Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mama loves monsters

At press time, I was still trying to decide what’s on the agenda tonight for the traditional Halloween film festival viewed (practically) every October 31st. As is the custom, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) will certainly be on the bill—but that’s as far as I’ve gotten. I thought about taking a tip from Bob at Bob & Dusty’s Whirl-a-Go-Go, who suggested some great Val Lewton flicks (to his picks I would add The Body Snatcher and The Ghost Ship), and I’ve tossed a few others around: Mad Love (1935), The Man Who Laughs (1928), Waxworks (1924) and Sparrows (1926).

My mother is the real monster-movie nut in the family. Not at the level of, say, The Retropolitan or Tony Kay (check out his 50 Greatest Horror Movies List here), but she takes her horror movies seriously. She’s of the old school, though, she likes mostly the older titles, particularly the Universal films. She started whining about wanting to watch some the last week in September, that’s how bad it is. She knows how to work the DVD player now, but she feigns ignorance because…well, you don’t have to lift a finger if you can prove you’re all thumbs, as I often say. (Loosely translated: “Ivan, prepare a movie so I may watch it.”)

She went through most of the biggies in the Universal catalog this month: Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Dracula's Daughter (1936), Son of Frankenstein (1939), The Wolf Man (1941), Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), Son of Dracula (1943), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945). I was about to dig into the Invisible Man franchise when she stopped me cold, saying she didn’t care for those particular movies.

One night a few weeks ago, she had received a call around 11:30pm from the husband of one of her store managers, who informed her that his wife had passed away due to complications from surgery. Mom then announces to me that she’s not going to be able to get back to sleep, and then belts out a few choruses of I Wanna Watch a Horror Movie Blues. Since the Invisible Man was persona non grata, I suggested taking a look at the Fox Horror Classics box set I had recently purchased, and I picked the one that sounded the most horrific (it contains The Lodger and Hangover Square, two films I don’t really consider horror movies), The Undying Monster (1942). I would like to take this moment to say that I have officially found the cure for insomnia. Monster was only 63 minutes long—but it seemed even longer.

Every weeknight at 8:00pm, my father and I watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann—a practice that drives my mother insane. The reason for this is, Dad pretty much watches news all day long—and by the time Olbermann’s on, my Mom is sick of it. (Countdown is the only television program I watch on a regular basis—but this does not shield me from Mom’s wrath.) So one night, she asks me if she can borrow my portable DVD player so she can watch a movie in her bedroom—I had just located my copy of The Mummy (1932), which she had been bitching at me to find (my DVD filing system isn’t the greatest in the world, and some of my DVD shelves are obscured because there are packing boxes stored in front of them). So I set her up with the movie, and the next morning she’s praising me to the skies—then she wants me to put King Kong (1933) that same evening. (I have a sneaking suspicion my ownership of the portable player is not long for this world.)

I don’t know for certain, but I suspect my mother’s desire to watch monster movies all month long might have had to do with the fact that she knew she would be out of town on Halloween. Perhaps I should schedule The Lodger, Hangover Square and one or two of the silents then, knowing that they wouldn’t be her cup o’tea.

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