Bedlam (1946)

Boris Karloff is perfect as the slimy George Sims who runs the asylum known as Bedlam. Realism takes a back seat in this movie based on the William Hogarth engravings “The Rake’s Progress.”

The time: London-1761. A man falls to his death from a window at St.Mary’s Bethlehem Asylum known as Bedlam. He was helped along by Master Sims (Boris Karloff). He was an acquaintance of Lord Mortimer (Billy House) and was going to write a poem for a Masque Mortimer was throwing.

With Mortimer as he identifies the body is actress Nell Bowen (Anna Lee). Sims says he’ll write something and provide the inmates as entertainment. One young man covered in gold gilt dies when his pores close up and that draws a lot of laughs from the crowd. Nell is starting to have her doubts.

At the asylum a Quaker stonemason, William Hannay is waiting to talk to Sims about some work. Sims tries to bribe him and Hannay rejects his offer. Sims leaves him as Nell visits the asylum and is given a tour.

She seems upset at what she’s seen but won’t admit it to Hannay. Later she asks help from politician John Wilks to improve conditions. That gets her into trouble with Mortimer who is in the opposing political party. Mortimer agrees to reforms until Sims tells him how much they’ll actually cost. He and Sims conspire to get Nell locked up in Bedlam.

Hannay sneaks in and sees Nell. She convinces him to give her his trowel so she has some method of defense. One night she helps an inmate by putting cloth under his chains. To do that she has to put the trowel down. Someone takes it.

Nell is due for another sanity hearing. The night before Sims says he’ll get her ready with a special treatment he’s devised. That gets the attention of the inmates and they grab him. Nell escapes. What will happen to Sims?

The unrealistic part is that after a week in the asylum and living in a huge room with other inmates and only some straw to lie on, Nell looks picture perfect. Not a smudge on that pretty face. Her hair continues to look like she just walked out of a beauty parlor. Not a tear or any kind of mark on her clothes. If there’s any reason to watch this at all it’s for the acting of Karloff as Sims and Billy House as Lord Mortimer.

Anna Lee had an over sixty year career in movies and TV. Her final role was as Lila Quartermaine in “General Hospital.”


Anna Lee-Boris Karloff

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Horrors Unseen-Edited by Sam Moskowitz

sam moskowitz (editor)-horrors unseen

Nine stories from 1896,97,99,1902,09,37,38,46. Favorites:

“The Ghost Pirates” (1909 short novel) – William Hope Hodgson – Jessop signs on to a ship that’s said to be haunted. After being underway for a while he sees a figure climb out of the sea and get aboard. Then it goes back into the sea. Later a crewman is killed. The Second Mate finally sees one of the figures but can’t find it. A mist appears and Jessop sees a ship. By the time he can show it to anyone else, it’s gone. The story moves very well with a lot of suspense. Hodgson needs to be rediscovered.

“The Silent Ship” -William Hope Hodgson – The never before published alternate ending to “The Ghost Pirates.”

“The Bat King ” (1957) – James Hilton – A reporter is touring the Carlsbad Caverns and breaks away from the group. He discovers his Yale professor living there. he disappeared eight years ago. He calls himself the Bat King.

“A Tale Of Mere Chances” (1896) – Stephen Crane – A short story about paranoia and psychotic delusions.

“Hollerbochen’s Dilemma” (1938) – Ray Bradbury – This is his first ever published story. It appeared in Imagination magazine. It’s the very short story of a man who can see into the future and manage to save himself from being killed in accidents. His dilemma is if he should even leave his hotel room at all, thereby saving the lives of people that wouldn’t be in the accidents because they wouldn’t happen.

Other authors: Frank Norris, C.L.Moore, Laurence Housman and Robert W.Chambers.

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On The Buses (1969-73)

on the buses

Jack Harper (Bob Grant) and Stan Butler (Reg Varney) are bus drivers who try and stay a step ahead of Inspector Cyril “Blakey” Blake (Stephen Lewis).

Opening episode: February 28,1969 – “The Early Shift – Stan lives with his Mum, his sister Olive and brother-in-law Arthur. Arthur is a treasurer for the railway. Stan is trying to get used to the new schedules on the early shift.

When he gets to work his friend Jack has to tell him the new route. Just before noon Jack and Stan return in their buses to take a lunch break., Since it’s too cold in the canteen Jack tells Stan to start the bus and eat in the warm cab. Blakey comes by and tells him to shut it off. Jack tells him to stay put.

Jack is the shop steward. They want the canteen heated. Jack calls a strike. Back home Stan has to listen to complaints from everyone about no buses in the rain.  Jack calls Stan and tells him to come to the depot for picket duty. Jack, Stan and George are holding signs when a TV crew shows up. Now here comes Mum.

They hear a bus start up. They go to investigate and see Blakey behind the wheel. Jack and George tell Stan to lay down in front of the bus. Some cherry syrup from a can in his pocket spills on his jacket and is taken for blood. Back home Stan turns on the telly to get the news and one ups Arthur by being called a hero. The strike ends….almost.

This episode was the start of a very successful series.

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Castle In The Desert (1942)

castle in the desert 1942

One of the best of the Toler Chan series. It’s murder in the castle in the Mojave Desert. The guilty party may be a descendent of the famous poisoner Lucrezia Borgia.

Paul Manderley (Douglas Dumbrille) is writing a book on the life of Cesare Borgia. He and his wife Lucy are isolated in the desert castle with no electricity or phone. Paul says it’ll help him get in touch with the 16th century mind. He’s even constructed a torture chamber in a basement dungeon. Paul has a black scarf across half of his face to hide a scar from an accident.

They’re not really alone for now as their lawyer  Walter and his wife Brenda are there along with researcher Carl Deathridge (Richard Derr), family physician Dr.Retling and professor Gleason. Gleason dies of poisoning and Paul wants Walter and Retling to take the body to a hotel thirty-five miles away in Mojave Wells and say he died there of heart failure. He says he can’t afford the scandal. His wife Lucy is a descendent of Lucrezia Borgia.

At a San Francisco hotel Charlie Chan is supposed to start a one week. auto trip with number two son Jimmy (Victor Sen Yung). He’s on a one week leave from the army and has a bunch of carrier pigeons he’s supposed to release during the trip. It’s all off as Charlie gets a note from Lucy to come out to the castle. He’s supposed to come alone and that means Jimmy stays behind. Since the castle doesn’t have a phone Charlie takes one of the pigeons.

Charlie gets a hostile reception in Mojave Wells when he says he’s waiting for a car to take him to the castle. The people, including a bigoted hotel owner, are superstitious of the Manderely family. Madame Sturnia is an elderly fortune teller and predicts death for Charlie if he goes. Just before he leaves. Charlie is joined by Watson King (Henry Daniel). He’s a sculptor hired to do a bust of Lucy. She says he’ll die too.

At the castle Lucy says she never wrote the letter. Charlie is about to leave but can’t since someone stole the cars’ distributor cap. Charlie finds out that Paul will lose all control of the estate if he’s involved in any scandal.

As always happens in these movies Jimmy busts in uninvited. With him is Madame Saturnia. He has a note sent to Charlie at the hotel threatening him about going to the castle. Charlie doesn’t tell anyone what it says.

Caught wandering the grounds in Arthur Fletcher. He’s a detective hired by the Gleason family because they aren’t satisfied that their relative died of heart failure. It’s not long before he’s poisoned with deadly nightshade that’s missing from a collection of poisons in the dungeon. Ratling tries to convince Paul that Lucy is nuts and should be put into an asylum. The killer may be her step brother Cesare but he was killed in the Spanish War.

Charlie figures out what’s going on but that’s not nearly the end of it all. A lot of surprises to come. If you’re looking for a Chan entry that’s longer on mystery than comedy, check this one out. There is some silliness with Jimmy but it all fits.



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From Hell It Came (1957)

You have to see this at least once. It is so far up the stupidity scale you won’t believe what you’re seeing. South Sea islanders that sound like they’re from New York and a tree that has everyone stumped.

Kimo is staked out and ready to get a knife in his heart. It’s all a power play by the evil witch doctor Tano and the corrupt Chief Maranka to take over the tribe from Kemo’s father. They accuse him of murdering his father when it was Tano who poisoned him. Kimo swears he’ll return in a vengeful mood.

Some American scientists are on the island after a nearby atomic test sent some fallout that way. Is that what’s making the islanders sick? Nope. It’s the black plague. Dr.Bill Arnold (Tod Andrews) is getting tired of the place. Then (ready for this name?) Dr.Terry Mason shows up.

Bill digs her but she’s not so sure. While he’s trying to convince her what a great catch he is she sees the native cemetery. Something strange is going on. There’s a tree growing from Kimo’s grave. Terry hears a heartbeat and they take it back to their makeshift lab.

She came up with a special formula that does….something and injects the tree. They all come back later to see what’s up. The place is a wreck and the tree is gone. Kimo’s unfaithful wife Cory is in for a surprise. Maybe it doesn’t like her Brooklyn accent.

The tree is the evil demon Tabanga. It’s not happy. Tano figures he’ll be able to control it. He wants to kill those interfering American scientists. Talk about delusional. There are so many laughs along the way I have to wonder if the intent was just that.

Right after this movie Tod Andrews starred in the Civil War series “The Gray Ghost” as Major John Singleton Mosby (1957-58).

It’s bark is worse than its bite

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Invaders From Rigel-Fletcher Pratt (1960)

fletcher pratt-invaders from rigel

Bizarre fun about how a passing comet turned surviving earth people into metal. It reads like a pulp story Pratt had filed away for twenty-thirty years. The big exception is the portrayal of the female characters. No sweet young, helpless things here. When it comes to battle you want them on your side.

In New York, Murray Lee wakes up to find himself made of metal. In the duplex next door lives scientist Benjamin Franklin Ruby. He takes it all in stride and has an oil can ready to fill both of them up. Ben figures they’ll need rubber gloves and shoes so they don’t fry.

He breaks into a couple stores to get what they need. Looks like they may be the only survivors. Then they run into Gloria Rutherford. She lives in a penthouse and the height may be what saved her. Ben provides castor oil  for all of them to guzzle.

They eventually find more people and Ben is appointed leader or dictator depending on who you talk to. Wall Street Banker Stevens is the loudest objector and that almost gets him tossed into the river. He and a splinter group leave for Albany.

Then there are the birds. They have four wings, drop huge rocks and for good measure incendiary bombs. Ben and his group grab a battleship and open fire on them. They send down light rays that destroy the guns.

Ben and company meet up with an Australian destroyer. The men are not metal….they’re blue. For all the good it does they combine forces and head back to the U.S. while Australia and the rest of the world are being bombed by the birds.

Looks like there’s an enemy base in the Catskills. No one knows the intelligence behind the birds. It’s all out war with ships, tanks and planes. The enemy has tanks of their own and then some superweapons. They also do some skywriting warning the blue men to leave. They want the iron men for a work force.

The birds have been swooping down and picking up men and taking them…somewhere. The war rages on and it looks like the humans, or what used to be flesh and blood humans, are losing. Then along comes Army Lt.Herbert Sherman. He escaped from the enemy and thinks he knows how to handle them.

The book switches from war mode to tell Sherman’s story and the background on the invaders. When it comes back to the present the battle rages on. One thing about these types of stories is you can make up your own science.

I had the feeling Pratt had a lot fun writing it and I had fun reading it.

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Take A Good Look (1959-60)

Edie Adams-Ernie Kovacks

Edie Adams-Ernie Kovacs

The quiz show asked panelists to identify people involved in current news events. Sometimes clips were shown but mostly there were sketches containing clues. It was a rotating panel of celebrities. Three clues were shown. The clues were usually vague. When the panel couldn’t guess what the contestant did then that person would win fifty dollars. The show was really all about Ernie who also appeared in the sketches. That’s what makes this worth watching.

Episode from 1959: Ernie opens the show and introduced Hans Conried, Cesar Romero and Edie Adams who had a cold. Ernie keeps cracking himself up….Commercial.

First guest is Jane Dillman a champion harness racing driver. Ernie introduces a sketch which contains a clue for the panel. After a round of questions another sketch is presented. Ernie plays poet Percy Dovetonsils. Back to the panel. They still don’t get it so it’s time for another sketch. This time it involves Ernie in a chariot race with a woman beside him as he drives. Cesar finally gets it.

The next guest is Ben Friedman who recently put three chimps to work in his factory…..Commercial……The first clue sketch. Once again Ernie is Percy Dovetonsils. He says he’s going to sing and we hear three people walk out. The panel starts to ask questions.

Now it’s another sketch with the second clue. It has a factory setting. The panel asks more questions.  Cesar gets it as he remembers a newspaper article. Ernie shows the third clue anyway. It’s the Nairobi Trio…Commercial…Ernie closes the show.

This could have been very dry and boring but Ernie always saves the day.

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