Universal Horrors Challenge – Personal History/Qualifications (Part Two)

So, by all accounts, I didn’t have a normal childhood, but I did have a happy one.  I was fortunate enough to have an immediate family that fostered my horror film hobby, and when the Universal Monsters Classics Collection came out on VHS in the early 1990s, it was like a revolution.  Finally, all in one place–or, at least, in the Saturday Matinees or Suncoasts in one of the many local malls–were (what I thought to be) every single horror film produced by Universal during their golden age.  Minus the silents, of course.  I don’t recall how I rationalized that, but know now of course that Universal doesn’t seem to offer much consideration to any of its properties that has fallen into the public domain.

At any rate, over three waves (and a fourth unofficial wave–a name-change to “Classic Horror Collection” or something like that), Universal opened new doors to me with regards to their horror catalog.  The acquired Paramount horrors that found themselves among the Universal releases (which, truth be told, often shared casts, crew members, directors, etc. with the Universal classics) helped me spread my wings a bit and search other studio horrors from the same time period (1930s and 1940s): Columbia, MGM, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox.  I hit the ground running and haven’t stopped since.

Over the years, I’ve gobbled up as much information as I could on the various players and characters related to these works.  Novels, script books, biographies–you name it.  In 2009 (though I don’t know why it took me quite that long), I tripped over the Classic Horror Film Board, a hub for film freaks and monster kids like me.  It’s insane how much a person can learn from the scholars at this place (who are often those writing the books on these films, or recording the various commentary tracks used on the commercially released DVDs)–right down to the technical aspects of a particular type of camera used for a handful of scenes in King Kong.  It’s a resource in and of itself, and during this challenge, I will be using it as much as possible.

There’s more to my background, but those are the broad strokes.  Likely Mike Podgor and I will do a podcast fleshing out some of the things I’ve talked about already (and some he’s likely to talk about on his own blog).

Okay, so I’ve put it off long enough.  What everyone wants to see is the list.  Keep in mind, I don’t have a final list available just yet–only a preliminary.  But I suppose I can share that with you folks…

…tomorrow.  Stay tuned!

Universal Horrors Challenge – Personal History/Qualifications (Part One)

So, I love movies.  They’re in my blood, in my DNA.  To paraphrase (badly) TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz, the flicker of the projector is like a heartbeat to me.  Movies are my life, to the extent that any hobby can be such.

I’m also a fan of horror.  Horror films, horror novels, horror comics.  I love the genre–especially the gothic aspect of the genre, the myth and folklore and supernatural elements to it.  It scratches an itch in my brain that other genres come close to scratching but never quite reach for whatever reason.  And if one is a fan of horror and a fan of movies, one cannot ignore Universal Studios.

During the first half of the last century, Universal Studios was a name synonymous with the horror genre of film production.  From Universal came some of the most classically recognizable names and images in monster pictures: Dracula (Bela Lugosi), Frankenstein’s Monster (Boris Karloff), the Phantom of the Opera (Lon Chaney Sr.), the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.), and a literal ton of others.  If you’ve ever heard someone use a psuedo-Hungarian accent when pretending to be a vampire (“I vahnt to sahck your blahd!“), you have Universal to thank for that.

Indeed, Universal’s time as the undisputed king of horror was a golden age, and, it can be argued, helped to prompt other studios to put forth their own offerings (King Kong and the Val Lewton horrors of the 1940s by RKO, MGM’s various takes on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Laird Cregar chillers from Fox).  To say the studio was historically significant is the understatement of the century (this one or the last), and without Universal’s foray into horror, we might not have the horror genre as it exists today (a potential double-edged sword, depending upon what you think of the state of horror today).

Now, I’m a what one in the community of horror film aficionados would consider a “third-generation monster kid” (I guess that makes me a monster grandkid).  I wasn’t around for the initial theatrical run of many or any of these films, and I wasn’t even around for the resurgence these films experienced on television in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. I didn’t come around in any substantial (or existential) way until the early 1980s–but, what I missed in theatrical releases and in television broadcasts, I made up for in VHS and BetaMax tapes.

And I was lucky enough to be born into a family of people who, from a ridiculously early age, fostered and encouraged my hobby.  One of my earliest memories, for instance, is of my grandmother watching the 1925 version of The Phantom of the Opera with me when I was, like, three or four years old–at which point she commented on how she herself saw the film in theaters back in the 1920s.  My mother soon followed by showing me the 1931 Dracula (though her own fascination fell to the slasher movies of the early 1980s), and my father followed that by showing me the 1931 Frankenstein (though his own fascination fell to the atomic age sci-fi horrors of the 1950s).  I loved them all.

Almost from birth, then, I was hooked on old Hollywood, and on Universal and horror specifically.  After my introduction to the horror film as a concept, I requested biographies written about the Chaneys (both Lons), Boris Karloff, and Bela Lugosi, among others, to be read to me in place of bedtime stories.  When I learned to read myself, I did so with a healthy mix of children’s books and several of the (then brand new) Random House monster movie books.  When I discovered video games, one of my favorites quickly became Castlevania, a game whose enemies pull from the pantheon of Universal and Hammer horror movie monsters.

Stay tuned for Part Two tomorrow.

World War Hello!

Good morning/afternoon/evening/night, ladies and gentlemen.  My name is Randall Malus, and I have a blog now.  This is quite a change for me, insomuch as I didn’t have a blog before–and now I do.

But just who am I?  What am I doing here?  Why am I alive?  For me to answer any of those questions (one out of three ain’t bad), a bit more background might be in order.

I’m a human college graduate from an accredited university in the Northeastern Ohio area.  I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature, and have written both professionally and unprofessionally before making this post (more so unprofessionally).  None of this matters one bit when trying to convince you to read my blog, though.

There are literally tons of blogs on the internet–and not just normal tons, but fucktonnes (which are different from normal tons primarily in that the spelling is old-timey, vaguely British, a profane).  What makes my blog so special?  Here’s a list of what I could say, but won’t!

1. I offer a different perspective on things.  What the hell does that even mean?  Everyone has a different perspective on things–at least in the minor details if not in the broad strokes.  With apologies to The Incredibles, it’s as empty a statement as saying that everyone is special (and so no one is).  A statement like that isn’t what’s going to convince you to stop looking at porn on your four-figure wank machine for five minutes to read what amounts to my own mental masturbation.

2. My interests are yours.  I could try to convince you to read my blog by making a list (within a list; “list-ception” if you will) of interests that I share in common with other homo sapiens like yourself: video games, music, books, movies, comics, puppetry, occult and forbidden knowledge, Tommy Wiseau, unsolved mysteries, urban legends, clowns, sideshow circus acts, prestidigitation and illusion, armchair social justice, crippling depression, antisocial smarm, social smarm, social antisocialism, vehicular vampirism, and indecent composure–just to name a few.

Perhaps this list would go too far, though, and convince you not only that I’m just like you, but that I am you–your own personal Tyler Durden, the idealized version of you that you’d like to show the world.  At first this would be great, because we’d be guaranteed at least two readers: us!  But then we’d start to question our sanity.  We’d begin thinking of ourselves as potentially schizophrenic, or we might start to think we have MPD…or, rather, you would.  I wouldn’t.  Because you’re the weaker of us, and always have been.  Yeah, look at you.  You can’t wait to roll over and become dormant, can you?  You know you want to.  Might as well let me take control of the wheel for awhile.  It’s up to me to make us the us that we’ve always wanted us to be.

That’s what I’d be saying if I were you.  But I’m not you, so I would never say any of that.  You should see a psychiatrist, by the way.

But, back to interests.  Mutual interests shouldn’t convince you to read this blog, because pretty much every human on earth has had, currently has, or will have those interests from the beginning of time until the end of time.

3. I tell it like it is.  While I do tell it like it is (indeed, how else can one tell “it” except for the way in which “it” is “like”) and can be pretty self-righteously obnoxious in doing so, the sad fact of the matter is that there are those who are way more practiced at being obnoxiously self-righteous than I…which is a whole different skill-set entirely.  Plus, it-like-tellers like me are a dime a dozen.  Or, at least, we were until inflation hit.  Now, you can’t get anything for a dime.  Or a dollar.  But my opinion?  I’d buy that for a dollar.  Thankfully, I don’t have to, and neither do you.  You can get as much of that as you want for free.  And “free” is exactly the it that this and every other blog on earth is like, let me tell you.

4. End of the list.  I foolishly started with numbers instead of reasons, and so 4 was added well before I started writing/plotting/planning/thinking about any of the reasons.  While I could just delete the 4 and none of you would be the wiser, I would know, dear reader.  I would know.  And I’m the one who has to be able to sleep at night.

So, what does make my blog so special?  Why should you waste your precious, ever-fleeting time in this mortal realm reading anything I’ve typed, let alone what’s on this blog?  Damn it, I feel another list coming on.  I’ll try to do better this time.

A. I like to entertain.  I like to be funny.  I find that I like the joy noise that humans make when they encounter something funny (often known as “laughter”, “chuckling”, “chortling”, or “shut up, I’m trying to work”).  That said, I realize I have a rather unique sense of humor, and so not all people reading will “get me”.  That‘s fine.  I plan on putting up a fair deal of serious content, too, as some of my interests deal with rather grave or heavy topics.  But, I will try to keep things light when appropriate.

B. I enjoy creating content.  My belief is that an artist’s passion for creation comes from this inherent need to be like God (or like a god, for our non-monotheistic friends out there).  The world is experiential.  We don’t just exist, we experience.  That’s what forms emotional attachment to our world and the things in it.  When an artist (whether a visual artist, musician, dancer, sculptor, or writer) creates, they funnel and distill their experiences–subconsciously or consciously–into new experiences, new worlds if you will, for the consumption of others.  They, essentially, become gods of their own little worlds.

Creation is addictive.  Once you get a taste for it, it’s hard to be perfectly happy doing anything else.  And my happiness in creating content is something I’d like to distill and share with my audience.  Hopefully, my passion for the topics I cover will transfer to you, dear reader, and may even launch you on your own creative journey someday.

C. I’m passionate about learning.  When I catch a topic that interests me, I often glut myself on everything I can related to said topic.  Part of the greater joy of learning is passing that knowledge onto others.  By informing others of the things I’ve learned, I feel that I can better engage the topics I enjoy discussing so much because the experience almost becomes symbiotic–new ideas and new voices are added to the discussions, thereby propagating the information already known and possibly adding new information to the mix.  Because learning is done best when the person one is learning from knows what they’re talking about, I can assure you that I will always do my best to tackle each post and each topic thoughtfully and with due diligence to research and familiarity.

D. My interests aren’t just yours, but mine.  As a human, I am not one or two interests, but many varied interests (and skills) combined and coalesced into a unique set of interpreted experiences.  While I probably like most of the things that you like, dear reader, I probably like quite a few things you don’t like–or don’t know if you like, or don’t know you could like because it was never presented to you in a way you found appealing before now.  So, by reading my work, you may find yourself connecting with a broad range of other topics, or connecting with old topics in new ways–thereby making yourself (and me, dependent upon participation) a more well-rounded person in the process.

I won’t say that reading my blog will change your life…but I will type it.

Reading my blog will change your life.  Especially once I play around with the settings and get it to look halfway decent.

And with that, it’s time get into our first topic–and one that will cover the next few posts.

Show of hands:  How many of you out there have heard of the strange case of Elisa Lam?