From the Vault: Secret of the Blue Room (1933) and Supernatural (1933)

Posted in Miscellania with tags , on November 20, 2014 by monsterminions

If I were to choose one decade of horror and thriller films it would the 1930′s, and my favorites were produced during the initial horror wave from 1931-1936. During this period Universal, Paramount, MGM and other studios also produced “tweeners” that were basically talky melodramas with horror elements.

Supernatural_Titles

Treat All Supernatural Beings With Respect… But Keep Aloof From Them!

- Confucius

We Will Bring Forth The Dead From Their Graves.

- Mohammed

… and He Gave His Twelve Disciples Power Against Unclean Spirits To Cast Them Out.

- Matthew 10:1

Paramount’s Supernatural (1933) and Universal’s Secret of the Blue Room (1933) fall under borderline horror films, with Supernatural having crime-drama elements. Both films are now available as DVD-Rs for home viewing pleasure through Universal’s Vault Series. (More on the Vault Series through the Forgotten Films link). Being the completest that I am, I snatched up both films, plus the superb Bob Hope comedy-horror The Cat and the Canary (1939).

Supernatural is best described as a ghost story. The film has touches of eastern mysticism, a phoney séance, and a nefarious medium who uses a ring laced with a poisonous barb to dispense with the commoners. The film has a strong cast, including Carol Lombard, in the lead, and Randolph Scott (Murders in the Zoo, 1933) as her fiancé.  H.B. Warner (Mr. Gower from It’s a Wonderful Life, 1946) is good in a supporting role as “one of the world’s leading psychologists” who speaks a bunch of mumbo jumbo like: “I’ve been experimenting lately with microgenic rays… ultraviolet rays given off by the body…” and inadvertently transfers the soul of electric chair bound man-strangler Ruth Rogen(Vivienne Osborne) into Carol Lombard. Check out the effective scene where Ruth Rogen crushes a tin cup (42 years before Captain Quint).

Supernatural_She's got Carol Lombard Eyes

Supernatural was directed by Victor Halperin (White Zombie, 1932). We see some of the same tricks, including tight focus on eyes (remember the striking closeup of Lugosi’s Murder Legendre?).  Supernatural offers some decent acting —I particularly like Alan Dinehart as villain Paul Bavian and Beryl Mercer as a nosey landlord.  To me only Randolph Scott comes up short. He was woefully miscast in these early thrillers and really didn’t come into his own until he helped define the western genre. I think his best performance is his last. He was wonderful opposite Joel McCrea in Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country (1962).

Supernatural_Alan Dinehart

Secret of the Blue Room (1933) was one of the original 52 thriller films from Universal Studios packaged as a Shock Theater deal to screen gems (Columbia’s TV subsidiary). I vaguely remember seeing it playing on Chicagoland TV in the early 1970′s. Frankly, I forgot about the movie until I noticed it reviewed in an appendix of Bryan Senn’s Golden Horrors, An Illustrated Critical Filmography of Terror Cinema, 1931-1939 (McFarland, 1996).

Secret of the Blue Room_Titles

The film immediately grabbed me due to the familiar use of Act II from Tchaikovsky’s Op. 2o (Swan Lake Theme), during the title run, which also appeared during the opening credits of Dracula (1931)(don’t you dare listen to the Philip Glass score) and The Mummy (1932). According to Senn’s book, Blue Room was made on a budget of $69,000. That’s approximately 1.26M adjusted for today’s inflation. The film doesn’t look cheap to me at all, but costs were obviously kept down by filming most of the movie in the dreary confines of an estate guest room.  I’m guessing the secret room was a left over set from Universal’s opulent Phantom of the Opera (1925).

Blue Room_Kurt Neuman

The film was directed by Bavarian-born Kurt Neuman (1908-1958), who later went on to direct several genre notables including Rocketship X-M (1950), Kronos (1957), She Devil (1957) and The Fly (1958). IMDb notes that he was also considered for the director’s chair on The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), but James Whale was chosen when The Invisible Man (1933) became a hit.

Blue Room_Lionel Atwill

Blue Room has a terrific cast, including Lionel Atwill, Gloria Stuart, Hungarian-born Paul Lukas (Pál Lukács for my Hungarian friends) and proverbial tough guy Edward Arnold. Unfortunately, nothing quite happens in the film and I quickly got bored with the trappings of the Von Helldorf estate.  The story is thin with three suitors chasing gorgeous Gloria Stuart (she was good in these films) in a creepy old house plagued with a 20-year old multiple murder mystery.

Blue Room_Gloria Stuart

Blue Room_Paul Lukas

Secret of the Blue Room is a bit of an enigma —I think it’s a must-see for fans of Universal horror (try it on a double bill with the superior The Old Dark House), but it doesn’t deliver. I really wanted a monster to crawl out of the musty caverns or have Béla Lugosi or Karloff appear as cameo surprises.  Still, I am recommending this for purests. Why gripe? These Universal Vault Series are winners and it is remarkable that we can finally see films previously archived away in the vault.

The Secret of the Blue Room_Shootout

Shock Theater 52

 

 

RIP Ken Takakura

Posted in RIP with tags on November 19, 2014 by monsterminions

Japan’s ultimate tough guy of films has died. OBIT.

Ken Takakura

 

The Yakuza_Poster

 

Skeleton

Posted in Miscellania on November 17, 2014 by monsterminions

The Lost Skeleton

Gamera vs. Garasharp (Unrealized Film)

Posted in Kaiju with tags , on November 13, 2014 by monsterminions

 

Gamera vs. Garasharp_Unrealized

This is an unfinished Gamera film from 1971-1972.  My main source of information comes from Wikizilla’s “unmade films” link. I think it was an authentic production, but oddly I haven’t seen it mentioned in some of the standard references on the genre (Galbraith, 1994), and there is scarce info on it on-line (hence, there’s a slim chance it is a fan hoax). It would have been a follow-up to the dismal Gamera vs. Zigra (1971), but Daiei Studios folded in December 1971, but not before leaving some conceptual and amateurish art and a few clips on the table. Stuart Galbraith refers to a movie Gamera tai Leoman as a follow-up to Zigra, so I am not sure these were the same productions.

Gamera vs. Garasharp (Gamera tai Garashāpu) features what appears to be a giant cobra-like creature with a bizarre orb-like tail with an articulated gyro-thing and a head with flexible harpoon appendages.   The Wikizilla link also refers to another crab-like monster called Marukobukarappa, but this creature’s role is not known.  A reconstruction of portion of the film is included below. Looks fun and Gamera’s eyes are a great improvement from earlier films.

Garasharp

MOVIE CLIP

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsSiFtSjN-c

Reconstruction

More from Wikizilla

 

Godzilla on Vinyl LP

Posted in Kaiju with tags on November 11, 2014 by monsterminions

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VERY COOL and HERE TOO….

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Happy 60th!

Posted in Kaiju with tags on November 3, 2014 by monsterminions

IMG_6763.JPG

FRANK (2014)

Posted in Cult Movies with tags on November 3, 2014 by monsterminions

frank_ver3_xlg

I’ve seen over 200 movies in 2014.  Director Lenny Abrahamson’s offbeat and unusual Frank (2014) is one of the best films of the year. Frank (Michael Fassbender in a marvelous performance) is a brilliant and eclectic avant-garde musician who lives mysteriously in a giant paper mâché head. After the band’s keyboardist goes off the deep end, an aspiring and marginally talented social media addict (Domhnall Gleeson) enthusiastically joins the band, not knowing where the journey, or Frank, will take him. Psychopathic knife-wielding theremin player Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is the central antagonist. This film conjures up Joseph’s Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces and Frank takes the film goer for a ride of their lives. Easily the oddest film I’ve seen all year and one of the very best.  Highly recommended.

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