Wouldn’t you love to hop into your time machine for this week of wonderful-ness? (Sorry, Bob, no Son Of Frankenstein.)
Category Archives: Lon Chaney Jr.
I’ve been thinking about a classic Universal monster movie for Halloween night, but there are a lot of them — and they’re all so great? (They’re represented by this wonderful ad for the Aurora monster model. Click on it and it gets, well, monstrous!)
What are your thoughts? Mummy? Frankenstein? Dracula? The Wolf Man? The Creature? Or a one-off like The Invisible Ray (1936)? Or, maybe a different direction, like something from AIP or Hammer?
I’m really excited about this one, as Shout Factory’s Universal Horror Blu-Ray series moves into the 50s. This is announced for release on August 25.
The Black Castle (1952)
Directed by Nathan H. Juran
Starring Richard Greene, Boris Karloff, Stephen McNally, Rita Corday, Lon Chaney, Jr., John Hoyt, Michael Pate
You could say this was the last of the true Universal-type horror movies, with all the trapping and a few of the actors we associate with such things. It was Nathan Juran’s first time as director. He was on the film as art director, but was moved into the director’s chair when Joseph Pevney walked.
Cult Of The Cobra (1955)
Directed by Francis D. Lyon
Starring Faith Domergue, Richard Long, Kathleen Hughes, Marshall Thompson, Jack Kelly, William Reynolds, David Janssen
This story of a cult of snake worshippers, a deadly curse and the beautiful, deadly snake goddess (Faith Domergue) making their way to New York went out as the second feature behind Revenge Of The Creature (1955).
The Thing That Couldn’t Die (1958)
Directed by Will Cowan
Starring William Reynolds, Andra Martin, Jeffrey Stone, Carolyn Kearney
Running just 69 minutes, shot by the great Russell Metty and with terrific poster art from Reynold Brown (up top), this played with Hamer’s Horror Of Dracula (1958) in the States. It’s about a telepathic head that’s discovered in a box at a dude ranch.
The Shadow Of The Cat (1961)
Directed by John Gilling
Starring André Morell, Barbara Shelley, William Lucas, Fred Jackson
A cat witnesses a murder, then helps both solve it and bring the culprits to their just rewards. Shot in black & white by Hammer’s ace cameraman Arthur Grant.
Scream Factory has come up with some real gold in this one, and it’s good to see these more obscure Universal horror pictures get a chance to shine. They’ll be seen in their original widescreen aspect ratio, with the exception of The Black Castle, which predates the shift to widescreen. Highly recommended.
Until the DVD set came out years ago, I’d only seen one of the Inner Sanctum pictures. Boy, had I been missing out.
These cheap little mysteries are terrific, the kind of spooky hokum Universal specialized in back in the 40s. Now the series, all six of ’em, are getting a Blu-Ray upgrade from Mill Creek.
Calling Dr. Death (1943)
Directed by Reginald Le Borg
Starring Lon Chaney, Patricia Morison, J. Carrol Naish, David Bruce
Weird Woman (1944)
Directed by Reginald Le Borg
Starring Lon Chaney, Anne Gwynne, Evelyn Ankers, Ralph Morgan
Dead Man’s Eyes (1944)
Directed by Reginald Le Borg
Starring Lon Chaney, Acquanetta (“as Tonya, sister of Satan!”), Jean Parker, Paul Kelly, Thomas Gomez
The Frozen Ghost (1945)
Directed by Harold Young
Starring Lon Chaney, Elena Verdugo, Evelyn Ankers, Tala Birell, Martin Kosleck
Strange Confession (1945, re-released as The Missing Head)
Directed by John Hoffman
Starring Lon Chaney, Brenda Joyce, J. Carrol Naish, Lloyd Bridges
Pillow Of Death (1945)
Directed by Wallace Fox
Starring Lon Chaney, Brenda Joyce, J. Edward Bromberg, Rosalind Ivan, Clara Blandick
What’s striking about these movies, to me, is that though they were seen as cheap little pictures with Universal’s lower-level talent, there’s a real craft to them that shines through. Can’t wait to see them in high-definition.
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!
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!
Directed by Roy Del Ruth
Starring Beverly Garland, Bruce Bennett, Lon Chaney, George Macready, Richard Crane
Scream Factory has just announced a Blu-Ray release of The Alligator People (1959) from 20th Century-Fox and Robert Lippert’s Associated Producers, Inc.
This is one of those 50s monster movies that is 100% carried by its cast. Beverly Garland, one of my favorite actresses, is terrific here — as she always was in these things. This kind of hokum needs just the right touch to really work, and Bruce Bennett, Lon Chaney and George Macready are on hand to help pull the whole thing of. Garland’s new husband (Richard Crane) suddenly disappears during their honeymoon. It takes her a couple years, but she tracks him down to his family’s Southern estate, where a botched medical treatment has turned him into an alligator.
It’s clearly inspired by The Fly (1958), and it’s a load of fun. 20th Century-Fox proudly boasted that The Alligator People (and its co-feature The Return Of The Fly) were in CinemaScope, no longer releasing their black-and-white Scope pictures under the Regalscope banner. Scream Factory has done a great job with their old monster movies, and I can’t wait to see this in hi-def — backed by an alligator purse full of extras.
Written, Produced & Directed by Bert I. Gordon
Cinematography: Ira Morgan
Music by Albert Glasser
Film Editor: Carlo Lodato
Special Voice Effects: Paul Frees
Cast: James Craig (Russ Bradford), Gloria Talbott (Susan Winter), Lon Chaney (Martin ‘Marty’ Melville), Tom Drake (Lee Brand), Duncan Parkin (The Cyclops, Bruce Barton), Vincent Padula (The Governor)
The Cyclops (1957) is 66 minutes of one-eyed wonderful-ness. It was the first in a string of pictures from writer/producer/director Bert I. Gordon where regular-sized people became very big, (oftentimes) very ugly, and ultimately very destructive. His other big pictures include The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), War Of The Colossal Beast (1958), Village Of The Giants (1965) and Food Of The Gods (1976). How does all that and Gordon’s initials, B.I.G., figure into the whole auteur theory thing? Of course, let’s not forget his change of pace, Attack Of The Puppet People (1958), where some folks (including John Agar) get smaller rather than larger.
The Cyclops goes something like this. Susan Winter (Gloria Talbott) and a group of three “adventurers” head to Mexico to locate her fiancée, Bruce Barton (Duncan Parkin), who went missing three years ago. They crash their plane in a jungle valley with very high levels of radiation where, you guessed it, all the animals are really, really big. Birds, bugs, snakes, lizards — all huge. Then, along comes a giant bald guy with a really messed-up face and a voice that sounds exactly like Paul Frees grunting and groaning.
The special effects (also by Gordon), well, they ain’t so special. The cyclops and other monsters are often oddly transparent, and it looks like very little thought went into keeping the scale of the creatures consistent from one shot to the next. A papier-mâché rock seems to dress up the oft-used entrance to Bronson Caves, but it actually provides something to superimpose the cyclops behind. (It’s weird to think that the climax of a masterpiece like The Searchers and a slew of movies like The Cyclops were shot in the exact same spot.)
All that, and it’s got Lon Chaney, Jr. in it!
The Cyclops is terrible in all the best ways. There’s a charm to it the movies will never be able to recapture. As Hollywood goes for the bigger, I’m drawn to the smaller (and older). That said, Warner Archive has The Cyclops livin’ large on Blu-Ray. It looks better than I ever thought this cheap picture would ever look. It’s sharp, the contrast and grain are absolutely perfect, and the audio is as clear as it can be. I’m so glad movies like this are getting this level of attention.
In short, The Cyclops on Blu-Ray is easy on the eye (sorry, couldn’t resist) — and highly recommended.
Written, produced and directed by Bert I. Gordon
Starring James Craig, Lon Chaney, Gloria Talbott, Duncan Parkin
Does my eye deceive me? Could it be that Warner Archive is bringing The Cyclops (1957) to Blu-Ray?
It’s hard for me to decide which I love more, this or War Of The Colossal Beast (1958, the sequel to 1957’s The Amazing Colossal Man) — both of which feature Duncan Parkin as a giant mutant freak in a loin cloth. The main point of difference is that he has just one eye in The Cyclops, naturally, and his loin cloth is more tattered.
I cannot wait to experience the splendor of this in high definition with my own eye(s). No date is set, but I hope it’s soon!