Category Archives: Bela Lugosi

How Could Things Get Any Dumber Around Here?

The world’s a real mess these days. So it seems like the perfect time to take a deep dive into the Bowery Boys. They took lowbrow to new heights. And Warner Archive has these cheap things looking like a million bucks.

Watch for the first post of hopefully many, coming soon. This is something I’ve been threatening to do for some time.

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Filed under Bela Lugosi, Bowery Boys, Monogram/Allied Artists, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #175: Retromedia Heads For Poverty Row.

Fred Olen Ray’s Retromedia Entertainment Group has been bringing some cool stuff to Blu-Ray — including a few great pictures scooped up from Poverty Row.

The Corpse Vanishes/Bowery At Midnight (both 1942)
A couple of Lugosi’s Monogram Nine — these were both produced by Sam Katzman and directed by Wallace Ford. In The Corpse Vanishes, he’s a mad scientist working to preserve his wife’s beauty. In Bowery At Midnight, Lugosi uses a soup kitchen to find guys for his gang of crooks. In the climax, all the guys who’ve been killed along the way come back to life. Great stuff.

The Mysterious Mr. Wong (1934)/The Living Ghost (1942)
Another of Lugosi’s nine, The Mysterious Mr. Wong has him playing a Fu Manchu type. The great Wallace Ford plays a wisecracking newspaper man. James Dunn plays a detective in The Living Ghost, directed by the infamous William “One Shot” Beaudine.

The Ape (1940)/The Black Raven (1943)
Boris Karloff had his own Monogram Nine, and The Ape was the last of them. He’s another mad scientist, this time trying to cure polio. At the same time, an ape escapes from the circus. The Black Raven is from PRC, directed by Sam Newfield and starring George Zucco, Robert Livingston and Glenn Strange.

You know, when cheap little movies like this become available in high definition, maybe the world ain’t so bad after all.

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Filed under Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, DVD/Blu-ray News, George Zucco, Monogram 9, Monogram/Allied Artists, Poverty Row, PRC, Retromedia, Sam Katzman, William Beaudine

Blu-Ray Review: Return Of The Ape Man (1944).

Directed by Phil Rosen
Produced by Sam Katzman & Jack Dietz
Story & Screenplay by Robert Charles
Cinematography: Marcel Le Picard

Cast: Bela Lugosi (Professor Dexter), John Carradine (Professor John Gilmore), George Zucco (Ape Man – credits only), Frank Moran (Ape Man), Teala Loring (Anne Gilmore), Tod Andrews (Steve Rogers), Mary Currier (Mrs. Hilda Gilmore), Ernie Adams (Willie The Weasel)

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The Monogram Nine, a handful of low-budget pictures Bela Lugosi made for Sam Katzman and Monogram Pictures in the mid-40s, are nobody’s idea of quality cinema, but they’re certainly entertaining. Some say Return Of The Ape Man (1944) is one of the worst of the bunch, but so what — it’s a blast.

Bela Lugosi is Professor Dexter, a noted scientist messing around with freezing people. He and his assistant, Professor John Gilmore (John Carradine), thaw out a bum they’ve had frozen in the basement for four months. To prove that people can be kept frozen for extended periods of time, then thawed out safely, Dexter and Gilmore travel to the Arctic in search of a frozen prehistoric man to defrost. They finally find one and bring it back to Lugosi’s basement/laboratory.

They’re able to revive him — after Lugosi thaws him out with a blowtorch, but soon realize he’s an “unmanageable brute” (I’m lifting a Lugosi line from Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein). Lugosi’s solution is to transplant a certain portion of a modern man’s brain into the Ape Man’s skull. From here, Lugosi’s plans go completely off the rails and lead to the kind of supreme mayhem the Poverty Row studios were so good at cooking up.

I love Return Of The Ape Man. It’s so ridiculous, so cheap and so short — what’s not to like? Lugosi’s terrific. He always had a way of making the non-logic of these things almost work. Almost. Once John Carradine questions Lugosi’s methods, we just know he’s a goner — but he’s great at doing his John Carradine thing in the meantime. John Moran is a hoot as the Ape Man — bending bars, breaking stuff, choking people, etc. George Zucco was originally given the part, but he got ill and Moran took over. Why Zucco still gets third billing is anybody’s guess. Some say he’s actually in a shot or two (on the table when the Ape Man is first thawed out). Others say it was in his contract. My theory is having three low-budget horror stars in one movie was too good a thing to pass up. Wonder if Zucco was paid for his name on the poster? Philip Rosen’s direction is clunky, for lack of a better word, at least party due to the tight schedule and budget.

I’ve never seen Return Of The Ape Man looking good. And while this Olive Blu-Ray leaves plenty to be desired, this is far and away the nicest version I’ve come across. The contrast and grain are inconsistent, there’s some damage here and there, and it’s a bit soft in places — 16mm, maybe? — but that’s all part of the experience. A movie like this is supposed to look a little ragged, in my opinion, and I’m so glad Olive Films didn’t hold out for better material. It might’ve never happened, and that would be a real shame. This way, every magnificent flaw is preserved in high-definition, which is the way I like it.

Recommended, along with the rest of the Monogram Nine. By this way, this is not a sequel to the previous Lugosi/Monogram picture, The Ape Man (1943).

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Filed under Bela Lugosi, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, George Zucco, John Carradine, Monogram 9, Monogram/Allied Artists, Olive Films, Sam Katzman

DVD/Blu-Ray News #147: Return Of The Ape Man (1944).

Directed by Phil Rosen
Starring Bela Lugosi, John Carradine, George Zucco

More Poverty Row horror makes its way to Blu-Ray — Return Of The Ape Man (1944), one of the infamous Monogram 9.

The nine pictures Lugosi made for Sam Katzman at Monogram between 1941 and 1944 are filled to the brim with cheesy goodness. To have them turn up in high definition is a dream come true — thanks, Olive! For fans of this kind of stuff, this is absolutely essential.

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Filed under Bela Lugosi, DVD/Blu-ray News, John Carradine, Monogram 9, Monogram/Allied Artists, Olive Films, Sam Katzman

Blu-Ray News #80: Invisible Ghost (1941).

invisible-ghost

Directed by Joseph H. Lewis
Starring Bela Lugosi, Polly Ann Young, Clarence Muse

The first of nine films Bela Lugosi made for Sam Katzman and Monogram Pictures, Invisible Ghost (1941) was directed by the great, and greatly underappreciated, Joseph H. Lewis.

You’ll find a strong sense of style throughout Lewis’ work, whether it’s a Randolph Scott picture, the terrific Gun Crazy (1949), an episode of The Rifleman or a cheap horror movie like Invisible Ghost. For that reason alone, Invisible Ghost stands out among the other films Lugosi made on Poverty Row. But it’s got more going for it than that, as we can all see when Kino Lorber releases it on Blu-ray in 2017.

Really looking forward to this one. It’s good to see someone making the effort to bring public domain pictures like this to Blu-Ray.

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Filed under Bela Lugosi, DVD/Blu-ray News, Joseph H. Lewis, Kino Lorber, Monogram 9, Monogram/Allied Artists, Sam Katzman

Blu-ray News #73: Chandu The Magician (1932).

Chandu Magician LC

Directed by William Cameron Menzies
Starring Edmond Lowe, Bela Lugosi, Irene Ware

After the previous post on the six-picture set of Pre-Code horror, I should mention a release I somehow let get past me. Kino Lorber has just released the 1932 Bela Lugosi picture Chandu The Magician on Blu-ray. It was directed by William Cameron Menzies and shot by the great James Wong Howe — and it’s often visually stunning.

The story around this one’s a bit complicated. Chandu The Magician movie was based on the popular radio show, with Edmond Lowe as Chandu and Lugosi as Roxor. It would be followed by The Return Of Chandu (1934), a 12-chapter serial — this time, Lugosi played Chandu. In 1935, the serial was edited down to feature length and released as Chandu On The Magic Island. Got that?

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Filed under Bela Lugosi, Kino Lorber, Pre-Code

DVD News #72: Hollywood Legends Of Horror Collection.

Mask Of FM

If you like Weird, then you need to spend some time with the Horror films of the 1930s. And with this six-picture set, Warner Archive gives you a chance to jump right into the deep end.

test-legends-of-horror1

Doctor X (1932)
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Starring Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Lee Tracy

The Return of Doctor X (1939)
Directed by Vincent Sherman
Starring Wayne Morris, Rosemary Lane, Humphrey Bogart

Let’s get this straight right off the bat: The Return Of Doctor X is not a sequel to Doctor X. The first one was shot in the early two-color Technicolor process. The Return Of Doctor X is one of the films Bogart didn’t like to talk about.

mark-of-the-vampire-9

Tod Browning directs Caroll Borland and Bela Lugosi

Mark Of The Vampire (1935)
Directed by Tod Browning
Starring Lionel Barrymore, Elizabeth Allan, Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill

Tod Browning directs a talkie remake of one the great lost Silents, his own London After Midnight (1927) starring Lon Chaney.

Mask of Fu Manchu LC

The Mask Of Fu Manchu (1932)
Directed by Charles Brabin
Starring Boris Karloff, Myrna Loy, Lewis Stone

Karloff is the insidious Dr. Fu Manchu, wearing what appear to be his Frankenstein boots. Myrna Loy is his equally-evil daughter. This thing has to be seen to be believed.

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Basil Gogos’ painting of Peter Lorre for Famous Monsters #63

Mad Love (AKA The Hands Of Orlac, 1935)
Directed by Karl Freund
Starring Peter Lorre, Frances Drake, Colin Clive

The great cinematographer Karl Freund’s last film as director — he also directed The Mummy (1932). And of course, he was the director of photography for Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) and I Love Lucy (he developed the flat-light system, and perfected the three-camera setup, that are still used in TV today).

Devil Doll Browning Barrymore

Tod Browning and Lionel Barrymore

The Devil-Doll (1936)
Directed by Tod Browning
Starring Lionel Barrymore, Maureen O’Sullivan

For this creepy crime picture, Tod Browning revisits some of the ideas of his The Unholy Three (1930), Lon Chaney’s only sound film — which they’d already made as a Silent in 1925.

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Filed under Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, MGM, Pre-Code, Tod Browning, Warner Archive