Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Vampire Bat (1933)

The Vampire Bat (1933) starred Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Melvyn Douglas, and Dwight Frye and was directed by Frank R. Stayer. The plot revolves around the unexplained deaths of several Klineschloss residents the town fathers suspect vampirism since the victims are dying from blood loss. 

The story of this film’s production is a classic example of the David and Goliath scenario; A tiny production company, Majestic Pictures Inc. competing with the big studios and producing what would become their biggest hit for 1933.

Fay Wray and Lionel Atwill had been in the highly successful film Doctor X (1932) the previous year and had just finished working on Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) for Warner Bros. Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) was a large scale production and would have a lengthy post-production process. Majestic Pictures, a poverty row studio, realized the chance to exploit all the advance publicity connected with Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), contracted Wray and Atwill for their own "quickie" horror film and rushed The Vampire Bat (1933) into production.  Majestic also hired Dwight Frye who was known for his roles in the highly successful Universal horror classics Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931).

Majestic Pictures had a much lower overhead than the larger studios, who were struggling to stay afloat during the Great Depression. As a result Majestic Pictures was able to produce a film comparable to the Universal Pictures horror films of the early 1930s at a fraction of the cost.  Majestic leased the “German Village” back lot sets left over from Frankenstein (1931), the interior sets from The Old Dark House (1932) and did some location shooting at Bronson Caves, completing the illusion that this was a film from a much bigger studio.  A stock musical theme by Charles Dunworth, "Stealthy Footsteps", was used to accompany the opening credits. The finished product had the appearance of a film with a much higher budget.

The release of The Vampire Bat (1933) worked well for Majestic, which was able to rush the film into theaters on January 6, 1933, less than a month before Warner's release of Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933). The Vampire Bat (1933) has a huge hit for Majestic. Over time the film was forgotten and is overlooked by modern-day audiences, but for the true fan of early horror films The Vampire Bat (1933) iscertainly worth a look.

The failure of the original copyright holder, Majestic to renew the film's copyright resulted in it falling into public domain. As a public domain film anyone could duplicate and sell a copy of the film. Therefore, many of the versions of this film available on the market are of extremely poor quality, having been duped from second- or third-generation (or more) copies of the film.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Mole People (1956)

The Mole People (1956) this sci-fi/horror film, directed by Virgil W. Vogel was the inspiration for The Dickies' song Attack of the Molemen.  The film which features John Agar, Cynthia Patrick, Hugh Beaumont and Alan Napier was shot over a 17 days period with a budget of about $200,000.
At the beginning for the film Dr. Frank Baxter, who at the time was an English professor from the University of Southern California, explains the hollow earth theories of John Symmes and Cyrus Teed and states that the movie is a fictionalized representation of this unorthodox point-of-view. The fictionalized Mesopotamian history presented in the film is based on the Panbabylonism ideology in which a small number of Assyriology and Religious scholars hypothesize that the Hebrew Bible and Judaism are directly derived from Mesopotamian (Babylonian) mythology. Unfortunately his four-minute lecture does little to add any credence to the film’s plot.
The Mole People (1956) had a miniscule budget and Vogel was forced to cut cost anyway he could. He instructed Jack Kevan, the special effects artist for the film, to use newspapers stuffed in the backs of the mole monsters’ shirts to make their humps instead of using the more expensive rubber humps. The effect worked fine until the scene where the monsters’ revoke was shot. After the scene was shot the stage floor was littered with the newspapers that had  fallen out of the monsters shirts during filming. The scene had to be reset and shot.
Despite the budget restraints the studio was able to come up with enough money to reshoot the last scene. In the original ending, Dr. Bentley and Adal both survived and lived happily ever after.  Share this:
Not wanting to imply an interracial relationship between Dr. Bentley and Adal, the studio insisted on a new ending being reshot two weeks after filming had been completed.
Plagued with a tiny budget, poor script and a first-time director, The Mole People (1956) was an almost certain flop and is considered to be one of Universals weakest horror films. Despite its’ poor reception and reviews this film has developed somewhat of a cult following thanks in part to its cast of well-known bit players including:
John Agar, a notable actor who appeared in a number of TV shows during from the 1950’s to the 90’s and is also known for starring in Revenge of the Creature (1955) and John Wayne classics such as  Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), and Sands of Iwo Jima (1949).
Hugh Beaumont, who was best known for his role as Ward Cleaver on the TV series, Leave It to Beaver (1957–1963), was also a licensed to preacher for  the Methodist church.
Alan Napier who is best remembered as Batman’s faithful butler, Alfred Pennyworth in Batman (1966) plays Elinu, the High Priest.
The Mole People (1956) is one of the better “bad” films of the 50’s sci-fi/horror craze. It is certainly worth watching, but don’t try to make any sense out of the plot; this movie is it’s meant to entertain, not educate.