A New Adventure

Cliffhangers: The Serial Talk Show!

I’ve recently begun a new adventure with Patrick Bennett of Pop Ninja! We recently released the first episode of Cliffhangers: The Serial Talk Show! In the series, Patrick and I will be taking a closer look at classic serials from the 1930’s, 40’s, and beyond, including some serials made in recent years! In the first episode, we have a general conversation about serials, who our favorite actors are, and chat with Bill Necessary, Serial Cosplayer and the most knowledgeable person I know when it comes to serials. Here’s the first episode for your enjoyment:

Future episodes will focus on serials featuring characters like the Phantom, Superman, Zorro, Flash Gordon, and more! If there are any particular serials that you want us to cover, let me know in the comments. I’ll be sure to post each episode here at Ken’s Alternate Universe and you can also find them on YouTube. Be sure to follow Pop Ninja on Facebook and on YouTube and be sure to follow Ken’s Alternate Universe on Facebook as well! Along with Pop Ninja, Louisiana Film and Video Art, Inc. also sponsors the series. Be sure to show them a little love on Facebook.

We’ve already shot a few episodes and Patrick is hard at work editing them and making them look great. Hopefully you’ll have as much fun watching the series as we did making it.

As always, thanks for checking out my post. I’m still working on Classic Horror, Focus On, Throwback Thursday, and all of my other standard blog posts. In fact, I’ll be posting a new Throwback Thursday post this week! Hopefully I’ll get to see a few of you out in the real world once this COVID-19 mess gets straightened out. Stay safe!

Extra! Extra!

While writing my post, Patrick contacted me to let me know that Episode 2 is up and running on YouTube. In it we cover the Batman serials and the more recent serial, Mystery of the Bat-Man by Ryan Bijan. Be sure to check it out as well. Heck, there might even be a certain “Discount” hero popping up for the show! Here’s the video:

Throwback Thursday: Dracula Untold (2014)

When The Bad Guy Is Actually Pretty Nice…..

Dracula Untold (2014) is many things to many people. Some folks hate it because it humanizes one of horror’s most iconic monsters. Others hate it because they feel that the story is too bland, too drawn out, or just plain dumb. Many others (like myself) enjoy it for what it is: an action yarn that turns Dracula into a superhero.

The film opens up with a quick recap of everything that we already knew about Vlad the Impaler. He was a brutal ruler that stopped at nothing to protect his people. Then we are told that Vlad decides to hang up his stakes and wants to give peace a chance. Thanks to Mehmed II, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, that peace is short-lived. Mehmed demands one thousand boys from Vlad as tribute to the Ottoman Empire. Vlad refuses in a most violent way and Mehmed sends his army to punish Vlad’s people.

Having faced off against a demonic being earlier in the film, Vlad returns to the creature and asks it to give him its power so that he can save his people. The creature complies, warning Vlad that if he can resist drinking human blood for three days, he’ll return to his old self. Vlad accepts the gift (or curse), and wages war against Mehmed II.

After single-handedly wiping out Mehmed II’s first wave of soldiers, Vlad instructs his people to seek refuge in the Cozia Monastery. While there, the people uncover the fact that Vlad is now a vampire and nearly turn on him. Vlad’s wife, Mirena, convinces them that what Vlad has become was a necessary evil and that he only became a vampire in order to save all of there sons. Soon after, Mehmed arrives with thousands of troops and attacks the monastery. Does Dracula save his people? Does he remain a vampire? You’ll have to find out for yourself.

Yes, I know that making Dracula a noble being sort of drains the blood out of the character, but when viewed as an action film, Dracula Untold is on par with most of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact, it has a much more interesting villain than most of the villains in the MCU. Luke Evans stars as Dracula and gives a sound performance as a likeable guy trying to do what’s right. Would I have loved it if Evans was allowed to portray the character as evil? Sure, but that’s not what this version of Dracula is supposed to be, so don’t fault him for doing a good job at being a nice guy. Dominic Cooper delivers a fine performance as Mehmed II, showing both intelligence and a lust for power. Charles Dance portrays the evil vampire that Vlad finds in a cave. According to IMDb, the character is called the Master Vampire. Sarah Gadon does well as Mirena/Mina as does the rest of the cast.

The screenplay by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless is just fine if taken as an action film. Director Gary Shore keeps the story interesting and moving at a quick pace. The music, composed by Ramin Djawadi, is excellent and adds to the story. The special effects are primarily CGI but do not come off as too fake. In fact, many of the scenes of Vlad transforming into a mass of bats and then back into a human are quite captivating. Overall, this film has so many more pros than cons IF and only if you look at it as an action film.

Taken as is, Dracula Untold is pretty good. It is better overall than 2017’s The Mummy and is, at least in my opinion, would have been a better film with which to kick off Universal’s now defunct shared Dark Universe. Universal has supposedly decided to end the shard aspect of their Dark Universe and will instead apply the name as a blanket term for all of the reboot films based on classic Universal Monsters starting with Dracula Untold.

I’m hopeful that we’ll get to see Luke Evans portray Dracula in a modern setting or at least in a period film somewhere between the events of Dracula Untold and present day. Unfortunately I don’t see such a project happening any time soon. Be sure to check out this film if you haven’t seen it, but don’t expect it to be a true horror film.

As always, thanks for reading. This is an underrated film and I’d really love to see more people embrace it for the visually stunning action yarn that it is.

Superman (1948)

He’s one fly guy!

Despite some questionable and rather cheap special effects, 1948’s Superman is a very enjoyable serial. It starts with the story of Kal-El’s exodus from his home planet of Krypton just prior to its destruction. The first three chapters establish him as both Clark Kent and Superman on Earth. From there, we are introduced to the sinister Spider Lady and her plans to maintain control of Metropolis with the powerful Reducer Ray. Superman must battle the Spider Lady and her henchmen in order to save Metropolis over the rest of the chapters in the serial. Is he successful? You probably already know the answer, but it’s definitely worth your time to check out this serial.

Superman manhandles two of the Spider Lady’s henchmen.

Kirk Alyn stars as Superman in this serial. With a background in dance and musicals, Alyn had the physique for the character and also did an excellent job of portraying Clark and Superman as two different personas of the same person. The rest of the cast was pretty solid, especially Noel Neill as Lois Lane and Tommy Bond as Jimmy Olsen. They worked will with one another and with Alyn, giving solid comedic and dramatic performances. The weakest link in the film was, sadly, the Spider Lady (Carol Forman). Forman’s delivery was very rigid at times and seemed forced.

SUPERMAN, Noel Neill, 1948

The special effects were also poor, especially when compared to Republic’s 1941 serial, The Adventures of Captain Marvel. That serial used both a seven foot long model of Tom Tyler (who portrayed Captain Marvel) and suspended him from wires for certain flight sequences. This was done by the famous Lydecker Brothers, who would go on to create effects and miniatures in multiple successful projects including Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Columbia Pictures and Superman‘s producer, Sam Katzman, were notorious for slashing budgets on their projects, and opted to use animation for Alyn’s flight sequences. Thankfully the story and performances of the majority of the cast were strong enough to lift the serial above this miscue.

Kirk Alyn as Clark Kent and Tommy Bond as Jimmy Olsen.

The serial proved to be very popular and would result in a second Superman serial in 1950 entitled Atom Man Vs. Superman, which would bring Lex Luthor to the big screen for the first time. Alyn, Neill, Bond, and Pierre Watkin as Perry White would reprise their roles from the first serial.

Carol Forman as the Spider Lady, an original villain introduced in Superman (1948).

Superman is by no means a masterpiece, but the actors are so likeable, especially Alyn, Neill, and Bond, that you just can’t help but enjoy it. Better Superman films would eventually make their way to the big screen, but few actors would manage to portray Superman/Clark Kent as well as Kirk Alyn in my opinion. In fact, he’s probably my third favorite Superman behind Christopher Reeve and Brandon Routh.

Be sure to check out 1948’s Superman. You won’t be disappointed. As always thanks for reading my post. See you again real soon!

Horrified!

The Stakes Have Been Raised!

Regular readers of my blog know of my great love for the classic Universal Monsters. From the Wolf Man to Dracula, I love them all, so it’s only natural that I picked up Ravensburger’s Horrified game when it was released in October of last year. Between work and family, however, it wasn’t until just this week that I’ve had time to sit down, study the rules, and play the game a few times.

The board features a nod to Frankenstein as soon as you open the box!

If you’re unfamiliar with the classic films and their monsters that this game is based upon, you’ll have a really fun time teaming up with friends to defeat the monsters and save the village. If you are a fan of Universal’s beloved monsters, you’re going to have an awesome time! There are tons of hints, nods, winks, and Easter eggs from many of the films. They begin as soon as you open the box and look at the folded board.

The object of the game is to move about the village collecting items and executing actions in order to defeat each monster. Along the way you may have to face off with the monsters one on one or watch helplessly as they attack the innocent villagers (who all happen to be characters from the classic films). As heroes and villagers die, the Terror scale goes up. Beat the monsters and save as many villagers as you can before you become Horrified!

The process to defeat each monster is unique. For example, in order to defeat Dracula, you have to destroy his four coffins found at the four corners of the board and then face off against him in a final battle. Each monster also has unique attacks and actions. The Wolf Man, for example, hunts a specific hero until that hero is either killed or the Wolf Man is defeated. These different tasks and abilities creates a unique experience no matter which monsters you decide to battle.

The minimum number of monsters that you can battle is two. Add more monsters to increase the difficulty of the game. Frankenstein’s Monster and the Bride of Frankenstein battle as a team. At all times during the game, one of the monsters is in Frenzy mode. The Frenzied Monster may complete more than one action depending on the card drawn from the Monster card pile. Up to five people can play the game at a time, but for a real challenge, battle the monsters in a solo game! Heroes complete a number of tasks based on their own card and also have Perk cards that they can use if and when needed during the game. I won’t go into anymore specifics, just know that gameplay is clearly explained in the rulebook.

The board, game pieces, and monsters are all brightly colored and quite beautiful to look at while playing the game. Even the box has great graphics on it. I am truly in love with playing this game. I’ll be honest and say that I’ve never been much for these types of board games, but Ravensburger has made a brilliant game here that brings fun adventure and classic horror together!

Thanks for reading my post. If you love board games, you’ll really enjoy Horrified. If you’re a fan of Universal Monsters, definitely give this game a look. It’s really fun to play!

Classic Horror: Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)

Unholy Communion

Released in 1976, Alice, Sweet Alice may not be one of the first films to come to mind when one mentions classic horror, but it has definitely found a place in the hearts of many horror fans. Often considered one of the final proto-slasher films before the likes of Jason, Freddy, and Michael Myers took to the big screen, Alice, Sweet Alice combines religion, jealousy, and a creepy mask and raincoat combo to give the viewer plenty of creep scares.

The film starts off by showing us the strained relationship of two young sisters, Alice and Karen Spages (Paula E. Sheppard and Brooke Shields in her film debut). It is quickly established that Karen is the favorite daughter of their mother, Catherine (Linda Miller), who is preparing for Karen’s first communion. We are also introduced to Father Tom (Rudolph Willrich), who is presented in a questionable manner. While he doesn’t necessarily do anything wrong or perverted, the film presents the character (and the local Catholic Church) as somewhat bizarre and a bit too touchy feely.

On the day of her first communion, Karen is savagely murdered by a mysterious person. The primary suspect? Alice. A series of stabbings, some fatal, some not, begin to occur and the police attempt to find the culprit. Alice is isolated from her mother and estranged father, Dom (Niles McMaster), but the attacks continue. Who is behind all of the violence? The answer is quite surprising and revealed fairly early in the film…..or is it? The ending is vague enough that there isn’t a definite answer by the time that the credits role.

The film features a cast primarily culled from the local theater scene in New York and New Jersey. Outside of Shields, none of the cast has made much of an impact in film or television with the exception of Alphonso DeNoble, who featured in a couple of other cult films, Night of the Zombies (1981) and Bloodsucking Freaks (1976). Zombies was released posthumously, as DeNoble passed away in 1978. Some of the cast caused trouble for director Alfred Sole, particularly Linda Miller, whom Sole called “a real nightmare.” Paula Sheppard did an amazing job as twelve year old Alice, especially considering the fact that she was nineteen at the time of filming. Her performance was very convincing, especially as the situation started spiraling out of control.

Many critics and viewers believed that the film was anti-Catholic. As someone who actually is Catholic, I understand why they would believe that, but I also credit Sole’s direction in making the entire film’s setting, especially the moments inside of the church, very unsettling. Yes, Sole was excommunicated from the Church due to another film that he previously made, but I see only vague hints at an anti-religious theme. Ultimately things are left pretty vague, so no one really knows what happened with Father Tom, the Church, or anyone else in the film. I’m intentionally leaving out certain characters, as it would spoil parts of the film.

I really liked Alice, Sweet Alice. It was atmospheric in an unsettling sort of way and just vague enough that you aren’t sure if the killer was really captured. I recommend checking the film out if you’re a fan of early slasher films and especially if you like your horror with a religious spin.

Thanks for reading my post. I’ll see you all again real soon!