Saw a Takashi Miike picture called The Great Yokai War. "Yokai" is a Japanese term for monsters from folklore, as opposed to the more familiar kaiju. It's a kids' picture, about a young boy from Tokyo sent out to live in the countryside with his older sister and his intermittently senile grandfather. When a vengeful spirit appears, the boy gets caught up in a war between warring groups of yokai and must find his courage to become the "Kirin Rider", the hero who will set everything to rights. It's not a bad picture - nothing deep, but an amusing story. Some of the yokai are really trippy, Japanese folklore can get pretty "out there", apparently.

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Be interested in hearing your reaction (first time? This time around?). I'm an old fan of the Universal Monsters, but House of Dracula has always struck me as the weakest of the lot. And even Frankenstein meets the Wolfman, while an interesting romp (the musical number!), suffers from all of the re-editing they did before release.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

THE WOLFMAN: Tracy requested that we watch another Universal monster series culminating with an Abbott & Costello movie, as we did with The Mummy last month. I chose "Wolfman" and we watched House of Frankenstein last night. (We skipped the first four "Frankenstein" movies and moved on to Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman directly after The Wolfman.) TONIGHT: House of Dracula.

We watched The Hot Rock, a 1972 caper movie starring, Robert Redford based on the comic crime novel of the same name by Donald E. Westlake.

As the movie opens, John Dortmunder (Redford) is being released from prison. He is immediately hired to burgle a diamond from a museum, on behalf of an African diplomat who wants to get the bauble away from a rival nation. Things go wrong at the heist and one of the crew -- the one with the diamond -- gets caught. So Dortmunder and company break him out of prison.

(Why he went to prison, and not jail, is not explained. I'd chalk it up to scriptwriters not knowing there's a difference -- jail is for people awaiting trial or being held on misdemeanor charges or short-term sentences; prison is for people who've had their trial and were convicted on felonies -- but he is definitely shown in prison.)

But the guy stashed the diamond in his cell at the police station where he was taken after he was booked. So the crew breaks into the police station, and find the diamond isn't in the cell ... because they guy's lawyer, who also happens to be his father, took it. So they scare the father into revealing where it is, by threatening to toss him down an elevator shaft, after making it look like they tossed his son down the shaft. The diamond's in a safety deposit box -- the frightened Dad the lawyer even gives them the key to the box -- but the security at the bank is too tight, so they have to resort to subterfuge to get into the room.

Dortmunder uses a four-man crew -- the diplomat bankrolling the enterprise will pay $25,000 per man, but not a dime more than 100 grand; if they want more men, each guy gets a smaller share of the take. But he does pony up for expenses, which add up: guard's uniforms for the museum heist, vehicles, tools to break into the prison, a helicopter to break into the police station, etc. 

Dortmunder appears in several novels, and the capers are often follow a two-steps-forward, one-step-back kind of course, like this one. I don't know if Redford and this cast had any plans to make a series, but they could have. Several of the novels have been made into movies, but all the movies are stand-alones with different actors, and most of them change the character's name.

This being an early '70s movie, it seemed kind of quaint. The pacing is slower than in a modern film, and you don't have the kind of frantic cutting you would today. And it's simpler. The diamond is in a simple, locked glass case, so all they have to do is unlock it, lift it off, take the diamond and be on their way. In a modern film, there would have been alarms, cameras, lasers, motion detectors, a pressure-sensitive floor, etc.

And they get inside the museum by staging a car crash outside, so ALL the guards come out to deal with it, which seemed unlikely. Some use a fire extinguisher to put out the flaming car; others help the "doctor" -- one of the crew -- treat the injured driver, who is the wheelman, played by Ron Liebman. Liebman puts on a great show of being injured, so the guards barely notice the "doctor," played by Paul Sand, slip inside the museum, also wearing a guard uniform. A real ambulance takes Liebman away; in a modern movie, the ambulance would have been part of the gag.

The theft is delayed because, as they lift the glass case, it's too heavy and Sand lets it slip -- with George Seagal, the lockpicker, trapped inside! Getting him out took so long, the real guards come back inside, notice the three burglars, and give chase. 

Anyway, it was entertaining enough. Being from the early '70s, you see a lot of New York -- like the still-under-construction World Trade Center, which the guys fly past in their Army surplus helicopter on the way to the police station to find the diamond. 

When the late, lamented Darwyn Cooke was adapting the Donald E. Westlake (aka Richard Stark) novels featuring his character Parker, he mentioned that Westlake only let the movies adapt his Parker novels if they changed the character's name. Westlake's Wikipedia page has a lot of information, including Westlake's comment that his Dortmunder novel The Hot Rock was originally going to be a Parker novel but that "it kept turning funny" so he changed it to Dortmunder.

I'm pretty sure that Darwyn Cooke was the only one ever allowed to use the name Parker in an adaptation.

That shows Donald Westlake's versatility, that he could write grim stuff like Parker and humorous stuff like Dortmunder.

"Be interested in hearing your reaction (first time? This time around?)."

Oh, definitely "this time around." (It was the second time for my wife.) Just before we started watching, she pulled up something on the internet which proclaimed House of Dracula to be a reboot of the franchise. Wrong. It is just a further example of weak picture-to-picture continuity. The Wolfman was apparently killed at the end of House of Frankenstein, and although Larry Talbot appears hearty and hale in House of Dracula, that doesn't make it a reboot. If it were a reboot, how would one explain Frankenstein's Monster being found with Dr. Neiman's skeleton from House of Frankenstein? I did agree with the online review Tracy referenced that HoD had better integration of the monsters than HoF did. HoF was very choppy and episodic. In that respect, HoD was better than HoF (although Frankenstein's Monster played a very small role). 

Tonight: Abbott and Costello

I wrote something awhile back about the deranged continuity of the Universal Monster Cycle.



Jeff of Earth-J said:

"Be interested in hearing your reaction (first time? This time around?)."

Tonight: Abbott and Costello

Now, that's good Universal.

Often said to be only the second time Lugosi played Dracula on film, the claim is debatable. Of course, technically, he's playing a wax figure of Dracula here:

JD DeLuzio said:

I wrote something awhile back about the deranged continuity of the Universal Monster Cycle.

I wonder if Bob Haney worked there before he got into comics ... ?

Sounds like a "Crisis in Infinite Haunted Houses" would have fixed the Universal continuity issues.

"I wrote something awhile back about the deranged continuity of the Universal Monster Cycle."

Nice.

If you don't want to include The Creature from the Black Lagoon (or The Mummy), I wold at least include Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein.

Good point. The Mummy has been discussed a fair bit around this site. I guess I didn't include it because it never crosses over with the others, except, I suppose, through Bud and Lou. It's its own saga, and the best of the lot, The Mummy, really isn't in continuity with the films that follow.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

"I wrote something awhile back about the deranged continuity of the Universal Monster Cycle."

Nice.

If you don't want to include The Creature from the Black Lagoon (or The Mummy), I wold at least include Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein.

Speaking of Universal monsters, ironically, The Wolfman, with Lon Chaney Jr. Was featured on Svenghoolie last night.

Several things struck me about this film; formost that it was good to see Bela Lugosi play a charactor that was not villian. He played the tragic gypsy with surprising emotional range. Sadly, his was a small part here. Did anyone find Larry Talbot to be creepier as a man than as a werewolf? I did. Finally, why was Bela's werewolf so clearly wolf like, while Chaney looked like JoJo the dog faced. Boy?

Big agree on Creepy Larry Talbot. My wife was watching the opening, and she was totally grossed out by the chauvinism.

JohnD said:

Speaking of Universal monsters, ironically, The Wolfman, with Lon Chaney Jr. Was featured on Svenghoolie last night.

Several things struck me about this film; formost that it was good to see Bela Lugosi play a charactor that was not villian. He played the tragic gypsy with surprising emotional range. Sadly, his was a small part here. Did anyone find Larry Talbot to be creepier as a man than as a werewolf? I did. Finally, why was Bela's werewolf so clearly wolf like, while Chaney looked like JoJo the dog faced. Boy?

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