Lionel Atwill – The Sphinx (1933)

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Lionel Atwill Month – The Sphinx (1933)
Cast:      Lionel Atwill as Jerome Breen
Sheila Terry as Jerry Crane
Theodore Newton as Jack Burton

Story by Albert DeMond
Directed by Phil Rosen

Plot: A mute man is accused of murder but questions arise as he was seen talking as he left the scene of the crime. Is he really the killer or is the real suspect still on the loose?

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Richard’s Review: So, this odd little film has an interesting story and twist that didn’t end up quite like I expected. Lionel Atwill is particularly creepy at times with some very lascivious glares. Unfortunately, his character isn’t very well developed nor is his motive. It’s a familiar story of reporters working with the police to capture a killer. Nothing we haven’t seen before but the mute murder suspect was at least a little different. I’d check this out again but not my favorite Atwill performance.

Karla’s Thoughts: I enjoyed this one as I didn’t see the twist coming, which is always fun. However, the reasons behind the reveal at the end weren’t very clear. The script needed a little more work. I did like the inclusion of sign language as it was something a little different. I would watch it again if it was on but I wouldn’t search it out.

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Trivia:

  • Director Phil Rosen has 143 credits spanning from 115 in the silent era until his death in 1951 at the age of 63. Despite earning a reputation in silent films, he’s most remembered today for The Sphinx, as well as Spooks Run Wild (1941) and Return of the Ape Man (1944) with Bela Lugosi, as well as six Charlie Chan films in the 40s.
  • Albert DeMond’s career also started in the silent era, including the Harold Lloyd classic, Speedy (1928). His career ended in 1966, seven years before his death in 1973 at the age of 71.
  • Sheila Terry had a brief but prolific career, making 43 films between 1932 and 1938. Aside from The Sphinx, she’s most remembered for numerous early westerns with a young John Wayne, including ‘Neath Arizona Skies (1934).
  • Western star George “Gabby” Hayes has an early role as an uncredited detective. He is best remembered for his countless western film appearances alongside such stars as Hopalong Cassidy, John Wayne and Roy Rogers.

Availability: The Sphinx is in the public domain and is available from numerous physical media companies and various online sources, including Amazon Prime.

Lionel Atwill – Genius at Work (1946)

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Lionel Atwill Month – Genius at Work (1946)
Cast:  Wally Brown as Jerry Miles
Alan Carney as Mike Strager
Anne Jeffreys as Ellen Brent
Lionel Atwill as The Cobra
Bela Lugosi as Stone

Written by Monte Brice & Robert E. Kent
Directed by Leslie Goodwins (The Mummy’s Curse)

Plot: Jerry and Mike are radio show actors who find themselves wrapped up in a real life crime drama against notorious villain The Cobra.

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Personal Thoughts: After the success of Zombies on Broadway (1945), the cast was reunited for this lesser effort. It’s nice to see Lugosi doing another movie for RKO but he doesn’t have as much to do here. He’s essentially playing Atwill’s henchman. Atwill turns in an average performance as The Cobra. Wall Brown and Alan Carney aren’t as funny here as they were in their previous film nor is Anne Jeffreys as charming. A fairly routine comedy whodunit that isn’t very inspiring. It will be very hard to find a copy of this one but don’t spend too much time trying.

Trivia:

  • Often compared to the Abbott and Costello film Who Done It? (1942).
  • Last of the eight films starring Wally Brown and Alan Carney, RKOs answer to Abbott and Costello.
  • Lionel Atwill’s next to last completed film before dying from cancer in 1946. This film was released six months after his death.
  • Never commercially released on home video.

Availability: Not available on YouTube or DVD (except for bootleg copies) but can be found online at the time of this publication.

A version of this review was originally posted on Oct. 29, 2015.

Lionel Atwill – Night Monster (1942)

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Lionel Atwill Month – Night Monster (1942)
Cast:      Bela Lugosi as Rolf
Lionel Atwill as Dr. King
Leif Erickson as Laurie

Screenplay by Clarence Upson Young
Directed by Ford Beebe (Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe)

Plot: Kurt Ingston (Ralph Morgan) is a recluse living in a mansion outside of town and seeking help from several doctors to help cure him of his paralysis. There is a supposedly insane sister, a mystic and secretive house staff. Of course, there’s also a series of murders to help stage a whodunit.

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Personal Thoughts: On the surface, this is simply another old dark house movie. However, it really stands out as an underrated gem due to the expansive sets and cast. Sure, there is a house surrounded by fog, murders and hidden panels. But, several scenes actually take place outside of the house, including the nearby town and train station. The characters also add to the fun, such as Leif Erickson as the oversexed chauffeur and the “crazy” sister. Lionel Atwill is particularly sleazy and creepy as Dr. King, one of three doctors invited to the house, while Lugosi turns in another butler performance. His his upper class attitude and general disdain for anyone opposing the family makes this role stand out among his other similar roles. I love the unique twist ending but Lugosi does seem to disappear at the end of the movie. It’s well worth your time to check out this seldom mentioned Universal Horror classic.

Trivia:

  • Part of the Universal Shock Theater package.
  • Miniature of the burning mansion is the same of the castle seen at the end of Ghost of Frankenstein (1942).
  • The foggy forest during the opening credits is the same as was used in The Wolf Man (1941).

Availability: Night Monster is available on the Universal Vault Series DVD and the Universal Horror Collection Volume 4 Blu-ray set.

A version of this review was originally posted on Oct. 22, 2015.

Lionel Atwill – The Gorilla (1939)

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Lionel Atwill – The Gorilla (1939)
Cast:
Jimmy Ritz as Garrity
Harry Ritz as Harrigan
Al Ritz as Mulligan
Lionel Atwill as Walter Stevens
Bela Lugosi as Peters
Anita Louise as Norma Denby
Patsy Kelly as Kitty

Screenplay by Rian James & Sid Silvers
Play by Ralph Spence
Directed by Allan Dwan (Look Who’s LaughingSands of Iwo Jima)

Plot: When wealthy Walter Stevens is threatened by the killer known as The Gorilla, he hires The Ritz Brothers detective agency to save his life and solve the mystery. However, a real gorilla is on the loose in the mansion too, resulting in a madcap caper.

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Personal Thoughts: This full old dark house comedy is more fun than it probably has a right to be. The Ritz Brothers are an acquired taste. I’ve always considered them to be low-rent Marx Brothers rip-offs. They’re funny enough in small doses but they lack the talents of Groucho, Harpo and Chico. Patsy Kelly adds some fun in random scenes, which is more than enough. Anything more and she may have turned annoying. Lionel Atwill is great as always but poor Bela doesn’t have much to do here. He turns in an adequate performance as the butler but nothing more. Well worth a watch on a weekend with your expectations set low.

Trivia:

  • 20th Century Fox bought the rights to the original play by Ralph Spence in October 1938 but various events, including the death of The Ritz Brothers’ father, delayed production. They were sued by Fox for breach of contract, which was eventually resolved. However, it became their last film for Fox.
  • The Ritz Brothers comedy act was often compared to The Marx Brothers but they never achieved anywhere close to the fame and notoriety on screen. However, their stage act lasted from the 20s until the 70s, minus Al, who died in 1965.

Availability: The Gorilla is in the public domain and is available on a variety of home media sources, including YouTube.

A version of this review was originally posted on Oct. 14, 2015.

Monster Conservancy Creative Talents Want to Help You

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We all know how stressful and uncertain things are right now. We each have our own way to help everyone get through this in one piece. We’re staying home, hibernating and laying low. This is giving us more time to slow down and finally read that book or watch that movie that’s been on our shelf for a while now. Some of you may even need some suggestions and that’s where the Monster Conservancy can help!

First of all, many of you are probably wondering what the Monster Conservancy is all about. We’re a group dedicated to the appreciation and conservation of classic monsters in the movies and anywhere else monsters are found. Some of us are writers and some are filmmakers, while others are special effects wizards and podcasters. We all have something special to offer and we want to help you right now!

So, take a few minutes to check out the following suggestions to help you get started. This is the perfect time to experience something new.

Podcasts, Websites and YouTube

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Monster Portrait art by Shelby Denham

Monster Kid Radio: Derek M. Koch has been hosting this Rondo Award Winning podcast since May 2013, offering up a weekly slice of monster goodness. With a never-ending array of guests and classic monster flicks to choose from, Derek entertains his listeners each and every week by talking about the movies we all love. The podcast is available on iTunes and you can get all of the latest information on the Monster Kid Radio website. When Derek isn’t podcasting, you can check out his multiple YouTube channels, including Monster Kid Radio, Comicstalgia, Monster Kid Writer and It’s Pronounced Cook.

Monthly Mihmiverse Audiocast: Christopher R. Mihm hosts this monthly podcast focusing on all of the latest news from the Mihmiverse and other features, such as jokes, poetry and the Kansas City Crypt from the Monster Movie Kid, Richard Chamberlain. It’s available from Apple Podcasts and archive.org.

Classic Horrors Club Podcast: Launched in January 2017 by Jeff Owens and Richard Chamberlain, this monthly podcast offers up lively conversation on the monster movies we all love, from the silent era to the 1970s, and sometimes we even dip our toes into the 80s and beyond. You can find the podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud with links each month on the multiple blogs Jeff and Richard each write. Jeff helps you navigate the ages of horror with the Classic Horrors Club blog, as well as his passion for comics in DC Comics Guy and all other films in general on The Reaction Shot. Richard focuses on horror films on Monster Movie Kid and all other films on Kansas City Cinephile.

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Movies, Movies, Movies

Christopher R. Mihm and the Mihmiverse: Christopher is the writer, director and producer of the films of the Mihmiverse. Ever since 2006 and his first film, The Monster of Phantom Lake, he’s been creating one new film a year, each with an authentic-as-possible 1950s-style. All 14 of his films are currently available on the new Drive-In Monsters channel on Roku and on Vimeo, while some are also available on Amazon Prime Video and DVD/Blu-Ray. And be sure to take a special look at the cool monsters as special effects master Mitch Gonzales is the wizard behind some amazing creations. Check out sainteuphoria.com for more information, including the latest news and other cool items for sale.

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You can now own a copy of the newly-commissioned, official Mihmiverse promotional photo taken by Christi Jean Williams (Mrs. Davis in “Queen of Snakes”) of Grinkie Photography!

Joshua Kennedy – Man of the Arts: Joshua is the mastermind behind Gooey Films with 16 finished films to his credit and at least two more in production. You can watch Dracula A.D. 2015, Airline ’79 and The Alpha Omega Man for free on YouTube right now. Then, head on over to Oldies.com for other titles on DVD like The Attack of the Octopus People or Theseus and the Minotaur. Finally, check out the Gooey Films Store as copies of House of the Gorgon are still available, featuring Hammer legends like Caroline Munro and Martine Beswicke, plus special effects artist Mitch Gonzales!

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Written Works

Stephen D. Sullivan: Stephen has been working professionally in fantasy publishing as an author, artist, and editor since 1980. Whether it’s Cushing Horrors, Daikaiju Attack, Frost Harrow or the Scribe Award Winning Manos: The Hands of Fate, there is so much fantastic work to choose from. You can buy books in print and e-book form, as well as other great merchandise, on his website. And when he’s not writing, you can hear him as a frequent guest on Monster Kid Radio. Add some or all of his titles to your personal collection!

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Derek M. Koch: When Derek isn’t podcasting or creating videos for YouTube, he’s hard at work as a writer. Monster Hunter for Hire is the first in the new Marc Temple Casefiles series. It features vampires, werewolves and zombies. What more do you need to know? It’s available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback, so hurry up and add it to your library today.

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Jeff Owens: Jeff has been a contributor to numerous books from We Belong Dead for several years now. He’s been featured in such fantastic titles as Unsung Horrors, Into the Velvet Darkness: A Celebration of Vincent Price and their latest release, Spotlight on Horror. Check out their website today for more information. These books are amazing and worthy of any monster kid’s library.

Check out savemonsters.com today for the Monster Conservancy!

Lionel Atwill – Mark of the Vampire (1935)

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Lionel Atwill Month – Mark of the Vampire (1935)
Cast:      Bela Lugosi as Count Mora
Lionel Barrymore as Professor Zelin
Elizabeth Allen as Irena Borotyn
Lionel Atwill as Inspector Neumann

Based on the story The Hypnotist by Tod Browning
Screenplay by Guy Endore & Bernard Schubert
Directed by Tod Browning (Freaks)

Plot: When Sir Borotyn is found dead with two holes in his neck, the immediate suspect is thought to be vampire, Count Mora! However, Inspector Neumann refuses to believe in vampires. Professor Zelin, expert on the occult and all things vampiric, arrives to save the young Irena Borotyn, but all is not what it appears to be.

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Personal Thoughts: MGM could make a great movie as could Tod Browning and together, they crafted a really fun film. It’s incredibly atmospheric with chilling visuals and haunting sound effects. I loved seeing Lionel Barrymore prior to his arthritis crippling him and Lionel Atwill turns in another great performance as an inspector. Lugosi is, essentially, playing Dracula and it works very well despite the fact he never speaks until the final scene. And Carroll Borland is just downright spooky as Luna. Unfortunately, the ending (and I won’t spoil it for those who still haven’t seen this movie) turns everything upside down. That aside, a very fun film and well worth checking it out.

Karla’s Thoughts: Not really a vampire movie but I still loved it. I just wish it could decide what type of film it wanted to be. There’s too many things left unexplained, such as the bats and why did they act weird in the castle. I’d watch it again but I wouldn’t seek it out due to the ending.

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Trivia:

  • Remake of the lost Lon Chaney classic, London After Midnight (1927).
  • The film was cut from its original running time of 75 minutes to just over an hour at 61 minutes. Tod Browning had no control over the cuts after his previous film, Freaks (1932), was a financial failure.
  • An incest storyline between Count Mora and his daughter Luna was written out of the script due to the new standards of the Production Code. He ended his life by shooting himself in the head. Thus, the gunshot wound on his right temple that is never explained in the movie.
  • Lugosi has more lines in the trailer than he does in the entire movie.

Availability: Part of the wonderful Hollywood’s Legends of Horror Collection DVD set. This set is out-of-print, so shop around for the best price!

Podcast: As a bonus, listen to the classic episode 19 of the B Movie Cast podcast with the late, great Vince Rotolo!

A version of this review originally posted on Oct. 9, 2015.

Mihmiverse – Strange Case of Dr. Rx (1942)

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This month on episode 65 of the Mihmiverse Monthly Audiocast, the Kansas City Crypt returns as we continue our month-long celebration of Lionel Atwill with a look at The Strange case of Dr. Rx (1942)! He might not have a big part but there are definitely some things in this film to enjoy.

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Have you become a contributor of the upcoming films and specials from Christopher R. Mihm? Check out sainteuphoria.com for all of the latest from the Mihmiverse. The Phantom Lakes Kids in The Beast Walks Among Us is all ready for it’s world premiere on April 29,  That Which Lurks in the Dark is in production and work has started on The Mihmiverse Holiday Special! 2020 is going to be an exciting year for the Mihmiverse!

As always, tell ’em Monster Movie Kid sent you!