Monday, October 29, 2018

"Quoth the Raven, Nevermore"

Kicked off a cloudy morning with another horror-themed episode of The Monkees. "Monstrous Monkee Mash" is from when the show started to get really strange during the mid-second season. Like Mad Monster Party, this episode also plays with the Universal monster roster. A female vampire lures Davy to her uncle's home. When he doesn't turn up at the Pad, the other three go after him. Mike Nesmith is the only one who is able to avoid the two vampires and their wolf man and mummy goons and save his friends from being turned into monsters.

Did a quick - and really strange - Donald Duck short as I got organized. Don gets "Duck Pimples" when his imagination runs away with him while listening to the radio and reading a mystery novel. He imagines the characters running around his living room and finds himself caught more up in the story than he'd like!

Work was a little busy when I arrived. I helped bag until things calmed down. Otherwise, it was perfectly fine. I did the outside trash and recycling and swept the patio as well as I could in the wind, but I mostly spent the morning gathering carts. While the sun gradually came out, the wind continued to whip across the parking lot, and it was fairly chilly (though not to the degree of last week).

(I did ask for Friday off for Dad-Bill's memorial service. I decided to use one of my two remaining personal days for it. A funeral is pretty personal, and I can't afford to lose those hours.)

Spent the rest of the day at home. I thought I'd do something special for the kids, since I had off on Halloween this year. I attempted to make a simple Rolled Sugar Cookie recipe, using the Halloween cutters from the set Jessa gave me years ago - a pumpkin, a ghost, a bat, a black cat, and what I believe to be a raven, along with dinosaur cookies for the boys and the fluted half-circle, star, and mushroom shapes I picked up on vacation. I'll give two bags of cookies to Khai and Finley on Halloween and three to their cousins on Friday to cheer them up after the memorial service.

Unfortunately, the cookies proved to be a lot more complicated than I'd planned. They wouldn't come together and were too dry, so I added water...which made them too wet. I didn't let them chill as long as I should have, either. They stuck to everything when I did roll them out. Oh well. Even if it took me forever (and two and a half Universal horror movies), I did finally finish them. Some of the edges got burned, but most came out rather well, for all the fuss.

Did three of the Bela Lugosi vehicles on that set I took out of the Oaklyn Library last week, starting with Murders In the Rue Morgue. This 1932 mystery-thriller is very, very loosely based after the Edgar Allen Poe novel of the same title. Mad scientist Dr. Mirakle (Lugosi) wants a mate for his talking gorilla Erik. He injects various women with gorilla blood, then goes after the beautiful Camille (Sidney Fox), whom he originally saw at a side show. Good thing her boyfriend Pierre Dupin (Leon Ames) is a detective as well as a medical student who knows a little bit about blood and is able to come to her rescue when the gorilla kidnaps her.

The Black Cat goes into Satanism and blood rites. A newlywed couple, Peter (David Manners) and Joan (Julie Bishop), encounter the German doctor Werdegast (Lugosi) on a train during their honeymoon in Hungary. They end up stranded on the road together after a mishap with a bus. Werdegast offers them the home of his friend Poelzig (Boris Karloff), an architect, while Joan recovers. Unfortunately, they picked a bad time to be stranded. Poelzig practices Satanic rites, and he has every intention of making Joan the "blood bride" sacrifice. Meanwhile, he's also keeping Weredegast's stepdaughter (Billie Lund) there as his own wife, making her think that her father is dead.

Moved on to The Raven while I cleaned up the cookie mess and did the dishes. This time, Lugosi is Dr. Richard Voilin, a retired surgeon who falls in love with the strong-willed Jean (Irene Ware) after he helps her recover from a car accident. Her father Judge Thatcher (Samuel S. Hinds) is less than thrilled with that idea and discourages him from seeing Jean again. Voilin uses a criminal who wants a new face (Boris Karloff) to help him get his revenge. He does give the fellow a new face...a monstrous one. He promises he'll make him look better if he helps lure all the guests at a dinner party, including the judge, Jean, and her boyfriend Jerry (Lester Matthews) into his insidious traps based after Poe stories and poems.

Spooky, atmospheric chillers. The Black Cat, with it's still-creepy sequences of dead women under glass and Karloff being skinned alive, was by far my favorite of the trio. Murder In the Rue Morgue gets a little too weird with the ape blood to be scary. The Raven is better; Lugosi and Karloff (who made eight movies together) play especially well off each other here as the deadly doctor seeking revenge and the criminal who wishes he'd found someone else to fix his face.

If you're like me and prefer your horror movies to be atmospheric rather than bloody, give these three short thrillers a try.

Worked on writing for an hour after I finally finished with the cookies. Leia finishes explaining everyone's fates as they await Harry. Luke took off after her son Ben - now Kylo Ren - burned down his journalism school. Last they'd heard, he was in the Middle East. Dr. Mothma is retired. Admiral Ackbar considers himself to be too active for retirement. Kylo Ren has joined the First Order Company, a major conglomerate based out of Coruscant. Finn once worked for them, but quit and ended up working for Harry Solomon instead. Harry finally shows up (after making excuses about a cargo of wild animals getting loose and eating his clients), allowing him and Leia to present the Swords to their new owners - Rey, Finn, and Poe.

Broke for a very quick leftovers dinner at 7. Finished out The Raven while I ate, then watched a Halloween episode of Happy Days. Ralph wants to have his Halloween party in a "Haunted" house to head off an obnoxious local gang. Joanie's worried - the house was once owned by a woman who was said to have lost her head. If you go in the house, you'll lose your head, too! The stories do unnerve Richie, until Fonzie reminds him that he has nothing to fear...except maybe his friends and the gang pulling some Halloween pranks.

Ended the night after a shower with Hocus Pocus. Max Dennison (Omri Katz) is not having an easy time. His family just moved to Salem, Massachusetts from Los Angeles, and he hates it. The local boys bully him, and he spends most of his time trying to act like he's too cool for everything, including Halloween. He's mortified when he has to take his little sister Danni (Thora Birch) out trick-or-treating, especially after they run into his crush Allison (Vinessa Shaw). Hoping to show Allison just how cool he is, he convinces her to show him the house of the Sanderson sisters, witches who were said to drain the life essence of children to enhance their own youth 300 years before. Max lights a candle, not thinking much of it...until the witches appear. Turns out a virgin only needed to light that candle to bring them back. Winnie (Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Najimy), and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) find themselves having to deal not only with getting the kids back, but with how commercialized Halloween has become. Meanwhile, the kids befriend the black cat Binks (voice of Jason Marsden), an enchanted youth whose sister was one of the witches' original victims.

We rented this for Halloween 1994, about a year after it came out. I remember I wasn't crazy about it as a teenager Max's age, and...yeah, while I like it, I don't love it like a lot of folks who grew up in the mid-late 90's. For one thing, Max is a jerk. I understand he just went through a traumatizing move and that guys are picking on him, but his idea of "cool" is putting down anything that looks remotely childish, even Halloween, which is probably not a good idea in horror-crazy Salem. No wonder no one likes him. As funny as the witches can be, the whole thing can really get over-the-top, especially towards the end.

I enjoyed it enough that I'm glad I saw it again, even if it's not something I intend to make an annual event. If you're a fan of the three witches or the family comedies of the 90's or have fond memories of it yourself, it's worth checking out.

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