Archive for bela lugosi

Goregirl’s Dungeon on The Forgotten Filmcast

Posted in movies, USA with tags , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2013 by goregirl

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My vacation is over and it is back to reality; that first day of work after a holiday is a bitter pill I’ll tell ya what! I promised a summary last Thursday of my Vancouver International Film Festival experience; my apologies for the tardiness. Better late than never right? I will have a summary of VIFF and my holiday activities tomorrow night. In the meantime please check out the Forgotten Films podcast where I discuss Erle C. Kenton’s 1932 film Island of Lost Souls with my host Todd HERE. A big thanks to Todd for having me as his guest to discuss this under-appreciated gem.

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ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1932) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, USA with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2013 by goregirl

H.G. Wells was still living when Island of Lost Souls based on his book The Island of Dr. Moreau was made. Apparently he disapproved of the film. I wonder what he would have thought of the 1996 Frankenheimer abomination, or even Don Taylor’s 1977 version? I actually don’t dislike Taylor’s version; it does have a great cast with Burt Lancaster, Michael York, Barbara Carrera and Nigel Davenport; but it sure pales in comparison to Erle Kenton’s 1932 version. There is so much to applaud here but needless to say they do take liberties with Wells’ material. I’ll have to disagree with Mr. Wells’ interpretation as I absolutely love Island of Lost Souls!

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Edward Parker is the lone survivor of a shipwreck and is rescued by a passing vessel. The vessel commissioned by Dr. Moreau contains several cages of wild animals and a handful of other unusual looking passengers. Parker meets Mr. Montgomery who attends to the shaken man and sends a wire to his fiancée to let her know he is okay and will be arriving in a few days. Parker however gets into a scuffle with the ships drunken captain and knocks him out. Soon a second ship arrives and Dr. Moreau’s cargo is offloaded. The liquored up captain decides that Parker and his feisty fists should also be offloaded and literally throws him overboard landing him on the deck of Moreau’s ship. Moreau, none too pleased about this unwelcomed guest allows Parker to spend the night on the Island requiring his complete discretion in regards to what he might witness. Parker has no idea of the horrors that await him on the island of Dr. Moreau.

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Dr. Moreau performs vivisections on animals transforming them into human beings in his House of Pain. The creatures agonizing screams can be heard throughout the island. The film has no music score and these sounds of horror are additionally amplified. The forest is teeming with the human-looking creatures that still show signs of their former animal selves; a furry ear, claws, hooves. The doctor’s most regrettable errors are put to work as slaves. His most perfect creation is Lota the panther woman. One problem however still remains; the beast flesh keeps creeping back! The unfortunate shipwreck survivor Edward Parker is forced to spend the night on Dr. Moreau’s island. Moreau attempts to make the best of the uninvited guest’s appearance by attempting to see if Lota will mate with him. Moreau hides in the shadows looking on with excited anticipation as Lota and Edward interact. Dr. Moreau has taught his creatures to speak and has even given them a code; spoken regularly by the Sayer of the Law

What is the law?
Not to run on all fours!
That is the law!
What is the law?
Not to eat meat!
That is the law!
What is the law?
Not to shed blood!
That is the law!

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Oh how we do fuck with nature! Are we not men? The sad question asked by these creatures forced to walk on two legs and wear restricting clothing. The themes in the film are as timely today as they were in 1932. Island of Lost Souls is also a film about pain. Perhaps the first film to feature torture? Dr. Moreau’s agonizing experiments in his self named House of Pain are beyond comprehension and beyond forgiveness. The fictional Dr. Moreau is not an outlandish character by any means as many scientists practiced vivisection. French philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes believed that animals had no soul and felt no pain. Stupid, stupid, stupid humans.

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Charles Laughton’s downright devilish performance as the arrogant Dr. Moreau is inspired. Laughton’s sly sideways glances and boasts of having god-like power are positively creepy. He is beyond brilliant in the role. The stunning Kathleen Burke who plays the innocent and endearing Lota the panther woman has perfect felinesque qualities that makes her the perfect choice visually and is absolutely charming in the role. Richard Arlen is great as Edward Parker the unassuming shipwreck survivor. As appalled as he is by what he discovers on the island he is far more disturbed by his attraction to Lota and the passionate kiss they share. Leila Hyams is adorable as Edward’s plucky fiancée although does not really have much impact beyond being the catalyst to save Edward from the Island (and perhaps himself). Arthur Hohl as Mr. Montgomery Moreau’s assistant was basically blackmailed into working with the doctor to save himself from criminal prosecution in London. A very furry Bela Lugosi is the Sayer of the Law and it goes without saying is super terrific. Captain’s Davies and Donahue played by Stanley Fields and Paul Hurst are both a hell of a lot of fun and add some comic relief to the proceedings. Everyone is just fantastic, even the minor roles. I can’t say enough good things about the performances in Island of Lost Souls.

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The creatures look fantastic! The fact that they are more man than beast makes them so very effective. Among the special features on the DVD was a conversation between John Landis, special effects guru Rick Baker and genre expert Bob Burns about the special effects in the film that was a ton of fun. Island of Lost Souls is an extremely handsome looking film overall with its amazing sets, superb surreal looking forests and black and white photography.

The special features on the DVD were excellent as is generally the case with Criterion. The interview with Richard Stanley and two members of Devo were particularly awesome. Richard Stanley was originally tasked with directing the 1996 version; but the whole thing went to hell and Stanley was paid to walk away. Too bad, his vision sounded brilliant! This is probably the third interview I’ve seen with Stanley and the guy is entertaining and well-spoken. The Devo interview featuring members Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh was da bomb. Island of Lost Souls was a huge influence on Devo’s entire concept and their debut album aptly named Are we not Men? Jocko Homo has been in my head for days now! I could not resist including the video…

Island of Lost Souls is beautiful, sad, daunting, eerie, skillfully shot, with amazing sets, outstanding performances and a most perfect and rewarding finale! Island of Lost Souls is an absolute fecking delight and gets my highest of recommendation; a perfect score!

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Erle C. Kenton

Starring: Charles Laughton, Richard Arlen, Leila Hyams, Bela Lugosi, Kathleen Burke, Arthur Hohl, Stanley Fields, Paul Hurst, Hans Steinke, Tetsu Komai, George Irving

Goregirl’s Werewolf Project: FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943)

Posted in horror, movies, USA with tags , , , on May 1, 2012 by goregirl

If you missed last week’s post, I am working on a top ten favourite werewolf film list. I will be highlighting the films that did not make the shortlist until the project is complete.

Why is this film called Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man? It should be called The Wolf Man Meets Frankenstein! Wolf Man owns this film! This could have been the perfect sequel to the wonderful 1941 original Wolf Man, but the addition of Frankenstein’s monster does muddy things up a bit. We begin a few years after the original Wolf Man ended. Bludgeoned to death by his father with a sliver walking stick; Lawrence Talbot now lies in the family crypt. Two men break into the crypt in hopes of scoring some booty and inadvertently awaken the Wolf Man. Talbot awakes disoriented in a hospital in another town. When questioned, the confused Talbot can not recall the events that brought him there. He does however remember his name is Lawrence Talbot and he hails from Llanwelly. When they check with the Llanwelly authorities they are told that Lawrence Talbot is dead. Talbot begins to recall the strange and horrifying truth of his existence. Desperate to be rid of his curse he escapes from the hospital. He sets out to find Maleva; the old gypsy woman whose son was responsible for his infliction. He finds Maleva who agrees to help him. Maleva knows of a doctor by the name of Frankenstein who may be able to help Talbot.

The film takes a turn, not necessarily for the better once Frankenstein’s monster is introduced. It seemed unnecessary to include the monster. He really is a non-entity in this story. He is more of a nuisance to Talbot than anything else. Of course, there is the finale featuring the two monsters. The prominent image on its theatrical poster shows Frankenstein and Wolf Man locked in battle. This is such a brief scene right at the end of the film. The two were actually quite chummy up to that point. I don’t want to spoil all the fun; although flawed; the story is still quite entertaining. Lawrence Talbot is a likable and empathetic character and Lon Chaney Jr. is the perfect bloke for the role. I really dig this old school furry-faced werewolf! The transformations are nicely done and Chaney’s movements while in werewolf form really help sell it. The sets are fantastic and it has an excellent dark and foreboding mood. The visuals overall are beauty. Bela Lugosi is okay as Frankenstein’s monster; but it is not his finest hour by a long shot. He doesn’t speak a word, and as mentioned, he really does not have much presence in the story. The performances from the rest of the cast are decent, although no one particularly stands out. This is Lon Chaney’s gig all the way! It is a shame they chose not to give the Wolf Man a sequel all his own. I say SHAME Universal Studios! SHAME! Despite its flaws I really enjoyed Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man. Recommended!

WHITE ZOMBIE (1932) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, USA with tags , , , , , , on July 4, 2011 by goregirl

One of my goals when starting this blog was to watch and review more classic horror. I guess “classic horror” is a bit of a catch all phrase but for me it means pre-60s. When I was a kid I watched a lot of horror films from the 60s and 70s because my dad was heavily into sci-fi and horror from this period. My dad’s love of horror stayed with me and growing up in the 80s I literally watched every single horror film I could get my hands on. I have an intimate relationship with these three decades of horror where pre-60’s I’m still at the kissing stage. I have crossed a few classics off the list but I still have a multitude of titles to check out. What amazes me the most is of the dozenish titles I’ve reviewed I’ve yet to run into one I disliked. Black and white photography is beautiful and provides so much gothic appeal to these films. The expressive actors, great character development and stories hypnotize me and I am powerless to escape their embrace. I’m pleased to report, like its predecessors, White Zombie definitely did not disappoint.

Happy couple Madeline (Madge Bellamy) and Neil (John Harron) are convinced to marry at the Haitian plantation of Charles Beaumont (Robert Frazer). Mr. Beaumont’s intentions are purely selfish as he is in love with Madeline. Unable to prevent the marriage he turns to Legendre (Bela Lugosi) who provides him with a drug to keep Madeline under his control. The drug however turns its user into an emotionless, uncommunicative zombie. Desperate Mr. Beaumont turns once again to Legendre to give Madeline back her senses but the evil man has his own agenda. Meanwhile grieving fiancé Neil believing his Madeline to be dead is convinced by a local doctor that his love is merely under a spell. The two set out to find her and save her from Legendre’s grasp.

Haitian voodoo is the backdrop for White Zombie, not an uncommon theme in these older zombie films. White Zombie begins with a couple in a carriage being stopped by a group of Haitian locals conducting a funeral in the road. The carriage driver’s explanation of the ceremony creates some nice foreboding. These are not your entrail eating variety but the small army of drugged and bug-eyed zombies controlled by the diabolical Legendre is quite effective. The zombies aren’t covered in makeup or masked they are simply well chosen background performers who are dressed shabbily and stare wide-eyed into the camera. It’s simple but creepy. Their captor is Legendre who puts the mind-controlled zombies at work in his mill. The men in his personal army are those who once had a bone to pick with him and now do his bidding. Bela Lugosi is at his diabolical best in White Zombie. Lugosi plays the villain with mischievous flair and plenty of hand-wringing and glowing eye action. Lugosi rocks that Widow’s peak and looks downright devilish. As Legendre, Bela Lugosi tops or at least equals his great performance as Dracula. Robert Frazer is strong as Charles Beaumont. Madge Bellamy who plays Madeline is beautiful and likeable and John Harron is well matched as her fiancé. My only real complaint however revolves around these two characters. I found Neil’s grieving a little bit hard to take after a while and the love conquers all theme was a bit schmaltzy for my tastes.

White Zombie relies on atmosphere and mood and its cup overfloweth with both. It is amazing what can be achieved with a small budget and a ton of creativity. The scene inside Legendre’s mill where his zombie drones mindlessly work at redundant tasks is very eerie. The graveyard shots and every scene in Legendre’s lair are terrific. The score for the film from Xavier Cugat is excellent. The film has a steady pace, good story, impressive scenery and strong performances. White Zombie is top notch entertainment! Highly recommended.

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Victor Halperin

Starring: Bela Lugosi, Madge Bellamy, Joseph Cawthorn, Robert Frazer, John Harron, Brandon Hurst, George Burr Macannan, Frederick Peters, Annette Stone, John Printz, Dan Crimmins, Claude Morgan, John Fergusson, Velma Gresham, Clarence Muse

THE BODY SNATCHER (1945) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, USA with tags , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2010 by goregirl

The Body Snatcher is the fourth film I’ve reviewed from producer extraordinaire Val Lewton. I spent enough time singing the praises of the brilliant Mr. Lewton in my previous posts so I won’t go on and on but the man’s contribution to the horror genre is massive. Lewton produced some of the greatest horror films ever made, and in 1945 he was responsible for bringing genre legend Boris Karloff into the fold. Karloff appeared in three Val Lewton produced films for RKO: Isle of the Dead, The Body Snatcher, and Bedlam. (The following text “in italics” was taken from Wikipedia). In a 1946 interview with Louis Berg of the Los Angeles Times, Karloff discussed his three-picture deal with RKO, his reasons for leaving Universal Pictures and working with producer Lewton. Karloff left Universal because he thought the Frankenstein franchise had run its course. The latest installment was what he called a “‘monster clambake,’ with everything thrown in—Frankenstein, Dracula, a hunchback and a ‘man-beast’ that howled in the night. It was too much. Karloff thought it was ridiculous and said so.” Berg continues, “Mr. Karloff has great love and respect for Mr. Lewton as the man who rescued him from the living dead and restored, so to speak, his soul.”

The Body Snatcher is based on a Robert Louis Stevenson’s story and takes place in 19th century Scotland. The use of cadavers was imperative in advancing medicine but the supply was scant and grave robbers were often employed to retrieve the bodies. Doctor MacFarlane heads a school of medicine and employs one such gravedigger to provide specimens for his students. While MacFarlane may be employer to gravedigger Gray it is Gray who yields the power. Gray and MacFarlane share a sordid past which Gray threatens to expose at every turn. Gray’s constant smirking reminders never fail to fluster the usually cold and composed MacFarlane. Gray’s taunts effect MacFarlane’s judgement and he soon begins to lose his grip on reality.

As in all Lewton films, the strength of the characters is key. In a career full of epic horror performances The Body Snatcher may very well be Boris Karloff’s best. That, I suppose is a matter of opinion, but his sinister turn here as Cabman Gray is one of those monumental genre performances that stays firmly engraved on the brain. With that marvellous voice of his delivering the promise of much malice how could you go wrong? Karloff’s performance is definitely a showstopper but it is his relationship with his co-star and partner in crime Dr. Wolfe ‘Toddy’ Macfarlane, played by Henry Daniell that gives the film its bite. Dr. MacFarlane is a hard looking man with a cold exterior and does not appear to be the type of man easily intimidated. In our introduction to MacFarlane we see him turn down a desperate mother in need of care for her wheelchair bound daughter. We get a glimpse of his icy demeanour not to mention his horrific bedside manner. We see a warmer side to MacFarlane when he is alone with his mistress, but the fact that she is a dirty little secret who poses as his housekeeper for the rest of the world cancels it out. MacFarlane is a pretty unlikeable guy, but I still could not help but feel a little empathy for him. Gray serves as a constant reminder of MacFarlane’s guilty past. Gray takes great pleasure in calling MacFarlane by his old nickname ‘Toddy’. “You’ll never get rid of me that way, Toddy,” (It inspired bad Karloff imitations for days around our house!) The nickname and the taunts never fail to fluster MacFarlane. The two characters are locked in a relationship of hatred and dependence that neither can escape. MacFarlane and Gray are an inspired pairing and every last second of banter between the two is ugly, nasty and a complete fascination to behold. Gray and MacFarlane give the story its dark heart and a naive young doctor adds a bit of levity. Donald Fettes is a student under MacFarlane who also acts as his lab assistant. He is the films moral center but even he is willing to compromise his principles to save a life. Fettes becomes involved with a woman and her crippled daughter who is in desperate need of surgery. He pleads with MacFarlane to help the child but is told they will need another body for further study before they can proceed. Soon Fettes is wandering the streets at night looking for Gray in hopes that he can acquire another specimen. Russell Wade does a decent job playing the mild-mannered Fettes although he is a little flat at times. Finally we have poor Bela Lugosi. If you were hoping for another great classic pairing of two horror icons, don’t look here. Lugosi’s plays one of MacFarlane’s servants and his role is tiny and not terribly significant.

The Body Snatcher’s intriguing story and its magnificent characters are perfectly complimented by its visuals. Filmed in black and white, oozing with malice and a foreboding atmosphere that escalates until it reaches its final tragic conclusion. The films wardrobe and sets do a commendable job of capturing 19th century Scotland. There are very few exterior shots used as much of the film takes place in the homes of MacFarlane and Gray. The tiny, dark, confines of Gray’s abode seem much bleaker in contrast with MacFarlanes large, elaborate and well-stated residence.

I tried to keep this review as vague as possible as it would be a terrible disservice to the film to give away too much. The Body Snatcher is well paced, beautifully filmed, and its excellent story and intriguing central characters were completely engrossing. My only complaint was it ended too soon! You must acquire a copy immediately and watch it with the lights out. You’ll do that for me now won’t you Toddy? Highest of recommendations!

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Robert Wise

Starring: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Henry Daniell, Edith Atwater, Russell Wade, Rita Corday, Sharyn Moffett, Donna Lee