"Whoever wins, we lose," was the tagline of the first "Alien vs. Predator" movie, and it could be argued by many to be the subtext of every presidential election year. On Saturday, Oct. 27, the Alex Theatre plans to upend both those notions, with a screening of one of "AvP"'s monster mash-up predecessors, "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man," followed by ... a political debate? Yes, two of Universal's most classic creature creations will be recreated and brought back to life onstage in a presentation that's a total win for the audience, as the battling beasties argue the issues and seek ... what?
Makeup artist John Goodwin, who'll be bringing the original designs to life and portraying Frankenstein's monster, said, “Most people don't know there is an election in Monsterland, and they're having the runoff for the president of monsters.” But his friend Daniel Roebuck, best known for playing the exploding Arzt on “Lost,” and donning the hair and fangs here, doesn't limit his sights, and insists his Wolf Man wants to beat Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
“Why should there only be two choices?” he asked. “Frankenstein's an Electrican, and of course the Wolf Man's a Lycancrat. One represents strength, the other represents transformation.” We always knew werewolves stood for change ... it's the “hope” part that becomes more elusive once the full moon rises.
As for the 1943 film itself, it attests both to the fact that franchises, remakes, spin-offs and sequels are not unique to our time; and that they're not the affront to cinema contemporary critics may suppose. “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” sounds as cynically calculated as any superhero saga on paper — the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.), rather definitively killed at the end of his own movie, is brought back to life and seeks a cure at the hands of Dr. Frankenstein, only to meet his bolt-necked creation (Bela Lugosi, replacing the more familiar Boris Karloff in a role he had originally been scheduled to play from the get-go); the two monsters don't even actually fight until the very end of the thing, and the outcome is indecisive at best.
Yet you won't hear critics beating up on it today, nor should they: What may have been cliché at the time is old-fashioned charm now. It's also safe enough for family audiences that it makes a great gateway for turning kids on to horror. And at this event, they'll be able to get their photos taken with the icons of the genre, as imitated by Goodwin and Roebuck. The duo, who met on the set of “Spy Game,” swiftly bonded over their love of Boris Karloff, and previously put together a “Spooktacular Spook Show” at the Alex, with a magician and a monster.
“If you know me and my resume you know I don't generally do the same thing twice,” said Roebuck, “and because the whole movie is monster meets monster, and we just hear 'Obama versus Romney,' I guess it kinda coalesced in my brain in the middle of the night.” He insisted on being the Wolf Man because “in a Rob Zombie movie [‘Halloween 2’], my character was made up playing Frankenstein at one point, so I have pictures of me as Frankenstein. I wanted pictures of me as the Wolf Man.”
Both men are hesitant to spill their signature issues prior to debating them, but Goodwin notes that Frankenstein's creation is “much stronger on defense. You carry several big sticks, and walk very softly.” On the most pressing issue of the campaign thus far, Roebuck is generously bipartisan, telling us that, “Frankly, either of them could kill Big Bird. They're both capable of it.”
But that wouldn't be nice in front of an audience of kids, would it? And speaking of kids — the grown-up variety — the descendants of the original actors will be there to introduce the candidates. Bela Lugosi Jr. and Lon Chaney's grandson Ron will open the 8 p.m. showing by bringing out their respective ancestral representatives. Though normally known for behind-the-scenes work, Goodwin is excited to get onstage again, having trained with the Groundlings for four years (“I was always the guy putting stuff on my face, of course”). That he studied alongside Phil Hartman makes us wonder if the late “SNL” star's own “Fire bad!” Frankenstein will influence him in any way.
“I've gotta keep from falling into Karloff,” he said.
L. THOMPSON is a local writer on film for Marquee.