IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: THE CORPSE VANISHES (1942)

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TheCorpseVanishes_Lugosi_Luana Walters

Bela Lugosi carries off Luana Walters in THE CORPSE VANISHES (1942)

It’s winter.  It’s friggin cold.  Let’s heat things up a bit with a good old-fashioned Grade Z horror movie starring Bela Lugosi.

My favorite part of any Grade Z Lugosi flick is that in spite of the awful acting, writing, and production values which often accompanied these films, Lugosi would always bring his “A” game, the result being a masterful horrific performance in an otherwise forgettable movie.

Take today’s movie, for instance.  THE CORPSE VANISHES (1942) would no doubt be a forgotten film if not for the presence of Bela Lugosi.  And while there are a few other parts about this movie that I like, Lugosi’s the reason to see it, and as he almost always does, he delivers a commanding performance.

It seems that it’s not a good time to get married.  Yup, in THE CORPSE VANISHES, every time there’s a wedding, the bride drops dead at the altar, and to make matters even more horrifying, her body is then stolen by phony morticians and whisked away to some unknown destination, leaving the grieving families shell-shocked and devastated.

That’s because Dr. George Lorenz (Bela Lugosi) has a wife who for reasons that are not entirely explained needs a special serum made from the gland fluid of virginal brides to keep herself young.  It’s a good thing for her that she’s married to Dr. Lorenz, because he’s only too happy to accommodate her, and so it’s Lorenz and his weird housemates who are busy killing and stealing the brides’ bodies so Lorenz can extract their fluids back in his secret laboratory in his home.

While the police are baffled, young newspaper reporter Patricia Hunter (Luana Walters), trying to make a name for herself, vows to investigate and solve the case on her own.

And that’s the plot of THE CORSPE VANISHES. The best parts, of course, involve Bela Lugosi.  One of my favorite scenes has the police searching the hearse which contains one of those dead brides.  When they open the coffin, rather than find the dead bride, they find Lorenz pretending to be a corpse. The officer says “it ‘s a corpse all right, but not the one we’re looking for.”  The scene’s a hoot because the audience expects to see the deceased newlywed but instead it’s Lugosi inside the coffin, and of course since it is Lugosi, you half-expect him to sit up and declare, “I am— Dracula.”

Speaking of Lugosi and coffins, when Patricia searches his house and discovers both the doctor and his wife sleeping in coffins, she calls him on it the next day.  His response? “I find a coffin much more comfortable than a bed.” Only Bela Lugosi can utter that line and make it seem so matter of fact that it is completely believable.

And what Bela Lugosi “mad scientist” movie would be complete without him grabbing a whip and beating on his mute assistant.  And while it’s not Tor Johnson, the guy is still rather creepy. In fact, one of the creepiest scenes in the movie occurs when Patricia searches the secret tunnels under the house, and the mute assistant Angel (Frank Moran) slowly pursues her, munching on a humongous turkey drumstick, no less!  This scene also features some neat music, and the whole film, for a grade Z flick, has a pretty decent music score.

But make no mistake.  This is definitely a grade Z movie, with absolutely no production values whatsoever. Directed by Wallace Fox, THE CORPSE VANISHES does have the aforementioned creepy scene in the secret corridor, and it does have Bela Lugosi, but other than this, there’s not much that makes this one all that horrifying.

The screenplay by Harvey Gates tells a rather ridiculous story, but in a movie like this, that’s half the fun.

And Lugosi isn’t the only actor in this film who turns in a decent effort.  Luana Walters is very good as reporter Patricia Hunter.  She’s smart, sexy, and feisty, the perfect female heroine.

Tristram Coffin— yes, that’s right, Coffin— is very good as well as the likable Dr. Foster, a doctor who ends up helping Patricia with her investigation.

As already mentioned, Frank Moran makes for a creepy mute henchman, while diminutive Angelo Rossitto plays Lugosi’s other assistant, the very little Toby. Rossitto also starred in Tod Browning’s FREAKS (1932) and would co-star with Bela Lugosi again in Lugosi’s only color film, SCARED TO DEATH (1947). Rossitto remained active as an actor until 1987.  He died in 1991 at the age of 83.

Also in the cast as Dr. Lorenz’ wife, the Countess Lorenz, is Elizabeth Russell, familiar to horror fans for her role as the Cat Woman in the original CAT PEOPLE (1942).  Russell also appeared in the classic ghost story movie THE UNINVITED (1944) with Ray Milland, WEIRD WOMAN (1944) with Lon Chaney Jr., THE CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE (1944), and BEDLAM (1946) with Boris Karloff.

But the main reason to see THE CORPSE VANISHES is Bela Lugosi. In these frigid icy nights of winter, heat things up by watching Bela Lugosi chew up the scenery as he steals the bodies of dead brides, drains fluids from their glands to make a serum to keep his wife young, whips his mute servant into obedience, and settles in for a good night’s sleep inside his comfy coffin alongside his now youthful beautiful wife.

Sure, there are a lot of classic “A” list horror films featuring Lugosi, from DRACULA (1931) to THE BLACK CAT (1934) to SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939), but just as fun and just as memorable for Lugosi fans, are the plethora of low-budget horror flicks he made, adding his distinctive presence to films that would otherwise be long forgotten.

One last piece of advice.  If you find yourself unable to sleep after viewing this movie, consider trading in your mattress— for the latest designer coffin.

Pleasant dreams.

—END—

 

 

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Happy Birthday, Bela Lugosi!

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bela lugosi - dracula

October 20 is Bela Lugosi’s birthday.

Lugosi was born on October 20, 1882.  And what better way to celebrate his birthday than by watching one of his movies this Halloween.  DRACULA (1931) is the obvious choice, but if you’re looking for something different, there is no shortage of classic Bela Lugosi movies, films like MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE (1932), WHITE ZOMBIE (1932) , and THE RAVEN (1935), with Boris Karloff, to name just a few.

You could watch him in his second most memorable role after Dracula, as Ygor in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939) and THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942).

son of frankenstein ygor

Bela Lugosi as Ygor.

Or if you really want to have fun, watch Bela in one of the many Grade Z horror movies he made, films which would be long forgotten if not for Lugosi’s appearance in them, films where in spite of their non-existent budget, bad acting, and often silly writing, Lugosi would bring his “A” game and save the show.  Films like THE DEVIL BAT (1940), THE APE MAN (1943), THE CORPSE VANISHES (1942), or Lugosi’s only color film, SCARED TO DEATH (1947).

bela lugosi_scared_to_death

Bela Lugosi in SCARED TO DEATH (1947).

Or maybe you want to see Lugosi play a vampire in movies other than DRACULA.  In that case, check out MARK OF THE VAMPIRE (1935) or THE RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE (1943), two films in which Lugosi delivers memorable performances as an undead.

Or you could watch Lugosi’s only other screen appearance as Dracula, in the comedy classic ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948).  Lugosi delivers a commanding performance here, and like his fellow horror actors in this one, remains dignified and scary throughout, allowing Bud Abbott and Lou Costello to get all the laughs, although truth be told, Bela does get to deliver a few comedic zingers here and there, and they work.

Whichever you choose, be sure to invite Bela into your home this Halloween.  Light some candles, eat some cake, make a wish, and settle in for a fun night at the movies with the Bela Lugosi movie of your choice.

Happy Birthday Bela!

 

—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.  

 

 

 

PICTURE OF THE DAY: BORIS KARLOFF In THE BODY SNATCHER (1945)

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Boris Karloff as John Gray, the body snatcher, in, no surprise,  THE BODY SNATCHER (1945)

The film is THE BODY SNATCHER (1945), the character is John Gray, and the actor, of course, is Boris Karloff.

THE BODY SNATCHER is one of my favorite Boris Karloff movies.

Karloff plays John Gray, the man who robs graves for Dr. Wolfe “Toddy” MacFarlane (Henry Daniell).  This story is loosely based on the true story of Dr. Knox and grave robbers Burke and Hare.

Karloff’s John Gray is basically Burke and Hare put together.  It’s one of Karloff’s scariest roles, and it’s certainly one of his best roles in a non-Universal horror movie.  He’s got some great lines in this one.

The screenplay by Philip MacDonald is based on a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson. It’s an atmospheric thriller, well-directed by Robert Wise.

This one also features Bela Lugosi in a small role.

But it’s Karloff who dominates this movie, who’s as frightening here as John Gray as he ever was. The photo above captures perfectly Karloff’s interpretation of Gray’s persona. Fearlessly robbing graves, he’s only too happy to collect his money, and happier still to torment his employer, the proper Dr. MacFarlane, reminding the good doctor that he’s every bit as guilty as those robbing the graves.

If you haven’t seen Karloff in THE BODY SNATCHER, you’re missing quite a treat.

Just look at that smile.  Makes you want to visit a cemetery late at night, doesn’t it?

So, if you get the sudden urge in the middle of the night to take a nature walk through a graveyard or to venture across the countryside in search of dead bodies, you can thank Boris Karloff in THE BODY SNATCHER, featured in today’s Picture of the Day.

Thanks for reading!

—-Michael

MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES: ABBOTT and COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948)

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Bud Abbott and Lou Costello have a lot to say about the Frankenstein monster, the Wolf Man, and Dracula in ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948)

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello have a lot to say about the Frankenstein monster (Glenn Strange), the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.), and Dracula (Bela Lugosi) in ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948)

MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES:  ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948)

By

Michael Arruda

Welcome to another edition of MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES, that column where we look at great quotes from some really great movies. Today we look at ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948), one of the funniest horror comedies ever made.  It’s chock full of classic lines.

It’s actually one of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello’s funniest films.  While the monsters— Bela Lugosi as Dracula, Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolf Man, and Glenn Strange as the Frankenstein monster— play it straight, Bud and Lou tickle your funny bone, and they’ve rarely been funnier.

So let’s check out some of their jokes.  Here’s a look at some memorable quotes from ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN, screenplay by Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo, and John Grant.  All three of these writers had a ton of writing credits, including many other Abbott and Costello movies, so it’s no wonder that this film is so funny.

Here we go:

After being pursued by Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and his vampire assistant Sandra (Lenore Aubert), Wilbur (Lou Costello) has had his fill of vampires out to get him.  When he asks his buddy Chick (Bud Abbott) a question, Chick replies:

CHICK:  I’ll bite.

WILBUR:  No, you gotta stand in line.

In addition to being chased by Sandra, Wilbur is also pursued by another woman, Joan (Jane Randolph).  In fact, women seem to be falling all over Wilbur in this movie, something that Chick just can’t seem to understand.

CHICK:  I don’t get it. Out of all the guys around here that classy dish has to pick out a guy like you.

WILBUR:  What’s wrong with that?

CHICK:  Go look at yourself in the mirror sometime.

WILBUR:  Why should I hurt my own feelings?

Later, when Wilbur has two dates to the costume ball, Chick tries to talk him into sharing one of his dates with him.

CHICK:   You know the old saying? Everything comes in threes. Now suppose a third girl should fall in love with you?

WILBUR:  What’s her name?

CHICK: We’ll say her name is Mary.

WILBUR: Is she pretty?

CHICK: Beautiful!

WILBUR: Naturally, she’d have to be.

CHICK: Now you have Mary, you have Joan, and you have Sandra. So, to prove to you that I’m your pal, your bosom friend, I’ll take one of the girls off your hands.

WILBUR: Chick, you’re what I call a real pal… you take Mary.

This next exchange comes when Wilbur is arguing with his employer, Mr. McDougal.

WILBUR:  Well that’s gonna cost you overtime because I’m a union man and I work only sixteen hours a day.

MCDOUGAL:  A union man only works eight hours a day.

WILBUR:  I belong to two unions.

Then there’s this conversation when Chick tries to convince the frightened Wilbur that Dracula doesn’t really exist.

WILBUR:  (reading):  “Count Dracula sleeps in his coffin but rises every night at sunset.”  Chick is right.  This is awful silly stuff.  Dracula— (coffin creaks).  Chick!  Chick!

CHICK:  What’s the matter now?

WILBUR:  You know that person you said that there’s no such person?

CHICK:  Yes.

WILBUR:  I think he’s in there.  In person.  I was reading this sign over here, this one down here, Dracula’s legend.  All of a sudden I hear (makes a creaking sound).

CHICK:  That’s the wind!

WILBUR:  It should get oiled!

CHICK:  Listen, stop reading this thing!  That’s a lot of phony baloney to fool McDougal’s customers!  Now pull up that canvas and get busy.  Come on!  (Exits)

WILBUR (reading):  “Dracula can change himself at will into a vampire bat flying about the countryside.”  Flying.  (Pretends to fly and sees Dracula attempting to climb out of his coffin).  Chick!!!  Chick!!!

CHICK (returns):  Listen.  You’re making enough noise to wake up the dead.

WILBUR:  I don’t have to wake him up.  He’s up.  I saw a hand.

CHICK:  You saw a hand?  Where?

WILBUR:  Right over there.  (points to coffin).  I saw a hand there!

CHICK:  You don’t know what you’re talking about!  You’re all excited reading this legend.  Now, listen.  Listen, Wilbur.  I know there’s no such a person as Dracula. You know there’s no such a person as Dracula.

WILBUR:  But does Dracula know it?

The monsters get in on the action as well.  Here’s one of my favorite lines from the movie, when Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) tries to warn Wilbur and Chick about his condition, that he’s a werewolf.

LARRY TALBOT:  You don’t understand. Every night when the moon is full, I turn into a wolf.

WILBUR:  You and twenty million other guys.

And then there’s this memorable line from Dracula (Bela Lugosi):

DRACULA:  Young people making the most of life – while it lasts.

Gulp!

Of course this line is even more effective because Bela Lugosi is saying it.  Incidentally, this is the second and last time Lugosi played Dracula in the movies, although he did play a vampire— just not Dracula— in other films.

Okay.  That’s it for now.  I hope you enjoyed these memorable lines of dialogue from ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN.  I’ll see you next time with another edition of MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES.

—Michael

PICTURE OF THE DAY: FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943) PREMIERE

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St. Louis premiere of FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN

St. Louis premiere of FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN

PICTURE OF THE DAY:  FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943) – Premiere

 

Here’s a picture of the artwork from the 1943 premiere of everybody’s favorite movie monster battle, FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943).

 

According to the source, this comes from a theater in St. Louis.  I found this image on The Blog of Frankenstein, located at http://blog-of-frankenstein.blogspot.com/2012/09/1943-st-louis-cinema-front-display-for.html.

 

 

I love the artwork.  It would be a hoot to return to this time, when movies like FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN were scary, when people screamed when they saw Lon Chaney Jr.’s Wolf Man, and I’m sure that they did scream.

 

I wonder what that guy in the doorway was thinking when this picture was taken.  Why are you taking a picture of me?  Is that my ride? Do you have a license to be carrying that camera?

 

He looks kind of official.  Kinda reminds me of Marvel’s Agent Coulson.  Perhaps he was on the lookout for some future Agents of SHIELD.  Speaking of which, the Wolf Man would have made a nice addition to the team, and it would have given Larry Talbot a purpose in life.  He might even have finally stopped whining about his sad fate.

 

I also like the reflection in the glass doorway of the vintage automobile, which back then, was probably brand new.

 

It’s almost Halloween, time to appreciate and enjoy the classics of horror, and FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN is definitely a movie that deserves both recognition and a look during this horror movie season.

 

So, should you check out the movie this Halloween, start out with a look at this photo, and imagine if you will a time when FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN was still scary, when it was showing on the big screen, and imagine that you’re inside that theater surrounded by friends, eating candy and popcorn, and the Wolf Man appears on screen, and the theater erupts in a massive scream of terror.

 

Ah, the good old days!

 

Enjoy!

 

—Michael

 

MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES: DRACULA (1931)

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Bela Lugosi as Dracula.

Bela Lugosi as Dracula.

MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES:  DRACULA (1931)

By

Michael Arruda

 

 

Welcome to another edition of MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES. Today we look at some memorable lines from the classic horror movie, DRACULA (1931).

DRACULA is so full of quotable lines, especially from Bela Lugosi, practically the entire movie is a collection of famous quotes.  While Lugosi does have the bulk of the celebrated lines in DRACULA, and really, until you’ve heard the power and beauty of Lugosi’s voice on film, you’re missing out on one of the great joys of horror cinema, co-stars Dwight Frye as Renfield and Edward Van Sloan as Professor Van Helsing also enjoy some memorable moments of dialogue.

Let’s get started.

We begin with Dracula’s entrance and opening moments in DRACULA.  As Renfield (Dwight Frye) tentatively makes his way through decrepit Castle Dracula, Dracula (Bela Lugosi) appears at the top of the cobweb filled staircase to announce:

DRACULA:  I am— Dracula.

RENFIELD:  It’s really good to see you.  I don’t know what happened to the driver and my luggage and— well, and with all this, I thought I was in the wrong place.

DRACULA:  I bid you welcome.

(Wolves howl in the distance.)

DRACULA:  Listen to them.  Children of the night.  What music they make!

(As they climb the stairs, Dracula seems to pass through a huge spider web without disturbing it.  Renfield has to use his walking stick to break through, causing a rather large spider to scurry up the web.  Dracula comments:

DRACULA:  The spider spinning his web for the unwary fly.  The blood is the life, Mr. Renfield.

Later, as Dracula serves Renfield some wine.

DRACULA:  This is very old wine. I hope you will like it.

RENFIELD:  Aren’t you drinking?

DRACULA:  I never drink— wine.

When Dracula is first introduced to Dr. Seward, Mina, John Harker, and Lucy at the theater in London, he finishes the conversation with one of my favorite lines from the movie:

DRACULA:  To die, to be really dead, that must be glorious!

MINA:  Why, Count Dracula!

DRACULA:  There are far worse things awaiting man than death.

Dwight Frye as Renfield enjoys many fine scene-stealing moments in DRACULA, like when he describes an encounter with Dracula to Van Helsing:

RENFIELD:  He came and stood below my window in the moonlight.  And he promised me things.  Not in words, but by doing them.

VAN HELSING: Doing them?

RENFIELD:  By making them happen.  A red mist spread over the lawn, coming on like a flame of fire.  And then he parted it.  And I could see that there were thousands of rats with eyes blazing red, like his, only smaller.  And then he held up his hand, and then they all stopped, and I thought he seemed to be saying:  Rats.  Rats.  Rats!  Thousands!  Millions of them!  All red blood!  All these will I give to you if you will obey me!

When Van Helsing is making his case that vampires exist, he utters a line which describes the strategy of the modern day vampire:

VAN HELSING:  The strength of the vampire is that people will not believe in him.

And we finish with Dracula’s remark when he realizes that Van Helsing has figured out the truth of his existence.

DRACULA:  For one who has not lived even a single lifetime, you’re a wise man, Van Helsing!

There are plenty more notable lines from DRACULA, but that’ll have to be another column.  Hope you enjoyed this look back at this classic horror movie.

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.