ARTICLES

LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS

Renowned Author and critic Kim Newman takes us on a nostalgic trip through Horror Channel's Classic Monster Marathon Day on Sunday 24 November.
By James Whittington, Tuesday 19th November 2019

When Universal Pictures secured the rights to Bram Stoker's Dracula, the property had just been made popular by a Broadway theatre adaptation. Stage star Bela Lugosi got his career-making (and-defining) gig as the Count ('I... am... Dracula') because Lon Chaney, star of Universal's silent Phantom of the Opera and Hunchback of Notre Dame, had died and left a gap few thought anyone would ever fill. At the time, the industry classed Dracula as 'a mystery play', lumping it in with the old dark house spookiness of The Cat and the Canary. After the first talkie vampire became a big hit, folks started talking about 'horror films' and 'monster movies' - and the genre as we know it nearly ninety years later was founded. With Dracula as a template, studio head Carl Laemmle Jr looked around for other horror/monster properties, and a more versatile Chaney successor than Lugosi, then rushed Frankenstein into production, introducing Boris Karloff as the man-made monster.

Tod Browning's Dracula and James Whale's Frankenstein are director-led standalone pictures, so the first production line monster movie is The Mummy, a swift rewrite of Dracula crafted for the breakout star of Frankenstein and directed by cinematographer Karl Freund. Then came the brides, the sons, the houses, the team-ups, Abbott and Costello ...and new additions to the gang, like The Wolf Man - played by a literal next generation horror star, Lon Chaney Jr - in the 1940s and the Creature From the Black Lagoon in the 1950s. Reboots, homages, remakes and revisions come along regularly, and a wealth of merchandising (yes, I own a Phantom of the Opera mouth organ and a Creature From the Black Lagoon water pistol).

This very welcome day-long session on Horror Channel affords a chance to go back to where it started, to see classics as they were when new, when the fiends weren't yet domesticated by masks and costumes and toys ...to be reminded that, after all, these monsters really are universal.

Dracula (1931)
My lifelong involvement with horror began with a 1970 screening of this film - and no matter how many times I see it, I get the same chills. I even love its stagey drawing room scenes, early talkie crudities and squeaky bats on strings. The opening reel is perfect, from the snatch of Swan Lake over the credits and the unlikely armadillo and giant bug scuttling around the tombs of the brides of Dracula. With Bela Lugosi modelling the black cloak/white tie look with spotlights for his hypnotic eyes and Dwight Frye matching him as the visitor driven mad by his experiences in Castle Dracula and turned into the Count's cringing, whining minion.

Frankenstein (1931)
If Dracula is an almost accidental success, Frankenstein is an inspired, crafted work - it wrestles Mary Shelley's philosophical novel into fable-like simplicity and jazzes up the creation scenes with fizzing electrical gear and a gothic laboratory. James Whale, Boris Karloff and make-up maestro Jack P. Pierce are the real Frankensteins here - bringing to life a new, instantly classic character, who is heart-breaking and yet terrifying, a true innocent abused and thwarted and turned cruel. The story has been retold over and over, but this is the version that sticks in the mind - how many kids play Frankenstein at Halloween by putting on a Robert De Niro mask? The flat head, the forehead scar, the big boots, the donkey jacket, and the neck electrodes are add-ons, but it's Karloff's drawn, haunted face - especially his eyes - that sell the character.

The Mummy (1932)
Though they looked to Edgar Allan Poe's "Black Cat" and H.G. Wells' Invisible Man, Universal began creating their own characters early in the horror cycle. The Mummy is inspired by tabloid stories about the curse of Tutankhamun and borrows its monster-seeks-reincarnation-of-lost-love theme from "She" (later, that would be added on to many Dracula adaptations). Its plot owes a lot to Dracula as the prologue wakes up another immortal predator who fixates on the heroine, with Edward Van Sloan reprising his role as a Van Helsing type who faces off against Karloff's reanimated mummy Imhotep. Jack P. Pierce again created a lasting, classic look for a monster - the wrinkled parchment face (again enlivened when Karloff's liquid eyes open), the bandage bodystocking - and amid all the pulp adventure there's a whiff of proper ancient magic.

The Wolf Man (1941)
Jack P. Pierce devised a werewolf makeup for The Werewolf of London (1935) that star Henry Hull refused to wear, but when Universal decided to have another go at this particular monster eager-to-please, Lon Chaney Jr was willing to be buried in yak hair and fitted with fangs and claws. Set in a strangely Hollywood idea of Wales, the film has Lugosi literally pass on the curse of horror stardom to Chaney Jr, playing the gypsy who bites Larry Talbot (Chaney) and turns him into the Wolf Man. Mists pool in dark woods, psychological sub-texts are talked up, a classy supporting cast (including Claude Rains and the unforgettable Dame Maria Ouspenskaya) chips in, and the snarling man-beast prowls under the full moon. Like most great monster movies, The Wolf Man is in the end a tragedy - a man unleashes his true nature and dies for it.

The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
After Abbott and Costello had met (and made fun of) Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man and the Mummy - and, more to the point, World War II and the dawn of the atom age made the old creatures seem quaint, Universal stayed in the monster game with a run of terrific science fiction films (mostly directed by Jack Arnold). The Gill Man, a prehistoric fish-human evolutionary byway, was designed by Millicent Patrick, and played underwater by sinuous swimmer Ricou Browning. The film has moments of dread and poetry and strange sexiness - an underwater ballet as the creature lurks beneath white-swim suited pin-up Julia Adams - but also exhibits a new, appropriate savagery (especially apparent in 3D) that shows even as decades change, the monsters refuse to be tamed.


Related show tags: CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN, THE MUMMY, THE WOLF MAN
MORE FEATURES
Arrow Video FrightFest announces August Digital Edition line-up and Horror Channel sponsors talent-seeking First Blood strand
Posted on Tuesday 28th July 2020
FrightFest Online-Logo-3_NEW

The UK's most popular horror and fantasy film festival celebrates its 21st bloody year with a special Digital edition, showcasing twenty-five films, from Thursday 27th August to Monday 31st August, including seven world premieres and sixteen UK premieres. Ten countries are represented from four continents in a deadly, daring and diverse programme exclusively presented to UK audiences.

Passes and tickets will go on sale Saturday 1 August and details on how to access the event and choose which films to watch are on the FrightFest website. All film screenings will be geo-locked to UK audiences and only accessible from within the United Kingdom.

The men...

SHARE: READ MORE
Horror Channel highlights six summer weekend shockers in its August premiere line-up
Posted on Thursday 16th July 2020
Horror Chanel - Aug banner

August is a wicked month on Horror Channel, as the UK's most popular small-screen destination for genre fans presents six summer weekend shockers, five FrightFest hits including the UK TV premieres of Julian Richards, Reborn, a Carrie for the Z Generation, starring horror icon Barbara Crampton, Jordan Barker's Witches In The Woods, an unrelenting assault of pure terror, Alistair Legrand's highly unusual genre-blending chiller, The Diabolical and Milan Todorovic's sharp-teethed, seductive Killer Mermaids. All these films received FrightFest premiere screenings.

There is also a channel premiere for another FrightFest title, The Windmill Massacre, where Friday The 13th...

SHARE: READ MORE
Horror Channel brings suspense and splatter to its July line-up
Posted on Tuesday 16th June 2020

Horror Channel brings plenty of suspense and splatter to July's line-up with the UK TV premiere of The Rezort, where 'The Walking Dead' meets 'Jurassic World'. Starring Dougray Scott and Jessica De Gouw, this fast-paced, gory horror is directed by Outpost franchise helmer Steve Barker.

There are also channel premieres for Damien Mace and Alexis Wajsbrot's cleverly sinister Don't Hang Up, where an invisible predator turns the tables on two online prankers, and Paul W.S Anderson's cult gaming adaptation Resident Evil, with Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez in blistering form.

Plus, there are welcome returns for No One Lives, director Ryuhei Kitamura's taut, tension-laden cat-and-mouse thriller,...

SHARE: READ MORE
Horror Channel brings shocks aplenty in June with star-studded Spine-Chiller Season
Posted on Thursday 21st May 2020

There are star-studded shocks aplenty on Horror Channel in June, courtesy of the Spine-Chiller Season - a selection of supernatural mysteries to get your summer off to a very scary start. Scheduled for Saturday nights at 9pm, the season is headed by the Channel premiere of the moody and violent chiller Gothika, starring Halle Berry, Robert Downey Jr. and Penelope Cruz. Other titles include Kevin Bacon's career launcher Stir of Echoes, the gripping US-remake of The Grudge, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, and the terrifying supernatural thriller Pay the Ghost, starring Nicholas Cage.

There are also UK TV premieres for the sharply eerie Nails, starring Shauna Macdonald and Ross Noble and the deadly Viral, ...

SHARE: READ MORE
They killed his wife. Framed him for murder. Now he hunts them! First Wave coming to Horror
Posted on Monday 27th April 2020

If its action packed, sci-fi infused drama you are after then First Wave is the series for you. With Hollywood legend Francis Ford Coppola on board as one of the Executive Producers the series ran for 66 action-packed episodes which managed to combine high-quality drama with a cool conspiracy theory strand.

The series concentrates on former thief now Security Specialist Cade Foster (Sebastian Spence), as he struggles to uncover an alien conspiracy by deciphering prophecies from Nostradamus as well as being on the run for a murder he did not commit. Along the way he meets The Gua, an alien race of hybridised genetic clones who are focused on enslaving the human race.

Now, the problem with informi...

SHARE: READ MORE
Horror Channel marks May with the return of the monstrous Victor Crowley and David Tennant in sadistic mood
Posted on Wednesday 15th April 2020

Apocalyptic nightmares, the return of the monstrous Victor Crowley, David Tennant in sadistic mood and an all-star classic vampire tale... Horror Channel marks May with eight prime-time Channel premieres, including armrest-clutching shocker Bad Samaritan, starring a serial-killing David Tennant, Victor Crowley, Adam Green's horrifying rebooted journey back to the haunted, blood-drenched bayou, Francis Ford Cappola's powerful Bram Stoker's Dracula, starring Gary Oldman as the immortal Count, and Cell, best-selling horror author Stephen King's acclaimed tech-inspired apocalyptic nightmare, starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson.

Further premium premieres include Russell Mulcahy's iconic s...

SHARE: READ MORE
Kim Newman looks to the future and reports on Horror's up and coming Classic Sci-Fi Weekend
Posted on Monday 6th April 2020

The 1950s are remembered as the rock 'n' roll years - Bill Haley and Elvis, Little Richard and Chuck Berry - but also as the dawn of the atomic era, the height of the cold war, and the decade when science fiction movies reigned. A fad for futuristic design meant cars sported sharkfins like Flash Gordon's spaceship, and refrigerators were streamlined behemoths like the lumbering robots of pulp magazines. It was an uneasy, nervous decade - caught between optimism and terror, envisioning future homes full of gleaming labour-saving devices but also beasts from outer space or the dawn of time rampaging across the land, leaving radioactive debris in their wake. At the end of the classic The Thing From Another World (1951), ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Horror Channel has such sights to show you with broadcast of Hellraiser Trilogy
Posted on Wednesday 1st April 2020

Fridays on Horror brings you a box of not so nice delights as we open a puzzle known as the Lament Configuration and deliver Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II and Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth.

We begin April 3rd at 10.50pm with Clive Barker's Hellraiser. Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) has solved the mystery of the Lament Configuration puzzle box, a sort of evil Rubik's cube. Unfortunately he inadvertently opens a doorway to Hell and, in death, enters the world of the Cenobites, a race of sadistic supernatural beings led by a bald Cenobite (Doug Bradley). Brought back from the edge of damnation by the blood of his brother, Larry (Andrew Robinson), Frank rises to feed on the souls of others. But he needs ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Horror Channel celebrates Sci-Fi B-Movies with Classic Sci-Fi Weekend in April
Posted on Tuesday 24th March 2020

Horror Channel also celebrates the Sci-fi B-Movie with a Classic Sci-Fi Weekend, featuring the channel premieres of mutant octopus-rampaging It Came From Beneath The Sea, Fred F. Sears' saucer-invading caper Earth Vs The Flying Saucers, Sears' rampaging alien bird yarn The Giant Claw, Jack Arnold's thought-provoking classic The Incredible Shrinking Man and Nathan Juran's Ray Harryhausen inspired 20 Million Miles To Earth.

Broadcast on Saturday 11 April and Sunday 12 April from 2pm, the season also includes more strange creatures and alien invaders with The Thing From Another World, This Island Earth and Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun.

Full film details in transmission order...

SHARE: READ MORE
UK TV premiere of The Soska Sister's Vendetta leads Horror Channel Vengeance Season in April
Posted on Monday 16th March 2020

April is a wicked month on Horror Channel as cops and villains fight it out in the Vengeance Season, a hard-hitting violent action collection which includes the UK TV premieres of the Soska Sister's all-male maelstrom of mayhem, Vendetta, starring Dean Cain and Paul 'Big Show' Wight, and the fight-to-the death revenge thriller Blood Out, starring Luke Goss, 50 Cent and Vinnie Jones.

Broadcast on Saturday nights at 9pm throughout the month, the season also includes the channel premieres of gritty, bullet-fuelled The Prince, starring Bruce Willis, John Cusack and Jason Patric, and Martin Warren's The Heavy, starring Gary Stretch, Vinnie Jones and Christopher Lee.

Full film details in transmi...

SHARE: READ MORE
Project Tic Toc is running once more on Horror
Posted on Sunday 15th March 2020

For his third TV production, legendary producer Irwin Allen turned to the theme of history, past and present, The Time Tunnel.

The concept is nice and straight forward: Project Tic-Toc is an experimental Time Machine project which has been created at huge cost by the United States Government. So far, their efforts have designed and built "The Time Tunnel", a sort of multi-dimensional corridor you can walk down to enter "the living past or future" in any point of time. But after a decade the Government want real results after such an investment and ask for volunteers to prove that the project works. Up steps Dr. Anthony Newman (James Darren, yes, THE James Darren) who defies all attempts to stop him f...

SHARE: READ MORE
Horror Channel gets beastly in March with Creature Feature season
Posted on Thursday 20th February 2020

Carnivorous sandworms, murderous ant hybrids, a giant snake and deadly creepy spiders... Horror Channel gets beastly this March with a Creature Feature Season - a monstrous collection of creature carnage, which includes the UK TV premieres of It Came From The Desert, Marko Makilaakso's smart, funny and very creepy homage to Ray Harryhausen, and Micah Gallo's skin-tingling directorial debut Itsy Bitsy, every arachnophobe's worst nightmare.

Broadcast on Friday nights throughout the month, the season also includes the channel premiere of Tremors, Ron Underwood's affectionate throwback to 1950s creature features, starring Kevin Bacon, and the star-studded jungle snake nightmare Anaconda, s...

SHARE: READ MORE
Features Archive: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007
PICK OF THE WEEK
The Toybox
THE TOYBOX
Saturday 22nd August
10.30 PM
Patient Zero
PATIENT ZERO
Friday 21st August
9.00 PM
Airplane vs. Volcano
AIRPLANE VS. VOLCANO
Saturday 22nd August
6.40 PM