Saturday, October 25, 2008

THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN (1964) generally gets a bad rap but it isn't the worst in Hammer's Frankenstein series (and keep in mind that I don't consider THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN with Ralph Bates to be part of the series). It isn't a very good film by any means but it's OK -- at least that's my opinion of it on this most recent re-watching. For the curious, the worst in Hammer's Frankenstein series is without a doubt FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN -- because it commits the worst offence any movie can make: it's deadly dull! But having said all this spiel as prologue, THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN is an OK movie. It's chief claim to fame probably comes from the fact that Universal Studios finally, at long last, gave Hammer permission to use it's copyrighted Frankenstein's monster makeup a la Jack Pierce/Boris Karloff. The monster (played by wrestler Kiwi Kingston) has the squared-off head, the beetling brow, the asphalt spreader's shoes etc. familiar to all who've ever seen the Universal Frankenstein movies. As for Kiwi Kingston, director Freddie Francis has said that he wishes he would have had the services of an "actor" under the makeup (such as Christopher Lee) in order to give more to the part. However, I don't think Kingston does too badly; given the fact that the monster is not given anything much to do emotionally by the script. Kingston does fine with what he's given to do and I really don't see what an "actor" could have added to the part. In fact, Kiwi Kingston's non-actor status may have helped convey the creature's bewildered flailing about -- pretty much all the script requires by way of a performance. The monster's brain (as per usual) has been severely damaged by bullets being fired through it; not to mention the fact that the monster has been encased in ice inside a frozen glacier for the better part of ten years (shades of FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN). Consequently, a more klutzy Frankenstein's Monster you're not liable to get. One scene has the monster offered a bottle of hooch by a deaf servant girl (Katy Wild); the monster smashes the bottle to the ground, then decides it quite likes the taste and then attempts to pat up the spilled wine with it's fingers. The dolt then finds a trunk full of wine bottles, grabs one and SMASHES ALL THE REST. Not much on planning for the future is our monster!
Like all Hammer's Frankenstein series (again I'm not including HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN in this), Baron Frankenstein is played by Peter Cushing with all the fanatical drive to which we've grown accustomed. Really, you can't have a Hammer Frankenstein film without Peter Cushing; there's really just no point! THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN opens with a resurrection man stealing a body and bringing it to the Baron's fix-it shop (OK, laboratory). While Frankenstein and his eager assistant Hans (Sandor Eles who also played Lt. Toth in Hammer's COUNTESS DRACULA) attempt to keep a fresh heart alive in a tank, the bombastic stick-in-the-mud local priest (wildly over-the-top James Maxwell) busts in and starts smashing up the Baron's equipment. Party-poopers like this are what give mad scientists a pain in the neck bolts! This is without doubt the most memorable scene in the film (and the fact that it occurs within the first 5 or 10 minutes may reveal why the film isn't better than it is). The Baron's experiment ruined, he's run out of town once again. In a flashback, he reveals to Hans his first successful creation of the Monster in his hometown (Kiwi Kingston's creature rather than the monster played by Christopher Lee in the first film of the series THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN). The monster had gone on a rampage killing livestock and had been shotgunned through the brain; this incident also caused the good people of Karlstaad to kick the Baron out of town. Ever since, he's been roaming around trying to restart his monster-making hobby. After almost ten years, the Baron returns to his Chateau in Karlstaad with Hans. Through numerous plot intricacies, the Baron comes into contact with a deaf and dumb peasant girl (Katy Wild), a carnival hypnotist named Professor Zoltan (the booming Peter Woodthorpe -- who played a similar slimy character in the Amicus film THE SKULL) and the flash-frozen monster trapped in a wall of ice. The Baron waits for a nice electrical storm, hooks up his Kenneth Strickfadean lab equipment and revives the monster. Unfortunately, the thing is alive but it's damaged brain is dormant. The Baron enlists the unsavory Zoltan to make contact with the monster's mind and revive it. This he does but the cagey Zoltan also sees to it that he alone can control the monster. The hypnotist sends the monster out to steal some gold knick-knacks and then assists the Baron's revenge fantasies by sending the monster out to kill the Burgomaster and all others who offended Frankenstein in the past. Things get messy from here on as the film careens toward a patented fiery climax.
THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN is an interesting if seriously flawed film. At least it's entertaining throughout (which cannot be said for FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN). The Universal-approved monster makeup by Roy Ashton gets a lot of flak but seriously I don't see why; it's perfectly acceptable if uninspired. Peter Cushing's Baron is perfection as usual and Sandor Eles' Hans makes a good (if unremarkable) assistant. Katy Wild's deaf peasant girl can get a little annoying but that's not really her fault; the script by John Elder (Anthony Hinds) gives her nothing much to do but to mutely gesticulate with wide eyes or to be carried around by Kiwi Kingston. Peter Woodthorpe gives a hissable, barrelling performance which stops just short of evil mustache-twirling. The film looks great with passable art direction by Don Mingaye nicely photographed by John Wilcox. The sets don't match the lush genius of Bernard Robinson but Mingaye does a good job nonetheless. A definite step down from the glory days of Hammer's HORROR OF DRACULA etc. but still a fun and enjoyable entry in the series. An interesting hypothesis has suggested that we should perhaps view THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN as a dream had by the Baron while he's unconsciously recuperating from the injuries received in FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED; this requires a reshuffling of the order of the Frankenstein films if one should watch them all back to back. Since the Hammer Frankenstein films don't really lend themselves to a seamless viewing experience watched in the order they were made, it has been suggested the Frankenstein movies should be watched back-to-back in the following order:
I must say I have yet to try this experiment but someday in the future I will drag all the Hammer Frankenstein films out and see how they play in this sequencing. If you do so before me, drop me a comment and let me know.

Friday, October 24, 2008

NOW THAT WE'VE GONE OVER THE SPOOKIEST LOONEY TUNES FOR HALLOWEEN VIEWING, ANOTHER PERFECT WAY TO WARM UP FOR A MONSTER MOVIE MARATHON WOULD BE WITH THE CLASSIC SPOOKY THREE STOOGES SHORT "SPOOK LOUDER". Made during wartime in 1943, this is the first Three Stooges short that features really strong "horror" elements. Larry, Moe and Curly are salesmen who are hired to guard the house of Professor Graves the inventor so that Nazi spies don't steal his inventions while he's away. The Stooges are greeted at the door by a butler who just happens to be played by sepulchral-voiced/cadaver-faced Charles Middleton; not only the actor who played the STRANGLER FROM THE SWAMP but also the fella who played Ming the Merciless in the classic FLASH GORDON serials! Mr. Graves has been called away to demonstrate his new death-ray device so he needs the Three Stooges to stay in his house.
After Graves departs, the spooky house is filled with the sound of a piano being played -- but there's no one in the house. Moe and Curly decide to dance as Moe quips: "You dance like you've got your legs on backwards." "Wait a minute!", Larry bellows, "If we're here alone, who's playing the piano?!?" Of course, it turns out to be a kitten on the keys. However, outside the house three spies dressed in Halloween costumes break into the mansion. As one of the costumed spies is about to shoot the Stooges with a shotgun, a pie hits him in the face. Wild, maniacal cackling is heard by the mysterious, unseen pie-hurler. One more of the burning mysteries found in this short film!
A lot of "old dark house" shenanigans ensue including a hairy claw reaching out from behind a moving bookcase to snatch Moe. The spy dressed as a skeleton terrorizes Larry as he opens the front door. Moe is scared by a table lamp going on and off; unknown to him the plug is being pulled out and pushed back in to the socket because the cord is wrapped around the rocking chair leg which Moe is rocking back and forth. Then the spy dressed as a devil peers in the window and makes Moe's hair stand on end with fright. A wonderfully effective gag occurs when a balloon filled with helium gets hooked onto Curly's coat-tail; the balloon has a scary face drawn on it and every time it bumps the back of Curly's head the stooge freaks out. In fact, the effect of the balloon-face rising up behind Curly is strangely unsettling and startling as well as being funny. The gag also works wonderfully when Curly runs in fright into the hallway and asks Larry if anyone is following him. Larry starts to reassure him until the balloon pops up behind Curly and frightens the bejesus out of Larry. The same thing happens when Moe encounters Curly; the way the Stooges utilize an inanimate prop which moves on its own demonstrates the razor-sharp timing the trio had developed over the years. Even though the balloon rises at different rates of speed behind Curly, the Stooges perfectly time their dialogue and reactions for optimal laughs. "I must be haunted" Curly whimpers as he runs from the scene. Then Curly suddenly stops, causing the following balloon to careen through his legs and to bob up in front of his face -- more adept physical comedy as the gag is pulled off flawlessly. And just when you think they've exhausted the balloon gag, Curly runs away (which naturally causes the balloon to disappear back behind him). Curly pauses in front of a mirror gasping "Maybe it's me?!?" as the balloon once again slowly bobs up behind his head so that it looks like a spook is creeping up behind him. Priceless. Believe it or not, the Stooges actually get EVEN MORE mileage out of the balloon gag before they're done with it. There is also a mummy in a sarcophagus, a ghost sighting (actually Curly in a sheet), a mischievous monkey, a bear (stuffed) and more maniacal laughter and pie-throwing. And a good, old fashioned bomb.
SPOOK LOUDER is the perfect short subject to screen after some of those spooky Looney Tunes cartoons and before the start of your Halloween monster movie double (or is that triple . . .or QUADRUPLE) feature. I mean, the spies even dress in Halloween costumes! How perfect is that?!? So what if nothing actually supernatural occurs in it; how many horror films can you name where all the supernatural goings on are explained away in the final reel? The Three Stooges were still at the height of their powers in 1943 before the illness which would eventually sideline Curly began to show its affect. Spooky Looney Tunes and Spooky Stooges; is there a more fun way to start a night of Halloween movies while you sort through your bag of Halloween candy?!?!
JUST A HEADS UP . . . OR A HEAD UNDERNEATH YOUR ARM . . . THAT AN ENTIRE TRICK OR TREAT BAG OF NEW AUDIO GOODIES HAS JUST POPPED UP ON OUR SISTER BLOG: "BATHED IN THE LIGHT FROM ANDROMEDA". We're continuing with our Halloween theme in the week leading up to Halloween. This time there are 7 (count 'em 7) spooky songs from the past to listen too. Long past? Yes, you could say that. We've got some swingin' jazz to get the skeletons shaking their bones and even some blues to chase the Devil away. And yes, as you may have guessed from the first line of this post, there is even an old vaudeville song about the headless ghost of Anne Boleyn. So put on your costumes and meet me over at BATHED IN THE LIGHT FROM ANDROMEDA. You've got nothing to lose but your cookies!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

HALLO-LOONEY-WEEN. Or more precisely some suggested Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies for October viewing. Every once in a while, they would make a cartoon with some spooky elements. If you are making your own monster movie marathons this month, what better way to start them off them by screening some Halloweeny-type Looney Tunes before the main feature starts. And all of these are readily available on DVD. So start spinning! Remember these??? 13spooky Looney Tunes to start off your Halloween right!
  • WATER, WATER EVERY HARE -- "My baby! My mechanical masterpiece! So nearly complete! So nearly perfect! If you ONLY had a living brain!" Green, chrome-domed mad scientist (who is made to sound like Vincent Price) laments his lack of spare parts when a flood carries Bugs Bunny (our hero) floating by on his mattress. I particularly love the neon signs on the exterior of the castle alternately flashing "Evil Scientist" and then "Boo!". When Bugs wakes up and speeds away in fright, the evil scientist sends his monster "Rudolf" to catch him. "Uh oh. Think fast, rabbit!" mutters Bugs and storms right into the classic beauty parlour routine. "My stars! Where did you EVER get that AWFUL hairdo?!?!" Bugs even manages to make himself invisible with a diabolical potion. But of course, our hero is saved by a thrown axe busting a bottle of ether. A stone cold classic.
  • SCAREDY CAT -- Porky Pig and Sylvester move into a haunted house. It turns out the house if tormented not by ghosts but by a group of mischievous mice who terrorize Sylvester and try to commit bodily harm to Porky (unbeknownst to the Pig, of course). The wonderful shadows thrown on the wall -- in which it looks like a hooded executioner is leading a procession to an execution -- is wonderfully evocative. The mice eventually hog-tie (pun intended) Porky and Sylvester flees the house in terror. However, his conscience convinces him to return and save his master.
  • HAIR-RAISING HARE -- "Did you ever have the feeling you wuz being watched?" asks Bugs Bunny as a mad scientist (who looks like Peter Lorre) sends a mechanical hoochie mama to lure the rabbit to his castle. Inside the castle, Peter Lorre has the same red-furred, tennis shoe-wearing monster that we saw in WATER WATER EVERY HARE. This time instead of doing the monster's hair, Bugs does his nails. This cartoon is every bit as enjoyable as the other appearance of the red-furred monster was.
  • BROOMSTICK BUNNY -- It's officially Halloween in this one. Bugs Bunny is hitchhiking dressed as a witch -- and he stops in at Witch Hazel's dump. Everything is fine until Bugs takes off his mask; then Witch Hazel realizes a rabbit is just what she needs to throw in her cauldron of goop! Witch Hazel is voiced by the phenomenol June Foray -- and it's the exact same voice AND the exact same character name as the Witch Hazel who appeared earlier in the Disney Donald Duck cartoon "Trick or Treat".
  • HYDE AND HARE -- The sweet little old doctor who feeds Bugs Bunny every day in the park takes him home as a pet. Unfortunately for Bugs, the doctor's name is Jekyll. Various axe-wielding shenanigans occur until Bugs himself swallows some of the evil formula before returning to the park.
  • HAVE YOU GOT ANY CASTLES -- Not entirely spooky but there are several spooky things about this cartoon which make it nice October viewing. This is one of those "books coming to life" cartoons which Warner Bros. did several of. Among the spooky characters we can find Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Fu Manchu, The Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein's Monster, The Invisible Man, Topper, The House of Seven Gables and Seven Keys to Baldpate.
  • CLAWS FOR ALARM -- Once again, Porky and Sylvester are going to stay in a haunted house but this time it's a hotel. Of course, it's also actually haunted not by ghosts but by mischievous mice. While more of the same, it's still worth a look.
  • FALLING HARE -- This is the one that has Bugs Bunny actually meet his match: a gremlin! While not really spooky in any way, it does feature the supernatural creature known as a gremlin so I'm letting it in our Halloween cartoons on a technicality.
  • TRANSYLVANIA 6-5000 -- Bugs has to stop making that wrong toin at Albuquerque. He winds up in Transylvania looking for a telephone at the spooky castle of Count Bloodcount. The Count insists Bugs stay for the night and tries to put the bite on him. Unfortunately for the Count, Bugs finds a book on "Magic Woids and Phrases"; everytime Bugs says a magic woid, the Count changes into a bat and back. A very bizarre-looking entry.
  • BIRTH OF A NOTION -- "I didn't know Leopold could dance." Daffy Duck casts asparagus at ducks who are stupid enought to fly south for the winter. He decides to get a home for the winter by conning some sucker. The sucker is Leopold the dog. Daffy puts a bone on his front porch and then stops the dog from eating it saying it's poison. Having saved the dog's life, Daffy is invited to stay (secretly) in his master's house. His master is Peter Lorre whose mad experiment requires the wishbone of a duck! So Leopold is trying to keep Peter Lorre from finding out he's got a secret houseguest, Daffy isn't too fond of Peter Lorre and continually tries to cause him bodily harm while Leopold constantly thwarts him and Peter Lorre finally finds out he's got a duck on the premises and tries to capture Daffy!
  • JUMPIN' JUPITER -- Porky Pig and Sylvester (who realized they were such a comedy team) are out camping in the desert (shades of Jack Arnold!) when they are abducted by space aliens. Big green gooney looking ones. A really nice touch in the cartoon is that the sound of the spaceship is the exact same sound made by the giant ants in THEM!
  • SATAN'S WAITIN' -- While chasing Tweety Bird, Sylvester falls to his death. Not the usual opening to a Looney Tune cartoon, is it? As the "up" staircase is barred, Sylvester goes downstairs to H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks and meets the devil (a dog, of course). The Devil informs Sylvester that since a cat has nine lives he may go back to Earth -- but beware. . .the Devil will be waiting for Sylvester when his nine lives are used up.
  • A CARTOONIST'S NIGHTMARE -- This is an early B&W cartoon which features the rather bland hero Beans (similar to Bosko and Buddy); characters like this proliferated at Warners before the advent of Porky, Daffy and Bugs took them to a higher level. A monstrous villain called The Beast has captured Beans in a drawing done by a cartoonist. When the cartoonist falls asleep at his drawing board, The Beast reaches out of the drawing and pulls the cartoonist into it. The cartoon is filled with ghastly villains like Spike the Spider, Dirty Dan and a monstrous octopus named One Punch Otto!

It's interesting to note that, 9 times out of 10, if there was a spooky monster or ghost in a cartoon, Warner Bros. would pit them usually against Bugs Bunny or the team of Porky Pig and Sylvester. It's probably no surprise that Bugs would feature prominently since he was their top draw; and the team of Porky and Sylvester played the cat's cowardice against the pig's blissful ignorance of what was going on around him. Having said this, the team of Porky and Sylvester are indeed a distant second to Bugs since they only have 3 cartoons on this list and one is basically a retread of the first. Sylvester did meet Satan, of course, but this time without Porky Pig.

Well, I hope these cartoons got you in the proper mood to start your own Halloween spooky movie marathon.

Monday, October 20, 2008

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BELA LUGOSI (1882-1956). There is no way I could let the day go by without marking the birthday of one of the most Halloweeny of persons: Bela Lugosi. Do I really need to list the reason why he's keen???
  • Dracula (1931)
  • The Black Camel (1931)
  • Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)
  • White Zombie (1932)
  • Chandu the Magician (1932)
  • The Death Kiss (1932)
  • Island of Lost Souls (1932)
  • International House (1933)
  • The Black Cat (1934)
  • The Return of Chandu (1934)
  • The Mysterious Mr. Wong (1934)
  • Mark of the Vampire (1935)
  • Mystery of the Marie Celeste (1935) aka Phantom Ship
  • The Raven (1935)
  • The Invisible Ray (1936)
  • Shadow Over Chinatown (1936)
  • S.O.S. Coast Guard (1937)
  • The Phantom Creeps (1939)
  • Son of Frankenstein (1939)
  • Ninotchka (1939)
  • Dark Eyes of London (1940) aka The Human Monster
  • Black Friday (1940)
  • The Devil Bat (1940)
  • You'll Find Out (1940)
  • The Invisible Ghost (1941)
  • The Black Cat (1941)
  • Spooks Run Wild (1941)
  • The Wolf Man (1941)
  • The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)
  • The Corpse Vanishes (1942)
  • Night Monster (1942)
  • Bowery at Midnight (1942)
  • Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
  • The Ape Man (1943)
  • Ghosts on the Loose (1943)
  • Return of the Vampire (1944)
  • Voodoo Man (1944)
  • Return of the Ape Man (1944)
  • The Body Snatcher (1945)
  • Genius at Work (1946)
  • Scared To Death (1947)
  • Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
  • Vampire Over London (1952) aka My Son, the Vampire
  • Glen or Glenda? (1953)
  • Bride of the Monster (1955)
  • The Black Sleep (1956)
  • Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
THE ALEXANDER PUSHKIN STORY "THE QUEEN OF SPADES" I first read in a book then heard in an episode of the old radio show MYSTERY PLAYHOUSE starring Peter Lorre and finally, years later, saw the 1949 film version as part of a two DVD set paired with the classic 1945 British ghost classic DEAD OF NIGHT. I've always loved DEAD OF NIGHT and it's probably understandable that the first time I watched QUEEN OF SPADES I was a little let down. Simply put, the ghostly horror elements are much more subdued and I was probably expecting more of a spookfest than I got. However, on subsequent viewings I found THE QUEEN OF SPADES to be a remarkably beautiful and creepy film. Perhaps a better pairing on DVD would replace DEAD OF NIGHT with the Josef von Sternberg/Marlene Dietrich Russian extravaganza THE SCARLET EMPRESS.
The basic story goes like this: It's 1806 and a soldier in Imperial Russia Captain Herman Suvorin saves all his money and never gambles. However, Suvorin learns of a legend involving the immortal Count de Saint-Germain and a Countess Ranevskaya who sold her soul to the devil in order to learn the secret of the three cards which, if played in exact order, would always ALWAYS win! Suvorin learns that the Countess is in fact still alive; the ancient countess lives in opulent seclusion cared for by Lizaveta. Suvorin determines to seduce the gullible and lonely Lizaveta in order to gain access to the ancient Countess and learn the secret of the three cards. After a time, Suvorin gains access to the Countess' bedchamber and pleads with her to give him the secret of the cards. Unfortunately, the elderly woman dies of fright at the intrusion of a stranger into her chambers and Suvorin returns home dejected. But then, he is visited by the restless spirit of the Countess who in fact, in a ghostly whisper, imparts to him the secret sequence of three cards. Suvorin challenges his rival to Lizaveta's affections, Andre, to a card game in which he bets everything he has. How the game turns out is the boffo finish of the film.
THE QUEEN OF SPADES is ably directed by Thorold Dickinson whose only other film which I've seen is the original 1940 version of GASLIGHT -- not the one with Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman but the earlier version starring Anton Walbrook -- who just happens to star in THE QUEEN OF SPADES. German actor Anton Walbrook is fast becoming one of my favourite actors of yesteryear; he is simply brilliant in every single role I've seen him in. He's brilliant here in THE QUEEN OF SPADES and he was in GASLIGHT, and the Powell & Pressburger films THE RED SHOES (1948), THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP (1943) and THE 49TH PARALLEL (1941). A relatively little known actor who cried out for rediscovery, Walbrook has never given a bum performance in a single second of any movie I've seen him in. The Old Countess is played by Dame Edith Evans in, believe it or not, her first film appearance. Crotchety and slyly funny, Evans is made up to appear even older to portray the ancient countess. Dame Edith is shown in many scenes wearing a huge, towering powdered wig and buried in enormous dresses. Her performance is knowing and deft with just a touch of brimstone; she occasionally demonstrates a barely-hidden fear of dying now that her soul belongs to the Devil.
Also in her first film is young Yvonne Mitchell as Lizaveta, who plays the part with the lonely yearning for a great love her character demands. Mitchell, like quite a few of the players here, would later appear in Hammer Horror films: specifically in the 1972 psychological mess called DEMONS OF THE MIND. Other later Hammer alumni appearing here include Ronald Howard as Andrei (later to appear in Hammer's CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB (1964) as well as 3 episodes of Boris Karloff's THRILLER including "Well of Doom" and "God Grante That She Lye Stille"), Anthony Dawson as Andrei's pal Fyodor (who would play the ancient, paralyzed Noirtier de Villefort in the 1975 Richard Chamberlain TV version of THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO as well as the scab-picking Marques Siniestro in Hammer's CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF) and the extremely busy character actor Miles Malleson whose credits include the aforementioned DEAD OF NIGHT ("Room for just one more inside, sir"), THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1940) (as the daffy toy-loving Sultan), the great and sadly unavailable on DVD Russian Revolution drama KNIGHT WITHOUT ARMOUR (1937) starring Marlene Dietrich, classic Ealing comedies KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS (1949), THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT (1951) and THE CAPTAIN'S PARADISE (1953), Michael Powell's PEEPING TOM (1960), I'M ALL RIGHT JACK (1959), THE HELLFIRE CLUB (1961) and the Hammer Horrors HORROR OF DRACULA, HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, BRIDES OF DRACULA and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA! Another really nice touch is the brief cameo appearance of the sepulchral-voiced Valentine Dyall as the demonic Count de Saint-Germaine's henchman.
The look of THE QUEEN OF SPADES is opulently beautiful and lushly photographed by cinematographer Otto Heller (also to lens Hammer's CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB as well as Powell's PEEPING TOM). The black & white photography can match any other film made at the time; and indeed, even years later. Special mention must also be made of the sumptuous period costumes of the Russian Imperial court provided by costume designer Oliver Messel and the remarkably expensive looking sets by art director William Kellner. One would honestly believe someone jumped in a time machine with a movie camera and shot the film in 1806 Russia! But at the same time the look and feel of the film puts one in mind of a fairy tale; which, in fact, is just what this old Russian tale purports to be. THE QUEEN OF SPADES is a masterfully shot and acted film which provides a few genuine eerie moments of supernatural unease. Of particular note is the moment when Walbrook walks up to the Countess' open coffin to pay his respects and the corpse's eyes open and glare at him. Further chills are provided by the ghostly visit of the Countess to Suvorin's rooms. If you haven't seen it, it's well worth tracking down.