Category Archives: Bela Lugosi

Blu-Ray News #250: Abbott & Costello – The Complete Universal Pictures Collection (1940-1955).

The Abbott & Costello movies offer up some of the great joys to be had in this world. Their “Who’s On First?” routine (found in The Naughty Nineties) is timeless — and runs constantly in the Baseball Hall Of Fame. Me, I simply cannot be down if Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) is on.

Shout Factory has announced The Complete Universal Pictures Collection, that puts their 28 Universal pictures (they say they saved the studio from bankruptcy) on 15 Blu-ray Discs, packed with hours of extras and a collectible book. It’s coming in November. What a great big box of Wonderful this will be!

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Filed under Abbott & Costello, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Douglass Dumbrille, DVD/Blu-ray News, Frank Ferguson, Glenn Strange, Hillary Brooke, Jack Pierce, Lon Chaney Jr., Mari Blanchard, Marie Windsor, Shemp Howard, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International), Vincent Price

Blu-Ray Review: The Black Cat (1934).

Directed by Edgar Ulmer
Produced by Carl Laemmle, Jr.
Screenplay by Peter Ruric
Suggested by the story by Edgar Allan Poe
Cinematography: John Mescall
Production Design: Edgar G. Ulmer
Music Supervisor: Heinz Roemheld

Cast: Boris Karloff (Hjalmar Poelzig), Bela Lugosi (Vitus Verdegast), DavidManners (Peter Alison), Jacqueline Wells (Joan Alison), Harry Cording(Thamal)

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When it comes to the creepy weirdness of 30s Horror, it’s hard to beat Edgar G. Ulmer’s The Black Cat (1934). It makes almost no sense, piling depravity upon depravity (Karloff marries his step-daughter and has a basement full of dead women in glass cases; Lugosi skins Karloff alive) into some sort of Impressionist fever dream of a haunted house movie that’s absolutely original in every way. The posters screamed “STRANGER THINGS THAN YOU HAVE EVER SEEN… or even dreamed of!” — and, for once, they’re weren’t kidding.

It opens like about 157 movies you’ve already seen, however. A group of travelers wind up in a creepy house in the middle of nowhere after their bus crashes during a storm. Anything but original, right? But from then on, things get plenty weird, fast.

Lugosi is there to settle a score with Karloff, who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of men during the war — and made off with Lugosi’s wife and daughter while he was a prisoner of war. If that isn’t enough, Karloff chose to build his Art Deco home on top of the ruins of the fort he commanded — the scene of all those deaths.

Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff): The phone is dead. Do you hear that, Vitus? Even the phone is dead.

Before its crazed 65 minutes are over, ailurophobia (the fear of cats), a satanic sacrifice, drugs, the basement full of dead women in glass cases and Karloff being skinned are added to the mix. Something for everyone!

Edgar G. Ulmer was a master at making something out of nothing, and today he’s known for his quickie noir masterpiece Detour (1945). But here, Universal gave him two of their biggest stars, Frankenstein and Dracula themselves, and he created Universal’s biggest hit of the year. He also worked on the screenplay and designed the sets.) After a scandal (an affair with a producer’s wife), Ulmer was blackballed by the major studios, and he spent the rest of his career working largely on Poverty Row.

Only once did a movie creep me out so bad that I checked out. That was Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932), which I have no intention of revisiting. But as a kid, The Black Cat really got to me, and I bring that creeped-out memory to it every time I see it. It’s a very weird movie, dealing with some very heavy stuff — a sense of doom and evil is burned into every frame.

The Black Cat is the first of four Karloff-Lugosi films in the Scream Factory’s Universal Horror Classics Vol. 1. The Others are The Raven (1935), The Invisible Ray (1936) and Black Friday (1940). Are all given the real Cadillac treatment and all look wonderful — with a healthy batch of extras. With Gary Don Rhodes, Gregory William Mank and Tom Weaver involved in commentaries and documentaries, you know you’re in good hands.

I first saw The Black Cat on the late show. The station ran a pretty battered 16mm print with murky contrast, a few scratches and some changeover cues where previous stations had marked where they wanted their commercials to go. To see it on high-definition is a revelation. I rarely freeze movies as I watch them, but I stopped this one several time to study Ulmer’s sets and just take in the striking quality of the transfer.

This thing is an absolute must.

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Filed under Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Edgar G. Ulmer, Pre-Code, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray News #247: Universal Horror Volumes 2 & 3.

Scream Factory has two more collections of Universal horror pictures on Blu-Ray on the way.

Actually, I think Volume 2 is already out. Just take a look at how many feature Lionel Atwill or were directed by George Waggner — true signs of quality.

Universal Horror Collection: Volume 2

Murders In The Zoo (1933)
Directed by A. Edward Sutherland
Starring Charlie Ruggles, Lionel Atwill, Gail Patrick, Randolph Scott

The Mad Ghoul (1943)
Directed by James Hogan
Starring Turhan Bey, Evelyn Ankers, David Bruce, George Zucco, Robert Armstrong, Milburn Stone

The Mad Doctor Of Market Street (1942)
Directed by Joseph H. Lewis
Starring Lionel Atwill, Una Merkel, Nat Pendleton

The Strange Case Of Doctor Rx (1942)
Directed by William Nigh
Starring Patric Knowles, Lionel Atwill, Anne Gwynne, Ray “Crash” Corrigan, Samuel S. Hinds

Universal Horror Volume 3

Tower Of London (1939)
Directed by Rowland V. Lee
Starring Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Barabara O’Neil, Vincent Price

Man Made Monster (1941)
Directed by George Waggner
Starring Lon Chaney, Jr., Lionel Atwill, Anne Nagel, Frank Albertson

The Black Cat (1941)
Directed by Albert S. Rogell
Starring Basil Rathbone, Hugh Herbert, Broderick Crawford, Bela Lugosi, Alan Ladd

Horror Island (1941)
Directed by George Waggner
Starring Dick Foran, Peggy Moran, Leo Carrillo, Eddie Parker, Fuzzy Knight

The first volume, which focused on Karloff and Lugosi, is terrific. It features one of the great horror films of the 30s, Edgar G. Ulmer’s The Black Cat (1934), looking splendid!

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Filed under Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, DVD/Blu-ray News, Edgar G. Ulmer, George Waggner, George Zucco, Joseph H. Lewis, Lionel Atwill, Lon Chaney Jr., Randolph Scott, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International)

DVD Review: The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters (1954).

Directed by Edward Bernds
Produced by Ben Schwalb
Written by Edward Bernds and Elwood Ullman
Music by Marlin Skiles
Cinematography: Harry Neumann
Film Editor: William Austin

Cast: Leo Gorcey (Terrance Aloysius ‘Slip’ Mahoney), Huntz Hall (Horace Debussy ‘Sach’ Jones), David Gorcey (Chuck Anderson), Bennie Bartlett (Butch Williams), Bernard Gorcey (Louie Dumbrowski), Lloyd Corrigan (Anton Gravesend), Ellen Corby (Amelia Gravesend), John Dehner (Dr. Derek Gravesend), Laura Mason (Francine Gravesend), Paul Wexler (Grissom), Steve Calvert (Gorilla)

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This post is dedicated to my friend Dan Conway. A while back, he and I got to talking about The Bowery Boys, which prompted me to task myself with a series of posts on the Boys and their movies. This is the first.

The basic plot point of Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) — that Dracula needs a simple, pliable brain to put in the head of the Frankenstein monster, so naturally he’s after Costello — is pure genius. Wish I’d come up with it. Evidently, so did the folks behind The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters (1954), because they took that idea and ran with it. If one monster after a brain was funny, how about a bunch of monsters after a couple of brains?

The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters goes like this. Slip and Sach wind up at the creepy old mansion of the Gravesend family. Turns out each Gravesend is in need of a brain or body. A brain that’ll fit inside a gorilla’s head. Another brain for a robot. Some meat for a carnivorous tree. And, of course, somebody always needs some fresh blood. The boys are encouraged to stay at Chez Gravesend, and the chase begins — with the rest of the Boys coming to the rescue.

The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters comes from the back end of the Boys’ filmography, when everyone was getting a little tired. But if you find this stuff funny, you’ll find something to laugh at here. Everything you expect is in place: Slip’s butchering of the English language, Louie’s Sweet Shop, some kind of chase, and so on. The addition of monsters and the typical old-dark-house stuff — and yet another guy (Steve Calvert ) in a gorilla suit — add a certain something. You’ve got the usual folks behind the camera — Edward Bernds directed from a script he wrote with Elwood Ullman. Harry Neumann shot it, obviously in a hurry, but he was always dependable. Great character actors like Lloyd Corrigan, Ellen Corby and John Dehner do a lot for this movie, and it looks like they were having fun.

Let’s talk about the gorilla. Steve Calvert, a bartender at Ciro’s, bought Ray “Crash” Corrigan’s ape suits and turned monkeying around into a career. He was in several of the Jungle Jim pictures with Johnny Weissmuller, starting with the first one, along with Road To Bali (1952), Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla (1952) and the late-in-the-game Republic serial Panther Girl Of The Congo (1955). I love these gorilla suit guys. Luckily, someone interviewed Calvert before he passed away.

Of course, every frame of this movie is stupid. Which is a good thing. The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters is included in Warner Archive’s The Bowery Boys, Volume Two. This terrific four-volume series packs 12 movies on four discs in each set. They look terrific — Meet The Monsters is even presented widescreen! — and if you’re a fan of this stuff, they’re absolutely essential.

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Filed under 1954, Bela Lugosi, Bowery Boys, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Edward Bernds, Gorilla suit guys, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Monogram/Allied Artists, Warner Archive

Happy Birthday, Lou Costello.

Louis Francis Cristillo (AKA Lou Costello)
(March 6, 1906 – March 3, 1959)

If Lou Costello has done nothing but Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), I’d still be honoring him on his birthday. It’s so funny, so brilliant, so perfect. Luckily, he and Bud Abbott did plenty more.

So here’s Lou with Bela Lugosi. “Weel-burr, Weel-burr…”

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Filed under Abbott & Costello, Bela Lugosi

Blu-Ray News #214: The Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi Collection.

The Titans Of Terror relax on the set of The Black Cat (1934)

Scream Factory has really done it this time. Their upcoming The Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi Collection brings some of the weirdest, sickest and best-est horror films of the 30s to Blu-Ray. All four were Universal pictures.

The Black Cat (1934)
Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
Starring Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, David Manners, Lucille Lund, John Carradine

Edgar Ulmer’s The Black Cat (1934) might be the granddaddy of all Pre-Code Horror films. It spends so much time hinting around at all kinds of awful stuff, it hardly makes any sense. But it’s so creepy, so twisted, so wonderful, who cares?

The Raven (1935)
Directed by Lew Landers
Starring Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Irene Ware

How could you ever approach the supreme weirdness of The Black Cat? With The Raven (1935), Karloff, Lugosi and Lew Landers gave it the old college try.

The Invisible Ray (1936)
Directed by Lambert Hillyer
Starring Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Frances Drake

Lambert Hillyer turns Boris and Bela loose on leftover Flash Gordon sets. The results are every bit as cool as you’re imagining right now. This one will be a real treat in high definition.

Black Friday (1940)
Directed by Arthur Lubin
Starring Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Anne Nagle, Paul Fix

Lugosi’s role is pretty small in this one, and he and Karloff don’t have any scenes together. Curt Siodmak’s script plays around with ideas he’d use again in Donovan’s Brain — his 1943 novel and 1953 film.

This is essential stuff, folks. And it’s coming in April.

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Filed under Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, DVD/Blu-ray News, Edgar G. Ulmer, John Carradine, Lambert Hillyer, Lew Landers, Pre-Code, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray News #202: The Return Of The Vampire (1944).

Directed by Lew Landers
Starring Bela Lugosi, Frieda Inescort, Nina Foch, Miles Mander, Matt Willis

The Return Of The Vampire (1944) was Bela Lugosi’s last starring role for a major studio (Columbia). It’s the closest he came to making a sequel to his 1931 Dracula, though you could make a strong case for Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).

Lugosi’s Armand Tesla (pretty much Dracula with his name changed for copyright reasons), a vampire in London who’s awakened by a Nazi bomb (what a great plot point!). Accompanied by a werewolf sidekick, Tesla/Dracula is soon seeking revenge on those who staked him back in 1918.

Scream Factory has announced its February Blu-Ray release. Extras and stuff have not been disclosed as of yet.

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Filed under Bela Lugosi, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Shout/Scream Factory