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Ghosts on the Loose (1943)
Ghosts On The Loose
I've tried to like this film, but at best it's merely tolerable. I thought that there would be more to it. There are basically two parts to the film: 1)Ava Gardner and Rick Vallin's wedding 2) At the two country houses. The first half of "Ghosts on the Loose" is a total gyp. It's got nothing to do with ghosts (neither does the second half) and is frankly quite boring. The only pluses in this half of the film are the moments with young Ava and her fiancé/husband Rick. The second half of the film is a let-down. The East Side Kids arrive in the country and spend many dull moments redecorating what they think is the honeymoon couples house. They move furniture around while the most awful, dreary canned background music is played (the same awful music that was used in "The Ape Man" and other Monogram films). By the time a printing press starts getting moved around from house to house this film almost becomes a sleep inducing bore. What a shame! If Monogram had used better background music I would have added a star to my rating. Lugosi has very little time on screen here. Like others have said "Spooks Run Wild" is the better of the two Lugosi-East Side Kids outings...much better!
My World Dies Screaming (1958)
Terror In The Haunted House
Firstly, I would like to say that this film was not banned by the US government for 26 years as was written by someone in a previous comment. I think that person was referring to the films " Psycho-Rama" gimmick because I've read that it was banned, but I'm sure that it's alleged banning was just hype anyway (The gimmick itself is awful!). This film actually used to play on local television an average of twice a year during the early to mid-seventies. I used to watch it. Now then, "Terror in the Haunted House" is an atmospheric little film about a young bride who is terrified of a house that has been tormenting her dreams. In the opening scene we are given a tour of the house as the bride approaches it (off camera) and narrates (sort of like the opening of Hitchcock's "Rebecca"). The front door opens and the camera moves through the house and up the stairs to the second floor and finally to the attic door which opens and we see to the top of the attic steps. That's all the wife can remember. She tells her psychiatrist that she knows that danger lies up there. Soon the wife is taken by her new husband to that very same house. There are nice touches that follow such as the wife discovering her and her husbands initials carved into the trunk of an old tree (which has been overgrown with vines) and as she slowly starts to remember that her childhood was indeed spent at that estate. The acting by everyone is acceptable. The house itself is a colonial plantation and is a very beautiful home to look at. My only gripes are those annoying subliminal messages ("Psycho-Rama") and the par for the course low-budget way that some of the shots that were supposed to be taking place at night-time were obviously filmed in broad daylight.
The Corpse Vanishes (1942)
Silly, but somewhat interesting
"The Corpse Vanishes" is not Bela Lugosi best film for Monogram, but it's not his worst either. In it he plays a doctor who has poisonous scented orchards sent to young brides to wear at the alter. When the women are presumed dead, Lugosi and his crew steal their bodies and Lugosi uses their youth serum to make his aged wife look young again. The wife is played coldly and ineffectively by Elizabeth Russell. A reporter who is more than a bit like Rosalind Russell's "Hildy Johnson" in "His Girl Friday" goes to the doctor's home to investigate. The reporter is played by Luana Walters. Joan Barclay is pretty as one of the brides. Minerva Urecal, as the female member of Lugosi's mob, has some awful lines of dialog to speak. The cheap looking stone wall with the arched doorway in Lugosi's laboratory was one of Monogram's shoddiest props and it showed up again in a Bowery Boys flick.
Murder by Invitation (1941)
Zany film that works in spite of itself!
Talk about screwy films! "Murder By Invitation" almost takes first place! A daffy old lady, Aunt Cassie (a terrible performance by Sarah Padden who seems to be reading her lines off of cue cards) invites her greedy relatives to her country estate for the weekend and murders start to pop up all over the place. A reporter (Wallace Ford) and his secretary (Marian Marsh) arrive at the estate to get the scoop. Minerva Urecal (whom I usually like) overacts here as one of Aunt Cassie's relations. J. Arthur Young is totally offbeat as Trownbridge Montrose (Aunt Cassie's neighbor). Dave O'Brien is good, as usual, though as the estate's chauffeur. Zany dialog is almost unbelievable at times and Ford (although likable) is too old to be pretty Marsh's sweetheart boss. In spite of itself, "Murder By Invitation" is a film that works, although I don't quite know how!
The Ape Man (1943)
Hampered by an uncomfortable Lugosi and monotonous background music
"The Ape Man" could have been a better film than it is. A doctor (Bela Lugosi) is accidentally turned into an ape man after an experiment goes awry, causing him to resort to a series of murders so that injections of his victims spinal fluid can possibly return him to normality. A reporter and a camerawoman (Wallace Ford and Louise Currie) arrive at the doctors home to investigate and the mystery begins to unravel. "The Ape Man" could have been a more enjoyable film, but Lugosi's walking around like an ape (which is unintentionally embarrassing) and awful, monotonous canned background music (which was used in Monogram's "Ghosts on the Loose" the same year) take somewhat from the overall enjoyment of the film. Wallace Ford and Louise Currie work well with each other and having them toss wisecracks back and forth is a welcome addition to the script. "The Ape Man" is not a terrible film, but not a great one. You could do a lot worse for an hours worth of viewing.
Spooks Run Wild (1941)
Pleasant teaming of Bela Lugosi and the East Side Kids
The boys are rounded up and sent to summer camp in the Catskill mountains in "Spooks Run Wild". However, there is a pretty waitress in the town's diner that they would like to have a date with, so they sneak away from the camp at night-time and one of them is shot by the caretaker of the local cemetery which forces the boys to take refuge in Lugosi's creepy hillside manor. There has been a killer on the loose and the boys naturally think that Lugosi is the killer and spend a nervous night meandering through his mansion trying to find their entranced friend who had been given a mild sedative. Nice film and the first of the East Side Kids film to feature Huntz Hall. The films studio, Monogram, reunited Lugosi and the East Side Kids two years later in the less entertaining "Ghosts on the Loose". Hall's line in "Spooks Run Wild" pertaining to his wearing a suit of armor: "My tailor told me it would wear like iron" is absolutely hilarious!
Crime and Punishment (1935)
Nice updating of the classic novel
Columbia Pictures updated Fydor Dostoyevsky's classic novel "Crime and Punishment" from its original era and set it during the bleak years of the Great Depression. The updating works due to an excellent director and a superb cast. Josef von Sternberg guided the production along with his usual flair, making "Crime and Punishment" an entertaining motion picture. In the film, Roderick Raskolnikov (Peter Lorre) murders a haggish, old pawnbroker and soon discovers that he hasn't committed the perfect crime. Inspector Porfiry (Edward Arnold) is on to him and starts a cat and mouse game with Roderick that nearly drives Roderick insane. Also, a sympathetic prostitute, Sonya (Marian Marsh), falls in love with Roderick and begs him to give himself up and face the punishment that is coming to him. Although clearly a B-Film (notice that there are not many extras in the cast), "Crime and Punishment" is a good example of how an entertaining film can be made on a limited budget.
The Mad Genius (1931)
"The Mad Genius"
I've always liked the John Barrymore/Marian Marsh film "Svengali" and have always wanted to see Warner Brothers' re-teaming of the two in "The Mad Genius". Thankfully, Ted Turner seems to own it and shows a very nice print of it on TCM. I've got it recorded and I like to watch it now and again. Although it's not a favorite of mine like "Svengali" is, "The Mad Genius" is still a film that I enjoy. Tsarakov (Barrymore) rescues a small boy from his abusive father (Boris Karloff). As the years pass the boy, Fedor (Donald Cook), grows up to become a seasoned ballet dancer and Tsarakov is the ballets impresario. Tsarakov pampers every move in Fedor's life; getting him leads in ballets and encouraging him to have a steady supply of young women lovers. However, Fedor loves Nana (Marian Marsh) and Tsarakov, seeing this as the ruination of Fedor's career, forces Nana to take up with Count Renaud (André Luget), a good-natured, understanding man. Will Fedor and Nana reunite? What will happen to Tsarkov? Watch "The Mad Genius" and you'll find out. You may marvel at the films casual pre-code approach to sex. Very good film, but not as charming as the classic "Svengali".
Uncle Silas (1947)
Full-bodied Gothic Thriller!
I really enjoyed "Uncle Silas", although it's called "The Inheritance" on the VHS copy that I own and there are seemingly five minutes of footage missing. It's a wonderful, creepy little film about a young woman, Caroline (lovely Jean Simmons), who goes to live with her scheming old Uncle Silas in his big, gloomy mansion after her father dies. Uncle Silas (perfectly played by Derrick De Marney) and his accomplices; a French governess, Madame de la Rougierre (marvelously played by Katina Paxinou), and his son, Dudley (well played by Manning Whiley) are planning to do away with the heroine to gain her fortune. Thankfully, there are intervals where the young woman visits with her sympathetic cousin Monica (nicely played by Sophie Stewart). Brilliant music score by Alan Rawsthorne is available on CD through Amazon.com on a collection called Rawsthorne:Film Music. Nice cinematography and sets add the finishing touches to this atmospheric film. I got my VHS copy from Movies Unlimited.com.
A Real Treat!
I just love this version of the classic tale "Trilby". John Barrymore is excellent as Svengali and pretty Marian Marsh is utterly charming as Trilby. The film has a very bohemian look and feel to it which is one of the reasons why you should enjoy it. The expressionistic sets were by Anton Grot and there is the famous striking miniature set of the rooftops of Paris that the camera tracks over in the classic scene where Svengali wills Trilby from her apartment to his one stormy midnight. Warner Brothers paired Barrymore and Marsh once again in "The Mad Genius" which is a rather adult, pre-code story with Barrymore just as menacing as he is in "Svengali", but not the demoniac that he is in this film. Note: The Roan Group (Roan Group.com) has the best DVD edition of "Svengali" available on the market.