creature features: son of frankenstein (rowland v. lee, 1939)

Universal's third Frankenstein movie is the last with Boris Karloff. Director Rowland V. Lee does a solid job, supposedly reworking the script as he shot the film to give more emphasis to Bela Lugosi's Ygor. The movie has the look of German expressionism, and it's effective. The novelty of the monster has worn off, but this is still a decent picture, arguably the last time the Frankenstein story is played mostly straight by Universal.

The absence of James Whale reduces the amount of obvious queer subtext, but the acting lends a definite feel of camp to the proceedings. Basil Rathbone as the titular son, Lionel Atwill as a one-armed police inspector, and Bela Lugosi as Ygor all overact outrageously ... Lugosi, who is used to such things, comes off best, and some consider this his finest performance. Meanwhile, Boris Karloff once again imbues the monster with pathos, but he isn't as central to the picture (and he has lost the ability to speak that he showed in Bride of Frankenstein). He is the best thing about the movie, avoiding the camp stylings of his co-stars.

Son of Frankenstein goes on too long ... it's more than 20 minutes longer than its predecessors ... it's good compared to what followed, but it is clearly the least of the three Karloff Frankenstein films.


music friday: 1980

Pink Floyd, "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)". I have a vague memory of someone back in the day questioning the benefits of a pop song telling kids they didn't need no education.

Barbra Streisand, "Woman in Love". From her 22nd album ... she was prolific.

Lipps Inc., "Funkytown". I guess Lipps Inc. were one-hit wonders. The singer's name is Cynthia Johnson.

What was I doing in 1980? Well, in October, we saw Bruce Springsteen five times in seven nights in two states and three cities.


geezer cinema/african-american directors series: bob marley: one love (reinaldo marcus green, 2024)

Biopics. I don't hate 'em, I see a lot of them, but I rarely look forward to them. My expectations are always low. I have never thought too hard about why that is. Biopics about musicians are especially problematic, because if they don't include the artist's music, there's a big hole in the center of the film, but if they do include the music, it's often in an attempt to tie events in the artist's life to specific songs, and I've always found that to be nonsense. Rocketman was an exceptionally awful example of this, since the lyrics which supposedly reflected things in Elton John's life were written by Bernie Taupin.

Another problem with biopics comes with the participation of people close to the figure in question. The Marley family was involved with the making of One Love, and the film has access to elements of Marley's life and music that might be missing from an "unauthorized" film. But as in most such cases, the result borders on hagiography: Marley is presented in a positive light, which might seem appropriate given his status as an almost godlike figure to his many fans, but it prevents the film from giving a more all-encompassing picture of Marley.

Also, while it's understandable to limit the film to a specific period in Marley's life (1976-1978), this means the musical focus is entirely on Bob Marley and the Wailers, with only rare considerations of the years when The Wailers included Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. OK, it's not a movie about those two, and however good their music was (as Wailers and as solo artists), their cultural impact is nothing like Marley's. But I missed Tosh and Bunny.

Biopics rise or fall in large part on the performances, and here, One Love succeeds. Kingsley Ben-Adir is excellent as Marley ... he makes the movie worth seeing. (He was also great as Malcolm X in One Night in Miami, a film that works in part because it's not a biopic but a fictionalized representation of a moment when four icons were together for a night.) Lashana Lynch, still only in her mid-30s, has offered a wide variety of roles as disparate as a 00-agent in a Bond movie, a warrior in The Woman King, and Maria Rambeau from the Marvel world. Now we can add her portrayal of Rita Marley to the list. The music sounds great in One Love, as well it might. It's a movie you'll enjoy while you're watching it. But down the road, you're more likely to listen to the music than you are to return to One Love, which is merely passable.