Countdown to Halloween: Derek M. Koch on Tales of Frankenstein (2018)
ABOUT OUR GUEST
What can I say about Derek M. Koch? He's a podcasting icon for monster kids everywhere, demonstrating devotion to writing, producing and hosting Monster Kid Radio each and every week. He's a man with more projects in his head than humanly possible to produce, and his enthusiasm is contagious. He's definitely one of my inspirations for continuing this little blog, as well as attempting new things with it.
On top of all that, he's the nicest guy you could ever meet, and I had the privilege of doing so at Monster Bash in 2017. We've kept in touch since then and I'm happy to call him my friend. Thanks for everything you do for us monster kids, Derek, and thank you for taking time to tell us about Tales of Frankenstein...
Yes, of COURSE I have stacks of DVDs and Blu-rays of movies I haven’t watched yet. And, yes, of COURSE I have movies building up on my DVR, on my various streaming services ‘To Watch’ list, etc. But when I heard about a NEW Frankenstein film being released this year, and it was to feature a more classical Frankenstein than we’ve seen in most of the recent cinematic iterations, I got excited.
A listener of Monster Kid Radio wrote the show a few weeks ago. In the email, he said, “Donald F. Glut? Derek, that is 'Monster Kid royalty' right there.” And that listener* was right.
Donald F. Glut IS a monster kid. He grew up watching and loving the monsters. As a kid, he made monster movies with a home camera, and these movies were written about in the monster magazines of the time. His career has spanned several years and crossed into several genres, but he’s always held his love of the classic monsters close to his heart.
This could not be more evident than in his movie Tales of Frankenstein.
Just released this month on disc and to various streaming services, Tales of Frankenstein gives us exactly what the title promises. This feature-length film is made up of four individual tales involving Frankenstein, but not necessarily ways you might expect. And that’s a good thing. Tales of Frankenstein serves up a mad scientist story, but there are also stories of revenge, mystery, and, for good measure, a story involving an ape.
(For the briefest of moments, I could have sworn somehow Glut convinced Bob Burns to come out of retirement and put on the ape suit again for the role of Gargantus. Ape suit actor/performer Adam Meir is THAT good in Tales of Frankenstein, especially considering what happens with Gargantus’ character – NO SPOILERS!)
The connecting device between all four stories is Frankenstein. Literally. A painting of Frankenstein appears in all four segments, and each segment takes place during a different time and at a different place. The attention to detail is strong, and director Glut does a great job of making sure we never just assume he redressed a backyard set to take us to 1940s Los Angeles from Switzerland, 1910.
Of the cast, some of the highlights include genre legends like Beverly Garland, Anne Robinson, and Jerry Lacy. While they are important to the film overall, we’re never forced to focus solely on them at the detriment of the whole. That is, this is an ensemble cast, and it’s a testament to the acting by all involved, as well as the direction, that everyone is doing their best work and never at the expense of others.
One member of the cast that did stand out to me as I grew up a comic book fan was Len Wein. Among other credits, Len Wein’s name is probably best known as the co-creator of the Marvel Comics character Wolverine, and to see him turn up in a Frankenstein film – AS a character NAMED Frankenstein – was a lot of fun. He’d had few other screen acting roles prior to this movie, but he performed in improve, and took to his role in the film quite well. Unfortunately, this is the last time we’ll ever have a chance to see him on screen as he sadly passed away after he shot his parts.
If I had one complaint about the film it would be that we spend time with a (Universal) traditional Frankenstein’s Monster. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the flat-top-head-look (in Tales of Frankenstein, the Monster’s bolts are in his temples instead of his neck). That’s become an iconic image, and rightly so. That said, the Monster doesn’t actually play into any of the four stories that make up Tales of Frankenstein. Instead, we only see Frankenstein’s creation wondering around in broad daylight, looking for and ultimately finding the painting of Frankenstein mentioned earlier. As much as it’s always great to see that Frankenstein archetype on screen in any capacity, I don’t know if it really served the film as effectively as it could. And since not all of the stories are specific to a Frankenstein monster of any kind, really, these scenes almost don’t feel relevant.
That said, this didn’t take away my enjoyment of the movie at all. It runs nearly two hours, but is paced so well, I had no idea that much time had passed between the time I started the film and the end credits rolled. Tales of Frankenstein definitely gets the Monster Kid Radio Seal of Approval!
* That listener was author/illustrator Alistair Hughes, whose own book "Infogothic: An Unauthorised Graphic Guide to Hammer Horror," is something I know I have to add to my collection . . . even if my To Read pile is larger than my movie To Watch pile!
ABOUT THE COUNTDOWN
We all have them... stacks of movies we've purchased, but never watched; or, movies on the DVR, filling them to capacity. This year for the annual Countdown to Halloween, I'm going to make a dent in my "stack," watching one movie a day for the month of October that I've never seen, then writing about it.
Well, I'm going to cheat a little. Assisting me this year are a number of "guest bloggers" that I've invited to participate by commandeering classichorrors.club for a day. These are all people whose blogs I read, whose podcasts I enjoy, and/or whose existence I simply appreciate. It's an experiment, but I hope you'll enjoy reading some new perspectives.