December 23, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Oh the weather outside is frightful

Snowzilla - Holidays 2012

But the Godzilla tree is so delightful...

Godzilla holiday tree - full view

Godzilla holiday tree - Detail 1

Godzilla holiday tree - Detail 2

Godzilla holiday tree - Detail 3

The incredible Godzilla tree stands 34" tall, and includes special guests King Kong and Bigfoot.

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for the New Year!

December 16, 2012

Don't Go in the Snow!

DVD cover for Snowbeast (1977)
Now Playing: Snowbeast (1977)

Pros: Interesting veteran cast; Good outdoor photography
Cons: Flat direction and script; Fleeting shots of the monster not enough of a pay-off

After an unseasonably warm and dry November and first part of December, glorious and copious snow has returned to my little neck of the woods, the northern Arizona high country. We've had about a foot and half of the stuff in the past 48 hours, which should make the skiers and assorted winter sports enthusiasts here giddy with delight. (Yes Virginia, there is skiing in Arizona -- nothing to compare with the better resorts in Colorado and Utah -- but it exists nonetheless.)

Even with such robust winter storms, this part of northern Arizona -- an area that experiences all four seasons, and that in a good winter will get upwards of 120" of snow -- has been in a serious drought for over a decade. The folks who run the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort, which mainly attracts skiers from the Phoenix area, are moving ahead with a system to make snow from reclaimed wastewater in order to survive the dry winters that have become so common of late. Getting the go-ahead from the Forest Service and a commitment from the city of Flagstaff for the wastewater was the easy part. After years of legal opposition from local Native American tribes (who consider the San Francisco Peaks where the resort is located to be sacred), in 2009 the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court's ruling that the project did not infringe on the tribes' religious freedom, allowing it to proceed.

Undeterred, opponents have filed a new lawsuit that, among other things, argues that the snowmaking threatens an endangered native plant. For its part, the resort is ready to start utilizing "recycled poop water" this year if necessary.  The snowmaking controversy seems to me to be a smaller act in the larger, bitter, "take no prisoners" running melodrama that has come to define U.S. politics and society at large. After years of expensive legal wrangling and acrimony, neither side will relent. The moment the Supreme Court turned the tribes away, the Snowbowl people started right in laying pipes. And of course opponents responded by filing the new lawsuit and chaining themselves to trees and construction equipment to prevent the work from going forward.

It's probably for the best that I'm not a skier, since sloshing down the slopes in frozen poop water does not sound like a good time to me. Heck, let's just be honest -- I'm something of a wimp. Back in the day, when we were new to the area and Mother Nature was still blanketing it with enough of the white stuff to sustain a ski resort, I enthusiastically signed up the whole family for beginner's ski lessons. The sun was shining, the snow was fresh, the lessons were free -- and we lasted maybe an hour. While snotty-nosed little 5-year-olds in the group were taking to it like they had been born on skis, I was finding that no matter how enthusiastic I was or how carefully I observed, I could not for the life of me stop without falling over, and I could not possibly get back up without help once I was down. It was one of the supremely humbling experiences of my life, and to this day I can't bring myself to make fun of the Life Alert "I've fallen and I can't get up!" (TM) commercials.

The San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff, Arizona
The awesomely beautiful San Francisco Peaks
in Northern Arizona
Yes, I was a quitter. But then, knowing when to quit is a good thing. Take the tribes, for instance. Let's see, there's been skiing up on the "sacred" Peaks since 1938, and only now they've decided to fight to the bitter end over some wastewater snow? I shudder to think how much snot and spit and yes, pee, from all those skiers has been desecrating the area over the years. Note: when the animals are all gone, closing the barn door is not going to help. All that time, money and energy might have been better spent on jobs and health services for the Navajo and Hopi nations. And then there's the Snowbowl owners. Maybe it's just me, but if I had to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to stay in business, I think I'd find another line of business. I know for some people skiing is close to a religion, but this is ridiculous. (And frankly, with the Grand Canyon and other natural wonders within close proximity, skiing is really a minor part of northern Arizona's outdoor recreational scene.)

Both sides exemplify that time-honored saying, "If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging!" But then, that's not the American way, is it? We'd rather exhaust and bankrupt ourselves and everyone around us rather than let the other guy win. The irony is, for all of humanity's fussing and fighting, ultimately Mother Nature holds all the cards. Blow enough frozen wastewater and carbon dioxide at her, and she might just turn your nice little ski resort into a high-altitude, rock-strewn desert. Even calling her works "sacred" is no guarantee that she'll grace them with life-giving rain and snow. She's large and in charge, and she just loves to mess with the best-laid plans of both tree-huggers and crass businessmen alike.

Speaking of best-laid plans, the owners of the ski resort in Snowbeast quickly learn there are even worse obstacles than disappointing snowfall totals or pissed-off environmentalists (how's that for a segue?). It seems a very large, shaggy creature has crashed the ski resort's 50th anniversary winter festival, and is dragging off skiers. When a frightened young woman reports that a huge, hairy creature kidnapped her friend, Tony Rill (Robert Logan), resort manager and grandson of owner Carrie (Sylvia Sidney), grapples with his own skepticism and concern that rumors of a monstrous creature will put a damper on the carnival. Tony and right-hand man Buster Smith (Thomas Babson) ski out to the area where the abduction took place. Tony finds a bloody ski vest, and spots a large humanoid thing skulking around the edge of the woods.

Buster (Thomas Babson) meets up with the Snowbeast
The Snowbeast is about to lend ski resort employee
Buster (Thomas Babson) a big, furry hand.
Back at the lodge, grandma seems more interested in preventing a panic that will spoil the carnival than finding out what happened to the girl. In spite of the bloody evidence and Tony's sighting, she tells him to keep mum and to put up "restricted area" signs where the creature was last seen. Tony's life suddenly gets even more complicated with the arrival another large humanoid-- Olympic gold medalist skier Gar Seberg (Bo Svenson) has shown up along with his beautiful wife (and TV reporter) Ellen (Yvette Mimieux). Long ago Tony and Gar had competed for Ellen's affections, but the blonde Nordic hunk ended up winning her. However, since his Olympic glory, Gar's had a run of bad luck, and he's come to ask for a job. Bygones being bygones, Tony hires him on the spot.

Just as avalanches roll down hill, Buster gets stuck with the sign duty. After completing the task, he inexplicably takes a header on the edge of a ravine. As he struggles to pull himself up, a giant, white-furred arm reaches out and grabs his head (no, it's not Zsa Zsa with her latest expensive fur coat). Cut to a remote mountain ranch, where a young boy stumbles on what remains of the missing woman in a ramshackle barn. Sheriff Paraday (Clint Walker) immediately realizes he's going to need help, so he summons Tony out to the murder scene. When Tony and Bo arrive, the Sheriff asks Tony if he can help identify the body. "Maybe if I see the girl's face," Tony responds. The Sheriff hesitates before saying, "She doesn't have one."

Ellen Seberg (Yvette Mimieux) is tracking the Snowbeast
Ellen (Yvette Mimieux) hears the call of
the wild Snowbeast.
Meanwhile, Ellen, in full TV reporter mode, gets wind of the story, skis out to the farm and discover's the creature's tracks. She finds the blood-stained site where Buster was grabbed, and hears the creature's chilling roar. As Tony and Bo try to convince the Sheriff that they've got more than a grumpy grizzly on their hands, out in the woods Ellen wipes out on her skis as the snowbeast lurks nearby…

Later, after another snowbeast attack, a couple of sheriff's deputies inadvertently echo the interior dialog that I imagine plays in many a reviewer's head when confronted with a less-than-stellar cinematic effort:
1st deputy: What a mess!
2nd deputy: How are we going to write this up?
1st deputy: I dunno.
While Snowbeast is not a mess per se, there's nothing particularly special about it, and it comes off rather flat. More than a couple of reviewers have noted the thematic similarity with Jaws, which came out just a couple of years earlier-- unsuspecting tourists start falling prey to an unseen creature, and the local businesspeople try to pretend that nothing's happening to keep the tourists and their money coming. (Even the snowbeast's low, menacing tonal music theme as he sneaks up on the ski tourists is reminiscent of Jaws.) Of course, this TV movie is no Jaws, and I doubt that anyone canceled their ski vacation plans after seeing it (on the other hand, who knows how many folks skipped the beach after seeing Bruce the shark?).

The snowbeast keeps busy through the movie's 86 minute running time -- picking off skiers and resort employees here and there; crashing the crowning ceremony of the winter carnival snow queen; trapping the protagonists first in a barn, then a camper -- but unfortunately generates little suspense or shivers. There are lots of POV shots of the creature stalking his prey through the snowy woods, and quick shots of its huge hairy arm and gnarled hand trying to grab someone. While I'm usually a "less-is-more" kind of guy and all for judicious use of special effects and letting the viewer's imagination fill in the blanks of what you don't show, Snowbeast could have benefited from a few more shots of the beast himself, and fewer shots from his perspective. The little we do see of him makes me think the producers were not very confident of the beast suit, so left most of him on the cutting room floor.

The ski resort people and the Sheriff talk things over after the first body is found.
Gar (Bo Svenson) and Tony (Robert Logan) try to convince the
Sheriff (Clint Walker) that he's got more than just a grumpy
grizzly on his hands.
In between action sequences, the love triangle between Tony, Gar and Ellen also fizzles. Gar's self-esteem has hit a low point, and his marriage has nosedived along with it. Ellen confides in Tony that after winning the gold medal, Gar quit skiing altogether. "Marriage can survive many things," she tells him, "but it can't survive lack of respect." Ouch! Later, we learn that there's no particularly dramatic story or dark secret behind the the hero's fall. It's just that he was so afraid of becoming a has-been, he became a has-been. Okay, moving on…  (Hint: if you're thinking that hunting down bigfoot might be just the thing to restore the big guy's self-respect and save his marriage, then I'd say you've seen your fair share of TV movies!)

Although Snowbeast is no classic, it at least assembles an interesting, eclectic cast that gives it the good ol' college try. Yvette Mimieux's big break came in another sci-fi movie, George Pal's classic The Time Machine (1960). If anything, the intervening 17 years only added to her attractiveness and sex appeal.

Bo Svenson is one of those amiable big lugs who to this day keeps popping up in low-budget movies and TV (not to mention small parts in big movies like Inglourious Basterds and Kill Bill, Part 2.) With his doughy, everyman face and unassuming demeanor, he's like a Swedish John C. Reilly.

Early in Clint Walker's career, he starred in the hugely popular TV western Cheyenne (1955-1962). In the mid-'60s he tangled with another big, hairy beast in one of Disney's better man-against-nature pictures (and one of my personal favorites), The Night of the Grizzly (1966).

Glamorous Sylvia Sidney started acting in movies at the dawn of the sound era, and appeared in films and TV shows right up until her death in 1999. In the '30s, she shared screen time with such Hollywood tough guys as Bogart and George Raft. By the 1950s, almost all of her work was in television, where she appeared in such diverse series as Route 66, Starsky and Hutch, The Love Boat, and Fantasy Island.

The one big letdown in the acting department is Robert Logan (Tony), who appears out of his depth next to the other veteran cast members. But man, does he sport a big head of '70s hair!

The other interesting name in Snowbeast's credits is writer Joseph Stefano. Stefano's biggest claims to fame are his screenplay for Hitchcock's Psycho (1960; wherein he came up with the brilliant and disorienting idea of introducing the attractive Janet Leigh character and then suddenly killing her off), and as a producer and writer for the original The Outer Limits TV series (1963-64).

The Snowbeast makes a very rare and brief appearance.
An alpine Bigfoot, a transplanted Yeti, or something else?
You make the call!
This beast is something of a lightweight as far as thrills and suspense are concerned, but let's face it, if you're a bigfoot fan (and you know you are), you have to check it out. With its convenient online availability (see below), at least it's not as hard to find as a real bigfoot. (Or, if you're interested in a more cerebral treatment of Bigfoot's cousin the Yeti, check out the write up of The Abominable Snowman elsewhere on this blog.)

And if you do track the Snowbeast down, maybe you can clear something up for me. Is he a Sasquatch that happened to adapt itself to an alpine climate, or a transplanted Yeti, or the offspring of a Sasquatch and a Yeti, or something else entirely? Feel free to use the comment box, that's what it's there for.

Where to find it:
Available on DVD

Available online

Amazon Instant Video

Whatever you do, don't go in the snow!

December 4, 2012

Going Ape Chic

Poster for Captive Wild Woman (1943)
Now Playing: Captive Wild Woman (1943)

Pros: Good performances by John Carradine and Fay Helm; Effective wild woman make-up
Cons: Weak script; Way too much inserted footage of wild animal tamer Clyde Beatty abusing lions and tigers, way too little of the wild woman

Some people are never satisfied. Since time immemorial, human beings have observed the grace, speed, agility and frightening power of animals, and found their own relatively hairless and weak bodies wanting. So they've dreamed of (or had nightmares about) beings with the intelligence of humans and the most coveted traits of animals. The ancient Egyptians had a whole panoply of gods associated with sacred animals. Interestingly, many of these gods and goddesses sported the heads of animals (but presumably kept their superhuman intelligence): Thoth, maintainer of the universe, was depicted variously with the head of an ibis or a baboon; Horus sported the head of either a falcon or a hawk; Annubis, the god most associated with mummification and the afterlife, commonly appeared jackal-headed; and the warrior-goddess Sekhment was appropriately equipped with a lioness' head.

The ancient Greeks turned this animal symbology on its head, so to speak, and came up with all sorts of hybrid man-animal and animal-animal combinations: Centaurs, Gorgons, Minotaurs, Furies and Sirens all featured some aspect of the human anatomy, while the Hippalectryon, the Chimera and the Manticore seemed to spring from some ancient game of Mad Libs featuring animal parts.

The dour Europeans of the Middle Ages took pagan animal worship and typically turned it into something evil -- the Great God Pan became his Satanic Majesty with goat legs and cloven hooves. Even with the Renaissance, the association of the animalistic with evil remained fixed in the mass psyche. The werewolf became a well-known symbol of the dark side of man.

In the late 19th century, H.G. Wells updated the old human=good, animal=bad trope with his novel The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896).  After being marooned for months with the wretched half-human, half-animal results of Moreau's cruel experiments, Edward Prendick returns to civilization only to be driven to near madness with his heightened awareness of the "animal" in even the most supposedly refined of men. Wells' modern fable struck a chord (or perhaps an atavistic instinct) sufficient to produce half a dozen film adaptations in the 20th century, and influence many more films, TV shows and even comic books.

Speaking of Mad Libs, Captive Wild Woman is the movie equivalent, combining a little bit of Wells, a little bit of Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Wolf Man, and even a teensy bit of Tarzan into a somewhat less-than-satisfying (and occasionally unintentionally funny) whole.  If the title sounds like a circus sideshow, it reflects both the circus setting and the fact that the movie was something of a sideshow for Universal at the time. It came smack dab in the middle of Universal's classic monster revival of the 1940s, but even though it was popular enough to spawn two sequels, Jungle Woman (1944) and The Jungle Captive (1945), subsequent years have not been kind to the wild woman's reputation. (It probably didn't help that the follow-ups were pretty wretched. While the original was released in 2009 as part of the Universal Horror: Classic Movie Archive collection, its shaggy, flea-bitten sequels never graduated from VHS to decent DVD releases.)

John Carradine as mad scientist Sigmund Walters
Sigmund Walters (John Carradine)
practices his mad scientist stare.
Captive starts out with the return of wild animal trapper/trainer Fred Mason (Milburn Stone of later Gunsmoke fame) from a two-year-long seagoing expedition to secure lions and tigers (but no bears) for his employer, the John Whipple circus (no relation to Mr. Whipple of Charmin bathroom tissue fame). An exuberant Fred brags to his girlfriend (and Mr. Whipple's secretary) Beth Colman (Evelyn Ankers) about all the animals he's captured for the circus, including a female gorilla named Cheela (obviously the feminine derivative of Cheetah). Shortly after he introduces the lively and intelligent ape to Beth, a poorly-secured box containing a tiger crashes to the dock, releasing its cargo. Fearless Fred shows off his quick thinking and animal control skills by grabbing a cane and a chair and single-handedly trapping the man-eater in a vacant dockside office.

With one crisis averted, Beth tells Fred that her sister Dorothy (Martha Vickers) is ill with a mysterious glandular disease. Sparing no expense, she's managed to get her sister into the Crestview Sanatorium, run by one of the world's leading endocrinologists, Dr. Sigmund Walters (John Carradine). In classic B horror form, as Beth tells Fred about the Sanatorium, the entrance is seen in flashback-- the wind is howling, leaves are blowing, strange shadows are playing across the Crestview sign, and the camera tracks back to reveal a creepy, haunted-looking place that no one in their right mind would get within 10 miles of.  But, she continues, her mind was set at ease when she picked up a medical journal in the lobby detailing the doctor's accomplishments at furthering "not one, but three separate attempts at racial improvement."  Okaaaayyyyy….. Not to worry Beth, Dr. Mengele, er, Dr. Walters is going to take good care of your sister…

Walters is indeed smooth and charming, and Beth takes such a shine to him that she invites him to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the circus. He joins Fred and the circus owner Mr. Whipple (Lloyd Corrigan) in watching the lions and tigers being rounded up and fed. A ruckus over at the gorilla's cage diverts their attention -- an inebriated animal handler (Paul Fix) is tormenting Cheela with a stick when she grabs him by the head through the cage bars. After Fred manages to get her to let him go, Whipple fires him on the spot. Fred demonstrates her amazing intelligence to the group, getting her to turn around for a back scratch and then shaking his hand. Walters is impressed, and we can almost see the gears turning in his head as he compliments the circus people on their find. He offers to buy Cheela, but Fred good-naturedly turns him down, explaining that the personable gorilla is "priceless."

Back at the sanatorium, the devious doctor complains to his assistant, Nurse Strand (Fay Helm) that the animals they're currently working with are inadequate for the lofty goals of his experiments. He tells Strand that he intends to take sex hormone secretions from Dorothy (supposedly a by-product of her disease!) and inject them into Cheela. After all, glands can "transform physical matter into any size, shape or appearance" (we all knew that, right?). When Strand protests that the authorities will never allow it, Walters chides her: "I see you're not truly a scientist at heart Miss Strand. The things we're trying to do… one must be daring."

Walters hires the fired animal handler to kidnap Cheela for his experiments. In the dead of night, the henchman gets Cheela, cage and all, into Walters' truck. When he demands his dough, Walters, with a cold, evil grin on his face, pushes the ex-circus man into the cage, where off-camera Cheela goes to work on him. Later, with the newspapers blaring headlines about a killer ape on the loose, Whipple is in a tizzy, telling Fred that if she attacks anyone else, the circus is done for. Fred nonchalantly tells him not to worry, that she'll show up sooner or later (huh???).

Meanwhile, after transfusing Dorothy's hormones into Cheela and turning her into an exotic-looking beauty, Walters exhibits a curious nonchalance of his own. When Strand once again protests that experimenting with animals is one thing, but that the operations are sapping the life out of Dorothy, Walters, looking puzzled, asks the nurse, "Why should a single life be so important?" As the indignant nurse lectures Walters that his fine mind has become warped and he's tampering with things "no man or woman should ever touch," he decides that a human cerebrum transplanted into the ape woman is just what's needed to complete the experiment, and Nurse Strand's will do very nicely. Ouch! So much for all those years of selfless service to the great man and his dream to create a race of supermen!

The unveiling of Dr. Walters' newest creation, Acquanetta.
Behold! The Bride of the Gorilla! (Oh wait, that was another B movie...)
In a scene just a little reminiscent of Bride of Frankenstein, Walters unwraps Cheela's bandages to reveal Acquanetta, Universal's newest starlet (more on her later). She looks absolutely fabulous for a creature who had been a highland gorilla just a few hours before. And thanks to Nurse Strand, she has both looks and brains. He immediately dubs her "Paula Dupree" (maybe the name of an old girlfriend?).

The audacious scientist decides to show off Paula to his new friends at the circus. The animals begin pacing and growling, and Whipple comments that they seem to be afraid of something. Fred has convinced his boss to let him work up a super-dangerous act with both lions and tigers (but no bears), and he's practicing with the snarling beasts when Walters and Paula show up. Suddenly a platform topples over and knocks Fred out cold. Paula runs into the cage and stares down a lion that was thinking of having Fred for a mid-day snack. Everyone is amazed at the girl's power over the big cats, and Fred excitedly talks his boss into hiring her for the act, to stand outside of the cage, keeping the beasts calm (or afraid) while Fred does his thing.

These best-laid plans go awry, however, when Paula/Cheela sees Fred embracing Beth. Even as a gorilla, Paula had had a thing for Fred, so she has a temper tantrum when she sees him with the beautiful blonde. As a result, Paula partially reverts back, looking somewhat like a fetching neanderthal. In her bestial state, she pays Beth a visit in the dead of night, stealthily advancing toward her bed. Beth wakes up in the nick of time, sees the dark, hairy humanoid looming at her, and lets out a healthy, patented-Evelyn Ankers scream. When the housemaid appears at the doorway, the ape woman goes after her, sparing the shivering Beth. The next day, the autopsy reveals that the housemaid was killed in exactly the same way as the drunken animal handler, by super-powerful hands that snapped the spinal cord at the base of the neck.

Things come to a head on a dark and stormy night. Even though Paula has gone missing, fearless Fred decides to go ahead with the lion and tiger act. Meanwhile, back at the lab, Paula is becoming more girl-illa by the minute. Walters decides she needs another donation of glandular secretions from Dorothy, but the hapless patient is finally wise to the demented doctor, and calls her sister to come rescue her. Will Fred survive in a cage full of lions and tigers (but no bears) without Paula's help? Will Dorothy be sacrificed to attain Walters' goal of creating a race of super gorilla-men?

Captive Wild Woman was released at a time when Universal was cranking out B programmers like sausages, many of them series like Sherlock Holmes and The Inner Sanctum mysteries (patterned after the popular radio show). These low-budget movies were the television of their time, serving up familiar, entertaining characters and plots to a war-weary public. It's testimony to the huge demand for such content that the studio tried to make a series out of the relatively weak Paula Dupree ape woman character.

Paula Dupree (Acquanetta) reverts back to her original gorilla self
Eat your heart out Larry Talbot!
Film snobs sniff at what Universal did in the '40s to the Laemmles' lovingly-crafted classic monsters, pairing and tripling them in the B movie equivalents of WWE SmackDowns, then, to add insult to injury, letting Abbott and Costello have a crack at them. I've found it's a lot more fun to ignore the snotty condescension and just enjoy them for what they are-- given the right frame of mind, things like Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944), and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) are wonderfully corny and entertaining.

Unfortunately, Captive Wild Woman takes more work to appreciate. There's a strange flashback and narration sequence toward the beginning that's just bad plot construction. Someone mistakenly thought that endless inserted footage of animals being abused by a whip-cracking animal tamer made for great entertainment (the footage was of famed circus performer Clyde Beatty, pulled from his 1933 film The Big Cage). Milburn Stone, at the time a ho-hum second banana for Universal's low budget programmers, makes a pretty weak (and puny) leading man. But worst of all, the monster (and beautiful Acquanetta herself) are given precious little film time between all the animal taming and the impassioned speeches about creating a race of supermen. She doesn't speak a single word in the whole film. As Paula her most dramatic moment comes when she silently stares down a man-eating lion. She has even less screen time as the ape woman who is regressing back to being a full-fledged gorilla (even though Jack Pierce's half-woman, half-gorilla makeup is pretty good).

Any B movie maker worth his or her salt knows that you lead with the monster, not relegate it to a minor sideshow attraction. The exotic Acquanetta was billed as the "Venezuelan Volcano," but by varying accounts she was either half-Arapaho, born on a reservation in Wyoming, or born in a working class neighborhood in Philadelphia. (Tom Weaver, et. al, Universal Horrors: The Studio's Classic Films, 1931 -1946, 2nd edition, McFarland, 2007.)

Walters (John Carradine) prepares for yet another dastardly operation
B movie inventory: Mad scientist? Check. Young woman in distress?
Check. Gorilla in a cage? Check. Evelyn Ankers? Check.
Director Edward Dmytryk helmed one of the great film-noirs, Murder My Sweet with Dick Powell, over at RKO around the same time he punched the clock for Universal on Captive Wild Woman (he later went on to direct such classics as Crossfire, 1947, The Caine Mutiny, 1954, and The Young Lions, 1958). What a difference a great script, a bigger budget, and true star power makes! He did, however, manage to get some pretty good performances out of Universal regulars Carradine and Fay Helm (nurse Strand). John had already acquired a reputation as a big ham, but in Captive he's dapper and charming when Walters is trying to get his mitts on the unsuspecting Dorothy, and then delivers just the right amount of mad intensity as he fulfills his dream of transforming a brutish gorilla into an alluring young woman. Helm has the dubious honor of delivering some of the more hoary, cliched lines in the film, yet does it with gusto. I can't think of another mad scientist's assistant in all of B movies that has such a conscience or objects as strenuously when she sees Science veering off into Evil. If the real world had had more Nurse Strands at the time, World War II might never have happened.

In an interview with Tom Weaver, Dmytryk related how Carradine's reputation had preceded him on the set:
He had always been kind of a ham. I hadn't known him personally, but I had [known of him] when he used to walk the streets of Hollywood, even in summertime, with a topcoat thrown over his shoulders Barrymore-style and wearing his Barrymore-style hat. He used to go down and try to get the attention of Doug Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin at the Cinegrill, the little downstairs cafe at the Roosevelt Hotel… So I was really afraid of what he would do in Captive Wild Woman, but I had a little talk with him and I think we got a very controlled performance out of him for a mad scientist. [Ibid.]
Indeed! Carradine, and to a certain extent Fay Helm, ended up being the main attractions of the film, while poor, mute Acquanetta was effectively pushed aside. Still, Captive Wild Woman is a part of Universal's Silver Age of monsters, and it would be a shame for a true fan not to make her acquaintance.

Where to find it:
Available on DVD

TCM Shop

"Creature of evil, running amok, blazing a trail of fear-crazed horror!"