Horror on the Lens: Dracula vs. Frankenstein (dir by Al Adamson)


Zandor Vorkov is Dracula!

John Blood is Frankenstein’s monster!

Together … THEY SOLVE CRIMES!

No, actually, they don’t.  If anything, they cause crimes to happen.

First released in 1971 and directed by Al Adamson, Dracula vs. Frankenstein may not be a good film but it’s definitely an unforgettable film.  Yes, it may be thoroughly inept but it’s also perhaps the strangest take on the Dracula/Frankenstein rivalry that you’ll ever see.

Plus, it’s one of the final films of Lon Chaney, Jr.  Unfortunately, Lon doesn’t exactly look his best in Dracula vs Frankenstein...

Speaking of slumming celebrities, long before he played Dr. Jacoby and inspired America to shout, “Dig yourself out of the shit!,” Russ Tamblyn played a biker named Rico in this movie.

Also, like every other exploitation film made in 1971, Dracula vs. Frankenstein features hippies, leading to the age old question: who needs the supernatural when you’ve got LSD-crazed hippies running around?

Another age old question: Is Dracula vs. Frankenstein merely inept or is it a classic of bad filmmaking?

Watch below and decide for yourself.

Enjoy!

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Halloween Havoc!: Bela Lugosi in THE CORPSE VANISHES (Monogram 1943)


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A little over a week ago I wrote about Bela Lugosi’s pairing with The East Side Kids , and mentioned what’s been come to know as “The Monogram Nine”. These Poverty Row horrors were ultra-low-budget schlockfests made quickly for wartime audiences, and though the films weren’t very good, they gave Bela a chance to once again have his name above the titles. From 1941 to 1944, the Hungarian cranked out the rubbish: THE INVISIBLE GHOST, BLACK DRAGONS, THE CORPSE VANISHES, BOWERY AT MIDNIGHT, THE APE MAN, VOODOO MAN, RETURN OF THE APE MAN, and the two East Side Kids entries. Let’s take a look at a typical Lugosi vehicle, 1943’s THE CORPSE VANISHES.

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Our story concerns young, virginal society brides who keep dying at the altar, their corpses hijacked by mysterious Dr. Lorenz (Bela, of course). The brides receive an “unusual orchid” whose “peculiar sweet odor” causes them to go into a…

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Halloween Havoc!: Bela Lugosi Meets The East Side Kids… Twice!


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Ten years after making horror history as DRACULA,   Bela Lugosi signed a contract with Monogram Studios producer Sam Katzman   to star in a series of low-budget shockers. The films have been affectionately dubbed by fans “The Monogram Nine” and for the most part are really terrible, redeemed only by the presence of our favorite Hungarian. Two of the films were with the East Side Kids, SPOOKS RUN WILD and GHOSTS ON THE LOOSE, making them sort of Poverty Row All-Star Productions for wartime audiences.

I won’t go too deeply into all the Dead End Kids/East Side Kids/Bowery Boys variations here. Suffice it to say original Dead Enders Leo Gorcey   (Muggs), Huntz Hall (Glimpy), and Bobby Jordan (Danny) landed at Monogram after their Warner Brothers contracts expired, much to Jack Warner’s relief. The young actors were a rowdy bunch, and Jack was probably glad to be rid of them! Anyway, the trio were popular with the masses, and…

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Insomnia File #1: The Story of Mankind (dir by Irwin Allen)


Story of Mankind

What’s an Insomnia File?  You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable?  This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

If, last night, you were suffering from insomnia at 3 in the morning, you could have turned on TCM and watched the 1957 faux epic, The Story of Mankind.

I call The Story of Mankind a faux epic because it’s an outwardly big film that turns out to be remarkably small on closer inspection.  First off, it claims to the tell the story of Mankind but it only has a running time of 100 minutes so, as you can imagine, a lot of the story gets left out.  (I was annoyed that neither my favorite social reformer, Victoria C. Woodhull, nor my favorite president, Rutherford B. Hayes, made an appearance.)  It’s a film that follow Vincent Price and Ronald Colman as they stroll through history but it turns out that “history” is largely made up of stock footage taken from other movies.  The film’s cast is full of actors who will be familiar to lovers of classic cinema and yet, few of them really have more than a few minutes of screen time.  In fact, it only takes a little bit of research on the imdb to discover that most of the film’s cast was made up of performers who were on the verge of ending their careers.

The Story of Mankind opens with two angels noticing that mankind has apparently invented the “Super H-Bomb,” ten years ahead of schedule.  It appears that mankind is on the verge of destroying itself and soon, both Heaven and Hell will be full of new arrivals.  One of the angels exclaims that there’s already a housing shortage!

A celestial court, overseen by a stern judge (Cedric Hardwicke) is convened in outer space.  The court must decide whether to intervene and prevent mankind from destroying itself.  Speaking on behalf on humanity is the Spirit of Man.  The Spirit of Man is played by Ronald Colman.  This was Colman’s final film.  In his heyday, he was such a popular star that he was Margaret Mitchell’s first choice to play Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind.  However, in The Story of Mankind, Colman comes across as being a bit bored with it all and you start to get worried that he might not be the best attorney that mankind could have hired.

Even more worrisome, as  far as the future of mankind is concerned, is that the prosecutor, Mr. Scratch, is being played by Vincent Price.  Making his case with his trademark theatrics and delivering every snaky line with a self-satisfied yet likable smirk on his face, Vincent Price is so much fun to watch that it was impossible not to agree with him.  Destroy mankind, Mr. Scratch?  Sure, why not?  Mankind had a good run, after all…

In order to make their cases, Mr. Scratch and the Spirit of Man take a tour through history.  Mr. Scratch reminds us of villains like the Egyptian pharaoh Khufu (John Carradine) and the Roman Emperor Nero (Peter Lorre, of course).  He shows how Joan of Arc (Hedy Lamarr) was burned at the stake.  The Spirit of Man argues that, despite all of that, man is still capable of doing good things, like inventing the printing press.

And really, the whole point of the film is to see who is playing which historical figure.  The film features a huge cast of classic film actors.  If you watch TCM on a semi-regular basis, you’ll recognize a good deal of the cast.  The fun comes from seeing who tried to give a memorable performance and who just showed up to collect a paycheck.  For instance, a very young Dennis Hopper gives a bizarre method interpretation of Napoleon and it’s one of those things that simply has to be seen.

And then the Marx Brothers show up!

They don’t share any scenes together, unfortunately.  But three of them are present!  (No, Zeppo does not make an appearance but I imagine that’s just because Jim Ameche was already cast in the role of Alexander Graham Bell.)  Chico is a monk who tells Christopher Columbus not to waste his time looking for a quicker way to reach India.  Harpo Marx is Sir Isaac Newton, who plays a harp and discovers gravity when a hundred apples smash down on his head.  And Groucho Marx plays Peter Miniut, tricking a Native American chief into selling Manhattan Island while leering at the chief’s daughter.

And the good thing about the Marx Brothers is that their presence makes a strong argument that humanity deserves another chance.  A world that produced the Marx Brothers can’t be all bad, right?

Anyway, Story of Mankind is one of those films that seems like it would be a good cure for insomnia but then you start watching it and it’s just such a weird movie that you simply have to watch it all the way to the end.  It’s not a good movie but it is flamboyantly bad and, as a result, everyone should see it at least once.

 

 

 

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #11: Child Bride (dir by Harry Revier)


Child_Bride“Child marriage must go!”

— Miss Carol (Diana Durrell) in Child Bride (1938)

Oh my God!

Listen, I have never made a secret about the fact that I love low-budget exploitation films but watching the 1938 film Child Bride was seriously one of the ickiest experiences of my life.  This is one of those films that, after you watch it, you have to take a long shower to try to wash it off of you.  This is the type of film that will inspire you to lock your door and sit in a corner with a long kitchen knife for protection.  The film’s poster describes it as being a “throbbing drama of shackled youth” but I would be scared of anyone who came out of Child Bride throbbing.

Child Bride claims to take place in Ozarks but, from the minute you see all of the Eucalyptus trees and hear all the bad accents, you know that this film is about as Californian as a film can be.  Miss Carol (Diana Durrell) grew up in the backwoods and now she’s returned so she can serve as the teacher in a tiny, one-room schoolhouse.  Upon her arrival, Miss Carol is viewed by suspicion by the townspeople.  They distrust her refined ways and, even worse, she keeps saying how she’s going to get the state to pass a law banning underage marriage.  There won’t be any more child brides!

So, of course, the townspeople decide to tar and feather her.  Fortunately, Miss Carol is saved by moonshiner Ira (George Humphreys) and his partner in crime, Angelo the Dwarf (Angelo Rossitto).  However, one of the townspeople — the demonic Jake Bolby (Warner Richmond) — has decided that he wants to marry Ira’s 12 year-old daughter, Jennie (Shirley Mills) and he’s not above committing murder to get what he wants.

What makes the film so icky is that Jennie was played by an actual 12 year-old and there’s a length scene where Jennie goes skinny dipping while Jake watches from the bushes.  As you watch, you find yourself wondering whether Child Bride was actually made to appeal to the Jake Bolbys of the world.

(It doesn’t help that Richmond, one of the few professional actors to appear in this film, gives a totally convincing performance.  Kevin Bacon in The Woodsman has got nothing on Warner Richmond…)

That said, as icky as it is, Child Bride is still definitely watchable.  It’s hard not to laugh at the film’s extreme version of the Ozarks.  I’ve never seen so many shacks, overalls, and toothless grins in my life.  Since I have family that lives in that part of the country, it was hard for me not to be amused by the film’s version of country living.  (If you want to know about life in the so-called “backwoods,” see Winter’s Bone.)

Ultimately, Child Bride is so weird that it’s understandable if you want to see it once but just make sure to take a shower afterward.