Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Film historian Steve Fredrick, top, holds a few covers from his collection of horror films starring classic movie monsters.

Mad about

An isle film buff will bring out
old thrillers for the Halloween season

Like most kids growing up in the '60s, Steve Fredrick's TV diet consisted of a steady stream of lightweight sitcoms, but there's only so many episodes of "Gilligan's Island" a kid can take, so when Shock Theater's "Horror Incorporated" made its debut on television in Minneapolis, Minn., where he grew up, it was a revelation to the teenager.

"It's Alive!"

The Return of the Famous Monsters of Filmland
Place: Kailua Public Library, 239 Kuulei Road
Time: 6:30 p.m. Thursday
Admission: Free
Call: 266-9911
Note: One-hour program recommended for ages 8 and up

All of a sudden, he was watching actors like Peter Lorre and Bela Lugosi in classic monster movies of the 1930s.

"There was a renaissance of old films, and it was something different, amazing," Fredrick said, not realizing that at that impressionable age, he was falling under the lifelong spell of vampires and werewolves, also fueled by the simultaneous appearance of a national magazine dedicated to the Famous Monsters of Filmland.

Pretty soon, Fredrick was collecting 8 mm monster films and making some of his own with his high school buddies. Picking up some cinematic tricks from his favorite suspense films, he says with pride, "We made a few people jump and scream when we showed them."

Fredrick packed up his monster collection when he went to college, but they didn't stay boxed up. The Halloween season always brings out the kid in the librarian, who's busting out a collection of six films for a Friends of the Kailua Public Library screening of excerpts from the films, entitled "It's Alive: The Return of the Famous Monsters of Filmland."

A similar screening last year brought out a couple of people who had met Lugosi, and listening to their stories is always thrilling for the classic horror fan, whose passion was rekindled when he moved to Los Angeles.

"I met Vincent Price, but by the time I got to L.A., most of the great horror stars were dead," Fredrick said.

Joining various film societies and the Academy of Motion Pictures, however, led to centennial birthday celebrations for early Hollywood stars such as Boris Karloff, and through such events he was able to meet relatives and progeny of such stars as Karloff, Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr.

"Old monster movies are kind of like an old friend," Fredrick said in trying to explain his attraction to the monsters. "There's a thought that teenage boys identify with Frankenstein's monster because he was awkward and chased by villagers, but I didn't feel that. He was just an interesting character."


A scene from "The Mummy's Ghost," starring Lon Chaney Jr.


The cover from Frankenstein, starring Boris Karloff.

In researching the reception for the films in Hawaii, Fredrick learned that "Frankenstein" debuted in 1932 at the Hawaii Theatre. Its arrival was heralded by a full-page ad in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

"The Mummy" had its premiere a year later at the downtown Princess Theatre. "These were big, grand theaters with organs and shows before the screenings," Fredrick said.

Ultimately, the horror films fed his larger appreciation for filmmaking. "I think all those making films in the 1930s to '50s were real craftspeople. Everything had to be done in camera or in the printing process."

That's one of the reasons he's focusing his program on showing how the monsters come to life, with the filling in of flesh or tricks of light creating electric volts or lightning storms.

"There was so much creativity," he said. "Not to knock anyone in film today, but technology has made their job so much easier."

Following are the titles that Fredrick will be drawing his excerpts from:

"Frankenstein" (1931): Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive) tampers with life and death by creating a human monster (Karloff).

"The Mummy" (1932): Karloff plays Im-Ho-Tep, a cursed mummy who is accidentally revived after 3,700 years by a British archaeology team.

"Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man" (1943): Grave robbers break into the crypt of Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) for the money inside his coffin. Unexpectedly, they meet with a furry surprise.

"Son of Frankenstein" (1939): In the ruins of his father's laboratory, Dr. Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone) meets Igor (Lugosi) and his special friend (Karloff).

"House of Frankenstein" (1944): During a carnival show, an audience of disbelievers prompts Professor Lampini (Karloff) to bring Count Dracula (John Carradine) back to life.

"The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935) Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive), assisted by a fellow doctor (Ernest Thesiger), creates a mate (Elsa Lanchester) for the monster (Karloff).

All titles are available on Universal/MCA Home Video and DVD.

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