Category Archives: Monogram/Allied Artists

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 News #164: Gun Crazy (1949).

Directed by Joseph H. Lewis
Starring Peggy Cummins, John Dall, Berry Kroeger, Morris Carnovksy

Most people who love movies, especially those who end up making them, can cite a few key films that sealed the deal for them. The ones that nailed their Movie Geekdom firmly in place. Joseph H. Lewis’ Gun Crazy (1949) is one of mine.

Gun-Crazy-Direction1

There are few movies I can think of where you’re constantly aware of the choices the director is making. With about every scene, every decision, Lewis is pushing movies in a direction that wasn’t on the map till he got there.

Of course, Lewis is aided by a cast that’s willing to go along with him. Peggy Cummins is terrific here — pretty, sexy and completely terrifying by the time it’s all over. Same goes for John Dall. He’s likable for the first reel, then he’s lost in his love for Cummins — and swept up in her love of guns.

Scripted by a blacklisted Dalton Trumbo, fronted by Millard Kaufman, this King Brothers picture was to be distributed by Monogram, but wound up at the bigger United Artists. Obviously, someone realized they were on to something.

Warner Archive is putting this masterpiece out on Blu-Ray at a time when the gun argument in the United States is at its nastiest. Gun Crazy makes a strong case that the trouble starts with the head that drives the hand that pulls the trigger.

Almost 70 years after its release, Gun Crazy is still potent stuff. Absolutely essential.

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Filed under DVD/Blu-ray News, Joseph H. Lewis, Monogram/Allied Artists, United Artists, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #157: The Maze (1953).

Directed by William Cameron Menzies
Starring Richard Carlson, Veronica Hurst, Hillary Brooke, Michael Pate

Kino Lorber has announced the upcoming release of The Maze (1953) on Blu-Ray in 3-D, “restored… in 4K from original stereoscopic left/right 35mm archival elements by Kino Lorber Studio Classics and the 3D Film Archive.”

The Maze is an atmospheric Gothic horror movie with a great cast: Richard Carlson (fresh from It Came From Outer Space and about to meet up with The Creature From The Black Lagoon), Hillary Brooke (so great in The Abbott & Costello Show on TV) and Michael Pate (who would soon appear with a 3-D John Wayne in Hondo). William Cameron Menzies’ visual style — he layered things to accentuate the depth — made him an ideal director for 3-D.

This is gonna be a great one, folks!

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Filed under 1953, 3-D, DVD/Blu-ray News, Kino Lorber, Monogram/Allied Artists, Richard Carlson

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

Screening: House On Haunted Hill (1959).

Directed by William Castle
Written by Robb White
Starring Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Richard Long, Alan Marshal, Carolyn Craig, Elisha Cook, Jr.

The Graham Cinema in nearby Graham, North Carolina, is one of my favorite places to see a movie. So imagine how excited I was to find out one of my all-time favorites films, William Castle’s House On Haunted Hill (1959), will be playing there Friday night, October 20, at 11:30.

House On Haunted Hill adWilliam Castle. Vincent Price. Robb White. Elisha Cook, Jr. Emergo. Even the Ennis House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (and just up the street from the infamous Ackermansion). There are a million reasons why this movie’s so wonderful.

8336_cinema_efAdmission’s just $2 and benefits the Shriners Hospital For Children. If you’ve never been to the Graham Cinema, you owe it to yourself to check it out. And of you’ve never seen House On Haunted Hill, I pity you. I really do.

The Graham Cinema
119 N Main St, Graham, NC 27253

UPDATE: I get the supreme honor of introducing the movie Friday night.

Thanks to my daughter Presley for the tip.

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Filed under 1959, Elisha Cook, Jr., Monogram/Allied Artists, Screenings, Vincent Price, William Castle

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