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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

horror movies at the Loews

Friday, October 22 - 8 PM
Brides of Dracula
Starring Peter Cushing, Yvonne Monlaur, Marita Hunt, David Peel, Freda Jackson. Directed by Terence Fisher.
(1960, 86mins., Color)  Suitable for most audiences.
If Universal Pictures distilled and defined the horror movie in black & white during the 1930s and ‘40s, the British studio Hammer Films re-imagined and redefined the genre in color beginning in the late 1950s.  Brides of Dracula was the studio’s second vampire film, the sequel to its Horror of Dracula.  A young woman is stranded in a foreboding Transylvanian village and encounters a handsome young Baron, who turns out to be a vampire.  In her ignorance, the young woman looses the vampire upon a girl’s school -- and herself.  Fortunately, the arch nemesis of all vampires, Dr. Van Helsing, arrives to help.

Brides is one of the best examples of the revised conventions Hammer established for the gothic horror genre: in addition to the glorious color cinematography – and especially bright red blood -- there are lavish sets, impressive costumes, and an even more potent erotic undertow (though certainly nothing explicit) than Universal ever dared to suggest.  In this, it is a precursor to the plethora of erotically charged vampire tales that have been appearing ever since. Strong performances, good writing, action and intrigue also make the film a horror classic.

Saturday, October 23 - 6 PM
Son of Frankenstein
Starring Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Basil Rathbone, Lionel Atwill. Directed by Rowland V. Lee.
(1938, 99mins., B&W)  Suitable for most audiences.
Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s Monster is one of the most legendary performances in movie history.  Karloff portrayed the Monster for the third and final time on the big screen in Son of Frankenstein.  As if that wasn’t enough to make the film a classic, Karloff was joined by Bela Lugosi in what, arguably, was his finest Hollywood performance.  When Dr. Frankenstein’s son, who has lived in America most of his life, returns to his ancestral home, he finds that local villagers still remember and fear his father’s creation.  Goaded by a sinister man (Lugosi) living amid the ruins of his father’s castle, Frankenstein decides to revive his father’s Monster – but to reform its brutish nature and thereby vindicate his father’s memory.  Of course things don’t work out as Frankenstein had planned!

It would not have been surprising if this second sequel proved shop-worn, but Son of Frankenstein is a well-crafted continuation of the Frankenstein saga, boasting an intelligent script, extraordinary sets and cinematography that continue the German Expressionist influence on American horror movies – and great performances by all, especially Karloff and Lugosi.

Admission to "Brides of Dracula" and "Son of Frankenstein" is $6 for adults, and $4 for seniors and children.
Combination tickets will only be available for these two movies.

Saturday, October 23 - 8:20 PM
Starring Max Schreck, Alexander Granach, Gustav von Wangenheim, Greta Schroeder.
Directed by F.W. Murnau.
(1922, 84mins., B&W).  Suitable for most audiences.
Silent with Live Organ Accompaniment By Wayne Zimmerman on the Loew’s Wonder Morton

In our time of CGI, surround-sound and even the revival of 3-D, an 88-year-old German silent film remains one of the most chilling and legendary horror movies ever made.  Nosferatu was the first – although unauthorized – feature-film version of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.”  Stoker’s widow sued and won over copyright infringement, and all copies of Nosferatu were supposed to have been destroyed, but fortunately a few prints survived.

Ironically, Nosferatu is now considered one of the best interpretations of Stoker’s Dracula ever filmed.  Still, it differs from the book in several notable ways, including the names of central characters and locations. It, not the book, cemented into the Dracula canon the idea that vampires are destroyed by sunlight.  And the ending differs from Stocker’s, and is one of the more suggestive mixes of innocence and evil, self-sacrifice and eroticism of the silent era.

The singular performance and truly lurid makeup of Max Schrek as the vampire is one of the most iconic representations of evil ever filmed.  But the greatest source of the film’s enduring power is the eerie look and truly disquieting mood that pioneering director F. W. Murnau achieved by merging German expressionist style with real location settings, daring experimentation with stop-motion and reverse-negative effects, and the use of dramatic shadows and long angles – which became a kind of visual lexicon for horror on film.  When this is combined with live organ accompaniment, as it will be at the Loew’s Jersey, Nosferatu is a truly unforgettable experience.

Admission to "Nosferatu" is $8 for adults; $6 for seniors (65+) and children (12 & younger).