Saturday, January 24, 2009

Terror for the iPod - Two Tales of Frankenstein

Occasionally things turn up that are almost like discovering one more chapter(s) in the Universal Horror series. 

Some are better than others of course, but I'm always happy to gain access to those missing pieces that utilize talents from the Universal heyday, especially when it's what Forry Ackerman might term the Frankenstein Lonster, Lon Cheney Jr.

Tales of Frankenstein
I never knew of the Tales of Frankenstein pilot from Hammer Films in 1958 until QuasarDragon mentioned recently that is was available on the archive.org site, where cool things seem to materialize regularly.  It's directed by Curt Siodmak who penned Universal horror classics such as Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman as well as the classic science fiction novel Donovan's Brain.

The lead-in suggests the resultant series would have been a horror anthology since the opening narration notes "any story that chills the soul and freezes the blood is truly a tale of Frankenstein."

The opener features Dr. Frankenstein (Anton Diffring), somewhat like the Peter Cushing incarnation from Hammer theatrical releases, though it's in a silvery Universal black-and-white instead of the trademark Hammer color--inevitably modified by the adjective lurid.

He's called on to help a young but dying man in the pilot, but instead he uses the man's body to reanimate a VERY Universal looking monster. 

It doesn't rise to the level of the best of the Universal films, but it's an interesting piece to watch either online or on an iPod.

Tales of Tomorrow #16 - Frankenstein
This perhaps more infamous live television adaptation of Frankenstein is a bit more engaging and not to be missed by the Universal fan. It stars Lon Chaney Jr.--best known as The Wolf Man but also a memorable mummy and Dracula in Universal flicks--as the creature in a contemporary re-telling that features One Step Beyond host John Newland as Victor Frankenstein. 

I believe this version's been around on DVD, but I've never picked up a copy. 

It's the adaptation that features the allegedly inebriated Chaney being less destructive on his rampages than planned because he believed he was still in a rehearsal and not performing in a live broadcast. That's actually not as distracting as you'd expect. You kind of have to be looking for it. Sorry. Spoiler warning? 

The creature makeup is interesting in its own way and the gloomy castle sets make for a moody backdrop for the fairly fast-moving story of monster making and destruction. 

I was exciting to find these available, preserved for a new visit and a new experience. If you've any love for the roots of contemporary horror, have a look.

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