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Friday, May 3, 2013


There’s a decidedly lunatic edge to this Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi vehicle. It’s a variation on the old HANDS OF ORLAC story (filmed in ‘26; ‘60; and as MAD LOVE in ‘35 for Peter Lorre), the one about the concert pianist who loses his hands in a train wreck, then gets new hands grafted on . . . the hands of a murderer! And damned if those digits don’t have an evil mind of their own. Yikes! Here, scripter Kurt (Curt) Siodmak has Stanley Ridges’ sweet-natured English professor sustain a brain injury. Lucky for him, his old medical pal Boris Karloff is around to transfer an available brain into his friend’s cranium. But it’s the brain of the man who ploughed into the good professor; and the guy is still alive!; but paralyzed so he can’t put up much of a fight. Double Yikes! Too bad he just happens to be a vicious gangster wanted on multiple murder charges. Triple Yikes! So, is it any wonder that Karloff is shocked, shocked when his sweet old friend starts acting like . . . a gangster! All he did was implant the brain of a gangster. Who’da thunk it? This delightful nonsense is given a pretty stylish treatment (for Universal) by Arthur Lubin, and Stanley Ridges has a grand time going all Jekyll & Hyde as the gangster/prof. Alas, this leaves poor Bela with a lousy supporting role as one of the rival gangsters. If you missed the credits, you might think it was Oskar Homolka playing the part. (Best guess is that Lugosi was set to play the Karloff doctor role, before some last minute casting changes.)

DOUBLE-BILL: Arthur Lubin helmed some stiff prestige items @ Universal (like their big TechniColor PHANTOM OF THE OPERA remake/’43), before getting stuck with Talking Mules & Horses in the FRANCIS Series and MISTER ED. But buried in his CV is IMPACT/’49, a nifty budget noir with a swell cast for an indie pic (Brian Donlevy, Charles Coburn, Ella Raines, Anna May Wong) and a twisty plot with a Got’cha coming/Got’cha going femme fatale not far off the Gene Tierney model in LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN/’45. (IMAGE has the best available DVD.)

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