The Monster Movie Hall of Fame and 'The Invisible Man'
Later in the show. I'll have an interview with Lebron L. The writer director of the new updated edition of the invisible man. A movie that shifts the perspective of the classic horror movie to the victim in this case played by the Amazing Elizabeth Moss when Elsa Clever Jonah craftsman and we had a fun chat about how he's reinventing the work of the historic universal monster movies and some of his aides filmaker. Heroes like James Cameron and Paul Hogan and John Carpenter but I I am joined by ringer contributor and one of the best film minds around Adam Neiman. Thanks for joining me Adam. Thanks for having me Adam. We're here to build another wing in the movie hall of fame. Today we said post and beam on the monster movie hall of fame. Now you know monster. Movies are tricky because there are two distinctions between them. One is your classical scare movie that enrapture audiences but maybe doesn't really mean very much and then. The other is the load-bearing bearing metaphorical monster that communicate something to the world about maybe it's ills or human psychology or things of that nature I assume that you are more fan of the latter. But May maybe that's not the case. I think I'm a fan of the ladder when it's less calculated You know the the joke I liked to tell his one day. Someone's GonNa make really good specific movie about a social problem like documentary and then at a press conference the director. She's going to be like this movie's a metaphor for zombies and just waiting for someone to do but I mean I think that in the last couple years because you have some like Jordan. Peele who has spoken not in terms of monster movies but in terms of horror movies. He's talked about you. Know his office for those social thrillers or Social Horror Movies and the metaphorical dimension to them. And so you know because monsters are a subset of horror movies as you say a delivery device for for scares those streams often do cross but yeah. I think some of the best monster movies of all time are definitely ones where monsters represent something whether it's something inside or outside society or something inside or outside people but I'm also just a a big fan of movies. Where like spooky things jump out at people in eat them? So it's a IT'S A. It's a fine balance before we get started on constructing this this list that we've put together here. Do you remember your first monster movie experience at the movie. That felt like a monster movie to me and I mean it it is a monster is when Pinocchio gets swallowed by the whale. Oh yeah which is. Obviously you know I mean there's a biblical reference there to to Joan in the whale and it's You know like for for for kids. Who Who who see Pinocchio? That whale is just nightmarish and terrifying and and gigantic. I mean my dad. I think that's the first movie he ever told you to. Took me to it. Just absolutely scared the hell out of me that and the giant squid in Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea. Same thing oh great both Some Disney spun con there. Well done by in and and you. Well I'm thinking about Pinocchio as you say it and the thing that scared me more than the whale is the sequence in which the boys turn into donkeys boys which is just absolutely disturbing and also kind of metaphorical in its way Not to put too fine a parasite point on it I'm trying to think of my first true scary movie experience. I feel like what I got two young Frankenstein before I got to Frankenstein in. It's funny. How when something like that happens how it can obscure your relationship to movies and I think it actually made me Not so much scared movie theaters but just just sort of happy and smiling and laughing. I tend to laugh at horror movies and monster movies because I get kind of perverse thrill out of them and I so I if young Frankenstein. Ken Count that would be. That would be my number one. I mean obviously. I saw a bunch movies that we'll talk about here on this list that a very young age. And maybe that's an opportunity to just go right into it. So here's what we're going to do. We'RE GOING TO GO CHRONOLOGICALLY. So there's a long history. I would say monster. Movies are essentially as old as movies themselves. So we're going to try to walk through. Essentially I don't know eighty ninety years of movie history and try to capture. What are the absolute most representative interesting compelling fascinating monster movies ever made and the monsters? I think the conversation should really be about the monsters inside of the movies and why they're so effective as devices for either sending those messages or just scaring the shit out of us. So you chosen five. I've chosen five. We're GONNA WE'RE GONNA Ariffin vamp little bit. Why don't you give me your first pick going all the way back to the nineteen thirties? Sure and you know it's interesting because now when we've got it arranged chronologically we've got this this interesting blindspot which. Kinda be filled in as we go along. Which is we've both bypassed. The true initial cohort of Universal Monster. Movies right the very late twenties very early thirties because the first movie on my list is King Kong. So I have bypassed Dracula Frankenstein you know bride of Frankenstein Which are all these enduring literary properties that have been made and remade for a long time and I think the thing about King Kong. It just feels like the primal scene for me of monster as spectacle because he's not human sized right. He's not an actor costume he's not You know someone doing an accent or wearing makeup. He's a special effects creation and the thing about the original King Kong. Every time I watch it is. It is just so spectacular visually. In an analog era. You know the the integration of those stop motion special effects into old sets and the exaggerated camera angles on the actors and just the the surrealism of it. I've read that. The actual surrealists the the practicing artists within that within that movement re huge fans of King Kong for one thing. 'cause monster just keeps changing size. You know it's inconsistent it's inconsistent but it's also just stunning because from scene to scene you know when he's just represented by giant hander giants foot or the close ups on the is and then you can also still cut backing these establishing shots and seeing him in these different environments and. I think it's the way also that it goes from this primal island to this urban city. The monster in his home context. And then sort of you know thrashing around in the middle of maternity causing chaos. It's just like the deepest the deepest core horror fantasy. You know that that that I can think of I. I just think it's absolutely astonishing and I never tire of watching it. It's funny I think a lot of the monsters on our list Get repeated and reused and re contextualize over and over again the thing with King Kong is is the actual character of King Kong comes up over and over and over and over again. We're getting another King Kong movie this year. And for whatever reason I would say between King Kong and Godzilla. Those are really the only two significant monsters that we never tire of somehow. That don't don't expire. You know I think that the idea behind what King Kong represents and there's obviously been an extraordinary amount of both academic critical just fun writing about What happens when colonialists enter a less developed world and attempt to steal things from it But in addition to that it is this grand spectacle and we talk a lot on the show about is. It doesn't move. You have a reason to be seen in a movie theater. Then I feel like the original King. Kong is is one of the landmark achievements and you have to see this on a giant screen. There's nowhere else for to be seen. We'll for sure. I maybe just in terms of bridging King Kong with those other brand name monsters of the period he in genders the same kind of complex sympathy. That you have with Boris. Karloff Frankenstein. Right I mean you even have a rhyme in those two movies wherein Frankenstein. He picks the little girl up by the river without doing what he's doing. And you know drowns her accidentally and certainly king kongs intentions towards Aren't violent. They're they're in his sort of chivalrous or desirous or somewhere in between there. I think the reason he endures an even the point that God's Zilla as a character eventually got bent in King kongs direction because the original godzillas dot anthropomorphized sympathetic at all. And then over the years. And they made Godzilla more like King Kong. I think being inside that sort of like destructive force but you're also misunderstood and you're more a victim of circumstance than anything else that's a really appealing escapist fantasy for filmgoers even thinking the original King Kong as terrifying as it is and as brutal as the violences like a people have never seen it. He smush is people into Goo on screen. You know You're still with him and I think that that's a really great monster. Movie needs on some kinds of great monster movies that you need that possible level of identification or sympathy. So it's not just purely a nightmare. I think the original King Kong does that just just amazingly well. So you're next pick actually doesn't do the former thing that you were just describing which is there's no crushing there's no Gu. There's no absolute violence of a kind in your next week. What's your next movie? The next movie I have is is cap. People which is part of a cycle of really low key atmospheric horror movies produced in the mostly in the nineteen forties. Bhai guy named Val Luton and I would say that if you get a chance to see Ken. Jones documentary thou loot man in the shadows. I think it's the best documentary I've ever seen about a filmmaker at particularly about how Luton changed horror movies by using the lack of a budget. And the lack of franchise -able characters. You Know He. He didn't have the roster that universal was working with all these all star. You know horror icons so he made it less more. It's the it's the the the the cinema of of of suggestion and scary around the edges. But it's also movie about people transforming into cats I. It's a booby that plays the the ambiguity of is this or isn't this real up. You know for for a long time but it really does give over to the idea that the main character the heroin does when stimulated or afraid you know actually transform into A cat due to this this this Eastern European mysticism and it's also a movie. I'm sure they'll come later. That gets remade in the eighties and completely liberalised because instead of just talking with someone turning into a cat or remembering someone turning into a cat you actually see it on screen with with special effects and it's It's less effective to me. Do you do you like the Paul schrader version that you're describing the eighties version. I like the Paul schrader version. Because it's wild acid trippy. Paul schrader horror movie. And it's it's glory and it's actually not as full-on like latex hydraulic special effects. His other movies from the period. But I I love the original are you are you. Are you fond of the delude films directed by Jacques Turner? Who did a bunch of the other ones is it a? Is it a a a source of Phantom for you it is? I saw cat people and the Leopard men in a couple of them many many years ago and then actually over Halloween this year my wife and I were looking and you know as I get older Halloween. Getting more and more difficult to program. If we're not gonNA rewatch something. But we watched a couple movies. We watched The criterion collection had the ghost ship which I had never seen which I thought had. It has a very similar approach to kind of What's happening in the shadows? Which is most of his films are using that strategy of not showing the thing and then I watched by myself. The body snatcher and both of them. I thought were pretty great. I mean I this is also a case where I I. I probably saw Kent Jones's documentary before seeing any of the films and while that was a great thing for my film education it also kind of warped perception of the movie because I was seeing it as a kind of intellectual exercise in a way where I understood technique as opposed to some of these other movies that we're GonNa talk about here where I just happened to be nine years old when I saw it in a completely reorganized my brain chemistry in a way but I do like his movies. And especially this one that you've chosen well and then also just the last thing to say but it may be that because it's not special effects and spectacle it anticipates where horror movies would go in the sixties with the idea of the monster within right. I mean here. It's not a an invading apor vampire. It's the idea of a woman who's subconscious and her inner life motivates this transformations client about the link between monstrous and desire and monstrous and repression. Which is why it tends to be. You Know Pretty Beloved Academically but I mean by the sixties. Neither US talk about these movies. But you start having the idea of the human monster in movies like psycho or whatever else and you can kind of trace aligned from the way cat. People stages horror towards that stuff. I think I think that's right. And I think it's probably a capitals nifty double feature with the peg for this film the invisible man because that movie is also as much about.