Summer of Forgotten Horror – Week 9: Things Happen at Night (1948)
Cast: Gordon Harker as Joe Harris
Alfred Drayton as Wilfred Prescott
Gwyneth Vaughn as Audrey Prescott
Olga Lindo as Hilda Prescott
Wylie Watson as Watson the butler
Based on the play The Poltergeist by Frank Harvey Jr.
Screenplay by St. John Legh Clowes
Directed by Francis Searle
Plot: A young girl is possessed by a poltergeist as strange things happen in the home, such as coal flying about, lamps being dropped and objects moving on their own. While Wilfred Prescott doubts the seriousness of the situation, others work towards solving the mystery including a ghost buster and an insurance investigator who is out to prove none of it is real.
Personal Thoughts: The best I can say about this movie is that it is harmless. It isn’t a bad film nor is it very good. Mostly, nothing really seems to happen. It’s as if a bunch of actors gathered on a set one day and decided to have some fun with the camera. Perhaps I went into this one with higher expectations based on the description. It’s also possible that I didn’t see the best parts as the version I watched clocked in at just under an hour while IMDB lists it as a 79-minute film. I didn’t hate it but it’s very forgettable.
- Neither director Francis Searle or writer St. John Legh Clowes are remembered for much in the United States but had lengthy, if not spectacular, careers in the UK.
- There is a credit for a song entitled “First of Forever” as sung by Marilyn Williams. This did not appear in the version I watched.
- Never released commercially, this is another rare film you’ll have to search for. The print I saw is a little rough but watchable. You can catch it on YouTube if you so desire.
Congratulations to fellow monster kid and award-winning author Stephen D. Sullivan! Last week at the San Diego Comicon, the Scribe Awards were announced and Mr. Sullivan won for Adapted Novel – General and Speculative. His novel, Manos: The Hands of Fate, is an adaptation of the 1966 cult classic film from director Harold P. Warren and was released by Walkabout Publishing. It is currently available on Amazon. Manos: The Hands of Fate is the the first of two novelizations based on the film and features an introduction by Jackey Neyman Jones, star of the original film. And if by some chance you’ve lived under a rock, you can watch it on YouTube but you’ve been warned. Way to go Steve! I’m sure the Master is pleased!
Summer of Forgotten Horror – Week 8: They Drive by Night (1938)
Cast: Emlyn Matthews as Shorty Matthews (The Man Who Knew Too Much)
Anna Konstam as Molly O’Neill
Ernest Thesiger as Walter Hoover
Allan Jeayes as Wally Mason
Based on the novel by James Curtis
Screenplay by James Curtis, Paul Gangelin (The Mad Ghoul) & Derek N. Twist
Directed by Arthur B. Woods (Haunted Honeymoon)
Plot: Shorty Matthews has just been released from jail as another convict is being executed. He is a typical wise guy with no plans to go straight. Upon visiting a former girlfriend, he finds that she has been strangled and, fearing he will go back to jail, he decides to run. The police are soon on his trail as he encounters truck driver Wally and young Molly, a woman who could help him leave his life of crime behind. But who is Mr. Walter Hoover and what role does he play in this murder mystery?
Personal Thoughts: Two years before Humphrey Bogart made the much more popular film-noir with George Raft, Warner Brothers and First National Productions made this joint effort which in itself has some film noir elements. Taking place almost entirely at night, They Drive by Night is actually a very well-done film that, admittedly, was rather paint-by-numbers until the arrival of Ernest Thesiger. When he finally makes his appearance toward the final third of the film, he seems to be playing a very proper gentleman until you see that he has a fascination with murder. The evil and quirky side he displayed in other films such as Bride of Frankenstein and The Old Dark House quickly comes into full view as Walter Hoover is not who he appears to be. At a point the film seemed to be floundering, he quickly brings it back and makes for some chilling scenes. Make your way through the first part of the film and you won’t regret staying for the end.
- Director Arthur B. Woods made 26 films and only four more after this. He was recognized as one of the youngest and most promising British film directors prior to World War II and was the only director to serve in the war. He was a pilot and volunteered to serve in the Royal Air Force. Tragically, he was killed in combat in 1944 at the age of 39.
- A young William Hartnell, the world’s first Doctor from Doctor Who, makes a brief appearance as a bus driver. He’s billed as Billy Hartnell and with a heavy accent, he’s virtually unrecognizable.
- This was Anna Konstam’s first starring role of an eventual nine film career.
- Never released commercially, this is another rare film you’ll have to search for. However, it is well worth adding to your collection. Luckily, you can also watch it on YouTube.
Summer of Forgotten Horror – Week 7: Secret of the Loch (1934)
Cast: Seymour Hicks as Professor Heggie (A Christmas Carol)
Nancy O’Neil as Angela Heggie
Gibson Gowland as Angus (Phantom of the Opera)
Frederick Peisley as Jimmy Andrews
Written by Charles Bennett (The 39 Steps) & Billie Bristow
Directed by Milton Rosmer (The Monkey’s Paw)
Plot: Seymour Hicks stars as the slightly unhinged Professor Heggie, a man hell bent to prove that the Loch Ness Monster is real. Some of the townspeople believe him while fellow scientists in London believe he’s either lying or insane. Young reporter Jimmy Andrews wants to write the story, whatever the outcome. He naturally meets and falls in love with the professor’s young daughter, Angela, despite the ever present Angus ensuring nothing happens. Eventually, it’s Jimmy who journeys into the depths of Loch Ness to prove once and for all whether or not the monster is real.
Personal Thoughts: Not a bad movie but, admittedly, rather forgettable. It’s fun to see Seymour Hicks in another role besides Ebenezer Scrooge. His 1935 adaptation is widely seen due to it being in the public domain. But honestly, he plays both roles very much the same, leaving one to wonder how much of his real personality is coming through the performance. The old cliché of reporter meets girl has a twist here due to the presence of bodyguard and manservant Angus. One of the funniest scenes has to do with Angus discovering that Jimmy may be part of his Scottish clan and they share some Scotch. However, whatever elements are keeping the film together fall apart in the big reveal in the final act. Still, not a bad British effort in the early days of giant monster flicks, just in desperate need of a more exciting script.
- Writer Charles Bennett is credited with the screenplays for several of Alfred Hitchcock’s earlier films, including The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), Secret Agent (1936) and Foreign Correspondent (1940).
- This movie was never released theatrically in the United States. The broadcast rights were picked up by CBS Television in 1949 and made its’ debut on channel 2 WCBS on April 22, 1949.
- The London Zoological Society was responsible for the lizard used in the film to represent the Loch Ness Monster.
- Never released commercially, you’ll have to dig around for this one. Might be worth tracking it down for historical purposes as it was partially filmed on location.
This week on episode 464 of the Dread Media Podcast, I return to the land of giant monsters with Gamera: Super Monster (1980). I took one for the team and it’s safe to say that I’m scarred for life. Tune in and decide for yourself if this one’s worth adding to your collection. It’s part of the Gamera Showa and Heisei Collection on Blu, which is the cheapest way to get the first 11 Gamera flicks.
Summer of Forgotten Horror – Week 6: Return of the Witch (1952)
Cast: Mirja Mane as Birgit Suomaa
Toivo Makela as Hannu
Hillevi Lagerstam as Greta
Aku Korhonen as The Baron
Based on the play by Mika Waltari
Screenplay by Roland af Hallstrom (as Viljo Hela) & Kaarlo Nuorvala
Directed by Roland af Hallstrom
Plot: Our movie opens at an archaeological site as two men are digging a hole when they discover human bones. They believe them to belong to a witch who was buried in the swamp some 300 years earlier with a stake through her heart. Archaeologist Hannu has the bones brought to a nearby mansion he is staying at but the townspeople believe the bones must be reburied or the witch will return. Soon, a strange and naked woman appears, driving Hannu and other men in the village into a frenzy. Is she the witch in flesh form and, if so, what are her evil intentions?
This is definitely a unique film with some crazy dialogue and a frenetic style unique for 1952. Nudity and overt sexuality are present throughout and adds to the stunningly beautiful Mijra Mane’s performance as an animalistic and seductive creature. An artist lusts after Greta, the wife of Hannu while Hannu lusts after the witch. The son of a local baron lusts after the witch while she continues to play all three against each other. Her maniacal laughter combined with her dancelike movements make for an amazing performance. Meanwhile, the creepy Baron lurks in from time to time displaying a lecherous attitude. And watching the crazed townspeople try to bury her back in the swamp comes across like a Benny Hill episode at times. The dialogue is laughable at all the right moments and adds to the overall enjoyment of this rare flick. The visuals are also incredible for a low-budget effort. The ending may be a bit of a cheat but doesn’t take away from the overall film. Well worth tracking down if you want to see something different.
- Released in 1952, the same year as another Finnish horror/fantasy film, The White Reindeer.
- Considered one of the first Finnish horror films.
- The nudity in the film was very rare for the 1950s and helped sell it in the United States as an “adults only” film. However, only some of the dialogue was censored from the film in Finnish.
- Never released commercially, it is available as burn-on-demand DVD from Sinister Cinema. The print is quite good with easy to read subtitles. It is also available on YouTube but without subtitles and, honestly, some of the crazy dialogue is half of the fun when watching this film.
This week on the Dread Media podcast, I journey from flicks of the past to a modern horror effort from director James Wan, The Conjuring 2 (2016)! Take a listen to episode 462 as we revisit the world of Ed and Lorraine Warren as they combat the forces of evil in 1970s London. It’s a seamless sequel in what is now clearly becoming a franchise. If you enjoyed the first one, you’ll definitely enjoy The Conjuring 2! And yes, even Annabelle makes an appearance!
Summer of Forgotten Horror – Week 5: Candles at Nine (1944)
Cast: Beatrix Lehmann as Julia Carberry
Jessie Matthews as Dorothea Capper
Based on the novel The Mouse Who Couldn’t Play Ball by Anthony Gilbert
Screenplay by John Harlow & Basil Mason
Directed by John Harlow
Plot: Our story begins with the age old tale of Everard Hope (Eliot Makeham, 1951s A Christmas Carol), a miserly old man surrounded by his buzzard-like relatives, just waiting for his death so they can grab hold of their inheritance. There is the overly faithful servant, Ms. Julia Carberry, and all the usual suspects. Of course, Hope is murdered under mysterious circumstances, leading to the reading of his will. However, he leaves nothing to his immediate family and everything to an unknown relative named Dorothea Capper. She must take residence within 48 hours and stay for 30 days. If she can’t fulfill those obligations, it goes to the oldest living relative, whoever that may be after everyone else sorts it out.
Personal Thoughts: On the surface, this would appear to be a typical old dark house flick but, unfortunately, it is much more. What it is exactly is a confused effort that never truly decides what it wants to be. For example, at about 20 minutes in, just as we’ve been introduced to Dorothea, we get a prolonged song and dance number. At a length of 75 minutes, the movie didn’t necessarily need it for padding and it sidetracks the film. There are definitely more comedic moments than are needed, which also deter from the genuinely creepy moments of the film. Beatrix Lehmann is especially eerie and should have been seen more on the big screen. All that said, it’s an uneven film that might be worth watching once but I can’t recommend spending too much time to track it down.
- Beatrix Lehman spent most of her career on the stage and came from a very distinguished family. She also had a passion for the arts, being a subject of 13 portraits and a one-time director of the Arts Council Midland Theatre Company.
- Jessie Matthews never quite crossed over to the level of success she long strived for, losing out on an opportunity to dance with Fred Astaire and being the unpublicized inspiration for many of Cole Porter’s famous songs. After three divorces, her last twenty years ended after losing a battle to cancer at the age of 74 in 1981. Sadly, she was buried in an unmarked grave upon her death until her passing received national attention and she was given a proper burial.
- The source from which I purchased this film is no longer offering it. However, there is a brief clip on YouTube and it is available for streaming at a reasonable price on Amazon.