Tag Archive: reviews


When last we left the baron at the end of The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), he was headed for the guillotine in Switzerland. As The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958) opens, he’s still on his way, so it’s a pretty direct sequel. More or less. Let’s talk continuity, shall we? Let’s do.

Curse opened with some text stating that the story took place “more than a hundred years ago.” So we can do the math: 1957-100=1857. But Revenge’s opening text tells us the baron was condemned to death in 1860. So . . . that’s in the ballpark, though it seems like it should be 1857 at the latest. But that’s not the pickiest nit to pick here. There’s a whole lot of retconning going on.

revengeRevenge’s intro also explains that the doctor was “condemned to death for the brutal murders committed by the monster he had created” and “the whole continent” was relieved at the end of “his life of infamy.” But that’s not at all what happened in Curse! Frankenstein and his assistant Krempe worked in obscurity for years, and only the two of them really knew of the Creature. Frankenstein himself was considered guilty for the murder of his maid by his own hands, because no one believed him that a Creature had existed.

Furthermore, only the maid was mentioned, a single murder. Although Curse did imply that the Creature killed a blind man and the man’s grandson, whatever the Creature did with them wasn’t shown on screen . . . and they were never mentioned again. So, at worst, the story could have spread of a baron who killed his maid and then tried to get off by claiming he’d made a monster who’d done the deed. Not exactly the kind of event which would make a whole continent breathe a sigh of relief if you ask me. Unless it’s a small continent populated entirely by maids who work for barons.

But I digress. Because the big retcon is still to come. Although at the end of Curse the pompous baron was reduced to a blithering mess begging for his life, we find out in Revenge that that was all an act, because Frankenstein—even though unable to convince the authorities of his miraculous surgical skills—had convinced one of his jailers, Karl. Karl suffered from various physical deformities, and in turn for the doctor’s promise of getting him a new body, Karl colluded with the executioner to take the head of the priest attending the execution in the baron’s stead (it’s unclear why no one seems to have noticed a priest went missing at an execution). Now on to more spoilers.

Flash forward three years. Dr. Victor Frankenstein has moved to Carlsbruck, Germany, and taken up practice as Dr. Victor Stein. In a move far more clever than his transparent pseudonym, he works at a hospital for the poor, giving him a source for all the body parts he needs. The dashing doctor also attracts a large number of women to his regular practice, drawing the ire of their former doctors. When they confront him, one of the locals, Dr. Hans Kleve, recognizes him. Since, according to this film, everyone knows about Frankenstein and the Creature, Kleve wants to learn all Frankenstein can teach him and signs on as the baron’s assistant.

Together they put the finishing touches on Karl’s new body; unlike the hideous reanimated corpse of the first film, the doctor has outdone himself, building a tall, handsome vessel for Karl. The brain transplant is a success, but Karl isn’t patient enough to remain in bed as long as the doctors recommend. He tries out his new body too soon, unsettles his brain, and goes wonky in the melon. Unpleasantness occurs, and Karl spills the beans on Frankenstein’s identity. When Frankenstein’s poor patients find out, they give him a serious beat down. Kleve arrives while he still lives, but his body is too damaged. Kleve harvests his brain just before the authorities arrive, and he tells them he tried to save the doctor but was too late. They are convinced of Frankenstein’s death, having seen the body with their own eyes. Luckily, however, Frankenstein has also crafted a duplicate body for himself; Kleve finishes the transplant after the authorities have left.

Flash forward to London and the practice of one Dr. Franck; yes, the evil doctor hasn’t learned anything about convincing pseudonyms, but this time he wears a moustache and a monocle, so I’m sure no one will ever recognize him. The credits roll as the audience imagines what sort of high jinks the doctor is going to get up to now.

Revenge works quite well as a sequel—even though the retconning requires the audience to put some extra effort into the suspension of disbelief—by avoiding being just another story about the doctor reanimating a creature. The twist of making a healthy body as a cozy new home for a living brain is a nice twist. But there’s no mistaking the doctor for a humanitarian; when he sees an arm he wants on one of his poor patients, he lies to the man about needing to amputate. Another great angle is the sympathetic character of Karl—at least if you try to overlook that he killed a priest. Michael Gwynn’s performance as Karl in his new body is touching. He struggles to adjust, but as things go wrong, he starts carrying his body like his previous, deformed one, and his descent into madness is sad and disturbing. The unreserved ruthlessness of Frankenstein along with various body parts sloshing around in jars and tanks help continue the enjoyably twisted tone of the original. Three decades later, films like, say, Re-Animator (1985), owe a debt to these Hammer Films although, of course, with the gore and depravity turned up to 11.

One could even make the argument that Revenge is a better film than Curse. While Curse, enjoyable as it is, might be characterized as a so-so adaptation of Shelley, once past the original story the Hammer peeps were freed to do whatever they wanted, and they took the story in an interesting direction. It would have been nice to follow the further adventures of Franck and Kleve in London, but, as we shall see next time, the series was about to take a detour in 1964’s The Evil of Frankenstein.

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It’s time for me to rewatch—actually, in most cases, watch for the first time—the series of Frankenstein movies produced by Hammer Films from the late fifties through the mid-seventies. There are six films starring Peter Cushing as Baron Victor Frankenstein:

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)

The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)

Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)

The first two tie together more or less, then the third is basically a reboot with the continuity picking up again after that, after a fashion. I’ll address continuity or lack thereof in the individual posts. I’ll be watching the Cushing films in order, then 1970’s definitely out-of-continuity The Horror of Frankenstein, with Ralph Bates stepping in as Frankenstein. And I’ll be writing snarky spoiler-filled comments, so let’s get to it.

curseoffrankenstein_us30x40First up, The Curse of Frankenstein, in which Christopher Lee (Dracula to Cushing’s Van Helsing in the Hammer Dracula series) plays the unfortunate creature stitched together by Frankenstein and his increasingly reluctant tutor/assistant, Paul Krempe. Yes, you read that right, Krempe starts as a tutor (hired by the young Frankenstein himself !) and then just stays with the baron until he becomes his worried sidekick.

But let’s back up to young Frankenstein, so to speak. We meet him early in the film after his mother dies, and we immediately see that, for the most part, the teenage baron (his father died years earlier) is a self-centered, unlikeable jerk weasel. He doesn’t grow out of it.

The adult Victor brings his cousin Elizabeth to his estate to become his bride, apparently only for appearances, because he exhibits no real affection for her and spends very little time with her, as that would cut into his experiments as well as the time he needs for boinking the maid.

As Frankenstein ruthlessly gathers the necessary parts for his Creature, Krempe increasingly spends all his time 1) telling Frankenstein to stop, without doing much of anything to actually stop him, and B) telling Elizabeth she should leave, without telling her why. For her part, Elizabeth is always cutting Frankenstein slack, even though he continues to treat her abominably (that final word choice may have been influenced by Peter Cushing having been in the lesser-known Hammer Film The Abominable Snowman [1957]).

The maid has more spine than Krempe and Elizabeth put together, threatening to expose Frankenstein for all his shenanigans (including knocking her up), and then she actively looks for evidence in the laboratory. Unfortunately for her, this allows Frankenstein to lock her in a room with the Creature. Problem solved for the Baron . . . or so it seems.

But, wait, the Creature! Lee doesn’t appear until fifty minutes into the eighty-three minute film—what with earlier experiments and then finding the necessary parts and sticking them together and all—and once he’s finally unwrapped, he has frightfully little to do. As in the Boris Karloff version of the story (and unlike the original novel) Frankenstein’s creation doesn’t speak, and after various mishaps reduce his brain to chip dip, he’s little more than a half-trainable animal that, one imagines, would make a lot of messes on the carpet if he survived long enough for Frankenstein to try to housebreak.

But high jinks ensue, and the Creature ends up dead and dissolved in acid, which pins the maid’s murder—justly so—on Frankenstein. Krempe has apparently gotten up the courage to lie to the police so that Frankenstein is the only person claiming there was a reanimated monster at his estate. As the movie ends, the baron is being led to the guillotine and the audience has no reason to feel sorry for him as he begs for his life.

All that said, you may think I dislike the movie, but, no, I’m quite fond of it. Although the baron is twisted and evil and the other main characters generally simpering and ineffectual, there is something about the unreserved glee the film takes in its Grand Guignol plot that still entertains. Although tame by today’s standards, the amount of  blood and body parts—in vivid color, no less!—were shocking in its day, and the performance of Peter Cushing still infuses much of the film with a disturbing creepiness. And one could argue that the aristrocratic baron prefigures characters like, say, Patrick Bateman of American Psycho: rich, privileged, self-involved, and devoid of genuine human feelings.

It’s a solid and gruesome start to the series. Next time, The Revenge of Frankenstein.

[Years ago I watched a bunch of Hammer’s Dracula movies and blogged some thoughts on them. You can find the first post here on my old Live Journal site, then just click the “hammer time” tag at the bottom to find the rest; read from the bottom up.]

[Okay, here’s the deal with the title of this post. I’d like to do Weird Mofo Cinema as a podcast or vlog, but I don’t have the time right now to make that happen, so it’s debuting as an occasional post on my regular blog. On with the show, but be warned: I will spoil decades-old movie plots without hesitation.] 

ImageYou know something weird is going down when the opening credits of Beware! The Blob (1972), ostensibly a horror movie, play over footage of a kitten frolicking in a field. Come to think of it, though, it’s comparable to the light-hearted (and ill-fitting) opening song of the original film, The Blob (1958). But the original overcame its theme song and was an effectively creepy and scary movie, plus a solid introduction for Steve McQueen in his first leading role. By the time the belated sequel’s opening credits finish, however, naming the director as one Larry Hagman—yes, Larry “J.R.” Hagman—the viewer can’t help but wonder just WTF is going on.

Beware! The Blob quickly makes clear that it’s meant to be a comedy. Interspersed, of course, with people being devoured by the giant quivering Blob that fell to Earth in a meteorite in 1958. The end of the original saw the cold-sensitive Blob parachuted into the Arctic; McQueen’s character commented we would be safe as long as the Arctic stays cold (a line which plays differently in the twenty-first century of shrinking Arctic ice). The sequel is set in motion when a pipeline worker by the name of Chester comes home from the Arctic with a small chunk of a mysterious frozen thing dug up during construction. 

While Chester camps out in a tent set up in his living room for no apparent reason, his wife takes the sample out of their freezer and it’s forgotten on the counter. Soon the Blob oozes out of the container and eats the kitten. Aahhh, you see, there was a reason for the title sequence, to make sure you were in love with the cute kitten before it was gobbled up by the slimy ooze. 

Chester falls victim to the Blob after his wife, and while he watches The Blob on TV. Umm, what the meta-fuck is up with that? But things are just starting to get weird, in a six-degrees-of-separation kind of way. Even while he’s still being absorbed, he’s found by Lisa, played by Gwynne Gilford, who happens to be the mother of Chris Pine—Captain Kirk in the J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot movies. Lisa’s boyfriend, Bobby, is played by Robert Walker Jr., who was Charlie in the original Star Trek series episode “Charlie X.” They eventually tell Lisa’s story to the town sheriff, played by Richard Webb, who was Finney in the original Star Trek series episode “Court Martial.” Whoa. Mind. Blown. 

Familiar faces fill this movie, because Larry Hagman was already well-known, having starred in five seasons of I Dream of Jeannie. According to the producer of both films, Jack H. Harris, in Return of the B Science Fiction and Horror Heroes by Tom Weaver, Hagman said “everybody wanted to be ‘blobbed’ ” and he could “put together a cast for the [movie] but he would like to direct it.” The cast consisted of many hard-working actors who were already recognizable to moviegoers in 1972 and others who are certainly familiar to audiences now. 

In the apparently improvised comedic vignettes that unfold between Blob attacks, all sorts of people turn up. Look, there’s Burgess Meredith playing a drunken hippie-hating hobo. Yes, I just said that. One of the other hobos is an all but unrecognizable Hagman in a full beard. He’s soon eaten by the Blob. Look, there’s future-Shirley Cindy Williams. There’s Carol Lynley, who appeared in The Poseidon Adventure and Beware! The Blob in the same year. There’s Danny Goldman, the med student whose questions vex Gene Wilder’s Doctor Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein. There’s Dick Van Patten playing a scout master. There’s old-school comedian Shelley Berman (who would eventually play Larry David’s father on Curb Your Enthusiam) playing a hair stylist. 

The movie doesn’t succeed at blending the genres like, say, An American Werewolf in London did (for the most part). Instead, the horror distracts from the comedy and vice versa, so in the end it’s not that funny or that scary, a rather pointless retread that skimped on the effects budget and let its improvising actors go on far too long. Even producer Harris admitted to Tom Weaver that it didn’t work as a sequel, as “it was too funny and not scary enough.” 

Really the most effective Blob scene plays out between the Blob and the kitten. The film is like several different stories pasted together with the Blob. We won’t talk about the wrestler in the tub wearing a fez. Yes, I just said that. If you love The Blob, you can take a pass on this, unless you enjoy watching weird mofo cinema that makes you say WTF…then, by all means, spin this one up.

I recently watched the documentary Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey about the life of Leon Theremin, pioneer of electronic music. If you don’t recognize the name, I guarantee you’d recognize the sound of his most famous invention, the theremin, a musical instrument which is played without touching it.

Its unearthly tones have been used in music as varied as the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” and the soundtracks of Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound and Robert Wise’s The Day the Earth Stood Still.

The documentary earned rave reviews, including “two thumbs up” from Sisko & Ebert as well as Best Docuentary at the 1994 Sundance film festival. I had long looked forward to seeing it due to my interest in Theremin and the movie’s reputation.

I was, however, disappointed to find the documentary uneven and unclear. Without narration, it moves haphazardly through Theremin’s life, making a jumble of his complicated history. Viewers are often left to piece together the disparate events on their own.

Some of the subjects interviewed seem to have been given little direction or editing; Brian Wilson, tapped to discuss his use of the theremin in the iconic “Good Vibrations,” is allowed to ramble on with his trademark incoherency far longer than is useful.

Theremin arrived in the Unites States in 1927. The film makes extensive use of Clara Rockmore, arguably the greatest theremin player ever, but even with her lengthy interviews much is unclear. I don’t recall Theremin’s first wife being mentioned in the film. Theremin proposed to Rockmore (she said no), but when? When did he divorce his first wife? He married his second wife sometime in the mid-1930s, but it’s unclear.

In 1938 Theremin disappeared back to Russia under mysterious circumstances, and his wife, friends, and associates could not find out what had happened. His life in the hands of the Soviets from that time forward has some astonishing twists and turns that are carelessly related. There were times I almost wanted to shout questions at the screen to try to get an understanding of when things were happening.

Although rumored to have been executed, he was eventually discovered to be alive by Rockmore and her husband, but it’s unclear when. I’ll not list any further spoilers, but suffice to say it sometimes comes across that the filmmaker didn’t do research to illuminate any details beyond what his interview subjects told him. This is complicated by the elderly Theremin’s shaky and hard-to-follow English.

All that said, I would still recommend people interested in the subject to see the documentary. The period footage and the new interview footage are fascinating even when you can’t fit together the jumbled jigsaw puzzle of his tragic life.

Last week’s episode of Enemy Lines delved into The Thing (2011), the prolonged deleted scene that is the prequel to The Thing (1982). Now, spoiler alert, I’m going to spoil Prometheus. I mean really spoil it, just get up in its grille and spoil the shit out of it.

Before the release of Prometheus, Ridley Scott became annoyingly coy about whether or not he was making a prequel to Alien. Now that I’ve seen it, I understand. Prometheus glances off Alien, taking place in the same universe as the 1979 film, but it’s a different story. The problem is that it’s a story that makes no sense and is largely driven by characters with random motivations doing unbelievably stupid things.

The film opens with a pale alien/god stripping down to show us how ripped he is before consuming something that causes him to disintegrate on a genetic level. His remains mix into a scenic waterfall to make a genetic soup that will eventually simmer into humans. This makes it immediately clear to the audience that this is going to be a WTF(BILC) movie: What the fuck? (But it looks cool!)

Apparently alien-gods that are kick-ass bodybuilders and travel the galaxy seeding planets with life don’t think of just adding their genetic disintegration snack to a simple blood sample, but instead prefer a suicide approach. WTF(BILC)

Next we get some human Scientists. I cap it because that seems to be how they feel about themselves: Back off, man, we’re Scientists. They discover a star chart in various ancient artworks across multiple civilizations, which they think is an invitation. Somehow, a few dots scratched in stone is accurate enough that they’re able to find the exact match dozens of light years away. WTF(BILC)

So they travel there and high jinks ensue. I’m not going to list all the WTF(BILC) moments, because the sheer volume could break the internet. And some of the WTF stuff doesn’t even look that cool, like when they keep taking their helmets off in an alien environment which, although it has breathable air, could still be full of who knows what sort of bizarre alien shit. Which, of course, it is. But why would they think of that? They’re just a bunch of Scientists.

Let’s just do a quick sampler list of further WTFs:

1. Two guys freak out and want to go back to the ship when the team finds some dead aliens. Even though they’ve mapped the site, and one of the freaked-out guys was in charge of the mapping tech, the two get lost.

2. When the rest of the team evacuates the site, they think the other guys must have already gone back to the ship even though all the ground vehicles are still there.

3. When the guys that got left behind find a creepy alien worm/snake, one of them—and remember, they were scared of DEAD aliens—talks to it like it’s a puppy and tries to touch it. Then things get squishy.

4. When one of the Scientists ends up pregnant with an alien squid baby, the crew is going to put her in suspended animation until they get back to Earth. Instead, she beats up a couple people so she can escape and perform a C-section on herself (see next WTF) . . . and then everyone acts like it never happened. No one says, “You hit me in the head when I was trying to save you. That shit’s messed up.” Or “Dude, what’s with the line of sutures on your stomach?” Or “So, boy? Girl? Other? Where are you registered?”

5. Scientist with alien squid baby ducks into a robotic med unit so she can take care of business, but the unit isn’t programmed for C-sections because it’s set up to treat males only. But the unit is the personal property of Charlize Theron’s character, whose skin-tight suits make it clear that she is in fact a woman. This raises two possibilities: a) that she is secretly a man, but that’s a pretty big WTF, even for this movie, or 2) that she is secretly an android (a distinct possibility that is hinted at in a couple other scenes) and she only has this as a way to say, “See, I’m a person, I need a robotic med unit in case something happens to me that would hurt a human but not an android, because I’m a person not an android. Why are we talking about androids?” Either way, however, it’s pointless, because she gets killed (see next WTF) and the whole thing was just awkwardly injected into the story (like an alien squid baby) to provide a way to extract an alien squid baby.

6. Big alien spaceship crashes and is rolling over toward C-section and Secret Android/Man. They run in the direction it’s falling, like dumb animals on the road running in the direction the car behind them is driving. Finally C-section runs perpendicular to the ship and gets to watch Secret Android/Man get crushed because she never thinks to turn left or right. But then when the ship stops rolling and tips over, C-section goes back to moving in the direction it’s falling and it lands on top of her, but she lucks out and there’s enough of a space beneath it that she survives.

7. Along the way it’s revealed that the alien/god bodybuilders had second thoughts about humans and were at this site preparing deadly alien creatures to bring back to Earth to exterminate us. Which then leaves them with no motivation at all to have ever revealed the location of their weapons lab to early civilizations which ended up in cave paintings and set this whole story in motion in the first place.

8. Turns out the whole mission was actually underwritten by a terminally old guy hoping the alien/god bodybuilders would cure him. Instead of being played by someone old, he’s played by a guy in obvious old-age makeup, I assume to trick the audience into expecting he will be regenerated at some point so that it’s more of a surprise when he gets offed by the roid-raging alien/god they wake from suspended animation. Not cool.

9. The alien/god bodybuilder doesn’t die at the controls of his ship like you expect to match the scene in the derelict ship in Alien, so this isn’t even the same ship or batch of aliens as in that film, making the link to Alien so tangential that it comes across as a shameless marketing ploy to package an independent story as being related to a beloved film classic.

Well. I’ve already gone on far longer than I meant to, and I only scratched the surface of all the nonsensical events that drive this film. But it sure looks cool.

I just got around to watching The Thing (2011) and Prometheus, prequels to the fan-favorite science fiction films The Thing (1982) and Alien. Yes, the prequel to The Thing is called The Thing. More on that later. But first . . . spoiler alert. You know the drill.

Presumably one makes a prequel to answer questions the viewers had after seeing the original film. Like after The Thing (1982), when viewers wondered what exactly happened at the Norwegian Antarctic camp which first found the shapeshifting alien and dug it up from the ice. Or when otherwise-satisfied viewers left the theater after Alien and said, “But who made humans?” Oh, wait, no one asked that after Alien. Ever.

First up, The Thing (2011). The short answer to “What happened at the Norwegian camp?” is “The exact same freakin’ thing as at the American camp except with a female lead.” In some ways this is a remake, as it hits almost every plot point of the original, except with Norwegian accents and occasional subtitles. Some of the dialogue is almost verbatim. It’s a preremakequel.

They tried to open it up a bit more by going inside the alien ship, but it’s not much of a diversion, since we already know they kept the alien from escaping, since the ship was still there in the ice in the original film. Which is, of course, the challenge of making such a direct prequel . . . the audience already knows the ending.

Nevertheless, it’s a surprisingly effective film despite the fact that it’s the same plot and is completely unnecessary. As we get to the final scenes, they are, inevitably, the opening scenes of the 1982 movie. By giving it the same name (see, I told you I would get back to this), the filmmakers seem to be asking us to accept that it’s just one big movie. The problem is that the reason why the Norwegian camp scenes in the 1982 film were so effective was precisely because we didn’t know what had happened there. The prequel deflates that by spelling it all out. No one who hasn’t watch The Thing (1982) should watch the prequel first, because it’s just one long spoiler.

There is some cleverness to how the producers of the prequel nestled it into the original. I’ll admit that when the prequel first moves into the room with the alien in the ice block, which we saw in the original film after all the destruction, it’s kinda cool. Not everything fits, however; when Mac visits the ship in the ice in the 1982 film, they don’t see the two snowcats that should be there, one with a charred alien corpse, the other with a frozen dead woman. In the end, however, the entire prequel feels like a really long deleted scene from the original. And like most deleted scenes, even when they’re fun to watch, you’re not really missing anything by skipping over them.

Next week: Unnecessary Prequels, Part Two. (See what I did there? I’m doing a sequel about prequels.)

Deja Vu(lcan)

Last week I commented on my growing frustration that a number of Trek fans who have enjoyed the new film are dismissing those fans who didn’t enjoy the new film as just suffering from original-series sour grapes. I’ve now realized this is deja vu all over again.

While going through notes on possible blog posts, I rediscovered my unfinished review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I never finished writing the review because my daughter and I talked about the film in our podcast, Generations Geek (Episode 4: The Day the Geek Stood Still). There in the review was a rant about a similar topic, but with Star Trek scratched out and Middle-earth written in. So, begin Hobbit rant:

I need to comment on an article with a title that really burned my lembas: “Dislike Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit? Then You Don’t Know Tolkien.” Granted, the article is a little more focused than the headline would lead you to believe, replying to specific negative comments from professional critics, but it still rubs me the wrong way.

I first read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in high school and although I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve reread them, I’d guess well over a dozen times (including once aloud to my then baby daughter). I’ve also read, among other things, The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, The Children of Hurin, and the twelve-volume The History of Middle Earth. I’m very excited that the fiftieth anniversary edition of The Lord of the Rings finally says “They can go ten miles north to Brandywine Bridge” instead of “twenty miles.” (Those of you who know what I’m talking about KNOW what I’m talking about. Am I right?)

I own the animated The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but not the animated The Return of the King because it’s a train wreck (people who think Bakshi’s LOTR film is bad really need to check out this “kid-friendly” version of the last book by the same people who made the lovely cartoon Hobbit: it includes orcs singing the song “Where There’s a Whip There’s a Way,” which is simultaneously the worst Middle-earth song ever and the best S&M song ever). I own Jackson’s theatrical and expanded versions of his Lord of the Rings movies.

All of that background is to say, ZOMG, if I wasn’t thrilled with the first Hobbit movie, don’t presume that means I don’t know my frakkin’ Tolkien. I’m not going to tell people they shouldn’t like the film simply because of my own lukewarm response, so do me the courtesy of not dictating that I should like it by questioning my Tolkienitude if I don’t.

End Hobbit rant. So, people, please: if you enjoy a film, that’s great, you got your money’s worth. Tell me why you love the movie, I’d like to hear your opinion. But if I don’t like the film, don’t undercut my point of view by implying I just don’t understand or I’m not open to new interpretations. Listen to what I’m saying about the movie. The film you love may not be perfect, but I’m not saying you shouldn’t still enjoy it. As filmgoers, we weight the various elements of a movie in different ways, so our scales will balance out differently. One person’s minor flaw is another person’s final straw.

Zombies! A Comic Book Review

The 2011 ten-part crossover Infestation from IDW Publishing is basically a zombie story. I loves the zombies, as The Walking Dead knows, but I generally find crossovers to be a forced conceit. Nevertheless, I’m often drawn in by their epic geekiness, and what drew me into this one was my long-standing love of Star Trek.

IDW’s original series CVO (Covert Vampire Operations) serves as the wraparound, bookending two-issue entries from four disparate franchises: Transformers, Star Trek, G.I. Joe, and Ghostbusters. Fortunately, they didn’t just grind all these different meats into one loaf (Eew!), and end up with the Ghostbusters running through the corridors of the Enterprise. Instead, the magic/sci-fi nature of the CVO universe made a good launching pad for the creation of a zombie/vampire/extradimensional Overmind portal thingie, which sends alternate versions of the bad guys into the multiverse, dealing with each franchise on its own terms.

First up was Transformers. I gotta admit right off that I never “got” Transformers. They’re trucks, they’re robots, they carry operatic grudges . . . it just doesn’t grab me. So reading about zombified robots (uhh . . . what now?) fighting in Las Vegas isn’t my cuppa. I read it, but it just confirmed that I don’t get it. Perhaps it was nice and shiny for robot fans.

Next up was Trek. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and a few security guards take a shuttlecraft to the Calibus colony only to discover it’s infested with zombies. The blend of horror elements and Trek worked fairly well. They continued the thread started in Transformers that the infection is a cybernetic/human hybrid, and, fortunately for our heroes, they meet some uninfected robots who can assist them. Unfortunately, these robots look a little like oversized Mac SE/30s with arms and legs, a choice that perhaps was supposed to be amusing, but is just silly and disruptive to the serious tone of the zombie story. The retro cover options featuring Original Series uniforms were the coolest, but the story itself is set following Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Moving on to G.I. Joe: I’m old enough that the G.I. Joes I had were basically regular, well, Joes, not superagents, and it was before the franchise developed its archenemies in Cobra, so I’m a little in the dark on the backstory here, but it was a pretty good tale, perhaps the best of the franchise stories. And it was set in an underwater lab that added another layer of excitement as cybernetic zombies began taking over the place. A captured Joe ends up having to fight with the Cobra agents against the common enemy; it’s an old bit, but was used effectively.

Up next was Ghostbusters. The writing veered between nailing the beloved characters from the movies (well . . . at least the first movie) and trying too hard to nail the beloved characters from the movies. When they brought back the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, it really felt like forcing together a bunch of references instead of writing a fresh story. Which is too bad, because zombies are a great fit in the supernatural Ghostbuster universe.

The second CVO title brought it all home, literally. After the diversions across the multiverse, the evil force of the zombie Overmind is back where the whole thing started, with the soldiers of Covert Vampire Operations. This comic has some interesting stuff going on, with its blend of science and magic, and it seems to have a fairly arcane backstory. The artwork is particularly good and creepy. The story gets wrapped up while introducing some important changes to the CVO storyline.

If I rated the pairs of comics in order from the best to my least favorite, I think I would say CVO, G.I. Joe, Star Trek, Transformers, Ghostbusters. As a miniseries . . . I don’t know. The crossover is forced, and you could drop out any of the franchises without losing anything from the overall story. 

Meanwhile, Infestation 2 is in the works, this time involving CVO, Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dungeons & Dragons, Groom Lake and Bat Boy (yeah, that’s what I said), G.I. Joe, and 30 Days of Night. Instead of zombies, it has Lovecraftian monsters, and apparently there will be actual crossover of characters. I think I’d rather just read a Lovecraft comic.