George Zucco in The Mad Ghoul (1943)

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The Mad Ghoul (November 12, 1943)
Cast:        George Zucco as Dr. Alfred Morris
                David Bruce as Ted Allison
                Evelyn Ankers as Isabel Lewis
                Robert Armstrong as Ken McClure
                Turhan Bey as Eric Iverson
                Milburn Stone as Macklin

Story by Hans Kraly
Screenplay by Brenda Weisberg & Paul Gangelin
Directed by James Hogan

Plot: Mad scientist Dr. Morris uses an ancient Mayan gas to turn a medical student into a murderous ghoul.

Richard’s Review: The Mad Ghoul often gets overlooked and even looked down upon as it’s unfairly compared to other superior Universal horror classics. However, I personally enjoy The Mad Ghoul for what it is. Clocking in at 65 minutes, it’s a breezy afternoon matinee flick that has Zucco playing a typical mad scientist who falls in love with Isabel, the fiancée of medical student Ted. So, in a weird way to get to Isabel, he decides to use Ted as his test subject of an ancient Mayan gas that turns Ted, and eventually himself, into a ghoul. It’s not great but a well-made film with a good cast. Its harmless fun and worth checking out. Going in some lower expectations and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Trivia:

  • Evelyn Ankers also starred in other Universal horror classics such as The Wolf Man (1941), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), Captive Wild Woman (1943), Son of Dracula (1943) and The Frozen Ghost (1945). She retired from acting in 1950 and died of ovarian cancer in 1985 at the age of 67.
  • While David Bruce had 78 film credits, his only other horror genre appearances were in Calling Dr. Death (1943) and The Mummy’s Ghost (1944). He died in 1976 at the age of 60 of a heart attack.
  • Robert Armstrong is best remembered for his more prominent role of Carl Denham in King Kong (1933) and Son of Kong (1933).
  • Turhan Bey is well-known for other genre films The Mummy’s Tomb (1942), The Climax (1944) and The Amazing Dr. X (1948).
  • Milburn Stone was a native of Burrton, Kansas and starred in numerous other Universal horror films, including Invisible Agent (1942), Captive Wild Woman (1943), Strange Confession (1944), Jungle Woman (1944) and The Frozen Ghost (1945). However, he’s best known for his role of Doc Adams in 605 episodes of Gunsmoke between 1955 and 1975.  
  • Writer Paul Gangelin also gave the world the 1957 classic, The Giant Claw.
  • Brenda Weisberg also wrote Weird Woman (1944), The Scarlet Claw (1944) and The Mummy’s Ghost (1944).
  • This was the last film for director James Hogan. He died eight days before the film’s release of a heart attack at the age of 53.

Availability: The Mad Ghoul is available on the Universal Horror Collection Volume 2 Blu-ray from Shout! Factory.

Gamera the Brave (2005) is a Great Introduction to Kaiju Films for Younger Fans

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By 2005, kaiju fans already had eleven films in the Gamera series. The first eight are part of what is known as the Showa era (1965-1980). It was through these original films that fans were introduced to “the friend of all children” as Gamera soon took his place alongside Godzilla as one of the greatest defenders of Earth of all time. Sure, Gamera was never quite the “king of the monsters” that Godzilla was but he was never intended to be.

Gamera was originally a lot more aggressive, as depicted in Gamera, the Giant Monster (1965). But the fire-breathing and flying giant turtle soon became a lot more loveable. By the 1970s, Gamera films became a regular feature on Saturday afternoon matinees, despite low-budgets and film plots that were often much more simplistic than the more adult Godzilla series. However, the films had a fantastic charm that endeared Gamera to a generation of classic sci-fi and giant monster movie fans around the world.

In 1995, Gamera returned after a fifteen-year absence with a bigger budget and a much more serious tone in a trilogy of films that many believe to be the best of the Gamera series. After it wrapped up in 1999, another six years would pass before Gamera returned once again. However, Gamera the Brave was a very different film and that was a bit jarring for long-time fans who loved the more adult nature of the previous trilogy.

In Gamera the Brave, we’re given what is essentially a reboot. The film starts out in 1973 as we witness an older Gamera sacrifice himself to save the people of a nearby city from three Gyaos monsters. His death is seen by a young boy, Kousuke. We then flash forward 33 years to 2006 as Kousuke (Kanji Tsuda) is now a father to his son Toru (Ryo Tomioka) and a widower. Kousuke is doing his best to move forward while Toru has visions of his mother calling him “Toto” while working in the family diner. Toru soon discovers a red egg where the original Gamera died and a baby turtle soon hatches from it. His names it Toto and, along with his friends Katsuya and Ishimaru, is amazed at how quickly he grows and the powers he begins to display, such as flying and breathing fire. Yes, little Toto is soon to become the new Gamera and will face a seemingly impossible task of defending the people from a new, larger and more powerful creature called Zedus.

The film succeeds on many levels but the first step for any viewer to enjoy Gamera the Brave is to accept that it is a family film. It channels the simpler days when Gamera films targeted a younger audience. The battles between Gamera and Zedus are not the best kaiju confrontations you’ll ever see. In fact, it’s almost a little tough to see how outmatched Gamera is through much of the film. But, the story is really about the children’s relationships with each other and, specifically, Toru’s love for Gamera. After such a devastating loss, he has healed enough to open his heart once again and he’ll stop at nothing to help his new friend. As we watch the story unfold, the film is beautifully shot and it’s easy to become attached to the main characters.

The film does suffer in a few ways, such as the supporting character of Mai (Kaho). She clearly cares for Toru and his father but I feel like her character is never really fleshed out enough and it seems as if her character disappears in the final scenes. It also gets a little cheesy when all of the children gather in the final act to save Gamera as the city is being evacuated. Just where were their parents? The score by Yoko Ueno is also a bit of a roller coaster ride. Sometimes it works but other times it seems like it’s more suited for a dramatic made-for TV film. And yes, Gamera has a new and softened look that takes a little getting used to. He comes across as much cuter but remember, he is younger than the Gamera of old. However, these are all minor low points and not worth totally dismissing the film as many have.

Gamera the Brave is a great film for more seasoned giant monster fans to use to introduce younger kids to the wonderful world of kaiju. The story is simple enough for all ages to enjoy but it never gets too dark or scary. It certainly deserves a lot more love that it tends to get and I recommend it for any true Gamera or kaiju fan. It’s something a little different and that’s never a bad thing.

If you want to read more about the original Gamera film series, you’ll want to check Jeff Owens and his ongoing GaMAYra event over at his Classic Horrors Club site! And be sure to tell him Monster Movie Kid sent ya!

Classic Horrors Club – George Zucco’s Secret

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This month in episode 57 of the Classic Horrors Club Podcast, Jeff and I return to do another classic horror profile with a look at the career of George Zucco. We’ll discuss three of his films in greater detail, including Dr. Renault’s Secret (1942), Fog Island (1945), and Lured (1947), which also stars Boris Karloff and features a young Lucille Ball in a very impressive performance. Known as a “spellbinder” on stage and “one-take Zucco” on screen, George Zucco carried a magnificent presence, but was always a gentleman.

Although he was a neighbor of Lionel Atwill, they didn’t share the same social life. Nevertheless, the author of Hollywood Babylon II claimed Zucco’s final days were just as scandalous. What really happened? Jeff and I will set the story straight (with a little help from printed reference materials called, “books.”)

We also invite you to watch our companion episode with highlights, bonus features, and outtakes on our YouTube channel. If you like what you hear, you’re going to love what you see! Check it out and give us some feedback… both on the podcast and the video.

Call us at (616) 649-2582 (CLUB) or email us at classichorrorsclub@gmail.com!

Join us in our clubhouse at https://www.facebook.com/groups/classichorrors.club/!

We’d also appreciate if you’d give us an honest rating on Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud. Thank you!

You can find Jeff at:

As always, thank you for your continued support!

OTR – Lights Out and Suspense Double Feature

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Our May tribute to George Zucco continues with a double feature of old time radio goodness!

First, it’s the June 29, 1943 episode of Lights Out called Bathysphere. It originally aired on Arch Oboler’s Plays on November 18, 1939.

Then, we jump forward to June 6, 1946, for an episode of Suspense. In High Wall, Zucco is joined by Robert Young for another tale well calculated to keep you in…Suspense!

So dim the lights and let the theatre of the mind take you to the darkest corners of the earth. And, as always, don’t forget to check out all of the playlists on my YouTube channel for more great old time radio!

George Zucco in Dead Men Walk (1943)

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Dead Men Walk (April 19, 1943)
Cast:        George Zucco as Dr. Lloyd Clayton/Dr. Elwyn Clayton
                Mary Carlisle as Gayle Clayton
                Nedrick Young as Dr. David Bentley
                Dwight Frye as Zolarr
                Fern Emmett as Kate

Written by Fred Myton
Directed by Sam Newfield

Plot: It’s a tale of two brothers, one good and one evil, as one returns from the grave in a tale filled with murder and Satan worship.

Richard’s Review: This is a fun public domain entry in George Zucco’s mad scientist resume. Here, he plays a dual role, that of the evil Elwyn, presumed dead, and his good brother Lloyd. Local eccentric Kate has accused the late Dr. Elwyn of evil deeds and she is proven to be right as he was involved in black magic. Elwyn rises from the grave to seek revenge upon his brother by turning his niece into a vampire. This is a film desperately in need of a better print that we will likely never see. Despites it’s obvious flaws and cheap budget, there’s a really good and creepy tale hidden in the shadows and I highly recommend it, especially to watch Zucco pull off a great dual role. Frye is great here as well, once again playing a sidekick to an evil madman.  

Trivia:

  • Fred Myton was an established writer with 171 credits from 1916 until 1954. He was prolific in the western genre, including the cult classic, Terror of Tiny Town. He also wrote The Mad Monster and The Black Raven.
  • Sam Newfield has 277 directing credits, including The Monster Maker (1944), The Black Raven (1943) and Nabonga (1944).
  • Dwight Frye was a native of Salina, Kansas and is best remembered for his roles of Renfield in Dracula (1931) and Fritz in Frankenstein (1931). However, he had a prolific career in horror films of the 30s and 40s, also starring in The Vampire Bat (1933), The Invisible Man (1933), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), which was his last genre film. He died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 44 on November 7, 1943.
  • This was the last film, and her only entry in the horror genre, in the career of Mary Carlisle. After 65 films, she married and walked away from Hollywood. She died in 2018 at the age of 104.
  • This was only the second film in the relatively short career of Nedrick Young. His only other horror film was in an uncredited role of Leon Averill in House of Wax (1953) with Vincent Price. After 28 film and TV credits, he was blacklisted by Hollywood after refusing to speak during the infamous 1953 witch hunt on un-American activities. This was even more tragic as he fought for the U.S. during World War II. He was also a writer and went on to win the Oscar for Best Screenplay for The Defiant Ones (1958), under the pseudonym of Nathan E. Douglas.  He also a co-writer of the screenplay for Inherit the Wind (1960). He died in 1968 at the age of 54 due to a heart attack.
  • Fern Emmett started acting in 1927 at the rather old age of 31, at least by Hollywood standards. Despite her late start, she amassed a total of 248 film credits by 1947, usually in small and uncredited roles. Unfortunately, she died in 1946 at the age of 50.   
  • The estate of Dr. Clayton is the same as Zucco had in The Mad Monster (1942).
  • This was filmed in only six days in 1942 but not released until April 1943.

Availability: Dead Men Walk is in the public domain and available on wide variety of home media releases and streaming options.

George Zucco in The Black Raven (1943)

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The Black Raven (1943)
Cast:      George Zucco as Amos Bradford
                Wanda McKay as Lee Winfield
                Noel Madison as Mike Bardoni
                Robert Livingston as Allen Bentley

Written by Fred Myton
Directed by Sam Newfield

Plot: It’s a dark and stormy night when a group of strangers find themselves at an inn with murder and stolen money lurking around every dark corner.

Richard’s Review: The Black Raven is a fun film clocking in at just over an hour with George Zucco playing a man seeking revenge against those who wronged him. There’s a young couple trying to get away from the young girl’s father but don’t quite make it into Canada before the storm and her father catch up to them. Throw in some embezzlement and murder, as well as an inn which serves as the old, dark house, and you have a rather enjoyable little murder mystery. Zucco turns in a good performance in a role somewhat similar to what he did in Fog Island, just not as grand. Definitely something fun for a rainy night or a quick afternoon matinee.

Trivia:

  • Fred Myton was an established writer with 171 credits from 1916 until 1954. He was prolific in the western genre, including the cult classic, Terror of Tiny Town. He also wrote The Mad Monster and Dead Men Walk.
  • Sam Newfield has 277 directing credits, including The Monster Maker (1944), Dead Men Walk (1943) and Nabonga (1944).
  • Noel Madison only starred in two more films after The Black Raven, including Jitterbugs (1943) with Laurel and Hardy.
  • Robert Livingston is best remembered for his many western films, as well as his very last movie in 1975, Blazing Stewardesses.
  • Wanda McKay also starred in The Mad Doctor (1940), Voodoo Man (1944) and The Monster Maker (1944).
  • Charles Middleton, who played the sheriff, is best known for his role of Ming the Merciless in the Flash Gordon chapter serials.
  • Glenn Strange played the supporting character of Andy but is best remembered for his role of the Frankenstein Monster in the last three films in the Frankenstein film series (House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein).

Availability: The Black Raven is in the public domain and available on a wide variety of home media releases and streaming options.

George Zucco in The Monster and the Girl (1941)

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The Monster and the Girl (February 28, 1941)
Cast:       George Zucco as Dr. Parry
                Ellen Drew as Susan Webster
                Robert Paige as Larry Reed
                Paul Lukas as W.S. Bruhl
                Joseph Calleia as Deacon
                Onslow Stevens as J. Stanley McMasters
                Philip Terry as Scot Webster

Written by Stuart Anthony
Directed by Stuart Heisler

Plot: Susan Webster moves to the big city but becomes the prey of gangster W.S. Bruhl. After his brother Scot is set up for a murder he didn’t commit and executed, his brain becomes the property of mad scientist Dr. Parry, who transplants it into the body of a gorilla, who then goes on a quest to seek revenge for his murder and to protect his sister.

Richard’s Review: This is an odd one. For most of the film, it’s almost like a noir thriller about a small town girl who falls in with the wrong crowd. In fact, the mad scientist part almost seems thrown in at the last minute. Zucco doesn’t have a big role and once the brain transplant is over, he almost vanishes into the background. Oddly enough, I found this movie to better than most consider it to be. It’s not much of a horror movie but the story intrigued me enough to make it an enjoyable rewatch. It should be low on the list for both Universal and Zucco completests but worth checking out.

Trivia:

  • The Monster and the Girl was produced by Paramount Pictures but its distribution rights were sold to Universal after the initial theaterical run. While it was never part of Universal’s Shock or Son of Shock television packages, Universal has handled its home media releases.
  • The Monster and the Girl debuted on Turner Classic Movies in December 2018 courtesy of guest programmer John Landis. 
  • Stuart Hesiler would continue to direct until his retirement in 1964. This was his only horror or thriller genre film.
  • This was the next to last writing credit for Stuart Anthony. Out of his 54 credits, the only other genre films were Charlie Chan in London (1934) and Charlie Chan in Paris (1935). He died in 1942 at the age of 51.
  • Ellen Drew had the lead role for the movie and earned more horror recognition with her roles in The Mad Doctor (1940) and Isle of the Dead (1945), as well as appearances on Science Fiction Theatre in 1955.
  • Robert Paige also starred in Son of Dracula (1943) and Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953).
  • Paul Lukas also starred in Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938), The Ghost Breakers (1940) with Bob Hope and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954).
  • Joseph Calleia starred as Dr. Nicholas Moryani in Lured (1947), which also featured George Zucco and Boris Karloff.
  • Onslow Stevens also starred in Life Returns (1935) and Them! (1954).
  • Gerald Mohr played gang member Munn. He is also remembered for his roles in The Angry Red Planet (1959), Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941), numerous television appearances and as the character of Michael Lanyard in the Lone Wolf series.

Availability: The Monster and the Girl is available on DVD as part of the Universal Vault Series and on Blu-ray in the Universal Horror Collection Volume 7.

Classic Horrors Club – Captive Wild Jungle Woman

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Come for the discussion of three mid-40s Universal, uh… classics, then stay for the speculation about the future of physical media collecting. In episode 56 of the Classic Horrors Club Podcast, Jeff and I are joined by Paula the Ape Woman, with a little help from one of our members, Joe Carson, as we talk about Captive Wild Woman (1943), Jungle Woman (1944), and The Jungle Captive (1945).

Yes, we did enjoy all three films, to one degree or another, despite the fact that these three films sometimes get a bad rap. However, there are worse Universal monster movies, even if we can’t think of one for sure off the top of our heads.

We also invite you to watch our companion episode with highlights and bonus features on our YouTube channel. If you like what you hear, you’re going to love what you see! Check it out and give us some feedback… both on the podcast and the video.

Call us at (616) 649-2582 (CLUB) or email at classichorrorsclub@gmail.com.

Join us in our clubhouse at https://www.facebook.com/groups/classichorrors.club/.

We’d also appreciate if you’d give us an honest rating on Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud. Thank you!

You can find Jeff at:

As always, thank you for your continued support!

Dread Media – Tammy and the T-Rex (1994)

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Joe Bob Briggs celebrated Valentine’s Day back in February and what a double feature it was. While The Love Witch (2016) was an interesting watch, things started off with the even more unique “lost classic” Tammy and the T-Rex (1994). This is the complete version with the previously unseen and deleted graphic footage. Not sure it really enhanced the viewing experience that much but judge for yourself by tuning in to episode 711 of the Dread Media podcast. And, as always, tell ’em Monster Movie Kid sent ya!

Dread Media – The Love Witch (2016)

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Back in February, Joe Bob Briggs helped us all celebrate valentine’s Day with a special episode featuring two rather unique tales of love. Of course, I knew I had to share my thoughts with everyone over at Dead Media. So, tune in to episode 710 of the Dread Media podcast as I take a look at The Love Witch (2016), a movie that’s been on my radar for years now and, thanks to The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob, I can scratch this off the list. The real question is, was it worth the wait?