Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Classic Films in Focus: DARK PASSAGE (1947)

Delmer Daves' Dark Passage (1947) is the third picture to pair Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who had become Mr. and Mrs. Bogart in 1945, after their steamy introduction to one another and the world in To Have and Have Not (1944). Dark Passage is not as celebrated as that first film or The Big Sleep (1946), but it represents another opportunity to see the couple heat up the screen with their legendary chemistry. In spite of its emphasis on the romance between its two leads, the movie takes a deeply cynical view of the justice system and provides enough murder and mystery to satisfy film noir fans.

Bogart stars as Vincent Parry, who escapes from San Quentin after being wrongly imprisoned for the murder of his wife. He gets unexpected help from Irene Jansen (Lauren Bacall), a sympathetic and very attractive young woman. Irene hides Vincent in her car and then her apartment as the cops search for him all over San Francisco. With a new face molded by an eccentric plastic surgeon (Houseley Stevenson), Vincent sets out to learn who framed him for the killing of his wife and his friend, George (Rory Mallinson), who turns up dead just after Vincent makes his escape. His efforts are complicated by Madge (Agnes Moorehead), a former acquaintance who testified against him in court, and by a cheap crook (Clifton Young) who hopes to blackmail Vincent and Irene.

The movie opens with the unusual and not entirely successful gimmick of making the camera show Vincent's perspective rather than Vincent himself, a trick also used the same year in Lady in the Lake (1947). It takes more than a third of the movie for us to get our first real glimpse of Bogart. The justification is that it takes that long for Vincent to look like Bogart, since he has to have the plastic surgery to hide his identity from the cops, but it still seems like a long time to run with this approach. It also delays the signature banter and sexual sparks that fly between Bogart and Bacall, which is why most people watch the movie in the first place. Once we finally have the leading man in the camera's view, the movie picks up, and the two stars get their much anticipated scenes together.

When Bogart and Bacall aren't busy with their romance, Dark Passage turns its attention to darker themes, namely the total absence of justice in a system that treats innocent men as killers and lets guilty people get away. The rotten characters, played with malevolent energy by Agnes Moorehead and Clifton Young, use that broken system for their own benefit, and only poetic justice ever catches up with them. Sympathetic characters immediately side with Vincent, even if they don't know anything about him. Irene knows from personal experience that the law is good at going after the wrong guy; her own father died in prison under similar circumstances, and she has followed Vincent's case from the beginning. Vincent also gets understanding assistance from a cab driver (Tom D'Andrea) who arranges the appointment with the plastic surgeon and doesn't even expect anything in return. Vincent quickly realizes that it's up to him to figure out who really murdered his wife and his friend, since the cops are only interested in catching him, but even when he gets the answer he can't fix a system that never looks beyond the easiest, most obvious suspect.

For the fourth and final pairing of Bogart and Bacall, see Key Largo (1948). Bogart, a noir icon, plays more hard-boiled characters in High Sierra (1941), The Maltese Falcon (1941), and In a Lonely Place (1950). Catch Bacall's solo appearances in How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), The Shootist (1976), and The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996). For more from Delmer Daves, try Destination Tokyo (1943), Broken Arrow (1950), and 3:10 to Yuma (1957). Don't miss Agnes Moorehead in Citizen Kane (1941), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), and Jane Eyre (1943); the actress had a long and successful career before she stepped into her most famous role on the television series, Bewitched.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Classic Films in Focus: KING KONG (1933)

King Kong rules as the alpha ape among a crowd of cinematic simians, and the original 1933 movie that bears his name has influenced countless other films. Many of our modern blockbusters can trace their roots to King Kong; its special effects work and emphasis on big action sequences showed later filmmakers what the masses craved, and for that we can either praise or blame Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, who both produced and directed the film. While its oversized stop-motion ape and attitudes toward race and gender might well strike today's viewers as out of date, King Kong remains an essential picture for any horror or adventure genre fan, especially those interested in the evolution of the technical tricks that bring movie monsters to life.

Fay Wray screams and screams again as Ann Darrow, a penniless girl picked up off the street by director Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) for his latest crazy picture scheme. Denham leads an expedition to a mysterious island where Kong and his human subjects live, but the movie maker's plans go awry when the natives kidnap Ann as a sacrifice to their giant gorilla god. After much peril and the deaths of numerous men, Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot) manages to save Ann, and Denham takes Kong as a captive back to New York for public exhibition. Kong inevitably breaks free to run amok in the city, and Ann is once again carried off by her terrifying admirer.

In an age of ever more complicated CGI effects, it's easy to see the limitations of the movie's techniques, and Kong has been parodied and revisited so many times that his power to shock has more or less disappeared. In 1933, however, he really was the Eighth Wonder of the World. Nobody had seen anything like him before, and the scientific study of actual gorillas was still in its infancy, so audiences didn't have extensive knowledge of the animals to contrast with the movie's nightmare vision. Stop-motion makes Kong an expressive, mobile creature, able to fight spectacular battles with dinosaurs and sea serpents, and composite shots of stop-motion and rear projection bring him and his human costars into perilous proximity. The work done by Willis O'Brien to bring the creature to life inspired Ray Harryhausen to make his own stop-motion monsters, and Harryhausen in turn inspired another generation of special effects wizards and blockbuster movie makers to create even more realistic dinosaurs, aliens, and giant gorillas. Without King Kong, we wouldn't have Jason and the Argonauts (1963) or Clash of the Titans (1981), and we wouldn't have Jurassic World (2015), either.

Despite its revolutionary special effects work, King Kong is very much a product of its era, with racy Pre-Code sexuality and casual violence that were excised from later reissues until the end of the Hays Code period. The story, which Denham insists on casting as a version of "Beauty and the Beast," really has more to do with taboo interspecies desire. Ann is chosen by the natives as a "Bride of Kong," which suggests a fate both deeply disturbing and biologically impossible. Kong reinforces the idea in the scene where he pulls away pieces of Ann's clothing like petals from a flower, revealing her exposed flesh for his own enjoyment and the titillation of the audience.The movie opens with a pointedly sexist discussion that segues into Driscoll's begrudging attraction to Ann in spite of her being a useless girl. For her part, Ann spends a lot of time insisting that she hasn't been any trouble to the ship's crew of red-blooded, woman-hating sailors, who then get killed trying to save her from Kong's clutches. The Skull Island natives are an overtly racist mess, while Kong himself is a more subtle commentary on the same themes, and Denham's unchecked capitalist chauvinism never gets the comeuppance it deserves. In a modern movie, at least, we can be pretty sure that the monster will eat a guy like that before the final scene fades. None of these problems should keep people from seeing the picture, since the same sins have been repeated in dozens of blockbusters since, but it's important to go into King Kong with an understanding of its not very subtle subtext.

Robert Armstrong and Frank Reicher return for the sequel, Son of Kong (1933), in which Denham and Captain Englehorn find another giant gorilla on Skull Island. The original movie was remade in 1976 and 2005, but each newer version has problems of its own, with the most recent treatment from Peter Jackson clocking in at a whopping 187 minutes. See more of Fay Wray in Doctor X (1932), The Vampire Bat (1933), and Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933). Bruce Cabot, a regular in Westerns, appears in Dodge City (1939), Angel and the Badman (1947), and Cat Ballou (1965). The Most Dangerous Game (1932) makes a fascinating double feature with King Kong; it also stars Fay Wray and was shot on the same sets.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Classic Films in Focus: ZIEGFELD GIRL (1941)

Ziegfeld Girl (1941) provides a different perspective on the Ziegfeld Follies from Best Picture Winner The Great Ziegfeld (1936); it focuses on a trio of chorines rather than the showman himself, who never actually appears in the picture. Judy Garland, Lana Turner, and Hedy Lamarr star as three young women whose Broadway experiences lead to different fates, and each shines in her respective role. Direction from Robert Z. Leonard heightens the drama and romance, and Jimmy Stewart gives a memorable performance as Turner's unhappy beau. Like other films about the Follies, Ziegfeld Girl includes lavish recreations of the original stage spectacles, with Busby Berkeley directing the show-stopping musical numbers.

Judy Garland plays Vaudeville baby Susan, who has the talent to become a star and the unflagging support of her performer father (Charles Winninger). Lana Turner is Sheila, an elevator girl picked out for the chorus by Ziegfeld himself, much to the dismay of her boyfriend, Gil (Jimmy Stewart). Hedy Lamarr plays Sandra, the wife of a gifted but unsuccessful violinist (Philip Dorn); she takes the chorus job for the income but wounds her husband's pride in the process, which strains their marriage to the breaking point. Each of the three women finds moments of happiness and heartbreak, but only one is destined for tragedy.

The three leading ladies are markedly different from one another, just like their characters, but each adds to the movie's overall appeal in her own unique way. Garland's Susan, fresh faced and girlish, is the innocent kid; she just wants to put on a good show and make it in the business. In spite of her unconventional upbringing on the Vaudeville stage, she's so unspoiled that her idea of romance is a root beer at the soda fountain. She's very similar to the teen characters Garland plays in her pictures with Mickey Rooney, including the Betsy Booth role in the Andy Hardy series. Lana Turner is a little more mature as Sheila, who is old enough to marry Gil but quickly gets distracted by money, male attention, and booze. Her downward spiral into alcoholic self-destruction takes Gil along with her until he ends up working for a gangster and going to jail. Both Turner and Stewart get plenty of dark moments that convey the bitter heartache their characters endure over the course of the film. Lamarr's Sandra is the oldest of the three women, and her story starts at a low point, when she and her husband, Franz, have had to pawn his violin to buy food. Sandra, so striking that even the chorus girls nickname her "Beautiful," has no desire for fame or attention, but she takes the job to help Franz even though it drives him away. Lamarr's breathtaking beauty is displayed most effectively in the stage production numbers, but she also brings an air of Continental experience to her character, who already knows more than the others about life, loss, and love.

The supporting cast is stocked with familiar faces. Charles Winninger does especially well as Susan's Pop, who has to face his own rejection by the Follies when Susan gets her big break. His character represents the the Vaudeville roots of the Broadway shows and a way of life that was fast disappearing as the twentieth century gathered steam. Jackie Cooper connects the characters of Susan and Sheila as Sheila's younger brother, Jerry, who worries about his sister while falling for her talented friend. Tony Martin provides music and illicit romance as the show's solo singer, Frank, who woos Sandra even though they are both still married. Since Ziegfeld himself never turns up in person, Edward Everett Horton fills in as his representative, Noble Sage, who has to handle a crowd of chorus girls and keep the show going. In smaller but still memorable roles are Eve Arden, Dan Dailey, Felix Bressart, and Fay Holden, each getting at least a few good scenes and, in Arden's case especially, some excellent lines.

The Follies get a third movie treatment with Ziegfeld Follies (1945), which also features Judy Garland. Robert Z. Leonard directed The Great Ziegfeld (1936), as well, and his other films include Dancing Lady (1933), Pride and Prejudice (1940), and In the Good Old Summertime (1949). For more of the gorgeous Hedy Lamarr, see Algiers (1938), Experiment Perilous (1944), and Samson and Delilah (1949). You'll find both Lana Turner and Judy Garland in Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938), but Turner is best remembered today for her femme fatale turn in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946). Ziegfeld Girl was the last picture Jimmy Stewart made before departing for the Army and World War II; his next movie, five years later, would be It's a Wonderful Life (1946).

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Classic Films in Focus: THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS (1946)

The Beast with Five Fingers (1946) is a surprisingly effective chiller from director Robert Florey and screenwriter Curt Siodmak, who also penned horror classics like The Wolf Man (1941) and I Walked with a Zombie (1943). For genre fans, the chief draw of the picture is Peter Lorre as an obsessed astrologist, but Lorre gets competition for our attention from the ambulatory human hand that gives the movie its title. Well-executed special effects, interesting characters, and a score by Max Steiner all contribute to the film's appeal, with J. Carrol Naish putting in a particularly entertaining appearance as the police commissioner in charge of unraveling the mystery of the murderous hand.

Lorre plays Hilary Cummins, the secretary to Francis Ingram (Victor Francen), a crippled pianist living in a lavish Italian villa. Ingram's obsessive attachment to his attractive nurse, Julie (Andrea King), makes her decide to leave, but before she can depart Ingram dies under somewhat suspicious circumstances. Strange events then begin to occur, and it appears that the dead man's hand may be on the loose. Julie and her friend, Bruce Conrad (Robert Alda), become pariahs to the locals because of the bad luck of the house, while Hilary claims to have seen the killer hand in action. Meanwhile, Ingram's greedy relatives try to undermine the validity of a will that leaves the entire estate to Julie, including the books vital to Hilary's astrological research.

While the cast is solid across the board, Lorre stands out for his portrayal of the decidedly weird astrologist, who lurks around the corners of the villa's many rooms and rapidly comes unglued once the hand starts wreaking havoc. It's never hard to believe in Lorre as a head case, but Hilary starts out as a more subtle example of the type and builds up to full blown insanity, when we find him wild-eyed and wielding a hammer against his dismembered nemesis. J. Carroll Naish also deserves special attention as the police chief, who brings some levity to the situation but is smart enough to figure out the case. Naish invests the character with so much personality that we aren't surprised when he gets the picture's closing scenes. The young couple played by Andrea King and Robert Alda are there for the romance and to give us someone to root for, with Alda's somewhat shifty character a nice change from the usual straight arrow types who fill this role. In contrast to them we get Charles Dingle and John Alvin as Ingram's obnoxious brother-in-law and  nephew, who are both so mercenary that the audience longs to see the hand get a grip on them. Victor Francen doesn't have many scenes before his character gets killed, but he does a fine job setting the stage for the vengeful hand with his virtuoso airs.

Two additional elements, special effects and music, make The Beast with Five Fingers memorable. Several techniques bring the hand to life, and we see it accomplish all kinds of strange feats, from playing the piano to crawling across the floor. It's very similar to Thing from The Addams Family, but instead of being played for laughs this hand gives us the creeps. Its escape from the pianist's tomb evokes a marvelous sense of dread, and the one-handed corpse gripping a knife in its remaining fingers suggests a gruesome act of post-mortem determination. Because the hand has to play by itself, piano music performed with one hand dominates the musical score, especially Bach's haunting "Chaconne in D Minor," as transcribed by Brahms. We first hear it played by Ingram; later, the restless hand performs the piece, with the intensity reaching its peak during the film's climax. Max Steiner, best remembered for creating the iconic theme for Gone with the Wind (1939), elevates this production by making us take the musical aspect seriously, with the score for the other scenes also heightening the charged atmosphere.

For more hand horror with Peter Lorre, see Mad Love (1935), in which the actor really gets to cut loose with his madman persona. Other horror movies featuring J. Carroll Naish include Dr. Renault's Secret (1942) and House of Frankenstein (1944), but you'll also find him playing Sitting Bull in Annie Get Your Gun (1950) and Sitting Bull (1954). Robert Florey directed The Marx Brothers in The Cocoanuts (1929) and Bela Lugosi in Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932).

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Classic Films in Focus: HIS KIND OF WOMAN (1951)

His Kind of Woman (1951) combines film noir and cock-eyed comedy in the performances of two great stars, Robert Mitchum and Vincent Price. Mitchum handles the grimmer business, facing off against Raymond Burr and a gang of nasty lackeys, while Price hams it up gloriously as an actor who yearns to play the hero in real life. John Farrow directs the whole with a skillful hand, weaving together the lighter and darker elements to create a thoroughly entertaining film that also highlights the charms of Jane Russell as the love interest of both leading men.

Mitchum heads up the cast as Dan Milner, a gambler whose run of bad luck pushes him to accept a mysterious but lucrative job in Mexico. Installed in a posh resort and awaiting further orders, Milner tries to figure out who hired him and why, but the more he learns the less he likes it. Meanwhile, Milner strikes up a romance with Lenore Brent (Jane Russell) in spite of her relationship with Hollywood star Mark Cardigan (Vincent Price).

The picture begins as straightforward noir and slowly evolves into something else. Very early on we see Milner get worked over for a bet he didn't make, and we hear that bad things have been happening to him a lot lately. Soon he's told that "maybe this part of the country isn't lucky for you anymore." Milner is no dummy; he realizes that his acceptance of the Mexican job has been orchestrated by some unknown party that probably doesn't have his welfare in mind, but he knows a fix when he's in one. He bides his time for an opportunity to fight back, which gives him plenty of leisure to pursue Lenore, even though she isn't what she seems. All of this is strictly noir material, and when Raymond Burr's vicious Nick Ferraro shows up things get really ugly. Around the midway point, however, Price's bombastic, good-natured character starts to undermine our fatalistic view of the action with his hilarious antics. Whether he's clapping at his own picture, spouting Shakespeare, or firing shots at Milner's enemies, Cardigan is always a hoot, and Price steals every scene where he turns up. Mitchum makes the movie cool, but Price makes it fun, and His Kind of Woman thus occupies a space all its own in the classic noir canon.

The film's other performances also contribute to its overall appeal, with Russell in fine form, especially during her musical numbers. She holds the screen against both of her male costars and moves easily between the picture's moods. Jim Backus provides comedy with a hint of menace as a scheming resort guest with his eye on a pretty newlywed, and Tim Holt is solid as a federal agent who tries to get Milner to help the law nab Ferraro. Charles McGraw is thoroughly unpleasant as Thompson, whose job is to keep Milner in line until his boss arrives, but Raymond Burr really takes the prize for worst bad guy as the brutal and possibly insane Ferraro. Deported from the United States but determined to get back to his underworld business, Ferraro plans to replace Milner by having plastic surgery to look like him. He doesn't take it well when Milner wants out of the arrangement. "I hate welchers, Milner," he growls, just before he knees Milner in the groin and then has him lashed with a belt. Later he threatens Milner with a Nazi drug that will destroy his mind and slowly kill him. It's no wonder that Milner objects to handing over his identity.

Dedicated fans of Vincent Price, who was a noted gourmet, will appreciate the scene in which Cardigan enthusiastically prepares a duck for dinner. For more of Price in film noir, see Laura (1944), Shock (1946), and The Web (1947). Robert Mitchum tackles more noir roles in Out of the Past (1947), The Racket (1951), and Angel Face (1952). Catch Jane Russell in The Outlaw (1943), The Paleface (1948), and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). John Farrow earned an Oscar nomination for Best Director for Wake Island (1940); he also directed Mitchum in another noir thriller, Where Danger Lives (1950).

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Classic Films in Focus: ANGEL FACE (1952)

Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons play a deadly game of dysfunctional romance in Otto Preminger's Angel Face (1952), which features a particularly tragic femme fatale caught in the undertow of her own insanity. Everyone around her is in danger of being dragged down, as well, but Mitchum's protagonist is foolhardy enough to see the danger signs and still dive in. Angel Face benefits tremendously from Preminger's direction and the performances of the two stars, but the picture ultimately belongs to Simmons, whose sweet face conceals the murderous disorder of her obsessive mind.

Mitchum stars as Frank, an ambulance driver who answers a call at the Tremayne house only to become drawn into the family's affairs by Diane (Jean Simmons), a beautiful but manipulative young woman who hates her wealthy stepmother (Barbara O'Neil) as much as she adores her novelist father (Herbert Marshall). Frank blows off his steady girl, Mary (Mona Freeman), in order to spend time with Diane, even though he realizes that he's setting himself up for trouble. When Diane is accused of murder, Frank finds his own life on the line, as well, and he's forced to stick with her in spite of his desire to break things off and go back to Mary.

Mitchum, of course, was made for film noir, but this performance sees him in a more passive role. Frank lets Diane lead him around by the nose until it's far too late to walk out, even though he eventually gets fed up enough to try. The actor has a unique ability to make us believe how a smart guy might do a series of very stupid things. "Never be the innocent bystander," Frank says, "that's the guy that always gets hurt." He doesn't take his own advice. Simmons is a marvel as the siren who lures Frank on toward disaster; she isn't intentionally bad so much as she is utterly deranged, a broken doll with a little girl's face and a jealous killer's heart. Like Ellen Berent in Leave Her to Heaven (1945) and Annie Laurie Starr in Gun Crazy (1950), Diane is capable of love, but it's a passionate, possessive storm of emotion that destroys the ones it adores. Diane loves her father, but she can't tolerate her stepmother's intrusion into their lives, and her desire to get rid of Catherine Tremayne takes her well beyond the point of no return. She loves Frank, even though she knows that he never stops thinking about returning to Mary. Eventually she realizes that there's only one way to make sure that he never walks out.

The supporting performances are all solid, with Herbert Marshall especially sympathetic and rather pitiable as the novelist whose marriage into money has ruined him for his art. We can see why Diane worships her father, but we also recognize the essential weakness of his nature. Barbara O'Neil does an excellent job with the tough role of Diane's stepmother. Diane, resentful and childish, wants to cast her as a fairy tale villain, while O'Neil shows us the extent to which Diane's vision is self-deluding. Mona Freeman has some very good scenes with Mitchum as the justly offended girlfriend, but her best moment is the luncheon confrontation with Diane, where Mary proves that she's not going to play Diane's duplicitous game. Leon Ames is polished and rather disturbing as the attorney who defends Diane, and Jim Backus turns up for a few energetic scenes on behalf of the prosecution.

Otto Preminger directed other noir films, including Laura (1944), Fallen Angel (1945), and Whirlpool (1949); he also directed Mitchum again in the Western, River of No Return (1954). See more of the magnificent Mitchum in Out of the Past (1947), The Night of the Hunter (1955), and Cape Fear (1962). You'll find Jean Simmons in Great Expectations (1946), Black Narcissus (1947), and Spartacus (1960). Barbara O'Neil is best remembered today for playing Scarlett O'Hara's mother in Gone with the Wind (1939), while Herbert Marshall is known for Foreign Correspondent (1940) and The Letter (1940).

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Classic Films in Focus: THE STRANGE DOOR (1951)

Loosely adapted from a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson, director Joseph Pevney's The Strange Door (1951) plays like a primer for one of Roger Corman's Poe pictures, and fans of those films will find much to appreciate here. Gothic elements abound, including a forbidding castle filled with instruments of torture, but the movie's chief spectacle is Charles Laughton as a deranged nobleman bent on sadistic revenge. Boris Karloff also makes a memorable appearance in a supporting role, although Laughton takes the monster's part for this twisted tale. The Strange Door is a minor entry in the horror canon, and by no means a perfect film, but it's worthwhile viewing for Laughton devotees who love his most unsavory characters.

Richard Stapley plays young Denis de Beaulieu, who finds himself an unwilling house guest when Sire Alain de Maletroit (Charles Laughton) thinks he's blackguard enough to be imposed as a bridegroom on the nobleman's niece, Blanche (Sally Forrest). De Maletroit secretly keeps Blanche's father (Paul Cavanagh) locked up in his dungeon, where the prisoner is attended by his faithful servant, Voltan (Boris Karloff). The villainous lord forces Denis and Blanche to marry in the hope that they will hate each other heartily, but when they fall in love instead he resorts to extremes to exact his long-desired revenge.

Laughton revels in his role as the malevolent de Maletroit, making even the most casual lines drip with veiled cruelty. The audience knows immediately that he's a villain, but the extent of his evil is revealed more slowly, building toward his climactic attempt to murder his entire family. Laughton's fleshy, sly face is perfectly suited to this kind of deviant character; he combines the urbane menace of Vincent Price with the corpulent self-indulgence of Sydney Greenstreet. He both fascinates and repulses as we watch him torment his victims, even as he himself is egged on by his henchmen. It's true that de Maletroit's actions don't make a lot of sense, especially his scheme of marrying Blanche off by force to the first cad he can find, but Laughton makes us believe that the character is crazy enough to cook up such a cock-eyed plot. In a Pre-Code picture he might have devised a far more gruesome fate, and Price's heavies in the Corman films certainly put more thought into their nasty plans. Foolishly, De Maletroit doesn't foresee the possibility that his young people might actually start a romance and spoil his little game.

Stapley and Forrest fill their straightforward roles well enough, but the other supporting characters have more interesting parts to perform. Karloff, who had played plenty of monstrous heavies over the years, here gets a more sympathetic role in Voltan, who hopes to free his original master from the usurper's power. He's not exactly heroic, given that he hasn't managed to get poor Edmond out of the cell in twenty years, but he has a pathetic, loyal quality, something like a faithful dog, that really comes to the foreground in the final scenes. Paul Cavanagh does a lot with the minor role of Edmond, who pretends to be insane while waiting for a chance to escape his brother's clutches. His madman act is so convincing that it's a shock to see him come out of it. William Cottrell and Michael Pate play de Maletroit's lackeys with grim enthusiasm, and Alan Napier turns up for a brief but effective performance as a friend who tries help Denis escape from his wedding banquet.

For another adaptation of a Stevenson short story, try The Body Snatcher (1945), in which Karloff takes a more prominent role. Joseph Pevney also directed the Lon Chaney biopic, Man of a Thousand Faces (1957). Catch Laughton being even more horrible in Island of Lost Souls (1932), or see his kinder, gentler side with Ruggles of Red Gap (1935). Richard Stapley acted under the name Richard Wyler later in his career and starred in the TV series, Man from Interpol.

Classic Films in Focus: EXPERIMENT PERILOUS (1944)

Like the more illustrious Gaslight (1944), Experiment Perilous (1944) focuses on a beautiful woman trapped in a sinister plot to destroy her sanity, with Hedy Lamarr as the lady in peril and George Brent as her aspiring protector. The film also features direction by Jacques Tourneur, but it falls short of his best work in classics like Cat People (1942) and Out of the Past (1947). In spite of its flaws, Experiment Perilous is a moderately entertaining thriller, largely because of Lamarr's irresistible charms and the suave menace of Paul Lukas as the dangerously possessive husband.

George Brent plays Dr. Hunt Bailey, who meets a timorous but kindly older woman (Olive Blakeney) on a train trip home to New York. When the woman suddenly dies on her return to her family's house, Hunt is left with her diaries and a growing urge to know more about the surviving members of the Bederaux family. Nick Bederaux (Paul Lukas) is a wealthy man, but his house's chief attraction is his lovely wife, Allida (Hedy Lamarr). Nick engages Hunt to assess Allida's sanity, but the doctor suspects that Allida is in very real danger from her manipulative spouse.

We never reach the hysterical pitch of Gaslight as this plot unfolds, perhaps because Nick Bederaux is a less sophisticated tormentor than Charles Boyer's sadistic villain. Nick is merely jealous and mentally unstable; he is more capable of murder than the slow, deliberate turning of the screws that really Gothic cruelty demands. Paul Lukas handles the role as well as possible, but his performance would have benefited from juicier sins to commit over the course of the film. Because Nick is less inventive as an antagonist, Hedy Lamarr has less to work with as the victimized Allida, although her delicate beauty suggests her vulnerability and justifies all of the masculine attention she attracts. George Brent more or less plods forward through his part as the heroic doctor; he's too solid and respectable to seem threatened, even when he realizes that he's being followed and then discovers that Miss Bederaux's diaries have been stolen from their hiding place in his own home. Hunt never believes Nick's claims about Allida, and he progresses from admiring her portrait to being in love with her with alarming speed.

The picture does offer some memorable visual moments, from closeups of Lamarr's impossibly beautiful face to a bank of fascinating aquariums that we never get close enough to inspect. The Bederaux home, with its strange hidden stairs and maze of rooms, invites mystery, and it provides for an explosive climax when Nick finally launches his homicidal endgame. These elements earned the movie an Oscar nomination for Best Art Direction, but it's easy to imagine this setting filled with much more gripping suspense than we actually get. Tourneur creates that kind of hair-raising dread in his most important films, but it only breaks through in fits and starts in this production. The result is not a terrible picture but a mediocre one; dedicated Tourneur fans might want to see it just to expand their knowledge of the director's oeuvre, and others will find it worthwhile just for an hour and a half to admire Lamarr's incomparable looks.

Be sure to note Albert Dekker in a supporting role as Hunt's friend, Clag. For a really different perspective on George Brent in the thriller genre, see The Spiral Staircase (1945). Hedy Lamarr also stars in Algiers (1938), Ziegfeld Girl (1941), and Samson and Delilah (1949). Paul Lukas won the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in Watch on the Rhine (1943), but you'll also find him in The Lady Vanishes (1938) and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954). For more from Jacques Tourneur, see I Walked with a Zombie (1943), The Flame and the Arrow (1950), and Night of the Demon (1957).

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Classic Films in Focus: I SHOT JESSE JAMES (1949)

I Shot Jesse James (1949) marked the directorial debut of Samuel Fuller, who would go on to make the noir classic, Pickup on South Street (1953), as well as films like Shock Corridor (1963) and The Naked Kiss (1964). Like his later pictures, this semi-biographical account of Robert Ford rejects easy moral distinctions; its protagonist is no hero, but a man motivated to murder his friend in pursuit of his own personal happiness. Fuller's screenplay takes liberties with the history of the James Gang and the man who eventually caught up with Bob Ford, but it makes for a gripping narrative that demonstrates Fuller's talent even at the beginning of his career. A taut performance from John Ireland as the lead character helps to pull us into Bob Ford's flawed logic even as we recoil from his brutal, selfish nature.

Ireland plays Ford at the critical juncture of his life as an outlaw, when he hopes to marry longtime sweetheart, Cynthy (Barbara Britton), but finds himself trapped by his association with the notorious Jesse James (Reed Hadley). When the authorities offer amnesty to anyone who brings James in dead or alive, Bob sees his chance and shoots his unsuspecting friend in the back. His actions make him a pariah with the public and a target for aspiring gunmen, but they also make Cynthy rethink her feelings for him. Soon she attracts the romantic interest of Kelley (Preston Foster), a decent but unsuccessful prospector, and Bob's jealousy becomes violent.

The film promotes the popular view of James as a pretty good guy in spite of his criminal career, especially in the way it depicts him at home, where he lives under the pseudonym of Mr. Howard. Jesse is loyal and generous to his friends, including Bob and his brother, Charles (Tommy Noonan), although their prolonged stay in the James home irritates Jesse's wife, Zee (Barbara Woodell). Jesse's treatment of Bob makes the younger man's betrayal all the more inexcusable, and Fuller never lets us believe that Bob is really motivated by love because he clearly doesn't understand what it is. Bob sees Cynthy as a reward he can win through underhanded actions, but the murder makes her love for him turn to fear and disgust. She's too afraid of him to tell him that she doesn't want to marry him anymore, and Bob is too dumb to figure it out for himself.

John Ireland's portrayal of Ford casts him as a small-time thug, a jealous lover, and a total failure as a human being. Ireland looks very much at home in the Western genre, where he spent much of his career, and he evokes the brutish quality of his character with his dark features and tight-lipped mouth. His Ford always looks ready to punch somebody in the face, even in his love scenes with Cynthy, who is right to be afraid of him. Even worse, Bob offers to recreate the killing on the stage as a way to make cash, although opening night finds him unable to face the prospect, with a stony-faced crowd silently watching him sweat. Some stories tell of good men gone wrong, and some of bad men who become good, but Bob Ford is a stinker through and through, a treacherous snake who uses love as an excuse to commit an unforgivable act. It takes Bob a long time to figure out why that might have been the wrong thing to do, and by then it's too late, with his friend in the grave and his hopes for the future in ruins.

Samuel Fuller's next picture was also a Western, The Baron of Arizona (1950), with Vincent Price as an amoral but more lovable schemer. John Ireland earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for All the King's Men (1949), but you'll also find him in Raw Deal (1948), The Return of Jesse James (1950), and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957). For more films about the James Gang, try Jesse James (1939) and The Return of Frank James (1940), both of which feature John Carradine in the Bob Ford role. In 2007, Hollywood revisited the story with The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, with Brad Pitt as Jesse and Casey Affleck as Ford.

Classic Films in Focus: DRACULA'S DAUGHTER (1936)

Dracula's Daughter (1936) acts as a direct sequel to the 1931 Dracula, picking up mere moments after the earlier film ends. This time, however, the narrative focuses on Van Helsing (mysteriously altered to Von Helsing) and a new representative of the undead, the Countess Maria Zeleska, played with unearthly poise by Gloria Holden. Although its fame pales in comparison with that of the Lugosi picture, Dracula's Daughter offers an intriguing vision of feminine monstrosity, and it encourages us to pity the tragic fate of a beautiful woman enslaved by uncontrollable desires.

Edward Van Sloan reprises his role as the good doctor, who finds himself charged with murder for the deaths of both Renfield and Count Dracula. Unable to convince Scotland Yard of his sanity and his reasons for killing the Count, Von Helsing enlists the aid of his former student, Dr. Jeffrey Garth (Otto Kruger).  Meanwhile, Countess Zeleska arrives in London and begins preying on victims of her own with the help of her servant, Sandor (Irving Pichel). Jeffrey attracts the vampire's attention because she hopes that his skill as a psychiatrist can free her from her bloodthirsty curse, but her interest arouses the jealousy of Jeffrey's assistant, Janet (Marguerite Churchill), and of Sandor, as well.

Von Helsing provides a link between the two stories, and Edward Van Sloan is once again very convincing as the wise vampire hunter, but Dracula's Daughter really concerns itself much more with its title character and other new arrivals on the scene. Because of the earlier film, it takes less time to explain the back story and the habits of the vampire, so the movie is able to pack all of its action into a tight running time of just 71 minutes. Most of that focuses on the Countess' growing obsession with Dr. Garth, who is already engaged in a prickly, contentious courtship with his assistant, but the movie takes time out for a few attack scenes and a poignant funeral pyre for Dracula. We see visual and thematic links to the earlier story, as well, with the Countess rising from her coffin and avoiding mirrors and crosses.

All of the actors acquit themselves well, but the movie really belongs to Gloria Holden, whose exotic beauty commands the screen in frequent closeups lit from beneath to emphasize her unnatural nature. Unlike Dracula, the Countess longs for a normal life and yearns to escape her monstrous urges. She hopes at first that her father's death will liberate her, but a test of her will soon shows that her appetite for human blood remains unabated. She cannot help being what she is, but the darkness inside her is too powerful to resist. The camera registers the subtle struggle of her conflicting urges in shots that often show only the Countess' eyes, in which Sandor claims he can see death. Throughout the picture, she is a complex character, never reduced to mere monstrosity. Like the goddess Kali, she embodies contradictions. The Countess is an artist who creates and a killer who destroys. She is a woman who yearns for love and a predator who must devour. Holden invests her with grace and a sense of tragic grandeur, making us wish it that was not already a century too late to save her from her fate.

Be sure to note Hedda Hopper in a small role as Lady Esme and lovely Nan Grey as Lili. Lambert Hillyer, who directed Dracula's Daughter, was a silent film veteran who also made The Invisible Ray (1936) and dozens of B Westerns. Gloria Holden appears in The Life of Emile Zola (1937), The Corsican Brothers (1941), and The Eddy Duchin Story (1956). Look for Otto Kruger in Treasure Island (1934), Saboteur (1942), and High Noon (1952). Although he's quite menacing as Sandor, Irving Pichel is probably better remembered today as the director of more than 30 pictures, including The Most Dangerous Game (1932) and Destination Moon (1950).

Monday, June 15, 2015

Classic Films in Focus: THE UNHOLY THREE (1925)

The Unholy Three (1925) takes director Tod Browning and star Lon Chaney out of the horror genre, but this silent crime drama is still weird enough to satisfy fans of their other films. Many of Browning's favorite motifs are on display, including his obsession with carnival sideshow types, and Chaney, so often deformed to play strange characters, this time adopts the guise of a little old lady with stooped shoulders and a sweet, grandmotherly face. Mae Busch, Harry Earles, and a young Victor McLaglen add to the film's appeal with their performances, with Earles in particular getting the opportunity to prove that his small stature was not the only thing he had to bring to his roles.

Chaney plays sideshow ventriloquist Echo, who hatches a bizarre scheme to commit robberies by posing as the elderly female owner of a bird store. He recruits fellow performers Hercules (Victor McLaglen) and Tweedledee (Harry Earles) as his accomplices, and he also brings along his pick-pocket sweetheart, Rosie (Mae Busch). Echo's plans go awry when Hercules and Tweedledee commit a Christmas Eve robbery without him, and Rosie turns out to be in love with the innocent man they intend to frame for the crime.

Chaney's character resembles many of his other roles in that Echo is not an entirely bad man, but one capable of great good or great evil as a result of his ambitious, jealous nature. Echo loves Rosie more than he is able to express to her; he doesn't even realize how much he cares about her until she falls for the unassuming Hector (Matt Moore). When Rosie pleads with Echo to save Hector from being executed for the trio's crimes, Echo has to choose between selfless love and his own safety. As Echo, Chaney is intense, a man taut with energy and expectation. As Mrs. O'Grady, he hides that masculine identity beneath an old woman's face and clothes, but the best scenes show Echo struggling to repress his real feelings while maintaining his feminine disguise. The ridiculous nature of Echo's impersonation grabs our attention in several scenes, but Browning and Chaney frequently remind us that this is no mere frolic, and the consequences of the trio's robberies are deadly.

Of the supporting players, Victor McLaglen and Matt Moore have the least to do, although seeing McLaglen's impressive physique is quite a thrill. Moore’s milquetoast Hector is the weakest part of the film, even more so than the chimpanzee standing in for a ferocious gorilla. He’s so dull that it’s hard to understand what Rosie sees in him, although Mae Busch gives a very good performance as the bad girl slowly succumbing to her better nature. Harry Earles steals his scenes repeatedly as Tweedledee, who spends much of his time pretending to be a toddler but really has the most violent, selfish nature of the lot. When we first meet him, he kicks a child in the face and then tries to get into a brawl; later he watches the other characters with sharp, calculating eyes, always waiting for an opportunity to get the upper hand. The role provides a fascinating contrast with Earles’ best known part, that of the innocent Hans in Browning’s horror masterpiece, Freaks (1932).

Lon Chaney and Harry Earles reprised their roles for a sound version of The Unholy Three in 1930, with Jack Conway as the director. Tod Browning is best remembered today for Dracula (1931), but his other films with Chaney include The Unknown (1927), West of Zanzibar (1928), and Where East is East (1929). See more of Mae Busch in Foolish Wives (1922), Souls for Sale (1923), and Sons of the Desert (1933). Victor McLaglen won an Oscar for Best Actor for The Informer (1935); a favorite of director John Ford, he makes memorable appearances in Wee Willie Winkie (1937), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), and The Quiet Man (1952). Browning liked the drag aspect of The Unholy Three enough to revisit it with The Devil-Doll (1936), in which Lionel Barrymore tackles the role of the counterfeit granny.

Liebster Love

Thanks to Caftan Woman for nominating me for a Liebster Award! This is just a fun award that bloggers use to show their appreciation for each other, and I certainly am honored that she included me in her round of nominations. The rules require me to answer Caftan Woman's 11 questions, list 11 things readers might not know about me, nominate up to 11 other bloggers, and pose 11 questions of my own to them. Here goes!

1.  What is your favourite book?

That is an impossible question for an English major to answer! I will say that I find The Hobbit, Jane Eyre, and The Last Unicorn endlessly readable, and I cry every time I read A Christmas Carol.

2.  Who is your desert island director?  Why?
Preston Sturges. If I'm stuck on a desert island, I want something to laugh about.

3.  If you had a choice, would you live in the past or the future?

Definitely the future! The past is no place for a liberated female.

4.  Who is your favourite performer to lip-sync to?

Bon Jovi. I'm going down in a blaze of glory, baby.

5.  Cats, dogs or lizards?


6.  Where do you get the majority of your news?  Print?  Television?  Online?

Probably NPR. I listen to it a lot.

7.  Which juror are you in 12 Angry Men?

Henry Fonda for sure. I'm an old school idealist.

8.  Your favourite holiday?  Why?

Halloween. I love Gothic atmosphere, costumes, and candy. Christmas is too much to live up each year.

9.  Do you play a musical instrument?  Sing?

 No instruments, and I only sing badly (though with much enthusiasm).

10. What are the first three films you would induct into your personal Film Registry?

Cat People, The Searchers, Singin' in the Rain - not necessarily in that order.

11.  Boris Karloff or Bela Lugosi?
Karloff. He's so marvelous when he talks. I love him in Bedlam, Corridors of Blood, and The Mummy.

11 Things Readers Might Not Know About Me

1. I worked for a while at a men's federal prison teaching ABE/GED classes.
2. I have a PhD in 18th-century British Literature and Feminist Criticism.
3. I love the Muppets, but I don't like actual frogs.
4. I can't stand onions.
5. I used to teach defensive driving classes to US Army Rangers at a military base.
6. I can recite "The Raven" and "Kubla Khan" - along with numerous other poems - from memory.
7. I write introductions to editions of classic novels for various publishers, including Barnes & Noble.
8. I am left-handed and hate manual can openers.
9. My cat's name is Grendel Graymalkin Kagemusha Sparks, and he will be 20 this October.
10. I'm writing a novel about Long John Silver's daughter and her adventures.
11. I have been collecting LEGO for more than 20 years.

Liebster Nominees!

Classic Movie Man
Immortal Ephemera
Cinematically Insane
A Shroud of Thoughts
The Great Katharine Hepburn

11 Questions for My Nominees

1. Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire?
2. What's your favorite Val Lewton film?
3. Name one book about classic movies or stars that everyone should read.
4. What's the absolute worst old movie that you love anyway?
5. Who is your favorite character actor?
6. If you could adapt one literary work for film, which would it be and why?
7. What's the last book you read?
8. Name one of your favorite movie death scenes. What's so great about it?
9. Who should really have gotten the role of Scarlett O'Hara?
10. Coffee, tea, or alcohol?
11. What's your favorite Disney movie?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Classic Films in Focus: CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN (1943)

Director Edward Dmytryk's Universal horror is not without its flaws, but Captive Wild Woman (1943) transcends its low-budget tactics with quality performances and a narrative loaded with variations on the usual genre motifs. In addition to memorable horror stars like John Carradine and Evelyn Ankers, this story of a gorilla gone wrong features the inscrutable and alluring Acquanetta as a mysterious girl who literally comes between a struggling big cat tamer and his dangerous charges. Themes of female agency and desire also make Captive Wild Woman a worthwhile picture for fans of films like Dracula's Daughter (1936) and Cat People (1942), which give the ladies a chance to be the monsters for a change.

John Carradine stars as glandular specialist Dr. Sigmund Walters, who gets acquainted with the members of the Whipple Circus when he begins to treat Dorothy, an ailing performer (Martha Vickers). Not long after Walters tours the circus grounds, a newly acquired ape named Cheela goes missing, and Walters returns with Paula, a mute but attractive girl who proves to have a strange power over the circus animals. Paula becomes an assistant to cat tamer Fred Mason (Milburn Stone), whose fiancee, Beth (Evelyn Ankers), is Dorothy's older sister. None of the circus folk suspect the truth about Paula or the dangerous relationship she has to Dorothy, but Beth soon becomes convinced that something connects Paula, Dr. Walters, and the increasing illness of her sister.

Nobody is going to be fooled by the gorilla suit version of Cheela for an instant, but the transformation sequences are handled well, and patently fake gorillas are more or less standard in films of this era. The lions and tigers, however, are terrifyingly real, although recycled footage of the cage scenes makes it painfully clear that Milburn Stone never sets foot near an actual cat. The man in those shots is famed lion tamer Clyde Beatty, who appeared as himself in several films, including The Big Cage (1933), which Captive Wild Woman borrows from liberally for its big cat sequences. Fortunately, the movie has the irresistible screen presence of John Carradine to make up the weakness of Stone as a leading man. No special effects are necessary to make Carradine the epitome of the obsessed scientist who pursues his forbidden research at any cost, including the life of his nurse (Fay Helm).

As memorable as Carradine is, Captive Wild Woman is really about its women, especially Paula and Beth, who advance the plot in between Fred's bouts with the big cats. Acquanetta has the perfect look for Paula; like Kathleen Burke as the Panther Woman in Island of Lost Souls (1932), Acquanetta has a wild, exotic beauty that mingles innocence and menace. Her racial ambiguity was a key part of her Hollywood persona, although claims that she was really African-American add a troublesome subtext to her role as a half-human, half-animal being. Evelyn Ankers is the film's real protagonist; her character, Beth, struggles to protect her sister and solve the mystery of Paula's identity. Fred has his hands full at the circus, so it's up to Beth to confront Dr. Walters and save Dorothy, which Ankers' determined heroine is perfectly capable of doing. Fred, meanwhile, has to be saved on more than one occasion by Paula, although why either she or Beth like him is beyond anyone's ability to guess.

Be warned that the animal act sequences are violent, abusive, and not for the squeamish. The Big Cage was shot before the American Humane Association began monitoring productions in 1940. Captive Wild Woman did well enough to warrant a sequel, Jungle Woman (1944), which reunited Acquanetta, Ankers, and Stone for another confrontation. See more of Ankers in The Wolf Man (1941), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), and Son of Dracula (1943), and check out Carradine's turns as Count Dracula himself in House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945). You might recognize Martha Vickers for her other role as a little sister in The Big Sleep (1946). Edward Dmytryk, though a prolific director, did not generally make horror; his best known films include Murder, My Sweet (1944), Crossfire (1947), and The Caine Mutiny (1954).

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Classic Films in Focus: THE BLACK CAT (1934)

For a horror film that actually shows very little, The Black Cat (1934) manages to suggest a great deal, and the result is a story that works on the imagination long after the brief picture has ended. Director Edgar G. Ulmer crams this small, dark package with surreal images and grotesque crimes only hinted at and glimpsed in snatches, which makes them all the more disturbing to the astute viewer. Like most films "suggested" by Edgar Allan Poe's short stories, The Black Cat has little to do with the original text, but it spins a narrative gruesome enough to fascinate classic horror fans, and the performances of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi help to make the movie an enduring cult favorite among Universal horror's devotees.

Lugosi plays Dr. Vitus Werdegast, who meets a young American couple on an ill-fate rail journey through Hungary. Newlyweds Peter and Joan Alison (David Manners and Julie Bishop, credited as Jacqueline Wells) find their new companion strange, but their misgivings only grow when a bus accident forces them to join Werdegast as the house guests of Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff). Werdegast and Poelzig have a history that makes them bitter enemies; their conflict rapidly becomes deadly, with the honeymooners caught in the middle of their bizarre struggle over the mysterious fates of Werdegast's wife and daughter.

The Black Cat marks the first screen pairing of Karloff and Lugosi, who would go on to make eight films together in all. Both were top horror stars already, and Universal clearly realized that putting them together would double the picture's appeal. Their roles offer them a little deviation from the parts that they had most recently played, but each is still very much in the vein of his overall screen persona. Karloff, talkative, urbane, and utterly perverse, is the ultimate villain of the piece, but Lugosi's doctor is sinister and vengeful enough that Peter and Joan are right to shy away from him, even if he hopes to save them from Poelzig's satanic schemes. Evenly matched, neither can conquer the other without sacrificing himself; the inevitable finale of rampant destruction is a scene Poe himself might well have approved, with undertones of "The Fall of the House of Usher" in the explosive collapse of Poelzig's modernist temple of death. Knowledge of the ending in no way spoils the picture, for doom has been written on these characters' brows from the moment they first appeared, and our only uncertainty is whether the Alisons will make it out to tell their tale of bloodcurdling revenge.

Coming at the very end of the Pre-Code period, The Black Cat gets away with material that would never have gotten into theaters a year or two later, and it still contains enough shock value to get the attention of a jaded modern viewer. Poelzig is a sadist, a murderer, and the leader of a satanic cult; he embalms the corpses of his dead wives and keeps them on display in glass cases hidden beneath his cosmopolitan home. The women are suspended in midair, a grisly collection of blonde butterflies in white gowns. Poelzig has also committed a strange form of incest by first marrying Werdegast's wife and then marrying his daughter (Lucille Lund). Murders and violent deaths abound, but we also see Poelzig plot to sacrifice Joan on his satanic altar, and the climax reveals more horrors that we're glad we never witness in too much detail. Beneath these terrors lies the grim history of Hungary itself; Poelzig's house is built on the site of a bloody massacre from World War I, and Werdegast blames his nemesis for the deaths of thousands as well as his own family's destruction. Viewers in 1934, especially in Europe, would have remembered that conflict better than we do today, but its violence echoes through the eerie menace of the picture. Ulmer and Lugosi had both been born in Austria-Hungary, which collapsed when the war ended in 1918, so it's not surprising that the tragic back story of the picture depends so heavily on the atrocities of that conflict.

Most horror fans will recognize David Manners from his roles in other Universal horror films, including Dracula (1931) and The Mummy (1932). For more of Karloff and Lugosi together, see The Raven (1935), Son of Frankenstein (1939), and The Body Snatcher (1945). Jacqueline Wells started appearing as Julie Bishop in the 1940s and went on to star in Northern Pursuit (1943), Westward the Women (1951), and a number of other films, mostly Westerns and war dramas. Edgar G. Ulmer is best remembered today for The Black Cat and the 1945 noir favorite, Detour, but he also made The Strange Woman (1946) and The Man from Planet X (1951).