IN THE SHADOWS: FRANCIS MATTHEWS

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francis matthews

Welcome back to IN THE SHADOWS, that column where we look at character actors in the movies.

Today our focus is on Francis Matthews. If you’re a Hammer Film fan, you’re familiar with Matthews’ work, because of two key performances in THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958) and DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966).

With his distinctive voice, which sounds an awful lot like Cary Grant’s, Matthews made a lasting impression in these Hammer sequels.

Here’s a very brief look at the career of Francis Matthews, focusing mainly on his genre credits:

BHOWANI JUNCTION (1956) – Ranjit Kasel- Matthews’ first big screen credit is in this drama about English/Indian relations directed by George Cukor.  Stars Ava Gardner and Stewart Granger.

francis matthews peter cushing revenge of frankenstein

Francis Matthews and Peter Cushing in THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958).

THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958) – Doctor Hans Kleve-  Francis Matthews is memorable here as the new young assistant to Peter Cushing’s Baron Frankenstein, or as he is known in this movie since he’s supposed to be dead and is hiding from the authorities, Dr. Stein. Matthews and Cushing share a nice camaraderie in their scenes together, and it’s too bad the series didn’t continue with these two actors. The character of Hans is notable here because at the end of the movie he successfully transplants Dr. Stein’s brain into another body.

CORRIDORS OF BLOOD (1958) – Jonathan Bolton – co-stars with both Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee in this standard shocker featuring Karloff playing a doctor who becomes addicted to the powerful anesthesia he has created and as a result becomes involved in murder. Christopher Lee plays a grave robber named Resurrection Joe, and his supporting performance steals the show. The best part is Karloff and Lee’s climactic battle, pitting one “Frankenstein monster” vs. the other. Neat stuff! Matthews plays it straight as Karloff’s son and protegé.

francis matthews christopher lee dracula prince of darkness

Francis Matthews and Christopher Lee in DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966).

DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966) – Charles Kent – By far, my favorite Francis Matthews’ role. He plays Charles Kent, one of the four guests who find themselves spending the night in Dracula’s castle, and it’s Charles’ brother Alan (Charles Tingwell) who’s murdered by Dracula’s disciple Klove (Philip Latham) who then uses Alan’s blood to resurrect Dracula (Christopher Lee) in one of Hammer’s bloodiest and most gruesome scenes.

Charles then teams up with Father Sandor (Andrew Keir) to hunt down Dracula, but the vampire king complicates things by going after Charles’ wife Diana (Suzan Farmer) first.

This sequel to HORROR OF DRACULA (1958), arguably Hammer’s best shocker, is itself a really good movie, and its reputation has only gotten better over the years. Francis Matthews makes for a strong leading man, until that is, he has to face Dracula, which is as it should be. The later Hammer Draculas would stumble by having every random young hero best the vampire king when in all seriousness, that should have been something only the Van Helsings of the world could do.

Also, if you own the Blu-ray version of DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS, it includes a rare and very informative commentary by Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Suzan Farmer, and Francis Matthews. All four actors sat down together for a screening of the film, and for most of them it was the first time they had watched the movie in years. All four actors add really neat insights. For instance, during the film’s pre-credit sequence, which begins with the ending of HORROR OF DRACULA, Lee was quick to point out that the ending they were watching was cut from the original version, and this commentary was recorded long before the recent restored version by Hammer.

The Blu-ray also contains rare behind-the-scenes footage on the set of DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS secretly filmed by Francis Matthews’ brother using an 8mm camera.

Sadly, of these four actors, only Barbara Shelley remains with us, as Lee, Matthews, and Suzan Farmer have all since passed away (Farmer in 2017).

RASPUTIN: THE MAD MONK (1966) – Ivan – shot nearly simultaneously as DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS, the film uses the same sets and much of the same cast, including Christopher Lee, Francis Matthews, Barbara Shelley, and Suzan Farmer.

THE SAINT (1964-1967) – Andre/Paul Farley – “To Kill A Saint”/”The Noble Sportsman” – appeared in two episodes of the popular Roger Moore spy show.

THE AVENGERS (1966-1967) – Chivers/Collins – “Mission – Highly Improbable”/”The Thirteenth Hole”- appeared in two episodes of THE AVENGERS TV show.

RUN FOR YOUR WIFE (2012) – Francis Matthews’ final screen credit is in this British comedy.

Francis Matthews has 106 screen credits, and I’ll always remember him for his two noteworthy performances in two of Hammer’s better sequels, THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958) and DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966).

Matthews was born on September 2, 1927. He died on June 14, 2014 at the age of 86.

Well, that’s all we have time for today. I hope you enjoyed reading about Francis Matthews, and please join me again next time on the next IN THE SHADOWS when we’ll look at the career at another great character actor in the movies, especially horror movies.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

 

 

 

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SHOCK SCENES: DRACULA’S DEMISE- A Look at the Hammer DRACULA Endings- Part 1

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Dracula (Christopher Lee) screams in agony in the conclusion to HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)

SHOCK SCENES:  DRACULA’S DEMISE- A Look at the Hammer Dracula Endings

Part 1

By

Michael Arruda

Welcome back to SHOCK SCENES, the column where we look at famous scenes in horror movie history.  Up today, a look at the Hammer DRACULA series, specifically the endings, those scenes where Dracula meets his demise, which is a strange thing when you think about it:  the King of the Undead is an undead, immortal, and yet at the end of every movie he’s thrust back down into the world of ashes and dust.  It’s a wonder how he survived so long in the first place!

Anyway, we’ll be looking at the various endings to these Dracula movies to see how Dracula met his end in each one.  So, if you haven’t seen these films, be forewarned, there are spoilers galore, so consider this a major spoiler alert.  If you have seen these films, read on and enjoy!

Here we go:

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HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)

The first Hammer Dracula film, HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)  is widely considered to be Hammer Films’ best movie, as well as one of the finest Dracula movies ever made.  A big reason for this is the ending. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) chases Dracula (Christopher Lee) into Castle Dracula.  They scuffle, and Dracula pins Van Helsing into a corner, but the clever doctor sees a sliver of sunlight shing through the curtains, and he climbs onto the long table, runs across it, and leaps up at the window, tearing the curtains down.

The sunlight knocks Dracula to the ground, and Van Helsing keeps him there by grabbing two candlesticks and using them to make a cross, forcing Dracula into the sunlight, where the shrieking vampire disintegrates into dust before our very eyes.

horror of dracula ending

This is one of those endings where once you see it, you never forget it.  Hands down, this is the best ending of any Dracula/vampire movie.  Ever.  Period.  Not even close.  If you have not seen HORROR OF DRACULA, you owe it to yourself to check it out.  The ending alone makes it worth it, and of course, fans know the rest of the movie is every bit as effective as its famous conclusion.

There’s lots to talk about here.  First off, the special effects, for 1958, are amazing.  Dracula’s disintegration looks horrific and authentic at the same time.  It’s all done with a series of cutaways.  The camera cuts back and forth between Dracula’s disintegration and Van Helsing’s reactions.  It’s all very quick, but effective.  The last stage is pretty much a dummy of a rotting Dracula head with red lights inside lighting up his eyes. It’s a really cool image.

Of course, for years, the original uncut ending was not shown to Western audiences, until just a few years ago (and I’ve written several blog posts on this along with the video links, so feel free to check them out.) when the uncut footage was discovered in a vault in Japan.  The footage, which shows a few more scenes of disintegration, as well as one very cool shot of Dracula clawing the flesh off his face— again, for 1958 these were some incredibly bold effects— was finally released to European audiences but for some reason has still not been included in U.S.versions.  That being said, I did include a link of this footage on my blog post so feel free to check it out.

Strangely, when Hammer chose to restore HORROR OF DRACULA several years ago and insert the “lost” scenes from the Japanese version, they didn’t include all the scenes. For some reason, there are still scenes from the finale in the Japanese version which did not make it into the recently restored print of the film.  I don’t know why they were not restored.  Anyway, if you check YouTube, you can sometimes find the complete ending from the Japanese version.

The other reason this ending stood out in 1958 was before this, the endings to the Universal DRACULA series had been pretty much anticlimactic.  Heck, Dracula was staked off camera in the original Lugosi DRACULA (1931) and none of the subsequent Universal films contained dramatic endings, but that’s a story for another column.

A few other items about the ending to HORROR OF DRACULA:  supposedly, it was Peter Cushing himself who suggested the infamous run across the table and leap to tear down the curtains from the window.  The original script had Van Helsing taking out a crucifix from inside his coat to ward off Dracula, but as Cushing once put it, he felt like a “crucifix salesman” pulling out crosses in nearly every scene, and so he suggested the more dramatic leaping from the table.

And as far as I know, since I’ve never read or heard otherwise, that is Peter Cushing himself and not a stuntman making that run and leap at the curtains.  If anyone out there has information to the contrary, I’d love to hear from you.

Of course, the ending takes liberties with the tradition of a crucifix warding off a vampire.  In this ending, rather than using a blessed religious crucifix, Van Helsing forms two candlesticks into the shape of a cross and uses that to fend of Dracula.  It probably shouldn’t work, but it sure makes for great cinema!  And it also has made it into vampire lore.  In one of my favorite lines from the vampire movie FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996) George Clooney asks the folks trapped with him by the gang of vampires what they know about vampires, and one guy suggests making crosses out of anything they can find.  When Clooney asks if that will work, the guy replies, “Peter Cushing does it all the time.

HORROR OF DRACULA not only contains the best ending in the Hammer Dracula series, but it’s also the most dramatic and memorable ending of any Dracula movie period.

It’s one for the horror movie history books.

 

THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960)

Christopher Lee declined to play Dracula again in Hammer’s proposed sequel to HORROR OF DRACULA from fear of being typecast.  Of course, he would change his mind several years later.

But in 1960 Hammer went ahead without Lee and made THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960), a film that in spite of its title did not feature Dracula, but instead one of Dracula’s disciples, Baron Meinster (David Peel).  Hammer did get Peter Cushing to return to play Van Helsing once again.

The ending to THE BRIDES OF DRACULA, while not as memorable as the ending to HORROR OF DRACULA, is very good.  The film was directed by Hammer’s best director, Terence Fisher, who also directed HORROR, and he goes all out with this one.  THE BRIDES OF DRACULA may be the best looking of the Hammer DRACULAS- it’s certainly the most atmospheric, and is one of the most atmospheric vampire movies ever made.  For some fans, THE BRIDES OF DRACULA is their favorite Hammer Dracula, and considering that Christopher Lee isn’t in the movie,that’s saying quite a lot.

The ending, as directed by Fisher, is every bit as atmospheric as the rest of the film.  One of my favorite shots is when Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) enters the old windmill in search of Baron Meinster.  Its shot with purple lighting, and Van Helsing is backlit, and it makes for an indelible image.  It’s also reminiscent of the scene in THE EXORCIST (1973) when Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow) first enters Regan’s home.  I’ve often wondered if EXORCIST director William Friedkin was influenced by this scene in THE BRIDES OF DRACULA.

van helsing entrance

One of the most memorable parts of the ending comes when Meinster and Van Helsing battle, and this time Meinster wins and actually bites Van Helsing, setting up one of the most memorable scenes in the film, where Van Helsing uses a hot poker to burn the bites on his neck before dousing them with holy water, in effect curing him of the vampire’s bite.  Once again, Hammer takes liberties with vampire lore, but it again sure makes grand horror cinema!

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Later, Van Helsing burns Meinster’s face with holy water, setting up the film’s dramatic conclusion, where Van Helsing leaps onto the wings of the windmill, using it to form a shadow of a cross which falls on Meinster and destroys him.  Terence Fisher purposely did not show the shadow of the windmill but only of the wings, and he did this for full dramatic cinematic effect.

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As Hammer Dracula endings go, this one is one of the more understated, as Meinster simply collapses, and we do not see him distintegrate.  For story purposes, this makes sense, since unlike Dracula who was centuries old, Baron Meinster had only been a vampire for a relatively brief time.

The ending to THE BRIDES OF DRACULA, like the rest of the movie, is wonderfully atmospheric and cinematic.

Of course, this wasn’t the original ending.  Originally, Van Helsing was to use a little black magic to conjure up the forces of darkness to unleash a barrage of vampire bats which would descend upon Baron Meinster and tear him apart.  Peter Cushing objected to this sequence because he felt it out of character for Van Helsing to turn to black magic rather than religion and science, and I agree with him. I’m glad they changed it.  Hammer would use a variation of the vampire bats sequence for the ending to their next vampire movie, KISS OF THE VAMPIRE (1964), which once more did not feature Dracula.

That’s it for now.  Join me next time for Part 2 of SHOCK SCENES:  DRACULA’S DEMISE- A Look at the Hammer Dracula Endings, when we’ll look at the endings of the next two Hammer Dracula movies, DRACULA-PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966) and DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968).

See you then!

—Michael

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHRISTOPHER LEE – AN APPRECIATION

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CHRISTOPHER LEE – An Appreciation

Christopher Lee as Dracula in HORROR OF DRACULA (1958).

Christopher Lee as Dracula in HORROR OF DRACULA (1958).

By Michael Arruda

Christopher Lee has died.

Lee, the last of the iconic classic horror movie actors, passed away on Sunday June 7, 2015.  He was 93.

Lee belonged to a class of actors that simply doesn’t exist anymore:  the horror movie icon.  Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, and Christopher Lee all made their living acting primarily in horror movies, and they endeared themselves to horror fans their entire careers.  You just don’t see that anymore.

Sadly, with Lee’s passing, these horror giants have all left us.

Lee enjoyed a long and prolific career.  He has an astounding 278 acting credits listed on IMDB, which is much more than Karloff’s 206, Price’s 197, Chaney’s 195, Cushing’s 132, and Lugosi’s 115.

In spite of his iconic horror star status, Lee did his best to distance himself from horror movies in the 1970s, as he starred as the villain Scaramanga in the James Bond movie THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974) and appeared in other non-genre films like Richard Lester’s THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1973) and AIRPORT ’77 (1977).  Later in his career, at an age where most other actors slow down, Lee sped up, appearing in not one but two blockbuster series in the 2000s, starring as Count Dooku in the second STAR WARS trilogy, and as the villainous Saruman in Peter Jackson’s LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, as a result creating a new generation of fans.

Lee’s horror movie career began with his performance as the Frankenstein monster, or as he was called in the film, the “Creature,” in the first Hammer blockbuster THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957).  This was the movie that put Hammer Films on the map and also served to revitalize the classic horror movie industry.  It was England’s biggest money maker of the year.

The film’s main star was Peter Cushing, who played Victor Frankenstein.  Cushing had spent the early part of the 1950s becoming a household name on British television.  Signing him to play Victor Frankenstein was a major coup on Hammer’s part.  As expected, Cushing dominates throughout THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and his masterful performance as Victor Frankenstein is one of the main reasons the film became an international success.

But another reason for the film’s success was the performance of an unknown actor named Christopher Lee who played the Creature.  It is largely believed and acknowledged by Lee that the only reason he got the part was because of his 6’5” height.

Early on, Lee was not recognized by critics for his performance as the Creature, which was viewed as inferior to Karloff’s iconic performance in the Universal Frankenstein movies of the 1930s.  But there’s much more to Lee’s performance than initially meets the eye.

It’s easy to look past Lee’s work in this film.  After all, the movie is largely dominated by Peter Cushing and his new villainous take on the role of Baron Victor Frankenstein.

Also, Lee had no dialogue as the Creature, and thirdly and most importantly, the Creature was not the main focus of THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Unlike the Universal Frankenstein movies of the 1930s where the focus was on the monster, here in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN it was on Cushing’s doctor.

christopher lee - creature in woods- curse of frankenstein

Christopher Lee as the Creature in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957).

All this being said, Lee’s take on the Creature is actually very impressive.  With no lines of dialogue, he used his pantomime skills to a large extent in the role, especially in one of the film’s best scenes, where Cushing tries to show off his Creature’s intelligence, but the Creation looks more like a frightened obedient pet than a newly born genius.

Lee is terribly scary in the role.  Underneath Phil Leakey’s hideous make-up, Lee’s expressions are viciously frightening.  Lee also captures both sides of this Creature brilliantly.  While Lee’s Creature is less sympathetic than Karloff’s Monster, as Lee’s Creature is a psychotic murderer who kills without remorse for most of the movie, at times, as in the scene with the blind man, he acts like someone newly born and frightened.  Considering his minimal screen time, it really is an extraordinary performance.

There’s a funny story from the set of THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Lee was upset that he didn’t have any lines of dialogue, until co-star Peter Cushing told him “You shouldn’t be.  You see, I’ve read the script!”  The two became lifelong friends and would go on to star in twenty-two movies together.

It would take one more movie for Lee to become a household name, and that film was HORROR OF DRACULA (1958).  Lee became an instant sensation as Dracula, the role for which he would become most famous, starring opposite Peter Cushing once again, as this time Cushing played Dr. Van Helsing.

HORROR OF DRACULA is widely considered to be Hammer’s best shocker.

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Lee as Dracula reacting to the staking of his vampire bride in HORROR OF DRACULA (1958).

It’s another amazing performance by Lee.  Cushing again dominates this movie, but Lee matches his co-star’s intensity, which is even more remarkable when you consider that as Dracula he only has 13 lines of dialogue and is onscreen for something like 12 minutes.  Lee is so good as Dracula he remains in your head even when he’s not in the movie.

Though he resisted for many years, Lee finally agreed to play Dracula again in the Hammer sequel DRACULA – PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966).  He would appear as Dracula in seven Hammer Dracula films.  The third film in the series, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968) remains Hammer Film’s biggest moneymaker of all time.

My personal favorite Lee roles and movies are THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, HORROR OF DRACULA, DRACULA-PRINCE OF DARKNESS, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, THE WICKER MAN (1973), THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974), CORRIDORS OF BLOOD (1958), and THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1959).

Lee as Scaramanga in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974).

Lee as Scaramanga in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974).

I was fortunate enough to have met Christopher Lee once, at a horror movie convention in Baltimore in the late 1990s.  It was a wonderful convention, as not only did I meet Lee that weekend, but also Forrest Ackerman, Michael Ripper, Ingrid Pitt, and Veronica Carlson.

I bought Lee’s autobiography that weekend and stood in a long line to have it signed by him.  I looked forward with great anticipation at finally meeting him.  What happened when I eventually reached him was the worst case of being star struck that I ever suffered.

I had thought of all the things I wanted to say.

“Mr. Lee,” I wanted to say.  “I’m a great fan of yours.  I’ve seen all your movies and I want to write about your work one day.  The movies you made with Peter Cushing influenced my life.”

What did I really say?

Probably something like “Um— hello— er— um—.”  It was truly the most tongue-tied moment of my life.  However, I’m pretty sure I managed to say “thank you.”

But the better story came later.  Of all the celebrities there that weekend, Lee was the least accessible.  While other stars were around mingling, Lee never seemed to be separate from his entourage.  I never saw him outside his scheduled appearances, until—.

I had to use the rest room.  After washing my hands, I headed for the exit when the door burst open and several gentlemen the size of football linebackers rushed inside.  They scoped out the rest room, and deeming me not a threat, they called out “all clear!” and the next thing I knew two men, one on each arm, whisked Christopher Lee into the men’s room.

It was like a moment from a SEINFELD episode.  With my back to the wall, I watched as my movie hero Christopher Lee was led past me to the urinal.  Lee said something as he passed by, something to the effect of “I can take care of things from here,” and the men let go of him.

They may not have seen me as a threat, but they also didn’t want me sticking around, as their intense gazes communicated to me.  As I left the restroom, I found my uncle, his son, and my brother waiting for me. They had seen Lee enter the restroom.

My uncle laughed.

“What?”  I said.

“Now you can always say you peed with Christopher Lee,” he said.

That might be my claim to fame.

Of course the big news that weekend was that Lee announced he would be appearing in not one, but two major blockbuster productions.  He wasn’t at liberty to tell us the names of these movies, but the news still generated enormous cheers from the audience.  Of course, he was talking about the second STAR WARS trilogy and the LORD OF THE RINGS movies.

Lee as Count Dooku.

Lee as Count Dooku.

Christopher Lee has been an integral part of my entire life.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve been watching movies starring Christopher Lee.  In fact, he’s been part of my life even before I was born.  Huh?  See, my mother saw HORROR OF DRACULA at the movies upon its initial release in 1958 when she was a teenager, and so growing up, I heard all about that movie as being the scariest film she had ever seen.

I’ve seen so many movie images of Christopher Lee, I truly believe his likeness is forever etched in my subconscious.  I close my eyes and there is Lee.

The world has lost a major star with the passing of Christopher Lee.  For those of us who love horror, we have to wonder, will the world see his likeness again?  Will Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney, Price, Cushing and Lee ever be replaced?  Who working today may step into that role?

I don’t know.

Sure, for me, Peter Cushing has always been my favorite actor.  But Lee is right up there, and he and Cushing complemented each other so well because of their contrasting styles.  Cushing was an active actor, constantly moving around, often using props.  Watch enough Cushing movies and you realize he can’t seem to stay still in his scenes.

Lee is the opposite.  He believed less was more.  He didn’t want to call attention to himself in a scene.  His strength was that he did more with less, which is why he was so effective as Frankenstein’s Creature and as Dracula.  He’d appear in just a handful of scenes, and yet he’d knock your socks off and scare the living daylights out of you.

I will miss Lee tremendously.  Through the magic of movies, we can continue to enjoy Lee’s performances throughout the years.  But I am still saddened to know that he no longer is with us.

A legend has passed.  But like the undead king of the vampires he played so well, his memory and his work are eternal.

CHRISTOPHER LEE – May 27, 1922 – June 7, 2015

Thanks for reading.

—Michael

 

 

 

IN THE SHADOWS: VALERIE GAUNT

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Valerie Gaunt as Justine in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) prepares to search Victor Frankenstein's (Peter Cushing) laboratory, and come face to face with Christopher Lee's Creature.

Valerie Gaunt as Justine in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) prepares to search Victor Frankenstein’s (Peter Cushing) laboratory, but what she finds is Christopher Lee’s murderous Creature.

When I wrote this column in 2015, Valerie Gaunt was still with us.  She recently passed away, on November 27, 2016 at the age of 84.

R.I.P. Valerie Gaunt.

This column is dedicated to her memory.

—Michael 11/30/16

 

In The Shadows:  VALERIE GAUNT

 By Michael Arruda

Welcome back to IN THE SHADOWS, that column where we look at character actors in the movies, especially horror movies.  The subject of today’s column, Valerie Gaunt, compared to other actors we’ve visited in this column, did not amass a great number of screen credits.  In fact, she only has four screen credits, but two of them happen to be in two of the most memorable and influential horror movies of all time, Hammer’s THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) and HORROR OF DRACULA (1958).

If you’ve seen these movies, then you definitely will remember Valerie Gaunt, because she makes quite the impression in both movies.

In THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, she plays Justine, the servant in the Frankenstein household.  Now, in the Mary Shelley novel, the character of Justine is rather innocent, which makes her horrific fate all the more tragic.  The Creature murders Victor’s younger brother William, and then he frames Justine for the crime.  As a result, Justine is wrongly hanged for the murder.

In THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, Justine’s not so innocent, but she still meets a tragic end.  Justine in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN is having an affair with Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing), even while Victor is engaged to his cousin Elizabeth (Hazel Court).

Valerie Gaunt is exceedingly sexy as Justine, and you can easily see why Victor Frankenstein is so interested in her.  And in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, Gaunt gets to appear in two of the more memorable scenes in the movie.

The first is when she tells Victor she’s pregnant with his child, to which he coldly responds, “Why choose me as the father?  Pick any man in the village.  Chances are it will be the right one.”

Justine begs Victor to marry her, because he promised her that he would, and when he refuses, she threatens him, telling him that she’ll go to the authorities and tell them what he’s been doing in his laboratory.  Victor tells her that she’ll need proof, to which she replies, “I’ll get proof!”

Poor Justine.  You should have left that house while you had the chance.

Which brings us to the second memorable Justine scene in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, when she decides to search Victor’s laboratory for evidence to bring to the police.  It’s one of the more suspenseful and scary scenes in the film.

We see Victor leave the lab, and then Justine sneaks inside, poking around the lab as James Bernard’s thrilling music plays in the background, and as she looks at some mice in a cage, Terence Fisher’s camera pans behind her where we see the shadow of the Creature’s hand reaching upwards.  As Justine turns and sees the Creature (Christopher Lee), she screams and runs for the door, but Victor is there, and he locks her in, to be murdered by his insane creation.

It’s a terribly frightening sequence.

There’s a still where we see Justine standing in front of the door with the Creature walking towards her, but this shot doesn’t exist in the final print, as the scene is shot from the point-of-view of the Creature as he closes in on Justine.

Gaunt returned in the next Hammer hit, HORROR OF DRACULA where she played the Vampire Woman who lives in Dracula’s castle, and she’s just as memorable here as she was in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.

Who can forget her first appearance as she silently approaches Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) inside Castle Dracula, wearing that long flowing white gown?  When she asks Harker for help, for him to rescue her from Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) what man would be able to resist?  (Okay, Peter Cushing as Van Helsing might have resisted, but really, who else???)

And Gaunt is involved in two of the more violent scenes from HORROR OF DRACULA as well.  The first is when she tries to bite Harker, and suddenly Christopher Lee’s Dracula explodes onto the scene, hissing, with his bloodshot eyes and bloody fangs.  It’s the first of many shots of Lee snarling as Dracula and it’s pretty much the first time in horror movie history that a vampire was portrayed this way, this violently.  Supposedly, for those who saw HORROR OF DRACULA at the movies back in 1958, this was the scene that got the ball rolling, that let them know that what they were seeing was different from the horror moves which came before it.  In short, it scared the heck out of them!

The second scene finds Valerie Gaunt’s vampire woman lying in her coffin, when Jonathan Harker makes the fatal mistake of driving a stake through her heart first rather than Dracula’s, giving Dracula time to make his escape.  Some have written that Harker staked the vampire woman first because she had attacked him, and for Harker, staking her first was personal.  I suppose that could be true.  Personally, I think the opposite was true, that Harker felt bad for her since she had asked him for help, and he let his emotions get the better of him and decided to free her first before destroying Dracula.  Either way, it was a bad decision.

In the shot afterwards where we see that the vampire woman has aged after Harker has driven a stake through her heart, that’s not Gaunt in make-up, but an entirely different actress, an elderly woman who famously fell asleep while lying in the coffin in between takes.

And here’s an interesting tidbit of a possible “in-joke” that I’ve noticed on my multiple viewings of HORROR OF DRACULA.  In the scene where Harker finds Dracula and the Vampire Woman in their coffins, if you pay attention, you’ll notice James Bernard’s music playing a theme from THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, as if to say, here’s Christopher Lee and Valerie Gaunt together again.  You just saw them last year as the Creature and Justine.

Bernard does this again a short time later when Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing finds Jonathan Harker in the same crypt, another possible in-joke since Cushing also played Victor Frankenstein.

Valerie Gaunt appeared in just two Hammer Films, but these two appearances were enough to make a lasting impression.  Here are her two Hammer Film credits:

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) – Justine –  has an affair with Peter Cushing’s Victor Frankenstein, and then makes the ill-fated decision to search his lab in search of evidence to force him to marry her.  The only evidence she finds is Christopher Lee’s homicidal Creature.

HORROR OF DRACULA (1958) – Vampire Woman – begs Jonathan Harker to rescue her from Dracula’s castle but rewards him with a bite on the neck.  She’s eventually attacked by Dracula (Christopher Lee) and then gets a stake in the heart from Jonathan Harker.

Valerie Gaunt –   July 9, 1932 – November 27, 2016.

 

Hope you enjoyed this edition of IN THE SHADOWS, and I’ll see you again next time when we look at another character actor from the horror movies.

Thanks for reading everybody!

—Michael

Books by Michael Arruda:

TIME FRAME,  science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.  

Ebook version:  $2.99. Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.

InTheSpooklight_NewText

 Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com.  Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, short story collection by Michael Arruda.  

For The Love Of Horror cover

Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.  

STOCKING STUFFERS 2014: Gifts I’d Like to Find Under My Tree This Year

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"I hope you like my gift, Larry.  I picked it out of the graveyard myself."

“I hope you like my gift, Larry. I picked it out of the graveyard myself.”

STOCKING STUFFERS – 2014

Gifts I’d Like to Find Under My Tree This Year

By

Michael Arruda

 

Here are a few horror movie goodies that I’d like to find under my Christmas tree this year, in no particular order:

 

-A newly discovered unedited complete version of KING KONG (1933) including the infamous lost “spider in the pit” sequence.  Sorry folks, this still hasn’t been discovered yet and as of right now only exists in our collective imaginations.

 

-For the recently restored unedited version of HORROR OF DRACULA (1958) to be made available here in the United States.  This one does exist, but no sign of it in the U.S. yet.  What’s the hold up???

 

-A boxed set of all the Universal monster movies with long lost scenes restored, including Bela Lugosi’s scenes of dialogue as the Frankenstein Monster in FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943), Dwight Frye’s extended scenes as Karl in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), and the original cut of THE WOLF MAN (1941) where Lon Chaney’s Larry Talbot only becomes a werewolf in his own mind.

 

-A horror movie with Johnny Depp in a serious role instead of the over-the-top goofy roles he’s been taking of late.  It’s as if he’s quit being Depp and instead has adopted the persona of Jack Sparrow from the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies, and it’s Sparrow making all these recent films like DARK SHADOWS, THE LONE RANGER, and INTO THE WOODS, not Depp.

 

-More horror films with Chloe Grace Moretz.  She was phenomenal in LET ME IN (2010) and pretty darn good in the re-boot of CARRIE (2013) as well.  And the best part?  Chloe Grace Moretz is not a scream queen!  She’s a force to be reckoned with.

 

-Speaking of LET ME IN, how about some more horror movies by director Matt Reeves?  He’s directed two of the best horror movies in the past decade, CLOVERFIELD (2008) and LET ME IN (2010), not to mention the excellent DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014).  He’s one of the most talented genre directors working today.

 

-Speaking of CLOVERFIELD, how about the long awaited sequel which has been rumored for years finally coming out?  That would be nice.

 

-A reversal in the decision to turn the Universal monsters into superheroes.  The powers that be at Universal are making a huge mistake here.  To me, this decision is a concession that these monsters are no longer scary, and that’s simply not true.  All it takes is a good writer, combined with a talented director, and these monsters could be relevant again.  Don’t bother remaking the origin stories- we all know them.  What we need are new tales of these monsters in frightening horror movies which will scare modern audiences to death.  Leave the superheroes to Marvel!

 

-Speaking of Marvel, I’d like to see Robert Downey, Jr. in a horror movie.  Scarlett Johansson too, for that matter.

 

-Speaking of people making horror movies, Woody Allen made his decision to move on from comedies years ago and continues to churn out quality films year after year.  I sure wish he’d channel his keen writing talents and write a horror tale someday.  I think it would be pretty cool.

 

-Lastly, to all my writer friends, I’d like to find a copy of your latest book under my tree so I could read your work throughout the year.  My Christmas wish for all of us is that we have books in print year after year for years to come!

 

Thanks all!

 

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, happy winter!

Thanks for reading!

 

—Michael

 

 

 

 

THE QUOTABLE CUSHING: HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)

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Peter Cushing has so much to say as Dr. Van Helsing in HORROR OF DRACULA (1958) he even finds time to record some of it.

Peter Cushing has so much to say as Dr. Van Helsing in HORROR OF DRACULA (1958) he even finds time to record some of it.

THE QUOTABLE CUSHING: HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)
By
Michael Arruda

Welcome back to another edition of THE QUOTABLE CUSHING, that column where we look at Peter Cushing’s best lines in the movies.

Today we look at the Hammer classic, HORROR OF DRACULA (1958), the first time Peter Cushing played Dr. Van Helsing in the movies, and also of course the first time Christopher Lee played Dracula.

While Cushing does have some neat lines as Van Helsing, none of them are spoken to Dracula, as one of the fun parts of this movie is that these two central characters don’t meet until the end of the film, and at that point, they’re involved in a fight to the death. Throughout all of HORROR OF DRACULA, it’s a chase, as Van Helsing is constantly pursuing Dracula, and he never quite catches up to him, as Dracula always remains a step ahead, until the film’s riveting climax, when Van Helsing pursues Dracula into his castle, and it’s there inside Castle Dracula where the two adversaries finally confront each other for the first time.

But before this, Van Helsing enjoys some notable lines. Here’s a look at some of Peter Cushing’s more memorable lines of dialogue in HORROR OF DRACULA, screenplay by Jimmy Sangster:

When we first see Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) in the movie, he’s following upon the heels of his friend and colleague Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) who had already arrived at Castle Dracula, as part of their plan to destroy the undead vampire. Van Helsing arrives at the inn and engages in a conversation with the landlord (George Woodbridge) when he spies fresh garlic flowers displayed around the room.

VAN HELSING: What are you afraid of?

LANDLORD: I don’t understand you.

VAN HELSING: Why all these garlic flowers? And over the window? And up here? They’re not for decoration, are they?

LANDLORD: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

VAN HELSING: I think you do. And I think you know something about my friend. He came here with a purpose: to help you.

LANDLORD: We haven’t asked for any help.

VAN HELSING: You need it all the same.

LANDLORD: Look, sir, you’re a stranger here in Klausenberg. Some things are best left alone, such as interfering in things that are beyond are powers.

VAN HELSING: Please don’t misunderstand me. This is more than a superstition, I know. The danger is very real. If the investigation that Mr. Harker and I are engaged upon is successful, not only you but the whole world will benefit. Castle Dracula is somewhere here in Klausenberg. Will you tell me how I get there?

LANDLORD: You ordered a meal, sir. As an innkeeper, it’s my duty to serve you. When you’ve eaten, I’ll ask you to go and leave us in peace.

 

In one of Cushing’s best scenes as Van Helsing, after rescuing Arthur Holmwood (Michael Gough) and young Tania (Janine Faye) from the clutches of the vampire Lucy (Carol Marsh), he approaches little Tania, and in his gentle reassuring manner sees to it that she’s okay, since she had witnessed the shocking scene of his fighting Lucy off with a crucifix.

VAN HELSING: Put this on (puts his coat on her).

TANIA: Please, I want to go home.

VAN HELSING: And so you shall. I’ll just go and fetch Mr. Holmwood and then we can all go home together.

TANIA: Not Aunt Lucy.

VAN HELSING: No, not Aunt Lucy. Now you sit there, and be a good girl. There, you look like a Teddy Bear now. Will you wear this pretty thing? (Puts a crucifix around her neck). There. Isn’t that lovely?

(Tania nods)

VAN HELSING: Now, you promise not to run away?

TANIA: I promise.

VAN HELSING: If you watch over there (points) you’ll see the sun come up. Keep warm.

And of course the goof here is that Van Helsing makes reference to Tania “looking like a Teddy Bear,” which is an anachronism, since this story takes place in 1885 and the term “Teddy Bear” didn’t come into use until 1902.

 

Moments later, standing by Lucy’s coffin, Van Helsing has this exchange with Arthur Holmwood:

VAN HELSING: You understand now?

ARTHUR (nods): But why Lucy?

VAN HELSING: Because of Jonathan. You read my note in his diary about the woman he found at Klausenberg. This is Dracula’s revenge. Lucy is to replace that woman.

ARTHUR: Oh, no!

VAN HELSING: I’ve watched her tomb each night, since she was interred three days ago. Tonight she ventured out for the first time. Holmwood, I know your one wish is that Lucy should rest in peace. I promise to fulfill that wish, but first, if I have your consent, she can lead us to Dracula.

ARTHUR: How can you suggest such a thing? That she should be possessed by this evil for another second? And what about Gerda’s child out there? And the others she will defile? Oh no, I couldn’t, I couldn’t!

VAN HELSING: Of course. Will you take that child home and then meet me back here in about an hour’s time? It’s all right. It’s nearly dawn. She won’t leave her coffin again.

And when Arthur returns, Van Helsing explains to him that he needs to drive a wooden stake through Lucy’s heart:

ARTHUR: Is there no other way?

(Van Helsing shakes his head.)

ARTHUR: But it’s horrible!

VAN HELSING: Please try and understand. This is not Lucy, the sister you loved. It’s only a shell, possessed and corrupted by the evil of Dracula. To liberate her soul and give it eternal peace, we must destroy that shell for all time. Believe me, there is no other way.

 

What follows is one of the movie’s bloodiest and most violent scenes, as Van Helsing does indeed drive a wooden stake into Lucy’s heart. What’s neat about this scene is in vampire films prior to this one, the staking scenes tended to occur off camera, and they certainly weren’t shot with the type of graphic effects used here. Sure, these effects seem tame today, but in 1958, they were shocking.

 

HORROR OF DRACULA is also blessed with frequent moments of well-timed humor, like in this scene where Van Helsing is speaking into a 19th century recording device, and he’s interrupted by a porter who’s confused when he enters the room and finds Van Helsing alone, when he clearly heard Van Helsing speaking to someone.

VAN HELSING: Anything the matter? What is it?

PORTER: Well, sir, to tell you the truth, when I was outside I thought I heard you— talking to someone.

VAN HELSING: Of course you did. I was talking to myself.

We finish with a line from near the end of the film, after Dracula (Christopher Lee) has put the bite on Arthur’s wife Mina (Melissa Stribling). Van Helsing and Holmwood plan to stand watch outside the house all night in order to catch Dracula when he arrives to bite Mina again.

ARTHUR: You said Lucy would lead us to Dracula. Why didn’t I listen to you? This would never have happened!

VAN HELSING: You mustn’t blame yourself for that, but you must have the courage to let Mina lead us now. We’ll give her every protection we can. Tonight we’ll watch the windows of her room. They face two sides of the house, don’t they?

ARTHUR: Yes.

VAN HELSING: I know I ask a great deal of you. But you mustn’t weaken now! We have it within our power to rid the world of this evil. (hands a crucifix to Arthur) And with God’s help, we’ll succeed.

And with that, we wrap up another edition of THE QUOTABLE CUSHING. Until next time when we’ll look at other memorable quotes from another Peter Cushing movie, thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

 

 

HORROR OF DRACULA (1958) – Long Lost Version Finally Restored!

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Dracula (Christopher Lee) peels away his burning flesh in the restored ending to HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)

Dracula (Christopher Lee) peels away his burning flesh in the restored ending to HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)

This image of Dracula (Christopher Lee) in the early stages of decomposition does NOT appear in the restored version of HORROR OF DRACULA (1958).  Publicity still, perhaps?

This image of Dracula (Christopher Lee) in the early stages of decomposition does NOT appear in the restored version of HORROR OF DRACULA (1958). Publicity still, perhaps?

HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)Long lost version finally restored!

You can imagine my excitement when I learned that the uncut ending to HORROR OF DRACULA (1958), Hammer Films’ classic Dracula movie and one of the best horror movies of all time, had been restored.

Just how excited was I?  Enough to watch the sequence repeatedly on YouTube over a celebratory glass of wine.  Hmm.  What was that?  Yes, just one glass!

Thank heavens for YouTube, that’s all I can say!

Where was I?  Oh yes, I was about to tell you that Hammer Films—finally— has released its restored version of HORROR OF DRACULA, recovered from the long lost Japanese print.

In case you missed the story, in the late 1950s, Hammer Films routinely shot different versions of its films in order to satisfy different markets.  The most violent and graphic versions of their movies were made for the Far East and sent to countries like Japan.  At least that’s one explanation of the tale.  The other account I’ve read is that the graphic scenes were simply cut by censors in England and the United States, while the versions sent to Japan were allowed to be uncensored.  Either way, a separate version of the film had long been rumored to exist in Japan.

For decades, fans were tantalized by the possibility that a more graphic version of the film’s exciting finale existed in a vault somewhere in Japan, unseen by English speaking audiences.  Fans continually asked, does this footage really exist?  Or is it just a rumor?  The mystery remained unsolved.

Until now.

Thanks to the efforts of a Hammer Film fan— no, not me— living Japan, the footage was discovered.  This fan, Simon Rowson, watched the footage and wrote about it, announcing once and for all that this long rumored footage actually existed.  Eventually, he contacted Hammer and got them interested.

Hammer released a restored version on Blu-Ray to British audiences back on March 13, 2013.  This restored version has not yet made its way to the United States.  That’s where the YouTube clips come in.

Thanks to YouTube, we can see this footage now without waiting.

So, yes, I was absolutely ecstatic to finally see this restored ending, and I was not disappointed.  I’ve posted this restored sequence on my FaceBook page, as well as right here on this blog.

I also went ahead and posted another video, the original uncut reel from the Japanese version, which is heavily damaged.  It’s interesting to note that there are differences between this original Japanese reel and the restored edition reissued by Hammer Films.  I’m not sure why they didn’t restore the entire sequence.  The sequence in the damaged version is more extensive than the Hammer restoration print.  Does this mean some day there will be more restorations?

This also raises another question, which is, are there still more versions out there? For instance, neither the Hammer restored version nor the original Japanese print include the famous image of Christopher Lee’s Dracula in the early stages of decomposition, a photo  probably first revealed within the pages of the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland.  Did this scene ever exist?  Or perhaps this image was just a publicity still?

The mystery deepens.

The restored version and the Japanese prints also include other restored scenes in addition to the finale, most notably an added shot to the scene where Dracula (Christopher Lee) bites Mina (Melissa Stribling).  More on this sequence in a future post.

For Hammer Film fans, this is an exciting time, to finally be able to see absent footage that had never been viewed by English speaking audiences before.  That’s pretty cool, I must say!

Now I can only hope that someone discovers an uncut print of the original KING KONG (1933) including the famous cut spiders in the pit sequence.  I can dream, can’t I?

—Michael