October 31, 2020

Happy Halloween 2020!


Happy Halloween banner with the Universal monsters
It's nice to celebrate with old friends...

Sideshow Collectibles figures representing all of Universal's Frankenstein monsters (portrayed by Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Jr., & Glenn Strange), plus the Bride (Elsa Lanchester) and Ygor (Lugosi).

Sideshow figures of Lon Chaney's Phantom of the Opera and Lugosi's Dracula, plus a Phantom retro model kit and Mr. Hyde from Abbott and Costello meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Battery-powered Frankenstein monster and Dracula, with Sideshow's Little Big Head Universal Monsters, Silver Screen Edition.

October 27, 2020

Heinous Henchmen of Classic Horror #7

In the mid-19th century, cadavers for medical research and teaching are hard to come by. Dr. Wolfe "Toddy" MacFarlane (Henry Daniell; no relation to Todd MacFarlane), is a respected surgeon who has taken to teaching at a medical college in his advanced middle age. 

When a distraught mother approaches MacFarlane as a last resort to help her crippled young daughter, he at first refuses to help, telling her that if he conducted surgeries for everyone who came to him, he would have no time for teaching. 

Over drinks at a local tavern, MacFarlane's medical student assistant, Fettes (Russell Wade), and his supplier of cadavers, cabman John Gray (Boris Karloff) manage to get the doctor to change his mind, as the poor girl's condition will only worsen if she doesn't have an operation. Fettes is perplexed by the relationship between the esteemed doctor and the lowly cabman, with Gray being extremely familiar with the uptight MacFarlane and contemptuously calling him by the nickname Toddy.

The doctor needs a fresh cadaver to prepare for the girl's complex operation, and Gray is called in to supply one ASAP. MacFarlane will once more have to look the other way as Gray The Body Snatcher employs his extremely dubious methods for securing bodies.

Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Henry Daniell in The Body Snatcher (1945)
MacFarlane: "Gray, I must be rid of you, you've become a cancer, a malignant,
evil cancer rotting my mind." 
Gray: "You've made a disease of me, eh Toddy?"

Boris Karloff as Cabman John Gray in The Body Snatcher, 1945


Name:  John Gray           Date:   1945       

Supervisor:  Dr. Wolfe MacFarlane              

Category Unsatisfactory Satisfactory Excellent Comment
Work Productivity

X Gray and I go back a long way, and in all that time the employee has delivered dozens, if not hundreds, of bodies.
Work Quality

X The cadavers Gray delivers are invariably fresh and very suitable for teaching and research purposes.
Work Relationships

I do wish Gray would stop calling me by that infernal nickname "Toddy."
Is there such a thing as too much initiative? Gray should not be getting specimens from the "pre-deceased."

XEvery time I turn around, Gray is there, pulling up to the delivery door with a fresh body, or frequenting my favorite tavern. He's nothing if not dependable.

Summary: I can live with the way Gray obtains the cadavers, but I can't stand it when he calls me Toddy in front of my colleagues and students.

Menacing shadow (Nosferatu)
Don't miss these other great henchmen!
Fritz (Frankenstein, 1931) | Morgan (The Old Dark House, 1932) | Sandor (Dracula's Daughter, 1936) | Jake (The Human Monster, 1939) | Ygor (Son of Frankenstein, 1939) | The Creeper (House of Horrors, 1946)

October 21, 2020

Heinous Henchmen of Classic Horror #6

Struggling avantgarde sculptor Marcel De Lange (Martin Kosleck) is so poor, he can't even afford food for his cat. However, he is cheered by the prospect of selling a major sculpture to a wealthy collector. 

When a pompous art critic (Alan Napier) sabotages the sale by trashing the piece and the artist in front of the prospective buyer, De Lange succumbs to despair. He wanders over to the waterfront with the intent of throwing himself in the river, but stops when he sees a figure trying to pull himself out of the water.

De Lange helps the water-logged man onto dry land and takes him back to his studio. The man has a face that even a mother would be hard-pressed to love, but to the sculptor, he is the perfect embodiment of a Neanderthal living in the present. 

It turns out his new friend is the Creeper (Rondo Hatton), a serial killer who specializes in snapping the spines of his victims. Conveniently, the police think the Creeper is dead. De Lange now has inspiration for a sculpture that he is sure will be his masterpiece, as well as an amigo who is so grateful, he will do anything for De Lange -- including eliminating the artist's harshest critics. Soon, the creepy studio will turn into a House of Horrors.

Rondo Hatton and Martin Kosleck in House of Horrors (1946)
"Ours is a very fortunate alliance, my friend."

Rondo Hatton as the Creeper in House of Horrors (1946)


Name:  The Creeper           Date:   1946       

Supervisor:  Marcel De Lange              

Category Unsatisfactory Satisfactory Excellent Comment
Work Productivity

X As a modern Neanderthal, the Creeper is the inspiration for my greatest sculpture, and is also very handy in dealing with my critics.
Work Quality

X The employee has the utmost patience sitting for me for hours at a time. As a handyman, he has spine-snapping down to a science -- one quick snap and he's out of there.
Work Relationships

X The Creeper is a man of few words, but a very good listener -- almost as good as my cat.

X The employee makes good use of shadows and dark alleyways, and gets the job done cleanly and quietly.

XThe Creeper will do anything for me. He has already dispatched two of my worst critics, and I expect him to be just as efficient with that meddlesome reporter Joan Medford.

Summary: Before the Creeper came into my life, I felt put upon. I was haunted constantly by the feeling that I was persecuted, helpless to fight back. But now I have a feeling of power... limitless power. No one shall stand in my way. Soon every critic will recognize my greatness.

Menacing shadow (Nosferatu)
Don't miss these other great henchmen!
Fritz (Frankenstein, 1931) | Morgan (The Old Dark House, 1932) | Sandor (Dracula's Daughter, 1936) | Jake (The Human Monster, 1939) | Ygor (Son of Frankenstein, 1939)

October 17, 2020

Heinous Henchmen of Classic Horror #5

When Wolf Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone), son of the original monster-maker, moves himself and his family back to his father's old stomping grounds, he finds that he has inherited more than a creepy castle.

A demented old villager, Ygor (Bela Lugosi), has been hanging around the ruins of Frankenstein's laboratory, scaring away the other locals. Ygor was condemned to hang for grave robbing, but miraculously survived with a broken neck as a souvenir of his date with the hangman.

Ygor shows Wolf the still living body of the monster -- comatose after being struck by lightning. It soon becomes apparent that, like his father, the Son of Frankenstein can't resist dabbling with things better left alone.

Bela Lugosi, Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff in Son of Frankenstein (1939)
"This is a place of the dead. We're all dead here."

Bela Lugosi as Ygor in Son of Frankenstein, 1939


Name:  Ygor           Date:   1939       

Supervisor:  Dr. Wolf Frankenstein              

Category Unsatisfactory Satisfactory Excellent Comment
Work Productivity
X I am very grateful to Ygor for looking after the slumbering monster and keeping nosy villagers away from the laboratory.
Work Quality X

The employee is not much help in the laboratory. He mostly just stands around and watches me work.
Work Relationships

Ygor does a lot of skulking about, and I get the feeling there's a lot he's not telling me.
Initiative X

Ygor apparently has plans for the monster once he's revived, but I believe they are for a personal vendetta and not for the advancement of science.
Dependability X

Ygor tried to kill me when we first met. Since then his attitude has improved, but he comes and goes as he pleases, and I feel that I can't trust him.

Summary: Ygor is very solicitous of his friend the monster. He is also very effective at scaring away nosy villagers. However, I question his motives and work ethic, and he does not appear to be very interested in advancing the cause of science.

Menacing shadow (Nosferatu)
Don't miss these other great henchmen!
Fritz (Frankenstein, 1931) | Morgan (The Old Dark House, 1932) | Sandor (Dracula's Daughter, 1936) | Jake (The Human Monster, 1939)

October 13, 2020

Heinous Henchmen of Classic Horror #4

Our next henchman, Jake (Wilfred Walter), is an insurance adjuster of sorts. Jake works for Dr. Feodor Orloff (Bela Lugosi), who is a psychopath and a Human Monster. Orloff, a disgraced physician, has opened up his own insurance agency, where he specializes in taking out life insurance policies as collateral on loans to men with no close relatives.

Orloff is also the staff doctor for the Dearborn Home for the Blind, where he found Jake and enlisted his help. Jake is not exactly gifted in the looks department, but he's as strong as an ox. Once one of Orloff's clients/victims has signed off on the insurance policy, Jake's job is to "adjust" the man's status from living to dead. Orloff then collects on the policy using the Dearborn home as a front.

Bela Lugosi, Wilfred Walter and Greta Gynt in The Human Monster (1939)
"We have an especially nice view of the river from here Miss Stuart.
Jake, would you care to show her?"

Wilfred Walter as Jake in The Human Monster, 1939


Name:  Jake           Date:   1939       

Supervisor:  Dr. Feodor Orloff              

Category Unsatisfactory Satisfactory Excellent Comment
Work Productivity

X Jake keeps very busy "interviewing" various clients. As a result of those visits, the company has been making a killing, so to speak.
Work Quality
The employee needs to work on attention to detail and follow-through. Recently, the daughter of one of our deceased clients, Miss Diana Stuart, has been asking inconvenient questions. Jake has not satisfactorily concluded his interveiw with her.
Work Relationships

X Jake and I have a very simple work relationship. I slip him messages in Braille, and off he goes.

X In spite of his disability, the employee always manages to find his man.
Lately Jake has been tending to a sick friend at the home. This is all well and good, but he also needs to keep in mind his responsibilities to me.

Summary: Jake is a great help in dealing with our policyholders. However, he needs to be careful that his personal life and infatuation with Miss Stuart don't get in the way of his duties.

Menacing shadow (Nosferatu)
Don't miss these other great henchmen!
Fritz (Frankenstein, 1931) | Morgan (The Old Dark House, 1932) | Sandor (Dracula's Daughter, 1936)

October 10, 2020

Heinous Henchmen of Classic Horror #3

Even aristocratic members of the bloodsucking undead need a little help once in awhile. Sandor (Irving Pichel) is the loyal, ubiquitous servant of the Countess Marya Zaleska (Gloria Holden; aka Dracula's Daughter). 

In addition to taking care of all the mundane household tasks, Sandor helps keep his mistress grounded and on task. The countess wants to deny who she really is, and has a pie-in-the-sky idea of throwing off the curse of the undead and living as a normal, vibrant woman.

Still, Irving Pichel and Gloria Holden, Dracula's Daughter (1931)
"Sandor, look at me, what do you see in my eyes?"

Irving Pichel as Sandor, Dracula's Daughter, 1936


Name:  Sandor           Date:   1936       

Supervisor:  Countess Marya Zaleska              

Category Unsatisfactory Satisfactory Excellent Comment
Work Productivity X Sandor does all of the general housework, procures guests when I need company, takes clothes to the drycleaners to have bloodstains removed, and fluffs my coffin pillow before bedtime.
Work Quality X Lately we've been moving around a lot, from Transylvania to London and back again. The travel plans always go off without a hitch and he has never misplaced a coffin or anything else essential.
Work Relationships
X I value Sandor's advice, but I wish he would be a little more upbeat. I hope to one day live as a normal human being. Where I hear the fluttering of birds' wings in the trees, he hears bats. It gets old after awhile.
Initiative X I never have to tell the employee where to find victims models for my paintings. He knows the best places and always comes home with a lovely specimen.
Dependability X I have become very fond of my psychiatrist, Dr. Jeffrey Garth. Sandor seems to be jealous; he is much moodier and even impertinent at times. He keeps reminding me that I promised him eternal life. I worry that he will do something rash.

Summary: I rely greatly on Sandor, but he needs to control his jealousy and not be such a buzzkill.

Menacing shadow (Nosferatu)
Don't miss these other great henchmen!

Fritz (Frankenstein, 1931) | Morgan (The Old Dark House, 1932)

October 6, 2020

Heinous Henchmen of Classic Horror #2

This second installment of the series features Morgan (Boris Karloff), a butler employed by the highly eccentric Femm family. The Femms live in an Old Dark House in a remote corner of Wales. 

On a dark and stormy night, two sets of travelers seek shelter from floods and landslides at the Femm mansion. One look at Morgan should have tipped them off that it was better to take their chances in their cars outside.

Still, The Old Dark House, 1932
"Okay, it's a movie, 4 words, first word is..."

Heinous Henchmen of Horror #2 - Boris Karloff as Morgan, The Old Dark House, 1932


Name:  Morgan           Date:   1932       

Supervisor:  Horace Femm              

Category Unsatisfactory Satisfactory Excellent Comment
Work Productivity X Morgan answers the door, cooks and serves food, and looks after the electrical generator.
Work Quality X When Morgan drinks too much he gets surly and violent; just the other night he upended the dinner table trying to get to a houseguest.
Work Relationships
X My sister and I constantly have to repeat ourselves; since the employee is mute, he can only grunt at us.
Initiative X The only time Morgan takes any initiative is when he is chasing one of the houseguests.
Dependability X We rely on the employee NOT to let our insane elder brother out of his room, but Morgan takes a perverse delight in freeing him from time to time.

Summary: Morgan is an uncivilized brute. Sometimes he drinks heavily. Dark and stormy nights set him going, and once he's drunk, he's rather dangerous.

October 3, 2020

Monster Trading Cards: Heinous Henchmen of Classic Horror #1

Back in May of this year I introduced my first set of virtual monster trading cards, featuring “Accidental Monsters of ‘50s Sci-fi and Horror.” I had a lot of fun creating that set, so, to celebrate the Halloween season, I decided to do a follow-up.

As every horror fan knows, it’s very hard work being a mad doctor or a blood-sucking count. There are bodies to dig up, lab equipment to move around, dusty dungeons to sweep up, and coffins to prepare for a well-earned rest. If you’re going to flout the laws of Man and God on a regular basis, you’re going to need a trustworthy, reliable henchman to sweat all the small stuff.

In most cases, we don’t get to see how the madmen or monsters recruited their henchmen -- they’re just there; ready, willing and able to do anything the master asks. Back in the classic monster era, it must have been much harder to get good help.

Colin Clive and Dwight Frye, Frankenstein, 1931
"Lift with your legs Fritz, not your back!"

Without recruiting sites like Monster.com or LinkedIn, they had to rely on word of mouth or at best, a few lines in the local paper’s classifieds.

Wanted: Blindly loyal assistant willing to work a variety of odd jobs, including digging, hauling heavy loads, cobweb clearing, and kidnapping. Must be comfortable working in the dark. No formal education required; utmost discretion essential.

Loyal horror henchmen did not have an easy time of it. They literally labored in the shadows, often sacrificing their sanity and/or their very lives for their masters.

So this Halloween season I’m giving them their due with a series of virtual “Heinous Henchmen of Classic Horror” cards with an added bonus -- a performance evaluation straight from Hell’s HR department.

Heinous Henchmen of Classic Horror - Dwight Frye as Fritz, Frankenstein, 1931


Name:  Fritz           Date:   1931       

Supervisor:  Dr. Frankenstein              

Category Unsatisfactory Satisfactory Excellent Comment
Work Productivity X Fritz is very proficient with a shovel, and is able to scramble up tall gallows to cut down bodies.
Work Quality X The employee has problems with attention to detail; he recently brought back a criminal brain instead of a normal one.
Work Relationships
X Fritz is not an attentive listener, and he sometimes goes out of his way to antagonize the lab subjects.
Initiative X The employee has taken initiative to brighten up the castle with lit torches.
Dependability X Fritz' attendance is exemplary.

Summary: Fritz is reliable and proficient, especially when digging up things. He needs to work on his attention to detail and his relationships with the creatures I create in the lab.