August 17th, 2010

Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Public Domain Horror "Bluebeard"

According to IMDB trivia, "Bluebeard" was John Carradine's favorite performance. The role was written with Boris Karloff in mind, but Carradine handles the suave role with low key empathy. The actor would play Count Dracula in "House of Frankenstein" and "House of Dracula," but "Bluebeard" places Carradine front and center. It is a complex role and Carradine pulls it off.

Famed for directing Karloff/Lugosi inaugural teaming "The Black Cat" and the Film Noir classic, "Detour," Edgar G. Ulmer directed "Bluebeard" in six days. The Ulmer technique includes many memorable scenes involving light and shadows.

Bluebeard, whose career is puppet making, is seen walking up a staircase. In the background are shadows of puppets hanging on strings, like multiple criminals hanging from the gallows. "Bluebeard" is full of little details like that and is worthy viewing in the realm of Public Domain Horror. In fact, John Carradine's performance "Bluebeard" deserves a historical retrospection.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Public Domain Horror "The Corpse Vanishes"

This 64 minute Bela Lugosi vehicle from Mongram Studios is a routine thriller with some great details. Brides are dying at the altar and Bela Lugosi needs the blood of a virgin to keep his wife looking young. Lugosi's wife is played by Elizabeth Russell.

The sister-in-law of Rosalind Russell, Elizabeth Russell created a niche of her own in the horror community as the scrren wife of the following actors, Lugosi, Karloff and Henry Daniell. Elizabeth russell was a regular in the Val Lewton classics with her most memorable role in "The Curse of the Cat People."

There are plenty of shots of Lugosi lurking and sneaking around. However character detail stand out, when a guest visits Lugosi and Russell in their bedrooms, the morbid couple sleep in coffins.

Be on the lookout for Anthony Rossitto (billed as Angelo) and Lugosi's assistant. Being a fulfledged sociopath in "the Corpse Vanishes," Lugosi treats "Angelo" rather poorly.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Public Domain Horror "Night of the Living Dead"

"Night of the Living Dead" is a low budget film to be studied on so many levels. As the cheesy flick begins, one wonders what the big deal is. As the film progresses, one is absorbed into this dark work. One can feel the repression of the Johnson Administration in the air, one can smell the missiles of October. Shot on an extremely low budget, one sees that George Romero and his crew achieved their artistic goals.

"Night of the Living Dead" works on so many levels upon return viewings. Duane Jones is the tradtional leading man, but one realizes that his character makes wrong choices lead people to their demise. It is an angry film that plays out to a pessimistic conclusion, making "Night of the Living Dead" one of the ultimate horror movies of all time.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Public Domain Horror "Doomed to Die"

Boris Karloff portrayed Mr. Wong one final time in "Doomed to Die," with his costars Marjorie Reynolds as Mr. Wong's feminine Boswell or Watson.

"Doomed to Die" opens with spectacular footage as a burning cruise liner pulls into port. At least 400 people die and the shipping mogul, Cyrus Wentworth feels guilty. After setting up many subplots, Mr. Wentworth feels dead. Mr. Wong is summoned to investigate and 68 minutes later, the murderer is captured.

Karloff does not make his entrance until "Doomed to Die" is one quarter complete. Mr. Wong's scenes are shot within a studio with stock footage of car chases in the streets of San Francisco. An infrared camera that is used to detect the words written on a burned document.

It is strictly 1940s formula detective drama, but the performances of marjorie reynolds, Grant Withers and karloff make "Doomed to Die" a sweet little gem.