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Favorite Universal Horror Films (Lugosi, Karloff or Chaney Jr.?)


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I'm taking a break from watching my just-purchased Universal Horror Classic Movie Archive. I'm now half-way through "Horror Island" which is proving to be a real bore. It's not a shock classic. It's a mystery with attempts at humor made throughout. The monster is actually a guy in a black cloak who spends his time running from room to room. You wonder why Universal didn't include "The Mad Ghoul", along with the very seldom seen Gale Sondergarrd classic, "Spider Woman Strikes Back." This;is a priceless gem that hasn't been telecast or seen in decades. I remember Brenda Joyce as the heroine who visits the Spider Woman for some reason. "Murders in the Rue Morgue" is a delicious shiver-fest and I love those Germanic expressionistic sets. Sidney Fox as the heroine is a nightmare in itself. She was a suicide in the early 40s from an overdose of pills. Her career certainly didn't take off, although she was rumored to have had an affair with the young Carl Laemmle Jr., who was responsible for her getting plum roles for awhile, especially the starring role in "Bad Sister," which was Bette Davis' first movie in l930.

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princessananka, I adore your posts, and you've made me chomping at the bit to see Acquanetta.

I saw CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN literally decades ago, and I have only vague memories.

 

I'm a MUMMY'S CURSE fan ("The mummy's on the loose and he's dancin' with the devil!")

but frankly think Ramsay Ames looks more like a princess than Mrs. Olson....

 

Not many people talk about Louise Albritton in SON OF DRACULA. (both are underrated) While

Evelyn Ankers is almost criminally underused as her blonde, sweet "good" sister, Louise's dark sharp beauty is in perfect contrast to that, and a wonderful effect is the way her voice changes after her "transformation" -- it becomes monotone, "dead".

 

But from what I remember, Evelyn gets to shine as good/bad girl in THE MAD GHOUL. I'd love to take a look at that again.

 

Message was edited by: Bronxgirl48

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Kids--I am also a biig fan of Son Of Dracula-and Robert Siodmak is a superb director,

from what I've read when the two actresses stood side by side Siodmak thought they

looked too much alike, so he had Louise Allbriton fitted with a black wig, that way she would not be confused with Miss Ankers--the only drawback for me was the casting of Lon Chaney Jr. as Count Alucard--with his Mr. Potato Head face---and his chunky phisique-just didn't make it.

 

:

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Agree about Siodmak; great sidebar re: the black wig; I did not know that!

 

I have problems with Lon as well, but for me he does manage to convey physical strength of the vampire at the very least. However, "suavity" is not exactly his forte.

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Here's another delicious tidbit about the making of "Son of Dracula." The director said in an interview in a collection of interviews with horror directors in the 90s that while filming it, Lon Chaney was drinking more heavily than usual. For some reason, he became furious at Siodmak and came up from behind him and smashed a vase over his head. Dunno whether Chaney thought this was one of those break-away vases used in fight scenes but production was shut down while Siodmak was rushed to the hospital with blood streaming down this face and needing many stitches. Seems like this production had oodles of behind-the-scenes action that matched what was going on in front of the cameras. By the way, I think Chaney looked sexy and handsome in a cold, macho way as Count Dracula. That moustache and and slicked back hair gave him a sexy flair. Poor Evelyn Ankers definitely got gyped in her secondary, goodie-goodie role. No wonder she was fed up with movie-making by this time!

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Hello, princess! Wonderful behind-the-scenes info on SON; my stars, Lon was really acting out, wasn't he? Wonder if he "used" that anger for the part, like when he was throttling various victims.

I'd love to know Louise Albritton's back story -- she impressed me so much in this part, such a natural for horror film roles; but I think she did more comedy, didn't she? I don't feel too sorry for lovely Evelyn, because she got to go home to (sigh) Richard Denning, one of my sci-fi/horror heartthrobs. Chaney was effective as Alucard and yes, he did possess a cold masculinity, and was rather frightening in a very down-to-earth sort of way.

 

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Lon was miscast as the "Son" of Dracula and he never claimed he was the son..i didn't see any adoption papers...or proof of birth certificate saying he was a Dracula

I like SOD, but Lon was too hulking of a Dracula and didnt have that special facial character that makes looking at Drac so menacing ala Lugosi and Lee

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Hi, Bronxgirl, I,too,love your postings and always eagerly look to see what you've written. You're always on the mark and really know your movies! I remember Louise Albritton saying in an interview that she loved making "Son of Dracula" because it was such a change.She also went onto say how much she enjoyed working with Evelyn Ankers but said nothing about Lon Chaney. Ankers wrote in a delightful foreward to the book, "Classic B Movies" about how much she detested Lon Chaney and had absolutely no fond memoris of him at all! She also said that during the filming of "Weird Woman", she, Anne Gwynee and Elizabeth Russell laughed hysterically between shots about the idea that anyone could find Lon Chaney so attractive that they'd kill for him. Ramsay Ames also had bad experiences with Chaney during filming of "Mumym's ghost." She refused to say what those problems were to the interviewer but another source said that Chaney was usually pie-eyed drunk by twelve noon and Ames was afraid he'd trip and fall in the swamp with her and also while carrying her up that steep ramp at the end. Chaney must have been a handful to work with. And yes, I agree with you--Richard Denning was a major **** and I've always loved his swim-suit scenes in "Creature from the Black Lagoon." What an Adonis!

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Greetings, ladies.

 

Re Lon Chaney:

 

I've read Evelyn Ankers' comments in her introduction to the book The Golden Age of B Movies by Doug McClelland and it is true that she does make there some of the negative statements the princess reports, but I've also read interviews with other co-stars of his, including Patricia Morison, Elena Verdugo, and Virginia Christine who spoke favorably of their experiences and impressions of Chaney as an actor and as a person.

 

I guess, as with so many reminiscences of this type, it depends on who is speaking.

 

As to SON OF DRACULA, my judgment may be colored by the fact that I first saw, enjoyed and was scared by this film when I was a kid, but I always thought that Chaney made an extremely scary Count, one who seemed to be barely holding his temper in check against "puny mortals who dare to stand in his way" and who was capable of extreme violence when crossed (no pun intended!). Physically, he may have appeared too well-fed for the role (as opposed to, say, the more cadaverous John Carradine), but I always felt that his acting of the part was fine.

 

As to his alleged misbehavior on the set of the Mummy films, while obviously if true it was, to say the least, unprofessional, this is perhaps best explained by his growing dissatisfaction with being forced to play a glorified prop because of his name. Having to come in to the studio hours before the rest of the cast and be subjected to the full body makeup the part required in order to play a role that anyone who could walk could play was extremely frustrating for the actor who had already proven (in OF MICE AND MEN) and would prove again (in such films as HIGH NOON, NOT AS A STRANGER and THE DEFIANT ONES) that such parts were underutilizing his abilities as an actor. Again, I don't say this to excuse any misbehavior, only to explain it.

 

Such concerns aside, I too have always enjoyed THE MUMMY'S CURSE.

The unexplained shift in locale from New England (in THE MUMMY'S TOMB and THE MUMMY'S GHOST) always bothered me, but on its own terms I feel that the film was a worthy attempt to breathe new life into the series.

The deserted church in the middle of the swamp made an excellent setting for the evil high priest (Peter Coe) and his MINION (Martin Kosleck).

 

Later, I read that the filmmakers thought that moving the setting to the bayou country would make a good change of pace and felt that, although the previous entry had only been released about nine months previously, no one would care! If they only knew...

 

Agree about THE MAD GHOUL and THE SPIDER WOMAN STRIKES BACK. Zucco is really at his malevolent best in TMG and TSWSB's not a bad little thriller which I was fortunate enough to tape off a local television station quite a few years ago. It's always great to see Gale Sondergaard AND Rondo Hatton!

 

I wouldn't really know about what a **** Richard Denning was in CREATURE: my attention was distracted by Julie Adams in her white bathing suit!

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OMG, princess, I'm eating up all this (for me) new info. And yes, wasn't Denning "a hunk of stuff" in THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON? Woo-woo! And he STILL looked damn good in Hawaii-Five-O.

 

nightwalker, you've said the magic word -- MINIONS! (he knows how much I love it) I think you're correct about the source of Chaney's frustrations; sounds "right" to me.

 

Okay, now SLEUTH is over (thank heavens) and here comes FOOTSTEPS IN THE DARK, which I've never seen....

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Regarding Son of Dracula, I have always felt that it was a superior film in the latter years of Universal's horror cycle. However, Lon Chaney Jr. as the Count has never seemed to win me over, now or when I first saw the film. And it's not just the fact that I'm a Lugosi fan, either. Lon Chaney Jr. had his limits as an actor, and even though he does his absolute best at portraying Count Alucard, it is clear that the role is not suited for him. I would have much preferred John Carradine, who to my taste is the best Dracula after Lugosi, and is also one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood history (see his work in many of John Ford's best films).

 

As far as Lon Chaney Jr. is concerned, I'm sure it must have been frustrating for him to have to work in such films where he is basically a walking prop. When you think about it, he is the perfect choice to play the Monster in The Ghost of Frankenstein. However, I wish they would have given him more to do with his face, because he essentially walks through the movie with the same expression. He makes Lugosi's Monster look good by comparison (Although, that's another discussion unto itself. Let's just say both actors got a raw deal.). It really is too bad that these guys (Lugosi, Karloff, Chaney Jr., Frye, etc.) rarely got the chance to show their stuff in mainstream films. Granted, they were the best at what they did, but still, they were all really great actors. If you want my opinion, Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolf Man still exist today because of Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr. They pretty much gave these literary characters (even though the Wolf Man does not stem from any specific literary work, he is still a product of folklore) eternal life.

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