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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Another Whale Of A Weaver Book


Claws-Out Cats In A Sack at Universal

How to pick from so many film books taking the stage these days? Some choose based on genre. Where you've lifelong-loved Universal sci-fi and horror, then Tom Weaver and company's latest, Universal Terrors, 1951-1955 comes as natural choice. Reason aplenty to order is Weaver's imprinteur, for even if one cares less of subject matter, this writer is stylist enough to spin prose web for all us unwary flies, whatever past exposure to the eight chiller-thriller-dillers profiled here. "Profiled" may be too slight a term, for these are detail studies to put all past coverage in permanent shade. But Universal Terrors is more than recital of movie makings, for here is deep dug account of 50's process at a filmland address lots find a most magnetic, monsters plopped before cameras less fearsome than ego-fiends sucking blood off rivals in writing, make-up, music, acting, all of what earned paychecks and set studio hornets to one another's neck. Many if not most lived long enough to be interviewed by Tom Weaver, each articulate as to who done wrong to whom. For thrust of knife to backs where they belonged, Universal Terrors has no peer in print. Thirty-forty years was none too late for getting even, it seems, and these Uni vets down to a last had memories long and forgiveness short where knavery among co-workers was recalled.




Much of Universal Terrors is He said --- No, I say --- debate of dirty trix by hustle-artists busy sawing rungs behind as they climbed ruthlessly up. Was it for money, power, the satisfaction of screenplay credit on Tarantula? So much reminded me of vendettas kept, indeed harbored, by humbler of we civilians who suffered slights from mean boys or girls at work or school, except here were richer chips Uni vipers played at, at least it seemed so back when monsters meant money. Weaver and co-writer Robert J. Kiss wisely point out that keeping budgets slim allowed weirdies to cash out nicely. It wasn't for charity to us fans that Universal kept doing these things. Detail of all that is where Universal Terrors shines brightest. Imagine for purpose of this book that beloved pics (the eight plus copious reference to others) are Aurora models built by Weaver and team. No production piece goes missing, all adhere nicely, with behind-scenes so You Are There that I'd almost swear to working on The Strange Door, It Came From Outer Space, or one/other Creature feature. In event of reincarnation, let it be to soundstage of any of these eight, for thanks to Weaver work, I'll surely know my way around.

6 Comments:

Blogger Steven said...

What is needed is a reference book on ALL of the UNIVERSAL HORROR TITLES which were NOT of the main universal monster cycle, say 1930-1946,or ?; I'm recalling and watching many of the others in that period with titles that I am seeing for the first time! (well, ok for the first time SINCE they ran them on SHOCK THEATRE ON TV in the 1950's!).Indeed HORROR WAS, usually, A UNIVERSAL PICTURE OF THAT PERIOD. I wonder about their popularity THEN at the box office. Titles like NIGHT MONSTER, TOWER OF LONDON, THE RAVEN, MAN MADE MONSTER, the remakes, and re-issues thru other sources. KARLOFF, LUGOSI, ATWILL, and of course LON CHANEY JR.-- as we all know, these ghouls of the screen, when not playing one of those famous monsters, starred in so many other UNIVERSAL horror pictures and later pretty much type-cast forever-and-to-the-end in pictures not worth making to begin with-- by cheap exploiters of actors who would be"one foot in the grave with the other on a banana peel " working at other studios, never lacking fans of old and new.

6:05 PM  
Blogger Dan Bitgood said...

Universal-International would be a more accurate title. Different people running the show than during the Carl Laemmle era.

2:14 AM  
Blogger Donald Benson said...

Somehow I find the notion of dramatic power struggles and betrayals behind likable Universal Bs the stuff of comedy, no matter how serious it was for the participants. Thinking of something like "The Oscar", with a cruel, ambitious player climbing over friend and foe alike to reach the dizzy heights.

"I don't need you losers any more! It's the A-list, the big boys from now on. I'm getting 'Additional Dialogue' credit on 'Monster on the Campus'!"

2:38 AM  
Blogger Michael J. Hayde said...

One of the writers of the TARANTULA! screenplay was my college film teacher, Robert M. Fresco. He was one of the nicest guys and genuinely enjoyed teaching (although I'll never forgive him for "teaching" us to understand the importance of musical accompaniment for silent film by screening Laurel & Hardy's BIG BUSINESS in silence, until the other students begged him to turn it off). However, he tended to regard his Hollywood days with regret, as he considered most of the work to be crap. (Even so, he kept one-sheets for TARANTULA and THE PRIVATE NAVY OF SGT. O'FARRELL in his office.) I'm curious to know if he was interviewed for this book; he passed away in 2014.

Michael

11:09 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

A class that could not appreciate BIG BUSINESS in silence is a poor class indeed.

5:27 AM  
Blogger Itslefty said...

I had a film history teacher in college run Metropolis in its entirety completely silent. An evening class too. Many people were fast asleep.

5:58 PM  

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