Archive for the 1930s Horror Category

CKF QUICK CUTS: FAVORITE POE ADAPTATIONS!

Posted in 1930s Horror, 1960s Horror, 2012, Classic Films, Edgar Allen Poe, Quick Cuts, Roger Corman, Vincent Price with tags , , , , , , , on April 27, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  QUICK CUTS
Favorite POE Adaptations

With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Peter Dudar, and Paul McMahon

 

The great Edgar Allan Poe’s work has a long history of movie adaptations.

 

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome to another edition of QUICK CUTS.

THE RAVEN opens this Friday, April 27, starring John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe, in a tale that pits the author against a murderous psychopath who patterns his crimes after Poe’s stories.

So, with Poe hitting the big screen yet again, it leads us to the subject of today’s QUICK CUTS column:  what’s your favorite movie based upon a story by Poe?

It could be that one which you feel best captured his work, or simply that one that you just happen to like the most.

Pete, since this is your first time here, we’ll start with you.

PETE DUDAR: Thanks, Michael.  And you’re right.  I’m new here to QUICK CUTS.  I’ve been looking forward to my chance to throw in my two cents.

(L.L. SOARES throws a bunch of coins at PETE.)

L.L. SOARES:  Keep the change!

PETE DUDAR (laughing):  Wow.  Real coins!

L.L. SOARES:  What?  Don’t they have real money up there in Maine?

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Alright, guys.  Let’s get to some real answers.

PETE DUDAR:  My favorite Poe film has to be Roger Corman’s adaptation of THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER.

L.L. SOARES:  The movie version was called THE HOUSE OF USHER (1960) in the U.S.

PETE DUDAR:  Yeah, that one.  In England it was called THE FALL OF...Vincent Price is one of the most beloved Poe character portrayers, and his performance as Roderick Usher is just flat-out creepy.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Yeah, Price is pretty creepy as Roderick.

PETE DUDAR:  I’m still on the fence about the new movie THE RAVEN. I feel as if Jeffrey Combs was slighted for the more popular (and better looking) John Cusack. Sometimes, integrity really is more important than box-office draw.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Well, we’ll find out this weekend.

L.L. SOARES:  As a huge fan of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, I really love their Poe-themed movies THE BLACK CAT (1934) and THE RAVEN (1935).

THE BLACK CAT, arguably the best of the Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi team-ups of the 1930s.

 

MICHAEL ARRUDA (groans):  Those are my two favorites too!

L.L. SOARES:  Well, I get to talk about them first.  So, shut up and let me talk about them!

These movies were made when both stars were at the height of their fame, and are very atmospheric (especially The Black Cat). Unfortunately, neither movie was very faithful to Poe’s work, and the only things they had in common with the stories were their titles.

Roger Corman’s series of Poe-inspired movies during the 1960s and 70s weren’t always faithful either, but at least they tried a little harder to be. The best of the bunch would be a tie for me: THE HOUSE OF USHER (1960)—.

PETE DUDAR:  Nice choice!  I’m glad I thought of it for you!

L.L. SOARES:  You didn’t even get the name of the movie right!

THE HOUSE OF USHER, Corman’s first Poe film, features a terrific performance by Vincent Price as Roderick Usher, in a tale of madness and incest in a creepy old house.

But for me, it’s a tie with MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964) which also features Price, this time as the decadent Prince Prospero, throwing a lavish masquerade party in his castle while a plague decimates the outside world. MASQUE even manages to include Poe’s story “Hop Frog” into the mix (although here the character is called Hop Toad for some bizarre reason).

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Maybe Corman didn’t like frogs.  Paul, how about you?

PAUL MCMAHON:  I don’t have any problem with frogs.

MICHAEL ARRUDA (laughing):  No.  What’s your favorite Poe adaptation?

PAUL MCMAHON:  My favorite Poe adaptation would have to be Roger Corman’s THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961) with Vincent Price. Richard Matheson’s screenplay added a ton of build up—the story was only two pages long, after all—but the movie kept the flavor of Poe throughout. It kept my attention completely, and had a kick-ass ending.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Really?  I always thought the ending was a bit of a letdown.  I wanted that pendulum to do some damage!

PAUL MCMAHON:  I also really enjoyed THE RAVEN (1963). Yeah, it was goofy as hell, but watching Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Jack Nicholson tearing it up makes for a fun night. I still plug it in occasionally.

L.L. SOARES: Ugh.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Yeah, that’s a funny one, but it’s not one of my favorites.

PAUL MCMAHON:  What are some of your favorites?

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Like L.L., probably my all-time favorite movie based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe would be the Universal flick THE BLACK CAT (1934) starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, although about the only thing this movie has in common with Poe is the title.  It’s really not based on Poe’s story at all.  It’s still a really cool movie though, probably my favorite pairing of Karloff and Lugosi.

L.L. SOARES: Hey! I already said all that. You just copied me!

MICHAEL ARRUDA: I also like THE RAVEN (1935) again starring Lugosi and Karloff.  Once more, this one had little to do with Poe other than Lugosi’s character’s obsession with Poe, especially his instruments of torture, and the film includes a scene with a giant swinging pendulum from THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM.

You also can’t go wrong with the Vincent Price movies based on Poe.  My favorite Price/Poe vehicle is probably THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968) based on Poe’s THE CONQUERER WORM, which is the film’s U.S. title.  It’s probably the best made of the Price/Poe movies, and it contains one of Price’s scariest performances.

PETE DUDAR:  No, that would be THE HOUSE OF USHER….

L.L. SOARES:  Hey, he got the title right!

PETE DUDAR:  Shut up, you!

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Ironically, THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL is not one of the Poe movies directed by Roger Corman.

L.L. SOARES: Yeah, it’s directed by the great Michael Reeves. I love that one, too!

MICHAEL ARRUDA: I also like THE OBLONG BOX (1969), with Price and Christopher Lee, THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964) and THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (1964), in which Vincent Price dons dark sunglasses and looks like Johnny Depp’s uncle.

So, there you have it, folks, our picks for our favorite Edgar Allan Poe adaptations.

Will the new movie THE RAVEN join the ranks of favorite Poe movies?  We’ll find out this weekend.

L.L. SOARES:  So be sure to join us this weekend for our CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT column on THE RAVEN.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Yes, definitely join us for that!  And thanks Peter and Paul for joining us.

L.L. SOARES:  Yeah, and next time bring Mary!

PETE DUDAR:  It’s been a blast.

PAUL MCMAHON:  Fun as always.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  On behalf of L.L. Soares, Pete Dudar, Paul McMahon, and myself, Michael Arruda, thank you all for joining us.  Good night everybody!

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Peter Dudar and Paul McMahon

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou: THIRTEEN WOMEN (1932)

Posted in 1930s Horror, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Melodrama, Pre-Code Films, Vengeance! with tags , , , , , , , on March 15, 2012 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

By William D. Carl

This Week’s Feature Presentation:

THIRTEEN WOMEN (1932)

Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made.  If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable—then I’ve seen it and probably loved it.   Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open.  Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes!

In the pre-Hayes Code days of 1932, you could get away with an awful lot in motion pictures.  Hollywood films were rife with prostitutes, glorified gangsters, adultery, murder, child abuse, rape, and nudity.  One film of that year, however, proved so salacious that Warner Brothers cut it from 74 minutes down to a meager 59 minutes in length.  Rumors of graphic killings, homosexual affairs, and gun-fighting women on trains persist to this day, but sadly, this footage is all lost.  What is left of the film, THIRTEEN WOMEN (1932), is a miracle of crazed, trashy, pulp filmmaking, and it still maintains its shock value when seen today.  One can only imagine what it would have been like in its entirety.  I believe it would be hailed as a classic of its kind, standing alongside the film versions of Fu Manchu and the early dramas of James Cagney.

THIRTEEN WOMEN begins with the Raskob Sisters getting ready for their trapeze act at the E. Marvel Circus.  June has just received her horoscope from the mysterious Swami Yogadachi, and it informs her that because of something she will do, someone very close to her will die and she will end up in an insane asylum.  In walks Hazel, an old friend from school days long past, played by Peg Entwistle, an actress who actually killed herself two days after the release of THIRTEEN WOMEN by throwing herself off the ‘H’ in the Hollywoodland sign!  The two women are frightened by these ominous letters, but Hazel informs June that it must be some kind of prank, and the show must go on.  The trapeze artist, tormented by the words in the letter, becomes more and more nervous.  She and her sister swing high above the crowd in a pretty terrifying, silent sequence.  Each time June grabs for her sister, she nearly misses, until at one point, she jerks her hands back at the wrong time and her sister falls to her doom.

In the office of Swami Yogadachi, we find 1930’s villain character actor C. Henry Gordon (SCARFACE-1932, MATA HARI-1931) speaking with his “secretary” (oh you know what she REALLY is), Ursula Georgi, played by a pre-Nora Charles Myrna Loy (THE THIN MAN – 1934, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES-1946, and MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE – 1948).  Myrna’s all made up in a fabulous dress made from copper coins and wearing slanted Asian eye make-up.  She slinks over to the Swami, who has just completed a horoscope for another woman.  He maintains that it only shows happiness for this woman, Hazel.  Ursula stares him down and informs him that twelve women, all related by a round robin letter and their days in school together, must not lose their faith in the occult.  She kisses him, explains they were lovers in a previous life, and then asks about what he sees in the stars for her future.  He says, “It is death I wrote for you…not pleasantly.  Your body, mangled like that.  An accident, the stars say.  A railroad, perhaps.”  She says, “Strange.  So are you to die, like that.”

The great Myrna Loy in THIRTEEN WOMEN.

She hypnotizes him into sleep, takes his happy horoscope, and changes it to inform the recipient that she will commit murder and go to prison.  It is Hazel, who proceeds to fulfill the prophecy, screaming as she brutally stabs her husband.

We are then introduced to sensible single mother Laura Stanhope, played by Irene Dunne (THE AWFUL TRUTH-1937, A GUY NAMED JOE-1943, I REMEMBER MAMMA-1948, and many others great films).  Laura calls Helen, who has recently lost a child and is receiving horoscopes claiming she will soon kill herself.  Laura has also received a letter, stating that her son will die before his next birthday.  She says it’s all a bunch of hooey, and she is going to prove it.  She invites Helen to her house, where all the remaining girls from their sorority will meet, thus proving the Swami a fake.  Helen agrees and books a train ticket.

Meanwhile, Grace, another gal from the sorority, tells Laura that they are all doomed, that she believes everything the letters say.  The Swami has just sent her a letter stating that he, himself, will die before July 1st.  On June 31st, Swami Yogadachi unwisely tramps to Grand Central Station with Ursula, who makes him leap in front of a train in a stunningly edited sequence.  She then hops on her own train, the very one transporting the grief-stricken Helen to California.

On the trip, she speaks with Helen, who says she regrets the way Ursula was treated at school, then she shows the Eurasian woman a gun she keeps with her to prove to herself that she won’t kill herself.  Not exactly a good plan!  Ursula lurks behind her, nudging her closer and closer towards suicide until the sobbing Helen shoots herself through the head while Ursula listens at her door, smirking with satisfaction.

The suicide is investigated by Police Sergeant Barry Clive (Ricardo Cortiz-THE WALKING DEAD-1936, MR. MOTO’S LAST WARNING-1939), and the trail leads to Laura Stanhope and her son, whose birthday is fast approaching.  Ursula, now in California, is sleeping with the Stanhope’s chauffer, Burns, played by tough guy Edward Pawley (G-MEN-1935, EACH DAWN I DIE-1939).  First, the crazed woman tries to poison the little boy with candy.  Then she gives Burns a rubber ball filled with explosives, saying “Give this to Bobby with all your love.  And don’t drop it!”  When he refuses, she comes on to him, wearing another revealing and fabulous dress, and convinces him to give the boy the lethal present.  “He won’t know anything,” she whispers into his ear.  “He’ll bounce it.  Children always bounce rubber balls, don’t they?”

Myrna Loy terrorizes Irene Dunne in THIRTEEN WOMEN.

The next fifteen minutes contain many tense moments as the rubber ball is placed in various precarious positions (the film is alarmingly easy-going about putting a four-year-old child in mortal danger), a wild car chase with an out-of-control limousine, a harrowing sting operation, a chase through a train, and the big confrontation between Ursula and Laura.  Ursula was a half Hindu, half Japanese girl who was sent by a missionary to school.  She had to “learn to be white”, because if you were Asian and a man, you were a thug.  If you were Asian and a woman, you would become a prostitute.  The girls of the sorority learned that she was passing for white and made her life so miserable she had to leave the academy.  Thus, her lust for revenge was born, a desire to see every one of the women in that sorority to either be killed or tormented by loss.  It’s a plea for tolerance, and it’s hard not to feel sorry for Ursula, even though she’s just attempted to blow up a little kid.  Loy is so adept with her acting, especially her eyes, she brings real sorrow to the plight of this “half-breed.”  The attempt at sympathy for other races, however, is muddled completely by the fact that this woman is a monster through and through, so the whole progressive point of the movie becomes moot.

THIRTEEN WOMEN barrels along at a furious pace, all the more so for its missing scenes.  Stylishly directed by the prolific George Archainbaud (BLONDE TROUBLE-1937, THE DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND-1946), the movie has at least five action/horror sequences that are all the more exciting by the lack of music, especially that trapeze plummet opening.  A shout-out must go to the costume designer, whoever that may be.  There is no credit for the person responsible for the wild outfits worn by Ursula Georgi, sexy and daring and exotic, the perfect gowns for the murderous half-caste.  They would almost be acceptable in a FLASH GORDON  serial!  The movie also includes an early score by the brilliant Max Steiner (GONE WITH THE WIND-1939, KING KONG-1933, NOW VOYAGER-1942, CASABLANCA-1942, and 237 others).  Although sparingly used, the music is quite effective and understated.

The film was based on a salacious novel by Tiffany Thayer, the Harold Robbins of the 1920s and 1930s.  He wrote books filled with murder, sex, and violence, rife with misogyny and racism.  F. Scott Fitzgerald once called his books “Slime…in drug store libraries.”  Dorothy Parker stated, “He is beyond question a writer of power; and his power lies in his ability to make sex so thoroughly, graphically, and aggressively unattractive that one is fairly shaken to ponder how little one has been missing. Thayer died while writing a 21 volume (series) about the Mona Lisa, which was never completed.  Many have called his works literary potato chips, not good for you, but hard to stop eating once you’ve started. .”  Wow!  Where can I find a copy of one of his novels?

Even in its truncated 59 minute form, THIRTEEN WOMEN casts a weird, dream-like spell.  If only we had the missing fifteen minutes, it could have been a pre-code classic.  As it stands, it’s still a wonderfully campy, shocking, and exciting relic with an amazing performance by the lovely Myrna Loy.  Warner Archive has put out a nice copy of THIRTEEN WOMEN, and it deserves to be seen by a whole new generation.

I give THIRTEEN WOMEN three explosive rubber balls out of four.  Just don’t bounce it!

© Copyright 2012 by William D. Carl

Monstrous Question: BEST MAD SCIENTIST MOVIE? (5 of 6)

Posted in 1930s Horror, 2011, Frankenstein Movies, Mad Doctors!, Mark Onspaugh Columns, Monstrous Question with tags , , , on August 12, 2011 by knifefighter

MONSTROUS QUESTION
(Part 5 of 6)
Created by Michael Arruda

This month’s MONSTROUS QUESTION comes to us courtesy of our good friend Pete Dudar.

PETE:  Okay, so what’s the best ‘mad scientist’ movie? Is it FRANKENSTEIN? RE-ANIMATOR? THE FLY? We fans want to know.

****

Our panel answers:

MARK ONSPAUGH:

The “mad scientist” club is full of over-achievers, from Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Moreau to Herbert West and Dr. Heiter (HUMAN CENTIPEDE (2009). But to me, the best mad scientist movie is a tie between FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935).

This is not just a kneejerk answer. Think about it: this was not the first Frankenstein movie (Edison Studios released a 16-minute silent short in 1910), but it is still the classic, defining film of Shelley’s novel. James Whale gives us powerful images and manages, with the brilliant performance of Boris Karloff, to portray a monster who is rejected and angry at his “father”.

The monster is not just a collection of parts crudely stitched together and shocked into life with lightning, he is a feeling creature wanting love and acceptance. Whale shows this beautifully as the monster reaches toward the sunlight before the skylight is closed and he is once again in darkness.

Jack Pierce’s amazing makeup created not only a version of the monster very different from the book, but an icon that everyone knows today – flat head, bolts in the neck – it’s the Monster (or, as we called him back in the day, Frankenstein).


The theme of the need for love and belonging are further explored in BRIDE, a rare sequel every bit as wonderful as its predecessor. And how awful and terrible is that scream when Elsa Lanchester first sees her intended mate? How poignant, how sad when the monster concludes “We belong dead.  “?

Add to this dizzying mix of talent the performances of Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein, Dwight Frye (DRACULA 1931) as Fritz and Mae Clark as Elizabeth, the special effects of John Fulton PLUS the amazing lab set featuring electrical effects ($10,000 of the $262,007 budget) by Graves, Strickfaden and Lindsay, and you have a masterpiece (two, actually), and I don’t use that word lightly.

—END—

© Copyright 2011 by Mark Onspaugh

Monstrous Question: BEST MAD SCIENTIST MOVIE? (2 of 6)

Posted in 1930s Horror, 2011, LL Soares Reviews, Mad Doctors!, Monstrous Question with tags , , , , , , on July 30, 2011 by knifefighter

MONSTROUS QUESTION
(Part 2 of 6)
Monstrous Question created by Michael Arruda

This month’s MONSTROUS QUESTION comes to us courtesy of our good friend Pete Dudar.

PETE:  Okay, so what’s the best ‘mad scientist’ movie? Is it FRANKENSTEIN? RE-ANIMATOR? THE FLY? We fans want to know.

****

Our panel answers:

L.  L. SOARES:

Well, it’s pretty obvious that Dr. Frankenstein is the archetype that everyone looks to for inspiration, daring to play God and bring the dead to life. But he’s often overshadowed by his monster (unless it’s a Hammer film starring Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein).

Mad scientists are a lot like Pringles. It’s hard to pick just one.

One of my favorites is Dr. Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) from the RE-ANIMATOR movies. He’s easily the coolest mad scientist of all time, and he’s pretty obsessed with his mission to reanimate the dead using giant syringes of glowing green fluid. A case could also be made for Coffin Joe (Joe Mojica Marins) being a kind of scientist. In his films, such as 1964’s AT MIDNIGHT I WILL TAKE YOUR SOUL, he is trying to find the perfect mate, and subjects candidates to horrible “tests” to prove their worthiness. In this way, he’s kind of a do-it-yourself geneticist.

But the absolute BEST? Not a matter of preference, but the Definitive Mad Doctor movie? For me, it’s a three-way tie. And they have a common link – they were all derived from classic novels!

FRANKENSTEIN (1931) – the granddaddy of them all – Colin Clive as Dr. Henry Frankenstein creates a body stitched together from various parts of corpses and then brings it to life as the nameless monster (Boris Karloff). As atmospheric and filled with dread as it ever was. One of the monumental classics of the genre. Based on the novel “Frankenstein, or a Modern Prometheus” by Mary Shelley (of course!)

DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1931) When Dr. Henry Jekyll creates a potion that unlocks the darker elements of his psyche, he becomes violent madman Edward Hyde. Probably my all-time favorite mad scientist film, starring the great Fredric March in the dual role. Based on the novel “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson.

ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1932) Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton) performs horrible experiments on his private island, trying to transform animals into humans, using painful surgery. Perhaps the most sadistic of all the fictional mad scientists, Moreau yields mixed results for all his bloody experimentation, and his creations eventually turn against him and kill him for his “crimes against nature.  ” Based on the classic novel “The Island of Dr. Moreau” by H.  G. Wells.

Honorable Mentions go to:

– Dr. Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) who seeks to re-animate the dead in RE-ANIMATOR (1985), as well as BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR (1990) and BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR (2003) – the first one is by far the best, but the sequels are fun, too. And,

– Dr. Anton Phibes (Vincent Price) who devises ingenuous ways to kill his enemies based on the nine Biblical Plagues in THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971)  and more themed murders, this time in Egypt, in DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN (1972)

—END—

© Copyright 2011 by LL Soares