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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Paramount Sells Spooks To The Carriage Trade


Would The Masses Buy Class Chills of The Uninvited?

I'm thinking The Uninvited was Hollywood's first "class" ghost story done seriously (MGM's A Guy Named Joe from 1943 being sort of a warm-up). Notwithstanding Universal monsters from the 30's, I don't know of big studios floating supernatural themes to prestige extent of The Uninvited prior to 1944, and selling them in terms of general audience appeal as opposed to specialized crowd predisposed to thrill topic. Here was where Paramount departed from norm, but played safe by targeting a wide as possible public. They went for those who'd like scares, but pulled punches where necessary by linking The Uninvited with "mystery romance" as tendered in the novel and film that was Rebecca, a hit still in pic-goer memory that Paramount evoked in 1944 ads. The year was significant for A-budget chills aimed at plush seats. Universal remade Phantom Of The Opera with Technicolor, had The Climax on deck for '44, and spent way more than they'd have put into horrors till then (1943) --- Para would acknowledge the splurge by materializing the Phantom in teaser art (below) for The Uninvited. Then there was 20th Fox's The Lodger, a more intense shocker than had been attempted before. The Val Lewton series at RKO, though B's by definition, had an ongoing and greater influence than historians yet realize. These echoes are heard through The Uninvited.


Paramount wouldn't chicken out with its ghosts being real, but invited healthy skepticism by way of Ray Milland's doubt and humorous asides. At one point, he even jumps under bed covers when a door shuts by itself, a moment that threatens to tip The Uninvited into Cat and Canary farce, thankfully averted as tension mounts later on. Para had prestige and unbroken success in wartime. Movie attendance was nearing all-time peak, this company owning a greatest number of theatres to draw crowds. We pay less attention to Paramount because so little of their 40's stuff circulates today, thanks to vagaries of distribution (Universal owns the pre-49 inventory but has done little with it). The Uninvited was designed to serve purpose beyond mere scaring of customers, being a careful calibrated showcase for introducing a personality the company had pre-programmed to become a star.


Stardom as a fait accompli was not uncommon then. There was enough confidence in this game and its outcome to go ahead and cast a promising enough face in two of three vehicles before patronage had even a first glimpse, it being possible to impose a newcomer on filmgoers and make them like it. Calibration did have to be set just so, as was case with Paramount vis-à-vis Gail Russell. They just didn't figure on her crippling inability to play the H'wood game. Tinseltown tragedy was borne upon wings of the Gail Russells, ones lacking survival skill in what could be a cruelest jungle --- ones who in the end had no business in this business. Russell was plucked off a high school campus. Someone there said she looked like Hedy Lamarr. Fate dealt the rest. The Uninvited for Paramount was as much about Gail as ghosts. We've forgotten that too. Gail Russell might have preferred to as well after stardom went wrong and most of her close-ups got made in police court. Publicity shown here assumes a sadness in light of what would happen. Today it's as easy to think of Gail Russell as real-life counterpart to the weeping ghost we hear in The Uninvited.


There were devices reliable to sell horror movies, most set in concrete. Paramount might have preferred a more dignified approach, but die was cast upon this mode of showmanship, and in final analysis, a spook show was a spook show, so far as exhibs were concerned. Yes, Dorothy MacCardle's best-seller had been read by three million, and indeed you could call hers a "mystery romance," but vet vendor Louis Brandt knew where bodies were buried when it came to selling scares, and he wasn't for measuring The Uninvited to elegant fit. Whatever his Globe Theatre's approach, it worked for the New York premiere. Brandt dressed the building's front with black cats (at right) that flashed menacingly by night, a lighting effect that drew attention from pedestrians up and down Broadway. Reward came of four week fill-up for the Globe and an effusive, if joshing, wire (above) sent by Brandt to pals in Paramount sales. This sort of congrats was mostly meant to let other showmen know that dollars were percolating and they should get in on it quick.


We have advantage of customized home viewing to create atmosphere for Uninvited viewing. But compare our lights- out and reverent sit with wild and wooly first-runs where The Uninvited was tail end to sky-the-limit vaudeville. Washington's Capitol Theatre gave 'em fifty-five minutes of hoke before Paramount's ghosts were let in. Would Henny Youngman onstage spoil your mood for The Uninvited? If not him, what about community singing ("as never before," said Variety) with a house organist pulling his final week? Or maybe Pistol Packin' Mama as sung by the Murtah Sisters --- they got a "riotous hand." Then came Wally Boag blowing up toy balloons to comic effect, with Pansy The Horse doing tricks with "an eccentric blonde" for a sock finish. Such, and more, is what you got with admission to The Uninvited at the Capitol in 1944.


Campaign ideas looked like pillage from Universal's old playbook. Arrange for a brave soul to spend a night alone in your local haunted house (but be sure to get permission from owners!) ... Hold a séance in your lobby ... Have ushers hold open doors for "invisible" patronage ... the list goes on. Showmen had their own gags for spook peddling and most were pretty timeworn, but what worked ten or twenty years before still would for generations coming up who liked being creeped out. Suggested ads from Paramount and poster art centered on Gail Russell, she being The Uninvited's investment toward future grossing (the actress would be back in a follow-up, The Unseen). Fulfillment of our own latter-day hope and anticipation for The Uninvited came this month with Criterion release on Blu-Ray, giving us finally a visual experience close to what audiences enjoyed in 1944 (minus Pansy The Horse, of course), and there are admirable extras, including a fine booklet essay by Faran Nehme and an interview with director Lewis Allen by noted genre historian Tom Weaver.

More at Greenbriar Archives on The Uninvited, and a Glamour Starter look at Gail Russell.




Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Greenbriar's Halloween Harvest For 2013


Will You Give Up Your Toothpaste Carton To See Bela Lugosi?

TCM can be a box filled with surprises. I DVR'ed The Death Kiss last Saturday, and lo/behold, the thing looked better than ever I saw it, with not only crisp image from 35mm, but hand-applied color highlights till now stuff of printed legend. So how come an independent cheapie to have tint segments that took untold effort to apply? (thirty hours for eight seconds, it's said) Turns out Death got Kissed by one Gustav Brock, an artist/illustrator long at the task of color flashing what objects on screen needed emphasis, his wand previously waved over at least three of Von Stroheim's silents, The Navigator with Buster Keaton (those effects apparently now missing), and several Marion Davies specials. Sudden and unexpected color gave audiences a goose, and beyond mere novelty, it could serve dramatic purpose as well (check out Brock's "golden" touch upon Greed as retained in TCM's print). The Death Kiss has little standing thanks to poor prints till now in circulation. Bela Lugosi and other Dracula cast members are in it, which is why people watch, but there's more of interest than has so far met viewing eyes.


The Death Kiss was an independent mystery thriller released by World Wide, a company associated with busy-since-silents Tiffany, well-named as it was the tiffany of budget firms, Journey's End (1930) among talkie jewels so far cut. The Death Kiss gains interest for shooting right where action happens, to wit a film studio beset by killing done via a fake firearm replaced by the real thing. Solution is arrived at by David Manners, livelier here than in Dracula, that a partial compensation for Lugosi again being the red herring upon whom suspicion must naturally fall, him a known bogeyman by 1932. We all come away from such as The Death Kiss wishing for more Bela, as in much more to exclusion of boring others, like Vince Barnett in excruciating comic mode. Still, if you want to tour a down-market movie studio, here's the place to do it, The Death Kiss a near-documentary dose of pic-making outside realm of majors-dominated Hollywood.


Dismal times were upon Broadway's "Old" Roxy Theatre (the "New" Roxy being Radio City's just-opened companion for its Music Hall) . The palace seated 5886 and carried weekly overhead that demanded seats be filled. A "presentation" policy had been in effect for the six years since Roxy's opening, hugely expensive stage extravaganzas that kept ongoing costs kite-high. January 1933 found all of Broadway bent in supplication to the mighty pair that was Radio City, their auditoriums siphoning off trade formerly province of a Great White Way. The "Old Roxy" was being called that by trades, and it stung. Low grosses were further indication that Radio City had belled the cat. Roxy saw its all-time worst week with Air Hostess from Columbia in mid-January, an abysmal $7,000 (note contrast: The Cock-Eyed World in 1929 took $167K in a single Roxy week). The house by '32 was in receivership, steps now taken to revive the husk via price drops and change to vaudeville/film policy. Backstage help and other staff was also laid off.


Major releases with attendant % rental were taken off Roxy's menu until fiscal wolves could be routed. For a meantime, independent offerings were chosen for cheapness, hope being that vaude extras might bait hook for patronage. The Death Kiss came at flat cost of $1,500. Air Hostess from Columbia had as price tag $5,000. Walt Disney cartoons also sold by Columbia were getting $500 for first weeks at the Roxy, according to research by animation historian Michael Barrier. Variety estimated that World Wide recovered 3% of its Death Kiss negative cost from the Roxy booking alone, the film having been made for a lean $50,000. Trouble came when second run circuits got in a lather over the Roxy reducing admission for its Death Kiss first-run to thirty-five cents. How could they hope to make later profit with Broadway shaving rates so close? Pressure was put on World Wide to yank The Death Kiss from the Roxy, and the company duly applied for a court injunction, which wasn't granted. The show would proceed, on agreed-upon terms.


The Roxy hung S.R.O. signs as The Death Kiss opened on 1/27/33 to sensational business. Crowds went around the block ... this for a poverty row whodunit? (Variety estimated that one hundred thousand people saw The Death Kiss during its Roxy week) There was cause for the stampede, one lost to time admittedly, but revealed in trade coverage of the day. Seems the Roxy had tied in with radio station WABC to use on-air personality "Just Plain Bill," doing a six-minute talk from the stage. Bill's sponsor was Kolynoss toothpaste, and they'd stimulate lines with a unique appeal to young and old: Bring your empty toothpaste cartons and get in free. The deal called for Kolynoss to give the Roxy a dime back for each admission. In further exchange, Plain Bill's WABC program would lean hard on Death Kiss promotion. Result? A first week of The Death Kiss doing four times what Air Hostess had earned in the previous frame. Said Variety: More kids are seeing the Roxy show this week than all the other Broadway houses together have seen in a year. Trades weren't giving The Death Kiss much credit, Variety referring to it as "a weak screen sister," but with its radio and toothpaste pitch, the Roxy could have run a Reb Russell silent and gotten by. The Death Kiss would afterward slip from vaunted start to obscurity it knows today. How many among moderns know, or care, about The Death Kiss?, other than Lugosi-philes given to turnover of his every performing rock. And yet The Death Kiss offers much of interest, from cast to setting to unique color effects. I'm hoping it will someday merit a full-on restoration by one of the archives.

Many thanks to Scott MacQueen for steering me in direction of Gustav Brock and his work with color tints.


JUST IN! (12:55 PM): Scott MacQueen very kindly sent a vivid sample (above) of Gustav Brock's color tints as they were applied to climactic scenes of The Death Kiss. There were two color sequences that I saw in TCM's print this past weekend. Both were very effective. One depicted a nitrate print catching fire in a projection room, with appropriate reds and yellows to accentuate the danger. Greenbriar much appreciates Scott MacQueen sharing this unique image with readers.




Monday, October 28, 2013

Among Columbia Comfort Westerns ...


R. Scott Against Majestic Backdrop in The Nevadan (1950)

It was the same as if they'd gone into partnership selling farm tractors: Randolph Scott and Harry Joe Brown's assembly line for westerns plowed smooth for over a decade before free-TV access cleared pasture of on-riding cowboys. I count at least seventeen the pair did, and none are doggy. Obviously, the twilight group under Budd Boetticher direction stand out, but comfort seekers make little distinction; they'll watch Randy just for his being there, and knowledge of that made Scott/Brown output about a surest bet around (virtually no Scott western lost money). The Nevadan was enhanced by CineColor, a red/green dominant process that I suspect has been smoothed over by creative owners  on digital duty; Retroplex HD skies look a little too blue to derive from limited CC palette (but note The Navadan went years being available only in black-and-white). Gordon Douglas directs here; until he gets credit due, there won't be much fuss over The Nevadan, but if tally were taken of Scott's, or 1950 westerns in general, it would earn mid-range to maybe high placement. Outlaw scribe Rowland Brown, he of Quick Millions, Hell's Highway, and punching out at least one producer, contributes dialogue, and sure enough, some of "lyrics" (Randy Scott's term) stand out. What really distinguishes The Nevadan is rock-to-rock tour of majestic Lone Pine location, director Douglas backing up so we can see a cast rendered ant-size against distant and snowy peaks. All this and CineColor amounts to must-see frontiering. The Nevadan is available through Columbia's On-Demand DVD service; transfer is excellent.




Sunday, October 27, 2013

Another Silent Comedy Nicely Restored


Stan Was A Pest Before He Teamed With Babe

Stan Laurel isn't The Pest's (1922) title character as expected, but presides over deaf/dumb gags, flypaper exchange, and pursuit up the Hats Off steps now a shrine to pratfalling shot there. It's understood that Stan missed pre-L&H stardom for lack of a distinct "personality," though his was sufficient to headline one after another series of comedies in which he led, and that must be acknowledged stardom by whatever measure. Even if Laurel hadn't teamed with Hardy, we could pick him still from clowning's alley, crowded though it is. The Pest may not be a solo best, but it's nicely representative of an extensive lot; Laurel knew gagging and brought trunks to whoever hired his act. Many did after a teens' movie start, Stan seldom at liberty once begun at single and two reeling. Majority of comics moved too fast to develop character, ones grotesque enough wouldn't invite our interest in any case. Sponge-for-gags Laurel didn't risk standing still in early 20's phase where faster meant better, but his stood out at least for being above the average of funny. The Pest is part of Flicker Alley's Saved From The Flames DVD Collection, highly recommended for wide choice of rarities among its three discs.




Saturday, October 26, 2013

Beware Those Eyes --- They Paralyze!


That Damned Title Nearly Made Me Miss It

Out come footie pajamas as I relate desperation to go and see Children Of The Damned in '64 despite a title guaranteeing parental ban. What responsible elder would surrender his/her child to children being damned? I contrived a speech and time alone to reason my mother toward acquiescence, which remarkably came ten or so minutes into presentation. Should I have expected different? --- she after all took me to see Brides Of Dracula and Pit and The Pendulum, these perhaps goodwill residue of her own first-run exposure to Mystery Of The Wax Museum and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde years before (I never argued with parents knocking my generation's popular culture in favor of their own --- right is right after all). Children Of The Damned was finessed by TV spots to look like a scariest show yet made, the must-see test of a nine-year-old's courage. Nice to find, forty-nine sessions later, a thoughtful and at times droll-witted Brit thriller that was sold for sensation, but plays adult from start to sobering finish. US-distributing MGM put winter push on "Eyes That Paralyze" and promised stark horror for cerebral sci-fi they'd actually deliver. That didn't bother me --- just getting inside the Liberty was triumph enough. For a very modest $432K spent, Metro brought back $1.2 million worldwide ($923K in US rentals --- how many UK genre pics accomplished that?). Warners has a first-rate combo DVD, with Village Of The Damned as warm-up.




Friday, October 25, 2013

United Artists Tries Storming The Beach

It Stretched 275 Feet From 45th To 46th Streets on Times Square ...

1959: The Year We Had To See On The Beach

Stanley Kramer Hammering His Yes Men At
Publicity Confab For On The Beach
Suppose you gave an end of the world party and nobody came? That was the crab on exhibition's Beach once openings were done and word of Stanley Kramer's grenade began preceding smaller-market play. So this is the one where everybody dies? Nix. Let's wait for The Shaggy Dog instead. Kramer knew he had a tough sell. United Artists knew it better. They had a sour apple in Kramer, who according to UA exec David Picker's new book, Must, Maybes, and Nevers, was "always confrontational and difficult" when it came to planning and distribution of his films. Says Picker re SK: "He wanted no input, sought no help, and usually argued about every issue once his film was delivered." David Picker makes it clear in his memoir, however, that United Artists had complete control of advertising for On The Beach. How then, to market this most expensive dose of death?

Life Among The Lowly In UA Publicity: They'd Spend Long Days Shipping/Handling
Such On The Beach Material As This

Citing reviews was a start. They were rhapsodic. To knock On The Beach was tantamount to being against world peace, Kramer's message so urgent that you just had to give it a boost. Not only did notices rave ... they came from all over the world. That looked swell on paper, but would it sell tickets in middle America? And was Moscow liking it necessarily a good thing? You could argue that the Soviets would use On The Beach as a propaganda tool, and indeed they would where practicable. It was understood early on that this would be a critic's pic, but kudos in print weren't CPR for deadly word-of-mouth once fate of all Beach's inhabitants became known.


A so-called "Seven Continent" Campaign promised to raise awareness of On The Beach "Across the Globe," this by way of star-studded premieres at various world capitals. December 17, 1959 was the target date for openings at eighteen far-flung sites from New York to Tokyo to Antarctica. This would be not only a test of the film's strength, but also of United Artists' worldwide distribution machinery, an opportunity they'd welcome, as success here would auger well for future releases. Staff was beefed up at foreign exchanges as UA saw opportunity to publicize merchandising manpower beyond our shores. Theirs was no provincial outlet with reach limited to US Bijous. Even if (or when) On The Beach failed, there would be at least this residual benefit for United Artists.

Lillian Gish, Honorary Chairman Of The Sponsoring Committee For The Astor Theatre
Opening, Poses With Tony Perkins and President Of The Academy Of Dramatic Arts, Frances Fuller. They'd Help Supply Prestige United Artists Was After. 

Toward touting the worldwide premieres, UA got out 150 prints of a "newsreel" narrated by Mike Wallace to play theatres and television during January/February 1960 as On The Beach achieved wider play. Charity openings were safe bet for US engagements, a Southeast splash for the March Of Dimes attended by On The Beach stars and taking place in Atlanta. Network-popular Bishop Pike, of Great Cathedral fame (that weekly pulpit addressing thousands) invited Stanley Kramer to his ABC Sunday  program for discussion on "The Motion Pictures --- and Fundamental Issues." Gregory Peck was appointed "official rep" by Kramer for purpose of handling foreign press. Peck found offshore scribes less interested in the film's serious theme and curious instead as to personal favorites of pics and leading ladies over a career so far (for the record, Peck picked Roman Holiday, The Big Country, and The Gunfighter). UA meanwhile was for popping corks, and, based on a first three weeks of US release, declaring On The Beach (and concurrent-playing Solomon and Sheba) "on their way to becoming the biggest grossers ever released by the company." Early returns misled, perhaps, as On The Beach saw its best reception in largest cities, where crowds were likelier to embrace its somber message.


On The Beach would be the picture we had to see, as in "If You Never See Another Motion Picture In Your Life." But what of patronage who might view The Shaggy Dog in those terms? Few films sell successfully in terms of patron's civic responsibility to attend them. Beach's campaign risked intimidating its public, but UA notably lacked selling choices. There was but one way to exploit this one, and that was with a sledgehammer. Miss On The Beach at your own risk went unsaid, but certainly was implied. Like A-Bomb preparedness drills at school, it would put us ready whatever the awful eventuality of world events. What helped in key engagements was On The Beach being a horror that could happen, sort of like science-fiction where the alien menace wins. Anti-nukers made signs, came out en masse at openings, and drew news coverage to UA advantage. Trouble was their tipping off bleakness of those 134 minutes. Besides, UA didn't want to sell On The Beach in political terms, even if Kramer did. That might require choosing a side, and consequent loss of half their audience.

Getting Set With a Fourteen-Foot Illuminated Shadowbox at the RKO
Keiths Theatre in Washington, DC.

UA's pressbook trumpeted worldwide openings and key dates here (Records Shattered!). Much was undoubtedly learned from mistakes, plus things done right, and it was here that marketers faced the greatest challenge of getting back investment via wide release in the US. It was suggested that bally begin four weeks ahead of playdates. That idea alone got the pressbook tossed by many a small showman who'd herd the pic through on a two-three day booking and spend a week's balance making house nut with easier sells. Tried-but-true merchandising applied to On The Beach came off as, well, strange. How many Toy Atomic Submarines would go in Santa stockings after parents got traumatic dose of Kramer's doomsday? Waltzing Matilda was an arresting, if overused, theme for On The Beach, but I wonder how many came to Fred Astaire Dance Studios seeking footwork accompaniment. If On The Beach was indeed The Biggest Story Of Our Time, then all such tie-ins must have seemed trivial indeed. Red ink washing up on this Beach was a doomsday UA marketers, at least those more experienced, may well have seen coming.




Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sitting Under Nitrateville's Hot Lamp


Nitrateville's Mike Gebert Interviews Greenbriar About Exhibition and Showmen, Sell It Hot!

That best of stops for discussion of all things classic has posted Part Two of an interview with me regarding Showmen,Sell It Hot!, site moderator Mike Gebert posing the questions. I go to Nitrateville every day, as likely do most Greenbriar readers. Participants there are always first with news wherever it breaks in a filmic universe. The best tips on forthcoming books, events, DVD releases --- each and more are covered at Nitrateville. Discussions are always lively and informative. It is the international wire service for vintage enthusiasts. Mike put probing inquiry to me about showmanship matters, and I hope the answers got at least close to what he was after. I found Q&A with Nitrateville lots more daunting than squibs dropped daily at Greenbriar. At least here, unlike there and the Showmen book itself, I can go in and edit my most egregious flubs. Anyway, the interview is done, other than my answering follow-up questions should readers have any. I'd invite Greenbriar readers to go HERE, take a look, and by all means, put Nitrateville on your favorites list.




Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Taking Another Gamble On Raft


A Sort-Of Noir From RKO: Race Street (1948)

George Raft came of unsavory background, having worked ways up gangland ranks and then sidestep to movie work where he unexpectedly hit big. From there it was necessary (so he thought) to prevent art imitating life, thus turndown of underworld topics, especially where Raft's character broke law. That was fair enough reason to reject parts that immortalized others (Bogart especially), but then HB came of impeccable stock and needn't have worried over confusion of self with roles. Raft had too long a success to be an altogether dumbbell, and you can't blame his preferring to play safe. Besides, he liked being a nice guy baddies steer wrong, so long as his worm turns, and right, as in Raft, triumphs. That's the direction Race Street travels, getting there the fun of RKO expertise in noir matters, with GR and Bill Bendix lolling outside Frisco's legendary RKO Golden Gate Theatre, then giving us peek at what's within. There's a double-crossing dish of Marilyn Maxwell and further victimization of Harry Morgan, who so often got it in the neck during noir's acme. Alarm came of Race Street losing dollars for RKO: they'd overspent on the negative ($913K), then realized Raft's diminished following couldn't cover the bet.




Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Well, Blow Me Down ...


Popeye's Here In Person!

What's a mightier draw than your cartoon fave in person? It had been done with Mickey Mouse, guys in rat suits, that is, but here came Popeye The (White Hot) Sailor Man with claim to legitimacy myriad mice lacked, his altar-ego the voice heard on snowballingly popular cartoons out of Fleischer's shop. Popeye would soon outflank Mickey for Number One, Spring '34 being opportune season to put dubber Billy Costello in gob getup for six-minute turns as Popeye The Talking (and Singing) Man. Costello was a hand at vaudeville and eccentric voicing. Trades said he was a better Ukulele Ike than Cliff Edwards himself. What got hands to clapping was Billy's rendition of wide-sung-in-schoolyards, I'm Popeye The Sailor Man, a tune he introduced in Paramount's debut for the character. The Costello act had promise enough to open at Broadway's Roxy Theatre in April, 1934, where Billy sang along with Popeye in newly-released Man On The Flying Trapeze, his tandem with the cartoon like an onstage recording session. There was a June stand at the massive Chicago Theatre where Costello backed that year's Wampas Baby Stars and expanded his voice range to a deeper-than-deep bass for comic effect. So how came the crash for Billy? Sources say he "misbehaved" at Fleischer's and was shown the gate. In-house Jack Mercer took his place and frankly made a better Popeye than Costello. Michael Barrier says in Hollywood Cartoons that King Of The Mardi Gras (released 9/35) was the first short to use the sailor's newly installed voice. Billy had meanwhile wangled a West Virginia tour for his Popeye act starting 7/10/35, one day stands in Clarksburg, Huntington, Bluefield, and so on. If OK, act will continue through the hill country, said Variety. A stoop from the Roxy to be sure, but Costello might have been lucky that Paramount didn't cease-and-desist him, the Fleischer firing likely having taken place by then. As to Costello aftermath, there was continued performing. He cut records and apparently did Popeye on some oversea stages. Billy Costello died in 1971.




Monday, October 21, 2013

A Sequel's 1936 Dose From Universal


Was This Daughter A Patch On Dracula?

Censorship stripped horror to bones after PCA enforce took hold. You couldn't say Boo without arousing them. Wild-wooly first drafts for Dracula's Daughter were ground to chalk by Breen's bunch, what finally got on screens denuded to pabulum by timid monster merchants. All they could do was beef advertising and instill hope of thrills increasingly unfilled. Did chillers fade partly for a public tiring of mislabeled product? I've made allowance for Dracula's Daughter since 1964's first encounter, that being tough sometimes for friends' insistence (repeated) that it's a dog. Sometimes age opens eyes and not-so-belated appreciation (I'd come around to DD's spell not long after childish letdown). There was apparently many a false start to production, Bela Lugosi intended for reprise of his vampire king, but all we've got of him are on-set visit posing with title lead Gloria Holden.


D's Daughter seeks vampirism cure via precode rake Otto Kruger, horror fans' appreciation for him surely increased for modern exposure to all and sundry character triumph among other than monsters. Kruger's Dr. Garth is impatient here, as well the actor may have been with DD's far-out content. Edward Van Sloan gets a better whack at Van Helsing than the original Dracula allowed, thanks to five years and talkie progress in the interim. Gloria seduces Nan Grey to latter-day delight of subtext-seekers: it's there in Holden's appreciative gaze and our wistful imagining of possibility. So much of classic horror is earnest reading between lines. An always Universal greatness was houses (or castles) beautiful in which monsters dwelt, making their constraint otherwise matter less. We could turn down volume on these and still get our kicks. Atmosphere is where quality DVD really pays, and better still are those Uni chillers so far on Blu-Ray and others being streamed. My next view of Dracula's Daughter will hopefully be HD-enhanced for further dose of revelation.
grbrpix@aol.com
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