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Sunday, December 18, 2022

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, through newspaper archives



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On Christmas Eve, at noon MST on the Comet Network, “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” airs. Although not aired in theaters, or much on TV anymore, the 1964 holiday film lasted in theaters for a decade, and played often on TV for a couple more decades. It has become legitimate cult film. I’m fascinated with the film, its durability and its history as a staple of the Saturday Kids Matinee offerings once ubiquitous in movie world.

As you can see above, we’ve researched Newspaper Archives to find examples of ads, marketing, publicity reviews, etc. to provide our readers, this holiday season, a look at how it once was for this fun, goofy film. -- Doug Gibson


At the very top is an ad for SSCTM from the Sacramento Bee, Nov. 20, 1965. Below it is a review from The New York Daily News from Dec. 17, 1964. The terms "far out" is included to describe the film. Just below is a list of films playing published in the Dec. 18, 1965 Los Angeles Times. SCCTM is playing in several theaters. As my friend David Grudt (who located most of these clips) notes, the film was playing in my hometown of Long Beach, Calif., at The Towne Theater. I was about 27 months old. Maybe my parents took me to the show! Who knows?



Here are a couple of previously published reviews of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. The first is from my co-blogger, Steve D. Stones. Read on:


SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS: LITTLE GREEN MEN AND SANTA on MARS! The critics have not been kind to this film over the years. Every time I view the film, I keep in mind that it is intended for children. With this in mind, I am willing to overlook the poor acting, bad make-up and cardboard sets. The title alone is so campy and kitsch that it grabs my attention immediately.

The children of mars have grown bored, depressed and discontent. A Martian father named Kimar, played by Leonard Hicks, concludes that the children of mars have become this way from watching “meaningless earth programs.” The children see a newscaster interview Santa on television from the North Pole and wish that mars also had a Santa Claus. The newscaster complains of the cold outside Santa’s workshop, yet he wears no gloves and his breath cannot be seen as he speaks. This adds to some of the unintentional humor of the film.



Back on mars, Kimar meets with the “council of the wise” at Thunder Forrest. The council consists of Lomas, Rigna, Hargo and Voldar, and seeks the advice of an 800 year old Wiseman named Chochum. Long before Yoda was seen on movie screens, Chochum the wise was seen in this film. Perhaps the two wise men knew each other and trained at the Jedi academy? Not very likely, I’m afraid!

Chochum suggests to the council of the wise that they kidnap Santa Claus from the North Pole and bring him to mars to bring joy and happiness to the children of mars. Voldar, the protagonist of the group, opposes Chochum’s plan. He insists that he does not want the children of mars to play with games and toys and run around joyfully. “The earth has had Santa Claus long enough! We will bring him to Mars!” proclaims Kimar.

Despite Voldar’s opposition, the group is lead by Kimar to the North Pole in a spaceship that looks like a painted toilet paper roll. Shortly after landing, they see two children in a park and ask them where they can find Santa. They kidnap the children so that they cannot run to the police to report Martians coming to earth.

After finally landing at the North Pole, the Martians use their giant robot named Torg to kidnap Santa at his workshop. Torg appears to be made of painted cardboard and ventilation pipes. Voldar freezes Mrs. Claus and many of Santa’s elves with his ray gun that looks like a toilet plunger. Santa is brought to the spaceship and taken back to mars.

What follows for the rest of the film is a series of attempts by Voldar and his henchmen to either kill Santa or sabotage his efforts on mars. For example, in one particular scene Voldar rewires the toy machines in Santa’s workshop so that they create poorly designed toys. On their way back to mars, Voldar locks Santa and the two kidnapped children in a compression room of the space ship in an attempt to open a door and have them sucked away into space. The group conveniently escapes before the door can be opened.




Eventually Santa’s workshop on mars is running smoothly. Voldar and his henchmen are captured and imprisoned by Kimar for threatening Santa and the children. Kimar decides to allow Santa to go back to earth in time for Christmas. A happy ending always concludes any Christmas movie, which is certainly the case with this film.

In his book “Cult Science Fiction Films,” Welch Everman suggests that Santa Claus Conquers The Martians is such a terrible film that not even children would enjoy watching it, and would find it “stupid.” I disagree with this statement. Although I did not see Santa Claus Conquers The Martians until I was an adult, I can imagine myself enjoying this film even more so if I had seen it as a five-year-old child. If I had been aware of it as a child, I may have included it in my long list of Christmas films to view every 
December. I encourage you to gather up your family and watch Santa Claus Conquers The Martians this Christmas Season.




And here’s my more brief take on "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians."  (I love the above ad from the Nov. 4, 1972 Park Forest (Illinois) Star (Carnal Knowledge on at nights and Santa Claus in the kiddie matinee. — This 1964 film was shot in an abandoned airport hangar in Long Island, N.Y., using many minor cast members from a NYC stage production of "Oliver Twist." It has a catchy theme song, "Hurray for Santy (sic) Claus," that you'll hum afterward. The plot involves Martians coming to earth, kidnapping Santa and whisking him away to cheer up the Martian kiddies. Two earth children are kidnapped along with Santa. Santa and the earth kids fight off a Martian baddie, prep a goofy Martian to become that planet's Santa, and launch off to earth in the spaceship.

 

We never know if they made it home — perhaps the budget didn't allow that. The acting has to be seen to be believed, but the film has a goofy charm. It was a big hit on the now-gone "weekend matinee" circuit and played theaters for years. Pia Zadora, who was briefly a sexy starlet in the 1980s, plays one of the Martian children. John Call, as Santa, does a mean "ho, ho, ho."

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Here is a video podcast Steve and I did for Plan9Crunch 11 years ago on SCCTM. Below is another fun ad, also from the Dec. 17, 1964 New Yotrk Daily News, that shows SCCTM playing at the same theater also showing "roughie" horrors "The Awful Dr. Orloff" and "The Horrible Dr. Hichcock."


Finally, a couple more ads to see. The top is from the Dec. 1, 1967 edition of the Roselle-Register (Illinois). It played at the same theater showing a Best Picture Oscar. Notice Santa Claus Conquers the Martians secure perch as a perennial Saturday children's movie. Below the Roselle-Register as is one from the Nov. 19, 1965 Daily Independent Journal of San Rafael, Calif. It's advertised as a "small-fry matinee."

We hope you enjoyed this blog. Again, our thanks to David Grudt for his help.





Friday, December 9, 2022

Ghost Stories for Christmas underscores traditions, celebrations of Christmas past

 


I've finished reading this absolutely marvelous new anthology, Ghost Stories for Christmas: Volume 1. Compiled by writer Andi Brooks, it's a collection of supernatural Christmas stories published in the 19th and early 20th century periodicals. There are great writers featured, including Washington Irving, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Charles Dickens. But just as much fun is sampling the tales of mostly forgotten writers (William Wilthew Fenn, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Henry Ross ...) , published in mostly forgotten books and periodicals (Routledge's Christmas Annual, The Illustrated London News, Santa Claus: Dupuy's Christmas Annual ...) . Usually to find these stories, you'd haunt Ebay or dusty used book stores, or peruse Google to find digital restorations.


Readers can imagine themselves sitting by a warm fire on Christmas Eve, reading these tales by candlelight or early electricity. Or gathered around a big Christmas table listening, captivated, to an oral rendition of a story in the Christmas edition of Once a Week, or many other publications.Brooks has done a wonderful job of compiling these stories, and Plan9Crunch had the opportunity to interview him. -- Doug Gibson


This blog post includes some original art from the stories, when they were first published.



The interview with Andi Brooks


Provide our readers the research it involves preparing the anthology, how you choose the various stories?


Brooks: The idea for the anthology had actually been in the back of my mind since around 1999 when I found a copy a book called Christmas Past: A selection from Victorian Magazines in a used bookshop. Compiled by Dulcie M. Ashdown, the book is a wonderful collection of festive poetry, stories, games, fancy dress ideas, recipes, articles on how Christmas cards and Christmas crackers are made, and guides for decorating the home, making hand-made gifts and entertaining guests. It is a simply delightful book.


Among the typical Victorian heart-wrenching and heart-warming stories is a solitary ghost story from the 1895 Christmas edition of The Woman at Home, Annie S. Swan’s Magazine by Percy Andreae called, rather appropriately, A Christmas Ghost Story. A romantic rather than scary ghost story, I found it intriguing and decided to seek out more Christmas ghost stories from Victorian magazines and newspapers with a view to compiling an anthology. But, to cut a long story short, a lot happened in the next twenty years to keep me occupied and it wasn’t until I had finished my own book, Ghostly Tales of Japan, last year that the idea resurfaced. In the intervening twenty-odd years, the Internet had firmly become an everyday part of our lives and a researcher’s dream come true.


Whereas back in the 1990s when I was researching Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi in London with Frank Dello Stritto we had to physically travel to libraries and archives to source material, now a wealth of material can be found online. Ideally, I would have liked to have visited those libraries and archives again to see physical copies of magazines, newspapers and books, especially to source the illustrations which often accompanied Christmas ghost stories, but living in Japan made that impossible, so I was very grateful for the Internet. To prepare what I was intending to be a single volume, I researched and compiled a list of ghost stories actually set at Christmas time rather than just ordinary ghost stories which appeared in the Christmas editions of magazines and newspapers. Many of the famous stories as we known them now are revisions of the originals made by the authors for publication in book form, but I wanted to go back to the originals as much as possible for this anthology. Scouring online archives, I stumbled across more and more stories, many of which I had never heard of and may have lain unread since first publication, until my original single volume had expanded to five or six. I’ve always enjoyed research much more than writing and become quite obsessive once I begin, so I am sure that I will unearth even more stories. 


Do you think our contemporary vision of Christmas ghost stories is dominated by the classic, A Christmas Carol. Is there a dearth of knowledge of Christmas ghost stories and their long tradition as part of the holiday?


Brooks: A Christmas Carol certainly casts a very long shadow. Ever since its publication on December 19th, 1843, it has dominated the popular imagination as no other story has since or, in my opinion, ever will as the embodiment of not just a Christmas ghost story, but as a story which encapsulates the very essence of the spirit of Christmas. It really was a phenomenon from the very first day, with all six thousand initial copies selling out in just five days and another two editions being published before the end of the year. By the end of the following year it had gone through a remarkable fourteen editions and has stayed in print ever since. Starting with eight competing theatre adaptations running in London theatres just two months after its publication and Dickens’ own public readings, which he continued until one month before his death in 1870, it has been repeatedly adapted to every possible medium.


That’s a tough act to follow, but of course A Christmas Carol is just one story in a rich genre of which there have always been devotes, even as its popularity as a seasonal staple has waxed and waned. However, I think that a wider appreciation of the Christmas ghost story, along with a greater awareness of the tradition, has certainly grown in recent years with more and more anthologies being published and, perhaps more importantly, an explosion of information and the stories themselves reaching an increasing number of people online. I hope that my own anthology and the future volumes in the series will help to continue that momentum and help to introduce readers to some less-trod corners of the genre. 


You mentioned earlier to me you could fill five volumes of Christmas ghost stories. So, in another era, the Christmas ghost story was a staple of 19th century, 20th century periodicals? You even have another Dickens holiday season ghost story by Dickens, about the mean sexton and goblins. Dickens wrote a lot more holiday ghost stories than A Christmas Carol, right?




Brooks:
Although Dickens wrote five “Christmas books,” starting with
A Christmas Carol, not all of them are ghostly or set at Christmas. The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells that Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year (1844), set on New Year’s Eve, features the spirits of some church bells and their goblin attendants. The Cricket on the Hearth: A Fairy Tale of Home (1845) tells of a family and their cricket guardian spirit. The Battle of Life: A Love Story (1846) has one scene set at Christmas, but no supernatural elements. The last of Dickens’ Christmas books, The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain, A Fancy for Christmas-Time (1848), the story of a man’s encounter with a ghostly doppelgänger of himself is set at Christmas. Despite the lack of ghosts in his Christmas books, Dickens was a great lover of ghost stories, and wrote some fine examples of his own, one of the best known of which is probably The Signal-Man. Contrary to his reputation as a Christmas ghost story writer, however, he wrote few genuine supernatural tales set during the festive period. He often included ghostly episodes in his stories. One of my favourites is the ghostly section of A Christmas Tree, which is told by ghosts. In the story, Dickens hints that the telling of ghost stories pre-dates the celebration of Christmas by referring to them as “Winter Stories.”


The story which I chose for my anthology, The Story of the Goblins who Stole a Sexton, is one of five ghostly stories featured in The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, Containing a Faithful Record of the Perambulations, Perils, Travels, Adventures and Sporting Transactions of the Corresponding Members, more commonly known simply as The Pickwick Papers. The “true” tale is recounted on Christmas Eve by a reluctant Mr. Wardle at the prompting of Mr. Pickwick after Mr. Wardle’s mother recalls that her late husband had once told it one Christmas Eve many Christmases before. Published on December 31, 1836, it can be viewed as a prototype for A Christmas Carol, with the two stories bearing many similarities. 


I love The Christmas Dinner, by Irving. It takes me back to an old-fashioned Christmas celebration long ago. At Chrighton Abbey is another one that tugs at my heart, what Christmas traditions were long ago. But there are so many stories. I have read about 20 so far. What are some of your favorites in the collection?


Brooks: Although Irving’s The Christmas Dinner isn’t strictly a ghost story, I wanted to have it open the anthology to set the scene and illustrate how ghost stories were once told at Christmas. It is interesting to read that at that time, 1820, people were looking back with nostalgia at the traditions of Christmas past and trying to recreate them. That’s how I celebrate Christmas, trying to recapture that elusive feeling of an old-fashioned childhood Christmas in a simpler, more innocent time surrounded by long departed loved ones. 


I read and re-read all of the stories in my book so many times while compiling it that I came to appreciate and love every single one of them in a way that I never could have by reading them in the usual manner. As I got to the very heart of the stories, I was often taken unawares by the depth of emotion which they stirred. The Old Nurse’s Story by Elizabeth Gaskell is a shocking reminder that the past cannot be undone and will come back to haunt us in old age. The Earth Draws by Jonas Lie is also a very potent story. But there are two stories which really stand out for me in terms of their emotional impact. After working on the book in the cold dead of night, I could not shake off the feelings of dread inspired by E. Nesbit’s Portent of the Shadow. I think its power lies in the very banality of its setting, an ordinary modern house rather than ancient ancestral pile, and the utter helplessness of the protagonists. The self-sacrifice of Miss Eastwich, the storyteller was also very poignant. The other story which has stayed with me is of a very different nature. I have shed a tear only three times in my life while reading. Most recently was when I read Their Dear Little Ghost by Elia W. Peattie. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it, so I shan’t give the story away.


You have tongue in cheek stories, like Real Estate Man of Yore (I love old eastern USA stories) and Dickens' The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton. And then you have eerie gothic holiday tales, such as At Chrighton Abbey, and tongue-in-cheek tales like The Three-Cornered Ghost, and grisly tales like Mansleigh Grange. Were you looking for a balance in moods of the tales?






Brooks: It’s interesting that you should mention Real Estate Man of Yore. Being English, I’m not really familiar with that brand of old eastern USA stories, and I was quite unimpressed by it upon my first reading. I recall actually being dismissive of it. But with successive readings, I grew to not only appreciate it, but to really enjoy it. I think that if I had been compiling a single anthology, I would have been inclined to go for the throat and have compiled a collection of full-on horror stories, but as my research progressed and I started to amass far too many stories for a single volume, I began to appreciate the sheer breadth and variety of the genre, and I decided that I wanted to tell its complete story. I felt quite strongly that every single story, no matter how obscure, deserved to be read again. Having settled on arranging the stories in each volume in chronological order, I next decided, as you suggested, to create a balance of moods. So each volume will contain examples of moving stories, amusing stories, and horrific stories side-by-side. My aim is to create a definitive library of that golden age of the Christmas ghost story which spanned the Victorian and Edwardian eras. 


The Pearl Princess I enjoyed a lot. Many of these authors are very obscure. Did it interest you to look into their biographies, and what else they wrote. I kind of associate this book with going to a very old used bookstore, and browsing, just looking for treasures.


Brooks: Very much so. I researched every single author and their known works. Of course, literary giants such as Dickens, Irving and Stevenson need no introduction, but I still took the time to re-read their biographies and bibliographies because I didn’t want to just mechanically put this anthology together. I wanted to feel as much of a connection with the authors as possible and to understand their motivations for writing the stories and the backgrounds to them in the context of their lives and careers and the times in which they lived. My motivation for compiling this anthology grew out of a genuine love of the genre, so it’s important to me to do it as respectfully and thoughtfully as I possibly can. I know that it’s a clichĂ©, but it really is a labour of love. What is intriguing is that we know so little about some of the authors. For example, Augustus Cheltenham, author of The Pearl Princess, a story which I enjoyed as I know the area in which it is set very well, remains a complete mystery. We do not even know the dates of his birth or death. Just two published stories bear his name. Future volumes in the Ghost Story For Christmas series will feature stories which were published anonymously. It is unlikely that we will ever know who penned them. 


I do love browsing in old bookshops or online in search of treasures. It’s a real thrill to come across something that you’ve never seen or heard of before. When I find them, as with my Bela Lugosi research on the Bela Lugosi Blog, I have a really strong desire to share them so that other people can enjoy them too. I hope that this anthology and its sequels will bring some joy to like-minded people.


There is just one aspect of my research which has frustrated me. I think that the illustrations which accompanied some of the stories on their original publication are every bit as important as the stories themselves. Although I was able to include some of them in the anthology, the ones which appeared in newspapers were often not available in a good quality to reproduce. Hopefully, I will one day be able to source better quality versions for later editions. 


As I said earlier, my search for obscure Christmas ghost stories is ongoing, so if any of your readers ever come across any in vintage newspapers or magazines, I’d love to hear from them. If I can use them, they’ll receive a credit and a copy of the volume they appear in.


Here are a few more illustrations that were originally published with the stories in this anthology:







Sunday, November 27, 2022

Santa and the Three Bears, a Christmas cartoon with cool songs

 


The above newspaper ad, from the 1970s, is courtesy of Long Beach, Calif., friend David Grudt. It brings back memories of the roughly 50-minute film, "Santa and the Three Bears," that used to air on Thanksgiving when I was a child in Long Beach. The film disappeared for a while but never went away. Ii once caught it on the long-gone commercial Ogden Channel 20, or was it was another channel. Lately though, it's come back, thanks to streaming services. It's on Amazon Prime, and that includes the brief live-action bookends. Here's a review of it. -- Doug Gibson

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"Santa and the Three Bears" — If you lived in Southern California long ago, this 1970 blend of live action and cartoon was a Thanksgiving afternoon staple on KTLA Channel 5. 

The animation is mediocre, but the story has a simple charm. A forest ranger teaches two excitable bear cubs about Christmas while their grouchy mother bear wants them to hibernate for the winter. The ranger agrees to play Santa for the cubs on Christmas Eve, but a storm keeps "Santa" away ... or does it? The best part of the film is the live-action beginning and ending, where the ranger sits by the Christmas tree with his grandaughter, a sleepy cat and many toys. 

The songs by the way, are fantastic. Simple lyrics, but sung with Christmas cheer, passion and beauty. I find myself watching this film every Christmas season for the live action sequences, and the songs.



The ranger is voiced and played by Hal Smith, best known as Otis the town drunk on "The Andy Griffith Show." Grumpy Mama Bear was voiced by Jean Vander Pyl (Wilma on "The Flintstones"). The uncredited director of the live action is incredibly Barry Mahon, who made soft-core sex films in the 1960s with such titles as "Nudes Inc." and "The Sex Killer." Another kiddie film he directed is Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny, reviewed here.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

How do the texts Frankenstein and A Werewolf Remembers: The Testament of Lawrence Stewart Talbot represent the literary archetype of monsters?




The following (see title above) is an essay from Joseph Gibson, 17, a student at Ogden High School, in Ogden, Utah. It is the completion of a yearlong project, part of his International Baccalaureate high school program. Joseph is the son of Plan9Crunch blogger Doug Gibson

Category 1 - Language and Literature

Word Count [3999]

Contents



  1.  Introduction…
  2. Investigation

a.                   Is a Monster Born or Made?...

b.                  Sympathetic Monsters...

c.                   Capacity of Monsters For Moral Growth/Accountability…

d.                  Monsters and Predestiny…

      3.  Conclusion…

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 Introduction

 

Fiction has the power to provoke readers into questions they might not otherwise ask in a scenario where it is acceptable to agree or disagree with anything and experience anything within a surreal sphere.  Even so, audiences can tend to stay most comfortable watching their heroes prevail over monsters and villains. Though such stories are important, their battles pose an interesting question: are these conflicts against monsters and villains equal?  When a human is evil enough, he or she is called a monster.  Does that mean that any monster must face the designation of irredeemable villainy?  What even is a monster?  What do certain texts indicate about the morality of monsters?  A Student's Dictionary defines “monster” as “an animal or person with a strange or unusual shape,” and that is a rather standard explanation.  However, this does not fully explain the archetype of a monster in those traditional stories.  It is better to say a monster is any sole individual that is incompatible with the culture and society viewing it and one where interactions between that culture and the monster will lead to a dangerous conflict.  Any number of animal species are this to each other; it almost stands to reason monsters should have no culpability for their actions if those would follow a separate natural order.  Yet, the most enduring monsters have an intimate relationship with humans, and, as most authors are human, the texts will take a distinct stance on the culpability, responsibility and morality of such monsters. It is best to examine two narratives -- what some consider the original modern monster story: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, specifically the 1831 version, and a novel that biographizes the Universal Monsters series under the lifespan of the Wolf-Man: A Werewolf Remembers: The Testament Of Lawrence Stewart Talbot by Frank Dello Stritto.  

The former provides a historical insight to the relatively recent publication of the latter.  The benefit of examining these two texts is how the texts specifically show two similar character arcs for their monsters that deserve more specific analysis, which can encompass the following: origin, sympathy, comparison to other monsters, development, and significant themes to explore each monster.  Another benefit to examining these two texts specifically is that Mary Shelley’s work, in some ways, defined the genre and archetype, whereas Dello Stritto, in crafting his work, sought to stick as close to the movies’ story as possible while repurposing werewolf tropes from other media to construct his monster story (Dello Stritto, 494).  Dello Stritto’s work has merit over other examples, because his novel charts the entire lifespan and character evolution of a famous monster.  Therefore, every rhetorical choice these texts make is deliberate; consequently, these are two of the best texts to examine here.

 Are Monsters Born Or Made?

 

            The question of someone being born a monster or nurtured accordingly pervades The Monster’s journey in Frankenstein, while tinging the edges of Talbot’s in his novel.  By that earlier definition for monster, the large frame and watery eyes indicate that he is a monster, but he shows no deliberate malice or instinct for wanton destruction.  Based on the preconceived notions of monsters in the first definition, The Monster has a greater potential to be one simply because of his stature (even though Victor especially designed its extraneous features due to his interpretation of attractiveness).  Similarly, while Talbot’s curse is something he acquires, one of his mentors, who studies his affliction on page 214, says, “The moonlight interplays differently with everyone….But it only ignites what is inside you.”  His mentor is not even incorrect in this; Talbot pursues an engaged woman named Gwen Conliffe at the beginning of his story in a somewhat predatory manner.  The lycanthropic curse only brings to the surface what is inside of him, just as the later ostracization of The Monster will awaken its cunning and darker urges.  Once again, though, these behaviors do not spring forth from a vacuum, and there is a very provocative implication in their origins that warrants further examination.  The Monster’s relationship with his father, Victor Frankenstein, fuels the novel, and Talbot spends a significant portion of his novel bouncing between alternate father figures because of a complicated relationship with his own father.  These alternative father figures almost invariably end very poorly, a fact frighteningly intimate with The Monster’s own experience with the blind man.  Strangely, it does not even end there, as the creation of these characters excludes women in a significant way. 

The Monster’s creation comes solely from man, withholding any female influence, and Dello Stritto meets this by recycling the other film roles of Talbot’s actor and Talbot’s father’s actor into more Talbots.  He thereby weaves a family tree that emphasizes the men in the lineage and strips women of any power by supposing the Talbot lineage bears no women and by killing off Talbot’s mother early into his life.  Thus, the texts insinuate that monsters are monsters due to complicated family dynamics.  Talbot’s negative qualities are possibly the result of his exploits with other Talbots he meets in America after his father sends him away there, where his main Talbot mentor teaches him to read people and treat most conversations as if they were a complicated game.  It is a mindset that informs some of his thoughts he describes when he was around Gwen.  The main maternal insert for Talbot ends up a gypsy woman Maleva, whose son infected him with lycanthropy.  Their partnership in trying to cure Talbot comes across as the least ambiguously positive as they travel together between the first few attempts at cures.  She seemingly devotes the rest of her life to helping him and confirms at one point that he has become a surrogate son.  Her early influence on him could be wholly responsible for the positive traits that manifest despite his curse.  She, also, is his primary tether to humanity for much of the novel.  The Monster lacks this kind of reprieve, any companion to stay with him through his journey.  This lack of any consistent mother figure or friend in particular outside of the blind man and Frankenstein himself add to the tragedy and inform The Monster’s fixation on his loneliness that drives his every action.  These interpersonal relationships or lack thereof generate much sympathy for The Monsters as well as creating them and forcing their trajectory in a specific way.  According to these texts, monsters lack familial stability and support systems.

 Sympathetic Monsters

 

            An audience’s sympathy for a character is triggered for any number of reasons, but this is a more delicate balance when the character kills human beings.  Indeed, The Monster and Talbot are sympathetic characters; it can be difficult to understand why without comparing other monsters.  Luckily, Dello Stritto’s text, summarizing the latter half of the Universal Monsters film series, yields such other monsters: the film versions of Dracula and The Frankenstein Monster.  Meanwhile, the novel Monster best compares to the literary Dracula, who is essentially the same character as the movie character with more textual similarities to The Monster.  Talbot meets his versions of The Monster and Dracula in an afterlife scenario, describing them in this passage.  “The Dark One radiated evil...I could feel his thirst for revenge.  He was plotting...The Big One waited.  I watched and remembered” (Dello Stritto, 230-231).  Here the intent is the key difference between the appropriate sympathy levels for these three monsters amidst the result of their similar crimes.  This version of The Monster mostly lacks agency, and Dracula has always derived pleasure from preying on humans.  Talbot’s monster is the monster within himself, but what makes his character compelling is his eternal battle with the self.  Most of his surrogate father figures are ones he enlists to cure him of his lycanthropy.  He regrets his murders and feels depression over them and takes responsibility in trying to cure himself.  Evidently, a monster archetype can feel remorse.

Talbot´s testaments absorb other vampires of the times into Dracula to further color the latter’s resume as a monster and villain, but the most intelligent scheme the character has enacted is the novel original.  Dracula puts evident thought into his movements in his novel, and here arises the comparison to The Monster.  He abducts and murders a child and tortures their female caretaker.  He meticulously preys on his target’s mental states through many targeted attacks.  He even frames his enemy for actions necessary for his plan, forcing them to act in ways that benefit him before that person defies him.  In response, he attempts to take away their new bride.  The significance here is that The Monster does all these same heinous actions in Frankenstein, showing the same level of intelligent thought and foresight.  There is no tangible reason why one should appear more sympathetic -- and therefore excusable -- than the other except the audience's understanding of the tragedy of The Monster and the comparative lack thereof of any nuance to the character of Dracula in either story.  The Monster justifies its motives thusly.  “I am content to reason with you.  I am malicious because I am miserable.  Am I not shunned and hated by all mankind?...tell me why I should pity man more than he pities me?” (Shelley, 104).  This demonstrates the importance of the backstory The Monster has just divulged to Frankenstein and the reader, and Frankenstein understands it.  The Monster asks for Frankenstein to build him a mate so he is no longer lonely.  There is the honest interpretation that had Frankenstein honored this request, The Monster’s terror would have ceased.  Shelley seems to be implying, then, that monsters can have emotional motivations like humans.  Frankenstein’s abortion of his Bride project incurs some of The Monster’s more malicious actions and evaluates The Monster as the monster that man makes as opposed to the monster whose nature is to prey on man.  In these ways as related to these other monsters, the texts clarify the instances where monster archetypes are sympathetic.

 Capacity of Monsters for Moral Growth and Accountability

 

            Sympathy is important for audience engagement, but growth and change -- if at all possible redemption -- has a more lasting impact and justifies the sympathy.  Talbot´s novel repeats a motif that directly links to his curse.  "Even a man who's pure in heart And says his prayers by night, May become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms And the autumn moon is bright." At first, it seems like a condemnation and a resignation to his curse, but it transforms into much more with the realization that Talbot was not pure in heart at the beginning of his journey and later grows into a man who is pure in heart because of his affliction.  Talbot´s actions and attitudes in similar situations shift over the course of the novel.  In the beginning, he struggles and gives into his impulses to hunt Gwen and, later, Elsa Frankenstein with comparative ease.  By the time the narrative reaches this relationship with the gypsy woman Illonka, though, there is a difference.  Dello Stritto had set up a scenario to foreshadow this turn in Talbot’s early years with a woman named Consuela.  At first, he goes along with the woman’s advances immediately, but he is a lot more wary of Illonka and how he could hurt her or how her attraction to him may be a result of her unsettled internal issues (Dello Stritto, 298).  It is not as if he is suddenly immune to his beast self’s fantasies about her or his own overwhelming attraction to her, but he recognizes the underlying circumstances in the situation and handles the situation with more maturity and care.  This level of self awareness from a monster is a specific choice to underline his growth in the narrative.  Still, he wants nothing more than to be cured, and she becomes a part of that fantasy.  Another important byproduct of this relationship is Talbot’s scheme to rescue her from his “beast-self” by drugging her and locking her in a room when his murderous impulses battle him over her.  Notwithstanding that he still ends up killing her the next day, this marks immense growth for the man.  Where he was previously powerless to his impulses and role as a monster, he is able to fight effectively against himself.  However, for the narrative to still focus on monsters, the redemption cannot be to a state of total humanity, and it can be to any degree of subtlety.  Talbot is a tragic character fundamentally that is cursed to lose control and kill, but he changes along the way to combat this.   He powerlessly follows his impulses to later seek death and after, a better life, deliberately battling his darker half.  Talbot further evolves with his later hunt of Dracula, learning to use the full scope of his abilities toward a good end.  

        At the end of Frankenstein, The Monster outlives his creator in a worldwide hunt that provides a catalyst for a change.  The Monster has likely already understood that without his creator, he is nothing ,and that has likely been an underlying motive.  In that regard, The Monster’s resolution to end his miserable life is not a surprise. The more important realization for The Monster is that what he did was wrong with his apology to Walton.  This is significant.  The monsters of the animal kingdom -- what the cat is to the mouse -- have no responsibility to do anything less than what they do to each other.  They do what they do to survive with no real morality.  On the surface, a monster like Dracula is the same, and it becomes hard to disprove the sentiment that monsters are wholly incompatible with humans and human society, doomed to villainy.  But the texts surrounding Frankenstein’s Monster and Larry Talbot offer a more nuanced perspective through the respective growth in accountability and limiting the impact of their actions.  It can never be a perfect redemption for them as society will not allow The Monster a place nor his creator allow him a mate.  Similarly, the final successful curing of Talbot´s condition only lasts for under a year, but this is a redemption of their characters that demonstrates the standards and responsibilities of even monsters.  Their remembrance is as monsters, but that only drags them down so far, as monsters can have the agency and intellect required to grow and change as a human.  Or, perhaps given their close proximity to humankind and aforementioned evolution and character development, the core of these texts’ representation of monsters is to imply that they are indeed human in terms of functionality.

 Monsters and Predestiny

 

            As aforementioned, there is a cure for Talbot at one point in the novel, though temporary.  This is because the film series had the penultimate installment approach that angle and the final one completely ignore that ending. Yet, Dello Stritto illustrates another undercurrent of his interpretation of Talbot’s journey through this.  This is the idea of destiny.  The framing device of the novel initially is Talbot writing his memoirs, cured and about to marry his fiancee.  The story progresses to that point from his beginning into his curse and search for viable long-term cures.   Amidst all of that, there are implications of a rigid fate. On the hands of his victims, there is always a pentagram to mark his hunt for them.  Maleva insinuates predestiny in her eulogies and lamentations she recites at certain intervals throughout the novel.  She turns out to be vindicated.  After each of his deaths, he finds himself in a place he calls “The Deep Darkness” with Frankenstein's Monster and Dracula.  The souls of the dead pass through that place into the afterlife, and Talbot, Dracula and this interpretation of The Monster are unique in that they are stuck to that place.  While Mannering’s machine could functionally drain the life energy of both him and The Monster, there is no indication that their afterlife connection is due to anything other than the supernatural.  A gypsy named Bela infects Talbot with lycanthropy, and Talbot, in turn, infects a couple of people, who infect more.  The story never mentions any of these werewolves being trapped in The Deep Darkness beyond Talbot’s questions about it.  They did not have the same destiny.  Furthermore, Talbot’s travails in this novel join him with several mad scientists who would, in their respective films, create beings similar to The Wolf-Man and The Monster that never gain any mention in The Deep Darkness either.  Therefore, these three do have a specific fate to necessitate their presence up to a certain point.  It is provable, because the story does end with circumstances that satisfy whatever is keeping them there as they never reappear again despite incurring deaths that were tame compared to their previous ones.  Destiny leads him to Edelmann, (Dello Stritto, 317), the man ultimately responsible for finding a cure for Talbot´s condition.  Talbot is cured and The Monster and Dracula die once more, but that is still not enough to keep them retired.  Destiny and his own character arc demand Talbot find Edelmann, receive his cure, fall in love again, and kill a Dracula-corrupted Edelmann.  Around page three hundred comes a major turning point as the appearance of Dracula coincides with the reappearance of his “beast-self”, serving to obliterate the ideal life he had finally achieved.  Dracula seduces Talbot´s fiancee into one of his own Brides, and The Wolf-Man has to destroy her.  After that point, Talbot’s drive is not to live a human life but to end the unnatural life and legacy of Dracula.  This is Talbot’s ultimate fate, and it is his arc but also destiny that leads to this (Dello Stritto, 483).  Talbot’s experiences made him into a monster able to exact a deadly force, and his struggle against his impulses after revival made him a better man.  His evolution in romantic circumstances makes him able to court Miliza Morelle.  Losing her and the remains of his normal human life as a Talbot is essential for completing his destiny.  A werewolf with nothing left to lose and no more illusions about regaining humanity is Dracula’s most permanent nemesis.  Talbot understands and cooperates with the Wolf-Man inside himself in detecting Dracula’s victims through scents.  The text is demonstrating that Talbot has the required abilities for an ultimate destiny of ridding the world of evil.  Evidently, monsters can be used for good in the grand scheme of things.  Talbot had soliloquized about being “permitted to die” (Dello Stritto, 179), which reaches its natural conclusion when the Wolf-Man’s murder of Dracula appeared to end both permanently, as well as The Monster, who he rescues from Dracula’s influence.  Talbot could not find permanent peace from the monster inside of man through anything except joining with that monster to end the reign of the monster that exclusively preyed on mankind and rescuing The Monster that man made.  The text portrays a divine, predestination streak.  

The Monster in Frankenstein exists in an opposite sphere.  The novel more prevalently concerns itself with the debate of nature and nurture.  Whereas destiny had a role that nobody can define in the fall and redemption of Lawrence Talbot, in his travels, The Monster encounters situations where the nurture of people around him warps his nature.  This harkens back to the earlier proposed working definition for a monster that is fundamentally contingent upon the society viewing it.  Frankenstein´s Monster appears too large and grotesque to his European beholders.  They instinctively view him as a loathsome and lesser creature and pass fierce judgements.  This is similar to the novel Dracula, wherein the viewpoint characters, mostly contemporary Western Europeans or highly respected and scientifically minded people, pass a series of judgements and assumptions on the motivations of Dracula and his brides, their morality and on the natives to the community Harker travels through on his way to Dracula’s castle.   It is human nature but also highlights another nuance that the definition of strange is subject to all sorts of preexisting bias.  In that respect, the nature and nurture of The Monster take more meaning as a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The Monster learns beautiful and eloquent language skills from the blind man and also of the kindness of man among each other through the blind man’s family.  He introduces a nature to help people in need when he helps them, but they will not repay him with kindness and generosity when they can see him.  As aforementioned, people such as Felix and William view The Monster as vile and hideous and do not allow him to prove otherwise, first meeting him with violence and fear.  It is easy to understand why he then sinks into vile schemes.  Once again, The Monster’s primary motivation is still loneliness, and his hunt with his creator is mired in desire for that creator to accept him or create him someone who can.  Terrorizing Frankenstein´s life is all The Monster has and all anyone has allowed him to have in their society.  The predestination of The Monster is through human biases and actions, rather than some divine aim, but his final action allows him to somewhat escape the prewritten.

 Conclusion

 

            To conclude, Frankenstein and A Werewolf Remembers: The Testament Of Lawrence Stewart Talbot, challenge perceptions of the monster archetype through telling two similar stories comprising the birth, life and death of two famous monsters.  These texts examine a monster’s morality.  Though Talbot and The Monster are ultimately monsters and will not be able to function within the confines of human society without heavy casualties, they are still beings that have the capacity for growth and change and self-awareness and self-discovery and can accomplish good, or end bad, if they choose it.  Other monsters can show the other lane to that choice, a senseless, unprovoked and well thought out crime.  It is the same choice every human has; thus, it lends understanding to the notion of terrible people being monsters.  This is remarkably a rectangular relationship, for these novels also prove not every monster is a terrible man and that becoming a monster and redemption are not mutually exclusive terms.  Still, this analysis has left several persisting questions however.  In the event where monsters do not have to be the villains, in what place does that put man in their stories, especially in being responsible for The Monster and ambition?  Until the turning point near the end of the novel, Talbot considers the closest thing to a villain in his story to be Dr. Frank Mannering.  Mannering is the first of a few to propose a solution to cure Talbot of The Wolf-Man.  He is also the first of a few that Talbot recognizes the obsession start to form with reviving The Monster.  Doctors Niemann and Edelmann follow in this pursuit.  The latter ultimately debates with an assistant if humans have any responsibility to The Monster or to their fellow selves.  The obsession and fixation that seems to infect those doctors has some roots possibly in Frankenstein, where the title character has the same feeling toward his construction of The Monster.  What is interesting is that Walton too bears that toward his own exploits and that Frankenstein must tell him not to indulge his ambition.  Mannering also masters the secrets of eternal youth through Frankenstein’s notes rather than the destiny that Talbot has to die and return at intervals.  It would be warranted to compare Elizabeth Lavenza and Miliza Morelle, the respective main love interests for each book that suffer unpleasant ends and to compare also what they accomplish, as characters, beyond furthering the protagonists’ and antagonists’ characters and rivalry in their stories.  Another questionable consideration is how much Victor Frankenstein himself qualifies as a monster through sheer comparison to Talbot and his own monster, given several similarities in personality and lifestyle with Lawrence Talbot.  The open sexuality of Talbot´s book deserves analysis, as many monster books, especially the older ones, aim more for a celibate outlook or otherwise comment on restrictive sexuality.  Dracula, in particular, has an interesting exploration on its culture’s sexuality through Lucy and Mina that seem to contrast with Talbot´s experiences.

Works cited:

Dello Stritto, Frank J., A Werewolf Remembers: The Testament of Lawrence Stewart Talbot. Cult Movies Press, 644 East 7 1/2 Street, Houston, Texas 77007, 2017

Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein, 1831, London, Dover, 1994.

Stoker, Abraham, Dracula, 1897, London, Barnes & Noble Inc. 122 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10011, 2011.

Dictionary Project, Inc. A Student's Dictionary & Gazetteer, 21st edition ed., USA, 2013, p. 209.

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