Wednesday, February 27, 2013
By Doug Gibson
This British 1936 film is a treat for Lugosi fans. He is Anton Lorenzen, a broken-down one-armed sailor who inspires a pity as part of the doomed crew of the Mary Celeste, a ship that in real life in the 1870s was discovered in the Atlantic sans crew.
This film, released in a much longer -- unfortunately lost -- version as The Mystery of the Mary Celeste in Britain, is an entertaining murder mystery. It sort of plays like a rough version of Agatha Christie.
The plot: A captain and his bride (Shirley Grey) set sail with a ragged, rough, sinister ship's crew, including Lugosi, who inspires pity. One by one people start to die. The captain and his wife disappear. Finally only Lugosi's Lorenzen and the sadistic first mate are left. At that point, Lugosi, acting like a 30s version of The Usual's Suspect's Keyser Soze, announces he is the killer, there to avenge a previous wrong. He kills off the first mate but then is hit by a beam of wood and falls into the sea to his death.
Before he dies, Lugosi brags of killing the capain and his wife. That scene appears clunky though. It almost sounds as if Lugosi's voice is dubbed. This is important because the ONLY remaining print is the 62-minute U.S. version, The Phantom Ship. The longer, lost 80-minute version, The Mystery of the Mary Celeste, apparently had an epilogue where the captain and his wife are discovered alive on an island, having escaped death on the Mary Celeste via a raft. It sure would be fun to locate a copy of the lost version. Lugosi biographer Frank Dello Stritto has located director Denison Clift's original shooting synopsis for the film and it includes the island epilogue.
Lugosi is great in The Phantom Ship, which used to be rare but in today's digital world can be found easily and in fact watched for free on the Net. He inspires pathos and pity and then effectively turns cold-blooded killer. He did this very well also in the 1930s The Black Cat, the Monogram Black Dragons and even Ed Wood's Bride of the Monster. Rest of cast is capable and the ship scenes are quite effective for the low budget. Definitely worth a buy. One of Lugois's best late 1930s films. (This film airs on UEN's Channel 9 in Utah's Sci-Fi Friday Show)
Thursday, February 21, 2013
We came across this early silent short via YouTube. It's really quite impressive for a film made 105 years ago, directed by Segundo de Chomon. The stop-motion work, and other FXs, are particularly well done. It's only six minutes so enjoy. I wish there was music but it's still a treat. (Hat tip to The Monster Club on Facebook)
-- Doug Gibson
Sunday, February 17, 2013
The Conqueror Worm (Also known as Witchfinder General)1968, United Kingdom, American International release, Color, about 88 minutes. Stars: Vincent Price as Matthew Hopkins, Hilary Dwyer as Sara, Rupert Davies as John Lowes, Robert Russell as John Stearne and Ian Ogilvy as Richard Marshall. Schlock-Meter rating: 9 and 1/2 stars out of 10.
By DOUG GIBSON
Ever wanted to see how really evil a person Vincent Price could portray in a film? Go rent, or buy, the Conqueror Worm. This is a magnificent film about 17th Century England and witch hunter Matthew Hopkins (Price) who is the law in a war-torn land. The plot: The sadistic Hopkins and his henchman Stearne (Russell) terrorize towns by executing “witches” and collecting cash for their services. In Brandiston, they torture an aged preacher. In order to save the preacher’s life, his niece Sara (Dwyer) agrees to be Hopkins’ sex slave. But after Stearne rapes Sara, Hopkins loses interest in Sara and kills her uncle.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
By DOUG GIBSON
Night of the Ghouls is a lot of fun. It features a bizarre plot, weird characters, ridiculous special effects and actors who -- like all Wood films -- take the convoluted plot very seriously. Narrated by Criswell (in a coffin, of course) It involved a fake medium (Duncan) and his girlfriend (Hansen) who have inhabited the old mansion that Bela Lugosi's mad scientist lived in in Bride of the Monster. The hulkish Lobo (Johnson) is still hanging around as well.
Sunday, February 10, 2013
House of Wax, 1953, 90 minutes, Warner Brothers, Color. Directed by Andre De Toth. Starring Vincent Price as Professor Henry Jarrod, Frank Lovejoy as Lt. Tom Brennan, Phyllis Kirk as Sue Allen, and Charles Bronson as Igor. Schlock-Meter rating: 5 stars out of 10.
The real problem with House of Wax is that it's dull. Vincent Price does a fine job as the mad, scarred professor who wants to wax over many humans in his new museum of horrors, but the film is stagey, with lots of talk and few shocks.
Friday, February 8, 2013
As a film, Dracula too often appears like a stage play. Most of the actors aren't particularly strong, and the climax of the film (Dracula's death) foolishly takes place off screen. Nevertheless, thanks to Bela Lugosi -- and to a lesser extent Dwight Frye -- the film remains a classic, a true cult film that brings viewers back for repeat visits to Transylvania, foggy London and Carfax Abbey, the lair of the Count. The plot: Dracula prepares for a move to London. He drives Renfield (a Londoner in Transylvania to help him move), mad, and then arrives in London. He soon ingratiates himself with the Seward family, and lusts for the blood of two ladies. He is foiled when a family friend (Van Sloan) suspects he is a vampire, and pretty Mina Seward (Chandler) is saved when Dracula is destroyed.
Monday, February 4, 2013
By Doug Gibson
Sinister Cinema has released "The Mummy and the Curse of the Jackals," a truly terrible film that was almost completed in 1969 by the Vega International, a Las Vegas-based film company. Never released to theaters, it was eventually grabbed for video by Academy Home Entertainment in 1986 -- the peak of the video era when fly-by-night video firms were grabbing cheapo 60s and 70s thrillers and packaging them as if they were more modern horros.
The film stars Anthony Eisley as a scientist, David Barrie, obsessed with a the perfectly preserved mummified corpse of the Princess Akana (Marliza Pons). He believes he can bring her back to life and does, but it comes with a couple of twists. The first is that Eisley -- in scenes so badly produced that they defy description -- turns into a jackal/werewolf and kills a few unluckies. Also, Ankara's revival prompts the revival of the mummy of one of her past admirers. They monsters eventually traipse through parts of Las Vegas where the most fun is watching passers-by try hard, and often unsuccessfully, not to giggle.
John Carradine is the "name" attached to the project. He shares a couple of scenes as a mentor to Eisley's scientist. Both Eisley and Carradine are solid professional who provide good acting performances. The rest of the cast varies from adequate to mediocre. The music is canned stuff that fails to provide any lift or emotion to the scenes. The whole mess ends in a confusing manner, with the werewolf and the mummy fighting in a lake and the Princess Ankara decomposing, with very poor FX.
As is the case with these type of films, the stoy behind the film is more interesting. As bad as The Mummy and the Curse of the Jackals is, it is faithful in plot to the old Universal mummy films, particularly the Kharis films of the 1940s. Indeed, the director, Oliver Drake, an old director of low-budget westerns, wrote the screenplay for the 1943 Universal Kharis film, "The Mummy's Curse." According to film historian Tom Weaver's exhaustive book, "John Carradine: The Films," Lon Chaney Jr. was originally tabbed to be the werewolf but dropped out. The next choice was another low-budget actor, Scott Brady. After he dropped out, Eisley took over. For Carradine, it was another of those walk-on roles where he would stay a day or two (at $1,000 a day), read his lines and leave, never seeing the completed script or film, and forgetting that he had ever been in it when queried years later. Perhaps Carradine's most humorous line is when he tells a copy, "We can't just stand by and let a 4,000-year-old mummy and a jackal man take over the city!"
Enjoy a scene from this wretched film below. It really captures how bad this film is: