Monday, October 06, 2003


A par-for-the-course Monogram thriller, not the worst of the sub-B films of the era, but not the best. Bela Lugosi plays a professor of criminal psychology who seems to have a decent reputation as a scholar; by night, using a different identity, he runs a charity mission in the Bowery that is actually a front for a crime ring. So Lugosi is playing one man with two names and three personas! The gang commits hold-ups but usually leaves a gang member or relatively unwitting confederate dead at the scene. Wanda McKay (quite colorless and charmless) is a young woman who works at the mission; John Archer plays the oldest college student in Christendom, a rich boy who is in Lugosi's class and happens to know McKay. He decides to go to the mission to do research on the psychology of the homeless and discovers Lugosi's secret. He is killed for his troubles, but in an incredibly underdeveloped plot thread, it turns out that Lew Kelly, an accomplice of Lugosi's, can bring the dead back to life as zombies, whom he keeps in a secret cellar room. Cop Dave O'Brien (who may be familiar from the Pete Smith comedy shorts) manages to break the ring up and, apparently, the zombies are all brought back from death to normal life. Lugosi is OK, but Tom Neal (B-movie star known primarily for his lead role in DETOUR a few years later) is actually quite good as a thug in a performance that wouldn't have been out of place in a better grade Warners crime film. An amusing line spoken to a guy with a gun: "Don't get gay just because you're handy with a heater!" Bernard Gorcey (father of Bowery Boy Leo Gorcey) plays a shopkeeper--and there's a Bowery Boys movie poster visible in one scene. The movie's plot has potential, but it's mostly wasted by sloppy writing and drab production values; the only real atmosphere the film has is due to Lugosi's scenery-chewing, and the zombies' occasional wanderings.

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