The Film Detective revealed this past week that they will be making another 50 new film restorations available on DVD effective Sept. 1. That’s very good news for movie lovers, especially with the company’s distinctive theatrical poster campaign DVD package art as a calling card.
Each round of 50 new film presentations has a little something for everyone, so let’s get right to it!
We begin with a two new Mr. Wong mysteries starring Boris Karloff as James Lee Wong. The creation of Collier’s Magazine writer Hugh Wiley, The Film Detective released Doomed to Die in August, Mr. Wong, Detective in July and The Mystery of Mr. Wong in March.
On Sept. 1 Boris Karloff completes the five-film series with director William Nigh’s 1939 film release of Mr. Wong in Chinatown and Nigh’s 1940 follow-up, The Fatal Hour (both films co-star series regulars Grant Withers as Capt. Bill Street and Marjorie Reynold as Bobbie Logan).
Keye Luke took over the role of Mr. Wong for one additional film, Phantom of Chinatown and then the series was dropped by Monogram Pictures ... perhaps that one too will be counted among a 50-film release package from The Film Detective.
Screen legend Boris Karloff can also be enjoyed in another Monogram Pictures release from 1940 as part of this September release package. That would be The Ape, another film from prolific filmmaker William Nigh (120 directing credits dating back to the silent era, plus additional acting, producing and writing film credits along the way).
Here we find Karloff as a well-intention doctor who seeks to cure a young woman (played by Maris Wrixon) of polio. Sadly, he becomes unhinged in his attempts and turns into a serial killer disguised as an escaped circus ape to obtain the necessary human “fluids” for his work.
You can’t have Boris Karloff without Bela Lugosi, right? These two iconic horror legends — Frankenstein’s monster and Dracula — appeared in over 300 films in their combined careers, including eight together.
So The Film Detective has Bela Lugosi starring in five horror classics (actually, one is comedy with “horror” trappings).
The earliest in the mix — and not to be confused with the aforementioned Mr. Wong series — is director William Nigh’s 1934 horror/mystery, The Mysterious Mr. Wong. Here Lugosi is shopkeeper Fu Wong, but this is just a disguise as his real identity is that of Lai See, an evil man on a mission to become ruler of an important region in China. All he needs are the Twelve Coins of Confucius and murder is his method of obtaining them!!!
Next in line is director Joseph H. Lewis’ 1941 film release titled Invisible Ghost. When Dr. Kessler’s (Lugosi) wife, (played by Betty Compson) dumps him another man, he becomes unhinged and goes on a murder spree that leads to the execution of an innocent man.
Next in line is director Wallace Fox’s 1942 film release of The Corpse Vanishes, which has Lugosi starring as Dr. Lorenz, a mad scientist, who has taken to killing young women on their wedding days (virgins) for their bodily fluids. These are then transformed into a serum that keeps his elderly wife (played by Elizabeth Russell) young … hot shot reporter Pat Hunter (Luana Walters) uncovers his serial killing ways, but could end up being his next victim as she too is a virgin!!!
The following year, it is director William Beaudine’s 1943 Monogram Pictures production of The Ape Man. Once again Lugosi is your classic mad scientist, Dr. Brewster (aided by Henry Hall as Randall), whose latest bit of “research” has transformed the nutty doctor into an ape-like man. You guessed it, the only cure for this are the bodily fluids of healthy human beings … pure horror!!!
And last, but not least in this Lugosi treasure trove of DVD film releases, is director Frank McDonald’s 1944 “haunted house” comedy, One Body Too Many. Red herrings, rat poison and other gags have insurance salesman Albert Tuttle (Jack Haley) being mistaken for a famous detective hired to guard the corpse of a multi-millionaire (an elaborate will), who comes to the aid of Carol (Jean Parker), one the relatives, in solving the mystery of who is killing the heirs to the family fortune. Lugosi plays the mysterious butler, Merkil.
Wow, five Lugosi films and three starring Karloff from The Film Detective on Sept. 1. That’s a one hell of a start!!
Other film nuggets include four new East Side Kids adventures starring Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Bobby Jordan and friends. These are director Wallace Fox’s 1942 comedies, Let's Get Tough and ‘Neath Brooklyn Bridge and filmmaker William Nigh’s comedy from the same year, Mr. Wise Guy.
Before transforming in a comedy series (first as the East Side Kids and then as the Bowery Boys), there was a harder edge to some of the films. The 1940 film release of Pride of the Bowery (directed by Joseph H. Lewis) is one such film in the series that was more drama than comedy.
You can see from just this sampling that The Film Detective’s 50-film onslaught is loaded with collectible treasures. These include director Arthur Lubin’s 1949 film noir, Impact, starring Brian Donlevy, Helen Walker and Ella Raines; director Robert Stevenson’s 1947 film adaptation of the Edward Sheldon stage play, Dishonored Lady (Hedy Lamarr, Dennis O’Keefe and John Loder star) and writer/director Fletcher Markle’s 1949 film noir entry, Jigsaw, starring Franchot Tone, Jean Wallace and Marc Lawrence.
For a complete listing of all of the new Sept. 1 DVD release please see page 6 in this week’s edition of the report, or visit The Film Detective website (thefilmdetective.com).