Category Archives: Lon Chaney Jr.

Blu-Ray Review: From Hell It Came (1957).

Directed by Dan Milner
Cinematography: Brydon Baker
Film Editor: Jack Milner
Original Music: Darrell Calker
Written by Richard Bernstein and Dan Milner
Produced by Jack Milner

Cast: Tod Andrews (Dr. William Arnold), Tina Carver (Dr. Terry Mason), John McNamara (Professor Clark), Linda Watkins (Mae Kilgore), Gregg Palmer (Kimo), Grace Mathews (Orchid), Chester Haynes (Tabonga)

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When it comes to 50s sci-fi movies, I find that Quality and Entertainment have an often inverse correlation. (I’m tossing the concept of inverse correlation in here to prove I actually paid attention in those economics classes decades ago.) In other words, the more production values you pack in there, the bigger the budget, the less fun they seem to be. With that in mind, I’m happy to report that the super-cheap From Hell It Came (1957) is largely quality-free.

On some South Seas island, a prince is (unjustly) convicted of murder, and he’s executed with a knife in the heart — all orchestrated by the witch doctor. They bury the prince upright in an old tree trunk. Turns out the place is lousy with nuclear fallout, which reanimates the prince as a walking tree with the ceremonial dagger still sticking out of its chest. Called Tabonga, it quickly sprouts and starts killing people.

Some American scientists are on the island studying radiation levels or something. They get to the bottom of it all after spouting page after page of B-movie scientific nonsense — and putting away an awful lot of booze. And if all that isn’t enough, there’s some quicksand in the Big Finish.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, this thing is great. It’s a whacked-out mix of the usual 50s science fiction monster trappings, the goofy pseudo-Polynesian aesthetic of the period, and concern about the perils of the Atom Age.

If it all sounds ridiculous, and it does, imagine seeing it on screen — somebody shuffling around in a cheap rubber tree costume. The Tabonga is the work of the great Paul Blaisdell, AIP’s favorite (cheap) monster maker, but constructed by Don Post Studios: “I designed the Tabonga the way I thought it should look in terms of the script, and the people that built it did a damn good job of reproducing a prop that was a nice concept and certainly an original one, but one that was very awkward. My hat goes off to the guy who had to act the part of the walking tree (Chester Haynes). I think he did a helluva good job under the circumstances.”

What’s interesting about From Hell It Came is that in some ways, it looks and plays like a fairly-decent movie. The acting is passable, most of the time. The cinematography, from Brydon Baker, certainly seems professional. The editing’s not bad. It’s the premise itself — a revengeful, walking tree — and the godawful dialogue that sink this one, and make it the hoot that it is.

Back in ’57, From Hell It Came played twin bills with The Disembodied. It’s not any good, either, but it features the always-wonderful Allison Hayes as a “killer-witch of the jungle.”

Quicksand is a terrific cheesy movie thing, and I love it. (Do you know someone who perished by sinking into quicksand? Or someone who’s even seen quicksand?) As a kid, I was always on the lookout for it — after all, South Georgia isn’t all that far from Louisiana, where Kharis (Lon Chaney Jr.) had reposed in quicksand in The Mummy’s Curse (1944). Later, Christopher Lee’s Hammer The Mummy (1959) took the Scroll Of Life with him into the quicksand. Movies with a quicksand scene get extra credit from me.

Speaking of extra credit, Warner Archive gets high marks from bringing something like From Hell It Came to Blu-Ray period. Then factor in that it’s a stellar presentation, with its incredible clarity and perfect contrast giving us a chance to really study the rubbery goodness of that Tabonga outfit. You also get a trailer. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1957, Allison Hayes, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Lon Chaney Jr., Monogram/Allied Artists, Paul Blaisdell, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #134: One Million BC (1940).

Directed by Hal Roach and Hal Roach, Jr.
Starring Victor Mature, Carole Landis, Lon Chaney, Jr., John Hubbard

One Million B.C. (1940) has dinosaurs that are real lizards with fins and stuff glued on. It’s got a guy in a pretty primitive Godzilla-type suit. It’s got Lon Chaney Jr. as a caveman. Some of it was shot at the Iverson Ranch. Oh, and the beautiful, tragic Carole Landis is in it. And even if you haven’t seen it, you’ve no doubt seen stock footage from it in something.

One Million B.C. is one of those movies that’s suffered the horrible injustice of having been available in all sorts of shoddy tapes and discs over the years. VCI Entertainment seems to be about to change all that with an upcoming Blu-Ray transferred the 35mm negative. Hopefully, come July, they’ll have pre-history looking brand new.

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Filed under DVD/Blu-ray News, Lon Chaney Jr., VCI

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 #90: The Alligator People (1959).

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Directed by Roy Del Ruth
Starring Beverly Garland, Bruce Bennett, Lon Chaney, George Macready, Richard Crane

Anolis Entertainment, a company out of Germany, has announced a DVD/Blu-Ray combo 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.

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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. The domestic DVD presents the picture in gorgeous widescreen and stereo. The Blu-Ray can only be stunning.

Thanks to John Knight for the tip.

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Filed under 1959, 20th Century-Fox, Beverly Garland, DVD/Blu-ray News, Lippert/Regal/API, Lon Chaney Jr., Vincent Price

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 #42: The Black Sleep (1956).

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Directed by Reginald Le Borg
Starring Basil Rathbone, Akim Tamiroff, Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Lugosi, John Carradine, Patricia Blair, Tor Johnson

Kino Lorber’s announced The Black Sleep (1956) for a Blu-ray release in early 2016. It’s been ages since I’ve seen this one, and I’m dying to revisit it. A lot of fans of cheesy 50s horror have a soft spot for this one.

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Here’s a terrific picture of Lon Chaney, Jr., Tor Johnson and Bela Lugosi have lunch during production.

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Filed under 1956, Basil Rathbone, Bel-Air, Bela Lugosi, DVD/Blu-ray News, Kino Lorber, Les Baxter, Lon Chaney Jr.