Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.
Showing posts with label Erle C. Kenton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Erle C. Kenton. Show all posts

Thursday, July 10, 2014

WHY MEN LEAVE HOME

Gross: The Fat Twins --  Zoe and Chloe Borden
WHY MEN LEAVE HOME (aka Secrets of Beauty/1951). Director: Erle C. Kenton.

In this oddball theatrical film from Hallmark, Dr. John Waldron (Richard Denning) is put out because his wife, Ruth (Julie Bishop of Lady Gangster) won't, well, put out. He thinks she puts too much effort into her housekeeping and not enough into keeping herself lovely and satisfying his needs. [In one scene it is very obvious that John is hoping for and expecting some bedroom action until Ruth puts curlers in her hair and smears cold cream on her face.] The couple have a little daughter, Ginger (Ginger Prince), who is sent out to Hollywood for a screen test along with other youngsters, such as the Fat Twins. [Not only are these gals corpulent and plain, they have absolutely no talent and should not be seen on an empty stomach -- or a full one! Four years later, blond but still disgusting, they appeared on one of the least memorable I Love Lucy episodes with Tennessee Ernie Ford]. Then the movie turns into an ad for Ern Westmore of the famous make-up family, who demonstrates beauty tricks on different ladies as his wife, Betty (actually actress Virginia Merrick) stands by and urges him to lose weight. [Betty Westmore was a sometime actress herself, but for some reason doesn't play herself in this movie.] Meanwhile Ruth mistakenly believes that John is carrying on with his sexy nurse, Kay (Myrna Dell), who is in love with him, while she's in Hollywood with Ginger and the Westmores. (At one point John actually spies on Kay as she's changing her clothing  -- talk about unprofessional, even sleazy, behavior!) Should this couple divorce, or will tubby Ern Westmore pull some tricks out of his hat and turn Ruth once again into a ravishing beauty? The movie stops dead now and then while Ern and other "experts" deliver lectures. Poor Albert Glasser [Monster from Green Hell] wrote the score for this. Erle C. Kenton also directed many Universal horror flicks, a few Abbott and Costello comedies, and Search for Beauty in 1934. It's unlikely he ever made a worse movie than this, however.

Verdict: Why people leave the theater. Atrocious! *.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

ISLAND OF LOST SOULS

ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1932). Director: Erle C. Kenton.

"They are restless tonight."

After begin rescued from a shipwreck, Edward Parker (Richard Arlen) winds up marooned on an island whereupon  the corpulent Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton) is experimenting on animals and turning them into semi-humans. [These "strange-looking" natives are so grotesque that next to them Laughton almost appears handsome.] Although it's been a while since I've read the source novel, H. G. Wells' excellent "The Island of Dr. Moreau," much of this film seems quite faithful to the book, with the exception of the foolish business with Parker's fiancee, Ruth (Leila Hyams), suddenly showing up on the island. Bela Lugosi is the "Sayer of the Law" and Kathleen Burke plays Lota, the Panther Woman. The performances are good for the most part, and the film is entertaining. There's some borderline bestialism when it comes to that slinky panther woman.

Verdict: Good show! ***

Thursday, October 4, 2012

SEARCH FOR BEAUTY

Ida Lupino and "Buster" Crabbe
SEARCH FOR BEAUTY  (1934). Director: Erle C. Kenton.

"Baby, come to Mama!"

Larry Williams (Robert Armstrong) and Dan Healy (James Gleason), with the help of Jean Strange (Gertrude Michael), try a new con by putting out a "health" magazine and hiring above-board Olympic winners (Ida Lupino and "Buster" Crabbe) as editors to make it all look legitimate. Before long the editors are clashing with the publishers, who confuse a fitness mag with something a little bit racier. There's a search for perfect male and female physical specimens to work at a health farm, where Williams and company find they must adhere to the strict regimen along with all of the other guests even though they'd rather drink and watch pretty gals dancing on tables. The film is ful of risque dialogue and attractive performers -- and the lead actors are all swell -- but this pre-code movie ultimately doesn't amount to much.

Verdict: If only there were more solid laughs and a better story. **.




Wednesday, July 9, 2008

HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN


HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944). Director: Erle C. Kenton.

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man teamed the two title characters. This sequel (sixth in the Frankenstein series and third in the Wolf Man series) brings those two back and throws Dracula into the mix. Boris Karloff plays not the monster, but mad scientist Dr. Niemann, who escapes from jail with his hunchback servant, Daniel (J. Carroll Naish), eager to get revenge on the men who spoke out against him at his trial. Along the way the twosome encounter Lampini (George Zucco), a traveling showman who has acquired the bones of Dracula (John Carradine). In a relatively brief episode, Niemann inadvertently brings Dracula back to life (the vampire never meets the monster or the Wolf Man). Although the climax to Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man took place in Visaria, the locale for that is conveniently switched to the village of Frankenstein, where Niemann and Daniel uncover Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney) and the monster. A romantic triangle develops between Daniel, Talbot and Ilonka, (Elena Verdugo), a cute little gypsy girl. Although Niemann hopes to revivify the monster, cure Talbot of his curse, and even give Daniel a hunky new body, the best laid plans ... The monster (Glenn Strange) doesn't really come to life until the final moments of the film. Nevertheless this is a fast-paced, dramatic, well-directed, generally well-acted, and highly entertaining monster fest. Karloff is fine, Chaney uneven, Carradine okay (if nothing special), but Naish pretty much steals the picture with his half evil/half pathetic portrait of Daniel. Ever-reliable Lionel Atwill is again on hand as Arnz. Followed by House of Dracula.

Verdict: Hang on for a fun ride! ***.

HOUSE OF DRACULA


HOUSE OF DRACULA (1945). Director: Erle C. Kenton.

Sequel to House of Frankenstein ignores the fact that both Dracula and The Wolf Man seemingly died at the end of that film and has both Larry Talbot(Lon Chaney Jr.) and Count Dracula (improbably) asking decent Dr. Edelman (Onslow Stevens) to cure them of their respective curses. Conveniently, Frankenstein's monster (Glenn Strange) is found in the caverns below Edelman's sanitarium, along with the skeleton of Dr. Niemann from House of Frankenstein. Before long Dracula (John Carradine) is up to his old tricks, infecting Edelman (who becomes a sort of vampire without dying) with his evil -- Talked out of reviving the monster by his kindly hunchbacked assistant Nina (Jane Adams), he now decides to bring the creature back to life in the climax. Strangely compelling horror film plays fast and loose with supernatural legends, but offers a kind of scientific explanation for both vampirism (parasites in the blood) and lycanthropy (something to do with self-hypnosis, overactive hormones, and pressure in the cranial cavity). Lionel Atwill is back as another police inspector. The Wolf Man and Dracula are in the same room only for a few seconds. They would interact more -- and Dracula would actually meet The Monster -- in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

Verdict: Great fun! ***.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN


THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942). Director: Erle C. Kenton.

Yes, it's no surprise that Ygor (Bela Lugosi) and the monster (Lon Chaney Jr.) survived the conflagration at the end of Son of Frankenstein. Together the two travel to Vasaria, where they hope to find another son of Frankenstein, Ludwig von Frankenstein (Sir Cedric Hardwicke), who runs a sanitarium. Realizing that only dissection will dispose of the monster, but not wanting to commit murder, Ludwig decides to replace the monster's criminal brain with one from a decent colleague slain by the creature. Doctor Bohmer (Lionel Atwill), a jealous assistant, decides instead to accede to Ygor's suggestion and place his brain in the monster. Lon Chaney's monster isn't especially memorable, but Hardwicke, Atwill and especially Lugosi, are marvelous. Ralph Bellamy is the boyfriend of Elsa Frankenstein (Evelyn Ankers), and Dwight Frye is on hand in the small role of a villager. If anything this is more illogical than Son of Frankenstein, but it's also fast and entertaining, with a fine musical score by Hans J. Salter. Followed by Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.

Verdict: There's no stopping Franky boy! ***.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

WHO DONE IT?


WHO DONE IT? (1942). Director: Erle C. Kenton.

Bud and Lou are soda jerks who seize an opportunity to get into the radio writing business and wind up pretending to be detectives when someone is murdered during a broadcast. While some of Costello's shtick gets a little tiresome, by and large he and Abbott give good, funny performances. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't have much of a plot to get involved in, so it's entirely dependent on its routines, some of which work and some of which don't. The film's highlight is the bit with Costello trying to get in touch with a radio show that has just awarded him $10,000 -- depending upon his getting back to them within five minutes. At a phone booth in a drug store he tries to get the ditzy operator on the other end to connect him to Alexander 2222 -- as all sorts of people interfere. (This may have been an old A&C vaudeville routine; in any case it's a classic.) Mary Wickes is fun as a secretary that Lou tries to romance but she doesn't have enough to do, and William Bendix scores as a brusque cop who's even stupider than Costello. Patric Knowles and Louise Allbritton are the obligatory romantic couple, Jerome Cowan is a writer, and William Gargan is the police lieutenant.

Verdict: Some very amusing moments. **1/2.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

PARDON MY SARONG


PARDON MY SARONG (1942). Director: Erle C. Kenton.

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello are city bus drivers who wind up driving their bus out of town for a wealthy yachtsman (Robert Paige) in a hurry, then -- wanted by the police -- become his crew, only to become lost in a gale. Along for the ride is a pretty gal played by a snappy Virginia Bruce. On a small uncharted island the group runs into natives and comes afoul of Lionel Atwill, who is trying to get his hands on a sacred ruby and brooks no interference from anyone. Pardon My Sarong starts out promisingly, with some funny routines by the boys, but once they go to sea the story becomes uninvolving and the gags are silly even by A&C standards. Bruce tries to liven things up but hasn't enough to do, and Lionel Atwill is completely wasted in a nothing part. Leif Ericson does a fine job as a native who's in love with a gal who falls for Lou, and Irving Bacon (Ethel's father on the classic "Ethel's Hometown" episode of I Love Lucy) is great as an exasperated gas station attendant. William Demarest is also good as a detective who tries to nab Bud and Lou. A nightclub scene features some talented Black entertainers: The Four Inkspots and Tip, Tap and Toe. Nan Wynn is the native girl who inexplicably falls for Costello. The film ends with Costello acting heroically in a way that is somewhat out of character for him.

Verdict: Some amusing bits but painfully stupid at times. **.