Archive for Erle C. Kenton

GoreGirl’s Dungeon on YouTube: The Universal Studio Orchestra – Title Sequence from The House of Frankenstein

Posted in horror, movie with tags , , , , , , on February 10, 2014 by goregirl

Music and images from The House of Frankenstein (1944) directed by Erle C. Kenton “Title Sequence” music composed by Hans J. Salter and performed by The Universal Studio Orchestra.

The Chaney Blogathon: HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, USA with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2013 by goregirl

House of Frankenstein reviewed for The Last Drive In & Movies Silently as part of The Chaney Blogathon.

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Erle C. Kenton directed one of my all time favourite horror films; Island of Lost Souls (1932). Island of Lost Souls is not the only horror gem Mr. Kenton directed that is near to my heart. Kenton directed three films in the Universal monster franchise; Ghost of Frankenstein, House of Dracula and today’s subject review House of Frankenstein. Clearly Universal studios was milking the commercial and critical success of Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931) and The Wolf Man (1941) with multiple entries featuring the three aforementioned monsters. It was overkill, but that is no reason to write the series off. You would be missing out on plenty of goodness. Some very talented directors and actors were involved in the making of these films. Actors such as Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and of course Lon Chaney Jr. who is the reason I am doing this review. Chaney played Larry Talbot aka the Wolf Man four times. The follow-up to 1941’s The Wolf Man was Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) which I thoroughly enjoyed and reviewed for a werewolf feature I did a while back. House of Frankenstein I suppose could be the sequel to Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man as we do meet Frankenstein and the Wolf Man where we left them; in the ruins of Castle Frankenstein. Dracula makes an appearance in this one and there is a random mad scientist with a hunchback assistant. Continuity is not really a huge concern in these later monster films.

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No matter though, the more monsters the merrier if you ask me! House of Frankenstein is action packed! Erle C. Kenton wastes no time at all getting into the action. We get a prison escape, a kill, and Dracula in the first 15 minutes. The film’s runtime is only seventy minutes and it just flies by. In seventy minutes our mad scientist and his hunchback assistant meet Dracula, the Wolf Man and Frankenstein and in classic movie fashion ends with a lynch mob. The sets and set pieces are decent enough although there isn’t much that particularly stands out. The cave-like ruins of the Frankenstein place was pretty neat though. The effects are admirable; Dracula’s silhouette on the wall that becomes a bat was well done. Chaney’s Wolf Man makeup looked great and the transformation is well done. Well done except they forgot to put fur on Chaney’s hands! Normally I am not one to notice things like that, but he is looking in the mirror during the transformation and you can really clearly see his hands in a prolonged shot. There was no getting around that oops. House of Frankenstein’s best asset is definitely its performers who are all just perfect. Boris Karloff has long been one of my favourite actors and especially when he is playing the villain. Karloff wears these roles like a finely tailored jacket and they fit him to a tee. John Carradine plays the suave variety of vampire but he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. I enjoyed Carradine as Dracula although his character doesn’t linger long. J. Carrol Naish who plays Daniel, Dr. Niemann’s hunchback assistant is promised a solution to his ailment in exchange for services. Daniel is not a particularly likable character but I nonetheless found him an empathetic one. Glenn Strange who plays Frankenstein’s monster was apparently coached by Karloff who played the monster in the original 1931 version as well as The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Strange plays the large lumbering creature convincingly well and I think he looked superb in the makeup. Strange apparently also did all his own stunts! Last but certainly not least is Mr. Lon Chaney Jr. who plays Lawrence Talbot also known as the Wolf Man. Lawrence Talbot is a tortured character. Talbot is well aware of his crimes and is unable to control his transformations. He knows he should not exist but like all living things he has an instinct for survival. Werewolves represent men’s inner struggle and Chaney’s performance captures this so beautifully. Lon Chaney Jr. is the most sympathetic monster of all time in my opinion. I highly recommend checking out House of Frankenstein; a non-stop, fast-paced multi-monster thrill ride loaded with top-notch performances that looks a little something like this….

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A Vehicle in a travelling show called Professor Lampini’s Chamber of Horrors runs into some trouble outside of Neustadt Prison.

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A natural disaster creates the perfect escape route for Dr. Gustav Niemann (Boris Karloff) and fellow convict Daniel (J. Carrol Naish).

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The unfortunate and unlucky Professor Lampini (George Zucco), gets “a hand” with his stranded vehicle from the conniving doctor and his sidekick. Lampini invites them in to his trailer and boasts about his main exhibit “The Actual Skeleton of Count Dracula the Vampire”. They kill Lampini and take over his show.

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Step right up and see the skeletal remains of Count Dracula the Vampire!

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Dracula (John Carradine) has been resurrected!

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Dracula mesmerizes Rita (Anne Gwynne) who just so happens to be an in-law of Dr. Niemann’s sworn enemy Carl Hussmann.

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Dracula transforms into a bat.

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Daniel meets a pretty Gypsy Lady named Ilonka (Elena Verdugo) whom he falls in love with.

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Dr. Niemann and Daniel explore the ruins of Castle Frankenstein and find the frozen bodies of the Wolf Man and Frankenstein’s creature.

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Dr. Niemann thaws the two creatures out and we meet Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr) in his non-Wolf Man form.

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Ilonka, Daniel’s gypsy lady takes an instant liking to the handsome Lawrence.

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Dr. Niemann makes the promise of a cure for Talbot’s wolfism.

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Daniel divulges Lawrence’s secret to Ilonka.

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Frankenstein (Glenn Strange) is ready to wake from his long slumber.

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Dr. Niemann’s promise is shallow and he has no intention or desire to help Lawrence. Lawrence transforms into a werewolf and kills a local man.

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The death of a local man brings unwanted attention from the local police.

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Ilonka and Lawrence share a tender moment.

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Lawrence gives Dr. Niemann a piece of his mind.

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Dr. Niemann is far more interested in his current project; the re-awakening of Frankenstein’s creation!

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Lawrence Talbot’s transformation into the Wolf Man.

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Dr. Niemann.

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What is a monster movie without a lynch mob equipped with torches?

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Erle C. Kenton

Starring: Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, Anne Gwynne, Peter Coe, Lionel Atwill, George Zucco, Elena Verdugo, Sig Ruman, William Edmunds, Charles Miller, Philip Van Zandt, Julius Tannen, Hans Herbert, Dick Dickinson, Glenn Strange

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