I'm always on the look out for a movie collection. Usually that means a lower cost per film. The Universal Horror Classic Movie Archive is a collection of 5 films from the 1940s. I'd only seen the last in the list below so it was a nice treat for me. I got it from Amazon, $13.99, not bad for 5 movies. They're short ones, most about an hour, and they're all packed on 2 discs. The movies look and sound fine but there are no extras, other than 3 trailers. You can see John Carradine and Bela Lugosi on the box. They both worked a lot for Universal. They're joined in this box by Basil Rathbone, Milburn Stone, Lon Chaney Jr, Alan Ladd, Martha Vickers, Broderick Crawford, Paul Fix, Lionel Atwill, Russell Hicks and plenty of other good character actors who worked at Universal Studios.
The Black Cat is a 1941 horror picture that lays on a bit of comedy. Horror movies of the time were pretty lightweight when compared to the ones you see today. It's got a script from Robert Lees and Robert Neville with Albert S Rogell directing. Albert directed a good number of pictures in a career that started in 1921 and ended in 1954. Half of his 124 credits were silent films, half of those shorts. I just wasn't familiar with most of them. I'd recently seen his Painted Faces with Joe E Brown and his 1940 film Lil Abner.
The Black Cat is based loosely on the Edgar Allan Poe story. An elderly spinster is on her deathbed and the greedy relatives are hovering for a paycheck. With that start you won't be surprised that there's a murder shortly after. Th corpses start piling up, even the cat isn't spared.
Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, Hugh Herbert, Broderick Crawford, Anne Gwynne and Alan Ladd are the cast members that I had heard of before. I liked it despite the annoying character that Hugh plays. That guy got on my nerve. Broderick was more fun. The house was fun too, lots of secret passages and nicely dressed sets. The story was full enough for the short running time of 71 minutes and there was fun stuff for the actors to do. It's probably my favorite in the set.
Man Made Monster is a 1941 mad scientist film. It's got a script by Harry Essex, Len Golos, Sid Schwartz and director George Waggner. This was one of 2 dozen movies George directed between 1938 and 1951. He directed the next film in this set and in 1942 he directed The Wolf Man. After that I can't remember seeing any of his other movies. In 1954 George started directing TV and he worked on a lot of popular shows. The last two programs he worked on were the 1966 seasons of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Batman.
Lon Chaney Jr is a carnival sideshow guy who does an act with electricity under the name Dynamo Dan, the Electric Man. Lon's just been in an accident, a bus hit a high power line, everyone was killed but Lon. Lionel Atwill and Samuel S Hinds are doctors and scientists. They take Dan into their home and laboratory to study the effects of electricity on him. Lionel is the guy that pushes Dan, charging his body with larger and larger doses of juice. Dan becomes a slave dependent on the current Lionel supplies.
Samuel tries to stop Lionel from going further but Lionel isn't going to put up with losing his greatest medical break through. He desires to create emotionless, brainless, electrically powered slaves out of humans. He can't seem to see how that's a bad thing. He orders Dan to kill Samuel and poor Dan has to obey. Powered up Dan can kill with the touch of his hand. Dan's tried and sent to the electric chair. Ironically, the juice makes him into more of a monster. He escapes and goes after Lionel, hellbent on revenge. Someone's days are numbered. It was pretty entertaining, they pack a lot into an hour. Nice sets and effects too.
Horror Island is a 1941 horror comedy that was based on a story called Terror Of The South Seas by Alex Gottlieb. The screenplay is by Maurice Tombragel and Victor McLeod with George Waggner directing.
Dick Foran and Fuzzy Knight are the owners of a boat that owes a lot of cash. They help Leo Carrillo out of spot of trouble and he shows them his treasure map. He has half of the map and some masked man has the other half. The masked man keeps chasing after Leo. The treasure map gives Dick an idea to raise some cash. He's going to use his island to host a treasure hunt event at 50 smackaroonies a head. Of course once they all get there, the bodies start piling up and the chase is on. There's some silly stuff going on and a bit of romance. It was entertaining.
Night Monster is a 1942 horror mystery about a vicious revenge. Clarence Upson Young wrote the script and Ford Beebe is the director. Ralph Morgan invites the three doctors who saved his life, but left him a cripple, to his house. There's a variety of characters there. Soon after the doctors are settled in their rooms, the killing starts.
Bela and Lionel get top billing on the poster but they aren't the main characters in the film. There's a mystic in the film and he really teaches the baddie to materialize missing flesh. Not quite as fun as the others but still entertaining.
Captive Wild Women came out in 1943 and it's a heavily circus themed story. It's directed by Edward Dmytryk, the story is by Griffin Jay and Henry Sucher, and the screenplay is by Ted Fithian and Neil P Varnick. John Carradine is a mad scientist, he takes the glands from a live woman, killing her, and puts them into a gorilla. The gorilla turns into a pretty girl who gets a job at a circus. She's played by the lady on the poster, the shockingly savage Acquanetta. Her job is to stare at the lions while the lion tamer does his act, her eyes calm the lions. It's got way too many lion taming scenes and I was right quick on the fast forward button. The least interesting of the films in the set. Still, the whole package is mostly above average and that's fine with me. A good addition to my collection and some of those films I'll watch again.