Every year there’s a Halloween party down the block - distinct from the gathering at the Triangle at the bottom of the hill, which is for the actual Halloween night. This party happens the weekend before Halloween, and my wife usually makes an appearance. I don’t, because you have to come in costume. I don’t have a costume. I never have a costume. I hate costumes. I hate being judged by my ability to pull off an identity that isn’t my own, and the idea of spending a lot of time thinking what I’m going to be seems ridiculous. The only ideas I ever have are High Concept - I’ll wear the big dog food bag as a shirt, and carry a plastic bag full of Play-Doh! I’m the life-cycle of Purina Chow! - or obscure. I would love to go as a character from “The Detectorists,” but the chance that anyone in the room has seen the show is nil, even though it’s on Netflix. BECAUSE IT’S CALLED DETECTORISTS.
You should watch it, by the way. Saw the first season, and it’s just charming. I would even say sweet. Two deadly words, right? You might ask if it’s funny. Yes. Very. LOL funny? On occasion, but it’s not a broad larf riot. It’s also touching. Note: the show does not set out to be charming, sweet, or touching, which is why it succeeds at all three.
Anyway, I can’t be Boney McGauntface, aka Mackenzie Crook, who’s one of the Detectorists, and I do not want to be Toby Jones, who resembles a dejected potato. I considered being the Invisible Man. Wife:
Me, stunned: “The Invisible Man. Claude Rains. Well, in the first one.”
“I didn’t read the book.”
“It’s not a book. And you did read the book. ‘Memoirs of an Invisible Man.’ Great book. Lousy movie. Chevy Chase.”
She sighs. “The gaps in my cultural knowledge are appalling, I know.”
“Well, he’s one of the four classic Universal Monsters, but you’re busy. Anyway people would just think I was the Mummy.”
“I know the Mummy.”
“Five classic Universal Monsters. Anyway I could do it but I would have to cackle towards the end of the evening. It’s too bad Peter Lorre didn’t do the role because I can impersonate Peter Lorre.”
And then it hits me:
I will wear a suit with the letter M in chalk on the back.
Bug out my eyes, look shifty. Hold a helium balloon. Yes. That’s it. If someone complains that I’m double-dipping the chips I can go into the screaming I CAN’T HELP MYSELF routine.
The last time I went anywhere in costume was a DC party; Wife went as Sexy Bajoran, which worked spectacularly since she’s short, has short hair, and wears the outfit better than Nana Visitor did. She was also a DS9 fan, although she faded in the last seasons.
TBH, though, isn’t the idea of going as Peter Lorre / Kurten tooooo highbrow? Oh it’s a Fritz Lang silent movie. You probably haven’t heard of it. But you should. It’s not that obscure a reference.
No one got the reference. I had to explain it all night long.
Here’s the fun part: wife went as a child victim. I was opposed to this. Husbands and wives are supposed to come as a costumed unit, and while I knew this, I couldn’t see any possible side-kick role, and figured it wouldn’t matter because like most parties she’d be over there, and I’d be over here. But mostly I thought it would be appalling. I mean, it’s one thing to dress up as a horrible person, but somehow that was Iconic Movie Image or something; amplifying the precise nature of his crime and embodying it seemed really bad. It’s like going as Jack the Ripper and your spouse has all her guts hanging out . . .
. . . except I suppose people do that, because it’s Halloween. Which is why I really don’t like these things.
Anyway, she got miffed that I didn’t want to go as a couple, which led the most absurd conversation: if you were a witch, I would go as a warlock, with the cape, but you don’t want to go as a witch anymore because you always go as a witch. But since I couldn’t come up with any other costume I just thought you could be a witch in one room and I’d be the child killer in the other room. It’s a heartbreaking scene, the loss of the children, and it’s not for amusement purposes. I’m playing Peter Lorre, not the character he portrayed.
Eventually we sorted it out and walked to the party with helium balloons tied around our wrists. I explained the movie, and how Lang didn’t show the horrors, but implied them with two images - the balloon caught in the wires before it floats away, and the 1951 American version where we see the child’s ball rolling free.
“Why don’t I have a ball?”
I said I forgot, but also because you'd have to carry around a ball all night and sit in a chair with a ball in your lap and NO ONE WOULD GET IT.
Had a great time, though. Three great conversations - one on modern politics, one on AI, future workforces, automation, and data privacy with a guy who was dressed up as Malcolm Gladwell (I thought he was Moss from “The IT Crowd.” He’d never heard of it. He’s a programmer. I do not understand these things) and another about movies and old radio. The husband of the hostess asked if I’d never seen “The Thin Man” series.
It was ideal, really - a party full of smart, talkative people, two blocks from home, so I could have a drink because I wasn’t driving.
A nice end . . . to one of the worst days I’ve ever had. But that’s tomorrow.
Might as well do a bit of Pumpkinification before it's all over. Everything seemed familiar this year, but you can always trust Little Debbie to come up with some undead confection. The bats, for example. You can taste that non-chocolate chocolate, can't you? Don't you regret the very thought of it?
The same goes for the pumpkin frosting, which is like a sheet of vinyl, and probably peels off in one piece.
Flavor: sugar. That's it. If there was pumpkin spice flavor, that's what it would say.
Unrelated: found this illustration in one of the 1970s Monster Magazines I came across. For some of you, the artist will be instantly familiar.
There were three greats in the alternative comic heavens: Wrightson, Steranko, and Bode. In my opinion, anyway. Two of the three are still with us, the third having hung himself for jollies.
First there’s the name, then there’s the Return, and then there’s the Revenge. Son of the Bride of the Revenge of the Return of the Invisible Mummy!
Who gets the blame for this one?
It's literally a B(eebe) Movie; that's what Ford did. The movie gets some respect from people who love everything Universal did, and while I share affection for the period and the Universal Monster movies, this one . . .
Well. Just hold on. Our story opens on a foggy dock, where guy gets off a ship, goes to a store to buy new clothes, and flips out when the tailor asks if he just got off the ship.
ARE YOU FOLLOWING ME? But he collects himself, apologizes, and leaves. Sir, do you want your coat? Nah, it’s just an old rag. The tailor looks in the pocket:
The fine print continues the story; they didn't scrimp on the fake paper. That's Jon Hall, by the way.
But we move from there to an English Country Manor. Wikipedia will fill you in:
he enters the residence and accuses the couple of leaving him to die out in the African wild, injured, when they were on a safari together. The Herrick couple defends themselves, claiming they were told that he was dead and not injured, but Robert doesn't buy their explanation. He demands they give him his share of the diamond fields they all discovered together on the safari. Jasper tries to tell Robert that the diamond fields were all lost in a series of bad investments.
Robert refuses to give in, threatening to sue the Herricks,
The Invisible Man Files Suit is not the name of the picture, so who cares? The synopsis is almost a transcription, it’s so verbose. Okay, so the guy’s mad in advance; that means he won’t be driven insane by the invisibility formula, as so often happens. There are only two questions:
How will he get invisible?
When will see a special effect? The original was eleven years before, and was startling at the time. (It’s one of my favorites, because of Rains, and James Whale’s wonderful style.) The sequel, which we did here last year, was a decent sequel with a crisper look, except for the big foggy portions.
Hey! Mr. Atoz.
Anyway. The fugitive stumbles into the lair of a Scientist, and since it’s this fellow . . .
. . . we know he’s Mad. Brilliant, though! But Mad, because the Academy laughed at his ideas. But self-aware.
Then we get our first FX, when a dog barks and the doctor lets him in.
Mr. Griffin is hereafter made invisible so the movie can live up to its name, and finds a local grifter who'll help his MAD SCHEMES.
There’s a comedy set piece at a pub . . .
That's Leon Errol, a comic actor who added some craven greed to his performance here. This scene is necessary to provide what all good Universal movies must have: European Villagers. You have to have a gallery of character actors with memorable faces in an old pub or cafe, and there must be mutterings. It's a way of opening up the film, and it always gives the film a once-upon-a-time quality, even though it may be set in modern times.
Anyway. No need to go into the rest of the plot. I want to note how incompetently framed the movie can on a number of occasions. Here’s how Beebe shoots the scene where the Invisible Man gets up from a transfusion that makes him visible again. (He took John Barrymore’s blood.)
Do we see the rest of the lab, with the body of the mad doctor? Nope.
The Formerly Invisible Man grabs that all-purpose gas you never see in movies anymore -
- and uses it to burn down the lab. There is a DOG CHAINED UP
. . . and we think, he can’t possibly let the dog burn up, can he? Yes, he can, and if the dog hadn’t snapped its chain the dog would have died. But the dog escapes, the police come upon the fire too late, and Griffin goes to the house of the people who wronged him so he can marry Julie. Let me turn again to Wikipedia:
Robert changes his identity to "Martin Field" and moves in with the Herricks at the estate which he is now owner to. When Herbert finds out about Robert's return he makes a futile attempt to blackmail him too, and out of pity - and perhaps thankfulness - Robert pays the man a 1000 pounds to get rid of him. Robert has one condition for paying the money: that Herbert kills the doctor's dog Brutus, who has followed Robert back to the Herrick estate after the fire.
Robert starts losing his visibility one day at the breakfast table, with Julie and her fiancé Mark present. He tricks Mark to follow him down into the wine cellar
Here's the trick:
A CLUE! It's all a ruse to get Foster's blood, but the mad doctor's dog has been chasing the Invisible Man to get his revenge, and finally avenges his master.
This is the most incompetently shot villain-end in the history of Universal Monster Movies.
Before we go, another favorite moment. Watch the leg of the dead Mad Doctor.
To be fair, Barrymore was a lanky guy. Hard to move unassisted, even when dead.
There you have it! Happy Halloween. Give my regards to Spooky Ooky.