MADHOUSE (1974) and HOUSE OF 1,000 DOLLS (1967): A PAIR OF VINCENT PRICE HORROR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Vincent-Price-Madhouse

MAD HOUSE (1974) and HOUSE OF 1,000 DOLLS (1967). A PAIR OF VINCENT PRICE HORROR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘MADHOUSE’ is a marvellous Vincent Price vehicle that has his distinctive stamp all over it. HOUSE OF 1,000 DOLLS, on the other hand, is a rather boring, baffling film in which men dressed in black chase each other around Tangiers in the dark, and it rather looks to me like the film-makers decided they needed a big star name to sell the movie and poor old Vincent Price drew the short straw, lol. Then they stuck him in a few scenes and Bob’s your uncle, they had themselves a party. But let’s start with MADHOUSE, an infinitely more pleasing affair.

In this AMICUS/AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES collaboration, Vincent Price plays an ageing American movie star called Paul Toombes, who is best known for making the hugely popular DR. DEATH films. Now, in the twilight of his career, he’s making a major comeback. He’s going to star with an attractive young actress in a television series which will be reviving the character of Dr. Death, for which he’ll travel to England and leave his old life behind.

His old life is more complicated than most people’s, and includes a murdered young porn star wife whom some folk still think Paul killed, even though he was acquitted of the crime. Certainly, bigshot TV producer Oliver Quayle, played by Robert COUNT YORGA Quarry, is one of these suspicious folks but, as he’s going to be producing the new DR. DEATH series, he’s willing to put his prejudices aside for the sake of the big fat juicy pay-off which Paul Toombes’s name in the credits will bring.

Paul can’t stand the oily, smarmy, sneaky Quayle, so it’s a good thing that his very dear old friend, the actor-screenwriter Herbert Flay (Peter Cushing), will be working with them both to provide a bit of balance. Herbert wrote the scripts for the original DR. DEATH movies and Paul is thrilled to be invited to stay with Herbert in his lovely secluded English mansion while filming of the series takes place.

Once filming starts, however, a series of gruesome murders immediately starts up also, as various people are fatally attacked by someone dressed in the Dr. Death garb, complete with rather freaky skull mask and black swirling cape, the works.

Paul Toombes starts to doubt his own sanity. After all, he experienced a period of similar confusion and mental derangement after the brutal decapitation of his gorgeous porn star missus twenty years ago, the murder he was accused of committing. He spent years in a mental hospital after that murder. Could it be that he’s off his rocker again and running around the place murdering people whilst dressed as his alter ego, Dr. Death?

There are just so many highlights in this one; the appearance of the stunning blonde actress for Hammer and other studios, Linda Hayden, as a pushy, wanna-be actress who thinks Paul Toombes can advance her career; a fancy dress party for the cast and crew of the Dr. Death TV series at which the suavely handsome Robert Quarry comes dressed as Christopher Lee’s Dracula; and the inclusion of several of Vincent Price’s actual old movies, all purporting to be old DR. DEATH films.

We see TALES OF TERROR, the Basil Rathbone vignette in which good old Sherlock Holmes himself tries to hypnotise a man (who else but Vincent Price?) at the exact point of death, in order to control the man for his own nefarious ends. The wiz-off between Price and an ageing Boris Karloff in THE RAVEN also features, as does the Edgar Allan Poe-H.P. Lovecraft mash-up, THE HAUNTED PALACE, and a visual but unmistakable reference to HOUSE OF WAX, possibly Price’s best ever and most famous horror film. THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER and SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN are in there too.

This film is great fun, and it looks like Vincent Price is enjoying himself. (Unlike in HOUSE OF 1,000 DOLLS, in which he kind of looks like he’s wondering, what the hell am I doing here…?) He plays the dual roles of Paul Toombes and Dr. Death in a theatrical and dramatic fashion, with all the panache, flair and style he’s capable of. Let’s just hope he’s not allergic to spiders, however, or to dark secrets that conceal themselves in the basements of elegant country houses…

HOUSE OF 1,000 DOLLS isn’t a very good film, despite the cool name. There are far from 1,000 dolls in the House of 1,000 Dolls, for a kick-off. There are only about twelve dolls at the very most, and they’re not even dolls at all, they’re all prostitutes, lol. That’s right, folks, the House of 1,000 Dolls is nothing more than a brothel with a lovely name.

You can pay to have sex with the dolls, which is all right ’cause they’re not bad-looking at all, but you can’t take a fancy to one and bring her home with you. You can’t bring one home with you even if she’s your legal wife and the ‘syndicate’ has kidnapped her for the purposes of sex trafficking. That’s when they try to hold onto her the most. If you’re the grieving husband, well, you might as well just feck off home for all you’ll be able to do about it. They’ll follow you most of your way home and then kill you in a junkyard, though. ‘S true, I swear it.

It’s a rather dull life, being a ‘doll’ from the House of 1,000 Dolls. You can change your sexy lingerie, change your hair, go for your 11am whipping (oh yes, there’s whipping, but no nudity, sadly!) and, erm, that’s about it. The poor ‘dolls.’ No wonder they’re always sitting around hoping to be rescued by their men-folk and organising unsuccessful protests against their incarceration. Being a ‘doll’ isn’t nearly as much fun as it sounds.

Vincent Price feels somewhat tacked on here, as I said earlier, as a suave, tuxedo-clad magician known as ‘Manderville.’ Manderville, together with his glamorous partner-in-crime, Rebecca (Tippi Hedren to the life in that severe blonde hairstyle, just look at her!), is responsible for hypnotising the beautiful young girls who are then abducted and conveyed to the- you guessed it- the House of 1,000 Dolls to be giving a sound training in the art of prostitution. Well, a trade is always a handy thing to have, Mother. I suppose it might as well be in blowjobs and anal beads as owt else, now all ‘t’ mills have gone for a burton.

Vincent Price really gives it his all, as I suspect he does in all of his films, but it’s a very small role compared to some of his others and not as meaty. It doesn’t even feel like it’s his film, if you know what I mean. It’s like a bad foreign film in which he happens to have a part. (It’s an AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES film, as it happens, released initially in Spain under a Spanish title. There’s some pretty bad dubbing in evidence, I’m afraid, and some dialogue goes for a burton too, lol.)

There’s a policeman running around trying to find out who killed this guy called Fernando, whose girlfriend Diana was kidnapped by the girlfriend-stealing, white slavery syndicate, and a doctor called Steven Armstrong who does virtually no doctoring at all, but he does manage to lose his beautiful and ridiculously dim missus to the good folks behind the House of 1,000 Dolls.

Well, that’s how fast they work, you see, these people. While you’re still standing outside the shop checking your flamin’ Lotto numbers and licking your Cornetto out through the hole at the bottom of the wrapper, they’ve nicked your girlfriend right out of your car and whisked her away to the House of 1,000 Dolls for a long apprenticeship in the oldest trade in ‘t’ world. Should you bother to go after her? Dunno, really. I guess it depends on how much you’re enjoying that Cornetto…!

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:

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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE CORPSE VANISHES. (1942) A BELA LUGOSI HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.©

corpse vanishes

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?’

Patricia Hunter.

‘Why, yes, in a manner of speaking, I find a coffin much more comfortable than a bed.’

Dr. Lorenz.

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:

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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.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