Archive for Bela Lugosi

The Devil Bat (1940) Review

Posted in Devil Bat with tags , , on October 11, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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DEVIL BAT

**** Out of 5

Tagline- Sharp Fanged Blood Sucking Death Dives from Midnight Skies

Release Date- December 13th, 1940

Running Time- 68-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- John Thomas Neville

Director- Jean Yarbrough

Starring- Bela Lugosi, Suzanne Kaaren, Dave O’Brien, Donald Kerr

The Devil Bat released in 1940 will never go down as one of the greats of the horror genre, but it is a really fun film with an absurd plot however the film has a sense of humor and is as much a comedy as it is horror. While some of the comedy might be unintentional the good bulk however is. By this point in Bela Lugosi’s career he was pretty much making films for Poverty Row with a few Hollywood films here and there. Though even the Hollywood films he did in the 40s some were non-speaking or a bit role (The Wolf Man) and in some cases these Hollywood films like Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man despite being made by Universal has all the elements of a B-Movie.

Dr. Dr. Paul Carruthers (Lugosi) is a chemist who came up with a product that made his employers millions. However before it sold Paul took a buyout and after it sold he stood to make no money now. Angry and bitter, Paul creates a lotion and trains his bats, which he mutated to kill on scent to seek revenge on his employers for not giving him more money.

The screenplay by John Thomas Neville is a total blast. The whole plot is quite absurd and Neville writes a script filled with a lot of comedy and also crafts some really solid and entertaining characters. The script may not be great, but it is a lot of fun and really at the end of the day that’s all that really matters.

Director Jean Yarbrough delivers a really fun and campy film with excellent pacing. From the opening until the closing Yarbrough keeps the pace moving nicely. While Devil Bat is light on suspense it’s more than made for it the fun factor. The bat attack scenes were quite funny and I’m not totally sure if it was intentional or not like many other scenes, which are played for camp. Regardless, Yarbrough crafts a really fun film that I like a lot more than perhaps I should.

Bela Lugosi for the most part plays his role straight while others ham it up a bit, but it actually works well. This is actually one of my favorite Lugosi performances. Sure it’s not Count Dracula or Ygor, but is still a really great and fun performance.

Overall the Devil Bat is a really fun film with a great performance from Lugosi and while this isn’t exactly a horror classic its a truly entertaining film.

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Mark of the Vampire (1935) Review

Posted in Mark of the Vampire with tags , , , , on October 10, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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MARK OF THE VAMPIRE

**** Out of 5

Tagline- You Will Not Dare Believe What Your Eyes See

Release Date- April 26th, 1935

Running Time- 60-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Guy Endore & Bernard Schubert

Director- Tod Browning

Starring- Lionel Barrymore, Lionel Atwill, Elizabeth Allan, Carroll Borland and Bela Lugosi as Count Mora

Released in 1935 and directed by Tod Browning, Mark of the Vampire is actually a remake of Tod Browning’s very own silent movie London After Midnight, which starred Lon Chaney Sr. and is now a lost film. Rick Schmidlin for TCM put together a reconstruction of London After Midnight using the original screenplay and new score with still photos, but that while interesting doesn’t quite cut it as we’re just seeing photos and Tod Browning’s direction and acting can’t translate using photos. I very much admire what Rick Schmidlin was doing and again it was interesting, but its impossible to rate the film seeing it that way. So the only other way to sort of see London After Midnight is to watch Mark of the Vampire and this film is also a bit of a remake of Browning’s very own 1931 classic Dracula as a few scenes mirror those of Dracula.

Tod Browning made a name for himself in the 20s with a slew of silent flicks, which starred Lon Chaney Sr. and his popularity grew in 1931 when he directed the classic Dracula with Bela Lugosi in the title role and Browning was a director with a lot of pull until Freaks. While now seen as a cult classic upon its release Freaks was panned by critics and fans alike and pretty and was seen as highly offensive and pretty much destroyed Tod Browning’s career. Freaks, was banned in several countries including the United States (in some places the ban hasn’t been lifted, but its no longer enforced). Mark of the Vampire was a way to resurrect his career and while a decent hit it didn’t really get Tod Browning back on track.

Don’t go into Mark of the Vampire as a horror film as its more of a murder mystery with a touch of horror. Tod Browning is re-teamed with Bela Lugosi and I personally think Mark of the Vampire is one of Browning and Lugosi’s best film. However the film isn’t perfect and its really difficult to get into much detail without spoiling the whole film.

The screenplay by Guy Endore & Bernard Schubert is well written overall and makes a quite interesting premise, in which vampires are suspected of a murder. Character wise none really have a whole lot of depth, but it doesn’t hurt the script. The problem however is the twist; some hate it and some love it and I’m somewhere in the middle of the two. Once we find out the twist it sort of rules everything pointless and doesn’t make any sense at all. On repeated viewings Mark of the Vampire makes even less sense as you begin to try and make sense out of certain plot points and you have to wonder why the characters made things overly complicated, but I suppose we wouldn’t have a film. Overall the script has a strong premise and is mostly well written, but the twist does sort of hinder it, though with that said it is a very creative twist.

As director Tod Browning crafts an excellent and at times eerie murder/mystery. With only a 61-minute running time the pacing is fairly strong with a couple of sluggish parts early on. The shots of Count Mora (Lugosi) and his daughter Luna (Borland) wandering around is highly effective and eerie. I remember reading that Browning had some trouble directing the talking scenes in Dracula and I have no idea how true that is, but I could see it being true as the best scenes are those with no dialogue or very little dialogue. Here however he seems to handle the production better, but the scenes with no or little dialogue are still the most effective. Mark of the Vampire is an excellent film in the career of Tod Browning and while as a whole it might lack the eerie atmosphere of Dracula it still has enough eerie moments to go along with a solid mystery and is another top notch film from one of the great horror filmmakers.

Mark of the Vampire features a terrific cast with Lionel Barrymore delivering an excellent performance and the underrated Lionel Atwill like always is a pleasure to watch. Bela Lugosi is quite eerie despite have almost no dialogue. It’s films like this that truly showcase the talents of Lugosi. Carroll Borland however steals the show; like Lugosi she has almost no dialogue, but she’s quite chilling in her role. The scenes with Lugosi & Borland in the cemetery are quite effective and both of them are truly creepy.

Overall Mark of the Vampire is an excellent film and while the twist makes zero sense it’s still smart and creative and if you don’t think about it much it won’t take away from your enjoyment. Fans of Browning and Lugosi should very much enjoy this film. Again the twist doesn’t make much sense, but at the end of the day Mark of the Vampire is still a great film. While Tod Browning may not have the name value of filmmakers like John Carpenter or Dario Argento his contributions to the horror genre are just as important. Who knows where we would be without Dracula. It’s quite a shame Browning isn’t as remembered by horror fans as he’s one of the greats.

You’ll notice Count Mora has a wound on his temple and in the original script he had a sexual relationship with his daughter and when she was killed he committed suicide, but all of this was removed from the script.

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Son of Frankenstein (1939) Review

Posted in Son of Frankenstein with tags , , , on October 4, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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SON OF FRANKENSTEIN

**** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- The Black Shadows of the Past Bred This Half Man, Half Demon, Creating a New and Terrible Juggernaut of Destruction!

Release Date- January 13th, 1939

Running Time- 99-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Willis Cooper

Director- Rowland V. Lee

Starring- Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill, Josephine Hutchinson

Released in 1939 Son of Frankenstein along with the Wolf Man in 1941 were the last two Universal Monster movies that in my opinion were Hollywood releases since most of the Monster Movies by Universal after those two had much more of a B-Movie feel and if not for better production values they slightly feel like they could be made by Poverty Row. Son of Frankenstein from a technical side is better than the first two in the series. The production values are excellent and the film is more polished from the visual side to the editing. In terms of the films go Bride of Frankenstein trumps this not by a lot though, but I would say this was on part with the original. I favor the original, but its close and even though I think Bride of Frankenstein is better I really don’t think Son of Frankenstein is far behind and I find this one very underrated and should be held in the same regard as the first two even if they are a little better. As great as this film is it does lack the James Whale touch who would leave the series after Bride of Frankenstein. When it comes to Universal Studios you’ll be hard pressed to find another studio with a greater legacy in the horror genre. Who knows where the horror genre would be without the Monster Movies from Universal Studios as these films inspired generations of filmmakers and back in the 30s Universal set the bar for the horror genre. As I stated to me Son of Frankenstein was one of the last of the Golden era and I truly believe should be held in higher regard.

After meeting Ygor (Lugosi), Dr. Wolf Von Frankenstein (Rathbone) plans to bring the Monster back to life in hopes of changing him and restoring the Frankenstein family name, however Ygor has other intentions for the Monster.

The script by Willis Cooper is fantastic; from a writing standpoint, Cooper might deliver the best written film in the series. The characters are excellent and the film is well plotted. If anything the main problem was how the Monster was used, which I’ll get into in better detail in just a bit. If anything Willis Cooper takes certain elements from the first two, but yet has enough originality that this doesn’t feel like a rehash, but instead it feels fresh.

Director Rowland V. Lee takes over as director and crafts a truly terrific film. Like I said earlier from a filmmaking side of things, Lee delivers the best film in the series from a technical side. James Whale was a great filmmaker, but some of his films were a little rough around the edges, which may have to do more with how films were made at the time. Now that’s not a knock at all on Whale since with the first two Frankenstein films he crafted two of the all time greats. And while Son of Frankenstein might be the best made it does lack the James Whale touch. Son of Frankenstein gets off to a quick start and Rowland Lee does a great job at setting up the story, but around the middle things do slightly slow down however with an excellent script and an excellent director, Lee is always able to keep the film moving at a steady pace even if a little slow as Rowland Lee manages to get the most out of every scene. Son of Frankenstein does lack the eerie feel of the original and the fun campy tone of Bride of Frankenstein, though this down have some light moments, but never plays up to camp factor. While Son of Frankenstein might lack overall in terms of suspense it’s made up for in just being a great film, but the film act is great and drivers some truly great scenes of suspense.

About the only complaint I have is the way the Frankenstein Monster was used. Unlike the first two the Monster really doesn’t have the same impact as he wasn’t as crucial to the story. The Monster doesn’t enter the film until about 30-minutes in and doesn’t really do much until the hour mark. Boris Karloff plays the Monster for the 3rd and final time and I find his performance here very underrated. While Karloff was better in the first two, but James Whale also was a big reason for that, but here the Monster wasn’t as sympathetic and in some ways more of the villain. A lot of people label the Monster a villain, but that wasn’t true. The only time he killed anyone was either an accident, he was scared of provoked. All he really wanted was to be accepted, but here he is a little more villain like. The one thing we know is the Monster can be manipulated and Ygor very much manipulates the Monster for his personal revenge.

Boris Karloff still shines though when given the chance such as when he sees his own reflection in the mirror and these scenes were truly brilliant and nobody except Karloff could have pulled this off. While the Monster may not be as sympathetic, but this was the scariest he’s ever been. In the final act when the Monster finds Ygor dead (though some how is alive in Ghost of Frankenstein), but when he finds Ygor, the Monster lets out this scream and goes on a rampage. The rage and anger Karloff showed was quite creepy. In the film the Monster often visits Wolf Von Frankenstein’s son. All of this is off camera, but the child tells how he gave the Monster a fairy tale book. In the final act, the Monster looks at the book and he gets this even grin and takes off for the kid to get his revenge. This was truly brilliant and Karloff was nothing short of amazing, which is why I said his performance was greatly underrated. The Monster wasn’t as crucial to the story this time around, but Karloff still pulls it off. Many actors have replaced other actors in roles and while some were better others inferior and some ok, but nobody ever came anywhere near the level of Karloff as the Monster. Karloff’s Monster isn’t mindless and doesn’t lumber around. Lon Chaney would take the role over in the next film Ghost of Frankenstein and Chaney would be my 2nd favorite, but he’s a very, very distant 2nd to Karloff.

Basil Rathbone as Wolf Von Frankenstein is excellent and while some thought he was a bit over the top I for the most part disagree. There are times he might ham it up a bit, but for the most part I didn’t think so. As great as Colin Clive was in the first two he was over the top. Rathbone delivers a wonderful performance. Bela Lugosi as Ygor was great and there are some that consider this his best performance and while I would go with Dracula a case however can be made for Ygor being his best performance. However Lionel Atwill steals the show. Atwill starred in a number of Monster films and like Edward Van Sloan he’s sort of the forgotten made, which is unfortunate since Lionel Atwill was an excellent actor and steals the show here.

Son of Frankenstein was a great film and once again should be held in higher regard than it is. Despite its classic status it doesn’t get as much attention as it should. The first two Frankenstein films may be better, but this can stand proudly with them. At 99-minutes this was the longest of the series since most ran between 67-75 minutes. And while it could have perhaps lost a few minutes Son of Frankenstein is a great film nonetheless.

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Dracula (1931) Review

Posted in Dracula with tags , , , on October 1, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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DRACULA

**** Out of 5

Tagline- Carl Laemmle Presents the Vampire Thriller!

Release Date- February 14th, 1931

Running Time- 75-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Garrett Fort (Novel- Bram Stoker)

Director- Tod Browning

Starring- Bela Lugosi, David Manners, Helen Chandler, Dwight Frye and Edward Van Sloan as Van Helsing

Released in 1931 Dracula is probably the most influential vampire film ever made and one of the biggest hits in the legacy of Universal Pictures. Since its release the good portion of vampire films have taken many elements from this film and every actor to portray Count Dracula is directly inspired by Bela Lugosi (and from time to time Christopher Lee). As much as I enjoy Dracula I’d rate it behind the first 3 Frankenstein films as well as the Wolf-Man, but with that said I actually think in some ways Dracula might hold up a little better than those films (along with the Wolf Man). Obviously in many areas the film is dated as 1931 is far, far behind us and times change and filmmaking techniques change. But I still find Dracula to be an effective chiller and while it may no longer be scary it’s still loaded with eerie atmosphere and I’d go as far to say that since the end of the 30s (and even the 40s) many horror films lack the eerie feel many films from this era had. Reading some reviews it’s quite a shame the modern audience are for a good portion complete dolts who laugh at the film. You don’t have to love the film, but its clear on some reviews these people aren’t very bright. By today’s standards Dracula may no longer be scary, but I can easily see how this film scared the hell out of audiences in 1931, but its a shame so many cannot appreciate this film for the classic is it since its still a highly enjoyable film. Like I said compared to other Monster movies I’d rate Dracula behind them and in the career of Tod Browning this is his most popular film and by far is most influential and his legacy, but personally I preferred Freaks, The Devil-Doll and Mark of the Vampire (also with Lugosi and a remake of Browning’s now lost silent film London After Midnight starting Lon Chaney, Sr).

I think everyone knows the plot behind Dracula so there isn’t a reason to rehash it, but as I mentioned before obviously Dracula will be dated, but I still think the film holds up very well and the script by Garrett Fort based off the Bram Stoker novel is well written and plotted and quite honestly I think the script would work well even today with obviously a few changes here and there. Garrett Fort writes an excellent film with mostly solid characters. As the film gets heavier in dialogue it does slightly drop off, but I’d say that’s more on the direction than the writing. Fort’s screenplay is a winner and set the bar for vampire films and while this wouldn’t be my favorite vampire film the iconic status of the film has never been topped and probably never will.

Director Tod Browning came from the silent era and if not mistaken this was his first talking picture and it does sort of show as Dracula can be a little rough, but this greatly adds to the film. Sometimes when a film is a bit raw it adds to the power and had they been made by a more experienced director results wouldn’t be the same. Films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Last House on the Left are rough around the edges, but that in part helps make the films so powerful and while Dracula is a completely different film I think the film being rough around the edges in part helps elevate the film. After Dracula I felt Browning would improve and make better films from a technical standpoint. Even though Dracula wasn’t my favorite Tod Browning film there are many aspects of the film I love than the films I liked more than this one. There are also stretches with no dialogue (mostly early in the film) and its almost like a silent film and this is where Browning really succeeds. Obviously the film is dated and certain techniques are decades and decades out of date, but even to this day Dracula still has plenty of eerie atmosphere and still retains a lot of its mystery and suspense. While this isn’t my favorite Universal Monster film I do think it might hold up the best. I love the visual look of Dracula and the scenes in Dracula’s castle in the opening is brilliant; I love the far wide shots and the lack of music really adds to the eerie feel and when I say Dracula holds up well I think the scene in Dracula’s castle is highly effective to this day. The 2nd half of the film when it gets a bit more heavy on dialogue, Dracula does slightly lose its edge and it seems to me the most effective scenes are those with little dialogue, but even as the film slips a little, Browning still crafts an eerie and mysterious film.

Dracula is the film that made Bela Lugosi an icon and there is very good reason for that; while some debate on Lugosi or Chris Lee for me there is no debate about it or on anyone else to play Count Dracula. Bela Lugosi is by far the best actor to ever play the role and nobody will ever top it. Lugosi is quite creepy and delivers one of the all time great performances. Edward Van Sloan sadly is forgotten by may despite starring in several of Universal Monster films. Besides Dracula he also appeared in the sequel Dracula’s Daughter, Frankenstein and the Mummy and as Van Helsing I’d go as far to say Edward Van Sloan is just as brilliant as Lugosi and like how nobody has topped Lugosi as Dracula, nobody in my opinion has topped Van Sloan.

Dracula is one of the all time greats and while the play like feel can hinder the film I again also feel the film holds up well and is still an eerie film. Lugosi and Van Sloan are a joy to watch and this is the vampire film that forever shaped those kind of films and the horror genre as a whole.

At the time of the blu-ray release Dracula was 81-years old and Universal delivers a brilliant transfer. Clarity and detail is nothing short of amazing and due to the age of the film Universal could have put less effort and people would chalk it up to age, but Universal stills shows respect for one of the films that helped shape the studio and this is by far the best Dracula has ever looked on home video. The audio is also excellent as gone is the hissing noise and you can now hear things you couldn’t on past releases.

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Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) Review

Posted in Plan 9 from Outer Space with tags , , , , , on August 23, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Unspeakable Horrors from Outer Space Paralyze the Living and Resurrect the Dead

Release Date- July 22nd, 1959

Running Time- 78-Minutes

Rating- NR

Writer/Director- Edward D. Wood Jr.

Starring- Gregory Walcott, Mona McKinnon, Duke Moore, Tom Keene, Vampira, Paul Marco with Tor Johnson and Bela Lugosi

Plan 9 from Outer Space and the director of the film Ed Wood are both kind of legendary, but not for the reasons most films and filmmakers are legendary for. Many consider Plan 9 one of the worst films ever made and Ed Wood often cited as the worst director of all time. Wood’s hack status is so legendary that people who’ve never seen his films will often compare other bad filmmakers to him. I guess if you can’t be the best might as well be the worst since to be truly remembered decades and decades later is you either gotta be great or you gotta be horrible. Say what you want on Ed Wood’s talents or lack of, but the guy did something right to remembered all these years later even if not remembered for the right reasons. Plan 9 from Outer Space for better or worse is Ed Wood’s legacy and this film can be labeled a disasterpiece and quite honestly I really love Plan 9. Sure it’s hack filmmaking 101, but when I think of films I would label worst film the one thing they all have in common is they are boring and that’s one thing Plan 9 isn’t. From the opening to closing, Ed Wood makes one hell of a fun film and its easily one of my favorite cult films.

More often than not fans of cult cinema label this the worst film, but I disagree. From a filmmaking side of things no Plan 9 isn’t well made by any stretch of the imagination, but can anybody really say such films as Zombie Lake and the Last Slumber Party are better made? I greatly enjoy both of those films and in the case of Zombie Lake director Jean Rollin actually made some very good films. But regardless as much as I enjoy Zombie Lake and Last Slumber Party there is no way anyone can with a straight face say they’re better made than Plan 9 from Outer Space. However with that said there is a good reason why Plan 9 is sometimes dubbed the worst film. The film is a collection of some truly bizarre scenes and dialogue and all this mixed together makes for one of the ultimate so bad it’s good movies and actually this film would inspire the Fred Dekker cult classic Night of the Creeps. I often wonder though if Ed Wood set out to make the film exactly as it turned out. While we’re all laughing at how bad of a filmmaker he was perhaps the joke was all on us? Odds are that isn’t the case, but I can’t help but wonder if the joke was all on us. But I suppose I might be giving Ed Wood a little too much credit.

Aliens are invading earth and raising the dead to stop Earth from developing a powerful bomb called the Solobonite that could threaten the entire universe.

The screenplay by Ed Wood is so entertainingly horrible; from a plot standpoint Plan 9 from Outer Space is all over the place. Ed Wood just takes a bunch of ideas and packages them together. Besides the plot being all over the place, things are made even funnier by the attempts at social commentary in the final act. I simply love the screenplay even if not for the right reasons. If you wanna write an off the wall cult film this is the script to draw influence from. I don’t think somebody could write a film like this on purpose; from time to time it does work, but more often than not it feels forced and that’s what makes Ed Wood’s script so great is this wasn’t intentional, he wasn’t trying to write an awesomely bad screenplay. The characters are complete idiots who always say the dumbest things as the dialogue can at times be hysterical and is comedic gold. Here’s a sample;

Lieutenant John Harper: But one thing’s sure. Inspector Clay is dead, murdered, and somebody’s responsible.

Paula Trent: I’ve never seen you in this mood before.

Jeff Trent: I guess that’s because I’ve never been in this mood before.

Paula Trent: …A flying saucer? You mean the kind from up there?

Jeff Trent: Yeah, either that or its counterpart.

Air Force Captain: Visits? That would indicate visitors.

Gravedigger: You hear anything?

Gravedigger: Thought I did.

Gravedigger: Don’t like hearing noises, especially when there ain’t supposed to be any.

Lieutenant John Harper: Kelton, Get down there and check it out?

Patrolman Kelton: Well, how do I do that sir?

Lieutenant John Harper: By going down there and checking it out!

As director Ed Wood crafts a bad film for the ages. Say what you want about the man as a director, but his films weren’t boring. They were hack jobs for sure, but they were more often than not a blast to watch. The pacing of the film is great as there is never a slow moment to be found. From the opening to closing there’s something always really funny from bad dialogue, idiotic choices made by the characters, goofs, stock shots, random shots of Bela Lugosi that add nothing to the plot, Tom Mason standing in for Lugosi than next shot using Bela Lugosi. It really isn’t difficult to see why the film and Ed Wood are labeled the worst and while perhaps this wasn’t Ed Wood’s intentions, but Plan 9 is comedic gold. This easily rates as one of the funniest and most fun films I ever had the pleasure of watching. Wood actually does attempt to create suspense and an eerie tone and obviously he’s never very successful at that, but he does create a really fun tone. Like I said before say what you want about Ed Wood, but his films are often fun with none more fun than Plan 9 from Outer Space and I can name many films that are equally as poorly made with some being complete bores something this film never was. You have to take into account also the guy had zero money to make his films and that isn’t an excuse since there have been many filmmakers working with very little money that delivered truly brilliant films, but I guess my point is I’ve seen films produced on a far larger budget than Plan 9 with filmmaking just as bad and they lacked the fun factor Plan 9 and other Ed Wood movies had.

As for Bela Lugosi, apparently Ed Wood with no script in mind got some shots of Lugosi and after his death, Ed Wood wrote Plan 9 around the footage he shot with Lugosi and inserted it into the film despite the fact it really has nothing to really do with the plot. Tom Mason was Ed Wood’s wife’s chiropractor and played the scenes of Lugosi’s character with the cape draped over his face. It’s painfully obvious that it isn’t Lugosi even with Mason covering his face and he’s also taller than Lugosi. Sometimes we see Mason with the cape over his face than a cut to something else and than a shot of Lugosi edited in. Besides being hysterical due to the fact we can tell the difference between Tom Mason and Bela Lugosi, but also because the footage of Lugosi doesn’t really fit and its quite clear these scenes were for another project. Sadly Plan 9 from Outer Space was the very last film with Bela Lugosi and Bride of the Monster also by Ed Wood was actually his last speaking role in a film. Some felt Ed Wood took advantage of an old drug addicted Bela Lugosi whereas others say Ed Wood genuinely cared for Lugosi and was just trying to help him and while I really don’t know a whole lot about their relationship I’d say it was perhaps a little bit of both. As much as I enjoy the films of Ed Wood I do feel sorry for Bela Lugosi who was such a terrific actor and Plan 9 as fun as it turned out was a far cry from Dracula.

Overall Plan 9 from Outer Space is such a fun film; from the silly dialogue, incoherent plot, stock shots and the poor acting help make this one of the best so bad it’s good films and make it one of the ultimate cult classics. Ed Wood may be labeled the worst, but I am a fan of his work and Plan 9 from Outer Space is for better or worse his best film.

Plan 9 from Outer Space was released by Legend Films on blu-ray in 2012, which was 53-years after its original theatrical release. Legend Films are known for colorizing black & white movies, while also including the original B/W version. The video is strong and the best the film has looked on home video. Print damage is visible and while the video is quite strong considering the age and low budget origins I think you could get the same results on a strong DVD transfer, which isn’t a knock since Legend Films can only put in so much money. They put a lot of care into the film and again while it looked good I still think a strong DVD transfer could bring about the same results. Surprisingly the audio is actually pretty good and while not great it was far better than expected. As for the color version while I guess it looks good for the most part, but at times does in my opinion had an unnatural look. Of all the colorized versions by Legend Films I never watched any from beginning to end, but Ed Wood’s Bride of the Monster and Last Man on Earth looked fairly good (though much better in the natural B/W), but in my opinion the colorized version of Plan 9 is the weakest of the three, but does have its moments, but you’re better off with the original B/W version.

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Bride of the Monster (1956) Review

Posted in Bride of the Monster with tags , , , on August 22, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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BRIDE OF THE MONSTER

*** Out of 5

Tagline- It’ll Make Your Skin Crawl

Release Date- February, 1956

Running Time- 69-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Edward D. Wood Jr. & Alex Gordon

Director- Edward D. Wood Jr.

Starring- Bela Lugosi, Tor Johnson, Tony McCoy, Loretta King

For fans of cult cinema the name Ed Wood is quite infamous for being dubbed the worst filmmaker and while Ed Wood will never be mistaken for Martin Scorsese, Wood is hardly the worst filmmaker of all time. There is no doubt his movies can’t be called good in the traditional sense and yes they are a hack job, but no more than your average low budget film of the 50s. At the very least Wood’s films can provide some fun and for me that takes the title of worst filmmaker away from him. Released in 1956 Bride of the Monster is another schlock film by Wood, which stars Bela Lugosi in his last speaking role. After this film he would appear in The Black Sleep and Wood’s disasterpiece Plan 9 from Outer Space. Bride of the Monster would actually have some success and be the only film upon its release that made a profit for Ed Wood.

Dr. Dr. Eric Vornoff (Lugosi) is conducting experiments turning people into monsters through use of atomic power and a reporter Janet Lawton (King) decides to look more into the disappearances around the area and soon finds herself abducted by Vornoff.

The screenplay by Edward D. Wood Jr. & Alex Gordon is a lot of fun filled with silly dialogue and characters. The plotting is weak, but with that said the script works purely on the camp factor. While many will laugh at the script and understandably so, but when you really break it down its no worse than other schlock films of the 50s and had this screenplay been written a decade earlier would have fit in perfectly with Poverty Row.

As director Ed Wood crafts a silly, but somewhat fun film as well. After being dubbed the worst filmmaker people have ran with that status, but filmmakers like Ulli Lommel with such films as BTK Killer and Curse of the Zodiac are far worse in terms of both quality of the films from a technical side. Even films by Bruno Mattei & Claudio Fragasso are on the same level of Wood and even lesser quality at times. Some people label Ed Wood a poor filmmaker due to the goofs, but one of my all time favorite films John Carpenter’s Halloween has a ton of goofs and Halloween is by no means a poor film. Bride of the Monster like all of Ed Wood’s films are super low budget and time is money and Wood had neither. In Ed Wood’s defense he simply does the best he could on very limited funds and the guy had a passion for filmmaking and Bride of the Monster is a fun film and while the pacing can be sluggish in spots the film always retains a fun and campy tone. While the reputation the film has is warranted, but from a filmmaking side it really isn’t any worse than other low budget films of its era. If anything I admire Ed Wood; he had a passion for what he did and he made his films outside the Hollywood system with very little money and while now Ed Wood has a cult status at the time he was making films he was pretty much going unnoticed, but yet still continued on.

One has to feel for Bela Lugosi who was so far removed from Dracula. Anyone that followed his career knows how it all went downhill after Dracula and while he made a few Hollywood pictures he was in the shadow of Boris Karloff, than mostly did films for Poverty Row. When he had a Hollywood film he may not even have any dialogue (the Body Snatcher). But by this point his career had sunk so low and the infamous scene which he gets attacked by a rubber octopus while funny also really sad to see Lugosi reduced to this kind of role. However with that said Lugosi actually provides a very good performance and gives the production a touch of class. When you have such silly things to say its difficult to give a good performance, but Lugosi pulls it off and it isn’t Dracula or anything, but it was a fine performance by a man who took his job very seriously.

Overall Bride of the Monster is a fun B-Movie that’s high on camp, but also a bit forgettable as well. Don’t expect anything like Plan 9 from Outer Space, which is the film that really gave Ed Wood his status as the worst. Bride of the Monster isn’t a well made film by any means though its not quite the hack job one might expect. Bride of the Monster again isn’t any worse made than most low budget films from the era. This isn’t nearly as fun as Plan 9, but for those into schlock cinema Bride of the Monster should fit the bill.

Bride of the Monster was released in 2008 on DVD by Legend Films a company that specializes in colorized versions. Among their other titles are Last Man on Earth, House on Haunted Hill, Night of the Living Dead and Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space (blu-ray). However fear not all these films including Bride of the Monster also come in their original black and white release. It’s interesting seeing this (and others) in color and while they actually don’t look bad I always stick with the black & white and Legend Films actually deliver a fairly good transfer for Bride of the Monster.

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Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) Review

Posted in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man with tags , , on June 29, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN

*** Out of 5

Tagline- All New Thrills as Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man

Release Date- March 5th, 1943

Running Time- 74-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Curt Siodmak

Director- Roy William Neill

Starring- Lon Chaney, Ilona Massey, Patric Knowles, Lionel Atwill, Maria Ouspenskaya, and Bela Lugosi as the Monster

Before there was Freddy Vs Jason there was Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. I suppose it was only fitting this would happen sooner or later seeing as Universal were behind the Monster movies so why not take advantage of it? This was the first of the crossover movies and while the film is enjoyable its also far inferior to the Monster movies of the 30s. Mixing in two franchises isn’t very easy and Freddy Vs. Jason was probably the most successful in doing that, but even that had problems. While the mixture worked well here for the most part, but it very much feels like a cash in more than anything else. After the Wolf Man the Monster movies despite being made by Universal Studios were very much B-Movies, which started with Ghost of Frankenstein and continued here. With that said it isn’t a knock on the film since for fans of the franchises there is fun to be had and I can only imagine how audiences in 1943 had a blast with this. When compared to the first three Frankenstein movies and the Wolf Man this film is far inferior.

Larry Talbot (Chaney) is resurrected by two grave robbers. Talbot takes off looking for Dr. Frankenstein in hopes to be cured. At the Frankenstein castle he sets free the Monster (Lugosi) and the Monster and Wolf Man have an epic battle.

Curt Siodmak who wrote the Wolf Man was given the task to write Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and while he managed to mix both franchises together in a way that made sense problem is the plot was a bit messy in some spots. The first half of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man was well done for the most part, but around the middle of the movie it begins to run out of some steam. Siodmak’s script works best when it’s more of a Wolf Man sequel, but even than the script can often repeat itself. However for the most Siodmak does deliver an entertaining script early on, but once the 2nd half rolls around it begins to get messy as its the same scene over and over again with nothing new added to the series. The script by no means was bad, but lacked any real narrative flow. Siodmak was an excellent writer and while this may not be among his best its still entertaining enough.

Director Roy William Neill does well with the Wolf Man scenes, but there are some problems with the Monster. The pacing early on is fun and while never a great film it is entertaining, but as the film goes on the pacing begins to get very sluggish in spots. The suspense and tension is lacking except the opening minutes of the film and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is far inferior to the Wolf Man, which was released just 2-years earlier. As much as I love the Monster movies after the Wolf Man and to a lesser degree Ghost of Frankenstein there was a clear drop off in quality. Even if the films were fun they lacked that eerie atmosphere and early on Neill does provide some solid scenes, but the 2nd half while not bad are a bit sluggish and loses the eerie tone from the opening. With the first two Frankenstein movies, James Whale knew how to use the Monster and having Karloff also helped, but when James Whale left the series after Bride of Frankenstein it’s never been the same. Karloff did return once more for Son of Frankenstein and Karloff was excellent, but it lacked the James Whale touch and that’s very much the case with the direction here and partly on Lugosi (more on that later). The overall production is very B-Movie like and while enjoyable a far cry to the early days of the Monster movies.

Lon Chaney is great as Larry Talbot once again and while the material is nowhere near the level of the Wolf Man, Chaney still gives it his all. As popular as Lon Chaney is I still feel he doesn’t get his respect. While his performance was better in the Wolf Man, but again he had better material, Chaney is still excellent and despite his popularity far too often he’s compared to his father and Karloff and Lugosi and while I do favor Karloff I liked Chaney more than his father and he’s very close to Lugosi in my opinion.

Some of the problems with Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is really poor continuity from Ghost of Frankenstein. This ties in fairly well with the Wolf Man and I suppose Curt Siodmak is the reason, but it doesn’t tie in very well with Ghost of Frankenstein. First up Ilona Massey plays Elsa Frankenstein who was played by Evelyn Ankers in Ghost of Frankenstein and the problem is Ilona Massey has an accent. Massey was originally from Hungary and I don’t if that was the accent here, but Ankers who was American sounds like it in Ghost of Frankenstein and not only that, but their personalities are also quite different and I had to double check to make sure they were the same character. Sadly the poor continuity doesn’t end there.

As much as I love Bela Lugosi I didn’t really like his take on the Monster. While not as horrible as some make him out to be he really wasn’t all that great either. In fairness he isn’t playing the same Monster made famous by Karloff. In Ghost of Frankenstein, Ygor played by Lugosi had his brain transplanted into the Monster and the end result was the new Monster went blind. However in this film there really isn’t much of a mention of Ghost of Frankenstein and if you never saw that one you would just assume Lugosi’s Monster is the original Dr. Frankenstein creation. Apparently the film originally tied in with Ghost of Frankenstein, but was edited out. Even if true it would still be disjointed. At times it does seem as if the Monster is blind where as other times he can clearly see. As the Monster, Lugosi stumbles around and the whole walking idiot was really started here. Lugosi just sort of stumbles around like he’s drunk. Many people incorrectly assume the Monster has no personality, which drives me nuts since if you’ve seen the first 2 Frankenstein films and to a lesser degree Son of Frankenstein they would clearly see that’s not the case. But Lugosi’s Monster is bland and boring and just a walking idiot. Regardless if you wanna see Lugosi as the original creation or a new Monster his performance is a dud, but to his defense he isn’t the original creation, but I suppose it doesn’t help much.

The interesting thing about Lugosi playing the Monster was he was the original choice to play the role in the original Frankenstein. One report has Lugosi turning it down seeing as an insult coming off Dracula, while other reports are it was James Whale that didn’t want Lugosi; which ever one is true doesn’t matter now since Karloff got the part in the original and Lugosi would end up playing the role in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is a fun if not flawed movie; seeing these two Iconic characters in the same movie is a real treat for the fans. As for the crossover films I’m not sure I can say one is better than the other as each have something going for them though Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was an excellent film and the best of the crossover films, but I sort of see it as its own movie. My review for Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is exactly glowing, but fans of the Monster movies will still probably enjoy them for the most part.

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