Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Bela Lugosi's Career in Comedy

Horror legend Bela Lugosi acted in many different genres during his years in Hungary and Germany, and even a few in the States, but once he appeared in 1931's Dracula, his career was firmly sealed. He would become primarily pigeonholed in horror films,   He had a great/deep love for the genre, though resented being typecast. It's for this reason that he seemed to relish doing horror-comedies, because they allowed him more freedom, and let him not only play these roles/parts sincerely, but also gently poke fun at these stories.

Spooks Run Wild (1941)

A band of unruly youths are sent to a camp out in the wilderness. Once night falls they almost immediately run away, some for dates, others for nights out on the town. They end up waylaid in the local forest however, and stumble into a spooky old house, where  Remembering the news of a violent 'monster' on the loose, the gang come to the conclusion that they're trapped with him, and try and figure out a plan to survive the night...

[A famous comedy series b= in the = days of Hollywood were the East Side Kids gang. They went by a few different names, including the Dead End kids, and the Bowery Boys, but were pretty much the same =. All in all they spanned over/across 68 films! With this many =, they'd sometimes = different genres, as with today's picture, Spooks Run Wild!]

Boy, was this a film that tried my patience! Spooks Run Wild starts out decently, introducing all the characters to us, and setting up the story. But as soon as the teens end up in the creepy mansion the story grinds to a halt!

The story is pretty minimal and throwaway. There's a monstrous killer on the loose (who the paper feels free to refer to as a literal monster, strangely enough), and they're believed to be roosting in the abandoned Billings house on the top of the hill, thanks to the hearsay of a nosey gas station attendant

although there were many points during the film when I thought 'If you assholes just went to sleep, you would  scary!'

The mystery is barely there. For the whole movie Bela is presented as the baddie, while the fleetingly seen Dr. = is like a Van Helsing figure. However, all through the film I smelled a rat. I had a feeling there'd be a twist about Bela, and he'd really be a harmless =, and the doc would be the real baddie. I won't spoil =, but there is nothing to spoil with Dr. =. He only gets like three scenes in the whole movie! And he's a weirdo too, so the twist is kinda obvious.

weird elements such as the graveyard's caretaker, who upon seeing Bela and Angelo standing beside a grave, immediately tries to shoot them! Look, dude, I get you don't want trespassers after hours, but maybe you could try telling them to leave rather than instantly resort to murder? The dude could just be a = mourner! But it gets worse. The = boys = through the graveyard, and guess who immediately fires upon a group of teenagers without a word! What an asshole!

Their dialogue is a little strange sometime though. What bad boys know what thyme and citronella are?

[Richard and Linda] are the responsible adults taking care of the gang, and there seems to be a bit of animosity =, as well as concern from Linda when they go missing, so she goes off on her own to look. Apparently even the producer/writer didn't know where she went, because she disappears for the next half hour! I was disappointed with how little character these two got. They were all shaping up to =, but then get ignored, and barely appear.

Despite knowing practically nothing about him, besides a few tantalising hints, the sinister = is a great presence   His diminutive sidekick is good too, though a little underused.

The film's true villain is a bit of a let-down .When he first appears he talks like the hero, but sounds so weirdly clinical and =, as if he's a robot. Then when he shows his true colours he's alright, though unremarkable.

The comedy in Spooks Run Wild was like everything else for me, hit and miss. Some moments didn't really work, and there's a plethora of cringy dad jokes ("How can you read in the dark?"-"I went to night school."), but other lines are great! It's Scruno who gets some of the best dialogue,

Sunshine Sammy Morrison  on the other hand is great!  talented, getting many of the movie's best lines, and = chemistry with everyone else.

"That's exactly what I don't mean nothin' else but!"
"Ah you're yella!" "I'm I'm yellow, you'se colourblind!"

Whether he's the villain or not, Bela still delivers a great performance, both charming   There's also a very welcome Angelo Rossito, complete with a snazzy matching outfit!

The music is reminiscent of other Monogram horror pictures such as The Ape Man, and is pretty good, even if it did feel a little at odds with some scenes. Nothing major, and it's overall a fine addition to the movie.

Spooks Run Wild isn't a bad film, and it's certainly worth watching for Lugosi, who's in top form here both as a scary and comedic presence, but the film overall isn't that great. At least it's never offensively bad or anything, and =.

Ghosts on the Loose (1943)

There's a wedding in the air as = Glimpy's sister is walking down the aisle. The ceremony goes well, but the

I was afraid going into Ghosts on the Loose that it'd just be a carbon copy of Spooks Run Wild. It's got all the same ingredients-The East Side Kids, comedy and horror, and Bela Lugosi! How does it fare though? Surprisingly different! Although while it is a better movie than the spiritual predecessor, I did still have some issues with it.

Ghosts on the Loose lies to us from the get go, as the whole first half focuses more on wedding preparations than a haunted house! These scenes are amusing and harmless enough, and never boring (and I guess I can appreciate the novelty of a wedding in a comedy going off without a hitch!), though I couldn't help but be annoyed at how much time was being spent with this [preamble.]

When the movie finally gets its act together and focuses on what it was supposed to, it's alright, though very light on plot for a long spell. We mainly just see the gang seeing one spooky thing, then another 

The plot finally starts moving forward when the gang finds a subversive printing press in the basement, and realise the true occupants of the house are some Nazzi scum! This highlights something that's simultaneously a problem and a = to the film. On one hand, if the villains are just spies, that kinda eliminates anything spooky from the plot. But on the other hand, this does help differentiate it from Spooks Run Wild

The climax is ok since things are finally happening, though has a few annoying elements. Since there was only 10 minutes left I thought the police would instantly believe the kids, but nope! They come, then go, come and go, they believe them, they don't, they do, they don't, etc. Then there's the final battle, which consists entirely of the bad guys getting hit by mops/brooms one by one, even Bela! Just one bop to the head and he's down for the count!

The ending is really weird, with a gag I didn't see coming. The scene is funny, but man! You'll know it when you see it.

While the scares here don't really feel that = since we know they're not ghosts or anything, they still look fun and creative, from the empty portrait everyone stands in, to the alternate paintings they swap out to disorient the unwelcome visitors.

The comedy here is alright, and moderately successful. There's not as much funny dialogue here, but there is an increase in amusing malapropisms. The movie's humour comes more from the situations the characters find themselves in.

The characters here are ok. Muggs is more likeable than in the last entry. He's actually a bit of a boy scout this time round! The lack of edge doesn't really take much away from his character, and makes him more bearable than anything else. The rest are all on par with how they acted last time round. That is, they were amusing enough even if I could barely tell them apart. Nothing special though for the most part.

The villains are pretty mediocre, just by-the-numbers spies. The same goes for Bela's character, who's pretty unremarkable, with no real personality. Only the actor adds anything to the role, and there's only so much he can do with limited screentime.

The actors here all do good jobs. The kids don't really get as much time to shine individually as the last film, but each get something to do, and never feel wasted. = and = are a nice enough couple, and likewise get enough screentime, =. Surprisingly, despite playing an older sister, Gardner was 5 years younger than Leo Gorcey!

Bela Lugosi meanwhile is good as the head spy. Since he's not playing a ghoul he doesn't get the same opportunities to cut loose with evil laughs and =, but he still gets some spooky moments. Just a shame he doesn't appear more. The rest of the villains do ok jobs with what they're given, even if it isn't much.

One hilariously shocking moment comes courtesy of Lugosi being Hungarian. When he's = in the picture frame and sneezes, he goes "Hapchi!", which is how Eastern Europeans sneeze. Chances are though most viewers aren't aware of such things, and it sounds more like he's going "Ah shit!"

The music here is quite good. The spooky tracks are effective enough, while the gang does a surprisingly ok job as a choir! I thought they'd be horrible, and while they won't necessarily win awards, they weren't bad and it was endearing seeing this = bunch singing some = for a wedding.

Ghosts on the Loose isn't a comedy or horror classic or anything, but it's an alright time. It improves on some problems I had with the previous film, falls victim to some of the same issues, and  some entirely new ones. But it's not bad, and is hardly a waste of time.

Zombies on Broadway (1945)

12:27, 16:44, 21, 23, 25:50, 30:24, 32:05, 40:39, 43:10, 53:45,

Zombies on Broadway is a fun film with an interesting premise, which opens itself up to a lot of =. The film thankfully lives up to this and then some, with a great pace and a = that goes from the = of the city where gangsters roam, to a spooky island, where sinister experiments are taking place.

The set-up

The only problem is that Dr. Renault's story isn't really resolved satisfactorily. He just gets bopped on the head, and the heroes leg it off the island.

This is partially made up for though by what happens next. In a film from the 1940s, we get a proper denouement! It's very good too, resolving all the previous threads in a really funny way.

The characters in Zombies on Broadway are a truly great bunch!

As for the minor characters, there are so many to choose from! Many are one scene wonders, from Sam the 'zombie', to the jittery janitor, the kooky curator, and the reporter with a grudge, and two goons. Even the singer who serenades the main duo on their arrival to the island leaves one heck of an impression! It's a shame these = didn't appear

Bela Lugosi does a great job here. While the movie may be a comedy, he delivers a serious performance, which contrasts very well with the = surroundings. Good comedy is also knowing when to take things seriously just as much it is not.


The location in Zombies on Broadway is great. The island looks spooky and evocative, and the doctor's = home is =. This contrasts nicely with the glitzy broadway scenes too.


Zombies on Broadway is a great comedy flick, and an unsung gem! Mixing the two genres to great effect, and filled with = performances, = scares, and = laughs, it's well worth a watch [even if it didn't have the draw of Bela Lugosi]...

Genius at Work (1946)

Genius at Work is the second collaboration with = and = to have a horror-comedy tone to it, but this time round we don't just have Bela Lugosi, but Lionel Atwill too! Sounds like a great mix, and thankfully it's a great movie! It starts off interestingly, getting us introduced and invested in this Cobra case, and the leads. The setting and their occupations is =, and = for the film

The movie flits effortlessly from scene to scene, with there being a few distinct sections, each at different locations.

Lastly there's an action-packed and energetic and action-packed climax   also neat is that simple pistols are as loud as cannons, and as powerful too! It can be annoying when the media acts as if pistols are like BB guns.   I didn't mind  since they already contributed to the ambush, and it's hilarious to watch as they try and escape the firefight only to end up smack bang in the middle in the craziest way! I didn't like that they didn't get Marsh though. At least it seemed they were able to get Stone, though it woulda been satisfying if they'd nabbed the main villain themselves too  But then the police get him too!

The very end disappointed me. Not only did the heroes not stop the villains, but the movie just abruptly stops with a Dad joke, and that's it! No loose ends are tied up, and Elaine is never seen again. Which man did she end up with? I wanna know!

The characters in Genius at Work are a real highlight, and carry everything well [on their shoulders]. Mike and Jerry are entertaining, never annoying, and =.

What surprised me is how intelligent the duo are allowed to be! They're a couple of dopes for the most part as you'd expect, but there are moments, one in particular, where they're really allowed to shine, and even a chump like Mike works out the key to the mystery! I can't understate how much life it breathes into such characters when they may be stupid some of the time, but show [such] glimmers of intelligence. It's these moments that justify the title too, which at first seems very un-indicative of the story, but works. In the Clutches of the Cobra perhaps would've been better though!

Getting to the villains, they're something special too! Atwill is the main villain as = Marsh, while Bela is the subordinate. But they've got a good dynamic! Stone isn't just a = butler, but definitely a = partner in crime. He's not afraid to speak his mind or give his opinions, and you can tell Marsh values his judgement, and he gives him many important tasks as the film goes on. Each get plenty to do, and neither feel wasted.

effects   use of green screen is bloody impressive! Either that or these were real stunts, with the lead actors. If so, kudos! Also I wouldn't wanted to have been 'em!

Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (1952)

The city of London has been rocked by a serious of mysterious disappearances. The victims were all attractive young women, and their abduction is believed to be the work of The Vampire, a sinister European villain of a possibly supernatural origin Middle-aged shopkeeper Mrs. Riley is butting heads with the rent collector, as usual when she receives a letter telling her she's inheriting her late uncle's fortune. She's all set to get the package in the mail, unaware there's been a mix-up,

Back in the 1930s onwards, = comedian Arthur Lucan found himself a nice niche as a drag performer, playing the character of Mother Riley. He was a big success, acting and writing in = films, until his death in 195=. Knowing nothing about him going into this film I was afraid he'd be really cringy and annoying, but much to my surprise, he was very good! Loud and =, and not for everyone, but I found him to be very fun. He nails  and he never oversells it. He's over the top, but never obnoxiously so I felt. Not so in your face that he's practically sitting in your lap.

The story gets off to a rip-roaring start. Many films in the 1940s utilised Bela Lugosi poorly, often having him stand around doing nothing but look scary/handsome. Here though we get plenty of him right out of the gate, showing that even in his twilight years, Bela still had the goods if he had the right script! Nothing can keep him down in this movie!

As we all know, Britain was behind America by several decades (in a good way), so while it may have been the 50s already, this was still a classical time for the U.K. Mother Riley Meets the Vampire definitely has a golden-age feel to it. The film has a definite working-class tone to it, with a load of fun local accents present.

Where I felt the movie faltered was in the presentation of the second half. It's not necessarily bad in it of itself, but because the first half was so action-packed and story heavy, in a way it feels like the movie has downgraded when we're now just treated to Mrs. Riley's shenanigans in the house while the villains barely appear. Having the first half be a more laidback mystery as the goofy characters figure out what's going on, then a more story-driven second half, but things are reversed, making for a kinda unsatisfying second half.

final fight   brawl  fight with the robot  The robot actually seems to disappear too for a considerable amount of time. I forgot it was even there! Thankfully he returns big-time for this last scene, so I didn't mind too much. Once  there's a chase scene through the bustling = roads of England, and it's pretty fun, and not too long. There are a few amusing bumps and scrapes =.

Then there's the ending, which was downright annoying! Mrs. Riley doesn't contribute to the capture of the villain at all! She's juuust about to, but then the police arrest him, and she just randomly flies off the boat

Many scenes here are distinct and amusing, and some can a bit weird too, but never overly so. Though some scenes here and there stretch credulity a little, like how oblivious the local cop is when seeing a truckload of wrapped up bodies being taken into the creepy house! Nothing to see here, just a load of corpses, nothing to do with the Vampire!

The comedy here is often effective, with funny lines, amusing situations, and a variety of things going on. Mother Riley as a character brings a lot of the humour to the table, with dialogue like "Your manners are positively disgustorating", and her interactions with the vampiric Lugosi work very well!

Mother Riley is a fine protagonist, dopey enough to be amusing, but not so stupid that she can't tell what's going on after a while. She's pretty proactive too! When she discovers the kidnapped victims, she heads straight for the police. When they don't believe her she beats them up and goes right back, to deal with things herself! Nervous maid Tilly is a fun sidekick, who gets her moments, and has fun interactions with the other cast members.

Count von Housen is a great villain. While it may have been done to cater to the local censorship (vampires were forbidden from children's/family films), I dug the concept of a supervillain pretending to be a vampire for the image. The movie handles it well, though after the halfway mark he never really does anything vampir-y.

variety of henchmen, from a cackling little =, to a firm = German mistress, and a guy who dresses like an American rancher but talks kinda like Peter Lorre. They're a fun bunch

The only characters I feel were wasted by the script was the kidnapped girl and her sailor boyfriend, who are almost entirely/completely ignored. They seem nice enough from what we see of them. = is a goodhearted guy who can take a wallop to protect/save his love, and Julia is a crafty girl who doesn't let her capture and imminent death/demise stop her from tricking the villain.

The effects in Mother Riley Meets the Vampire are surprisingly good! Some props do seem cheap in places, such as the super lightweight mummies. Where the movie shines is the robot! Unlike many other 1950s b-movies, with their boxy robots made of fridge parts or cardboard tubing, this actually looks like an honest-to-goodness robot! It's intricately designed too, in a way that goes real effort was put into designing and creating this.

The music here is a nice variety of the familiar Mother Riley tunes ,which are suitably jaunty, and spooky =. There's also a musical number =, which may be familiar to those who've watched the Jeeves and Wooster =! It's a fun rendition of Tweet Tweet, Hush Hush, with altered lyrics to suit the new context. Another moment aaalmost leads into a song, but then it just sorta stops, and the characters keep talking as normal.

The acting here is all very good. Arthur Lucan is a fine lead. He seems obviously weird and in drag at first, but after a while he inhabits the character so well that you kinda/almost forget he even is in drag. He might grate on some, but I enjoyed Lucan quite a bit. He does a great job straddling the line between too much and just right, always landing on the latter side.

Bela Lugosi is fantastic in this movie! He gets a big meaty role where he can be spooky, charming, and diabolical, all in one! It's a joy seeing him get such a substantial part and he doesn't disappoint. His entourage all do fine jobs too, including Ian Wilson as Hitchcock. He kinda looks like a young Lugosi himself the way he's done up. I enjoyed him, and felt he was a great manic mad scientist in his own right.

Dora Bryan is nice enough as Tilly. Also present as her boyfriend is Richard Wattis! I SWORE/swore I recognised him from his voice, even if he looked a little different, but I figured he'd be too big name for a production like this...But then I realised this is from 1952, so he probably wasn't that famous yet, and lo and behold it is him!

To finish, Mother Riley Meets the Vampire may not be to everyone's tastes, but I found it to be a very amusing classical comedy, and it really gives its starts the best to do!

Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952)

Nightclub entertainers Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo are stranded on a tropical island after a plane crash en-route to Guam. They're found and nursed back to health by the local tribe. Duke soon falls in love with the beautiful princess Non//la, who tells the duo of the only other white man on the island-One Dr. Zabor. The man is friendly at first, and willing to help Duke and Sammy in any way he can, but he soon turns out to have a hidden agenda

The amazingly titled Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla is known as being an infamously terrible movie, and at first glance it's easy to see why, but I went into this film with an open mind, and was pleasantly surprised! It's a thoroughly entertaining b-movie

What surprised me most about Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla is that it's progressive in three different way! It's showing a strong and capable woman, an indigenous tribal woman who knows full well of the outside world's history and =, and one who's adept at science! Of course, I do question how this small island tribe was able to afford to send someone to college, and it is a little weird at times how this simple tribal girl rattles off so many = things, but overall it's handled pretty well.

S  it race    The film never condescends  them, and while they're primitive by = standards, they're not stupid, know full well of the modern education system, and are never portrayed as barbarous cannibals or anything (although Bela Lugosi versus an army of cannibals sounds awesome!

found their romance to be sweet and authentic.

While he can be over the top in a Jim Carrey-ish way, and his laugh sounds like a dying seal, Sammy Petrillo is actually quite good! He's a great impressionist, and his acting is =. He can be annoying at times (although in fairness he is meant to be), but other times he really sells the role.

Duke Mitchell meanwhile is perfectly acceptable as the team's straight man. Good looking, kindhearted, kinda sounds like Eddie Mekka. He didn't wow me, but there's nothing wrong with him either

Overall, the two share a really good chemistry with each-other, playing off [each-other well]

The rest of the actors

But where are my manners. It's time to talk about Bela Lugosi! He does very well, = both scary and funny, and he's clearly having a good time.   He takes about 20 minutes to show up, then appears pretty consistently, although doesn't get to do quite as much as I would've liked. He's never underused, but you might get a 10 minute block where his only scenes are just silently glowering or something.

The movie has a couple of musical numbers, which aren't half bad, although Mitchell/Duke's voice is not what you'd expect! It kinda sounds like a [bad] Elvis impression with an almost muffled quality, like he's got his teeth clenched or is singing underwater.

Now for the film's backstory, which is a tale and a half, and quite frankly Jerry Lewis doesn't come out if it smelling of roses. The dude hired Petrillo to be a Jerry Lewis clone, then got pissy when he acted like a Jerry Lewis clone. He also acted as if a high pitched = was a trademarked idea copyrighted solely to him. Seems to me Lewis was bein' too big for his britches!

In further detail, the man recognised Petrillo's talents and imitations, and hired him, but promptly stuck him on a shelf for =. Feeling constrained and wanting to =, Petrillo's father got him out of the contract, and he struck out on his own in the nightclub scene, meeting fellow = Duke Mitchell and teaming up, to some success. Eventually the duo landed some pretty = gigs, and a movie deal, but an irate Lewis began putting pressure on all the nightclub chains, forcing them to blackball them. They could've said no, but 'What if Martin and Lewis perform here someday? We don't wanna risk that!'. Typical. I doubt those two would let themselves be seen by an less than 5000 people though, for any less than millions of dollars.

His cronies even tried buying the negatives for this film in order to destroy it    While Lewis's son said it was always a tense moment in the house whenever Petrillo's name was mentioned (can't imagine why when he was the aggrieved party! Dude just made a movie where he acted a bit like you, he didn't kill your wife, mate!), Petrillo himself was always an upbeat soul whenever the drama was mentioned. He looked on the bright side, =, and always had fun. Whether he was pissed off inside, he still channelled his feelings into being the better man

So to finish, Jerry Lewis could be a real piece of work sometimes, but Lou Costello always had a  heart of gold!

19:30, 26:15, 49, gorilla, 1:05:31  a film of misfits typecast actors seen as has-beens, put-upon = entertainers, and =!  great imagery, like Bela's tribal henchman grabbing a = to drink as he reclines in his master's fancy chair

A bitter actor would no doubt make some film totally tearing such films to shreds, but Lugosi always had such a good time in these films, and they were never harsh or mean, and always a fun time!..
Whether you like this film/these films or not, one thing you can't deny is that it/they sure respected Bela Lugosi

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