April 30, 2024

Your Prescription is Ready: Mad Doctor Meds, Hammer-style

When you watch lots of retro TV like I do, you become very familiar with the U.S. pharmaceutical industry and which of their overpriced prescription meds are the greatest cash cows. Every time I’m blitzed with drug commercials, I shake my head at the tongue-twisting brand names that seem to have originated straight out of Superman’s Bizarro universe, not to mention all the small print side effects which are way worse than the disease (if you can even figure out what the damned things are supposed to be treating).

As you might expect, in that parallel universe we all know and love where monsters are the norm and retailers and advertisers cater to their every whim, Big Pharma is there to exploit every monster malady… and there are a lot of them!

Publicity still - Veronica Carlson and Christopher Lee in Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)
With all those vegetarians and vegans walking around, it’s harder than ever for vampires to find the iron-rich blood necessary for a healthy undead existence. Taken with 10 pints of fresh blood, once-daily Corpusletrex ™ guarantees your nightly requirements of red corpuscles, iron and 13 additional vitamins and minerals.
  Common side effects: Red eye; general pallor; sensitivity to sunlight, silver crosses and wooden stakes; enlarged canine teeth; increased desire to wear black silk capes; constipation; living death. Don’t take if you’re allergic to Corpusletrex or any of its ingredients.
Screenshot - Christopher Lee in The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Let’s face it: in their rush to create new artificial life, mad doctors aren’t the most scrupulous or detail-oriented of medical professionals. They use any old body parts that they can get their hands on, and they stitch them together with the sort of carelessness that would make a bottom-of-the-class, first year medical student look like a virtuoso. If you’re the product of a mad scientist’s haste, don't despair. Daily applications of Suturetril ™ will lessen the redness and swelling around your sutures, and help to fight off infections caused by mad medical malpractice.
   Common side effects: Redness and swelling around sutured areas; skin discoloration and eruptions; rheumy eyes; poor muscle coordination; diarrhea; death.
Screenshot - The Reptile (1966)
It’s never a good thing when, as the result of a terrible, mystical curse, you periodically turn into a slavering, scaly human reptile that spits venom at innocent people, turning their skin purplish-black before causing them to expire in the most horrible way possible. Used as directed, Scalera ™ will smooth and soften scaly skin, fill-in cracks and wrinkles, and add a healthy, greenish glow to your complexion.
  Common side effects: Blackened, forked tongue; slurring of speech; bulging eyes; lowered body temperature; general clamminess; increased desire to bite people for no good reason; constipation; death. For external use only, not to be taken internally.
Screenshot - Oliver Reed in The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
Chasing after human prey night after night under the full moon can be exhausting and hard on your lungs. Used nightly, the Madvaire inhaler ™ can restore peak lung function and ensure that you never get winded when hunting down terrified victims.
  Common side effects: Excessive salivating; halitosis; sinusitis; elongated yellow teeth and bloody gums; swollen tongue; split ends; ringing in ears; explosive diarrhea; death. Not to be used as a rescue inhaler.
Screenshot - Jacqueline Pearce in The Plague of the Zombies (1966)
Zombies have a hard time maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, mainly because blood has stopped circulating in their bodies. In combination with a healthy diet of human flesh, Oozemplic ™ can help prevent further rotting and restore enough vitality to allow even the most decomposed zombie to accomplish whatever mindless, slavish tasks are required. And it will keep those extra pounds off too!
  Common side effects: Oozing and discharges at the injection site; gangrenous flesh; cloudy, watery eyes; rotting teeth and bleeding gums, incontinence; death-in-life.

April 14, 2024

Day 3: Revenge of The 2nd Annual "Favorite Stars in B Movies" Blogathon

Banner - Films From Beyond's 2nd Annual "Favorite Stars in B Movies" Blogathon co-starring Joan Crawford in Strait-Jacket (1964)

We're back for the third and final day of The 2nd Annual "Favorite Stars in B Movies" blogathon! Before we cut and run, er, bring the blogathon to a close, many thanks are in order to all the talented bloggers who contributed posts, and everyone who helped spread the word about the event. The goal was to highlight modest, obscure films with big talent behind them. If just one person has discovered an intriguing film or performance that they've never heard of and want to see, then our work here is done.

If you haven't already, check out the great posts from Day 1 and Day 2.

Last call for bloggers: If you're running a little late with your post, don't sweat it! When it's ready use the comments below, email me at brschuck66@yahoo.com, or message me on X/Twitter @brschuck66 and I'll post it to this page.

And now for the last reel:

Christianne at Krell Laboratories examines the greylisting of Edward G. Robinson after his encounters with the House Un-American Activities Committee in the early '50s.

Screenshot - Edward G. Robinson in Illegal (1955)

Dustin at Horror and Sons gets the chills watching Peter Cushing attempting to capture The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas (1957)

Screenshot - Maureen Connell and Peter Cushing in The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas (1957)

Barry at Cinematic Catharsis warns us about the dangers of close encounters with aliens and faded movie stars in his review of Without Warning (1980), starring Jack Palance and Martin Landau.

Screenshot - Martin Landau in Without Warning (1980)

Daffny at A Vintage Nerd explains that all the chicest party ghouls are dying to get into The Monster Club (1981; starring Vincent Price, John Carradine and Donald Pleasence).

Still - John Carradine and Vincent Price in The Monster Club (1981)

John at tales from the freakboy zone shines the spotlight on Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).

DVD cover art - Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

Michael at Maniacs and Monsters defends Raymond Burr against two counts of felony ham acting in his dual review of Godzilla: King of the Monsters! (1956) and Bride of the Gorilla (1951).

Screenshot - Raymond Burr in Godzilla: King of the Monsters! (1956)

Yours Truly at Films From Beyond trips over his own feet trying to keep up with Ginger Rogers and all the plot twists and turns in The Thirteenth Guest (1932).

Screenshot - Ginger Rogers and Lyle Talbot in The Thirteenth Guest (1932)

Joey at The Last Drive In sorts out which witch is which in her reviews of Ava Gardner in Tam Lin (1970) and Carroll Baker in Baba Yaga (1973): Part 1 | Part 2

Still - Ava Gardner in Tam Lin (1970)
Screenshot - Carroll Baker and Isabelle De Funès in Baba Yaga (1973)

Public domain image - Warner Bros. via Wikimedia Commons
Until next time...

April 13, 2024

Sleuthing with the B Movie Stars: Ginger Rogers in The Thirteenth Guest

Now Playing:
The Thirteenth Guest (1932)

Pros: Good, energetic cast seems to be having fun with the material; The mad killer has a highly unusual modus operandi.
Cons: Plot is bewilderingly complex and ultimately doesn't make much sense

This post is part of the second annual "Favorite Stars in B Movies" blogathon hosted by Yours Truly. You won't want to miss all the other great posts about the stars who lit up the Bs, right here on this site!

"Sure he [Fred Astaire] was great, but don't forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did, ...backwards and in high heels." - Bob Thaves, Frank and Ernest (cartoon, 1982)

Ginger Rogers, the epitome of grace and beauty in some of Hollywood’s greatest, most beloved musicals, was apparently born to dance: "My mother told me I was dancing before I was born. She could feel my toes tapping wildly inside her for months." [Ginger Rogers, Ginger Rogers: My Story, 1991)

But in the Hollywood of the 1930s, desire and natural ability were not nearly enough -- to become a larger-than-life dancer on the big screen, you had to have the grit and determination of a Visigoth, and Rogers had that in spades.

Even though Rogers won a best actress Oscar for her dramatic portrayal of Kitty Foyle (1940), for better or worse (for richer or poorer, in sickness or in health, for as long as there are fans who remember…) she will always be best known for tripping the light fantastic with Fred Astaire in ten films.

Interestingly, it was Ginger Rogers -- barely into her 20s and 12 years younger than her new dance partner -- who was the grizzled movie veteran when she and Astaire first paired up in Flying Down to Rio (1933). Rogers had over two dozen movies on her resume at the time, while Astaire was just getting started, having appeared in only one other.

Leading up to that breakout appearance, Rogers might have thought she was moving backwards in high heels as far as her movie career was concerned. For every small part in an A picture like 42nd Street or Gold Diggers of 1933, there was seemingly an endless supply of roles (albeit some leading ones) in uninspired Bs like The Sap from Syracuse or Carnival Boat.

The Thirteenth Guest came a little over mid-way through Roger’s marathon run through the Bs in the early part of her career. But unlike The Sap from Syracuse and its ilk, The Thirteenth Guest has stayed around, kicked up its feet and made itself at home -- as in home video releases.

At first glance, it may not be exactly clear why The Thirteenth Guest made it all the way to home video while most of Rogers’ other Bs fell by the wayside. Produced at Monogram Pictures, one of the  “Poverty Row” studios of Hollywood’s Golden Age that specialized in churning out Bs, The Thirteenth Guest was based on a 1929 novel by noted crime author Armitage Trail (aka, Maurice R. Coons, best known for his novel Scarface, later turned into the hit 1932 movie with Paul Muni).

The Thirteenth Guest is highly reminiscent of 1927’s popular mystery-thriller The Cat and the Canary, which itself was based on a successful play from the early ‘20s. (The Cat and the Canary is supposed to have influenced James Whale’s brilliant dark comedy The Old Dark House, and both in turn influenced a whole generation of “old dark house” films.)

Guest and Cat rely on a familiar set-up: after the death of a wealthy patriarch, the potential heirs gather like vultures at the creepy old ancestral mansion to find out who is to inherit the fortune. When the guests start getting bumped off one-by-one, fear, loathing and suspicion erupt among the survivors.

Poster - The Cat and the Canary (1927)
The Cat and the Canary set the stage for the madness of The Thirteenth Guest.

Whereas The Cat and The Canary injected yet another soon-to-be cliche into the mix -- a homicidal maniac on the loose -- The Thirteenth Guest went with a more subtle (?) form of madness.

Guest tries to distinguish itself with about as complicated a plot as you could possibly cram into a 70 minute B picture. Thirteen years ago the patriarch of the Morgan family had invited thirteen of his closest friends, relatives and confidantes (including the family lawyer Barksdale) to his mansion for a dinner party, where he was to reveal the details of his will. It seems the bulk of his estate was to go to a mysterious, unnamed thirteenth guest, but the guest never showed up and the elderly Morgan died (or was murdered) before the person’s identity could be revealed.

In the film’s present day, Marie Morgan (Rogers), daughter of the deceased millionaire, has just turned 21, and for some reason is poking around the now deserted mansion. Although the house was long ago abandoned after the elder Morgan’s death, someone has turned the electricity back on, installed a working telephone, and set up the dining room exactly as it was thirteen years ago.

In classic old dark house fashion, a scream rips the night, whereupon the panicked cab driver who delivered Marie to the house takes off to summon the police. Police Captain Ryan (J. Farrell MacDonald) and his numbskull assistant Detective Grump (Paul Hurst) discover Marie’s dead body, seated at the dining table as if waiting for other guests to arrive.

Screenshot - Ginger Rogers and Lyle Talbot in The Thirteenth Guest (1932)
"She died waiting for the hors d'oeuvres to be served..."

Captain Ryan, who immediately realizes he needs more brain power on the case, calls in a brilliant, snarky playboy/private investigator, Phil Winston (Lyle Talbot) to help sort it all out. Marie’s brother Harold (James Eagles) identifies his sister’s body, but soon everyone is floored when Marie, very much alive, shows up at the scene of the murder.

What ensues next is a crazy, serpentine plot involving cryptic notes, a surgically altered double of Marie (the first dead body), the arrival of the rest of the guests who had attended the original dinner party, multiple people conspiring to get their hands on the will, more dead bodies neatly placed in the spots at the table that they had occupied thirteen years ago, and a masked, hooded killer who spies on people from a hidden room and electrocutes his victims with the normal-looking telephone that he has wired up to a switch.

Whew! You need a scorecard to keep track of it all (but then, I’m at that age where I sometimes lose the plot just watching TV commercials). Fortunately, Detective Grump is around to provide comic relief and reassure those of us who worry about losing it that there are always unfortunate souls in a sorrier state.

Grump is so oafish and inept that he seems outrageous even for a pre-code B movie, but at one point a character helpfully points out that he got his position through an influential family member. You will either cringe or smile in wry bemusement at Grump’s attempts at comic relief. Subtle he is not. In one scene, a telephone rings, and distracted, Grump picks up his revolver and puts it to his ear. In another that has to be seen to be believed, he tries to imitate a strange cry he heard emanating from the mansion for the benefit of Capt. Ryan and Winston:

Supplementing Grump’s antics is the usual assortment of ‘30s character cut-outs. The police captain is both out of his depth and constantly exasperated by the even greater incompetence of his subordinates. Winston, the playboy police consultant, has more smarts in his little finger than the entire police force, and wears a knowing smirk along with the chic suits he sports throughout the film. (A relative newcomer in 1932, Lyle Talbot would go on to become one of the most dependable and long-lasting character actors in Hollywood history, racking up hundreds of movie and TV appearances before retiring in the late ‘80s.)

And of course, no film like this would be complete without a wisecracking dame or two. In a great scene that sums up the less-than-stellar collective character of the Morgan family and its hangers-on (Marie excepted of course), Marjorie (Frances Rich), one of the original thirteen guests, blithely comments to Winston: “We’d all cut each other’s throats for a dime…” -- to which Marie’s brother responds, “Why a dime? I’d cut yours for the fun of it!” (No doubt, Depression-era audiences were amused by seeing how petty and cutthroat high society types could be.)

Screenshot - Lyle Talbot and Frances Rich in The Thirteenth Guest (1932)
"Let's raise a glass to all the little people who helped make this picture a success!"

At this juncture in her career, Rogers’ bright, engaging presence had earned her star billing in smaller films like this. In The Thirteenth Guest, she got the opportunity to play dual roles: as Lela, the unfortunate imposter who is the first victim of the masked killer, and as Marie, the innocent, good-hearted heiress who is the last intended victim.

Rogers breezes in and out of scenes with panache, wearing the latest ‘30s fashions and providing a beaming, blonde contrast to the rest of the sour, dark-haired women of the Morgan clan. But this is not a Ginger Rogers movie per se -- some of the cast members, including Talbot/Winston and Hurst/Grump have as much or more screen time. But of course Rogers is there at the climax to escape certain death, and to fall languorously into the arms of Winston at the end.

Screenshot - Lyle Talbot and Ginger Rogers in the final scene of The Thirteenth Guest (1932)
"You're alright even if you can't dance."

The Thirteenth Guest got a fairly positive reception in its day. Variety’s reviewer found the movie “vastly superior to many of the mystery themes produced by major companies during the past two years. Its story is even more complex, but it is so brought to the screen that it disentangles without befuddling entertainment qualities and confusing the audience to the point of distraction.” [Waly, Variety, September, 1932, p. 20] (The film proved popular enough to inspire another low-budget remake, The Mystery of the Thirteenth Guest, released in 1943.)

I can’t guarantee you won’t be befuddled -- I felt more like Grump than Winston at various points in the movie -- but if you can appreciate things like a masked madman electrocuting unsuspecting high society types and carefully placing their corpses at a decked-out dinner table, it’s an entertaining form of befuddlement. And of course, there’s the presence of future superstar Ginger Rogers to make you forget that it doesn’t make any sense.

Where to find it: Streaming | DVD

Screenshot - The hooded madman spying on his next victim in The Thirteenth Guest
In the era before social media apps, intrepid madmen had to rely on secret rooms and peepholes to spy on their intended victims.

"The calls are coming from inside the house!" Oops, wrong movie.

Day 2: The Return of The 2nd Annual "Favorite Stars in B Movies" Blogathon

Banner - Films From Beyond's 2nd Annual "Favorite Stars in B Movies" Blogathon co-starring Dana Andrews in The Frozen Dead (1966)

Welcome back to Day 2 of the "Favorite Stars in B Movies" Blogathon! It seems like we've hardly started, and yet on Day 1 we were treated to stealthy ninjas, brawling lumberjacks, ladies at the court of Louis XV, two mad doctors (one male and one female), a poor man's James Bond, and twenty-something "teenagers" who can't get the adults to believe in the existence of a gooey, ravenous creature from outer space. Now that's entertainment!

This go-round promises to be equally rewarding, so let's get on with the show!

(Hey bloggers! You've got options for submitting your post: Use the comments below, email me at brschuck66@yahoo.com, or message me on X/Twitter @brschuck66.)

Screenshot - George Hamilton in The Power (1968)
Stick around, we're just getting warmed up!

Debbi at I Found it at the Movies enjoys the performance of fresh-faced Ray Milland in the "noir comedy thriller" Bulldog Drummond Escapes (1937).

Publicity still - Ray Milland in Bulldog Drummond Escapes (1937)

Rachel at Hamlette's Soliloquy finds the movie Paper Bullets (1941) guilty of murdering logic and reason, but acquits Alan Ladd on a technicality.

Screenshot - Alan Ladd in Paper Bullets (1941)

Virginie at The Wonderful World of Cinema rounds up the usual suspects, the three Roberts (Ryan, Mitchum and Young), in her investigation of Crossfire (1947).

Screenshot - Robert Ryan, Robert Mitchum and Robert Young in Crossfire (1947)

Along with George Clooney and Laura Dern, Andrew at Maniacs and Monsters laments the release of Grizzly II: Revenge (1983) 37 years after it was first filmed.

Screenshot - George Clooney and Laura Dern in Grizzly II: Revenge (1983)

Ruth at Silver Screenings joins Loretta Young in finding Cause for Alarm! (1951) in the bright sunlight of Anytown, USA.

Still - Barry Sullivan and Loretta Young in Cause for Alarm! (1951)

Andrew at The Stop Button is alarmed as Dana Andrews takes the controls of a crippled airliner in yet another movie with an exclamation point in the title, Zero Hour! (1957).

Screenshot - Linda Darnell and Dana Andrews in Zero Hour! (1957)

Marianne at Make Mine Film Noir tags along with Gene Kelly as he explores the dark underbelly of postwar Germany in The Devil Makes Three (1952).

Screenshot - Pier Angeli and Gene Kelly in The Devil Makes Three (1952)

Rebecca at Taking Up Room declares open season on giant wascally wabbits in her review of Night of the Lepus (1972) with DeForest Kelley, Stuart Whitman and Janet Leigh.

Poster - Night of the Lepus (1972)

We're not done yet! See us tomorrow for more great posts and the wrap-up!

April 12, 2024

Day 1: The 2nd Annual "Favorite Stars in B Movies" Blogathon

Banner - Films From Beyond's 2nd Annual "Favorite Stars in B Movies" Blogathon co-starring Charles Bronson in House of Wax (1953)

"I am big. It's the pictures that got small." -- Norma Desmond, Sunset Blvd. (1950)

"There are no small parts, only small actors." -- Konstantin Stanislavski

Welcome to the 2nd Annual "Favorite Stars in B Movies" Blogathon! It's time once again to celebrate big actors in small pictures... and B movies and second features and independent films and exploitation flicks and drive in fodder and...  Whatever you call them, these featured movies are "big" in spite of their modest budgets, if only because of the presence of a cherished actor or two.

And, to riff on Stanislavski, there are no small parts or small actors here, just intriguing performances in films that may not be prestigious or well-known, but are worthy of attention nonetheless.

We've got a great line-up of films from a wide variety of genres spanning six decades, so there should be something for just about everyone.

Reminder to bloggers: When your post is ready, use the comments below, email me at brschuck66@yahoo.com, or message me on X/Twitter @brschuck66.

Screenshot - Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Blvd. (1950)
Norma is ready for her close-up look at her favorite B movie stars -- are you?

Gill at Realweegiemidget Reviews admires the smooth, martial-artsy moves of Franco Nero in Enter the Ninja (1981).

Screenshot - Franco Nero and Susan George in Enter the Ninja (1981)

George (Superman) Reeves and Ralph (Dick Tracy) Byrd are lumberjacks in Thunder in the Pines (1948), and they’re okay, says The Flashback Fanatic.

Screenshot - Ralph Byrd and George Reeves in Thunder in the Pines (1948)

Kristen at Hoofers and Honeys sings the praises of Du Barry Was a Lady (1943), the musical comedy that introduced Lucille Ball’s signature red hair to the world.

Screenshot - Lucille Ball in Du Barry Was a Lady (1943)

Mike at Mike's Movie Room makes a case for medical and cinematic malpractice in his review of Veronica Lake’s last movie, Flesh Feast (1970).

Screenshot - Veronica Lake in Flesh Feast (1970)

Quiggy at The Midnite Drive-in would prefer not to be treated if the only doctor in the house is Vincent Price as The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971).

Screenshot - Vincent Price and Terry-Thomas in The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

Frank at Smoke in the Library marvels at Ross Hagen's coolness under pressure as he battles an all-female army in Wonder Women (1973).

Screenshot - Ross Hagen and Nancy Kwan in Wonder Women (1973)

Kayla at Whimsically Classic consumes every sci-fi cliché in her path as she reviews Steve McQueen in The Blob (1958).

Screenshot from The Blob (1958)

Come back tomorrow for more B movie star gazing!