My first time seeing classic movies on a big screen!
The night before Halloween I experienced a first as a classic movie fan– seeing some in a theater, on a big screen. You’re surprised, I know. I just really love the comfort of my own collection, big screen and viewing room, also there just aren’t many cons or fests near me, but then again I haven’t gone out my way to attend any further afield. It was always something I was planning to do “someday,” so I decided Someday was last Thursday (tell me if that doesn’t sound like the greatest noir movie never made?). And what better way to start than with monster movies, combining the magic of the silver screen with the genre and time of year that makes me feel like a kid.
After the projectionist had to adjust the first few minutes of minty green and purple images and started over, the double feature began with The Wolf Man (1941). Growing up, I was never into werewolves and would always put them last on my list of favourite monsters, but just like the incisors and fur grew on Lon Chaney Jr., the wolf man grew on me after a few re-watches. Chaney was brilliant at putting across poor Larry Talbot’s plight as the sympathetic monster, the lovable giant teddy bear who comes back to his grand family home, gets interested in a girl (Evelyn Ankers), is a hero for trying to save her friend from a wolf and ends up getting bitten and cursed by the gypsy werewolf Bela Lugosi. You know how long it’s been since I watched The Wolf Man? So long that I had to admit I could not recite Maria Ouspenskaya’s poem from memory. So it really was like a new movie for me, and I’d forgotten how amazingly moody and atmospheric that fog cloaked forest looked, how sad and tragic the story is, how pleasing to see Warren William, Ralph Bellamy and Claude Rains sharing scenes (last time I watched I guarantee you I knew nothing of Warren William and his coolness), and how amusing when Bellamy kept barking “take a note, Twiddle! Write this down!” Seeing it all this way definitely completed my voyage of decades, from not caring much about the whole business, to admiring Chaney’s performance, his character, and the artistry of this movie.
Next up was The Mummy (1932), a picture I know much better since it’s always been a fave, but even so, I was surprised by how much spookier those huge close-ups on Karloff looked, unnerving, him staring right through you with radioactive eyes and shriveled up face. We were also much more impressed by how grand the movie’s unusual shots were when writ large. For example the bit when the camera moves high up to give a bird’s eye view of the pool where Karloff is showing Zita Johann (my what big eyes you have Zita) their shared past, or the earlier scenes where Bramwell Fletcher is working alone and keeps eyeing the recently discovered, still unopened box. The camera makes a giant circle around him and the box (lit from inside, it looked like), teasing both his curiosity and ours. I always loved that moment after he finds the scroll inside and uses it to inadvertently wake the mummy, and it didn’t disappoint– just the sliver of glistening eyeball you see as Karloff rouses, and Fletcher’s mad laughter ringing though the theater makes for big time spooks. I also had a nice case of blogging serendipity, seeing Noble Johnson here, as the Nubian awestruck by Karloff, on the same day I was writing about him as the Cossack in The Most Dangerous Game.
The cinema was not decked out like this. Otherwise I might be writing this from jail for attempted theft.
Outings like these are best shared by equally rabid movie fans, and one of those, fellow blogger Mike was in attendance. I am willing to bet a fair sum we were the only people there who said at the same moment that Evelyn Ankers was married to Richard Denning. But the audience were no slouches, were obviously very much into it, and laughed at all the right spots, mainly at the insistent, smooth and fast courtship attempted in both movies by Messrs. Chaney and David Manners. Got to hand it to them, both guys knew how to go after the lady they fancied. Manners even gets over the sinister voodoo-style death of his father in record time, when he hears that Johann might be interested in him. Great movies, a great time had and, take a note, Twiddle! Got to do it again sooner than someday.