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Monday, January 25, 2010


This Tod Browning production (a remake of his legendary lost silent LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT/’27) helped close out the early Talkie wave of comic horror mystery pics like THE BAT WHISPERERS/’30; THE OLD DARK HOUSE/’32; and the silent THE CAT AND THE CANARY/’27.* The cast sounds tempting (Lionel Barrymore, Bela Lugosi, Jean Hersholt, Lionel Atwill, Donald Meek), but Browning seems unwilling to make any adjustments in pace or staging to his stiffening technique. The film is even more arthritic and stage-bound than his DRACULA was back in ‘31. Thanks to lenser James Wong Howe it’s all handsomely lit, but the whole vampire set up is played out in such an absurdly hammy manner that the trick ending hasn’t a chance of coming off. It’s the sort of moviemaking that makes you wonder if anyone working on it has ever seen let alone made a film before. Browning's next, THE DEVIL-DOLL/'36, is infinitely better.

*The next wave emphasized comedy with stars like Bob Hope & Abbott & Costello in the leading roles.

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