You'll Find Out


1h 37m 1940
You'll Find Out

Brief Synopsis

Kay Kyser and his band fight to save a young girl trapped in a haunted mansion.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Old Professor
Genre
Comedy
Musical
Thriller
Release Date
Nov 22, 1940
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 37m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

Kay and his band are hired by heiress Janis Bellacrest to entertain at her twenty-first birthday party. They arrive at Bellacrest Manor, the gloomy country estate owned by Janis' late father, where they meet Aunt Margo, Janis' eccentric guardian. As a storm brews, Margo confides to Kay that she communes with the dead and introduces him to the sinister Judge Mainwaring. Becoming disconcerted after the ominous Prince Saliano warns him that the house is haunted, Kay insists upon leaving, but their departure is barred when a bolt of lightning destroys the bridge that leads from the mainland to the house. The marooned band is joined by Professor Carl Fenniger, who Janis has summoned to debunk Soliano as she is certain he is fleecing her aunt Margo. In reality, Fenniger, Soliano and the judge are in league to murder Janis and thus retain their control over Margo and the Bellacrest fortune. To accomplish their goal, they decide to hold a seance during which Janis will meet her death. Just as the spiked chandelier that hangs over Janis' chair crashes down, Janis falls in a faint to the floor, leading Kay to believe that Saliano is behind the dastardly deed. After Kay and the band's manager, Chuck Deems, discover a secret passage leading to Saliano's workshop, Kay finds Bellacrest's will and realizes that Janis' life is in danger. Believing Fenniger to be trustworthy, Kay proposes another seance to unmask Janis' assailants. Under the cover of darkness, Kay sneaks back to the workroom, where he finds Saliano using a sonic device to impersonate Janis' late father's voice. Thus exposed, the judge pulls a gun on the group, but Kay wrestles him to the ground. Fenniger then reveals his involvement in the plot as he frees his comrades and locks Kay and the gang in a room into which he tosses some lighted dynamite. Luckily for the band, one of the musicians' dog returns the dynamite, thus obliterating the would-be murderers.

Videos

Movie Clip

You'll Find Out (1940) - College Of Musical Knowledge Introductory schtick after a couple of staged scenes with radio listeners, RKO contract players Jeff Corey and Eleanor Lawson are the contestants as bandleader Kay Kyser does his bit based on the NBC radio hit, in the comedy-musical-horror-hybrid vehicle You'll Find Out, 1940, with Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Peter Lorre.
You'll Find Out (1940) - The Spirits Are Strongly Displeased Horror cameos and lingerie, Bela Lugosi with no prologue appears in the guest room of band leader and star Kay Kyser, then Peter Lorre lurks as New York society hostess Janis (Helen Parrish) and singer Ginny Simms take turns being disrobed, in the musical-horror-comedy You’ll Find Out, 1940.
You'll Find Out (1940) - You Made The Society Page The bus carries Kay Kyser and the band to the high society home of Janis (Helen Parrish), girlfriend of manager Chuck (Dennis O’Keefe) and Aunt Margo (Alma Kruger), singers Sully Mason, Ginny Simms and Harry Babbitt and kook Ish Kabibble (M.A. Bogue) commenting, in the RKO comic-variety-horror spoof You’ll Find Out, 1940.
You'll Find Out (1940) - Mysterious Struggle Between Light And Shadow On a stormy evening after Kay Kyser’s gig at the pre-wedding party, singer Ginny Simms, manager/groom Chuck (Dennis O’Keefe) and his girlfriend, the hostess Janis (Helen Parrish) get a surprise from heretofore benevolent family friend judge Mainwaring (Boris Karloff) and unexpected professor Fenninger (Peter Lorre), in the horror-comedy You’ll Find Out, 1940.

Trailer

Film Details

Also Known As
The Old Professor
Genre
Comedy
Musical
Thriller
Release Date
Nov 22, 1940
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 37m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Song

1940

Articles

You'll Find Out


It's hard to imagine what moviegoers today would make of Kay Kyser and his Kollege of Musical Knowledge, but during the late thirties and early forties the big band conductor was one of the most popular entertainers in America. Thanks to the medium of radio (which was at the height of its popularity during the WWII era), Kyser built up a huge fan base through his novelty act, a winning combination of music, humor and "kollege brainbuster questions" with a cash prize for the winner. Sporting wire-rim glasses, mortarboard and academic gown, Kyser created an eccentric bookworm persona for himself and surrounded himself with equally outlandish "colleagues," one of the more famous being Ish Kabibble. It was only a matter of time before Kyser took his act to Hollywood and, in 1939, RKO produced his first film, That's Right, You're Wrong. Its success led to a more ambitious second feature, You'll Find Out (1940), which paired the bandleader with the triple threat team of Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Peter Lorre.

At the time, self-parody was not a quality associated with the horror genre - that would occur later with the arrival of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in 1948 - so it was rather unusual to see Karloff, Lugosi and Lorre spoofing their on-screen personas in You'll Find Out. The film's model was The Old Dark House (1932), James Whale's archetypal haunted house film, but this time all of the cliches (secret passageways, seances, thunderstorms) were played for laughs, and the film's success obviously inspired numerous imitations over the coming years such as the Bob Hope vehicle, The Ghost Breakers (1940) and Scared Stiff (1953) starring Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin.

In You'll Find Out, Kyser and company find themselves menaced by Karloff, Lugosi and Lorre when they agree to perform at the 21st birthday party of heiress Janis Bellacrest (Helen Parrish) at spooky old Bellacrest Manor. Karloff, who plays Judge Mainwaring, the family lawyer, enlists Prince Saliano (Bela Lugosi), a phony psychic, and Professor Fenninger (Peter Lorre), a so-called expert on supernatural phenomenon, as accomplices in his plot to kill Janis and take control of her inheritance. Interspersed amidst the skullduggery are the requisite musical numbers such as Harry Babbitt singing "You've Got Me This Way," "I'd Know You Anyway" (featuring vocalist Ginny Simms) and "The Bad-Humor Man," an over-the-top novelty song spotlighting Ish Kabibble; originally, this number was conceived as a musical trio act for Karloff, Lugosi and Lorre with the title, "We're the Bad-Humored Man," but was dropped. A pity.

Granted, Kyser's brand of humor and big band sound are an acquired taste but You'll Find Out is much more intriguing for its supernatural sequences, particularly the elaborate seance where the disembodied head of the late Elmer Bellacrest appears, accompanied by an eerie, high pitched voice. The result of one of Prince Saliano's inventions, the "voice" is later appropriated by Kay Kyser's orchestra for a musical number in the film's comic finale.

At the time of You'll Find Out, Peter Lorre was not yet typecast as a horror actor. Other than Mad Love (1935), most of his film appearances had been in melodramas and mysteries. And ironically enough, he was paid more than Karloff and Lugosi for his participation in this film. From all reports, he got along splendidly with his co-stars, particularly Karloff; the two became lifelong friends. Louise Currie, who plays one of the socialites in You'll Find Out, recalled working with the horror actors in Karloff and Lugosi by Gregory William Mank: "Boris Karloff, interestingly enough, was very quiet. He didn't participate on the set too much - he was, I'd almost say, rather a recluse. I distinctly felt you just didn't run up and start chatting with him! Nor do I remember having too much contact with Peter Lorre, who, as I recall, was a strange little fellow - much the sort he portrayed on the screen! But Bela Lugosi was different. I remember long chats with Lugosi: he was a very educated, polished, interesting man. It was amazing, to me, that he got into the horror end of Hollywood; he could easily have been a serious actor, and have gone in another direction. We had long conversations, which continued on the other films I did with him, The Ape Man [1943] and Voodoo Man [1944]."

For director David Butler, who helmed the Bob Hope-Bing Crosby comedy, Road to Morocco (1942) and several Shirley Temple films, You'll Find Out "was one of the happiest I ever did. Everybody simply had fun making it." Audiences must have had fun watching it too as it proved to be another big hit for RKO who would produce three more movies with Kay Kyser, making him a millionaire by 1951. Critics weren't as enamored though, with Bosley Crowther of the New York Times calling it "one of those silly shudder-comedies" and remarking, "Apparently the script writers were scared out of their wits by their own ideas, for the dialogue and plot developments indicate that little was devoted to them." But horror fans will find You'll Find Out worth checking out if only for the curiosity value of seeing Karloff, Lugosi and Lorre poking fun at themselves in an oddball mixture of musical revue and haunted house shenanigans. The trio were almost reunited again in 1943 for a horror project that never materialized called Chamber of Horrors; it was also supposed to star Lon Chaney, Jr. and George Zucco and include a nightmare sequence featuring the Frankenstein Monster, Dracula, The Wolf Man, the Invisible Man and the Mad Ghoul.

Director/Producer: David Butler
Screenplay: Andrew Bennison, Monte Brice, David Butler (story), James V. Kern, R.T.M. Scott
Cinematography: Frank Redman
Film Editing: Irene Morra
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase
Music: Jimmy McHugh
Cast: Kay Kyser (Kay Kyser), Peter Lorre (Prof. Karl Fenninger), Boris Karloff (Judge Spencer Mainwaring), Bela Lugosi (Prince Saliano), Helen Parrish (Janis Bellacrest), Dennis O'Keefe (Chuck Deems).
BW-97m. Closed captioning.

by Jeff Stafford
You'll Find Out

You'll Find Out

It's hard to imagine what moviegoers today would make of Kay Kyser and his Kollege of Musical Knowledge, but during the late thirties and early forties the big band conductor was one of the most popular entertainers in America. Thanks to the medium of radio (which was at the height of its popularity during the WWII era), Kyser built up a huge fan base through his novelty act, a winning combination of music, humor and "kollege brainbuster questions" with a cash prize for the winner. Sporting wire-rim glasses, mortarboard and academic gown, Kyser created an eccentric bookworm persona for himself and surrounded himself with equally outlandish "colleagues," one of the more famous being Ish Kabibble. It was only a matter of time before Kyser took his act to Hollywood and, in 1939, RKO produced his first film, That's Right, You're Wrong. Its success led to a more ambitious second feature, You'll Find Out (1940), which paired the bandleader with the triple threat team of Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Peter Lorre. At the time, self-parody was not a quality associated with the horror genre - that would occur later with the arrival of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in 1948 - so it was rather unusual to see Karloff, Lugosi and Lorre spoofing their on-screen personas in You'll Find Out. The film's model was The Old Dark House (1932), James Whale's archetypal haunted house film, but this time all of the cliches (secret passageways, seances, thunderstorms) were played for laughs, and the film's success obviously inspired numerous imitations over the coming years such as the Bob Hope vehicle, The Ghost Breakers (1940) and Scared Stiff (1953) starring Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. In You'll Find Out, Kyser and company find themselves menaced by Karloff, Lugosi and Lorre when they agree to perform at the 21st birthday party of heiress Janis Bellacrest (Helen Parrish) at spooky old Bellacrest Manor. Karloff, who plays Judge Mainwaring, the family lawyer, enlists Prince Saliano (Bela Lugosi), a phony psychic, and Professor Fenninger (Peter Lorre), a so-called expert on supernatural phenomenon, as accomplices in his plot to kill Janis and take control of her inheritance. Interspersed amidst the skullduggery are the requisite musical numbers such as Harry Babbitt singing "You've Got Me This Way," "I'd Know You Anyway" (featuring vocalist Ginny Simms) and "The Bad-Humor Man," an over-the-top novelty song spotlighting Ish Kabibble; originally, this number was conceived as a musical trio act for Karloff, Lugosi and Lorre with the title, "We're the Bad-Humored Man," but was dropped. A pity. Granted, Kyser's brand of humor and big band sound are an acquired taste but You'll Find Out is much more intriguing for its supernatural sequences, particularly the elaborate seance where the disembodied head of the late Elmer Bellacrest appears, accompanied by an eerie, high pitched voice. The result of one of Prince Saliano's inventions, the "voice" is later appropriated by Kay Kyser's orchestra for a musical number in the film's comic finale. At the time of You'll Find Out, Peter Lorre was not yet typecast as a horror actor. Other than Mad Love (1935), most of his film appearances had been in melodramas and mysteries. And ironically enough, he was paid more than Karloff and Lugosi for his participation in this film. From all reports, he got along splendidly with his co-stars, particularly Karloff; the two became lifelong friends. Louise Currie, who plays one of the socialites in You'll Find Out, recalled working with the horror actors in Karloff and Lugosi by Gregory William Mank: "Boris Karloff, interestingly enough, was very quiet. He didn't participate on the set too much - he was, I'd almost say, rather a recluse. I distinctly felt you just didn't run up and start chatting with him! Nor do I remember having too much contact with Peter Lorre, who, as I recall, was a strange little fellow - much the sort he portrayed on the screen! But Bela Lugosi was different. I remember long chats with Lugosi: he was a very educated, polished, interesting man. It was amazing, to me, that he got into the horror end of Hollywood; he could easily have been a serious actor, and have gone in another direction. We had long conversations, which continued on the other films I did with him, The Ape Man [1943] and Voodoo Man [1944]." For director David Butler, who helmed the Bob Hope-Bing Crosby comedy, Road to Morocco (1942) and several Shirley Temple films, You'll Find Out "was one of the happiest I ever did. Everybody simply had fun making it." Audiences must have had fun watching it too as it proved to be another big hit for RKO who would produce three more movies with Kay Kyser, making him a millionaire by 1951. Critics weren't as enamored though, with Bosley Crowther of the New York Times calling it "one of those silly shudder-comedies" and remarking, "Apparently the script writers were scared out of their wits by their own ideas, for the dialogue and plot developments indicate that little was devoted to them." But horror fans will find You'll Find Out worth checking out if only for the curiosity value of seeing Karloff, Lugosi and Lorre poking fun at themselves in an oddball mixture of musical revue and haunted house shenanigans. The trio were almost reunited again in 1943 for a horror project that never materialized called Chamber of Horrors; it was also supposed to star Lon Chaney, Jr. and George Zucco and include a nightmare sequence featuring the Frankenstein Monster, Dracula, The Wolf Man, the Invisible Man and the Mad Ghoul. Director/Producer: David Butler Screenplay: Andrew Bennison, Monte Brice, David Butler (story), James V. Kern, R.T.M. Scott Cinematography: Frank Redman Film Editing: Irene Morra Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase Music: Jimmy McHugh Cast: Kay Kyser (Kay Kyser), Peter Lorre (Prof. Karl Fenninger), Boris Karloff (Judge Spencer Mainwaring), Bela Lugosi (Prince Saliano), Helen Parrish (Janis Bellacrest), Dennis O'Keefe (Chuck Deems). BW-97m. Closed captioning. by Jeff Stafford

Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics Collection - A DVD Review


Horror pictures had a hard time of it after the enforcement of the Production Code in 1934. The gangster genre squeaked by with a shift of emphasis from racketeers to G-Men, but Hollywood's new Sunday School mindset rejected many horror themes outright. Great pictures like Edgar Ulmer's The Black Cat (which on its own embraced sadism, suicide and necrophilia) simply disappeared from screens. Post- Code horrors ran for cover behind Edgar Allan Poe (The Raven) or comedy (The Bride of Frankenstein). A few uncommercial exceptions aside, the Horror Film's full recovery came only 25 years later, when fans embraced Hammer Films' Technicolor exercises in Guignol. Warners' four-title Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics DVD set shows the genre in a definite slump. The final title in the set is a 1958 cheapie exploiting the still-potent name and fame of the King of Horror, Boris Karloff.

The Walking Dead from 1936 is a pivotal film for Karloff. Although very short (65 minutes) it's a quality Warner Bros. effort directed by the respected Michael Curtiz. The plot is essentially a gangster vengeance movie. Framed by vicious hoods Ricardo Cortez and Barton MacLane, unlucky ex-con John Ellman (Karloff) is executed for a murder he didn't commit. But his body is revived by scientist Dr. Beaumont (Edmund Gwenn), who wants Ellman to tell him of secrets beyond the grave.

As can be guessed, the film's genre identity is somewhat confused. Director Curtiz handles the gangster aspect in familiar Warners' style, with Joe Sawyer playing a Murder, Inc.- style hit man named Trigger. Curtiz and Karloff put equal effort into the spooky content, splashing Germanic shadows across walls and arranging for the undead Ellman to unaccountably materialize in locked rooms, like a ghost. Ellman eventually migrates to a rain-soaked cemetery, as if drawn to death; amid all the fast "Warner Urban" wisecracks and action, Karloff must carry the horror angle on his own.

Oddly enough, The Walking Dead is identical in structure and similar in execution to John Boorman's spacey crime revenge saga Point Blank. Like that film's Lee Marvin, Karloff's Ellman is presumed dead yet returns to menace his enemies, all of whom perish without his direct assistance. In Ellman's case they fall on their own guns or out of windows, under trains, etc.

Karloff lumbers about like Frankenstein's monster, an effect heightened by removing a dental bridge and sucking in his right cheek to augment the cadaverous look. Like a ghost, Ellman asks each villain, "Why did you have me killed?" The inconsistent The Walking Dead never decides if Ellman is a literal zombie or a "Telltale Heart" guilt hallucination. The faux-religious ending chastens Edmund Gwenn with a "man was not meant to know" message, over an image of a stone angel in the cemetery.

Karloff is of course superb while the other leads deliver characteristically snappy Curtiz performances. Marguerite Churchill and Warren Hull are a truly insipid pair of youthful lab assistants never taken to task for refusing to testify for Ellman at his murder trial. The Walking Dead looks much more modern than the same year's The Invisible Ray but it marks the end of the first phase of Karloff's Hollywood career. From here on he'd land less prestigious roles, albeit always with star billing. Karloff would repeat the theme of vengeance from beyond the grave ad infinitum in a series of cheap Columbia pictures.

Author Greg Mank goes deep into The Walking Dead's production history for his commentary, detailing a long list of no-no content nixed by the Production Code office before filming began. 1930s Hollywood horror was dismantled by censor demands both here and in England, where a number of the earlier movies had been banned outright.

Universal's 1939 Tower of London and Son of Frankenstein cued a significant comeback for the horror film, but Karloff soon found himself typed as a mad doctor or glowering criminal. Before withdrawing to a much more rewarding Broadway career he appeared in a rush of minor scare pictures, eight in 1940 alone. RKO's You'll Find Out is actually a musical comedy, a vehicle for Kay Kyser's novelty "Kollege of Musical Knowledge" swing orchestra. Kyser's band of extroverts are more amenable to film work than most musicians, although comedian Ish Kabibble is perhaps Not Ready for The Big Screen -- he's like a fourth, even more unpleasant Stooge.

The movie is a standard kill-the-heir non-mystery, with Kyser's band performing at the high-toned Bellacrest mansion. Agent Chuck Deems (Dennis O'Keefe) is in love with Janis Bellacrest (Helen Parrish), the innocent target of a crooked judge, a charlatan psychic and an assassin posing as a professor: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Peter Lorre. Each of these actors is asked only to present their established screen personas. In a plotline dotted with novelty songs and séance hocus-pocus, the waste of great talent is almost painful. Karloff and Lugosi play the script straight and manage to survive with their dignity intact. Impish scene-stealer and ad-libber Peter Lorre has a field day using his eyes and toothy smile to add layers of gleeful malice to his performance.

With the bridge out and the phones dead the three villains try out poisoned darts, bolts of electricity and a falling spike as murder weapons. Kyser uncovers the evil scheme when he discovers Lugosi's lair in a subterranean room. The so-called horror angle wraps up much like a Droopy cartoon, with Ish Kabibble's pooch chasing the villains while carrying a stick of dynamite in his mouth. As a comedy You'll Find Out is likely to leave modern audiences completely unmoved.

Peter Frampton fans might be amused by the debut of a "talk box" invention called the Sonovox, which uses the voice as a filter for amplified musical instruments. Kay Kyser promotes the device as if the movie were an infomercial. Much more central to film historians is the set dressing used in Lugosi's secret chamber. The art directors raided the RKO prop department and unearthed a pair of Triceratops stop-motion animation models that may have been built for Willis O'Brien's aborted dinosaur epic Creation. Even more interesting are two spider models attached to a secret doorway -- they look awfully similar to the surviving still of the giant spiders in the famous censored "spider pit" scene cut from the original King Kong.

Some wartime horror pictures were haunted house comedies following in the footsteps of popular Bob Hope and Abbott & Costello hits. 1945's Zombies on Broadway is a bizarre comedic wanna-be from Wally Brown and Alan Carney, RKO's answer to Abbott & Costello. The duo's dynamic is definitely personality-challenged; as a comedy team it simply doesn't distinguish itself.

But Zombies on Broadway may be the strangest quasi-sequel ever made. Brown and Carney are Jerry Miles and Mike Streger, maladroit publicity flacks who have promised to find a fake zombie for the new nightclub of gangster Ace Miller (Sheldon Leonard). Ordered to come up with the real McCoy or die, the pair sails to the Caribbean island of San Sebastian, a noted zombie hangout. They're greeted at the dock by Calypso singer Sir Lancelot, who improvises an instant folk ballad commentary. It's immediately apparent that this is a comedy spin-off from Val Lewton's popular 'straight' horror film I Walked with a Zombie. Not only does Sir Lancelot recycle his same menacing song from the Lewton original, but the tall & cadaverous Darby Jones returns as the somnambulistic zombie Carre-four, here given a name change to Kolaga.

That's where the comparisons end, as Zombies on Broadway opts for slapstick hi-jinks. Singer Jean La Dance (Anne Jeffreys) helps Jerry and Mike escape from the clutches of Bela Lugosi's uninteresting Doctor Renault. Lugosi uses a serum to transform Mike into the walking dead. In this case, all that happens is that Mike receives a pair of (rather disturbing) zombie pop-eyes, of the same kind worn by Darby Jones. Jean and Jerry are overjoyed, and hustle Mike back to Broadway to perform! It's all over before we remember to laugh.

Veteran director Gordon Douglas doesn't waste time with fancy details. Dotty curator Ian Wolfe and Broadway columnist Louis Jean Heydt provide spirited support. Fledgling actor Robert Clarke plays a character called Wimp. You have to start somewhere.

For its final film the collection leaps ahead thirteen years to 1958, when cheap productions were cashing in on Hammer's The Curse of Frankenstein, a smash hit that ignited an international horror boom. A quickie production from prolific producer Aubrey Schenck (T-Men) and director Howard W. Koch, the cut-rate Frankenstein 1970 delivers the minimum quota of shocks to qualify as a feature film. Seventy year-old Boris Karloff is given bold star billing, a spooky makeup job and a disagreeable character to play.

The screenplay by George Worthing Yates and Richard H. Landau (The Quatermass Xperiment) revamps the Frankenstein legend with an unpleasant update involving a movie crew shooting a Frankenstein story in the Baron's own castle. Brash director Douglas Row (Don "Red" Barry, former cowboy star) has rented the castle and irritates his host with insensitive remarks. The Baron (Karloff) is established as a victim of Nazi torture, to explain his mutilated eyelid. He now has an atomic reactor in his basement, and looks to the film's cast and crew for the raw materials for his new monster. The poky script has several lengthy one-shot scenes that prove Karloff adept at sustained dialogue. But suspense and surprises are sadly lacking. The Baron carries a heart in his hand and drops a jar containing human eyes to the floor, details surely inspired by the Hammer series.

Perhaps convinced that a good first impression is the key to finding a distributor, Schenck and Koch topload Frankenstein 1970 with the film's only stylish scene. A prologue follows a claw-fisted monster pursuing peasant girl Jana Lund into a foggy pond, and then wading in to strangle her. The murder turns out to be a movie-within-a-movie being filmed by director Roy's camera crew, and nothing of its kind is seen again. Audiences surely felt cheated for wanting to see that movie, not one about some boring film folk. TV personality Tom Duggan smiles incongruously while the other actors work overtime to extract some excitement the script. The "twist" ending doesn't add much to Karloff's humorless character, an unusually grouchy mad doctor. Considering that Karloff does wonders with modest movies like The Haunted Strangler, he doesn't look happy making this one.

The Allied Artists release Frankenstein 1970 is filmed in CinemaScope and occasionally finds an impressive composition. But little details undercut its impact. Frankenstein's futuristic mad lab scenes use archaeic sound effects from old Universal pictures. When the bandaged monster rolls out of the reactor furnace on a rickety hospital gurney, it appears to be pulled by a string. Apparently somebody thought it was funny for the Baron to dispose of surplus body parts in a device that makes the noise of a flushing toilet. Kids in 1958 matinees must have jeered every time Karloff nears the disposal.

Interviewer Tom Weaver hosts a commentary for Frankenstein 1970, joined by Bob Burns and actress Charlotte Austin. Burns tells stories about meeting Boris Karloff in person, and Ms. Austin has fine memories from the set. She is grateful that she didn't have to go into the freezing water with Jana Lund and recounts a shot ruined when Mike Lane's bandaged monster couldn't carry her down a flight of stairs without dropping her. Weaver enumerates some censored content, such as a silhouette scene in which the monster was supposed to squash a victim's head.

A rather motley assortment of horror odds 'n' ends, Warners' Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics box will nevertheless be a must-see disc for genre fans. The transfers are all good, with The Walking Dead showing its age and Zombies looking marginally softer than the others. Frankenstein 1970 can boast a flawless enhanced widescreen transfer. You'll Find Out and Frankenstein 1970 come with original trailers.

For more information about Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics, visit Warner Video. To order Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson

Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics Collection - A DVD Review

Horror pictures had a hard time of it after the enforcement of the Production Code in 1934. The gangster genre squeaked by with a shift of emphasis from racketeers to G-Men, but Hollywood's new Sunday School mindset rejected many horror themes outright. Great pictures like Edgar Ulmer's The Black Cat (which on its own embraced sadism, suicide and necrophilia) simply disappeared from screens. Post- Code horrors ran for cover behind Edgar Allan Poe (The Raven) or comedy (The Bride of Frankenstein). A few uncommercial exceptions aside, the Horror Film's full recovery came only 25 years later, when fans embraced Hammer Films' Technicolor exercises in Guignol. Warners' four-title Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics DVD set shows the genre in a definite slump. The final title in the set is a 1958 cheapie exploiting the still-potent name and fame of the King of Horror, Boris Karloff. The Walking Dead from 1936 is a pivotal film for Karloff. Although very short (65 minutes) it's a quality Warner Bros. effort directed by the respected Michael Curtiz. The plot is essentially a gangster vengeance movie. Framed by vicious hoods Ricardo Cortez and Barton MacLane, unlucky ex-con John Ellman (Karloff) is executed for a murder he didn't commit. But his body is revived by scientist Dr. Beaumont (Edmund Gwenn), who wants Ellman to tell him of secrets beyond the grave. As can be guessed, the film's genre identity is somewhat confused. Director Curtiz handles the gangster aspect in familiar Warners' style, with Joe Sawyer playing a Murder, Inc.- style hit man named Trigger. Curtiz and Karloff put equal effort into the spooky content, splashing Germanic shadows across walls and arranging for the undead Ellman to unaccountably materialize in locked rooms, like a ghost. Ellman eventually migrates to a rain-soaked cemetery, as if drawn to death; amid all the fast "Warner Urban" wisecracks and action, Karloff must carry the horror angle on his own. Oddly enough, The Walking Dead is identical in structure and similar in execution to John Boorman's spacey crime revenge saga Point Blank. Like that film's Lee Marvin, Karloff's Ellman is presumed dead yet returns to menace his enemies, all of whom perish without his direct assistance. In Ellman's case they fall on their own guns or out of windows, under trains, etc. Karloff lumbers about like Frankenstein's monster, an effect heightened by removing a dental bridge and sucking in his right cheek to augment the cadaverous look. Like a ghost, Ellman asks each villain, "Why did you have me killed?" The inconsistent The Walking Dead never decides if Ellman is a literal zombie or a "Telltale Heart" guilt hallucination. The faux-religious ending chastens Edmund Gwenn with a "man was not meant to know" message, over an image of a stone angel in the cemetery. Karloff is of course superb while the other leads deliver characteristically snappy Curtiz performances. Marguerite Churchill and Warren Hull are a truly insipid pair of youthful lab assistants never taken to task for refusing to testify for Ellman at his murder trial. The Walking Dead looks much more modern than the same year's The Invisible Ray but it marks the end of the first phase of Karloff's Hollywood career. From here on he'd land less prestigious roles, albeit always with star billing. Karloff would repeat the theme of vengeance from beyond the grave ad infinitum in a series of cheap Columbia pictures. Author Greg Mank goes deep into The Walking Dead's production history for his commentary, detailing a long list of no-no content nixed by the Production Code office before filming began. 1930s Hollywood horror was dismantled by censor demands both here and in England, where a number of the earlier movies had been banned outright. Universal's 1939 Tower of London and Son of Frankenstein cued a significant comeback for the horror film, but Karloff soon found himself typed as a mad doctor or glowering criminal. Before withdrawing to a much more rewarding Broadway career he appeared in a rush of minor scare pictures, eight in 1940 alone. RKO's You'll Find Out is actually a musical comedy, a vehicle for Kay Kyser's novelty "Kollege of Musical Knowledge" swing orchestra. Kyser's band of extroverts are more amenable to film work than most musicians, although comedian Ish Kabibble is perhaps Not Ready for The Big Screen -- he's like a fourth, even more unpleasant Stooge. The movie is a standard kill-the-heir non-mystery, with Kyser's band performing at the high-toned Bellacrest mansion. Agent Chuck Deems (Dennis O'Keefe) is in love with Janis Bellacrest (Helen Parrish), the innocent target of a crooked judge, a charlatan psychic and an assassin posing as a professor: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Peter Lorre. Each of these actors is asked only to present their established screen personas. In a plotline dotted with novelty songs and séance hocus-pocus, the waste of great talent is almost painful. Karloff and Lugosi play the script straight and manage to survive with their dignity intact. Impish scene-stealer and ad-libber Peter Lorre has a field day using his eyes and toothy smile to add layers of gleeful malice to his performance. With the bridge out and the phones dead the three villains try out poisoned darts, bolts of electricity and a falling spike as murder weapons. Kyser uncovers the evil scheme when he discovers Lugosi's lair in a subterranean room. The so-called horror angle wraps up much like a Droopy cartoon, with Ish Kabibble's pooch chasing the villains while carrying a stick of dynamite in his mouth. As a comedy You'll Find Out is likely to leave modern audiences completely unmoved. Peter Frampton fans might be amused by the debut of a "talk box" invention called the Sonovox, which uses the voice as a filter for amplified musical instruments. Kay Kyser promotes the device as if the movie were an infomercial. Much more central to film historians is the set dressing used in Lugosi's secret chamber. The art directors raided the RKO prop department and unearthed a pair of Triceratops stop-motion animation models that may have been built for Willis O'Brien's aborted dinosaur epic Creation. Even more interesting are two spider models attached to a secret doorway -- they look awfully similar to the surviving still of the giant spiders in the famous censored "spider pit" scene cut from the original King Kong. Some wartime horror pictures were haunted house comedies following in the footsteps of popular Bob Hope and Abbott & Costello hits. 1945's Zombies on Broadway is a bizarre comedic wanna-be from Wally Brown and Alan Carney, RKO's answer to Abbott & Costello. The duo's dynamic is definitely personality-challenged; as a comedy team it simply doesn't distinguish itself. But Zombies on Broadway may be the strangest quasi-sequel ever made. Brown and Carney are Jerry Miles and Mike Streger, maladroit publicity flacks who have promised to find a fake zombie for the new nightclub of gangster Ace Miller (Sheldon Leonard). Ordered to come up with the real McCoy or die, the pair sails to the Caribbean island of San Sebastian, a noted zombie hangout. They're greeted at the dock by Calypso singer Sir Lancelot, who improvises an instant folk ballad commentary. It's immediately apparent that this is a comedy spin-off from Val Lewton's popular 'straight' horror film I Walked with a Zombie. Not only does Sir Lancelot recycle his same menacing song from the Lewton original, but the tall & cadaverous Darby Jones returns as the somnambulistic zombie Carre-four, here given a name change to Kolaga. That's where the comparisons end, as Zombies on Broadway opts for slapstick hi-jinks. Singer Jean La Dance (Anne Jeffreys) helps Jerry and Mike escape from the clutches of Bela Lugosi's uninteresting Doctor Renault. Lugosi uses a serum to transform Mike into the walking dead. In this case, all that happens is that Mike receives a pair of (rather disturbing) zombie pop-eyes, of the same kind worn by Darby Jones. Jean and Jerry are overjoyed, and hustle Mike back to Broadway to perform! It's all over before we remember to laugh. Veteran director Gordon Douglas doesn't waste time with fancy details. Dotty curator Ian Wolfe and Broadway columnist Louis Jean Heydt provide spirited support. Fledgling actor Robert Clarke plays a character called Wimp. You have to start somewhere. For its final film the collection leaps ahead thirteen years to 1958, when cheap productions were cashing in on Hammer's The Curse of Frankenstein, a smash hit that ignited an international horror boom. A quickie production from prolific producer Aubrey Schenck (T-Men) and director Howard W. Koch, the cut-rate Frankenstein 1970 delivers the minimum quota of shocks to qualify as a feature film. Seventy year-old Boris Karloff is given bold star billing, a spooky makeup job and a disagreeable character to play. The screenplay by George Worthing Yates and Richard H. Landau (The Quatermass Xperiment) revamps the Frankenstein legend with an unpleasant update involving a movie crew shooting a Frankenstein story in the Baron's own castle. Brash director Douglas Row (Don "Red" Barry, former cowboy star) has rented the castle and irritates his host with insensitive remarks. The Baron (Karloff) is established as a victim of Nazi torture, to explain his mutilated eyelid. He now has an atomic reactor in his basement, and looks to the film's cast and crew for the raw materials for his new monster. The poky script has several lengthy one-shot scenes that prove Karloff adept at sustained dialogue. But suspense and surprises are sadly lacking. The Baron carries a heart in his hand and drops a jar containing human eyes to the floor, details surely inspired by the Hammer series. Perhaps convinced that a good first impression is the key to finding a distributor, Schenck and Koch topload Frankenstein 1970 with the film's only stylish scene. A prologue follows a claw-fisted monster pursuing peasant girl Jana Lund into a foggy pond, and then wading in to strangle her. The murder turns out to be a movie-within-a-movie being filmed by director Roy's camera crew, and nothing of its kind is seen again. Audiences surely felt cheated for wanting to see that movie, not one about some boring film folk. TV personality Tom Duggan smiles incongruously while the other actors work overtime to extract some excitement the script. The "twist" ending doesn't add much to Karloff's humorless character, an unusually grouchy mad doctor. Considering that Karloff does wonders with modest movies like The Haunted Strangler, he doesn't look happy making this one. The Allied Artists release Frankenstein 1970 is filmed in CinemaScope and occasionally finds an impressive composition. But little details undercut its impact. Frankenstein's futuristic mad lab scenes use archaeic sound effects from old Universal pictures. When the bandaged monster rolls out of the reactor furnace on a rickety hospital gurney, it appears to be pulled by a string. Apparently somebody thought it was funny for the Baron to dispose of surplus body parts in a device that makes the noise of a flushing toilet. Kids in 1958 matinees must have jeered every time Karloff nears the disposal. Interviewer Tom Weaver hosts a commentary for Frankenstein 1970, joined by Bob Burns and actress Charlotte Austin. Burns tells stories about meeting Boris Karloff in person, and Ms. Austin has fine memories from the set. She is grateful that she didn't have to go into the freezing water with Jana Lund and recounts a shot ruined when Mike Lane's bandaged monster couldn't carry her down a flight of stairs without dropping her. Weaver enumerates some censored content, such as a silhouette scene in which the monster was supposed to squash a victim's head. A rather motley assortment of horror odds 'n' ends, Warners' Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics box will nevertheless be a must-see disc for genre fans. The transfers are all good, with The Walking Dead showing its age and Zombies looking marginally softer than the others. Frankenstein 1970 can boast a flawless enhanced widescreen transfer. You'll Find Out and Frankenstein 1970 come with original trailers. For more information about Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics, visit Warner Video. To order Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Presently I shall assume a state of trance, in which the outer mind merges with the astral portion of the human ego... the Spirit of Death is trying to enter this room, but have no fear, the fires of death will guard us.
- Prince Saliano

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was The Old Professor. The team of producer-director David Butler, assistant directer Fred Fleck, editor Irene Morra, and writers James Kern and David Butler also worked together on Kay Kyser's 1939 RKO film That's Right, You're Wrong. James McHugh and Johnny Mercer's song "I'd Know You Anywhere" received an Academy Award nomination.