Category Archives: Editorials

A Thanksgiving Tradition: Rocky and the Holiday That Gave Us One of the Greatest Franchises Ever

“To you it’s Thanksgiving, to me it’s Thursday.”

The true beginning of the holiday get-togethers is when Thanksgiving rolls in along with an additional ten pounds added to your gut- and it’s also time for a Rocky marathon fellas. I mean, anytime is a GREAT time to go the distance with all the movies, however, I’ve always associated the Rocky franchise, and is played on a good rotation over the holiday season over here, especially the first one, with Thanksgiving, and for good reason.

True, the turkey holiday might not be the first thought that comes to mind when you think of the series, but it’s the holiday showcased in the first half of the 1976 film that begat Rocky’s journey toward his future boxing career and most importantly, the love of his life Adrian. Not to mention most of the franchise with the exception of Rocky III and Rocky Balboa were theatrically released around the Thanksgiving holiday and both Creed movies to boot.

It all starts after a series of unfortunate events that follow Rocky through the days leading up to Thanksgiving. It’s obvious in the beginning when we see Rocky and Adrian’s interaction at the pet store where she works, that he is definitely interested in the girl. It’s subtle, but Adrian seems to reciprocate a shy smile after some bad jokes.

Then there’s the little “yo-yo” Marie. The man tries to do a good deed by giving some equally good advice but instead gets a giant “Screw you creep-o,” making Rock-o look like a giant turkey himself.

We also have the incident with Gazzo the Loan Shark whom Rocky works as an enforcer. But as we’re learning even early on in the film, the heavy-hitting nightclub boxer has a heart of gold and can’t just “break people’s thumbs”. But, that hesitancy hits him in hot water with the guy that’s helping him pay his own bills.

Also, worth noting that Gazzo doesn’t get nearly enough credit in this movie. Ok, he doesn’t have the best reputation as a traditional good guy, but he really helped Rocky out in this film and definitely had a soft spot for the Southpaw. So, I just want to take a moment and say cheers to the guy who helped fund the world’s greatest fictional boxer.

And finally, we have the incident with Mick, which is also the first introduction we have to this important character as he berates the ever-loving shit out of Balboa the Tomatah’ while taking his locker away.

All this to say leads up to that eventful Thanksgiving evening, or just another Thursday as Rocky would put it as he meets up with his buddy Paulie at the Lucky Seven Tavern, a local shithole dive bar seen a few times throughout the franchise. Paulie is a prick from the get-go and stays that way for the next 5 films, and while it’s hard to see, he does have some good in him. Beyond the fact that Rocky digs him enough to put up with his shit, he must see it a whole lot deeper than the rest of us- but that’s what makes Rocky’s character so likable. The guy is just nice to everyone. After making some small talk in the bathroom expressing his frustrations to Paulie about life and the fact Paulie’s sister Adrian, won’t give him the time of day, a tipsy Paulie takes Rocky back to his house where he lives with Adrian to set them up on a date- on Thanksgiving.

Adrian at first is really not having it and seeing it from a woman’s perspective, I get it, man. The girl is very shy, has been slaving away all day cooking a nice turkey meal, and here comes her drunkard big brother late at night with a surprise date for her after she’s been in the kitchen cooking and sweating for goddess knows how long. She clearly expresses that she isn’t DISINTERESTED in the date itself, but that she isn’t “ready” for this moment and tries to wiggle out of it with the Thanksgiving excuse.

Paulie being the dick he is remedies that notion, sending Adrian over the edge and eventually she succumbs to the date idea. It wasn’t an ideal way to get these two love birds together finally, but if Paulie wasn’t such a shmuck, she may not have agreed not just to the date, but also to the idea of getting away from her jerk brother for a few hours. Two birds, one stone, right?

That seemingly insensitive act on Thanksgiving night sparks the flame at the center of the Rocky movies my friends. Rocky was never supposed to be a boxing movie; Rocky IV totally was, but not the original and certainly not the sequel that came two years later. It’s a love story for the ages, and the Thanksgiving date sequence is just as important as the final round of the 1976 treasure birthed off a spiral red notebook that a down-on-his-luck Sly managed to scribble down in. Because had none of that happened, Rocky probably would have died in the slums of Philadephia with nothing to fight for. Adrian was the reason he took the shot with Creed and went the distance. She was this man’s love and muse; so let us give thanks for the Thanksgiving that brought these wandering souls together and brought forth another cool holiday tradition around this household.

If Rocky ain’t on the TV, it ain’t Thanksgiving.

The Legacy of Freddy: A Clawed Imprint On An Entire Generation

The year was 1984.  The very first commercial for the revolutionary Apple Computer premiered at the beginning of the year, foreshadowing an irreversible change in the way we live for an entire generation. While one can argue this may very well be, the most significant moment in ’84, (or hell an entire decade), most horror fans may dispute that. 35 years ago today, one of horror’s biggest icons was born from the mind of the late Wes Craven-Freddy Krueger. Robert Englund gave him a body, Craven the brain- see what I did there- and unleashed Freddy Fever unto Generation Y that shows no signs of slowing up all these years later.

Of course, there hasn’t been a relevant enough bootleg Freddy toy to catch my attention over the last 20 years. But, maybe that’s for the best, yeah?

35 Years of Freddy: A Clawed Imprint On An Entire Generation

While I can’t speak for every single child of the ’80s, Freddy Fever rose high and rampant over the course of a decade, introducing an entire generation to the horror genre due to Springwood’s Slasher popularity. Nancy said it best, “Every kid knows who he is. He’s like Santa Claus.” 

35 Years of Freddy: A Clawed Imprint On An Entire Generation

And even celebrated much more so by the horror fandom than the generous, jolly ol’ dude. With on-screen heroes emerging in the decade like Indiana Jones, Rambo, and pretty much any Arnold Schwarzenegger film, Freddy rose to the ranks of a hero of a generation of horror movie fans by being nothing more than the ethos of pure evil- well with later added slapstick comedy which only BOOSTED all the diehard FredHeads (myself included) to put him on a higher pedestal; rounding out the Holy Horror Slasher Trinity with his buddies Michal and Jason.

I mean, you’ve really made it when MTV (when it was you know, amazing) lets you VJ and just end up doing whatever the fuck you want. That’s some star power.

All that being said, WHAT exactly had the youth of our generation so insanely captivated by well, a brutal child killer? I can only speculate on watching Freddymania evolve throughout the ’80s, and ’90s, to today’s hardcore fanbase that follows Freddy and Friends to the ends of the Earth via social media and horror conventions (I’m totally one of those people), and speaking with fellow FredHead buddies. And the answers are pretty quite simple: The children are the warriors of this horror franchise. They are the ones who recognize the evil while the adults stand around with their thumbs up their asses. THEY are the ones who stand together, (just look at Dream Warriors) and face their enemy head-on. So it’s only natural an adolescent would gravitate toward something they could possibly relate to. Society is often guilty of not listening to our youth and A Nightmare On Elm Street made that loud and clear folks.

Another reason and this is personally true in my case being a female, is that each of the NOES films gave us the absolute, most ass-kicking heroines that any young girl would be proud to look up to. First off, let’s just get this right out of the way- Nancy is the goddamn Queen. Even though it was quite clear that she was slowly getting edgier as the film progressed- to be fair she was working on a week’s worth of almost no sleep while Fred was trying to murder her– she really had the most logical and sturdy head out of EVERYONE in that entire film. Including her parents. Not to mention she went full Rambo on Krueger’s ass. I’m not going to sit here and try and argue how she managed to set all those booby traps, fall asleep, and capture Freddy all in twenty minutes of film time. Let’s just appreciate the fact that this girl went balls to the wall, going as far as tackling her predator to the ground WWF style in one giant FUCK YOU to his face. And then she turns her back on him and calls him “shit”.

Goddamn. GIRL FUCKING POWER.

35 Years of Freddy: A Clawed Imprint On An Entire Generation

Last but not least, A Nightmare On Elm Street has always been seen by me as a “comfort horror film”.  Over the years, I’ve written several articles on how horror films actually soothe my anxiety- And the NOES films are exactly that for me. Comfort in times of stress and the harsh realities of the real world. I refer to films like these in a term I coined, “FANTASTICAL HORROR”. You see, movies like Halloween and Friday the 13th (only the first, after that they became FANTASTICAL), were very much real to me. THAT SHIT COULD ACTUALLY HAPPEN. It’s very plausible an escaped lunatic could go on a killing spree or a deranged childless mother going apeshit on a group of kids. With NOES, mehhhhhhhhh, highly doubt a burnt-faced demon is gonna kill me in my dreams. Not to say one could never die in their sleep, or to take away the fact the movie really is terrifying in other aspects. But, it’s not realistic to me. And that’s ok! In times of real-world tragedies, shitty adult issues, and when the world seems so ugly that you want to pack up and move to Mars, Freddy and the gang are here. To take us to DreamLand. To a place that takes us out of reality and into the world of Fantastical Horror.

You know, kinda like Harry Potter but cooler. Don’t you Hogwarts fans @ me.

Happy anniversary Freddy and the gang. And to all my fellow sons and daughters of 100 maniacs who keep the fandom of this movie as strong as ever. WE are all his children now-and forever.

35 Years of Freddy: A Clawed Imprint On An Entire Generation

Bela Lugosi And The Insidious Charm of Ygor! ‘Son of Frankenstein’

Bela Lugosi needs no introduction among horror enthusiasts. Forever more will he be associated with the nocturnal Prince of Darkness, Count Dracula, for his phenomenal portrayal of Bram Stoker’s titular character. Laying the foundations for the future of talking horror flicks to follow in his haunted footsteps Lugosi also ensured the future of Universal as the House of Horrors. 

Doubtlessly whenever his name is mentioned people primarily associate the late actor with his immortal vampire role. Moldy castles, gargantuan spider webs, capes, shadows, and those piercing eyes are forever etched in the edifice of horror history. Had the man played only one role – that of Dracula – it is for certain he would have secured a timeless legacy. 

What many people sadly miss out on though are the other horror roles Lugosi likewise immortalized by that devilish charm and uncanny of his. Briefly, I am obligated to mention his monstrous role played in Island of Lost Souls, a retelling of the Island of Dr. Moreau, where Lugosi chews up his scenes with feral passionate intensity. 

And then there’s today’s topic at hand – the one and only Ygor, the lumbering grave robber who sensationally steals the show in the third installment of Universal’s Frankenstein legacy, Son of Frankenstein. Critics and horror enthusiasts alike praise James Whales’ horror legends Frankenstein and its celebrated sequel Bride of Frankenstein. Sadly though that’s usually where people stop watching the legacy. Probably assuming nothing that followed could match up to the two remarkable films Whales accomplished to make. Daring, frightening, and downright shocking were the first two movies. So much so that when Boris Karloff’s face was first revealed as the monster people hid under their seats in the theater. 

The third installment not only holds up but is just as magnificent as its prior movies. Mainly due to the combined charisma of Karloff and Lugosi working together. Both playing monsters, both shining with macabre excellence, but, if we’re being fully honest here, it is dear ol’ Bela Lugosi who steals the movie and brilliantly outshines Karloff’s uncanny monster. 

Karloff fought to get Lugosi in the role and insisted the man share in the top billing. Thankfully he won because otherwise the world would have been robbed of one helluva monstrous character! So iconic is Lugosi’s Ygor that to this very day people assume all hunchback lab assistants in gothic horror tales are Ygor.

The truth is the hunchback assistant in the first movie is called Fritz and there was no hunchback in the original novel at all. However, Lugosi immortalized the monster and cemented his hideous grin all across horror history.  Making him a gothic staple just as much as windmills, cemeteries, and crumbling castles.

Whereas Dracula was played seriously, grim, and downright dapper Ygor is polar opposite the image. Ygor is grungy, smells like deep earth from the graves he robs, dirty, and hairy. He was hanged from the gallows but didn’t stay dead, a fact to which Ygor gleefully gloats about in the film. “They die, dead! I die, live!” he says with a devilish smile. 

Synopsis

In the film, Basil Rathbone plays the son of Frankenstein returning back to his family castle where the village people are not too happy to have another Frankenstein in their midst. There Wolf Frankenstein (can we please take a moment to marvel at how METAL that name is) is met by a snooping Ygor who enlists the young doctor into reviving the old monster of his father’s making. Reluctant at first, Wolf finally agrees unable to pass up the chance to improve upon his father’s work. Meanwhile, Ygor has befriended the monster and uses him to kill the men who found him guilty and sentenced him to death. So on the one hand Ygor is using Frankenstein to revive his buddy the monster. And on the other, he’s using the monster to avenge his enemies. Ygor is the devil sitting on everyone’s shoulder instigating and manipulating as he wishes. And he’s laughing his ass off as he does it.

Someone said that Ygor is the instigator among all the Universal Monsters and I like that image. I like to think he lumbers around and stirs up mischief among the Mummy and the Gillman. He would steal the Wolfman’s bone and hide it in Dracula’s coffin as a way to make the two fight. Crazy shit like that and if confronted about it he’d just put his hands in the air, shrug his shoulders, smile, and say “Ygor not do wrong. Ygor was gone fishing.” Or something like that. 

Neca’s been releasing the Universal line right now and I’m hoping someone there has the foresight to make us a proper Ygor figure. I’d throw money at that quick as a lightning bolt.

So here’s to Bela Lugosi and the marvelous monsters and giddy ghouls he gave us. If you’ve not seen Son of Frankenstein this Halloween would be a good time to correct that. It’s also the final time Boris Karloff would play the iconic role of the monster and does so beautifully.

Manic out!