Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The 12 Movies Meme

Ross over at AiP (Anchorwoman in Peril!) has tagged me. As he himself was tagged just like this:

"Tag! You’re it... Or rather I’m it – at least for the rest of this post – because AiP has been tagged to take part in The 12 Movies Meme by Piper at Lazy Eye Theatre. Inspired by Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody’s recently announced programme for the New Beverly Cinema, Piper is asking other bloggers to imagine their own ideal twelve-night movie stint, preferably with some sort of thread uniting the whole thing."

Thanks Ross - I'll pick up the torch then:

As the curse goes, I have to tag five people when my list is done. Otherwise the pentagram will appear not only on my hand when the lunar cycle matures, but on the bodies of those I will kill! My cursed blood-lust must be satiated! So, I hope the five that I tag will comply.

As for my list? It's representative of my tastes in cinema and my personality - speaking generally. Now I'm not Diablo Cody or Satan Duke or Lucifer Magillicutty. I'm just Chick Young, and these are the films I would book into The New Beverly Cinema if I had my druthers.

MONDAY - TUESDAY
















We'll kick things off with the film that Francois Truffaut claimed was "the most beautiful film in the history of cinema." And, ya know what? I agree. Sunrise is beyond beauty, it is perhaps the purest expression of cinematic "art" one can ever truly find. From the elegance of its simple themes to the sparse use of its intertitles (the film is almost entirely visual) Sunrise is cinematic transcendence - beyond the world of criticism, its a relic of otherworldly riches.

Pair Sunrise with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (the author's favorite film of all time) and you've got one hot night baby. The film is a perfect synthesis of genuine thrills and solid comedic writing and performance. The monsters play it straight and let Bud and Lou provide most of the laughs; this may well be the secret to its endurance. I want to see legions of new fans flock to this mighty masterpiece!

WEDNESDAY - THURSDAY
















Here's a melodrama medley. A super soaker full of tragic waters if you will. Max Ophüls' masterpiece Letter From an Unknown Woman and Robert Miller's brilliant The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Ophüls leaves you breathless with his dazzling camerawork and 7 hanky story while Miller's Lonely Hunter gives us Alan Arkin and Sondra Locke - a pair of misfits who find comfort in each other's company. Arkin will have the theater sobbing, Locke's last moments resonate long after the film ends. Incredible films.

FRIDAY - SATURDAY
















"One day men will look back and Say that I Gave birth to the 20th century" Jack The Ripper, 1888.
One day people will look back and say - "Murder by Decree is criminally underrated!" This is an AMAZING film. James Mason and Christopher Plummer simply spellbind. The cast is impeccable and Bob Clark is in his true element. A film I WISH TO GOD I had seen in the theater. Now's the chance kiddies!

Polanski's The Fearless Vampire Killers" is not only one of the most visually sumptuous films he ever made (or EVER made) but a very successful send up of the genre too. To see it on the big screen would be a great experience. Few directors have known how to fill a canvas as successfully and effectively as Polanksi. I would love the chance to see my beloved Sharon Tate dominate a screen once again...

SUNDAY - MONDAY
















Two of my favorite films. Both films penned by screenwriting tag-teamers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. I love how each film shows us fractured, dysfunctional misfits creating their own versions of patriarchy and familial bonds. Wood and Flynt have a lot to say. Some of it may not be to everyone's liking. Therein lies the beauty at the heart of the 1st Amendment; they still have the right to say it and you can exercise your right to ignore it. Satire is crucial to the vitality of a civil society. Couple of great films that should be introduced to the generation that just missed them.

TUESDAY - WEDNESDAY
















Super Fun Happy Documentary Tuesday & Wednesday. The Human Condition. Titicut Follies is a symphony in the most discordant tones and most minor key you can possibly imagine. Frederick Wiseman's legendary "observational" fly on the wall documentary is clearly one of the most disturbing accounts ever committed to film. Sadly, the state of mental health care has not progressed positively, or shall I say, in a commensurate fashion since the days of Titicut. Claude Lanzmann's Shoah, is, put simply (because there is nothing simple about this film and Lanzmann has always maintained that it is not a "documentary") the most necessary oral history of the 20th century. Remarkable film. Potent. Unrelenting. A testament to courage and human spirit - when those very qualities are impossible to manufacture.

THURSDAY - FRIDAY
















Ah, the summer of 1986 was dominated by three films for me. I remember each all too well. Top Gun (I just got my drivers license and was diggin me some Berlin!), Aliens (saw that 3 times in the theater) and, everybody's favorite abject film of all time... Ding Ding Ding, Cronenberg's operatic The Fly. What can you say about The Fly? Never enough it seems. I've mentioned before that I keep this film alive and well in my history of film course and watching my students (sometimes there's close to 80 students) react to the film on the big screen in the auditorium - well, I kinda well up, I'm so happy seeing them squirm - and NO FILM makes people freak out like The Fly. Simply Beautiful.

And last but not least, the Big Dawg. The epitome of the Modern Blockbuster. JAWS. Jaws is in my top 3 films of all time. It's JAWS. Anything more need be said? To get a chance to see it on the big screen, listen to Williams score, watch people jump when Ben Gardner's head pops out - well, it's the stuff of dreams. My Dad came THIS close to taking me and my brother to the drive-in to see it. Didn't happen. Instead he bought me the Jaws game (pull shit out the shark's mouth) and my brother The Jaws Diver in the Bottle (he also got me a Mako's tooth and my brother a Great White tooth) - so we couldn't complain too much. We're talkin' JAWS people. That's all.

Well, actually that's not all:

Now then, I'm a big fan of contingency plans: A good business person covers their ass. In case the films are damaged, there's a fire, the reels get lost in the post, earthquake, act of God, whatever. I have two additional titles... JUST IN CASE. I was a boy scout ya know.

CONTINGENCY FILMS!
















L'Avventura is my favorite foreign film of all time. I didn't quite "get it" when I first saw it (I was around 21) but, boy, its ability to entrance became much more profound as I gained a bit more age, wisdom, and experience. It's impetus may have been post-war disillusionment, but I find the film to be even more relevant now - I'd like to share it with the newer generations of film goers. As for Superman? Just to see its 70mm majesty once again - to hear Williams' thunderous fanfare, to see those title credits, marvel at a 30 foot Brando, bathe in Unsworth's cinematography... Someone told me that they re-released it when they did Superman Returns - well, it didn't come my way Dammit! I would've been first in line!

Okay, now I gotta tag some folks - 5 to be exact. I lay down the challenge to:

Ira Gabelsburger at The Gary Conservatory of Music

Bill Courtney at The Uranium Cafe

Taliesin at Taliesin Meets the Vampires: Perhaps he can do an ALL VAMPIRE program, hmm, hmm?

Erik Marshall at A Memorable Fancy (probably be all Woody Allen)

JMR at Always Returning

Gilligan, I left you off the tag buddy cuz of the mammoth meme you've just finished! So are you blokes up for the challenge?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bloody Disgusting? How About Utterly Bloody Disgusted!

I am frequently pained at and with the current state of my favorite literary and cinematic genre, horror.

I am very fond of the website Bloody Disgusting - I go there for news and general surveillance of the genre. So, for the record, I have no problem with the website, on the contrary, I dig it. I do however, have a major problem with the headlines that I read day after day, month after month, year after year. It's completely fucking tragic.

Why? Well, let's take a random sampling of some July headline posts, basically from about a 48 hour span. All headlines belong to Bloody Disgusting and are reproduced under the fair use act.

EXCLUSIVES
SDCC '08: 'Friday the 13th' Hard 'R', Deleted Scenes For DVD
Posted: July 25, 2008 @ 2:35pm

SDCC '08: Review of 'Lost Boys: The Tribe'
Posted: July 25, 2008 @ 4:49am

Warner Bros. To Revive 'The Twilight Zone'
Posted: July 25, 2008 @ 12:43am

'SAW V' Trailer Online NOW!!!
Posted: July 25, 2008 @ 12:13am

"Poltergeist' Remake Confirmed in Press Release
Posted: July 24, 2008 @ 10:32pm

Posted: July 24, 2008 @ 8:13pm

New One Sheet For 'Death Race' Remake
Posted: July 24, 2008 @ 7:48pm

Universal Launches 'Wolfman' Website
Posted: July 24, 2008

Okay, so, dear God. The sequel, prequel, remake climate that has proliferated without the SLIGHTEST measure of restraint "utterly disgusts" me. Remember, this is merely a sampling of July 24th and July 25th. When there are no more remakes in Hell... you know the rest. I mean take a look:

The Friday the 13th Remake
The Lost Boys "Sequel"

The Remake of "The Twilight Zone"

The Saw V sequel
The Poltergeist Remake
The Robocop "Sequel/Remake"

The Death Race 2000 Remake
The Wolfman Remake

(and believe me, there are many many more, The Day The Earth Stood Still remake, The remake of Dante's Piranha, ad infinitum, ad nauseum).

Do I have a problem with remakes? Sequels? Prequels? Ongoing series? The revival of classic Universal characters? NO, not at all. Do I have a problem with how these films have come to saturate (and saturate is putting it mildly) the market? Absolutely.

Genre theory tells us a lot about how cycles evolve, When a sub-genre (say, the Slasher Film) has burned itself out it typically does one of two things; it occasionally takes a breather and "re-invents" itself with clever re-negotiations of its social context (Scream), or it becomes the subject of satire/parody (Scary Movie). And, of course, these two films produced cycles and sequels of their own until THEY in fact, burned out.

But, if I may quote myself from an entry on another blog, the way I see the future of the state of horror (in a paragraph) is kinda like this:

"Suffice it to say that the state of the genre is also a good barometer for measuring the state of human affairs - which is a bloody mess. The most profoundly philosophical genre - horror is always with us - utterly ubiquitous. In a car, on a plane, on the beach, in a house, in an airplane, in the woods, in the desert, in our minds, etc. - it is not dependent upon a place or a time or a character (unlike other genres). Horror is locatable everywhere and usually is most profoundly found when looking in the mirror. To quote the great Stephen Prince, “The anxiety at the heart of the genre is, indeed, the nature of human being.” I am not thrilled with the climate of the remake, prequel, sequel culture (lazy, mundane, easy), which thrives not on the genuine creative impulses of a writer or director, but typically, more on the distinct ring of the cash register. This business practice and attitude is not new, but it is certainly far more pronounced than it has EVER been. And yet, in the midst of such transparent efforts, we get a modest little film from Spain in 2007 which scared the absolute shit out this 38 year old genre veteran. Yes, “.Rec” is that good - if you have not seen it, do yourself a favor and do so. So, there is hope for the state of the genre, but not because of anything the industry will or could do - there is hope because the diet staples that feed this genre are synchronic with social anxieties, fears, taboos and ideologies. And, dear friends, as long as these remain good and fucked up, we will continue to find repressed monstrosities to feed the machine." (written over at The Horror Blog final Roundtable discussion).

I mentioned earlier that the most dominant identifying feature of a genre is its social context. There is a triad between genre, text (film), and audience that is in constant flux, fusion, negotiation. One could argue then, rather pessimistically, that the remake culture that has been shoved down our throat (very aggressively the past 10 years) is symptomatic of purely economic motivations and a general complacency or laziness on the part of studios to recognize or take chances on the new breed of horror writer. Genre theory exists for various reasons that I shall not discuss now, but certainly one thing we can examine by studying genre is the various power relations and struggles that exist in society. To this I say, wow, I am even more disturbed now. With all things horrific and terrifying at this point in time, is it really necessary to constantly cull studio libraries for remake fodder? How about a horror film about... I don't know, how about 5 fucking dollar a gallon gas? What say you dear reader?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

FINALLY, FUNKENSTEIN AGAINST THE WEREWOLF HOOKERS!

MADtv's FUNKENSTEIN series is pure genius. In my opinion, MADtv has been the most consistently hilarious and clever satire/parody/slapstick show since SCTV. Saturday Night Live has been so wildly uneven in it's thirty great years - that I only drop by occasionally to see if it's gonna be funny. Sadly, that's not usually the case. MADtv delivers.

Shot in glorious FUNKAVISION - the Funkenstein series has my stomach muscles aching from convulsion like laughter. Actually, I find the episodes more entertaining than the 60 plus million dollar Grindhouse 2007 and, in certain aspects, they perform the same function.

The Series To Date:

The Bride of Funkenstein (Special Appearance by Blacula)
Funkenstein Against Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (Special Apperance by Ed "Too Tall" Jones)
Funkenstein Vs. The Creature From the White Lagoon Vs. A Special Appearance by Blacula
And,
My Personal Favorite (just a smidge above The Bride of Funkenstein) is:
Funkenstein Against The Werewolf Hookers. ENJOY!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

One of my Insane Hobbies - Part IV (The Final Chapter!)


JULIE NEWMAR - CATWOMAN

One of the hardest kits I ever tackled and the next best thing to having a Natalie Wood resin kit. Julie has had and continues to have a profound impact on me. I've met the Julie (got several autographed photos and an autographed print of a painting that I had too!) and found her to be a wonderful person. Prior to my lifelong love affair with Natalie Wood I was supremely in love with Julie Newmar. Batman reruns at age 5 will do that to a person. A lasting image of her was burned into my visual cortex then and is still with me (obviously) to this day.

The kit came in 5 pieces. Head and torso, arms, and legs. CONSIDERABLE clean up was necessary - lots and lots of mold lines that needed to be sanded and sanded and sanded and sanded. Once the kit was primed all the OTHER imperfections came out and so I sanded and sanded and sanded... Once I had her pinned with armature and assembled, I was able to start with metallic blacks for her Catsuit. But then once again, tremendous sanding - not to mention more sanding of the putty lines where I had attached her arms and legs. So, basically this kit was all about endless SANDING. Especially on the backside where her beautiful bottom meets her legs.

I was really happy with the way it turned out however. I used matte black for her boots, gold tones for her necklace, catgun, and nails - and a shiny metallic black for the Catsuit as already mentioned. I spend considerable time on facial tones - from dark to light. It was about 6 weeks worth of work.

When the kit was basically where I wanted it to be, I bought an unfinished balsa type treasure chest and plaque at Michaels and then painted them both. And Voila! She was done! Until I bumped the kit one day and it fell!!!!!!!!! Julie broke one arm and both her legs! Two weeks later - she emerged from surgery just fine. The results are below. This kit stands over a foot tall!

I think the plaque that I stained and the treasure chest which was also painted provide a good diorama and really sell her pose.


Some detail


3/4 Profile View


Backside. My, oh my.


Clealry, great care was taken when contouring Julie's posterior - which deified the natural laws of physics


Ahh, Julie...

Kit was purchased: Online through a modelers forum in 2001. A very kind gentlemen sold it to me at a very cheap price when this kit was going for 175.00. Scale is 1:6 (standard for figures like this)

Kit was completed: Around 2003. And about a year later when she broke.

Acrylic Paints - Various brushes and Airbrush for skin tones on face.


This is my last post on this topic for now and my pal Bill in China asked for more information about the hobby. I'll try and give a general sense of what's involved. When you buy a kit (and a good place to buy one online is Monsters In Motion or Ebay) you're entering into a challenging and painstaking hobby. The kits, which come typically in gray resin require ASSEMBLY. But, not typical assembly. The kits are generally broken into: Torso, Head, Arms, Legs - and then odds and ends like coffin, candleabra, arch, anxe, rats, whatever... The pieces need to be washed to release chemical agents used in the molds, then they need to be carefully inspected for imperfections and mold sprues. After that - you are free to prime the individual pieces. To affix an arm to a torso, for example, you need to drill a hole in the torso and in the arm - and glue a thin piece of metal, like a small finishing nail with the head cut off, into the torso. You then have created armature for the piece. Impale the arm onto the nail - glue - and then putty the seams so that kit the seal of arm and torso has no gaps. You will then have to sand away the excess putty and then you need to do the other arm, the head, the legs etc. It's ridiculously time consuming. Here are some pics to aid visually (complements of the Clubhouse and Gremlinz - two sites for the modeling hobbyist).

Drill holes in your kit when you need to establish armature between joints



Another diagram for establishing connection between abdomen and torso - you can see how the reinforcement works.


When you have a good fit - you mark the spots with X's and then drill holes to place an armature rod.


You can see an "X" on this piece. Match that X with the X on the other piece and then glue.


Once you have two pieces together and puttied, you can sand the seam until it is very very smooth. At that point you begin the final painting stages.

I hope that these pics can give you a general idea of what the hobby is about and the complexities that often arise. It's a tremendous hobby - one that fills you with pure joy. I love it - I just don't seem to have the money or time for it these days. I think that will change starting now. I have a massive Dark Horse "Bride of Frankenstein" cold-cast porcelain kit that I needs finishing. This sucker is massive and will take forever. I can't wait.

Friday, July 18, 2008

One of my Insane Hobbies - Part III


LON CHANEY JR. - THE WOLFMAN

Here's another bust in my kit library. This time it's the legendary lyncanthrope Larry Talbot. I've always loved the character of Larry Talbot (as well as his European cousin, Paul Naschy's Waldimar Daninsky) because of the tragedy and pathos associated with the character.

This kit was purchased at the famous Apple Comics - on Melrose in Hollywood, a great Shoppe. In true fashion, I had just missed somebody important to me, this time it was John Landis who I apparently missed by five minutes. At any rate, this is the Geometric Wolfman Bust. A very fun kit to paint. As stated in the previous blog entry - busts require little clean up and virtually no assembly.


As for Larry Talbot. I did slow build ups of various shades of blue. Going from dark to light and then finally drybrushing much lighter shades on the contours of his shirt. The face was done using a wide array of tans, browns, ochres, yellows etc. Building slowly from dark to light - the same principle was used for his mane of hair. Some yellowish/ivory on his set of choppers was layered in and clear gloss gave it a good saliva quotient too. The base was painted to look like a plaque of wood. This is done by "blending" wood tones together - streaking them so as to imitate the grain, knots, and color of wood. The nameplate is in RED with a BLACK background. That's it!


Kit was purchased: Los Angeles, March 2002
Kit was completed: Summer 2004
Acrylic paints and various brushes.


And, again, as if I haven't said it enough - Jeff Rovin's RETURN OF THE WOLFMAN is the most seminal piece of revision fiction I have ever had the incredible pleasure of reading. I felt it would be appropriate to push it in this blog entry as we're talking bout good ole' Larry Talbot. If you love the Universal library of Monsters than this book was written just especially for you and you alone. Track down a copy - very imaginative, clever, and above all, well written. Find it and read it!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

One of my Insane Hobbies - Part II


BELA LUGOSI - DRACULA

Interesting timing for this post. I just returned from a section of Intro to Film at the University where I teach. When doing the unit on acting, I find that Tim Burton's Ed Wood (1994) is an exceptionally perfect film to show in support of the concepts on that unit. Not only is it one of my favorite films (A major GONE TO BED entry), but it is also a perfect text for self-reflexivity and the politics of taste. Ed Wood showcases the Hollywood Star System, the waning (basically dead) matinee idol capital of Lugosi's stardom, the dangers of being type-cast, the "use value" of a star, drug addiction, the original celebrity rehab icon, and the sad sad irony of Ed Wood and Bela Lugosi reaching unheard of levels of fan appreciation AFTER they had died. Not to mention that Martin Landau won an Academy Award for his amazing portrayal of Lugosi. This is especially paradoxical as Lugosi never received that type of Academy recognition. The film takes many many factual liberties - but nonetheless succeeds in its ambitions to alert new generations to the works of Lugosi, Wood, and other independent filmmakers whose ingenuity outweighed their talent!

Bela Lugosi is my favorite male movie icon/actor of all time. I have many others (and you all know that Natalie Wood is my favorite actress), but Lugosi is number one. So, I had to have a very good Lugosi kit for this hobby. Fortunately, there are several. I decided on this bust.

I bought this kit (sculpted by Tony Mcvey and also available as a MASSIVE full size kit too) at Creature Features which was on Olive in Burbank, CA (greater Los Angeles area). I don't know if it is still there or not - but it was a GREAT store. About three times the size of House of Monsters in Chicago. Loved that place. It was also very close to Dark Delicacies - a GREAT book store. I just missed Richard Matheson who was there for a signing the day before - ouch!

This is the kit unprimed and unpainted.


And here a couple of Profile shots:


The Gargoyle base is coated in many blacks, grays, whites - etc. Heavily drybrushed to add texture to the stone. Bela's flesh tones were airbrushed, working from dark to light and then adding washes under the eyes and rosiness to his ears - as if he had recently dined on a strapping young gal! The tuxedo is in a metallic black to add a satin-like shine. The Cloak is in a matte black as a subsidiary contrast. This shirt is off white and the vest is a sort of ivory - I airbrushed shadows where the best and shirt meet. That's about it. The hair was the only tough part. There was not a lot of texture to it - so it was difficult to do it in anything other than a slicked back black.

Just as my previous post about Peter Cushing representing the only "real" Van Helsing I ever knew, I can also say that Lugosi will always be the only "real" Dracula to me. Many wonderful actors have made this part their own, Chistopher Lee, Frank Langella, Gary Oldman, Jack Palance, and many others - but Lugosi forever defined the part. And his story, is, quite sad.

1/3 Scale (about 10 inches tall) and it is a VINYL kit - not resin.
Purchased: Los Angeles - in 2002
Completed: I'd say fall/winter of 2003
Acrylic paints - various brushes and I used an airbrush for all of the flesh tones.

In the next post I will discuss more about the hobby and how kits are manufactured and then assembled and painted. It's fairly complex. Sometimes it's great just to do a one piece bust as opposed to a 16-20 piece kit. If I remember correctly, the Mad Monster Party was 17 pieces.

Part III coming shortly.

One of my Insane Hobbies - Part I


MAD MONSTER PARTY - OUR TIME TO SHINE

I thought I would share with you one of my most passionate on and off hobbies. On and off for various reasons. To begin with, Resin Kit Building demands money and time. LOTS of money (avg. kit is 100.00) and LOTS of time (avg. completion time: about a month). As we know, money and time are the two most prized resources in the world. And, when a kit requires the subtleties that only an air brush can provide, the project time can double to two months. This is why this hobby has been on and off for the last, about 7 years or so. I haven't been able to work on my kits for quite some time, teaching duties and other doctoral matters have kept me away for about four years. Now that I am finding ways to procrastinate advancing my dissertation, I may just take it up again and finish a few projects that were begun in 2004. I'm gonna kick things off with uploading some pics from previous kits. I'll start things off with my "Mad Monster Party" resin kit. This kit was called "Our Time To Shine" based off of the song that Gale Garnett sings to Count Dracula. The kit had a very limited pressing of 100 castings - and is indeed a rare kit.


HERE IS THE SCENE FROM THE FILM: (note: I was working from a very ratty old print of the film on VHS - several years before the DVD release. As such, the colors were very faded. For eg. in my print - her dress was quite yellow - in the DVD it reads more gold.



I'll discuss what the hobby entails in the next few installments - I've got a few kits I'd like to showcase on Trash Aesthetics. This was a pretty clean casting with some dremel work needed for sprues - but on the whole a pretty easy kit to prime, assemble, and paint. I did not need the air brush for this particular kit. The original Rankin Bass puppets for the movie had a "man-made" assembly aesthetic to them (which is what they were) so I preserved that by keeping the color palette simple and faithful to the colors of the figures as they appeared in the film. I bought this kit at the House Of Monsters, which was in Chicago, in Wicker Park - right where Damen, Milwaukee and North conflate. It was a great shop in the Flat Iron Building which sadly is no longer there. They are still in business on Ebay if memory serves.

Kit was bought: Chicago - around summer 2001
Kit was completed: around fall 2002.
Acrylic Paints and various brushes






Boob Shot For Tali

Monday, July 14, 2008

Who's The Greatest Van Helsing of All Time?

So, who in your opinion was the "greatest" Van Helsing? I know who I feel (and I cannot be dissuaded) personified the character best on screen, but what do you think? Let's examine this diverse cinematic bullpen of actors who played the legendary Abraham Van Helsing (including "surrogate" Van Helsing's as well and in no particular order)

Edward Van Sloan - Dracula 1931


Aww, papa Van Helsing. I love Edward Van Sloan's portrayal of Van Helsing in Hollywood's (if not the world's?) first sound horror film. He is the closest personification of Stoker's genteel, wise, patriarchal Dutch doctor. Naturally then, what is downplayed is the additional idea that Van Helsing could be a physical foil for the Count as well. In 1927, he took a stab at the role (with Lugosi) on Broadway and later played the role twice on film - in Dracula and again in Dracula's Daughter (1935). He was the second Van Helsing I ever saw - Cushing came first when I was 5 years old and Van Sloan came shortly after when I was in first grade. He especially shines in the sequel, Dracula's Daughter. A Universal character actor, Edward Van Sloan is forever credited (along with Bela Lugosi, Tod Browning, Karl Freund, Jack Pierce, and Charles D. hall) with providing the template for what horror films would look and sound like for decades to come.

Jack MacGowran - The Fearless Vampire Killers or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth are in My Neck (1966)


Jack MacGowran's Professor Abronsius is nothing short of brilliant. As ineffectual as he is hilarious. We know right from the get go that he will be essentially useless when we see him arrive to the destination as a frozen Popsicle. Polanski took the archetype of Van Helsing and injected a healthy dose of Mr. Magoo. The result is pure slapstick heaven. Though not as slapstick on the nose as Laurel and Hardy or Abbott and Costello, Polanski and MacGowran DO make an absolutely hilarious Gilligan and Skipper. Like a few other selections on this list, Abronsius is NOT Abraham Van Helsing, instead he is Polanski's Jungian equivalent. His fate is left open at the end of the film, but one can deduce that he will either accidentaly bumble himself into survival - or - well, once that sleigh reaches its destination...?

Richard Benjamin - Love At First Bite (1979)

Richard Benjamin is hilarious in Love At First Bite. Of course, he is a descendant of Van Helsing's (like Cushing's Lorimer Van Helsing in Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, or his portrayal in Dracula AD 1972). Here, Van Helsing's offspring has changed his name for "professional purposes: to Dr. Rosenberg. I love this film, I loved it when I saw it in the theater, I loved it 10 years ago, I loved it last night. I think it works beautifully and is still part of much of the vernacular among my friends. We quote it regularly. I remember Tim Lucas discussing his favorite Renfields of the past century in a Video Watchdog and I felt he really shortchanged Arte Johnson's masterful interpretation. True, he is lampooning Dwight Frye's legendary persona in the role, but he does it beautifully. There is not a bum note in his performance. Actually, there never was - Arte is a supremely talented actor.

Laurence Olivier - Dracula (1979)


Olivier's Van Helsing is superlative. What would one expect from an actor of Olivier's stature, respectability and talent? In keeping with the British method of acting, Olivier's externals are spot on. His accent, poise, demeanor, wardrobe etc., are all exceptional (especially the accent, Olivier even speaks some Dutch in the film). I have no criticisms of Olivier's interpretation, other than his inability to act when the time comes results in his tragic demise. Olivier and the rest of the cast and personnel are fantastic - Dracula 79' is a great film that greatly benefits from location shooting, outstanding visuals, a remarkable cast, and a sublime score.

Christopher Plummer - Dracula 2000 (2000)


I found Dracula 2000 to be a vastly under appreciated film. Christopher Plummer adds a great deal to the film with his Abraham Van Helsing. The film benefited from Wes Craven's hand stitching as exec. producer and a very original take on the Dracula origin. Plummer enhanced the script's originality by emphasizing the character's physiological flaw. He also produced a strong accent and physical mannerisms appropriate for the character. I think he was an extraordinary Van Helsing in an extraordinarily original re-fashioning of the Dracula mythology. I am so grateful that Plummer is still very active, his recent turns in The New World, Must Love Dogs, Alexander, A Beautiful Mind, and what should have been an Oscar in The Insider have lent each of these films a stature they would sorely lack were it not for his presence. His Sherlock Holmes in Murder By Decree is still one of my all time favorite performances. His summation and chastising of Anthony Quayle and John Gielgud is a virtual tour de force!

Anthony Hopkins - Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)


Anthony Hopkins is truly a great actor. I have seen this man play ANYTHING and play "it" as if he had been that character his whole life. This is what makes it so hard and sad to say that his interpretation of Van Helsing is absolute rubbish and so are parts of the film. I don't know just what the fuck he and Coppola were thinking engaging in a constant paradox. To have the balls to say "BRAM STOKER'S" Dracula and then casually make major and minor alterations is absurd and offensive. True, Hart's script, in spite of its many variations, is just about the most faithful adaptation of Stoker's novel (but, given its previous cinematic versions, that's not saying much). And, indeed, there are MANY things that I love about this film - one of them however, IS NOT Sir Anthony's crazy ramblings and dirty old man lusting. I don't want or expect to ever see a true to the letter adaptation of Dracula or any other novel. These are two different mediums that are incompatible in fidelity of representation. The trick, or course, is to capture the essence of the novel and get it on the screen in a manner that suits cinema's visual nature. Hart and Coppola essentially do this. Some of their choices I do not agree with or support. One of them is Hopkins' insanely over the top interpretation - almost the antithesis to Stoker's characterization. What...the...fuck?

Hugh Jackman - Van Helsing (2004)


Uhm, No. This is 21st century Hollywood's idea of Van Helsing and about as far from the literary origins as one can possibly stray. Nothing against Hugh Jackman, a very talented and diverse actor capable of strong work, but this movie was shit. Oh, sure, I enjoyed the empty eye candy of it all - it was interesting to look at (c'mon, Kate Beckinsale for Chrissakes), but I feel it was the BIGGEST waste of potential I have seen in a very very long time. THE TEMPLATE AND STORY FOR WHAT THIS MOVIE SHOULD HAVE BEEN WAS APTLY LAID OUT BY JEFF ROVIN IN HIS NOVEL "RETURN OF THE WOLFMAN." Somers, I am sure, had his own ideas on how to pull off the "horror extravaganzas" that Universal effectively delivered in the late 1940s, but let's just say that I didn't agree with, or care for, his choices. And why of why do we get the arbitrary name change? Gabriel? Is he an angel with a horn? Why? WHY? Logic please? Why change his name? To what purpose? How will it increase profits? Is Gabriel somehow a more "hip" name than Abraham? Or is it that he is so completely fucking different from his literary source that you decided to change his FIRST name? Moving on...

Before I get to my personal choice - a note about the inclusions. There are certain Van Helsing's that aren't accounted for. Nosferatu (1922), Herzog's remake of it, Jess Franco's Count Dracula, Mel Brooks', etc. I just didn't have the time to get to EVERY Van Helsing or stand-in Van Helsing. I just chose to highlight a few for the purposes of this post. On that note: Drum Roll if you Please...

Peter Cushing - Horror of Dracula (1958), The Brides of Dracula (1960), Dracula AD 1972 (1972), The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973), The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974) and surrogate Van Helsing in The Vampire Lovers (1970)

As for me? My vote for best cinematic rendering of this fine literary character goes to Peter Cushing - hands down. Cushing's interpretation retained all of the elderly wisdom and gentleness found in Stoker's characterization while also injecting into the profile an Errol Flynn dexterity and "man of action" mentality. This potent combination of scholarly curiosity, a gentle and kind ethos, and armorial bearings that read "don't fuck with me" made Cushing The greatest Van Helsing to date. Doomed (much like the hard-boiled detective) to romantic isolation, this man must fight evil forces - rid the world of "unholy cults" to restore social order, to bring balance to the scales of good and evil. Only in Cushing's interpretation do we see a brilliant, delicately balanced negotiation between these polars. And speaking of "good and evil" As Nietzsche once said in Beyond Good and Evil "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster..." We cannot attribute this stoic philosophical advice to most other portrayals of Abraham Van Helsing, ESPECIALLY Anthony Hopkins' awkward and unfriendly Doctor. Hopkins lusts after Mina, has no tact whatsoever (Stoker made Van Helsing the most elegantly quotable character in the novel) and often seems to become as monstrous as the creatures he hunts. When he says "We have become God's Madmen!" in point of fact - Hopkins plays Van Helsing as a fucking lunatic right from the start. While I think that both Laurence Olivier and Christopher Plummer made FANTASTIC Van Helsing's, as written, their characters lack the ability TO ACT selflessly while preserving their own mortality. Cushing was able to derail current or impending harm to others while simultaneously defeating his evil menace/nemesis AND preserving his mortality. Olivier and Plummer FAIL to achieve this; their moments of weakness or hesitation doom their fate.

A Doctor of Philosophy, a Doctor of Theology, a Professor of Metaphysics - Hammer's rendering of Van Helsing makes him the most formidable being in the world to defeat vampires, or in fact, their King. He is armed with the most potent of all weapons: knowledge. Knowledge and the ability to synthesize it while doing what MUST BE DONE AT ALL COSTS. Witness what happens when he falls victim to the tainting of his own blood at the hands of Baron Meinster (a disciple of Count Dracula - Brides of Dracula, 1960). Cushing buries an iron in a bed of hot coals until it is glowing red hot. He cauterizes the evil from the wound with the cleansing power of fire and then douses his neck in blessed (Holy) water. It is PRECISELY these types of moments, structured around fortitude and remarkable courage, that make Cushing's Van Helsing UNDEFEATED. His will and constitution are in tact, not for sale, non-negotiable. He then battles the Baron in a typically charged and athletic duel - and bests him. Yup, every fucking time. Cushing is unbeatable. What a remarkable role model to have while growing up, uncommonly kind and supremely "bad ass" when need be.

"For the safety of one we love - for the good of mankind, and for the honour and glory of God" Abraham Van Helsing (Stoker 326).

He is The King of all Van Helsings - there is none higher, sucker Van Helsing's shall call him sire.


There's a lot of honorable mentions here beyond the ones already stated above in the disclaimer. Andrew Keir - Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1966), The David Soul/Lew Ayers combo of Salems Lot (1979), Roger Perry - Count Yorga (1970), Jason Miller and E.G. Marshall in Vampire (1979). And on and on and on and on... I haven't forgotten anyone, I just can't get to them all! Besides CUSHING IS Van Helsing.