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Totally digging on THE BLACK CAT (1934) this morning!!


markbeckuaf
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It truly is a classic and well ahead of its time. When I was little this film always creeped me out with the dead women, encased as if in a museum. It is nice to see Lugosi in a sympathetic role and he pulls it off extremely well. Karloff is a bit over the top but it is easy to forgive because the overall film is so damn well made. Very creepy and atmospheric ... one of Universal's best horror films.

 

 

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This movie is great on so many levels: the beautiful black and white photography, the Germanic set design, the cast and thatt great musical score that uses mostly German classical music.

 

 

From everything I've read, this movie was greatly altered from the original print that director Edgar Ullmer turned in. Universal brass were reportedly "horrified" by this first incarnation. So Ulmer was ordered to reshoot and reedit and the cast was recalled to do extensive retakes. We can only wonder why the original production upset hardened studio moguls so much. Wouldn't you love to see it?

 

 

Also, the beautiful Lucille Lund, who plays the tragic Karen, told one fanzine (maybe it was Scarlet Street or Filmfax) that she suffered a permanent neck injury due to Edgar Ullmer. It began when she rejected his romantic overtures. She says that she was positioned to lay on a metal slab as her dead self in the basement scene where Lugosi and Karloff are battling each other. Her head and neck were affixed to a very secure metal vise. And then Ullmer, knowing she was there, ordered lunch and she was left on the slab for over two hours, unable to move. By the time she was released, she couldn't move her neck and had to undergo extensive therapy over the years. She claims Ullmer never apologized because she had spurned his advances and this was his way of getting back at her. Oh, the drama that went on behind the scenes of many of our horror classics.

 

 

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I have also hoid the story about Ulmer punishing the actress who rebuffed him, *but...*

 

I have also heard that Ulmer went and stole the wife of someone very high-up at Universal, and as such was blackballed at all the major studios. For the rest of his career he worked on poverty row, directing such crud as The Amazing Transparent Man (later parodied on MST3K)

 

However, he did manage to do Detour , which has become regarded as one of the more inn-teresting bargain-basement pics of the 1940's and is on many people's short list of the finest film noirs ever made.

 

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The Lucille Lund punishment by her director brings to mind another one-time horror actress, Zita Johann, who has recounted her horrible treatment at the hands of yet another German director, Karl Freund, who had wanted another actress for her part for THE MUMMY. Freund threatened Zita with forcing her to play one scene in the nude and she said she would be happy to do it, which wasn't what Freund wanted to hear. He did film her in several sequences where she was shown living different lives over the centuries but these were all deleted by the director. Zita said he did this to punish her--and there are stills of her from these lost sequences.

 

 

Whether Freund would actually destroy these expensively filmed scenes is debatable. One would think the studio honchos would have balked at losing all that money since Universal was always on the verge of bankruptcy.

 

 

And of course there's Scream Queen Evelyn Ankers who made no secret of her loathing of co-star Lon Chaney although they were paired many times, as if Universal was trying to create its own love-birds from the world of horror.

 

 

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Evelyn Ankers always referred to frequent co-star, Lon Chaney, Jr., as "the brute with bad breath." When she was given Chaney's dressing room by Universal, Mr. Wolfman chewed her out and accuseed her of being behind this move. What happened, is that Chaney and fellow brawler, Broderick Crawford, would get roaring drunk and somehow nail all the furniture up on the ceiling. Not once but many times. Chaney called Ankers, "Evelyn Hamsters" and during a special luncheon for Universal horror stars, Chaney insulted Ankers new husband, B-actor, Richard Denning, who was wearing his special navy blue uniform since he had just joined the military. Chaney smeared green pistachio ice cream on Denning's uniform. Denning picked up a bowl of ice cream and pressed it against Chaney's face. Ankers remembered everyone--from Lugosi, Zucco, Karloff, etc. who were all present--to collapse with hysteria--since Chaney now resembled one of his monsters.

 

 

Also, the stunning Ramsey Ames, who portrayed Princess Ananka/Amina Monsouri, refused to discuss Chaney during an interview about the making of THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN, although she adored John Carradine, The High Priest. Ramsey said: "There are certain things about Mr. Chaney I'd rather not discuss."

 

 

Virginia Christine, who also played Princess Ananka in the sequel, THE MUMMY'S CURSE, said Chaney was dead drunk by l2 noon each day and a special plastic tubing built into the headpiece of Kharis which he could attach to a quart bottle of vodka during breaks. She was always terrified when he was supposed to carry her for fear he'd topple over.

 

 

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> {quote:title=princessananka wrote:}{quote}I mean to say below that Ramsey Ames, who starred in THE MUMMY'S GHOST, rather than in THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN. May the power of Amon Ra not destroy me for this error.

 

Well, if we want to get picky, her first name was actually Ramsay.

Loved her streaky hair in The Mummy's Ghost.

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i went to imdb and read the pistachio ice cream incident. dreadful.

 

it sounds to me like typical binge-drinker behavior, alcohol turns people into literal monsters who often put the ones in the Universal horrors to shame.

 

I do respect Chaney and think he was a good actor (see High Noon and Mice and Men and The Wolfman ), and you have to admire the way he throws himself in to even the most bargain basement crap (see: everything post- High Noon ).

 

if treading a little whiskey helped him do it, I'm not saying I approve, but I understand.

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The sad part of Lon Chaney jr's story is his alcoholism. Many people who worked with him have said he was either the sweetest man in the world OR a brute who they loathed working with. It is so tragic that his alcoholism destroyed his life. Yes, I know he lived to be 67 years old but I wonder if he was ever truly happy. Overall, I think more people felt he was a sweet man but we just hear more about the other side. I am not a huge Chaney fan but I do enjoy his work. I tend to think of him as a bit of tragic figure of classic horror but his body of work speaks for itself.

 

 

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What made the TCM presentation so delightful was the unbroken continuity which helped preserve the mood the filmakers worked hard to create. It helps to envision the original theatrical effect on the audience.

 

The *Black Cat* is often shown throughout the country on local stations as part of some Friday or Saturday night horror show, heavily cut with commercial breaks and usually hosted by someone who is a show unto themselves!

 

I like both approaches.The latter is often quite amusing (some of these hosts are gifted buffons besides being knowledgable film buffs themselves) and helps to introduce a younger generation to these old horror classics!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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