Batman 1943 movie serial, starring Lewis Wilson, Douglas Croft
In many ways, Batman is an interesting, but unremarkable, movie serial from the 1940’s. It’s noteworthy for being the very first Batman movie. Batman/Bruce Wayne and Robin/Dick Grayson are government agents, fighting against Japanese saboteurs.
Calling Dr. Death (1943), starring Lon Chaney Jr., J. Carrol Naish, Patricia Morison
Synopsis of Calling Dr. Death
Losing his memories for the last few days, neurologist Dr. Steele is told his wife has been brutally murdered. Aware of his wife’s infidelity he believes he may have been the killer and enlists the aid of his pretty nurse to hypnotize him.
House of Frankenstein (1944), starring Boris Karloff, John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr., J. Carrol Naish, Glenn Strange, Lionel Atwill, Anne Gwynne, Peter Coe
Synopsis of House of Frankenstein
House of Frankenstein is the first of the Universal Studios monster mashes. In short, mad scientist Niemann and “friend Daniel” his hunchback assistant escape prison and enact a series of revenges on the people who had him imprisoned. They murder a proprietor of a travelling show of horrors, impersonate him and revive his corpse of Dracula. Dracula succeeds in the first part of the revenge scheme, but Niemann abandons him to be destroyed in the sunlight. Niemann then travels to the ruins of Frankenstein’s castle. He hopes to recover the dead doctor’s secrets, but instead recovers both the Wolf Man and Frankenstein’s monster. He revives them both, but a romantic triangle unravels the plot.
Dracula vs Frankenstein (1971) starring J. Carrol Naish, Lon Chaney Jr.
Before talking about Dracula vs Frankenstein itself, I would like to point out that it was the final appearance by two excellent actors: J. Carrol Naish (Sahara, Annie Get Your Gun) and Lon Chaney Jr. (The Wolf Man, The Defiant Ones) — and both frankly deserved better. Lon Chaney Jr. was mute in the film, due to the damage done by throat cancer. Although I doubt that it would have improved the film very much if he had been able to speak. Yes, Dracula vs Frankenstein is that bad.
The plot is …
The basic plot for Dracula vs Frankenstein, such as it is, is as follows: the lovely and successful Judith Fontaine (Regina Carrol) is looking for her missing sister, Joan (Maria Lease, St. Elsewhere) who has disappeared into the hippie community of Venice, California. However, Joan has become the victim of Groton (Lon Chaney Jr.), a mute, axe-wielding homicidal maniac who alternates with playing with little puppies. Groton, in turn, is working for Dr. Durea (J. Carrol Naish), a wheelchair-bound mad scientist who is experimenting with re-attaching decapitated heads and resuscitating the victims. Dr. Durea is secretly the last descendant of Dr. Frankenstein and is running a house of horrors by the beach as a cover, assisted by Grazbo the Evil Dwarf (yes, that’s the character’s name, portrayed by Angelo Rossitto).
Sahara (1943) starring Humphrey Bogart, Bruce Bennett, J. Carrol Naish, Lloyd Bridges
Sahara is, in short, an excellent movie — set in World War II, in the desert conflict, it involves a ragtag multi-national group of Allied soldiers (Humphrey Bogart, Bruce Bennett, Lloyd Bridges) as well as their Italian prisoner of war (played memorably by J. Carrol Naish) who come upon an oasis in the desert — a crumbling ruin.
The ruin has a cistern — not a well, but a storage place for water, that’s nearly dry. The GI’s no sooner find it than they’re surrounded by Nazi soldiers, who are dying of thirst — but are armed to the teeth.