The Bela Lugosi Box - 15 Frightful Films 2006 Horror Movie Review
Horror movies Review
In this creepy collection of 15 feature films, Bela Lugosi’s villainous versatility is shown off to its best advantage with powerful performances that span more than four decades - from the silent cinema through the Ed Wood years. Most are outright horror films, but some are melodramas, detective stories, and even a few borderline comedies.
Lugosi was, of course, the definitive Dracula - a role he created on the Broadway stage in 1927 and immortalized on film in 1931. But Bela was so much more than the caped count. Classically trained on the Hungarian stage, he played everyone from Romeo to Jesus before becoming Hollywood’s most recognizable vampire.
Bela Lugosi had such a strong presence, he’s always memorable - even if some of his films are forgettable. As a bonus, horror great Christopher Lee hosts an affectionate salute to Bela. This 5-disc collection is truly a treat for fans of horror and classic cinema!
THE MIDNIGHT GIRL (1925) WHITE ZOMBIE (1932) THE DEATH KISS (1932) THE MYSTERIOUS MR. WONG (1934) THE RETURN OF CHANDU (1934) CHANDU ON THE MAGIC ISLAND (1935) THE DARK EYES OF LONDON (THE HUMAN MONSTER) (1939) THE DEVIL BAT (1941) THE CORPSE VANISHES (1942) BOWERY AT MIDNIGHT (1942) THE APE MAN (1943) SCARED TO DEATH (1947) GLEN OR GLENDA? (1953) BRIDE OF THE MONSTER (1955) PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1959) (BONUS) 100 YEARS OF HORROR: BELA LUGOSI
(hosted by Christopher Lee)
DISC ONE (Silent & Early Classics - 1925-1932)
The Midnight Girl (1925) - Lila Lee, Bela Lugosi. Here is Bela six years before Dracula, in his first substantial film role, playing an amoral opera patron who schemes to seduce a sexy singer (Lee of The Unholy Three) who is romantically involved with his rival - his own stepson! 62 mins.
White Zombie (1932) - Bela Lugosi, Madge Bellamy. Classic atmospheric horror tale of an evil witch doctor (Lugosi) who turns a lovely woman (Bellamy of The Iron Horse) into a zombie so that she can satisfy his dastardly desires. Many of the scenes were shot on sets left over from Dracula the previous year. 67 mins.
The Death Kiss (1932) - Bela Lugosi, David Manners, Edward Van Sloan. 74 mins. In this engrossing whodunit set in a movie studio, Lugosi plays a Hollywood producer who is accused of murdering his leading man. The film reunites Bela with two co-stars from the previous year’s Dracula: Manners, and Van Sloan.
TOTAL: Approx. 203 mins.
DISC TWO (More Early Classics - 1934-1935)
The Mysterious Mr. Wong (1934) - Bela Lugosi, Wallace Ford, Arline Judge. An evil Chinese genius (Hungarian-born Lugosi!) will stop at nothing - not even murder - to acquire 12 gold Confucius coins, but an intrepid reporter (Ford of Freaks) and his wisecracking receptionist (Judge of George White’s Scandals) are hot on his trail. 62 mins.
The Return of Chandu (1934) - Bela Lugosi, Maria Alba, Lucien Preval. Lugosi (in a rare sympathetic role) is a mysterious magician who uses his white magic to try and save an Egyptian princess (Alba of Hell’s Heroes) from the evil clutches of a high priest (Preval of Hell’s Angels) who wants to sacrifice her! This is actually the first half of the 12-chapter Return of Chandu serial. 60 mins.
Chandu on the Magic Island (1935) - Bela Lugosi, Maria Alba. Chandu (Lugosi) must leave the side of Princess Nadji (Alba), which allows the evil Voice of Ubasti to transport her to a sinister island where she is once again slated to be sacrificed. This is actually the second half of the 12-chapter Return of Chandu serial. 65 mins.
TOTAL: Approx. 187 mins.
DISC THREE (Mid-Career Horrors - 1939-1942)
The Dark Eyes of London (The Human Monster) (1939) - Bela Lugosi, Hugh Williams. Lugosi, at his cruelest and most heartless, is an evil doctor who operates a house for destitute blind men - whom he then drowns in the Thames for their insurance money! This extremely effective chiller was based on a story by Edgar Wallace, who penned King Kong. 75 mins.
The Devil Bat (1941) - Bela Lugosi, Suzanne Kaaren. Lugosi plays a sinister scientist who exacts revenge on the colleagues who took credit for one of his discoveries by splashing a special perfume on them and then sending out a giant bat to attack them! Loads of fun. The damsel in distress is Suzanne Kaaren, who played the sexy dancer in Disorder in the Court opposite The Three Stooges. 68 mins.
The Corpse Vanishes (1942) - Bela Lugosi, Angelo Rossitto. One of Bela’s better Monogram efforts, in which he plays a mad scientist (what, again?) who uses a sadistic dwarf (Rossitto of Freaks) to help him kill virgin brides and extract their spinal fluid to keep his ancient wife young and beautiful. 63:00
TOTAL: Approx. 206 mins.
DISC FOUR (More Forties Horrors - 1942-1947)
Bowery At Midnight (1942) - Bela Lugosi, Wanda McKay, Tom Neal. Lugosi is a criminal mastermind who operates a soup kitchen (once again, for the blind) that’s actually a front for a murderous gang. Film noir favorite Tom Neal (Detour) is Bela’s chief henchman. 62:00
The Ape Man (1943) - Bela Lugosi, Wallace Ford. In a daring departure from earlier roles, Lugosi plays a mad scientist. This time, he has managed to turn himself into a half-human half-gorilla who spends the rest of the film trying to reverse the process (with the help of a whole gorilla) by injecting himself with the spinal fluid (again) of his murder victims. 64 mins.
Scared to Death (1947) - Bela Lugosi, George Zucco, Angelo Rossitto. Lugosi’s only color film is an old dark house story told in flashback by a body in the morgue (a device Billy Wilder later tried - and abandoned - with Sunset Boulevard). This time, Zucco (The Mummy’s Hand) is the evil scientist, with Lugosi on hand as a mysterious hypnotist who is (mysteriously) accompanied by a sadistic dwarf (Rossitto again). 68:00
TOTAL: Approx. 194 mins.
DISC FIVE (The Ed Wood Years - 1953-1959)
Glen or Glenda? (1953) - Bela Lugosi, Ed Wood, Dolores Fuller. Ed Wood’s transvestite trifecta: He wrote, directed, and stars as a man who is afraid to tell his girl friend (Wood’s real-life girl friend, Fuller) that he likes to dress in women’s clothing. Lugosi plays a scientist (not particularly mad or evil this time) who babbles strange sayings about devils, snails, and puppy dogs’ tails. 71 mins.
Bride of the Monster (1955) - Bela Lugosi, Tor Johnson. Bela is back in his element as a mad scientist, this time determined to turn his victims into super-strong giants using atomic energy. He’s assisted by his hulking man-beast servant, Lobo (Johnson). The infamous rubber octopus had originally been created for the 1948 John Wayne adventure Wake of the Red Witch. 69 mins.
Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) - Gregory Walcott, Mona McKinnon, Bela Lugosi. Legendary so-awful-it’s-wonderful classic about a pilot and his wife (Walcott and McKinnon) who are terrorized by space aliens and the walking dead. Since Bela died after shooting only a few brief scenes, most of the footage of the caped figure features a double, played by Ed Wood’s wife’s chiropractor. 79 mins.
(BONUS) 100 Years of Horror: Bela Lugosi - Another horror legend - Christopher Lee - hosts this fascinating look at the life and career of the cinema’s most-famous Dracula, using classic film clips, newsreel footage, and interviews with those who knew him. 25 mins.
TOTAL: Approx. 244 mins. GRAND TOTAL: Approx. 1034 mins./17.25 hrs.