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Saturday, June 01, 2019

Another Script From The Crypt


Where Learning About Film Is Fun


It comes down to one’s own relationship with Son of Dracula. How intense is yours? The question is moot for those who never saw it nor intend to. A book about one movie presupposes importance of that movie, so … how important is Son of Dracula? To a Shock Theatre generation, plenty, but riddle me this: How many of that generation were watching Shock Theatre as opposed to cartoons, Our Gang, The Three Stooges, others of content aimed at youth. I’d take a poll were we talking less years ago, as in, What did you like best --- comedy or horror? Bugs Bunny or Boris Karloff? Then there were childhoods revolved around TV, ones that memorized Star Trek, but never saw The Day the Earth Stood Still. The Scripts From The Crypt series of books, overseen by Gary D. Rhodes, Tom Weaver, Dr. Robert J. Kiss, and Robert Guffey, is aimed on one hand toward we who are all in for monsters and can’t know enough about Son of Dracula or any dealt off Universal's shock deck. But, this is no mere book for genre gratification … it is way wittier, too informed, more purely entertaining, to stay locked in that barn. Son of Dracula is the focus, but these writers do more than dissect just that. Here could be any studio product from the 40’s turned inside out for detailed exam. From begin of development, to casting, to completion and scoring, we learn how a system ferried high or low output from sound stage to streets. Want overnight acuity of Hollywood doing its job? Get Son of Dracula on Blu-Ray, or streaming, and watch alongside this book. You will glean acres more than what one crew achieved in 1943. Here is a year’s worth of film school got in a weekend. Did I say it's hugely enjoyable as well? Like answer to all Scripts From The Crypt, yes.

7 Comments:

Blogger CanadianKen said...

Wow! Great news. As soon as I read your post I ordered a copy of the book. "Son of Dracula" 's one of my favorite movies. And that's in spite of the complete miscasting of Chaney Jr. Everything else is so wonderful that his utter inappropriateness in the role is somehow neutralized. Love the atmosphere, the southern Gothic trappings - plus the really well thought out script, with its marvelous twists. Even on the sidelines Evelyn Ankers - with her lovely voice and sensitive line readings - can't help but shine. But the spotlight's on Louise Allbritton and she's just out of this world. Any character's relationship with Dracula has got to come with complications but Allbritton grows progressively more fascinating as a woman whose motivations carry an even deeper level of complexity. And - for me - this is Robert Paige's finest hour. During the course of the film,he and his plight become genuinely moving. The Academy wouldn't have deigned to consider a Universal chiller for consideration in the acting sweepstakes but Paige really did deserve a supporting Oscar nomination. What a versatile performer he was. The same year - promoted to Deanna Durbin's leading man in her best (and only Technicolor outing) "Can't Help Singing") he carried off his frontiersman assignment with elan, even revealing a terrific singing voice. Anyway, thanks for the heads up. I look forward to immersing myself in all things "Son of Dracula"

1:13 PM  
Blogger Bill O said...

Lon, himself the son of a famous father, is perfectly cast. Alucard's thuggish and Americanized.Perfect noir fall guy.

9:44 AM  
Blogger williampl7 said...

I think Universal did much better with "Son of Dracula" than they did with "Dracula's Daughter".

3:45 PM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

I second the salute to Robert Paige. He sang as often as not: Republic's MEET THE BOY FRIEND plays exactly like an early Bing Crosby movie (singing star thinks nothing of responsibility and just enjoys life as it comes, even helping another man do his blue-collar job). He's a singing bandleader in Universal's MELODY LANE, and he dubs the singing voice for Charles Starrett in Columbia's START CHEERING. Along the way he developed excellent comedy timing and was one of the screen's better light comedians. It's too bad that he worked so often in lower-budget pictures and didn't get many chances to work in the bigger ones. I remember seeing an exhibitor's report that said, "Robert Paige is always good and deserves better parts."

8:46 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Craig Reardon makes an always welcome appearance to talk about SON OF DRACULA, Jack Pierce vs, the Westmores, Robert Paige, and vagaries of local TV in L.A. (Part One):


Hi John,

Still trying to get over the cold of the century (if your response is, "What cold of the century?!"--GOOD!), which has dragged on for over two weeks. But checked in at Greenbriar and delighted to see this notice for a new "Script From the Crypt". You know, I recognize the supertitle, but I don't have ANY of these. They obviously smack of the '90s series by one Phillip J. Riley (I hope that's right, as it's from MY memory!), which also routinely credited "The Ackerman Archives". At least one of these, possibly "House of Dracula", benefited in its Introduction (the format rigidly adhered to in all of them as I recall) by an interview, apparently contemporaneous, by the elderly John Carradine, still sharp enough to talk about his role as Dracula and his insistence upon the character's gray hair, e.g., as specifically described in Stoker's original book. Carradine's style was decidedly 'big' much of the time, and of course his acting hero, self-confessed, was John Barrymore, of whom the same could be said without much fear of contradiction. But Barrymore was also a terrifically intelligent and funny guy, and Carradine had a lot going on upstairs, too. The part I relished in Carradine's reminiscences was his defense of Jack Pierce and his condemnation of the people who put him on greased skids out the door into the middle of Lankershim Blvd., as it were, after twenty years of doing brilliant work for the studio. Where he really got the knife in between the right ribs is in describing Pierce's successor...we all know it was Bud Westmore...as an executive, whereas Pierce had been that and a hands-on, practicing makeup artist who personally created the makeups we can still watch in all the celebrated monster films. Plus, which is typically never mentioned (I should know), Pierce could also lay (the traditional term for it) loose hair beards on actors and style them with a hot curling iron and you would swear the guy grew the thing. Look at all the gorgeous beard work on display, e.g., in Walter Wanger's production at Universal, "Arabian Nights" (which may for all I know also have been the first Technicolor film made at the studio). Or, beauty. Jack's beauty makeups were absolutely as good as anything done by the endlessly self-promoting Westmore's, who literally wrote the book ("The Westmore Beauty Book".) So, monsters, yes. And everything else. Carradine basically calls it what it was: a raw deal.

I like "Son of Dracula" VERY much. Always did, even as a ten-year old (thereabouts) seeing it in rotation in one of those Universal 'packages' still traveling sometimes from local station to station in the early-to-mid '60s, THE gestation period for my lifelong love of these old movies and characters. Whereas of course the famous 'Shock Theater' model kicked off famously in 1957; and, believe me, I HEARD about it, at school! Apparently I was surrounded by other little boys whose moms were quite content to abandon their own little monsters to an additional back room B&W set to watch monsters manufactured 20+ years ago at Universal. Not MY mom! She was the nightmare policewoman. Her little boy was not to have his sleep troubled by Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, the Wolf Man, or any other fun bogeyman. Fortunately this well-intentioned tyranny could not endure!

4:41 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Part Two from Craig Reardon:


I agree with the authors, perhaps you, and at least one of my fellow Greenbriar fans that Albritton was terrific in her cold intelligence (and that alone speaks to the fact that not a single cast member in this movie plays down to the material.) But I too think Paige is a wonder. His gradual emotional collapse is terribly moving, with a gaze at her burning bier, as it were at the end, the equal of James Stewart's unforgettable lost look at the end of Hitchcock's "Vertigo". In the case of both men's characters, it absolutely says, "There goes my everything." And due to this, "Son of Dracula" for me automatically goes to the head of its class. NO other Universal horror movie I'm aware of (I haven't been able to obtain and see the new restoration of "The Man Who Laughs" as I write this) has this dimension of believable human loss and devastation, even in the context of a 'horror film'. I can't forget what my aforementioned mother, a lifelong movie fan herself, once said about horror movies from her youth, and their reputations. She was most diplomatic because she well knew how much I loved them. She gently said, "Well, you know, honey...these weren't really ever regarded to be 'A' type movies...". As much as I always felt that was probably so, this really somehow made it sink in, in my adulthood--which is when she said it. I suddenly "saw" it, you know. "House of Frankenstein"--and in my mind's eye it was kiddies lined up for the first (and most subsequent) showings. Not that I'll ever know for sure. But you address this, too, as you always do--the duality of being a horror fan by the definition of the previous mid-century. Things have changed. Boy, have they.

4:46 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Part Three from Craig Reardon:


Incidentally? Robert Paige in his later years worked for one of the local LA independent TV stations. He sometimes read the news (in the studio), but he was quite often cast as one of their 'man in the street' reporters. He was SO familiar to me in this role as I was young and growing up that I was rather taken aback when I first recognized him as a younger man in things like "Son of Dracula". What 'independent' station was it? I want to say it was our local channel 5. This one was and still is located in the original Warner Bros. Studios built on Sunset Blvd. near the 101 freeway today, before their either acquisition or development (I don't know which) of the more famous studio over the Cahuenga Pass in Burbank. As far as limited TV stations as a topic, this alone will confuse 'millennials'! But as we who've now grown old well recall, TV stations were not much more plentiful on the dial of our TV sets even in the '60s and later than a maximum of perhaps five or six stations, max. In fact I remember visiting relatives in other parts of California in the '60s where they were not able to pull in more than maybe three stations, and not very clearly. Sounds incredible. It was true. And it was always, by the mid-'60s, the not-even-in-competition stations (NOT a CBS, the king of them all I felt, nor an NBC, nor an ABC, all of which were by then rich enough to be producing programming exclusive to their networks, vs the relatively impoverished competition), which is to say the 'locals', which had possession of the Universal horror titles. The Big Three didn't need them anymore at that point, but they still had drawing power for the small fry local stations. They would run them in a weirdly arbitrary fashion and you might not get another crack at seeing a particular title for another entire year or more, if you missed it when it was programmed. Kind of put a lot of pressure on a lot of nutty little monster fans...like me. "Son of Dracula" was in this niche, pretty much. We can rejoice in the gorgeous Blu-ray presentation Universal provided a couple of years back, albeit milking it via a segregated "Dracula" collection. When I'd done collecting that and several other of the sequel packages I found I now owned FOUR copies of "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein", counting the one I'd bought on its own in 2014!

Craig

4:47 PM  

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