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Lionel Atwill


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Never really a star, but part of the reason why we love classic horror films so much.

 

What are your favorite Lionel Atwill performances/moments?

 

"Son of Frankenstein." Perhaps his best role. Even though I saw "Young Frankenstein" first, I still find myself captivated by his work here as the policeman with the wooden arm.

 

"Murders in the Zoo" Has to be seen to be believed. Unusually ghastly crimes with Atwill as the elegant killer.

 

"Dr. X" I like this one much better than "Mystery of the Wax Museum." Atwill is okay, but Fay Wray and Lee Tracy make a good sparring couple, and Dr. X's psychological experiments look tremendously impressive.

 

Outside of horror, Atwill is great as the evil plantation owner in "Captain Blood," and I love his ham actor in "To Be Or Not To Be." As a (mock) Nazi officer, he declares "The English lion will be drinking tea from tea cups made in Germany." and another actor whispers; "Goring's brother-in-law."

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I agree, Atwill approached every role with proffessinalism whether he was in the Wax Museum(Agreed it is not the best of his material, but it was more the script than him, although Wray was sooooooo hot.) " To be or not to be", I think is his best work.

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If you liked Fay Wray in "Mystery of the Wax Museum," you should hunt down "Dr. X." She really displays a flair for comic banter there, and it made me wonder why she never got into screwball comedy.

 

Yes, "Wax Museum" is let down by its script. There are so many characters that hardly anyone has a chance to register on the audience. "House of Wax" is a huge improvement over the original, although the opening scene in the first film, in which the museum burns is extremely effective.

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What a great and reliable character actor. I always link him with George Zucco who were staples in these old horror and suspense thrillers. Son Of Frankestein was his best role, with Dr X coming a close second.. He also did a fine job as the villain in the Captain America serial.

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  • 9 months later...

Atwill could be the most charming mad scientist of them all!

 

Great line from MAN-MADE MONSTER: "I? Mad? So were Galileo, Pasteur and all the others who dared to dream!"

 

And who could forget Atwill sewing a victim's mouth shut in the opening scene of MURDERS IN THE ZOO and then replying to the question of whether or not he had heard from the man "He didn't say...anything."

 

Also enjoyable as the mad doctor Von Niemann in THE VAMPIRE BAT (1933) also starring Fay Wray. "Handle him as you did the others, Emil. You are strong!"

 

He made an enthusiastically wicked Professor Moriarty in SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON and held his own against Abbott & Costello in PARDON MY SARONG, both from 1942.

 

His presence helped elevate many a mystery, drama or horror movie which, without him, would have been pedestrian.

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I STILL have trouble with that great Atwill line about him handing over Basil Rathbone to the villagers in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN.

 

nightwalker, can you come to my rescue yet again? The old brain ain't what it used to be.

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Glad to oblige, Bronxie.

 

Atwill suspects that Rathbone has revived his father's creation but has been unable to find him despite searching Rathbone's laboratory.

 

When simple persuasion fails to move Rathbone, Atwill warns him to give up the Monster, because, if he doesn't, "I'll feed you to the villagers the way Romans fed Christians to the lions!"

 

Rathbone's response? "I wouldn't put it past you! In the meantime, will you have a drink? Or would you like to play darts?" thus leading into the scene parodied so hilariously in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN.

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In addition to those, did you ever see him in BEGGARS IN ERMINE from 1934? It's a pretty good little picture that seems like it might have been written for Lon Chaney Sr. Atwill plays a factory owner who is intentionally crippled by a competitor and loses control of his factory. His unique plan for revenge, involving the recruitment of other homeless, destitute and crippled men makes up the bulk of the movie. It's really quite riveting.

 

He's also good in a couple of Charlie Chan pictures he made in 1940, CHARLIE CHAN IN PANAMA and CHARLIE CHAN'S MURDER CRUISE, and I really liked him as the jealous Dr. Bohmer in GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN and as THE MAD DOCTOR OF MARKET STREET (both 1942).

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i think Atwill achieved his greatest role as the mad wax meister in "Mystery of the Wax Museum." He and Fay Wray were dynamite in the final sequence where he plans to turn her into a wax image of Marie Antoinette. Atwill seemed to relish each word he utters--in both the very beginning fo the movie where he's talking to his wax figures--and in that final sequence. Too bad that the scandal of l940 torpedoed his career and he ended his career playing secondary roles.

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