THE BLACK CAT. (1934) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

black cat skinning

THE BLACK CAT. (1934) FROM THE STORY BY EDGAR ALLAN POE. DIRECTED BY EDGAR G. ULMER. PRODUCED BY CARL LAEMMLE, JR. DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL PICTURES.

STARRING BELA LUGOSI, BORIS KARLOFF, DAVID MANNERS, JULIE BISHOP, LUCILLE LUND, EGON BRECHER AND HARRY CORDING.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This excellent old vintage horror classic has the distinction of being the first film ever to pair Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff together, so it’s a real case of Dracula versus the Mummy, isn’t? My money’s on the Fanged One rather than Mr. Bandages over there, but you never quite know how these things will pan out, do you?

The story begins on a train. American newly-weds Peter (a mystery writer, ironically enough) and Joan Allison are honeymooning in Hungary when they are asked to share their train compartment with a stranger, a handsome and charming Hungarian psychiatrist with an exotic accent by the name of Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Bela Lugosi). They’re put out, naturally, as they wanted to be alone, but graciously invite Dr. Werdegast to sit with them nonetheless.

Dr. Werdegast is not just a stranger, but also a strangely intense man with a dark past. He reveals some of it to Peter while Peter’s wife Joan is asleep. She’s every inch the early ‘Thirties starlet, by the way, this one, and she spends most of the film screeching in fear at everything she sees and swooning elegantly into the arms of the nearest man.

Peter is obviously the love of her life and he shouldn’t have any trouble whatsoever controlling this docile, biddable little woman. I imagine he’d only slap her as a result of extreme provocation and not as a matter of course, which is always nice to know.

Anyway, I digressed there, lol. Vitus, who’s en route to visit a friend, as yet un-named, reveals to Peter that he has spent the best years of his life rotting away in a horrible prison in Siberia.

He was captured as a POW during the Great War of 1914-1918 and incarcerated for nearly two whole decades, thanks to the betrayal of a friend. His physical body may have survived the ordeal but his soul is in pieces, such was the horror of the place. His eyes are haunted with the memory of it all, and maybe other memories too that we don’t yet know about.

The young couple and Vitus and his wordless servant Thamal seem to be travelling in the same direction, so they all opt to share a carriage. In the lashing rain, however, the carriage overturns in a mudslide.

The driver is killed and Mrs. Allison, the frail little flower-petal, is injured a tiny bit. Vitus says, well, the friend’s house that I’m going to visit is just up the road a piece, come with me and my friend will fix us all up. So that’s what they do…

The ‘friend’ isn’t really a friend at all but Vitus’s worst enemy, the man whose terrible betrayal led to Vitus’s imprisonment for so long. Boris Karloff plays Hjalmar Poelzig, or ‘Pigslowe,’ if you prefer. Just ask Mrs. Allison. She knows what I mean!

Anyway, Poelzig is an architect who has built a very strange, rather futuristic-looking house in a mountainy region on top of Fort Marmarus, which he commanded during the war. Dr. Werdegast was one of his men.

The odd-looking house is surrounded by the graves of hundreds of soldiers who died in the war. It’s a weird, mysterious and atmospheric place, and the perfect location for the dark events that are about to play out there.

Causing Vitus to be imprisoned for so long is only half of what this sinister Poelzig fella has done to poor Vitus. There’s at least one woman in Poelzig’s household who can testify to just what wrongs have been done to her and Vitus and one other party, who shall remain nameless. Vitus is here to revenge himself on Poelzig, but not until the very end of the film does he know to what extent Poelzig has wronged him.

There’s a supernatural element to the film, of course, as Poelzig is involved in some very dodgy practices with their basis in the occult. Mrs. Allison is in grave danger, as Poelzig has decided he likes the look of her and wants to use her in an upcoming ritual. Well, if he needs a bird who can do little else but squawk and swoon into the arms of the nearest bloke, she’ll do just fine.

There is a black cat in the film but he seems to be there only to give Boris the chance to remark sarcastically to a bemused Peter Allison that Bela has a terrible fear of cats. It’s not really integral to the plot.

However, a lot of these old movies liked to be able to say at the beginning of the credits that the movie was inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe, whereas in reality the connecting link was often quite tenuous, as it is here. Still, Poe was a popular fellow and, if his name got butts-on-seats, the producers were prepared to use it, see?

The handsome, suave and still young Bela isn’t the villain as such in this one, oddly enough. He wants to avenge himself against the evil Poelzig who is the real villain but, not only that, he’s taken a liking to the pleasant young couple who invited him to share their train compartment and they like him well enough too. (Even though the husband caught Bela stroking the wife’s hair while she was asleep, lol!)

He’s damned if he’s going to let the dastardly Poelzig and his queer V-shaped futuristic hairstyle ruin the young couples’ lives by taking the wife to use as a pawn in his deadly Satanic ritual. The stage is set for a terrific battle of wits between Bela and Boris which might just end in a big bang for someone, but we won’t of course say who. Or is it whom?

Either way, this film is a marvellous watch, with up-tempo classical music playing throughout just as if this were a silent film. Bela is wearing dark lippy and Boris is fully made-up in the style of the stars of silent cinema.

We’re only four years into the talkies by this stage, remember, so the film still retains the look and feel of a silent movie. Luckily for us, though, it’s a talkie and so we get to hear Boris’s charming lithp and Bela talking in his wonderful Dracula voice, which was actually his real accent.

Pre-Code but not, I believe, by much, the film features Satanism, the occult and the skinning alive of a human being and it also hints at abduction, necrophilia, rape and domestic abuse. For a film from the ‘Thirties that’s so old as to be almost a silent movie, it really kicks some serious ass.

What a delicious treat this old black-and-white movie is. It’s only one of a handful of films that were all released with the same title, lol, which must have been terribly confusing for the poor flummoxed viewer. Just how many movies called ‘The Black Cat’ were filmed, anyway? Never mind, dear reader. We don’t need to know. Maybe, as Bela himself remarks in the film, there are more things in heaven and earth…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. 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, womens’ 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:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

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THE SPANISH VERSION OF DRACULA. (1931) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.©

spanish dracula carlos 2

THE SPANISH VERSION OF DRACULA. (1931) BASED ON THE BOOK BY BRAM STOKER. DIRECTED BY GEORGE MELFORD. PRODUCED BY CARL LAEMMLE JUNIOR AND PAUL KOHNER. DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL PICTURES.

STARRING CARLOS VILLARIAS, LUPITA TOVAR, BARRY NORTON AND MANUEL ARBO.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘He cut open a vein in his arm and forced me to drink from it.’

Sometimes when I watch this film I almost fancy that I prefer it to the Bela Lugosi version, and the Bela Lugosi version is one of my all-time Top Three favourite film versions of the story ever. (It keeps company with Hammer’s 1958 DRACULA starring Christopher Lee, and Werner Herzog’s NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE from 1979. It’s in very good company, I hope you’ll agree.)

This Spanish version was made concurrently with the Bela Lugosi/UNIVERSAL version. It was even made on the same sets, except that the Spanish version was made by night and the English version by day. As one cast and crew trooped out, finished for the day, another cast and crew would troop in, ready for their night-shift using some of the most memorable and iconic sets in cinema.

Carlos Villarias, the Spanish El Conde Dracula, seems at first glance almost too smiley and goofy-looking to play the most evil villain in cinema history, but he soon proves himself more than capable of the level of menace required to play such a deliciously pernicious character.

It’s true that he lacks the handsome sophistication of Bela Lugosi and Bela’s Eastern European air of mystery, but he makes a damned good Dracula just the same. I would even say that his performance is the equal of Bela’s, just slightly different obviously as he’s a different person/actor and hails from a different country, a warmer country where the people are reputedly of a more passionate nature than some other of their European counterparts.

The story moves along the same lines as the English language version, with Renfield the estate agent’s clerk travelling to Dracula’s Castle in the mountains in Transylvania against the advice of the locals, who themselves wouldn’t go near the place if you paid them.

He does manage, however, to get a carriage-driver to get him to the infamous Borgo Pass at midnight, where Dracula’s carriage awaits and conveys Renfield to the castle. He finds Count Dracula- El Conde Dracula- a little eccentric but charming and cordial, even if his castle is ramshackle and creepy and belongs to the Dark Ages.

Renfield has, as requested, brought the Count the deeds to Carfax Abbey, Dracula’s intended new home in England. Dracula informs him that they’ll be leaving for England by ship on the morrow, along with Dracula’s ‘three boxes,’ the only luggage the strange Count intends to carry with him.

If he was bringing his three wives, of course, the level of luggage might be an entirely different story. You know women, lol. There’d be hat-boxes and cosmetic boxes and jewellery boxes and boxes of knick-knacks and rails of dresses in plastic safety coverings and the whole shebang. That ship would have sunk like the Titanic.

By the time the ship docks in England, Renfield’s mind is all but destroyed by Dracula’s special ‘kiss’ and he’s clapped straightaway into Dr. Seward’s Sanatarium for the mentally ill. The security there, mind you, is every bit as lax as in the English version of the film and he’s allowed to wander the house and grounds as he pleases, pursued half-heartedly by Martin his minder.

He even ventures into the private quarters of the wealthy Dr. Seward and his family, which consists of just himself and his beautiful daughter Eva. Renfield is now all about the catching and devouring of flies and other small creatures with blood in them- ‘Blood is life!’- and getting excited about the proximity of his ‘Master,’ whom he both adores and fears.

Dracula, meanwhile, has contrived an introduction at the theatre to his neighbours Dr. Seward and Eva, and also Eva’s best friend Lucia Weston and Eva’s fiancé Juan Harker. All four of them are impressed by the Count’s courtesy and good manners.

Before long, Lucia, who’s fascinated by the enigmatic foreign Count and his mysterious remarks on the subject of death, has succumbed utterly to the Count’s blood-sucking ways and become a vampire too, one of Dracula’s terrible ‘cult of the un-Dead…’

Now the ravishing Eva is starting to feel unwell also and eminent physician Dr. Van Helsing is extremely quick to diagnose ‘vampirism.’ His suspicions are confirmed when the suave Count Dracula pays a social visit to the Sewards and Dr. Van Helsing is able to observe that the Count casts no reflection in a mirror. This, of course, is one of the sure signs that someone is a vampire.

That, and a terrible fear of garlic and wolfbane, the two plants guaranteed to keep the vampires away, and also of all or any religious iconography, especially crosses. If you don’t have a cross handy, don’t worry your head about it.

You can always fashion one out of two sticks, or two pokers, or two matches, or even two of your own fingers. It’s only the merest suggestion of the cross that’s needed, according to some Hammer films, lol. Even the shadow of a cross will do at a pinch. (See the finale of BRIDES OF DRACULA…!)

Dracula is pissed off by Van Helsing and tries to bring the doctor’s mind under his control but Van Helsing only just manages to hold his own. It’s down to the good doctor, then, and Juan Harker, Eva’s distraught fiancé, to try to save Eva’s immortal soul from Count Dracula.

Eva is his real object. Lucia was just the starter, the aperitif, the warm-up act. It’s Eva he wants to be his wife, his companion, down through all the long, cold millenia to come. Count Dracula’s intended monstrous act of selfishness will cost Eva her life with her boyfriend and father, and in the end her soul too.

The sets and costumes are gorgeous, and the final scenes, set in the eerie dungeons of Carfax Abbey, are as thrilling as in the English language version. The final scenes are longer here, however, and the ending isn’t as sudden as in the Bela version.

There’s even a nice extra touch in the Spanish film in that Dr. Van Helsing keeps a promise he made to Renfield to free that poor old fella’s soul from Dracula’s rancid grasp from all eternity.

The Spanish film is every bit as atmospheric and fog-wreathed as the Bela Lugosi version and, because it’s a good thirty or so minutes longer, you get a bit extra into the bargain. By the end of it, you don’t even query why everyone in England is speaking such fluent Spanish, lol. And Spanish is such a lovely, musical mellifluous language as well, and some of their words sound very similar to our own, you’ll have great fun figuring out which ones I mean.

Lupita Tovar is wonderful as Eva Seward, and in fact she only died recently, having lived to be well over the hundred-year mark, a remarkable feat in itself. I was delighted to find that she was still alive when I first discovered the existence of ‘The Spanish Version Of Dracula’ a couple of years ago, and then gutted when she died not long after in 2016. Still, fancy living to such a ripe old age! Maybe Dr. Van Helsing didn’t manage to purge all of Dracula’s black magic from her veins after all…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. 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, womens’ 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:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

WHITE ZOMBIE. (1932) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

white zombie bela closeup

WHITE ZOMBIE. (1932) BASED ON THE 1929 NOVEL BY WILLIAM SEABROOK, THE MAGIC ISLAND. DIRECTED BY VICTOR HALPERIN AND PRODUCED BY EDWARD HALPERIN.

STARRING BELA LUGOSI, MADGE BELLAMY, JOHN HARRON, ROBERT W. FRAZER AND JOSEPH CAWTHORN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is such a marvellously atmospheric old horror movie, starring Bela Lugosi who was still fresh from his success as UNIVERSAL’s DRACULA (1931). He looks young, extremely handsome, charismatic and devilish here as the white Voodoo Master of Haiti who puts a spell on a beautiful young woman on whom he has personal romantic designs. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

The beautiful young woman in question is a blonde ‘Twenties bombshell called Madeleine Short, and she’s come to Haiti to marry her fiancé Neil Parker, who’s already there for some reason. I think he has a plantation there. On the boat over to Haiti, she meets a rich young man called Charles Beaumont who’s determined to befriend the young married-couple-to-be for reasons known only to himself.

On the coach-ride to Mr. Beaumont’s plantation, the young couple pass a funeral party that is burying the deceased in the middle of the road. This is to deter anyone who might have a mind to steal the corpse and turn it into one of the ‘undead,’ explains their Haitian coachman matter-of-factly. And, speaking of which, here come a party of these eerie ‘undead’ rascals right now!

The coachman whips up the horses to a frenetic degree.

‘What the hell are you playing at, driver?’ demands Neil irately. ‘We might have been killed!’

‘Or worse, Mister Neil,’ replies the coachman sagely, ‘we might have been CAUGHT…!’

Apparently, Haiti is swarming with these ghouls, who once walked the earth as human beings but whom the most nefarious black magic has raised up from the dead and turned into mindless zombies who work night and day in the islands’ sugar-cane mills. What a life, or should I say what an un-life…?

Mr. Beaumont is a wealthy plantation owner and it soon becomes clear that he’s fallen madly in love with the gorgeous Madeleine, with her huge doe eyes, Clara Bow lips and short blonde ‘Twenties hair.

She’s the very image of a ‘Twenties babe, despite the fact that we’re now in the ‘Thirties. The fashions here are very much still of the ‘Twenties. It gives the whole production the look of a silent movie and, as I’m a huge fan of silent movies, that’s no bad thing in my opinion.

In fact, the film would have worked very well as a silent movie. There’s kind of minimal dialogue in it anyway and the fantastic music score would have been ideal for a silent horror flick.

There’s a long stretch of the film at the end, the bit where Neil is fighting off the zombies by himself, where there’s little or no dialogue and the music is extremely dramatic. You could easily imagine yourself to be watching a terrific old silent movie at this point.

Mr. Beaumont wants to stop the marriage between Madeleine and Neil. He seeks out Bela Lugosi’s evil Voodoo Master, a white creator of zombies with the fantastically memorable name of ‘Murder Legendre,’ to help him. He wants the marriage stopped, but when he realises that the Voodoo Master’s method of doing it is to turn Madeleine herself into one of these ‘living dead’ zombies, he freaks out.

When the Voodoo Master in turn works a spell on Beaumont to immobilise him while he, Murder Legendre, claims Madeleine for his own, the situation becomes desperate. Can Neil rescue the lovely Madeleine from Murder’s evil clutches and, whether he can or he can’t, what will happen now to poor zombified Mr. Charles Beaumont, himself a rich plantation owner but who is now under one of Murder’s terrible spells?

Is he doomed for all time to slave in the Voodoo Master’s mills as one of the undead? And why am I calling him ‘poor’ Mr. Beaumont? If he hadn’t tried to break up Madeleine and Neil in the first place, none of this stuff would now be happening…! He’s only got himself to blame but still, being a zombie is probably a lot less exciting than it sounds.

The bit where Beaumont meets Murder Legendre in the Voodoo Master’s sugar-cane mill is quite chilling. Not only has the VM turned hundreds of once-living people into mindless zombie workers for profit (they work long hours for no pay and never quibble about anything because they can’t), but he’s also turned a specific coterie of them into his own personal group of bodyguards.

‘See these lads here?’ he tells the horrified Beaumont with his trademark evil Bela Lugosi smile. ‘These all used to be my enemies. This one here used to be my master.’

Beaumont is clearly shocked.

‘What happens if the spell you put on them is ever broken?’ he asks nervously.

‘Why, then they will tear me to pieces,’ says Bela matter-of-factly, still smiling. ‘So that can never be allowed to happen…’

By the way, here are some random facts about the film. The film was savaged by the critics upon release for the very things I love about it, the slightly hammy acting and the silent movie look and feel of the thing. The critics were nuts. This is possibly the best zombie movie ever made. Certainly it was the first full-length one.

I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE from 1943 has the same dark, shadowy atmospheric look and feel to WHITE ZOMBIE. It’s an excellent film as well, though with a slightly more modern feel to it because it’s a full decade older.

Rob Zombie’s metal band WHITE ZOMBIE took their name directly from the film and they wouldn’t have done that unless they thought it was the coolest movie ever, which it is, so take that, moronic critics. I still can’t believe they dissed this film.

The huge stone tower or cliffside castle where the zombified Madeleine is being held prisoner is actually a painting. It’s just like a black-and-white version of the fabulous painted castles in Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe film adaptations for AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES. It’s a gorgeous castle, very atmospheric-looking and quite like something out of the 1931 UNIVERSAL DRACULA too.

The two little maids assigned to care for Madeleine are scared to brush her hair because they know she’s one of the undead. They’re also too afraid to run away because the wicked and cunning VM will find them and turn them into zombies too. It’s quite a creepy no-win situation in which they find themselves.

Madeleine looks like a medieval princess when she comes out onto the balcony with that long dress on her with the low-slung belt around the waist. If her hair was several feet longer, she’d make a great Rapunzel. She’s the perfect damsel in distress, waiting patiently in her medieval tower to be rescued. There ain’t nothing remotely proactive about this dame. 

I’m not sure, though, why Neil is in such an all-fired great hurry to snap her out of the vacant, glassy-eyed zombified state she’s in. At least while she’s checked out like this, she won’t be nagging him to change his socks or get up from the sports on the telly to put the bins out. Some blokes clearly don’t know they’re born.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. 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, womens’ 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:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

SON OF FRANKENSTEIN. (1939) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

son of frankie

SON OF FRANKENSTEIN. (1939) BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT SHELLEY. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY ROWLAND V. LEE. PRODUCTION/DISTRIBUTION BY UNIVERSAL PICTURES.

STARRING BASIL RATHBONE, BELA LUGOSI, BORIS KARLOFF AND LIONEL ATWILL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This vintage black-and-white horror film is an absolute cracker, containing four of the biggest name stars of the day, namely Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lionel Atwill.

It’s a sequel to FRANKENSTEIN and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN that sees Basil Rathbone arriving in his father’s home town of Frankenstein as his father’s son, Wolf Von Frankenstein. That’s an awful lot of FRANKENSTEINS, as I think you’ll agree.

The setting is somewhere in that sort of ambiguous ‘mitt-Europe’ favoured by Hammer Horror films as well as UNIVERSAL ones. It’s that sort of blurry Germany/Austria area that has men wearing Tyrolean hats and lederhosen while they’re dancing gaily to old folk songs from their native soil or downing the kind of massive tankards of ale that normally come with bratwurst on Oktoberfest. Well, that’s an awful lot of racial stereotyping to begin with, let’s quickly move on to the plot…!

The opening scenes are tremendously atmospheric. Wolf von Frankenstein arrives in Frankenstein by train, via London and Paris, with his attractive wife Elsa and adorable curly-headed young son Peter. It’s dark and lashing rain when they disembark from the train, facing straightaway into a sea of umbrellas owned by the waiting villagers, the welcome committee, as it were.

Except that it’s not very welcoming, lol. They’ve only come along to express their deep dissatisfaction, not to mention disgruntlement, that yet another member of the accursed Frankenstein family is moving into the village to bring more trouble down on their heads. At least, this is what they think.

If they only had the least idea of what was going to happen, they’d have run the little family of Frankensteins outta town on a rail, ‘the same way we got ridda Laura Ingalls Wilder,’ heh-heh-heh. (SIMPSONS reference there!)

Basil Rathbone (the Sherlock Holmes films with Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson) is marvellous as the handome and aristocratic- and neatly moustached- Dr. Wolf Von Frankenstein, who initially has no intention in the world of following in his father’s ultimately murderous footsteps.

His father was, of course, the fantastic Colin Clive’s character in FRANKENSTEIN and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, the ‘mad scientist’ who created life, ie, the Monster, out of the dead body parts of cadavers which his mad assistant Ygor dug up for him from local cemeteries. What a wholesome thought.

His triumph ended in catastrophe for the locals, however, who don’t even want to hear the word of ‘Frankenstein’ mentioned in their hearing ever again, never mind nestling and nurturing a further generation of mad Monster-creators in its collective bosom.

They don’t even like the idea that the mad scientist’s old laboratory is still there, glowering down at the town from its lofty position on the top of a mountain just across from the Frankenstein’s family domicile, the fabulous old castle. I bet they’d just as soon see it burned down in one big inferno and be done with it.

But when Bela Lugosi (DRACULA, 1931) as the still-living Ygor takes Wolf to view the still-intact but comatose remains of the Monster in the Frankenstein family crypt, Wolf can’t resist Ygor’s suggestion that he use his father’s old notes and records to… You’ve guessed it. Revive the Monster…

Of course, when he inevitably succeeds in bringing Boris Karloff’s superb Frankenstein’s Monster back to grisly life, the Monster predictably runs amok in the town, just like the cookie foretold. (Another SIMPSONS reference there, heh-heh-heh.)

He’s particularly gunning for Ygor’s enemies, the last of the eight men who sentenced Ygor to hang for his part in Colin Clive’s character’s crimes. They did hang him, in fact, but it didn’t fully take and so now Ygor feels invincible, untouchable, like he’s unkillable or something.

Certainly he can’t be sentenced to death again, as he’s already been declared legally dead by the town council, headed by the Burgomaster, without which no self-respecting town in a UNIVERSAL FRANKENSTEIN movie would be complete. No wonder Ygor feels that he can safely send Frankie out into the streets of the darkened village to kill the last two still-living members of the posse of eight that initially sentenced him to death.

Screen villain Lionel Atwill (SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON, THE VAMPIRE BAT) is brilliant as Inspector Krogh, the local copper who knows full well that there’s skullduggery afoot in Castle Frankenstein but he and Wolf have to play this elaborate game of cat-and-mouse with each other first before he can get to the real truth of the matter.

Inspector Krogh has first-hand experience of the horror of the Monster. When he was a child, presumably during the initial period when Frankie was brought to life by Colin Clive’s character, he bumped into the Monster during one of his rampages. He had his little right arm ripped out by the roots for his trouble. Now he wears a fake arm, and he’s understandably wary when he hears rumours from the worried townspeeps about the possibly monstrous goings-on up at the old castle.

Little curly-headed Peter is the one who gives the game away to Krogh when he talks about a friendly ‘giant,’ wearing a big furry jacket, who comes to visit him in his bedroom at night through a hole in the wall… Sounds well dodgy to me, does that…!

By the way, the chap who plays Peter- Donnie Dunagan- is still alive at the ripe old age of eighty-four. Furthermore, it may interest you film buffs to know that in 1942, this child star was the voice of Bambi in the famous DISNEY film that’s been tugging at heartstrings everywhere for nearly eighty years now, which is no mean feat. 

THE SON OF FRANKENSTEIN is so atmospheric, and it brings out a wonderful nostalgia as well in the viewer for the original Frankie films. Basil Rathbone hams it up marvellously as the slightly manic Dr. Frankenstein and Bela Lugosi is deliciously evil as Ygor. And with those fake teeth he’s wearing, he looks like the cartoon character Muttley from the pairing of Dastardly And Muttley, remember, the doggie who was always sniggering? Aw. Such a sweet film. You’ll love it.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. 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, womens’ 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:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE. (1943) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

carre-four

I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE. (1943)

BASED ON A STORY BY INEZ WALLACE. DIRECTED BY JACQUES TOURNEUR. PRODUCED BY VAL LEWTON. STARRING FRANCES DEE, TOM CONWAY, JAMES ELLISON, EDITH BARRETT, CHRISTINE GORDON, JAMES BELL, THERESA HARRIS, DARBY JONES AND CALYPSO SINGER SIR LANCELOT.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a strange, eerie and mysterious little classic horror film that’s positively oozing with atmosphere. It’s the story of a young attractive nurse called Betsy Connell (by whom the story is being told), who is brought from the cold and snow of a wintry Canada to the island of San Sebastian in the West Indies to take up a new job.

She is to look after the invalid wife of posh Britisher Paul Holland, who assures her on the boat over that San Sebastian is a place of misery and decay, and not at all the lovely island paradise it appears to be. What a downer! Anyone would think he was trying to put her off.

The boat on which they travel to the island is worthy of mention because it’s a proper old-fashioned sailing ship complete with the big sails and everything, just like on MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY and in all the old swashbuckling pirate movies. It makes the film seem even older and more atmospheric than it already is.

When Betsy gets to the island, she discovers first of all that it is populated by black people who were brought to the island as slaves by the Holland family. Even now, now that slavery has been abolished, they still work as servants or other employees to the Hollands.

We can infer from that, I think, that the island has been a silent witness to many years of suffering and bondage on the part of the slaves and former slaves. The history here is bound to have left its mark on the island, in the same way that pain and misery suffered within its walls can leave its mark on a bricks-and-mortar building. Can leave it haunted, even, at times, with the restless spirits who once lived there and the unhappy souls who now consider that they have unfinished business here on Earth.

Betsy is introduced to the handsome Wesley Rand, the half-brother of Paul Holland. Wesley is an American guy who was born to their mother and her second husband, while Paul was the progeny of Mrs. Rand and her first husband, who is now deceased.

Betsy, by the way, is immediately attracted to her employer, Paul Holland, even though he’s the stiff-upper-lip type, he’s married and he’s much less approachable than his boozy brother Wesley. Let’s see if her inappropriate attachment gets her anywhere, eh?

Paul and Wesley don’t like each other much. That much is clear. There’s a bad history there, some bad mojo as they say. Mrs. Rand, the boys’ mother, is a kindly doctor who tries to bring good medical practices and standards to the islanders, but this is difficult enough to achieve as the islanders are steeped in superstition and the centuries-old practice of voodoo.

Speaking of which, Betsy is shocked to discover that her patient is in fact what she terms a ‘mental case.’ The scene in which she encounters the beautiful catatonic Jessica Holland, a tall elegant blonde in a white flowing gown, wandering around silently like a ghost in the Tower is one of the two best- and spookiest- scenes in the film.

Can Jessica be cured of her trance-like state, brought on by a fever that destroyed part of her spinal cord and left her unable to speak, hear or feel? She can still walk, though, funnily enough. Mrs. Rand and Paul Holland are both adamant that she’s incurable. She’s a zombie for life, one of the living dead.

But not according to Alma, a maid in the Holland-Rand household. Alma, a native islander, tells Betsy that there are voodoo priests on the island who can cure Jessica of her terrible affliction. Betsy now loves Paul Holland so much that she wants to give his wife back to him, cured. That’s some funny kind of love, isn’t it? I’m pretty sure that I’d never be able to love that unselfishly myself.

Betsy, however, is well up for it. She’s obviously made of sterner stuff than me. She and an insensible Jessica make their way to the place known as the houmfort by night, where the voodoo priests meet and the magic happens.

The scene where they have to pass through the silent fields guarded by the zombie Carre-Four in the dead of night, with the tall grasses blowing in the breeze and the sky filled with frightening shadows, is the second of the two best and most memorable scenes in the film. Such haunting images! I know I won’t forget them.

So, does voodoo cure Mrs. Holland or has Betsy just twisted the lid off of a big old can of worms? You know perfectly well that she has, lol. But if you want to find out what happens next, you’ll have to watch this fabulous old film, which incidentally celebrates its seventy-fifth anniversary this year. It shouldn’t be any hardship. It’s a genuine old masterpiece.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. 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, womens’ 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:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE DEVIL BAT (1940) and THE VAMPIRE BAT (1933) : A DOUBLE BILL OF BATTY HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

 

bela devil bat

THE DEVIL BAT (1940) and THE VAMPIRE BAT (1933): TWO BRILLIANT OLD CLASSIC HORROR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. When he’s not playing his most famous role of Dracula, Bela Lugosi is at his absolute spine-tingling best when he’s playing a mad scientist or doctor who’s hell-bent on either getting revenge on the world for some real or imagined slight, or on gaining world domination just for the hell of it. Because he can, in other words, lol.

In THE DEVIL BAT, a genuine little gem from 1940, he plays Dr. Carruthers, a well-respected and well-loved scientist living in a small American village. The village’s biggest employer seems to be the Heath and Morton Cosmetics Company, for whom Dr. Carruthers also works, developing new formulae for successful perfumes, aftershave lotions and other lotions and creams that you slap on your skin so that you smell real nice like to the opposite sex.

In fact, it was Dr. Carruthers’s excellent work that’s made the Heath and Morton Cosmetics Company the multi-million-selling business it is today. Old Doc Carruthers has no shares in the company. All he got for his trouble was a lousy bonus cheque. The rage and resentment he’s been feeling against the two Heath and Morton families know no bounds.

When we meet the embittered old Doc first, he’s perfecting a sort of deadly monster killer bat who can be trained, in the same way that a dog can be trained, to murder anyone who smells of a certain scent. Like, say, aftershave? Like, say, aftershave indeed, heh-heh-heh.

He gives different male members of the two families his new patented aftershave to ‘try out,’ knowing full well that when he releases the hounds or, in this case, the killer bats, the mens’ lives aren’t worth tuppence any more. They’re toast, in other words. Dead men walking on the Green Mile, so to speak.

While the bodies pile up, an ace reporter by the name of Johnny Layton is called in to get a story for his paper about the murders. His sidekick, a photographer with the dubious nickname of ‘One Shot Maguire,’ provides the comic relief and Mary, the beautiful daughter of one of the families, the love interest for the dynamic newshound Layton.

Bela and his killer bats are the undisputed stars of the show, however. The gleeful grins on Dr. Carruthers’s face when he realises that his fiendish plans are working is just joyous to behold. Bela in general is just a sheer joy to watch.

His face definitely lends itself to an array of marvellously devious expressions. Just look at him cackling his ass off through the laboratory door at the sight of his super-bats becoming bigger and bigger and bigger. It’d warm the cockles of the coldest heart.

THE VAMPIRE BAT (1933) has pretty much everything you could possibly want in an old horror movie: a Burgomeister, a dark little village somewhere in Europe, worried townspeople, a concerned little town council, an angry mob, complete WITH torches, lol, and Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Melvyn Douglas and Dwight Frye as the stars. What else could you really ask for?

Certain selected villagers in the little hamlet of Kleinschloss (the little castle?) are being found dead in their beds of a dreadful blood loss. Drained of their precious life’s haemoglobin, all that’s left behind is a sack of skin and bones that’s truly horrible to behold.

The villagers, naturally, are up in arms about the murders and talk of vampires is rearing its ugly head no matter how superstitious and backwards it makes the villagers look. They don’t care a flying fig about how they appear, all they care about- quite rightly, too- is not being murdered in their beds by some unknown gruesome entity.

Screen villain Lionel Atwill (he plays Moriarty to Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes in SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON) here portrays Dr. von Niemann, the town’s one medic and well-respected scientist who’s as baffled about the murders as anyone else. And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything, lol.

Screen royalty Fay Wray, whom you might be more used to seeing in her scandalous scanties being carried up the Empire State Building by a big hairy ape (KING KONG, 1933) is Dr. von Niemann’s attractive young assistant, Ruth, whose scientific knowledge you could probably write on the back of a stamp, but she shore is mighty purdy…!

Melvyn Douglas (James Whale’s THE OLD DARK HOUSE, 1932) plays Fay Wray’s boyfriend and the detective assigned to the murders. He has a logical scientific approach to the hideous blood-lettings and he thinks that all this talk of vampires is a load of superstitious old twaddle and old wives’ tales, more suited to the Dark Ages than these modern times. Will he have cause to eat his words? Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen, place your bets…

The star of the show here is Dwight Frye, best known for playing Renfield in the Bela Lugosi DRACULA (1931) and Dr. Frankenstein’s humpbacked servant Igor in James Whale’s FRANKENSTEIN (1931). Like Bela with his mad scientists, Dwight Frye seems to have been typecast as insane loners and outcasts, but he does it so wonderfully!

Here, as Herman Gleib, the local misfit and pariah who’s not the full shilling- an Irishism for someone who’s not playing with a full deck- he cackles just like Renfield and scares the horrified locals, amongst whom he’s totally persona non grata.

His penchant for befriending bats and acting weird and secretive in general causes him to be blamed for the murders by the locals. He’s just a handy and natural scapegoat. Poor Herman, with his manic grins and his criminally bad haircut. He just can’t catch a break. There’ll be tears before bedtime. You mark my words…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. 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, womens’ 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:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

BLACK FRIDAY, BLACK DRAGONS and SCARED TO DEATH: A TRIO OF BELA LUGOSI FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

bela lugosi headshot

BLACK FRIDAY, BLACK DRAGONS AND SCARED TO DEATH: A TRILOGY OF BELA LUGOSI HORROR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I love everything that the mysterious Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi ever did. If he’d advertised cat food, I would have loved those adverts as much as anything else he ever made. He and Boris Karloff, the two Lon Chaneys (father and son), Christopher Lee, Vincent Price and Peter Cushing are the Kings, the undisputed Kings, of the horror movie genre.

Everything that Bela does, every movement he makes, every word out of his mouth, is fascinating to me. I love the way he’s nearly always playing a mad scientist or a mad doctor who’s trying to take over the world with his eye power or clawed hand power, or maybe by building a monster or some kind of unholy army of the night, and it’s up to a feisty newspaper reporter and his best gal to stop him from attaining the world domination he always seems to crave, lol.

In BLACK DRAGONS (1942), he’s a mad medic once more, a Dr. Melcher, who pulls off possibly the most amazing feat of plastic surgery since, well, since I don’t know when. He travels to Japan to turn six members of the fiendish Black Dragon Society, all Japanese, all in cahoots with the Nazis, into six upstanding American industrialists, all through the magic of plastic surgery.

The real American industrialists will, of course, be killed, leaving the six Japanese impostors to step neatly into their lives in America. It’s the most improbable scheme ever devised and no foolin.’ Dr. Melcher, meanwhile, has to remain imprisoned in Japan so that he doesn’t give the game away.

But, in America, someone is killing off the fake industrialists one-by-one. Who could it possibly be? Nobody knows their true identities, except for Dr. Melcher and the lads back in Japan who commissioned the life-swapping plastic surgeries.

Each of the murder victims is found clutching an exquisite and obviously expensive-looking Japanese dagger, so I say look for the man who owns a Japanese dagger shop or who otherwise has access to an unlimited supply of Japanese daggers somehow.

Good thing there’s a reporter on the trail, and a young lady whom he likes called Alice, whose Uncle Bill is at the centre of the murders. The film contains the most blatant sexism I’ve ever seen in a ‘Forties movie, and ‘Forties movies are already pretty damned sexist. But just wait till you hear this little lot. It’ll make your jaw drop.

The reporter wants to keep Alice safe and away from all the commotion occasioned by the murders. He says something at one point along the lines of: ‘I wish we were married, so I could beat you up and then you’d have to stay home and you’d be nice and safe.’

There’s a lot I could say to that right now that I’m not gonna say. Just keep telling yourself, ‘that’s the way it was back then, it was the style of the times, all relationships were like that back then, fuhgeddaboutit, things have changed since then…’

BLACK FRIDAY (1940) sees Boris FRANKENSTEIN Karloff performing the almost obligatory surgery as a Dr. Ernst Sovac. This time, he’s transplanting part of the brain of a criminal called Red Cannon into the brain of his friend, Professor George Kingsley, who’s been badly injured in a car accident caused by the criminal. Fair enough, I suppose, lol. And it’s very FRANKENSTEIN-y too, isn’t it?

Anyway, though, the criminal part of his friend’s brain keeps asserting itself over the nice scholarly part of the friend’s brain. It’s like when Homer Simpson from THE SIMPSONS finally gets his longed-for hair transplant, but the thick luxurious quiff of hair has come from the show’s resident criminal and petty thug, Snake, who’s just been killed in the electric chair.

Every now and then, Snake’s thuggish personality comes out in Homer, much to the alarm of Homer’s son Bart, who’s unfortunately on Snake’s to-kill list. In BLACK FRIDAY, Red Cannon’s evil brain vies for supremacy over George Kingsley’s much more moderate one.

Dr. Sovac observes these transitions back-and-forth from evil to good and back again with interest. Red Cannon apparently stashed away a half a million bucks before he died and Dr. Sovac allows greed to get the better of him.

He wants to find that money for himself and use it to further his scientific research, no matter what the consequences for poor old George Kingsley, who’s supposed to be his oldest and closest friend. For shame, Dr. Sovac, for shame…

Bela plays a criminal called Eric Marnay in this film. He’s one of Red Cannon’s gang, even though you might have expected him to play the lead role, that of the mad scientist-doctor. He often was made to play second fiddle billing-wise to Boris Karloff, with whom he doesn’t play any scenes here.

He was included in films frequently just so that the film-makers could say, hey, lookee-here, Bela Lugosi’s in this flick! Sometimes, the roles were actually quite small and didn’t reflect his status as the man who’d played the most famous role of all time, Universal Studios’ DRACULA in 1931.

Anyway, Marnay’s desperate to get his hands on Red’s cash, and when members of Red’s gang start being mysteriously bumped off one-by-one, just like the fake Japanese industrialists in BLACK DRAGONS, Marnay is initially complacent. More dosh for me, is what he’s obviously thinking. But his time will come too, and maybe sooner than he thinks…

SCARED TO DEATH (1947) is the strangest little film I’ve ever seen. It looks a great deal older than it is and it’s filmed in something called ‘natural colour,’ so it has the distinction of being Bela’s one-and-only colour film.

It’s based on a play called MURDER ON THE OPERATING TABLE by Frank Orsino, and at times the film actually looks like a play, but a kind of scrappy one where everyone keeps chiming up at the wrong time and nothing makes a lick of sense.

George Zucco, who’s played Moriarty twice in the Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce SHERLOCK HOLMES movies, portrays a Dr. Van Ee, whose daughter-in-law Laura has somehow died of fright and the flashbacks are going to try to explain how.

Dr. Van Ee’s son Ward has been trying to get an unwilling Laura to divorce him and Dr. Van Ee has been treating Laura for mental illness. As she’s a reluctant patient, you can see that a lot of suspicion should really attach to both Van Ees for her sudden death-by-fright. They both want her out of the picture, after all.

Bela plays a visiting cousin of Dr. Van Ee’s called Professor Leonide. Resplendant in a red-lined black cloak (just like Dracula’s!) and wide-brimmed black hat, he apparently used to be a stage magician in Europe. He’s accompanied by a little malignant dwarf called Indigo and, together, they present a source of terror for Laura, the wife of Ward Van Ee. What’s the deal with that, we wonder?

A floating green mask appears to be the main source of horror for the beleaguered Laura, however. Who’s behind these ghostly apparitions, and what does it mean for the three Van Ees, locked together in a ghastly dance of death and mutual dislike?

The plot is further complicated by the intrusion of a nasty newspaperman, desperate for a story, who is absolutely horrible to his ditzy blonde girlfriend. From what I’ve seen of these ‘Forties relationships, I shouldn’t be at all surprised if the ditziness turned out to be caused by repeated blows to the head from her tyrannical newspaperman boyfriend…!

Anyway, Bela is marvellous in all three films, no matter how small or bizarre the roles he plays. I love him in anything he does. He was the best Dracula ever filmed- as well as one of the first- and he’s credited with turning Bram Stoker’s creation into the handsome, suave, sexy, domineering lust-object later perfected by Christopher Lee in the HAMMER HORROR films. Good old Bela. May he never be forgotten.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. 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, womens’ 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:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor