web analytics
Mar 082017
 

When it comes to vampire movies, it’s easy to think of Dracula. Back in the 70s, there was a creative version called Blacula. This is about Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall, who I remember best as the King of Cartoons from Pee-Wee’s Playhouse) seeking help from Count Dracula (Charles Macaulay) to surpress the slave trade, but instead Dracula turns the prince into a vampire thus making him Blacula. Who would’ve thought that Dracula was involved in the slave trade back in 1780.

About two hundred years later, Blacula rises again and looks for victims in Los Angeles. I’m sure he’s merely suffering with his thirst for blood. It’s easy to see that in the animated opening title sequence, which is really cool I might add.

Soon Blacula claims his first victims, interior designers Bobby McCoy (Ted Harris) and Billy Schaffer (Rick Melzler) and decides to take a cape to add to his look. Why not, I mean what’s a vampire without a cape.

After taking a few more victims, Blacula finds a young woman named Tina (Vonetta McGee). She has a striking resemblance to Blacula’s wife Luva, mainly because the same actress plays her.

Normally Blacula doesn’t care who his victims are, but he would never intentionally harm Tina or take her by force. Even after Blacula reveals what he really is, Tina still falls for him. Is that insane or what?

The only one suspicious about the mysterious attacks is scientific investigator Dr. Gordon Thomas (Thalmus Rasulala), who happens to be dating Tina’s sister Michelle (Denise Nicholas). To prove it, he intends to show his superiors the vampire victims in order for them to believe him. That was a smart move on Dr. Thomas’s part.

The main victim that stands out to me is Juanita Jones (Ketty Lester) the cab driver. After running over Blacula, she had an attitude with him, which was pretty funny. Juanita was one heck of a vampire too.

Blacula has the same weaknesses as any vampire, but here’s something different. He tends to avoid a certain individual named Skillet (Ji-Tu Cumbuka) who often describes Blacula as “one strange dude”. Could it be because Skillet likes to be photographed, or because he’s so annoying? It’s hard to say.

Even though it’s not shown until much later in the movie, Blacula can also turn into a bat. The effect is really smooth and amazing.

I liked this movie. It was certainly good for its time, especially when compared with how the vampires looked back in the 70s to the vampires in movies today. Those were more simpler times.

Jun 222016
 

Normally I don’t do follow-ups from previous top 10 lists, but I recently found other pop culture villains I’d like to add. Feel free to check my other list of Top 10 Underrated Villains for a comparison. So here’s another group of favorites.

#10) Spell Binder from The Electric Company (70s version): He is the arch nemesis of Letterman in the reoccurring Letterman animated segments. Spell Binder likes to cause chaos by magically changing letters in words, thus also changes the object, only to be defeated by Letterman who uses letters to change the words and object back to normal. Spell Binder does appear lame compared to other villains, but if you think about it, the chaos he causes is pretty effective in the long run.

#9) Scorpina from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Let’s face it. She was a standout villainess when she fought alongside Goldar. However, Scorpina was removed from the show due to lack of footage, which is understandable. On a side note, Lamy from Super Sentai Zyuranger, who was later known as Scorpina, was just as interesting after seeing what footage had not been used on Power Rangers. My only real concern was that Scorpina wasn’t written out of the show gradually. She just suddenly vanished with no explanation of what became of her.

Mezmeron

#8) Mezmeron from PAC-Man the Animated Series: Normally, PAC-Man’s enemies are the ghosts. In this version, the ghosts have a master who appears more intimidating. As powerful as Mezmeron is, he never fights his own battles. More importantly, this is the only version of PAC-Man he’s ever been featured and even then he hardly ever appeared. It would’ve been nice to see this villain more often, possibly as a final boss in the video game. That already sounds awesome.

Lorena from True Blood

#7) Lorena (Mariana Klaveno) from True Blood: Of all the vampires on this show, I find Lorena the most incredible. When it comes to love, she is very possessive and can be short tempered from time to time, especially if anyone speaks against her. Even though Lorena was slayed, I might have expected her to return later on in the series. I mean, if slayed vampires can return on shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, why not on True Blood? Of course, that never happened.

#6) Lord Maliss from Happily Ever After: He’s the brother of the Wicked Queen from Snow White that’s even more dangerous. This dark wizard can turn into a dragon and has a cape that can turn anyone into stone. On top of that, no other version of Snow White has such a character. So Maliss truly stands out, even though his only true goal is revenge.

#5) Taminella Grinderfall from Muppets franchise: This classic wicked witch character is an oldie but a goodie. Whether her evil plots are scary or goofy, Taminella was what helped make the classic Muppet Fairytale specials so magical and exciting as part of the fantasy genre, next to King Goshposh and Featherstone. With the Muppets still hugely popular, Taminella has never made an attempt for a comeback. It would be nice if she did. That is, whenever the Muppets decide to make a new fantasy film someday.

#4) Vam-Mi from Ninja Turtles: the Next Mutation: When it comes to vampire women, it seems like Vam-Mi is one of the least likely to come to mind. However, this 2000-year-old Chinese vampire is both dangerous and powerful despite that she can also be a total drama queen when things don’t go right. I find Vam-Mi as interesting as she is unique. Too bad she only appeared in the four-part episode “Unchain My Heart” and was never featured in the franchise again afterward.

Cracklin the Wizard

#3) Cracklin from The Adventures of Raggedy Ann and Andy: I’ll admit that it can be hard to take this dark wizard seriously as a villain because of his intense allergies to animal hair. As the arch nemesis of the Raggedys, Cracklin is very fearsome and powerful when it comes to using magic and will do anything to become even more powerful. His reasons are unknown as well as his background, but one thing is for certain. Cracklin is not one to take lightly, even if his sneezing is strong like the wind.

#2) Zira from The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride: Most of the Disney villains are hugely popular, even the ones that were only in one movie. Zira is one of few who are often overlooked. Sure, Scar was an interesting villain, but Zira is even more ruthless. Even though she was never mentioned in the first movie, Zira knew Scar before his demise and seeks revenge on Simba. She’ll do anything to kill Simba, including training her own cubs to hate and kill. Now that’s just low.

#1) False Face from Batman franchise: Of all the villains Batman has gone up against, this is the creepiest and most mysterious. He’s a master of disguise and commits crimes by leaving his calling card, a false quote. False Face has appeared in several different versions of Batman, which includes Batman Beyond, but the one I remember best is his appearance in Batman (60s version). As one of the most difficult criminals to catch, False Face isn’t featured often. He’s also not on the same level of popularity as Joker, Penguin, Riddler, etc., but I think he ought to be, despite that his origin story isn’t revealed.

Oct 142015
 

Over the years, classic monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Wolfman have been featured as horrifying creatures and as party animals. But who would think of them as superheroes? Well, it has happened in the animated series, Drak Pack: Complete Series (1980-1982).

The Drak Pack is a trio of teenage descendents of the classic monsters, Drak Jr., Frankie, and Howler. To atone for their ancestors’ wrongdoings, they devote their lives to fighting crime. The Drak Pack’s identities are kept a secret, but what’s the point of that? They go by the same names in both human and monster form, their enemies already know who they are, and they always drive the same vehicle, the Drakster, even while in human form.

Drak Jr. is the team leader. He can shape-shift into a variety of forms as well as a bat or mist and can walk up walls. Amazingly, Drak is unaffected by sunlight. Frankie has enormous strength, even more so when he gets mad. Sometimes he needs to be provoked when that level of strength is needed. Howler’s main power is his super breath. That’s definitely a useful skill to have in battle.

Dr. Dred

The Drak Pack’s arch nemesis is Dr. Dred, a criminal genius that uses cliched evil plots to become rich and powerful. Sometimes Dr. Dred summons Drak to a secret meeting to explain his evil plot and it always ends with Drak getting caught in a trap. Of course, Drak manages to escape every time.

Evil Henchmen

Dr. Dred’s henchmen include the overly loyal Toad, the sneaky humanoid Fly, the massive mumbling mummyman that has unlimited bandages, and Vampira a female vampire with the same shape-shifting abilities as Drak. Together the evil group is called ORGE, which stands for the Organization for Generally Rotten Enterprises. That’s an interesting acronym.

OGRE has an island headquarters called Dredquarters and an airship called the Dredgible. Both often end up destroyed when an evil plot backfires, but somehow is fully restored by the next episode.

When the Drak Pack needs counsel, they turn to Drak’s great uncle Count Dracula himself, who is nicknamed Big D. He is helpful sometimes, but often complains and tends to unknowingly slam the lid of his coffin on his hand. I’m just glad that Dracula is on the side of good.

I really enjoyed this series. I’m surprised that I didn’t know about it before since many of my favorite cartoons from the 80s were from Hanna Barbera. I would’ve enjoyed it just the same back then. Though I should point out that if you’re expecting this show to be a horror theme series, you might be disappointed. Scooby-Doo used more horror elements than this.

Oct 292014
 

This Halloween I thought I would cover the most famous vampire in pop culture, Count Dracula. There’s no doubt that this vampire is so iconic because there have been so many versions. Whether it’s about his own story, or if he’s part of a group of other monsters, the role of Count Dracula has been played by more actors than any other vampire. Here are the versions I remember best in chronological order, even though most of them are highly obscure.

Dracula (1932): Frankly, who doesn’t remember the original movie with Bela Lagosi as the Count. This may be a classic horror feature, but it’s not one I was hugely into compared to the following films and TV appearances, even though he was the inspiration behind the Count from Sesame Street.

Mad Monster Party (1967): Normally when the classic movie monsters are together, Dracula is the one in charge because he’s the toughest in the bunch. Although he’s quick on the attack, Dracula tends to fumble especially since Frankenstein’s monster is stronger than he is.

Electric Company (1970s): Believe it or not, one of Morgan Freeman’s reoccurring characters was Dracula. He has a mysterious presence that can scare people, but isn’t dangerous. It seems that this Dracula’s favorite pastimes include drinking vanilla malts and taking a bath in a casket.

Ghostbusters (1975): This version of Count Dracula, played by Billy Holms, is very goofy and as a bat he tends to bump into walls. What really stands out are his fangs since they look so fake. Luckily his wife Countess Dracula is with him to keep him in line.

Ghostbusters (1986): Although this version of Count Dracula looks a lot like the Dracula from Groovy Ghoulies, he’s actually a lot tougher than many of the evil spirits the Ghostbusters ever faced. His ambition is to take over Transylvania by taking human slaves with his hypnotic power instead of a bite. He also hates mirrors as well as garlic. A little strange, don’t you think?

Castlevania Games (1987-1991): Dracula has appeared on video games before, but the best known is in the Castlevania franchise as the main villain. Instead of the Van Helsings fighting Dracula, it’s the Belmont family. It goes to show that the Count always returns no matter how many times he’s been defeated.

Captain N: The Game Master (1989): The animated version that’s based on the video games is a warlord trying to take over the world of Castlevania. Though I must admit that the Count has a creepier look.

Monster Force (1994): As the main villain in this series, Dracula prefers to be called Dracule. Even though he has a charming persona, don’t be fooled. Dracule is very powerful with his metamorphosis, hypnotic spells, and other magical abilities, which gives the Prince of Darkness an edge over humans and monsters alike.

Leslie Neilson as Count Dracula

Dracula: Dead and Loving it (1995): I remember when I first heard about this comedy classic. After discovering that Leslie Nielsen was going to star as Dracula, I knew from the start that it was going to be a good one. This Dracula is clumsy and his shadow has a mind of its own, but don’t take him too lightly. He’s powerful in the ways of mind control, sometimes even more than he realizes.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2000): Dracula’s only appearance on this show was in the season five episode Buffy vs. Dracula, where Rudolf Martin played the role, but he did leave his mark during his time in Sunnydale. He seduced Buffy, made Xander his Renfield, even Spike remembers Dracula as an old rival before he got famous. This certainly covers a lot of ground on how Dracula stands out from other vampires and it’s hilarious when Buffy slays him… twice.

Van Helsing (2004): Richard Roxborough plays the role in this movie. As the main villain once again, he introduces a new skill that vampires have and that’s the ability to walk up walls and on the ceiling like it was nothing. Though Dracula is both strong and deadly, it’s really his three wives that stand out as big favorites to me.

Hotel Transylvania (2012): Adam Sandler voiced the most recent animated version of Count Dracula. Unlike other Draculas, this one is actually one of the good guys. After losing his wife to a group of angry villagers, Dracula created a hotel resort as a safe haven for monsters. However, he also became an overprotective father and control freak. Dracula is also funny, especially when he tries to tell humans that he never did say, “Bleh, bleh, bleh”.

Aug 202014
 

Hotel Transylvania – Nintendo 3DS is loosely based on the movie and like many video games based on movies, this was released around the same time as the premiere.

As the story goes, Quasimodo has captured Johnny and intends to cook him and it’s up to Mavis to rescue him. Mavis must navigate through the hotel grounds and battle enemy zombies, skeletons, and knights by jumping on their heads. She tries to get her father’s help, but Dracula doesn’t listen. He’s so focused on preparing for Mavis’s birthday party that he keeps piling duties on her.

 

The other duties Mavis has to complete include looking for lost items and delivering them to other characters. The wolf pups cause many of these mishaps and sometimes you have to fight them in a boss battle. Come to think of it, these are the only boss battles in the game next to the final confrontation with Quasimodo.

As you progress in the game, Mavis gets new powers and abilities that are mostly to help her reach areas that she couldn’t get to before. They include the hypnotic stare to freeze enemies, the electric shock power, running up red walls, and the ability to turn into mist to go through grates. There’s also the ability to turn into a bat and fly, but for some reason it doesn’t last long.

 

Normally navigation is never my strong point in video games, but there is a map on the bottom screen that shows you where you are and where you need to go. It’s very helpful. The only exception is the labyrinth down below. That area is so hard to get around.

Even though there are unlimited lives and many save points, the short life meter is also an issue. In order to increase it you have to collect blue crystals, like Mario collects coins. However, it takes 200 crystals to extend the life meter by one heart and the crystals never return once you take them, unlike the enemies that keep respawning.

I find this game enjoyable. I’ve heard in some reviews that it’s like Castlevania on a much younger level. I can see it that way in quality, but not in challenge. My only real concern is that if you go into a saved file where the game is 100% complete, an error occurs and you have to turn the 3DS off. I don’t understand why that is.