Archive for The Man with Nine Lives

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.

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Nine Lives, Seven Curses, and a Triphibian Monster

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2009 by dcairns

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Part three of my jumbo list of all the films illustrated in A Pictorial History of Horror Movies by Denis Gifford which I still have to see.

Have decided to mark the films out in red as I see them. People will be able to look back at these posts in a thousand years and they will appear SOAKED IN BLOOD.

110. THE LAST MAN ON EARTH — this might be the next Gifford-illustrated film I watch, since I have a disc of it lying around somewhere. Sounds promising enough — Vincent Price is that man.

113. I admit it, I’ve never seen WEREWOLF IN A GIRLS’ DORMITORY, originally known (in Germany) as LYCANTHROPUS, a rather classy title somebody should re-use.

118-119. With the heading “Women’s Lib hits Transylvania,” Gifford provides images of lady vampires. I find I can’t be sure I’ve seen RETURN OF COUNT YORGA, but I’m almost sure I have. The original COUNT Y ceases to be interesting the second George MacReady’s narration ends, apart from a cool end shot of happily vampirised townsfolks, if I’m recalling it correctly. Bert Gordon’s SAINT GEORGE AND THE SEVEN CURSES must be worth a few chuckles, but it’s not one that I’ve ever come across.

128. PHAROAH’S CURSE (1956) seems like it’s practically bound to stink, but the make-up in this still is fairly impressive.

138. Never seen GAPPA, THE TRIPHIBIAN MONSTER. Loved giant monster movies as a kid, but Gappa and Gamera never seemed to turn up. I would see Godzilla and pals in kids’ matinees at my local Odeon. My appetite for giant Japanese monsters has waned a bit since then.

144. THE MAN IN HALF MOON STREET is the original of THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH, so is probably a snooze.

146. THE BRUTE MAN. Rondo Hatton fascinates me. Possibly something to do with his appearance, but I can’t put my finger on it.

150-1. Boris Karloff in a string beard, for THE MAN WITH NINE LIVES. I’ll happily watch Boris in any old crap, including string beards. I don’t know if I ever saw all of THE WALKING DEAD, but I downloaded it so now I can. I love Michael Curtiz’s other horrors, so this has to be of some value. DEAD MEN WALK has two George Zuccos for the price of one. The cheap, cheap price.

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152. Rondo again! HOUSE OF HORRORS will have to be seen, as will THE MONSTER MAKER, in which Ralph Morgan pretends to have acromegaly, the disease that afflicted R.H. for real, giving him his distinctive manly appeal.

154. THE DEVIL BAT is widely available but I somehow missed it so far. I think it’s meant to be a fairly enjoyable Poverty Row Lugosi effort.

156-7. THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA gets a colour still this time, and then there’s a monochrome one from BLACK DRAGONS, with Lugosi. Was just offered a copy of this one.

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158-9. The motherlode! Never seen DR RENAULT’S SECRET, THE MAD MONSTER, RETURN OF THE APE MAN, THE APE MAN or CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN. An entire two-page spread which I’m a stranger to. That must mean something. Maybe I’m supposed to watch all of these in a marathon session. From what I’ve heard of the two APE movies, that might nery well prove fatal. Actor Steven McNicoll observed of Lugosi’s performance in THE APE MAN, that the tragedy was “you can see he’s thought about it.”

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160. THE STRANGE CASE OF DR RX. Weird title, weird film. No doctor of those initials appears in the story, but “Pinky” Atwill plays Dr. Fish, apparently. In a way, that’s even better.

162-163. Monogram’s VOODOO MAN somehow rates two stills. Well, it does combine Lugosi, Zucco and John Carradine.