Hollywood's Legends of Horror Collection: (Doctor X / The Return of Doctor X / Mad Love / The Devil Doll / Mark of the Vampire / The Mask of Fu Manchu)
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(Oct 10, 2006)
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Hollywoods Legends of Horror Collection (DVD)
Classic tales of mad passions and madder deeds! Includes: Doctor X, The Return of Doctor X, Mark of the Vampire, The Mask of Fu Manchu, Mad Love, and The Devil-Doll.]]>
Universal ruled the monster movie in the 1930s, but this hugely enjoyable DVD set offers a counter-argument from MGM and Warners. Its half-dozen horror titles run the gamut from classic vampirism to baroque romanticism, and gather horror luminaries such as Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Peter Lorre.
The greatest film of the bunch is Mad Love (1935), a rich and oft-imitated bit of perversity with a deeply romantic streak. Concert pianist Colin Clive (from Frankenstein) has his hands wrecked, and his actress wife (Frances Drake) turns to the obsessive Dr. Gogol (Lorre), who has long worshipped her. But the doctor replaces the pianist's hands with those of a murderous circus knife-thrower! Superbly directed by Karl Freund (The Mummy), this eerie film is shaped by Lorre's subtle, uncannily sympathetic performance.
Karloff reigns in The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932), which offers more minute-for-minute lurid action than any other movie in this set. Connoisseurs of horror will be well pleased by the roster: a crocodile pit, deadly snakes and spiders, poisons, various forms of torture including a man strapped beneath a giant reverberating bell, and Fu Manchu's sexy daughter (Myrna Loy). MGM designer Cedric Gibbons runs wild with a wonderfully daffy Deco-meets-Orientalism scheme. There are some undeniably racist epithets thrown in the direction of the evil Dr. Fu Manchu, but he gives as good as he gets, and the character is ultimately as irresistible as any evil mastermind. Karloff gives one of his juiciest performances ever.
Doctor X (1932) is presented in a recently-restored 2-strip Technicolor process (a lot of throbbing greens and oranges), which gives the movie an antique appeal. Doctor Xavier (Lionel Atwill) brings his colleagues together to figure out which of them might be the Full Moon Killer; daughter Fay Wray and reporter Lee Tracy (a typical fast-talking role for this fun actor) tag along. Michael Curtiz directed; he also did the similar Mystery of the Wax Museum, again with Atwill (available on the House of Wax disc). The Return of Doctor X (1939) is more of a curio than a full-fledged horror movie, as it has Humphrey Bogart, resplendent in a Bride of Frankenstein hair streak, in a rare supernatural outing.
The other two films are directed by Tod Browning. Mark of the Vampire (1935) is a clear example of MGM trying to ride the Dracula gravy train, with plenty of smoky graveyards, scuttling possums, and Lugosi in a tuxedo striding through giant spider webs. Lugosi is peripheral here, as Lionel Barrymore hunts down the blood-suckers. It's slow going, but the touches are wonderful and there's a spooky vampiress. Browning makes The Devil-Doll (1936) a memorably oddball thriller, with Barrymore a wronged man seeking revenge--and exploiting a device that allows people to be miniaturized. All the films have lively commentary tracks, except Devil-Doll. Overall this is a very neat package; even the inclusion of Return of Doctor X makes sense as a pairing with its original. MGM and Warners seemed embarrassed by the horror genre in the thirties, but these examples prove they could rise to Universal's game. --Robert HortonSee all Editorial Reviews
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All of the movies deliver a good creep out factor and are well acted. The black and white is rich in shading so one can appreciate the time taken to light everything just so. In black and white movies the greatest care was taken to light sets to perfection because; lighting was a vital part of telling the story. Lighting set moods, lighting revealed faces and hid dangers just barely visible. Lighting in old horror movies like these was often especially good because shadows of commonplace objects and things take on a gruesome appearance when properly lit. Today all the blood and gore are shown in detail with little if anything left to the imagination. In the Hollywood's Legends of Horror Collection light or its absence, sound or its lack thereof helped set the mood and tell the story. Black & White horror movies challenge the imagination because; the people making films in this Hollywood's Legends of Horror Collection know the most horrible things that haunt our souls live within our imaginations. I always say Black & White horror movies teach the audiences to scare themselves using their own inner demons and psychotic thoughts.
The Hollywood's Legends of Horror Collection is a great series of awesome vintage horror you just need to supply an active imagination and your full attention. It will be worth the tiny price paid for this Hollywood's Legends of Horror Collection because; a good bone bracing fright is priceless for its like is experienced too rare in these times. This Hollywood's Legends of Horror Collection earned my five star rating.
"Mark of the Vampire" was a Browning film, and in it he seems to work out some scenes that he did not achieve in "Dracula," while duplicating some from the former as well. An interesting study.
Of course, how can you miss with "The Return of Dr. X?" Humphrey Bogart, on studio contracts, had reportedly complained of some of the same cheap crook roles he had been assigned, so he was given this! Lauren Bacall said in the "Bacall on Bogart" documentary, "....here's one you may have never seen...." Well, now is your chance. The great Bogart as a re-animated doctor who seeks blood. :D Ain't nothing like it.
All of these films are well worth seeing many times; the price of the box for 6 features makes this a bargain, and the transfers look great.
Though Jacque Tourneur and Val Lewton's 'Cat People' (1942) is generally credited with introducing monsters and horror to the modern urban landscape, Michael Curtiz's atmospheric 'Doctor X' (1932) proves this assertion to be untrue.
Produced in an era before the Hays Code was enforced, 'Doctor X' concerns a series of strangulation murders in New York City and Long Island in which the killer partially cannibalizes his victim's bodies. Known in the press as "the Moon Murderer" due to the period of the month during which he is active, the killer's eventual unmasking and subsequent transformation into the "Moon Monster" is still chilling today. Though the murderer's explanation for his actions seem both forced and unnecessary, the version offered here was printed in an early, eerie version of Technicolor, making a film already long on shadows also weirdly tinted in shades of green, red, and yellow.
Curtiz, of course, would go on to direct 'The Adventures of Robin Hood' (1938), 'Casablanca' (1942), 'Mildred Pierce' (1945) and 'White Christmas' (1954). A fairly young Lionel Atwill stars as the title doctor, and Fay Wray as his daughter.
Also produced by First National/Warner Brothers, 'The Return of Doctor X' (1939) is a sequel to 'Doctor X' in name only. Humphrey Bogart, who seems to be channeling Andy Warhol in several early scenes, stars as a murderer revived from the dead and now badly in need of continuous transfusions of a rare type of blood. Also starring Dennis Morgan before he rose to stardom as one of the most popular leading men of the 1940s, 'The Return of Doctor X' is a surprisingly well-made and effective thriller.
Interestingly, the original film trailer, which is present as an extra feature, shows numerous scenes not included in the final cut, suggesting that the producers originally had quite a different film in mind.
Also produced during the pre-Hays era, MGM's 'The Mask of Fu Manchu' (1932) stars the post-Frankenstein Boris Karloff as the would-be Asian world-conqueror and Myra Loy as his beautiful but perverse daughter, Fah Lo See. Beautifully produced but anti-climatic, the film is remarkable for its sexual undertones, including the homoerotic scene in which the athletically-built Charles Starrett, who portrays the young hero, writhes under torture while strapped to a table and wearing nothing but a scanty loincloth.
Tod Browning and MGM's quirky 'The Mark of the Vampire' (1935) is a fascinatingly disjointed and almost surreal remake of Browning's now-lost silent film, 'London After Midnight' (1927). Starring Lionel Barrymore, Lionel Atwill, and Bela Lugosi, who only has several actual lines of dialogue, the film is actually a murder mystery disguised as a horror movie, and one which continuously cheats at the misleading game it plays with its audience.
However, instead of detracting from the finished product, Browning's mischievous use of the editing process and evident joy in subverting viewer expectations make 'The Mark of the Vampire' a horror film classic. Visually stunning throughout, the father-and-daughter vampire team, as depicted by Lugosi and Carroll Borland, remain one of the archetypal representations of the vampire in cinema.
MGM's ghoulish 'Mad Love' (1935) stars Peter Lorre as love-obsessed surgeon Dr. Gogol and Colin Clive as Stephen Orlac, a world-renowned concert pianist who loses his hands in a train accident. When Lorre, who is in passionately in love with Orlac's beautiful wife, Yvonne, is called in to operate, he replaces the pianist's crushed hands with those of a recently-executed murderer whose specialty was knife-wielding. Before long, Orlac has the uncontrollable desire to kill, and Gogol, who keeps a life-size wax effigy of Yvonne in his home, hopes an imprisoned Orlac will finally make Yvonne available to become his bride.
The brief scene in which Orlac confronts what he believes is the reanimated figure of the decapitated and now-handless murderer is one of the great moments of 1930s horror. The film was a critical and popular failure upon release, though Lorre excels as the pathetic, love-sick Gogol, as does Clive as the potentially neurotic pianist, and lovely Frances Drake is extremely impressive as the devoted Yvonne.
The collection is rounded out by the wonderful special-effects extravaganza 'The Devil Doll' (1936), produced by MGM and again directed by Tod Browning. Equal parts fantasy, science fiction, and thriller, Lionel Barrymore stars as wrongfully-accused banker Paul Lavond, who escapes from Devil's Island and subsequently disguises himself as an elderly female Parisian doll maker.
Having discovered how to miniaturize and mentally control human beings from an eccentric husband and wife scientist team who hope to save the world by ending starvation, Lavond sends a pair of 8-inch apache dancers out on missions of revenge, robbery, and murder, before being exonerated and reunited with his daughter, Lorraine, portrayed by the lovely Maureen O'Sullivan.
'The Hollywood Legends of Horror Collection' is an extremely satisfying set of horror and 'fantastic' films. The screenwriting, acting, directing, photography, art direction, and set design for all six films are exquisite.
Hopefully, the success of this collection, as well as that of the earlier 'The Val Lewton Horror Collection,' will see further collections become available. Still awaiting collection are James Whale and Universal's 'The Old Dark House' (1932), 'White Zombie' starring Bela Lugosi (1932), and Michael Curtiz's 'The Mystery of the Wax Museum,' among many others of the classic era.