Thursday, November 29, 2012

From The Idea Hole: High Midnight

On a recent episode of my podcast, The Dirty Sons of Pitches, my co-hosts (and also friends I guess) and I took on the challenge of coming up with a new twist on the classic Universal Horror Monsters just in time for Halloween, which is to say several weeks before, but in the same month. A regular feature on our show is something called Pitch Redemption, where we go back to older episodes and try to come up with a better idea for a pitch theme where we weren't necessarily happy with what we threw out the first time, and today's trip down the Idea Hole (thankfully not in 3D) is in the spirit of that retrospective notion. As you no doubt remember from that podcast that I assume you listen to religiously, I pitched a number of projects including a post apocalyptic monster mash up, a monster support group comedy, and two TV shows, one involving a town full of Mr. Hyde style split personalities, and the other a teen drama about mopey high school Frankenstein monsters. That last one is actually a lot better than it sounds, I assure you. The point is, since then, I've come up with another idea that I'm beginning to like more and more, and its a movie, or possibly a series, called High Midnight.

It suddenly dawned on me while randomly perusing Wikipedia that several of the classic Universal Monster stories either take place or are inspired by stories that take place at sometime plausibly close to the Old West, just not in America. The novel Dracula and the movie The Wolf Man both take place just at the end of the 19th century, and the excavation of King Tut's tomb that inspired the Mummy series only a little more than a decade later. The novel for Frankenstein takes place 100 years earlier if not longer, some undefined time in the 18th century if I recall, but even then, a corpse'll keep that long for story purposes. The only one that doesn't fit is The Creature From The Black Lagoon, created from nuclear testing that didn't exist at the time, but we can even fudge that and say the Gillman was older than once thought and the nuclear origin was a misattribution. The point is, if there was ever a time and place both plausible enough historically and interesting enough for a knock down drag out fight between the big five, its the Weird Wild West. I know they've done individual monsters in that setting before to varying degrees of success, but I don't think anyone has tried to throw them all into the Western genre at once. Or at the very least, I'm assuming they haven't so this blog post will be relevant anyway.

Here's the idea: Frankenstein's descendent, a brilliant scientist in his own right trying to finish his ancestor's work, comes to a small Western frontier town, the inert body of the classic creature in luggage, in search of a man reputed to be an immortal in possession of a book of ancient magic. This man is the Mummy, disguised in human form and assuming a false identity, and he has all but purchased the town, acting as a robber baron, as he attempts to woo the madam of a local whore house, who just happens to be the reincarnated form of his dead queen. Frankenstein's attempt to become this man's apprentice is stymied by Dracula's "daughter," a sultry vampiress who has come to the town to seek the Mummy's expertise with the undead to resurrect her "father," his bones kept in her coffin bed. Meanwhile, Larry Talbot, The Wolf Man, has come to America as a wanted fugitive for grisly crimes committed by his monstrous alter ego, hiding out in the wilderness and training under a Native American shaman to control the beast within. And further out, the town drunk insists on seeing something strange, big, and scaly around the local watering hole.

Things come to a head when a gang of outlaws placed under the vampiress' thrall kill the town sheriff, and in an attempt to save his life, his brain is placed into the body of the monster. Meanwhile, Dracula's daughter sneaks a peak at the Egyptian Book Of The Dead and discovers a spell to bring back Dracula, sacrificing the town drunk in the process, before he can warn anyone that the creature is coming to town. Ultimately it is revealed that the Book of the Dead is the ancient source for all of their respective curses, its arcane science creating vampires, werewolves, animal hybrids, and providing the backbone of Frankenstein's science. The Mummy reveals that he lured them all here on purpose to use them in a spell to become supremely powerful, prompting an all out brawl between the classic monsters at High Midnight. By the end, The Mummy, The Creature, and Dracula are defeated.

Frankensheriff stays in town, while The Wolf Man moves on to find his next destination. He came to believe that the book might hold the cure for his curse, but naturally it burned up before he could use it, his only way to stop the Mummy from hurting more innocent people. Dr. Frankenstein settles down with the madam and becomes the town doctor, and the Wolf Man offers Dracula's daughter a chance at redemption, leaving together in the not quite full moonlight. I envision the very end with the Dr. and his monster talking about what else might come to the town, and if it could possibly be any stranger then them, and we then pan over to a train, where a man steps off wrapped in bandages like the Invisible Man, followed by a woman with a stripe of white hair, and finally, passing by in his cart, a snake oil salesman selling Professors Jekyll and Hyde's New Man Tonic. At some point in the movie, the Saloon would have burned down, and in a post credit sequence, the piano player crawls out of the rubble, horribly burned and disfigured, putting on a Phantom of the Opera mask and sitting dramatically at his piano, and then proceeds to play a raucous rag time joint to close out the movie.

Eh? Eh? Tell me you don't want to see that shit in theaters right now. Hey, it can't be worse than Van Helsing.
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