Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Clinging to our childhood

Perhaps because I deal so closely with horror fandom and its peculiar “When did you first see Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man?” mindset that I find myself wondering about the way people tend to cling to their childhood through pop culture more often than I should. The whole business of wanting—or, worse, forcing—a thing to be the same to you as an adult as it was when you were nine years old seems kind of emotionally stunted to me, which is why I have never accepted the baby boomer accolade of being a “Monster Kid,” even though by definition I am one. I prefer to think I was one, but the idea of calling myself one at the age of 55 is something I reject.

Now, before you post-boomer folks start feeling all superior on this topic, I’ll note at once that I find undue reverence for 1980s pop culture an improvement in any way. Insisting that The Goonies (1985) is a great film because you loved it when you were a child strikes me as no better and possibly worse. There is, in fact, an interesting crossover right now with the two generations (or more, thanks to home video) as concerns the 1981 Clash of the Titans and the new one. Most boomers will concede that the 1981 film isn’t very good, but they like it because of the Ray Harryhausen effects that remind them of those halcyon days of childhood when they saw The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958) or Jason and the Argonauts (1963), which were better movies with Harryhausen effects work. Those of you who saw the original Clash of the Titans when you were young simply tend to remember it as great.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with nostalgia in general or with nostalgia for your childhood in a specific sense. What I find troubling is the attempt to hoist films that generate fond childhood memories to a level of greatness that they rarely deserve in any useful sense. Childhood is not a time for much in the way of critical thinking. I have fond memories of seeing Jason and the Argonauts and First Men in the Moon (1964), but in all honesty I was just as happy with The Magic Sword (1962), Captain Sinbad (1963) and The Time Travelers (1964).  I don’t recall anyone ever making a case for greatness where those last three are concerned, though I’ve revisited The Magic Sword and The Time Travelers (the latter having some extra points in fan circles for its cameo appearance by Famous Monsters of Filmland editor Forrest J Ackerman). I can see why I would have liked them as kid—and they’re still agreeable cheese—but I know they’re far from great. In some cases, they barely cross the line of adequacy. For anyone who didn’t see them as a kid, they probably never do.

When I first saw Bela Lugosi in The Ape Man (1943) I was probably nine or 10 years old. I thought it was one of the best things I’d ever seen. Hey, it’s got a monster (Lugosi stooped over with a lot of crepe hair stuck on him), a wisecracking newspaper reporter (Wallace Ford), a (somewhat threadbare) mad scientist lab (retorts, beakers, flasks and test-tubes are pretty exotic at that age) and it’s got a guy in a gorilla suit (Emil Van Horn). What’s not to love?

From an adult perspective, the make-up is laughably hokey, 43-year-old Wallace Ford is a slightly tubby and unlikely hero, and that gorilla suit is one of the worst in movie history. The screenplay is squarely between inane and insane. William Beaudine’s direction is…well, let’s say suitable to the material. Yes, Lugosi gives it his all (he rarely gave less) and is fascinating and the other performers are agreeable enough, but the movie is basically trash. I once thought it was terrific. I love it now because it’s amazing trash—not in the least because it strikes me as exactly the kind of movie a 10-year-old might make. Hell, I’ve bought it on DVD at least three times in search of a decent copy! (One of the problems with movies that have fallen into the public domain is that anybody with a beat-up, splicy 16mm dupe print can have it put onto a DVD and sell the copies.)

It is easier, I think, to find alternate reasons for still liking a childhood favorite if the movie in question was made for an adult audience. Presumably, even The Ape Man was made for adults, though its producer, the legendary Sam Katzman, once went on record as viewing his target audience as some kind of mental defectives, going so far as to opine that there must be “something wrong” with anyone who went to his movies. (Do you suppose Uwe Boll feels this way?) There is certainly a reasonable chance that you might have missed a good many adult themes and any amount of subtext when you saw a movie as a kid. I remember being shocked—and even a bit outraged—when film historian John Baxter asserted that Michael Curtiz’ Doctor X (1932) contained elements of rape and necrophilia. Well, I’d seen this movie when I was a child and thought he was obviously filled with the juice of the prune. Then I saw it again and, oh my, Baxter was right. But when I was 12, I wouldn’t have recognized these things if I’d tripped over them.

This, however, brings up another question—and one I’m not sure can be answered. It’s simply this: How much of this is rationalization? Are we sometimes reaching to find values in childhood favorites simply to justify still watching them as adults? Someone brought this up not long ago on the message boards I moderate and it’s a fair question. I can make a pretty good case for another Lugosi Monogrammer, Voodoo Man (1944), as parody of Hollywood’s notion of horror and as a send-up of fundamentalist theology.

The hero (Michael Ames) is a screenwriter who turns his experiences into a screenplay called The Voodoo Man and even suggests to his boss—called S.K to invoke Katzman, but played by John Ince rather than the real McKatzman, unfortunately—that he try to get Lugosi for the movie. Plus, every time the voodoo ceremonies don’t work right (which is most of the time), high priest—and gas station owner—George Zucco lays the blame on some external factor, never at the feet of the god itself (“Remember—Ramboona is all-powerful”). Faith healers have been known to make a similar argument. So my case isn’t exactly unsound, but it is rather silly to think that anyone involved in knocking off the seven-day-wonder had anything in mind other than 62 minutes of marketable Bela Lugosi horror picture.

At the same time, I’m pretty comfortable with the deeper readings I’ve given to James Whale’s horror pictures, Edgar G. Ulmer’s The Black Cat (1934) and Stuart Walker’s Werewolf of London (1935). But these are more ambitious works by more serious filmmakers and clearly were made for an adult audience. That as (shudder) “Monster Kids” we co-opted them doesn’t change that. That some bristle at the thought of viewing them as being any deeper than the way they saw them while wearing pajamas and trying to stay awake in front the family’s TV console on “Shock Theater” says more about them than it does about the movies. Still, I find the views of a certain horror historian (who will go unnamed) that he far prefers the poverty row George Zucco opus The Mad Monster (1942) to Universal’s classier The Wolf Man (1941) because it gets to the monster sooner refreshingly honest. (And that’s even granting that the monster it gets to is Glenn Strange in bib overalls with two fangs and some shaggy hair.)

I also find it interesting—at least among “Monster Kids” (I’ve no idea if it applies to any other generation)—to hold grudges formed in childhood against certain movies. Tod Browning’s Mark of the Vampire (1935) the perfet example. A lot of folks seem to dislike the film not for what it is, but for what it isn’t. The problem stems from the fact that there finally aren’t any vampires involved and that it’s all an elaborate—and utterly preposterous—charade to get a murderer to reveal his guilt. It’s silly, but it doesn’t keep the first 55 minutes of the 61 minute movie from being among the creepiest films of its genre. The distaste for it stems almost entirely from a childhood sense of “No vampires? What a gyp!”

By the same token, you’ll tend to find certain key classic horrors underrated in some quarters. Three immediately come to to mind—Whale’s The Old Dark House (1932), Curtiz’ Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) and T. Hayes Hunter’s The Ghoul (1933).  What do these titles have in common? Well, apart from the first and the last having Boris Karloff as the star, they share only one thing—they were thought to be lost for years. And that little fact means that they weren’t part of the “Shock Theater” packages and aren’t part of my generation’s childhood. There’s no nostalgia clinging to them—at least not of the same kind—and this tends to make them be judged as inferior. For me, this actually raises the question of whether a lot fans are in love with classic horror or merely with their childhood. Think on that for awhile.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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69 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Clinging to our childhood

  1. luluthebeast

    Considering how much I enjoy the three movies you mention:Whale’s The Old Dark House (1932), Curtiz’ Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) and T. Hayes Hunter’s The Ghoul (1933), I’d probably say I love classic horror but have never liked The Ape Man or The Mad Monster. But I have to admit that if you put a dinosaur in a movie, no matter how bad it is
    (I do not count slurpasaurs as dinosaurs!), I loved it then and I love them now. I have no problem watching poor, underpaid stuntmen dressed up as 12 foot tall T-Rex’s falling over because they passed out because of the heat, but I hated the poor lizards dressed up in the sixties version of LOST WORLD.
    While many monster and horror movies will bring back fond memories of childhood, I still enjoy the movie for what it is and will not watch a movie I didn’t like as a kid or teen. And I will never watch THE GOONIES again!

  2. luluthebeast

    Considering how much I enjoy the three movies you mention:Whale’s The Old Dark House (1932), Curtiz’ Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) and T. Hayes Hunter’s The Ghoul (1933), I’d probably say I love classic horror but have never liked The Ape Man or The Mad Monster. But I have to admit that if you put a dinosaur in a movie, no matter how bad it is
    (I do not count slurpasaurs as dinosaurs!), I loved it then and I love them now. I have no problem watching poor, underpaid stuntmen dressed up as 12 foot tall T-Rex’s falling over because they passed out because of the heat, but I hated the poor lizards dressed up in the sixties version of LOST WORLD.
    While many monster and horror movies will bring back fond memories of childhood, I still enjoy the movie for what it is and will not watch a movie I didn’t like as a kid or teen. And I will never watch THE GOONIES again!

  3. Ken Hanke

    While many monster and horror movies will bring back fond memories of childhood, I still enjoy the movie for what it is and will not watch a movie I didn’t like as a kid or teen

    I’m not sure that that last bit — “will not watch a movie I didn’t like as a kid or teen” — conveys what you meant it to, but if that is what you meant, I’m compelled to ask, why? I don’t trust my childhood judgment that much. (Then again, I can’t imagine not loving B trash horror of the 1940s.)

  4. Do you suppose Uwe Boll feels this way?
    I think that Uwe Boll is squarely in the Ed Wood camp, who’s really trying to make the best movies he can, but is stymied by an utter absence of any aptitude as a filmmaker. Michael Bay, on the other hand…

  5. Ken Hanke

    I think that Uwe Boll is squarely in the Ed Wood camp, who’s really trying to make the best movies he can, but is stymied by an utter absence of any aptitude as a filmmaker.

    That seems somewhat generous to me. Maybe it’s Boll’s obnoxious attitude, or maybe it’s the fact that, unlike Wood, Boll actually manage to get large sums of money which he pisses away on these movies, or maybe it’s that Burton’s film makes me inordinately fond of Ed Wood, but I find it hard to be quite so generous. However, Boll does kind of offer proof of the idea that even if Wood had had a budget he would have, in the words of one of his associats, still made a piece of shit.

    Michael Bay, on the other hand…

    Yes, well, that goes without saying.

  6. That seems somewhat generous to me. Maybe it’s Boll’s obnoxious attitude, or maybe it’s the fact that, unlike Wood, Boll actually manage to get large sums of money which he pisses away on these movies,
    I don’t think Boll’s obnoxious counts against this theory in any way. He seems to genuinely think he makes well-crafted, subversive satires and is a bastion of the independent underdog who’s stymied by the cowardice of Hollywood and the mainstream. Have you even listened to one of his DVD commentaries?
    The fact that he has proper budgets just proves the old saying about Wood – even if he had money, he’d still turn in a pile of sh*t.

  7. luluthebeast

    I should say that I have given films a second chance as an adult that I didn’t like as a youngster, but invariably I find that I was right the first time and don’t watch it again, usually stopping before it ends, but will rewatch a horror film I liked many times. Frankenstein vs The Wolfman is a movie I can wait years to see, but Bride of Frankenstein I can watch many times and never get tired of it.

  8. Ken Hanke

    Have you even listened to one of his DVD commentaries?

    Are you kidding? I had to sit through all these things in a theater. You don’t imagine I’m watching them twice, do you?

  9. Ken Hanke

    I should say that I have given films a second chance as an adult that I didn’t like as a youngster, but invariably I find that I was right the first time and don’t watch it again

    See, I find that incredible. It seems only reasonable to me that if it’s possible to have found a movie to be the bee’s knees when I was 10 and later discover it was rancid cheese, then it follows that something that didn’t appeal to me at 10 might turn out to be better than I’d thought. When I was a kid I thought the Lewton movies were just plain boring. While I admit that I think they’re overrated and that they quickly became just as formulaic as the horror pictures they were in reacton to, I find them — on balance — a lot better than “just plain boring.”

    I didn’t like Ingmar Bergman as a kid — or in fact as a young adult — but I have a very different take now. In some cases, it’s even more recent. I didn’t like Rene Clair’s Le Million when I first saw it about 1990. About 15 years later I tried it again and can’t understand why I didn’t like it the first time.

    Frankenstein vs The Wolfman is a movie I can wait years to see, but Bride of Frankenstein I can watch many times and never get tired of it

    I could go the rest of my life without seeing Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man again. Bride I could watch once a month and not complain about it.

  10. Ken Hanke

    Here’s a sample: http://www.avclub.com/articles/commentary-tracks-of-the-damned-postal,2455/

    I’ve either read that or something like it before. It’s certainly delusional enough, but it’s also off-puttingly arrogant and slightly disturbing. In a way, it actually isn’t far removed from Katzman’s comments — except that Dr. Boll thinks there’s something wrong with anyone who doesn’t like his movies where “Jungle” Sam thought there was something wrong with people who did.

    Don’t misunderstand, the very existence of Uwe Boll amuses me. You couldn’t make him up if you tried, but I don’t find him sympathetic.

  11. luluthebeast

    I guess I’m just strange that way. I think the only Lewton movies I saw as a youngster were BEDLAM and CAT PEOPLE, and both spooked me then and now. But when I finally saw THE GHOST SHIP a few years ago on TCM I just went “eh”. The only Bergman film I saw as a youngster was SEVENTH SEAL, which I loved, but on seeing it as an adult, I liked it even more, realizing how much I had missed in it on seeing it as a kid.

    Now, if we were to switch to comedies, there were quite a few that I laughed my butt off as a kid that I find wretched now and vice-versa. But I just can’t think of a horror movie that I didn’t like as a kid that I like now.

  12. Ken Hanke

    Now, if we were to switch to comedies, there were quite a few that I laughed my butt off as a kid that I find wretched now and vice-versa. But I just can’t think of a horror movie that I didn’t like as a kid that I like now

    Ah ha! I hadn’t meant to limit the concept as such to horror pictures. I simply used them as examples because it’s the specific realm of fandom I know best.

  13. I don’t think Boll’s obnoxious counts against this theory in any way. He seems to genuinely think he makes well-crafted, subversive satires and is a bastion of the independent underdog who’s stymied by the cowardice of Hollywood and the mainstream. Have you even listened to one of his DVD commentaries?

    Boll is in danger of losing his cult appeal, mainly due to the fact that at least technically he has become competent. Now then, script, directing actors, etc. is a different story.

    I rarely watch a movie more than once, but I have found it interesting to revisit childhood favorites and pick up more on nuances and themes that I missed when I was younger.

  14. DrSerizawa

    Well, I figure that it is natural to want to think that the movies that one likes are also “good”, meaning would be appreciated as such by a broad cross-section of the movie going public. Some people are able to make that distinction and others are incapable of it. Witness the plethora of “reviews” on the imdb or amazon where rancid teenage schlock and lousy actors get 5 star treatment by their armies of fans. I only need to see the comment “Megan Fox is a great actress” to recognize the worthlessness of the reviewer’s opinion.

    Recently I’ve gotten a hold of some 40s stuff I hadn’t seen in years. I’ll take up one specifically, “The Invisible Ray”. When I was a kid propped in front of the TV in the 50s I saw this several times and thought is was one of the coolest movies ever. Revisiting it I was able to access the positive emotions of my youth and still see the movie’s shortcomings. Many of those were unintentional because when the movie was made there was still a lot unknown about radiation. I’m sure I enjoyed to movie now more than I would have otherwise because I enjoyed it as a kid. I’m also sure that 99% of people wouldn’t sit still for TIR for one second.

    As far as Boll goes (I can’t resist the red meat) I can’t see into the guy’s soul but he’s either a modern day Ed Wood or he’s simply a great con man. I’ll go with con man. Since the German government more recently shut off his line of tax subsidies it remains to be seen if he can still get his crap underwritten. What can one say about a filmmaker like Boll who makes Bert I. Gordon’s movies look like Academy Award bait?

  15. Ken Hanke

    I’ll take up one specifically, “The Invisible Ray”. When I was a kid propped in front of the TV in the 50s I saw this several times and thought is was one of the coolest movies ever. Revisiting it I was able to access the positive emotions of my youth and still see the movie’s shortcomings. Many of those were unintentional because when the movie was made there was still a lot unknown about radiation.

    Not to mention that Rand-McNally vision of what earth looks like from space. But really, it was pretty state-of-the art in terms of production values and effects for 1935. And though it’s a hybrid of horror and science-fiction it’s also Hollywood’s first serious attempt at a science-fiction movie. (You can hardly count the dismal 1930 sci-fi musical Just Imagne, which, trust me, sounds a lot more interesting than it is.)

    I’m sure I enjoyed to movie now more than I would have otherwise because I enjoyed it as a kid. I’m also sure that 99% of people wouldn’t sit still for TIR for one second.

    Well, we might find out since there’s a good chance we’ll run it for the Thursday Night Horror Picture Show at some point. I may be too optimistic, but I’d like to believe that there are people who can watch a movie and take it in context of when it was made and still see the value in it. Plus, you get one of Lugosi’s most subdued performances and what is perhaps Karloff’s most over-the-top one.

    What can one say about a filmmaker like Boll who makes Bert I. Gordon’s movies look like Academy Award bait?

    Well, at least Bert’s a nice man. (I’ve had dinner with him at a couple of horror conventions, though I know his daughter much better, since she’s a regular at those and we had a mutual friend.) He does, however, believe those movies he made are actually good. I don’t think I could go that far, but I will say that most of them are entertaining. It perhaps says something that I own a copy of The Magic Sword.

  16. DrSerizawa

    Well, I figure that it is natural to want to think that the movies that one likes are also “good”, meaning would be appreciated as such by a broad cross-section of the movie going public. Some people are able to make that distinction and others are incapable of it. Witness the plethora of “reviews” on the imdb or amazon where rancid teenage schlock and lousy actors get 5 star treatment by their armies of fans. I only need to see the comment “Megan Fox is a great actress” to recognize the worthlessness of the reviewer’s opinion.

    Recently I’ve gotten a hold of some 40s stuff I hadn’t seen in years. I’ll take up one specifically, “The Invisible Ray”. When I was a kid propped in front of the TV in the 50s I saw this several times and thought is was one of the coolest movies ever. Revisiting it I was able to access the positive emotions of my youth and still see the movie’s shortcomings. Many of those were unintentional because when the movie was made there was still a lot unknown about radiation. I’m sure I enjoyed to movie now more than I would have otherwise because I enjoyed it as a kid. I’m also sure that 99% of people wouldn’t sit still for TIR for one second.

    As far as Boll goes (I can’t resist the red meat) I can’t see into the guy’s soul but he’s either a modern day Ed Wood or he’s simply a great con man. I’ll go with con man. Since the German government more recently shut off his line of tax subsidies it remains to be seen if he can still get his crap underwritten. What can one say about a filmmaker like Boll who makes Bert I. Gordon’s movies look like Academy Award bait?

  17. luluthebeast

    Actually didn’t see THE INVISIBLE RAY until later in life, but I have always liked it, especially for the year it was made in.

    And I’ve gotten a kick out of most of B.I.G’s movies(we’ll just leave that first movie out of this). I’m not saying they’re great or anything, but I think they were a lot of fun, especially seen at a drive-in, where I saw a lot of them.

  18. Ken Hanke

    And I’ve gotten a kick out of most of B.I.G’s movies(we’ll just leave that first movie out of this). I’m not saying they’re great or anything, but I think they were a lot of fun, especially seen at a drive-in, where I saw a lot of them.

    I had to look it up to see what his first was (I’ve never seen it) — and I realized two things. I’d seen only two of his movies in a theater (none at a drive-in) — The Magic Sword and Village of the Giants. But more, I realize that Village of the Giants was the first movie I ever consciously recognized as bad. I was 11.

  19. Me

    Remember in the mid to late nineties when all those horrible nu rap metal bands came along and everything seemed to be about how horrible there childhood was. Seems like nowadays with all these comic book and arrested development movies being made people don’t want to let it go.

    Does anybody know of any movies explore a breaking point between this thought, when its time to grow up.

  20. Me

    Remember in the mid to late nineties when all those horrible nu rap metal bands came along and everything seemed to be about how horrible there childhood was. Seems like nowadays with all these comic book and arrested development movies being made people don’t want to let it go.

    Does anybody know of any movies explore a breaking point between this thought, when its time to grow up?

  21. Ken Hanke

    Does anybody know of any movies explore a breaking point between this thought, when its time to grow up

    There was one at least, but I’m blanking on what it was just at the moment. Of course, it’s pretty much at the center of the Judd Apatow universe, but that seems more a celebration of the mindset than not.

  22. Ken Hanke

    Actually, though Apatow only produced it, Superbad — at least in its more serious (and to me more succesful) moments — does address this issue.

  23. DrSerizawa

    Well, at least Bert’s a nice man…..He does, however, believe those movies he made are actually good. I don’t think I could go that far, but I will say that most of them are entertaining.

    That’s what I like about many of those movies. The guys making them were serious about what they were doing and it wasn’t always just a cynical exercise. I think the modern craze of self-referencial films is a plague. Rather than being entertainingly bad most of it is just plain bad without one ounce of creativity. IMHO in the future people will still be watching Universal Horror festivals and have completely forgotten Scream and the other “self-aware” stuff.

    After all, the future is where we will spend the rest of our lives.

  24. luluthebeast

    “But more, I realize that Village of the Giants was the first movie I ever consciously recognized as bad. I was 11.”

    As Akroyd used to say on SNL: “It was very bad indeed!” But still not as bad as King Dinosaur!

  25. Ken Hanke

    Rather than being entertainingly bad most of it is just plain bad without one ounce of creativity. IMHO in the future people will still be watching Universal Horror festivals and have completely forgotten Scream and the other “self-aware” stuff.

    The problem with most self-aware films is that they operate in the belief that a cult movie can be deliberately made. And it can’t.

  26. Ken Hanke

    As Akroyd used to say on SNL: “It was very bad indeed!” But still not as bad as King Dinosaur!

    Well, I haven’t seen King Dinosaur, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have Opie and the Son o’ Mickey the Rooney in it. That has to be in its favor.

  27. luluthebeast

    “SCREAM”? What’s that?

    King Dinosaur is just boring, throw together bad.

    Village of the Giants is uniquely bad.

  28. Childhood

    If I may cling to my own childhood…I remember in 1980, my first movie I ever saw was “Popeye” with Robin Williams. I saw it at the drive-in with my sister & my folks, they had one of those old wood-sided station wagons and we had a nice little nest in the back. I remember the old metal speaker box on the window. I was 4 years old. It was awesome & I will never forget it.

  29. Ken Hanke

    Village of the Giants is uniquely bad

    That’s not inevitably praise…

  30. Ken Hanke

    Superbad?

    You didn’t say the film had to be good, merely whether any film addressed that topic. It does. In a different way, you could say that The Darjeeling Limited does.

  31. luluthebeast

    “That’s not inevitably praise…”

    No, just a different type of bad.

  32. Ken Hanke

    If I may cling to my own childhood…

    No one can stop you.

    I remember in 1980, my first movie I ever saw was “Popeye” with Robin Williams.

    Okay, this poses a problem because this is a movie I’d say is pretty terrific, so it won’t work for me as an example of a lousy movie liked for nostalgic reasons.

    I saw it at the drive-in with my sister & my folks, they had one of those old wood-sided station wagons and we had a nice little nest in the back. I remember the old metal speaker box on the window. I was 4 years old. It was awesome & I will never forget it

    And I hope you never do, but you’re nostalgic for a specific experience and moment in time. That’s not quite the same thing I was talking about.

  33. brianpaige

    Mark of the Vampire is rightly disliked in my book for the exact reasons mentioned here. This film is something that set the template for M. Night Shyamalan.

    I saw Mystery of the Wax Museum when I was about 11 or so, but since it’s on TCM so much I really don’t have any nostalgia for it per se. That’s the irony for films like this and Doctor X. They weren’t lost to me. I grew up with them. The Old Dark House I came by slightly later when AMC finally showed it in 1995. It’s harder to have nostalgia for though…it’s just not that sort of film. It takes a few viewings to GET it.

    The Ghoul….blah. Perhaps it is because the initial copy I had was awful, but I have never liked this movie. I even have a restored copy. It’s just dullsville.

    Oh and Ken for the record I think Lugosi’s Monogram movies are far, far worse than the Ed Wood movies he did. It’s the difference between “cash the paycheck” level bad and “this is awesome” level of bad.

  34. Me

    “Superbad?

    You didn’t say the film had to be good, merely whether any film addressed that topic. It does. In a different way, you could say that The Darjeeling Limited does. ”

    I can see Darjeeling Limited, i was thinking more of someone in an arrested development state realizing its time to grow up. The only other one i can think of is maybe Happy Go Lucky, i thought you or someone might be able to suggest some that i haven’t seen though.

  35. Ken Hanke

    Mark of the Vampire is rightly disliked in my book for the exact reasons mentioned here. This film is something that set the template for M. Night Shyamalan.

    Considering it’s a remake of a 1927 film, it didn’t set the template for anything. So are you saying that the pretty standard 1920s ploy of the seemingly supernatural having a rational explanation lay the groundwork for Shyamalan? Do they also lay the groundwork for the twist endings on nearly every Twilight Zone episode ever made?

    I saw Mystery of the Wax Museum when I was about 11 or so, but since it’s on TCM so much I really don’t have any nostalgia for it per se.

    I don’t entirely understand why that precludes nostalgia, but if it does that raises the question of whether nostalgia can exist in a world of TCM and home video. Is nostalgia predicated on the thing not being accessible?

    The Old Dark House I came by slightly later when AMC finally showed it in 1995. It’s harder to have nostalgia for though…it’s just not that sort of film. It takes a few viewings to GET it.

    I think you’re placing too much emphasis on nostalgia. I never said anything about horror fandom being nostalgic for these films. I said they didn’t like them because they weren’t a part of their childhood, which in itself keeps them from the patina of nostalgia that produces. As for Old Dark House in particular, maybe it was the result of you first seeing that crappy, dark, dark, dark copy that AMC used to run, but I never had any trouble “getting it” from the first time I saw it. But I did originally see the Rohauer print (better than the one on the Kino disc) on the big screen.

    The Ghoul….blah. Perhaps it is because the initial copy I had was awful, but I have never liked this movie. I even have a restored copy. It’s just dullsville

    Well, we’re just going to disagree on that.

    Oh and Ken for the record I think Lugosi’s Monogram movies are far, far worse than the Ed Wood movies he did. It’s the difference between “cash the paycheck” level bad and “this is awesome” level of bad.

    Well, I think you’re very, very wrong. And for whom is there this difference? Certainly not Lugosi — both eras are clearly “cash the paycheck,” except in the case of the Wood era it becomes “cash the paycheck and hope it clears.”

  36. Ken Hanke

    I can see Darjeeling Limited, i was thinking more of someone in an arrested development state realizing its time to grow up

    Theoretically, that’s at the core of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but it wants to have it both ways.

  37. LYT

    I have actually met and interviewed Uwe Boll, and he most definitely has, in his own mind, an artistic vision. He just isn’t very good at executing it, and the fact that he casts most of his movies based on who’s available rather than who’s appropriate doesn’t help.

    The one genuinely decent film of his that I’ve seen, TUNNEL RATS, has no name actors in it at all.

    Boll, however, has nothing on Tommy Wiseau. I’m pretty sure THE ROOM was not intended to be the funniest movie of the last decade…but in my opinion, it is.

  38. Ken Hanke

    He just isn’t very good at executing it

    That is absolutely the kindest way I’ve ever seen anyone euphemize “cosmically inept.”

    Boll, however, has nothing on Tommy Wiseau. I’m pretty sure THE ROOM was not intended to be the funniest movie of the last decade…but in my opinion, it is

    The Room is a law unto itself.

  39. DrSerizawa

    Whoops. How did my post get on there twice? Sorry ’bout that.

  40. brianpaige

    It’s mostly an aesthetic thing when it comes to Lugosi Monogram stuff. It’s ironic that you said Bela gives it his all even in those flicks, but to me that isn’t true. Lugosi phones it in something fierce in most of those Monogram era movies. They’re just bad, phoned in, low budget 40s horror. Most aren’t even in the “so bad they’re good” category. At least Wood got some inspired lunacy out of Bela.

    The Lugosi film in most need of a revival however? Night of Terror. That one is 60 minutes of bliss.

  41. Vince Lugo

    The first film I ever saw at a theater was Disney’s “Oliver & Company”. Even though I know it’s far from Disney’s best work, it will always have a special place with me. Ditto Ralph Bakshi’s “Lord of the Rings” (which was what originally introduced me to the story). Ditto HBO’s Tales From The Crypt series, my first taste of horror (when I was 8, I wasn’t aware it was supposed to be funny).

  42. Ken Hanke

    Whoops. How did my post get on there twice? Sorry ‘bout that

    I don’t think you did it. I know people sometimes get antsy because their post doesn’t appear soon enough and they’ll repost, but yours were too close together for that to seem likely, so I’m suspect a glitch. I had left your double post “closed,” but someone else behind the scenes “opened” it.

  43. Ken Hanke

    Lugosi phones it in something fierce in most of those Monogram era movies. They’re just bad, phoned in, low budget 40s horror.

    You would survive about 30 seconds in a roomful of Lugosiphiles. Actually, I’ve never even heard a Bela-Basher make that claim.

    The Lugosi film in most need of a revival however? Night of Terror. That one is 60 minutes of bliss.

    Now you’ve said something I can agree with, though most Lugosiphiles tend to underrate that one.

  44. Jim Donato

    Ooooh… Bert I. Gordon’s Village of the Giants has been mentioned. Now I’ll have that awesome theme song (a.k.a. Jack Nitzsche’s The Last Race) running through my head all day now, thanks!

  45. Ken Hanke

    The first film I ever saw at a theater was Disney’s “Oliver & Company”. Even though I know it’s far from Disney’s best work, it will always have a special place with me.

    Yes, but you’re not making a case for its greatness based on that.

  46. Vince Lugo

    Maybe not, but I have defended Oliver when talking to Disney fans who hate it.

  47. Ken Hanke

    Now I’ll have that awesome theme song (a.k.a. Jack Nitzsche’s The Last Race) running through my head all day now, thanks

    It was an unintentional by-product, I assure you.

  48. Ken Hanke

    I have defended Oliver when talking to Disney fans who hate it

    But are you defending it on its merits or because of its relation to your childhood?

  49. Ken Hanke

    Just you wait. I’m trying to get BIRDEMIC here

    There’s something very…wrong with you.

  50. Fran

    I think this dynamic happens for me more in different areas than movies. For instance, I have a hard time of letting go of some books/authors when their theses or world views no longer hold water for me.
    When it comes to movies, more often I find that the test for me is not what I continue to insist on loving that doesn’t stand the test of time, but what frightened me as a child. Most such movies are now laughable and I can dispel the power I remember some movies had over my dreams. I think MR. SARDONICUS (or something like that) was one such movie. I wonder if I would lose any sleep over that movie.
    I don’t think that the movie in which a certain plant gobbled up people would still hold any fear for me, and would be shown to be a poorly made film at best. But not so long ago I watched TEN LITTLE INDIANS shortly before going to bed and it managed to create an atmosphere of fear even in my fifth decade of life and even when I knew the ending of the film.

  51. davidf

    “i was thinking more of someone in an arrested development state realizing its time to grow up.”

    LARS AND THE REAL GIRL is definitely along these lines. In different ways, so are TRAINSPOTTING, SPANKING THE MONKEY, GARDEN STATE, and every Wes Anderson film.

  52. davidf

    About the nostalgia, though – I really would enjoy getting my hands on a copy of THE BEASTMASTER, and I’m not expecting it to be pretty. I think Linklater’s SLACKER is a movie that gets a pass from me because I embraced it at an impressionable age. That comment could be extended to my continued interest in his output, good or bad. I might say the same of Tim Burton’s career.

  53. davidf

    About the nostalgia, though – I really would enjoy getting my hands on a copy of THE BEASTMASTER, and I’m not expecting it to be pretty. I think Linklater’s SLACKER is a movie that gets a pass from me because I embraced it at an impressionable age. That comment could be extended to my continued interest in his output, good or bad. I might say the same of Tim Burton’s career.

  54. Ken Hanke

    I think this dynamic happens for me more in different areas than movies. For instance, I have a hard time of letting go of some books/authors when their theses or world views no longer hold water for me.

    Now, that’s an interesting variant. I’ll have to think about this because I don’t know if any authors I’ve held onto in this manner — at least not offhand. There’s certainly nothing from early childhood (read that as pre-14). I have on occasion thought I’d like to re-read a book I was quite taken with early on called The Pink Motel, but I always think the better of it before pursuing it.

    I think MR. SARDONICUS (or something like that) was one such movie. I wonder if I would lose any sleep over that movie.

    If it really is Mr. Sardonicus, I should think it far more likely to induce sleep.

    I don’t think that the movie in which a certain plant gobbled up people would still hold any fear for me, and would be shown to be a poorly made film at best

    And if that is Little Shop of Horrors (the original, not the musical), I suspect you’d mostly be surprised to find that it was intended to amuse more than frighten.

    But not so long ago I watched TEN LITTLE INDIANS shortly before going to bed and it managed to create an atmosphere of fear even in my fifth decade of life and even when I knew the ending of the film

    That raises the question of which version? I’m guessing it’s the 1966 one — the one set in the snow — but there are other possibilities. I doubt it was the 1945 one called And Then There Were None, though that one you should see simply because it’s so much fun.

  55. Ken Hanke

    LARS AND THE REAL GIRL is definitely along these lines. In different ways, so are TRAINSPOTTING, SPANKING THE MONKEY, GARDEN STATE, and every Wes Anderson film

    I don’t disagree with that, but Rushmore poses some interesting variations to the theme.

  56. Ken Hanke

    About the nostalgia, though – I really would enjoy getting my hands on a copy of THE BEASTMASTER, and I’m not expecting it to be pretty.

    Oh, I think we may be fairly certain of that.

    I think Linklater’s SLACKER is a movie that gets a pass from me because I embraced it at an impressionable age. That comment could be extended to my continued interest in his output, good or bad. I might say the same of Tim Burton’s career.

    Were it not for Me and Orson Welles I’d probably insert some snide comment about Linklater here. Instead, I’ll grown briefly philosophical and note that I think we’re impressionable at any and all ages — it’s mostly a difference of the depth of the impression and the sort. In any case, this raises the question of whether or not it’s entirely a case of cutting slack or merely being more in tune with the filmmaker and understanding his intent better than the casual viewer, the dispassionate viewer, or the antagonistic viewer?

  57. davidf

    “In any case, this raises the question of whether or not it’s entirely a case of cutting slack or merely being more in tune with the filmmaker and understanding his intent better than the casual viewer, the dispassionate viewer, or the antagonistic viewer?”

    Good point. I think the latter case is certainly at work here, especially in regards to Linklater. With Burton, for me, I think both factors are on equal footing. I have an appreciation of Burton’s intent which informs my appreciation of any new work, but I have to admit that I’m also haunted by the nostalgic search for elements that I’ve seen before. Part of this is simply a recognition and appreciation of Burton’s distinct style, but part of it is nostalgia for Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice and a desire to see the magic and inventiveness of those films recrystalized into something new. In this sense, nostalgia doesn’t necessarily give the filmmaker a free pass for a new work. On the contrary, it could raise my personal standard and challenge my enjoyment of a new film because I’m going into it with an attitude of comparison. When pressed to offer a review, though, nostalgia might tend to make me more apologetic in my assessment.

  58. Ken Hanke

    In this sense, nostalgia doesn’t necessarily give the filmmaker a free pass for a new work. On the contrary, it could raise my personal standard and challenge my enjoyment of a new film because I’m going into it with an attitude of comparison. When pressed to offer a review, though, nostalgia might tend to make me more apologetic in my assessment.

    Two excellent points. The known-quantity filmmaker is at a a disadvantage because of expectations. On the one hand, he “needs” to outdo himself for you, while still providing you with what appealed about the earlier film or films. On the other, he runs the risk of being blasted for repeating himself. (You can’t win on this really. It’s rather like writer J.B. Priestley noting that people tended to fall into two camps about his work — those who blamed him for not writing anything “like” his most popular book The Good Companions again, and those who never forgave him for writing it in the first place.)

    And, yes, nostalgia might grant you the tendency to be more lenient on a lesser work, but that’s a trade-off. Am I easier on Burton’s Planet of the Apes than I might be if I didn’t like Burton? Hard to say, since I didn’t like the original film and wasn’t worried about him “ruining” a classic. I know I better understood how it was or could be read less aberrant to his work overall because I was familiar with his work in a way that allowed me to recognize consistent themes in it. At the same time, I think my summation was something like, “OK, you’ve proved you can make a ‘normal’ narrative film. Don’t do it again.” And while I do own a copy, I think it’s still in the shrink-wrap.

  59. Jim Donato

    Ken – your last comment makes me think of music judging criteria and how I apply it to artists whom I have a long-standing interest in. When I listen to a new album by a favorite, I usually rate it two different ways. A weighted rating of how it sits in their canon, as well as a “virgin ears” rating where it is compared to nothing. Many artists I like and collect release duff albums that fail the virgin ears test: if it was the first release I’d ever heard by that artist, would I buy further releases? Some albums I keep in my collection only to evaluate the context of the music in the artist’s larger career. I actually went back after a certain point and specifically bought David Bowie albums I’d avoided for many years in order to have a better understanding of the breadth of his career. And no, “Let’s Dance” didn’t get any better after avoiding it for 16 years! But I can now expostulate on his career with better ammunition if need be.

  60. Ken Hanke

    Some albums I keep in my collection only to evaluate the context of the music in the artist’s larger career

    I’m going to co-opt that as an answer when I get asked things like “Why do you have Bram Stoker’s Dracula?”

    And no, “Let’s Dance” didn’t get any better after avoiding it for 16 years!

    I had a felling that might be the case with that.

  61. davidf

    “I’m going to co-opt that as an answer when I get asked things like “Why do you have Bram Stoker’s Dracula?””

    And I’ll do the same if I’m asked why I own Linklater’s BAD NEWS BEARS.

  62. Ken Hanke

    And I’ll do the same if I’m asked why I own Linklater’s BAD NEWS BEARS.

    Yeah, that’s a tough one.

  63. DrSerizawa

    I’m going to co-opt that as an answer when I get asked things like “Why do you have Bram Stoker’s Dracula?”

    Another good excuse for having BSD is that it makes a dandy drinking game. Just take a drink every time Reeves stares blankly into space. Or every time Dracula takes yet another form. Or every time Winona’s accent changes.

    Drink beer though. Otherwise you might not survive.

  64. Ken Hanke

    Just take a drink every time Reeves stares blankly into space. Or every time Dracula takes yet another form. Or every time Winona’s accent changes

    Throw in Cary Elwes’ accent, every time Hopkins goes 100% ham, and every time Mr. Copolla comes up with something clever and then ruins by keeping it onscreen for twice its useful length so he’s sure the audience sees how clever he is. Now, alcohol poisoning is assured.

  65. every time Hopkins goes 100% ham
    His Van Helsing and Nicolas Cage’s Bad Lieutenant should do a buddy cop movie together.

  66. Ken Hanke

    His Van Helsing and Nicolas Cage’s Bad Lieutenant should do a buddy cop movie together

    That would be something to see!

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