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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Return of Doctor X (1939) - Vincent Sherman

I was excited to see this one. While others panned the original, I actually enjoyed the first entry to this franchise. Unfortunately, this movie is unorganized and unmotivated. It feels cold and without any real enthusiasm. That would explain why this hasn't found a very wide release or even a proper video release making it virtually impossible to find. I had been able to watch it online when I found it on accident while browsing for copies of Revenge of Doctor X from 1970. 

Like the original, this movie features a fast talking, quick witted Journalist. After finding a young woman dead in her apartment, her body mysteriously disappears then re-appears alive and complaining about the journalist. This baffles the journalist, now ex-journalist after being fired, into trying to figure the mystery out. The strange journey leads him to find that the woman is in acquaintanceship with a strange doctor that has an affliction for blood control. 

Interestingly enough the strange doctor with the blood fixation is played by Humphrey Bogart. Supposedly, he didn't want to be in the movie and the studio sort of forced his hand. He was apparently upset with his role. It is pretty neat to see him in a sort of zombie makeup. He actually looks like the John Depp version of Sweeney Todd. 

This movie is mostly a talking piece that has a few horror elements worked in. You don't actually see anything graphic. They imply everything and talk about murders when they happen off camera. Few people will find this movie to be a bit boring. The long speeches and dragging plot really don't help but the content isn't that horrible. The plot is exciting and the story is interesting enough. 

If you are a fan of classic horror then this might be right up your alley. If you are looking for a rare viewing you can try and catch this one on TCM during the Halloween season. I think they might have given it a DVD release. I would suggest trying this out and letting it simmer. You might just be surprised. 

Maybe she's not dead.
  • "This is one of the pictures that made me march in to [Warner Bros. studio chief Jack L. Warner] and ask for more money again. You can't believe what this one was like. I had a part that somebody like Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff should have played. I was this doctor, brought back to life, and the only thing that nourished this poor bastard was blood. If it had been Jack Warner's blood, or Harry's, or Pop's, maybe I wouldn't have minded as much. The trouble was, they were drinking mine and I was making this stinking movie." - Humphrey Bogart 
  • Boris Karloff was set to star as Doctor X but dropped out. 
  • When Walter 'Wichita' Garrett reviews the press clippings, two of them refer to "Eugene Xavier", the remainder refer to "Maurice Xavier."

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Tower of London (1939) - Roland V. Lee

Tower of London is a quasi-horror movie that is set in the medieval times; the movie follows the rise of King Richard III who took his seat on the throne by systematically killing everyone ahead of him. The film has some stellar performances from Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff, and we even get a young Vinny Price as the timid Duke of Clarence.

The movie is historically accurate, but of course it embellishes to shock and entertain. The movie is pretty epic and its battle sequences are heralded as some of the greatest ever made; there have been two remakes of this film and instead of reproducing the battles scenes these remakes actually reused the battle footage from this movie.

This movie is strange in the fact that it uses drama to get the "horror" point across. The movie is in no way scary, but I can see how it may have been in the past. There are numerous murders committed by "The Executioner", played by Karloff, but the creepiest part is that 35 year old Richard III has a doll house with figurines that represent everyone who stands in his way. When he has the Executioner kill someone, he removes a doll and throws it in the fire.

The movie shows various ways of medieval death, usually at the hands of the Executioner. The deaths are, however, very tame by today's standards. It is hardly scary and doesn't really have any stand out scenes that stuck with me. In fact I don't see myself watching this movie ever again. Like I said above, the acting is great, but the content is too bland. You may want to watch this movie if you are really into historic horror movies, or horror movies with no supernatural element, or fans of Vincent Price; but this movie made me want to fall asleep.

You're a God to Me!

S!D

  • The movie went $80,000 over budget
  • The battle scenes were insane to shoot. They filmed it all in Tarzana, CA (That is crazy in itself) they had rain machines and fog machines that were going nuts. They say that the temperature was upwards of 100 degrees. All of the extras had cardboard armor and it dissolved in the conditions.
  • The film had two remakes including one where Vincent Price stepped into Basil Rathbone's role.



Monday, July 07, 2014

Torture Ship (1939) - Victor Halperin

Torture Ship is torture to watch... yes I just said that. Yes, I am THAT guy. I barely got through this movie and it is hard to interpret and even harder to enjoy. The movie starts off with little explanation and leaves you with tons of questions and yawns. The acting is laughable and the storyline is ludicrous. I was on such a hot streak too: The Ape, then Sweeney Todd but now this failure of a film.

This movie is a B-Movie through and through. It was obvious from the first five minutes of the film that it was going to be cheap and boring. From what I could piece together the plot is about a group of prisoners who are stuck on a ship with a doctor running experiments on them. What experiments? Who knows. How did they all get there? I don't know. Why did they even spend time making this movie? I don't know.

The movie is short in the way of scares and very heavy in the way of "comedy". At least what they try to pass off as comedy. The whole thing is all unoriginal and trite. There is only one scene in the entire film that I enjoyed and it involves the character Harry "The Carver" Bogard in which he has been asked to give a shave to Dirk, the spineless comedic relief character. The whole scene is pretty genuine. It is the only bit of acting in the whole movie. I am going to caution you here: Do not watch this movie unless you are ready for bed as it will make you fall asleep faster than Queen of the Damned.

"Doctor, is it true that through your experiments in endocrine glands you can cure crime?"


  • Film looks like it was filmed on Videocassette. However it is 35mm.
  • Also known as To karavi tou martyriou in Greece.
  • The film was released on DVD with the Tales of Terror 50 Movie Pack Collection.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

The Cat and the Canary (1939) - Elliott Nugent

The Cat and the Canary is yet another Old Dark House style horror movie with incredible wit and charm. It surprises you with it's quality and mystery. I guess you could say this is one of the rare Old Dark House films that actually gets the formula correct. This is much to my pleasure. The Cat and the Canary is a pretty great little movie.

The plot is the same as it always is. A group of people, in this case a bunch of distant relatives, gather for the reading of a will. Then someone dies. They all figure out that they are trapped for the night. Then they start dropping off one-by-one. Insert a creepy police officer and Bob Hope and you have The Cat and the Canary. A shining stone in the dull pebbles that surround it. 

I was weary to watch another movie about a haunted house, but this one pulls you in right from the beginning. Bob Hope really steals the show. His fast-paced humor is a perfect mix with the strange and mysterious. He keeps the movie smart. You actually look forward to seeing him on screen. It feels like this movie was made specifically for him as a sort of platform. The other actors don't turn in half of the performance he does. 

This picture should go down in history as a classic. As it stands, I don't really hear anyone talking about it. It's a shame. This movie has all of the quality and entertainment as a Universal feature. If you are looking for a true classic, then I suggest picking this up. You will not be disappointed. 

I'm so scared, even my goose pimples have goose pimples.

  • Many people believe that the lawyer's name (Crosby) is an in-joke reference to the Bob Hope/Bing Crosby pairing. In fact, it's a coincidence; this was the character's name in the stage play as well as the two previous film versions. Moreover, Hope and Crosby did not make a film together until Road to Singapore (1940) the following year. - IMDB
  • One of over 700 Paramount productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, that were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. Because of legal complications, this particular title was not included in the original television package and was not televised until several years later. - IMDB