Halloween Havoc!: THE NEANDERTHAL MAN (United Artists 1953)

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I’ve seen a lot of horror movies. All the Universal classics, Hammer horrors, big budget, low budget, no-budget, you name it. THE NEANDERTHAL MAN is without a doubt one of the worst I’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s not even so-bad-it’s-good. It’s just so-bad-it’s-bad.

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This totally unlikeable turkey involves a mad scientist whose experiments in evolution lead him to create a serum that devolves species. After success with turning a cat into a saber-toothed tiger (via stock footage and some really bad fake tusks), Professor Groves injects himself with the stuff and becomes Neanderthal Man. The prof goes on a pretty tame killing spree before getting his inevitable comeuppance. In a part that begs for John Carradine (or better yet, Bela Lugosi!), we get Robert Shayne of TV’s THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN  fame. The erstwhile Inspector Henderson is all over the place, overacting in some spots, underacting in others. Whereas a Carradine or Lugosi would’ve given some credibility to the demented doctor, Shayne’s just plain lousy.

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None of the actors really have a chance in the awful script by producers Aubrey Wisberg and Jack Pollexfen (THE MAN FROM PLANET X ) .   Richard Crane (ROCKY JONES SPACE RANGER, SURF PARTY)  plays the hero, a zoologist called in to investigate the mysterious, dumb looking saber-tooth. Genre sweetie Beverly Garland’s on hand as a waitress who gets ravaged by the Neanderthal Man. Dialectitian Robert Easton has a small part as a local rube. The rest of the cast are pretty much non-entities, all of whom act overwrought trying to get through the long-winded screenplay.

German expressionist pioneer E.A. Dupont is credited as director, though it doesn’t seem like he did much directing here. Famed cinematographer Stanley Cortez had better days (THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, THREE FACES OF EVE), and shows none of the artistic work of those films. It looks like Dupont just said “point and shoot”, and Cortez complied. The makeup job by Ed Wood vet Harry Thomas is about as scary as a Walmart Halloween mask.

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You readers can tell when I like a film, the posts are long and detailed. This one’s short. I see no reason to continue writing about this dull, unscary bomb. Don’t invite THE NEANDERTHAL MAN to your Halloween party, he’ll just bore everyone to death!!

 

 

 

 

 

CLEANING OUT THE DVR Pt. 5: Fabulous 40s Sleuths

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It’s time again for me to make room on the DVR! This edition features five Fabulous 40’s films of mystery and suspense, with super sleuths like Dick Tracy and Sherlock Holmes in the mix for good measure. Here’s five capsule reviews of some crime flicks from the 1940s:

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WHISTLING IN THE DARK (MGM 1941, D: S. Sylvan Simon): The first of three movies starring comedian Red Skelton as Wally Benton, aka radio detective ‘The Fox’. Skelton is kidnapped by a phony spiritual cult led by Conrad Veidt to devise “the perfect murder”. Ann Rutherford and Virginia Grey play rivals for Red’s affections, while Eve Arden is her usual wisecracking self as Red’s manager. Some of the jokes and gags are pretty dated, but Red’s genial personality makes the whole thing tolerable. Fun Fact: Rags Ragland (Sylvester) was once the Burlesque comedy partner of Phil Silvers.

Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes) Lionel Atwill (Professor James Moriarty)
Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes) Lionel Atwill (Professor James Moriarty)

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON (Universal 1942, D: Roy William Neill): Basil Rathbone IS Sherlock Holmes in this fourth entry in the series. All the gang from 221B Baker Street are along for the ride (Nigel Bruce, Dennis Hoey, Mary Gordon) as Holmes tries to foil a plot to steal a new bomb sight (for the war effort, don’t you know) by his arch-enemy Professor Moriarty. A secret code holds all the answers. That Grand Old Villain Lionel Atwill plays “The Napoleon of Crime”, and it’s terrific to watch screen vets Rathbone and Atwill engage in a battle of wits. In fact, it’s my favorite Universal Holmes movie because of the pairing of the two. Fun Fact #1: Rathbone and Atwill also costarred in 1939’s SON OF FRANKENSTEIN. Fun Fact #2: Kaaren Verne (Charlotte) was the second wife of another screen villain, Peter Lorre!

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TWO O’CLOCK COURAGE (RKO 1945, D: Anthony Mann): Ann Rutherford’s back as a female cab driver who helps an amnesia victim (Tom Conway) piece things together in this early effort from director Anthony Mann. Unlike Mann’s later films, the tone’s light and breezy here. There’s lots of plot twists to keep you guessing, and Conway and Rutherford have good onscreen chemistry. Cracked Rear Viewers will recognize supporting players Lester Matthews (The Raven), Jean Brooks (The Seventh Victim), and Jane Greer (Out of the Past). Hollywood’s favorite drunk Jack Norton does his schtick in a bar scene (where else?). Fun Fact: Actor Dick Lane (reporter Haley) later became a TV sports commentator in the 50’s, announcing pro wrestling and Roller Derby matches!

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DICK TRACY MEETS GRUESOME (RKO 1947, D: John Rawlins): Chester Gould’s stalwart comic-strip cop (personified by Ralph Byrd) goes up against gangster Gruesome, who uses a paralyzing gas to commit bank robberies. Boris Karloff is Gruesome (of course he is!), and adds his special brand of menace to the proceedings. (At one point, Dick’s aide Pat exclaims, “If I didn’t know better, I’d swear we were doing business with Boris Karloff!”) Gould’s trademark quirky character names like L.E. Thal and Dr. A. Tomic are all in good fun, and the Familiar Face Brigade includes Anne Gwynne, Milton Parsons, Skelton Knaggs, and Robert Clarke, among others. Fast moving and fun, especially for Karloff fans. Fun Fact: Boris played many gangsters early in his career, including a role in the 1932 Howard Hawks classic SCARFACE.

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THE THREAT (RKO 1949, D: Felix Feist): Convict Red Kluger (Charles McGraw) busts out of Folsom Prison and kidnaps the cop who sent him away (Michael O’Shea), the DA (Frank Conroy), and his former partner’s moll (Virginia Grey again). The police go on a manhunt to capture Kluger and save the others in this taut, suspenseful ‘B’ crime noir.  Quite brutal and violent for it time, with McGraw outstanding as the vicious killer on the loose. A very underrated and overlooked film that deserves some attention. Highly recommended! Fun Fact: Inspector Murphy is played by Robert Shayne, better known as Inspector Henderson on TV’s SUPERMAN.

Enjoy others in the series: