Monday, May 5, 2014

Strange Stuff on Warner Archive Instant

Last night I picked a double feature of freakish fare from the streaming catalog at Warner Archive Instant. I'm intentionally seeking out more obscure classic horror films in the hopes of getting a collection of reviews together by the fall of this year, but last night's movies were so unusual that it might take me a few days to figure out what to say about them in a full-length review format.

Now, Warner Archive Instant devotes a whole category to Mondo/Cult films, so they like the weird stuff, but these picks came from the regular Horror section. I don't know how long they'll stay in the current lineup, but if you want to revel in the bizarre spectacles described below then head on over to the Instant site and check them out there.

When Killer Iguanas Attack!

First up was The Show (1927), a Tod Browning silent starring John Gilbert, Lionel Barrymore, and Renee Adoree. The human actors are all great in this creepy melodrama set in a Budapest carnival, but they have a scene-stealing costar in the large iguana who stands in for a venomous Gila monster. Seriously, the iguana attack scene near the end was so funny I almost fell off the couch. My howls of laughter attracted the attention of the my daughter, who then wanted to see the scene for herself. We ended up replaying it twice. Watching Lionel Barrymore locked in a closet with an angry iguana is one of those priceless moments of movie-watching only a classic film fan can really appreciate. The rest of the movie is menacing, tragic, and possessed of a weirdness typical of Browning's sensibility, but the iguana scenes are the ones you'll remember.

The Demon Bogart of Fleet Street?

My next feature was The Return of Doctor X (1939), which really doesn't have anything to do with the original Doctor X (1932) but does offer the one and only appearance of Humphrey Bogart in a horror movie. Through the whole movie I kept wondering, "Why is Humphrey Bogart dressed up like Sweeney Todd?" Actually, that question ought to be, "Why is Sweeney Todd dressed up like Humphrey Bogart?" since Bogart did it almost 70 years before Johnny Depp. I'm not the first person to notice the resemblance, either. Jim Emerson posted about it in 2007, when Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street made its debut in theaters. If you have ever wondered what Bogie would look like as a pale-faced, blood-lusting vampire, here's your chance to find out. The Return of Doctor X is by no means a great movie, but I had a lot of fun watching it, and Bogart's first appearance - cuddling a bunny?! - is quite the spectacle.

Now that you know I'm on the prowl for unusual or lesser-known horror classics, feel free to send me some suggestions! In the meantime, I'll be checking out The Cyclops (1956), The Hypnotic Eye (1960), and Frankenstein 1970 (1958) on the Warner site.