When it comes to creepy movies, we think that nothing beats the old black and whites. We enjoyed a pleasant double bill the other night. First up: The Vampire Bat (1933). This was made by Majestic Studios, and has that good old Poverty Row feel. It is set in some Mittel Europa village, where people are dying, drained of blood. Everyone suspects vampires, but Melvyn Douglas, local police detective, scoffs at the notion. Local scientist Lionel Atwill isn't so sure - there are a lot of bats about and he does have some reference works from the 17th century. What does his lovely assistant (Douglas' girlfriend) Fay Wray think?
Well, she doesn't suspect half-wit Dwight Frye, who likes bats - they're so soft, he carries a few around in his coat. Everybody else does, of course, except for batty old Aunt Gussie (Maude Eburne) who just rattles of mumbled medical jargon for some reason.
The cast is great, even though Wray never does get to scream. And the amazing creature that is behind it all is - amazing (SPOILER - a throbbing sponge in an aquarium).
Then, House of Frankenstein (1944), the fifth and last of the Universal Frankenstein movies. We have Karloff as a student of Frankenstein, driven to the ruined castle where the monster lies frozen along with the Wolfman, for reasons we couldn't fathom because we have only see Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. The monster, Glenn Strange, and Wolfie, Lon Chaney, Jr., get revived, of course, along with Dracula (John Carradine) who has been travelling with a freak show (proprietor George Zucco) as a skeleton. (The Dracula plot is kind of tacked on, as if it was made of scraps from another movie.)
The Wolfman plot actually gets the most depth, I think. He falls in love with Elena Verdugo, which lets them use the old "Can only be killed by someone who loves him" trick, as well as the "three full moons" theory.
And I haven't even mentioned J. Carrol Naish as Karloff's hunchbacked assistant.
We weren't expecting much from this 5equel, but it was a real romp. Now I suppose we'll need to watch the other two.
The other great thing about these "classics" is that they are short, so it isn't hard to take in a double feature on a cozy October night.