Friday, August 16, 2013

The Corpse Vanishes (1942)

Hell o Prisoners

Time for Movie #3, Disc #1, "50 Greatest Horror Films". That remains to be seen.....

Monogram Pictures Corp. presents Bela Lugosi in
 Wallace Fox's The Corpse Vanishes (1942)

As vows are exchanged, our bride grows faint and drops like a clock. Nerves? Heat? Second Thoughts? No...just dead. The Reverend releases her body to the caretaker, and her body is carted off. Imagine their surprise when the real caretaker shows up to claim it. Headlines explode......



The wedding of the season approaches, when the DA (Eddy Kane) receives a visit from Socialite, Mrs. Wentworth (Gladys Faye), and her daughter Alice (Joan Barclay), out of concern for the safety of the young bride in her upcoming nuptials. He assures Mrs. Wentworth, in true Mayor-of-Amity style, she has nothing to worry about; they're will be plenty of security. This does little to appease her, but Alice is not concerned, and the ceremony will go on as planned. 
Next, Patricia "Pat" Hunter (Luana Wallace), a fast talking Woman of the Year type reporter, shows up for a little drama from the DA. She came to the wrong place. "Your paper can print, 'THERE WILL BE NO MORE THEFTS OF GIRLS' BODIES!'." Convinced she'll find a scoop, Pat is not going to miss the Wentworth wedding.
While Alice and her mother put the finishing touches on her bridal look, a lovely corsage is delivered. "Wear this next to your heart, Darling. With all my love." How thoughtful of Dwight to send her such a sweet token of his undying love. But even with all the security on board, while speaking her vows, our Alice, like the other brides of late, keels over. This time, however, her body is hoisted into the coroner's auto, and they jet to the morgue via police escort. As the cavalcade speeds off, Sandy (Vince Barnett), Pat's colleague and photographer, twiddles the orchid he found on the ground, and shows it to Pat, thinking it may be a clue. "What a peculiar sweet odor," she says, and fending off a wave of dizziness, she's off to the office to give a full report. 

En route to the morgue, the cops are forced to stop when a car parked on the side of the road was engulfed in flames. While they investigate, our thief pulls up to the back of the coroner's ambulance, opens the back, swiftly transfers the body from their vehicle to his, and speeds off, just as the cops realize there's no driver in the burning rig. A decoy perhaps? But it's too late; the corpse has vanished!

The Dispatcher radios, and the first car stopped is our villain's. The police set out to search the vehicle and find a coffin, but when they open it, who lay to rest? Why no one else but my beloved Bela. They thank the driver for his cooperation and let him go. Soon our thieves reach their destination, the home of Dr. Lorenz (Bela Lugosi). Mike (George Eldredge), his henchman, carts the young bride into the laboratory, where Lorenz's servant Fagah (Minerva Urecal), and her two sons--Angel (Frank Moran), a big Igor-lookin' lout, and Toby (Angelo Rossitto), a 2.9 ft dwarf, wait for instruction. Angel immediately goes to the new bride and starts petting her. Seriously a perv and scary as hell. Lorenz counters with a whip. "My little family," Lorenz lilts.There is another woman in attendance, the Countess Lorenz (Elizabeth Russell), who is wailing hysterically. "Hurry! Look at me! Look at me!" Old and haggard and strung out, she hides her face. Lorenz proceeds to draw a clear liquid (?) from the bride, mixes it's contents in a bleaker, and then injects the Countess. Her shrill denotes her agony, but the Countess soon calms, and wanders to the mirror and gazes at her youthful transformation. 

Meanwhile back at the paper, Pat tries to convince her boss, Editor Keenan (Kenneth Harlan), of the significance of the orchid. After all, all the brides had one, but in true George Taylor style, he poo poos her theory. He wants bodies and top stories, not flowers, but since this is all he has to go on, he gives her the go, and she's off. 
She finds out it's not your typical orchard. It is "hybridized" by only one man, Dr. Lorenz. That's all she needs, and catches the next train to pay him a visit. Arriving at the station, she tries to get a ride out to the Lorenz place, but is turned down by the taxi driver, and Mike and Toby, but she is not easily discouraged, and she hops on to the back of their rig. Toby spies the extra baggage; they pull over and kick her out, taking off with her bag, and leaving her stranded, until finally another car approaches. It's Dr. Foster (Tristram Coffin---what a great name) who is himself headed to the Lorenz place. He's been working with Dr. Lorenz on a cure for his ailing wife. He warns Pat, that the couple is a little eccentric. What an understatement. 

They are ungreeted at the door by Toby, who introduces them to Lorenz. Quite pleased to see Dr. Foster, and surely amiable enough to Miss Hunter, he welcomes them. The Countess, however, is not as hospitable. After she yells at Toby, "Get out! You Gargoyle!," she slaps Pat, yes, literally slaps her in the face, and tells her she's not welcome there. I think that was my favorite part, a pleasant surprise in a film proving to be quite mundane. Lorenz calms his wife, and queries the reason for Pat's visit. She's there to interview him about the orchids. 

It's late, and the thunder and lightening is simply murderous, so he convinces her to stay the night, and he'll answer her questions in the morning. Not thrilled, but ever sensible, she agrees. This is the beginning of "the most gruesome night of her life." Someone stole her orchid; She's visited by Lorenz who enters through her cabinet, and just seems to stare at her; Angel lays an orchard by her pillow, and wakes her up by petting her; She finds the secret passage through the cabinet and goes investigating; She sees Lorenz and the Countess sleeping in coffins; She finds the corpse bride; And since Angel has become a liability, she's witness to Lorenz killing him, and then, of course, she faints.

Awaking in her own bed, she tries to tell Dr. Foster what's gone down, but he patronizes her and credits it to a dream. "Don't you remember talking to me last night in the hallway? "she asks. "No." But then he concedes that maybe he was in a "somnambulistic state." Lorenz visited his room and gave him the Lugosi eye as well, but it apparently worked better on the Good Doctor than on our Heroine. She makes it the hell out of Dodge, leaving Lorenz asking about the interview. She explained something had come up, and she had to get back to the office right away, so she needed to make the first train. 

Back at the paper. She's fired. Been off the grid. Keenan's pissed. But she's got the scoop of her life! So he says, "Now take it easy. Stop breathing hard, and tell us all about it." Is that not the lamest line, or what? Seriously, I wanted to sniff an orchid myself right about then. Dr. Foster shows up. Maybe he was hypnotized? Maybe Pat's right? Heaven forbid! He's found a coffin full of a special type of moss used by hybridizers to grow orchids. He explains the Countess appears a young woman but has the heart and arteries of a 70 or 80 yr old woman. He proposes that the brides are not dead, just in a cataleptic state, and that he uses them, the young virgins, to keep her youthful. "Why, That's Preposterous!" shouts Keenan. All they need is another bride to prove it.

Pat hits up her friend, Peggy Woods (Gwen Kenyon), a starving actress, who moonlights as a cigarette girl. She's leery to say the least, but is convinced to take the role when Pat tells her, her "face will be on all the front pages, and Broadway and Hollywood Directors will be offering her contracts." (Ya gotta love that line. Things just ain't what they used to be in Tinsletown.) Just don't smell any strange orchids, (that's mine) and "Don't forget to faint at the altar." (That's Pat's.) The orchid arrives like clockwork. Pat and Dr. Foster watch as the faux wedding takes place. "Isn't it just like a real wedding, Doctor?" "Yes. Too bad it isn't......ours." "Is that a proposal?" "Yes."  Please, are  there any orchids left? I'm dying for one. 

Pat gets a message that the Reverend wants to see her, and sure enough, when she enters his office, there is Lorenz. He chloroforms her, and states he would prefer she was a bride, but she'll do. What does this mean already? He wanted the virgin brides, but what is Pat, an unwedded common trollop? He takes her back to his place, and begins the process, but Fagah, a mom first, (rule #1 Never, ever, mess with the kids.) stabs him for killing her son. Mortally wounded, but still alive, Lorenz first kills Fagah and then drops dead. The Countess prepares to draw from Pat just as Dr. Foster enters, and he kills her. The cops and Pat and her boss enter, and it's all over. "Do I get a byline yet?" she asks Keenan. "After this you can get a clothesline with my shirt on it." 

Dr. Foster and Pat have a wedding of their own. NO ORCHIDS. And once they are pronounced husband and wife, Keenan goes, "Finally make a newspaper woman out of you, and you have to go and quit!" And they all lived happily ever after, well, except for Sandy, who's held on to one of the orchids. He smells it, and collapses. 

Well, hhmmm. What can I say? Poor Bela. Just couldn't make a comeback after Karloff took his Universal seat. Should this movie be included in the "50 Greatest Horror Films"? In a word? NO! IMDB gives it a -1/10. I think that's a little harsh. It should've at least rated a zero. I have several problems with it, but if my post is half as boring as the movie, you get the picture, so to speak. So for the redeeming qualities: Luana's satin robe; when the Countess calls Toby a gargoyle and slaps Pat; some really bad writing, that is so bad, it's comical, so I had a good laugh; Frank Moran, who is so creepy, he might sweeten my dreams.  Luana did a pretty good job with the quick dialogue. I wouldn't say it was up to The Women, but she gave it a good go. She certainly wasn't Tess either, but she put in a good effort considering the script she had to deal with. I just get annoyed with copycat parts. I think Kenneth Harlan did a great job as Editor Keenan, but it was so Daily Planet's hard nosed George Taylor, that I just kept thinking, come on Mr. Fox, let's use a little imagination. All in all, I give it 1 fizzling flame on the flame scale. I hesitate to give it zero flames, I'm only on movie #3, what's if something is worse?! And Pat certainly did have a pretty satin robe, so huzzah to the costumer on that one! And Frank Moran seriously creeped me out. The frickin Perv. The Corpse Vanishes really should have vanished before it hit the big screen. Swept right off the cutting room floor. I'm not sure if it fits into Horror Movie A Day's horror genre of "crap", but it's pretty close. What do you think?

Next, it's Doomed to Die with Boris Karloff (1940).
Until next time....Keep those fires stoked.
Eternally Yours
Warden Stokely

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