Sci-fi

Revenge of the Zombies

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.

Captive Wild Woman

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

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man

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

The Ape Man

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

Sziriusz

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

The Ape

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

Dr. Renault’s Secret

A little diamond in the rough, this 1942 ape-man melodrama from 20th Century Fox features Ersatz horror icons J. Carrol Naish and George Zucco. While suffering from scripting and pacing problems, the movie has a smidgen of depth, owing to its literary roots. 6/10

Invisible Agent

In 1942 Universal reinvented the invisible man as a Nazi foil in the fourth movie of the franchise. Invisible Agent gets the A movie treatment, as is evident from an A list cast including Cedric Hardwicke, J. Edgar Bromberg and Peter Lorre. As a comedy the film falls flat, but it works better as a spy thriller. 5/10

The Mad Monster

Poverty Row studio PRC tried to ride the werewolf wave in 1942 with this Sam Newfield production starring Glenn Strange as a slouch hat-wearing monster and George Zucco as the zany scientist. Not the studio’s worst outing, but at 77 minutes it overstays its welcome. 3/10

The Corpse Vanishes

Bela Lugosi is kidnapping brides from the altar in order to extract their precious bodily fluids, which he uses to keep his 80-year old wife young and beautiful. This Monogram cheapo from 1942 could have been batshit crazy fun but tries too hard to be a snappy Warner crime thriller. 3/10

The Ghost of Frankenstein

The magic is all but gone from the fourth Universal Frankenstein picture, made in 1942. Although well-paced and entertaining, the film stumbles on a ridiculous, self-contradictory script, a low budget and a Lon Chaney Jr. who isn’t up to the task of replacing Boris Karloff as the monster. 5/10

The Mad Doctor of Market Street

Lionel Atwill and his hardy troop of bit-part players and slumming has-beens bravely fight their way through an inane and disjointed script on a shoestring budget. Director Joseph H. Lewis adds touches of class to this odd mad scientist/South Seas adventure horror screwball comedy. 3/10

The Body Disappears

Warner produced its first invisibility comedy in 1941. This time it’s a bridegroom who’s accidentally turned transparent on the eve of his wedding. Actors like Jane Wyman, Edward Everett Horton and Willie Best help keep this bland, programmatic situation farce afloat, if only barely. 3/10

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

MGM pulls out all the stops in this high-profile 1941 horror remake. Star director Victor Fleming, however, is out of his element, as is Spencer Tracy in the lead. Still, the movie’s depiction of domestic psychological abuse makes it genuinely unsettling and Ingrid Bergman is sublime. 7/10

Tainstvennyy ostrov

The most accurate adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel Mysterious Island that has ever been put on screen was made in Soviet Ukraine in 1941. This doesn’t necessarily work in the film’s favour, as it is rather talky and static. Look out for Robert Ross, long-time leader of the African American community in Moscow. 5/10