Monday, October 31, 2005

Arsenic and Old Lace

Miss Maven has come full circle from "The Werewolf of London" (and "She-Wolf of London") at the beginning of October and now we're at "Arsenic and Old Lace!"
Why full circle?
The "hero" of "Werewolf . . ." was Henry Hull whose sister, Josephine Hull, plays Aunt Abby Brewster in "Arsenic . . . !
(You can check the Hull Family at www.preservehollywood.org.)
Besides, "Arsenic and Old Lace" makes a great Halloween movie with lots of atmosphere, plenty of laughs and great good acting all around.
Cary Grant plays Mortimer Brewster, a novelist with novel ideas about matrimony should be a subject that sane people should avoid at all cost.
He "comes a croppper" in more ways than one in this 1944 film.
Priscilla Lane plays Elaine Harper, the girl next door to his aunts whom Mortimer Brewster falls in love with.
Unfortunately for Mortimer, things go from matrimony to worse when they DO marry, just not the way Mortimer thought! Especially when "Teddy" Brewster does his Teddy Roosevelt charging up San Juan Hill up the stairs, complete with bugle!
Jean Adair, who played Aunt Martha Brewster, helped an ill vaudevillian named Archie Leach (Cary Grant!) back to health in the mid-twenties so it was old-home week for them on this film.
Grant sits on a tombstone in the cemetery between the Harper and Brewster homes in one scene and you can see "Archie Leach" on a nearby stone!
Dr. Einstein is played by Peter Lorre who had a little help in one scene: He falls into an open window seat and tries to light a match. The wire that's used to power the light can be seen coming out of his sleeve.
Release of this movie was delayed some three years because of the success of the stage play on which it was based.
Ironically, it was the play still being on Broadway that led to Raymond Massey in the role of Jonathan Brewster since his character goes homicidal every time someone says he looks like Boris Karloff. Karloff was playing the same role on stage as Massey was playing him in the movie!
(Raymond Massey, Cary Grant and Peter Lorre)
Miss Maven recommends that this movie might be okay for children to watch but their parents will get the most out of this gottahave picture!
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After you've seen "Arsenic and Old Lace," try
Miss Maven, Aunt Battie and Slo, Mo and Larry and their Fraternity Ghosts want to wish you a Spooktacular Halloween!
You can reach them at

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Uninvited

Aunt Battie here, still substituting for Miss Maven who has family visiting so Auntie gets to pick today's movie!
One of her favorites is The Uninvited, 1944, with Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, Gail Russell, Donald Crisp, Cornelia Otis Skinner, Dorothy Stickey, Barbara Everett and Alan Napier.
It is discussed in Classics of the Horror Film by William Everson (Citadel Press Book, New York, 1974, page 162):
In any event, the audience acceptance of ghosts on this level [World War II] undoubtedly paved the way for a romantic, but far more serious ghost story, in The Uninvited. . . .
Like so many directorial "first," this initial film by Lewis Allen remains far and away the best film he ever made. It is also quite probably the movies' best ghost story, rivaled certainly by the mirror sequence in Dead of Night, but generally quite superior to The Innocents, The Haunting [1963], The Legend of Hell House and the very few other movies that have had the integrity to take their phantoms seriously without explaining it all away as did this film's followup. The Unseen, an admirable thriller, until its last-reel collapse.
To be sure, there are flaws in the film. In its determination to avoid mere sensation, it wisely underplays, and builds up a genuinely frightening web of intangibles which cannot be explained away. . . . But on the other hand, in avoiding visual horror it avoids most of the other visual elements too; too many things are talked about that could have been shown graphically and excitingly while still keeping the supernatural content to suggestion. . . . (The exception is the eventual materialization of the ghost as a shadowy white mist. Some have felt this to be an unsubtle surrender to a need for at least one special effect, but this seems an unfair criticism.)
Aunt Battie would like to recommend The Uninvited as a gottahave on her niece Maven's Rating System.
Auntie's assistants (Slo, Mo and Larry) would like to watch it for Halloween but they and their fraternity brothers run scared out of the house to go trick-or-treating as soon as she starts the movie!!
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For a good movie for anytime of the year try
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Emails can be sent to Miss Maven, Aunt Battie,
Slo, Mo and Larry at the oldmoviemaven@yahoo.com.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

I am Miss Maven's Aunt Battie, taking over temporarily for her since she has some out-of-state visitors through Halloween.
The first tribute that Maven wanted mentioned was "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein."
She wanted to credit www.imdb.com for the following tidbits!
Glenn Strange was playing the Frankenstein monster, but during shooting one day he tripped over a camera cable and broke his ankle. Lon Chaney, Jr., (playing the Wolf Man) wasn't working that day, so he put on the Frankenstein makeup/outfit and filled in for Strange in one scene where Dr. Mornay gets thrown through the window. So Chaney wound up playing two monsters in this movie. . . .
During the final chase scene, when Bud and Lou are standing in front of a door and the Frankenstein monster punches through it, Lou was off his mark and got hit on the jaw.
The animation sequences of Dracula-as-a-bat and Dracula-changing-from-bat-to-Dracula were done by Universal-International's animator, Walter Lantz (of Woody Woodpecker fame).
Marks the first time Universal-International stopped using the effective but lengthy application time of make-up artist Jack Pierce for the monster make-up, using Bud Westmore and Jack Kevan's more cost-effective rubber appliances.
This film was such a hit that it was reportedly Univeral-International's second highest grossing film of the year.
The scene in which Wilbur (Lou Costello) is unknowingly sitting on the Franenstein Monster's (Glenn Strange) lap required multiple takes. The scene allowed Costello to improvise wildly, which caused Strange to constantly break up laughing during the takes. . . .
Three actors in this film had previously played the Frankenstein Monster. Aside from Glenn Strange who actually plays the role again, both Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney, Jr., had experience under the flat top as well.
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And that isn't even ALL of the entries for "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein!"
Aunt Battie and her assistants (Slo, Mo, and Larry) will enjoy watching it again and looking for these juicy bits!
And for more fun try
www.trilloandsuede.com/movielink.html!

Friday, October 28, 2005

House of Dracula

"The House of Dracula" (1944) is the last of our Universal classic monster movies.
Larry Talbot finally finds his cure and lives happily ever after. . . .
And then Abbott and Costello came alone four years later with their homage to Universal's monsters!
Wouldn't you know that the studio gave it a reunion of sorts while saving themselves a bit of money on actors and all?!
Shots of the Frankenstein Monster stumbling around the exploding laboratory at the film's climax were actually lifted from the film "The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942). In the long shots, stuntman Eddie Parker doubles for Lone Chaney, Jr. (Who played the Monster in that film).
Footage of Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein Monster from Bride of Frankenstein (1935) appears during a dream sequence, intermixed with footage of Glenn Strange in the same role.
This is the only film in which the character of Lawrence Talbot sports a moustache. (www.imdb.com)
Miss Maven would also like to share an interview with Jane Adams who played Nina in ". . . Dracula" from House of Dracula, edited by Philip Riley, MagicImage FilmBooks, 1993, page 23:
What was the atmosphere like on the set of "House of Dracula"?
Well, I was familiar with Onslow Stevens (as Dr. Franz Edelmann)and John Carradine (as Count Dracula), who acted on the stage at Pasadena Playhouse . . . really fine actors. On "House of Dracula," my memory is that they were ALL very serious actors, and they were sitting around, studying their scripts. The makeup was uncomfortable (for them, particularly), and my cast weighed a lot; it was made of Plaster of Paris, before they used plastics. It was all Auntie a serious thing - the script was heavy and serious.
There's a famous candid shot of you posing and laughing with Glenn Strange as Frankenstein's Monster.
Oh yes! He was a VERY nice man. EVERYBODY was on that set. Martha O'Driscoll (Miliza) was very nice, very helpful to me, because I didn't really know anything abut movie-making, having trained in stage technique at the Playhouse.
So, all in all, I just had a very rich experience. It was a great set, and a great studio.
Would that we all could have been happy little flies on the walls of THAT set, with Lon Chaney's sons visiting,don't you think?!
Miss Maven
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Thursday, October 27, 2005

House of Frankenstein

Miss Maven has some tasty tidbits for fans of "The House of Frankenstein!"
For starters, "A segment of this film was released to the 8mm home movie market by Castle films, under the title 'Doom of Dracula.' " (www.imdb.com)
Miss Maven wonders . . . if "House of Frankenstein" wasn't jazzed up enough for the 8mm home market, why didn't they use it to begin with?!
Or does that go with the goofs that imdb.com also mentions for the film?
When Dracula is thrown from the carriage, and looks up the hill to where his casket lays, half his mustache is missing.
When Larry Talbot transforms into the Wolf Man for the final time, his hands aren't made up. This can be spotted before he crashes though the glass door.
At Dracula's last moment, he clutches at this coffin with his bare hand - which suddenly has a white glove on it as he dies and turns skeletal.
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Poor Drac's mother had tried so hard to teach him that a gentleman ALWAYS had a fresh supply of clean gloves because you never know WHEN you might be in an accident!
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And coming up with something so small like trivia for so large a creature as the Frankenstein's Monster almost puts Miss Maven into a faint!
Glenn Strange became the four actor to play the Monster in Universal's Franenstein series. The actor who played the original Monster, Boris Karloff, was also present on the film playing the role of Dr. Niemann. Being on the set Karloff, was able to personally coach Strange in the way the Monster should be played.
Despite the title, this is the first of the Universal Frankenstein films in which a member of the Frankenstein family does not appear.
Bela Lugosi was passed over the role of Dracula, partly because of negotiations, partly because the studio was unhappy with his performance in "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man" . . . where he portrayed the Frankenstein Monster; and the executives decided to edit out all the Monster's dialogue from the final version. [Also from www.imdb.com]
The title "House of . . ." refers to the ruins/house owned by Ludwig Frankestein, the 2nd son of Henry Frankenstein (portrayed by Cedric Hardwicke) in the "The Ghost of Frankenstein". It's also the same 'house' where Lawrence Talbot discovers the Monster in ice in "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man"; and, of course, where Nieman discovers the Wolfman [sic] and the Monster in this film.
Originally Kharis the mummy, another Universal "classic monster', was to be in the movie but was removed because of budget restrictions.
Miss Maven, her Aunt Battie and her dear Auntie's assistants would have paid much Halloween candy to see THAT Battle Royale with the Mummy as well as those other monsters!
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For a change of pace, try
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If you have any goofs, trivia or alternate versions,
please send them to Miss Maven at

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man

"Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man" was in a class by itself according to Denis Gifford in his "A Pictorial History of Horror Movies," Hamlyn, New York, page 141:
"Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man" (1942) was conceived as a battle of the giants! The idea was vintage Laemmle: instead of teaming stars, team monsters. But Universal had set themselves a problem: both the Frankenstein Monster and the Wolf Man had last been played by the same actor, Lon Chaney. Chaney would let no one else play his Baby, so who to cast for the Monster? The problem was soon solved. Lugosi's part in the saga, Ygor, was now dead, his brain in the Monster's head, his voice in the Monster's mouth. What more natural than have Lugosi play the Monster? If he was still recognizable under [John] Pierce's makeup then that was simply Ygor showing through! Besides, there was an element of destiny that the fans would not have forgotten. Lugosi had rejected the original role twelve years earlier. Lugosi could no longer afford to be so choosy. He brought tot the Monster his own curious interpretation, a hissing evil that snarled through the makeup. His stretch-armed strutting seems senseless in context, yet was not so in shooting. For as filmed Lugosi's Monster is blind as a bat. [They goofed in giving Ygor's brain to the Monster. They had different blood types that damaged the Monster's optic nerves. Miss Maven couldn't make this up!] Pre-release shortening by the studio removed the reason for Lugosi's climatic close-upped smile: Patrick Knowles has not only restored the Monster's strength, but his sight, too!
There's a fun goof to catch during the fight between the Wolf Man and the Monster at the end of the movie.
Watch carefully when the Wolf Man gets up on the big piece of laboratory machinery and jumps the Monster below. You'll see fine wires pulling the machinery forward as Lon Chaney jumps!

That reminds Maven of what the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) has to say about "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man":
During Larry Talbot's first transformation into the Wolf Man, he goes from wearing light-colored night clothes to a dark shir and pants. When he awakens the next morning, he's back wearing the pajamas.
When Franenstein's Monster is first reveled behind the ice wall, his face is completely different than when he is shown walking with Talbot in the next scene. This is due to a different actor playing the role during the first sequence . . . .
When the monster is being recharged in Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory by Dr. Kettering, he is clearly enunciating the words, "Thank you, Dr. Kettering!" The line was deleted from the final film.
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Miss Maven loves to collect goofs and trivia about our classic movies so please send them to her at theoldmoviemaven@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Ghost of Frankenstein

Working on "The Ghost of Frankenstein" could be a bloody mess~~and in the worst way!
According to Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com):
It was reported that the rubber headpiece used for the Frankenstein monster make-up was very uncomfortable for Lone Chaney, Jr. to wear. It sat directly on his forehead and he constantly complained. Once he asked for it to be removed. Angry ad frustrated when no one listened, he ripped it off himself, tearing open a bloody gash in his forehead. Production on the film was shut down for a couple of days.
By the way, imdb.com made a boo-boo themselves in the Goof department for "Ghost . . . ." They call Dr. Frankenstein's daughter (played by Evelyn Ankers) Elsa in the cast of credits but Ilsa in the section for Goofs. Even Ilona Massey is called Elsa in "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man!"
To continue with goofs:
The first time we see the else-up for the wall plaque for "Dr. Frankenstein - Diseases of the Mind" outside his "mansion", it is hardly in such a place. If you look close to the left of the sign you'll see a ladder, wires on the ground, palm trees and a station wagon type of car.
The dramatic shadow cast by the monster's hand when first discovered by Ygor in the sulfur pit comes from a light source completely at odds with the overhead light shining down into the sulfur pit in which we see the monster encased.
When the monster appears outside Ilse's [Elsa's] window, it casts a nearly full-body shadow on the library wall, with one arm fully visible, but in the close-ups of the monster has the arm in question obscured behind the window frame. Later in the same sequence, Ygor pops up over the Monster's shoulder, yet the shadow cast seconds later shows only the monster.
Miss Maven will never be able to watch "The Ghost of Frankenstein" in quite the same way again!
Especially when they obviously used a "recuperating patient" double for the Monster after surgery.
Anyone who can tell me just who that is in all the gauze-wrappings can contact Miss Maven at theoldmoviemaven@yahoo.com!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Charlie Chan and More

So many movies and so little time during October!
Miss Maven would like to at least mention some films that she feels you might enjoy for Halloween--or any old time, for that matter.
She would also like to thank her Aunt Battie for helping in the research!
First is "Charlie Chan's Secret" with Warner Oland as the Oriental Detective in this 20th Century-Fox film.
One of Aunt Battie's favorites has our hero hired to find Allan Colby, who has been missing for years.
Why look for him?
Because the family--and others--stand to lose the Colby millions if Allan is still alive.
And if he isn't . . . ?
You can guess what happens . . . but not when and how!
Chan has to solve the mystery amidst seances, spirit music and hidden passage ways!
Charlie Chan faces seances and murder again in "Black Magic" (also known as "Meeting at Midnight").
Chan doesn't have time to solve the murder amid the spirits in this movie until he's told that daughter Frances is a suspect.
This is a Mongram movie from Sidney Toler's later period as Chan but still worth a look at.
Another Toler entry from 20th Century-Fox Studios was "Charlie Chan at Treasure Island."
It's highly rated among Chan Fans for its overall quality but great for Halloween because of Eve Cairo, a psychic, who's been influenced by Dr. Zodiac and his seances.
It also has Cesar Romero as the magician, Rhadini, a definite plus in evening clothes for any woman!
Miss Maven hopes you can get a copy of "The Black Camel," the earliest Charlie Chan movie known to exist where the detective has the role that Earl Derr Biggers gave him in his original novel by that name.
[Miss Maven has a copy of the Chan mystery basted on Derr Biggers' novel, Behind That Curtain, for various reasons.
None of them are because it was a Chan film since it was turned into a movie for Warner Baxter.]
"The Black Camel" is pretty much a straight mystery but it does have Bela Lugosi as a psychic and has one of the most effective seance scenes in the entire series. Plus it shows Warner Oland growing into his role as the best Charlie Chan, in Miss Maven's humble opinion!
"Dead Men Tell" is a great Chan entry with neat atmosphere where Charlie is on board a ship to find # 2 son, Jimmy, and they both end up with murder on their hands.
"Charlie Chan at the Wax Museum" is another straight Chan mystery, set in--gasp!--a wax museum but it has great atmosphere, complete with a thunderstorm.
"The Chinese Cat" and "The Jade Mask" are later Monogram entries with Toler as Chan but both have great atmosphere with fog all over the place!
Miss Maven would also like to mention entries in two other movie series.
The first is "The Phantom Thief" with Chester Morris as "Boston Blackie."
This is a fairly good mystery with Marvin Miller (later on tv's "The Millionaire" show) as a supposed psychic.
It's great good fun until they start explaining how it was all done, which would be as believable as them saying they all love the Internal Revenue Service in Miss Maven's humble opinion!
We have more more "psychic stuff" in "Shadows in the Night," one of Warner Baxter's Crime Doctor films.
This is also has Nina Foch among a weird bunch of people she's asked to stay with her.
Like her brother-in-law who's an actor but refuses to go to New York to find a job and a cook who "just forgot" he had a knife in his hand when he got mad.
No wonder she's having weird dreams!
We finally come to "The Crime Doctor's Courage" with what Miss Maven has "lovingly" referred to as the "vampire dancers."
Trust Maven, your children could watch this one~~just not for very long!
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Sunday, October 23, 2005

You'll Find Out

"You'll Find Out" is several movies in one . . . take your pick!
It is an old-dark-house film with Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Peter Lorre in their only film together.
It's a musical with Kay Kyser and his orchestra, featuring Harry Babbitt, Sully Mason, Ish Kabibble and Ginny Simms.
Last~~and possibly least, depending on individual tastes~~it's a comedy with lines like Ish Kabibble asking why Lugosi always wears his turban? "Because he just washed his hair and he can't do a thing with it!"
Miss Maven strongly recommends as a mustsee for the excellent suspense, music and acting.
This, the 2nd K[ay]K[Kyser] film, is now a cult classic. . . . . Kay and the band in a haunted house. Swing numbers one minute, Ish disappearing behind secret panels the next. The ONLY time (perk up, you experts) that Karloff, Lugosi and Lorre appeared in the same film. I love it, but Kay's a bit over the top in the first scene.
[It's a recreation of their radio show, "Kay Kyser and His College of Musical Knowledge. What did this guy expect?!?!]
Incredible songs. "Like the Fellow Once Said", "You've Got Me This Way", "I'd Know You Anywhere", "Once Track Mind", Ish's "Bad Humor Man (rumor has it that the song was to have been sung by the 3 Boogie Men"!! as print ads called them). [sic] A MUST for Halloween.
Miss Maven must make a confession:
This is only one of three movies that made Miss Maven nervous while watching them.
And she was watching this one in the middle of a bright Texas afternoon!
BOO to you!
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