Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Puzzle Within the Castro Theater's October 2013 Calendar

Some luck and some knowledge helped me decode the puzzle in the October calendar of the Castro Theater.

October 29 - I immediately recognized Elsa Lanchester from Bride of Frankenstein (1935).

October 21 - I thought the October 31 photo was a publicity shot from The Mummy (1932) or some such film as the gown the woman is wearing looks like a mummy's wrapped cloth.  I looked up The Mummy on IMDB and discovered the female lead was Zita Johann, an actress I recall from Howard Hawks' Tiger Shark (1932).  Not finding the photo on IMDB, I googled "Zita Johann The Mummy" and quickly found the photo, but not the photo on October 31 but rather the photo on October 21.  That's Zita Moran dressed in an ancient Egyptian headdress.

October 31 - Knowing Boris Karloff was in Bride of Frankenstein and The Mummy, I scoured through images of his films from the 1930s and could not find the October 31 photo.  Eventually, I gave up on the Karloff angle.

I noticed that The Monster Squad (1987) is playing at the Castro on October 19.  I remember enjoying that film when it came out and started to focus on it.  The monsters in The Monster Squad consisted of Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, the Mummy, the Wolfman and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  I started to believe that the woman in the photo on Halloween was associated with one of those films.  Since The Creature from the Black Lagoon was made in 1954 and the photo looks older, I focused on Dracula (1931) and The Wolfman (1941).  The female lead in Dracula was Helen Chandler.  The female lead in The Wolfman was Evelyn Ankers.  After looking at many internet photos of the two, I decided neither was the woman shown on October 31.

Riffing on Bride of Frankenstein, I started looking for sequels to Dracula and The Wolfman.  I found Dracula's Daughter (1936) and it's IMDB page made me hopeful.  The DVD cover drawing looks like the October 31 photo although the gown is wrinkling over the right shoulder on IMDB rather than the left shoulder in the photo.  I learned the lead actress in Dracula's Daughter was Gloria Holden (Marguerite Churchill from Raul Walsh's The Big Trail was also in the film).  I googled "Gloria Holden Dracula's Daughter" and the image was near the top of the search results.

Summarizing the photos in chronological order:

October 21 - Zita Johann from The Mummy (1932)

October 29 - Elsa Lanchester from Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

October 31 - Gloria Holden from Dracula's Daughter (1935)

I saw The Mummy at the Balboa several years ago during a Boris Karloff retrospective.  It's been 30 or more years since I saw Bride of Frankenstein.  I don't recall ever hearing about Dracula's Daughter much less seeing it.

I assume the clues simply point to Halloween in general or perhaps The Monster Squad.


Speaking of creature features, this Sunday (September 29) the Castro is screening Watch Horror Films, Keep America Strong! at 2 PM.  This 2008 documentary by Tom Wyrsch has screened many times in San Francisco but I keep missing it.  Wyrsch also directed Remembering Playland at the Beach (2010), Sutro's: The Palace at Lands End (2011) and The Cliff House & Sutro Heights (2013) - all three of which I have seen at the Balboa.  Watch Horror Films is about the Saturday night television show Creature Features which ran on KTVU from 1971 to 1984 and was hosted by the late Bob Wilkins and later John Stanley (whom I saw at a fundraiser at the Balboa a few years ago).

Speaking of Saturday night television series showing horror films, I arrived home a couple Saturday nights ago and saw that Saturday Night Live was a rerun.  I flipped over to KOFY to catch Balrok and No Name on Creepy KOFY Movie Time.  Typically the films are so bad that I can't stand it.  The in-studio skits between the breaks are so bad they are good...sometimes.  Anyway, I was amazed that CKMT was showing Abel Ferrara's The Driller Killer (1979).  I've long wanted to see that film but I came in halfway through the film and the picture quality on the TV wasn't that great and they kept interrupting the film to tell stupid jokes.

Speaking of horror, I mentioned that I wanted to see Elaine May's Mikey and Nicky at the Castro last night.  I didn't make it to the film.  Instead, I was invited to Scary Sixth Street (aka Psycho Sixth Street) to dine at the recently reopened Tu Lan.  I first went to Tu Lan over 20 years ago and I don't remember the area being so rough.  I figure one of three things have happened.  1) I was young and dumb back then, 2) I'm old and scared now and/or 3) 6th St has gotten worse.  Anyway, I'm going to try to stick to visiting Tu Lan during daylight hours and even then the area is too sketchy for my comfort.

Tu Lan was the same as it ever was.  They have new furniture and the prices are up slightly but the menu hasn't changed (same numbering for the menu items), the food is still tasty and the smoke from cooking still fills up the interior space.  I can only hope their sanitation and food preparation standards have changed for the better.

I haven't been on street level for that stretch of Mid Market for awhile.  A block and a half are completely boarded up as if the buildings were condemned.  It looks like Detroit.  It must be part of the long anticipated Mid Market Redevelopment.  They were talking about that when I first visited Tu Lan in the early 1990s and it still hasn't happened.  I also noticed the Warfield Theater is being remodeled.

Castro Theater Calendar - October 2013

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