Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics: (The Walking Dead / Frankenstein 1970 / You'll Find Out / Zombies on Broadway)
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Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics (DVD)]]>
Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi are the magic names when it comes to a bygone era of horror, and quite a bit of that magic is still afoot in Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics, a two-disc, four-film set that gathers some of their lower-profile appearances. Karloff reigns supreme on the first disc, delivering a soulful performance in 1936's The Walking Dead, one of his life-after-execution pictures. Here Edmund Gwenn is the professor applying his reanimation technique to the unjustly electrocuted Karloff; revenge killings ensue--or is it karma? Michael Curtiz's energetic direction reminds you that he rarely phoned it in. Karloff takes on the Frankenstein family name (not the Monster garb) in Frankenstein 1970 (1958), which allows him quite a long leash and more than a few doomy speeches. It gets off to a great start and has a promising "meta" setup (a movie crew is at the Frankenstein castle in order to get authentic atmosphere for their horror picture), but it falls off pretty badly.
The second disc boasts You'll Find Out, a 1940 curiosity that not only brings Karloff and Lugosi together, but throws in Peter Lorre for an extra treat. With all that, who cares if the movie is really a vehicle for the popular radio personality Kay Kyser (and his "Kollege of Musical Knowledge")? Kyser's zany style, complete with sidekicks such as the ineffable Ish Kabibble, actually translates fairly well to the screen, and the movie cheerfully follows the blueprint of a screwball-paced haunted-house comedy. Even disappointed horror mavens will warm to the sight of Karloff, Lugosi, and Lorre huddled together, plotting no good.
Zombies on Broadway is a 1945 B-picture that probably ought to be unwatchable, but in fact it's quite competent (director Gordon Douglas was a versatile pro) and often fun. The headliners are Wally Brown and Alan Carney, whose sub-Abbott and Costello repartee is generally painful, although one grave-digging joke pays off nicely. Lugosi has a meaty role as a Caribbean hoodoo doctor who creates zombies in his jungle laboratory (shades of his White Zombie character). The film was made at RKO, home to Val Lewton's legendary horror unit, and is actually something of a send-up of Lewton's I Walked with a Zombie--complete with two of IWWAZ's notable cast members, the looming revenant Darby Jones and honey-voiced calypso singer Sir Lancelot. For fans of the terror titans, a respectable set, even if the chills are scarce. --Robert HortonSee all Editorial Reviews
- The Walking Dead (1936)
- -Commentary by historian Greg Mank
- Frankenstein 1970 (1958)
- -Commentary by historians Charlotte Austin, Bob Burns, and Tom Weaver
- -Theatrical trailer
- You'll Find Out (1940)
- -Theatrical trailer
- Zombies on Broadway (1945)
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Picture and sound quality are very good; and subtitles are available on all four, if needed. "Frankenstein 1970" is presented in widescreen. These are not the best films of either actor, but this set is a lot of fun, and I think Karloff and Lugosi fans would enjoy it. :)
Along for the ride in this set is Karloff and Lugosi the Great AND Peter Lorre in the minor "You'll find Out". It's a fun picture if only to see these three titans playing opposite one another. Kay Keiser's inane musical schtick did nothing for me, but just listening to the two kings of horror and Lorre speak is worth the watching. Zombies On Broadway is worthy if only because of Lugosi. Rounding out the package is the interesting and fun later Karloff vehicle "Frankenstein 1970". Like "Zombies" it is worth just for enjoying Karloff being another mad scientist whose name happens to be Frankenstein. Fun stuff all around!!
The dvd set is now available and it is definitely worth buying!! You can read my commentaries of the four films below. This is just a follow up to say that all four features are excellent transfers with high quality image and sound - and most happy is the news that FRANKENSTEIN 1970 is in the WideScreen format!! Karloff and Lugosi fans should have no complaints and, indeed, rejoice in having such a fine dvd set to add to their collection.
The following are commentaries on the films included in the set. These are four worthwhile K&L movies and are presented in a pristine and proper condition, they're a must for all K&L fans and movie buffs everywhere.
THE WALKING DEAD - This is a fine thriller from the thirties. It's a fusion of crime drama and the supernatural. Karloff is a musician set up by mobsters for a crime he didn't commit and is sent to the electric chair. Scientist Edmund Gwenn resurrects him from the dead and Karloff seeks reprisal against those who wronged him - and finds a few moments to resume his music. A well done film from director Michael Curtiz (CASABLANCA) with lots of atmosphere. It plays like a story from the thirties publication, WEIRD TALES. Film historian Greg Mank adds an informative commentary track.
FRANKENSTEIN 1970 - Warner DVD got it right! It is a CinemaScope picture and its in its proper widescreen format and not in a full screen distortion (like Warner's disappointing VHS release several years ago). Dr. Frankenstein (Karloff) accepts a lucrative payment for allowing a TV crew into his ancestral castle to do a documentary about his famous great great granddad. With his loot, Dr. F sets up an atomic lab beneath the castle's crypt to carry on with experiments of life and death. The TV crew are an annoyance to Dr. F but prove to be a good source for harvesting organs. This is an underrated and wrongly maligned film. It's certainly not the best Frankenstein film made but it's far from being the worse and actually has good points that make it enjoyable (photography, sets, some gruesome moments and some shocks). Karloff is in fine form as a latter day Frankenstein disfigured and apparently rendered impotent by Nazi experiments. He does NOT give a 'hammy' or 'phoned in' performance as several knotheaded reviewers have said in the past. This film was originally double billed with THE ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN (a vastly inferior film - in spite of its cult status). F70 is NOT a 'Bomb' but rather it is a fun film and a guilty pleasure.
YOU'LL FIND OUT - Here is another film underrated by more knotheaded reviewers down through the years. Often it is stated that the talents of the three stellar bogeymen in the film are wasted. NOT TRUE! Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Bela Lugosi are all splendid in their parts. Spooky comedies were popular in the forties and this film is one of the better ones. When I was a kid, this movie showed up on a local TV station several times in a year and I watched it as often as possible. I've seen it recently and it holds up well. A young heiress to a fortune is targeted for murder by the three villains. The story takes place in an isolated mansion near the sea. The heiress has invited her friends to spend a weekend there to celebrate her 21st birthday. She also invites a popular band (Kay Kayser and his College of Musical Knowledge) to play for the occasion. A furious thunderstorm ensues and the bridge to the property blows up stranding everyone in the house where the weirdness increases. The film contains everything one would want in a spooky mystery comedy - intrigue, danger, rooms filled with mysterious and odd artifacts, secret passageways, creepy seances, funny setups and good pacing. Kay Kyser, Dennis O'Keefe and Ish Kabbible give good comedic performances. And Karloff, Lorre and Lugosi are properly menacing and are excellent straightmen to the comedy. The big band music is fine, too. It's an all around fun romp.
ZOMBIES ON BROADWAY - This is another forties spooky comedy - and a good one. A Broadway gangster (Sheldon Leonard) plans to open a zombie themed night club and hires two PR men to promote it. When their PR hype promises a real zombie for opening night the mob boss sends them to the Carribbean to bring one back and make good their promise. On a jungle island they meet Dr. Renault (Lugosi) who's creating zombies via a formula (pronounced 'formoo-lah' by Lugosi) injected into the blood. Wally Brown and Alan Carney are the two PR men and, Abbott and Costello comparisons aside, they are funny and work well together. Lugosi shines in his mad doctor role and exhibits a flair for comedy (the scene of him chasing a lab monkey is very amusing). Plus a young and beautiful Anne Jeffreys (Marion Kirby on TV's TOPPER) joins in the shenannigans. It's a fast paced film with fine performances from everyone. This film was made three years before Abbott and Costello ever thought of meeting Frankenstein and it holds up to this day as a terrific horror comedy.
So, Karloff and Lugosi fans rejoice! This IS a great dvd set to add to your collection (Warners came through with a WideScreen transfer of Frankenstein 1970). So settle back and enjoy some old fashion fright fun with this quartet of K&L goodies.