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Monthly Archives: May 2011

From the DVD case: They came from deep beneath the earth’s surface: grotesque, reptilian creatures covered with slime, forced from their subterranean lair by underground nuclear testing. Setting up an almost impenetrable dome of fog over L.A. to lower the city’s temperature and make the surface more habitable, they’ve emerged from the sewers and cesspools, impervious to attack and mad as hell. Now, Los Angeles has been evacuated, its empty streets shrouded in a permanent twilight. Except for a small band of survivors, the Slime People have the city all to themselves. Holed up in a television station, pilot Tom Gregory, Professor Galbraith, his daughters Lisa and Bonnie, and marine Cal Johnson have been left behind doomed to a fate worse than death, unless they can find a way to penetrate the wall of fog that imprisons them.

Mark says: Robert Hutton (Invisible Invaders, The Colossus of New York) stars in and makes his directorial debut with The Slime People.  Hutton’s inexperience as a director is painfully evident from frame one. Any chance the film had for building suspense is blown in the first few minutes of footage. Without buildup or fanfare, we are introduced to the creatures as they emerge from their sewer lairs. The monsters, undoubtedly, are the highpoint of this movie, but exposing them so early on seems premature and demonstrates poor showmanship. Or perhaps the philosophy was to hook the audience immediately before they could walk out from this talky and mostly non-action filled flick.

Though released in 1963, The Slime People seems more at home with the cheapie science fiction fare of the latter 1950s.  All the elements are here: a cheesy premise, subpar acting, rubber-suited monsters, and an exceedingly low budget. Hutton states the budget for the film was $56,000, with three or four thousand dollars going to the creation of the Slime People costumes alone. Still, he was able to bring the movie in under cost, allowing the excess money to go for advertising. Roger Corman himself couldn’t boast more efficiency. Well, maybe.

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From the DVD case: Devil’s Island escapee Paul Lavond (Lionel Barrymore) poses as a shop proprietress and uses secrets of miniaturization to turn humans into elusive minions who inflict revenge on all who sent him to prison. Tod Browning (Freaks) directs. Maureen O’Sullivan co-stars.

Mark says: The Devil-Doll begins with a ludicrous premise: Paul Levond escapes prison after 17 years vowing to get revenge on the three former partners who framed him. Lavond’s fellow escapee, Marcel, is a scientist who leads Levond to his laboratory. Marcel and his wife, Malita, have been working on an experiment to shrink living creatures. Marcel’s wants to shrink every creature in the world as a way to combat overpopulation. Marcel believes if he can shrink everything down to 1/6 its size, the world will have six times the food on which to live. The drawback is that the shrunken subjects (only dogs, so far) lose their own wills and have to be guided by mind control, effectively turning them into slaves. While Marcel is attempting to miniaturize his servant, Lachna (Grace Ford), he falls ill and dies. However, the experiment is a success and Malita vows to carry on her husband’s work. Malita begs Levond to assist her in this venture. Levond realizes he can use Malita and her miniature people in his plot for revenge, and moves the operation to Paris, where his former partners are still enjoying their wealthy lifestyles. Because Lavond is a wanted man, he takes on the guise of “Madame Mandilip,” an elderly woman and kindly doll shop owner.

Despite this preposterous setup, The Devil-Doll is an enjoyable and capable film. Tod Browning (Dracula, Freaks) proves a competent director, and the cast is formidable. Lionel Barrymore (Mark of the Vampire) is superb in the duel roles of Paul Lavond and Madame Mandilip. I had the pleasure of seeing this movie without the foreknowledge of Lionel Barrymore’s cross-dressing scenes. I was completely taken off guard when he appeared in a wig, earrings, and frock,  speaking in a timbre similar to that of Aunt Bea’s from The Andy Griffith Show. Admittedly, this has a comedic effect, and proves somewhat distracting at first. I mean, here’s the great Lionel Barrymore, crotchety Mr. Potter from It’s A Wonderful Life, shuffling about in a shawl and chapeau. However, and this is a testament to Barrymore’s acting, as the movie progresses, his scenes as “Madame Mandilip” become less and less of an issue. Barrymore makes a surprisingly believable old woman, and before long, we are drawn back into the story. Of course, there are still moments when his appearance elicits a chuckle. These moments usually occur when Barrymore is in full or partial drag but speaks in the decidedly masculine voice of Paul Lavond.

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From the DVD case: When a monster makeup artist is fired by the studio, he uses his creations to exact his revenge. (1958,b&w)

Mark says: Scripted by Aben Kandel (here as “Kenneth Langtry”) and producer Herman Cohen, this follow up to I Was a Teenage Werewolf and I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, follows a tried formula: An unbalanced adult manipulates a teenage youth (or, in this case, youths) to do his nefarious bidding (see Blood of Dracula for a female version of this theme).

In the case of How to Make a Monster, the dominating adult is disgruntled make-up man, Pete Dumond, played by Robert H. Harris. Pete finds himself out of work after 25 years as the studio’s head monster creator. Harris comes off as slightly eccentric at the outset of the story.  However, as the movie advances, Pete’s eccentricity gives way to creepiness, until he gradually flakes out completely by the film’s conclusion. Pete’s teenage patsies are Gary Clarke (Missle to the Moon) in the role of Larry Drake, and Gary Conway (who I will always fondly remember as Capt. Steve Burton in TV’s Land of the Giants) as Tony Mantell.

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