Category Archives: John Carradine

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 #112: The Mummy Complete Legacy Collection.

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Universal’s next Complete Legacy Collection — each Blu-Ray set covers everything featuring a particular Universal monster — concerns The Mummy. Providing Universal can come up with the proper number of tana leaves, this edition will be available in May. It spreads six movies over four discs.

The Mummy (1932) is one of the most visually-splendid movies I can think of. Karl Freund packs one incredible shot after another in this thing — and Karloff is at his brilliant best.

The first sequel (or maybe it’s more of a remake), The Mummy’s Hand (1940), has Tom Tyler doing a great job filling in for Boris Karloff — and Wallace Ford is a welcome addition to anything.

Jack Pierce turns Lon Chaney Jr. into Kharis.

The next three Mummy movies — The Mummy’s Tomb (1942), The Mummy’s Ghost (1944), and The Mummy’s Curse (1944) — with Lon Chaney, Jr. as a rather portly mummy making his way through Massachusetts and Louisiana, are a real hoot in that 1940s Universal Monsters kinda way. I love these things.

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Then there’s Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy (1955), which throws in Marie Windsor, my all-time favorite actress, for good measure. It was A&C’s last picture for Universal, a studio they pretty much saved in the 40s. Eddie Parker, Chaney’s double on the three previous Mummy movies, plays Klaris throughout this one.

All six Mummy movies are black and white, with Meet The Mummy in 1.85 widescreen — and they’re all sure to look marvelous on Blu-Ray.

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Filed under 1955, Abbott & Costello, Boris Karloff, DVD/Blu-ray News, Jack Pierce, John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr., Marie Windsor, Universal (-International)

DVD/Blu-Ray News #85: Dimension 5 And Cyborg 2087 (Both 1966).

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Dimension 5 (1965)
Directed byFranklin Adreon
Written by Arthur C. Pierce
Starring Jeffrey Hunter, France Nuyen, Harold Sakata

United Pictures Corporation produced nine films between 1966 and 1968, with the idea that they’d quickly make their way to TV, where they’d be attractive thanks to name actors (even if past their prime) and color photography. Two of those nine UPC pictures, Dimension 5 and Cyborg 2087 (both 1966) have been announced for DVD and Blu-Ray release early next year.

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Cyborg 2087 (1966)
Directed byFranklin Adreon
Written by Arthur C. Pierce
Starring Michael Rennie, Wendell Corey, Warren Stevens, Eduard Franz, Harry Carey, Jr.

Both films were directed by Franklin Adreon from time-traveling scripts by Arthur C. Pierce. Pierce wrote a slew of low-budget sci-fi pictures: The Cosmic Man (1959), Beyond The Time Barrier (1960), Women Of The Prehistoric Planet (1966) and more. A weekend retrospective of his work would be a real hoot — and would allow you to spend time with the likes of John Agar, Mamie Van Doren, Scott Brady and John Carradine.

1966 was quite a year. You had Pet Sounds, Revolver and Blonde On Blonde to listen to and cheeseball movies like these to watch. Those were the days.

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Filed under 1966, John Agar, John Carradine, Kino Lorber, Television, The Beatles

Blu-ray News #64: Frankenstein & The Wolf Man Complete Legacy Collections.

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The world may be falling apart, but there’s never been a better time to be a fan of classic monster movies. Hi-def sets of Hammer Horror and now the Universal Monsters are on the way. The Frankenstein and The Wolf Man Complete Legacy Collections give you every classic Universal monster movie in which they appear. Buy them both, and you’ll certainly have some overlap since the monsters overlap in the “Monster Rally” pictures — and even in the mighty Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), but who cares? They’ll come creeping to your mailbox in September.

Maybe Presley and I started out summer monster series a bit too soon?

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Filed under Abbott & Costello, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, DVD/Blu-ray News, John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr., Universal (-International)

So Much Horror Under One Roof!

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Since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to watch the great Universal monster movies in order. One of the problems was having all the movies. DVD and Blu-ray takes care of that. Then there’s which ones and in what order? All those monster-geek newsgroups and stuff offer up some proposed lists, and I found one I like.

Dracula (1931)
Frankenstein (1931)
Bride Of Frankenstein (1935)
Dracula’s Daughter (1936)
Son Of Frankenstein (1939)
The Wolf Man (1940)
Ghost Of Frankenstein (1942)
Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1943)
Son Of Dracula (1943)
House Of Frankenstein (1944)
House Of Dracula (1945)
Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

My daughter and I are about to kick the whole thing off. (School may be out, but her education keeps going!) When we’re finished with these, we’ll take on The Invisible Man and Mummy movies (I love the first two Mummy things). And we can’t forget those two Karloff-Lugosi Poe films: The Raven (1935) and The Black Cat (1934). Has anyone else tackled these? If so, how’d you go about it?

The image up top is Karloff and makeup genius Jack Pierce in a color test for Son Of Frankenstein, my favorite of the Frankenstein films. It has some of the most incredible set designs I’ve ever seen. The subject line comes from the ads for House Of Dracula.

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Filed under Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr., Universal (-International)

Blu-ray News #59: Invisible Invaders (1959).

invisible_invaders_poster_02Directed by Edward L. Cahn
Starring John Agar, Jean Byron, Philip Tonge, Robert Hutton, John Carradine

These 50s sci-fi movies are really well-represented on Blu-ray. (It’s a shame the new Japanese Blu-ray of The Thing turned out to be the 81-minute re-release version.) Well, here’s another one — Edward Cahn’s Invisible Invaders (1959), a very cheap, quite short and surprisingly effective bit of hokum — with a bit of anti-nuke stuff tossed into the mix.

Invisible Invaders LC7John Agar’s a scientist. John Carradine is conked out in a lab explosion. And the producers were certainly glad the aliens turned out to be invisible. Maury Gertzman, who shot some great stuff for Universal in the 40s and early 50s, makes this thing look far better than it should. Can’t wait to see it in anamorphic high-definition this June. All 67 minutes of it.

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Filed under 1959, DVD/Blu-ray News, Edward L. Cahn, John Agar, John Carradine, Kino Lorber, Uncategorized