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Forget Freddy, Jason, and embrace Dracula, Frankenstein for Halloween
Elsa Lanchester is the reluctant bride of the Frankenstein Monster (Boris Karloff) in "The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935). - photo by Chris Hicks
As winds whistle through the trees, turning leaves yellow and dropping them all over your porch and lawn, and as your neighbors adorn their yards with carved pumpkins and spider webs, as well as assorted goblins, witches and skeletons, you may be thinking about which vampires, werewolves and ghouls to call up for television viewing as All Hallows Eve looms.

That is, in between thoughts of NFL games, the World Series, the Real Salt Lake playoffs and the Utah Jazz season starting up.

If you want to sidestep Jason, Freddy, Jigsaw and other R-rated horror franchise characters (zombies and monsters and ghosts, oh my!), maybe you should return to horror movies roots.

Dracula and Frankenstein are generally accepted as the kings of the movie monsters, since an uncountable number of films have been made with those characters, dating all the way back to the silent era.

And I really do mean uncountable. Theres a great debate on the internet these days about whether Dracula really is the fictional character that has been in the most movies.

One school of thought suggests that title belongs to Sherlock Holmes. Dracula and Holmes have each appeared in more than 200 films, but the exact numbers are up for debate.

After all, a number of movies use Draculas name in the title but dont bother to make him a character in the film, such as Draculas Daughter and Brides of Dracula. Can you really count those?

Similarly, Sherlock Holmes hovers over pictures that invoke his name but in which hes never an actual character, such as They Might Be Giants, in which a deluded millionaire just thinks hes Holmes, and Without a Clue, with an actor hired to impersonate the fictional detective.

You see the dilemma of minutiae. (How about Dracula Meets Sherlock Holmes? Now were on to something.)

Similarly, a lot of Frankenstein movies and there have indeed been a lot often feature the monster but not the good doctor, as in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and House of Frankenstein.

But I digress.

Theres a reason Drac and Frank are so popular, so Im suggesting a return to these monsters cinematic roots for your Halloween viewing pleasure. (All the movies below are on DVD, some are on Blu-ray and many are available on streaming sites.)

Universals 1931 black-and-white Frankenstein, which made Boris Karloff an overnight star, is where you should start. But its even better when you make it a double feature with Bride of Frankenstein. Together, they really do constitute a sort of continuing miniseries, but they are not as long as that might suggest (each film runs under 75 minutes).

And then theres Universals 1931 black-and-white Dracula, which similarly shot Bela Lugosi to stardom. Its good, but its also rather creaky and slow moving these days, and there is no musical soundtrack aside from Tchaikovskys Swan Lake over the credits. (I suggest watching it with Philip Glass 1998 commissioned score, which is an option on most DVD/Blu-ray releases.)

If you prefer something in color, there are the British Hammer Films versions that came out in the late 1950s, Curse of Frankenstein, with Christopher Lee as the monster and Peter Cushing as Dr. Frankenstein (a role Cushing played in six more films), and Horror of Dracula, with Lee making his debut as the caped count (which he would reprise nine times) and Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing.

Another Frankenstein flick to consider is the 1973 British TV miniseries Frankenstein: The True Story, a TV miniseries, with Michael Sarrazin as the monster (James Mason and Jane Seymour are also on hand).

And for a Dracula alternative, consider the 1977 BBC production Count Dracula, with Louis Jourdan, and Nosferatu, in either its 1922 silent version or the 1979 Werner Herzog remake (the latter is available in an English-language version or in German with English subtitles).

If youd rather have a laugh, there are plenty of Frankenstein and Dracula spoofs out there. Mel Brooks and Gene Wilders Young Frankenstein is a favorite, of course, but if thats too vulgar for you, check out Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (which also features Dracula and the Wolf Man), or Love at First Bite, with George Hamilton as the count, suffering culture shock in Manhattan.

There are many others, of course, but these are all personal favorites from this corner. And while youre watching, dont forget to save some of that candy you're snacking on for the costumed kids that come to your door.
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