THE CORPSE VANISHES. (1942) DIRECTED BY WALLACE COX. STARRING BELA LUGOSI, TRISTRAM COFFIN, ELIZABETH RUSSELL, MINERVA URECAL, ANGELO ROSSI, FRANK MORAN, VINCE BARNETT, KENNETH HARLAN AND LUANA WALTERS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
‘Oh, Professor, do you also make a habit of collecting coffins?’
‘Why, yes, in a manner of speaking, I find a coffin much more comfortable than a bed.’
I love these old low-budget Bela Lugosi horror movies. He made a fair few of ’em, God bless him, after his success in Universal’s DRACULA (1931), the unexpected smash hit (I don’t know why it was so unexpected; it was Bram Stoker’s masterpiece, after all!) that single-handedly launched the horror cinema genre into the stratosphere and made Universal Studios its home.
In many of these films, the tall, handsome Hungarian actor often plays a criminal mastermind, a mad scientist or some deranged professor engaged in a crazy experiment that will surely endanger the world if it’s successful. THE CORPSE VANISHES is, of course, no exception. It’s actually got quite an ingenious plot.
The American public is utterly bewildered by a spate of bride abductions, that is to say, pretty young blushing brides all over the place are swooning at the altar, being pronounced dead by puzzled medics and strapped into mortuary vans which are then waylaid en route to the morgue by a gang of unknown villains. Clever, eh? The police are left scratching their noodles in puzzlement.
The only thing these society brides have in common, apart from the fact that they are spoiled little rich girls marrying into even more money and a nice cushy lifestyle, is that they’ve all worn orchids on their persons that were mysteriously delivered to them just before the marriage ceremony. Could there be a connection between the orchids and the sudden ‘deaths’ of the brides…?
Miss Patricia Hunter, Girl Reporter Extraordinaire, certainly seems to thinks so. Tired of reporting bland nonsense for the Society pages- who wore what where; who was seen talking to whom when everyone knows his wife’s left him and she’s seeking a divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour, that type of thing- she’s thrilled when her grumpy male boss (is there any other kind…?) says she can investigate the possible orchid connection if she wants. She’s out of that office and investigating her tight little caboose off before you can say ‘glass ceiling,’ lol.
She heads straight up-state for the home of the mysterious recluse scientist, Dr. Lorenz (Bela Lugosi), who just so happens to be an expert on the particular type of orchid delivered to the unfortunate society brides on their wedding day and purporting to be from their husbands-to-be. I told you earlier that the plot was ingenious, didn’t I? Who wouldn’t wear an orchid on their wedding dress that had supposedly been sent to them by their loving fiancés? Depending on what’s up with these orchids, it’s kind of like the perfect ruse, isn’t it?
He’s a charming and cordial man, this Dr. Lorenz, and, although he refuses to help her on the orchids question, citing lack of time as an excuse, he invites Patricia to stay the night at his huge palatial home in the hills while a terrible storm is raging outside. Patricia reluctantly agrees, deciding she has no choice. You’d think that, as a journalist, she’d be glad of a chance to snoop around the place, wouldn’t you?
Dr. Lorenz’s wife, an older woman known as the Countess, is mighty displeased to have such a pretty young woman on the premises for however short a time, but her husband Dr. Lorenz tells her, with a giant grin splitting his face, that she could be very useful to the Countess, whereupon the Countess, taking her husband’s meaning, relents graciously.
Also staying the night Chez Lorenz due to the inclement weather is a Dr. Foster, a colleague of Dr. Lorenz’s but definitely not his partner-in-crime. (Dr. Foster is played by a Tristram Coffin; how cool a name is that for a horror actor? Seems to be his real name as well.) There’s an instant attraction between the rather wooden, stilted Dr. Foster and the feisty, much livelier Patricia Hunter. The pair could end up enjoying nuptial bliss themselves when the Mystery of the Missing Brides is solved.
Patricia could end up having the honour of bringing Dr. Foster his pipe and slippers at the end of the working day (his, not hers; she’ll have to give up her career, naturally, to have all the babies) and stoically taking the odd punch in the kisser when Hubby’s in one of his moods.
Oh, what a wonderful thing it was, to be a blushing bride in ‘Forties America, lol. Those women with careers who pretended to eschew marriage were really just waiting on tenterhooks for some guy to ride in on his white charger, scoop them up and take them away from nasty work for ever. Everyone knows that. Those women who seemed genuinely to enjoy their careers were definitely looked upon a bit suspiciously. They couldn’t really prefer forging a name for themselves in their chosen field to washing shitty diapers and chopping the vegetables for tonight’s casserole, could they…?
Anyway, Patricia has a nightmarish experience in the massive basement of Dr. Lorenz’s rambling mansion on the night she stays over, an experience Dr. Lorenz tries to dismiss as merely a bad dream but Patricia knows better. It’s connected to the Mystery of the Missing Brides and Patricia could swear to it, no matter how much the charming Dr. Lorenz tries to convince her that it was all just a dream and she should put it out of her mind like a good little girl.
Dopey Dr. Foster is of no help to her whatsoever in the matter of Patricia’s so-called ‘bad dream,’ but never mind. Once she’s married to him, she’ll no longer be required to use her fluttery little bird-brain for anything more complicated than deciding what spices to keep on her rack. But for now, she still has a mind of her own and she comes up with a brilliant idea for catching the ‘killer’ and abductor of all these unsuspecting society brides. Phoney wedding, anyone?
The scene in the ‘mausoleum’ at night is genuinely creepy. The man called Angel, the idiot son of Dr. Lorenz’s creepy old maid Fagah, comes across as the sort of gibbering sex-pest who might enjoy a nice bit of rape if it came his way. Patricia would do well not to run into him in the cellars at night. The music in the mausoleum scene is excellent and très atmospheric. I like the cheeky dwarf butler Toby, too, he’s cute.
THE CORPSE VANISHES is a good little black-and-white horror mystery, and Bela is on top form in it. His whipping arm is still in good nick anyway. He’s always whipping the poor unfortunate inbreds who end up working for him, isn’t he, lol?
He’s still able to pick up women bodily too and carry ’em off, and even horror legend Christopher Lee needed a little bit of help with that from stunt double Eddie Powell at the end. Good old Chris and Bela, the kings of Hammer and Universal horror respectively. Wonder if they’re neighbours now…?
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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