Saturday, October 27, 2018

Monsterpiece Theater: Universal Monster Mash- The Wolf Man

by Rustbelt

Well, according to the calendar, there was a full moon this week. I couldn’t verify this as it’s been rather cloudy around here. But I’m told the moon was full, which might explain all the howling from here to London.. Also, said moonrise preceded a lot of cold, wet weather around my neck of the woods. So, maybe it was a bad moon rising, after all!

Okay, enough bad moon jokes solely for the sake of song links. We’re here to talk about Universal’s take on werewolves. And given that Larry Talbot isn’t alone in any of his sequels, (unlike his Monster contemporaries), we’re sure to have ourselves a graveyard smash just in time for Halloween! (All right, all right. I’ll stop there.)

Wolves have been humanity’s face of evil since Antiquity. The Greek writer Aesop always used the wolf as the symbol of cruelty. In ‘The Inferno,’ Dante finds his way initially blocked by a fearsome she-wolf. And, of course, it’s a wolf that wants to eat Red Riding Hood and her grandmother. Wolves symbolize the inner animal nature that still dwells within us and occasionally surfaces. In the modern world, we see this nature take the form of street violence, serial killers, cannibalism, and other terrible crimes. The transformation into a werewolf represents a reversion to primitive times; the loss of civilization and progress that we humans have long defined ourselves by.

In classic folklore, people often become werewolves- the word seems to be Germanic in origin, referring to a “Wolf-Man,” or “Man-Wolf”- voluntarily. This often meant putting on an enchanted wolf hide, drinking water from a wolf’s footprint, or rubbing magical lotion on one’s skin. Little wonder why those who became wolves were often hunted and quickly executed.

With that in mind, probably no monster has been influenced by Hollywood other than the werewolf. I mean, almost everything we associate with this horrific creature of the night comes to us from movies. Think about it: the full moon, bites, pentagrams, the use of silver, trying to kill a most-loved one…all these are Hollywood inventions, often for storytelling purposes. Some stuck, some didn’t. The central role of wolves representing humanity at its worst hasn’t changed, though. And that’s where the terror comes from.

Werewolf of London (Universal, 1935) Trailer

Plot: In faraway Tibet, Dr. Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull) leads a search for the mariphasa, a rare flower that only blooms in moonlight. Shortly after finding one, he is attacked by a feral-like creature. He survives, but is bitten in the process. Back in London, during a society meeting, Glendon is warned by a colleague, Dr. Yogami (Warner Oland) of the University of Carpathia(?!), that he was bitten by a werewolf and will become one himself unless he uses the blossoms of the mariphasa to counteract the effects. Glendon, naturally, ignores the warnings until his moonlight lamp causes hair to grow on his hand and, later, the full moon causes him to completely transform. Also, the blossoms of the mariphasa mysteriously vanish. Glendon also learns that wolf cannot be satiated each night until it kills and that it will inevitably try to kill its most loved one. He tries locking himself inside a room at an inn and, later, inside a cellar. Both attempts fail.
Finally, with all of London’s finest searching for a murderer, Glendon returns to his lab just as the full moon rises, only to find Dr. Yogami stealing the final mariphasa flower. Glendon realizes that Yogami was the werewolf that attacked him in Tibet; he was searching for the mariphasa specifically to control his lycanthropy. Werewolf-Glendon attacks and kills Yogami before looking his wife, Lisa (Valerie Hobson), ostensibly to kill her, too. But Glendon is shot by the police and dies, though not before uttering some final words of thanks to the cops and comfort to his wife.
Thoughts and Background: This, not the more famous film starring Lon Chaney, Jr., is Universal’s first foray into the world of werewolves. It portrays lycanthropy as exotic, with the “disease” implied to come from the East (in this case, Tibet). Hm, this isn’t unlike ‘Dracula,’ where another contagion- vampirism- is also brought from the East- Transylvania- to invade England.

The werewolf in this film isn’t as beast-like as other incarnations. The full moon, infection by biting, and human-like creatures (folklore always has werewolves being fully-shaped wolves), all make their pop culture debut here. Interestingly, when Dr. Glendon dies, although still in wolf form, he’s able to speak and talk with his human for a few moments. And earlier, after transforming and his ‘wolf mind’ taking over, he still manages to grab a coat, scarf, and top hat before prowling! That leads to a connection for this film.
Dr. Glendon and his wolf alter-ego are clearly portrayed as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Jekyll’s the easy one: Glendon is a solitary scientist who neglects society to pursue his vocation. But with the above-noted wardrobe, he actually looks like classic portrayals of Mr. Hyde while preying in the back alleys of London. Cape and everything! I guess this means if Hyde represents our vile ‘shadow self,’ then Hyde, for some people, is clearly a furry.
Henry Hull as Dr. Wilfred Glendon (the Werewolf): Hull really does a good job here. He naturally plays a self-assured scientist who gradually falls apart. However, he also excels at showing the madness his character feels as the animal side takes over, showing the line between man and beast to be extremely thin here. It’s a nice idea that I think should be examined more often.

But let me tell you a tale of the make-up before moving on. According to popular legend, the minimalist look for this werewolf was the result of Hull not wanting to spend much time in the makeup chair. Last year, however, I watched a Svengoolie segment when the titular host revealed what Hull’s great-nephew told him. It seems Jack Pierce had created a more wolf-like appearance for this film. However, Hull objected on the grounds that the script required the other characters to slightly recognize Glendon, even in wolf-form. Hull apparently took his case to studio boss Carl Laemmle Jr., who agreed with him. A furious Pierce had no choice but comply. (He would later use his discarded design 6 years later.) Nevertheless, this film’s werewolf, with its malevolent widow’s peak and massive fangs, has been extremely influential and still inspires horror fans today.

The Wolf Man (Universal, 1941) Trailer

Plot: After learning of the death of his brother, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) returns to his family home in (what I’ve read) is Wales. He’s been away in the States for eighteen years after an unexplained falling out with the family, but quickly reconciles with his father, Sir John (Claude Rains). He then traverses the town, trying to make a date with a German-accented(?) woman, Gwen (Evelyn Ankers)- only after he spied on her through a telescope first! After purchasing a walking stick with a silver head of a wolf on it, Larry finally goes go out with Gwen and her friend, Jenny (Fay Helm) on a trip to a camp of Gypsy fortune tellers with Transylvanian accents (hang in there).
Disaster strikes when a Gypsy named Bela (Bela Lugosi) sees a pentagram on Jenny’s hand and she is soon attacked and killed by a wolf. Larry kills the wolf, but not before being bitten. He wakes up to learn that a man’s body- the gypsy Bela- was found at the site. After a series of strange events, Larry visits Bela’s mother, Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya), who says Bela was a werewolf and warns Larry of his fate. With the gypsy camp suddenly in chaos from fear of another werewolf attack, Larry rushes home, transforms, and wakes up outside the next day.

The next day, Larry learns a gravedigger was killed. Unable to attend church as the villagers now view him with suspicion, (he’s being investigated for Bela’s death), he finds Gwen and sees the pentagram- symbol of the wolf’s next victim- on her hand. He tries to lock himself up, but the moon rises and it’s no use. He briefly becomes human again long enough for Sir John to lock Larry in his room, but the transformation happens again and the wolf finds Gwen in a Fog-Enshrouded Forest. Finally, Sir John uses Larry’s silver cane to repeatedly strike the wolf. The film ends as Larry changes back and Maleva chants over him, declaring him free.
Thoughts and Background: Honestly, this is one of those times where I think to myself, “What more is there to say?” Few films in horror are this iconic- from Lon Chaney’s werewolf makeup to the famous rhyme, “Even a man who is pure at heart, and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.” And of course, there’s Malvera’s funerial admonishment, “The way you walked was thorny though no fault of your own, but as the rain enters the soil, the river enters the sea, so tears run to a predestined end. Now you will have peace for eternity.” This is also the film that introduced the idea of silver being the only thing that can kill a werewolf. What more is there to say? Well, a few things.

For one, this film lays on the wolf imagery heavy-handed from the start and everyone’s up front about it. Gwen wears half-moon earrings; she discusses the legend with Larry in the shop; Larry buys a cane with a silver wolf’s head; Sir John discusses werewolves with Larry; Jenny and Gwen discuss the werewolf legend with Larry; and all three characters have said the rhyme by the film’s 20-minute mark; and, also, Larry, while shooting at a rifle range at a fair later on, refuses to shoot a wooden wolf on the target range. Well, it was post-1939 (i.e. after ‘Son of Frankenstein’), and Universal wasn’t so keen on subtlety anymore. Personally, I feel the first part is almost thick enough to be comedic. However, this film, like ‘Dracula,’ has a secret weapon- a cast that overcomes he script.
Claude Rains, naturally, does a fine job as Sir John. He calls Larry “my boy,” and is very paternal, going from supportive to slightly cross when he feels Larry is becoming paranoid. Evelyn Ankers uses an accent that I’m not sure if it’s Welsh or not, but plays hard-to-get with Chaney and drives her scenes. (Though, honestly, Chaney makes me uncomfortable when he flirts.) Maria Ouspenskaya gives one of the most memorable and imitated performances in the history of horror as the gypsy who guides Larry. She really does draw all the viewers’ attention with her voice and stare when she’s onscreen. And, of course, we can’t forget Bela Lugosi as…Bela? Ok. Whatever. His appearance is brief, but his shock at seeing the pentagram on Jenny’s hand is powerful and sets the film off on its frenzied pace.

And perhaps the most primal element that makes this film work is fear. The scenes move fast before the full moon rises, especially when Larry races home from the terrified gypsy camp and past Gwen. There are also the scenes of gossiping villagers who go from kind townsfolk to untrusting accusers after the first werewolf attack. It helps to keep the lead character uncomfortable, leading, ultimately, to the film’s climax. (Writer Curt Siodmak, another Jewish-German ex-patriot, based the scenes on Nazi Germany, where he saw his kindly neighbors become raving national socialists.)
Lon Chaney, Jr. as Larry Talbot (the Wolf Man): Finally, Chaney in his iconic role. Did you know it took Jack Pierce up to four hours a day to apply the rubber nose and curled yak hair needed to complete the werewolf look? (And yes, this is what he originally crated for Henry Hull to wear in WoL.) You know, I’ve been really hard on Chaney so far. But to be fair, the Count and the Monster really didn’t leave much room to work with. Here, Chaney’s in his element: that of the tragic character brooding over his fate.

What makes this performance work- from the actor’s side- is the human element. Chaney starts off as a happy-go-lucky prodigal son just excited to be home. Then he switches to foreboding in the shop and camp before plunging into outright fear for the remainder of the movie. His despair at the first approaching transformation dominates the scene, even with the special effects. (Given that he’s wearing a tank top, he looks like someone who’s had too much to drink and is breaking down.) It’s this side that makes us feel for Larry, know that he’s not in control of his own actions, and ultimately feel sorry for him, despite his death being necessary to stop his evil alter ego.

Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man (Universal, 1943) Trailer

Plot: We open to a title screen of Bubbling Chemicals! (Good or bad sign? You make the call.) Cut to the Talbot family grave, four years after Larry Talbot’s (Lon Chaney Jr.) death. A pair of graverobbers break in to steal jewels buried with Larry in his casket. They also remove all the wolfbane buried with him. As you might expect by now, it’s a full moon. The light hits Larry’s corpse, and, well, the other guy runs off in the realization that he needs to interview for a new partner.

The next morning, Larry wakes up in a hospital, his head bandaged (from being struck by his dad with the cane; nice touch). He unsuccessfully tries to convince the doctors he’s a werewolf by showing them his bite scar. Wait…didn’t that thing heal instantly? After the Incompetent Cop, (Dennis Hoey) who wanted to put Larry in jail on suspicion of murder (committed by Wolf-Larry, though there’s no legal proof), checks Larry’s background, Larry breaks out to seek the gypsy Maleva (f Maria Ouspenskaya) for help in finding a way to die for good. Together, they go to Vasaria for help.
Once there, Maleva asks to see Dr. Ludwig Frankenstein. Wait? Ludwig? He was a psychiatrist. Except when he was also a surgeon. He also had nearly nothing to do with the Monster. Ah, well. The two receive a traditional Vasarian greeting of “GET THE **** OUT!” after learning Ludwig is dead and being directed to the ruins of Castle Frankenstein on top of a hill next a dam and hydroelectric plant. And, wait…hold on. Is this Henry’s observation-tower-in-the middle-of-nowhere-but-later-becomes-a-castle-in-the-town-of-Frankenstein that was torn down at the start of GoF? Or is it Ludwig’s mansion/asylum/surgical ward that burned down at the end of ‘Ghost?” -the one located behind a gate in the middle of a forest? I don’t know.

After Maleva is taken to be tortured by the villagers, (who’s the real monster again?), Larry finds the Monster (Bela Lugosi) frozen in ice(!) under the ruins. To make a long story short, he runs into Ilsa Frankenstein (Ilona Massey, taking over for Evelyn Ankers) and Dr. Mannering (Peter Knowles), the asylum doctor he met at the start of the film. They find Ludwig’s notebooks (which sound a LOT more like they were written by Henry; they’re also cleverly labeled “The Secret of Life and Death”), they find the machines may be able to permanently drain bodies of energy.
Mannering prepares the experiment and, at the last minute, decides to reverse things since, as a Man of Science, he can’t just kill the Monster, but wants it alive to be researched. (You know, every year billions and billions of mistakes are made by Mad Scientists in this universe. If you know one, please, tell them to sit back, relax, drink a COSMOpolitan, and not screw up reality by being an idiot.) At the same time- yeah, you guessed it- a Pitchfork-and-Torch Mob have arrived to destroy the damn and the castle along with it. The experiment backfires (of course), the Monster and Wolf Man fight (actually one of the best scenes in the movie), the damn blows up, and the castle is destroyed.
Thought and Background: Very little to add. I think my synopsis made my thoughts pretty clear. It’s an odd example of a double-sequel (in this case, to ‘the Wolf Man’ and ‘Ghost of Frankenstein’). There’s some semblance of continuity, especially in the part of the Wolf Man. Vasaria (the word ‘Germany’ was removed as it was 1943), on the other hand, is a mishmash of every ‘Frankenstein’ movie Universal had produced by then. Yeah, this was made for cash.
Bela Lugosi as the Frankenstein Monster: Poor Bela. Depending on who you believe, he either turned down the role of the Monster in the original film or was replaced outright when James Whale was named director. Now playing the role 12 years later, he’s hardly in the movie. Why? Well, the original plan was for the Monster to be blind (as he was at the end of GoF) and to speak with Ygor’s voice! (“I, Ygor”? Maybe.) And the Monster would regain sight in the final experiment. The scenes were even shot, but then cut. I’ve found some reasons: one was that audiences found Ygor-Monster’s talk of taking over the world too similar to Hitler. (It was World War II.) But the more accepted reason is that audiences thought the Monster speaking with Lugosi’s Hungarian accent was ridiculous and all dialogue shots were removed. That leaves only one legacy for this version of the Monster: walking stiffly in the now-well-known ‘monster walk’- which was originally to be explained as the result of his blindness. Sigh.
Lon Chaney Jr. as Larry Talbot (the Wolf Man): Chaney steps right back into the role without missing a beat. Again, Larry is a sad-sack, tragic figure. Now, revived by the full moon, he only wants to die once and for all. The character is fine, but it’s missing the impact found in ‘The Wolf Man.’ I think this is due to him not having sympathetic characters to play off of and the question of insanity not addressed as much. It’s a good performance, but the script lets Chaney down.

House of Frankenstein (Universal, 1944) Trailer

Plot: The vile Mad Scientist Dr. Gustav Niemann (Boris Karloff), locked away in a medieval dungeon, spends his time scrawling complex, made-up equations on the walls, sketching diagrams of the human brain for Mrs. Webber’s Fourth Grade class, and worshipping Dr. Frankenstein, as his brother worked for Dr. F. Wait, brother? Who was that? Waldman? Uh, not likely. Fritz? No, he was a dumb hunchback. Pretorius? I doubt it. Guess we gotta just accept.

Just then a bolt of lightning strikes destroys the prison, allowing Niemann and his assistant, ‘friend’ Daniel- another hunchback- to escape without the use of a sewage pipe or paper mâché mannequin. Once out, they come upon a traveling freak show run by Dr. Lampini, whose main attraction is the skeleton of Count Dracula, which he found in its resting place in the Carpathian Mountains. (Pay no attention to the fact that the last time we saw Drac he was being ashen-ated by the sun in a swamp outside New Orleans.) And, of course, Niemann has Daniel kill Lampini so the duo can take over.
On their way to Viseria (again?! and what’s with the new spelling?), they stop to revive Drac and exact revenge on the Burgomeister who helped put Niemann in prison. Well, actually Dracula does everything on his own. And he only does it get the old man out of the way, attempt to vampirize the guy’s daughter, and head off in a carriage. Niemann and Daniel follow as Drac is pursued. They ditch Drac’s coffin on the side of the road, and leave him to the sun. End Act 1.
Once in Viseria (or is it the town of Frankenstein? This is hard to follow.), the two are joined by a gypsy woman Daniel rescues. Under the ruins of Castle Frankenstein (oh, good Lord), they find the Monster and the Wolf Man, who is restored to good old Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.). Niemann promises to cure Larry with a brain transplant if he helps out. Hold the phone…when did this come about? And when was a brain transplant the cure for a curse? And how does Niemann know all about Larry’s history if he’s been locked up for fifteen years? I need to stop thinking.
They finally reach Viseria and Niemann’s castle complete with The Lab. (We know this because at the front gate reads “Forbidden Grounds.”) Niemann then kidnaps two other locals who helped put him in prison, promising to put their brains in other bodies and make them suffer.

At this point, I should mention that a love triangle has developed: gypsy girl Ilonka (Elena Verdugo) has a crush on Larry. (Really? Did women really like Lon Chaney Jr. that much?) At the same time, Daniel has unrequited love for Ilonka. (He also realizes that Niemann won’t keep his promise to give Daniel a better body.) All this happens after another werewolf kill results in the villagers of Viseria enacting brownshirt justice and reaching for their farm implements. (And yes, I am aware of the irony of saying that about a movie whose story was written by Curt Siodmak). You know, in this film, the villagers’ barbarian sense of justice and mob-ish bloodlust has reached a new level. I honestly would have loved to see Dr. Niemann make the Monster all-powerful and set it loose on them.
The climax arrives as Wolf-Larry attacks Ilonka in a Fog-Enshrouded Forest, but is shot by her with a silver bullet. They both die of their wounds. Daniel drags Ilonka’s body back to the lab (Monster experiment ongoing), and tries to kill the backstabbing Niemann. The Monster (Glenn Strange) awakens and kills Daniel just as the Torches-and-Pitchforks Mob enters the castle, having decided for the fourth film now that SJW violence is the highest state of society. The Monster carries Niemann out of the castle, only to wade into some quicksand, where the two appear to drown.
Thoughts and Background: Overall, I’d have to call this film entertaining, but disappointing. Most of the Monsters’ appearances- particularly Dracula and the Monster- are just cameos. It almost feels there are too many characters for any of them to have a decent scene or story arc yet most of the focus is on a character made up solely for the film in question. This film is an OK watch, mostly because of Karloff. I’d recommend a casual viewing with friends at night.

Boris Karloff as Dr. Gustav Niemann: It’s Boris’ swan song; his final chronological appearance in a Universal horror film. Niemann isn’t a deep character, but Karloff accentuates all of his traits. Niemann is deceitful, manipulative, somewhat charming at times, and driven, though focused and mostly aware of his surroundings. This movie sinks or swims with Niemann, and Karloff provides just the anchor needed for the vignettes to circle around.
J. Carrol Nash as Daniel (the Hunchback): The latest cripple lackey in the tradition of Fritz in ‘Frankenstein’ and Karl in ‘Bride of Frankenstein’. (Ygor was never a lackey.) Daniel has a slight story arc as he pines for the gypsy woman Ilonka, who doesn’t bear such feelings for him. He blames his looks; she calls out his jealousy over Larry. Gullible and small-minded, I really don’t feel anything for him.
John Carradine as Count Dracula: Finally, the most cadaverous actor of all time gets to play an animated cadaver. Too bad it’s the wimpiest version of Dracula there is. Drac pledges his services to Niemann in return for Niemann guarding his coffin and not staking. Master of All Evil, ladies and gentlemen! BTW, when they’re at the inn where Drac tries to seduce the Burgomesier’s daughter, he offers a toast. A toast?! I thought he “never drank…wine.” Ah, Drac. You and Bond. Women will be your undoing.

Lon Chaney Jr. as Larry Talbot (the Wolf Man): Weepy, whiney Larry is back. And, yes, he desperately wants either to die or at least be operated on. You know, I really liked the character the first time I saw him. But there’s only so much moping I can take. Still, he is one of only two well-rounded characters in this movie. Oh, and the reason for the Forced Romance? Well, they worked in the reverse idea from WoL: that only a person who loves a werewolf, knowing their suffering, can actually kill them. Too bad they couldn’t develop this story line a little more.

Glenn Strange as the Frankenstein Monster: Motionless for most of the movie, he only moves for a few minutes at the very end of the film after being revived in The Lab. Though Chaney and Lugosi started the trend of the Monster’s stiff movements,(on account of it being blind), it’s Strange’s portrayal of the Monster that created the slow, bumbling, mute, and unintelligent modern caricature of the Monster. Gone are the days of Karloff’s fast, nimble, thoughtful and curious portrayal. And both the character and the audience are poorer for that loss.

House of Dracula (Universal, 1945) Trailer

Plot: Once again, we return to Visaria, where a tall, pale, consumptive figure calling himself “Count Latos” meets with Dr. Franz Edlemann (Onslow Stevens) at the latter’s modernized castle home. The figure quickly reveals that he’s really Count Dracula (John Carradine) and, almost on the verge of tears, asks Edlemann to help cure his vampirism. Not only is Edlemann astonishingly accepting of all this, but I never thought Drac could ever be played as such a wimp. Oh, boy.
The revolving door for supernatural creatures suffering from MDD opens as Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) arrives, begging for the Doc to cure him as well. (The basis for all of this is Edlemann’s research into anatomy and the effects of clavaria, a plant the Doc is cultivating that alters human bone growth.) When the Doc can’t act as fast as Larry wants, the latter gets himself thrown in jail for safety purposes and transforms into his alter ego in front of everyone.

Larry attempts suicide the next day by throwing himself off a cliff. The Doc finds him in a cave where they discover the Frankenstein Monster with Dr. Niemann’s skeleton. (That’s as close to continuity as we’re getting to continuity between these films, I guess.) Because of the humidity, the Doc realizes he can more of the much-needed clavaria in the cave. He also, naturally, brings the Monster back to The Lab to revive it and then…stops. He says it would be too dangerous. Wait. A logical decision? No disregarding safety? What’s going on here?
Meanwhile, Dracula sets his eyes on Milizia (Martha O’Driscoll), one of the Doc’s assistants. (Forgot to mention: Edlemann is treating Dracula with blood transfusions- using his own blood- that may end the vampirism. Also, Drac is keeping his coffin with Transylvanian earth in the basement to stay close to the castle.) He tries to seduce her just before the Doc and his other assistant, the hunchbacked Nina (Jane Adams), intervene. The Doc decides to get rid of Dracula. Another rational decision?!
Edlemann sets Drac up for another transfusion, which he secretly rigs to kill the Count. But Drac figures out the plan and reverses the process- putting his blood into the Doc. A chase ensues, with the Doc taking a different course of action- dragging the Count’s coffin into the sun and skeletonizing him. But not long after, the Doc sees his reflection disappear and he gains a malevolent appearance. (This evil side comes and goes randomly.)
Finally, Edlemann gives Larry a cranial operation that should relieve pressure on the brain (which the Doc thinks is the true cause of Larry’s lycanthropy). And guess what? It works! However, Dracula’s blood eventually overcomes Edlemann. He kills a gardener, getting the attention of the (actually competent) police and, of course, the villagers. At the end, Evil Edlemann kills Nina and revives the Monster. Larry shoots Edlemann and sets fire to the Lab. He and the others waive off the Pitchforks-and-Torches Mob in time to trap the Monster in the fire just before the Abrupt Ending.

Thoughts and Background: What can I say? I really like this film! The last few movies saw the characters simply going through the motions. Here, each character (or archetype) is given something different to do or work with (which I’ll explain). Also, the characters act smart for a change. Doctor Edlemann ignores scientific curiosity and refuses to bring the Monster back to life. The police initially suspect Larry as the gardener’s killer, since he’s a werewolf. But it’s pointed out the moon wasn’t full and Larry was in no shape to tun after his operation. The policeman (Lionel Atwill) even rebukes the idiot villager for jumping to conclusions! Yay! New ideas are injected into this film’s story and they are greatly appreciated.
John Carradine as Count Dracula: I was ready to write this off as the wimpiest Dracula ever. (Hammer Stu-dee-O’s, where are you?) His seduction of Milizia was par the course and could be dismissed as typical Hollywood Dracula. However, the Count sets things in motion when he reverses the transfusion and gives Edlemann an evil side. Then I remembered that Dracula said he met Milizia in another city. That made me think. Did Drac poison the Doc because his plan was revealed, or was he only doing this to get close to Milizia and make her his latest bride? That’s the level of characterization I want.
Onslow Stevens as Dr. Franz Edlemann: Not a mad scientist. An honest one. The script reveals the truth about the Count and Larry quickly, sparing us the whole “unbelieving scientist” cliche. Edlemann is also smart and not foolish, as noted above. However, the unforeseen actions of Dracula leaves him in a Jekyll-and-Hyde condition. Nice. It’s his unrestrained evil that ultimately causes the final showdown, not the stupidity as seen in other scientists in this series. In this case, change is good.

Lon Chaney Jr. as Larry Talbot (the Wolf Man): Larry starts off as his standard mopey, suicidal self. (And with a mustache this time.) But once the Doc comes up with a diagnosis and cures Larry, everything changes. Larry gets to show loyalty and even heroism as he stands by the Doc’s side. (He can feel Edlemann’s pain of having a vile alter ego.) He promises, at Edlemann’s request, to kill the Doc if all other attempts at a cure fail. He then warns the villagers and appears to sacrifice himself at the end to stop the Monster. It’s a side of Larry I would’ve liked to have seen earlier.
Jane Adams as Nina (the Hunchback): A different take on the hunchback (or just deformed) character as well. The previous such characters- Fritz, Karl, Ygor, and Daniel- were all either stupid or selfish characters. In this story, Edlemann is about to operate on Nina and make her normal. She puts off her operation so Edlemann can operate on Larry instead. It’s a complete reverse of the other figures. And it makes Edlemann’s evil side all the more detestable when he kills her.

Glenn Strange as the Frankenstein Monster: The only figure here who gets nothing new to do. Well, four out of five ain’t bad. Here, the Monster only shows up at the end and creates havoc and chaos. Not much here. However, you could say that the Monster acts as a plot point- showcasing the different reactions of Edelmann’s good and evil sides. The Monster’s presence is also what allows Larry to show off his newfound courage. So, in a way, despite not getting any new characteristics or stories himself, the Monster allows the other characters to grow. And the result is a movie superior to its predecessors.

This is also the last article we’re going to squeak in before the kids hit the streets in their new outfits, demanding treats from their neighbors or else. So, on that note…
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Friday, October 19, 2018

Monsterpiece Theater: Universal Monster Mash- The Invisible Man

by Rustbelt

Well, I said this week would be all about the bandages, didn’t I? I just didn’t say which en-bandaged one it would be! Mwah, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha haaaa!!!! (Lightning strikes) You’re turn, Vince!

Now, there have been a lot of invisible characters in TV and film. Outside of Marvel and Pixar, there have been versions on the SciFi Channel, dreadful adaptations of self-important comic books, and even those that just want us to be mellow. But all stem from this one; which, I should add, is the only true science fiction character to reach great heights during Universal’s ‘gothic’ period of the 1930’s and 40’s. It’s also the only to eschew straight-up horror in favor of multiple film genres, as we’ll see.

The films we’re to examine this time begin with an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ 1897 novel, ‘The Invisible Man.’ It’s the story of a brilliant scientist who, out of curiosity, self-experiments and turns himself invisible. Enthralled with a new sense of power, he then sets out to terrorize the English countryside and bend the country to his will through fear. Now, unlike previous series I’ve done, I have to confess that I haven’t read the original novel. I’ve read that in that book, the scientist behaves more like a socialist revolutionary than a researcher. This would make sense, as Wells was more of a social critic than a straight-up sci-fi author. (‘Invisible Man’- title character as empowered proletariat; ‘Island of Doctor Moreau’- thin line between human and animal/power of propaganda; ‘War of the Worlds’- vulnerability of human civilization)

So, I can’t say just how accurate the first film is. I can say that Wells himself, who was still alive and kicking when the first movie came out, demanded final script approval before selling the rights to Universal. This was over his displeasure with some earlier silent adaptations of his works. Nevertheless, Universal did get the rights and released one best entries in its classic Monster canon.

The Invisible Man (Universal, 1933) Trailer

Plot: A mysterious man later revealed to be Mad Scientist Dr. Jack Griffin (Claude Rains) wanders into the ancient English town of Iping where he walks into an inn and demands room and board. His head wrapped in bandages and always wearing gloves with his suit, his soon attracts unwanted attention from the villagers. Finally, after a few weeks and his rent due, he flies into a rage and reveals himself to be invisible. He undresses and proceeds to terrorize the village before all trace of him is lost.

Meanwhile, Griffin’s boss, Dr. Cranley (Henry Travers), colleague Dr. Kemp (William Harrigan), and fiancée Flora (Gloria Stuart) discuss the situation. After searching Griffin’s lab, Cranley realizes that Griffin was experimenting with monocaine, a drug known to cause insanity, among other side effects. That night, Griffin arrives at Kemp’s house and forces the lesser doc to assist him in retrieving the books he left at the inn. While there, Griffin takes the time to kill an inspector who is about to declare the disturbance a hoax.
Everyone then races to Kemp’s house to beg Griffin to listen to reason, but Kemp double-crosses Griffin and calls the police. Griffin escapes and goes on a mass murder spree, which includes derailing a train. He also breaks through police security and kills Kemp by locking him a car that crashes. Griffin is finally caught when a farmer spots him taking refuge in a barn during a snowstorm. Forced out when the cops set fire to the barn, Griffin is shot and later dies in a hospital. Once dead, his body re-materializes.

Thoughts and Background: First, I think I should mention that this is my favorite of the Universal Monster canon. I can’t put it into words directly, but everything just seems to work in this one. Director James Whale- of ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ fame- was given as much freedom as Wells’ agreement would allow. He specifically chose Claude Rains for the lead because of his ‘intellectual voice.’ (The studio initially wanted Boris Karloff, but Whale called him a ‘truck driver’ and went with Rains instead.) Using Rains’ voice, Whale makes the character sound as if he could be coming from anywhere. It really heightens the tension as the other actors scramble to find out where Griffin is. A favorite scene of mine is when the police broadcast is made and Whale shows a montage of people calling in tips, running inside, and barricading their door and windows. This isn’t easy to pull off and it feels like the type of hysteria such a situation would cause.
Whale was also known for attention to detail with minor characters. The best known is Una O’Connor, who plays the hysterical inn proprietor at the beginning. Of course, there’s also E.E. Clive as the shocked constable who tries to arrest Griffin at the Inn, and Holmes Herbert as the disbelieving chief of police. Each character is unique and, though limited in screen time, enhances the scene they’re in.

This film also contains an incredible amount of on-screen talent. In addition to this being Rains’ debut in a leading role, it also features Henry Travers, better known as Clarence the angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life,”; John Carrdine’s first on-screen appearance as one of the tipsters in the aforementioned montage; and then-23-year-old Gloria Stuart, who audiences know today as ‘Old’ Rose in ‘Titanic’ (1997).

I think a key reason this film works is because it’s one of the earliest true depictions of a serial killer (about 30 years before the term is thought to have been created). Think about it. Griffin kills strangers for reasons that are only his own. He enjoys the publicity his terror creates. He is intelligent, mad, and able to cover his tracks. The crowds’ response to his deeds (hiding, tipping, and living in fear), are not unlike those caused by Jack the Ripper in 1888, the Zodiac Killer in the 1960’s and 70’s, and the Green River Killer in the 1980’s. Maybe one reason this film stands out is because, in a canon full of inhuman monsters, the most terrifying beast is one of our own, who is a monster on the inside.
Claude Rains as Griffin (the Invisible Man): There’s not much more I can add to what I said above. This is mostly a voice-acting performance. His powerful, authoritative voice easily gets the attention of the other characters. He seems to be overacting a bit, but it works so well that I think he gets away with it. In particular, he does a great job of conveying the character’s rage as the insanity takes over. Even when wearing the coat and bandages, he tenses his arms and moves around deliberately enough to show Griffin’s anger at his situation. Not an easy thing to do. And what a trooper: the effects, which were achieved through backscreen (as opposed to modern blue or greenscreen), had to be shot with perfect repetition four times, for front and back shots and in high and low light before being composited together.

The Invisible Man Returns (Universal, 1940) Trailer

Plot: Awaiting execution for the murder of his brother Michael, Sir Geoffrey Radcliffe (Vincent Price) is visited by Dr. Frank Griffin (John Sutton). Immediately afterwards, Radcliffe vanishes and a dragnet is set up. It is soon revealed that Griffin is the brother of Mad Scientist Jack Griffin and has injected Radcliffe with a version of the earlier invisibility chemical, which is now called ‘duracaine(?).’

Aided by Griffin and his fiancée, Helen (Nan Grey), Geoffrey searches for the real killer while narrowly avoiding Law-Ignoring Police. He finally forces a man named Spears (Alan Napier) to confess the truth. You see, Geofffrey’s family owns a mining operation. Spears says that Geoffrey’s cousin- and alleged friend- Richard Cobb (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) killed Michael with Spears present. Spears was then promoted to mine superintendent for helping to frame Geoffrey for the murder.
After several narrow escapes from the bobbies, Geoffrey confronts Cobb at the mine, with the two having a final fight on a mine car. Geoffrey is shot and runs off. Cobb confesses his crime just before dying. Near death himself, Geoffrey returns to Griffin’s lab (at the mine hospital), and is saved through blood transfusions that also restore his visibility.

Thought and Background: The series takes its first detour from true horror with this film, heading in the direction of a revenge/jailbreak film. Not much to add here. The effects take a step up, with Price’s Geoffrey being revealed slightly by rain and cigar smoke. Overall, this is a very worthy sequel and I do recommend it.
The thing I need to gripe about is the police. It seems they’re allowed to go anywhere they want and take the law into their own hands while ignoring any privacy laws. Now, I’m not an expert on the British justice system, and while its gone a little crazy lately, I’m pretty sure coppers in the UK have not had this level of warrantless investigation since the days of the Star Chamber. (One cop ignores a home owner, says he doesn’t need a warrant, and inspects a house solely on the evidence of a dog barking!) The lead inspector is particularly insufferable. Already a graduate of the School of Nuckle-headed Fat Southern Sheriffs in Birmingham, he also has that B-movie prescience that enables him to guess the entire plot through nonsense or guilt by association. And, of course, he uses this knowledge to threaten other characters, just ‘hoping they would cooperate.’ It’s almost enough to make me root for the bad guys, but I could never side against Vince.
Vincent Price as Sir Geoffrey Hardwicke (the Invisible Man): And here, in his first leading role in a horror film- if there is an Omega, there must be an Alpha- is the Price-inator himself! Like Rains before him, Price has to do a mostly voice-acting performance, though he appears in clothes a little more than his predecessor. His voice is mostly recognizable, though it’s early in his career and he doesn’t have all of his famous inflections down yet. Price goes through a gambit of emotions, from fearful of the possible insanity should he stay invisible too long, to maniacal when he has the real criminals in his grasp. (He only goes crazy after escaping a trap set by the police.) Price really seems to enjoy this role as the writers also found there’s humor in becoming invisible.
When Geoffrey taunts Spears, he claims to his own ghost and that he’s come to haunt the guy! (Price gets to do his first creepy “whoooo!!!!” effect.) I guess you could say he gets to stretch his comedic muscles here, though you wouldn’t be able to see that from this movie!! See that? Invisibility joke! Ha ha ha! (There’s also a nice line where a cop gripes, “Shoot on site? What am I shooting at if he’s invisible?”) The only true moment of terror comes at the end where, once visible, we see that Vincent HAS NO MUSTACHE! No, no, please, Lord, no! It can’t be! Vince without the ‘stache is like Abe without the hat or George without the teeth! What’s next? Columbo without a trench coat? Colonel Potter without a war? Or some other Dude Among Men without his own without his own Mustache of Power?! That’s a world I don’t want to live in.

Invisible Woman (Universal, 1940) Trailer

Plot: Professor Gibbs, (John Barrymore) Mad Scientist of no repute whatsoever, is in trouble: his benefactor, a newly-broke playboy (read: lady problems), cannot no longer fund his research into invisibility. So, he takes out an ad. Answering said ad is Kitty Carroll (Virginia Bruce), an overworked fashion model who hopes the results of the device will allow her to get revenge on her cruel, ultra-misogynist boss (Charles Lane). It works and she heads off, much to Gibbs’ chagrin.

Kitty trashes her boss’s office, avenging her fellow sisters by claiming to be his conscience (or a pre-birth Gloria Steinem specter, I don’t know) and ransacking the place before putting Crowley’s head in the window guillotine-style (huh?) and kicking him in the butt- all while invisibly naked. Calling the Production Code people... Kitty heads back to the lab to find an irate professor. It seems Kitty’s excursion caused them to miss the professor’s benefactor, who headed out on a weekend trip. They have to repeat the experiment on the now-visible Kitty and meet with the playboy in the hopes of renewed funding.
While they’re gone, a group of thugs steal the device for a Mexican crime boss (Oscar Homolka) who needs it to sneak back into the U.S. after being exiled for... reasons. It seems to be the only way he can sneak past the well-fortified, heavily-guarded U.S.-Mexico border. [insert your own comment here] Kitty and the Professor show the benefactor, one Richard Russell (John Howard) the results and, naturally, Kitty and Richard begin the cycle of bickering and flirting in what becomes a Forced Romance. Kitty also learns, to her shock, that alcohol prolongs her invisibility.

Back at Richard’s mansion (we’re skipping ahead), Kitty is kidnapped by the thugs as ransom to force the professor to fix the stolen machine. (Seems the Keystone Criminals couldn’t make it work.) One of them betrays the group and leads Richard and his butler to the hideout. (The crime boss tested the machine on said thug; it made his voice go falsetto and his wants to get even.) At the hideout, Kitty drinks some booze, goes invisible, and takes out the thugs herself. When Richard arrives- I kid you not- she pretends to still be in danger and make Richard fight for her by firing the gang’s machine gun(!) at him! Even coyotes would find this behavior over the top. Long story short, the two reunite and get hitched. Ta-da!
Thoughts and Background: From horror to jailbreak/revenge to comedy. Variety! I guess the writers here saw a few scenes from the previous film and decided to run with it. But instead of cleverness and subtlety, they opted for almost entirely slapstick comedy, which is easily hit-or-miss. Now, after checking user reviews, I see that a lot of people like this film and that’s perfectly FINE. After all, it IS light-hearted and meant to be silly. For me, it just didn’t click. It seems the actors don’t have good enough comedic timing IMHO and most of the jokes feel forced. It is playful like its predecessor when the script plays around with the fact the invisible character is actually naked, so it has that. The worst of the overacting goes to John Barrymore, which, sadly, is probably due to his alcoholism. (Irony is that he’s the one to tell Kitty not to drink too much.) And, yes, this is the first film in the series not connected to the original film.

But with all that, think about this: this movie features Margaret “I’ll get you, my pretty!” Hamilton and Shemp Howard- and gives them almost nothing to do! Hamilton plays the Professor’s cranky housekeeper and is almost the only one who understands comic timing. Shemp is cast as a buffoon thug who just screws up. He’s given so little to do, I didn’t realize which one he was at first. (I admit I’m in no way an expert on the Stooges.) Good grief, what kind of movie casts this kind of talent and doesn’t use it?!
Virginia Bruce as Kitty Carroll (the Invisible Woman): Not much to say here. Bruce is easy on the eyes, but her voice (so important in an Invisible Movie), is so squeaky and high-pitched it gets annoying. She does what she has to and I guess it’s enough.

Invisible Agent (Universal, 1942) Trailer

Plot: Print shop proprietor Frank Raymond (Jon Hall) gets an unwanted visit when SS commander Stauffer (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) and Japanese agent Baron Ikito (Peter Lorre- yes, you read that right), reveal that they know he is the grandson of Jack Griffin and demand the late scientist’s formula. Griffin (his cover name being blown), fights them and their goons off and makes a break for it.
Not long after Pearl Harbor, Griffin volunteers to use his family formula on a spy mission. His does so while parachuting into Germany. Once there, he meets with members of the anti-Nazi resistance, mainly Maria Sorensen (Ilona Massey), who guide him to Stauffer’s office, where he steals a list of Axis agents in the U.S.

Learning there is more going on, Griffin confronts the imprisoned SS officer Heiser. (Griffin had earlier played invisible tricks on Heiser at Maria’s home; Stauffer later arrested him.) Griffin offers to free Heiser, who is scheduled for execution, in exchange for the information he wants. After Heiser reveals a plan to bomb New York is about to be set in motion, the two flee the prison. However, Griffin is captured by Ikito with a fish-hook-lined net. Ouch! Griffin is taken to the Japanese Embassy in Berlin where Ikito plans to learn the invisibility secret. However, Stauffer arrives, demands Griffin, and a fight breaks out where Griffin and Maria escape. Ikito kills Stauffer and then himself for the failure of the mission. Griffin and Maria steal a bomber(!) and bomb a Luftwaffe base before crossing the Channel and parachuting over England. The film ends with Maria visiting the now-visible Griffin in the hospital.
Thoughts and Background: We go another direction with this series and into wartime propaganda. You know, I hate that word, ‘propaganda.’ Maybe I’ve studied World War II too much. It’ll always have a Nazi/Soviet connotation for me. Just throwing that out there.

This film is a decent enough spy caper. I didn’t go into too much detail above, but this Griffin’s first invisible scenes in Maria’s home involve him acting like a buffoon and humiliating Heiser when the latter has dinner with Maria. I hate to be nit-picky, but even invisible, sneaking around in enemy territory in the FuhrerReich is hardly the time to be a clown. The special effects, however, are a big upgrade. At Maria’s home, Griffin slathers makeup on his face to reveal himself. No more constricting bandages. Oddly, there’s no mention of the insanity the chemical can lead to. At worst, it makes Griffin... sleepy! And this only happens once in order to set up a tense scene with Stauffer. There’s even a timely reference in the first scene to Oregon State playing Duke in the Rose Bowl, which was announced before Pearl Harbor. Ikito tells Stauffer it’s a “national event.” (That game, BTW, was played in North Carolina for security purposes- the only time the Rose Bowl Game hasn’t been played in Pasadena.)
You know, a lot of people would call this film stereotypical, but I think the characterizations are mostly quite good. At the shop, Stauffer calls Griffin’s refusal to give them the formula “soft thinking” caused by “democracies.” Heiser later adds, “The Fuhrer doesn’t like people who think their own thoughts.” True. Nazi ideology considered democracy to be degenerate, and Hitler pathologically demanded full control over everyone around him. (Hence the numerous Nazi programs designed to control all aspects of German life.) However, Heiser refers to having a three-hour meeting with the Fuhrer. What a laugh. During the war, Hitler was infamously lazy among the German High Command and spent most of his time at the Burghof in Bavaria. (There’s even a favorable reference to Reich Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop. Would never have happened. Virtually everyone in the Nazi government hated that guy.) Also, the Axis alliance is portrayed as one of convenience, with neither side trusting each other. Ultimately, the Germans and Japanese fight each other for Griffin’s secret. Not to mention the Germans also fight each for in-party position (This is also a theme in ‘the Man in the High Castle,’ where, after winning the war, the Axis relationship devolves into their own cold war.) I would say that, ultimately, when you create governments based on destruction, violence, and favors from within a cult of personality, what you get, inevitably, are human beings turning on each other like the rats they are.

As for Lorre, well, let’s just say this: he accepted any role in any movie that he thought would undermine the Axis. An Austrian Jew forced to flee the Reich, he saw it as his way of fighting back.
Jon Hall as Frank Raymond/Griffin (the Invisible Agent): I was prepared to hate this guy for the afore-mentioned comedy scene above. Also, I had to facepalm myself when he injected the serum into his arm before jumping out over Germany and then stripping in mid-air while somehow not unstrapping his parachute! Not bad visuals, but... WHAT?! However, I began to like him when he started doing his job and defied the German officers, especially when he ridicules fascist doctrine to Heiser’s face. That line, “You Nazis. I pity the Devil when you start arriving in bunches,” is a new favorite of mine. His distrust of Maria- whom he wrongly supposes is a double agent near the end- is a character flaw that adds just tension to the ending and keeps things exciting. While not as memorable as Rains or Price, Hall does a surprisingly good job here. I recommend this one.

The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944)

Plot: A dangerous, psychopathic scoundrel has escaped from a looney bin in Cape Town, bent on claiming a claim from people he’s thinks have wronged him. (Yeah, back to revenge/jailbreak. Also, this one is likewise unrelated to the first film.) How do we know he’s a scoundrel? Well, when he buys a suit, he leaves behind his prison jacket and the salesman discovers a conveniently-placed newspaper clipping in the pocket detailing how a maniac just escaped from said looney bin, killing several people in the process. Any follow-up questions?
Anyhoo, (complex storyline; I’ll try to make it brief), bad guy Griffin (no relation to any previous character or movie in the series, BTW), visits Sir Jasper (Lester Matthews) and Irene Herrick (Gale Sondergaard), demanding his claim. It seems during a safari years ago, they agreed to split any profits from diamond deposits they found. Griffin was injured, only the group was misinformed that he was dead. Sir Jasper tells Griffin (Jon Hall- he’s back! -as a different Griffin!), that all the profits were lost in bad investments and they have little to give him. Already going mad, Griffin refuses to believe them and demands both his share and their daughter’s hand. They properly show him out- after giving him a spiked drink, knocking him out, taking his written copy of the claim agreement, and vowing to repay him once he’s no longer insane.

Griffin first attempts to blackmail the Herricks using a lawyer, but the barrister cowers off with his tail between his legs when THE CONSTABLE (Billy Bevan) arrives. Then Griffin does what all guys in his position inevitably do: he visits a Mad Scientist (John Carradine), undergoes an invisibility experiment, (as one does), and then strikes out for revenge! In classic Gestapo fashion, he forces Sir Jasper to write a note ‘admitting’ to trying to kill Griffin twice and that he’s now giving him all his worldly possessions. It must also be mentioned that the cure for invisibly this time around is another blood transfusion- as in all the blood from the donor. And when the Mad Scientist refuses to commit murder, Griffin uses the Mad Scientist for the transfusion instead before burning the guy’s house down. (And, yes, Crow T, Robot, there WAS a time when John Carradine wasn’t 100 years old. (‘Night Train to Mundo Fine’ from ‘Red Zone Cuba’).)

Once again visible. Griffin adopts a new name and begins his push to move to take over Sir Jasper’s home and force his daughter, Julie (Evelyn Ankers) into marriage. Things get complicated when Julie’s boyfriend, Mark (Alan Curtis), a reporter, tells them at breakfast that an invisible man killed the Mad Scientist and is causing havoc. He adds that it seems a body-full of blood transfusion is necessary to undo invisibility. (Mark helped the police find the doc’s body.) Griffin praises the invisible man and his power just before his hands begin to fade. Mark follows him upstairs and only finds a note, telling him to come to the wine cellar where Griffin has info on the invisible man. Uh, let’s see. This mysterious new guy just praised the invisible man for his power, acted suspiciously after running out of the room for a minor cut with a breakfast knife, and now wants to meet him in a place with only one door in or out. So, of course Mark goes to the wine cellar, gets knocked out, and is nearly drained when THE CONSTABLE arrives to save the day. Oh, and the doc’s dog also gets in the house and mauls Griffin to death. Fin.
Thoughts and Background: The Good: The effects are pretty decent, especially where Griffin is shown fading away while running. Unfortunately, they had to ruin it with putting white chalk paint on Griffin’s face to show the start of the fading. Sorry, but the Paul Bearer look (pic of Paul Bearer) only works as a comical villain.

The Bad: I’ll just say it. I hate this movie. This is one of those films with an unlikable character in the lead. He then proceeds to attempt or commit robbery, murder, human trafficking, enslavement, blackmail, arson, and property damage. I hate setups like this. I literally spent the whole movie just hoping someone would kick Griffin’s ass. That’s not fun. Unlikable characters can work- like Scarlett O’Hara, Andy Sipowitz, or Walter White. But those people always give a hint that they can reform. That’s not possible here. And I hate it.

I also hate how people are so stupid in this movie. Yes, this is a film where the plot moves only because people act like idiots. Consider:

-After drugging Griffin, the Herricks should call THE CONSTABLE and burn Griffin’s copy of the agreement. Reasonable. But they have to be angelic and decide to settle this once he’s normal. Of course, we know Griffin’s mad now from prison time and will never recover. The road to Hell truly is paved with good intentions.

-The Mad Scientist just randomly experiments on any guy he finds. Look, I know fugitives are ideal because no one will miss them if the science backfires and they die or worse. But if it works, well, the consequences speak for themselves. Screen your test subjects, already!

-Griffin constantly tells Jasper he can destroy him with an unauthorized, unsealed, unnotarized note, etc. that admits to 2 counts of attempted murder and then just giving away all his worldly possessions to the alleged murder target. Look, I’m not a lawyer like Andrew and this is the post John-Henry Williams world, but Griffin has to make his takeover official at some point and I like to think even the shadiest lawyer might get a little suspicious of a note like that.
-Why doesn’t Jasper call THE CONSTABLE when Griffin is visible? It’s his best chance. Instead he goes outside to smoke. And, of course THE CONSTABLE shows up out of nowhere to wrap up the film. Yay.

-Mark, the intrepid investigative reporter. See above in ‘Plot.’

Jon Hall as Robert Griffin (the latest Invisible Man): I can’t blame Mr. Hall for this. He’s got range, as the previous film shows. Here, he’s in a B-film doing only what the screenwriter and director tell him to do and picking up his check on Friday. The actor gets a pass. The character does not.

I hate, hate, hate this Griffin. He has no redeeming qualities and I just want him to die. In pro wrestling, this would be called ‘bad heat’- where the crowd, instead of getting into the storyline, just want the annoying villain wrestler to be beaten to a pulp and out of their lives forever. And in an amazing coincidence, this Griffin reminds me of yet another Griffin- the Griffin from ‘Red Zone Cuba,’ a putrid mess of a film connected to this one by also starring John Carradine. (And in this one, he does look 100 years old.) This Other Griffin also escapes from prison to roam the countryside, stealing, abusing his colleagues, murdering, raping, and attempting mine plundering. The resemblance is uncanny. Perhaps the only difference is that RZC was a no budget P.O.S. that leaves you hollow and steals most of your soul during viewing. At least IMR was made by professionals. It will only make you mad at life and want to punch a hole in your wall.
And on that cheery note, here’s a cure for the common Universal turdburger: improv lord and legend Colin Mochrie!

BTW, did anyone notice there’s a full moon next week?
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