KARLOFF & LUGOSI
THE WALKING DEAD
THE WALKING DEAD finds Boris Karloff at his absolute best as musician and ex-convict John Elman, who is made a patsy by a gang of racketeers, which have him framed for the murder of the Judge who sent him to prison. For the murder, Elman is sentenced to the electric chair. When the eyewitnesses, who can prove Elman’s innocence, wait too long to come forward, the poor man is executed. THE WALKING DEAD also stars Edmund Gwenn as Dr. Evan Beaumont, a scientist, who resurrects the unjustly executed man, with an experimental procedure he has developed. The resurrected Elman is a somber creature, whose memory of his past life and after death experiences are obscured by a blood clot on his brain. However, despite him impaired memories, Elman is drawn to those responsible for framing him, and one by one, the guilty meet their end at the hand of the unseen force driving Elman. THE WALKING DEAD is a highly atmospheric blend of horror and gangster genres that benefits from Karloff’s sympathetic performance, as well as the assured direction of Michael Curtiz. The cast THE WALKING DEAD of also includes Ricardo Cortez, Marguerite Churchill, Warren Hull, Barton MacLane, Henry O'Neill, Joe King, Addison Richards, Paul Harvey, Robert Strange, Joe Sawyer, Eddie Acuff, Kenneth Harlan and Miki Morita.
Made in CinemaScope, FRANKENSTEIN 1970 is more horror movie programmer than genre classic, but it is the presence Boris Karloff that makes this production so much fun to watch. In FRANKENSTEIN 1970, Karloff portrays the last descendant of notorious scientific family line, a man who was tortured and disfigured at the hands of the Nazi’s, for refusing to participate in their experiments. As FRANKENSTEIN 1970 opens, Baron Von Frankenstein has begrudgingly opened his ancestral castle to a film crew, in return for the financial and other considerations that will allow him to acquire an atomic reactor to carry out his personal research projects. Of course, being a Frankenstein, it’s a sure bet that the atomic reactor will be supplying the energy required to bring a new creation to life. It’s an even surer bet that members of the film crew will be supplying body parts for the creation that the Baron is tinkering together. As I stated above, Karloff is fun to watch, as he serves up the ham with a good deal of relish, which keeps FRANKENSTEIN 1970 a tasty dish, even if the other performers tend to be pretty bland. The cast of FRANKENSTEIN 1970 also includes Don 'Red' Barry, Jana Lund, Tom Duggan, Charlotte Austin, Norbert Schiller, Rudolph Anders, Irwin Berke and Mike Lane.
YOU’LL FIND OUT
YOU’LL FIND OUT is an utter delight that finds Karloff joined by Bela Lugosi… in a haunted house comedy fest that throws in Peter Lorre for good measure. Released in 1940, YOU’LL FIND OUT was a starring vehicle for bandleader Kay Kyser and his Orchestra… with Kyser, Ish Kabibble and the rest of the band playing themselves. The premise of YOU’LL FIND OUT finds Kay Kyser and his Kollege of Musical Knowledge hired to perform at the birthday party of an heiress at a creepy old mansion. After the band and a few debutants arrive at the isolated mansion, the obligatory thunderstorm washes out the only route in or out, leaving the partygoers stranded. What follows are several attempts on the heiress’ life, while phony medium Prince Saliano (Lugosi), Judge Spencer Mainwaring (Karloff) and Professor Karl Fenninger (Lorre) skulk around looking suspicious. Of course, in between the mystery, we get musical numbers and general clowning from Kyser and company. The cast of YOU’LL FIND OUT also includes Helen Parrish, Dennis O'Keefe, Alma Kruger, Joseph Eggenton, Harry Babbitt, Ginny Simms and Sully Mason.
ZOMBIES ON BROADWAY
ZOMBIES ON BROADWAY provides another goofy good time with comedy having the decided emphasis over horror. Of course, Lugosi is on board to provide his patented brand of menace, as a mad scientist trying to bring the world better zombies through science, as opposed to old-fashioned voodoo. In ZOMBIES ON BROADWAY Wally Brown and Alan Carney play a pair of nitwitted press agents, who are promoting a nightclub opening, with the promise of a real zombie being in attendance. When their shady employer (Sheldon Leonard) is put on the spot by their promise, the boys find themselves forced to deliver a genuine back from the dead zombie. What follows is a trip to the tropics, where our heroes go in search of the real deal, and find themselves crossing paths with Lugosi’s mad scientist, who wants to use our two nitwits as test subjects in his latest experiments in zombie making. The cast of ZOMBIES ON BROADWAY also includes Anne Jeffreys, Frank Jenks, Russell Hopton, Joseph Vitale, Ian Wolfe, Louis Jean Heydt and Darby Jones.
Warner Home Video has made has made all four black and white films comprising KARLOFF & LUGOSI HORROR CLASSICS ($27) available on DVD in their proper aspect ratios. FRANKENSTEIN 1970 is offered at a 16:9 enhanced 2.35:1, while THE WALKING DEAD, YOU’LL FIND OUT and ZOMBIES ON BROADWAY are 1.37:1. In general, the presentations range from respectable to quite good, with THE WALKING DEAD as the oldest, coming across as a tad soft, but with a dreamlike quality, while ZOMBIES ON BROADWAY appears to have been taken from a dated transfer that does show some signs of age. YOU’LL FIND OUT looks rather nice throughout, even on a large screen display, while FRANKENSTEIN 1970, the newest of the bunch, proves itself to be the visual jewel of the collection. Blacks are a bit changeable across the board, as are the levels of contrast, with THE WALKING DEAD and ZOMBIES ON BROADWAY displaying the weakest contrast. The film elements from which the movies have been transferred vary in quality; FRANKENSTEIN 1970 is the cleanest looking, while THE WALKING DEAD shows the most signs of age. Personally, I enjoyed watching each and every one of the movies on DVD, and did not have any major complaints about any of them.
Each of the four films comes with a Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack. Without bells and whistles, these monaural tracks get the job done. Warner has done good job of scrubbing away most of the background hiss and other audible anomalies during the mastering process, but occasional hiccups do surface. It should come as no surprise that fidelity varies throughout the collection, with the oldest film having the thinnest sound, while getting progressively better as the films get newer. Dialogue is generally easy to understand. No other language tracks have been included on the disc, but English and French subtitles are provided.
The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard film selection and set up features, as well as some extras. THE WALKING DEAD features a running Audio Commentary by historian Greg Mank. FRANKENSTEIN 1970 features a running Audio Commentary by actress Charlotte Austin, historian Tom Weaver and Bob Burns. Trailers for YOU’LL FIND OUT and FRANKENSTEIN 1970 close out the extras.
KARLOFF & LUGOSI HORROR CLASSICS offers a good deal fun in one collection. Despite some flaws, fans should be generally pleased by the presentations. Recommended to Karloff & Lugosi fans.
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