The Roaring Twenties are back, albeit with perhaps less optimism about the future than a hundred years ago. At Scifist we’re taking some time to look back at the last year of the ‘teens, and we’re listing the 10 most popular reviews on the site in 2019.
Arguably Argentina’s first horror movie proper, A Light in the Window from 1942 feels like an amalgamation of every old dark house film made in Hollywood in the twenties. Horror icon Narciso Ibáñez Menta stars as the acromegalic mad doctor kidnapping trespassers in order to perfect a cure for his condition. Cheap and derivative, but not terrible. 4/10
A magnificent train wreck. That’s perhaps the most fitting description of Argentina’s first horror, SF and monster film, The Beast Man from 1934. This no-budget monstrosity throws every conceivable Hollywood genre cliché in the mix, following the exploits of a beast man created by a mad scienist, who’s kidnapping women in a small town. 2/10
Acquanetta the Ape Woman returns in a 1944 sequel to Universal’s Captive Wild Woman. The first 20 minutes go by in flashbacks from the original picture, before the wild woman is resurrected and goes ape, off-screen, in a mental asylum. An ill-conceived and clumsy effort, this is a monster movie without a monster, trying feebly to emulate Val Lewton’s Cat People. 3/10
British radio star Tommy Handley trades puns with William Shakespeare in this 1944 jazz comedy, as three music hall performers accidentally hitch a ride in a nutty professor’s time machine back to 16th century London. Despite Handley’s dated jokes, good production values, nice musical numbers and petite US jazz singer Evelyn Dall make it worth a watch. 4/10
Braaaaaiiiins! The first adaptation of Curt Siodmak’s cult novel Donovan’s Brain turns up the mad scientist factor to eleven. The 1944 film sees Erich von Stroheim as the resident Frankenstein, as a disembodied brain takes control over his assistant’s mind. Atmospheric cinematography and an overall strong cast compensates for ice skater Vera Hruba Ralston’s lack of acting experience in the female lead. 5/10
J. Carroll Naish is the mad scientist in this 1944 low budget effort from Poverty Row outfit PRC, a man trying to win the affections of a woman by infecting her father with the deforming syndrome acromegaly. If you can get past the gruesome premise, it’s a pretty decent horror SF programmer with unusually good performances. 4/10
Horror icons George Zucco and John Carradine join Bela Lugosi in his last film at Poverty Row studio Monogram, for one of the most bizarrely funny so-bad-it’s-good sci-fi horror films of the forties. Unfortunately giggles aren’t enough to lift this film out of the ruts, although it is a must-watch for the wonderful Voodoo seances with Carradine and Zucco immensely enjoying the insanity of it all. 2/10
Universal horrors in the forties were not only Wolf Men and Frankensteins. This 1943 low budget entry is a standalone feature, and it’s not bad. It’s subject matter is rather gruesome, but it cleverly bypasses the Hays Code. An early zombie movie, it does suffer from a thin script and too much operetta. 5/10
A good black supporting cast led by comedian Mantan Moreland saves this 1943 film, directed by The Day of the Triffids director Steve Sekely. John Carradine sleepwalks through his second outing as a mad scientist, this time creating zombies out of his staff and even his own wife. The white heroes of the movie are really just killing time between Moreland’s comedy skits. 4/10.
Director Edward Dmytryk cuts and pastes together a surprisingly coherent and enjoyable tale of a gorilla being turned into a woman by a nutty John Carradine in his first mad scientist role. The 1943 film made the mysterious Acquanetta an over-night star, and garnered two sequels, despite the fact that one third of the movie is reused footage from an old lion-taming film. 5/10
Universal’s first monster mashup, made in 1943, is an audience divider. Some enjoy it as a brainless schlockfest, while others find the denigration of the Frankenstein franchise painful to watch. Arguably miscast from the start as the Frankenstein monster, Bela Lugosi saw all his lines cut in the editing room. 4/10
Bela Lugosi tries to convince the audience that he looks like a gorilla by wearing a false beard in Monogram’s 1943 cheapo directed by William “One Shot” Beaudine. A treat for fans of really bad movies, this one is a real clunker. 1/10
This Hungarian sci-fi turned romantic swashbuckler drama from 1942 is a forgotten little gem. It is based on a time machine short story predating H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine by one year, and is the first feature film in history to feature an actual time machine. 6/10
In 1940 Monogram wanted a gorilla horror film. Screenwriter Curt Siodmak wanted a film where Boris Karloff tries to cure polio by murdering people for spinal fluid. Somehow these to wishes met in the final product. The result is not pretty, but The Ape nonetheless has an enduring charm. 3/10