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RE: Universal Horror - 21/8/2010 11:47:09 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3826
Joined: 19/10/2005
THE MUMMY [1932]
An expedition travels to Egypt to locate the tomb of Imhotep, who was buried alive for committing a terrible crime. In the tomb they find the Scroll Of Life, which can supposedly bring a mummy back from the dead. When alone in the tomb, Bramwell Fletcher recites from the scroll and revives Imhotep, who takes the scroll and disappears. Ten years later another expedition searching for the tomb of Princess Anck-es-en-amon is led to it by a mysterious Egyptian called Ardeth Bey. However, he appears to take rather an interest in the expedition leader’s daughter Helen Grosvenor and her friend Dr. Muller is suspicious as to who he actually is........


It took me a long time to finally see The Mummy. On both my first and the second times of seeing many of the Universal horror films in seasons on TV, I caught most of the 40s Mummy movies but not the original. When I did finally see it, I had built it up to be something it really wasn’t and I was very disappointed with this very slow moving though slightly creepy mood piece which had only one brief scene of the Mummy walking and made no sense. Nonetheless, upon viewing it again recently I discovered that The Mummy is a near masterpiece and possibly one of the finest films from Universal’s Golden Age. Yes , it’s slow, and yes, you hardly see the Mummy, but it’s also an extremely atmospheric , clever and subtle film that stimulates the imagination. It’s one of those films that just feeds you enough to interest you, then your mind starts working overtime to fill in the blanks. So yes, you may wonder how on earth a mummy may metamorphasise into a normal [well, hardly normal], but it really doesn’t matter at all.

The Mummy is sometimes described as a partial remake of the Bela Lugosi Dracula and indeed the story is very similar and many scenes are paralleled, while of course Zita Zohann, David Manners and Edward Van Sloan play similar roles. However director Karl Freund, who photographed Dracula, takes the oppurtunity to improve on Dracula in most respects, especially with regard to the cinematography, which is really fluid and sometimes very inventive for the time. The plot is actually quite fascinating, dealing as it does with matters such as reincarnation and love through the ages, and actually bears a striking similarity to that of Bram Stoker’s Dracula many years later. A shame that the second half of the great flashback sequence [which is done with no sound, just Boris Karloff narrating], which showed Imhotep pursuing various reincarnations of Anck-es-en-amon through the ages, was cut, but then this movie is all about less, not more. Although the film is indeed very talky it never once loses it’s infectious, almost dreamlike feel,, and it progresses gracefully through it’s 72 minute running time, until the climax, which is rather rushed and also a little confused.

Despite not going for the obvious, in a manner which is similar to the fine Val Lewton-produced series of horror films in the 40s such as Cat People, The Mummy might well be the scariest of the 30s films. The early scene of Imhotep awaking while Bramwell reads aloud the Scroll is a masterpiece of subtlety and still surprisingly chilling. All we see of the Mummy are the eyes awaking, the arms moving, then a few shots later a bandaged hand grabbing the Scroll, but I reckon it must have knocked the stuffing out of 1932 audiences, and finishes wonderfully with some James Whale-like black humour,as Bramwell says to his colleagues, laughing maniacally “he went for a little walk”. Also really effective are some scary close ups shots of Ardeth’s face, with everything darkened except for the eyes which light up [a simple but brilliant effect], and the fact that Ardeth appears to be some kind of sorcerer who can kill from a great distance gives proceedings great tension, you never know when he’ll strike next or what he’ll do. The scenes between Ardeth and Helen have a very odd kind of sexual tension, not hindered of course by her rather revealing [this was released just before the Hays Code came out] outfits throughout. Apart from the aforementioned scene there is generally no humour, though the beginnings of the romance between Helen and her friend David may raise a chuckle, very silly and pointless, but pleasing still.

Boris Karloff’s greatest performance is of course that of the Frankenstein Monster, but in my opinion his second is that of Ardeth Bey. With his doleful stare [with eyes that are as expressive as Johnny Depp’s in Edward Scissorhands], barely animated walk, as it he’ll fall apart if he does too much, and that lisping voice, he’s both very frightening in a way that gets under the skin and also very pitiful and rather sympathetic even. Jack Pierce’s makeup gives him the appearance of one who has lived centuries of torment searching for his lost love. Very cleverly, it’s psychological makeup rather then any attempt at realism. Pierce’s actual Mummy makeup remains the best ever even if it’s not used much, convincingly ancient and dusty. Zita Zohann exudes a fair amount of sexiness as the heroine and David Manners is a decent hero but I kind of wanted Karloff to get the girl, as I think one often does in many of the classic monster movies. Although it’s the 40s Mummy movies that created the iconic image of the shambling, bandaged menace lurching with one arm outstretched towards either a silly explorer who defiled the tomb of his love or his love’s reincarnation, the ’32 Mummy is the greatest movie to do with the concept, and no amount of special effects-filled, Brendan Fraser-starring
derring-do can ever change that!
9/10

_____________________________

check out more of my reviews on http://horrorcultfilms.co.uk/

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 61
RE: Universal Horror - 29/8/2010 8:31:56 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3826
Joined: 19/10/2005
Bugger, went to watch The Invisable Man last night, and it wouldn't play properly, was a faulty disc! Therefore my review of this classic won't be up for a while, I'm sure people are devastated

_____________________________

check out more of my reviews on http://horrorcultfilms.co.uk/

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 62
RE: Universal Horror - 30/8/2010 8:43:32 PM   
evil bill


Posts: 6694
Joined: 19/7/2006
From: mordor/ uk
quote:

ORIGINAL: Dr Lenera

THE MUMMY [1932]
An expedition travels to Egypt to locate the tomb of Imhotep, who was buried alive for committing a terrible crime. In the tomb they find the Scroll Of Life, which can supposedly bring a mummy back from the dead. When alone in the tomb, Bramwell Fletcher recites from the scroll and revives Imhotep, who takes the scroll and disappears. Ten years later another expedition searching for the tomb of Princess Anck-es-en-amon is led to it by a mysterious Egyptian called Ardeth Bey. However, he appears to take rather an interest in the expedition leader's daughter Helen Grosvenor and her friend Dr. Muller is suspicious as to who he actually is........


It took me a long time to finally see The Mummy. On both my first and the second times of seeing many of the Universal horror films in seasons on TV, I caught most of the 40s Mummy movies but not the original. When I did finally see it, I had built it up to be something it really wasn't and I was very disappointed with this very slow moving though slightly creepy mood piece which had only one brief scene of the Mummy walking and made no sense. Nonetheless, upon viewing it again recently I discovered that The Mummy is a near masterpiece and possibly one of the finest films from Universal's Golden Age. Yes , it's slow, and yes, you hardly see the Mummy, but it's also an extremely atmospheric , clever and subtle film that stimulates the imagination. It's one of those films that just feeds you enough to interest you, then your mind starts working overtime to fill in the blanks. So yes, you may wonder how on earth a mummy may metamorphasise into a normal [well, hardly normal], but it really doesn't matter at all.

The Mummy is sometimes described as a partial remake of the Bela Lugosi Dracula and indeed the story is very similar and many scenes are paralleled, while of course Zita Zohann, David Manners and Edward Van Sloan play similar roles. However director Karl Freund, who photographed Dracula, takes the oppurtunity to improve on Dracula in most respects, especially with regard to the cinematography, which is really fluid and sometimes very inventive for the time. The plot is actually quite fascinating, dealing as it does with matters such as reincarnation and love through the ages, and actually bears a striking similarity to that of Bram Stoker's Dracula many years later. A shame that the second half of the great flashback sequence [which is done with no sound, just Boris Karloff narrating], which showed Imhotep pursuing various reincarnations of Anck-es-en-amon through the ages, was cut, but then this movie is all about less, not more. Although the film is indeed very talky it never once loses it's infectious, almost dreamlike feel,, and it progresses gracefully through it's 72 minute running time, until the climax, which is rather rushed and also a little confused.

Despite not going for the obvious, in a manner which is similar to the fine Val Lewton-produced series of horror films in the 40s such as Cat People, The Mummy might well be the scariest of the 30s films. The early scene of Imhotep awaking while Bramwell reads aloud the Scroll is a masterpiece of subtlety and still surprisingly chilling. All we see of the Mummy are the eyes awaking, the arms moving, then a few shots later a bandaged hand grabbing the Scroll, but I reckon it must have knocked the stuffing out of 1932 audiences, and finishes wonderfully with some James Whale-like black humour,as Bramwell says to his colleagues, laughing maniacally "he went for a little walk”. Also really effective are some scary close ups shots of Ardeth's face, with everything darkened except for the eyes which light up [a simple but brilliant effect], and the fact that Ardeth appears to be some kind of sorcerer who can kill from a great distance gives proceedings great tension, you never know when he'll strike next or what he'll do. The scenes between Ardeth and Helen have a very odd kind of sexual tension, not hindered of course by her rather revealing [this was released just before the Hays Code came out] outfits throughout. Apart from the aforementioned scene there is generally no humour, though the beginnings of the romance between Helen and her friend David may raise a chuckle, very silly and pointless, but pleasing still.

Boris Karloff's greatest performance is of course that of the Frankenstein Monster, but in my opinion his second is that of Ardeth Bey. With his doleful stare [with eyes that are as expressive as Johnny Depp's in Edward Scissorhands], barely animated walk, as it he'll fall apart if he does too much, and that lisping voice, he's both very frightening in a way that gets under the skin and also very pitiful and rather sympathetic even. Jack Pierce's makeup gives him the appearance of one who has lived centuries of torment searching for his lost love. Very cleverly, it's psychological makeup rather then any attempt at realism. Pierce's actual Mummy makeup remains the best ever even if it's not used much, convincingly ancient and dusty. Zita Zohann exudes a fair amount of sexiness as the heroine and David Manners is a decent hero but I kind of wanted Karloff to get the girl, as I think one often does in many of the classic monster movies. Although it's the 40s Mummy movies that created the iconic image of the shambling, bandaged menace lurching with one arm outstretched towards either a silly explorer who defiled the tomb of his love or his love's reincarnation, the '32 Mummy is the greatest movie to do with the concept, and no amount of special effects-filled, Brendan Fraser-starring
derring-do can ever change that!
9/10

Great review of a true classic,which only Hammer came close to toping,and as you said Karloffsecond best role to the Monster in Frankenstein.Don't worry we are not too devastated about The Invisable Man,not as much as you are when you tried to watch it.


_____________________________

"You listen to me now,i will find you and i will kill you!"

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 63
RE: Universal Horror - 5/9/2010 11:41:29 AM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3826
Joined: 19/10/2005
THE MUMMY'S HAND [1940]

Thousands of years ago in Ancient Egypt, Kharis tried to revive his love the princess Ananka and was buried alive for it, doomed to the guardian of her tomb for centuries, along with a line of priests who, should anyone enter the tomb, can bring Kharis back to life with a special brew made from tana leaves. Skip forward to the 1920s, and archeaologists Steve Banning and Babe Jensen are in Cairo. When Steve finds a vase in a market that appears to have come from Ananka’s tomb [which they have been searching for for ages] , they enlist the help of a magician Solvani to finance the operation and with Solvanis’ daughter in tow, set out to find the tomb. However Andoheb, who is the current priest guardian, was also in Cairo........

Basically a ‘re-imagining’ [to use a current phrase] rather than a sequel to The Mummy, with no reincarnation, no lost love, a title menace which does actually spend all it’s time in bandages this time, tana leaves replacing an amulet etc, along with a much lighter tone, The Mummy’s Hand is also a significant drop in quality and doesn’t even work too well as a fun ‘B’ monster movie. After an opening sequence where the flashback from The Mummy has shots of star Tom Tryon cut badly into it, the film switches to Cairo and, despite lots of supposedly witty repartee [which mostly falls flat] between the characters, the main two of which are not too likeable anyway, it stalls for what seems like forever. Now I like a good buildup but when it’s half way through the film and the protagonists haven’t even set off for the tomb, then there’s a real problem with The Mummy’s Hand. Then when our explorers do set off they reach the tomb in a few seconds! The final third though, making use of a fantastic tomb set from a James Whale film Green Fire, is full of chills and thrills, with closeups of the mummy’s face made quite unnerving by blacking out his eyes. Tryon is quite imposing in the role though of course it didn’t require much in the way of actual acting, and the best performance is by George Zucco [as Andoheb], this actor seemed to be typecast as villains but he was so good at it! Despite it’s exciting extended climax, The Mummy’s Hand is a rather humdrum affair that often just seems to waste time.
5/10

_____________________________

check out more of my reviews on http://horrorcultfilms.co.uk/
Post #: 64
RE: Universal Horror - 10/9/2010 10:29:24 AM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3826
Joined: 19/10/2005
THE MUMMY'S TOMB  [1942]

30 years after the events of the previous movie, the still alive Andoheb enlists his disciple Mehemet, the next in line to be High Priest, to take Kharis to America to kill off the three surviving members of the expedition whch defiled Ananka's tomb those many eyars ago.  Andoheb than dies, happy in the knowledge that his wishes will be carried out.  Mehemet arrives at his destination in Massachussets and finds a convenient job as a cemetery caretaker.  He reveves Kharis with the tana leaves and the mummy first of all kills John Banning.  Babe Jensen suspects the killing could be to do with the tomb but the police of course don't believe him......

The Mummy's Tomb, like the two films which followed, is not regarded vey highly and certainly doesn't get off to a good start where twelve minutes, out of an hour long film, are devoted to recapping the events of The Mummy's Hand.  O dear!  It also beggars the question, why does Andoheb wait so long to organise his revenge?  However,despite using exactly the same score as it's predecessor, it does recover somewhat to become a reasonable 'B' monster movie, fast paced and with a pretty well staged climax set in and around a burning mansion [even if I spotted a few shots of torch bearing villagers from The Ghost Of Frankenstein and possibly even Frankenstein!].  Director Harold Young helps create some creepy  atmosphere and even the odd chill, such as a really effective moment where Kharis' shadow falls across a sleeping couple and they awake.  It's a more brutal movie than the proceeding one, with victims actually screaming this time as they are strangled, and it not only kills off the two heroes and the heroine of The Mummy's Hand in the first half but even dispatches little more Mrs. Hudson [Mary Gordon] from the Sherlock Homes series.  It does quickly become laughable though the victims just stand there in fear or run into a dead end so the especially slow moving mummy, who hobbles along with a bad leg, can catch up to kill them.  I actually rather like Lon Chaney in the tole, his features [which are totally different from Tom Tryon's] and build are perfect, he does kind of give the impression of an ancient, dead creature in the way he moves and reacts, and the face make up is quite shivery in closeup.  This is no classic whatsoever, but does reasonably well within it's limits.
6/10

_____________________________

check out more of my reviews on http://horrorcultfilms.co.uk/
Post #: 65
RE: Universal Horror - 22/9/2010 3:45:01 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3826
Joined: 19/10/2005
THE MUMMY'S GHOST  [1944]

In Egypt, the still-alive Andoheb enlists his latest disciple Youssef Bey to journey to Mapleton, Massachusetts, to bring back the bodies of Kharis and Princess Ananka, with whom Kharis once had a forbidden affair thousands of years ago, and was buried alive when he tried to bring her back to life.  Andoheb gives Youssef some tana leaves, which if burnt will bring Kharis to him, then dies.  In Mapleton, Prof. Matthew Norman also has some leaves, and, having learnt how to brew them, goes ahead, but Kharis appears and kills him.  As the neighbourhood is again thrown into panic by the return of the mysterious killer, a half-Egyptian student called Amina keeps going into trances and having strange dreams of ancient Egypt....

This is the best of the four 40s Mummy movies, though of course it still isn't a patch on the great 1932 movie.  It starts out as if it's going to be exactly the same as The Mummy's Tomb, with almost the same opening [it's helarious how George Zucco's Andoheb is somehow alive even though we saw him croak it in detail in the previous film, and then he dies again!] and the same principle setting.  However, it proceeds to bring in the reincarnation element that had not been seen since The Mummy, ensuring it's not entirely about a bandaged killer dragging himself around strangling folk.  Ramsey Ames [who replaced Acquanetta after she injured herself] is appropriately mysterious as the woman who may be Ananka's reincarnation, and there are some very atmospheric moments, such as when Amina is sleepwalking, and even the odd touching one, such as when Youssef shows Kharis Ananka's body.  He looks longingly at it, but when he touches it, it crumbles into dust.  Towards the end deja vu does almost take over again, with another angry posse and Youssef [menacingly played by John Carradine] becoming the third Egyptian priest to succumb to lust and try to have the heroine for himself-which of course he pays for.  However the swamp climax ends with an interesting and rather eerie touch out of She [or maybe Lost Horizon?]. Throughout there's much evidence of quick and cheap filmmaking, from continuity errors to absurdly bright nighttime scenes, but, helped by Lon Chaney actually being allowed a little bit of pathos this time, this does just manage to just about rise up above it's limitations to be an effective and quite haunting 'B' monster movie.
7/10



_____________________________

check out more of my reviews on http://horrorcultfilms.co.uk/

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 66
RE: Universal Horror - 22/9/2010 6:24:01 PM   
evil bill


Posts: 6694
Joined: 19/7/2006
From: mordor/ uk
quote:

ORIGINAL: Dr Lenera

THE MUMMY'S GHOST  [1944]

In Egypt, the still-alive Andoheb enlists his latest disciple Youssef Bey to journey to Mapleton, Massachusetts, to bring back the bodies of Kharis and Princess Ananka, with whom Kharis once had a forbidden affair thousands of years ago, and was buried alive when he tried to bring her back to life.  Andoheb gives Youssef some tana leaves, which if burnt will bring Kharis to him, then dies.  In Mapleton, Prof. Matthew Norman also has some leaves, and, having learnt how to brew them, goes ahead, but Kharis appears and kills him.  As the neighbourhood is again thrown into panic by the return of the mysterious killer, a half-Egyptian student called Amina keeps going into trances and having strange dreams of ancient Egypt....

This is the best of the four 40s Mummy movies, though of course it still isn't a patch on the great 1932 movie.  It starts out as if it's going to be exactly the same as The Mummy's Tomb, with almost the same opening [it's helarious how George Zucco's Andoheb is somehow alive even though we saw him croak it in detail in the previous film, and then he dies again!] and the same principle setting.  However, it proceeds to bring in the reincarnation element that had not been seen since The Mummy, ensuring it's not entirely about a bandaged killer dragging himself around strangling folk.  Ramsey Ames [who replaced Acquanetta after she injured herself] is appropriately mysterious as the woman who may be Ananka's reincarnation, and there are some very atmospheric moments, such as when Amina is sleepwalking, and even the odd touching one, such as when Youssef shows Kharis Ananka's body.  He looks longingly at it, but when he touches it, it crumbles into dust.  Towards the end deja vu does almost take over again, with another angry posse and Youssef [menacingly played by John Carradine] becoming the third Egyptian priest to succumb to lust and try to have the heroine for himself-which of course he pays for.  However the swamp climax ends with an interesting and rather eerie touch out of She [or maybe Lost Horizon?]. Throughout there's much evidence of quick and cheap filmmaking, from continuity errors to absurdly bright nighttime scenes, but, helped by Lon Chaney actually being allowed a little bit of pathos this time, this does just manage to just about rise up above it's limitations to be an effective and quite haunting 'B' monster movie.
7/10



I too liked Lon Chaney in the title role,i've always felt he was living in the shadow of his father,yet has his own unique style.He seemed to just get offered roles that others hasd turned down,and never given the chance to leave his own mark,except for The Wolf Man.This was one of the best of the Mummy movies from Universail for me,far more creepy and well acted,the direction seem to be on the cheap,with the spliced in shots from other movie's,which still happens to this day.But your score is spot on 7/10 from me to.And a fine review once again.


_____________________________

"You listen to me now,i will find you and i will kill you!"

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 67
RE: Universal Horror - 18/10/2011 12:59:16 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3826
Joined: 19/10/2005
Well, as long as no one minds, I'm going to revive this thread, as I have been reviewing the films again elsewhere and consider my writing to be a bit better now, plus the problem with pics that made this thread look like shit is sorted.  I know Evil Bill likes reading these, anyway.  After the first few the reviews will be more like monthly.



 
 
Renfield, an English solicitor, travels to Castle Dracula to discuss Count Dracula's buying of a place called Carfax Abbey in London.  When the driver of his stagecoach refuses to go any further, another coach, driven by Dracula himself unbeknownst to Renfield, appears and takes him to his destination.  At the castle, Renfield faints and is almost attacked by Dracula's three wives until the Count waves them away and bites him himself.  Renfield, now a raving lunatic, brings Dracula to England via a schooner, which arrives in the country with all the crew dead except Renfield, who is taken to an asylum.  Dracula bites a girl selling flowers, then appears at the theatre and introduces himself to Dr Seward, his daughter Mina, her fiancé Jonathan Harker and their friend Lucy Westenra. Lucy is fascinated with the Count and that night, he comes to her……………

Watching Dracula is a rather strange experience.  It's stagy to the point that you feel you are virtually watching a play, is lacking in much excitement or even suspense, and frustratingly seems to relocate most of Bram Stoker's great novel to drawing rooms.  It's still a film that has been much loved through the decades though, and this must be in part to not only Bela Lugosi's iconic performance but also to its incredible atmosphere.  The film has a sleepwalking feel, its turgid rhythm actually very compulsive if you're in the right mood  [I tend to watch these movies around midnight, by far the best time!], and refuses to be actually boring, though perhaps it should be.  If you're not used to the really old horror classics though, this probably isn't the best one to start with, even though it was the first of the Universal horror series, I would almost recommend watching Frankenstein first, as it's far more fluid.

This wasn't quite the first Dracula movie – in 1922 there had been the German Nosferatu, which had been an unofficial adaptation and had many prints destroyed.  The idea of an American version of Stoker's book at Universal first arose in 1929, when producer Carl Laemmle wanted a big budget movie starring horror star Lon Chaney, in the manner of The Hunchback Of Notre Dame and The Phantom Of The Opera. Chaney's death and the Depression meant that this version never went ahead, and the film that was eventually made was adapted word for word from a very popular stage version starring Bela Lugosi, who still had to lobby hard to get the role in the film.  This play was actually fairly close to the book, though of course some of Stoker's more fantastical scenes had to go and oddly the character who arrives at Castle Dracula was not Jonathan Harker, but Renfield, the person who becomes Dracula's slave.   Director Tod Browning apparently was not comfortable making a 'sound' film and cinematographer Karl Freund shot many scenes.  A Spanish version of the movie with a different cast was shot on the same sets at night time, a practice which seems odd but was done fairly often at the time.  This version is longer and talkier, because it filmed the entire script unlike the American version which removed a few pages, but is slightly more upfront in its horror.  When released, Dracula was a huge success, with many people reported fainting, though when re-issued in 1934, the recently formed Production Code ensured the toning down of a couple of sound effects and an epilogue, now sadly lost, where Prof Van Helsing, Dracula's nemesis, says to the audience "there are such things as vampires”.

The first twenty minutes of Dracula are usually described as the best, and that is certainly true.  There's a somewhat fairytale feel to the remote village that Renfield arrives at, replete with painted in Carpathian Mountains in the background-the effect, though hardly realistic, creates a slightly surreal atmosphere.  When someone mentions Dracula, we are shown Dracula and his three wives waking up and gliding about, with one great shot of a rat climbing into a tomb out of which a skeleton's hand protrudes.  Unfortunately, this scene also begins something which most Dracula and vampire films carried on doing – the avoidance of actually seeing the creatures getting out of their coffins.  I know it must look clumsy, but the constant cutaways and then cuts back to Dracula standing up quickly became laughable in films.  Anyway, when Renfield arrives at the castle, the sense of doom is incredible as he goes inside and is dwarfed by the huge main room.  Many Dracula films succeed in creating a fine castle, but the one here is by far the best. Unusually, it's almost ruins, as if it hasn't been lived in for centuries, and I wonder why more versions haven't employed that idea.  It seems more realistic in a strange way – Dracula spends the days sleeping and the nights finding victims, so when would he find the time to maintain his decrepit abode?  Rats and [oddly] armadillos scurry about and a gigantic spider's web hovers half way up the steps, truly making Renfield like a fly as he slowly climbs them.  A bit of business from Nosferatu is repeated with Renfield cutting his finger and Dracula stopped from sucking the blood by a crucifix, then we have a longer scene with the brides, who seem to come from a very bright room, but does this really matter, considering it's hardly reality that is being portrayed here?  The sequence of the brides attacking Renfield and being banished by Dracula is usually quite a horrific sequence in versions, and here it's extremely tame, without even any physical violence – the brides don't even get to touch Renfield, but it still works rather well.

There's no doubt that after this the film goes down a few notches, with characters constantly meeting in rooms and talking, and little mounting tension despite the exciting story.  Stoker's tale is basically there, despite many of the good bits, such as the sighting of a white dog, happening off screen, and I reckon several scenes were intended to be shot but just weren't for fear of censorship – I doubt the play was as short in length as seventy minutes!  Surprisingly though, there is mention of the vampiric Mina attacking children, one of the nastiest elements of the book.  Nice use is made of silence in some scenes, such as when Mina rushes into her garden at night in her white gown to be embraced by Dracula who is waiting in the shadows and seems to wrap his cape around her.  As a young child I was a bit creeped out by the scene where Lucy is becoming like a vampire and is obviously building up to attacking Harker.  The scenes in Carfax Abbey, another wonderful set, have much of the feel of the scenes in Castle Dracula though the climax is weak, with Dracula being staked off screen.  I know they wanted to avoid showing blood and gore, but surely they could have shown Dracula at the moment of death?

I must also say that the sexual element of the story, which was certainly there in the novel and was later exploited in later versions, is only very vaguely hinted at in this movie, and to be honest if you're not aware of it already you may not notice it at all.  Of course we don't properly see Dracula biting people, with the camera always cutting to the next scene.  Bela Lugosi became a sex symbol after this film, and, although it's perhaps easy to laugh a little now, one must judge his performance by the standards of the time, though it's not helped when the torches being shone into his eyes to show his hypnotic power often miss!   I actually love the way he moves like a walking corpse, the way he adds pathos in his rich Hungarian accent to certain lines [such as "to be dead.. that would be truly wonderful”] and the way his face in one notable scene seems to contort into intense agony as he gets really close to the camera to bite someone.  He remains an oddly sympathetic Dracula, you almost get the feeling he really doesn't enjoy being a vampire at all. It's said he didn't know any English and learnt his lines phonetically, but that has been disproved by some sources.  As to whether he's my favourite, it's hard to say. Christopher Lee played the Count in more films than anybody else [in fact Lugosi only played him in one other film, Abbot And Costello Meet Frankenstein, though he played Dracula-like characters a few times], so I tend to go for him more, but there have been so many great performances in the role, from Klaus Kinski to Gary Oldman, it's really hard to say.

Apart from Lugosi, the only other really interesting performance is by Dwight Frye as Renfield.  He's another character most actors relish playing, but Frye is one of the best, wonderfully wide-eyed and frantic, but again, you feel a little bit sorry for him.  The rest of the cast slowly pace around then gesticulate as if they were in a silent movie, and considering that many of these players gave far better performances in other movies [such as the following year's The Mummy], some of the fault must lie with Browning, who just doesn't seem entirely focused on the film and almost botches a couple of moments which would normally have great impact. Except for an excerpt of  Tchaikovsky's 'Swan Lake' during the opening titles and a few notes at the end, there is no musical score, as was the norm for early sound features, and this oddly helps the film – it seems to add to the atmosphere.  There's a version with added Philip Glass music [it's on the current DVD], and, though I like Glass' music a lot, I didn't feel it added to the film, in fact it irritated me and I turned it off ten minutes into it!  There's a great deal at fault with Dracula, and I would say that there are at least three versions of the story that are better, but it has some great things in it and remains one of those films that is greater than the sum of its parts.  Its importance in the history of the horror movie cannot be denied and its success led Universal to embark on a series of wonderful chillers, some of which are amongst the best films of the genre ever made.
Rating:7/10



   
In a graveyard, two men, Dr. Henry Frankenstein, who is intent on building a man and giving him life, and his hunchback assistant Fritz, dig up the body of a man.  When they realise the head and the brains of the body are severely damaged, they decide to steal a brain from Frankenstein's former teacher Dr. Waldman. Fritz accidentally drops on the floor the glass jar with the label "good brain” on it, so he decides to take the glass jar with the label "bad brain”.  Despite protestations from his fiancée Elizabeth, Frankenstein spends every waking moment in his tower on his 'work', and eventually, using a ray he has discovered, brings his 'man' to life………..

Frankenstein is the first true masterpiece of Universal's horror cycle.  If Dracula was a somewhat awkward start with flashes of brilliance in it, Frankenstein is a brilliant piece of work through and through, as if the film-makers [much of the Dracula crew went on to this one] had now found their footing and were out to show how good they really were.   This is a fantastic, extremely poetic dark fairytale filled with scenes and images that not only will never be forgotten by viewers but have influenced countless films and indeed popular culture since, and whilst many film fans have their own idea of what the greatest version of Dracula is, I would say more than half would probably say this movie is the best film of Mary Shelley's famous novel.  I wouldn't say that it's actually the best film about Frankenstein, but that is to come!

After the huge success of Dracula, Universal looked around for another well known horror property and chose Frankenstein.  Robert Florey was set to write and direct, and again the inspiration was a stage version which scaled down the novel, though Florey had the Monster as a pure evil creature. Bela Lugosi, now a big star because of Dracula, was immediately offered the role of the Monster, and  Florey shot twenty minutes of him on the Dracula sets.  Sadly, this footage is now lost.  Now sources differ as to why Lugosi then walked – some say that the makeup didn't work, some say that he didn't like the fact that the Monster was unsympathetic, and some say that he wanted the Monster to talk, which would hardly have worked with Lugosi's thick Hungarian accent!  Anyway, he left and soon after that Florey, who wasted time not really knowing what to do with the project without Lugosi, was replaced by James Whale.  He had just had a success with Waterloo Bridge and two other war orientated films, so wanted a change.  John Carradine also turned down the role of the Monster and Boris Karloff, who was an extra at the time, only got the gig because make-up artist Jack Pierce noticed him in the staff canteen and imagined he would look great with the make-up on.  John L.Balderston re-wrote some of the script, under Whale's encouragement, to make the Monster more likeable. The film was partially shot on sets left over from the 1922 version of The Cat And The Canary.  The studio insisted Whale shoot a light hearted coda with Frankenstein recovering off screen, but the film doesn't need the scene at all.  Still, it was another great success at the box office, but when released again in 1934, it received more severe cuts than Dracula did.  Removed were bits of Fritz torturing the Monster, his hanging body, Frankenstein's line "now I know what it feels like to be God”, and the Monster accidently drowning a young girl, actually ruining that scene, but more on that later.

Frankenstein opens with the titles against two cards, one with lots of eyes which is rather uncanny, and one a picture of a giant looming over people and buildings.  I've always wondered what that picture actually is, and after investigation I discovered that it's actually a very early poster for Frankenstein when Lugosi was supposed to play the Monster, the giant being Lugosi!  The film then launches straight away into its story seemingly already partially through it, with Frankenstein and Fritz digging up a dead body in a graveyard.  We don't find out exactly why they are doing this for a short while.  The movie then races through its plot at great speed, only occasionally pausing for some comic relief from blustering old Baron Frankenstein, who thinks his son is shut away in his tower because he's got another woman besides Elizabeth.  This is a quite magnificent set which is influenced by German Expressionism, all twisted and distorted, for example the stairs and beams are not quite where they should be and are shot at strange angles to accentuate this.   This psychological approach to set design creates an incredible mood of horror and madness without hammering it home, the architecture mirroring the minds of more of one of the protagonists.  The film doesn't waste time over-emphasising this though and soon gets on the with the business of bringing its monster to life, amidst Kenneth Strickfaden's terrific, Metropolis-inspired scientific equipment, whose straight, somewhat logical design  contrasts in an almost surreal way with the madness of the building it's in.

Now there's no doubt that having the covered-up Monster's hand move to show his coming to life has become a cliché now and has therefore lost some of its effect, but just imagine how much it must have scared audiences of the time.  The Monster's actual appearance is withheld just a bit longer as we don't him coming to life 'properly' but go forward a few days.  He has obviously been living in a room for a bit and we hear him coming up the stairs, then he enters the doorway backwards, as if he doesn't know which way to walk.  Slowly he turns round, and to increase the horror, cinematographer Arthur Edison gives us three rapid shots of the Monster's face, each one closer.  If audiences screamed loudly in 1925 when The Phantom Of The Opera had that mask torn off by Christine, they probably wet themselves with the first sight of the Frankenstein Monster.   Jack Pierce would make adjustments to the makeup with each successive film, often to suit each particular actor, but the Frankenstein make-up is the most horrifying.  After the Monster has left the castle, we come to the famous scene of the Monster encountering a little girl, an extraordinarily poetic scene which is at first really beautiful, an idyllic momentary respite from all the doom and gloom.  The girl, Maria, invites the Monster to join her in throwing flowers in a lake, which he does, until he runs out of flowers, so he throws the girl in, thinking she will float.  Instead she drowns, and the Monster looks really stunned and confused before going away.  When this scene was censored in 1934, all you see is the Monster reaching for Maria, giving the impression of a far worse fate for her!  The sequence of the villagers hunting the Monster brandishing torches and the climax in a burning building would also become cliches in the horror movie as a whole, not just in the Universal movies, but are still exciting and vivid here.

Now in the book the Monster is articulate, verbose and certainly doesn't have a criminal brain, so it's understandable that many fans of the novel consider this movie something of a travesty, but right from the offset this film is different to the book.  This was partly out of necessity and the way things from the book are condensed is very clever, for example the Monster's curiosity of and persecution by humanity condensed into the scene with Maria, and if anything this Monster is more sympathetic.  In the book the Monster is abandoned by Frankenstein and is left to wonder around the countryside.  He is bullied and persecuted by humans, but his first actual murder is of an innocent.  In this film, the Monster is rejected by his creator and is left to be pestered and tortured, by Fritz, virtually straight away, before he goes anywhere outside, and his killings are in self defence, with the exception of Maria, which was an accident.  The whole thing about the Monster having a criminal brain has been said by some as perverting Shelley's concept, but one can also say that if the Monster had received some understanding and compassion from his creator and humankind in general, rather than fear and hatred, then he may not have become dangerous.  His development is shown in disturbingly relatable human terms.  First of all he's a baby, stretching his hands towards the sun streaming in, then he's a child, playing games with Maria.  He's only a powerful, brutal adult in the final quarter.  As for Frankenstein, although he's supposedly the 'hero', he's actually nastier than his book counterpart in that he not only rejects his creation but orders it to be killed.  As with many films of the time, especially when the nominal 'hero' can maybe not be considered 'normal', it was thought necessary to add another love interest for the heroine, here a man called Victor.  The character is played in a really stiff, inept way by John Bowles, and it's a shame that the Monster doesn't put this irritating man out of his misery.

James Whale's direction uses some unusual angles and far more camera movement then was normal for the time.  When movies first became sound, they were very static, partly though not entirely because of the limited recording technology.  Not so Frankenstein.  Like Dracula though there is no music and in this case I think a score would have added to the film.  Some of the acting is mediocre especially Mae Clarke as Elizabeth and Colin Clive is perhaps a little hammy as Frankenstein, maybe coming across as overly earnest.  You could say that about many performances around then though-watching these films one has to get used to the style of acting of the time.  I actually love the almost insane relish with which he delivers some of his lines such as "it's alive”!  Of course Dwright Frye, fresh from playing in Dracula, has to play Fritz in the same crazy, wide-eyed fashion.  In any case it's Boris Karloff who is the star of the show, he really gives an incredible performance of amazing subtlety, many actors would have gone really over the top but Karloff doesn't and remains surprisingly low-key, except for the moments when he attacks people and that skin crawling groan that he does.  Beneath all that horrific make-up, his face has great sadness, making the tragedy of the Monster's creation and rejection all that more moving.  Because that's what Frankenstein is.  As much as it is a truly great horror film that hardly ever puts a foot wrong, it's also a tragedy of mythic proportions, of innocence corrupted and a savage indictment of humanity.
Rating:9.5/10

< Message edited by Dr Lenera -- 22/10/2011 10:36:06 PM >


_____________________________

check out more of my reviews on http://horrorcultfilms.co.uk/

(in reply to evil bill)
Post #: 68
RE: Universal Horror - 19/10/2011 7:07:03 PM   
evil bill


Posts: 6694
Joined: 19/7/2006
From: mordor/ uk
quote:

ORIGINAL: Dr Lenera

Well, as long as no one minds, I'm going to revive this thread, as I have been reviewing the films again elsewhere and consider my writing to be a bit better now, plus the problem with pics that made this thread look like shit is sorted.  I know Evil Bill likes reading these, anyway.  After the first few the reviews will be more like monthly.



 
 
There's a version with added Philip Glass music [it's on the current DVD], and, though I like Glass' music a lot, I didn't feel it added to the film, in fact it irritated me and I turned it off ten minutes into it!  There's a great deal at fault with Dracula, and I would say that there are at least three versions of the story that are better, but it has some great things in it and remains one of those films that is greater than the sum of its parts.  Its importance in the history of the horror movie cannot be denied and its success led Universal to embark on a series of wonderful chillers, some of which are amongst the best films of the genre ever made.7/10



    In any case it's Boris Karloff who is the star of the show, he really gives an incredible performance of amazing subtlety, many actors would have gone really over the top but Karloff doesn't and remains surprisingly low-key, except for the moments when he attacks people and that skin crawling groan that he does.  Beneath all that horrific make-up, his face has great sadness, making the tragedy of the Monster's creation and rejection all that more moving.  Because that's what Frankenstein is.  As much as it is a truly great horror film that hardly ever puts a foot wrong, it's also a tragedy of mythic proportions, of innocence corrupted and a savage indictment of humanity.
9.5/10

Yes indeed i do like reading these,and many other reviews of these classic film's,but i must say how much your reviews have come on,and also how you can feel the love you have for these two classics.Like myself you where broufght up on those late night horror double bills,it's such a shame that they are not returned to the Friday night of horror slot they so deserve.
FRANKENSTEIN 1932 is my favorite of this era,and one of my all time favorite horror films,in fact it stayed my favorite till The Exorcist and then ALIEN.
Plus back in about 1975 Christmas,my dear Mum bought me this book for a present;The Film Classic Library
                   Present's
.
It was by Picador,edited by Richard J Anobile,it has over 1000 frame blow ups of every scene,with every word of dialogue,it's bloody awesome with a great write up on the making of at the start.And no i won't be selling this for love or money.



_____________________________

"You listen to me now,i will find you and i will kill you!"

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 69
RE: Universal Horror - 19/10/2011 7:39:44 PM   
Herr Schnitzel

 

Posts: 205
Joined: 1/2/2009
I used to have the Film Classic Library books, which basically turned films into graphic novels. This was pre-VHS and the closest to being able to own a film without getting a projector and a print, which was of course incrdibly expensive.

(in reply to evil bill)
Post #: 70
RE: Universal Horror - 20/10/2011 5:39:39 PM   
evil bill


Posts: 6694
Joined: 19/7/2006
From: mordor/ uk
quote:

ORIGINAL: Herr Schnitzel

I used to have the Film Classic Library books, which basically turned films into graphic novels. This was pre-VHS and the closest to being able to own a film without getting a projector and a print, which was of course incrdibly expensive.

Very true,though i did get a Super 8 projector,with sound,and used to get 400Ft reels of Exorcist and ALIEN etc,they where compressed versions of the original cut,that lasted just over 20 minutes. I had a 50'' screen to show them on,now i have a 50'' plasma 1080P HD how things have moved on,glad i'm not the only 60's kid on here.


_____________________________

"You listen to me now,i will find you and i will kill you!"

(in reply to Herr Schnitzel)
Post #: 71
RE: Universal Horror - 20/10/2011 6:59:52 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3826
Joined: 19/10/2005
quote:

ORIGINAL: evil bill

quote:

ORIGINAL: Dr Lenera

Well, as long as no one minds, I'm going to revive this thread, as I have been reviewing the films again elsewhere and consider my writing to be a bit better now, plus the problem with pics that made this thread look like shit is sorted.  I know Evil Bill likes reading these, anyway.  After the first few the reviews will be more like monthly.



 
 
There's a version with added Philip Glass music [it's on the current DVD], and, though I like Glass' music a lot, I didn't feel it added to the film, in fact it irritated me and I turned it off ten minutes into it!  There's a great deal at fault with Dracula, and I would say that there are at least three versions of the story that are better, but it has some great things in it and remains one of those films that is greater than the sum of its parts.  Its importance in the history of the horror movie cannot be denied and its success led Universal to embark on a series of wonderful chillers, some of which are amongst the best films of the genre ever made.7/10



    In any case it's Boris Karloff who is the star of the show, he really gives an incredible performance of amazing subtlety, many actors would have gone really over the top but Karloff doesn't and remains surprisingly low-key, except for the moments when he attacks people and that skin crawling groan that he does.  Beneath all that horrific make-up, his face has great sadness, making the tragedy of the Monster's creation and rejection all that more moving.  Because that's what Frankenstein is.  As much as it is a truly great horror film that hardly ever puts a foot wrong, it's also a tragedy of mythic proportions, of innocence corrupted and a savage indictment of humanity.
9.5/10

Yes indeed i do like reading these,and many other reviews of these classic film's,but i must say how much your reviews have come on,and also how you can feel the love you have for these two classics.Like myself you where broufght up on those late night horror double bills,it's such a shame that they are not returned to the Friday night of horror slot they so deserve.
FRANKENSTEIN 1932 is my favorite of this era,and one of my all time favorite horror films,in fact it stayed my favorite till The Exorcist and then ALIEN.
Plus back in about 1975 Christmas,my dear Mum bought me this book for a present;The Film Classic Library
                  Present's
.
It was by Picador,edited by Richard J Anobile,it has over 1000 frame blow ups of every scene,with every word of dialogue,it's bloody awesome with a great write up on the making of at the start.And no i won't be selling this for love or money.





OMG, Well that proves it really is a small world.  I also own that book, which my dad bought for me a few months after first seeing the movie, on a double bill with Dracula around late 70s.  I kept going through it again and again, because at the time it was the closest thing to watching the film again! 


_____________________________

check out more of my reviews on http://horrorcultfilms.co.uk/

(in reply to evil bill)
Post #: 72
RE: Universal Horror - 22/10/2011 6:12:59 PM   
evil bill


Posts: 6694
Joined: 19/7/2006
From: mordor/ uk
quote:

ORIGINAL: Dr Lenera

quote:

ORIGINAL: evil bill

quote:

ORIGINAL: Dr Lenera

Well, as long as no one minds, I'm going to revive this thread, as I have been reviewing the films again elsewhere and consider my writing to be a bit better now, plus the problem with pics that made this thread look like shit is sorted.  I know Evil Bill likes reading these, anyway.  After the first few the reviews will be more like monthly.



 
 
There's a version with added Philip Glass music [it's on the current DVD], and, though I like Glass' music a lot, I didn't feel it added to the film, in fact it irritated me and I turned it off ten minutes into it!  There's a great deal at fault with Dracula, and I would say that there are at least three versions of the story that are better, but it has some great things in it and remains one of those films that is greater than the sum of its parts.  Its importance in the history of the horror movie cannot be denied and its success led Universal to embark on a series of wonderful chillers, some of which are amongst the best films of the genre ever made.7/10



    In any case it's Boris Karloff who is the star of the show, he really gives an incredible performance of amazing subtlety, many actors would have gone really over the top but Karloff doesn't and remains surprisingly low-key, except for the moments when he attacks people and that skin crawling groan that he does.  Beneath all that horrific make-up, his face has great sadness, making the tragedy of the Monster's creation and rejection all that more moving.  Because that's what Frankenstein is.  As much as it is a truly great horror film that hardly ever puts a foot wrong, it's also a tragedy of mythic proportions, of innocence corrupted and a savage indictment of humanity.
9.5/10

Yes indeed i do like reading these,and many other reviews of these classic film's,but i must say how much your reviews have come on,and also how you can feel the love you have for these two classics.Like myself you where broufght up on those late night horror double bills,it's such a shame that they are not returned to the Friday night of horror slot they so deserve.
FRANKENSTEIN 1932 is my favorite of this era,and one of my all time favorite horror films,in fact it stayed my favorite till The Exorcist and then ALIEN.
Plus back in about 1975 Christmas,my dear Mum bought me this book for a present;The Film Classic Library
                 Present's
.
It was by Picador,edited by Richard J Anobile,it has over 1000 frame blow ups of every scene,with every word of dialogue,it's bloody awesome with a great write up on the making of at the start.And no i won't be selling this for love or money.





OMG, Well that proves it really is a small world.  I also own that book, which my dad bought for me a few months after first seeing the movie, on a double bill with Dracula around late 70s.  I kept going through it again and again, because at the time it was the closest thing to watching the film again! 


Showing your age mate,i remember that double bill,but it was early 70's,the book came out mid 70's,but saying that the Double bill of horror on the Beeb only lasted from about 72 till 79???.But yeah a small world,and a book i still love more than most except A L I E N version of the same book,with all the stills,frame for frame,and you see how well the GORE was done.
But lets be honest guys it seems only us lot brought up on late night horror have the same love for Universal and Hammer horror classic films.I could be wrong,and if so where the hell are all the golden oldie horror fans hiding??
BEHIND THE SOFA maybe???


_____________________________

"You listen to me now,i will find you and i will kill you!"

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 73
RE: Universal Horror - 22/10/2011 10:34:40 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3826
Joined: 19/10/2005

In 19th century Paris, Pierre Dupin, a young medical student, his fiancée Camille L'Espanaye, and two friends are visiting carnival sideshows including one by a certain Dr. Mirakle, who is exhibiting Erik.  Erik is an intelligent gorilla who Mirakle understands and can hold conversations [I'm not making this up] with.  When both man and ape show an interest in Camille, the group leaves.  That night Mirakle kidnaps a prostitute but she is unsuitable for his purposes so he kills her, making it obvious that he is responsible for a series of murders of young women in the city.  Mirakle wants to mate Erik with a human but none of the candidates have been suitable………until now………

When one thinks of Universal Horror, it's usually the films featuring Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, and the Mummy that come to mind.  The studio did make a few films not featuring these classic characters though, which are largely forgotten now but are worth looking at.  The first was this sometimes interesting but awkward movie.  Now I love these movies, but you can't get away from the fact that, after Dracula and Frankenstein, Murders In The Rue Morgue, based on an Edgar Allen Poe story that has been filmed several times since, it is a considerable disappointment.  As we shall see though, this was not entirely the studio's fault.  This was a film I had never seen until last week and watching it is rather a strange experience.  It's sometimes unintentionally funny [something the first two films manage to avoid even when seen these days], sometimes a bit dull and makes little sense, but has some striking scenes and is at least great to look at.  A classic it certainly isn't though, and I can understand why it's not a film that is much talked of or seen nowadays.

After being replaced on Frankenstein by James Whale, director Robert Florey was offered Murders In The Rue Morgue.  Similarly, Bela Lugosi, who of course didn't end up as the Frankenstein Monster, was given to chance to star in what was something of a complimentary package for director and star.  The Poe story the film was based on was the first of three stories by the author to feature C.Auguste Lupin, a detective who was something of a precursor to Sherlock Holmes, and in fact it would make such a great Holmes tale that I'm surprised it hasn't been adapted into one yet.  Florey though ignored much of Poe's story and only really used the setting, the murderous ape, his master and a hero [though not an actual detective] called Lupin, with the result that the film bears little resemblance to it.  The production began in late 1931 and went smoothly but post-production certainly did not.  Despite the fact that this was just before the Hays Code came into being [well, it was already around, but only in 1934 did it became ludicrously repressive and very strictly enforced], Murders In The Rue Morgue lost about twenty minutes from the censors [soon afterwards, Freaks would lose even more!].  Now exact details of the cuts seem to be unavailable, but I'll wager that you originally saw Mirakle kidnap and kill more of his victims, and I would also imagine that his intent to mate Erik with a human woman was more obvious  –  in the film as it stands, all they mention is 'mixing blood'.  I'm wondering if the film was just considered too long as well, as bits of other scenes seem missing and the movie as a whole is very choppy.

Murders In The Rue Morgue certainly doesn't begin very promisingly, even with the title sequence that replays Swan Lake again and has the same images behind the words as Frankenstein.  Lupin and his three companions are going round the carnival sideshows, and soon find Mirakle and Erik.  He claims he and Erik can communicate, and communicate they do, in a hilarious bit where the ape is seen to whisper growls into Mirakle's eye and he translates what the gorilla is saying in English.  Even in 1932, audiences must have fell about laughing.  Then Mirakle gives a daft speech, which almost seems directed at the film audience, about how apes and humans are more similar than you may imagine.  Things then progress in reasonable fashion until we suddenly cut into a fight between two men over a woman in a beautifully fog shrouded street.  I reckon the first part of this scene was cut, and I believe that it probably explained that the woman was a prostitute and the two men were either clients fighting over her or a client and her pimp.  This now very random sequence ends with Lugosi finding the woman, and he really is quite menacing here, since so far you don't know exactly what he intends to do with her.  Then we cut to her tied to a cross and injected with something, and though this scene is obviously very censored, the Sadean imagery here is quite strong.

Sadly after this the film becomes none too interesting for a while.  Leon Ames is a very dull male lead, and though he's not really playing Poe's detective, he still has a loft where he has lots of beakers and early forensic stuff.  There's quite a bit of comedy, which climaxes in a scene [which is actually from Poe] where several people are trying to get their point across but are all speaking different languages, but much of it seems like padding.  As I've said before, I would imagine the original cut had far more of Mirakle and his ape.  Things eventually build to a climax with the ape turning on Mirakle for no apparent reason and a rather exciting final reel with Erik leaping about the rooftops of Paris carrying Camille.  Watching this scene, it becomes apparent that the model of this film was actually the silent The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari, and this extends partially to the sets and the whole look of the film.  When the script is often very poor, there is almost always something interesting to look at.  The sets are full of beams in the 'wrong' places but it's Karl Freund's photography that is truly remarkable.  He uses things like forced perspective and odd angles to create a feeling of a nightmare on screen, tools that are rarely used nowadays because everything can be done with CGI.  Of course fog is abundant outside and, though you never feel like you're in Paris, you do feel like you're in a kind of alternate reality, with the same sensibility that has influenced many modern day directors, especially Tim Burton.

Erik is played by Charles Gemora, a guy who seems to have spent most of his career in gorilla suits, and who even repeated this role in a 1953 remake of Murders In The Rue Morgue.  Even by 1932 he had the way gorillas move down to a tee, and the ape suit looks reasonably realistic, but his scenes are mainly from a distance, so we don't see his face very clearly.  They are actually rather effective this way, but unfortunately, it was deemed fit to cut in shots of a real gorilla's face, and these shots don't match the others very well at all, especially considering this gorilla looks rather cuddly and cute and not the monstrous menace he's supposed to be.   One bit during the climax interestingly uses some stop motion, and it's a bit jerky but not bad really. I wonder why they employed this time consuming technique for just a minute or so's worth of footage?  Perhaps this scene was originally a great deal longer.  Sadly it was this film [and of course next year's King Kong] that cemented gorillas as evil menaces, and the creatures would rarely be portrayed in a good light for ages afterwards!  Jack Pierce again did the makeup but unfortunately it seems to have gone astray.  Whilst Lugosi looks nicely evil with his curly hair, obviously bright lips and his bushy eyebrows that merge into one, his makeup is inconsistent.  Sometimes one eyebrow is far higher up then other occasions!  Lugosi is terrific though, his performance may be over the top by today's standards and the way he says some English words very strange indeed, but in a way that makes him more scary than many villains you get today.  There's something almost other-worldly about him, as if he's from a different race than us, and he suggests extreme perversity without showing us anything [well, at least in the released version].

Florey, to be honest, doesn't show much of an affinity for Gothic horror and it's little wonder that he only directed one other horror movie [1953's The Beast With Five Fingers], but does use the camera in some inventive ways.  One must remember that it hadn't been long since films had become 'sound' and had become very static because of the limited recording devices that were available, therefore scenes like having the camera on the swing that the person that it's photographing is swinging on would have seemed quite innovative.  The girl being photographed was Sidney Fox, who is top billed in the picture.  She was a diminutive, very attractive lass who was a solid actress and seemed on the verge of stardom around this time but it never happened, with rumours of affairs with head of Universal Carl Laemmle and his son all but ruining her career.  Noble Johnson also makes a strong impression as the assistant of Mirakle who is obviously intended to remind us of Fritz in Frankenstein.   I can't deny that Murders In The Rue Morgue has some good things in it and there are some fans of old-time horror movies that claim it's an unheralded classic.  I disagree with this though, the film often seems to alternate good with bad and is something of a mess.  I do have a feeling that the original, uncut version may have been very good indeed.  We will never know……..
Rating:6.5/10



   
On a stormy night in Wales, Philip and Margaret Waverton and their friend Penderel  seek refuge in a gloomy house off the road.  The denizens of the house appear to be Horace Femm, a hysteric, his sister Rebecca, a religious fanatic, and Morgan, their scarred, brutish butler, who is a mute.  At dinner, Horace confides that sometime in the past, their sister Rachel died in a mysterious fashion.   Then two more people seek shelter  –  William Porterhouse and his girlfriend Gladys Perkins.  As the evening progresses, it becomes apparent that there are two more strange inhabitants of the house  -  the Femms' 102-year-old father and someone locked away and as yet unnamed……..

For reasons I shall explain in a minute, The Old Dark House, though it's reasonably well known due to it being the second of the four Universal horror movies directed by James Whale, is one of the least seen of these films and wasn't usually included in seasons of these movies when shown on TV.  This is a shame, because it's a highly enjoyable, clever film though in my opinion not really the masterpiece some critics claim. Very much like a stage play, with most of its running time packed with dialogue, it will disappoint those looking for lots of Gothic chills and does seem  to stop as soon as it really gets going, but it's pretty funny [as soon as you appreciate dryer-than-dry humour], with Whale more interested in making a parody than a serious film.  It's sometimes said that he was never especially interested in horror, which is why his three chillers after the almost entirely serious Frankenstein are very comedic, with the films mocking horror cliches, though still at times managing to be quite frightening.  Of course what Universal really wanted was a sequel to Frankenstein, but Whale was able to hold them off…for a while.

With Murders Of The Rue Morgue almost ready, the first two months of 1932 saw other studios jumping on the horror bandwagon.  MGM began Freaks and The Mask Of Fu Manchu [starring Karloff], Warner Bros announced Dr X and Mystery Of The Wax Museum, Paramount prepared Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde and Island Of Lost Souls, RKO started The Most Dangerous Game, White Zombie,  and planned a certain film about a giant ape.  With all this going on, Whale was given carte blanche to make what he wanted, especially as it would probably feature Boris Karloff, and chose a novel called Benighted by J.B.Priestley as the basis for his next film.  Priestley's book was serious and highly symbolic, with the odd inhabitants of the house representing various forms of post-First World War pessimism.  The credits were packed with British talent Whale knew from the London stage, including a script by playwright Benn W.Levy, though this was later amended by R.C. Sheriff, who was busy writing a script based on H.G.Wells' The Invisable Man.  The cast was also mainly British with Raymond Massey and Charles Laughton making their US debuts.  The Old Dark House, like Murders Of The Rue Morgue, only did average business, though in the UK it was huge and led to the somewhat similar The Ghoul, which would also star Thesiger and the extremely busy Karloff.  For some reason Universal lost the rights to the film in 1957 which meant it never featured in seasons of the movies when they were shown on TYV, then in 1963 a [mediocre] remake saw the original withdrawn from circulation until a print was discovered in 1967.  Sadly, this print was of poor quality so the film has never undergone the restoration many of the other Universal horror films have.

The opening storm is vividly depicted, with a really impressive shot of a small landslide.  Yes, you can see where a portion of the collapsing model work is being pushed in front of the model car, but it looks more realistic than a lot of CG you see now.  Anyway, the film wastes little time in getting its stranded travellers into the house, where the pace suddenly slows right down and the film becomes extremely heavy with talk.  Fortunately, the lack of action doesn't matter because the dialogue is often amusing and delivered so brilliantly by the cast.  "Beds, beds, they'll have no beds” screams Eva Moore as Rebecca, surely the definition of an old hag, while Ernest Thesiger [in a dry run for his incredible performance as Dr Praetorius in Bride Of Frankenstein] as Horace makes repetition of the simple "have a potato” into something hilarious.  On paper, the lines in this movie probably wouldn't seem that great, but the delivery turns many of them into gems.  Of course suspense does start to build with the knowledge of two hidden members of the household that we have not yet seen, though it sometimes give way to pure strangeness.  The 102 year old man is played by a woman and no attempt is made to hide the fact!  The possibly deadly Saul is built up to be a scary menace and there's a brilliant shot of his hand appearing at the top of the stairwell and remaining there while Morgan is the one who actually comes down the stairs.  When he finally appears properly he seems the nicest and most normal person in the family.   Well, at first!

The climax involves a fair bit of brawling and a fire which mysteriously has disappeared the next morning.  I suppose they didn't want to show the laborious clearing up, but honestly there's no evidence that there had been a fire at all.  The ending is a bit happier than that of the book, which had an extra death, but the film does bring in a bit of pathos with Morgan cradling another character's body.  We actually care about all these eccentrics, as bizarre as they might be.  The five normal characters are interesting too though, these are no dullards, from Penderal singing songs mocking their plight in the back of the car to the possibly homosexual William. Considering Whale and Laughton were both gay, I'm sure I didn't pick up on things that weren't actually there, including a back story that seems to miss vital details, and isn't it odd how his 'girlfriend' throws herself at Penderal as soon as she sees him.  I haven't seen such a depiction of a woman totally 'gagging for it' in a really old film [well, any film] in ages!  The whole background of the family, some of which is told to us, has a perverse element that one can't really describe, but it's there, yet we still like these people, and this is a good example of the genius of Whale.  Whilst Frankenstein is by far the better film, The Old Dark House seems to be a much more personal project for him.

Even though not much actually goes on for the first two thirds, the atmosphere on this film is terrific.  Of course there's the rain and thunder which never stops for a minute until the last scene, and in fact it's constant presence becomes a little amusing after a while, but then this film is a borderline-comedy anyway.  The interiors of the house are nowhere near as unusual as the inside of Frankenstein's tower, or indeed Dracula's castle, but Arthur Edison's cinematography still employs some strange angles, though actually it's the people that are photographed especially oddly here.   Rebecca is seen looking distorted through a mirror, but there are many cuts involving the members of the Femm family which are very strange, such as two shots following on from each other of the same face which are almost, but not quite, the same.  Clarence Kolster's editing is really quite avant garde, with some scenes ending suddenly and cutting into the middle of other scenes, and it seems totally intended rather than being accidentally created through heavy cutting like Murders Of The Rue Morgue.  I don't know why this element of the film hasn't been more talked about then it is.

It's a shame that Karloff, for his second horror role for Universal, and one in which he was top billed, was again not allowed to speak.  To be honest, it's not too interesting a part and one that would have seemed a cliche even in 1932, but Karloff is able to give Morgan some sympathy whilst doing very little, and is also being a little frightening whilst drunk.  Fortunately his next part would be a great deal more interesting.  Aside from the wonderful Thesiger and Eva Moore, I also love Laughton, with his almost imcomprehensible Northern accent, and it's fascinating to see Gloria Stewart, elderly Rose from Titanic, as a young woman.  The more I think about The Old  Dark House, I realise what an odd little film it is.  It's a piece of fluff, insubstantial and innocuous, but made by people with great intelligence clearly having great fun.  It's nowhere near one of my favourite Universal horrors, but it has considerable charm and stands alone amongst the Universal films, with no other movie in the series quite like it.
Rating:8/10
   

< Message edited by Dr Lenera -- 1/1/2012 1:45:08 PM >


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(in reply to evil bill)
Post #: 74
RE: Universal Horror - 22/10/2011 10:38:28 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3826
Joined: 19/10/2005
quote:

ORIGINAL: evil bill

quote:

ORIGINAL: Dr Lenera

quote:

ORIGINAL: evil bill

quote:

ORIGINAL: Dr Lenera

Well, as long as no one minds, I'm going to revive this thread, as I have been reviewing the films again elsewhere and consider my writing to be a bit better now, plus the problem with pics that made this thread look like shit is sorted.  I know Evil Bill likes reading these, anyway.  After the first few the reviews will be more like monthly.



 
 
There's a version with added Philip Glass music [it's on the current DVD], and, though I like Glass' music a lot, I didn't feel it added to the film, in fact it irritated me and I turned it off ten minutes into it!  There's a great deal at fault with Dracula, and I would say that there are at least three versions of the story that are better, but it has some great things in it and remains one of those films that is greater than the sum of its parts.  Its importance in the history of the horror movie cannot be denied and its success led Universal to embark on a series of wonderful chillers, some of which are amongst the best films of the genre ever made.7/10



    In any case it's Boris Karloff who is the star of the show, he really gives an incredible performance of amazing subtlety, many actors would have gone really over the top but Karloff doesn't and remains surprisingly low-key, except for the moments when he attacks people and that skin crawling groan that he does.  Beneath all that horrific make-up, his face has great sadness, making the tragedy of the Monster's creation and rejection all that more moving.  Because that's what Frankenstein is.  As much as it is a truly great horror film that hardly ever puts a foot wrong, it's also a tragedy of mythic proportions, of innocence corrupted and a savage indictment of humanity.
9.5/10

Yes indeed i do like reading these,and many other reviews of these classic film's,but i must say how much your reviews have come on,and also how you can feel the love you have for these two classics.Like myself you where broufght up on those late night horror double bills,it's such a shame that they are not returned to the Friday night of horror slot they so deserve.
FRANKENSTEIN 1932 is my favorite of this era,and one of my all time favorite horror films,in fact it stayed my favorite till The Exorcist and then ALIEN.
Plus back in about 1975 Christmas,my dear Mum bought me this book for a present;The Film Classic Library
                Present's
.
It was by Picador,edited by Richard J Anobile,it has over 1000 frame blow ups of every scene,with every word of dialogue,it's bloody awesome with a great write up on the making of at the start.And no i won't be selling this for love or money.





OMG, Well that proves it really is a small world.  I also own that book, which my dad bought for me a few months after first seeing the movie, on a double bill with Dracula around late 70s.  I kept going through it again and again, because at the time it was the closest thing to watching the film again! 


Showing your age mate,i remember that double bill,but it was early 70's,the book came out mid 70's,but saying that the Double bill of horror on the Beeb only lasted from about 72 till 79???.But yeah a small world,and a book i still love more than most except A L I E N version of the same book,with all the stills,frame for frame,and you see how well the GORE was done.
But lets be honest guys it seems only us lot brought up on late night horror have the same love for Universal and Hammer horror classic films.I could be wrong,and if so where the hell are all the golden oldie horror fans hiding??
BEHIND THE SOFA maybe???



Showing my age, yeah I know


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check out more of my reviews on http://horrorcultfilms.co.uk/

(in reply to evil bill)
Post #: 75
RE: Universal Horror - 23/10/2011 9:05:00 AM   
Gimli The Dwarf


Posts: 77077
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: Central Park Zoo

quote:

ORIGINAL: Dr Lenera

quote:

ORIGINAL: evil bill
Plus back in about 1975 Christmas,my dear Mum bought me this book for a present;The Film Classic Library
                  Present's
.
It was by Picador,edited by Richard J Anobile,it has over 1000 frame blow ups of every scene,with every word of dialogue,it's bloody awesome with a great write up on the making of at the start.And no i won't be selling this for love or money.





OMG, Well that proves it really is a small world.  I also own that book, which my dad bought for me a few months after first seeing the movie, on a double bill with Dracula around late 70s.  I kept going through it again and again, because at the time it was the closest thing to watching the film again! 




I have that book as well. Two copies somehow, not sure how that happened It's fantastic.


_____________________________

So, sir, we let him have it right up! And I have to report, sir, he did not like it, sir.

Fellow scientists, poindexters, geeks.

Yeah, Mr. White! Yeah, science!

Much more better!

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 76
RE: Universal Horror - 27/10/2011 5:23:08 PM   
evil bill


Posts: 6694
Joined: 19/7/2006
From: mordor/ uk
quote:

ORIGINAL: Gimli The Dwarf


quote:

ORIGINAL: Dr Lenera

quote:

ORIGINAL: evil bill
Plus back in about 1975 Christmas,my dear Mum bought me this book for a present;The Film Classic Library
                 Present's
.
It was by Picador,edited by Richard J Anobile,it has over 1000 frame blow ups of every scene,with every word of dialogue,it's bloody awesome with a great write up on the making of at the start.And no i won't be selling this for love or money.





OMG, Well that proves it really is a small world.  I also own that book, which my dad bought for me a few months after first seeing the movie, on a double bill with Dracula around late 70s.  I kept going through it again and again, because at the time it was the closest thing to watching the film again! 




I have that book as well. Two copies somehow, not sure how that happened It's fantastic.


Two books???,well well you do have great taste after all.
Another child of the 60's????


_____________________________

"You listen to me now,i will find you and i will kill you!"

(in reply to Gimli The Dwarf)
Post #: 77
RE: Universal Horror - 31/10/2011 8:04:55 PM   
Gimli The Dwarf


Posts: 77077
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: Central Park Zoo

quote:

ORIGINAL: evil bill
Two books???,well well you do have great taste after all.
Another child of the 60's????




Nope, a few decades, but someone who used to scour bookshops for old movie books.

Having two copies isn't that unusual for me, I once bought two copies of the same book at the same time without realising it

_____________________________

So, sir, we let him have it right up! And I have to report, sir, he did not like it, sir.

Fellow scientists, poindexters, geeks.

Yeah, Mr. White! Yeah, science!

Much more better!

(in reply to evil bill)
Post #: 78
RE: Universal Horror - 17/11/2011 8:39:57 AM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3826
Joined: 19/10/2005

An expedition travels to Egypt to locate the tomb of Imhotep, who was buried alive for committing a terrible crime.   In the tomb they find the Scroll Of Life, which can supposedly bring a mummy back from the dead.  When alone in the tomb, Bramwell Fletcher recites from the scroll and revives Imhotep, who takes the scroll and disappears.  Ten years later another expedition searching for the tomb of Princess Anck-es-en-amon is led to it by a mysterious Egyptian called Ardeth Bey.  However, he appears to take rather an interest in the expedition leader’s daughter Helen Grosvenor and Dr. Muller is suspicious as to who he actually is……..

It took me a long time to finally get to see The Mummy.  On both my first and the second times of seeing many of the Universal horror films in seasons on TV, I caught most of the 40s Mummy movies but not the original.  When I did finally see it, I had built it up to be something it really wasn’t and I was very disappointed with this very slow moving [if slightly creepy] mood piece which had only one brief scene of the Mummy walking, and made little sense.  Of course several years later I gave it another go and discovered that The Mummy is a near masterpiece, with a performance from Boris Karloff that to me equals his portrayal of the Frankenstein Monster, and it’s possibly one of the finest films from Universal’s Golden Age.  It’s also one of the strangest, which is perhaps one reason why the movie has never had the same popularity and iconic status as Dracula and Frankenstein, and of course if one thinks of the Mummy, one normally thinks of the monster in the later 1940s Mummy movies.    Yes, this movie is very slow [though actually no slower than Dracula], and yes, you hardly see the Mummy, but it’s also an extremely atmospheric , clever and subtle film that stimulates the imagination.  It’s one of those films that just feeds you enough to interest you, then your mind starts working overtime to fill in the blanks.  So yes, you may wonder how on earth a mummy may transform into a normal human being, but it really doesn’t matter at all.

It was inspired of course by the opening in Tutankhuman’s tomb in 1922 and the supposed Curse Of The Pharoahs where people who desecrated ancient Egyptian tombs met with mysterious deaths, though I think writer Nina Wilox Putman was also inspired by an Arthur Conan Doyle story called The Ring Of Thoth.  Her original treatment was actually not about Egypt at all but was based on the 18th century magician Alessandro Cagliostro and called Cagliostro.  Set in modern San Francisco, it had the wizard as a 3000 year old villain who survived by injecting nitrates.  John L. Balderston was chosen to write the actual script and moved the setting to Egypt, though little else was actually changed besides from seems to be almost direct steals from his Dracula script, but more on that later.  Karl Freund, who had photographed Dracula, was hired to direct but this production was a difficult one, with Freund clashing so much with star Zita Johann that it climaxed with Johann being forced to act a scene [which was later cut out] with lions where director and crew were all shut up in cages and would have been too slow to help her if she had been attacked.  Boris Karloff, to be billed in this film as ‘Karloff The Uncanny’, had to suffer mummy makeup that took eight hours to apply, only for it to be hardly used in the final cut.  I shall go into more detail about the major cut the film suffered later on, but it seems that shots of the Mummy were removed and possibly a few plot details, since there is much that is vague, though I like it like that!  Despite being frankly quite odd, it was a huge hit, which makes it strange that there would be no follow ups for almost a decade.

Rather more subtle than Frankenstein and even Dracula, The Mummy rarely goes for the obvious and holds back, more in the manner of the great Val Lewton-produced RKO horror films of the 40s such as Cat People, but it may also be one of the scariest of the Universal movies, and I can see how it would have terrified people in 1932.  The early scene of Imhotep awaking while Bramwell reads aloud the Scroll is a masterpiece of subtlety and wonderfully chilling in that gentle way that films of this sort can still be if you’re in the right mood.   All we see are the eyes opening, the arms moving, and then, a few shots later, a bandaged hand grabbing the Scroll and one loose bandage being trailed.  Wonderful stuff, and it finishes with some great James Whale- like black humour as Bramwell says to his colleagues, laughing maniacally, “he went for a little walk”.   After this the Mummy never walks again in bandaged form, but instead reappears as the fully clothed but truly ancient looking Ardeth Bay, and it’s here where the film really does turn into a partial remake of Dracula.  The story becomes very similar, certain scenes play out like scenes in Dracula with just some variation in dialogue, and of course David Manners and Edward Van Sloan play virtually identical roles.  It seems that both Balderston and Freund took the oppurtunity to improve on the earlier film in most respects.  A simple but good example is the villain’s eyes.  Bela Lugosi had lights shone towards his eyes to show their hypnotic effect, but the lights often missed.  Karloff in this movie also has light shone onto his eyes but less often and never missing.

What is totally new in The Mummy is the part of the plot that deals with matters such as reincarnation and love through the ages, and which actually bears a striking resemblance to that in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with an ageless creature finding someone hundreds of years later who is the reincarnation of his old love.  This was originally even more elaborate.  There’s a great flashback scene about two thirds of the way through where Ardeth tells Helen to look into his pool and she sees events that happened over 3000 years ago, with Imhotep and Anck-es-enamon sharing a forbidden love, her dying, him trying to revive her and being mummified alive for his trouble [and keep an eye out for the gruesome shot of soldiers being impaled by spears going right through them!].  The original cut of the film also showed her being reincarnated over the centuries in times and places such as Ancient Rome and Anglo Saxon England.  Supposedly this footage slowed the story down so it was removed, but stills survive, and I think it would have given another fascinating dimension to the movie and should have remained in it.  The scenes between Ardeth and Helen do have a very odd kind of sexual tension, despite his frightening appearance, and probably aided by her wearing very revealing outfits virtually throughout the whole film.  Apart from the revival scene mentioned earlier, generally there’s no humour in The Mummy, but the beginnings of the romance between Helen and her friend Davis may raise a chuckle; it’s silly and pointless, but pleasing still.

The climax to this film seems a little rushed and I’m never entirely clear what Ardeth is trying to accomplish.  Overall though I think the script’s steadfast refusal to go into detail about many things really pays off.  Of course this is one of those films where you almost want the villain to get the girl, not the hero – after all, he’s loved her for centuries!  This is mostly brought about, though, by Karloff’s incredible performance and Jack Pierce’s astonishing makeup.  Karloff walks like he really is an animated corpse, as if bones will snap if he does too much, and with his doleful stare [his eyes are as expressive as Johnny Depp’s and have the same sadness] and that lisping voice, he manages to be quite frightening in a way that gets under the skin, and also to be pitiful and a bit sympathetic.  He’s a sorcerer who can kill from afar, but he looks and acts like if you push him over, he’ll fall into pieces.  Pierce’s creepy makeup really gives him the appearance of one of who endured centuries of torment searching for his lost love.  It’s makeup which is going more for the psychological, rather than any attempt at realism.  Pierce’s actual Mummy makeup remains probably the best ever – a shame it was used so little, but lots of footage of a Mummy killing people would have disrupted the dreamlike feel of the film.

Freund’s direction is wonderful, with really fluid use of a moving camera, as befits a former cameraman, but he was obviously good with actors too- compare the performances of David Manners and Edward Van Sloan with their portrayals of virtually the same characters in Dracula.  The Mummy is the first of these movies to have something pertaining to a musical score.  Yes, it’s bloody Swan Lake during the opening credits again, but James Dietrich wrote some effective and atmospheric pieces, sometimes with a slight Arabic touch, for the rest of the film.  The music isn’t used that much [a contrast to the way almost constant music would soon become the norm, especially in horror movies], but it works very well when it does.  The whole film still works incredibly well too, a wierd, haunting tone poem that leaves much for thought.   Although it’s the 40s movies that created the image of the shambling, bandaged menace lurching with one outstretched hand towards either a silly explorer of a woman who may be his lost love, the 1932 The Mummy remains the greatest movie that deals with the concept, and no amount of special effects filled, Brendan Fraser starring derring-do will change that.
Rating:9/10


 
A mysterious man, who has dark glasses and a head completely covered in bandages, arrives at a pub in the English village of Ipping and takes a room.  The bad tempered stranger never leaves his room, which he fills with beakers, test tubes and the like, andhe  pushes both the innkeeper and his wife out the door.  Tired of his rudeness, they call the police and, in front of lots of people, the stranger removes first his bandages, then his clothes, revealing him to be invisible. Meanwhile, Flora Cranley appeals to her father to do something about the mysterious disappearance of Dr. Griffin, who was both his assistant and her sweetheart.   Griffin was experimenting with a new drug called monocane, which made him invisible.  Unfortunately, it also had the side effect of making him insane……….

The Invisable Man is a sheer delight from beginning to end, a fast paced, humorous piece of science fiction that some might say isn’t really much of a horror film at all, but remains wonderfully entertaining, and should be shown as a corrective to those fools who claim old movies are stuffy and boring.  Even technically the film holds up, it was one of the pioneering special effects movies, though it makes me wonder why there hasn’t been a recent direct adaptation of the story [there was, of course, Hollow Man, which was kind of a variation] employing all the computer wizardry you can get nowadays, though at the time of writing one is finally in pre-production.  The film is exciting and tense, yet often very funny too, yet these elements do not jar at all.  Although The Old Dark House was in its way a remarkable film, perhaps it was just a little too personal, a little too private, to work one hundred percent, at least for this critic. The Invisable Man though sees Whale back at the very top of his form with a fantastic movie that is in some ways a variation on Frankenstein, being another tale of a scientist who Goes Too Far, and some situations are very similar, such as the female lead pining for her missing beau who is lusted after by her friend.  This isn’t really a partial remake like The Mummy was of Dracula though, and of course the handling is quite different too, being far lighter and deliberately avoiding the Gothic.

As you have probably noticed, these films tended to be made fairly quickly and in the manner of a production line.  When one film was almost completed, another one had normally already started production.  It’s a wonder that the films were often of such a high quality.  The idea of adapting the Wells book The Invisable Man occurred to Universal not long after the release of Frankenstein, and a total of fourteen treatments were hammered out, one involving invisible plague-carrying rats, one relocating the story to Tsarist Russia and one setting it on…….Mars.  Playwright R.C. Sheriff, who would go on to become a prolific and very good screenwriter in movies, had been brought to Universal to adapt his play Journey’s End for James Whale, and worked on The Old Dark House whilst writing The Invisable Man.  Sheriff had the bright idea of returning to the novel and his script, though it added a love interest, stuck quite closely to it.  Boris Karloff, unsurprisingly, was originally going to star but soon left the project.  It’s not clear why; either it was because he was unhappy at not being seen until the end, or because he was in dispute with Universal about his salary.  Karloff’s voice would have added some melancholy to the character, which would have made him more sympathetic – still, it wasn’t to be and silent actor Claude Rains was cast when Whale heard his voice in the next room.  The film was another bit hit and even Wells liked it, though he had issues with the movie making Griffin mad.  Whale replied that the film was made for rational people and “in the minds of rational people, only a lunatic would want to make himself invisible anyway”.

The opening is fantastic, with the bandaged Griffin trudging through the snow past a sign showing ‘Ipping Village’, the sense being of tragedy rather than menace, with Griffin perhaps being a sad, sympathetic character like the Frankenstein Monster.  This soon changes though, with Griffin turning out to be a rude, obnoxious person, though the scenes of him dealing with the nosy innkeeper and his wife are done more for potential humour than anything else.  Much like Frankenstein, the film appears to have started part of the way through the story, though in this case even more so.  There’s no build up to Griffin becoming the Invisable Man, he just already is.  I’m surprised that Wells’ structure was followed here, but it works, creating mystery even though anyone watching the movie, even in 1933, would of course know who Griffin was!  Then we come to the scene which would have totally startled audiences of the time, and is still hugely impressive, especially considering how special effects in old movies can be laughable to modern eyes.  Griffin turns to confront the group in his room and first of all rips off his fake nose, saying “here’s a souvenir for you”.  Then, as we cut to behind Griffin so we can see the reaction of the onlookers, he unwraps the bandages round his face and removes a wig, revealing nothing underneath.  A later sequence is even more impressive, showing Griffin doing the same thing in front of a mirror; this required four different elements of film to be then put together, but the matting is really very good indeed.

This Invisable Man seems at first to be more of a prankster than anything else, stealing a bicycle, pinching people’s noses, and the like.  The funniest scene sees a pair of trousers ambling along singing “Here We Go Gathering Nuts In May”.  Whale’s eccentric humour and Wells’ sense of an outcast trying to shake things up merge really well in these scenes.  It’s not long though, before Griffin’s megalomania takes more and more hold of him, and in scenes Wells obviously did not think of, he robs a bank and causes a train crash, killing two hundred people!   This Invisable Man becomes a vicious, brutal menace, seemingly devoid of humanity, sending one guy down a hill in his car with the brakes on.  There is a real sense of what an invisible person may have the power to do, this guy can get in anywhere and do anything, though one thing that is perhaps missing is the expected sympathy.  Until the very final scene, where we briefly see Claude Rains for the first time, Griffin’s madness precludes us from ever really liking him, so when you see the police trying to catch him and laying traps, you actually desperately want them to succeed for once.  Despite being something of a travesty of Wells’ original conception, the title character in this movie is one of the great cinema villains of all time, aided immensely by Rains’ menacing voice which has a real fiendish quality here [he would normally be much softer when he spoke], and his chilling, evil laugh.

The special effects, as I’ve previously said, are remarkable, with other stunning scenes showing Griffin smoking and his footprints appearing in the snow, though the latter is actually a major goof, since Griffin is naked yet it’s shoe prints that are appearing!  Never mind.  The constantly innovative effects genius John P.Fulton [he parted the Red Sea in The Ten Commandments] would photograph Rains in black velvet against a black velvet background for the scenes where he was to show himself as invisible, while much of the other effects were done with good old wirework.  My favourite wire effect has Griffin smoke a cigarette; it really looks very convincing indeed.  Supposedly you can see the wires in HD, though on normal DVD playback you can’t; it’s not like for instance the 1953 The War Of The Worlds, where the wires lifting up those Martian machines are extremely obvious in whatever format you see the film in.  The model train and car that Griffin destroy look far better than your average film models and blow up real good too.  Sadly though it sometimes looks like there are two invisable men, as Rains’ stunt double is rather taller than him and has a far more prominent nose!

Rains’ voice was recorded after shooting and actually adds to his character’s power and uncannyness.  Gloria Stuart, who was so good in The Old Dark House, falters somewhat in this movie, she’s a little stilted, though admittedly it’s a far less interesting part.  Una O’Connor as the innkeeper’s wife pulls faces and shrieks; most people it seems can’t stand her but I think she’s hilarious.  Many of the minor characters are colourful and have their moments such as the police inspector who chases Griffin round a room saying “how can I handcuff a blooming shirt?”, and unlike the dreadful John Bowles in Frankenstein, William Harrigan as the Dr Arthur Kemp the ‘other guy’, the rival for the heroine’s affections, is given a strong character to get his teeth into, a jealous, scheming coward who you can’t wait to get killed off.  Typically though, some of the people sound slightly Australian, as American actors pretending to be English often did around then.  The Invisable Man doesn’t have a full music score but does have a virtually continuous piece in the last ten or so minutes by a Heinz Roemheld which is suitably dramatic and slightly tragic.  Though made in 1933, this is one of those movies that hardly seems to have dated at all.  Instead, it’s almost as fresh, vibrant, clever and downright fun as it must have been upon its initial release.
Rating:9/10

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(in reply to Gimli The Dwarf)
Post #: 79
RE: Universal Horror - 19/11/2011 1:48:46 PM   
Gimli The Dwarf


Posts: 77077
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: Central Park Zoo
I love all of these reviews, Doc. Excellent work!

_____________________________

So, sir, we let him have it right up! And I have to report, sir, he did not like it, sir.

Fellow scientists, poindexters, geeks.

Yeah, Mr. White! Yeah, science!

Much more better!

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 80
RE: Universal Horror - 20/11/2011 5:16:49 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3826
Joined: 19/10/2005
Thanks Gimli, though I reckon I will have trouble keeping it up for the later sequel!

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Post #: 81
RE: Universal Horror - 2/1/2012 4:09:41 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3826
Joined: 19/10/2005


Two young honeymooners, Peter and Joan Alison, are travelling to Hungary when they learn that, due to  a mix up in the reservations, they must share a train compartment with Dr. Vitus Werdegast, a psychiatrist who claims that he is travelling to see an old friend, Hjalmar Poelzig.  Werdegast seems interested in Joan and explains that many years ago he lost his wife during the First Word War and has spent fifteen years in a prison camp. The three share a car but it crashes during a powerful storm and they end up at Poelzig’s strange abode, which is built on the ruins of Fort Marmarus, the site of a bloody battle where, it is learnt, Poelzig not only betrayed the fort to the Russians but stole Werdegest’s wife.  Then Peolzig says to Werdegest that they should play a game of chess – for the lives of Joan and Peter………………..

The first of eight films in which Boris Karloff would star with Bela Lugosi, The Black Cat is certifiably bonkers, a mad, glorious mixture of twisted relationships, sadistic revenge, sexual repression, Satanism, necrophilia and general insanity.  In many ways it’s like Murders In The Rue Morgue, and even a cursory viewing makes it obvious it was severely cut down, but it’s a more consistent movie than Universal’s previous Edgar Allan Poe adaptation, strikingly artistic, constantly on the verge of parody but continually aware of this, and though, as with many of these early Universal horror films [the 40s movies would generally be much faster paced], its initial slow pace may make it hard for some modern viewers to get into the film, it is absolutely fascinating to study from scene to scene, and not least because it suggests so much perversity and touches on so much dark subject matter while not actually showing much on screen at all.  I certainly like my sex and violence and gore, but watching these old movies really brings home to me how clever these old films were in hinting and suggesting things that they could not show, and it almost seems like a lost art.

It was directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, one of the most interesting of the many European talents who emigrated to American during the 1930, and one whose work was often neglected at the time of release but has attained a strong cult following.  The Hungarian born filmmaker began his career with a film about venereal disease called Damaged Lives,  which was partly educational and partly exploitative, then for some reason he was chosen by Universal to helm their second Poe’s adaptation, though the result only used the title and a black cat who appears every now and again.  Perhaps because it was sure to be a hit, Ulmer, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Peter Ruric, was initially given free rein in making the film, and based Boris Karloff’s character and some of the story on Satanist Alistair Crowley.  However Ulmer clearly had little knowledge of the censors of the time, because his initial 90 minute cut was eviscerated by Universal as there was no way it would have got through.  I shall go into the cuts in detail later on, because they really show evidence of an extremely vicious and perverse movie, but some might say it still is those two things, at least for the 30s!  It’s possible that some material was reshot, but despite all this hassle the film became another huge hit for Universal, perhaps not surprising as it brought together the two greatest horror stars of the film.  It has remained in circulation, and after the 1946 Detour it remains Ulmer’s best known and most seen film, though soon after its release it was discovered he had been having an affair with the wife of a producer who was the nephew of Universal studio had Carl Laemmle, and was subsequently exiled from the major Hollywood studios and spent the rest of his career making ‘B’ movies at Poverty Row studios like Monogram.

At first The Black Cat seems awfully similar to The Old Dark House, with some people forced by a storm to take refuge in a strange house populated by odd folk, though of course Werdegest intended to go to Peolzig’s house all along, and there are odd touches right from the very beginning.  Werdegest strokes Joan’s hair while she is asleep, and though it’s soon proven that he’s on the side of ‘good’, this begins a certain ambiguity about his character, who does of course end up being a complete sadist even if he does save the day.  Threaded throughout the film is also the delicious irony of Joan thinking that he is actually a villain. The film is slow and talky for quite a while, but it still gets more and more insane pretty quickly.  Poelzig is first seen through curtains in silhouette, slowly rising from his head like a corpse, and immediately shows his lust for Joan by gripping the arm of a nude statue of a woman, while Werdegest demonstrates a fear of cats by throwing a ruler at one, killing it.  Then, in a rather dreamlike and wonderfully Gothic sequence which possibly influenced Mario Bava, Poelzig wonders around a darkened room in which he has stored and preserved the bodies of female victims in glass containers.  We are left in little doubt as to what he does with these bodies, and it is soon revealed he also has the body of Werdegest’s wife in similar condition, saying “is she not beautiful? I wanted to have her beauty always”.   Then Poelzig hypnotises Joan to go to sleep, lies down beside her and switches off the lights, more than hinting at rape.

As the film speeds up towards its climax, which takes amongst other things a black mass and flaying [honestly], it ceases to make much sense.  Probably due to the cuts, things like the sudden appearance of Werdegest’s long lost daughter seem very random [though this  plot element possibly adds paedophilia to the list!] , and the climactic fighting obviously has shots missing, though the disjointed feel seems almost appropriate to the astonishing sets.  Poelzig’s house is one of the craziest horror film houses ever, one half futuristic, almost James Bond villain-like, one half strikingly Gothic, with John Mescall’s photography revealing strange geometric patterns.  Art director Charles D.Hall was clearly influenced by German Expressionist films like Nosferatu and Metropolis, which Ulmer claimed to have worked on, but takes it to a whole new level of weirdness for this film.  Sometimes the design is totally unrealistic, with beams in places they realistically could not be, but it really doesn’t matter.   Also fascinating is the script, which rather than being a traditional story of good versus evil, brings in many other themes such as post-war disillusionment whilst somehow still remaining true to its pulp elements.

Now the original cut of The Black Cat supposedly included such delights as Werdegest raping Joan [so you would have had a movie in which both hero and villain rape the heroine!], Joan actually being a black cat [the script as it stands contains odd allusions to supernatural powers of cats],  Poelzig crawling across the floor with his skin hanging off, more direct references to devil worship,  plus all of John Carradine’s footage as an explosives expert aiding Werdegest.  This really hints at a horrific film and as with the similarly mutilated Freaks, it’s hard to see how anyone would have thought the censors would have approved it.  Some have actually said that this footage was never actually filmed and was just in the original script, but both Carradine and co-star David Manners have mentioned some of the cutting.  One thing is sure though – we will probably never see the footage because snipped scenes were usually destroyed, but if you watch the film closely you can see vague hints of all I have described above plus other horrors. What is amazing is that the film flows as well as it does, and only really shows evidence of the cutting from about two thirds of the way through.

Karloff is, yet again, on top form here.  His performance almost comes across as a nastier variant on his role in The Mummy, certainly walking in a similar way, and really sends the chills down your spine every time he appears.  Again he proves what an outstanding actor he was, refusing to ham it up, and able to suggest things like sexual perversion with just a glance.  Lugosi isn’t really up to his level, but still fares well, especially in some lengthy speeches where he goes into his sad past.  They are wonderful together and even make a simple scene like playing chess interesting.  With these two, Julie Bishop and David Manners [his third nominal ‘hero’ role for Universal] hardly have the chance to make much of an impression.  One annoying thing about The Black Cat is its score by Heinz Roemheld.  In contrast to previous Universal horrors, this one has almost continuous music, something that would become almost the norm in successive films, but here the composer constantly mingles in classical pieces. He sometimes changes the odd note, but it’s extremely annoying suddenly hearing a bit of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, or Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 just as you are getting into a scene.  This film would have probably been better off with no score at all, but even in its released form, The Black Cat is a totally unique film, both incredibly perverse and perfectly straddling the divide between seriousness and silliness [there is little outright comedy except a very random bit where two policemen argue as to which of their home towns is better!], and Karloff and Lugosi are serious, but you still sense everyone is having a bit of a lark].  This was actually the first time I had seen this particular film, and I found it absolutely fascinating.
Rating: 8.5/10


 
Wilfred Glendon is a wealthy and world renowned botanist who journeys to Tibet to 1935 in search of the elusive Mariphasa plant.  He succeeds in obtaining a specimen, but is attacked and bitten by a werewolf.  Back home in London, he is visited by Dr. Yogami, another botanist, who says he met him in Tibet and warns him he will become a werewolf, adding that the Mariphasa is a temporary antidote.   Meanwhile Wilfred’s neglected wife is becoming more and more friendly with her childhood sweetheart Paul Ames.   Wilfred manages to quell his lycanthropy the first time with the plant, but after Yogami steals the remaining specimens, the next night he becomes a werewolf and goes out to kill…………..

I’m going to start this review by saying to any expert on old horror movies who reads it; yes I know Bride Of Frankenstein was the next Universal chiller, but I am going to review it on its own, basically because it’s one of my favourite movies of all time and I think it deserves it.  So, moving on one film, we have Werewolf Of London.  Usually considered the first proper full length werewolf movie [there had been the 1913 short The Werewolf, also from Universal], Werewolf Of London has been considerably overshadowed by the later The Wolf Man, and understandably so, but though not really a classic, it’s still a highly enjoyable production.  For the most part it moves well and interestingly treats its subject matter in a somewhat more scientific manner than would usually be the case, but disappointingly lacks much of the expected atmosphere.   It also contains a plethora of comic relief which just seems to be there to pad out the story and seems to be in the wrong film, though most of it is still pretty funny.  It has the feeling of not quite knowing what to do with its subject, but it is certainly fun and has some memorable bits and pieces dotted throughout, even if overall it’s very uneven.

Though Bride Of Frankenstein has been popular it had had censorship trouble and The Black Cat, despite being similarly popular, had caused a great deal of problem in that area, so for Werewolf Of London, the studio chose journeyman director Stuart Walker to helm the project.  The script by Harvey Gates and Robert Harris wasn’t officially based on any source material, though the title was possibly influenced by Guy Endore’s very different werewolf novel The Werewolf Of Paris, and it seems that Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde, or rather the great 1932 film version of it, was an influence too.  Bela Lugosi was considered for the title role but it was thought that he wouldn’t have been sympathetic enough and so Henry Hull, a character actor with dozens of diverse credits to his name but few lead roles, was chosen.  He refused to wear makeup artist Jack Pierce’s original makeup because he found it too time consuming to put on and take off, so Pierce created a much lighter look for the werewolf.  He did though save his original design and that was the one used later in The Wolf Man.  The censors removed a shot of the the werewolf slashing the face of Dr Yogami, though it seems that scenes featuring a ‘specialist’ whom Wilfred consults and a boy being attacked by Yogami’s plant were deleted because they were considered unnecessary. For reasons unclear, Werewolf Of London flopped at the box office.  Perhaps audiences were getting tired of the horror films that had been flooding cinemas the previous few years, perhaps it was considered too much like Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde, perhaps Hull was not really a marquee name, who knows?

The opening Tibet sequence gets the movie off to a fine start, even though the studio set looks very different from the long shots of explorers actually in Tibet.   We see a slightly creepy shot of the werewolf’s face rising up from behind a rock, then the attack is shown entirely in long shot, probably to avoid showing much of the violence, though it’s quite effective this way.  Then the film slows for a bit and turns lighter, with much time given to chat at garden parties and Lisa’s friendship with Paul her old flame.  Still, Wilfred’s gradual turning into a werewolf is nicely built up.  First of all only his hands briefly change, then the following night we have a really great scene where Wilfred’s cat snarls at him, obviously sensing what is to happen the way animals can often do, and Wilfred walks behind some pillars, looking more and more transformed each time he steps out from the proceeding pillar.  This is superbly done and was nicely paid homage to in the recent The Wolfman remake.   After this it’s much werewolf action,  with very effective use of the monster’s shadow just before the first killing and a rather scary little bit when the next victim pulls out her mirror to do her face and sees the werewolf’s face reflected.  There’s not enough mounting tension when it becomes apparent that Wilfred is going to try and kill Lisa though, and he climax is over rather quickly, with one simple bullet [which isn’t even silver] killing the werewolf, though it’s a bit unsettling when he talks just before he dies.


The minimal werewolf makeup is reasonable but it’s sometimes hard to think of him as a werewolf; he even dons hat, coat and scary before he goes out.  He’s also amongst the wimpiest of screen lycanthropes, fine attacking women but when he goes for a male is easily fought off.  What does work though, is his bloodcurdling howl, which was a combination of Hull’s own voice and that of a wolf.  There isn’t enough atmosphere in this movie, but when you here that howl, which might just be the best werewolf howl ever, a surprisingly strong sense of fear is evoked.  it’s not really unsurprising that the horror and violence was toned down for this film, with all the werewolf killings off screen, though it’s interesting that this werewolf seems to go mainly for streetwalkers or floozies, perhaps in a warped way relating them to his wife.  Then again, in the way it presents some of its characters, the film is quite interesting.  We are presumably intended to like Lisa and Paul’s growing romance, but don’t we feel a bit sorry for Wilfred and almost wish he will rip apart the guy messing around with his wife?  The film’s final image of Paul’s plane flying, implying that Lisa, who no longer has the burden of a neglective husband, is off to find sexual bliss with Paul, leaves a bad taste in the mouth though.  It’s said of Werewolf Of London that it’s lead character is not very likeable, but I disagree, though it would helped if the early scene where he saves a boy from being swallowed by a large plant had not been cut out.

The plot isn’t as worked out as it perhaps should be, especially concerning Dr Yogami.  When he says to Glendon when he first meets him in London, “we met once in Tibet, in the dark “, it’s obvious he was the werewolf that attacked him in Tibet.  It would have worked better if his identity was kept more of a mystery, and also if he had done more than just turned up every now and again.  I don’t think the writers knew what to do with his character.  Now I’ve already mentioned the comic relief and how it’s out of place, but I do laugh at Ettie Combes and Mrs Forsythe, the society dames who talk absolute nonsense, from calling Yogami Yokohama to one saying she once sat on a salad and wasn’t told about it.  Even funnier are Mrs Whack and Mrs Moncaster, brilliantly played by Ethel Griffies and Zeffie Tilbury, the two elderly gin-drinking ladies who like to knock each other out. They are straight out of a James Whale film, but just don’t really belong in this one.   I also like the disbelieving police chief who says “this is Scotland Yard dear boy, not Grimm’s fairytales”.

Stuart Walker doesn’t show much affinity for horror, but does throw in the odd interesting quirk, such as a section of plot represented by lots of short telephone calls.  Henry Hull’s performance has been much criticised, but I rather like it.  This is a stuffy, dull man who in a way finds some youth and vigour when he becomes a werewolf, and Hull effectively transmits this, though some more background about his character would have helped the film, and also as to how he and wife got together.  Valerie Hobson, who is twenty seven years younger than Hull, had just starred in Bride Of Frankenstein and is so likeable almost makes a rather unsympathetic character sympathetic, though I’m never really convinced by her acting.  Warner Oland makes Yogami a sinister variation of Charlie Chan who he had already played several times and it works very well.  The music for Werewolf Of London is credited to a Karl Hajos, and he was probably responsible for the simple but effective three note motif for Wilfred and some strong scoring during the transformations, but much of the music appears to come from The Black Cat, or should I say various classical composers!  Needless to say, it jars.  Overall Werewolf Of London is certainly worth seeing, it’s entertaining and has some interesting aspects, but is only sporadically as effective as it should be and it was Universal’s next try at a werewolf film six years later that would do the subject more justice.
Rating: 6.5/10


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(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 82
RE: Universal Horror - 2/1/2012 5:35:14 PM   
evil bill


Posts: 6694
Joined: 19/7/2006
From: mordor/ uk
quote:

ORIGINAL: Dr Lenera


An expedition travels to Egypt to locate the tomb of Imhotep, who was buried alive for committing a terrible crime.   In the tomb they find the Scroll Of Life, which can supposedly bring a mummy back from the dead.  When alone in the tomb, Bramwell Fletcher recites from the scroll and revives Imhotep, who takes the scroll and disappears.  Ten years later another expedition searching for the tomb of Princess Anck-es-en-amon is led to it by a mysterious Egyptian called Ardeth Bey.  However, he appears to take rather an interest in the expedition leader's daughter Helen Grosvenor and Dr. Muller is suspicious as to who he actually is……..

It took me a long time to finally get to see The Mummy.  On both my first and the second times of seeing many of the Universal horror films in seasons on TV, I caught most of the 40s Mummy movies but not the original.  When I did finally see it, I had built it up to be something it really wasn't and I was very disappointed with this very slow moving [if slightly creepy] mood piece which had only one brief scene of the Mummy walking, and made little sense.  Of course several years later I gave it another go and discovered that The Mummy is a near masterpiece, with a performance from Boris Karloff that to me equals his portrayal of the Frankenstein Monster, and it's possibly one of the finest films from Universal's Golden Age.

The Mummy remains the greatest movie that deals with the concept, and no amount of special effects filled, Brendan Fraser starring derring-do will change that.
Rating:9/10


 
  Though made in 1933, this is one of those movies that hardly seems to have dated at all.  Instead, it's almost as fresh, vibrant, clever and downright fun as it must have been upon its initial release.
Rating:9/10

Excellent reviews of two classics,that i love so much,to me they are timeless and as you said all the great CGI filled remakes still can't hold a flame to these two.


_____________________________

"You listen to me now,i will find you and i will kill you!"

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 83
RE: Universal Horror - 2/1/2012 5:44:09 PM   
evil bill


Posts: 6694
Joined: 19/7/2006
From: mordor/ uk
quote:

ORIGINAL: Dr Lenera



The Black Cat is a totally unique film, both incredibly perverse and perfectly straddling the divide between seriousness and silliness [there is little outright comedy except a very random bit where two policemen argue as to which of their home towns is better!], and Karloff and Lugosi are serious, but you still sense everyone is having a bit of a lark].  This was actually the first time I had seen this particular film, and I found it absolutely fascinating.
Rating: 8.5/10


 
Overall Werewolf Of London is certainly worth seeing, it's entertaining and has some interesting aspects, but is only sporadically as effective as it should be and it was Universal's next try at a werewolf film six years later that would do the subject more justice.
Rating: 6.5/10


Never liked Werewolf Of London,but then i'm more a fan of Chaney's Wolf Man,and of course Hammers own take was even better with Oliver Reed.
Black Cat is a film that took me two screenings before i felt i was indeed watching a great Weird horror film,that was pushing at the boundaries of what was aceptable back then.I also felt Bela Lugosi did not get the credit he deserved for a great role,maybe because Karlof was just so dominate on screen,or just that he'd fallen out of favour with film critics??


_____________________________

"You listen to me now,i will find you and i will kill you!"

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 84
RE: Universal Horror - 5/2/2012 12:46:25 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3826
Joined: 19/10/2005
Had to do this one on its own!

On a stormy night, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron praise Mary Shelley for her story Frankenstein.  She says that she has more of the story to tell.  Following straight on from the previous film’s climax, the villagers cheer the apparent death of the Monster, though their joy is tempered by seeing Henry Frankenstein apparently dead.  After they have left, Hans, father of the murdered girl in the first film, decides he needs proof of the Monster’s death and is killed by the Monster, who is still alive.  Henry is nursed back to health by his fiancée Elizabeth but is then visited by a former mentor, the eccentric Dr Pretorius.  He himself has created life but only in miniature, and wants Henry to collaborate with him.  Henry refuses.  Meanwhile the Monster is wandering around the countryside, terrifying all but only really wanting friendship……….

Horror fans are constantly in debate as to whether Frankenstein or Bride Of Frankenstein is the better movie.  I personally have never been in doubt that Bride Of Frankenstein is the jewel in the crown of Universal’s horror cycle, and while there would be many enjoyable and often very good entries to come, they would never better it.  It’s a work of stunning imagination, of unparalleled ingenuity, of amazing audacity, which I cannot believe got past the censors in the form it did.  It seems to be constantly straining against the confines of the traditional Gothic horror movie and lovingly mocks it, in an even more elaborate way then director James Whale’s previous The Old Dark House, yet never forgets what it is. It’s also so incredibly entertaining, never for a moment forgetting to be fun.  Many years ago I showed it to my half brother who was eight at the time and he was engrossed and loved it, a sure sign of this seventy-five year old film’s durability.   Even if none of the films I have so far reviewed appeal to you because of their great age, I seriously recommend you check this particular one out.  You will be surprised and maybe even amazed.

Right after the previews of Frankenstein, Universal considered a sequel, which is perhaps why the studio insisted James Whale shoot the coda where Henry Frankenstein is seen to survive.  Whale was asked to make a follow-up and he refused, so Universal turned to Robert Florey, who had written the initial script for Frankenstein and almost directed it.  His treatment, entitled The New Adventures Of Frankenstein – The Monster Lives, was rejected.  After this, a total of eleven screenwriters worked on the project, with one idea involving the Monster taking over his creator’s work and another not even having a Monster at all but Frankenstein building a death ray.  Around mid-1933, The Return Of Frankenstein, starring Boris Karloff, was announced, possibly to feature most of the original cast, possibly to star Bela Lugosi as Frankenstein.  Whale continued to be asked but said the supposedly ‘final’ script by Tom Reed “stinks to high heaven” and held Universal at bay by making The Old Dark House and The Invisable Man.  Finally he was persuaded to return on the basis he had total control [which he was given because studio head Carl Laemmle Jnr was on holiday] and a better script, which was then provided by John L.Balderston [who had co-scripted Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy], who was the one to think up the idea of Frankenstein making a female monster, and William Hurlbut.  The title change to Bride Of Frankenstein was only confirmed once shooting started.

Of course Frankenstein creating a female creature came from the original novel, where the lonely Monster demands a mate and his creator obliges, only to destroy it before he brings it to life.  Some have claimed that originally the Bride was going to either have the heart of Frankenstein’s fiancee Elizabeth or actually be Elizabeth brought back to life, but that has been discounted by other sources.  Several other bits and pieces from the book made its way into the script, though Karloff disliked having the Monster speak. Colin Clive returned to play Frankenstein but a broken leg meant he had to play most of his scenes sitting down.  Brigitte Helm from Metropolis was considered for the Bride but in the end Elsa Lancaster was chosen, though during the opening credits the person playing the Bride was credited only as “?”, just like Karloff had been in Frankenstein.  He, as he was in all the films made at the height of his career, was billed simply as “KARLOFF”.  The film ran over time and over budget, then was subjected to both censorship problems and alterations by Laemmle, who found the film rather too strange for his liking.  Fifteen minutes were removed.  Amongst other things, the prologue was cut to the bone, the number of murders by the Monster was reduced from twenty one to ten, and a lengthy sequence in which a man murders his uncle and blames the Monster went.  Some new footage was shot, notably the Monster terrorising some gypsies and, perhaps most importantly, Henry and Elizabeth escaping the final explosion.  If you look closely, you can see them inside the castle just before it blows up.  To be honest, the cuts rarely seem to harm the film, and it was another huge hit, though critical response was very mixed.


The opening involving Mary Shelley and her companions Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley perhaps seems a rather laborious way of getting into the story, and possibly had more substance before the cuts.  After this, though, the film really is one great scene after another, setting out its mixture of horror, humour and pathos immediately with the sequence of the villagers watching the burning windmill.  Una O’Connor returns from The Invisable Man to shriek and deliver choice lines such as “insides is always the first to go”,  then  Hans falls into the pit and is promptly throttled by the still-alive Monster, who then climbs out and is helped out by the wife thinking it’s her husband….who is then pulled into the pit.  After spending a few minutes with Henry and Elizabeth, Henry goes with Dr Pretorius to his castle to see his creations, which he says he has “grown”, though we are left none the wiser as to how he has created them and it’s all closer to magic than science.  The scene of the six tiny people in jars [which if you look closely are actually seven but one, a baby, was mostly cut out], which boasts amazingly fine special effects by John P. Fulton, is mind bogglingly bizarre and very very funny, especially in the bit where the amorous King gets out of his jar to visit the Queen and is picked back up by tweezers and put back in his jar.  Incidentally, this was removed by the censors in Japan, because it constituted “making a fool out of a king”.

Even more than Frankenstein, the Monster is a corrupted innocent who just can’t get along with people and is constantly rejected by them, though I wander if the original cut showed him in a much more unsympathetic light, considering he kills a lot more people.  Mostly he kills by mistake, though there is the opening couple and one bit where it seems like he has murdered a young girl.  Whale was openly homosexual in a way that was rare in Hollywood at the time [well, it’s still fairly rare today] and so his feelings of being in some way an ‘outcast’ make themselves felt in the film.  Much has been written about the strong gay elements in the picture, and Dr Pretorius comes across as being gay in his scenes, but I think a bit too much has been made of this by some; most of the time you wouldn’t think about supposed homosexual elements unless you knew the picture was supposed to contain them, whereupon you then look for them in every scene!  The film is certainly very campy in parts though, and I can see why some prefer the more primal, stark horror of Frankenstein.    In that film, the Monster was often sympathetic but was still rather scary.  Bride Of Frankenstein spends so much time with the Monster that he ceases to be frightening, especially when he does things like smoke a cigar!

Despite the gently mocking tone, Bride Of Frankenstein is at times deeply moving, especially during a sequence where the Monster becomes the uninvited guest of a blind hermit, and for a brief period, finds a friend.  The choice of Schubert’s extremely poignant tune ‘Ave Maria’ as the piece that the hermit plays on his violin, helps the scene climax in a moment of almost unbearable pathos.  The two lonely people become close, the tune is played on the soundtrack with an organ, making a scene resemble a kind of religious epiphany, and a close-up of the Monster’ s face shows a single tear running down it.  This bit just brings me to tears every time I watch the film, and I almost scream when some hunters turn up and it all goes wrong.  It’s the climax, of course, where the film goes past mere genius and becomes something truly sublime, something almost indescribable in its effect, in the way only a few films can do.  With Kenneth Strickfaden’s machinery even more elaborate and detailed, the creation sequence of Frankenstein is well and truly outdone as the Bride is created in an exhilarating montage of strange angles which become almost dizzying.  Then the Bride, who can barely stand up, starts to be unwrapped, and as we hear wedding bells on the soundtrack, we cut to the iconic Elsa Lancaster in her white shroud or wedding dress with the white lightning streaks in her black hair, which sticks back as if she has been electrocuted.  She truly is an incredible creation, uncanny, unnatural, but somehow believable in the context of the film.  The Monster appears, but the Bride hisses at him in a hideous swan-like way and seems to be more interested in her creator.  The Monster slowly moves towards her with outstretched hands, but again receives that horrid hiss. Full of anger, the Monster blows up the laboratory, though this final scene has a rather laughable plot device in that this castle contains a lever which can blow it up!


Whale truly lets himself go with this film, conjuring up, with the help of cinematographer John J. Mescall’s stunning cinematography [supposedly he was drunk throughout production, and it really seems to have been a good thing!], a plethora of wonderful and often audacious images,  with even some religious imagery that I’m surprised the censors passed in 1935.  At one point the Monster is tied to a wooden beam and hoisted up like Jesus, but if you look closely the whole film is filled with Christian imagery which, when combined with the Gothic element, makes the whole experience intoxicating and oddly not jarring.  Said Gothic element is pushed to virtually expressionistic extremes in some of the design in this entirely studio bound film: check out the stark nightmare forest which seems to consist of just tree trunks, or the interior of Frankenstein’s castle, filled with arches and nooks and crannies, an abode out of a dream rather than any kind of reality.  Then there’s Franz Waxman’s incredible score, a wonderful piece of work in its own right, going through a variety of emotions and giving us a seemingly endless number of themes and mofits for various characters and types of scene, from the mysterious beauty of the Bride’s theme to the deliberately corny motif for Dr Pretorius to the muscular five note motif for the Monster, indicating his strength and danger.  By today’s standards, you could say there is too much music and some of it is overly melodramatic, but look at, for instance, John Williams’ scoring in the Star Wars movies, it follows the same principle.  Much of it would be reused in serials such as Flash Gordon.

Karloff, wearing slightly different make-up than before to show the after effects of the fire he survived, may not have liked everything he had to do but doesn’t show it from his performance, which is incredibly evocative and moving.  Lancaster, who wore stilts as the Bride, is unforgettable in her five minute appearance [though of course she did play Mary Shelley as well in the prologue], and Colin Clive convincingly harassed as Henry Frankenstein, but for me the standout performance after Karloff is by Ernest Thesiger as Pretorius.  He’s both very creepy and extremely funny, his best scene for me being when he dines alone in a crypt over a coffin, then casually reacts to the Monster’s appearance by offering him a cigar.   Mescall’s camera seems to make the most of his gaunt but fascinating face, while the actor seems to deliver every single word with lip-smacking relish.  I wish they’d made a whole film about him.  The entire cast is populated by interesting faces and voices, and only Valarie Hobson lets the side down as Elizabeth.  It’s possible that Whale encouraged her hammy but unconvincing performance, and it is amusing, but I don’t think it really works when she’s probably the only normal person in the picture.

To be honest though, digging around trying to find flaws in Bride Of Frankenstein is a pretty pointless exercise.  This is a wonderful, wonderful film that hasn’t lost any of its effect and it’s entertainment value today.  Every scene has something wondrous, something strange, something funny, just something, that contributes to a whole that is just an astounding achievement and one of the best movies ever made – of any genre.
Rating: 10/10


_____________________________

check out more of my reviews on http://horrorcultfilms.co.uk/

(in reply to evil bill)
Post #: 85
RE: Universal Horror - 5/2/2012 7:00:22 PM   
evil bill


Posts: 6694
Joined: 19/7/2006
From: mordor/ uk
quote:

ORIGINAL: Dr Lenera

Had to do this one on its own!

On a stormy night, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron praise Mary Shelley for her story Frankenstein.  She says that she has more of the story to tell.  Following straight on from the previous film's climax, the villagers cheer the apparent death of the Monster, though their joy is tempered by seeing Henry Frankenstein apparently dead.  After they have left, Hans, father of the murdered girl in the first film, decides he needs proof of the Monster's death and is killed by the Monster, who is still alive.  Henry is nursed back to health by his fiancée Elizabeth but is then visited by a former mentor, the eccentric Dr Pretorius.  He himself has created life but only in miniature, and wants Henry to collaborate with him.  Henry refuses.  Meanwhile the Monster is wandering around the countryside, terrifying all but only really wanting friendship……….

Horror fans are constantly in debate as to whether Frankenstein or Bride Of Frankenstein is the better movie.  I personally have never been in doubt that Bride Of Frankenstein is the jewel in the crown of Universal's horror cycle, and while there would be many enjoyable and often very good entries to come, they would never better it.  It's a work of stunning imagination, of unparalleled ingenuity, of amazing audacity, which I cannot believe got past the censors in the form it did.  It seems to be constantly straining against the confines of the traditional Gothic horror movie and lovingly mocks it, in an even more elaborate way then director James Whale's previous The Old Dark House, yet never forgets what it is. It's also so incredibly entertaining, never for a moment forgetting to be fun.  Many years ago I showed it to my half brother who was eight at the time and he was engrossed and loved it, a sure sign of this seventy-five year old film's durability.   Even if none of the films I have so far reviewed appeal to you because of their great age, I seriously recommend you check this particular one out.  You will be surprised and maybe even amazed.

Right after the previews of Frankenstein, Universal considered a sequel, which is perhaps why the studio insisted James Whale shoot the coda where Henry Frankenstein is seen to survive.  Whale was asked to make a follow-up and he refused, so Universal turned to Robert Florey, who had written the initial script for Frankenstein and almost directed it.  His treatment, entitled The New Adventures Of Frankenstein – The Monster Lives, was rejected.  After this, a total of eleven screenwriters worked on the project, with one idea involving the Monster taking over his creator's work and another not even having a Monster at all but Frankenstein building a death ray.  Around mid-1933, The Return Of Frankenstein, starring Boris Karloff, was announced, possibly to feature most of the original cast, possibly to star Bela Lugosi as Frankenstein.  Whale continued to be asked but said the supposedly 'final' script by Tom Reed "stinks to high heaven” and held Universal at bay by making The Old Dark House and The Invisable Man.  Finally he was persuaded to return on the basis he had total control [which he was given because studio head Carl Laemmle Jnr was on holiday] and a better script, which was then provided by John L.Balderston [who had co-scripted Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy], who was the one to think up the idea of Frankenstein making a female monster, and William Hurlbut.  The title change to Bride Of Frankenstein was only confirmed once shooting started.

Of course Frankenstein creating a female creature came from the original novel, where the lonely Monster demands a mate and his creator obliges, only to destroy it before he brings it to life.  Some have claimed that originally the Bride was going to either have the heart of Frankenstein's fiancee Elizabeth or actually be Elizabeth brought back to life, but that has been discounted by other sources.  Several other bits and pieces from the book made its way into the script, though Karloff disliked having the Monster speak. Colin Clive returned to play Frankenstein but a broken leg meant he had to play most of his scenes sitting down.  Brigitte Helm from Metropolis was considered for the Bride but in the end Elsa Lancaster was chosen, though during the opening credits the person playing the Bride was credited only as "?”, just like Karloff had been in Frankenstein.  He, as he was in all the films made at the height of his career, was billed simply as "KARLOFF”.  The film ran over time and over budget, then was subjected to both censorship problems and alterations by Laemmle, who found the film rather too strange for his liking.  Fifteen minutes were removed.  Amongst other things, the prologue was cut to the bone, the number of murders by the Monster was reduced from twenty one to ten, and a lengthy sequence in which a man murders his uncle and blames the Monster went.  Some new footage was shot, notably the Monster terrorising some gypsies and, perhaps most importantly, Henry and Elizabeth escaping the final explosion.  If you look closely, you can see them inside the castle just before it blows up.  To be honest, the cuts rarely seem to harm the film, and it was another huge hit, though critical response was very mixed.


The opening involving Mary Shelley and her companions Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley perhaps seems a rather laborious way of getting into the story, and possibly had more substance before the cuts.  After this, though, the film really is one great scene after another, setting out its mixture of horror, humour and pathos immediately with the sequence of the villagers watching the burning windmill.  Una O'Connor returns from The Invisable Man to shriek and deliver choice lines such as "insides is always the first to go”,  then  Hans falls into the pit and is promptly throttled by the still-alive Monster, who then climbs out and is helped out by the wife thinking it's her husband….who is then pulled into the pit.  After spending a few minutes with Henry and Elizabeth, Henry goes with Dr Pretorius to his castle to see his creations, which he says he has "grown”, though we are left none the wiser as to how he has created them and it's all closer to magic than science.  The scene of the six tiny people in jars [which if you look closely are actually seven but one, a baby, was mostly cut out], which boasts amazingly fine special effects by John P. Fulton, is mind bogglingly bizarre and very very funny, especially in the bit where the amorous King gets out of his jar to visit the Queen and is picked back up by tweezers and put back in his jar.  Incidentally, this was removed by the censors in Japan, because it constituted "making a fool out of a king”.

Even more than Frankenstein, the Monster is a corrupted innocent who just can't get along with people and is constantly rejected by them, though I wander if the original cut showed him in a much more unsympathetic light, considering he kills a lot more people.  Mostly he kills by mistake, though there is the opening couple and one bit where it seems like he has murdered a young girl.  Whale was openly homosexual in a way that was rare in Hollywood at the time [well, it's still fairly rare today] and so his feelings of being in some way an 'outcast' make themselves felt in the film.  Much has been written about the strong gay elements in the picture, and Dr Pretorius comes across as being gay in his scenes, but I think a bit too much has been made of this by some; most of the time you wouldn't think about supposed homosexual elements unless you knew the picture was supposed to contain them, whereupon you then look for them in every scene!  The film is certainly very campy in parts though, and I can see why some prefer the more primal, stark horror of Frankenstein.    In that film, the Monster was often sympathetic but was still rather scary.  Bride Of Frankenstein spends so much time with the Monster that he ceases to be frightening, especially when he does things like smoke a cigar!

Despite the gently mocking tone, Bride Of Frankenstein is at times deeply moving, especially during a sequence where the Monster becomes the uninvited guest of a blind hermit, and for a brief period, finds a friend.  The choice of Schubert's extremely poignant tune 'Ave Maria' as the piece that the hermit plays on his violin, helps the scene climax in a moment of almost unbearable pathos.  The two lonely people become close, the tune is played on the soundtrack with an organ, making a scene resemble a kind of religious epiphany, and a close-up of the Monster' s face shows a single tear running down it.  This bit just brings me to tears every time I watch the film, and I almost scream when some hunters turn up and it all goes wrong.  It's the climax, of course, where the film goes past mere genius and becomes something truly sublime, something almost indescribable in its effect, in the way only a few films can do.  With Kenneth Strickfaden's machinery even more elaborate and detailed, the creation sequence of Frankenstein is well and truly outdone as the Bride is created in an exhilarating montage of strange angles which become almost dizzying.  Then the Bride, who can barely stand up, starts to be unwrapped, and as we hear wedding bells on the soundtrack, we cut to the iconic Elsa Lancaster in her white shroud or wedding dress with the white lightning streaks in her black hair, which sticks back as if she has been electrocuted.  She truly is an incredible creation, uncanny, unnatural, but somehow believable in the context of the film.  The Monster appears, but the Bride hisses at him in a hideous swan-like way and seems to be more interested in her creator.  The Monster slowly moves towards her with outstretched hands, but again receives that horrid hiss. Full of anger, the Monster blows up the laboratory, though this final scene has a rather laughable plot device in that this castle contains a lever which can blow it up!


Whale truly lets himself go with this film, conjuring up, with the help of cinematographer John J. Mescall's stunning cinematography [supposedly he was drunk throughout production, and it really seems to have been a good thing!], a plethora of wonderful and often audacious images,  with even some religious imagery that I'm surprised the censors passed in 1935.  At one point the Monster is tied to a wooden beam and hoisted up like Jesus, but if you look closely the whole film is filled with Christian imagery which, when combined with the Gothic element, makes the whole experience intoxicating and oddly not jarring.  Said Gothic element is pushed to virtually expressionistic extremes in some of the design in this entirely studio bound film: check out the stark nightmare forest which seems to consist of just tree trunks, or the interior of Frankenstein's castle, filled with arches and nooks and crannies, an abode out of a dream rather than any kind of reality.  Then there's Franz Waxman's incredible score, a wonderful piece of work in its own right, going through a variety of emotions and giving us a seemingly endless number of themes and mofits for various characters and types of scene, from the mysterious beauty of the Bride's theme to the deliberately corny motif for Dr Pretorius to the muscular five note motif for the Monster, indicating his strength and danger.  By today's standards, you could say there is too much music and some of it is overly melodramatic, but look at, for instance, John Williams' scoring in the Star Wars movies, it follows the same principle.  Much of it would be reused in serials such as Flash Gordon.

Karloff, wearing slightly different make-up than before to show the after effects of the fire he survived, may not have liked everything he had to do but doesn't show it from his performance, which is incredibly evocative and moving.  Lancaster, who wore stilts as the Bride, is unforgettable in her five minute appearance [though of course she did play Mary Shelley as well in the prologue], and Colin Clive convincingly harassed as Henry Frankenstein, but for me the standout performance after Karloff is by Ernest Thesiger as Pretorius.  He's both very creepy and extremely funny, his best scene for me being when he dines alone in a crypt over a coffin, then casually reacts to the Monster's appearance by offering him a cigar.   Mescall's camera seems to make the most of his gaunt but fascinating face, while the actor seems to deliver every single word with lip-smacking relish.  I wish they'd made a whole film about him.  The entire cast is populated by interesting faces and voices, and only Valarie Hobson lets the side down as Elizabeth.  It's possible that Whale encouraged her hammy but unconvincing performance, and it is amusing, but I don't think it really works when she's probably the only normal person in the picture.

To be honest though, digging around trying to find flaws in Bride Of Frankenstein is a pretty pointless exercise.  This is a wonderful, wonderful film that hasn't lost any of its effect and it's entertainment value today.  Every scene has something wondrous, something strange, something funny, just something, that contributes to a whole that is just an astounding achievement and one of the best movies ever made – of any genre.
Rating: 10/10


This is one film that has always got me and my mates at each others throats,for without FRANKENSTEIN there would be no BRIDE,but it is one hell of a follow on in fact watch the two together and they fit like hand in glove.I too rate both 10/10 but my heart will always be with the first,but it's as you said "Horror fans are constantly in debate as to whether Frankenstein or Bride Of Frankenstein is the better movie".

_____________________________

"You listen to me now,i will find you and i will kill you!"

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 86
RE: Universal Horror - 1/3/2012 8:26:04 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3826
Joined: 19/10/2005

Professional dancer Jean Thatcher accidently wraps her car round a road sign and is seriously injured. Her father, Judge Thatcher and fiancée Jerry Halden, implore retired surgeon Richard Vollin to perform a delicate operation to restore her to health. Vollin, who has a passion for all things Edgar Allan Poe, to the point of even having torture chambers based on his stories, agrees, but becomes besotted with Jean. When the Judge warns him off, Vollin is hurt and angry. A murderer on the run, Edmund Bateman, then comes to Vollin’s home asking for a new face so he may live in anonymity. Though not a plastic surgeon, Vollin can alter appearances by altering the nerve ends, and operates on Bateman’s face. However, Bateman awakes to find his face very disfigured, and might now be the monster who can help Vollin exact his revenge……….

The Raven was the third and last of Universal’s Edgar Allan Poe-inspired films, and is perhaps the middle movie in quality, distinctly better than The Murders In The Rue Morgue but not as impressive as The Black Cat. It’s quite similar to the The Black Cat, with lovers held captive in a house full of strange amenities by a mad man who is infatuated with the heroine, but tones down the strangeness and extreme content, though make no mistake it’s quite a strong movie in its own right. A good case can be made for it as the most sheerly enjoyable of the three movies, and it’s certainly the closest to Poe. No, it’s not a cinematic expansion of Poe’s brilliant poem of the same title, but it is full of themes and ideas from Poe and actually comes across partially as a kind of tribute to the great writer. For those not versed in the work of the great man, it’s still a very entertaining and quite lurid dabbling in timeless horror themes such as madness, disfigurement and obsession, as well as being perhaps the first torture movie, elements of which you can see in the Saw films and their like. It also has possibly the best ever performance by Bela Lugosi, that to me is even better than his Dracula.

The Black Cat had been a huge hit, despite having to be drastically cut down, and so it was only right that Universal would want to repeat the box office success but not the trouble beforehand. Therefore, instead of an auteur like Edgar G.Ulmer, they hired journeyman director Lew Landers, who went on to become mostly known for making cliffhanger serials, to direct the movie, though of course Boris Karloff, billed again as KARLOFF, and Bela Lugosi returned. Poe’s poem bore little relation to the finished script by David Boehm, but it was then amended by a total of six writers, possibly because along the way Universal decided to exploit the Poe connection more than anything else and wanted more and more of Poe in the film. Perhaps they wanted this movie to have a bit more ‘respectability’ and they even recommended that teachers take school children to the movie. No such luck; The Raven, though getting through the censors unscathed, became caught up in arguments about the suitability of horror movies and the public stayed away. In the UK, it was banned and was even debated in Parliament.

The Raven gets into its story quickly, though it’s a while before anything exciting happens. Instead, we watch, for a while, a rather dark love story, albeit one that seems a little influenced by the same year’s Mad Love [now there’s a neglected classic!]. Vollin falls for Jean immediately, something emphasised by quite a few close ups of his eyes, but more interestingly she seems to fall for him briefly because he has saved her life, a situation that is not uncommon. When he goes to put his arm round her, she recoils, but is still infatuated in a wierd way, and works some of this out by performing a dance called ‘The Essence Of Poe’ on stage which gets more and more frenzied. Wearing a bizarre getup that includes a mask, cloak and a golden cap, this rather strange scene is sadly the climax of this part of the story, and I almost wish the film had carried on with this intriguing combination of psychological drama and unusual love story. However, this is of course a horror film, so the heroine must soon begin to fear the villain, though he really doesn’t seem too bad until he operates on Bateman. Though it’s wonderful to see Karloff and Lugosi engage in possibly the longest dialogue scene they ever had together, it’s hard not to laugh when Vollin talks of nerve glands at the back of the neck which, if moved around, can alter a person’s appearance, and he can do this in ten minutes! Still, this is followed by an absolutely tremendous scene of horror that still packs a punch today.

Bateman’s face is covered in bandages, but through them you can see one eye, but only one eye, positively glistening with anticipation. Vollin unwraps the bandages, revealing that one side of Bateman’s face is very disfigured. Vollin disappears, Bateman stands up and lumbers into the next room, which is full of huge mirrors, and Bateman looks in each one, seeing his hideous features looming out at him each time, while Vollin can be heard laughing horribly. For sheer intensity, this scene is hard to beat in films from the time, and the rest of The Raven doesn’t quite measure up, though it’s never dull. As a group of people, including Jean and Jerry, become guests in Vollin’s house and are soon trapped, the entire second half of the film moves at a lively pace. Strange features in this initially not that strange-seeming house, from secret doors to a Pit And The Pendulum [the Poe tale where a man is tied down while a circular knife swings above him, getting lower and lower.....] -inspired torture room to another door that opens into a long drop, reveal themselves in quick succession. Soon, most of the guests are soon in great, sometimes mortal jeopardy, except for one old couple who sleep through the whole thing and provide the film’s only real comic relief.

Now Karloff, as before, was billed above Lugosi, but this is really Lugosi’s film. His typically unrestrained acting is totally suited to his egomaniac [and simply maniac] character, but there is so much emotion in his performance, really making this psychopath into a fully rounded character. The film opens with him reciting the original poem, and he does it with such great feeling, his thick Hungarian accent somehow suited to the words, that he almost distils the essence of Poe in a way that nearly matches Vincent Price. Later on, he tells, ostensibly of Poe and mixing in his story Lenora, but more so of himself, speaking of the madness that grips a genius and can drive him to torture, and he delivers the speech brilliantly, full of pathos but getting increasingly frightening with it. Of course he is truly terrifying in the scenes where he clearly intimates that he gets an almost sexual kick out of torture, and his laugh is horrifying. Like The Black Cat, this was another film that I always missed when it was on TV, and seeing it for the first time, I was struck by how great Lugosi’s performance was. A shame that he became willing to act in any old rubbish, and that his career never scaled the heights of the early 1930s.

Of course Karloff is excellent too, again deriving much expression from his eyes, or rather one eye. Unlike Lugosi’s character, who starts off just a little wierd and gets progressively more scarier, Karloff’s begins rather nasty, casually saying “you can’t help doing things like that” when talking about killing someone with a blowtorch, but gets more and more sympathetic as the film goes on. Though we are told that “an ugly man does ugly things”, a common horror principle, Bateman’s own infatuation with Jean does not result in the expected, but is the cue in him finding some goodness within himself and eventually his redemption. The rest of the cast fare just okay, including Irene Ahlberg adequate as Jean. Heinz Roemheld, from The Black Cat, also composed the score for this movie, though that’s too strong a word, as it’s mainly The Black Cat music reused, including a couple of it’s classical music quotes. Efficiently rather than interestingly directed by Lew Landers, who doesn’t put much of a personal stamp on the movie, The Raven still remains old-style Gothic horror of the most entertaining kind, as well as one of the best and, in its own way, one of the most faithful Poe-related movies ever made.

Rating: 8/10





Professor Van Helsing has just staked Count Dracula through the heart, but is taken by police to Scotland Yard. His story is not believed and instead of hiring a lawyer, he calls a psychiatrist, Dr Jeffrey Garth, who was one of his star students. One of the two constables guarding Dracula’s body is called away to meet Jeffrey, and the one remaining is hypnotised by a certain Countess Marya Zaleska, who is Dracula’s daughter, who then removes her father’s body with the assistance of her manservant Sandor. She burns his body in the hope it may break her curse of vampirism, but it doesn’t work and she resumes her old habit. After a chance meeting with Jeffrey at a party, she asks him to help her overcome her cravings……….

A somewhat better film than Dracula, despite being much less seen and known, Dracula’s Daughter is a nicely downbeat, moody vampire film that was the first film not only to have a very sympathetic vampire but to emphasise a romantic element, something that is usually thought of as a more recent thing in Dracula and Dracula-related movies. Absolutely brimming with Gothic ambience and casting a haunting power from beginning to end, it’s not the most exciting film, but nonetheless moves at a fair lick throughout its brief running time and has some fascinating elements that, partly due to its short length [albeit a length similar to what most of these Universal horror pictures had], it isn’t really able to deal with fully. It is, though, a really compelling and unusual movie that dares to go down different paths from its predecessor and really deserves much more praise than it gets.

The basis for Dracula’s Daughter was a Bram Stoker short story called Dracula’s Guest [though you could say there are elements of Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla too], which some say was a deleted first chapter of Dracula, and details a man in Transylvania who encounters a female vampire. In 1933 MGM head David O’ Selznick bought the rights and got John L. Balderston, who had scripted Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy for Universal, to expand the tale into a screenplay. It was not too different from what we have now but implied that the title character tortured her victims and that they liked it too. Selznick sold the script to Universal and offered the film to James Whale, but, tiring of horror films, he turned it down, even when R.C.Sheriff [The Invisible Man] wrote a new script, adding three scenes set in the 14th century featuring Dracula. It was rejected four times by the MPAA, despite Sheriff submitting amended drafts. Knowledge of how extreme the script was is hard to come by, but it seems that the sado-masochistic element in Balderston’s script was still present. Eventually Garrett Fort was asked to write a new draft, which proved satisfactory, and journeyman Lambert Hillyer went on to direct, though shooting went ahead three weeks before the script was finished. The film also went over budget and only did average business upon release, while also being the last straw for the BBFC in the UK who put a temporary ban on horror films. For these reasons, Universal stopped making horror movies…….for a short while.

Though opening in Dracula’s castle right after the events in the first movie, the film proceeds in a rather light vein at first, with two comedy constables providing a few laughs. One is something of a ‘scaredy cat’ and the other mocks him, and though the humour is totally unoriginal, the two are still quite funny. Soon Zaleska appears though, and the film takes a turn for the serious and the downbeat. After her and Sandor have taken Dracula’s coffin from the police station, something not shown, we have a rather haunting and poetic scene of her burning the coffin on a fog strewn moor, a tableau of striking dark beauty and about as purely Gothic as you can get. Then we have a really interesting scene where she talks of remembering her childhood and Sandor reminds her, against her wishes, of how ‘dark’ it was, for instance of ‘birds’ actually being ‘bats’, all the time while Zaleska is playing a calm piece on the piano which gets more and more agitated as she realises that burning her dad’s coffin has not taken away her vampirism. The sequence is a little corny and overdone but intriguing, and is followed by an unforgettable shot of Zaleska, shrouded in black, waiting for victims by a building. She is not frightening but sad and even pathetic, a creature whose base instincts are making her do things she really does not want to do.

The plot becomes something not dissimilar from that of The Mummy, with Zaleska falling in love with Jeffrey and wanting to make him immortal like her, though in this instance the mortal man seems quite bewitched by the ‘monster’ too. That film’s dreamlike, gliding feel is partially replicated too, though it moves a little faster and returns to Castle Dracula for a reasonably exciting climax that is sadly over too quickly. Certain plot developements involving Sandor were used in some of the sequels to The Mummy too. Even more than Dracula, this film avoids onscreen bloodshed but has two scenes that have a strong lesbian aspect. In the first one, Zaleska brings a streetwalker to her painting studio and gets her to pose for her. “You’ll do very nicely” she purrs as she can’t take her eyes off her throughout and you can virtually feel the sexual tension until she moves in to bite her. Later on, she hovers over Jeffrey’s fiancée Janet for what seems forever before they are interrupted. The implications are obvious and how they got this stuff past the censor I have no idea, unless previous scripts were so horrific it just seemed tame by comparison. The film’s convoluted script history does appear to have resulted in some confusion in places, especially with regard to Zaleska herself. The conversation with Sandor seems to indicate that she was a vampire as a girl, but then, in the very last scene, someone comments about how beautiful she is and Van Helsing says that’s because she died when she was beautiful “one hundred years ago.”

If Zaleska is a rather likeable title character, the ‘hero’ Jeffrey is a rude and careless man who is introduced to us talking of “birds in London he’d like to shoot” and treats his girlfriend pretty badly. The constant bickering between Jeffrey and Janet gives us some more laughs, such as when she pretends she’s from the zoo and rings him saying “the elephants have seen pink men” or when he is so flustered about Zaleska he can’t do up his tie and Janet does it for him, only deliberately wrong so he looks like an idiot when he goes to see Zaleska. The earthy, vivacious Janet makes a nice contrast with the mysterious, intense Zaleska, two opposites vying for Jeffrey’s attention, though what the both of them actually see in him is anybody’s guess. Director Lambert Hillier fails to totally convince us of several things in the story, but does show such an affinity for the Gothic that it’s a surprise that he made no other horror films, unless you count Universal’s The Invisable Ray, which is actually much more of a science fiction movie.

Gloria Holden, who plays Zaleska, apparently hated her role and being in a horror film, feeling they were beneath her, but strangely her discomfort translates well to the screen. Zaleska is a person full of self loathing and awkwardness, and Holden shows these attributes, whether intentionally or not, really well. Otto Kruger is more conventionally ill at ease as Jeffrey and too old for his role but Marguerite Churchill is a very likeable Janet and Irving Pichel a nicely sinister Sandor. Before production had started, Universal announced that Bela Lugosi was to star in the film; this did not happen, but a wax mold was made from his face for the opening scene. Heinz Roemheld’s score is considerably better than his previous two efforts. It’s all original music for a start, and has some pieces that really help create the film’s odd spell, such as the dirge-like, very tragic main theme, which really underlies the fact that this is a romantic tragedy as much as anything else, the strange, almost atonal string movements for early bits in Dracula’s castle, and the rather beautiful, if sombre, cue for the burning of Dracula’s body. Perhaps there’s too much music by today’s standards, but it’s a good effort, much like the film itself. No masterpiece, but it’s a minor classic that, as with Bride Of Frankenstein, proves that sequels often can equal and even better their predecessors. Haunting and poetic, it has a strange, hypnotic power all its own.

Rating: 8/10








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check out more of my reviews on http://horrorcultfilms.co.uk/

(in reply to evil bill)
Post #: 87
RE: Universal Horror - 2/3/2012 5:37:51 PM   
evil bill


Posts: 6694
Joined: 19/7/2006
From: mordor/ uk

quote:

ORIGINAL: Dr Lenera


Professional dancer Jean Thatcher accidently wraps her car round a road sign and is seriously injured. Her father, Judge Thatcher and fiancée Jerry Halden, implore retired surgeon Richard Vollin to perform a delicate operation to restore her to health. Vollin, who has a passion for all things Edgar Allan Poe, to the point of even having torture chambers based on his stories, agrees, but becomes besotted with Jean. When the Judge warns him off, Vollin is hurt and angry. A murderer on the run, Edmund Bateman, then comes to Vollin’s home asking for a new face so he may live in anonymity. Though not a plastic surgeon, Vollin can alter appearances by altering the nerve ends, and operates on Bateman’s face. However, Bateman awakes to find his face very disfigured, and might now be the monster who can help Vollin exact his revenge……….

The Raven still remains old-style Gothic horror of the most entertaining kind, as well as one of the best and, in its own way, one of the most faithful Poe-related movies ever made.

Rating: 8/10





Professor Van Helsing has just staked Count Dracula through the heart, but is taken by police to Scotland Yard. His story is not believed and instead of hiring a lawyer, he calls a psychiatrist, Dr Jeffrey Garth, who was one of his star students. One of the two constables guarding Dracula’s body is called away to meet Jeffrey, and the one remaining is hypnotised by a certain Countess Marya Zaleska, who is Dracula’s daughter, who then removes her father’s body with the assistance of her manservant Sandor. She burns his body in the hope it may break her curse of vampirism, but it doesn’t work and she resumes her old habit. After a chance meeting with Jeffrey at a party, she asks him to help her overcome her cravings……….


Rating: 8/10








The Raven is a classic without a doubt,i've always loved it,and look forward to seeing the remake with John Cusak,though i doubt it will be any where near as awesome.
As for Dracula's Daughter,i'm not a fan but i will give it another watch,next time it turns up on cable,as your write up is so full of love and praise,i will just have to watch it again.


_____________________________

"You listen to me now,i will find you and i will kill you!"

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 88
RE: Universal Horror - 24/3/2012 8:51:55 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3826
Joined: 19/10/2005

It’s been years since the events of the last movie, but the village of Golfstadt is still haunted by the memories of the dreadful creation of Henry Frankenstein. Understandably, the townsfolk are none too happy when Henry’s son Baron Wolf von Frankenstein arrives to take up residence in the family castle, with his wife Elsaand young son Peter in tow. Wolf doesn’t believe the stories of the Monster killing and maiming, but changes his mind when the local policeman Inspector Krogh, who sports an artificial arm, pays him a visit re artificial arm, telling Wolf that his real arm was torn out by the Monster when he was a child. While investigating his father’s ruined tower, Wolf discovers the comatose Monster is the care of Ygor, a demented blacksmith who has survived a hanging for graverobbing. Wolf decides to repair and resurrect the Monster to restore his family’s name, but Ygor has different plans for him……..

Son Of Frankenstein is not a bad movie taken on its own, but unfortunately it follows the superb Frankenstein and the even more superb Bride Of Frankenstein, so it would have had to have been something really special to stand amongst those two movies, and special is something Son Of Frankenstein isn’t. Somewhat lacking in both horror and imagination, it sees the Monster sidelined for most of its running time, something that probably put Boris Karloff from returning after this movie as the Monster. It’s also a very talky movie, with very little actually happening for at least the first half, but luckily the dialogue is often very good and, coupled with some stunning sets, ensues that it is certainly enjoyable as long as you don’t expect too much. There are some who prefer it to Bride; I personally consider it one of the least of the Frankenstein series. I get the impression that they were holding back in almost every way, perhaps wary of the controversy and censor irritation that had temporarily put on hold Universal’s horror series in 1936.

It had actually been a very bad time for Universal overall, with the Laemmle family losing control of the studio when they were unable to repay a loan they had borrowed because of cost overruns and diminishing box office on many films. The two new owners were uninterested in horror films until 1938, when a virtually bankrupt studio in Los Angeles screened a double bill of Dracula and Frankenstein out of desperation, and made so much money that the two movies were re-issued in many other theatres, albeit slightly censored. This convinced Universal to make a well budgeted third Frankenstein film, and originally planned it in colour but changed their mind due to Karloff’s makeup not showing up well. Claude Rains and Peter Lorre were considered for the role of Wolf until Basil Rathbone, then best known for playing villains, got the part. The script was so rushed that much of it was completed minutes before many scenes were about to be shot, but this did have one major benefit. Willis Cooper’s original screenplay did not contain the character of Ygor [God it must have been dull!] and a second version had the character, to be played by Bela Lugosi, only having a small role. Director Rowland V. Lee, unhappy with the way Lugosi had been sidelined by Universal and the lowly amount he was being paid for Son Of Frankenstein, made Ygor have more and more prominence in the story as more and more pages of the shooting script were completed. The film was a commercial success and suddenly the Universal horror movie was back!

There’s an amusing bit right at the start, where, on the train to Goldstadt, Elsa looks out of the window at the barren countryside and remarks to the others “what a strange looking country “, this this drawing attention to the fact that the same few model trees are going by again and again! Still, Wolf’s comment on how “nine out of ten people call that misshapen creature Frankenstein “ is nicely aimed at the many viewers who does just that, and ends rather eerily with the word “Frankenstein” being finished off by a gloomy voice and a quick image of the Monster outside their compartment. Son Of Frankenstein takes a laboriously long time in setting up and telling its simple story, and relies too much on dialogue than actual horror throughout, but many scenes do often sparkle with a dry wit and sometimes even some fun rhyming word play. “We came to meet you, not to greet you” says a member of Wolf’s welcoming party, and the housekeeper utters an old superstition; “if the house is filled with dread, place the beds end to end”. Wolf’s barbed exchanges with Inspector Krogh are very nicely written and staged by the two actors playing them, with great use of body language. There is little attempt at consistency with previous films though. The town is now called Goldstadt, for the second time the Frankenstein home is different, but even more oddly, his tower is now right behind the castle and now even has burning sulphur under it. I don’t even want to ask why Henry is buried in a tomb, despite being blown to bits in the proceeding film!

The scenes where we first see Ygor, peering in and out of windows and, in one creepy bit, looking at Peter sleeping in his bed through a secret cubby hole in his bedroom wall, are very effective in building up to the first ‘proper’ appearance of the character, though Ygor’s comment about the Monster; “he does things for me” will probably cause most modern viewers to laugh! There’s much verbal conflict between Wolf and Ygor over the Monster, who doesn’t get up and about until over half way, where he’s mostly restricted to the mill and the castle except for two well staged scenes where he kills people at Ygor’s bidding which benefit from having no music. We learn that the Monster has befriended Peter, even giving him a watch [which was possibly influenced by a bit in the original novel], but why don’t we see it? Only two major scenes show the Monster as being the virtually human creature of Bride; when he examines Wolf’s face and, looking in the mirror, is highly disturbed by his ugly appearance, and when he cradles Ygor’s body and lets out a terrible cry of anguish. Two scenes of the Monster with Benson the butler, the second showing him killing him, were cut for some reason. The most interesting bit involving the Monster is earlier when Wolf examines him and uses many medical terms while doing so, giving the Monster a certain believability which is then ruined when Wolf says “he’s completely superhuman”! The climax, where you just know Krogh is going to lose a second arm, does finally deliver a few thrills, with an extra edge due to Peter being in danger, and climaxes in a fun way with Wolf dispatching the Monster with a Tarzan-like swing.

Cooper’s unimaginative script certainly show signs of the way it was written, with many inconsistances, such as, if the Monster was comatose for a long time, then who killed the other victims who Ygor wanted revenge on? This is mostly a very serious film, but there are chuckles to be gained from Inspector Krogh, who holds a cigarette lighter on his mechanical finger and sticks darts in his mechanical elbow, and there’s a very funny bit where Ygor coughs and splutters all over folk in the courtroom he has been brought to. Probably the most memorable thing about Son Of Frankenstein is Jack Otterson’s sets, which are some of the best since The Black Cat. The interior of Castle Frankenstein is truly nightmarish, with everything built at strange angles, beams casting patterns on the walls and, most oppressively, a dining room where the table is overlooked by curved pillars ending in gargoyles. The caves look positively surreal. Everywhere you go, things look distorted, often just by odd use of perspective. Son Of Frankenstein was sadly the last of Universal’s horror movies to look like this in a major way. Director Rowland V. Lee, usually happier with historical dramas, shows us the Monster waking up from his blurry point of view and a couple of other interesting flourishes, while George Robinson’s cinematography is extremely fluid and contains some very fine tracking shots while of course making the most of those amazing sets with great use of shadows. The constant rain helps the dark atmosphere, and the jagged rocks and trees outside look stunning, but why does hardly any action take place amongst them?

Karloff is great as before, and makes more use of those expressive eyes of his, not quite buried under all that makeup, but just has little opportunity to shine. Ygor is really the chief ‘Monster’ in the film, and Lugosi gives a wonderful performance, possibly his best ever. He makes the character very multi-dimensional; evil, roguish, pitiful, and sometimes rather funny. Another person clearly having great fun is Lionel Atwill as Krogh, who actually seems to be about to burst into laughter at times. Despite later appearing in some, Basil Rathbone disliked horror films, feeling they were beneath him, so he decided to ham it up. His lively, almost tongue-in-cheek performance is enjoyable, but the actor’s disdain is evident. Never mind; he was just about to become a star as Sherlock Holmes. Frank Skinner composed the score for this instalment and his full-blooded work does its best to ramp up excitement when there is little. His main title piece is very good, beginning with his Ygor and Monster themes playing together in patterns of notes going upwards and upwards, then turning into a lament for the film’s central tragedy. The score rarely departs from this material, meaning that it lacks the diversity of Bride’s score, but it works well enough. Son Of Frankenstein is well made overall, and if it had been the first of the series, or maybe one of the last, it would probably come across as being rather good. Sadly, it was proceeded by two of the greatest horror films ever made, and therefore can mostly be regarded, in my opinion, as a major disappointment, only really notable for being simply fantastic to look at.

Rating: 6/10





Geoffrey Radcliffe is sentenced to death for the murder of his brother Michael, a crime he did not commit. Just before he is about to be hung, his friend Dr. Frank Griffin pays him a visit and subsequently disappears from his cell. Inspector Sampson of Scotland Yard realizes that Griffin is the brother of the original Invisable Man and may have given Geoffrey the formula to aid his escape. Geoffery, despite the wishes of his fiancée Helen Manson, decides to track down the original murderer, but has to do it before the invisibility drug drives him insane. He learns that a recently-hired employee to the Radcliffe family mining operation has been promoted , arousing his suspicions………..

The Invisible Man series never seems to be as popular as the others, perhaps because creatures like Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster are more like actual monsters, whilst the Invisible Man is just a man who is invisible, albeit often one who is going mad. Also, not all the films in Universal’s series are really horror movies; The Invisible Woman is a comedy and The Invisible Agent a war spy thriller, though they are certainly all worthy of your time and show how a series can go down different and interesting pathways. The Invisible Man Returns is a solid sequel to the 1933 original that is no classic and is nowhere as groundbreaking but certainly entertains, though it’s far less of a horror movie. There are some who prefer it though, and it’s a very hard movie to dislike.

In 1939, Universal signed a five-picture deal with H.G.Wells, giving them the rights to either remake his novel or use the characters, story etc. for sequels. The commercial success of Son Of Frankenstein had re-energised the studio as regarding horror, and they started to plan more sequels to/ reworkings of some of their 30s films, though The Invisible Man was the only character they had to buy the rights to [and this allowed them to display Wells' name on the poster]. The attitude to the films of the 1940s was quite different; they were to be made very quickly and cheaply, with little room for artistry or annoying the censors. These movies were just made to entertain, so there was less of the Gothic doom and gloom. The Invisible Man Returns was co-written by Kurt Siodmak, one of many émigrés from Germany, and one who would write many horror and science fiction movies come. The script by him and Lester Cole was based on a story by Siodmak and director Joe May who was also a German émigré and whose difficulty with English made the set a tense environment. It tenuously links to the 1933 film and uses many of it elements, including a star whose proper face is only seen at the end, and situations, while adding a murder mystery to the mix. John P.Fulton returned to do the invisibility effects and won as Oscar nomination for his trouble. The film went over budget but did good box office and Universal’s second horror cycle was well under way.

Like The Invisible Man, The Invisible Man Returns opens seemingly already into the story, with the exposition rather awkwardly given to some people chatting in an inn. Again, we don’t see the invisible protagonist injected with the drug and becoming invisible; it has already happened by the time we switch to the prison, where, after Geoffrey has escaped, the warden helpfully says to everyone; “you’re under arrest, all of you”! He is revealed to us slowly, first of all by a suitcase being opened and clothes being taken out, then in a similar manner to before, first of all with his face and hands covered in bandages, then with his sunglasses off so he seems to have no eyes, then finally removing all his bandages and clothes. This all takes longer than before, because almost as much time is spent on the murder mystery element, which, to be frank, doesn’t work too well because the killer is apparent immediately! Still, Geoffery’s impending madness is convincingly handled in gradual stages, building to a great scene where, at a dinner with Nan and Frank, his megalomania totally takes over and he talks of the weakness of humans compared to animals, and ruling the world. “The nations will tremble before me” he cries towards the end of a lengthy soliloquy. This Invisible Man doesn’t seem to have as much fun at people’s expense as the first, but he does wonderfully harass one guy for about fifteen minutes, doing things like taking out car engine wires as the man keeps putting them back in, constantly saying “I’m here” as he moves around, and claiming he’s a ghost who can’t “find peace in the other world”, in a terrific combination of humour and increasing cruelty.

There is almost as much humour as in Whale’s film, though apart from the afore-mentioned scene and the odd moment, it’s more restricted to funny lines usually concerning the Invisible Man. “I’ll have to see him before I believe he’s invisible” says one policeman, and, my favourite; “take off his clothes? He won’t do that son, there’s a lady with him”. Overall, the tone is lighter, with this Invisible Man less cruel, consequently meaning there’s less tension, but then Geoffrey is much more sympathetic. Geoffrey’s escape from lots of bobbies compares unfavourably to similar scenes in the original, but after this we have two effective climaxes; the first, a fight in a room where the villain has switched the light off and therefore can’t be seen either, and a struggle on a mine car, which is slightly, but only slightly, diminished by having the villain obviously matted onto the mine car, for some strange reason. Then follows a very touching scene where Geoffrey removes the clothes from a scarecrow and talks to it, obviously almost totally mad. This would have been a perfect ending to the film, leaving much ambiguity about his fate, but of course, this now being the 40s, we have to have a happy ending, so we get one, nicely paralleling the last scene of the original.

The special effects mostly replay gags used before, though sometimes slightly more elaborate, such as in the undressing scene and the final return to visibility,where you see veins forming before the body. This means that some of the matte work is not quite as good because it has to support more. Still, the effects are still amazing for their time, and one can’t help but admire the amount of painstaking work that must have gone into them. These days, all you have to do is sit at a computer screen………..but enough moaning!!! Oddly, while the first film stayed clear of Gothic trappings, this one has tons of the obligatory fog and overall looks more conventionally like a horror film, though generally it’s not especially interesting visually apart from the effects. While Siodmak and May’s script is flawed, including renaming the monocaine drug ’duocaine’ before calling it monocaine again, it does allow all of its main characters to shine, not just its title one. Frank, whose use of guinea pigs in his research would not make him a ‘nice guy’ if the film was made now, has an interesting scene where he brings a guinea pig back to visability only for it to die, and even better is an especially well written, staged and acted scene where the Inspector is questioning Frank, both respective actors Cecil Cellaway and John Sutton showing subtly that they are holding a great deal back. Notice how one character, Richard Cobb, is always smoking so he will hopefully notice if Geoffrey is near. There is quite a bit of attention to seemingly minor details here.

Joe May’s direction is solid and no more, but I would say that Vincent Price, in the first of countless horror movies [though he wouldn’t really become a ‘horror star’ until the 50s] is better than Claude Rains in the title role. His melodious voice, always a joy to listen to, is allowed to run the full gamut here in showing the extremes of Geoffrey’s character, from delivering megalomania rants and chillingly evil threats to touching moments of quiet and pathos, most notably in an early scene where Geoffrey begs Helen to help Frank kill him if the madness takes hold. We don’t see his face, but Price’s beautiful voice acting gives us all that we need, and that’s one mark of a brilliant actor. Fans might be surprised to see him without a moustache at the end. Nan Grey, previously the most famous victim of Dracula’s Daughter, is also very strong, really making you believe that she is a woman who would do almost anything for the man she loves, and showing very movingly her despair. Frank Skinner and Hans J.Salter wrote the score, as they would for many successive outings, and it’s a conventional but enjoyable effort, with, as with Son Of Frankenstein, the main title music nicely setting out the horror element before moving to the tragic, and the actual score based primarily on those elements except for the scenes of excitement. An early scene between George and Helen is backed by lovely romantic music which was an increasing factor of most films of the time. I really like The Invisible Man Returns; it may be just a cash-in, and doesn’t hold a candle to the original, but it’s made with some care and is certainly an enjoyable watch.

Rating: 7/10

< Message edited by Dr Lenera -- 29/3/2012 1:17:02 PM >


_____________________________

check out more of my reviews on http://horrorcultfilms.co.uk/

(in reply to evil bill)
Post #: 89
RE: Universal Horror - 26/3/2012 8:37:43 PM   
evil bill


Posts: 6694
Joined: 19/7/2006
From: mordor/ uk

quote:

ORIGINAL: Dr Lenera


I The score rarely departs from this material, meaning that it lacks the diversity of Bride’s score, but it works well enough. Son Of Frankenstein is well made overall, and if it had been the first of the series, or maybe one of the last, it would probably come across as being rather good. Sadly, it was proceeded by two of the greatest horror films ever made, and therefore can mostly be regarded, in my opinion, as a major disappointment, only really notable for being simply fantastic to look at.

Rating: 6/10





Frank Skinner and Hans J.Salter wrote the score, as they would for many successive outings, and it’s a conventional but enjoyable effort, with, as with Son Of Frankenstein, the main title music nicely setting out the horror element before moving to the tragic, and the actual score based primarily on those elements except for the scenes of excitement. An early scene between George and Helen is backed by lovely romantic music which was an increasing factor of most films of the time. I really like The Invisible Man Returns; it may be just a cash-in, and doesn’t hold a candle to the original, but it’s made with some care and is certainly an enjoyable watch.

Rating: 6/10

I'm going to have to watch these two again,it's been to long,and i fully agree both suffer because of what came before,yet as stand alone films,they are part of the age of golden classics.With the tide of shit horror that's hitting our screens,you realy miss those late night Horror Double Bills.COME ON BBC OR SKY GIVE US SOME DOUBLE BILL OF CLASSIC HORROR FILMS???

_____________________________

"You listen to me now,i will find you and i will kill you!"

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 90
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