Legends of Horror, Discs 5 and 6

Two discs this time—because three of the four movies on Disc 5 are Alfred Hitchcock movies and not rereviewed here.

Disc 5

The Man Who Knew Too Much.

Previously reviewed. $1.75.

The Lodger.

Previously reviewed. $0.75.

The Farmer’s Wife.

Previously reviewed. $1.50.

Legacy of Blood (orig. Blood Legacy), 1971, color. Carl Monson (dir.), Rodolfo Acosta, Merry Anders, Norman Bartold, Ivy Bethune, John Carradine, Richard Davalos, Faith Domergue, Buck Kartalian, Brooke Mills, Jeff Morrow, John Russell. 1:30 [1:22]

The setup is familiar: Hated wealthy father dies, children (four, two of them with spouses) and servants (three) gather to hear the will…and find that they must all live in the mansion for one week in order to inherit anything. Oh, and if any of the children die, the others will split the remainder—and if they all die, the servants (otherwise rewarded a peculiar annuity) get it all. (The peculiar annuity: Each servant gets $1 million in the form of $500 a month as long as they keep maintaining the house—but at that rate, and with no interest at all, the payments would last 166 years, which seems absurd. As it happens, $500 a month in 1971 is roughly equal to $2,600 now—not a fortune, but since they also get room and board, not terrible. Still, exchanging that for the $136 million to be split among the offspring does provide one solid motive for multiple murders.)

They’re quite a collection. One servant, Igor, is nutty as a loon and a masochist to boot (or whip); the cook is a sober woman who served as a substitute mother; the third, a handsome chauffeur, has a lamp made from a Nazi who stuck him with a bayonet and a large collection of Nazi memorabilia. As for the children…well, there’s a strong hint of incest in one case, leaving one attractive (and married) woman who’s a basket case and a young man who’s loonier than the butler.

I won’t bother with the plot. You can guess how it works out (or doesn’t), and to the extent you’re wrong it doesn’t much matter. The few gory scenes are shown multiple times to emphasize the gore. Otherwise, this is a remarkably slow-moving and dull story (and I like slow and dislike gore).

The print varies between mediocre and bad, but it’s decidedly better than the script, acting and direction. A reasonably strong cast is wholly wasted in this nonsense. Fortunately, this version is missing eight minutes—which means it was only an hour and 22 minutes that I’ll never get back or use for some better purpose like, say, Gilligan’s Island. Even fans of John Carradine will be disappointed: His dismal little role only take a few minutes. I’m being charitable to give this awful, incompetent picture $0.50.

Disc 6

The Werewolf vs. Vampire Woman (orig. La noche de Walpurgis), 1971, color. Leon Klimovsky (dir.), Paul Naschy, Gaby Fuchs, Barbara Capell, Andres Resino, Yelena Samarina, Patty Shepard. 1:35 [1:21]

Right off the bat, this film shows a rare level of intelligence among its characters. A medical examiner and friend go into this creepy place, at night, against the wishes of the friend, to do an autopsy on a body that’s been shot with two silver bullets because the townspeople believe it to be a werewolf. So the medical examiner, instead of conducting a usual autopsy, immediately digs out the two bullets to demonstrate how ridiculous the whole werewolf notion is, then turns away to have a cigarette…as the now-revived man turns wolf, kills the two, then goes off on a howl.

That’s right, it’s another cheapo horror flick where people demonstrate that they’re too dumb to live…and, with rare exceptions, don’t. Two young women (one, charmingly, named Elvira) working on their dissertation go off to the wilds of northern France looking for the grave of a centuries-old vampire/witch, get lost, wind up at a remote house with no electricity where a handsome “writer” is working on a manuscript. Before you know it (well, there’s some nonsense involving the writer’s deranged sister, but never mind), they’ve combined forces to locate the probable gravesite—at a crossroads, where all good witchgraves are located. The cover says clearly that the grave should not be disturbed until judgment day, so…of course…they remove the cover. Since this disturbs one of the women, she goes off (alone) to explore the abandoned church as the other two open the coffin…and, since they know that the only thing keeping the vampire dead is the silver cross piercing her body, the other woman pulls out the cross.

The rest of the picture’s pretty much consistent with this “we know that the worst possible thing to do is X, therefore we’d better do X right away!” approach. It features vampires sort of drifting across the ground, dream sequences, a touch of cheesecake and what passes for a happy ending in this nonsense. Badly filmed, poorly directed, badly scripted, generally poorly acted, and the lead does a nice job of ducking out of camera range for transitions from human to werewolf. The full version might be more coherent, but seems unlikely to be much better. (Based on IMDB reviews, I’m guessing the full version mostly has a lot of nudity, where the version here has perhaps half a second of partial nudity.) Charitably, $0.50.

The Phantom Creeps, 1939, b&w. Ford Beebe and Saul A. Goodkind (dir.), Bela Lugosi, Robert Kent, Dorothy Arnold, Edwin Stanley, Regis Toomey, Jack C. Smith. 1:18.

This review, written before looking anything up on IMDB, is valid only if this flick—certainly not a horror flick—is an edited-down version of a serial. In that case, the absurd jumps in logic and knowledge and general frenetic atmosphere make sense. Otherwise…well, let’s not go there.

Lugosi is Dr. Zorka, a mad scientist who has discovered an element (from a meteorite) with apparently unlimited and wildly varied powers, and intends to Rule The World with it, with the help of his henchman (who he rescued from prison and clearly regards as a tool). Let’s see: He has a very strange tall robot with the world’s worst face and the ability to very slowly claw somebody into brief submission; he has a device that can do painless surgery; he has a semi-invisibility device (it turns him into a big shadow), he has a bizarre combination of little discs and spiders that can set off little explosions that turn people or plants “dead” but not really (or, rather, comatose until brought out of it), he has a two-part combo of invisible gas and Z-ray gun that kills people, er, knocks them out, er… but can also destroy the lock on a safe. Oh, and there’s a neometer, which cops and spies both immediately know is a device to track the location of the secret element they’ve never heard of. It’s that kind of movie.

That’s right: Zorka has a big box of Unobtainium, and he’s out to either rule the world or destroy it! All else in this helter-skelter plot flows from that, with a climax in which he’s cackling like a proper Mad Scientist and tossing little capsules out of a plane that destroy a Zeppelin (!), explode a warehouse or two, and send a couple of ships to their doom.

Lugosi’s acting seems well-suited to this kind of live-action cartoon. There’s nothing in any sense coherent or sophisticated here, but it’s good cheap fun. And, yep, IMDB confirms that this was a serial, originally running 4:25 in 12 episodes. I suspect it would be a lot more fun spread out over three months. On that basis, maybe, $1.25.

A Scream in the Night, 1935, b&w. Fred C. Newmeyer (dir.), Lon Chaney Jr., Sheila Terry, Zarah Tazil, Philip Ahn, John Ince, Manuel Lopez, Richard Cramer. 0:58.

Not in any way a horror film, this is a mystery of sorts with Lon Chaney Jr. as a master of disguise. In this case, he plays two roles: The hunched-over, one-eyed (the other having been knifed), swarthy, not too bright owner of a grog shop in a lesser area of an Asian port town and a police detective—who then disguises himself as the bar owner. It’s all in service of catching an international thief who grabs his victims with nooses—and who’s now stolen the Tear of Buddha, a very special ruby, and kidnapped the girl who was trying to put the ruby in the bank.

Unfortunately, the movie is an incoherent mess, possibly because of missing pieces (although IMDB shows the same running time as what I saw), possibly because it’s really badly made. The rest of the police act in slow motion, resulting in a long action seen that shouldn’t have happened (and, of course, somehow has armed villains never using their weapons); the soundtrack’s a mess, and the movie’s sometimes barely visible. The plot can barely sustain a 15-minute featurette; at 58 minutes, the movie’s actually too long.The title seems random. At best, I’d give this $0.50.

The Crimes of Stephen Hawke, 1936, b&w. George King (dir.), Tod Slaughter, Marjorie Taylor, D.J. Williams, Eric Portman. 1:09.

Another Tod Slaughter melodrama, with Slaughter as an over-the-top villain (this time “The Spinebreaker,” who’s also a lovable old moneylender) busily chewing the scenery and laughing his evil laugh at the most inappropriate times—but this time with a twist.

To wit, the whole melodrama is cast as a recollection during a radio show—a radio show that begins with a very strange “singing the news” pair, Flotsam & Jetsam, and continues with an interview with a “pet butcher” who’s provided horsemeat—obtained one way or another—for cats for the last half century. Then the announcer welcomes Tod Slaughter, known for slaying hundreds and being executed hundreds of times in his many melodramas. Then…the show begins. And (not to give away the ending, but it’s not the real ending anyway) at the end, we cut back to the studio…where the announcer’s fallen into a deep slumber, leaving Slaughter to walk off by himself.

This “we know this is all tiresome and silly” frame somewhat inoculates the movie from what I might say otherwise—that is, Slaughter’s so over-the-top that it’s hard to deal with the movie. This one’s also an unusually good b&w print, and the story is certainly no sillier than usual. I’ll give it $1.

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