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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Devil-Doll (1936) - Tod Browning

The 1936's Devil-Doll is a crazy mix of Frankenstein, The Littles, and Mrs. Doubtfire. Sounds strange enough right? This movie marks the steep decline in quality and in popularity of Tod Brownings work. He really picked up steam by directing classics like Dracula and Freaks, however he wasn't able to maintain that level of quality. Instead he retired from directing in 1939 and fell out of society; completely cutting himself off from everyone, including his family, until his death in 1962.

This movie is really intriguing with its use of the early "green screen" work and its other effects. That is really what drives the film. Other than that the movie sort of falls flat and ends very bizarrely.

Lionel Barrymore (Great uncle of Drew Barrymore) and Marcel are on the run after escaping from prison. Marcel is a great scientist and he drags Barrymore to his experiments once they escape. The experiments Marcel performs involve shrinking things down to 1/6th their original size. For the most part he carries out these feats of size reduction on his seemingly endless supply of dogs. The doctor has a heart attack and before he dies tells his vision of the world to Barrymore and his assistant (some lady with a limp). The Lady, determined to finish the doctor's work, decides that Barrymore must help her realize the late doctor's dream. So naturally Barrymore just becomes a doctor in about 5 minuets. He even comments "I couldn't help, I was a Banker". How does this guy just up and become a scientist?It bugs me! The movie goes on from there with Barrymore using the method used to shrink things to clear his name, and then lives out the rest of his years in peace. That is pretty much the entire movie.

There are some freaky parts like when he tortures his victims by paralyzing them with a tiny dagger dipped in paralyzing potion, or when Lionel Barrymore dresses up as an old woman to allude the police. His make-up is pretty uncanny. You wouldn't even know that you were looking at veteran actor of the stage and screen.

I feel like going to be a surgeon now.

  • Also known as "The Witch of Timbuktu"
  • Filmed in Hollywood, CA
  • Filmed on 35mm

Friday, February 21, 2014

Revolt of the Zombies (1936) - Victor Halperin

This little known movie from 1936 is actually pretty decent. The effects are practical and fantastic for it's time. Victor Halperin has already turned in some good movies and this adds to his report. Unlike many movies from this era this is based in Asia. Cambodia to be more precise. This film has adventure, mystery, and even a tiny bit of gore. However, it ends up going on a bit long.

The movie is about a group of scientists sent to Cambodia to research a formula that turns men into Zombies. These Cambodian Zombies are under complete control of someone sinister and they must be stopped from overrunning the scientists compound. Dorthy Stone, Dean Jagger, and Roy D'Arcy turn in some pretty average performances. It isn't their fault the movie has really deep dull spots.

The movie does have some really cool high points to counter-balance. We get to see a cool effect used whenever mind control is being used. Bela Lugosi's eyes flash on screen and are superimposed behind the film itself. It's actually the best part of the whole movie. The acting is dry and the storyline peters out around thirty minutes in. It's a rough old movie that didn't stand up to the test of time. I would suggest the movie to film students.

I don't like sermons.

  • The eyes that are frequently superimposed on the screen are those of Bela Lugosi. They were taken from Victor Halperin's earlier film White Zombie (1932)
  • A tagline for the film said Zombies--- Not dead, not alive!
  • Filmed at Talisman Studios, Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Dracula's Daughter (1936) - Lambert Hillyer

Trying to ride the popularity train of Tod Browning's 1931 film Dracula, Dracula's Daughter falls flat on its face. This movie is boring, dull and has nothing going for it. The stars of the movie include: Otto Kruger, Gloria Holden, Marguerite Chruchill, and Edward Von Sloan returning from Dracula to portray the character Van Helsing. The only passable actor would have to be Gloria Holden who plays Dracula's Daughter, Countess Marya Zaleska. 

This movie is canon to the original, set only moments after the first film ends. We see Van Helsing dealing with the police for driving a stake through the heart of a man known as Count Dracula. The police have no idea that he was a vampire and they think the entire idea is ludicrous; meanwhile Countess Marya Zaleska comes to London to destroy her fathers body and do what vampires do best. 

There are a ton of things that bother me about this flim. One being that the movie is set in London and none of the actors have British accents, the movie could have easily been set in New York or Chicago. The movie is not scary what-so-ever, virtually all of the vampire "biting" scenes are done off camera. The storyline seems forced, it seems like the screenwriter scribbled this down one lonely night after watching the original Dracula. I am glad Bela Lugosi kept himself away from the film altogether, it would have been a disaster...Well more so than it already was. 

The only thing that I like about this movie is the character Van Helsing and the subsequent investigation of his involvement in the murder Count Dracula. The movie is well shot and the dialog is delivered very well, albeit with no accents. 

Wanna see my jewels?

  • The movie was originally slated for James Whale (The Bride of Frankenstein, Old Dark House) to direct.
  • Bela Lugosi took promotional shots for the movie, however he doesn't appear in the movie at all.
  • This was one of Universals most expensive films of the thirties being made for $278,000.00