Film Review – THE LOST WORLD (1960)

THE LOST WORLD (1960, USA, 97m, PG) ***
Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
dist. Twentieth Century Fox; pr co. Saratoga Productions; d. Irwin Allen; w. Charles Bennett, Irwin Allen (based on the novel by Arthur Conan Doyle); pr. Irwin Allen; ph. Winton C. Hoch (DeLuxe | 2.35:1); m. Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter; ed. Hugh S. Fowler; ad. Duncan Cramer, Walter M. Simonds.
cast: Michael Rennie (Lord John Roxton), Jill St. John (Jennifer Holmes), David Hedison (Ed Malone), Claude Rains (Prof. George Edward Challenger), Fernando Lamas (Manuel Gomez), Richard Haydn (Prof. Summerlee), Ray Stricklyn (David Holmes), Jay Novello (Costa), Vitina Marcus (Native Girl), Ian Wolfe (Burton White), Colin Campbell (Prof. Waldron (uncredited)), John Graham (Stuart Holmes (uncredited)).
This adaptation of Conan Doyle’s classic adventure is given a contemporary setting. Allen had also wanted to use stop-motion dinosaurs, but due to budget constraints, he had to use lizards with plastic horns and spikes on model sets. You could hardly call them dinosaurs. That said the production is enjoyable hokum with familiar thrills and excitements. The story sees anthropology professor George Challenger (Rains), explorer Lord John Roxton (Rennie) and an assorted team of thrill-seekers and experts, led by Hedison and including the delectable St. John, trek through a South American rainforest Rains claims is home to living prehistoric creatures. There they meet the dangers of the environment and a lost native tribe. Rains has enormous fun as the eccentric Challenger and Hedison makes an admirable action hero. Rennie, however, seems a little old for his role and at odds with the material. If you can get past the cut-price effects work and often flat direction, this makes for diverting entertainment but fails to do Conan Doyle’s novel justice.

Film Review – THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938)

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938, USA, 106m, U) *****
Action, Adventure, Romance
dist. Warner Bros.; pr co. First National Pictures / Warner Bros.; d. Michael Curtiz, William Keighley; w. Norman Reilly Raine, Seton I. Miller; pr. Hal B. Wallis, Jack L. Warner (both uncredited); ph. Tony Gaudio, Sol Polito (Technicolor | 1.37:1); m. Erich Wolfgang Korngold; ed. Ralph Dawson; ad. Carl Jules Weyl.
cast: Errol Flynn (Robin Hood), Olivia de Havilland (Maid Marian), Basil Rathbone (Sir Guy of Gisbourne), Claude Rains (Prince John), Patric Knowles (Will Scarlett), Eugene Pallette (Friar Tuck), Alan Hale (Little John), Melville Cooper (High Sheriff of Nottingham), Ian Hunter (King Richard the Lion-Heart), Una O’Connor (Bess), Herbert Mundin (Much), Montagu Love (Bishop of the Black Canons), Leonard Willey (Sir Essex), Robert Noble (Sir Ralf), Kenneth Hunter (Sir Mortimer), Robert Warwick (Sir Geoffrey), Colin Kenny (Sir Baldwin), Lester Matthews (Sir Ivor), Harry Cording (Dickon Malbete), Ivan F. Simpson (Proprietor of Kent Road Tavern).
Not only the definitive Robin Hood movie, but one of the all-time great adventure films and highly influential on George Lucas and his STAR WARS saga. When King Richard the Lionheart is captured, his scheming brother Prince John (Rains). aided by Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Rathbone), plots to reach the throne, to the outrage of Sir Robin of Locksley (Flynn), the bandit king of Sherwood Forest. Rounding up his band of men he eventually wins the support of the lovely Maid Marian (de Havilland). Filmed in three-strip Technicolor, this is a sumptuous production full of verve and pomp. Flynn is perfect as the energetic and charismatic Robin. He has the ideal cast in support, from the calculating Raines to the poise of the sadistic Rathbone and the sensitive beauty of de Havilland. The set design and matte work are first-rate for the period, whilst Dawson’s slick editing and Korngold’s boisterous score add significantly to the production. Milo Anderson’s costumes are designed to maximise the use of the Technicolor process. The climactic swordfight between Flynn and Rathbone is inventive and often hailed as one of the best filmed. Curtiz replaced Keighley as director of the film to add vigour to the action scenes. The film won 3 Oscars: Best Soundtrack, Editing and Art Direction (Carl Jules Weyl). The film was entered into the National Film Registry for its culturally, historically, or aesthetically significance in 1995.
AA: Best Art Direction (Carl Jules Weyl), Best Film Editing (Ralph Dawson), Best Music, Original Score (Erich Wolfgang Korngold)
AAN: Best Picture

Film Review – PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943)

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943, USA, 92m, PG) ***
Drama, Horror, Music, Romance, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), General Film Distributors (GFD) (UK); pr co. Universal Pictures; d. Arthur Lubin; w. Eric Taylor, Samuel Hoffenstein, Hans Jacoby (based on the novel “Le Fantôme de L’Opéra” by Gaston Leroux); pr. George Waggner; ph. W. Howard Greene, Hal Mohr (Technicolor | 1.37:1); m. Edward Ward; ed. Russell F. Schoengarth; ad. Alexander Golitzen, John B. Goodman.
cast: Nelson Eddy (Anatole Garron), Susanna Foster (Christine DuBois), Claude Rains (Erique Claudin), Edgar Barrier (Raoul Daubert), Leo Carrillo (Signor Ferretti), Jane Farrar (Biancarolli), J. Edward Bromberg (Amiot), Fritz Feld (Lecours), Frank Puglia (Villeneuve), Steven Geray (Vercheres), Barbara Everest (Aunt), Hume Cronyn (Gerard), Fritz Leiber (Franz Liszt), Nicki Andre (Lorenzi), Gladys Blake (Jeanne), Elvira Curci (Biancarolli’s Maid), Hans Herbert (Marcel), Kate Drain Lawson (Landlady), Miles Mander (Pleyel), Rosina Galli (Christine’s Maid).
Lavish production of Gaston Leroux’s novel in which the talented Christine (Foster) is unaware that her singing lessons are being funded by a secret admirer, Enrique (Rains), a mysterious violinist with a disfigured face. Christine’s colleagues become suspicious when mysterious accidents start occurring at the Paris Opera House, as the deaths coincide with her meteoric rise to stardom. Christine’s suitors, Raoul (Barrier) and Anatole (Eddy), brave the dark recesses of the opera house to find the true culprit. The film suffers from the imbalance of music to horror with the former creating some longueurs. Attempts at comedy also feel forced. Rains does his best, but his role lacks the motivation that was apparently evident in earlier drafts of the script. Some effective scenes do emerge, however – notably the chase through the flies and the finale in the Phantom’s lair. The extravagant and evocative art direction and crisp Technicolor cinematography deservedly won Oscars. Filmed many times before and since to varying degrees of success.
AA: Best Cinematography, Color (Hal Mohr, W. Howard Greene); Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Color (Alexander Golitzen, John B. Goodman, Russell A. Gausman, Ira Webb)
AAN: Best Sound, Recording (Bernard B. Brown (Universal SSD)); Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture (Edward Ward)

Film Review – THE WOLF MAN (1941)

The Wolfman (1941) movie poster – Dangerous UniverseTHE WOLF MAN (USA, 1941) ***½
      Distributor: Universal Pictures; Production Company: Universal Pictures; Release Date: 9 December 1941 (USA), 13 March 1942 (UK); Filming Dates: 8 September 1941 – 25 November 1941; Running Time: 70m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: George Waggner; Writer: Curt Siodmak; Executive Producer: Jack J. Gross; Producer: George Waggner; Director of Photography: Joseph A. Valentine; Music Composer: Charles Previn, Hans J. Salter, Frank Skinner (all uncredited); Music Director: Charles Previn; Film Editor: Ted J. Kent; Art Director: Jack Otterson; Set Decorator: Russell A. Gausman; Costumes: Vera West; Make-up: Jack P. Pierce; Sound: Bernard B. Brown; Special Effects: John P. Fulton (uncredited).
      Cast: Lon Chaney Jr. (Larry Talbot – The Wolf Man), Claude Rains (Sir John Talbot), Warren William (Dr. Lloyd), Ralph Bellamy (Colonel Paul Montford), Patric Knowles (Frank Andrews), Bela Lugosi (Bela), Maria Ouspenskaya (Maleva), Evelyn Ankers (Gwen Conliffe), J.M. Kerrigan (Charles Conliffe), Fay Helm (Jenny Williams), Forrester Harvey (Twiddle), Jessie Arnold (Gypsy Woman (uncredited)), Leyland Hodgson (Kendall – Butler (uncredited)), Connie Leon (Mrs. Wykes (uncredited)), Doris Lloyd (Mrs. Williams (uncredited)), Ottola Nesmith (Mrs. Bally (uncredited)).
Synopsis: A practical man returns to his homeland, is attacked by a creature of folklore, and infected with a horrific disease his disciplined mind tells him cannot possibly exist.
      Comment: Universal’s second Werewolf film after WEREWOLF OF LONDON (1935). It is a fun outing with a strong sense of atmosphere, created by Valentine’s moody photography and Pierce’s impressive make-up. Chaney is Lawrence Talbot, who returns to father Rains’ estate and falls for antique shop-girl Ankers. After visiting a gypsy camp, where he meets the mysterious Lugosi he is bitten by a werewolf and his nightmares begin. Chaney is too stiff to carry off the leading man role but is better when in full make-up and snarling at his intended victims. Rains delivers the best performance, capturing subtly his character’s dilemma of not wanting to believe his son is the murderous monster, but deep down knowing he must do what is right. Waggner directs with pace and the movie proved to be a success. Chaney would appear as the Wolf Man four more times, but only as part of multi-monster offerings. Followed by FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943) and remade as THE WOLFMAN (2010).

Film Review – THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933)

THE INVISIBLE MAN (USA, 1933) ****
      Distributor: Universal Pictures; Production Company: Universal Pictures; Release Date: 3 November 1933 (USA), 30 November 1933 (UK); Filming Dates: August 1933; Running Time: 71m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording Sound System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: James Whale; Writer: R.C. Sherriff (based on the novel by H.G. Wells); Executive Producer: Carl Laemmle; Producer: Carl Laemmle Jr.; Director of Photography: Arthur Edeson; Music Composer: Heinz Roemheld (uncredited); Music Supervisor: Gilbert Kurland (uncredited); Film Editor: Ted J. Kent;  Art Director: Charles D. Hall; Make-up: Jack P. Pierce; Sound: Gilbert Kurland (uncredited); Visual Effects: John P. Fulton.
      Cast: Claude Rains (Dr. Jack Griffin aka The Invisible Man), Gloria Stuart (Flora Cranley), William Harrigan (Dr. Arthur Kemp), Henry Travers (Dr. Cranley), Una O’Connor (Jenny Hall), Forrester Harvey (Herbert Hall), Holmes Herbert (Chief of Police), E.E. Clive (Constable Jaffers), Dudley Digges (Chief Detective), Harry Stubbs (Inspector Bird), Donald Stuart (Inspector Lane), Merle Tottenham (Millie), Walter Brennan (Bicycle Owner (uncredited)), Robert Brower (Farmer (uncredited)), John Carradine (Informer Suggesting Ink (uncredited)), Dwight Frye (Reporter (uncredited)), Bob Reeves (Detective Hogan (uncredited)).
      Synopsis: A scientist finds a way of becoming invisible, but in doing so, he becomes murderously insane.
      Comment: H.G. Wells’ novel is brought to the screen in the stylish hands of director Whale and nuanced voice performance by Rains, who is only visible in the final shot. Rains has experimented with a serum that has made him invisible. Madness and megalomania increasingly take him over in his fruitless search for a cure. Rains’ vocal inflexions are both haunting and comedic and the material is often played for straight comedy. The character’s psychotic undercurrent becomes apparent as he commits a series of murders – firstly to protect his experiment and increasingly as spite, notably a scene where he derails a passenger train. The shifting tone is skilfully handled by Whale whose visual creativity along with the wonderful invisible effects by Fulton ensure the film remains absorbing throughout. The supporting performances are variable from O’Connor’s screeching innkeeper’s wife to a remarkably mannered Harrigan as Rains’ former assistant who Rains seeks revenge on for his betrayal. The movie was highly influential on the horror and fantasy genres and made a star out of Rains. Followed by THE INVISIBLE MAN RETURNS (1940) and THE INVISIBLE MAN’S REVENGE (1944).