IN THE SHADOWS: EDWARD VAN SLOAN

0
edwardvansloan_draculasdaughter

Edward Van Sloan as Professor Van Helsing in DRACULA’S DAUGHTER (1936).

 

Welcome back to IN THE SHADOWS, the column where we look at character actors in the movies, especially horror movies.

Character actors add so much to the movies they’re in, it’s hard to imagine these movies without them. Never receiving the praise heaped upon the major actors and stars of the genre, these folks nonetheless are often every bit as effective as the big name leads.

Up today, an actor known to horror fans for three key roles in three classic horror movies, and that actor is Edward Van Sloan.

Edward Van Sloan played three similar roles in three of Universal’s best horror movies from the 1930s.  He played Professor Van Helsing in DRACULA (1931), Dr. Waldman in FRANKENSTEIN (1931), and Dr. Muller in THE MUMMY (1932).

As Dr. Van Helsing, a role he had played earlier on stage opposite Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, he’s one of the best.  While Peter Cushing is my all time favorite movie Van Helsing, Edward Van Sloan came closer to the Stoker interpretation than Cushing did, but even he deviated from the way Stoker wrote the character.  Probably the closest I’ve seen an actor capture the literary Van Helsing on-screen would be Frank Finlay’s performance as the vampire hunter/professor in the BBC production COUNT DRACULA (1977), starring Louis Jordan as the Count.

EdwardVanSloan_BelaLugosi_Dracula

Van Sloan and Lugosi square off in DRACULA (1931)

But for Edward Van Sloan, it’s all about presence and authority, something he definitely wields in DRACULA.  Bela Lugosi is absolutely mesmerizing as Dracula, and his performance dominates the movie.  Yet Van Sloan is up to the task of matching wits with Lugosi, and his Van Helsing is a worthy opponent for the vampire king.  The scene where Dracula tries to use hypnosis to overpower Van Helsing is one of the strongest scenes in the film, acted so expertly by Van Sloan, as you can see it in his eyes as he’s resisting Dracula’s powers, and for a split-second, Van Sloan’s eyes go blank, and at this instant the audience shudders, begging that he doesn’t succumb to Dracula’s powers, and when he rallies and resists Dracula, it’s a great moment in the movie.

As Dr. Waldman in FRANKENSTEIN, Van Sloan plays Henry Frankenstein’s former professor, who for most of the movie, acts as the voice of reason.  He tries throughout to talk sense to Henry Frankenstein and is constantly urging caution.  As Dr. Waldman, he gets one of the best lines in the movie, when he warns young Henry.  “Your success has intoxicated you!  Wake up!  And look facts in the face!—  You have created a monster, and it will destroy you!”

edwardvansloan_Frankenstein

Edward Van Sloan as Dr. Waldman in FRANKENSTEIN (1931).

Prophetic words.  Actually, they were more on the money regarding Waldman’s fate, because later in the movie, the Monster (Boris Karloff) kills the professor.  In fact, Professor Waldman’s death is one of the more shocking moments in FRANKENSTEIN, a film which contains more than a few of them, and it’s a testament to Edward Van Sloan’s screen presence.  Van Sloan was so effective as Professor Van Helsing in DRACULA, so convincing when he destroys Dracula, it strikes audiences as an absolute shock when he doesn’t do the same in FRANKENSTEIN, when in fact it’s the Monster who kills Professor Waldman, and not the other way around.

And Edward Van Sloan is one of only two actors— the other being Dwight Frye who played Renfield in DRACULA and Fritz in FRANKENSTEIN— to star in both DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN.

In THE MUMMY (1932), Van Sloan plays Dr. Muller, a variation of his Van Helsing/Waldman characters.  This time, he’s an expert on Egyptology, and he matches wits with Boris Karloff’s Mummy, Imhotep.  THE MUMMY is an excellent horror movie, as good if not better than DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN.  Once again, Van Sloan nails the role of the heroic professor and is completely believable as the knowledgable scholar who takes on the supernatural Imhotep.

edwardvansloan_BorisKarloff_TheMummy

Edward Van Sloan takes on Boris Karloff’s Imhotep in THE MUMMY (1932).

As for the rest of  Edward Van Sloan’s career, here’s a partial look at his 88 screen credits, focusing mostly on his horror film roles:

SLANDER (1916) – Joseph Tremaine – Edward Van Sloan’s first film credit is in this silent movie from 1916, the only silent film Van Sloan made.

DRACULA (1931) – Professor Van Helsing – probably Van Sloan’s most famous role, and the role he is most remembered for.  Van Sloan’s work as Van Helsing in this movie is as memorable as Lugosi’s Dracula and Dwight Frye’s Renfield.

FRANKENSTEIN (1931) – Dr. Waldman – Another famous role for Van Sloan, this time playing Henry Frankenstein’s former professor and the man who tries to convince Frankenstein to destroy his creation.  We all know how that turned out.

BEHIND THE MASK (1932) – Dr. August Steiner/Dr. Alec Munsell/Mr. X – a crime drama marketed as a horror movie due to the presence of Boris Karloff in a small role.  Van Sloan plays the villain here, in a role that Karloff probably would have played had this movie been made a few years later.

THE DEATH KISS (1932) – Tom Avery – a comedy/mystery notable for reuniting three cast members from DRACULA:  Bela Lugosi, David Manners, and Edward Van Sloan.

THE MUMMY (1932) – Doctor Muller – takes on Boris Karloff’s evil Imhotep in this horror classic.

DELUGE (1933)- Professor Carlysle – early “disaster” film as New York City is threatened by an earthquake and tidal wave.

AIR HAWKS (1935) – Professor Schulter – weird hybrid of drama and science fiction. Ralph Bellamy plays the owner of an airline company who hires a mad scientist— played by Edward Van Sloan— to build a death ray to force down his competitors’ planes.

THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII (1935) – Calvus – Historical adventure set in the doomed Roman city, directed by KING KONG directors Ernest B. Schoedsack and Merian C. Cooper. With Basil Rathbone as Pontius Pilate.  A box office flop.

DRACULA’S DAUGHTER (1936) – Professor Van Helsing – reprises his Van Helsing role in this well-made sequel to DRACULA.  The movie starts right where DRACULA left off, and Van Helsing finds himself arrested for the murders of Dracula and Renfield.  Before he can be officially charged, however, the bodies disappear, whisked away by Countess Zaleska (Gloria Holden) who happens to be Dracula’s daughter, and who’s now in London with an agenda of her own. Smart horror film, well-written, acted, and directed.

THE PHANTOM CREEPS (1939) – Jarvis – Science fiction serial from Universal reunites Van Sloan with Bela Lugosi, as Lugosi plays a scientist hell-bent on taking over the world.

BEFORE I HANG (1940) – Dr. Ralph Howard – This time Van Sloan is reunited with Boris Karloff, as Karloff plays a doctor on death row for mercy killings, who injects himself with a serum that turns him into a Hyde-like villain.

THE MASK OF DIIJON (1946) – Sheffield – Erich von Stroheim plays a magician who uses his hypnotic powers to seek vengeance.

SEALED VERDICT (1948) – Priest – Edward Van Sloan’s final screen credit in a World War II war drama starring Ray Milland.

THE UNDERWORLD STORY (1950) – Minister at Funeral – Edward Van Sloan’s final film appearance, an uncredited bit as a minister at a funeral in this film noir crime drama.

There you have it, an abbreviated look at the film career of Edward Van Sloan.

Edward Van Sloan died on March 6, 1964 at the age of 81 in San Francisco, California.

While he enjoyed a long and successful career as a character actor in the movies, for horror fans, he will always be remembered for his roles in three of Universal’s best horror movies from the 1930s:  DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN, and THE MUMMY.  Van Sloan made for a fine hero in all three of these films.

Edward Van Sloan -November 1, 1882 – March 6, 1964.

I hope you enjoyed this IN THE SHADOWS column.  Join me again next time when we look at the career of another notable character actor.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

Books by Michael Arruda:

TIME FRAME,  science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.  

Ebook version:  $2.99. Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.

InTheSpooklight_NewText

 Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com.  Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, short story collection by Michael Arruda.  

For The Love Of Horror cover

Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.  

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: THE MUMMY (1932)

1

the mummy 1932 poster

Here’s my latest IN THE THE SPOOKLIGHT column, on the Boris Karloff classic, THE MUMMY (1932), appearing now in the August 2016 edition of the HWA NEWSLETTER, and it’s a reprint of a column which originally appeared in those pages back in August 2009.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT:  THE MUMMY (1932)

By Michael Arruda

“It comest to life!” screams its movie poster.  It’s a Universal monster classic from the 1930s, and it stars Boris Karloff, but it’s not FRANKENSTEIN (1931).  It’s THE MUMMY (1932).

THE MUMMY showcases a masterful lead performance by Boris Karloff as the undead mummy, Im-Ho-Tep, exceptional direction by DRACULA (1931) cinematographer Karl Freund, remarkable mummy make-up by Jack Pierce, and unlike FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA, a music score.

The screenplay for THE MUMMY was written by John L. Balderston, no stranger to classic horror tales.  Balderston adapted the play used for the screenply for FRANKENSTEIN (1931), which of course was adapted from the Mary Shelley novel, and he also wrote one of the stage versions of DRACULA, which served as the model for the Universal Bela Lugosi movie DRACULA (1931).

THE MUMMY opens in 1921 in Egypt, where an expedition led by Sir Joseph Whemple (Arthur Byron) has just discovered the remains of an ancient mummy, Im-Ho-Tep (Boris Karloff).  Doctor Muller (Edward Van Sloan) warns Whemple and his young assistant Ralph Norton (Bramwell Fletcher) not to ignore the ancient curse discovered along with the mummy, but the young assistant is too eager, and as he reads from the Scroll of Thoth, behind him, the mummy awakes.

It is probably the film’s most famous scene.  As the words are read, the camera focuses on the dead mummy’s face, and ever so slowly, the eyes open, and then the arm slowly moves.  When the mummy takes the scroll, the young assistant bursts into uncontrollable mad laughter, and as we learn later, “he died laughing.”

The action switches to 1932 (which was present day when THE MUMMY was released).  Im-Ho-Tep has shed his bandages and is using the alias “Ardath Bey.”  The make-up here by Jack Pierce is superb.  Without his bandages, Karloff really does look like the walking dead.

imhotep

Jack Pierce’s haunting mummy make-up, turning Boris Karloff into the resurrected undead mummy, Im-Ho-Tep.

 

Im-Ho-Tep attempts to bring his long lost love, the princes Anck-es-en-Amon back to life.  He discovers that her soul is now in the body of Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann), who happens to be in love with Joseph Whemple’s son, Frank (David Manners).  Im-Ho-Tep wants to kill her so he can resurrect her as an undead, but Frank Whemple and Doctor Muller stand in his way.

johann - karloff

Helen (Zita Johann) falls under the spell of Im-Ho-Tep (Boris Karloff) in THE MUMMY (1932).

In THE MUMMY, Karloff delivers another wonderful performance.  His mummy is much more evil than the later depictions of a mute bandaged monster lumbering around the countryside strangling people.  Yet, Karloff also makes Im-Ho-Tep a somewhat sympathetic character.  We feel for the guy, and his plight to get his long lost love back.

But the best part of THE MUMMY is the cinematography and direction by Karl Freund.  Freund does a more impressive job at the helm of THE MUMMY than either of his more famous counterparts, Tod Browning directing DRACULA and James Whale directing FRANKENSTEIN.

Freund creates an unforgettable opening sequence of the mummy resurrected, a haunting and dreamlike flashback sequence (the scene where the slaves get spears thrust through their chests still makes me wince), and he imbues the scenes inside the museum with creepy shadows and mysterious lighting.

If there are any flaws, it’s the ending, which is quick and shot in a choppy clumsy manner, not at all like the rest of the movie.

So, as we make our way through the lazy hazy days of summer, grab a beverage, dig your toes into the sands of the Egyptian desert, and welcome Im-Ho-Tep into your living room.  Just don’t say the words of that ancient curse too loud.

One guy dying laughing is more than enough.

—END—

 

SHOCK SCENES: DRACULA’S DEMISE- A Look at the Hammer DRACULA Endings- Part 1

0
horror-of-dracula-ending

Dracula (Christopher Lee) screams in agony in the conclusion to HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)

SHOCK SCENES:  DRACULA’S DEMISE- A Look at the Hammer Dracula Endings

Part 1

By

Michael Arruda

Welcome back to SHOCK SCENES, the column where we look at famous scenes in horror movie history.  Up today, a look at the Hammer DRACULA series, specifically the endings, those scenes where Dracula meets his demise, which is a strange thing when you think about it:  the King of the Undead is an undead, immortal, and yet at the end of every movie he’s thrust back down into the world of ashes and dust.  It’s a wonder how he survived so long in the first place!

Anyway, we’ll be looking at the various endings to these Dracula movies to see how Dracula met his end in each one.  So, if you haven’t seen these films, be forewarned, there are spoilers galore, so consider this a major spoiler alert.  If you have seen these films, read on and enjoy!

Here we go:

horrorofdracula poster

HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)

The first Hammer Dracula film, HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)  is widely considered to be Hammer Films’ best movie, as well as one of the finest Dracula movies ever made.  A big reason for this is the ending. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) chases Dracula (Christopher Lee) into Castle Dracula.  They scuffle, and Dracula pins Van Helsing into a corner, but the clever doctor sees a sliver of sunlight shing through the curtains, and he climbs onto the long table, runs across it, and leaps up at the window, tearing the curtains down.

The sunlight knocks Dracula to the ground, and Van Helsing keeps him there by grabbing two candlesticks and using them to make a cross, forcing Dracula into the sunlight, where the shrieking vampire disintegrates into dust before our very eyes.

horror of dracula ending

This is one of those endings where once you see it, you never forget it.  Hands down, this is the best ending of any Dracula/vampire movie.  Ever.  Period.  Not even close.  If you have not seen HORROR OF DRACULA, you owe it to yourself to check it out.  The ending alone makes it worth it, and of course, fans know the rest of the movie is every bit as effective as its famous conclusion.

There’s lots to talk about here.  First off, the special effects, for 1958, are amazing.  Dracula’s disintegration looks horrific and authentic at the same time.  It’s all done with a series of cutaways.  The camera cuts back and forth between Dracula’s disintegration and Van Helsing’s reactions.  It’s all very quick, but effective.  The last stage is pretty much a dummy of a rotting Dracula head with red lights inside lighting up his eyes. It’s a really cool image.

Of course, for years, the original uncut ending was not shown to Western audiences, until just a few years ago (and I’ve written several blog posts on this along with the video links, so feel free to check them out.) when the uncut footage was discovered in a vault in Japan.  The footage, which shows a few more scenes of disintegration, as well as one very cool shot of Dracula clawing the flesh off his face— again, for 1958 these were some incredibly bold effects— was finally released to European audiences but for some reason has still not been included in U.S.versions.  That being said, I did include a link of this footage on my blog post so feel free to check it out.

Strangely, when Hammer chose to restore HORROR OF DRACULA several years ago and insert the “lost” scenes from the Japanese version, they didn’t include all the scenes. For some reason, there are still scenes from the finale in the Japanese version which did not make it into the recently restored print of the film.  I don’t know why they were not restored.  Anyway, if you check YouTube, you can sometimes find the complete ending from the Japanese version.

The other reason this ending stood out in 1958 was before this, the endings to the Universal DRACULA series had been pretty much anticlimactic.  Heck, Dracula was staked off camera in the original Lugosi DRACULA (1931) and none of the subsequent Universal films contained dramatic endings, but that’s a story for another column.

A few other items about the ending to HORROR OF DRACULA:  supposedly, it was Peter Cushing himself who suggested the infamous run across the table and leap to tear down the curtains from the window.  The original script had Van Helsing taking out a crucifix from inside his coat to ward off Dracula, but as Cushing once put it, he felt like a “crucifix salesman” pulling out crosses in nearly every scene, and so he suggested the more dramatic leaping from the table.

And as far as I know, since I’ve never read or heard otherwise, that is Peter Cushing himself and not a stuntman making that run and leap at the curtains.  If anyone out there has information to the contrary, I’d love to hear from you.

Of course, the ending takes liberties with the tradition of a crucifix warding off a vampire.  In this ending, rather than using a blessed religious crucifix, Van Helsing forms two candlesticks into the shape of a cross and uses that to fend of Dracula.  It probably shouldn’t work, but it sure makes for great cinema!  And it also has made it into vampire lore.  In one of my favorite lines from the vampire movie FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996) George Clooney asks the folks trapped with him by the gang of vampires what they know about vampires, and one guy suggests making crosses out of anything they can find.  When Clooney asks if that will work, the guy replies, “Peter Cushing does it all the time.

HORROR OF DRACULA not only contains the best ending in the Hammer Dracula series, but it’s also the most dramatic and memorable ending of any Dracula movie period.

It’s one for the horror movie history books.

 

THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960)

Christopher Lee declined to play Dracula again in Hammer’s proposed sequel to HORROR OF DRACULA from fear of being typecast.  Of course, he would change his mind several years later.

But in 1960 Hammer went ahead without Lee and made THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960), a film that in spite of its title did not feature Dracula, but instead one of Dracula’s disciples, Baron Meinster (David Peel).  Hammer did get Peter Cushing to return to play Van Helsing once again.

The ending to THE BRIDES OF DRACULA, while not as memorable as the ending to HORROR OF DRACULA, is very good.  The film was directed by Hammer’s best director, Terence Fisher, who also directed HORROR, and he goes all out with this one.  THE BRIDES OF DRACULA may be the best looking of the Hammer DRACULAS- it’s certainly the most atmospheric, and is one of the most atmospheric vampire movies ever made.  For some fans, THE BRIDES OF DRACULA is their favorite Hammer Dracula, and considering that Christopher Lee isn’t in the movie,that’s saying quite a lot.

The ending, as directed by Fisher, is every bit as atmospheric as the rest of the film.  One of my favorite shots is when Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) enters the old windmill in search of Baron Meinster.  Its shot with purple lighting, and Van Helsing is backlit, and it makes for an indelible image.  It’s also reminiscent of the scene in THE EXORCIST (1973) when Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow) first enters Regan’s home.  I’ve often wondered if EXORCIST director William Friedkin was influenced by this scene in THE BRIDES OF DRACULA.

van helsing entrance

One of the most memorable parts of the ending comes when Meinster and Van Helsing battle, and this time Meinster wins and actually bites Van Helsing, setting up one of the most memorable scenes in the film, where Van Helsing uses a hot poker to burn the bites on his neck before dousing them with holy water, in effect curing him of the vampire’s bite.  Once again, Hammer takes liberties with vampire lore, but it again sure makes grand horror cinema!

vh-burns-the-evil-out

Later, Van Helsing burns Meinster’s face with holy water, setting up the film’s dramatic conclusion, where Van Helsing leaps onto the wings of the windmill, using it to form a shadow of a cross which falls on Meinster and destroys him.  Terence Fisher purposely did not show the shadow of the windmill but only of the wings, and he did this for full dramatic cinematic effect.

BridesofDraculashadow

As Hammer Dracula endings go, this one is one of the more understated, as Meinster simply collapses, and we do not see him distintegrate.  For story purposes, this makes sense, since unlike Dracula who was centuries old, Baron Meinster had only been a vampire for a relatively brief time.

The ending to THE BRIDES OF DRACULA, like the rest of the movie, is wonderfully atmospheric and cinematic.

Of course, this wasn’t the original ending.  Originally, Van Helsing was to use a little black magic to conjure up the forces of darkness to unleash a barrage of vampire bats which would descend upon Baron Meinster and tear him apart.  Peter Cushing objected to this sequence because he felt it out of character for Van Helsing to turn to black magic rather than religion and science, and I agree with him. I’m glad they changed it.  Hammer would use a variation of the vampire bats sequence for the ending to their next vampire movie, KISS OF THE VAMPIRE (1964), which once more did not feature Dracula.

That’s it for now.  Join me next time for Part 2 of SHOCK SCENES:  DRACULA’S DEMISE- A Look at the Hammer Dracula Endings, when we’ll look at the endings of the next two Hammer Dracula movies, DRACULA-PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966) and DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968).

See you then!

—Michael

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: DEAD MEN WALK (1943)

2

Here is my latest IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column, on the George Zucco/Dwight Frye horror movie DEAD MEN WALK (1943), up now in the January issue of THE OFFICIAL NEWSLETTER OF THE HORROR WRITERS ASSOCIATION.

Enjoy!

—Michael

dead man walk - poster

 

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT

By

Michael Arruda

January.  The dead of winter.

The time of year when DEAD MEN WALK (1943).

At least if you’re George Zucco, anyway.

George Zucco is one of my favorite character actors from the 1940s.  In the horror films of that decade, he often played a villain or a mad scientist, and while he never achieved a name for himself like Bela Lugosi or even John Carradine, he was quite good in many, many movies.  I always remember him for his brief bit as Professor Bruno Lampini in the Universal monster fest HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944), and he also played the High Priest Andoheb in three of the Universal Kharis MUMMY movies, THE MUMMY’S HAND (1940), THE MUMMY’S TOMB (1942), and THE MUMMY’S GHOST (1944).

Zucco plays the lead in DEAD MEN WALK, and as expected he’s quite good.  He plays a dual role in this one, as he portrays twin brothers, one good, the well-respected doctor Lloyd Clayton, and the other, the devil worshiping  Dr. Elwyn Clayton, not so good.

And if this weren’t enough, Dwight Frye even shows up as Zucco’s hunchbacked assistant, Zolarr.  As a result, in spite of being a no-budget thriller, DEAD MEN WALK is a real treat.

DEAD MEN WALK opens with a funeral, as Elwyn Clayton (George Zucco) lies dead in his coffin.  His twin brother Dr. Lloyd Clayton (George Zucco) declares his brother better off dead, since he was such an evil soul.  When Elwyn’s hunchback assistant Zolarr (Dwight Frye) shows up, he accuses Lloyd of murdering his brother.  Lloyd dismisses Zolarr’s accusations and says he acted in self- defense.

Anyway, faster than you can say “Fritz” or “Renfield” (take your pick) Zolarr resurrects Elwyn’s body and brings him back to life, and it’s easy to do, because we learn that Elwyn is now a vampire!  As a vampire, Elwyn wastes no time putting the bite on Lloyd’s niece Gayle (Mary Carlisle).  It’s now up to Lloyd to protect his niece and stop his undead brother once and for all.

DEAD MEN WALK isn’t anything more than a Grade Z horror movie, but Zucco and Frye raise it up a few notches and make it worth watching, which is a good thing because visually this one has little to offer.  There are very few exciting scenes, nor is there much atmosphere.  Director Sam Newfield’s idea of suspense is to have Dwight Frye peer menacingly through a window.

Even the vampire elements are downplayed.  All the bites occur off-camera, and when George Zucco plays the vampire twin, he wears no make-up.  The two characters are distinguishable because the good doctor wears eyeglasses and the evil vampire brother doesn’t.  Maybe his vision improved as an undead!

The script isn’t bad though.  It’s written by Fred Myton whose credits go back to the silent era.  In fact, his earliest credits date back to 1915.  One hundred years ago!  How about that?  The dialogue in DEAD MEN WALK really isn’t bad at all.  In fact, it’s actually pretty good, and for the most part, when the characters speak, they sound like real people.

Zucco’s great as he always is.  And he’s much more than just a screen villain.  In fact, his evil twin is pretty one-dimensional.  It’s the good brother, Lloyd, who Zucco actually makes more interesting.

And what else can you say about Dwight Frye other than it’s a shame he wasn’t able to make more movies.  After his roles as Renfield in DRACULA (1931) and Fritz in FRANKENSTEIN (1931), he was typecast as weirdos and hunchbacks.  He died young, at the age of 44 in 1943.  A shame.  Only Frye could give a dignified death to a character whose last lines are cries of “Master!  Master!”  Most other actors screaming these lines would be laughable.  When Frye screams them, as Zolarr lies trapped in a burning house, he generates legitimate sympathy for the character.

Dead_Men_Walk- Frye & Zucco

Dwight Frye and George Zucco prepare to scare an unsuspecting victim in DEAD MEN WALK.

 

And really, Dwight Frye and George Zucco are the only reasons to see DEAD MEN WALK.  They lift the material and make this otherwise Grade Z movie enjoyable.

It’s cold.  It’s January.  It’s that time of year we’re all stuck inside.

To beat that claustrophobic feeling go out for a walk.  It’ll do you good.  And you won’t be alone.

Not when DEAD MEN WALK.

THE HORROR JAR: The Universal DRACULA Series

0

THE HORROR JAR:  UNIVERSAL DRACULA Series

Bela Lugosi as Dracula in DRACULA (1931).

Bela Lugosi as Dracula in DRACULA (1931).

 

By Michael Arruda

Welcome back to THE HORROR JAR, your home for lists of odds and ends about horror movies.

Up today, a list of the UNIVERSAL DRACULA movies, a series that began and ended with Bela Lugosi playing Count Dracula, but the rest of the movies in between, strangely enough, did not feature Lugosi.  And the fact that Lugosi is so identified with the character when he only played him in the movies twice is a true testament to his performance in the original DRACULA.  He’s pretty much remembered as Dracula based on his work in that film alone.

Unlike Boris Karloff, who played the Frankenstein Monster in the first three films of the Universal Frankenstein series, and then returned in HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944) to play the evil Dr. Niemann, thus appearing in four of the eight Frankenstein movies, Lugosi only played Dracula on two occasions in the movies, and the second time was in the comedy ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948), yet he is just as readily identified as Dracula as Karloff is as the Frankenstein Monster.

Let’s look at the movies:

DRACULA (1931)

Dracula:  Bela Lugosi

Van Helsing:  Edward Van Sloan

Renfield: Dwight Frye

Mina:  Helen Chandler

Harker:  David Manners

Directed by Tod Browning

Screenplay by Garrett Fort, adapted from the play by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston, based on the novel by Bram Stoker.

Running Time:  75 minutes

Released before FRANKENSTEIN (1931), this was the movie that began the Universal monster series of the 1930s and 40s.  Tod Browning’s masterpiece, the movie that made Bela Lugosi a star.  Silent star Lon Chaney was originally intended to play Dracula, but his untimely death from throat cancer paved the way for Lugosi ultimately getting the part.

At times talky and slow-paced, DRACULA nonetheless is full of hauntingly rich images. The decrepit Castle Dracula, Dracula walking the streets of London, and simply Lugosi himself all contribute to the iconic visuals found in this film.

Lugosi steals the show as the undead king of the vampires, but receives fine support from Edward Van Sloan as Van Helsing, Dwight Frye as Renfield, and Helen Chandler as Mina.  Indeed, Frye is every bit as memorable as Renfield as Lugosi is as Dracula, and if you’ve seen this movie, it’s hard to forget either one of them. DRACULA is chock-full of classic lines uttered by Lugosi.  A must-see at Halloween time.

“The blood is the life, Mr. Renfield.”

 

 

THE SPANISH VERSION OF DRACULA (1931)

Dracula:  Carlos Villarias

Eva:  Lupita Tovar

Directed by George Melford and Enrique Tovar Avalos

Screenplay by Baltasar Fernandez Cue, based on the screenplay by Garrett Fort, adapted from the play by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston, based on the novel by Bram Stoker.

Running Time:  104 minutes

Back in the day, Universal used to film Spanish versions of their movies using an all-Spanish cast and crew on the same sets as the American version, and so as a result, we have this special treat of a movie:  an entirely different director, screenwriter, and actors using the same sets as DRACULA making an entirely different movie.

Technically, the Spanish version of DRACULA is superior to the Tod Browning version. There’s more going on with the camera and it plays much more like a movie than a stage play.  It’s also a more risqué production, as it highlights the sexual side of the story in ways the Browning version didn’t.

However, I won’t go so far as to call it a superior version of the tale for the simple fact that the Tod Browning version had Bela Lugosi, and he alone made the U.S. version the better movie.  Of course, I would have absolutely loved to have seen Lugosi star in this Spanish version.  Now that would have been one remarkable movie!

 

 

 

DRACULA’S DAUGHTER (1936)

Contessa Marya Zeleska (Dracula’s Daughter):  Gloria Holden

Jeffrey Garth:  Otto Kruger

Janet:  Marguerite Churchill

Van Helsing:  Edward Van Sloan

Directed by Lambert Hillyer

Screenplay by Garrett Fort

Music by Heinz Roemheld (uncredited)Dracula's Daughter - Poster

Running Time:  71 minutes

The first of two very underrated movies in the DRACULA series.  Evidently, back in 1936, the writers hadn’t figured out yet how to resurrect a vampire, and so Count Dracula remains dead in this one, as this story focuses on his daughter.  So, no Dracula and no Bela Lugosi, two strikes which have forever worked against this film.

That being said, DRACULA’S DAUGTHER is a very good horror movie, one of Universal’s best!  It has a solid story, immediately beginning right where DRACULA ended, and finds Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) facing a murder charge for the death of Dracula.  He turns to his friend Jeffrey Garth (Otto Kruger) for help, who in turn becomes embroiled with Contessa Zeleska (Dracula’s Daughter), who unlike her father, seems uncomfortable as a vampire and wants to be cured.  Still, she’s every bit as deadly as her daddy!  Gloria Holden is very good as Dracula’s daughter, and it’s nice to have Edward Van Sloan back as Van Helsing, but it’s Otto Kruger and Marguerite Churchill who steal the show in this one, Kruger as the intellectual hero Jeffrey Garth and Churchill as his sassy secretary Janet.  These two share so much chemistry I wish they had returned to take on other Universal monsters.

 

 

SON OF DRACULA (1943)

Count Dracula:  Lon Chaney Jr.

Katherine Caldwell:  Louise Allbritton

Claire Caldwell:  Evelyn Ankers

Frank Stanley:  Robert Paige

Doctor Brewster:  Frank Craven

Lon Chaney Jr. as Dracula in SON OF DRACULA (1943).

Lon Chaney Jr. as Dracula in SON OF DRACULA (1943).

Professor Lazlo:  J. Edward Bromberg

Directed by Robert Siodmak

Screenplay by Eric Taylor

Music by Hans J. Salter

Running Time:  80 minutes

Another underrated Dracula film. Lon Chaney Jr. takes on the role of Count Dracula, and he’s actually quite good here.  In spite of the film’s title, he’s not really playing Dracula’s son— or is he?  He’s identified only as Dracula in the film, and there’s nothing in the story to indicate for a fact that he’s the son of Dracula other than the movie’s title. There is speculation among some of the characters in the film that he might be a descendant of Dracula, but another character states that he is the original Dracula.  I suppose, you could imagine him to be Dracula’s son, but since this isn’t ever clarified in the story, it would be purely speculation. Regardless, Dracula uses the name Alucard (Dracula backwards) in this movie, in order, I guess, to travel about incognito.

This one is steeped in atmosphere as it takes place in the Deep South of the United States, and you can also feel the humidity.  The atmosphere almost reminds me of an old zombie movie.  It also has a neat story where Dracula’s main love interest, the occult-loving Katherine Caldwell, has her own agenda and is more manipulative than Dracula here.

Chaney is quite good as Dracula, and he gives the role a completely different feel than Lugosi did.  It’s nice to see Chaney play evil, as opposed to sympathetic Larry Talbot aka the Wolf Man.  Chaney’s Dracula possesses an aura about him that immediately makes the characters around him uncomfortable and uneasy.  He’s less charming than Lugosi, less mysterious, but more in-your-face evil.

 

 

 

HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944)

Dracula:  John Carradine

The Monster:  Glenn Strange

Doctor Niemann:  Boris Karloff

Larry Talbot/ The Wolf Man:  Lon Chaney Jr.

The Frankenstein Monster:  Glenn Strange

Daniel:  J. Carrol Naish

Directed by Erle C. Kenton

Screenplay by Edward T. Lowe, Jr.

Music by Hans J. Salter

Running Time:  71 minutes

Ah, let the Universal Monster Bash begin!  Yup, beginning with HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, Universal would make three straight movies featuring their three main monsters:  the Frankenstein Monster, Dracula, and the Wolf Man, all of this happening of course due to the success of their earlier hit FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943).

John Carradine takes over the role of Dracula here, and finally, we get to see Dracula resurrected (it took the writers long enough to figure this out!) as we watch the nefarious Dr. Niemann (Boris Karloff) remove the stake from Dracula’s skeleton, and before our very eyes, Dracula materializes back to life.

HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN has a rather uneven plot.  The first third of the movie features Dracula, and once he is killed off, it morphs into a straight sequel to FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN as Dr. Neimann leaves Dracula behind and sets his sights on the Frankenstein Monster and the Wolf Man.

John Carradine is very good as Dracula, although I’ve always preferred Lugosi and even Lon Chaney Jr. in the role.  Carradine adds a sense of elegance to the Count, and he definitely has a presence about him, but to me, his performance has always had one major flaw:  I never found him scary in the role.

 

 

 

 

HOUSE OF DRACULA (1945)

Dracula:  John Carradine

Larry Talbot/ The Wolf Man:  Lon Chaney Jr.

John Carradine as Dracula.

John Carradine as Dracula.

The Frankenstein Monster:  Glenn Strange

Doctor Edelmann:  Onslow Stevens

Directed by Erle C. Kenton

Screenplay by Edward T. Lowe, Jr

Music by William Lava

Running Time:  67 minutes

All three Universal monsters return, and this time Dracula gets more to do and survives a bit longer than he did in HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Unfortunately, HOUSE OF DRACULA isn’t quite as good as HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Everything about this production seems rushed.  It screams for an additional twenty minutes or so.

Again, Carradine is respectable as Dracula, and again, he’s simply not all that scary.

 

 

 

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948)

Dracula:  Bela Lugosi

The Frankenstein Monster:  Glenn Strange

Larry Talbot/ The Wolf Man:  Lon Chaney Jr.

Chick:  Bud Abbott

Wilbur:  Lou Costello

Directed by Charles Barton

Screenplay by Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo, and John Grant

Music by Frank Skinner

Running Time:  83 minutes

This was originally going to be called HOUSE OF THE WOLF MAN before Universal decided to add Abbott and Costello and turn it into a comedy.  Strangely, this decision, which many people including Lon Chaney Jr., hated, didn’t stop this movie from becoming one of the best in the Universal Monster series.

The big news here was that Bela Lugosi returned to play Dracula, a role he hadn’t played since the original DRACULA in 1931.  It still amazes me that these are the only two movies in which Lugosi ever played Dracula, although he did play a vampire in MARK OF THE VAMPIRE (1935) and THE RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE (1943).

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN works so well for two main reasons.  One, it’s hilariously funny.  It’s one of Abbott and Costello’s best movies.  And two, the monsters in this film all have much bigger moments than they did in the previous two movies.

Lon Chaney Jr. has a major role.  As Larry Talbot, he’s involved in the hunt for Dracula, and he has lots of scenes as the Wolf Man.  Glenn Strange, reduced to having little more than a cameo as the Frankenstein Monster in the previous two movies, has lots of screen time here and even speaks lines of dialogue!

But it’s Lugosi who steals the show in his return as Dracula.  Other than Abbott and Costello, he’s the main character in this movie, as it’s his plot to take Lou Costello’s brain and put it into the skull of the Frankenstein Monster, in the hope that he’d be able to control the Monster better with Costello’s simple mind.

Lugosi has many fine moments.  He gets to be scary and he seems to be having a lot of fun.

Terrific movie, terrific performance, and a fine way to end the Universal Dracula series.

“Young people.  Always making the most out of life. While it lasts.”  — Bela Lugosi as Dracula in ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN.

 

 

Hope you enjoyed this edition of THE HORROR JAR, and I’ll see you again next time with more horror movie lists.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: THE BLACK CAT (1934)

0

the black cat posterHere’s my latest IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column, on the Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi masterpiece THE BLACK CAT (1934), up now in the January 2015 edition of The Horror Writers Association Newsletter.

 

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT

BY

MICHAEL ARRUDA

 

 

THE BLACK CAT (1934) is my favorite teaming of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.  It’s also the first time these two horror stars appeared together in a movie.

THE BLACK CAT was made when both Karloff and Lugosi were at the height of their popularity, each coming off the success of their first horror hit, Lugosi with DRACULA (1931) and Karloff with FRANKENSTEIN (1931).  Audiences definitely responded, as this was Universal’s biggest money maker at the box office in 1934.

Since the two play adversaries in THE BLACK CAT, it’s very easy to see this movie as Dracula vs. Frankenstein.  This concept wasn’t lost on director Edgar G. Ulmer, as he takes full advantage of these two actors’ famous monster counterparts.  Lugosi gets to spout haunting dialogue throughout, a la Dracula.  When Karloff is introduced, it’s through a silhouette.  We see his solid physique which in shadow strongly resembles the Frankenstein Monster, and Karloff’s first few minutes of screen time are spent in silence, as if, like the Monster, he cannot speak.

In THE BLACK CAT, Dr. Vitus Verdegast (Bela Lugosi) returns to Hungary in search of his wife.  On his way there, he befriends two Americans on a train, author Peter Allison (David Manners) and his wife Joan (Jacqueline Wells) who for some reason are honeymooning in Hungary.  Whose idea was that?  When there is a car crash in a storm, and Joan is injured, Vitus brings the couple to the home of Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff), in order to treat her injuries.  Poelzig is the man Vitus has come to see, believing that his wife is now living in Poelzig’s home.

The two men have a history.  Poelzig was the commanding officer of the military unit in which Vitus served in World War I, and according to Vitus, Poelzig abandoned his men, leaving them to be killed or worse yet, captured, which is what happened to Vitus. After spending fifteen years in prison, Vitus has returned to claim his wife back from Poelzig.  Vitus demands Poelzig bring him to his wife, and he does, but his wife is dead, her body preserved in a glass case.

It turns out, Poelzig is a Satanist, and he has set his sights on Joan as his latest sacrificial victim, unless Vitus can stop him.

THE BLACK CAT is one of the more interesting Universal horror movies of the 1930s.  It has many things going for it.  It has Karloff and Lugosi of course, and it also has an amazingly talented director at the helm, Edgar G. Ulmer, who does a phenomenal job with this movie.

Ulmer offers a lot of neat touches.  There’s some nifty camerawork, offering creative transitions from scene to scene.  Ulmer also made the unusual decision to include background music in nearly the entire film.  Most films during this time period employed very little music other than during the opening and closing credits.  Nearly all of THE BLACK CAT has music playing in the background.

It’s a compact little film.  At 65 minutes, things move briskly and efficiently.  There’s no time to daydream.

The screenplay by Peter Ruric tells a haunting story which was quite gruesome for its day.  Karloff’s Poelzig keeps women—evidently his dead wives— preserved in glass cases in his own personal museum— talk about trophy wives!  He most likely killed all these women, making him one of the earliest movie serial killers.

There’s also a very gruesome “skinning alive” scene that still makes me squirm each time I see it.

Poelzig’s ultra-modern house is incredibly cool.  It has a modern design because Poelzig is supposedly his country’s most talented architect.  The house is unlike anything else seen in the Universal monster movies.  Usually the events in these movies take place in decrepit castles and laboratories, but here, we have revolving rooms, slick sliding doors, communication systems, and interior architecture which resembles something you’d find on STAR TREK.

Although the title THE BLACK CAT comes from the Edgar Allan Poe short story, the film has nothing at all to do with Poe’s tale.  In fact, the only connection to the events in the movie and the black cat is that Vitus suffers from an intense fear of cats.

By far, the best part of THE BLACK CAT is Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.

Lugosi is on top of his game throughout, and he gets to deliver one memorable line after another.  For me, it’s always a treat listening to Lugosi speak in a movie, as his voice and his accent have a poetic quality about them that make his dialogue all the better, and he’s got some classic lines in this movie.

When speaking of Poelzig’s home, which was built on a massive battlefield graveyard, Vitus says, “The masterpiece of construction, built upon the ruins of the masterpiece of destruction.”

Karloff’s got some great lines as well.  My favorite is when Peter Allison barks at him that the phone is dead, Poelzig turns to Vitus and says, “The phone is dead.  Do you hear that, Vitus?  Even the phone is dead!”

So, you have Lugosi strutting his stuff throughout, displaying all the skills which he used to create Dracula, and you think, there’s no way anyone in this film can be better, but then you get to Karloff, whose style is the antithesis of Lugosi’s.  While Lugosi is commanding and authoritative, and all about the dialogue which he uses to great dramatic effect, Karloff is the opposite, seeming so relaxed and subtle.  With Karloff, it’s a nuanced expression, the raising of an eyebrow, the clenching of a hand.  He incites fear in his audience so effortlessly it’s amazing.  His is a different style, and he not only holds his own against Lugosi, he surpasses him.  The interactions of these two actors in this movie is a nice microcosm of how their careers played out in real life, with Karloff continuing to grow stronger over the years on his way to becoming the “King of Horror.”

There’s just a relaxed glee about Karloff, like when he comments on Lugosi’s fear of cats, lines he delivers with a devilish smile:  “You must be indulgent of Dr. Verdegast’s weakness.  He is the unfortunate victim of one of the commoner phobias, but in an extreme form.  He has an intense and all-consuming horror of cats.”

Even David Manners, who’s usually the straight—and dull— leading man in such films as DRACULA and THE MUMMY (1932)— gets to display an edge here not always seen in his other roles.

Not only is THE BLACK CAT one of Universal’s best horror movies and the best of the Karloff/Lugosi pairings, it’s also one of the finest horror movies ever made, period.

Looking for a winter vacation destination?  Check out Hjalmar Poelzig’s place.  I’m not sure how the skiing is, but I hear the skinning is just fine.  Ouch!

—END—

THE HORROR JAR: LON CHANEY JR. WOLF MAN Movies

0
Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolf Man in FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943)

Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolf Man in FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943)

THE HORROR JAR:  Lon Chaney Jr. WOLF MAN Movies

By Michael Arruda

 

Welcome back to THE HORROR JAR, the column that lists odds and ends about horror movies.  Up today a look at the movies in which Lon Chaney Jr. played Larry Talbot, aka the Wolf Man.

Lon Chaney Jr. played the Wolf Man in a total of five movies, all of them for Universal, starting with arguably the best werewolf movie ever made, the classic THE WOLF MAN (1941).  He also made two other screen appearances as a werewolf that wasn’t Larry Talbot.

But it all started with THE WOLF MAN, a film that has aged well over the years, cementing its standing as perhaps the best werewolf movie ever made.

After working several years in bit parts using his real name, Creighton Chaney changed it to Lon Chaney Jr. upon the insistence of a producer, in order to take advantage of his deceased father’s name, Lon Chaney, one of the biggest silent film stars in movie history.  It was a decision that Chaney never liked, yet his career took off shortly thereafter.

His first big break came in 1939, when he played the role of Lenny in OF MICE AND MEN (1939) to great critical acclaim.  Two years later he took on the role which would make him famous, Larry Talbot, aka the Wolf Man, in THE WOLF MAN.

THE WOLF MAN is a remarkable film.  It boasts a fantastic cast that includes both Claude Rains and Bela Lugosi in addition to Chaney.  It’s one of Rains’ best roles, as he plays Sir John Talbot, Larry’s father, a strict moralistic man who means well but seems to hurt Larry with nearly every word he says.

Chaney is sensational as Larry Talbot, a tortured young man who wants no part of being a werewolf but becomes engulfed in the lycanthropic madness which surrounds him.  The original title of the movie was DESTINY, and it was to have featured Larry only becoming a werewolf in his own mind.   This idea was eventually scrapped, but you can still find traces and hints of this original concept in the final version.

Here they are now, the movies in which Lon Chaney Jr. played the Wolf Man:

THE WOLF MAN (1941)

Directed by George Waggner

Screenplay by Curt Siodmak

Music by Charles Previn, Hans J. Salter, and Frank Skinner

Larry Talbot/The Wolf Man:  Lon Chaney Jr.

Sir John Talbot:  Claude Rains

Maleva:  Maria Ouspenskaya

Gwen Conliffe:  Evelyn Ankers

Colonel Paul Montford:  Ralph Bellamy

Frank Andrews:  Patric Knowles

Bela:  Bela Lugosi

Running Time:  70 minutes

The cast alone makes this one a classic, but THE WOLF MAN is so much more.  It’s Lon Chaney Jr.’s first appearance as Larry Talbot, the Wolf Man, the role with which he would be forever identified.  This one has fine acting, an excellent script by Curt Siodmak, iconic Wolf Man makeup by Jack Pierce, and enough creepy atmosphere to make your skin crawl.  It also features an exciting conclusion, where young Gwen, Sir John Talbot, and the Wolf Man all cross paths in the fog-shrouded forest for the film’s heartbreaking finale.  Considered by many—myself included— to be the finest werewolf movie ever made.

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943)

Directed by Roy William Neill

Screenplay by Curt Siodmak

Music by Hans J. Salter

Larry Talbot/ The Wolf Man:  Lon Chaney Jr.

The Monster:  Bela Lugosi

Baroness Elsa Frankenstein:  Ilona Massey

Maleva:  Maria Ouspenskaya

Dr. Mannering:  Patric Knowles

Mayor:  Lionel Atwill

Rudi:  Dwight Frye

Running Time:  74 minutes

Universal decided one monster in a movie was no longer enough, which is too bad because had this been a straight Wolf Man sequel, Universal might have had another classic on its hands.  As it stands, FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN isn’t a bad film at all— it’s actually very good, and the novelty of two monsters appearing in one movie has held up over the decades, keeping this one a crowd-pleaser even today, but the first half of the movie, the part that is a direct sequel to THE WOLF MAN and resurrects Larry Talbot from the grave, is by far the best part of the movie.  Once Talbot discovers the Frankenstein Monster frozen in ice, and thaws him out, the film becomes less compelling and much more contrived.  Still, it’s a helluva show, and the film’s climactic battle between the two titled monsters although brief is still well worth the wait.

This one just might feature the best makeup job by Jack Pierce on the Wolf Man.  Chaney’s Larry Talbot is the most interesting character in the movie, and the Wolf Man even gets to be heroic as he saves the Baroness Frankenstein from the clutches of the Frankenstein Monster in the film’s conclusion.

 

HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944)

Directed by Erle C. Kenton

Screenplay by Edward T. Lowe, Jr.

Music by Hans J. Salter

Larry Talbot/The Wolf Man:  Lon Chaney Jr.

Doctor Niemann:  Boris Karloff

The Monster:  Glenn Strange

Dracula:  John Carradine

Daniel:  J. Carrol Naish

Ilonka:  Elena Verdugo

Inspector Arnz:  Lionel Atwill

Rita Hussman:  Anne Gwynne

Professor Bruno Lampini:  George Zucco

Running Time:  71 minutes

After the success of FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN, Universal decided that even two monsters in one movie weren’t enough, and so they invited Dracula to the party.  While not as good as its predecessor, HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN is still a pretty good movie, and had it been twenty minutes longer and added some depth to its story, it might have been hailed as another Universal classic.  As it stands, things move incredibly quickly, and all the action is jam-packed in the film’s brief 71 minutes.

HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN is probably most notable for the return of Boris Karloff to the Frankenstein series, after he missed the previous two films.  Karloff returned not as the monster but as the evil Doctor Niemann, a nice precursor to Peter Cushing’s dark interpretation of Baron Frankenstein in the Hammer movies a decade and a half later.

Lon Chaney Jr. fares rather well here in his very brief screen time as Larry Talbot, as his scenes as the Wolf Man are quick and fleeting.  Still, he gets involved in one of the movie’s better subplots, a love story with the young gypsy girl Ilonka.  In fact, HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN contains one of the more dramatic sequences involving the Wolf Man in the entire series, as Ilonka decides to take it upon herself to “save” her lover, taking on the Wolf Man with a silver bullet.  This emotional little sequence really packs a wallop.

HOUSE OF DRACULA (1945)

Directed by Erle C. Kenton

Screenplay by Edward T. Lowe, Jr

Music by William Lava

Larry Talbot/ The Wolf Man:  Lon Chaney Jr.

Dracula:  John Carradine

The Monster:  Glenn Strange

Doctor Edelmann:  Onslow Stevens

Police Inspector Holtz:  Lionel Atwill

Nina:  Jane Adams

Running Time:  67 minutes

Follow-up to HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN isn’t as good, but it’s still not a bad little movie.  This one is notable because Doctor Edelmann who treats all the monsters in this film, actually cures Larry Talbot!  So, at the end of the film, Larry Talbot, no longer suffering the effects of being the Wolf Man, actually gets to play the hero and save the heroine from the Frankenstein Monster.

Jane Adams, who played the hunchback nurse Nina, just recently passed away, on May 21, 2014 at the age of 95.

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948)

Directed by Charles Barton

Screenplay by Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo, and John Grant

Music by Frank Skinner

Larry Talbot/ The Wolf Man:  Lon Chaney Jr.

Dracula:  Bela Lugosi

The Monster:  Glenn Strange

Chick:  Bud Abbott

Wilbur:  Lou Costello

Running Time:  83 minutes

Originally proposed as HOUSE OF THE WOLF MAN, this serious idea was scrapped in favor of a comedy.

Strangely, it took the comedic presence of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello to return the Universal monsters to their glory days.   Chaney was disappointed that Universal decided to put their monsters in an Abbott and Costello comedy, but the truth is the monsters fare better in this movie than the previous two.  They enjoy more screen time and have more dialogue than ever before.  Heck, even Glenn Strange as the Frankenstein Monster says a few lines!  Plus, Bela Lugosi returned as Dracula, the first time he played the role since the 1931 original.  This one works because the monsters play it straight and keep their dignity, and of course it doesn’t hurt that Abbott and Costello are downright hilarious in this movie.

Chaney delivers another excellent performance as Larry Talbot, this time focused on stopping Dracula from spreading his evil on the world.  Lots of Wolf Man scenes in this one.

And now for Chaney’s two non-Larry Talbot appearances as a werewolf:

ROUTE 66

Season 3 Episode 6 “Lizard’s Leg and Owlet’s Wing” (October 26, 1962)

Directed by Robert Gist

Teleplay by Stirling Silliphant

Lon Chaney Jr. dons werewolf makeup in this playful episode of the popular 1960s TV show.  Chaney, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre all play themselves, as they are planning their horror movie comeback.  Karloff dresses as the Frankenstein Monster and Chaney dresses as the Wolf Man to see if they can still scare people.

FACE OF THE SCREAMING WEREWOLF (1964)

Directed by Gilberto Martinez Solares, Rafael Portillo, and Jerry Warren

Screenplay by Juan Garcia, Gilberto Martinez Solares, Alfredo Salazar, Jerry Warren, and Fernando de Fuentes

Music by Luis Hernandez Breton

The Mummified Werewolf:  Lon Chaney Jr.

Running Time:  60 minutes

An aging Lon Chaney Jr. plays a werewolf for the last time in this little seen Grade Z horror movie from Mexico.  The most notable thing about this one is that it took five writers to write it!

And that wraps things up for today.  I hope you enjoyed this look at Lon Chaney Jr.’s Wolf Man movies, and I’ll see you again next time on the next HORROR JAR.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael