Search This Blog

Thursday, August 22, 2013

House of Mystery (1934) - William Nigh

This movie is extraordinarily mediocre. Nothing about it stands out, not even the witty banter. Which there is an abundance of. A stereotypical cast of characters is trapped inside of an Old Dark House type story line with an escaped Ape knocking people off one by one. A horrible constable comes to investigate, but does a horrible job and people keep dying off. This isn't a story line that that we haven't seen before. In fact nothing about this movie is that original. Aside from the origin of  the Ape is haunting this house.

The story-line deals with a guy that kills an Ape in India in 1910. He gets cursed and his curse is "supposedly" killing off anyone that comes in contact with their inheritance. Because of the curse a giant Ape is running around snapping necks. The acting is horrible and forgettable. There is almost no character development and the development that happens is boring and stupid. Yes, stupid.

The lead actress is so bizarre looking. Just look at her eyes in the poster. To the director's credit, he did a good job of keeping her profiled. Not really too many scenes with Wide-Eyes looking directly at the camera. The actors were all pretty bland. They were obviously written without much diversity. Yeah, they have their quirks and annoyances. However, they all feel the same. It is so generic. They had so many killer ape movies back in the thirties. This was definitely bottom of the barrel in terms of that. Horrible.

I wont recommend House of Mystery since there are so many other good movies out there from the thirties. These movies are starting to become really mundane. Hopefully, they can move out of these Old Dark Houses and into something a little more fun and interesting. Please. 

  • Also known as Curse of Kai
  • Old Dark House storyline combined with Ape antagonist!
  • Filmed with a Balsley and Phillips Sound System in Mono!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Maniac (1934) - Dwain Esper

Maniac (aka. Sex Maniac) from 1934 is a grindhouse pre-code exploitation film that really pushes the boundaries of decency in the early days of film. It has nudity and vulgarity done in the best possible way. This is the first example of modern horror. Done years ahead of its time. The film is, of course, very independent and has its charms. However, that is also it's biggest downfall. The lack of funds is apparent from the start. It drags down a lot of things including the acting. It should be something that you expect when your watching these types of pictures. One thing is clear throughout this flick, Dwain Esper is fucking weird. 

The plot revolves around a mad scientist that figures out a way to bring dead corpses back to life. He brings a young woman back to life for... reasons. However, he is murdered by his assistant who is the unwilling recipient of a reanimated heart-in-a-jar. The assistant assumes the mad scientists identity by putting on a beard and glasses. Then goes insane himself. Oh, it's quite boring. 

If your looking for something scary then keep on moving. This is more of a novelty than an actual horror film. I find this kind of thing very interesting and it keeps me interested. It was fun watching with a large group of friends. We all had witty comments and made the movie much better than it actually was. The Sierra Nevada helped out too. This is a comical movie that serves as a test to see what someone could get away with in Hollywood during that time. Important to fans of Exploitation and Grindhouse films. 

Tell me what you think
  • Believe it or not this is apparently based on an Edgar Allan Poe story. Loosely based.
  • Starring some actress named Phyllis Diller that isn't the comedian. Another person named Phyllis Diller. Nuts. 
  • This movie if full of scenes from Haxan (1922)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Black Cat (1934) - Edgar G. Ulmer

So I decided to watch... well the next movie that came across my desk. Never heard of this little gem before. It seems like a pretty big deal movie too. Where had I been? We have both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi! Both! Like I need to say this but they are tremendous actors in this genre and both preform incredibly. Hugely iconic.
The story is bizarre and loosely biased on an Edgar Allan Poe tale. Yes, this is yet again another Poe inspired movie. These movies are a dime a dozen right now. However, this one does it right. The story is memorable and fun. A couple meets a weird Doctor (Bela) on a train. They get into a pretty horrible accident and people are killed. It's pretty obvious, but they never speak of this again. Instead The doctor and the couple continue on. They all stumble, pretty conveniently, to the Doctors destination. A house owned and built by Boris Karloff's character, a psychotic and Satan-worshiping architect. The story states that the architect stole the doctors love during the war and put him into an internment camp when he returned. So Bela came to this place with these people to pay a little visit to the man that screwed him over, so many years prior.

There are numerous versions released all with different cuts. I hear that one of the cuts actually has a decent amount of early gore in it. They even show a skinning, though I've yet to see it. Unfortunately, I had to watch the condensed 59 minuet version. I suggest finding a longer version. The shortness did it no justice. It did, however, show things that were incredibly shocking for its time. For example; it showed Boris Karloff in the same bed as a woman, which is uncalled for in horror movies until this point really. The film also shows a woman being kissed on the neck, pretty passionately. This is a milestone movie, hell it was produced by Universal.

A movie this memorable should be an attraction. It does have its flaws though there are problems with continuity, bodies moving, and the whole driver thing. Those flaws only serve to be the charm of a movie with this much nostalgia. I recommend this movie to anyone that wants to delve deeper into the horror realm.

Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Starring: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, David Manners, and Jacqueline Wells
Style: Classic Thriller
Country: USA
Studio: Universal

Did ya know...
Filmed in every body's favorite place to hate, Los Angeles, CA.
Bela and Boris went on to star in 8 more movies together.
This movie was the box office smash hit of 1934.

The Black Cat by SeizureDemon on Deviant Art

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Night of Terror (1933) - Benjamin Stoloff

This is yet again, another Old Dark House style movie. "Starring" Bela Lugosi in a very minor role, as the servant to the Hornsby family. The format is tired and boring, but the introduction of a slasher-type murderer makes it a bit more entertaining. The movie is full of fast-talking and quick witted remarks in only the best way the thirties had. The entire cast sounded like they were the wittiest combination of characters. Each had something to say and each said it quickly. Except for Bela. Bela never speaks very quickly.

Like I said above the movie is part of that old cliché. We have a bunch of young relatives that are staying in their fathers home for some reason. While they are staying in this... ahem... Old dark house, there is a killer on the loose and people start turning up dead! This fuels the siblings greed when the father is killed. The movie is littered with pretty decent suspense around the stabbings and killings. It paints a good who-done-it? from the beginning. Then we come to the ending, which for my safety due to the breaking of the fourth wall, I cannot reveal. However, I will tell you that the ending is pretty clever and entertaining as well.

Overall this is a solid film that does a good job of making this style it's own. The acting isn't the worst, but it is certainly a victim of it's time. Oscar Smith turns in the type of performance I have been used to seeing during this time. He portrays the Martin the Chauffeur, a black driver that acts as the comedy relief through the film. Then we have Bela Lugosi, the big star of the film. Hell, he even received top billing. However, he was only in the movie for a collected 10 minuets. He isn't the star, but I would recommend this movie to any Lugosi aficionado. He was a hot commodity after Dracula. Everyone wanted a piece of Bela. Your going to love it. It's not much more than Bela in his Chandu garb, but it serves it's purpose and does a fine job of keeping you on your seat.


  • The movie was panned by Leonard Maltin who gave it a BOMB rating. 
  • Some publicity production stills show Bela Lugosi's character wearing a mustache; he has none in the finished film. 
  • Released on television in 1958. 

Friday, August 09, 2013

Secret of the Blue Room (1933) - Kurt Neumann

Secret of the Blue Room is a pretty decent crime/horror movie that follows in the Old Dark House footsteps. Lionel Atwill is the most seasoned actor in the film, turning in a pretty passable performance. This isn't his best role by any stretch of the word. There are infinitely worse movies than this one. It is short, running at 65 min, but has a good helping of terror and suspense. This film gives you a good helping of the who done it plot device and in a good way. It actually kept me guessing the entire time and kept my interest. 

The movie is about three men that are in a pissing contest about gaining the hand of the young Irene Von Helldorf. It just so happens, the Van Helldorf family estate has a mysterious room that is "responsible" for the deaths of anyone that stays overnight in it. One person drowned and the other shot. Very mysterious. Of course this is a prime opportunity to prove your worth as a suitor for the young lady. Of course that goes horribly wrong. After yet another murder in the room the tensions rise and investigations are started. This is where the movie really gets interesting. Now everyone must prove that they can withstand the room one by one. 

It does have downsides The scares are obvious and the dialog is contrived. The copy that I watched was incredibly washed out and over exposed. It sucked to watch. It was hard to see and the audio was tired and distorted in some sections. Once I got over much of the technical snags I really enjoyed it. This is a Universal release and is attached to none other than producer extraordinaire, Carl Laemmle. Those names hold some weight but not everything they do can be Golden. The Secret of the Blue Room is a really interesting picture with some real potential. It makes me think of movies like 1408 and Murder by the Clock. It has a great story but it isn't executed in the best way. I still recommend it to anyone looking to do a movie marathon. Check it out. 
  • Shot in all of six days. 
  • Features Swan Lake by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  • The plot is based on the German film Geheimnis des Blauen Zimmers

Saturday, August 03, 2013

The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933) - Fritz Lang

The first thing that I noticed about Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse is that the cinematography is absolutely wunderbar. The story is immediately engaging and the acting is superb. This is my first viewing and I am incredibly happy with the movie being part of the Criterion Collection. The picture and sound are of the highest quality. I know my set up isn't exactly the silver screen but it looked fantastic. It almost looked as if Fritz Lang went into the future and shot the movie in the fifties. Everything is so crisp and clean. What a picture. 

It tells the story of Dr. Mabuse, who is incarcerated at a local insane asylum. While in the asylum he writes out thousands of pages of crime details. These details start to come true and our "hero" Inspector Lohmann begins to investigate, this takes him to some very dangerous individuals. The movie has crazy visions and ghosts. It is really scary during some parts and engaging during the others, to me it balances pretty well. It's a crime movie with supernatural elements to it. The suspense is perfect. Just the right amount. It is pretty lengthy but it doesn't drag. 

Everything about this movie is fantastic. Every character is so well written and rounded out. They each seem like a real person. Lang's previous film M had the same feel. These films feel like they are far superior to the drivel that is spilling out everywhere else. He never even lets go of his expressionist ways while paying equal attention to the sound in the movie. I say that with great admiration. I feel like this movie could be a sleeper hit at the box office today. I am not saying that this movie should be remade. It's far too perfect. It was a victim of timing though. It just had to come out when Hitler was in power and Joseph Goebbels squashed it. The film was banned in Germany. They thought that it would inspire anti-government protests. However, it was in wide release in Europe and did fairly well.

I highly recommend this movie to film buff's everywhere. Get your hands on a copy of this and hold on to it. It's a damn fine picture and Fritz Lang's best horror feature. Otto Wernicke does a great job as the inspector and Karl Meixner as the Detective. Watching them put the case together is really entertaining and interesting. They turn in some great performances. The movie has some amazing scenes that are just huge and tremendous. This was definitely the definition of a blockbuster for its day. I will say it again, what a picture. Go find it or watch the Spanish version below. It's not the same. I found it at Netflix.
  • Banned in Germany, the world premiere was held on April 21, 1933 in Budapest in its full original 124 minute version.
  • The film was not shown to the German public until August 24, 1951 when it was presented in an edited 111 minute version. 
  • Banned by Josef Goebbels, in 1933, for its subversive nature and the possibility that it might "incite people to anti-social behavior and terrorism against the State". 
Sorry it's in Spanish, it's all YouTube had

Friday, August 02, 2013

Murders in the Rue Morgue (1933) - Robert Florey

You have heard me talk about this time and time again... Bela Lugosi is the greatest horror actor of the Golden Age. He is practically responsible for the popularity of horror during that period. My mom is the one who really got me into watching horror movies and she would talk about Bela Lugosi forever. So he is partially responsible for me loving horror as much as I do. This movie was released one year after his defining performance in  Dracula. It actually introduces Bela as "Dracula Himself" which is pretty funny to me. He never got out from under that role, hell he was Dracula.

So in this movie Bela is playing Dr. Mirakle, a mad scientist in France who does these crazy experiments on his monkey. You see he gets these girls, right, and he injects them with monkey blood to try and get a little play date for his killer ape. I don't really know if the doctor is a real doctor or just a lunatic. Oh one of the funniest things I thought is that the Ape's name is Eric. That was too funny. I love animals with humans names. I, just like everyone else, would someday like to own a dalmatian named Steven or a husky named Todd.

Another thing about this movie, it's one of those killer ape films. I don't know why they thought that ape's were so scary in the 30's. There are like tons of horror movies that feature monkeys and apes. I don't really think that this is any real antagonist. It's just so far fetched, I can't really understand why they are scary??!! It must be a thing from the era. People were really stupid back then.

The movie came out during the weird period between silent films and the film code. There were alot of movies that came out during this time and they are considered "Pre-Code" films. These movies had harsh violence, sex/nudity, drug use, and various other things that we see all of the time now. For this movie we have a prostitute and some really brutal beatings and murders. For its time this movie was like an Ultra-Violent weird Horror film. By today's standards, it is considerably tame.

There are some really interesting expressionist type shots that the movie makes. Probably due to Karl Freund being behind the camera, his cinematography was pure quality. Oh and look at that, ol'kingpin Carl Laemmle is attached.
  • Movie is set in Paris
  • The movie was a flop when it first came out, but is now considered to be pretty awesome.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

The Ghoul (1933) - T. Hayes Hunter

Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, and Boris Karloff are some of the greatest horror movie actors of all time. They have so many legendary performances under their belts. There were other actors and actresses that were legendary in their own right. Basil Rathbone and Fay Wray are two prime examples, but they just don't stand up to the chops of Karloff or the master of disguise Chaney. That being said Boris Karloff delivers what I believe to be the greatest performance in the first 15 minuets of this movie and peters out. How do you take one of the best actors of horror and make him look amateur?

I really appreciate what the director here is trying to do, this was an independent movie. The film had a very small budget, yet it didn't look like they wanted to scale anything down. The movie looked very clean and even pulled off a minor explosion, but it lacked in the story and really sagged in the middle. Boris' makeup was horrendous.

The movie is about an archaeologist who discovers immortality if he is buried with the jewel of Anubis. So he gets buried with it, but it is stolen and whatever... The point is Boris Karloff is in bad make-up and he comes back from the dead to get his jewel. I'm not here to spoil the movie, but I will tell you that the movie doesn't really deliver where it is supposed too. You get bored easy. OH, and there is this weird sexual tension between two cousins. Its so strange.
Director: T. Hayes Hunter
Producer: Michael Balcon
Starring: Boris Karloff, Cedric Hardwicke, Ernest Thesiger and Ralph Richardson
Studio: Gaumont British and Woolf & Freedman Film Service
Release Date: August 1933
Country: United Kingdom
Did ya Know: In the early 1980s, while men were clearing one of the sound stages at Shepperton Studios in England, of old sets and other detritus, they found a locked door blocked by stacked lumber. Behind the door was a disused and long forgotten film vault that had not been used since the mid 1930s. It was cleared and among the many cans of old film, was the original nitrate camera negative of "The Ghoul" in perfect condition. The British Film Institute had new prints made, and the complete version aired on Channel 4 in the UK in 1984. Bootleg videotapes of this broadcast were shared among collectors for years, but when an official VHS release arrived from MGM/UA Home Video, it proved to be the virtually unwatchable Czech subtitled and heavily cut version. Finally, in 2003, just as the title was being prepared for DVD, MGM/UA obtained the superior material from the BFI for release. This restored copy has substantially raised critical appreciation of the film in modern times and has been reissued in 2008 by Network for a bargain price.