February 27, 2021

Amazing Animal People #2: Captive Wild Woman

Amazing Animal People trading card #2: Paula Dupree, Captive Wild Woman, 1943

Mad endocrinologist Dr. Sigmund Walters (John Carradine) has been experimenting with transmuting animals into higher orders of species with glandular transplants. When he decides that he needs to experiment on larger animals, he arranges to have Cheela, a gentle gorilla, stolen from a local circus.

Walters is convinced that in order to transform Cheela into a human with true human emotions, a brain transplant is also needed. He sacrifices his insubordinate female lab assistant (Fay Helm) for the purpose, and voila!, sultry Paula Dupree (Acquanetta) is born.

The mad doctor brazenly introduces his new creation to the circus' animal trainer, Fred Mason (Milburn Stone), who originally captured Paula in her gorilla form. Paula immediately falls for Fred, even saving his life when a circus lion gets out of control. But when Paula finds out Fred has a beautiful fiancée (Evelyn Ankers), jealousy causes her to revert to her animal nature.

Funanimal Fact: Although Acquanetta (born Mildred Davenport in 1921) had been in a couple of other movies previously, Universal still decided to “introduce” her as Paula Dupree, “A New Sensation in Savagery,” in its marketing campaign. Captive Wild Woman was the first of a series of three films featuring the character -- two mediocre follow-ups, Jungle Woman (1944) and The Jungle Captive (1945) ran the franchise into the ground.

Acquanetta didn’t have a single line of dialog in Captive Wild Woman. Nonetheless, she found the experience exhilarating and exhausting:

“There was no preparation on my part, but I sat sometimes for two and a half hours being made up by a makeup artist. I think I had more emotional feeling, being made up for that, than anything I ever did, because it was exhausting. Edward Dmytryk [the director] and I had great rapport -- we dated briefly. I thought he was tremendous. Eddie gave me more freedom, I think, than other directors. I’ve always felt that I was never ‘me’ in movies -- do you know there was never a film where I was allowed to smile?” [Tom Weaver, Michael Brunas and John Brunas, Universal Horrors, The Studio’s Classic Films, 1931-1946, 2nd Ed., McFarland, 2007, p. 343]


John Carradine and Acquanetta in Captive Wild Woman, 1943
"That'll be two bits for the haircut and the shave, Miss Dupree."

Animal Crack-up (click on the text to see the punchline):

Why don't gorillas play poker?

Don't miss these other Amazing Animal People

Don't miss the first installment of the Amazing Animal People:
Lota from the Island of Lost Souls (1932)
and the full review of Captive Wild Woman right here on this site!

February 23, 2021

Amazing Animal People of Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror #1: Lota from the Island of Lost Souls

For millennia, human beings have been alternately in awe of and frightened by wild animals. Without our clever brains, we frail, awkward, slow, thin-skinned humans would have been slashed, skewered, filleted, gnoshed on and generally driven to extinction by animal competitors thousands of years ago.

Even though humanity has “won” the competition many times over (causing the extinction of untold species in the process), our myths and folklore are full of awe and wonder at the animal kingdom. From the animal-headed gods of ancient Egypt, to Native American animal shapeshifters, to werewolves and other were-beasts of European folklore, we have long been fascinated with the idea of taking on animal attributes and becoming something more than mere human.

Masked villagers, The Wicker Man (1973)
"A fish, a hare and a goat walk into a bar..."

Of course, modern movie myth-makers have been all-too happy to feed this fascination. From the early days of the silents to the present day, movies have featured all kinds of human-animal hybrids: werewolves, catwomen, apemen, birdmen, minotaurs, bat people and even alligator people.

It’s to these terrifying anthropomorphic animals (or if you prefer, animalistic anthropoids), that I dedicate this third set of virtual monster trading cards, The Amazing Animal People of Sci-fi, Fantasy and Horror.

Every movie decade from the 1930s to the 1970s has at least one representative captured from the celluloid jungle. Get in touch with your inner animal and “collect” them all!

Amazing Animal People trading card #1: Lota from Island of Lost Souls, 1932

Derived from a panther, the exotically beautiful Lota (Kathleen Burke) is Doctor Moreau’s (Charles Laughton) greatest, most “human” creation. When shipwrecked sailor Edward Parker (Richard Arlen) washes up on Moreau’s Island of Lost Souls, the mad doctor seizes the opportunity for the ultimate experiment -- to see if Lota can fall in love.

Funanimal Fact: Prior to its release, Island of Lost Souls was kicked around by industry and government censors. 14 states in the U.S. rejected it for exhibition based on Moreau’s likening himself to God, and for its references to evolution as a scientific fact. In the U.K. it was rejected three separate times (the last time in 1957), mostly for its depictions of cruelty to animals.

Still from Island of Lost Souls, 1932
"Hi, I'm Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl."

Animal Crack-up (click on the text to see the punchline):

February 14, 2021

Mad Doctors in Love: Special Valentine’s Day Edition

At first glance, B-movie mad doctors would not seem to be a natural subject for a Valentine’s Day post. As I pointed out in "The Best Laid Plans of Not-so-nice Madmen," most mad doctors were far too busy stitching together body parts or trying to create armies of zombies to pursue any sort of amorous relationship. 

They reserved their passions for proving their insane theories, wreaking revenge on the colleagues who laughed at them, and showing the world their brilliance. And they were often willing to sacrifice anyone, including friends, family and would-be lovers, in their demented quests.

Still, not every mad doctor of the movies was immune from Cupid’s arrows. A select few became mad and used their knowledge for evil because of lost or frustrated love.

To celebrate the occasion, Films From Beyond presents Valentines from a scattered assortment of oddball, passionate B-movie doctors who, unlike many of their crazy colleagues, did it all for love.

Dr. Gogol and Yvonne Orlac, Mad Love (1935)

Poster - Mad Love, 1935
"I have conquered science, why can't I conquer love?"

Dr. Gogol (Peter Lorre), an accomplished surgeon, is obsessed with theater actress Yvonne (Frances Drake), attending all of her performances at the 'Théâtre des Horreurs' in Paris. He is devastated when he learns that Yvonne plans to quit the theater to marry concert pianist Stephen Orlac (Colin Clive) and move to England.

Unhinged, Gogol buys a wax figure of Yvonne from the theater, setting it up in his home and talking to it as if it were alive. When Stephen’s hands are mangled in a train accident, Yvonne, knowing of Gogol’s reputation as a top surgeon, pleads with him to help her husband. Gogol uses the hands of a recently executed murderer -- Rollo, a skilled knife thrower -- in a transplant operation.

Orlac’s new hands are useless for playing the piano, but he finds he’s now very good at throwing knives. Gogol tries to convince Yvonne to leave her husband as Stephen’s mental state deteriorates. Yvonne stands by her man, but the deranged surgeon will try anything, including posing as the resuscitated murderer Rollo, to break up the couple and have her all to himself.

Fun Fact: Mad Love is based on Maurice Renard’s novel The Hands of Orlac (Les Mains d'Orlac, 1920). It was the second film adaptation of the novel -- a silent version was released in 1924. The novel would be adapted four more times (the last, Roxana’s Hands, 2012, switches Orlac’s gender and makes her a concert violinist).

Dr. George Lorenz and the Countess Lorenz, The Corpse Vanishes (1942)

Elizabeth Russell and Bela Lugosi in The Corpse Vanishes, 1942
Countess Lorenz: "Can you bear to look at me now?"
Dr. Lorenz: "Of course, you are beautiful, and I shall always keep you that way!"

Police are baffled when blushing brides start collapsing at the altar and their bodies disappear on the way to the morgue. Intrepid reporter Patricia Hunter (Luana Walters) traces the deaths and disappearances to mysterious orchids that were delivered to each wedding.

When she consults a renowned orchid specialist Dr. Lorenz (Bela Lugosi), she stumbles on his fiendish plot to extract glandular fluid from the brides to keep his aging wife (Elizabeth Russell) young and beautiful. Hunter has to fend off Lorenz and his minions, a demented housekeeper and her two thuggish sons, to keep from being the next supplier of the anti-aging elixir.

Fun Fact: Just a year later in The Ape Man (1943), Bela portrayed yet another mad doctor messing around with bodily fluids -- this time spinal fluid -- in order to reverse the effects of an experiment gone wrong. See "The Best Laid Plans of Not-so-nice Madmen."

Bill Leggat and Lena Maitland, Four Sided Triangle (1953)

Barbara Payton and Stephen Murray in Four Sided Triangle, 1953
"In all my life I've only wanted two things -- knowledge and... love. I used the first to try and gain the second."

Childhood friends Robin Grant (John Van Eyssen) and Bill Leggat (Stephen Murray) have made the scientific big-time. After getting degrees at Cambridge, they have returned to their tiny English village to work on a secret project: a matter duplicator.

They demonstrate their invention to the village doctor (James Hayter) and Robin’s rich father (Percy Marmont), duplicating the doctor’s watch and a bank check down to the smallest detail.

However, there is a cloud on the horizon. A third childhood friend, beautiful Lena Maitland (Barbara Payton), has returned from an extended stay in America. Although Bill has secretly been in love with Lena all his life, to his dismay Lena falls for Robin and they get married.

Bill redoubles his efforts to figure out how to duplicate living organisms while Robin is away in London consulting with government authorities on their invention. He finally perfects the process, and convinces Lena to submit to being duplicated in the mad hope that he can have his Lena and Robin can have one too.

Except there’s a catch: the duplicate Lena, renamed Helen, is exact in every detail… including her feelings for Robin.

Not-so-Fun fact: Somewhat like Lena, the beautiful Barbara Payton was used to having men compete for her affections. The most notorious instance was when actors Tom Neal and Franchot Tone had a knockdown, drag-out fight over her, which sent Tone to the hospital.

After all the bad publicity, Payton traveled to the UK to jumpstart her flagging career, making a couple of B movies, including Four Sided Triangle, for the fledgling Hammer Films. It was nothing doing -- by 1955 her short-lived film career was over.

Dr. Bill Cortner and Jan Compton, The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962)

Virginia Leith and Jason Evers in The Brain That Wouldn't Die, 1962
"I want you as a complete woman, not part of one. Is it a crime to want to keep you alive?"

Dr. Bill Cortner (Jason Evers) is an arrogant, hotshot young doctor who insists that lives can be saved with new, experimental techniques. Although Bill proves himself by saving the life of a man everyone had given up for dead, his father, also a surgeon, is uncomfortable with the idea of using people as guinea pigs.

Bill gets a call from his lab assistant Kurt (Anthony La Penna) telling him that there’s an emergency in the lab located at the family’s country house. Bill, along with his fiancee Jan (Virginia Leith), races off in his souped up convertible. His lead foot results in tragedy when he fails to negotiate a sharp turn and the car crashes down a ravine.

Bill has been thrown clear, but when he recovers and checks the wreckage, he’s horrified to find that Jan has been decapitated. The panicked doctor wraps Jan’s head in a blanket and runs the rest of the way to the lab, where he sets up the head in a tray and feeds it a serum he’s invented to keep it alive.

Jan wants to die, but Bill won’t let her go so easily. He’s confident that the new serum will enable him to transplant Jan’s head onto a new body. While he goes body-shopping at the local strip club (naturally!), Jan, now telepathically charged due to the serum, is making friends with the horrific failed experiment -- a thing made up of discarded body parts -- that Bill has locked up in a closet.

Fun Fact: Since 2009, The Brain that Wouldn’t Die has inspired no fewer than four (!) stage musical adaptations and one movie re-make. 

Dr. Anton Phibes and Victoria Regina Phibes, The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

Caroline Munro and Vincent Price in The Abominable Dr. Phibes, 1971
"My love, sweet queen and noble wife, I alone remain to bring delivery of your pain. Severed my darling, too quickly from this life. Of fires drawn and memories met, I shall hold our two hearts again in single time."

In 1920s London, prominent physicians are being murdered in bizarre ways: one by an infestation of bats, another by an ingenious frog mask designed to choke the wearer to death, and yet another has had every ounce of blood drained from his body.

Following up on a clue -- a strange amulet left at the scene of one of the murders -- Scotland Yard Inspector Trout (Peter Jeffrey) learns from a Rabbi that the symbol on the amulet represents the ten Old Testament curses inflicted upon ancient Egypt.

As the bodies pile up, Trout figures out that all of the victims worked under Dr. Vesalius (Joseph Cotten). Vesalius soon meets the scourge of the London medical community -- Dr. Anton Phibes (Vincent Price), inventor, concert organist and all-around Renaissance monster.

It seems Phibes, who had supposedly died in a car accident, blames Vesalius and his surgical team for the death of his beloved young wife on the operating table. And the hideously disfigured Phibes is determined to visit one more Old Testament plague on Vesalius in retribution.

Fun Fact: ‘70s scream queen and Bond girl Caroline Munro appears (uncredited) in a non-speaking role as Anton Phibe’s dead wife, Victoria.

Valentine's Day greetings from Dr. Gogol, Mad Love (1935)