated solely to setting up the origin of the werewolf in question. And not just his childhood, but the series of events leading to his conception! This is the first of many wonderful strokes of genius and is easily my favorite section of the film. A beggar seeks food and drink, but is turned away by the poor townspeople as all their food reserves have been given to the Marquis for his wedding day. One of the boisterous men jokingly suggests that the beggar should go to the party and seek his handouts there. The beggar, oblivious to the joke, decides it’s a better plan than any he’s had all day and sets out down the road. I don’t want to ruin anything so I’ll stop here, but suffice it to say this is one of the best half hours I’ve ever seen in classic horror cinema. Perhaps it’s just my intense love for revenge stories and the hard extremes presented here. I can’t say for sure, but I thought it was brilliant.

Continue reading The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) →

Dracula (1958)

Dracula (1958)
AKA Horror of Dracula

Starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Michael Gough, Melissa Stribling, Carol Marsh, Olga Dickie, John Van Eyssen, Valerie Gaunt, Janina Faye, Barbara Archer

Directed by Terence Fisher

Expectations: High. Love Dracula, loved the first Hammer movie I saw.


Based on the success of The Curse of Frankenstein, Hammer decided to make more movies in a similar vein and Dracula was next in line. It seems like a natural fit for the studio, with intense characters and gothic visuals bursting forth from the source material. While I don’t think it’s as good of a film as The Curse of Frankenstein was, Hammer’s Dracula (Horror of Dracula in America) is an engrossing, enjoyable slice of celluloid cake. As with all of these standard horror monsters, the stories are all part of our culture. From a young age, we teach our children about vampires and their weakness to garlic and sunlight. All of these vampire bullet points show themselves here, but what makes Dracula interesting is the slightly varied take on the events of Bram Stoker’s classic novel and the wonderful performances from the entire cast, just like in The Curse of Frankenstein.

Peter Cushing is absolutely phenomenal as Dr. Van Helsing, playing the cool, collected vampire hunter with an ease rarely seen on-screen. He’s all hero here, tracking Dracula’s movements and staking vampire hearts. The difference in the character from Baron Frankenstein, and Cushing’s ability to make Van Helsing his own, shows just how good of an actor he is. Perhaps this shouldn’t be worth mentioning, but in this day and age when we have people like Tom Cruise and Will Smith that literally bring the exact same style and cadence to nearly every role they are given, I think it warrants a quick aside. And let’s not forget Christopher Lee as Dracula! Lee played Frankenstein’s monster as well, and his ability to inhabit both characters so flawlessly is impressive. After seeing Dracula, it’s clear to me that the success of Hammer Studios wasn’t simply due to the filmmaking or the enhanced violence for the time. It is thanks in large part to the wonderful work of their cast, of which Cushing and Lee were the stalwart anchors.

Continue reading Dracula (1958) →

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

Starring Peter Cushing, Robert Urquhart, Christopher Lee, Hazel Court, Valerie Gaunt, Noel Hood, Melvyn Hayes, Paul Hardtmuth, Fred Johnson

Directed by Terence Fisher

Expectations: Moderate. I’m excited to finally watch a Hammer movie after years of buildup, but I’m trying to remain grounded.


For my first Hammer Horror movie experience, I figured I’d begin at the film that started it all, The Curse of Frankenstein. Would you expect me to do anything else? Hammer had done some similar productions prior to this, but The Curse of Frankenstein was their first horror film in color and the one that kicked off their very successful series of revisionist horror films featuring the classic monsters. As such, it is a very impressive, competent movie, exhibiting quality filmmaking from every corner.

At this point in my life, I feel like I’ve seen enough Frankenstein movies. They are all relatively similar, and what is different usually isn’t different enough to care about. This is a big reason why I never actively pursued these Hammer Horror movies, because at some level I felt they’d just be simple retellings of the classic Universal movies, albeit in color with more daring gore. This is where The Curse of Frankenstein sets itself apart though, because in spite of all the odds stacked against it in my head, the film has such an interesting take on the story that it is not only worth watching, this is quite possibly my favorite Frankenstein of all. It definitely blows the 30s Universal movie out of the water for me, no disrespect to that movie intended. It is iconic and all that, but it can’t hang with this version of the tale in my eyes.

Continue reading The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) →

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