Welcome, children of the night! This Blog is for fans of vintage horror films as well as those who are just beginning to discover the joy of these classic movies. I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Black Friday (1940)

Any movie starring Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff should be a home run.  However, Black Friday is just O.K.  There's nothing horribly wrong with it.  It's simply leaves you feeling like you've seen it before.  
Karloff is definitely front and center as Dr. Ernest Sovac who transplants part of an injured gangster's brian into a mild-mannered English professor.  [Just go with it.]  The result is a person with a Jekyll and Hyde personality which the doctor tries to exploit for his own benefit.  Karloff is fine in this role but his performance is nothing special.  Lugosi has a much smaller role in the film and simply blends in with the rest of the cast.  It's hardly his best performance either.  
The screenplay was written by Curt Siodmac who also wrote the iconic The Wolf Man and The Invisible Man.  Because of this, I also had high expectations for Black Friday that were not met.  The dialogue was fine but the plot was very formulaic and predictable.
The final nail in the coffin is that there aren't any nails in the coffin!  With a title like Black Friday I expected a little horror, a touch of gore, and perhaps a little devil worship for good measure.  None of that is to be found here.  Black Friday is a straight up gangster-themed thriller that offers little else.  My question is why waste your time when there are so many other excellent films out there?
RATING: Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Boogieman Will Get You (1942)

I love watching Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre in comedic roles such as The Comedy of Terrors (1963) or Tales of Terror (1962).  Thy are a delight in both of these films.  Therefore I was excited to come across The Boogieman Will Get You which starred both of them.  Unfortunately, Boogeyman does not deliver the comedic goods.  It tries too hard to be funny which is very a good thing.  I may have worked in the 1940's but it doesn't survive the  transition to 2011.  
The basic plot involves a young divorcee who buys a money pit of a house with the hope that she can convert it into a hotel.  The house is owned by an eccentric scientist [Karloff] and his equally eccentric staff.  Dead bodies pile up throughout the film but the laughs do not.
This one can even be skipped by Karloff fans!  It's less than spectacular.  It just provedsthe point that comedy is a tricky thing to pull off well.  It' not a horrible movie, it's just not as funny as it thinks it is.  Check out the other films I mentioned instead.
RATING: Fair.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Before I Hang (1940)

I definitely have a love affair with Boris Karloff.  He's such a good actor that he can take an average movie and kick it up a notch or two simply by his commanding presence.  Such is the case with Before I Hang.  The premise is interesting:  A death row physician, who was convicted of a mercy killing, is granted a pardon and allowed to continue his experiments on a serum that could retard and even reverse the aging process.  The script is nothing special but it is Karloff's performance that makes it work.  His portrayal of Dr. John Garth is understated but menacing.  He's not your typical "mad scientist" but, instead, is the kind of doctor we could imagine living down the street from us.  For me this is far more interesting and haunting than the "He's alive!  He's alive!" mad scientist we're used to seeing in early horror films.  
A special treat is watching Karloff's hands and the way he holds the scarf he uses to dispatch his next victim.  It is beautiful work from a master actor.  If you're a Karloff fan, this one is definitely worth your time.  While Before I Hang will not make you jump out of your set with fright, it is a solid piece of work.
RATING: Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Screamland

Imagine Frankenstein as a balding alcoholic how hasn't worked in the film industry in years.  Ot The Mummy as a suspected terrorist after 9/11 who flees the country.  Imagine a naked Godzilla trying to make a buck in the dot.com porn industry.  Welcome to Screamland, the funny, highly original comic book series by writer Harold Sipe and artist Hector Casanova.   I purchased the graphic novel which contains issues #1-5. Screamland takes the iconic horror characters of the 1930's and imagines them as aged-out movie actors looking for a way to make a living in a modern world that has long since forgotten who they are.  


If you have a love for Universal Studio's Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman and The Mummy, this Screamland is a must-read.  I found myself laughing out loud and this wickedly inventive little comic series that is beautifully illustrated and tons of fun.  You can get Screamland at your local comic store or order it online through Amazon.com [where there is free postage and handling if you spend at least $25.00].

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Mummy (1932)

This is the movie that started it all.  The Mummy is one of Universal Studios classic horror films from the 1930s.  It is as genre defining as Dracula (1932), Frankenstein (1932) and The Wolfman (1941) and spawned countless sequels and remakes.  The Mummy stars the incomparable Boris Karloff as Imhotep in a story of love lost, love found and love lost again.  Karloff is perfect in the role and with Jack Pierce doing his makeup, once again, they have created a horror masterpiece.  Zita Johann plays Karloff's love interest, Helen, and is a delightful counterpart to Karloff's menacing monster.  Together they are movie magic.  The rest of the cast hits a home run as well.
The Mummy also has a wonderful screenplay that is brought to life by the legendary cinematographer/director Karl Freund [Dracula, Metropolis, Murders in the Rue Morgue] who brings both ancient and modern Egypt to life.  I can only imagine that for 1930's audiences this was quite exotic and a delight for the eyes.  Freund always frames his shots so carefully and beautifully.  He also has a knack for epic storytelling and knows how to make his movies feel bigger than they actually are.
There is nothing bad to be said about this one.  If you've never seen The Mummy, put this one on your Netflix list ASAP.   It's THE quintessential mummy movie that is not to be missed.
RATING: Excellent.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Leopard Man (1943)

Jacques Tournier [Cat People, I Walked With a Zombie] was one of Val Lewton's "go to" directors.  I think he really has an eye for making beautiful pictures even on a budget.  The Leopard Man is no exception.  This nicely paced little thriller gets it start as a nightclub performer pulls a prank on her rival by walking into the club with a leashed black leopard.  The leopard becomes unleashed and this is where the thrills begin.  Bodies begin dropping by the question remains as to whether these murders can be blamed on the leopard or someone else?
The rival club performers are played excellently by Jean Brooks [who also starred in Lewton's The Seventh Victim] and Margo [just Margo].  They play off each other perfectly and this is the heart and soul of the movie.  The rest of the cast is solid as well.
This is a classic 1940's style thriller that may seem quite tame by today's standards.  However, there is no arguing this is a well made film which showcases Lewton's ability to make films that look like they have much bigger budgets than they do.  If you like Lewton's other films, you will definitely like this one.
RATING: Very Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.