On Photographing Thought

Posted in Weird Science with tags , , , on July 20, 2015 by MONSTERMINIONS

 

Tesla_Thought Projector

I expect to photograph thought…. In 1893, while engaged in certain investigations, I became convinced that a definite image formed in thought…. [and] produced a corresponding image on the retina, which might be read by a suitable apparatus….

Nikola Tesla, 1933

While driving in to work this morning, I caught NPR’s morning edition on U.C. Berkeley scientists downloading pictures from your brain. This is freaky stuff reminiscent of sci-fi films like the underrated Brainstorm (1983) and a plot device used in Horror Express (1972). Check out this video showing movie trailers versus clip reconstructed from brain activity. Tesla Quote_1933This is fascinating research that conjures up fantastic claims by inventor and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla on a device for photographing thought. In 1933, at the spry age of 77, Tesla commented on exercising, eating properly (water, milk, fresh vegetable, fish and rarely red meat), and capturing thoughts with an “artificial retina” designed for conveying images without interference into the earth. See Article by Carol Bird, from the Desert News, September 9, 1993.

It’s unlikely that Tesla’s device every came to fruition (no patent or device of similar claims was ever developed by the maestro), and no prototypes were referenced by Tesla or his contemporaries. The concept is indeed thought-provoking and it blows my mind away that Tesla was referring to brain-scanning technologies 50 years before the successful implant of the Jarvik 7 artificial heart, and possibly 90 years prior, if Tesla’s 1883 claim can be substantiated.  This even predates Reed Richards development of a Thought Projector Helmet in FF#27.  Actually, the concept of brain windows and thought projection was explored much earlier as discussed in Direct to Brain Windows and Remote Neuron Reading and Writing TIMELINE by Ted Huntington.

NPR Transcript: Scientists Say They Can Read Your Mind, And Prove It With Pictures

U.C. Berkeley News Article

Gallant Lab

 

Tesla_1933_Bird Article_Thoughts

Flying Rod

Posted in Cryptids, Weird Science with tags , , on July 17, 2015 by MONSTERMINIONS

Captured this interesting image with Nikon F5, with Nikkor 105 f2 DC lens and Kodak Ektar 100 film. Of course this is optical aberration and is really a flying insect.  Or is it?

Flying Rod_Flowers
Flying Rod

FLYING RODS

Wiki Entry on Rods

 

Christopher Lee Dracula Death and Resurrection

Posted in Lee & Cushing with tags , , on July 16, 2015 by MONSTERMINIONS

Lee's First Appearance as Dracula

Christopher Lee’s Dracula first appears on screen atop a staircase in Dracula/Horror of Dracula (1958). He’s never resurrected and his origin is not known, but we know he is the embodiment of evil.

In the chapter The Traits and Practice of Vampirism in Montague Summers’ The Vampire: His Kith and Kin (re-printed 1960, University Books), Summers postulates that “all suicides might after death becomes vampires; and this was easily extended to those who met with any violent or sudden death”. Summers further cites that the traditional way of killing a vampire —a stake through the heart, stemmed from the English practice up to the time of King George IV, to bury the bodies of suicides at cross-roads with a stake driven through the body in order to keep the ghost from wandering abroad. Upon commenting on the “ethereal form” of the vampire he ruminates upon three hypotheses to be considered:

Does the body of the Vampire actually dematerialize and then re-integrate outside the grave?

Or, is another body built up by the Vampire quite independently of the body which remains behind in the grave?

Thirdly, does the spirit of the Vampire withdraw ectoplasmic material from his own body, which enables him to form more permanent corporeity by drawing yet further material from his victims?

Having recently watched all seven of the Christopher Lee Hammer Dracula films, I’m almost inclined to say that the Hammer writers were familiar with Summers’ writing on Vampirism, except we never really see the traditional pounding of a stake through the heart (like in Universal’s Dracula or a modern update with Carl Kolchak leaving waste to Janos Skorzeny) although there are some creative variations on the tried-and-true remedy for vampire elimination.  Beginning with Dracula/Horror of Dracula (1958), I’m going to look at each of the films and see how the dread Count is killed and subsequently resurrected in the sequels.

Dracula_Dust

In HOD, Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) uses a Christian cross to pin Count Dracula into the purifying rays of sunlight.  Dracula melts away and crumbles into dust.  The dust blows aways. Dracula dies through DEATH BY SUNLIGHT (I).

DPOD_Resurrection 1

In the sequel Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1966), a follower resurrects Dracula through hydration of his dust with the blood of a freshly slaughtered victim.  Dracula is RESURRECTION BY BLOOD (I). Clip Blood Awakening.

DPOD_Resurrection 2

DPOD_Resurrection 3

Later, the Count is trapped on an icey moat with running water, and slips into the frozen grave. Dracula ceases due to DEATH BY FLOWING WATER (I). In Dracula has Risen from the Grave (1968), the Count is discovered in ice, much like the Monster in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), and resurrected by a trickle of blood to the mouth. RESURRECTION BY BLOOD (II).

DHRFTG_Resurrection

He is killed falling and being skewered on a cross as a priest prays. Dracula dies for the first time through IMPALEMENT (I).

DHRFTG_Impailment

The next film Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) begins where DHRFTG left off, with Dracula squirming on a cross, but we see him die, desiccate and turn into a pile of dried blood, which is quickly purloined by the father of the brat (actor Roy Kinnear) in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). Dracula’s blood ends up in a vial.

TTBOD_Blood in Vial

Later, Dracula’s blood is reconstituted in fresh human blood and drank by a wacko who dies and….TTBOD_Resurrection 2

halfway into the movie…. turns into Dracula. RESURRECTION BY BLOOD (III).

TTBOD_Resurrection

Dracula dies, oddly, surrounded by crosses and falls to his death on an altar. DEATH BY CROSS (I).  In the next film Scars of Dracula (1970) Dracula is reconstitued by the regurgitated blood of the world’s largest vampire bat, and is wounded by being impaled by an iron rod, struck by lightning and burned to death. RESURRECTION BY BLOOD (IV) and DEATH BY FIRE (I). Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) is fun in having two Dracula death scenes.  In the opening prologue Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) battles Dracula on a runaway coach and Dracula ends up impailed on a wagon-wheel and crumbles to dust. DEATH BY IMPALEMENT (II).

Dracula AD_Wheel

As Roger Ebert once pointed out, Hammer’s Dracula ended up a few times in glass vials. DAD1972 was no exception, but we know where this is headed….

Dracula AD_Vial of Dracula

A blood ritual involving the charming Caroline Munro’s breasts, Dracula’s remains and the removal of an old wagon wheel spoke result in RESURRECTION BY BLOOD (V).

Dracula AD_Grail of Blood and Dracula

Dracula AD_Dracula EmergesDracula is killed once more by Van Helsing who unleashes all hell on the Count, including a knife to the chest, holy water, impalement on a stake, and the strategic thrusts of a shovel. Dracula succumbs through DEATH BY IMPALEMENT (III).
Dracula AD_holy water

Dracula AD_Van Helsings Shovel

Finally, in The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1974) the Count just appears in a mist (Van Helsing describes him as “rising like the Phoenix” and returning through reincarnation) and dies impaled on a spiney Hawthorn bush with a final fence rung to the heart by Van Helsing (Peter Cushing). DEATH BY IMPALEMENT (IV).

SROD_Blood Ritual Chicken

SROD_Impalement

Finally Tally:

Death

  • 4 Impalements (twice in Dracula AD 1972)
  • 1 Fire
  • 1 Sunlight
  • 1 Flowing Water
  • 1 Death by Cross

Resurrections

  • 5 Blood Rituals
  • 2 Dracula wasn’t resurrected

MARS ATTACKS!

Posted in Model Kits with tags on July 15, 2015 by MONSTERMINIONS

Fun kit! This one took forever to paint.

   
   

The Wolfman Attacks!

Posted in CONS, Horror with tags on July 9, 2015 by MONSTERMINIONS

1075410196 (1)1075410231 (1)

Christopher Lee as Fu Manchu (Part 3)

Posted in Lee & Cushing with tags , , on July 1, 2015 by MONSTERMINIONS

TBOFM_Titles

Two separate Fu Manchu films? Naaah —Just different names for the same production. The U.K. and U.S. title was The Blood of Fu Manchu (1969), while the Spanish tilte was Fu Manchu y el beso de la muerte (Fu Manchu and the Kiss of Death). To add confusion, the U.S. TV release was titled Against All Odds. Here, I am reviewing a restored and gorgeous European print and Blue Underground DVD release of the first of the Jess Franco Fu Manchu films.

Kiss and Kill_Titles

I must admit I am only an occassional fan of Spanish director Jesús “Jess” Franco (1930-2013), much prefering his early entries into the horror genre, including The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962), The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus (1962), which is fairly graphic even by today’s values, Dr. Orloff’s Monster (1964), The Diabolical Dr. Z (1965), and Count Dracula (1970), starring Christopher Lee. I haven’t (yet) seen Vampyros Lesbos (1971) and Venus in Furs  (1969), considered by some to be his greater achievements in film making.  I’ve dabbled in some of his 80’s films and quickly lost interest, although Oasis of the Zombies (1982) still escapes me.

I do believe him to be a true auteur (or schreiber [from the Yiddish for writer], if you accept David Kipen’s view that the writer is actually the author of the film) as his films do have a distinct feel and he has honed his craft.  One might be able to identify the last two Christopher Lee Fu Manchu films as having Franco DNA just by watching them. I’m gonna piss off every Jess Franco fan in the land and compare him to Edward D. Wood, Jr., not for the sake of drawing similarities in making bad films, but because they wrote and directed most of their films and they both followed a vision. Like Wood and some of Franco’s contemporaries (Bava, Argento, Ossorio, Romero), Franco has an ardent following as exemplified by unusual film making honored on various blogs HERE and HERE and others celebrating his career.

This all brings us to The Blood of Fu Manchu (1969). I think it is the weakest film of the lot, primarily because there’s too many characters buzzing around and the Franco-Harry Alan Tower’s screenplay lacks coherency. Actually, Tim Lucas from the VideoWatchdog penned an essay Exit Fu Manchu (BU DVD liner notes) that notes that the story is vaguely reminiscent of the first Fu Manchu novel The Zayat Kiss. Oh, and the score. It is horrid bad.

Franco and long-time cinematographer Manuel Merino are also a bit trigger happy with the use of zoom perspectives, which comes across as being amateurish. Still, the film is colorful and the change in location shooting from Ireland and Hong Kong to Spain and Brazil helps. I still think the film is a lot of fun and worth a peek, especially the Blue Underground pressing. It’s not nearly as bad as Christopher Lee may have led you to believe: “The series had really run down by this one….”

In TBOFM, Fu Manchu (Lee, of course) is hunkered down in the jungle with his daughter (Tsai Chin) and henchmen in what appears to be an Aztec lost city.  There they use snakes to consecrate a “kiss of death” upon 10 gorgeous women who are set to spread a global plague by kissing everyone.  Nayland Smith (this time played by Richard Green) and associate Dr. Petrie (Howard Marion-Crawford, looking old) return, searching for an antidote for the deadly snake toxin.  There’s also some double-crossing and too many characters to follow. Why is there an archaeologist in the story? Along the way a few guest stars appear including Shirley Eaton (Goldfinger, 1964) as “Black Widow”. I could do a linear regression fit in the overlap of Fu Manchu – Bond film talents.  Be sure to watch the special feature “The Rise of Fu Manchu” on the BU DVD, where Shirley Eaton claims producer Harry Alan Towers heisted uncontracted footage of Eaton from Franco’s film Rio 70 (1969) for use in TBOFM.
TBOFM_Snake Kiss

In the end, we see yet another explosion and Fu Manchu exclaims:

The world shall hear from me again….

TBOFM_End Titles

Continue reading

Christopher Lee as Fu Manchu (Part 2)

Posted in Miscellania with tags , on June 30, 2015 by MONSTERMINIONS

TVOFM_Titles

Christopher Lee’s third Fu Manchu outting features colorful photography, no doubt aided by the vibrant Eastmancolor stock, with location shooting in Ireland and Hong Kong, with interior shots at both the Shaw Brothers and Ardmore Studios.  The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967) retains the talents of Douglas Wilmer (Nayland Smith) Tsai Chin (Lin Tang), and Howard Marion-Crawford (Dr. Petrie). Director Don Sharp moved on and this film was helmed by English director Jeremy Summers (The Saint TV Series, 1962-1969).  Harry Alan Towers also produced and very loosely adapted the screenplay from the second to last Sax Rohmer novel Re-Enter Fu Manchu (1957).

TVOFM_Lee

I like the story in this one.  Here we have Fu Manchu waging vengeance against old time advisary Nayland Smith and conjuring up a plan that involves creating surgically altered drones as replicants of heads-of-police in the nations of the world.  Interpol is introduced and there is a bit of intrigue added with agents from Scotland Yard, the FBI and the Sûreté investigating Fu Manchu shenanigans. Unfortunately, the duplication concept was better executed by director Byron Haskin in a memorable Outer Limits Episode The Hundred Days of the Dragon (September 23, 1963).  The main problem with this film is nothing really happens and seeing Fu Manchu blown up at the end (for the third time) has become tiresome.  Why not have Fu Manchu escape in a balloon (or anything), or as Christopher Lee pointed out use the original Sax Rohmer stories [endings]?

An amazing pre-CGI accomplishment: This man becomes an Englishman in a seamless transformation.

TVOFM_Plastic Surgery

TVOFM_Smiths Double

Nayland Smiths Double

Still, TVOFM is a lot of fun. The international cast helps. Horst Frank (seen in The Head, 1959) is a poor man’s Klaus Kinski, but he’s good as a criminal world representative and in this film he’s dressed like he should be in a Sergio Leone western. Lee and Chin are terrific together.  Tsai Chin ((周采芹) (b. 1936) is a fascinating talent with contributions in acting, directing, teaching, music, stage and writing, with a career spanning five decades.  She appeared in two Bond films (most recently Casino Royale, 2006), Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), The Joy Luck Club (1993), in Michael Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966), and recently in an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2014). Her recording the Ding Dong Song (1959) was also a No. 1 hit in Hong Kong.

Here, Fu Manchu reveals the undoing of Nayland Smith to Ronny Moss (Horst Frank).

TVOFM

TVOFM is worth a look especially if you have seen the first two films.  I doubt the movie would stand on its own as it assumes you are familiar with the characters.  My print came from a WB Archive Collection DVD. The print looks and sounds fine.  Portions of this film may be dubbed or looped. I noticed in some scenes a bit of lip action not synched with the dialogue.

This is the one Fu Manchu film I am certain that I had never seen. I don’t think it got air play in the 70’s and 80’s and it may have been one stored away in the WB vaults.  Up next I’ll take a look at the Jess Franco entries and the last two films in Lee’s Fu Manchu repertoire.

Re-Enter Fu Manchu_Cover

Christopher Lee as Fu Manchu (Part 1)

Posted in Lee & Cushing with tags , on June 29, 2015 by MONSTERMINIONS

When the late Sir Christopher Lee is mentioned we immediately think of Count Dracula —the role he is forever linked to. However, he also portrayed other notorious literary villains. In celebration of Christopher Lee’s career, I’ll be taking a look at five of his films where he played the nefarious Sax Rohmer character and criminal genius Dr. Fu Manchu (first appearing in the novel The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu / The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu, 1913).  The Lee movie series spanned from 1965, beginning with The Face of Fu Manchu and ended in 1969 with the The Castle of Fu Manchu.  I don’t entirely agree with most critics (and C. Lee) citing that the series progressively deteriorated. The final films directed by Jess Franco (to be reviewed in Part 3) are colorful campy fun.  In Part 2, I’ll take a look at the disappointing The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967). Starting the retrospective, let’s take a look at TFOFM (1965) and The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966).

The Face of Fu Manchu_Titles

I saw someone beheaded…

Commissioner Nayland Smith, Scotland Yard

TFOFM opens with the title character being beheaded in front of Nayland Smith. Later, we even see Fu Manchu’s death mask. It reminds me of the time 007 (Sean Connery) got swiss-cheesed in a roll-up bed in the opening moments of You Only Live Twice (1967), the first Bond film with an oriental setting.  TFOFM plays a lot like a Bond film, with diabolical villains and dashing heroes, dames in distress, kidnappings, escapism, rappelling monks, secret tunnels, weapons of mass destruction, action, globe-trotting, fancy cars and even a water-torture device.  Lee’s Fu Manchu is reminiscent of Joseph Wiseman’s Dr. No —a role Ian Flemming recommended for Christopher Lee.

In the novel, Dr. No stole a million in gold from the Tongs, but they caught him and chopped off his hands, but Dr. No survived a shot to the heart, due to his affliction with Dextrocardia.  Lee played another Chinese villain and leader of the Red Dragon Tongs in the underrated The Terror of the Tongs (1961), which likely inspired casting of Lee as Fu Manchu. Coincidentally, a red dragon tapestry appears in Fu Manchu’s lair in TFOFM.

TFOFM has a terrific international cast. Interesting, actresses Karin Dor and Tsai Chin both appear in You Only Live Twice and TFOFM, with Chin reprising her role as Fu Manchu’s evil daughter Lin Tang in all of the Lee Fu Manchu films. Early on we are introduced to long-time Fu Manchu advisaries Dr. Petrie (Howard Marion-Crawford) and Nayland Smith of the Scotland Yard, played with vibrant gusto by South African actor Nigel Green (Jason and the Argonauts, 1963), who incidentally would have made a terrific Sherlock Holmes. Smith’s performance makes this one of the best of the entire series.

TFOFM has a fine story with Petrie and Smith investigating strange strangulation deaths by way of prayer scarfs linked to Dacoits and other Fu Manchu tomfoolery, culminating in the discovery of the virulent Tibetan “Black Hill” poppy toxin soon to be unleashed upon Western civilization.  I also like producer/writer Harry Alan Towers’ (Count Dracula, 1970) screenplay. Case-in-point: Carl Jannsen’s (Joachim Fuchsberger -who looks and sounds a lot like James Mason) escape from the Dacoits is all the more believable because earlier on we see him giving Nayland Smith his cookies.  Both scenes are superbly choreographed fight sequences with interesting photography worthy of a Bond film.

Here we have Lin Tang consulting with her father….

The evil Lin Tang and Fu Manchu

TFOFM was helmed by veteran director Don Sharp (1921-2001), who is recognized by horror and sci-fan fans for The Kiss of the Vampire (1963), Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966), Curse of the Fly (1965) and others. He worked with Christopher Lee a total of six times, including the film Dark Places (1973), which I have never seen, and the Jimmy Sangster-penned The Devil-Ship Pirates (1964), where Lee plays an eye-patched pirate captain! Christopher Lee enjoyed working with Sharp and described him as a “really brilliant chap who will soon do great things” and “[He] did a wonderful job directing. I’ve been fortunate in my association with him…” However, Lee wasn’t so happy about the dreary Irish weather  which was “damp and cold” resulting in a painful inner ear infection, and makeup appliances which were “unbearable. It took a minimum of three hours for my eyes”. (Johnson & Miller, 2004).

Here Fu Manchu has his hand on a valve that unleashes the Thames River into an iron water torture device.  Biochemist Professor Muller (Walter Rilla) and daughter (Karin Dor) are held restrained in horror….

Christopher Lee_Face of Fu Manchu

It’s a shame that Nigel Green didn’t reprise his role in any other Fu Manchu films.  Next to Peter Cushing he might have been one of Lee’s greatest foes.  Green comes across as competent and resourceful.  He’s a cerebral character, but also handles his own as a rugged field operative. Remember Green as Hercules in Jason and the Argonauts (1963)?  As film historian Danny Peary (Cult Movies, 1981) points out “Hercules, too, is portrayed (well, I think, by Nigel Green) as a man of believable strength and physical proportions” and “not as a musclebound hero but a man of average build who relies on his wits rather than his brawn.”

Nigel Green as Nayland Smith_Face of Fu Manchu

My print of TFOFM comes from a WB Archive Collection DVD. This is a no frills pressing presented in a wide angle letterboxed format.  The print is acceptable (better than countless bootlegs I’ve fallen victim to), but nothing to write home about, with a few minor splice jumps early on. The audio sounds fine through an Oppo BPD-103D player and Samsung HDTV. Continue reading

Coming Soon!

Posted in Miscellania on June 25, 2015 by MONSTERMINIONS

I finally tracked down all of the Christopher Lee Fu Manchu films! I think it’s time for a little tribute. 

RIP Patrick Macnee

Posted in RIP, TV with tags on June 25, 2015 by MONSTERMINIONS