Today, we celebrate the birth of a true horror legend, the great Bela Lugosi!
Bela Lugosi helped usher in the horror era in 1931’s DRACULA , but nine years later, the Hungarian actor was taking whatever roles he could get. I’ve told you before how much I love THE DEVIL BAT (just click on this link to find out!), an entertaining little fright flick despite its rock-bottom production values and some really bad writing. Only Bela Lugosi could make a film like this work, and he does so brilliantly! Grab some popcorn, put your feet up, and enjoy horror’s first icon Bela Lugosi in THE DEVIL BAT!:
1933’s THE VAMPIRE BAT isn’t a Universal Horror movie, but it sure comes damn close! This independent feature from Majestic Pictures contains a number of Universal Horror stars, including Lionel Atwill , Melvyn Douglas (THE OLD DARK HOUSE ), Lionel Belmore (FRANKENSTEIN ), and a positively Renfield-like performance from the great Dwight Frye – not to mention KING KONG’s main squeeze Fay Wray as our heroine! Majestic also rented some of the standing sets from FRANKENSTEIN and THE OLD DARK HOUSE to film on, giving the film a real Universal feel.
The screenplay by Edward T. Lowe (who wrote Lon Chaney’s 1923 HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, and the later horror entry HOUSE OF DRACULA) concerns the village of Kleinschloss up in arms over a series of gruesome murders that point to the presence of a vampire in their midst, with Frye’s simple-minded Herman the chief suspect. Turns out the killings are not really supernatural but that old devil, mad science, with Atwill’s Dr. von Neimann needing human blood for his deranged experiments! Directed by Frank L. Strayer (1932’s THE MONSTER WALKS), enjoy today’s classic fright fest, THE VAMPIRE BAT!:
Who was the First Universal Monster? Was it Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula? Lon Chaney Sr. as The Hunchback? No – it was King Baggot in the dual role of Robert Louis Stevenson’s immortal DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE way back in 1913! Baggot, considered the first Hollywood “superstar”, essayed the part in this two-reel effort, and was directed by Herbert Brenon, whose silent resume includes a pair of Betty Bronson vehicles (PETER PAN and A KISS FOR CINDERELLA), DANCING MOTHERS with Clara Bow, and Chaney’s LAUGH, CLOWN, LAUGH. I hope you enjoy this slice of Hollywood Horror History as the all-but-forgotten King Baggot stars in DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE:
THE WEE MEN is a wee bit o’blarney about Leprechauns, one of Paramount Picture’s Noveltoons series. It’s the story of Paddy, just turned 121 years old, and entrusted with the important task of leaving new shoes on doorsteps for St. Patrick’s Day… until the Greediest Man Alive captures him and demands to be taken to that fabled pot o’gold! Directed by former Disney animator Bill Tytla, enjoy THE WEE MEN (and yes, it’s in the Public Domain!):
Tonight is Hollywood’s big night, the 90th annual Academy Awards presentation. In Oscar’s honor, I’d like to present the Best Short winner for the 1932-33 season, SO THIS IS HARRIS. Crooner/bandleader Phil Harris stars as himself in this Pre-Code classic, along with comic actor Walter Catlett as a homebrew making husband jealous of his wife’s infatuation with the singer. Mark Sandrich, later the director of four Fred Astaire /Ginger Rogers romps, uses some innovative techniques, including the kaleidoscopic opening and neat swipes, to create a fast-paced, fun little outing. And wait til you get a load of the “Singing in the Shower” number – now THAT’S Pre-Code! Also featuring perennial Laurel & Hardy nemesis James Finlayson (“D’oh!”), enjoy SO THIS IS HARRIS, and happy Oscar viewing!:
1932’s SINISTER HANDS is an “old, dark house” murder mystery influenced by the horror cycle of the early talkie era, complete with a sinister swami conducting spooky séances. Former silent film matinee idol Jack Mulhall stars as the detective, with Mischa Auer the swami, Western ingenue Gertrude Messenger the damsel in distress, and the ubiquitous Bess Flowers! Sit back, grab some popcorn, and enjoy watching SINISTER HANDS:
October is usually reserved for all things Halloween, but today just happens to be Friday the 13th! Originally considered a day to avoid bad luck, the superstition has been superceded by Jason Vorhees and the FRIDAY THE 13TH series of slasher films. ‘Triskaidiskaphobia’ runs rampant in the 1946 cartoon THE STUPIDSTITIOUS CAT, a Paramount entry starring Buzzy the Crow, voiced by Jackson Beck as an Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson parody and directed by Seymour Kneitel. Toss some salt over your shoulder and enjoy THE STUPIDSTITIOUS CAT!:
What do you think of that, Jason?