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Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Man They Could Not Hang (1939) - Nick Grinde

The Man They Could Not Hang was actually a really solid horror movie. Boris Karloff is always fantastic and this movie is no different. Karloff takes his little role in this picture and makes it way bigger and broader than expected. The film deals with tried and true horror surroundings. The Old Dark House aesthetic is in full effect here complete with a slow, brooding terror. The film is also far, ahead of it's time. It actually showcases an artificial heart and heart transplant before that kind of thing was ever heard of. 

Dr. Henryk Savaard (Boris Karloff) has been working on unlocking the key to immortality. In his work, he's discovered how to bring a human back to life. His goal is to make it so that surgeons wouldn't have to be working against the clock during surgeries. A young man volunteers for the opportunity to be one of the first to be killed and brought back to life. However, Savaard is unable to finish his work. His secretary rats on him. Eventually leading to Savaard being thrown in jail. Where he is executed by hanging.

However, Dr. Savaard comes back from the dead. Using his methods and performed by his assistant. He invites everyone to his house that had convicted him. From the judge to the jury, no one is safe! Savaard traps these people in his house and tries to murder them all. It makes for a really interesting take on the Old Dark House recipe.

The acting is pretty normal for it's time. Fast paced with quick wits. Karloff is obviously the most fantastic performer here. Lorna Gray, Don Beddoe, and Ann Doran are the biggest names and they don't do much to stand out. Check out The Man They Could Not Hang if you love Karloff movies or your writing an essay on him. Although this movie has it's moments. It is mostly just regurgitation of the other movies coming out around the same time.

Director: Nick Grinde
Country: USA
Style: Dramatic Thriller

Did ya know...
Part of Son of Shock! a selection of movies that were aired on television in '58. The shooting lasted only two weeks. This film was re-released in 1947.  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Gorilla (1939) - Allan Dwan

Horror comedies are always a tough nut to crack. They usually never do very well. It's really tough to mix two genres and do it well. It's even harder when one of those genres is horror. The Gorilla is an example of the two styles cancelling each-other out. It comes to the table with the usual brand of comedy that was running rampant at the time. Fast-paced, high-wit comedy that did really well... back then. The horror is even worse. It's has forced tension and a not-very-scary antagonist.

The all-star cast is completely lost in the crap. Lionel Atwill, Bela Lugosi, and Anita Louise are just a few names. Not to mention the b-list comedy troupe The Ritz Brothers, who were apparently mistreated by the production. They really exploited Lugosi too. Using his popularity as Dracula they believed that just merely his presence could illicit fear. It doesn't.

A very wealthy old man (Lionel Atwill) is threatened by a killer going by the name of "The Gorilla". He hires some detectives to crack the case. However, the detectives happen to be The Ritz Brothers. A jokester group that doesn't really give any confidence in getting the job done. Their usual witty humor is at times nerve-racking. But parts of their performance actually worked. Bela Lugosi plays the creepy butler and Anita Louise plays the cowardly maid. A combination we are all very familiar with.

I don't think I will ever understand why we thought Gorillas were scary. The whole notion just isn't very terrifying to me. If it sounds like something that might send shivers down your spine then this is probably right up your alley. It's no Abbott and Costello, believe that. You won't be cracking up probably just scratching your head.

Director: Allan Dwan
Country: USA
Style: Suspenseful Ape Thriller

Did ya know...

The Ritz Brothers had suffered the loss of their father shortly before filming this film. Production literally forced them into working so quickly. They were barely aloud to go to the funeral. This was the last Ritz Brothers film for 20th Century Fox. This movie is somehow based on a play. It must have been a boring play.