Tag Archives: Howard Vernon

You Say Hund & I Say Hound

Movie night!

I guess it’s hubris…or karma…or just a mess of “what goes around…”

I’ve written before about my delight in the imaginary languages one finds in the movies. Tarzan’s “Kreegah!” and Michael Rennie’s “Klaatu narada dikto,” don’t terrify me, they thrill me.

Well…

…this has been my week to be challenged by unknown-to-me real languages in movies without the aid of either subtitles or English dubbing.

I used to be inordinately proud to be able to rattle off the first lines of José Marti’s Guantanamera, but to truly be “un hombre sincero,” I should confess that’s about the sum of my mastery of Spanish.

Yet I found myself caught in in the sluggish whirlwind of Jesus Franco’s lesser known masterpiece; Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein. Sluggish, because any film featuring Howard Vernon as your action-driving monster has a lot of inertia to overcome as soon as the opening credits have run. Whirlwind, because you can always add an ineffectual fistfight with a non-titular werewolf at the end of the flick to liven things up a bit, and director Franco, consummate artist of the box office, knows this and complies.

Still, it might have been helpful to understand what few words were left in the script between the grunts, growls, and howls of the monstrous troika propelling this miscarriage.

And then there’s German?

Sigh.

I can mumble a few syllables of Stille Nacht at a noisy Christmas party and I can spin a few wine terms like “trockenbeerenauslese,” but other than that, I’m schnitzel.

But I have been eagerly anticipating viewing the 1937 German film; Der Hund von Baskerville since it arrived in my latest box of goodies from Sinister Cinema. Imagine my initial dismay when it sported no dubbing, no subtitles.

But ya know…it didn’t matter.

I am an amateur Sherlockian. I have read and watched Sherlock Holmes stories for almost 60 years. I have seen so many film versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles, so many times… The best film version was written by a friend of mine. Hell, Janie and I even vacationed in a small cabin on the only moors in the US.

I know this tale.

The actors could bark their lines as quickly as they pleased and I corrected them even more quickly. I knew intimately what Sherlock’s rooms, and Baskerville Hall should be like. I knew the paths and the mists and the perilous bogs. This was terra familiar.

I delighted seeing Mrs. Hudson fussing over Watson’s experiments with tobacco ash. I despaired watching a ridiculous “hound” that might have been the inspiration for The Killer Shrews. I needed no explanation for Sir Henry’s imperious pique over his missing shoe.

I don’t know the German for “cognoscenti,” but I know it was me.

And I loved it.

Ach!

A Recipe for Something Amazing

Movie night!

A week that began with Hamilton and a Constitutional Convention of dancing patriots staggers to Howard Vernon madly operating (literally) in Castle of the Creeping Flesh (1968).

Putting aside any false equivalencies one might be tempted to offer of good and bad (or, for that matter, good and evil), there’s no denying both experiences are…special.

But for the sake of true absurdity, let’s save the hip-hoppin’ Hamilton founding fathers for the legions of fans (count me in) and spend a few moments with the mad doctor behind the portcullis.

Sometimes all the elements of shockingly bad film-making fall into place and something amazing happens;

  • Start with lousy dialogue made worse by clumsy dubbing and then spruced up dizzyingly with mad quotes from Hamlet and King Lear.
  • Add Howard Vernon delivering yet another execrable mad doctor performance (Acting Tip #1; Marty Feldman eyes do not enliven deadpan line deliveries – believe me on this…I know).
  • Stir in Byzantine plot contrivances that only exist to risably explain the mid-film introduction of medieval costumes in a film with automobiles.
  • Throw in a tedious sexy eating scene. Tedious. Sexy. Eating. Scene. How is such a thing even possible? Didn’t the director see Tom Jones?
  • Slip in a dash of explicit surgical harvesting of body parts for obscure recycling purposes.
  • Add a hint of a wax museum gallery from nowhere for no reason.
  • Also from nowhere and for no discernible reason, add a murderous bear.
  • Mix it all in soft-focus (artsy euphemism for “blurry”) flashbacks featuring way more bizarre sex in the straw than Goldfinger.
  • Grind in generous amounts of gratuitous gore and nudity at the drop of a bodice.
  • Add a gazillion pink candles (??).
  • And for the coup de grace; no ending…none…nada…zilch.

This and less constitutes Castle of the Creeping Flesh.

And what, pray tell, is the “something amazing” that happens?

Well, aficionados, this film is STILL not as bad as Manos, Hand of Fate.

Did I mention there’s a bear?