Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Corpse Vanishes (1942)

Brides have been mysteriously dropping dead at recent weddings, and their bodies stolen. What sort of madman could be behind this? Plucky reporter Pat Hunter is determined to find out, with her sole clue being a rare orchid found at one of the weddings. This leads her to the doctor and expert horticulturist Dr. Lorenz, who's in the midst of working with the young Dr. Foster in order to help his ailing wife. Unbeknownst to Foster but suspected quickly by Pat is the doctor's sinister true motives...

Contrary to its exceedingly poor reputation, I really enjoyed The Corpse Vanishes! It's paced really well, starting off with two deadly weddings one after the other, and a solid progression of events from then on, like quickly introducing the lead protagonist, the villain, why he's doing what he's doing, and so on. Things continue moving well as Pat's clue leads her to the residence of Dr. Lorenz, and spooky things start a'happening.

The lead is fun and plucky, even if she is a bit callous. In fact, it's her delightfully ghoulish reaction to certain events that made me like her! Dr. Foster is a decent enough supporting character, even if the romance at the very end felt crammed in. Something I liked is that for the most part, characters believe what Pat has to say. Some take more convincing than others, but the relatively brief length of the film means there are very few frustrating moments where she's not taken seriously.

Dr. Lorenz, as played by Lugosi, is an effective villain, but feels a bit unclear at times. He's stealing 'dead' brides out of love for his wife (in order to use their youth to extend her life, naturally), which is a sort-of selfless motive, but at other points he acts just plain evil. I kinda wish the script fleshed him out a bit more, but it's a miracle his character is as good as it is already, given this is a Monogram cheapie.

The maid's motivations, and her role in the Doctor's downfall is set up quite well! I was a little disappointed with the execution though. The sudden reveal] that Rossito's character was also the maid's son is wholly unnecessary, as she already had perfectly established motivations, and the fact that Pat barely aids in resolving the climax is frustrating. That bugs me, but oh well, I guess I can live with it. What I can't though is the cringeworthy ending!

Coming to the acting, Bela Lugosi is of course great, while Luana Walters is an entertaining heroine, the ookily named Tristram Coffin is a serviceable 'sidekick', and the remaining cast members all doing a fine to merely ok job. Elizabeth Russel is fine as the Countess, but a bit too successful in being annoying at times. Her accent is ok, but it is amusing hearing her talking with clear effort put into every words she speaks to maintain accent, while the Hungarian Lugosi speaks effortlessly. There's a small role by Angelo Rossito (who I always get mixed with with Angelo Muscat), and he's used decently.

The dialogue in The Corpse Vanishes is mostly serviceable, and amusingly cheesy in places.
Pat: "New? It's sensational! Another kidnapping of a dead bride-What a story!"
Then there's the uber-romantic proposal between the two leads that have known each-other a grand total of a single day. Pat: "It looks just like a real wedding, doesn't it."-Foster: "Yes. Too bad it isn't...ours."-Pat: "Is that a proposal, Dr. Foster?"-Foster: "It certainly is!".
More utterly groanworthy dialogue to close the movie out: Boss: "You've got a headline to write after this"- Pat: "Do I get a byline?"-Boss: "After this you can get a clothesline, with my shirt on it."

The direction by Wallace Fox is very well done, with atmospherically shot sequences, playing around with shadow in a spooky manner.

The Corpse Vanishes is a highly enjoyable spooky time! It ticks all the boxes it needs to, even if it does have its flaws, and I recommend it if you want to watch some old-fashioned horror with one of the genre greats in a role at least slightly befitting of his talents...

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