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RELEASED: 1942, Uncertified
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 64 mins
DIRECTOR: Wallace Fox
PRODUCERS: Jack Dietz & Sam Katzman
SCREENPLAY: Harvey Gates
MUSIC: Charles Dunworth
Luana Walters as Patricia Hunter
Bela Lugosi as Dr. Lorenz
Tristram Coffin as Dr. Foster
Elizabeth Russell as Mrs. Lorenzo
Minerva Urecal as Fagah
Angelo Rossitto as Toby
Frank Moran as Angel
Kenneth Harlan as Keenan
FILM ONLY REVIEW
The Corpse Vanishes begins with a bride just about to take her marriage vows, when she collapses to the floor and when people rush to help her, she is pronounced dead. What appears to be an ambulance arrives to take her body away.
Several other brides befall the same fate, and journalist Patricia Hunter sets her sights on trying to find out why these brides keep dropping dead at the altar, and what is happening afterwards to their bodies.
Patricia discovers something which all the dead brides had in common with one another, that being a rare kind of orchid in each of their bouquets. On investigating where these orchids come from, Patricia uncovers the grisly practices of Dr. Lorenz and his helpers.
Shot in black and white, The Corpse Vanishes launches headlong into what is rather a good story. Although made in 1942 at a time when films were beginning to become more technologically advanced, I instantly had the feeling that I was watching one of the very first 'talkies', as it honestly hasn't transferred at all well over to DVD.
The Corpse Vanishes is quite an intriguing little story, although it seems very rushed, especially the first part. I feel that initial section could easily have been expanded in order to create more of a mysterious atmosphere, adding perhaps another 30 or so minutes to the film's length, which would be more than acceptable.
The acting by the whole cast is reasonable, although very much from its era and of a style that now seems extremely antiquated. However, Bela Lugosi gives a good performance as the dastardly Dr. Lorenz and Luana Walters plays the part of busy, bustling newspaper reporter Patricia Hunter very well. My favourite in the whole film is Frank Moran as Angel, a deliciously creepy character who is Dr. Lorenz's son, seeming to spend most of his time stroking women's hair and scaring them, but oh how well he does it!
The musical score to The Corpse Vanishes is a bit hard on my more modern-day ears, as it has that racing quality, almost typical of those wild piano offerings played as a mood accompaniment to early silent movies. This music reminded me very much of something like a Keystone Cops film, where I was almost expecting a parade of old vintage cars to come chugging around the corner, spilling out uniformed, moustached men who walk strangely!
The whole atmosphere of The Corpse Vanishes is a little on the whimsical side.....well, that's how it comes across to me. I'm not sure if that was intentional or whether the director meant it to be a real chiller. If the latter, then the scare factor compared to films made even as early as five or so years later than this one, is almost nil. However, it is very watchable and entertaining, if you can somehow manage to bypass the poor visual quality where the light bits are too light and the dark bits are too dark.
One thing which struck me is how elegant all the female characters looked, with perfect figures and graceful movements. That got me wondering if they were corseted up to the nines, or whether only 'perfect' females were chosen to become actresses back in those days.
Overall, The Corpse Vanishes is quite an enjoyable little film, but isn't at all scary and I doubt very much if it would appeal to people who aren't fans of anything made prior to about 1980-ish! Even people such as myself who view many cinema offerings from the late 1940s and early to mid-1950s with a high degree of reverence, may find this one a bit hard to chew, simply because it comes across as being older than what it actually is. However, there is an amusement value in there which has a touch of something sardonic about it, although it is presented in an almost romp style rather than anything side-splitting. The storyline is good, but could have come across with more punch were the initial part of the film expanded out and not so rushed.
Would I recommend The Corpse Vanishes? Yes in the sense that it is light entertainment and easy to watch, with a good story plus some fair acting, together with it possibly appealing to ardent fans of very old films, but for anyone who prefers more modern offerings, or who likes to be scared, it may be something best avoided.
At the time of writing, The Corpse Vanishes can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £1.72 to £7.56
Used: from 74p to £11.44
Some DVDs on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Although I will always prefer ghost and Vampire films or books, I find that there is something quite endearing about the horror films of the 30s and 40s. Bella Lugosi is an actor I first became aware of when he was playing Dracula, but I soon found out that he had made a lot of other films.
One of the ones I particularly enjoyed was "The Corpse Vanishes". He plays a deranged scientist who has found a way to keep his wife looking glamorous and youthful. With the aid of a number of virginal women, he is using their fluids and injecting her with them. There is a link to history with this as in the 16th Century Elizabeth Bathory, who was a Hungarian Countess, used to bathe in the blood of virgins believing that it would help keep her looking youthful.
He begins by sending poisoned flowers to a bride on her wedding day and while she is unconscious he is able to get her to his lab to allow him to gather the fluids. A journalist tries to entrap him and while she does find his lab, she decides to get out rather than confront him. As with many of the plucky heroines in the films of the time she cannot let him get away with it and continue her quest to find out exactly what he is doing.
As with many films of the 40s there is a lot of action and as usual the heroine finds herself in a position of danger. I sometimes think I enjoy this as it is so badly acted and the story so weak that it is a bit of fun, but it is one I have watched a number of times.
As with many of the horror films at the time it is not very long - just 63 minutes - so is one of a number that can be watched when I have a bit of spare time.
One thing that is particularly enjoyable is the obvious lack of special effects. The actors have to look menacing or speak with a menacing voice to help to build the tension. I can't even hazard a guess at how much this film will have cost to make but as with many of the time it will have been made on a budget.
The fact that it is in black and white also seems to make it a little more menacing and the shadows that little bit darker. I can't imagine that anyone will have to hide behind the cushions while they are watching this but is it an interesting story and well worth watching. Unsurprisingly no Oscars were involved!
Bela Lugosi as Dr. Lorenz the mad scientist
Luana Walters as Patricia Hunter, a newspaper reporter
Tristram Coffin as Dr. Foster a doctor who helps Hunter with her investigations
Elizabeth Russell as Dr. Lorenz's wife
Minerva Urecal as Fagah Dr. Lorenz's servant
I'm a big fan of Bela Lugosi, believing him to be the perfect Dracula, so I am always eager to see more of his films. Recently, I watched his 1942 movie The Corpse Vanishes, which is in black and white, rated PG and lasts just 63 minutes.
The plot is an interesting one. Young brides are dying suddenly at the altar on their wedding day, then their corpses are being stolen and disappearing. As the cases pile up, the police involvement increases, but seemingly to no avail. Meanwhile, the local press are eagerly covering the story, with reporter Patricia Hunter (Luana Walters) hoping to get a scoop on the story everyone is talking about.
The story develops well and Patricia encounters the bizarre and frightening Dr. Lorenz (Bela Lugosi) and his equally eccentric household - his insane wife Countess Lorenz (Elizabeth Russell), as well as the old crone and her sons, one who is a dwarf and the other some kind of brutish mute. Very strange set up indeed.
Without giving too much away, there are several traditional horror elements present - coffins, stormy weather, spooky houses and shadows in dark corners. While not the most stylish of films of this genre, it does have a charm and is well worth watching.
The story is an intriguing one and the film is well-paced with good acting from the leads. Lugosi is wonderfully chilling, conveying threat and danger in just a look, while Luana Walters (who I hadn't heard of before) was great as the feisty and determined journalist, who you admire and really want to survive and come out triumphant.
Tristram Coffin (Great name for a horror film!) is also very good as Dr. Foster, although Walters and Lugosi are the stars of the piece. Gwen Kenyon slightly overacts as Peggy Woods, but overall, the standard and quality of acting are good and the tone is just about right.
The tension is built up well with some genuine surprises and unpredictability. With only 63 minutes, the film is unlikely to become boring, but never seemed at risk anyway. In some ways, the film seems low-budget and slightly dated, but this could just be that my version of the film on DVD was not remastered, so was a little bit shaky and crackly at times.
Overall, I did enjoy the film and found it original and memorable. Bela Lugosi's face peering round corners and coming into the light is always a wonderful moment in any film and is one of my favourite images from The Corpse Vanishes.
If you are a Lugosi fan or enjoy films of this type, I'm sure you will find The Corpse Vanishes is worth 63 minutes of your time.
I rated this one 6 out of 10.
There are several different DVD releases of this film. The cheapest option is to buy the three-film version for £2.98, which features The Corpse Vanishes along with Horror Hotel (1960 starring Christopher Lee) and The Terror (1963 starring Jack Nicholson). This has no extras and the films are not remastered, but this is the cheapest version.
In the late 30s and early 40s, cinema was entering into a heyday with a multitude of quality films, scripts, and actors entertaining throngs brought in by radio and magazine advertisements exhorting people to plan a night out to the cinema and to come in out of the rain and cold to their local cinema and so on. It did not much matter what film they were playing; cinemas were portrayed as exciting places to go for glamour, excitement, suspense, laughter, and thrills. To match this idea, cinemas built extremely interiors, with gilded woodwork, fanciful colonnades, sweeping balconies, and long lush velvet curtains. Seats were similarly upholstered and one must have felt very grand indeed as they swept up the red carpeted aisles! Cinema was an experience, and the best script writers, directors, and producers knew how to exploit the image in order to grab and keep audiences returning for repeat screenings.
One such ploy was to be able to splash the name of a well known and popular star in huge letters across the marquee. One such favourite from the decade previous was Bela Lugosi. Best known for his terrifying portrayal of Count Dracula that still today sends delightful shivers down the spine in the dark, people knew what to expect when they saw his name upon the product. It was a treat of pure Grade B horror, and producers knew the public would pack the seats. So it was that Lugosi was signed on to be one of the infamous Monogram 9, who were all one time popular B movie actors whose careers were adrift and picked up by the production company Monogram Productions Inc. So it was that in 1942, Lugosi was to find himself in a role that again made him a household name, as the masses drove this film onwards to a pride of place in cinematic history.
There is definitely something strange going on in town! Nosy wannabe ace reporter Patricia Hunter is determined to get to the bottom of it. It all starts with virgin brides arriving at the altar, ready to say their vows and begin their lives of married bliss, when suddenly, they simply drop dead. Plop right there at the altar. If that was not bad enough, the grieving families are left bereft when someone also then steals their bodies from the morgue. Ms. Hunter begins attending weddings hoping to gain a clue into what is happening, and while at one of the weddings, witnesses one of the mysterious deaths. Her keen eye noting the prescence of orchids at the exact moment of the brides death, she gets a newshound hunch, and begins digging. Gathering information on orchids and their properties, she also uncovers the startling fact that all the bodies disappeared from a single morgue belonging to the mysterious Dr. Lorenz. Following the scent, she ends up spending the night in a chamber of horrors, witnessing dreadful experiments by the insane doctor and his evil sidekicks,who are,oddly enough, a sadistic dwarf and mentally challenged giant. It is here she discovers the truth about the brides, and his hidden, tragically twisted secret. Will she escape and expose it to the world, or will she become his next victim?
As mentioned, Lugosi was given top billing, being the main cinematic draw. He was not of course the only actor in the film, so here is a list:
Bela Lugosi ... Dr. Lorenz
Luana Walters ... Patricia Hunter, Reporter
Tristram Coffin ... Dr. Foster
Elizabeth Russell ... Countess Lorenz
Angelo Rossito .Toby
Minerva Urecal Fagah
Frank Moran Angel
Joan Barclay Alice Wentworth
Vince Barnett .Sandy
As an ensemble, the cast works very well and are perfectly suited to their roles. Bela Lugosi of course does creepy and insane quite well, and plays this role incredibly staright, especially given the campiness of the script with its knowing nods towards his most famous role as Count Dracula. One cannot help but giggle into the popcorn when these lines are spoken:
Patricia Hunter: Oh, professor, do you also make a habit of collecting coffins?
Dr. Lorenz: Why, yes, in a manner of speaking. I find a coffin much more comfortable than a bed.
Rossito is absolutely brilliant as the evil little dwarf. Forget snivelling Igor, this small laboratory sidekick is pure pint sized evil who takes a sadistic pleasure in what he does. Elizabeth Russell also plays her part quite well, playing wife to Lagoss mad scientist doctor. It is obvious that his efforts have also driven her quite insane, and their love is no longer a pure thing, but that the fires they feel are pure Brimstone. Luana Walters fills the role of wanabe ace reporter quite nicely, fitting into the part with just the right of femininity mixed with a brittle go getting attitude of a woman pushing hard to get ahead in a sexist mans world. Each actor lends an air of authenticity that raise this from the truly awful, to pure B movie Saturday afternoon popcorn bliss.
~~~The DVD Treatment~~~
Having come into the public domain, this film is up for grabs to whomever wishes to release it, and therefore has been subject to a few different DVD releases. The most common one, and the one I happen to have, is a region free budget release from the American company Alpha Video. Alpha Video speciialises in releasing films and TV shows in the public domain onto DVD. Being budget releases, they include the film, and absolutely nothing else.The print is clean, but unrestored, and the sound is in mono. The aspect ratio is 1:33:1, which is also known as 4x3, or in simpler terms, not in widescreen but in its fullscreen television aspect format.. hence some of the picture is cropped, but to be honest, this does not affect the fun at all. Being from 1942, it is in black and white, which lends just the right atmosphere for for the brooding Lugosi and his menacing chamber of torture. I am happy to say it has not been colourised, as colour would be inappropriate somehow and lending an air of the cartoon about the bordering on farce antics we see onscreen. It remains otherwise unedited, being the complete 64 minutes, which is actually quite short by comparison to your average film.
This film is an absolutely delightful romp. The superb turn of Lugosi and eerily evil Rossito coupled with the charm of Luana Walters combine together to make for a pleasant sojurn into fantasy. This is indeed a classic, though not Lugosis best. It is an admirable effort however, by a good actor sadly typecast, and well worth a watch. In turns spinetingling and funny, this is a film that was made to be a B movie, and makes no pretense otherwise. It is a feat of accomplishment that this shoestring production borrows heavily from elements of the Dracula storyline, yer infuses it with originality, only borrowing enough bits to give a very tongue in cheek nod to its predecessor, yet also to infuse a mood of foreboding. This is one film that is pure enjoyment, a nontaxing bit of fluff to be watched on a lazy rainy Saturday with a tray of snacks, and the phone switched off.
A botanist sends orchids to brides as part of a plan to kidnap them. He needs their glandular fluids to help rejuvenate his wife.