Archive for The Cat Creeps

Recreeping the Cat

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , on September 8, 2010 by dcairns

So, as previously established, Universal’s first talking horror film, THE CAT CREEPS, is now considered lost. Nevertheless, I have managed to score it off my list of films to see in my sentimental odyssey through all the films depicted in Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies (an odyssey entitled See Reptilicus and Die). How have I done this?

First, by stretching things a little. It’s my contention that a part can, under certain circumstances, stand for the whole. This is how cloning works, after all. THE CAT CREEPS is lost, but not absolutely entirely. A few seconds of footage appears in a Universal comedy short entitled BOO!, where it’s interspersed with clips from NOSFERATU and FRANKENSTEIN and a tiny amount of original material, cobbled together in a supposedly humorous way, with a dreadful nasal voice-over on top, after the school of Pete Smith. Horrible.

So, I’ve seen one minute and forty five seconds of THE CAT CREEPS, minus the soundtrack. Does that count? Yes it does. Here’s why ~

First, ask yourself, have you seen THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS? Or GREED? Possibly you have, but not in the complete form intended by the filmmakers. Nevertheless, you’d still say you had seen those films, right. So, I’ve seen all there apparently is of THE CAT CREEPS. And more — I’ve recreated it.

Below, for the first time anywhere, is all the footage from BOO! cut together in sequence, with the appalling voice-over removed, and all the repeating of shots for pseudo-comic effect deleted. This is, to all intents and purposes and until a full print is discovered in an Estonian insane asylum, Rupert (PHANTOM OF THE OPERA) Julian’s THE CAT CREEPS ~


Based on all of the above self-serving obfuscation, I can now say I’ve seen THE CAT CREEPS. And so have you!

You can see the strong influence of Paul Leni’s THE CAT AND THE CANARY, of which this is a talkie remake.

Denis Gifford wrote ~

“Hal Mohr photographed, using the great camera crane he had designed for BROADWAY, a 50,000-dollar ‘mechanical marvel’ built by the Llewellyn Iron Works. Camera and man could be swung up, down, laterally or in combination, whilst travelling forward or backward on a motorized truck.” Not all early talkies were static!

This is Lupita Tovar in the Spanish-language version of THE CAT CREEPS (EL GATO SE ARRASTRA? no, they called it LA VOLUNTAD DEL MUERTO, or THE WILL OF THE DEAD MAN), shot at night on the same sets as the Rupert Julian version. George Melford, who also helmed the Spanish CONDE DRACULA, shared directorial duties with Enrique Tovar Avalos. And this version is lost too! As with DRACULA, the Spanish version seems to come with sexier costumes.


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.

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!