You wouldn’t think Christopher lee as Mr. Hyde could be dull, but I, MONSTER (1973) is proof that faithful adaptations aren’t always a good thing, After a slow opening establishing Dr. Marlowe (Christopher Lee) as a Freudian (so Hands of the Ripper would be an obvious double-bill) whose new drug unleashes the human id, Amicus’ take on Jekyll and Hyde follows the source novel faithfully, and thereby becomes unbearably dull. The opening, for example, in which Utterson (Peter Cushing) hears about one of Hyde’s brutal acts (stepping on a child that fell in front of him), is told at second hand, which follows the book but makes it visually boring (and I’ve always thought it a great scene), and Marlowe’s “Blake” alter-ego doesn’t do anything terribly evil at least on screen. Shows why the movies usually use add women into the mix (a fiancee for Jekyll and a mistress for Hyde)—and why does a movie that uses most of the characters from the novel give Jekyll and Hyde new names? “Blake has fled to Europe.”
BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) is the fine follow-up to Frankenstein in which the Creature’s desperate efforts to escape the torch-wielding mobs lead him first to a kindly hermit (who teaches him to enjoy wine and a good cigar) and then to Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger) who plans to combine his research with Frankenstein’s (Colin Clive) to create the title monster and breed a race of superhumans (the audio commentary states that contrary to myth, there was never a plan to have Frankenstein’s bride killed to become the Bride of Frankenstein—though the film historian speaking thinks it would have been a great idea). Some of the humor doesn’t work so well for me (like the Creature taking up smoking) and there’s an awful lot of the Creature just wandering over the countryside. On the other hand, Karloff’s performance (and it’s a sign of his standing that he’s identified in the credits just as “Karloff,” no first name) is brilliant, conveying the monster’s desperate longing for a friend, and then a bride—while I don’t entirely credit Stan Lee’s claim to base the Hulk on the Creature, Karloff’s loneliness here could be a model for the bronze-age treatment of the Hulk as a tormented loner. “It’s the devil that prompts you—there is only death in this, not life!”
I was pleasantly surprised to find ANNIE HALL (1977) is as good as I remembered it, as Woody Allen gets Diane Keaton, loses Diane Keaton, gets Diana Keaton back and loses her for good (making this the first film where he doesn’t end up with the girl). Extremely funny while also very serious in handling the relationship (the ending in which Allen rewrites the romance in fiction to end up with Keaton seemed heartbreakingly sad when I first saw it), with lots of breaking the fourth wall and yet another foreshadowing of Allen’s Bergmanesque phase (they’re attending a Bergman movie at one pont). The cast includes Tony Roberts, Colleen Dewhurst, Christopher Walken, Shelly Duvall, Carol Kane, Janet Margolin and a cameo by some guy named Jeff Goldblum (“I forgot my mantra.”). Well worth rewatching. “Sex with you is really a Kafkaesque experience—I mean that as a compliment.”
BLACK BUTLER is an anime series set in Victorian England where a grieving orphaned noble makes a pact with Hell that nets him Sebastian, the world’s most perfect butler and a superhuman warrior who will help Sebastian hunt down his parents’ murderer, while investigating crimes for Queen Victoria on the side. The first season of this is a complete arc (the second season reboots the characters in a present-day setting), stylishly entertaining. “I’m just one Hell of a butler.