Monday, October 5, 2009

'The Corpse Vanishes': Don't smell the wild orchids! But watch the film below!

By Steve Stones

This is my favorite Bela Lugosi Monogram film. It is also the first
Monogram film I ever remember seeing on TV as a child sometime in the
late 1970s. The scene of police opening a coffin in the back of Lugosi’s
car is priceless. The look on Lugosi’s face as they open the coffin is
unintentionally hilarious.

Speaking of coffins, the film also stars Tristram Coffin as Dr. Foster.
Coffin starred in many serials of the 1940s and 50s. Angelo Rossitto,
star of Freaks and countless other Monogram cheapies, plays Lugosi’s
midget assistant Toby. He is billed in the opening credits as simply
Angelo. It’s interesting to note that Rossitto would go on to star in
the Mel Gibson film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome some forty years later.
He also starred in Al Adamson’s cult classic Dracula vs. Frankenstein.

Young brides are dying at the altar and Dr. Lorenz, played by Lugosi, is
kidnapping their bodies for scientific experiments to rejuvenate his
wife’s youth and beauty. Newspaper reporter Patricia Hunter, played by
Luana Walters, discovers that all the kidnapped brides were wearing a
rare wild orchid. Her investigation leads her to Dr. Lorenz, who raised
the rare orchids. Apparently the smell of the orchid caused the brides
to collapse at the altar.

On route to Dr. Lorenz’s home for an interview, Hunter meets Dr. Foster,
who warms her of Lorenz’s eccentric and weird ways. Arriving at the
Lorenz home, the countess Lorenz expresses her unwelcoming nature to
Hunter by slapping her in the face. Lorenz convinces Foster and Hunter
to stay the night because of the pouring rain outside.

During the night, Hunter discovers a passage to an underground mausoleum
and sees some of the kidnapped brides being held there. She also
witnesses Lorenz and his wife sleeping in separate coffins. Lorenz
explains to Hunter the next morning that sleeping in a coffin is much
more comfortable than sleeping in a normal bed. Lorenz also suggests
that Hunter was having a bad dream when she thought she witnessed seeing the kidnapped brides in the mausoleum.

Hunter decides to return to her newspaper headquarters and comes up with
a plan to trap Lorenz in the act of kidnapping a bride by staging a fake
wedding. The wedding day is set, and Lorenz does not fall for the trap,
but instead kidnaps Hunter at the scene of the wedding. Foster and the
local police catch up to Lorenz just as he is about to conduct an
experiment on Hunter. The film ends with Hunter and Foster getting
married. This time Lorenz cannot kidnap the bride.

It’s also interesting to note that Barney A. Sarecky was the associate
producer of this film. Sarecky was one of the screenwriters for the
Flash Gordon serials of the 1930s, starring Buster Crabbe as Flash.

Any fan of Bela Lugosi cannot afford to miss The Corpse Vanishes. All of
Lugosi’s Monogram films are an absolute delight to watch. I particularly
love this one because of the simple plot. Watch for the scene of Lugosi
whipping his laboratory assistant named Angel. It’s a precursor to
Lugosi’s famous scene of whipping Tor Johnson in Ed Wood’s classic The
Bride of The Monster. Enjoy!

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