THE RAVEN (1935) and THE BAT (1959): A DOUBLE BILL OF HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

bela lugosi the raven

THE RAVEN WITH BELA LUGOSI AND BORIS KARLOFF AND THE BAT WITH VINCENT PRICE: A DOUBLE BILL OF CLASSIC HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE RAVEN. (1935) DIRECTED BY LEW LANDERS. BASED ON THE POEM BY EDGAR ALLAN POE. STARRING BELA LUGOSI, BORIS KARLOFF, IRENE WARE, SAMUEL S. HINDS AND LESTER MATTHEWS.

THE BAT. (1959) STARRING VINCENT PRICE, AGNES MOOREHEAD AND GAVIN GORDON. WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY CRANE WILBUR. BASED ON ‘THE CIRCULAR STAIRCASE’ (1908 NOVEL) BY MARY ROBERTS RINEHART AND ‘THE BAT’ (1920 PLAY) BY MARY ROBERTS RINEHART.

These are two marvellous old horror films starring no fewer than three of the horror genre’s most iconic legends: Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Vincent Price. All we’re missing here is Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. If we had those two guys as well, we’d have ourselves a real horror party, haha.

Bela is absolutely magnificent in the deeply atmospheric gothic movie THE RAVEN as the demented Dr. Richard Vollin, a talented surgeon who’s obsessed with the writer Edgar Allan Poe. He adores Poe’s famous poem, THE RAVEN, but his main interest in the melancholy scribe is in the whole torture thing that Poe espouses in his grim writings.

Dr. Vollin, an expert on Poe, has gone so far as to recreate one of Poe’s torture chambers in his basement. It comes complete with its very own pit and pendulum, and Dr. Vollin is thrilled with himself at the thought of how state-of-the-art it all is. All he’s lacking, really, is a victim on whom to inflict all these delightful tortures…

His opportunity for victim-finding comes when he befriends the Thatcher family after saving the life of the movie’s eye-candy, Jean Thatcher. Judge Thatcher, Jean’s father, however, thinks that Dr. Vollin is stark staring mad and inappropriately in love with Jean, who’s engaged to a rather stodgy and dull but worthy chap called Jerry. The Judge doesn’t want Jean involved in any way with the rather odd Dr. Vollin. Quite rightly, says you. The man’s clearly a nutcase…!

Dr. Vollin invites Jean, her father, Jerry and a few friends to a get-together in his creepy old mansion in the countryside. A storm is raging outside as the mad doctor prepares to lure his guests to his evil torture chamber.

Don’t even ask me how he’s planning to get away with murdering a number of the town’s prominent citizens. Probably half the town knows they’re there, as well. This doesn’t seem to bother Dr. Vollin one iota. That’s what makes him a madman, see? Madmen don’t give a shit about piddly little trifling details like that. Details are for shmucks, haha. Madmen have their minds on higher things.

He’s particularly excited about torturing Judge Thatcher, who doesn’t think that he, Vollin, is good enough for his precious daughter. Bela is looking forward to scoffing down a nice dish of revenge, which we all know is best served cold, haha.

He’s going to need a bit of muscle, though, to carry out his fiendish plans. Enter Boris Karloff, who gives a wonderful performance as Edmond Bateman, the pitiful escaped killer who is unwise enough to let Dr. Vollin operate on his face. Bateman only wanted his face altered a little bit so that he could escape detection for a while longer.

The spiteful Dr. Vollin has other ideas, however. If Bateman wants Vollin to undo the terrible damage he’s done to poor Bateman’s kisser, Bateman will have to go along with Vollin’s plans for torture and revenge. Not to mention a little spot of… murder…

Vincent Price is suave, smooth and terribly sexy as yet another doctor in THE BAT, a fantastic black-and-white mystery thriller. He plays Dr. Malcolm Welles, a medic who’s conducting extensive research on… you guessed it, bats!

Could he also be the deadly murderer who’s terrorizing a small American town, the killer known as ‘The Bat’ because of the way he tears out women’s throats with his sharp claws? He’s certainly Suspect Number One, according to the local constabulary, anyway.

The film also stars Agnes Moorehead, an excellent actress still retaining here most of the gorgeous bone structure and beauty of her youth. She plays a murder mystery writer who’s staying in the town that’s currently going in fear of its life because of this so-called ‘Bat.’

She’s staying with her loyal maid Lizzie in the town’s most haunted old house and the fun really starts when ‘The Bat’ starts targeting the two game old gals personally. Is it really them he’s after, though, or could it be the missing million-dollar stash of bank securities secreted somewhere about the old house that’s drawing him ever nearer…?

Both films, especially the older one, are super-atmospheric. I think I have a soft spot for THE RAVEN in particular, though, simply because it’s so old, a mere four years older than the DRACULA movie that made Bela Lugosi’s name and cemented his place forever in horror movie history.

Boris Karloff, of course, made his name in horror when he did THE MUMMY in 1931. Vincent Price was already famous when he made those fabulous Edgar Allan Poe adaptations with Roger Corman for AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES in the middle of the twentieth century.

THE RAVEN and THE BAT are two of my favourite old horror films from Lugosi, Karloff and Price. Hopefully, any of you guys who have yet to see them will feel the same about them after you’ve watched them.

And hopefully too, you’ll agree with me when I say that they just don’t make ’em like that any more. Let’s be thankful for these old cinematic treasures and continue to carefully preserve them. God knows, they’re worth their weight in old.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger 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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STRANGERS ON A TRAIN/THE WRONG MAN: A FESTIVE DOUBLE BILL OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

strangers-on-a-train-2THE WRONG MAN/STRANGERS ON A TRAIN: A FESTIVE DOUBLE BILL OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK THRILLERS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE WRONG MAN. (1956) DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK. BASED ON THE BOOK ‘THE TRUE STORY OF CHRISTOPHER EMMANUEL BALESTRERO’ BY MAXWELL ANDERSON. MUSIC BY BERNARD HERRMANN.

STARRING HENRY FONDA, VERA MILES AND ANTHONY QUAYLE.

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. (1951) DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK. BASED ON THE 1950 NOVEL BY PATRICIA HIGHSMITH. SCREENPLAY BY RAYMOND CHANDLER. MUSIC BY DIMITRI TIOMKIN.

STARRING FARLEY GRANGER, ROBERT WALKER, RUTH ROMAN, PAT HITCHCOCK, LEO G. CARROLL, MARIAN LORNE, JONATHAN HALE AND LAURA ELLIOTT.

I love these two Alfred Hitchcock movies. One of them is about a man wrongly accused of a crime, robbery to be exact. The other is about a man who is being blackmailed into committing a much worse crime, the crime of murder, by a psychopath with whom there is simply no reasoning. Because he’s a psychopath, haha. They’re both cracking little films which would each make for terrific festive viewing right about now.

Henry Fonda turns in an understated powerhouse of a performance in THE WRONG MAN as Manny Balestrero. The film is based on a true story, by the way, a fact of which Mr. Hitchcock makes us cognisant at the beginning of the film.

Manny is a nightclub musician whose salary barely keeps a roof over his little family’s heads and food in their mouths. He seems like a decent quiet man and a good caring husband to his missus Rose, played by Hitchcock actress Vera Miles, and their two little boys.

When Manny, in a terrible case of mistaken identity, is accused of holding up an insurance office, his life takes a distinct turn for the nightmarish. Henry Fonda does a brilliant job of showing us Manny’s quiet desperation. It looks to us like Manny is in shock as the police take him in for questioning, charge him and put him in a holding cell until he can be arraigned.

The police station and courtroom stuff is exceedingly well done. As this is based on a true story, there’s no wickedly Hitchcockian twist at the end but THE WRONG MAN remains one of the best films ever made about a man wrongly accused of a crime he not only didn’t commit, but wouldn’t even have ever dreamed of committing because it was just so out of character for him. The cops really did finger ‘the wrong man’ for this particular crime.

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN is a case of ‘You do my murder and I’ll do yours.’ Farley Granger and Robert Walker are utterly superb as the two titular strangers who meet on a train journey.

Guy Haines (Farley Granger) is a well-known tennis player whose bitchy wife Miriam won’t give him a divorce to marry the love of his life Anne Morton, a Senator’s daughter.

Well, in all honesty, why should she if she doesn’t feel like it, especially now that Guy’s making a few quid on the tennis circuit? I’d hang in there for dear life if I were her. I actually think that Miriam’s a much maligned character in this film. As Guy’s wife, she’s got rights, hasn’t she? Not that anyone ever acknowledges them…

Bruno Anthony, the aforementioned psychopath, is a mentally unstable idle layabout who thinks that the death of his rich but overbearing father would be the answer to all his prayers.

By the end of the train journey, Bruno, unaware and uncaring of how sick his mind actually is, thinks that he’s persuaded Guy to do a ‘criss-cross,’ beautifully-parodied in one of THE SIMPSONS’ Treehouse Of Horror Halloween episodes. It means ‘You do my murder and I’ll do yours.’

Bruno fondly imagines that he has arranged for Guy to bump off his, Bruno’s, old man while Bruno himself will murder Guy’s unfaithful wife Miriam. Guy dismisses Bruno’s nonsense as the ramblings of a lunatic, but when the bespectacled Miriam turns up dead, he suddenly finds himself having to sit up and take notice of Bruno’s wild ravings…

Farley Granger, you might remember, played Philip, the weaker of the two college-boy murderers in Alfred Hitchcock’s ROPE (1948), in my opinion one of the best films he ever made.

As Philip was a nervous wreck throughout the whole of ROPE, we never really got to see him smile. In STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, we get to see how handsome Farley Granger really is and what a gorgeous lopsided grin he’s got. ‘Twould melt the knickers off a nun, that would.

He does a great job of portraying Guy’s desperation as he unwillingly gets more and more entangled in Bruno’s mad plan. Robert Walker turns in no less of a masterful tour-de-force as the madman to whom other people’s lives don’t matter a jot. They are merely inconveniences to be swept out of one’s way when necessary.

I love the scene when Guy’s girlfriend Anne goes to see Bruno’s mum in an attempt to straighten things out. Mrs. Anthony, having presumably been caught between her domineering husband and insane son for years, is so steeped in denial that it would take more than the slightly vapid Anne Morton to reach her. The Anthony house is magnificently-furnished and old, by the way.

I adore Leo G. Carroll’s presence here as the stuffy Senator, but it’s always genuinely surprised me how he was okay with his beloved eldest daughter taking up with a married man who was then suspected of his wife’s murder. And him being such a stickler for the proprieties!

And he should certainly have spanked his younger daughter Barbara for her constant cheeky interruptions, so unbecoming in a female of the time but, then again, maybe Barbara’s real-life father Alfred Hitchcock might not have liked that idea so much…!

Hitchcock’s cameo in this film is rather delightful, by the way, and the scene where Bruno attempts to retrieve Guy’s lighter from a storm drain is deliciously suspenseful.

There you go, anyway, dear movie buffs. Two great old Hitchcock films for you to enjoy over Christmas and New Year along with the remains of the eggnog and the selection boxes. Happy New Year and may all our 2017s be filled with brilliant films, new and old.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger 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

A KISS BEFORE DYING/DIAL M FOR MURDER: A FESTIVE DOUBLE BILL OF MURDER MYSTERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

grace-kelly-dial-m-for-murderA KISS BEFORE DYING/DIAL M FOR MURDER: A FESTIVE DOUBLE BILL OF MURDER MYSTERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

A KISS BEFORE DYING. (1956) BASED ON THE DEBUT 1953 NOVEL BY IRA LEVIN. DIRECTED BY GERD OSWALD.

STARRING ROBERT WAGNER, JOANNE WOODWARD AND MARY ASTOR.

DIAL M FOR MURDER. (1954) BASED ON THE 1952 PLAY BY FREDERICK KNOTT. SCREENPLAY BY FREDERICK KNOTT. DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK.

STARRING RAY MILLAND, GRACE KELLY, ROBERT CUMMINGS, JOHN WILLIAMS AND ANTHONY DAWSON.

I watch these two cracking murder mysteries every Christmas, even though they have nothing to do with Christmas whatsoever. And I always watch ’em back-to-back as well, because of the similarities between them and the fact that they each have leading men with murder in mind heading up the proceedings. Let’s look at them now in more detail. After you, gentle readers…!

A KISS BEFORE DYING is an American film noir in colour, if you please, and DIAL M FOR MURDER is a detective movie superbly filmed in 3-D, which is quite impressive given how old it is. A KISS BEFORE DYING could so easily have been filmed by Hitchcock, I always think. It’s almost more Hitchcock than Hitchcock himself. Maybe Gerd Oswald (this was his directorial debut) was a fan!

In A KISS BEFORE DYING, Robert Wagner (who later starred alongside Stephanie Powers as the handsome charismatic billionaire Jonathan Hart in ‘Eighties drama series HART TO HART) plays the leading male, college boy Bud Corliss. Bud’s devastating good looks are equalled only by his devious mind and sleight of hand when it comes to solving the number one problem in his life.

He’s knocked up his girlfriend, fellow college student Dory, see? Her future hubby Paul Newman might have had summat to say about that, haha. Anyway, Dory is thrilled about the pregnancy because she adores the criminally handsome Bud and also wants to get away from her overbearing millionaire father. She hears wedding bells and is clingy and needy to an irritating degree.

Bud, however, as he’s been courting Dory only for her Daddy’s moolah, is horrified by the news of the impending visit of the stork. He smells a disinheriting in the air for Dory and sees all his cunning plans for self-enrichment coming to nothing. He concocts a plan so fiendish it’s actually hard to watch it unfold on the screen. It’s also, to my mind, needlessly complicated.

If he’d only just married the bloody girl, her Pops would’ve come round in the end! But no, he has to weave a web so tangled that surely it’s only a matter of time before he gets caught up in it himself…

The book on which the film is based was written by Ira Levin, who also wrote ROSEMARY’S BABY and THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, so you know the film is gonna be good. The 1991 re-make of the film starring Matt Dillon and Sean Young is actually excellent as well.

DIAL M FOR MURDER is set in a marvellously British London and has an older but no less handsome and charming Ray Milland as the leading man with murder in mind, former tennis star Tony Wendice.

His beautiful wife Margot, played by Grace Kelly, one of Hitchcock’s favourite blonde leading ladies, has been more or less flaunting her affair with American mystery writer Mark Halliday, for which sin he plans to bump her off. Plus she has a nice few bob in the bank as well, which will definitely come in handy for Tony, who’s a bit strapped for cash at the moment.

Tony’s own plan is no less needlessly complicated than Bud Corliss’s. Furthermore, he even engages an outside party to do his murder for him, a circumstance practically guaranteed to foul things up.

The scene in which he positively bamboozles poor old petty crook Captain Lesgate with his double-talk and sinister threats is probably the best one in the film. It certainly shows us just how determined the evil Tony is to get what he wants. He was a brilliant actor, Ray Milland.

The plan goes equally spectacularly awry in the 1998 re-make of the film, A PERFECT MURDER, starring Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow and Viggo Mortensen. It’s a f***ing terrible plan, haha, and so is Bud Corliss’s. Too many variables, as the fella says. Too many flippin’ imponderables. Way too many things that can, and do, go wrong.

My favourite character here, beside Tony Wendice himself, is the absolutely super-British Chief Inspector Hubbard, whose valiant attempts to finger the real villain in DIAL M FOR MURDER provide entertainment and some rather spiffing bursts of dialogue.

It’s a film linked together with latchkeys (none of which are on nice sensible key-rings, by the way!), ladies’ stockings and handbags and, together with A KISS BEFORE DYING, will make perfect festive viewing for the older members of the family. And remember, folks, not every super-villain wears tights and funny face-paint, you know. Some are right under your nose the whole time…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger 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