The Corpse Vanishes (1942).

Directed by Wallace Fox
Produced by Sam Katzman & Jack Dietz
Story & Screenplay by Harvey Gates, Sam Robins & Gerald Schnitzer
Photography: Arthur Reed
Film Editor: Robert Golden

Cast: Bela Lugosi (Dr. Lorenz), Luana Walters (Patricia Hunter), Tristram Coffin (Dr. Foster), Elizabeth Russell (Countess Lorenz), Minerva Urecal (Fagah), Angelo Rossitto (Toby), Frank Moran (Angel), Vince Barnett (Sandy), Kenneth Harlan (Editor Keenan), George Eldredge (Mike), Joan Barclay (Alice Wentworth), Gwen Kenyon (Peggy), Sam Katzman

__________

No matter where you look these days, the United States is falling apart, so it seems like the perfect time for The Corpse Vanishes (1942). One of Bela Lugosi’s Monogram Nine, its glorious nonsense is a nice alternative to the hideous, venomous nonsense just oozing out of every pore of our society.

Brides are collapsing at the alter, then they disappear during their ambulance ride. A spunky girl reporter (the lovely and tragic Luana Walters) discovers that all the unfortunate brides wore the same odd-smelling orchid, which leads her to Dr. George Lorenz (Lugosi), an authority on orchids — and a mad scientist who’s using the young girls to create a serum to keep his wife, Countess Lorenz (Elizabeth Russell), young and beautiful.

Toss in a family of freaks that lives in Lugosi’s basement, and the fact that Lugosi and Russell sleep in his-and-hers coffins, and you’ve got The Corpse Vanishes. It’s not a scary movie, but it has a real creepiness about it, thanks to its overall air of extreme weirdness and dread — along with a typically committed performance from Lugosi. As crazy as it may sound, this is one of the more coherent and logical of Lugosi’s Monogram Nine.

Speaking of being coherent, a guy once told me he thought the brides were alive, not dead. Well, the title is  The Corpse Vanishes, and when Luana Walters finds them, they’re in drawers like the morgue, so I stick to the dead idea. Besides, if they aren’t dead, why does Lugosi have to keep getting more of ’em?

Dr. George Lorenz (Bela Lugosi): “You are beautiful. And I shall always keep you that way.”

Since every copy of The Corpse Vanishes you see is a varying degree of bad (warning: the Blu-Ray is not an upgrade), it’s hard to get much of an idea of what Arthur Reed’s camerawork looks like. It’s hurried, for sure — shooting began in early March, and the picture was in theaters the week in May. Reed spent his entire career shooting pictures for tiny little studios like Tiffany, Argosy and Cameo — and places we’ve heard of like PRC and Monogram. Wonder what the longest schedule he ever had was? If it was more than two weeks, I’d be surprised.

Director Wallace Fox toiled on Poverty Row a lot, too, though he worked for Universal, RKO and Columbia from time to time. He started out at the end of the silents, making cheap Westerns. That continued with talkies, starring guys like Tom Tyler, Jack Randall, Grant Kirby, Tex Ritter and William Elliott. Powdersmoke Range (1935) with Harry Carey and Hoot Gibson is a good one. In the 40s, came the East Side Kids and Bela Lugosi pictures. Pillow Of Death (1945) with Lon Chaney, Jr. is part of Universal’s Inner Sanctum series. He made his way to TV in the 50s, and after a 1954 episode of Annie Oakley, he retired. 

The producer was one of my heroes, the great Sam Katzman, who was cranking out glorious junk like this by the train car load. He produced seven movies in 1942; Lugosi was in three of them.

So, with the world a big fat ball of despair, The Corpse Vanishes provides 64 minutes or rather grim, delirious fun. And an escape from a time that sure can use some escaping from. For that, Mr. Fox, Mr. Lugosi, Ms. Walters and Mr. Katzman, I can’t thank you enough.

10 Comments

Filed under Bela Lugosi, Luana Walters, Monogram/Allied Artists, Sam Katzman, The Monogram Nine, Wallace Fox

10 responses to “The Corpse Vanishes (1942).

  1. john k

    I had meant to post much of this on the previous thread in response to
    Walter’s comment but my post got lost in cyberspace.
    So things have moved on (great piece Toby BTW) in response to Walter
    wishing he had been around watching movies in the 60’s (in cinemas)
    myself,I often wish that I had been born 10 years earlier which would have
    made me 14 as the 50’s dawned.
    There are so many wonderful “fleapit” cinemas I never got the chance
    to visit as so many of them were gone by the late 50’s
    The ad Toby features is typical of what fleapits in the UK were showing
    often a Bomba picture would be top of the bill with a B Series Western
    as the support and many cinemas would bolster the short program with
    a serial episode.
    I remember my parents taking me to see ARENA and HONDO in 3D and
    had I been born in 1936 I would have schlepped all over London tracking
    every 3D movie available in the city.
    I was however able to see many 3D movies at revivals at London’s
    National Film Theatre-the last such season being in 2005 I believe.
    I also remember vividly my parents taking me to see the first CinemaScope
    Western THE COMMAND.
    There were still many revival and flea pit cinemas still going in the 60’s and
    this was a great way to catch up with films that I had missed first time ’round.
    Furthermore in the 60’s smaller cinemas were still showing Bela Lugosi
    fare like RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE and DEVIL BAT.
    The Granada cinema chain had equipped to show magnetic stereo prints
    and I was able to catch Fox films like GARDEN OF EVIL.PRINCE VALIANT,
    WHITE FEATHER and HELL AND HIGH WATER in that format at 60’s
    revivals.
    Most Horror films were given an “X” certificate (over 16’s only) in the UK
    but being rather tall I was able to pass as 16 by the time I reached 13.
    I vividly remember going to the Ritz Balham (as in gateway to the South
    for Peter Sellers fans) to see THE BLACK SCORPION supported by
    ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN.

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  2. Walter

    John K, like Toby, I can only imagine being able to see THE DEVIL BAT(1940) and THE RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE(1943) in a movie theater. John, did you happen to see Roger Corman’s THE SAGA OF THE VIKING WOMEN AND THEIR VOYAGE TO THE WATERS OF THE GREAT SEA SERPENT(1957) in a movie theater? I really get a kick out of that title.

    I lived out in the hinterlands the first 18 years of my life and the nearest movie theater was 20 miles away, which was a 40 miles round trip. My parents never took me to see a movie, except with our church group. to see a Billy Graham(World Wide Pictures) movie TIME TO RUN(1973). In school, our English teachers took us to see LOST HORIZON(1973), which was showing in the town movie theater. Believe you me, that was an endurance test of 143 minutes. Good actors in the wrong movie. A real treat was when we got to see a big screen movie in the school auditorium, which was for fundraisers. JUBAL(1956), THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN(1958), and THE THREE STOOGES IN ORBIT(1962).

    Finally when I got my drivers license, I was able to drive myself to the movie theater and see those wonderful movies on the big screen.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Walter

    Toby, thanks for this review of a fun movie. I take THE CORPSE VANISHES(1940), and other movies of like nature, for what they are, which is pure escapism. Just like the Don Knotts’ movie we watched the other night, THE SHAKIEST GUN IN THE WEST(filmed 1967, released 1968).

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  4. john k

    Hi Walter,
    I’ve got an old press ad for VIKING WOMEN somewhere and I believe it
    was released in a “triple bill” I’ll have to dig it out and report later.
    As well as DEVIL BAT and RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE the flea pits were
    showing lots of old Universal Horrors especially the monster mash ups
    FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN;HOUSE OF DRACULA I saw
    ’em all on the big screen back in the 60’s.
    The early 60’s were great for young horror fans especially with all that
    wonderful AIP stuff constantly being revived and the more lavish Corman/
    Poe/Price films raking it in at first run cinemas. Then there were all the
    Sunday only double bills where I was able to catch things I had missed as a
    kid like RETURN OF DRACULA and THE BLACK SLEEP.

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  5. Walter

    John K. I knew that you would have something on Roger Corman’s VIKING WOMEN. I first saw this movie in 1965 on a TV show titled FANTASTIC FEATURES, which was hosted by a cape wearing, top hatted vampire calling himself Sivad. This TV show aired on WHBQ Channel 13, Memphis, Tennessee on Saturday evenings at 6:00 PM CST(Central Standard Time). Quite an array of strange, unusual, and interestingly amusing features were aired from 1962-72. Movies from the 1930’s-1960’s were shown and here are some titles that were aired during the autumn of 1965:
    MACABRE(1958) William Prince, Jim Backus, Christine White
    CAT GIRL(1957) Barbara Shelley, Robert Ayres, Kay Callard
    WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST(1958) Sally Fraser, Roger Pace, Dean Parkin
    HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER(1958) Robert H. Harris, Paul Brinegar, Gary Conway, Gary Clarke
    I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF(1957) Michael Landon, Yvonne Lime, Whit Bissel
    NIGHT OF THE BLOOD BEAST(1958) Michael Emmet, Angela Greene, John Baer, Ed Nelson
    THE HEADLESS GHOST(1959) Richard Lyon, Liliane Sottane, David Rose
    THE SHE-CREATURE(1956) Chester Morris, Tom Conway, Cathy Downs
    THE SCREAMING SKULL(1958) John Hudson, Peggy Webber, Russ Conway, Alex Nicol
    THE BRAIN EATERS(1958) Ed Nelson, Alan Jay Factor, Cornelius Keefe
    SHE-GODS OF SHARK REEF(1958) Bill Cord, Don Durant, Lisa Montell

    In the Autumn of 1966, because of parents complaining, FANTASTIC FEATURES was moved to 10:30 Saturday nights. Those were the days.

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  6. john k

    Hi Walter,
    This thread has moved on so I hope you are still with this……….
    VIKING WOMEN (which I’ve never seen BTW) was released as a triple bill
    in the UK mainly shown in flea pit cinemas,certainly not as a major circuit
    release. The two support features were THE MYSTERIOUS INVADER
    (aka The Astounding She Monster) with Robert Clarke and Kenne Duncan
    and the nudist feature (in glorious color!) BACK TO NATURE.
    These triple features were extremely rare in the UK but there was another
    one ’round about the same time RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE,THE BLACK
    ROOM (Karloff) and BIRTH WITHOUT FEAR one of those “exploitation”
    type pictures showing actual childbirth.
    I did catch RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE at one of those Sunday one day
    only Horror double bills but for the life of me cannot remember the
    support feature.
    The most ill conceived double bill circa 1963 was at the Rex cinema
    Wood Green,London Tod Browning’s FREAKS (just released in the UK
    after a 30 year ban) coupled with of all things THE WILD AND THE
    INNOCENT.
    ‘Round about the same time the Coliseum Cinema Stoke Newington
    was showing (all week) FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN
    supported by TARANTULA!

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    • Walter

      John K, I’m still here. As you know by now, this information is really interesting fun too me(whether it is to anyone else, I don’t know). The billing of these movies in theaters, whether going the major circuit or minor routes is something to behold. Also, the poster art(yes, it is art, believe it or not). I wonder who decided the pairing of some of these movies(I’m sure it was quite a no-brain trust, or maybe it was warped genius). I can’t quite get over some of these billings. I’m enjoying this right down to the ground. I hope other viewers of this blog are, also!

      FREAKS(1932) paired with Audie Murphy and Sandra Dee in THE WILD AND THE INNOCENT(filmed 1958, released 1959), amazing to the inth degree!

      John K, thanks and stay safe and healthy.

      Like

      • Freaks is one I’ve never made it all the way through. And it and The Wild And The Innocent is certainly one of the oddest pairings I’ve ever seen.

        From what I understand, those double bills often depended on what was available at the local distribution point.

        Now, Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man and Tarantula sounds like a great afternoon at the movies, for sure.

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  7. Walter

    Toby, I think you are correct about the double bills often depending on what was available at the local distribution center. I still get a kick out of those pairings.

    Like

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