With the Halloween season upon us, there's no better time to celebrate the films of Bela Lugosi. That's him in the photo above, about to enter the Film Detective's special vault where many of his old classics are stored. He's heard that they've been remastered and look better than ever. We have so many Lugosi features that poor Bela isn't sure where to begin, but here are six to get you started...
THE MYSTERIOUS MR. WONG (1934)
THE MYSTERIOUS MR. WONG (1934)
Out of the night creeps a shadow, striking terror into the heart of Chinatown! Bela Lugosi plays a sinister character in this thriller from Monogram Pictures. Poverty Row ace William Nigh directs a tale of kidnapping and intrigue, with a cast that includes Wallace Ford (Freaks, Shadow of a Doubt) as a wiseguy reporter who falls into the diabolical clutches of the menacing Wong, a man driven mad by his lust for power! "Lugosi," reported Variety upon the film's release, "despite a marked Slavic accent, clicks impressively as an Oriental menace..."
This was Lugosi’s fourth film of 1934. The others were The Black Cat, Gift of Gab, and The Return of Chandu…
THE INVISIBLE GHOST (1941)
Out of the darkness comes the ear-piercing cry of a terrified girl...
Bela Lugosi headlines this creepy thriller about an influential man who becomes a bloodthirsty maniac after being deserted by his wife. Director Joseph H. Lewis (Gun Crazy, The Big Combo) elevates this low budget potboiler into something memorable. As one film historian noted of Lewis' work, there was always "an operating intelligence through even the most trivial of circumstances." Aided by veteran cinematographers Harvey Gould and Marcel Le Picard, Lewis creates the perfect atmosphere for this tale of a murderer who strikes in the night and leaves no clues. Though the Brooklyn Daily Eagle described the plot as “a little ridiculous,” the paper’s nameless critic admitted the film gave Lugosi “an opportunity to make some of his best spine-chilling faces…”
First of nine films made by Bela Lugosi under contract with Sam Katzman for Monogram Pictures...
THE CORPSE VANISHES (1942)
Producer Sam Katzman never met a genre he couldn’t exploit. While he spent most of the 1930s and 40s overseeing low budget titles for the likes of Lugosi and the Bowery Boys, as well as a series of jungle features that earned him the nickname “Jungle Sam”, he later moved on to sci-fi schlock like It Came from Beneath the Sea, and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. He also jumped on the youth market and pumped out several rock & roll/drag racing titles, eventually graduating to producing films for Elvis Presley, including Harum Scarum and Kissin’ Cousins. Katzman once said, “Lord knows I'll never make an Academy Award movie, but then I am just so happy to get my achievement plaques from the bank every year.”
ONE BODY TOO MANY (1944)
The only color film to star Bela Lugosi was this mystery thriller from director Christy Cabanne (The Mummy’s Hand) made for the short-lived Golden Gate Pictures during the early months of 1946. Though the New York Evening Post dubbed this feature "1947's worst movie," we love the Post critic's assessment that it was "the kind of simplified nightmare an idiot child might have after ten years of seeing nothing but horror movies."
Lugosi plays Professor Leonide, a cagy character who may have had something to do with the death of a young woman. The woman, by the way, happens to be telling the tale from a slab at the morgue! George Zucco, Molly Lamont, and Joyce Compton also star, as well as Angelo Rossitto, (Freaks) as a menacing dwarf with a habit of stepping on Lugosi’s foot!