HOLLYWOOD LEGENDS: LUGOSI! KARLOFF! LORRE! BARRYMORE!
Forrest C. Hopson | Burnsville, NC USA | 07/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Classic horror fans should grab Warner Bros up-coming "Hollywood Legends of Horror" collection, featuring 6 classics "new to dvd," including my personal favorite, "Mark of the Vampire" coming October 10, 2006! Titles include:
"The Devil Doll" (1936): Paul Lavond (Lionel Barrymore) was a respected banker in Paris when he was framed for robbery and murder by crooked associates and sent to Devil's Island. Years later, he escapes with a friend, a scientist who was working on a method to reduce humans to a height of mere inches (all for the good of humanity, of course). Lavond however is consumed with hatred for the men who betrayed him, and takes the scientist's methods back to Paris to exact painful revenge.
"Dr. X" (1932): A monster lurks as New York newspaperman Lee Taylor (Lee Tracy) investigates one of the "Moon Killer" murders, in which the victims are strangled, cannibalized and surgically incised under the light of the full moon. The trail leads to the cliff side mansion of Dr. Xavier (Lionel Atwill), where the doctor and his colleagues conduct a strange experiment. Fay Wray of "King Kong" fame plays the good doctor's daughter, Joan Xavier.
"The Return of Dr. X" (1939): New York newspaper reporter Walter Barnett (Wayne Morris) finds himself out of a job after he claims to have found actress Angela Merrova (Lya Lys) dead in her apartment - only the next day she showed up alive and threatened to sue the paper. Determined to investigate he discovers her involvement with a strange doctor (Humphrey Bogart) who is an expert on human blood. Barnett then finds a connection to a series of gruesome murders where the victims were all found drained of blood.
"Mark of the Vampire" (1935): Sir Karell Borotyn (Holmes Herbert) appears to have been killed by Count Mora Bela Lugosi), a vampire believed to haunt the local village. Now his daughter Irena (Elizabeth Allan) is the Count's next target. Enter Professor Zelen (Lionel Barrymore), an expert on vampires who is sent to prevent her death. At the same time, secrets are revealed surrounding the circumstances of Sir Karell's death.
"Mad Love" (1935): In Paris, the great surgeon Dr. Gogol (Peter Lorre) falls madly in love with stage actress Yvonne Orlac (Frances Drake), and his ardor disturbs her quite a bit when he discovers to his horror that she is married to concert pianist Stephen Orlac (Colin Clive). Shortly thereafter, Stephen's hands are badly crushed in a train accident- beyond the power of standard medicine. Knowing that his hands are his life, Yvonne overcomes her fear and goes to Dr. Gogol, to beg him to help. Gogol decides to surgically graft the hands of executed murderer Rollo onto Stephen Orlac, the surgery is successful but has terrible side-effects...
"The Mask of Fu Manchu" (1932): Englishmen race to find the tomb of Ghengis Khan. They have to get there fast, as the evil genius Dr. Fu Manchu (Boris Karloff) is also searching, and if he gets the mysteriously powerful relics, he and his diabolical daughter, Fah Lo See (Myrna Loy)will enslave the world!
Also of interest is Universal Studios September 19, 2006 release of "The Boris Karloff Collection," featuring 5 Karloff classics, "Night Key," "The Black Castle" "The Climax," "The Strange Door," and "Tower of London." With Warner Bros and Universal Studios releasing these classic collections, the production values should be very high and the dvd transfers should be at their best! These films could never hold up against today's CGI and computer generated fair for "special effects." However, the acting talent and the incredible "atmosphere" of these films, as well as those released in the wonderful "Val Lewton Horror Collection," and the Universal Studios' "Legendary Monster" collections are far superior to today's artificial talents.
Many of these "boxed sets" contain films that have been long overdue for a dvd release. It's nice to see them finally making it to dvd! Now if only we could have the 1960 b&w jungle voodoo classic "The Leech Woman,"(1960) and a "Hammer Horror Collection Volume 2" featuring more great Hammer Studio classics, including the ultra-creepy "The Gorgon," my expectations in classic horror will be somewhat met.
Great set of horror from Hollywood's golden age
pestcomics | Long Island, New York USA | 11/29/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The cover art to Warners' Hollywood's Legends of Horror Collection features images of horror legends Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Humphrey Bogart. Humphrey Bogart ... what the heck? Yes, although Bogart was about as much a legend of horror as John Wayne was a musical comedy star, he did appear in one horror film ("The Return of Dr. X") included in this collection. Maybe it is a little erroneous and misleading to describe Bogie as a legend of horror but thankfully Warners' has included his one and only rarely shown thriller. The other films included in this collection feature Hollywood's true horror legends in an array of interesting roles.
"The Mask of Fu Manchu" (1932) may not be a real horror film but it does have the incomparable Boris Karloff in fine form as the demoniacal Fu Manchu. This engaging pre-code film features some delightfully racy scenes and insinuations. A young Myrna Loy as Fu Manchu's lascivious daughter is especially entertaining. Her very obvious goal of making the young male lead her own personal sex slave would surely have been censored from the script just a few years later.
MGM reunited Bela Lugosi and his "Dracula" director, Tod Browning, for 1935s "The Mark of the Vampire." This film was a remake of Browning's own silent classic "London after Midnight" which had starred Lon Chaney (and has been lost for 40 years). The image of the vampire had solidified in the public consciousness in the form of Lugosi's Dracula. MGM, obviously hoping to profit from the Dracula image, hired Lugosi to play the lead vampire character in a departure from the horrific and creepy, shark toothed vampire Chaney played in the original film. The final result is a well-mounted and moody horror offering with all the eerie trappings you'd expect from a 30s thriller including lots of fog, cobwebs, shadows and screams.
Maybe the best 30s horror flick included on this set is MGM's "Mad Love" from 1935. This film features a very young (and very creepy) Peter Lorre as a demented surgeon who torments a highly-strung concert pianist played by Colin Clive. Clive seems even more neurotic here than in his role as Henry Frankenstein in Universal's first two Frankenstein films. Lorre has been lusting after Colin's wife and uses a horrible accident as a means to destroy Clive's life and steal his bride. This is a first class horror film from MGM that rivals Universal's best horror classics.
The two Warner "Doctor X" films have no connection other than a similarity in title. The first film is a pretty slow-moving and dated 1932 thriller. "Doctor X" was filmed in an early two-strip Technicolor process, just like 1933's "The Mystery of the Wax Museum," and is presented here in a restored color version. Even if it is a bit creaky, "Doctor X" is an interesting Hollywood artifact and worth at least one viewing. 1939's "The Return of Doctor X" is the one with Bogie. It's more of a B-movie but very fun to watch with Bogart as the villain of the title.
Rounding out this collection is Tod Browning's 1936 "Devil Doll" from MGM. This one features Lionel Barrymore as a vengeful soul who miniaturizes humans to do his bidding. It's an interesting addition to the set but by no means the primary reason to purchase the collection.
As you would expect from Warners' all the films are high quality transfers from the best available material. There are some trailers and film commentaries (not for all films though) including one with the late film director Vincent Sherman. Overall this set is highly recommended to fans who wish to add to their film libraries of horror films from Hollywood's golden age.
Side note: Some other reviewers have commented on the absence of the Warners' Karloff film "The Walking Dead" (1936). I too was mystified until I realized that this may have been done deliberately. Perhaps Warners has the future intention of offering their own collection of Karloff films. Since both Universal and Columbia released Karloff sets this fall I would guess Warners would have held back. If they choose to release their own set they would only need to take "The Walking Dead" and add "West of Shanghai" (Warners 1937), "The Invisible Menace" (Warners 1938), "British Intelligence" (Warners 1940), "Devil's Island" (Warners 1940), and maybe even "You'll Find Out" (RKO 1940). Let's hope Warners does put out a nice salute to Boris."
Great set of 1930s Horror Classics
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 11/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Being a fan of early cinema and unusual films with clever plots, I was particularly pleased with this set of 6 films; packed neatly in slim cases with nice artwork and bonus features such as expert commentary to 5 of the 6 films. Each film is different and has its own unique highlights; some of which are obvious due to the legendary stars in each one; others are brought out in the audio commentary track which also gives excellent background information on the film's cast and crew, as well as the film industry and newly-emerging Horror genre in general. Although the cover boasts "6 Masterworks of Terror", it's unlikely that any modern-day viewer would find them terrifying, but no doubt for audiences of the 1930s these films were quite a sensation, and due to their high quality of production, direction or acting, can rightly be viewed as classics or prime examples of 1930s horror/thriller/mystery movies.
Far more than merely intending to shock and frighten audiences, these films still have a busy plot and interesting story, albeit unrealistic and even a bit silly at times. My personal favourites are "Mad Love", based on an earlier silent film, "The Hands of Orlac" about transplanting the hands of an executed murderer onto a pianist whose hands were injured in an accident, (echoes of Frankenstein here) and although the story is interesting enough in itself, Peter Lorre is simply brilliant as the mad doctor. His uncanny bald-headed appearance is already unnerving, and he uses his foreign accent to its absolute creepiest effect. And in the same league, Boris Karloff as the evil Fu Manchu is the best I've seen him so far, making this exaggerated character almost believable, and certainly very entertaining. I found the commentary to "The Mask of Fu Manchu" particularly interesting for its detailed explanations of censorship and how many scenes had been removed at some time. Fortunately, this is the complete and restored version, and putting political correctness aside, simply great fun to watch.
Another personal favourite is "The Return of Doctor X" with Humphrey Bogart in an early role before he found fame when he usually played the role of a villain. In this film he is very convincing as the strange, pale-faced doctor's assistant, experimenting with the use of synthetic blood to restore and sustain life - some intriguing ideas taken from both scientific work and the vampire legends. I also enjoyed the commentary to this movie which features a lengthy interview with the film's director, Vincent Sherman, who at age 99 can still vividly recall and tell of his experiences in early Hollywood. Also very intriguing and worth mentioning is "Mark of the Vampire" which is a remake of a lost silent film "London After Midnight" starring the legendary Lon Chaney, but is not at all what one would expect of a Chaney film. In fact, "Mark of the Vampire" is meant to keep you wondering and guessing til the very end; much in the same vein as "Cat and the Canary" and other slightly comical mystery whodunits. Last but not least, Lionel Barrymore puts in a very entertaining performance in his old woman disguise as he plots revenge on former associates with the means of more freaky science in "The Devil Doll". Sound and picture quality on all 3 discs is very good, and I'm sure this set will satisfy most early cinema or 1930s film enthusiasts, not to mention horror-genre fans as well, of course.
Classic Hollywood Reflections On Perversity, Obsession, Myst
J. E. Barnes | Bayridge, Brooklyn, New York | 10/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Hollywood Legends of Horror Collection (2006) offers viewers six excellent little-seen thrillers from the classic Hollywood era; as a set, it in many ways surpasses 2005's The Val Lewton Horror Collection in quality.
Though Jacque Tourneur and Val Lewton's Cat People (1942) is generally credited with introducing monsters and horror to the modern urban landscape, Michael Curtiz's atmospheric Doctor X (1932) proves this assertion to be untrue.
Produced in an era before the Hays Code was enforced, Doctor X concerns a series of strangulation murders in New York City and Long Island in which the killer partially cannibalizes his victim's bodies. Known in the press as "the Moon Murderer" due to the period of the month during which he is active, the killer's eventual unmasking and subsequent transformation into the "Moon Monster" is still chilling today. Though the murderer's explanation for his actions seem both forced and unnecessary, the version offered here was printed in an early, eerie version of Technicolor, making a film already long on shadows also weirdly tinted in shades of green, red, and yellow.
Curtiz, of course, would go on to direct The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Casablanca (1942), Mildred Pierce (1945) and White Christmas (1954). A fairly young Lionel Atwill stars as the title doctor, and Fay Wray as his daughter.
Also produced by First National/Warner Brothers, The Return of Doctor X (1939) is a sequel to Doctor X in name only. Humphrey Bogart, who seems to be channeling Andy Warhol in several early scenes, stars as a murderer revived from the dead and now badly in need of continuous transfusions of a rare type of blood. Also starring Dennis Morgan before he rose to stardom as one of the Forties' most popular leading men, The Return of Doctor X is a surprisingly well-made and effective thriller.
Interestingly, the original film trailer, which is present as an extra feature, shows numerous scenes not included in the final cut, suggesting that the producers originally had quite a different film in mind.
Also produced during the pre-Hays era, MGM's The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) stars the post-Frankenstein Boris Karloff as the would-be Asian world-conqueror and Myra Loy as his beautiful but perverse daughter, Fah Lo See. Beautifully produced but anti-climatic, the film is remarkable for its sexual undertones, including the homoerotic scene in which the athletically-built Charles Starrett, who portrays the young hero, writhes under torture while wearing nothing but a scanty loincloth.
Tod Browning and MGM's quirky The Mark of the Vampire (1935) is a fascinatingly disjointed and almost surreal remake of Browning's now-lost silent film, London After Midnight (1927). Starring Lionel Barrymore, Lionel Atwill, and Bela Lugosi, who only has several actual lines of dialogue, the film is actually a murder mystery disguised as a horror movie, and one which continuously cheats at the misleading game it plays with its audience. However, instead of detracting from the finished product, Browning's mischievous use of the editing process and evident joy in subverting viewer expectations make The Mark of the Vampire a horror film classic. Visually stunning throughout, the father-and-daughter vampire team, as depicted by Lugosi and Carroll Borland, remain one of the archetypal representations of the vampire in cinema.
MGM's ghoulish Mad Love (1935) stars Peter Lorre as love-obsessed surgeon Dr. Gogol and Colin Clive as Stephen Orlac, a world-renowned concert pianist who loses his hands in a train accident. When Lorre, who is in passionately in love with Orlac's beautiful wife, Yvonne, is called in to operate, he replaces the pianist's crushed hands with those of a recently-executed murderer whose specialty was knife-wielding. Before long, Orlac has the uncontrollable desire to kill, and Gogol, who keeps a life-size wax effigy of Yvonne in his home, hopes an imprisoned Orlac will finally make Yvonne available to become his bride.
The brief scene in which Orlac confronts what he believes is the reanimated figure of the decapitated and now-handless murderer is one of the great moments of Thirties horror. The film was a critical and popular failure upon release, though Lorre excels as the pathetic, love-sick Gogol, as does Clive as the potentially neurotic pianist, and lovely Frances Drake is extremely impressive as the devoted Yvonne.
The collection is rounded out by the wonderful special-effects extravaganza The Devil Doll (1936), produced by MGM and again directed by Tod Browning. Equal parts fantasy, science fiction, and thriller, Lionel Barrymore stars as wrongfully-accused banker Paul Lavond, who escapes from Devil's Island and subsequently disguises himself as an elderly female Parisian doll maker.
Having discovered how to miniaturize and mentally control human beings from an eccentric husband and wife scientist team who hope to save the world by ending starvation, Lavond sends a pair of 8-inch apache dancers out on missions of revenge, robbery, and murder, before being exonerated and reunited with his daughter, Lorraine, portrayed by the lovely Maureen O'Sullivan.
The Hollywood Legends of Horror Collection is an extremely satisfying set of horror and horror-related films. The screenwriting, acting, directing, photography, art direction, and set design for all six films are exquisite. Hopefully, the success of this collection, as well as that of the earlier The Val Lewton Horror Collection, will see further collections become available. Still awaiting collection are James Whale and Universal's The Old Dark House (1932), White Zombie starring Bela Lugosi (1932), and Michael Curtiz's The Mystery of the Wax Museum, among many others of the classic era.