Day 26 – Dracula’s Ghost (2017)

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2018 Countdown to Halloween – Day 28: Dracula’s Ghost (2017)
Cast:        Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula
Lionel Atwill as Dr. Otto Von Neimann
Fay Wray as Ruth Bertin
Melvyn Douglas as Karl Brettschneider
Dwight Frye as Herman Gleib

Produced by C.S. Lamb

Plot: Who is responsible for the bodies being found drained of their blood? Vampires are rumored to be lurking in the village. Is it the odd fellow named Herman? Or is it the legendary Count Dracula?

Richard’s Review: I knew going into the film that this was a love letter to the classic horror genre. Producer C.S. Lamb had created this 54 minute flick using mostly footage from The Vampire Bat (1933), while adding clips from other public domain sources to slightly change the story so that the villain of the piece is Count Dracula. I also knew it was intended to look like some long lost worn film print. So, knowing all that, does it work?

The film print quality is indeed rough at times with some very dark scenes that leave it hard to tell what is going on. Unfortunately, the production quality is low too, which really hurts the presentation. The story flows rather well despite the repetitive clips of Count Dracula. But, with nobody ever mentioning the name of Dracula at any point, the story becomes disjointed. The ending is very rushed and makes no sense but this should have been expected considering the small amount of Dracula footage Lamb could use.

Another writer and producer are credited, which may be real names or not, but the original writers and directors are not mentioned at all, which is a major oversight. Proper credit should have been given. Lamb does promote this film as a novelty and is very upfront that it is not high definition. Yet, the cover is very well done, leaving one to think it’s worth the high price tag of $20. Unfortunately, it is not. My DVD had a minor production glitch and no image on the burned DVD. I loved the spirit in which this was made but it should be free on YouTube. Maybe worth $5 but not the $23.50 I paid for it. Therefore, I cannot recommend adding this to your collection.

Karla’s Thoughts: There is definitely some great atmosphere buried in the overly dark print. It’s so dark at times that it’s hard to make out what is happening. There is little character development, which is common to cheap films of the time period. Despite that, it was an interesting film but the ending, or lack thereof, was greatly disappointing. I’d watch it again if it’s on TV but I wouldn’t seek it out.

Trivia:

  • Producer C.S. Lamb created this “lost” classic using mostly elements from The Vampire Bat (1933) and Bela Lugosi snippets from the Dracula (1931) trailer and White Zombie (1932), amongst other sources.

Availability: Dracula’s Ghost is available on DVD from the creator on eBay.

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Day 25 – The Maze (1953)

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2018 Countdown to Halloween – Day 25: The Maze (1953)
Cast:        Richard Carlson as Gerald MacTeam
Veronica Hurst as Kitty Murray
Katherine Emery as Edith Murray
Michael Pate as William

Based on the novel by Maurice Sandoz
Screenplay by Dan Ullman
Directed by William Cameron Menzies

Plot: When Gerald MacTeam is summoned to a family estate, he abruptly calls off his upcoming marriage to Kitty Murray. However, Kitty doesn’t take no for an answer and she vows to find out exactly what is happening in the Scottish highlands.

Richard’s Review: I had seen The Maze once many years ago and remember being greatly underwhelmed by the ending. However, I had honestly forgotten much about this film, so it felt like a first time viewing. Well, that was until the big reveal. Prior to the climax of the film, there is a lot to love about The Maze. First, you have Richard Carlson, who I also enjoy watching. Second, you have a lot of atmosphere, resulting in an almost old dark house feel at times. There is genuine mystery and suspense with some interesting performances. Unfortunately, when the creature is finally revealed, it really is a big letdown. That said, I recommend you check out The Maze on a rainy afternoon. I think you’ll enjoy it if you go in with lower expectations.

Karla’s Thoughts: This one was very atmospheric and creepy, so I really enjoyed it up until the reveal, which was simply ridiculous. I never understood why having a woman at the castle was dangerous, other than they might find out the truth. And why was the housekeeper killed? Of course, I liked the happy ending, so I’d watch it again but I’m going to laugh out loud every time the reveal happens.

Trivia:

  • William Cameron Menzies was an art director on It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) and Rebecca (1940), as well as a production designer on Gone with the Wind (1939). As a director, his credits include Chandu the Magician (1932) and Invaders from Mars (1953).
  • Richard Carlson is well known for his roles in Creature from the Black Lagoon (1953) and It Came from Outer Space (1953).
  • Michael Pate also starred with Boris Karloff in The Strange Door (1951) and The Black Castle (1952), as well as the underrated Universal vampire flick, Curse of the Undead (1959).

Availability: The Maze is available on Blu-ray from Kino Classics in both 2-D and 3-D.

Day 24 – Death Curse of Tartu (1966)

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2018 Countdown to Halloween – Day 24: Death Curse of Tartu (1966)
Cast:        Fred Pinero as Ed Tison
Babbette Sherrill as Julie Tison
Bill Marcus as Billy
Mayra Gomez as Cindy
Douglas Hobart as Tartu

Written and Directed by William Grefe

Plot: When the ancient burial ground of a medicine man named Tartu is disturbed, a team of archeologists find themselves under siege in the Florida everglades.

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Richard’s Review: Well, let’s start off by saying this flick is bad. I mean $1.50 budget kind of bad. However, it quickly crosses that “so bad it’s good” line, so you can spend the rest of the film relishing in its’ madness. You’ll learn that Native Americans buried their dead in caves in the Florida everglades…in stone caskets with cute little alligator statues on the top. Killer snakes lurk around every piece of brush with sharks searching for prey in the swampy waters. You’ll also learn how aggravating drums and chanting can get every time Tartu and his minions of death are on the prowl. Plus, we have stupid teenagers and 60s go-go music. What more do you want? Well, I will say that Tartu actually kind of looks cool and creepy until he comes fully to life. Yes, this one is bad but I enjoyed it for all of it’s’ craziness. Check it out for yourself for a late night creature feature.

Karla’s Thoughts: This one was insane. There was a good plot hidden in there somewhere but it was surrounded by dumb archeologists, sharks in the swamp and bad rock music. Let’s not forget the overly hysterical females. This was painful to watch and I won’t be watching it again.

Trivia:

  • William Grefe also directed such classics as Sting of Death (1965), Stanley (1972) and Mako: The Jaws of Death (1976).
  • Shot in seven days with a script written in one night, add in some bad dubbing and bad acting with a very low budget and you have Death Curse of Tartu.

Availability: Death Curse of Tartu is available on a now out-of-print DVD from Something Weird Video. Shop around as you can get this for about $20, which isn’t bad considering the DVD also includes Sting of Death (1966) and other extras.

Day 23 – The World of the Vampires (1961)

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2018 Countdown to Halloween – Day 23: The World of the Vampires (1961)
Cast:        Guillermo Murray as Count Sergio Subotai
Silvia Fournier as Mirta Colman
Mauricio Garces as Rodolfo Sabre
Erna Martha Bauman as Leonor Colman

Story by Raul Zenteno & Jesus Murcielago Velazquez
Adapted by Alfredo Salazar
Screenplay by Ramon Obon
Directed by Alfonso Corona Blake

Plot: A vampire seeks revenge against those who have hunted vampires but one man has a unique way of stopping him…with music.

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Richard’s Review: Okay, this may very well be the worst film of this year’s countdown. Our vampire count in this one is handsome and sensual enough but hardly menacing and the long fangs are just a little too much. I loved the atmosphere throughout the film, especially the bone organ, but the music was rather generic. Speaking of which, the overall idea that a song could have that effect on vampires is an odd choice. The masks used for the background vampires were way too cheap, hurting the film even more. Add all of these negative facts with the usual bad K. Gordon Murray dubbing and you have a flick that I won’t be revisiting any time soon.

Karla’s Thoughts: This one was just okay. I thought the vampire seemed really weak and the music part was just a little too weird for me. There were some fun visuals but the story just didn’t click for me. And why did the sister kill herself at the end? The script needed some work. I don’t think I’ll be watching this one again.

Trivia:

  • Erna Martha Bauman also appeared as Countess Eugenia Frankenhausen in The Bloody Vampire (1962) and Brunhilda Frankenhausen in The Invasion of the Vampires (1963).
  • Dubbed into English by K. Gordon Murray.

Availability: This is available on DVD but with a horrible cover and an equally horrible price. You can find this cheaper on the bootleg market.

Day 22 – The Lake of Dracula (1971)

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On the 22nd day of the 2018 Countdown to Halloween, it’s time to tune in to episode 582 of the Dread Media podcast for the second entry in the Bloodthirsty Trilogy, The Lake of Dracula (1971)!

Take a listen to episode 582 to hear my thoughts on this once-rare Japanese classic. And as always, tell ’em Monster Movie Kid sent ya!

Availability: The Bloodthirsty Trilogy is available on Blu-ray from Arrow Video.

Day 21 – Scared Stiff (1953)

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2018 Countdown to Halloween – Day 21: Scared Stiff (1953)
Cast:        Dean Martin as Larry Todd
Jerry Lewis as Myron Mertz
Lizabeth Scott as Mary Carroll
Carmen Miranda as Carmelita

Based on The Ghost Breaker play by Charles W. Goddard & Paul Dickey
Screenplay by Herbert Baker & Walter DeLeon
Additional Dialogue by Ed Simmons & Norman Lear
Directed by George Marshall

Plot: When Larry Todd believes he’s killed a gangster, he and his friend Myron flee the country and become involved with Mary Carroll as she inherits a haunted island near Cuba.

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Richard’s Review: Fourteen years after Bob Hope starred in The Ghost Breakers, Paramount Pictures did this remake with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. By this point, Martin and Lewis were firmly established as a top comedic film duo and were still a few years away from the partnership ending. So, being in their prime, Scared Stiff stands out as one of their best. But, how does it compare to Bob Hope’s version?

While I really enjoyed Scared Stiff, I prefer the 1940 version. I love the music of Dean Martin but I could have done without some of the other musical numbers, especially those from Carmen Miranda. They didn’t add anything to the movie except to pad out the running time, which turns out to be a little long at 108 minutes. Lewis is funny in playing the role originally filled by Willie Best but that left Martin to be paired up with Lizabeth Scott. Unfortunately, they had virtually no on-screen chemistry as Scott was better suited to film noir roles. All that said, I did enjoy Scared Stiff when I put the original out of my mind. I’d definitely watch it again.

Karla’s Thoughts: This version of the play certainly had more slapstick comedy and musical numbers. I’m not sure they were needed as I really enjoyed the Bob Hope movie. He was better in the lead role and had way more chemistry with Paulette Goddard than Martin had with Lizabeth Scott here. This version also didn’t have as much atmosphere but the sets seemed very similar. I enjoyed Scared Stiff and would watch it again but I prefer The Ghost Breakers.

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Trivia:

  • Bob Hope and Bing Crosby have a cameo as two skeletons at the end of the movie. Martin and Lewis appeared in Road to Bali the previous year while Martin had a cameo with Frank Sinatra in Road to Hong Kong (1962).
  • George Marshall had also directed The Ghost Breakers (1940).
  • This was the debut of writer Norman Lear, who went on to become a television legend creating such classics as All in the Family, Good Times and The Jeffersons.
  • This was the final film of Carmen Miranda, who also starred with Groucho Marx in Copacabana (1947). She died of a heart attack two years later, in 1955, at the age of 46.

Availability: Scared Stiff is available as part of the Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis Collection Volume One, which was re-released as part of the Warner Archive Collection. Unfortunately, it has gone out-of-print like the first release, so shop around for a reasonable price.

Day 20 – Invasion of the Vampires (1963)

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2018 Countdown to Halloween – Day 20: Invasion of the Vampires (1963)
Cast:        Erna Bauman as Brunhilda Frankenhausen
Rafael del Rio as Dr. Ulises Albarran
Tito Junco as Guzman de la Serna
Fernando Soto as Crescencio
Bertha Moss as Frau Hildegarda
Carlos Agosti as Count Frankenhausen

Written and Directed by Miguel Morayta

Plot: Dr. Ulises Albarran arrives in a village being plagued by mysterious deaths. Young men are being lured to a lake by a ghostly woman in the night. Is it the work of the devil or could it be a vampire?

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Richard’s Review:  Despite featuring the returning Count Frankenhausen and Frau Hildegarda, there is really nothing connecting this flick to its predecessor, The Bloody Vampire (1962). It is the superior of the two films, full of atmosphere and creepy dark house sequences. The Count is actually quite good and the story is entertaining. Unfortunately, it’s greatly weakened by the ridiculous vampire bat, not to mention the horrible English dubbing. If you can see the original, that would be the preferred option. That said, I did enjoy this one and would recommend it.

Karla’s Thoughts: This movie was too long for the story it told. I enjoyed the doctor character as he seemed a bit like Van Helsing. The sets were beautiful and very atmospheric. I also loved the story and mood of the film overall. However, the vampire bat was absolutely ludicrous as it looked like a hairy baby with rabbit ears and bad teeth. Yet, it didn’t ruin the film for me and I would definitely watch it again.

Trivia:

  • Dubbed into English by K. Gordon Murray and was a regular feature on late night horror shows.

Availability: Invasion of the Vampires is relatively easy to find on various DVDs in the English version.