Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Classic Films in Focus: A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1938)


I'm generally a fan of adaptations of Charles Dickens' holiday standard, even the loose and the weird ones, but the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol from MGM strikes me as a bowdlerized, lightweight entry into the category, pleasant enough but not really willing to get to the heart of the story lest it dampen the audience's Yuletide cheer. The desire to keep things merry leads the film to make big changes to the source material, expanding the roles of the likable Fred and Bob and downplaying the darkness of Scrooge's journey. If you're looking for a spooky, thoughtful, or faithful adaptation of A Christmas Carol, look elsewhere; this one is more punch and pudding than poltergeists and poverty. That said, classic movie fans will enjoy the presence of stars like Reginald Owen and the Lockhart family, and I'm sure this gentle, condensed version has its ardent admirers.

Owen leads the cast as the cranky old miser, Scrooge, who berates his cheerful nephew, Fred (Barry MacKay), for enjoying the season and then fires his mild-mannered clerk, Bob Cratchit (Gene Lockhart), for accidentally hitting him with a snowball on Christmas Eve. Throwing economy to the wind, Bob then surprises his family with a lavish holiday feast and makes the best of the celebration while Scrooge endures his encounters with the various spirits, starting with his deceased partner, Jacob Marley (Leo G. Carroll). Scrooge's ghostly guides repeatedly take him to spy on the domestic lives of Fred and Bob, which inspires Scrooge to become invested in their welfare and wish to be included in their happiness. After his supernatural adventure, Scrooge makes Fred a partner in his firm and rehires Bob at double his old salary, thus forming around himself a happy circle of families who will benefit from his newfound generosity.

I genuinely enjoy inventive revisions of the Dickens story, but I like for them to be transparent about it. You know The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) is going to take liberties with the story because most of the characters are Muppets, and even then it ends up being a surprisingly faithful version that leans into some of the darker elements of the narrative. The 1938 film, directed by Edwin L. Marin and with a screenplay by Hugo Butler, plays fast and loose with its source but keeps the atmosphere, the setting, and the most familiar bits of dialogue, making it seem like a faithful retelling even though it's not. For me the worst problem with this kind of adaptation of the Dickens text is its pandering to an audience that wants to identify with the sympathetic characters and not confront the uncomfortable truth that is central to the original story - WE ARE SCROOGE. Dickens didn't want or need to change the hearts of the Tiny Tims and Bobs and Freds; he wanted to confront the financially comfortable, the people who begrudgingly pay taxes and don't see "the poor" as their problem. If audiences don't feel called out by A Christmas Carol, then that version of the story is doing it wrong. Vastly enlarging the parts of Bob and Fred, diminishing Scrooge's meanness, and cutting out or radically altering whole chunks of the narrative lets the audience off the hook. We're left with a feel good story that won't even for a second consider the ruinous financial consequences of Bob's shopping spree. In Dickens' time the Cratchits would have been out on the street before New Year and the brood of children dispersed to the workhouses, as Dickens himself was when he was a child. The specter of real poverty haunted Dickens and haunts his stories, and it ought to be lurking under the robe of every Christmas Carol adaptation if one is going to do right by the story and its author, even if that particular scene about Ignorance and Want gets left out of most film versions.

I won't lay the blame for these shortcomings at the feet of the film's actors, for each of them embodies the watered-down versions of their characters as well as they can. Reginald Owen's Scrooge is pinched but never very terrible, and he melts like a snowball when confronted with his own childhood. He's a cranky, fussy, little old man, and Owen gives him lively feeling in his more childish moments. Barry MacKay's Fred is a handsome if conventional romantic lead, the first character we meet in the opening scene and thus more central to the story than is typical, while Gene Lockhart plays Bob Cratchit as genial, round, and playful. One of the more interesting tidbits of this picture is the presence of the gathered Lockhart family, including Gene's wife, Kathleen, as Mrs. Cratchit, and introducing classic TV favorite June Lockhart in an uncredited role as the Cratchits' daughter, Belinda. Of the ghosts I think the most convincing is character actor Leo G. Carroll as Marley, but Ann Rutherford makes an attractive Ghost of Christmas Past, even if she looks nothing like the apparition imagined by Dickens. Terry Kilburn's Tiny Tim doesn't seem particularly frail aside from his obligatory crutch; he's downright hearty as Tiny Tims go, but that decision is entirely in keeping with the rest of this picture, and thus it's no surprise that the end of the movie feels no need to reassure us about his continued existence.

As one of the most popular texts for adaptation, there's a Christmas Carol movie for every fan's taste, but the 1938 picture doesn't suit mine. Those who love it are welcome to it, but if it isn't for you, either, try the 1951 adaptation starring Alistair Sim, which is considered by many to be the gold standard of Christmas Carol movies, or the more recent live action versions starring George C. Scott (1984) or Patrick Stewart (1999). I'm deeply fond of the Muppet treatment, mainly for Michael Caine's dead serious performance as Scrooge and the fantastic puppetry that brings the Christmas Ghosts to life, but I also love the modernized Bill Murray version in Scrooged (1988) because it brings the themes of Dickens' story into the 20th century in a thoughtful, funny, and provocative way. There's also the fictionalized account of Dickens' experience writing the story in The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017), which takes its own liberties with Dickens' biography but works beautifully as a commentary on the heart of his story and the personal history that inspired it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Classic Films in Focus: BARBARELLA (1968)

I have frequently declared my affection for movies that are more entertaining than they are good, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that I enjoy the bizarre spectacle of Barbarella (1968) even if it makes no effort to make any sense. Produced by Dino De Laurentiis and directed by Roger Vadim, this adaptation of a French comic book is very much of its era, with sex on its mind and shag carpet covering every inch of its hedonistic heart. It doesn't take itself seriously, and the viewer shouldn't take it seriously, either, but its silliness is part of its appeal, along with the undeniable charms of the very lovely Jane Fonda as its eponymous heroine.

Fonda plays the enlightened space navigatrix who ventures onto a barbaric planet in search of the missing scientist, Durand-Durand (Milo O'Shea). Startled at first by the primitive sexual practices of the locals, she soon develops an appreciation for old-fashioned coitus and proceeds to enjoy encounters with a hairy child catcher (Ugo Tognazzi) and a beautiful blind angel (John Phillip Law) before reverting to her own culture's use of pills for a mind melding tryst with the freedom fighter Dildano (David Hemmings). She eventually makes her way to a city of pure evil where both Durand-Durand and the sadistic ruler, known as The Great Tyrant (Anita Pallenberg), attempt to destroy her and her new friends.

That's pretty much it for the plot, but along the way there are delightfully mad scenes that one only finds in truly weird science fiction films, like the opening spacesuit strip tease, the feral children and their toothy, flesh-eating dolls, the sled pulled by a giant manta ray, the BDSM city where dissipated locals have orgies and smoke "essence of man" from huge hookahs, and the seriously kinky looking pink spaceship that Barbarella pilots. You also get Marcel Marceau in a speaking role as Professor Ping, a casting choice that perfectly sums up the movie's illogical logic. Try to analyze it too much and the whole thing collapses like a house of cards, which makes it difficult to argue whether Barbarella is sexist for Fonda's objectification or feminist for liberating its heroine from mid-century ideals about female chastity and monogamy. It's most likely both at the same time, just like it's both a really bad movie and a really fun one for the right sort of audience, which is true about most pictures that achieve cult status. 

Whatever one's critical opinion of Barbarella, its title as a cult classic cannot be disputed, thanks to its own wacky but memorable images and its influence on the iconic 80s band, Duran Duran, who named their group for its villain and even doubled down on the connection with the 1997 single, "Electric Barbarella." The picture provides an intriguing alternative to the male dominated science fiction adventures that preceded it in both comics and film, including Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, but it also draws from a deep well of influence in the literary and cinematic history of women's sexual escapades, whether that be a pornographic classic like Fanny Hill (1748) or a Pre-Code picture like Madam Satan (1930). Jane Fonda would go on to earn seven Oscar nominations for Best Actress with two wins, which better fit with her legacy as the daughter of Henry Fonda, but her performance as Barbarella is no less entertaining for being out of line with the rest of her career, though it does overlap in several ways with her work in Cat Ballou (1965), another genre comedy that never takes itself seriously. 

If Barbarella is your idea of a good time, revel in the weird charms of other cult sci-fi classics like The Blob (1958), Fiend Without a Face (1958), The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962), or The Horror of Party Beach (1964). Terry Southern, who wrote the screenplay for Barbarella, earned Oscar nominations for his work on Dr. Strangelove (1964) and Easy Rider (1969), and he wrote the original novel that was adapted into the sex-fueled 1968 film, Candy, where you'll find a host of familiar stars and Anita Pallenberg. Roger Vadim, who was married to Fonda when they made Barbarella, also directed the 1960 vampire picture, Blood and Roses, which I recommend if you're a fan of variations on Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Classic Films in Focus: SABRINA (1954)

After her breakout success in Roman Holiday (1953), Audrey Hepburn cemented her image as a charming romantic heroine with Sabrina (1954), in which she plays a beautiful ingenue who pines for affection from a wealthy, older man. Along with its love story, Sabrina offers a very tame exploration of upstairs downstairs concerns unfolding in a world of extravagant power and privilege, but few people come to the movie looking for thoughtful class analysis. Instead, Sabrina offers the irresistible appeal of Hepburn herself and the love triangle created by William Holden and Humphrey Bogart as the two brothers who both fall for her. As its "once upon a time" opening makes clear, Sabrina is a modern fairy tale, a Cinderella story about a chauffeur's daughter and a New York prince, and if fairy tale romance is what you seek then this picture certainly delivers. I enjoy Sabrina mainly because of Hepburn's powerful charisma as its star, but I'm not romantic enough to ignore its various flaws.

Hepburn plays the title character, who grows up on the estate of the fabulously wealthy Larrabee family where her father (John Williams) serves as the chauffeur. From childhood Sabrina has yearned for the younger of the two Larrabee sons, the feckless playboy, David (William Holden). He finally pays attention once she returns, all grown up, from two years at cooking school in Paris, even though she arrives just before his intended marriage to a socialite whose family interests will merge beautifully with the Larrabee empire. Elder brother Linus (Humphrey Bogart), eager for the match and its financial benefits, decides to intervene by courting Sabrina himself, but he ends up falling in love with her for real, much to his dismay.

I admit that I'm always bothered by the frequent decision to pair Hepburn with much older men, and it spoils some of my enjoyment, even if the leading man is as fine an actor as Humphrey Bogart (or Cary Grant or Fred Astaire). There's no ignoring the 30 year difference between Hepburn and Bogart in Sabrina; Bogart looks every year of it, especially when contrasted with the much younger Holden, who seems like a better match in spite of his bad habits. That said, Bogart's performance is still a Bogart performance, full of world weariness and lost chances that make Linus a sympathetic character even though he spends most of the movie deceiving Sabrina about his intentions. Holden is having a lot more fun as the younger brother, just like the baby of such a family would, but we know his track record with wives ought to be a warning about his ability to change for Sabrina. Neither brother is really a perfect match, but they're the only contenders on offer, since Sabrina apparently managed to spend two full years in Paris with only an elderly baron for company.

A fairy tale, however, isn't really about the princes; Sabrina Fairchild is the one we're meant to care about, and Hepburn is radiantly lovely in the role, full of wistful yearning and ardent feelings even after her transformative time in Paris. She comes back with sufficient sense of irony to name her pet poodle David but is still naive enough to fall for him all over again the minute she sees him. Once she returns to New York, Sabrina appears to advantage in beautiful clothes that suit Hepburn perfectly, but I like her just as much in the simple black outfit that she wears to Linus's office near the end. Like many other Cinderella heroines, Sabrina is motherless but enjoys the devotion of almost every member of the household, among whom we find familiar character actors like Ellen Corby and Nancy Kulp. Their enthusiasm for Sabrina's cause provides a nudge in case we need help overlooking her willingness to disrupt David's marriage, but they seem just as happy with Linus as long as Sabrina gets her promotion to American princess. Since Sabrina always maintains her romantic innocence, she never comes across as a Becky Sharp sort of opportunist, ready to hook either rich brother for the bank account he embodies, but I do wonder how a handsome young gardener or stable groom might have altered the course of this story.

Sabrina netted Oscar nominations for Hepburn as Best Actress and for Billy Wilder as Best Director, along with three additional nominations and a win for Best Costume Design, so there was no shortage of love for the picture from the Academy. Although she's best remembered for movies like Funny Face (1957), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), and My Fair Lady (1964), I particularly like her more dramatic performance in Wait Until Dark (1967), which brought her fifth and final nomination for Best Actress. For a more age appropriate romance with Humphrey Bogart, see him in The African Queen (1951) with that other iconic Hepburn, Katharine, or find Audrey and William Holden reunited for another round in Paris When It Sizzles (1964). Sabrina got the remake treatment in 1995 with Julia Ormond in the title role and Harrison Ford and Greg Kinnear as the smitten brothers, but you're better off with the original.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Classic Films in Focus: THAT TOUCH OF MINK (1962)

 It's hard to imagine a more charming duo than Cary Grant and Doris Day, and That Touch of Mink (1962) is a perfectly entertaining example of their respective talents in the romantic comedy genre, even if both stars made more memorable outings in other pictures. Director Delbert Mann's comedy of errors is more upfront about sex - especially the extramarital kind - than many movies of the 40s or 50s could have dared, but it's all talk and no action as the protagonists constantly fail to consummate their intended tryst. Grant and Day have plenty of delightful comedic moments as the wealthy businessman and out-of-work single girl trying to get together in spite of their own moral objections, but the supporting cast also brings the laughs with fun performances by Gig Young, Audrey Meadows, John Astin, Dick Sargent, and John Fiedler. 

Grant plays philanthropic tycoon and playboy bachelor Philip Shayne, who meets the energetic but unemployed Cathy Timberlake (Doris Day) after his luxury car splashes mud on her raincoat. When a smitten Philip proposes a romantic getaway, Cathy thinks he means marriage but then manages to talk herself into agreeing to a fling, against the advice of her roommate, Connie (Audrey Meadows). The affair, however, doesn't go as planned, with Philip and Cathy repeatedly trying to get together or calling it quits until Philip's friend, Roger (Gig Young), convinces Cathy that running off with an unsuitable suitor (John Astin) will shake Philip into a real proposal at last.

The leads are the main attraction, of course, with Grant giving a very fine late career performance and Day still in her prime. They're both a good bit older than their characters ought to be, but as a pair they look natural together, which a is a nice change from the many May-December couples of late 50s and early 60s romances. Day's Cathy is quite a hothead, which gives her plenty to do in her best scenes, especially when she gets the star players of the New York Yankees - including Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra! - thrown out for arguing with the umpire. She's also horrified that people will know about her intended intimacy with Philip, and one of the funniest bits in the picture occurs when Cathy imagines that everyone knows as each conveyance she rides in becomes a bizarre replica of the bed where the deed is meant to be done. Grant's character unbends somewhat later in the picture, but when he finally takes off after Cathy and her pretend paramour he really gets to come undone. His appearance in nothing but a towel as he rushes to a taxi proves that late career Grant still has "it" in spades and makes the audience understand why Cathy might agree to that fling, morals notwithstanding.

Of the supporting players, Gig Young has the best part as Roger, Philip's friend and right hand man. Roger is a delightful mess, a neurotic alcoholic who wants to quit his job with Philip but is too in love with the luxurious life it brings. His unscrupulous therapist milks Roger for stock tips as well as hourly sessions, which gives rise to a running joke in the second half of the picture that might well come across as homophobic, even if the misunderstanding reflects much more on the therapist than Roger. Cathy's loyal friend Connie is perfectly played by Audrey Meadows, an actress best remembered for her TV role as Alice Kramden on The Honeymooners, and classic TV fans will also delight in seeing John Astin of The Addams Family as Cathy's sleazy suitor and Dick Sargent of Bewitched in a brief appearance. John Fiedler, a character actor with hundreds of roles but most beloved as the voice of Piglet in many Disney productions, has a small but funny part as a bridegroom whose marriage consummation is interrupted by a case of mistaken identity.  

If you find Doris Day as irresistible as I do, check out some of her earlier work in Romance on the High Seas (1948), Calamity Jane (1953), or Pillow Talk (1959). Cary Grant made only three more films after That Touch of Mink, but Charade (1963) would be an enduring favorite with fans; Father Goose (1964) and Walk, Don't Run (1966) would follow as his final bows before retirement. Gig Young, who took that stage name from his character in The Gay Sisters (1942), also appears with Doris Day in Young at Heart (1954), Teacher's Pet (1958), and The Tunnel of Love (1958), but his talent for playing alcoholics on screen sprang from tragic familiarity with addiction in real life. For another gem from director Delbert Mann, see the truly captivating Marty (1955), which earned Mann the Oscar for Best Director.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Classic Movies on CBS All Access

We picked up CBS All Access to watch the new Star Trek shows, which are worth the price of the service by themselves, but I've been pleasantly surprised by the classic movie offerings in their library. Streaming services have not generally been interested in the classic film audience, and those that specifically catered to us met premature ends for not raking in as much money as the owners wanted (Alas, Warner Archive and Filmstruck, our time together was too brief). CBS All Access might avoid the fates of those services since it offers exclusive new shows like Star Trek: Discovery, Picard, and Lower Decks and other more recent feature films, but it has the ability to give classic movie fans some great content as it launches its new Paramount Plus name in 2021 with a massive expansion of the available titles. Right now, though, you can get a taste of the pleasures that might be on the horizon by sampling the classic movies CBS All Access already has in its catalog.

Now owned by ViacomCBS, Paramount Pictures goes way back to the silent era, with a full century of movies in its vaults. That means that classic movie fans could get easy access to a lot of lesser gems from the golden age of Hollywood, including the Bulldog Drummond series of the 30s, the Hopalong Cassidy films, and the Hope and Crosby road pictures, not to mention big hits from director Preston Sturges, the classic noir genre, and dozens of great comedies, Westerns, and dramas. A quick perusal of the movies made by Paramount over the decades shows the depth and breadth of the titles that could be made available as the service seeks to increase subscribers by opening the treasure chest of offerings.

Early signs indicate that Paramount Plus WILL open that chest, even if classic movies aren't its core content. In the first place, it has too much good material not to use it, and, in the second place, some of those goodies are already on its current CBS All Access service. You can watch the 1927 silent hit, Wings, which won the First Oscar for Best Picture, or catch Humphrey Bogart and Fredric March in The Desperate Hours (1955). Sunset Blvd (1950), Sabrina (1954), The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1943), That Touch of Mink (1962), Father Goose (1964), and Teacher's Pet (1958) are also in the current library. With many of Hollywood's most iconic classic stars in its pictures, Paramount Plus can be sure that its older movies will appeal to casual viewers of the classics as well as diehard fans. You don't have to live and breath classic movies to appreciate Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn!

While Netflix continues to dominate the streaming market, it has zero interest in satisfying the tastes of our niche of viewers, and Amazon Prime can be very difficult to navigate when it has multiple bad prints of public domain films dumped into its catalog and a smattering of quality classics mixed in without a grouped category to make them easy to find. (I can spend HOURS hunting through Amazon in the hope of finding a decent print of a movie on Prime, and most of the time I don't have much luck.) Lately I've stopped trying to find something on the other services because CBS All Access has been more than happy to offer me a nice collection of classic movies that I can enjoy. I am hopeful that the relaunch in 2021 will bring me lots of options and make Paramount Plus the streaming service I know it has the library to become.

(PS - If you already have CBS All Access, go watch That Touch of Mink immediately! It's a delightful comedy with an absolutely adorable performance from Doris Day.)

Monday, November 16, 2020

Classic Films in Focus: HELLO, DOLLY! (1969)

Big, colorful musicals are my favorite antidote to troubled times. As much as I enjoy the black-and-white productions of the 30s, there's just something about a bright, splashy palette that makes everything else in a musical seem more cheerful. That's certainly the case with Hello, Dolly! (1969), which looks like a candy store with its rainbow of period costumes and sprightly dance sequences. Directed by Gene Kelly and headlined by Barbra Streisand, this adaptation of the Broadway show has its flaws and failures, to be sure, but it benefits from Streisand's magnetic screen presence and truly amusing performances by Michael Crawford and Danny Lockin as two store clerks set loose on the big city.

Streisand stars as widowed matchmaker Dolly Levi, whose entrepreneurial zeal extends to all kinds of business but is primarily invested in securing her own marriage to grumpy shop owner Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau), who in turn has his sights set on an attractive hat maker named Irene Molloy (Marianne McAndrew). Dolly thwarts Horace's plans by setting up Irene and her assistant, Minnie (E.J. Peaker), with Horace's two clerks, Cornelius (Michael Crawford) and Barnaby (Danny Lockin). At the same time, Dolly also thwarts Horace's desire to keep his niece, Ermengarde (Joyce Ames), away from her ardent beau, Ambrose (Tommy Tune), even though Dolly has been hired by Horace to make sure the lovebirds are separated. When everyone finally meets up at Dolly's old stomping grounds in New York City, the various romances play out against a backdrop of dancing waiters and musical chaos.

Despite its seven Oscar nominations and three wins, and its popularity at the box office, Hello, Dolly! still hammered nails into the musical genre's coffin because it was too expensive to be profitable, and it does have a certain late-stage quality about it. It's overlong, especially in the second half, thanks to extended dance sequences that don't advance the story, and most of the songs are nice enough but not really memorable (the title song excepted, of course). Ermengarde and Ambrose disappear completely for such a long time that it's a bit of a shock when they finally turn up again for the conclusion, and honestly it's never clear why on earth Dolly wants to tie herself to such a sourpuss as Horace, even if he does have enough money to provide a comfortable life. That might have something to do with the obvious lack of chemistry between Streisand and Matthau, who just don't look or act like they belong in the same room, much less the same marriage. Streisand is, undoubtedly, too young for the role, which had been played on Broadway by Carol Channing, and the age difference between Streisand and Matthau only increases the feeling that Dolly is settling for an unsuitable spouse for the sake of financial security.

Those problems, however, don't keep Hello, Dolly! from being genuinely charming and enjoyable, and Streisand holds its all together from start to finish. Dolly is in complete control of the narrative throughout the story, and Streisand is simply captivating in her performance, resplendent in red hair and a stunning array of grandiose hats and gowns to match. She's such a glorious presence that we understand the excitement when she returns to the Harmonia Gardens for the final act, where waiters leap into joyful chorus lines at the mention of her name. Streisand gets her best support from Crawford and Lockin as the clerks who take Dolly's advice and end up having the time of their lives; they have a delightful rapport with each other and their respective love interests, which goes a long way to make up for the absent Ambrose and Ermengarde. The mood of the whole picture is sunny and energetic, with a youthful enthusiasm that makes every obstacle seem surmountable, especially when it comes to love. It has that same charming if utterly fictional turn-of-the-century atmosphere that pervades at Main Street USA in Disneyland, where parasols and a can-do attitude are equally necessary equipment.

Given that comparison, it's fitting that you can currently stream Hello, Dolly! on Disney+, which is also appropriate because of the film's significance to the title character in the 2008 Pixar hit, Wall-E. Hello, Dolly! was Barbra Streisand's second feature film appearance, the first being Funny Girl (1968), which earned her an Oscar for Best Actress. She would go on to star in The Way We Were (1973), A Star is Born (1976), and Yentl (1983). I enjoy Walter Matthau more in other films, especially The Odd Couple (1968). Michael Crawford would become best known for his leading role in Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage production of The Phantom of the Opera, but Danny Lockin's career was tragically short and ended with his murder in 1977, when he was just 34 years old. If you enjoy the musical exuberance of Hello, Dolly!, try The Music Man (1962) or Paint Your Wagon (1969) for more of the decade's offerings in the genre.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

A LEGO Treat for Frankenstein Fans

I'm always excited when my two obsessions - LEGO and classic movies - overlap, and when they do it's usually related to classic horror. This year LEGO has added something especially fun in time for Halloween, a new Brickheadz set for an official Universal Frankenstein! Fans are hoping that more licensed Universal monster characters will follow, but right now we just have the iconic creature first played on the big screen by Boris Karloff in James Whale's 1931 film. 

The Brickheadz line has been very popular the last few years, running about $10 for a set that builds one character with an oversized head. Licensed characters have been especially plentiful, including lots of Star Wars figures, but seasonal ones like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny have also been frequent additions to the lineup. Frankenstein's monster is a delightful new part of this series, rendered in shades of gray and black to better reflect the image of the Universal version of the character. If you're not into complex builds, don't worry; the Brickheadz take just a few minutes to assemble and make perfect cubicle or desk adornments and will also fit neatly onto a display shelf with your other classic horror collectibles. The box art is also wonderful, with Karloff's version of the creature prominently featured.

Over the years LEGO has released a number of sets and themes with obvious ties to classic horror, and they've always been fun, but this new, official connection with Universal makes me hope that we will see even more Brickheadz and minifigure scale sets in 2021. Right now the Hidden Side theme is my favorite collection of sets because of the spooky atmosphere and ghost figures, but a Dracula's Castle set would be a dream come true (it should have armadillos, of course, just to be extra faithful to the film). If and when LEGO releases information about upcoming Universal Monster sets, I'll be sure to let you know about it here on the blog!

If you want your own Frankenstein Brickheadz, you can find him on the LEGO Shop at Home website for $9.99. I don't have a LEGO store nearby, and with COVID it's difficult to travel to the closest one in the next state over, so I don't know if you can find the set at LEGO Stores, although I assume that you can if you have one near you. If you visit the website, be sure to check out the other fun Halloween items, including the Hidden Side theme and the gorgeous (but so expensive) Haunted House exclusive set.

Related Posts:

10 Classic Movies Directed by James Whale


LEGO Monster Fighters: Making AFOL Dreams Come True 

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