Bela Lugosi Night

For christmas, I got a pair of DVDs from the "classic horror movies collection". Given by none other than my very cool parents, who know how to humour my strange tastes.

Today, I was feeling sort of lousy, so after the grocery run (well, I went to the mall, but nothing really inspired me, except a miniature plunger for my bathroom sink... how exciting), I curled on the sofa and listened to a couple of movies, both starring Bela Lugosi.

For those not knowing Bela Lugosi, he's an actor who played in many 40's horror movies. But his main claim to fame in modern cinematography is probably his partial participation in one of the worse movies ever made, Plan 9 From Outer Space by director Ed Wood. Lugosi was slated to play the head vampire, but he died early in the making of the movie. Ed Wood, ever the optimist, replaced him with a much taller man who had a different face and had the replacement cover his face with a cape for the whole movie. If you haven't seen Plan 9, you should; it's quite bad, but so bad it's sort of good. Ed Wood by Tim Burton is worth seeing as well; it's a not-quite-documentary on the making of Plan 9

Anyhow, for those reasons, Bela Lugosi is known to me. But the only movie I've seen him in was Plan 9, which doesn't count.

Hence: The Devil Bat. Nutty doctor bitter about some rich man making a fortune on his discoveries (the doctor cashed out instead of getting a stake in the company) invents a way to make bats gigantic using electric current (???). He conditions the bats to hate the smell of a particular aftershave he's developing. He then distributes the aftershave freely to members of the rich man's family and sics the bat on them.

It's a harmless movie. Special effects are especially laughable, but it was made in 1949. Though they could have been more careful about some things, like the bat-flying-out-the-window shot where the window is obviously NOT the window we saw open (the bricks don't have same texture, etc). There's some priceless Lugosi acting (meaning, quite exaggerated) like replying to "goodnights" from his intended victims with "goodbye Mr. insert name here". A rather silly subplot of the hero's assistant trying to woo the rich man's daughter's French maid. And the rather unnatural switch of the female lead's affections from her murdered intended to the hero (man--it's like it's the most natural thing in the world!)

That said, it's too bad such movies don't really have a soundtrack, because some parts run a bit long and dry.

Then, I listened to The Human Monster. Unfortunately, sound quality was somewhat poor, as it's a really old movie. Lugosi exaggerates his expressions even more than in the other movie, and his face just screams "villain!" all over the place. I found that movie a bit less enjoyable, although it's definitely more serious and more care was put into it. I guess it's just too serious--old horror movies should be cheesy. But as far as it goes, it's not that bad a movie, with a pretty predictable plot, but some relatively well-scripted moments. Keep in mind I'm no movie expert. Unfortunately for me, who wanted to look at a Lugosi flick, he gets less face time here. I must admit, though, that I found the scene where he puts the female lead in a straightjacket and drowns a man in front of her quite tense and effective.

Looking at old movies like this is an interesting experience. You realize that modern movies have more technical means, but their plots stink--they're as predictable as those old things, and often play on the same themes (there are exceptions, but there were exceptions then as well). You realize that while attitudes towards women have changed on the surface, they are basically the same in modern movies; they were simply quite a bit more open at the time, and they weren't as bad as many people make it in comparison to those of modern movies. The female lead in The Human Monster is a damsel in distress, but she's also incredibly stubborn about wanting to find out who killed her father. Surprising after seeing The Devil Bat, where the female lead is a human carpet in many ways. As now, scripts vary widely.

Well, I'll probably listen to other movies from those disks in the near future and let people know what I think about them.

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