Tag Archives: universal horror

Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy: 31 Days of Horror

#5. Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy (1955)

abbott and costello meet the mummyNature of Shame:
It’s been a loooooong time since I last revisited the Abbott and Costello Meet… movies. I’ll try to remove my nostalgia goggles.

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1950’s

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein proved to be a hit with my daughters so we carried on. Abbott and Costello Meet The Invisible Man became an even bigger hit. (They *loved* the disappearing effects.) Because Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde isn’t on Blu-ray and I didn’t feel like fishing for the DVD in the Complete Abbott and Costello steamer trunk, we next hit up Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, available on The Mummy Complete Legacy Blu-ray from Universal.

Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy Elevator Pitch

A famous archaeologist is murdered. Abbott and Costello become the custodians of a valuable medallion. When the try to sell the thing for some quick cash, everybody in Egypt, plus the Mummy starts coming for them. Maybe. It’s hard to tell if its a Mummy because he’s in a jumper that only looks like bandages and doesn’t show up for a long, long time.

abbott and costello meet the mummy

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, Maybe

Out of all the Universal monsters, I consider the Mummy the most consistently entertaining. The series quickly devolves after the brilliant first entry — Karl Freund’s The Mummy (1932), but even the worst of the sequels (I’m looking at you The Mummy’s Tomb from 1942) maintain a reasonable sense of the original’s mystical paranoia and creeping dread. There’s comfort in predictability.

The catch here is that the mummy has to actually appear in your movie and, you know, occasionally attack people. In Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, you see some Fez hats, Casablanca-looking bars, bazaars, snake charming, and grandfathers of the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. None of which really do any attacking. What you rarely see are mummies. At least not until the last fifteen minutes when you get three of them, including Bud Abbott dressed up as one of two bumbling decoy mummies.

In both Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and Meet the Invisible Man, the films maintained the basic tenants of their respective horror cycles. Meet the Mummy meanwhile feels like a standard mistaken identity caper. It could have been called Abbott and Costello in North Africa with a Chance of Mummy.

abbott and costello meet the mummy

Are You My Mummy?

The lack of an effective horror backdrop for Abbott and Costello means that they’re comedy has to be the centerpiece, but they’re just not given scenarios that seem to benefit the characters. Or their established personalities (except rigid Abbott as a mummy). Or whomever they’re actually playing. In this entry, they play Pete Patterson and Freddie Franklin, but intermittently refer to each other as Bud and Lou and Abbott and Costello.

abbott and costello meet the mummy

The strongest example of this failure takes place during the madcap finale — which becomes so complicated and labyrinthine that it lost me. That’s right. The narrative machinations of an Abbott and Costello movie left be confounded. The last time I would have watched this film I’d have let it wash over me because Abbott and Costello. On this occasion, I became preoccupied with my inability to follow how or why this person was going after this person and why the mummy cared and holy hell that’s exhausting because why did I really care in the first place?

I don’t know. THIRD BASE.

The routine drags on and on as the movie introduces two dummy mummies to create a kind of Jack Benny in a pyramid scheme. (Pyramid scheme! I crack myself the &%#$ up.) So of course, Lou’s going to commandeer the real mummy that he thinks is Bud. That’s all I need out of this gag. Alas, we get that and a shroud of diminishing returns.

Final Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy Thoughts

I recommend Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy not because it’s essential comedy horror but because it’s a career touchstone for the duo Abbott and Costello. It’s the last of their horror comedies, their last film with Universal (the compilation film The World of Abbott and Costello, excepted) and their second to last film overall. They made one final movie, Dance With Me, Henry, for United Artists in 1956.

Abbott and Costello Meets the Mummy also represents the final stop for the Universal Mummy monster until Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy (1999). The undead Egyptian has always been relegated to the second tier of Universal monsters. Some of that has to do with the limited scope of the mythology. Most every Mummy movie derives from the narrative created for The Mummy in 1932. Hammer Films expanded the monster slightly with their series of films between 1959 and 1971 based on the 1930’s-era Universals.

Despite the limitations, movies featuring the monster prove to be effective chillers, relying heavily upon mood and atmosphere rather than narrative. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy offers neither in equal measure — but it does offer Bud Abbott and Lou Costello and a bittersweet send off to their series of horror comedies.

abbott and costello meet the mummy

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy Rating:

Availability:

abbott and costello meet the mummyUniversal has given you plenty of Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man options. There’s the standalone release. It’s also included on The Mummy Complete Legacy Collection. 

If you’d like a complete collection of the Abbott and Costello Meet… movies, that’s more difficult. There’s the brilliant (but OOP) 28-film Abbott and Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection steamer trunk. The Meet the Monsters DVD set contains Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde (which is currently not available on Blu-ray), but is missing Abbott & Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff because… I have no idea. In order to get that one, you’d need to purchase The Best of Abbott & Costello, Vol. 3 DVD. Got that? 

2018 @CinemaShame / Hooptober Progress

#1. Deep Rising (1998)
#2. The Mist (2007)
#3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
#4. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
#5. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)

James David Patrick is a writer. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add this nonsense to the list. Follow his blog at www.thirtyhertzrumble.com and find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man: 31 Days of Horror

#4. Abbott and Costello Meet The Invisible Man (1951)

Nature of Shame:
It’s been a loooooong time since I last revisited the Abbott and Costello Meet… movies. I’ll try to remove my nostalgia goggles.

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1950’s

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein proved to be a hit with my daughters so we carried on. I’d recently watched …Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff so the next logical stop was 1951’s Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, newly available on The Invisible Man Complete Legacy Blu-ray from Universal.

Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man Elevator Pitch

Boxer Tommy Nelson is accused of killing his manager. In order to evade the law, he takes the invisibility serum and enlists greenhorn gumshoes Bud Alexander and Lou Francis to find the real killer. (Sidenote: Alexander and Francis were Bud and Lou’s middle names.)

abbott and costello meet the invisible man

Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man? How would they know?

Universal preceded Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man with five invisible human films between 1933 and 1944. While all existed under the Universal horror umbrella, the Invisible Man films straddled a number of widely varied genres.

The Invisible Man (1933) and The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944) are more or less nihilistic revenge films. The Invisible Man Returns (1940) skews crime-thriller, and Invisible Agent (1942), as the title suggests, takes the form of a WWII spy film. While all of the Invisible Man films include humor, The Invisible Woman (1940) plays the character for straight comedy.

This of course brings us to Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man in 1951 — a full seven years after the last of the Invisible Man series. Of all the Abbott and Costello Meet… films, this feels the least removed from the Universal series proper. Lou’s stuttering and stammering at the invisible man’s antics and Bud’s skepticism and constant attempts to capitalize on their predicament feel like natural tangents, whereas their injection into the House of Frankenstein/House of Dracula universe felt a little more clumsy.

abbott and costello meet the invisible man

This goes against all commonly held logic, but upon this rewatch I enjoyed Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man more than Meet Frankenstein. The running gags — especially Costello’s feud with the psychiatrist — survive extreme repetition, and the central mystery concerning the bumbling hunt for the murderer feels like a fully-baked narrative. Sure, it wanders over into a sports movie comedy for a spell while Lou fights a professional boxer with the help of the invisible Tommy Nelson. Lou gets every opportunity to display his gifts as a physical comedian.

Invisible Effects

Of course, a conversation about the Invisible Man films wouldn’t be complete without at least a mention of the wizards that created the wonderful visual effects. Even now audiences can see how these effects were indeed “special” — at the time of the Invisible Man’s release they must have blown minds. John P. Fulton, John J. Mescall and Frank D. Williams achieved the illusion of disappearing through the layering of two images — a matte process. They combined the principle photography with Claude Rains in a black suit photographed against a black velvet background.

abbott and costello meet the invisible man

For Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, Universal used Stanley Horsely, a visual effects technician who worked with John P. Fulton on all but the original Invisible Man. Unfortunately the matte work in Abbott and Costello feels, at times, rather cheaply done compared to the earlier entries. During many scenes, the matte lines were present as was the hazy form of actor Arthur Franz. That’s not to say however that the wonder of the visual trickery has disappeared (see what I did there?)  — just that it’s not as seamless and efficient.

Final Abbott and Costello Meets The Invisible Man Thoughts

Due to some nice series callbacks (Claude Rains is featured in a portrait as the creator of the formula) and more or less easy transition into the series, Abbott and Costello make the most of this monster mashup. Most anyone would tell you that the returns on this unholy pairing of the famous comedy duo and the Universal monsters dwindled with each subsequent entry. I’d like to disagree.

The biggest ding against this movie is that it doesn’t carry over thre Vincent Price Invisible Man tease from the end of Meet Frankenstein. Abbott and Costello Meets the Invisible Man maintains the fun and in some ways improves upon the slapdash pacing and narrative of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Don’t @ me. I’ve got another Abbott & Costello Meet movie to cover and I won’t be quite as friendly.

abbott and costello meet the invisible man

Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man Rating:

Availability:

abbott and costello meet the invisible manUniversal has given you plenty of Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man options. There’s the standalone release — which also included an HD code (bonus). It’s also included on The Invisible Man Complete Legacy Collection. 

If you’d like a complete collection of the Abbott and Costello Meet… movies, that’s more difficult. There’s the brilliant (but OOP) 28-film Abbott and Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection steamer trunk. The Meet the Monsters DVD set contains Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde (which is currently not available on Blu-ray), but is missing Abbott & Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff because… I have no idea. In order to get that one, you’d need to purchase The Best of Abbott & Costello, Vol. 3 DVD. Got that? 

2018 @CinemaShame / Hooptober Progress

#1. Deep Rising (1998)
#2. The Mist (2007)
#3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
#4. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1955)

James David Patrick is a writer. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add this nonsense to the list. Follow his blog at www.thirtyhertzrumble.com and find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein: 31 Days of Horror

#3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

Nature of Shame:
It’s been a loooooong time since I last revisited the Abbott and Costello Meet… movies. I’ll try to remove my nostalgia goggles.

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1940’s
Anniversary Film

The second Universal horror wave had pretty much run its course by the end of the 1940’s — which made finding a horror film from 1948 a little trickier than I anticipated. Oddly enough I had the same problem with 1938 (because it fell between Universal horror cycles, but we’ll get back to that when I discuss The Black Doll. 

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein Elevator Pitch

Bumbling freight handlers deliver boxes containing priceless artifacts to a wax museum only to discover the boxes contained Dracula and Frankenstein. Then the “cargo” goes missing and they’re going to need the Wolf Man to help them sort it all out. Obviously.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein? Just Frankenstein?

At the end of the 1940’s Frankenstein remained Universal’s most bankable movie monster. After 1939’s Son of Frankenstein (the last with Karloff as the Monster), the series devolved into B-movie oblivion. Universal ultimately turned to monster crossovers to breathe new life into the sagging franchise with Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), followed closely by House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945).

Meanwhile, over at MGM, the comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello had been experiencing their own professional difficulties. In 1943, Costello came down with rheumatic fever after a tour of U.S. army bases and six months later his infant son died when he accidentally drowned in the family swimming pool. Shortly after Costello returned from his sabbatical, a rift developed between the two when Abbott hired a domestic servant who had been fired by Costello. The duo only spoke when performing and only appeared in films as separate characters rather than as a team.

It wasn’t until 1947 when Abbott and Costello reunited properly for Buck Privates Come Home (1947). In 1948, they signed a new contract with Universal. With their careers lagging and Universal’s monster cycle running out of box office mojo, the studio crossovered their crossover and put Abbott and Costello in a monster movie.

House of Abbott & Costello

Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolf Man — the big three monsters from the “House of” menagerie all feature prominently. Bela Lugosi reprises his role as Dracula for the first time since Browning’s 1931 film and Lon Chaney, Jr. again plays the Wolf Man. Glenn Strange lumbers around as the monster in his third feature.

Most believe that Karloff wasn’t approached about being the monster. (Or that he was and just believed the material to be rubbish — famously he agreed to promote the film for Universal as long as he didn’t have to watch it.)

Though the film boasts an ambling structure more reflective of the Abbott and Costello vignette-style of filmmaking, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein also contains a healthy stable of Universal’s well-established horror tropes. The spooky castle, mad scientist shenanigans, full-moon transformations. No monster legacies were harmed in the making of this movie.

Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein has become such a formative early horror-comedy, essential in equal measure to the Universal horror canon and Abbott and Costello’s lasting legacy. It’s therefore easy to overlook the film’s remarkable, rambling narrative. Most remember the classic scenes that open the film as Costello attempts to convey his monster sightings to a skeptical Abbott in the wax museum. Unless you’d just watched the film, however, I’m willing to bet you couldn’t say how they wind up at the “House of Dracula” during the final act.

I just watched it and I’m hazy on the details. The answer is, of course, it doesn’t really matter. The joy of the Abbott and Costello Meet… movies derive from the absurdist vignettes that somehow shoehorn the comedy duo into situations with the Frankenstein monster, Dracula, the Wolf Man and eventually Boris Karloff, the Invisible Man and the Mummy.

The Nostalgic Things that Go Bump

I watched most every Universal horror movie over the course of about two Halloweens, circa age 8 or 9. AMC; back when it was a no-commercial, all movie channel like TCM; showed all of these movies. I diligently recorded each and every one onto SLP VHS tapes. And despite my sincere love for some and nostalgic devotion to others, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein has always held the greatest power to immediately revive the sense of discovery associated with those horror movie marathons.

Of course, you’ll always have those naysayers who’ll complain that Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein is just another Abbott and Costello vehicle and that it has no place in the legitimate Universal horror cycle and blah blah blahbity blah.

Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein is, if nothing else, reverent to the monsters themselves. The stories that had come before boasted very loose or nonexistent logical continuity and Abbot and Costello’s outing does nothing to tarnish the previously established universe where Dracula/Frankenstein/The Wolf Man all occupy the same time and space. In many ways, Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein provides a *more* satisfying conclusion to that story.

Final Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein Thoughts

During this viewing I started to pay more attention to the connective tissue. How Abbott and Costello “fit” into Universal horror. Narratively, Bud Abbott wasn’t wrong about his daughter being capable of writing a better script, but a script could never truly reflect what works about the film. Personality and novelty. You can script the relationship between Abbott and Costello any more than you can dictate the emotional attachment to Bela Lugosi or Lon Chaney, Jr. in their monster makeup. These things just are, and neither time nor tide can erode their unlikely place in cinema history.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein Rating:

Availability:

abbott and costello meet frankensteinUniversal has given you dozens of opportunities to own Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein on Blu-ray and DVD. There’s the standalone release — which also included an HD code (bonus). It’s also included on The Frankenstein Complete Legacy Collection, The Dracula Complete Legacy Collection and The Wolf Man Complete Legacy Collection.

If you’d like a complete collection of the Abbott and Costello Meet… movies, that’s more difficult. There’s the brilliant (but OOP) 28-film Abbott and Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection steamer trunk. The Meet the Monsters DVD set contains Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde (which is currently not available on Blu-ray), but is missing Abbott & Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff because… I have no idea. In order to get that one, you’d need to purchase The Best of Abbott & Costello, Vol. 3 DVD. Got that? 

2018 @CinemaShame / Hooptober Progress

#1. Deep Rising (1998)
#2. The Mist (2007)
#3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

James David Patrick is a writer. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add Deep Rising to that list. Follow his blog at www.thirtyhertzrumble.com and find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

The History of the Mummy Movie Monster

the mummy 2017 poster

During recent Stanley Cup Final broadcasts, NBC broadcaster Doc Emrick plugged The Mummy (2017) with the assertion that the Mummy has (and I’m paraphrasing here because I wasn’t taking movie notes about this Mummy article during a hockey game) “terrified and fascinated humanity throughout the millennia.” He’s of course making a glib, studio-prescribed sales pitch that highlights the fact that mummies are really old.

I love deflating these prosaic platitudes with darts of reality.

The History of the Mummy Movie Monster

To be more specific, the ad men are saying that the Egyptian mummification process first appeared on the historical record circa 3400 BCE – and “true mummification” using evisceration techniques (removal of the vital organs) began circa 2600 BCE. This means that these shrouded monsters officially began terrorizing fragile moviegoer constitutions starting around 2600 BCE! Clever!

The Mummy as a fictional monster didn’t appear, however, until 1932 during the first Universal horror cycle under studio founder Carl Laemmle and that of his wide-eyed and eccentric son and head of production Carl Laemmle, Jr. Even though Mummies time somewhere between the Blob and Zombies on their rates of attack, the cinematic Mummies in question didn’t literally take 4000 years to reach multiplexes near you – not even with Tom Cruise and his baggage in tow.

Instead of merely offering hokey studio taglines some side-eye, let’s look at the actual genesis for the Mummy monster. Even though the Mummy seems like such a natural villain, the journey from sarcophagus to movie immortality was hardly predestined. Three primary events came together at just the right time to inspire Universal’s wildly successful The Mummy in 1932.

 

dracula 1931

The success of Dracula (1931).

German expressionism ushered in a new era of visual storytelling. Dramatic, high contrast cinematography, gothic surrealism and the ultimate import of these filmmakers, like Paul Leni, shifted the visual landscape of American film in the early 1930’s.

Few pundits believed American audiences were ready for a deadly serious, full-length supernatural horror film. At the time of its release Dracula was considered an enormous risk, despite the cultural acceptance of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel into the public conscience. And although America had reacted positively to silent thrillers like The Cat and the Canary (1927, directed for Universal by the aforementioned import Paul Leni), Dracula would not pull back the curtain to reveal a trick ending or comic relief. Until now the “Scooby-Doo ending” had been a common tool to delegitimize the supernatural elements and release the viewer from the on-screen terror.

 

karloff the mummy makeup

William Henry Pratt, aka Boris Karloff.

One story suggests that James Whale’s domestic partner, David Lewis, saw the actor in the stage production of The Criminal Code and recommended him to Whale for the role of the monster in Frankenstein. At this point, Karloff had been toiling in Hollywood anonymity for about 15 years. Even at 5’11”, Karloff projected the physicality and provided a countenance that had been lacking in other actors testing for the part. Karloff plus John P. Pierce’s makeup equaled movie magic.

Variety called Karloff’s performance “a fascinating acting bit of mesmerism,” and the film went on to become the highest grossing film of 1932. Universal immediately wanted to find a new vehicle for the buzzy actor, billed then as “Karloff the Uncanny.” The studio went forward with a story by Nina Wilcox Putnam and Universal’s story editor Richard Schayer called “Cagliostro” about an immortal man who’d lived through many millennia. With rewrites by John L. Balderson (who’d written a stageplay called Berkeley Square that concerned a romance across the ages) based on recent events, the immortal European wanderer became an undead high priest of Ancient Egypt.

 

king tut 1922

The 1922 discovery of Pharoah Tutankhamun.

Archaeologist Howard Carter and financier Lord Carnarvon explored the Valley of the Kings in Egypt for more than a decade before finding the burial chamber of King Tutankhamun. The discovery ignited a very public obsession with Ancient Egypt. The King Tut craze inspired songs, movies, and the name of President Herbert Hoover’s Belgian Shepherd. The mysterious deaths of some of those involved in the tomb’s excavation resulted in the legend that has become known as the “curse of the pharaohs” – the perfect real-life fuel for cinematic nightmares.

 

The Rise of the Mummy

In the hierarchy of classic monsters, the Mummy often takes a backseat to Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolf Man. Vampires are sexy. Frankenstein features the re-animation of parts from dead people using lightning. Lycanthropy even sounds snazzy and legitimately science-y.

the mummy 1932 poster

The terror of the Mummy, meanwhile, took the form of a shrouded monster in raggedy bandages that wandered around (slowly) picking off those that dared interrupt his beauty sleep. (In many ways, the Mummy became a proto-zombie figure.) Someone inevitably doubts the legend and reads a forbidden scroll and so on and so forth. It’s all very formulaic and predictable – when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. It’s not a stretch to consider the Mummy Universal’s least loved monster.

Now that I’ve sufficiently lowered expectations, let’s circle back so I can explain all the reasons why the Mummy became my personal favorite of the classic Universal horror franchises.

The makeup effects in The Mummy (1932) stand as one of Jack Pierce’s greatest achievements.

The Universal Mummy franchise lacked the dramatic highs of the Frankenstein series or the legendary countenance of Bela Lugosi, but consistently churned out a capable mixture of chills, romance, and eventually humor through six Universal-produced films between 1932 and 1944. Highlights include the elaborate and exotic set design, Jack P. Pierce’s painstaking makeup effects, and innovative variations on a narrow thematic bandwidth.

Like the other Universal horror films, The Mummy (originally titled Im-Ho-Tep) relied on mood and setting. There’s nothing face value terrifying about these films, but they burrow under your skin for reasons other than their fright-factor. As a kid the Mummy ignited my imagination in ways that the other movie monsters couldn’t. I’d dream of exploring ancient tombs or discovering spiritual artifacts that could resurrect the pharaohs. Meanwhile, I recoiled at the thought of dissecting a frog so no part of me wanted to deal with cadaver bits. And what kind of fresh nonsense was a man that turned into a wolf during a full moon? What about heavy cloud cover? And what would a lunar eclipse do to his disposition? For whatever reason, I’ve always found the Wolf Man a more problematic transformation than Gremlins.

The Mummy had magic, mystique and romance. Within the tattered bandages and decomposing flesh lived the beating heart of a romantic. The resurrected walking corpse almost always had love on his mind – the kind of timeless love that spans multiple regenerations. He’s really just a Romeo with an unfortunate hobby of homicide. Like the other monsters, he was just a little misunderstood.

Read my Countdown of the 10 Essential Mummy Movies to watch in preparation for the latest Mummy resurrection at Action-A-Go-Go.

 


To read more about the Universal Horror Monsters, I recommend the following books:

And in case you missed it, Universal just released the Mummy Legacy Collection on Blu-ray. 

31 Days of Horror: She-Wolf of London

she-wolf of london 31 days of horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature of Shame:
Unseen Universal Horror.

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade – 1940’s
Classic Universal Horror


 

The Advance Word: None. Nobody talks about She-Wolf of London, which is why I’ve probably never bothered to watch it. Or why I never finished the entire Wolf Man Legacy Collection DVD set.

#6. She-Wolf of London
 she-wolf of london

I watch and enjoy Universal horror movies indiscriminately. They’re comfort cinema. Therapy through high-contrast black and white cinematography. German Expressionism for the Moviewatcher’s Soul. My parents introduced these movies to me as a wee lad; The Invisible Man being the one that hooked me. The films aired non-stop on AMC (if I remember correctly) during the week of Halloween, and I’d cram as many as I could onto a stack of VHS tapes. As a result, I could hardly be expected to keep track of what I’d seen.

When I received the brand new collection of Universal Wolf Man flicks on Blu-ray, I scanned the titles, looking for an unseen gem to add to my CinemaShame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Challenge. The final flick on the collection, She-Wolf of London, caught my eye. Most certainly I’d remember June Lockhart turning into a werewolf. I mean… wouldn’t you?

she-wolf of london 31 days of horror

Lockhart plays Phyllis Allenby, an heiress whose parents named her with the express intent of giving her agoraphobia or anthropophobia or at the very least making her an insufferable introvert. Phyllis lives in an old estate with her aunt Martha, cousin Carol, and servant Hannah. She is to be married to the in-demand bachelor Barry Lanfield. All seems well with the Allenbys. Except for the fact that Phyllis believes that at night she turns into a wolf and kills people in the park.

Without touching upon the film’s troublesome suggestion that Phyllis just needs a man in her life to make all her problems disappear, we’ll get right to the heart of She-Wolf of London‘s damning problem. There’s no werewolves in the film. Not one. Not even the shadow of one. The best we get is someone — clearly a human — barking behind some bushes in the park. If you’ve seen Curse of the Cat People, you’ll recognize the narrative at approximately the 15-minute mark. Trust me when I say I’m not spoiling the film here. She-Wolf of London might as well have made werewolf shadow puppets. That’s how much effort it put into the false assignation of crimes to lycanthropy.

She-Wolf premiered at the decadent end of Universal’s horror cycle hoping to capitalize on a slice of that Wolf Man name recognition. Familiarity might be the film’s best asset. The impressive, ornately furnished estate allows for typically above-average contrast and shadowy cinematography, but the set feels overly familiar. It would make sense that by the late 1940’s, Universal would have been recycling just about everything to strangle the last few dollars out of their goldmine horror franchises.

she-wolf of london

There’s novelty in seeing 21-year-old June Lockhart in one of her first starring roles. Dennis Hoey (Lestrade in the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films) stops by for an appearance as the Inspector that won’t fully buy into the werewolf nonsense. She-Wolf of London offers a couple of nuggets for Old Movie Weirdos to catalog in the back of their mind, but beyond that you’ll just be grateful that this toothless film lasts no longer than 70 minutes and offers a few unintentional laughs during the convoluted climax.

Technical Notes:

To satisfy my curiosity I sampled the transfer of She-Wolf of London on the original Wolf Man DVD collection and then jumped around the Wolfie Blu-ray titles on the rest of the set. You’ll find the expected difference in clarity from the DVD to the stepped-up Blu-ray but no extra clean up. She-Wolf of London apparently didn’t warrant the same care as the other titles, though I certainly can’t blame them for focusing their attentions elsewhere.

Final Thoughts:

If you never get around to the end of this Wolf Man set, I wouldn’t worry much about it unless you’re a die-hard June Lockhart fan.

30Hz Rating:

30hzrating2


Wolf Man Legacy Collection Blu-rayBlu-ray Verdict:
 It’s a collection of Universal horror movies from the 30’s and 40’s. Of course you should own it. Everyone should own it. The only caveat here is that if you’ve religiously purchased all of the Universal Horror Blu-ray sets the only new-to-Blu titles in this set are She-Wolf of London and Werewolf of London.

Availability: Universal’s brand new Wolf Man Complete Legacy Collection Blu-ray is available everywhere. And this here linky connects to Amazon.

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Earlier 31 Days of Horror entries: #1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972) / #5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin

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