Hey, weren’t you in that movie with that big monkey?
Who’s in this?
Lionel Atwill as Dr. Otto Von Nieman the local doctor. i mentioned Atwill a few weeks ago when I reviewed Son of Frankenstein. He worked quite regularly from the silent era up until his passing in 1946.
Fay Wray as Ruth girlfriend of Karl. Of course Fay Wray is most known for her role in King Kong. She acted from the early 20’s up until the late 40’s then she was in a few things here and there up until her last role in 1980. She lived to be 96 and passed away in 2004.
Dwight Frye as Herman the town simpleton and friend of bats. Frye was known mainly for playing freaks and oddballs as Renfeld in the 1931 Dracula and he was was also Fritz in the first two Frankenstein films. A great character actor who had steady work from the late 20’s up until his untimely passing due to a heart attack in 1943 at the age of 44.
Melvyn Douglas as Karl the local police who doesn’t believe in beasties. This was one of the earliest roles for Douglas. He would go on to have a long successful career winning two Oscars, and Emmy and a Tony. He did suffer due to political views in the 1950’s when the blacklist kept his acting in Hollywood to just a few roles, but after it was lifted he roared back in the 60’s and 70’s and did some of his most aclaimed work at that time.
What’s this about?
Residents of a small town are being killed off and there are bite marks on their necks and they have lost blood! It must be ghouls, ghosties or vampires. Well, let’s go with vampires due to the marks on the neck. So lock your doors and windows! Not so fast Karl says thre has to be a reasonable explanation to these murders he just doesn’t know what it is yet. Figure out soon Karl because the citizens are dropping like flies. Speaking of flies, former fly eater Dwight Frye is playing the not far off from Renfeld character Herman who likes bats-uh, oh. Not for treats, but as friends. So the local knuckleheads form a lynch mob and go after Herman. He flees and falls off a cliff. For good measure they stake hum through the heart, but this part is unfortunately not shown. The time of Herman’s death came after the last murder which means a killer is still on the loose. Come on something needs to happen to wrap this thing up. Ruth discovers Von Nieman has a secret lab and it’s not for home brewing either, he’s doing dasterdly experiments. He catches her and ties her up. Meanwhile he sends his lackey to kill Karl. Karl turns the tables and takes down the hired killer then goes after Von Nieman. The hired killer offs Von Nieman, Karl and Ruth hug and make jokes of sorm sort and roll the credits because somehow this film is over.
The negatives-Wow the plots starts strong, but never quite gets enough explanation and the ending happens really fast. It wasn’t bad , but it could and should have been better and it just would taken slightly better writing to do that. There is also a bit too much humor in the film overall, it kind cuts into any edge the film really needed
The positives-As always Lionel Atwill is right on the money with his character, he actually helps hold the film together longer than it may have deserved. Dwight Frye pulls much from his Renfeld character in Dracula, but original or not he’s still such a nut case here that he steals every scene he is in. Fay Wray didn’t have much to do, but she looked stunning. Some good performances propel this film further than the script did. It’s alright, but could have been better. However given who is in it and particularly the performances from Atwill and Frye I would say fans of 30’s horror/suspense films should see it at least once. I also have to add that even though my version was a dollar store version the print was actually quite decent for an 80 year old film.