30 Days of Noir #27: Parole, Inc. (dir by Alfred Zeisler)


The 1948 film noir, Parole, Inc., begins with a lengthy opening crawl, informing the viewer that this film — though fictional — deals with a real-world problem.

Apparently, too many people are getting out of prison!

That’s right!  The opening crawl informs us that half of all crimes are committed by people who have already served time in prison.  Apparently, there would be less crime if we just never released people from prison but, unfortunately, state parole boards are way too quick to let some criminals out early.  Is it because the members of the board truly believe that these offenders have been rehabilitated in prison?  Or is it because they’ve been bribed?

That’s what FBI Agent Richard Hendricks (Michael O’Shea) is going to find out!

Now, we already kind of know what he’s going to discover and what’s going to happen to him as a result because, for some reason, the film opens with Hendricks in a hospital bed, dictating the events of his latest case.  The rest of the film is largely an extended flashback, occasionally interrupted by a shot of Hendricks recovering from his injuries.  I’m not sure why the filmmakers decided that this would be a good format to go with.  It basically robs the story of any suspense.  Whenever a gangster says that he’s going to kill Hendricks, the declaration doesn’t carry any weight because we know that Hendricks is alive and that he managed to solve the case.

Anyway, in the flashback, Richard is working directly for the governor of California.  The governor is worried that the state parole board is accepting bribes so Richard goes undercover as an ex-con who wants to buy a parole for a friend of his who is still in jail.  As a part of his assignment, Richard befriends a recently paroled criminal named Harry Palmer (Charles Bradstreet).  It turns out that, for a criminal, Harry isn’t that bad of a guy.  He may still have underworld connections but, for the most part, Harry seems like he could easily go straight.  Of course, that doesn’t make much difference to the nefarious crows that Harry runs around with and Harry ends up getting gunned down about halfway through the film.  Richard seems to be more annoyed over the inconvenience of Harry dying than anything else.  Now, he’s going to have to do all sorts of extra work!

Though Michael O’Shea has just enough screen presence to be an acceptable hero, the main reason to see the film is for Turhan Bey and Evelyn Ankers.  Bey plays the crooked attorney who is in charge of the parole buying ring.  Evelyn Ankers play the wonderfully named JoJo Dumont, who owns the bar out of which the gangsters operate.  These two actors both throw themselves into their roles, bringing just the right amount of B-movie grit to their characters.  Horror fans may recognize Evelyn Ankers from her performance as Lon Chaney Jr.’s girlfriend in The Wolf Man.  Ankers appeared in several classic Universal horror films and was menaced by everyone from Dracula to Frankenstein’s Monster to the Invisible Man.  Turhan Bey also appeared in his share of horror films, even co-starring with Evelyn Ankers in The Mad Ghoul.

Parole, Inc is a largely forgettable movie but worth seeing if you’re a fan of Universal horror and you’re interested in seeing Turhan Bey and Evelyn Ankers in a change-of-pace film.

Halloween Havoc!: THE INVISIBLE MAN’S REVENGE (Universal 1944)


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Jon Hall is back as The Invisible Man, but not the same one he played in INVISIBLE AGENT . Like all the Invisible Man movies, THE INVISIBLE MAN’S REVENGE features a new protagonist, as Hall plays Robert Griffin, an escaped mental hospital patient who comes to London seeking his share of a diamond mine after being left for dead in the African jungle by partners Sir Jasper and Irene Herrick. Griffin has returned to get what’s coming to him, and he does… Irene dopes him, and the couple throw the rascal out. Disoriented, Griffin stumbles into a nearby river, where he’s saved from drowning by shady Cockney Herbert Higgins.

Higgins and his disreputable attorney pal try to shake down Jasper, but are confronted by the local chief constable. Griffin’s left to fend for himself, when he stumbles upon the home of Dr. Drury, a scientist experimenting with invisibility on animals…

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Halloween Havoc!: JUNGLE WOMAN (Universal 1944)


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Paula Dupree, the Ape Woman of CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN , returned in a sequel titled JUNGLE WOMAN a year later. While the former film has a kind of goofy charm to it, the sequel is a wretched concoction that’s not worth the time it’ll take me to write this – but I’m gonna do it anyway, so bear with me!

JUNGLE WOMAN is the very definition of a ‘quickie’, and I don’t mean that in a good way. A good chunk of the film is made up of stock footage from the original, including the stock footage that film used from Clyde Beatty’s THE BIG CAGE. Even so, it took three screenwriters to come up with this nonsense! The movie starts out okay, with a female fiend attacking a man, who gives her an injection, shown in shadow. But it quickly bogs down as we’re at a coroner’s inquest, with…

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Halloween Havoc!: SON OF DRACULA (Universal 1943)


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Director Robert Siodmak is remembered today for his dark excursions into the world of film noir: THE SUSPECT, THE KILLERS , CRY OF THE CITY, CRISS CROSS . His first entry in the genre is generally recognized as 1944’s PHANTOM LADY , but a case could be made for SON OF DRACULA, Siodmak’s only Universal Horror that combines elements of both genres into what could best be described as supernatural noir.

A train pulls into the station in a sleepy Louisiana town. Frank Stanley (Robert Paige) and Dr. Brewster (Frank Craven ) are there to meet Count Alucard, invited for a visit by Kay Caldwell (Louise Albritton), Frank’s fiancé, who has long been interested in the occult. Alucard isn’t aboard, but his trunks are, and Brewster notices Alucard spelled backwards reads as Dracula. The trunks are delivered to Kay’s family plantation, Dark Oaks. The scene shifts, and…

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Halloween Havoc!: CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN (Universal 1943)


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Universal decided the time was ripe for a new monster, and 1943’s CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN introduced the world to Paula Dupree, aka The Ape Woman! What’s that you say? You’ve never HEARD of her? Don’t worry, you’re not alone – The Ape Woman is the most obscure of the Universal Monsters despite the fact she was featured in three films, with various degrees of quality. The first is the best of the bunch, a fun little ‘B’ lifted by the presence of John Carradine in the first of his patented mad scientist roles.

Animal trainer Fred Mason returns from Africa with a shipload of lions, tigers, and a powerful female gorilla named Cheela. He’s greeted at the docks by his sweetie Beth Colman, who tells Fred that her sister Dorothy has “some kind of glandular problem” and is being treated at Crestview Sanitarium by endocrinology expert Dr. Sigmund Walters. Walters…

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Halloween Havoc!: GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (Universal 1942)


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The success of Universal’s SON OF FRANKENSTEIN meant a sequel was inevitable, and the studio trotted out GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN three years later. Horror stalwarts Bela Lugosi (as the broken-necked Ygor) and Lionel Atwill (although in a decidedly different role than the previous film) were back, but for the first time it wasn’t Boris Karloff under Jack Pierce’s monster makeup. Instead, Lon Chaney Jr., fresh off his triumph as THE WOLF MAN , stepped into those big asphalter’s boots as The Monster. But while SON OF was an ‘A’ budget production, GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN begins The Monster’s journey into ‘B’ territory.

Old Ygor is still alive and well, “playing his weird harp” at deserted Castle Frankenstein. The villagers (including Dwight Frye! ) are in an uproar (as villagers are wont to do), complaining “the curse of Frankenstein” has left them in poverty, and storm the castle to blow it up…

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Horror Film Review: The Ghost of Frankenstein (dir by Erle C. Kenton)


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In 1942, three years after Son of Frankenstein, Universal Pictures continued the story of the Frankenstein family with The Ghost of Frankenstein!

However, The Ghost of Frankenstein was a far different film from the three that came before it.  The budget was lower.  The story was less complicated.  The running time was much shorter.  Whereas the previous films in the franchise clearly took place in Germany, the setting for The Ghost of Frankenstein is less easily defined.  (Considering that the film was made during World War II, this isn’t surprising.)  The biggest change is that, in The Ghost of Frankenstein, the monster is not played by Boris Karloff.  Instead, the role is taken by Lon Chaney, Jr.  Chaney’s hulking frame was perfect for the monster but his face is never as expressive as Karloff’s.  Whereas Karloff turned the monster into as much of a victim as a victimizer, Chaney plays the monster like a … well, a monster.

Returning from Son of Frankenstein, Bela Lugosi is back as Ygor.  At the start of the film, we learn that Ygor actually wasn’t killed at the end of Son of Frankenstein.  Instead, he was just wounded.  He’s spent the last few years hiding out in the old castle, trying to once again revive the monster.  When the villagers attempts to blow up the castle, he and the monster flee.

It turns out that there’s one other Frankenstein son.  His name is Ludwig and he’s played by a very dignified Sir Cedric Hardwicke.  Ludwig, who has been hiding his identity and denying the family legacy, has a successful medical practice in another village.  Working with his assistants, Dr. Kettering (Barton Yarbrough) and the bitterly jealous Dr. Bohmer (Lionel Atwill, who played a far different role in Son of Frankenstein), Ludwig has developed a procedure in which a damaged brain can be removed from the skull, repaired, and then stuck back inside the skull…

Uhmmm … wow, I have no idea what to say about that.  That’s quite a medical breakthrough, though…

When Ygor and the monster show up in the village, searching for Ludwig, the monster ends up getting arrested.  The local prosecutor (played by Ralph Bellamy, Cary Grant’s romantic rival in both The Awful Truth and His Girl Friday) asks Ludwig to examine the prisoner.  Ludwig is shocked to discover that the prisoner is his father’s creation!

Ygor wants Ludwig to perform a brain transplant on the Monster.  At first, Ludwig is hesitant but then he’s visited by Henry Frankenstein’s ghost.  (Since Colin Clive died 5 years before Ghost of Frankenstein went into production, Hardwicke plays both Ludwig and Henry.)  The ghost asks Ludwig to perfect the monster.

Ludwig finally relents and agrees to give the monster a new brain.  Ludwig wants to use the brain of kindly colleague but Ygor has different plans…

The Ghost of Frankenstein is only 67 minutes long but, oddly, it still feels just a little bit draggy.  Director Erle C. Kenton does a workmanlike job but, at no point, does Ghost feature the wit that distinguished James Whale’s films or Rowland V. Lee’s work on Son of Frankenstein.  Chaney is not a particularly interesting monster but Bela Lugosi is a lot of fun as Ygor.  With Chaney showing even less emotion than he usually did and Hardwicke appearing to be occasionally embarrassed by the whole film, it falls to Lugosi to keep the audience awake and he manages to do just that.  Lugosi’s performance may be overly theatrical but that’s exactly what The Ghost of Frankenstein needed.

The Ghost of Frankenstein is occasionally entertaining but ultimately forgettable.  It’ll best be enjoyed by Universal horror completists.