Archive for Balaoo the Demon Baboon

Gifford’s Most Wanted

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2010 by dcairns

Inspired by the BFI’s Most Wanted campaign to unearth 100 lost movies, I’m turning to my readers to help locate the TEN MYSTERY FILMS from Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies which I still haven’t tracked down.

(There are still lots I haven’t seen, but these are the only ten I haven’t been able to find copies of.)

Your help is needed! Facebook and tweet this post to all your filmy friends, and anybody who runs/works for/is an archive. I must see those movies!!!

I offer unspecified rewards. And you know those unspecified rewards are going to be pretty cool when I eventually specify them, right? Damn straight.

I’m going to write a little piece on each over the coming weeks, but here’s the Top Ten Lost Monster Movies in capsule form —

1) THE FAIRY OF THE BLACK ROCKS:  a 1905 period yarn with a skeleton flasher.

2) CASTLE SINISTER: still don’t know anything about this, except it’s Britain, 1948, produced by “British Equity”, whoever they were.

3) THE COUGHING HORROR: a 1924 melodrama that gives me a tickle in the throat just thinking about it.

4) MARIA MARTEN, OR THE MURDER IN THE RED BARN: not with Todd Slaughter, but an earlier, silent version. Another version, directed by Maurice Elvey in between these two, is considered lost, according to the BFI.

5) FIGHT WITH SLEDGE HAMMERS: likewise, a silent melodrama described as “The most thrilling film ever taken.” Taken where?

6 & 7)THE GORILLA: the 1927 version with Walter Pigeon, and the 1930 remake, again with Pigeon. Never seem to show up ANYWHERE.

8 & 9) THE TERROR: Roy Del Ruth’s silent Edgar Wallace adaptation with Edward Everett Horton and THE RETURN OF THE TERROR: Howard Bretherton’s sequel with Mary Astor.

10) THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE: with Pearl White. I’m sure this is hard to see, but not impossible, I hope! It qualifies for Giffordom by virtue of featuring a cameo by Jekyll & Hyde.

There are also four lost films (assuming none of the above are lost). The rules of See Reptilicus And Die do not allow me to neglect movies on the mere basis of their non-existence. So I’m going to see these too!

A BLIND BARGAIN:  a lost film, this, so a more creative solution is required.

THE CAT CREEPS: 1930 version with Jean Hersholt, Lilyan Tashman, directed by Rupert “PHANTOM OF THE OPERA” Julian. I wondered about this for ages, why it never showed up. Turns out it’s lost, a fact confirmed by the fact that it’s reviewed on the IMDb by fantasy novelist and wingnut F. Gwynneplaine Macintyre, who has reviewed nearly every prominent lost fantasy film. As a situationist stunt, this wins some admiration from me, though I wonder at the ethics of writing slams of films one hasn’t seen (unless one is ninety years old).

LA PHRENOLOGIE BURLESQUE: lost Melies — I’m resolved to bring this back into existence by sheer willpower (and, if necessary, bribery).

BALAOO THE DEMON BABOON: apparently fragments of this exist in Canada. Is there any way to see them without crossing the pond? Don’t make me come over there!

How does one see lost films? In ones’ dreams, certainly, the way Fiona saw Hitchcock’s THE MOUNTAIN EAGLE on my behalf. Or by reconstructions, which allowed me to stretch a point and tick LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT off my list. Or else by seeing fragments and trailers which might be said to stand for the whole, the way an organism can be cloned from a single cell. There may be other techniques, and rest assured, I’m open to all of them!

NB: such is the speed of development in my INSANE QUEST, I already have news about several of the top ten, which I shall report to you in following posts. But for now, I’m open to all info.


Deeper Crimson

Posted in FILM, literature, Mythology, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2009 by dcairns

A quick update on my See Reptilicus and Die mission — a mission almost as old as Hitchcock Year and likely to run and run. I’m trying to view every film illustrated in Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies, a prodigiously visual tome that haunted my childhood like a big green flapping bat. So how am I doing?

As you can see hereherehere and here, the titles previously listed as unseen are gradually changing to blood red, indicating that I’ve tracked them down and watched them. Since I haven’t written about every single film I’ve seen, a quick update might be in order, dealing with the more interesting cases.

THE NEANDERTHAL MAN is directed by EA Dupont, which is just bloody tragic. The auteur of VARIETY must have fallen not on hard times, but straight through them and into some monochromatic pit of hell where cineastes shovel shit while lashed by demons, huckster producers, and their consciences. The sabre-tooth tiger that isn’t anything of the kind is quite funny (Dupont boldly cuts from a real tiger in long-shot to a fanged glove puppet/stuffed toy close-up), and it was surprising to discover that this may have been the first movie monster to not only abduct a screaming starlet, but actually do the nasty with her, caveman style (all discretely off-camera). Even Beverly Garland, as cavebait, can’t save this cro-magnon crud.

THE MAGIC SWORD — Gifford has this Bert I Gordon sword and sorcery romp listed as ST GEORGE AND THE SEVEN CURSES which, given the presence of a Sir George and seven curses in the plot, suggests to me that this was the original intended title, although I can’t find any evidence it was released as such. Wikipedia offers ST GEORGE AND THE DRAGON and THE SEVEN CURSES OF LODAC as alternatives. This was pretty enjoyable! It has Estelle Winwood (she of the widely-spaced eyes that allow her to look you in the eye and see the back of your head at the same time) and Basil Rathbone, who isn’t yet having trouble with his lines (see QUEEN OF BLOOD for evidence of what time did to poor old Sherlock) and thus is great fun. Gary 2001 Lockwood makes a spirited, if very American, hero, and Maila Nurmi (Vampira!) pads out the cast as a hag (“Vamp — I mean, Maila, wanna be in a film?” “Hmm, what’s the role?” “Hag!” “I’ll do it!”). Apart from oddly adult stuff like the damsel’s vacuum-packed bosom and the blood pouring from the injured cyclops, this was inventive and crammed with fancy special effects, all of which were decently special, if cheap. No stop-motion creatures, but the dragon puppet breathed real fire, and the humans were endearing.

VOODOO MAN is a very silly Monogram horror with Lugosi, Zucco and Carradine. The triple-headed threat ought to make the film impressively busy and bursting with fun, but instead it rather illuminates just how very affordable those actors had become. However, the thing is daft as a brush and basically played for laughs, although I’m not sure anyone told Bela. By this point in his life, Bela seems permanently typecast as widowers, perhaps to explain his hangdog appearance. George Zucco runs a garage where he steers women to their dooms, and Carradine plays a simple-minded, simple-bodied (he looks like a stick drawing) henchman. The hero is a screenwriter who tries to pass his adventure off as a movie script in the last scene. Good luck with that, fella.

Boris models the new-look string beard.

THE MAN WITH NINE LIVES is one of Boris Karloff’s many many mad scientist parts, which seem to have been made from a kind of knitting pattern in the early forties — Boris invents something wonderfully beneficial to mankind, mankind (personified by some well-meaning dopes) screws things up and somebody gets killed, Boris gets embittered and crazy and uses his powers for evil. Nick Grinde directed at least three of these with exactly the same plot, and I watched them all. Now this one and THE MAN THE COULD NOT HANG and BEFORE I HANG have all merged into one super-mad scientist movie, which might be called THE MAN WITH NINE LIVES THEY COULD NOT HANG BEFORE. All three are engaging, sympathetic, nicely photographed, and boast committed, only slightly campy performances from the tireless star.

DR RENAULT’S SECRET is far better than I’d expected, with a lovely monster played by J Carroll Naish, product of Dr Moreau-like experiments in accelerated evolution (THE NEANDERTHAL MAN uses the same plot device in reveree, winding back the genetic clock on domestic cats and domestic help). And it’s based on the same Gaston Leroux tale as BALAOO THE DEMON BABOON, another Gifford special which I may have to go to Canada to see…

THE MYSTERY OF THE MARIE CELESTE is a British nautical suspenser from the early thirties, when Lugosi was full of vim and good prospects, even when his characters are not. It makes a change to feel sorry for the character rather than the actor. The movie was moderately interesting, partly because the British version of 30s racism is more bluntly-spoken than the Hollywood equivalent — there’s some very nasty language from some purportedly sympathetic characters.

DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE, starring future director James GREAT GABBO Cruze, can be seen RIGHT HERE ~

It’s not a great work of art — mainly it’s quite funny, with Hyde looking like an unsavory Dudley Moore — but the filmmakers do a reasonable job of straightening out the story, condensing the action, and inserting a romantic lead, all of which actions would be repeated by subsequent adaptors. Stevenson’s story is an all-male affair, apart from the maid heard crying after Jekyll’s demise, prompting me to wonder if a version where Hyde’s secret life of vice took more of a Dorian Gray path might provide a new wrinkle on the story — something that’s sorely needed after a hundred or so different versions.

Pictorial History in the Making (Part 1)

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2009 by dcairns


Shadowplayers Douglas and Brandon have asked exactly which films in Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies remain for me to view, before I have completed my centuries long “See REPTILICUS and die” completist quest. Well, there are a LOT of pictures in that book. A complete list might exhaust all our various patiences, but I’ll start typing and see how far I get before ennui sets in ~

THE VANISHING LADY, on page 19, two stills of Georges Melies transmogrifying a nice lady into a skeleton.

UNDRESSING EXTRAORDINARY, page 20, R.W. Paul movie from 1901 with a skeleton on strings. It’s on the BFI disc so I can see this right now!

THE FAIRY OF THE BLACK ROCKS, same page, a 1910 Pathé skeleton flick. Looks nice, but appears to be a lost film, which means I don’t technically have to see it, but I can dream it.

WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST, page 23, Bert I. Gordon (AKA B.I.G.). The Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment of this is on YouTube, I think. Close enough for me. (NB, It’s not, but Douglas Noble has provided an AVI.)


War of the colossal man-boobs.

EQUINOX, same page. I’ve seen most of the stop-motion scenes on YouTube, which might actually DO. But it’s easy to get, so I will, sometime.

THE GIGANTIC DEVIL, another Melies. Seen tons of G.M., but somehow almost none of the ones Gifford cites.


“Not yet Balaoo!”

BALAOO THE DEMON BABOON, 1910, France, on page 26. This is a publicity illustration so I’m not sure it counts — it’s not a still, it’s a drawing. And who knows if the movie even exists anymore? Research online reveals: “At least some footage apparently exists in Ottawa archives and at the Library of Congress.” Hmm, BALAOO is going to be tricky…

THE MERRY FROLICS OF SATAN, Melies, same page. Think I’ve maybe seen this one, or a big extract.

DR RENAULT’S SECRET on page 27. At least this one is pretty easy to get. I think.


Page 29, THE SNAKE GIRL AND THE SILVER HAIRED WITCH looks real good. Japanese film produce by Daiei, no directorial credit given. Turns out to be the guy who did most of the Gamera movies.

Page 30, still of a giant skull licking Georges Melies’s back. Doesn’t say what it’s from! If I get the Flicker Alley box set one day and just watch everything on it, I’m going to consider him DONE.

This proves to be LA PHRENOLOGIE BURLESQUE, identified with the aid of artist Dave McKean, who based a print on Gifford’s still. The movie is lost, so I have to recreate it so I can watch it.

THE VAMPIRE, a 1913 vamp film with Alice Eis, looks enticing on page 34 in a brief digression on bloodsuckers.

The James Cruze JEKYLL AND HYDE makes an appearance on 38, along with THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE, in which Pearl White meets Dr. J. Which is a surprise. On the next page, Louis Hayward transmutes in SON OF DR JEKYLL, which sounds like a must see. Having played twins in THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK, the wayward Hayward was no stranger to confusion. An IMDb reviewer from Kentucky writes, “There’s way too much talk going on in this film and this here makes it quite boring.”

Page 42, and we get Charles Ogle in FRANKENSTEIN, which I’ve never seen from start to finish. Opposite page: COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK — this one gets some very affectionate reviews.

It looks BEYOND OUTSTANDING! It’s produced by William “News on the March” Alland, which is usually a very bad thing, but Van Cleave’s solo piano score is rocking my world, and I’m both tickled and oddly satisfied that the Colossus is called “Jeremy”.

48, all three versions of THE STUDENT OF PRAGUE, the best of which must surely be the Anton Walbrook one, which is the one I haven’t seen. You can watch Veidt’s version here.


Page 50 — Julien Duvivier’s LE GOLEM is one I need to have translated by the estimable Mr. Wingrove, but I think we’re doing Duvivier’s Jesus movie first (Jean Gabin as Pilate!). On 51, THE CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN doesn’t sound too inspiring, but it’ll have to be watched.

On 53, THE CAT CREEPS is a clunking early talkie that I’ll happily suffer through if I can get it. I love Helen Twelvetrees just because her name is Helen Twelvetrees. In THE HOUSE IN NIGHTMARE PARK, which is a CAT AND THE CANARY-inspired old-dark-house comedy thriller, camp comic Frankie Howerd plays Foster Twelvetrees, strolling tragedian…

There we go, one quarter of the way through this quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, and you can see the size of the task facing me. But THINK OF THE FUN!