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RE: Universal Horror

 
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RE: Universal Horror - 4/4/2012 5:45:00 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3958
Joined: 19/10/2005
Well the quality of films is definately diminishing as I get in to the 40s films, I just hope I can keep up the enthusiasm!! And I agree with you about the Double Bills!

_____________________________

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

(in reply to evil bill)
Post #: 91
RE: Universal Horror - 21/4/2012 8:45:45 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3958
Joined: 19/10/2005




In the middle of the Egyptian desert, Andoheb travels to the Hill of the Seven Jackals in answer to the royal summons of the High Priest of Karnak, who explains the story of Kharis, the priest who, in Ancient Egypt, stole the sacred tana leaves in the hope of restoring life to the dead Princess Ananka. His penalty upon being discovered was to be buried alive with the tana leaves. During the full moon, a brew made from the leaves can bring Kharis back to life to kill despoilers entering Ananka’s tomb. Meanwhile in Cairo down on his luck archaeologist Steve Banning and his sidekick Babe Jensen find the remnants of a broken vase in a bazaar. Convinced the hieroglyphics on it tell the location of Ananka’s tomb, Banning gets funding from a magician called Solvani and, with Solvani’s daughter Marta and Dr Petrie of the Cairo museum, set off for the tomb, despite warnings from Andoheb…..

The Mummy’s Hand is an often entertaining but curiously structured and rather unsatisfying film that seems to be generally well regarded, but I can’t entirely see why. The aim was obviously to take some of the ideas from The Mummy and turn them into a much simpler, straightforward affair, with the poetry, mystery and downbeat feel of that film replaced by more straight forward ‘B’ movie thrills and a lighter tone. The title character is no longer a deadly love-sick magician who can kill from a distance but a robotic killing machine at the beck and call of a master. It was this movie that introduced the type of movie mummy that cemented into the public consciousness, the emotionless bandaged terror lumbering towards victims with an outstretched arm. Nothing wrong with that, but The Mummy’s Hand only revives its mummy two thirds of the way through its short running time, a serious flaw that the film never makes up for. For much of the running time, it’s basically a comedy, and a mediocre one at that, though it is pretty exciting towards the end and overall the film can still be reasonably good fun if you know what you’re in for.

The changes made to the basic concept, such as the Mummy being nothing more than an actual mummy, and the method of revival being ‘tana leaves’, three of which bring him back to life and nine give him great strength [I wonder why nobody ever gave him more than nine?], were obviously also done to make it easier for there to be further Mummy films after The Mummy’s Hand. Now with most of these later sequels, I am unable to tell you much about the creation of the screenplay, because there isn’t much to tell; these 40s films were generally churned out quickly and simply, with little alterations from the initial script. This particular movie was directed by Christy Cabanne, a prolific director since the silent days but with little of real note to his name, and writers Griffin Jay and Maxwell Shane were strictly ‘B’ movie people. Money was saved by using a large temple set from a James Whale movie Green Hell and flashback footage from The Mummy. The film was commercially successful and its final reels were considered very scary at the time, though reviews of most of these 40s efforts were generally average.

We open with one hand-over from the Boris Karloff film, a pool into which flashbacks can be seen [well, it’s convenient], and then the flashback itself. New star Tom Tryon is nicely cut in to the original footage, which is somewhat cut down and in particular missing that shot of the guy impaled by a spear! Then we cut to Cairo, and the film goes downhill very quickly when we are introduced to and spend a lot of time with our two heroes. Steve Banning is fairly likeable, a regular guy just looking for a break, but Dick Foran’s performance is really stiff. His friend Babe Jensen though, played by Wallace Ford, is just an irritating, smarmy, wisecracking annoyance whose antics get tiresome very quickly, especially when he buys a mechanical doll which he calls ‘poops’ and keeps talking to it. At least ‘The Great Solvani’ soon makes an appearance, and this unsuccessful magician is a rather sad and interesting character, who can’t stop pulling things out of his clothes but seems to do it for attention. He’s also a very useful guy to have in a bar; short on drinks, he just pours booze out from his hands!

Eventually, after much yapping and failed laughs [though there is a quite funny bit when Solvani tries to get Banning to fake-swallow a rock and Banning keeps doing it for real], everyone finds themselves at the tomb, with the journey given about two seconds. Surely the film would have been much better if less time had been spent in Cairo and more spent on the journey, because it would have given it a bit of building tension? Still, the final twenty five minutes do provide us with the thrills we have been waiting for and almost save the film. There’s a really creepy bit where Dr Petrie is made by Andoheb to approach the Mummy, which is lying down but certainly alive, and feel its pulse. Director Cabanne and cinematographer Elwood Bredel make the Mummy have an uncanny knack for appearing on the edge of the frame, as if he has been caught by the camera by mistake. The idea of putting the tana leaves with the victims-to-be so the Mummy, who is addicted to the leaves, can kill them as he locates the leaves, seems a little stupid though. Surely if Andoheb can sneak into people’s tents while they are asleep and and hide things there, he could quite easily dispatch them himself and wouldn’t need the Mummy much at all?

The script is full of awkward bits and pieces like this. Andoheb suddenly decides he wants Marta to be his bride for eternity, with no build up to the matter. The discovery of Ananka’s tomb right at the end is given no emphasis at all; we just end the film with the protagonists heading home to the United States with the mummy of Ananka and spoils from the tomb. The presentation of the Mummy though is very effective. Though he moves very slowly, shuffling along dragging an arthritic leg behind him, he remains an effective menace, especially when close ups of his face have the eyes and inside of his mouth blackened out; it looks very good indeed. Overall there’s not enough atmosphere, though slow motion shots of a baying wolf are rather nice. The re-used temple set, with its huge rooms and gigantic flight of outdoor steps, does give the impression of a bigger budget than was available, though it doesn’t look overly Egyptian – that’s because in Green Hell it was an Inca temple!

Some of the Mummy scenes notwithstanding, I don’t think Cabanne was much of a director; bits of the editing between scenes is really amateurish, as if parts of scenes are missing, though I don’t think they are. Tom Tryon is imposing enough as the Mummy and somehow brings just a touch of pathos to the role of this poor creature, brought to life against his will and under the control of a drug. Aside from Cecil Kellaway as Solvani, performance-wise the film belongs to George Zucco [possibly the screen’s greatest Professor Moriarty] as Andoheb, very smooth and sinister without ever hamming it up. Peggy Moran as Marta is okay; of course by the end of the film her and Banning are ‘together’ though we haven’t really been shown a relationship forming earlier. Something that, this time, took me out of the film a bit was the re-use of much of Hans J. Salter’s score from Son Of Frankenstein; even the main titles are the same. The mostly menacing, ramped-up nature of the music still works well though, and there are the occasional new bits and pieces to listen to. Overall The Mummy’s Hand is half a good film, half a poor one, and remains in my opinion [though it’s not a common one] the weakest of the Universal Mummy movies, though during the times it is actually good, it sometimes gets very good indeed.

Rating: 5.5/10



Financed by fatuous playboy Richard Russell who has ran out of money, Professor Gibbs invents a strange contraption that can bestow temporary invisibility, and first tries it out on his cat, which after a few hours returns to visibility. He places an advertisement in the local newspaper asking for a guinea pig. Instead of the expected male applicant, it’s a woman who answers the call, a certain Kitty Carroll, a model who has just been fired from her job by her grouchy, cruel boss Mr Growley who torments his employees. The experiment succeeds, and Kitty’s first act is to pay a visit to her terrified boss, but the ad has also turned up in the Mexican hideout or mobster Blackie Cole, and he decides he wants the invisibility device for his own nefarious purposes………..

For a while, I couldn’t decide whether to review The Invisible Woman or not. In working my way through the Universal horror movies, I have left out films which are generally not considered part of the series, even though they may contain some similar elements; films such as the science fiction thriller The Invisable Ray, which saw Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi together again, and the historical drama Tower Of London, where Karloff played Richard the Third and was reunited with his Son Of Frankenstein director Rowland V. Lee. The Invisible Woman though is a different case. In no way is it a horror film, yet it is most definitely part of The Invisible Man series, and so in the end I decided to review it, as I will the next movie in the series, The Invisible Agent. Moving away from the melodramatic and macabre elements of the proceeding two entries, The Invisible Woman is a goofy, unsophisticated comedy that, even if you’re disappointed by the lack of horror or even thrills, should certainly bring a smile to your face and actually made me laugh very much indeed!

After The Invisible Man Returns had been a solid success, it was decided that after The Mummy’s Hand, the next invisibility project would go into production but that this one would take the franchise into a different direction. The initial story was written by Kurt Siodmak and Joe May the writers of The Invisible Man Returns, then was turned over to comedy scribes Robert Lees and Fred Rinaldo. Director A.Edward Sutherland was known mostly for comedies and musicals though in 1933 he had made the rather grim Murders In The Zoo. Initial star Margaret Sullivan, despite owing Universal a film due to an old contract, felt the picture was beneath her and failed to show up for rehearsals. The studio responded by slapping her with a restraining order preventing her from working anywhere. Virginia Bruce stepped into the role and eventually Sullivan agreed to appear in another movie. The most interesting cast member though was probably John Barrymore, the great silent movie star whose career was almost ruined by alcoholism and was appearing in films which were mostly unworthy of his talent. The Invisible Woman was budgeted at $300,000.00,which was almost twice the amount of a typical Universal B-feature of the time, and therefore had a hard time making its money back, though it was generally well received.

When you open with George the butler going down some stairs, tripping over an empty wine bottle and falling down them, only to then get knocked down again by the front door opening, you know this is not going to be a dark Gothic horror or a thrilling monster movie. It’s just going to be a silly comedy, and if, like me, you have a preference for the more stupid side of the comedy spectrum, you might have a ball. When Kitty becomes invisible, her first act is to take revenge on her boss, said character being the only really nasty character in the film [the inept hoodlums certainly don’t count!], the worst kind of manager who decks one employee an hour’s pay for being two minutes late and fires another for having a cold. Kitty terrifies Mr Growley in his office, moving things around, saying she is his “conscience” and trapping him in a window so she can smack his bottom. There is a slight element of comedic fear here, as you are instantly aware of what an invisible person can do, but this idea is not really followed though; everything is just played for laughs. There is much mention of the fact that Kitty is naked, something that was considered daring for the time [though in a typically sexist manner the same didn’t happen with Claude Rains’s and Vincent Price’s invisible protagonists], a budding romance between Kitty and Richard, and an intrusion by the gangsters which again is done mainly for laughs.

There’s nothing approaching real drama then, it’s nearly all knockabout slapstick and endless lines like; “any girl that’d become invisible can’t be very easy on the eyes”. Virtually everyone bar Kitty, the Professor and Mr Growley is a total idiot. George is accident prone through and very very stupid. When asked to call the airport he calls out “Oh, airport”. Mob boss Blackie is prone to fits of crying. One of his henchmen, when asked to steal a car, returns with one displaying a “just married” sign on the back. Another ends up with a very high pitched voice when he enters the invisibility pod. Then again, when one of these fools is played by one of the Three Stooges, you would expect nothing less than this kind of idiocy. Even Richard is made to look stupid in many scenes, such as kissing an invisible hand. One bit that really cracked me up has Richard and Gibbs carrying Kitty in a rolled up carpet, Richard holding her head and thereby looking like he is carrying nothing, just moving backwards with his arms out like an idiot. This is pure silliness through and through, the kind of comedy that kids can enjoy as much as adults, and I love it. If one bit doesn’t make you chuckle, the next bit probably will, and this keeps proceedings moving at a lively pace even when the actual story moves very slowly.

It’s interesting that in this movie the invisiblity is caused by something more elaborate than just a drug. Gibbs has a huge, very peculiar looking machine, with what look like little bits of Frankenstein’s equipment scattered around here and there, and a pod which people have to go in to transform, The Fly-like. John P. Fulton outdoes himself with the special effects, which were Oscar-nominated and should have won. He allows us to see a Scotch being poured into a glass [that must have taken forever to get right!], Kitty’s legs beginning to form when the invisibility starts to wear off in a very convincing bit of business, and the by-now-familiar gags of clothes moving around with an invisible wearer looking even smoother than before. I have read that you can sometimes see the outline of Kitty’s head; I can’t, so I would assume that it’s only visible on a very large TV.

A. Edward Sutherland shows little style in his direction, but the enthusiastic contributions by virtually every cast member, most of whom would be recognisable to fans of old movies, go a long way in making up for this. Virginia Bruce is an immensely appealing heroine, though you will probably feel that her character is far too good for John Howard’s. John Barrymore’s ripe, hammy performance is entirely appropriate for his character, and you see him relishing the role and lines like; “you’re either victim…………or chaperone”, said to Mrs Jackson his long-suffering housekeeper. She is subtly played by Margaret Hamilton, fresh from playing the totally different role of The Wicked Witch Of The West in The Wizard Of Oz, and I should also give special mention to Oscar Homolka’s Blackie, one of the oddest gang bosses in screen history. Frank Skinner, who for some reason goes un-credited, composed a nice lush theme for Kitty, emphasising her grace and style with a touch of sadness. Much of the rest of the score is comedic ‘mickey mousing’ [musically emphasising whatever is happening on screen], though it’s less frequent than many other films of the time. Perhaps it doesn’t make the most of its premise, but The Invisible Woman is tremendous fun, its lack of ambition and desire to just put a smile on your face being very appealing, and should certainly not be ignored for not being an actual horror film! Give it a go.

Rating: 7/10

_____________________________

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

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 92
RE: Universal Horror - 26/6/2012 9:21:51 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3958
Joined: 19/10/2005

After learning of the death of his brother, Larry Talbot returns to his ancestral home in Llanwelly, Wales, to reconcile with his estranged father, Sir John Talbot. Whilst playing around with John’s telescope, he sees a pretty local girl named Gwen Conliffe, who runs an antique shop, and finally gets her to go on a date with him, despite the fact she is engaged to someone else. That night, whilst visiting a gypsy camp, Gwen’s friend Jenny has the mark of a pentagram [five pointed star] on her hand, meaning she will be the next victim of a werewolf, and sure enough she is attacked in the fog by a wolf. Talbot tries to save her and kills the beast, who is revealed to be Bela, head of the gypsy camp, but is bitten as a result………..

Universal’s second go at a werewolf film, six years after the interesting but not-entirely-successful Werewolf Of London, remains one of the most fondly regarded lycanthrope pictures. I personally don’t think it’s quite on the same level as the very best werewolf films such as An American Werewolf Of London and The Curse Of The Werewolf [my personal favourite]; parts of it are fantastic, but an equal number of parts are just average. I think that if this script, with maybe a few adjustments, had been made in the first half of the 1930s, where Universal’s horror films were at their most artistic and interesting, the result would have been a true masterpiece. Still, I sound negative about The Wolf Man and I shouldn’t be; it has some great things in it and a strong story that attains a real sense of myth. I just don’t think it’s quite as good as its reputation.

Though Universal already had a completed script about a werewolf lying around, with the intention being for Boris Karloff to play the creature, Karloff bailed, and writer Curt Siodmak, who had scripted The Invisible Man Returns and The Invisible Woman, opted to throw out the old script and start afresh. Influenced somewhat by his experiences in Nazi Germany, where he found himself an outsider and on the run, Siodmak’s initial draft was rather more subtle than the studio wanted, lacking actual werewolf scenes, and making us wonder if Talbot was a werewolf at all or just a psychologically damaged killer, but material more to Universal’s liking was added to the next draft,as well as making him part of the Talbot family he visits. Dick Foran, fresh from The Mummy’s Hand, was originally going to star and thank goodness he was deemed unsuitable a week before filming and Lon Chaney Jnr, the son of silent film horror star Lon Chaney Snr who had been mostly a bit player until his breakout role in Of Mice And Men [playing Lennie, another tragic ‘monster’] was signed on in the part! The film was slightly shortened before release, removing some footage on Talbot in the gypsy camp. Despite apprehension about releasing a major horror production just after the Pearl Harbour attack, The Wolf Man, released towards the end of 1941, went on to become the studio’s biggest hit of 1942.

Taking its time, The Wolf Man is a little flat in its early scenes, not really building up enough atmosphere, and the attempts by Talbot to woo Gwen come across as being rather too ‘pushy’, despite the likeable awkwardness of Chaney. However, when the movie switches to the magnificent fog-strewn countryside, it comes alive magnificently. Yes, you can tell that its mostly one small set photographed from different angles, yes the amount of fog swirling around is ridiculous, but it doesn’t really matter, it looks simply magnificent. Talbot’s fight with the werewolf Bela happens mostly behind a tree, [as do some later bits of action], though this just about disguises the fact that the monster is actually Chaney’s own German Shepherd! After Talbot eventually becomes the Wolf Man around half way through, the actual screen time devoted to the werewolf is only about ten minutes, though one major scene where he battles a bear was partially filmed and then discarded [though shots made its way into the trailer] because the bear got out of control, chased co-star Evelyn Ankers round the set and then escaped. Still, we saw far more of Henry Hull’s lycanthrope in Werewolf Of London, though of course Hull declined to wear the Jack B. Pierce makeup that was intended for him and Chaney didn’t mind wearing. Taking six hours to apply and two hours to remove, the makeup perhaps looks a little dated now, with Chaney looking like he is wearing a furry cap, but it set the general look of most successive screen werewolves for quite a while.

Talbot’s transformations are handled subtly, with the emphasis on his feet, and many will be disappointed that we don’t get on a full-on facial change, though that would be corrected in the sequels, and of course we do see Talbot change back from a werewolf to a human, where a record number of nineteen dissolves were used in a single shot. Despite its reticence in some aspects, this movie introduced many of the so-called myths about lycanthropy which seem like they derive from actual folklore but were actually just inventions of Siodmak, clearly on fire when he wrote this one. This includes thing such as a person becoming a werewolf through a bite, the only way to kill a werewolf being with a silver bullet and even the following poem which is often considered an authentic Eastern European or gypsy saying: ” even a man who is pure at heart, and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright”. This last line was amended to “when the moon is full” in sequels and oddly the full moon doesn’t actually feature in this movie at all.

Generally serious and quite downbeat in nature, The Wolf Man has a fatalism about it that grows throughout the film and, towards the end when the pace eventually speeds up considerably, it really does almost attain a kind of mythic power, though the final reels remain a little rushed; I for example would have liked to have seen more scenes between Talbot and his so-called ‘love interest’, who virtually disappears from the film for a bit. Talbot is a great tragic character though, turned into a monster against his will after trying to save someone, and Chaney, though not the best actor with a rather limited number of expressions, is perfect in the role with his sad, haggard features, someone whom life just screws over and over again. You just have to forget that Claude Rains, who plays his father, is only eighteen years older than him [well it’s possible, but doubtful in those days!], and even more, that Maria Ouspenskaya, who plays the gypsy Maleva, is only seven years old than Bela Lugosi, who plays her son!

Lugosi, it must be said, is disappointing in his small role, overacting wildly though he puts his eyebrows to greater use than even Roger Moore, but Ouspenskaya is hypnotic, spouting her sayings and giving the sentences strange emphases; she pretty much defines the cliche of the mysterious, fortune-telling Romany woman. Evelyn Ankers, who briefly attained stardom as a horror movie ‘screamer’ for Universal including seven films with Chaney [despite the two hating each other including in The Wolf Man where he would scare her with his makeup on], is very sweet and likeable though she’s just not in the film enough. The film’s score was almost equally shared by three composers; Charles Previn, Hans J. Salter and Frank Skinner, but, because their styles are so similar, the score flows very well and you’d probably think it was all the work of one person. Making good use of its three note ‘Wolf Man ‘motif throughout in the way it works throughout the score, and with several other strong motifs, its enjoyably melodramatic though restrained at times and at times rather sad, especially during a moving theme played during the two times when Maleva utters her lines, with slight variation the second time; “the way you walked was thorny, through no fault of your own, but as the rain enters the soil, the river enters the sea, so tears run to a predestined end. Your suffering is over, Bela my son. Now you will find peace”. Its lines like this that help make The Wolf Man a classic. Even though elements of it don’t hold up too well and were even bettered elsewhere, it retains the strength of a true fable, a very moving tale of a doomed soul.

Rating: 7.5/10





The residents of the village of Frankenstein feel they are under a curse and blame all their troubles on the Frankenstein Monster. Rumours circulate about Ygor being still alive and supposedly trying to revive the Monster, so the villagers dynamite Frankenstein’s castle, despite Ygor’s resistance. However the explosions free the Monster from his sulphuric tomb and the two escape where a bolt of lightning rejuvenates the Monster. Ygor goes to the village of Vasaria where Ludwig, the second son of Frankenstein, has a successful practice treating mental illness and has been able to remove a a damaged brain from a body, surgically alter it, then successfully reintroduced it into the patient’s skull. Ygor asks Ludwig to help make the Monster strong again, something the good doctor finds horrifying, but then the Monster wonders off into the town and Ludwig is brought face to face with his father’s creation……….

The Ghost Of Frankenstein is usually regarded as the first of the poor Frankenstein movies, the point at which the series turned into shallow ‘B’ movie entertainment with little attempt at artistry or even originality. I don’t think I’ve ever read a review which doesn’t claim the movie is a significant drop in quality from the first three, but, in one of many unusual opinions coming from this writer who certainly does not feel that he has to follow the crowd, I slightly prefer it to Son Of Frankenstein, which was stunning in terms of set design and staging but otherwise was rather average and even a little dull. The Ghost Of Frankenstein may have been made quickly, cheaply and with no attempt at artistry whatsoever, but it’s a more entertaining movie. It moves well and the story is certainly more interesting and eventful. Unfortunately it has a certain Lon Chaney Jnr as the Monster, after Karloff had had enough, and after three stunning performances by Karloff, the difference in acting skill is obvious even after only a few seconds.

Chaney was signed up midway through the filming of The Wolf Man, the studio keen to create another horror star, and Karloff just not interested any more. The initial script by Eric Taylor was surprisingly ambitious. In it, Ygor used Wolf von Frankenstein, returning from the previous movie, to create a group of vengeful creatures made from folk rejected by society, led by the Monster. Probably because it was rather close to Freaks which had caused so much controversy in 1933, and probably because it would have raised the budget too much, Taylor’s script was overhauled by Scott Darling, who drastically simplified the story, though retained its overall structure. The job of direction was given to Erle C. Kenton, who in 1932 had been responsible for the ‘almost as controversial as Freaks’ Island Of Lost Souls, though this new film was strictly formula, with nothing that would even partially irritate the censors. Still, it seemed to be what people wanted; despite some of the worst reviews of the series yet, the film was a box office hit and it was certain that more would follow.

Ghost gets off to a cracking start, with the attack on Frankenstein’s castle, though the eagle-eyed will spot several cast members from Son as some of the villagers; a fair attempt at continuity, one might think, until one remembers that their characters are actually supposed to be dead! The image of Ygor, sadly playing his flute in front of where the Monster is buried, is rather touching and the ensuring action, replete with Ygor hurling rocks down at his attackers, is handled with sharp edits. It seems that Kenton is bringing a considerable spark to the movie, though directorially that’s about as notable as it gets. When the Monster is revived, he stumbles out into a fantastic graveyard set, replete with the jagged trees and fog that we love, but this use of a previous set is the only real attempt at Gothic atmosphere, with the sets generally being functional and smooth in nature. Of course this and ensuring entries were made quickly so there was little time for creative design, meaning that this kind of thing would only show up sporadically in future. There is some good work though on a rooftop set, resembling something from a fairy tale, and Ludwig’s laboratory has some cool additions, though why a place like this would have things like a gas chamber is beyond me. Overall the brightness of this entry is a nice change, but diminishes much of the atmosphere.

Still, the first half of Ghost is fast paced, quite exciting and gives the Monster more to do than all of Son. His major scene is when he wonders into Vasaria and is befriended by Cloestine a young girl. When bullies kick her ball onto the roof of a house he retrieves it for her, but makes the mistake of taking the girl up with him and his appearance soon arouses hostility from the other villagers. After this, the Monster is put on trial, and all this raises some interesting moral questions, but the interesting pathways and Bride Of Frankenstein pathos suggested by these scenes are not really followed through, and after this the Monster is restricted to Ludwig’s laboratory and is mostly comatose. This is a shame, because the portrayal of the Monster, who here only commits violence when attacked, is very sympathetic. It also means that around half way through the film takes a nosedive, and, while still reasonably enjoyable, never really recovers until the climax, where a heavily signposted plot twist enables to Monster to speak, a scene which has some power. Sadly though the Monster is given nothing to do after this point as the torch-wielding villagers turn up again and it all ends in predictable fashion.

As is evident, the script does have a few good ideas but also rehashes situations from the previous three Frankenstein films and logic, as it increasingly would be in this series, is totally absent, aside from Henry, here called Heinrich, having a previously unheard-of second son. There is an interesting scene, which seems added in just to justify the film’s title, where Ludwig is visited by the ghost of his father, though he’s not played by Colin Clive but by the same actor playing Ludwig, Cedric Hardwicke. We are also treated to a brief flashback montage from Frankenstein showing the Monster’s creation, but it means again that the potentially interesting element of the script are just not given enough time, and I don’t just mean those involving the Monster. I would have liked to have seen more of Bohmer, Ludwig’s devious assistant who was once his teacher but was relegated to the position of assistant when he committed a dreadful medical blunder, the nature of which we can certainly guess.

Chaney, sporting makeup that is similar to Karloff’s but tapes down the eyes somewhat, just isn’t in Karloff’s league, and just seems like he’s sleepwalking most of the time, with no real attempt to humanise the Monster. It’s obvious he didn’t care for the role; at one point he ripped the headpiece from his head creating a gash in his forehead, causing production to be shut down for two weeks. It’s interesting though that it seems that Chaney’s Monster, and the ones to follow, seem to be the most imitated, with the outstretched arms. Cedric Hardwicke is reasonable as Ludwig but Bela Lugosi is again striking as Ygor, delivering his lines with real relish, though he seems to have had his teeth replaced since Son. His overacting is appropriate, but it seems to have influenced the performance of Evelyn Ankers, straight from The Wolf Man, who is laughably hammy. Oddly, Ghost boasts one of the greatest scores of the whole franchise; it’s almost nonstop, but would probably work as a descriptive symphonic work separate from the film, so well does it tell the story with its many themes and exciting thrill music. A particularly memorable bit of scoring is when the Monster meets Cloestine, where his rumbling tuba theme is contrasted with a playful theme describing her innocence. The Ghost Of Frankenstein, overall, is just an exercise in marking time for the series and really suffers from its second half being considerably weaker than its first half, but it has some good things in it and it certainly works as solid ‘B’ movie fare!

Rating: 6.5/10

_____________________________

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

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 93
RE: Universal Horror - 23/8/2012 6:08:36 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3958
Joined: 19/10/2005


The grandson of Dr. Jack Griffin, the original Invisible Man, has moved to the United States and now runs a print shop in Manhattan under the assumed name of Frank Raymond. Into his shop come four armed men who reveal that they know his true identity. Three of them are German, while one is Japanese. They want the invisibility formula and do not belief Griffin when he says he has it. Griffin manages to escape with the formula but is reluctant to release it to the US military. When Pearl Harbour is bombed, he changes his mind, as long as he will be the only person who becomes invisible. He is parachuted into Germany and finds the house of Arnold Schmidt, who reveals his mission; to obtain a list of Japanese spies operating within the U.S………

Invisible Agent [no ‘the’ this time!] is, like The Invisible Woman, a film that uses the gimmick of invisibility for something other than a horror film. The Invisible Woman was a comedy, while even The Invisible Man Returns was more of a thriller. Invisible Agent is one of many American films made during World War 2 to boost morale on the home front, and so it’s very much a propaganda piece, with an American going into Germany to kick some Nazi butt. An enjoyable, quite fast-paced adventure mixing espionage, action and comedy, I personally think that with a bigger budget allowing for larger scale scenes, it could have been a minor classic. In this particular instance, the low budget allotted to the production was a bit limiting. Imagine lots of epic scenes of our invisible hero dispatching armies of Nazi storm troopers and blowing up Nazi bases! What we have though is still good fun, though I repeat, it’s not a horror film at all!

Kurt Siodmak, who had scripted The Invisible Man Returns and written the story of The Invisible Woman, returned to write this one. Considering he was a refugee from Nazi Germany, he must have relished the chance to write a script with such a strong anti-Nazi tone. I wonder if he was influenced by the Captain America comics of the time [a serial of which appeared two later after this film], with their superhuman soldier sent into Germany to battle the Nazis? The director Edwin L. Marin was undistinguished though male star Jon Hall was just about to attain a kind of ‘B’ movie stardom with the exotic films he made with Maria Montez. The cast was interesting including Hungarian singer and sometime actress Ilona Massey and that striking, hypnotic [and also Hungarian] actor Peter Lorre. As with many of these 40s Universal films, the script was virtually unaltered for filming though one perhaps excessively comic scene of Griffin kicking Hitler’s backside was shot and cut from the finished film. The movie did its job; American audiences turned out in droves for propaganda movies like this, though it seems to be one of the more forgotten Universal efforts these days [unlike The Invisible Woman, which seems to be more widely seen].

Invisible Agent opens in a rather dark manner, with our two main villains Conrad Stauffer and Baron Ikito bursting into our hero’s shop and threatening him in a very harsh manner. At one point it really seems like they are about to chop his fingers off, though he then escapes rather too easily. Quick newspaper headlines take us to just after Pearl Harbour, and Griffin decides to become the Invisible Agent. The exposition goes by very fast as he lands in Germany, finds his contact and is told his mission. Then we meet our heroine, Maria Sorenson, and the pace suddenly slows to a crawl as we are presented with a lengthy comedic scene of a German officer ‘trying it on’ with her and the invisible Griffin doing funny things such as throwing food at him so he gets it all over his uniform. He’s a bit of a show-off this invisible guy [though wouldn’t you be if you were invisible?] and risks botching the mission. Hero and heroine become emotionally attached in what seems like record time, and then it’s the mission proper. The action comes thick and fast, though mostly consists of Nazi soldiers being socked in the jaw or pushed over. The climactic dashes by car and plane do succeed in pumping up the excitement a bit however.

Despite the espionage aspect the story is kept nice and simple, except for a bit of guessing as to what side Maria is really working for and a rather sudden switch by one villain to the side of Good. The portrayal of the villains is interesting. At times the Nazis are incompetent buffoons, at times they are frightening sadists, even breaking one guy’s fingers [off screen]. The Japanese villain, Ikito, might give the impression that he’s the nastiest of the lot [though much of that is down to the superb villainous acting by Peter Lorre, the actor who could utter a single word and make it sound odd or scary], but he’s portrayed with some dignity, even with his death. The actual device of the invisibility drug is a little thrown away though; early on we are told that there could be side-effects, though we never find out what they are, and the obligatory return to visibility at the end is deliberately not explained [it’s a government secret!]. This Griffin is a straight-ahead hero through and through, with no real complexity about him.

As usual with films of this kind, actual war images are inserted into the film and are glaringly obvious, but, model plane notwithstanding, John P. Fulton’s special effects are well up to scratch. Griffin removes his clothes whilst on his parachute [although it’s usually mentioned briefly, not enough thought is given in these movies as to how cold invisible people must get!], has a bath so we can see the soap revealing his arms and legs, and gives himself hands and a face using face cream. This last scene is a little ruined by the clarity of the DVD, allowing one to glimpse the outline of Griffin’s actual head when you not supposed to, but to me it’s still far more impressive than how the scene would be done today; a CGI effect which might well be just as obvious. Sometimes I think that it would do today’s computer effect experts a great deal of good if they went back to basics and learnt the painstaking craftsmanship of old-style special effects. I doubt they would know what to do if given a scene and asked to create it without use of a computer!

I think Invisible Agent needed someone with a more distinctive, powerful voice than John Hall in the lead role, and he’s just not good enough in the scenes where he has to change his feeling about Maria. Ilona Massey seems to be in the film merely to show off an assortment of glamorous gowns, but does that very well, while the triple villainy of Peter Lorre, Cedric Hardwicke and J. Edward Bromberg is great fun, though nobody in the film actually sounds German or Japanese. Hans J. Salter’s score, which reuses a cue from The Wolf Man and uses a similar, sinister motif as the main them, is passable but seems more appropriate for an actual horror film than an espionage thriller, apart from the typically annoying ‘comedy’ music composers often felt the need to put in back then. The Invisible Agent is nothing special, and is one film that I think may benefit from a big budget remake, even if set somewhere else, but its a likeable bit of fun that retains some charm and certainly won’t bore.

Rating: 6/10







Thirty years after he made that journey to Kharis’s tomb, Steve Banning recites his tale to his family and evening guests in his Mapleton, Massachusetts home. Meanwhile back in the tomb, Andoheb explains the legend of Kharis to his follower, Mehemet Bey. After passing on the instructions for the use of the tana leaves and assigning Mehemet the task of meting out retribution to the remaining members of the Banning Expedition and their descendants, Andoheb expires. Bey and Kharis leave Egypt for the journey to the United States and Massachusetts, where Bey takes the caretaker’s job at the local cemetery, sets up shop and administers the tana brew to Kharis. The monster sets out to avenge the desecration of Ananka’s tomb and first on his list is Steve………….

In the course of re-watching and reviewing these Universal horror movies, I know that I have developed the odd unorthodox opinion, such as The Ghost Of Frankenstein being better than Son Of Frankenstein. Well, here’s another one. The Mummy’s Tomb is better than The Mummy’s Hand. It seems to be the general opinion that the three Mummy adventures starring Lon Chaney are decidedly inferior to the Tom Tryon-starring The Mummy’s Hand, but I disagree. For a start they do away with the excessive comic relief that plagued that movie, and feel like ‘proper’ Mummy movies all the way through. The Mummy’s Tomb is no classic, but it’s a thoroughly entertaining ‘B’ monster movie that feels like all the ‘boring’ bits have been removed. Honestly, this one moves like a bullet and seems like it is over before you know it!

Despite the poor reception to his portrayal of the Monster in The Ghost Of Frankenstein, the Universal honchos had decided that Lon Chaney was the heir to Boris Karloff, the studio’s new horror star, so it was into the bandages for the actor, who ended up hating the role of Kharis. It took makeup artist Jack Pierce eight hours every day to turn Chaney into the Mummy, so his dislike is understandable. The story by Neil P. Varnick was turned into a script by Henry Sucher and Griffin Jay, who has co-written the previous Mummy entry, and actually seemed to be influenced from Dracula, with its menace being brought over on a ship by a human and smuggled into a town, a menace who sleeps in a tomb by day and goes out killing by night. The Mummy’s Tomb was made incredibly cheaply, so much so that close-ups of Tryon’s Kharis, replete with blackened eyes, were sometimes cut in, resulting in a discrepancy in the monster’s appearance, while the climax had some shots of villagers from The Ghost Of Frankenstein and even Frankenstein from 1931! Despite some especially poor reviews, it did well and Kharis had to return.

In another clear sign of cheapness, the first ten minutes is a recap of the events of Hand, virtually an edited version of the second half of that film, as Steve Banning tells what happened to some family members and friends. This means that Tomb ‘proper’ is only about fifty minutes long, the film as a whole running for an hour! Anyway, we dispense with the Egyptian flashback this time and soon get Kharis to America, though you may stop to wonder how Andoheb survived what was clearly his death in Hand. He seems to have “only a crushed arm”. Never mind, Mehemet gets Kharis up and running in virtually no time, though a new bit of information tells us that the tana leaves only work during the cycle of the full moon, which, conveniently, it now is in Massachusetts. The Mummy’s first walk is very well handled. As Kharis slowly walks through the town at night [though of course it’s absurdly over-lit], a couple kissing in a car and a man in his bed have Kharis’s shadow pass past them, a rather chilling touch which immediately evokes a rather darker feel that anything in Hand, though shots of that film’s baying wolf repeated here, the wolf being, of course, in Egypt, don’t really work.

After this it’s just several kills and the climax, because there really isn’t room for anything else! Dialogue scenes are cut to the bone, with even the romantic scenes of Steve’s son John Banning with his girlfriend Isobel Evans given short shrift. The pace gives you little room to breathe and there really is a sense of urgency in this one. The film also has no shame in killing off the three leads of Hand, and even, in one surprisingly cruel scene, elderly Mary Gordon, Mrs Hudson from the Universal Sherlock Holmes series. This is very well set up with Kharis approaching the house and seeing Jim the old hired hand, who then collapses. What a relief, except that Mary now comes out, calling Jim’s name, and Kharis comes towards her from behind, puts his hand to her throat and we pan in for a close-up of Mary’s face, her eyes registering sheer terror. This scene was sometimes cut from later versions of the film. The direction, by Harold Young, has been criticised for indifference but I disagree – some of the Mummy sequences are handled for maximum effect. Of course this slow moving Mummy, dragging an arthritic leg behind him, is able to catch up with any person who runs away from him. One can laugh at films like the Friday The 13th movies, where victims-to-be always fall over, are stopped by a wall etc, but this stuff was being done in the 40s too!

Actually time is a problem with this film [and even more with the sequels]. If Hand was set in 1940, than this one takes place in 1970, though of course it still looks like 1940. The script leaves no time for characterisation and repeats Hand’s idea of having the priest develop a fancy for the heroine, though it’s done better here, being introduced much earlier on. The fiery climax, where John battles Kharis in a burning mansion while the Transylvanian-style villagers are outside, is well staged and exciting. Mismatching shots of Tryon notwithstanding, Chaney’s Mummy make up is better, replete with seemingly only one usable eye, and his face really looking like that of somebody who is thousands of years old, somebody who looks on the verge of decomposing at any time. Of course Chaney isn’t really given much of an opportunity to actually act, but he fares okay, whether he hated the role or not, at times evoking, through his movements, especially of his head, the rather pitiful state of this bandaged killer, forever doomed to be the instrument of somebody’s machinations, never being given the chance to rest in peace.

You’ll be pleased to know that Wallace Ford, who was constantly irritating in Hand, isn’t give much screen time here, nor is he constantly trying to be funny. Generally the cast do okay rather than good; it’s good to see an Egyptian played by someone who actually looks Egyptian for a change, though Austrian-born Turhan Bey is a bit weak, underplaying the role too much. Hans J. Salter is credited as ‘musical director’, which should tell you that the score is entirely stock music. While the main titles are from The Wolf Man and the love theme from The Ghost Of Frankenstein turns up [plus probably bits and pieces from other films which even this film score fan didn’t notice], the majority of the music is from Son Of Frankenstein. The music does work in the picture, with lots of effective employment of a ‘stalking’ motif, and that’s what counts most, I suppose. One could say the same about the film as a whole. It may well have been thrown together in a hurry with purely commercial considerations, but as a deliverer of B’ movie thrills and spills, it works, and at times is rather more effective than it should be.

Rating: 6/10

_____________________________

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

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 94
RE: Universal Horror - 25/8/2012 1:42:55 PM   
evil bill


Posts: 6716
Joined: 19/7/2006
From: mordor/ uk
quote:

ORIGINAL: Dr Lenera





I think Invisible Agent needed someone with a more distinctive, powerful voice than John Hall in the lead role, and he's just not good enough in the scenes where he has to change his feeling about Maria. Ilona Massey seems to be in the film merely to show off an assortment of glamorous gowns, but does that very well, while the triple villainy of Peter Lorre, Cedric Hardwicke and J. Edward Bromberg is great fun, though nobody in the film actually sounds German or Japanese. Hans J. Salter's score, which reuses a cue from The Wolf Man and uses a similar, sinister motif as the main them, is passable but seems more appropriate for an actual horror film than an espionage thriller, apart from the typically annoying 'comedy' music composers often felt the need to put in back then. The Invisible Agent is nothing special, and is one film that I think may benefit from a big budget remake, even if set somewhere else, but its a likeable bit of fun that retains some charm and certainly won't bore.

Rating: 6/10








You'll be pleased to know that Wallace Ford, who was constantly irritating in Hand, isn't give much screen time here, nor is he constantly trying to be funny. Generally the cast do okay rather than good; it's good to see an Egyptian played by someone who actually looks Egyptian for a change, though Austrian-born Turhan Bey is a bit weak, underplaying the role too much. Hans J. Salter is credited as 'musical director', which should tell you that the score is entirely stock music. While the main titles are from The Wolf Man and the love theme from The Ghost Of Frankenstein turns up [plus probably bits and pieces from other films which even this film score fan didn't notice], the majority of the music is from Son Of Frankenstein. The music does work in the picture, with lots of effective employment of a 'stalking' motif, and that's what counts most, I suppose. One could say the same about the film as a whole. It may well have been thrown together in a hurry with purely commercial considerations, but as a deliverer of B' movie thrills and spills, it works, and at times is rather more effective than it should be.

Rating: 6/10

I can't belive it a universal film i haven't seen Invisible Agent,i'm going to have to hunt this one down.

Great reviews mate,and The Mummy’s Tomb is a real favorite of mine,ui think it's superb,and Lon Chaney Jr was the heir to Boris Karloff without a doubt.A very good actor though he lived under the shadow of his father for all of his life,yet to me he achieved so much in the horror film world,he's up there with the rest of the legends.Wolf Man and Mummys Tomb are his finist moments,but i enjoyed him even in his lesser films,it's such a shame he was always counted a second best to Karloff,Lugosi and his father.

_____________________________

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

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 95
RE: Universal Horror - 30/8/2012 5:50:34 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3958
Joined: 19/10/2005
Thanks, am actually a bit behind on posting these as it takes ages to transpose from HCF at the moment, anyway,I expect you've guessed that once I've been through this lot on HCF it's HAMMER! Invisible Agent is no great shakes but fun and the effects in these Invisible Man films are remarkable for the time.

_____________________________

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(in reply to evil bill)
Post #: 96
RE: Universal Horror - 20/9/2012 7:07:15 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3958
Joined: 19/10/2005

Two grave robbers break into the Talbot family crypt and open the coffin of Lawrence Talbot, who was buried with lots of money. As they open it, the full moon shines in and Talbot is not only alive but transformed into the Wolf Man. He soon dispatches one of the grave robbers, the other fleeing the scene. Talbot awakes in his human form to find himself in an asylum, recovering from an operation performed on him by Dr Frank Mannering, who is trying to cure him of his murderous instincts, but Talbot just wants to die. When the nocturnal killings continue, Talbot escapes the asylum and finds Maleva, the old gypsy woman who was the mother of the person who originally bit him and turned him into a werewolf. She tells him that a certain Dr Frankenstein may know how to end his life and they set off to find him…….

If you’re a monster fan, there will be times where you think that there is nothing cooler than having more than one monster in the same film, and especially when they fight! Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man was the first movie to pit two creatures against each other, a concept of course taken to extremes with the Godzilla movies but then there was also Freddy Vs Jason and lots of fantasy epics from Ray Harryhausen where you would usually end up with two monsters clashing, while The Monster Squad and Van Helsing are clearly inspired by this very movie. Actually the battle between the Frankenstein Monster and the Wolf Man only takes up a couple of minutes at the end, so it may disappoint newcomers expecting lots of brawling, but Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man is an extremely entertaining movie that moves at a very fast pace which almost atones for it having the silliest story in the series yet. I think few will claim it as one of the best, but one of the most sheerly enjoyable? ……I think so!

Kurt Siodmak was enlisted to write the script for Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, and, partly because of much anti-Nazi propaganda at the time, removed any references to Germany, this time setting Frankenstein’s castle in a place called Vasaria, though not making it clear if Vasaria is a country or a town. Now it has been claimed that Lon Chaney was going to play both monsters; I personally find this hard to believe. In any case, Bela Lugosi, who had turned down the role of the Frankenstein Monster back in 1931, agreed to play the Monster, seemingly an appropriate choice seeing as the Monster ended up with the voice of Lugosi’s Ygor at the end of The Ghost Of Frankenstein. However the 60 year old Lugosi, who was in ill health and even collapsed due to exhaustion, had much of his part filled in by stuntmen Gil Perkins and Eddie Parker. Preview audiences laughed at Lugosi’s Monster with his thick Hungarian accent, despite it being appropriate considering he had Ygor’s brain, so all scenes with him talking were removed, except for a few shots where you see his mouth moving but nothing coming out. In doing so, they removed the information that the Monster is blind, making him just look stupid as he stumbles about with outstretched arms, and removed most of the rather interesting relationship between Talbot and the Monster. The public did not seem to mind though, flocking to this instalment.

I have read the deleted scenes in script form, and there is no doubt in my mind that the movie would have been far better if they had been left in. At one point the Monster [or if you like Ygor, though in the finished print all references to him were cut too and further sequels did not mention him either, a particularly good example of bad continuity] talks of world domination, while Talbot talks poetically of finding release in death. Vintage horror fans have dreamed of the day the cut scenes are restored, but it won’t happen because they are lost for good. A shame, because the film we have here is very good when it’s about the Wolf Man, but not so good when it is about the Monster, who is actually only on screen for about ten minutes anyway, and some of that strapped to an operating table. Even in the original script, the Monster doesn’t really do anything, and it is a shame that out of the whole Universal Frankenstein series, only the first two movies really did something with the Monster and portrayed a creature close to that envisaged by Mary Shelley. Only a few scenes, such as those with the little girl in The Ghost Of Frankenstein, show this more sympathetic and interesting Monster.

Still, Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man races through its story right from the word go, getting the Wolf Man out there and killing people immediately. The opening with the grave robbers is full of suspense and ends rather scarily with a shot of the Wolf Man’s hand coming out of the darkened tomb to grab the arm of one of the robbers. There’s a surprisingly effective jump scare when he looms out of the dark to kill a policeman in the town a couple of scenes later, and we get to see a full-on transformation this time, though I would have liked to have seen him chew his straightjacket off, something we just hear about. The gloomy fatalism of The Wolf Man is even stronger here as Talbot just wants to die and cannot, and the first half of the film finishes with a cracking chase where the typical torch-bearing townsfolk are hunting Talbot. After this, we have a pointless musical interlude in Vasaria, some plotting which is predictable, and some plotting which is just plain silly. It’s hard enough to swallow that Frankenstein had two previously-unmentioned sons, but here we learn he had a daughter, Elsa, and one who for once speaks with a German-like accent [Ilona Massey was Austrian]. We also see that Frankenstein’s castle is now near a waterfall, just so it can feature in the climax, and what are Elsa and Dr Mannering really trying to achieve at the end? Actually, come to think of it, why is the Monster found encased in ice when he was consumed in a fire?

Yes, the script for this one really does become more and more ridiculous, and this is a shame as it started off really good. Of course, if you haven’t seen this movie, you want to know if the final fight is worth it, and I would say that it is, despite its brevity, with the Wolf Man using his agility and the Monster using his strength. As the fight is interrupted by some neat special effects involving that waterfall, you never find out who wins though. Perhaps this was a wise decision. Now Lugosi’s performance as the Monster has been heavily criticised, but, bearing in mind he is playing both Ygor and the Monster together, I think he does an okay job. His evil smirks are quite spine chilling and of course if you know he is supposed to be blind than he depicts that very well. Poor Lugosi really got screwed over with this movie; he was able to play the Monster with dialogue, was then blamed when that supposedly didn’t work and ‘required’ cuts, but was then still blamed for the poor depiction of the Monster in the final cut. It is hard to criticise Lon Chaney in this movie though, who had really grown into the role of the tragic Talbot and certainly improves on his performance in The Wolf Man, giving it more depth and sympathy.

Roy William Neill, just coming off the first of the many Sherlock Holmes films he would make for Universal, gives the film plenty of atmosphere, at least in the first half, though there is obvious re-use of The Wolf Man’s forest set and the elaborate matte painting of Vasaria is actually from My Little Chickadee. Ilona Massey shines as she did in Invisible Agent though her love interest Patrick Knowles is as wooden as he was in The Wolf Man. It’s nice to see Dennis Huey, Lestrade in the afore-mentioned Holmes movies, playing another inspector but a rather more competent one. Frank Skinner’s score is basically The Wolf Man’s with a bit of The Ghost Of Frankenstein’s mixed in; it does the job and the way some pieces have been adapted or combined is quite clever, almost feeling like a new score at times. Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man might be the most fun of all the 40s Universal pics, at least of the Frankenstein series, if not quite the best.

Rating: 7/10



Dark Oaks, a plantation in the Deep South ran by Colonel Caldwell, is expecting a visitor; Count Alucard, a Hungarian nobleman who Kay, one of the Colonel’s two daughters, met whilst on holiday in Hungary and invited him to her home. On the night of his arrival, only Alucard’s baggage arrives on the train; no Alucard. Kay has changed recently, seeming distant to her fiancée Frank Stanley and expressing a morbid curiosity with the supernatural. She visits Madame Zimba, a Hungarian fortune teller whom she had brought back to America. Zimba warns her that Alucard is not who he says he is and that death looms over Dark Oaks, before dying of shock upon seeing a bat. Later that evening, the Colonel is found dead, supposedly of a heart attack but bearing two puncture marks on his neck. Kay now inherits the plantation, but seems to be only interested in Alucard, who now has no bones about showing himself, and whose name spelt backwards is……

I doubt that anybody would claim Son Of Dracula as one of the very best of the Universal horror series, but I have always had great love for it. The main reason for this is that it was one of only two to actually scare me a little when I first saw it as a child [readers familiar with these movies will probably laugh when I get to the second one, but never mind!], namely a couple of scenes in the final third which I will mention in more detail later. I distinctly remember the shivers I felt down my spine even now, and laugh if you may, but these were the first horror movies I ever got to see and watched many of them without my parents knowing, sneaking downstairs after they had gone to bed and consequently being very edgy! Actually Son Of Dracula is rather an interesting movie with a story that has some originality to it, and, whilst a bit lacking in horror scenes [though what remains is very good], has a rather compelling dark romanticism about it. In many ways, it’s a strange and twisted love story more than anything else, with a pessimistic feeling of dread that you can almost touch. There is also almost no humour.

Son Of Dracula was the only non Mummy entry of the series to bring a monster to the United States. Kurt Siodmak only wrote the treatment, with Eric Taylor scribing the actual screenplay, though it seems to me that there is a great deal of Siodmak in the script, such as when Alucard says; “My land is dry and desolate. The soil is red with the blood of a hundred races. There is no life left there. Here you have a young and vital race”. This seems like a poke at Nazism with its racism and its idea of a ‘pure race’. Kurt’s brother Robert Siodmak was chosen to direct. He had been a fairly unremarkable director before Son Of Dracula, but afterwards became a good maker of film noirs and the classic ‘proto-slasher’ gem The Spiral Staircase. Of course Lon Chaney had to play the title character as he had played the other three major Universal monsters though it was clearly a role that did not fit him. The film did predictably well though I feel that the critics were particularly wrong about this movie, because they seemed to focus on the miscasting of Chaney and not on the unique aspects of the story and its characters.

Now I shall say now; the title is misleading. It is never mentioned that Alucard is Dracula’s son, though it also never made clear exactly who he is. At one point he is said to be Dracula, at another point he is said to be a descendant of his and that Dracula died in the Middle Ages [totally ignoring Dracula]. Whoever he is, he’s a bit of an idiot calling himself Alucard, which is of course Dracula spelt backwards, something that several characters seem to notice almost immediately. I would say that he is Dracula, considering that the movie has distinct elements of Bram Stoker’s original novel and thereby comes across as a weird remake of the 1931 movie. It also has distinct elements of several film noir stories especially Double Indemnity, with its duplicitous dame and what she does, even the way the tale develops. Imagine Dracula [well, I’ll call him that from now on] as the hero of the piece, and the story becomes amazingly similar. I certainly don’t think this is a problem, as the whole film has a film noir look to it. Son Of Dracula is without a doubt the best looking of all the 40’s entries, cinematographer George Robinson making gorgeous use of shadows and areas of darkness throughout. Especially impressive is the way characters are often lit as to their position in the story.

Son Of Dracula progresses as a kind of mystery for some of the time, albeit a mystery to which we know most of the answers, and for me there are too many dull scenes of two detectives and the Van Helsing-substitute Professor Laslo trying to figure things out. The story really becomes intriguing though, especially when concerning Kay, who wants the plantation for herself and appears to be in love with Dracula but is actually using him to become immortal so she can make Frank, whom she really loves, immortal. It’s odd to see Dracula being used as a pawn, and a character he begins to vampirise arranging to be killed by the film’s ‘hero’ and not being under his control. Even more odd is that Kay, despite seemingly being the chief villain of the piece, remains slightly sympathetic throughout. Her love for Frank seems genuine, and we never hate her. Her haunted, death-obsessed character is a great one, a bit scary, a bit nasty, but a bit alluring and fragile too, whether dead or alive. As for Frank, it’s quite painful seeing him continue his love for Kay even when she is a vampire, and start to carry out her wishes. It is the two scenes in which she visits him in his prison cell which creeped me out as a kid. They still have considerable atmosphere and are sold by the strong performances of Louise Albritton, who has an uncanny look to her and looks the great film noir star in her dazzling dresses but never really made it big, and Robert Paige, who transmits his character’s torment very well. Add to this necrophilia a surprisingly nasty bit of a bat nibbling at Robert, and you have a slightly more daring film than you might think.

There are more special effects than the previous Dracula films, and Dracula’s dissolves into a bat or a mist are nicely managed by John P.Fulton. Dracula has a fantastic first entrance, as we see his coffin rise to out of a swamp and a mist come out of the coffin turning into Dracula, who is somehow able to make the coffin move to where Kay is waiting on the bank. Lon Chaney is in no way the suave, sexy character we expect Dracula to be, but, even though criticisms of miscasting are certainly valid, and he certainly does not look the part, being far too well built, I’ve actually grown to like his Dracula over the years. He seems to be more of a brutal force of nature and is given several oppurtunities to show his great strength in a way that foreshadows Christopher Lee’s Dracula. And very occasionally, he seems to indicate that Dracula, too, is in some kind of torment. When he attacks, his features seem to be sad, even pained. I think that Chaney tried hard with his portrayal of Dracula, even if he may not have been suited for it, and it shows that, when he wanted to, he really was quite a good actor.

The plantation setting is very evocative and it does actually seem like the film was shot in Louisiana or Mississippi though of course it was actually shot on Universal’s back lot. Out of the cast members I have not yet mentioned, Evelyn Ankers puts in an okay appearance but isn’t given anything to do and is totally overshadowed by Albritton. Hans J. Salter’s score has the odd previously used cue , including one from The Wolf Man which seems to be constantly reused in these 40’s films, but it’s mostly original work and nicely combines his usual style of scoring with weird organ oscillations whenever Dracula is on screen. Most interestingly, he uses a heavily romantic piece for the final scene, where Frank does what he needs to do, the music emphasising the emotion rather than the action. And that seems appropriate, seeing that it is emotion that seems at the heart of Son Of Dracula. It’s not an all-out classic, but it certainly stands out for me.

Rating: 7.5/10

_____________________________

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

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 97
RE: Universal Horror - 24/9/2012 6:58:33 AM   
Gimli The Dwarf


Posts: 77665
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: Central Park Zoo
These are amazing reviews Dr L. Really make me want to dig out the Universal horrors I own and buy the ones I don't .



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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 #: 98
RE: Universal Horror - 25/9/2012 12:30:26 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3958
Joined: 19/10/2005
Thanks very much, I'm glad you're enjoying them. I aim to move onto Hammer and the entire work of Alfred Hitchcock next!

_____________________________

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

(in reply to Gimli The Dwarf)
Post #: 99
RE: Universal Horror - 5/10/2012 9:50:51 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3958
Joined: 19/10/2005


Robert Griffin returns to London after five years of memory loss following a diamond field expedition in Africa. A newspaper clipping reveals Griffin to be a homicidal maniac who had escaped from a Cape Town asylum. He locates Sir Jasper and Lady Irene Herrick, friends and former partners of the expedition. Griffin claims that they had left him for dead and taken half of his share of some diamonds, which enabled them to buy their luxurious mansion and start up Herrick Mines Ltd. Griffin demands the share of the fortune due him and discovers their daughter, Julie, his former girlfriend, to be engaged to Mark Foster, a reporter. Griffin is drugged and thrown out but is offered assistance by Herbert Higgins, a drunkard. Afterwards, Griffin stumbles upon the home of Professor Drury, a scientist who has discovered the formula of invisibility. Seeing that Drury as already made some animals invisible, Griffin, wanting revenge, volunteers on becoming Drury’s human subject………

The Invisible Man’s Revenge is to me the weakest of the Universal Invisible pictures, an uneven, awkward picture that is still certainly enjoyable, but gives the impression of having been written in a rush. The attempt seems to have been to makes a darker, more serious film about an invisible person, though the odd comedy sequence does remain, and the movie as a whole never finds a consistent tone. It’s interesting in that it’s the only one of the series that has an Invisible Man who is almost entirely unsympathetic right from the offset, but hints that this is going to be a really gripping and even frightening Invisible Man picture, really taking advantage of the nasty and scary things an Invisible Man can do, are not followed through. As I said before, it’s not really a bad picture, but considering how much fun all the Invisible films have been up to now, it came as a bit of a disappointment to this writer, who was watching most of these films for the first time [these ones were usually shown separately to the other Universal monster movies on TV, probably because they are less horror-orientated].

The script for this one was written by Bertram Millhauser, who wrote five of the Universal Sherlock Holmes movies including one of the best, The Spider Woman, but he clearly had an off-day when he wrote The Invisible Man’s Revenge. The script, which has no connection whatsoever with the previous Invisible Man films despite featuring a guy whose surname is Griffin, gives the impression of being dashed off over one day, which perhaps it was, but more on the screenplay’s problems later. Director Ford Beebe, usually making ‘cliffhanger’ serials, had recently made the very effective film noir/ horror Night Monster , which has one of Bela Lugosi’s best performances, which explains why he got the job on this movie, but he didn’t seem interested in giving Revenge much of the atmosphere and style of the previous film. Jon Hall, from Agent, also starred in Revenge, making him the only actor to play two separate invisible characters. Revenge did okay at the box office, but it marks the beginning of the time where receipts for Universal’s horrors were starting to decline somewhat in number.

Revenge certainly starts off well, with our anti-hero arriving in some moodily lit London dockland set, then turning up at the house of his two former partners. Straight away, this is one Invisible Man we just don’t like very much. This psychopathic killer, who has already slaughtered two prison guards upon escaping from the South African asylum in which he was being kept, may very well have a case in wanting his share of the fortune back, but the script refuses to actually state whether this is true or not, and I wonder if it just could be his delusions. I don’t think Millhauser thought things through in writing the film though; the many ambiguities that exist seem to be the result of carelessness rather than leaving some things up for an intelligent audience to work out for themselves! It’s interesting that almost every character is painted in shades of grey rather than black or white, with even Griffin having a few scenes where you are meant to like him, but they seem out of place. Best amongst these is a hilarious darts scene where he helps his drunken bum of a friend Higgins win a game in a pub; the darts slowly hit the target as the invisible Griffin is obviously just carrying them over and planting them on the board!

The film frustratingly leads us to believe things will happen that then don’t. This Invisible Man goes on about carrying out a vicious revenge, but doesn’t actually do much at all besides threatening people with a knife and ensuring someone is killed off screen, and he even carries out some of his tasks while totally visible. On a couple of occasions it seems like we’re going to get a subplot involving Griffin and his ex-girlfriend, but we don’t, with Evelyn Ankers totally wasted in this particular film. Other plot threads virtually disappear, though I do like the way we are given more and more detail about Griffin’s back story throughout the film. Sadly though the picture only builds up mild tension, with a rather stop/start pace, though there are some unintended laughs to be had from some things that occur in the climax, like a chained dog who is mysteriously free the next scene. Said dog becomes virtually the hero of the piece.

Of course John P. Fulton’s special effects are still good. Perhaps because this had a lower budget and therefore Fulton had less time to do the effects, I could see the outline of Griffin’s head when he is wearing clothes a couple of time, but scenes where he puts shaving cream on the front of his face, and fades away on first being administered the invisibility drug are very impressive. The wirework, where Griffin holds things, is the best in the series, and one scene where he first dips his hand in a fish tank, revealing the watery outline of his hand, then has his face, again outlined by water, appear in a mirror to scare his victim, is very effective indeed. The scene carries with it a real charge of horror, something that is mostly missing from the film despite it being a darker tale than normal for the series. It also shows that Fulton was doing his best to experiment with and vary his effects. Just imagine what he could have done with this concept with a bigger budget?

Jon Hall is much stronger here than in Agent; constantly barking out orders, his voice has a real evil tone in it even if I still miss Claude Rains or Vincent Price. Comedian Leon Errol is quite a decent foil for him as his alcoholic pal though for me the standout of the film is John Carradine, in his first Universal horror role. As Professor Drury, he gives a very detailed variation on the typical Mad Scientist, filtering some humanity and even humour through his performance while dominating every scene he is in. Composer Hans J.Salter wrote an original score for this film and it does the job while not being nearly one of his best. His theme for Griffin, threaded nicely throughout the score, is suitably dramatic but is rather forgettable and a more dissonant, eerie motif used as a kind of ‘madness theme’ is more effective, while on other occasions it seems the composer is trying to give him more feeling than the film actually suggests. Despite its general mediocrity, I still just about enjoyed The Invisible Man’s Revenge; it entertains if you don’t expect much, but it clearly shows the studio running out of ideas for the subject, a shame as the Invisible Man series shows quite a bit of invention for the most part.

Rating: 5/10






In Egypt, Andoheb, High Priest of Arkhan, entrusts a mission to his latest disciple, Yousef Bey: to go to Mapleton, Massachusetts, find the bodies of Kharis and Ananka, who had been Kharis’s secret love thousands of years ago, and return them to their rightful resting place in Egypt. Yousef is to brew the tana leaf fluid and Kharis will find him. Meanwhile at a college campus in Mapleton, student Tom Hervey is dating Amina, who is of Egyptian descent and researching Egyptian history, which brings on a strange, clouded feeling in her mind. One of the teachers, Professor Norman, has some tana leaves and is doing research on them. He deciphers some hieroglyphics on how to brew them and goes ahead with making the fluid, but then Kharis appears to kill him……..

The Mummy’s Ghost is my personal favourite of the 40’s Mummy pictures, adding the interesting reincarnation element that had been at the forefront of the original The Mummy film back in 1932 to the ‘Mummy stalking people in America” plot of The Mummy’s Tomb. It’s not really a classic and blatantly copies the previous movie in places, but is also quite intriguing and one almost wishes it wasn’t constrained from the task of being a typical “get the job done quickly and cheaply” Universal B-Movie so it could explore some of its ideas in more depth and actually make a bit more sense; as it stands, things don’t make much sense at all, especially towards the end. It’s one of those films that gives the impression of being cut down to the essentials and I would have liked it to be a bit longer and less vague. It remains though a rather haunting and sometimes very atmospheric piece that certainly has some artistic merit.

Once again Griffin Jay had the major part in writing the movie, aided by Henry Sucher who had contributed to the last entry, but this time Brenda Weisberg made contributions, a good idea since the lead female character in this one is just as prominent as the Mummy so it made sense to employ a female writer. Director Reginald LeBorg was another ‘B’ director with some style; I am especially fond of two interesting horror movies he made in the 50’s; Voodoo Woman and The Black Sleep. Originally The Mummy’s Ghost was going to star Acquanetta [actually Mildred Davenport], a stunning beauty and minor ‘B’ star of the time [Universal billed her as ‘the Venezuelan Volcano” even though she was from Wyoming]. On the first day of shooting though, whilst enacting a fainting scene she fell on a rock she thought was paper mache but was actually real, and was hospitalised. Universal replaced her with Ramsey Ames, who was probably more suited to the role as she looked more Egyptian, though once again this pretty starlet was American. As was par for the course now, the movie got poor reviews which mostly ignored its interesting aspects, but the box office receipts kept flowing.

As with Tomb, there is rather too much time taken up with exposition at the beginning, but at least it’s not ten minutes of footage from Hand this time, and the film shifts nicely from Egypt to America and back again several time before this particular priest sets off on his mission. It is of course ludicrous that Andoheb is still alive after us having seen him die twice already, and the keen-eyed will notice that the shot of Yousef going up the steps of the temple is from Hand and is actually of the younger Andoheb, meaning that Yousef looks like he has lost a huge amount of weight in the next scene. Interestingly, we don’t actually see Andoheb die this time, though he didn’t appear in the next episode anyway. As we are introduced to our American characters, all this exposition is quite pacy, though overall this is a slower-paced film than Tomb, with the Mummy stalking and killing far less, though it’s still nice and tight. The Mapleton setting is far more modern in feel than the unnamed [apart from it being in Massachusetts] locale in Tomb, and this is one thing I really like about the Mummy pictures; each one varied the setting, helping to give each movie a slightly different feel.

Though he’s on screen slightly less [and you wouldn’t know he had been burnt to a crisp at the end of the last one, as he looks just the same as he did before that fire] and the film feels less brutal, Kharis still has one rather nasty kill, this time where he smashes a guy’s head into some glass before strangling him. Lon Chaney actually injured himself badly in a similar scene where Kharis trashes a museum. He drove his fist through real glass, and a shard of it flew up and cut him through his mummy mask in his chin. If you look closely, you can actually see him bleeding in the scene. It gives an edge to what is a rather haunting scene anyway, with Kharis touching the mummy of Ananka, causing it to crumble into dust and Amina to wake up screaming, as if Ananka has now possessed Amina. Some of the reincarnation/possession stuff is muddled though. Amina gets possessed about half way through, but in the first half she appears to be some kind of reincarnation of her too, or if not, certainly someone who has some connection with Kharis. Two scenes in which she sleepwalks and faints before the Mummy have great atmosphere to them [despite the night being far too bright as usual], and I love the way she seems to gradually become Ananka, from initially just sporting a white streak of hair to actually aging Lost Horizon-style at the end, but this fascinating stuff doesn’t appear to have been thought through properly.

Still, it gives an odd and even slightly romantic edge to a movie that in other aspects bares the typical ‘B’ flaws, such as characters who behave and even speak stupidly and the way they forget and remember things. We also have a sleepwalker who sees things, a learned Egyptologist who has only a minor knowledge of hieroglyphics and a Mummy who may have a really bad, seemingly useless arm but doesn’t seem to have any trouble carrying Amina off. For the third time the priest decides he wants the heroine for himself and pays for it with his life. The story rather oddly but nicely has a rather cute dog plays a major part in saving the day, though actually nobody except for the typically bland ‘hero’ is actually saved. The well-managed swamp climax is actually very downbeat in nature, yet rounds off the story of Kharis and Ananka rather nicely. They really didn’t need to do another Mummy picture.

LeBorg doesn’t seem too interested in trying to frighten; instead, the director tries to create a more atmospheric piece and sometimes succeeds with some almost beautifully composed shots and less noise than before, though of course the recycled music keeps on going and going. Chaney, even more than before, is somehow able to show some pathos for Kharis; when he looks at Ananka and then smashes things up, you feel his frustration. I’m not even sure he enjoys strangling folk this time round. He just seems to want to be with his beloved. Sadly Ames is stiff and not up to the complex part of Amina, and Robert Lowery is even weaker as Tom. John Carradine displays considerable menace as Yousef though doesn’t even attempt to sound Egyptian. The afore-mentioned score is the usual stuff we’ve heard before, though this time with some of the eerie organ music from Son Of Dracula added. There is something about The Mummy’s Ghost, despite its carelessness and signs of being very rushed, which is quite compelling and makes it stand out. Interestingly, Hammer’s 1959 The Mummy basically rolled Hand, Tomb and Ghost all into one and copied Ghost’s climax [though without the aging heroine]. I wonder, though, if taking Ghost as the major source of inspiration for the next, already announced Mummy move, would be a good idea? Any executives reading this…..?

Rating: 6.5/10

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

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 100
RE: Universal Horror - 22/11/2012 12:52:33 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3958
Joined: 19/10/2005

Dr Gustav Niemann is languishing in prison with his hunchbacked assistant Daniel, due to performing experiments similar to those of Dr Frankenstein, most notably putting the brain of a human into the body of a dog. Neimann promises Daniel that he will find him a new body. When lightning destroys the jail wall, they escape and encounter the travelling horror show of Prof Bruno Lampini, whose chief attraction is the skeleton of Count Dracula, replete with stake still through the heart. Daniel kills Lampini so that Niemann can take his place, then they head towards Regalberg where Niemann plans to kill the people who were responsible for putting him in jail. His first weapon is Dracula, whom Neimann resurrects from pulling out the stake, but nearby is an icy cave where both Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolf Man lie, frozen in ice……

House Of Frankenstein, which packs in three monsters to Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man’s two- well, it’s actually four if you count Daniel the hunchback as one, which Universal’s publicity certainly did at the time – is an absurd mess of a film that is also great fun. Consisting more of several short segments than one coherent story, it packs far too much in for its scant running time and actually more than anything else gives the impression of three or four movies cut down and crammed into one single film, with no regard for continuity or sense. Because of this, it also moves at a lightning pace, almost surreal in the way it rushes from one scenario to another. It’s hard to really call it a good film, but I think few would not be entertained by it!

Kurt Siodmak wrote a treatment called The Devil’s Brood which, in addition to featuring Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula and the Wolf Man, also included Geoffrey Radcliffe the Invisible Man from The Invisible Man Returns [this was planned before The Invisible Man’s Revenge began production], to be again played by Vincent Price, The Mummy, The Captive Wild Woman [a woman who turns into a gorilla, from the film of the same name], The Mad Ghoul [self-explanatory, from the film of the same name], and a gypsy who cures Talbot! Such a packed tale would have required a much bigger budget than Universal were willing to provide, so Edward T. Lowe was hired to drastically simplify Siodmak’s story into a more manageable screenplay. Bela Lugosi was intended to return as Dracula but other commitments prevented that, but Boris Karloff was able to return to the series in style, albeit not as the Monster because he found the role of the evil scientist Niemann more interesting, plus the Monster didn’t do much in the film anyway. Erle C. Kenton returned from The Ghost Of Frankenstein to direct. The film did reasonable business but the feeling of desperation about it showed that the series was drawing to a close.

Make no mistake, House Of Frankenstein is a long way from Frankenstein or Bride Of Frankenstein in quality. The film just does not hang together at all, and yet, whenever I watch what is without a doubt the silliest in the series yet, I never fail to enjoy it. It begins with Niemann and Daniel the hunchback in jail and…hey presto…lightning smashes one of the walls and the two villains are free! It seems we are in for a Son Of Frankenstein-type revenge story with Niemann out to get the folks who caused him to be put away, but then he revives Dracula, and for about twenty minutes we are watching a Dracula film, with Dracula killing one of Niemann’s targets and going after his grand daughter-in-law Rita. There’s an interesting moment where the hypnotised Rita gazes into Dracula’s ring saying “I see people that are dead, and yet alive….alive, and yet dead”, and this part ends with a fine chase involving Dracula’s carriage and three policemen on horse, climaxing in Dracula’s death. And that’s it, the vampire, nor Rita or her boyfriend, play no part in the remaining two thirds of the movie, which could have existed quite well without Dracula at all.

The pace now slows just a little to bring in a love triangle, though scenes still give the impression of having been cut to the bone and things still seem very rushed. Daniel saves a pretty gypsy lass called Ilonka and immediately falls in love. She is happy to flirt with him until she sees his back and cries “you’re ugly. Ugly”! Never mind, Talbot is around, and the strumpet quickly turns her attention to him. It seems you’ll supposed to like Ilonka and feel for her romance with Talbot, while Daniel is treated like shit by both everyone in the film and the script, though he does get his own back on Niemann in a rather gruesome way, breaking his back in a way that we actually see his body bent back in silhouette. It’s probably the most graphic death of the series, and I’m surprised it wasn’t cut. The Wolf Man story proceeds in the usual manner though doesn’t quite end the way you would expect, while, predictably, the Monster doesn’t come to life until the end, only to walk into the same quicksand set that Kharis had not done earlier that year. Actor Glenn Strange did his own stunts as the Monster and nearly got burnt alive walking on burning tumbleweeds. Interestingly, virtually everyone ends up dead, giving the film a nihilistic tone that gives it a bit of strength it otherwise wouldn’t really have.

All this is done with a certain amount of style, with the film looking good throughout despite the sparse, limited sets; cinematographer George Robinson is one of the heroes of the film. The many nocturnal scenes are obviously day-for-night but have a real dark fairy-tale look to them, with much thought having gone into composition. Matters are held back continually though by various flaws. The overly episodic script gives the feeling that the writer had not seen the previous few films, as it now splits Visaria [changed from Visaria] aka the village of Frankenstein, into two separate villages, Visaria and Frankenstein. Dracula’s skeleton was supposedly taken from his castle. Other glaring faults include Talbot having totally dry clothes when thawed out of the ice and having human hands when he is the Wolf Man. Niemann says he wants to thaw out the Wolf Man and the Monster so they can help him find Frankenstein’s notes, huh?! And does Niemann really intend to give one victim’s brain to the Monster, the Monster’s brain to Talbot, and the Wolf Man’s brain to another victim? Sounds ridiculously complicated.

One cannot complain about the performances, though Glenn Strange has so little to do as the Monster it’s hard to critique his acting, and in any case until the end the Monster’s face is actually a mask of Lon Chaney as the Monster [from The Ghost Of Frankenstein]. Boris Karloff is delicious pure evil as Niemann, a cruel, murderous and deceitful villain who seemingly has no redeeming features whatsoever. For once Karloff doesn’t try to give him some humanity, to make us like him just a little, and it works. I really like John Carradine as Dracula, with his aristocratic air and elegance; he’s actually the closest of all the Universal Draculas to the way Bram Stoker wrote and described him. J. Carrol Naish is very sympathetic as poor Daniel; he’s one of the tragic characters of the series. Hans J.Salter wrote an original score incorporating his previous themes for the three monsters and it’s a really good effort, with a particularly exciting piece for the Dracula chase and a really tragic ‘love’ theme. Paul Dessau supposedly wrote some of the score but it all sounds like Salter to me, though maybe he was responsible for the gypsy dance? Overall, House Of Frankenstein is far better than it should be; it seems to combine carelessness and care in roughly equal measures. The major shame is that Siodmak was not allowed to adapt his original conception and it was given to someone else, because it is the shoddy script above all else that lets it down.

Rating: 6/10





The Southern Engineering Company is trying to drain the swamp of Cajun Country for the public good. but their efforts are being hampered by the superstitions of the workers, who believe the area to be haunted by the Mummy and his bride Ananka. Two representatives of the Scripps Museum, Dr. James Halsey and Dr. Ilzor Zandaab, arrive to search for the missing mummies, buried in the swamp years earlier, and here that a workman has been murdered. Zandaab is actually a High Priest of Arkham, and goes to find his disciple Raghheb, who had killed the worker for finding Kharis and has taken the immobile monster to a deserted monastery with plans to revive him. Meanwhile the mummy of Ananka rises from the swamp and, immersing herself in a pool, turns into a young woman……a pond and the mud is washed away, revealing an attractive young woman……..

I doubt that event the greatest fan of old horror movies could call The Mummy’s Curse a good film. It’s a truly sloppy production that gives the impression it was made up as they went along and makes no sense whatsoever. It is by far the most ridiculous of the Mummy series. Paradoxically, it also contains one the best scenes in Universal horror ever, a scene which is so good it would even be the highlight of a good film. Only just about reaching 60 mins in length, it’s also a very fast paced, tight movie in the manner of The Mummy’s Tomb, which means that, while you may be laughing at its absurdity, or just sitting there gobsmacked, there’s no chance of you getting bored, and there is certainly something to be said for attempting some slightly more original twists on the tried and tested elements of the Mummy series. As with The Mummy’s Ghost, there are some interesting concepts in it, but even less is done with them, almost making the film a wasted opportunity.

The Mummy’s Curse was written by people who had not contributed to any previous Mummy adventure, and I wonder if they had actually even seen any of them. Ted Richmond, who usually produced films, wrote the original story, which three other writers turned into a screenplay, though I wonder if any of them were paying attention to the work of the others? Director Leslie Goodwins was another ‘B’ director and the cast of this one was mostly undistinguished, though two minor silent film stars William Farnum and Charlie Stevens had small appearances and female star Virginia Christie later achieved fame in the 1960′s when she started her 21-year stint as the matronly Mrs. Olso, who always had comforting words for young married couples while pouring Folgers Coffee In a lengthy series of TV ads. Curse was an extremely rushed production that just managed to hit theatres the same year as Ghost. Sequels made the same year rarely do well at the box office, with the public usually suspicious of something that appears to have been churned out quickly just for the money, and the disappointing box office receipt signalled the end of the Mummy series, though how they could have carried the story from here God only knows!

Now think about this. Hand was made and set in 1940. Tomb takes place thirty years later. Ghost four years after that, and Curse twenty-five years after Ghost. Therefore, if my admittedly poor maths is correct, Curse is set 1999! Even more absurdly, the swamp into which Kharis and his wrinkled bride has now been relocated from New England to Louisiana! Now I am certainly no sticker for exact consistency, but this is just ludicrous! Did the writers really think no one would notice? Anyway, we are now in Cajun country, except that only a couple of people sound Cajun. Despite this, the characters are as cliched as you could imagine, including the most stereotypical black man you could imagine, a simple-minded fool called Goobie, given to pronouncements like; “The Mummy’s on the loose and he’s dancin’ with the Devil”, which he actually says twice. Then again, the dialogue is often funny for the wrong reasons. Our ‘hero’, Dr James Halsey, when Ananka wants to help him in his research and has been reading his notes, shows a nice line in sexism in replying; “aw, it’s just a lot of technical data you probably wouldn’t understand”

After introducing the setting with a musical number by a woman who sounds like a man and a stupid scene where our two men from the Scripps museum, wanting to investigate the rumours of a Mummy, try the ‘curse’ line before then saying they have a permit to look for the Mummy, the film wastes little time in getting to the action. Kharis is brought to life quickly, replete with altered detail regarding the tana leaves; this time it requires three to keep him alive and nine to make him walk. His first killing is the silliest of the whole series; the victim, the sacristan of the ruined monastery where the two villainous Egyptians [are there any other in these films, and why does one sound Italian?] just stands there as the slow-moving Mummy, who seems to struggle with just walking, moves towards him. Saying that though, there is an even more stupid bit near the end where the Mummy is trying to kill someone who is behind a door. Suddenly displaying huge strength, he rips away enough bars to enable himself to climb through the gap, yet still feels a need to smash down the door.

Despite utilising that darned flashback to ancient Eygpt again, Curse does work okay for the first third, which ends with that great scene I alluded to earlier. Caked in dried clay, Ananka [who displays hardly any of the wrinkles she had at the end of Ghost] struggles to break loose from her burial place and then staggers blindly through the woods, her head turned upward to the blazing sun. As she opens her eyes she gazes at her hands, then descends slowly into a pool to cleanse herself. This scene is startlingly effective, and Christie’s reactions are sad and even oddly realistic, while her actions are slightly speeded up in some shots, resulting in a jerky quality. It’s creepy, almost surreal and oddly beautiful. Sadly after this the film turns rather poor and never recovers, consisting of little more than the Mummy chasing Ananka, who just doesn’t seem to have worked out as a character at all. She has amnesia, but suddenly talks about ancient Egypt [though with another Italian-sounding accent] at times, yet flees from her bandaged lover. She’s also not really Ananka at all, being really another woman possessed by her, if you refer back to the events of Ghost. Nothing is thought through though in this film which ends lamely with all the bad guys turning on each other and Kharis bringing the house down.

Kharis really looks pitiful in this film. He’s barely able to stand up straight, instead lurching forward and sometimes looking like he’s about to topple over. I wonder if Lon Chaney deliberately overdid it to get through the Universal executives how much he hated the role? The best performance in the film is actually by Peter Coe, quietly sinister as Zandaab and doing quite a convincing Egyptian accent with it. Virginia Christie, who does some wonderfully theatrical faints, and Kay Harding are amongst the prettiest of Universal’s starlets but Harding is noticeably poor and Christie is not really up to the role of Ananka which is potentially quite complex. The score consists entirely of stock music, some of it by the great Dmitri Tiomkin, though it’s not too well used until the second half where the familiar Hans J.Salter and Frank Skinner comes in, the typical Son Of Frankenstein- derived stalking music helping to provide pace and doing its best to ramp up the excitement. Despite its many, many problems, I prefer the more offbeat Curse to the more widely praised Hand. Occasionally, very occasionally, it does seem like they tried to make something quite interesting.

Rating: 4.5/10

_____________________________

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

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 101
RE: Universal Horror - 8/12/2012 9:52:23 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3958
Joined: 19/10/2005

Dr Franz Edelmann, a renowned scientist living in Visaria, has been working on a plant called the clavaria Formosa, which has juices that have the ability to reshape bone structure. He aims to cure his hunchback assistant Nina, but is visited by both Dracula and Lawrence Talbot the Wolf man, both of whom want to be cured of their respective maladies. Thinking Dracula can be cured by blood transfusions, he uses his own blood for the process. He then witnesses Talbot transforming in a prison cell and comes to the conclusion that it’s not the moon but pressures on the brain which is causing his changes. Talbot, unable to wait for Edelmann to begin the process, throws himself off a cliff, but rather then killing himself, he finds the barely-alive Frankenstein Monster in a cave……….

House Of Dracula is very similar to House Of Frankenstein in that it never really fulfils the potential of having three monsters [well, four really, and five if you believe the posters that included the pretty hunchbacked Nina as a monster] in one film, but it’s a less episodic piece and is rather more inventive. In fact, the script for this is nuts, making overall a more interesting film than its predecessor. As the last of the ‘straight’ Universal monster films [the movie below, She-Wolf Of London kind of exists separately], it shows considerable signs of cheapness and a rushed production, but its sheer verve and pace, like House, just about see it through. It also remains the only other Universal horror picture afte Son Of Dracula to scare me as a child and I seem to remember that this was one, for some reason, I was allowed to stay up and see rather than sneak downstairs after everyone had gone to bed!

The origins of House Of Dracula actually go back to Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, which was originally intended to have a sequel entitled The Wolf Man Vs Dracula, where a scientist would try unsuccessfully to cure Talbot, Dracula would be after his assistant Miliza, and the two monsters would do battle at the end, with Dracula being in giant bat form at the end. Bela Lugosi was intended to return as Dracula. The Hays Office considered Edward T. Lowe’s script, which included many killings by the Wolf Man, to be far too scary and violent, so rejected it outright. After House Of Frankenstein, Lowe was asked to write a follow-up incorporating the same monsters and used his earlier script as a basis. By now Lugosi was unavailable for a production which was to be made quickly, and corners were certainly cut including the use of footage from The Ghost Of Frankenstein in the climax. This scene, as written, had a flood engulf Edelmann and the Monster, but it was too expensive to film. House Of Dracula was still a moderate success but Universal decided to there was nothing more they could do with their monsters. At least for three years…….

The previous episode was basically comprised of short sections involving the villainous Dr Neimann, Dracula, The Wolf Man and the Frankenstein Monster. This one, while it again has the Monster comatose until a few minutes at the end, intertwines the three main characters in a better way, though it refuses to give any explanation as to how Dracula and Talbot are alive again; they just turn up at Dr Edelmann’s castle. Lazy. Still, it’s nice to see Dracula asking to be cured of vampirism. Do we believe him? Does he mean it, or is it just a ploy to get at pretty Miliza? Considering that Dracula could probably get any woman he wanted, I would say he does mean it, but of course he is Dracula after all and can never withstand his urges for very long. There is a great scene where he enters a room where Miliza is playing Beethoven’s wonderfully atmospheric ‘Moonlight Sonata’ on the piano and she starts playing darker, more atonal music as she falls under his spell. Sadly there’s no big chase this time and Dracula’s end is rather rushed, but never mind, we’re already into the Wolf Man part of the story, and it has some very good aspects indeed as well as some poor ones.

The Wolf Man is only seen briefly in his werewolf form, and never even kills anyone, but there is a rather fascinating scene early on where Talbot is transforming in the prison cell he has asked to be put into and Milizia watches, not with horror, and not even so much with pity, but with an expression that suggests she is actually ‘turned on’ by what she sees. How they snuck this perverse bit of business past the censors I don’t know unless it’s just me and my dirty mind, but watch the scene and you may see what I mean! Sadly the two have few scenes together which is a mistake; sure, we’re all tired of seeing Talbot romancing successive women and it all going wrong, but in this time it all goes right, and Talbot is cured.! The scene where he doesn’t change for the first time is rather emotional and very well acted by Chaney, who oddly sports a moustache in this film. The second half of House Of Dracula actually concentrates more on Edelmann, who gets contaminated with Dracula’s blood and transforms into a Mr Hyde-like menace who even goes on a brief rampage. With his whitened face, dark patches under his eyes and his growly voice, he’s a little scary, and he is what frightened me as a child, especially in his first transformation where he sees his shadow disappearing in a mirror!

The cobbled–together climax, which if you think about it largely consists of Chaney fleeing Chaney, is very lame, though the Monster does feature in a rather good dream sequence where the rapidly degenerating Edelmann is trying to work out what to do, the scene showing some Monster footage from House Of Frankenstein and Bride Of Frankenstein, the two sides of Edelmann and even Nina without her hump! It’s nice to see a film from around this time where someone with a deformity is not ugly, and her character is probably the most rational in the film though she still pays with her life. Lowe’s script bravely tries to add a kind of rationality to the supernatural but shots itself in the foot with its ridiculous [yes, I know this is a Universal horror movie, but come on!] stuff about mould from a plant which can alter bone structure, and isn’t it convenient that Edelmann stumbles upon a cave full of the plants? I reckon that Onslow Stevens, a very underused actor who gives a really fine performance as both the doctor and his monstrous alter-ego, must have had trouble keeping a straight face at some of the things he has to say, and yet it’s lovely that everyone appears to take it all seriously, with no easy laughs [that would come, though].

House Of Dracula doesn’t look as good as House Of Frankenstein, despite having the same cinematographer and director, though there’s nice use of shadows at times and much symbolic employment of bars. John Carradine again is a really fine Dracula and is even allowed to be sympathetic for a bit. He would go on to play Dracula on stage and in three more films though it’s a great shame that he never starred in an actual cinematic version of Bram Stoker’s novel, considering he’s so close to Stoker’s Dracula. Poor old Glenn Strange is hardly allowed to do anything as the Monster but it’s nice to see Lionel Atwill returning as a policeman; sadly, he was dying of cancer during production, and Skelton Knaggs, who was more or less the successor to Dwight Frye in portraying eccentric, sinister background characters, gives a great turn as a constantly grumbling villager. The score is again cobbled together mostly from Son Of Frankenstein, The Ghost Of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man and Son Of Dracula. It works fine but watching these films in fairly quick succession [roughly one every two weeks] makes me tire of hearing the same music over and over again. Overall though House Of Dracula is far better than it has a right to be, and while tatty and careless in part, sometimes shows real verve and interesting pathways, pathways down which a sequel could have gone down further. It’s certainly a far better film than it ought to be!

Rating: 6/10



In a London park, people are being found dead with their throats ripped out. Meanwhile Phyllis Allenby is living at the Allenby Mansion without the protection of a male, along with her aunt Martha Winthrop, her cousin Carol and the servant Hannah. She is soon to be married to lawyer Barry Lanfield. When another murder occurs at the park, many of the detectives at Scotland Yard begin murmuring about werewolves, while Inspector Pierce believes the opposite and suspects strange activity at the Allenby Mansion (which is near the park), where the “Wolf-Woman” is seen prowling at night and heading for the park. Phyllis, who seems to be the latest of the line in her family to suffer a curse, becomes extremely terrified and anxious that she could be the monstrous killer…..

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about She-Wolf Of London [later the title of a 90’s TV series], to be honest. Though the title would indicate that it’s connected to Werewolf Of London, in fact it has nothing to do with it and, more than that, not much to do really to do with the Universal horror cycle at all. It’s more of a suspense mystery, coming across at times as a Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes adventure without Sherlock Holmes [Dennis Hooey, who played Inspector Lestrade in some of the Rathbone films, even turns up again as a cop], but it also bears great similarities to quite a few other films, so much so that it fails to have much of an identity of its own. It’s reasonably enjoyable and has a few well done scenes where signs of a far better film appear, but just doesn’t have an original bone in its body and shows evidence of being both cobbled together or chopped up, with gaping holes and unexplained matters all over the place. It isn’t even as suspenseful as it ought to be, though overall you cannot really it’s a bad movie, just an rather poor one.

She-Wolf Of London appears to have had a troubled production, though little information seems to exist about it. The director Jean Yarbrough had nothing of distinction to his name and had developed a reputation of making films quickly and under budget, but also of editing ‘in camera’ and not doing retakes, causing his films to be full of mistakes. She-Wolf Of London appears to have been intended to be a rather darker movie than the one that eventually came out, though how precisely is unclear. What is known is that is that it was extensively cut and re-edited, perhaps because many parts of the film looked sloppy and didn’t even come up to the standards of films like House Of Dracula, though this was done with some damage to the plot. Cetainly footage of two of the characters as children was removed, with the performers still credited on screen. Oddly enough, some new scenes were shot as well, perhaps to try and mask the edits, making some of the cast work through Christmas Eve even though shooting supposedly ended four days before. None of this really helped the film which was a commercial disappointment, with many people feeling cheated by a supposed ‘werewolf’ picture that didn’t actually have a werewolf, even despite it often being billed with The Cat Creeps, another non-supernatural mystery with a few horror elements. In the UK it was retitled The Curse Of The Allenbys.

The first thing that hits you about She-Wolf Of London is how unconvincing and anachronistic it seems. It’s supposedly set in London, but the sets, one of which was a slightly redressed set used in many Westerns, look patently American and none of the props look right. When people actually do attempt an English accent they sometimes sound like something even Dick Van Dyke would be ashamed of, and shoddy continuity ensures that you can see things like people wearing wet clothes are in the same shots as people that are wearing dry clothes. Many films have this kind of thing but the fact that it’s all so noticeable in this one means that the picture just isn’t good enough overall. Being as I live near London and visit it often, I would personally like to have known which park the killings are supposed to be taking place, as not only is it not named but looks like no park I know. The fog-shrouded locale, the kind of place you’d expect The Hound Of The Baskervilles to jump out of but with more trees, is quite atmospheric though and scenes where the She-Wolf stalks her prey from behind, making no sound, are quite chilling and possibly the film’s highlights.

Yes, it’s made quite clear that this is a more human menace, with numerous shots of a hooded female figure, though she does make some growling noises which are rather effective. The film proceeds as a reasonable mystery, though on first viewing I guessed immediately who the She-Wolf was. Her face is shown half with one side in shadow and one side in light; a nice shot, but a giveaway. Considering, though I love mysteries, I’m not very good at guessing killers, I would say that is not a good thing! If you don’t guess who it is early on, than you may certainly think that the supposed ‘heroine’ really is the killer and June Lockhart gives a rather good, anguished performance as someone to whom all the evidence points to as a monstrous killer and who even believes it herself. Unfortunately, little happens apart from a couple of park stalkings, and the majority of the film, set in the Allenby house, is not quite atmospheric enough to allow for this, despite the almost constant sound at night of baying dogs. The climax of this none-too-exciting production is over in no time; you have the ‘big’ revelation, and then the killer falls unconvincingly down the stairs onto her knife. Surely it would have been far better to finish off in the park?

The script seems to borrow bits and pieces from not only Devil Bat’s Daughter [a woman is led to believe she is a vampire], but possibly The Undying Monster and Cat People too and more ‘conventional’ thrillers like Gaslight. The murder weapon is the same as that in possibly the very best of the Rathbone Holmes’s, The Scarlet Claw. Whirling POV shots indicating drugging are just like ones in Hitchcock’s Notorious, while I’ll be very surprised if the two scenes of someone going upstairs with a glass of milk were not influenced by another Hitchcock movie, Suspicion. None of this is as bad though as the huge story holes, such as the killer saying her first murder was of a young boy, yet we are told at the beginning there have been killings in the park before the boy was killed. We aren’t told what the ‘curse of the Allenbys’ [read curse of the Baskervilles]actually is, nor even given an explanation for the growling noises when the She-Wolf attacks, noises which are totally absent in the climax, which reveals a very human killer.

Yarbrough directs efficiently; knowing his reputation and shooting style, you’d expect the direction to seem a lot worse though it’s entirely without personality. Aside from June Lockhart, Sara Hagen is strong as Phyllis’s aunt Martha, though it’s really the sort of dour, grumpy spinsterish role she usually played. William Lava’s score is rather effective in its downbeat way, quite skilfully backing the action [or lack of it], if forgettable. He later on became a scorer of Loony Tunes shorts. The weird thing about She-Wolf Of London is that one can spend the best part of a review criticising it, which I am certainly doing, yet it somehow retains some interest. It’s frustrating to watch but you’ll probably keep watching it. Perhaps it’s the hints [which are not explored] of a kind of lycanthropy which is more psychological than physical, or maybe it’s just because of its sheer gall in stealing from everything? I wonder if it would come across as better if it had never been considered part of Universal’s horror series at all?

Rating: 4.5/10

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Post #: 102
RE: Universal Horror - 10/1/2013 8:38:33 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3958
Joined: 19/10/2005


Chick Young and Wilbur Grey, two baggage clerks in a Florida train station, unwittingly deliver the actual bodies of Count Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster to the “McDougal House Of Horrors”, a local wax museum, despite an attempt to Larry Talbot, aka The Wolf Man to stop them which is ruined when he turns into his werewolf other self and Wilbur thinks it is Talbot’s dog on the other end of the line. When Chick leaves Wilbur alone, Dracula rises and, after hypnotising Wilbur, re-animates the Frankenstein Monster and they leave for the island castle of Dr. Sandra Mornay, a gifted surgeon with a history of questionable experiments. She has been studying Dr. Frankenstein’s notebook and has been posing as Wilbur’s girlfriend as part of Dracula’s scheme to replace the Monster’s brutish brain with a more pliable one — Wilbur’s……..

For a while, I wondered whether to include the four films where the Universal monsters suffered the indignity of meeting the comedians Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. After all, they are more comedy than horror, and make no attempt to fit in with the admittedly very loose continuity of the horror series. Boris Karloff, who was asked to play the role of the Frankenstein Monster in Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein, not only turned the part down but refused to see the film, publicly calling it “an insult to horror movies”. That is a bit harsh. Horror and humour are constantly bedfellows [and of course some misguided souls may say most horror movies are funny anyway], though it’s rarely done really well. Well, there’s Bride Of Frankenstein, Re-animator, Ghostbusters, An American Werewolf In London, Braindead, Evil Dead 2, Gremlins. There aren’t many other examples though, to be honest; most horror comedies are fun but don’t totally hit the mark. I suppose one problem is that most films end up emphasising one aspect at the expense of the other. Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein, for most of its length, does have more laughs than chills, but does sometimes combine the two together very adroitly and is overall a really fun romp.

Abbott and Costello, of course, were a comedy duo whose work on stage, film, radio and later TV made them amongst the most popular of comedy teams during the 40’s and 50’s. The duo built an act by refining and reworking numerous burlesque sketches into the long-familiar presence of Abbott as the devious straight man and Costello as the stumbling, dim-witted laugh-getter. Their “who’s on first” is considered by many to be one of the greatest comedy routines ever. Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein, which was originally to be called The Brain Of Frankenstein and have an appearance by the Mummy, was their 22nd film. Directed by as usual by Charles Barton, its script was hated by Costello who said his five-year old daughter could have done better, but that didn’t stop him by constantly laughing during takes especially during a scene where he sits on the Monster’s lap, where even in the final cut it’s obvious he’s cracking up. Bela Lugosi returned as Dracula [actually the only other time he played him], while Lon Chaney, who as usual played The Wolf Man, actually doubled for Glenn Strange as the Monster in one scene when Strange threw someone against fake glass, who then bounced off it and smashed into him. The film was Universal’s biggest hit of 1948, though in Australia it was shorn of half its running time because the censors wanted all the monster footage removed.

Actually by now Universal was called Universal-International, something I always forget when watching Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein, where I miss the Superman-style music over the opening logo. We are treated to an appearance by the Wolf Man straight away and a reasonably funny scene where Costello is trying to speak to Talbot on the phone and thinks he’s hearing his dog. The couple of reels are mostly devoted to the patter of the two comedic stars and very funny it often is too. This particular outing is given added laughs by Costello having not one but two attractive dames supposedly after him, something that baffles Abbott. Of course Costello is the only one who sees the monsters or evidence of them for quite a long time and Abbott just doesn’t believe him. There is a brilliant scene which is both hilarious and slightly chillsome in a “fun for the kids” way where Abbott keeps leaving Costello alone in a room full of wax dummies where Dracula’s coffin keeps opening [though the moving candle gag is from their earlier Hold That Ghost]. The scene builds and builds and is superbly sustained for ages, climaxing when Costello poses as a dummy and the Monster is scared of him and has to be ushered away by Dracula.

I guess if you’re a real purist you may take offence at the way the monsters are mostly used for cheap laughs, but I just think the film is so enjoyable I don’t really care. It even gets away with a scene where, in a wood, the Wolf Man is chasing Costello and keeps getting caught up in and tripping over branches. Dracula’s female aide Dr Sandra Mornay has a terrific scene where she is trying to hypnotise Costello, who says “I’ll bite” and she replies “no, I will”. Interestingly, one scene where Dracula bites a female victim is more sexual than any other vampire biting scene in the whole of Universal’s series; though shown from a distance, the victim is clearly loving it. This little detail seems to be missed by people who say Hammer and Christopher Lee introduced sex into Dracula films. There is also one brutal death scene, a throw through a window, which actually jars somewhat with the jokey tone of the piece.

It all climaxes with much chasing around and Dracula battling the Wolf Man, albeit a fight only seen in brief shots and usually as background to the Monster chasing Costello. The actual plot is indeed almost as childish as Costello said though it’s nice to see the Monster feature not just in the climax but in a few earlier scenes for a change too, and Strange even briefly speaks. For this movie the studio stopped using the effective but lengthy application time of make-up artist Jack P. Pierce for the monster make-up, using more cost-effective rubber appliances by Bud Westmore and Jack Kevan. To be honest, it’s hard to tell the difference, though Lugosi is caked in so much make-up to hide his age [65] and evidence of alcoholism and drug addiction, that it’s hard not to laugh at times when he appears. Nor are his animated transformations from a bat into Dracula much good [the cartoon Lugosi looks nothing like Lugosi] though they’re interesting visually. Perhaps the biggest loss in this film in relation to the earlier pictures is the almost total lack of moody atmosphere which even the weaker episodes managed to maintain.

Even if he looks silly, Lugosi rises to the occasion in this movie, which would be the last major studio film he ever made. When he’s hypnotising people, he retains much of the odd power he had in the 1931 Dracula; I’m not sure if it’s good acting [many will say it’s just prime ham] but it’s certainly fascinating to watch, and he’s clearly in on the joke too. Chaney takes his Talbot role extremely seriously and despite the silly hi-jinks going on around him maintains a dignity about the character. It’s also nice to see Strange do a little more as the Monster. The lovely Lenore Aubert, quite riveting as the evil Sandra, and Jane Randolph make for a fetching pair of leading ladies. Frank Skinner’s score, which is entirely new material, is recorded rather too loud but interestingly backs up the horror more than the comedy, except for a couple of scenes. With fine motifs for the three monsters [actually four if you count Sandra] which often meld together, and some exciting action passages, it’s a good effort. With a final guest appearance [if that is the right word] by a certain other ‘monster’ with the voice of Vincent Price, Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein never tries to be more than it is, a juvenile bit of fun aimed as much at kids as adults, and on that level most certainly succeeds.

Rating: 7.5/10




Lou Francis and Bud Alexander have just graduated from a private detective school. Tommy Nelson, a middleweight boxer, comes to them with their first case. Tommy has recently escaped from jail, after being accused of murdering his manager, and asks the duo to accompany him on a visit to his fiancée, Helen Gray. He wants her uncle, Dr. Philip Gray, to inject him with a special serum he has developed which will render Tommy invisible. Once he is unable to be seen, he aims to investigate his manager’s murder, find the real killer and proved his innocence. Dr. Gray adamantly refuses, arguing that the serum is still unstable, but as the police arrive Tommy injects himself with it and disappears…….

After the ‘appearance’ by the Invisible Man at the end of Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein, it’s unsurprising that following not long afterwards would be a whole film in which the two comedians encounter the character, though, much like some of the earlier Invisible series, Abbott And Costello Meet The Invisible Man, which seems in part to partially remake The Invisible Man Returns, is not at all a horror film. Nor does it even have many horror touches like Meet Frankenstein, but it’s still a solid comedy with invisibility effects that at times are even better than in the other ‘Invisible’ films. It’s not really up to the standards of Abbott and Costello’s best work, but the duo are still great. Working my way through an Abbott and Costello box set which includes some films not involving Universal’s monsters, I have come to the conclusion that even their lesser efforts are better than most of the crappy comedy films we have today, and are exactly the kinds of pictures that should be shown to ignorant fools who say old black and white films are boring.

Abbott and Costello had actually made another comedy in 1949 with vague horror connections, the rather dark Abbott And Costello Meet The Killer, Boris Karloff, with many macabre laughs involving dead bodies and a superb scene where Karloff tries to hypnotise Abbott into killing himself in various different ways and the idiot’s brain is too small to respond, though it’s title is actually misleading. Now it has been claimed that the script that was turned into Meet The Invisible Man was actually that of a ‘straight’ film and that the huge success of Meet Frankenstein caused it to be rewritten as a comedy, but I don’t entirely believe this; Universal gave up on their monsters as serious characters after House Of Dracula, and why would Universal originally plan something that, in its serious form, was even more of a remake of The Invisible Man Returns, a film made under a decade before, than the comedy that it supposedly eventually became? Anyway, the film was made quickly and cheaply as usual with the Abbott and Costello flicks, even using some footage from Returns involving an invisible guinea pig and a suitcase being unpacked by invisible hands. The director was Charles Lamont, who virtually took over from Charles Barton as Abbot and Costello’s main director. It was another big hit, as were most of the films featuring these two, which averaged two or three a year.

Bud and Lou amazingly have just become detectives in this film, with a great early scene where Abbott walks around sporting a deerstalker and a pipe, though there are slightly less laughs than normal in the first third at least, with more emphasis on the plot, something I’m not sure works in an Abbott and Costello film, where you actually want the story to stop still so that they can do their very clever and funny routines. The plot actually works quite well though, better actually than in Returns, and does attempt to tie in with the 1933 The Invisible Man with Dr Gray not only having been given Griffins’ drug before he went mad and was shot dead but having a photograph of Claude Rains in his laboratory. As usual we have some tension from the idea that the invisibility drug will cause megalomania though the invisible man of this film, Nelson, doesn’t seem that nice right from the offset and threatens to break every bone in Abbott and Costello’s bodies almost right after he has become invisible. Because we don’t care about him very much, the film is seriously weakened.

The film soon becomes a series of scenes exploiting the humorous possibilities of invisibility, with a sequence in a restaurant where Nelson is drunk and Abbott and Costello [who use their own middle names for the last names of their characters] try to hide the fact that a third guy is eating at their table being especially funny, though many of the scenes involve the invisible Nelson making people believe Abbott is a great boxer and some of it doesn’t feel very fresh because some of the previous films exploited invisibility for laughs especially The Invisible Woman. Some gags are repeated too. Still, the climactic boxing match, with Abbott supposedly throwing punches but obviously not the one hitting his opponent, is terrific, and there’s much else to enjoy, such as Sheldon Leonard and Nancy Jurgens as convincingly cheap and trashy gangsters; of course, Jurgens attempts to seduce Abbott at one point and it’s very funny to see. The milieu the story takes place in is quite convincing, and eagle-eyed viewers will recognise a familiar fog-shrouded set in one scene [probably the only time the film approaches horror].

The special effects in Meet The Invisible Man were done not by John P. Fulton but by David S. Horsley. The odd stock footage shot [probably due to the quick production] notwithstanding, he does a great job, with a card-playing sequence and a bit near the end where Nelson is partially revealed in steam being real showstoppers. This second gag was also done in Hollow Man 49 years later and it looks just as good despite the earlier film making no use of computers [because of course they weren’t around]. Sadly the final scene, where Abbott unintentionally becomes invisible but with some add results, looks a little rushed though all in all it’s good for the time. Meet The Invisible Man finishes oddly with a rather rude joke for Abbott and Costello that may make you wonder why a really raunchy comedy has not been made based on the idea of an invisible person; the possibilities are endless!

Abbott and Costello are good value as always though Abbott rather overdoes the squeaking to a point where you may start looking for a mouse. Dennis Franz is okay as Nelson but just comes across as too sinister for the role and Nancy Guild as his girlfriend may as well not be in the film, so little does she do. Meet The Invisible Man credits Joseph Gershenson as ‘musical director’, though the work of nine other composers was also used, including even Miklos Rozsa, though to my ears it seemed to be mostly bits and pieces from Meet Frankenstein. It’s rather odd hearing the theme previously given to the Frankenstein Monster used as a theme for an invisible man, and the occasional comedic ‘mickey-mousing” music heard occasional in the previous film is used a little too much in this one. Abbott And Costello Meet The Invisible Man has a reputation as one of the best of Bud and Lou’s later films which I don’t think it really deserves, and actually The Invisible Woman is probably a better invisibility comedy, but it’s very likeable, and I wish they made more films like this, comedies that adults and children can enjoy instead of mainly teenage boys, today.

Rating: 6.5/10

_____________________________

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

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 103
RE: Universal Horror - 12/1/2013 1:38:29 PM   
Gimli The Dwarf


Posts: 77665
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: Central Park Zoo
Great reviews, Doc. It's been a long time since I saw the A&C horror films but I used to love them. Meet Frankenstein was probably my favourite of all their films.

< Message edited by Gimli The Dwarf -- 12/1/2013 1:46:31 PM >


_____________________________

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 #: 104
RE: Universal Horror - 12/1/2013 1:42:59 PM   
matty_b


Posts: 14555
Joined: 19/10/2005
From: Outpost 31 calling McMurtle.
Yeah, they're great. I think Jekyll and Hyde is my favourite.

_____________________________

quote:

ORIGINAL: Cool Breeze
Mattyb is a shining example of what the perfect Empire Forum member is.


(in reply to Gimli The Dwarf)
Post #: 105
RE: Universal Horror - 31/1/2013 6:28:44 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3958
Joined: 19/10/2005


In London, a brutal murder is committed by a beast-like man. The next day in Hyde Park, a row between women’s libbers and some men who are against women’s rights turns into a full- blown fight. Slim and Tubby, who are American cops in London studying police tactics on the London Police Force, get involved along with Bruce Adams, a reporter. They are all arrested along with Vicky Edwards who is the instigator of the demonstration, but are bailed out by Dr Henry Jekyll, who is Vicky’s guardian. However, he is also My Hyde, the animalistic killer of the opening scene. Slim and Tubby are kicked off the police force and decide that in order to get their jobs back, they must capture Mr. Hyde…..

Abbott And Costello Meet Dr Jekyll And My Hyde was my favourite of the Abbott and Costello monster pictures as a child because of its fast pace and stronger element of fear than the others. Viewing the film again shows that those aspects both benefit the film and hold it back. With less laughs and hardly anything in the way of elaborate comedy routines, it doesn’t work too well as an Abbott and Costello film and fans of the due are likely to be disappointed. As a horror film with a bit of comedy and some wacky moments though, it does work rather well. The film has considerable atmosphere in places and makes me wish that Universal had made a ‘straight’ version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde, though of course if they had we may not have got the superb 1931 movie Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde from Paramount which is simply stunning, and of course the 1941 MGM remake isn’t too bad either.

Abbott and Costello’s films had been getting more and more crazy as ideas were running out, with Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd and Abbott and Costello Go To Mars being their last two movies. The fact that their two previous encounters with Universal’s monsters had been their most successful at the box office ensured that another one had to happen, and this one obtained the services of one Boris Karloff, who had previously appeared with Abbott and Costello in Abbott And Costello Meet The Killer, Boris Karloff, except that he wasn’t actually a killer in it. Well, his character was certainly a killer in the new film, and the thought of the horror icon playing the dual role is an exciting one, but the 66 year old Karloff could not physically play Mr Hyde so stuntman Eddie Parker took over that part, something that to their credit publicity made no attempt to hide, though Parker remained un-credited in the finished film. Meet Dr Jekyll And My Hyde received an ‘X’ rating in the UK because of the transformation scenes, funny when you consider it later turned up on kid’s TV. It was another hit nonetheless even though Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were starting to steal some of Abbott and Costello’s thunder, and Universal felt obliged to continue the series even though the well was running dry.

This film opens with a murder, which instantly sets it apart from most other Abbott and Costello films which spend a considerable amount of time introducing the two comedians before gradually working in the plot. In fact, it’s a little while before we see them at all, as we get into the suffragette story, replete with reporter Bruce becoming instantly attracted to Vicky. It’s fun, and the comical ruckus does eventually involve Abbott and Costello, but it doesn’t really have any bearing on the main story. It’s also clear that this particular film is going to be mildly amusing rather than hysterically funny. Bud and Lou are hardly given any opportunity to show their comic genius though of course they are still basically playing their usual characters and this particular film is allowed to proceed at a helter-skelter pace which doesn’t allow for any time to breathe. No mucking about after Abbott and Costello’s dismissal from the police force, they set about trying to capture Mr Hyde right away and the action begins in earnest.

The rest of the film is therefore little more than lots of chasing around involving Hyde, interspersed with Karloff’s Jekyll being subtly sinister in that brilliant way of Karloff’s. This Jekyll is different from the usual Jekylls in that he is evil before he even becomes Hyde, while Hyde, obviously influenced by Fredric March’s version, is more like a werewolf than a human. Though Jekyll is infatuated with Vicky and even says that he has been so since she was a child [Yuck! How did that get past the censors?], the sexual aspects of the story are not explored but some of the comic potentials are. At one point Costello drinks a potion which turns him into a large mouse, and at the climax becomes a Hyde himself, leading to a great double chase where there are two Mr Hydes pursuing people over the rooftops, the choreography very expert indeed when the action occurs around a chimney. There remains a surprisingly strong horror aspect throughout though, with some early chasing around in a theatre having more than a touch of The Phantom Of The Opera about it. There’s also a pursuit into a wax museum where Costello encounters the Frankenstein Monster and a very unusual-looking Dracula!

Scenes which show that Jekyll has been experimenting on animals [such as a mouse barking like a dog] are perhaps not as funny as they may have been back in 1953 but for me add to the dark feel of the piece. Universal’s depiction of London, all fog-shrouded streets and fish and chips shops, is hardly realistic but adds an almost expressionistic feel even if it all seemed very familiar to this fan of the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes pictures. Cinematographer George Robinson gives us a few nice shots involving bars and windows, making this overall the best looking of the Abbot and Costello films. The special effects are fairly good, the dissolves allowing Boris Karloff to turn into Eddie Parker being well managed; the best scene of this type is the first one where Hyde has been put in a prison cell and turns into Jekyll right in front or Costello. Of course, nobody believes Costello when they encounter Jekyll where Hyde should have been!

Bud and Lou still show their considerable chemistry while Craig Stevens, soon to become famous playing Peter Gunn on TV, and Helen Westcott, are pleasant romantic leads though their relationship is all but forgotten about in the second half. Of course this being 1953, the women’s libber easily gives up her cause when she finds the right man. The music score is Meet Frankenstein all over again and it’s astounding how lazy Universal were with the music for these films, but maybe I’m just saying that because I have a great interest in film soundtracks and notice these things too much. The music goes well with the film and that’s what matters most I suppose. Perhaps better suited to those who haven’t seen an Abbott and Costello film before and thereby may not expect endless laughs, Meet Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde may anger some horror purist but it’s a breathless piece of fun with energy that is infectious.

Rating: 7/10





Freddie Franklin and Peter Patterson are Americans who are stranded in Cairo, Egypt. They happen to overhear Dr. Gustav Zoomer discussing the recently found mummy of Klaris, the guardian of the Tomb of Princess Ara. Apparently the mummy has a sacred medallion that shows where the treasure of Princess Ara can be found. The Followers of Klaris, led by Semu, who want to return Klaris to his rightful burial place, also overhear the conversation along with Madame Rontru, a business woman interested in stealing the Ara’s treasure. When two of Semu’s men murder Zoomer and steal the Mummy just before Pete and Freddie arrive, the medallion is accidently left behind. Pete and Freddie are not only wanted by Semu and Madame Rontru but the local police who think they murdered Zoomer………..

The last of the monster-based Abbott and Costello films is an enjoyable though slight adventure which is easily the weakest of the four pictures. It actually feels more like a collection of sketches than an actual film and no real attempt is made to bring some actual horror or suspense [something which even the non-horror Abbott And Costello Meet The Invisible Man had] to the party. The Mummy in this film is just an excuse for laughs and not really anything else, a surprise as it had the same screenwriter as the others, John Grant. The whole film is just two comedians having fun, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t find it entertaining. The laughs are constant and the duo are as sharp as ever, despite this being their 28th film for Universal. It’s just a shame there’s not much else.

The original idea for Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein had been to include the Mummy in it, but that was soon discarded, and it’s a shame that the Mummy never met the other three main Universal monsters, even in a comedy. Finally in 1955 the idea was revived and as usual there was no attempt at continuity with previous films; this was a separate story, albeit one that included a few of the usual Mummy movie ingredients or variations on them; Kharis, for example, is now called Klaris. After the previous three Mummy films being set in the United States, this one returned the action to Egypt. Though Abbott and Costello were called Peter Patterson and Freddie Franklin in the script and the credits, they addressed each other by their real names whilst making the film. Stuntman Eddie Parker, who had doubled for Lon Chaney as Kharis, played the Mummy in this movie, which was another hit for Abbott and Costello, though they’d clearly had enough. Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy was their last film for Universal and their second to last film together, though they would carry on on TV.

Meet The Mummy feels closest to The Mummy’s Hand out of the Universal Mummy movies, with its return to an Egyptian setting, two humorous protagonists caught up in intrigue in Cairo and climactic trek to an [seemingly easily found] lost temple. For a start though Meet The Mummy’s two heroes are more likeable! It gets into the comedy immediately and never really catches its breath. Practically the first fifteen minutes is a lengthy set piece set in Dr Zoomer’s house where Abbot keeps finding Zoomer’s body but it has always been moved by the time Costello arrives. The sequence goes on and on but never runs out of steam. The two stars are playing roles no different from usual and even some of the routines are borrowed from or variations of bits in earlier films, but they still have immense chemistry and energy and are simply a joy to watch. It’ s a shame this kind of harmless, kid-friendly but hard-to-do-well comedy has all but disappeared from our cinema screens these days; it’s nearly all crudeness and vulgarity [which can be good, but whatever happened to variety?].

Soon after comes for me the funniest scene in the picture. Abbott and Costello [well I’m calling them by their actual names because that’s what they do in the film, and it hardly matters really] realise that Zoomer’s killer will return to Zoomer’s house to look for the medallion, so they decide to play a recording of Zoomer’s voice, hoping it will startle the murderer. Abbott, though, accidently records his own voice and plays it back. Costello comes into the room to investigate and Abbott arrests him, thinking he’s the murderer! Later on there’s another great scene in a cafe where they both try to pass the medallion to each other [ this originated in The Naughty Nineties]. I’m spending a lot of time talking about the comedy in this film, because frankly there’s little else. Having various parties after the same thing allows for some chasing around which helps the film move at a rapid pace, but the Mummy himself is only briefly seen until the last twenty minutes, when the action goes to Ana’s tomb and reaches even higher levels of lunacy with two fake Mummies adding to the real one. Stuff like two of the bandaged ‘menaces’ bumping into each other is amusing, but it’s a shame there’ s no attempt whatsoever at menace. Dracula and Dr Jekyll caused a few laughs, but still retained some of their horror and you were a little worried for Abbot and Costello!

This Mummy, with a rubbery suit and one large bandage across the front of his face, is easily the weakest-looking of the Universal mummies. It seems that some attempt has been made to make him look like a more realistic mummy than normal with the way his body is supposed to be bandaged [small rather than large wrapping was usually used], but it just looks like a shoddy rubber suit. More effective are the two ‘proper’ villains of the film, the slimy, aloof Zemu, and the seductive Madame Rontru, who briefly gets Abbott to fall for her, though unlike in Meet Frankenstein, this is not developed in any way. A couple of music hall numbers pad the slim story out in a pointless [these Abbott and Costello films are rather longer than many of the ‘serious’ Universal horror movies] but not entirely unpleasant way, and the film is wrapped up really suddenly, as if they’d been shooting in sequence and just ran out of money.

Eddie Parker doesn’t give Klaris any personality and isn’t really required to. Michael Ansara and Marie Windsor are solid as Zemu and Rontru though and bizarrely are allowed to keep their dignity unlike the Mummy. The music score, which opens with a very familiar tune that is not used anywhere else in the film, has Joseph Gersherson as ‘musical supervisor” but is a mishmash of cues by Henry Mancini [yes, this is how he started, doing stuff like this!], Hans J. Salter, Irving Gertz and Lou Maury, that don’t really fit together and often lapses into irritating comedic backing. Meet The Mummy is very funny, not boring and deserves a place in film history as the last of Universal’s films, at least for a very long time, to feature one of their classic monsters. The creators of the original classic monster films like The Mummy and Frankenstein would no doubt have been horrified if they knew how their monsters would end up, playing second fiddle to two comics, but I’m rather glad they did. Though of course there was still one monster to come…..in fact he had already terrified cinema audiences in his first outing when Meet The Mummy was released…..

Rating: 6.5/10

_____________________________

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(in reply to matty_b)
Post #: 106
RE: Universal Horror - 14/2/2013 11:14:56 AM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3958
Joined: 19/10/2005


A geology expedition in the Amazon uncovers fossilised evidence from the Devonian period of a link between land and sea animals in the form of a skeletal hand with webbed fingers. Expedition leader Dr. Carl Maia visits his friend, Dr. David Reed, an ichthyologist who works at a marine biology institute. Reed persuades the institute’s financial backer, Dr. Mark Williams, to fund a return expedition to the Amazon to look for the remainder of the skeleton. They go aboard a tramp steamer and are accompanied by Reed’s girlfriend, Kay Lawrence, and another scientist. Back at the camp site, an unseen creature attacks two men in a tent, and when the others arrive at the camp, all they see are dead bodies…….

The three films featuring the ‘Gill Man’ are in some ways more a part of the science-fiction cycle [to which Universal contributed many great movies], of the 1950’s than the earlier horror series. The Gothic horrors petered out in the late 40’s except for the Abbott and Costello larks, but fears from things such as atomic power and communism led to a new wave of films often featuring monsters and mad scientists, and though they aren’t always regarded as such, many of them such as The Thing From Another World and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers are definitely as much horror as science fiction. With Creature From The Black Lagoon, Universal obviously set out to create another monster that would rival characters like Dracula and the Wolf Man in popularity and maybe lead to a series. The Gill Man quickly became an icon, a creature both scary and sympathetic, and stayed very popular, especially with teenagers to whom the character especially appealed. The film…well, it doesn’t reach the very high quality of say, Frankenstein or The Mummy and perhaps never entirely rises above its ‘B’ movie status, but it is a hugely entertaining monster movie, exciting and fast paced, and therefore a good one to show the kids!

The origins of the film date back to 1941 when, at a dinner party during the filming of Citizen Kane, producer William Alland was told by cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa told him about a myth of a race of half-fish, half-human creature who lived in the Amazon river. Ten years later Alland wrote a treatment entitled The Sea Monster which included most of the elements that ended up on screen, though he offered two endings; the one the film has and a lengthier one involving the Gill Man being taken to the US and escaping before being killed. This was expanded into a full screenplay by Maurice Zimm, who went with the longer ending and seemed to borrow a great deal from King Kong, such as the Gill Man finding the heroine. It was also mooted at some point that the Gill Man may have once had a mate who has been killed by alligators. This was all lost in re-writings by Arthur Ross and Harry Essex, who later took sole credit for the screenplay. For years Bud Westmore made sure he received sole credit for the design of the Gill Man but it later came out that Disney animator Millicent Patrick actually designed the creature. Filmed mostly on Universal’s back lot with some location footage shot in Florida, the film was filmed in 3D during a mini 3D boom and director Jack Arnold, a generally average director who for a while found out he had a distinct affinity and talent for science fiction, had just had a hit with It Came From Outer Space in the format. Creature From The Black Lagoon was a huge success and decades later a bewildering number of people including John Landis, John Carpenter and Ivan Reitman planned a remake. After 30 years of rewrites and false starts, it’s still in development as I type.

What is most striking about Creature is how fast it moves. We begin immediately with the discovery of the fossil, then there’s only about ten minutes to sit through before they set off for the Amazon, which we seem to arrive at in no time, and even before this we have the Gill Man attacking Dr Maia’s camp. His full appearance is not revealed for almost half about half an hour into the film so at first we mostly see a webbed hand coming out of the water accompanied by an insanely loud three note musical motive. Most of the deaths committed by the Gill Man are actually off screen, at least at first, adding to the strange sympathy one feels for this animal whose habitat is being invaded by humans. Typical folk of science fiction films of the time, there is one main character who wants to study the creature and one who wants to kill it, though ethical debates are kept to a minimum in this film which, once it reaches the Amazon, never really lets the action stop for more than a moment.

Much of it takes place underwater and the photography is often very evocative, sometimes minimalist but quite beautiful as the sunlight streams into the dark ‘abyss’ that is the Gill Man home. There’s much chasing, fighting and firing of harpoons, but of course the highlight of the whole film is the lengthy sequence where Kay goes for a swim and the Gill Man sees and follows her, remaining behind her or under her when she is above the water, and often mimicking her movements. It’s distinctly erotic watching Kay perform what is a rather sexual underwater ballet, and we feel the Gill Man’s interest, but of course we cannot touch and neither can the Gill Man, who only lunges impotently at her feet towards the end of the scene. The Freudian aspects of all this go without saying and definitely contributed a lot to the monster’s popularity with teenage boys who were maybe awkward with girls, horny, moody and misunderstood relating to the Gill Man. This monster is usually only seen to kill when attacked first and you start to feel somewhat sorry for him, though this undercuts the scariness somewhat.

The story doesn’t consist of much more than the humans trying to capture and/or kill the Gill Man, and even ends up resembling a 40’s Mummy movie as the Gill Man ends up carrying Kay into his grotto and the others are rushing to save her. The simplicity is quite appealing though I’ve often wondered if they could have done a bit more with the concept. Somewhat distracting is that it’s painfully obvious that none of the cast are actually on location, with much use of back projection, though it’s better than some of the CGI backgrounds you see now. Try and figure out why the Gill Man’s grotto appears to be underwater yet only has water coming up to the knees in it! It’s also easy to tell that the film was shot in 3D with things like harpoons, bubbles and even the Gill Man obviously intended to loom out at the audience. It has been said that Arnold was a master at shooting in 3D and occasional showings of this and It Came From Outer Space in the format are well received. I remain surprised that they haven’t tried to convert them with the 3D they have now. I’d much rather see films like these in 3D, which used it as the gimmick it is, then half the 3D movies we get nowadays which shoot in or convert into 3D because it seems to be required and makes more money because of higher ticket prices.

The acting in Creature is more solid than good with Richard Carlson, in the last of three films he made with co-star Julie Adams, likeable but a touch stolid, and Adams rather wooden, though she looks good in as bathing suit so that’s the main thing. The underrated Whit Bissell contributes a nice performance as another scientist. The Gill Man, who was originally intended to bne played by Glenn Strange but he didn’t like all the swimming involved, was actually played by two people, Ben Chapman, and Ricou Browning for the underwater scenes. The music score is a combination of music by Herman Stein [who came up with the signature Gill Man theme], Hans J.Slater and believe it or not Henry Mancini with the addition of a few cues from other Universal pictures, and actually it flows really well, with it being really hard to tell who wrote what. There is some especially fine music for the underwater scenes, particularly the ‘ballet’ scene which mixes beauty, menace and an effective kind of pulsating eroticism. With some nice lyrical bits in between the action, it’s a fine score which could do with being recorded in full. Creature From The Black Lagoon is not an all-time classic, but it’s definitely a highlight of the decade where science fiction met horror with an appealing innocence which would probably be lost in the remake…when they eventually get to do it. And the Gill Man remains a potent symbol of adolescent frustration and subliminal desires.

Rating: 8/10







At a tributary of the upper Amazon, another boat is searching for the Gill Man. Captain Lucas the pilot explains that he came to the lagoon the previous year with an expedition, and five people were killed during that trip, but to no avail. An attempt is made to ensnare the creature in a net, but it kills one of their number instead. The next day a series of explosives is set off around the lagoon and the creature floats unconscious near the boat. He is transported back to Ocean Harbour in Florida where not only scientists including Prof. Clete Ferguson, come to study the monster, but the publicity generated is enormous and hotels are book for 50 miles around by tourists wanting to see the creature. At the moment though the Gill Man is in a coma…..

Revenge Of The Creature has not attained the classic status of the previous movie and it definitely isn’t as good, though it’s still quite an interesting film. Removing the Gill Man from his home and placing him in civilisation makes for an intriguing contrast though you could say that some of the mystery and atmosphere is lost in doing so. Concentrating rather more on matters of love, it’s not as action packed though still moves at a fair clip. It’s actually a rather sad film to watch, especially to ‘enlightened’ modern eyes, as the Gill Man is treated even worse by humans than in the first picture and you really feel sorry for him throughout, even when he goes on the loose. This gives the film an edge which is both interesting but might make it somewhat painful viewing if you’re an animal lover.
http://horrorcultfilms.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/revenge_creature_002.jpg
Now if you’ve just read the review of Creature From The Black Lagoon [not to mention having seen King Kong!], the idea for Revenge Of The Creature will seem very familiar, for producer William Alland went back to the early idea planned for the first film of the monster taken to captivity and breaking out. As soon as Creature From The Black Lagoon started to bring in the crowds, he wrote a treatment expanding on some of the earlier material, though rather more mindful of the budget this time. This was turned into a script by Martin Berkeley and it seems that that was it, there were no major alterations or rewrites this time. The whole project was rushed out very quickly, which is probably why it doesn’t seem to have the care given to the original. Again Jack Arnold directed, and again in 3D, though it ended up being shown in most cinemas flat because the 3D craze has petered out, people seeing it for the rip-off gimmick that it was. Or should I say…still is. Stuntman Tom Hennesy almost drowned during filming. Playing the creature, he grabbed stuntwoman Ginger Stanley on a pier and jumped with her into the water, only for a freak current to pull them down and, while Ginger broke free, Tom’s carried on down to the bottom because his suit was waterlogged. Revenge made even more money at the box office than Creature, making a third film obligatory.

We open with a bit of dullish chat, with the usual debate about what to with the monster, though the dialogue is mostly flat and the acting mediocre. After this we get into the action and indeed the early section of the film plays like a scaled-down remake of the first one. There’s no real build-up to the Gill Man’s appearance this time but there doesn’t really need to be. There’s some decent underwater fighting before we relocate to Florida where we are introduced to our main human ‘hero’ Ferguson, then cut to a laboratory scene where we seem to see and hear…is it?….he seems very young…but that voice is so distinctive….YES, it’s Clint Eastwood, in his first film role, given a silly gag involving a lost mouse which turns out to be…well, I won’t ruin it, and you can easily view the scene on line if you’re not to bothered about seeing the whole movie [but then why would you be reading this review?], but you certainly wouldn’t think “he’ll go far”, that’s for sure!

After this the film gets remarkably cruel. Not only has the Gill Man been kidnapped for the purposes of both clinical research and money, we have some ‘training’ scenes where Ferguson and Helen Dobson, the female student who joins him, show the monster who’s boss by going into the tank in which he’s being held, enticing him to come near them with both a box of food and a ball, then stabbing at him with a bull-prod [which probably wouldn’t work underwater but never mind]. It’s hard to accept these two as the ‘hero’ and ‘heroine’. Most of the ‘action’ is restricted to this tank and and the middle section of the film spends too much time alternating tank scenes with ‘romance’ scenes involving Clete and Helen, but eventually the monster escapes in a great set piece where people run and scream everywhere and he overturns a car, though he only actually kills two people and even passes by a woman protecting her child [though he does kill a dog, which still seemed to attack him first]. The low budget ensures that afterwards the Gill Man avoids heavily populated places and seems to hide more from humanity as he searches for Helen, but it’s somehow realistic; he’s probably as afraid of us as we are afraid of them, and obviously has to keep going into the water every few minutes.

The Gill Man’s infatuation for a female human [he obviously got over Kay pretty quickly!] takes up more of this film, and it’s even more touching. First of all he hears her voice before later gazing at her through a window. He sees her and Clete frolicking and even follows them when they go for a swim, though doesn’t decide to snatch her until later, where he locates her house incredibly easily. Obviously, this being the 50’s, the Gill Man is not allowed to do anything to her besides lying her down on sand while he goes for a swim. Three decades later Humanoids From The Deep would give an idea of what the Gill Man would probably have really done to a human female! Overall the Gill Man is less menacing here and the whole film is lighter in feel, with a fair bit of comic relief, though it’s never really intrusive. Helen jokingly telling of how her dog is her boyfriend is certainly amusing and Lori Nelson is definately a better actress than Julie Adams.

There’s less exploitation of the 3D process here, in fact seeing it flat it’s hard to tell it was even filmed in the format, though there are some great instances of things coming out from the side of the screen which in any case work well enough in 2D. Jack Arnold seems more interested in framing shots interestingly. The script has its stupid aspects like a news announcer saying the kidnapped student is “pretty”. Male lead John Agar was a familiar star in this kind of movie and was a very hammy kind of actor though he’s always enjoyable to watch. Herman Stein and William Lava scored the film un-credited, and Stein’s loud Gill Man theme often blares out while other bits and pieces are recognisable from the previous film’s score, though there’s much original material too and it’s all quite well mingled in. Revenge Of The Creature is really little more than a ‘programmer’, but it has an odd kind of charge to it. Whether this was entirely intended by the filmmakers I don’t know, but when, at the end, loads of cops arrive to gun the poor animal down, you might feel like screaming at them to stop.

Rating: 6/10

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(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 107
RE: Universal Horror - 24/2/2013 11:50:38 AM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3958
Joined: 19/10/2005

Dr. William Barton organizes an expedition to the Florida Everglades with the scientists Dr. Thomas Morgan, Dr. Borg and Dr. Johnson to capture the Gill Man, who has been spotted there since he was supposedly gunned down by police on the Florida coast but actually survived. Barton’s wife Marcia is also along for the trip along with three other scientists. Marcia starts to be harassed by Jed Grant, while Barton is turning to alcohol in an attempt to cope with the fact that his wife, who is far younger than he, is attractive to other men. They chase and capture the Gill Man though he is totally burnt in the struggle. Rushing him to a hospital, it is discovered that not only has he survived what would seem like certain death, but has turned into an air breather through hidden lungs and maybe even a totally different and more human-like creature…..

For some reason I had had vague memories of The Creature Walks Among Us being one of those many films I snuck downstairs to see on late night TV after my parents had gone to bed, and more than that the film actually being good, but I now think I was mistaken at least on the second point. For this is a very dull, pedestrian sequel where they seem to have dreamt up an interesting, if crackpot, idea and then badly stretched it into a full length film without adding much else. Of course a slow pace can be a good thing if there’s some mounting tension, nail-biting suspense or good acting, but this film has hardly any of either, and I can imagine audiences of the time who had thrilled to the first two films being bored out of their minds. It’s only really interesting thematically and because it’s such a bleak, almost depressing affair. Very occasionally, it shows signs of being a movie that is at least compelling, if not necessarily enjoyable. But only very occasionally.

Though less information exists about this instalment than the other two, the feeling I get from The Creature Walks Among Us is that they felt that the Gill Man was limited in terms of what they could do with him, and decided to finish the series in a way that would make it very hard for it to be continued. Arthur Ross, who co-wrote Creature From The Black Lagoon returned to write this one, but Jack Arnold chose not to return after directing the first two films [I don’t blame him], feeling he had done enough with the Gill Man, so John Sherwood, an assistant director on a large number of films but an actual director of only two other features, was enlisted to direct. For the makeup that the Gill Man would sport in the second half of the film, Bud Westmore went back to the original, more human-like makeup what was originally intended for the Gill Man when they were making the first film, and used it with only minor alterations. Much of the film was shot in the same house what had just been used in This Island Earth and it even had its two male stars. By 1956 the 3D craze had passed [I wish it would now: can you tell I don’t like 3D?], so Creature was shot in 2D. With its cool poster implying that the Gill Man terrorised San Francisco replete with the words a city screams in terror and all-new underwater thrills, the film still attracted audiences though they must have felt deceived.

As with the previous entry, we open with a conversation between two scientists over ethics, and it’s clearly a hallmark of this trilogy, except that this particular movie than proceeds over the course of its duration to give us more and more of the same, and you just want to yell at the screen; “yes guys, we get the point”! We are in the Florida Everglades, though it seems like we are in the same locale as before, and once again we witness attempts to capture the Gill Man. Unfortunately, even though this takes up the first half of the film, the running time is mostly taken up with chat or endless swimming footage. A sequence where three of the team are swimming underwater and the Gill Man pursues, than overtakes, them, and it goes on forever without much really happening. Worse than that, all the shots of the Gill Man swimming are from the previous two pictures. After what seems like an eternity with hardly any tension building, there’s finally a bit of Gill Man action, though it’s pretty brief, and a bit where he picks up a boat is laughably staged, replete with stunt people who barely react to what is going on. After this we switch to a hospital and then to San Francisco, and the film starts some plotting which is at least admirable for its audacity.

Barton believes that organisms are capable of evolution on the individual scale, and if this sounds crazy, there was a 19th-century biologist called Jean Baptiste Lamarck who believed the same thing and whose theories were popular for a while until supplanted by Charles Darwin’s more believable ones. The Gill Man ends up confirming this idea when not only do auxiliary lungs begin to do the job that his burnt-off gills once did, but a second skin reveals itself after the other one has been consumed by the fire. The first close-up of his face is quite eerie and the design has a certain effectiveness, but this creature has a totally different build to his previous incarnation, he’s far bulkier and has very short arms. Worse than that, very little is done with him. He spends most of the time either strapped to a bed or trapped in a cage until, with twenty minutes of the film to go, he escapes, kills a lion [I think], trashes a room, saves Marcia from probable rape and then seemingly goes to kill himself. He clearly falls for the heroine [well, she’s not really a heroine] but doesn’t even attempt to carry her off. Just think of the potential!

Creature focuses more on its dislikeable human characters and in particular a strange love ‘square’ rather than a triangle [think about it, there’s three guys after Marcia]. Perhaps it does this to make its monster more sympathetic, but it doesn’t work. This is because the creature isn’t given enough scenes within which to be sympathetic besides gaze forlornly at the water into which he wants to go but cannot without drowning, though you can now see the eyes of the guy playing him, Don Megowan, and they have a distinct sadness which works for the character. Some of the many chats between the humans reveal some attempt at strong characterisation, particularly Barton, whose not-entirely-unwarranted jealousy of his wife gives Jeff Morrow the chance to shine in a couple of scenes, but the actor botches it because he is seemingly capable of only two pained expressions. He’s better than Leigh Snowdon, who is embarrassingly bad in a complex role that encompasses slut and saint and which a decent actress could really have made something of. Still, it’s intriguing that one is not sure if she is supposed to be sympathetic or not, and only Thomas Morgan, played with typically easy-going charm by Rex Reason, is the sole major human character that we like.

John Sherwood doesn’t seem bothered about creating any fear or excitement but cinematographer Maury Gertzman does give us some terrific shots, especially in the first half where he paints some really compelling nocturnal pictures with his camera of the undergrowth, beautifully contrasting light with dark. The music score, again credited solely to Joseph Gershensen as ‘musical supervisor’ but a joint effort between Irving Gertz, Heinz Roemheld and Henry Mancini, is quite good. It seems like the Roemheld stuff was taken from older films and Gertz, who incorporated the Gill Man theme, and Mancini wrote new music, but it works reasonably well. There’s a very pleasant, lilting theme for Marcia which is unmistakeably Mancini in the way it looks forward to the famous themes he would go on to write. Overall though this is a poor effort which at times just seems like they didn’t really care. And yet, I was rather moved by the final shot of the creature, walking into a sea which he knows he will drown in. It’s a curious but effectively low-key end to the fairly short career of a monster which is still one of Universal’s most iconic.

Rating: 4/10

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

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Post #: 108
The Good Doctor! - 23/4/2013 12:24:22 AM   
JohnChard

 

Posts: 178
Joined: 22/10/2009
From: Birmingham
Just wanted to say thank you for all the excellent articles you have written and provided pictures for. Top stuff. Well done.

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Post #: 109
RE: Universal Horror - 9/5/2013 7:23:40 PM   
evil bill


Posts: 6716
Joined: 19/7/2006
From: mordor/ uk
quote:

ORIGINAL: Dr Lenera





Even if he looks silly, Lugosi rises to the occasion in this movie, which would be the last major studio film he ever made. When he's hypnotising people, he retains much of the odd power he had in the 1931 Dracula; I'm not sure if it's good acting [many will say it's just prime ham] but it's certainly fascinating to watch, and he's clearly in on the joke too. Chaney takes his Talbot role extremely seriously and despite the silly hi-jinks going on around him maintains a dignity about the character. It's also nice to see Strange do a little more as the Monster. The lovely Lenore Aubert, quite riveting as the evil Sandra, and Jane Randolph make for a fetching pair of leading ladies. Frank Skinner's score, which is entirely new material, is recorded rather too loud but interestingly backs up the horror more than the comedy, except for a couple of scenes. With fine motifs for the three monsters [actually four if you count Sandra] which often meld together, and some exciting action passages, it's a good effort. With a final guest appearance [if that is the right word] by a certain other 'monster' with the voice of Vincent Price, Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein never tries to be more than it is, a juvenile bit of fun aimed as much at kids as adults, and on that level most certainly succeeds.

Rating: 7.5/10




I don't know how you do it, but it must be down to your love for these old films, that I grew up with on the box, spending to many hours glued to these films. Your writes ups are a joy to read, and as much as I love all these old classics, it's this one that still tickles the old funny bone the most, but I think The Three Stooges Meet The Mummy beats them all.


_____________________________

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Post #: 110
RE: Universal Horror - 11/5/2013 7:16:51 PM   
paul.mccluskey


Posts: 5153
Joined: 15/4/2007
From: Port Glasgow, Scotland, UK
quote:

ORIGINAL: Dr Lenera



A geology expedition in the Amazon uncovers fossilised evidence from the Devonian period of a link between land and sea animals in the form of a skeletal hand with webbed fingers. Expedition leader Dr. Carl Maia visits his friend, Dr. David Reed, an ichthyologist who works at a marine biology institute. Reed persuades the institute’s financial backer, Dr. Mark Williams, to fund a return expedition to the Amazon to look for the remainder of the skeleton. They go aboard a tramp steamer and are accompanied by Reed’s girlfriend, Kay Lawrence, and another scientist. Back at the camp site, an unseen creature attacks two men in a tent, and when the others arrive at the camp, all they see are dead bodies…….

The three films featuring the ‘Gill Man’ are in some ways more a part of the science-fiction cycle [to which Universal contributed many great movies], of the 1950’s than the earlier horror series. The Gothic horrors petered out in the late 40’s except for the Abbott and Costello larks, but fears from things such as atomic power and communism led to a new wave of films often featuring monsters and mad scientists, and though they aren’t always regarded as such, many of them such as The Thing From Another World and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers are definitely as much horror as science fiction. With Creature From The Black Lagoon, Universal obviously set out to create another monster that would rival characters like Dracula and the Wolf Man in popularity and maybe lead to a series. The Gill Man quickly became an icon, a creature both scary and sympathetic, and stayed very popular, especially with teenagers to whom the character especially appealed. The film…well, it doesn’t reach the very high quality of say, Frankenstein or The Mummy and perhaps never entirely rises above its ‘B’ movie status, but it is a hugely entertaining monster movie, exciting and fast paced, and therefore a good one to show the kids!

The origins of the film date back to 1941 when, at a dinner party during the filming of Citizen Kane, producer William Alland was told by cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa told him about a myth of a race of half-fish, half-human creature who lived in the Amazon river. Ten years later Alland wrote a treatment entitled The Sea Monster which included most of the elements that ended up on screen, though he offered two endings; the one the film has and a lengthier one involving the Gill Man being taken to the US and escaping before being killed. This was expanded into a full screenplay by Maurice Zimm, who went with the longer ending and seemed to borrow a great deal from King Kong, such as the Gill Man finding the heroine. It was also mooted at some point that the Gill Man may have once had a mate who has been killed by alligators. This was all lost in re-writings by Arthur Ross and Harry Essex, who later took sole credit for the screenplay. For years Bud Westmore made sure he received sole credit for the design of the Gill Man but it later came out that Disney animator Millicent Patrick actually designed the creature. Filmed mostly on Universal’s back lot with some location footage shot in Florida, the film was filmed in 3D during a mini 3D boom and director Jack Arnold, a generally average director who for a while found out he had a distinct affinity and talent for science fiction, had just had a hit with It Came From Outer Space in the format. Creature From The Black Lagoon was a huge success and decades later a bewildering number of people including John Landis, John Carpenter and Ivan Reitman planned a remake. After 30 years of rewrites and false starts, it’s still in development as I type.

What is most striking about Creature is how fast it moves. We begin immediately with the discovery of the fossil, then there’s only about ten minutes to sit through before they set off for the Amazon, which we seem to arrive at in no time, and even before this we have the Gill Man attacking Dr Maia’s camp. His full appearance is not revealed for almost half about half an hour into the film so at first we mostly see a webbed hand coming out of the water accompanied by an insanely loud three note musical motive. Most of the deaths committed by the Gill Man are actually off screen, at least at first, adding to the strange sympathy one feels for this animal whose habitat is being invaded by humans. Typical folk of science fiction films of the time, there is one main character who wants to study the creature and one who wants to kill it, though ethical debates are kept to a minimum in this film which, once it reaches the Amazon, never really lets the action stop for more than a moment.

Much of it takes place underwater and the photography is often very evocative, sometimes minimalist but quite beautiful as the sunlight streams into the dark ‘abyss’ that is the Gill Man home. There’s much chasing, fighting and firing of harpoons, but of course the highlight of the whole film is the lengthy sequence where Kay goes for a swim and the Gill Man sees and follows her, remaining behind her or under her when she is above the water, and often mimicking her movements. It’s distinctly erotic watching Kay perform what is a rather sexual underwater ballet, and we feel the Gill Man’s interest, but of course we cannot touch and neither can the Gill Man, who only lunges impotently at her feet towards the end of the scene. The Freudian aspects of all this go without saying and definitely contributed a lot to the monster’s popularity with teenage boys who were maybe awkward with girls, horny, moody and misunderstood relating to the Gill Man. This monster is usually only seen to kill when attacked first and you start to feel somewhat sorry for him, though this undercuts the scariness somewhat.

The story doesn’t consist of much more than the humans trying to capture and/or kill the Gill Man, and even ends up resembling a 40’s Mummy movie as the Gill Man ends up carrying Kay into his grotto and the others are rushing to save her. The simplicity is quite appealing though I’ve often wondered if they could have done a bit more with the concept. Somewhat distracting is that it’s painfully obvious that none of the cast are actually on location, with much use of back projection, though it’s better than some of the CGI backgrounds you see now. Try and figure out why the Gill Man’s grotto appears to be underwater yet only has water coming up to the knees in it! It’s also easy to tell that the film was shot in 3D with things like harpoons, bubbles and even the Gill Man obviously intended to loom out at the audience. It has been said that Arnold was a master at shooting in 3D and occasional showings of this and It Came From Outer Space in the format are well received. I remain surprised that they haven’t tried to convert them with the 3D they have now. I’d much rather see films like these in 3D, which used it as the gimmick it is, then half the 3D movies we get nowadays which shoot in or convert into 3D because it seems to be required and makes more money because of higher ticket prices.

The acting in Creature is more solid than good with Richard Carlson, in the last of three films he made with co-star Julie Adams, likeable but a touch stolid, and Adams rather wooden, though she looks good in as bathing suit so that’s the main thing. The underrated Whit Bissell contributes a nice performance as another scientist. The Gill Man, who was originally intended to bne played by Glenn Strange but he didn’t like all the swimming involved, was actually played by two people, Ben Chapman, and Ricou Browning for the underwater scenes. The music score is a combination of music by Herman Stein [who came up with the signature Gill Man theme], Hans J.Slater and believe it or not Henry Mancini with the addition of a few cues from other Universal pictures, and actually it flows really well, with it being really hard to tell who wrote what. There is some especially fine music for the underwater scenes, particularly the ‘ballet’ scene which mixes beauty, menace and an effective kind of pulsating eroticism. With some nice lyrical bits in between the action, it’s a fine score which could do with being recorded in full. Creature From The Black Lagoon is not an all-time classic, but it’s definitely a highlight of the decade where science fiction met horror with an appealing innocence which would probably be lost in the remake…when they eventually get to do it. And the Gill Man remains a potent symbol of adolescent frustration and subliminal desires.

Rating: 8/10



At a tributary of the upper Amazon, another boat is searching for the Gill Man. Captain Lucas the pilot explains that he came to the lagoon the previous year with an expedition, and five people were killed during that trip, but to no avail. An attempt is made to ensnare the creature in a net, but it kills one of their number instead. The next day a series of explosives is set off around the lagoon and the creature floats unconscious near the boat. He is transported back to Ocean Harbour in Florida where not only scientists including Prof. Clete Ferguson, come to study the monster, but the publicity generated is enormous and hotels are book for 50 miles around by tourists wanting to see the creature. At the moment though the Gill Man is in a coma…..

Revenge Of The Creature has not attained the classic status of the previous movie and it definitely isn’t as good, though it’s still quite an interesting film. Removing the Gill Man from his home and placing him in civilisation makes for an intriguing contrast though you could say that some of the mystery and atmosphere is lost in doing so. Concentrating rather more on matters of love, it’s not as action packed though still moves at a fair clip. It’s actually a rather sad film to watch, especially to ‘enlightened’ modern eyes, as the Gill Man is treated even worse by humans than in the first picture and you really feel sorry for him throughout, even when he goes on the loose. This gives the film an edge which is both interesting but might make it somewhat painful viewing if you’re an animal lover.
http://horrorcultfilms.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/revenge_creature_002.jpg
Now if you’ve just read the review of Creature From The Black Lagoon [not to mention having seen King Kong!], the idea for Revenge Of The Creature will seem very familiar, for producer William Alland went back to the early idea planned for the first film of the monster taken to captivity and breaking out. As soon as Creature From The Black Lagoon started to bring in the crowds, he wrote a treatment expanding on some of the earlier material, though rather more mindful of the budget this time. This was turned into a script by Martin Berkeley and it seems that that was it, there were no major alterations or rewrites this time. The whole project was rushed out very quickly, which is probably why it doesn’t seem to have the care given to the original. Again Jack Arnold directed, and again in 3D, though it ended up being shown in most cinemas flat because the 3D craze has petered out, people seeing it for the rip-off gimmick that it was. Or should I say…still is. Stuntman Tom Hennesy almost drowned during filming. Playing the creature, he grabbed stuntwoman Ginger Stanley on a pier and jumped with her into the water, only for a freak current to pull them down and, while Ginger broke free, Tom’s carried on down to the bottom because his suit was waterlogged. Revenge made even more money at the box office than Creature, making a third film obligatory.

We open with a bit of dullish chat, with the usual debate about what to with the monster, though the dialogue is mostly flat and the acting mediocre. After this we get into the action and indeed the early section of the film plays like a scaled-down remake of the first one. There’s no real build-up to the Gill Man’s appearance this time but there doesn’t really need to be. There’s some decent underwater fighting before we relocate to Florida where we are introduced to our main human ‘hero’ Ferguson, then cut to a laboratory scene where we seem to see and hear…is it?….he seems very young…but that voice is so distinctive….YES, it’s Clint Eastwood, in his first film role, given a silly gag involving a lost mouse which turns out to be…well, I won’t ruin it, and you can easily view the scene on line if you’re not to bothered about seeing the whole movie [but then why would you be reading this review?], but you certainly wouldn’t think “he’ll go far”, that’s for sure!

After this the film gets remarkably cruel. Not only has the Gill Man been kidnapped for the purposes of both clinical research and money, we have some ‘training’ scenes where Ferguson and Helen Dobson, the female student who joins him, show the monster who’s boss by going into the tank in which he’s being held, enticing him to come near them with both a box of food and a ball, then stabbing at him with a bull-prod [which probably wouldn’t work underwater but never mind]. It’s hard to accept these two as the ‘hero’ and ‘heroine’. Most of the ‘action’ is restricted to this tank and and the middle section of the film spends too much time alternating tank scenes with ‘romance’ scenes involving Clete and Helen, but eventually the monster escapes in a great set piece where people run and scream everywhere and he overturns a car, though he only actually kills two people and even passes by a woman protecting her child [though he does kill a dog, which still seemed to attack him first]. The low budget ensures that afterwards the Gill Man avoids heavily populated places and seems to hide more from humanity as he searches for Helen, but it’s somehow realistic; he’s probably as afraid of us as we are afraid of them, and obviously has to keep going into the water every few minutes.

The Gill Man’s infatuation for a female human [he obviously got over Kay pretty quickly!] takes up more of this film, and it’s even more touching. First of all he hears her voice before later gazing at her through a window. He sees her and Clete frolicking and even follows them when they go for a swim, though doesn’t decide to snatch her until later, where he locates her house incredibly easily. Obviously, this being the 50’s, the Gill Man is not allowed to do anything to her besides lying her down on sand while he goes for a swim. Three decades later Humanoids From The Deep would give an idea of what the Gill Man would probably have really done to a human female! Overall the Gill Man is less menacing here and the whole film is lighter in feel, with a fair bit of comic relief, though it’s never really intrusive. Helen jokingly telling of how her dog is her boyfriend is certainly amusing and Lori Nelson is definately a better actress than Julie Adams.

There’s less exploitation of the 3D process here, in fact seeing it flat it’s hard to tell it was even filmed in the format, though there are some great instances of things coming out from the side of the screen which in any case work well enough in 2D. Jack Arnold seems more interested in framing shots interestingly. The script has its stupid aspects like a news announcer saying the kidnapped student is “pretty”. Male lead John Agar was a familiar star in this kind of movie and was a very hammy kind of actor though he’s always enjoyable to watch. Herman Stein and William Lava scored the film un-credited, and Stein’s loud Gill Man theme often blares out while other bits and pieces are recognisable from the previous film’s score, though there’s much original material too and it’s all quite well mingled in. Revenge Of The Creature is really little more than a ‘programmer’, but it has an odd kind of charge to it. Whether this was entirely intended by the filmmakers I don’t know, but when, at the end, loads of cops arrive to gun the poor animal down, you might feel like screaming at them to stop.

Rating: 6/10



Dr. William Barton organizes an expedition to the Florida Everglades with the scientists Dr. Thomas Morgan, Dr. Borg and Dr. Johnson to capture the Gill Man, who has been spotted there since he was supposedly gunned down by police on the Florida coast but actually survived. Barton’s wife Marcia is also along for the trip along with three other scientists. Marcia starts to be harassed by Jed Grant, while Barton is turning to alcohol in an attempt to cope with the fact that his wife, who is far younger than he, is attractive to other men. They chase and capture the Gill Man though he is totally burnt in the struggle. Rushing him to a hospital, it is discovered that not only has he survived what would seem like certain death, but has turned into an air breather through hidden lungs and maybe even a totally different and more human-like creature…..

For some reason I had had vague memories of The Creature Walks Among Us being one of those many films I snuck downstairs to see on late night TV after my parents had gone to bed, and more than that the film actually being good, but I now think I was mistaken at least on the second point. For this is a very dull, pedestrian sequel where they seem to have dreamt up an interesting, if crackpot, idea and then badly stretched it into a full length film without adding much else. Of course a slow pace can be a good thing if there’s some mounting tension, nail-biting suspense or good acting, but this film has hardly any of either, and I can imagine audiences of the time who had thrilled to the first two films being bored out of their minds. It’s only really interesting thematically and because it’s such a bleak, almost depressing affair. Very occasionally, it shows signs of being a movie that is at least compelling, if not necessarily enjoyable. But only very occasionally.

Though less information exists about this instalment than the other two, the feeling I get from The Creature Walks Among Us is that they felt that the Gill Man was limited in terms of what they could do with him, and decided to finish the series in a way that would make it very hard for it to be continued. Arthur Ross, who co-wrote Creature From The Black Lagoon returned to write this one, but Jack Arnold chose not to return after directing the first two films [I don’t blame him], feeling he had done enough with the Gill Man, so John Sherwood, an assistant director on a large number of films but an actual director of only two other features, was enlisted to direct. For the makeup that the Gill Man would sport in the second half of the film, Bud Westmore went back to the original, more human-like makeup what was originally intended for the Gill Man when they were making the first film, and used it with only minor alterations. Much of the film was shot in the same house what had just been used in This Island Earth and it even had its two male stars. By 1956 the 3D craze had passed [I wish it would now: can you tell I don’t like 3D?], so Creature was shot in 2D. With its cool poster implying that the Gill Man terrorised San Francisco replete with the words a city screams in terror and all-new underwater thrills, the film still attracted audiences though they must have felt deceived.

As with the previous entry, we open with a conversation between two scientists over ethics, and it’s clearly a hallmark of this trilogy, except that this particular movie than proceeds over the course of its duration to give us more and more of the same, and you just want to yell at the screen; “yes guys, we get the point”! We are in the Florida Everglades, though it seems like we are in the same locale as before, and once again we witness attempts to capture the Gill Man. Unfortunately, even though this takes up the first half of the film, the running time is mostly taken up with chat or endless swimming footage. A sequence where three of the team are swimming underwater and the Gill Man pursues, than overtakes, them, and it goes on forever without much really happening. Worse than that, all the shots of the Gill Man swimming are from the previous two pictures. After what seems like an eternity with hardly any tension building, there’s finally a bit of Gill Man action, though it’s pretty brief, and a bit where he picks up a boat is laughably staged, replete with stunt people who barely react to what is going on. After this we switch to a hospital and then to San Francisco, and the film starts some plotting which is at least admirable for its audacity.

Barton believes that organisms are capable of evolution on the individual scale, and if this sounds crazy, there was a 19th-century biologist called Jean Baptiste Lamarck who believed the same thing and whose theories were popular for a while until supplanted by Charles Darwin’s more believable ones. The Gill Man ends up confirming this idea when not only do auxiliary lungs begin to do the job that his burnt-off gills once did, but a second skin reveals itself after the other one has been consumed by the fire. The first close-up of his face is quite eerie and the design has a certain effectiveness, but this creature has a totally different build to his previous incarnation, he’s far bulkier and has very short arms. Worse than that, very little is done with him. He spends most of the time either strapped to a bed or trapped in a cage until, with twenty minutes of the film to go, he escapes, kills a lion [I think], trashes a room, saves Marcia from probable rape and then seemingly goes to kill himself. He clearly falls for the heroine [well, she’s not really a heroine] but doesn’t even attempt to carry her off. Just think of the potential!

Creature focuses more on its dislikeable human characters and in particular a strange love ‘square’ rather than a triangle [think about it, there’s three guys after Marcia]. Perhaps it does this to make its monster more sympathetic, but it doesn’t work. This is because the creature isn’t given enough scenes within which to be sympathetic besides gaze forlornly at the water into which he wants to go but cannot without drowning, though you can now see the eyes of the guy playing him, Don Megowan, and they have a distinct sadness which works for the character. Some of the many chats between the humans reveal some attempt at strong characterisation, particularly Barton, whose not-entirely-unwarranted jealousy of his wife gives Jeff Morrow the chance to shine in a couple of scenes, but the actor botches it because he is seemingly capable of only two pained expressions. He’s better than Leigh Snowdon, who is embarrassingly bad in a complex role that encompasses slut and saint and which a decent actress could really have made something of. Still, it’s intriguing that one is not sure if she is supposed to be sympathetic or not, and only Thomas Morgan, played with typically easy-going charm by Rex Reason, is the sole major human character that we like.

John Sherwood doesn’t seem bothered about creating any fear or excitement but cinematographer Maury Gertzman does give us some terrific shots, especially in the first half where he paints some really compelling nocturnal pictures with his camera of the undergrowth, beautifully contrasting light with dark. The music score, again credited solely to Joseph Gershensen as ‘musical supervisor’ but a joint effort between Irving Gertz, Heinz Roemheld and Henry Mancini, is quite good. It seems like the Roemheld stuff was taken from older films and Gertz, who incorporated the Gill Man theme, and Mancini wrote new music, but it works reasonably well. There’s a very pleasant, lilting theme for Marcia which is unmistakeably Mancini in the way it looks forward to the famous themes he would go on to write. Overall though this is a poor effort which at times just seems like they didn’t really care. And yet, I was rather moved by the final shot of the creature, walking into a sea which he knows he will drown in. It’s a curious but effectively low-key end to the fairly short career of a monster which is still one of Universal’s most iconic.

Rating: 4/10

I had no idea that there were sequels to Creature from the Black Lagoon. Are they available on DVD?

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
Post #: 111
RE: Universal Horror - 11/5/2013 9:55:09 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3958
Joined: 19/10/2005
Thanks Bill!

Paul, the first sequel is available on R2 and R1, the second only on R1 I think.

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Post #: 112
RE: Universal Horror - 11/5/2013 10:45:13 PM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3958
Joined: 19/10/2005

Christine Dubois is a young soprano at the Paris Opera House whom baritone Anatole Garron is in love with. Erique Claudin has been a violinist there for twenty years, but has recently been losing the use of the fingers of his left hand, which affects his violin-playing. He is dismissed and has no money to support himself because he has been anonymously funding Christine’s music lessons, with whom he also had fallen in love. Claudin tries to get a concerto he has written published, but the publisher steals his music and Claudin goes mad and strangles him. Georgette, the publisher’s assistant, throws etching acid at Claudin, who flees to the sewers of the Opera House. Word soon gets around that a ghost is haunting the building…..

Although the last few decades it has primarily been famous because of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical version [ which itself of course was filmed in 2004], Gaston Leroux’s 1911 novel about the disfigured composer who haunts the Paris Opera House had already been filmed many times. Some of these films are good, some less so. Dario Argento’s 1998 version, for example, was a disappointment though tolerable and to me nowhere near as bad as many say. Brian De Palma’s 1974 variant The Phantom Of The Paradise is totally bonkers in the very best way. Hammer’s effort from 1962 though, despite coming from Terence Fisher who made many of their classics, always strikes me as a considerable let down and this is coming from someone whose love for Hammer knows no bounds. The best version is probably the very first from 1925, directed by Rupert Julian with Lon Chaney sporting some of the most effective makeup ever in the title role. It has certainly overshadowed Universal’s second go at the story made in 1943 which was a film I hadn’t seen in decades and didn’t remember very fondly. Well, re-watched, it is actually a solid horror/drama with much to recommend it, even if in the end it falls short of what it should have been.

Despite being about a ‘monster’ and sometimes released on DVD with some of those films, The Phantom Of The Opera is rarely considered part of the Universal Horror series alongside the many films about Frankenstein, Dracula et al. Perhaps this is because it was a much more lavish production than usual in colour, and with maybe higher-class pretensions than films like Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man and The Mummy’s Tomb. Amazingly it was originally conceived as one of Abbot and Costello’s horror spoofs with Lon Chaney’s son Lon Chaney Jr. as the Phantom until it was decided to turn it into a full-blown remake. Money was saved by using the auditorium set from the 1925 movie, a set which continued to be used decades later, and also by having most of the opera music based on classical music that was in the public domain by Chopin and Tchaikovsky, to which they just re-orchestrated and added vocals. Claude Rains, who had done so well in 1933 as The Invisible Man, got the chance to play another famous screen monster. A number of “unacceptable breast shots” of Christine had to be altered before the film was passed for release. It was a big hit for Universal and a sequel was planned with the three main stars returning in their roles.

They changed the story a fair bit from the book, which the previous film followed far closer. Instead of opening the tale with the Phantom already haunting the Opera House and being born with his disfigurement, scriptwriters Erik Taylor [who immediately after this wrote the good screenplay for Son Of Dracula] and Samuel Hoffenstein decided to have the Phantom character begin the film as a person who seems reasonably normal at first. He’s a frustrated composer who has his music stolen and ‘becomes’ the Phantom a third of the way through when he commits murder and acid is thrown on his face. This variant on the tale was later reused, with small changes, in the 1962 [though with the earlier events shown in flashback form] and 1974 versions. It does make the Phantom far more sympathetic and in this particular film really gives Rains a chance to shine as an actor. In the first scene between him and Christine, he somehow manages to convey, with very subtle facial expressions, that something is not quite ‘right’ about him, that there could be a monster lurking deep down inside.

Of course all this also means that the first third of this version moves quite slowly and it’s just over half an hour before the Phantom starts doing the stuff you want him to. In fact a common criticism of this film is that there is too much Phantom and not enough Opera, something that I do agree with, especially when parts of the story get increasingly rushed. The opera scenes are superbly staged with some fine singing especially by Susanna Foster, who really has a great and wide-ranging voice, but they go on for a very long time and if you’re not a fan of opera like me [I respect the art form, but it’s just not for me] you could be tempted to put your finger on the fast-forward button. There’s also a great deal of romantic relief, with lucky Christine having not just the Phantom but two more ‘normal’ rivals for her affections. Some of the Abbot and Costello-style bits involving these two, such as speaking at the same time, do amuse, and they have a wonderful end final scene where they are both left in the lurch by Christine, but at times this really doesn’t seem much like a horror film at all.

Still, the film looks fabulous, the gorgeous colour photography [Universal really seem to have preserved this particular film especially well] being a delight to behold, and while Rains doesn’t get to do quite enough nasty stuff, he does get a decent chase scene and the best of all the filmed Phantom–brings-the chandelier-down sequences, director Arthur Lubin [usually doing Abbot and Costello films] showing almost Hitchcockian skill in this mini masterpiece of suspense-building with increasingly fast cutting between the opera, the audience and the deranged fiend sawing away. Rains’ makeup is actually pretty effective when the Phantom is unmasked, though the story finishes earlier along the way than most versions. Interestingly, the original script had Erik revealed to be Christine’s father who had abandoned her as a child. This would have put quite an interesting spin on things and I’m surprised no other version has done this, though it would of course lose much of the dark romantic aspect.

The original score by Edward Ward, including the rather beautiful Phantom ‘theme’ that Rains learnt how to play on the violin and piano without having actually having played either instrument before, is very good and the film really does look and sound great throughout even if the underground sets could have been a bit more atmospheric. It’s still worth your while as a slightly gentler, more plush adaption than normal. The sequel?…..well, it never really happened [though Foster and Nelson Eddy did do a radio adaptation with Basil Rathbone as the Phantom] and eventually metamorphisised into the unrelated if quite similar The Climax starring Boris Karloff. Considering how abysmal Webber’s musical sequel Love Never Dies turned out to be, that’s probably a good thing.

Rating: 7/10

_____________________________

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

(in reply to Dr Lenera)
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