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House of the Damned (1963)
A reappraisal of the films of Maury Dexter
Director Maury Dexter's films are, it seems, generally not much appreciated, but personally I found just about every one, with the exception of Young Guns of Texas, to be thoroughly engaging little support features that were often a cut well above the main attraction. House of the Damned came about mid-way through his early sixties output,and was beautifully lit and photographed in the particularly pleasing combination of black and white with the added benefit of CinemaScope. This is no film for horror fans. It is an atmospheric drama with a sad,low-key ending. Solid cast with popular leading man of the times Ron Foster, and Merry Anders, always a joy to watch, and especially good in Dexter's Police Nurse. House of the Damned rated X for over 16's only, topped the bill at the Rialto Theatre Coventry Street in London's west-end. A limited release in the capital's suburbs saw it supporting another Fox entry Witchcraft. Dexter's output was unpretentious but consistently entertaining, and it would be nice if the Fox Archive people were to release some, if not all of his films in their correct theatrical release ratio. Maury Dexter's contribution to the illustrious history of 20th Century-Fox may be small but it is certainly worthy of recognition.
Stars on Parade (1936)
Twice-nightly at the Empire
Some of the best British Music Hall ( Vaudeville ) acts get a chance to perform in this nostalgic trip down memory lane. The Sherman Fisher girls dance to a lively tune. Pat Hyde, radio's schoolgirl sweetheart and talented accordionist, treats us to a jolly version of A Shanty in Old Shanty Town, and Pat O'Brien ( not the Hollywood actor ) is the singer who delights us with a few bars of That Old Fashioned Mother of Mine, guaranteed to bring a tear to the eye. Worth a mention is The Act Superb, specialists in tableaux vivants. The motionless representations by living persons in costume is all the more remarkable because this act has, in addition to the two humans, two very well trained dogs and a horse no less, all made up in white powder so as to appear like porcelain statues in various poses, each lasting 20 seconds. Sadly, not all the turns are at their best. The Mother Riley bit of business is drawn out and only mildly amusing. Here Robb Wilton does his perplexed policeman, but can be much funnier as the frustrated fireman. Nevertheless the film has a quaint charm and is an excellent insight into what was popular entertainment for the working class folk at their local Empire theatre before the days of television.
Charlita - Oh, you beautiful doll !
It is hard not to like this amusing little comedy chiller. Lugosi is in great form, given his age and health problems. There are some humorous exchanges of dialogue, in particular when Bela is explaining the finer points of his evolution experimentation to the Martin and Lewis wannabees Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo. The boys clown around a bit with very weak material, their jokes really only likely to amuse any kids in the audience. Ramona is one very talented chimpanzee and turns in a good performance larking about with Petrillo. I saw this film on the lower half of a double feature in a London suburban flea-pit around 1959. Released over here by New Realm Pictures Ltd. and re-titled " Monster meets the Gorilla ". The film benefits from the casting of the very pretty actress Charlita, and this was probably her finest hour, being that she is on screen in most of the scenes, where she is given plenty of dialogue and an opportunity to display her natural charms. Her other film credits were mostly fleeting cameos, or dance interludes. She often played waitresses, and she appeared in a few TV series entries.
Lock Up Your Daughters (1951)
The lost Lugosi
LOCK UP YOUR DAUGHTERS was released in 1959 and classified with an X certificate by the British Board of Film Censors, permitting screening only to those persons over 16 years of age. It is doubtful that the footage of Lugosi introducing the clips from old Monogram productions, was new material. It may well have been borrowed from the earlier GLEN OR GLENDA. This 50 minute offering, marketed as the first film quiz, had selected bookings in the flea-pits around London, including the Grand in Camberwell ( November 1959 ), and the Empire in Staines Middlesex. The film was made by the E J Fancey Organisation and released by New Realm Pictures, one of the company's distribution outlets, which also included DUK Films, SF Distributors, and E J Fancey Productions. Fancey had the UK theatrical rights to distribute a few of the old Lugosi pictures including LOCK YOUR DOORS ( US:The Ape Man ), CASE OF THE MISSING BRIDES ( US:The Corpse Vanishes ) and THE CORPSE VANISHED (US: Revenge of the Zombies ). This unusual oddity now appears to be a lost film. In all probability there were very few prints made, and unless a negative still exists somewhere this film will remain unavailable for reappraisal.
Craig Kennedy, Criminologist (1952)
Without Mr.Woods it would have been a complete disaster
Low-budget crime show boosted by having dependable Donald Woods, supported by Columbia's first Batman, Lewis Wilson. Rest of cast are a pretty dismal lot, but there are some luminaries in the odd episode, such as Lane Bradford and Phyllis Coates. Generally though, the studio bound series entries are hard-going on the viewer. Occasionally we see Donald walk outside to his car which is refreshing, but within seconds he is back on another inferior set. Never mind, it is always good to watch Mr.Woods, and here he displays his usual screen persona of quiet competence, integrity and dedication to the task. Here in the UK, Anglo-Amalgamated Film Distributors Ltd. released around nine supporting features consisting of two TV episodes to each title, starting in late 1953 with Craig Kennedy, Criminologist. Other titles included Undercover Agent, Two Kinds of Murder, Murder Preferred, Double Fraud, Craig Kennedy Investigates, Ready to Die, Manhandled, and finally, Tall,Dark,and Dead in the summer of 1959. Each film runs 50m. and most were destined for the flea-pits and second-run halls. The film reviewer for the Monthly Film Bulletin, published by the venerable British Film Institute noted in the critique for Craig Kennedy Investigates ... " It is to be hoped that even the least discriminating film-goer has the intuition to avoid seeing films as remarkably badly made as this one. That the episodes were almost certainly intended for television, is hardly an excuse ". Fair enough.
The Cases of Eddie Drake (1952)
Monday for 3 days - Eddie Drake at the Essoldo
Eight Eddie Drake mysteries were edited into four second feature films released theatrically by Butchers Film Service Ltd. and Jack Phillips Distributors to minor UK cinemas between February 1954 and February 1956. Titles in order of release were The Brass Key, Eddie Drake Investigates, Pattern for Murder, and Murder Ad Lib. All given A certificates by the British Board of Film Censors. Children under 16 could not be admitted unless accompanied by an adult. Mediocre TV show enlivened by the versatile talents of both the accomplished Haggerty, and the beautiful Patricia Morison. So often was Haggerty wasted in minor uncredited parts. Whenever his familiar face filled the screen some may not have known the name, but we recognised the man, and knew that however small the role, he would steal that particular scene.
Racket Squad (1950)
Racket Squad becomes Mobs Inc.
Three episodes of Racket Squad were edited into a 74m. second feature. Released in UK cinemas, in July 1955, by Anglo-Amalgamated Film Distributors under the title Mobs Incorporated. Classified with an A certificate by the British Board of Film Censors. No child under 16 could see an A film, unless accompanied by an adult. It was a common practise back then for kids to get around this minor difficulty by approaching a complete stranger in the cinema queue and pleading " 'ere Guv'nor, can you take us in ? ". Reed Hadley gives an authoritative performance as a police captain with integrity and an overwhelming desire to see lawbreakers apprehended and taken into custody to face justice. Highly entertaining series of television films, featuring Hadley, the great all-rounder, who never failed to turn in a polished performance.
I'm the Law (1953)
3 episodes cut into second feature
Three episodes were strung together and released theatrically as a second feature in the UK in late 1954 under the title " Crime Squad " with a running time of 71 minutes. The film was granted a British Board of Film Censors certificate " A " ( children admitted if in the company of an adult ) I believe two of the episodes were " The Model Agency " and " The McClury Brothers ". The third involved the murder of a police officer, the principal clue being that of the imprint of a tennis shoe. Unfavourable review quotes ... three undistinguished melodramatic crime stories, in which the detection is mainly a matter of intuition and guesswork...unquote. I recall the TV series on early BBC programming, and in particular the story of the shoplifter who justifies the stealing with the line .. "God helps those who help themselves !"
Grace Boyd - Lovely lady
Grace Boyd - what a charming,lovely lady recalling personal experiences of her life as wife of William Boyd. In the fifties, " Hoppy " was a favourite on TV here in the UK, and I always enjoyed his brief chat to the kiddie audience at the end of the show. " Look both ways when you get to the kerbside, and don't forget to go to Sunday school !" I always hankered after a Hopalong Cassidy wrist watch but my parents did not have the money back then. Boyd's films were a regular feature at the Saturday morning picture show held at my local cinema the Palace in Eltham south London. Hoppy's code is as relevant now as it was 60 years ago. This TV tribute makes excellent viewing. Is Mrs. Boyd still with us ? I do hope so - she is a delight to watch in this documentary.
House on Haunted Hill (1959)
Price before Poe
It is 4.30pm on a Sunday afternoon in October 1959 and I am sitting inside the cavernous and decaying 3,000 seat Eros cinema ( the old Hippodrome theatre ) in Catford, a suburb of south London. The joint is jumping because today " Emergo " has come to town. The lights dim and the censor card appears on the screen. Certificate " X " passed for exhibition only to those persons over sixteen. At least a quarter of the packed house are somewhat underage, but the theatre management dare not refuse entry, because to do so would have provoked a riot, such is the anticipation for William Castle's latest cinematic treat for horror fans. So, on with the show, and the main attraction is first up, because the management want to get in three showings of it, plus two showings of the supporting picture. The velvet smooth voice of our host Vincent Price bids us enter the " House on Haunted Hill ". Gasps and screams ensue as the mayhem unfolds on screen, but after an hour we are wondering just when the thrills will fly out at us as promised on the posters outside. Many of us think we will witness some form of 3-D. When the ballyhoo boils down to a plastic skeleton trailing across our heads, many feel disappointed but, so what, the film was scary enough without the need for all that nonsense, and after the intermission and a sixpenny tub of ice cream, we still had " Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman " to relish. This was the first time I saw the lovely Allison Hayes in a film and my goodness she could muster up a good scream, especially in that desert scene when her Imperial grinds to a halt and she is molested by the giant from outer space. Two great movies from Allied Artists released in the UK by Associated British - Pathe.