10/10/09 FOLLOW UP
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.