Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Keeping up the pace, this week I’m reviewing one or more movies each day so I can get ahead of the curve and take some time off. Praise Jesus for Amazon Prime Video, the mother-lode of bad movies. This is One Body Too Many from 1944 by way of Paramount Pictures, and I am dead sure I never  saw it on the big screen. Details are from Wikipedia.

This one has promise, what with Jack HaleyJean Parker, and Bela Lugosi. You know it’s going to be spooky with Lugosi in the lead.

So, we have Haley as Albert L. Tuttle, insurance salesman par excellence. He’s about to score a big policy sale. He’s waited 30 days for his appointment with millionaire Cyrus J. Rutherford, who’s taking out a $200,000 life policy. Why a multi-millionaire is banking $200 K on his own life is never explained.

But Albert is a few days short. Rich Mr. Rutherford’s policy has already expired, and heirs are sitting around as attorney Morton Gellman (Bernard Nedell) reads the will. It’s a strange will. Somebody will get $500,000, and somebody will get $1.50. Except…

Except everybody has to stay in the house, cannot leave, until the body is interred. And the body must be laid to rest in peace under a glass dome, exposed to the stars. Else, the will be reversed. Who was to get the most will now get the least, etc. Anybody leaves before the interment, a few days hence, gets nothing. Attorney Gellman calls for a detective to come and guard the body and ensure it is not interfered with in the meantime.

Meanwhile, Merkil the butler (Lugosi) makes coffee for everybody. He has handy in the kitchen a bottle of rat poison. “There are too many rats in this house. They should be done away with,” he announces, ending the sentence with an preposition.

Blanche Yurka is Matthews, the cook.

Throughout the movie Merkil keeps offering everybody coffee, but each time there is a reason they decide not to drink any.

The detective arrives and never makes it to the front door. He’s chopped by somebody and secreted away so he can’t cause trouble. Albert arrives and is mistaken for the detective. When he realizes he is expected to babysit a stiff he makes plans to depart post haste, visions of a huge policy fee having evaporated.

But pretty Carol Dunlap (Parker) urges him to stay. There’s chemistry.

Skipping all the plot details, attorney Gellman talks Albert into hiding out in the casket, this after the body mysteriously goes missing.

Meanwhile, a fearsome threesome plot to  dispose of the body, coffin and all, not realizing Albert is in the coffin.

More intrigue. There is much going in and out and through secret passageways and winding up in strange bedrooms. Gellman is murdered, Albert is accused of another murder and is locked inside the observatory atop the sumptuous Rutherford mansion. He gets rescued by Carol.

The real killer scoops up Carol and carries her to the top of the observatory, planning to dump her several stories down. Albert climbs to the rescue. The dome rotates, the killer is swept off and to his doom.

Carol coaxes Albert, against his better judgment, into one of the secret passages and closes the door. Merkil and Matthews drink the coffee.

Yes, it’s one of those comedies where people die. This should get bad marks due to its poor print quality, but I will let that pass. Obviously the plot is a complete contrivance, devolving into a sequence of episodes. It’s chances of becoming a cult classic are dim.

Advertisements

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Here’s another one for Bela Lugosi fans. It’s The Devil Bat from 1940. A lot of good things came out of 1940, and this may not have been one of them. This was produced and released by Producers Releasing Corporation. I watched it on Hulu and obtained details from Wikipedia.

You already knew from the title this was going to be a Bad Movie of the Week. Not to disappoint. Lugosi is Dr. Paul Carruthers, working for Heath-Morton Cosmetics, Ltd in his private laboratory overlooking Heathville. His experiments include producing industrial size bats, bats engineered to attack a certain scent with a vengeance.
TheDevilBat-01

Meanwhile, the Heaths and the Mortons are throwing a shindig with the idea of bestowing a $5000 bonus on Dr. Carruthers. He is having none of it and skips the party. He has other plans, and those plans involve retribution against Heath and Morton for scooping all the profits from his inventions.

TheDevilBat-02

Roy Heath (John Ellis) is sent to see to Dr. Carruthers and to give him the check. The good doctor returns the favor by gifting Roy a dash of aftershave laced with the critical scent. After Roy leaves, the giant bat is released. Too late, Roy faces death from out of the night sky.

TheDevilBat-03

Ace reporter Johnny Layton (Dave O’Brien) and his sidekick photographer, “One-Shot” McGuire (Donald Kerr) are assigned to cover the story of the mysterious death. Here they introduce themselves to Police Chief Wilkins (Hal Price).

TheDevilBat-04

The murders continue. Tommy Heath (Alan Baldwin) is next to try out the deadly tonic. Dr. Carruthers assures him he will never use another. That is sinister.

TheDevilBat-05

Meanwhile, luscious Mary Heath (Suzanne Kaaren) and Johnny Layton take a shine to one another. This happy scene is shortly broken up when Tommy returns home and is killed by the devil bat.

TheDevilBat-06

Predictably, Johnny figures out the devil bat caper. He get’s Dr. Carruthers doused with the fatal attraction, and a giant bat does with him. Johnny and Mary stare lovingly into each other’s eyes.

TheDevilBat-07

And, so help me, that’s the end of the movie.

To say the dialog is droll would be an overstatement. Here are some examples:

Tommy: And I suppose you’re working on the theory that the murderer always returns to the scene of the crime.

Johnny: Perhaps I am.

Scintillating! Here is another:

Don Morton: But, Mary, tonight’s a good time while our families are here, to announce our engagement.

Mary: Look, Don, I’ve loved you a long time, ever since we were kids. But I’m afraid it’s been more like a sister.

Don: Well, I… I had no idea you felt that way.

It’s heavy stuff.

This was part of P.R.C.’s foray into horror films. They put Lugosi under contract in October 1940 and started shooting a week later. The film was released in December. All kinds of expenses were spared. For example, the huge “bat” resembles more an owl or some other large bird.

Lugosi’s part is well played but the others are stick figures by comparison.

This film was released again five years later in a double bill with Man Made Monster in what the Los Angeles Times called “two of the scariest features on the market.” This was four decades prior to Freddy Krueger.

Hulu seems to have the entire Lugosi collection. I will dip into it again from time to time.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Hulu to the rescue again! You asked for it, you got it. I’m here to choke these down so you don’t have to. Today it’s Plan 9 from Outer Space, featuring Bela Lugosi, posthumously, as is fitting. This came out in 1959. Lugosi died in 1956. Writer-director Ed Wood used clips shot just prior to Lugosi’s passing to bring this classic actor back to life, as only Lugosi would have wanted. Details are from Wikipedia. Wood’s psychic friend Criswell narrates.

Plan9FromOuterSpace-01

The plot is everything. There is absolutely nothing left when you take that away. And I’m not going to elaborate on it, except for:

An old man’s wife dies and is buried in a cemetery in the San Fernando Valley (North Hollywood). He is grief-stricken, only briefly. He leaves his modest home and is apparently struck and killed by a car. That’s Lugosi as the old man.

Plan9FromOuterSpace-02

People in and around Hollywood have been seeing flying saucers.

Plan9FromOuterSpace-03

It’s true. The Earth expeditionary force reports back to the supreme leader, giving the traditional space cadet cross-arm salute. They discuss a serious problem. Earth people are misbehaving, and successive past attempts to get them to straighten up have been rebuffed. Many attempts have been made to reconcile the matter, to no avail. They must try a new approach. They must go to Plan 9. Hence the name of the movie.

Plan9FromOuterSpace-04

Space ships depart from the mother ship, hovering just beyond range in outer space, on their mission to punish the Earth.

Plan9FromOuterSpace-05

But airline pilots and crews know the saucers are out there. They spot them while coming to land at Burbank Airport. Ed Wood spared no expense to make this blockbuster. That’s a “35-cent shower curtain” separating the flight deck from the passenger compartment.

Plan9FromOuterSpace-06

Lugosi’s trademark was menacing innocent (and not) young women.

Plan9FromOuterSpace-07

The film also features Maila Nurmi as the zombie dead wife.

Plan9FromOuterSpace-08

Everything comes to a head as police and military, along with the innocent woman’s incensed husband, accost the aliens in their spacecraft, then parked in the cemetery. Things do not go well, and fisticuffs ensue. The earthlings escape, the aliens die as their spacecraft catches fire from the ruckus and explodes.

Plan9FromOuterSpace-09

On no particular sequence, here is the innocent wife being carried unconscious by the zombie of a murdered police detective. You wouldn’t want to miss that.

Plan9FromOuterSpace-10

You previously saw Bela Lugosi in his last ever scene together with Boris Karloff in The Body Snatcher.

I will get it whenever I can, but the next Ed Wood production I want to review is Glen or Glenda. Hopefully Hulu will come through for us again.

Bad Movie of the Week

What the producers have done is to take a fairly simple Robert Louis Stevenson short story of horror and depredation and turn it into a full-blown feature movie. To do so they had to add some characters and a vast body of plot. They retained the name. It’s The Body Snatcher from 1945 out of RKO and featuring Boris Karloff and Béla Lugosi. It’s the last film the two ever made together, and neither survives to the end. Direction is by Robert Wise. But let me get to the story.

Donald Fettes (Russell Wade) is a young medical student of weak finances, unable to continue his studies under Dr. Wolfe MacFarlane. Dr. MacFarlane offers him a job, and with that support young Fettes is back on board. A crisis emerges when Mrs. Marsh (Rita Corday) brings her daughter (Sharyn Moffett) to see the doctor. The daughter has had surgery for a spinal injury but still cannot walk. Dr. MacFarlane has zero bedside manner and sends the woman away. He only teaches and has no time for actual medical practice.

BodySnaatcher-01

As a side issue, we learn that Dr. MacFarlane is secretly married to his housekeeper, Meg Camden (Edith Atwater). Interesting, but nothing at all to do with the plot.

 

BodySnaatcher-02

Fettes pursues the sad case of Mrs. Marsh and her daughter. Additional surgery may be needed, but more study is needed. Dissection of a cadaver will provide the necessary experience, so a cadaver is required. Fettes learns his new job is to take delivery of cadavers brought in by shady cab driver John Gray (Karloff). Fettes is aghast to discover the first delivery is a person he knows to have been just interred. Where is Gray getting these bodies?

BodySnaatcher-03

Gray has some strange hold on Dr. MacFarlane. Gray calls him “Toddy” for reasons not explained. It’s apparent relations between the two are going south fast.

BodySnaatcher-04

We see Gray up to his grisly task. Out of dead bodies, he recruits from the living. There is a blind girl (Donna Lee) who sings in the streets. No more. Gray’s carriage follows her down a darkened street, and the singing stops in mid-chord. Fettes recognizes her corpse next on the dissecting table.

BodySnaatcher-05

Joseph (Lugosi) is Dr. MacFarlane’s man servant. He winkles out the facts about Gray’s grisly business and pays him a visit. Blackmail is on his mind, but not for long. Gray makes his move, and Joseph becomes the next cadaver. It’s the last scene Karloff and Lugosi ever played together.

BodySnaatcher-06

Next MacFarlane pays Gray a visit. He comes off better than Joseph did. It’s Gray’s turn to grace the dissection table. Off to rob a fresh grave, MacFarlane and Fettes take the late Mr. Gray’s carriage. Driving back down a treacherous country road they believe they hear the voice of Gray coming from the sack with the corpse. They see Gray’s corpse where they thought they had the body of a dead woman.

BodySnaatcher-07

The horse bolts, and the carriage, with MacFarlane and the body, plunges off the road. MacFarlane is killed, and a look at the body reveals only the dead woman. It’s the end of the story.

Stephen’s short story is worlds simpler. It starts with men gathered for their nightly round in a pub.

EVERY night in the year, four of us sat in the small parlour of the George at Debenham – the undertaker, and the landlord, and Fettes, and myself. Sometimes there would be more; but blow high, blow low, come rain or snow or frost, we four would be each planted in his own particular arm-chair. Fettes was an old drunken Scotchman, a man of education obviously, and a man of some property, since he lived in idleness. He had come to Debenham years ago, while still young, and by a mere continuance of living had grown to be an adopted townsman. His blue camlet cloak was a local antiquity, like the church-spire. His place in the parlour at the George, his absence from church, his old, crapulous, disreputable vices, were all things of course in Debenham. He had some vague Radical opinions and some fleeting infidelities, which he would now and again set forth and emphasise with tottering slaps upon the table. He drank rum – five glasses regularly every evening; and for the greater portion of his nightly visit to the George sat, with his glass in his right hand, in a state of melancholy alcoholic saturation. We called him the Doctor, for he was supposed to have some special knowledge of medicine, and had been known, upon a pinch, to set a fracture or reduce a dislocation; but beyond these slight particulars, we had no knowledge of his character and antecedents.

Stevenson, Robert Louis (2013-11-07). Robert Louis Stevenson: Complete Collection of 266 Works with analysis and historical background. Including Novels, Stories, Non-Fiction works, Poetry … and Illustrated) (Annotated Classics) (Kindle Locations 70682-70691). Annotated Classics. Kindle Edition.

This little soirée is interrupted by the announcement that a Dr. MacFarlane has come to treat a guest at the inn. Fettes confronts MacFarlane on his leaving, and the narrator later relates the story behind the confrontation.

There is no Mrs. Marsh and her daughter, who play a significant if uncritical role in the movie. There is no marriage to the housekeeper, and there is no Joseph the man servant. We learn that MacFarlane has murdered Gray when he delivers Gray’s body to Fettes in the dissecting room.

Together Fettes and MacFarlane set off on a grim night to rob another grave. An accident disposes of their lantern, and they complete the digging in the dark. They start back to town with the body in a bag between them. The body seems to be more than just the woman they dug up in the pitch black.  The story ends when the two discovered Gray’s body in the bag that was supposed to contain the deceased woman.

It’s all very simple and might be worth as much as an episode of The Twilight Zone. A lot of what writers Philip MacDonald and Val Lewton added is just fluff to make a full length (77 minutes) film.

Bad Movie of the Week

A few weeks ago I was asking myself that timeless question, “What would happen if you allowed your junior high drama class to make a Hollywood movie?” I don’t need to ask anymore.

This is Genius at Work, out of RKO Pictures in 1946 and starring Wally BrownAlan CarneyAnne JeffreysLionel Atwill and Bela Lugosi. There’s also Marc Cramer as Lt. Rick Campbell.

I’m not going to get into the plot details. What the movie is all about is a character calling himself “The Cobra” who goes around killing people. Opening scenes show wealthy Mr. Saunders alone in his study. The creak of an opening door decoys him while The Cobra sneaks up behind and conks him with a blunt object.

GeniusAtWork-01

Jerry Miles (Brown) and Mike Strager (Carney) have a radio show about crime stories. They perceive themselves to be geniuses at solving crimes, and on their show they reveal their findings (their guesses). They also act out the supposed crimes prior to the broadcast, in this case while gorgeous blond script writer Ellen Brent (Jeffreys) looks on. Giving them advice is Latimer Marsh (Atwill) who actually is The Cobra. He is impressed, too impressed, by the accurate information coming across the air waves.

GeniusAtWork-02

Back at his luxurious home, The Cobra contemplates the fate of the unfortunate Saunders. He will have to be disposed of, naturally. The Cobra has no apparent reason for doing these foul deads. He just likes doing this stuff. His faithful servant Stone (Lugosi) is his invaluable assistant.

GeniusAtWork-03

The police do not appreciate the ridicule they are getting when they can’t solves these crimes, while idiots Miles and Strager are reaping all the glory. Lt. Campbell visits the production studio and works to sort things out with the geniuses. He also makes time with pretty Ellen. This is about the limit of sex in this movie.

GeniusAtWork-04

Ellen and the two radio actors decide to play detective, and they visit the home of Mr. Marsh, The Cobra. Here they encounter any number of tricked out wall masks and Medieval torture devices. The plot overflows with slap-stick.

GeniusAtWork-05

The Cobra decides the comedians know to much about his operation and decides to rub them out. Along with Stone in drag disguise he infiltrates the radio studio and attempts to put the two boys away with poison darts. But the geniuses are too smart for them. They have created realistic dummies of themselves as targets, and Stone’s darts, finally pistol shots, do no damage.

GeniusAtWork-06

A hilarious kerfuffle ensues, with Stone and The Cobra chasing Jerry and Mike, and the police chasing Stone and The Cobra, with bullets flying everywhere. I am not going to explain how Mike gets glue all over himself and gets a rug stuck to the bottom of his shoe. But when the shooting gets too close both wind up on the ledge ten stories up, with Jerry holding Mike up by his suspenders. This is funny.

GeniusAtWork-07

Stone catches a bullet and plummets to the sidewalk. The fight progresses to the roof, where The Cobra attempts to finish off the two clowns. Another police bullet, and The Cobra joins Stone on the sidewalk.

Jerry accidentally socks Mike with a 2×4, and the movie ends with Mike saved by an outcropping flag pole. And no sex. Give it a rest, fellows.

GeniusAtWork-08

Bad Movie of the Week

CorpseVanishes-01

Yes, this one is bad. It’s The Corpse Vanishes from Monogram Pictures in 1942, featuring Bela Lugosi. Did I mention it’s in black and white?

Brides are getting married. Brides are dying right at the altar. The bodies are vanishing.

CorpseVanishes-02

Here we see a sweet young thing getting married. The preacher asks her the big question. Her last words are “I do.” Should we call an ambulance? No, send for a hearse. The hearse arrives and takes the unfortunate bride away. The real hearse arrives. The first hearse was a fake. The body has been stolen. This has happened before. Newspapers report that another bride has died. And the corpse has vanished. Hence the name of the movie.

The bride's body is loaded into the fake hearse

The bride’s body is loaded into the fake hearse

Patricia Hunter (Luana Walters) is a newspaper reporter. She’s going to look into this. She’s going to cover the next wedding and find out what’s happening to these young, virginal brides. She goes. The bride is lovely. Her mother takes delivery of a mysterious orchid delivered right before the ceremony. The bride puts it on.

CorpseVanishes-04

The ceremony starts. The bride fades away, and her body is loaded into a hearse. This time it’s the real hearse. But the police escort is distracted. The hearse is high jacked, and the body is stolen. Again.

The body is taken to the country home of the evil (maybe even mad) Doctor Lorenz (Lugosi).

CorpseVanishes-05

Doctor Lorenz draws fluids from the bride’s body and injects them into his ailing wife (Elizabeth Russell). His sick (and evil) wife suffers immensely, and only the fluids from virginal brides will help her.

Pat filches the orchid that was delivered to the bride. It has a peculiar odor. Orchids are not supposed to have an odor. This is a peculiar orchid. Only one person breeds this type of orchid. It’s a certain Doctor Lorenz, who lives upstate. Patricia takes a train upstate to pay Doctor Lorenz a visit. When she gets stranded on the road handsome Doctor Foster (Tristram Coffin) gives her a lift. It so happens he’s also going to visit Doctor Lorenz. Patricia and Doctor Foster glance at each other admiringly. Something is developing.

CorpseVanishes-06

They are greeted at Doctor Lornz’s house by his servant, Toby (Angelo Rossitto), the obligatory dwarf in this kind of movie.

CorpseVanishes-07

Toby is the son of Fagah (Minerva Urecal) the house keeper. Her other son, is Angel (Frank Moran), the obligatory brutish half wit. There is no love lost in the Lorenz household. When Toby comes to tell Madame Lorenz they have visitors she tells him to get out of her sight.

CorpseVanishes-08

Doctor Foster has come to help treat Madame Lorenz. Patricia is not welcome. However, since it is a dark and stormy night, she is invited to stay until the morning. Or even forever. While Patricia is sleeping she is menaced by the evil Doctor Lorenz as only Bela Lugosi can menace.

CorpseVanishes-09

Patricia uncovers Doctor Lorenz’s plot and arranges with her editor a scheme to expose him. They concoct a fake wedding and hope Doctor Lorenz will fall for the bait.

He does, only sweet Patricia is kidnapped instead of the fake bride. She is taken to Doctor Lorenz’s basement laboratory. Except, Fagah the house keeper is by now upset that Doctor Lorenz has murdered her half wit son, Angel, and her other son, Toby, has been killed by the police while fleeing the fake wedding. Before the evil Doctor Lorenz can begin to draw fluids from sweet Patricia’s body, Fagah stabs him in the back.

CorpseVanishes-10

Patricia is saved, and she and Doctor Foster enjoy their beautiful wedding, absent the orchids.

CorpseVanishes-11

For a 1942 movie the cinematography is horrid. This may have been part of a deliberate scheme to evoke Lugosi’s earlier Dracula films. He definitely looks more menacing absent any decent camera work. Besides that, the other actors deliver their lines more as mechanics than as practiced performers.

Furthermore, the plot is a bit stretched. I mean, besides drawing bodily fluids from virginal brides to keep alive the aging wife of Doctor Lorenz. Brides keep dropping dead right in the middle of their weddings, and Lorenz keeps stealing the bodies? Get real. But wait! The title is The Corpse Vanishes. What else should we expect?

Even this was getting late in Bela Lugosi’s career. His final movie was The Black Sleep in 1955, and he died of a heart attack in 1957.