The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Article #16 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 3-31-2001
Posting date: 8-14-2001

 

Dr. Frankenstein discovers that the monster still lives after the fire at the windmill, He is also visited by the evil Dr. Pretorius, who wants his cooperation in creating a mate for the monster.

This is one of those movies I can watch repeatedly and I never tire of it. I not only consider it James Whale’s masterpiece, but it’s my favorite horror movie of all time. Not that it’s scary anymore, mind you, but it’s one of the richest, most entrancing cinematic experiences I’ve ever had. Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Dwight Frye and Una O’Connor are all great, but the movie is stolen by Ernest Thesiger as Dr. Pretorius, my all-time favorite mad scientist; he’s certainly the wittiest one ever devised, with a collection of some of the greatest lines in horror movie history. Still, the best scene of the movie is the most unexpected; the monster’s encounter with the blind hermit is absolutely heartbreaking, even given the way it was brilliantly parodied years later by Mel Brooks in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN.

One of the signs of a really great movie is the way you can get more and more out of it with repeated viewings. The observation I made this time round was that Karl (Dwight Frye) is present when the monster is first taken by the villagers; he is leaning against a tree, grinning (if I remember correctly). I was wondering what he was doing in that scene, and then I realized that the monster had been blamed for murders that were never shown, and that Karl was known to be a murderer. Could it actually have been Karl who was responsible for the deaths? It’s something to think about…

Bloodlust! (1959)

Article #15 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 3-30-2001
Posting date: 8-13-2001

 

Several teens find themselves stranded on an island with an insane hunter who plans to hunt them down and mount them in his trophy room.

With a title like BLOODLUST! and the basic plot of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (which I consider one of the most potentially thrilling plot ideas of all time), this movie should be a lot better than it is. But in order to get this idea to work, you have to play up its strength; i.e., that there needs to be a tense battle of wits between the hunter and the hunted. Well, no such battle of wits ever happens; the hunter is too busy knocking off his own henchman, and the teens keep finding a way to elude him by sneaking back into the mansion, and rather than thrills and chills, ennui and boredom set in. A great villain might tilt the scales, but I find Wilton Graff just plain dull; imagine what someone like Vincent Price could do with this role. It does have some horrific visuals here and there, and this might suffice for some people; I just don’t think it ever builds up a compelling story to give the visuals a context.

The Amazing Transparent Man (1960)

Article #14 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 3-29-2001
Posting date: 8-12-2001

 An escaped convict finds himself under the control of a megalomaniacal criminal who is trying to use a scientist’s experiments with invisibility for his own purposes. He has the convict rendered invisible so he can steal radioactive materials for him.

You know, if I were a megalomaniacal criminal intent on using invisibility to take over the world, I wouldn’t render an ex-convict hostile to me invisible to steal material for me; I’d most likely turn invisible myself. Of course, maybe that’s why I’m not a criminal mastermind; what do I know about such things? This was one of Edgar G. Ulmer’s last directorial efforts, and there’s very little to recommend here; it’s dull and implausible, the special effects are nothing special, and it’s all rather uninspired and stodgy. Perhaps “amazing” isn’t the best word for this one.

The Amazing Colossal Man (1957)

Article #13 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 3-28-2001
Posting date: 8-11-200
A man badly scarred by a plutonium explosion begins growing at an unexpected rate, unfortunately going mad in the process.

This movie has one of the most notorious props in SF film history; namely, the giant hypodermic syringe used near the end of the movie. My wife also has a fondness for the Amazing Colossal Man growth chart that the scientists keep in their laboratory (every home should have one). Me, I love the scene where the scientist tries to explain how a heart is made up of a single cell, a theory that defies being taken seriously even among laymen. Yes, it’s quite easy to pick holes in Bert I. Gordon’s reverse take on THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, but even if I wouldn’t call it his best film, it is one of his most irresistible, and I really think he tried his best with this one. There is a real attempt to delve into the same issues that its model explored, and for a while it actually succeeds on this level. Unfortunately, the payoff is lame; the attack on Las Vegas is fairly anticlimactic, only coming to life when the above-mentioned prop comes into play, and it ends with a dull thud. Nonetheless, it’s one of those touchstones of fifties SF that is worth seeing irrespective of its flaws.

The Brain from Planet Arous (1957)

Article #12 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 3-27-2001
Posting date: 8-10-2001

A man is taken over by an evil brain from outer space, which decides it wants to take over the planet. Fortunately, a good brain from outer space comes on the scene and takes over the man’s dog.

You know, sometimes you can just tell from reading a plot description that you’ve entered a B-Movie pulp paradise. The story sounds laughable, but irresistible, and the movie doesn’t disappoint. It has John Agar in one of his best SF roles; he always seemed to me to be better suited for villains than heros, and this movie gives him a great one, and he looks like he’s having a lot of fun, even if those contacts must have been painful. Credit Nathan Juran for once again having the good sense to know that the best way to handle a story like this is to keep it moving.

SPOILER COMING

One of the questions I’m left with after watching this movie is how John Agar is going to explain all this to the authorities. Though he’s won out against the evil brain, only him and his girlfriend know about it, and the good brain (the only character who could convincingly back up their story) has left for parts unknown. He’s going to have a lot of explaining to do when the police show up!

The Boogie Man Will Get You (1942)

Article #11 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 3-26-2001
Posting date: 8-9-2001

An old scientist experiments on travelling salesmen that visit his inn. He comes under the suspicion of the town jack-of-all-trades and a woman who has agreed to buy the inn.

If Boris Karloff hadn’t been with a touring company doing “Arsenic and Old Lace” when the movie version was being shot, he most likely would have appeared in it in the role he’d done on Broadway. As it is, he ended up in this “Arsenic” rip-off, which borrows a number of elements of the play (there is a romantic couple, there are dotty old people around, Peter Lorre shows up) and changes the mix slightly. Even if it is a rip-off, Karloff is having fun, and shows great comic timing. The plot is muddled, and it definitely ends with a thud, but it has some nice moments throughout. Peter Lorre plays the banker/lawyer/sheriff/justice of the peace/etc. character, and my favorite moment is when Karloff explains to him the nature of his experiments (he’s been trying to turn travelling salesmen into supermen to aid the war effort), Lorre’s reaction is relief that the old scientist wasn’t a crackpot like he thought.

As a bit of trivia, I noticed when I researched this that Lorre and Karloff had only appeared in four movies together, and all of them were comedies.

Blood of the Vampire (1958)

Article #10 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 3-25-2001
Posting date: 8-8-2001

A doctor framed for murder is sent to a special prison, where he finds himself working with the warden to study blood types, unaware that the warden has contracted a disease that requires a constant replenishment of blood.

I’d seen stills of this movie for years, particularly ones that featured Victor Maddern as the hunchback. The movie itself is supposed to be in color, but my print was so faded that I could only tell it was in color when there was red in the scene (it does make the blood stand out). It’s definitely a movie of its period; like THE VAMPIRE, it attempts to come up with a scientific equivalent of vampirism, and it shows some definite influence from Hammer horrors of the period. It was written by Jimmy Sangster, and stars Donald Wolfit as the evil Dr. Callistratus. It’s not great, but it’s entertaining enough for ersatz Hammer. I hope to see a decent color print some time.