The Empire of Dracula (1967)

Article #443 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 6-1-2002
Posting date: 10-25-2002

Travelers stay at Dracula’s castle and find themselves in peril.

Impressive title, huh? Since it’s mostly a rehash of the situation in DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS, maybe they wanted it to sound as regal as that one. At heart, though, it’s just your basic vampire flick, and unless there is a wealth of subtleties hidden in the Spanish dialogue that I would need subtitles to understand (it’s in Spanish, undubbed and unsubtitled), it doesn’t really add anything new to the Dracula canon, unless you count seeing his name listed as Draculstein in a book. As it is, the most impressive scene is a fight on the top of moving carriage; it must have worked so well that they added a second one at the end of the movie. Incidentally, this was the first color Mexican horror film.

Deathdream (1972)

Article #442 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 5-31-2002
Posting date: 10-24-2002

The soldier son of a couple returns home despite the fact that his death had been reported. They notice that he’s not like he used to be, and unusual murders are starting to be committed in town.

In some ways, this is a companion piece to Director Bob Clark’s and screenwriter Alan Ormsby’s CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS; if that movie was a zombie flesh-eating comedy, this is a zombie flesh-eating tragedy. As such, the characters play a much greater role in this movie than the other one, as do the themes (war, dysfunctional families, etc.). Ultimately, the actions of the zombie son are less compelling than the dilemma of the parents; one is left wondering how the realization of what their son is will effect them. Actually, it’s the father who is the most compelling, because you really don’t know what he’s going to do; mother is fairly predicable once you get her number. Still, one is even more shocked in some ways by the mother’s revelation that she doesn’t care for her daughter than one is by the zombie’s actions. There is a great creepy atmosphere to the movie and some excellent use of sound. This one was a fascinating surprise.

Invisible Agent (1942)

Article #441 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 5-30-2002
Posting date: 10-23-2002

A man who has inherited the formula for invisibility agrees to use his power to aid the allies during World War II.

This science fiction/spy thriller/wartime propaganda movie certainly isn’t much of a science fiction movie; outside of the fact that we have a man who is invisible, it doesn’t really use the idea in anything more than its gimmick capacity. It certainly isn’t much of a spy thriller either; I prefer my spies to have a lot more common sense than this guy shows. In fact, the scene during the dinner, rather than being knee-slappingly funny as intended, merely makes me wonder why nobody bothered to administer an intelligence test to this guy before sending him out on a mission. This leaves the wartime propaganda angle as being where the movie is most effective, and it actually works well enough on that level, particularly during a scene where the Nazis try to get one of their prisoners to sign a paper claiming he was well treated; this ironic moment makes for propaganda as effective as it can be.

The Greed of William Hart (1948)

Article #440 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 5-29-2002
Posting date: 10-22-2002

Two ghoulish men provide corpses for a doctor to use in medical examinations.

If there had been a market for malevolent glee, Tod Slaughter would have cornered it years ago. I find it totally unsurprising that he would have tackled the Burke and Hare story; it seemed a natural for him. There’s not a whole lot to comment on here; it’s Slaughter doing his thing; killing people, spouting mean but witty dialogue, and enjoying the whole thing immensely. There’s also plenty of other interesting and fun roles in this movie; unfortunately, my print ran only 53 minutes, and I know there are longer prints out there. This one will have to go on my upgrade list.

Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952)

Article #439 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 5-28-2002
Posting date: 10-21-2002

Two entertainers find themselves stranded on an island with a mad scientist performing experiments on evolution.

There are only two reasons why this movie is as well known as it is; the first is the title. The second is the presence of Duke Mitchell and (especially) Sammy Petrillo, a comic duo that specialized in an impersonation of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Petrillo’s impersonation is the most amazing; he even looks like Jerry Lewis. Unfortunately, he’s never as funny as Lewis; he is aggressively lame, and the presence of some decent humor was the only thing that could have saved the movie. As it is, there are way too many jokes centered around the fat native girl. I’ve seen this movie three times; the first time is understandable; natural curiosity. The second time was to double check if it was as bad as I remembered it; it was. The third time was for this series of Musings. That is two times too many, at least, and if wasting time turns out to be a sin of some sort, then I’m going to have a lot to answer for to my maker.

Bedlam (1946)

BEDLAM (1946)
Article #438 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing day: 5-27-2002
Posting day: 10-20-2002

A protege of Lord Mortimer takes it upon herself to reform conditions in a local insane asylum, only to find herself committed there for her troubles.

I’ve always been a little bit disappointed with this Val Lewton movie; the ambiguity that I found quite prevalent in his other movies is noticeably absent here. In fact, I find it hard to think of it as a horror movie at all, though it does contain some definite horror elements (some of the asylum scenes and the basic concept of madness that is inherent to the subject matter). It is a historical drama that uses the maltreatment of the mentally ill to explore any number of issues; corruption, political expediency, the flightiness and unpredictability of public figures, and ultimately the nature of morality. This may be the only one of Lewton’s horror films where he really allows himself a hero; Anna Lee’s character is flawed and has to grow into the role, but that is ultimately what she becomes. Her performance, as well as an excellent performance by Boris Karloff as Master Sims, are definite plusses. Actually, I enjoyed this movie much more this time than I have previously, because I found it to be very rich in what it had to say, and it’s ability to look at the world as a very complex place indeed. It helps to just not think of it as a horror film at all.

The Beast of Hollow Mountain (1956)

Article #437 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing day: 5-26-2002
Posting day: 10-19-2002

Local residents believe that the disappearance of a cowboy’s cattle is due to a monster that lives within a mountain surrounded by a swamp.

I believe that this is the first real take on Willis O’Brien’s Gwangi concept combining cowboys and dinosaurs. It’s not really very successful; the movie is three-quarters through before we ever get a glimpse of the beast, and most of the preceeding sixty minutes is fairly dull by monster movie or western standards. Things do pick up around the forty minute mark; there is a scene in a graveyard that actually generates a fair amount of tension, and a stampede sequence that is probably the highlight of the movie. The monster itself is generated via stop-motion, but using a series of static models versus a poseable model; this gives the dinosaur a range of expressions that it wouldn’t have gotten conventionally, but it’s far jerkier and less effective than more standard stop-motion, and you see entirely too much of the dinosaur sticking his tongue out and waving it around. It must have been a difficult and expensive process, too; that’s probably the main reason the movie takes so long to get to its few dinosaur scenes. Still, the second half is much better than the first half.