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Autumn Of Terror: Classic Horror Novels

By @hmsbeefnuts

Autumn of Terror keeps on trucking like that big truck from Duel,down the highway of October. Only stopping once a day to deposit a blog and then ever onwards to November. Todays blog takes us back before there was electronic entertainment, before movies, before video games, when people had to read books in order to be transported to different worlds, that, or visit the local Opium Den. Anyway, this intro has become mired in awkward metaphor and strange references. Today, I hope you will enjoy my list of Classic Horror novels that have thrilled and inspired readers for hundreds of years, so lets get our book on shall we?

Dracula by Bram Stoker

I guess this would be the big one, the one most people will know, but it was not the first, and for my money, not the best on this list. Dracula is however, a fantastic read. I have read this book a few times and it always draws me in. If you have never read it, but have seen the numerous movies etc. I would definitely recommend reading the original, as it might be quite different to what you are expecting. Written as a series of journal entries and letters, from different perspectives, the story of the Transylvanian Vampire, who seeks a new home in Britain, and runs afoul of his greatest nemesis Professor Van Helsing, is a stone cold classic gothic horror novel. Sexy, scary, exciting, this book runs at a breakneck pace, particularly at the end. I highly recommend this book if you haven’t read it, and why not read it again, if you already have, it’s almost Halloween after all.

Frankenstein; Or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

Written during a ghost story contest whilst on holiday with her husband and Lord Byron, Mary Shelley clearly beat both men hands down when it came to hugely successful gothic horror behemoths. The tale of a scientist who wants to create life in his own unique style, Frankenstein is a classic of the horror genre. I will be honest and say that I didn’t initially like this book on the first read, but I gave it another chance, and it clicked for me. I think what I found off-putting at first was it was quite a bit different to what I had imagined it would be from all the films based on the book, I had watched. In the novel, Adam, or the monster, is not a shuffling moaning monster, as in the Universal films, but a scheming and intelligent threat to his creator. The novel may be seen as quite tame now, but must have been very controversial at the time. There are few novels more gothic-y than Frankenstein, and as such, it should be enjoyed on a cold, dark autumn night, whilst the wind blows and the rain pours, next to a roaring fire, in a grand drawing-room.

(The) Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

This was the first novel on this list that I read, when I was around 9 I think. It scared me, especially the cover of my copy which I could not find, but the painting of a simian looking man, in top hat and cane spotlighted in moonlight. The book itself is the tale of a good scientist who wants to release mans potential, but ends up unleashing mans animalistic murderous side. I suppose the scariest aspect of this novel is the suggestion that everyone has the potential to unleash the scary brutish nature that normally we keep to ourselves, just look at Dr Bruce Banner.

The Hound of The Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

My personal favourite book on this list, The Hound of the Baskervilles has been read and re-read by me countless times. There is just something about this story that I can’t get enough of. The story concerns the recent death of a Devonshire Lord, seemingly at the hands of a spectral hound, when the new Lord of the manor arrives to take up residence in Baskerville Hall, Sherlock Holmes is called in to offer advice and protection from the hell hound, or other evil forces. I do love detective fiction, and Holmes is the top guy in the field. When Conan Doyle added his love of the paranormal to his most beloved character, it was quite simply dynamite. Nothing would be scarier than being on a moor in the middle of the night and hearing that long mournful howl.

The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes

This book was influenced by the Jack the Ripper murders and concerns a similar serial killer dubbed The Avenger. A strange man moves into a lodging house, who’s owners are down on their luck. He pays his way and suddenly their fortunes turn around, but he keeps odd hours, and acts very strangely. Meanwhile, a series of ghastly murders takes place, who could be responsible for said crimes? Well, obvious really isn’t it? But that does not detract from the greatness of this novel, which is gripping to the last. As I am fascinated by the whole Jack the Ripper mystery, I loved this novel, but I think even if you knew nothing about the Ripper murders, this book is still well worth checking out.

Autumn of Terror: Top 5 Universal Horror Films

By @hmsbeefnuts

Hammer Films are fantastic, if you don’t believe me, check out these five awesome examples of British Gothic amazingness, however… There is only one Daddy in the Horror business, especially when it comes to Monsters. For fans of Horror, Monsters can mean only one name, Universal. Since 1931, Universal Pictures has been the home of Monsters, solidifying the look, and sound, of some characters firmly in the minds of the audience, and creating a few characters themselves. With Dracula, Frankenstein and The Wolf Man, the holy trinity of horror, Universal has always been the place where Horror was taken seriously, mostly, and they delivered many quality films. When you add smaller characters, such as The Mummy, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, The Phantom of the Opera and The Invisible Man, Universal has a feast of high quality black and white horror classics that can not be matched by any studio. Recently released on Blu-ray, The Universal Monsters Collection is a must buy for fans of the genre. These films have never looked so beautiful and although they are no longer scary, the atmosphere can be cut with a knife. Clearly I love these films, and so, I have decided to give you guys a Top 5, so sit back, relax and remember, ‘Even a man who is pure of heart and says his prayers by night; may become a wolf, when the wolfsbane blooms, and the autumn moon is bright’.

THE WOLF MAN

The Wolf Man is one of my favourite films of all time. I love it like few others, and for my money, it is the finest Universal Horror Film ever made (JAWS doesn’t count). Lon Chaney Jnr. plays Larry Talbot, with wonderful makeup effects by the peerless Jack Pierce. This film is kind of a Greek tragedy, once Larry is bitten, he is doomed to hurt those he loves, after all, a werewolf instinctively kills those that he loves. Bela Lugosi is great in a small role as a gypsy, Evelyn Ankers is adorable as Larry’s doomed love interest, and Claude Rains is brilliant as Sir John Talbot. However, it is Lon Chaney Jnr who steals the show, as Larry Talbot, he really makes you care about the fate of this doomed everyman. The effects are spectacular for the time, the film is set in Wales (yay) and is endlessly watchable. This film is just brilliant, and should be checked out immediately. I liked the recent remake quite a bit too, even though the CGI werewolf was a bit ropey, but for me, you can’t beat the original.

DRACULA

Universals first horror talkie, Dracula was a revelation and a bit of a scandal at the time. The movie was huge for Universal, and kicked off the whole horror stable. What can be said about Dracula? Well ask any child to do a Dracula impression, and I’m willing to bet that in almost 100 % of times, you get a Bela Lugosi impersonation back. Lugosi isn’t my favourite Dracula, but he set the blue print for all future iterations. The hair, the face, and the voice, all perfect for the Count, and it is no surprise that he is still the gold standard. There are so many good things about this film, the script is great, there are some amazing lines sprouted by Dracula, my favourite being his first encounter with Van Helsing; ‘For one who has not yet lived a single lifetime, you are a wise man, Van Helsing’. The atmosphere is thick and although some say the Spanish Version is a superior film, Lugosi cements this as the better version, at least for me.

CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON

This film came out a few years later than the classic Horror films of the 1930’s and 40’s, but is no less a film for it. Once more, our monster protagonist is stunningly realised for what is ostensibly a rubber suit. An american research crew are travelling up the Amazon, when they come into the territory of the creature, the titular Black Lagoon. Disturbing Gill Man’s habitat and normal everyday life with beautiful bikini clad scientists. Whats a creature to do? He falls for the hot scientist and then the trouble starts. The underwater scenes are beautiful and terrifying. We all fear what lies below the surface of the water, was that a hand, or a weed that brushed our leg? Spielberg has said that this film was an inspiration to him whilst filming JAWS, and there really can’t be higher praise than that can there.

BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN

Considered the best of all the Universal Horror films by many, Bride of Frankenstein is a bona fide classic. Directed by James Whale, who infused the horror with a very black sense of humour, the film is a delight to sit and watch. We get to see Boris Karloff’s Monster grow a little here, talking, and demanding a mate. The bride herself was another visual treat, with the lightning strike hair do and bird like head movements. If you only watch one Universal Horror film, critics say it should be this one, they are wrong, The Wolf Man is a better film, in my view, but this is an amazing piece of cinema. The Frankenstein franchise was Universals cash cow, and this is the finest entry in that franchise, but I would suggest watching the original as well, as it is almost as classic, if it does not quite reach the greatness of it’s sequel. Ghost of Frankenstein is also very good, and it is worth watching all of the Frankenstein saga, as it is worth watching most of the Universal Horror films, as they are always entertaining. Karloff is amazing as the Monster, adding pathos to a role that could easily be a mindless brute. He truly was the King of Universal Horror.

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN

This is the sequel to The Wolf Man, and sees the titular monsters having a bit of a ruck in a ruined castle. This is my favourite of the monster mash up films, as the focus is once again back on my favourite monster, Larry Talbot. Larry is disturbed in his tomb by some luckless grave robbers and disappointed to find he is still alive, he decides to try and find a cure for his affliction with some notorious scientists on the continent. Of course he runs into Frankenstein’s monster, and a monster wrestling match takes place. Lugosi plays the Monster, with Lon Chaney Jnr. reprising his role as The Wolf Man and Maria Ouspenskyaya returning as the gypsy woman Maleva. One of the better sequels to the Universal brilliant originals, this is really worth a look, especially if you loved The Wolf Man.

My Geeky Trivia

By Geeky Gem

When I was younger I had yet to really set out on my path to loving movies. However my Dad used to go on and on about a movie, especially when he was driving somewhere, and he would work out how many points he would get if he knocked down little old ladies crossing the road. Now I want to point out he’s never knocked anybody down! It wasn’t until many years later that I got my hands on this movie on DVD to see what the hell he was talking about. If you haven’t worked it out this movie is Death Race 2000.

 

According to Roger Corman, several of the custom cars featured in the movie were later sold to car museums for considerably more than it cost to build them.

The film retains only the basic premises of the original short story by Ib Melchior; the characters and incidents are all different. The story focuses on just one mechanic and driver, and one anti-racer. In particular, it does not include the President or the special driver Frankenstein.

The racetrack used for the opening track and grandstand scenes is the Ontario Motor Speedway near Los Angeles.

The car in which President Frankenstein and Annie drive away in after their wedding is a Richard Oaks Nova kit-car, actually based on the Volkswagen Beetle chassis (but obviously not the body). These were available in kit form for many years starting in the mid-1970s.

Several of the cars in the movie are re-bodied Volkswagens, including a VW Karmann-Ghia (Matilda’s Buzz Bomb). The white Resistance Army car that chases Frankenstein very briefly before crashing and blowing up is a 1965 or 1966 Ford Mustang. Nero’s car was based on a Fiat 850 Spider, and Frankenstein’s on a Chevrolet Corvette.

Roger Corman wrote the original treatment of the film, which was serious in tone, but thought it was not right and, in his words, was “kind of vile”. He decided the dark material of the story would be better served by making the movie into a comedy and had Robert Thom rewrite the treatment.

Both Sylvester Stallone and David Carradine did much of their own driving. In addition, producer Roger Corman drove in scenes that were shot on public streets, since the custom-built cars used in the movie were not street legal and the film’s stunt drivers did not want to be caught driving them by the police.

Mary Woronov, who plays Calamity Jane, did not know how to drive a car, so a stunt driver did all the actual driving for her in the movie. For close-ups, Woronov sat in a car towed behind a truck with a camera crew riding in it.

The role of Frankenstein was originally offered to Peter Fonda, who considered the movie too ridiculous for words.

David Carradine refused to wear leather, so costume designer Jane Ruhm had to make Carradine’s iconic black outfit out of another fabric that looked just like leather.

Another week of geeky trivia has come and gone, I would like to say thanks to my Dad for going on about this movie so much when I was kid, it’s thanks to him that as an adult I loved it.

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