Saturday, July 31, 2010

Black Dragons! Lugosi and World War II propaganda!

Black Dragons is probably Bela Lugosi's oddest C-movie cheapie, and let's face it, the competition is fierce. But, oh, how I love these old '40s gems. It's a Monogram film, made under its Banner Productions. I'm sure it played in LA and NYC street theaters and smaller cities and towns, perhaps paired with an East Side Kids flick?

But I digress: Black Dragons, 1942, directed by William Nigh, runs 64 B&W minutes and stars Lugosi as Dr. Melcher and Monsieur Colomb. He's a sinister guy who pops up just as a bunch of American industrialists are getting mysteriouslybumped off. There is also pretty Joan Barclay as the niece of a Dr. Saunders, who is all mixed up in whatever is going on. It's also fun to see future Lone Ranger Clayton Moore as an FBI agent.

Now, we have mysterious deaths, we have Lugosi. It's all set to be a horror, right ... ahem, no. This is 1942, the U.S. is at war with the Axis, and Monogram head honcho Sam Katzman saw money to be made by creating a combination thriller/WW2 propaganda anti-Japanese film. So that's what Black Dragons is, and it makes the film an interesting historical curio piece.

You see, these U.S. industrialists are Japanese spies, created through plastic surgery to look like the American industrialists. Lugosi was the Nazi-like surgeon who did all this in Japan ... and then was doublecrossed and thrown in prison. Somehow -- the film sort of glosses over this -- Lugosi escaped Japan and headed to the U.S. to get his revenge on the spies.

As I mentioned, I love these time-capsule films. Monogram was famous for its bizarre intricate plots that its ultra-low budgets just could never keep up with. They dissolve into fun nonsensical action. Lugosi is Lugosi in this film. He's wonderful, whether he's coyly flirting with starlet Barclay or cleverly and calmly dispatching his victims. And there's also that wonderful, ubiquitous menacing, Monogram music.

The boom of video and DVD plus public domain has made Black Dragons easy to find. It's often in the $1 DVD bin at Wal-Mart or in the 20- to 50-set public domain offerings. Those with broadband Internet can watch it free on the Net. Buy it and enjoy an hour's diversion into a different filmmaking existence.

-- Doug Gibson

1 comment:

Howard Beale's Ghost said...

Doug and Steve,

Announcing the launch event for BELA LUGOSI'S TALES FROM THE GRAVE horror anthology comic book series from MONSTERVERSE! The Lugosi horror comic will be out in October in time for Halloween! Here are some links below. We're bringing back the most popular horror icon and vampire in the world to comics and far beyond the grave.

Sam F. Park
West Coast Editor
"Bela Lugosi's Tales From The Grave"


Celebrating the career of horror icon Bela Lugosi and the launch of MONSTERVERSE's new horror anthology comic book, BELA LUGOSI'S TALES FROM THE GRAVE.

Thursday, 7:30 PM, October 28th, 2010.

The Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.

Films: THE BLACK CAT & THE RAVEN starring Bela Lugosi & Boris Karloff.
Special Guests including Bela Lugosi, Jr., director Mick Garris, a video salute from director Joe Dante, Monsterverse publisher/editor/artist Kerry Gammill, West Coast Editor and screenwriter/producer Sam F. Park and other contributors to the Lugosi horror anthology comic book series.

A special preview trailer of the graphic novel, FLESH AND BLOOD, by Robert Tinnell and Neil Vokes. (Halloween 2011)

TRAILERS FROM HELL commentaries on Lugosi by Garris and Dante.
Poster design by artist Charlie Largent of the NEW YORK TIMES and WALL STREET JOURNAL.

See the stunning poster for the event at:


YouTube Slideshow TRAILER of BELA LUGOSI'S TALES FROM THE GRAVE. See pages from all the stories and other art!

Basil Gogos cover for Monsterverse's "Bela Lugosi's Tales From The Grave"

John Cassaday variant cover for Monsterverse's "Bela Lugosi's Tales From The Grave"

Monsterverse interview at FANBOY PLANET with latest news