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Carnival of Souls (1962) – Episode 47 – Decades of Horror: The Classic Era

“You can take all the baths you want. I’m not one to make a fuss about a thing like that.” Sounds like a great landlady, right? Join this episode’s Grue Crew – Joseph Perry, Chad Hunt, and Jeff Mohr – as they take as many baths as they want and go dancing at the Carnival of Souls (1962)! After all, who would make a fuss about that?

Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 47 – Carnival of Souls (1962)

Sprouting from the imagination of director Herk Harvey and writer John Clifford, Carnival of Souls didn’t exactly take Hollywood by storm and, in fact, almost faded into oblivion. In the fifty-plus years since its original release, however, the film has gone from hard-to-get mythical status to legitimate legend with a coveted Criterion Blu-ray edition. As their only fictional film, Carnival of Souls is quite a legacy for Harvey and Clifford, a pair of co-workers at Centron Corporation, the maker of industrial and educational films.

Carnival of Souls tells the tale of Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) who narrowly escapes death as the car in which she is a passenger crashes through bridge guardrails and plunges into the river. As Mary’s life moves forward after the accident, she encounters the landlady (Frances Feist) at her new apartment, her new neighbor (Sidney Berger), the minister (Art Ellison) at the church where she plays the organ, and a doctor (Stan Levitt) who notices Candace is acting strangely. Throughout these encounters, Candace is haunted by the recurring vision of a ghoulish man (Herk Harvey). What does the ghoul want and who is he? What’s wrong with Candace? How will this all end?

Joseph saw Carnival of Souls in a theater during its official re-release in 1989-1990 and dug the film’s dreamlike surrealism. Chad and Jeff saw the film much later and were not quite as impressed but agree that decades of viewing Twilight Zone-type fare may have jaded them. The winning interpretation of the story comes from Chad while Jeff seems more interested in Herk Harvey’s background. The Grue Crew is unanimous in calling Carnival of Souls a must see for all horror fans.

The Decades of Horror: The Classic Era Grue Crew plan to release a new episode every other week. The next episode in our very flexible schedule will be Invasion of the Saucer-Men (1957)! Whitney Collazo is on a film shoot and couldn’t be with us for this episode but she should be back for Invasion of the Saucer-Men.

Please let us know what you think of Decades of Horror: The Classic Era! After all, without you, we’re just some whack-a-doodles talking about the films we love. Send us an email at feedback@gruesomemagazine.com, leave a review on iTunes, or comment at either GruesomeMagazine.com or the Gruesome Magazine Horror News Radio Facebook group.

To each of you from each of us, “Thank you so much for listening!”

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Lake of Dracula (1971) – Episode 86 – Decades of Horror 1970s

Who knew Dracula had a lake? Join your faithful Grue Crew – Doc Rotten, Chad Hunt, Bill Mulligan, and Jeff Mohr – as they go for a swim in Lake of Dracula (1971) volume two in Toho’s legendary vampire trilogy.

Decades of Horror 1970s
Episode 86 – Lake of Dracula (1971)

At one time, because it was so hard to get, Toho’s Legacy of Dracula trilogy was thought of as a holy grail by fans of Toho and vampire movies. Through the wonders of the world in which we live, all three films are available via streaming sources and as Arrow Video Blu-rays, repackaged as The Bloodthirsty Trilogy: Vampire Doll (1970), Lake of Dracula (1971), and Evil of Dracula (1974).

Written by Ei Ogawa and Masaru Takesue, Lake of Dracula (the middle volume in the trilogy directed by Michio Yamamoto), tells the story of a Japanese descendant of Dracula in search of women to serve as his “brides.” Owing to the film’s title, it comes as no surprise that he hunts these women on the shores of a lake. The action soon moves to the vampire’s secluded home, a castle that looks curiously European, and an all-out battle ensues between one of the women’s boyfriends and Dracula’s descendant.

Of course, the Grue Crew was excited to see Lake of Dracula and, it should again be no surprise, Bill is the only one to have previously viewed Lake of Dracula. Even so, he was excited to see a visually improved version. Everyone thought the film looked very much like what you would expect a Japanese version of a Hammer Film to look like. Bill surfaced several logic flaws in the story and the lack-of-depth of the characters but loved the look of the film. The somewhat plodding and visually muted early portions of the film were a distraction to Doc and Chad. However, Doc thought the final fight sequence was one of the better vampire battles he’d seen, and Chad thought the vampire himself (Shin Kishida) was the best part of Lake of Dracula. Jeff probably liked the film the most but couldn’t argue against the existence of the plot flaws and the generally lackluster early portion of the film. His judgment was understandably clouded by his infatuation with the porcelain-faced vampire bride. The entire crew agrees, whatever you do, don’t miss the scene with the crescent wrench-wielding Kyûsaku (Kaku Takashina). It defies … logic? Or physics? Or surely, something?

Even though Lake of Dracula is not the best vampire movie you will ever see, it is definitely worth watching for the place it holds in horror history as Toho’s contribution to vampire film canon and its unique take on vampire lore.

We want to hear from you – the coolest, grooviest fans: leave us a message or leave a comment on the site or email the Decades of Horror 1970s podcast hosts at docrotten@decadesofhorror.com.

 

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The Haunting (1963) – Episode 46 – Decades of Horror: The Classic Era

“… I leave before the dark. We live over in town, miles away. … We couldn’t hear you. In the night. No one could. … No one will come any nearer than that. In the night. In the dark.”  Okay, get the picture? Hill House is an inviting and comforting place to stay, right? In fact, you’ll feel so at home, you might never want to leave. Join this episode’s Grue Crew – Whitney Collazo, Chad Hunt, and Jeff Mohr – as they brave a few nights in Hill House with The Haunting (1963)!

Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 46 – The Haunting (1963)

Dr. Markway (Richard Johnson), a researcher in psychic phenomena, has gained permission to stay in Hill House, a 90-year-old mansion with an evil, deadly history. Markway invites six people with a variety of psychic abilities to accompany him as research assistants, but only two take the bait: Eleanor (Julie Harris), a woman with a history of poltergeist phenomena, and Theo (Claire Bloom), who has proven ESP abilities. Luke (Russ Tamblyn), a member of the owning family and a skeptic, comes along to keep an eye on his property. Mrs. Dudley (Rosalie Crutchley), one of the caretakers of Hill House, makes an appearance early on to ominously warn the researchers that after dark, they will be alone and no one will come to help them. Almost immediately, Hill House begins to exert its power over the interlopers. They only last three nights and not everyone survives The Haunting.

The film is brilliantly directed by Robert Wise, sandwiched between his Oscar-winning efforts on West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965). Wise, one of Val Lewton’s acolytes at RKO, exhibits mastery of Lewton’s preference for implicit, rather than explicit, danger in The Haunting. The screenplay by Nelson Gidding, adapted from Shirley Jackson’s novel, The Haunting of Hill House (1959), deftly establishes the four personalities of the research team members, their interpersonal relationships, and how Hill House interacts with and affects them. The acting, cinematography, and music fit the filmmakers’ vision perfectly, ramping up its nearly unbearable, sinister atmosphere.

Once again, the Decades of Horror: The Classic Era Grue Crew have a much greater appreciation for the film they discussed than they had going into this episode. Whitney loves the character of Eleanor and Julie Harris’ portrayal. She also likes the way the story walks a tightrope between the supernatural and insanity. On the other hand, Chad is all over the supernatural justification of events in The Haunting and loves the scenes with the inexplicable pounding on the Eleanor’s and Theo’s bedroom walls. Jeff was entranced with the optical distortions created by Wise’s intentional use of a not-ready-for-primetime lens and loved the introductory “history of Hill House” scenes. Of course, Chad managed to, yet again, find a Batman reference. Your Grue Crew highly recommends The Haunting (1963) as one of the top haunted house films in history, and especially now as a comparison to the recent Netflix series, The Haunting of Hill House.

The Decades of Horror: The Classic Era Grue Crew plan to release a new episode every other week. The next episode in our very flexible schedule will be Herk Harvey’s one-off classic, Carnival of Souls (1962).

Please let us know what you think of Decades of Horror: The Classic Era! After all, without you, we’re just four nutjobs talking about the films we love. Send us an email or leave us a message, a review, or a comment at GruesomeMagazine.com, iTunes, or the Gruesome Magazine Horror News Radio Facebook group.

To each of you from each of us, “Thank you so much for listening!

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Infra-Man (1975) – Episode 85 – Decades of Horror 1970s

“Greetings to you, Earthlings. I am Princess Dragon Mom. I have taken over this planet. Now I own the Earth and you’ll be my slaves for all eternity.” Oh no! What will we ever do? Never fear fellow Earthlings! Infra-Man to the rescue! Join your faithful Grue Crew – Doc Rotten, Chad Hunt, Bill Mulligan, and Jeff Mohr – as they try to describe the indescribable.  Of course, the topic for this episode is the Shaw Brothers 1975 classic, Infra-Man, the man beyond bionics!

Decades of Horror 1970s
Episode 85 – Infra-Man (1975)

What could be more fun than a band of ten-million-year-old mutant monsters and thirty henchmen bent on owning Earth and enslaving all Earthlings? What if their fearless leader’s curiously translated title is Princess Dragon Mom? And what if the Earthlings just happen to have, at the ready, a complete set of plans for a being to battle Princess Dragon Mom and her minions? A sort of Chinese Superman, if you will? With another curious translation – and there are plenty of them – this Chinese Superman, aka Zhong guo chao ren, became known in the U.S. as Infra-Man!

Under the category of more curious translations, in the original Chinese dub, the monsters of Infra-Man are named Demon Princess Elzebub, Witch Eye, Fire Dragon, Spider Monster, Plant Monster, Drill Arm, Long-Haired Monster, and Iron Armor Monsters.  However, they are renamed in the English dub as Princess Dragon Mom, She-Demon, Emperor of Doom, Giant Beetle Monster, Octopus Mutant, Driller Beast, Laser Horn Monster, and Iron Fist Robots.

Danny Lee plays Infra-Man and because this is the third of his films covered by the Grue Crew in 2018, Doc has proclaimed Lee their actor of the year. The Oily Maniac (1976) and The Mighty Peking Man (1977) are the other two of Lee’s Shaw Brothers releases they’ve covered. Chad saw this film at the time of its U.S. theatrical release. He loved it then and he loves, loves, loves it now! He also points out some pant-splitting moments in the film that Bill and Jeff missed; they’ll have to watch it again! Though he wasn’t ga-ga over Infra-Man the first time he viewed it, Bill has gained an appreciation of the film over the years. He jokingly wonders how Infra-Man decides when to use his powers and when not to use his powers. They all agree it’s a bit of a mystery that only adds to the film’s appeal. Only Jeff had not seen Infra-Man before preparing for this podcast and he is forever grateful to Chad, Doc, and Bill for introducing him to its wonders and thinks it is one of the funniest movies he’s seen in a long while. In fact, he’s so enamored of the film, he promises his next step is to introduce it to his grand-munchkins and to search out the pant-splitting.

The members of the Grue Crew all agree Infra-Man is not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination. However, watching it is more fun than a movie should be allowed to be. It’s time to make it a family viewing tradition! The Black Saint and Chad had often trumpeted their love of Infra-Man and Princess Dragon Mom in the past and the Decades of Horror 1970s Grue Crew decided now was the time. This one’s for you, Santos.

We want to hear from you – the coolest, grooviest fans:  leave us a message or leave a comment on the site or email the Decades of Horror 1970s podcast hosts at docrotten@decadesofhorror.com.

 

 

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The Killer Shrews (1959) – Episode 45 – Decades of Horror: The Classic Era

“Look, Ann, this is a mistake any one of us might’ve made. And I’m getting a little sick of being called an irresponsible drunk, now believe me I am.” Who hasn’t accidentally unleashed a pack of killer creatures while irresponsibly drunk? Join this episode’s Grue Crew – Whitney Collazo, Chad Hunt, Joseph Perry, and Jeff Mohr – as they journey to a remote island and are trapped with The Killer Shrews (1959)!

Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 45 – The Killer Shrews (1959)

Gordon McLendon, the owner of a chain of drive-in movie theaters and a network of radio stations, decided to cut out the middle man and formed a short-lived movie production company to crank out a pair of typical, regional horror films. He enlisted Ray Kellogg as his director and Jay Simms as his screenwriter. The products of their efforts are The Killer Shrews and The Giant Gila Monster (1959).

The Killer Shrews tells an oft-told tale of pseudoscience gone wrong. Scientists on a remote island experiment on shrews in search of a way to reduce food shortages and the effects of population growth by making people smaller. Instead, they manage to enlarge the tiny creatures to the size of large dogs.  Entering this cozy enclave is the captain of a charter vessel delivering supplies and his crewman, coincidentally arriving as a hurricane hits the island and are trapped. They soon learn that one of the island-dwellers recently released the enlarged shrews while “irresponsibly” drunk. The result is a horde of hungry, teeth-gnashing, rampaging killer shrews on the loose!

The original residents of the island are played by Baruch Lumet (Dr. Craigis), Glendon McLendon (Dr. Baines), Ingrid Goude (Dr. Craigis’ daughter, Ann), Ken Curtis (Ann’s fiance), and Alfredo de Soto (Mario, their assistant).  James Best is Captain Thorne Sherman and Judge Henry Dupree is Rook Griswold, his crewman.

No one will ever mistake The Killer Shrews as a great movie. The effects, the dialogue, and some of the acting rank high on the cheese-factor scale. It is, however, a boatload of fun! Whitney recounts seeing the film as a child with her grandmother and gives us the “You do what you have to do” mantra of the low-budget, independent filmmaker. Though he has come to love it, Chad hated the movie when he saw it as a child. He also wishes Judge Henry Dupree and Alfredo de Soto had lasted longer into the film, though they both did have heroic deaths. Joseph points out that Baruch Lumet was director Sidney Lumet’s father and opines that James Best is giving it his all as the lead protagonist. The colorized version of The Killer Shrews gets a short test run from Jeff and he also reveals the connection between Ken Curtis and legendary director John Ford. Unsurprisingly, your Grue Crew gives a unanimous, cheese-dipped, thumbs-up to The Killer Shrews!

The Decades of Horror: The Classic Era Grue Crew plan to release a new episode every other week. The next episode in our very flexible schedule will be The Haunting (1963). We thought it was time to revisit the original following the recent release of The Haunting of Hill House as a Netflix series.

Please let us know what you think of Decades of Horror: The Classic Era! We want to hear from you! After all, without you, we’re just four nutjobs talking about the films we love. Send us an email or leave us a message, a review, or a comment at GruesomeMagazine.com, iTunes, Stitcher, Google Podcast, or the Horror News Radio Facebook group.

To each of you from each of us, “Thank you so much for listening!

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The Night Stalker (1972) – Episode 84 – Decades of Horror 1970s

“So think about it and try to tell yourself wherever you may be, in the quiet of your home, in the safety of your bed, try to tell yourself, It couldn’t happen here.” As all horror fans know, of course, it could happen here. It always happens here! Join your faithful Grue Crew – Doc Rotten, Chad Hunt, Bill Mulligan, and Jeff Mohr – as they journey back to 1970s Las Vegas with Carl Kolchak in search of The Night Stalker (1972).

Decades of Horror 1970s
Episode 84 – The Night Stalker (1972)

Before it premiered in 1972, no one predicted the impact The Night Stalker would have on the horror genre as seen on network television. Produced by Dan Curtis, directed by John Llewellyn Moxey, written by Richard Matheson from a novel by Jeff Rice, the film unexpectedly set a ratings record for TV-movies. Its success led to a follow-up telefilm, The Night Strangler (1973), and a legendary TV series, Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-1975). To top it off, The Night Stalker was the first film in the successful pairing of Curtis and Matheson that would last for half-a-dozen films through Dead of Night (1977).

The story of The Night Stalker is told through a series of audio tape recordings, documenting an unprinted story written by Carl Kolchak, a rebellious, idealistic reporter. Kolchak believes a series of killings have been committed by a vampire but, not surprisingly, he can’t seem to convince anyone else. When the powers-that-be are finally forced to face the truth, a temporarily triumphant Kolchak discovers he’s been playing a rigged game all along.

Darren McGavin is Carl Kolchak as he creates an iconic character from Matheson’s brilliant screenplay. McGavin is supported by a cast of venerable character actors that include Simon Oakland as Vincenzo, Kolchak’s editor; Ralph Meeker as Bernie Jenks, one of Kolchak’s few allies; Claude Akins as Sheriff Butcher; Kent Smith as D.A. Paine; Charles McGraw as Chief Masterson; Elisha Cook Jr. as Mickey Crawford, Kolchak’s key source; and Larry Linville as Coroner Makurji. The superlative cast of The Night Stalker is rounded out by Carol Lynley and Barry Atwater, as Kolchak’s girlfriend Gail and the vampire Janos Skorzeny, respectively.

The 1970s Grue Crew all saw the television premiere of The Night Stalker and are adamant regarding how well it holds up. Chad reflects on the after-effects experienced by his young self when he first saw the film, and emphatically declares his love for all things Kolchak. As a vampire aficionado, Bill is impressed by the feral nature of Atwater’s portrayal of Skorzeny, and voices his appreciation for the unique elements this film brings to the vampire canon. Jeff talks about how well Bob Cobert’s score enhances the film and gives some shoutouts to the classic era of horror by means of a short quiz about two of the film’s many character actors. Kolchak’s signature attire (porkpie hat and shabby suit) gets Doc fired up and the final confrontation between Kolchak and Skorzeny fans his flame even higher.  As the Grue Crew’s fearless leader, Doc does his usual masterful job keeping everyone on track and what would a Gruesome Magazine podcast be without a demonstration of his skill at the innovative pronunciation of names? How many ways can you say “Janos Skorzeny?” (We love you, Doc!)

We want to hear from you – the coolest, grooviest fans:  leave us a message or leave a comment on the site or email the Decades of Horror 1970s podcast hosts at docrotten@decadesofhorror.com.

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Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) – Episode 44 – Decades of Horror: The Classic Era

“I know you’ll think I’m crazy, but… in a half-an-hour the moon will rise and I’ll turn into a wolf.” “You and 20 million other guys!” Join this episode’s Grue Crew – Chad Hunt, Whitney Collazo, Jeff Mohr, and Joseph Perry – as they chuckle and guffaw their way through the comedy classic, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).

Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 44 – Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

Once director Charles Barton was on board, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello reluctantly signed on for the Universal International Pictures’ production of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The film features a trio of Universal classic monsters – Dracula, Frankenstein (the monster), and the Wolf Man – as played by Bela LugosiGlenn Strange, and Lon Chaney Jr. respectively. Although the three monsters are there, the story-line doesn’t fit anywhere in the Universal monster canon, reinforcing its place as somewhat of a novelty among the other films.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein’s plot features two baggage handlers, Chick (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur (Lou Costello), tasked with delivering two large, coffin-sized containers holding Frankenstein and Dracula to McDougal’s House of Horrors. Dracula is in league with Dr. Mornay (Lenore Aubert), a mad scientist of sorts. In the meantime, Lawrence Talbot is trying to prevent delivery of the crates. The cast is supported by Jane Randolph in her last credited role, and the ever-present Frank Ferguson. As the brilliant comic duo roam the castle, much hi-jinks ensue!

The Classic Era Grue Crew couldn’t stop gushing about Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Chad goes into depth on the life of Bud Abbott and reminds us that this film includes Bela Lugosi’s second and last role as Dracula and Lon Chaney Jr.’s last role as the Wolf Man.  An infatuation with Jane Randolph, first revealed in Episode 37 (Cat People, 1941), is reiterated by Joseph. Whitney identifies noticeable differences in Lon Chaney Jr.’s makeup between that used in this film and 1941’s The Wolf Man (Episode 39), and expresses her appreciation for a strong female role as a scientist. Several connections with 1925’s Phantom of the Opera (Episode 42) are pointed out by Jeff, including cameraman/director of photography Charles Van Enger. They all remarked on this film’s ability to still have them rolling in the aisles after decades of watching it. Yes, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is still funny and it’s a great “horror” film to watch as a family!

The Decades of Horror: The Classic Era Grue Crew plan to release a new episode every other week. The next episode in our very flexible schedule will be The Killer Shrews (1959), starring Roscoe P. Coltrane and Festus.

Please let us know what you think of Decades of Horror: The Classic Era! We want to hear from you! After all, without you, we’re just four nutjobs talking about the films we love. Send us an email or leave us a message, a review, or a comment at GruesomeMagazine.com, iTunes, Stitcher, Google Podcast, or the Horror News Radio Facebook group.

To each of you from each of us, “Thank you so much for listening!

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Hands of the Ripper (1971) – Episode 83 – Decades of Horror 1970s

“The Hands of Jack the Ripper Live Again…As His Fiendish Daughter Kills Again…And Again…And Again…” Time for another Hammer Films production from the 1970s! Join your faithful Grue Crew – Doc Rotten, Chad Hunt, Bill Mulligan, and Jeff Mohr – as they tear (notice I didn’t use “rip”) into Hands of the Ripper (1971).

Decades of Horror 1970s
Episode 83 – Hands of the Ripper (1971)

This somewhat lesser-known Hammer film is directed by Peter Sasdy and written by Lewis Davidson from a story by Edward Spencer Shew. Hands of the Ripper tells the story of Anna (Angharad Rees) who is Jack the Ripper’s daughter, and Dr. Pritchard (Eric Porter) who thinks he can save Anna from the family curse. You see, when Anna was a toddler, she witnessed the death of her mother at the hands of dear old Dad. Now, as a young woman, she seems to be carrying on her father’s work, but is it the result of psychological trauma or is she possessed by her father’s murderous soul? As Pritchard searches for the answer, the body count rises.

Without Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee, Hammer’s frequent headliners, Hands of the Ripper was bound to receive less attention than films featuring one or both of them. The cast, however, does an excellent job. Rees and Porter are supported by Jane Merrow, Pritchard’s son’s blind fiance Laura; Derek Godfrey as Dysart, a character despicable in all aspects; Dora Bryan as Mrs. Golding, a fake psychic; Margaret Rawlings as Madame Bullard, a real psychic; Marjie Lawrence as Dolly, Pritchard’s housemaid; Keith Bell as Pritchard’s son; and Lynda Baron as Long Liz, a local prostitute,.

Despite not featuring Frankenstein or Dracula, Hands of the Ripper is a worthy addition to the canon of Hammer Films. Jeff is intrigued by the killer’s innovative use of everyday items to stab their victims. This one has long been a favorite of Doc’s and he points out the use of the Baker Street set at Pinewood Studios and how it added to the atmosphere and tone of the film. As an aficionado of Ripper lore, Chad thinks this story has a unique take and notices that Long Liz, one of the real Jack the Ripper’s victims, is used as the name of a character in this film. Bill ponders whether the killer suffers from some psychological or supernatural influences and ranks this film squarely in the middle of the pack as Hammer films go. Even though the story lays its cards on the table very early, the Decades of Horror 1970s Grue Crew think The Hands of the Ripper is absolutely worth a watch.

We want to hear from you – the coolest, grooviest fans:  leave us a message or leave a comment on the site or email the Decades of Horror 1970s podcast hosts at docrotten@decadesofhorror.com.

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The Return of the Vampire (1943) – Episode 43 – Decades of Horror: The Classic Era

“You’re a fool, Andreas! A complete, utter fool! Your fate is to be what you are – as mine is to be what I am… your Master!”  It’s always best to know your place, and who could resist the commanding voice of Bela Lugosi, right? Join this episode’s Grue Crew – Joseph Perry, Chad Hunt, and Jeff Mohr (Whitney Collazo was on special assignment, but should be back next episode) – as they chase down the hidden 1940s gem, The Return of the Vampire.

Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 43 – The Return of the Vampire (1943)

Remember that classic sequel to Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931)? The one featuring Bela Lugosi’s second appearance as Dracula? Well, this is it, except this is not a Universal Picture and Lugosi doesn’t play Dracula. Instead, The Return of the Vampire is a Columbia Picture and the names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

Directed by dependable journeyman Lew Landers, and written by Griffin Jay from an idea by Kurt NeumannThe Return of the Vampire features the legendary vampire, Armand Tesla. Really. His name is Tesla. Lugosi does double duty as Tesla and Dr. Hugo Bruckner, the famous vampire expert. The film also features an unexpectedly articulate, talking werewolf, whose lines are ably enunciated by Matt Willis. The hero of the story is Lady Jane Ainsley (Frieda Inescort), a very smart, take-charge scientist who out matches Sir Frederick Fleet (Miles Mander), the Scotland Yard Inspector on the case. The focus of Tesla’s efforts is the young and beautiful Nicki Saunders, played by the impressive and versatile Nina Foch. The cast is rounded out with some comic relief from two gravediggers (those guys are always funny) and a couple of detectives reporting to Sir Frederick Fleet.

Despite its relatively low budget, The Return of the Vampire has an impressive cast and crew and the Grue Crew all agreed it is far better than one might have expected at first. Joseph saw this as youngster and the final scene has stuck with him for all the decades that have passed. The werewolf looked more like a dog to Chad, but even so, he appreciated the character and the genuine arc he had. Jeff, on the other hand, was really impressed with the quantity and quality of the fog in the graveyard. At any rate, this episode’s Grue Crew strongly recommends The Return of the Vampire as somewhat of a hidden gem of the 1940s.

The Decades of Horror: The Classic Era Grue Crew plan to release a new episode every other week. The next episode in our very flexible schedule will be Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), the runaway winner of our latest Patreon Poll. Yay! More Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., and Jane Randolph and our first film with Glenn Strange!

Please let us know what you think of Decades of Horror: The Classic Era! We want to hear from you! After all, without you, we’re just four nutjobs talking about the films we love. Send us an email or leave us a message, a review, or a comment at GruesomeMagazine.com, iTunes, Stitcher, Google Podcast, or the Horror News Radio Facebook group.

To each of you from each of us, “Thank you so much for listening!

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The Phantom of the Opera (1925) – Episode 42 – Decades of Horror: The Classic Era

“Feast your eyes–glut your soul on my accursed ugliness!”  Remember the old if-a-tree-falls-in-the-woods question? If Lon Chaney has a line in a silent-film and no one hears it, is it still a quote?  This episode’s Grue Crew says, “Yes! If it appears in quotes on an intertitle card!” Join this episode’s Grue Crew – Whitney Collazo, Chad Hunt, Joseph Perry, and Jeff Mohr – as they make their third trip to the land of silent screams and visit the Paris opera house as depicted in Universal’s The Phantom of the Opera (1925).

Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 42 – The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

After the success of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), Universal Pictures’ Carl Laemmle needed another vehicle for the considerable talents of Lon Chaney and seized on the timeless story told in Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel, Le Fantôme de l’Opéra. Directed, at least in part, by Rupert Julian, The Phantom of the Opera tells the tale of a man, disfigured in both appearance and character. He is infatuated with a beautiful woman and plots to gain her trust by mentoring her singing career and follows that with subterfuge, manipulation, and coercion in an insane attempt to win her hand.

The cast of The Phantom of the Opera features Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin, and Norman Kerry. Of course, Chaney is the star of the film. Not only does he knock it out of the park with another groundbreaking effort in makeup artistry, but his performance as the Phantom/Erik is truly inspired. Universal’s Stage 28 set, designed by Ben Carré, deserves its own star billing as the grandeur of the Paris Opera House is recreated complete with stage, giant chandelier, opera boxes, cellars, and underground torture chambers.

The members of the Grue Crew are universally moved by Chaney’s artistry and dedication. Whitney recounts the joys of using collodion for makeup effects, the impact of seeing the film as a five-year-old, and her affection for the metal-band musical connections to The Phantom of the Opera. The multitude of different versions of the film, which one should you watch, and the true story of Mary Philbin’s lost love send Jeff down the rabbit hole again. Joseph agrees that the various versions and the multiple, creative hands in the pie are evident in the film. The pain experienced by Chaney as a result of the makeup appliances used for the Phantom make an impression on Chad, but he still manages to find yet another connection to the Batman TV series.

The Decades of Horror: The Classic Era Grue Crew plan to release a new episode every other week. The next episode in our very flexible schedule will be The Return of the Vampire (1943)! More Bela Lugosi!

Please let us know what you think of Decades of Horror: The Classic Era! We want to hear from you! After all, without you, we’re just four nutjobs talking about the films we love. Send us an email or leave us a message, a review, or a comment at GruesomeMagazine.com, iTunes, Stitcher, Google Podcast, or the Horror News Radio Facebook group.

To each of you from each of us, “Thank you so much for listening!