December 21, 2008

Boo (1932)

Whenever someone talks about horror movies of the 30s, the words "Universal Horror" always have to appear sometime during the conversation, as the importance of the movies done by Universal Studios in that decade is simply unquestionable. While Universal Horror was technically born in the 20s, it was in 1931 when it truly became a synonym of high quality fantasy stories, as it was in that year when the two first films of the "Golden Age" were released: Tod Browning's "Dracula" and James Whale's "Frankenstein". Based on classics of Gothic literature, both films became instant hits and transformed their lead actors (Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff respectively) into legends. Due to their great success, the two films quickly entered our pop culture as the ultimate monster films; iconic movies that not only influenced every horror film done afer them, but also became the default idea of Gothic horror. "Boo", a 1932 short comedy film produced by Universal, is an early example of this, as it basically parodies Universal Gothic horror.

In "Boo", a Man (Morton Lowry) is decided to have nightmares, so following the advice of the Narrator (possibly director Albert DeMond himself), whom considers nightmares as "the cheapest form of amusement", he has a heavy dinner made of lobster and milk, and reads a horror novel before going to sleep. Our hero has read Bram Stoker's "Dracula", so as soon as he falls asleep, he begins to dream the horror of his lifetime. In his dream, he sees Dracula (archive footage of Max Schreck from 1922's "Nosferatu") preying on helpless humans and sucking their blood. To our hero's horror, Frankenstein's Monster (archive footage of Boris Karloff in 1931's "Frankenstein") also appears on his dream, and the Monster is willing to prey on humans too just as the vampire Count does. However, something is not right with these monsters, as their motifs seem rather dubious, or at least that's what the Narrator tries to explain.

Written by Albert DeMond, "Boo" is nothing more than a series of clips from F.W. Murnau's silent classic, "Nosferatu", James Whale's "Frankenstein" and Rupert Julian's "The Cat Creeps", everything mixed but joined together by DeMond's tale of a poor man's nightmare. DeMond's story is merely an excuse to put the clips in funny ways, putting footage on a loop or adding wacky sounds to them. In his narration, DeMond makes fun about the congress and the economical situation of their time, as well as of horror movies in general. It's all in good fun, although certainly the jokes haven't really aged well and now may sound boring and unfunny. While this can be blamed on the fact that humor has changed, in all honestly the jokes weren't that funny to begin with, although some can still bring at least a smile.

Where the movie shines is in it's use of clips from Universal horror films, as DeMond puts them out of context and makes some funny segments by playing with them. Interestingly, DeMond used Murnau's "Nosferatu" instead of Universal's own "Dracula", mainly because Lugosi's vampire was probably too elegant and good looking for his wacky spoof, so he used Max Schreck's interpretation as it was more of a monster. Of great interest is the fact that "Boo" contains what's probably the last surviving footage of Rupert Julian's 1930 horror classic, "The Cat Creeps", a movie that has been missing for years and that it's considered lost by many historians. While out of context and done for laughs, we can see bits of that now legendary film in this little short movie.

While I wouldn't say that "Boo" is a great movie, it's an interesting oddity to fans of Universal's Golden Age of horror movies, as not only it offers the only way to see a slice of "The Cat Creeps", it also shows a different view of those classic movies and how strong was their impact in those early years. Sure, as a comedy it's pretty mediocre (even for laugh tracks standards), but like most of the horror movies done by Universal, this one has a strange charm that makes it special. Not exactly a good film, but definitely a must-see for Universal horror fans.


Buy "Boo" (1932)


Guido said...

Hey, J Luis. Merry Christmas!

Just wanted to ask you, have you seen this cult-ish horror film with Karloff/Lugosi called The Black Cat, which none other than freaking Jonathan Rosenbaum counts as one of his all-time favorites?

I've been trying to get a hold of it for a long time, and now [praise emule!] I've finally found it.

J Luis Rivera said...

Watch it mate! It's in my Top 10 of 30s horror as well!

J Luis Rivera said...

My thoughts about it are here