The Human Monster (1939)

THE HUMAN MONSTER (1939)
(a.k.a. DARK EYES OF LONDON)
Article #223 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-25-2001
Posting date: 3-10-2002

Investigators look into an insurance racket where people holding policies are found drowned in the Thames. It is somehow tied to a mysterious home for the blind.

This is quite an interesting mystery-thriller with strong horror overtones. Bela Lugosi doesn’t really play a dual role, but there are two characters who are one and the same; the only reason the movie gets away with it is that one of the characters is using a voice dubbed in by someone other than Lugosi; this was probably necessary in order to fool the audience, because whatever talents he had, Lugosi was not a master of different voices, and the voice he does have is instantly recognizable. I was indeed startled by the revelation. Otherwise, the most memorable face in the movie is that of Wilfred Walters, the big blind murderer who is the “monster” of this horror film. This was based on an Edgar Wallace novel that would be remade in the sixties as DEAD EYES OF LONDON.

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The House of Frankenstein (1945)

THE HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1945)
Article #222 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-24-2001
Posting date: 3-9-2002

Dr. Niemann and his assistant Daniel escape from a prison and vow to get revenge on those that imprisoned them. In the process, they encounter Dracula, the wolfman, and the Frankenstein monster.

I will always have a great deal of affection for this movie, since it was the first Frankenstein movie I ever saw. It’s certainly not the best of the Frankenstein movies; it largely just trots out the monsters and lets them do their thing, but I still find that a lot of fun. Plus, the cast adds to the enjoyment; Boris Karloff, J. Carrol Naish, Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, Elena Verdugo, Anne Gwynne, Lionel Atwill and George Zucco all together in one movie. The Dracula sequence seems tacked on, and the rest of the movie feels a little like a rehash of FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN (Talbot wants to be cured, but the scientist is more interested in the monster), but it doesn’t change my fondness for the whole thing.

The Hideous Sun Demon (1959)

THE HIDEOUS SUN DEMON (1959)
Article #221 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-23-2001
Posting date: 3-08-2002

A man suffering from a dosage of radiation turns into a monster after exposure to the sun.

I’ve heard that one of the reasons Robert Clarke directed this movie was to prove that he could make a better movie than the one he’d just appeared in, namely THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER. He succeeded, but on the other hand, it would have been harder to make a movie that was worse. This one is no better than okay, with a novel central gimmick and a decent monster head; I’ve never felt it was quite as bad as some people make it out to be (unlike THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER, which is every bit as bad). And he does avoid some of the pitfalls of low-budget movie-making, such as the heavy use of stock footage and narration. One of the interesting touches to the movie is that the main character (played by Clarke) isn’t a sympathetic character; he has pronounced character flaws (such as his drinking) that contribute to making his illness even more troublesome to him.

The Head (1959)

THE HEAD (1959)
Article #220 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-22-2001
Posting date: 3-7-2002

The strange Dr. Ood keeps the head of Professor Abel alive in order to get the formula for the serum that he needs. He also replaces the twisted body of a woman with the beautiful body of a model.

This is one of the stranger oddities I’ve encountered. It’s like a slightly less sleazy version of THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE with elements of HOUSE OF DRACULA and CHARLY thrown in for good measure. Dr. Ood is as bizarre as his name; you find out why near the end of the movie. The house where most of the action takes place is a real treat, with a really bizarre looking staircase. And I’ve been trying to figure out why they have so many shots of Professor Abel from the back whenever he’s talking; it’s almost like they don’t want to show you his face (that is, while he still has a body). I always have a soft spot for movies this weird, and I think there should have been a whole series of Dr. Ood movies. Let’s fabricate a few.

THE ODD DR. OOD – The immediate sequel has Dr. Ood married, but his wife has been horribly scarred in an accident, and he tries to restore her beauty. Unfortunately, his squirrel gland injections turn her into a murderous weresquirrel.

THE OOD COUPLE – Dr. Ood grafts Tony Randall’s head onto Jack Klugman’s body, and Walter Matthau’s onto Jack Lemmon’s. The two hideous creatures battle to the death.

OOD OUT WEST – Dr. Ood moves to the wild west, where he grafts the feet of Rudolf Nureyev, the hands of Orlac, the head of Wyatt Earp, and the trunk of an elephant onto a cactus. This creature then gets into a wrestling match with Tor Johnson.

Y’know, it’s probably a damn good thing I don’t work in the movie business.

The Hands of Orlac (1961)

THE HANDS OF ORLAC (1961)
Article #219 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-21-2001
Posting date: 3-6-2002

When a pianist’s hands are crushed in an accident, a brilliant surgeon grafts the hands of an executed killer in their place. The pianist then discovers he has trouble playing the piano and is tortured by thoughts of murder.

This is the third version of this story of which I am aware. It’s not my favorite; as Orlac, Mel Ferrer is just not very interesting, and the script is so clumsy and obvious in continually bringing up the murderer’s name to him that it feels pretty contrived. The movie itself seems more interested in Nero the magician (played by Christopher Lee), but I find myself wondering what Nero is trying to gain from terrorizing Orlac; it doesn’t appear to be money or revenge, as in the earlier two versions. As it is, he appears to be doing it out of sheer meanness. Even the climax of the movie has little to do with Orlac, being more concerned with Nero and his assistant. Perhaps they should have gone all out and just made a movie about Nero. The cast also features Donald Wolfit and Donald Pleasence in small roles.

Supernatural (1933)

SUPERNATURAL (1933)
Article #218 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-20-2001
Posting date: 3-5-2002

A woman is executed for strangling men. When a scientist with a theory concerning transmutation of spirits takes her body after the execution, the spirit ends up possessing another woman.

This is my favorite of the Halperin Brothers’ horror movies that I’ve seen. It’s genuinely eerie and full of good performances, though I can’t help but notice that they have this thing about superimposed glaring eyes, specifically Lugosi’s glaring eyes. I do have to admire them insofar as they seemed to put as much work into their movies as their budgets would permit; I don’t always care for their results, but I don’t get the feeling they were just churned out.

Half Human (1957)

HALF HUMAN (1957)
Article #217 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-19-2001
Posting date: 3-4-2002

An abominable snowman is discovered in Japan.

This Ishiro Honda movie, like GODZILLA, was released in this country with different footage to make it more accessible to American audiences; it doesn’t do it nearly as well, though. In fact, the sequences consist of little more than John Carradine talking endlessly, though they do perform an autopsy on the the costume of the baby yeti, which Toho lent to the makers of this version for use in the movie. It still comes off better than a Jerry Warren movie, though, but I don’t care for the fact that it is the new footage that is almost entirely represented in the movie’s credits, with only a token mention of the actual Japanese cast and crew that were responsible for most of the movie. Incidentally, the story looks quite interesting and the Yeti costume is fantastic; I’m surprised that Toho could come up with a big hairy creature as good-looking as this one is and then bungle the costume used for King Kong (in KING KONG VS. GODZILLA). I can’t help but notice that in general movies about abominable snowmen are more interesting than movies about Bigfoot. I wish I could see the full Japanese version of the movie, but I gather that it is considered politically incorrect in Japan and is no longer available.