Saturday, 2 June 2012

House Of Dracula vs. The Wizard Of Oz

You've heard of My Little ChickadeeMy Little Margie, and My Little Pony 
but "My Little Hunchback"?

That's what M-G-M head honcho Louis B. Mayer not so affectionately called Miss Judy Garland, his top grossing box-office star, while he was abusing and having the studio machinery pump her full of amphetamines, keeping her svelte, barbiturates for the wonderland of OZzz...
The Wizard Of Oz was filmed in 1938 and released in 1939, and was one of 3 significant versions, one in 1908 and the 1925 version with Oliver Hardy as the Tin Woodman.
Universal's last canon 'monster opus' was 1944's House Of Dracula, part of the unofficial trilogy of Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman and House Of Frankenstein.

There are uncanny similarities not only in their respective lobby card's art, but the plot of House of Dracula parallels that of The Wizard Of Oz in that three strange creatures, and a girl, seek the help of a learned man of science and medicine to correct their individual monstrous problems.

"Oz" in Technicolor, "House" in glorious Black & WhiteIt's a mirror image universe for sure"wizARD][DRAcula"and their equivalents' are approximate:

Jane Adams' 'Nurse Hunchback' is more or less Judy Garland's stand in.
(but doesn't singUniversal Pictures had a wicked sense of humor)
Jane Adams was no relation to Charles Addams.
"Dr. Edelmann" is the Wizard, but when afflicted by bad blood is The Wicked Witch, by way of Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde".
Notice there is NO direct GlindaThe Good Witch amalgam as the good "Dr. Edelmann" character is both the Wizard AND Glinda"good deed doers", and it is during his sparring with the evil Count that his blood becomes contaminated before he vanquishes the supernatural arch-fiend by dragging his coffin into the golden rays of the rising Sun (cue the Eric Burdon & The Animals 
record); once he's warped alternating between his original benign self and his newly acquired malevolent persona; the Wizard/Glinda combination may have been noticed earlier (if only incidentally) by others, most notably by Screen Gems/NBC-TV's answer to the U.K.'s The BeatlesThe Monkeeswho in the 1968 second season of their show, episode #58 to be exact, their verlast entitled "The Frodis Caper", had madcap Rip Taylor play a wild, weird, wacky, (and also very varped) villain
Rip Taylor does have the same nose and cheekbones.
"Wizard Glick", which may have had some subconscious connotations to Oz; if all this sounds far-fetched, outlandish and "somewhere out there", let me remind you dear reader that very same episode had the sometime "Monkee-Men" (am so tempted to refer to them as "aka The Flying Monkees") lead-singer Micky Dolenz sing a short snippet of The Fifth Estate's version of their earlier 1967 "Summer of Love" hit (what else?) "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead" ...probably mere 'coincidence'...speaking of "the Animals":
The hirsute "Wolf-Man" is unmistakably Cowardly Lion, inverted as Lon Chaney Jr.'"Larry Talbot", and IS the bravest of the bunch, both to undergo risky surgery for a cure or else die tryingand to fight the rest of the remaining monsters, thus saving the day.
Also, in another Oz wolf reference, in the Baum book the Wicked Witch sends 40count 'em40 great wolves to kill our quartet of heroesbut they axed for itas Tin Woodman kills them all.
This was the 4th and last time that Chaney Jr. portrayed the  lycanthrope "Larry" in the series (apart from the 1948 spoof) and his early 60's Mexican cinema appearances (a were-mummy!), TV's Route 66 as himself, as well as an ersatz werewolf, "Quasimodo" and Kharis, with Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre coming along for that Corvette ride.

In fact there wasn't much in the way of serious movies featuring a werewolf, except for oddly enough Columbia's "Return Of Vampire" from a year earlier, 1943, and 1957's
"The Werewolf" cheapie, until U.K.'s Hammer Films Ltd. in
1961 decided to add one in the form of "Curse Of The Werewolf" starring Oliver Reednot to be confused with "Oliver Reed" from Val Lewton's "The Cat People" and the semi-sequel "Curse Of The Cat People" both times ably played by Kent Smith.
The make-up design for "Curse" was totally different from any of the previously seen on screen wolf-men that came before, as different as Henry Hull's "Werewolf Of London" was from "The Wolf-Man", or Lew Lander's "Andreas", as all the wool crepe-hair that was 
de rigeur on every cinematic representation up to then was oddly removed leaving the face baredevoid of any whiskers, with the ears moved from the side of the head,
              to up
on top.
Kind of like Bert Lahr's look as the Cowardly Lionwith fangs.
Whether this was influenced by the look of the Lion in the Wizard film, no one knows, 
but it IS interesting in retrospect, just as it was that the American companies Aurora and Soaky decided to get in on the early 1960's bandwagon of monster products that resulted in the wake of the explosion of old movies aired by regional 'horror-hosts' in every major (and minor) TV market, as well as the aforementioned Hammer and AIP (American International Pictures) at the local neighborhood Bijou or drive-in.
Aurora Plastics of West Hempstead, Long Island was as indecisive as Soaky as to what version oflycanthrope they wanted to go with: 
the classic Chaney Jr. or the newer, happening, Reed version?
So they privet-hedged their bets and went with both versions.
     "Four ears goodtwo ears bad."

Because believe-it-or-not this "Wolf-Man" had ears not just on the side of his head, but
on the top as well4 earsin Soaky's instance it was the actual bubble-bath figure that had that glaring error, Aurora only had the box art goof-up, as the styrene figure looked absolutely nothing like the one on the box, nor for that matter Chaney's version on the silver-screen.
This was nearly a decade before 4-Channel Quadraphonics, and "...all the better to hear you with, my dear..."

"Dracula", an animated corpse is arguably the Scarecrow, an animated straw-man, the exact analogy imprecise as dried formaldehyde in the veins of the dead behaves more akin to sawdust than it does to straw, (interestingly, the book had The Wizard provide the Tin Woodman with a
silk-heart filled with sawdust) or so I've been told.
Wood, which comprises sawdust, also figures prominently in the Count Dracula and Scarecrow characters, as Scarecrow is propped up on a wooden pole in the cornfield,
Dracula not only dormant during the day reposing in a wooden coffin, but can also be
dispatched with a sharpened wooden stake hammered into his chest, near the thymus.
Both also symbolize flying creatures, which are usually colored black, in one instance scary (bats) and in the other scared-off, crows, of which when there are more than one are referred to as "a murder of". 

Dracula is pretty damn scary too.
Of course you're going to split hairs saying that Dracula drank blood, had blood in his veins (or stomach), and since blood is pumped by the heart, and with all this wooden talk he should be the Tin Woodman, as he'd need a heart (with blood) not a brain as Scarecrow does.
Right. Read on.

"Frankenstein's Monster" pieced together from assorted body-parts IS the Tin Woodman, whose very origin required him to be deconstructed, chopped to pieces body-part by body-part, to become reconstructed in the original gruesomely detailed L. Frank Baum story.

Chapter 5: The Rescue of the Tin Woodman,
"Nick Chopper" (his actual name) recount his 'origin story' to Dorothy, Toto, and the Scarecrow:

"I was born the son of a woodman who chopped down trees in the forest and sold the wood for a living. When I grew up, I too became a woodchopper, and after my father died I took care of my old mother as long as she lived. Then I made up my mind that instead of living alone I would marry, so that I might not become lonely.
"There was one of the Munchkin girls who was so beautiful that I soon grew to love her with all my heart. She, on her part, promised to marry me as soon as I could earn enough money to build a better house for her; so I set to work harder than ever. But the girl lived with an old woman who did not want her to marry anyone, for she was so lazy she wished the girl to remain with her and do the cooking and the housework. So the old woman went to the Wicked Witch of the East, and promised her two sheep and a cow if she would prevent the marriage. Thereupon the Wicked Witch enchanted my axe, and when I was chopping away at my best one day, for I was anxious to get the new house and my wife as soon as possible, the axe slipped all at once and cut off my left leg.
"This at first seemed a great misfortune, for I knew a one-legged man could not do very well as a wood-chopper. So I went to a tinsmith and had him make me a new leg out of tin. The leg worked very well, once I was used to it. But my action angered the Wicked Witch of the East, for she had promised the old woman I should not marry the pretty Munchkin girl. When I began chopping again, my axe slipped and cut off my right leg. Again I went to the tinsmith, and again he made me a leg out of tin. After this the enchanted axe cut off my arms, one after the other; but, nothing daunted, I had them replaced with tin ones. The Wicked Witch then made the axe slip and cut off my head, and at first I thought that was the end of me. But the tinsmith happened to come along, and he made me a new head out of tin.
"I thought I had beaten the Wicked Witch then, and I worked harder than ever; but I little knew how cruel my enemy could be. She thought of a new way to kill my love for the beautiful Munchkin maiden, and made my axe slip again, so that it cut right through my body, splitting me into two halves. Once more the tinsmith came to my help and made me a body of tin, fastening my tin arms and legs and head to it, by means of joints, so that I could move around as well as ever. But, alas! I had now no heart, so that I lost all my love for the Munchkin girl, and did not care whether I married her or not. I suppose she is still living with the old woman, waiting for me to come after her.
"My body shone so brightly in the sun that I felt very proud of it and it did not matter now if my axe slipped, for it could not cut me. There was only one danger--that my joints would rust; but I kept an oil-can in my cottage and took care to oil myself whenever I needed it. However, there came a day when I forgot to do this, and, being caught in a rainstorm, before I thought of the danger my joints had rusted, and I was left to stand in the woods until you came to help me. It was a terrible thing to undergo, but during the year I stood there I had time to think that the greatest loss I had known was the loss of my heart. While I was in love I was the happiest man on earth; but no one can love who has not a heart, and so I am resolved to ask Oz to give me one. If he does, I will go back to the Munchkin maiden and marry her."

But wait, "Frankenstein's Monster" needed a brain, a new one ever since Igor
(Bela Lugosi) had his implanted via the old switcheroo instead of Abby Normal's
Frankie's head, the blood type not a match and as a result going blind as seen in
(no pun intended) "
Ghost Of Frankenstein".

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz it was the opposite:

Both Dorothy and the Scarecrow had been greatly interested in the story of the Tin Woodman, and now they knew why he was so anxious to get a
new heart.
"All the same," said the Scarecrow"I shall ask for brains instead of a heart; for a fool would not know what to do with a heart if he had one."
"I shall take the heart," returned the Tin Woodman; "for brains do not make one happyand happiness is the best thing in the world."
Dorothy did not say anything, for she was puzzled to know which of her two friends was right, and she decided if she could only get back to Kansas and Aunt Em, it did not matter so much whether the Woodman had no brains and the Scarecrow no heart, or each got what he wanted.
True too.

The screenwriter(s) simply switched characters around, so the Dracula/Scarecrow amalgam character needs blood/heart, Frankenstein Monster/Tin Woodman the brain.

"...'ere comes a candle to light up your bed, 'ere comes a chopper to chop off your head!"
Remember that in L. Frank Baum's book, The Wizard fashions the Scarecrow 
a "brain", made out of bran, pins and needles - talk about "Abby Normal"!

also that the Bran Stoker novel had the Count reside in Bram Castle, Transylvania.

Oz the name, besides suggestive of the abbreviation for ounce(s), is also that of a circle 
(or if in three-dimensions a sphere), the "O", and the movie has ample examples of round images in relation to the main characters, namely the most powerful ones:
Prof. (Jack?) Marvel/The Wizard, Glinda The Good Witch of the North, and ElphabaThe Wicked Witch of the West.
The Prof.'s sham scrying, the arrival of Glinda in a pink bubble,
 the Wizard's "great and powerful" alter-ego, Wicked Witch's real crystal ball to name a few examples, each one in pivotal scenes that affects the narrative, which neatly fits into the "Oof "Oz".
Even more surreal is House Of Dracula uses stock film footage heavily in the "Dr. Edelmann" Freudian nightmare dream sequence, the scene reminiscent of a similar one in the Wizard Of Oz with Dorothy having everything spinning around her, Boris Karloff in "Bride Of Frankenstein" rampaging a Bavarian village interspersed with sexually charged overtones of the good/bad Doc's lecherous paws reaching out for his 
hot, formerly hunchbacked Nurse Nina, Lon Chaney Jr. getting zapped by lightning
 Bela looks on; near THE END the "Frankenstein Monster" (and his fiery demise) utilizes scenes at "The Ghost Of Frankenstein" climaxLon Chaney Jr. was "the Monster"
in that film
so we get the strange effect of not Glenn Strange meeting his on-screen demise, but actually TWO Lon Chaney Jr.'s battling it out with only one as victor"Frankenstein", at least at Universal, seemingly no more.
 (until Bud Abbott & Lou Costello Meet FrankensteinThe Munsters, etc.,...speaking of witch...) 
Jack Sharkey who wrote "The Addams Family" TV tie-in novelization for ΔPyramid Books in the mid-60's (1965), must've been aware of at least some of the similarities to these Universal/M-G-M properties as he had Gomez Addams in the story "That Was The Weakness That Was", acting in essentially the same capacity as both Frank Morgan's "Prof. Marvel"/"Wizard" AND Onslow Stevens' good "Dr. Edelmann" character, his advert even presaging the 1984 "GHØSTBUSTERS" and 1988's "Beetlejuice":

DO YOU FEEL RUN DOWN (by irate villagers)?  
AT DAY'S END, ARE YOU ALL IN (your coffin)?


DO YOU WANT TO WAKE UP AND LIVE (and stay that way)?

DO YOU SUFFER FROM SUNBURN (and excessive melting)?


*(Monsters Devulnerized) 

even 'curing' the famous monsters from the
Universal dungeons of their afflictions by simply switching their vulnerabilities, deducing that the solution(s) to their problems were there all alongjust like Frank Morgan in The Wizard Of OzGomez:
"What I have realized", said their humble physician, "is simply this: All I need do is
isolate the quality in this vampire that makes him silver-proof, and give that quality
to the werewolf. Then from the werewolf I take the quality that makes him impervious
to everything
but silver, and give it to the fire-vulnerable mummy.
From the mummy I extract the inner strength that does not diminish during centuries of burial, 
and give it to the interment-weakness-prone monster. And finally from the monster I glean the element that makes him physically indestructible and give that element to the rot-, wither-, and melt-inclined vampire. And all are cured!"
(no mention is made of hunchbacksnurses, quasi, or otherwise)
The mad monsta party objects to Gomez' reasoning and methods in NO uncertain terms:
"But," complained the vampire, "in that case I'd be killed by silver, my invulnerability 
to it removed."
"And I'd be vulnerable to everything but silver!" groused the werewolf unhappily.
"And I'd poop out if I got re-buried," sighed the mummy.
"And I'd keep my strength, but fall apart, under similar conditions!" muttered the monster miserably.

Needless to say that Gomez Addams' quick fix resolution to the unearthly creatures' dilemmas are a Dr. Oz-like/Dr. Norman Vincent Peale-ish power of positive thinking method, years ahead of the glut of pop psychologies permeating psyches since the 70's,
but not too far off from the House Of Dracula movie script as Dr. Edelmann's explanation of Talbot's affliction why he never seems to change into the dreaded 
Wolf-Man until he looks out a window and SEES the Full Moonno matter how long the Moon had been up.
Wheaties, coffee, swimming lessons, and suntan oil are all in order for the hapless horrors;
the monster becoming a pro-wrestler and endorses a breakfast cereal (wonder if it has any bran in it, as the Wiz in Baum's book gave the Scarecrow some in lieu of an actual brain, "a lot of bran-new brains" ?); mummy a photog's model in hospital and Red + Cross posters; the vampire now a successful bronzed used car salesman making you an offer you can't possibly refuse; the werewolf no longer having the deep subconscious Moon phobiaand silverhangup, became an ordinary-looking man, a kleptomaniac, who promptly made off with all the Addamssilverware.
From The Addams Family R-1229 50¢, Page 110:
"And on the very night of the cures, a misty
golden dawn broke outside over the hills,
beyond the dew-laden fields of emerald grass, sending it's lambent rays"
As recently as September 2012 the "Houses" & "Oz" imagery still strong:

Dorothy hidden in the "salt & pepper" floral arrangement.
"It's easy once you know the secret."
Marshall Brodien for "TV Magic Cards"

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