Tag Archives: Bela Lugosi

Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein

Directed by Charles Barton
Produced by Robert Arthur
Written by Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo & John Grant
Starring
Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Lon Chaney, Jr.
Bela Lugosi
Glenn Strange
Music by Frank Skinner
Cinematography Charles Van Enger
Editing by Frank Gross
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release date 15 June 1948 (US)
Running time 83 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein was one of my favourite films as a kid. It was a film that I found to be both scary and funny in equal parts. I really loved this movie so much that I just had to order it from Amazon because I could not find it for sale anywhere in Australia, and I desperately wanted to see it again. I just wanted to know if the film held up as well now as it did back when I was a kid.

I popped the DVD disc into my Sony DVD player the other day and found that the film really lived up to my expectations. Whilst I no longer find the film as scary as I did as an eight year old there were still a few heart pounding moments, especially the scene when Lou is unknowingly being stalked by the Wolfman in the hotel room. (See picture below) Also, like most seventy year old comedy films, the humour has dated quite a bit, but there are still a few chuckles to be had, especially the look of fright on the Frankenstein Monster’s face when he first lays his eyes on Costello. It’s funny to see the Monster being so afraid as someone as harmless as Lou.

It is probably true that this film was probably the beginning of the downward spiral in A&C’s popularity even though they did have a few box office hits after this film. Their popularity really waned as Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis became the #1 Hollywood comedy team, and A&C started to go back to the same ideas again and again (ie; going back to the team ups with Universal’s monster icons). They really weren’t known for their innovation, especially as they really only liked to use gags and routines that they had honed to perfection by performing them thousands of times on the vaudeville circuit. Still A&C Meet Frankenstein is a classic and a movie that I recommend for anyone who likes both classic comedy and classic monster movies.

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The Wolfman


Directed by George WaggnerProduced by George Waggner
Written by Curt Siodmak
Starring Lon Chaney, Jr.
Claude Rains
Warren William
Ralph Bellamy
Patric Knowles
Bela Lugosi
Maria Ouspenskaya
Evelyn Ankers
Cinematography Joseph Valentine, ASC
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) December 12, 1941
Running time 70 min
Language English

“Even a man who is pure in heart
and says his prayers by night
may become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright.”

Since the new Wolfman movie comes out next month I thought it would be good to have a new look at the original. As a kid this movie really scared me and has since given me a lifelong fear of werewolves. The Wolfman is one of the classic Universal horror movies from the 1930s and 40s which also includes Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride Of Frankenstein and the Invisible Man, but by the time that The Wolfman came along Universal were just about coming to the end of their monster movie cycle, and the films of the 1940s did not have the budgets or quality of their predecessors. That does not mean that it’s a bad film.

This movie is from 1941 and stars Lon Chaney Jr. as the  unfortunate Lawrence Talbot, the man who is cursed when he is bitten by a werewolf. Having just watched this film yesterday I would say that it is not so much as horror movie, as there are really no instances of tension, fear or horror, however it does work as a great psychological study of a man who is tormented by the things he will do when the moon is full and he changes into a dreaded werewolf. This is of course Chaney’s signature role and what he is best known for today, although his performance here does echo his earlier role as Lenny in the 1939 Academy Award nominated version of Of Mice And Men, for which Chaney won much critical acclaim.

The screenplay was written by Curt Siodmak, a German Jew who fled the Nazi atrocities of the 1930s for America. He is the person responsible for much of the traditions that are today associated with the werewolf legend, such as the transformation at the full moon, the werewolves’ victim being marked by a pentagram and that the only way to kill a werewolf is with silver. According to the excellent documentary that accompanied the DVD, Siodmak wrote The Wolfman as an allegory to the genocide occurring in Europe at the time and how even the nicest of men could become beasts if the conditions were right.

Then there is the performance of Lon Chaney Jr., as Larry Talbot, the man who must carry the terrible curse of the werewolf. His acting seems quite over the top and hammy here but it does add to the fun of the film. The Wolfman became Chaney’s signature role and makes this movie a lot of fun to watch. Jack Pierce’s make up work is great and the transformation scenes are very good considering this film is almost 70 years old. It is an enjoyable film and I only hope the remake is half as much fun.

* Buy The Wolfman from Amazon* (Note this is a region 1 DVD and requires a region free DVD player to be played outside North America)


International House


Directed by A. Edward Sutherland
Produced by Emanuel Cohen Written by Neil Brant
Starring W.C. Fields
Bela Lugosi
George Burns
Gracie Allen
Cab Calloway
Rose Marie
Peggy Hopkins Joyce
Music by Ralph Rainger
Howard Jackson
John Leipold
Al Morgan
Cab Calloway
Cinematography Ernest Haller
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) May 27, 1933
Running time 70 minutes
Country  United States

This is a relic of a movie featuring W.C. Fields. Basically the film is just an excuse to see the various performers from radio and vaudeville perform skits, most of which would have been quite dated even in 1933. The only real interests in the film lies in Fields’ performance, that of Burns and Allen and of Bela Lugosi turning in a comic part. Fields gets in a few quite dirty lines (this was made pre-code) and Allen plays the dumb nurse part well, while Lugosi’s portrayal of a jealous Russian general who generally causes chaos shows that he could play a comic role as well as horror. The only other point of interest is Cab Calloway singing the song Reefer Man and him saying that his  bass player is ”high on weed’. The movie is a bit of a nostalgic curiosity but it’s not that funny.

International House is a part of the W.C. Fields Comedy Collection with The Bank Dick, My Little Chickadee, You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man and It’s A Gift. This DVD box set is available from Amazon for $46.99. You can purchase it by clicking here…


Ed Wood

Directed by Tim Burton
Produced by Tim Burton
Denise Di Novi
Written by Screenplay:
Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski
Book:
Rudolph Grey
(Nightmare of Ecstasy)
Starring Johnny Depp
Martin Landau
Patricia Arquette
Sarah Jessica Parker
Jeffrey Jones
Lisa Marie
Bill Murray
Music by Howard Shore
Cinematography Stefan Czapsky
Editing by Chris Lebenzon
Distributed by Touchstone Pictures
Release date(s) Limited release:
September 30, 1994
Wide release
October 7, 1994
Running time 127 min.
Country United States

Edward D. Wood Jr. is world-renowned as having directed some of the worst movies ever made. He was a director with lots of ideas and ambition but little talent or money. Most of the actors he used in his films were made up of friends, freaks and weirdos, as well as a drug addled and past his prime Bela Lugosi. Wood may have had little talent as a director and his films may be ridiculed as some of the worst of all time and they have an ill-conceived weirdness about them, yet they retain a sincerity in them and are never boring, which you cannot necessarily say about some of today’s big budget blockbusters.Despite his lack of talent and success there are very few Hollywood directors who can say that they have had their lives and career lovingly immortalised on film.

Depp is brilliant as Wood, in another of his quirkier roles. He plays Wood as someone full of childish enthusiasm for the movie business, and who doesn’t see his own limitations. He idolizes the great Orson Welles and in his own mind he is just as successful. I know that Burton must have taken a few liberties with the film, but I wonder if Wood honestly knew that what he was making was shit, or is he really thought of himself as an auteur making great works of art. Perhaps this is my own cynical nature that makes me think this, but there is no cynicism at all in Burton’s film. He and Depp portray Wood with all the reverence reserved for legends.

I must also make mention of Martin Landau’s Oscar-winning performance portraying screen legend Bela Lugosi, the original Dracula. He gives a sympathetic portrayal of Lugosi, who at the time he met Wood had hit rock bottom. His career was in tatters and he was in the grips of morphine addiction. A running joke throughout the film is when Ed tells potential backers that he is going to have Lugosi starring in his next movie project the response is usually, “Isn’t he dead?”.

This is a great little film that is very funny and quirky. It is a fascinating look at the life of someone who never knew that he was a failure and never gave up on his dreams.