Saturday, May 28, 2022

The Monstrous Dr. Crimen blends Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein, etc

Review by Steve D. Stones

This Mexican film, The Monstrous Dr. Crimen, set in the Balkans in the 1950s, is an interesting combination of the original 1925 Phantom of The Opera with Lon Chaney, Frankenstein (1931) with Boris Karloff and House of Wax (1953) with Vincent Price. The film was made the same year as House of Wax in 1953 but not released until 1955. The film is also known as other titles of The Revived Monster, Monster and The Resurrected Monster.

Nora, played by Miroslava Stern, is a bored newspaper journalist looking for an exciting story to publish. She feels her newspaper has become too routine and passe for readers. She tells her editor, Mr. Gherasimos (Fernando Wagner) in a local cafe that her life has become boring and stupid. She wants some excitement in her life.

Gherasimos suggests to Nora that she respond to a lonely hearts classified advertisement in the newspaper of a wealthy man looking to meet a young woman. He feels this might be the opportunity she needs to write an exciting story. Nora accepts the editor's suggestion and meets a man dressed in a dark cape at a boat loading dock at 9 pm that evening. The man's face is covered in sunglasses and a black scarf as he approaches Nora. A white rose that Nora wears on her coat is quite the contrast to the man's dark appearance as she approaches him.

After establishing a trust in the dark dressed man, Nora agrees to return to his home to be put to a test. The couple drive to a cemetery. Nora becomes frightened at the dark and foggy cemetery. The dark man assures her that his house is just past the cemetery. He tells Nora that his house is where dead people live. The couple walk slowly through the cemetery.

Nora observes many life size wax figures of female models in the house, which further adds to her nervousness. All the mirrors in the house are covered. The dark dressed man reveals his name to be Herrmann Ling (Jose Maria Linares-Rivas) – a plastic surgeon who not only sculpts wax figures but also conducts experiments in his basement laboratory. Ling plays the piano for Nora as a skull sits on top of the piano. Ling's assistant Mischa (Alberto Mariscal) tells Nora that Herrmann Ling creates wax figures for nothing more than a hobby.

Nora becomes anxious to see Ling's face, but he fears her rejection. Ling claims he hides behind his disguise because of the hatred and rejection of mankind towards him. He removes the sunglasses and scarf from his face as Nora faints. His face is elongated and distorted with deep scars. Nora insists that she is not frightened by his appearance, and kisses Ling. This causes Ling to be so happy with joy that he removes all the coverings of the mirrors in the mansion.

The next day, Nora reports to Gerasimos in the cafe about her meeting with Herrmann Ling. Ling is hiding nearby behind a partition in the cafe and listening to their conversation. He feels betrayed by Nora reporting their meeting to Gerasimos. This causes Ling to be angry with rage, so he revives a corpse of a handsome young man in his laboratory to meet with Nora so that he can have her murdered.

The cemetery sequences in this film are every bit as creepy and atmospheric as any seen in classic Universal Studios monster movies from the 1930s and 40s. The Monstrous Dr. Crimen is often said to be the film that laid the foundation for many other south-of-the border Mexican horror films that followed in the 1950s. The mask unveiling scene does not pack the same punch as the unmasking scene of Lon Chaney in The Phantom of The Opera (1925), but it still sends chills up the viewer's spine. Ling's grotesque face repels the viewer with fright.

Sinister Cinema in Medford, Oregon sells The Monstrous Dr. Crimen on their Drive-In Double Feature #156 with Daughter of Horror (1955 – AKA Dementia). The Drive-In Double Feature DVD contains trailers and classic drive-in movie intermission clips between the two films. This drive-in double feature is a great treasure to have for any fan of rare, obscure horror films. Happy Viewing.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Three of our favorite Bela Lugosi Monogram films

In the early 1940s, Bela Lugosi signed a deal to star in several Monogram low-budget horror flicks (a couple were comedy/thrillers with the East Side Kids). It was a decision that allowed Lugosi to be the top actor on the set, an occurrence diminishing at Universal Studios. The films are just OK save Lugosi's usual excellent performance. Bela makes the films something special. Unlike Boris Karloff, for example, Lugosi never phoned in performances in low-budget films. We've reviewed most of the Monogram films at Plan9Crunch, but I want to give capsule salutes to three of my favorites. 

Doug Gibson


Although the competition is fierce, this is likely the most kitschy delight when it comes to chaos and convolution. Lugosi plays a man cursed with three personalities: college professor, kindly operator of skid row soup kitchen and ruthless criminal. My favorite Lugosi scene: When the master criminal, reacting to a low level crook's joy at being part of a big robbery, casually tosses the crook off a multi-story roof, thereby creating the disruption necessary for he crime. Review here.

THE APE MAN, 1943:

Often derided as a "worst film," it isn't. Lugosi goes way beyond what's just to give some dignity to this film as a mad scientist who turns himself into part ape and has to kill to get a spinal fluid that might cure him. Wallace Fox and Louise Currie are also excellent co-stars who play journalists who foil his plans. See this film. Our review is here.


Lugosi's first Monogram has a convoluted plot but benefits from above-average direction from Joseph H. Lewis. Lugosi plays a kindly man whose wife deserted him. Unbelievably, she still lives on the grounds and he goes quite mad when he catches glimpses of her. The deaths lead to the execution of one innocent man whose brother (same actor) comes to the house to seek justice. Lugosi's hypnotic walk when under the murder spell of his wife is campy but the actor also brings pathos to it. Former silent star Betty Compson plays Lugosi's estranged, insane wife. Read a review here.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Bela Lugosi plays the world-dominator wannabe in The Mysterious Mr. Wong

Review by Doug Gibson

For a huge Bela Lugosi fan such as myself, it was always sort of an outrage that I had not yet seen 1934's "The Mysterious Mr. Wong," Mr. Dracula's first foray into the low-budget world of Monogram Studios. The film is ubiquitous. You can watch it at several locations on the Internet. It's also a staple of the DVD sets of 20 or 50 public domain films that can be purchased for $10 to $20. A decade or so ago I shucked out about $5 for an copy because I like the impressive cover art.

Based on a story by cult writer Harry Stephen Keeler, the tale is, in a crazy sort of way, a little like Lord of the Rings set in cramped Chinatown. Mr. Wong (Lugosi) a tough-looking power-crazy hood who masquerades as a meek shop owner, is busy murdering various Chinese contemporaries in order to get the 12 gold coins that Confucious minted before his death. Through murder and theft, Wong has nabbed 11 of the 12. If he can get them all, he'll achieve some sort of world domination (the script is a little fuzzy on this, but he definitely wants that coin.

Wong, though faces some tough competition from wisecracking newspaper reporter, Jay Barton (played by Wallace Ford, whose fantastic in these types of roles). In between doubting the cops' belief that the murders are over a gang turf war, Barton slowly, in his own inimitable style, begins to piece together who exactly Wong is and what he wants.In his spare time, Barton -- who gets his hands on the 12th gold coin -- breezily romances newspaper operator girl Peg, played by the pretty Arline Judge. It all leads to a final showdown where Wong menaces Jay and Peg.

This is nowhere near Lugosi's best film, but it's a fun way to waste 63 or so minutes. Despite its low budget and usual "where-the-heck-is-this-going" Monogram plot, it was lean enough to carry my wife and son through the film. And Lugosi, although one look at that nose kills any belief that he's Chinese, is suitably menacing. Scenes where he brutally tosses a man down into a cellar filled with rats is almost chilling, as is a scene where he bullies two Chinese women who disapprove of his plans. And he certainly has sadistic, murderous plans in store for Jay and Peg (Judge screams well) as the climax approaches.

William Nigh's direction is OK; he keeps scenes moving briskly. Ford has his usual good snark and adequate comic timing. Robert Emmett O'Connor is not too bad as an inept Irish cop to provide humor fodder. Another plus is a chance to witness what life was like 88 years ago in the outdoor city shots as well as the studio shots of he newsroom Jay and Peg work in. It's worth watching and a must for Lugosi fans. 

"The Mysterious Mr. Wong" likely made money for Monogram. It played throughout the nation. Below it shows up as a feature option for readers of the Quitman Wood County (Texas) Democrat newspaper in the Nov. 28, 1935 edition.