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BCB After Dark: It’s time for some roster decisions

The late-night/early-morning spot for Cubs fans asks whether the team should tender Zach McKinstry a contract.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the end-of-the-season after-party for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. So glad to see you stop in this evening for our end of the year celebration. We’re celebrating whether the season was worth celebrating or not. The big thing is that we got through it. Together. We still have a few tables left in the front. There’s no cover charge and the dress code is casual. Bring your own beverage.

BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.

The Cubs beat the Reds today 15-2 to close out the 2022 season. The fact that the game was a laugher and it had no meaning in the standings (other than it was Cincinnati’s 100th loss on the year) gave the game a rather casual atmosphere. I think we would have preferred to finish the season out with a nail-biter with a Cubs’ playoff berth on the line, but we’ve known since May that wasn’t going to happen. So today was the best we could do.

Last night I asked you about your thoughts on the National League Playoffs. Who you were actually cheering for was a close contest. The Phillies were in first place with 28 percent and the Padres were close behind with 27 percent. The Braves were in third with 24 percent on the tally.

On the other hand, the vote for whom you thought would win was a runaway, with the Dodgers pulling in 68 percent of the vote. The Braves were in second with 24 percent. I don’t know about that. The Dodgers have certainly earned their number one seed and favorite status, but the Braves have been every bit as good as them in the second-half. (OK, the Dodgers do have a slightly-better second-half record, but they also play in a weaker division. At least this year.)

Here’s the part where I talk about movies and jazz. You’re free to skip ahead to the baseball question at the end. You won’t hurt my feelings.

Tonight we’ve got a classic that you’ve maybe heard before but just didn’t know the title: Milt Jackson’s “Sunflower,” from the 1973 album of the same name. This record features an all-star lineup of jazz greats of the early-seventies: Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard (who wrote “Sunflowers”), Ron Carter, Billy Cobham and many others.

It’s the seventies, so you know it’s going to be funky.

So I promised you that I had an “original/remake” essay coming your way, and I do, but I’m going to save it for next week. These types of pieces are my favorites to write and I want to take the time to do it right. So next week, we’ll be featuring 1941’s Here Comes Mr. Jordan and the 1978 remake Heaven Can Wait. These two films are about a man who is taken from this earth ahead of his time—literally, by an overeager afterlife administrator, played by Edward Everett Horton in the first one and Buck Henry in the second. Here Comes Mr. Jordan stars Robert Montgomery as Joe Pendleton and Heaven Can Wait has Warren Beatty in the same role. Beatty also co-wrote the screenplay with Elaine May and co-directed the film with Henry.

Both films were huge successes and both films earned Academy Award nominations for Best Picture. Here Comes Mr. Jordan was nominated for seven Oscars, winning two, while Heaven Can Wait was nominated for nine Oscars, winning one.

Heaven Can Wait is available for streaming on Amazon Prime. There’s a complete copy of Here Comes Mr. Jordan on YouTube and the print is not too bad. It may be available elsewhere.

So until then, I figured I needed something to tide you over and since it’s October, you can’t go wrong with the Universal Monster Movie collection. Because Dracula, Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein are so well-known, I thought tonight we could take look at The Mummy, from 1932, starring Boris Karloff and directed by the legendary cinematographer Karl Freund.

Universal Pictures, run by Carl Laemmle, was a titan in the early days of cinema, but by 1930, they had fallen in hard times. For one, Universal didn’t own their own theaters, like the other big studios did. They were also slow to adapt to changing tastes and Laemmle insisted on “clean” pictures that avoided the violence, sex and crime that the other studios were putting in their movies. Third, Laemmle ran Universal like a family business, handing out jobs to anyone he was even remotely related to. (This became rather noble a few years later, when he was claiming a family relationship and offering jobs to hundreds of Jews from his hometown in Germany, which allowed them entry visas to the United States before things turned really ugly under the Nazis.) But when the Great Depression hit, Universal was facing bankruptcy.

Laemmle responded to this by putting his son, Carl Laemmle Jr., in charge of production. Because of course he did. Junior decided to commit Universal to films of a more salacious and nefarious nature. The two most famous of these films were Dracula and Frankenstein, both of which were released in 1931.

These films were big hits and staved off bankruptcy and a non-family take-over of Universal, at least for a few more years. So Junior decided to make more films in same vein, with The Mummy coming out in 1932.

The opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 was a huge deal in the popular culture of the time and led to an Ancient Egypt craze in the 1920s. The fad had cooled off by 1932, but the story of the pharaohs, mummies and tombs, along with some mythic “curses” made up by newspapermen, were still fresh in the minds of potential audiences. So the idea of an undead mummy taking revenge upon the living seemed like a natural.

The thing that is most striking about The Mummy is that it’s basically the same movie as Dracula, just replace the medieval Balkans and a vampire for ancient Egypt and a mummy. The film also tosses in a bit of “science gone too far” aspect from Frankenstein, although in this picture the scientists are archeologists rather than physiologists.

Freund was the cinematographer on Dracula and he was promoted to director here, although several of the actors on Dracula claimed later that Freund was the real director of that film. As they remembered it, credited Dracula director Tod Browning was either missing or inebriated or both more often than he was actually working on the set. (Browning undoubtedly played a big role in the casting and the set design.) Edward Van Sloan, who played vampire expert Van Helsing in Dracula, played Egyptologist Dr. Muller in The Mummy. The main romantic lead in Dracula, John Harker, was played by David Manning. Manning played a similar role as Frank Whemple in The Mummy. In Dracula, the Count becomes obsessed with Mina Seward and tries to bring her into the world of the undead. In The Mummy, Imhotep is obsessed with Helen Grosvenor, the reincarnation of his lost love, whom Imhotep attempts to transfer her soul into the mummified remains of his beloved and bring her back to life.

Boris Karloff gets the part of Imhotep in The Mummy, fresh off his sensational (and uncredited, although the truth came out) role as Frankenstein’s monster. Here he’s even more menacing, as the Monster was really a misunderstood and tortured soul who didn’t ask to be brought back to life. Imhotep was a criminal (albeit because he used forbidden magic in an attempt to bring his beloved back to life) and is willing to do anything to resurrect her. But if you want to compare him to Dracula, he lacks the charisma and sex appeal of Bela Lugosi.

Austrian actress Zita Johann is a clear improvement in The Mummy as Helen over Helen Chandler’s Mina Seward. She actually gives Helen some life to her and gets the chance to stretch a bit in the flashback scenes where she plays Princess Ankh-esen-amun. It’s also a sign that this is a pre-code film in that Princess Ankh-esen-amun likes to wear a ceremonial garb with a bare midriff and jewels in strategic spots on her body.

The best part of The Mummy is the way that director Karl Freund uses the camera. He did have his own cinematographer in Charles Stumar, but the whole production very much has a Karl Freund-look to it, with the same kinds of creepy shots that are featured in Dracula. Perhaps the most famous shots from The Mummy are the closeups of Karloff’s wrinkled, withered face, with the shadows highlighting every crevice. But throughout the film, Freund uses shadows and odd angles to cast an eerie aura on the faux-Egyptian tomb sets. Freund also repeatedly uses the technique of increasing the horror by not actually showing what happening, but rather having it happen off-camera and having the camera focus on the reaction of the actors. This is an approach that Steven Spielberg has used time and again in his career, but Spielberg learned from watching the masters. The Mummy is a great-looking film.

I could go into the plot of The Mummy, but as I said, it’s almost a remake of Dracula. That’s not quite true, Imhotep has an enslaved servant but he’s nothing like Renfeld and Imhotep gets a creepy origin story, told in flashback, that Count Dracula doesn’t get. (This origin story was apparently a lot longer originally and told the story of the Princess Ankh-esen-amun through all her reincarnations, but it got cut down in the final edit of the film and is now lost, although there are some still photos from these scenes still available.) Imhotep obviously can’t be killed by a stake through his heart, nor does he need to return to his tomb at night, so the ending is a bit different. Still, both films feature David Manners and Edward Van Sloan teaming up in the end to put an end to the monster.

All in all, The Mummy is not where you should start your exploration of the classic Universal Monster series. Dracula and Frankenstein should come first, and then you can watch the best of them all, The Bride of Frankenstein. But once you’ve gotten through those and if you still want more, then you should probably watch The Mummy next. It’s certainly a beautiful-looking picture with a great cast, even it the plot is unoriginal.

Here’s the scene where Imhotep first comes to life. You can see the craftsmanship that Freund demonstrates here. Unfortunately, they won’t let me imbed it.

I can imbed the trailer from a re-release, however. Ignore the voiceover and concentrate on the images.

Welcome back all of you who skip the music and movies.

Tonight I’m going to ask you whether you’d tender a contract to Cubs infielder Zach McKinstry for next season. That seems like a harsh question on a day when he finished the season going 2 for 6 with a home run and three RBI, but the truth of the matter is that McKinstry hit .199 on the year, although he hit .206 with the Cubs. He also showed decent power with five home runs and he was a good baserunner, stealing seven bases this season without getting caught. McKinstry is also a left-handed hitting infielder, and those are hard to come by, even if they’re only hitting .199 with a .273 OBP.

The defensive metrics show that McKinstry is a good defender and both Fangraphs and Baseball-reference have him in positive territory. Those sites haven’t updated from today’s game as I write this, but he finished the year with a bWAR of 0.4 (in 47 games) with the Cubs and an fWAR of 0.7 in 56 games with the Cubs and Dodgers combined.

On the other hand, we’ve spoken of the 40-man roster crunch that is coming this winter, and tendering a contract to McKinstry means that another player is not getting a spot, be it a major leaguer who would have to be designated for assignment or a minor leaguer who could be lost in the Rule 5 draft.

On top of that, the Cubs already have a couple of utility infielders in Christopher Morel and David Bote. Sure, Morel appears to be more of a “super-sub” in the Ben Zobrist mold who plays regularly but all over, but he’s still a guy who can fill in on the infield when needed, which is the same job McKinstry would do if he stays with the team.

McKinstry isn’t eligible for arbitration yet, so any contract offered him would be just a little over the minimum, whatever that is these days. So this is more about a roster spot than money.

So it’s a pretty basic question: Would you offer Zach McKinstry a contract for next year and one of those crucial roster spots?


Should the Cubs tender Zach McKinstry a contract for 2023?

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    (157 votes)
  • 69%
    (364 votes)
521 votes total Vote Now

With that, that’s another week and another season for us at BCB After Dark. Don’t worry, our new season starts next week. We hope you’ll join us then. Please clean up around your table. If you checked anything, give us the ticket and we will get it for you now. Drive home safe. Tip the waitstaff. And join us again next week for another edition of BCB After Dark.