Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large
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Selection from Cites & Insights 10, Number 11: November 2010


Offtopic Perspective

Legends of Horror, Part 1

This may be an odd voyage because I’m not much of a horror-movie fan and don’t watch movies with contemporary gore or torture approaches. I would not have purchased this set. Mill Creek sent it to me for free—and my loyal readers voted that I should watch it before some other (purchased) sets. Since the 50 movies include all 20 from the already-viewed Alfred Hitchcock set (most of them not horror movies by any plausible definition), that means watching no more than 30 others, so we’ll see how it goes.

After watching some of these, considering the Hitchcock inclusions and thinking about the sheer quality of some, I understand the package title. It’s not that the films are legends of horror—it’s that somebody involved in each film is, by some standards, a “legend” of horror. So, for example, Hitchcock comedies are eligible. Most of this appears to be packs of films involving some “legendary” actor—so we get five flicks with Bela Lugosi, three with Christopher Lee, six with Tod Slaughter, four with Lon Chaney Jr., three with Barbara Steele, and two each with John Carradine, Cameron Mitchell and Paul Naschy, along with some singletons.

Disc 1

Jamaica Inn. Previously reviewed. $1.50

The Demon, 1979, color. Percival Rubens (dir.), Jennifer Holmes, Cameron Mitchell, Craig Gardner, Zoli Marki. 1:34.

The sleeve description is almost entirely wrong. The deranged killer doesn’t kill a family and abduct the daughter: He does such a sloppy job of killing the mother that the father is able to free her unharmed. The town may be terrified, but we see nothing of town attitudes. The psychic (a former Marine) is the parents’ only hope; the town isn’t involved. This is, I guess, set in South Africa—it was filmed there.

Maybe the blurb-writer got confused because this flick is an incoherent mess. There are two slightly-overlapping plots, both featuring “the demon”—a brutally strong guy who never talks, wears a face mask and gloves with claws when on the prowl, and who seems to favor killing people by suffocating them with plastic bags (except that, in his first attempt, he doesn’t bother to tighten the rope at the base of the bag around the mother’s neck) and carrying off young women, who wind up dead. The first plot features a guy (Cameron Mitchell) with the “gift of ESP,” who chews the scenery fiercely, hands out random clues and mostly gets the father killed—and himself, when he comes back to apologize to the mother and she shoots him on the spot. That does include the one good bit of dialogue in the entire movie.

The second plot involves two young women, sisters or cousins, who both work in a preschool and seem to spend a lot of time nude from the waist up (and, for one of them, entirely nude—for reasons that might have moved the plot forward but not in any way I could discern). The “demon” is stalking one of them and winds up killing the other one and her newfound lover...and gets killed in a climax that’s even stupider than the rest of the flick. (I’d describe it, but you’d think the film was a comedy, which it isn’t.)

What did I conclude? South African front doors have great locks but no peepholes and the inhabitants gladly open the door for any knocks. Oh, and once the doors are locked, they can’t be opened from the inside. Apparently a bunch of shots of a shore with waves breaking over rocks is supposed to mean something, but I could never figure out what. Apparently young South African women of the era (they’re white and one is apparently a visiting American) do their hair and makeup while half-dressed (and, if attempting to climb out the roof through those readily-removable tiles to escape, drop their robes as a matter of course—I dunno, maybe being mostly nude saves weight?). Otherwise…well, the print and digitization are lousy, with soft focus and night scenes that turn into vast arrays of gray. I’m being very generous in giving this one $0.50.

Murder in the Red Barn (orig. Maria Marten, or The Murder in the Red Barn), 1935, b&w. Milton Rosmer (dir.), Tod Salughter, Sophie Stewart, D.J. Williams, Eric Portman, Clare Greet. 1:10 [0:58]

After the lead characters are introduced as part of a stage play, we get a melodrama of sorts. Handsome Gypsy Carlos is in love with farmer’s daughter Maria—but she plays up to the wealthy Squire Corder. When she sneaks out of the house to see him, he Has His Way With Her, leading—well, where does this always lead? Meanwhile, Corder has gambled away large sums that he does not have, but knows of a way to get through marriage to a spinster.

When Maria’s father discovers her condition, he does what you’d expect in a melodrama (never darken my door again!), she goes to Corder for help…and we get the title of the flick. Although Corder does his best to frame Carlos, things unravel.

Overacted, to be sure (Tod Slaughter as Corder chews the scenery with gusto), and primitive—but not bad in its own way. Based on a true story, supposedly. Still, as presented here, it’s barely a B picture. I’ll give it $0.75.

The Ape Man, 1943, b&w. William Beaudine (dir.), Bela Lugosi, Louise Currie, Wallace Ford, Henry Hall, Minerva Urecal. 1:04.

Bela Lugosi stars as Dr. Brewster, reported missing but actually turned into a half-gorilla through his own experiments. He concludes that the only way to reverse the process is with human spinal fluid, which can only be obtained by killing people. Oh, and he has an ape or gorilla sidekick who’s helping him kill people when Brewster isn’t beating up on the animal. That’s the horror part of it. Otherwise, it’s an odd combination of bad comedy (there’s a strange little guy that keeps pushing people toward the story—and I won’t give away one sad little surprise in this movie by saying what his deal is), reporter byplay and—well, it’s just not a very good picture. Badly acted, done on the cheap, just plain poor.

Add to that a frequently distorted soundtrack making dialogue difficult to understand and just enough missing frames to be annoying, and it’s hard to give this more than $0.75.

Disc 2

The Ghost (orig. Lo spetto), 1963, color. Riccardo Freda (dir.), Barbara Steele, Peter Baldwin, Elio Jotta (as Leonard G. Elliott). 1:37 [1:35].

Set in Scotland in 1910, where a doctor who’s now paralyzed is having odd séances and, with the help of a younger doctor, experimenting with using poisons and antidotes to try to cure the paralysis. The younger doctor is carrying on with the paralyzed doctor’s younger wife—who eventually convinces him to kill the older doctor by failing to provide the antidote. Meantime, there’s a housekeeper who’s sneaking around (and channeling dead people from time to time).

Various forms of haunting start almost immediately. There’s more, because the key to the safe has gone missing—but the housekeeper says it might be in the coat the old doctor was buried in. It is, but the safe’s empty. Or is it? The young doctor was opening the safe just as the faithless widow was called away… Anyway, there’s lots more plot, leading to an ending that not only involves some twists but also winds up with all the key characters either dead or paralyzed.

It’s an unpleasant film and may be typical of why I don’t much care for horror (although there’s only one really bloody scene). I guess there’s some psychological tension but I mostly found the acting either overdone (Barbara Steele) or uninteresting (most everybody else). The print’s a bit choppy at the beginning. If you love horror flicks you might like this better. I’ll give it $1.00.

Crimes at the Dark House, 1940, b&w. George King (dir.), Tod Slaughter, Sylvia Marriott, Hilary Eaves, Geoffrey Wardwell, Hay Petrie. 1:09.

The horror! The horror! Looking at the box for this 50-movie set, I see four more movies starring Tod Slaughter—six in all. I’d think my TV itself might show toothmarks given the amount of scenery-chewing going on. This time, Slaughter is an unnamed villain who, in the Australian gold fields of 1850, slays a gold prospector in his tent (in a particularly nasty way), takes his gold, discovers a letter indicating that the prospector is now a peer thanks to his father’s death—and, of course, assumes the man’s identity.

Murder follows murder as this nasty large man finds that the estate is mortgaged to the hilt, that he got someone pregnant (and married her) before going to Australia, that he’s now gotten another someone (a maid) pregnant—and that his only chance for financial redemption involves marrying a woman who clearly does not love him. An evil doctor who runs an insane asylum is also involved. What more to say of the plot? All over-acted (including a spectacularly absurd uncle of the young woman), all melodramatic, all very silly. One IMDB review calls this “probably the best Tod Slaughter movie,” which really is a horrifying thought. Charitably, $0.75.

The Long Hair of Death (orig. I lunghi capelli della morte), 1964, b&w. Antonio Marheriti (dir.), Barbara Steele, George Ardisson, Halina Zalewska, Umberto Raho (as “Robert Rains”), Laura Nucci (as “Laureen Nuyen”). 1:40 [1:34]

When I started these mini-reviews of old movies, I did the reviews for all the movies on a disc after finishing them all. It’s fortunate that I don’t do it that way anymore—if only because some movies, such as Crimes at the Dark House, leave so little impression that I’d have nothing to say other than “not a very good movie.” This one’s not like that and it’s also not like the earlier Barbara Steele movie, other than being dubbed and a Spaghetti Horror. This one is a horror film, and a pretty good one—and, fortunately, the type that gentle souls like me can watch without flinching. (No gore, lots of suspense.)

It’s set in the time of the plague—the first few scenes in 1482, the remainder in 1499, with the plague breaking in a town toward the end of the film. A woman’s being “tried” as a witch (accused of killing a nobleman), where the trial consists of pushing her into a loose structure of hay and setting fire to the structure.

Ah, but her oldest daughter (Steele) goes to Count Humboldt (Raffaelli) insisting that she’s innocent—the daughter knows who the real murderer is but needs time to gather evidence. The lecherous old Count says he needs to “discuss” this with her and they won’t conclude the trial without him. As he’s Having His Way With Her, the trial goes on and her mother is burned alive—hurling an imprecation at the Count and his sons as she dies. The daughter’s upset about the Count’s betrayal, so he pushes her off a cliff into a waterfall to shut her up. End of problem. And end of the 1481 segment. Oh, the non-witch’s younger daughter Elizabeth (Zalewska) becomes a ward of the court, brought up in the castle (which actually seems ruled by the priest Von Klage).

We get to 1499. Elizabeth’s all grown up and has attracted the fancy of the Count’s slimy handsome son Kurt (Ardisson)—who, as we learn a bit later, is the actual murderer, killing for political reasons. He takes Elizabeth against her will and marries her. In a storm, the dead older daughter is regenerated and shows up as a beautiful stranger, Mary. About that time, the Count dies.

One thing leads to another. The murderous handsome rapist, oh, sorry, new Count wants Mary and always gets what he wants. She half-assents, half-objects to his plan to murder Elizabeth and helps him (apparently) carry out a bizarre poisoning, burial in a crypt, removal from the crypt and return to her bed—presumably suffocated. One thing leads to another in a fast and furious final half hour, with the end result being…that would be a spoiler, but it’s very satisfactory all around.

I’ve talked about the plot too much, and I suppose there are spoilers there—but what it comes down to is a well-plotted, ghost-based story of revenge that works very well. The atmospherics are sound, the setting properly medieval, the acting appropriate for what it is, Steele (in two parts) very good here, and the film slow-moving but in a good way. The only real flaws are some mediocre digitization and background noise on parts of the soundtrack. It’s not great, but it’s not bad: $1.25.

The Incredible Petrified World, 1957, b&w. Jerry Warren (dir.), John Carradine, Robert Clarke, Phyllis Coates, Allen Windsor, Sheila Noonan, George Skaff, Maurice Bernard. 1:10 [1:06]

I reviewed this as part of the 50 Sci-Fi Classics set in late 2005. Fast-forwarding through the whole thing, this appears to be the same print quality, although it’s a few minutes longer—and it’s a stretch to call it a horror film. Here’s what I said in the earlier review:

I suppose the diving bell (how could man ever hope to penetrate the depths of the ocean?) might count as scifi. Diving bell on its first deep-sea dive breaks loose, four inhabitants presumed crushed at the bottom of the sea (or something), but they see light, and swim up  to…caverns, which have plenty of food and fresh water and air. Eventually, they meet a crazy old man who’s been trapped there—under a volcano—for 14 years. After spending most of the movie walking up and down sections of Colossal Caverns in Tucson, where this was filmed, they manage to get rescued by a rival diving bell. Losing [a few] minutes probably helps, but the flick is still awfully slow moving. The mediocre print does the film justice. $1 as a curiosity.

Disc 3

End of the World, 1977, color. John Hayes (dir.), Christopher Lee, Sue Lyon, Kirk Scott, Dean Jagger, Lew Ayres, Macdonald Carey. 1:28 [1:26]

More low-budget scifi (not science fiction) than horror, but I suppose Christopher Lee in a dual role gets it into this category. The story, such as it is: A professor (Scott) studying mysterious transmissions from outer space (and occasionally in contact with a government man working along the same lines) also finds mysterious transmissions to outer space—and suddenly begins decoding the outer-space transmissions, which appear to be notes of natural disasters, repeated three times. Accurate notes of disasters shortly before they happen…

Ah, but his boss doesn’t want him wasting time on this nonsense, he wants him on a lecture tour extolling the thrills of space science, so more people will earn appropriate degrees—and his beautiful wife likes that idea as well. There’s some odd sex play in the movie (he postpones going to an award banquet to Get Down, and his wife (Lyon) says something about “why didn’t this happen ten years ago?”), although no actual sex or nudity.

Anyway…he goes off with his wife, on their own, to check out the two locations where transmissions to outer space occurred. One is a seemingly harmless convent visited in broad daylight; the other, 40 miles away, is a fenced facility…and somehow it’s now the middle of the night. This allows for them creeping around mostly in the dark, the two getting separated, and the wife doing some choice screaming when she thinks she’s trapped. Oh, and a mild surprise as to where they actually are…

We wind up with the two back at the convent, which Is Not What It Seems, and a slow-moving plot (very slow-moving plot) involving stranded aliens (whose motivation keeps changing and who combine total peacefulness with remarkable viciousness), the odd coincidence that this professor is probably the only person who can bring the aliens just what they need, some remarkably stupid scifi gobbledygook about what they’re doing (a time-velocity transfer, or something like that)…and an ending that I won’t give away, because it’s really not what you’d expect from a low-budget (but good cast) affair like this. Too bad Scott doesn’t seem to have any acting chops at all and Christopher Lee is phoning it in; some life in the acting might bring this up from $1.00.

The Fury of the Wolf Man (orig. La furia del Hombre Lobo), 1972, color. Jose Maria Zabalsa (dir.), Paul Naschy (who wrote it), Perla Cristal, Veronica Lujan, Miguel de la Riva, Jose Marco. 1:30 [1:23]

Ignore the sleeve description, which is a pretty standard “man gets bitten by werewolf, becomes werewolf, attempts to save himself” plot. This flick is a little different—a professor returns from a Tibetan expedition, in which everybody else died and he was attacked by a Yeti, leaving a scar on his chest. If the scar turns into a perfect pentagon, he’s to open a box to find a remedy—and the scar does indeed turn into a pentagon while he’s in bed with his wife.

As things progress, we have a woman doctor who spouts all sorts of nonsense about mind control from electrical waves and “chemotrodes” and her assistant, the beautiful and innocent girlfriend of an ace reporter. We have, as you’d expect, the professor turning all hairy at the full moon, presenting an odd mixture of attacking savagely, walking nonchalantly, and jumping about like a rabid gorilla. We have his wife being faithless—and her lover (both of them apparently under the doctor’s influence) cutting the professor’s brake line. We have bodies dug up from graves and returned from the semi-dead. And oh, so much more, including a whole denizen of experimental subjects who are either in a bacchanal, chained up, or sometimes both. Much of it is incoherent; the rest is mostly confusing.

Very badly dubbed, with frequently very bad dialogue. The acting’s mixed—now that I see that the hero (professor) also wrote the screenplay, maybe his mediocrity makes more sense. I assumed this was a German production (there’s a German paper in one scene), but apparently it’s a Spanish production set in Germany. Certainly a horror film, but mediocre at best. Adequate person-to-wolf special effects. Charitably, I’ll give it $1.25.

The Ticket of Leave Man, 1937, b&w. George King (dir.), Tod Slaughter, John Warwick, Marjorie Taylor, Frank Cochran, Robert Adair. 1:11.

That first credit, for Tod Slaughter, may tell you most of what you need to know—this is a Melodrama, with substantial quantities of ham provided by the ever-overacting villain himself, leer, evil laugh and all. But there’s more: Hawkshaw The Detective…and, unfortunately, Melter Moss, a stereotypical money-lending, stolen-property-fencing but, mostly forging Jew, replete with chin-rubbing, big nose and Yiddish sayings, who doesn’t mind The Tiger’s murders as long as he makes money.

The story? Slaughter is The Tiger, the most villainous murderer and thief in all of London, given to garroting people either for gain or because he dislikes them. He desires a young singer—and manages to frame her fiancée in a forgery charge, sending him off to prison. When he returns, The Tiger has become head of a charity devoted to Ticket of Leave Men—that is, parolees, who of course are shunned by all honest folk. One thing leads to another and…there’s an ending. I’d give it $1 as a period piece, but the viciously anti-semitic role of Melter Moss pulls it down to $0.50—it debases an otherwise minor overacted melodrama.

Shadow of Chinatown, 1936, b&w. Robert F. Hill (dir.), Bela Lugosi, Bruce Bennett, Joan Barclay, Luana Walters, Mairuce Liu, Charles King, William Buchanan, Forrest Taylor. 1:11.

This one’s strange—and surprising. Chinese-American characters don’t generally show up here as simple stereotypes and the villains are Eurasian, most specifically the mad scientist who wants to wipe out Europeans and Asians and start his own new race. He also seems to have one of those magic television systems that can see anything anywhere, although in this case he needs to have hidden an oddly named device in each room he wants to view (which, of course, is most everywhere). The mad scientist can also hypnotize almost anybody just by looking at them. Three guesses as to who plays the mad scientist…

The other primary character is a beautiful Eurasian woman who doubles as an agent for San Francisco Chinatown merchants—and a double agent for other merchants determined to put them out of business. She’s involved with the mad scientist until she realizes just how utterly evil he is…

Lots more plot, with a daring young reporter who wants to break out of the society pages and her irritable writer pseudoboyfriend. Oh, and an interesting plot point, late in the picture, when he informs her that he’s had her fired from the paper because, after all, his wife shouldn’t have a job. Really? In 1936? I also question the notion that you’d use a cruise ship to get from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 1936, but it does allow for some of that great shipboard action.

Hard to judge this one. The print’s a little choppy at times, the plot makes about as much sense as you’d expect, there’s a little more stereotyping than seems necessary and Lugosi’s henchfolks are ludicrous. Looking at IMDB, I see what’s actually happening: This was a serial, originally running 5 hours total (15 chapters, 20 minutes each), boiled down to a 71-minute flick. Serials rarely make sense when viewed all at once. For Lugosi fans, maybe $0.75.

Disc 4

This disc (and three-quarters of disc 5) consists of Alfred Hitchcock films, all reviewed in C&I 9:10 (September 2009). I did not revisit them.

Sabotage. $1.50.

The Ring. $1.00.

Blackmail. $1.25.

Young and Innocent. $1.00

Disc 5

The Man Who Knew Too Much. $1.75.

The Lodger. $0.75.

The Farmer’s Wife. $1.50.

Legacy of Blood (orig. Blood Legacy), 1971, color. Carl Monson (dir.), Rodolfo Acosta, Merry Anders, Norman Bartold, Ivy Bethune, John Carradine, Richard Davalos, Faith Domergue. 1:30 [1:22]

The setup is familiar: Hated wealthy father dies, children and servants gather to hear the will…and find that they must all live in the mansion for one week in order to inherit anything. If any of the children die, the others will split the remainder—and if they all die, the servants (otherwise rewarded a peculiar annuity) get it all.

They’re quite a collection. One servant, Igor, is nutty as a loon and a masochist to boot (or whip); the cook is a sober woman who served as a substitute mother; the third, a handsome chauffeur, has a lamp made from a Nazi who stuck him with a bayonet and a large collection of Nazi memorabilia. As for the children…well, there’s a strong hint of incest in one case, leaving one attractive (and married) woman who’s a basket case and a young man who’s loonier than the butler.

I won’t bother with the plot. You can guess how it works out and to the extent you’re wrong it doesn’t much matter. The few gory scenes are shown multiple times to emphasize the gore. Otherwise, this is a remarkably slow-moving and dull story.

The print varies between mediocre and bad but it’s decidedly better than the script, acting and direction. A reasonably strong cast is wasted in this nonsense. Fortunately, this version is missing eight minutes—which means it was only an hour and 22 minutes that I’ll never get back. Even fans of John Carradine will be disappointed: His dismal little role only takes a few minutes. I’m being charitable to give this incompetent picture $0.50.

Disc 6

The Werewolf vs. Vampire Woman (orig. La noche de Walpurgis), 1971, color. Leon Klimovsky (dir.), Paul Naschy, Gaby Fuchs, Barbara Capell, Andres Resino, Yelena Samarina, Patty Shepard. 1:35 [1:21]

Right off the bat, this film shows a rare level of intelligence among its characters. A medical examiner and friend go into this creepy place, at night, against the wishes of the friend, to do an autopsy on a body that’s been shot with two silver bullets because the townspeople believe it to be a werewolf. So the medical examiner, instead of conducting a usual autopsy, immediately digs out the two bullets to demonstrate how ridiculous the whole werewolf notion is, then turns away to have a cigarette…as the now-revived man turns wolf, kills the two, then goes off on a howl.

That’s right, it’s another cheapo horror flick where people demonstrate that they’re too dumb to live…and, with rare exceptions, don’t. Two young women working on their dissertation go off to the wilds of northern France looking for the grave of a centuries-old vampire/witch, get lost, wind up at a remote house with no electricity where a handsome “writer” is working on a manuscript. Before you know it, they’ve combined forces to locate the probable gravesite—at a crossroads, where all good witchgraves are located. The cover says clearly that the grave should not be disturbed until judgment day so…of course…they remove the cover. Since this disturbs one of the women, she goes off alone to explore the abandoned church as the other two open the coffin…and, since they know that the only thing keeping the vampire dead is the silver cross piercing her body, the other woman pulls out the cross.

The rest of the picture’s consistent with this “we know the worst possible thing to do is X, therefore we’d better do X right away!” approach. It features vampires drifting across the ground, dream sequences, a touch of cheesecake and what passes for a happy ending. Badly filmed, poorly directed, badly scripted, generally poorly acted, and the lead does a nice job of ducking out of camera range for transitions from human to werewolf. The full version might be more coherent but seems unlikely to be much better. Charitably, $0.50.

The Phantom Creeps, 1939, b&w. Ford Beebe and Saul A. Goodkind (dir.), Bela Lugosi, Robert Kent, Dorothy Arnold, Edwin Stanley, Regis Toomey, Jack C. Smith. 1:18.

This review, written before looking anything up on IMDB, is valid only if this flick—certainly not a horror flick—is an edited-down version of a serial. In that case, the absurd jumps in logic and knowledge and general frenetic atmosphere make sense. Otherwise…well, let’s not go there.

Lugosi is Dr. Zorka, a mad scientist who has discovered an element (from a meteorite) with apparently unlimited and wildly varied powers, and intends to Rule The World with it, with the help of his henchman (who he rescued from prison and clearly regards as a tool). Let’s see: He has a very strange tall robot with the world’s worst face and the ability to very slowly claw somebody into brief submission; he has a device that can do painless surgery; he has a semi-invisibility device (it turns him into a big shadow), he has a combination of little discs and spiders that can set off little explosions that turn people or plants “dead” but not really, he has a two-part combo of invisible gas and Z-ray gun that kills people, er, knocks them out, er… but can also destroy the lock on a safe. And there’s a neometer, which cops and spies both immediately know is a device to track the location of the secret element they’ve never heard of. It’s that kind of movie.

Essentially, Zorka has a big box of Unobtainium, and he’s out to either rule the world or destroy it! All else in this helter-skelter plot flows from that, with a climax in which he’s cackling like a proper Mad Scientist and tossing capsules out of a plane that destroy a Zeppelin (!), explode a warehouse or two and send a couple of ships to their doom.

Lugosi’s acting seems well suited to this kind of live-action cartoon. There’s nothing coherent or sophisticated here, but it’s good cheap fun. AndIMDB confirms that this was a serial, originally running 4:25 in 12 episodes. I suspect it would be a lot more fun spread out over three months. On that basis, maybe, $1.25.

A Scream in the Night, 1935, b&w. Fred C. Newmeyer (dir.), Lon Chaney Jr., Sheila Terry, Zarah Tazil, Philip Ahn, John Ince, Manuel Lopez. 0:58.

This is a mystery of sorts with Lon Chaney Jr. as a master of disguise. In this case, he plays two roles: The hunched-over, one-eyed, swarthy, not too bright owner of a grog shop in a lesser area of an Asian port town and a police detective—who disguises himself as the bar owner. It’s all in service of catching an international thief who grabs victims with nooses—and who’s now stolen the Tear of Buddha, a very special ruby, and kidnapped the girl who was trying to put the ruby in the bank.

Unfortunately, the movie is an incoherent mess, possibly because of missing pieces, possibly because it’s really badly made. The rest of the police act in slow motion, resulting in a long action seen that shouldn’t have happened (and has armed villains who never use their weapons); the soundtrack’s a mess, and the movie’s sometimes barely visible. The plot can barely sustain a 15-minute featurette; at 58 minutes, the movie’s too long. The title seems random. At best, I’d give this $0.50.

The Crimes of Stephen Hawke, 1936, b&w. George King (dir.), Tod Slaughter, Marjorie Taylor, D.J. Williams, Eric Portman. 1:09.

Another Tod Slaughter melodrama, with Slaughter as an over-the-top villain busily chewing the scenery and laughing his evil laugh at the most inappropriate times—but this time with a twist.

To wit, the whole melodrama is cast as a recollection during a radio show—a radio show that begins with a very strange “singing the news” pair and continues with an interview with a “pet butcher” who’s provided horsemeat for cats for the last half century. Then the announcer welcomes Tod Slaughter, known for slaying hundreds and being executed hundreds of times in his many melodramas. Then…the show begins. Aat the end, we cut back to the studio…where the announcer’s fallen into a deep slumber, leaving Slaughter to walk off by himself.

This “we know this is all tiresome and silly” frame somewhat inoculates the movie from what I might say otherwise—that is, Slaughter’s so over-the-top that it’s hard to deal with the movie. This one’s also an unusually good b&w print, and the story is certainly no sillier than usual. I’ll give it $1.

Summing Up

If you leave out the eight Hitchcock flicks (one of which rated $1.75, three others $1.50), there’s nothing on these six discs really worth mentioning—not a single movie scored $1.50 or higher. Three movies eked out $1.25, four $1.00, so the set would score $7.75 for “mediocre or better.” I scored another four at $0.75 and five at $0.50, for $5.50 worth of “why bother?” time-wasters.

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, Volume 10, Number 11, Whole # 134, ISSN 1534-0937, a journal of libraries, policy, technology and media, is written and published by Walt Crawford.

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